Google Analytics

Saturday, March 26, 2011

EDITORIAL 26.03.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month march 26, edition 000790, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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














  5. '13th Amendment Plus': India sceptical of Sri Lankan promise  - Nirupama Subramanian






















































The President of Syria Bashar al-Assad, it seems, is a quick learner. Just as the situation in his country was about to spiral out of control with thousands of anti-Government demonstrators, inspired by popular protests in the region, taking to the streets, Mr Assad quickly promised democratic reforms, made some tactical concessions and for the first time in years, allowed his people crucial public space to vent their feelings. These effectively ensured that demonstrations on Friday, which was hailed as a Day of Dignity by opposition activists and saw several thousand angry protesters march to the capital Damascus as well as demonstrations in other cities, remained largely peaceful. Only a few weeks ago, Mr Assad had proudly claimed that his 11-year-old regime was "immune" to the kind of popular uprisings that has shaken the Arab world but when faced with a fast deteriorating situation at home, he conceded to popular demands and announced an unprecedented set of reforms. The situation had started going downhill last week when school students were arrested in the southern town of Dara'a, on the Syria-Jordan border for scribbling anti-Government graffiti and protesters took to the streets to demand their release. Soon, thousands joined the demonstrations and demands now included political reforms and the abolishment of emergency rule. At this point, Mr Assad's Government made a tactical error by unleashing his security forces to contain the protests on Wednesday which resulted in the death of at least 30 activists and injured several others. The violent crackdown, which was widely viewed on the internet, met with international condemnation and enraged the nation — in other words, the stage was about to be set for more violence and bloodshed, when Mr Assad made took things into his own hands. On Thursday, his office announced a 30 per cent salary hike for state employees, the release of all activists arrested over the week and promised to consider the lifting emergency law, permitting the formation of opposition parties, measures for job creation and press freedom. Some have rightly pointed out that these promises might just be stalling tactics to ensure that a potential country-wide Syrian uprising is nipped in the bud but in the eventuality that these reforms are indeed carried out, it would be a truly historic moment.

In mean time however, Syria sits on the edge and fears of a civil-war loom large, especially if violence escalates in the days ahead. Like its neighbours Iraq and Lebanon, Syria is a heterogenous, ethnically diverse society. Recent events have shown that countries like Egypt which have a strong national identity and are not prey to tribal loyalties are more likely to have a peaceful transitional period. However, countries like Iraq and Libya which are essentially an amalgam of sects and tribe and are often the victim of sectarian violence are less likely to make a non-violent transition. Already, Syria's Christian minority are rallying in favour their secular President who also has the support of the Alawite sect to which he belongs. Additionally, Syria's elites who have historically supported the ruling family and benefitted significantly from Mr Assad's reformist rule are unlikely to switch loyalties. An uprising against President Assad will split the country right down the middle and lead to a civil war. Only timely reforms can prevent such a disaster.







The global economy seems to have finally recovered from the meltdown which is regarded as the worst in the post-World War II history. The positive outlook presented by the International Yearbook of Industrial Statistics 2011 published by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation shows that for the first time since 2006 industrialised nations have registered a growing trend in industrial production, albeit developing countries like China, Brazil and India are still leading the pack showing robust performance. That the global economy is gaining health and not just individual countries are doing well is reflected by the fact that the world manufacturing value added has grown by an estimated 5.3 per cent in 2010. However, a comparative analysis may not look so heartening — the MVA of industrialised countries grew by 3.2 per cent as compared to 9.4 per cent of developing countries — as it indicates that growth continues to be uneven. True, growth in developed countries has been stunted with Governments going on austerity measures and consumers spending less but there is little doubt that the worst is over. The global economy seems to have survived a major threat which emerged with the severe debt crisis in European countries like Greece and Ireland that forced advanced economies like the UK to opt for rigorous fiscal consolidation. What is interesting to note is that the disparity in the growth rates of developing and developed nations — which is to continue says the World Bank — has resulted in renewed importance of the G20 as the world's leading economic grouping with the G8 being relegated to playing the second fiddle.

The UNIDO report is extremely positive on China, India and Brazil as the MVA of all three countries grew by 10 per cent in 2010. The developing nation's share in world manufacturing output has reached 32 per cent compared to 20 per cent a decade ago mainly due to high growth rates in these countries. This is one tiding that is sure to bring smiles back in Minister for Finance Pranab Mukherjee's face as the recent downslide in the manufacturing sector has been cause for concern. Having said that, a slack labour market is an issue that needs immediate attention since the International Monetary Fund has already expressed worries about job losses. India should be cautious about the difference between productivity gains and real wage growth. Maintaining a healthy balance between wages, consumption and aggregate demand is crucial in this era of globalisation when economic crisis in one country can have a domino effect on another because high domestic demand can act as a cushion to external tremors. The Government has so far acted judiciously by not increasing the interest rates as a knee-jerk reaction to high inflation.









The US-led, UN-sanctioned military intervention in Libya is possibly not just about oil. It could be a preemptive strike against Al Qaeda in the Maghreb.

Though air operations in Libya are conducted by a coalition of which France and Britain — particularly the former — are at the forefront, it is hardly a secret that nothing would have happened without the United States playing a key role behind the scenes. Some would doubtless attribute the US's action to just one word: Oil. One needs hardly be surprised if it is a factor. According to an estimate, the world's total proven oil reserves came to 1,342,207 billion barrels in 2009, of which Libya had 43,660 billion barrels. The 17th largest producer of oil in the world, and the largest in Africa, it produces 1.6 million barrels a day.

While oil, in probability, is a factor — and perhaps even a major one — only an overly simplistic and one-dimensional approach would regard it as the only one. American President Barack Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron have repeatedly emphasised that the purpose of the intervention is to protect Libya's civilian population against the murderous assaults of the pro-Muammar Gaddafi forces. The kind of minatory language in which the Libyan dictator has threatened the inhabitants of Benghazi and other supporters of the forces opposed to him, and his past record, certainly lends credence to the worst apprehensions expressed.

Besides, one must not lose sight of some of the wider strategic aspects. North Africa and West Asia are in turmoil; surging popular anger in the streets has brought regimes down in Tunisia and Egypt and sent at least a couple of others reeling. According to several reports, the turn of events has completely surprised Al Qaeda which has been reduced to watching from the sidelines as forces that are anathema to its leaders dislodged President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia from perches that had earlier appeared unassailable. At the time of writing, Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh finds himself increasingly isolated as one loyalist after another crosses over to his opponents.

Yet, Al Qaeda has two affiliates in the regions — Al Qaeda in North Africa or Al Qaeda in the African Maghreb and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in West Asia. Both are extremely well-organised and effective. The latter's associates in Yemen have been responsible for several recent attempted terror strikes that came dangerously close to succeeding. One of them was by Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, who tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. Trained and equipped by AQAP in Yemen, he failed in his mission as the explosive device he carried in his underwear misfired and he was overpowered by fellow travellers and a flight stewardess.

In October last year, AQAP had sought to despatch through a United Parcel Service cargo plane and two commercial flights packages containing ink toner cartridges filled with PETN chemical explosives inside Hewlett-Packard printers. Loaded at Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and meant for out-of-date addresses of two Jewish synagogues in Chicago, these were detected on October 29 in Dubai and East Midlands airport near Nottingham in Britain, after Saudi intelligence officials had provided their American counterparts with the precise tracking number of the packages. If the manufacture of the bombs showed the remarkable sophistication achieved by the AQAP, so did editorial and production quality of its magazine, Inspire. Though the terror attack, codenamed Operation Haemorrhage, failed in terms of being aborted, Inspire, in its issue posted on the AQAP's website on November 20, claimed success in terms of the fear and disruption it caused and the security costs it inflicted.

Nor has Al Qaeda in the African Maghreb been lagging much. Its attempt to set up Al Qaeda in the Land of Egypt crashed following the death of its designated leader, Mohammed Hakaima, in a drone strike in 2008. Its Somalian affiliate, Al Shadab, however, has grown during the last 10 years, drawing recruits from Somali expatriates abroad, including disillusioned immigrants in the United States, and has participated in several gruesome terrorist attacks. The most savage of these occurred on July 11, 2010 when it set off a coordinated series of blasts at a popular garden restaurant in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, killing 70 of a festive crowed watching the football World Cup final on huge television screens.

According to an Associated Press report of April 26, 2009 there was evidence that battle-hardened Al Qaeda fighters were shifting from the organisation's strongholds in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to Africa. The report cited that US military and counter-terrorism officials were apprehensive that Somalia could emerge as the next Afghanistan and could be used for mounting attacks on the West.

One cannot say for sure. But nor can one rule out the possibility that Al Qaeda has been concentrating on North Africa and West Asia as an alternative base of operations in case it is forced to leave the Afghanistan-Pakistan region under increasing American pressure. Equally, it might use it as a forward base for an offensive against the West in case the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan in a manner that enables the Taliban to control the country, which would then become its rear base. Has the US been behind the attack on Libya because it thinks such a development as possible and wants to make sure that Al Qaeda does not succeed in such a mission should West Asia experience prolonged disorder as rival forces fight for supremacy?

The attack will not forestall such instability but will indicate that the US and its allies mean business and, thus, encourage anti-Islamist and anti-Al Qaeda forces to press forward. Mr Obama might consider this as particularly necessary because the diversion of American resources and attention to the War in Iraq convinced people that the Americans did not mean business in Afghanistan and it was better to ally with the Taliban and Al Qaeda to insure against tomorrow. If this is the American calculation behind the Libyan offensive, then it must also be accompanied by resolute action in Afghanistan. Otherwise the impression will grow that the Libyan campaign is nothing but an attempt to establish a second zone of defence against Al Qaeda as the first, Afghanistan, is being given up.






Another theatre of the absurd, this time Libya, where America and its lackeys, eager to seize control of Arab democratic stirrings in order to preserve their energy interests, are seen deploying classical instruments and ending up trapped in another quagmire

The first time I personally saw a huge crater created by a bomb dropped from the air was in Cotabato, Phillippines, a few hours' drive from Davao City. The area was thickly populated and inhabited by Moro Muslims. The people we talked to told us that the Philippines Air Force had dropped bombs there to kill the Moro rebels who were fighting for independence. There were civilian casualties; scores of people had died and many more had been injured. The bombings had destroyed schools and dispensaries, and even more important, their agricultural land.

No cultivation was possible there any more.

Such bombings by the government was not an isolated affair and it prevented people's access to drinking water, children's to schools and crippled normal life and people were never sure when to venture out. There were no Moro rebels living in that village or anywhere within a 50km radius. Why would the Air Force bomb the place, I wondered. The locals told us, the visiting delegation from Peace for Life, that the bombings were carried out to inflict collective punishment and to hurt the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The objective was to create a feeling of helplessness among the MILF rebels and create resentment against the MILF among Moros. What we saw was only an example of what went on in southern Philippines on a fairly regular basis. I was shocked by the fact that a government could bomb its own people.

The blockade of Gaza by Israel was well covered by the international media and we saw daily images of suffering people due to lack of food, water, children without milk and sick persons without medicines. To get these ordinary daily necessities, the Palestinian people had to drill tunnels with exits in Egypt. We saw images of Israeli planes raining bombs on schools where Palestinian children were studying. In 1982, the civilians in refugee camps in Sabra and Shatila were massacred by Christian Lebanese Phalangists while the camp was surrounded by the Israeli defence forces. Nearly 3,500 people were killed.

The Kahan Commission appointed by the Israeli government found Ariel Sharon in particular and Israel in general responsible for the massacre and for allowing the Phalangists into the camps. During the 2006 Israel-Hizbollah war, at least 1,200 people, mostly Lebanese civilians, were killed, civil infrastructure severely damaged and about 1 million people were displaced. After ceasfire, some parts of southern Lebanon were uninhabitable due to the Israeli unexploded cluster bomblets.

I recall these instances from recent history to build up a case against the United Nations' selective morality. Why didn't any world power think of clamping no-fly zones in these situations? Didn't human beings die there as well? There are no convincing answers.

We have seen the UN react with particular energy in choice theatres. No-fly zones were imposed in Bosnia, Iraq and Libya. UN Security Council Resolution No. 781, prohibited unauthorised military flights in Bosnian airspace. Compare the implementation of the no-fly zone in Bosnia (1992) with Libya, in whose case the UNSC passed resolution 1973 of 2011 last week. In 1992, NATO merely monitored violations of the no-fly zone but did not take any action against violators. About 500 violations were documented which included one combat violation. In that case, the Security Council passed Resolution 816 authorising UN member states to "take all necessary measures… to ensure compliance with the no-fly zone restrictions". It is only then that NATO launched air strikes during Operation Deny Flight and Operation Deliberate Force.

In the case of Libya, no sooner was the Resolution passed when "Allied" forces started bombing all the installations of the Libyan authoritarian ruler, Col Muammar Gaddafi, killing 48 civilians in the process. The stated purpose of the no-fly zone was to save civilian lives. However, even much before any violation of the NFZ, 48 civilians were killed. Gaddafi's compound has been hit and military planes and armoured tanks have been hit.

To the 'allies' 48 Arab lives mean nothing. There is an old couplet — marz badhta hi gayaa jyo jyo dawaa ki (the disease is aggravated as medicines were administered). The objective of protecting Libyan citizens could have been achieved without imposing NFZ, through negotiations. However, that does not seem to be the real objective of the Allied forces.

The real reason for having the NFZ is obvious to anybody who cares to see — regime change. However, the US and its allies do not want to send their own soldiers on the ground and risk yet another long-drawn ground battle as their militaries are already overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan and don't know how to pull out from those situations. This dirty work has to be done by Muslim combatants. Rebels in Benghazi and the oil-rich eastern region came in useful and, when they initially gained control over these towns, Washington was elated that perhaps a risk was worth taking. But the balance tilted subsequently and Gaddafi regained control with the help of airstrikes on rebel positions. This necessitated the use of the UN. Through the imposition of NFZ, the Americans hope to help the rebels regain lost control over the towns in the eastern regions and march on to gain Tripoli. In the process, the US could have another South Vietnam, this time an oil-rich one.


The revolt in the Arab world craving for democracy is commendable without any reservations. The Arab people had supported Allied forces in both the World Wars with the hope that they would be liberated from the Ottoman Empire and tyrannical rulers and power handed over to the people with democratic governance. Instead, the West continued pampering oppressive dictators. The supporters of the allied forces include the authoritarian rulers of Saudi Arabia and other Arab dictators. Regime change if Libyan people desire and by Libyan people should be supported without any reservation. However, democracy cannot come through the barrel of the gun of NATO forces.

With the Libyan misadventure, America and its lackeys have effectively killed off the positive upsurge one witnessed since Tunisia and Egypt. They have given the justified people's movements a bad name by promoting favourites with a view to securing their oil interests in the region. This will give a new lease of life to fundamentalist organisations as the last thing that the pro-democracy forces of the Islamic world need at this delicate, early stage is identification in the popular perception as a battering ram for America, the common enemy.

-- The writer is Director, Institute of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, Mumbai







While friendly autocrats in Bahrain and Yemen merrily crush the democratic upsurge, America and its friends went cowboy style into Libya this week. And guess who's backing it? United Nations and Arab League

As 'allied' bombers complete another day of operations in Libya, it is becoming increasingly clear that Muammar Gaddafi is not going to give up easily. The mission, named Operation Odyssey Dawn, was launched on March 19 after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973 calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. Like its neighbours Egypt and Tunisia, Libya too witnessed mass uprisings against Gaddafi, who has been in power since 1969.

Opponents of the regime quickly established control in the eastern part of Libya and were on their way to Tripoli, the Libyan capital. They established a Transitional National Council based in the eastern port city of Benghazi with claims to be "the sole representative of all Libya". On March 23, the Council declared the formation of an interim government under the Prime Ministership of Mahmoud Jibril.

Unlike Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia, Gaddafi decided to confront his challengers and ordered troops loyal to him to crush the revolt. Mercenaries were also brought in to assist the loyalists. As the pro-Gaddafi forces moved in with tanks and armoured columns, supported by airstrikes to reclaim the rebel-held territories, French President Nicolas Sarkozy took the initiative and got the Security Council to adopt Resolution 1973, making the intervention possible in Libya. When the resolution was put to vote in the Security Council, India, China, Russia, Brazil and Germany abstained while the remaining ten members voted in favour. Armed with this resolution, France and Britain look the lead, joined by the United States, to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya.

As the airstrikes continue, the coalition forces do not appear to be clear about the goals or an exit strategy. While speaking in Chile on March 21, explaining the significance of the mission, US President Barack Obama said that his country wants Gaddafi to go. However, Obama later clarified that the aim of the Libyan mission is not the removal of Gaddafi. Later, British Defence Secretary Liam Fox suggested that Gaddafi could potentially be a target for the 'allied' bombing, but this was repudiated by his Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. Official spokespersons have indicated that their aim is limited to enforcing the no-fly zone and protect the civilians and the bombing raids across Libya are aimed at achieving these ends. But what happens if the no-fly zone fails to ensure the safety of civilians and civilian populated areas? Even after six days of bombing, pro-Gaddafi forces are still attacking rebel strongholds and maintaining sieges of rebel-controlled cities. It is likely that without troops on the ground, something expressly prohibited by the resolution, the coalition mission will fail to achieve their targets.

Also interesting is the leadership of the 'allied' efforts. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was in the forefront of the campaign, supported by British Prime Minister David Cameron, while President Obama appeared to be the reluctant partner. Sarkozy's first tryst with the Arab revolutions of 2011 was an unpleasant one as he had to replace his Foreign Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, who proposed to send French riot police to suppress the Tunisian revolt. The French President is facing a tough re-election bid next year and opinion polls show him in third position behind Socialist and Far Right opponents. A successful French-led campaign in Libya is thought to provide Sarkozy with a vital push, propelling him to the top spot. Unlike Sarkozy, President Obama appeared to be reluctant to commit the troops to Libya. This position was supported by Defense Secretary Gates, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed hard for active US involvement and she found support from some of the influential Obama advisors.Obama, however, does not appear to be comfortable in leading the charge in Libya. He announced the decision to get involved in Libya while he was away in Latin America.

Meanwhile, he indicated that the US plans to relinquish its leadership role in the campaign at the earliest. France has been reluctant to cede the command to NATO while Britain, the US, and most key European states argue that NATO is best placed to do this job. To mollify the French, there is a plan to have a steering committee comprising foreign ministers of the allied countries and major Arab nations. This hybrid arrangement may be finalised only after discussions to be held in London early next week. Meanwhile, after intense haggling, NATO decided to assume the responsibility of enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya from the US. However, the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reiterated that "other aspects of the current mission would remain in the hands of the coalition".

UNSCR 1973, which authorised intervention in Libya, is perhaps one of the most sweeping resolutions ever passed by the Security Council against a member country. In effect, the resolution has by default permitted the formation of a 'coalition of the willing' which can use "all necessary means" to fulfil its key objectives of establishment of the no-fly zone and protection of civilians and civilian-populated areas in Libya. Already there are debates whether the resolution goes against the spirit of the UN charter. Libya so far has not been a threat to international peace and security and the ongoing battle is more like a civil war in which the rebel groups have established a parallel government of their own.

Even though Gaddafi is a ruthless dictator without any regard for human rights; the hypocrisy of the allied intervention in Libya is staggering. Across Africa, in countries like Sudan and Rwanda, hundreds of thousands were killed and no one was bothered. In this season of Arab uprisings, there is no mention of any intervention in Bahrain or Yemen where pro-reform activists were brutally repressed. Ironically, the Arab League which supports the allied intervention in Libya is almost exclusively comprised of autocrats with scant regard for human rights. Its secretary general, Amr Moussa, has already made so many about-turns that no one knows for sure what the League's present position is. Gaddafi perhaps provided a convenient target in this season of Arab revolutions and Libya also happens to have the ninth largest oil reserves in the world.

At this point, Libya's future looks uncertain. The no-fly zone may not be enough to unseat Gaddafi. A protracted civil war would certainly destroy the country's infrastructure, take its toll on the civilian population and add to the instability in the region. An anti-Gaddafi uprising in his strong-holds is unlikely for now, though not impossible. If Gaddafi survives and maintains his hold over Tripolitania, the world may have to contend with his wrath and a potential rogue state, uncomfortably close to Europe.

-- The author is an Associate Fellow of Observer Research Foundation, Delhi








He was expected to be a rare American President and the world gave him all the advance certificates, including the Nobel Peace prize within months of assuming office. So, how does Barack Obama justify his Libyan adventure?

First things first. Is America at war with Gaddafi's Libya or not? The White House says it is not. It's not war, but simply "kinetic military action", as Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes puts it. "I think what we are doing is enforcing a (UN Security Council) resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone," Rhodes told reporters, remarking: "Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end. But again, the nature of our commitment is that we are not getting into an open-ended war, a land invasion in Libya."

War is a dirty word, notably with the Obama White House. The man who won the Nobel Peace Prize within months of moving into the White House cannot be expected to declare a war. What Rhodes told reporters was essentially what White House officials conveyed to Congressional aides: That the US is not at war with Libya. But the lawmakers, mostly Republicans and some liberal Democrats as well, are not amused by the explanation. So, a flurry of statements has begun making the rounds. Republican Speaker John Boehner fired off a missive to President Obama, saying he is "troubled that US military resources were committed to war without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress, and our troops what the mission in Libya is".

Semantics apart, the White House's disavowals on war are being driven by rising tempers on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers accuse Obama of having exceeded his constitutional authority by not seeking Congressional consent before opening a new military front. Leading this chorus are five lawmakers from Obama's own party. While Obama ordered the missile strikes and went off on his scheduled Latin America visit over the weekend, the group of five liberal Democrats fired their own political missiles at him.

Lawmakers Dennis J Kucinich, Jerrold Nadler, Donna Edwards, Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee are simply questioning "the constitutionality of the president's actions". Kucinich, who made a vain bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, went a step further, saying Obama may actually be guilty of "an impeachable offence". He has written one more letter to Obama, threatening to move a bipartisan amendment to cut off all funds for the US' operations in Libya.

A Gallup poll released this week points to the limited public endorsement of Obama's push on Libya. In contrast to America's previous military engagements that received high public approval at least in their initial stages, only 47 per cent of people have approved of the US and allied airstrikes against Gaddafi's forces, with 37 per cent disapproving of the offensive and 16 per cent offering no opinion.

This contrasts with the 90 per cent approval for the Afghan operation after the 9/11 terror strikes in 2001 and the 76 per cent initial endorsement for the Iraq invasion in 2003. Interestingly, the approval for Obama's offensive in aid of the UN Security Council resolution is even lower than the 71 per cent approval for President Ronald Reagan's own missile strikes against Libya back in 1986, which was in retaliation for the Libyan bombing of a German nightclub that killed two American servicemen.

That points to what many Americans regard as the lack of a proximate cause to launch a military offensive against Libya at a time when the US is grappling with the Afghan operation and is still not fully out of Iraq. Republican Senator Richard Lugar, a respected voice on foreign policy, has demanded a full Congressional debate on the objectives and costs of Obama's military actions in Libya. On the House side, Republican lawmaker Candice Miller has accused Obama of having failed to come up with "a clear and convincing explanation of the vital national interest at stake which demands our intervention in Libya", demanding that he "pull our forces from the coalition immediately". Congressman Kucinich argues that the US-led intervention could end up accentuating the instability in the region.

The White House, however, defends its handling of the Libyan crisis, dismissing criticism that it has failed to duly consult members of Congress. The Obama administration is engaged in "time-limited, scope-limited" action with other countries to prevent a humanitarian crisis by protecting civilians from Gaddafi forces, says White House spokesman Jay Carney. Anyway, the US forces will be transitioning to a supportive role in the international coalition and have no plan whatever to sent ground troops into Libya, he says.

Be that as it may, Obama is not without critics from outside the political stream as well. Richard Haas, former State Department Policy Planning Director, takes exception to Obama's assertion that Gaddafi must go, even while asserting that the US military operation is not aimed at bringing about a regime change. The fact that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is a hated figure can't be a template of American foreign policy, Haas argues. He cites what John Quincy Adams, the US's sixth president, said nearly 200 years ago: That the United States should not be going around the world in search of monsters to destroy.

-- The writer is Washington correspondent, The Pioneer








In 1971, Indira Gandhi made a searing pre-election pledge: " Garibi Hatao". The iron lady got so many grateful votes for her sloganeering munificence that envious politicians ever since have carried "pro-poor" placards and sworn to deliver welfare. The question is how. Well, take one inspiring demonstration: in 2006, UPA-I resolved to supplant "Garibi Unmoolan" - a Hindi mouthful for 'poverty alleviation' - with the (electorally) tried and tested "Garibi Hatao" in officialese. Who says pious symbolism can't be socially uplifting?

Besides catchy slogans, we the people supposedly also get fixed-price fuel, fertiliser, food, water, power, et al. Without subsidies necessarily coupled with leaky delivery, could noble redistributive purposes ever be served? How would netas and babus sing "dole baby dole" while diverting poor-directed benefits into earthly black holes? How would adulterators steal kerosene and moneybags rev up on cheap diesel? How would rich farmers get to waste unbilled power and precious water while all the poor kisan got episodically was loan waivers?

Politicians also try to woo popular support on the cheap, promising almost-free foodgrain at polltime. Today, however, India's dil maange more. So, populism has had to keep pace, doubtless for the sake of social good. In 2006, DMK's pre-poll sops included colour TVs. In 2011's Tamil Nadu assembly poll run-up, the 2G scam-tainted party needs to dangle more than idiot boxes. So, besides laptops for students, there are mixies for housewives. Now, that's a gift that could put Jayalalithaa's plans to chop and change CM Karunanidhi's leadership definitively in the grinder. Indira Gandhi would approve. Not only did she run a kitchen cabinet, she also made mince of her opponents. Without a mixie.

What could match Karuna's karuna but the AIADMK amma's largesse of heart? She's pledged everything from free rice, mineral water and fans to gold mangalsutras for brides! Forget monsoon weddings, let's start timing marriages with poll season. Wedding planners need to budget for gifts on such auspicious occasions. Think of all the cash newly-weds can save courtesy the blessings showered on them: computers, kitchen gadgets, TV sets and, thanks to Karuna's son Stalin, maybe even washing machines and refrigerators! With due apologies to rock band Dire Straits, it's taxpayers' money for nothing, poll tricks for free... and everything we need to live happily ever after, including microwave ovens and MTV! Not to forget Jaya's offer of complimentary cows and sheep, gift-wrapped. Ooh, our heart is bleating...

True, fiscally ruinous populism often puts the last nail in the coffer. But that merely signals our netas' public-spiritedness. So what if resources get frisked away from much-needed schools, hospitals, roads or electricity? In politics, Santa has a clause: electoral season's greetings are about power, not empower. Only, there's a catch. Come voting day, lucid voters are increasingly saying: Rajneeti hatao, crutches, crumbs and all. In New India, who wants dole when you should roll, baby, roll? The universe, after all, is more than a freebie lunch.







WASHINGTON: Maximum India. That was the banner under which the Indian embassy and the external affairs ministry organised a fortnight-long festival at the Kennedy Centre here to showcase our culture, from classical dance to contemporary stage performances. Going by the buzz in the media, it was a job well done. India shone.

Which is all to the good. For, India's global image otherwise has begun to appear weather-beaten. For a growing number of observers, that image has lost some of its shine. Sure, we are still registering the second-fastest rate of growth among major economies and our overall global clout has grown from what it was, say, 10 years ago. But, in recent weeks sceptics have begun to wonder aloud.

Yes, it's true that India's economic growth and military modernisation have raised the prospect of its rise to great power status. But will India ever be bold enough to change its timid international political-military posture or will it carry on its policy of 'strategic restraint', ask Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta in the latest issue of The Washington Quarterly. It's a legitimate question to ask of an aspiring power that seeks a seat at every high table. If, for instance, India becomes a permanent, veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, will it continue to take the easy way out by abstaining on all issues of critical importance or will it take stands?

And, as recent articles in the Financial Times have asked, even as its economy continues to grow swiftly, is India coming to resemble Russia, where crony capitalism thrives and democracy has given way to oligarchy? Will the governance deficit continue as corruption overshadows the system or can India repair the twin pillars of transparency and accountability?

Such questions rile many of our countrymen. Just you wait, they scream angrily, India is great and will become greater. But time won't wait long in this rapidly evolving and competitive global environment. Nor will that emerging mass of young Indians, who don't seem to have the shrugging patience our parents once had.

If its performance has to measure up to the challenges of the coming tsunami of rising expectations, at home and abroad, India must go beyond boasting that it is the world's largest democracy which has free and fair elections or that it assures freedom of expression for all. It must become a high-trust market economy in which contracts can be predictably delivered and a genuine liberal democracy in which disputes can be resolved fairly and swiftly within a dependable framework of law, order and justice. In other words, governance must become truly transparent and reliably accountable. Alas, today that possibility looks distant.


India's commercial laws and practices remain mired in a dense fog. Reform to ensure transparency proceeds at a crawl. As a tide of revelations suggests, crony capitalism not only thrives, it may be sabotaging free and fair competition. The right to private property, which is a key component of any market economy, is not a fundamental right in our Constitution, while disputes over property run into a cliff of piled-up cases in an overwhelmed and underperforming judicial system that hits almost all accountability out of reckoning. Meanwhile, an underpaid, undermanned and bribe-driven police force is unable to cope with a rising tide of responsibilities.

The act of electing a nation's rulers freely entails the protection of basic rights such as freedom of speech. In that sense, India is more than just an electoral democracy. But the state's ability to implement policies grows weaker by the day. Public education and public health are in a shambles. The quality of life, if we judge by global yardsticks, is among the poorest in the world. However, the crony industrialist and the top executive, the seasoned politician and the senior bureaucrat, and, yes, the media star, all manage to get by very comfortably.
It is possible that attitudes we inherited from a traditional upper-caste-dominated society allow us to accept a wide degree of inequality and unfairness. But democracy is a funny ointment. The more it spreads, the more it churns up voices from the deep, voices that were once silent or shut out.

Listen carefully. The voices are getting louder.








Recent HRD ministry statistics show a significant decline in national primary school enrolments. Given Indian demographics, where the number of children is increasing every year, the results are even more shocking. This is despite all the noise about right to education for every Indian. While we may choose to forget this statistic for the next sensational news item, this is an extremely disturbing development.

If India's population is not trained to face the globalised world - and primary education is the first step in that training - we will become a nation of servants and clerks. Given our highly educated, ex-educationist prime minister is of late more interested in covering up scams than education, it doesn't seem likely that our top leadership cares. Still, if enough citizens care, maybe politicians will take notice. It is with this hope that i try to analyse the possible reasons for this decline, what will happen if we don't address it and what we can do to actually fix it.

There are five main reasons why enrolment could have dropped. One, the most obvious reason is that the schools are terrible. If you ever visit a village school, you will realise how everything is low quality, from the classrooms to the desks to the quality of teachers. Why? Don't villagers deserve good schools for their children? One may say the schools are subsidised so quality cannot be there. Well, maybe we need to spend more money then. Maybe we need more private partners. Maybe we need to redesign the traditional model of a school, perhaps using technology to impart learning. The education may be at the primary level, but it still needs to be high quality. Low quality education is not really education at all.

Two, the curriculum in our schools is obsolete. How much has the professional world changed in the last 30 years? How much has our curriculum changed? Who sets our curriculum? Do they revise it from time to time keeping in mind the needs of industry and the services sector? One big reason poor people send their kids to school is that they will learn skills to make more money. If schools don't give them those skills, why will they bother? Advanced concepts like education to satisfy curiosity, or learning for learning's sake, do not apply to people with no money. A hungry person does not watch Discovery channel. Surveys show a person with decent English language skills can increase earning power by 400%. Why don't we teach our poor people English? Why do government schools start teaching it so late?

Three, the massive inflation rate has made life extremely difficult for people with low incomes. Every pair of hands on the fields is now more valuable than sending a child to a substandard school for several years, the benefits of which are unclear.

Four, there isn't enough money being put into education, to make more schools or improve existing ones. Tax collections have seen high double-digit growth rates for several years now. However, much of taxpayers' money is used to fund scams and mass bribery type subsidies or to pay interest (often on borrowings made to fund past budget extravagances). If 2G auctions were done properly, or the Commonwealth Games didn't waste so much money, we could have had a lot more schools. If instead of NREGA we provided villagers the right skills to modernise, enhance farm income and increase job eligibility, maybe we would generate wealth rather than burn it.

Five, a controversial, sinister reason: the hidden benefits of illiteracy to politicians. Illiterate people are useful when it comes to maintaining vote banks and keeping scam parties going. If everyone were well-educated, would the government get away with so many scams? Even today, our PM's biggest defence is: 'People vote for us, hence our actions are justified'. The DMK still has a solid support base in Tamil Nadu. If every Indian really understood what happened, could the loot continue? So while there may not be a deliberate strategy to keep people illiterate, there is no burning passion or political incentive to make
India educated either. And politicians only work on incentives, not on the goodness of their hearts.

This problem won't go away. It will get worse. If today millions aren't being educated well, how will they get proper jobs tomorrow? Won't the education crisis translate into a far scarier job crisis in a few years? Or are we happy for our kids to be poor forever?

This can be fixed. Primary education has to be so vast in scale and scope as to be seen as a utility - such as power or telecom. The most modern techniques, thinking, strategy and execution are needed on a massive scale to educate our people. Ideally, just as with a few power utilities, the effort should be privatised, maybe on a semi-subsidised basis. In any case, if the education is worth it, people pay for it.







The remit of political parties is to ensure democratic debate, not embark upon clandestine missions to uncover corruption through means that are murky themselves. Yet that's precisely what Sushma Swaraj is justifying. We only have her version about what's a very murky affair, further complicated by WikiLeaks cables referring to attempted bribery to buy votes during the no-confidence motion in Parliament in 2008. They amount to little more than allegations and some will say it is just as possible - given how little we know as yet - that the MPs were actually looking to be bribed and, when thwarted, cried corruption.

In other words, there is little daylight between stings and entrapment. If the latter, it would belong to the political dirty tricks department to actively solicit bribes, then 'expose' the other party through a sting operation. Swaraj asks 'what is wrong' with her party's actions, but that is not what political parties should be doing. Democratic politics is conducted at the hustings as much as it is in Parliament. In both locations, the process is the same and the purpose identical: fostering debate. Rather than do what it's supposed to, the BJP mounted its own vigilante operations and transformed Parliament into a circus.

Even if this isn't a dirty tricks campaign, the BJP high-command has undermined the very democracy it is supposed to be an expression of. It has done this by breaking through the division of labour at the heart of democracy. If BJP MPs were approached, then they should have gone to the police whose job it is to investigate such matters. This mud-slinging is a blot on democracy and Parliament must get back to doing what it's meant to, and that's debating legislation. Ultimately, for Parliament's dignity to be restored, MPs need to show Parliament the respect it deserves.







The cash-for-votes scandal that marred the 2008 no-confidence motion in Parliament was one of the darkest chapters in Indian democracy. The recent cache of WikiLeaks cables throws light on the apparent deceit of the first UPA government, with American diplomats saying that it assured them of its survival on the strength of vote buying. The sting operation conducted by a private television channel at the time confirmed this. The sting might not have been an independent journalistic expose. But it helped show up an ugly affair. The Congress, the principal party in the ruling coalition then and now, cannot wash away the stain by stating that the sting was stage-managed and, therefore, tantamount to entrapment. The fact is, the party stands accused of being willing to buy votes to stay in power.

There are two types of sting operations. First, when a case of actual wrongdoing is caught on camera and, second, when circumstances are created to expose the guilty. In this instance, three BJP parliamentarians had collaborated with journalists to conduct the sting. Drastic measures were required given the gravity of the situation. It is a bit naive to expect anyone to openly pay bribes. The ruling dispensation's misconduct could only be bared through a set up. The sting revealed the government's intention was anything but honourable, since its managers seemed to be shopping for votes. How is this any different from an undercover policeman posing as a drug dealer to bust a narcotics racket?

In a democracy, it is the duty of the opposition to keep the government under check. By undertaking a collaborative sting operation, the BJP did exactly that. Perhaps it wouldn't have needed to, had our vigilance agencies been responsive to cases of graft. Unfortunately, corruption is a cancer that hasn't left even Parliament untouched. The Congress should come up with a convincing defence rather than attack others.







Mixer-grinders, mangalsutras, sheep, cows, rice, drinking water, these are just some of the things coming out of the poll-bound parties' Santa Claus sack. But would it not be more feasible to come out with long-term solutions to the problems voters face instead of trying to buy votes via promises of freebies? Ahead of the elections in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK and DMK have been outdoing each other in buying the voters' affections. While the DMK hoped that it would come up with a winning masala combination by offering a mixer or grinder, the AIADMK has offered both and a fan. Bowing to demographics, the DMK has promised laptops for first-year college students in government colleges, the AIADMK has sweetened the deal by promising it to all students and also to Class 11 and 12 students. Every party worth its election symbol, is dipping into its coffers to come up with sweeteners like free power, free rice, quotas, liquor and money. While some are clearly promised in the poll manifestoes, others are made attractive in that they are hinted at.

While many argue in favour of freebies, this is a dangerous trend because it makes bribery and corruption acceptable norms. It also violates the Constitution that mandates fair play among all parties, big or small. So if there's a law and the parties are violating it, then why isn't the Election Commission pulling them up? Once the election is announced, the ruling government becomes a 'lame duck' government and cannot take any financial decisions. So as a government, it cannot announce free gifts. But there's no such law governing political parties. Moreover, should rights be confused with freebies? Take for example, the promise about 20 litres of water and cheap grain. Aren't these the basic rights of citizens? How can a political party say that the voters will get these only if they vote for it? Elections cannot be a bargaining chip between the political parties and citizens. If it becomes that, then let the power go to the highest bidder. We don't need an expensive exercise like the elections. Financially too, such promises ruin state finances and its institutions: think free power to farmers and the state of the Punjab electricity board. The irony is that while most of these parties extend freebies to BPL families, they show no commitment towards revising existing BPL lists.

But fortunately, recent elections show that such freebies don't always translate into votes. The fact that the voter really does look a gift horse in the mouth quite often means that political parties will have to do more than pull more rabbits out of the hat. Until then they will be treated as Greeks bearing gifts, by many whom they are trying to entice.





I have known of this story for years. It could be wrong in detail, not in spirit. It's certainly not the fictional work of a creative mind. Veteran diplomats, knowing of it more reliably than I, could tweak it into its true form. But as I have gathered it, the account goes like this. 

The time is the early 1950s. The scene, our embassy in Cairo. Our ambassador sends a cable, in cipher, of course, to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who is then minister for external affairs as well, saying that a staffer in the Pakistani embassy there has 'offered' to sell his embassy's cipher code to India with promise of regular supplies of their despatches. This, our ambassador explains, can enable us to access secret despatches from Pakistan's embassy in Cairo to the government of Pakistan. The ambassador seeks Pandit Nehru's instructions in the matter. The reply is as fast as it's terse: "Reject Offer. Tell Person Be Loyal To His Government".

Sixty years is a long time in diplomatic history. Even 50 years, for that matter. No one is living in the era of Nehru.

A decade ago, I heard of a curious episode in a country where I was serving. An embassy, while collecting its diplomatic bag was, by mistake, also given the diplomatic bag of another country quite inimical to its own. "So, how was it sent back?" I asked. "Sent back? Oh no sir, it was not sent back. It was promptly sent to its own headquarters for being prised open and its contents digested with glee."

Heads of diplomatic missions and of foreign offices now wear security neck-and-wrist bands, not angel wings. 'Offers' like the one that was made to our embassy in Cairo would not, today, be so easily rebuffed. 'Mistakes' like the later one described would be embraced. Only, the wise would entertain them now with caution, for a person making an 'offer' or generating a 'mistake' may well be handing over pure chaff and holding his sides in laughter as the procurer pores laboriously over its encoded garbage.

We can be sure that after this runnel of leaks has run its course, other rivers will follow. A genre has been created, a new journalistic form, a riparian system with tributaries and distributaries, taking its rise in the catchments of perfidy and betrayal. The flood plains below are athirst for the muddied waters. And when that is the case why will the media not slake it? Of course they will, and provide it in sachets and in 'pet' bottles. If a readers' poll was taken on 'Should WikiLeaks be kept out of news?', there would be an overwhelming demand for the continuance of the seepage. In fact, there would be a demand for the leak to turn into a flow and then to surge into a torrent. Only those few of the 'old schools' of ethics in reportage and of tight-lippedness in the corridors of foreign offices would oppose the new treat.

The problem is that a market in siphoned goods can pass off the fake as an antique, the dupe as an original and the wholly false as '100% genuine'.

We may assume that a new street of ink has been inaugurated and, whether one likes it or not, travel on it will be inevitable (unless we turn the page of newspapers whenever we sense or see the 'leak'). Rather than fret over the loosening of journalistic don'ts or of foreign office 'Simply Not Done's, one has to see WikiLeaks as a marker in diplomatic method. In a sense, what our Right To Information Act has done honourably, openly and 'right royally' to bring official transactions into the public access system, WikiLeaks has done under the cloak, hood and mask of 'source withheld'. This may make the story more delectable for some, but it debases the process of public inclusion.

What is the best remedy for smuggling and unauthorised vending? A time-honoured one is decontrol. What is the equivalent of decontrol in the matter of diplomatic privilege? Not the doing away with of the confidentiality of diplomatic negotiations, for that will be the end of negotiations. But doing away with three related things: First, ending opacity in diplomatic intention. A nation's diplomatic conversations, open or behind closed doors, must reflect a democratically mandated foreign policy, leaving nothing to double-guessing improvisation. Second, ending diplomatic wobble.

A nation's external dialogues must be conducted by designated personae acting on clear briefs, not by a low and thinly spread tide of floaters who happen to hold diplomatic passports. Third, and most significant, ending diplomatic cello-tapings. 'For Your Eyes Only', 'Top Secret', 'Secret' and 'Confidential' gradings are designed by that very nomenclatura to attract the prying eye, the prising scissor, and the predating hacker. In our seditiously techno-smart times, what is to be under wraps is best carried, conveyed and contained in the true old methods of direct communication by the ambassador, the foreign minister or the prime minister. The French diplomat Jules Cambon, who shaped France's attitude to Germany before the World War 1, has said memorably "…the best instrument at the disposal of a government wishing to persuade another government will always remain the spoken words of a decent man (la parole d'un honnete home)".

Negotiation is the stuff of diplomacy and confidentiality the soul of negotiation. This systemic reserve is not to be conflated with iron-clad secrecy, which, in any case, is inimical to negotiation. Confidentiality in diplomatic negotiation is to be likened, in human affairs, to privacy which is a fundamental right and its recognition a sign of good taste.

In his 'Chichele Lecture' of 1953, English diplomat, author and Labour politician Harold Nicholson has said something of eternal value to the diplomatic method: "Every negotiation consists of stages and a result. If the stages become a matter of public controversy before the result is achieved, the negotiation will almost certainly flounder." To prevent that from happening to our foreign policy as a result of unauthorised divulgings to the media, the three correctives I have listed above could help with, of course, one pre-eminent imperative: honest protectors of our external interests may have confidences to keep during negotiations and demarches, but no secrets as to where those are headed.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi was high commissioner to South Africa and Sri Lanka and ambassador to Norway

The views expressed by the author are personal









When the Libyan crisis ends, much later than its stakeholders expect, another crisis will follow - a crisis of faith in the doctrine of armed international intervention. Libya has raised questions without answers. Is the US at war with it? No, it is just slinging cruise missiles around. That's not ma king war? No, it is action in support of UN Resolution 1973, which sanctioned the use of air power against Libya. Is that a valid legal document? Not entirely, since France and Britain, which pushed it, were too impatient to answer questions and discuss specifics. Intervention is good, don't you know? Now, let's cut the crap and get on with it, is what they seemed to be saying.

So Vladimir Putin likened Resolution 1973 to preaching a crusade. Five important nations declined to vote on it, so it does not fully reflect the will of the global community. No matter how excrescent Muammar Gaddafi may have become, no matter how valid the demands of the insurrectionists, intervention is raising hackles continent-wide in Africa.

International military intervention is the geopolitical equivalent of emergency surgery, but it has its problems. It may improve your life, but who likes to go under the knife? And there is discomfort because the Western powers are too eager to intervene militarily. It's like pill-popping.

That analogy is really more apt than surgery. Intervention is an over-the-counter remedy. It helps when the global body politic catches a cold but is useless against serious illness. It's easily administered to small neighbourhoods like the Balkans or Libya, but imagine if there was an insurrection in Russia, China or India. Actually, that's already happened in Red Square and Tiananmen Square, and it's not inconceivable in India. Would the Western democracies ever impose no-fly zones over these nuclear powers? Good heavens, no, they want world peace.

So intervention is restricted to small nations. But if they see their peers being routinely hustled into the operation theatre, they would have an incentive to invest in modern military hardware. A new arms race would begin. And let's not believe that small nations cannot arm themselves. Israel and North Korea, located at the very ends of the political spectrum, are positively tiny, but they are rich sources of global violence.

Besides, the doctrine of intervention is not being fairly used. There is a problem if there are foreign warplanes over Libya but not over Bahrain and Yemen, which have similar problems but are friendly with the Western powers. And there is an even bigger problem of inequity if the big powers can veto intervention, as the Russians did over the question of Chechnya, but lesser nations have no control over their destinies in the international domain.

The use of military intervention has accelerated since the end of the Cold War and it is obviously here to stay. But for it to remain effective in resolving intractable problems, it must be seen to be a legal expression of the will of the global community. This is where the resolution on Libya failed. It did not take everyone on board, and those who signed on just popped a pill without thinking too much about it. Because it's good for you, don't you know?

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



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

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

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

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






The budget session has been adjourned before schedule for the assembly elections, but even this one singular, patchy session has affirmed the importance of Parliament. This session witnessed both engaged disagreement and principled cooperation between the two major political formations. Predictably, the UPA was dragged over the coals over the 2G scandal, over Commonwealth Games corruption, and others. Through the WikiLeaks cable controversy about the trust vote, they interrogated Parliament's own workings. In Lok Sabha, opposition leader Sushma Swaraj delivered a scintillating speech, high on substance and rhetoric. The prime minister responded with some brio himself, charm even, as Swaraj later conceded. The opposition's issues were formally placed on record, and the government's responses exhaustively presented. These are vital transactions that cannot occur outside the space of Parliament. Even though much time was lost in combat, Rajya Sabha made up for some of it by staying late, even skipping lunch.

The budget session also made some significant legislative headway, even though most of the 32 bills slated for this session could not be introduced — and it is hoped that progress will be made after the assembly campaign ends. The penultimate day of the session augured will when the BJP put its scorched earth strategy in perspective to help the UPA, to concertedly push for the pension regulatory bill, despite the Left's attempts to scuttle it. It was a reminder that no matter how deep ideological disagreements run, sometimes it's important for responsible parties to put in some pragmatic teamwork, and form provisional coalitions of action when it comes to critical policy issues.

The two leading parties, of course, have more in common than they like to openly admit. Parliament should see more of those synergies harnessed for public interest.

Their political disputes are equally, if not more, significant. There's no magical solvent to melt the real disagreements between government and opposition, in principles, instincts and rhetoric. These arguments are the very stuff of deliberative democracy — and Parliament is the arena where they must be aired and resolved. Of course, there is plenty that needs resolving, with much critical legislation not having been addressed this session, and spilling over into the next — including the contentious women's reservation bill, the land acquisition bill and the financial bills promised in the Union budget. Hopefully, this revived political investment in the processes of Parliament will ensure a vigorous debate on all these matters in the next session.






Those apprehensive of the ever-present spectre of a bandh in Bengal enrich our anecdotal history with how political parties time bandhs to extend weekends or the pleasures of a public holiday. Practitioners of a profession can then style a strike to help just themselves. Are lawyers who read off, between and around the lines — especially those who ensured no work got done in the capital's courts on Thursday — bibliophobes and thus oblivious to the scorn literature (and scripture) directs at them? In Luke (11.46), Jesus says: "Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! For ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne." Whether or not that's the key to the joke about all lawyers being on the devil's side, here's what Ambrose Bierce, ace craftsman of definitions, offered: "Lawyer, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law." Circumvention indeed, given the purposelessness judges and litigants must have felt on Thursday around the law.

Ostensibly, the strike was to protest the service tax and certain other provisions of the Legal Practitioner Bill 2010. Lawyers are livid that a profession which only "helps courts in administration of justice" and "does not come under the ambit of 'services'" should have a service tax imposed on it. The Bar Council of India, too, has asked lawyers to protest.

Lawyers are also angry at the proposed ombudsman headed by judges to decide complaints against advocates. The charitable may feel an entitlement to being spared judgment, unless from their own — in this case, the bar councils. Like their legal counsellors, perhaps Thursday's unfortunate litigants should have stayed at home and watched the India vs Australia quarter-final.






The Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission, long promised and much delayed, was finally announced on Thursday. Headed by a former Supreme Court judge, B.N. Srikrishna, the panel's 11 members include bankers, such as P.J. Nayak of Axis Bank; economists, such as M. Govinda Rao of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy; and regulators, such as former pension funds overseer, Dhirendra Swarup. The finance minister promises a 24-month term for the commission, and its members will have to work hard indeed, for their assigned task might well be the largest and most complex handed to any reform commission in independent India. They are to completely rewrite India's financial-sector laws — and range beyond them, too.

The immediate provocation for thinking about such a committee might have been the financial crisis of 2008, and the renewed focus it brought to ensuring that regulatory lacunae don't permit the incubation of problems that could bring an entire system to a standstill. India's regulatory apparatus has been built up piecemeal, and as the financial sector grows and deepens, oversight cannot continue to be haphazard. The commission will have to streamline regulatory architecture, and lay out a common set of principles for regulation. And that task is far from easy: it will require the review, and possible redrafting, of as many as 60 different acts of Parliament. For banking alone, there are different regulations that cover private, foreign and nationalised banks, which must be harmonised. And the regulatory and proprietorial interests of the government must be properly separated in the reformed framework.

As if that wasn't a tough enough task, the commission has also been asked to look at a couple of hot-button issues: should, for example, new laws contain "a statement of principles of legislative intent", intended to aid the courts in interpreting them? Data privacy, too, has been included in the terms of reference. This will be a hard slog, and require input from an enormous number of stakeholders. It's fortunate, therefore, that the commission includes not just the regular policy wonks, but those with hands-on experience as well as some from the private sector. Parliament already has an ambitious legislative reform agenda, and if this commission reports on time, that agenda will only grow.







Warren Buffett says that India is no longer an emerging market. In some ways, India does seem to have outgrown the symptoms of emerging markets. The patterns of a typical emerging market crisis are well known, and now it appears that such a crisis is increasingly unlikely to hit India. But in other respects, there is still much work in store for India to get away from the difficulties of emerging markets.

Let us outline the features of the classic emerging market crisis. Foreign investors in the country are usually an important element of the story. But the country has a tiny weight in their overall portfolio, so they do not have an incentive to spend time and money to learn a lot about the country. They tend to merely buy index funds, as a way to participate in the good asset returns that are expected. This way they gain from international diversification. For the rest, they have a low engagement with the country.

In such a situation, when a domestic crisis occurs, a few foreign investors get nervous and start selling. Many other foreign investors, who are not so tuned in, see that other foreign investors are selling and start selling themselves. In the typical emerging market, equity and currency markets are illiquid, and even small amounts sold by foreigners result in large-scale price movements. The herd behaviour of foreign investors, combined with market illiquidity, generates pressure on the equity and currency markets, and prices fall.

In the classic emerging market crisis, the government tries to prop up the currency and/ or equity markets. This has the effect of giving a public sector subsidy to foreign investors on their way out. Further, when the central bank sells dollars, this leads to high interest rates at home. This is exactly the wrong recipe for monetary policy in a time of stress. The sharp rise in interest rates hurts large companies that have high debt. Worse, the country can then run out of reserves, at which point the exchange rate can

devalue dramatically. Large currency devaluation can induce bankruptcy for the large companies that have borrowed abroad but not hedged their currency risk. Poorly supervised banks can also start going bust. This corporate balance-sheet crisis then feeds into and exacerbates the crises of the equity and currency markets and the banking system.

It is important to obtain a deep understanding of this typical crisis, so as to guide an array of policy responses. India is at a point where numerous elements of this crisis would not arise.

Foreign investors in India are not merely buying index funds and putting a tiny weight on India. They are invested in India on a substantial scale, given that India is one of the large emerging markets. The combination of the FII framework and the Mauritius route has many problems, but it has led to a very large number of foreign investors who take interest in India, study India and know about stocks. Many of these investors have built up teams that systematically work on learning and trading Indian companies.

When a crisis occurs, such as on May 17, 2004, this pool of foreign investors does not engage in herding. They act just like any other pool of speculators. Some are optimistic and buy, others are pessimistic and sell. The net sale on May 17, 2004, was a tiny fraction of the overall trading activity of foreigners.

The Indian equity and currency markets are now quite deep and liquid. Each of these markets now has global turnover of roughly $50 billion a day. So if there is an external shock of a few billion dollars in a single day, this is not big enough to generate extreme price movements.

By now, the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank have learned to abstain from trading in either the currency or the equity markets. So when some foreigners sell, the government does not rush in to try to prevent stock market or rupee depreciation. This policy stance of price flexibility generates a deeper stabilising response: after some foreigners sell, the prices go down, which makes the stock market and the rupee more attractive to foreign investors.

The RBI's policy framework of a floating exchange rate has

blocked the ability of currency market issues from constraining monetary policy. In difficult times, the RBI would be able to cut interest rates, thus helping the economy.

High currency volatility has become the norm in India. As a consequence, large companies know that when they borrow abroad, they have to hedge their currency exposure. Hence, if a large rupee depreciation should take place, as in the last two years, there is no crisis.

The FII framework, the deepening of the equity market and the policy of allowing price flexibility, alongside the fact that India is a large country with a $1.5 trillion GDP, now implies that the classic emerging market crisis is not a likely scenario in India. In this sense, India has emerged.

While the danger of this classic emerging market crisis no longer haunts India, we are far from finished with our institution-building. Fiscal, financial and monetary institution-building are the three pillars of what makes an emerging market emerge. India remains a much more volatile economy, with weak policy-making capabilities, when faced with shocks. A lot remains to be done on improving fiscal, financial and monetary institutions. As a first step, Budget 2011 proposed to push a number of financial sector reform bills through Parliament this year. It remains to be seen whether the government will be able to do that successfully or not.

The writer is a professor at the National Institute of Public

Finance and Policy, Delhi,








It has been a fascinating week for news TV. There was the amusing sight of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition trading Urdu couplets during the WikiLeaks debate in the Lok Sabha; and then that of the leader of the opposition going on various channels and saying that it was altogether charming — and that the session was successful and enjoyable, all told. This bonhomie contrasts pleasantly with open warfare between CNN-IBN and Times Now and Headlines Today over IBN's handling of the original cash-for-votes sting, with IBN being called, with silly and confusing evasiveness, "a channel I will not name" throughout. It was all very entertaining, as long as you convinced yourself they weren't taking themselves seriously, in which case it would just have been depressing.

