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Thursday, March 24, 2011

EDITORIAL 24.03.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: editorial@samarth.co.in 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month march 24, edition 000788, 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. NO, PRIME MINISTER
  2. ANOTHER AFGHANISTAN?
  3. PREPARE FOR THE BIG BANG - CLAUDE ARPI
  4. MAKING INDIA A GREAT POWER

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. BACKWARDS AND FORWARD
  2. POWER PACK
  3. DIALOGUE IS THE KEY - MINHAZ MERCHANT
  4. GIVE ARTISTES A PLACE IN THE SUN
  5. DON'T IGNORE INDUSTRY'S CONCERNS - JAY KUMAR
  6. FUKUSHIMA MON AMOUR - BACHI KARKARIA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. HOW TO WIN BACK TRUST
  2. RIDE THE SECOND WAVE - SAMAR HALARNKAR
  3. MONEY WHERE THE MOUTH IS - E SOMANATHAN

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. VOTE FOR TRUST
  2. SHOCK DOCTRINE
  3. SEEDING GROWTH
  4. RULES OF THE HOUSE - PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
  5. BATTLE CRIES - ALIA ALLANA
  6. MY PUBLICITY AGENT - ARUN SHOURIE
  7. RECLAIMING THE JUDICIARY - MANOJ C G
  8. BETWEEN THE CUP AND THE LIP - SHAILAJA BAJPAI

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. HEART RULES THE HEAD
  2. SOMETHING TO BANK UPON
  3. IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT GIVING MONEY - JAYANT SINHA
  4. AND NOW MR SIBAL QUOTES THE CAG! - RISHI RAJ

THE HINDU

  1. ALL SET FOR THE FIGHT
  2. SALEH TRIES TO HANG ON
  3. ODYSSEY DAWN, A HOMERIC TRAGEDY  - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
  4. 'INDIA WARY OF IMAGE OF U.S. OFFICIALS TRAMPING AROUND HEAD OF STATE'S PLANE'  - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
  5. TEXT OF EUM NOTE, INITIALLED ON MAY 29, 2008  - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
  6. A COMMAND POST IN THE AIR  - MURALI N. KRISHNASWAMY
  7. SHEKHAWAT VISIT 'PR VICTORY' FOR MYANMAR JUNTA  - P. SAINATH
  8. MUMBAI CONSULATE ADVISED PULLING UP HYATT DUBAI FOR HOSTING DAWOOD FAMILY WEDDING  - NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. FM'S ROLLBACKS WELCOME, BUT...
  2. J&K: REVERSE SWING - SRINATH RAGHAVAN
  3. WHO DO YOU BELIEVE? - SIDHARTH BHATIA

DNA

  1. COMPASSION FOR KIDS MAKES A GREAT CITY - RANJONA BANERJI

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. TWICE BITTEN
  2. FULL SPECTRUM DIALOGUE
  3. INTERCEPTOR MISSILE TECHNOLOGY IN INDIA - BY G V JOSHI
  4. EMPOWERING WOMEN THROUGH SHGS - BY DR. J.S. MANHAS AND DR. A. S.CHARAK
  5. CAN TUBERCULOSIS BE CONTROLLED? - BY DR. SANJEEV NARANG

THE TRIBUNE

  1. NO MORE 'MISERY TAX'
  2. TESTING TIMES FOR OMAR
  3. BUFFETT FOR THE UNDERPRIVILEGED 
  4. FURORE OVER WIKILEAKS - BY B.G. VERGHESE
  5. THE BITTER PIL - BY RANJIV DALAL
  6. THE TB TERROR - JAGDISH KUMAR
  7. KEY FACTS  
  8. TOGETHER WE CAN ELIMINATE IT

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. HOMAI'S CAMERA CHRONICLES

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. MR MUKHERJEE'S TEASER
  2. CARRYING COALS TO NEW DELHI
  3. ARAB STREET AND THE SUBCONTINENT - SHAHID JAVED BURKI
  4. EDUCATION - ECONOMY'S GROWTH ENGINE - ARVIND SINGHAL
  5. MINIMUM CITIES - BARUN ROY
  6. THE SECONDARY SEX - INDICUS ANALYTICS

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. BRAVO, DELHI
  2. HELPING THE MAOISTS
  3. OUT WITH IT
  4. RETHINKING NATIONAL BROADBAND
  5. LAYING IS JUST ONE ELEMENT
  6. METAMORPHOSIS OF A GENERAL AND A VETERAN  - C L MANOJ
  7. MONA LISA OR HER PIXELS?  - T K ARUN

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. FM'S ROLLBACKS WELCOME, BUT...
  2. J&K: REVERSE SWING
  3. ENLIGHTENED SELF-INTEREST OR MORAL OUTAGE?
  4. TILL GRAFT DO US PART
  5. FOR ARROGANT, PARADISE LOST
  6. WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?

THE STATESMAN

  1. STIRRING TROUBLE
  2. BETTER SENSE PREVAILS
  3. WIKILEAKS WONDER! - RAJINDER PURI
  4. BLUFF & BLUSTER  
  5. AFTER THE SNOWSTORM  - SANTANU SINHA CHAUDHURI
  6. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
  7. JUTE FIRE AT BARNAGORE

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. NOT TOP DOWN
  2. TURN AROUND
  3. AT THE CROSSROADS  - SURENDRA MUNSHI
  4. NEW TRENDS  - SUMANTA SEN
  5. WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AFTER CHANGE IS HERE  - SHYAMAL DATTA

DECCAN HERALD

  1. WILL HE QUIT NOW?
  2. DIRE STRAITS  
  3. A POTENT CHALLENGE  - BY HARSH V PANT
  4. CUBA: REINVENTING THE ECONOMY -  BY LEONARDO PADURA
  5. EGYPTIAN ODYSSEY  - BY SURYAKUMARI DENNISON

HAARETZ

  1. NO TO OPERATION CAST LEAD 2
  2. EDUCATING FOR VALUES AT THE CLUB HOTEL  - BY OR KASHTI
  3. ISRAEL WITHOUT ITS DISSIDENTS  - BY GIDEON LEVY
  4. THE PALESTINIAN NARRATIVE WON  - BY OUDEH BASHARAT
  5. FAREWELL TO PEACE  - BY ARI SHAVIT

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. DISCORD AMONG ALLIES
  2. REAL FAMILY VALUES
  3. WILLIAM STUNTZ - BY LINCOLN CAPLAN
  4. IT COULD HAPPEN HERE - BY FRANK N. VON HIPPEL
  5. A DIGITAL LIBRARY BETTER THAN GOOGLE'S - BY ROBERT DARNTON
  6. HUGS FROM LIBYANS - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. SLIM NUKE DANGER HERE, BUT ...
  2. AFTER ALL, WHO OWNS PUBLIC RECORDS?
  3. AMTRAK CEO DITCHES TRAIN, TAKES CAR
  4. DANGERS OF GIVING UP SOVEREIGNTY

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - NO MORE SURPRISES, MR SARKOZY
  2. POLITICAL CORRECTNESS - RICHARD REID
  3. US ON LIBYA: ACTIVE BUT APPEARING LOW-PROFILE - MEHMET YEGİN
  4. OPEN-ENDED PERIOD OF UNCERTAINTY IN LIBYA - SAMİ KOHEN
  5. TODAY LIBYA, TOMORROW SYRIA? - GWYNNE DYER
  6. TÜSİAD RETREATS FROM ITS PRO-COUP MINDSET PAST - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  7. THE CHALLENGE - YUSUF KANLI
  8. ARE WE TO HAVE POWER LINE COMMUNICATION SERVICES? - ERSU ABLAK

THE NEWS

  1. DRAWING A LINE
  2. DRY DAYS AHEAD
  3. A CULTURE OF KILLING
  4. LESSONS FROM FUKUSHIMA  - PRAFUL BIDWAI
  5. A LETTER TO THE UN  - FAROOQ SULEHRIA
  6. INDIA-PAKISTAN TRADE  - ISHRAT HUSAIN
  7. SAVING RS30 BILLION A YEAR  - IKRAM SEHGAL
  8. WHAT NEXT IN LIBYA?  - PATRICK COCKBURN
  9. PEOPLE: THE MISSING INGREDIENT  - KAMILA HYAT

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. WHAT WAS MISSING IN PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS?
  2. WHO ARE THESE ENEMIES OF BALOCHISTAN?
  3. A LUNATIC'S ACT IS NOT CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM DIVIDE
  4. AIM AND OBJECTIVE OF PAKISTAN - ANWAR JALAL
  5. THE CRIME OF WEAKNESS - BURHANUDDIN HASAN
  6. A WAR ON ISLAM - YOUSUF ALAMGIRIAN
  7. WATER WOES: THE WAY FORWARD - KHALID CHANDIO
  8. DAVIS ENJOYS IMMUNITY VIA ISLAMIC LAW - M OMAIR MALIK

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. MOMENT OF TRUTH LOOMS IN BALI
  2. GAME ON FOR THE PREMIER AND LORD MAYOR IN QLD
  3. THERE IS A WAY FORWARD: WE MUST WORK TO FIND IT

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. BEER IS THE NEW MILK?
  2. LIBYAN VISIONS, OR MIRAGES?
  3. POLICE TRAINING IS FAILING VICTORIA

THE GUARDIAN

  1. MINISTERS AND JUDGES: CONTEMPT OF COURTS
  2. THE BUDGET: SMALL CHANGE
  3. IN PRAISE OF ... ELIZABETH TAYLOR

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. JAPAN'S MOMENT OF CRISIS - BY HUGH CORTAZZI
  2. NUCLEAR MELTDOWNS AND JAPANESE CULTURE - BY GREGORY CLARK
  3. ENOUGH, MR. GADHAFI

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. FAITH IN ARAB DEMOCRACY
  2. JAPANESE ENDURANCE
  3. INNOVATION TO FIGHT TB - TOMMY DHARMAWAN
  4. THE RIGHT TO WAGE WAR IN LIBYA - HARISON CITRAWAN

DAILY MIRROR

  1. HONOUR THE NEEDS OF ALL PEOPLES
  2. LET THE QUARTERS BEGIN
  3. 'OUR POLITICAL STABILITY AND SECURITY HAVE PROVEN PERFECT FOR INVESTMENT'
  4. UNFINISHED JOURNEYS: CHILDREN WITH NO DATE CASES  - BY JEEVAN THIYAGARAJAH
  5. IN THE NAME OF HUMANITY LET THE INNOCENTS BE…

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. STUTTERING ALONG...   - BY B COMBER
  2. BRITISH BROADCASTING CALAMITY!    - BY NIGEL GODDARD 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

NO, PRIME MINISTER

THE NATION IS NOT CONVINCED


For once it is difficult to disagree with veteran trade unionist and senior CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta who on Wednesday rebuked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his bizarre defence of the Government and the Congress while refuting the Opposition's charge that cash was used for purchasing votes to win the confidence motion in July 2008. True, the UPA1 was in power then, and the country is currently saddled with UPA2. The Prime Minister is also right when he says that a new Lok Sabha has come into existence since then following the general election of the 2009. But how does either fact negate the fact that extraordinary and morally repugnant methods were used to prevent the Government's fall after the Left withdrew its support to UPA1 over the India-US civil nuclear agreement? In such transactions that are handled by wheeler-dealers — at the beck-and-call of the Congress — no record is kept nor money paid through cheques and drafts so that it can be trailed at a later date. There was overwhelming evidence of the shenanigans in Lutyens's Delhi during the fortnight prior to the crucial trust vote; everybody who is anybody in the nation's capital was aware of what was happening. For the Prime Minister to pretend ignorance, or worse, innocence, is laughable. Unless we are expected to believe that he is so removed from reality that he is clueless of what's happening around him. In which case we would also be expected to believe that he does not read newspapers or watch news television. Either way, it is frightening to have such a person as head of the Government and presiding over policy-formulation. That said, it is astonishing that Mr Singh should repeatedly point out that since the UPA has been returned to power, any sins of omission and commission it may have committed between 2004 and 2009 were washed away by the last election's mandate. That is a stupid argument devoid of logic and, as Mr Dasgupta has said, "Over-emphasising the poll verdict by the Prime Minister has not brought honours to him." Might, in this case the Government's parliamentary majority, is not necessarily right. Feckless as he is, surely the Prime Minister is not so denuded of scruples that he would assert to the contrary. If he were to do so, it would only confirm what his critics think of him — as an individual and as a politician.


Perception matters more than reality in politics. This truism is as much applicable to the Congress as it is to other political parties. In the popular perception, the Congress stands besmirched and the Prime Minister's reputation, the carefully cultivated image of an honest man with unimpeachable integrity, lies in tatters. The cash-for-vote scandal belongs to the past, but it serves to reinforce the perception of the Congress heading a regime which is morally corrupt and cynically indifferent towards notions of probity in office. Electoral victories are not always the outcome of a positive vote; they are often the culmination of circumstances that have little or no connection at all with the integrity quotient of the victor. Rajiv Gandhi led the Congress to a spectacular victory in 1984. That did not absolve either him or the Congress of responsibility for the massacre of thousands of Sikhs after Mrs Indira Gandhi's assassination. That sin still remains unwashed.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER AFGHANISTAN?

BOMBING LIBYA A GRAVE MISTAKE


Less than 48 hours after the launch of a US-led military campaign in Libya, a senior American official assured newspersons during a Pentagon briefing that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was not a target, but then added: "If he happens to be in a place — if he's inspecting a surface-to-air missile site, (and) we don't have any idea that he's there or not — then, yeah...". He did not complete the sentence but his afterthought has become an international concern that is the defining symptom of all that is wrong with the campaign. With clear evidence that the Western forces are looking for a regime change — a demand that goes far beyond the loosely worded UN Security Council resolution which forms the basis of the campaign — fears abound in the international community, especially among regional leaders, that Libya might just turn out to be another Afghanistan in the making. Indeed, it has now become amply clear that the US mission to protect civilians is only the first step towards a more long-term strategy of forcing a regime change. But given the lessons the world has, hopefully, learnt in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is imperative that the US military stays away from bringing about another regime change. It is little wonder then that as the allied forces continue to debate the management of their military campaign in Libya, the five-day-old Operation Odyssey Dawn has already lost much of its legitimacy, despite its much-touted 'UNSC-approved' tag. Created to enforce the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 that allows for the establishment of a 'No- Fly Zone' over Libya and the use of all necessary means, apart from foreign occupation, to protect civilians, the US Africa Command Task Force is by all means now on slippery ground.

Support from the Arab League, which was considered to be a crucial prerequisite for any kind of military intervention, has been less than forthcoming in the days since the operation was launched. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has gone back on his earlier stance, instead criticising the West's 'attack' on Libya. This is essentially because the Arab League's own resolution which preceded the Security Council vote had a much narrower mandate that included only a 'No-Fly Zone' and specifically warned against foreign military intervention, which is exactly what the ongoing military operations in Libya have begun to resemble. Secondly, the African Union, which was initially held as an important regional partner, has since been completely ignored, as it has refused to play along with the West and sign on to a plan that is essentially a blueprint for unmitigated disaster. In fact, soon after the operation was launched, the AU called for an "immediate stop" to all attacks — a call that has been ignored by Western allies.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

PREPARE FOR THE BIG BANG

CLAUDE ARPI


With China working on innumerable dams in Tibet and India planning to build dams in Arunachal Pradesh, a huge disaster awaits the region.


As the Nippon tragedy unfolded, I happened to be visiting France, the land of nuclear energy. Do you know that since the end of the 1970s, France has built 58 reactors which produce 63 GW, a staggering 78 per cent of the total electricity required by the country? While the terrible news about Fukushima was flashed by media, a debate began: Can such a disaster happen in France? Is it not time to abandon nuclear power for 'cleaner' energy sources, such as wind and solar?


While in Japan many believe that the tragedy could send the world's third-biggest economy back into recession, in France, the 'Greens', led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the leader of the 1968 student revolution and now European MP, demanded a referendum on nuclear energy. 'Green ideology' is one thing, running an industrialised country is another. We can, however, see advantages in a serious debate: It can help clarify several points about the safety of nuclear plants in the minds of the people.


One could regret the absence of Areva in the French debate. The French company perhaps believes that the question is far too serious to be discussed by 'lay and ignorant' people. But unless and until the true risks of nuclear power plants are explained to the masses in a way they can understand, the debate will (and should) go on.

The disaster at Fukushima came came soon after Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and Areva signed a framework agreement for the construction of two Evolutionary Power Reactors , to be followed by four more, with each having the capacity to produce 1,650 MW of power, at Jaitapur in Maharashtra. The accident in Japan might prove to be a big dampener for India's programme which involves spending $175 billion on nuclear energy by 2030. However, nuclear energy is still considered as the cleanest energy to sustain a nine per cent to 10 per cent economic growth.


Bloomberg believes that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's nuclear dream might be threatened: "Mr Manmohan Singh who risked his premiership to secure India's access to atomic reactors and supplies, faces opposition to his $175 billion investment plan." The problem for India may not be earthquakes, as no seism of this amplitude has ever been recorded in western India, but terrorism. Suppose a jihadi group hijacks a plane after take-off from Mumbai and manages to crash it in Jaitapur. Will the structure resist such an impact?


A top-secret documents prepared by Electricity de France in 2003 stated that an EPR plant could withstand the crash of a plane. The calculations were based on the fall of a fighter plane with an extrapolation for a civilian aircraft, such as an Airbus. Many were not convinced by the claim.


Interestingly, the disaster in Japan as well as the crisis in West Asia is centred on one issue: Energy supply. Analyst and commentator George Friedman wrote in Stratfor: "Over the past week, everything seemed to converge on energy. The unrest in the Persian Gulf raised the specter of the disruption of oil supplies to the rest of the world, and an earthquake in Japan knocked out a string of nuclear reactors with potentially devastating effect. Japan depends on nuclear energy and it depends on the Persian Gulf, which is where it gets most of its oil."

Analysts have failed to note a third event linked to energy: It is the ratification of the 12th Five-Year Plan by China. The Middle Kingdom's booming economy is the greediest ogre needing endless energy. One of the solutions proposed by Beijing is to build dams on rivers originating in Tibet. China has already built more than any other country on the planet. Chinese know-how is even exported: Chinese banks and dam companies are involved in the construction of some 269 dams in 67 different countries, particularly in Africa and South-East Asia, and even Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which is legally Indian territory.


India of course does not want to be left behind, the business is too lucrative. A recent BJP report on the functioning of the Congress Governments in the North-East has equated the "hydropower project scams" in Arunachal Pradesh with the 2G Spectrum scandal. The report alleges that since the Congress Government came to power in 2004, some 137 MoUs were signed and awarded to "dubious" companies.


"The hydropower scam in Arunachal Pradesh is one of the biggest scams of the region... The MoUs have been signed flouting all procedures and norms set by the Union Power Ministry," says the report, adding that "hydropower projects totalling 70,000 MW and worth Rs 400,000 crore were signed in a short period." The same thing is happening in China.


An article published in the 'official' Chinese daily, Global Times, shows the dam lobby in China has been able to change the decision taken by Premier Wen Jiabao in April 2004. Mr Wen Jiabao had then given an assurance that the large hydropower plants (on the Salween to start with) would be "seriously reviewed and decided scientifically". The South China Morning Post noted the 'scientific' change of wind: "Analysts say mainland authorities have clearly pinned their hopes on renewable energy such as wind, solar and hydropower, to help reduce the mainland's reliance on coal amid mounting concern over the country's environmental woes and huge carbon emissions."


Today, in the name of global warming and environment protection, the powerful development lobbies are back with a vengeance. Mr Wang Jian, a river specialist from Beijing who visited sections of the major rivers in December last year, told the Global Times that smaller projects, which do not need Central Government approval, have burgeoned. "They are as dense as the stars in the sky," he said. The building of dams on the Salween, Mekong or Brahmaputra also has strategic consequences. Everybody seems to have forgotten that on August 15, 1950, one of the most powerful earthquakes of the 20th century, with a magnitude of 8.7 occurred in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama, then a young man in Lhasa, writes in his autobiography: "It was like an artillery barrage — which is what we assumed to be the cause of both the tremors and the noise: A test of some sorts being carried out by the Tibetan Army." Another witness was Robert Ford, the British wireless operator working for the Tibetan Government in eastern Tibet. He recalled: "This was no ordinary earthquake; it felt like the end of the world. Mountains and valleys exchanged places in an instant, hundreds of villages were swallowed up, the Brahmaputra river was completely rerouted and for hours afterwards, the sky over the south-eastern Tibet glowed with an infernal red light, diffused with the pungent scent of sulphur."


Now the Governments of China and India are planning mega-dams in the same area. Beijing even speaks of cascades of hydropower stations. The situation is extremely worrisome, especially after 87,000 died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake (Chinese geologists now admit that it was due to the weight of the reservoir of the nearby Zipingpu dam). An earthquake on Brahmaputra or one of its tributaries could destroy any of the proposed dams. As a result, millions would be washed away in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Bangladesh.


While the earthquake and tsunami in Japan will hopefully trigger more research and inject some 'thinking' in the brains of 'deciders', nobody thinks of the consequences of a seism in Tibet.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

MAKING INDIA A GREAT POWER


Today India lives on the cusp of becoming greater. The potential of global leadership is being held back by a governance deficit that means undelivered public infrastructure and services, inefficient regulation and a lack of concern for equality. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi offers an alternative agenda


Today India is recognised as a world economic power and in one decade India can become a global leader in workforce, technology and in democratic and inclusive growth. An approach centred on empowering our people will create a progressive society where everyone has the potential to succeed. Today India lives on the cusp of becoming greater. The potential of global leadership is being held back by a governance deficit that means undelivered public infrastructure and services, inefficient regulation and a lack of concern for equality. To see a quantum jump in development with knowledge-based employment, world-class infrastructure and comprehensive social services — the single answer is democratic governance that empowers all to realise their full potential.


The world's economic centre is shifting from the West to the East, where high rates of growth in emerging economies present challenges and opportunities. India's inherent strengths are in being the world's largest democracy, having an effective judicial system and the growing empowerment of the youth. Earlier this year concern for global risk was described: As the world grows together, it is also growing apart. India has experienced these main threats of economic inequality, problems in water, food and energy supply and disease pandemics. To overcome and advance, India requires a double-strategy of building democracy and empowerment inwardly and also opening relations internationally.


Asia is seen as a new centre of economic integration where global collaboration and dialogue can lead to new solutions for prosperity and peace. This year we held our international Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit with country partners: Japan and Canada. The greater objective was to energise global networking for knowledge and technology sharing; learn the best practices and inspire entrepreneurs to think bigger. Over 100 countries participated to make use of our platform for business and technology partnerships at the national and international level. India must continue to develop working relations with business and Government, built with transparency and efficiency.


Preparing the World's Largest Workforce

The demography of leading economies is changing. In US and Europe the population is ageing, whereas in India the young population has an average age 25 years, much lower than in China. India's young workforce is estimated to increase by 240 million over the next two decades, and by 2035 India will have the largest working population in the world where 65 per cent will be of working age. With an intense investment now, India can gain the demographic dividend of a young workforce that is intelligent and productive, to sustainably propel our economic growth.


For many years the private sector has been demanding a more skilled workforce, and one study has estimated that only around 20 per cent of India's graduates and professionals are employable in multinational companies. Government, Academia and Industry need to have constant interaction to systematically up-skill India's youth with the education and expertise that is required. The private sector has a key role to assess and communicate the skills the youth need, to increase their competitiveness as India's future workforce. To reach more people the education and training institutes must fully tap the potential of e-learning to multiply access to professional training.

A World Economic Forum Report estimated that by 2030, the US will need 26 million employees, and Western Europe will need 46 million employees. Other countries are also facing a future shortage in the population of a young workforce, and here India needs to prepare to send to other countries highly-skilled professionals, especially for the technology sector. Our goal should not be just to prepare for our own industry needs, but to serve the global need with a mobile talented and skilled workforce. The Society for Creation of Opportunity through Proficiency in English has been setup by the Government of Gujarat to enhance English language skills for employment of the youth. Through SCOPE over 1,00,000 youth have gained an international qualification through Cambridge ESOL, opening doors for global opportunities.


Globally the dramatic demographic changes of ageing populations as well as India's youth-boom, will create a fast-changing international labour market. An assessment of future skill requirements both in India and internationally will allow strategic preparation of our workforce and migration policy. Migration of Indian workers has already shown how brain-drain can transform to a beneficial talent-circulation, where highly skilled workers return. Government and Industry associations together should assess and prepare mobile workforces with the skills and proficiencies to meet sector requirements. By invigorating our talent pool, in one decade our youth will be the engine of growth not just for India, but for the world.


Developing as a Knowledge Powerhouse

India should not follow other developing nations with expansion in the manufacturing sector to drive economic growth. Instead, India's workforce should sharpen a competitive edge as a leading knowledge-based economy. It has been estimated that 90 per cent of jobs in our service sector are skill-based, and not knowledge-based, and this indicates the large scope for up-grading talent. By preparing a generation of highly educated and skilled youth, India will lead with a scarce resource for industry all over the world: Knowledge workers with flexibility and analytical powers will be a driving force for innovation and growth.


The demands for a world-class education are high for today's job market and necessary for current professions. In Gujarat we have focussed on expanding and establishing new education institutes in focussed areas. Today people are studying at the only Forensic Sciences University in India, as well as at the new Gujarat National Law University and Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University. The recently established Raksha Shakti University is the first of its kind in India, conducting diploma and degree courses in public science and internal security. By preparing India's youth in key areas we are ensuring qualified professionals are ready to address future challenges and create solutions.


Young India is in a hurry, this is not only limited to governance. This Net Generation — who from childhood have been stimulated by unlimited online information and instant social networking will be the future workforce. Their new tools for communication and approaches to work will give a technology-quake shaking up the work culture of traditional hierarchies as well giving an injection of creativity and innovation. The Net Generation will contribute advanced systems to revolutionise efficiency and with novel methods will solve persistent problems. India, by promoting a knowledge-empowered workforce can become a leader in alternative processes and pioneering innovation to address the challenges of a fast-changing world.

Global Gateways and Global Hubs


As the international business centres are re-balanced over the world, India needs to be ready to attract a flow of investments across the country. India's business regulations has been found to be overly-complex and non-transparent and standards and certifications procedures are cumbersome. This over-regulation is turning away Governments and businesses. Necessary business regulation processes are taking hundreds of days when other countries are able to complete formalities in weeks.

India requires systems that deliver and an administration that focuses on outcomes. In Gujarat we use a single-window web portal for investors to apply and track their requests for a delay-free process. The recent Economic Freedom Rankings ranked Gujarat 2nd from the top in India, recognising the State's improvement in legal institutions and labour and business regulation. Gujarat's efficiency has attracted businesses from India and around the world. Over $450 billion of investments were committed at the last Vibrant Gujarat Investors Summit. India's cities need to be upgraded to Global Gateways for business.


Forbes magazine named Ahmedabad number one in India in its list of The World's Fastest-Growing Cities with a focus on the global emerging powerhouses. Ahmedabad was described as the "most market-oriented and business-friendly" among Indian States. Gujarat offers a model to transform business regulation processes that will bring investments with employment and new technology for our people.


Planning infrastructure for our country can no longer be driven by responding just to local
needs and fixing the problem areas. Our roads, ports and energy hubs need to be globally connected to vitalise and drive our economy. Gujarat's Port Policy has led to world-class private-sector ports and is recognised as one of the best public policies in Asia, by the US based Cato Institute. Today we see 35 per cent of India's cargo-handling being through Gujarat's ports.


To fully utilise the future potential, India needs to ensure that there is maximum use of the country's natural resources and human capital. Gujarat has provided concrete solutions to capturing the energy of the youth to support social service. The Chief Minister's Fellowship Programme is an opportunity for high achieving youth to work with senior Government Officers to contribute to society. Another initiative is apprenticeships with the urban municipalities and Gujarat Law University students are working with our judges for new solutions.

Balanced Development


Gujarat's formula for balanced economic success is to avoid over-dependence in any sector. We have evolved a three-part development model for Gujarat: One-third is industry, one-third is service sector and one-third agriculture. If there is a balanced development in all three, the State economy can never slow down. As the technical and knowledge skills of the young workforce are further upgraded India can create multiple global manufacturing hubs. India's geographic location and unique ethos of business efficiency will ensure lower costs of production and supply for the rising consumption of Asian economies.


Institutes from all over the country and the world come to Gujarat to study the key drivers which have been shown to contribute to the Gujarat Agriculture Growth rate of 12.8 per cent over the last 5 years (2001-02 to 2006-07), compared to India's growth rate which has been 2.8 per cent over five years and not even close to the 11th Plan target of four per cent for 2007-12. Seven to eight years ago, the Gujarat's agricultural income was Rs 90 billion, now it is over Rs 500 billion. Increased yields and crop diversification means farmers are reaping gains from high-value fruits including papaya, kesar mango and dates. Where once droughts were common new crops like sugarcane are flourishing, supported by drip-irrigation technology subsidised by the Government.

In other States farmers are tied to official procurement hubs. In Gujarat laws allow farmers to sell direct to private buyers. Companies buy crops from farmers one year in advance, reducing risks and encouraging investment. Many multinationals have established plants in Gujarat and farmers are benefitting through the increased sales and income. A focus on agriculture processing hubs will multiply value as we access global markets and this will further multiply incomes for our people.


India an Icon for Democracy and Empowerment

This year the world has witnessed the dramatic fall of authoritarian regimes where the people were constrained and powerless — there is a new hunger for freedom all over the world. The impact on global economic stability is threatened with oil prices rising and security risks heightened. These nations emerging from crisis are now looking how to develop a just and fair system of governance. India's democracy where over one billion people have a voice in deciding their future is a world example of how governance can incorporate diversity into a movement for inclusive growth. New modes of democratic engagement, especially through using e-governance are allowing greater access to fundamental rights for all our people.


India's strength as an international policy leader lies in fully democratising our governance functioning. Our country requires a commitment to people's empowerment which will realise an end to inequality. Harnessing e-governance moves access to governance from long queues at offices to any internet point. In Gujarat, our UN awarded and Nationally awarded SWAGAT e-governance system ensures long-term grievances are resolved through use of online applications and video-conferencing across all District and Block offices. Thousands of applications are received each month and over 96 per cent have been resolved with a fixation on transparency and accountability. SWAGAT is mostly accessed by the poorest, the least educated and disempowered, who have failed to obtain justice elsewhere. SWAGAT exemplifies how today's technology can transform systems to fully empower citizens so their voices are heard, and responses are given that are effective and time-bound.

India must further activate people's role in governance to ensure the citizens are part of a development transformation. In Gujarat innovative citizen engagement has contributed to the success of groundwater levels increasing. 14,000 water committees are managing village water facilities through our Water and Sanitation Management Organisation which has won the CAPAM award (2010), and the UN Public Service Award for best participatory practice (2009). The withdrawal of groundwater, our most precious resource, has reached unsafe levels in about 30 per cent of our country. As food requirements increase and industry expands we will see only an increase in water needs. Policies and regulation are mostly failing to manage this complex open resource. The success of WASMO illustrates that people's participation in governance is key to quantum changes in development.


The development strategy of Gujarat can be characterised as 360 degrees growth model where people become the drivers of development. In order to empower people locally to guide the growth process, we have initiated Taluka Sarkar — a sub-district citizen centric approach where governance and development is activated at the grass root level. Every Taluka in Gujarat will be empowered and self-sustaining to provide a local platform for driving double digit growth and social development. We are pioneering a new model of growth based on consent from the people rather than control of the Government — this is the essence of our democratic inclusiveness.

Erasing Corruption with Efficiency

Corruption and mismanagement are undercutting growth and threaten to further widen the inequality across the population. Leakage through the public delivery system has diseased outcomes for the poorest for decades and studies estimate impossibly huge amounts of leakage. India requires a full commitment to reverse the leakage and replace the rotten systems. In 2010 we pioneered a direct system of distribution through Garib Kalyan Mela held in all Districts and Sub-Districts. Beneficiaries were informed in advance of their entitlements and transport was organised to the Melas where benefits were allocated systematically. A tremendous Rs 4,859 crore of funds were directly distributed including cheques, auto and cycle repairing kits, sewing machines, cycles for the disabled. Hundred per cent of funds reached 100 per cent of intended beneficiaries through an efficient mass-scale system benefitting more than 3.7 million Gujaratis. The innovation illustrates that commitment to transparent systems can ensure the poor receive entitlements without diversion.

A Governance Environment Enabling all to succeed

Gujarat is showing the country what is possible, and once we walk this path it is
irreversible. The result is inclusion, happiness, and people empowered to reach their potential. The political mindset of our country needs to develop a fixation for progress in inclusive development as the primary action of governance. Previously people were satisfied with accepting failures and limitations, and were convinced change would not be possible. These days there is an energy in the nation especially with the youth, that calls and searches for better answers for our deepest problems.


The best measurement of success is by the end-users, our people clearly know whether their lives are better, they are already moving from problem-filled areas to locations driven by success. In Gujarat we are seeing our population move to villages where they now have 24hr electricity, excellent roads, internet connectivity and vibrant employment. Businesses and Governments are choosing Gujarat over others as they have experienced the guarantee of key requirements and innovative methods to fast-track otherwise tedious processes. Our plethora of innovation is resulting in growth in all areas of the economy and a significant change in the quality of life of all our people, in cities and villages.


I have spoken about a vision to develop India's workforce and to strengthen democratic governance as well as open international relations. Beneath all of these principles lie the core values of our country. Vasudheva Kutumbukam reminds us we are one family, a Global family. We should work so that each member of our family is included and connecting to the economy and society. Our ancient wisdom reminds us to ensure happiness, health and goodness for all — Sarve bhavantu sukhinah. This ethos permeates our inclusive growth strategy to ensure no person is left without the opportunity for equality. Most important of all, in Gandhi's land, we are committed to transparency and truth. The value of truth should strengthen our resolve to make decisions that are true to the benefit of our people, and not to serve personal interests. This Indian ethos drives the inspiration for all our initiatives to better serve our people.


The experience of India's development has lessons for all emerging and transforming economies. Access to governance has to be guaranteed with transparent systems that deliver responses and outcomes. The strengthening of democratic governance empowers the population to become active partners in the growth process. Come and see Gujarat where good governance has given new meaning to the people for jal, anna, chatt and shiksha.


It is the exemplary good governance that will then engage citizens at every locality as well as countries of the world to become active partners in India's development.


This is the edited version of the text of Narendra Modi's speech at the India Today Conclave which has caused considerable interest around the world and is being widely discussed and debated.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

BACKWARDS AND FORWARD

 

The latest revelations from internet crusader WikiLeaks leave parties across the Indian political spectrum red-faced. These leaks focus on the passing of the Indo-American nuclear deal in Parliament in 2008. Describing chests packed with bank notes, aides bragging about bribing legislators and leaders speaking in forked tongues, this instalment seems to describe the farcical politics of a banana republic rather than the workings of the world's largest parliamentary democracy.


Accessing American diplomatic dispatches, WikiLeaks reports a top Congressman's aide showing wads of money to a US embassy employee in 2008, explaining that these were for bribing MPs towards backing the government over the no-confidence motion on the Indo-US nuclear deal. The disclosures have left Congress members edgily embarrassed, trying every tactic, defensiveness, diversion and dismissal, to avoid the serious charges. In this environment, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, earlier embroiled in the 2G, CVC and Isro scandals, emerges looking sorrier than ever. Integrity being his USP, the PM should have faced the leaks head-on, stating clearly that they would be investigated seriously and thoroughly. Instead, Singh remarked that he didn't 'authorise' anyone to purchase votes and the UPA's following electoral success insulated it from such charges. Singh also questioned WikiLeaks's own standing, receiving a stinging riposte from founder Julian Assange, who stated such 'misleading' responses appeared like the actions of 'guilty men'.


As if this was not bad enough for Indian democracy, the nation's main opposition party also emerges muddied. It seems BJP leaders assured American contacts that their party's stiff opposition to the deal in Parliament was mere play-acting and the BJP in reality had little opposition to it. If this is indeed the case, the BJP must account for the days and funds wasted stalling Parliament over such dramatics. While the two parties fight this out now, exchanging accusations back and forth, what WikiLeaks truly exposes is the common disregard shown for the institution of Parliament, based on public ethics and monies held in trust. The House's dignity has been severely demeaned, Parliament treated as little more than a cheap theatre where democracy's 'dramas' can be staged.

While the WikiLeaks revelations may be shaming for India's political elite, they also throw up an opportunity to cleanse the system. It's a historic chance for Parliament to assert its dignity by codifying members' privileges, debarring them for questionable practices such as taking money for votes. This is treated as criminally culpable in other democracies. Pushing for this, we might even gain something from these exposes. Otherwise, we will witness the same farces enacted in Parliament over and over again.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

POWER PACK

 

With the Middle East providing 70% of its oil imports, India can't but dread prolonged instability in the region. Oil jitters today are matched by doubts about the future of nuclear energy, also bad news for a country poised to embark on an ambitious civil nuclear energy programme. Japan's Fukushima crisis has compelled a global rethink on nuclear power, with some even questioning whether the "nuclear renaissance" we talk of is for real at all. In the US, for instance, nuclear power generation has proved costly thanks to flat-lining demand and wary private investors. On one hand, the sector needs to be heavily subsidised. On the other, Fukushima's lesson mandates more spending to upgrade safety systems, be it plant and reactor design or disaster preparedness. So, the main challenge is to draw enough private capital, which generally shuns ventures with hazardous potential.

Paying high oil import bills, energy-hungry India can't afford to keep nuclear power off the table. It can nonetheless focus more on renewables like solar, wind or hydro. If even part of the big money going nuclear helps build renewables infrastructure with improved technologies, the sector can acquire the scale and operational efficiency needed to beat commercial viability issues. Exploiting a limitless resource, solar facilities, for instance, can be set up in desert areas and linked to a national grid to skirt problems of land availability and intermittent supply. Clean and green, renewables also adapt well to local needs and innovation. No wonder solar photovoltaic systems are a hit in rural India and small community-based initiatives are lighting up remote areas. Harnessing hugely promising non-conventional energy sources like shale gas is equally imperative. Creating a balanced energy basket is doable for India. All we need is good policy initiatives and incentives for investors.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

DIALOGUE IS THE KEY

 

Three things have changed since talks between India and Pakistan broke down last July. One, Pakistan, then ankle-deep in political and religious violence, is now submerged by it. Two, Islamabad's ties with the United States, following the Raymond Davis incident, have frayed. Three, top leaders of the ISI face prosecution in a New York court on charges of abetment to murder of US citizens in the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)-led 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. Michael Leiter, director of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre, who deposed recently before the US Congress, asserts that the LeT is an "increasing threat" to the US itself.


Taken together, the three developments have transformed strategic calculations in the subcontinent. When home secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan resume on March 28, India must set the agenda. If the India-Pakistan foreign ministers' summit, scheduled for Delhi in July, ends without a constructive outcome, the suspended composite dialogue could go into deep freeze. The rising tide of sectarian violence and political assassinations demands focussed engagement with Pakistan - on rigorously laid-out terms.


National security advisor Shivshankar Menon in a recent speech at the Asian Security Conference implied that Pakistan is not part of what he termed the "Asian economic movement". It has an expanding nuclear weapons programme and hence creates instability in Asia. "There is increasing danger," he warned, "of terrorism spreading from it." An economically interdependent Pakistan is therefore in the interest of every strategic stakeholder in the subcontinent.

 

India's economy is expanding at over 9% a year. Pakistan's battered economy is floundering with annual growth stuck at under 1%. India's GDP by purchasing power parity will cross $4 trillion in 2011, nine times Pakistan's estimated GDP of $0.45 trillion. At their respective current growth rates, India's GDP in 2020 will exceed $10 trillion while Pakistan's will crawl to $0.50 trillion. According to Citi's latest report, Global Growth Generators, India's economy will be the world's largest by 2050 with a GDP of $85.97 trillion. The little-publicised oil-gas pipeline agreement signed between India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan signals a new south-central Asia guided by the growing power of geoeconomics. This underlines the economic "inclusiveness" Menon called for at the Asian Security Conference.


Pakistan's governing elite is made up largely of Punjabis though Pashtuns are well-represented in the bureaucracy and the army (70% of which is Punjabi). The unspoken fear that haunts Islamabad is the latent demand for a Greater Pashtunistan, fusing Pakistan's 28 million Pashtuns with 12 million Pashtuns across the Durand Line in Afghanistan. If that demand gathers momentum, and the Balochi and Sindhi nationalist movements grow, it could trisect Pakistan.


This is not in India's long-term strategic interest. A stable, peaceful, undivided Pakistan acts as a buffer zone against the murderous Taliban and its radicalised Pashtun-Balochi fellow-tribesmen. While the Taliban is made up largely of Pashtuns, with a smattering of Chechens and Arabs, its violent philosophy finds no resonance with the secular Pashtun nationalist movement represented politically by the moderate Awami National Party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and historically by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi.


Political assassinations and the fear of religious violence have, however, silenced liberal Pakistani society. From that silence is now emerging a recognition - even among Pakistan's army - that terrorism does not pay. The radicalisation of Pakistan's professional middle class - lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs - presents a challenge and an opportunity for India. The Pakistani army and government are no longer in full control of events. Pakistan is probably more willing today than at any time since the post-Bangladesh 1970s to accept that its future lies in peace, not conflict, with India.


Of the five principal issues on the table at next Monday's home secretary-level talks, dealing with the first two - Sir Creek and Siachen - will pose the fewest problems. Confidence-building measures across travel, trade and people-to-people contacts are also likely to move forward rapidly. The last two, Kashmir and terrorism, however, could remain intractable. The India-Pakistan foreign ministers' summit talks in July will coincide with the peak of Kashmir's torrid summer as well as the first drawdown of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. If the Valley erupts into violence as it did last year, the reverberations will be felt all the way in Delhi.

What then is the most coherent strategy India should pursue for a durable peace with a Pakistan increasingly torn apart by centrifugal forces? As this decade unfolds, the generation of army commanders scarred as young officers by Bangladesh in 1971 will pass. The Pakistani army - including General Zia-ul Haq's radicalised core - knows it has at most a 10-year window to employ terrorism as an instrument of state policy with Kashmir as the pretext before economic disparities between the two countries shuts that window for good.


A strong economy, good political governance and a robust foreign policy are India's best assets as Pakistan finds itself in the eye of a perfect storm: an alienated US squeezing its financial pipeline and home-grown terrorists eroding its fragile democracy. These unintended consequences could finally compel Islamabad to abandon its self-destructive hostility towards India and give peace in the subcontinent a real chance.

The writer is an author and chairman of a media group.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

GIVE ARTISTES A PLACE IN THE SUN

 

The plethora of artistes who put the shine into Bollywood's stars looks set to be more equitably compensated if proposed amendments to copyright laws are passed. Tabled by Kapil Sibal, the changes legally compel the Indian Performing Rights Society to pay composers and lyricists 50% of the royalty generated by the performance of any song. Excluded is royalty generated from screening the film to which the song belongs because the artiste is already contracted to produce the song for the film.


At stake is not film royalty, but who gets royalty generated from sales of music CDs and the public performance of songs. In theory, the amendments aren't required, argue film producers and music companies. However, these arguments take no note of actual practice and that's what makes reform imperative. Film producers and music companies are technically correct in opposing the amendments on the grounds that composers and lyricists already enjoy the right to royalties unless they actively sign away those rights. But left out of this story is what really happens in Bollywood when supporting artistes are forced to sign away royalty rights. If they don't, then their future is stark because they may be blackballed.


The issue was at the heart of the controversy between Aamir Khan and Javed Akhtar, when the actor was reported to have said that a song became a hit only when it was picturised on a big star. A film, however, is a composite work with a role played by many contributors. While no one grudges stars their stardom, surely lyricists and music composers deserve their place in the sun as well. Would Bollywood have been the same without its Javed Akhtars and A R Rahmans? That the proposed amendments enjoy that rarest of privileges - cross-party support - only reinforces their correctness.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

DON'T IGNORE INDUSTRY'S CONCERNS

JAY KUMAR

 

India's film and music industry has raised valid concerns regarding proposed amendments to the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. The Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010 includes contentious provisions that will give lyricists, music composers, singers and other artistes a right to lifelong royalties for their work. A closer look at the Bill reveals that it fails to appreciate the uniqueness of the Indian film industry.


Hitherto, the producer of a film was considered as its author and the first owner of the copyright of the film. It has been standard practice for producers to assume all rights in underlying works contained in films through contractual arrangements with artistes. And so far, the system has worked well. Any film music is part of a comprehensive package. Take a song like 'Sheila ki jawani', which for millions is associated with Katrina Kaif. How many would be aware that Vishal Dadlani is the lyricist or Sunidhi Chauhan is the singer of that song? The number would be a small fraction of those who readily identify it with Katrina. Going by a reported spat between Aamir Khan and Javed Akhtar, Aamir is essentially correct in saying that a song becomes a hit when it is picturised successfully with an actor. Thus, it can't be seen as the property of a lyricist or singer in the way that a novel is the property of a writer.


The Bill offers no clarity on what 'equal rights' for lyricists and composers means. Also, the magnitude of piracy our film industry faces makes it tricky to calculate profits. Isn't it better that producers retain exclusive rights over the film? The inequities reportedly suffered by artistes can be better handled with enhanced fees negotiated under their contractual agreements or with royalty payments that are mutually agreed upon.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

FUKUSHIMA MON AMOUR

BACHI KARKARIA

 

This is not another depressing column. True, I have felt my eyes swim as the heart-clamping images are dredged up on screen and newsprint. True, the mushroom cloud of nuclear catastrophe should not hang over any country even once. What karma is this deep and determined country playing out? But, however unnerving the reality, equally stirring has been the superhuman effort to pull life out of the jaws of death, or worse. Once again there is manifest proof that feats can vanquish, delay and elevate defeat.


We have watched with as much awe as shock. A statesmanlike government has not offered insultingly stupid reassurances, but been as transparent as it can possibly be without swamping hope. A disciplined people have drawn on sustained disaster drills and, as much, on their cultural and spiritual wellsprings. All of us have wondered 'What if it were to happen here?' Official bumbling? Public panic? Yes. But we have enough devastation in recent times to show that we as individuals can be as brave, even superhuman.


The band of workers who stayed on to calm Fukushima's furious core, the 'kamikaze pilots' undeterred by the slim chances of containment. We may never have faced an equal challenge, but through bomb blasts and deluge, we too have displayed sacrifice of comparable value. We are our brother's keepers. And of other life too. The creatures swallowed whole by Japan's monster wave may be part of a cosmic cycle of destruction and creation, but as i watched people clutching their pets as they fled, my mind summoned an earlier indelible image.

On the first morning of the '92 Mumbai riots, Muslims from the teeming slums behind the Dadar Parsi Colony had swarmed in to take refuge in the staid and genteel Palamkokte Hall. It was a surreal sight. Beneath the stern oil portraits of Parsi baronets and dowagers, the poor huddled desperate and frightened. Among them was a wiry greybeard holding on to his prized possession - a shuddering parrot in its cage.


So, i flood my mind with better memories. Of Takao-san, my husband's fellow consultant and our close friend, who was in Chennai when the tsunami hit, and who is back with his family in Tokyo, safe. Spurning deep-freeze five-star, he took to Mumbai's coastal food restaurants like, well, a fish to water, his eyes lighting up as he stepped into their strong aromas. He was even happier with our machhi na curry-chawal at home, eyes streaming and taste buds watering in synchronised delight.


Much earlier was that trip to Yokohama for the '94 AIDS conference, when none of the dire warnings of being defeated by forex, food or language came true. The politeness was integral. The helpfulness was touching. A bank officer actually left his desk to step out on the street to point me in the correct direction. The bento box from the corner convenience store was affordable dinner, and in the basement of the huge department store, friendly vendors called out to us to sample their cooked wares.


On the last evening we decided to splurge at a traditional Japanese restaurant. The food was served with impossible grace and generosity. The platters of sashimi and shabu-shabu kept being borne in by the kimono-ed waitress. John desperately flipped through his English-to-Japanese dictionary to tell her we had had our fill. The exquisite lady bowed, and returned twittering with more. Our American shrugged in defeat: "I think she's telling us, 'We've killed the cow, now you had better eat it!' "


We wish it didn't have to, but Japan continues to show that it's never time to call it a day. Never time to say 'Sayonara'.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

HOW TO WIN BACK TRUST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated in Parliament on Wednesday that "we were not involved in any illegal act nor had we authorised anybody to indulge in any bribe given during 2008 confidence vote". It is now his job to convince his critics, both within the BJP and the Left as well as those outside the jousting grounds of politics, that that is indeed the case. The UPA in general and Mr Singh in particular should not see such a demand as an affront to the government's or the prime minister's moral authority. Surely this government must admit that over the last few months, it has eroded some of its credibility. So for people to believe its innocence in unsavoury matters such as scams at face value would hardly be something that a democratic government would expect of its people.

There are two red herrings floating about and these have to be removed in any procedure that can help to get to the bottom of one single thing: were parliamentarians offered bribes in the July 2008 confidence vote in exchange of votes? The first non-issue is the one regarding the source of the allegation, American diplomatic cables. It really doesn't matter whether the source of the information to be verified is American or Martian. The issue involves alleged goings-on in the Indian Parliament reportedly indulged in by Indians and that is enough for us to take matters gravely. The second issue involves the timing of the 'resurfacing' of the contentious subject. The 2008 'cash-for-votes' matter was first looked into by a parliamentary committee headed by Congress Lok Sabha member Kishore Chandra Deo, and the subsequent report was prepared on the then available evidence.

Mr Deo himself confirmed last week that the report was "not yet a closed chapter". So even though the recent WikiLeaks may not be treated as evidence in any court of law, it can be used as 'leads' by investigative agencies to resuscitate an incomplete probe.

Mr Singh had castigated the Opposition in Parliament last week "for raising old charges that had been debated, discussed and rejected by the people of India". If by this he meant that the electoral mandate given by the people of India in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls was a certificate of innocence given to the UPA government that had been accused in 2008 of winning a confidence vote over the India-US nuclear deal by bribing MPs, he may be walking a slippery slope. Going by that logic, the 2002 Gujarat assembly elections can be seen as a clean chit given by an electorate to a ruling government accused of indulging in state-sanctioned communal violence. One doesn't know whether parties within the UPA will be adversely affected by the litany of scams they have been tainted with in the forthcoming state elections. But it is certain that the mystery of the 'cash-for-votes' must be resolved for the sake of India's polity. Surely the UPA government would go out of its way now to ensure that a probe is conducted to its logical conclusion that will only confirm what Mr Singh already knows to be the truth.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

Samar HalarnkarNot so long ago, there was a spoof on YouTube featuring Egyptair in which the bumbling pilot promises to take off and land somewhere in Egypt and at some point of time. How we laughed at that. But now we may be laughing on the other side of our faces given the cavalier manner in which many of our pilots have obtained their airworthiness. Forged certificates, fudged birth records, enhanced flying hours and fake marksheets are just some of the instruments on the panel that some pilots have used to get into the cockpit. So it would be no flight of fancy to say that the next time you see your pilot furiously studying the flight manual in the airport, rush out and buy a train ticket to your destination.

Now it looks all very exciting in Hollywood movies to have some rookie steward steering an aircraft solely on the basis of instructions from air traffic control after hijackers have made short work of the pilots. But it's another matter to be several kilometers up in the air in a plane piloted by someone who has got no further than a flight simulator. We have learned to live dangerously. We have doctors with fake licences, lecturers with spurious degrees and bus drivers with no licences at all. But to think that you might have to land in the Thar desert instead of Udaipur on your next flight is enough to keep you firmly grounded.

The amazing part is that the fakers have no fear for their own lives, never mind scant disregard for ours. For all you know, we may be fake edit writers, though chances are that you'll never know and we will have caused you no greater harm than lulling you into somnolence. And we're down to earth in many ways, as you should be if you don't want any unwanted air pockets in your life.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

RIDE THE SECOND WAVE

SAMAR HALARNKAR

You know those red eyes from the flash of a digital camera? Well, sometimes they appear white, which is not a good thing — it means light is being abnormally reflected. Alefia Merchant will tell you that parents who found this white reflection, or reflex, in photos went on to find their child had an eye cancer called retinoblastoma.

Using this knowledge, Merchant, a third-year medical student, now in Canada, developed a test to detect not just cancers but many eye problems in children. She used a simple digital camera that can be used by health workers, instead of expensive ophthalmologic equipment that needs specialists. When Merchant tested the camera in the remote rural areas of eastern Karnataka's Pavagada — once notorious for wolves that made off with children — she found rural health workers could perform and interpret the technique.

"We are clear that we are not inventing a new product, but we are inventing a new process by which we can use simple technology to help get information on the health of a child's eye," Merchant told me.

A former graphic designer who likes rock climbing and dancing the tango, Merchant is one of an elite group of under-35 innovators chosen by Technology Review, a magazine on innovation founded in 1899 and published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Over the last two days in Bangalore, I've listened as excited young men and women with varying research interests, backgrounds and accents presented their work at TR35, the third annual edition of the event in India, the first country to have it outside the US.  

Last week in New Delhi I visited another national showcase of innovation, older and earthier. The brainchild of one man, Anil Gupta, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, the National Innovation Network provides a national stage to farmers, handymen, students and anyone else with an idea that makes life easier, cheaper and better. So, from Delhi's Vasant Valley school, I met three schoolgirls who had created a bicycle-driven street sweeper. I tried to talk — but failed, since he spoke only Gujarati — to a wizened farmer who proudly displayed the seeds he had developed.

Whether globally networked or locally isolated, the common thread to these innovations is that their ideas are largely inspired by India's vast array of unsolved problems. For instance, Aishwarya Rattan, a TR35 awardee and researcher at Microsoft India, explained how her team developed a pen that writes on paper and can simultaneously generate digital records. India has 6 million self-help groups, encompassing 86 million women who use their collective power to get loans, run businesses or government social security programmes like shops for subsidised food. These are decentralised, autonomous institutions, ideal for rural India, but their barely legible, often incomplete, financial records end up with banks, which are professionally audited. In tests, Rattan's system cut errors by half and time by a third. Not only does it process, against a database, what is written, but it also reads out to illiterate women, in their language, what has been entered.

So here is the problem with this explosion of innovation: very little is likely to be used under India's current system. How does India ensure the scaling up of innovation from grassroots, from start-ups, from multinational research laboratories, some of them using India's best brains? How can these innovations be tested, verified and deployed for public applications and needs?

If the government is serious about using Indian talent to solve Indian problems, it must appoint an innovation tsar. The prime minister does have an advisor on innovations, Sam Pitroda, who in a previous 1980s avatar mainstreamed the telecommunications revolution. His ambit is now grossly inadequate. The innovation tsar must work full-time, seek out and vet bright ideas, and connect organisations and innovators with implementing government agencies or interested companies. Today, too many innovators endure old, obstructionist India. Even those in premier research institutions up the innovation ladder aren't spared.

Chetan Chitnis explained how difficult it was to get permission for clinical trials of a promising malaria vaccine at his global research laboratory, the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi. Chitnis, the principal leader of the malaria group at ICGEB, told me how a month's dealing in the US with one state organisation, becomes about 18 months in India, between four government departments, with much we-have-not-got-the-file kind of responses.

The innovation tsar must be authorised to cut through such roadblocks and ensure that those who need it most — the 500-odd million at the bottom of India's pyramid — can benefit from India's revolution of innovation. 

Merchant's guide, Dr Ashwin Mallipatna, a paediatric eye surgeon at Narayana Nethralaya, a privately run centre of public healthcare innovation, explained how the white-reflex test should ideally become a part of the government health system. "That is something we want to do," he said.

In a recent book, Jet Age, American writer Sam Verhovek reminds the reader how the aircraft synonymous with the commercial jet age is the Boeing 707. Yet, the first jetliner was the British de Havilland Comet, which after three explosive crashes never regained its first-mover advantage. Boeing waited and learned from the Comet's mistakes, and its innovations truly launched the age of the commercial jet. Vast, dark parts of this country, similarly, have no technology legacies. They wait for their own jet age. India's innovators are ready to provide the technologies; India only needs to put its second-mover advantage to good use.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

MONEY WHERE THE MOUTH IS

E SOMANATHAN

As of 2006, over 43% of Indian children under five were malnourished, a rate that has barely budged since the early 1990s. This gives India the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of malnourished children in the world. There are at least 53 poorer countries with lower malnutrition rates, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Haiti and several African countries. At Independence, India was poor, so it wasn't thought possible to guarantee food security until some economic growth had taken place. Today, per capita income in India is six times as high as it was then. Yet, despite the public distribution system (PDS) and many government programmes, we are still faced with this appalling situation.

The reason for this situation is well known. An army of corrupt politicians and officials manipulate the eligibility conditions of every programme to extort money from recipients and divert it into their own pockets. Even the proposed Food Security Act is likely to become one more addition to the list of schemes under which the majority of Indians will continue to be humiliated and cheated by ration-shop dealers and officials with monopoly power.

