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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

EDITORIAL 30.03.11

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month march 30, edition 000793, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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


























  1. YELP!









































More than a week after America and its allies launched a military intervention in Libya, US President Barack Obama finally found it worth his while to try and explain to his countrymen and the rest of the world what exactly he is doing in the conflict-ridden, oil-rich nation in far away North Africa. In a nationally televised speech on Monday, Mr Obama explained, and indeed defended, his decision to militarily engage in Libya. The crux of his argument was essentially this: In Libya, the people had bravely risen against their long-time autocratic ruler but the latter resorted to horrifically violent means to subdue the popular uprising. A massacre was in the making and Mr Obama, who has a Nobel Peace prize to his credit, "refused to let that happen". During the speech that lasted nearly half-an-hour, Mr Obama also attempted to tackle some of the criticism that has been leveled at his decision but still fell way short of resolving any of the major concerns. In fact, his speech was really a lot more about what he left unsaid than what he said. For example, Mr Obama made no mention of how long the US military would participate in the Libyan operation or, for that matter, the overall duration of the intervention. Sadly, there has been little clarity on this issue since the allied forces began their military operation 10 days ago. The fact that Mr Obama refrained from addressing it is only proof that he and his friends in London and Paris have no end-plan whatsoever, as critics have feared all along. Interestingly, Mr Obama also did not refer to similar military interventions — and there are several instances of those from Bosnia and Kosovo to Somalia and Iraq — that had been carried out by former US Presidents. This is surprising since history could have provided his present project with a degree of legitimacy that is missing despite the fact that the entire operation was conceived to implement a UN Security Council resolution. It would have also helped him cover up the fact that he went into Libya almost without consulting the Congress and, in the process, possibly overstepped his constitutional authority. But perhaps Mr Obama — who likes to fashion himself as a President who has made a clean break with the past and will bring about radical change — fears that an explicit reference like that would be reminiscent of the policies of his predecessor, Mr George W Bush.

Yet, this was exactly what happened. As Mr Obama explained the humanitarian basis for military intervention in Libya, he simultaneously, much like Mr Bush, also made the case for future US-led military interventions around the world. He surely tempered his argument by emphasising on the greater role of other international partners in such projects but none of it can change the fact that the US is once again looking to bring about a regime change. As Mr Obama himself pointed out similar efforts in Iraq have proved costly, both in terms of money and lives lost; but obviously the President was not listening to his own speech. This was also evident in US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to meet with Libyan opposition leaders in London, where she and representatives of 40 other nations met to discuss exit options for Col Muammar Gaddafi and the future of Libya after his departure. If this is not paving the way for a regime change, what is?







Union Minister for Finance Pranab Mukherjee must have been in an upbeat mood when tabling the 2010-11 Economic Survey, which projects over nine per cent GDP growth, in Parliament last month. However, Mr Mukherjee's optimism may prove to be short-lived as achieving this growth target looks somewhat difficult. Over the past couple of months, global headwinds — first political turmoil erupted in North Africa and West Asia and then Japan plunged into crisis after a huge earthquake-induced tsunami hit the country triggering off a nuclear meltdown scare — have negatively impacted the macro-economic trends around the world. India cannot claim immunity from external factors. The oil crisis, partly prompted by the political instability in Libya and largely caused by speculators looking for a killing, remains a serious cause for concern as crude prices remain at alarming levels. Though crude price fell to $103 a barrel on Tuesday, hopes of normal oil shipments from Libya resuming soon are slim as workers are finding it difficult to return to production sites. With the situation in North Africa and West Asia remaining uncertain, oil prices may not come down in the near future. Soaring crude prices may pose too big a challenge for the Finance Ministry to balance its books. It could be argued that high crude prices will compel the Government to increase cost of petroleum products which in turn would mean higher tax revenues by way of Customs and excise duties. On the flip side, any further increase in prices of petroleum products will push up the prices of commodities as transportation will cost more. The subsequent inflation will affect consumer demands and the Government will be forced to increase interest rates as a knee-jerk reaction.

However, the Government can draw some solace from the positive outlook presented by the International Yearbook of Industrial Statistics 2011. European economies are showing signs of recovery and increase in industrial production and this augurs well for India since European countries are major importers of Indian goods. But economists still prefer caution over enthusiasm and India can only keep its fingers crossed. Unemployment is another risk that can dent India's growth prospects unless it immediately addresses the problem of a slack labour market. Further, India, which is largely relying on its growing working population to take the growth story forward, would do well to focus on skill development and improvement — more so because its growth is driven by the services sector. For the moment, we can only hope for the best and a quick return of political stability in oil exporting countries in West Asia and North Africa.









Nato's drive-by intervention in Libya, sanctioned by the UN, as a 'humanitarian operation' will ironically hurt the very civilians it is meant to protect.

The Amul advertisement said it all: "Gaddafi ko maafi: The taste of freedom." Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is no angel. Gene Sharp's 93-page guide on toppling autocrats — in the same genre as Edward Luttwak's handbook on coup d'état — is a bestseller among the eastern rebels determined to unseat Col Gaddafi. Tunisian protester Mohammed Bouazizi's act of self-immolation has triggered what is being called "democratisation's snowballing effect", a political tsunami rivalled only by the fall of communism two decades ago.

The week-long stalemate on the ground between the rebels and Col Gaddafi's loyalists was broken last Saturday by Nato's 'Operation Odyssey Dawn' which enabled the rebels to recapture Ajdabiyah, clearly the turning point in their coastal sweep towards Tripoli. Invoking the Right to Protect, UNSCR 1973 authorises all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya, including Benghazi (which is the rebel stronghold), but excluding foreign occupation of any form on any part of Libyan territory. It does not permit regime change or supply of arms to rebels or air cover to support the insurgency.

After promulgating the No-Fly Zone last Thursday, the coalition comprising the US, the UK and France undertook its primary task of protecting civilians by destroying Col Gaddafi tanks and artillery, turning the tide for the rag-tag rebel army. Now back in control of nearly the entire oil assets of the country and poised to retake Col Gaddafi's birthplace, Surt, it is possible and likely that the anti-Gaddafi Western alliance has sneaked in weapons and advisers to help oust the Libyan ruler. US President Barack Obama says Col Gaddafi must go. UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon says Col Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy to rule. And other Western leaders are endorsing these views. France and Britain are exhorting loyalists to desert Col Gaddafi while they can. Regime change is precisely what is being sought, hopefully from within.

Mr Abdul Hakim al Haseedi, the rebel leader, has confirmed that some Al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb members have joined the rebels. Other reports indicate that AQIM has commandeered surface-to-air missiles from bases vacated by the loyalist forces. Assuming that Nato and the hyperactive Anglo-French coalition are not violating UNSCR 1973, rebels on their own even under No-Fly Zone air cover, are unlikely to breach Col Gaddafi's heartland.

Russia's top military officer General Nikolai Makarov has said that a 'ground phase' would be required for regime change. Russia has said that the air attacks are helping the insurgency. Air war alone can turn messy and is insufficient to topple an entrenched regime. The record of air power is mixed. Gulf War I in 1991 lasted 42 days with a 38-day air campaign followed by a four-day ground offensive. In Bosnia, the 17-day air offensive worked in 1995 and so did the 78-day air campaign in 1999 over Kosovo. 'Operation Enduring Freedom' in Afghanistan in 2001 lasted 76 days, 65 of which were waged from the air. 'Operation Iraqi Freedom', on the other hand, was a 21-day combined air and land offensive. The outcome of the last two demonstrates that ground forces hold the key to a positive outcome. Nato has already planned a 90-day No-Fly Zone.

Nato assumed total charge of all operations across Libya two days ago. Till Monday, more than 700 sorties had been flown, employing around 400 Tomahawk and Bridgestone missiles. Except the Russian MiG-35 and the Swedish Gripen, all the aircraft in the multi-role combat aircraft race in India — F-16, F-18, Typhoon and Rafael — are engaged in the air war. The Libyan Air Force, consisting of 375 vintage Soviet aircraft, has been put out of service. The 50,000-man strong Army has two special Brigades — 32 and 9 — which are for regime protection, but all have antiquated equipment.

Given the shortage of oil, the advance towards Surt and Tripoli will extend rebel supply lines. The bubble will burst once the Gaddafi loyalists are unable to hold their defences against rebel attacks coordinated with Nato air assaults. Nato is hoping that the regime will collapse from within.

The Libyan regime has described the loss of ground as a tactical withdrawal, accusing the West of pushing the country to the brink of a civil war. In the event of another stalemate, one of the scenarios envisaged is a Libya divided into east and west. Meanwhile, Italy and Germany are known to be working on a permanent ceasefire and safe passage for Col Gaddafi and other members of his regime.

Tuesday's meeting in London of foreign policy heads of Nato's member-states reviewed the political end game about which there is abundant lack of clarity. There is considerable discord among Nato members and the Arab League over the biased interpretation of 'protection of civilians'. Turkey, which has excellent relations and huge business interests with Libya, has unsuccessfully tried to arrange negotiations between Col Gaddafi and the rebels. France, which along with Britain is the key tormentor of the Gaddafi regime, has strained relations with Turkey whose entry in the EU it has strongly opposed.

The air attacks on Libya are the first UN-authorised air strikes against a member-state invoking the Right to Protect concept which was endorsed in a New York summit in 2005. The UN took no action against alleged genocide in Rwanda and overlooked unilateral air strikes by Nato in Kosovo. The very selective use of force represents the West's double standards in targeting the Gaddafi loyalists while winking at other autocrats in West Asia. These charges were raised last week against the US and the EU in a BBC world debate centred on Libya.

The US, which was in the military lead till last week, has taken a back seat, permitting Britain and France to spearhead the protection of civilians. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has warned against the US waging a third war against a Muslim country and called for its advocates to "have their heads examined". Heads or tails, the West will have its way on selective intervention but not necessarily in the outcome.

India has rightly acted in its national interest at a time when US cables released by WikiLeaks indicate that New Delhi has become virtually a pawn of Washington, DC. Having abstained from voting on UNSCR 1973, regretted the air assault on Libya, and asked for the attacks to stop, there is little else India can do. Nato's drive-by intervention as a 'humanitarian operation' is a proxy war to topple Col Gaddafi. The pulverising air-to-ground attacks will ironically hurt the very civilians they are meant to protect. That is the tragedy of 'Operation Odyssey Dawn'.







We should not expect spectacular results from the meeting between Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani in Mohali on Wednesday. The Prime Minister, by inviting Gilani and Asif Ali Zardari for the India-Pakistan semi-final World Cup match has sought to create an atmosphere of goodwill. This could pave the way for more meaningful dialogue on contentious issues between the two countries

I have been a strong and consistent critic of the manner in which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been handling India-Pakistan relations.

Nobody has written more strongly on his agreement with then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at Havana in September 2006 for a joint counter-terrorism machinery than I.

Nobody has written more strongly on his failure to deal effectively with Pakistan post-26/11 than I.


Nobody has hit out more vehemently at him post-Sharm el-Sheikh (July 2009) than I for making a reference to Balochistan in his joint statement with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. I had also written an open letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on this subject.

I had criticised Mr Singh on other occasions too for what I perceived was a lack of consistency in his policy towards Pakistan.

Yet, despite my past criticism of the Prime Minister, I have refrained from deploring the initiative taken by him in inviting President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the India-Pakistan World Cup cricket semi-final at Mohali except on the ground that inviting both the head of state and the head of Government of Pakistan could impose a heavy responsibility on our intelligence and security agencies which would be called upon to protect them.

My decision to refrain from criticising our Prime Minister's Mohali initiative could be attributed to two reasons. First, I have been feeling for over a year now that India-Pakistan relations have got into a rut and that the time has come for the two countries to think of ways of giving it a forward push. Second, I saw the Prime Minister's invitation to the two Pakistani leaders not as a diplomatic initiative to discuss substantive issues but as an attempt to create a feel-good atmosphere between the two countries at a time when the atmosphere of suspicions and hostility towards Pakistan in India is very strong because of Pakistan's perceived lack of interest in the investigation and prosecution of the Pakistan-based co-conspirators of the 26/11 terrorist strikes and due to reports on the ingress of a large number of Chinese troops into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and China's decision, with America's complicity, to supply two more nuclear power stations to Pakistan.

We the people of India are naturally more attentive to such issues than to trivial issues such as Pakistani journalist Ejaz Haider's green T-shirt.

The Prime Minister, as I could notice, had taken care to see that his invitation to the two Pakistani leaders is not viewed as 'cricket diplomacy' or as yet another exercise at summitry. If he had wanted it to be another summit exercise, he would not have invited both the head of state and the head of Government, though ultimately only Mr Gilani has accepted the invitation. If he had wanted to upstage the roadmap laid down for the resumption of formal talks with Pakistan at the level of senior officials, he would have most probably convened a meeting of either the National Security Council or the Cabinet Committee on Security to prepare the groundwork for the initiative. There are no indications to show that he did either.

It seems to have been a decision taken by him on the spur of the moment after it became clear that India and Pakistan would be pitted against each other in one of the semi-finals. Because of the continuing cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, we could not have been generous in issuing visas to Pakistani spectators wanting to cross over into India to watch the match. The invitation to the two leaders of the Pakistani people is a gesture which could mitigate to some extent any disappontment in Pakistan over India's reluctance to issue more visas.

It is an important but risky gesture which could have political consequences — positive if the two Prime Ministers reach some understanding on bilateral relations on the margins of the match and negative if Mohali is followed by a serious act of terrorism somewhere. I have stressed the importance of not projecting the cricket match as another India-Pakistan war to be won or lost. It is equally important not to project the Prime Minister's invitation as a major diplomatic move, which it does not seem to be. We should avoid unnecessarily and unwisely creating either feelings of confrontation over the match or feelings of expectation over the meeting of the two Prime Ministers during the match.

-- The writer, a former senior officer of R&AW, is a strategic affairs commentator.







On April 1, when Odisha Day is celebrated by the State, and the Odia community outside the State, it's a befitting occasion to make an introspection of the Odia identity. Never before perhaps in the history of Odisha, till the other day known as Orissa, there would have been an occasion when the State's past glory would have drawn as much attention in Parliament as it was when the Bill seeking the amendment of the State's name was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 24. The final passage of the Bill in the Upper House which was earlier passed by the Lok Sabha evoked unanimous and overwhelming support, cutting across party lines.

In spite of its rich history and cultural tapestry, there is very little awareness about the State and its culture except for all the wrong reasons in the recent past like killing of the Christian missionary Graham Stein, Kalahandi and now Kalinga Nagar. While a devout Hindu, outside the State, would know Lord Jagannath and the Rath Yatra, he or she may not know where the abode of the Lord is located. Although the seashore of Puri is a favourite tourist destination of the Bengalis, there is no mention that Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose 150th birth anniversary is celebrated this year, spent some time of his life in Puri.