But, these weeks, the real stories have been outside. In Libya, for one, being told by people like CNN's Nic Robertson in Tripoli, and several Libyan contributors, particularly Mohammed Nabbous of Benghazi, who was shot and killed this week while reporting on a possible violation of its self-declared ceasefire by Gaddafi's regime. These were reports from a war zone, from reporters under threat; and yet they succeeded, for the most part, in keeping themselves out of the frame, and presenting the developing story with the gravity it deserved. Robertson even attacked a Fox News journalist by name for, in his opinion, "lies and deceit" in a story claiming journalists were human shields, which he said was "nuts", and filed by people who "don't leave the hotel" and whom he sees mostly at the "hotel breakfasts".

And then there's Japan. That country's traumatic series of crises could be responded to in different ways. A couple of desi news channels decided to maximise alarm, with graphics showing a giant CGI wave, scary music and big shaking text saying "bhukamp". The English channels weren't that different; IBN was particularly alarmist, using the Fukushima nuclear plant explosions to pile on to nuclear energy quite disturbingly and cynically, for example in a segment "explaining the health impacts of radiation poisoning", with bass-heavy background music and words that weren't better researched than the first paragraph of the appropriate Wikipedia article. The report quoted SMSes circulating in India warning of post-tsunami radiation poisoning from rainfall, and then cut to someone from the Met department explaining this was as likely, in meteorological terms, as a snowstorm in hell. Except it came at the end of a segment explaining, to Indians who must immediately have begun to feel nauseous, radiation poisoning symptoms! Oh, and the moment he stopped speaking, the scary music started up again. No number of anodyne quotes from WHO representatives can make up for that sort of slanted editing.

Contrast that blatant irresponsibility with the reporting from Japan, some of it on CNN-IBN's foreign affiliate, and carried on IBN, too. Sanjay Gupta has a sensible bedside manner, and hammered the point in, over and over again, that the radius of any severe radiation leakage would keep pretty much everyone watching CNN safe even in a worst-case scenario. He had joined Anderson Cooper in Japan, who had gone to cover the tsunami — and actually had to cancel half of his two-hour show because he was too close to the nuclear plant. Tough job, but it wasn't made much of. Indeed, his shows were well-balanced, calming, and respectful of Japan's grief; they interviewed nuclear engineers who'd worked in plants explaining how you sometimes had to risk your life; survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami, on coping mechanisms; energy experts stressing the safeguards built in to more modern nuclear plants; and an American senator from Louisiana complaining about people that "use any ongoing crisis to immediately try to advance their pre-existing political agenda rather than first dealing with the crisis, and secondly actually gathering the facts". It felt like watching reporting, and discussion, that took itself seriously. That worried about the impact it would have, rather than about having an impact. On reporting moments of crisis, it was clear that there's a lot for Indian news TV to learn.







Women as agents of change is an idea that seems self-evident in the Commonwealth. The two most influential women personalities of the 20th century — Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher — were both Commonwealth leaders...

Although the women's movement has already transformed the way in which we look at society in each of our countries, the search for equality is far from finished. History, culture and economics still remain weighted against women. In my own country, most worrying of all is the declining sex ratio of females to males. That this is happening in regions of substantial economic prosperity within the country is even more disturbing. (I should add here, however, that in the recent Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, young women from these very regions won the most number of medals.)

Among all the challenges facing humankind in the 21st century, few are more pressing than climate change and global warming. Unfortunately, as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has pointed out, most of the climate debate has so far been gender-blind. Yet women have played a special role in raising environmental consciousness. The Chipko movement in the Himalayas in the 1970s, in which village women hugged the trees to protect them from being felled, gave a new meaning and momentum to environmental activism in India.

Enhancing the role of women in protecting the environment is necessary. But what about protecting women themselves? Economic growth is leading to mass migration to cities. Disturbingly, this is being accompanied by growing violence against women. If urbanisation is the world's future, we must design urban environments and services in ways that will give women greater security, and educate and involve citizens in this cause. A Commonwealth initiative bringing together our great cities to collaborate on this issue would be timely. So these are two areas — climate change and urbanisation — where I hope that the Commonwealth can do more for women...

Like elsewhere in the world, and especially in India, it has not been easy to carve a direct solidarity among women. Their concerns are divided by class, by community, by caste, by culture. But through the 1970s and '80s, the women's movement in India flowered, banding together on issues like dowry and violence, household labour, discriminatory customs, property rights and wages. These campaigns resulted in the enactment of radical new laws.

A visitor to contemporary India will be impressed by the prominence of women in all aspects of life. India's president is a woman, as are the speaker and the leader of the opposition in the Lower House of Parliament. The chief minister of India's most populous state is a woman from a section of society subjected to discrimination for centuries. Women are presidents of four of our major political parties. Women are prominent in the judiciary, the higher civil service, the professions, academia, the corporate world, the media and every branch of civil society. At the time of Independence, women accounted for less than 10 per cent of enrolment in higher education — they will soon be on par with men.

And it is not by government action alone that this silent revolution is taking place. Today, women in India are becoming agents of change through their own initiative, their energy and enterprise. Let me give you some examples of where and how women — ordinary poor women — are beginning to make a difference with far-reaching implications for our country as a whole.

Self-help groups

The first is the growth of women's self-help groups which are changing rural India. Groups of women pool their savings on a regular basis and secure loans for a variety of activities that help them increase their incomes. There are now about five million such groups, averaging 10-15 members each. Last year, they secured bank loans worth more than two billion pounds. By giving poor women access to credit (and I might add, with a repayment record far superior to that of well-heeled borrowers!), these groups are helping to blunt the harsh edges of poverty and destitution. But women are doing more than getting loans. They are actually taking on a variety of functions on behalf of government departments. They are, for instance, buying rice and maize from farmers for sale through fair price shops. They are distributing old age pensions and scholarships. They are managing primary health centres. And in this pub-loving country, it may surprise you to know how successful they have been in forcing the closure of village liquor shops to combat male alcoholism, domestic violence and the drain on household finances.

But there is something even more fundamentally revolutionary about this movement. It cuts across caste divides. It gives women a new voice, a new self-confidence, a new assertiveness. Attending a meeting of these women is an uplifting experience. When once they dared not open their mouths even within the family, let alone voice their concerns before outsiders, they are now vociferous in discussing personal and family problems as well as a whole range of community issues.

Women's reservation

The second arena where women have emerged as catalysts of change is politics, especially at the local level. In 1993, India amended its Constitution to provide 33 per cent reservation or quota for women in rural and urban local bodies throughout the country. There was cynicism, resentment and even anger - from powerful men, predictably — when the idea was first mooted. No longer. Today, 1.2 million elected women representatives, including women from the most deprived and disadvantaged communities, have taken their place alongside men in the councils of rural self-government. Long-established power equations are now changing.

But I am less than happy to admit that at the national level we have not yet been successful. Women's representation in Parliament has hovered between 9 and 11 per cent, a figure that is considerably lower than in many other democracies. Legislation for a 33 per cent quota in Parliament and state assemblies has been passed by the Upper House. We shall persevere in our efforts to get it approved by the Lower House as well.

Civic Activism

Over the last few years the language of rights has entered the mainstream of political discourse. Thus we now have a right to information, a right to work, a right to education and soon, a right to food security. What is remarkable about the rights debate and how it has progressed is the leading role women have played as its champions and advocates. Thanks to their passion and commitment, governance has become more open and accountable and public policies more caring of the poor.

Environmental activism too is something in which women are prominent. This is not surprising because, in essence, the issue of environment in India is an issue of livelihoods, of public health, of access to forests, of water security.


The fourth arena of impact is enterprise. The most visible may be women who lead some major Indian corporations, businesses and NGOs. But, perhaps even more significant are the unsung majority — who make up over 90 per cent of all working women in what we call the informal or unorganised sector. For years, they enjoyed no pension, health insurance or maternity benefits, something that our government has begun to address.

Collective action by women has taken different forms. Thus, India, once the world's largest importer of milkfood, is now its largest milk producer. This White Revolution, as we call it, has proceeded in parallel with the Green Revolution. And it is millions of women in thousands of villages who have been the backbone of these milk cooperatives. There are many other instances such as Lijjat, producer of those poppadums so loved by British diners in Indian restaurants here. Founded by seven Gujarati housewives with a capital of about 7 pounds, it now has 42,000 owner-producers with a turnover approaching 70 million pounds...


Finally, technology is proving to be a powerful tool for reducing gender inequalities. In the sunrise IT sector women already comprise close to one-third — a million strong — of its workforce. There is a proliferation of knowledge-based enterprises, run by women in rural areas, such as village information centres and IT kiosks for accessing government services. Their ripple effect is growing...

India is at the cusp of a demographic dividend due to its young and increasingly educated and skilled population. Imagine, what might happen when this demographic dividend is multiplied by a gender dividend...

Excerpts from the 2011 Commonwealth Lecture on 'Women as Agents of Change', delivered on March 17 in London. Sonia Gandhi is president of the Congress party







On March 22, Bangladesh's high court in a landmark judgment declared illegal the constitution of a military tribunal by General Ziaur Rahman's martial law regime in 1976, to try the detained Col Abu Taher and his associates. It also dismissed Taher's subsequent trial and execution in July of that year as a farce, and noted that Taher and everyone else tried in 1976 would henceforth be considered patriots rather than as traitors. The verdict came against the background of a writ petition filed by members of his family along with three other writs filed by political figures associated with Taher challenging the validity of the tribunal and the convictions handed down by it.

The judicial decision is, happily for Bangladesh, a reversal of a questionable legal process undertaken by the Zia military regime nearly a year after the violent overthrow of the government of Bangladesh's founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on August 15, 1975. On November 3, 1975, the majors and colonels who murdered Mujib and most of his family members (his daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana survived as they were abroad at the time) also assassinated four detained political colleagues of Mujib — Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, M. Mansur Ali and A.H. M. Qamaruzzaman — in Dhaka central jail. On the same day, the August 1975 coup plotters were overthrown by Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf, a hero of Bangladesh's War of Liberation in 1971. Mosharraf also placed General Zia, then chief of army staff, under house arrest and took over as the new chief of staff of the army with his new rank of Major General. Only four days later, on November 7, soldiers of various units of the Bangladesh army, galvanised by Col Taher, revolted against Mosharraf and freed Zia. General Mosharraf and his fellow officers were murdered by Zia loyalists in the army on the morning of November 7, 1975. General Zia seized power as Bangladesh's first military ruler, albeit with Justice Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem as a figurehead president of the republic.

Despite the fact that Taher and his adherents in the military had freed Zia, friction developed within days between the two men on the issue of a transformation of Bangladesh's armed forces into a socialist-oriented Gano Bahini, or people's army. Taher, at that point a leading figure in the left-wing Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal, a political party formed in 1972 by alienated former young supporters of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, advocated a revolutionary change in the structure of the armed forces through doing away with ranks and thereby with differences and distinctions between officers and general soldiers. While there is reason to believe Zia may initially have agreed with Taher, since his emergence from house arrest and subsequent rise to power depended on the latter's links in the army, he soon decided that Taher and his followers needed to be put down. By the end of November 1975, Taher and a number of JSD political figures were in jail, with charges of sedition clamped on them.

In July 1976, a military tribunal put Taher and his associates on trial. From the very beginning, the trial was regarded with suspicion as Taher was not allowed to meet his lawyers until the very end, by which time the military regime had decided what the verdict would be. Taher's lawyers were permitted to cross-examine neither the accused nor the witnesses in court. The trial was held in camera, with no one (and that included journalists) allowed into the court room.

The writ petitions filed by Taher's family and his political associates last year ended up with some intriguing facts. The most glaring of these was the discovery by the court and the government that all documents and files relating to the case and trial in 1976 had mysteriously disappeared. Obviously, the assumption is that the Zia regime decided, in its questionable wisdom soon after the execution of Taher on July 21, 1976, that it would be impolitic and risky to keep any trace or record of the trial.

Now that the high court has overturned the judgement of the military court and at the same time formally declared the military court and its acts to have been a legal anomaly, demands have arisen for General Ziaur Rahman, who was murdered in an abortive coup in May 1981, to be placed on posthumous trial. It may well be that in the following weeks and months, issues such as the killing of General Khaled Musharraf, the executions of hundreds of air force personnel following an uprising in the ranks in October 1977, the murder in June 1981 of General M.A. Manzoor following Zia's death and the sentences of death handed down to thirteen army officers on charges of their complicity in the Zia murder in September 1981 will be revived in the public domain and Bangladesh could well see a spate of legal challenges that could once again place the Zia regime in the spotlight.

Bangladesh's history since its liberation in December 1971 has been one of tragic irony. Having struggled for freedom and democratic governance, its people have more than once observed their nation sliding into chaos through repeated spells of military rule and a consequent narrowing of democratic space. The assassins of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were not only protected by an indemnity ordinance formalised in the country's constitution by the Zia regime but were also rewarded with diplomatic postings at Bangladesh missions abroad. It took 21 years for the indemnity ordinance to be repealed. The job was accomplished by Sheikh Hasina's first government when it returned to power through the general elections of June 1996. Five of Mujib's killers were executed after a normal process of trial and conviction in January last year. Five others remain absconding, with reports coming in of their periodic sightings in Pakistan and Libya. One died in Zimbabwe a few years ago.

The write is editor (current affairs) of 'The Daily Star', Dhaka







Not all the president's men

The Pakistan president's address to the nation on the eve of Pakistan Day (March 23) made news even before Asif Zardari took the microphone. He became the first president in Pakistan's history to deliver this address four years in a row. While his own Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) aggressively marketed the speech, the opposition was less than charitable, suggested newspapers.

A report in Dawn on March 22 predicted a hard day for Zardari: "If opposition parties do not back down at the last moment, President Asif Ali Zardari will face a tense joint sitting of parliament... All his three previous mandatory addresses to joint sittings of the National Assembly and the Senate have been a smooth affair, but things don't seem to be going the same way this time, despite earning the unique credit of having his previously arbitrary presidential powers clipped through the landmark Eighteenth Amendment for the restoration of a genuine parliamentary democracy. Both the main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Pakistan Muslim League-Q — have threatened protests."

Zardari spoke about building consensus on issues like the energy shortage, economic crisis and terror, as well as political reconciliation among warring parties. He also read from Benazir Bhutto's last book, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West saying: "It is time for new ideas. It is time for creativity. It is time for bold commitment. It is time for reconciliation" (Daily Times,March 23).

The News added: "While PPP leaders and coalition partners were all praise for President Zardari's address to the joint sitting of parliament, opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said it was the address of the leader of the PPP, the ANP and MQM, not the president of Pakistan." Daily Times reported that the PML-N, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and the Forward Bloc staged a walkout during the address.

Violence in Karachi

Violence continued to ravage Karachi this week, reported Dawn on March 25: "Fear and tension persisted in the strife-hit areas of Karachi... that witnessed at least four targeted killings followed by intermittent firing and an arson attack on a passenger bus... Over the last few days, nearly 50 people have lost their lives to the fresh spate of targeted killings on ethnic and political grounds." The Express Tribune reported on March 25 that eight people were killed overnight in Karachi.

Match for match

A report titled 'A perfect Pakistan Day present' in The News on March 24 celebrated Pakistan's win over the West Indies: "Pakistan are fast becoming the new Australia. Three days after ending the 34-match unbeaten streak of the defending champions in Colombo, they became the first team to enter the semi-finals of World Cup 2011 with a commanding ten-wicket triumph over hapless West Indies." And after India defeated Australia, Daily Times carried the news in a report on March 25 titled, 'India knock out Australia to set up Pakistan blockbuster.'

No second thoughts

Pakistan's anti-corruption chief, whose appointment was quashed by their Supreme Court last week, lost all hope of being reappointed, despite last week's rumours that PM Yousaf Raza Gilani moved a summary from the PM secretariat to the presidency asking for it. The News reported on March 23 that the court issued a "detailed judgment" not only disqualifying Justice (retd) Syed Deedar Hussain Shah as chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) but also directing the government to make a fresh appointment to the vacant office without any delay.






The good news first. IIM-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), which will celebrate its 50th year with the Prime Minister presiding over its convocation today, has finally made it to the prestigious Financial Times list of Top 100 B-schools—a very sore point, given how its fledgling rival Indian School of Business (ISB) has been there for several years. The 2011 rankings, just out, put IIM-A at number 11, two points ahead of ISB. Probe a bit deeper, to the components that make up the ranking, and things don't look as rosy. IIM-A is ranked No. 3 on 'salaries today' (average alumni salary levels 3 years after graduating)—at $174,440, this is behind Stanford's $183,260 and Wharton's $175,153 and miles ahead of ISB's $132,352. While the IIM-A salaries do appear too good to be true, it confirms what we've known for a long time, that never mind its rank on the FT or any other list, IIM-A is the first stop of choice for any Indian recruiter of repute. When it comes to research, IIM-A is hardly there at No. 92 (ISB is No. 81), again something we've known for a while—when's the last time you heard of a management theory by a professor at an Indian B-school, why single out only IIM-A, or of any really exceptional case study that is then cited across the world?

Are we then to conclude that IIM-A is a flop show, making it to the FT list only because of the astronomical salaries its students get, more a result of India's rapid economic growth and internationalisation than anything else? Not really. IIM-A, indeed all the IIMs, were set up to produce managers to run successful businesses, and judging by India Inc's success, this has been achieved. There are few high-growth Indian firms, or high-value ones, that don't have IIM-A alumni on their rolls.

To conclude from this, however, that a business-as-usual scenario works is incorrect. As India develops, and looks for a bigger global role, its managers and management theory have to keep pace. Management theories have to now look at developing management for social entrepreneurship (MFIs are just one narrow part of this brand of business), to learn how to deal with the needs of a green planet, of low-cost models for the bottom of the pyramid, learning how to construct and work with open-source or collaborative business models, the list is a large one. Being No. 55 on PhD ranks (number of doctoral graduates in the previous three years) is not good enough for IIM-A ver 2.0 and being No. 92 on research (faculty publications in top 40 academic/practitioner journals) is unacceptable.





The statement by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics director that India can be self-sufficient in pulses in the next 3-5 years is a welcome news, given that the country has been labelled the largest importer, consumer and producer of the commodity. One reason for the optimism may be the sudden surge in pulses production. The output of pulses, which had remained stagnant—close to 15 million tonnes for more than two decades—has now suddenly shot up to touch 16.5 million tonnes, as per the second advanced estimates for 2010-11. The sudden increase in production has been largely been due to the rising retail prices and the higher minimum support prices, which provided farmers with an incentive to raise acreage. With shortages pushing up pulses prices by more than a quarter in 2009-10, the government increased the MSP of various pulses by 15% and 30% in 2010-11, which motivated farmers to push up the sown area under pulses kharif crop from 94.62 lakh hectares in 2009 to 113.9 lakh hectares in 2010. And most of the increase in output in 2010-11 was from kharif production, which went up by 53.6%.

In contrast, the rabi pulses production is projected to even decline by 3.8%. This points to the instability in pulses output. One major reason for the instability is that pulses is seen a residual crop that is grown during monsoons in the marginal and less fertile lands. So, sustaining the pickup in pulses production is not only much more challenging but is also essential, as the rising incomes will increase the demand for pulses, which is a major source of inexpensive protein for a large section of the Indian population. In fact, the numbers show that the current average consumption of pulses is just 43 gm per day—just about half the recommended diet of 80 gm per day. Apart from the low priority, the production of pulses is also negatively impacted by the topography, with just 15% of the pulses crop irrigated. And more importantly, there has been no technology breakthrough in any of the pulses crops although it has been brought under the ambit of many government schemes, ranging from the technology mission in early 1990s to the latest scheme for 60,000 pulses and oilseed villages initiated in the 2010-11 Budget. Crop experts have recommended a variety of measures, including developing of hybrid and transgenic varieties, better seed supplychain planning, drip irrigation, higher MSP and larger procurement. Only a comprehensive strategy that focuses on all these aspects is likely to make a difference to the pulses economy in the long term.







Much has been written about how Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have had some measure of success in converting India's hard-hearted businessmen to their way of thinking. If Warren Buffett can give away 99% of his wealth for charitable purposes, and Bill Gates 66%, why can't Mukesh Ambani or Sunil Mittal? It appears some 70 well-heeled persons attended the Gates buffet(t), though the names haven't been revealed in order to protect their privacy. While no estimates are available of their wealth, Forbes estimates that the combined wealth of India's richest 55 persons (perhaps most of them were at the buffet meal?) is $246 bn, or around 14.1% of India's GDP—if a third of this was given to charity …

A study by consultants Bain & Company further cements the idea of how hard-hearted India's rich are. Bain estimates India's charity contributions are just 0.6% of GDP, as compared to the US's 2.2%; of this, just a tenth was given by individuals and corporates as compared to 75% in the US—65% of India's charity, says Bain, is done by central and state governments in the form of disaster relief primarily.

There are some important caveats to be made in the context of India's lack of corporate philanthropy, some of which have even been made by Bain. The most important, that the US has a 46% inheritance tax for wealth beyond a certain limit; this doesn't take away from what Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are doing, but it does give a certain perspective on it.

Since some bright guys will use this to argue India should also have a similar tax to encourage corporate philanthropy, you need to keep a few things in mind. First, much of the 'wealth' of India's rich isn't really cash in the bank, it's the market value of their shares in the firms they run. So, if much of this is to be liquidated, its value will immediately fall—too much supply, if I remember my high school economics right, causes prices to fall. Two, much of this 'wealth' is not held in the personal names of the individuals; much is held in the names of investment firms that are not owned by the individuals; the directors on such investment firms are often paid employees of these firms. So you can put the inheritance tax at 146% and you'll still get pretty much near zilch.

Another caveat: the wealth of rich Indians is exaggerated, and hugely so. $246 bn is around 14.1% of India's GDP, but GDP is nothing but a flow of annual income of each and every Indian each year while wealth is a stock of savings over the years. TN Ninan ( 409883/) did a calculation of India's wealth, the value of the cows, the land, the bank deposits, the houses, and came to the conclusion the rich owned at most 3% of the country's assets.

Even so, not bad you'd say. So let's look at another set of numbers to put this in perspective. This $246 bn is roughly the size of India's annual budget. We've just argued not too much of this wealth can be gifted away, but even if you assume it can, what the corporate sector can give away and then have nothing left (!) is just what the government spends in a year. If you see the impact of the government's spending, in terms of getting clean water, better education and health facilities, and so on, it isn't that much. So, if the corporate sector is to become like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, it's pretty much a waste of time and money, unless the money is actually channelled into profitable and efficient ways to give it out. A good piece to read in this context is one by Jayant Sinha in FE (—Jayant works with Omidyar Networks and what Omidyar does is to invest its money in firms that deliver low-cost innovative solutions for the poor; in a firm that may provide, to use an example from the top of my head (and not from Omidyar's investment portfolio), low-cost money transfer solutions using mobile phones.

So, instead of asking India's rich to give, why don't we turn the concept around, and instead ask them to not take? Every budget document has a table on 'revenue foregone', the amount of tax the government does not collect since it is giving some tax sop or the other, usually to the rich and famous. The latest figure for revenue foregone in the Budget is R5,11,630 crore in the current year, which is around 65% of the total budgeted tax collections and around 6.5% of the year's projected GDP.

It is not my case that all tax sops are a bad idea, but if tax sops equal 6.5% of GDP and the rich people's wealth is 14.1% of GDP, this means the annual tax sops equal half the wealth of the rich. In other words, the rich will probably contribute a lot more to society if they were just willing to let the government remove tax sops than as compared to a situation where Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have to try and apply moral pressure on them to part with their wealth.

There's also the question of what the rich take away by way of corruption. Let's take just the 2G scam. Discount the CAG's higher estimate of R1,76,000 crore and let's use the R60,000-70,000 crore figure given as the median estimate, based on the price at which Swan and Unitech sold their equity. Look at the kind of companies whose names are mentioned in the CAG report, and you see that India's rich are getting away with a lot more than just tax sops. How much is difficult to say, but in the Delhi airport case, for instance, after winning the bid by promising to pay the government 46% of the top line revenues, the GMR Group has changed the meaning of what top line is. Large interest-free deposits are not being shared with the government on the grounds these are liabilities and not earnings—but if someone gives you R100 crore as an interest-free deposit, chances are he'll also pay you R10 crore less by way of annual rent, right? This one change will cost the government over a thousand crore rupees.

My advice: Let corporate India just clean up its act. We don't need its money. The government has enough.






Parliament sessions are instructive of not only the way our lawmakers behave in a confrontationist space, but also reflect, in its ebb and flow of events, the state of play in national politics. The Budget session of Parliament that concluded on Friday was no different and, if it is anything to go by, then a period of homeostasis is what awaits the people of India, at least till 2014, despite all appearances to the contrary.

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his now famous speech on Wednesday, asked BJP leader LK Advani to wait three-and-a-half years for another stab at being prime minister, it unwittingly captured the dilemma faced by the principal Opposition party, the BJP, and the constraints of the UPA combine as well.

While the session began with a significant victory for the Opposition, where a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum scam was announced in accordance with the Opposition's wishes, it ended up being a bit of a zero-sum game.

The government was seriously on the back-foot going into the session, with scams upon scams being piled on thick and fast. It also had the onerous task of getting the Budget cleared.

The BJP—which could have cornered the government on several of these scams, especially the S-band spectrum and the appointment of former CVC PJ Thomas—let it go with a simple statement from the

Prime Minister. What it cornered the government on, surprisingly enough, was on the WikiLeaks revelations, a slippery slope, if ever there was one. Quite simply, WikiLeaks had cables on everyone, it was a virtual turkish bath when it came to stripping reputations bare, the BJP's included.

The UPA, on its part, could not

believe its luck and quickly conceded the one debate they knew they would look better coming out of. The four-hour short-duration discussion on the WikiLeaks revelation on the cash-for-votes scam ended, in a tragicomic

denouement and some killer Urdu poetry by the Prime Minister. As an issue to corner the government, unfortunately, that was how far it could be

carried. If nothing else, at least we got a different sounding speech from the Prime Minister, looking forward to more such flourishes in future.

The Opposition BJP, to be fair, has done better in cornering the government in UPA-2 than in UPA-1. The problem continues to be a personality clash between the two leaders of Opposition, and the continuing struggle for a single leader in the party around whom a nucleus of the party can cleave. The fracas over Sushma Swaraj's "let bygones be bygones" tweet over the CVC issue, whereas the partyline was to get after the government on the matter, is just one example.

The Opposition had a good session, they had issues, they had a defensive government to face, but they also have several of their own issues to sort out before they can really take on the UPA.

The UPA, on its part, lurched from crisis to crisis and when it looked like it had turned a corner and got a grip, it walked right into the pension Bill

fiasco. Elementary floor coordination was given a go-by over a money Bill, and what the Opposition could not do in 2008 was handed to it on a platter—that of a real opportunity to topple

the government.

The BJP came to the government's rescue, not just because it was interested in getting the pension Bill introduced, b ut also because, as the

Prime Minister said, there are

three-and-a-half more years to go, and the Opposition needs it as much as

the government. More of the same awaits us, unless either of the two principals of national politics finally get their act together.








Assam's two-phase Assembly election, scheduled for April 4 and 11, is quite different from any contest that the State has witnessed in the post-Emergency period: this is the first time an incumbent party is seeking a mandate for a third consecutive term. For Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, the contest presents an opportunity to make history — as the second Chief Minister in Assam after Bimala Prasad Chaliha to ascend the gadi thrice in succession. Assembly and Lok Sabha elections since 1991 have been overshadowed by insurgent violence and boycott calls but it is unlikely there will be any major disruption or sabotage this time. It augurs well for the democratic process that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) — weakened over time and more recently by the earnest crackdown on their bases in Bangladesh by the Sheikh Hasina government — have initiated talks with the government. The Paresh Barua-led faction of ULFA and the Ranjan Daimary faction of NDFB, which have kept out of the peace process, will be desperately looking for chinks in the security armour to carry out sporadic strikes to prove their presence on the ground and to win media attention. A recent bomb blast at Rajiv Bhawan in Guwahati by the ULFA faction and an ambush on Border Security Force (BSF) in Kokrajhar by the NDFB faction suggest there is no room for complacency.

Although the Congress and it fellow-traveller, the Bodoland People's Front (BPF), have not been able to come to an understanding on seat sharing, their post-poll alliance looks set to continue. There are also indications that in the event of falling short of the majority mark, the ruling party will fall back on the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), which caused an erosion in Congress vote banks among immigrant Muslim settlers in 2006. The Left parties were hoping that the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) would take the lead in uniting all non-Congress, non-BJP parties to present a viable alternative to the Congress-BPF coalition. This followed the General House of the AGP adopting a resolution calling for the severance of poll ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had made gains at the expense of the regional party in the 2009 Lok Sabha contest. Nevertheless, the vacillations of the AGP leadership continue. The regional party tried to push through its proposal of a 'grand alliance' of all opposition parties, which was rejected by the Left and the AIUDF and by the BJP as well. The opposition parties claim there is strong anti-incumbency sentiment engendered by the scams and by alleged misrule in the State. However, in the absence of any pre-poll alliance based on an agreed minimum programme, it is the ruling combination that seems to have the advantage.





The smooth passage of the Finance Bill by Parliament was facilitated by the slew of concessions extended by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. As many as 47 amendments to the original bill were passed. The concessions aggregate Rs.1,500 crore, a large portion of this attributable to procedural changes in the method of levying and collecting taxes. For instance, the deferment by three months of a new procedure to collect service tax on an accrual basis instead of on actual receipts will mean less revenue than what was envisaged in the budget. Manufacturers of readymade garments, especially those in the small-scale segment, have got relief by way of higher excise duty abatement. By far the most anticipated announcement was the rollback of the 5 per cent service tax on certain grades of hospitals and diagnostic services in the private sector. This budget proposal drew a good deal of flak. Had it been implemented, it would have increased the already high health care costs. However, while the government will now forgo around Rs.300 crore, it was not just revenue considerations that were behind the proposal. The idea of bringing the various entities in the booming health care segment under the tax net has been around for quite a while. Besides, as the Finance Minister said, the move was meant to prepare the ground for the Goods and Services Tax (GST). It is unlikely that this sector will be exempted when the GST is finally in place. The principal idea behind the GST and the Direct Taxes Code (DTC) — the two key reform measures — is to have a tax structure with moderate taxes, minimum exemptions, and wide coverage.

Mr. Mukherjee has kept the promise he made in the budget speech by introducing a Constitution Amendment Bill to pave the way for the GST. Essentially, the Bill seeks to give powers to the States to tax services and to the Centre to levy duties beyond the factory gate. The Bill incorporates features that seek to resolve the sharp differences between the Centre and the States over the implementation of the far-going structural change. A GST Council, headed by the Union Finance Minister, and a GST Dispute Settlement Authority are proposed. In bringing the Bill before Parliament Mr. Mukherjee may have kept his word. But it will be over-optimistic to expect the GST to become a reality on April 1, 2012. The legislation, which will now go to a standing committee, requires two-thirds support in both houses of Parliament and to be ratified by at least half the number of State legislatures.








In the early 1980s (when this correspondent returned to Guwahati as working journalist after an eight-year absence), insurgency in the northeast was limited to Nagaland, parts of Manipur and what was then the Union Territory of Mizo Hills. In Nagaland, the Naga National Council (NNC), political face of the oldest of the insurgencies in the region, was led by Angami Zapu Phizo, then in exile in Britain. Despite the challenge posed by a faction of the NNC that had recently split after much rancour on both sides and formed itself into the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), the NNC remained the dominant voice of Naga nationalistic assertion. In Manipur, Naga insurgency was active those days in the Naga-inhabited hill districts mainly in Tamenglong, while in the Imphal Valley, several outfits, some of them fighting one another as much as the Indian state, were active: the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA), the People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP). In the Union Territory of Mizo Hills, the Mizo National Front (MNF) arrived at the Talk-Talk-Fight-Fight stage, and was on the way to give up its secessionist agenda, sign a peace accord and become a legitimate party of the government. Insurgency had not become a generalised fact of life in the region including Assam, though formally the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) had been founded in April 1979.

The objectives of all these organisations, including the nascent ULFA, were broadly the same: independence and sovereignty, the restoration of sovereignty that 'lapsed' to the people these organisations claimed to represent when the British left India but which India refused to concede.

The undeniable historical fact underlying this idea of 'restoration of sovereignty' as against the 'demand for sovereignty' is that beginning with the British annexation of Assam following the defeat of Burma in 1826 in the First Anglo-Burmese War, the colonial government had embarked on consolidating the boundaries of these newly acquired vast territories, progressively annexing more of these borderlands and extending its own boundaries. The annexation process was neither painless nor fair; nor even conclusive, the last most evident in the description of some of the 'new' territories in the old maps as "excluded," "partially excluded" and "unadministered" areas. The bland bureaucratic prose of the introductory chapter of the Assam Land Revenue Manual says it all.

However, received wisdom had it even those days that the resolution of Naga insurgency was central to resolving other insurgencies, actual and incipient. Long before such disaffection manifested itself among other people of the region, tribal and non-tribal, Phizo himself had tried on the eve of Independence to enlist the support of the largest and most advanced of the people, the Assamese, as well as other tribal people who, in course of time, were to form the core of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram — the last two then politically and administratively part of Assam — for realising his plan for an Independent Nagaland. He also urged them to seek an independent status outside India.

Being the oldest insurgency in the region, which had also lent some material support to other disaffected elements, this perception was somewhat justified. This has been especially so since the NNC split and the formation of the NSCN in early 1980. Even though the NSCN in due course also split into two factions, and the NNC has refused to fade away, the NSCN (I-M) bearing the initials of chairman Isak Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah remains the dominant voice of the sovereignty aspirations of the Naga people.

However, all these insist that settlement of the "Naga political issue," that is restoration of Naga sovereignty and independence — the resolution of what has come to be known in the Naga nationalist rhetoric as "the mother of all insurgencies" in the region — is central to resolving the other problems in the region.

This perspective has been expressed several times by Muivah since the NSCN (I-M) began talking directly to the Government of India nearly 15 years ago. During this period, the NSCN (I-M) leaders have met several Prime Ministers in foreign lands and in India, and have had prolonged dialogue with 'interlocutors,' initially in cities in Europe and South East Asia, and later in Delhi. Peace of a kind has prevailed in Nagaland and in the Naga inhabited areas of Manipur, though the "Naga political issue" remains unresolved. The other side of this peace is the parallel administration of the NSCN (I-M), which is evident to the most casual visitor to Nagaland and the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur. Perhaps one can see this as the Naga people's unique way of reconciling the irreconcilable, the "resolution of the Naga political issue" without actually getting the lost sovereignty restored. By simply putting these tricky issues on the back burner, the State government and the Government of the People's Republic of Nagalim coexist in Kohima and near Dimapur. Situations where legitimately constituted State governments face challenges far more dire prevail in many parts of eastern and central India.

How has this unique "resolution of the Naga political issue" impinged on the ferment in the rest of the region? Has the "mother of all insurgencies" in the region, whose leaders now travel on Indian passports with all implications of securing such a document, come to terms with its unrealised and indeed unrealisable sovereignty aspirations and injected a dose of realism into the sovereignty aspirations of other groups with far less legitimate claims than the Naga people who, under Phizo, formally declared Independence on August 14, 1947?

One significant development in the insurgency scenario is the "arrest" of senior leaders of ULFA and their resolve to hold talks with the Government of India without any precondition. Another is the "arrest" of UNLF chairman Rajkumar Sanayaima, who maintains that he was abducted by Indian agents in Dhaka and brought to India. Unlike ULFA leaders who are on bail, Sanayaima remains in prison, defiant about not talking to the Government of India except on four preconditions being accepted, the core of which is a plebiscite under U.N. supervision to ascertain if the people of Manipur want to remain part of the country. The differences in the government's approach to the NSCN (I-M), the ULFA and the UNLF are as striking as is the relatively realistic approach of the first two which too were insisting that the core issue in any talks with the government had to be sovereignty. Like the lady in the song, the NSCN (I-M) and ULFA leaders kept saying they would never consent, and yet consented. Will the UNLF follow suit?

There are other interesting developments on the insurgency front. Since the mother of all insurgencies began speaking to the government, other insurgent or terrorist groups have become active; these outfits have survived and even prospered by their capacity to reinvent themselves, though not their stated aims and objectives, and are carrying on. The most curious instance of such reinvention is the path taken by Dima Halong Daoga (DHD), based in the North Cachar hills of Assam, one of the two Autonomous Hills Districts of the State, the other being Karbi Anglong where too the United Peoples Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), like almost every similar outfit, split into pro-talks and anti-talks factions. The DHD's reinvention of itself by using a section of the Indian state, in this case, the administration of the North Cachar Autonomous District Council, a constitutional body, to channel development funds meant for the district to itself, an outlawed outfit, is indeed breathtaking. The charge sheet by the National Investigative Agency available on provides the most salutary education on the reinvention of insurgencies.







MUMBAI: The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi was not unduly worried about an irate statement that India made in April 2008, just before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's New Delhi visit on April 29, rejecting America's call for India to urge Iran to curtail its nuclear programme. Embassy officials viewed this as a typical Indian ploy to assert independence when in fact they were more likely to have been committed "to solid forward movement with the U.S." on the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. They were more concerned that "the Left may use domestic legislation to single out and ban nuclear cooperation with the U.S. specifically, but because such a move would irrevocably harm U.S.-India relations, we think that even the weak-willed Congress Party would resist such a move." That is how an April 24, 2008 cable from the Embassy ( 151154: secret/noforn) summed it up. Another important point, the cable noted, is a reported "split" in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) over "India's growing relationship with the USA."

This was against the background of State Department spokesman Tom Casey's public statement of April 22, that Washington would like to see New Delhi call on Iran to cease enriching uranium. He had also asked that New Delhi put pressure on Iran to "become a more responsible actor on the world stage." The MEA responded sharply, saying among other things, that both India and Iran were "perfectly capable of managing all aspects of their relationship with the appropriate degree of care and attention." The MEA said "neither country needs any guidance on the future conduct of bilateral relations as both countries believe that engagement and dialogue alone lead to peace."

Statement rewritten

Interestingly, the cable speaks of an "MEA split over MEA statement on US and Iran" and records the following: "PolCouns [Political Counselor] protested to MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) Gaitri Kumar April 22 MEA's sharp statement, especially after Kumar had earlier shared with PolCouns an anodyne draft statement that reiterated standard Indian talking points on Iran. Kumar related that India's growing relationship with the U.S. has split MEA into two camps, and a member of the group that opposes any progress in U.S.-India relations rewrote the MEA statement. She remarked that Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon was furious about the result when he returned from Beijing earlier that day. Although PolCouns pressed, Kumar would not reveal who approved the re-worked public statement."

While concerned by the government's "strong and unhelpful reaction" and the Left's endorsement of it, the assessment says: "As usual, the Indian government is stroking its Left and Muslim constituencies with cheap rhetoric and empty gestures prior — we hope — to solid forward movement with the U.S."

It surmises that the public postures of the Indian government were "likely mere tactics in the UPA's domestic political machinations." And that "the reality remains that India and Iran have a flimsy relationship, which the Congress Party has attempted to spin for the benefit of its Left allies and Muslim voters, who continue to deride India's two votes in the IAEA against Iran." It even speculates that if the Left, persuaded by the UPA's tactics, "allows the nuclear initiative to move forward May 6, the sound and fury over Iran might have a useful dimension." This did not happen, though, with the Left actually parting ways with the UPA over the nuclear deal.

While recording the strong anti-U.S. statements made by CPI(M) leaders Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat in Parliament, it hoped that "the visit by Ahmadinejad, sharp retorts to the anodyne U.S. statement, and the pledge to take the nuclear deal to Parliament could give the Left sufficient political cover to allow the UPA government to submit the safeguards agreement to the IAEA Board of Governors when they meet May 6 for the next UPA-Left committee meeting."

It surmises that "Ahmadinejad's transit through Delhi will provide reassurance to the America-haters that India's foreign policy remains 'independent' of the U.S. — a message reinforced by the truculent MEA statement. Meanwhile, the promise of a 'sense of the House' gives the Left the opportunity to veto the initiative further down the road, potentially allowing the UPA government to advance the deal one more inch forward."

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




'13th Amendment Plus': India sceptical of Sri Lankan promise

New Delhi wanted Colombo to step up efforts for a political solution

Nirupama Subramanian

CHENNAI: Sri Lanka told India it would implement a devolution plan for Tamil areas going beyond the 13th Amendment to its Constitution, but Indian officials were privately sceptical of the assurance.

Several U.S. Embassy cables accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks reveal that India pushed Sri Lanka on its devolution plans for months before the conclusion of the military operation against the LTTE.

The cables also reveal that the U.S. sought a bigger role in pushing a political solution for Tamils but was kept at bay by India.

As the military operations were drawing to a close, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told the U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Peter Burleigh on May 15, 2009 that the Sri Lankan government had reassured India that "the government would focus on the implementation of the 13th Amendment Plus as soon as possible." (207268: confidential, May 15, 2009)

But, the cable notes, "Menon was sceptical."

National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan was a mite more optimistic. Returning from a visit to Sri Lanka on April 24, he had told the U.S. Charge that President Mahinda Rajapaksa "intends to pursue political devolution ('the thirteenth amendment plus') and will make a gesture soon to win over Sri Lanka's Tamils." (204118: confidential, April 25, 2009)

Earlier, in January 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Colombo reported in a cable ( 189383: confidential, January 29, 2009 ) on External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit that President Rajapaksa had spoken of a 13th Amendment Plus plan.

Briefing the U.S. Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission and other diplomats, the Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Colombo, Vikram Misri, said Mr. Mukherjee's visit was mainly to press Sri Lanka on ensuring the safety of civilians during the military operation against the LTTE.

In discussions with the Indian Minister on the political front, the cable noted, "President Rajapaksa said he supports a 13th Amendment- plus approach, but did not specify what the 'plus' would entail."

It is no secret that even before 2009, India wanted Sri Lanka to hasten on a political settlement to the Tamil question that would go beyond the 13th Amendment that flowed from the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. The cables only confirm this.

In November 2008, senior presidential adviser Basil Rajapaksa returned from New Delhi. Briefing the Americans about the visit, he said India had pressed Sri Lanka to devolve more powers to the Eastern Province. (cable 176664: confidential, November 4, 2008)

Mr. Rajapaksa told U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake that the Indians had expressed particular concern about civilian casualties from Sri Lankan military operations, as well as the need to do "a better job of winning Tamil hearts and minds."

According to Mr. Blake's cable, Mr. Rajapaksa told him that "the Indians argued that progress on these issues would help keep the region "free of outside interference" and would enable India to better support Sri Lanka in its fight against the LTTE.

Mr. Rajapaksa said both sides had agreed on the need to "move toward" towards a peaceful, negotiated political settlement. India wanted Sri Lanka to begin by devolving non-controversial powers such as agrarian services to the Eastern province.

But the presidential adviser — he is also his brother — told the Americans that India's "No. 1 concern" was the Sri Lankan Navy firing at Indian fishermen.

In the same cable, Mr. Blake reports a later conversation with Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Alok Prasad. Contrary to Mr. Rajapaksa's impression of his New Delhi meetings, Mr. Prasad said the primary focus of the meetings was devolution, and not the issue of fishermen.

While the talks primarily focussed on how to speed up devolution in the East, Mr. Prasad noted that India had told Sri Lanka it should be thinking of "the outlines of a settlement that goes beyond devolution of power under the 13th amendment."

But Mr. Prasad told the U.S. envoy that "India had very little hope that Sri Lanka would do more in this regard," as the President did not have the required parliamentary majority to amend the Constitution, and some political parties were opposed even to the 13th Amendment.

It appears from the cables that the U.S. wanted constant reassurances that India was pushing for a political solution. At one stage it even suggested that there should be a joint India-U.S. effort on this front.

In August 2008, Joint Secretary T.S. Tirumurti "avowed" at a New Delhi meeting with Mr. Blake, the Indian government's "continued advocacy for devolution of power in Sri Lanka, and said India was preparing to share specific ideas with Sri Lanka." (cable 167817: confidential, August 29, 2008)

The Indian official said New Delhi was pitching for a power-sharing formula that went beyond the 13th Amendment.

At the same meeting, Ambassador Blake proposed that India and the U.S. together encourage Sri Lanka to articulate its power-sharing vision "now" and engage in "quiet talks" with the LTTE.

He also suggested encouraging a "quiet dialogue" between the UN and the LTTE so that internally displaced people in the Vanni would be free to move south from LTTE-controlled areas "out of harm's way."

India was clearly not interested in the U.S. suggestion. Mr. Tirumurti responded that "Rajapakse wants Prabhakaran dead."

Pushing the ball back to the U.S. envoy, he spoke of a "credibility problem" for the West as the LTTE continued to raise funds in Europe, which was a source of concern for Sri Lanka and India.

But Mr. Blake pushed back, saying that while the U.S. would be glad to see Prabhakaran captured or killed, "the U.S. and India should not allow Rajapaksa to predicate progress on a power-sharing agreement on Prabhakaran's demise."

A year later, the Indian Foreign Secretary seems to have briefly toyed with the idea of involving the U.S. and other powers to put pressure on Sri Lanka to resolve the political issues after the fighting ended.

The Foreign Secretary suggested to Mr. Burleigh at his May 15, 2009 meeting that "it would be useful for India to convoke an international conference — noting that India, the Co-Chairs [of the peace process, Norway, Japan, the U.S. and U.K.] and China should attend — to look at the post-conflict landscape. Menon characterized this as an opportunity for India; prohibitions on contacts with the LTTE had prevented useful engagement in the past, but now there would be space."

Mr. Menon expressly wanted China in the grouping. According to the cable, he argued "that best results from Sri Lanka could be expected when the West, India and China all worked together. Otherwise, Sri Lanka would find ways to play its international interlocutors off against each other."

But it seems to have been just a passing thought, as no such meeting took place.

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





CHENNAI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reportedly told Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jaswant Singh that he could not "rely on" anyone in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leadership to give him proper advice, except Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and some scientists, according to an American Embassy cable sent on October 24, 2005 ( 43447: confidential).

Jaswant Singh revealed this during a conversation with United States Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns on October 21, 2005. "[Jaswant] Singh said he would be frank and tell the U/S [Under Secretary] exactly what advice he had provided the PM. He opined that the UPA 'does not have the intellectual commitment to improve US/India relations,' as it had inherited its platform in this regard from the previous NDA government, and had 'grown into' its present position. He purportedly told the PM that India needs to stop asking for favors and start delivering to the world community," the cable sent under the name of Ambassador David Mulford said. "[Jaswant] Singh also pointed out that the UPA would not be able to deliver as long as it was propped up by the Communists, who he claimed are bent on 'hollowing out' the Congress party by 'disapproving anything and everything.' Singh emphasized that these foreign policy issues are inherently political, and the PM has not properly dealt with their political dimensions," the Ambassador reported on the conversation.

"The PM purportedly responded to Singh that he cannot 'rely on' anyone in the UPA leadership to give him proper advice except Finance Minister Chidambaram and some of the scientists. Singh emphasized to the PM that the non-proliferation regime has changed from one of controlling testing to controlling the production of fissile material and the GOI [Government of India] needs to stay ahead of these trends. He also endorsed a missile defense system for India, saying that it makes sense to adopt a defensive rather than an offensive strategy," the cable recorded Jaswant Singh's version of the conversation.

"Singh characterized the PM as a 'good economist,' who is good at 'reading paper,' but not strong on executing policy," the Ambassador cabled. In a concluding comment on the discussions between Mr. Burns and Jaswant Singh, he said: "Singh made the right noises regarding NDA support for the US/India agenda, and the Indian stance regarding Iran in the IAEA, but appeared more focused on domestic politics than the international agenda."

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






Maulana Fazlur Rehman sent a message to the U.S. Embassy offering to mediate with the Taliban.

CHENNAI: Prominent Muslim leaders in New Delhi stayed away from a high-profile Pakistani politician when he visited the city in May 2006.

However, that did not discourage the politician, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islami (F) and Leader of the Opposition, from making a visit again next year. And this time he made an indirect overture to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, offering his services as a mediator between the Bush Administration and the Taliban.

In keeping with the perception that the U.S. holds the keys to power in Islamabad, he also indirectly canvassed the Americans to help him play his "rightful" role in the Government of Pakistan.

As well as shedding some new light on the Maulana's agenda during these private visits, the cables accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks provide an interesting, if somewhat over-the-top and alarmist U.S. view of this wily Pakistani politician who is known back home more as a pragmatic leader with a clear idea of the buttered side of bread, rather than as a dogmatic Islamist.

It is also illustrative of the kind of sources U.S. diplomats cultivate, and their ability — or otherwise — to grade the information from these different sources.

One of the cables has references to former Foreign Minister Natwar Singh and his alleged connections with a Delhi businessman.

Cabling on May 19, 2006 about Mr. Rahman's May 15-19 visit ( 64728: confidential), the Embassy's Political Counselor, Geoffrey Pyatt, noted that his hosts, the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind, "failed to convince most prominent Muslims to attend" a reception in his honour. The Embassy was also invited but "steered well clear" of it on the advice of the Embassy in Islamabad.

In the fact that Mr. Rahman met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr. Pyatt saw "another facet of [the Prime Minister's] relentless outreach to the people of Pakistan, whatever their political coloration."

He also wrote that "Indian Muslims entertain no sympathy for the Taliban or Rahman and those at the reception were a virtual rogues' gallery of discredited hard-liners and fundamentalists."

Unlike the Pakistani Deobandis, the Deobandis in India, of which the JuH is a political arm, Mr. Pyatt explained in the cable, "have (at least in public) kept their distance" from the Taliban.

The reception for him at a Delhi five-star hotel was attended by 200 clerics, mainly from the Deobandi sect, 15 Members of Parliament and some journalists from the Urdu press. The only government representative there was Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz.

Mr. Natwar Singh, former J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and Ram Gopal Yadav, brother of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, were other prominent guests.

The U.S. official wrote that the reception was hosted by JuH leader Mahmood Madani, who had just then been elected to the Rajya Sabha with the support of the Samajwadi Party, the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh.

Two contacts fed Mr. Pyatt more masala on the visit, which the U.S. diplomat was cautious enough to put down as their claims. Mr. Pyatt commented that Mr. Natwar Singh's presence at "such a disreputable event" could "only hurt his political future and further alienate him from the Congress leadership, which is not amused by his antics."

Mr. Pyatt's sweeping conclusion of the visit was that it was "further evidence that a witches' brew of anti-US and pro-Iran Muslims and the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Uttar Pradesh is working together to oppose the UPA government and the US."

A year later, Mr. Rahman was back, providing more grist to the American cable mill.

On May 3, 2007, Assistant Political Counselor Atul Keshap reported ( cable 106645: secret) his meeting with JuH leader Mahmood Madani and Pandit N.K. Sharma, an astrologer-adviser to P.V. Narasimha Rao, "who claims close ties" to the Gandhi family. Mr. Madani told the U.S. official that the Pakistani leader had a "pressing issue he wanted to discuss with US officials, but he was only interested in holding these talks outside of Pakistan."

He explained that Mr. Rahman "could not speak freely in Pakistan, that he would say one thing in Pakistan and something else in India if asked."

Mr. Sharma gave his own reasons for the Maulana's diffidence about approaching the Americans in Pakistan: the former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan was "very close" to Pervez Musharraf, and Mr. Rahman would jeopardise his position in the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) [an alliance of six Islamic political parties] if it came out that he was speaking to the Americans; extremists in Pakistan would threaten him. Another reason given by Mr. Sharma was that India wanted to play a role in the negotiations, which it could not do inside Pakistan.

"Madani explained that Rahman was interested in acting as a go between for the United States, to negotiate with the Taliban in order to bring them into the mainstream and peacefully into politics in Afghanistan. Madani said many of the Taliban were just caught up in the conflict and did not have a way out of it. Which Taliban members were willing to be involved and under what circumstances would have to be worked out in the negotiations."

Mr. Madani was also carrying another message on behalf of Mr. Rehman — that he be allowed to play a bigger role in Pakistani politics. Mr. Madani told the U.S. official that because of his known ties to Taliban members, Mr. Rahman had a "bad reputation" in Pakistani politics, but "in reality was more moderate than Musharraf."

The U.S. official was dismissive of Mr. Sharma, dryly commenting that he "appears to exaggerate his role in the talks as well as his influence over world affairs." Mr. Madani he took more seriously.

"While we remain skeptical that India — which has long supported members of the Afghan Northern Alliance — would support such a discussion with Taliban leaders, we think Maulana Madani's efforts, although overly ambitious, reflect his seriousness," he commented.

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






The introduction of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill — amid high drama in Parliament on Thursday — was a do-or-die move by the government. Any further delay or, more important, a defeat on this issue even at the introduction stage, would have been a huge negative for UPA-2, which has been on a face-saving spree on several other counts recently. If the BJP had not come to the ruling party's rescue, it would have been a setback for the Congress leadership's commitment to its reform agenda. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that economic reforms are on track, and the PFRDA is very much part of this in the pension sector. It is a demand that has been made by industrial bodies. Foreign investors too have been looking forward to investments by pension funds. Indian insurance companies, businessmen and foreign investors are already disgruntled over the delay in raising the cap on foreign investment in insurance companies, and the government has not been able to go forward on this due to stiff resistance — not only from the Left but also from its own members and allies. Therefore, the government has cleverly kept out the FDI cap issue so that it is free to increase the cap if and when possible without having to seek Parliament's approval.
The Manmohan Singh government has been stuck with the PFRDA Bill, which was introduced first by the National Democratic Alliance government. It was unable to take it forward during UPA-1 as its Left partners opposed it. On Thursday, it was the absence of Congress MPs in the House at the time of introduction that nearly saw the measure defeated on the floor. The government is thinking of convening a special session of Parliament at the end of May (though this is not certain) to get the bill passed. Since it has the needed majority, there should ordinarily be no problem unless its allies revolt and the BJP does not come to the rescue once again.

There has been a solid divide on the PFRDA issue. The PFRDA will be a structured regulatory body with more teeth to oversee innumerable pension funds across the country. It will monitor the New Pension Scheme (NPS), which has also not found acceptance from the Left and several trade unions. The NPS, they argue, is not a pension scheme at all but an investment scheme, and its returns will depend on the NAVs (net asset value) of six mutual funds, including that of the State Bank of India and UTI, which handle NPS. The Left and the working class in general have been against pension and provident funds being used for investment in the stock market. They feel that once funds go in that direction, they will be at risk from speculators. Several scams have already hit the market. This is also one of the reasons why the trustees of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) are holding out against the government's repeated efforts to get that money, or even a chunk of it, into the stock market. The labour ministry, which oversees the EPFO, has demanded that the government give a guarantee for the money invested. The government has fought shy of this. This is the reason EPFO investments remain primarily outside the stock market. But with the PFRDA in place, the EPFO may be migrated to the PFRDA regime. The fate of over `3 lakh crores — under the EPFO — and of over 40 million crore workers is at stake.