It appears that the act may incorporate the worst of both worlds: it will be targeted at below poverty line households rather than being universal, and it will involve procuring and distributing grain through the PDS. Targeting ensures that a majority of genuinely poor households get left out (in modern India, it's hard to be classified as poor if you are poor and easy if you aren't) and pushing grain through the PDS involves enormous cost and waste.

But the world has changed. There is a now a better way available, one that will ensure food security for all, and that will be not just politically feasible but also an absolute political winner.

The Universal Identification (UID) system, now being rolled out, will permit biometric identification of individuals. All the government has to do is offer a smart (machine-readable) card to every adult woman using the biometric ID. This eliminates the need for verification by local officials of any kind, removing discretion and avenues for harassment. The biometric central database of fingerprints, photographs, and iris scans itself ensures that there are no duplicate ID numbers given. Then the government should announce a payment of R100 to be made available once a week when the card is swiped and fingerprints scanned in a shop. For each such swipe, the shop will get an electronic payment of R100 and be required to give R100 in cash to the cardholder. Every shopkeeper in the country will then want to get a card and fingerprint reader in order to get the resulting customers' business.

This will also remove the ration-shop monopoly. Shopkeepers will compete for customers and this will ensure that money can't be stolen from the recipients. Competition will also confine merchants' commissions to a small percentage. The system can be implemented by the government of India without local officials having any chance to intervene and siphon off money.

For the majority of Indians who face food shortfalls, the scheme will bring genuine food security for the first time in their lives. It will enable the purchase of 20 kg of food grains per adult woman per month at an average price of R20 per kg (this works out to 33 kg per household, on average). Moreover, it will give women the flexibility to buy dal, oil, medicines or anything else, if that is what they need most at any given time. By giving the biometric/economic power to women who are at the centre of a household, it will ensure food reaches children and women are empowered.

The scheme should be almost universal. Only those rich enough to pay income tax, (and therefore have PAN cards) should be excluded from the scheme. This can be done easily enough through a process that can't be manipulated. Of course, the amount of payment must be adjusted on a monthly basis to track the price of food. This should be done on a national basis. The process will have to be kept clean, transparent and non-manipulable.

The cost, less than 3% of the national income, can be raised by cutting wasteful subsidies on petroleum and fertiliser, and shrinking the PDS itself. These subsidies, so far politically untouchable, can be reduced as the government that implements this scheme will be very popular. It will be electorally unbeatable and will be able to promote politicians who work for the public good. That is the only way we can improve our education and infrastructure and achieve  double-digit growth rates.

At Independence, Nehru made a pledge to "fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease… and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman".

It would be fitting for the family of the man who made the pledge to help finally redeem it. The technology is here and the politics are irresistible.

(E Somanathan is professor and head of the planning unit at the Indian Statistical Institute)

*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

VOTE FOR TRUST

 

With Lok Sabha finally debating Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement on allegations of bribe-giving for the UPA government's July 2008 motion of confidence, the speakers appeared to spar from their partisan corners. On March 18, he had told the House that he rejected charges that the Congress had sought to fix the vote by buying MPs. Subsequent protest by the opposition that they were not satisfied with the prime minister's statement drew Parliament into Wednesday's debate. At the end of the debate, they reiterated their dissatisfaction, and the BJP-led NDA staged a walkout.

All of this has made for engrossing theatre. And with the campaign for five assembly elections well underway, there are obviously expectations of immediate political consequences. Yet, once again the past few days have made clear the kind of political brinkmanship that Parliament is being subject to. On Tuesday, the BJP boycotted the Lok Sabha debate on the Finance Bill, demanding the discussion on the PM's statement be taken up first. As a report in this newspaper detailed, this was not for want of deliberations between the BJP and the Congress to forge cooperation — but they came to naught because of a breakdown of trust that the other side would hold itself to its part of the truce. The result was that the main opposition party absented itself from something as vital as the passage of the budget. It, of course, reflects a glaring act of omission by the BJP, and voters could hold it to account for that. But for the government too, the opposition's repeated abandonment of proceedings to press whatever may be its demand of the moment should be a cause for worry — the entire winter session for a joint parliamentary committee on telecom, a number of sessions in the middle of the budget session for a structured discussion a WikiLeaks cable. To ensure the legitimacy of the executive's

actions, the government requires the opposition to take part in parliamentary processes.

Our edgy and vibrant federal politics will never give the two main political parties a time-out to forge a basic trust in parliamentary processes that each needs, and Parliament requires even more.

But three years away from the scheduled Lok Sabha elections, and in a year when the two are not facing off against each other in a big way in a state election, this may be the best chance they'll get.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SHOCK DOCTRINE

 

The latest iteration of the Mental Health Care Bill is expected to put strong checks on the use of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), which is used rampantly in India. Popularly known as shock therapy, it involves administering precise electric shocks to the brain to stimulate specific nerve cells, to kick-start severely depressed patients. It has been demonised in movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest — the violent seizures, and the calm it creates later, put off observers. However, many in the medical community defend its use as a highly effective last-ditch treatment for depression.

After a couple of Italian doctors hit upon the method in 1938 and successfully treated a patient for hallucinations and confusion, albeit temporarily, ECT has been a standard line of mental treatment. Its use has waned as anti-depressant drugs took off after the 1970s and 1980s, but for the most recalcitrant cases, measured convulsions have been known to lift depression. As the Yale surgeon and bio-ethicist Sherwin Nuland has said, modern treatment looks nothing like the early ECT methods, before there was an effective way to paralyse the muscles, leading to the dangerous grand mal convulsions.

However, for all the refinement of the procedure now, there are ongoing studies that claim that ECT's benefits are short-term, and that it can impair memory and the ability to absorb new information. In India, of course, it's only with these amendments to the Mental Health Care Bill that anaesthesia has been made compulsory, and necessary checks installed — direct ECT will be avoided, and it will not be used on minors. However, the most important improvement could be to make sure the patient's informed consent is available, wherever possible, and that the psychiatrist who recommends the treatment lays out the benefits and the possible side-effects.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SEEDING GROWTH

 

The UPA government's effort to create a regulatory structure for the commercial seed business — already pending since 2004 — has run into further trouble, being quite comprehensively attacked by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who believes that, as agriculture is a state subject, the Centre is overstepping its jurisdiction.

The Seeds Committee that is being set up to regulate the quality of seeds should, he argued, also have the power to regulate the prices of seeds. After all, procurement prices — the prices that farmers get for their produce — are set by government, and might well be slow in responding to the private sector's changes in seed prices; this would, those like Nitish fear, end up squeezing the farmer. While there's force to this argument, it's unclear that greater meddling with the market will help. Plus seed prices are variable for different strains of vegetables in particular — Nitish mentioned a price in "thousands" for hybrid vegetables — and those are outside the procurement net. Over-regulation of seed prices would stifle the variability that needs to exist in order for a mature vegetable supply chain to emerge in India, enhancing farmer incomes.

The other point, of course, is the certification of genetically modified seeds. This newspaper has argued that the choice of seed is best left to the farmer, once independent scientific bodies have worked out that the modified seeds are safe and don't damage ecosystems. That's one of the goals of the Seeds Bill, but both Kumar and the parliamentary committee had suggested modifications. Kumar had earlier opposed

Bt maize trials in Bihar, and he continues to insist on explicit safeguards and a liability clause. These are suggestions that should be taken seriously. Institutional strength in clearing genetically modified seeds will only hasten their adaptation, and the upgrade of India's agricultural capabilities that they will bring in their wake. A quick re-registration in the proposed national seeds register should not, Kumar says, replace a rigorous testing process under Indian conditions, a point that deserves attention. In this case, as in so many others, the UPA would do well to reach out to reasoned opposition.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

RULES OF THE HOUSE

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

 

There is a real danger that the ignominy of institutional immaturity will compound the scandal of corruption in India. At one level the response to corruption scandals is yielding results: some politicians have paid a political price; some culprits look like they will get punished after all; and heightened and adversarial public scrutiny may yet prove to be a check on corruption. But institutional credibility is still very far from being restored; the very means being allegedly used to debate corruption are undermining institutional credibility even further. We will need more imaginative conventions to deal with total amnesia about institutional conventions.

Let us take Parliament itself. The manner in which we have responded to reports of WikiLeaks cables is making Parliament a laughing stock of the world. There are serious questions about the 2008 trust vote. As this column had argued at the time, there was a "stench of disintegration" associated with the vote. But why is our response to WikiLeaks undermining Parliament's credibility even more? The reason is this. It seems that the Indian Parliament takes one report of a conversation of an American diplomat more seriously than its own proceedings. The fact is that Parliament never fully investigated all the dimensions of the 2008 vote. Even the recommendations of its own committee for further investigation were put in cold storage. But now a report of one conversation again brings Parliament to a standstill. What message does this send out?

The first message is that Indian politicians are never serious about institutions. They are primarily looking for pretexts to disrupt. They don't pursue matters as serious as buying votes with any degree of consistency; they only invoke it as a talking point when convenient. So much so that they would rather treat a conversation in WikiLeaks as gospel than trust their own processes when convenient. The scandal is not what WikiLeaks revealed. The scandal is that all parties, including the BJP, had let go of what was, one way or another, a scandal. And now they feign horror.

The need of the hour is for Parliament to project authority. This has two aspects. The first is making parliamentary institutions more credible. So much political effort was put into securing a JPC that will yield doubtful results, just as the cash-for-votes scam investigation did. Not an iota of political capital has been put into strengthening the committee and oversight system in Parliament that could possibly have prevented us from falling into this morass. If the various standing committees that are supposed to exercise oversight over respective ministries had exercised their accountability functions and asked tough questions earlier, we would have been in a far better position. But the strengthening of their oversight of the executive is not even on the radar. Again, the pretext of accountability triumphs over its substance.

The second issue is this. Parliament is not merely a stage for expressive histrionics; it is an assembly meant to legislate. The range of pending legislation is staggering. Some of this legislation is critical: the more we delay tax reform, land acquisition legislation, etc, the more we are jeopardising our well-being. Adversarial jostling can go on. But Parliament's credibility requires that actual legislative business now proceed. The public wants functioning institutions. Unfortunately, political parties seem to equate functioning with mutual exposé rather than legislation. If debating corruption becomes an alibi for not moving forward with critical legislation, it will only add insult to injury. In the zeal to embarrass each other, both the big political parties are forgetting one simple fact. As entertaining as it is to watch parties accuse each other of hypocrisy, corruption standards and feigned horror, the need of the hour is for someone to rise above the MAM (mutually assured meanness) syndrome into an act of real statesmanship.

But if Parliament is undermining itself even more under the pretext of debating corruption, the same danger now extends to other institutions. First, the atmosphere of "presumptive" guilt is now threatening to pose risks in four ways. Let us begin at the basics. The issue of corruption is primarily about chasing illicit money trails. These should be pursued. But now we are reaching a point where every policy decision can be characterised as corrupt merely because we happen to disagree with it. It is important that those holding government accountable, whether it be courts, independent bodies or the media, do not infer corruption merely from the substance of policy decisions. Such an approach to decision-making will further weaken the capacity of the state to take decisions. We may agree or disagree, but we cannot operate under the illusion that exercising policy choice should not be the prerogative of government.

Second, the atmosphere of presumptive guilt is, in all likelihood, demoralising the good more than it is deterring the truly wicked. Corruption seriously undermines the legitimacy of a state. But its legitimacy and effectiveness are equally undermined if the honest and sincere are made to feel unduly vulnerable. In subtle ways, this is being felt in a range of activities from banks not lending to the morale of civil servants. The trivial ease with which reputations are being trashed now seriously exposes us to this risk.

Third, the scramble for punitive action should not blind us to due process. We should be wary of giving institutions like the CBI and income-tax department carte blanche powers to go on fishing expeditions. The manner in which the income-tax notice to the Gujarat government was framed certainly reminded us of that. It is true that process has often been used as an alibi for inaction. But we have to ensure that anti-corruption drives do not become a pretext for state agencies to enhance their powers in ways that lead to even more insidious corruption later. Like Parliament, they are being used as pretexts to embarrass more than they are being used as sources of truth.

Fourth, the essence of corruption is that public office is used instrumentally for personal gain. But in the name of fighting corruption, our institutions risk enacting the very same instrumentalism. Parliament does this when it constantly succumbs to the logic of pretexts and reduces itself to an opportunistic spectacle; other institutions do this when they lose patience with fine distinctions. Our biggest corruption may come from the fact that it is now more important to be seen to be doing things than actually achieving something. We have reduced ourselves to a spectacle.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

BATTLE CRIES

ALIA ALLANA

 

It's calm now but the night sky may light up again," Mohammed Sarjiani, an aide of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, said on the phone. It was early afternoon in Tripoli and Sarjiani was hopeful: perhaps criticism from the Arab League's Amr Moussa would bring an end to the anti-aircraft fire, to Operation Odyssey Dawn. "What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone," Amr Moussa had said, but he buckled, choosing, again, to endorse the intervention in Libya.

For the Western allies, the Arab backing lends a credence to their air strikes. In fact, it was a call from the Arab League that lent momentum to the passing of UN Resolution 1973 on imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. The move was unprecedented — the Arab League, a divisive body, spoke with one voice from Cairo. They called it an "Arab duty" to act, in keeping with the democratic fervour that now grips the Middle East.

Yet, how the revolutionary fever has changed. From peaceful demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan misadventure has changed colours. Pixellated mobile recordings that relayed news so far have now been replaced by night vision on CNN as the night sky is lit, as Tripoli gets hit.

Spearheading this move has been Moussa, the Egyptian head of the Arab League. It has been his backdoor manoeuvring that unified the body. Moussa is a politician who has recently graduated from the school of revolution. Note that he has announced his decision to run for presidency in a new Egypt, an Egypt devoid of the old Pharaoh, Hosni Mubarak.

The Arab League, curiously, now enjoys the support of the Saudis. But Saudi Arabia, which has shunned one eccentric dictator, is partaking in a programme of gagging in Bahrain.

For, the democracy movements do not stop in Libya. Bahrainis too have been clamouring; Shias demand an end to the 200-year-old Sunni monarchy in the Kingdom of Bahrain. No air strikes light Bahraini skies, instead foot soldiers have marched into the country to silence the protesters.

Four political activists have been shot in broad daylight in Manama and thugs in ski masks have intimidated protesters, but the Arab League has not spoken up. The government has shut down hospitals in Manama, an illegal move under international law, yet no UN resolution has been passed. Instead, for the first time in its history, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), more an economic body than a defence outfit, took to neutralising the situation. Troops from Saudi Arabia entered, first under the Peninsula Shield Forces; they were followed by soldiers from the UAE and Qatar and warships from Kuwait. A stable Bahrain would ensure citizens of the GCC would remain obedient, would remain terrified.

Syrians too have taken to the streets in an unprecedented move triggered by the arrest of political activists and youth who had protested against the rule of Bashar al-Assad by painting graffiti on the walls. At least five were shot dead on Wednesday. The woes of the Syrians are similar to those of the Egyptians who revolted: low employment opportunities and no political participation. A stable Syria is in the interest of Arab states as a buffer to Israel. The Syrian adventure has thus been brushed under the carpet, yet the town of Deraa, the focal point of unrest, sees unarmed civilians facing off AK-47-wielding forces.

Meanwhile, dangerous developments have taken hold of Yemen. Government forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh have opened fire in the capital even as the number of defectors from the government mounts and talk of a coup resonates. "Ruling Yemen is like dancing on the heads of snakes," Saleh once said. Now the venom is spewed from outside the walls of his presidential compound. But Yemen is a country fighting an insurgency in the north and a secessionist movement in the south and it is unclear how it would unravel with Saleh's departure.

A new Middle East is indeed being forged, a Middle East that wants more freedoms. And the Arab world, through Libya, indicates that it is on the side of democracy movements. Libya is the battlefield that they have chosen to act in; Libya is a safe bet. But the forces of Gaddafi continue to fight for him. And the colonel, defiant as ever, has called on the "Islamic" armies to fight.

But the question the allies should ask is who would lead Libya in his absence. They have partnered with the Senussi clan, the very monarchists that Gaddafi overthrew. The question is, who knows the rebels in ski masks? What are their credentials to rule? And will they negotiate once the night sky is calm?

alia.allana@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MY PUBLICITY AGENT

ARUN SHOURIE

 

Another scam . . . Inquiry into disinvestment of VSNL" — the papers proclaim. The announcement has been preceded by stories along similar lines in two magazines, a planned build-up to the announcement.

The government does seem to have surrendered its judgment to a bully. And it will be sorry for it. But I will come to that in a moment. The charge is that as the minister of disinvestment in the NDA government, as part of disinvesting government equity in VSNL in 2002, I "gifted" 774 acres of prime land in four cities to the Tatas.

The facts are the exact opposite.

During due diligence of VSNL, it was discovered that the company had been buying land over the years. Technology had changed. It was now possible to provide the same services with infrastructure spread over significantly less land. VSNL, working with advisors, identified 774 acres of land as "surplus", in the sense that it would not be needed in the future to provide the services for which VSNL had been constituted.

Accordingly, in the agreements governing disinvestment, it was provided that whoever won the bid for the company would not get this land. The company was valued by excluding this land. Indeed, the article in the agreement was framed in such extreme terms that at one stage the potential bidders said that they would not go through with the bids at all. The officer who was handling the disinvestment — one of the strongest officers I had the good fortune to work with, P.K. Basu (now agriculture secretary) — told them to go home, and forget the disinvestment. The article would not be diluted one bit, he told them, disinvestment or no disinvestment.

Eventually, they came round and the disinvestment went through. It was one of the most hotly contested cases. On the one side was Reliance — Dhirubhai Ambani was still alive, and was calling the shots. On the other side were the Tatas. The Tatas won, by a whisker. That outcome firmly established the credibility of the disinvestment process. "Even Dhirubhai Ambani could not find out what was going on in your ministry," observers told us.

The article that Basu and his colleagues incorporated is worth reading. It is a short one. It could have been accessed by anyone from half a dozen sources — but by now it is no surprise that sections of the media will deliberately not read!

Please read the article, and then I will set out its implications. Here it is:

4.7 LAND

(a) (i) The strategic partner confirms that it shall cause and procure the company to hive off or demerge the land into the resulting company pursuant to a scheme of arrangement in terms of the provisions of Section 391 to 394 of the act.

(ii) The strategic partner confirms its understanding that it will transfer all such shares in the resulting company to the government as it may acquire as a consequence of this transaction, that is a minimum of 25 per cent of the resulting company's issued equity shares or a higher number which shall include shares in the resulting company that it may further acquire as a consequence of any further sale of the equity shares in the company by the government to the strategic partner, prior to the demerger, as part consideration of transfer of the transaction shares and any subsequent sale of the company's shares by the government to the strategic partner, pursuant to this transaction.

(b) The strategic partner confirms that:

(i) it shall do and cause to be done all and any such acts, matters, deeds and things as are necessary, usual or expedient including voting in favour of the item of business relating to the approval of the scheme of arrangement to implement the hiving off or demerging of the land into the resulting company;

(ii) it shall not directly or indirectly do or cause to be done any acts, matters, deeds or things which may adversely affect or delay the hiving off or demerging of the land into the resulting company.

(c) (i) If for any reason the company cannot hive off or demerge the land into the resulting company then, subject to Article 5.6 (b) (iv) and (xiv) hereto at any time when the company sells or transfers the land or agrees to sell or transfer or otherwise develop the land, the strategic partner shall pay to the government within seven days of the sale or transfer of the land an amount equivalent of 25 per cent of the benefit accruing to the company pursuant to such sale or transfer or otherwise development of the land, as determined by the appraiser, after taking into account any impact under the Income Tax Act, 1961.

(ii) Subsequent to this agreement and the share purchase agreement, if the government sells more than 25 per cent of its equity shareholding in the company to the strategic partner, then the percentage of amount to be paid to the government by the strategic partner on account of sale or transfer or otherwise development of the land under Article 4.7(c)(i) shall increase in proportion to the percentage of such further sale of equity shareholding in the company by the government to the strategic partner. For the purpose of this article the term "transfer" shall include sale, lease, licence, grant of development rights or the parting of physical possession of the land or transfer of any interest, whatsoever, in the land.

The article provides, first of all, that whoever wins the bid — and there could have been no plan to pass on a favour to the Tatas, etc, for no one knew who would win the keenly contested bidding process — shall not get the surplus land. The excess land would be detached from VSNL. A new company would be formed, and the land would be transferred to it.

Second, that the shareholding of this new company would be what the shareholding of VSNL was before disinvestment. That is, the bidder who won would have no share in it at all. The government would have the proportion that it had before disinvestment — about 52 per cent. Employees would have the proportion they had. The rest — about 47 per cent — would be with the general public that held shares of VSNL, the company was listed in both India and the USA. In a word, a government company would be set up. And this government company would acquire the land.

Third, in case such a company could not be formed and the disinvested VSNL decided to part with the land, it would be able to do so only if the government agreed to the proposal. The reason for this was that, even after disinvestment, the government would continue to hold 26 per cent of VSNL's equity. The sale of land, or disposal of any rights in an asset such as land, can only be done by a special resolution of the board and that resolution cannot go through unless the party that holds 26 per cent of its equity agrees.

Fourth, if that new company could not be formed for some reason, and if the government approved the proposal of VSNL to sell the land, the entire proceeds would be distributed in accordance with the pattern of shareholding that prevailed before disinvestment — that is, the winner would get absolutely nothing; the proceeds would be divided between government, employees and the general public in the proportions in which they held the shares before disinvestment.

There was a fifth factor which was especially important, as it caused the greatest heartburn among potential bidders. This is contained in clause (c) (ii) reproduced above. This clause provided that if government shed more than 25 per cent of the equity it was holding of VSNL, then the share of the proceeds that the disinvested VSNL and the winning bidder would have to pay to government out of any sale or transfer of land or rights in it would increase proportionately.

Sixth, the hands of the prospective bidders were tied tighter by incorporating a very comprehensive definition of "transfer". The article had used the term "transfer" of land, etc. In the last sentence, it was provided that "for the purpose of this article the term "transfer" shall include sale, lease, licence, grant of development rights or the parting of physical possession of the land or transfer of any interest, whatsoever, in the land." All proceeds from any form of transfer would go to the government and the original shareholders and not a penny would go to the successful bidder.

Finally, a series of interlocking clauses tied the prospective winner in perpetuity! Privatisation agreements have "call" and "put" options. That is, after a specified period — say, three years — the winner can "call" on the government to sell its residual shares. Similarly, the government has the right to "put" its shares for sale. But in the VSNL agreement, we provided that even if the government parted with all its shares through either option, it would always retain one share — known as "the golden share"; and that by virtue of this single share, all the rights it had in regard to the surplus land would remain with the government!

In other words, the agreement provided that neither the surplus 774 acres nor any right in them whatsoever shall go the bidder who succeeded in winning the contest. So, where does the minister get this notion, parroted by some magazines, that 774 acres were gifted to the Tatas?

"But why was the land not just taken out of VSNL before disinvestment?" the innocent ask. VSNL was a listed company — it was listed both in India and the US. If such a substantial asset was taken away, any shareholder could have gone to court and halted the whole process on the charge that his interests had been harmed. On the other hand, if it was not taken away, the government would be accused of making "priceless" land over to whoever succeeded in winning the bid. Hence a solution was devised: the land would be taken out of VSNL, but the interests of pre-disinvestment shareholders would not be impaired. The land would be turned over to a new company in which the shareholding pattern would be what it was before the disinvestment of VSNL. That was an excellent solution that Basu and his colleagues devised, and it has stood the test of time. The winner did not get the land. The shareholders did not go to court!

"But didn't VSNL have enormous amounts of cash? Wasn't this just handed over to the Tatas?" Yes, VSNL had a cash reserve. The fact is that this cash was drawn down before the company was disinvested. The government had VSNL declare a special dividend of 750 per cent! As a result, the winning bid along with this dividend secured for government a P/E ratio of 11 as against the measly 6 at which VSNL shares were trading before disinvestment.

When no other tack is left, critics are led to ask, "But why has the new company not been set up even though nine years have passed since VSNL was disinvested?" The fact is that the government and the winners — the Tatas in this case — tried to work out a solution. The attempts couldn't get past disagreements. For instance, the Tatas said that as the land did not belong to them, and as it was to be transferred to a company that would in essence be a government company, the government should pay the stamp duty that would be incurred in such transfer. Similarly, as the monopoly of VSNL in regard to international calls had been curtailed by two years, a compensation package was announced by the government. They felt that this was inadequate. As the issues could not be resolved, they proposed that the matter be referred for arbitration. I had no problem with that proposal, but my colleagues in the ministry correctly counselled that as the proposal had revenue implications, we should send it to the finance ministry. That is what was done.

The government changed. Since then, I see from what has appeared in public that the Tatas kept writing to the government requesting the latter to settle the matter. They wrote that there were three alternatives, and that any one of the three would be acceptable to them. The government — the UPA government, that is — kept saying that it was examining the issues and would get back to them. It did not.

Kapil Sibal says this delay has been very costly to the people of India, and that is why he has ordered an inquiry. I say — "Bravo! Excellent!" He should institute an inquiry into the conduct of ministers whose negligence has cost the country so much.

The ministers? P. Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee, the finance ministers of the UPA governments! For, remember, the department of disinvestment has been under the finance ministry since the UPA formed its government in 2004. Maybe they are the real targets of this buccaneer? No?

Why else would Kapil this time round entrust the inquiry not just to a handpicked judge but to a handpicked officer working directly under him?! As for me, far from being my inquisitor, Sibal is my publicity agent! He keeps me in the news. And gratis!

The writer was Union minister for telecom and for disinvestment in the NDA government

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

RECLAIMING THE JUDICIARY

MANOJ C G

 

Reclaiming the judiciary

After the Supreme Court quashed the appointment of the CVC, took upon itself the onus of monitoring the 2G spectrum probe and made some strong observations on the issue of black money, the RSS says the apex court's "robust intervention" in several crucial cases has set in motion the revival of public confidence in the judiciary, and claims that the Supreme Court's reputation had taken a battering under Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justice K.G. Balakrishanan.

It argues that several eminent citizens, including jurists, had requested Sabharwal after his retirement to seek an independent inquiry to clear his name after questions were raised about his handling of cases dealing with sealing and demolition of illegal commercial buildings in Delhi: "Justice Sabharwal's refusal to submit himself to an inquiry and the law ministry's refrain that there was no law to proceed against a retired CJI did no good to the image of the higher judiciary. Justice Balakrishnan is also in the line of fire from several quarters."

Besides, it says, the judiciary has time and again come under criticism for its over activism, a case in point being the apex court's intervention in the Godhra train fire and the post-Godhra riots leading to a "needless" five-year stay on the investigation and trial. "Chief Justice Kapadia's scheme for institutional revival is yet to permeate through the system. The judiciary suffers from several infirmities and the rot in the system runs deep. The CBI has registered a case of corruption against a high court judge a day before she retired... The less said the better so far as lower judiciary is concerned... Corruption is rampant and the accused rot in jails for year as courts grant adjournment after adjournment without reason and rhyme," the editorial argues, adding that all the three organs of the state will have to join hands to reform the judicial system.

Let Pakistan fail

Organiser carries two articles which strongly argue against India holding talks with Pakistan. While one strongly rejects the argument that a stable and strong Pakistan is in India's interest, the other points out that talks with Pakistan can wait as the need of the hour is catching up with China on the economic front.

"We don't need to have any dialogue with Pakistan, composite, comprehensive or whatever. Let Pakistan stew in its own juice. It is steadily going down the drain. Let it, we can't stop it. Indo-Pak talks make no sense. They only bestow respectability on Islamabad. We should, at best, have Indo-US talks on Pakistan which would be more to the point. The US is still pouring money into Pakistan's coffers as it did into Mubarak's pockets and what did it gain?" one article asks. "We can talk with Pakistan only when its 'liberals' come into their own. That may take another decade, perhaps even half a century. We can afford to wait. What we should be interested is in our own economic growth," it says.

The other argues: "Let us admit that Pakistan is a failed state. It is destined to disintegrate. If India can help the pro-democracy, sub-national identities of Sindhis, Pathans and Balochis, it is in India's interest. India can promise them maximum autonomy. It can take care of their defence requirements against aggressors internal as well as external and guarantee absolute autonomy in internal matters. Gilgit and Baltistan within PoK are already seeking India's support."

Despair about Delhi

The lead editorial in Organiser talks about the increasing incidents of crime in the national capital, saying that the Delhi police comes under the Union home ministry and hence the blame for its failings must be laid on the doors of the UPA government. "In fact this is the ruse that the Delhi state government and Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit take. But it is up to the Delhi government to pressurise the Centre to act on the issue," it notes.

The editorial points out that the rate of conviction of criminals in Delhi is poor and the number of undertrials in jails huge; jails are hard-pressed for space, and each cell has more than the number of criminals it can accomodate. Undertrials languish in jails for long, long years. "While VIP security gets fortified, the common man is left to defend himself," it says.

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

BETWEEN THE CUP AND THE LIP

SHAILAJA BAJPAI

 

Hey, who's that girl? The one who has promised to appear at a cricket stadium in the altogether if India wins the World Cup? In case you didn't understand her, News 24 very helpfully telecast footage of a lady-streaker at a sports event abroad, with a flimsy film of mosaic which is supposed to conceal her but instead makes her all the more visible by singling her out. The girl in question is an Indian model and she was the subject of much heated discussion, Tuesday, on the advisability of respectable Indian girls exposing themselves to the elements, the audience, to say nothing about the players. What did this have to do cricket other than her wanting us to win at any cost, even that of her clothes? Not much, although we cannot say for sure since the participants were so outraged as to be babbling. That's what the cricket World Cup has done to us Indian supporters — like the emperor without his clothes, we're reduced to the naked truth about India's chances.

And who will win the Cup? Well, if you listened to the ESPN-Cricinfo expert on BBC World, Tuesday, it would be the winner of the South Africa-Sri Lanka semifinal clash if South Africa beat New Zealand and Sri Lanka beat England in the quarterfinals, which he is putting his money on. He added that India would beat Australia, today (yippee!) but then, everyone had said we would win the World Cup before it was even there to be won, and most are now strangely silent on the subject (they've done enough damage already, haven't they with their predictions?). Except Sunil Gavaskar who at the end of India's victory over West Indies in Sunday's final league match, said R. Ashwin would help us lift the trophy. Now, if that doesn't make Indian captain Dhoni drop him, nothing will.

But we're babbling — must have been influenced by TV, especially, the outraged lady and the gentleman on News 24 at the thought of a topless model. Also, caught babbling was Sourav Ganguly on Headlines Today, two days ago, while in conversation with Australian captain Ricky Ponting — if that is what you can call their verbal interaction. Ponting looked like he was being lined up for an execution, that, or his injured finger was a mite more painful than usual, and the only time we saw him grin as broadly as the continent he represents is when Ganguly said he was the best batsman, wait for it, in the kangaroo team. India's former cricket captain rambled on about how Ponting had once led a wonderfully talented team, and now had a less talented one and that it was difficult getting over the loss of key players and how he hoped Ponting did well in the future, but not in the near future against India (Ponting, weak smile). Babblegum.

And so it went along. Every news channel had its fortune-telling, its forebodings for today's encounter, touted as a mini-final. Obviously, they are rooting for India, although the plethora of former cricketers from different cricketing countries keep them honest. India must win, what will the news channels discuss if India fails to make it to the semifinals? Not the semifinals but why India did not make it to the semifinals (because of Sehwag's knee, Sachin's bad luck, Gambhir's "samasya", Kohli's poor cut, Dhoni's stumping, Pathan's six of nothing and half a dozen other poor shots, etc.). But why waste time on such pessimistic speculation? Go India, go.

What may bring a rueful smile to your face is this: if you matched what the experts say now with what they declared before the tournament began, you will notice a significant slip between the Cup and the lip. Who gave Pakistan a cat's chance in hell, let alone on the cricket pitch? Not Navjot Singh Sidhu, nor many others. Yet, they are the single most improved side of the event so far.

Moral of the story? Now that India is no longer the experts' favourite, we might actually play well today.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

HEART RULES THE HEAD

When the country's most-respected doctor—Dr Devi Shetty's skill as a heart surgeon is matched only by his work in making healthcare inclusive—makes a heartfelt plea to axe what he calls the misery tax, it takes a really hard heart to ignore this. Not surprisingly, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee rolled back his proposal to levy a 5% service tax on a certain category of hospitals—others who've benefited from Tuesday's proposals are luxury car units who will now pay half the proposed import duty on CKD kits and there's a higher abatement for goods that will have now been brought under the excise net. The decision to fix the cutoff for levying the service tax on hospitals that had more than 25 beds, and were air-conditioned, was always a bit curious, but there is little doubt that the tax had to be levied. If making healthcare low-cost is the objective, why levy excise and other taxes on pharma firms; why should barbers pay a service tax when hospitals are to be exempted … a host of such questions arise; indeed, the fact that the manuals on excise and customs exemptions are as voluminous as they are is testimony to the fact that almost any segment of business, even those not represented by doctors with hearts of gold, are able to come up with good enough reasons to get exemptions. Indeed, if the 'revenue foregone' by the government on account of such exemptions is added back, India's tax-to-GDP ratio would be a whopping 22% instead of 17%. Interestingly, as compared to industry, where the excise duty-to-manufacturing GDP ratio is 13.2%, the service tax-service GDP is only 1.7%—so there is a strong case to tax a lot more services.

The Budget was the finance minister's chance to start cleaning up the exemptions list; indeed, he said the health tax was brought in as a precursor to the idea that everyone would be paying taxes once the GST was brought in. Instead, the finance minister failed to ask everyone to pay service taxes, subject to a negative list and perhaps a minimum turnover; and he rolled back the small attempt he made. All of which makes you wonder about the fate of the GST, for which the government introduced a Constitution Amendment Bill to allow states to levy service tax and the Centre to levy sales taxes. The GST, which could take more than a year till state assemblies ratify the Bill, is, in any case, riddled with problems. It leaves out electricity, petroleum products, real estate, alcohol, entertainment, octroi, and so many more sectors of taxation. If the healthcare tax is anything to go by, it would be interesting to see what happens when, under the GST, all services are to be taxed.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SOMETHING TO BANK UPON

Given the way the economy is growing, India will probably need banking credit to touch R85-90 lakh crore in another five years, from around R35 lakh crore in March 2010—based on the current capital adequacy norms, this means banks need to raise around R4-4.5 lakh crore over this period. Which is why India needs existing banks to grow bigger as well as a lot more new banks. While RBI will be coming out with its guidelines for new banks shortly, the government brought in the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill on Tuesday to deal with issues arising from new banks as well as banks raising more capital. If banks need more capital, investors need more powers, and the Bill gives them this—the voting cap for investors in public sector banks are up from 1% now to 10%; in the case of private banks, voting will be commensurate with capital, instead of being capped at 10%. This puts a greater onus on RBI to supervise banks, and the Bill allows RBI to supersede bank boards for up to a year in case it thinks it necessary—this is a big jump from the R5 lakh maximum penalty RBI can levy.

RBI has been concerned about how financial market intermediaries, other than banks, such as NBFCs or even merchant bankers, need to be prudentially regulated since they too borrow from banks but are currently outside RBI's purview. The Bill will empower RBI to seek information and returns from associate enterprises of banking companies, besides allowing the regulator to inspect them. With almost all banks branching out into businesses such as insurance, broking and asset management, it's understandable that the regulator would want to keep an eye on these ventures. The amendment also ties in with the idea of the Financial Holding Company structure being worked on by the Gopinath Committee; again the objective is to make sure that RBI, as the super-regulator, has a handle on the goings-on in related enterprises. This is important from a systemic point of view. How much freedom the state-owned banks will have when it comes to rights issues remains to be seen, given the government would be loath to reduce its shareholding below 51%, but these banks can issue bonus shares. And yes, bank mergers will be exempt from the scrutiny of the Competition Commission, not a significant step, but one less irritant.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT GIVING MONEY

JAYANT SINHA

 

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are in India this week to promote philanthropy and motivate ultra-wealthy Indians to get involved in philanthropic activities. Can philanthropy truly help India? How can philanthropists help tackle India's vast social challenges? Which philanthropic model can have the most impact in India? Should the government be doing more to encourage philanthropy? These are the questions swirling around the trip; Mr Buffett and Mr Gates will probably face these questions from potential philanthropists, the media and policy makers.

Wealth is accumulating at an astonishing rate in India. Whether we count billionaires or millionaires, we will soon have more wealthy people than any other country in the world except the US and China. This is a natural byproduct of India's rapid economic growth, which will likely continue for many more years. Unfortunately, our economic growth has also been somewhat inequitable since it has resulted in income being concentrated at the very top of the economic pyramid rather than trickling down to the base of the economic pyramid. Moreover, these income effects have been compounded by our tax code that allows assets to accumulate over generations. Under these circumstances, it is vital that the Indian wealthy recognise how fortunate they have been and step up their philanthropic activities.

Buffett's and Gates's visit is therefore timely. Gates's own efforts on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) demonstrates how philanthropy can help India. BMGF has already had a significant impact on public health in India and has been instrumental in launching the Public Health Foundation of India. The Tata Trusts and the Birla Trusts are Indian philanthropies that have demonstrably improved Indian society through the various institutions they have built and supported over many decades. But philanthropy is not just about financial capital. In many cases, the management and governance support provided by philanthropists is much more important than the money. Philanthropists have to create professional organisations and devote sufficient time to their philanthropic organisations to truly achieve an enduring impact. Only then will philanthropy truly help India.

India's new philanthropists can help tackle the country's vast social problems by providing capital and expertise to social entrepreneurs that are addressing problems at the base of the income pyramid. Because this goal can be achieved by both businesses and NGOs, investments in for-profit and non-profit enterprises make equal sense. In each case, philanthropists should seek innovative organisations with strong leadership teams pursuing a well-defined mission.

Social entrepreneurs seek to tangibly improve the lives of millions of people year after year. People should be able to do things much better because they now have access to new products or services that they could not afford or access earlier. For example, widely distributed solar lanterns from d.light design have a significant societal impact because they replace kerosene lanterns. Replacing kerosene lanterns will save money in terms of total cost of ownership, reduce the carbon footprint, reduce the government's fuel subsidies, and improve health by reducing indoor smoke and particulates.

Philanthropists could also focus their efforts on sustainable enterprises—for-profit companies and/or NGOs—which require financial support only for a few years and then become self-sufficient. Sustainable financial returns for a for-profit company imply that the company is able to earn at least its risk-adjusted cost of capital. Sustainable financial returns are essential for such companies to attract high-quality human talent and to raise sufficient growth capital. For NGOs, the economic sustainability test applies differently. NGOs have to create sufficient, demonstrable societal value to attract a diversified base of donors or generate multiple revenue streams.

Omidyar Network's experience with more than 100 enterprises (for-profit companies and NGOs) has demonstrated that there is no trade-off required between financial and social return. The best enterprises achieve both. They focus laser-like on satisfying their customers, running disciplined enterprises, controlling costs efficiently, and being responsible stewards of their resources. In doing so, they create dramatic value for society and excellent financial returns for their stakeholders.

Government support can accelerate philanthropic activities in India. Philanthropists and the government have been working together closely for decades in India. The Tata Trusts have established several major institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research that are now supported by the government. The Birla Trusts, working together with the Ford Foundation, MIT and the Indian government, set up BITS Pilani. The Ford Foundation was also a key participant in the Green Revolution in India. Pratham has been helping improve the quality of education in Indian schools and receives substantial support from the Hewlett Foundation.

Tax policies might support philanthropy in India. Charitable contributions are tax deductible in India, as they are around the world. However, we do not have estate taxes and thus a tax-advantaged way to set up foundations. The US estate tax system encourages the establishment and regulation of public, private and community foundations. We need public debate and discussions on whether such approaches would spur more philanthropic activity in India.

Philanthropy is much more than just 'giving' by the ultra wealthy. It requires commitment, time and a genuine desire to improve the lives of the poor by all Indians that are at the top of the economic pyramid. Many Indians are already dedicating themselves to improving our society and helping the less fortunate. We need to make this a movement for positive social change in India.

The author is managing director, Omidyar Network Advisors India. These are his personal views

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

AND NOW MR SIBAL QUOTES THE CAG!

RISHI RAJ

 

There are no permanent enemies, no permanent friends, only permanent interests…

The best practitioner of the Churchillian dictum today appears to be telecom minister Kapil Sibal, in the manner in which he is handling various scams and non-scams under his charge. The manner in which he has consistently sought to downplay the 2G spectrum scam (to the extent of saying there was no loss since auctions were never an option!) while now trying to sensationalise the VSNL non-scam is truly amazing. Five glaring instances of doublespeak come to mind.

l Protection of public assets: Mr Sibal says he has ordered an inquiry into the manner in which VSNL was privatised in 2002 and why there was a delay in demerging the land (773 acres) while selling the company to the Tatas because he wants to protect public assets and ensure the money that rightfully belongs to Indian citizens comes back to them. Whatever the value of the land, it cannot be anywhere near the R70,000 crore to R1,76,000 crore that the CAG estimates the 2G scam cost the nation. If 773 acres of land are such a precious asset, how does Mr Sibal justify saying the 2G loss was zero? Surely, spectrum is a more scarce resource? Moreover, Mr Sibal has no reply to Arun Shourie's point that when he sold VSNL, there was a clause that prevented the Tatas from selling off the land without the government's permission and that all the profits will accrue to the government when this sale finally takes place (see http://www.financialexpress.com/news/ask-pc-pranab-too-about-delay-in-vsnl-land-demerger-shourie/766116/0).

l CAG report: While asking the telecom secretary to constitute an inquiry into the VSNL sale, Mr Sibal has quoted from the CAG report which was critical of how surplus land was left with VSNL after the sale. Mr Sibal citing the CAG is really ironic, considering how he trashed its report on the 2G spectrum scam as 'utterly erroneous' and as 'great disservice to the nation'.

l Law ministry and AG's opinion: Mr Sibal's letter to the telecom secretary also quoted the opinion of the then Attorney General, Milon Banerji (2006), to further his case for an inquiry into the VSNL disinvestment.

It's another matter that the AG's query is regarding the delay in the demerger of land. Yet, in all his speeches on the 2G scam, Mr Sibal never refers to the letters of the law secretary or the law minister that asked the then telecom minister A Raja to refer the matter to a Group of Ministers instead of giving out the licences at bargain-basement rates.

Or even the finance ministry's letters that tell Mr Raja he cannot go ahead with the licensing.

UPA versus NDA: Mr Sibal's letter is critical of the manner of VSNL's disinvestment but is silent on the lack of action by the UPA. Mr Shourie defends his decision not to demerge the surplus land by arguing VSNL would have had to pay a stamp duty of R500 crore and this would be unfair, so he referred the matter to the finance ministry. While neither Mr Shourie nor the NDA have a good explanation for why no decision was taken from 2002 till 2004 when it was in power, Mr Sibal has no explanation for why his government took no decision on the matter for the next seven years. The minister was quick to order an inquiry going back to 2001, perhaps his VSNL inquiry should go forward, all the way to 2011?

l Ministerial mandate: Mr Sibal has said that, as telecom minister, it is his mandate and not that of the finance minister to look after land held by telecom PSUs. It's nice that he is so aware of the rules of business allocation in the government. But this would suggest that he can also order an inquiry into the roles of former telecom ministers in the UPA regime—Dayanidhi Maran (May 2004-May 2007) and A Raja (May 2007-November 2007)? After all, why didn't these two colleagues of his not show the same alacrity that he has now shown?

We await Mr Sibal's response.

rishi.raj@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

ALL SET FOR THE FIGHT

By taking three weeks for their pre-electoral exertions such as cobbling together alliances and identifying seats and candidates, political parties in Tamil Nadu have taken up half the time the Election Commission of India gave them to face a general election to the State Assembly on April 13. None of the parties was quite ready for elections at such uncomfortably short notice, but the election authorities perhaps felt that the campaign phase might be better supervised and the possibility of voter bribery and more subtle blandishments more effectively curbed if the campaign phase was kept to the minimum. The campaign dust is set to swirl from now on, marking the beginning of an acrimonious spell of electioneering. This is essentially a two-cornered contest between the fronts led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). History bears down on the DMK as no party has been elected back to power since 1984. But its veteran leader, Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi, nurtures hope of bucking this trend, armed with what he believes is a winning election manifesto and a track record of implementing a number of welfare measures. On the other side, the AIADMK led by a charismatic and strong leader has roped in the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) led by actor Vijayakant, whose ambition to emerge a leading player in the State political stage has been tempered by experience and is now a willing ally in the project to oust the DMK regime. With the Left parties on her side, the alliance leader, former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, will seek to cash in on the DMK's 2G-related travails and other embarrassments, besides anti-incumbency ingredients such as the price spiral, the power shortage, and allegations of corruption and 'family rule.'

With DMK-Congress ties coming under strain in the shadow of the Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, the Congress resorted to unabashed arm-twisting to extract 63 seats from the DMK kitty, thereby shrinking the ruling party's own presence in the poll fray to just 119 candidates of its own and a few from minor allies contesting on its symbol. There is no chance of the DMK forming a government on its own strength, as any party would need 118 seats to touch the majority mark in the 234-member legislature. Despite the fight being mainly between two muscular opponents, the bewildering array of smaller parties — which bank on caste support or whose sway is confined to regions — in both fronts makes Tamil Nadu a laboratory specimen for notions of alliance arithmetic and inter-party chemistry. The alliance leaders will hope that the bitterness and brinkmanship of the negotiation phase would not spill over to the campaign stage. But across the divide, the fight is set to be fierce.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

SALEH TRIES TO HANG ON

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the strongman who has ruled Yemen for 32 years, is resisting all demands by a growingly popular opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), to step down immediately. Following the death of 52 people in shooting by government loyalists in the capital, Sanaa, Mr. Saleh has imposed a 30-day state of emergency. He has promised a "constitutional" transfer of power at the end of the year. He seems untroubled by the resignation of several Ministers, provincial governors, and diplomats over the shootings. Even the backing given by many senior military officers to the people's uprising has made little difference to his obduracy. Protesters say the defections enable them to ignore the President's warnings of a long civil war. But the leader's confidence in his capacity to retain office seems undiminished.

The reasons for the President's intransigence almost certainly lie in the nature of the Yemeni state. The country, unusually for the region, has universal franchise for all citizens over 18 and also elects a 301-seat House of Representatives, which currently includes two women. But Mr. Saleh has consistently evaded the task of creating the institutions of a modern democratic state – the very thing ordinary people throughout North Africa and West Asia are demanding now. The elected chamber co-exists with a presidentially appointed and manipulated 111-member Shura Council. As though this were not enough, Mr. Saleh has been adept at playing rival tribes against one another to sustain his power base. This makes it difficult even for high-profile defectors, such as General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, to carry credibility with the public, as he has been involved in the brutal repression of Shia Zaidis in northern Yemen and is tainted by his long membership of a venal political elite. Now, however, it is clear that the strongman cannot rule, and the people of Yemen are not willing to be ruled, in the old way. Inspired and encouraged by the success of the popular 'revolutions' in Tunisia and Egypt, ordinary Yemens want to throw off the authoritarian yoke and win for themselves basic freedoms in a modern democratic polity. It is not at all clear when and how Mr. Saleh's heavy-handed rule will end but when it does, his successors must cope with tough problems — an al-Qaeda presence, even if it is small, tribal rivalries, and socio-economic challenges, starting with an unemployment rate of about 35 per cent.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

ODYSSEY DAWN, A HOMERIC TRAGEDY

TWO GAMES OF DOMINO ARE UNDER WAY IN WEST ASIA AND NORTH AFRICA, ONE OF MASS STRUGGLE AGAINST U.S.-BACKED REGIMES, THE OTHER OF MILITARY INTERVENTION AIMED AT CO-OPTING OR DEFEATING THE POPULAR REVOLTS.

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

Muammar Qadhafi may be a threat to his own people but the bombing of Libya by France, Britain and the United States demonstrates beyond doubt that these three imperial powers are a threat to international peace and security.

With its overdeveloped military capabilities and astonishing levels of political cynicism, the West's drive to intervene in the internal affairs of the North African republic has been remarkably smooth and swift. Thanks in no small measure to a 'global' news media with an inexhaustible capacity to serve as cheerleaders for war, U.S., British and French bombs ordnance has started raining down on Libya barely weeks after the civil war there began. The West's latest adventure has also been helped along by the naivety of liberals and leftists, last seen in action during Nato's aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999. Of great help, too, has been the opportunism of the Arab League, all of whose members, without exception, run regimes that throttle the voice and rights of their own citizens.

Though Brazil, Russia, India, China and Germany abstained when the sanction for intervention was put to vote in the United Nations Security Council last week, it does not absolve them of their failure to mount an effective political challenge to the drive for war. Since these countries knew the consequences of this irresponsible course of action, they should have moved quickly to mobilise the African Union, of which Libya is a part, so that the "regional" imprimatur for war which the P-3 fabricated with the help of the League of Arab States could have been countered. Russia and China should also have insisted that they would veto the resolution if any attempt were made to push it through without the Security Council first hearing a comprehensive report on the situation in Libya from the Secretary-General's Special Representative.

We know from the absence of concrete or credible media reports on mass civilian casualties that any delay caused by a high-level external political initiative would not have led to a humanitarian catastrophe. Ironically, journalists from the West and other Arab countries had free access to eastern or "liberated" Libya, for at least three weeks prior to the U.N.'s authorisation of force. This was the period when Col. Qadhafi's use of his air force first prompted western calls for a no-fly zone. Despite this, the death toll of combatants and civilians the journalists in eastern Libya reported was not that much higher than the total number of civilians killed by the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt.

The decision to attack Libya is wrong on three grounds. First, the motive is not humanitarian but political and strategic. Second, it rests on dubious legality. Third, the intervention, because it is poorly conceived and ill-thought out, is likely to cause more harm than good for Libya, its people and the wider region.

Let's start with the motives. The 'responsibility to protect' doctrine which morally underpins the attack on Libya is still not a part of customary international law but even its advocates must agree that the selective and politically expedient invocation of R2P robs the doctrine of its normative force.

Why does only Libya get attacked or referred to the International Criminal Court and not other countries? If there is one country in the Middle East which has threatened international peace and security for decades and which, even as these words are being written, has launched its air force, yet again, against a defenceless civilian population, it is Israel. Yet never have the cheerleaders for the war on Libya argued in favour of a mandatory no-fly zone to protect the Palestinian and Lebanese people from Israeli airstrikes.

Two years ago, just before the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States, the Israeli military killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Unencumbered by high office but with an election victory securely under his belt, Mr. Obama could easily have said something to urge the Zionist regime to back off. He famously said and did nothing and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his silence. When a U.N. report authored by Judge Richard Goldstone of South Africa catalogued the war crimes Tel Aviv had committed during that war, the U.S. used its diplomatic clout to ensure the matter never came before the Security Council. Had it come, of course, any proposed action — such as a Libya-style referral to the ICC — would have been vetoed in the same manner as the U.S. vetoed the recent 14-1 draft UNSC resolution condemning Israel for its illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories.

Elsewhere in the region, civilians have been killed in Bahrain and Yemen, both client regimes of the U.S., drawing only mild public criticism even as every effort is made by America and its allies to bolster these undemocratic regimes militarily so that they can suppress the aspirations of their people.

Today, there is much hypocritical hand-wringing in Arab capitals that the western coalition's military campaign has gone beyond the original ambit of enforcing a 'no-fly zone.' In fact, the text of UNSC resolution 1973 of March 18, 2011 is clear and unambiguous. Enforcement action in support of a no-fly zone is only a part of the wider use of force that UNSCR 1973 permits since the resolution "Authorizes Member States … to take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory."

Anyone familiar with U.N. matters knows that the crucial words in the resolution are "to take all necessary measures." In the past, those five words have been enough to launch a thousand ships and missiles to distant shores and there was no reason to imagine that France, the U.S. and Britain would be restrained in interpreting and implementing their mandate this time round. Since the insurgent forces are operating in "civilian populated areas," any military attempt by the Libyan authorities to re-establish control over the country can legitimately be considered a trigger for the West "to take all necessary measures."

The problem with UNSCR 1973 is not the in-built 'mission creep' but the fact that it is ultra vires. No resolution can violate the principles and purpose of the U.N. Charter. Article 2(7) is quite explicit: "Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state." Customary international law recognises that a sovereign state indulging in genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity cannot hide behind the shield of domestic jurisdiction but it is far from obvious that the Libyan regime — odious, undemocratic and violent though it undoubtedly is — has engaged in acts which cross that threshold. There are civil wars and international conflicts where the number of civilians killed by belligerents has been much higher — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gaza — but the international community has not treated these as war crimes worthy of intervention. In the absence of some reliable metric, then, UNSCR 1973 cannot authorise something that the U.N. Charter explicitly prohibits.

Turning from law to politics, one might still conceivably argue that some "higher purpose" justifies the western bombing of Libya if there were a reasonable expectation of a happy ending. Like the West's other wars in the wider region, however, its latest misadventure seems destined to run aground. The Iraqi and Afghan experiences demonstrate that establishing a new state, even in situations where the old regime is overcome quickly by military means, is a difficult process. The U.S. is a distant power and can afford to play games with the lives of other regions. But France and Britain will pay for fuelling instability and violence across the Mediterranean. The highest price, of course, will be paid by the people of Libya who have surrendered the initiative for change within their country to the U.S. and its allies and agents. Like the Iraqis who foolishly welcomed the American invasion of their country in 2003, the Libyans who wanted Operation Odyssey Dawn may well end up taking part in a tragedy of Homeric proportions.

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THE HINDU

OPED

'INDIA WARY OF IMAGE OF U.S. OFFICIALS TRAMPING AROUND HEAD OF STATE'S PLANE'

FOREIGN SECRETARY SHIVSHANKAR MENON THOUGHT PRESENTATION OF INSPECTION REGIME NEEDED REWRITING

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

 

NEW DELHI: More than the substance of on-site inspections, the Indian government was worried about the public reaction to American inspectors getting access to the Prime Minister's plane, American officials dealing with the matter of end-use monitoring for the VVIP Boeing jets concluded. On May 14, Ambassador David Mulford met Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon to discuss the matter and "urged him to begin 'sensible negotiations' to resolve the enhanced end-use monitoring (EEUM) arrangements for the VVIP jets quickly (1 53810, May 14, 2008, confidential). The cable quotes Mr. Menon saying he had been through the proposed amendment and that he felt "there are 'no insurmountable difficulties in reaching an understanding that would meet your requirements and ours'."

'Reassuring'

Though Mr. Menon "found the amendment 'reassuring,' because the details that it laid out [for keeping the LAIRCM secure] mirror those that the Indian government also wishes to enforce", Ambassador Mulford wrote. "We have a huge interest to make sure it is well protected — not just by us but by others — and we have no problem with high standards, the Foreign Secretary stressed. At the same time, notes the Ambassador, "Menon also pointed out that, because the aircraft attracts high-level political attention, the presentation of the inspections regime needed rewrQing [sic]".

Mr. Mulford ended his cable with the following comment: "At no point in the conversation did Menon reject inspections, and he appeared resigned to on-site verification, as shown by his acceptance of a site visit by negotiators. The problems that the Foreign Secretary saw in the US' proposed amendment dealt primarily with the cosmetic presentation it seemed, which he believes gives the impression of associating the VVIP aircraft, and by extension the Indian Government, too closely with the U.S."

The Indian stake

In a meeting with Mr. Mulford (155283 , May 23, 2008, confidentia l), the NSA "agreed that the Indian government had a stake in protecting the LAIRCM's technology, and he recognized that if the U.S. and India prolong negotiations over the EEUM, 'our Prime Minister will not have a plane'." But, he insisted, "We need to work in a manner that provides comfort to both sides." Mr. Mulford ended his cable with the observation that "As Narayanan makes clear, on-site U.S. inspections of the prime minister's jet make the Indian government pause". The risk, he wrote, is "that the UPA government's opponents might use the image of U.S. officials tramping around the Indian head of state's plane to garner votes in the upcoming general elections".

Such an image "fits into the campaign messages already espoused by the opposition BJP, which accuses the government of an overriding weakness, and the Communists, who denounce the growing friendship with the U.S. But our willingness to resolve the issue in New Delhi at a high level could help alleviate the Indians' anxiety and point the way towards a middle ground that protects both the LAIRCM and the UPA government".

(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

TEXT OF EUM NOTE, INITIALLED ON MAY 29, 2008

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

May 28, 2008

Proposed EUM Note for Indian VVIP Aircraft:

"Pursuant to section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), as amended, the USG will accomplish end-use monitoring for the defense articles and defense services transferred in this Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) as set forth in this note and the specific Enhanced EUM physical security and accountability requirements annotated in the note to this LOA titled 'Unclassified AN/AAQ-24(V), Large Aircraft Infrared Counter-Measures (LAIRCM) System (Revised).'