An average student of Indian history would have perhaps no knowledge that it was on the banks of river Daya, now extinct where the Dhauli Stupa is located, that the emperor Ashoka was converted to Darmashoka from Chandashoka after seeing the bloodbath and horrors of war. After the war, it is believed emperor Ashoka renounced war and evolved as the greatest messenger of peace and non-violence spreading his message of compassion and deliverance.

Thanks to ISKON, the cult of Jagannath is now a universal phenomenon. Perhaps there is no major city in the world or for that matter no major towns in India where there is no temple of Lord Jagannath. Delhi and the NCR itself boast of at least half-a-dozen temples of the Lord. If Jagannath is the presiding deity of the state, whose following is now spreading the world over, the intricate yet and yet expressive Odishi dance is the hallmark of the culture of the State. The exquisite Sambalpuri saree in its shades of colours is the fashion statement with its niche clientele among the intelligential and the intellectuals. The silver filigree works of Odisha is yet another sought after gift items for the guests and visitors from home and abroad.

The identity of the State and its people has been evolving in recent times ever since economic reforms and liberalisation took its wings and there has been a churning of socio-economic and political processes of the State and its people which is not very different from other parts of the country. They have, it seems woken up from the inertia of siesta. Incidentally it may be mentioned that the then BBC correspondent Daniel Lak on a visit to Bhubaneswar some year's back described the State as 'siesta country' in one of his regular columns when he found shops closed in the afternoon in order to enable owners to take a nap. The laid-back attitude of the people and their homesickness have now given way to upward mobility particularly in niche service sector both in Government and private sectors vertically and horizontally. While taking up a secured Government job has always been a sought after career opportunity for an average Odia, quite few have been successful at the elite civil services examinations. Through sheer hard work, honesty and diligence some of them have distinguished themselves and have come to occupy top echelons of Government bureaucracy.

How does one explain the craze of an average middle class or lower middle class Odia for the civil services? The reason is not far to seek. First, it is the lack of other avenues of career such as engineering which, however, has improved in last few years, second the lack of resources to pursue such an expensive career option and finally the low levels of socio-economic development. The civil service thus becomes the easy catchment area for bright middle class Odias. The gain of civil service is sometimes a loss to other challenging vocations such as research and academics. Given their innate intelligence and drive this category of people can simply do marvelously in other areas of human endeavour including teaching and research. What has happened is that some of these bright youngsters after their success at the covetous examinations, with a few exceptions, shrink to low abyss of lethargy, mediocrity, and indolence, and end up in the ignominy of corruption and suspension or dismissal. It is an irony and sad reflection on the State.

In spite of these failures, however, the State in recent past has produced some of finest achievers in diverse fields ranging from politics to poetry. Quite a few well-meaning politicians from the State have made their mark in Parliament, notable among them being the suave and articulate Jay Panda, not to mention Chief Minister Navin Patnaik, the scion of the legendary Biju Pattnaik. As is true about other communities, the Odias too have done remarkably well outside the State and also abroad. While in the IT industry they are now spread all over India in most IT hubs, in other service, including, in the private sector.

Medical profession seems to be one area where the presence of Odia doctors are pronounced, not to mention the name of Dr Ramakanta Panda, who operated on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in January 2009. In Delhi alone, it is estimated that there are a sizeable number of Odia doctors serving in various institutions in the country, starting from the All-India Institute for Medical Science and the corporate hospitals, to CGHS dispensaries. Teaching and Research are yet some other professions which come closer to the natural calling of an average educated Odia. It is not surprising, therefore, some of the promising students from the State, who come to Delhi for higher education end up in the faculties of Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Though gifted with native intelligence and perseverance, the Odias are yet to make their mark in a significant way on the national map. The State and its people do not have an industrial or entrepreneurial culture, and as such the State is yet to come out of the paradigm of underdevelopment and backwardness. Perhaps the second generation, after attaining economic security and social positioning can venture into the realm of business, industry and entrepreneurship. Odisha's belated industrialisation also holds hope for churning of this socio-economic process. Only when there is high degree of economic growth, perhaps the State and it's people can venture into other challenging and creative areas, like sports, business and entrepreneurship.

-- The writer, who hails from Odisha, is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.





Nobel laureate Obama defends war on Libya

The American President talks of the risks of a long war but fails to say just when or on what terms the US will leave the North African nation, writes Anne Gearan

US President Barack Obama wanted to tell a hesitant America why he launched a military assault in Libya, and he wanted to describe it on his terms — limited, sensible, moral and backed by international partners with the shared goal of protecting Libyans from a ruthless despot. Trouble is, the war he described on Monday doesn't quite match the fight the US is in.

It also doesn't line up with the conflict Mr Obama himself had seemed to presage, when he expressly called for Col Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow or resignation. Mr Obama's stated goals stop well short of that. And although he talked of the risks of a long war, he did not say just when or on what terms the US would leave Libya.

Mr Obama never directly mentioned the Libyan rebels seeking Col Gaddafi's overthrow, even though the heavy US-led firepower trained on loyalist forces has allowed those rebels to regain momentum. "We have intervened to stop a massacre," Mr Obama said.

Ten days into a conflict many Americans say they do not understand, Mr Obama laid out a moral imperative for intervening against a murderous tyrant, and doing so without the lengthy international dithering that allowed so much blood to be spilled in Bosnia. His address at the National Defence University echoed campaign rhetoric about restoring US moral pride of place after squandering it in Iraq.

"Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges," Mr Obama said. "But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act."

Col Gaddafi's forces have been largely pinned down and unable to mount a massacre since the first hours of the war, while US and Nato warplanes have become an unacknowledged aerial arm of the rebels. Mr Obama said the US will help the opposition, an oblique reference to the rebels.

Over the weekend US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, designed to provide battlefield support to friendly ground forces, flew attack missions for the first time in this conflict. The Pentagon also disclosed Monday that Air Force AC-130 gunships, low-flying aircraft armed with a 105mm howitzer and a 40mm cannon, had joined the battle. Those two types of aircraft give the US more ability to confront pro-Gaddafi forces in urban areas with less risk of civilian casualties.

The Pentagon's lead spokesman on Libya operations, Navy Vice Adm William Gortney, told reporters on Monday that the US military is not coordinating with the rebels. But he left little doubt that, by design or not, Western air power is propelling the rebels forward.

"Clearly they're achieving a benefit from the actions that we're taking," Adm Gortney said. He displayed a chart that showed rebels advancing within 80 miles of Sirte, Col Gaddafi's home town.

If the purpose of the UN-sanctioned military action is to protect civilians, does that include pro-Gaddafi civilians who are likely to be endangered in places like Sirte that are in the rebels' crosshairs? If not, it is difficult to see the Western intervention as a neutral humanitarian act not aligned with the rebels.

The first goal of the intervention was to prevent a massacre of civilians in Benghazi, the eastern Libyan city where Gaddafi forces were threatening to crush the rebellion two weeks ago. Col Gaddafi said he would "show no mercy".

A US-led assault quickly accomplished that first goal. A no-fly zone was established two weekends ago with little resistance. The US and its partners then launched airstrikes on Gaddafi supply lines and other military targets not only near Benghazi but around other contested areas as well.

But the role of Western air power then went beyond that initial humanitarian aim, to in effect provide air cover for the rebels while pounding Gaddafi forces in a bid to break their will or capacity to fight.

Now US forces are pulling back, handing much of the responsibility for the open-ended military campaign to allies, as Mr Obama said they would.

"So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: The United States of America has done what we said we would do," Mr Obama said with clear satisfaction.

He meant that the US had hewed to its stated role under a UN Security Council resolution that authorised force.

But he acknowledged that the UN mandate doesn't extend to Col Gaddafi's ouster, even if many of the nations carrying it out might wish for that. Mr Obama was frank about the reasons why.

"Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake," Mr Obama said.

It would shatter the international partnership he relies on for diplomatic cover and security backup. It would probably mean sending US ground forces into yet another Muslim nation, something Mr Obama has said he will not do in Libya. It would undoubtedly increase the risk to the US military, the costs of the war and US responsibility for shoring up and protecting whatever Libya might emerge, Mr Obama said.

"To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq," Mr Obama said, where thousands of US forces remain eight years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya," Mr Obama said.

Getting rid of Col Gaddafi "may not happen overnight," Mr Obama warned, in his first acknowledgement of the stalemate with the rebels that many analysts and some of his own military advisers suspect is coming. Col Gaddafi, Mr Obama said, might well cling to power for some time.

The US is considering arming the rebels, directly or indirectly, and US officials say the UN resolution would allow that. Mr Obama mentioned nothing about the possibility of civil war in Libya, or what the US might do if the war grinds on for months.

Mr Obama still faces questions about why Libya and not Yemen, or not Syria. One of his closest national security advisers, Mr Denis McDonough, told reporters on Monday that the Administration doesn't "get very hung up on this question of precedent."

"We don't make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent," Mr McDonough said.

Throughout his address, Mr Obama seemed to be answering his own criticism of past wars and past leaders who committed military force too hastily or too hesitantly.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner never used the word "war" to describe what's happening in Libya, but made a point of addressing what the conflict he chose "says about the use of America's military power, and America's broader leadership in the world, under my presidency."

His book The Audacity of Hope and his Nobel speech established the same predicates for US military intervention — an allied coalition and use of multinational power.

"We know that the United States, as the world's most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help," Mr Obama said on Monday. "In such cases, we should not be afraid to act, but the burden of action should not be America's alone."

-- Anne Gearan, the AP National Security Writer, has covered national politics and national security in Washington since 1999.







The ninth round of oil and gas exploration acreage auctions under the government's New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) has hardly boosted confidence all round. Out of the 34 blocks that were on offer 33 might have been bid for, but in this instance, the facts obscure the reality. There was little interest from foreign majors - something the Indian energy sector requires urgently - and domestic PSUs grabbed the lion's share. It's nothing new, merely the latest iteration of a trend that has been established over previous NELP licensing rounds. Given the need for the latest technology and knowhow to explore and exploit untapped hydrocarbon reserves, it's a trend that must be reversed.

The dichotomy between India's energy needs and its output is stark. Currently, it is the fifth-largest energy consumer in the world - and that's with a per capita energy consumption that's just about a quarter of the global average. Calculate the potential per capita increase from such a low base as the benefits of growth trickle down to socio-economically disadvantaged sections, factor in the added demand as the manufacturing base expands, and it's apparent that India will be lucky to maintain its current 70-30 split between imported and domestic crude in the decade or two to come.

As it stands now, only a fraction of India's 26 sedimentary basins - with a total area of 3.14 million square km - has been explored. And the gap between rate of growth of demand and of domestic supply when it comes to both crude oil and natural gas has been growing. The entire purpose of the NELP, instituted in 1999, was to circumvent the problem and bring in the billions of dollars in foreign investment required for increasing the extraction and production base by offering attractive terms to private investors, putting in place transparent bidding procedures and creating a level playing field with regard to the PSUs. The massive Reliance Industries-BP $7.2 billion deal points to the sector's potential. With the current instability in North Africa and the Middle East, India ought to offer a stable, attractive option for foreign players.

But bureaucratic sluggishness and frequent policy changes have undercut that potential as the NELP auction has shown. Given the inherent risks and substantial investment required in any exploration joint venture, clarity and expedience in government dealings is a must. With production from many of its fields - most of which are decades old - past their plateau, this sort of sloth is adding a very real economic burden. It's time for New Delhi to step on the gas, and we aren't speaking figuratively here.







Although in 1794 the poet William Blake questioned of the tiger, 'what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?', not only have mortal hands tried capturing the tiger's details, but they have good news to report as well. In a survey released by the ministry of environment and forests, the number of tigers in India is now estimated to be 1,706, a 10% increase from 2008. This is positive news, considering that India's tiger population declined by 97% over the last century. A deadly combination of poorly-punished, highly-profitable poaching with forests eaten into by expanding human settlements, industries and infrastructure, cut the mighty tiger down to pitiful numbers. Land is a vital determinant impacting tiger numbers. Conservation areas and tiger corridors have shrunk drastically, while experts say newly included reserves in the Sunderbans or Naxal-impacted zones might have inflated figures in the current survey.

Yet, this study indicates that conservation attempts are getting off the ground. There is intensive tiger-tracking using satellite technology and DNA testing. There is better understanding of the dangers encircling tigers and awareness of why saving them is essential. Tigers being at the top of the food chain, their elimination is a sign that the eco-systems that support life are themselves in danger. With more than half of the world's tigers in India, it plays a critical role in ensuring their survival. An inability to preserve tigers could mean losing more than one extraordinary creature. The new survey does not take us out of the woods yet. But by emphasising the need to devote more space and attention to tigers, it indicates the way forward.








Expectation on the cricketing and diplomatic fronts rises with the mouth-watering prospect of an epic India-Pakistan match today. Sachin Tendulkar and Shahid Afridi crossing swords on the field and Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousaf Raza Gilani exchanging notes (hopefully) are almost Homeric in their scope.

Relations between the two countries in the 64 years since Partition have ebbed and flowed, depending on the prevailing political climate with cricket emerging as its strongest metaphor. More than films and music, cricket cuts deep into the national psyches of the two countries, for it provides the opportunity to both compete and bond even as it throws up its own quirks.

My first cricket tour was to Pakistan in 1982-83. I had opted to cross over into Lahore on foot. Immigration and customs procedures at the Wagah border were peculiar. The officer on duty greeted us with back-slapping bonhomie, getting into a detailed discussion on the relative merits of Imran Khan and Javed Miandad vis-a-vis Kapil Dev and Gavaskar. He then sniffed suspiciously at the luggage. "Propaganda material not allowed," he said, confiscating the film and political magazines in my bag.

Such suspicion, i might add, was mutual if manifested differently. I recall the Indian press contingent going into a flap when somebody suggested that a young man who had befriended us could be a spy. A showdown became inevitable, but also hugely embarrassing. The young man, who had been of great help otherwise in navigating through a tough tour, was simply a cricket fanatic who rode on his new friendship to get complimentary passes to each match.

Thirty years later this kind of paranoia might seem ludicrous, but Indo-Pak cricket has always been an extraordinary roller-coaster ride. The impact of Partition was evident when cricketing ties between India and Pakistan started in 1952. The rival captains were Lala Amarnath and A H Kardar who, only a few years earlier, had played together for undivided India. The complexity of such a situation became evident as passions soared on and off the field.

When the two teams met again in 1955, pressure on either side not to lose had intensified. Charges of cheating and spying were traded through the tour and Kardar and Amarnath (now coach) virtually came to blows. And, in 20 years, both were chums again: As Amarnath was to tell me later, "All said and done, i am a Lahori."

Sometimes things took a farcical turn. In 1955, the Indian team was convinced their premier all-rounder was being snared by a renowned courtesan from Lahore to make him ineffective. Similarly, in 1979-80, when Asif Iqbal's team was struggling in India, Pakistanis believed that this was because key players had succumbed to the charm of the femme fatales of the Hindi film industry.

Occasionally, fans have been driven to unseemly acts. In 1961, Pakistan's stalwart opening batsman Hanif Mohammed had his hand slashed by a blade-wielding hoodlum in Mumbai. In 1989, on the other hand, Indian captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth was attacked by a protester at Karachi's National Stadium causing the match to be abandoned.