"He was my cousin, twice removed
— Each time by the police.
He married his brother's mother-in-law
Who was also his sister's niece..."
From A Parsi Family Tree (Ed. Bachchoo)

The sainted become the tainted. The British, and indeed international, media's latest game is to identify all those who supped with the devil and weren't equipped with a long spoon. So the Rothschilds who invite former British Labour minister and operator-in-chief Peter Mandelson and the "crown prince" of Libya, Seif Gaddafi to their dining tables, onto their yachts, or to their estates and on their hunts have picked up the stain of association with a mass murderer. Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were political friends with Col. Muammar Gaddafi before he started butchering his own people. Now they are scrambling to make some distance.
The famous London School of Economics (LSE) has taken the colonel's shilling in the form of educational endowments and the disclosure of the extent and manner of these gifts has caused its director Sir Howard Davies to resign.
The suggestion is that all dealings with mass murderers and dictators are cause for concern or at least cause for throwing mud. The mud may not stick even though it is clear that Col. Gaddafi's son has nothing but his genes to qualify him for the wealth he dispenses or for his lifestyle and association with the good and great of the world of usury.
The flung mud (or other substance) doesn't stick when people judge that the purpose to which the ill-gotten gains were then put is in itself noble. Take the case of Mother Teresa of Kolkata. Some years ago Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ali made a documentary which proved that Mother Teresa had taken money for her charitable work from Papa Doc, the butcher of Haiti, and from Enver Hoxa, the dictator of Albania. Neither Doc nor Hoxa were well thought of as democrats or as people and the funds which the sainted Teresa got from them were not deemed to be hard-earned cash.
Nevertheless, Mother Teresa suffered no ignominy from the disclosure because what she was doing with the money was seen to be altruistic, good and even saintly.
The same argument may eventually be applied to Col. Gaddafi's endowments to the LSE. I wonder, though, if the school has a course in contemporary north African history and whether its curriculum and contentions are in any way affected by the acceptance of Libyan money. In the interests of academic independence, we should be told.
There are murmurs one hears of the Jaipur Literary Festival being sponsored by philanthropists who do business with Libya. That, of course, is no reason to suppose that a Libyan or Arab writer who is in any sense critical of, or satirical about, Col. Gaddafi will not be invited onto a platform to read or discuss his or her work. Neither is it fair to assume that the Nirulas (whom I know) who finance wholly or in part this festival, or indeed the organisers of the festival (also friends of mine) can in any sense be accused of taking the murderer's largesse.
The closest I myself ever got to... Well, here's the story, I shan't give it away: Some years ago I was a commissioning editor of the UK's Channel 4 TV. The job entailed conceiving and commissioning programmes and programme makers, paying for the programmes, editorially guiding them and bargaining with my colleagues and superiors for their prime-time airing.
I went to a party, a private affair of a friend who happened to be a TV producer, but not one that worked for me or for Channel 4.
As I walked in, Ray, my host, said, "Great you could make it", or words to that effect. "There's someone who wants desperately to meet you."
I got myself a drink and crossing the crowded room was introduced to a fat gentleman in a dark suit who was seated on a sofa between two young women. He lumbered to his feet as Mr Ray and I approached and beamed rather fetchingly as we were introduced.
"I have been very much interested in meeting you", he said with a heavy, what I took to be Arabic, accent.
I was polite in return and the two young ladies, taking their cue from the gentleman, stood and vanished into the party to make room for me on the sofa. I sat, curious.
"Well, I propose to Channel 4 a six-part documentary on the history this century (it was still the 20th) of West Asia and the Arab world. We will have everybody speaking, anybody you want — Yasser Arafat, Sheikh Muhammad Hassan Fedlallah, people from Hezbollah, Hamas, the Sheikhs, Col. Gaddafi, the main players in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood..."
"Israel?" I asked.
"Of course, of course", he said.
"The main thing, 90 per cent, about such a series is access", I said.
"We have complete access to everyone", he replied.
"Huge enterprise", I said. "Interesting if it comes off and it will have to have a very experienced producer..."
"Oh, yes, yes, yes", he said. He had anticipated the hurdles he might encounter in pitching the idea to someone like me. "We have..." and he mentioned the names of very distinguished BBC directors and producers (who shall here remain nameless). I knew all the names and knew they'd done good work. "And it's grand scale, battles, landscape, history like drama!"
"That's good, but a six-parter? What sort of money were you thinking of?"
It was a social occasion and I didn't want to invite him to meet me officially with a written proposal without getting some idea of whether Channel 4 could afford it.
"What about £40,000 per episode?" he said.
"You'd never make it for that!" I said.
A look of resignation came over his face. He'd dealt with amateurs before!
"No, no you don't understand", he said. "We are making the films ourself. The £40,000 per episode is a present for you."
I thanked him and said I was in need of a drink.
"Who's that fellow?" I asked Mr Ray
He grinned. "He's the Libyan bagman", he said. "No deal?"
I reported the incident to the channel controller the next day.
"Hmmm, £40,000 per episode. Not bad. And you turned that down?" he said. "So what's your price then, Farrukh?"






Warren Buffett exhausts me. I'm sure he exhausted several other people on his virgin trip to India. At 80, he is still at the crease, batting away… and going by his energy levels, he'll hit his century effortlessly. It is just not natural for an octogenarian to be jetting half way around the world at such a hectic speed. He described his quickie chakkar to India as a "better late than never" trip. And came up with a booklet-full of quotable quotes, starting with philanthropy being much harder and riskier than business. At around the same time, another American billionaire buddy of his, Bill Gates, was also floating around the countryside, telling us what to do with our money (earn it — and donate it!). Why do I get the feeling India is being sent on a massive guilt trip by these two guys? And why do we need to take lessons in charity from anybody? Least of all super rich Americans who have made their pile. One of whom has an established business here, and the other wishes to establish business in India?

Declared the Oracle of Omaha in Bengaluru, "We want to be where the action is, and the action is here". No kidding, buddy! Someone obviously forgot to tell these two guys our approach to philanthropy is different. Daan has always been an intrinsic part of our culture. If the present generation has callously ignored the message from the shastras, that's their business. The thought of being lectured to by people who represent the land of milk and honey and scolded that we are not doing enough is a bit much. I think it is condescending and patronising in the extreme for anybody to preach charity. To each his own. And decision to give or not to give, or even how much to give and to whom, is a very individual one.

We keep hearing wonderful speeches on corporate social responsibility, and there are enough people cashing in on the glory attached to it. But give me a break. Mr Buffett is obviously a very, very generous chap (he has pledged 99 per cent of his fortune, mainly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Well, good for him. And I am sure the angels in heaven (where his seat is guaranteed) will compose a special song for him when he gets to the pearly gates. But right now, what he is doing in India is scouting around for fresh opportunities to make still more money. He has his "brother or son" Shri Ajit Jain to help him invest in the country via Berkshire Hathaway (more chewing gum, anyone?). We are cool with that. We are also cool with more fizzy drinks (thanda matlab…?) hitting our stores, what with summer around the corner and over a billion parched throats to quench. Mr Buffett says he hasn't come her with an "elephant gun" loaded for acquisitions, but hey, we are cool with that, too. India is original elephant country.

I am confused. Perhaps I am too "retarded" (Mr Buffett's word to describe the delay in his coming to India) to get it. But the man is here to make even more money — right? And after he has made it, he will donate it, right? Meanwhile, his shareholders will be a happy lot, since Mr Buffett has assured them he is scaling up and looking at big markets like India, China and Brazil. He also told overwhelmed, gushing reporters that he feels he has more money than he needs — he eats well, takes vacations, watches movies… the regular stuff lesser mortals indulge in even without those billions and trillions. So, the logical question to ask him is this: "Why do you want to make more money, sir?" His answer will be: "The more money I make, the more I can give". Noble.
Our Mr and Mrs Money Bags are being prodded into following the Gates-Buffett pattern of giving. They are being coerced into parting with large portions of their wealth because they are told it makes them look good. Heaven knows how convinced they are about all this giving-shiving of their paisa, and God knows what their children think about it ("Grrrrrr… Dad! Mom! Ab mera kya hoga?"). But "giving" is the new a la mode statement to make. And all these "new" and "improved" charity drives amongst loaded desis have a lot to do with keeping up with the Buffetts. How can you hope to sit at the high table in Davos if you haven't announced a humungous donation to a pet cause? Without knocking these magnanimous gestures of our do-gooders, it is amusing to note the publicity machine that goes into overdrive when these grand donations are made. There's nothing quiet or discreet about charity these days. And perhaps Gates/Buffett will argue the more you talk about it, the more it inspires others to reach for their wallets. I dunno. I have seen some high-profile charity auctions at which dodgy millionaires have crept out of the woodwork for the all important photo-ops… only to creep right back again… zero follow-ups, zero money. Where does all that lolly go? Any answers? The second and third richest men in the world doing zabardasti with the 55 desi co-billionaires featured on the Forbes 2011 list are definitely pushing their luck. Coaxing these guys to sign The Giving Pledge followed by a public statement and letter is really a bit much, as pressure tactics go. The Chinese are smarter. After a similar initiative in China last September, not a single Chinese billionaire who showed up for the banquet bothered to sign the pledge. That's what is called the ultimate Oriental snub. Let's see whether the multi-course Indian buffet piles on more on the table than the Chinese one. Or else, the world's most famous philanthropists may go home hungry and disappointed. No such thing as a free lunch… perhaps India is not the moveable feast Bill and Warren expected it to be!

Readers can send feedback to






A nuclear accident anywhere is an accident everywhere — this maxim has been central to nuclear safety in the years since Chernobyl.

It seems that once again all the labours of the scientists and engineers who sought to usher in a nuclear renaissance are turning Sisyphean in the wake of Japan's tragic ordeal. Japan's nuclear catastrophe, with unprecedented scenes of virtual "parlay" in city after coastal city in the country's north-east areas, is drawing sharper and narrower international focus by the day. For better or worse, this has brought the pro-nuclear denouement of the past decade to ground zero.

As S.K. Jain, chairman of India's Nuclear Power Corporation Ltd, noted, "This event may be a big dampener for our programme. We and the Department of Atomic Energy will definitely revisit the entire thing, including our new reactor plans, after we receive more information from Japan". This is on the lines of what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ordered, as he informed Parliament.

This sober approach would be essential to resolve the issues predicated on India's hunger for clean energy, for no matter how one looks at India's long-term energy mix, the nuclear component in it cannot be wished away. Although events in Japan are unprecedented, the drawing of parallels with Japan's crisis by every country would appear to spell an irrational panic. This is because each country (and the nature of its nuclear reactors) need not necessarily replicate the extraordinary situation obtaining in Japan. After all, the Japanese people are facing, as their Prime Minister pointed out, their worst crisis since World War II.

The unusual challenges thrown up in Fukushima were just not visualised. So, there can be no room for any "I told you so". It does appear, all things considered, that instead of professional scientists and engineers, those jumping into the fray at the moment are more of the dyed-in-the-wool campaigner variety, people who are against nuclear power or the nuclear power industry in any case.

What are the facts so far? A tsunami occurred, brought about by an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude, among the rarest in living history. Even so, the extraordinary phenomenon could not prevent the shut down of the nuclear reactors, a critical consideration. We may recall that in the case of the Chernobyl accident (1986), the reactor could not be shut down. This led to uncontrolled chain reaction, causing dangerous spread of radioactivity in eastern and central Europe.

In contrast, the Fukushima Daiichi reactors could be immediately shut down. Indeed, the problem in Japan arose from an entirely different source — reactor fuel rods. These also contain highly radioactive elements and cause overheating even after reactor shutdown. All the reactors in Fukushima depend upon power supply and diesel backup generators to pump coolant water to prevent such over-heating. The severity of the crisis arose from the complete break down of the power supply for these pumps due to the massive earthquake.
Such a severe breakdown is the first of its kind in the history of nuclear accidents. It bears noting that India's nuclear power reactors — in the main — differ from the reactors at Fukushima, which are light water reactors fuelled by enriched uranium (except unit three which has about six per cent mix of plutonium).
Of the 441 nuclear power reactors worldwide, 369 are light water reactors but their designs and fuel cycles vary within the broad category. India's reactors, in contrast, are mostly heavy water moderated and natural uranium fuelled. The exceptions are a US reactor at Tarapur and two Russian ones at Kudankulam (fuelled by enriched uranium), but these are different in design from those in Fukushima.

The factors feeding a fear psychosis in the wake of the recent Japan experience possibly lie elsewhere. European Greens demonstrating against nuclear power and those forcing Germany's decision to put off life extension of its plants also harbour enduring discontent about the masterly inaction seen in the face of climate change risks.

In India, the experience of Bhopal fires the anger of anti-nuclear agitators who fear a repeat of callous indifference in the event of industrial disasters in general. Besides, the long history of despondence and inadequate preparation against recurrent natural disasters, especially in the developing world, also contributes to a fear psychosis. In the event, nuclear power becomes an easy whipping horse.

The events in Japan provide compelling lessons for nuclear engineering, lessons that may lead to transforming the basic approach to reactor design and nuclear safety, as had indeed happened after Chernobyl, too. Informed comment on Japan's current ordeal cites the considerable evolution in safety designs of modern reactors, which now have what the experts call passive safety features based on defence in depth. This, for instance, rules out sole dependence for cooling on pumps. It has also been argued that Japanese reactor designs were of the Seventies vintage. These are surpassed by better reactors today.

The Japanese crisis may also embolden critics of advances in fuel cycle, for example mixed oxide fuel (Mox) adding plutonium to uranium oxide, or breeder reactors which produce more plutonium than they consume, or the closed fuel cycle in general, which is basic to India's approach to nuclear power. Even before the Fukushima accident, industry lobbies were dismissive of reactors based on plutonium fuel. Also dragged under scrutiny may be India's long-cherished three-stage plan which relies on reactors to first produce plutonium from natural uranium fuel, then fast breeder reactors, and finally a third stage when thorium can fire reactors.
The first fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam is due for completion this year. This will raise India's profile. It is noteworthy that the Kalpakkam centre successfully shut down reactors and managed the safety of its workers after the 2004 tsunami. We should beware that in a competitive world Kalpakkam's success may not be to everyone's liking.

In taking stock of the Japanese crisis, the differences between the specifics of the Japanese and the Indian situation must be borne in mind. For start-up reactors, the crisis serves a timely warning to learn lessons, not to engage in scare-mongering.

Sheel Kant Sharma was India's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna









With separate OBC count slated to take place from June to September, the strategic management groups of various companies in India have started thinking over ways to use the caste data for profitable business initiatives.


Industry leaders believe that while the census results might put renewed pressure on the private sector to implement reservations in jobs, there were positive aspects to it as well.


"We would come to know which part of India hosts which all castes in what proportions, and we can come up with caste-specific products and services," said Vishal, strategic brand manager with Idea Cellular, who is planning to come up with caste-based recharge coupons such as Yadavji 500 or Rajput 300.


"Mobile companies had earlier launched 786 rupees recharge coupons in Muslim-dominated areas during Ramzan, and it was well received. Unfortunately, we lacked data on castes till now," informed Vishal.


FMCG companies too have started re-evaluating their sales and distribution strategy and are all set to incorporate the caste-based data in their supply chain management.


"Apart from coming up with innovative ideas for direct selling to different caste groups, we would also have to factor in caste of a person while selecting dealers or whole-sellers in different areas," a senior manager in a soap manufacturing company said.


The government sector is also happy as the caste-based census has caused the budget for the exercise to be increased from Rs2,793.62 crore in 2010-11 to Rs4,123.62 crore in the current financial year. But most active are the advertising agencies and entertainment professionals, who believe that the caste-based data would open a new dimension to the way businesses were done in India till date.


"Till now, soap-operas were with cultural themes and settings; stories of saas-bahu from Punjabi, Gujarati, Rajasthani and these days even from UP-Bihari families. We knew the population strength and spread of these cultural groups and their purchasing power, and planned and advertised new serials accordingly. Now we'd have such data on thousands of castes. You can imagine the outcome," said an executive producer with Colors TV.


Producers at Sony Entertainment Television also confirmed that they were planning to incorporate caste-based data while selecting candidates for 6th season of Indian Idol.


"It will help us get a very accurate estimate on quantum of SMS revenue earned when people send in SMS votes in support of each candidate. It would also help us plan better on ways of promotion of a candidate and the show in different areas of the country," a producer of the show said.


The channel is planning to exhort people to vote for candidates of their respective castes to win the reality show, something people are accustomed to doing during theassembly and general elections.


Rahul Roushan thinks he can make some sense through


nonsense. He attempts the same through his news satire website







There are people who are afraid of air travel. The first time I flew, I was mildly nervous too. After all, a strange looking cigar shaped object with wings (with me in it) was hurtling down a runway at close to 200 kph with the intent to lift off.


Any prior experience with objects moving at high velocity is unlikely to have ended well. Cars topple. Trains derail. Autos in Chennai cause nausea. So it's not surprising that the sum of one's experiences and conventional wisdom dictate that something bus-like is going to find it hard to elevate off the ground. Since we are not birds (or bats), gravity is like the stentorian father who is tight on the purse strings while Bernoulli's principle is that mythical liberal uncle who rarely visits.


No amount of statistical evidence is going to convince the first-time flier of the fundamental safeness of air travel. And even when one is airborne, there is always this mild sense of an unlikely miracle. As land mammals, sitting strapped to a seat while flying through the air at 700 kph is not something our evolution has prepared us to deal with.


Most people eventually get used to it. It almost becomes a necessary life risk to take because there simply is no other way to get from Bombay to Naperville, Illinois. One can theoretically still take a ship to New York, a train to Chicago and the share auto from O'Hare airport, but as one might imagine, it is slightly inconvenient. But as I continued to fly more, I became curious why air travel was, as a matter of fact, the safest way to travel in the world. How does an airplane defy gravity while being extraordinary safe at the same time?


More crucially, I was looking for ways to convince some one who is afraid that his flight might be the one to crash that it is rather unlikely to do so. In short, what visually intuitive explanation can convince a layperson that an airplane actually "wants" to stay afloat in the air?


The first part of this, most people understand. Certain aerodynamic shapes achieve lift when they manage to convince more air to move under them than over them. The wing flaps that the pilot manipulates at take-off and landing time achieve this.


But what most folks don't realise is that it's air resistance that eventually keeps a plane afloat. At speeds humans can manage (20 kph), air resistance is negligible. At 700 kph, the air around the plane feels like jelly. So imagine swimming through jelly. Quite easy, no? That is why an airplane is overwhelmingly safe as long as engines don't fail, and they have ample backup engines in case of any failure.


Really, they should teach this at school.


Slightly techie, moderately musical, severely blogging, timepassly tweeting.







Under the guise of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), my wife could be irritable, tense and unreasonable every month. I managed to keep a track of her PMS schedule to ensure her bouts of irritability were in sync with the laws of nature. But with the advent of menopause, she no longer needs to conform to a routine: she can be irritable and moody at any time. So there's no schedule to track: all I can do is observe how menopause has changed her.


First, her memory has sharpened.


Remembering where I put the car keys last night is noble but her memory now leaps backwards to explore less meritorious areas with scalpel-like precision.


The other day, I was quietly reading the newspaper, when my wife plucked it out of my hands:


"Stop hiding behind the newspaper! Don't you feel any remorse for leaving me in the hospital alone and going off to play billiards?"


"What?! When?" I spluttered.


"Don't pretend to forget. It was when I was expecting our first child."


"Oh, I remember now," I said, "But I explained and apologised for the misunderstanding. It happened over 20 years ago… the boy is in college now. Can't you forget it?"


She shook her head. "It's etched too firmly in my memory. And what about the other time when the boy was four? You promised to visit my mother and…"


Second, her sensitivity, always a forte, has heightened; gaining an added sparkle, it focuses on areas she was hitherto indifferent




I was enjoying a shower when I heard a sharp knock on the door.


"Yes?" I said, turning off the faucet.


"Can you please stop that?" my wife shouted through the door, "It's very irritating."


"But if I don't shower, I will look and smell unclean," I replied with patient logic, "which may be more irritating."


"You can shower," she said, "But stop singing!"


I admit my singing - loud and tuneless - can be daunting especially if imposed suddenly on someone with a weak heart. But I thought my wife had got accustomed to it.


Similarly, when I was relaxing in bed enjoying an absorbing live football match on television, she asked me to turn down the volume.


"But it's the middle of the Champions League final!" I protested.


"It's also the middle of the night," she said, "3 am, in fact."


"But I can't hear the crowd if I turn down the volume."


"Is the crowd playing the game?" she asked unreasonably, "If you need the noise, watch the match in the living room."


"What? Do you mean watch it sitting down? And on the smaller television set?"


That is exactly what she meant.


Third, she has begun to make dazzling connections between seemingly unrelated things.


At the mall, I wandered into a golf store to pick up some balls. I was surprised to see my wife next to me because she normally steers clear of the sp2orts aisles.


"Are you buying more golf balls?" she asked.


I nodded.




Surely this couldn't be a trick question?


"To play golf," I said.


"Well, I think you shouldn't," she said, "you've started snoring a lot." As I gaped trying to make the connection, she went on, "I've been reading about snoring. It can result from being overweight and not exercising enough. So if you played less golf and went for a run instead, your snoring would reduce."


I sat pensively in front of my computer and brooded about menopause. It gives the woman a competitive advantage in a marriage. In desperation, I typed "male menopause" into Google. Bonanza! Apparently we men can go through a mid-life crisis too! I read rapidly and with rising excitement; then sought out my wife.


"Did you know," I said, "that I will soon be going through male menopause – andropause if you want to get technical? My moods can swing. I can become lethargic, listless and less inclined to physical activity. I can be unreasonable and get irritated."


"Yes," my wife said and placed a tender hand on my shoulder, "You've been displaying all the symptoms for a year but I didn't want to hurt you by bringing it up. But don't worry," she continued with a twinkle in her eye, "I've not been keeping track."


Paddy Rangappa is a freelance writer based in Singapore. Read more on his blog:









India, once known as a country with high moral and ethical standards, seems to be sinking to the depths of ignominy because of rampant corruption. It is a painful scenario that we are enlisted among the corrupt countries of the world. This generation has brought disrepute to our great sages and savants, thinkers and preceptors who had assiduously and over centuries built a formidable structure of Indian society based on high standard of morality and ethical code. It is surprising how quickly we have fallen victim to the depths of ill repute. While talking of corruption in public conduct, we invariably hold political leaders and activists responsible for moral turpitude and depravity. This generalization is unjustified and unacceptable. Essentially, it is attributable to under-developed personality that allows political leaders to exploit the situation. A nation with strong and independent personality does not succumb to moral turpitude that easy. When corruption becomes a social phenomenon, it is a signal that civil society is diseased. High standards of morality are not enforced through legislation or prerogatives; it is the gift of advanced culture and philosophy. Abandoning traditional learning that infused austerity and contentment as virtues composing a wholesome living is a big loss we inflicted on ourselves after the attainment of independence. It is sensible to separate religion from politics if we want good governance, but ethics as integral component of faith cannot be separated from good governance. In that sense religion does have a place in functional politics. Traditional learning of scriptures and theological fund forms the basis of standard ethical code, which in turn churns up the philosophy of good governance. Unfortunately we discarded that healthy part of our tradition under the mad rush for modern civilizational pattern. In the process, we lost our ethical and moral moorings. This is a punishment inflicted on us by that section of our freedom movement leadership which, in blind imitation of western political school of thought, partially lost its indigenous mores. How can we expect an ethics- based society to com up when the very roots of ethics, meaning religion, remain eroded? It is this scenario that has given rise to double-edged corruption; double-edged because the indicted person first denies being corrupt and then castigates the social system for indicting him.

The legislative assembly was told that there are 210 cases of corruption pertaining to various government departments pending proper disposal. No fewer than 449 gazetted officers of the state are involved. The range of corruption is vast from bribery to forgery, from embezzlement to misuse of power, from narcotic trade to gun running and what not. Hardly any sector of social and public service is left out of corruption. The contagion has spread from top to bottom. Apart from the reason of lack of a sense of social responsibility and awareness of moral and ethnical bindings, total laxity in accountability has immensely contributed to the outspread of corruption. This brings us to a debate on the question of shortening the circle of legal protection to a corrupt state employee. Legal fight over a corruption case is usually protracted and time consuming. Whether the indicted person is punished or not is a different matter. Prolonging the accountability to indefinite period considerably dilutes public interest and trust in the judicial process. Imagine in a state where 449 officers of gazetted rank are implicated in cases of corruption, what will be the standard of overall governance and administration. In all western democracies corruption cases are dealt with in accordance with the law of the land most expeditiously so that a wrong signal of authorities conniving at corruption is not spread. In our country we find the reverse of it and we take shelter behind the outdated and redundant juridical intervention. Why not the system be reformed to meet new requirements of present-day society. Reforming the educational system by introducing tradition-based study of ethical code simultaneously with adopting strict norms of accountability should be the two-pronged strategy for eradicating corruption in the entire administrative and governance structure of the state. The time and tide wait for no one. Keeping tryst with corruption is keeping tryst with disaster.







Responding to questions in the Assembly, the State Transport Minister indirectly conceded that transport network in the twin backward and hilly districts of Doda and Kishtwar was far from satisfactory. Bad roads or no roads and, in addition, shortage of passenger carriers are some of the problems of beleaguered State Transport Department. Statistics reveal that most of the road accidents that claim large toll of human lives usually happen in this sector. It is pertinent that while the Transport Department will increase the number of buses plying on the roads in this sector, the question of safe transportation and avoidance of fatal accidents should also form essential part of State Transport Department's policy and plans. It asks for cooperation with other departments like PWD, tourism, power, medical and social welfare. A clear and objective policy of hill sector transportation has to be evolved and enforced. Most of the accidents are caused by overloading. Effective steps have to be taken to put and end to this dangerous practice. Since the frequency of bus trips is limited on most of the roads in this sector, it is understandable that passengers would not want to miss the bus in practical terms. Apart from increasing the number of buses plying on various routes of the region, it might be advisable to deploy small buses with lesser seating capacity so that safety of passengers is ensured. Buses with a maximum of 18 seats would be ideal for these routes. Widening of the main links, reducing sharp angles at turns and diversions, establishing more first aid clinics en route, closer checking for speed limit and regular certification of fitness of the vehicle should also be among the protective measures. When an overloaded bus meets with accident, the traffic authorities concerned must first be brought to book. Punishment under rules for negligence or dereliction of duty is a very effective way of stemming occurrence of major road accidents.









Muammar Guadaffi, for all you know, may at the time of writing, well be writing his own epitaph on his tent like palaces, as the old colonialists are itching to teach the once feared Libyan leader the lesson of his life. You do not have to be a colonialist sympathizer to foretell the outcome of the war on Libya led by the pint-sized French President Sarkozy. This is the democratic coalition, namely the US, the U.K., France and how could I forget the greater democracies, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Qatar. That Germany has opted out, getting embroiled obviously does not concern Barack Obama, the son of a Muslim Black and a White Mother, one who bears a Muslim middle name.

Russia, India and China had said 'no' to the "pro-democracy" US, U.K., France etc. in the Security Council when it ordered enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya which is another way of opening up the oil rich desert country to the "liberating" colonialists. So, when President Guadaffi, a despot for sure, was busying taming the rebels in Benghazi and other parts of his country the liberators declared enough is enough and with Sarkozy leading the first punch; a full-scale attack on Libya was launched.

Some 18 years later I heard almost the entire US Defence set-up, past and present, trying to draw the limits of the latest American flirtation with fate. The gruesome Tsunami that threatened Japan and its neighbourhood with a nuclear disaster slowly moved to the background on the western wire media.

Instead the countdown had begun for Western air strikes. There was no end to their glee when they broadcast that Guadaffi's palace in Tripoli had been hit, later admitted to be the administrative office of the Libyan leader. The question I am trying to find an answer for is how is the Western attack on Libya any different from the one on Iraq whose much maligned dictator, Saddam Hussain, was accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction which later turned out to be a ruse a to cover up for a regime change.

As a consequence that expedition has left Iraq in ruins, still trying to find a stable Government even as the Americans and their collaborators have left. Afghanistan continues to be the mother of current American obsessions in the region, Osama Bin Laden, still the elusive quarry with Pakistan drawn into the very heart of the endless killings in Afghanistan as much as within it own territorial confines.

Obama has finally decided to pull out of Afghanistan at a later date but the ghost of Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the Taliban chief, continues to haunt him and his Generals. I am not unduly surprised by the collective set- back the US alliance suffered when the Egyptian youth rose against the 41-year old dictatorial rule of Hosni Mubarak. Nothing more than advisories to the then besieged Egyptian leader was considered necessary by the likes of Obama and Hillary Clinton. It was only when the Egyptian Army changed its stance in favour of the change the youth sought that Mubarak was advised to move out of Cairo to Shram ul Sheikh, Mubarak's favourite resort.

The Americans have stood by like a concerned guardian as Bahrain stood up to the challenge of its Shiite majority. Yemen continues to be another blind spot. Y'see the Americans believe in having both sides of their bread buttered. So goose for the Saudi for gander need not be sause for the Libyan gainder. The Saudis who own a big slice of American economy also are one of the major producers of oil, like Libya. So you retain one's loyalty by offering him a slice of your big pie and try to teach the other (Libya or Iraq, if you will) a lesson through sheer use of force.

That's why the royal houses of the UAE or Bahrain need not be particularly upset about the mass upsurges against them. "Uncle Sham" will ensure that they are out of harms way. That's why the American channel CNN never tired last week of mentioning UAE, Qatar and Bahrain as fellow travelers in the war on that "mad dog" (Ronald Regan's description) Guadaffi.

And there is talk afoot already of giving more teeth on ground to Guadaffi opponents. I heard one of the top US Admirals openly wondering in a TV debate whether the US should or should not consider making weaponry more easily accessible to the rebels. As it is most of the rebels have somehow gained access to modern weaponry even before the UN Security Council enforced no-fly zone edict.

The rebels had already formed a transitional national council to act as the face of "revolution." They took care then to mention that theirs was no interim government.

Not that it made any difference to the rebellion. The Americans meanwhile on the third day of the no-fly decision are deeply concerned whether they, the ordinary Americans, about to be involved in yet another avoidable war. Perhaps it was a palliative for them to designate the Libyan expedition as one led by France.
A word perhaps about Libya's principal mineral resource: petroleum amounting to 22,800,000,000 bbl (3,034,000,000 metric tons) and there is much more yet to be explored. The tribe, or quabilah, remains the basic unit of Libya's social structure. Berbers, formerly the major ethnic group, have been largely assimilated into the Arab culture. Italians, Greeks, Blacks and Jews are other ethnic groups. Most of the population is Sunni Muslim and 2.5 are Christians. About two thirds of the population is heavily concentrated in Tripoli and Benghazi, with the overall population density a mere five persons per square mile. Libya's literacy rate has improved dramatically from about 20 percent in the early 50's to about 77 percent in 1990.

The discovery of oil in 1959 transformed Libya into a prosperous monarchy and a decade later a group of Army Officers led by Col. Muammar Guadaffi deposed the King and made the country a Pan-Arab and puritanically Muslim republic. Guadaffi snapped ties with the USA and the UK while maintaining a strong support for the Palestinian and guerilla movements in Africa and elsewhere.

In 1997 hostilities erupted with Egypt. The US snapped its ties with Libya and in 1986 executed a short night-time bombing raid over Tripoli and Benghazi. That was the provocation for Ronald Reagan to call Guadaffi 'that mad dog in Libya'.

And 24 years later Obama seems to have taken upon himself to avenge the insults hurled by Guadaffi on Reagan. Not that Muammar Guadaffi needed a provocation. He had already become a thorn in the sides of many countries inimical to the splendrous show of power the Libyan leader made. The dice seems currently loaded against the Libyan and in favour of Saudi Arabia. I only hope that the Saudi-US tie-up doesn't follow the old fool- hardy policy of pumping quality armour and cash into Afghanistan and Pakistan to arm the so-called Mujahideen to fight the Soviets for nearly a decade and more in Afghanistan, the very arms and cash (the latter to keep the US defence industry in fine trim) which is currently used by the Taliban to defeat the Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Islamabad had even then used both the money and the armour to strengthen its defences.

True to form the Americans are using similar tactics adopted prior to Iraq and have indeed emulated these with gusto, denying, accepting and denying yet again that Col. Guadaffi's palace had been hit. An American spokesman, curiously the French are supposed to be leading the operation in Libya, went into denial when confronted with some odds and ends from the palace. The Libyan spokesman on the other hand was more forthright in admitting that the building hit by American cruise missiles from air and from sea had only flattened the administrative block of the palace.

The Western planes had also targeted densely populated areas of Tripoli which by itself, with Benghazi, accounts for twothirds of Libya's population. You can't miss large clusters of populated areas even with high precision bombing. How precise can you be in such densely populated areas !








From many a quarter, opinions are expressed that the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh should now resign. When scams like Aadarsh, CWG, 2G Spectrum, Radio tapes and the issue of the CVC's controversial appointment surfaced, one after the other, no such demand arose, even from his bete noire political critics but why now, especially after the Wiki Leak expose on UPA 1 trust vote controversy? The question arises as to what should be the yard stick based on political, moral and ethical propriety, that should determine the circumstances and the set norms, warranting the resignation of the Prime Minister.

It may be recalled that when Justice J L Sinha of Allahabad High Court passed the judgment quashing Smt Indira Gandhi's election to the Lok Sabha on the ground of electoral malpractices and banned her from contesting elections for six years, she did not resign, perhaps sending the clear message that the Indian Prime Minister occupies a unique position and is the most powerful though technically a primus interpares or the first among the equals and chairman of the cabinet. The combined opposition then was forced to announce launching of a joint political tirade against her from June 29, 1975 but she preempted their move by imposing emergency on June 25/26, 1975. At that time, the opposition was not divided but fully united and the socialist stalwart Jai Prakash Narayan, did renounce his political sanyas and led the opposition to a logical conclusion.
The grounds seeking Dr Singh's resignation not withstanding, the opposition, this time, is divided on the issue and are found wanting in being in possession of the requisite teeth and the spark, as a result of which the benefit is reaped by Dr Singh who has otherwise grown from an academician of repute, to a perfect politician, employing all the traits of political prowess and adroitness in political matters of the country. However, it is appropriate to argue that on one of the grounds or at least on all combined grounds listed hereunder, the PM should have offered to resign. Equally the other view cannot be brushed aside that taking into account his personal integrity and honesty, it is not fair to ask him to quit, so to say, even at the drop of a hat. Let it be analyzed.

In the run up to the present Lok Sabha elections, in many public meetings addressed by Dr Singh, he promised forcefully and with the conviction of an Economist, that if voted to power, he would arrange a complete turnaround of the econmy and take effective steps towards eradication of corruption in just 100 days. The bargain seemed worthwhile and the people voted UPA to power with comparatively an enviable number of seats, much against the expectations of the Congress party. The due date or the dead line of the promise fell on Aug. 31, 2009. What happened in reality is known to all. Even after as much as six times the dead line of the complete turnaround, and the Aam Aadmi reeling under the spiraling price rise of basic essentials, he was asked many times by the media persons, as to when the prices would come down, the Economist Prime Minister's political reply was, ''I am not an astrologer.''

The Chief Vigilance Commissioner was appointed by the Prime Minister, being head of the three member panel, dissecting the adverse remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, who happens to be one of the three members on the panel of selection committee. Recently the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India quashed the CVC's appointment terming it as ''illegal and void''. Even thereafter, P J Thomas refused to resign instantaneously ignoring the appeal of the government asking him to resign. The question again is how come government ignored Thomas's taint in palmolein case. GE Vahanvati, the Attorney General, in the affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, submitted that ''the fact that there was a pending case and he (Thomas) was an accused was not brought before the committee'' which was aptly rebutted by the Leader of the Opposition.
The Supreme Court, again came down heavily on the central government for failing to crack the whip on black money hoarders and took exception to the uncalled for transfers of the three top officials of Enforcement Directorate, who allegedly were transferred midway during the probe in the case of Foreign Exchange Law violations by a Pune business magnate, Hassan Ali Khan. The court had to pronounce, ''What the hell is going on?''

It was further observed that at times, violators of IPC 144 are shot at but a clear case of stashing of billions by Ali in foreign banks has not subjected him and other black money launderers to custodial interrogation. Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar observed that if the government failed to act, the court would be compelled to appoint a special officer to supervise the probe against the offenders. On what basis, did the Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, last month, in a press conference, virtually give Ali a clean chit by saying that his account showed no such transactions while the country's Tax authorities had already served a notice of Rs 50,000 crores on him? This is shrouded in mystery and is giving enough room to smell a rat.

Spectrum scam of such a massive magnitude, did take place and came into lime light mainly because of the praise worthy role played by the media and action had to be initiated, the progress of the investigations being monitored by the Hon'ble Supreme Court. During the tenure of UPA 1, it had vividly been felt that the Minister A Raja's role had not been found free from speculations and doubts. It was expected that either he would not be given a cabinet berth in UPA 2 government or would get a portfolio other than the Telecommunications but as the Prime Minister said that such decisions had to be taken under the compulsions of coalition politics, he was given the same, his choicest portfolio the results of which reportedly resulted in massive loss to the exchequer.

Coming to the revelations of the Wikileaks, in respect of managing the crucial vote of confidence of UPA 1 in July 2008 following the divergent stands pursued both by the Congress party and the left on US Nuclear deal, the same cannot be brushed aside in totality as we saw in a similar case when in 1993 Narsimha Rao Government'' steered through ''JMM, the confidence vote in the Parliament. At that time, vote for note revelations were not made by Wiki Leaks but by agencies from within the country and Narsimha Rao had to face the court proceedings as well. The recent leaks speak about the excruciating details about the Indo US Nuclear deal and an aide to a Congress leader quoted as having said to Pol Couns, US official, that money was paid to some MPs and more were to be paid to ensure a win in the trust vote in Parliament on July 22, 2008. In response to the denial of the PM, Wiki leaks Editor Jullian Assange, in an interview with NDTV's Prannoy Roy on March 21, 2011 said that the denial of vote for note by the Indian PM was aiming at misleading the country. He further said that there was no doubt that these were bonafide reports sent by American Ambassador to Washington. First not accepting and then denying is the behaviour of a guilty man. It is proved that money has become the mantra, the soul, the aim, the criteria and the guarantee to get any thing done in the polity of the country of Mahatma Gandhi. Parliamentary democracy therefore stands grossly threatened. The PM should, therefore, resign to come clean.







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.

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. (INAV)









It was a welcome break from the dogged UPA-BJP bickering over recent scams. The BJP saved the UPA a major embarrassment when it supported the pension Bill, which met with Leftist opposition in Parliament on Thursday. The Bill was sought to be tabled at a time when many Congress leaders were not present in the House. A CPM leader pressed for a division of vote and the BJP support ensured a 115-43 vote in the Bill's favour. The Congress and the BJP, by and large, agree on second-generation reforms, which have got stuck due to politicking.


The Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority Bill 2011 is the UPA's second attempt at pension reform. The first was thwarted in 2005 when the Leftists refused support for the legislation. The Bill was then referred to a standing committee of Parliament. The redrafted Bill aims to set up a regulator for the pension sector and open up a new pension system in which contributions are defined but terminal benefits to the members are not guaranteed. A part of the pension funds is slated to be invested in stock markets. The Leftist opposition is based largely on this.


The government's switch-over to the new pension system has been propelled by the growing pension bill of its employees. The burden will rise in future as life expectancy increases. Government revenue may not be rising accordingly unless taxes are raised sharply – not a happy option either. Hence, the reform. Twenty-seven states too have agreed to join the new pension scheme. The government has cleverly kept the issue of foreign direct investment outside the pension Bill. This means Parliament will not be able to debate or set a limit on FDI in the new pension system. The government's move to increase the FDI limit from 26 per cent to 49 per cent in insurance has got scuttled by political opposition. Therefore, it did not want the pension Bill to get caught in a similar political gridlock. However, with BJP help, the Bill may sail through.









While it is entirely within the prerogative of the British government to decide which aspiring visitors or students it wants to admit to Britain, the planned move to cut up to 80,000 student visas, has caused concern in the academic community in Britain, as well as potential students. Vice-Chancellors of British universities have warned of the threat to higher education institutions posed by visa restrictions, which will cut students from non-European Union countries, including India, by 25 per cent a year. Overseas university students to the UK generate £5 billion a year, and the economic cost of the cut has been estimated at £40 billion.


The British home secretary has a point when she says the education sector is "effectively unregulated", that some of the institutions are not up to the mark. Studying in the UK has been a dream of generations of international students, who are attracted by the quality of education available there. The British authorities, even as they set their own house in order, must ensure that genuine students who seek to study in Britain do not face any hardship.


Within Britain, too, the need for a proper debate on immigration rather than rushing into major policy changes has been voiced, notably by Keith Vaz, an Indian-origin MP, who has pointed out that the government should "recognise the price it will pay if it does not think carefully about all those that contribute to Britain's success at home and abroad". A recently-published report by the British home affairs select committee on student visas too has concluded that limiting genuine international students could damage Britain's reputation as an international education hub. In the global village that the world has become, students naturally seek the best institutions they can get into. Britain has been a favourite, but for those considering other destinations, the visa cuts and other restrictions could well be the proverbial last straw.









It was only a quarterfinal encounter but since it was against the four-time World Cup champions Australia, it was as good as the final for most of the cricket-crazy spectators. The whole of India was mighty optimistic, of course – we always are – but given some perennial weaknesses of the men in blue, the assertions were phlegmatic. However, dreams did come true on Thursday night at Ahmedabad when Dhoni's boys beat the Aussies fair and square. And what a cliffhanger it was, with fortunes doing a U-turn with every over, till comeback boy Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina put all hopes beyond the reach of the three-times defending champions. This is proving to be Yuvraj's World Cup, who picked up his fourth man of the match title and is in line for the man of the tournament crown as well, but it was a team effort all the way. The most notable improvement has been in fielding where some 15 runs were saved, which proved crucial when India chased.


Sachin Tendulkar missed his century of centuries but his contribution was tremendous. What mattered most in this game was that the team showed ample self-belief and held its nerves when it mattered the most. Otherwise, the cheap dismissal of Virender Sehwag and Dhoni and runout of Gautam Gambhir had earlier raised the fears of an all-too-familiar collapse. To that extent, the victory over Australia should do a lot of good to India's confidence.


The famous triumph has set the stage for an epic semifinal clash against arch-rivals Pakistan in Mohali. That is now The Match of the tournament. Pakistan too have surged into the semifinals while firing on all cylinders, but India have never lost to them during their four World Cup encounters and will be hoping that history will repeat itself. If India can cure themselves of the occasional hiccups they suffered from during this edition of the World Cup, they start as clear favourites. The count-down has begun.









Addressing the University of Agricultural Science and Technology in Jammu in the first week of March, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that despite all the problems India had been faced with, it had decided to resume the dialogue process with Pakistan. India would being the talks with Pakistan with an open mind with a wish to resolve all the outstanding issues between the two countries through friendly, constructive and purposeful negotiations.


The Prime Minister emphasised that having said that, "We cannot forget what happened in Mumbai". The Government of Pakistan should leave no stone unturned in bringing the culprits to book. The activities of the extremist groups in Pakistan remain a source of concern.


Unfortunately, Pakistan has been stonewalling all the promised trials of individuals identified as complicit in the Mumbai attacks. The Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan, who met at Thimphu during the recent SAARC meeting, agreed to have a meeting of the Home Secretaries of the two countries in Delhi in the last week of March. It has to be understood by Pakistan that dialogue and terrorism cannot go together.


Meanwhile, the interrogation of the captured attacker, Kasab, by the Mumbai police led to the identification of two known leaders of a Pakistan-based militant outfit, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), who guided the attack from Pakistan.


The FBI's disclosure that US citizen David Headley had played a key role in reconnoitring the 26/11 targets numerous times during the two years before the Mumbai attack filled the important gaps in the continuing investigation, especially regarding how the militants who attacked gained detailed knowledge of their targets in Mumbai. Pakistan has so far not agreed to India's request to let an Indian team interrogate them.

India was incensed by a string of lethal attacks on Indian nationals in Afghanistan with Pakistan's complicity. US officials confirmed that Pakistani militants were responsible for bombing the Indian Embassy in Kabul two months before 26/11.


A detailed report had recently appeared that Pakistan was responsible for pushing fake Indian currency notes into India and these activities were being carried out routinely by the Pakistani embassies in Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand and at some other places. The entire operation on the part of Pakistan is nothing short of an economic warfare and an exercise of "bleeding India with a thousand cuts" which is the avowed state policy of Pakistan. The 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) brought out by the State Department of the United States has said that criminal networks exchanged counterfeit currency for genuine notes and this has facilitated money laundering on a scale that represents a threat to the Indian economy. The report went on to state that India's economic and demographic expansion made the country an increasingly significant target for money laundering.


Speaking at a function to mark Kashmiri Solidarity Day, which Pakistan officially observes annually, Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed advocated at Islamabad on February 6, "Kashmiri Solidarity Day has come at a time when India and Pakistan were trying to revive the peace process." Saeed blamed India for masterminding the Mumbai attack and added that India should quit Kashmir or should get ready to face a war. Saeed said that in the jihad against India, if needed, even nuclear weapons should be used by Pakistan. Islamabad did not take any action against Saeed. It is a well-known secret that the LeT and the JuD both enjoy the patronage of the ISI of Pakistan.


The Intelligence Bureau had recently warned the Chief Secretaries and police chiefs of the states regarding the plans of Al-Qaida and the LeT to mount attacks on the World Cup Cricket matches to be held in important cities, and asked them to take all precautions to avert such possibilities. This warning cannot be taken lightly and Pakistan will be judged on the steps taken by it to check their activities.


One of the latest WikiLeaks documents quotes the US National Intelligence officer for South Asia, Dr Peter Lavoy, as having given an assessment on Pakistan which states that despite the pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons faster than any other country in the world. There were earlier reports that the nuclear stockpile of Pakistan was much more than of India. Dr Lavoy's estimate on Pakistan producing nuclear weapons faster than "any other country in the world" is alarming indeed for nuclear powers all over the world and India in particular.


Dr Lavoy's another important assessment on Indo-Pak relations is that "Pakistan continues to define India as its No. 1 threat" and that the ISI continues to provide intelligence and financial support to insurgent groups to conduct attacks in Afghanistan and India.


In Pakistan itself, the internal security situation seems to be worsening. Contrary to what Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari says in his article in The Washington Post that "we will not be intimidated nor will retreat against the acts of extremism and religious fanaticism", Pakistan Army Chief Gen Kayani declined to condemn the killings of Bhatti and Taseer, fearing revolt in the Army. In the case of American national Raymond Davis, the religious and right wing forces are said to have pressured to pay up blood money for resolving the case, which meant the US might have to cough up money for ensuring the release of Davis, even though Mr Zardari had said that Pakistan was committed to peaceful adjudication of the vexed issue. Davis has since been released after blood money was paid to the relatives of the two persons who were shot dead by him. However, the US mission in Pakistan has denied having paid any blood money. Who actually paid it may not be relevant.


One of the important topics for dialogue between India and Pakistan would naturally be Kashmir. As for Pakistan, the Kashmir issue is the most important one. The four-point formula which was almost finalised jointly by General Musharraf and Dr Manmohan Singh lost its relevance with the deposition of General Musharraf. The Pakistan Army Chief had reportedly vetoed the formula as unacceptable.


However, during the visit of the then Foreign Minister of Pakistan last year, one got the impression that General Kayani was not against the Musharraf formula and that some quiet negotiations were going on.


It is known that some important personalities are busy on Track-2 negotiations to work out an agreeable formula on Kashmir. However, they do not seem to have hit upon any such formula as yet. Taking into account all these factors, it is rather premature for a composite dialogue between India and Pakistan.


The writer is a former Governor and a retired chief of the Intelligence Bureau.









I will not call her some Mrs X. To 'Mrs' her would be bracketing her. nor am I concealing her identity. I would rather name her as a vowel, say, 'O'. Because, unlike a consonant, a vowel spells immense possibilities!


She is not precisely my friend, for the simple reason that over two decades of calendar years stretch between us. We met like two strangers often do, in search of something, colliding like two dust particles in the vast emptiness of this world. Ah! One more of those haughty NRIs, observed my mind, when we first met. In two subsequent meetings I changed my opinion. A prodigal daughter!


Yet again I was trying to frame her. But, she gave a slip to my frame. She had lived a life on her terms, was evolved, had a sense of humour and well, this was enough for us to click!


We always had enough to talk. I admired her wicked vivaciousness. Hilarious anecdotes exposing stiff upper lip hypocrisy of the French and the Americans of the New-England area she had lived with for five decades entertained me. In fact, I wanted to grow old like her!


It was after a gap of over eight months that I called her last night. She had been shifted to the general ward from the ICU after two weeks. There was a chirpiness about her voice, as though this small mercy of life was exciting!


This was the second time she had gone to an alien city for a kidney transplant, where she did not know a soul. And, this was for the second time that the donor had backed out! She was at the receiving end of humanitarian laws. What she did receive was a serious kidney infection. This was bad news. And I was worried and embarrassed for not calling her up all this while.


But, she was talking of the flowers she had seen in my garden before leaving. "The blossom is so generous this year! And, how are you dear?" she chirped with the joy only flowers could evoke. I had not taken note of them for this or that reason!


I had stopped meeting her.


Her onion-thin skin had begun to show coiled snakes of veins growing darker underneath. Her eyes looked like broken wings of a bird in flight. Her fragile courage was turning brittle. Perhaps I was scared of mirroring old age!


For her twice-a-week dialysis, I too had offered to be her chauffeur. But she wanted to walk her miles. Whatever it took! And I left her alone.


I do not know if there is a reason behind her bravado. I do not know if she is scared. I just listened to her laughter resonating in a general ward of a hospital last night. And I looked at my neglected garden.









THE policemen at the grassroots do not get the attention they deserve. When a crisis erupts suddenly at the cutting edge level, they find it difficult to handle it in the absence of adequate training. Their intelligence system often fails and things go out of control, making it difficult for even their seniors to salvage the damage done. No doubt, the hard-pressed subordinates have a plethora of jobs at hand. And each task cries for attention.


There are certain areas where the police action is characterised by highhandedness and violation of the avowed principles of police administration till the final run-up to a satisfactory and fruitful delivery of services expected by society at large. Free registration of crime is still a far cry. Complainants do not get feedback on their petitions, recoveries are fake. And witnesses are non-committal and planted.


Police continue to use third-degree methods to get quick results. Forensic science tools are not fully employed. Intelligence gathering is poor. Most arrests are unwarranted; these are made only to extract money in many cases. Poor infrastructure and resources and outdated communication equipment leave the police far behind the criminals.


Mr K. Koshy, former Director-General, Bureau of Police Research & Development, suggests various reforms in the Indian context to stem the rot. According to him, "open the reporting in police stations to the public. The sentry should concentrate on the prisoner and the malkhana, not to stand there just to intimidate the public. The reporting room should be made a pleasant place with modern bank-like atmosphere. In the UK, the reporting officers are more often than not civilians, specially trained to handle the public. Call Centre type of training should be given to those who attend the telephones. A PRO, as in the US, should be made available for giving out the latest position of cases, complaints, verifications, and other outcomes." What we lack in Indian police is their non-appreciation of the concept of "participative policing by the people" as in Singapore; social policing as in Sweden; and community-oriented policing as in the UK, Hong Kong, Canada and the US.


Of course, some states like Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have taken a lead in this regard by enacting laws and building bridges with the community by setting up police-public committees. Ground work, delivery, action and results will flow naturally if the police adapt itself for purposes of investigation to free registration, faithful recording of a complaint (FIR), recording direct evidence corroborated by scientific and forensic attributes, not using third-degree methods, joining genuine witnesses and not from the stock, not making arrests where they are unwarranted and, above all, winning the trust and confidence of the people.


There is a need to tone up the police administration on modern lines. The police can win the hearts of the people by speedy redressal of their grievances; by making themselves available in times of crises; by being courteous; by empathising with them and, above all, by pursuing a thoroughly honest approach to every task they undertake.


The International Association of the Chiefs of Police has debated the issue of 'Citizens Review' which envisages "public concerns about racial profiling, excessive use of force, deliberate violations of sanctioned evidence handling procedures, and corruption creating mistrust." The apparent failure to contain these issues causes public policymakers to consider alternatives. As these issues bear focus on the ground zero, every effort should be made to implement them. All action begins with the first-responder not only in a crisis situation but in peace time too.


The police reforms should begin with the clearly mandated assignment of tasks, fixing responsibility in case of any failure, ensuring proper and fair recruitment and putting through need-based training, regulating day-to-day policing keeping the community interests and expectations in mind, ensuring a speedy and transparent delivery of service to the stakeholders.


Police reforms at the grassroots need to correct the wrongs the functionaries indulge in, in the absence of effective supervision and no accountability fixed on them. Stringent punishment should be given to those found on the wrong side of the law. Action should be initiated against cops for their acts of collusion, highhandedness, corruption and so on. In the US, if a police officer is accused of withholding the truth, or is lying during a trial, in all cases that he stands as the official witness, his testimony is taken with a pinch of salt and is discarded as an interested witness.


There is need for separate police wings in a police station to cover four major areas: investigation and detection; law and order; regulatory duties like traffic, service of summons and warrants etc; and special cells to cater to cyber crime, economic offence, juveniles and trauma victims. It is only the tactical squad which should handle riot and arson cases where crowd control is to be exercised.


The writer is Inspector-General of Police, Criminal Investigation Department, Haryana, Chandigarh 


Plethora of duties


 An average policeman in the country is overburdened with too many duties everyday, besides attending to calls and complaints of various kinds from the people.


 Since the ground zero of all activity is the police station, action revolves around prevention, detection and investigation of crime; maintenance of public order; traffic regulation; prosecution and court duties; escorting and production of convicts and undertrials; executing summons and warrants; patrolling the areas and borders; carrying out raids; rushing to accident spots; carrying out various character verifications; VIP security; tracking gangs; and monitoring mafias on radar.


 He/she is duty-bound to join parades and drills, acquire knowledge on firearms and ballistics, forensic science, cyber crime, white and blue collar crimes and on gathering intelligence.


 Nowadays, the policeman is also involved in tackling crimes bearing on national and internal security, caste and regional conflicts, communications and wireless, video conferencing and crowd control.


 There are certain areas where the police action is characterised by highhandedness and violation of the avowed principles of police administration till the final run-up to a satisfactory and fruitful delivery of services expected by society at large.








The Supreme Court's judgement in the case of Prakash Singh vs Union Of India (2006) marks a defining moment in the history of Indian Police. It endorsed the view of the National Police Commission (1978-81) that Indian Police has become the handmaiden of the ruling party, alienated from the people and has become professionally incompetent.