"At least annually, at the request of either party, at a mutually acceptable date, India and the USG will execute joint consultations, to include an on-site security review of the transferred articles and related security and custody procedures. India agrees to make available inventory and accountability records it maintains to U.S. personnel conducting end-use monitoring. The provisions of this note apply only to LOA IN-D-QJD and to no other transfers with the Purchaser or any other country or international organization." [ 155930: confidential, May 29, 2008]

(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

A COMMAND POST IN THE AIR

MURALI N. KRISHNASWAMY

The three Boeing 737-7HI(BBJ)s are some of the Indian Air Force's newest acquisitions, marking a new phase of a developing relationship with the United States in the fields of civil and military aviation.

The aircraft, christened "Rajdoot" — and what the cables accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks specifically refer to as "head of state aircraft" ( 155930, 153810, 155283: confidential and secret) — are in active service with the Indian Air Force (IAF). The first was inducted into the IAF's AHQ Communication Squadron in 2009.

The type is based on 'Air Force One' — a Boeing 747 aircraft that the United States President uses — and is equipped with special communication and electronic "countermeasure" systems. It includes a protection suite and chaff dispensers to ward off missile threats, a secure satellite and a Very High Frequency (VHF) communication suite, and other security systems.

After Boeing built the first of the three VVIP aircraft for India, its 100th BBJ, it was moved to PATS Aircraft in Delaware (which handles special aircraft modification jobs) to incorporate 'Air Force One' features — a stateroom, a conference room, a secure communications centre, and a seating area for 48 people.

The key feature is the military equipment needed to safeguard VVIPs on board from foes and protect the aircraft when out on critical missions.

In simple terms, the American equipment, which is believed to be an 'advanced version of the AN/AAQ-24 LAIRCM (Large Aircraft Infra-Red Counter Measures,' detects hostile action, that is, missiles, or enemy fire directed towards or homing in on the aircraft. The suite revolves around an infrared system that tracks and uses a counter-measure against the threat.

It 'electronically paints an image' of the aircraft, which diverts a homing missile towards the ghost electronic image. If the specifications and frequencies used by the equipment are made available to an enemy, they can be countered.

The aircraft is also fitted with equipment that allows a VVIP to communicate with a ground based command centre through encrypted satellite channels. This has been envisaged keeping in mind a situation like a war.

In its report for the year 2006-07, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) criticised the purchase of the third aircraft. It called it "avoidable" because the three aircraft would not be used for international travel, "necessitating the use of Air India aircraft with all its adverse consequences."

(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

SHEKHAWAT VISIT 'PR VICTORY' FOR MYANMAR JUNTA

P. SAINATH

MUMBAI: The U.S. Embassy in Yangon saw a visit by Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to Myanmar from November 2 to 5, 2003 as "a domestic public relations success for the Burmese regime." The visit brought gains for the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the official name of the regime that had ruled the country since 1988. The high profile that the regime accorded his visit "reflects an emerging SPDC strategy to host senior-level leaders and regional meetings to increase its legitimacy and bolster its international image."

So ran the assessment of the Embassy in a cable dated November 14, 2003 ( 12088: confidential):

"Shekhawat's visit to Burma was the most senior mission by an Indian leader in 16 years... The Burmese regime pulled out all the stops for the visit, though concrete results were limited. However, from a public relations perspective, the SPDC scored a major victory and demonstrated its ability to draw in regional leaders who are keen to pursue bilateral objectives, but willing to overlook Burma's deplorable political situation. Notably absent from Shekhawat's proceedings was a human rights agenda and anything more than a passing reference to democratization."

"The Indian Embassy here will likely maintain a veneer of support for democratization, but will actively pursue trade promotion and other exchanges to counterbalance what India perceives as unchecked (by the U.S.) Chinese influence in Burma. Ironically, Shekhawat's visit coincided with that of UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Pinheiro and the Indians thus missed an easy opportunity to address serious democracy and human rights issues with the SPDC. Indian Embassy officials told us that Shekhawat put no pressure on the regime behind the scenes and his symbolic unveiling of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the University of Rangoon received scant press coverage."

"Meanwhile, democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, inspired by the non-violence tactics of Gandhi, remains under house arrest on University Boulevard, less than a mile from the University of Rangoon and the new statue."

(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

MUMBAI CONSULATE ADVISED PULLING UP HYATT DUBAI FOR HOSTING DAWOOD FAMILY WEDDING

NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN

CHENNAI: Outraged that an "American branded" hotel chain hosted Dawood Ibrahim's daughter's wedding party, a worked-up United States Consulate in Mumbai sent a strong cable to Washington suggesting that the parent corporation be taken to task for its lack of judgment. It is not known, however, if the consulate's "action request" cabled on August 8, 2005 ( 38140: confidential), and accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, was ever acted upon.

But at the very least, it should come as consolation to hardened sceptics of India-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation that an American official was receptive to Indian security concerns.

The daughter of the Mumbai don married the son of former Pakistan cricketer Javed Miandad in July 2005. The reception was held on July 23, in Dubai.

"It is also an established fact that [Dawood's] daughter was the focus of an upscale wedding reception in Dubai on July 23 at a hotel carrying a famous American brand name. We find the hotel's judgment lacking, and its corporate parent ought to be asking some questions of its franchise in Dubai," the cable went.

It drew an elaborate profile of Dawood, and made a reference to the speculation that he lives in Pakistan, without confirming it. It also described how the Indian press had staked out the Dubai hotel.

It described the don as "a topic of effective U.S./India CT [counter-terrorism] cooperation, and our October 2003 listing of him as a specially designated terrorist was a turning point in our bilateral dialogue on the issue."

Calling attention to the "serious concern" in the Indian government at the "open manner" in which the reception was held, the cable said "our Indian contacts are perplexed and angry at how Ibrahim could brazenly host" such an event.

Send strong signal

"We believe the USG [United States government] should send a strong signal of solidarity and zero tolerance by generating a demarche asking the Grand Hyatt in Dubai where the money came from, and how.

''We should also ask the Hyatt corporation in the U.S. how their local franchise could have made such a questionable decision," it urged.

The demarche, the cable argued, should make the Hyatt chain, viewed in India as an American company, "explain why they took money for a wedding that was likely paid for — directly or indirectly — by the most wanted man in India, a man who is also on the U.S. government's list of foreign terrorist entities".

(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 ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

FM'S ROLLBACKS WELCOME, BUT...

The partial rollback of revenue-earning measures proposed in the 2011-12 Budget — through the withdrawal of the five per cent medical services tax, halving of customs duty on imported auto parts in completely knocked-down conditions (CKD), and a small reduction in duties on readymade garments — has generally been well received, although the welcome is muted. Particularly in respect of the tax on air-conditioned hospitals and healthcare facilities, the demand for withdrawal seemed quite widespread (though such facilities are rarely availed of by the poor), and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has deferred to a broad sentiment in Parliament and elsewhere. In any case, with Assembly elections in four states and the Union territory of Puducherry due next month, no finance minister could have been entirely immune to a degree of political calculation, and the proposed tax on healthcare had come to be derisively described as the "misery tax". Mr Mukherjee noted while announcing its withdrawal that he had originally conceived of the measure not as a revenue-earner but in the context of the proposed goods and services tax (GST) due to come into force next year.
In the case of branded garments, manufacturers tend to hike up costs by 40 per cent and more only for the brand name. So the finance minister taking 10 per cent of this ramp-up should hardly have mattered. There are no compelling reasons why he cannot take his "cut" from channels that offer the opportunity for such high profitmaking without being apologetic, while protecting the small-scale sector. Similarly, halving the duty on CKD auto parts primarily for luxury carmakers was, strictly speaking, not warranted. The measure did not impact most ordinary people, and there cannot be much traction to be gained through its reduction in the context of the coming elections. This change can thus only be reasonably understood as a gesture of positive symbolism, keeping in mind the sentiments of the investing classes — who are luxury car buyers. It is worth remembering that after Mr Mukherjee announced the customs duty hike in the Budget, luxury car makers had reportedly proposed raising prices by `2 lakhs. They had few doubts that the market could bear such a hike. In the event, there appeared no particular reason for the FM to turn queasy on this count.
Mr Mukherjee has warned that if exemptions are sought on a range of items, this would make a mockery of the GST and the direct tax code (DTC). Perhaps the finance ministry needs to do its homework more diligently so that the right people, and appropriate sectors, are targeted for relief. Embarrassing rollbacks would then become unnecessary. While these rollbacks provide some drama, the government seems to miss the big picture regarding the aggregate burden of indirect taxes on the poor. In India this stands at 50 per cent, compared to 17-20 per cent in the OECD countries (Western Europe), which are among the 34 richest nations in the world. The poor — the so-called aam aadmi — have to bear the burden of excise, sales tax, customs duty and several other local taxes. It is these which urgently need to be brought down. Hopefully, this will happen with proper monitoring when the GST and DTC come into force. The finance ministry should also concentrate more on the black holes of direct taxes in the form of umpteen exemptions, for instance the location-based ones. This could net the much-needed revenue for social welfare and other schemes intended to raise the lot of ordinary people.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

J&K: REVERSE SWING

SRINATH RAGHAVAN

New Delhi's interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) are back in the news. Last week, there were some media reports that they had recommended the restoration of pre-1953 status for the state. In the wake of these reports, there was uproar in the state legislative assembly. The Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies staged a walkout, branding the reported recommendation as "anti-India" and demanding that the central government reject it out of hand. As of this writing, it is not clear if the interlocutors have indeed made such a recommendation. Nevertheless, it is important to understand what the restoration of the pre-1953 status means and why it is likely to feature in any serious effort to address the Kashmir problem.
The issue of Kashmir's autonomy, including the pre-1953 status, has been the subject of much myth-making. On the one hand, the Sangh Parivar and its associates have for long demanded the wholesale abrogation of Article 370, never mind reverting to pre-1953 status. Article 370, they claim, inhibits the "complete integration" of the state with India. From a historical and constitutional standpoint, this is utterly untenable. On the other hand, champions of Kashmir's cause present even pre-1953 status as little more than an effort by New Delhi to whittle down the state's autonomy. To be sure, successive central governments are responsible for reducing the state's autonomy to a cruel joke. But the pre-1953 arrangements remain an important attempt at reconciling the autonomy of Kashmir with the imperatives of the Indian constitution.
Let's start from the beginning. The Maharaja of J&K acceded to the Indian Union in October 1947. The Instrument of Accession specified only three subjects for accession: foreign affairs, defence and communications. In March 1948, the Maharaja appointed an interim government in the state, with Sheikh Abdullah as prime minister. The interim government was also tasked with convening an Assembly for framing a constitution for the state. Meantime, the constituent assembly of India was conducting its deliberations. Sheikh Abdullah and three of his colleagues joined the Indian constituent assembly as members, and negotiated Kashmir's future relationship with India. This led to the adoption of Article 370 in the Indian constitution.
Article 370 restricted the Union's legislative power over Kashmir to the three subjects in the Instrument of Accession. To extend other provisions of the Indian constitution, the state government's prior concurrence would have to be obtained. Further, this concurrence would have to be upheld by the constituent assembly of Kashmir, so that the provisions would be reflected in the state's constitution. This implied that once Kashmir's constituent assembly met, framed the state's constitution, and dissolved, there could be no further extension of the Union's legislative power. It was thus that the state's autonomy was guaranteed by the Indian constitution.
Another provision of Article 370 is worth underlining. Article 370(1)(c) explicitly mentions that Article 1 of the Indian constitution applies to Kashmir through Article 370. Article 1 lists the states of the Union. This means that it is Article 370 that binds the state of J&K to the Indian Union. The removal of Article 370 would render the state independent of India. There was a good reason why the article was framed in this fashion. In 1949, when these discussions took place, it was likely a plebiscite would be held in the state. The framers of the Indian constitution had to take into account the possibility that they may have to let go of J&K. The Sangh Parivar's demand for removing Article 370 betrays their naiveté and ignorance.
The constituent assembly of Kashmir met for the first time in November 1951. Even as it got down to its work, Abdullah wanted to depose the Maharaja and end dynastic rule in Kashmir. Jawaharlal Nehru had no love lost for the Maharaja. But the move to depose the ruler raised serious constitutional issues; for the Maharaja was recognised by the President of India. More important, it underscored the need to settle the broad principles governing the relationship between Kashmir and India. This was necessary to ensure that Kashmir's constitution consorted smoothly with that of India. Following intense negotiations, Nehru and Abdullah concluded an accord in July 1952.
Under the "Delhi Agreement" the union's authority would be confined to the three subjects of accession; the residuary powers would be vested in the Kashmir government. The residents of the state would be citizens of India but the state legislature would define and regulate their rights and privileges. The head of the state would be recognised by the President of India on the recommendation of the state legislature. Delhi could only exercise emergency powers on the request of the state government. These were the contours of the "pre-1953" autonomous status for Kashmir.
Unfortunately, the accord failed to hold following the rift between Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah (which resulted in the latter's imprisonment). Thereafter, successive Indian governments sought to shore up their slipping hold on Kashmir by creatively undermining the state's autonomy. For instance, by a gross misuse of Article 370's provisions the central government continued to extend its powers over Kashmir by merely seeking the approval of pliant state legislatures. New Delhi argued that since the constituent assembly of Kashmir had wound up in November 1956, the powers granted to that body should be vested in the state legislature. The intention of the framers of the constitution was, of course, just the opposite. What is worse, this reading was upheld by the Supreme Court, thereby making a mockery of Article 370.
Any sincere attempt to bridge the gulf between India and Kashmir will have to undo this travesty. The autonomy report advanced by the National Conference government in 1999 made some concrete suggestions in this regard. It candidly accepted that not all the presidential orders made under Article 370 since 1953 need to be rescinded. The important thing was to reaffirm and uphold the principle that constitutional limits ought to be respected. The Delhi Agreement of 1952 could yet provide a useful starting point.

Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?

SIDHARTH BHATIA

So convinced are we of political venality that we have bought, hook line and sinker, all the serious claims of corruption against the government on the basis of the revelations made by WikiLeaks about votes being bought by the Congress during the parliamentary vote on the Indo-US nuclear deal in July 2008. The allegations are based on confidential cables sent by an American diplomat during those days.
These are not original investigations by WikiLeaks or any particular journalist; the website got the cables from whistleblowers and has published them with little or no independent editorial cross-checking.
It is newspaper convention to attach the word "allegedly" before any allegation to show that these are not proven charges and also to absolve the publication itself of any libel suit. Those conventions have been long discarded by the media itself; certainly WikiLeaks feels no obligation to stick to media practices. Thus, without any qualification, we are to believe that a confidential report a diplomat may or may not have sent based on a conversation he may or may not have had and which has now found its way, unauthorisedly, to a website, is gospel.
Immediately after the revelations appeared, the media, on cue, has gone into an overdrive about these claims and the Opposition parties have demanded that the Prime Minister quit. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has deployed its most-favoured weapon — morality — in its argument (as in, "It is the Prime Minister's moral duty to resign"), the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has willingly bought every word, notwithstanding the fact that the cable in question was sent by an American diplomat. At any other time, this would have invoked their favourite phrase "imperialist disinformation".
Unhappily for the BJP, another cable also reportedly revealed that one of its leaders, Seshadri Chari, was assuring the Americans that the party's opposition to the nuclear deal was little more than political grandstanding. This time it was the Congress' turn to crow.
Some of those with longer memories will recall the sensation caused by the 2005 publication of the Mitrokhin archives. In a book based on the disclosures made by the Russian defector Vasili Mitrokhin, it was claimed that the USSR had bribed Left (and Congress) leaders for information during the height of the Indo-Soviet partnership. The Left had then strongly denied any such thing.
In each of these instances, no one except for the dramatic personae can say for sure what exactly happened. However, some circumstantial evidence should be considered before passing judgment. For example, the claim in one of the cables that four members of Parliament (MPs) of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) were paid large sums of money to vote with the government has demonstrably been proved wrong. For one thing, the RLD had three MPs and, more important, it voted against the bill. Again, one might also legitimately ask whether a Congress operator would show actual bags of cash to a diplomat to boast about what he is about to do. It strains our credulity.
But credulity is the one thing which is in great abundance all around. No room for healthy scepticism here. We are so ready to believe the worst of politicians, especially of the Congress, that we will not stop to ask any questions. The claims allegedly made by the diplomat and then published on the website must be true; everyone knows that politicians are corrupt and this government is the most corrupt of them all. Now even Julian Assange is implying that the Prime Minister of India is being economical with the truth. No guesses whom we trust more, our own Prime Minister or an Australian activist.
For all we know, many, if not most, of the statements made in the WikiLeaks disclosures may be true. Only an independent enquiry will reveal the truth.
But till the facts are revealed, the media and the citizenry at large cannot hyperventilate every time some revelation is made. Some sense of proportion is required. It is the job of the Opposition to make outrageous statements and to undermine the government; but it is also incumbent on the media to be a bit more sober and interpret the issues correctly for the society. Somewhere along the way that rational approach has disappeared and we have become a nation that is in perpetual outrage mode.
The Opposition's game plan is clear — attack the Prime Minister directly for his sins of omission and commission. This weakens the government and also covers up the failures and misdeeds of the Opposition (the tactics over the 2G spectrum scam is a good example). But the rest of us cannot fall into the same trap. Let the Prime Minister answer all the allegations that are hurled at him, demand that an impartial inquiry be conducted into all the charges that have emerged in the WikiLeaks revelations, but do not be so cynical that you disbelieve him before he has opened his mouth.

The writer is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai

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DNA

COMPASSION FOR KIDS MAKES A GREAT CITY

RANJONA BANERJI

 

Many years ago, I wanted to visit the Children's Remand Home in Dongri. As a result, I spent two weeks going everyday to the offices of the Juvenile and Welfare Social Board offices to get permission.

 

I picked a different time each day but I still never found anyone there. The office was either shut or the relevant people were missing. Finally, my editor called someone who called someone and I got the official entry letter, completely bypassing the department. Was it fair to assume from this that the board constituted to look after forgotten, abandoned, homeless children, was least bothered about them?

 

I cannot lie and say that the condition at the children's home was awful. It was sad because of their condition but there were many happy stories. The more horrifying tales came from experiences in private orphanages — many sadly run by religious organisations — where so-called "social workers" used their powers to abuse children to fulfil their sadistic urges.

 

The past few weeks have brought some of the horrors faced by forgotten children in our city to the forefront - but with remarkably less public hysteria than for instance the "insult" felt by a golfing coach who was asked to remove his turban as a security check at an international airport. What is it about the idea of children suffering that makes it easy for us to close our eyes to atrocities against them? After Slumdog Millionaire's success, many people were outraged that the film showed children as a prey for unscrupulous torturers. Whatever ivory tower you live in, just open your eyes at traffic signals and tea shops to get a more realistic picture.

 

The news that the two paedophiles in the Anchorage orphanage case are being sent back to jail by the Supreme Court comes at the same time as reports that the government is planning to clean up the children's remand homes and orphanages in the city. This comes on the heels of reports of an orphanage where the children were repeatedly raped and sexually abused by their caretakers for years. There have also been reports of mentally retarded children being ritually abused.

 

I'm not going get self-righteous about the Indian capacity for sanctimony and self-congratulation when it comes to all that is great about our great nation. But any society which condones or ignores abuses against its children - whatever its excuse - has to stand up and take the criticism. If we continue to maintain our delusions about becoming a world class city, then we have to start with a little compassion towards the less fortunate and a better system of accountability when it comes to the care of the helpless and hapless. The few changes that have come are through selfless work by activists. It is also true that government officials responsible have to be more aware of possible abuses and must be "sensitised". But these efforts will be fruitless unless society as a whole accepts its shortcomings and is open to change.

 

Making Mumbai great is not just about more infrastructure. It is about a sustainable society which looks after the less fortunate with as much vigour as it caters to the needs of the privileged.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

TWICE BITTEN

 

Militancy affected people from various parts of Jammu region who were forced to leave their homes and come to Jammu city for shelter, have been protesting against discriminatory treatment by the government. They demand treatment at par with Kashmiri "migrants". The government has reacted with lathi charge, arrests and harassment, as if being bitten once by militancy was not enough travail for them and they deserved the second bite. A broader perspective of the issue is desirable. In 1990, Pakistan launched the notorious "Topac" conspiracy aimed at destabilizing the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Youth drawn from PoK, parts of Pakistan and from the Indian part of the State were indoctrinated in religious extremism and given training in terrorist attacks and subversion. After they infiltrated into the Indian part of the State, they first targeted the Hindu population because they were instructed to create deep communal divide in J&K. Unfortunately owing to incompetence of the then State government and classical wayward attitude of the central government, armed insurgents succeeded in their mission. Hindus from the valley and from the border and vulnerable areas of Jammu region like Mendhar, Poonch, Rajouri, Budhal, Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban and Reasi etc. were hounded out from their homes. These people sought refuge in Jammu city. With the passage of time, even many Muslim families from militancy affected areas, too, migrated to Jammu because they were threatened for their secular and nationalist views and did not succumb to intimidation. Thus we see that the displaced persons whether from the valley or from the parts of Jammu region have been forced to leave their homes for one and the same reason. Jammu, to be precise, is a city of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants. As long as militancy continues, there seems little chance of these displaced persons returning to their original places. As such, the state government has to give a renewed thought to the prevailing situation of refugees in Jammu. Of course, there is some slight difference between the IDPs from the valley and those from the Jammu province in terms of numbers and logistics, but that should not debar the latter from enjoying equal facilities with the former category. There seems no justification in making discrimination in the matter of providing relief to them. Under Prime Minister's Package for relief and rehabilitation, there is no discriminating of displaced persons from the valley and other parts of the state. The PM has provided relief to all victims of militancy, which, by implication, includes the displaced persons from Jammu region.


The government is bound to extend the benefits of PM's package and other relief measures to all militancy affected families from vulnerable parts of Jammu province. Lathi charging and physical suppression are not the answer to their demands. Police action against peaceful demonstrators is unjust and uncalled for. They have the right to demand adequate facilities because in juridical terms, the government has failed to provide them the security of life and property. A government that is unable to provide the people the fundamental and constitutional right of safety of life has no right to be in power. It is an illegal government if it continues in power. And an illegal government cannot do the illegal act of suppressing the victims of militancy by using brute force against them. Those injured in the police lathi charge should be compensated adequately by the police department, and action should be taken against the law enforcing agency for misuse of power. We will not comment here on the inefficiency of local police in handling mob protests, that is a separate matter for discussion but authorities will have to take action against erring policemen and officers who have grossly mishandled the peaceful protest rally conducted under the banner of Tahreek-e- Insaf party.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FULL SPECTRUM DIALOGUE

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's affable nature has helped him win the goodwill of Pakistani Prime Minister Geelani. In his Pakistan Day celebration message of 23 March ---- the day on which Pakistan resolution was passed in Lahore----Dr. Singh sincerely desired to have peaceful and cooperative relations between the two countries. He says he is committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan through bilateral dialogue. "I am hopeful that the current dialogue process would lead to peace, progress and prosperity of the entire region," avers Dr. Singh. Reports indicate that full spectrum dialogue between the two countries has been resumed and hopes have risen high that the atmosphere is conducive for result oriented talks. As India and Pakistan prepare for resumption of "full spectrum dialogue" from this month-end, Islamabad has decided to send a six-member team under the aegis of the Special Committee of the Parliament on Kashmir to Germany, Belgium and Poland to "win their support on the Kashmir issue". The delegation will highlight Kashmir issue and Pakistan's "principled stance as supported historically by the United Nations Resolution". Evidently, American pressure is working well with both the countries with Pakistan losing nothing and gaining a mile in the game.. New Delhi does not seem to have any urgency to do good home work on Kashmir issue with the members of the European Union while the team interlocutors is about to submit its report to the Home Ministry. A shroud of secrecy and mystery covers the entire process of Indo-Pak dialogue and only casual hints are dropped that Kashmir issue is heading to some workable formula. It strengthens the belief among Kashmir watchers that New Delhi is readying for making big concessions on Kashmir. Increased visits by foreign diplomats to Kashmir in recent months could be an indicator. At the end of the day, Pakistan-sponsored insurgency and terror has paid dividends to the initiatorsNobody is against the solution of the issue if it happens but those who will be adversely affected by an agreed settlement have a right to know what destiny is being chartered for them while the making of second Pakistan is in progress. In particular, the vast chunks of state subjects forced out of their original homes in October 1947, three subsequent, and now the proxy war begun in 1990, cannot be left to the mercy of the arbiters of the destiny of Jammu and Kashmir emerging in various forms like Track II negotiators or Interlocutors etc.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

INTERCEPTOR MISSILE TECHNOLOGY IN INDIA

BY G V JOSHI

On Sunday 6th March 2011, the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of the Government of India, destroyed an incoming target missile, a modified Prithvi, also made by DRDO at an altitude of 16 km over the Bay of Bengal.

It was another confirmation of indigenous ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability.

On Sunday Indian scientists and engineers, fired an interceptor missile, which intercepted an incoming 'enemy' ballistic missile at an altitude of 16 km and pulversied it in "a direct kill."

While the 'hostile' missile took off at 9.32 a.m. from a launch complex at the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, Orissa, the interceptor missile blasted off at 9.37 a.m. from the Wheeler Island, off the Orissa coast.
The interceptor had a specially designed directional warhead, "which will go towards the target, look at it and cause the maximum damage." The attacker ended up in a shower of fragments over the Bay of Bengal, "confirming a very good kill." Both the missiles were made by the DRDO Government of India.
How does the system work?

The incoming missile from the enemy country travels at a speed of 1200 meters per second, very high above the ground. The ground based -telemetry systems are continuously transmitting performance information about the missile through the use of radars, which work by bouncing off radio waves and sensing the echo to find out the position and speed of the incoming missile to the control room.

These radars are very powerful and can detect precisely a small object hundreds of kilometers away.
Having detected a fast moving target the system determines whether the missile is aimed at us. To find this out us they make use of extremely powerful fast computers on the ground carrying out millions of calculations per second.

Based on the result of these calculations, if they conclude that the object is indeed a missile coming towards us, they then take immediate action to intercept the target missile and destroy it.

They first find out where is the missile launched from? Where is it going to impact and then to see which of our own missiles based at different locations in India can intercept this incoming missile.

The next step is to launch our own missile at the correct time from the designated launch pad and guide it towards the enemy missile. This is done by guiding our own missile through a radio link to track the enemy missile, where it is right then. As our missile approaches the target, it opens its own small radar called a seeker to accurately locate the target and then to home on to it, and destroy it.

All this is achieved in a matter of few minutes.

In the words of Dr V K Saraswat, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, "it was "a fabulous launch" and "it had a copybook finish, taking the interceptor very close to the incoming ballistic missile."
The attacker simulated the 600-km range of a ballistic missile and the interceptor sped up at 4.5 Mach. (Mach 1 is speed of sound in air).

With this launch, Indian scientists have perfected the interception below an altitude of 50 km.
"India's BMD programme has matured, and it is really ready now for integration into the air defence assets of the country." He further added.

India is next only to the US, Russia, France and Israel, which have the BMD capability.
According to Dr Avinash Chander, Director, Advanced Systems Laboratory, DRDO, Hyderabad, "It was a fantastic mission, with a perfect hit and a 100 per cent confirmation of a direct kill."
According to Dr Saraswat, Russia, Israel and France provided assistance in areas where DRDO needed help "bridging technology gap and accelerating technology development." Russia helped India develop the new Radio Frequency Seeker for the interceptor; Israel provided help in developing the 'Swordfish' long-range tracking radar (LRTR) and the French helped with the Fire Control System for the BMD.
A ballistic missile is used to deliver nuclear, chemical, biological or conventional warheads in a ballistic fight trajectory. A ballistic missile is one that has a brief period of powered fight, continues on a ballistic trajectory outside the atmosphere, and then curves back to an impact point on earth.
A missile designed to counter ballistic missiles is called an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) or an interceptor missile. The term "anti-ballistic missile" describes an anti-missile system designed to counter ballistic missiles. India has an active ABM development effort using locally developed and integrated radars, and local missiles.
Development of the anti-ballistic missile system began in 1999. Around 40 public and private companies were involved in the development of the systems.
The idea of destroying missiles carrying bombs before they can hit their target dates from the first use of German V-I and V-2 program of World War II. Pilots in British Air Force aircraft tried destroy V-I "buzz bombs" in flight prior to impact, with some success. It was not possible to destroy V-2, the first true ballistic missile, using either aircraft or artillery.
The American army began experimenting with anti-missile missiles soon after World War II.
India was interested in acquiring the Arrow-II Missile System, which had been jointly developed by US and Israel. However, the deal fell through due to US refusal to approve the sale of the missile and the control system.
India has Israel jointly developed the LRTR, which is the target acquisition and fire control radar for Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) Missile System.
The LRTR radar has the capability to detect multiple targets. It was reported in December 2009 that the latest upgraded version of LRTRs, already developed by DRDO in collaboration with Israel are capable of detecting very small targets in the 600 km - 800 km range and can spot objects as small as a cricket ball. The DRDO plans to upgrade the capacity of Swordfish to 1,500 km by 2011.
Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) developed the mission control software for the AAD missile.
Research Centre, Imarat (RCI) developed navigation, electromechanical actuation system and the active radar seeker. Advanced System Laboratory (ASL) provided the motors, jet vanes and structures for the AAD and PAD. High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL) supplied the propellants for the missile.
The two-tiered BMD System consists of the PAD, which will intercept missile at exo-atmospheric altitudes of 50-80 km and the AAD missile for interception at endo-atmospheric altitudes of upto 30 km.
The deployed system would consist of many launch vehicles, radars, Launch Control Centers (LCC) and the Mission Control Center (MCC). All these are geographically distributed and connected by a secure communication network.
While the first phase seeks to project vital assets against enemy ballistic missiles of upto 2,000 km range, the second phase intended to defend against missiles of up to 5,000 km range. (PTI)

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

EMPOWERING WOMEN THROUGH SHGS

BY DR. J.S. MANHAS AND DR. A. S.CHARAK

 

Women constitute about 48 per cent of the country's population and play an equally important role along with men in creating a better family life. The presence of Indian women in agriculture is ancient and inexorable.
Despite multiple roles of women in agricultural operations and household chores, their work is generally underestimated and undervalued. The status of women in general is much lower than that of their male counterparts, largely because of customary male dominance in society, inherent shyness of farm women and lack of opportunities for education and training. Instead of all efforts, there is continued inequality and vulnerability of women in all sectors viz. economic, social, political, education, health care, nutrition and legal. As women are oppressed in all walks of life, they need to be empowered. There is need to enhance the participation and leadership role of women in different walks of life and in the development process.
Empowerment of women could be in any sphere of life; legal, social, political and economic. The contribution of women in rural areas is multifold; therefore economic empowerment directly affects all other areas of empowerment.
As women play an active role in the economy of their families, they are wise enough to invest money and lead better life. There is a linkage between woman's access to independent income and position in the family. It is believed that when women are provided credit and they take up income generating activities, their income is expected to increase. When they earn money, their role in decision making in the house improves.
The present Self Help Group schemes are an alternative to achieve the objectives of rural development and to get community participation in all rural development programmes. Self Help Group is a viable organized set up to disburse micro credit to the rural women for the purpose of making them enterprising women and encouraging them to enter into entrepreneurial activities. Credit needs of the rural women can be fulfilled totally through the Self Help Group. The women led self help group have successfully demonstrated how to mobilize and manage thrift, appraise credit needs, maintain linkages with the banks and enforce financial self discipline.
To give rural women visibility, they must get organized into Self Help Groups. Group approach is a visible set up to empower women economically, socially and technologically for improvement of life. Role of Self Help Groups is emerging as promising tool in this context.
Formation of Self Help Groups:
The concept of self help groups needs to be understood prior to any intervention. The members are linked by a common bond like caste, sub-caste, blood, community and place of origin or activity in their natural group or affinity groups. Forming self help group involves the coming together of people, who jointly decide the mission and values of the group, its goals and objectives and its rules and norms. For the members to formulate all of this and learn to function by these principles takes time. The SHG's usually come together with a primary activity such as savings and credit. This is the activity that is used to organize the group for mutual financial benefits when it first begins.
Self help group is a voluntary and self managed group of women who come together to promote savings among themselves as well as pool savings for activities benefiting either individuals or communities economically. Members support each other and are accountable to one another through the sharing of information and resources and assist in decision making in individual, family and community matters. Formation, promotion and nurturing of self help groups are time intensive processes, for which number of steps are to be followed.
* Mobilization of farm women through informal meetings and mass communication.
* A group of 10-20 farm women who are basically homogeneous in nature is the pre requisite of forming a Self Help Group.
* Members are encouraged to save on a regular basis. The amount if saving is within the range of Rs. 20 to Rs. 100. They rotate this common pooled resource within the members with a very small rate of interest.
* Each group has a leader who is called as the President and an executive committee. They usually maintain records of transaction on daily basis in written format and take initiative for developmental activities.
* Members are encouraged to shoulder responsibility equally right from the beginning. Most of the operating rules and norms are established in the initial stage by common consensus. The members of group should have sense of realism, strong ownership, cohesiveness and intensive mutual interaction.
* The external intervener should be guide and facilitator without interfering in the autonomy of the group.
* The function of self help group should be to pool small savings and lend as per need and open account in a bank.
* The groups are encouraged to have regular meetings once in 15 days or monthly on day and time suitable to all the members. Decisions and actions regarding financial transactions are taken in these meetings. These meetings play a very crucial role in developing strong ties among members and sharing of problems and their solutions.
* Programmes for farm women have to be tailored to their needs and their variable time schedules must be kept in mind. Vocational training and education for rural women should seek to enhance their natural skills and aptitude so that it is meaningful and relevant to their life situations.
Role of Self Help Groups in empowering farm women:
* The self help groups empower women and train them to take active part in the socio economic progress of the nation and make them sensitized, self made and self disciplined.
* The SHGs bring out the capacity of women in molding the community in right perspective and explore the initiative of women in taking the entrepreneurial ventures.
* SHGs also organize women to cope with immediate purposes depending on the situation and need.
* Participation of women in SHGs makes a significant impact on the empowerment in social aspect also. Participation helps women come out in open and discuss their problem. It also helps to bring about awareness among rural women about savings, education, health, environment, cleanliness, family welfare, social forestry etc.
* Empowerment should be externally induced so that women can exercise a level of autonomy. There should also be 'self empowerment' so that women can look at their own lives. The process of 'learning by doing and earning' would certainly empower rural women. More and more rural women need to be involved in self employment. Self employment in agriculture, village and small industries and retail trade and services should be expanded. Self employment is also conducive to the development of individual initiative and entrepreneurial talent and offers greater personal freedom. The added advantage is that the institution of family remains undisturbed. The emergence of self help groups in this context is a welcome development. The groups would provide a permanent forum for articulating their needs and contributing their perspectives to development. Self help groups should be developed as an institution for financial intermediation as well as people's network rather than a vehicle for credit disbursal only.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CAN TUBERCULOSIS BE CONTROLLED?

BY DR. SANJEEV NARANG

 

Tuberculosis is thought to exist since 15000—20000 years and its references are found even in Vedas. The oldest of them Rigveda calls the disease 'yaksma' and Atharvaveda calls it another name 'balasa'.
In the Morden world, a Prussian physician, Robert Koch discovered mycobacterium tuberculosis on this day i.e. 24th March in the year 1882. Now that even after more than 100 years tuberculosis germ has been identified, it still remains to be a formidable enemy. Why? It's important to understand that diagnosis and treatment of TB is difficult and little bit different in comparison to other bacterial infections. TB germ is very 'sturdy' and very few medicines are available today that are actually effective against it.


Moreover, since 40 years no new anti-TB medicine has been licensed. Unlike other antibiotic course which has to be taken for 1 or 2 weeks, anti-TB medicines have to be taken for not less than 6 months. Clinical benefit of TB medicines starts appearing only after 2-3 weeks of initiating the course and symptoms may take 1 or 2 months to subside. After that, patient has to tolerate the cost & side effects of TB medicine for another 4 months in order to achieve complete cure and it has been seen that nearly 30% of patients will not adhere to 6 months course. Irregular intake of anti-TB can lead to a potentially fatal complication called MDR-TB or Multi Drug Resistant TB where the available medicines actually become ineffective.


Although, medical science has gifted us vaccines against many deadly diseases but this does not hold true for tuberculosis as the available BCG vaccine has been shown to be ineffective for adult TB. Even the diagnosis of tuberculosis can be tricky as chest X-ray can be highly non specific and patient diagnosed on the basis of X-ray at times may not be actually having the disease. Hence sputum test remains to be the only gold standard for diagnosing


There are more than 5 million people in India are living with HIV/AIDS and they have 60% risk in their life time to develop TB. Another cause for concern is increase in the number of Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases and even more deadly Extensively Drug Resistant TB (XDR-TB). So, the combination of strong enemy and a week armamentarium makes the treatment arduous.

 

Can we control TB? To control tuberculosis we must utilize whatever is available with us judiciously and in the best manner. Earlier National TB Control Program failed to achieve control, so in 1997 Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program [RNTCP] based on Directly Observed Treatment [DOTS] was launched as national program and by March 24th 2006 whole country was covered under it. Till now the program is running successfully. The RNTCP has been able to standardize the treatment regimens, prevent misuse of medicines and avoid drug resistance to TB. Every effort should be done to strengthen this RNTCP. Even after one decade of its implementation, still there is lack of awareness among the patients about the availability and quality of free diagnosis and treatment facilities locally available under RNTCP. More than half of the total TB patients don't avail RNTCP as they are treated by private practitioners, hospital and medical colleges. Of the 8 million doctors in India, about 6 million are engaged in private practise and only 19000 private practitioners are implementing RNTCP. Therefore, there is an urgent need of more and more involvement of private sector for case detection and treatment of tuberculosis. There is also an urgent need of establishing laboratories under RNTCP where diagnosis of drug resistant TB could be made. Probably, it's our last chance to control TB and Govt will have to take private sector into more confidence, only then we have a chance to curb the evil called TB.
(The author is a consultant chest diseases specialist in ASCOMS & Hospital, Sidhra, Jammu)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

NO MORE 'MISERY TAX'

HEALTHCARE NEEDS A REGULATOR

 

ONE proposal in the Union Budget for 2011-12 which had attracted sharp all-round criticism was the 5 per cent service tax on diagnostic tests and treatment in air-conditioned private hospitals with more than 25 beds. Displaying commendable sensitivity to public feelings, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has rightly agreed to roll back the proposal that would have fetched a Rs 700-crore annual revenue for the exchequer. It is amazing that a seasoned and pragmatic political leader like Mr Mukherjee has to be told that an air-conditioned hospital is no longer a luxury but a necessity, that the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals does not grant accreditation unless a hospital has central air-conditioning and that poor villagers have to mortgage their assets to get treatment during an emergency since government hospitals are often crowded and mismanaged.

 

Had the tax not been axed, a heart surgery would have cost Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 more and for cancer patients the cost of treatment would have escalated by Rs 20,000. Hospitals would have passed the tax burden on to patients. Calling it the "misery tax", Dr Devi Shetty, a Bangalore-based cardiologist, had led a protest by citizens outside the Governor's residence and observed March 12 as the "Misery Day".

 

There may be hospitals making hefty profits, tempting finance ministers to grab a slice of these but healthcare in India needs large government and private investment. There is an acute shortage of staff and infrastructure. Government doctors prescribe medicines which patients buy from private shops. There is a risk of getting expired or spurious medicines. Since the cost of treatment is multiplying rapidly, health insurance must cover larger sections of society. Private insurance firms are growing fast and, like private hospitals, tend to indulge in questionable practices. To discipline the health sector, there is need for a regulatory authority. Even as private hospitals flourish, the government cannot abdicate its responsibility of providing access to efficient and affordable healthcare to ordinary citizens.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TESTING TIMES FOR OMAR

KASHMIRI PANDITS MUST GET A FAIR DEAL

 

THE recent statement of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that his government was working on a multifaceted programme for the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Kashmir valley is heartening. Young Omar's good intentions have never been in doubt, it is his ability to fight against heavy odds in a murky political environment that has been tested from time to time. As the Chief Minister has recognized, what will convince the Kashmiri Pandits to return will be a sense of security that has been lacking all these years since they were virtually forced out of their homes to flee against terror and persecution by militants with no protection worth the name from successive governments in the state. There is no doubt that the ground situation has improved in recent months. This is therefore an opportune time to reassure the Pandits that the Kashmir government would be with them if they choose to return.

 

An estimated 300,000 of the displaced Pandits have been living in Jammu and Udhampur, most of them in ill-equipped camps as refugees while another 100,000 are in such camps in Delhi established by the Government of India and the UN. So all-pervasive was the fear of torture and elimination in early 1990 that an insignificant number of Kashmiri Pandits stayed on in the valley. Motivating these people to put the unpleasant memories of a decade ago behind them would indeed be no mean task.

 

While security from militant attacks would be an important element in rehabilitating the Pandits, it is equally vital that economic opportunities for their youth including reservation in government jobs go hand-in-hand with personal security. Most of them would need to start from a virtual scratch and would require all the help from the government in getting back possession of their property or in settling in new homes. It is indeed challenging times for the Omar Abdullah government and a test of its ability to fulfill the promises that it has been making.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

BUFFETT FOR THE UNDERPRIVILEGED 

BILLIONAIRE INSPIRES OTHERS TO GIVE

 

SOON after Warren Buffett visits India, comes an announcement of a Rs 1,540-crore pledge towards charity by GMR Group chairman G R Rao. Call this the Buffett effect. When the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, one the richest men in the world, asks billionaires, or just millionaires, to open their wallets, they do so. Americans have a saying: "Put your money where your mouth is," and Buffet certainly has. In 2006, he pledged most of his fortune to charity. The primary recipient of his largesse was the Gates Foundation. He also gave to the four charitable trusts created by his family—the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Susan A. Buffett Foundation, and the NoVo Foundation. Along with Microsoft's Bill Gates, Buffet has led the trend of billionaires donating a significant part of their wealth to charity.

 

In India, too, there have been some notable donations recently, like the Wipro chairman Azim Premji who gave over Rs 8,000 crore, and HCL founder Shiv Nadar who gave Rs 580 crore for education. Notable instances of corporate social responsibility include the Infosys Foundation and the Rs 500-crore initiative by Reliance Industries. Traditionally, industrial houses like the Tata, the Godrej and the Birlas built hospitals and educational institutions. Overall, however, India lags behind nations like the US and the UK, which give 2.2 per cent and 1.3 per cent of their GDP for charity. The Indian figure comes to a miserly 0.6 per cent.

 

Many of those who give do not merely give away their money; they monitor its use and even set up institutions that would help to make the change that they want to make. We must realise that it is better to leave our children a better society than to merely leave them with wealth. People clever enough to make billions have done so; it's high time we did so, too!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

FURORE OVER WIKILEAKS

OPPOSITION LEADERS PROTEST TOO MUCH

BY B.G. VERGHESE

 

THE WikiLeaks "India File" published by The Hindu 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 the Ministry of External Affairs (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.

 

The 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 the 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. The Kerry-Lugar Act is the latest farce that rewards Islamabad for every breach. The burden of "collateral damage" to India from mistaken US policies is huge and totally unrequited.

 

Yet the US has also been a generous friend and it is good that the 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 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.

 

The demand 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 nuclear 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.

 

To arm-chair critics who would ask, 'what is the hurry', Keynes replied that in the long run we are all dead — some from natural disasters; others from man-made disasters; and still others in consequence of the anger of the excluded who have waited for generations, have again been asked to wait and then made to wait some more.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE BITTER PIL

BY RANJIV DALAL

 

As a child, the task of swallowing a pill was a nightmarish experience. The very thought of falling sick and taking pills every eight hours would shake both my body and soul. I would hide my fever/bad throat or stomach ache from my parents till the very last moment. I could not swallow the pill. I feared that it would get stuck in my throat and suffocate me.

 

My elder brothers, sisters and parents would try their best to allay my fears and offer all sorts of rewards but of no use. "Come on," the chorus would start, "you are a brave boy. We will count 1, 2, …3; and you swallow the tablet. There will be no problem". As they counted one, my throat would go dry. On 2, I would take a deep breath and place the tablet on the tongue and on 3, take a big sip from the glass of water and try to swallow. Everyone would clap with joy. Their joy was shortlived as the very next moment the pill was out with a vomit; my face red and the body quivering. Before I could be rescued by my mother, a few tight slaps from my father had already landed on my cheeks.

 

It took several months before I learnt the skills of swallowing a pill. The bad experience was soon forgotten and taking a tablet was never an effort thereafter.

 

Now, having put in more than three decades of tough, challenging police service, the fear of taking a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) has come to haunt me again. Believe me, it is as traumatising an experience as was in the childhood. How often my officers come barging into my office to announce that a PIL has been filed! "What have we done now?" I ask bewildered. Don't we often deal with the crooked, crazy, disturbed minds? It is easier to face an enemy on the borders than to face violent surcharged mobs. Yet, not a word of sympathy. Only the PILs.

 

"Sir, another PIL is coming," enters an officer nervously. A dismissed Sub Inspector has sat on dharna and threatening to commit suicide in front of our headquarters. "That will be a slaughter," I said. No one is going to believe our side of the story. Media will have juicy news and we will be seen as villains --- the old timer Prem Chopra would look like a gentleman. Save him at any cost. Photograph him repeatedly".

 

As if this was not enough, two of my officers presented applications for five-day casual leave. I was furious. "What is this? We have a crisis on hand and you are proceeding on leave!" "That precisely is the reason, sir. Another PIL, another storm by the media. Another round of investigations by the CBI. You are the boss, you have to suffer anyway; spare us the harassment".

 

"How often would we be stripped for doing our normal job," I throw up my hands. "May be, we'll have the FBI on our backs, next, if PIL writers have their way," the officer chipped in. "Leave me to my fate and get lost," I slumped into the chair.

 

The writer is Director General of Police, Haryana

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE TB TERROR

TWO PER CENT OF THE INDIAN POPULATION IS INFECTED WITH TUBERCULOSIS, MAKING IT ABOUT 20 MILLION PATIENTS. THERE ARE TWO DEATHS OCCURRING EVERY THREE MINUTES FROM TB IN THE COUNTRY

JAGDISH KUMAR

 

Tuberculosis, commonly called TB, is an illness that usually affects the respiratory system. However, it can infect any part of the body. It spreads by close contact through coughing and sneezing thereby adopting the airborne route to get the primary infection. The ongoing AIDS pandemic has worsened the scenario, as immunosuppressed HIV-infected persons are highly susceptible to this bacterium.

 

The co-morbidity of both these diseases is so alarming that invariably it leads to fatal consequences. This is the most common opportunistic infection among people living with HIV. In 2007, WHO recommended that countries with high co-infection rate should develop TB-HIV collaborative activities through Integrated Counselling and Testing Centers (ICTC).

 

Even today, 129 years after its discovery, tuberculosis remains one of leading causes of death of several million people, mostly in third world poverty-stricken developing countries. The gross estimation of WHO is that two billion persons, one-third of world's population, are infected by this bacterium. The number of cases had become so enormous that in the year 1993, WHO had to declare a state of Global Emergency on this disease.

 

Our country is no exception to this epidemiological data; where 2 per cent population is infected, amounting to about 20 million people. It is one of the leading causes of mortality in India — 330,000 deaths each year — nearly 1,000 every day, which amounts to 2 persons dying every 3 minutes. These deaths can be prevented with proper diagnosis and treatment. Patients can be cured and the battle against this scourge can be certainly won.

 

This is one of the curable diseases if detected timely and managed properly. The standard recommended length of drug therapy is six months, which may be extended in some of the unusual cases. However, if there is delay in establishing diagnosis, irreparable damage takes place. Hence it may not be curable at an advanced stage.

 

Sometimes, even if diagnosis is timely made, the patient may not take the full course of treatment with prescribed doses. It turns into multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), where first-line drugs (isoniazid and rifampicin) become ineffective. The situation is already so grim and above all there is now an emerging threat of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) since 2006, where patients do not respond to the first line as well as the second line of anti-tuberculous drugs (fluoroquinolones and at least 1 of 3 injectables — capreomycin, kanamycin and amikacin). Such cases are now being reported from India also. The XDR-TB has really posed a big challenge before the medical fraternity and the ailing community.

 

In our country, the National TB Programme (NTP) was started in the year 1962 and the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) in 1997, after pilot testing from 1993-1996. It included Directly Observed Treatment Short course (DOTS), which is being implemented to tackle this menace. The WHO-recommended DOTS strategy was launched formally through the RNTCP. Since then DOTS has been widely advocated and successfully applied. The RNTCP has covered the entire population of the country by March 2006. This programme has achieved the global target of 70 per cent case detection for the first time while maintaining the treatment success rate of more than 85 per cent in our country.

 

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has now come up with the DOTS-Plus programme, which refers to DOTS that add five essential components for MDR-TB diagnosis as well as treatment. These are:

 

* Sustained government commitment;

 

* Accurate timely diagnosis through quality assured culture and drug susceptibility testing;

 

* Appropriate treatment utilising second-line drugs under strict supervision;

 

* Uninterrupted supply of quality assured anti-tuberculous drugs; and

 

* Standardized recording and reporting system.

 

There is full integration of DOTS and DOTS-Plus activities under the RNTCP so that patients with MDR-TB are both correctly identified and properly managed under the prescribed recommendations. In the RNTCP DOTS-Plus vision by 2012, it is aimed to extend these services to all smear positive retreatment cases and new cases who have failed an initial first-line drug treatment and by 2015, these services will be made available to all smear-positive pulmonary tuberculosis cases registered under the programme.

 

The writer is Professor and Head, Department of Microbiology, Govt. Medical College Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

KEY FACTS

 

* TB is one of the leading causes of mortality in India— killing 2 persons every three minute, nearly 1,000 every day

 

* The strategy of Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course (DOTS) is based largely on research done in India in the field of TB over the past 35 years.

 

* Since 1997, after successful piloting DOTS has been implemented in India as the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP). In the RNTCP, the proportion of TB cases which are confirmed in the laboratory and the cure rate are both more than double that of the previous programme,

 

* The operational feasibility of DOTS in the Indian context has been demonstrated, with 8 out of 10 patients treated in the programme being cured, as compared with approximately 3 out of 10 in the previous programme.

 

* Multidrug -resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB) is a result and symptom of poor management of TB patients.DOTS has been shown to prevent the emergence of MDRTB and to reverse the trend of MDRTB in communities in which it has emerged.

 

* TB is the most common opportunistic infection among people living with HIV.

 

* Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) has covered the entire population of the country by March 2006.

 

    • Every patient who is cured stops spreading TB, and every life saved is a child, mother, or father who will go on to live a longer, TB-free life.
    •  

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

 

TOGETHER WE CAN ELIMINATE IT

 

The 24th of March every year is observed as World Tuberculosis Day all over the globe. This occasion provides an opportunity to the governmental as well as non-governmental organisations to create public awareness programmes highlighting the magnitude of the problems and devising solutions related to the ongoing pandemic of tuberculosis entailing the strengthening of the control measures.

 

World TB Day commemorates the historical date in the year 1882 when Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative bacterium of tuberculosis, in one of the meetings of doctors in Berlin (Germany). This used to be was considered a dreaded disease at that time. It used to kill millions of people, as the case fatality was 1 out of every 7 persons, not only in Europe but other continents as well because neither its cause nor any specific treatment was known. This breakthrough discovery on this day paved the way for diagnosing and later on curing this 'incurable disease' of that era.

 

For the next hundred years, this day was not remembered in any capacity. However, in 1982, while commemorating the 100th year of Koch's discovery, the first World TB Day was observed by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD), which was subsequently joined by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The basic idea of the international event was to educate the public at large about the devastating medical and economic consequences of tuberculosis, its effect on the developing countries and its overall continued tragic impact on global health.

 

Every year a theme is decided for this day focussing on to how to get rid of this disease and throughout that year a concerted worldwide campaign is initiated to achieve the set goal. The theme of this year is 'TB Elimination : Together We Can' which is more than a slogan and its campaign will be sustained focussing on to people everywhere who are doing their part 'on the move against tuberculosis : transforming the fight towards elimination'.

 

It is a reminder of the collaborative efforts on eliminating tuberculosis by educating health care workers and volunteers who play a crucial role in identifying symptoms of this disease. It is about highlighting lives and stories of people affected by tuberculosis: women, men and children who have taken tuberculosis treatment; nurses; doctors; researchers; community workers — anyone who has contributed towards the global fight against this dreadful disease.

 

Every patient who is cured stops spreading tuberculosis and every life saved is a child, mother or father who will go on to live a longer, disease-free life. WHO is working to cut tuberculosis prevalence rates and thereby deaths by half by the year 2015. Eventually by 2050, the global incidence of this disease is expected to be less than or equal to 1 case per million population per year. The day is not far when we will be able to celebrate this occasion, as the disease will ultimately be eliminated from the face of the globe. Our vision is a world free of tuberculosis. — JK

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

HOMAI'S CAMERA CHRONICLES

A BOOK ON INDIA'S FIRST WOMAN PHOTOJOURNALIST HAS HER VIEWS ON SUBJECTS FROM B/W PHOTOGRAPHY TO GIANT DAMS

 

General Ayub Khan had stopped in India on his way to Dacca in 1959 to meet Pandit Nehru at Palam. "This was the day," says the commentator, "when Homai's georgette sari was a bother. There were about thirty-five photographers milling around and their feet were pulling her sari down. As she sat down to take a low-angle shot in order to make Panditji (who was smaller built than the General) look more imposing in her frame, she felt it tear. Ayub Khan, noticing her struggling to get up after shooting from between the legs of the photographers, turned to Nehru and remarked, "How very un-chivalrous all these photographers are. They are not allowing the lady to get up." To which Nehru chuckled and replied, "That's all right. That's the way she works. She wants to take the picture like that."

 

Thus Homai Vyarawalla (b 1913), India's first woman press photographer and photojournalist. The affectionate warmth with which Nehru refers to her indicates the rapport she could establish with her subjects, and Nehru was one of her favourites: Nehru wearing a cat's mask at Sanjay Gandhi's birthday party, posing near a sign which says 'Photography Strictly Prohibited', smoking aboard India's first BOAC jet plane, and lighting a cigarette for Mrs Simon, wife of the Deputy High Commissioner of Britain. "Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was a chain smoker," Homai writes, "though there are very few photographs of him smoking, since he was a public figure…" The caption ends with a laconic remark, "The plane crashed on its second flight."

 

Vyarawalla could hold her own in more ways than one. A British theatre group visiting Delhi, was wary of an Indian woman taking their pictures with a small Rollieflex. "One of them playing Hamlet was reluctant even to pose for me. I had to tell him point blank to bring some expression to his face. When they saw the prints they were so pleased that they asked for dozens of copies in large sizes as publicity stills."

 

 She notes, ironically, that the only time her supportive mother exercised a veto was when she said she wanted to be a doctor. "She had seen doctors on late-night shifts and didn't want me in a profession like that. Little did she realise that press photography would be far worse." Her father was an actordirector in Urdu Parsi theatre, so even as a child she led a nomadic life.

 

 Vyarawalla moved to Delhi in 1942, and her photographs are a story of the nation. She was present at almost all the key moments of those years: the meeting at which leaders voted for Partition, Mountbatten leaving India, the first Republic Day parade. The one great tragic moment she missed (for reasons that are not very clear), was the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi whose prayer meetings she often attended. But she also photographed ordinary people, and the diplomatic society of Delhi at fancy dress parties, fox hunts, and other frivolities.

 

Both the Retrospective, curated by Sabeena Gadihoke, and the biography she published, Camera Chronicles of Homai Vyarawalla are important acts of preservation. Boxes of negatives were lost when Homai moved from one place to another. Some she herself destroyed because she felt they were of no significance. The book also includes letters by and to her, and pictures of her press passes and the cameras she used, many charming anecdotes, and her views on subjects from black and white photography to giant dams.

 Homai Vyarawalla was awarded the Padma Vibhushsan in January this year. Her one regret is that her husband was not alive to share her pleasure in it. He was reclusive, she adventurous. But he was the one who encouraged her career in an area that was strictly a male preserve.

 

omai Vyarawalla and (r) Pandit Nehru captured by her camera. The book includes letters by and to Homai, pictures of her press passes and the cameras she used

 

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

COLUMN

MR MUKHERJEE'S TEASER

IS UPA PREPARING FOR NEW LEASE OF LIFE FROM ASSEMBLY POLLS?