By and large, however, Indian and Pakistani cricketers have enjoyed respect and adulation in both countries. Asif Iqbal got a hero's farewell in Kolkata in 1979-80, Bishen Singh Bedi got a Pakistani carpet from President Zia-ul Haq for donating blood to a young girl following an appeal on television. In 1998, Wasim Akram's team was cheered by the Chennai crowd despite beating India in a Test, and likewise, Sourav Ganguly's team was the toast of all Pakistan after winning the 2004 series.

My late friend, the gravel-voiced commentator and cricket romantic Omar Kureishi, believed that "ruddy politicians" soured relations between the two countries which cricket could so easily forge. But if politics has often been the bane, it has also sometimes been a boon.

For instance, it took 17 years after Pakistan's tour of India in 1961-62 for cricket relations to be resumed. The two countries had gone to war twice in the interim and many assumed that cricket ties were interred forever. The impasse was broken in 1978 by Pakistan's new military dictator Zia-ul Haq and the Janata Party government led by Morarji Desai.

Interestingly, 'hawks' have played the more constructive role in Indo-Pak cricket than doves. Zia salvaged Pakistan's tour of India in 1987 by flying down to Jaipur as an act of `cricket friendship' with forces on either side of the Line of Control training their guns on each other.

The BJP government, always accused of fanning anti-Pakistan sentiments, cleared India's tour in 2004 despite formidable lingering opposition after the Kargil war of 1999. The Vajpayee government perhaps wanted to use cricket as a populist vote-catcher in the impending elections. That the BJP lost those elections is, of course, only the irony of political life.

As the two countries meet again in cricket today, possibilities of a revamp in political relations is being discussed, however cautiously. The effect of 26/11 obviously still lingers and the mood, at least in India, is still grim. Whether cricket can provide the healing touch depends on whether Manmohan Singh and Raza Gilani are prepared to pad up and take fresh guard.

Meanwhile, there is cricket's biggest contest to savour.

The writer is a sports columnist and commentator.







South Africa's foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, visited India recently for the India-South Africa joint ministerial commission and IBSA ministerial meeting. She spoke to Faizal Khan about Arab unrest and South Africa's historic and contemporary relations with India:

As the biggest economic and military power in the continent, what has been South Africa's response to the violence in Libya?

We have responded adequately through the UN Security Council resolution on Libya. In fact, as non-permanent members of the UNSC, South Africa and India co-sponsored the resolution. We abhor any use of live ammunition against innocent civilians who are exercising their democratic rights to air their grievances. Such violence shouldn't be allowed in any corner of the world. The unrest in North Africa and the Middle East was bound to come. I don't know of any dictatorship that lasts forever.

Once the dust settles, what would be the major challenges for these countries?

Thirty years ago, people were laughing at India, which was the world's biggest democracy, but one of its poorest. Today, India is an emerging global power, but still democratic. India has proven to the world that democracy and economic development can work side by side. Autocratic and despotic rule is not a guarantee for economic development. How did we have regimes like in Egypt? How did we allow them for so long? We have learnt the lesson that democracy delayed is justice denied.

How could India help these nations build a lasting democracy?

We should be ready to help by incubating strong institutions of democracy that do not depend on who is in power. Like an independent electoral commission, a justice system not pliable to the whims and fancies of those in power and strong parliamentary institutions at local level like the panchayati raj institutions in India. These are the pillars to build strong political parties with strong democratic credentials. Democracy doesn't start in Parliament. It starts where the people live, in the panchayat.

How is South Africa's new BRIC membership going to help the country?

This is a group of emerging powers - politically, economically and culturally. The missing element was that there was no African country in that fold. We are truly humbled by membership. We owe it to our continent as we run the biggest and most diversified economy in Africa. Our infrastructure is unsurpassed and our financial institutions are known for their integrity. We have historic ties with the South. Think about the one billion population of Africa, don't look at our 50 million people. There are 2.5 trillion dollars worth exploitable mineral resources in South Africa. These are not for take-away, but we could try and add value, so that they help us create more wealth for the larger part of South Africa and create jobs for the youth. Our goal is to create five million jobs in the next 10 years. We will spend approximately $117 billion in the next three years to overhaul our infrastructure.

As a former high commissioner to India, how do you see India-South Africa relations?

We haven't looked back after restoring our diplomatic ties at the end of the apartheid regime. On the trade side, our relations are leapfrogging. We have our students who come to India to study IT. We have just celebrated 150 years of the arrival of Indians in South Africa. Later this year, India and South Africa will launch a three-month cultural extravaganza in each country. I can write a thesis on our relations.








Whoever wins at Mohali today, India is certain to lose. Not Team India as represented by the Men in Blue, but the government of India. Which really means taxpayers like you and me.

In the Delhi region alone punters have staked an estimated Rs 100 crore with bookies on the outcome of the match. Across the country a staggering Rs 10,000 crore is riding on the game.

The one guaranteed loser is the government. Had it legalised gambling on sporting events - as many have long been urging it to do - it would have cleaned up a sizeable percentage of the kitty with no risk to it at all. In fact, this is exactly what it does in horseracing, where the local government takes a tax on every payout made.

Barring a few casinos in Goa, horseracing is about the only form of gambling the sarkar permits. It allows this exception on the grounds that horseracing is not purely a gambling activity - not solely a game of chance, like a lottery - but a sport. But isn't cricket also a sport, arguably the king of all sports, at least in India? So why can you legally bet on which horse you think is going to run the fastest in a race but not on which cricket team is likely to win a match? Figure it out, if you can.

There are two main reasons advanced to justify officialdom's refusal to legalise gambling and both are specious. The first is a moral one: gambling is claimed to be an 'un-Indian activity' alien to our culture. Too bad no one told Vyasa that when he was composing the Mahabharata or he'd have self-censored the gambling scene out of the epic and made do instead by saying that Kurukshetra came about because Draupadi was having a bad hair day and was taking it out on the Pandavas who in turn dumped on the Kauravas. Had no one told her about styling mousse? Diwali celebrations in most Indian homes include the playing of teen-patti for cash, a form of festive give-and-take said to have the blessing of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Is Lakshmi 'un-Indian'?

The other reason for the ban on gambling is that the lure of easy money will tempt people - particularly those belonging to the economically weaker sections - to lose their all to fickle fortune, leaving their families in dire straits. This argument betrays the patronising contempt the sarkar routinely demonstrates towards those who vote it into office: you are deemed responsible enough to cast your vote in order to install a government to rule you, but that same government says that you're not responsible enough to gamble because you'll get carried away and lose your shirt in the process.

Bans don't work; they only create blackmarkets. Prohibition doesn't stop people from drinking; it creates a bootlegging mafia, as has happened in Gujarat and wherever else liquor has been proscribed. Prohibition ensures that the money that should have gone into governmental coffers by way of tax goes instead to bootleggers and the corrupt enforcement officials who are hand in glove with them.

Sceptics claim that the reason that prohibition will never be repealed in Gujarat has got nothing to do with pious lip service to Gandhian sentiments and everything to do with the huge revenues generated by the illicit trade in liquor and jointly shared by the booze mafia and colluding officials ranging from low-ranking policemen to the highest echelons of the administration. Gujarat cannot afford not to have prohibition.

Is this also true about gambling on an all-India basis? Cricket and other sports apart, the numbers game, or matka, is said to involve daily underground transactions worth hundreds of crores. If matka, and other forms of gambling, were legalised the money made by bookies and officials bribed to look the other way would accrue to the government, and indirectly to you and me by helping to bridge the fiscal deficit, the money that the government owes us.

So will the sarkar legitimise gambling? Don't bet on it.







In Chhattisgarh, a game of smoke and mirrors is being played out. While the Centre harps on development to counter the Maoists, the BJP government in the state is merrily continuing with its scorched earth policy.

For many months, the state has been talking of disbanding the Salwa Judum and disarming its special police officers (SPOs). But there is a mismatch between its action and the reality on the ground.

This was evident again earlier this month when security forces allegedly burnt down 300 tribal houses in Tadmetla, Morpalli and Timapuram villages in Dantewada during a combing operation.

Days later, despite an assurance of security from chief minister Raman Singh, the SPOs attacked the Centre's Naxal interlocutor Swami Agnivesh while he was visiting the affected villages.

However, on Tuesday, there was some good news: the Supreme Court directed the commissioners of the court and the district collector of Dantewada to visit the three villages where food scarcity and hunger deaths were reported and give a report to the bench.

After the mayhem that was unleashed by the forces, any sensible government would have pulled up the officers involved in this alleged crime — in this case the former Dantewada police chief SRP Kalluri — to send out a message loud and clear to the people.

But instead of punishing him, the authorities have just transferred the senior superintendent of police (SSP) to another field posting in Sarguja, also a 'Maoist-hit' district.

It also transferred the collector, R Prasanna, who was in fact doing his duty in sending relief to the affected area, to a 'softer' posting elsewhere.

Mr Kalluri, known to routinely instigate SPOs against civil society activists, even stopped the relief trucks that had been sent.

The State vs State brawl does not end here: an additional superintendent of police who was pelted with stones along with Swami Agnivesh, has not been able to lodge an FIR.

It doesn't take much imagination to realise how far more difficult it must be for aggrieved tribals to file a case at the police station.

Today, two important cases related to the Chhattisgarh will come up before the Supreme Court. The first public interest litigation (PIL) case has been going on for years.

The petitioners have been asking the Chhattisgarh government to register FIRs and show the action taken on compensation and rehabilitation to victims of conflict, regardless of the perpetrator. The state government has filed 11 affidavits since 2008.

In all of them, it has been silent on any compensation to victims of the Salwa Judum and security force violence. The other PIL relates to the murder of a tribal woman and children.

It is time that an independent judicial inquiry is ordered into all cases of Naxal-related death, arson, rape and injury since 2005, and a monitoring committee set up to oversee compensation and rehabilitation issues.





Here we were rubbing our hands with glee at the prospect of settling down to watch a day of cricket that can't get bigger and fatter. And what does the non-cricketing captain of the nation do? He decides to come to Mohali to watch the match from the stands (nothing wrong with that) and calls his Pakistani counterpart to join him.

Frankly though, it's not Manmohan Singh who is to blame for making a super-exciting match into a super-nervous encounter. It would have been odd, if not rude, not to invite Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani to an India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final match when it's being played in a Punjab town 239 kms from Lahore.

But with the foreign secretary-level talks having happened and with Mr Singh deciding to not draw a strict demarcation line between business and pleasure, the Indian prime minister is to blame for the media and their aunt to suspect that there's much more at stake in today's match than, well, blood-chugging joy and blood-draining despair that comes with victory and defeat respectively.

The problem is now that every Indo-Pak hand will now worry — and insist that we worry with him — about on-field aggression between the two sides that's part and parcel of the game. So an LBW appeal will be seen as an extra-cricketing hostile gesture and a overboundary as a sneer that goes beyond standard operation sneer in a big ticket match.

So, both sides may be under pressure to win — but with grace, dignity and all those other things that our PM would expect in India's dealings with old bro Pakistan. Basically, all those things that suck out the life from a genuinely potent and humming game between rivals.







In the innocent old days, namely six weeks ago, tour operators were offering day trips to the Mohali semi-final from Delhi for Rs 16,500.

Then news emerged that, no matter what, the tournament rules were such that if India qualified for the semi-final, they would certainly play in Mohali, not Colombo. Some 10 million hits besieged and defeated its servers; the tickets eventually had to be lotteried.

Then, bit by bit, the entire fantastic possibility began to come together. Pakistan topped their group; India failed to top theirs. In the first quarter-final in Dhaka, Pakistan's sleight-handed bowlers perplexed the West Indians into paralysis.

In Ahmedabad, India overcame a horrendous surge of self-sabotage to end Australia's decade of World Cup supremacy. And there it was: India vs Pakistan, World Cup semi-final, in Punjab. Rs 16,500 won't buy you even a call to your local black-ticketer.

But the point I want to make is that almost none of these tickets is going to Pakistanis. Which is why it is odd to find the 2004 tour of Pakistan by India so readily called up in the context of this semi-final.

On that tour, at least 11,000 ordinary citizens crossed the border. This number was unprecedented since the early years after Partition, when the border was porous. Some spent not days but weeks in the country; some were hosted in Pakistani homes.

It was a time of hope and warmth, perhaps catharsis, and there was a feeling that through cricket the peace process had received such a resounding people's mandate that maybe, just maybe, we were onto something.

By contrast at Mohali there will be no more than a few hundred from across the border, and those mainly restricted to the VIP boxes.

The 2004 tour was also part of a planned engagement. Governments were talking at various levels, trade was on the up, firing on the border was down. The Samjhauta Express was running. Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Gilani's little impromptu rendezvous, by comparison, seems neither here nor there.

It carries neither the intent of negotiation nor the comfort of friendship. I can't imagine they will be cracking jokes while eating popcorn. Nor, I imagine, can they be discussing Hafiz Saeed. Perhaps they will fondly reminisce about the days Dawood Ibrahim would appear in printed shirts and large sunglasses at Sharjah.

As sports dates go, Singh has arranged hot tickets, but one suspects both parties will go home somewhat nonplussed. Apart from raising the profile of a cricket match that didn't need any more profile, it's difficult to see its relevance. No, the story of this particular India-Pakistan cricket encounter, unfashionably, is the cricket. It's in there somewhere, the prospect of a terrific cricket match.

Pakistan has had a dismal few years. They became the first team ever to forfeit a Test match. Their beloved coach died on tour. Their players were banned for eating drugs and cricket balls, and finally, for fixing matches, or some part of them.

The last claimed the irresistibly enthralling new-ball pair of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. The terrible attack in Lahore in 2009 not only endangered the lives of Sri Lankan cricketers, it also killed the opportunity for Pakistani cricketers to play on home soil.

To rise from these circumstances to win, often spectacularly, more matches than any other team in this World Cup has been, well, typical Pakistan. They fall off cliffs and grow wings on the way down.

India, on the other hand, have been riding high for some years now so that for the first time, with the possible exception of 1987, they entered the World Cup as favourites. What Pakistan's bowlers deliver - flair, dazzle, melodrama - India's batsmen do.

Combined with morose fielding and single-toothed bowling, there is something vintage about this Indian side too. In one area, however, it is far removed from its predecessors, which is mental strength. They don't wet themselves at the idea of winning.

Sport has a way of delivering these scripts. One might argue that the perfect end would have been a title fight at the Wankhede on Saturday. But just as well for that. Much better for this game to be hosted by Punjabis, whose sentimentality in the matter of Pakistan may balm some of the hysterical jingoism going around.

In Mumbai, the site of 26/11, home of the Senas, the game might have been swallowed by threats and fears and a nasty nationalism. It is the last thing that two limited but thrilling sides deserve in a surprising cricket World Cup. I hope Shoaib plays and Sachin takes first strike.