The NPC, after a careful study of the police workload, could find that the police officers spend only 30 per cent of their time in investigation of cases and that most of their time is devoted to VIP duties, court attendance and other miscellaneous chores. No wonder, their core functions — prevention and detection of crime — get step-motherly attention. The NPC made sound practical recommendations for police reforms, which are relevant even today.


The Supreme Court issued directives to the Centre and the states to implement the recommendations. Its seven-point directives include: a fixed tenure for at least two years for the Director-General of Police (DGP) unless promoted or removed on disciplinary grounds; separation of the law and order wing and investigation wing of the police; setting up of a Police Establishment Board to decide on transfer, posting and service-related matters of officers up to the rank of DSP; setting up of State Security Commission in every state to prevent the state government from exercising unwarranted influence and pressures on the police; establishing a National Security Commission for selection and placements of chiefs of Central Police Organisations.


Unfortunately, many state governments are dragging their feet and trying to stonewall police reforms under various pretexts. They are not at all prepared to slacken their iron grip over the police with a view to misusing it for partisan ends. Most states have averred that though they support the spirit of reforms, they object to many of the directives of the court. States like Gujarat, Nagaland, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have questioned the raison d'etre of the State Security Commission. Some states have also brazenly stated that they exert no unwarranted influence over the police.


Many states have enacted new Police Acts. But these dilute the core systemic reforms prescribed by the Supreme Court. Some states have set up State Security Commissions but packed them with yes-men and excluded the leader of the opposition to deprive these bodies of a bipartisan character. To retain political control over the police, they have indeed made some cosmetic changes and not meaningful systemic police reforms.


The Supreme Court has cracked its whip by setting up a three-member monitoring committee with Justice K.T. Thomas, a former Supreme Court Judge, as its chairperson. The committee examined the affidavits filed by different states regarding measures taken by them to implement the apex court's directives.


It also examined the New Police Acts passed by some states after the Supreme Court judgement of 2006 to find out if they are in keeping with the letter and spirit of the directives. The monitoring committee, in its report, has castigated the states' non-compliance of the directives.


The Police Complaint Authorities have not been created in most states that have enacted new laws. It checked up the ground realties regarding the implementation of directives in respect of four states, namely, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal and Maharashtra and found that the level of compliance of the Supreme Court's directives in these states is poor, if not dismal. It deplored the indifference displayed by the states and asked the Supreme Court to view seriously non-compliance of police reforms by the states.


The Supreme Court has taken the matter seriously. A bench headed by the Chief Justice adopted a no-nonsense approach and chided West Bengal for putting the Health Minister as the head of the State Security Commission. It also pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government for not segregating law and order and investigation wings of the police. Indeed, the Supreme Court has taken up the implementation of its directives seriously and has ruled that its "order will not remain in limbo".


Though timeframes were given to states to report compliance of various points, the path of police reforms is going to be bumpy. Political masters will try to scuttle meaningful reforms that will make police neutral and apolitical. Sustained campaign by senior police leaders, members of civil society and media is necessary to overcome their resistance and usher in the much-needed police reforms.


The writer, a former Director-General of Police, is Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi









The Radia tapes which stirred up a hug storm in India, were the recordings of telephone calls made from one cell phone. That was Niira Radia's phone which was tapped for a period of several months. Nobody's else's phone was tapped. Her phone was tapped only because of a suspicion of tax evasion. Hence the income tax authorities got a permission from the appropriate officials to tap her phone.


 Instead of finding evidence of tax evasion, they stumbled onto something totally unexpected. This one phone seemed to have access to all the high and mighty across the landscape. Topmost journalists, industrialists, cabinet rank ministers and so on. Apart from the actual access, the content of the conversations was even more explosive.


A relatively unknown public relations firm turned out to wield enormous clout and access to policy makers and industry leaders. What started as an ordinary tax investigation shook the entire establishment, and even the media.


A similar big story is unfolding in New York, which also started with one telephone tapping. Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri Lankan born billionaire who was arrested in October 2009, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on charges of insider trading.


There is speculation that his phone was tapped not on suspicion of tax evasion or insider trading, but of secretly funding the LTTE in Sri Lanka. LTTE had been declared as a terrorist organisation, and Rajaratnam, a Tamil had been donating to many Tamil charities.


Even the Sri Lankan government had complained that he gave aid to the civil war in Northern Lanka. Earlier investigations had drawn a blank. But what the wiretaps revealed was something completely unexpected.

Insider trading is profiting from buying or selling publicly traded stocks, based on non-public information. This might sound arcane and trivial in developing economies, but is taken very seriously in countries like the U.S.A. The telephone taps revealed that Rajaratnam was getting breaking news from his network of paid contacts, fresh out of closed door board meetings, or from decisions much before they were made public, or declared in the stock exchange.


Rajaratnam is a larger than life figure, being the richest Sri Lankan in the world, and in 2009 he was in the top 250 richest people of America. He is also known to be a philanthropist, being close to Clinton Foundation and also on the board of American India Foundation.


Finally in March 2011, Rajaratnam is on trial. This is a high profile criminal case, eagerly watched by Wall Street. As part of the charmed ring of peddlers of inside dope, more than 30 "friends" of Rajaratnam have been rounded up by the FBI, of which 19 have already pleaded guilty.


As part of their plea bargain, some of the confessors have become government witnesses. Rajaratnam's defence lawyers will claim that he was paying all his informants (he calls them "consultants") for tips and information, which he believed was in the public domain.


How could he know that he was dealing in stolen goods? If you buy a second hand car, and it turns out to be stolen property, can you be held liable? (Yes you can!). The trial is fascinating for various reasons. But the most intriguing aspect is that a majority of the people charged are desis, and many are IITians, who had very successful careers.


One person, who is facing SEC charges is Rajat Gupta, distinguished alumnus of IIT and Harvard, and longtime Managing Director of McKinsey. Surprisingly the prosecution attorney is also a desi, Punjab born Preet Bharara. Names like Rajiv Goel, Anil Kumar, Roomi Khan are swirling with taint in the trial. The high profile indictment will lead to talk of desi deficit of ethics. Many of these are 1G and 2G (second generation) Indians too!




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




Eleven guests were seated around the lunch table, talking about India to the world's rock star investor, Warren Buffett. The food choices included Buffett's well-known favourites (hamburger and Cherry Coke). As for the guests, those present included men who had invested their own money and those who had managed money for mutual funds, hedge funds and private equity. While Buffett concentrated on his food (hamburger and Coke!) and listened quietly, the discussion was guided by his colleague Ajit Jain. Eventually, there emerged from the India specialists (who for propriety's sake must remain unnamed) some interesting perspectives on the question of investing in one of the world's fastest growing economies. For all those looking for ways of making money in the share bazaar, here are some of the experts' insights, free advice from the smartest cookies on the market.

In a rapidly growing economy, where even the worst-case scenario is 7.5 per cent annual GDP growth, there will always be investment opportunities. The non-agriculture, non-defence part of the economy is growing at anything up to 17 per cent annually. Also, it is in the nature of things that disposable incomes will grow much faster than GDP growth, and this will throw up some very attractive business opportunities. However, there are some minuses to be factored in. Many segments of the market are subject to the vagaries of government decision-making, so there are risks. And if you are an investor who is concerned about the standards of corporate governance and responsibility to stakeholders, the investible set that can be considered becomes quite small.


You can get past the vagaries of government decision-making because there are sectors that are immune to this risk (like consumer goods). The more generic problem is that the Indian market is already the most expensive in the world, so any worthwhile stock is either fully priced or even over-priced. You can only look to buy them when prices drop, which happens every once in a while. Given the environment and the outlook, the best days of private equity investing may not return.

In general, India is a better place for building a business than it is for plain investing. Why? Because there are barriers to entry that new players face, and those who are already in the game are, therefore, able to capture better returns. Companies doing plain manufacture are able to deliver margins of 20 per cent and more, which does not happen in more competitive markets. For a variety of reasons, the environment is also more friendly to domestic players than international entrants.

Will this change? Perhaps. If entry becomes easier for new players, the outlook for return on investment will not be that great because margins will drop and so will valuations. The outlook for return on investment is therefore 10 per cent-plus. Since that is net of inflation, it didn't sound like a bad figure, but you can decide.

And what did Buffett himself say? Before posing for photographs with his guests, and amidst some homely wisdom on what the important things in life are, he recounted the story of his first encounter with a well-known tech entrepreneur. Buffett said he asked a lot of questions; among other things, he was told how the internet would change everything. He asked if that would change people's habits with regard to chewing gum. No, was the answer. Would it change people's brand preferences when it came to gum? No. "Then I will stick to gum," Buffett said. (He bought a minority stake in Wrigley three years ago.)






Did it not seem strange that with so much else to occupy us, so much time was spent on pirates captured by the navy on the high seas? Yet, India is vitally concerned when acts of piracy occur almost at our doorstep. Whether the ship is Indian or foreign, it might well be carrying merchandise either meant for our consumption or bound for foreign ports with our export cargo. Acts of piracy only push up the already huge cost of freight that the country pays and make us that much less competitive in international markets.

Another factor is the huge price that is paid by those taken hostage. Hapless members of the crew can be detained for months in conditions of near starvation while the pirates negotiate ransom with the owners of the vessel. There is no guarantee that they will be released unharmed. Indeed, on more than one occasion, members of the crew have lost their lives. Apart from the strain put on freight rates by the rising costs of insurance following acts of piracy and the trauma faced by the crew who are innocent victims, repeated acts of piracy will drastically reduce the popularity of the merchant navy as a career for young people. Shortage of crew will also impact freight rates.


India is especially concerned with the last aspect, because we are the largest suppliers of trained officer manpower to the international maritime industry. It will be extraordinarily difficult to persuade young people about the attraction of a career at sea if such a career is fraught with the risk of being attacked by pirates and taken hostage, or worse. In any case, we cannot really be disinterested spectators when many of our own people are at risk from marauding pirates.

Given the stake we have in the whole business, how should policy makers react to the threat posed by piracy? Capturing pirates is only the beginning. When these pirates face trial, questions of law and jurisdiction are bound to arise: Under what law will they be tried? Does an Indian court have jurisdiction over foreign nationals captured in international waters? How does one deal with pirates captured in preventive action before an act of piracy actually took place? Can the over-burdened Indian judicial system cope with the task of trying pirates captured in different parts of the world and, in the event of conviction, is it in our interest to incarcerate large numbers of such pirates in our over-crowded jails?

Currently, police are checking whether acts of piracy can be covered under the International Maritime Organisation-mandated SUA Convention of 2002. Although this convention does cover unlawful acts against safety of life at sea, its more direct thrust is the protection of fixed platforms from any form of attack. Other pieces of legislation being examined are the Exclusive Economic Zone Act, the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. None of these directly covers acts of piracy, and even if the pirates are convicted, the question of where they should be incarcerated remains.

The threat posed by piracy is not limited to Asia or countries around the Somalia coast. It is a problem that affects every trading nation, since a huge percentage of world trade moves by sea. In today's shrinking global space anything that disrupts the free flow of trade affects all countries. Hence the best way to tackle piracy is through international consensus. The matter can only be tackled when a respected body like the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) addresses the question.

In the aftermath of 26/11 the US actually financed urgent sessions of the IMO, so that a new code on safety in ports could be put in place and made binding on the international community. Similar urgency must be shown in respect of piracy. Can India join hands with countries like Korea or Japan — where as much as 100 per cent of trade goes by sea — to pressure the IMO to get an international convention on combatting piracy passed and ensure the accession of the majority of maritime nations to it?

An international convention will clarify how pirates once captured should be dealt with but, without cooperation between maritime nations, capture itself will become increasingly difficult. There is a limit to the reach of any navy, and the greater the distance between the scene of action and the jurisdiction of the navy concerned, the less effective will armed intervention become. Fortunately, there is a model which can easily be followed here. When the maritime world was faced with the problem of differing standards of survey among nations that made it easy for unseaworthy ships to ply their trade, it came up with the concept of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) for port state control.

Simply put, this meant that all the countries in a particular region would follow identical rules in dealing with port state control inspection and detention of ships. They would exchange information with each other about non-compliant vessels and, through joint action, would ensure that such vessels would not be able to escape. The effect of this collective action was that ships of shame no longer had any place to hide.

The same route should be followed in respect of piracy. If countries of a region draw up MoUs to outlaw this menace, as they did for port state control, piracy cannot survive. Wherever pirates go, whichever ship they target and however swift and well-equipped they are, the might of the navy of the member-country in whose jurisdiction they operate will be used against them. Response time will become negligible and action will be very effective. The details must be worked out in a full session of the IMO, but if India along with like-minded countries does not take the initiative, there is little hope that the problem will be addressed.

The author is a former secretary, shipping, to the Government of India







In the 1990s, unmanned vehicles and robots became a focus of military research. Advances in miniaturisation made them small and tough to detect. New software made them smarter. Networking made it possible for them to be continuously remote-controlled in real-time.

Apart from aerial surveillance and bombing, which are common unmanned aerial applications, robot infantry has become very popular in Iraq-Afghanistan. These science fictional entities are employed for various dirty, dangerous jobs such as bomb disposal and for carrying ammunition and supplies, as well as for terrain-mapping. They're expensive but replacing a robot costs much less than replacing a trained soldier.


There is one specific dirty, dangerous task for which robots are never used: removing wounded or dead soldiers. No army with any sense of pride wants to leave its dead behind. It's instinctive for soldiers to carry bodies even during full-fledged retreats. In fact, many long-drawn battles and sieges have figured periods of ceasefire arranged for the specific purpose of retrieving corpses.

Most human beings also feel very squeamish at the thought of watching a wounded comrade dying in the mechanical claws of a retrieval robot. Apart from that, it's difficult to develop software so fine-tuned in judgement that it can distinguish between a mortally wounded soldier and one who is severely wounded but capable of survival.

Hence, soldiers still risk their lives trying to save wounded comrades or to retrieve remains rather than opt for a high-tech option. Every army medical corps of any standing has taken more than its fair share of casualties in this cause. Those brave men and women are rightly mentioned in dispatches and citations, and are lauded for their courage and humanity.

In the aftermath of serious disasters, rescue services personnel and paramedics often display similar courage and devotion to duty. When there is a fire, firemen might risk their lives to get strangers out. Ditto with a house collapse.

In the aftermath of a terrorist incident or a battle, the scale usually goes up. Hundreds of firemen risked their lives and many died at the World Trade Centre after 9/11. The scale of rescue operations after something like an earthquake or a tsunami beggars description. So does the danger to rescue personnel.

One can't quantify courage very easily — after all, the greatest sacrifice any person can make is their own life. But scale and timeframe do make a difference. Thousands of people risk their lives repeatedly, for days or weeks at a time, after a major tsunami or earthquake.

Everybody around the world was pleased to hear about the miraculous rescue of two buried survivors in Japan, nine days later. Reading between the lines, it means that rescue workers were still risking their lives nine days later, in search of miracles. Their efforts continue and it will have been one endless round of heartbreak and tragedy for the men and women sifting through the rubble, as the miracles become increasingly unlikely and the toll mounts.

An even more inspiring example of cold-blooded courage was displayed by the workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Some 50 of them stayed on to battle the meltdown and somehow, between them, they've helped bring the situation under control. They risked death by fire and poison gas, and by an invisible agent that's even more dangerous. They may not know for years to come whether they have actually absorbed enough radiation to kill them slowly and painfully.

Men have written countless songs in praise of soldiers who have died bravely and gloriously in battle. No one to my knowledge has ever written songs praising the ordinary, everyday, mundane courage displayed by firemen, or emergency paramedics, or perish the thought, nuclear workers. Perhaps, nobody ever will.






I am on my way to one of the many well-maintained parks in Bangalore early in the morning when it is blissfully cool, a world apart from the hot afternoons that even this so-called air-conditioned city has become used to in this time of the year. The massive rain trees have shut out direct sun rays that are trying to peep through and a street dog zigzags its way across the traffic-less street. The distant sound of auto-rickshaws from the main roads nearby can barely be heard and does not disturb.

A fit elderly couple ambles along at their regular pace. A maid sweeps the cemented front of a house, before washing and preparing it for rangoli, the auspicious design that is drawn every day by the women of the household. At the side of the road, a ragpicker methodically sorts out the recyclables from the garbage taken out of several bags. The birds chirp and keep repeating their calls to an unknown mantra, as if to compete with the chant that religiously comes out of the temple that stands in one corner of the park.


Behind the temple is a one-room living space of the park's mali and his family. They are all out — mother, daughter, son and the most important newly arrived family member who peacefully gurgles while seeking to find her feet in a walker which, obviously, a far wealthier family has given away as their own baby has grown up. The mother radiates happiness as she occasionally glances at the healthy-looking baby while cooking something in a twig-fired makeshift chullah set up on the ground. The family's stray dog lolls on the steps to the room.

In the park an aged good looking old woman and a young girl, obviously mother and daughter, walk at an equal pace. Trees all over town are in bloom. Holi is gone, largely unobserved in this southern city, but splashes of colour linger — yellow, violet and a pale exquisite magnolia. One of these has created a violet carpet on the walkway. It is amazing how nature bestows its most wondrous bounties so unsparingly. You hesitate to trample over those hundreds of little trumpets on the paving.

The only jarring note is a walker talking somewhat loudly into his cellphone. But overall such people are few and as if to maintain the balance, a few couples, who have skipped class at a nearby college, utter whatever they do in the softest whisper. The walkers make up a varied assortment — some in good shape despite advanced years, some misshapen well before middle age. The most persevering is an old man who has recovered from a stroke. He drags one foot and a slouching half of his body determinedly, undaunted by the setback. Out of such trivia is the peace of my early morning made up.

The neighbourhood of Indiranagar goes back to the sixties. Its straight, well-planned roads bind together a community of middle- and upper middle-class people who are meticulous and parsimonious in their ways. I know how careful my neighbour, a retired Public Works Department engineer, is with his money. But he is having the front iron gate to his driveway repainted, although it has been painted recently. Some of the small stains left by Holi will not go away, he mutters. I laugh and tell him he should have lived in Delhi. There roads, boundary walls and courtyards are made black, blue and purple by the time Holi is over and nobody thinks it's odd.

It is totally peaceful and quiet most of the time but for the uncontrollable birds which have their say early morning and evening. Our house is on a street that connects the bus stand on the main road to a lesser area nearby. The quiet on it is flavoured in late evenings by those walking home with the music playing on their cell phones. We are on a rambling upper storey with huge rooms and large bathrooms, whose fittings can do with a bit of repair. Either rents are still too low for our landlord to redo the house and look for a richer tenant, or in his retirement from the nearly defunct ITI he is too laid back to bother.

There was a time when the good feeling created by the peace and quiet was partly taken away by a terrible water shortage. But that has eased a bit and also now that our children are gone, how much water two old people can use. If you are retired and don't have to go to work at peak hours every day then you are spared the main downside of living in Bangalore: the horrible traffic jams on its main streets. And if the area is going hugely upmarket, with large shops sporting the best known brands gracing the major roads crossing the area, then you have the best of both worlds — main street shopping not so far away but the micro-environment where you actually live still miraculously unspoilt.

I could not imagine how well off we were until I read in the papers that some people who have acquired flats at exorbitant prices in new developments have to even bathe in water that comes in cans because the ground water that the borewell pumps up is so ghastly. Naturally, it is still early days for piped Cauvery water to become available there. We are lucky that we don't have to buy into such areas and our landlord has not sold his property to a developer.






"Study the historian before you begin to study the facts… History means interpretation."
— E H Carr: What is History?

Niall Ferguson, the conservative British historian now at Harvard, who has written extensively on the British empire, sets out to provide answers in his latest book, Civilization: The West and the Rest (Allen Lane/Penguin, Special Indian Price: Rs 699) to what he says "is perhaps the most challenging riddle historians have to solve: the rise of the West as the preeminent historical phenomenon of the second half of the millennium after Christ". In seeking his answers to the riddle – and that why Britain was the first from the traps – Ferguson says the West had "six killer applications": competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the Protestant work ethic. He suggests indirectly that the West should be flattered that the rise of the "rest" is due to adoption by them of these applications.


With this book, Ferguson joins the recent band of historians and social scientists who have propounded two broad schools of thought on why the West was the first to take off. Proponents of the Long Term theory such as Jared Diamond suggest that from time immemorial some critical factor — geography, climate, or culture perhaps — made the West and the East inalterably different, and determined that the Industrial Revolution would happen in the West and pushed further ahead than the East.

But the East led the West between 500 and 1600, so the development couldn't have been inevitable. So the proponents of the Short Term argue that the Western rule was an aberration that is now coming to an end with the rise of Japan, China and India. But the fact remains that the West led for 9,000 of the previous 10,000 years, so it can't be put down to a temporary aberration. We need to look at the scene differently, by providing a new theory based on a social scientist's comparative methods that would make sense of the past, present and future.

Before we examine Ferguson's "six killer apps", what is important to bear in mind is that the facts of history never come to us "pure", so they do not and cannot exist in a pure form: they are always refracted through the mind of the recorder. It follows that when we take up a work of history like Ferguson's, our first concern should not be with the facts which it contains but with the historian who wrote it. Therein lies the rub. Put it another way, the philosophy of history is concerned neither with "the past by itself nor with the historian's thought about it by itself but with two things in their mutual relations". This dictum reflects the two current meanings of "history": the enquiry conducted by the historian and the series of past events into which he enquires. So the past that the historian studies is not a dead past, but a past which is in some sense still living with the present.

Of the six factors Ferguson has listed, it was science, medicine and the work ethic that were must crucial. Ferguson starts with the successes of European civilisation. In 1500, Europe controlled only 10 per cent of the world's territories and generated around 40 per cent of its wealth. By 1913, at the height of the empire, the West controlled 60 per cent of the world's territories and generated 80 per cent of the wealth.

This "stunning fact" is often lost on historians, but our concern is whether it was all because of the six ingredients. Science and its crucial applications held the key but this was because of the ideological contribution of the Renaissance, the notion of humanism that pervaded every aspect of life that was based primarily on a rejection of the domination of the Church. Without the Reformation that separated the Church from the affairs of the State, the Renaissance that led to the free inquiry of Thomas Hooke and Isaac Newton in the 17th century could not have taken place.

Whatever, it was the scientific enquiry that led the way for the West, as it was the lack of it that arrested the "rest" from continuing its early momentum. This is especially true of the Arab world that had notable successes in mathematical and medical sciences but was soon left behind.

But what of the other three factors? How did consumerism and competition contribute to the growth of western power? Many would argue that rampant consumerism, instead of austerity, contributed to the decline of the West. And what now? Will the West be able to face up to the challenges posed by China and India? Ferguson dodges a straight answer except by saying that civilisation is a highly complex system that has "a tendency to move quite suddenly from stability to instability". This isn't saying anything at all. But read it all the same for the sweeping generalisations on the turning points of history.







At one time the best London clubs wouldn't admit doctors or bankers because gentlemen didn't feel comfortable with those who knew too much about their insides or their finances. People still don't. In a wider sense this means that an element of confidentiality is necessary for harmonious relations, social in the case of clubs, diplomatic when it comes to what the Osama bin Laden of the Internet, Julian Assange, assures us are classified American government cables.

We must accept Assange's word that the WikiLeaks material is genuine. But that still doesn't remove other reasons for scepticism. If Peter Burleigh says Rahul Gandhi is a young man in a hurry or Steve White claims to have been shown stacks of money, those are personal opinions and experiences. Not absolute truth.


All the derogatory stuff about Jawaharlal Nehru that Loy Henderson, America's first ambassador to India, sent back can be read in the Foreign Relations of the United States series which are now online. When I was researching Waiting for America: India and the US in the New Millennium at the East-West Center in Honolulu, I asked a senior State Department official about the impact of Henderson's cables. He laughed and said everyone knew Henderson hated Nehru but loved New Delhi because nowhere else could he and his White Russian (Latvian) wife live in such style. If the history of the world depended on the length of Cleopatra's nose, Assange's disturbed childhood might explain his passionate commitment to "open government".

There could be two explanations for Indians being so worked up over his revelations. First, they play right into the hands of a BJP which can only hope to get anywhere by blackening the Congress. Secondly, it's psychological slavishness, like Shyam Sinha, a Bihar MP, vowing he wouldn't wash for three months the hand Bill Clinton pumped.

We don't know how seriously Washington took the cables. Nor do we know if the formal signatories were always aware of the contents since it's customary for juniors to file in the boss' name.

Assuming they were properly authenticated and treated seriously, much of the matter is like the gossip one hears amidst the tinkle of glass and munching of canapés on the cocktail party circuit. Pranab Mukherjee's business links have always been a matter of speculation. Manmohan Singh's liking for Montek Singh Ahluwalia is no secret. The quality of Sonia Gandhi's leadership is constantly being questioned. This trivia doesn't become gospel truth just because it emanates from the pens of American diplomats. One especially credulous report about Rahul Gandhi from a Robert O Blake, Jr echoes the know-all bombast of hardened habitués of the Delhi Press Club bar late on crowded Saturday nights.

I am reminded of Michael Shea, when he was Queen Elizabeth's press secretary, trying to impress on tabloid press editors that "the public interest" was very different from "the public's interest". Bearing that in mind, some senior American diplomats would do a good job as gossip columnists.

There remains the question of motive. I have no doubt that no matter what lofty reasoning they trot out, "the public's interest" rather than "the public interest" motivated WikiLeaks' international newspaper partners, Der Spiegel, The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian and El País. Even the biggest and best of papers need readers and, even more, advertisers, to survive. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that sales of The Hindu have shot up since it began covering the leaks. They make compelling reading.

When I first learnt of the cables I instinctively reverted to the belief that there is no such thing as a scoop in journalism. There are only leaks, witness Deep Throat who supplied the two Washington Post reporters with the Watergate dirt. Even if this is an exception and Assange is his own master, the timing is intriguing. Remember the Dange letters? Or Britain's disclosure of Benazir Bhutto's property there? Both played into local political battling. Indian publication of the American embassy's cables may do just that.

We are told there are 6,000 more such cables and that the worst – or best, depending on your point of view – is still to come. All that can be said with certainty is that there may not be much government, leave alone open government, left by the time it's over.

Trying to put my thoughts down, I missed out on today's WikiLeaks ration. I must catch up if The Hindu isn't sold out. As I said, they make fascinating reading of the Page Three genre.  






Innovating low-cost products for actual use can work wonders for the bottom of the pyramid market

Imagine a refrigerator that runs without electricity, keeps your perishables cool for five to seven days and costs you less than the price of a single meal for one person in a luxury hotel. It's cool, it's green and it's affordable for the people at the bottom of the pyramid. But despite being around for seven years in a poor, tropical country like India, only 4,000 units have been sold so far (including to Africa, Dubai and America). Even today, not many of us know about the eco-friendly Mitticool refrigerator, and if I wanted to buy one myself, I still wouldn't be able to get it at my local store — it would have to be couriered to me from a tiny village near Rajkot.

Mitticool is built with clay, ingeniously designed by Mansukhlal Raghavjibhai Prajapati, the son of a potter in rural Gujarat, using the same principle of cooling through evaporation that a surahi uses. He has also created a clay water-filter with a 0.9 micron candle (which costs Rs 400), a clay pressure cooker (Rs 350) and a non-stick tawa (Rs 100). And on April 1, he will launch a tandoori roti maker for Rs 250, so that we needn't depend on the local dhaba for our occasional fix. All his products are targeted at the underprivileged with aspirations — the original untapped "bottom of the pyramid" market that C K Prahalad introduced to the popular lexicon.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then innovation is its daughter and entrepreneurship, its father. The cross-pollination of invention and entrepreneurship is what effectively spawns innovation. And before you think I'm getting carried away in a sea of proverbs, idioms and metaphors, let me explain.

A scientist or inventor in isolation somewhere creating fabulous gizmos as a cerebral exercise is never going to impact the world unless that product (or process) is tested, adapted and transformed for mass use and distributed, usually for commercial gain.

So, an invention may have little or no economic or practical value, despite huge intellectual value. But as soon as an entrepreneur finds an application or targets a market for it, invention converts into innovation and can be monetised. This process of adding value, improvising and refining something new and unique to make it more accessible is what makes innovation so much more interesting.

Now, add an elegant design element and some clever marketing and you have what it takes to transform a boring old MP3 player into the "cool" iPod (complete with an attached virtual iTunes store). Or what makes the Silicon Valley the hotbed of innovation.

In the Indian context, innovation can take on a new avatar: indovation, which is loosely translated to mean innovation adapted to the nuances (and peculiarities) of the Indian market. It is a word that I hear more and more these days. Go to any entrepreneurship seminar and chances are you will hear about indovation even before the morning session is over — and Mitticool products are living examples.

I met Prajapati in New Delhi a couple of months ago, holding a roomful of entrepreneurial millionaires and wannabe millionaires enthralled with his success story – from a poverty-stricken childhood, innovating against all odds – and his still unfulfilled dream of building an eco-friendly, natural light and solar-powered mud home for "every poor villager in India".

It isn't surprising that the dapper and confident Prajapati in his shining white suit dominated that entire session on "Ideas that Impact". It isn't surprising that he was mobbed after the session since everyone, inspired by his story, tried to buy his product, get his card, set up business meetings and so on. And it isn't surprising that his dream project then is still just that — a dream.

The unpretentious potter-turned-inventor is stoic as he tells me in a telephone conversation from his village, Wankaner, that he is still waiting for someone to follow up after the initial excitement that his inspirational story always generates at every conference — and he's attended 10 in the past year.

"I'm not literate, behn-ji," he tells me matter-of-factly in Hindi. "I can't do it all myself."

For all that talk about the bottom of the pyramid, no one has yet come forward to actually partner with him, though he did find a benefactor in the National Innovation Foundation which gave him Rs 6.8 lakh to work on his projects. But what Prajapati needs more than money is some real entrepreneurship. This is possible either through some serious hand-holding for a solo start-up, or a partner who will refine and commercialise Prajapati's products – he has an obvious, ready-made market – while he keeps innovating. Perhaps someone like Godrej, which is test-marketing its own tiny battery-run refrigerator based on a cooling chip and fan for Rs 3,250 (compared to Mitticool's Rs 2,500). But Chotukool doesn't have the USP of Mitticool which needs zero power and uses clean water as a coolant — that can also be drunk ice-cold from an attached tap. Prajapati's website – – shows how far he has come, and how very far he could go with a little bit support.

But this isn't just about the extraordinary story of Prajapati. There's probably a Prajapati prototype in every village, with little or no technological training or knowledge, who never intended to design and invent, but had curiosity, persistence and indigenous skills to create simple, innovative and inexpensive solutions. Like Jahangir Painter's scooter engine-powered mini flour mill or Mohammad Saidullah's amphibious bicycle. Or the bicycle-powered washing machine invented by rural Kerala schoolgirl, Remya Jose (also independently reinvented as Cyclean in the UK and the Bicilavadora by MIT's D-lab students — which shows that the same product can be invented by two different motivations: necessity and intellectual curiosity).

But even that isn't the point. As Microsoft Principal Researcher Bill Buxton says, "Too often the obsession is with 'inventing' something totally unique versus extracting value from the creative understanding of what is already known... Innovation is far more about prospecting, refining, mining and adding value."

And so, the D-lab, which tries to find simple solutions to Third World problems, is testing and refining their Bicilavadora, which is designed around easily available parts like inexpensive plastic barrels and bicycle components, needs no electricity and saves precious water and time. It educates people in Guatemala and Peru about Bicilavadora's benefits, teaches them basic repair and maintenance and distributes the machine, which costs $125. I'm betting Jose's indovation will cost even less. But like Prajapati, she probably also needs an angel to guide her.

Actualising inventions for societal benefits through monetising and marketing is what gives innovation an edge and creates wealth, but that is just the corollary. The real story is in the intersection of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship and the role entrepreneurs play in transforming them into accessible products or processes that we can consume.

Feedback? Write to






Not only does music and film piracy rob workers and managers in the entertainment industry but it also exacerbates overall crime

This week was Ficci Frames time again, an opportunity for the entertainment industry to get together and examine how best to grow business. It was, as always, a great environment for ideas and innovation to come together and for industry professionals to spot the new opportunities.


However, it was also the moment to examine whether the artists – our "content creators" – are thriving at the same rate as the rest of the industry; there are a myriad of ways in which people can now enjoy their work but sadly many of those ways are not giving those artists any remuneration. The speed at which digital platforms are developing, particularly in the mobile space, makes it extremely challenging to track usage of each song, music video or film. Are these content creators supported by industry and legislators as well as they should be?

Music and films are central to our lives, but the ease with which they are available without royalty going to the creators should be unacceptable to all of us. Everyone, from the individual music and film lover to the central legislature, has a responsibility to ensure an environment in which creativity and industry thrive but not at the expense of the creators of our entertainment. These are some of the points I hope delegates of Ficci Frames will be pondering as they leave the conference.

Playing a counterfeit rock CD, watching a bogus DVD of a Bollywood blockbuster, or listening to a song copied for free from the Internet may seem perfectly innocent. It may seem, at worst, like a victimless crime. After all, from the comfort of their homes or the convenience of their iPods, how could movie and music fans hurt anyone?

In fact, pirating the works of film and music producers creates victims in nearly every walk of life. Not only does piracy rob workers and managers in the entertainment industry, but it also exacerbates overall crime and has even funded terrorists.

Of the five million Indians employed in the film industry, 571,896 (11.4 per cent) lost their jobs owing to piracy, according to a March 2008 report by Ernst & Young, which conducted a survey for the US Chamber of Commerce's US-India Business Council. While 150,000 Indians worked in the music industry, counterfeit-related job losses were 133,434 — a staggering 89 per cent loss in employment.

A worrying aspect of music and film piracy is the nexus with organised crime and terrorism. As Rand Corporation explained in 2009, "Counterfeiting is a threat not only to the global information economy, but also to public safety and national security." Furthermore, Rand found "compelling evidence of a broad, geographically dispersed, and continuing connection between film piracy and organised crime".

When international venture capitalists, private-equity firms and multinational corporations decide whether or not to invest in a country, protection of copyright can be a deciding factor. It is in the interest of our industry to ensure we have adequate protection mechanisms to reward more creativity and encourage new talent.

Just how bad is piracy in India? Indian cinema is a popular and leading industry, with a gross output of $2.7 billion and wage payments of $180 million, according to a March 2010 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers for India's Motion Picture Distributors Association.

The Ernst & Young report calculated that Bollywood earned $2.095 billion and lost $959 million to piracy. In other words, copyright theft that year equalled 46 per cent of the entire Indian film industry.

The Ernst & Young study found that the legitimate music industry is worth $183 million while the illegal music industry is worth $325 million.

"Piracy also has a direct impact on employment," the US Chamber/Ernst & Young survey states, "due to impact on production itself — i.e. fewer records, movies, games etc being produced."

At the time, Ficci Secretary-General Amit Mitra pointed out, "This study conclusively shows the urgent need to stop the affliction called piracy. So, fighting piracy is where all our collective efforts must start. The domestic media and entertainment industry is an industry of the future, having already contributed over $11 billion annually to the GDP and growing at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of over 18 per cent. If we can stop piracy, this industry will grow even faster and provide employment to more people."

Last June, the Alliance Against Copyright Theft encouraged the public to call a new hotline to report piracy of recorded entertainment. That number is 1800-103-1919.

Operators are waiting for your call.

The writer is President, India and Middle East, Sony Music Entertainment










Can there ever be a dark side to giving? Yes, if the amounts involved run into tens of billions of dollars. It's hard for most people to imagine the scale of philanthropy as practiced by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a war chest of around $30 billion. As a charity, it has to give away 5% of its funds every year, which amounts to a staggering $1.5 billion handed out annually. Apart from the Gates couple, the third trustee on its board is the world's richest investor, Warren Buffett, who has decided to donate the bulk of his $50 billion fortune to the Foundation. That kind of moolah can do serious good; it can also cause a lot of damage, even if unwittingly. So in Africa, a lot of funds are salted away by local vested interests. Worldwide, the Foundation has tried to boost farm productivity. That has raised worries about whether it's pushing genetically modified crops and about the long-term effects of agricultural quickfixes. The Foundation's investments in Monsanto, one of the world's largest farm research companies, have only made people suspicious of its motives.

Healthcare is the Foundation's top priority, but there too it must step carefully around potential landmines. In India, for example, one of its early initiatives was to combat AIDS. It pumped in lots of funds which were gratefully soaked up by farm house cocktail circuit elites. Much was said and written, little was done and only government intervention contained India's AIDS problem. The Foundation funds research and distribution of new medicines and vaccines. This is great for large drugmakers, but of doubtful value to the poor. Many health-related problems of the poor can be tackled by solving problems like access to safe drinking water, improved personal hygiene, women's and children's health and proper nutrition. These are not sexy topics, nor do they involve billion-dollar fixes, so the charity bandwagon fixated on finance is not interested. Should the giving stop? No, it shouldn't. But the givers should focus on exactly what needs to be done in each country and devise strategies accordingly. If safe drinking water can prevent disease, focus on that, rather than funding big pharma.








After a three-week respite, food inflation is back to haunt us. Data released on Thursday show food inflation measured by wholesale prices at 10.05% for the week ended March 12, up from 9.42% the previous week. Any hope that the spike is a one-off development and inflation will soon resume its downward trajectory is belied by two factors. One is the large-scale disruption in rail and road traffic caused by the on-going agitation by Jats seeking caste-based reservation in north India. The other is higher global commodity — especially fuel — prices. While the pass-through on account of higher fuel prices may not happen immediately, given impending elections in five states and the already high inflation, the impact on prices cannot be suppressed for long. Fruit and vegetable prices usually rise in the summer months, and that does not augur well for food inflation. Inflation also seems to have spread to non-food items — non-food manufactured goods inflation increased to 6.1% year-onyear in February and the inflation number for December was revised up to 9.4%, up from 8.4% earlier, so the outlook on the inflation front is not bright.

This, perhaps, explains why the RBI has been consistently raising its projected inflation rate for end-March 2011; it is now 8%as against 7%earlier. It has also been raising interest rates, steadily if somewhat slowly. But monetary actions yield results with a lag. Moreover, the government has made its preferences clear. If there is a trade-off between growth and inflation (a debatable point), the government wants growth, even if in the process it means a new higher normal for inflation. The moderate fiscal deficit budgeted for 2011-12 gave some momentary comfort on the demand front. But the increase in subsidies on petroleum products and fertilisers as a result of high crude prices coupled with the prospect of expenditure overshooting Budget estimates suggests the fisc is unlikely to lend a helping hand in demand-side inflation management. With the fisc unwilling to chip in and the RBI unable to do much more, where does that leave the aam aadmi? As always, at the receiving end.






Environment minister Jairam Ramesh does not hesitate to ruffle feathers, but his attempt to muffle Indians may be his toughest battle yet. While the rolling out of the Ambient Noise Monitoring Network in seven metros may bring in reams of data on whether the amended Noise Regulation Rules 2000 limits are being adhered to, how noisy Indians will actually be persuaded to pipe down remains unclear. If traffic noise is a major offender, consider the fact that noise pollution is hardwired into the system: metro rail trains will emit loud screeches as they negotiate turns and slow down, trucks will inevitably use electric horns as they roar their way through town and countryside alike, and in the absence of a culture of lane driving and adhering to rules, cars will follow suit in similar tones. Honking is second nature to Indians; trying to silence that would be like attempting to curb free speech. Allowing just 15 days in a year when Indians can be as clangorous as they want to till midnight (instead of 10pm) seems inadequate given the number of days currently enlivened by the sounds of wedding processions and religious soirees.

An inkling of the way people may think of this sudden push for quietude comes from the Trinamool Congress and the Congress. With campaigning for the assembly polls gathering momentum, both parties have loudly declared their unwillingness to abide by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) norms. After all, noise generation has become part and parcel of Indian life, signalling power and popularity. The day sirens are no longer used indiscriminately to part traffic with Moses-like ease, cheering claques are prevented from bolstering a n e t a's image and loud music is not allowed to blare a person's disdain for the law, India will become a whisper of its former vociferous self.







It is good to know that in a meeting with the Prime Minister last week, the builders raised the issue of high stamp duty in realty, which is the source of much under valuation of properties in practically all deals, big or small, resulting in copious quantities of black money. Apparently, the good Prime Minister could see the obvious logic of lowering the stamp duty. If the lowering of stamp duty — if and when it happens — brings in its wake any relief to the beleaguered home buyers, well that is a mere collateral benefit; it is not something the builders intended for the home buyers! After all, given that realty majors are known to control the real estate market with an iron grip so that prices are almost never allowed to drop to affordable levels for buyers, the latter have rarely been a priority for these building magnates. Perhaps lower stamp duty was merely intended to help them sell more real estate in a market with increasing interest rates. It is a pity that while builders are able to take their 'tribulations' to the PM, the poor home buyers have no one to take their travails to. The tribulations of home buyers were brought up in this column a couple of years ago. Since then, in the wake of banks making reckless disbursal of loans for the non-existent Maytas Hill County apartments of Maytas Properties in Hyderabad, the matter has assumed even greater significance.

What exactly is a home buyer's ordeal? To understand this, one simply has to read a typical housing contract of any of the large builders. In it, you might notice something along the following lines: 'While the buyer shall pay a penal interest of 18% per annum for a delay of even 15 days on his instalments to the builder, the builder has no symmetric obligation.' If he pays a compensatory rent at all for project delayed as much as 18 months, the home buyer will be lucky if the rent forked out exceeds 2-3% per annum in most cases. Further, the builder would demand that the instalment payable to him from the home buyer be bimonthly or upon each stage of completion, whichever is earlier! Thus, even if the builder has not completed a stage of construction, the next instalment becomes payable! Nor is the builder obliged to complete any of the promised facilities like swimming pool, club house, etc. that he is supposed to provide, at the time of handing over the property or even any time thereafter. These promises cannot be contractually demanded, though home buyers are obliged to pay for them.

Further, buyers shall have no say in the quality of construction promised by the builder. The buyers shall have no claim to warranty on defective construction even for one full season, the warranty being restricted to six months. The builder may encroach upon the buyer's property, privacy, or peace at will. The loan for the housing is worked through a tripartite agreement with a bank. The bank shall directly release the instalments in favour of the builder in accordance with the above terms, even if the required stages of construction are not completed. So, is it surprising that IDBI Bank released payments for non-existent Maytas Hill County apartments?
Certainly, a case may be made that home buyers must read the documentation carefully. But then, the question remains that even if they do and find any highly skewed contract objectionable, what can they do about it, except choosing not to invest in the property? And what are they supposed to do when all contracts by all builders are similarly skewed?


In other countries, builders' associations prescribe standard proformas of contracts which are a little more balanced in order to reasonably protect the interests of home buyers. Often, the government and banks participate in developing such proformas. When the Builders Association of India was requested to put out a less skewed version of builders' contract on its website in the best interests of home buyers, as is the practice in many developed countries, the president of the association was forthright in stating that the association "looks after [only the] common problems of its members" or, in other words, home buyers aren't its concern.
Persuasive suggestions were made at the highest level to the RBI (and the finance ministry, NHB and HDFC) three years ago that it should require all banks to release their home loans meant to flow from home buyers to builders only through an escrow account. The bank could hold a limited power of attorney from the home buyer (borrower) to ensure that builders have met their obligations and clear the escrow only after all the conditions had been met by the builder. It was pointed out that borrowers, who risk their life's savings on a home, would be happy to pay a charge for the bank's service. If the builder's cost of the project goes up in the process, it is not as if they would be terribly shy to pass on the cost to buyers any way. It was also suggested that the RBI ought to enable the participation of banks in developing a proforma contract that is less skewed in favour of the builders and that such a move could encourage more home loans and minimise cash transactions so prevalent in the real estate sector. But, alas, to little effect! Obviously, this route of discouraging cash transactions does not seem to suit the builder.

Now that the Prime Minister is still fresh from having heard builders, will he kindly take note of our views as well — us, the home buyers — who have rarely, if ever, received a fair deal from the hands of these builders?









Karan Bhagat, country head and managing director of Barclays Corporate, India, may be a man of few words. But the bank he steers in India is silently attempting to strengthen its presence in India after the global financial crisis that dented its profitability.

In 2008, it was Barclays Capital that had acquired the ailing Lehman Brothers' North American investment banking and capital markets businesses. Since then, businesses become tougher for the British banking giant.
The Barclays group exited retail business in Indonesia last year followed by Russia this year. Its total losses aggregated to around $985 million in Russia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan and the UAE. Bhagat is clear that the group will not exit its businesses in India. With the Indian economy poised to grow at 9% a year, Barclays, like its peers, foresees pick-up in credit demand. The rising incomes in India and big-ticket acquisitions of Indian companies also augur well for the bank to consolidate its position here. Bhagat, who has been handling the portfolio for over a year now, says the company's core strategy is to differentiate not only on the range of products on offer but also on customer service. The bank offers a host of services, besides retail banking and credit cards. While Barclays Wealth is looking to tap the growing high net worth individuals of the country, Barclays Capital is aiming to grow its investment banking and advisory business.

"We are focusing on sharpening our customer service, while offering a bouquet of products. The dynamics is changing in the retail segment as well. Simply having the tag of a foreign bank is no USP. What matters is innovation in the area of services. That will be the key differentiatior," Bhagat says. Ironically, the Barclays Financial Planning division is being wound up in the UK where the bank is headquartered. Barclays global business began way back in 1925 with the merger of three banks — the Colonial Bank, the Anglo Egyptian Bank and the National Bank of South Africa. In 1981, Barclays became the first foreign bank to file with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and raise long-term capital in the New York market. In 1986, it became the first British bank to have its shares listed on the Tokyo and New York stock exchanges.

The banking regulator wants foreign banks to get locally incorporated as more foreign banks shift their focus to India. Bhagat will have a tougher job on his hands when the government allows new banking licenses. So, is Barclays now ready to take the leap in India and convert its foreign branch into a wholly-owned subsidiary? Bhagat's reply is guarded. "The guidelines are not finalised and we are studying them at present. We have raised few questions with the banking regulator," he says. Bhagat agrees that conversion into a wholly-owned subsidiary may have some advantages, but he is of view that some issues need to ironed out before any foreign bank can take a call. When prodded a little on whether Barclays will look at acquiring a private sector bank in the country and expand, he says he does not seem averse to the idea. The bank is open to looking at all possibilities, he says. The academician in Bhagat surfaces when he talks of social responsibilities of a bank. "At some point, I thought academics as a career option, but then decided to enter the big bad world." Bhagat claims that his bank is not averse to meeting priority sector requirements as envisaged in the discussion paper on converting foreign branches into wholly-owned subsidiaries. "But mass-scale retail banking is not our focus," he says.

Bhagat is, however, tightlipped on the new bonus payout plan for the staff that has been implemented by the bank's chief executive Bob Diamond. But he reckons that there is something amiss in regulators framing policies on pay issues. "What I am less convinced about is different regulators formulating different set of policies in their jurisdiction," he says. Barclays will issue contingent convertibles to its senior managing directors as part of its annual bonus payments. However, this will only be applicable if the bank's Tier - I capital adequacy ratio continues to stay above 7%.

Barclays has grown from a group of English partnerships to a global bank represented in Europe, the US, Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. "Our bank, largely identified with the football league we sponsor, our head Bob Diamond, and other intangible qualities, will consolidate its footprint in India. We have been a stable, well-managed and innovative bank. We are a young bank in this country and the opportunities are immense," he claims.

Bhagat aspires to be a mentor and coach, rather than just a boss to his staff and colleagues.




Barclays Corporate, India




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




"He was my cousin, twice removed — Each time by the police. He married his brother's mother-in-law Who was also his sister's niece..." From A Parsi Family Tree (Ed. Bachchoo) The sainted become the tainted. The British, and indeed international, media's latest game is to identify all those who supped with the devil and weren't equipped with a long spoon. So the Rothschilds who invite former British Labour minister and operator-in-chief Peter Mandelson and the "crown prince" of Libya, Seif Gaddafi to their dining tables, onto their yachts, or to their estates and on their hunts have picked up the stain of association with a mass murderer. Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were political friends with Col. Muammar Gaddafi before he started butchering his own people. Now they are scrambling to make some distance. The famous London School of Economics (LSE) has taken the colonel's shilling in the form of educational endowments and the disclosure of the extent and manner of these gifts has caused its director Sir Howard Davies to resign. The suggestion is that all dealings with mass murderers and dictators are cause for concern or at least cause for throwing mud. The mud may not stick even though it is clear that Col. Gaddafi's son has nothing but his genes to qualify him for the wealth he dispenses or for his lifestyle and association with the good and great of the world of usury. The flung mud (or other substance) doesn't stick when people judge that the purpose to which the ill-gotten gains were then put is in itself noble. Take the case of Mother Teresa of Kolkata. Some years ago Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ali made a documentary which proved that Mother Teresa had taken money for her charitable work from Papa Doc, the butcher of Haiti, and from Enver Hoxa, the dictator of Albania. Neither Doc nor Hoxa were well thought of as democrats or as people and the funds which the sainted Teresa got from them were not deemed to be hard-earned cash. Nevertheless, Mother Teresa suffered no ignominy from the disclosure because what she was doing with the money was seen to be altruistic, good and even saintly. The same argument may eventually be applied to Col. Gaddafi's endowments to the LSE. I wonder, though, if the school has a course in contemporary north African history and whether its curriculum and contentions are in any way affected by the acceptance of Libyan money. In the interests of academic independence, we should be told. There are murmurs one hears of the Jaipur Literary Festival being sponsored by philanthropists who do business with Libya. That, of course, is no reason to suppose that a Libyan or Arab writer who is in any sense critical of, or satirical about, Col. Gaddafi will not be invited onto a platform to read or discuss his or her work. Neither is it fair to assume that the Nirulas (whom I know) who finance wholly or in part this festival, or indeed the organisers of the festival (also friends of mine) can in any sense be accused of taking the murderer's largesse. The closest I myself ever got to... Well, here's the story, I shan't give it away: Some years ago I was a commissioning editor of the UK's Channel 4 TV. The job entailed conceiving and commissioning programmes and programme makers, paying for the programmes, editorially guiding them and bargaining with my colleagues and superiors for their prime-time airing. I went to a party, a private affair of a friend who happened to be a TV producer, but not one that worked for me or for Channel 4. As I walked in, Ray, my host, said, "Great you could make it", or words to that effect. "There's someone who wants desperately to meet you." I got myself a drink and crossing the crowded room was introduced to a fat gentleman in a dark suit who was seated on a sofa between two young women. He lumbered to his feet as Mr Ray and I approached and beamed rather fetchingly as we were introduced. "I have been very much interested in meeting you", he said with a heavy, what I took to be Arabic, accent. I was polite in return and the two young ladies, taking their cue from the gentleman, stood and vanished into the party to make room for me on the sofa. I sat, curious. "Well, I propose to Channel 4 a six-part documentary on the history this century (it was still the 20th) of West Asia and the Arab world. We will have everybody speaking, anybody you want — Yasser Arafat, Sheikh Muhammad Hassan Fedlallah, people from Hezbollah, Hamas, the Sheikhs, Col. Gaddafi, the main players in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood..." "Israel?" I asked. "Of course, of course", he said. "The main thing, 90 per cent, about such a series is access", I said. "We have complete access to everyone", he replied. "Huge enterprise", I said. "Interesting if it comes off and it will have to have a very experienced producer..." "Oh, yes, yes, yes", he said. He had anticipated the hurdles he might encounter in pitching the idea to someone like me. "We have..." and he mentioned the names of very distinguished BBC directors and producers (who shall here remain nameless). I knew all the names and knew they'd done good work. "And it's grand scale, battles, landscape, history like drama!" "That's good, but a six-parter? What sort of money were you thinking of?" It was a social occasion and I didn't want to invite him to meet me officially with a written proposal without getting some idea of whether Channel 4 could afford it. "What about £40,000 per episode?" he said. "You'd never make it for that!" I said. A look of resignation came over his face. He'd dealt with amateurs before! "No, no you don't understand", he said. "We are making the films ourself. The £40,000 per episode is a present for you." I thanked him and said I was in need of a drink. "Who's that fellow?" I asked Mr Ray He grinned. "He's the Libyan bagman", he said. "No deal?" I reported the incident to the channel controller the next day. "Hmmm, £40,000 per episode. Not bad. And you turned that down?" he said. "So what's your price then, Farrukh?"