It is a measure of the clout of the prosperous private sector healthcare industry in India that not only did Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee succumb to the crocodile tears of all those who decried his so-called 'misery tax' but elected representatives of the people in Parliament thumped their desks in mock concern for the common man and most of the media hailed this act of temporary benevolence. Temporary, because Mr Mukherjee has made it be known that the 5 per cent service tax on private hospitals of a certain category that was introduced by him through this year's annual budget was part of the time table of transition to a generalised goods and services (GST) tax. So, when a GST comes, this 'misery tax' will have to return. Hand it to the millionaire entrepreneur-doctors that they were so very successful in their campaign, first having smartly dubbed the proposal a 'misery tax'. While Apollo Hospitals' much celebrated founder Pratap C Reddy claimed that this reversal of policy would enable the healthcare industry to "serve the nation", it is the nation and the tax payer that have been serving business interests in healthcare with tax breaks and subsidies. Curiously, Mr Mukherjee also gave away some tax breaks that would benefit manufacturers and buyers of Mercedes-Benz cars! This too would be hailed by many doctors and editors!

The government made good use of the opportunity provided by an opposition walkout to get the finance bill passed, and also used the occasion to place on the table of the House, new and important economic legislative agenda that the government can take up when Parliament reconvenes. Tabling the GST bill, even if a sub-optimal version, was a good idea. It is better to take even a tentative step forward than no step at all. If there are issues that need sorting out, they can always be addressed later. Next time Parliament meets, not only would the Left Front be on a back foot, having lost power in its key bastions, but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the historic economic reforms of July 1991. This would be an excellent occasion to have the pending bills on insurance, pensions funds and banking sector reform passed. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the 1991 reforms, a new wave of forward-looking policy reform should be launched. The new lease of life that the United Progressive Alliance is likely to get from the assembly elections, winning a majority of them (if not all), should help boost the government's morale and energise it to take some pro-active steps on the policy front to enthuse the animal spirits of Indian enterprise.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

CARRYING COALS TO NEW DELHI

DOUBTS ON COAL RESERVES RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT THERMAL POWER

It would seem that disappointment or controversy is never too far away from India's energy sector. The recent admission by the Union ministry of power that even the 'revised' target of 62,000 MW for the 11th five year plan (the initial plan target was 78,000 MW) would be missed by 20 per cent, while disappointing, barely surprised those familiar with the Power Ministry's record of meeting set targets. A recent report by The Energy Research Institute (TERI) pricks the sanguine belief, widely held, about India's limitless coal reserves, deemed adequate to support a significant proportion of India's energy ambitions well into the next century. Total coal reserves in India are estimated to be of the order of 276 billion tonnes, of which 110 billion tonnes are 'proven' resources. These estimates are based on the Indian Standard Procedure (ISP), a time honoured practice to estimate all minerals, dating back to the 19th century. This, according to the authors of the study is the crux of the problem. In not adequately considering the techno-economic costs associated with extraction, the ISP tends to overestimate mineral reserves that can be feasibly mined. An alternative estimation method called the United Nations Framework Classification (UNFC) that was designed to overcome the limitations of the ISP has not been implemented, despite a government go-ahead in 2001. Adopting the UNFC methodology, would provide a more realistic estimate of India's mineral endowment, which in turn would lead to appropriate policy responses.

The report's logic is persuasive: if the marginal cost of extraction exceeds the price at which it can be sold, it would make little economic sense to do so, unless the government subsidises the difference. Some of India's reserves are indeed in thickly-forested areas in states such as Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. Even if the activist positions adopted by the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) were to be downplayed for the moment, getting the coal from pit to plant would require considerable investment in logistics and infrastructure, which even in a best-case scenario would be a gradual process. The central findings of the report are sobering for India's energy policy. If present ISP-based estimates were discounted conservatively by 40 per cent, 'proven' reserves would come down by about 44 billion tonnes to about 66 billion tonnes. At present levels of consumption, they would suffice for 110 years. A dynamic forecast of the future supply-demand scenario would necessarily consider the higher demand as the Indian economy grows at approximately 9 per cent over the next two decades, as well as the potential of technology to access reserves currently classified as non-extractable.

 

 India's energy mix, which currently relies heavily on thermal power and is expected to do so in the foreseeable future makes it imperative that the findings of the report be treated seriously. For example, supply of coal from Coal India Limited (CIL) to power producers has been notoriously erratic. While this was ascribed to systemic inefficiencies, mainly in the form of inadequate infrastructure and transport networks, the TERI report might raise more fundamental questions about the reliability of CIL as a coal supplier, given that its actual reserves may be lower than stated. Coal imports, mainly in the form of high-grade thermal coal are already close to 25 per cent of total consumption. If the findings of the report are true, India might have to reconcile to imported coal becoming an even more important part of the total fuel mix in the foreseeable future. Forewarned is forearmed!

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

ARAB STREET AND THE SUBCONTINENT

THE ARAB WORLD'S SECOND AWAKENING WILL INFLUENCE THINKING ABOUT DEMOCRACY IN PAKISTAN

SHAHID JAVED BURKI

This has been dubbed the "second awakening" of the Arab world. The first, according to an Arab historian who wrote about it in 1916, was the result of the resentment against the hold of Europe's colonial powers. The second awakening took almost everybody by surprise. Even those who participated in the revolt by massing on the streets in Tunis and Cairo were surprised by what they were able to achieve. In about a month, they succeeded in toppling two regimes that had been in power for decades. They were less successful in some other countries, particularly in Libya, where the resistance by the leader who had ruled for four decades plunged the country into a civil war. At the time of this writing it appears that Libya's Muammar Gaddafi might prevail.

The revolution will take time to run its course. Questions are being raised whether its impact on the area will lead to an improvement in the lives of the people who live in the countries affected by it. The main reason for the massing of millions of people on the streets was a deep and growing sense of what academics have called "relative deprivation". While a small segment of the population had gained enormously from the wealth created by the exploitation of the area's natural resources, the majority had continued to struggle. A significant number of people lived in abject poverty. The Arab countries have very high income disparities, among the highest in the world. They also have very young populations. When the young lose confidence in the ability of the economic system to deliver what they need — not just what they want — there is bound to be a build-up in the levels of anxiety. It just needed a trigger to cause the explosion on the Arab streets. It was the self-immolation by a fruit vendor in Tunisia in December last year that brought the youth out on the streets.

 

 There are also questions as to how this awakening will impact the world around the lands of the Arab. There is no doubt that the Arab revolution will have consequences far beyond the borders of the countries in which it is occurring. By setting into place a process that is likely to establish democracy as the governing norm in some — though not all — countries, it is showing that Islam is not incompatible with democracy. By laying the foundation of a new type of relationship between the Arab world and the West, it is proving that Samuel Huntington's fear that the world was heading towards a clash of civilisations was probably wrong. By demonstrating the power of the street, it will provide courage to those not satisfied with the way they are governed to clamour for change.

South Asia too will be affected by the change in the Arab world. Two of its several countries have Muslim majorities; both are struggling to establish democratic political orders. In one of them — Pakistan — the majority of the population is confronting the growing influence of Islamic extremism. Within a couple of months, two prominent leaders in the country were gunned down, both by extremists who were committing these crimes in the name of Islam. What is troubling is not only the use of bullets by the extremists to silent those working for the establishment of a more accommodating political and legal order. What is even more worrying is that a deep fear of the extremists virtually silenced the majority.

That the transition to a secular democratic order would not be easy was demonstrated by the eruption of Muslim-Christian conflict on the streets of Cairo. The opening of a religious rift and the intensity of the clash surprised most observers. As many as 13 people were killed, most of them Christians, who were protesting the burning of one of their churches in a town near Cairo. Although clashes between Muslims and Christians are not new in Egypt, they often take place far from the country's capital. Violence near the heart of Cairo is bound to concern Christians as weeks of tumult in Egypt have left them particularly vulnerable in a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim. Pakistan is also a muslim-dominated country and the two assassinations that convulsed the country were also the consequence of the growing antipathy on the part of many extremists towards the small Christian minority in the country. The Muslim majority in Pakistan will watch and draw lessons from the way the evolving political order handles sectarian violence in Egypt.

The attention of the street in mainland South Asia is also turning towards the quality of governance. There is growing concern about the way people view the way they are governed. In Pakistan, the media has been extraordinarily concerned with the rise of corruption in high places. In India, thousands of people have come out on the street to demand that the government should provide better governance and punish those involved in cases of corruption such as those related to the preparation of the sites for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the award of G2 telecom licenses.

There is bound to be another impact of the awakening of Arab street on the economic and political systems of the developing world and also on the relations of some parts of this world with the US. The street has emerged as another check on the exercise of executive authority. The lawyers' movement in Pakistan that sent General Pervez Musharraf packing was one manifestation of the power of the street to bring about political change. We will see more exercise of this power as the Arab street succeeds in bringing about change in some of the countries in that area. The Raymond Davis case in Pakistan, when a CIA operative was jailed for 'allegedly' killing two young men on a street in Lahore has complicated Pakistan's relations with the US.

The demonstrated power of the street had reduced the room for maneuver for the Zardari government in Pakistan. Even Washington recognised that Islamabad could not do what it demanded — the unconditional release of Davis — without agitating the Pakistani street. Davis was released after the Americans paid large sums of money to the relatives of the deceased and also granting them visas for the US so that they could escape the wrath of the Islamists who did not want such a settlement. It was the fear of the street that produced that outcome.

The writer is former finance minister of Pakistan.

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 BUSINESS STANDARD

EDUCATION - ECONOMY'S GROWTH ENGINE

ARVIND SINGHAL

It is very heartening to see the education sector getting its due attention at least in the mainstream media, even if the governments at the centre and the state continue to pay little more than just lip service to the same. A lot has been made out of the increase of 24 per cent in the budgetary outlay for Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) this year, taking the budget to about Rs 52,000 crore or about US$ 11 billion, to take care of the educational needs of 25 million newly born per year from K-12 to higher education and vocational training. Of course, the overall spending on education is much more on account of private spending simply because the government has — for decades — neglected this vital social sector. Annual spending by Indians going for studies abroad is now estimated to be in the region of Rs 15,000-20,000 crore. Annual spending on private tuitions and coaching is estimated to be in the range of Rs 35,000-40,000 crore.

Despite such huge deficit in supply versus demand for education at all levels, exacerbated even more if quality is also added as one of the parameters in the equation, should have prompted any government to take up structural reforms in the education sector on priority. Yet, some of the most important bills relating to education sector continue to languish in the parliament. Since the government does not have the financial resources, anymore, to establish or subsidise fresh capacity in education sector to make it universally accessible, accountable, and affordable for all Indians, at the very least it must enable the right framework to attract private capital and global body-of-knowledge to at least partially make up for the increasing deficit.

 

 However, this particular piece is not about reforming the education sector per se or to highlight the current failings since these are very well known now. Instead, it is to draw attention to the potential of education sector itself as one of the growth drivers for the Indian economy (and not only because a more educated population will make all the sectors of the economy more efficient and productive). The potential has to be seen in the context of a few key global trends including aging of population in almost all the major developed countries, and the potential of India to deliver, beyond IT and BPO, a number of attractive on-site/ off-shore "outsourced" services to these developed countries.

A recent story in Forbes Asia magazine highlights the emergence of Jaipur as a dentistry centre, attracting visitors from many parts of the world and creating new business (and employment) opportunities in Jaipur and in Rajasthan as most of these visitors explore tourism as well. The potential of medical tourism has been widely spoken and written about a lot but to fully realise the same, the government needs to provide policy and fiscal support to such an "industry" on the same philosophy as it did for the IT sector decades ago, allowing that sector to take off. In addition, the human resource estimates in the healthcare sector from MCI and other institutions have to, therefore, be upped very substantially. Further, as the populations outside India age, there would be an increased global demand for healthcare-givers including doctors, nurses, and technicians. It is very likely that such governments overseas will have no option but to liberalise visa regimes to allow for a more liberal entry of such workers even if they do not get permanent residency in those countries.

Almost a similar case can be made out for many other professional programmes (other than, perhaps, MBA) such as law, industrial design and architecture, high-quality engineers, and others. The case for creating education capacity specifically for "export" of such talent/services is even stronger in vocational skills need beyond just the construction and transport sector. There will be an increasing global demand for skilled workers in other sectors such as hospitality, food services, beauty and grooming, travel and leisure, etc. India can and must plan to "capture" such market segments too, which have the potential to increase the flow of inward remittances well beyond the estimated US$ 55 billion received in 2010.

Beyond just the demographic dividend, India now needs to think of generating a very strong financial dividend from investing in education, and to this extent, must encourage and attract investment in education sector in the same way as it seeks investment in any other sector.

arvind.singhal@technopak.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

MINIMUM CITIES

CHAOTIC AND UNPLANNED URBAN LANDSCAPES IN MOST SOUTH ASIAN CITIES MAKE THEM FAR FROM LIVEABLE

BARUN ROY

Which is the greenest, cleanest city in Asia? Ask anyone and the answer would be predictable and unanimous: Singapore. An Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey specially commissioned by Siemens has just reconfirmed this. But if you ask any expatriate in Asia to name the region's best liveable retirement city, the answer would be equally predictable – Manila – even though, in all international surveys of liveable cities, including EIU's own annual index, the Philippine capital always figures pretty low in the ranks.

One of the reasons for Manila scoring as the best liveable retirement city is its low cost of living. I know many Americans who went to work in Manila and stayed back after retirement simply because home, and even Singapore, would have been too costly for their pension dollars. Besides, Manila is warmer, friendlier and freer. People are naturally zestful, with no hang-ups about foreigners. They sing, dance and smile a lot, putting one at ease. And you won't be fined for leaving a public toilet without flushing.

 

 So, yes, Manila has crime, Singapore is absolutely safe; Manila has squalor, Singapore is squeaky clean; Manila has pollution, Singapore is healthy and fresh; Manila is chaotic, Singapore is very, very orderly. But Manila is livelier while Singapore is staid, unnervingly proper and psychologically limiting.

Well, in the end it's a matter of choice and one can't quarrel with it. But even "liveable" cities must have a degree of orderliness to remain so. This is something that even Manila seems to understand – aware of its many problems, it's now working on a major plan to reconstruct its urban landscape – but we in South Asia don't.

Take Kolkata for example. Personally, it's not my kind of a city and in the Siemens Asian Green City Index it's ranked, perhaps most fittingly, as "below average" (along with Manila, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hanoi, if that's of any comfort). But ask the city's residents, Bengalis and immigrants alike, and they'll all say they love it there. It's a place, they'll point out, where people from all walks of life and economic levels can coexist in perfect harmony, in their own different spaces and be themselves. Yes, Kolkata is dirty, crowded and ill-kept but that's precisely why it's to be preferred, they'll argue. Nobody bothers about anybody. If you can't find a roof above your head, there's always the sidewalk.

That's a fine sentiment, but that's also why our cities remain what they are — human corrals. Kolkata hasn't changed in all these years, in a fundamental sense, even as it has come to acquire some so-called accoutrements of modern living, like shopping malls, high-rise apartment blocks and flyovers. Mumbaikars seem to nurse a sense of pride when they talk of Dharavi as the world's biggest slum. Dhaka feels no shame even after being branded by EIU as the world's second worst liveable city, after Harare. People in these cities and our other urban ghettos in South Asia have only thing to say: "We're fine." And that's a pity, because that gives the authorities the licence to feel smug and do little.

But one must realise that cities aren't villages and can't be run like one. A city is a different social organisation, where living a purposeful, organised, time-barred economic life is the desired objective. So, even an informal city must have all the necessary systems in place for it to function smoothly. Otherwise, after a point, it's bound to degenerate into a "minimum city" unable to cope with its burgeoning population.

We can't stop new millions from coming to live in cities. The pattern of global economic growth has led us inevitably into an urban way of life from which there's no return. Unless we prepare ourselves to redefine the urban landscape, with visionary planning and pre-emptive action, we'll end up facing an urban tsunami over which we'll have no control.

Not that our cities aren't trying to change. They always appear to. But, strangely, the more they try, the more they remain the same, because the approach is short-sighted and wrong. Over the years, Kolkata has acquired a metro, built flyovers and forged connector roads, but its traffic remains as bad as before. In the sixties and seventies, Kolkata was in constant international media focus, triggering huge flows of Ford Foundation and World Bank dollars for the city; but it remains as decrepit and disorderly as ever. If Dhaka thinks it can ease up its notorious traffic gridlock by 2013, as its recently-announced "comprehensive" plan seems to suggest, then it's only kidding itself.

A livable city isn't just a matter of building a flyover here or widening a road there, or stacking high-rise apartment blocks on every available piece of land, but creating a living, interacting organism that functions as a whole. This, for some strange reason, we're unable to comprehend.

rbarun@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

 

THE SECONDARY SEX

INDICUS ANALYTICS

Despite many government efforts, female literacy remains a laggard in India.

The provision of educational opportunities for women in India has been an important part of the national development agenda since independence. It is a well-known fact that a rise in education levels among women leads to a dramatic improvement in other developmental indicators in health. However, World Bank estimates for 2006 reveal that a little more than half the female population (above 15 years) in India is illiterate. Further, the gender gap in the literacy rate since 1991 dropped by only four percentage points, that is, from 28 per cent in 1991 to 24 per cent in 2006. A comparison of the country's literacy rate with China's highlights the extent of backwardness in India. In 1990, 68 per cent of women in China were found literate, which is higher than what India attained in 2006. Also, the gender gap in literacy rates in China in 1990 was 19 percentage points. This fell to merely six percentage points by 2009 with 91 per cent female literacy.

 

 According to Census 2001, only three states in the country crossed 80 per cent female literacy rates — Kerala, Mizoram and Lakshadweep. The variation in female literacy rates across the country is huge, ranging from 33 per cent in Bihar to 88 per cent in Kerala. Along with Bihar, other states and Union Territories with exceedingly poor female literacy rates are Jharkhand, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Rajasthan and Jammu & Kashmir. Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have shown the highest progress in increasing female literacy in the period 1991-2001.
 

BLACKBOARD BLUES
Literacy rate (15+ years) in India

 

India 1991

India 2006

China 1990

Female literacy rate

34

51

68

Male literacy rate

62

75

87

Literacy rate

48

63

78

Source: World Bank

The extent of gender inequality is evident across the country. According to Census 2001, the gap in literacy rates between men and women exceeds 30 percentage points in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Rajasthan. The relative condition of women in terms of literacy rates is equally worse in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, where the gap is much higher than the all-India average of 22 percentage points. Moreover, these states have witnessed an insignificant improvement since 1991. For instance, in Bihar and Jharkhand the gap reduction was merely two percentage points. Uttarakhand witnessed the largest gap reduction of seven percentage points compared to other states.(Click here for table)

Realising the importance of educating women, the Central and state governments have introduced various schemes time and again. For instance, the mid-day meal scheme, increasing toilet facilities in schools, cycles for girls, Mahila Samakhya Scheme since 1989 in rural areas of Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh Assam, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat and Karnataka, among others. The latest scheme, Saakshar Bharat, launched in 2009 with a special focus on female literacy aims to cover districts with female literacy rates of 50 per cent and below. In 2009-10, the mission was rolled out in 167 districts in 19 states.

Promoting gender equality and women empowerment is one of the Millennium Development Goals. Yet, despite various government efforts, current statistics show that the country has a long way to go before female literacy rates match male literacy rates.

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

sumita@indicus.net

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BRAVO, DELHI

THE DELHI BUDGET'S PUBLIC TRANSPORT INITIATIVES ARE WORTH REPLICATION


The Delhi budget's public transport initiatives are an example for other state governments. The bulk of the state budget, about 25% or . 13,600 crore, is earmarked for public transport. Modern and dependable public transport would reduce traffic congestion, fundamentally improve commuting experience, economise on fuel usage and help fight climate change. The Delhi government plans to build 14 more bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors. Whether dedicated corridors are superior to having a sufficiently larger number of buses plying across a well-distributed route network with GPS-assisted monitoring of their adherence to time schedules and speed limits is debatable. The Delhi government should initiate the latter experiment as well in areas not served by dedicated corridors, and compare results. Delhi has more registered vehicles than the four other metros, and still offers decent levels of mobility, only thanks to the public transport initiatives, including the Metro.


The Delhi budget also proposed to raise the registration fee on diesel vehicles, purportedly on environment grounds. But the tweaking of the registration rates, from 4% to 5% for small cars, 7% to 8.75% in the mid-segment and 10% to 12.5% for above . 10-lakh cars, is really a move to garner revenue. It would hardly make a dent in the marked preference for cars run on diesel, a fuel that is cheaper than petrol on account of lighter taxation. Instead of taking this arbitrary tax differential for granted, it makes sense to ask the Centre to reduce distortions in levies on automotive fuels. There is no reason why the excise duty on a litre of petrol should be . 14.35, while that on diesel is . 4.60. It merely distorts demand patterns. Retail prices of diesel have been decontrolled since last year, although the central government has failed, as yet, to operationalise the policy. It is entirely likely that following the impending elections in five states, diesel prices would be revised to factor in dearer crude oil prices. It makes no sense to go out of the way to encourage usage of diesel cars as a matter of policy: it would rev up particulate matter pollution and mean attendant negative externalities as well.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HELPING THE MAOISTS

ATTACKS ON VILLAGERS, SUCH AS THE ONE IN DANTEWADA, ONLY HELP THE MAOIST'S CAUSE


 The government maintains a 'nuanced' strategy of accelerated development and better policing shall continue to be its response to the Maoist problem. But if reports that indicate that security forces are on the rampage against villagers in Dantewada are to be believed, they would wholly negate the integrated process that must constitute the battle against Maoist violence. Razing the homes and granaries of some of the poorest people in India, murdering men and raping women, as the security forces are alleged to have done, is nothing short of the scorched earth policy that actually ends up buttressing the Maoist argument that the campaign against them is nothing short of a war being declared by the state on its own people. Such behaviour, which does not distinguish between Maoists and tribals, constitutes the frenzied response that the former, perversely, want. Time and again, the Maoists have committed heinous massacres. But this sort of a brutal response is precisely what fortifies their argument of the need for violent revolution. Such instances, therefore, also negate the success the operation against the Maoists has had so far.


This instance in Dantewada also should not, and cannot, be brushed off as the aberrational acts of a few members of the security forces. Nor should, as the reports suggest, attempts by the local police to suppress information about what actually happened be allowed to succeed. An effective investigation must be launched forthwith, and if culpability is established the perpetrators must be punished and the victims justly compensated. There is simply no other way of defeating the Maoist logic which survives on extant deprivation of the marginalised being compounded by the suffering and destruction an unrestrained military campaign causes such sections. Unravelling that logic does mean intelligent, even aggressive policing methods, but not wiping out people. Such incidents, simply, make all talk of delivering the other, equally necessary, facet of the campaign, inclusive socio-economic development, sound meaningless. They must not recur. The message must go down firmly.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

OUT WITH IT

PRE-EMPTIVE REVELATIONS CAN REMOVE THE STING OF MANY AN OPERATION


chnology has a way of imparting drama and urgency to incidents and actions that in another time may have caused scarcely a ripple. WikiLeaks has flooded the mindspace of the political class in many countries, with its promise of revealing reams of salacious government goings-on (as oxymoronic as that may sound) via the 'outing' of documents, whereas in actual fact the juicy morsels are often hidden in piles of verbiage. Much of the time, as the information pertaining to Indian events seem to suggest, conjecture plays a major role in assessments of situations, and diplomats seem amazingly credulous. If anything, they show an amazing alacrity to accept the conventional wisdom that there is no point in analysing India — it is better to just go with the flow. And here we were thinking we had confounded them with our contradictions! Indians, on the other hand, are feeling rather smug that low-tech has paid off and WikiLeaks are unlikely to stain the sandstones of South Block. If no one sends cables, then there are no documents to leak. Yet, why should government information be inherently embarrassing, if it is disseminated to a wider public at a later date?


Indeed, Matthew Parris' hilarious book P a r t i n g S h o t s:T h e U n - d i plo m a t i c F i n al W o r d s o f O u r A m b a s s a d o r shighlights how the opposite can be true. As a young diplomat (before he became a politician and columnist) he chanced upon the often humorous, often insightful and often plain silly, perorations of his retiring senior colleagues. Years later, he was given permission to use them for a radio series and then for this book. Had he not preempted it, this same material would probably have been an ideal WikiLeaks target. There is reason to think that for some, a similar pre-emptive strike could save future blushes.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

RETHINKING NATIONAL BROADBAND

BROADBAND UPTAKE REQUIRES BUILDING A WHOLE ECOSYSTEM, OF WHICH FIBRE-LAYING IS JUST ONE ELEMENT


There is no dearth of national broadband plans. The Confederation of Indian Industry in 2004, 2009, and 2010; the department of telecommunications (DoT) in 2004; Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in 2010; and IIM Ahmedabad's Telecom Centre of Excellence in 2010 — all have thought about the critical issue of broadband and formulated their recommendations. All these plans have come up with excellent ideas on the institutional mechanisms, funding sources and technology options for providing broadband access. They are also unanimous in asserting that an appropriate ecosystem needs to be created for broadband uptake. However, while some good suggestions in this regard have been offered, it is not clear that we yet have a roadmap or even an approach to follow.


Unlike physical connectivity, digital access does not automatically translate into empowerment. The challenges on the demand side can be divided into three parts: perceived need constraints, i.e., uncertainty about the value of the service; ability constraints like general education, IT education, language skills; and budget constraints involving affordability of connection and terminals. All these issues are precipitated and heightened by the extremely meagre supply of relevant applications in the local language.


It is true that the ecosystem can be expected to start developing spontaneously after the fibre is laid. But that will take time, confounding our ambitious penetration targets. Without advance preparation for mainstreaming all sections simultaneously, broadband will become yet another tool for exacerbating the inequality of our society, creating further tensions between the haves and the havenots. Our aim should be to move to a digitally inclusive society, where chances are equally provided, independent of mother tongue, location or social status.
In our view, the key to unlock these constraints lies in the sphere of organisation design. Companies figured out a long time ago that enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation is not about software but about change management. In a similar vein, our country needs to go beyond thinking about national broadband as a fibre-laying project.


We propose that we should move from the notion of a national broadband plan to the concept of a national digital development mission (NDDM). The charter of the NDDM would be to identify and integrate all schemes which can be empowered with information and communication technologies so that connectivity, content, digital capability and the ability to pay move in step with each other. Each ministry should be required to identify schemes that can be empowered with the use of digital connectivity and to create plans to develop the ecosystem required. The plan for laying the national fibre network should be informed and aligned with these plans. In turn, these plans should base themselves on the projected targets of the fibre laying project.
We do not intend to replace, eliminate or to diminish the role of the organisational entity charged with laying the fibre network. Such an entity must exist as a separate unit and must be given sufficient autonomy. However, there must be, in addition, a body comprised of top professionals and bureaucrats, and headed by the Prime Minister/vice-chairman of the Planning Commission to play a coordinating role.

 

 Coordination of ministries is a difficult task, especially in a coalition government. Luckily, at present, there is a common minister in charge of telecom, information technology and HRD. Because of his multifunctional role, the minister has the opportunity to create a proof of concept that demonstrates the disproportionate returns that will inevitably follow a coordinated approach to broadband development. Once success has been demonstrated, other ministries can be expected to join the movement. As an example, the National Skills Development Mission can be eenabled and rolled out through common service centres in order to upskill the rural population.
While fibre is the only longterm solution for integrated national development, we must recognise that the project is likely to take time.


Our citizens must be equipped with wireless broadband immediately, even if at slower download speeds, to familiarise them with the use of broadband in advance of the arrival of fibre. In rural areas, these wireless broadband solutions would need the active support of government on account of difficult supply and demand conditions. While designing wireless broadband schemes, the DoT should recognise the crippling power constraint of rural India and focus on providing solar-powered solutions that minimise operational issues, post-implementation. Broadband can be the vehicle for bringing broad-based prosperity to the country and plans must reflect the importance of this project for India. The success of the space programme in the US galvanised the country in the 1960s to introduce innovation in products and solutions, leading to a wide range of spin-offs ranging from sophisticated error-free computers and light-weight batteries to advanced composites that strengthen tennis rackets.


In the sphere of broadband connectivity, India has a similar opportunity, provided we recognise it as such and make it the rallying point of our march toward prosperity for all.


(The article is co-authoured by Rakesh Mehrotra and Roman Fudickar)

 

ROHIT PRASAD ICT POLICY SPECIALIST

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NEURAL NET

METAMORPHOSIS OF A GENERAL AND A VETERAN

C L MANOJ


The accomplished theoretician in Prakash Karat will be the last one to miss the message in last week's Kerala episode in which cadre protests forced, for the second consecutive time, the leadership to reverse its decision to shun party veteran V S Achuthanadan. Such a development in any communist party means the collapse of the leadership and its core functional doctrine — Democratic Centralism.


Add to that the incidents of the West Bengal party leadership periodically snubbing the central leadership after their serious differences over the Singur-Nandigram issue peaking after the Left-UPA break-up over the Indo-US nuclear deal and the "Third Alternative" gamble, the Congress-Mamata Bengal pact, the Left's electoral meltdown and its present marginalisation in national politics. The way the "expelled" Somnath Chatterjee is routinely given public felicitations in Kolkata's CPI-M hubs and the manner in which Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has made himself almost a habitual absentee in the polit bureau (PB) meetings have highlighted the unprecedented disconnect between AKG Bhavan and Alimudeen Street-Writers Building. And, in the process of "rectifying" the mistake against Achuthanadan, one saw a majority of the PB members abandoning the general secretary's stand itself.


These are interesting times for Left-watchers, provided one gets beyond those easy sound-bytes meant more to divert the gaze from the real action. The most striking fallout of these developments is the dramatic metamorphosis of two central characters; Prakash Karat, from being the much-projected, all-powerful and uncompromising party chief to being a true 'general in the labyrinth'. And VS, from being an incorruptible party veteran known more for his grassroots crusade and factional (sic) expertise than any ideological/administrative brilliance to being a 86-year old cult figure who sends the young party cadre into raptures in their desperate search for an icon and inspiration in the repulsive environment of moral decay within the Kerala CPI-M leadership. In these tales of irony lie two opposite scripts: of how a supreme leader risks wasting all that grand opportunity/ hope that was bestowed on him. And how a seasoned veteran has turned his being cornered within party committees by in-house rivals into a grand opportunity for emerging as the cadres' leader on the streets.


Karat is a casualty of his political/organisational inexperience and theoretical dogma. Though a clean, intelligent, well-read and articulate leader with a sound theoretical grounding, Karat lacks the practical and pragmatic experience of his predecessors P Sundarayya, EMS and H K S Surjeet. Karat's practical experience is limited to the shallow campus politics of JNU and the insignificant Delhi state CPM unit. The importance of a particular circumstance — UPA-1 critically depending on the Left — helped him, like other Left leaders, acquire a larger-thanlife projection in Delhi. But that was as notional as Sitaram Kesari strutting around as the "demolition man" during the Congress-backed UF regimes. When it comes to the real test, Karat's "ideologically correct stand" against the nuclear deal evoked disaster both on the floor of the Lok Sabha and in the West Bengal electoral fields. Similarly, the factional problem in the Kerala CPM had cropped up much before Karat took over. But his predecessor, Surjeet, made use of his pragmatism and tact to keep it under control. But Karat's theoretical approach made it explosive: he chose to totally back the dominant Pinarayi Vijayan faction, unmindful of the fact that its "demonstrated majority in the committees" commands no credibility with cadres who dismiss it as a "manipulated mock-show" by a gang of self-serving leaders. The climax came in the form of the 'bombard-the-headquarters'-like state-wide cadre protest, forcing the leadership to surrender. Of course, the Pinarayi Vijayan group has lost face, but that is hardly a loss given it never had a standing among the cadres. But Karat's slipping up in front of expectant partymen is something that should not only worry him a large deal but also help him jolt out of theoretical stupor. What an irony that the Left's electoral hope and CPM cadres' inspiration in Kerala today are solely riding on the shoulders of the same VS — the veteran who learnt the skill of fighting and survival from his Punnapra-Vayalar fighting days — whom the leadership had tried to discipline by suspending and then demoting from the PB. Indeed, it is a practical demo in theoretical fallacy!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CURSOR

MONA LISA OR HER PIXELS?

T K ARUN

 

 Obsessing over individual pixels and failing to see the picture that all those picture elements (pixels) together create is, today, what missing the wood for the trees was yesterday. Call it by whatever name, the art would stink as foul. Politics today is all about pixellation and obfuscation of the big picture, making us hold our noses.
Telecom tantrums lost us the winter session of Parliament. Now, the focus has moved on to the vote of confidence of 2008 after the Left withdrew support to the UPA-1 over the nuclear deal. The Opposition claims, based on leaked American diplomatic communications, that the ruling side had purchased honourable MPs. Further, they now charge the Prime Minister with having misled the House.


These individual charges are not unimportant. But even more important is the larger picture. What was important for India's polity and economy in 2008 was that the government last its term, complete the nuclear accord to break the straitjacket of technology denial that had constrained India ever since 1974, and make progress on the agenda of inclusion that had been set out in 2004.


Suppose the government had fallen in 2008. There would have been no nuclear deal with the Americans or India's quasi-membership of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group. Assorted Indian defence and space organisations would have continued to face sanctions. There would have been no functional government in place after Lehman Brothers collapsed in September, sending the global economy into a recessionary tailspin. Even with a proactive government in place, the economy slowed down, hurting millions.


If there had been no functional government in place at all, and no timely fiscal stimulus and monetary easing, the economic squeeze would have been much sharper. Not only would millions more have been hurt, but the recovery would have been more difficult as well. More enterprises would have gone bankrupt, more bank assets would have turned bad, and the banks would have lent less. The lower degree of economic resilience would have inspired less external confidence, smaller amounts of capital would have flowed in, fewer companies would have raised capital, fewer people would have invested their savings. All this was avoided because UPA-1 did not quietly give in to the Left's blackmail and give up power to become a dissolute coalition whose members were up for grabs.


This is the larger picture that somehow seems to be missing from the debate on the whys and whereofs of the pixels that constitute it. But this is only that part of the bigger picture that nobody would quarrel about. There is another part that is no less relevant. Supposing the Congress, having failed to complete its first term in office at the Centre at the head of a coalition, were left high and dry by its allies who then join hands with the BJP. A resurgent BJP would have, if not immediately rushed to re-enact Gujarat 2002 on a national scale, ensured that no evidence of terror attacks by Hindu groups ever came out, further deepened the communal faultlines in Indian society.


Now, with the Congress having completed its term and implemented its inclusive growth agenda to whatever extent possible, and further, having translated this achievement into electoral gains in the 15th Lok Sabha, the BJP is under pressure to become more moderate. Key ally Janata Dal (U) can insist that the quintessential BJP leader, Narendra Modi, should not show his face in Bihar. If the Congress had, indeed, succumbed in the 2008 vote of confidence, or even earlier, trying to give lessons in morality to the DMK, there would have been no such pressure on the BJP. This, too, is a vital part of the big picture entirely missing from our impassioned political debate.

This is not to say that the Congress is a paragon of secularism and other virtues. It had engineered the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. The Provincial Armed Constabulary of UP acquired its reputation for communal bias and violence under Congress rule. And the Congress perfected the paradigm of enriching politicians in the name of mobilising political finances through loot of the exchequer, sale of patronage and sheer extortion.


However, when India's history is written, the period of UPA-1 rule would go down as one of rapid economic growth, a telecom revolution that filtered down to the masses, development of assorted laws and institutions of inclusive growth, arrest, if not reversal, of a grave process of alienation of religious minorities whose end point is civil war, successful insulation of the Indian economy from a global crisis and vital consolidation of strategic capability including through the nuclear deal. Dr Manmohan Singh has served his country well. Is welfare for the people breach of privilege of Parliament? The point is not to argue that the ends justify the means. Rather, to point out that debating the means with no bearing on the ends is pointless.


Parliament's time should be spent on advancing welfare, not pointless negativity.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

FM'S ROLLBACKS WELCOME, BUT...

 

The partial rollback of revenue-earning measures proposed in the 2011-12 Budget — through the withdrawal of the five per cent medical services tax, halving of customs duty on imported auto parts in completely knocked-down conditions (CKD), and a small reduction in duties on readymade garments — has generally been well received, although the welcome is muted. Particularly in respect of the tax on air-conditioned hospitals and healthcare facilities, the demand for withdrawal seemed quite widespread , and the finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, has deferred to a broad sentiment in Parliament and elsewhere. In any case, with Assembly elections in four states and the Union territory of Puducherry due next month, no finance minister could have been entirely immune to a degree of political calculation, and the proposed tax on healthcare had come to be derisively described as the "misery tax". Mr Mukherjee noted while announcing its withdrawal that he had originally conceived of the measure not as a revenue-earner but in the context of the proposed goods and services tax (GST) due to come into force next year. In the case of branded garments, manufacturers tend to hike up costs by 40 per cent and more only for the brand name. So the finance minister taking 10 per cent of this ramp-up should hardly have mattered. There are no compelling reasons why he cannot take his "cut" from channels that offer the opportunity for such high profitmaking without being apologetic, while protecting the small-scale sector. Similarly, halving the duty on CKD auto parts primarily for luxury carmakers was not warranted. The measure did not impact most ordinary people, and there cannot be much traction to be gained through its reduction in the context of the coming elections. This change can only be understood as a gesture of positive symbolism, keeping in mind the sentiments of the investing classes. It is worth remembering that after Mr Mukherjee announced the customs duty hike in the Budget, luxury car makers had reportedly proposed raising prices by Rs 2 lakhs. Mr Mukherjee has warned that if exemptions are sought on a range of items, this would make a mockery of the GST and the direct tax code (DTC). Perhaps the finance ministry needs to do its homework more diligently so that the right people and sectors, are targeted for relief. Embarrassing rollbacks would then be unnecessary. While these rollbacks provide drama, the government seems to miss the big picture regarding the aggregate burden of indirect taxes on the poor. In India this stands at 50 per cent, compared to 17-20 per cent in the OECD countries, which are among the 34 richest nations in the world. The poor — the so-called aam aadmi — have to bear the burden of excise, sales tax, customs duty and other local taxes. It is these which urgently need to be brought down. Hopefully, this will happen with proper monitoring when the GST and DTC come into force. The finance ministry should also concentrate more on the black holes of direct taxes in the form of exemptions, for instance the location-based ones. This could net the much-needed revenue for social welfare and other schemes.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

J&K: REVERSE SWING

 

New Delhi's interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) are back in the news. Last week, there were some media reports that they had recommended the restoration of pre-1953 status for the state. In the wake of these reports, there was uproar in the state legislative assembly. The Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies staged a walkout, branding the reported recommendation as "anti-India" and demanding that the central government reject it out of hand. As of this writing, it is not clear if the interlocutors have indeed made such a recommendation. Nevertheless, it is important to understand what the restoration of the pre-1953 status means and why it is likely to feature in any serious effort to address the Kashmir problem. The issue of Kashmir's autonomy, including the pre-1953 status, has been the subject of much myth-making. On the one hand, the Sangh Parivar and its associates have for long demanded the wholesale abrogation of Article 370, never mind reverting to pre-1953 status. Article 370, they claim, inhibits the "complete integration" of the state with India. From a historical and constitutional standpoint, this is utterly untenable. On the other hand, champions of Kashmir's cause present even pre-1953 status as little more than an effort by New Delhi to whittle down the state's autonomy. To be sure, successive central governments are responsible for reducing the state's autonomy to a cruel joke. But the pre-1953 arrangements remain an important attempt at reconciling the autonomy of Kashmir with the imperatives of the Indian constitution. Let's start from the beginning. The Maharaja of J&K acceded to the Indian Union in October 1947. The Instrument of Accession specified only three subjects for accession: foreign affairs, defence and communications. In March 1948, the Maharaja appointed an interim government in the state, with Sheikh Abdullah as prime minister. The interim government was also tasked with convening an Assembly for framing a constitution for the state. Meantime, the constituent assembly of India was conducting its deliberations. Sheikh Abdullah and three of his colleagues joined the Indian constituent assembly as members, and negotiated Kashmir's future relationship with India. This led to the adoption of Article 370 in the Indian constitution. Article 370 restricted the Union's legislative power over Kashmir to the three subjects in the Instrument of Accession. To extend other provisions of the Indian constitution, the state government's prior concurrence would have to be obtained. Further, this concurrence would have to be upheld by the constituent assembly of Kashmir, so that the provisions would be reflected in the state's constitution. This implied that once Kashmir's constituent assembly met, framed the state's constitution, and dissolved, there could be no further extension of the Union's legislative power. It was thus that the state's autonomy was guaranteed by the Indian constitution. Another provision of Article 370 is worth underlining. Article 370(1)(c) explicitly mentions that Article 1 of the Indian constitution applies to Kashmir through Article 370. Article 1 lists the states of the Union. This means that it is Article 370 that binds the state of J&K to the Indian Union. The removal of Article 370 would render the state independent of India. There was a good reason why the article was framed in this fashion. In 1949, when these discussions took place, it was likely a plebiscite would be held in the state. The framers of the Indian constitution had to take into account the possibility that they may have to let go of J&K. The Sangh Parivar's demand for removing Article 370 betrays their naiveté and ignorance. The constituent assembly of Kashmir met for the first time in November 1951. Even as it got down to its work, Abdullah wanted to depose the Maharaja and end dynastic rule in Kashmir. Jawaharlal Nehru had no love lost for the Maharaja. But the move to depose the ruler raised serious constitutional issues; for the Maharaja was recognised by the President of India. More important, it underscored the need to settle the broad principles governing the relationship between Kashmir and India. This was necessary to ensure that Kashmir's constitution consorted smoothly with that of India. Following intense negotiations, Nehru and Abdullah concluded an accord in July 1952. Under the "Delhi Agreement" the union's authority would be confined to the three subjects of accession; the residuary powers would be vested in the Kashmir government. The residents of the state would be citizens of India but the state legislature would define and regulate their rights and privileges. The head of the state would be recognised by the President of India on the recommendation of the state legislature. Delhi could only exercise emergency powers on the request of the state government. These were the contours of the "pre-1953" autonomous status for Kashmir. Unfortunately, the accord failed to hold following the rift between Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah (which resulted in the latter's imprisonment). Thereafter, successive Indian governments sought to shore up their slipping hold on Kashmir by creatively undermining the state's autonomy. For instance, by a gross misuse of Article 370's provisions the central government continued to extend its powers over Kashmir by merely seeking the approval of pliant state legislatures. New Delhi argued that since the constituent assembly of Kashmir had wound up in November 1956, the powers granted to that body should be vested in the state legislature. The intention of the framers of the constitution was, of course, just the opposite. What is worse, this reading was upheld by the Supreme Court, thereby making a mockery of Article 370. Any sincere attempt to bridge the gulf between India and Kashmir will have to undo this travesty. The autonomy report advanced by the National Conference government in 1999 made some concrete suggestions in this regard. It candidly accepted that not all the presidential orders made under Article 370 since 1953 need to be rescinded. The important thing was to reaffirm and uphold the principle that constitutional limits ought to be respected. The Delhi Agreement of 1952 could yet provide a useful starting point. * Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

ENLIGHTENED SELF-INTEREST OR MORAL OUTAGE?

 

India chose to abstain on UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1973, which granted the members to use "all necessary force" to prevent Col. Muammar Gaddafi's forces from attacking those elements of his population that are challenging his rule. This is one of the rare occasions in recent memory that the UNSC has invoked chapter VII of the UN Charter, which deals with breaches of international peace and security, to authorise the use of force against a member state. India's failure to endorse this resolution reflects poorly on its ability and willingness to shoulder key global responsibilities and duties. The Indian argument that the current resolution fails to specify enforcement measures is little more than a dubious cover for a policy of inaction and, bluntly put, cowardice. Similarly, its exhortation that all parties should refrain from the use of force amounts to a counsel of perfection. Both arguments reflect very poorly on Indian diplomacy and diminishes its standing in the world. Worse still, this posture suggests that India, despite all its claims to great power status, is singularly incapable of making tough decisions and instead is willing to resort to various verbal smoke screens to justify its inability to act. Sadly, after long beseeching foreign dignitaries, both trivial and significant, to garner support for the UNSC permanent seat, once again India's leadership has resoundingly demonstrated that it is probably even undeserving of a non-permanent seat. Arguing that two of the permanent members, the People's Republic of China and Russia, also abstained, will not exculpate India. A country that has made "strategic autonomy" one of the lodestars of its foreign policy cannot so easily take refuge in the argument that it drew its inspiration from the actions of two reluctant permanent members of the UNSC to justify its abstention. The Indian decision to abstain does the country damage on at least two other counts. The first is moral and the second instrumental. The Indian failure to endorse the UNSC resolution is morally corrosive because the Gaddafi regime's actions are both reprehensible and egregious. In this context it must be recalled that India chose to act with much vigour, and indeed unilaterally, to end Pakistani military terror in East Pakistan. At that time, India even chose to defy the disapprobation of the global community to pursue both a moral and a practical course of action. India's choice to sit out the resolution also damages its material interests. There is little question that its decision to abstain will harm its incipient and growing relationship with the United States. It needs to be recalled that after much deliberation and with considerable caution, the US President, Mr Barack Obama, had carefully endorsed India's entry as a permanent member in a reformed and expanded UNSC. At that time, commentators both within India and abroad had publicly expressed concerns about how India would handle these new responsibilities against a backdrop of a vastly changed world and a new foreign policy. Much of the concerns then had focused on ongoing bilateral differences in Indo-US relations, especially those dealing with Iran's clandestine pursuit of nuclear weapons and Burma's abysmal human rights record. No one, of course, had anticipated these political upheavals in West Asia and the consequent need to adopt a forthright, if politically costly, position when faced with the unrelenting cruelty of a besieged dictator. This failure to endorse the UNSC resolution should spark a much-needed debate within India about the premises of its foreign policy. What exactly does "enlightened self-interest" really mean? Does it mean shirking key international responsibilities through the resort to deft diplomatic language? Can India really further its own interests and standing in the global order through the use of such verbiage and an avoidance of painful choices? Since the Cold War's end, its subsequent adoption of market-friendly economic policies coupled with a more pragmatic foreign policy had catapulted the country into new global realms. Unfortunately, its policymakers while congratulating themselves on the nation's new-found status have not given thought to how it needs to conduct itself in the emergent global arena. Tragically, the country's tepid response to the dramatic and sweeping developments in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya are laying bare both the gross inadequacy of ideas and organisation. Such a paucity of thereof is a recipe for India's marginalisation in the international arena. The current failure to support the UNSC resolution portends badly for the future of India's foreign policy. Sumit Ganguly is director of research at the Centre on American and Global Security at Indiana University, Bloomington

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TILL GRAFT DO US PART

 

The corrupt will be punished By Gnani In Kerala, the cadre-based Marxists, known for their discipline, faced a revolt for trying to keep Mr V.S. Achuthanandan away. The party is unable to keep Mr Achuthanandan out as he has a clean image and a reputation for fighting corruption. Corruption is obviously a factor that counts in a major way. Bofors, a pygmy case of corruption compared to the 2G spectrum scam, haunted the Congress in every election, from 1987 to 1991. Tamil Nadu's election history in this context is particularly pertinent. In 1975 and 1976, democracy in the country was administered a rude shock through the Emergency. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam opposed the Emergency. The Karunanidhi government sheltered anti-Emergency heroes like George Fernandes and was dismissed from power by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But when elections took place in 1977, Indira Gandhi was, of course, routed in the north, but in Tamil Nadu, Mr Karunanidhi and his DMK were also big losers. The reason was simple: Right from 1972, M.G. Ramachandran, K. Kamaraj and Indira Gandhi had campaigned against the corrupt DMK government led by Mr Karunanidhi. The Sarkaria Commission held that Mr Karunanidhi and the DMK were capable of "scientific corruption". In Tamil Nadu, in the 1977 general election, Emergency was not an issue, but DMK's corruption was. People forgave Emergency but not corruption. That wily politicians are aware that corruption is a major factor for voters is borne out by two recent manifestations in Tamil Nadu. One is the Thirumangalam formula (Thirumangalam is close to Madurai, the headquarters of Mr M.K. Alagiri). Under this the voter is coerced to sell his/her vote. The other is that the DMK's top guns, and the bulk of the party's city candidates, have changed their seats this election, fearing the anger of the urban-educated voter against corruption. The DMK thinks that the rural voter can be cajoled with freebies to offset the damage from the spectrum case, the news of which has reached every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu, thanks ironically to the free television sets supplied by the DMK in earlier political campaigns. But the rural voter will weigh the loss from spectrum and find that it is more than the gain from freebies. Present a clean party against a corrupt one and it will undoubtedly win. In the absence of that people have to choose between the corrupt and benevolent and the corrupt and stingy. * Gnani, Tamil columnist, theatre person and filmmaker * * * Development will be the main issue G. Vijayaraghavan Corruption may not be a telling issue in the upcoming election in Kerala, but that doesn't mean that politicians in the state are allergic to corruption — only that the chances for politicians to indulge in large-scale corruption undetected are relatively less. Also, corruption cases here concern relatively modest sums of money. As senior leaders of most political parties in the state are facing corruption charges, neither side is likely to impress voters by pressing its side of the story. Unlike in some parts of the country, Kerala has a very vigilant public. Since no political front has been able to extend its mandate beyond five years at a stretch, opportunities for indulging in large-scale corruption are relatively less. Moreover, all service organisations in Kerala have strong political affiliations. They keep a close tab on every important action that could probably open up chances for corruption. Hence, the possibility of spotting acts of corruption in early stages is high. And since it is difficult to hide corrupt acts beyond a point, political leaders in the state can't afford to take big risks. The recent imprisonment of former state minister R. Balakrishna Pillai concerned a case of corruption that occurred 23 years ago, and caused a loss of about `2 crores to the Kerala State Electricity Board in the award of construction contracts. However, the Pillai episode may not influence voters significantly. While it is the Supreme Court that found the Kerala Congress politician guilty, the United Democratic Front in Kerala has managed to create the impression that it was personal vendetta of the chief minister, Mr V.S. Achuthanandan that pushed Pillai behind bars. Corruption charges raised by the Opposition against Mr Achuthanandan's son also do not hold much credibility. As such allegations are raised on the eve of election, people see them as signs of mere politicking — counter-actions taken in self-defence. In the palmolein case, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) was lucky that Opposition leader, Mr Oommen Chandy's name did not appear in the list of accused. Had his name appeared and had he decided to stay out of the election fray citing moral grounds, the LDF would have been in more trouble than in gain! I am sure that the main issues in the ensuing election will concern development — the record of the outgoing government on this count and the reasons for failure where they occurred. * G. Vijayaraghavan, former member, Kerala State Planning Board

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

FOR ARROGANT, PARADISE LOST

 

Twenty-three Sufi masters have called "arrogance" and "jealousy" the root of spiritual maladies, for these indicate discontentment with the Divine decree. It was arrogance that led Satan to challenge God and be condemned by Him forever. The Quran tells the story of Iblis (Satan), who was once a jinn of standing devoted to God. "'Behold', thy Lord said to the angels, 'I am about to create man from clay: When I have fashioned him in due proportion and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him'. So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together: Not so Iblis: he was haughty, and became one of those who reject Faith. Allah said: 'O Iblis! What prevents thee from prostrating thyself to one whom I have created with my hands? Art thou haughty? Or art thou one of the high and mighty ones?' Iblis said: 'I am better than he: thou created me from fire, and him thou created from clay'. Allah said: 'Then get thee out from here: for thou art rejected, accursed. And My curse shall be on thee till the Day of Judgment'". Pride is one of Allah's exclusive attributes as symbolised in His name, Al Mutakkabir, The Proud One. The spirit of Islam is entering into a state of humility before Allah. As His slaves, there is no room for pride for we have to submit completely to Him. Prophet Mohammad said, "No one with an atom's weight of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise". Imam Junayd of Baghdad, the 10th century Sufi, taught that "before attempting to know God, one must empty the heart of arrogance. God turns the arrogant ones from an understanding of His book". The Quran clearly says, "I will divert My signs from those who show arrogance". No one likes arrogance, but few see it in themselves. Arrogance is seeing oneself better than others, be it because of power, lineage, money, colour or any other attribute. The Quran denounces those who are boastful and arrogant, declaring that people of taqwa, abstinence from all harmful deeds, are the noblest people. It is easy to fool people with outward behaviour, but ultimately it is the inner state that matters with God. Arrogant tyrants like Pharaoh are amongst the most villainous of rulers in world history. Justice follows vice, and those who are patient, grateful, humble and sincere are rewarded by God while the arrogant are doomed to suffer both in this world and the Hereafter. There are different kinds of arrogance; the first type is when a person thinks himself superior to others. The second kind is when a person shows contempt for others. The third form is when one believes that he is born of superior lineage. Other forms of arrogance can be due to one's beauty, wealth, strength, power or knowledge. Historically, one of biggest social evils in history has been racism and the caste system based on the belief of a higher birth rank. The Quran denounces such false claims of superiority, proclaiming that the only rank that matters is one's relationship with God. "Indeed the most honourable of you in the sight of God is the most God fearing of you. God is all knowing and all aware". The Sufis teach that if you are aware of your humility, you are among the arrogant ones. Humility by nature leads to gratitude, for when one is humble before God, only then can one recognise the vast mercy bestowed upon us by the Almighty. Effective ways of keeping tendencies of arrogance in check is to remember our origins — that we came from God and will ultimately return to Him. We should concern ourselves with removing all the things that are ugly and establishing a sincere and sound relationship with God. Moses once asked Allah, "Oh my Lord! Who is the most deserving of your wrath and displeasure?" He said, "It is one whose heart is filled with arrogance, tongue abusive, eyes lustful, hands miserly and whose character is doubtful". — Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at sadiafeedback@gmail.com

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?

 

So convinced are we of political venality that we have bought, hook line and sinker, all the serious claims of corruption against the government on the basis of the revelations made by WikiLeaks about votes being bought by the Congress during the parliamentary vote on the Indo-US nuclear deal in July 2008. The allegations are based on confidential cables sent by an American diplomat during those days. These are not original investigations by WikiLeaks or any particular journalist; the website got the cables from whistleblowers and has published them with little or no independent editorial cross-checking. It is newspaper convention to attach the word "allegedly" before any allegation to show that these are not proven charges and also to absolve the publication itself of any libel suit. Those conventions have been long discarded by the media itself; certainly WikiLeaks feels no obligation to stick to media practices. Thus, without any qualification, we are to believe that a confidential report a diplomat may or may not have sent based on a conversation he may or may not have had and which has now found its way, unauthorisedly, to a website, is gospel. Immediately after the revelations appeared, the media, on cue, has gone into an overdrive about these claims and the Opposition parties have demanded that the Prime Minister quit. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has deployed its most-favoured weapon — morality — in its argument (as in, "It is the Prime Minister's moral duty to resign"), the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has willingly bought every word, notwithstanding the fact that the cable in question was sent by an American diplomat. At any other time, this would have invoked their favourite phrase "imperialist disinformation". Unhappily for the BJP, another cable also reportedly revealed that one of its leaders, Mr Seshadri Chari, was assuring the Americans that the party's opposition to the nuclear deal was little more than political grandstanding. This time it was the Congress' turn to crow. Some of those with longer memories will recall the sensation caused by the 2005 publication of the Mitrokhin archives. In a book based on the disclosures made by the Russian defector Vasili Mitrokhin, it was claimed that the USSR had bribed Left (and Congress) leaders for information during the height of the Indo-Soviet partnership. The Left had then strongly denied any such thing. In each of these instances, no one except for the dramatic personae can say for sure what exactly happened. However, some circumstantial evidence should be considered before passing judgment. For example, the claim in one of the cables that four members of Parliament (MPs) of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) were paid large sums of money to vote with the government has demonstrably been proved wrong. For one thing, the RLD had three MPs and, more important, it voted against the bill. Again, one might also legitimately ask whether a Congress operator would show actual bags of cash to a diplomat to boast about what he is about to do. It strains our credulity. But credulity is the one thing which is in great abundance all around. No room for healthy scepticism here. We are so ready to believe the worst of politicians, especially of the Congress, that we will not stop to ask any questions. The claims allegedly made by the diplomat and then published on the website must be true; everyone knows that politicians are corrupt and this government is the most corrupt of them all. Now even Mr Julian Assange is implying that the Prime Minister of India is being economical with the truth. No guesses whom we trust more, our own Prime Minister or an Australian activist. For all we know, many, if not most, of the statements made in the WikiLeaks disclosures may be true. Only an independent enquiry will reveal the truth. But till the facts are revealed, the media and the citizenry at large cannot hyperventilate every time some revelation is made. Some sense of proportion is required. It is the job of the Opposition to make outrageous statements and to undermine the government; but it is also incumbent on the media to be a bit more sober and interpret the issues correctly for the society. Somewhere along the way that rational approach has disappeared and we have become a nation that is in perpetual outrage mode. The Opposition's game plan is clear — attack the Prime Minister directly for his sins of omission and commission. This weakens the government and also covers up the failures and misdeeds of the Opposition (the tactics over the 2G spectrum scam is a good example). But the rest of us cannot fall into the same trap. Let the Prime Minister answer all the allegations that are hurled at him, demand that an impartial inquiry be conducted into all the charges that have emerged in the WikiLeaks revelations, but do not be so cynical that you disbelieve him before he has opened his mouth. * The writer is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

STIRRING TROUBLE

GJMM'S POLL FLUSH LACKS REASON


There is a responsible and ethical way of garnering votes. But the method employed by the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha to force a revision in wages of tea garden workers in Darjeeling on election-eve is as irresponsible as it is reckless. The issue briefly is that the tea industry periodically negotiates wages and perquisites collectively with various tea garden unions. The present three-year agreement will expire on 31 March. Garden owners say they are ready to negotiate the terms of a new agreement, and want the demands of all labour unions to be tabled for discussion. There is nothing to suggest that a negotiation conducted amicably would not be effective from April 1, even if it is concluded after that date. The GJMM-sponsored Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union wants the wage revised; its demand is for a raise of between 80 and 130 per cent. It has other demands as well. While no cavil can be raised at a labour union raising demands, the GJMM wants these demands implemented by 31 March. And using its muscle, it has forced an embargo on all produce from Darjeeling's famed gardens. The GJMM's strategy is obvious. It wants support of tea garden workers in the election, and wishes to secure it by resorting to tactics that militate against the principle of a free and fair poll. There are obtuse ways of describing what the GJMM is attempting; the simplest though is to call it blackmail.
Darjeeling's gardens are ready with their "first flush" produce. At stake is nearly a third of the annual production. First flush teas, much sought after by connoisseurs, fetch prices of up to Rs 12,000 a kilogram. If tea does not leave gardens, it cannot reach customers. In short, the GJMM seems quite prepared to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs in its pursuit of electoral gain. Festering troubles have already robbed people of one source of livelihood ~ the income earned from tourists. With a crippling embargo on movement of tea in place, the other main source of livelihood is threatened. Even for a relatively young outfit such as the GJMM, this shows political immaturity. Elders in the Hills and calmer, more reasonable voices must intervene to ensure trade unionism doesn't become such a grubby appendage of electoral politics. A moribund State government is unable to intervene. But the Governor and the Election Commission must. Democracy is being turned on its head.