Rahul Bhattacharya is the author of Pundits from Pakistan, a book on the 2004 cricket tour of India in Pakistan. His novel The Sly Company of People Who Care, is out. The views expressed by the author are personal





Two stories highlight the uncertainties of cricketing diplomacy: at Sharjah some years ago, Mohammad Azharuddin's boys were clobbering away the Pakistani bowling attack. There was pin-drop silence in the stadium. But then arose a slogan: "Allah ki badi shaan hai, Azhar Musalmaan hai" (Allah is so great, Azhar is a Muslim).

In 1992, Sunil Gavaskar was the only man to wager on Imran Khan's team before it lifted the World Cup after a tentative start in Australia. That made Gavaskar an instant hero in Pakistan, with Nawaz Sharif inviting him as a special guest at a reception hosted for the champions in Islamabad.

Mohali 2011 is about optics. The real match between India and Pakistan is across the negotiating table. And in that, there isn't going to be any winner or loser. Not in the visible future.

So why did Manmohan Singh reach out to his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani all of a sudden? Apparently, to create an ambience for the resumed dialogue and to send out a message to the world that India does not abandon reasonable conduct even when wronged or betrayed.

This could be why Singh dovetailed his unilateral gesture with the March 28-29 home secretary-level talks - at the core of which is the glacial Pakistani probe into the conspiracy part of Mumbai's 26/11 terrorist attacks.

Singh's Mohali meeting with Gilani a day later would come in handy, therefore, to take stock of the outcome in New Delhi. For their part, the Pakistanis have lately been harping on the saffron twist in the Samjhauta Express attack to frustrate India's demand for tangible action in the Mumbai case.

I'm sceptical about Singh's Mohali initiative. It could boomerang badly on the resumed dialogue if spectators turn violent or players misbehave on the field. The cricketers must desist from sledging. One untoward incident could damage the ambience and by implication the tenuous efforts to put bilateral relations back on track.

Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar (if he does play today) are famous for their on-field tempers. So are Harbhajan Singh, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh. One would like to presume that Afridi merely engaged in some pre-match mindgames by discounting Sachin Tendulkar's much-awaited 100th international century.

One hopes the presence in the stands of the premiers of the two countries will have a sobering influence on the players who in turn will set an example for the spectators in the stands.

There is a precedent that fans from either side can emulate: the 2004 India-Pakistan series saw Pakistani fans leading India's victory march in Lahore. The spectacle remains a constant hope in the India-Pakistan album of tragic snap-shots. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the architect of that memorable sporting encounter in the wake of his January 2004 pact with Pervez Musharraf.

He gave the go-ahead for the series despite strong opposition from within the BJP who felt an untoward incident during the Indian team's Pakistan visit could destroy the NDA's chances in the Lok Sabha polls later that year. Cricket won, even though the BJP-led coalition lost at the hustings. But the Vajpayee enterprise yielded a bumper crop of peace for three successive years till Musharraf ran into opposition at home.

The situation is no different today. The Mohali match coincides with polls in five state assemblies. The UPA desperately needs to win to resurrect its scam-battered public profile. Singh's gamble could well prove to be a double-edged sword for the Congress and its allies with a sizeable minority votes.

Any kind of communal polarisation triggered by the outcome of the match and the talks with Pakistan could cost the UPA dear. More so when the public mood in India isn't supportive of re-engaging with Pakistan.

Vajpayee took the risk after repairing the atmospherics post-Kargil and after the terrorist strike on Parliament. He even made Musharraf commit to preventing terror threats against India from Pakistani soil. In comparison, Singh's groundwork looks weaker, almost brittle, barring unconfirmed reports that the Gilani regime has the Pakistani army's backing in resuming talks with New Delhi.

But the Pakistani army isn't the only threat to any future peace. Vandals of other hues lurk behind the surface. Till they are eliminated or contained, symbolic bonhomie won't kindle any lasting peace. That should be Singh's message to Gilani. Otherwise Mohali will be just an optical illusion.





In a nation of a billion-plus cricket and cricketer lovers, the exception speaks up

Cricket is easily the world's most boring spectator sport. And this is what makes it perfect for busy people in search for a reason to slack. It makes a virtue out of indolence and a traitor out of people who choose work over play. And supporting a team playing against the Boys in Blue makes you the proverbial leper for life.

Don't get me wrong, I like sports.
Watching players dribbling, controlling and passing the ball in high endurance games such football, hockey and basketball is a lot of fun to watch.

And what do our busboys on steroids do? They wear shades that make them blind and swath their faces with sunblock that makes them ridiculous. Then they swagger into the field, a feat that clearly tires them as they spend the rest of the day scuttling around their silly points and mid-offs trying desperately to stay awake.

Team India's brief appears to be staying on their feet for an inning, which they do by moving as little as possible. And if they have to dash a few yards to reach the ball, they pant like lung cancer survivors without oxygen on Mount Everest.

The batsmen, on their part, arrive wearing protective gear that would have driven Harold `Bodyline' Larwood to choke on a cricket ball in frustration. As much preparing our dark knights to take on deliveries rarely faster than the neighbourhood pizzaman -the pizza makes it to your door just under time, so you don't get it free -helmets provide commentators with the onerous job of naming the men behind the mask. Few spectators realise that since all players in gear look the same, a commentator's job is a lot tougher than stating the obvious "Bowler bowls a delivery to the batsman, who cringes again."

But you cannot grudge batsmen this obsessive self-preservation. Their mugs are their fortune and, despite unenviable voice and diction, help to launch a thousand products. Endorsements, however incoherent, also do a great public service by unmasking the player for the nation.
If it wasn't for advertisements, both Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar would remain what we see on the field, midgets in armour who waddle between wickets.
I won't even bother with the bowling. That India's not a bowling side is obvious from the fact that unlike batsmen, bowlers rarely appear in ads before and after `Teletubbies for Toddlers' and `Pranayama for the Comatose'.

Yet, such is the magic of cricket that it'll drive the 1.5 billion minus one fans in the subcontinent into a frenzy today, more so if Pakistan makes up its mind to win to end interior minister Rehman Malik's matchfixing concerns. If India wins, the highlight for me will be betting on which player will use his newfound fame and money to get hair grafts to replace those lost over the stress of losing the last big cola ad.

Come to think of it, my aversion for cricket could just be undiagnosed arachnophobia -irrational fear of spiders and creepy crawlies -triggered by the wispy hair grafts that spread spider-like on the pates of cricketers and commentators. Do away with that, and cricket may get another convert.



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






Today India takes on Pakistan in Mohali. Or rephrase that slightly and say: today eleven Indians will play a game of cricket with eleven Pakistanis. Between those two phrases, the one pithy and confrontational, the other less so but considerably more accurate, lies so much of the story of India-Pakistan sport — and relations. As with other countries that have fraught, oppositional histories, it is easy to look at sporting encounters between India and Pakistan through the lens of political and social confrontation. Succumbing to that temptation can create for us the febrile cricket-is-war environment we're having to endure today; but, even more importantly, it does a disservice to the two teams, to the sport they are playing, and the stage they are playing it on; and it does a disservice to that shared history that we are trying to echo in our approach to what is, after all, just another game of cricket.

Games are games, and games need good manners, cricket in particular. They need sportsmanship on the pitch and cordiality off it. It is that cordiality — and perhaps something more — that lies behind the welcome that Pakistani fans will receive in hospitable, outward-looking Punjab. It is that cordiality that underlines Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invitation to his Pakistani opposite number to watch the match, and Yousaf Raza Gilani's acceptance. Take the cordiality as what it is: the necessary accompaniment to a great sporting moment.

If it opens up space for genuine diplomacy, or for reduction of the emotional distance between the two countries' populations, that is wonderful; but that is not the point.

Cricket has to carry so much, when it comes to India and Pakistan. It is not only the sole uncontested emotional location for so many people's nationalism in South Asia, but it is also, sadly, our only uncontested common idiom, shared cultural and literary traditions notwithstanding. Cricket carries, too, the burden of providing often facile insight into national character, the power of institutions, the purity of professionalism, the machismo of the dominant culture. These are burdens sport sometimes has to shrug off — and this is one of those times. When eleven Pakistanis play a game of cricket with eleven Indians today, there will be, even without taking on the weight of those histories, enough great narratives worth following: Tendulkar, poised just short of a century of centuries, playing in what could be his last World Cup match; Afridi, leading from the front, miraculously pulling together his team; Yuvraj, scripting his own big-hitting redemption. It's just a game — but what a game.






The Nitish Kumar government has decided to give citizens the right to recall elected corporators, if they are dissatisfied with their work. This right is set to make its way into the amended Bihar Municipal Act — if two-thirds of the voters decide that their Nagar Parishad and Nagar Panchayat representatives have let them down, then they can take away their jobs.

Recall laws have been introduced in varying forms across the world. Those who desire an elected representative be removed have to garner enough support on a petition, with representation from those who elected the official in the first place. Then a recall election is held to decide whether the incumbent should be removed, and to decide on a replacement. Across the world, many countries have the tool, but deploy it very rarely, and apply very rigorous criteria to check against arbitrariness. A couple of years back, Chhattisgarh experimented with the recall option, and many suggest extending it to the state and national level. Wresting accountability from those you voted for is a fine aim, but the right to punish and sack officials should be used sparingly. This direct democracy may seem empowering, but it can easily be twisted for partisan ends, it doubles the cost of filling the post, and can lead to endless electioneering.

Has the Bihar government mulled the obvious underside of the right to recall, as it claims credit for the move? This comes close on the heels of another fine-sounding lightbulb idea by Nitish Kumar, the doing away of the MLA local development fund, which left too much to the discretion of legislators. Though the scrapping was announced with great aplomb, the policy lingers on in a different form as a "chief minister's fund". Recently, he objected to the Seeds Bill, opposing Bt maize trials in Bihar in a hasty, reflexive manner. After his electoral triumph, Nitish Kumar has been on a roll, unveiling policy innovations almost on a daily basis. While much of this is to be applauded, there's also a case for caution and clear-headedness. Instead of looking for whiz-bang changes that could possibly be subverted, like the right to recall, Bihar needs sustained, sensible administration.






The committee set up under former Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Rakesh Mohan to figure out how to finance the development of India's infrastructure has quite a mountain to climb. The five years of the Twelfth Plan, starting from March 2012, are supposed to somehow drum up $1 trillion for infrastructure. The mid-term appraisal of the Eleventh Plan, which was released in March last year, made it quite clear that the big bottleneck to India's growth was infrastructure. Ports, water supply, and rail were particularly short of investment, getting little more than half of what was needed. It was also clear that the mind-boggling amounts of investment required to meet needs would not be made without substantial reform, and the involvement of the private sector. The Centre expects that about half the funds will come from the private sector, but given how tight the fiscal situation is, it should probably be looking for more.

The committee, it is reported, is likely to study several different possibilities to free up infrastructure financing. The most obvious may be reform and deepening of the corporate bond market. Infrastructure projects have a uniquely long-term pay-off, and financing through debt and bonds needs to be considered an option. In order to deepen the market, foreign investment in infrastructure companies' bonds should be liberalised. Other self-imposed constraints that must be got rid off are the norms that limit how much banks can invest in the infrastructure sector. For risk management reasons, all big investors are subject to what are called "sectoral caps". Yet, so large and investment-heavy are infrastructure projects that funding just one could take you to your cap; other available projects will thus go a-begging. Ensuring that investors are exposed to various different sectors might make sense in the West, where economies are not growing at 8 or 9 per cent and infrastructure is basically in place. Here, other standards are needed; what is more risky is not allowing people to diversify across projects, rather than across sectors. Exposure norms must be loosened to help projects get off the ground.

There remains, of course, the question of political will to get infrastructure built, without which much of this will be useless. As long as fear of the private sector or a slavish dedication to an outdated non-reformist mindset holds back the clearances of important projects, investment will not materialise. For the Twelfth Plan to succeed in mobilising the resources it must, that will, too, must be summoned.







It was a rare day for us kids, that sultry Saturday evening of April 1986. Forget dividing ourselves in two teams for our usual tennis-ball cricket game, we didn't even feel like planting the stumps. About 24 hours back, Javed Miandad had a last ball six at Sharjah and the trauma had drained our energies.

Excuse or explanation failed us and the biggest heartbreak of our young lives was way too complex to deal with. That's when one of us repeated what he had heard at home. "My father said, we can never beat them on a Friday," said a subdued voice. The impasse was over. Finally, we had an excuse, and an explanation too, that helped us to come to terms with India's loss. The "Bad Friday" logic suited us and there were slow, wise nods all around.

Suddenly, Chetan Sharma had sympathy as now it was fate that was burdened with the ignominy of bowling a full toss. "Poor Sharma, he was merely attempting to bowl a yorker," we concluded.

In hindsight, that was our first encounter with cricket's uncontrollables. Worse, that was also when cricketing communalism silently seeped into our immature minds for the first time. Unseen and unfelt by us, objectivity and cricketing commonsense exited with this new overbearing arrival.

Miandad's quick reflexes and his unflappable temperament were now seen as incidental happenings in the pro-Pakistan designs that we believed the Maker had penned for all Fridays. Heavy emotional investment in India-Pakistan games and the juvenile interpretation of patriotism had taken a toll on us. The sports fan in us died. With time, he was to take a rebirth within us but not before we had missed several memorable sporting spectacles and failed to acknowledge or appreciate many great individual cricketing feats.

Getting up to switch off the television with Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal and closing one's eyes during a stunning spell by a hostile pacer from across the border were rituals strictly followed on big India-Pakistan match days.

Many fellow cricket crazies became mental wrecks. For them, the bat-and-ball skills became irrelevant as they started believing that match fortunes fluctuated by keeping one's fingers crossed. Some even took great pains to convince others that it was the colour of their garments that had influenced India's win.

Those were the Sharjah days during the illogical 1980s when absurdities were part of the whole cricketing experience. That was the time when most wanted criminals sat in VVIP boxes with their families, sub-standard commentators were seen to be entertaining and the word shady wasn't just used to describe the comfortable stands under those desert canopies.

But something changed for us rabid and partisan Indian supporters during the 1992 World Cup. India was to exit early but the supreme Channel 9 coverage was way too entertaining for us Doordarshan addicts to turn our backs on the action from

Australia and New Zealand. That's when we actually saw Pakistan without bias. That's when we actually made an attempt to know our neighbours. Not distracted by prayer or superstition, we sat wide-eyed to watch those amazing men in green.

They were a very skilful bunch led by a skipper whose walk on the field was similar to the gait that the Big Cats in African jungles flaunt when the National Geographic men pan their cameras on their pride.

There was a teenaged batting prodigy whose limited English vocabulary didn't include the word pressure. A short and stodgy young leg-spinner with magical fingers who turned veteran batsmen into fumbling novices.

A couple of pacers with speed, guile and skills had a habit of shattering stumps with dream balls. Imran Khan led a team that had several show stoppers like Inzamam-ul Haq, Mushtaq Ahmed, Wasim Akram and Aaqib Javed.