Portugal's government has just fallen in a dispute over austerity proposals. Irish bond yields have topped ten per cent for the first time. And the British government has just marked its economic forecast down and its deficit forecast up. What do these events have in common? They're all evidence that slashing spending in the face of high unemployment is a mistake. Austerity advocates predicted that spending cuts would bring quick dividends in the form of rising confidence, and that there would be few, if any, adverse effects on growth and jobs; but they were wrong. It's too bad, then, that these days you're not considered serious in Washington unless you profess allegiance to the same doctrine that's failing so dismally in Europe. It was not always thus. Two years ago, faced with soaring unemployment and large budget deficits — both the consequences of a severe financial crisis — most advanced-country leaders seemingly understood that the problems had to be tackled in sequence, with an immediate focus on creating jobs combined with a long-run strategy of deficit reduction. Why not slash deficits immediately? Because tax increases and cuts in government spending would depress economies further, worsening unemployment. And cutting spending in a deeply depressed economy is largely self-defeating even in purely fiscal terms: any savings achieved at the front end are partly offset by lower revenue, as the economy shrinks. So jobs now, deficits later was and is the right strategy. Unfortunately, it's a strategy that has been abandoned in the face of phantom risks and delusional hopes. On one side, we're constantly told that if we don't slash spending immediately we'll end up just like Greece, unable to borrow except at exorbitant interest rates. On the other, we're told not to worry about the impact of spending cuts on jobs because fiscal austerity will actually create jobs by raising confidence. How's that story working out so far? Self-styled deficit hawks have been crying wolf over US interest rates more or less continuously since the financial crisis began to ease, taking every uptick in rates as a sign that markets were turning on America. But the truth is that rates have fluctuated, not with debt fears, but with rising and falling hope for economic recovery. And with full recovery still seeming very distant, rates are lower now than they were two years ago. But couldn't America still end up like Greece? Yes, of course. If investors decide that we're a banana republic whose politicians can't or won't come to grips with long-term problems, they will indeed stop buying our debt. But that's not a prospect that hinges, one way or another, on whether we punish ourselves with short-run spending cuts. Just ask the Irish, whose government — having taken on an unsustainable debt burden by trying to bail out runaway banks — tried to reassure markets by imposing savage austerity measures on ordinary citizens. The same people urging spending cuts on America cheered. "Ireland offers an admirable lesson in fiscal responsibility", declared Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute, who said that the spending cuts had removed fears over Irish solvency and predicted rapid economic recovery. That was in June 2009. Since then, the interest rate on Irish debt has doubled; Ireland's unemployment rate now stands at 13.5 per cent. And then there's the British experience. Like America, Britain is still perceived as solvent by financial markets, giving it room to pursue a strategy of jobs first, deficits later. But the government of Prime Minister David Cameron chose instead to move to immediate, unforced austerity, in the belief that private spending would more than make up for the government's pullback. As I like to put it, the Cameron plan was based on belief that the confidence fairy would make everything all right. But she hasn't: British growth has stalled, and the government has marked up its deficit projections as a result. Which brings me back to what passes for budget debate in Washington these days. A serious fiscal plan for America would address the long-run drivers of spending, above all healthcare costs, and it would almost certainly include some kind of tax increase. But we're not serious: any talk of using Medicare funds effectively is met with shrieks of "death panels", and the official Grand Old Party (GOP) position — barely challenged by Democrats — appears to be that nobody should ever pay higher taxes. Instead, all the talk is about short-run spending cuts. In short, we have a political climate in which self-styled deficit hawks want to punish the unemployed even as they oppose any action that would address our long-run budget problems. And here's what we know from experience abroad: The confidence fairy won't save us from the consequences of our folly. *By arrangement with The New York Times







The introduction of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill — amid high drama in Parliament on Thursday — was a do-or-die move by the government. Any further delay or, more important, a defeat on this issue even at the introduction stage, would have been a huge negative for UPA-2, which has been on a face-saving spree on several other counts recently. If the BJP had not come to the ruling party's rescue, it would have been a setback for the Congress leadership's commitment to its reform agenda. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that economic reforms are on track, and the PFRDA is very much part of this in the pension sector. It is a demand that has been made by industrial bodies. Foreign investors too have been looking forward to investments by pension funds. Indian insurance companies, businessmen and foreign investors are already disgruntled over the delay in raising the cap on foreign investment in insurance companies, and the government has not been able to go forward on this due to stiff resistance — not only from the Left but also from its own members and allies. Therefore, the government has cleverly kept out the FDI cap issue so that it is free to increase the cap if and when possible without having to seek Parliament's approval. The Manmohan Singh government has been stuck with the PFRDA Bill, which was introduced first by the National Democratic Alliance government. It was unable to take it forward during UPA-1 as its Left partners opposed it. On Thursday, it was the absence of Congress MPs in the House at the time of introduction that nearly saw the measure defeated on the floor. The government is thinking of convening a special session of Parliament at the end of May (though this is not certain) to get the bill passed. Since it has the needed majority, there should ordinarily be no problem unless its allies revolt and the BJP does not come to the rescue once again. There has been a solid divide on the PFRDA issue. The PFRDA will be a structured regulatory body with more teeth to oversee innumerable pension funds across the country. It will monitor the New Pension Scheme (NPS), which has also not found acceptance from the Left and several trade unions. The NPS, they argue, is not a pension scheme at all but an investment scheme, and its returns will depend on the NAVs (net asset value) of six mutual funds, including that of the State Bank of India and UTI, which handle NPS. The Left and the working class in general have been against pension and provident funds being used for investment in the stock market. They feel that once funds go in that direction, they will be at risk from speculators. Several scams have already hit the market. This is also one of the reasons why the trustees of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) are holding out against the government's repeated efforts to get that money, or even a chunk of it, into the stock market. The labour ministry, which oversees the EPFO, has demanded that the government give a guarantee for the money invested. The government has fought shy of this. This is the reason EPFO investments remain primarily outside the stock market. But with the PFRDA in place, the EPFO may be migrated to the PFRDA regime. The fate of over Rs 3 lakh crores — under the EPFO — and of over 40 million crore workers is at stake.








A nuclear accident anywhere is an accident everywhere — this maxim has been central to nuclear safety in the years since Chernobyl. It seems that once again all the labours of the scientists and engineers who sought to usher in a nuclear renaissance are turning Sisyphean in the wake of Japan's tragic ordeal. Japan's nuclear catastrophe, with unprecedented scenes of virtual "parlay" in city after coastal city in the country's north-east areas, is drawing sharper and narrower international focus by the day. For better or worse, this has brought the pro-nuclear denouement of the past decade to ground zero. As S.K. Jain, chairman of India's Nuclear Power Corporation Ltd, noted, "This event may be a big dampener for our programme. We and the Department of Atomic Energy will definitely revisit the entire thing, including our new reactor plans, after we receive more information from Japan". This is on the lines of what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ordered, as he informed Parliament. This sober approach would be essential to resolve the issues predicated on India's hunger for clean energy, for no matter how one looks at India's long-term energy mix, the nuclear component in it cannot be wished away. Although events in Japan are unprecedented, the drawing of parallels with Japan's crisis by every country would appear to spell an irrational panic. This is because each country (and the nature of its nuclear reactors) need not necessarily replicate the extraordinary situation obtaining in Japan. After all, the Japanese people are facing, as their Prime Minister pointed out, their worst crisis since World War II. The unusual challenges thrown up in Fukushima were just not visualised. So, there can be no room for any "I told you so". It does appear, all things considered, that instead of professional scientists and engineers, those jumping into the fray at the moment are more of the dyed-in-the-wool campaigner variety, people who are against nuclear power or the nuclear power industry in any case. What are the facts so far? A tsunami occurred, brought about by an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude, among the rarest. Even so, the extraordinary phenomenon could not prevent the shutdown of the nuclear reactors, a critical consideration. In the case of the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the reactor could not be shut down. This led to uncontrolled chain reaction, causing dangerous spread of radioactivity in eastern and central Europe. In contrast, the Fukushima Daiichi reactors could be immediately shut down. Indeed, the problem in Japan arose from an entirely different source — reactor fuel rods that contain highly radioactive elements. The severity of the crisis arose from the breakdown of power supply for coolant pumps due to the earthquake. Such a severe breakdown is the first of its kind in the history of nuclear accidents. It bears noting that India's nuclear power reactors — in the main — differ from the reactors at Fukushima, which are light water reactors fuelled by enriched uranium (except unit three which has about six per cent mix of plutonium). The exceptions are a US reactor at Tarapur and two Russian ones at Kudankulam (fuelled by enriched uranium), but these are different in design from those in Fukushima. In India, the experience of Bhopal fires the anger of anti-nuclear agitators who fear a repeat of callous indifference in the event of industrial disasters in general. The first fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam is due for completion this year. This will raise India's profile. It is noteworthy that the Kalpakkam centre successfully shut down reactors and managed the safety of its workers after the 2004 tsunami. In taking stock of the Japanese crisis, the differences between the specifics of the Japanese and the Indian situation must be borne in mind. For start-up reactors, the crisis serves a timely warning to learn lessons, not to engage in scare-mongering. *Sheel Kant Sharma was India's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna







Warren Buffett exhausts me. I'm sure he exhausted several other people on his virgin trip to India. At 80, he is still at the crease, batting away… and going by his energy levels, he'll hit his century effortlessly. It is just not natural for an octogenarian to be jetting half way around the world at such a hectic speed. He described his quickie chakkar to India as a "better late than never" trip. And came up with a booklet-full of quotable quotes, starting with philanthropy being much harder and riskier than business. At around the same time, another American billionaire buddy of his, Bill Gates, was also floating around the countryside, telling us what to do with our money (earn it — and donate it!). Why do I get the feeling India is being sent on a massive guilt trip by these two guys? And why do we need to take lessons in charity from anybody? Least of all super rich Americans who have made their pile. One of whom has an established business here, and the other wishes to establish business in India? Declared the Oracle of Omaha in Bengaluru, "We want to be where the action is, and the action is here". No kidding, buddy! Someone obviously forgot to tell these two guys our approach to philanthropy is different. Daan has always been an intrinsic part of our culture. If the present generation has callously ignored the message from the shastras, that's their business. The thought of being lectured to by people who represent the land of milk and honey and scolded that we are not doing enough is a bit much. I think it is condescending and patronising in the extreme for anybody to preach charity. To each his own. And decision to give or not to give, or even how much to give and to whom, is a very individual one. We keep hearing wonderful speeches on corporate social responsibility, and there are enough people cashing in on the glory attached to it. But give me a break. Mr Buffett is obviously a very, very generous chap (he has pledged 99 per cent of his fortune, mainly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Well, good for him. And I am sure the angels in heaven (where his seat is guaranteed) will compose a special song for him when he gets to the pearly gates. But right now, what he is doing in India is scouting around for fresh opportunities to make still more money. He has his "brother or son" Shri Ajit Jain to help him invest in the country via Berkshire Hathaway (more chewing gum, anyone?). We are cool with that. We are also cool with more fizzy drinks (thanda matlab…?) hitting our stores, what with summer around the corner and over a billion parched throats to quench. Mr Buffett says he hasn't come her with an "elephant gun" loaded for acquisitions, but hey, we are cool with that, too. India is original elephant country. I am confused. Perhaps I am too "retarded" (Mr Buffett's word to describe the delay in his coming to India) to get it. But the man is here to make even more money — right? And after he has made it, he will donate it, right? Meanwhile, his shareholders will be a happy lot, since Mr Buffett has assured them he is scaling up and looking at big markets like India, China and Brazil. He also told overwhelmed, gushing reporters that he feels he has more money than he needs — he eats well, takes vacations, watches movies… the regular stuff lesser mortals indulge in even without those billions and trillions. So, the logical question to ask him is this: "Why do you want to make more money, sir?" His answer will be: "The more money I make, the more I can give". Noble. Our Mr and Mrs Money Bags are being prodded into following the Gates-Buffett pattern of giving. They are being coerced into parting with large portions of their wealth because they are told it makes them look good. Heaven knows how convinced they are about all this giving-shiving of their paisa, and God knows what their children think about it ("Grrrrrr… Dad! Mom! Ab mera kya hoga?"). But "giving" is the new a la mode statement to make. And all these "new" and "improved" charity drives amongst loaded desis have a lot to do with keeping up with the Buffetts. How can you hope to sit at the high table in Davos if you haven't announced a humungous donation to a pet cause? Without knocking these magnanimous gestures of our do-gooders, it is amusing to note the publicity machine that goes into overdrive when these grand donations are made. There's nothing quiet or discreet about charity these days. And perhaps Gates/Buffett will argue the more you talk about it, the more it inspires others to reach for their wallets. I dunno. I have seen some high-profile charity auctions at which dodgy millionaires have crept out of the woodwork for the all important photo-ops… only to creep right back again… zero follow-ups, zero money. Where does all that lolly go? Any answers? The second and third richest men in the world doing zabardasti with the 55 desi co-billionaires featured on the Forbes 2011 list are definitely pushing their luck. Coaxing these guys to sign The Giving Pledge followed by a public statement and letter is really a bit much, as pressure tactics go. The Chinese are smarter. After a similar initiative in China last September, not a single Chinese billionaire who showed up for the banquet bothered to sign the pledge. That's what is called the ultimate Oriental snub. Let's see whether the multi-course Indian buffet piles on more on the table than the Chinese one. Or else, the world's most famous philanthropists may go home hungry and disappointed. No such thing as a free lunch… perhaps India is not the moveable feast Bill and Warren expected it to be! *Readers can send feedback to







There's something I've always wondered about Colonel Muammar Gaddafi: How does a guy who seems to be only marginally attached to reality manage to stay in power for 42 years? He gives rambling incoherent speeches at places like the UN. His head is stuffed with oddball conspiracy theories and strange obsessions, like calling for the elimination of Switzerland or blaming the JFK assassination on Israeli intelligence. He shows up in foreign countries in odd dress, with odd make-up, once having pinned a photograph to his chest. He has an all-female bodyguard contingent. In 2008, he announced that as part of a government shake-up, he was going to abolish all government ministries except defence, internal security and a few others. These are not the actions of a cold, calculating Machiavellian. Yet Col. Gaddafi can't just be dismissed as a comic loon. He's maintained dominance in a ruthless part of the world, and he may outlast the current shambolic attempts to unseat him. It seems that there is something advantageous in the megalomania that is his defining lifelong trait. He was kicked out of school for trying to organise a student strike. He began plotting a coup to take over the country while in college. He has repeatedly compared himself to Jesus and the Prophet Mohammad. He calls the Green Book, his book of teachings, "the new gospel". That book, which Libyans are compelled to read (he cancelled student summer vacation at one point and replaced it with indoctrination sessions), is filled with oddball notions and banal assertions. It consists of three parts, 'The Solution to Democratic Problems', 'The Solution to Economic Problems' and a section offering solutions to social problems. Col. Gaddafi apparently wrote the book with the conviction that he had discovered the answers to all human problems, which he calls the Third Universal Theory. Along the way he offers banal observations as if nobody had ever thought of them before. He reveals that women menstruate and men do not. He unveils doctrines that have nothing to do with how he actually behaves: "Mandatory education is a coercive education that suppresses freedom. To impose specific teaching materials is a dictatorial act". He seems to be one of those people who believes he possesses absolute truth, who wants to impose his thoughts on everybody else and exercise total dominance over others. That's how he has run his country. According to the Freedom of the Press Index, it is the most censored country in West Asia and North Africa, which is saying something. Experts estimate that as much as 10 per cent or 20 per cent of the population is made up of state security informants. To eliminate outside influence, Col. Gaddafi at one point removed foreign languages from schools and removed the Latin lettering street signs. He expelled the Italian community, forcing its members to exhume the bodies of Italians from graveyards to take home. Street posters say: "Obey Those in Authority". Over the decades, he has tried to remake the world in his own grandiose image. He tried to create a larger empire by merging Libya and Sudan. He tried to create a Federation of Arab Republics with Egypt and Syria. He tried to create an Arab Legion. He has named himself King of Kings, Imam of All Muslims and, in 2009, sought to create a United States of Africa. He has created dictatorship academies and has trained some of the world's most brutal autocrats, and, of course, he has supported terrorist movements in Australia, Ireland, Germany and beyond. Yet this very megalomania seems to be both the secret to his longevity and to his unhinged nature. The paradoxical fact is that if you want to stay in office as a dictator, it is better to be a narcissistic totalitarian than a run-of-the-mill autocrat. Megalomianiacs like Col. Gaddafi seek to control every neuron in their peoples' heads and to control every aspect of life. They destroy all outside authority and civil society. They personalise every institution so that things like the Army exist to serve their holy selves, rather than the nation at large. They are untroubled by doubt or concern for the good opinion of others since they already possess absolute truth. They are motivated to fulfil their World Historical Mission and have no interest in retiring peacefully to some villa. Former American ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick was right years ago to make the distinction between authoritarian dictatorships and totalitarian ones. The totalitarian ones are both sicker and harder to dislodge. Col. Gaddafi's unhinged narcissistic oddness seems to be the key to his longevity. So remember: If you're going to be a tyrant, be a wacko. It's safer. *By arrangement with The New York Times








People living in villages next to the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in southern Tamil Nadu have been asked to vacate their homes and stay away for at least 15 days by the end of this month for a first trial of facilities. People of Thiruvananthapuram in neighbouring Kerala, less than 150 km away, not knowing what these tests will yield, and the authorities yet to take the people into confidence, held a protest meeting in front of the secretariat in the morning and a public meeting on Thursday evening. They demanded the Koodankulam nuclear power plant be shut down immediately. Two 1,000 MW Russian nuclear power plants are being built at Koodankulam on the Tamil Nadu coast, and plans are afoot to add four more. With a reprocessing plant, dangerous nuclear waste, and a weapons facility, the sea water is going to be contaminated. The daily intake of radio-nuclides and low-level radiation is bound to damage the health of the people. The Fukushima accident shows that nobody can assure total safety with regard to nuclear power plants. The chain of incidents engulfing all six Fukushima Daiichi reactors was a result of their proximity to each other.  At Koodankulam too, once the project is completed, there will be a cluster of six reactors. If Fukushima radiation can end up in Sacramento, California, 10,000 km away, Koodankuaml will not spare Kerala or even Sri Lanka.

That India needs to generate far more electricity is not in doubt. But it should be based on safety and cost-effectiveness and not as a quid pro quo to the USA, France and Russia for clinching the Indo-US nuclear deal.  Nuclear power is both uneconomical and unnecessary. It cannot compete against energy conservation, including co-generation. As the WikiLeaks revelations show, the UPA government of Dr Manmohan Singh, keeping Parliament in the dark, had committed to import a minimum of 10,000MW nuclear power generation equipment from the USA. America stopped building nuclear power plants in 1979 following the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania. Storage and transport of radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants pose a huge problem.  Spent fuel rods, unlike the nuclear reactors, have no waste repositories. Tarapur, India's oldest nuclear power plant, has the world's largest stockpile of spent fuel rods. The USA will neither take them back nor allow India to reprocess them. The least that the Prime Minister should do is to persuade President Obama to allow India to reprocess the rods to minimise a Fukushima-like risk. Nuclear power's complex fuel cycle begins with uranium mining and ends with deadly radioactive wastes for which there still are no permanent storage facilities to contain them for tens of thousands of years. The cost of decommissioning at the end of a nuclear power plant's lifespan is prohibitive. Like any thermal power plant, nuclear power plants also boil water to produce steam to turn turbines that generate electricity. When there are cheaper and safer ways to produce steam, why should India insist on building huge nuclear power plants?



SERIOUS though the implications are, there is little "news" to the recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General slamming domestic warship construction for massive time and cost overruns. That also translates into inadequate force levels at a time when piracy increasingly threatens shipping, and as 26/11 dictated the seaward defences require upgrade. Though four shipyards function under the MoD umbrella, their operations hardly reflect a sense of "military efficiency". It is true the bulk of the workforce comes from civvy street, they are plagued by labour/ union troubles, but these issues were identified several years ago. The gains made in the development of design capability have been negated by painfully slow construction.

That had necessitated orders being placed on Russian yards though theoretically those ships could have been built at home. Apart from a poor work culture, red-tape has taken its toll, thwarting timely import of steel etc. It would also help if the navy refrained from making frequent changes in design. The concept of serial production has not become the norm: that facilitates faster and economic construction. Still, there are no excuses for 200 per cent cost increases in the programmes for frontline destroyers, stealth frigates and corvettes ~ all several years behind schedule. The revised defence production provides for placing orders on private yards: that appears essentially a threat to the state-run units. There is little indication of the private yards rushing to seek orders, or making the massive investment required for setting up facilities and acquiring specialised skills. Worse, there is also no sign of the government undertaking a thorough revamp of its four yards. Like decades-old complaints from Naval Headquarters, the CAG report will remain just another file on a South Block shelf. Much the same holds true of the Army's finding itself "deprived" of firing ranges that are critical to training. The pressure on land ~ both rural and urban ~ has taken its toll. In the mid-1980s a detailed study was undertaken and it recommended the acquisition of land used for firing practice in the non-farming seasons so that a chain of dedicated ranges could be developed and training programmes re-scheduled so that they were utilised all round the year. Not much was done in that regard. The faujis would blame the babus, but did the Service Headquarters press the issue? Certainly not as forcefully as they did when their pay and perks were being revised!



IN what was described as one of the most devastating fires in the North-east, 19 people ~ most of them minors and women ~ were burnt to death in a Bru (Reang) makeshift refugee camp in Tripura last week. At least 2,500 huts were said to have been destroyed, rendering 15,000 evacuees homeless. According to reports, inhabitants looked on helplessly, unable to do anything because of the non-availability of water. A prompt investigation is called for, if only to prevent recurrence. The Centre's announcement of compensation of Rs 1 lakh apiece to victims' kin is of little consolation. Following ethnic clashes in October 1997, more than 35,000 Brus fled Mizoram and have, since then, been holed up in six different camps in Tripura's north districts awaiting repatriation. The exodus started during present Congress chief minister Lalthanhawla's time but before he could do anything his party lost the 1998 assembly elections. For a decade the Mizo National Front government under Zoramthanga kept the repatriation issue alive but it also followed Lalthanhawla's stand that all refugees in the Tripura camps were not Mizo residents and Aizawl would accept only those "genuine" ones who could prove their credentials. The problem is that not all possess such documents and, hence, the uncertainty and prevarication. The Supreme Court directive to speed up the repatriation process was ignored. Only last November, following an agreement, were some families sent back but camp inmates did not allow the second batch to leave, demanding foolproof security and an assurance of compact rehabilitation. The refugees have nowhere to go but they cannot possibly continue to languish in camps for the rest of their lives. The Brus deserve the Centre's immediate attention.









ON 14 December, the Supreme Court criticised the Maharashtra government while dismissing the appeal of the state challenging the fine of Rs 25,000 imposed on it as costs by the Nagpur bench of  Bombay High Court on a petition by two farmers of Buldhana district. Sarangdhar Singh Chavan and his brother, Vijaysingh Chavan, had alleged that the police refused to register a criminal case against a Congress legislator, Dilip Kumar Sananda's father, Gokulchand Sananda, a money lender. The High Court had imposed the fine because of the "gross interference" by the executive to shield a money lender belonging to the ruling party.

Chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had stopped the police from registering an FIR. Supreme Court judge AK Ganguly observed that this act was wholly unconstitutional. "A  politician who was found guilty by the apex court was still in his full glory and thus was shameless". Obviously, the judge was taking a swipe at the UPA government for elevating Deshmukh in the recent Union cabinet reshuffle. He was shifted from heavy industries to rural development, a ministry with a huge budget and nationwide network. Apart from the legal aspects, the act of Deshmukh, the then chief minister, made a mockery of the government's policy to protect the farmers from extortion by money lenders. A section of civil society had expected the higher fine of Rs 10 lakh, imposed by the Supreme Court, to be paid personally by Deshmukh. Instead, the fine was imposed on the Maharashtra government to be paid out of the public exchequer which it did.

The Supreme Court has passed strictures on the government in several other cases, most recently in the one relating to the appointment of PJ Thomas, an IAS officer to the post of  CVC. While  serving in Kerala, he was involved in the palmolein corruption case. Justice Ganguly asked the government why A Raja continued to be a minister in the Union cabinet when he was under CBI scrutiny since 2008 in the spectrum allocation case. Even a subordinate Delhi court took a swipe at the Centre, saying that the case against Ottavio Quattrocchi did not move even in inch in the last 23 years. It was only during BJP rule that certain statements were recorded.
While hearing a PIL petition seeking implementation of traffic rules, Bombay High Court took note of disruptions during peak hours because of the movement of VIPs, pre-eminently the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister. It asked why arrangements cannot be made in such a manner that the common man does not suffer. A patient died on way to hospital because traffic was disrupted by the Prime Minister's convoy.
Taking note of the cases against the government, the Supreme Court observed: "Government litigation is clogging the wheels of justice. From recruitment to retirement, why should the court be deciding everything relating to government officials?" Questioning the six-year delay in the diesel scam case in Gujarat, the Supreme Court noted that the CBI was hamstrung, and asked the department to follow a time-frame to fill  the vacant slots. All these observations reflect "governance deficit", indeed the failure of the executive to discharge its functions.

In an obvious response to the Supreme Court's observations,  the Prime Minister, in his address to the Commonwealth Lawyers Conference, invoked the theory of "separation of powers" and observed that "different limbs of government should stick to their own sphere of activity and not interfere in the activity of another limb. Such actions of the judiciary will undermine the authority of the executive". To what extent are the Prime Minister's observations valid or justified?

The theory of "separation of powers" was first enunciated by the French political philosopher, Montesquieu. "When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or body, there can be no liberty because the apprehension may arise that the senate (i.e. the legislative body) will enact tyrannical laws and enforce them in a tyrannical manner. If the judges are legislators or if they assume executive powers, the judges might behave with all the violence of an oppressor".

In India, we have followed the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy ~ the executive is not separated from the legislature. It is accountable to Parliament and wields power as long as it has the confidence of the House. A government with a huge majority may take the legislature for granted as happened in Indira Gandhi's time. But when the government has a slender majority or is a coalition ministry, Parliament can be assertive.
As regards the relation between the judiciary and the executive, the independence of the judiciary is the cornerstone of Indian democracy. It is guaranteed in the Constitution which offers scope for judicial review of executive decisions. Initially, Supreme Court judges were appointed by the government. During the Emergency, Indira Gandhi made appointments overlooking the seniority of Justice Khanna and Justice Hegde for daring to oppose her arbitrary actions. The position has changed radically. It is the Supreme Court that appoints the judges and the Union government has acquiesced. The Supreme Court and other courts  do not suo motu or as a rule deal with administrative matters. But if the citizens go in appeal against the decision of the executive, the courts do take cognizance of the complaints. The judiciary examines the legality or constitutionality of the decision and also whether it is fair and in accord with public interest. The court can ask the government to provide the files and papers along with the affidavit. If the executive decisions are objective and in public interest, there is no question of the executive authority being undermined.

The questionable response of the executive or "executive inaction" have often compelled the judiciary to intervene. As for instance in the case relating to A Raja. The CBI was asked to conduct the investigation under the supervision of the Supreme Court.  Justice Jeevan Reddy had once set the guidelines in a case relating to exorbitant fees charged by non-aided institutions.

The Centre's refusal to disclose details of the 18 Indians holding accounts in LG Bank, Liechtenstein, evoked a sharp response from the Supreme Court (coram: Sudarshan Reddy and SS Nijjar, JJ). "Make up your mind whether you can make the disclosure," was the observation of the Bench. The court directed the government to ensure that Hasan Ali, a key suspect, did not leave the country. Another Bench told the CBI to furnish details regarding the beneficiaries and conspirators who had stashed away money abroad. In the Amar Singh phone-tapping case, Justice Ganguly noted the four-year gap between the filing of the chargesheet in 2006 and the actual trial in 2010.

The noted jurist, Soli Sorabjee, once observed that the directions of the Supreme Court convey the impression that the judiciary has taken over the task of running the country. The fact is that in the absence of governmental action, a certain vacuum is created. The Supreme Court has laid down guidelines to curb the harassment of women in their place of work. Taking notice of the starvation deaths among tribals in Orissa, the Supreme Court wondered why the foodgrain stocks rotting in godowns or in the open, had not been used to feed the hungry. When the food minister argued that free distribution of food was not a practical proposition, the Supreme Court directed him to take specific action. The government was compelled to make an announcement.
The executive must ensure that the standards of administration are maintained, decisions taken objectively and in public interest and not under the influence of vested interests. There must be a degree of fairplay and transparency. If this can be ensured, the judiciary will not seek to take over the executive functions.
The writer is former Secretary, Government of India, and Vice-Chancellor, Goa University. He is currently Chairman, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Pune Kendra







Planning Commission member Dr Syeda Saiyidain Hameed has embarked on a mission to improve and empower the vulnerable sections of society, including women and children. This academic-turned-social activist has been deeply involved with the peace and women's rights movements. A former member of the National Women's Commission, she entered the Plan panel to be a part of the government's effort to facilitate a better tomorrow by lending a different perspective to a purely economic forum. The only non-economist among economists, Dr Hameed believes the Planning Commission symbolises the art of persuasion. In an interview with AJITA SINGH, she underscored how a multi-sectoral approach was necessary to meet the needs of the unserved as well as the under-served segments of society.

What is your take on the health status of the nation's people?

Great advancements in the domestic health care sector notwithstanding, an inclusive health security system that meets the particular needs of the unserved and under-served segments of society is yet to evolve. Challenges for the government lie in meeting the health care needs of the vulnerable groups that face multiple deprivations and evolving an inclusive health care system. The lack of reliable data on human resources in this sector is a key constraint that needs to be addressed with the support of the private sector and with application of modern technologies.
Has the objective of the 11th Plan been achieved and policies and schemes envisaged for 2007-2012 implemented?


Actually, implementation is not in our domain. It is certainly not part of the main discourse in planning. We only assess or rather review the required impact, once or twice a year. The present Plan period comes to an end in 2012. There is hardly a year left. But it is a difficult job to ensure that the funds reach the end users, especially since the Plan panel, as a government body, can neither punish nor reward. We can only name and shame for misdeeds.

What are the commission's priority areas?

We have had meetings with both the finance minister and the Prime Minister. Basically, the Prime Minister has emphasised 11 priority areas, including agriculture, food for work and education.

The thrust areas of the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17)? Maternal and child health are expected to be the areas of thrust in the Twelfth Five Year Plan starting in 2012. The 12th Plan would emphasise on a child health policy as child protection has been neglected in our country and issues related to children have not
been taken into consideration in the manner they should be in the Union Budget.

What percentage of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in the view of the Plan panel, would enable the government to meet the nation's health care needs?

As of now, health allocation is around 1.1 per cent of the GDP. But the 12th plan (2012-2017) approach paper proposes that more funds be earmarked for the health sector. While the objective target is being pegged at 3 per cent of GDP, we plan to definitely secure up to 2 per cent this time.

Which areas, in your view, require more attention? Looking into five main areas is on my agenda: women and child welfare, health and family welfare, including nutrition and population, village and small scale industry. Greater thrust should primarily be on women and children as this section essentially determines and contributes immensely towards the good health of any nation. In fact, focus should be on all health-determinants like nutrition, education, water, sanitation as well as energy as there is an urgent need for making basic health services, maternal heath care, among things, more accessible.

What as a Planning Commission member is your contribution towards improving the health determinants?
My idea is to bring down in a convergent manner the "invisible yet tangible" artificial barriers that hinder the functioning of different departments. The Plan Panel approach must be multi-sectoral and holistic so that we can look at the entire spectrum. For example, whoever looks at environment will need to consider the issue in the context of gender, children and development ~ at the state level, district level and even village level. Plans should reflect the actual requirements of people and be economically and socially sensitive to the ethos of people for whom they are meant. The trend of expecting the government to do everything for the people must end.

Does that mean there would be separate funds for improving nutrition in the 12th Plan? Would the funds under the nutrition head be released under National Rural Health Mission or National Urban Health Mission? If so, in what ratio?

Yes, women and children's nutrition would be the highlight of the 12th Five-Year Plan. The proposal is to allocate a separate quantum, particularly for nutrition. In the 11th Plan, there was no separate component for children ~ be it child labourers or street children, none were taken as a separate entity. They were neglected. All issues pertaining to nutrition, sexual abuse, child abuse, trafficking and multiple deprivations need to be addressed as one issue.

How much allocation would made for the urban health mission?

Figures for migrating population to urban areas from rural regions are not available so right now we cannot put an exact figure to funds to be dedicated for hygiene-providing amenities in urban health allocation but definitely a component would be kept aside for this segment too. Rural/urban ratio component is yet to be worked out.
Often the end result of various development schemes comes to naught as most end-users fail to benefit. Increasing congestion in metros owing to rising rural-to-urban immigration is increasing the burden on different health-determining amenities, so more and more funds would be needed for meeting the basic requirements. However, planning is not about pouring in more money. Keeping aside more money will not be sufficient unless it is ensured that allocated funds reach the intended beneficiaries and profit is shared by all it is intended for.







Mr Advani believes that it is his birth right to become a Prime Minister... he has never forgiven me. All I can say to Advaniji is that people of India have voted us to power in free and fair elections. Please wait for another three-and-a-half years.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh during a Lok Sabha debate

The Prime Minister has a habit of blaming others. If it is price rise, Sharad Pawar is responsible, if it is 2G, A Raja is responsible!

Leader of the Opposition Mrs Sushma Swaraj

You should keep in mind that those who voted against us in the last Lok Sabha and municipal elections have changed their mind. We would win by a comfortable majority. Politics is not simple arithmetic and two plus two may well amount to zero.

West Bengal chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

 The CPI-M may be crying but you (media) should smile.


Trinamul supremo Miss Mamata Banerjee after clinching a seat-sharing deal with the Congress  
The alliance is surely in place, but we're very unhappy that seats of two sitting MLAs ~ Ram Pyare Ram and Abdul Khaleque Mollah ~ haven't been given to us.

Pradesh Congress Committee chief Mr Manas Bhuniya

The West Bengal government was very supportive and cooperative. The number of non-bailable arrest warrants executed and the number of illegal arms and ammunition seized till date is higher than ever. We are extremely satisfied. We are confident that West Bengal will be able to deliver a perfect election.

Chief election commissioner Mr SY Quraishi

Whenever there is an insult to Sikhs, we take it as a national insult. We take it up in that spirit.
External affairs minister Mr SM Krishna after golf coach Mr Amritinder Singh asked to take off his turban at Milan airport during a security check

The winds of change are blowing not only in Bengal but also in Assam. Mamata Banerjee's Ma Maati Manush will sweep the polls here. We have already announced the names of some candidates we are fielding.
Trinamul leader in Assam Mr Biswajit Handique


My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humour and love.
Elizabeth Taylor's son Michael Wilding after the legendary actress passed away







Few would deny that India is suffering from a silent and deadly crisis that shows little evidence of abating. The cancer of corruption has reached fatal proportions. The collapse of governance endangers democracy and the basic rule of law. The stage managed clashes in Parliament between the government and the opposition destroy all hope of deliverance from this crisis by politicians. Across the board politicians make the appropriate noises befitting their respective roles. But their actions betray full contentment with the status quo. They want above all to complete their full terms in the House. From where then might ordinary citizens expect deliverance?   It is unrealistic, and also undesirable, to expect a population attuned to democratic elections to take to the streets and compel change. Change can come only from the elite that rule the nation. But from among the ruling elite the politicians undoubtedly comprise the worst segment. The better segments exist within the bureaucracy, the armed forces and the judiciary. Undoubtedly there are black sheep in all these three segments too. But the majority remains untainted. The fault of this majority lies mainly in playing a passive role and refusing to confront the few black sheep that smirch the reputation of an entire institution.


Well, things can change. Things are changing. The Chief Justice of India, Mr SH Kapadia, is utilising all constitutional powers at his command to initiate reform. Slowly but surely, the efforts of the Supreme Court are bearing results. But those minimal results will not suffice. The time has come for the passive majority among the bureaucrats to also play their role. More and more bureaucrats are getting sick of the excesses committed by politicians. It is time for the honest among them who constitute the vast majority to take a stand. They need to remind themselves of what Jayaprakash Narain advised the officials of India to do. That advice was deliberately and shamelessly distorted by the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi to justify the illegal and treasonable imposition of Emergency.

To oppose the corrupt acts of the Indira Gandhi government, JP simply urged government officials to obey only legal orders of their superiors. He urged them to disobey all illegal orders. One believes that if that advice is taken to heart by the bulk of the honest officials who man the administration the nefarious designs of the corrupt political class will be thwarted. India would reclaim governance. Indian democracy would be reformed. Any illegal or improper orders by politicians should not be accepted by officials if issued orally. The officials must insist upon written orders. Illegal orders in writing should be at first refused. Subsequently, if insisted upon by higher authority the orders must be followed only after recording explicit dissent on the files.
If the vast majority of honest bureaucrats were to unite and follow this advice corruption would end and governance would be restored. One is aware that it would not be easy to follow this advice. Politicians could transfer officials, destabilise the education of their children, harass them in other ways, and even register false cases against them. Officials with family responsibility cannot easily take on their corrupt political masters. The venal political class that rules us is capable of anything. Nevertheless those who are honest would be sustained by inner conviction and courage if they make a firm resolve. To meet the crisis in India, sacrifice and courage are needed. Bureaucrats must summon such courage. India and history depend on them. If they act, India will achieve its unique version of the Jasmine Revolution.   

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist






Elections offer political parties an opportunity to reinvent themselves. Whether a party has the will and the capacity to do so is a test of its intrinsic strength. The Congress's list of its candidates for the forthcoming assembly polls in West Bengal does little to inspire confidence in the party's future. The choice of its candidates provided an opportunity for the Congress to send out a message to its workers and supporters that it is serious about rebuilding the party in Bengal. These elections would have been the right time for such a renewal because the Congress, as an ally of the Trinamul Congress, has the prospect of returning to power in the state after 34 years. But, after abjectly surrendering to Mamata Banerjee over the sharing of seats, the Congress has now shot itself in the foot by failing to live up to the challenge that the choice of its nominees offered.

If the party failed the test, its senior leaders must take the blame. Instead of showing the right way, they took the wrong one. Pranab Mukherjee, who must take the larger part of the blame for the party's failure to get a better deal from Ms Banerjee, has now compounded the situation by pushing his son's nomination. This is not going to comfort party loyalists who smarted under the unfairness of the deal with the TMC. Even the state unit chief, Manas Bhuniya, showed poor judgment by choosing to contest the polls himself. Given the frustration in the ranks over the surrender forced on the state leadership by the party high command, he would have done better by leading the party's battle instead of claiming his home constituency. His stature as a leader could have grown dramatically if he had made this small personal sacrifice. Party workers would have found in him a leader who set an example of making personal sacrifices in order to stand by dispirited party loyalists.

If senior party leaders cannot live up to their responsibilities, it is pointless to expect others down the line to do any better. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the list is packed with sons and relatives of lesser leaders and with protégés of factional overlords. The list of the TMC's candidates is a study in contrast. Although it too includes sons and other family members of some leaders, the inclusion of professionals from various fields and a large number of young party activists points to a clear sense of direction and a robust optimism in its future. Even the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which has long valued grey-haired loyalists most, dropped a large number of the old guard this time. The Congress's list is not only the worst of the three but also the one that smacks of a defeatist attitude. It is one more proof of the paralysis that has long affected the Bengal unit. The real issue is not so much the individual merits of the candidates as what the list says of the minds behind it. It is tempting to suspect that the leaders who drew up the list do not really care about what happens to the party in Bengal. Ms Banerjee could not have asked for a more pliant partner.







Ahmedabad is a city I know well. I must have made at least 20 trips there in the last 30 years. Going back last month, I found signs marking the distance to a certain 'Mahatma Mandir'. Coloured blue, and with an arrow pointed upwards, these signs were placed at regular intervals on the main roads of the city. The distances were curiously uneven, or perhaps one should say very precise: 'Mahatma Mandir, 41.7 km!', 'Mahatma Mandir, 40.6 km!', and so on, never rounded off to the nearest whole number.

I was puzzled, and confused. What was this landmark that I had not heard of and which was apparently so important that it had to be advertised every so often on city roads? My Amdavadi friends supplied the answer. This new temple was actually a convention centre being built in the state capital. The first major building had been completed in time for the 'Vibrant Gujarat' summit held in early January; the rest of the complex was under construction.

An early endorsement of the project appeared on the blog of L.K. Advani. "Estimated to cost Rs 135 crores", writes Advani, "the Mahatma Mandir would be spread over 34 acres. The Mandir is to be developed as a monument to the life and philosophy of the Mahatma, apart from providing a first class Convention Centre." To "remind visitors of Gandhiji's Dandi March," continues Advani, "a dome shaped like a salt mound is to provide a museum and meditation centre."

On the same blog, Advani writes admiringly of the "imaginative approach" of the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, of his "innovativeness, and his charismatic appeal and hard work". These comments underline what must be one of the most curious, not to say magical, transitions in Indian politics, whereby, in the course of a single decade, Advani has gone from being a patron of the Gujarat chief minister to being one of his clients and supplicants. Once, Advani was the most visible and powerful face of the Hindutva project. As deputy prime minister of India and as president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Advani expected, and received, deference from his party colleagues. Now, all that lies between him and obscurity is Modi's gift of a safe parliamentary seat in Gujarat.

In this time, Modi has made a sort of reverse journey, from being a media-shy if hard-working Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak to the most self-confident and publicity-seeking of modern politicians. Viewing his position today, I am reminded of the one occasion, some 12 years ago, when I found myself in the same room as him. It was in a television studio in New Delhi, which was hosting a debate between Madhavrao Scindia of the Congress, Pramod Mahajan of the BJP, and myself (representing no party at all). Mahajan's assistant on the day was Modi, then a quiet, behind-the-scenes, general-secretary of the BJP, content to mix tea and serve it to the mighty minister whom he had been commanded to accompany.

Now, of course, Modi is arrogance personified. Consider an interview in a recent issue of the journal, Governance Now, where he puts himself in the same league as a man generally recognized as the greatest political icon of modern times. Asked a question about Gujarat's development model, Modi offered an analogy with the freedom struggle. From the late 19th century, many brave patriots tried, but failed, to get the British to leave the country. "But all that martyrdom came to fruition", said Modi, "only when a Mahatma Gandhi arrived on the scene. In fact, Gandhiji made a paradigm shift in the struggle for freedom by converting it into a mass movement." Likewise, Modi continues, "in the post-independence phase, efforts for development became solely the domain of the government. I have also effected a paradigm shift in the development strategy and converted it into a mass movement".

Narendra Modi may wish to compare himself to Mahatma Gandhi, but to this historian, he is more akin to another Gandhi, namely, Indira. In the early 1970s, following her colossal victories in the polls and on the battle-field, Mrs Gandhi came to see herself as embodying the collective spirit of a nation on the march. She had won more seats in Parliament than her father, Jawaharlal Nehru; and had redeemed his failure against the Chinese with her own military success against Pakistan. On the economic front, her socialism was fresh and evocative, the slogan of "garibi hatao" by far more compelling than the stale shibboleths of the State occupying the "commanding heights of the economy".

Between 1971 and 1977, Indira thought she was India, and vice versa. Modi merely thinks he is Gujarat. The territory of 2002 was forbidden to Governance Now (as it is to all interviewers of the man), but the journal did still ask one sharp question, about the fact "that there is contrived or manufactured social consensus in Gujarat, that… you are manufacturing this consensus." This was Modi's answer: "Have you seen opposition leaders being jailed or silenced in Gujarat? On the other hand, I should be complaining about persecution as the centre has unleashed the CBI and all kinds of agencies on Gujarat and on me in particular. Then what is this manufactured consensus? What is wrong if everybody agrees on development? Do you mean to say that if we have 60/40 or 80/20 consensus/dissent, it is fine, but when you have 100/0, it is wrong?"

Arrogance, yes, but arrogance with paranoia, a peculiar mixture characteristic of autocrats large and small, real and putative. When criticized, Mrs Gandhi used to speak darkly of the "foreign hand", suggesting that those Indians who found fault with her policies were agents of Western powers, and of the Central Intelligence Agency in particular. Modi thinks his critics to be either motivated or malign; the former acting at the behest of the Centre, the latter acting out the instructions of the Inter-Services Intelligence. These are but variations on the same theme. Neither Mrs Gandhi then, nor Modi now, can allow that their critics may have a honest or valid point or two. By definition, all patriotic Indians had to be behind Mrs Gandhi, all Gujaratis (100 to 0) have to rally around Modi.

The mandir being built 37.9 km from the hotel where I stayed in Ahmedabad is a monument not to Mahatma Gandhi, but to Narendra Modi's megalomania. The accounts on the web speak of mounds and mounds of concrete strung together under the supervision of a construction firm not otherwise known for taste, beauty, or elegance. To be sure, the building is functional, and facilitative of business deals. (An official state government handout speaks of how the "mandir" will "house an international level convention centre, three big exhibition halls, and small halls having conferencing facility to facilitate one on one buyer-seller meets".) But let it not be thought that it will, in any way, represent the aesthetic, moral, or democratic spirit of the Mahatma it claims to honour. Thus, a non-resident Gujarati who visited the site blogged later that "there's too much police everywhere. So the place would look like a business summit for few hours, but for rest of the time, the venue typically looks like the police summit."

Here is a tip to first-time visitors to Ahmedabad. If you go in search of the Mahatma, disregard the blue signs, and ask an autorickshaw to take you to the Sabarmati Ashram instead. The experience shall be nourishing, perhaps even transformative. For one thing, unlike that "mandir", this ashram is on the human scale, with low, modest buildings and green trees around them. For another, there are no policemen either inside or outside the place. For a third, Gandhi actually lived there.


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




Thursday's stirring victory over Australia has reignited the passion and expectations of Indian cricket fans. The team's unconvincing run in the league phase of the World Cup had disillusioned many, and when Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men drew the three-time defending champions as their quarterfinal opponents, even the most die-hard supporter feared the worst.

Even if this Australian team didn't appear as invincible as the squads that triumphed in 2003 and 2007, they knew what it took to win big matches, and appeared a formidable, fearsome unit determined to atone for defeat at the hands of Pakistan in their final league encounter. What was most satisfying in India's five-wicket victory was that it was fashioned by several pockets of individual and collective brilliance.

Yuvraj Singh was the obvious stand-out for his contributions with both ball and bat, but India had other heroes as well. Team triumphs are seldom based on one or two extraordinary efforts; it's collective will and desire that have spurred the great teams in all sports, and Thursday drove that point home with emphatic effect as Australia were consigned to their first knockout defeat in the World Cup since the 1996 final, making their earliest exit from the competition since failing to advance beyond the first phase in their own backyard in 1992.

Tempting as it might be to believe that, with the conquest of the world champions and avenging the crushing defeat in the 2003 final, the job is already done, the fact remains that India's biggest battles lie ahead of them.

It is just as well that the team, and the country, has five days before the semifinal, against Pakistan in Mohali on Wednesday, to regather focus. While the showdown might be the coming true of the worst nightmare for security personnel, it is a promoter's dream, just the fillip the tournament needed with the climax imminent.

India-Pakistan cricketing battles have tended to rise above the ordinary in terms of edge and competitiveness. That the teams don't face each other on a regular basis will add to the anxiety, the hype and the expectations. It's inevitable that the players, as much as the average fan, will be caught up in the hysteria.

Emotion, however, is a dangerous pitfall in the unforgiving cauldron of competitive sport; in the charged atmosphere that Wednesday will be, it is calm heads and tempered hearts that will ultimately carry the day.






But some complaints are genuine and call for effective intervention from the Election Commission. The commission has been alert to the possibility of misuse of office and power by governments and violations of the code in other ways and has intervened effectively in many cases. But it can go only to an extent since the code is not legally binding. In any case thee are various ways of violation some of which are too subtle to pinpoint.

There are charges of violation of the code against ministers in West Bengal. These are not very grave. But a decision by the Kerala government to extend its Rs 2 a kg rice scheme, which was originally targetted at BPL ration card holders, to the APL class is a gross violation of the code.

The scheme for the BPL group was announced before the code came into force but its extension was announced later. The state election commission had issued orders to stop implementation of the scheme but the high court has overruled it. The court has erred badly in its decision and the issue needs to be examined by the supreme Court. Otherwise, this will create a bad precedent which will be followed by many governments in future.

The offer of freebies and goodies to voters by the DMK in Tamil Nadu through its election manifesto does not strictly come under the scope of an election code of conduct. But the party's promises, and its actions in the past by way of fulfillment of promises will corrupt the electoral system and distort the voters' judgment than any violation of code. It has promised to give 35 kg of free rice per month to all families, a mixer-cum-grinder to every woman and other benefits to most classes of people.

It promised free colour television sets to poor families before the last election and has distributed over a crore of them till now. Masquerading as a social welfare measure, this is outright bribery of the electorate. Unfortunately, the line between an election promise and a corrupt poll practice has become very thin and so votes have become commodities to be purchased.







Fortunately, the institution of Lokyaukta in the state is strong enough not to allow any interference in its functioning.

Just two months shy of completing three years in office, chief minister B S Yeddyurappa faces the sternest test of his tenure so far as some of the allegations of corruption and nepotism made against him and his family members will finally come under the microscope of the Lokayukta police.

The dissidence in his party, which raises its head like mushroom every two-three months has been activated once again under the leadership of state BJP president K S Eshwarappa and general secretary Ananth Kumar. But it may not rattle Yeddyurappa as much as the direction of the 23rd additional city civil and sessions court judge C B Hipparagi, who has asked the Lokyaukta police to investigate into some specific complaints and report back to him in six weeks.

Though the allegations are extremely serious — and allegations of this kind in a bygone era would have forced the chief minister to step down by now — Yeddyurappa was able to brazen it out as long as they remained 'political' in nature and aired by political opponents. There has never been a convincing reply to the 800-page 'charge sheet' prepared by the JD(S) and submitted to the Governor and the Lokayukta almost six months ago.

Even on the floor of the Assembly during the recent session, instead of answering how and why several crores of rupees' donations were made to an educational trust and a land development company run by his sons and son-in-law, the chief minister tried to justify such donations pointing to other educational trusts run by opposition leaders. "I will expose all of them," he thundered, without being able to shed any more light on his counter allegations.

When Lokayukta Santosh Hegde took up some of the allegations of land grabbing for investigation, Yeddyurappa hurriedly stymied it by announcing a parallel commission of inquiry by retired judge Padmaraj under the Commissions of Inquiry Act. The Karnataka High Court has stayed the work of both the Lokyaukta and the commission in order to try and figure out as to whose jurisdiction takes precedence in conducting the investigation.

But, Yeddyurappa was not able to keep the genie bottled up for too long. Governor H R Bhardwaj, who too had received the complaints, had set the law in motion by according sanction under Article 202 of the Constitution for the prosecution of the chief minister. The Lokayukta special court of justice Hipparagi, which took up the complaints lodged with the governor has now begun the judicial process which, hopefully, will expeditiously conclude the guilt or otherwise of the chief minister.

Unlawful gain

Acting on the complaints filed by advocates Sirajuddin Basha and K N Balaraj and after hearing the parties both for and against, the court has referred three specific complaints to the Lokayukta police. In the first instance, the complainants had said that 1.12 acres in Rachenahalli village in Bangalore east taluk in the Arkavathy layout meant for the public was 'illegally' denotified by Yeddyurappa in 2006, when he held the portfolios of urban development and Bangalore Development Authority.

The agriculture land was subsequently converted to non-agricultural purpose and was sold to Yeddyurappa's son B Y Vijayendra and son-in-law Sohan Kumar for Rs 40 lakh. They in turn sold the land to South West Mining Ltd for Rs 20 crore, giving them an 'unlawful gain' of Rs 19.6 crore, according to the complaint.

In the second instance, 1.6 acres on survey No 56 in Arkavathy layout was sold by former minister Krishnaiah Setty to Dhavalagiri Developers of which Vijayendra and Yeddyurappa's another son, B Y Raghavendra were directors for Rs 60 lakh, against the market value of Rs 8 crore. The court, also taking cognisance of the allegations of land grabbing against home minister R Ashoka, has referred them to the Lokyaukta police for investigation.

When such serious charges are framed and inquiry ordered, it would have been in the fitness of things for both Yeddyurappa and Ashoka to resign as they have forfeited all moral right to continue in their respective offices. As home minister, since Ashoka oversees the functioning of the police department, can there be a free and fair inquiry by officers who technically come under him?

Fortunately, the institution of Lokyaukta is strong enough not to allow any interference in its functioning, but how can Yeddyurappa and Ashoka stick on to their chairs when their dubious dealings in this very government are being investigated?

Yeddyurappa's own party leaders are asking if another minister under cloud, Katta Subramanya Naidu was forced to resign until his name was cleared, why is a different yardstick being followed in the case of the chief minister and the home minister? After the court passed the order, the chief minister said, "I welcome the judgment. I have belief in the court and the Lokayukta. I have nothing to comment on this. Let the investigation be carried out and I hope that the truth will come out." Yeddyurappa's name has become synonymous with obduracy and shamelessness.

Both the dissidents and the chief minister have approached the central leadership of the BJP, and as has been the case over the last few months, L K Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and others, have been unable to resolve the issue. As the logjam continues, it is the state's administration which has been virtually brought to a standstill.

Will the central leadership of the BJP at least now shed its ostrich-like approach to the Karnataka crisis and take a decisive stand?







Navtej Singh Sarna is India's Ambassador in Israel. Though our embassy and his residence is in Tel Aviv, which is like any European city, he spends all his spare time in Jerusalem which is replete with historic buildings of three faiths — Judaism's Wailing Wall, Christianity's Bethlehem and Islam's Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque.

However, despite his interest in other faiths, his principal concern is with Sikh religion and history. He is thorough in his research and writes in very lucid prose. His latest offering is Guru Gobind Singh's 'Zafarnama', Epistle of Victory' (Penguin Classics).

We are not certain where and when Guru Gobind Singh composed his 'Zafarnama', nor if it was ever received by Emperor Aurangzeb. In all probability it was the Guru's thesis on justification of taking up arms to fight injustice. He had lost all his four sons — two were killed in battle, the other two executed by being bricked alive in a wall.

So he had all the justification he wanted to unsheathe his sword and turn his peace-loving Sikhs into the Kirpan carrying Khalsa.


The 'Zafarnama' is long poem of all couplets written in Farsi (Persian) as spoken in northern India. The most favour lines were taken from Firdaus's:

Chun kar azhameh heelate dar quzasht

Har haal tey darquzhast

Halal ast burden

Ba Shamsheer dast

When all avenues have been tried

Yet justice is not in sight

It is right to pick up the sword

It is then right to fight

Sumita Misra


Sumita is an IAS officer holding a high position in the government of Haryana. She is also good-looking and gifted. She writes poetry in Hindi and English, which have been published in different journals.

Two years ago she sent me a few. I liked them and published some verses in my columns. I also suggested she send some to 'The Statesman' of Kolkata. She did. A few weeks later half a page was devoted to her poems. Now they have been published in a book entitled 'A Life of Light' (Unistar). I quote two verses from a poem entitled 'My Failure':

I wear my failure well,

Like a magic cloak

It guards me snugly

gainst seeking eyes, against successIts distortions and perils

Failure clings to me

Like the smell of stale nicotine

I light up my life

And inhale, wondering

Why do I seek you Success?

What can you give me

That I do not already possess?

Medical terminology

Santa Singh's answers in the entrance examination to become a doctor:
Anti-body — against everyone; artery — the study of the paintings; bacteria — backdoor to a cafeteria; Caesarean section — a district in Rome; cardiology — advance study of poker playing; cat scan — searching for lost kitty.

Chronic — neck of a crow; coma — punctuation mark; cortisone — area around local court; cyst — short for sister; diagnosis — person with slanted nose; dislocation — in this place.

Dilate — the late British Princess Diana; duodenum — couple in blue jeans; enema — not a friend; genes — blue denim; impotent — distinguished/well known; labour pain — hurt at work; lactose — people without toes; lymph — walk unsteadily; microbes — small dressing gown; obesity — city of Obe; pacemaker — winner of Nobel Peace prize; pulse — grain; pus — small cat; red blood count — dracula; tablet — small table; urine — opposite of you're out; vericose — very close; secretion — hiding anything; ultrasound — radical noise.

(Courtesy: Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)

Repairing trousers

Banta came home from the office and found Banto sobbing. She told him: "I feel guilty I was ironing your suit and I burnt a big hole in the seat of your pants."
Banta consoled her: "Forget it, remember that I have got an extra pair of pants for that suit."

"Yes, and it's lucky you have, I used them to patch the hole," said Banto drying her eyes.

(Contributed by Shivtar Singh Dalia, Ludhiana)







I have found that there are three types of mirror-gazers.

There's something about a mirror that transfixes most men. Not that woman aren't mesmerised with their mirror image but that the female preoccupation is more private, a boudoir ritual. With males, anything that holds the mirror up to nature will do and they will gladly amputate anything before admitting it!

My fascination with the male gaze began when I lost my innocence to a rather strange act of voyeurism. Parked on a busy road, with darkened windows rolled up, I saw to my amusement two young men leaning against my bonnet. At first, I thought that they were acting 'fresh' and waited with bated breath for the next move so I could vent my feminist spiel on them. To my disappointment they were happily oblivious of my presence behind the shady glass, so I settled down for some bucket seat entertainment.

One of them sauntered up to the window, adjusted the side mirror and then bent his knees to peer into it. He turned from side to side, checking his side burns or lack of it, styling some oily strands over his weathered collar, all the time humming a tune.

Then there was a flick of his wrist, and a dive into his back pocket, which had me worried for a second. Presto! There he was brandishing his styling weapon with as much flourish as Bond, his gun. I knew that we had reached the thrilling climax of this art movie, when he wet his forefinger and styled his forelock with a flourish.