BETTER SENSE PREVAILS

BUT DON'T LINK 'MISERY TAX' WITH GST

THE Union finance minister's decision to roll back the five per cent service tax on pathological centres will hopefully avert the budgetary portent of a health inflation. However, such concerns cannot readily be set aside as the impost may be restored should the GST not materialise. True, the tax was imposed on pathological centres and private hospitals with central air-conditioning facilities; but it was the patient who would have had to bear the brunt even if he/she is covered by medical insurance or is entitled to company reimbursement. The rollback ought to provide relief, however partial, to patients in a country where medical treatment is only for those who can afford it. Unwittingly or otherwise, the decision will also benefit those states gearing up for the polls next month when the next fiscal begins. The service tax would inevitably have raised the cost of diagnosis ~ expensive as it is ~ and would have hit patients generally. Treatment in this day and age proceeds only on the basis of pathological investigation; for a large segment, this prerequisite might have turned out to be more expensive than it already is. Costlier diagnosis defeats the objective of preventive health care. And the impact would have been severe on those who require regular check-ups for diabetes, cancer and thalassemia, let alone such sophisticated investigation as the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan.
Mr Pranab Mukherjee must now dispel the impression that a burden the Opposition called the "misery tax'' has merely been kept in abeyance "until GST comes into force". It would be grossly illogical to link the two as he sought to do in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. He had imposed the levy on health care, a matter of public policy and a critical index of welfare. A test for blood sugar, for instance, ought not to be deemed as a potential revenue-earner whatever the spin-doctors of the finance ministry might imagine. The health budget would have had a positive impact only in the event of a revamp of government hospitals. If private health care is beyond the means of the common man and state hospitals are best avoided, where exactly do citizens stand? By doing away with the service tax, the Finance minister has addressed the issue, but only very partly.


FREEBIES FOR VOTES

DMK TACTICS DIABOLICALLY CORRUPT

THE promise of freebies in an election manifesto brings votes. This has been proved time and again by the DMK, starting from 1967 when it was voted to power for the first time. There is no denying that the promise of free colour television sets in its 2006 election manifesto helped the DMK storm Fort St George and drive out the AIADMK. The party has gone berserk in its 2011 election manifesto for the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. Promised are, apart from continuation of distribution of free colour TV sets, free electric wet-grinders or mixies to women because the party is "fully aware" of the hardships the fair sex face without these gadgets. Laptops would be distributed free to first-year students belonging to the Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes pursuing professional degree courses in government or government-aided colleges. Poorest of the poor families would be given 35 kg. rice free and the free power supply scheme would be extended to horticulture crops and coconut farming. The loan of Rs 2.5 lakh presently distributed to Women Self-Help Groups will be increased to Rs 4 lakh, out of which Rs 2 lakh will be a subsidy. Marriage assistance to poor girls will be raised from Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 and financial assistance to pregnant women will be raised from Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000.  Senior citizens will be issued passes to travel free in local buses. "We will do what we have said and say what we have done," boasted M Karunanidhi, DMK president while releasing the manifesto. His son and heir apparent, MK Stalin, went a step further and promised to distribute free refrigerators and washing machines to the people of Tamil Nadu if the DMK is voted back to power.


Distribution of televisions, mixies and wet grinders do not form the sovereign function of the State. The promise of these freebies to the masses, to be paid for not by the party but by the State, is nothing but a corrupt electoral practice amounting to bribing voters under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act. The work of the legislature is to legislate and administer. Providing household gadgets is not a function of the State. Offering freebies is a direct allurement to the people to vote for DMK candidates. It is well known that the fiscal and monetary deficits of Tamil Nadu have reached enormous proportions. Under Article 282 of the Constitution, a State may defray expenditure out of its revenues for any public purpose. Expenditure incurred on freebies promised at the hustings does not amount to a public purpose. The State has a duty to observe fiscal discipline since the resources at its disposal are garnered through direct and indirect taxes from the public and the public has a right to expect the government to spend money only for the public good. It is the responsibility of the Election Commission to intervene and create a level playing field for all political parties in Tamil Nadu as the State goes to the polls on 13 April. The DMK's tactics are diabolically corrupt.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

WIKILEAKS WONDER!

INDIA, USA AND JULIAN ASSANGE

RAJINDER PURI

 

WikiLeaks founder, Mr Julian Assange, in an interview to an Indian TV channel has alleged that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh misled the public by doubting the veracity of the US cables released by the website. The propensities of our PM and indeed of all his cabinet colleagues, in fact most of the Opposition leaders, to mislead the public are very well known. Currently the Opposition is attempting a privilege motion against the PM for misleading the House. So, does it really require revelation by Mr Assange for all of us to become agog over his startling discovery?


It so happens that in this particular case Mr. Assange was in error. The PM did not doubt the authenticity of the cables released by WikiLeaks. He expressed doubt over the veracity of the information contained in them in the light of the factual contradictions expressed by certain leaders named in the cables. Assange told his interviewer: "Similarly in response to the cables alleging that the US State Embassy was shown cash boxes for bribing parliamentarians, we saw something rather disturbing. We saw an immediate rush, not to deny the 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 that they refused to comment at all, to suggest that the materials are not verified…is actually the behaviour of guilty men." Later on he added the caveat: "No organization is free from making mistakes when you deal with things on this scale."


Mr Ajit Singh has denied the facts pertaining to his party contained in the cables. How does Mr. Assange respond to the denials? No critics have denied the need for a thorough investigation into the allegations contained in the cables. But Mr. Assange's protestations betray not only overlooking much of the questioning by critics but also an intriguing foray into partisanship in Indian politics. And that brings us to some relevant questions about Mr Assange himself.


Today he has become a global cult figure. But did he create his image or was his image created? The US government he is reputedly thrashing has certainly exhibited very odd behaviour in dealing with him. WikiLeaks distributed its material to a select group of newspapers in different countries. The newspapers chosen, certainly The Hindu in India, were selected by Mr Assange personally. There has been much public condemnation by the US State Department and the US Department of Defence of the WikiLeaks exposures. The world is led to believe that single- handedly Mr Assange is crusading against the big bad establishment in Washington. But is that really the truth?


After the material was distributed to the newspapers, The New York Times much before publishing it got it cleared by the White House. After making its own deletions of the material, NYT sent it to the White House for verification and proper vetting to safeguard security. It sought the official view of any material that might harm the national interest. While the White House continued to publicly maintain that it condemned the publication of the material, it nevertheless suggested additional redactions to those made by the newspaper. NYT wrote that it agreed to some of the officially suggested redactions but not to all. On the advice of the State Department, the newspaper forwarded the US administration's concerns to all the newspapers in different countries also privy to the WikiLeaks material. Does this suggest a genuine confrontation between WikiLeaks and the US government?


What was the source of  WikiLeaks material that contained thousands of official cables running into millions of words? Surprise, surprise! It was just one US army Private, Bradley Manning. He joined the US Army just four years ago and was posted to Baghdad, where he worked on classified army networks. He has been identified as the source of 76,000 US military documents published by WikiLeaks in July 2010, 400,000 US war logs from Iraq, and 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables. Manning is currently in a US jail, awaiting a military court marshal. Allegedly he is being tortured. Is there any evidence of that apart from official leaks? Is it believable that the US that spends trillions on defence, space, espionage and security can be outwitted by an army Private single handedly? Could Private Manning have accessed all the material he leaked without help from powerful elements in the Pentagon?  Tell that to the Marines!


So Indians should ask themselves whether the exposures put out by WikiLeaks emanate in spite of the US government or because of it. They should also carefully assess not what is contained in the cables at face value but the impression on the public mind that the leaked information creates. For instance, the latest revelations enormously boost the image of Mr Narendra Modi who is supposedly bitterly opposed by the US government. And finally, how selective might be the material leaked by…err…Private Manning? 


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

BLUFF & BLUSTER

 

The Left Front government's finance minister since 1987, Mr Asim Dasgupta presented West Bengal's budget for the coming year on 21 March, perhaps his last. On years Assembly election is held, the convention is to follow a vote on accounts for three or four months to give the newly-elected government a chance to prepare its own budget to accommodate its programmes. Mr Dasgupta, despite being a veteran teacher and a mature politician, violated this Constitutional norm by presenting the budget for entire 2011-12, prompting the Opposition to boycott its presentation.


In his budget speech, Mr Dasgupta has painted a rosy picture of the Bengal economy which is, needless to  say, overburdened by public borrowing. For the current year, he envisages a high economic growth of 8.6 per cent to enable the state to reduce its fiscal deficit to 3.9 per cent from last year's 6.2 per cent. The high growth rate is expected to winch up tax revenue to 33.4 per cent from his current target of 18 per cent. This increased buoyancy in tax collection is expected to lower revenue deficit as well as the debt to Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) ratio. Most importantly, the finance minister thinks this will reduce the state's total debt by Rs 6,000 crore so that it can come down to Rs 1.86 lakh crore. Mr Dasgupta is touting this projection as a big achievement as his critics had predicted that Bengal's debt, which stood at Rs 1.92 lakh crore at the beginning of this year, would cross Rs 2 lakh crore. Besides, the finance minister announced that the boost that his budget would give to industries, self-help groups and educational institutions would enable generation of 8 lakh jobs. His also sang his yearly paeans to his government which he described as a champion of agricultural development which has spearheaded the expansion of the irrigation grid, a pioneer in industrial progress with the foresight to set up a land bank with infertile land acquired "only from willing farmers at fair prices" and a force that has dedicated itself to improving the standard of living of the poor and the downtrodden, including tribals and minorities. Mr Dasgupta iterated all this while emphasising the "success of the state's alternative policy" focused on land reforms and development of small-scale industries. And, his budget speech contained his customary and an unfailing criticism of "Central apathy".


In his long innings as West Bengal's finance minister, Mr Dasgupta has always harped on the state's high growth rate. But he could never answer why it could not generate the expected quantum of collected tax and jobs. The tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio in Bengal ~ around 4.6 per cent ~ is one of the lowest among major states and at a time when the national average is around 12 per cent. West Bengal has one of the highest unemployment rates among states with the number of job seekers there having crossed the one-crore mark. Mr Dasgupta has put the number of unemployed at as low as 75 lakh on the assumption that self-help groups would provide lakhs of jobs. Each year, the finance minister promises to create seven to eight lakh jobs but always forgets to mention how much had been actually created. Mr Dasgupta often tells the people of Bengal to take heart from the fact that the rate of unemployment is increasing in all states. But that is not true as Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have experienced a fall. Currently, West Bengal accounts for 17 per cent of the country's total number of unemployed people while the number of educated people (matriculate and above) residing there exceeds 35 lakh ~ about 11 per cent of the country's total. Moreover, in contrast to leading states, rural unemployment in West Bengal is more pervasive than urban unemployment. The respective figures stood at 26.6 per cent and 24.0 per cent when the country posted 11 per cent for rural unemployment and 16.6 per cent for urban unemployment. Much of rural joblessness can be attributed to crushing rural poverty in the state which, at 28.6 per cent, is higher than the national average of 28.3 per cent. More worrying is the fact that the National Rural Development Organisation has pointed out that in all Bengal districts, save Kolkata, rural poverty stands at 40 per cent. In terms of rural poverty, West Bengal ranks tenth in the country and with respect to combined poverty ~ which stands at 24.7 per cent ~ it ranks eleventh among all 35 states and Union Territories in the country. But, Mr Dasgupta has never seriously addressed raging unemployment and poverty that are consuming the state.


The finance minister has also neglected to mention that as per national income estimates, West Bengal had been bracketed with middle-income states as far back as in 1990s, indicating that its actual growth rate is at best 7 per cent. Moreover, the government's inability and lack of willingness to develop rural infrastructure, particularly roads and irrigation and electrification grids have contributed to the widening gap between Bengal's rural and urban economies thus damaging both its agricultural and industrial prospects. Immeasurable neglect of primary health care and education systems have no doubt intensified poverty in Bengal but the finance minister seems not to notice this.


But what is even more alarming is the financial quagmire that West Bengal finds itself in. A surge in unproductive or non-plan expenditure comprising mostly salaries, pension, subsidy and interest payment now consumes 90 per cent of the state's outlay, leaving very little for development works. The interest liability of the state has increased from Rs 394 crore to Rs 14,018 crore during Mr Dasgupta's tenure. Currently, Rs 30,500 crore goes towards salaries, pension and subsidies when the state's resource mobilisation is worth Rs 24,555 crore. Of it, the state's tax collections yield 23,213 crore. The abysmal contribution of non-tax revenue demonstrates the pathetic growth rate of commercial and industrial establishments in Bengal. As a result, though Mr Dasgupta has earmarked 55 per cent of his total outlay of Rs 86,232 crore for the next year for development expenditure, the target is unlikely to be met just like in previous years.


The state's submission to the 13th Finance Commission indicates that for 2010-15, West Bengal's non-plan revenue expenditure has been projected to be Rs 2.52 lakh crore as against its revenue receipts of Rs 1.92 lakh crore. So how much allowance has been made for development efforts? Very little it would seem. By 2014-15, the state's outstanding debt will constitute 34 per cent of its GSDP while for other states, it will be no more than 24 per cent.


The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act 2003 (FRBM) requires states to have adequate provisions in their respective budgets to achieve fiscal correction through enhancement of revenue and reduction of revenue expenditure. But West Bengal will meet the designated FRBM target of 3.0 per cent fiscal deficit only in 2013-14 while 19 of 28 states will have met it two years earlier. As for revenue deficit, 25 states will meet the specified FRBM target of zero per cent three years before West Bengal does.
Clearly, Mr Dasgupta needs to take a reality check.


The writer is Associate Professor of Economics, Durgapur Government College

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

AFTER THE SNOWSTORM

SANTANU SINHA CHAUDHURI


The forecast was categorical. A snowstorm will start at 9 a.m; likely to continue for eight hours and produce eight to ten inches of snow. Having lived in the tropics all my life, I found the prospect appealing. But like many people born long before the age of satellite imagery and supercomputers, I have an emotional problem with trusting weather forecasts … like Syed Mujtaba Ali, a fine Bengali writer, who once wrote: "The problem with weather forecasts is that it's risky to ignore them; and the question of trusting them doesn't arise!"
Weather forecasts are amazingly accurate in the USA. I have been here for more than three months now and find that weathermen tend to hit the bull's eye with metronomic monotony. There are even hourly forecasts for big cities. You can plan your day with precision and can almost set your watch by looking at the sky. So, when there was no sign of snow at nine in the morning, I felt a little cheated. The sky was overcast, but that was about all. A warning about the storm ~ an advisory as Americans insist on calling it ~ was repeatedly broadcast over radio and TV and schools were given a day off. But otherwise, the day began as usual.  One of our neighbours, an elderly lady, leaves for office at 7 a.m. and returns by 3 p.m. I saw her going out on her usual time. But instead of taking the car, she left on foot.


The sky started turning a dirty grey eventually and snow arrived an hour later than "scheduled". Pristine specks started descending from the sky at 10 a.m. Soon, rooftops, roads, porches, and patios were covered under a sheet of white. Visibility was low and cars and trucks switched on fog lamps. Within an hour or so, the tiny specks became heavy, white blobs and the white sheet turned into a thick quilt. Snow collected on the leaves of coniferous trees and the denuded branches of other trees. Smaller trees and bushes bore the brunt of the aggression, just as the poor who suffer most during natural calamities. The hedges that serve as boundaries between individual compounds were all under inches of snow and were weighed down by it.
When my wife and I went out to a nearby eatery to have coffee, it was business as usual there. People drove in, bought their breakfast and left. After exchanging customary pleasantries with us, the shop assistant warned: "The roads are treacherous! Take care." I told her that they served great chips. She asked me if we made potato chips in India.


As we hit the road, the wind was cutting. The ground beneath our feet was treacherous indeed. No one was on the road except us, but scores of cars zoomed past. Street lights were turned on as darkness had descended by the afternoon. The roads were slushy, difficult to negotiate. Soon, some trucks with snow ploughs attached arrived like knights in shining armour. They strutted about, shovelling snow aside, even as other vehicles crawled gingerly. Men and women of all ages come out with shovels to clear snow from their driveways.
Our elderly neighbour returned home plodding through knee-deep snow. It was just another day at work for her. On the night after the snowstorm, plough trucks worked through the night to clear the roads. No one was stuck in the morning.


Hard work … and unrelenting hard work in the face of adversity ~ that's one trick we Indians seem to have missed. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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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.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

NOT TOP DOWN

India has a federal polity but with significant fault lines running across it. One such line, prominent every time there is an election, is the shifting interests and priorities of the central unit of a political party, which are often in conflict with those of the local unit of the same party. All the major political parties in India are run by a highly centralized leadership and decision-making structure. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) openly admits this by renewing its commitment ever so often to what it calls in its own jargon "democratic centralism''. The other parties, without making an ideological point of it, follow the same model. It is difficult to conceive of a situation where a local or provincial unit of the Congress defies the diktat of the party president or the working committee. This is true of the other parties that have a national as well as a regional presence. The structure of political parties thus runs counter to the federal principles that govern the polity. Following the federal principles, it would not be erroneous to argue that regional units of a political party should be free to pursue and further their own regional interests and aspirations without undermining or diluting the ideology of the party.

There are many examples of how the central leadership of a party has completely ignored the views of the regional unit. The recent decision of the Congress high command to yield to Mamata Banerjee, the supremo of the Trinamul Congress, on the question of seat adjustment is a glaring example. The politburo of the CPI(M) turned aside the views of the West Bengal unit when it decided to withdraw support from the first United Progressive Alliance. The record of the Bharatiya Janata Party is a little better on this score since it did not allow so-called national interests to undermine the chief minister of Gujarat. There is an urgent need to review the decision-making of political parties and to bring it closer to the federal model. This will prevent political parties from being so overwhelmingly top down as they are now. Unless this happens, the inevitable result will be the birth of more regional parties, which will articulate only regional ambitions. This will not be good for the unity of India. To prevent this, conditions must be created to allow regional leaders to become national leaders. This used to happen at one time in the Congress: witness Kamraj, S.K. Patil and so on.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

TURN AROUND

After Tahrir Square in Cairo, it is now the turn of Taghyir Square in Sanaa to be the latest site of revolutionary change in the Arab world. The pattern, by now, is all too familiar. Since the outbreak of the people's revolt in Tunisia, autocratic regimes in the Middle East and in North Africa have been rocked by peaceful protests by their citizens. Yemen is no exception to this trend. Ruled for 32 years by the dictatorial president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, ordinary Yemenis have banded against their tyrannical ruler. The consequence of their peaceful agitation has been predictably harsh. Like Egypt's fallen president, Hosni Mubarak, Mr Saleh has also threatened his country with merciless civil war, and already, last week, 52 rebels were massacred by the president's loyalists. It is only natural for autocrats to employ force in order to remain in power. But Mr Saleh's plan of action backfired unexpectedly. Instead of crushing the people's spirit, such brutality merely succeeded in strengthening their resolve to overthrow the government. Even more curiously, it occasioned a wave of defection among some key members of the regime. Mr Saleh seems to have been badly jilted by the strategy of coercion that is being employed by Muammar Gaddafi, who is currently wreaking havoc on Libya. It is perhaps in Mr Saleh's best interest to make a dignified exit when the time is still propitious.

There is, however, no reason to feel unqualified optimism about the events in Yemen. For one, Yemenis should take the radical turnaround of the ruling elite with a pinch of salt. After all, it must be remembered that those members of the regime who are now joining the revolution were once notorious for the crimes they perpetrated on the citizens. Many of them even chose to look the other way as ordinary Yemenis were forced into suffering daily indignities. So it would perhaps be more appropriate for the ruling class to surrender itself to the revolution and undergo trials for its chequered past instead of trying to hold the hands of the rebels in a bid to save their own skins. For any real and enduring change in the political system of Yemen, the prevailing order must be totally rejected. The West, too, will have to tread softly on Yemen, a country it has conscripted in its fight against al Qaida. A Libya-like military attack on Yemen by Western allies could have alarming repercussions on the 'war on terror'.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

AT THE CROSSROADS

THE POSSIBLE FUTURE FOR AN OVER-POLITICIZED STATE SURENDRA MUNSHI

George Yeo, the dynamic foreign minister of Singapore, was in Calcutta on December 20, 2010. He spoke at the Netaji Research Bureau that day in a conference dedicated to the theme of the global vision of Rabindranath Tagore and his contemporaries. Yeo spoke on Tagore's dream of realizing good relations between India and China. Drawing attention to Tagore's visit to China in the 1920s and his vision of the meeting of countries in Asia for the establishing of spiritual comradeship, Yeo said in the spirit of Tagore that, if these two countries cooperated and resolved disputes in a peaceful manner, Asia would be transformed and, with it, the rest of the world. Yeo had yet another public engagement in Calcutta that day. At a meeting of the Aspen Institute India, he spoke again in favour of strengthening ties between India and China and, with them, among all other nations of Asia. West Bengal could play a positive role in this respect because of, among other reasons, its favourable geographical location.

At the Netaji Research Bureau, Yeo described himself as "an honorary Bengali", drawing attention to the fact that "Singapore was founded from Bengal as a daughter city of Calcutta". In a remarkable manner, he related to the best spirit of Bengal as represented by Tagore as well as to the historical background of Calcutta and Singapore under colonial rule. He was looking back to look forward. That was also one of the days when Calcutta suffered traffic disruptions. As newspapers reported the next day, Trinamul Congress supporters took out in a procession the dead body of a farmer who had been killed earlier, disrupting the traffic along the route it took. Not to be upstaged, the supporters of the Left Front blocked roads to protest against the inaction of New Delhi with regard to the 2G spectrum scam.

It was such a contrast of vision and short-sightedness. I was reminded of what Swami Vivekananda told his audience in Chicago about a small frog that had lived in a well since its birth. To a visiting frog from the sea, it had boasted: nothing can be bigger than my well. Have those of us who live in the city become like this frog from the well? Does it have something to do with the political economy of the state?

After the sweeping victory of the Left Front in 1977, Jyoti Basu became the chief minister of West Bengal. He remained in power till 2000, when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee replaced him. The Left Front has ruled the state for more than 33 years now under two chief ministers. This is indeed a record by all standards. Recently, the Left Front, especially the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has suffered setbacks in electoral politics, especially as was highlighted by the Lok Sabha election of 2009. The reversals in the panchayat elections in 2008 and more recently in the Calcutta Corporation election have been sufficiently dramatic. Moreover, critical events at Nandigram, Singur and Lalgarh, especially Netai, have caused concern. Political violence has reached college campuses as well. West Bengal seems to attract attention all over the country for all the wrong reasons.

To understand the dynamics of political life in the state, it is important to take a look, first, at the economic reality. According to the Reserve Bank of India, government finances have reached a stage of crisis. The overall economic performance does not give any reason to cheer either. Ratan Khasnabis has drawn attention to the fact that, if West Bengal was the richest state in India in terms of per capita state domestic product in 1960, by the end of the last millennium the rank of the state declined to nine. The state that was known as the most industrialized state of India contributes now only 4.6 per cent in the total industrial output of India. The human development index score of the state places it at the tenth position among 17 major states of India. Though the performance in the agricultural sector was impressive since the beginning of the 1980s, especially with respect to the winter rice crop, the growth rate could not be sustained in the 1990s. It is argued officially that the trend of low industrial growth was reversed during the 1990s. This argument has been contested by some scholars.

The poor economic performance of the state has to be considered in the political context. I have tried to argue earlier that a major problem has been the vision deficit in West Bengal. Moreover, 'political' has come to mean not engagement with all citizens and their common interests but an overriding concern with staying in power and serving particular interests. It is this politicization that accounts for irresponsible behaviour and the decline of work culture. Not that this politicization is absent elsewhere in the country, but it is here in West Bengal that it has become a compelling force with a character of its own.

I remember writing an article in this paper that appeared in 2005 with the title, "Politics all around", which took note of an event that took place at that time. A patient died in a public hospital in Calcutta after ants ate one of her eyelids. It was reported that the hospital staff refused to remove the ants from the bandage on the ground that this was not their job. Such criminal apathy could not have taken place if the staff members did not feel secure in their jobs owing to political patronage. If the party was put above all, above all in the world of state politics, there was a price to pay for it, not only in the economic sphere but also in the sphere of ideals. The ideals of the best sons of the soil, particularly Tagore and Vivekananda, that they presented to the country and to the entire world were overlooked. What was gained against this price was political stability and a record of continuous political power. If power corrupts, continuous political power could corrupt continuously.

If we see both unusual political stability and economic stagnation and even decline taking place together, how is this phenomenon to be explained? Should the economic performance of the front in power not have found reflection in its political fortune?

Abhirup Sarkar raises this question in a seminal paper that has remained significant for our understanding of West Bengal ever since it was published in 2006. He has argued that economic stagnation has actually helped in maintaining political stability. This has been possible due to, principally, an increasing informalization of the economy and a strong political organization of the ruling Left Front. With the decline of formal sector employment in the state and the growth in the number of marginal workers (that is, small manufacturers, traders, street hawkers, petty shopkeepers, taxi and auto rickshaw drivers, and so on), there has been an increase in the vulnerability in the workforce. These vulnerable persons turn to the strong political organization for protection and support. This is also true in the agricultural sector. Cultivation in the state is becoming increasingly less profitable over time. While small and marginal farmers depend on public subsidies, there are others who are driven out of agriculture and need to depend on non-farm income. They fall into the trap of economic informalization leading to political dependence. More recently, Sarkar has pointed out that the stability of Left rule in the state is due to the clientelistic relationship of the party and also partly due to the gratitude of voters of low social economic status arising out of broad-based changes.

This is the political economy of an over-politicized state. Politics in the factional sense has encroached upon different spheres of life. What is the way forward? It is important to recognize, if the analysis provided above is accepted, that the effective solution to the problem lies in not more politics but less politics of this kind. Visionary leadership is needed. Economic and social spheres have to find autonomy in their respective domains. The size of the economic cake has to increase so that vulnerabilities are reduced. So long as the state remains stagnant economically and also in other spheres, turf wars between political parties are going to continue or even increase, irrespective of which party comes to power in the coming election.

surendramunshi@yahoo.com

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NEW TRENDS

SUMANTA SEN

Extremists causing blasts, killing policemen and, in general, trying to create terror — this is part of any pre-election scenario in Assam. This time too, the situation is no different. The Paresh Barua faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom and the Bodo militants are believed to have been behind these acts in Guwahati and Kokrajhar. It will come as no surprise if these groups cause further damage before the polls, the first phase of which is scheduled for April 4. Equally expected are noisy demonstrations by Congressmen who have been denied tickets.

So what is new this time? The answer lies in the emergence of the Trinamul Congress as a common platform for disgruntled Congress leaders and workers. For the first time, politicians in the state have taken a leaf out of West Bengal's book — which they had always been loath to do. The dislike of the ethnic Assamese for anything associated with Bengal had even caused the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to be labelled "Bengal party" when the late Achintya Bhattacharya was its state- secretary.

It is, of course, too early to suggest that the emergence of the TMC should be seen as a sign of the Assamese getting out of their age-old chauvinism. To find out if that is happening, one will have to wait till the results. If it is seen that the TMC has done well, perhaps it can be claimed that the people in the state are responding to a party that is not only not from the Brahmaputra Valley but also belongs to a race, which has often been the victim of mob frenzy. It will also be interesting to watch how the party is received in the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley, which, in recent years, has favoured the Bharatiya Janata Party over the Congress — leading to the defeat of Santosh Mohan Dev in the last Lok Sabha election.

Precious little

Similarities with the West Bengal situation, however, are limited. In this state, the TMC managed to emerge as the principal anti-Communist force by drawing to its fold all Congress workers and leaders who were getting disillusioned with the leadership and its inability to fight the Marxists. In Assam, on the other hand, the TMC has surfaced on poll eve as an umbrella to provide shelter to all disgruntled elements, not just from the Congress but from other parties as well.

The characters of the party in the two states are also different. In Calcutta, the TMC's image is that of a crusader, in Guwahati, that of a party of people angry at not being allowed a share of the pie. The latter may not be a useful image at poll time. True, the party members are talking of fighting corruption. But then, they all do that — don't they?

The biggest issue in the election should be the peace efforts and the decision to negotiate with a huge chunk of Ulfa under the leadership of Arabinda Rajkhowa. Not everybody can be happy at the sight of people who should have been brought to the book being treated softly. But there is perhaps the feeling that if this can bring permanent peace, so be it. If that is the case, then the Congress is on an easy wicket and can expect a fair bit of backing from Ulfa supporters, of whom there is no dearth in the state.

Meanwhile, the TMC's decision to contest all the 126 assembly seats gives the United Progressive Alliance at the Centre a disjointed look. The TMC, of course, maintains that it will continue to be with the Congress in New Delhi. But can the Congress be too comfortable with an ally that goes hammer and tongs at it in one state and treats it as a poor cousin in another? Right now, in Assam, of course, the Congress cannot be too worried at this union of disgruntled elements who have precious little to offer by way of direction. Elsewhere in the Northeast, in Tripura for instance, the TMC has always come a cropper precisely for that reason.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AFTER CHANGE IS HERE

MAMATA BANERJEE WILL DO WELL TO FOLLOW THE EXAMPLES SET BY AUNG SAN SUU KYI AND NITISH KUMAR TO TACKLE THE CHALLENGES THAT LIE AHEAD, WRITES SHYAMAL DATTA

After Nitish Kumar, it is now the turn of Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamul Congress to come out with flying colours in the 2011 assembly elections in West Bengal. As an avid watcher of Bengal's political theatre for the past 40 years, mostly as a servant of the Central and state governments, and, briefly, as a voter, I can safely make a forecast on the basis of the available indicators that the victory of the TMC-Congress combine is rather likely. The triumph will perhaps be as spectacular as that of Nitish Kumar in Bihar. Banerjee is also likely to cross the 200- mark in the state assembly that has 294 members. The political surge that marked its beginning in 2007 is poised to deluge the state and facilitate the ouster of the CPI(M)-led Left Front government after 34 years of uninterrupted — and unprecedented — rule. The people of West Bengal seem to have, finally, made up their minds to bring about a change of political guard in the state.

While the die for transfer of power appears to have been cast, considerable misgivings exist in the minds of certain sections of the electorate about the ultimate consequences of this change in the state.They apprehend that the acrimonious relations between the TMC and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) are not going to augur well for the new government. A serious backlash is expected to ensue as a result of the pursuit of subversive politics by the Marxists in order to destabilize the new government. Democracy, in the absence of a constructive Opposition, will be in serious jeopardy and the politicization of government agencies carried out for the past 34 years will make governance really difficult for the next chief minister. They also contend that having taken resort to the same techniques to prevent the Left from reaching out to the people, the lady and her party will find it nearly impossible to govern after putting an end to the chaos.The problem is likely to be compounded by the fact that the entire burden of governance would fall on Banerjee as the chief minister, since the cabinet will be hamstrung by the presence of leaders not known for political and administrative acumen.

Politics is said to be an art of the possible. Therefore, it has to accommodate, adjust and administer with the support of people from across the socio-political spectrum. There is nothing wrong if the leaders show the courage to take a leaf out of the books of those known for their sagacity and wisdom in the management of political and administrative matters during such difficult times. Nitish Kumar had successfully shown how different segments of those in the government and society could be rallied to implement the policy of "clear, hold and build". In keeping with this, he put his focus on the restoration of law and order and stability, cleared the mess that the state was afflicted with as a result of decades of misrule, and created an environment that was conducive to initiating a process of rebuilding and regeneration.

The net result was that the electorate in caste-ridden Bihar decided to rise above the myopic compulsions of caste, religion and personalities and voted in favour of what is in the best interest of the people and the state. In our immediate neighbourhood, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, who was released from captivity by the military junta on November 13 after 21 years, exemplified the power and potential of inclusive politics in dealing with much more serious challenges than those faced by either Nitish Kumar in Bihar or by Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal.

Though any comparison between Suu Kyi and Banerjee will be tantamount to a study in sharp contrasts, one has to agree that the two leaders have common traits.The two leaders epitomize unparalleled simplicity, sacrifice, courage, determination and integrity. Both women have raised hopes and expectations among their people about a likely change in the latter's life after having been stifled for years under repressive regimes. Both are known for their tremendous tenacity and prowess in the face of injustice. In the process, they have been able to capture the imagination of the people who have mobilized themselves around their respective leaders. Both suffered at the hands of their adversaries. But that only strengthened their resolve to fight their opponents. Where the two happen to be different from each other is in their political background. One woman has a potent political lineage while the other is devoid of any such legacy, having risen from the ranks by the dint of her own sincerity and hard work. One is calm and composed and the other restless and unpredictable. One is a devout democrat and the other a demagogue.

Suu Kyi, despite her personal sufferings at the hands of her tormentors, believes that Myanmar needs cooperation and not confrontation between the military and the political forces. Both contingents need to be flexible and to possess the wisdom to realize that each needs the other; that each needs to reduce the antagonism towards the other; that each can contribute to move Myanmar on the road to progress, and, more importantly, neither can reach its goal without engaging with the other.

In short, inclusiveness is the key to the final acceptable solution. In her first public address at the headquarters of the National League for Democracy in Rangoon on November 14, Suu Kyi stressed that she would like to "walk with her all kinds of detractors, critics and impatient followers and unlock the hearts of the multitude to reach the goal" and sustain what she wanted to achieve. She would like to be fortified by the support of all because, without that, she will not be able to achieve the goal on her own. To her, 'doing it alone' is not democracy. According to her, it is imperative that in a democracy the people are able to keep those working on the forefront under check. People must have the right to keep the rulers on the right path so that the latter remain sensitive to the notion of common good.

In Suu Kyi's model of politics, the sense of gratitude enjoys a very high priority. Therefore, she took care to express in her address her deep gratitude to those who were in charge of her security. She believed that people with gratitude were hard to find. Gratitude means mutual recognition of viewpoints no matter how divergent they are. She talked of forbearance and asserted that there is no reason to be angry or arrogant just because someone happens to be an adversary or cares to be counted. Differences of opinion were not an affront, but were an expression of a democratic principle. More important than the garnering of votes is the need to gain the trust of the people. Once trust is established, votes would automatically follow.

A clear reflection of this was seen in the election results in Bihar. Nitish Kumar's government had cared to listen to the voice of the people, reflect on it, and change in order to gain their trust.The trust brought Nitish Kumar back to power. Similarly, an overwhelming majority of the people of West Bengal have reposed their trust in Mamata Banerjee to bring about a change in the political dispensation of the state.This trust is bound to pay her and the TMC handsome dividends.

For Mamata Banerjee, the tough task ahead is that of governance based on pragmatic politics. Another serious challenge will be to enforce and uphold the rule of law that has been badly mauled under the CPI(M)'s rule. She is going to inherit a financially bankrupt state along with mounting debts.The galloping expenditure has been accentuated by the rush to give employment to thousands of government servants, including teachers, on the eve of elections.They are only going to add to the growing number of unproductive resources in the state sector, causing further strain on the exchequer. An uphill task for the chief-minister-in-waiting would be to revive a work culture that is propitious for growth and development. In the absence of industrialization and a congenial climate for investment, job prospects would remain dismal. The pitiable state of affairs in education and health sectors, and the intermittent disruptions of day to-day life by protests organized by the parties in the Opposition, would leave Banerjee facing many serious and intractable problems.

It is unfortunate that these problems and issues have been made far more difficult by the pursuit of the policy of confrontation. Banerjee is against having any truck with the Marxists. She is opposed to seeking any kind of cooperation and reconciliation with other political forces in the state which can help bring down tempers and allow leaders to take on the huge task of reconstructing Bengal. If Nitish Kumar could sup with the Bharatiya Janata Party for years and yet retain the support of the minority community, what makes it so difficult for Banerjee and her party to share the dais with the present chief minister and his comrades and interact with them to find a solution to people's problems?

She will do well to draw inspiration from Suu Kyi, who not only wants to walk but also talk and work with everybody — including those who profess different political beliefs — in order to strengthen her movement for democracy and development in her country. She has gone on to assert that she would be the last person to see the military falling. On the contrary, she would like to see the "military rising to dignified heights of professionalism and true patriotism". Is Banerjee in a position to give such an assurance to the state's civil servants, to the police in particular? Can she ask them to administer as per the law and without any fear or favour? Can she tell the people of West Bengal that for her and her party, the most important issue is to see that the state attains a much stronger position?

She must reckon that the mandate she is expecting makes it imperative for her government to rule. It wants her to succeed and not fail after ushering in the change. The real change would lie in bringing about Bengal's revival. The people of the state will expect her government to breathe life into the state's non-functioning and crumbling apparatus. This is a challenge that is much bigger than that of changing the tenancy of the Writers' Buildings.Therefore, can we expect her to emulate the examples of Nitish Kumar and Suu Kyi of Myanmar and care to reflect and introduce a measure of maturity and moderation in her style of functioning for the good of the state and its people? Can she demonstrate a new pattern of political behaviour that clearly distances her and the party from the politics of vendetta and reprisal? The people expect her to cleanse politics and pave the way for the efficient implementation of good politics and good policies.

Can she respond to this yearning of the people? This may indeed be a tall order, but that is the only way to better the life of the people of West Bengal. For this to happen, both Banerjee and the CPI(M) have to show great courage and shed their mutual rancour and acrimony. Only then will they be able to engage with each other constructively and accomplish the larger mission of restoring Bengal to the position of pride that it once enjoyed. As voters, we sincerely hope that political sanity returns and the people of West Bengal are bailed out of the chaos that is building around them.

The author is former director of the Intelligence Bureau, and the former governor of Nagaland

 

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

EDITORIAL

WILL HE QUIT NOW?

'THE TORTUOUS PROCESS DEFEATS THE ENDS OF JUSTICE.'


The move to impeach Sikkim high court chief justice P D Dinakaran has moved past an important stage with a committee appointed by the Rajya Sabha framing 16 charges against him. All the charges are quite serious and call for strong punitive action even if officials or ordinary citizens are found guilty of them. The case for action is stronger when members of the judiciary are involved. The committee's findings have corroborated all the allegations that have been made against Justice Dinakaran ever since he was appointed chief justice of the Karnataka high court. They include corruption, accumulation of wealth beyond known means of income, encroachment of property, destruction of evidence and a number of other offences. It is wrong for a judge to continue in his position when he is guilty of even one of these charges.


But the process of impeachment is slow and it might still take a long time for it to culminate in action. It is more than two years since the first charges against Dinakaran surfaced.  He was considered for elevation to the supreme court and was virtually shielded by the then chief justice of India. It was only because of unrelenting public pressure that the elevation move was dropped and impeachment proceedings were initiated. The committee has taken over an year to frame the charges, which now have to be communicated to the judge. The judge also has the right of defence by way of a reply which will again be considered by the committee.

At end of these procedures the issue will move to parliament where there may be uncertainties and delays. The impeachment proceedings against Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta high court are still hanging fire. The report of the parliament committee, which found him guilty, is yet to be presented to the House. The impeachment motion has to be voted by parliament with a two-thirds majority. The slow and tortuous process defeats the ends of justice. The problem is compounded by the oddity that the impugned judge continues in his position all this time. The safeguards provided for to protect the judiciary have turned out to be obstacles in the way of taking action against errant judges. The proposed new legislation which seeks to make it easier to deal with complaints against judges is also not the best. Considering the mountain of evidence against him, Justice Dinakaran would be well advised to quit right now.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

DIRE STRAITS

'THE FULL IMPACT OF THE DISASTERS IS STILL NOT KNOWN.'


Initial assessments of the devastation wrought by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan ten days ago indicate that the task of relief and reconstruction will be daunting. The official death toll has crossed 9,000 but this is sure to rise as around 13,000 people are still listed missing. Entire towns have been reduced to wastelands of mud and rubble. The World Bank has pegged the cost of Japan's reconstruction at $235 billion. However, the full impact of the multiple disasters is still not known. Scientists are yet to assess the impact of the nuclear radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. There has been some progress in containing the crisis at the plant. However, the fallout of nuclear contamination looms. IAEA officials have admitted that radiation levels in some areas within a 20-km zone around the stricken plant are 1,600 times higher than the norm. More worryingly, radioactivity has been recorded in areas far beyond the Fukushima plant. In fact, milk and vegetables from other parts of the island have been found to be contaminated.


The worst is clearly not over. Doctors are still checking people for radiation exposure. Scientists are pointing out that over the coming weeks, radioactive particles will enter the food chain as plants that have absorbed radiation will be ingested by animals and these in turn will be consumed by humans. The tragedy in Japan has triggered fear across the world. Small amounts of radiation are reported to have wafted across the Pacific Ocean. Fears of contamination have made people reluctant to purchase food items imported from Japan. It is important that the IAEA and other scientific bodies put out correct information for the public so that rumours do not complicate an already dire situation.


Many believe that rich Japan does not need the help of the international community. Indeed, Japan is the world's third richest country. However, while it might be able to fund its long-term reconstruction, it is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis of unimaginable magnitude. People are in need of uncontaminated food and water, warm blankets and homes and the world must not look away.  Kandahar, one of the most impoverished regions in the world, is a model to emulate as it has donated $50,000 to help the people of Japan.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

A POTENT CHALLENGE

BY HARSH V PANT


If India could deal with stoicism the China challenge in 1987, there should be less need for alarm today.
After announcing a mere 7.5 per cent jump in its defence budget, the first time since the 1980s that its defence spending increased in single-digit percentage, China is back to its double digit defence budget this year. Beijing has announced that its official defence budget for 2011 will rise by 12.7 per cent from the previous year.

China's largely secretive military modernisation programme is producing results faster than expected. Beijing is gearing up to challenge the US military prowess in the Pacific. It is refitting a Soviet-era Ukrainian aircraft carrier for deployment next year and more carriers are under construction in Shanghai. China's submarine fleet is the largest in Asia and is undergoing refurbishments involving nuclear powered vessels and ballistic missile equipped subs. Its anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) system, developed specifically to target US carrier strike groups, has reached initial operational capability much earlier than expected. And earlier this year, photographs appeared on Chinese internet sites of what is apparently China's first stealth fighter during a runway test in western China.


China has already shown its prowess in anti-satellite warfare and has redeployed its nuclear warheads onto mobile launchers and advanced submarines. In a marked shift in China's no-first-use policy, Chinese leaders have indicated that they would consider launching pre-emptive strikes if they found the country in a 'critical situation,' thereby lowering the threshold of nuclear threats. There is a growing debate in the PLA about whether to discard conditionalities on China's commitments to no-first use.


China is a rising power with the world's second largest economy and a growing global footprint. It would like to have a military ready and willing to defend these interests. But it is the opaqueness surrounding China's military upgradation that is the real sources of concern. China does not believe in transparency. In fact, the PLA follows Sun Tzu who argues that "the essence of warfare is creating ambiguity in the perceptions of the enemy."

China continues to defend its military upgradation by claiming that it needs offensive capability for Taiwan-related emergencies. But clearly its sights are now focused on the US. China wants to limit American ability to project power into the western Pacific. It wants to prevent a repeat of its humiliation in 1996 when the US aircraft carriers could move around unmolested in the Taiwan Strait and deter Chinese provocations. Not surprisingly, the steady build up of a force with offensive capabilities well beyond Chinese territory is causing consternation in Washington and among China's neighbours. This comes at a time of Chinese assertiveness on territorial disputes with Japan, India and Southeast Asian countries.


Underestimation

American technological prowess and war-fighting experience will ensure that China will not be able to catch up very easily. China is still at least a generation behind the US militarily. But the Pentagon's most recent assessment of China's military strategy argues that despite persistent efforts, the US understanding of how much China's government spends on defence "has not improved measurably."


At a time when the US is increasingly looking inwards, China's military rise has the potential to change the regional balance of power to India's disadvantage. It is not entirely clear that China has well-defined external policy objectives though her means, both economic and military, to pursue policies, are greater than at any time in the recent past. Yet, there is no need for India to counter China by matching weapon for weapon or bluster for bluster. India will have to look inwards to prepare for the China challenge.


After all, China has not prevented India from pursing economic reforms and decisive governance, developing its infrastructure and border areas, and from intelligently investing in military capabilities. If India could deal with stoicism the China challenge in 1987, when there was a real border stand-off between the two, there should be less need for alarm today when India is a much stronger nation, economically and militarily. A resurgent India of 2011 needs new reference points to manage its complex relationship with the superpower-in-waiting China.

Despite this, India's own defence modernisation programme is faltering. This year the Indian government has allocated only 1.8 per cent of the GDP to defence, though ostensibly the military expenditure has gone up by 11.58 per cent. This is only the second time in over three decades that the defence to GDP ratio has fallen below 2 per cent of the GDP. This is happening at a time when India is expected to spend $112 billion on capital defence acquisitions over the next five years in what is being described as "one of the largest procurement cycles in the world." Indian military planners are shifting their focus away from Pakistan as China takes centre-stage in future strategic planning but there's no strategic clarity in Indian approach.


China's 'Global Times' had warned last year that "India needs to consider whether or not it can afford the consequences of a potential confrontation with China." India's challenge is to raise the stakes high enough so that instead of New Delhi it's Beijing that is forced to consider seriously the consequences of a potential confrontation with India. But it is not clear if the political leadership in New Delhi has the farsightedness to rise to this challenge.


(The writer is the author of 'The China Syndrome'.)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

CUBA: REINVENTING THE ECONOMY

 BY LEONARDO PADURA


The self-employment initiative is part of an effort to give a gentle push from below.


Havana is being reborn. I can't be sure whether this is taking the best form possible. The first elements of the "updating of the Cuban economic model" have been made official. At the meeting of the Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in mid-April, this model will be given a definitive form and plans. The effects of the new policy have begun to be felt in an accelerated fashion on the face of a city that for the last 50 years seems to have been stuck in time (and even slid backwards with intensifying deterioration).


Thus far the most striking and visible opening in the country is the revival of self-employment, with a broadening of the allowed categories and activities (nothing spectacular — it has been concentrated in lower-level jobs and small businesses rather than professions). To spur the expansion in this direction, a significant number of new licences have been issued, although at the same time the government has imposed heavy taxes on these forms of work, which raises doubts about whether many people will be able comply.


This newly-approved form of self-employment, long prohibited and even stigmatised, fulfils various purposes, from absorbing a part of those government employees who will be newly 'available,' to use the Cuban euphemism for laid off. It is calculated that more than a million people will fall into this category by the time the process is completed, though it seems to have slowed already as it has become evident that the Cuban economy and society simply cannot generate enough jobs for the number of people who need them.

Decentralisation

At the same time, the self-employment initiative is part of an effort to give a gentle but necessary push from below towards the decentralisation of the economic structures of a model in which, until today, the presence of the state was essentially divine: it was felt everywhere, though not always in a visible or tangible manner. In the labour market, of course, the government's presence was absolute and hegemonic, though since the crisis of the 1990s it suffered substantial desertions as state salaries were too low to cover the basic expenses of the average employee and many people of working age simply preferred to turn to what Cubans call 'invention,' meaning anything you can do to get by.


Among the forms of 'new business' that Cubans have resorted to after the recent changes in the law, two stand out: food services and the sale throughout the city of farm products. The avalanche of new cafes, small restaurants, and street vendors (which require little or no up-front investment) has introduced an environment of creativity and movement that is giving the city the feel of a country fair in which people are selling anything they can however they can. The hundreds of cafes cropping up on corners, in doorways, or out in the country (which may make you wonder whether there are enough possible clients to keep them afloat in a country where most people barely make enough money to survive) have little or no sophistication and in most of them you eat or drink standing on the sidewalk, which conveys a sense of poverty and transience.


Meanwhile, those selling farm products have set up shop in places that are even more shoddy and badly put together. Some simply sell their wares in the wooden crates they were shipped in. Without a hint of sophistication, convinced that demand will far exceed supply, and with no effort at attracting customers with quality, presentation, or good prices, these little operations are reviving in Havana less a look of poverty or improvisation than a backwards rural feeling that the city left behind decades ago.

Another form of employment that has sprung up with official approval is selling music CDs and television and film DVDs pirated in the most imaginative ways. This business, though it springs from an illegal activity, has flourished in Havana since the state endorsed it and now taxes the proceeds. Thus on rough boards set up in alleys and doorways you can buy the latest releases of American movies and recordings of mega stars at prices that draw foreign tourists as well.


The search for individual solutions in these small businesses and the absence of regulation of their look or location has given Havana the feel of a bustling country fair, uncontrolled and unlimited, of a city where the urban and the rural mix with improvisation and novelty, and where ugliness and the feeling of poverty have come to define it. In the end, Havana is changing because it has to change, and one of the costs of this is yet a further loss of its already diminished beauty.


IPS

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

EGYPTIAN ODYSSEY

BY SURYAKUMARI DENNISON


That Tutankhamun lived only to his 19th year lent poignancy to the possessions.


The defeat of dictatorship in Egypt was accompanied by a victory for vandalism. Even as protestors in Tahrir Square proclaimed the power of the people, the renowned Cairo Museum nearby came in for barbaric attack. Looters desecrated the dead by destroying mummies, and — compounding ghoulishness with greed — made off with valuable antiquities.


I was saddened to read that statues of King Tutankhamun were among the stolen artifacts. Five months ago, I (along with a group of pilgrim-tourists to Egypt, Israel and Jordan) visited the aforementioned museum. Although unable to see every one of its hundred and twenty thousand exhibits, we admired the treasures that had been found in Tutankhamun's tomb. Our guide informed us that this discovery in the early 20th century was all the more remarkable because the splendour at the site was disproportionate to the relative insignificance of the young ruler. The fact that Tutankhamun lived only to his 19th year lent poignancy to the priceless possessions he believed would journey with him to another world.


Apart from the opulent objects that the king enjoyed during his 11-year reign, was a magnificent mask that adorned him in death. Of solid gold, it was apparently placed over the head and shoulders of the monarch's mummy, atop the linen bandages in which the body was wrapped. While Tutankhamun himself reposes in the Valley of the Kings, the Mask is on public view. After our treasure-tour, I was confronted with a colourful replica of the mask, embossed on a big bag made of some fibrous substance. I knew the bag would prove cumbersome on my travels, since it could neither be folded nor fastened, but sense succumbed to sentiment. Parting with precious pounds, I told myself that I would return to Bengaluru with 'Tutankhamun' in tow! Before that I had 'miles to go', interspersed with tiresome checkpoints.


Crossing by bus from Egypt to Israel and Israel to Jordan, and flying from Jordan to Kuwait and back home proved an ordeal. Each time my luggage passed through a scanner, the contents of the overloaded Tutankhamun bag slid out under the dispassionate gaze of the security personnel. These souvenirs included a smaller — more malleable — bag, emblazoned with a pharaoh in his chariot. Undeterred by my ignorance of his identity, I had acquired him at the Khan-el-Khalili Bazaar, where I also added a Cleopatra towel and Nefertiti mirror to my collection of crowned heads.


If my Egyptian odyssey — supposedly a pilgrimage — seems marred by an unspiritual pursuit of princely personages, I do have a keepsake which shows a sovereign being sidestepped. In a painting on papyrus, Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus — fleeing the killer-king Herod — escape to the land of the pyramids. Those ancient monuments and the Sphinx are in the background, and an angel keeps watch overhead. This work of art is indeed a treasure, for — charmed though I am by the royals — I cherish my refugees!

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

NO TO OPERATION CAST LEAD 2

The relative quiet on the security front that Israel has enjoyed over the past two years has come to an end. The exchanges of fire between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces along the Gaza border have escalated over the past 10 days, while in Jerusalem, a bomb exploded near a bus yesterday. And the investigation of the murders in Itamar earlier this month is still underway.

The intensification of the fighting in the south is a reminder of similar events in the not too distant past. After a period in which the exchanges of fire were relatively low-level, Hamas fired 50 mortar rounds at the western Negev. Israel responded with a series of assaults from the air as well as mortar fire, and on Tuesday, eight Palestinians, including four civilians, were killed by IDF fire. Hamas responded by shooting two Grad rockets at Be'er Sheva, a city which had been outside the confrontation zone since Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

The assault on the capital of the Negev prompted calls from the right for a harsh response, a Cast Lead 2. These calls were buttressed by the closure of schools in Be'er Sheva and Ashdod. The terrorist attack in Jerusalem, coming a matter of hours after the morning's Grad fire, will increase pressure on the government to deliver a knock-out blow against terrorism.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must display moderation and lower the flames instead of being dragged into a new operation in Gaza. The events of the last few days have shown that there is no miracle cure for the fire from Gaza; even Operation Cast Lead didn't achieve long-term deterrence. There is no reason to think another operation of the same sort would be more successful.

Moreover, Israel's diplomatic situation is totally different from what it was two years ago. The country is isolated internationally because of its refusal to compromise with the Palestinians and its insistence on expanding the settlements. The Obama administration will not support the use of brutal force in a civilian environment the way its predecessor did, nor can Israel count on the support of Arab governments that provided backing in the past.

Under these circumstances, Netanyahu needs to try to restore calm along the border and enable Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reconcile with Hamas. Palestinian unity, fragile as it might be, would provide Israel with an address to which to deliver demands for maintaining calm and preventing terrorist attacks - something the PA is already doing in the West Bank.

Populist enthusiasm for "a large-scale operation" will only lead Israel into complications, condemnations and greater isolation.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

EDUCATING FOR VALUES AT THE CLUB HOTEL

BY OR KASHTI

Students at the Tel Aviv arts school, one of the city's most prestigious institutions, may not represent the socioeconomic average of all Israeli students, but their parents were still surprised last week when they received an invitation to celebrate the birthday of a fourth grader at the Club Hotel in Eilat one coming weekend.

The father of the 10-year-old pupil is a well-known businessman, and his mother appears occasionally in the business gossip columns. In the email they sent to the parents of all the children in the class, the parents wrote that "the stay will include full board" - in other words, the classmates will stay at the hotel at the expense of the birthday boy's parents - while additional family members who want to stay at the hotel will receive a special discount.

This is not the first time the family has thrown such a party for its children and their friends, all from the arts school. In recent years, birthday parties of a similar nature were also held for the older siblings. Friends of the parents say the parents never received any complaints or comments from the school about the previous celebrations, only "enthusiastic responses."

Responsibility for the problematic celebration lies not only with the parents who extended the invitation, but also with the school, which did not intervene. Instead, it left the other parents to deal on their own with the frustration of trying to inculcate a sense of proportion in their children.

School, especially elementary school, is a formative social framework. There the seeds of long-term friendships are sown and every pupil's budding personality is shaped.

But now, other parents of children in the school who try to celebrate in the "usual" way - a public park with a clown and activities - will find it difficult to meet the ostentatious standard being set here. Even if the days of education for modesty have passed, there is no reason why the education system should cooperate with such norms.

Yet the arts school chose to do nothing, perhaps out of self-abnegation before wealthy parents. The problem is not the family's decision to have a birthday party for a 10-year-old in a hotel in Eilat, but the educational institution, "which didn't explain to it how improper this event is in educational and social terms," said the parent of one student in the class.