It wasn't a tough call when the super-entertaining Pakistan bunch played the bland English unit in the final. As Imran lifted the spherical crystal trophy we saw cricket in a new light.

The cobwebs had cleared, our neighbours were suddenly the cool guys. The transformation from a fanatical India fan to a more mature cricket follower took time, but it was a change for the better.

The mind is at peace, the brain works logically and even in these days of mad frenzy the sanity is intact. Having experienced the edgy life on the other side, I can vouch that the present state of semi-neutrality with a certain soft-corner for India is pleasant. I have availed the power to smirk and walk off with a smile when some Shahid Afridi vs Yuvraj Singh kind of debate ceases to be a cricket discussion and dissolves into ugly rhetoric. Since the game is always the winner, you can never be a sore loser.

After appreciating a classic Tendulkar cover drive, in case an Umar Gul in-cutter makes way between the Indian opener's bat and pad, he too deserves at least a few claps. And if Zaheer Khan loses the race to be the leading wicket-taker to Afridi, it would not be the end of the world. Zaheer and Afridi have done enough to be judged by their showing in one tournament.

The idea here isn't about being saintly, but it is the best way to deal with the war references and attempts to turn a cricket game into a gladiatorial duel. With the rulers of the two nations present in the stands, Mohali on Wednesday will have a perfect coliseum feel to it.

It is a challenge to cut out clichés and stereotypical sentiments from an Indo-Pak cricketing contest. But in case one achieves that blissful higher plane of cricketing neutrality, watching two sides with unique and outstanding skill sets would be a serene experience, and not necessarily a nerve-jangling ordeal.








We've all been reading and cheering the increase in tiger numbers reported by Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh this week. They're up to 1,706 in 2011, showcasing a gain of 295 tigers since Project Tiger gave way to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). Yet, as an ardent conservationist, I am a little confused.

Tiger census numbers are a hugely important metric. Ecologically, they signify the presence of large tracts of intact and protected habitat in which the overall ecosystem can thrive. Monetarily, they attract tourism and government funds. Socially, they give the general public a measure of their eco-friendliness. For managers at the ministry of environment and forests, it is perhaps the most important performance metric. So let us all agree that the number packs a big punch.

Just like the share price of a large corporation, tiger numbers almost exclusively determine political and public perception of the NTCA's performance. And just like a large corporation, the "feel-good" growth trajectory of the number would have been forecast forward for at least five years at inception. And so it is strategically imperative that the number rise for a few years at least, so as to stamp the NTCA's credentials as an able successor to the much maligned Project Tiger.

The NTCA took over from Project Tiger amid intense government ire over widespread mismanagement and manipulation of results. A key reason behind its formation was a rallying cry against the "fake numbers" Project Tiger had been shamelessly disseminating. A new reporting standard was invented: tiger census via camera traps as against plaster casts of individual pugmarks. Quite like Jeffrey Skilling at Enron when he advocated "mark-to-market" accounting, the NTCA chose to break away from the standard market currency of pugmarks to camera-trapping. It was a brave and well-reasoned move. But in redefining the market currency, it also pounced on an unusual opportunity. India's tiger valuation was pegged at roughly 4,000 prior to 2008 and it was brought down to 1,411: a decrease of over 60 per cent.

Although census figures are often portrayed (and interpreted) as an exact number, they are only numeric indicators that enable us to track trends. That number does not suggest that there are 1,706 tigers remaining in India and let us not make the mistake of considering it an exact estimate.

When the NTCA first released the new figure, it had to have a well-thought-out plan of how the "enterprise value" would trend itself in the coming years. But by redefining the "currency" and lowering "enterprise value" to rock bottom, the NTCA is sitting on a goldmine of an opportunity to preen itself — because the only way forward from this abyss is an improvement.

Hence it is equally important that the NTCA clarify the source of gains in tiger numbers and clearly attribute a cause to the effect. To deserve true credit, the gains must be attributable to the fundamentals: better management, better operational efficiency in carrying out a tiger census and, of course, more rupees dedicated to the NTCA. Any additional gain has to be attributable to some external influence.

Yet there are factors not related to the fundamentals that can contribute to an increase in numbers, and these must not be used by the MoEF to blow its own trumpet unless it truly deserves to.

First is the increasing sophistication of the survey. Earlier efforts placed camera traps in select locations, and statistically extrapolated to areas not sampled. Given the suspicious environment in which camera-trapping was introduced, we must move forward with the assumption that the initial statistical methodology was conservative and not optimistic in its subtleties. This time round we may have placed more camera traps in the same area or covered a broader area with camera traps. This process will reveal the shortcomings of a relatively untested statistical system. Given the inbuilt conservativeness of the equations, we should expect a gain as the learning curve is climbed. The MoEF should not be allowed to attribute this statistical gain to better management and less corruption. It is purely a methodological evolution.

Second, the skill levels across the country in conducting a camera-trapping exercise were anything but uniform. Some regions clearly lacked people with the right skills and these skills would have improved in the past three years. Everything else being the same, these people will be more capable today in deriving tiger pictures out of the same geographical area than they were five years ago. Once again, gains resulting from this aspect are related to the learning curve and are not indicative of a broader ecological improvement.

The reason we must examine the NTCA's motives is that a lack of such scrutiny led us to the Sariska debacle. It may have been easier to manipulate a pugmark into an additional individual, but it's not impossible with photographs

either! We can go on this route to DNA fingerprinting of tigers and never be free of fake numbers, unless a sustained scrutiny is maintained. The pugmarks sampling methodology was inferior to camera-trapping because gains could be easily forged. I hope we don't start down this route again.

The writer is a pharma consultant and wildlife expert







We have been recounting aankhon dekhi stories of change in the cities and towns of India based on visits we made in our respective capacities as chairperson of the high-powered expert committee on urban infrastructure, and consultant to the committee. The report of the committee has just been submitted to the ministers for urban development and housing and urban poverty alleviation. In our last column together, we present some of the highlights of the committee's findings. Ranesh Nair moves on to a new assignment, but Isher Ahluwalia will continue to bring the stories of challenge and response from urban India.

Indian cities are visibly deficient in the quality of services they provide, although in the last few years we have seen examples of significant achievements (some reported in this column) in generating a turnaround in the delivery of specific services in some cities. Considering that the Indian economy is now one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and that India's urban population will be close to 600 million by 2031 — more than double that in 2001 — the few success stories will have to be replicated on a much broader scale.

The committee has endorsed the norms set up by the ministry of urban development for public services such as water supply, sewerage, solid waste management, storm-water drainage, street lights, roads and transport etc and has emphasised that these standards (such as 24x7 water supply) are to be achieved for all, because sanitation and public health cannot be catered to in enclosed areas or localities. The report (available online at has addressed the enormous challenge of providing public services to meet the norms for the currently unserved and underserved population and to meet the needs of the additional population.

At India's current stage of development, industry and services sectors are the principal drivers of growth. A few cities such as Bangalore and Hyderabad have acted as centres of knowledge and innovation. Many more will have to follow in their footsteps, providing a receptive environment for agglomeration and innovation. Planners have to realise that improving the state of service-delivery in Indian cities is actually crucial for realising India's economic potential, besides being an end in itself for improving the quality of life of their residents.

This will take additional resources. The committee has estimated that a little over Rs 39 lakh crore (at 2009-10 prices) will have to be invested in urban infrastructure over a period of 20 years. This does not include the cost of land acquisition. Basic urban services such as water and sanitation-related sectors for all will require only 20 per cent of the total investment, while renewal and redevelopment, including slums, will require another 10 per cent. The rest is largely for urban roads and urban transport-related sectors. Altogether, this implies that investment in urban infrastructure will have to increase from 0.7 per cent of GDP in 2011-12 to 1.1 per cent of GDP in 2031-32. Recognising the importance of maintaining the assets, the committee has estimated that Rs 20 lakh crore will also have to be spent during this period on operations and maintenance of all the urban infrastructure assets — old and new.

Considering that the government of India spends close to 1.25 per cent of GDP on subsidising fertilisers and petroleum products, and the state governments' budgets currently absorb losses of about 0.9 per cent of GDP in power distribution, urban India's additional need for infrastructure investment of 0.4 per cent of GDP over a 20-year period is small. If the potential for public-private partnership is fully explored and exploited, the draft on government resources will be even smaller.

The committee takes the view that investment in urban infrastructure is a necessary but not sufficient condition for improving the state of service delivery in Indian cities. The systems of delivering services need to be radically transformed if larger investments are to result in better service delivery. Even financing the investment needs of urban infrastructure is crucially dependent on the reform of institutions and on upgrading the skills of those who run the institutions responsible for service delivery and revenue generation.

The government of India signalled the importance of the urban sector at long last by launching the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2005. The committee recommends a New Improved JNNURM (NIJNNURM, a nice acronym in that "nij" means "apna") over a 20-year period, which draws upon the earlier mission that ends in 2012, and recommends a move towards a reform-linked programme approach rather than a reform-linked project-based approach. The programme must be open to all — big and small, while recognising their different needs. It calls for a separate window for PPPs for cities where capacity for preparing and executing such projects is available. The report gives top priority to building capacity through setting up institutes of urban management, revitalising schools of urban planning, and making other provisions for training government officers.

The committee has called for a single ministry at the Centre. Focusing on the urban poor separately is an inappropriate strategy. The committee has also recommended a similar convergence of departments at the state level.

State governments have the primary constitutional responsibility for urban development. They will have to provide an enabling environment in which urban local bodies can discharge their responsibilities. This would require legislative changes as in municipal acts and town planning acts, and institutional innovations such as the Tamil Nadu Urban Development Fund to help with financing. An independent urban utility regulator at the state level should ensure that service standards are met and that user charges cover costs within a framework which is spelt out in a transparent manner. Building/strengthening of a municipal cadre and allowing for lateral hiring of professionals into the cadre must also be facilitated by state governments.

The report recommends devolution so that urban local bodies are not left with unfunded mandates. They must have their "own" sources of revenue, both from taxes and from levying rational user charges for the services they deliver. They must be entitled to predictable formula-based transfers from state governments as part of revenue-sharing arrangements.

There are also recommendations for administrative reforms and capacity building at the urban local body level. The committee calls for a unified command under a mayor for each city. The choice of how a service is provided (for example, corporatisation, PPPs or urban local bodies coming together for scale economies) should be left to an empowered city administration led by the mayor. But the mayor must be accountable for service delivery outcomes to the community. eGovernance can play a very major role in enhancing efficiency and transparency in service delivery as reported earlier in our columns.

There was a time not so long ago when urban affairs in India attracted the best and the brightest. Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, was mayor of Allahabad between 1924 and 1926, and Chittaranjan Das, another prominent national leader, was the mayor of Calcutta in 1924. The time has come when India's cities once again need leaders of that calibre, leaders who invest their energies in rebuilding cities that can host India's transition from a low income to a middle income country, and erase the rural-urban divide with bold strokes of development.

Ahluwalia is the chairperson of ICRIER and chaired the high-powered expert committee on urban infrastructure. Nair served as a consultant to the committee. Views are personal






Three Middle Eastern countries have been conspicuous for their stability in the storm. They are Turkey, Lebanon and Israel. An odd mix, you might say, but they have in common that they are places where people vote.

Democracy is a messy all-or-nothing business. You can no more be a little bit democratic than a little bit pregnant. Yes, citizens go to the polls in Turkey, Lebanon and Israel and no dictator gets 99.3 per cent of the vote. They are lands of opportunity where money is being made and where facile generalisations, for all their popularity, miss the point. Turkey has not turned Islamist, Lebanon is not in the hands of Hezbollah, and Israel is still an open society.

All three countries, of course, are also wracked by division and imperfection; but then two great merits of democracy are that it finesses division and does not aspire to perfection.

Speaking of Hezbollah, remember all that alarm a couple of months back when a Hezbollah-backed businessman, Najib Mikati, emerged as prime minister? After that, Lebanon introduced the Libyan no-fly-zone resolution at the United Nations — a rare, if little noted, example of the United States and a Hezbollah-supported government in sync. Mikati is struggling with the give-and-take of Lebanese politics. Life goes on in the freewheeling way that has long drawn repressed, frustrated Arabs to Beirut.

Hezbollah is a political party with a militia. That's a big problem. Israel's ultra-Orthodox Shas party has an outsized influence over Israel because of coalition politics. That's a problem. The Muslim Brotherhood will loom large in a free Egypt because it has an organisational head start. That may be a problem. Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party is a brilliant political machine with a ruthless bent. That's a problem, too.

These are problems of different sizes. But give me all these problems so long as they present themselves within open (or opening) systems. They are far preferable to the cowed conformity of the terrorised societies of the now doomed Arab Jurassic Park, where despots do their worst.

It's over: Enough of the nameless graves that whisper of horror, enough of the 20th-century police states in the 21st-century. Yes, it's over for Ben Ali and for Mubarak. It's over for Gaddafi, yes it is. How far it's over for the other Arab despots and autocrats, whether of the oxymoronic "republics" or the royals, will depend on how far they can get out in front of their citizens' demand to be heard.

You see, you can't do Hama any more. You can't do the Iraqi marshes. Perhaps you can kill dozens, but not tens of thousands. These despots relied on the limitlessness of their terror. But now people know. They communicate through the clampdowns. They are Facebook-nimble. The despots gaze into their gilded mirrors and, to their horror, see not themselves but the people who will be silenced no longer. They wonder then if their own myriad agents can be trusted. They are caught in their own web. They flail; they have gone too far to turn back but cannot go forward.

Bashar al-Assad, the embattled Syrian president, was about to say something Sunday, before deciding not to. He was trained in west London as an eye doctor. He'd better stop thinking Hama — where his father murdered at least 10,000 — and start thinking Hammersmith.

The Arab transitions will be long and bumpy but now that fear has been overcome, they are irreversible. The genie is not only out of the bottle, it's shattered the bottle. I said of Libya in an earlier column: Be ruthless or stay out. So now the West is in, be ruthless. Arm the resurgent rebels. Incapacitate Gaddafi. Do everything short of putting troops on the ground. Gaddafi, as Obama has said, "must leave." So that Libya can be an Arab country that is imperfect but open.







What trade can do

As prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousaf Raza Gilani meet in Mohali today, China and Taiwan will most certainly not figure in their talks. But even a cursory look at the trade politics between these two political entities — which do not even recognise each other — should provide some interesting cues to Delhi and Islamabad. Despite considerable political opposition at home, Taiwan's president Ma Ying-Jeou has taken some big steps towards more rapid economic integration with mainland China.

Beijing, on the other hand, has stopped its hostile rhetoric against Taiwan and has focused instead on facilitating the island's economic growth and prosperity. In negotiating a trade liberalisation agreement that came into effect last year, China made more concessions than Taiwan.

Taiwan currently exports $14 billion to China annually and most of the goods are now fully or partially exempt from import tariffs. Chinese exports to Taiwan are worth $3 billion on an annual basis. Taiwanese companies have investments worth $200 billion in mainland China. Taiwan will now allow Chinese companies to pick up 10 per cent stake in its technology companies.