Just as I thought I was going to have another fetching display of male vanity by the next fop, my friend arrived and angrily yelled at them to park their bodies elsewhere.


Since then, I have been happily subverting the male gaze with my "I spy with my little eye routine" and have found that there are three types of mirror-gazers. The first are the metro sexual narcissists who will actively seek out a mirror or monopolise one. Their self-absorption crowned with interesting rituals makes them look like high priests of a mythic cult of male beauty.

The next lot, the Alpha Romeos generally love what they see and play to the gallery. You will find them in mirrored hallways and stairways, looking at you looking at them. As if on cue you will notice a casual, effortless sucking in of breath to hold wobbly things in place, a nonchalant flexing of muscles, a broadening of the chest and a swagger to give any strutting peacock worth his feathers, some tough competition.

Out of range of a mirror or a glass, they revert to being your average limp biscuit.

The last category, has my sympathy, they are generally men who are shy or don't like what they see but cannot deny their fear and fascination. You will notice how they will, like ferrets, steal a quick, furtive glance before they casually correct the image that has startled them. Past the mirror, there will be a smooth pat on the head to cover a patch or a nervous swipe of a sweaty face with a handkerchief or a quick pulling up of the waistband to cover an errant bulge.

As I write this, I can spy with my myopic eye, my 8-year-old striking a pose in front of his full length mirror. Without doubt he belongs to the first category. Mirror, mirror, on the wall…



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




In two consolidated cases on Monday, the Supreme Court will hear argument about an Arizona law that levels the playing field in state elections, by a public financing mechanism called triggered matching funds. These funds support, expand and promote political speech, carrying out a central purpose of the First Amendment.


The mechanism has the bipartisan support of business leaders as "a welcome increase in speech, not a limitation of speech." It has the support of respected former state judges who know that this and similar public financing mechanisms are the best way to eliminate corruption from state judicial elections. It deserves the Supreme Court's strong endorsement.


Arizona provides a set amount of money in initial public support for a campaign to candidates who opt into its financing system, depending on the type of election. If such a candidate faces a rival who has opted out, the state will match what the opponent raises in private donations, up to triple the initial amount. The amount raised in private donations triggers the matching funds.


Three years ago, the court struck down the "millionaires' amendment" to the McCain-Feingold federal election law, which leveled the field in federal elections in a different way, by raising limits on contributions for candidates outspent by self-financed opponents. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. called it "an unprecedented penalty on any candidate who robustly exercises" free-speech rights. Translation: rich enough to spend his own money on a campaign.


This page found that wholly unpersuasive. The amendment added to the total amount of speech by making it easier for less-wealthy candidates to be heard. But with that precedent on the books, it is important to understand why it shouldn't be applied in the Arizona cases. There is a fundamental difference between the millionaires' amendment and the Arizona mechanism.


Because the amendment dealt with raising contribution limits, in theory it involved a prospect of more money from donors and more, not less, risk of political wrongdoing, like bribery; the amendment displeased the court in part because it didn't combat corruption. The Arizona mechanism, by contrast, was designed to reduce both the risk and the appearance of corruption, which makes public financing appealing generally to the court and should make it appealing in these cases.


In addition, the court considers limits on contributions like those of the amendment as restrictions on speech. Rather than involving contribution limits, the Arizona mechanism involves public financing by the state. This difference is crucial. To the extent Justice Alito and others focus on the mechanism's First Amendment implications, they should reach the heartening conclusion that more public financing means more political speech in a calibrated way that combats corruption.


Striking down the mechanism would reduce speech and undermine Arizona's effort to rid itself of political corruption. It would provide new proof that the court is hostile to campaign finance laws without good reason.








There may have been a time when Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, could have maneuvered a more graceful departure from the office he has held for three decades. But he has lost his legitimacy and should go as quickly as possible. Continued instability is not good for Yemen or for the United States-led fight against Al Qaeda.


For nearly two months, Mr. Saleh weathered increasing pressure from youth-led demonstrations demanding his resignation and a more accountable and democratic system. The tide turned on March 18. At least 50 protesters were killed, apparently by snipers loyal to the regime.


Since then, a surprising number of high-level government officials, including military commanders and ambassadors, as well as tribal leaders, have joined the opposition. The most significant: Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, who this week directed his troops to protect the antigovernment demonstrators.


Protesters, so far, have rejected Mr. Saleh's attempted concessions. They have little reason to trust him: He has long promised reforms and never delivered. Even now, he is sending mixed messages. On Thursday, he vowed to defend himself by "all possible means." On Friday, he said he was ready to yield power but only if he could hand it over to what he termed "safe hands."


Still, there is talk of a deal. In Yemen's complex tribal culture, President Saleh, a survivor, may survive again. The Obama administration, using quiet diplomacy, at first tried to persuade him to respond peacefully and credibly to popular demands. Now with Saudi Arabia, Yemen's patron, it should press him even harder to accept a quick and peaceful transfer of power to a caretaker government that broadly reflects Yemeni society. It would lay the ground for elections.


Yemen is a shaky state. It is running out of water and oil, and 43 percent of its people are impoverished. It is battling separatists in the south, insurgents in the north and — with Washington's frequent participation — one of Al Qaeda's strongest affiliates. A brutal civil war or a prolonged power vacuum will only make a bad situation even worse.



. ***************************************






Nearly four decades ago, amid repeated scandals, New York State closed the huge state hospitals that essentially warehoused the developmentally disabled. Now, an investigation by The Times has shown that New York's group homes for the disabled — thousands of widely dispersed, state-licensed residences that were intended to replace and mitigate the cruelty of the warehouses — have themselves gone to rot.


The system, as Danny Hakim reported, operates with little oversight and tolerates shocking abuses. Employees who sexually attack, beat, berate or neglect patients can do so with little risk of punishment. Crimes are not reported, accusations are ignored by senior officials, repeat abusers are shuffled from home to home. A web of union rules shields problem employees.


There were 13,000 allegations of abuse in group homes in 2009 alone, though fewer than 5 percent were referred to law enforcement. The state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities prefers to investigate such matters internally, even though, as The Times reported, it does not use standard evidence-gathering techniques and its investigators generally lack training.


The results speak for themselves. The Times reviewed 399 disciplinary cases involving 233 state workers accused since 2008 of serious offenses like physical abuse and neglect. Each case involved substantiated charges against a worker who had already been disciplined at least once. In one-quarter of the cases involving physical, sexual or psychological abuse, the workers were transferred to other homes. The state tried to fire 129. Against stiff resistance from the Civil Service Employees Association, it fired only 30.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already dismissed Max Chmura, who led the agency, and Jane Lynch, chief operating officer of the state's Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons With Disabilities. There may be more dismissals and hearings. But the cleanup also has to be bottom-up, bringing not just better oversight but better employees.


Group homes cannot be havens for repeat offenders, and worker education and training must be improved. Caring for the disabled with autism and cerebral palsy is challenging work, requiring gentleness, strength and imagination. These are decent union jobs, but the state must ensure that qualified people fill them.


The answer is not a return to centralized control, to the disgraceful era of Willowbrook State School. The disabled deserve to live in surroundings as close as possible to those of normal family life. The answer lies in the state's urgent obligation to protect those who cannot defend themselves.








One hundred years ago, during the last great American conniption over immigration, the United States government went to unheard-of effort and expense to peer deep into the bubbling melting pot to find out, as this paper put it, "just what is being melted."


A commission led by Senator William Dillingham, a Republican of Vermont, spent four years and $1 million on the project. Hundreds of researchers crisscrossed the country bearing notebooks and the latest scientific doctrines about race, psychology and anatomy.


They studied immigrants in mining and manufacturing, in prisons and on farms, in charity wards, hospitals and brothels. They drew maps and compared skulls. By 1911, they published the findings in 41 volumes, including a "Dictionary of Races or Peoples," cataloging the world not by country but by racial pedigree, Abyssinians to Zyrians.


Forty-one volumes, all of it garbage.


The Dillingham Commission is remembered today, if it is remembered at all, as a relic of the age of eugenics, the idea that humanity can be improved through careful breeding, that inferior races muddy the gene pool. In this case, it was the swelling multitudes from southern and eastern Europe — Italians, Russians, Jews, others — who kept America's Anglo-Saxons up at night.


I pored over the brittle pages of the report recently at the New York Public Library (they are available online). It was a cold plunge back to a time before white people existed — as a generic category, that is. Europeans were a motley lot then. Caucasians could be Aryan, Semitic or Euskaric; Aryans could be Teutonic, Celtic, Slavonic, Iranic or something else. And that was before you got down to Ruthenians and Russians, Dalmatians and Greeks, French and Italians. Subdivisions had subdivisions. And race and physiognomy controlled intelligence and character.


"Ruthenians are still more broadheaded than the Great Russians," we learn. "This is taken to indicate a greater Tartar (Mongolian) admixture than is found among the latter, probably as does also the smaller nose, more scanty beard, and somewhat darker complexion." Bohemians "are the most nearly like Western Europeans of all the Slavs." "Their weight of brain is said to be greater than that of any other people in Europe."


See if you can identify these types:


A) "cool, deliberate, patient, practical," "capable of great progress in the political and social organization of modern civilization."


B) "excitable, impulsive, highly imaginative," but "having little adaptability to highly organized society."


C) possessing a "sound, reliable temperament, rugged build and a dense, weather-resistant wiry coat."


A) is a northern Italian. B) is a southern Italian. C) is a giant schnauzer, according to the American Kennel Club. I threw that in, just for comparison.


The commission had many recommendations: bar the Japanese; set country quotas; enact literacy tests; impose stiff fees to keep out the poor.


These poison seeds bore fruit by the early 1920s, with literacy tests, new restrictions on Asians and permanent quotas by country, all to preserve the Anglo-Saxon national identity that was thought to have existed before 1910.


It's hard not to feel some gratitude when reading the Dillingham reports. Whatever else our government does wrong, at least it no longer says of Africans: "They are alike in inhabiting hot countries and in belonging to the lowest division of mankind from an evolutionary standpoint."


But other passages prompt the chill of recognition. Dillingham's spirit lives on today in Congress and the states, in lawmakers who rail against immigrants as a class of criminals, an invading army spreading disease and social ruin.


Who brandish unlawful status as proof of immigrants' moral deficiency rather than the bankruptcy of our laws. Who condemn "illegals" but refuse to let anyone become legal. And who forget what generations of assimilation and intermarriage have shown: that today's scary aliens invariably have American grandchildren who know little and care less about the old country.


It's no longer acceptable to mention race, but fretting about newcomers' education, poverty and assimilability is an effective substitute. After 100 years, we're a better country, but still frightened by old shadows.








Our question for today is: How do the potential Republican presidential nominees stack up on Libya?


Also, who has the best name? It has come to our attention that the most likely candidates at this point are Newt, Mitt and T-Paw. A country with a president named Barack is obviously willing to go with the flow on these matters. Still, the lineup for the Republican debates is going to sound like a wrestling tag-team match.


I love this subject! Perhaps if we talk about it long enough I will get a chance to point out once again that Representative Connie Mack of Florida, who surprised everyone by announcing Friday that he would not run for Senator Bill Nelson's seat in 2012, is actually named Cornelius Harvey McGillicuddy IV.


O.K. About Libya. Earlier this month, Newton "Newt" Gingrich told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News that if he was in charge of the country the first thing he would do about Libya would be to "exercise a no-fly zone this evening."


Then President Obama made exactly that decision. Newt must have been thrilled!

"I would not have intervened," he told Matt Lauer on the "Today" show.


Cynics might suspect that Gingrich's only real principle is to be opposed to whatever Obama is doing. But give him a break. The man has spent years as a TV talking head, a job that puts a premium on having lots and lots of strong opinions, even if they are the exact opposite of the ones you were floating the day before. This is totally different from the duty of presidential candidate, which is to say the exact same thing over and over with an enthusiasm that suggests you just thought of the idea that very minute.


Timothy "T-Paw" Pawlenty, told a Vanderbilt student TV reporter this week that the Libyan situation was "a very complex matter," with no easy answers available. He's also posted a rant on his Facebook page about the White House's failure to "use all tools at its disposal to pressure el-Qaddafi to stop the violence and to step down." So possibly not all that complicated after all.


Pawlenty is perhaps the closest thing we have now to a major declared Republican candidate. These days you don't just throw your hat in the ring. You put the hat on a coat rack in the general vicinity of the ring, and then you have your supporters move the coat rack closer and closer, until it is finally time to take the hat down, put it right next to the ring and wait for a strong gust of wind.


In a big news moment this week, the Pawlenty campaign released a stirring video filled with shots of smiling workers, Ronald Reagan, farmers harvesting wheat, flags and golden retrievers in which T-Paw talks about taking back America and then, to a triumphant swell of music, concludes: "That's why today, I'm announcing the creation of an exploratory committee."


But back to Libya. Willard "Mitt" Romney supports the current mission, except for the part where it's run by Barack Obama. Mitt told a conservative radio host this week that the president is weak because of "his fundamental disbelief in American exceptionalism." This is part of a widespread Republican theory that simply believing that our country is a great and unique nation is not enough unless you also run around the world publicly pointing out to our allies that we are way, way better than they are.


This fatal flaw, Romney said, has left Obama "tentative, indecisive, timid and nuanced." The worst thing you can have when you're working on diplomacy is nuance.


Also, perhaps I should point out that Romney was named after J. Willard Marriott, the hotel guy. And that he once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car.


Haley "Haley" Barbour has been much less enthusiastic about the whole intervention idea than people like Romney. Ditto for Representative Michele ("I don't have a nickname, but I do have a funny spelling") Bachmann. Double ditto for Representative Ronald "Ron" Paul, who may run for president again this season. And his son, Senator Randal "Rand" Paul, who may jump in himself if Dad doesn't.


If we get a Paul, I hope it's Rand, who sort of stole my heart at a recent Senate hearing on energy-efficiency standards, in which he blasted an Energy Department official, saying: "You don't care about the consumer, really. Frankly, my toilets don't work in my house and I blame you."


However, I do not think we need to dwell on the Libya positions of this last bunch yet. There's a limit to how much time you want to devote to remote possibilities. At minimum, they should be willing to do what Newt did and hold a press conference to announce the formation of an exploratory committee and then fail to actually announce it.


Demand commitment. Otherwise, you will wind up like me, facing the terrible prospect of having to read three books by Mike Huckabee for no reason whatsoever.


Charles M. Blow is off today.








So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.


Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.


Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.


The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.


Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.


There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.


Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn't be, and didn't used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.


The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation's wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.


This inequality, in which an enormous segment of the population struggles while the fortunate few ride the gravy train, is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences.


A stark example of the fundamental unfairness that is now so widespread was in The New York Times on Friday under the headline: "G.E.'s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether." Despite profits of $14.2 billion — $5.1 billion from its operations in the United States — General Electric did not have to pay any U.S. taxes last year.


As The Times's David Kocieniewski reported, "Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore."


G.E. is the nation's largest corporation. Its chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, is the leader of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. You can understand how ordinary workers might look at this cozy corporate-government arrangement and conclude that it is not fully committed to the best interests of working people.


Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.


New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.


This is my last column for The New York Times after an exhilarating, nearly 18-year run. I'm off to write a book and expand my efforts on behalf of working people, the poor and others who are struggling in our society. My thanks to all the readers who have been so kind to me over the years. I can be reached going forward at








ON Monday, the Supreme Court will consider its first campaign-finance challenge since Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 ruling that permits corporations and unions to spend as much as they wish to promote or defeat political candidates. Based on Citizens United, it might appear that the court would be inclined to wipe away all regulation of campaign finance. But that view would be mistaken.


The court will hear a pair of challenges to an Arizona law that provides public financing for candidates who agree to forgo private contributions, including their own. Under the law, adopted in 1998 as a citizen initiative in the wake of election scandals, Arizona allocates additional money to publicly financed candidates when their privately financed opponents spend more than a specified amount.


These challenges are being brought by political action committees and candidates for state office who say that the law violates their free speech rights. But it is the defenders of public financing schemes like Arizona's who have the First Amendment at their back. And they have Citizens United, with its broad protection for speech in the public square, on their side. (We submitted an amicus brief supporting the Arizona law on behalf of a bipartisan group of former elected officials.)


The First Amendment forbids any law "abridging the freedom of speech." While fearing the corrupting effects of unrestrained campaign spending, the people of Arizona abridged no speech, forbade nothing, restricted nothing. Instead, they followed the principle, set forth by Justices Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in the 1927 case Whitney v. California, that the remedy for speech that is threatening or inconvenient is "more speech."


Contrary to the challengers' claims, the Arizona law doesn't prevent privately financed candidates from speaking or spending as much as they like, or from raising as much as they like, or from raising as much money as they need. Nor does it place any limits on how much anyone may spend in support or opposition to a candidate. The law simply ensures that, when a candidate relying on private money speaks, the publicly financed candidate has the money to answer.


The notion that more speech inhibits or corrupts public debate contradicts the very premises of the Citizens United decision that government has no business limiting the source, content or quality of the speech deployed in debate. Indeed, decades of free speech opinions proclaim that the government has no business shutting down speech no matter what it says or who is saying it; it will not prohibit hate speech, for example, or speech glorifying the sexual subjugation of women. Our First Amendment law trusts the people to choose what they will listen to and whom they will believe.


That noble, deep tradition has stood up against every claim that certain speech will confuse or mislead or drown out the more virtuous speech of others. The Arizona challengers in the two cases — McComish v. Bennett and Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett — believe their speech will be swamped by publicly financed candidates. That "drowning out" argument may be accepted in other countries, but our First Amendment denies that more speech silences the speech it challenges: it only answers it.


Of course, because publicly financed campaigns involve the government's footing the bill for answering speech, that speech is portrayed as being in a different category. That too is an argument that runs against our free speech law. Over and over — whether it is financing artistic creativity, or campaigns against smoking or for premarital abstinence — the Supreme Court has insisted that government may add its voice to the private debate without being thought to inhibit or drown out the message of private speakers. And the Arizona law does not even pick the message, but merely adds to the voice of any qualifying candidate.


The broadest attacks on the Arizona statute, outlined in amicus briefs before the Supreme Court, would make any provision of public financing unconstitutional. But public financing — provided by 16 states and numerous local governments, including New York City — remains an important option for governments interested in providing candidates with an alternative to dependence on private contributions.


To suggest that this facilitation of speech by the government itself violates the First Amendment is perverse, and deeply antithetical to the nation's First Amendment tradition. To prevail in this case, the challengers would have to countermand the very principles of the wide open, free and uninhibited nature of our campaign finance regime which in other contexts they celebrate. The principles of Citizens United should lead the Supreme Court to uphold Arizona's campaign finance law.


Charles Fried, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard, was the solicitor general in the second Reagan administration. Cliff Sloan, a lawyer, is a former publisher of Slate.








"In the spring," famed English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) wrote, "a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." Well, it's spring, and that's still true.


But young American men's springtime love affairs have long involved cars as well. New models may generally come out in the fall — and how excited motorists get about new cars from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler historically determined how well our economy would run. But driving with the windows or the top down in spring has a special allure.


For decades, of course, many cars have entered the American market from Japan, Germany, South Korea and other countries as well.


But for many a year, the car business in America centered around Detroit, the Motor City.


Sadly, for reasons ranging from poor management to bloated union contracts to outside competition, U.S. automobile manufacturing fell on hard times in more recent years. And that means Detroit has fallen on hard times, too.


Detroit in 1950 — booming with U.S. car production — had an impressive population of 1.8 million. It was our fifth-largest city. But Detroit's population in 2010 was down to only 713,777.


We feel for the people of Detroit and for the entire state of Michigan, where unemployment is 10.4 percent — compared with 8.9 percent nationally.


But we are glad that many "foreign" cars are going to be made in Chattanooga. Chattanoogans and residents of the surrounding area soon will be turning out thousands of Volkswagens.


Well, it's spring. Cars (and love) still stir a young man's fancy. And wherever they are produced, cars are still very important to the economy.







Among those who have ruefully noted the first anniversary since President Barack Obama signed the disastrous ObamaCare legislation into law is U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.


Corker appropriately voted against ObamaCare because, he states frankly, it fails to address huge costs and imposes big burdens on national and state budgets.


"There is not a thinking person in Washington who believes this health care law will work as designed because it doesn't solve the biggest problem in our health care system, which is cost," he declared in a recent news release.


In addition to raising federal spending on medical care — in a time of record debt — the law places a massive unfunded mandate on the states, as even Democrat former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen lamented.


Corker notes, "Large employers will be discouraged from providing coverage because they could abandon their health plans, pay the [federal] penalties and still save millions of dollars by passing the burden onto taxpayers. And for anyone concerned about the future of Medicare, the law spends $530 billion in Medicare savings instead of using those funds to extend the life of the program."


That's important because Medicare's insolvency is already only a few years away.


It is no wonder Corker has called for repeal of ObamaCare. The peril of leaving it in place is too great.







U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is one of many Americans who are very much concerned about the costly mistake Democrats in Congress made when they passed ObamaCare.


He pointed out to the president during a 2010 health care summit that ObamaCare would raise individual premiums. The president's response? "[T]hat's just not the case."


Only it is the case. And it's not budget-busting ObamaCare's only problem.


"Today, individual premiums are increasing, taxes are going up, and Medicare is getting cut," Alexander wrote in a recent statement.


Plus more than a thousand employers and organizations have had to get exemptions from the program's onerous mandates because they simply couldn't afford them. And that's before it fully takes effect!


Alexander pledged to continue seeking repeal of ObamaCare — even if that is difficult — and to seek more reasonable cost-cutting measures, such as letting people purchase insurance across state lines.


That is a better approach, he noted, than "expanding a system that already costs too much."






The American Revolution in 1776 won our independence. There unfortunately have been multiple wars since. But our longest war is one we are engaged in now, in Afghanistan.


It began Oct. 7, 2001, in response to the Afghanistan-based terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.


Almost a decade later, American troops are still in Afghanistan. How and when can we find a satisfactory end that does not allow terrorists there to attack us again?








A lot of political parties in the world must be envious of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. For it operates in the absence of a strong and effective opposition.

A strong and effective opposition does not mean obviously objecting to every decision of the government, which was pretty much what the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, had been doing prior to the new leadership of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. The party's new leader preferred to abstain from objecting only for the sake of objecting.

Yet this stance has added further confusion to the party's policy lines on specific issues.

Take the CHP's stake on the nuclear energy issue. The disaster in Japan has increased the concerns even among those who are not categorically against the nuclear option to cover Turkey's energy needs. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to Moscow, which included finalizing the details of an agreement to built a nuclear power plant in southern Turkey right in the midst of the nuclear tragedy in Japan, has offered a golden opportunity to the CHP to lead a campaign to exert pressure on the ruling government for a more transparent process that would bring the deal with Russia under close scrutiny.

To keep repeating that the government insists on the project benefiting one pro-AKP company, although not irrelevant at all, is by itself, however, not enough to demonstrate the risks of signing an agreement that could have deadly consequences. The CHP has unfortunately missed the opportunity to be the spokesperson of those who have serious reservations about the power plant to be built in Mersin and to mobilize those who until now were not aware of the perils of a deal that remains dubious for experts.

As well, take the CHP's stance on the Libya issue. The AKP's U-turn, from a statement calling NATO intervention in Libya an absurdity to sending five warships and a submarine as part of the NATO operation, is crystal clear even in the eyes of those who are not necessarily foreign policy gurus. Opposition anywhere else in the world would have seized the opportunity to show that the government has been inconsistent in its policies since the troubles began in Libya.

All the CHP leader came up with in his weak parliamentary speech was to recycle the fact that Prime Minister Erdoğan received a human rights award from Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Recycling this criticism falls short of drawing attention to the loopholes in the government's policies.

Abusing foreign policy issues to make gains in domestic politics is by all means a reflex to be condemned. Yet the CHP's latest stance on the ruling government's policies seems to be stemming from pure incompetence, rather than any motivation to be a responsible opposition.

The CHP should not waste any more time and better organize itself to scrutinize the government's policy choices that will have serious consequences for the country.






Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was thundering at the parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday: "We did everything in order to avoid a massacre of brothers, a chaos. We wanted Libya to solve its problems on its own, not through external interference and to determine its direction on its own. (…) We suggested Moammar Gadhafi officially leave his seat to a person who is unanimously acceptable and trustworthy." Now, what's all these? That means Gadhafi proponents, possessing all of the weapons, cutting the opponents into pieces since Gadhafi, who destroyed the opposition for so long, wouldn't leave his seat voluntarily just because Erdoğan says so. It also means Turkey is against any kind of military intervention as Libya should decide its fate on its own, i.e. through civil war!

Unfortunately, the world doesn't turn the way Erdoğan wishes. One should know that, in today's trendy expression, the "blood running" doesn't stop by compassionate statements of the Turkish government calling for a ceasefire and inviting Gadhafi to act wisely.

Sadly so, the same Turkey, and the memory is vivid, was shouting exactly the opposite against the massacres committed by Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo. Serbs were having all of the weapons then just like Gadhafi supporters have today. The same Turkey was rightly calling for a military intervention against such a double standard and criticizing callousness of the international community, of François Mitterrand's France in particular. It even joined the air operation in Kosovo. It's true, it was not the same government, but then the predecessors of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, were for a military intervention.

Hence it means the position is different if the aggrieved is Muslim and the aggressor Christian and if the aggressor is a Muslim too, it is again different! Today, the government doesn't see anything wrong with speaking in the way the Western Europe spoke in those dark days of former Yugoslavia.

People who are getting killed should not and cannot be classified as Muslim or Christian. In the final analysis, the calculations and double standards of the West, of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and of Turkey do not change the fact that the air operation has prevented a massacre in Benghazi for now. This may be inadequate or invaluable in the eye of the Turkish government, but it is priceless for people living in Benghazi.

Preparing for the post-Gadhafi era

Russia being at the top, arms producers as well as countries and companies involved in oil and construction business, including Turkey, have ignored Gadhafi's despotism for decades. In season and out of season, everyone has filled his pocket with projects reflecting Gadhafi's megalomania. So, no one is blameless. The regime, despite tremendous opportunities in hand (there is a talk of $150 billion reserve here), is about to collapse due to political errors and mismanagement. Since there is no other noteworthy alternative to Gadhafi, the country has come to the edge of a civil war.

Obviously, it is not easy to design politics out of the prevailing situation. Difficult days wait for Libya, hence for everyone who is involved in Libya. When and how the military operation will come to an end and when the ceasefire will take place are unknown. Instability in Libya would harm everybody, Libyans in particular. With a bird-eye view, a few annoying developments come to mind:

The future of Tunisia and Egypt uprisings didn't seem bright with a Libya led by Gadhafi; but if it continued the instability has the potential to have other negative effects in Egypt and Tunisia, whose migrants were working there. Illegal migration from Africa, which has been a nightmare for Europe for years, might now hit the coasts of Europe via Libya. Penetration attempts of "al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb" fighters which are active on the axis of southern Algeria, Mali and Niger in the Sahara, into Libya might now succeed. Although Libya is not a key oil producer, in economic sense, failing infrastructure projects in the country and problems in oil flow might create setbacks in the long run.

For all of these and other unpredictable reasons, countries that have interests in the stability of the country and of the South Mediterranean and North Africa should stop quarreling and blaming each other and get together in a way to clear the way for new policies in Libya. The contributions of Turkey, in touch with all Libyan sides, are important in this context, but without forgetting that these contributions need to be coordinated with all countries in the coalition. The recent decision to send warships to the region looks as tough, despite early mumbling and tough talk, the government is now getting there.







The fight in Libya proved to be much harder to deal with for countries both in the West and East. Turkey has been no exception to that, especially as a Muslim member country of NATO which has aspirations to lead the Middle East at the same time as having extensive interests in Libya.

"We welcome Turkey to the world of double standards as a regional leader," said one Washington-based Turkey observer this week when I asked him to comment on Turkey's approach to Libya. According to this expert, someone who sat and talked with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently, Turkey's sharp and abrupt oppositions to the sanctions on Libyan regime, then the NATO involvement and any foreign intervention mostly stemmed from Erdoğan's "emotional reactions."

Indeed, Erdoğan's "What has NATO got to do in Libya?" inveigh will not easily fade from memories, when we observe now that same Turkish administration contributing the largest fleet to implement a naval blockade of Libya in support of the United Nations' arms embargo.

Another Turkey observer in Washington described Turkey's Libya policy in the following fashion, "From the beginning of the Libyan crisis, Turkish foreign policy has resembled a car that is going in the wrong direction at 200 kilometers per hour, at the same time trying to convince the other cars that they are going in the wrong direction."

At the start of the crisis, Turkey articulated extensively about its immediate concerns in Libya, pointing to its tens of thousands of citizens, along with billions of dollars in investments. Ankara's legitimate concerns were well understood in Washington in those weeks, and its cautious steps also appeared justified in the first period. After all, Ankara had every right to look after its own interests as a foreign state, like any other.

Though Ankara's real issue, along with its knee-jerk sharp opposition to intervention calls, was its inability to adjust its position according to rapidly changing international public opinion that gained momentum against Gadhafi over the weeks. Erdoğan, following the military operation, finally stated at beginning of this week that he privately told Gadhafi to step down three weeks ago to alleviate mounting criticism against his administration's soft take on Gadhafi's ruthless actions.

Turkey also missed the chance by not taking a lead role to rally behind the United Nations Security Council resolution vocally, when Gadhafi forces were taking back other cities and getting closer to Benghazi to wipe out the rebels.

Instead of emphasizing this imminent and clear humanitarian situation and taking an active part with the coalition forces as an aspiring regional power, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP's top foreign officials mounted very vague accusations against the West for it is pursuing its own "oil interest" and also failing to overcome its Orientalist mindset.

Erdoğan's top foreign policy adviser İbrahim Kalın's recent columns in Today's Zaman open a wide window of opportunity to read Ankara's ideological stand point on the matter. Kalın's "Overcoming Orientalism and Eurocentrism in the Middle East" piece especially argues this mindset and states that "the soft revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the uprisings in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and other places have one thing in common: Arabs do not want to be ruled by dictators. This is the first lesson for Arab Orientalism."

The real dilemma here is for Kalın that it is Washington, and Ankara's nowadays much disfavoring capital Paris, who took the initiative to stop dictator's forces at the outskirts of Benghazi, with starting its aerial bombing campaign while Turkey's foreign minister was calling for "no foreign intervention."

Another argument used by Ankara is that it is Nicolas Sarkozy, an unpopular French leader who appears to be trailing other presidential candidates in his country, who pressured U.S. President Obama to start the air strike campaign last weekend, when actually Turkey was working on a diplomatic solution.

When I conveyed this argument to a Washington expert who was familiar with the decision-making process that went on at the White House's National Security Council last weekend, he chuckled and stated, "Nobody in the world would pressure a U.S. president into a conflict that he is not entirely comfortable with the reasons, particularly at a time when there are two wars to handle."

This expert added, "It took hours at the NSC to work on that decision when Obama's Latin America travel plans were ongoing." Obama also risks big with this intervention, an operation that appears to have a real potential to drag into the open-ended conflict, while he was supposed to end the wars and solve budget woes.

As a Muslim member of NATO, and with its heavy ties with Libya, Turkey had a big stake over the affairs related to Libya, and its long hours of diplomacy especially on Thursday in Brussels ought to be respected. Turkey's cautions about civilian causalities in Libya also is very dignified and makes a lot of sense when considering civilian death news reports in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Now that the decision has been reached by NATO members to take charge of the no-fly zone imposition over Libyan airspace, and there is a real possibility in the coming days of also taking over the mission of protecting civilians against the Gadhafi regime, Turkey's role will be equally crucial with regard to use of force if necessary to deter Gadhafi forces from slaughtering rebels.

At any rate, Turkey once more has become an actor within NATO to threaten to block a major decision, following the Lisbon NATO summit in late last year where Turkey had serious issues with the concept of the missile defense shield and also previously had serious objections during the appointment process of current NATO chief Rasmussen.

Ankara's pointed statements about the West's intentions on Libya also continued to draw a picture of Turkey in Washington that is increasingly at odds with the Western interests and general understandings with the world affairs.

Whether the pattern of Turkey's opposing posture at stages like NATO is a signal of changing ideologies of the country, plain unpreparedness before the rapidly evolving Arab world or pure conflicting national interests is up for a debate. The answer well maybe a mix of all three.

 Even in case of a greatly disturbed dictator who openly threatens to show "no mercy" on his own citizens, the AKP foreign policy team ran to borrow good old "Orientalism" arguments, in addition to fueling lots of conspiracy theories to catch fires among the Turkish public and foreign policy writers.

It is true that no living creature in the world is able to predict what the next step in Libya is. Though the revolt fever appears to be catching in Syria, Erdoğan's great friend's land, and promising to get even closer to Ankara's heart without any sign of an end in sight.

For region and Turkey's salvation, it can be only hoped that Libya missteps would give Davutoglu's team a good wake up call to work on a comprehensive foreign policy principals that can respond and support Arab peoples' universal demands in clear terms even if every country that is dealing with revolts has its own set of circumstances.

TESEV survey in Washington

On Thursday morning, the Center for American Progress, a think tank that is closely aligned with the current Obama administration, hosted Dr. Mensur Akgün and the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, or TESEV, to present their survey, called "the perception of Turkey in the Middle East 2010." The survey follows last year's first-ever survey taken in seven Middle Eastern countries, plus Iran.

The survey was taken before the wave of revolts began, and with a sample size of on average less than 300 people in each country. TESEV's survey puts Turkey's favorability rate among Arab people at 80 percent in 2010, following 75 percent in 2009.

According to the same survey, Turkey's "Muslim background" is the most important reason for Arabs to consider it as a model by 15 percentage points, followed by its economy, then democracy and vocal support for Palestinians cause.

It is known that Turkey's Foreign Ministry was quite happy with the results of the survey, which consists of high favorability rates as well as other remarkably high perceptions towards Turkey.

The next survey will be definitely very telling about Turkey's performance when it comes to the big Arab Spring of 2011.







While democracy is advancing in Turkey, 68 journalists – at least for now – are imprisoned with hundreds more being prosecuted due to their journalistic activities. This country, which wishes to join the European Union one day in the future, ranks 138th in the Reporters Sans Frontiers index of countries in terms of free media.

While democracy is advancing in Turkey, alongside these journalists, hundreds of people from academia, civil society and the business world have been kept in prisons for years without any conviction. All are counted as members of a never officially recognized terror organization called Ergenekon and have already lost for their hopes of a fair prosecution. The court, with the unique approach of "all persons are guilty under proven innocent," does not hesitate to reject appeals for their releases on the conditions of trial without arrest.

While democracy is advancing in Turkey, the rulers of this country do not give an ear to the calls by almost all international press organizations, the European Union, the United States, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, the Council of Europe, etc. to comply with the international commitments Turkey is part of. Its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan describes the American top envoy here as a "rookie ambassador" because of his critical words on the deteriorating freedom of speech in Turkey. Its former minister argues that the Turkish press is freer than the American press. Its chief negotiator teaches European lesson of history and advises them to look at the mirror before criticizing Turkey.

While democracy is advancing in Turkey, so is the empire of fear, with massive illegal wiretappings that limit the right of communication. Furthermore, the records of these illegal wiretappings are unhesitatingly published in the newspapers and the television channels.

While democracy is advancing in Turkey, the privacy of people which has to be under local and universal rights and principles is violated almost everyday. People feel encircled as many of them believe the judiciary is no longer independent, the media is biased and democratic rights and freedoms are limited through growing pressure from the government.

While democracy is advancing in Turkey, a government-proposed draft law with the purpose of eradicating the backlog of cases against journalists is in fact imposing harsher sentences on reporters. The initiative proves to be immature as it fails to touch on the articles of the anti-terror law from which journalists suffer most.

While democracy is advancing in Turkey, an unpublished book and its manuscripts were confiscated by the police upon an order by Ergenekon prosecutor Zekeriya Öz with the assumption that "it was an organizational document rather than a book." He argued that Ahmet Şık, who was arrested three weeks ago, has written the book titled "The Imam's Army" upon an order from the Ergenekon gang. Which constitutes another first in Turkish history, but of course a first which won't be remembered with humor and joy in the future.

While democracy is advancing in Turkey, the government officials continue to play "the three monkeys," conflicting with their pro-democracy rhetoric they have followed since 2002. While democracy is advancing in Turkey, they prefer to distort the real motive behind the arrest and suppression against the dissents with "absurd rationalization."

This absurdity reminds me a quote from 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, which could be perfectly attributed to our 21st century Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:

"How absurd men are! They never use the liberties they have; they demand those they do not have. They have freedom of thought, they demand freedom of speech!"






Early this week, I received a phone call from Sencer Ayata, a professor of sociology who joined the Republican People's Party, or CHP, a little less than a year ago. He invited me to join a lunch at which the CHP's new "youth report" would be launched. "Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu will also be with us," said Dr. Ayata. "It will be a chance to chat with him."

Pleased with the idea, I said, "Thanks, sure." This was the very first invite I was receiving from the CHP, and it seemed to signal the change the party is going through – or, at least, trying to go through. I also knew that Dr. Ayata, an erudite sociologist and a true social democrat, was a man whose works are worth looking at.

The veil and the CHP

So, on the day of meeting, I headed to the locale, a nice costly restaurant near İstanbul's ever-busy İstiklal Avenue. Kılıçdaroğlu welcomed me and the dozen or more "young journalists" – which was quite a flattering definition for some of us. Besides youth matters, I was also interested in learning what Kılıçdaroğlu thought on my favorite issue: religious freedom. Hence I wanted to ask him about one of the key problems in Turkey regarding that matter: the bans on the headscarf.

First let me give you a background: The new stage in Turkey's never-ending headscarf controversy is about whether veiled women can be elected to Turkish Parliament and serve there with their headscarves on. The only case of a veiled deputy so far was that of Merve Kavakçı, who was elected in 1999 from the ticket of the Virtue Party, the predecessor of the incumbent Justice and Development Party, or AKP. But the then-31-year-old Ms. Kavakçı was able to stay in Parliament for only 15 minutes, for the militants there (also known as deputies) pushed her out by madly yelling, "Out, out!" Ms. Kavakçı was publicly denounced for "defying the state," and was soon stripped of not just her seat in Parliament but also her very Turkish citizenship.

Yet there is a new campaign now to elect veiled deputies again, and the CHP does not sound as intolerant on this matter as in the past. But Kılıçdaroğlu did not turn out to be too reassuring on this during our pre-lunch discussion. "Of course veiled women can be elected to Parliament," he said. "But then they should obey the parliamentary rules for dress code." In other words, they have to take their veils off. So much for the CHP's freedom agenda.

Not terribly impressed with this answer, I began listening about the presentations about the "youth report" of the CHP. There were certainly good ideas: the shortening of the mandatory military service, social and cultural programs to "empower the youth" and efforts to reach out to uneducated and unemployed women. Other ideas, such as giving "a youth discount" to youngsters in shops, sounded too welfare-state-ish. (If we the state will subsidize the youth, why not the old as well? And, well, why should the middle-agers be excluded? What you will reach at the end of that road is an economic disaster, because the all-subsidizing state will simply run out of money.)

Yet the CHP's socialist tendencies are the least of my problems with the party. What matters more is their stance on political, civil and religious liberties. That's why their focus on education caught my attention. Both Kılıçdaroğlu and his aides explained how they will open more schools all across the country and "expand" education to every corner. And that was all welcome.

Education or indoctrination?

However, I was interested in not just the extent but also the content of the Turkish education system. "Ours is not a system that encourages free and critical thinking," I noted, and recalled the notorious oath that every Turkish student takes every week "to follow Atatürk's path... and to sacrifice my self to Turkish existence." Would the CHP keep such blunt methods of collectivist indoctrination in its new vision?

In his response, Kılıçdaroğlu was again not reassuring. He said "unity" is a very important value to teach school kids, and they can learn about diversity when they go to college. In other words, we must keep on indoctrinating children with a state ideology until they became adults.

Now, I don't want to be unfair to Kılıçdaroğlu – for actually, despite all these criticisms, I liked the man. He is a modest and polite human being with whom you can converse comfortably. (Not a very common trait among Turkish political leaders.) I also support the "winds of change" he is trying to bring to his archaic party. Some of his recent criticisms against the AKP government are also well-placed.

But the CHP needs more "change" than what it is signaling right now. Democrat minds such as Dr. Ayata seem to know that well, and Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu seem to have been rightly benefiting from their vision. But he needs more. It is very hard, if not impossible, to become a social democratic party while staying loyal to the CHP's Kemalist roots.

I don't expect Kılıçdaroğlu and his team to reject Kemalism categorically – as I do. But they can well declare that it was an ideology for its own time and that Turkey now needs to move forward. This would make them more coherent in their effort to make the CHP an advocate of liberty.






Speaking some time ago, Republican People's Party, or CHP, deputy leader Gürsel Tekin made some vague comments about the choosing of the party's candidates for the upcoming election.

"Starting with me, the candidacy of any of our candidates is not certain yet and not guaranteed either. It is not in Mr. [Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu's nature to give any guarantees to newcomers. The list to be announced on April 11 is important."

This statement has become the harbinger of a storm expected in the upcoming days in the CHP. The arrested Ergenekon suspects Mustafa Balbay, Tuncay Özkan, Sinan Aygün, İlhan Cihaner, and Mustafa Özbek applied to the CHP to stand candidacy for deputy elections. CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu and his team are being pressured to run other Ergenekon suspects as candidacies as well. A few big guns, from the left to the right, are asking the CHP to shoulder responsibility.

The serious pressure is becoming an internal issue in the CHP. For time is running out on whether or not to nominate the Ergenekon suspects and from the sensitive CHP grassroots, a lot of pressure is being observed.

The CHP does not have a homogenous single view on the subject, and that is the point where discussions begin. Will the CHP take a risk to include these names in its party or not?

The final slates will be submitted to the Supreme Election Board on April 11. Since the CHP will have primaries in several provinces, the process will be run until the beginning of April. The CHP Party Assembly is expected to convene on April 8 and 9 to finalize candidacies.

And the Party Assembly meeting will be a milestone in terms of the arrested Ergenekon suspects and the clarification of the CHP's position in the future.

The sides have already begun to take action, and Tekin's move should be evaluated from this perspective. Tekin hasn't said out loud but he is fiercely against the candidacies of the Ergenekon suspects, and at this point he is not alone.

The top administration in the CHP is divided into three: Those who defend the candidacies of the Ergenekon suspects, those who stand against such a practice and those who abstain.

It's rumored that Tekin, İzzet Çetin, Umut Oran, Faik Öztrak and Sezgin Tanrıkulu are objecting to such Ergenekon candidacies; this strong group is also influential on Kılıçdaroğlu.

The group says that the candidacies of Ergenekon suspects will bring no benefit to the party, and they do not look favorably upon people such as Mehmet Haberal, who is from the center-right, and Mustafa Özbek, who comes from a nationalist background.

Süheyl Batum, another deputy leader, has taken the lead among the others who defend the said candidacies and has been seconded by CHP General Secretary Bihlun Tamaylıgil and Gülsün Bilgehan. Batum and his group want to nominate the Ergenekon suspects as a way of showing their objection to the Ergenekon case, believing that the party would become more powerful with such a move.

Other deputy leaders such as Hurşit Güneş, Erdoğan Toprak, and Engin Altay are said to be coy on the subject. In fact, what they want is termed "a soft transition." Top officials, including the names above, are cold toward the candidacies of Haberal, Özkan, and Özbek, but agree that Balbay could be a symbolic nomination.

Some Party Assembly members suggest an "interim formula," thinking that some of the said names could be nominated, but from lower down on the list where they have little chance of getting elected.

It's evident from this divided and fuzzy picture in the CHP that the heated debates will continue in the CHP until early April; how this will be cleared is up to Kılıçdaroğlu.

Kılıçdaroğlu is not showing his hand for now and has not shared his views even with his closest circle as to whether or not the arrested Ergenekon suspects will be nominated. Instead, the leader is taking the pulse of Anatolia on a tour and has asked for a poll testing the party's level of support to be conducted.

Apparently, the CHP leader has not been clear about whether or not to nominate any Ergenekon suspects; instead, he will look at the reactions heading into April, make assessments and then make a final decision. Afterward, Kılıçdaroğlu will try to pass the decision in the Party Assembly.

Without doubt, a serious "Ergenekon crisis" is at the CHP's door.

Perhaps the CHP, too, is taking the most difficult turn in its recent history.

For the decision to be adopted at the Party Assembly will not only help determine the results of the June 12 general elections, but also will be an indicator of the future of Kılıçdaroğlu's leadership in the post-election period.






Stage I: Your boss informs you that you are assigned to lead Turkey. You have mixed feelings. It is an upcoming market with a high growth rate, so it's a great move for your career, but you have never been there. All you know are holiday stories from friends. Therefore, it's an exotic exposure for the family.

Stage II: You arrive at the airport with your wife and both of you are positively impressed. As you boarded the plane with -50 perception level, anything positive hypes you up, even the level of English of the guy picking you up. Away from the kids, a romantic night at a five-star hotel looking over the Bosphorus will for sure help to boost that further. Next day you will look for a house, check the schools, and have a meeting with your predecessor at work. The representative of the company who serves you will keep up with your zillion relevant, irrelevant and occasionally ridiculous questions, including repetitive ones like "now again, which part is Asia?"

Stage III: Your predecessor and his wife will take you guys out for dinner. All night long you will talk about whether you should live in the city along Bosphorus with a great view or out in the country where you have two options; Zekeriyaköy or Kemer Country. You have to determine whether you will pay an additional fee on top of your company allowance for rent for a large house and a yard for the kids. At the end you will realize that the condition of the kitchen will become the most important determining factor. Now you know you are in a bigger version of any European city where east meets west and creates a great variety. Driving is a nightmare even if you do not drive yourself. You are wondering about how your wife will survive. Other than that, living standards for sure will be better than home and all will be paid for by the company.

Stage IV: A whole year has passed. The kids are all right at an international school. It sounded like an absurd idea at first, but you bought a blue-plate jeep for your wife as advised by your friends. Now she drives like a Turk. You have a cleaning lady and a babysitter that you didn't have at home. That gives your wife time to spend time at the coffee sessions of the consulate, work with the international community for a social cause and get together with her new Turkish friends at the brand new, luxurious malls of Istanbul. You are both amazed by the hospitality and the support of the people, but still critique a lot of things when you are together at home or among expats. You've already been to Cappadocia during bayram, home for Christmas and skied during February break at Kartalkaya. You make plans to go for a blue voyage for the summer like all other Turks.

At work your assistant is an angel who takes care of the whole family unlike the one at home who would never do that, but your management team is showing some resistance to your new ideas by responding always with the same sentence "this will not work in Turkey." You put a lot of pressure on them to go ahead, but are scared that they might be right. Some have better academic and work credentials than you do which, from time to time, discomforts you a bit. Checking devaluation and interest rates becomes a daily habit. After a couple trips to Anatolia, you also realize that Istanbul is not Turkey. You have a hard time explaining this to your boss who comes over twice a year, who, in return, reports to his boss who comes over to Istanbul only once a year. You wish you would have a bigger marketing and operational budget to increase your market share, but the big five still gets the large portions in Europe.

Take V: Four years went by and you are assigned to go back home. Kids are unhappy to leave their friends behind. They even started to speak some Turkish, like your wife and yourself. It will be difficult to fit back in your house and previous living conditions. Your wife is already considering a second hand at home.

You are a star in the company who brought constant growth year on year. You love your colleagues who held you back from time to time, but you more or less made a great team. Now you understand how certain things work in Turkey. Many things do not irritate you as you get used to them. You have already become an advocate of the country at home. For sure you will get emotional while you are delivering your farewell speech. Being emotional is a great present you have received from Turkish culture as is developing strong bonds for life. Your will end your speech by saying Turkey will always be your family's second home while the curtain will come down to end the play which you will recall in the future as "Once upon a time in Turkey." 






Japan is still struggling to overcome the catastrophic events of an earthquake, a tsunami and radiation from a damaged nuclear power plant. 

Again, you humans act in ways that are incomprehensible to us birds. We have been observing with interest the panic and reactions of the Europeans. The European mass media is competing to see who will scare the most people. As a result, panic-buying of iodine pills and Geiger counters has started in many European countries. However, the Europeans forget that their continent has already been contaminated by radiation from the 1986 explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. The amount of radiation dispersed by the Chernobyl explosion continues to remain at the same levels as 1986, which are considered dangerous for humans.

In Greece in 2005, a survey was made in the northern part of the country and it was discovered that the radiation levels were high, agricultural products were contaminated and there was a great increase of births of deformed children and cancer. And nobody said anything about it. The authorities did not want to disturb the economy so they let the population slowly die off.

The same applies of course to those areas of Europe that were contaminated by Chernobyl radiation, basically Germany and the Scandinavian countries. The EU does not require that agricultural products be measured for radioactivity because if it had such an obligation, then the European humans would have changed their diet drastically. Instead they are permitted to die and fall sick in blissful oblivion.

On the contrary, the Japanese, with the exception of the two atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, never had any other problems with radiation until now. Their food and agricultural products were basically radiation-free. When the European governments call their citizens to leave Japan, they are essentially inviting them to return to a Europe that is already contaminated by radiation. So why the panic? Japan is far from Europe. And if ever a little more radiation arrives from Japan, it will not change many things since the Europeans are already contaminated and not in good health. If anyone had to panic, it should have been the Japanese. But they did not. And we congratulate them for this. 

A few words about us here. We were appalled to hear from the energy minister and from the prime minister statements to the effect that Turkey will not change its program to construct a nuclear reactor in a seismic zone because of the events in Japan. You humans do not learn from experience. What is wrong with you? We cannot understand. 

Ponder our thoughts, dear humans, for the benefit of our planet.







I was in a shock. I just could not think such a thing could happen in the Turkey of the end of March 2011. A few drops of tears dropped from my eyes. I remembered the cold September 1980 morning. The morning when, in great pain, I burned well over 200 "hazardous" books, products of some "hazardous" brains.

In 1980, I was acting with the residue of the mass fear inflicted on the Turkish society with the mass imprisonment of intellectuals possessing somehow books considered "hazardous" by the emergency law commanders of the 1971 "coup by memorandum" period. Possessing a book considered "hazardous," "dangerous" or simply "communist" just because it was written by a Russian, North Korean, by a citizen of any of the Warsaw Pact countries or simply by someone whose name might be considered to be Russian landed so many intellectuals behind bars in the post 1971 period, where they were subjected to such heinous methods of torture, that in 1980 private libraries were almost emptied and the toilets of houses were turned into Nazi gas chambers. This time to burn books…

How many such "hazardous" books I now have in my study room? One-hundred, 200 or more? I have no idea, but definitely there are many political and non-political books which, if the mentality of criminalizing books or worse banning books not yet published has risen from the grave, I either will have to spend considerable time trying to burn or if I decide I cannot go through such a trauma once again perhaps prefer to spend some time in one of the dungeons of this country which by that time would probably complete its transformation into a secular democratic republic into a theocratic democracy – how that will be achieved or sustained I have no idea.

I want to share today some translated excerpts from T24 news portal's much-respected writer Engin Aydın's article headlined "Muezzin's battalion." As is probably known, in Islam the "muezzin" is the person calling for prayer while the "imam" is the person leading prayers.

Aydın wrote that he has started preparing mentally to write an outstanding book called "Muezzin's battalion." He wrote that in the book he would reveal everything in the police, local branch of the state highways authority, land registry office as well as the state water works authority regional department and if he indeed can publish the book those revelations would turn upside down everything in the country.

"But, how can I work? Since the morning the telephones are ringing painfully. Some of those who call, for some reason I could not understand, are mumbling with a strange voice, 'How are you doing? Is everything all right', while others are whispering "Aydın, did you hear, police have ambushed the İthaki publishing house, now they are searching the headquarters of Radikal newspaper? They are searching for the book of Ahmet Şık' and such news. I mumble few words and get off with them, but the telephone keeps on ringing… How would I write this book that I intend to write?

"Well I understand that the over-authorized prosecutor Zekeriya Öz has obtained a court decision against the not-yet-published, indeed not-yet-completed, book of Ahmet Şık. At his request apparently the court decided to collect the copies of Şık's incomplete and unpublished book printed on paper and erase its copies on computers. As we are living in a country governed by law and since there is a court order to that end, the decision must be perfectly in conformity with the law.

"Though I still have difficulty to understand how a yet-unpublished book might be evidence of crime, probably there might be a legal depth of the issue further than my scarce understanding of the law. But, were not we told when Şık was arrested: 'They were not arrested because of their journalistic activities. The prosecutor has evidence regarding their non-journalism activities. That evidence is secret and cannot be revealed to Şık or his lawyer as well. Thus, Şık was arrested without explanation'?

"Now a battle is on in Istanbul for a book… Was the book that secret evidence mentioned earlier? …

"Anyhow, the developments have exceeded even the limits of a comedy. I am dealing with far more important things. I cannot spend time with Şık's book or with the over-authorized prosecutor. … As I said now I am working on something far more serious. I am considering writing a book called 'Muezzin's battalion'. I had copies of Şık's 'İmamın Ordusu' (Imam's Army) book on my computer and a backup of it on my memory stick. I already erased the backup on the memory stick. If police come and want to delete the copy on my computer, they are most welcome. But, hold on, what would I do if they ask me to hand over the 'Muezzin's Battalion' book I have been considering writing? Can they erase the inside of my brain as well?"

This is the advanced democracy of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.






While the United States is likely to remain a superpower for quite some time, the time will come when it will no longer enjoy a hegemonic position as the sole global superpower. This shift will be due not to the "collapse" or "decline" of the United States, but to the rise in power and influence of other nations – China, India, Brazil, a resurgent Russia, Turkey.

As a result, alliances and diplomatic mores that have cemented themselves over the past several decades are finding their relevancy and capacity for adaptation increasingly questioned. In the case of the future of the trans-Atlantic relationship and the challenges facing future trans-Atlantic leaders, no nation presents a more interesting case study for exploring this dilemma than Turkey.

Until a decade ago, Turkish leaders always clearly aligned their national policies with the interests of Europe and the United States. However, the current government of Turkey is embarking on a vigorous new multidimensional foreign policy, courting much closer political and economic ties with the Middle East. In the West, this has often been interpreted as alarming – Turkey "abandoning" the West for new horizons on their southern and eastern borders. For its part, Turkey views these moves as a way to strengthen global relations without limiting political or economic policy exclusively to what pleases the West. Like many nations, Turkey is carefully testing the waters of a new global pecking order.

In the West itself, there are growing pains. Sentiments toward isolationism in the U.S. among voters in the November 2010 election manifested as heated campaign rhetoric against international trade and the perceived loss of jobs to overseas competitors, particularly in China. A particularly ugly rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States and Europe has resulted in combative debates, ranging from the unresolved (the Cordoba House Islamic Cultural Center proposal in New York, attacked by critics as the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque"), to the political (Switzerland banning the construction of minarets; France banning the headscarf), to the stupendously ignorant and dangerous (Pastor Terry Jones' much-hyped, though ultimately abandoned, plans to burn the Quran). This growing unease with the rest of the world, even allies, is not limited to the United States or even the West: Turkish popular sentiment toward the United States and Europe has suffered in recent years as well.