This nonintervention, which grants legitimacy to the celebration in Eilat, was explained by the school administration as stemming from the fact that the event "is not our initiative and not our responsibility." A similar attitude was expressed by the Ministry of Education, which, especially in recent years, has boasted of educating for values and not only for academic achievement. When asked its opinion of the matter, a ministry spokesperson said this is "a private event, during the pupils' free time."

"There's a limit to our power," a ministry official explained. "We can't tell the parents what to do."

How easy it is to sigh, to complain about parents who know no limits, and to do nothing. But if the reason for the failure to respond is that this is an event outside the school framework, why do teachers and principals try to deal with the ostracism of students over the Internet, or with incidents of violence that take place after school hours? The shoulder shrugging by the school and the Education Ministry signifies acceptance of an anti-educational act.

Yes, it is possible, even desirable, to tell the parents, influential though they may be, that they have overstepped the boundaries. If a weekend celebration in a hotel influences the atmosphere in the classroom or the feelings of other students and parents, the school is not only allowed to intervene, it has an obligation to do so. All that is needed is educational backbone.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ISRAEL WITHOUT ITS DISSIDENTS

BY GIDEON LEVY

Imagine a different Israel in the eyes of the world. There is no B'Tselem, no Breaking the Silence, no Anarchists Against the Fence, no Gush Shalom. There is no New Israel Fund and no small band of radical and dissenting intellectuals and journalists. Imagine a different Israel, which silences and crushes every such voice. Imagine how it would look to the world.

The little sympathy Israel still receives it owes to these groups. The campaign of delegitimization against it, the real one and the one we invent, we owe to Avigdor Lieberman and Israel Beiteinu, to Benjamin Netanyahu and the flood of anti-democratic laws of his people and of Kadima, to the unbridled Israel Defense Forces and to the settlers who know no boundaries. One day of Operation Cast Lead did Israel more damage than all the critical articles taken together; the fatal attack on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara dragged down Israel's image more than all the anti-Israeli lectures taken together; the "Nakba Law" stank more than all the petitions.

The ever-growing initiative to boycott, excoriate and ostracize Israel was born out of the pictures of Gaza and the scenes from the Marmara. The fact that there are Israelis who have joined the criticism can only be chalked up to Israel's dwindling credit in universities in the United States, in the academic world of Europe and in newspapers in both places. Just imagine how Israel would look without them: North Korea.

The government's ambassadors and its propagandists can barely persuade anyone in the world, except themselves. The destroyers of Israeli democracy can only stoke the fire higher and higher against it. The critical voices still being heard, in commendable freedom, arouse the world's esteem. The dissidents are now the best explainers of Israel, whose regime is still to its credit.

About two weeks ago, I was invited to the Jewish Book Week in London, following the publication in English of my book "The Punishment of Gaza." The Jewish establishment in Britain threatened to boycott the event, the organizers considered hiring security guards, and roughly 500 people, mainly middle-of-the-road Jews, filled the hall, asked questions and mainly, in their modest way, expressed great sympathy. I spoke, as I always do, against the occupation, the injustices and the damage it does to Israel and to the Palestinians, against the attacks on Israeli democracy as I have written in the hundreds of articles that have been published in Haaretz in Hebrew and in English, and as I did at the London School of Economics and Trinity University in Dublin.

As on previous occasions, a "spy" from the Israeli Embassy was sent to Trinity - this one, an Israeli student who was asked to write down what I said and convey it to the embassy. The embassy quickly dispatched a report to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, and the Foreign Ministry quickly leaked it to a well-known newspaper, which published only my harshest statements, without context - and there you have it: the indictment of a dissident.

One can ignore the way the embassy spies on journalists, evoking dark regimes. I would be glad to see a government representative at my lectures who was not under cover, if they have any interest. But one cannot ignore the message conveyed by such conduct - that of a witch hunt against a journalist whose opinions diverge from the party line.

In the new high-tech world, there is no longer a difference between what is written and what is said from here or from there. In the new world, which is mainly hostile to Israel, there is significance to alternative voices coming out of Israel, voices other than the official, threatening and harmful. These voices belong to Israel's true patriots, who fear for its fate and are concerned over its image much more than the people who are threatening to silence them. The dissidents do not need to apologize to their country for anything. Their country owes them a great deal: They are the force that is saving its image in the world. "Thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth from thee"? (Isaiah 49:17 ) Indeed, indeed. Netanyahu and Lieberman, the lawmakers on the right and the instigators of nationalism and racism, the hilltop youth and the indifferent of Tel Aviv. Ask (almost ) any European or American intellectual.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE PALESTINIAN NARRATIVE WON

BY OUDEH BASHARAT

When the teacher asked us first-graders in Kfar Yafia what we do on Independence Day - it's "day" in the uninspired Jewish term, "holiday" in the imaginative Arab language - I answered excitedly: We go to Ma'alul.

Ma'alul is my parents' village, whose residents were uprooted in 1948. Indeed, it was a holiday, when the military administration, in its generosity, loosened its grip a little and turned a blind eye to the crowds "celebrating" Independence Day on the ruins of the villages from which they had been uprooted.

At the time I, the refugee, felt privileged. I told my friends how we visited a church and a mosque, strolled along the paths, and how we gathered by the fountain.

Do you hold gatherings here as well, they asked. No, I said with spiritual elation. In Ma'alul the gatherings are more beautiful. How does Bertolt Brecht put it - in the homeland, even the voice sounds clearer.

Today, more than 40 years later, my daughter Hala is in first grade and feels the same sense of privilege. She, too, has Ma'alul.

They didn't use the word "nakba" then. The popular expression was "al hajij" (forced migration ), and was enough to raise a storm of emotions - a mixture of sadness, loss, anger, helplessness, compassion and yearning. The poet Salem Jubran said: "As the mother loves her disabled son...I will love you my homeland."

What would we have done in their place, I always ask myself. The challenge they faced was so great, I answer myself - beyond their capability to grasp, not to speak of dealing with it.

The term "Nakba" sounds like a natural disaster and still provokes debate. Those who object to it say what happened was not a natural disaster. That's true. But what counts is that the event is seen as a disaster of proportions beyond anything human beings are capable of generating.

So when the Knesset approves legislation banning the Nakba commemoration, it seems surreal. The Nakba is an ongoing event. No solution has been found for the refugee problem; the Arab population is discriminated against; senior cabinet ministers are threatening a sequel to the Nakba and Prime Minister Netanyahu defined the demographic issue, i.e. the Arabs' presence in their homeland, as the gravest problem.

Yet, there is also something good in this commotion. At least, there's no denial of the Nakba. Nobody claims the whole thing is a fairy-tale. The Palestinian narrative has won. The narrative that in '48 a people was exiled, by force, from its land, has been seared into Israeli and global consciousness. A vibrant, lively nation lived in Palestine, and a brutal act severed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. They were brutally and mercilessly thrown into the desert of doom and oblivion.

Instead of conducting a discourse, the Gadhafi-like types here - the Liebermans and their kind - are threatening a massive bombardment "house by house, zanga-zanga" of every good part in Israeli society. They won't rest until they destroy any memory of the word "Nakba." They will use this opportunity to eliminate every trace of democracy as well.

What gives us room for optimism is that this running amok has awakened Israeli public opinion against the murky fascistic wave. Perhaps this absurd law will provoke a dialogue about the events that took place in 1948, as a way to reconcile the two peoples. Avoiding such a dialogue will only add to the conflagration, for the surest way to get stuck in an entanglement is to ignore it.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

FAREWELL TO PEACE

BY ARI SHAVIT

Say farewell to peace with Syria. Those who believe, like the writer of these lines, in the necessity of the Golan-for-peace formula cannot close their eyes to what is happening.

With the great Arab revolt threatening his regime, there is no chance that President Bashar Assad will choose the path of peace. With the Syrian masses rebelling against him, there is no chance that Assad will gamble on peace.

The Assad of 2011 lacks the legitimacy to negotiate for peace. The Assad of 2011 lacks the minimal maneuvering room needed to make peace. Even if he wanted peace when he was young, it's too late now. There's no chance that the Syrian dictator will carry out a Sadat-like peace move in the next year or two.

Say farewell to peace with Palestine. Those who believe, like the writer of these lines, in the necessity of the two-state solution cannot close their eyes to what is happening.

With the great Arab revolt sweeping up Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, there is no chance that he will pay the price needed to reach peace. With the Arab masses thronging the streets, Abbas cannot tell three million Palestinian refugees that he has forged a compromise on the right of return. With the Arab nations seething, Abbas cannot tell them he has compromised on Jerusalem.

The Abbas of 2011 lacks the legitimacy to make peace. The Abbas of 2011 lacks the minimal maneuvering room needed to make peace. Even if Abbas wanted peace, it's too late now. There's no chance that the moderate Palestinian leader will carry out a Sadat-like peace move in the next year or two.

Say farewell to a quiet environment. Even those who enjoy the quiet cannot close their eyes to what is happening. The great Arab revolt has yet to reach the occupied territories for three reasons: the trauma of Hamas' rise in the Gaza Strip, the economic prosperity fostered by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and the expectation that a Palestinian state will be established in September.

But the tide can't be held off forever. Sooner or later, the Arab revolt will reach the territories. When the expectation of a Palestinian state blows up in September, economic prosperity will not stave off a political tsunami.

It's impossible to know whether the scenario will be that of Tunisia, Egypt or the first intifada. But in any event, the quiet we have enjoyed is now being shattered. A torrent of rebellion will strike Israel.

Say farewell to everything you thought until January 2011. The Middle East has been transformed, root and branch. This is a new, fluid, revolutionary reality. There is no longer any foundation for a solid peace like that with Egypt. There are no longer any strong forces for peace like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf emirates. There are no longer any potential peace partners like Assad and Mahmoud Abbas.

On the other hand, there is also no longer any option of deploying force against the rebellious masses. The occupation is even more dangerous than it was. The settlements are even more delusional than they were. The status quo has become a firetrap, and all the familiar ways of escaping it have been blocked.

U.S. President Barack Obama bears a share of the responsibility for this new situation. When he decided to play an active role in ousting Egypt's president, he didn't realize that as a result of this move, he would be forced within a month to fire Tomahawk missiles at Libya. He didn't understand that he was undermining the old Middle Eastern order without creating a new one. He didn't understand that he was dooming Israeli-Syrian peace and Israeli-Palestinian peace and endangering Israeli-Egyptian peace.

It could be that Obama acted correctly. Perhaps he will be remembered in the end as the great liberator of the Arab peoples. Nonetheless, the U.S. president must acknowledge the consequences of his actions. He must realize that this new historical situation requires a new diplomatic paradigm. What was right in 2010 is no longer correct in 2011.

This means that Obama must reject the false dichotomy of total impasse or total peace. He must reject the dichotomy of historic reconciliation or corrupting occupation. Instead, he must propose a new type of diplomatic path based on a partial Israeli withdrawal and the strengthening of Fayyad. In order to stop the Cairo revolution from setting Jerusalem on fire, Obama must urgently forge a third way.

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

EDITORIAL

DISCORD AMONG ALLIES

 

Many people were taken aback when France emerged as one of the most pugnacious advocates of military action in Libya, especially Americans who were accustomed to French criticism over Iraq and French foot-dragging over Afghanistan. Without President Nicolas Sarkozy's early and constant pressure for a United Nations-endorsed no-flight zone, military intervention might have come too late to save Benghazi's people from the murderous threats of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

 

Now, Mr. Sarkozy needs to step back and let NATO take the lead. After a phone conversation with President Obama on Tuesday, he seems ready to do so, but the details need to be finalized quickly. French efforts to appear the leader and prime coordinator of that intervention have needlessly strained relations with other participating countries. This is a time for the military coalition to come together, not to splinter. It is irresponsible that the command sequence was not decided before the military operation was launched.

 

Mr. Sarkozy had his reasons for taking such an aggressive stance on Libya. His government had badly bungled the peaceful democratic revolution in Tunisia by clinging to that country's brutal and venal dictator. He saw Libya as a chance to recoup French prestige in North Africa, a region France has long considered important to its economy and security. And he jumped at the chance to look like a world leader in the run-up to next year's hotly contested presidential election.

 

The Obama administration, meanwhile, was internally split and reluctant to take on military operations in a third Muslim nation while still deeply involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. So it was France who took the lead in recognizing the Libyan rebels and, with Britain, in drafting a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military actions to protect Libyan civilians.

 

Had France pushed less hard, pro-government forces might well have advanced further into the rebel-held city of Benghazi, where Colonel Qaddafi had sworn to show no mercy. That did quite a lot to enhance France's image around the world.

 

But if Mr. Sarkozy wants to emerge from this crisis with his international standing still enhanced, the right thing to do is to step back and let a NATO-coordinated combination of the countries taking part in military operations assume command. That kind of hybrid approach has been used before when other countries joined NATO in military action, for example in Kosovo in the 1990s and in Afghanistan today. It is not perfect, but it is better than the alternatives, including France's pet idea of a council of participating foreign ministers providing political direction while NATO confined itself to military execution. That's a prescription for paralysis and discord, and possible defections from the coalition.

 

Italy, for example, is the nearest NATO nation to the Libyan battlefront and the European country with the greatest economic stake in the outcome. It has made clear that it prefers a NATO-led mission to a French-led one. So would Norway, which has refused to participate unless NATO is in charge. And NATO leadership might make for smoother coordination with Turkey, an important NATO member, which plans to send warships but avoid actual combat.

 

NATO leadership best serves American interests. The United States took the lead in knocking out Libyan air defenses. That made sense because it alone has the cruise missiles for the job. Now the Obama administration rightly wants to hand off military leadership to its NATO partners. Mr. Sarkozy would do himself, and the Libyan democratic cause he supports, a big favor by smoothing the path to NATO leadership.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

REAL FAMILY VALUES

 

President Obama came to the right conclusion last month when he decided that the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal spousal benefits to married same-sex couples, is unconstitutional, and ended the government's defense of the law in pending court cases. But that did not relieve Congress of its duty to renounce the bigotry behind the 1996 law and wipe it off the books.

 

More than 100 House Democrats, led by Jerrold Nadler of New York, John Conyers of Michigan and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, have introduced a bill calling for a repeal of the act. An identical repeal bill was offered in the Senate by Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, all Democrats.

 

Getting the repeal bills through both chambers will not be easy. Republican leaders are continuing to pander and promote intolerance, declaring that they will step in for the administration to defend the act's denial of equal protection in court either by formally intervening or filing an amicus brief using outside lawyers paid for by taxpayers. Mr. Leahy, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, should schedule a hearing to call in couples to talk about the harm caused by the act to make clear that their marriages are deserving of full respect.

 

Republicans like to cast themselves as the protectors of "family values." But that mantle properly belongs to President Obama and the Congressional Democrats committed to ending this atrocious law.

Denying same-sex couples and their families the significant savings of filing joint tax returns, Social Security survivor benefits, and about 1,130-plus other spousal benefits and protections granted other married couples is not a family-friendly policy. It is discrimination, plain and simple.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WILLIAM STUNTZ

BY LINCOLN CAPLAN

 

"The Collapse of American Criminal Justice" by William Stuntz, to be published this year, is the capstone to the career of one of the most influential legal scholars of the past generation. He died last week at 52.

 

The book argues that the rule of law has been replaced by the misrule of politics, with a one-way ratchet of ever-expanding criminal laws giving boundless discretion to police and prosecutors, leading to a system that wrongly punishes too many black men.

 

The solution is "a better brand of politics," including more "local democracy" through jury decisions about who is guilty and how they should be punished and a broad revival of equal protection of the laws to end pervasive discrimination against the poor and minorities.

 

The book's concern about justice and equality gives it a liberal cast, but Mr. Stuntz called himself a conservative Republican. His defiance of easy labeling on the left or right was unusual among scholars of crime and punishment. But it was eclipsed by his other anomalies.

 

The most dramatic was religion. As a Harvard Law School professor, it was his secondary field, Christianity, that most set him apart. It grew out of his faith as an Evangelical Christian, which led to what made him a rarity among legal thinkers: his unwillingness to see himself as special because of his intellectual prowess. "The Christian story is a story, not a theory or an argument," he said, and others are made in the image of God, just as he was.

 

At Boston's Park Street Church in 2009, in "testimony" about the cancer that would lead to his death, he explained his faith. He described how God remembers those who are suffering, longing for them to join Him when their time comes. "It sounds too good to be true," he said, "and yet it is true."

 

When he refuted legal orthodoxies in his quest to return mercy to criminal justice, literally redefining the field, he was living his faith. On many of America's leading legal thinkers his influence was more profound. He reaffirmed for them the alliance between faith and reason and, finally, between knowledge and goodness.LINCOLN CAPLAN  

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

IT COULD HAPPEN HERE

BY FRANK N. VON HIPPEL

PRINCETON, N.J.

 

IT will be years before we know the full consequences of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. But the public attention raised by the problems there provides an opportunity to rethink nuclear-power policy in the United States and the rest of the world — and reduce the dangers of a similar disaster happening elsewhere.

 

From one perspective, nuclear power has been remarkably safe. The 1986 Chernobyl accident will ultimately kill about 10,000 people, mostly from cancer. Coal plants are much deadlier: the fine-particulate air pollution they produce kills about 10,000 people each year in the United States alone.

 

Of course, for most people this kind of accounting is beside the point. Their horror over even the possibility of a meltdown means that the nuclear-power industry needs constant and aggressive regulation for the public to allow it to stay in business.

 

Yet despite the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has often been too timid in ensuring that America's 104 commercial reactors are operated safely. Nuclear power is a textbook example of the problem of "regulatory capture" — in which an industry gains control of an agency meant to regulate it. Regulatory capture can be countered only by vigorous public scrutiny and Congressional oversight, but in the 32 years since Three Mile Island, interest in nuclear regulation has declined precipitously.

 

In 2002, after the commission retreated from demanding an early inspection of a reactor, Davis-Besse in Ohio, that it suspected was operating in a dangerous condition, its own inspector general concluded that it "appears to have informally established an unreasonably high burden of requiring absolute proof of a safety problem, versus lack of a reasonable assurance of maintaining public health and safety."

 

Even before Three Mile Island, a group of nuclear engineers had proposed that filtered vents be attached to buildings around reactors, which are intended to contain the gases released from overheated fuel. If the pressure inside these containment buildings increased dangerously — as has happened repeatedly at Fukushima — the vents would release these gases after the filters greatly reduced their radioactivity.

 

France and Germany installed such filters in their plants, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission declined to require them. Given the influence of America's example, had the commission demanded the addition of filtered vents, they would likely have been required worldwide, including in Japan.

 

More recently, independent analysts have argued, based on risk analyses done for the commission, it is dangerous for the United States to pack five times more spent fuel into reactor cooling pools than they were designed to hold, and that 80 percent of that spent fuel is cool enough to be stored safely elsewhere. It would also be more expensive, however, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission followed the nuclear utilities' lead and rejected the proposal.The commission has even fought relentlessly for decades against proposals — and more recently a Congressional requirement — to distribute potassium iodide pills beyond the 10-mile emergency zones around American reactors, arguing that the probability of a large release of radioactivity was too low to justify the expense. And yet the American Embassy in Tokyo is handing out potassium iodide pills to Americans 140 miles from the Fukushima plant.

 

The commission's defenders often argue that it must be cautious because increased costs from safety requirements could kill the nuclear power industry. But the cost of generating electricity from existing plants is actually low: the construction expenses have been paid off and running them is relatively cheap. Requiring the operators of plants to install new safety systems would not result in them being shut down.

 

Therefore, perhaps the most important thing to do in light of the Fukushima disaster is to change the industry-regulator relationship. It has become customary for administrations not to nominate, and the Senate not to confirm, commissioners whom the industry regards as "anti-nuclear" — which includes anyone who has expressed any criticism whatsoever of industry practices. The commission has an excellent staff; what it needs is more aggressive political leadership.

 

Fukushima also shows why we need to develop reactors that are more inherently safe. Almost all the world's power reactors, including those at Fukushima, are descended from the much smaller reactors developed in the 1950s by the United States for submarines. As we saw in the Fukushima accident, they depend on pumps to keep them from catastrophic failure, a major weak point. New designs less dependent on pumps have been developed, but there has not yet been enough research to make certain that they would work effectively.

 

One promising design is the high-temperature gas-cooled graphite reactor; its fuel is in the form of small particles surrounded by layers of material that could contain their radioactivity if a cooling system fails. The United States built two such prototypes in the 1960s, and Germany built one in the 1980s. With the virtual end of new reactor orders in the United States and Western Europe, as well as their small generating capacity compared to current water-cooled reactors, they were not pursued further.

 

China, however, which accounted for over 60 percent of the world's nuclear power plant construction during the past five years, is now planning two prototypes and, if these work, 36 more. Such a demonstration could help determine the commercial viability of gas-cooled graphite reactors worldwide, and the Department of Energy should offer the expertise of its national laboratories to help China make this effort a success.

 

ANOTHER area that requires review is unrelated to the Fukushima accident, but would benefit from some of the attention generated by the crisis — namely, the need to strengthen the barriers to misuse of nuclear-energy technology to develop nuclear weapons.

 

The unintended effect of much of governmental research and development has been to make nuclear proliferation easier. Most notably, over the past 50 years the developed world has spent some $100 billion in a failed effort to commercialize plutonium breeder reactors. Such reactors would use uranium more efficiently, but would also require the separation of plutonium, a key component in nuclear weapons.

 

Even though plutonium breeder reactors have yet to make it past the research and development phase into commercial production, enough plutonium has been separated from spent power-reactor fuel to make tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, creating an enormous security risk. The technology's spread raises the possibility that it could be diverted to military purposes. In fact, this has already happened: in 1974 India tested a nuclear weapon design using plutonium that had been separated out for its breeder reactor program.

 

Meanwhile, General Electric has applied for a license to build a plant that would use lasers to enrich uranium for commercial use, which could provide yet another way to produce weapons-grade material. A coalition led by the American Physical Society, a professional organization of physicists, has petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to assess the risk that this technology poses to non-proliferation efforts before it issues a license. The commission, predictably, has been reluctant to do so.

 

It is critical to find more effective ways to control such dangerous nuclear technologies. In 1946, the United States proposed that uranium enrichment and plutonium be put under international control, a proposal that failed because of the onset of the cold war.

 

More recently Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made the more modest proposal to place such dangerous activities under merely multinational control, which would make it more difficult for any one country to divert the material to military ends. In fact, Urenco, the West's most successful uranium enrichment enterprise, is already under the joint ownership of Germany, the Netherlands and Britain.

 

The United States should help shape this industrial model into an international one, in which all enrichment plants are under multinational control. Doing so would make it more difficult for countries like Iran to justify building national enrichment plants that could be used to produce nuclear weapons materials.

 

While new plants are unlikely to be built in the United States over the next 25 years, nuclear power provides 20 percent of our electrical power and is climate friendly. We therefore must make existing reactors safer, develop a new generation of safer designs and prevent nuclear power from facilitating nuclear proliferation. As tragic as the Fukushima disaster has been, it has provided a rare opportunity to advance those goals.

 

Frank N. von Hippel, a nuclear physicist, is a professor of public and international affairs at Princeton and co-chairman of the International Panel on Fissile Materials. From 1993 to 1994 he was responsible for national security issues in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A DIGITAL LIBRARY BETTER THAN GOOGLE'S

BY ROBERT DARNTON

 

Cambridge, Mass.

ON Tuesday, Denny Chin, a federal judge in Manhattan, rejected the settlement between Google, which aims to digitize every book ever published, and a group of authors and publishers who had sued the company for copyright infringement. This decision is a victory for the public good, preventing one company from monopolizing access to our common cultural heritage.

 

Nonetheless, we should not abandon Google's dream of making all the books in the world available to everyone. Instead, we should build a digital public library, which would provide these digital copies free of charge to readers. Yes, many problems — legal, financial, technological, political — stand in the way. All can be solved.

 

Let's consider the legal questions raised by the rejected settlement. Beginning in 2005, Google's book project made the contents of millions of titles searchable online, leading the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers to claim that the snippets made available to readers violated their copyrights. Google could have defended its actions as fair use, but the company chose instead to negotiate a deal.

 

The result was an extremely long and complicated document known as the Amended Settlement Agreement that simply divided up the pie. Google would sell access to its digitized database, and it would share the profits with the plaintiffs, who would now become its partners. The company would take 37 percent; the authors would get 63 percent. That solution amounted to changing copyright by means of a private lawsuit, and it gave Google legal protection that would be denied to its competitors. This was what Judge Chin found most objectionable.

 

In court hearings in February 2010, several people argued that the Authors Guild, which has 8,000 members, did not represent them or the many writers who had published books during the last decades. Some said they preferred to make their works available under different conditions; some even wanted to make their work available free of charge. Yet the settlement set terms for all authors, unless they specifically notified Google that they were opting out.

 

In other words, the settlement didn't do what settlements are supposed to do, like correct an alleged infringement of copyright, or provide damages for past incidents; instead it seemed to determine the way the digital world of books would evolve in the future.

 

Judge Chin addressed that issue by concentrating on the question of orphan books — that is, copyrighted books whose rightsholders have not been identified. The settlement gives Google the exclusive right to digitize and sell access to those books without being subject to suits for infringement of copyright. According to Judge Chin, that provision would give Google "a de facto monopoly over unclaimed works," raising serious antitrust concerns.

 

Judge Chin invited Google and the litigants to rewrite the settlement yet again, perhaps by changing its opt-out to opt-in provisions. But Google might well refuse to change its basic commercial strategy. That's why what we really need is a noncommercial option: a digital public library.

 

A coalition of foundations could come up with the money (estimates of digitizing one page vary enormously, from 10 cents to $10 or more), and a coalition of research libraries could supply the books. The library would respect copyright, of course, and it probably would exclude works that are now in print unless their authors wanted to make them available. It would include orphan books, assuming that Congress passed legislation to free them for non-commercial use in a genuinely public library.

 

To dismiss this as quixotic would be to ignore digital projects that have proven their value and practicability throughout the last 20 years. All major research libraries have digitized parts of their collections. Large-scale enterprises like the Knowledge Commons and the Internet Archive have themselves digitized several million books.

 

A number of countries are also determined to out-Google Google by scanning the entire contents of their national libraries. France is spending 750 million euros to digitize its cultural treasures; the National Library of the Netherlands is trying to digitize every Dutch book and periodical published since 1470; Australia, Finland and Norway are undertaking their own efforts.

 

Perhaps Google itself could be enlisted to the cause of the digital public library. It has scanned about 15 million books; two million of that total are in the public domain and could be turned over to the library as the foundation of its collection. The company would lose nothing by this generosity, and might win admiration for its good deed.

 

Through technological wizardry and sheer audacity, Google has shown how we can transform the intellectual riches of our libraries, books lying inert and underused on shelves. But only a digital public library will provide readers with what they require to face the challenges of the 21st century — a vast collection of resources that can be tapped, free of charge, by anyone, anywhere, at any time. 

 

Robert Darnton is a professor and the director of the Harvard University Library.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

HUGS FROM LIBYANS

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

CAIRO

 

This may be a first for the Arab world: An American airman who bailed out over Libya was rescued from his hiding place in a sheep pen by villagers who hugged him, served him juice and thanked him effusively for bombing their country.

 

Even though some villagers were hit by American shrapnel, one gamely told an Associated Press reporter that he bore no grudges. Then, on Wednesday in Benghazi, the major city in eastern Libya whose streets would almost certainly be running with blood now if it weren't for the American-led military intervention, residents held a "thank you rally." They wanted to express gratitude to coalition forces for helping save their lives.

 

Doubts are reverberating across America about the military intervention in Libya. Those questions are legitimate, and the uncertainties are huge. But let's not forget that a humanitarian catastrophe has been averted for now and that this intervention looks much less like the 2003 invasion of Iraq than the successful 1991 gulf war to rescue Kuwait from Iraqi military occupation.

 

This is also one of the few times in history when outside forces have intervened militarily to save the lives of citizens from their government. More commonly, we wring our hands for years as victims are massacred, and then, when it is too late, earnestly declare: "Never again."

 

In 2005, the United Nations approved a new doctrine called the "responsibility to protect," nicknamed R2P, declaring that world powers have the right and obligation to intervene when a dictator devours his people. The Libyan intervention is putting teeth into that fledgling concept, and here's one definition of progress: The world took three-and-a-half years to respond forcefully to the slaughter in Bosnia, and about three-and-a-half weeks to respond in Libya.

 

Granted, intervention will be inconsistent. We're more likely to intervene where there are also oil or security interests at stake. But just as it's worthwhile to feed some starving children even if we can't reach them all, it's worth preventing some massacres or genocides even if we can't intervene every time.

 

I opposed the 2003 Iraq invasion because my reporting convinced me that most Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein but didn't want American forces intruding on their soil. This time my reporting persuades me that most Libyans welcome outside intervention.

 

"Opinion was unanimous," Michel Gabaudan, the president of Refugees International, told me on Wednesday after a visit to Libya. Mr. Gabaudan said that every Libyan he spoke to agreed that the military strikes had averted "a major humanitarian disaster."

 

"Men, women and children, they are ecstatic about the role of the coalition but worried that it may not continue," he said.

 

Some Congressional critics complain that President Obama should have consulted Congress more thoroughly. Fair enough. But remember that the intervention was almost too late because forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi were already in Benghazi. Indeed, there was a firefight on Sunday right outside the hotel in Benghazi where foreign journalists are staying. A couple of days of dutiful consultation would have resulted in a bloodbath and, perhaps, the collapse of the rebel government.

 

Just before the airstrikes, Libyans were crossing the border into Egypt at seven times the normal rate. Once the strikes began, the exodus ended and the flow reversed. For all the concern about civilian casualties, Libyans are voting with their feet — going toward the airstrikes because they feel safer thanks to them.

 

Critics of the intervention make valid arguments. It's true that there are enormous uncertainties: Can the rebels now topple Colonel Qaddafi? What's the exit strategy? How much will this cost?

 

But weighed against those uncertainties are a few certainties: If not for this intervention, Libyan civilians would be dying on a huge scale; Colonel Qaddafi's family would be locked in place for years; and the message would have gone out to all dictators that ruthlessness works.

 

The momentum has reversed. More airstrikes on Colonel Qaddafi's artillery and armor will help. So would jamming his radio and television broadcasts. Arab countries are already delivering weapons and ammunition to the rebels, boosting their capabilities and morale. In short, there are risks ahead but also opportunities.

 

A senior White House official says that the humanitarian argument was decisive for President Obama: "The president was chilled by what would happen to the people of Benghazi and Tobruk.  There were critical national security and national interest reasons to do this, but what compelled the president to act so quickly was the immediate prospect of mass atrocities against the people of Benghazi and the east. He was well aware of the risks of military action, but he also feared the costs of inaction."

 

 I've seen war up close, and I detest it. But there are things I've seen that are even worse — such as the systematic slaughter of civilians as the world turns a blind eye. Thank God that isn't happening this time.

 

I invite you to visit my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

SLIM NUKE DANGER HERE, BUT ...

 

Since a massive earthquake and tsunami created a radiation danger at nuclear power-generating facilities in Japan, some Americans have anxiously asked whether a similar catastrophe might pose the threat of a nuclear meltdown here.

Fortunately, Tennessee Valley Authority officials do not believe there is a comparable danger at TVA's Sequoyah Nuclear Plant near Soddy-Daisy, the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, Tenn., or at other nuclear facilities in our region.

To provide information, and allay any fears, TVA Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum, joined by other officials from the public utility, came to the Times Free Press on Wednesday.

First of all, they noted, it is extremely unlikely, judging from history, that the immediate area would be hit by a quake nearly as severe as the recent one in Japan.

Even so, "What if?"

Well, in case of earthquake, any threatened nuclear generator would immediately and safely shut down, the TVA officials said.

Off-site power then would provide electricity needed to continue cooling reactors.

But if needed, multiple on-site, heavily fortified emergency diesel generators would keep the cooling water flowing.

As a subsequent backup, steam power produced by the heat of the nuclear energy itself would be used to circulate water.

Beyond that, in the very unlikely event that it were necessary, smaller, self-contained, diesel-driven cooling equipment could be employed, as could a battery-powered system that can be charged from outside sources.

Of course, all that is in addition to extensive training of TVA workers to respond nimbly in emergencies.

TVA officials pointed out that their reactors have continued to operate safely — and that nuclear power is a vital component of providing the energy we need.

They properly acknowledged, however, that there is no room to be "complacent or arrogant" when it comes to nuclear power. The stakes are simply too high. And they said they are re-examining their programs for responding to disasters — rather than waiting for regulators to make suggestions.

TVA's — and indeed our entire nation's — nuclear plants have a long and commendable record of efficient and safe operations.

It is natural that questions have arisen in response to the tragedy in Japan. But we have confidence that TVA will help keep the United States' record of safe nuclear energy production going.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

AFTER ALL, WHO OWNS PUBLIC RECORDS?

 

Alarming efforts are under way in Tennessee to make it harder for the public to stay informed about the actions of government.

Already, elected officials in Chattanooga and East Ridge are supporting state legislation that would let them remove legal ads — which advise the public about meetings and important activities of government — from the Times Free Press and post them only on barely read government websites.

And now under consideration in the General Assembly is legislation that would sharply increase the cost citizens pay to get public records. Under the proposal, the government agency that houses a record could charge "actual labor costs" to the person seeking that record if it takes an agency employee more than one hour to "locate, retrieve, review, redact, and copy" it.

That's preposterous! Government may already charge reasonable copying fees. And because government already has up to seven days to fulfill a request, it's not as if government workers must "drop everything they're doing" to focus on records requests, Frank Gibson of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government pointed out in a phone interview.

Does it take time for government workers to fulfill records requests? Of course, just as it takes time for them to perform their other required duties. But as Gibson noted, Tennesseans already pay — with their taxes — for the collection and maintenance of public records. "Why," he asks, "should they also have to pay the government to see those records?"

Is there a risk that someone will deliberately make a nuisance of himself by requesting records he really has no desire to see? Sure, but that's the exception. Most individuals, media organizations and other groups don't have the time or inclination to go around making frivolous records requests at government offices, and they seek records in good faith.

Charging labor costs to those who seek public records would undermine the public's right to know. Many people would avoid making records requests at all, for fear of being hit with a big fee if it should take a worker more than an hour to process the request.

This bill should be defeated.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

AMTRAK CEO DITCHES TRAIN, TAKES CAR

There was plenty of irony in the recent renaming of an Amtrak station in Wilmington, Del., for Vice President Joe Biden.

The vice president is a frequent advocate of government-funded passenger rail service, and the renovation of the station got $20 million from the federal "stimulus."

But as a testament to the inefficiency of the stimulus, the project came in nearly $6 million over budget. Of course, since the "stimulus" is borrowed money that U.S. taxpayers will have to repay with interest, the project will put taxpayers a lot more than "just" $6 million in the red.

At any rate, the big day arrived for the renaming of the station for the sitting vice president. But there was one problem: The CEO of Amtrak, Joseph Boardman, was on an Amtrak train bound for the Wilmington ceremony — and the train broke down in Baltimore.

"You want to hold your head and say, 'Just what we needed today,'" Boardman told ABC News.

As ABC reporter Michael Falcone, who was riding with the Amtrak head, noted at the time, "BAD sign: Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman just got OFF the train to take a car to Wilmington."

Does it make you feel better to know that the vice president as well as President Barack Obama want to spend tens of billions more borrowed dollars for impractical high-speed rail projects around the nation?

Wouldn't it make more sense to stop subsidizing Amtrak, shut down its unpopular lines and sell to the highest free-market bidders the lines that are profitable?

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

DANGERS OF GIVING UP SOVEREIGNTY

The Vatican is celebrating a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that a public school classroom in Italy did not violate students' freedom of conscience simply because a crucifix hung in the room.

A woman from Finland who lives in Italy had objected to the tradition of having crucifixes in Italian schools, and the international court, based in France, at first ruled in her favor. It reversed itself after more than a dozen countries appealed.

We obviously have no say in rulings by European courts. But while we are glad common sense prevailed in Italy, the case should be a warning to our own government not to surrender our legitimate U.S. sovereignty to the judgment of unaccountable international judicial bodies, as European nations have done by submitting to the European Court of Human Rights.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - NO MORE SURPRISES, MR SARKOZY

As forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi increased their advances toward Benghazi last week in a move that appeared to strike a deadly blow to the rebels' resistance, we might appreciate France for taking the initiative to stop the brutal oppression of a movement that asked for the end of four decades of one-man rule.

Yet how can we expect the international community to have confidence in the French leadership handling the Libyan crisis?

The French Republic, or should we say the Republic of Sarkozy, became the first country to formally recognize the rebels' newly created Interim Governing Council, after President Nicolas Sarkozy met with two representatives.

We are talking about a president who has made this decision without informing, let alone consulting, his own Foreign Ministry.

We are talking about a president whose surprise decision sent shockwaves through his allies in Europe, striking a serious blow to efforts to forge a common European foreign and defense policy.

After having failed to see developments in Tunisia, a country it sees as in its own backyard, and the initial gaffes that made France look like it was on the side of the corrupt regime in that country, perhaps one should have expected France – or Sarkozy – to be more pro-active on Libya. Equally, after having placed its bets on the Libyan rebels, one could not have expected Mr. Sarkozy to sit idly by and watch the rebels perish at the hands of Col. Gadhafi's forces. Think of France's diplomatic humiliation had Gadhafi's forces been victorious. And put the upcoming presidential elections in France on top of all this. Then it becomes easy to understand why France – or Sarkozy – has rushed to initiate the military intervention.

French officials have rejected the allegations that France launched attacks on Libyan ground forces near Benghazi on Saturday without properly informing its allies.

Yet some French commentators have pointed out, however, that the first French jets entered Libyan airspace many hours before anti-aircraft defenses were pummeled by U.S. and British missiles and planes on Saturday night. The French pilots were, therefore, at greater risk of being shot down.

That Mr. Sarkozy can go off his rocker, to the point of jeopardizing the lives of his own pilots, is his and his nation's problem.

The international community cannot take the luxury of putting a huge responsibility in the hands of Mr. Sarkozy. The fact that he was successful in mobilizing world powers – as well as Arab countries to support a U.N. resolution to open the way for a military intervention to stop a brutal dictator that refuses to listen to the demands of his people – is by itself not enough to let Sarkozy assume leadership. His track record is too tainted for just one healthy outcome to make us forget his past.

France – or Sarkozy – should yield leadership to a more international mechanism.

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

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

RICHARD REID

Political correctness – in other words, censorship labeled as sensitivity – is as old as the hills. As a schoolboy in California I was told by family and teachers to refer to the Mexican kids as "Spanish." When I did this, the Mexican kids either laughed or swore at me.

When I first came to Turkey I was firmly advised that the country had no Kurds, only mountain Turks. Yet I would swear that in my first year here, a couple of friends who taught at the Fen Lisesi in Ankara told me right out that they were Kurds. So did the families that hosted me in Hakkari. And then I heard former Prime Minister and President Turgut Özal say he had Kurdish blood.

Today, most of the foolishness of trying to wish away the Kurds is a dead letter in Turkey. Turkish thought-nannies and neo-Stalinists have moved on, staking out new no-go zones: Do not disrespect this. Do not come close to insulting that. To be safe, button up your lip and curb your pen.

Since strict political correctness puts a ban on certain words, or even derivatives of those words, the world's speech police frequently make fools of themselves. Not many years ago in America a member of a black political advocacy organization was fired for using the word "denigrate." Go figure.

The problem with extra-careful – or intimidated – expression is that tiptoeing here, and failing to speak the truth there, can begin to make a sham of democracy. As soon as the fear of giving offense makes us swallow our words, are we much better than the cowed citizens of the Big Brother states?

There's a line to be drawn, though, concerning freedom of expression. There's a difference between mouthing off and inciting violence. Free speech is at the heart of democracy, yes, but it's not the freedom to shout "Fire" in a crowded theater. A mature democratic society, of which there are sadly few today, will manage the trick of containing its crazies and tolerating its provocateurs without muzzling them.

Over the past year, America has had a hard time doing either. The young crazy who shot and paralyzed the congresswoman in Arizona was noticed before the shooting, but not contained. A political party's crosshair gunsight symbols targeting his victim's electoral district were tolerated. Across the Atlantic, British students vexed by news of tuition increases expressed themselves by rampaging through London and reaching through the window of a slowed royal car to jab at Prince Charles and his wife with a cane. France congratulated itself when its citizens burned only 69 cars on New Year's eve. The people had communicated their annoyance.

The right to blunt expression has been questioned in Britain, where the chairperson of the Labor Party, a baroness and a Muslim, has said that prejudice against the country's Islamic minority has become common enough to be acceptable in dinner-table conversation. She argues that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are loyal citizens and blameless. Certainly this is true. But she cannot expect the British public to muzzle itself against any mention that the boys who killed 52 people on the underground in 2005 were indeed Muslims.

S.I. Hayakawa, the 20th-century American linguistics guru, author, university chancellor, and failed California politician, happened as a young man to be in Detroit in 1942 during the race riots, not many months after Pearl Harbor, when a black rioter came up to him.

"Hey, man, you a Jap?"

"Yeah." A pause.

"Good goin'!"

Hayakawa might have rolled his eyes and said, "I hear you, nigger," but he didn't, and that was wise, because the choice of that one word would have brought him a beating – or worse. Close to 70 years have passed since then, and racial tensions have eased up in America. Yet today, common as it is for black rappers to throw around the word Hayakawa didn't use, we still see the word being erased from a new high school textbook edition of Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn," on the grounds that it might shock and offend black students in their introduction to American literature. Indeed it might. Possibly studies of "Huckleberry Finn" should be put off until university. That could be an acceptable nod to correctness. Still, how far into the swamp of censorship does one wade to avoid offense?

Globally, mass immigration – more than 200 million people uprooting themselves to start lives in a new country each year – has made it much easier to offend. Wherever one looks, immigrants have settled in in startling numbers. There are more Nguyens than Wilsons in California. Bradford, England, is basically a Pakistani city.

The newcomers generally look different. They stumble over local customs, and are sneered at. They form gangs to hit back; or, like evangelical Ukrainians who flocked to Oregon, they look like everyone else; but, getting into trouble for beating their children, they withdraw into ghettoes, and decide that their dream of migrating to a better life was a cheat.

As globalization mixes people more, it's likely that the twin and opposite burdens of sensitivity and honesty will get heavier. In that respect, Turkey today has one of the world's luckier societies; it's more or less homogeneous. Viewed from the future, though, if this country becomes more of an economic powerhouse, needing cheap labor and bringing in floods of migrant workers and their dependents, the Kurdish problem will seem simple by comparison. The newcomers may not necessarily be Sunni Muslims, or Muslims at all. They may be black. Then Turkey will have to pass the Hayakawa test.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

US ON LIBYA: ACTIVE BUT APPEARING LOW-PROFILE

MEHMET YEGİN

Col. Moammar Gadhafi seemed to reverse the momentum against him and corner the protesters in Benghazi, appearing ready to end the opposition movement in a brutal way.

However, the adoption of U.N. Resolution 1973 changed the track of the story. Now the international community is talking about how and with which weapons the coalition forces hit the Gadhafi forces. The operation will of course change the balance in Libya; yet, expecting an easy path to reach peace in a short time is not realistic.

The U.N. Resolution is not only imposing a "no-flight zone" in Libya, but providing legitimacy to other means of intervention with the phrase of "all necessary measures." This may address the concerns about the inadequacy of the "no-flight zone" option. At the same time, however, it increases concerns for the future of Libya when bearing in mind the experience of Iraq. The U.S. administration is especially acting with extreme caution because of the Iraq War's notorious legacy both in domestic and international politics. 

American public opinion is against U.S. involvement in Libya. According to Rasmussen Reports, 63 percent of Americans think that the U.S. should stay out of Libya. Besides, the concern for Iraq is still there. Some 51 percent of Americans think that U.S. involvement in Iraq was a mistake. Therefore, it is quite hard to convince American people that substantial U.S. interests are at stake in Libya.

How will the US act in Libya?

As Bruce Jentleson asserts, the American people are acting "pretty prudent" about supporting the use of force. They expect a clear plan, support limited actions and are against regime-change operations. The Barack Obama administration has reiterated that the U.S. military involvement has a clear goal, that it is a limited operation and that ground troops will not be deployed. Obama has underlined that the military option was the last one and that Gadhafi left no other alternative. His tone is identical with his speech about increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan. He used the same apologetic tone in explaining his decision to use military means to reach a solution. 

These messages are not just for the American people: the administration is vigilant about protecting Obama's and the U.S.' images in the international community. From the beginning, the U.S. has been acting in support of the opposition but appearing low-profile in terms of use of force in Libya. Obama said Gadhafi must to step down but did not show the intention to intervene unilaterally. U.S. top officials acted in line with Obama. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared how hard it was to declare a "no-flight zone" while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.N. must impose the "no-flight zone."

The U.S. pushed hard to pass the resolution in the U.N. Security Council but the resolution was initiated by the United Kingdom, France and Lebanon. France declared that it would intervene within a short period of time, but the U.S. military declared that it could take some time to act.

The U.S. displayed a low profile in the operation as well and started coordinating the operation in Libya. The international community, however, mostly saw the French air forces on the scene.

The Obama administration has been reiterating that it is not a unilateral action, but rather an international coalition that includes Arab countries, namely the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. They have not dropped bombs yet but they are quite crucial in terms of the legitimacy of the coalition forces. 

Why is it low-profile?

There is a real possibility that the intervention will be portrayed as an occupying force in Libya. Negative voices are rising against the intervention. The international community may forget Gadhafi's violence against the civilians, but consider the coalition instead as the actor primarily responsible for all negative developments in Libya in the future. Thus, the U.S. is appearing in a low profile in the coalition to minimize the damage because it will be detrimental to improving the U.S.' image in the international arena. 

There is a high possibility of Libya becoming a second Iraq due to its fragmented structure. The U.S. does not want to carry the burden of reconstruction after the intervention. The army is weak and the tribes are not in favor of being with the U.S. In short, the U.S. does not have a reliable partner for a secure transition. Under these circumstances, it is a better choice to act with other powers that may share the burden in the future.

* Mehmet Yegin is a researcher at the International Strategic Research Organization, or USAK, Center for American Studies.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

OPEN-ENDED PERIOD OF UNCERTAINTY IN LIBYA

SAMİ KOHEN

On-going international air strikes against Libya have given rise to so many questions. For the moment, some of the questions regarding the nature and possible outcomes of the operation have no clear answers. It seems, however, that Libya is entering a long period of war unless Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi agrees to withdraw, but that is a remote possibility for now.

So let's try to answer a few of the important current questions:

- What are the goals and expectations of the coalition forces?

The United Nations Security Council has granted authority for the formation of a no-fly zone, as well as military preventive measures if needed so as to protect civilians. The coalition authorities say the latest air strikes are being conducted within this framework. In other words, the powers are arguing that Libyan air and land forces should be discouraged from operating so that they can control the air space and stop the attacks of Gadhafi forces against civilians.

In fact, following the bombardments, the Libyan air defense system was broken and the attacks in the regions controlled by Gadhafi were stopped.

That is to say, military developments are in the direction of the coalition's expectations. However, the deaths of civilians during the strikes have elicited criticism from a few countries (including Turkey) that the operation is out of control; these countries are thus calling for an end to the bombardment.

- Could the airstrikes bring results?

Previous experiences show pure air supremacy can bring no result. The coalition's expectation is that the blow to Gadhafi forces will spoil his plans against the insurgents headquartered in Benghazi and that it could also increase the insurgents' ability to make counterattacks. Another hope is that the new military circumstances could convince Gadhafi forces to change camps, resulting in the dictator losing control. Its likelihood is not so high though.

- What is Gadhafi's expectation? What is he surviving on?

Gadhafi is in control of the army for the moment. A group of Libyans are still acting with him. He is talking about distributing 1 million weapons for the resistance. In fact, this is a typical Gadhafi show since a land operation and occupation are out of question.

However, Gadhafi is not the kind to surrender because of an air operation. Despite the blow he took during the airstrikes, Gadhafi will try to retaliate in some other field. For instance, he used terror as a weapon against the West in the past. He might try it again.

In the meantime, the Libyan leader expects a crack in the coalition forces, reducing the effect of the concentrated attack. I think the Arab League, which appears to be acting as if it will withdraw support to the coalition forces, as well as the criticisms of Russia and China against the strikes, will give courage and hope to Gadhafi.

And in the end, this, as he said himself, could be transformed into a long and difficult war.

- What will happen in the long-run?

This is one of the most difficult questions. If Libya indeed declares a ceasefire, the coalition forces might stop airstrikes against the land units. The no-fly zone, however, will remain intact.

If such a state of war continues, two different administrations will be in control in two different regions; that means a de facto division.

The coalition does not want that either. So, including U.S. President Barack Obama, Western leaders will certainly ask for Gadhafi's departure. If he remains in his seat, the two-headedness will continue.

The Gadhafi period will come to an end sooner or later due to external dynamics. The problem is what will happen after him and who will take over the administration. No one knows this. There is no prepared plan for it. It's just another indication of an open-ended period of uncertainty.

* Sami Kohen is a columnist for daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Tuesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TODAY LIBYA, TOMORROW SYRIA?

GWYNNE DYER

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. Moammar Gadhafi 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 center 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 centralized and intolerant of dissent as the old Communist parties of Eastern Europe. Moreover, it is controlled internally by a sectarian minority, the Alawites, who fear that they would suffer terrible vengeance if they ever lost power.

The U.N. Security Council was absolutely right to order the use of "all necessary measures" (meaning armed force) to stop Gadhafi'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 U.N. decision on Libya was first proposed in 2001 by Lloyd Axworthy, then Canada's foreign minister. He was frustrated by the U.N.'s inability to stop the genocides in Kosovo and Rwanda in the 1990s, and he concluded that the problem was the U.N.'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 U.N. 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 U.N. 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 U.N. was still hamstrung by the 1945 rules and unable to intervene. So Axworthy set up the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, or ICISS, to popularize 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 façade 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 U.N. 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 U.N. Security Council should have the right to order attacks on countries that indulged in such behavior.

This recommendation then languished for some years. The most determined opponents of "responsibility to protect" were the great powers – Russian 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 Gadhafi.

Ten out of 15 Security Council members voted in favor of the action, and the rest, including all four of the emerging great powers, the so-called BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), 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 behavior toward 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 U.N. members will express their strong disapproval, but they won't actually do anything.

Consistency is an overrated virtue.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TÜSİAD RETREATS FROM ITS PRO-COUP MINDSET PAST

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

The Turkish Industry and Business Association, or TÜSİAD, has done what you would expect a nongovernmental organization to do. It has presented its views and principles of how a new constitution is supposed to look like.

It was not scared and did not consider anything like, "Let's not conflict with the administration, let the politicians do it and we'll just react and criticize."

We've come a long way.

Today bosses come up with suggestions far beyond the ones coming from political parties that consider themselves reformist, liberal or democrat.

TÜSİAD's proposal contains many traces of views close to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. There are also some suggestions that the Republican People's Party, or CHP, or Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, can't deny easily.

Looking at the subjects we'll easily see how TÜSİAD's proposal is designed to put the country at ease.

Some may again speak of a split and complain about political reaction, or a loss of values of the Republic. And some may think the steps taken so far are insufficient.

Let it be. Let everyone get it off of his chest.

Let views surface.

But in the end let us come up with a brand new constitution that paves the way for a Turkey freed of its handcuffs.

Let's get rid of a grumpy state-centered leadership.

Lastly: Bravo TÜSİAD…

It rid itself of a pro-coup mindset and took a step to clear out its past.

Gadhafi offended

I talked to those who are in constant communication with the Moammar Gadhafi administration in the capital of Libya.

They said that the situation in Tripoli is critical but ministries are still following their routine. There is no visible dissolution around the leader. Of course, the situation is not to be understood easily and all of a sudden you could encounter a collapse. But it has also become clear that the present situation has not been affected by the attacks as much as everybody thought it would be.

The chain around Gadhafi has not been weakened yet.

The atmosphere is along the lines of "We have lived through many such situations. We'll survive this one too."

The most striking thing is that light or semi-light weapons distributed to the public are openly visible on streets. This is meant to intimidate the insurgents. If they are to proceed toward the capital city they'd face hundreds of thousands of armed people. Gadhafi plans to be on the safe side with such a security chain.

One other information I obtained from these sources is that Gadhafi is responsive to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's approach. He complains about Turkey not attempting to oppose the attack or hindering Western forces. By the way, he was very upset with Erdoğan saying, "Pay attention to the streets and give up."

What can you do? It's his own fault.

I talked about the course of the Libyan war with authorities of the American and French military. I also consulted specialists that experienced former attacks.

I might summarize as follows:

- Whether with NATO or the French coalition, the West won't be able to stop this operation until it finishes Gadhafi. The West intervened in Iraq and drowned in the swamp. It forced its way into Afghanistan but can't handle the Taliban. If it is unable to overthrow Gadhafi its prestige will erode further. In short, the main target of the Western coalition is to overthrow Gadhafi.

- If in the short term it intents to bypass Gadhafi, an attack will not suffice. The attack will harm to some extent but never overthrow an administration. The leader either needs to be a victim of an "accident" or forced by someone to resign.

- The Western coalition sees an invasion operation as a must in order to overthrow Gadhafi, which is not intended by anyone at this point in time. Especially the Obama administration wouldn't want a reoccurrence of the events formerly experienced in Iraq or Afghanistan.

- What's left then is to arm and organize insurgents in order for them to seize power in Tripoli. To tell the truth, this is a long and hard procedure. This scenario may leave Libya with a bloody civil war.

- The best case scenario is that Libya temporarily should be split in two whereby Gadhafi would remain in power for one part of the country and the insurgents would obtain power over the other half of the country with Western forces still offering them support to overthrow Gadhafi.

This is a summary of the latest developments on the war front.

Parvenu creates a mess

In general we keep repeating the same words among ourselves.

"Thank good we don't posses any oil or gas. Maybe this is a hindrance for improvement but looking from a different perspective just look at those who possess oil or gas. They are always in trouble. These resources are making the entire world hungry which leads to foreign forces interfering in their internal matters sooner or later."

I was told the same words by former Iraqi President Abulhassan Bani Sadr in 1980.

"I don't understand you Turks. You keep complaining that you don't possess any oil. But just take a look at us. Oil is a substance that does not produce any added-value. It does not create a job. Tomorrow we may ran out of oil or gas but your industry, agriculture and technology will never stop producing. In the end you'll be better off."

To tell the truth, from a Turkish perspective I don't agree with these statements.

Let's make a list and see which country got in trouble because of oil.

You'll notice that none of the Western countries that are democratic and know what they are doing got into trouble.

Which countries do get in trouble?

Only those countries get in trouble that have dictatorships, that don't know anything about natural energy principles, that have no accumulation of knowledge, that don't share anything with their own people or the world, that don't care about investing in different areas to create jobs.

As you see, as long as it is smartly used, having natural resources is a blessing. But those who behave in a parvenu way won't be able to rid themselves of trouble.  

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE CHALLENGE

YUSUF KANLI

Irrespective of what individual assessments about such developments might be, the presumably discreet contacts between the relevant agencies of the Turkish state and the top terrorist of the country – serving an enforced life-term imprisonment in conviction of his role in the murder of some 35,000 Turkish nationals since 1984 in the terrorist and separatist outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK-related violence – are being tolerated by the majority of intellectuals of the society in hopes that through such efforts perhaps an opportunity to bring an end to separatist-terrorist trauma might be stopped once and for all.

Though sometimes it appears to be a lunatic hope, the bitter reality is that this country and the people of this country must find a way of resolving what some people prefer to call the Kurdish problem while some would like to refer to it simply as the eastern problem and which in fact is a major democracy challenge to Turkey. Irrespective of how it might be called, whatever might be said about it and however it might be presented, the problem is not at all separate from the overall democracy problem of this country and a resolution to it must be sought within democracy and through enhancing democratic rights and liberties. A single-handed approach shunning other democratization problems of Turkey and hoping that the Kurdish issue might be resolved while all other problems remain intact will eventually bring about disillusionment which unfortunately can serve nothing but to further the aggravation of the problem. The Kurdish issue is nothing separate than the gender equality problem, or the freedom of expression quagmire or the barriers in laws covering elections and political parties barring minority views – not only ethnic minorities– from being represented in Parliament.

There is no difference between a prime minister cursing at the mother of a Mersin farmer and the prime minister using the much-unfortunate "love or leave" rhetoric at a southeastern town after his convoy was stoned by kids employed by a sectarian and separatist political party. That arrogant prime minister is not just a problem of the Kurdish population, or the farmers of Turkey, but the entire Turkish society. Naturally, no one can hide behind the archaic "Societies are governed by the administrators they deserve" saying and place the blame on the society, which despite everything continues to vote for the macho-style political leadership of the current prime minister. Otherwise the hope for change and a resolution of the existing democratization problems within democracy and democratic traditions will all have to be replaced with extra-natural expectations that might land people behind bars with some valid reasons – for a change – such as attempting to provoke a coup.