Tourist flows are booming. With 1.65 million mainland tourists arriving in Taiwan, China has replaced Japan as the main source of inward traffic. More than 5 million Taiwanese (whose total population is a little above 20 million) travelled to China last year.

Currently, five Taiwanese and nine Chinese carriers are entitled to operate 370 flights a week to meet mounting demand from the booming trade and travel ties between China and the island. China and Taiwan agreed to direct chartered flights in 2008 and carrier flights in 2009.

Even a simple modification of the existing Indo-Pak agreement on religious tourism could dramatically boost movement of people across border. Similarly, the full implementation of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement by Pakistan could transform the economies of the border provinces in both countries.

Sceptics would say the Chinese are practical people and the South Asians are not. Meeting in the Punjab, which stands to gain most from the normalisation of Indo-Pak relations, Singh and Gilani might want to demonstrate that they can inject at least a modicum of economic pragmatism into bilateral relations.

As in Pakistan, so in Taiwan there is concerns that opening up to the larger neighbour would swamp its separate identity. President Ma, however, is arguing that deeper integration with China would transform the economic fortunes of Taiwan and that this process can be advanced step-by-step without a threat to the island's separate identity.

To intervene or not

Official China continues to affirm that "non-intervention" is a high principle of Beijing's foreign policy. Chinese analysts are bringing a measure of sophistication to the debate in the context of the current Western military intervention in Libya.

Shen Dingli, a professor at Shanghai's Fudan University and a stimulating columnist, has a line of thought that should interest Delhi's strategic community.

Pointing to quantum physics, where even the observation of a phenomenon could alter it, Shen says "non-interference is itself a form of interference" and produces its own effects on the world". "Complete non-interference is impossible in practice", Shen adds.

Shen points to the modern Chinese tradition of solidarity with people fighting for just causes. He refers to the African movements against apartheid, the fight of South Korean students against military rule, and the Okinawa islanders' opposition to American occupation.

These actions, according to Shen, reflected "the ideals of fairness and justice that inspired the Communist Party to found the People's Republic. China's stand on these issues boosted the country's standing in the world — in modern terminology, its soft power."

"Sticking unconditionally" to the principle of non-intervention, Shen insists, "would be to depart from the United Nations Charter". "A doctrine of conditional and limited intervention best fits both the reality as well as an ideal model of international relations".

The judgment on when to intervene, Shen concludes, must be defined by the specific circumstances of a particular case and the nature of China's national interests.

Tibet's upward slope

Even as the Dalai Lama withdraws from his traditional political role, China has sustained its offensive against him. In a speech on Sunday, Padma Choling, chairman of the Tibet autonomous regional government, said "any efforts that jeopardise Tibet's hard-gained stability and progress are doomed to failure." In a reference to the Dalai Lama, he reiterated that China will decisively foil "any attempts to split Tibet from China or to restore the hierarchical social system characterised by theocracy."

Marking the anniversary of the Dalai Lama's flight from Lhasa this month 52 years ago, Padma Choling counted the gains from Chinese rule and the end to the old order in Tibet.

The region's GDP reached 50.8 billion yuan ($ 7.75 billion) in 2010, with an annual growth rate of 12.4 per cent, according to Choling, He added that per capita incomes in Tibet have doubled since 2005.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi







Ties too tight

The WikiLeaks cables having come as a shot in the arm for the Left, CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat has written about the leaked US diplomatic cables in the latest issue of the party's journal, People's Democracy. He says that they have laid bare, in one stroke, the nature of the India-US relationship during UPA and NDA tenures.

Karat says that the cables reveal the US's influential position in various spheres — strategic affairs, foreign policy and economic policies. Washington has access to the bureaucracy, military, security and intelligence systems, at several levels. He deals at length with New Delhi's vote against Iran in 2005, Washington's influence in the cabinet reshuffle a year later, the US succeeding in getting India to coordinate policy towards Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and the close cooperation with Israel under the aegis of the US. "The success achieved in getting India's foreign policy to be 'congruent' to US policy is smugly stated in an embassy cable that Indian officials are 'loath to admit publicly that India and the US have begun coordinating foreign policies'," he says.

The nuclear option

An article titled "Fukushima: radioactive cloud over nuclear renaissance" says the "only the very foolish" will argue that Fukushima's near-meltdown does not warrant a relook at the nuclear energy polices of the world or of India. "While nuclear energy could remain a serious option on the table, we must also accept that taking it off the table is also an option," it argues. In the light of Fukushima, it says that apart from reviewing the safety of Tarapur plant — which is an even older GE-designed light water reactor — there is a need to review the design of the Kudankulam reactor for an accident of this type.

"If nuclear energy is thought to be necessary, the only way of going about it would be smaller plants, smaller unit sizes and disperse them in different places. Clustering a number of units in one place is another example of trying to reduce costs and thereby increasing the risks," it says.

The article argues that it was time India had a serious debate on nuclear energy: "Instead of this being a secretive affair between the prime minister's office and the department of atomic energy, we need to bring the light of day into this."

Leaky pot and kettle

While arguing that the WikiLeaks cables on the cash-for-votes episode has put the UPA in the dock, the editorial in CPI weekly New Age also takes potshots at the BJP.

It says that while the prime minister has questioned the cables sent by the US embassy in Delhi, his party has confirmed their authenticity by attempting to corner BJP on the basis of similar cables, that talked of the "double-speak" of BJP leaders on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

It says while opposing the nuclear deal in Parliament, outside it, BJP leaders were assuring the US ambassador of their loyalty. "During the past three years, on a number of occasions, the BJP and Congress have reached 'consensus' on major policy issues. So it is futile to look for 'differentiations' between the two major bourgeois parties on such policy issues," it says.

Compiled by Manoj C.G.







After nearly three years of inaction, the end-game in the Raja scam may come a lot faster than most expected, and is likely to take down a lot more persons than just A Raja. According to what the CBI said in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, two of the big beneficiary companies, Swan Telecom and Loop Telecom, are allegedly fronts for the Anil Ambani's RComm and the Ruias' Essar. While the chargesheet—the first to be filed on April 2 and a subsequent one on April 25—will need to be backed with evidence in the trial court, what is surprising is that the government did not act on such charges until now. As long ago as November 2010, the CAG report pointed out that R1,002 crore of Swan's R1,100 crore equity had been contributed by the Anil Ambani Group—yet, when the matter was referred to the corporate affairs ministry some months ago, it gave Swan a clean chit, arguing that preference share capital (R992 crore from ADAG came in this manner) could not be considered as equity. More important, the then Solicitor General (who is now the Attorney General) had also given an opinion saying much the same thing. So if Swan and Loop are to be charged with cheating and criminal conspiracy, as the CBI said in court, it won't just be the officials of these companies who will be in trouble—other government officials as well as other telecom companies will also have a lot of explanations to give.

All of this will put the government in an even more untenable position since, despite Raja's arrest, the official line continues to be that no loss of revenue was caused by A Raja. The position is a complicated one and is based on the argument the Trai never recommended auctions of the 2G licences. Apart from the fact that the then Trai chief denied this was true—this has been reiterated by the Trai under its new chairman recently—it is difficult to appreciate the nuance. It is also difficult to appreciate why the government is taking so long to cancel 122 licences to new firms, and why it has not even moved on the dual-technology licences. And now if the CBI says the two companies were fronts, the fact that other government agencies that were not connected with Raja also went along makes things quite different. While this is enough to throw the industry into a tizzy, all eyes will be on whether the CBI probe goes into more money trails than the ones already disclosed, that money from telecom firms flowed into companies owned by DMK MPs. A Raja may not have revolutionised India's telecom in the manner he said he would, but the Raja scam has revolutionised the manner in which business will be done in India, and not just in telecom.





The new tiger census has raised a lot of cheer, showing that the population of these big cats in India has risen 21% since the last census, going up to 1,706 from 1,411. Sure, as is the case with the release of most numbers these days, there is some cavilling about the measuring methods. One attack goes that only 500 tigers were captured by camera traps and the overall number extrapolated in a questionable fashion. There is also the charge that the new tiger census includes habitats that hadn't been covered last time, and the increased count cannot, therefore, be taken at its trumpeting face value. Such charges can be countered by the scientific nature of the new census. Carried out in three phases during December 2009-2010, at a cost of R9.1 crore, involving more than 4,70,000 forest personnel and a number of volunteers, covering more than 45,000 sq km of forest area and including 39 designated tiger reserves, this census was definitely quite sophisticated. This is not to say that we can rest on our laurels. Announcing the census results, environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh said, "We can deal with the threat of poachers, of the real estate and mining mafias, but it's much harder to deal with the developmental dynamic." That's the key challenge, to figure out a compromise between people and tigers, with more than a quarter of India's tigers living outside the reserves.

When Independent India saw its first attempt to relocate wild tigers (from Ranthambore to Sariska) three years ago, The Economist wrote: "Attracting the votes of many poor people who live in tiger habitat has been a more pressing concern for her government than preserving the lives of unenfranchised tigers. But no government wants to see the tiger, and emblem of India, go extinct on its watch." Because the resource crunch will only get tighter, the imperative to resolve this conflict will only become more pressing. We hope to see Ramesh offer some concrete solutions on this front. Meanwhile, the four-year tiger census can be made into a more frequently upgraded affair. Continuous monitoring of the tiger population would also water down charges that the census is adulterated.





The European Union leaders met last week at Brussels and agreed to make key amendments to the treaty governing the euro system. These changes are meant to further deepen the economic union through greater policy coordination. This exercise is more political than economic because it involves surrendering more sovereignty of decision making to the euro system as such. Policy coordination, of course, is a veiled term that actually means many weaker EU nations, currently seeking financial bailouts, will have to adhere to the newly accepted "common principles of competitiveness", which will drive the EU economy. The common principles of competitiveness could include coordinating taxation policy, national debt, workers' wage indexation, future social security schemes etc. The EU also agreed to conduct fresh stress tests for the banking system, which appears to have got severely buffeted in many countries facing problems arising from excessive national debt or other toxic assets from the real estate sector, as in the case of Spain.

The EU summit at Brussels, last Friday, concluded against the backdrop of countries like Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain going through severe banking/national debt crises, forcing stronger nations like Germany to design bailout packages.

Speaking to German Parliament members belonging to the ruling coalition, one clearly got the impression that Germany is very keen on defending and stabilising the euro currency in the medium to long term. In fact, the political class prefers to play down the growing opposition within their polity to weaker European economies being bailed out by the German taxpayer.

"Only some elderly Germans want to go back to the Deutsche mark. There cannot be a backtrack on the euro. It is the job of our policymakers and leaders to explain the true relevance of the euro. We will do everything to defend the euro. We are convinced about its future," said a senior Parliament member.

This view was echoed by Dr Werner Hoyer, minister of state at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, who said the stability and sustainability of the euro is the primary element of EU's 2020 strategy. Hoyer launched a passionate defence of the euro by arguing that Germany experienced more stable and less volatile inflation under the euro currency system than it did under the Deutsche mark regime.

Finally, Hoyer said he would urge the Germans to think "in a global dimension, or at least in a European dimension".

These sentiments clearly bring out the pressures within the EU following the banking/sovereign debt crises in many parts of Europe. Germany is having to do a delicate balancing act in stabilising the European economy without displeasing its own people. Chancellor Angela Merkel has been at pains to suggest that German taxpayers will bail out other EU economies only if those nations accept stringent austerity packages. There are no free lunches anymore.

Despite making such noises, Merkel's party has not done too well in the local elections in recent times. She suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Green party at a provincial election in southern Germany on Monday.

All this will put further doubts in the minds of the German political class as to how far they should go in bailing out crisis-ridden parts of Europe in the future. In some ways, Germany has no option but to play the leadership role, and show magnanimity, even if it riles the local electorate.

Germany has already agreed to a long-term stability package of $700 billion, which will be administered by a body called the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) from 2013 onwards. In the interim, a European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) will take care of providing bailout funds for financially stressed economies. Of course, the EFSF will merge with the ESM once the latter is formally launched in 2013.

The ESM will be used essentially bring fiscal discipline among European economies facing national debt problems. Strict IMF-type conditions will be imposed by the ESM to bring economies back to fiscal discipline.

As a senior German Parliamentarian explained, "All these years we collectively failed to adhere to fiscal discipline in spite of caps on budget deficit and national debt set by various treaties governing the euro system. Even Germany and France, which played leadership roles in the EU system, have been guilty of weakening of these fiscal principles that were breached along the way. So we have to put them back together."

Under the new arrangement, countries coming for bailout funds to the $700 billion ESM will be assessed by the ECB and IMF before making recommendations for structural reforms. It is certain that Portugal will soon come under the recommendations of the EFSF/ESM as the Portuguese government failed to pass the necessary reform measures on its own last week, in Parliament, after which the Prime Minister resigned.

The ESM will also have the mandate to buy the bonds of weaker EU governments like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland etc in the primary market. This is to ensure that their debt issues are subscribed to and the market's confidence in their debt returns. An economist at Deutsche Bank explained that weak EU nations with excessive national debt need ESM-like bodies that will hold their debt till maturity. "Currently, the debt of Greece, Ireland etc are in the impatient hands of foreign investors who want to sell. Consequently, the yields on such government debt is touching unprecedented levels of 10%. This is not sustainable," said the economist.

The other big question that dogs the entire European community, including Germany, is—what is the extent of toxic assets still lying in the banking system of all these countries. According to one estimate, over $300 billion of asset write downs have to still happen in the banks of both weak and strong economies. German banks, themselves, are said to be hiding about $100 billion of toxic assets acquired from Spain and other countries. In some sense the new ESM is meant to deal with such future contingencies as they may arise.





As we all struggle to comprehend the economic and financial impact of Japan's calamity, it is tempting to seek historical analogies for guidance. Indeed, many have been quick to cite the aftermath of the terrible 1995 Kobe earthquake. But, while that example provides some insights, it is too limited to understand what lies ahead for Japan, and excessive reliance on it could undermine appropriate policy responses, both in Japan and abroad.

Both involved terrible earthquakes that resulted in tremendous human suffering and large-scale physical damage. Both required the Japanese government to display considerable agility in its rescue efforts. Both triggered multiple offers of help from friends and allies around the world. In both cases, wealth destruction was accompanied by disruptions to daily economic life.

There are also important forward-looking similarities. As with the aftermath of Kobe, the current focus on rescuing survivors will be followed by a huge reconstruction programme. Massive budgetary allocations will be made (2% of GDP in the case of Kobe). These similarities have led several economists to provide early predictions of the national and global economic consequences, including a sharp V-like recovery in Japan's growth rate in 2011. Such predictions counsel caution against over-reaction by policymakers outside Japan. Rather than immediately incorporating Japanese developments into their thinking, policymakers should treat the effects on the global economy as "transitory" and thus "look through" them in designing their responses.