Not to be overlooked either is the bilateral relationship between the European Union and Turkey, and the implications of that relationship within Turkey. There is increasing pessimism about Turkey's European future across a broad spectrum of Turkish society, and Turkey's robust economic growth has led to a surge in Turks questioning the actual benefit of EU membership.

Coloring in the background with these new and vexing considerations are the familiar enemies: extremist terrorism, nuclear proliferation, failed or failing nations, global poverty, climate change and the state of the world economy.

These, then, are the challenges faced by current and future trans-Atlantic leaders and the trans-Atlantic relationship itself. What are the solutions?

Our first suggestion to overcome the emerging challenges is strengthening second track diplomacy by invigorating and diversifying student, academic, business, cultural, and professional exchange programs. The value of track II programming can be enhanced by a robust focus on continuing collaboration between participants. In the 1960s, the Peace Corps made enormous strides in introducing the United States to the world, and the world to the United States. We must encourage a renewed focus on citizen diplomacy – for surely in an age of global citizenship, nothing is to be feared from knowing your fellow citizens. Nations whose people know each other the best are likely to engage with each other the most and fear each other the least.

On the security front, trans-Atlantic actors have accepted as consensus that the twin threats of radical Islamic terrorism and nuclear proliferation represent the greatest existential threats. That focus should not and must not waver. Regardless of isolationist differences on certain clashing interests, the current and next generation leaders of the trans-Atlantic community must focus on identifying and executing shared goals against these common threats.

The coming decades will be an era during which ideals such as human rights, economic interdependency and soft power must be jointly conceptualized by both existing and emerging powers. Growing powers such as Turkey, Brazil, India and China are inclined to view "high-handed" acts from the West as threats to both their national sovereignty and the on-going construction of their national and socioeconomic identities and interests. Current dominant actors must therefore remain focused on emphasizing commonalities of interest between rising and existing powers, rather than on amplifying differences.

The relationship between the U.S. and India on nuclear issues may be a good example to consider. The U.S. has started bringing India into a global fold with significant cooperative agreements in the area of civil nuclear energy. In exchange, India offered measures to assure America's security concerns regarding South Asian nuclear issues. The New START Treaty between the United States and Russia has also shown that diplomacy and a frank discussion about shared threats can overcome even the most sensitive relationships. These are models for the rest of the world to learn from and follow. Surely there are lessons here for all countries that constructive engagement is dramatically preferable to entrenched opposition.

Nobody can say with 100 percent certainty what the world will look like in five years, let alone 10 or 20. The impact of new media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and WikiLeaks on domestic and foreign policy, for instance, is yet to be fully understood. Yet it seems safe to say that isolationism and fearing the world at large is not a direction that should be encouraged, but rather openly challenged. Surely the best paths forward for our world are not the lonelier ones.

* Didem Akan is the author of 'Why did India not Sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?' Steven Butterfield is a former state legislator in the U.S. state of Maine. Both were participants in a 2010 exchange of young Turkish and American leaders initiated by the US Department of State.






The "freak sculpture" incident in the Eastern Anatolian province of Kars has recently gained a new dimension.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, calling the famous artwork of Sculptor Mehmet Aksoy "freakish," had asked for it to be torn down. The chief judge of the 1st Administrative Court in Erzurum, Mehmet Haskalaycı, ruled to grant a stay of execution against demolishment. However, Haskalaycı has been downgraded by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, and assigned to the Administrative Court in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri.

One of the members of the 1st Administrative Court in Erzurum, who happened to have put his signature in the decision, was also sent to the Central Anatolian province of Konya.

What will be the fate of the "freakish" sculpture following these changes of positions that have led to question marks?

There were some people linking the "freakish sculpture" incident in Kars with Erdoğan's election plans.

It's not a secret that the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, in Kars opposed Aksoy's "Humanitarian Monument," symbolizing peace between Turkish and Armenian peoples.

So, Erdoğan's "freakish sculpture" move makes one think that it was aimed against the MHP votes in Kars.

Another reassignment not covered much in the press is Mardin Governor Hasan Duruer.

It was brought to my attention through an e-mail by Ebru Baybara Demir, a businesswoman from the southeastern province of Mardin.

Duruer was recalled to the capital.

The governor caressing stones

I met Demir in Mardin about a decade ago. She was setting up her business then. Today, Demir is the owner of the famous Cercis Murat Konağı restaurant in Istanbul and Mardin.

Demir in her e-mail describes Duruer as the "legendary governor who became the first person to demolish the concrete jungles that were given licenses by municipalities in exchange for votes."

I met and admired Duruer during the first ever "Mardin Biennial" in June of 2010.

During the biennial, he had given a group of artists and journalists a late-night city tour on foot and showed all stone structures which he personally was involved in the restoration phases of.

Bringing ancient buildings in Mardin back to life was such an excitement for Governor Duruer that he was stopping in front of each structure and caressing the stones.

The governor had big dreams for Mardin.

He said Mardin could only be compared with Florence, Toledo and Cordoba.

A $1.5 billion investment

According to the governor, Mardin would be the next European Capital of Culture following Istanbul.

The city would be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

It would attract 5 million tourists in 2023.

Things that I didn't know but he did for Mardin were summarized in Demir's e-mail.

Writing on behalf of the "Mardin Development Platform," Demir tells in her e-mail that Duruer provided opportunities to investors and made Mardin an attractive tourist spot.

"The governor had announced a $1.5 billion investment in Mardin within two years. He had given a brand-new face to the city through restorations and by wiring electric cables underground. He had three museum projects in mind and also undertook the culture and art education of about 500 students," she writes.

"Hasan Duruer had believed that some things could be changed in Mardin and he spread this belief around," adds Demir.

Now, why was such a visionary governor recalled to the capital?

While there are a lot to do in this city, being pointed out as the rising star of tourism, why is he recalled unexpectedly?

According to claims in Mardin, Governor Duruer put the cat among the pigeons in conservative circles when he allowed a fashion show by renowned designer Cemil İpekçi at the historic Kasımiye Madrasah last November.

It follows that the governor has become a victim of the ruling party for their election plans.

What a pity to sacrifice such a governor setting a goal to bring 5 million tourists into Mardin in 2023 despite the objections of the people in the city.






It was Fatma Ünsal Bostancı who set the fire at the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, meeting when she told Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, "You either nominate female deputy candidates who wear a headscarf or I will become an independent candidate."

After this, it is difficult for women who wear a headscarf, either from the AKP or other political parties, to give up on Parliament membership.

What will happen to women who wear a headscarf if they persist in their deputy candidacies, an issue where their stance in politics will be tested?

Ünsal is pursuing a Ph.D degree at the Boğaziçi University Political Science and International Affairs Department. The headscarf issue is not in the field of rights and freedoms, where she has a different political view from her party.

The first time I met this mother of two she was heading to Iraq as a human shield during the U.S. occupation in Iraq. Ünsal also supported campaigns to stop children standing trial in Courts for Serious Crimes.

I am writing about her because I find it important that her concerns are not just limited to the headscarf issue. I also give importance to her liberal and egalitarian attitude, which I find distinctive.

  Ups and downs of the AKP

Now let me talk about the zigzags of the AKP since Ünal's famous statement.

As a response to Ünsal's remark Prime Minister Erdoğan had given a glimmer of hope, saying, "We might have women candidates who wear a headscarf."

Didn't we have enough with Merve Kavakçı being expelled from Parliament 12 years ago for wearing a headscarf and with the removal of her citizenship for her being a U.S. citizen?

As we approach the June 12 elections, the issue was brought back to the agenda during Erdoğan's trip to Lebanon.

Erdoğan invited two female columnists on his airplane for the first time, liberal columnist Sevilay Yükselir of daily Sabah and daily Yenişafak's Hilal Kaplan, who wears a headscarf.

Erdoğan kept the balance in subsequent trips, but has not yet given his final word on women candidates who wear a headscarf.

The photograph on the way to Lebanon

We didn't learn what the prime minister was thinking during the Lebanon trip, as his answer to Kaplan's question about women wearing a headscarf in Parliament was limited to pointing to Yükselir and saying, "You two will solve this problem."

However, State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç's confession, "It is not time for women candidates who wear a headscarf" was a sign that the AKP was dragging its feet to clear the way to Parliament for women in its party grassroots.

The issue of women candidates who wear a headscarf did not just come to the agenda due to Yükselir and Kaplan's insistence.

The issue has already been brought to the agenda by the Association for the Support and Training of Women Candidates, or Ka-Der.

Ka-Der Chairwoman Çiğdem Aydın held the press meeting of the campaign titled "We want 275 women deputies," together with the Hürriyet Publishing CEO Vuslat Doğan Sabancı, author Ayşe Kulin, columnist Nihal Bengisu Karaca and TV program hostess Ayşe Özgün.

The message given at the meeting was "Women forming half of the population demand equal representation right in Parliament."

Bengisu Karaca became the voice of other women who cover their heads and reminded political parties about the women's right to stands for election.

Unsatisfied with campaigns

Sabancı, who is supporting Ka-Der's campaign, has also led the "Righteous Women Platform" including 20 civil society organizations representing 100,000 members. Equal representation of women in Parliament, increasing female employment and adjusting laws accordingly are among the demands of the platform emphasizing in female parliamentary deputies with Turkey being ranked as the 105th among 180 countries.

Joining the campaign Bostan let us know the slogan she would use if she becomes an independent deputy candidate:

"All citizens of the Republic of Turkey are free and equal; there is no need to say women who wear a headscarf are included."

I recently heard from Kaplan about a new campaign: No women candidates with a headscarf, no vote!

This is a very serious move, it's no joke. Considering that 60 percent of the country's 36 million women wear a headscarf, we are talking about the power to bury any political party in sight.

Women have determined the parties' sincerity. Countries having less than 10 percent women in parliaments are not among the most developed economies.

The AKP's position in particular is so serious when you think out loud saying, "Politics is not about carrying a woman who wears a headscarf to the Presidency and then do nothing."






It was Fatma Ünsal Bostancı who set the fire at the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, meeting when she told Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, "You either nominate female deputy candidates who wear a headscarf or I will become an independent candidate."

After this, it is difficult for women who wear a headscarf, either from the AKP or other political parties, to give up on Parliament membership.

What will happen to women who wear a headscarf if they persist in their deputy candidacies, an issue where their stance in politics will be tested?

Ünsal is pursuing a Ph.D degree at the Boğaziçi University Political Science and International Affairs Department. The headscarf issue is not in the field of rights and freedoms, where she has a different political view from her party.

The first time I met this mother of two she was heading to Iraq as a human shield during the U.S. occupation in Iraq. Ünsal also supported campaigns to stop children standing trial in Courts for Serious Crimes.

I am writing about her because I find it important that her concerns are not just limited to the headscarf issue. I also give importance to her liberal and egalitarian attitude, which I find distinctive.

  Ups and downs of the AKP

Now let me talk about the zigzags of the AKP since Ünal's famous statement.

As a response to Ünsal's remark Prime Minister Erdoğan had given a glimmer of hope, saying, "We might have women candidates who wear a headscarf."

Didn't we have enough with Merve Kavakçı being expelled from Parliament 12 years ago for wearing a headscarf and with the removal of her citizenship for her being a U.S. citizen?

As we approach the June 12 elections, the issue was brought back to the agenda during Erdoğan's trip to Lebanon.

Erdoğan invited two female columnists on his airplane for the first time, liberal columnist Sevilay Yükselir of daily Sabah and daily Yenişafak's Hilal Kaplan, who wears a headscarf.

Erdoğan kept the balance in subsequent trips, but has not yet given his final word on women candidates who wear a headscarf.

The photograph on the way to Lebanon

We didn't learn what the prime minister was thinking during the Lebanon trip, as his answer to Kaplan's question about women wearing a headscarf in Parliament was limited to pointing to Yükselir and saying, "You two will solve this problem."

However, State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç's confession, "It is not time for women candidates who wear a headscarf" was a sign that the AKP was dragging its feet to clear the way to Parliament for women in its party grassroots.

The issue of women candidates who wear a headscarf did not just come to the agenda due to Yükselir and Kaplan's insistence.

The issue has already been brought to the agenda by the Association for the Support and Training of Women Candidates, or Ka-Der.

Ka-Der Chairwoman Çiğdem Aydın held the press meeting of the campaign titled "We want 275 women deputies," together with the Hürriyet Publishing CEO Vuslat Doğan Sabancı, author Ayşe Kulin, columnist Nihal Bengisu Karaca and TV program hostess Ayşe Özgün.

The message given at the meeting was "Women forming half of the population demand equal representation right in Parliament."

Bengisu Karaca became the voice of other women who cover their heads and reminded political parties about the women's right to stands for election.

Unsatisfied with campaigns

Sabancı, who is supporting Ka-Der's campaign, has also led the "Righteous Women Platform" including 20 civil society organizations representing 100,000 members. Equal representation of women in Parliament, increasing female employment and adjusting laws accordingly are among the demands of the platform emphasizing in female parliamentary deputies with Turkey being ranked as the 105th among 180 countries.

Joining the campaign Bostan let us know the slogan she would use if she becomes an independent deputy candidate:

"All citizens of the Republic of Turkey are free and equal; there is no need to say women who wear a headscarf are included."

I recently heard from Kaplan about a new campaign: No women candidates with a headscarf, no vote!

This is a very serious move, it's no joke. Considering that 60 percent of the country's 36 million women wear a headscarf, we are talking about the power to bury any political party in sight.

Women have determined the parties' sincerity. Countries having less than 10 percent women in parliaments are not among the most developed economies.

The AKP's position in particular is so serious when you think out loud saying, "Politics is not about carrying a woman who wears a headscarf to the Presidency and then do nothing."







That moment in the World Cup that everyone in the sub-continent is waiting for is now less than a week away. Following the first two quarter-finals, a potentially epic showdown between Pakistan and India is now scheduled for Mohali. This is a contest no one will want to miss. There are bound to be frenzy, passion and perhaps some fireworks. But we must pray that these remain restricted to the field and do not take the form of some terrible terrorist attack on the Pakistan team or anyone else. The sense of this happening has grown after an Interpol statement that a terrorist attack on the World Cup was foiled with the help of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India had previously warned of an attack in Bangladesh.

But is the danger over? The Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik has warned that a plot is possibly being hatched to target the Pakistanis in India. No names have been given, but the suspicion seems to be that terrorists may have begun activities in India in preparation for just such a strike. A bombing or other similar event during a high-profile cricket match, which will inevitably be played out before a packed stadium with millions more watching on TV, would give militant outfits just the kind of publicity they yearn for. It is important that India, Pakistan and other countries engaged in hosting the World Cup ensure this does not happen. The indications that information about the plot may have come from Sri Lanka suggest the militants have reached out to many places. If, indeed, a plan has been hatched to attack the Pakistani cricketers it must be thwarted before it is too late. We want to see runs being scored, not scenes of panic. Pakistani cricket has suffered greatly due to militancy and the actions of those who seek to damage the image of the country and its government. The 2009 attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team is just one example. This act has, for the past two years, deprived Pakistanis of matches played on home soil. The idea of still further destruction is terrifying. In addition to any militants with links in Pakistan, there's also been some talk in India of action by right-wing groups, who may seek to extract some kind of revenge for all that happened in Mumbai in 2008.

We must keep our fingers – and our toes – crossed and hope this does not happen. The World Cup so far has seen plenty of outstanding action. Pakistan's striking display against the West Indies was one example. India's outstanding destruction of three times world champions Australia was another. The last thing we need is action other than sport. The additional security that will now be put in place will handicap supporters who throng to the ground. They too will hope that they can watch a match untarnished by any event that does not involve a wooden bat or the leather ball wielded by the men who play for their country and its honour before the watching eyes of the world.







The talks between Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and his counterpart in Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, during a visit to Tashkent by a Pakistani delegation, offers encouragement in several areas. Mr Gilani has offered to buy surplus power from Uzbekistan and the other Central Asian Republics. Should such a deal come about nothing would be more welcome to the people of Pakistan who grow more desperate each year to escape the miseries of loadshedding and the havoc it causes in both commercial and domestic life. The two leaders also agreed there was plenty of space for cooperation in other areas. Pakistan suggested the use of its sports and other facilities while Uzbekistan proposed a rail link being taken to Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan could be extended to Pakistan. Such moves would obviously help trade and facilitate cooperation in other areas. The possibility of a closer relationship with the CARs has been discussed for a number of years now. Sadly, little has come of this in concrete terms, even though Pakistan badly needs friends in the region and an end to the growing isolation it has been facing. It is time to turn things around and forge new friendships. There certainly is much to be gained by building trade and working more closely together in all areas.

There is, however, one issue that needs to be taken up urgently. Uzbek fighters have been involved in the ongoing militant insurgency in Pakistan. Their numbers are unknown. So is the matter of how they entered Pakistan and how long they have been based here. The presence of these men indicates that terrorism today is a problem that involves many countries and groups. Islamabad also needs to convince Tashkent to work with it on this problem and ensure that the process of training militants in that country comes to an end sooner rather than later. The chain of militancy runs through many nations in the region. When one segment is cut off, the loose ends simply work to move closer together again. It is therefore essential to tackle the problem together, to identify where Uzbek militants may be based, uncover the recruitment process, and therefore, cut off the channels that feed the war in Pakistan. We hope this matter too was taken up during Mr Gilani's visit given its significance for the entire region and its people.







 Kuldip Nayyar, the eminent Indian journalist and tireless protagonist for better India-Pakistan relations, told an audience in Islamabad the other day that peace between the two countries was vital. Otherwise, he added, "I feel Pakistan will move towards Arabs in the absence of an opening with India." Mr Nayyar need not worry. Pakistan has been trying to befriend Arabs (mostly the Gulf Arabs), but in spite of our best efforts the vast differences in our mental equipment and outlook has ensured we remain apart, and this is not about to change.

There is very little that Pakistan has not done to earn Arab favour. We have gone so far as to place Pakistan at their disposal; we have offered our land to feed them; our army to defend them; our labour to build their infrastructure, at trifling salaries and in living conditions which a conscientious slave trader would have difficulty in accepting; we have offered our wildlife and fauna as a free range for their falcons; and God knows much else, some of which can never be mentioned.

If that were not enough, we named Faisalabad, Faisal Mosque, Faisal Avenue, Sharah-e-Faisal, Shah Faisal Colony, Faisal this and Faisal that, as further signs of our regard for them, and especially the richest of them, the Saudis. But so unrequited has been our love in this respect that not a single street or highway, to say nothing of a city, was named after the Quaid in any of these Western petrol stations of the Gulf.

Z A Bhutto blazed the trail by offering up "the army of Pakistan as the army of Islam, in 1974 at the Lahore Islamic Summit; although Bhutto was being Bhutto, mostly promising what he could never deliver. In September 1970, the man who was to be his nemesis, Ziaul Haq, had already led a Jordanian army division in a war, not against infidels who coveted Arab land, mind you, but against fellow Muslims – the hapless Palestinians. He did such a good job in routing them that he received Jordanian accolades and a bauble from King Hussein. And, of course, he earned Pakistan the enmity of the Palestinian leadership.

In return for their cringing, our leaders also obtained from the Gulf Arab ruling families a safe haven, money and land for themselves and their relatives to enable them to start businesses and homes, whether or not they were in exile, so that they can live and spend their ill-gotten gains in comfort. In return, the Arabs claimed and obtained for themselves the right to be not merely an observer but a participant on the Pakistani political scene (Wikileaks).

Needless to say, they used this valuable entree for their own benefit. They funded religious political parties by buying up all the literature these organisations published and which no one else would bother to read; and when that ran out, they simply handed out sackfuls of rupees. They financed the publication of religious textbooks for schools which insinuated their own take on Islam to the exclusion of others' and funded madaressahs that spewed sectarian venom.

Gulf Arab leaders are in the habit of summoning our rulers and heads of our lay political parties to their palaces and desert hunting grounds to impart instructions. And, just so they are listened to attentively and obeyed, give a mite or so of their astronomical earnings every now and then to earn our gratitude and help the army purchase upmarket American weaponry. As for the Pakistani awam, they prefer to keep them at arm's length.

In an earlier article I had described the incarceration and expulsion of a Pakistani worker in the UAE merely for making a rude finger gesture to a local who had insulted him, which, at most, should have drawn an admonition. I had further recounted how I had personally witnessed a bewildered Pakistani labourer on arrival at Jeddah airport having the "taweez" worn on his arm prised off by an iron comb and thrown to the ground and stamped on by a furious Saudi security official. In Pakistan such an act would have had hordes of baying fundos demanding his head.

Regrettably, this trend of hostility against Pakistani people, which is so pervasive in the Gulf states, continues unabated. The latest example is the harrowing accounts on the internet of the treatment meted out to Pakistanis by their Arab "brothers" in Bahrain during the ongoing civil unrest there. According to an eyewitness in Manama, "the medical staff of a hospital, including doctors, took out bleeding Pakistanis from the ambulance as though animals, with hands tied behind their backs, and kicked and beat them," only because they were Pakistanis. This was preceded by the killing of four Pakistani-origin members of the Bahraini police, while their Bahraini officers were left unmolested.

Sadly, these incidents received scant attention in our press, whereas intrusive questioning or a body search by a Western official of some Pakistani official at, say, Paris or Washington airports, raises a howl of protest. It may be part of human nature to hate the man you have hurt, but to hate a man before you hurt him, purely because he is a Pakistani, amounts to xenophobia and racism.

Some will say such atrocities these days are the exception, and not the rule, in the Gulf, and explain it away by putting it down to the exceptional times and the historical changes that the Arab world is witnessing. But nature, though often hidden and sometimes overcome, is seldom extinguished. Besides, Arab history is a long and virtually uninterrupted saga of Muslims killing Muslims on account of differences in race, sect, creed and colour, notwithstanding the Quran, which abhors such practices. In fact, Arabs have killed fellow Muslims with greater glee and ferocity than the infidel. In just about every Arab country today, not excluding Palestine, a fellow Muslim or a foreign Muslim is the greater enemy. Whether it is the Shia-Sunni, Arab-Persian or secular-religious divide, they are all hand-me-downs from the early days of Islam when the Abbasids, Fatimids, Umayyads and subsequently the Ottomans and the Arabs were busy slaughtering each other.

In the circumstances, Mr Nayyar has no need to be concerned or in a hurry. He should continue his work in bringing Pakistan and India closer together. Whether or not the "opening to India" takes place, he can rest assured that the Arabs will continue to bristle with prejudice when it comes to dealing with the poor people of Pakistan.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email:








The flawed and twisted concept of "white man's burden" was once used by imperial European nations as a justification to vanquish and rule the non-white people in the name of "progress and civilisation" in far-flung regions. This Western-centric viewpoint, which remained in vogue till the late 19th and early 20th centuries, justified colonisation and exploitation of mostly self-contained societies of Asia, Africa and North and South America. The credit of coining this phrase goes to the colonial-era English writer and poet Rudyard Kipling, who first used it in his poem in 1899, justifying imperialism as a noble cause.

Take up the White Man's burden –

No tawdry rule of kings,

But toil of serf and sweeper –

The tale of common things.

The ports ye shall not enter,

The roads ye shall not tread,

Go mark them with your living,

And mark them with your dead.


Kipling advocated "savage wars of peace," articulating the self-conceited gloss of morality given by European powers to their military campaigns. The colonial era is no more, but the false moral justifications to launch new wars have not changed in this age of neo-colonialism. The white man's burden of yesteryears of carrying the cross in the name of progress and civilisation has now been replaced by the mantra of teaching virtues of democracy, freedom and human rights to the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America – through direct or indirect cold-blooded military interventions.

The latest victim is the North African nation of Libya, facing the combined might of France, Britain and the United States. The Western powers eye a regime change under the pretext of protecting civilian lives – read armed Libyan insurgents, who were at the verge of defeat. Through their aerial blitz, involving hundreds of aircraft and cruise missile attacks, the Western powers want to bestow upon the people of Libya the gift of democracy, soaked in the blood of their soldiers and civilians.

The United Nations Security Council resolution 1973, which called for a no fly-zone over Libya and "all necessary measures to protect civilians," provided these Western nations a so-called justification to act as world goons and meddle in the affairs of a sovereign state, which should have been left on its own to decide its future. But the massive oil stakes in Libya motivated the Western nations to prop up armed rebels and get directly involved in the conflict, making it bloodier and messier.

The swift manner in which Security Council went into action on Libya stands in contrast to many other bigger conflicts on which the world body has been dragging its feet decade after decade. Israeli atrocities on Palestinians, especially in Gaza, in recent years, the continued Indian subjugation and repression of the people of Kashmir are two of the protracted conflicts on which the Security Council chose to play a limited role, despite all the killings and human rights abuses. However, the swift Security Council verdict on Libya should not come as a surprise. The US-led Western nations have a record of using the United Nations to advance their vested interests. The West-sponsored-armed revolt, which is more tribal in nature rather than a democratic or ideological movement, has provided Washington and its allies a chance to get rid of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi – who has been defying the West for a long time. The plan is now to install a subservient government in the name of protecting civilian lives – even though the same argument can be made about intervening in Bahrain or Yemen. The real goal, however, remains exploiting Libya's vast oil wealth.

The Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) have lived up to their reputation of being spineless blocs by blindly endorsing the Security Council resolution, which paved the way for the third Western military intervention in a Muslim country within a decade. The buzz of protest coming from them against aerial bombing is just eyewash. This third war on a Muslim country remains more blatant as it came without any provocation of the Sept 11-like terror strikes on the United States or fabricated charges of weapons of mass destruction as in the case of Iraq.

The Western media, particularly the electronic media, is playing like an orchestra by resorting to one-sided reporting and propaganda against Libya to justify the military intervention. CNN, Fox, and the BBC, all are following the script in totality. Programmes presented by the smiling anchors with their excited voices giving details of the "humanitarian" blitz on Libya are appalling to watch. One of the analysts was seen predicting Qaddafi's assassination by someone from his close circle. Was it a prediction or instigation remains a question.

The Libyan conflict may not drag for long, given the small size of the population and the isolation of the Qaddafi regime, but this third Nato front against a Muslim country will have far-reaching consequences.

It will fuel Muslims' anger against what they perceive as "arrogant" Western nations and further radicalise their societies and strengthens those forces, which get energy and life out of such conflicts. The narrative and the world view of "us versus them" propagated not just by puritan legal Islamic groups, but also by extremists, militant and terrorist organisations will gain more acceptance and fan anti-US and anti-West sentiment. It will provide radical group with new willing recruits, who see violence and terrorism as the only means to avenge what they perceive western injustices and atrocities.

The Libyan conflict also remains a bad news for moderate and pro-democracy forces, which are fighting against the tide of extremism and militancy in countries such as Pakistan. They stand weakened as the west continues to interfere and interrupt in the natural evolution of Muslim societies – most of which remain unprepared for the Western-style democracy because of their particular social, economic, political and religious background.

It is high time for the Western nations to come out of their mindset of "white man's burden," which can only intensify conflicts in this day and age of powerful individuals, who have the ability and capacity to take on the world powers and keep the pot on the boil. The rulers and the elite of majority of the Muslim countries may be in the pocket of the Western powers, but not the Muslim street. It will react and strike back.

The writer is business editor, The News. Email:









Dedicated to this day and its pain

That makes us turn away from the garden of life

The wilderness of yellow leaves that is my land

A heap of gathered anguish that is my land

– Faiz Ahmad Faiz (Translation: Khalid Hasan)

Pakistan has been lacerating with gaping fault lines ever since its inception. These scars, over time, have become deep wounds because of two factors. First, their continuation served the interests of the traditional ruling elite who did not (and do not) favour any fundamental change. Second, if ever there was a remedy prescribed, it was never administered because of pre-emptive derailment. Today, Pakistan is like a patient gasping for breath and in urgent need of multiple surgeries, but there is no physician available who appears capable and willing to initiate the needful procedures.

For a state to be at peace with itself, it is imperative that its principal pillars – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – are functioning efficiently, effectively and transparently. It is also important that they are coordinating and cooperating with one another, thus contributing to their respective empowerment and stature. It is also important that the government and all the state institutions command legitimacy that is beyond a shadow of impairment.

The opposite is the reality in Pakistan today. We have a government that is not only in constant denial of the grave problems that the country confronts, it has failed to come up with any credible plan to move away from the deepening crises. Its principal arm, the legislature, has literally abdicated its responsibility to take cognisance of the situation. While its crowning glory, the 18th amendment, stands out by virtue of further strengthening the hands of the party leaders in preference to promoting a democratic culture, there has been no earnest effort to formulate a path to rid the country of the aggravating energy crisis, a depleting economy, unmanageable inflationary trends, wide-spread corruption, destruction of the state institutions, absence of a self-sustaining mechanism for inducting and promoting transparency and respect for the rule of law, lack of empowerment of state institutions through appointment of honest and efficient managers and an inordinate unwillingness to cleanse the national body politic of the corrupt. The legislature is overflowing with a large coterie of fake degree holders against whom there is not even a hint of action in spite of specific SC directives. Instead, work of organisations entrusted with tackling the fake-degree mafia is being systematically impeded.

The government survives in perpetual defiance of another principal organ of the state, the judiciary, whose injunctions it has repeatedly rubbished, and whom it has tried to control by amending the constitution with regard to the appointment of judges through a parliamentary commission. Be it the apex court's decision regarding the immoral and (now) illegal NRO, its numerous judgements on the need to eliminate corruption from the state institutions, its reminders about the urgency for inducting a credible mechanism of transparency, its unearthing of countless financial scams involving billions of rupees, its pleas for appointment of honest functionaries at key positions for improving efficiency and output, its reminders for granting genuine independence to organisations like ECP and NAB – they have all been consigned to the bin. Each day adds further to the gulf that exists between the intransigent approach of the government and the directives of the apex court, thus further perpetuating a grave crisis of governance.

The spectre of corruption is all-pervasive. The allegations, even embarrassing findings by the judiciary, have been handled with arrogance and impunity. No genuine remedial steps have been undertaken to contain the damage. Instead, the propensity to show defiance in preference to compliance has been crudely on display. This has contributed to further strengthening the criminal mafias, patronised by key members of the ruling elite, which are holding the government hostage to their whims, fancies and self-righteous practices.

The lack of legitimacy of the government and its principal players continues to stymie its functioning. Because of losing the support of its allies, the government could not pilot the NRO through the parliament. Upon being declared void ab initio, the SC directed the government to take immediate steps to erase its effects. The injunction still awaits compliance. The re-modelling of the cabinet only saw the backs of relatively clean members, while the tainted continue to occupy positions of authority. The murder mystery of Benazir Bhutto has deepened as the people are fed on empty slogans and promises, creating serious misgivings and apprehensions. The 'democratic' tenure has also witnessed the brutal murders of the governor of Punjab and the federal minister for minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti.

The presidency remains embroiled in controversial moves. Because of holding the dual charge of being the head of the state and the co-chairperson of the PPP at the same time, the office of the president suffers from an inherent conflict of interest. There is no congruity between the president's two positions. The general non-compliance of the judicial injunctions is also often traced back to the compulsions of the presidency.

The law and order situation defies description. While the entire country has been in the grip of violence, Karachi has effectively slipped away from the fold of law. It is now being ruled by criminal mafias that are openly patronised by various political groups. Each day sees the felling of scores of people. The increasingly aggravating situation has stretched the tenuous alliance in Sindh to the brink of rupture, but has been repeatedly retrieved through the direct interventions of the presidency.

Of late, a new dimension has been added to this woeful picture. Political leaderships, hailing from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, have come up with divergent recipes for combating the country's ills. There are some who have promoted the concept of inducting the army and the judiciary in a three-way dialogue to evolve a solution for the national problems while there are others who have called upon the 'patriotic generals' to intervene and rid the country of the 'corrupt politicians'. At the other extreme, there has been a spate of accusations holding the army and the security agencies responsible for governmental failures. Various leaders have come forth, openly criticising the 'agencies' interference' as the principal cause of the deteriorating conditions. There are various conspiracy theories doing the rounds regarding the 'undemocratic designs' of these quarters. Whether it springs from a genuine reason, or it is merely a question of finding a scapegoat for the government's multiple failures, an unnecessary conflict zone has been added that would further damage the operative state apparatus.

In short, the moral, legal and constitutional edifice of the state has suffered a total collapse. The legislature has defected. The toothless government survives in defiance of the judiciary. Law and order has touched an all-time low. Political leaderships are clueless as to the problems of the country and are proposing a divergent mix of remedies, mostly at odds with each other. There is an abdominal absence of the requisite democratic culture. With energies consumed, spirit exhausted, frustrations mounting and time fast running out, is there still a way out?

(To be continued)

The writer is a political analyst.









It's after a long time that Lahore, the city of gardens, has regained some semblance of its lost sanity because of the ongoing anti-encroachment drive by the Punjab government. The drive begun at Lahore needs to be stretched to surrounding areas and finally to the whole province. Let Punjab be the role model for other provinces. In better environs when people meet, they talk of sunshine, clouds and rain, but at home, they grumble about encroachments, traffic bedlam on the roads, and government apathy towards them.

Various markets in the city have begun to look much wider, cleaner, and easily passable. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif deserves kudos for it. But it's still premature for him to be complacent about the situation, for he has another huge undertaking at hand – streamlining the most chaotic and wayward traffic. Presently, the traffic is akin to a circus where one is bombarded from all directions and one has to be a stunt driver to come out unscathed.

Although removal of encroachments, including some multi-storey buildings raised on encroached road space that have been pulled down, is underway, and has eased the traffic flow, yet a lot more needs to be done. For starters, a campaign through TV and print media to educate the public could go on for some weeks to emphasise the need to obey traffic rules, and to remind the people that violators would be heavily fined.

Television could play an effective role in informing drivers how to share the road with other drivers, how to be courteous on the road, and who has the right of way on road intersections. Both educated and semi-literate drivers must learn to indicate generously when taking turns. The road crossings, speckled with broken pieces of windshields, prove that the drivers involved either didn't indicate, didn't know their right of way or had jumped traffic lights, hence the crash.

And what would truly compel the people to obey rules is the imposition of fines – Rs500 for motorcyclists and Rs1000 for motorists to begin with. People learn when it pinches their pockets. On the rear registration plate of the car, I have had the following words inscribed: 'Be a good citizen, drive carefully'. Waved down once for speeding on the motorway, when I tried to argue my way out of trouble, the patrolling officer like all good Pakistanis do, politely but firmly said: "Sir, I like the comment on your car's number plate but here's the ticket for violating it. Thank you." That was the last time I was fined. Lesson: stringent fines.

Reportedly, such dutiful patrolling officers are distressed over unfair promotions of inductees from regular police force. Those who joined the department fresh have been ignored and outsiders promoted. A few rotten fish spoil the whole pond. Motorway Police have done their duty conscientiously – for the most part. They didn't even spare the VIPs for violating traffic rules. It's sad that because of cronyism many deserving patrolling officers have said goodbye to the department.

Now an overhead bridge is coming up on the Kalma Chowk (Ferozepur Road), on one corner of which is a horseshoe shaped unfinished plaza without any parking space. The overhead bridge will definitely ease the traffic flow and save motorists and commuters some time. It is also important to add a lane on both sides of the canal roads passing through the city. The suggestion might not appeal to the sensibilities of environmentalists because a number of trees will have to be chopped off in the process. But if the lanes are not added, the effort put in and expense incurred to construct underpasses on both sides of the canal and construction of a huge overhead bridge at Niazbeg Thokar will be of little help in facilitating traffic flow.

For now, the traffic on three wide roads suddenly adjusts to two lanes, causing congestion and chaos. Vehicles snarl up when adjusting to two lanes by nudging into one another. As for the trees, only one row on each side of the canal will have to be removed, which could be replanted along the new lanes added on both sides of the canal.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Lahore. Email:








The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

In 'Blink' Malcom Gladwell suggests that human beings generally reach decisions intuitively and instantly upon being confronted with the need to reach them and then come up with explanations rationalising their choices. He calls it the "storytelling problem" where we later create stories to explain the decisions we make or actions we take. Reading the recent rulings of the Supreme Court one gets the sinking feeling that Gladwell might be right.

The jurisprudential debate over what judges ought to do in courts has largely subsided across the world. It is now agreed that judges do not declare what the law should be, but only what it is. In other words, judges are not legislators or lawmakers, but adjudicators interpreting the text of the law laid out by legislators and stating what the text means.

When Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr of the US Supreme Court revealed that, "this is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice," he wasn't being facetious. He was reiterating the limited scope of authority that a judge wields in a country that incorporates separation of powers through a written constitution.

But if the rulings of our Supreme Court in Sindh High Court Bar Association vs Federation of Pakistan (challenging the Parliamentary Committee's disagreement with recommendations of the Judicial Commission regarding appointment of judges) and Shahid Orakzai vs Federation of Pakistan (questioning the legality of Justice Deedar Shah's appointment as Chairman NAB) are samples to go by, our apex court judges don't seem to abide by the doctrine of limited judicial authority.

Zardari-led PPP's disregard for the mandatory consultation process in appointing the NAB Chairman is unjustifiable. And its contempt for the law and court rulings apparent in the re-nomination of Justice Deedar Shah for the same position after the apex court declared his appointment illegal even more abhorrent.

But this is not a conversation about who is better: the Supreme Court or the Zardari-led federal government. It is also not about the applicability of outcomes reached by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court determines what the law is. In the above cases it has spoken its mind. And until it overrules itself, its words are final and binding. But when it comes to court rulings, what matters more than the instant outcome is judicial reasoning. For such reasoning becomes a precedent, binds subordinate courts and shapes the country's jurisprudence.

The Supreme Court being "infallible because it is final" has no room to make mistakes. And yet the legal reasoning in these cases is seriously wanting. It is probably unfair to lump Shahid Orakzai (the Chairman NAB case) with Sindh High Court Bar Association (the judicial appointments' case). The reasoning and outcome of the latter could deform our doctrines of democracy, separation of powers and limited institutional authority (all still in a state of infancy) and is therefore more troublesome.

The main reason leading to the outcome of the Chairman NAB appointment case is largely straightforward and logical, and the consequence of its ruling, fairly limited. But the reasoning in both cases provides a peek into the court's perception of its seemingly unlimited powers and the 'do-good' approach in exercising such powers without restraint.

Let's get the Chairman NAB case out of the way first. Deedar Shah's appointment has been declared ultra vires because law required the president to consult with the leader of the opposition before appointing a candidate to the office of Chairman NAB and this mandatory requirement was not meaningfully discharged. This is why Justice Shah's appointment was illegal. But the court went on to produce other outcomes backed by unconvincing reasons.

The first is the uncharitable manner in which the possibility of Justice Shah's reappointment has been eliminated. Subtler, but more dangerous, is the insistence of the court that an administrative role for the chief justice in the process of appointing Chairman NAB must be carved out even though there is no statutory or textual basis for the same.

The ruling points out that NAB law allows a chairman to serve only one term and prohibits grant of any extension. It then states that as Deedar Shah has already served as Chairman NAB since November 2010, he is now barred from being reappointed. This is circular reasoning at best. Justice Shah has not been removed for misconduct through use of the legal mechanism provided for ouster of Chairman NAB. (Chairman NAB can only be removed from office through the procedure that applies to a judge of the Supreme Court.) He has actually not been removed at all. The court found that Justice Shah was not a legitimate chairman because he was never appointed legally.

In such case, while holding that Justice Shah's appointment was ultra vires of the law and invalid, the court should have clarified that his appointment was void ab initio (void right from the start, just the way appointments of PCO judges were held as such).

Now if Justice Shah was never legally appointed as Chairman NAB, how can his work at NAB for a few months under a mistake of fact (that he was a legitimate chairman) be counted as a term in office disabling him from ever being appointed as Chairman NAB? The ruling acknowledges that Justice Shah is without fault (and sympathises with him). So how can he be condemned as ineligible for a position he might legally qualify for when he has done no wrong?

Let us hypothetically assume that the leader of the opposition is meaningfully consulted and agrees to support Justice Shah's appointment as Chairman NAB. According to the court, he can still not be appointed as such and must personally pay for the mistake of the law ministry that processed his invalid appointment in the first place.

If Justice Shah has a right to be appointed Chairman NAB upon satisfaction of all other legal requirements, how can such right be taken away due to someone else's fault? Has the Supreme Court just undone ubi jus ibi remedium ('where there is a right there is a remedy')? Would the court even have expounded on the legality of Justice Shah's reappointment had he not been re-nominated before the announcement of the detailed judgment?

The Zardari-PPP decision to reappoint Justice Shah as Chairman NAB was ridiculous. Thus, as a practical matter the court stretching the law to lay this controversy to rest is quite welcome. But principled determination of legal controversies has no room for expediency. We might be sick of the trickery employed by the Zardari regime to run this country down. But does that allow constitutional courts to replace principled reasoning as a basis of the rulings with crafty strategies to pay a devious regime back in the same coin?

And then this business of the chief justice being 'pater familias' and the lord and saviour of the pitiful multitudes simply refuses to go away, despite much talk about the need for building institutions. The suggestion incorporated in the NRO case and the Harris Steel case has been repeated in the Chairman NAB appointment case: the chief justice should also be consulted before appointing an individual as Chairman NAB.

Now NAB is an executive agency under the prime minister's control. Its statute provides that its chairman is to be appointed after consultation between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition; meaning, with bipartisan support. There is absolutely no statutory basis for the chief justice to get involved with the process. And yet our apex court demands such a role. Whence do our judges derive this authority to say what the law ought to be?


(To be concluded)









Afghans expect Americans to see the terrorism they bring to this poor country in the name of fighting terrorism. In Kabul, on the same day that Der Spiegel released photos documenting American soldiers posing with the bodies of civilians they murdered, the Transitional Justice Coordinating Group (TJCG, the umbrella organisation for NGOs in Afghanistan that are pursuing transitional justice), gathered Afghan, Australian, American, and German peacemakers to discuss methods to bring peace and security to Afghanistan. The photos present the grim reality that this conflict is characterised by killing civilians and generalised violence.

In 2001, the American led ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), a coalition of the richest nations in the world, began military operations in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 killing of civilians in New York and Washington. The purpose of the operations was to fight terrorism and seek reprisal for the Taliban's harbouring of Al Qaeda. The operation has turned into a near decade-long war on one of the poorest nations in the world.

After nearly 10 years of war Afghanistan is mired in terror, brutality, and a security situation that is worsening. Among Afghans there is growing consensus that the ISAF is pursuing military measures, such as the formation and arming of independent local militias under the banner of the "Afghan Local Police" against the wishes of President Karzai and the Afghan people. This undermines the prospects of peace in the future and further endangers ordinary people. However, it is the killing of civilians by American military personnel and mercenaries that most enflames the conflict and expands the rift between ISAF and the Afghan people.

Most westerners are familiar with the thousands of American civilians killed 9/11, some people know about the atrocities committed by the armed opposition groups in Afghanistan, and even fewer people are familiar with the stories of Afghan civilians killed by ISAF forces.

Some of the recent civilian killings by ISAF, primarily composed of American forces include: two children in Kunar province on March 14, nine children collecting firewood in Kunar province on March 1, five civilians including two children who were searching for food in Kapisa province on February 24; 22 women, 26 boys, and three old men in a raid on insurgents in Kunar province on February 17; two civilians killed and one injured while travelling in a van in Helmand province on February 3.

As the fallout from the Der Spiegel photos continues to be felt around the world, ISAF and the other belligerents who have publicly stated their objective is to prevent terrorism need to recognise that the killing of civilians whether by Taliban, mercenaries, militias, insurgents, or by soldiers of a nation, is terrorism.

The writer is the associate director of the Marquette University Centre for Peacemaking and is participating in the peacemaking efforts organised by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Email: kennellyp








Since my article titled "The Men ace of Drunk Airline Pilots", my further research reveals startling facts, which the public in South Asia (India-Pakistan-Bangladesh) must be made aware off. Financial Express from Mumbai reported on March 11, 2011 that The Directorate General Civil Aviation of India had issued an order that, " On second drinking violation Indian Airline pilots are to lose flying license for good". The regulatory authority -The DGCA India had issued advisories to all the Airlines, but habitual alcoholics refused to comply. After "India News" front page headline, "FLY IN FEAR WITH TIPSY PILOTS", and Indian media exploded in uproar tough action became necessary.

Drinking by airline pilots before flights is prohibited by law. Yet drinking by Indian airline pilots is widespread, and many pilots drink intoxicating liquors before flights and are caught frequently. In 2009, 42 Indian Airline pilots were found drunk when reporting for duty. Eight of them were sacked. A handout of DGCA -India stated that 21 pilots were found drunk at Delhi International Airport, eleven at Mumbai Airport and the rest ten at other airports across India. That addicted pilots and cabin crews are unable to desist liquor, and pre-flight and mid-flight drinking has become a matter of grave concern in India. Indian media and airlines have taken a serious note of it, but disciplining the pilots is not easy .

It is frightening for the passengers to see tipsy pilots emerging from cockpits, and indulging into brawls, some time with frightened passengers. All the major airlines in India have out of control pilots, who drink whisky before flying, are found drinking while flying, and are tipsy after landing. Some Indian airline pilots argue that they had been drinking prior to or during flying passenger jets including Jumbo's since long, and had caused no accidents or incidents. The argument that they are habitual and chronic drunkards, and their on board drinking be exonerated, has been refused by all the Indian airlines, including Air India and Indian Airlines. But because very few pilots are punished, the drinking habits of Indian airlines pilots persists.

Indian airline authorities caught 57 pilots over the alcohol limit in random pre-flight checks over the past two years, but only 11 of the pilots found to be under the influence of liquor, between January 2009 and November 2010 lost their job, the Times of India repoted on March 11, 2011. Air India and Indian Airlines top the list with 13 and 12, who were found under the influence of liquor before take off. Kingfisher Airline has the dubious distinction of having maximum cases of pilots found under the influence of liquor before take off. Seven pilots of Indigo Airlines, six of Spice Jet, and three each of Jetlite, Jet Airways and Paramount Airways were detected "Alco positive", during pre-flight medical examinations conducted by the Indian Civil Aviation Department. Rising alcoholism among pilots, especially over the limit drinking before flight, is a very serious issue in India.

Airline authorities in India brought in a rule last December grounding first-time offenders for three months and banning repeat offenders from flying. Efforts are being made to the change pilots behavior and discipline them, with punishments such as dismissals, suspensions, warning letters and a fines, but without success.

Reports of Indian passengers complaining of poorly behaved pilots are not uncommon. Two years ago, national carrier Air India grounded two pilots and two cabin crew after a four-way brawl in the passenger cabin left the cockpit unmanned mid-flight. There was no one in the cockpit while the big brawl was on between the pilots, helped by the cabin crew and the passengers. This fracas on board the aircraft could have led to a crash, killing hundreds of passengers. Finally the passengers were able to calm the pilots down and persuaded them to get back into the cockpits. An enquiry was ordered, by Air India, but findings and action taken by the authorities was kept secret. Most airline pilots drink moderately, being aware that their jobs would be on line, if they are found over the alcohol limit before boarding the aircraft. At London's Heathrow airport, security vigilance is of a very high order. Sharp eye is kept on aircrews and passengers to ensure that they are sober before boarding aircraft. Few years back a tipsy PIA Captain was stopped from boarding the aircraft, when the alcohol test revealed that he was drunk. At Heathrow Pilots and passengers are taken into custody and disallowed from flying if found smelling of liquor. But such tests are not enforced at Indian or Pakistani airports.

Drunk and tipsy airline pilots are not a joke to be shrugged away with a laugh. Airline pilots, Captains and First Officers are responsible for the lives of hundreds of passengers and have to be highly responsible and disciplined individuals. Unlike corporate, government and military service, where a person has supervisors and officials who closely monitor behavior and performance, airline Captains are on their own, and have unprecedented freedom to do what they like. Periodic performance checks, do not reveal alcohol addictiion, character and behavioral deficiencies. Airline personnel, especially the aircrew must have not only integrity, but very high self discipline. They have to exercise abstinence in the interest of flight safety. Air travel becomes dangerous when the aircrew are not fully sober and physically fit.  







IT is good of President Asif Ali Zardari to have conveyed to the United States in categorical terms that time has come for the two countries to take stock of the existing situation and focus on addressing all issues which contribute towards creating misunderstandings and mistrust between the people of the two countries. Talking to an American delegation led by Armed Services Committee member congressman Rob Wittman, he called for a halt of drone attacks and transfer of drone technology to Pakistan instead to enable the country to use them on its own.

The points that the President raised during his meeting with the US delegation are quite pertinent and the bilateral relations between the two countries would continue to witness deterioration until and unless Washington takes measures to address them on the basis of universal principle of sovereign equality. Pakistan has been extending whole-hearted cooperation to the United States in the war against terror even at the cost of its own national interests but despite that the attitude of the US administration is that of bullying and pressurizing every now and then. Drone attacks have always been condemned in Pakistan and they are one of the major irritants in bilateral relations but regrettably the United States is adamant to use them and instead of respecting the popular sentiments in Pakistan it is using drones with more frequency and severity, as we saw in the latest attack in Datta Khel tehsil of North Waziristan Agency where a tribal Jirga was targeted. This prompted local leadership to vow to revenge the dastardly attack, showing gravity of the situation and its dangerous implications for harmonious relationship. We believe that President Asif Ali Zardari, who is Head of the State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, has much more responsibility than mere raising of such issues with an American delegation. Apart from Pakistan's own strategic importance and value, President Zardari himself has good ears in Washington where he enjoys immense support among the US law-makers and officials of the administration. Therefore, we would urge them to take advantage of his goodwill in the American capital by persuading the US administration to provide meaningful economic assistance to Pakistan to help it overcome the existing crisis that has been exacerbated by the war on terror and stoppage of the drone attacks that are rightly seen as a direct assault on sovereignty of the country. Incidentally, we also have an ambassador in Washington who is considered to be blue-eyed boy of the United States and he too can make a difference in this regard if he wants to.







PRIME Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's two-day visit to Uzbekistan was important in that it helped forge understanding between the two countries and lay foundation for multi-dimensional cooperation to their mutual benefit. Apart from signing of agreements and MoUs for entering into meaningful cooperation in different sectors, during his talks with the host leadership, the Prime Minister also expressed Pakistan's desire to buy surplus electricity and collaboration in oil and gas sectors.

Both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani have had several visits to the Central Asian Republics recently including Tajikistan, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan besides recent visit of the Tajik President to Pakistan when the two sides discussed a comprehensive framework for expansion of bilateral relations in various fields. The planning of these visits indicates that at last Pakistan Foreign Office has fully realized the need for promoting our ties with Central Asian States on a fast track basis. We have been emphasizing in these columns since long that on the basis of historical, cultural and trade links spanning over centuries, Pakistan was best placed to forge cooperation with CARs but regrettably no practical measures were taken for the purpose. No doubt, substantial trade and commercial ties with the region are dependent on restoration of peace in Afghanistan but still sky is the limit if we have the necessary vision and commitment to strengthen this relationship. Central Asian region is rich in energy resources and it can help Pakistan overcome its energy crisis but we have been sleeping over proposals for creation of energy corridors for years. Gwadar can serve as gateway of trade for these countries but here again in the first instance we took decades in translating the dream of having a deep seaport there and now that we have the port we are unable to make it operational in true sense of the word. We welcome conclusion of agreements between Pakistan and Uzbekistan but would point out that more important is the follow-up without which these would become meaningless. The incumbent Uzbek Ambassador in Islamabad is quite energetic and our Foreign Office should fully utilize his good offices to give practical shape to the understanding arrived at during the visit of PM Gilani to Tashkent.







THE Congress Party of India has been summoned by a US court to appear on April 1, 2011 to respond to the charges of conspiring, aiding, abetting and organizing large-scale anti-Sikh violence in India in 1984. The case has been filed by a human rights group, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) to secure justice for victims of the massacre in which thousands of Sikhs lost their lives.

Operation Blue Star, a code name given to attack in May 1984 by Indian Government on the holiest shrine of Sikhs – Golden Temple, was one of the gravest violations of human rights which showed the real face of Indian democracy. This attack proved that the value of freedom which is held in highest esteem by every society, and even explicitly mentioned in all constitutions, including the Indian Constitution as freedom of religion, was not of importance in India. Apart from Golden Temple, fifty other temples in the Punjab were also attacked by Indian Army and sixty thousand Sikhs were jailed without any charge. Five months later, Indira Gandhi was killed by two of her Sikh bodyguards and in retaliation five thousand Sikhs were killed in just four days of violence. India claims to be the champion of democracy and is trying to portray Pakistan as state sponsor of terrorism but the fact remains that New Delhi itself has systematically and deliberately eliminated hundreds of thousands of Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits and Christians during the last six decades. The sacred pond of Golden Temple was turned red with the blood of Sikhs and 72 bullets were sprayed into the chest of Bhindrawala, which speaks volumes about the deep-rooted hatred of Hindus against minorities. Unfortunately, no impartial inquiry was ever conducted into this massacre and Sikhs are still groping in the dark to get justice. India might have crushed the Khalistan Movement but the deep scar that it inflicted on the minds of Sikh community would remain there and it will be held accountable one day.








Pakistan and Bangladesh a

re bound together by faith, common heritage and culture, and shared values of love and passion for peace. In fact, All India Muslim League was founded at Dhaka in 1906, which later became a driving force behind the creation of Pakistan under the leadership of Quaid-i-Azam. Unfortunately, Pakistan was dismembered due to international intrigue - India being on the frontline - and also due to the flawed policies of the government vis-à-vis formation of One-Unit, policy of parity between East and West Pakistan and strong-centre syndrome. Such contradictions have existed in many countries of the world, which are resolved through dialogue, but India was instrumental in stoking the contradictions to make them irreconcilable. Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said the other day that Pakistan government should apologize for the atrocities committed by Pakistan military on Bengalis. Imran Khan is our national hero and a legend. But he should realize that Pakistan was in a state of war in 1970. Pakistan faced rebellion and many Punjabis, Pathans, Urdu-speaking migrants from India were also slaughtered by militants incited and backed by India.


However, we must admit for the excesses made by the politicians, political leaders, civil and military bureaucracy from 1947 to 1970. In other words, we as an entire nation were responsible for the raw deal given to former East Pakistanis. First of all, Bengalis were not given their due share in government jobs. In accordance with the British standards, their low height, narrow shoulders and small chests did not qualify them for their induction in the army, yet they were recruited in Navy and Air Force. They were in majority with 53 per cent population yet they were treated as minority. When they protested for their rightful share, provinces of West Pakistan were joined to form into One Unit, and formula of parity was floated. In 1970 elections, Awami League emerged as a single majority party, and Yahya Khan had convened National Assembly at Dacca to hand over power to the majority party. But at the last moment, he postponed the assembly session without giving any alternate date, which created doubts in their minds about the government's intentions of disregarding the aspirations of the people of former East Pakistan.