The job of those wishing to see a democratic way out to the current mountain of social, administrative and of course economic problems in this country through democratic means is indeed rather challenging as there is a state tradition ignoring the existence of most of the problems and a government in office for the past eight years which has no intention of changing perceptions of the state but with opportunist designs presented as pragmatism constantly playing the role of a government wishing to solve the Kurdish issue without ever seriously considering a resolution which might be politically costly. On the other hand, neither the separatist-terrorist PKK gang, nor its political extensions want a resolution of the problem, as a resolution would kill their reason for existence.

The photograph of the Kurdish deputy attempting to hurl a stone at the security forces was of course a very serious one. In examining that photo, for God's sake, try to see the burning hatred exposed on the face and particularly in the looks of that deputy. The same look can be seen in the photo of the female Kurdish deputy slapping the face of a police officer or another Kurdish deputy stealing at another Nevruz ceremony the hat from the head of a police officer.

Violence and politics cannot exist together. A politician should seek ways of resolving problems through civilian means, dialogue, compromise and all kinds of political channels. Engaging in politics must require abandoning terrorism and violence. The Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, and all its predecessor parties have never ever accepted to become a civilian political movement and insisted on remaining a political extension of the terrorist gang.

The latest reports – though his lawyers – from the prison cell of the separatist chieftain reveal that he has beefed up his rhetoric and blackmail tactics. He reportedly warned that if the state did not accept some of his key demands he might consider withdrawing from the "process" – that is stay away from contacts with the state agencies – and allowing Kurdish people of the country to engage in an all-out war in the streets of cities all over the country.

The words of the separatist chieftain underscore the importance of the dangerous mentality behind the Libya operation.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ARE WE TO HAVE POWER LINE COMMUNICATION SERVICES?

ERSU ABLAK

When Mehmet Emin Karamehmet and Mehmet Kazancı invested a staggering $4.9 billion for the privatization of Bedaş (the electricity supplier firm for the European side of Istanbul) and Gediz (the electricity supplier firm for İzmir), I didn't write about it because I sensed that there was something more to it but couldn't put my finger on exactly what Karamehmet was thinking. However after a few months of research and a recently read article at adafter.com, I now know how he will earn money from his latest investment.

All the authorities said Karamehmet went crazy after he pledged $770 per customer for a 6.35 million-user deal. They were even more surprised when he pledged to pay 1.8 billion Turkish Liras for 2.2 million customers of Ayedaş (the electricity supplier firm for the Anatolian side of Istanbul) to raise the per customer expenditure to $785 for 8.35 million users.

Why did the man who founded Turkcell and Digiturk make such a big bid in an industry that he isn't very experienced at? The answer to the question lies in what he is famous for. He sees how Turkey's technological development takes shape. For years Turkish users were craving broadband technology. Turk Telekom and other major players have failed to satisfy their customers. It is still very expensive to have broadband and it comes with quotas and speed limits. For example you sign a contract to have broadband in which it clearly states that you pay a premium price for the possibility of having a 8 Mbps connection. In the contract it says "up to 8 Mbps" and usually it is way lower than that. The fiber is being installed but at a very slow pace. Wi-Max and Wi-Fi are still far from widespread. Therefore if you know how to fill it, there is a very huge gap for any smart investor. People are willing to pay for a fast and quota-free Internet connection and there are no companies who can do it in the next 10 years.

Mehmet Emin Karamehmet is planning on monetizing this gap with power line communications (PLC). The electricity grid can also carry data and service as a broadband distributor as well as being a distributor of energy. The trials have failed in the past but the advancements in smart grid technologies have made it a possibility. It used to be seen as very inefficient because of the noise in the broadband communications but that problem has been solved. In December in Liverpool 1,000 homes were connected to 200 Mbps broadband connection via power lines. So far the users are very happy with their connection quality and speed.

Karamehmet can also use PLC for Wi Max and Wi-Fi services. Cem Argun of adafter.com estimates that Karamehmet and his allies can generate at least 3 times of what they will pay in five years combining the communication services with electricity distribution.

Earning $15 billion in five years sound good. We will see if Karamehmet will be able to pull this trick in the coming years. It all depends on how fast he will be able to move and how slow his competitors will be to react.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DRAWING A LINE

 

Once again, it is the superior judiciary that has made its mark, but whether the mark it has made in ruling on the appointment of the Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau can be made to stick to a Teflon-coated government, remains to be seen. Simply put, the ruling means that neither this nor any future government will have sole responsibility for the appointment of the NAB chairman, and that the process of making the appointment will henceforward include the chief justice. The Supreme Court recognised the incongruity in those who themselves may be corrupt and the subject of investigation, as being the ones to appoint the head of the primary body investigating corruption. The current dispensation has thus far ensured that the inquisitive eyes of NAB are averted from its own senior officers, and NAB as it stands today is both leaderless and toothless – a situation that the government is in no hurry to rectify.


The SC was in no doubt that there was a widely held perception that NAB in its current format was possibly being used as a cover for corruption rather than as a device to expose corruption and wrongdoing in high places. The battle against corruption featured nowhere in the list of achievements that the president recited to the joint session of parliament last Tuesday, indeed, you would think that corruption is nowhere on the government radar. One might think that far from being a matter of minor importance, corruption is the very large elephant in the room. But no, the elephant has had a thick coat of invisibility paint applied to it. Now whether the government will comply with the ruling of the court and speedily appoint an impartial chairman of NAB having lost the odious Deedar, or simply remove the irritation by abolishing NAB altogether, remains to be seen. A government that had an investment in probity, honesty and transparency would not have allowed matters to deteriorate to the point at which we find ourselves today. Corruption at every level has become almost our national defining characteristic, "...an unfortunate bane of our society" to quote the SC ruling. Even if this government fails to implement the ruling there will be other governments in the future that will be bound by it. No government is forever, and the life of this one, even if it goes to term, is now short. It is to be hoped that the government that follows this one has more respect for the rule of law, and is able to face squarely the corruption that so weakens us today.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DRY DAYS AHEAD

 

Despite being inundated by the largest flood in our history in 2010 we remain a water-poor nation and a bad situation is only going to get worse. World Water Day was celebrated by UN-HABITAT Pakistan on March 22, with events in six cities. The focus this year is on the challenge presented by providing potable water to our burgeoning urban population. Even if we were to adopt stringent measures for water conservation with immediate effect, the reality is that we are going to have less water for agriculture and drinking by the year and how we use water now is of crucial importance. Much of the water that is potentially available to us may be held hostage by our neighbour India, and down the years the Indus Water Treaty that has served reasonably well thus far is going to come under increasing pressure. The president's announcement in his address to the joint session of parliament that work on the Neelum/Jhelum project and the Basha dam is going ahead is almost certainly too late to avert a water crisis.


Our three largest dams were built in 1967, '72 and '76. Each of them is being reduced by sedimentation at a rate faster than it can be dredged. Tarbela has lost about 25 percent capacity, Mangla 14 percent and Chashma 40 percent. This loss will accelerate. Even if the Neelum/Jhelum and Basha projects come in on time and within budget - unlikely in both cases – they are not going to bridge the shortfall in power generation or the availability of potable water. We are a wasteful society, with few of us actively concerned with conserving water at a household level. We do not recycle water either – water used to bath the baby could be used again to flush the latrine rather than just being thrown away. What rain we have tends to be stored as groundwater and few of us would think of capturing and storing rainwater to water their lawns or gardens or even to use, boiled, as drinking water. Schools, colleges and universities would be the ideal setting for teaching our children and young people about the importance of conserving water and using those same schools, colleges and universities to actively train students into the habits of conservation. Until we start to treat water for what it is - a finite resource – we face a very thirsty future.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

A CULTURE OF KILLING

 

There is a dreadful sickness in the minds of some which impels them to commit acts of appalling violence. The killing of a young woman in Karachi on Tuesday is but one of the more appalling stories that appear almost daily – stories which tell of usually young women who marry for love and are then killed by parents or relatives. The 'crime' they are said to have committed is to have married against the wishes of the family, to have made a love marriage. Thus it was for Husun Bibi, mother of a six-month old baby, who is said to have her origins in the Swat valley. She and her husband had come to Karachi presumably in the knowledge that her family was opposed to their union. Her own mother, father and an uncle axed her to death and severely wounded her husband. The killers fled the scene and are probably feeling proud of themselves now that they have redeemed their lost 'honour'.


It is impossible to know how many men and women are killed every year in the misguided belief that they have besmirched the honour of their family. Honour killing is not confined exclusively to Pakistan or the sub-continent, but it is particularly prevalent here and we do little or nothing in terms of creating an alternative narrative that would turn minds away from this deadly perversion from an early age. Our law enforcement agencies often turn a blind eye to honour killings claiming them to be 'family business' and therefore not their business. But murder is murder under the law and those who kill in the name of honour should be prosecuted as other murderers are. 'Culture' is no defence, and a 'culture' that permits and lends legitimacy to such killings, needs to change.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

LESSONS FROM FUKUSHIMA

PRAFUL BIDWAI

 

On Day 1 (March 12), they dismissed it as a minor accident. On Day 2, when there was an explosion in Reactor 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, they denied it was a nuclear emergency "as described by some sections of [the] media". One of them even described it as "a well-planned emergency preparedness programme".

On Day 3, as the world watched in horror and in real time the Japanese nuclear crisis irreversibly worsen, they maintained that the crisis would be over soon.


These gentlemen, who believe they are omniscient and infallible, are our nuclear energy czars. The first person quoted above is Secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Sreekumar Banerjee. The second one is SK Jain, chairman of the Nuclear Power Corporation, which operates 20 reactors in India.


The DAE bosses' statements show how their dogma prevents them from acknowledging hard facts – such as a loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA) in the Fukushima reactors that overheated them, causing explosions and large releases of lethal radioactivity into the air.


The radiation could kill hundreds, even thousands of people. The scale is way beyond the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster in the US, and comparable to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in Ukraine.


It is a terrible irony that the Fukushima crisis should come so close to the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl (April 26), a fatal shock to the global nuclear industry. This crisis is in some ways graver than the Ukraine disaster, which could be attributed to flawed designs and shoddy operating procedures in an industrially backward society. Fukushima cannot be. Japan's safety standards for nuclear reactors are globally credited to be the best.


Although Japan's nuclear power generation programme has been troubled with accidents, including explosions, earthquake-induced breakdowns, crises in fast-breeders, and small radioactivity release, never before has a nuclear accident assumed catastrophic dimensions.


That has now happened, in a nuclear power station with six reactors designed by a US company, General Electric, and operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), one of the largest nuclear power companies in the developed world.


To understand the context of the Fukushima disaster, we must recall the effects of earlier crises. Three Mile Island (1979) paralysed the US nuclear industry, the world's largest. It was already in trouble, having not had a single new reactor order since 1973. Three Mile Island led to tighter safety regulations and further raised the already-high costs of reactors, and hence of nuclear power. Despite President George W Bush's offering generous loan guarantees and other subsidies 10 years ago to instigate a "nuclear renaissance" in America, not a single new reactor has been licensed there.


Then came Chernobyl paralysing the European nuclear industry. The market's confidence in nuclear power generation, always low, collapsed. No new reactor has been constructed in the last 25 years in Europe, due to growing public opposition to exorbitant nuclear power. The few nuclear projects in Europe are all in trouble, led by the European Pressurised Reactor developed by France's Areva, now under construction in Finland.

The EPR is 42 months behind schedule, 90 percent over budget, and faces 3,000 safety questions from Finnish, British, US and even French nuclear regulators. If the project is abandoned because of high and rising costs, and

bitter litigation, it could end nuclear power expansion in Europe.


The Japanese disaster is so powerful and far-reaching it could precipitate a terminal crisis for the global nuclear industry. Already, Switzerland has cancelled plans to build three reactors. Germany has revoked a recent decision to prolong the phase out of nuclear power. Other countries are likely to follow. Even France, which gets more than three-fourths of its electricity from nuclear reactors, has upgraded the level of the Fukushima crisis on the disaster scale.


What caused the Fukushima crisis? The earthquake shut down the three operating reactors, as designed, thereby cutting off the power with which to cool the reactors' still-hot cores. As designed, the back-up diesel generators also cut in, but an hour later, cut out, for as-yet-unknown reasons. The core, containing hundreds of tonnes of fuel, started heating up further. As water circulation stopped, more than half the core was exposed in Reactors 3 and 1, and the entire core in Reactor 2. All three reactors suffered a LOCA, with a potential for partial or complete core meltdown.


Soon, unspecified quantities of radiation were released. Radiation from Daiichi was detected by a helicopter 100 km away. Of particular significance in the fallout are Iodine-131 (which gets concentrated in the thyroid, causing cancer), and Caesium-137 (which is similar to potassium and gets easily absorbed in human tissues).

As India embarks on a programme to double and then further triple its nuclear power capacity, it needs to learn four lessons from the crisis. First, nuclear power generation is the only form of energy production that can lead to a catastrophic accident with long-time health damage and environmental contamination. Human error or a natural calamity can trigger a catastrophe – but only because reactors are inherently vulnerable.


Reactors are high-pressure high-temperature systems in which a high-energy fission chain-reaction is only just controlled. Nuclear reactors are both systemically complex, and internally, tightly coupled. A fault in one sub-system gets quickly transmitted to others and gets magnified, plunging the whole system into crisis.


Second, nuclear power involves radiation exposure at all stages of the so-called "nuclear fuel cycle", from uranium mining and fuel fabrication, to reactor operation and maintenance, to routine emissions, and spent-fuel handling, storage and reprocessing. Nuclear reactors leave a toxic trail of high-level radioactive wastes. These remain hazardous for thousands of years. The half-life of plutonium-239, which is produced by fission, is 24,400 years. Science knows no way of safely storing nuclear wastes for long periods, let alone neutralising them or disposing of them.


Third, India has no independent authority that can evolve safety standards and regulate reactors for safety. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board is dependent for its budget, equipment and personnel on the DAE and reports to the chairman of the AEC, who is also the DAE's Secretary. Over all the four decades since the Tarapur reactors were installed, the DAE has merely implemented or copied US and Canadian designs, with minimal modifications.

Finally, after the Japan crisis, nuclear safety must take precedence over all else. It would be downright unethical to sacrifice safety to please an industry that has failed the world and to pamper a domestic technocratic elite that considers itself infallible, omniscient and above the public interest.


The DAE must be made to discard their "it-can't-happen-here" hubris, and introspect into India's nuclear safety record. There have been embarrassing failures, like a 1993 fire at the Narora reactor, the Kaiga containment dome collapse, frequent cases of radiation over-exposure at numerous sites, unsafe heavy-water transportation, and terrible health effects near the Jaduguda uranium mines and the Rajasthan reactors.


What's urgently needed is an independent, credible safety audit of India's nuclear programme, in which people outside the DAE participate, pending a radical review of India's half-baked plans to rush into nuclear power expansion. To begin with, there must be an immediate moratorium on further reactor construction, including controversial untested models like Areva's European Pressurised Reactor that India is planning to install at Jaitapur in Maharashtra.


The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1@yahoo. co.in

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

A LETTER TO THE UN

FAROOQ SULEHRIA

 

Dear United Nations,


Weeks ago, when Fidel Castro pointed out in an essay the possibility of Nato intervention in Libya, I thought Havana's old sage is stretching his imagination a little too much. I knew Arab revolutions, like any other revolution in the last hundred years, would invite imperialist intervention. However, I did not expect it Libya-style. I was expecting Nato coming to fortify the Libyan Ceausescu against protesters. There is a den of permanent thieves exercising the veto power on your floor. Ironically, the moment your Security Council passed a resolution for an assault on forces loyal to Qaddafi, the chief permanent thief was busy droning Pakistan (30 were killed exactly the day the resolution was "passed"), lionising its vassal sheikhdoms for their entry into Bahrain to gun down protestors on the streets of Manama, overlooking the massacre in Yemen and publicly threatening President Jean-Bertrand Aristide against returning to Haiti before elections. This hypocrisy on display is rank even by your own stinking standards.


I hope you remember that not long ago, in 2003, Italy, France, Germany and Britain were urging you to lift the arms embargo on Qaddafi's rogue regime. You unsurprisingly obliged. I wonder if you noticed the bombers Qaddafi dispatched to bomb the Libyan revolutionaries were French-supplied Mirages. Now Paris is bombing Tripoli with Mirages. By the way, France bombing North Africa is a movie Arabs have watched before.


I know the standard reply you will shoot back at me. I also understand the desperation in Benghazi.

Tripoli's Ceausescu was serious in liquidating the resistance when we watched him on Al-Jazeera a few days ago, delivering a tragic-comic speech, "We will come inch by inch, home by home, alley by alley ... We will find you in your closets. We will have no mercy and no pity."


In view of such obvious dangers, besieged people would understandably cry for help. Cuba, itself subjected to harsh sanctions, no more sends revolutionary troops to lend Third World struggles a helping hand. The residents of Benghazi did not want Al-Qaeda either. They have learnt lessons from Iraq. Still, in their desperation, they have been waving placards conspicuously inscribed with "No to foreign intervention." Even if they want an intervention, I wonder why you let Tripoli's Ceausescu decisively crush the revolution before establishing your no-fly zone.


In Europe, old hands might find a resemblance here with Italy's "liberation" by the Allied forces at the end of World War II when they made certain that their advance was stalled long enough so that the Nazis could finish off the Resistance Forces, led by communists, north of Rome.


In the Muslim world, people vividly recall the last time an Arab country was blessed with your no-fly zone. It consequently led to the Iraq invasion and regime-change in 2003.


Before establishing a no-fly zone over Saddam Hussein's Iraq, "to protect Kurds," your den of permanent thieves let him brutally roll over Kurdish villages and towns. This no-fly zone became a convenient excuse for Washington. As the Monica Lewinsky affair began to dominate headlines, the bombing in Iraq's no-fly zone intensified. Perhaps we better avoid splitting hair regarding Iraqi. The myth and reality about "weapons of mass deception" has been clearly established by now, though at the cost of over a million Iraqi lives.

You want to sell me the fashionable example of Kosovo? Did Nato bombing of Serbia indeed save people from slaughter? In fact, no. Before Nato began bombing Serbia in March 1999, 2,000 Kosovo-Albanians had been killed in the preceding year. Another 300,000 had been expelled from their homes. Most displaced Kosovo Albanians became what you call IDPs. Most of these IDPs, became foot soldiers for the Kosovo Liberation Army (KSA), thus fuelling the insurgency. However, in the wake of the Nato attack, a desperate Serbian army uprooted roughly a million more and drove 850,000 Albanians right out of their country across the borders in less than two weeks. After 11 weeks, 10,000 Albanians had been killed, 120,000 houses (one fifth of all Albanian homes in Kosovo) had been destroyed and 215 mosques, one third of all, flattened.


I hope you remember that Nato jets focused on targeting civilian infrastructure inside Serbia (bridges, TV station, railways) while Serbian tanks in Kosovo were not targeted. There were over 400 Serbian tanks there. When Nato declared victory, only 13 of these tanks had been hit, and that too by the last phase of the war. Let us not forget that, instead of helping Kosovo Albanians, the Nato aggression claimed 1,500-2,000 innocent Serbian lives too.


East Timor? Again, your intervention came after half the East Timorese population had been liquidated by the Indonesian army. More importantly, East Timor was forced to implement a neo-liberal agenda, dictated by Australia, when it became independent. None of these is an inspiring example of humanitarian intervention helping prevent slaughter.


In case of Benghazi, anti-aircraft guns would have been the a solution. But the permanent thieves lording over you have their eyes on oil prices. I wonder if you would establish a new-fly zone over Gaza next time Israel goes berserk?


The writer is a freelance contributor.


Email: mfsulehria@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

INDIA-PAKISTAN TRADE

ISHRAT HUSAIN

 

Economic theory and empirical evidence have clearly established the links between trade, productivity and economic growth. Countries that have large internal markets have also benefitted from integrating into the world economy and opening up their economies. World trade in 2009 amounted to $12 trillion. The size of Pakistan's domestic market is only $180 billion. Even a 0.5 percent share in the global export market implies that our exports could rise to $60 billion. Imagine the jobs that will be created directly or indirectly as a result of expansion in the production of exportable items. On the other side, imports bring into the country the transfer of technology embedded in imported goods and services and raise the country's production possibility frontier. Thus, it follows that increased trade is in the larger economic interest of the country.


It is also becoming quite obvious that the balance of economic power is moving away from developed countries to developing countries. China has overtaken Germany to become the largest exporting country and surpassed Japan to become the second largest economy in the world. China and India are projected to be the two fastest growing economies of the world over the next several decades. Pakistan is blessed by its location being neighbour to both these large economies. Our national economic interests dictate that we should expand our trading relations with both these countries and penetrate their markets.


The question then arises: Will expansion of trade with India bring benefits to Pakistan or would we be swamped by our big neighbour? A lot of myths and misperceptions on this point need to be explored. India-Pakistan trade is a win-win situation. India has a middle class of about 300 million people with rising purchasing power that matches that of South Eastern Europe while Pakistan's middle class is approximately 30 million. A 10 percent penetration into the Indian middle class market would double the market size for Pakistani companies and businesses.

All studies on India-Pakistan trade have so far demonstrated that the relaxation of constraints in the way of bilateral trade would benefit both the countries. State Bank of Pakistan study in 2005 estimated that the volume of trade could rise five times from the actual one billion dollars. An ICRIER study showed a much higher volume - about $10-11 billion (Pakistan 55 percent textiles; India 90 percent non-textiles). Net welfare gains are positive in every single scenario - conservative to optimistic.


Trade will lead to some limited specialisation and trade in intermediate inputs for use in exports to high income countries. Granting MFN treatment to India would bring gains to Pakistan and an FTA would generate even larger benefits.

At a highly disaggregated level it was found that there are 2,646 common items of Pakistan's imports that India exports worth over $15 billion. For half of these items, the unit value of Pakistani imports is more than the unit value of Indian exports. Pakistan can import these items cheaply from India. At the same time 1,181 items worth $3.9 billion are common between India's imports and Pakistan's exports. About 70 percent of these common items have unit values less or equal to the Indian import unit value. This suggests that these exports from Pakistan can be supplied to India at a lower cost than what they are getting from other countries.

It should also be kept in mind that bilateral trade balance with any particular country does not have to be positive. There would be no trade in that case. Pakistan would run a trade deficit with India just as it does with China and surpluses with others. India is a larger, more diversified economy and also produces goods that Pakistan exports. The determining factor is whether the cost of imports from India is less than comparable quality imports from other sources. In that case both our local industry and consumers would gain.


If the empirical evidence is so strong why is trade between the two countries so low - less than one percent of Indian exports and less than five percent of Pakistani imports. The volume of bilateral trade has not exceeded two billion dollars (the total volume of Indian and Pakistani exports is around $200 billion).


There are three main reasons that have impeded the growth of trading relations: (1) political relations between the two countries have remained discordant and contentious over a long period of time. A trust deficit does not allow stability which is a pre-requisite for any exchange of goods and services to take place, (2) both countries have, until recently, pursued import substitution policies that protected local industry behind protective barriers, (3) the commitment to regional economic integration in South Asia has remained quite weak. Even in face of bilateral political disputes it is possible to promote trade within a regional preferential trading area framework. This has not happened in South Asia.

These constraints can be relaxed. Countries with adverse political relationships, without giving up their principled stand on disputes and differences, have engaged in cross border investment, trade and movement of people. Over time these activities have helped in fostering better understanding of each other's view points. Confidence building measures and creation of stakeholders in the countries can eventually defuse the tension and soften the ground for peaceful resolution of disputes and disagreements.


It is therefore not right to wait for resumption of economic relations until the bilateral political disputes are resolved. If economic engagement is fierce, it is most likely that the hawks in each country will be confronted by the new stakeholders who are benefitting from such engagement and without giving up their respective positions while carrying out the composite dialogue. Resumption of economic relations should be allowed without any pre-conditions and without the countries giving up their respective positions. Composite dialogue should carry on at the same time to resolve the disputes and disagreements.


On the second constraint, it is heartening that both India and Pakistan have opened up their economies, abandoned the old Import Substitution policies and embarked upon a process of integration with the world economy. The reforms they have carried out, such as cutting tariff rates, elimination of QRs, regulating duties, para-tariffs which leave them in a much better position to pursue preferential liberalisation.

To be continued


The writer is former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SAVING RS30 BILLION A YEAR

IKRAM SEHGAL

 

On Monday Shahbaz Sharif pre-empted the all-out strike in Punjab by the Provincial Civil Services (PCS) grades, from BS-17 to BS-21. They were protesting the rank injustice and discrimination against them by the APUG (All-Pakistan Unified Grades), or DMG (District Management Group), as they are better known. The strike call obviously ruffled motivated interest. The Shahbaz Sharif government arrested the leaders of the PCS movement, seeking redress of genuine grievances peacefully, in keeping with the feudal mindset that separates our present "democratic" leaders from the norms of democracy. Running the federation and a province for three years, the PPP is guilty of maladministration, but it has never displayed such crude highhandedness. The major crime of the PCS officers is giving valuable "insider" suggestions for "good governance" – i.e., elimination of unnecessary perquisites far beyond authorisation, a move which would cut expenditures and add revenues. The glaring flaws and deficiencies in the present system need to be corrected. Unfortunately, "bad governance" by deliberate maladministration serves the vested interest of the ruling bureaucracy, aided and condoned by politicians when in power, or by the military hierarchy during martial laws.


Few in numbers, the APUG's domination of "the Establishment" allows them to manipulate rules and regulations at will, or simply ignore them, while ruling the country the country with an iron hand. The irony (and tragedy) is that the vast PCS bureaucracy are willing collaborators in the subjugation and exploitation of common citizens of the land across the board, a further irony (and continuing tragedy) being the provincial police personnel who were used to arrest the PCS personnel are subject to similar injustice themselves.

Notwithstanding the PCS leaders' unjust and illegal incarceration being an outrageous atrocity that the superior judiciary must take cognisance of, the suggestions on how money can be saved and/or revenues increased needs detailed examination: (1) senior bureaucrats should not use more than one vehicle; (2) houses should be of limited size, with controlled repairs/renovation; (3) elimination of special allowances like project allowances; (4) completion of development work in time to avoid escalation; (5) all non-APUG officers to be sent back to the federal government as their postings to the province, already declared unconstitutional by the superior courts and strains the provincial budget; (6) medical bills need detailed scrutiny, treatment must be within the country and bills of APUG officers borne by the federal government; (7) frequent transfers avoided and OSDs from federal government repatriated; (8) APUG Basic Scale (BS)-22 officers repatriated to the federal government as their posting in the province, except the chief secretary, is illegal; (9) training of provincial officers by MPDD instead of NIPA/MMC as a huge amount is paid (Rs650,000 per officer) to these institutions; (10) buildings rented be replaced by building on Punjab government lands; (11) utilities allowance of Rs30,000 to provincial secretaries be withdrawn and maximum ceiling fixed for officers; and (12) rates for TA/DA rationalised.

The savings effected by these reforms would be about Rs30 billion per annum.


The reforms would cover the patwaris, tehsildars, sub-registrars, etc., and will minimise litigation and facilitate the judiciary. It will stop fraud/pilferage of revenues and stop bloody feuds that take place because of disputes. The present collection of revenues by the Revenue Department is abysmal. To proceed one must: (1) do rate fixation for rural areas as for urban areas; (2) rate fixation for upper floors; (3) standard rate fixed for super structure, a standard rate for construction and levying of taxes; (4) schedule rate fixed for urban areas must show market price of land; (5) stop the widespread pilferage of government taxes by concealing actual value of property, worth hundreds of millions they are shown for a fraction of their value. There must be a penal clause for undervaluation and informers be rewarded. If anyone from the public offers more than 50 per cent of the property value property, that transaction should be allowed; (6) verbal sale (Bai-e-Zabani) be stopped, sale/purchase of over 80 per cent of the properties are executed through Patwaris (BPS-5) and evaluated through naib tehsildar (BPS-14); (7) patwaris are mostly paid low salaries, and it is incomprehensible how a patwari can maintain his office (Patwari Khana is usually arranged by him). Without any infrastructure or official incentives the Patwari's job satisfaction stems from corruption inherent in his office. With a close relationship to landowners, indeed virtually under their influence, the most important cog in the local administration is thus hopelessly compromised by the feudals; (8) similarly, clerks in the district administration indulge in mega corruption that keeps the machinery going for all PCS ranks. There is unplanned work, unequal workload distribution and frustration over lack of promotion, etc.; (9) modern technology (computerisation) will help in easing the workload and accurate recordkeeping, pre-audit, etc.; (10) the Revenue Act of 1967 has become irrelevant after abolition of land revenues; (11) provincial dues from housing societies, NHA, etc., must be recorded; (12) widespread reforms include: (a) publicity for exact fees for government transactions, (b) accountability for government officials – they must justify their means of living, (c) wilful loss caused be treated as criminal case, (d) all registries mutated within 10 days, failing which patwaris and tehsildars are charge-sheeted.

Reforms are needed in the office of the sub-registrar, on the pattern followed in the Defence Housing Authorities (DHA): (1) the full-time registrar doing no other duties; (2) digital photos or thumb impressions being made a must; (3) NADRA ID a must for all, including women; (4) Appointing lawyers on "commission" as sub-registrars be stopped; (5) amendments are required in Registration Act 1968/rules 1929, particularly abolishing Rule 135, which says, "registering officers must not be concerned with validity of documents"; (6) bring all unutilised land of the Punjab government into use with commissioners, DCOs, etc., to target philanthropists for engaging in education and health; (7) small normal fees like "FARD," copy fee, muqabla fee on registration, domicile fee, etcl, be abolished, because these only add to corruption; (8) revenue cases be decided in 80-120 days, with at least two appeals taking not more than a year, a mechanism to ensure revenue cases are heard on time and without delays and postponements with a one-window facility. The additional revenues of Rs50 billion envisaged can be accomplished in fairly a short time.


These recommendations amounting to a Rs80 billion windfall in the Punjab budget of Rs800 billion were made by Rai Manzoor Nazir, president of the PCS/PSS/PMS Officers Association of Punjab, the undisputed elected leader of the body that represents 1,200 officers belonging to BS-17 to BS-21, this candour and honesty is exactly what got him and his colleagues into trouble.


They were arrested less for voicing their protest than for propagating how people's rights could be protected and corruption minimised. No one wants honest officers to come forward and tell the truth regarding means of saving unnecessary expenditures avoidance of perennial disputes and elimination of corruption and waste. All this malfeasance puts an extraordinary burden on the judiciary.


"Good governance" is certainly not in the lexicon of those "new feudals," having fake credentials and elected "democratically" on bogus votes. They say justice is blind, in Pakistan it seems to be mostly deaf and dumb!

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

WHAT NEXT IN LIBYA?

PATRICK COCKBURN

 

In the next few weeks Qaddafi is likely to lose power. The forces arrayed against him are too strong. The US, Britain and France are scarcely going to permit a stalemate whereby he clings on to Tripoli and parts of western Libya while the rebels hold the east of the country.


Even before the air strikes Qaddafi had not been able to mobilise more than about 1,500 men to advance on Benghazi, and many of these were not trained soldiers. The reason for their advance is that the rebels in the east were unable to throw into the fighting the 6,000 soldiers whose defection touched off the original uprising.


The first days of foreign intervention mirror the experience of the US and its allies in Afghanistan and Iraq, by going extremely well. Air attacks shattered a column of tanks and infantry south of Benghazi. Survivors have fled. The rout may soon resemble the rapid dissolutions of the Taliban and the Iraqi army.


In Iraq and Afghanistan most people were glad to get rid of their rulers, and most Libyans will be glad to see the back of Qaddafi. His regime may well fall more quickly than is currently expected.


It is the next stage in Libya – after the fall of Qaddafi – which has the potential to produce a disaster similar to Afghanistan and Iraq. In both cases successful war left the US as the predominant power in the country. In Iraq this turned into an old-fashioned imperial occupation.


In Libya there will be a lack of a credible local partner. The rebels are politically and militarily weak. Indeed, if this had not been so, there would have been no need for foreign intervention.


The local leaders who rise to the top in these circumstances are usually those who speak the best English and get on with the US and its allies.


There is a further complication. Libya is an oil state like Iraq, and oil wealth tends to bring out the worst in almost everybody. It leads to autocracy because whoever controls the oil revenues can pay for powerful security forces and ignore the public.


Few states wholly reliant on oil are democracies. Aspirant Libyan leaders could put themselves in a position to make a lot of money. Already there are signs that David Cameron, Hillary Clinton and Nicolas Sarkozy are coming to believe too much of their own propaganda, particularly over Arab League support for air strikes.


Diplomats normally contemptuous of the views of the Arab League suddenly treat its call for a no-fly zone as evidence that the Arab world favours intervention.


This could change very fast. Arab League leaders are mostly people whom the "Arab Awakening" is trying to displace. Military participation in action against the Libyan government is expected from the UAE and Qatar, members of the Gulf Co-operation Council that clubs together Gulf monarchies.


This is the same GCC that has just sent troops to Bahrain to help the government crush pro-democracy protests. The worst verifiable atrocity in the Arab world in the past week was not in Libya but in Yemen, where pro-government gunmen machine-gunned an unarmed demonstration last Friday, killing 52 people.

In terms of the exercise of real authority, Qaddafi is likely to be replaced not by Libyans but by foreign powers. It will not take much for their actions to be seen as hypocritical and self-serving, and resisted as such.


Courtesy: www.counterpunch.org

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

PEOPLE: THE MISSING INGREDIENT

KAMILA HYAT

 

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor


People seem to be the missing ingredient from our political reality. Decisions are made that take no heed of their situation – such as the recent measures to raise revenue by increasing taxation, even though this will trigger massive inflation.


The distance between government and citizens grows wider each time such steps are taken, with people more convinced than ever that leaders simply do not care about their plight. Indeed, while much rhetoric is heard about the masses, in real terms, little is done to ameliorate their suffering.


The problem extends beyond the realm of politics. While the media frequently claim to speak for the people, their concerns are only rarely addressed with talk-show hosts preferring to engage in debates with the politicians they call in or persuade them to take on counterparts from rival parties.


The vast popularity of these shows raises a great many questions about the priority-setting agenda for news and the way this is determined.


During the last few weeks, two terrifying reports – one on the state of education and one on the healthcare situation have appeared, produced by the taskforce on education set up by the government in 2009 and the Pakistan Medical Association respectively.


The details they describe of the degree of deprivation in both sectors can only leave one wondering why Pakistan, as a state, has demonstrated such a limited capacity to care for its people.


Are our leaders more callous than most? Has the National Security Paradigm we have pursued more or less since 1947 rendered us unable to think beyond the narrow parameters it sets or are there a set of other issues, with feudalism on top of the list, which prevent growth and development. Each of these possibilities needs to be examined in some detail.


The question of what Pakistan's future is to be has come up more and more often recently. We have read the often moving write-ups of those who have opted to leave the country and heard more academic discussions on what the future may bring. Issues revolving around the identity of the country and its prospects have formed a part of the national discourse since Partition.


It is something of an irony that these questions continue to be asked today, with no distinct answers available. In their absence, a kind of surreal patriotism has taken hold with people everywhere given to loudly proclaiming their love for the country and attributing everything that goes wrong – from bomb blasts to defeats on the cricket field – to a conspiracy hatched by one of the armies of enemies who apparently have nothing better to do but to try and discredit Pakistan.


The possibility that faults may lie within ourselves, accounting for our struggle to succeed, has apparently not occurred to the many who insist Pakistan is unfairly maligned or that it is the victim of all kinds of international plots.

This thinking has become so deeply entrenched that more and more people seem to believe it is the gospel truth.

The question though is if a state can have any kind of future which is not tied into the future of its people. The failure to safeguard their welfare has played a huge part in the rise of militancy, the most serious security threat we face today.


The deprivation experienced by people over so many decades has also resulted in the fierce anger and growing social frustration that we see today. Lack of opportunity has created a kind of ugly apartheid in which all that is best in society is reserved for a small elite, chosen on the basis of wealth and the status that comes with it.


Inevitably, this divide will have repercussions. We already see some of them in the rising rate of crime and the senseless vandalism that is reflected in the destruction of public property.


The fears of a more destructive rage sweeping across streets have been expressed time and again. Many believe the lack of food security will force people to rise up against authority – but whether or not this happens, the strains within households are adding constantly to human misery and its manifestation in various forms. Domestic violence is one of them.


What can one say about a state that abandons its flood victims soon after a disaster of enormous magnitude or sets up a highly flawed 'Watan Card' scheme to offer them relief? What can one make of a state that uses its people to fight heavily armed and highly trained militants, with some of the 'lashkar' members complaining they were offered no support in fighting the Taliban?


The answers to these questions are of course rooted in others: Why have we ignored the need to offer people social protection, opportunities to earn a livelihood or basic education?


Why are so many deprived of even the most basic healthcare needs and why is there such a differentiation between attainments in various parts of the country – with literacy levels in some Balochistan districts barely reaching the 20 percent mark.


Infant and maternal mortality too remain higher in the province than anywhere else and go to explain some of the reasons why resentment against the centre runs so high. The distance between people and the state has continued to grow and today we seem to see no attempt to bridge this gap.


But until people are pulled into the centre of the picture and made the primary priority of the state, we will never find the stability and the unity we so badly need. Doling out charity to people in the form of hand-outs or setting up free 'tandoors' can achieve very little.


Instead, we need to do all that is possible to create opportunities for people, to offer them dignity and create empowerment.

To do so we need to adjust budgetary priorities and devise far more innovative means to set up a system that benefits people and treats them as stake-holders in a state within which they seem to have lost all significance.

Email:
kamilahyat@hotmail.com

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

WHAT WAS MISSING IN PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS?

 

AS is customary, the President is required to touch upon a wide range of issues and points in his traditional address to the joint session of Parliament and that is what President Asif Ali Zardari did during his 4th such address on Tuesday. He dilated upon some issues in detail while confined himself to mere reference to some of the vital issues and challenges facing the nation.


However, in our view, there were some glaring omissions in the address of the President, which he should have, instead, prioritized and highlighted. People were made to believe that Mr Zardari would take advantage of the opportunity to present before the nation a clear-cut road map for multi-dimensional progress during the remaining two years of the Government but nothing of the sort happened. There were expectations that he would take people into confidence on how his Government intends to address the serious challenges in the realm of economy and security but he thought it appropriate just to mention these challenges without explaining the way out. For three years, people witnessed price-hike, shortages of essential commodities and growing unemployment and they were rightly expecting programmes aimed at providing relief to them but again he conveniently skipped the subject. What is more important than all this is the war on terror that has caused hugely both in terms of human and material losses to the country but here too he just expressed his resolve to continue the fight as per US agenda and failed to highlight its consequences for the country and the need for our friends to extend meaningful assistance to compensate for the losses. Former President Pervez Musharraf miserably failed to get anything substantial for the country while making the decision to throw it into the blind alley after 9/11, as he was happy to get only reimbursements of incurred expenditure on this account. But the present Government too has not been able to quantify the losses that the country has suffered for its frontline role in the war against terror. Though President Zardari himself has been talking about 100 billion dollar figure and the need for a Marshall Plan but we regret to point out that his Government has not bothered to prepare a convincing case for the purpose. Though the President did not mention this in his address to the joint session, we hope that he would ask the authorities concerned to work out details and prepare a comprehensive case which should be presented before the international community.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

WHO ARE THESE ENEMIES OF BALOCHISTAN?

 

PRIME Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has expressed his resolve to provide security to people of Balochistan at all costs through close coordination between the provincial and federal law enforcement agencies. In the backdrop of a dastardly attack on FWO camp on Gwadar Coastal Highway, he said the miscreants, who were trying to sabotage Government's efforts for socio-economic development of the Province would be apprehended and brought to justice.

 

We fervently hope that the latest pronouncement of the Prime Minister would not turn out to be rhetoric and practical measures would be taken to beef up security in the troubled Province. But the question arises who are these people that are constantly engaged in attempts to destabilize Balochistan. Killing of FWO personnel is clearly manifestation of the deep-rooted conspiracy to deprive Balochistan of fruits of socio-economic benefits, as pointed out by the Prime Minister. This is because workers were engaged in developmental activities and were neither settlers nor had anything to do with personnel of the law enforcing agencies, who unfortunately have to bear the brunt of acts of terrorism in the Province. Similarly, we have also noticed that terrorists and anti-social elements regularly target gas and electricity networks resulting in disruption of services to the people and loss of revenue to the Provincial and Federal Governments. These are, in fact, enemies of people of Balochistan as they want them to be kept in the dark age for continued exploitation. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the leadership of Balochistan including the so-called estranged ones to prevent those who are creating hurdles in the way of progress and prosperity of people of Balochistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

A LUNATIC'S ACT IS NOT CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM DIVIDE

 

PAKISTAN has condemned the mindless religious extremism of a US national who under the supervision of the infamous small time American pastor Terry Jones of Florida burnt a copy of the Holy Quran. It was in fact an act of a mentally deranged US national and no one should take it as a Christian-Muslim divide.

Such lunatics are in every country and society and they do not care for the sentiments and feelings of fellow human beings and when their actions are condemned, they try to do more foolish things without caring for the consequences. President Asif Ali Zardari at the outset of his address to Parliament on Tuesday did well by strongly condemning the deliberate desecration of the Holy Quran by the known fanatic. He termed the incident as a serious setback to the efforts at promoting harmony among civilized communities. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar voicing the sentiments of Muslims the world over also condemned the reprehensible act which she said was evidently designed to provoke dissent and discord among people across the globe. There were also protests across the Muslim world when notorious Terry Jones announced to burn the Holy Quran in September 2010. We think this hideous act is of one man and his followers alone and should not be identified with the West or Christianity. Muslims globally in general and in Pakistan in particular must know that through Holy Quran burning this man will achieve nothing but only hatred and we need to respond wisely and not to fall into the trap of provocation. Naturally the Muslims have been deeply hurt by this sacrilegious act but holding of demonstrations, damages to traffic signals and burning of properties is not advisable as it will be our national loss and by doing so we will be playing in the hands of enemies of Islam. We must respond to the provocation in a mature manner and first of all Pakistan Embassy in Washington should lodge a strong protest and then as stated by the President, Parliament should pass a unanimous resolution against the desecration of Holy Quran as this would be a loud message from the people of Pakistan to fanatics in the Western world.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

AIM AND OBJECTIVE OF PAKISTAN

ANWAR JALAL

Two nation theory is the pedestal on which Pakistan came into existence Though many did not agree with the rationale of two-nation theory but few could dispute that Pakistan came into existence on its basis. However, what was the real aim of Pakistan. This is disputed and is being debated since its inception by political thinkers and researchers since the day one.In this regard there are mainly two views. One view contends that Pakistan was created for Islam. The other one argue that its purpose was to safeguard the political., religious. cultural as well as economic interests of the muslims of India. In simple words the first view is that Pakistan meant to be Islamic state while the other insist that Pakistan was to be a Muslim State. The supporters of the first view base their arguments by referring to the thoughts and concept of Illama Iqbal and some speeches of Quaid Azam and also refer to some well known slogans raised and chanted during the struggle for Pakistan . Like wise they contend that Illama Iqbal, considered as the creator of concept of Pakistan, demanded in his address a separate state for the muslims of north India so that they could adopt a system according to Islamic laws

About Quaid Azam concepts they refer some of his following like statements. We have to fight a double edged battle, one against the Hindu Congress and the British Imperialists, both of them being capitalists. The Muslims demand Pakistan where they could rule according to their own code of life and according to their own cultural growth, traditions and Islamic laws." (speech at the Frontier Muslim League Conference on November 21, 1945)

In August 1941, Quaid-e-Azam gave an interview to the students of the Osmania University to a question that What are the essential features of religion and a religious state? Q A said —- that —- In other words, the Islamic state is an agency for enforcement of the Quranic principles and injunctions Similarly they also refer to- the slogan—-Pakistan Ka Matlab Kia ? La Illaha Illa Allah ,chanted during Pakistan movement The contender of the second view– Muslim state – have their own arguments Besides other arguments they also quote from different speeches and statements of Quaid Azam with the aim to prove that he (Q A ) never meant Pakistan to be a theocratic state. Some of their arguments are as under - If Pakistan was being created for Islam why the religious political parties and most of Ulema(religious scholars) opposed it. Quaid Azam and other League leaders were though muslims but they were all secular regarding politics. Quaid Azam well known speech of 11 August 1947 to the constituent assembly in which he declared that religion has nothing to do with the affairs of the state "you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state. " The first Law minister of Pakistan appointed by Quaid-e-Azam was Mundle ,a Hindu. IF Quaid Azam meant to make Pakistan as religious state he would have appointed some muslim scholar instead of him on that very important post.


Besides the above arguments the supporters of this view also bring forth counter arguments in response to the arguments of the first view. Regarding Illama Iqbal concept they affirm that of course he did talked about Islamic state but he never meant it to be theocratic state if looked in proper context of his thoughts and philosophy. No doubt he dreamed and wished for such independent muslim state in the muslim majority areas of India where the Islamic principles and laws may be applied in such way where it should also be compatible with the modern thoughts and requirements With it they also add, that except some random excellent views and comments , Iqbal had not sorted out a detailed and feasible plan for it at the moment ( though he did urge the need for Ijthihad in this regard ). As for Quaid Azam views they argue that of course he too have exalted the great and high principles of Islam and its importance and efficacy in his various statements however this did not mean that he wanted a theocracy. They contend that his views are quoted with out context otherwise his approach was secular and liberal.( Secular does not mean anti religion as often wrongly understood mainly due to the propaganda of orthodox ) they refer different quotations from the speeches of Quaid Azam which show that his concept of Pakistan was of modern and liberal state.


Apart from the above arguments the holders of this stance also bring forth arguments by recounting the political background of Pakistan movement Illama Iqbal had presented his well known Address in 1930 while Muslims league under Jinnah for a long time continued efforts for reaching some sort of arrangement with the congress and the British government where the political cultural and economic rights of the muslims could be given constitutional guarantee. For this he made many efforts encompassing a whole decade and it was after league and Jinnah become convinced that no such guarantee could be granted then in march 1940 Pakistan resolution was passed which stated that in the light of lot experience ML has reached to the conclusion that only separate state could be the only solution of muslims political problems. Of course on that occasion Jinnah did talk of two nations and elaborated the two nation theory - However that did not mean that the demanded state was aimed for Islam .Here it could be further said that if congress would have not been adamant in granting what the League were demanding then league would have never passed the Lahore resolution . Supporters of this view elaborate that though ML did pass Pakistan Resolution however as politics is the name of seeking different possibilities .and a politicians has several alternative options so Quid Azam too as a politician had several options for the protection of Indian muslim material interests and preservation of cultural identity .


Among which one was though division of India but it was not inflexible . Jinnah continued talks with both British government and Congress leaders , even after the 1940 resolution , for seeking some other constitutional ways of the Indian problem It means that Pakistan was not the final and un negotiable option before League and Jinnah. Similarly League and Jinnah accepted the cabinet mission plan in 1946 though it had rejected the demand for Pakistan and instead a sort of loose federation or say confederation was proposed. The acceptance of that plan by league and Jinnah meant that creation of separate state was not their main and ultimate demand.

As in the cabinet mission plan muslim could have got the safe guards of their rights for which they were demanding since long so league accepted it. The arrogant and imposing attitude of Nehru and Patel and the prejudiced policy of congress regarding the plan compelled Jinnah to withdraw his earlier acceptance of the plan, otherwise India would have not been divided . ( A prominent Indian politician Jaswant Singh has also said that in his book- Jinnah , Partition and Independence ) The positive response of Jinnah regarding the cabinet mission plan shows that if the establishment of Islamic state was his basic aim he would have been totally adamant for exclusively independent muslim state and would have never shown any elasticity .About the Islamic factor in the movement they ( adherents of this stance ) are of the view that the slogan of Islam raised during the movement of Pakistan was , in the first place , not the official slogan of Muslim league as nor Quaid Azam nor the top leaders of the movement raised it , rather it was being chanted by the workers at the lower level and secondly it was just for motivating the muslim masses and mustering their support while basic end was protection of political cultural and economic interests of the muslims of north India. According to them if some sections of league adopted the slogan of Islam for its movement. it was justified and was a proper approach seen in the context of the situation of that time .They argue that raising of such slogan was aimed for the success of such movement which had a very great objective. Political system of Pakistan and Jinnah observation about Islamic principles. Regarding the statements of Jinnah about the Islamic principles in the constitutional and political system of Pakistan the supporters of the later view point ( modern muslim state )

Argue that in political affairs his approach was of course , that of secular and liberal politician while with this he was a muslim too . Though Quaid Azam never claimed nor thought of himself any saintliness or holiness, but as common and simple \muslim he was fighting for the rights of muslims of India with all sincerity which even his worst but honest opponents can not deny , It was due to his being muslim that he considered Muslims as separate nation and who had different interests from those of Hindus- and because of it he was holder of two nation theory What Quaid Azam thought about the lofty principles no believing muslim can disagree with. About the Islamic ideal and principles ,.in particular those related with social economic aspects , his observations were that it were not only fully compatible with the modern world but in several respects were also more better and suitable compared to westerns ones.


Here it need to be mentioned that his approach towards religion different from that of the orthodox religious class , who mainly confine Islam to the petty fiqi issues or hadood laws or insist only in its form , For Quaid Azam, the spirit of Islam was of real importance . In this regard his views were in line with that of Iqbal, though he was not scholar of Iqbal caliber however the source of his Islamic insight was, besides his own personal reading , the views of Alama Iqbal and some other enlightened scholars. In line with his distinctive solemnity he sincerely believed that Islamic ideals and principles, in particular those related with the socio and economic aspects and rule of justice etc had great value and importance so he earnestly thought that these principles and ideals must be guiding source for the constitutional set up of Pakistan.


Though religion as understood and preached by Mullahs was never the aim of Quaid-e-Azam however in spite of his all secularism he was also not averse to the Ideals of Islam — It is reasonably supposed that had he been alive for some time he would have recommended such set-up for Pakistan where both the Islamic ideals and modern thoughts essential for progress would have been fully accommodated and Pakistan would have been such modern welfare Muslim State which would be secular and also the bearer of moral and spiritual culture.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

THE CRIME OF WEAKNESS

RANDOM THOUGHTS

BURHANUDDIN HASAN

 

American under cover CIA agent Raymond Davis, who shot and killed two young boys in Lahore, was arrested by the police on the spot. The case became very complicated as US President Mr. Obama and Senator John Kerry, the author of hefty aid package for Pakistan pleaded for the release of Davis. Senator Kerry, in fact personally came to Pakistan to pressurize the government to set him free. This shows the importance of this man in the eyes of the American government. But Pakistan was helpless, because the murder of two young boys by an American had become a highly emotional issue for the nation which was demanding capital punishment for Davis. The media hype on the issue also enflamed the public opinion and it became impossible for the government to take immediate action on the issue. Americans also understood and let the issue drag for some time. Luckily' somebody suggested that Islamic option of Diat under which the culprit can go scot free if the parents and other close relatives of the victim agree to pardon the culprit in exchange for a certain amount of blood money paid to them. This was the only solution which could win freedom for Davis. The Pakistan government agreed to this solution which was worked out by a lawyer and a judge who was hearing the case. Eighteen close relatives of the two boys, who were killed, agreed to pardon the culprit in exchange for Rs 200 million blood money which were paid to the relatives under the supervision of the judge who duly obtained receipts for the paid up money and set Raymond Davis free immediately. He was whisked away by the American Ambassador to Lahore airport where a plane was waiting for him. Davis and the ambassador immediately flew out of Pakistan.


The anti American religious parties who were demanding death sentence for Raymond Davis were enraged at this top secret arrangement of payment of blood money and release of Davis, which was strictly according to the Diat Law of Islamic Shariah. The blood money was paid to the close relatives of the two boys who were killed by Davis, and written receipts were obtained by the judge. The families were allowed to leave Pakistan for their safety. It is not known in which country they have taken refuge but ultimately they will be repatriated to the United States. This was probably the best arrangement to meet the American demand of Davis's release. But the anti US religious parties which do not have much representation in parliament but great nuisance value among masses which they displayed by taking out protest rallies all over the country raising anti American and anti government slogans. They demanded that Pakistan should break all relations with the United States not knowing the consequences of such a drastic step when the country is fighting terrorism, its economy is in shambles which is being managed mainly by American assistance directly and indirectly. They don't know that Pakistan will collapse if sources of foreign aid suddenly dry out. Haven't they heard Iqbal's famous line, "the punishment for the crime of weakness is nothing but death"? Pakistan has committed the crime of weakness and has been surviving mainly on foreign assistance ever since it came into being. This is the bitter truth which has to be swallowed willingly or unwillingly. Pakistan is hooked to foreign assistance ever since late President Ayub signed defense and food aid pacts with the United States. Consequently Pakistan became absolutely dependent on US aid. Subsequent governments never bothered to break these shackles until we have reached the present perilous stage and will continue in it till some wise and sincere government breaks these shackles and learns to stand on its own two feet.


Another major mishap which badly jangled the Pak-US relations was the drone attack on a Jirga of elders in North Waziristan which killed more than 40 innocent Jirga members. This was a serious mistake for which the US will have to pay dearly. One wonders whether it was just a mistake of judgment by the drone operators or somebody did this to take revenge on Pakistan's stand on Raymond Davis issue. If this is so, America will have to face serious reprisal by the tribes of North Waziristan. Pakistan has lodged a strong protest with the US State Department. Prime Minister Gilani and Army Chief General Kiyani have strongly condemned the outrageous attack on a peaceful tribal Jirga and assured the tribal people that the government will take all necessary measures for the protection of tribal people. This unfortunate incident is bound to affect Pak-US relations most negatively. In a recent signed article President Zardari had said that Pakistan and the US are to work together against terrorism, we must avoid political incidents that could further inflame tensions and provide extremists with a pretext to destabilize our fledgling democracy. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also advised Pakistanis against fomenting anti Americanism. In a speech at the Asia Society function Mrs. Clinton said Pak US cooperation is critical to the success of the fight against Taliban and Al Qaeda.


There is no doubt that drone attacks are very unpopular in Pakistan due to the collateral damage they cause in the tribal areas. The government has failed to give convincing reasons to allow these attacks. The recent attack on the peaceful Jirga seems to be the last nail in the coffin of drone attacks.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

A WAR ON ISLAM

YOUSUF ALAMGIRIAN

A number of western countries have again joined hands with the United States of America and attacked Libya, apparently to oust the Qaddafi-led government. The air and missile strikes being conducted by the Coalition forces are indiscriminately killing the civilian population there, ironically with the approval of the United Nations Security Council that hurriedly passed a resolution to give the go-ahead for an all out attack. The UN is an organization which has time and again proved to be weak, failed to deliver. The fresh UNSC resolution has facilitated the Coalition Forces in undermining the sovereignty of free Libya.


Enslaved by the Americans for their vested interests the organization has reduced to a mere puppet, unable to save the humanity, especially the Muslims, from the brutalities of Americans and their Crusade partners, including France, Britain, Canada, Belgium, Holland and Spain, Denmark, Norway and Greece, with Italy providing the Coalition Forces seven of its military bases. The Coalition stance is the same it had against the Saddam regime in Iraq; it wants "to save the Libyan people from the oppressive regime of Col Qaddafi".

Now once again the Americans and their coalition partners are using similar stance against Libya to replace the Qaddafi government with their likeminded leadership to serve as their stooge in this North African country. It is not new that America has ordered its aircraft to bomb a Muslim country; the same has been repeated a number of times in the past. The myth now stands exposed that the uprisings across the Middle Eastern countries and Libya were solely indigenous. Even the Hosni Mubarak like con leadership succumbed to what they called the public pressure, but the wave of revolt was resisted by Col Qaddafi with iron hand. This was the moment when the West's designs to reshape the Middle East got exposed, when the US-led partners gathered around Tripoli and Benghazi and warned the regime to leave or succumb to public demand for 'democratization'. It shows as to how illogic this world is. After the overthrow of Abideen in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, they turned the deluge of "public outrage" towards Libya, and the Qaddafi government wowed to hit back.

If America and Coalition Forces want peace in that country, they should stop patronizing violent groups causing unrest in Libya. There are strong evidences that the America led coalition is active in Bahrain and other Arab countries as well to create a turmoil like situation in the Middle Eastern Islamic countries. For the last 10 years the US and Coalition are there in Iraq and Afghanistan. They landed there in search of only one man, Osama bin Laden, in which they have so far failed but in the course of their venture they have massacred hundreds of thousands innocent people. Besides, drone attacks are being indiscriminately conducted on the western borders of the Pakistan in order to kill the terrorist leadership, and conspicuously coined the term of collateral damage to justify the killing of innocent people. On a number of occasions drones hit the marriage ceremonies, prayer session and funeral processions.