But there is a risk that this approach could understate the Japanese disaster's domestic and international consequences. As such, it could contribute to insufficient responses in Japan itself—from the government to individual companies and households—as well as in other countries. Indeed, such a mal-diagnosis could delay what I believe will be an eventual solid recovery in Japan.

Five factors suggest that Japan faces a uniquely difficult and uncertain set of challenges. First, the economic damage from Japan's three calamities (a horrifying earthquake, a devastating tsunami, and a nuclear crisis) may well be double that of Kobe. And, unlike Kobe, these calamities did affect Tokyo—indirectly, fortunately—where some 40% of Japan's industrial production is located.

Second, Japan's public finances are weaker than in 1995, and demographic factors are less favourable. Domestic public debt today stands at roughly 205% of GDP, compared to around 85% in 1995. The country's sovereign rating is AA-, not AAA, as it was 16 years ago. Third, benchmark interest rates are already near zero. This undermines the potency of monetary policy notwithstanding bold and imaginative efforts by the Bank of Japan to inject liquidity into the economy.

Fourth, the addition of destabilising nuclear uncertainty to the terrible impact of the natural disasters amplifies the reconstruction challenges. Given the damage and dangers, it will take time for Japan to restore fully its power-generation capabilities, affecting the potential GDP growth rate. Food safety is also a concern, as is the economic impact of nuclear uncertainties on the Japanese psyche. Finally, Japan's external environment today is more challenging. During the post-Kobe reconstruction period, world demand was buoyant and global productivity surged. Today, aggregate demand in advanced economies is still recovering from the global financial crisis, while systemically important emerging economies like Brazil and China are tapping their policy brakes in order to counter economic overheating. Meanwhile, on the supply side, countries are dealing with high and volatile commodity prices, including an oil-price spike as a result of the Middle East uprisings.

This implies that Japan's reconstruction challenge will be more difficult than after the Kobe earthquake. Negative wealth and income effects this time around will be more severe, and the recovery process will probably take longer and be more complex.

At the national level, this calls urgently for a degree of unity and decisiveness that has been absent from Japanese politics for years. Without it, the authorities will find it difficult to communicate and implement a medium-term economic vision that puts rapid sustained growth, and not just reconstruction, at the core of the policy response.

Japan's disasters will add to the global economy's headwinds—be they the impact of the initial fall in consumption in the world's third-largest economy, or disruptions to global supply chains (particularly in technology and autos). The nuclear crisis will mean greater uncertainty about nuclear power in other countries.

There is also a financial angle, the importance of which depends on the mix of new government borrowing, debt monetisation, and repatriation of Japanese savings that is used to fund Japan's reconstruction programme. The greater the repatriation component, the larger the negative impact on some financial markets. So, analytical shortcuts are best avoided at this early stage. It will take time and thorough analysis to specify the true consequences of Japan's triple calamity.

The Japanese have shown admirable courage in the face of unthinkable tragedy. I have no doubt that a successful reconstruction programme will lead their country to recovery. In the meantime, however, the urgency of restoring a sense of normalcy and hope to a dramatically wounded society warrants thoughtful and deep analyses.

The author is chief executive & co-chief investment officer of PIMCO, the global investment management company. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.







The results of the year-long national tiger estimation exercise indicate that, overall, there has been a significant rise in numbers of the charismatic big cats. The population estimate for 2010 is 1,706 tigers (based on a lower limit of 1,571 and an upper limit of 1,875) compared with 1,411 four years ago. The latest estimate includes those in the Sunderbans, which were not counted earlier. To conservation-minded citizens and research scientists, this increase is extraordinary, given the severe pressures on the habitat of the animal. The answer is to be found, in part, in the science-based conservation methods that some States have adopted in recent years, and the transparent, constructive partnership they have forged with research organisations. Arguably, the best such 'public-private-partnership' model is to be found in Karnataka, where the Forest department and independent scientists have, over time, evolved a rigorous protocol. That approach consists of camera trap-based data collection, prey species assessment, enforcement of anti-poaching laws, and, crucially, convincing forest communities to accept substantial compensation to voluntarily relocate and make space for the tiger. Tamil Nadu also has a keen focus on conservation. It comes as no surprise that the Western Ghats, which straddle these States (and Kerala), have achieved a big increase in tiger numbers. Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have, by contrast, registered a decrease.

Encouraging as the overall results are, there is a need to progress to a more intensive system of counting tigers and their prey. This exercise needs to be carried out not every four years, but annually, to assess changes in 'source populations' of tigers that are confined to a small part of their natural range. There are an estimated 40 such distinct groups across India and they hold the key to sustainable conservation efforts in the long term. It is important that these are monitored using fool-proof tools such as camera traps, rather than by forest guards on foot patrols. The foundation for such study was laid nearly two years ago through a consensus reached among officials of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the Wildlife Institute of India, research scientists, and leading conservationists on the methodology for future monitoring and assessment. Essentially, this consists of the capture-recapture method of camera trapping supplemented by DNA analysis. With a supportive Environment and Forests Minister in Jairam Ramesh, the Authority should quickly operationalise a national action plan to monitor tigers year-round and ensure that local extinctions get as much attention as national increases.





Though our early ancestors used stone tools for more than two million years, certain techniques used for shaping them into more potent weapons are of relatively recent innovation. Pressure flaking, one of the techniques used to produce sharp-edged points on the tool, was believed to have originated merely 20,000 years ago. But a paper published online in Science ("Early use of pressure flaking on lithic artefacts at Blombos Cave, South Africa," by Vincent Mourre et al., October 29, 2010) shows that our ancestors used this technique 75,000 years ago. The samples studied were collected from the Blombos Cave near southern Cape, South Africa. Pressure flaking involves the use of objects to exert pressure at the tips of stone tools to remove small flakes. The finished tools thus produced have thinner, sharper, and narrower bifacial points that are difficult to achieve by using only percussion. Pressure flaking gives the toolmaker a greater degree of control on the final shape of the tool edge. Detailed study of the flaked points and comparison with experimentally produced pressure-flaked points by the authors helped confirm that the silcrete artefacts from the Blombos Cave were heat-treated prior to flaking. They also revealed that pressure flaking was used only at a final stage and was preceded by percussion with hard and soft hammers.

Stone tools used by early Homo sapiens provide direct evidence of their cognitive and technological evolution. Oldowan tools, which are sharp stone flakes struck from river cobbles, first appeared some 2.6 million years ago. Acheulian tools, also called the hand axes, are teardrop-shaped cutting tools that followed the Oldowan tools about 1.7 million years ago. Researchers recently reported in Science ("Early Pleistocene presence of Acheulian hominins in South India" by Shanti Pappu et al., March 25, 2011) the discovery of hundreds of typical Acheulian artefacts as old as 1.51 million years at Attirampakkam site near Chennai. Despite the simplicity of production, both Oldowan and Acheulian tool-making processes activate different parts of the brain. If these techniques called for manipulative complexity, South African knappers should have possessed a greater degree of cognitive development to produce the Blombos Cave artefacts — combining hard and soft percussion with pressure flaking after heat treatment. Along with other advanced tool-making techniques, the early humans who migrated out of Africa after the Acheulian hominins were probably better wired neurologically and more adept at hunting for food than the Neanderthals.








The last two decades have marked the extraordinary rise of India. This has however been tinged with cynicism about our major democratic institutions and a pessimism about their future. The judiciary, which till now has been looked upon as the strongest pillar of Indian democracy, has been beset with unprecedented problems. In recent times, the working of the judges of superior courts (High Courts and the Supreme Court) has come in for intense scrutiny and grave doubts have been cast against the conduct of some judges. The pressing call for greater institutional accountability in the Indian judiciary is now stronger than ever. It is in this light that Parliament's proposed Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010 must be seen.

This Bill appears to be a hurried and knee-jerk reaction to recent events, and has the potential to seriously undermine judicial independence. It seeks to devise a new "complaint procedure" under which any person may be able to file a complaint in writing against any judge of a superior court. Upon such a complaint being filed and examined, the Judicial Oversight Committee (proposed to be constituted under the statute), may either dismiss the complaint or make a reference to Parliament for the removal of the judge, issue advisories, warnings, withdraw judicial work or make a request for voluntary retirement.

The issue of Judicial Standards must be seen in the context of Art 124(4) of the Constitution which provides for the process of impeachment of a judge on the grounds of "proved misbehaviour or incapacity." Art 124(5) empowers Parliament only to make laws to regulate the procedure for presentation of address of impeachment, and for the investigation and proof for the misbehaviour or incapacity of a judge.

Cleverly disguised Bill

The present Bill, cleverly disguised as being permissible under Art 124(5), is an example of the most blatant violation of constitutional safeguards and is a cure that is surely worse than the disease. Article 124(5) does not empower Parliament to create any other forum for recommending impeachment proceedings, or allow complaints to be made by any person, or to make a judge liable for minor penalties. What can be done only by a hundred or more members of the Lok Sabha or fifty or more members of the Rajya Sabha (i.e. initiation of impeachment proceedings) can now theoretically be done by only one person.

It is true that judicial commissions exist in other countries like the U.S. and Canada, but their reach does not extend to the apex court. Also, adopting such structures from other countries without having regard to the unique conditions existing in ours, is untenable and fraught with the danger of destabilising our delicate constitutional balance.

Outlined below are some of the other major defects in the Bill:

Definition of misbehaviour: The Bill seeks to provide a straight jacketed definition of misbehaviour in Clause 2(j), but by laying down a strict definition, the concept loses its elasticity and becomes both under-inclusive and over-inclusive. Over-inclusive, that absent a de minimis exception, even a minor breach of judicial standards, say late filing of assets declaration, could constitute misconduct; and under-inclusive that to the extent that the definition is exhaustive (since it uses the word "means"), it is incapable of catching within its fold any "misbehaviour" that might not be covered by this provision. The Constitution framers had been careful not to define the term misbehaviour, let alone define it exhaustively. Implicit in this understanding was the belief that if the power of removal was vested in high constitutional authorities, they would be in the best position to judge when misbehaviour (or incapacity) had been occasioned.

Statutory provision for judicial standards: The Bill also provides a list of standards of judicial conduct to which all judges are expected to adhere. Sixteen of the 18 enumerated standards are derived from the "Restatement of the Values of Judicial Life" adopted at a Full Court Meeting of the Supreme Court on May 7, 1997. However, the very idea of statutorily providing for judicial standards, irrespective of their content, is violative of judicial independence.

A significant portion of litigation before higher courts today is public in nature and involves the State as one of the parties. Laws are also routinely impugned for their unconstitutionality. Given this, investing the legislature with the power to lay down and amend the standards which all sitting judges must adhere to (or risk the proposed penalties), has the potential to severely threaten impartial and effective adjudication.

Scheme of filing complaints: Under the Bill, "any" person may file a complaint in a prescribed format. Further, the proposed Judicial Oversight Committee will just act as a post-office and refer each complaint to a Scrutiny Panel. This is likely to lead to a multiplicity of complaints and even though the Bill proscribes false and vexatious complaints under Clause 53, this is unlikely to prove much of a deterrent, and since each of them will have to be checked by the Scrutiny Panel, it is also likely to result in a colossal waste of time.

Clause 18 provides that the Oversight Committee shall consist of five persons with two serving and one retired judge, an appointed eminent person and the Attorney-General of India. The presence of the Attorney-General on the Oversight Committee is highly suspect. The Attorney-General has the responsibility of regularly appearing on behalf of the government before the court. On occasions, the possibility of his appearing before a judge against whom a complaint has been filed cannot be ruled out. In such a circumstance, there is clearly a conflict of interest since the Attorney-General will be a member of the Oversight Committee to look into the complaints made against the former.

The Scrutiny Panel is to consist of three members, two of whom will be judges sitting in the same court as the judge against whom the complaint is made. Since these judges would be colleagues sitting in the same court, it is likely that this will, either way, influence their conduct. It would be difficult for judges to dispassionately decide a case against one of their own and sitting with them day in and day out.

Furthermore, the composition and tenure of the Investigation Committee which is to be constituted for the purpose of enquiry into misbehaviour by a judge is undefined. Theoretically, therefore, it is possible for a lay person without any knowledge, experience or standing to be a part of an inquiry panel against a sitting judge of a superior Court.

Minor punishments: The idea of "minor" punishments is unworkable and has the potential to seriously undermine judicial status. If sitting judges are issued advisories and warnings and thereby publicly censured, but still continue on the bench and decide cases, this damages the credibility of the entire system.

Atmosphere of secrecy: Through Clause 43, the Bill completely excludes the operation of the RTI. This establishes an atmosphere of total secrecy more regressive than the present system, and for which, there does not appear to be any rational reason to make a change.


It is totally impermissible for the legislature to strike upon the independence and fearlessness of the judiciary. A judge of a superior court cannot be treated as an employee of the government. The present Bill is incapable of salvage and must be rejected in totality. In a system where half the litigants must necessarily lose their cases, and where most of the complaints against judges are frivolous and made by disgruntled litigants, this bill, if implemented, would mark the beginning of the end of the judiciary.

Demands for change to existing systems in the judiciary must be met rationally, bearing in mind the objectives sought to be achieved. The first site of change must be in the process of judicial appointments. The present system where judges of the superior courts are chosen based on undisclosed criterion in largely unknown circumstances reflects an increasing democratic deficit. The legitimacy of the judiciary ultimately flows from public support, which cannot be maintained without a transparent and open selection process.

The guiding principle should always be this: accountability there is and must be, but let it always be commensurate with judicial independence and impartiality. Ultimately, the appropriate balance between competing principles must be found in something that is best suited to our constitutional setup and is, in that sense, uniquely Indian. The citizens of India deserve no less.

(Justice Ajit Prakash Shah is former Chief Justice of the Madras and Delhi High Courts.)






CHENNAI: Even as Australian Ministers, politicians and officials were taking the position in public that there was no racial motivation behind the spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia, chiefly in and around Melbourne in the State of Victoria, Australian diplomats were quietly acknowledging to their U.S. counterparts that it was indeed a likely factor. Also, the Australian government's efforts, in their opinion, had only a limited impact on cooling tempers ( 230335: confidential, October 20, 2009).

The cables were accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

The number of Indian students enrolling in Australian universities had steadily grown over the past decade. In 2009, according to international student enrolment data in Australia, about 120,000 Indians had enrolled as full fee-paying international students, making Australia the second most popular educational destination for them after the United States. However, the situation abruptly changed in 2010, when incidents of attacks on Indian students, which had rapidly increased since 2008, reached a crisis point.

A cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in Canberra on January 7, 2010 ( 242815: confidential), five days after Nitin Garg, a 21-year-old Indian student, was stabbed to death in Melbourne, observed that Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard (she is now the Prime Minister), while condemning the murder, "stopped short of apologizing or referring to racial motivations." Opposition leader Tony Abbott, the same cable pointed out, had also rejected any such suggestion. However, Peter Varghese, the Indian-origin Australian High Commissioner to New Delhi, seemed to think otherwise. He acknowledged that race "was likely a motivating factor is some attacks."