However, there is realization on both sides that foreign powers also played ignominious role in dismemberment of the motherland. People of Pakistan and Bangladesh have now forgotten bitterness of the past and are determined to move forward and play their role for peace and prosperity in the region. We congratulate Bangladesh and wish it all the very best on its independence day. After Bangladesh became an independent country, it has excelled in human development index when compared with India and Pakistan. Indeed, there is a lesson from the dismemberment of Pakistan. You cannot appeal to the reason of the people for unity and cohesion on the basis of religion or cultural heritage. To create unity and harmony between the people of a state, the policies must be predicated on equality and fair play; equitable development of regions and socio-economic justice must be ensured; and democratic rights of the people must be respected. It is encouraging to note that institutions and political parties vying inflicted with the strong centre syndrome and unitary form of government now stand for devolution of authority. During the last three decades, Bangladesh has made strides in many fields; especially its success in introducing micro-finance (Garameen Bank of Bangladesh) to help people in starting their own business and improving literacy rate, has established a paradigm for other developing countries to emulate and benefit from the success story of Bangladesh. Muslims of the undivided India including people of East Bengal had struggled for a separate homeland in order that they could live according to their own way of life and without domination by the brute Hindu majority. And they were successful in creating Pakistan - a beacon of hope for the Muslims of the subcontinent and beyond. But on 16th December 1971, Pakistan was dismembered through an international intrigue and pernicious designs of India whose leadership had never accepted the partition of the sub-continent and creation of Pakistan in 1947. India had hoped that Bangladesh would remain grateful to India for its help in creation of Bangladesh. But people of Bangladesh have maintained their identity as a Muslim nation proving the claim of the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi who had declared that the two-nation theory had drowned in the Bay of Bengal. Anyhow, Bangladesh does not want to do someone else's bidding be it India or any other country. America has been trying to persuade Bangladesh to send combat troops to Afghanistan arguably contrived by American and Indian intelligence agencies to deny Pakistan any role after America and allied forces withdraw from Afghanistan. Bangladesh leadership understood the Indo-US game plan and made it clear that it would not send troops to Afghanistan. "Bangladesh will not send soldiers to Afghanistan," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had told a meeting of ruling Awami League's advisory council in Dhaka last year. Several foreign policy experts in Bangladesh had also expressed reservations against sending combat forces to Afghanistan. The then foreign secretary of Bangladesh Faruque Chowdhury had said: "It would be contrary to Bangladesh's foreign policy; moreover both the countries were members of the South Asian regional grouping of SAARC and had an historic link since the medieval age". It is a well known fact that India has thousands of its agents and commandos in Afghanistan on the pretext of providing security to the road-building and other projects it has undertaken in Afghanistan. During Awami League's rule and especially Hasina Wajid at the helm, India always took it for granted that Bangladesh would be docile, not realizing that Bengalis have great past, and had given tough time to the British Raj – the then super power in its own right. After Bangladesh came into being, India had thought that Bangladeshis would continue to live in abject poverty, and remain subservient to India. In fact, Indian had played pivotal role in dismemberment of Pakistan, of course by taking advantage of contradiction between former East and West Pakistan.

Bangladesh has also dispute with India over river waters, because India always tried to use river waters as a lever to force other countries to acquiesce to it. The issue of border fences installed by India has in the past been another bone of contention. Ever since, in 1987 when India decided to fence some locations along Indo-Bangladesh international border, (at present 2,859 km have been fenced out of the sanctioned 3,783 kms), Bangladesh has been upset.

Bangladesh always perceived it to be 'an unfair' move reflective of not only India's lack of trust towards its neighbour but also meant overlooking and disregarding what is largely considered as a historical trend of free movement across the subcontinent. Nevertheless, with the fences that were built on Indian soil with Indian resources, there was very little Bangladesh could do to stop the process. Bangladesh protested vociferously about these fences naming it as defence structures, which are not permitted between the neighbours within 150 yards from the zero line.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.








The entire nation was shocked to receive the news that not only Raymond Davis has been mysteriously released with framing a charge of 'Fasad fil Arz' but was flown out within hours of this decision. PLD had reported a decision of Peshawer High Court in a case of 2006 in which the court did not allow the acceptance of diyat settlement between the parties, because it was considered to be a case of Fasad fil Arz. In the Raymond case diyat settlement was accepted by the court in reportedly a highly questionable manner when the family's of the two deceased were whisked away from their residence and have not returned ever since this settlement and not seen even by the immediate neighbours or relatives, what kind of dispensation of justice this was done in such a high profile case that surviving family has disappeared. The punishment for a convict of 'Fasad fil Arz' is to hang such a person against the lamp post publicly. Though it should have been obvious to everybody that the Raymond-Davis adventure would be made to end like this with the US getting its way and the leadership of the country, including the military one, for selling their souls and those of the nation for money and other gains, it still came as a rude shock causing physical pain and shame to honest citizens and friends of Pakistan. While Holy Qur'an is burnt under the eyes of the US government and Muslims are frightened and mistreated in USA, but our leaders were expressionless on this why? Is it not the reason that Americans and West consider every thing a saleable commodity in Pakistan, because Islam came handy to their rescue out of the corner into which the Raymond Davis affair had revealed existence of espionage network working in Pakistan by CIA contractors with sensitive material & equipment carried in the car.

The Islamic law that was designed to avoid revenge and tribal warfare and which is taking into account tribal values and traditions for conflict resolution was falsely used to acquit a man who was not only a murderer of two youngsters in broad day light in Lahore, another young man Ebadur Rehman lost his life because of reckless driving of another US consulate car at the same time near the scene of double murder, which could not have fallen simply under the Qisas and diyat law, it was a case of Fasad fil Arz, where diyat is not admissible, on top of it he was also a foreign spy acting against the security and interest of the Pakistani state as many evidences of his involvement were found from his car in which he committed this heinous crime of high treason. To remove any ambiguity I produce from Surah Al-Maidah, verse 32&33 " If some one commits excess against the land, it is Fasad fil Arz and punishment for those who wage war against Allah & His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through land is execution, or crucifixion, or cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides." Raymond Devis act is therefore not covered by the qisas and diyat regulation and everybody who wanted to know could have known from a reference to Holy Quran.

The council of Islamic ideology, the JI and the JUI who usually think to have a monopoly on Islam and know it all are conspicuous for their complete silence in this crucial situation of misusing Islam. It is no wonder that this government and the army command are compromising even their souls but one would have hoped that not all the 'real' Muslims are corrupt. What a tragedy when a crusade has been started against Muslims and we the faithful Musalmans are acting otherwise and fighting their proxy war, just because of fear against the strong arm tactics of the super power and have totally forgotten about the wrath of Allah falling on nations who willingly try to bring a bad name. By doing such acts to win American favour, which falls as a dirty job done by rulers, which is heinous crime against the state, the past experience gives us ample proof of the fact that Americans always ditch Muslim leaders and nations, once their purpose is fulfilled, so with this background I have feeling that they will soon abandon these leaders and our nation again, but let me clear that Nature will not spare us for committing treachery against Islam and bringing bad name to it also. The wheel of nature is grinding and after seeing recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, one feels that the wheel of nature has now started grinding fast; so come to the right path and let us ask for His mercy. If one recalls what Americans had done after Jihad against USSR in Afghanistan was over all those people brought to fight were left back high & dry, soon they were wondering in search of safe heavens, where Afghan war lords had to establish their own writ in different areas and got engaged into an in house fighting. What have they done with Pakistan since our becoming the frontline state again in 2001? The then US ambassador promised giving a package in return of our opting as the ally, she started sitting in Commerce ministry for 10 days and perhaps copied all secret documents in Commerce & Economic affairs in the hope of getting write-off of loans, double MFA Quota for Pakistan for remaining period upto 2005, and allowing of preferential treatment in Import tariffs in USA on Pakistani textile exports as was given to many other countries.

An impression was given that by doing so honey & milk will start flowing in our water channels, when our ministerial delegation arrived in Washington, they were shown the door by saying that don't expect a treatment like Egypt and others, as done in the Gulf War, which was financed by our coalition partners in that war; the Afghan & Iraq war we have to finance from American taxpayers money, so we can't give any further relief or benefit to you in 2001. Why and who motivated us to secretly engage ourselves to start Kargil adventure to capture position of strategic importance, the plan was even hidden from our political leadership when it was launched, who were already engaged in famous bus diplomacy at that time, the later events and statements give ample reason to believe that it was probably meant to win over India by USA, an effort in which they had failed to win over the hearts and minds of India since last 55 years. So by pushing Pakistan in this mis- adventure, where Indians found themselves in helpless condition, offer of sophisticated military cooperation was given under which high technology was transferred to convert Indians position into a winning one, under this arrangement few aircrafts were modified by Americans to carry laser fire power upto a height of 16000 to 18000 feet on Kargil post, and armaments were supplied to equip their strength, and India was placed in a winning position, this led to India change its heart in favour of USA so a dream was fulfilled by using the Pakistani shoulders. India was now able to recapture Kargil position and destroy Pakistani force deployed on Kargil, so pressure was mounted to immediately resolve this issue un conditionally, Mian Nawaz Sharif was asked to proceed to Washington but President Clinton told Pakistan to first agree to sign the accord of withdrawal of troops unconditionally from Kargil. And once the message of India & USA was understood here Prime Minister was rushed to Washington on the request of General Musharraf without formal concurrence on diplomatic channels, the Washington Accord was signed by Nawaz Sharif on 4th July 1999, the Independence Day of USA without Indian political or government presence in Washington, there position had changed so much that the agreed draft was faxed by President Clinton to wake up during the night the then Indian Prime Minster Atal Bihari Vajpayee to give his consent of acceptance, upon getting this the accord was inked in Washington by Pakistani PM and President Clinton.

This was the turning point in geo-political history of sub-continent and India was given this gift of Washington accord in a silver platter, which our institutions of strategic research have perhaps not evaluated realistically. India-Israeli nexus was then fully supported by USA and this sea change has played havoc against Pakistan when India was given a free hand in Afghanistan to settle its score against Pakistan. The hatched Bombay attack is part and parcel of this very drama but we are keeping our mum shut for political expediency and personal gains and advantages, whereas Indians are working purely in their national interest.

Now look at the series of DRONE attacks into Pakistani territory; the very next day after Raymond Davis was gone more then fifty to sixty civilians attending a Peace Jirga were killed in this drone attack.  








Tolerance, accommodativeness and honoring others' point of view are the core values of a society, which is missing here. In the society, culture of imposing ideology, thoughts, beliefs and the way these be practiced prevail. Extremism is not a phenomenon which is linked to physical actions but the rays it ejects in kind of intolerance, prejudice and ethnocentrism. People who are religious or the political are so possessive towards their school of thoughts that they don't let any option differing to their perception to pour into their minds. Radicalization is based on radical philosophy supporting certain factions to be intolerant to any of the ideology or thought process which differs with them. Pakistan is dragged into war on terrorism which has now turned into its own war. Its masses are facing suicidal bombings and terrorist attacks. Pakistan army had to go for operation in Swat and alongside western borders of the country. Pakistan army achieved success as it was has the political backing of the government and its parliament.

Religious extremism strengthens its roots during Russian invasion in Afghanistan. America joins hands with this part of the Muslim countries to oust Russian forces from Afghanistan and then left these forces being trained during the course of war in aloofness. Then it was Pakistan alone to take care of the breed being flourished. So the trained lot scattered all over the country to settle themselves according to their own choice and style. Things were not controlled and the state level as there would have been proper employment opportunities for them to get them acquainted with the routine life. So they joined different factions and of course the political as well.

Different frames of mind kept on nourishing under the tag of real Islam having strong beliefs of theirs. They condemn other factions' beliefs and the way of practising them. Obviously anti Islam elements had to take benefits of all that. Publication and distribution of hate literature is so common. It provokes feelings of hatred. Slaman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti's assassination seems to be the result of it. Intolerance has reached an extent that things which could be understood with dialogue and discussion are addressed assertively. Shahbaz Bhatti's assassination could be a resolve to divert masses attention from Raymond Davis and to keep Pakistan under pressure as the deceased hailed from minority. However its strong perception that it is not the issue of killing a representative from the minority community, but it is the matter of mindset. Yes we have to admit that now one of the core issues which Pakistan is facing is extremism. It is in shape of beliefs and physical both. One thing which can really address this issue is political will which seems missing. When bloodshed is common in the society political parties are busy in improving its numbers by accepting the people who were graded undesirable earlier. Moderate people are being made fodder for the extremists. Political parties avoid playing their pivotal role just to get political mileage. Religious factions are also not at the same page and they are not ready to listen even that their confrontation is leading the nation to disaster. Different religious and political leaders keep on changing their stances according to need and requirement basis. Masses who are hard pressed because of the increasing inflation, un-employment, and lawlessness are seeking for a gigantic political leadership which is not there yet. Leadership is really important in order to eradicate menace of intolerance, extremism. Strict prosecution is needed.

The Pakistani society has been poisoned with extremist mindset over the years. Unless culprits are apprehended and taken to task, it can't be established who really behind the menace is. Political parties have always compromised the writ of the state for their vested interests. Our policing system is trained under the requirements of the colonial system, where police had to work in close liaison with the land lords and elders of different areas. Now since the environment has changed, police recruitment and its training have to be reviewed to make it more efficient, responsible and honest. Major dilemma of our system is that police is not trained to prosecute and our judiciary not provided with concrete evidence, so the sentence remains unimplemented. Courts have to release many of the culprits as no proper evidence is found to fulfill basic requirements of court procedures.

None of the segments alone can handle the issue of extremism. For this all political and civil society segments have to get united to reach a conclusion. Radicalization is not an overnight production; it involves contribution of many years on the part of society.

—The writer is Rawalpindi-based freelance columnist.








But Brisbane's Lord Mayor is right about one point. Queensland's bureaucracy is overblown and business is struggling because of red tape and poor infrastructure, especially in the southeast, far from the state's booming mining regions. Tourism and service industries are in the doldrums in the state's two-speed economy and are under pressure after summer's natural disasters.

Mr Newman's elevation by the Liberal National Party to alternative premier has already had one positive effect. It has kicked off an important economic debate in what was once Australia's boom state, but which lost its AAA credit rating two years ago. Despite the mining boom it has also fallen short on growth, employment, non-residential construction and business investment. Mr Newman made a good start yesterday in an interview with The Weekend Australian, outlining his vision for economic change. But he must also address issues such as state taxes and charges, especially the burden of payroll tax and how he intends to pay for the transport and water infrastructure the state needs.

Premier Anna Bligh faces a major challenge overseeing reconstruction, but also needs to pay more attention to these issues. She would restore the state's AAA credit rating much faster if she reined in the public service, for example. But Ms Bligh has done well staring down union and public opposition to the sale of major assets such as Queensland Rail's coal freight business. If Queensland is to recover its former prosperity and avoid a long-term malaise like NSW, the economy must be the battle ground in the contest between two seasoned leaders.






Hard-headed analysis of the impact of carbon prices on our emissions growth and economic wellbeing is much more illuminating. Which is why the intervention of the Productivity Commission through chairman Gary Banks was so important this week. Mr Banks has explained the complicated balancing act needed to set the right price on Australian carbon through the proposed new tax. The risk is that if the price is too low the tax will be ineffectual, if too high it will simply send Australian jobs and emissions overseas. That's economic pain for no environmental gain.

The commission, however, is taking the analysis much further, as discussed by economics editor Michael Stutchbury in our pages today. By examining the effective carbon price here and overseas, the commission is attempting to estimate the cost impacts of numerous other government interventions, such as renewable energy targets mandating large quantities of expensive zero-emissions electricity. Juggling the various effects of carbon prices here and overseas so that a local carbon tax can be imposed without seriously undermining our industry, exports, employment and wealth is, in Mr Banks's view, a "wicked" challenge. Strange then, that the commission wasn't called in earlier. It was only at the behest of independent MP Tony Windsor that the government even agreed to this inquiry into the international carbon pricing environment -- a study that should have occurred at the start of Labor's considerations even before the failure of Copenhagen.

While Mr Banks's final report is eagerly awaited and his warnings about the practical difficulties are timely, they come as the government increasingly looks rattled and disorganised. After spending the early part of the week embracing the possibility of merging personal tax cuts into the carbon tax compensation measures, and admonishing the opposition for promising to scrap these imaginary cuts, it has now backed away. In a week of policy absurdity, presumably Labor no longer is critical of the opposition for promising to scrap proposed tax cuts it now no longer believes advisable? Little wonder if voters become confused.

The Prime Minister and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet have been keen to portray anyone who disagrees with their tax as climate change deniers.

As Mr Banks makes clear, even if you are committed to cutting emissions, there are a hundred ways to skin this cat, and we need to get it right. The commission implicitly recognises the opposition's direct action plan is not the cheapest way to cut emissions. But, then again, it is a plan that doesn't involve radical structural change to the economy and, on paper at least, doesn't increase the overall tax take, so its proponents can argue, if they choose, that it is a prudent way forward. We also need to keep our debate in perspective, realising that Australia accounts for less than 1.5 per cent of global emissions. The Weekend Australian believes a market mechanism is the best way to control emissions but we must not disadvantage the economy by moving too far ahead of our competitors. But the danger of focusing obsessively on one policy is that it neglects other priorities. We believe, for instance, that one of the government's highest priorities should be working towards a sovereign wealth fund to lock in the gains of the boom, and not squander our resources wealth. Name-calling over taxes and debates about a couple of offensive placards only distract Australia from real and complex economic challenges ahead.






Whenever the party loses its way, it returns instinctively to the speech Ben Chifley delivered to the NSW branch of the ALP on June 12, 1949. It is commonly known as the Light on the Hill speech, but we prefer its original title -- For the Betterment of Mankind Anywhere. To assist new Labor leaders and young union leaders hazy on history, the speech has been posted on our website, (We also recommend Tom Dusevic's feature, "Who's in bed with Kristina Keneally?" on the nepotism and patronage that have destroyed NSW Labor.)

On this exceptional day, we quote from the concluding paragraphs of Chifley's speech: "When I sat at a Labour meeting in the country with only 10 or 15 men there, I found a man sitting beside me who had been working in the Labour movement for 54 years. I have no doubt that many of you have been doing the same, not hoping for any advantage from the movement, not hoping for any personal gain, but because you believe in a movement that has been built up to bring better conditions to the people. Therefore, the success of the Labour Party at the next elections depends entirely, as it always has done, on the people who work. I try to think of the labour movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody's pocket, or making somebody prime minister or premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people . . . "

A few months later, Robert Menzies was elected prime minister, relegating Labor to 23 years in opposition. That should not deter today's leaders from returning to this speech, however. They should recall that under Chifley, Labor secured 42.2 per cent of first preference votes in the December 1949 election, but this week's Newspoll had NSW Labor at 23 per cent.

The world has changed since Chifley's day, and so has the spelling of the party's name. The phrases "working man" and "the working class" are out of fashion, but the values of those they describe are not. They are Howard's battlers, Kevin Rudd's working families and Julia Gillard's hard-working Australians.

For Labor, as for Labour, success depends, as it always has done, on the people who work.






TONIGHT two quite different types of political action coincide. As Sydney turns out its lights between 8.30 and 9.30 to mark Earth Hour and symbolise its concern for global warming, the state will also be learning the outcome of a state election. Voters, it is reasonable to predict, will also have flicked the switch on Labor, consigning it to darkness for a minimum of four years - and quite possibly much longer. The coincidence may well mark the end of several eras.

It will obviously mark the end of Labor's 16 years in office. But the event carries greater significance than that. Though the future course of politics cannot be predicted, the present disarray within the Labor Party, and the indiscipline that symbolises its intellectual and organisational frailty, may well presage the end of its domination of NSW. The party that has ruled this state for 52 out of the last 70 years has always claimed the label progressive; in its last years in Macquarie Street it has been anything but. It has become an entrenched force for conservatism.

If voters do indeed deliver the historic defeat that is predicted, that will be one reason why: NSW Labor, dominated by its right wing, no longer believes even in its own values. Its ruling caste has turned it into an empty shell, made up of careerists and clever - but values-free and essentially amoral - political manipulators.

Yet in its death throes Labor has put up a good fight. The Premier, Kristina Keneally, deserves credit for an energetic campaign. She or her party could have stooped to mudslinging, but for the most part they have not. The same can be said of the opposition parties.

In addition, because Labor has been facing a threat to its very existence, it has suddenly - for the first time in many years - engaged with its own traditional support base. MPs in previously safe seats have been canvassing vigorously for votes - not relying on the bland and manipulative advertising messages from head office to coast home. The sight of Keneally this week explaining to a group of miners why they should vote Labor is one for aficionados to savour. The disconnectedness of modern life - documented by the American social commentator Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone - has taken its toll on political life here as in the US and other countries, to the cost of both politics and the public. People tend no longer to join groups, or see group activity as a way to achieve common goals. Political parties have played along, using marketing techniques to sell themselves to individual consumers. Yet group engagement of the type we have seen in this campaign is what politics should be all about. It is a pity the Labor Party has taken so long to relearn an elementary but long-forgotten lesson.

One result of the community's unfamiliarity with politics is that when it does engage, the result is superficial and shrill. In Canberra this week the growing desperation of the evenly matched contest inside Parliament overflowed into an ugly and ill-mannered demonstration against a carbon tax outside. With little difference between the parties on economic issues, they must seek to differentiate themselves elsewhere. Tony Abbott, siding with the deniers of climate science, has marked out a position he may well come to regret, and in an astonishingly graceless way for the leader of a major political party.

Yet the demonstration, deplorable in its style, in the ignorance of its participants, and the self-interested manipulation of its backers, is likely to be the first of many as people begin to realise the scale of what must change if a serious attempt is to be made to deal with the climate threat. The political spectrum is no longer bipolar, a straight line from right to left, blue to red, the old capital to labour. It has another pole now - a green one. As climate change becomes more intense, and the need to change the way human beings interact with the environment becomes more pressing, we may expect the politics around environmental issues to become less polite and more keenly fought. Labor's traditional analysis of what constitutes a progressive agenda is losing relevance before a new spectrum of concerns.

Those concerns were expressed fittingly in 2007, with the first Earth Hour. This year the fifth Earth Hour still expresses the same worldwide concern at the dangers facing the Earth in a simple gesture of self-denial. It remains a powerful message, and an important way to raise people's consciousness of a growing problem. But the events of this week show that other messages and other messengers are out there determined to obscure and limit its quiet power. Without concrete measures to turn concern into action on climate change, Earth Hour will become an empty symbol.





WHEN private people allow their ugly inner man or woman to parade on Facebook, it is the private person who suffers. Anyone stupid enough to post vulgar or offensive remarks or pictures that become public is likely to find themselves suddenly in strife in their relationships or their workplaces, depending on the nature of the indiscretion. But when such postings are made by people in an organisation that represents the nation, there can be grave consequences that reach far beyond the culprit. When the postings involve Australian soldiers making racist sneers about the Afghan people they have been sent to protect, the consequences could be devastating.

The Defence Force has launched an investigation into soldiers in Afghanistan who used Facebook to post comments about Afghans being ''sand niggaz'' and ''dune coons'', being smelly, and being in need of ''butt-stroking'' - slang for beaten with a rifle. Other postings joked about Afghans having sex with dogs. Not surprisingly, the Australian Defence Association has warned that the comments risked undermining Australia's efforts in Afghanistan. Spokesman Neil James said: ''You're protecting a counter-insurgency war, where the support of the local people is important. You don't want to give the enemy propaganda.''

Soldiers are young and sometimes have not yet developed a mature world view. Being trained and required to use weapons against others can also produce an understandable desensitisation in some; it is one of the many unhappy byproducts of war. But it is important that the boundaries between emotions and actions are enforced. These soldiers should be brought to book. It is embarrassing and destructive that such racist views have been made so public. It would be even more appalling if such attitudes were to go unchecked among their peers. Seeing the ''enemy'' as less than human has been a key factor in most war atrocities. The Defence Force's cultural education of its troops in Afghanistan is not yet done.








The fuzziness of the rallying cry – March for the Alternative – is easily mocked, but the lack of a detailed economic programme is the least of the obstacles facing those who will rally through London today. Cohesive rationales can be retrofitted on to successful resistance campaigns of the past, and yet the Hyde Park rioters of 1866 did not arrive with a draft of the Second Reform Bill in their back pockets, and nor did 1990's poll tax protestors take to the streets with a blueprint for the council tax in mind.

Like the restricted franchise of the 19th century, and Mrs Thatcher's community charge, cuts that go too far and too fast are an extreme proposition, and one that can legitimately be resisted in negative terms. The march deserves a strong turn out. Even if attendance is numbered in the hundreds of thousands that the TUC hopes for, however, it is not guaranteed to do much good. The aim must be to do more than preach to the converted, but the marchers and Labour leader Ed Miliband, who is set to address them, face three formidable obstacles in the way of a wider campaign of persuasion.

For those yelling "fight back" to every cutback, the first danger is appearing as hopeless bleeding hearts. From New Cross library to Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, the Guardian yesterday detailed worthy projects that will soon slash services and slam doors, after the cuts begin to bite in earnest in a few days. As that happens public squalor will undoubtedly compound private penury, and yet a cash-strapped public cannot be relied on to prioritise what the marchers conceive of as the public good. If you doubt it, look at today's Guardian/ICM poll: voters' only grumble about George Osborne's squandering of the meagre resources at hand in the budget on cheaper petrol was that he did not go far enough.

As they hear every individual cut dismissed as too early, too late or a false economy, tax-wary voters will reasonably suspect that some things have to give. Life must be breathed into the Keynesian case that days of cheap money and idle labour are the moment for the state to invest. The cuts' critics must drive home the point – as commentators did this week – that the orthodox economist voices singing in unison with the chancellor are the same ones who failed to sound a warning before the crisis hit.

The second challenge is to speak for, and be seen to be speak for, the country as a whole, as opposed to sectional interests. The pitfalls here are especially deep for a union-led campaign. Increasingly concentrated in state employment, organised labour must persuade the 85% of workers in private firms who do not carry a union card that it shares their concerns. Industrial action will inevitably concentrate on public servants' terms and conditions, including pensions far more generous than those in most companies. This action should be kept at a safe distance from political campaigning, which should focus instead on things like hospital waits and tax-credit cuts which will afflict private- and public-sector workers alike.

The third great difficulty is Mr Miliband's – namely, winning the blame game. Today's one point ICM lead for the Tories may prove to be a blip, but it is a reminder that he has not yet been able to prevail decisively. Separate YouGov analysis shows that many more voters continue to blame Labour than the Conservatives for the cuts, which is perhaps not surprising given that Labour presided over the banking bubble and burst, and also pencilled in the first tranche of deep cuts. With growth stalled and the pain about to begin in earnest, the tide could soon turn, but it cannot be assumed.

Great shows of people power give vent to emotion, but as often as not they fail to do anything more – a point underlined by both the pro-foxhunting and anti-Iraq war demos. Marchers today will express indignation with the world as it is. But as a great man once wrote, the point is to change it.






When power was just a glimmer on the horizon, Conservative MPs used to delight in attacking Labour's recruitment of political sympathisers as government special advisers and spin doctors – in spite of the fact that many of the new Tory leadership, David Cameron and George Osborne among them, had themselves cut their teeth in such jobs. Soon after he came to power, Mr Cameron pointedly spoke of his profound respect for the civil service. Yet how quickly things change.

The prime minister's speech branding bureaucrats as the enemies of enterprise was only the most recent upset for the mandarinate, many of whom are willy-nilly veterans of 13 years of Labour's permanent revolution. It triggered a protest from the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, in the latest of a series of leaks which include a stern put-down of ministers whom Sir Gus suspected of briefing against the Electoral Commission boss Jenny Watson, and a paper from him urging the case for an economic Plan B.

Then there are the special advisers. It is typical of incoming governments to wonder why the levers of power seem not to be connected to the rest of the machine, and to look to bring in outside support. To some degree, they all do it. But there is now an unmistakable backtracking on the coalition commitment to limit their number. This suggests that ministers in this government too are increasingly frustrated by the Whitehall establishment.

The biggest transgressor seems to be the education secretary, Michael Gove, who has assembled a praetorian guard of sympathisers. Some of these involve the arms-length New Schools Network, set up and run by Mr Gove's former adviser Rachel Wolf and funded by the taxpayer. For some months the NSN was a base for another former Gove adviser, Dominic Cummings, blackballed last year by Andy Coulson for a role at Mr Gove's right hand on the grounds that he was "too leaky". Now Mr Coulson is out and Mr Cummings is back in. He replaces another special adviser, Elena Narozanski. Fortunately, Mr Gove needs some new speech writers, and Ms Narozanski is the insiders' top tip for one of the jobs. Meanwhile Mr Gove has appointed a new head of news, James Frayne, from the Westbourne lobbying firm, famously well-connected to the Tory party.

Radical ministers always need kindred spirits, but few have recruited them as comprehensively as Mr Gove appears to have done. He has done nothing wrong – though the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude might look at the breach of his jobs freeze. The official civil service code is intact. But a powerful whiff of hypocrisy lingers on the Whitehall air.





Protest about Lockheed Martin's involvement by all means: but not by ignoring the form. Silence is only a denial of identity

Defying the census began as a contrarian stunt. In 2001 390,000 people listed their religion as "Jedi", propelling a fictitious faith ahead of Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism in the national statistics. As teacher used to say, it wasn't clever and it wasn't funny – but at least it did no harm. The section in the census on religion is optional and misunderstood, the 70% who described themselves as "Christian" in 2001 perhaps confusing their cultural identity with active religious participation. A decade on from the Jedi explosion, however, resistance to the census has become tiresomely predictable and self-defeating. There are many good reasons for filling in the form accurately by Sunday, when data collection ends, and only bad ones for wilfully corrupting it. Of all the many intrusive sets of information about us held by the state and private business, the census has the best claim to being impartial, complete and for the public good. Refusing to fill it in brings no advantage: doing so is as much a civic act as voting, an affirmation that we are part of society, not isolated individuals. The more unreliable the census, the more distorted the government's priorities become. Urban areas, and particularly poor ones, end up undercounted and eventually underfunded too. Some people are concerned that Lockheed Martin, a defence contractor, is working on the census, and are calling for a boycott in response. Protest about this by all means: but not by ignoring the form. Silence is not brave, only a denial of identity.






The Central and Pacific leagues of pro baseball have shown contrasting approaches to their game schedule for this year in the wake of the March 11 quake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan. On March 15, the Pacific League decided to postpone the start of its season to April 12.

The Central League first announced that it will start its season on March 25. After the education ministry requested it to avoid games, especially at night, in the area where power is supplied by Tokyo Electric Power Co., whose Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is in a crisis, the league postponed the start of the season to March 29. It decided not to hold extended games throughout the season, but it decided to hold night games on and after April 5. The education ministry then requested the league to rethink its night games plan.

On Thursday, however, the Central League decided to start the season on April 12 and not to hold night games in April. One wonders if it occurred, after all, to league officials that their earlier decision to start its season in late March would not have received public support, as people in the disaster-hit regions are in deep sorrow, suffering over the loss of family members and homes.

It appears that officials of the Central League have failed to understand the gravity of the fact that more than 20,000 people are dead or missing because of the quake and tsunami, and that elderly evacuees are dying in temporary shelters because of a lack of medical care.

In contrast, in the Pacific League, there was a strong voice among players and managers that the situation in Japan is not yet suitable to play and enjoy the game of baseball.

Three Central League teams based in the Tokyo metropolitan had wanted to hold night games in April. It is clear that this ran counter to the idea behind Tepco's rolling power outages. It appears that Central League officials did not understand the severity of the power shortage. A night game at the Tokyo Dome consumes 50,000 to 60,000 kW of electricity, equivalent to the amount used by 4,000 households.





The government on Monday told Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures to suspend shipping of spinach and kakina, a locally produced leaf vegetable, following the detection of radioactive substances at levels above the provisional limits under the Food Sanitation Law. It also told Fukushima Prefecture to suspend shipping of raw milk for a similar reason. The radioactive substances apparently came from Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The government the next day called on people to limit consumption of spinach, cabbage and a few other leaf vegetables from Fukushima Prefecture.

The government, which had ruled out a large-scale nuclear accident, had not set allowable limits for radioactive substances in farm products. The health ministry hurriedly established provisional limits and notified prefectural governments March 17.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that even if one continues to eat 1 kg of the spinach every day for a year, the accumulated radiation level will be one-fifth that of one computerized tomography scan. And if one consumed the milk at the national average amount for a year, the accumulated radiation level would be about the same as that of one CT scan, he said.

But one cannot completely rule out the possibility of a chronic health problem if farm products with a low level of radioactivity are ingested over a long time. Radioactive iodine collects in the thyroid gland, and children are most likely to suffer from internal exposure to radiation leading to thyroid cancer. While radioactive iodine has a half-life of eight days; for radioactive cesium, it's 30 years. The latter, though, is said to leave the body easily.

While the central and local governments must guard against radioactive contamination of food items, they must prevent a panic among consumers. They should carry out detailed radiation checks so that only products below the limits of contamination will be shipped to markets. They should provide accurate information to consumers to prevent an abnormal situation in which they refrain from buying even safe products. A close watch on fishery products will also be necessary.







LONDON — March 18 saw the first nationwide protests against the Ba'ath regime in Syria. If these protests develop into a full-scale revolt, the regime's response may dwarf that of 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 Ba'ath Party still rules Syria, and it is just as ruthless as ever. So what happens if the Syrian revolution gets under way, and the Ba'ath 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 Ba'ath 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 Alawis, 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 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 clear: The U.N. had no right to intervene in the internal affairs of a member state no matter how badly it behaved.

But by the early 21st century, 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 Lloyd Axworthy set up the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (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 facade of national sovereignty to justify ethnic cleansing," Axworthy explained, and so he launched a head-on attack on sovereignty.

The commission he set up concluded, unsurprisingly, that the 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 — Russia and China in particular — which 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 toward the adoption of "R2P."

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." Now, five years later, they're taking military action against Gadhafi.

Ten out of 15 Security Council members voted in favor of the action last week, 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.

Gwynne Dyer's latest book, "Climate Wars," is distributed in most of the world by Oneworld.







CHENNAI, India — India's Supreme Court ruled March 14 that an Indian citizen has the right to die with dignity. There are understandable riders to this landmark judgment that said thousands of people leading a vegetative life could have their artificial support systems withdrawn and thus end their lives of misery.

The legal ruling came after years of debate over the vast number of men and women bedridden like mere vegetables, draining their families of finances. The emotional turmoil of those around such patients is immense, and worse, nobody can tell with any definitive conclusion the kind of agony that the victim feels.

Take the case of Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse at a leading Mumbai hospital, who has not been able talk, move or eat on her own for the past 37 years, a condition she developed after a sweeper raped her and throttled her with a dog chain.

In 1973, the 25-year-old woman, who was to go on her marriage leave the next day, was caught alone in the basement of the hospital. The rape and strangulation damaged her brain stem, and made her deaf, blind and paralyzed. Tragically, the trauma left her with the ability to feel pain, and she can often be heard screaming from a dark room in the hospital where she lies, fed and looked after by the nurses and doctors. They push mashed food down her throat, and have been her angelic friends.

In 1990, journalist Pinki Virani wrote a moving article about Aruna's tragedy, and later published it as a book. Pinki never knew Aruna when she was a bubbly, full-of-life nurse.

Pinki petitioned the Supreme Court of India to let Arun die a dignified a death. The court examined her petition.

Euthanasia is now allowed, but under very strict supervision. The court said "the right to permit a terminally ill patient to refuse medical treatment would be given under guarded conditions to prevent its misuse."

Active euthanasia remains forbidden. The court said that injecting a lethal drug to end the life of a patient beyond hope of recovery could not be allowed under any circumstances, because it went against the very essence of the "right to life" principle in India's Constitution.

The court agreed to passive euthanasia. The guidelines for this include a declaration from the High Court after getting an OK from a medical board and the government of the state concerned. "If a person consciously and voluntarily refuses to take lifesaving medical treatment, it's not a crime," the legal bench said.

The Supreme Court verdict will serve as law until India's parliament legislates. Today there is no law on euthanasia. This is because the federal government has held firm on the view that in a country like India, where poverty, illiteracy, social backwardness and emotional immaturity rule, euthanasia could be easily misused.

One can draw a parallel between euthanasia and sati — in which widows, both young and old, are egged on to burn themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands. It is widely believed that one significant cause of sati is money. The dead man's relatives, in an attempt to stop his property from passing on to his widow, push her to immolate herself.

The court nonetheless felt that given the various international judgments on the subject, passive euthanasia should be permitted — if the patient wishes it. If the patient is too ill or is comatose, a relative or a friend could ask the state to end that life.

In the case of Aruna, the court averred that since Pinki was not a close friend or relative, she had no right to ask for the victim's euthanasia. So while the court examined Pinki's petition, it did not accept her plea for Arun's euthanasia.

At one level, these developments convey that India is progressing into a modern society. Yet, Sohanlal Walmiki, the sweeper who destroyed Aruna, walked out of jail in just six years, is now married with a family. The poor nurse has been lying incarcerated in the most degrading condition a human being can possibly experience for 37 years.

Shouldn't Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which punishes one who tries to take his or her own life, be reviewed as the Supreme Court has recommended?

Admittedly, there are no easy solutions in a nation as complex and diverse as India with its multitude of languages, religions and castes.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai, India-based journalist.








The Jakarta administration was on the verge of inadvertently stripping the late prose writer Hans Bague Jassin of his prominent place in the country's history of literature.

That the Jakarta administration and the Jakarta Legislative Council decided to further cut the annual contribution to the HB Jassin Literature Documentation Center from last year's Rp 164 million (US$18,860) to only Rp 50 million this year speaks volumes about the collective ignorance of the city's policy makers about our national literature, which Jassin has helped enrich.

The amount is minuscule compared with the Jakarta sports and youth agency's allocation of Rp 2 billion for Alex Asmasubrata Management (AAM) to support the activities of national young female driver Alexandra Asmasoebrata, or the Rp 1 billion city fund that went to the Indonesian Qosidah Art Institute (Lasqi).

Both the Jakarta government and legislative council seemed unaware that the HB Jassin Literature Documentation Center is believed to be home to the largest collection of literature in the country.

Originally the center was Jassin's private library. The center's collections include 19,000 works of fiction, more than 12,000 works of nonfiction, 875 autobiographies, 812 plays and 16,774 news clippings. Handwritten manuscripts of noted Indonesian poet Chairil Anwar and Western-oriented prose writer Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana are also a part of the center's precious collection.

The center's management had said they would stop the operation of the center if they could not secure sufficient funding, which according to Ajip Rosidi, a member of the center's advisory board, amounted to at least Rp 1 billion annually. The money is used to pay the salaries of its 16 employees and maintain the condition of the books.

Fortunately, the city administration quickly realized the potential damage that would be done if the center was allowed to shut down.

Governor Fauzi Bowo admitted he and the Jakarta Council had miscalculated the operational cost of the center. The incident, however, serves as a reminder for the city administration to strengthen its commitment to the preservation of cultural legacies. Apart from the HB Jassin literature center there are 46 museums across the city that need attention.

It is unfair, however, to put all the blame on the city administration.

This case also reflects the public's ignorance about the country's rich cultural legacies. Empty museums and crowded shopping malls shed some light on the situation.




Darkness will fall across many parts of Jakarta this Saturday night as the capital city joins the "Earth Hour" global campaign. All non-essential lights and electronic appliances are to be switched off between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to take a stand against climate change.

Some of Jakarta's iconic spots like the National Monument, the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, City Hall, the Pemuda Statue and the Arjuna Wijaya fountain will also be immersed in darkness.

This is the third year Jakarta, along with several other cities in the country, is taking part in the campaign initiated by WWF and its partners. Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, where 2.2 million people and more than 2,000 businesses switched off their electricity for one hour to raise awareness about climate change.

A year later, Earth Hour became a global movement with over 50 million people in 35 countries participating to help support the planet. Last year, the drive was the biggest ever with 4,616 cities in 128 countries committing to the campaign. This year, 131 countries have vowed to take part.

Climate change can be attributable to human activities, meaning primary solutions need to come from people, including changes in people's behavior. Some people may find it hard to contribute to climate solutions considering it is a complicated issue that depends mostly on finance, technology, governments and corporations.

But, the root of the problem lies in behavior. Global energy consumption has been blamed for the release of 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere in 2007, with public utilities generating daily electricity and heat that contribute 36.3 percent to overall consumption.

Simple actions like switching off the lights can lead to bigger and more positive impacts because in doing so we can launch efficiency measures to make a greater difference.

In Indonesia, Earth Hour first kicked off in Jakarta, which has the highest electricity consumption — 20 percent of national consumption — with households accounting for the highest at 34 percent and businesses at 29 percent.

The Jakarta administration expects this year's drive could save 300 megawatts of electricity, an increase from the 80 megawatts saved last year. Saving 300 megawatts of electricity is equivalent to turning off a power plant, reducing 267.3 tons of CO2 emissions and saving US$216.6 million on electricity expenditures. If 10 percent of households in Jakarta switch off two lights each, the target may be reached.

It's true that an hour-long campaign is not enough to save the planet. But, Earth Hour is about working together to create a better future and sending a message that a solution to environmental problems is there if we work together.

Joining this energy saving campaign symbolizes one's commitment to change beyond just the hour. So, after the lights are back on, it will be time to continue taking action. Together, our actions can make a difference.







The magnitude 8.9 earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck parts of Japan have undoubtedly increased our awareness about the potential for disasters. It also marks a time for serious reflection about how our cities are built to respond to calamities.

As a country located on the Ring of Fire, cities in Indonesia are highly prone to earthquakes and tsunamis like what happened in Aceh in 2004 and Mentawai, West Sumatra, in 2010, and the flash floods in Wasior, West Papua in 2010 and volcanic eruptions like at Mount Merapi in 2010.

In fact, 150 out of 497 municipalities and regencies in Indonesia are under the threat of tsunamis. About 80 percent of the municipalities and regencies are located near coastlines and are at risk of sea level-induced floods, abrasion, seawater intrusion and land subsidence due to the destruction of protective coastal mangrove forests.

Ironically, disaster-prone areas that spread from Sumatra to Papua and Kalimantan to Java have grown and developed into densely populated areas. In addition, Indonesia, as an archipelagic country, is also highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change like rising sea levels and water crises.

Climate-related disasters since the 1950s and 1960s have increased by an approximate ratio of four. Between 2003 and 2005, there were 1,429 disasters, with 53 percent related to floods, landslides, droughts or hurricanes.

City administrations in Japan were fully aware that they lived under the constant threat of earthquakes and tsunamis. A wise understanding of that situation was commonly held by regional governments when developing cities to respond to disasters.

We witnessed how the city emergency response system worked effectively during the powerful earthquake and tsunami that recently shook Japan. Buildings in cities proved to resist the earthquake and infrastructure looked solid when the tsunami struck.

Routine earthquake simulation drills had citizens well prepared physically and mentally for an earthquake as well as post-disaster survival. But, what about us in Indonesia?

Based on Law No. 24/2007 on Disaster Management and Law No. 26/2007 on Spatial Planning, city planning should take into consideration the possibility of natural disasters. The development of disaster responsive urban areas is very important as our cities are full of buildings and densely populated so that even a small disaster will certainly cause the loss of life and property.

Our cities need to prepare mitigation (land use, green open space), adaptation (local wisdom, disaster response culture), technology (innovation of green technology) and investment (environmentally friendly policies and environment-oriented investments like tax incentives, green banking).

Disaster management includes mitigation, alertness, response and recovery. This is the cycle of activity with or without a disaster.

To create an efficient city that is able to anticipate, mitigate and adapt to disasters, the city can be divided into sub-urban areas that are able to live independently. A sub-urban area can be a modern village that provides all the convenience and needs of a community that lives in an environmentally friendly integrated area.

Integrated areas combine all the needs of humans from living, working and recreation comfortably and efficiently. Those regions support office facilities, schools, vertical residences (1 hotel: 3 apartments: 6 flats), entertainment centers, shopping centers, houses of worship, parks and sports fields (disaster evacuation space).

Integrated area development is undertaken around mass transit hubs such as railway stations and bus stops. Residents simply need to walk or bike to destinations within the region.

As an archipelagic country, the development of inter-island transportation infrastructure (sea, air) and telecommunications and electricity networks should also be further enhanced so that there is no difficulty in granting relief and the delivery of assistance during a disaster.

As part of the city's disaster response, all buildings must meet seismic standards. In accordance with Law No. 28/2002 and Jakarta bylaw No. 7/2010, both on building development, already existing high-rise buildings must be renovated in order to comply with rules for extreme earthquake resistant buildings (up to 9.0 on the Richter scale), while the construction of new buildings must comply with such quake resistant standards.

In Japan, local wisdom was transformed into modern life. The concept of traditional architecture, with materials and techniques flexible in an earthquake, were applied to modern buildings in Japan.

City facilities were readied in anticipation of disasters. Public buildings such as schools and hospitals were prepared for evacuation in case of a disaster while city parks and sports fields were prepared as evacuation sites. At the same time, road infrastructure was prepared as disaster evacuation routes and equipped with routes, maps of disaster-prone areas, manual evacuation signs and evacuation points.

Parks and sports fields provided modules for the quick installation of tents for temporary shelters, public kitchens, schools and children's play spaces. Parks have public toilets, pump water hydrants for reserves of clean, energy-based electricity and backup solar cells. On normal days, parks can become water catchment areas, lungs of the city and tourist attractions.

Meanwhile, for coastal cities, seaside areas of green belt were constructed in the form of coastal forests or mangrove forests with a minimum thickness of 100-200 meters from the shoreline to absorb a tsunami and to prevent coastal erosion and floods and to develop mangrove forest ecosystems. Those areas should be free of buildings.

Apart from the physical development of quake resistant properties and infrastructure, the dissemination of awareness, outreach, training and rehearsal of disaster-related matters is also a necessity. It can be done through local cultural activities such as puppet shows, ketoprak comedy shows and dangdut music contests.

Such disaster awareness could also be developed through curriculum on disaster management from the primary to the university level, while disaster management procedures should be disseminated into all levels of society so that when disaster strikes people know exactly what to do, when to save themselves and where to go to find evacuation sites as well as how to survive.

The development of urban disaster response is expected to minimize the loss of life, property, public facilities and social and economic activities of citizens. Lessons learned from cities in Japan are that they were prepared in a time of disaster, for nobody knows exactly when a disaster will strike.

The writer is chair of the Indonesian Landscape Architecture Study Group in Jakarta.







Counter-terrorism involves a plethora of tasks encompassing operational strikes against armed terrorists, de-radicalization and rehabilitation. While no one faith has a monopoly of politically-motivated violence, for some, radical Islamism has emerged as the major challenge to most Muslim and non-Muslim states.

While no consensus exists on how to define terrorism, radicalism, de-radicalization and rehabilitation, the existence of the threat is undisputed. Since 2002, the more than 600 arrests and 50 deaths of the Jamaah Islamiyah and affiliated members in Indonesia alone testify to its ability to generate insecurity. Islamist terrorism's rejuvenation was again demonstrated when more than 120 armed militants surfaced in North Sumatra from February 2010, targeting the police, now labeled as thoghut — enemies that could be killed.

Indonesia has responded with multiples counter-measures to meet the threat. This is premised on the principle that while Indonesia has to be lucky all the time in pre-empting terrorist strikes, the terrorists just need to be lucky once to harm society, the government's image and its political will. The recent establishment of the National Antiterrorism Agency reflects the government's resolve to address this priority. De-radicalization is the new agency's major goal which aims to persuade the radicals to abandon the use of violence followed by a change in the radicals' mindset.

While many states have complemented hard counter-terrorism measures with soft ones, the key issue is — what is there to de-radicalize? The answer lies in what has been radicalized. Radicalization is the transformation of an individual's behavioral and cognitive outlook in terms of extremist thinking, sentiments and actions. In turn, de-radicalization involves the abandoning of radical ideology, de-legitimizing the utility of violence and a willingness to co-exist in a pluralistic milieu. The term counter-radicalization is often preferred as this targets not just those who are exposed to radical ideas but also to pre-empt those who are yet to be contaminated by them.

Due to a host of factors, Indonesia continues to witness an upsurge of religious radicalism. Some salient characteristics, the DNA of radicalism so to speak, stand out when one analyses the attitudes and behavior of jihadists.

The jihadist embodies the following characteristics:

• A literalist approach towards religion with religious teachings being interpreted strictly based on the written word. The Arabs refer to this as zahiriah in command, meaning the supreme importance of the written word;

• A romantic importance attached to religion, with the unseen past viewed as good tradition and the ideal type that should be re-created;

• Holds the view that there should be no new interpretation or ijtihad of what has been stated in the Holy Koran. The opposition to new tafsir or exegesis is based on the notion that the Koranic text is all-supreme and sacred, relevant for all times, and the context in which it is being practiced is irrelevant. In short, the text always overrides the realm of practice;

• Believes in kebenaran mutlak or the unconditional absolute truth, with any other view treated as heretical. A believer of such "wrong" views can be classified as an apostate or murtad, and labeled as a traitor to the religion;

• Practices exclusivity, where working with adherents of other religions (kafirs or infidels) is considered haram or forbidden. Many Islamist hardliners will not even cooperate with Muslims who do not share their views, viewing them as jahiliyyahs (ignorant) or worst still, as kafir harbi (enemy infidels), which traditionally only described non-believers operating in a conflict zone, and how Muslims should relate with them;

Labeling those who disagree with the radical discourse as enemies has intensified conflicts among Muslims, exacerbated intolerance and widened the scope for violence within a state, especially in a Muslim majority one, best evident in the recent attacks on the Ahmadiyah sect in Java;

• Sees justification in the use of violent jihad to realize their beliefs. Radical Islamists believe that violence carried out for religious causes is legitimate, with a jihadist achieving the ultimate goal of shahid or martyrdom by dying for a religious cause. Increasingly, "lesser" jihad or violent jihad is preferred rather than greater jihad, which is for personal fulfillment. Increasingly too, the term qital, or armed struggle, is used. For radicals, whether the jihad is "far", "near", "offensive" or "defensive" is irrelevant as qital is deployed against Islam's enemies;

• Adopts Islamist radical ideology in political discourse. All issues are described purely in religious idioms with Muslims' persecution as the common theme;

• Virulently opposed to Westernization and democracy, as these are viewed as un-Islamic;

• Resists liberalism, pluralism and secularism as being antithetical to Islam;

• Is sharia-minded, and aims to create a Darul Islam (Abode of Islam) as a prerequisite to Darul Salam (Abode of Peace), where Islamic law or Sharia would determine the rules of society.

Indonesian radical ideologues such as Abu Bakar Ba'asyir and Aman Abdurrahman, essentially of the jihadi salafist persuasion, have been influencing dogmas and practices at various levels of society. This is leading to the Arabization of Indonesian Islam, in opposition to the traditional practice of Islam Pribumi or indigenous Islam. Fissures are threatening to emerge between those championing Arabisasi Islam and Pribumisasi Islam, especially in Java, as Islam is more about religion while Arabization is cultural in orientation.

Reversing, through counter-ideological measures, the political and theological discourses of the extremists would go a long way in undermining their aim of promoting radical thought in Indonesia's body politic. The aim is to encourage the extremists to abandon violence and adopt a more moderate mindset.

If violence is abandoned only on tactical grounds, as long as the violence-prone ideology survives, it will remain a threat to democratic societies as violence is inherent in such ideologies. As such, if Indonesia fails in its de-radicalization efforts, it could result in greater insecurity in Indonesia and the Southeast Asian region.

The writer is acting head, Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.






The population of Greater Jakarta Metropolitan Area, comprised of DKI Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi (Jabodetabek), reached 27.9 million according to the 2010 national census, with a growth rate of 3.6 percent per annum over the period 2000-2010.

That figure far exceeds the national annual population rate of 1.49 percent per year over the same period. Jabodetabek accounts for 11 percent of Indonesia's population, up from 10 percent in the previous census in 2000.

The capital city of Jakarta (DKI Jakarta), as the core of Jabodetabek, is home to nearly 9.6 million people, according to the 2010 census, a sharp increase from 8.4 million in 2000, with a growth rate of 1.40 percent per year (see Table).

This figure is lower than the average population growth rate, but is still quite surprising, as DKI Jakarta's population grew by only 0.16 percent over the period of 1990-2000. Even during this period, Central Jakarta and South Jakarta experienced population declines of 2.01 percent and 0.67 percent respectively.

Based on the 2010 census, all mayoralties and regencies within DKI Jakarta experienced a positive growth rate between 2000 and 2010. Central Jakarta registered the lowest rate of 0.27 percent, with Kepulauan Seribu (Thousand Islands) regency logging the highest at 2.02 percent per year.

The census found that DKI Jakarta's population proportionally dropped to 34.1 percent from 40 percent in 2000, compared with that of its satellite cities, indicating that the Bodetabek region (Jabodetabek minus DKI Jakarta) is growing even faster.

The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) has not published the data of urban and rural populations, so the proportion of urban population in Jabodetabek can not be calculated yet.

According to the 2000 census, urban areas accounted for 88.5 percent of the region's population. Assuming that the urban population in Jabodetabek grew at a conservative rate, the total urban population would now have reached at least 25 million people.

The population growth in Bodetabek, as the buffer area of the Jakarta metropolitan area, shows a very interesting phenomenon.

All municipalities and regencies in the region registered annual growth rates far exceeding the national and DKI Jakarta marks. South Tangerang municipality, separate from Tangerang regency, for example, had a population growth rate of 4.69 percent per annum.

The population of Tangerang regency itself sharply increased from 2.50 percent per year in the period from 1990-2000 to 3.82 percent in the period 2000-2010.

There are three components in annual urban population increase: The first is natural population increase, meaning the number of people born minus the number of those who died in the same year.

Second is the net migration, which is the number of incoming migrations minus outgoing migrations.

Third is reclassification, more popularly referred to as changes in rural localities to urban localities. The trend of 1990-2000 period indicated high rates of population growth in cities in Bodetabek attributed to net migration and reclassification. What is the importance of the population growth in Jabodetabek?

The population of DKI Jakarta, as the core of Jabodetabek, is now nearing 10 million, not including the number of commuters from surrounding areas, including Bodetabek, which is estimated to have reached 1.5 million.

Indeed, the population of DKI Jakarta only increased by 1.40 percent per year over the past decade, but this figure actually surged sharply from only 0.16 percent over the period 1990-2000.

This is quite astonishing, because the growth rate of DKI Jakarta's population was expected to decline following the trends of population growth during 1990-2000.

Thus far, the data shows that Bodetabek experienced rapid development. The growth of Jabodetabek's population during 1990-2000 is often referred to as a doughnut phenomenon, where the center is empty and thick at the edges. However, now the doughnut is getting bigger and solidifying.

Overall this indicates a spill-over of various socio-economic activities from DKI Jakarta to its peripheries that need huge tracts of land, including large-scale housing areas and industrial estates.

The writer is a professor at the Bandung Institute of Technology