The recent drone strike made on a pro-government iirga meeting in North Waziristan was amongst the deadliest, that killed 44 innocent citizens and injured many – unconfirmed reports say the toll rose to 80 – which is considered the joy-strike by the CIA after the secure release of its agent, Raymond Davis from Lahore jail. News agencies disclose that "the US has been striking houses and vehicles in Datta Khel and elsewhere in North Waziristan for years, and such a large gathering must have been an appealing target. The fact that the gathering had nothing to do with militants, points to just how poor information they have about their targets before launching missile strikes". The casualties from the attack included six tribal elders who were overseeing the Jirga, which was apparently to discuss the ownership of mineral rights, a number of children who were brought by their families to the gathering, and several members of a pro-government militia the tribes had helped organize. It seems America doesn't want any of the Jirga meetings which could lead this part of the world towards prosperity and development.


So there is strong need to understand the situation on part of the Ummah that America and its western bloc is all out to target the Muslim states one by one. America can even target the friendly countries like Pakistan, which is the front line state in the US war against terror. It is after Pakistan and its ability to get stabilized. It is providing full support and opportunities to get India accommodated in Afghanistan. So there is no secret that the Afghan soil is being used to marginalize Pakistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WATER WOES: THE WAY FORWARD

KHALID CHANDIO

 

Many of the wars of the 20th century were about oil, but wars of the 21st century will be over water said Isamil Serageldin. Water is surpassing oil as the world's scarcest critical resource as water has no substitute, where there are large political subsidies, largely in agriculture, there's an increasing feeling in the world that everyone has a basic right to a minimum 13 gallons of water a day for basic human health. At present it would not be wrong to say that the world is divided into water haves and have-nots and Pakistan is no exception to this as the country is facing critical water issues in the 21st century. Water management and distribution has always been an important but cumbersome process in Pakistan as being semi-arid country, its economy is based mainly on agriculture and related industry. Pakistan has the luxury of having the largest contiguous supply-based canal irrigation system in the world.


The availability of water in Pakistan has been declining over the past few decades from 5000 cubic meters per capita 60 years ago to 1200 cubic meters per capita in 2010. By 2020, this will further aggravate to 800 cubic meters per capita. Pakistan is also estimated to be losing 13 million cusecs of water every year from its rivers into the sea, as it does not have enough reservoirs or dams to store water. Water in Pakistan's rivers has touched perilously low levels, sometimes creating inter-provincial irritants, and the reason for it is not just lack of rains. Internal mismanagement and India controlling the flow of rivers especially the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum are the main reasons of water woes in Pakistan. If this trend continues, some commentators fear that it could increase its dependency on food imports and suffocate the Pakistani economy. Water scarcity is a long-standing problem for agriculture, which contributes about 21% of the country's GDP. It is also notable that many of Pakistan's industries are agro-based such as textile industry. Besides, 80% of its food needs are fulfilled domestically. Thus, any interruption of water supply would have broad-ranging effects. For example, when the country suffered a drought from 1998 to 2001, there were some riots in Karachi.


Taking hydro-electric power into consideration, Pakistan needs about 14000-15000MW electricity per day, and the demand is likely to rise to approximately 20,000 MW per day by 2012. Presently, it can produce about 11, 500MW per day and thus there is a shortfall of about 3000-4000MW per day. This shortage is badly affecting industry, commerce and daily life of the rank and file. The country needs a quantum jump in electricity generation in the medium-term scenario. The Current economic situation of Pakistan is already under intense pressure which is being worsened by the country's involvement in the war on terror and its backlash on development which is stagnating due to slump in investment. Our national reliance on a single river basin, the threat of climate change, water wastages and the lack of coherent conservation policies are all factors that are said to contribute to the problem.


Looking at the external side, the question naturally arises in the minds of the people that is India really choking Pakistani waters? Under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWT), India is not permitted to build dams for the purpose of water storage on the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum rivers but it is allowed to make limited use of their waters, including developing run-of-the-river hydroelectric power projects. India is required to provide Pakistan with the technical details of any water project it wants to develop on these rivers before building begins. Some analysts coupled with media and the general masses have termed India holding back the waters of rivers flowing from Kashmir as a clear violation of the Indus Water Treaty. In a sense, the availability of less water from the rivers is a security issue for Pakistan as it could put the country's very survival at stake. On the other hand, the Indian perception is that Pakistan is assuming that India had restricted the flow, and that this assumption was incorrect as the water level was low.

The counter-argument is advanced that even if the water flowing into Pakistani rivers is less due to genuine climatic scarcity, India can not escape responsibility as a state to maintain and manage the water resources that it exercises control over. India's responsibility comes under the general framework of international law that calls on the upper riparian state to take the necessary measures to minimize water scarcity. Pak-India friendship is the most essential and almost inevitable element for a long lasting and deep rooted peace in South Asia, therefore, outstanding issues especially water issue must be addressed in letter and spirit. The Governments of India and Pakistan should look beyond national borders to basin-wide cooperation. A similar situation arose between India and Pakistan on the Salal Dam issue, but the matter was finally resolved through bilateral negotiations and conclusion of Salal Dam Treaty in 1978.


Talks with India over water are getting prolonged and Pakistan's water needs are getting aggravated. Water must be included in Composite Dialogue Process between the two countries also as it is serious and high time. The Indian version of genuine water scarcity should be scrutinized. International community especially the USA may be brought in resolving the water issue between Pakistan and India. Some analysts feel that the water issue may take precedence over Kashmir issue but in my opinion Kashmir issue will not be overlooked and rather will take more attention as water mostly coming from Kashmir itself has added new dimension to the Kashmir issue.


A sophisticated forecasting system has to be in place that accurately estimates how much water flows into the Indus River as almost 90% of the water in the Upper Indus River Basin comes from remote glaciers of Himalayan and Karakorum mountain ranges, which border China and India, and the Hindu Kush, which borders Afghanistan. In which all the stakeholders (states) should be taken on board. These regions are so remote that the authorities in Pakistan do not know exactly the weather conditions up there. This system will also help in alleviating droughts in the country. The water forecasting system could ultimately help Pakistan to optimize water allocation at a national level by deciding how much water is used for irrigation, industry, and domestic purposes.

Last but not the least, as far as Pakistan's energy mix is concerned, it has the 7th largest coal reserve in the world (in Thar area- Sindh) but it is very unfortunate to know that it currently plays a minor role in Pakistan's energy mix. Coal is one of the cheapest ways to produce electricity, and that is why countries like Australia produce 77% of their electricity from coal. Coal must be tapped as soon as possible. The only argument for not going coal is put forward that it causes pollution but recently, thanks to technology, work is being done to make it as pollution free as possible.


—The writer works for Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

DAVIS ENJOYS IMMUNITY VIA ISLAMIC LAW

M OMAIR MALIK

 

It all started on 27 January when an American CIA operative who was named by Pakistani actors Raymond Davis committed an act of terrorism and murdered two Pakistani nationals in a cold blood at point blank range in front of a crowed. Another Pakistani was killed when hit by an American vehicle sent to rescue the murder. Raymond Davis tried his level best to make his good escape from the scene. However, he was caught red handed. Each and every political party started their game of point scoring and criticized the PPP government as well as the US for operating secret operation in Pakistan. The act of Raymond Davis was criticized openly and statements against Americans were openly issued by the leading political party members , the story developed further when the US President Mr Obama came forward to defend a criminal Raymond Davis and asked Pakistan to release him by terming the murder as a diplomat enjoying diplomatic immunity.


But this was not an easy initially as the Americans thought, Shah Mehmood Qureshi rejected any diplomatic blanket immunity to mr davis and clearly said that he is not entitled in diplomats list and thus do not enjoy diplomatic immunity, it created probleum for the federal government and Mr Qureshi resulted in loosing his post and was removed from his office. Raymond was found guilty in killing two Pakistani nationals, from his possession police found several sims, cell phones, cameras , he also made videos or several sensitive places and pictures, wireless sets for their communication , masks, makeup kit, even his name was wrong his passport was also fake because it was found that Mr Davis was hiding his identity and was using fake ids illegal arm possession during investigation law enforcing agencies found that Raymond was actively working for CIA and was working as a CIA station chief in Pakistan his job was to hire and recruit persons from Pakistan for their covert operations in Pakistan, firstly they planned to recruit retired army officials but at that time in 2004 army strongly resisted and this CIA plan was turned down.


It is our deep concern to know why Americans are operating inside Pakistan with such kinds of terrorists I believe a Muslim cannot kill another Muslim, and cannot martyr mosques, Mr Davis unlocked lots of locked doors unknowingly, and now the whole world was asking Americans the question what are they doing in Pakistan in form of diplomats and they openly criticized the role of CIA in Pakistan but the annoying thing for which I am concerned is that why our interior minister is silent? Well what can be expect from a democratic government who allows other countries agencies relaxation of passports to send their agents in our country, it is difficult to find who is friend and who is a foe when our own leaders do not care for the opinion of general public.

It is proved that Mr Davis was actively working in Pakistan and was indulge in anti state terror activities, this probe now answers the longstanding question that who is behind terror activities in Pakistan who is behind suicidal attacks, and sadly it seems our best friend USA is behind all that and astonishingly our state actors are fully supporting then in all manners weather logistically or politically. After American president demanded diplomatic immunity for Mr Davis, senator John Kerry arrived Pakistan to settle the dispute and while addressing to a press conference he recited the same blanket immunity demand, after that he met all the political parties leaders are requested to hand Mr Davis over to them.


In fact this visit was a threat to Pakistan if the American demands are not fulfilled. One thing to remember that Pakistan is a front line Allie of United States of America in war on terror, this is a war imposed on Pakistan post 9/11, which according to them is a war for Pakistan's survival, pre 9/11 situation in Pakistan before the intervention of US, Pakistan was far better than now. Pakistan suffered a lot due to this war on terror more than 30,000 citizens of Pakistan have been died in different suicidal as well as drone attacks, the situation became quiet complex when the ties among CIA & ISI were affected by Raymond's matter, ISI blamed that America have back stabbed us, and back door channels were used to resolve this issue and amazingly speedy justice was provided to American, everyone in Pakistan is astonished to see this behaviour of our courts. And general public hopes that the Pakistani courts will continue to provide this speedy justice to Pakistanis as well.


The speedy justice provided to American CIA agent will bring good fruits for the government And other state actors as from now the world bank will be granting more loans to beggars. I feel sorry for the poor people of Pakistan as from now I don't believe that this country is ours this country belongs to our elite and state actors and we are only a utility to pay taxes, the state actors have no sympathies with a common man nor thy care about national interest. The release of Raymond Davis was a shameful act by our state actors as now it reminds me about our sister Dr Afia and I feel sorry for being a Pakistani my eyes are down today it also remind me that we are still slaves from past 60 years and it feels like we will continue to do so


The affectees of Raymond Davis case have granted pardon in accordance with the Islamic law and all political parties came forward and said it was the will or their own no one can force them n thus it is all in our Islamic law and said now we were in no condition to stop Mr Davis after the pardon, I want to ask the authorities if they were willing to hold Mr Davis accountable for justice then why did not the federal prosecution and provincial prosecution provided court the evidences that Mr Raymond is involved in spying or anti state affairs ?why the case was not expanded on having illegal arms, roaming in private cars without notifying the government why the case was not taken in anti terrorist court?


American president lies were bashed all around thee world in media for releasing such a childish statement , a demand of diplomatic immunity for a terrorist but only silence from our side. Americas War on terror and war against Muslim countries is a war against Muslim system of law Americans openly speaks against Muslim laws and their newspapers reflects the anti Islamic sentiments very openly but at the same time American killer do not enjoy diplomatic immunity but buys his freedom via Islamic law "Diyat" paying money and giving nationalities to the effected families and in return they were granted pardon, that is a dual standard of a super power which also exposes the harsh realities of our own state actors.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

MOMENT OF TRUTH LOOMS IN BALI

PRIME MINISTER SHOULD DITCH THE FAILED REGIONAL CENTRE IDEA.

Shambolic as the government's border protection management has become, there are no clear signs of any attempt to tackle the serious policy issues at play. There are detainees missing on Christmas Island but the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen cannot tell us how many. Fires and riots are destroying much of the facility, asylum-seekers are being evacuated, new detention centres are opened or under construction elsewhere in Australia and the latest boat arrival has been diverted directly to the mainland, but the government is remaining stubbornly inactive. There are now more than 6500 people in various detention centres, and still boats are arriving, which presents us with the inescapable conclusion that the government has lost control of the border protection regime. Mr Bowen's performance on ABC TV's Lateline on Tuesday was that of a minister at the end of his tether.

The last idea from Julia Gillard came in a pre-election thought bubble about a regional detention centre in East Timor. This idea has yet to be endorsed by the proposed host nation, let alone anyone else. As The Australian has already pointed out, in the unlikely event that that centre is ever built, it would be unlikely to make any difference. The government should abandon the proposal and examine other policy solutions such as reopening the Nauru centre and reviving a distinct visa category for asylum-seekers.

Most asylum-seekers merely transit other countries in the region on a pre-organised journey to Australia, so understandably the countries they pass through consider the problem as one of Australia's making. Unsurprisingly, they expect us to provide the solutions. Our neighbours view the prospect of a regional detention centre as an attempt to pass ownership of the dilemma to them. They would prefer that Australia put back the disincentives to people-smuggling to curtail this evil trade, which creates more than a little inconvenience and cost for them. For all these reasons, Australia's championing of the East Timor solution is struggling to win overt support in the region, creating only diplomatic headaches instead.

Next week, when Mr Bowen and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd attend the Bali regional process on people-smuggling meeting, they will confront a moment of truth. At this crucial gathering, they must either obtain broad support from other nations for a regional processing centre or finally walk away from the idea. Australia cannot afford to waste any more diplomatic capital on this improbable scheme, nor can it afford to allow continued consideration of the idea to forestall the urgent task of finding other meaningful policy reforms.

Already Mr Bowen has quietly revised downwards Australia's aims for the Bali meeting. In recent interviews, he has spoken no longer of winning support for a regional centre but for a "regional framework". He should be warned that no vague commitment to a "framework" will disguise the regional centre plan's failure. Conspicuously, Mr Rudd so far has avoided involving himself in the proposal and will be forced to address it for the first time in Bali. Despite the obvious discontent it might stir within the government, he would do very well to assert his surer grasp of national security matters and ensure that his first intervention in his successor's misguided policy is to publicly consign it to history.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

GAME ON FOR THE PREMIER AND LORD MAYOR IN QLD

THE LNP'S AUDACIOUS MOVE CARRIES RISKS AND PROMISES.

Perhaps former Queensland Labor premier Peter Beattie summed it up best, declaring the Liberal National Party's unprecedented move to install Brisbane's Lord Mayor Campbell Newman as leader was "either the smartest thing the LNP ever did or the dumbest". Replete with risks, the audacious move holds great potential for conservative politics in Queensland, and therefore the impact of the LNP nationally. But Newspoll results in The Australian today show why the LNP felt obliged to adopt this seemingly crazy-brave move. Premier Anna Bligh's leadership during the floods and cyclone crisis has produced a stunning poll reversal, with her satisfaction rating doubling and Labor going from an unwinnable position to a two-party-preferred lead. Clearly, confronted with Labor's resurgence, LNP powerbrokers ran out of patience.

The Sunshine State has made and broken federal governments, and created difficulties for the conservative side since the Joh for Canberra movement of the mid-1980s. After decades of tension between Queensland Liberals and Nationals, the merged LNP -- a peculiar hybrid that until now has been dominated by the Nationals -- desperately needs success. If Mr Newman can achieve it, it will foster stability in Queensland, ease national Coalition tensions and even point to eventual mergers of the Coalition partners in other states.

Still, for now, Queensland has sufficient problems itself, with vast economic challenges as well as the massive task of reconstruction after January's floods and Cyclone Yasi. Mr Newman's radical move signals the end of what has been an effective bipartisan partnership between Ms Bligh and the Lord Mayor, which has had the long-term, beneficial result of significantly upgrading Brisbane's infrastructure. Ms Bligh is talking up the prospect of the Queensland parliament "descending into a dysfunctional farce", with Mr Newman, the alternative premier, stuck outside the Legislative Assembly until after the election, leaving Jeff Seeney, one of several unsuccessful former LNP leaders, to warm the seat as interim parliamentary leader. Ms Bligh also criticises Mr Newman for leaving City Hall at a critical time in Brisbane's post-flood rebuilding process.

The LNP leadership turmoil and Labor's surge in the polls will sorely tempt the Premier to call an early election, but she should honour her promise to wait until after the flood commission of inquiry's interim report, due in August. That report will be eagerly scrutinised not only for the performance of the Bligh government but also of the Brisbane City Council, which faces claims of influencing the operators of Wivenhoe Dam to make lower releases of water at a critical time prior to the devastating floods in January. A rush to the polls would also risk a backlash, with Ms Bligh looking like just another opportunist politician.

Mr Newman is the only conservative political figure in Queensland who can match Ms Bligh's popularity. Both enjoy strong public support as a result of their performances during the floods. The big loser of that crisis was John Paul Langbroek, who had taken the LNP to a commanding lead in the polls but was then forgotten. Mr Newman's Brisbane base, his high profile as the self-styled "can-do" Lord Mayor, his energy and down-to-earth style should give him a broader appeal in the city and suburbs. This is vital for the LNP, which fell badly short in the 2008 election, winning just six of 38 metropolitan seats. But he will need to work hard to increase his appeal west of the divide and in the north if he is to break the run of a long list of fallen LNP, National and Liberal leaders. Mr Newman's army background will stand him in good stead in Townsville and in his chosen electorate of Ashgrove, which contains Enoggera army base.

To have any chance of success, he will need a credible economic blueprint to restore Queensland's AAA credit rating, an issue Ms Bligh has begun addressing with the commendable but unpopular sale of government assets. He and Ms Bligh also need to focus on the slower sectors of Queensland's two-speed economy. From outside the parliamentary party, Mr Newman faces the difficult task of blending the deep-seated social conservatism and agrarian socialism of the former Queensland National Party with the more moderate, economically rational outlook of the urban Liberals.

The success or otherwise of the LNP also has vital federal implications. LNP bickering has too often spilled into the federal Coalition and complicated preselections and campaigning. If the Newman experiment works, Tony Abbott will welcome the prospect of seeing Coalition success and stability stretch from the Mornington Peninsula to Cape York, as well as from Eucla to Broome.

Mr Newman has been a success as Lord Mayor and appears to offer the brand of dynamic leadership that the LNP needs. But Ms Bligh is a formidable opponent. She has shown herself capable of mapping out the right agenda and pursuing it, regardless of the 24-hour media cycle, the opposition of trade unionists and, it must be said, her election commitments. Her privatisation agenda saw her suffer in the polls but now she has been rewarded for her sense of purpose so far this year. Strange and unpredictable times are ahead, with the LNP facing the challenge of making its arrangements work. But if Ms Bligh and Mr Newman can engage in a serious contest of policies and ideas, Queensland can emerge stronger.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

THERE IS A WAY FORWARD: WE MUST WORK TO FIND IT

NATION NEEDS MORE BIPARTISAN DEBATE ON INDIGENOUS POLICY.

It would be difficult to name anyone at the top levels of politics in the past half-century who did not want to improve the living conditions of remote-area indigenous Australians. Political leaders have poured money and energy into trying to assist poverty-stricken and dysfunctional communities. The solutions have varied, the commitment to policies has waxed and waned -- sometimes to disastrous effect -- but The Australian does not doubt the good intentions that crossed party and ideological lines.

The problem is that little of it has been of much benefit to the people living in areas such as the town camps at Alice Springs, or in Roebourne in Western Australia, or even, for that matter, in Cape York, where Noel Pearson has been arguing for change for 20 years. As this newspaper has shown in its recent reports on Alice Springs, many Aboriginal communities are more dysfunctional, less educated and less healthy than they were decades ago. Plentiful alcohol and cheap drugs have wreaked havoc on many groups, leading to early death or addiction and a complete breakdown of social structures. Rivalling substance abuse is the crisis caused by a lack of jobs, in part because many indigenous people live in remote settlements where there is no economy other than the welfare economy. Billions of dollars have been poured into housing, healthcare, education and training, indigenous tourism and other enterprises, but they have not stemmed the domestic violence, the sexual and physical abuse of children, the child prostitution, the glue-sniffing and the desperation defining many communities. Despite the money flowing from Canberra since the 1967 referendum, state and territory governments have made little headway in this area.

Four years ago, then prime minister John Howard decided on a controversial policy: direct commonwealth intervention in an effort to break these dysfunctional patterns. We backed that policy, and believe that Mr Howard's action was appropriate and courageous. The status quo was not an option. After the 2007 election, Kevin Rudd's government maintained the intervention, cementing a largely bipartisan approach to indigenous policy. Like Mr Howard and Mr Rudd, Tony Abbott and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin have been staunch in their efforts to find a way forward. Julia Gillard has had less time to make an impact, but there is no reason to doubt her genuine interest in this area. It is disappointing, therefore, that presented with an opportunity to advance the conversation, the Prime Minister has resorted to politics. On Monday, she rejected an invitation from the Opposition Leader to travel with him to the Territory to discuss a second intervention to address problems in Alice Springs and towns such as Katherine and Tennant Creek. Ms Gillard accused Mr Abbott of being motivated by the need for a headline rather than genuine concern. That is not helpful at a time when the conditions for Aborigines in remote areas seem to be deteriorating. Nor do we believe Mr Abbott would grandstand on this issue.

This paper is suspicious of centralised solutions, yet history suggests that the states and territories have done a poor job of distributing funds: too often the beneficiaries are not the poor blacks living in remote areas but white bureaucrats living in Darwin or Alice Springs. Ms Macklin herself has often found it hard to get past the Territory's public service culture. Lack of political will is also a problem: for most politicians, finding a solution to indigenous problems is not a core electoral issue. It might, for example, be logical to move people from welfare to work, but which government will insist on people moving from Hermannsburg, 130km from Alice Springs, to the city for a job? There is agreement that education is the way out for people trapped in the cycle of abuse and poverty, yet can those in small, scattered communities really expect the same level of schooling as those living in bigger centres? Again, the question is how far politicians are prepared to go to force young Aborigines to attend regional or city boarding schools to ensure they can learn to read and write English and operate in a mainstream economy.

The intervention was an emergency response to a crisis but it is not enough to deliver the real changes needed in these communities. It is time for a bipartisan discussion, perhaps in the shape of a forum or summit, about how to address the next 40 years. We cannot be defeatist, although it is realistic to think there will always be indigenous Australians whose lack of basic skills will stop them joining the mainstream economy. Even those such as Mr Pearson, who has argued for years that the Cape must develop an economic base, have acknowledged the barriers to development. Many problems of remote communities are historically based, the most dysfunctional often being those created as people moved off pastoral properties after the equal wage decision of 1966 made them unattractive to employers. The upheaval left them with many of the long-term problems that face non-indigenous refugee groups. It is not easy to reverse the intergenerational damage caused by such events. Yet somehow our political leaders must find a way to advance the issue. We cannot accept that in another half a century, the situation for indigenous Australians will be worse, not better.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

BEER IS THE NEW MILK?

THE decision by Foster's to withhold its beer supply from the two supermarket giants after learning Coles intended to heavily discount it to grab market share demonstrates the law of the jungle that increasingly prevails in Australian industry: the strongest pick off the weak until they encounter an opponent of enough brawn to fight back.

It was a different story when the grocery giants decided to take on the milk industry - composed mainly of smaller dairy farmers - and sell their products at a discount to attract customers and cannibalise smaller retailers. Foster's can fight back only because it, too, has limited competitors and a degree of market power in distributing its products.

The strategy of the two big supermarkets to use one product as a ''loss leader'', offering a heavy discount on that product to lure customers, is not in itself illegal and is, indeed, an increasingly common strategy by retailers. It does, however, suggest that the retailer has a degree of market power over pricing that would not be possible in a perfectly competitive world. In a competitive market, no one player would be profitable enough to lead such an aggressive strategy and survive for long. But the supermarket duopoly has captured such a large share of the customer market that it has a greater capacity to sustain such a price war.

The purpose of the strategy is to attract even more customers from smaller competitors, in the case of beer, smaller bottle shops and boutique retailers. In the short term, customers may feel they benefit from cheaper prices on the loss-leading item, be it milk or beer. But in the longer term, it means that smaller retailers go out of business. This diminution of competition means higher prices for consumers, not just on milk or beer but across the entire product range in supermarkets.

That is the thing about the jungle: the little guys rarely win, unless they can hide somewhere remote. It is time to consider why so many Australian industries are moving in the direction of greater power concentrated in the hands of the few. A report into the grocery industry under the Rudd government found Coles and Woolworths enjoy a ''cosy duopoly'' over the supermarket sector. But consumer concern about monopoly power also extends to other sectors of the economy, including banking, hardware and petrol. When the balance of power shifts into the hands of a powerful few, it is time for customers and their representatives in government to fight back.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

LIBYAN VISIONS, OR MIRAGES?

THE intervention in Libya continues, with more and more questions and arguments gathering around it? Who is in charge? What are the objectives: to level the battleground by taking out Muammar Gaddafi's air power and heavy weapons, or remove him from power? And is it a fight between a personalised dictatorship and opponents seeking a more regular and democratic state or, deeper down, some kind of tribal contest that we do not yet know about?

From the start the intervention went far beyond the no-fly zone that it is still commonly called. French aircraft attacked tanks and heavy artillery that were closing in on Benghazi; American strikes hit a command centre in Gaddafi's compound in the capital, Tripoli. An American admiral is in charge, for the moment, but with politicians in the US querying what he is getting into, President Barack Obama is calling Britain's David Cameron and France's Nicholas Sarkozy to get them or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to step forward. Meanwhile Cameron's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is at odds with the defence chief, General Sir David Richards, over strikes against Gaddafi himself. Another NATO member, Germany, abstained from the United Nations Security Council vote on the resolution authorising the action. Turkey, another big NATO member, says it does not want the alliance involved.

Meanwhile, the emerging industrial powers, sometimes called the BRICs, taken from the initials of four of them (Brazil, Russia, India and China), are standing

back guarding their post-colonial credentials. China, whose non-use of its veto let the security council resolution through, now says the strikes may be exceeding the mandate and causing civilian casualties. Russia, India and Brazil are variously deploring outside intervention in a domestic struggle and calling for a ceasefire. Yet the nearest parts of the Third World differ. The Arab League supported the no-fly zone, with some wavering, in line with sentiment on the Arab ''street''. The African Union also supported the intervention, with South Africa voting for it in the UN Security Council.

The question of the endgame in Libya also comes up. The anti-Gaddafi coalition includes a number of educated, secularist professionals and many senior officials who abandoned the regime and say all the right things about democracy and good governance. Let us hope they prevail over the tribalism that Gaddafi is trying to stir up in his defence. But this has to be a matter for the Libyans. The intervention can only be an enabler for them to chose the shape of their state and government. After 42 years of Gaddafi, the world seems ready to risk the alternative.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

POLICE TRAINING IS FAILING VICTORIA

ONCE again, a report on police shootings in Victoria has highlighted deficiencies in training and leadership. Victoria Police is to be commended for commissioning the latest report, which was co-ordinated by Superintendent Mick Williams and prompted by the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Tyler Cassidy in a skate park in Northcote in 2008. Less impressive is the fact the report has been released only after the Federation of Community Legal Centres fought a 14-month freedom-of-information battle; its contents are in the public interest and belong in the public arena. Most disturbing is the fact that its findings echo those of a string of previous reports dating back to the mid-1990s, when police launched a program called Operation Beacon designed to change a culture that had resulted in Victoria having more police shootings than any other state.

Things have improved as a consequence of Operation Beacon, but the Williams report shows the need for further cultural reform. It found that most of the 10 people involved in police shootings - three fatally - between 2005 and 2008 were not acting rationally because they were mentally disturbed and/or were drunk or under the influence of drugs. Yet many of the officers called to critical incidents seemed to assume the person in crisis would respond rationally. Too often, police resorted to a ''must resolve quickly'' approach, inflaming the situation by shouting at and approaching the person rather than retreating and taking the time to defuse the tension. Indeed, in four of the incidents investigated, shots were fired by police less than 90 seconds after their arrival at the scene.

These have been recurring themes in reports on police shootings. In 2005, the Office of Police Integrity called for police to be given more help in identifying and dealing with people with mental illness. In 2009, OPI director Michael Strong again urged that officers be taught negotiation skills to avoid having to resort to force, and said it was inexcusable that police command had failed to make significant progress in implementing previous recommendations on the use of force. In comments still applicable today, he wrote: ''Given the number of recommendations on similar themes made by this office, their own internal reviews and others, police know what needs to be done.''

It is sobering to think that the need for better training will only become more pressing as the Baillieu government implements its policy of deploying 940 armed Victoria Police protective services officers at railway stations at night.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

MINISTERS AND JUDGES: CONTEMPT OF COURTS

MINISTERS SHOULD NEVER SHIRK THEIR OWN LEGAL DUTY SO THEY CAN ATTACK THE JUDGES FOR SETTING OUT LAW THAT IS POLITICALLY UNPALATABLE TO THEM

The foreign prisoners' row of April 2006 was one of the low points of Tony Blair's third term. The revelation that more than 1,000 foreign prisoners had been released into the community after serving their sentences without being considered for deportation – and had reoffended in some cases – rocked the reputation of the Home Office, sent panic waves rippling around a struggling government and effectively destroyed the career of the home secretary Charles Clarke. Predictably, it also triggered an authoritarian policy lurch, in which Mr Clarke and his successors began to operate a much tougher regime on potential prisoner deportees in the hope of reassuring public opinion. "Let us deport all those people," was how Mr Blair himself put it.

The problem with the old policy was that it was incompetent. The problem with the new one was that it was unlawful. From at least 1991, home secretaries had a published policy of only detaining potential deportees as a last resort. After the furore, Mr Clarke and his successors immediately adopted a diametrically opposite approach. Instead of a presumption of liberty they instituted a presumption of detention, even for those who had served their criminal sentences, with a few exceptions on compassionate grounds. Unlike the former policy, however, the new approach was kept secret.

Yesterday, the UK supreme court struck that policy down on the grounds that the home office took a "near blanket ban" approach, which it concealed and was contrary to its public policy. This was a very important verdict, not simply because the secret policy was a serious abuse of power over detained potential deportees, but also because the government's lawyers and the home office must have known that it was. And yet, even while knowing it, they went ahead with the secret policy. As Lord Dyson sharply put it in his lead judgment yesterday: "For political reasons, it was convenient to take a risk as to the lawfulness of the policy that was being applied and blame the courts if the policy was declared to be unlawful."

Judges are not beyond criticism. But this is a timely warning. Ministers of all parties have developed an unattractive and growing taste for judge-bashing. Yet ministers' duty to uphold the rule of law is set out on page one of the ministerial code. Sometimes, of course, the courts will find they have failed – that is what the highest courts are there to decide. But ministers should never contrive situations in which they shirk their own legal duty so they can attack the judges for setting out law that is politically unpalatable to them. Such a tactic takes the ministerial judge-bashing instinct even further, and with even less justification.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

THE BUDGET: SMALL CHANGE

GEORGE OSBORNE'S BUDGET IS LESS A PLAN FOR GROWTH THAN A PLAN THAT HOPES FOR GROWTH

Chancellors like their budgets to have themes, stories that inform the media commentary and that the opposition have to respond to. Laying out his budget yesterday, George Osborne offered two broad possibilities. The first was that this was a "Plan for Growth": a raft of measures to kickstart private-sector activity. Second, the chancellor claimed to be delivering a truly green budget. Yet neither assertion stacks up.

This remained a budget in search of a theme, a red book that was little more than a footnote to the one issued by the Treasury last year. It was a jumble of measures that pointed in different directions. Another couple of billion kicked into the green investment bank, say, and a price set for carbon – but a headline-grabbing cut in fuel duty. A modest rise in personal allowances will, within a few years, be largely swallowed up by the decision to raise income-tax thresholds in line with the CPI measure, rather than the higher RPI. Most importantly, for all the chancellor's talk about growth, as Ed Miliband correctly pointed out, it was undermined by his admission that GDP growth was weaker last year than his officials forecast – and will fall short again this year and next. Some of this was almost inevitable: Mr Osborne is a very political chancellor, with a good nose for which constituencies he needs to shore up, and how to press their buttons. The combination of a spike in oil prices and an effective campaign on petrol costs by shadow chancellor Ed Balls all but guaranteed that the government would reduce fuel duty. Similarly, the fact that the Treasury put out two hefty documents last year setting out its deficit-reduction strategy was always going to leave the chancellor with little room to manoeuvre thereafter. Mr Balls' observation yesterday afternoon that the budget was "Gordon Brown-esque" rings true, even if there is irony in him laying that charge. Mr Brown was another chancellor who set out his macro-economic stall firmly and early, before focusing on a lot of tricksy, clever-clever micro-measures.

That said, at least Mr Brown had the good sense as prime minister to see that the banking crisis and its economic aftermath meant that the government had to intervene more in the economy. Despite his talk of a growth strategy, Mr Osborne's real hope for an economic renaissance is just that – a hope. He is betting the farm on the Bank of England keeping interest rates ultra-low for a long time to come, and for private businesses to thrive and expand. Yet as he announced yesterday, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) now believes inflation will touch 5% this year – that is, so high that Mervyn King and his colleagues will come under renewed pressure to hike rates.

This is not so much a growth strategy as a hope-for-growth strategy; an epic gamble that is already failing to pay off. One subject barely mentioned in the chancellor's budget speech is that net borrowing is going to be higher than forecast even last November over the next couple of years. One big reason for this, according to the OBR, is because tax receipts will be lower than expected, thanks to the weakness of the economy. Not all of that should be blamed on the chancellor, but some of it certainly can. And if Mr Osborne presses ahead with his austerity plans he will deserve more of the inevitable flak. Sticking to Plan A when the economy is weakening so fast will look less like necessary toughness and more like political dogma.

The chancellor is on to something when he talks of how Britain must rebalance its economy and pay its way in the world. But a bonfire of the red tape and a consultation to simplify tax on their own will not secure that renaissance – especially while public spending is slashed. What Mr Osborne produced yesterday was some clever politics and an attempt to cover all bases. But those hoping for a convincing plan to manage the economy over the short or long-term will be disappointed.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF ... ELIZABETH TAYLOR

FOR DAME LIZ, AS FOR THE BARD, LIFE WAS BUT A STAGE

Divorced, remarried, died and survived. It is an achievement of sorts for a woman to be able to lay claim to the sort of spousal mnemonic associated with a Tudor brute, and without any recourse to beheading. But it must be admitted that the life of Elizabeth Taylor – which stretched from the second world war's silver screen through to Twitter, before coming to a close yesterday – was frequently chaotic, sometimes unhappily so. Known as a child to Hollywood's great gossip, Hedda Hopper, the London-born star had an instinct for feeding the media beast, at a time when the now world-conquering celebrity culture was still the exclusive preserve of tinsel town. Having stared into her violet eyes as a child star, cinema goers of her own generation felt an almost parental concern in reading about her later travails. In dying better known for the pills, thrills and heartaches than her performances, she might be said to have been ahead of her time. There is, however, a real distinction between Taylor and contemporary obsessions, such as Chantelle from Big Brother – namely, a measure of talent. She was not always brilliant, but occasionally was, most often when tasked with playing a real woman with real problems, such as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, or Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? She could be weirdly compelling even when below par, as when playing Cleopatra opposite Richard Burton, the man she would later twice marry. For Dame Liz, as for the bard, life was but a stage.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

JAPAN'S MOMENT OF CRISIS

BY HUGH CORTAZZI

LONDON — Harrowing pictures of the sufferings of the Japanese people and the devastation of towns and villages along the northeast coast of Honshu as a result of the record-breaking earthquake and the unprecedented tsunami March 11 have dominated the British media for nearly two weeks.

The immediate response was one of horror combined with a wish to help. The Save the Children Fund, the British Red Cross and other organizations moved quickly as did the Japan Society in London, which immediately set up a Tohoku Earthquake Relief Fund. Generous donations have been made to these funds.

Some have suggested that Japan, as one of the world's wealthiest countries, should be able to look after its own and that aid would be better used to help people in the poorest countries in the world, especially in Africa.

This argument is untenable. Britain, too, is a developed country with a reasonably high standard of living, but there are many things that the government is unable to do and pay for out of funds from taxpayers. In every society, the homeless, sick and orphaned need to be looked after.

There are thousands of charities in Britain whose work is confined to Britain. There are also many others whose work is mainly overseas. They should go where there is an urgent need, irrespective of the wealth or poverty of the country. Many people in northeast Japan who have lost everything need are poor and deserve whatever help Japanese and foreign peoples can offer.

The stoicism of the Japanese people in face of these disasters has been commendable. The low incidence of looting and virtual lack of disorder have been the subject of favorable comment.

General Japanese preparedness to cope with natural calamities has been noted, although there was some surprise that food and fuel were in such short supply in the disaster areas. This was generally ascribed to the destruction of communications and the bad weather that had hampered rescue efforts. Some suggested that Japanese bureaucracy had stood in the way of flexible responses.

Reports of the plight of the victims soon became overshadowed by the problems at the Fukushima nuclear plants. There was admiration for the courage and tenacity of the workers and firefighters in trying to bring the plants back under control.

The media, however, picked up on the doubts expressed by Japanese citizens about the attempts by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to calm fears about the atomic radiation spreading beyond the initial exclusion zones. Panic has to be avoided.

British scientists have played down the likelihood of radiation levels in the Tokyo area rising to levels that are dangerous to health. This would be easier to argue if there had not been past obfuscations by government and industry officials about nuclear safety.

The longer-term effects of Japan's triple disaster are still being assessed. These will inevitably be greatest for Japan, but they will have implications for other countries as well.

It was encouraging to see that central bankers had taken significant steps to counter action by hedge-fund speculators and to help prevent further rises in the value of the yen, which would make early economic recovery in Japan more difficult.

Cuts in electricity supplies in Japan as a result of damage to power plants and port facilities will have an impact not only on Japanese life but also on Japanese manufacturing output.

Because Japanese components are used in so many products assembled or manufactured elsewhere in the world, disruption in supplies from Japan will have an impact on production in other countries. Globalization means that we are all, to some extent at least, in this together.

Japanese demand for oil and gas for power plants will have an effect on world prices and supplies particularly at this time of instability in the Middle East.

The eventual fate of the damaged Fukushima reactors is not yet known. Will they have to be buried in concrete and abandoned?

The more important question is how this accident will affect nuclear power generation not only in Japan but also in the world. It will be difficult for Japan to replace nuclear power, but if nuclear power plants are to be retained, the Japanese people will need to be reassured that they will be safe in the most severe earthquake imaginable and protected against tsunami of the magnitude of that caused by the recent earthquake.

This will inevitably be very expensive, but need not be ruled out as impossible. Japanese engineers have access to the best technology and equipment. An essential element in giving such reassurances must be certainty that information is not being withheld from the public because it might be embarrassing or damage profitability.

This requires a real cultural change and proper public accountability.

The Japanese accident will inevitably lead other countries to reassess their nuclear power programs.

The Fukushima disaster and its implications should be assessed calmly and all relevant factor including costs, financial and environmental, given due weight. Friends of Japan ask whether this triple disaster will galvanize Japan's political leadership.

Japan has had so many prime ministers in recent years that even dedicated Japan watchers find it hard to name them all. Japanese people will no doubt respond positively to the Emperor's call for mutual cooperation.

Will this crisis lead to the emergence of new leaders willing to put the good of Japan as a whole over factional interests? Is this crisis a real and effective wakeup call?

Hugh Cortazzi, a former British career diplomat, served as ambassador to Japan from 1980 to 1984.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NUCLEAR MELTDOWNS AND JAPANESE CULTURE

BY GREGORY CLARK

Japanese engineers have a much deserved reputation for efficiency. How else could they have created a car industry that could defeat the U.S industry on its home ground? But the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant suggests a partial rethink is needed. When it comes to nuclear affairs, maybe they are not as brilliant as they should be.

Some years back I found myself appointed to official committees and councils (shingikai) set up to consider nuclear energy policy and nuclear safety. What I saw and heard then gave me little confidence that Japan was on top of the safety question. The overall impression was one of pervasive, bureaucratic incompetence and complacency.

We were told constantly how Japan's high technical levels and attention to safety meant that accidents like the 1986 Chernobyl reactor explosion in the former Soviet Union or the 1979 Three Mile island meltdown and radiation leakage scare in the U.S. could not happen to Japan. Yet today we are looking at a disaster much worse than Three Mile Island. On the international scale of danger from nuclear accidents, Fukushima is said to be closing in on Chernobyl.

What went wrong? Attention is focused on the frantic efforts to ease or prevent radiation leakage from damaged reactor buildings. But the contradictions, obfuscations and attempted excuses in official statements are not reassuring. And when it comes to the original cause of the disaster, namely the mistaken location of the emergency backup equipment allowing it to be flooded by the tsunami, then no excuses are possible. It was a typically Japanese failure to engage in contingency planning — a worthy trait at times but not when it comes to nuclear power.

The Tohoku coastline, including Fukushima, faces one of the world's more active areas of tectonic plate activity. It ranks with both Chile and Sumatra in its ability to cause devastating tsunami. The plant began construction just 10 years after the 1960 Chile-origin tsunami that had wiped out many Tohoku coastal towns and villages.

The deadly 2004 Sumatra earthquake would have been a good reminder of more tsunami dangers to come. Yet, both then and until now, the planners seem to have believed that the sea wall in front of the site was sufficient protection from a locally generated tsunami.

As it turned out, they were wrong; the tsunami swept across the wall and flooded the equipment, causing the present emergency. But if the emergency equipment had been placed on high ground or, even better, put underground, as seems to be the current U.S. policy, then the size of the tsunami would not have mattered. Yet, for some incredible reason, the equipment was placed above ground and close to the water's edge — an open invitation for the trouble we now see. Whose decision was that?

At a recent press conference, Shiro Ogura, a retired Toshiba expert on nuclear plant design formerly involved with the Fukushima project, blamed U.S. company General Electric, which built the original plant. But why didn't someone on the Japanese side more familiar with tsunami point out the danger either then or later?

In the endless meetings on nuclear safety and policy I attended over three years as a member of those committees, such problems got little attention. Instead, voluminous situation reports constantly repeated the need for nuclear energy (with which I agreed) while giving bland assurances of its safety.

Glossy brochures and elaborate public meetings aimed to counter the strong antinuclear movement in Japan seemed the main objective. My suggestions that staff who pointed out dangers and lapses — whistle-blowers as we call them — should be rewarded got short shrift.

The suggestions were "contrary to the Japanese culture of enterprise loyalty," I was told bluntly. Pointing out that other well-known aspect of the same group culture — a tendency to coverups and complacency — did not seem welcome.

My suggestion that serious dialogue with the antinuclear movement, including permissions for spot checks on generating plants, would do more to convince and educate people than glossy pamphlets got nowhere. The paternalistic assumption was that the nuclear energy people knew what was best for Japan, and the rest of Japan had to accept that, period.

Even now officialdom does not seem to want to realize the extent of the disaster it has created. While U.S. experts issue deep warnings of impending meltdowns, Japan's officials and experts try to convince us and themselves that each stopgap measure will provide the answer.

The national ganbaru (try hard) mentality will conquer all, they seem to think, including those warnings by the foreigners. Or else some kamikaze (divine wind) will come to rescue Japan, once again. TV stations continue with their usual diet of cheap gag shows and food tasting. Similarities with Japan's fatalistic optimism in the final Pacific War days are not hard to find.

Gregory Clark is a longtime resident in Japan formerly involved in academic and government affairs. A Japanese translation of this article will appear on www.gregoryclark.net

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

ENOUGH, MR. GADHAFI

Last Friday the United Nations Security Council agreed to impose a no-fly zone in Libya, after weeks of negotiations. There are fears that it may be too late to protect civilians or stop the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from crushing the armed revolt against him. Nevertheless, it does provide the authorization that external forces need to try to level the playing field against a leader who has shown no hesitation to slaughter his own people. Equally significant, it puts other tyrants on notice that they too do not enjoy immunity when they turn the power of the state against their own citizens.

There were scattered incidents in January, but protests in Libya gathered momentum in mid-February as demonstrators there took inspiration from upheavals elsewhere in the Arab world. Within days, several cities had thrown off the Tripoli government, and ranking officials, along with senior ambassadors, broke with Col. Gadhafi. A National Transition Council that sought to organize the disparate protest movements formed at the end of the month.

At first, it looked like Mr. Gadhafi would suffer the same fate as Mr. Hosni Mubarak, but there was a critical difference between the two: Whether the product of delusion or desperation, the Libyan leader refused to quit. He rallied against the rebels, and unlike other Arab leaders, was ready to use all the strength of the state against them. He has even reportedly hired mercenaries, fearing that his own troops might be reluctant to brutalize their fellow citizens.

As the tide turned, and it looked as though mass slaughter was imminent, the rebels appealed to the international community for help. They did not seek ground forces, but rather wanted the imposition of a no-fly zone to equalize the fight. After weeks of painstaking negotiations, the U.N. Security Council last Friday voted 10-0, with five abstentions, to authorize member nations to take "all necessary measures" to protect civilians. In plain language, that means that other nations have the green light to take military action against the Libyan government. It explicitly mentions the need to protect civilians in Benghazi, a rebel stronghold, calls to "establish a ban on all flights in the airspace" and demands an immediate ceasefire.

The resolution is significant for many reasons. First, there is its politics. No government — not even Russia or China, which zealously protects the prerogatives of national governments no matter how much they abuse the notion of "sovereignty" — voted against the resolution. Brazil and India, two other stalwarts that routinely "defend" smaller countries against pressure from the developed world, also abstained. Second, it enjoyed the backing of the Arab League: Western leaders were well aware that regional sensitivities demanded Arab countries' approval of any action. The resolution itself specifically notes "an important role" for Arab countries in enforcing the no-fly zone. Reportedly, United States' support for the resolution was contingent on Arab backing.

The vote puts teeth in the notion of the "responsibility to protect," first acknowledged in 2005 by the United Nations and then explicitly affirmed by the Security Council a year later. "R2P," as it is sometimes called, punctures the wall of absolute authority conferred by sovereignty, laying out the principle that governments have the responsibility to protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or ethnic cleansing. If they cannot do that, then the international community has the right to intervene to do so.

The vote was a test for the U.N., which has too often stood by in the past as atrocities unfolded. It did nothing when hell was unleashed in Bosnia, Darfur and Rwanda and hundreds of thousands of civilians were slaughtered. A repeat of that performance could have fatally undermined the credibility of the U.N. and made of mockery of the defining principles of its charter.

Of course, member states must back up the words of the resolution with action. Despite the lengthy negotiations — in retrospect, the time was needed to ensure that the resolution ultimately passed — key nations moved quickly to make the resolution meaningful. World leaders met in Paris a day after the vote to launch the largest international intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq. By then, French aircraft were already patrolling the skies over Benghazi and had reportedly destroyed a number of Libyan tanks and armored vehicles.

Multinational forces, which include the U.S., Britain and France, have launched waves of airstrikes since then. They must use utmost care in planning their attacks to avoid civilian casualties. After backing the resolution, Arab leaders now worry that the intervention is straying beyond its mandate — to protect civilians without intervening in Libya's internal affairs.

For his part, Col. Gadhafi has dismissed the U.N. resolution in letters to world leaders, calling it "clear aggression" and an "uncalculated risk . . . for the Mediterranean and Europe." It is a risk that the world must court if it is to have any credibility about its commitment to human rights.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

FAITH IN ARAB DEMOCRACY

Egyptians voted on Sunday in a referendum over a proposal for changes to their constitution in another milestone since the Jan. 25 revolution that ended the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak.


It was not so much the substance of the changes that mattered as much as the fact that this was the first time Egyptians had a real political choice in more than three decades in deciding their fate. On Sunday, the choice was limited to a simple yes or no (or abstain, which is a legitimate choice in a democracy). But, within the year, as the plan goes Egyptians will exercise more political choice in a general election to elect their representatives and their president.

Being the largest country in the Arab world in population terms, it is imperative that Egypt succeeds in its experience with liberal democracy. As one of the first countries in the Middle East and North Africa to end a dictatorship through popular revolt, Egypt is leading the way and showing the benefits of freeing its people from the long reign of a dictator. Democracy can be contagious, and Egypt's success can inspire others in the region to push for real change in the way they are governed.

The proposed constitutional amendment was drawn up by a committee appointed by the Egyptian military council — the de facto rulers of the country after Mubarak's departure. As the amendment was hastily prepared, it inevitably fell short of expectations. Many people remained skeptical as reflected by the 41 percent voter turnout. Skepticism in the proper dose is a healthy sign of democracy, and the proposal was carried by a vote of nearly three to one.


The new constitution should be enough to allow Egypt to organize a general election within the year and pave the way for the transfer of power from the military to a civilian government. It will be the task of the next elected representatives to sit down and draw up a new constitution to provide better guarantees of freedom, human rights and good governance.


Egypt is going through an exciting, if not dangerous, period of transition from a dictatorship to a democracy. It could go the way of Iraq or Afghanistan, which has been chaotic, or it could go the Indonesian way, which has been messy but still functioning.


The choice is really for Egyptians and nobody else to make. As long as enough people have faith in democracy, Egypt is well on its way.

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THE JAKARTA POST

JAPANESE ENDURANCE

 "Japan is much richer than us. So don't look at how much we give but at how we respond to their suffering," Bantul Regent Sri Suryawidati said Tuesday in an effort to drum up donations for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. She was right in saying that in terms of material value, it is very difficult to help rich friends who have helped us sincerely during our difficult times.

"This is our way of showing our care and gratitude for what the Japanese did for us during our hard times," said the regent, whose territory lies in Yogyakarta province. A moral gesture that deserves support from all Indonesians, whose country often endures similar calamities to Japan.

Japan – itself prone to earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons – and its people, who are known for their generosity to victims of natural disasters, poured in hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Aceh in December 2004 as well as quake victims in Yogyakarta, Central Java, West Java and Padang, in West Sumatra, a few years later.

Millions of Japanese are currently facing one of the most difficult times in their history, perhaps only second after their humiliating defeat in World War II. They might need years to rebuild their homeland, which was severely devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

In 1945, US atomic bombs hugely destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and forced Japan to surrender to the Allied Forces. And now the nation is confronting a nuclear disaster, the impacts of which could spread to other nations.

The Japanese perhaps do not realize how they have set an amazing example on how to endure such an extremely damaging disaster and stand with dignity. They have demonstrated their discipline and respect for others and are ready to sacrifice for other people even though they themselves are in deep trouble. Although they are very hungry and thirsty, they still prioritize other victims like the elderly, children and pregnant women.

A CNN correspondent who has covered several natural disasters, like those in Aceh, Mississippi in the US, Haiti, and in other parts of the globe, expressed his disbelief at the Japanese people's strict discipline and obedience to the law. They have demonstrated that they never think of stealing food aid or taking as much as they can without a thought for others equally in need of the food.

This is in sharp contrast to the condition in Indonesia, where TV stations ardently urge their audiences to donate in times of disasters. Many organizations collect money from people on the streets or from private companies on behalf of victims, but very often the money does not go to the proper recipients. This excludes foreign aid that in the past has also often been abused by government officials or politicians.

In their darkest hours, the Japanese have shown us how to behave in dignity as a civilized nation. We believe Japan will fully recover in a few years to come with the spirit of the people. Our sincere gratitude to the people of Japan for helping us when we were in trouble and for setting us a good example with their noble deeds.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

INNOVATION TO FIGHT TB

TOMMY DHARMAWAN

World Tuberculosis (TB) Day was celebrated on March 24, 2011. The theme of world TB day this year was "On the move against tuberculosis" and the goal was to inspire innovation in TB research such as developing rapid TB tests, faster treatment regimens and effective vaccines.

The theme also inspires us to generate public health programs about how to improve TB case findings, modernize diagnostic laboratories and adopt the revolutionary TB tests that have recently become available. The impact will be the reduced prevalence, morbidity and mortality of TB patients.

The elimination of TB can only be achieved if current TB management can be changed by using novel technologies that can help with prevention and provide optimal diagnoses and treatment for all forms of TB in people of all ages, including those living with HIV.

In Indonesia and other developing countries, such tools must deliver quicker results and be affordable for the poor.

Sometimes a newly developed diagnostic kit is very expensive, so developing, evaluating and implementing effective technologies requires not only large-scale investment but also coordination from
all TB research stakeholders such as scientists, donor organizations, governments, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, health workers, tuberculosis patients and their families.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed a novel rapid test for TB. The test can give an accurate diagnosis in about 100 minutes compared to current tests that can take up to three months for results. "This new test represents a major milestone for global TB diagnosis and care.

It also represents new hope for the millions of people who are at the highest risk of TB and drug-resistant disease," said Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO's Stop TB Department.

The WHO's endorsement of the rapid test, which is a fully automated nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), follows 18 months of rigorous assessment of its field effectiveness in the early diagnosis of TB, as well as multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and TB complicated by HIV infection, which are more difficult to diagnose.

The WHO says that implementation of this rapid test could increase more than three-fold the diagnosis of patients with drug-resistant TB and give a doubling in the number of HIV-associated TB cases. Many countries such as Indonesia still principally rely on sputum smear microscopy, a diagnostic method that was developed over a century ago.

Although this method is still reliable, there are some disadvantages, such as the need for trained laboratory technicians and that the test is time consuming and requires some stain to smear, as well as the inconvenience for TB patients who have to expel sputum.

Meanwhile, the new rapid test incorporates modern DNA technology that can be used outside of conventional laboratories. Other benefits are that it is fully automated, easy and safe to use.

The WHO has now included the NAAT to be rolled out as part of plans for TB and MDR-TB care and control. Indonesia needs to develop policy and operational guidance regarding this new diagnostic technique.

Indonesia has the third largest TB prevalence in the world. The problems with the TB elimination program in Indonesia are not just about issuing TB rapid diagnostic tests but also the surround the implementation of Tuberculosis Directly Observed Short-course (DOTS) programs in remote regions.

With most of our country consisting of islands and mountainous villages, the implementation of TB programs must be accompanied by good regulations in local government health policies. So, cooperation between the central and local governments is a must to organize a good TB elimination program in Indonesia. Besides that, more funding and political commitment are important.

Since foreign aid is more than 70 percent of Indonesia's TB elimination budget, central and local governments must increase their budgets for TB programs so Indonesia does not depend on foreign aid as much.

We don't want our TB prevalence and our case detection rates to increase just because there are no foreign funds.

In summary, although there have been major improvements in TB care and control, tuberculosis killed an estimated 1.7 million people in 2009 and 9.4 million people developed active TB in 2008 worldwide. In Indonesia, there are still a lot of problems that hamper people, not only in remote places but also in urban areas.

The government should take several additional approaches to increase the accessibility of TB care. We want to see innovation and direct action from health workers to help people with TB, and we want the community to think outside the box and get involved in TB eradication.

The writer is a doctor living in Jakarta

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

THE RIGHT TO WAGE WAR IN LIBYA

HARISON CITRAWAN

"All animals are equal. All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others" G. Orwell, Animal Farm (1945)

After a long discussion concerning the uprising in Libya, the United Nations Security Council finally passed Resolution 1973 (2011) on Thursday. The Resolution mainly rules two points: first, imposing a no-fly zone policy above Libya and second, authorizing all member states to use all necessary measures in order to protect civilians.

It appears that the policy was supported by the international community as none of the Security Council members opted out. Two days later, France, Britain and the United States launched missile strikes from the Mediterranean Sea.

The attack has revived a long-standing debate over whether such a military intervention is allowed under the current international law regime. This may particularly concern two points of interest: State's sovereignty and human rights protection.

Firstly, legally speaking, one thing to be aware of is that the collective security system under the UN framework prohibits the use of force in the international relations sphere as stipulated in Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter. Furthermore, member states shall not be allowed to intervene in matters of domestic jurisdiction of any other states.

Nevertheless, there are only two exclusions on this issue, it is legal to use force in terms of self-defense or under the UN Security Council Resolution mandate (Chapter VII of the Charter). Related to the enforcement mandate issue, a Report of the Panel on UN Peacekeeping (2000) as known as the Brahimi Report mentioned that "... the UN does not wage war. Where enforcement action is required, it has consistently been entrusted to coalitions of willing States with the authorization of the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the Chapter". Hence, many view the Resolution 1973 to be regarded as a mandate from the Council.

Nevertheless, the dilemma emerges when the Council does not explicitly express the legal basis of its authorization in the resolution. Similar to the cases of Iraq, Kosovo or Afghanistan years ago, the so-called "coalition of the willing" states was likely to intervene militarily on the basis of "implied authorization" of the Security Council, due to the fact that none of the Resolutions expressed the authorization to use force.

Theoretically, such implied power of the Council, seen from an extensive point of view, is necessary to fulfill its duty to maintain international peace and security. Thus, the same would apply to the situation in Libya. The Council simply mentioned to use "all necessary measures" to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi. This means that, implicitly, the Council authorizes states to use force in order to halt further