The fallout of these attacks was not limited to the student community. "Former Australian Consul General to Mumbai and prominent Melbourne businessman, Shabbir Wahid, noted that concern over the issue was beginning to reach Melbourne's older and better established Indian communities, with some saying that they are reevaluating their long term plans to stay in Australia."

To Anita Nayyar, the Indian Consul General in Melbourne, the fear of an attack was a personal one.

She confessed that she now "looks over (her) shoulder" while walking around Melbourne's central business district" ( 248490: confidential, February 12, 2010).

To the Australian government, the worry was two-fold. It had to redeem its battered reputation and image. The loss of revenue on account of fewer international students choosing the country as their destination was the other concern.

Higher education was then Australia's third largest export-earner, behind coal and iron ore, and for the State of Victoria it was the single largest item. In 2010, a U.S. Embassy cable from Canberra ( 242815: confidential, January 7) noted that Australia's Tourism Forecasting Committee had estimated that the number of students enrolling in Australian universities would come down by 20 per cent compared to the 2009 figures. And this would amount to a loss of $70 million in revenue.

A U.S. Embassy cable ( 248490: confidential, February 12, 2010), in an interestingly titled section "Press Wranglers Wanted," noted, citing observers, that the "Victorian government has completely failed to manage the press on this issue" and that "sensationalist press accounts are exacerbating what would have otherwise been a very manageable issue."

Ms. Nayyar was more candid with her views on the Indian media and the coverage of the issue. She told U.S. diplomats that "a visiting contingent of Indian journalists had already written their headline story, 'why they hate us,' even before landing in Melbourne for a week-long tour. She went on to say that the Indian press was still enamoured with this story and has paid interviewees well for their stories of woe."

The cable noted that matters were only made worse by unfortunate public comments including one by Victoria's police chief, Simon Overlander, that "the streets of Melbourne are safer than those in India."

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








CHENNAI: Any hint of United States government activism in Kashmir, however helpful the intentions behind it, would prove counterproductive because of the Government of India's hypersensitivity to third party involvement in Kashmir, according to a U.S. Embassy cable sent by Ambassador Timothy Roemer.

"In order for the GOI's efforts to restore sustainable peace and stability in Kashmir to succeed, its engagement with the separatists and with the Kashmiri people must be free of any perception of outside influence," the Embassy conveyed to Washington in a cable dated October 22, 2009 ( 230893: confidential).

After making a list of the kind of confidence building measures that the Indian government had to play within its Kashmir initiative, the Embassy said the list was not meant to be prescriptive. "It [the list] is provided to help Washington understand the complicated, multi-faceted problem facing the GOI in Kashmir as it moves forward on what is clearly a high priority for Prime Minister [Manmohan Singh], [Union Home Minister P.] Chidambaram and [Congress president] Sonia Gandhi."

The Indian government, the cable said, "is fully aware of these and other steps it could take and is carefully picking and choosing what is politically possible for it today."

The list, which was described as "illustrative rather than exhaustive," included the following Confidence Building Measures (CBMs): ensure that dialogue with separatists achieves results; continue generous development spending; conduct panchayat (village council) elections at the earliest; release selected prisoners who are not hard core militants, do not today pose any serious threat, but have been incarcerated for years; release prisoners who have been incarcerated longer than the court-directed sentences; discontinue the practice of re-arresting accused militants who have been released by courts; stop the misuse of the Public Safety Act, which allows the government to detain anyone for two years without trial; repeal, selectively repeal or be more judicious in use of Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Disturbed Areas Act, which gives the Army almost unchecked powers over the local population in the valley; prosecute transparently and publicly security force personnel involved in human rights violations; relocate security forces camps out of public facilities; more judicious use of house searches and road blockades by security forces; demilitarisation, gradual pullback, and pullout of the paramilitary and Army from visibility in the day-to-day life of Kashmiris; replacement of the paramilitary and Army by the Jammu & Kashmir police; empower the State Human Rights Commission so that it can make transparent inquiries and achieve some tangible results; stop the continued harassment of released/surrendered militants and their families even when these former militants no longer pose any threat; loosen further travel controls on separatist leaders; make the bus links across the Line of Control (LoC) more traveller friendly; ease travel restrictions on cross border travel, increase the number of transit points; open telephone lines across the LoC between 'Azad Kashmir' and Jammu and Kashmir; encourage separatists to participate in future elections by providing them incentives — funding, security, press coverage; strengthen civil society by making it easier for NGOs to operate.

Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda told an Embassy official that the J&K Police have for the last two years increasingly become the public face of the security effort in the State.

"He noted that, as far as possible, interaction of security forces with the local population is done by the J&K police in an effort to improve relations between the population and the security forces …

"Security forces have strict instructions to minimize collateral damage to civilians during operations against terrorists, sometimes to the point of letting terrorists escape if it means avoiding civilian casualties. In his view, the reduction in human rights abuses by the security forces and their better community relations have yielded tangible benefits in improving trust between the GOI and Kashmiris."

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






CHENNAI: Minister of Railways and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad assured U.S. Ambassador David C. Mulford that he supported the nuclear deal, at a December 2007 meeting that even the seasoned diplomat described as "an unforgettable experience."

Mr. Prasad, "on his best behaviour," ensured that "a sizeable fraction of Rail Bhavan's 1.4 million workers" catered to the U.S. delegation's hospitality needs during the 30-minute meeting, Mr. Mulford cabled Washington on December 11, 2007 ( 133766, confidential).

Significantly for the U.S., Mr. Lalu Prasad assured the Ambassador that he understood the Hyde Act and the 123 Agreement and that he and his party members were "trying to convince everyone that there is nothing to fear."

Mr. Prasad warned Mr. Mulford that meetings with the BJP on the deal had led people to question U.S. motives.

Further, "[Lalu Prasad] Yadav derided the BJP's assertion that it will renegotiate the deal if it comes back to power. 'Double-speak won't get them power,' he said."

Mr. Prasad's limit, Mr. Mulford clearly saw, was "his party's precarious position in the state of Bihar."

Mr. Prasad's support for the deal, he said, "stops if the downfall of the government comes into play. The conventional wisdom here suggests Lalu's first priority is to see the UPA secure a full term — with all the opportunities for patronage that represents."

According to Mr. Mulford, "[Lalu Prasad] Yadav observed…[that] the Left still had questions. 'We are in favor of convincing everyone,' he underlined." Mr. Prasad added that he personally had good relations with the Left.

Mr. Prasad's concern for the Left and his stated aim for consensus revealed to the U.S. "the pressure that the allies may have exerted on the UPA government to mitigate the chances of the Left from withdrawing from power," Mr. Mulford wrote. "No party wants elections," the Ambassador quoted him as saying.

Mr. Mulford commended Mr. Prasad for his work on Indian Railways and dangled the possibility of two U.S. firms building a diesel locomotive factory in Bihar. Mr. Lalu Prasad replied that the eastern rail corridor would have electric traction thanks to Japanese assistance, but the western corridor would have diesel traction.

Mr. Prasad, Mr. Mulford wrote, "one of the most savvy, colorful, grassroots politicians in India," was "not the spontaneous, funny, earthy, rustic Lalu Indians know and love, prompting our senior FSN [foreign service national] to comment that the MEA must have scared him silly prior to his meeting the Ambassador."

He was attended by four key MPs of his party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and a senior railway bureaucrat, "who greatly amplified the Minister's thoughts as expressed in workable, heavily accented English."

Nevertheless, "Lalu was a gracious and perfect host," Mr. Mulford concluded, "It was an unforgettable experience."

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








'The bigger question was how Pakistan would charge and prosecute these people.'


CHENNAI: Despite Pakistan's cooperation in the Security Council designation of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), American diplomats were concerned that moves by the Pakistan government against the group and its leader Hafiz Saeed were "messy" and might not amount to anything more than a "short-term fix."

Cables from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and Consulate in Lahore, that were accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, showed U.S. diplomats trying hard not to be dismissive of the measures Pakistan was taking against the JuD in the wake of the Security Council designation, but not entirely convinced by them either.

They also revealed that the Pakistan government and the Punjab provincial government, despite knowing in advance about the designation and cooperating in the move, were far from clear-headed about the implementation.

In a cable sent on December 12, 2008 which detailed the steps taken by the Punjab government ( 182691: confidential), Bryan Hunt, Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, was impressed and, at the same time, aware that much more needed to be done.

He described the preventive detentions of, and "likely filing of criminal charges" against, senior JuD leaders including Hafiz Saeed, and the closure of offices, seizure of financial and physical assets as "unprecedented and suggest[ing] that the Pakistani government has decided to take credible action against the organisation."

But, he wrote, "even the highest officials of the [Punjab provincial] government appear to have been somewhat confused by the legal grounds for the detentions and the progress of the captures" even though the police told him that they planned to submit "as yet unspecified criminal charges" against the detainees.

The police also told him that the detainees would be put on the country's exit control list, which would prevent them from leaving the country should they obtain bail in the criminal cases upon the expiration of their periods of preventive detention.

Mr. Hunt, an extremely popular diplomat during his time in Lahore, also detailed the steps that the provincial government did not take against the JuD.

The cable said the mosques affiliated to the JuD, including the main one at Lahore's Chauburji, and the madrassahs and hospitals run by it, remained open.

The Punjab Home Secretary told the Consulate's Foreign Service National Investigator, usually a local employee at the mission, that the JuD runs 173 schools across Pakistan and three hospitals in Punjab and operates 66 ambulances.

But Mr. Hunt commented that the official had "grossly underestimated the number of JuD schools, which could exceed one thousand madrassahs in Punjab alone."

The provincial government had no plans to deal with students and patients who would be displaced from the JuD hospitals and schools — Mr. Hunt believed these institutions would have no choice but to shut down soon as they functioned on JuD charities that had been frozen.

Evidently reckoning without the JuD's staying power and — as later events showed — its unrestricted fund-collecting activities, Mr. Hunt said "donor support" may be required to keep these institutions running.

The diplomat sounded more hopeful six days later after a breakfast meeting with Shahbaz Sharif. In a cable sent on December 18, 2008, he concluded that the Punjab Chief Minister was "unwavering" ( 183673: confidential/noforn) in his determination to "completely shut down JuD."

Mr. Sharif told Mr. Hunt that his government would formulate a plan to take over the hospitals and schools previously run by the JuD. This would be easy, the Chief Minister said, telling Mr. Hunt jokingly that "we will use trained doctors to charm the patients with long beards and caps."

Assuming that control of the schools would pose the bigger challenge, Mr. Sharif said he had "no substantive response" on how to deal with the JuD's extensive madrassah network.

'Short-term fix'

According to Mr. Hunt, the Chief Minister asked the U.S. to provide evidence that would be required to prosecute the JuD leaders, noting that "proof that originates with the U.S. would have greater credibility than proof produced by India."

From Islamabad, the livewire U.S. Ambassador, Anne Patterson, sent a cable on December 16, 2008 ( 183225: confidential) analysing Pakistan's preventive detention law, describing it as "murky and fraught with ambiguities" but able to provide a "short term fix."

She wrote that the "sweeping language" of the law left loopholes — "big enough to drive a jingle truck through," a reference to Pakistan's ubiquitous decorated trucks — that could possibly enable the indefinite extension of Hafiz Saeed's detention beyond the 12-month cap on preventive detentions. Plus, Ms. Patterson noted, the burden of proof on the government was minimal in such cases. But she also warned that the courts had struck down such orders in several cases.

The U.S. Ambassador was right. Six months later, the Lahore High Court did exactly that.

Ms. Patterson wrote that the bigger question was how Pakistan would charge and prosecute these people. The Embassy's Resident Legal Advisor had spoken to Law Minister Farooq Naek about this. The Minister said charges would possibly be brought under the Anti-Terrorist Act, but "declined to be more specific."

The lack of clarity at both the federal and provincial levels of government is surprising, given that they knew of the designation well in advance.

As a cable sent on December 8, 2008 ( 181794: confidential) noted, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and the Foreign Minister told a three-member U.S. Congressional delegation — Senators John McCain, Joe Liberman and Lindsay Graham — that the Pakistan government had already begun the process of seeking the arrest of individuals named by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during her December 4 meetings in Islamabad. The government had also agreed to cooperate in the UN 1267 Committee to designate these individuals.

The cable added: "Secretary Rice had told the GOP the USG wanted Pakistan to place no holds in the UN 1267 Committee for individuals suspected of involvement in the Mumbai attacks. The GOP has already agreed, informed Gilani. The Secretary also wanted individuals arrested.

"'We have already taken steps,' Gilani told the Senators. He added that the 1267 process in the UN will give the GOP's actions further legitimacy. Foreign Minister Qureshi asked the Senators to keep this news — that GOP actions against individuals named by the Secretary were already underway — private, and not to repeat it to the media."

Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader Nawaz Sharif was also being kept informed. The Prime Minister told the delegation that he was meeting Mr. Sharif as the provincial government needed to take actions. He told the senators that all political leaders were on board in the government's approach to the crisis.

Senator McCain, who had met Mr. Sharif earlier in the day, confirmed that the opposition leader had pledged to support the government's action against extremists in Pakistan, including those responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

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







A rise in the number of tigers in India is good news, although questions have come to be raised about the accuracy of the reporting in the 2010 tiger census, whose results were made known on Monday. The king of the jungle is the top predator in the food chain and helps maintain a key balance between prey herbivores and the vegetation upon which these feed. Besides, our forests are also water catchment areas. Forests that have tigers are said to be responsible for the birth of 600 rivers and perennial streams. Saving one tiger is thought to protect 100 sq km of forest (whose vegetation might have been consumed by the tigers' prey), and also save the other species living in it. Thus the survival of the tiger is deemed crucial to maintaining the ecological balance, as well as air, water, pollination and temperature regulation. The sensitive grasp of this by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi led to India's tiger protection project over three decades ago. In recent years, however, the news has not been good. Wildlife poachers have spread their tentacles across the country's tiger landscape. In the light of this, the reported 12 per cent increase in the tiger population — taking the count from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2010 — is refreshing. But expert opinion is somewhat sceptical. Even if the figures are taken at face value, the rise is said to be over a small base, and magnifies the significance of the phenomenon. Doubts have also been raised whether enumerators actually managed to reach the jungle territories where Maoists have made it difficult for officials to operate. The question thus remains: has the earlier shrinkage of the tiger population been actually reversed?

It is worrying that even the data at hand suggests that tiger populations have declined in areas that had the highest concentration of the predator — such as Kaziranga in the northeast (which has 100 tigers, the highest in a single reserve) and the Kanha-Pench-Bandhavgarh belt in central India. Poaching in these areas is still believed to be a menace. At a media interaction on Monday, minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh acknowledged that poaching and other dangers had been relevant factors in recent years. But he noted that growth in the tiger population was still possible due to "unreported tiger births". This does appear a bit dodgy. If the births were "unreported", then how can we know? That's a straightforward question. There are other questions as well, relating to the methodology of reporting. The census collected field data — incorporating information on tiger signs, prey availability, habitat conditions and human disturbances — in the first phase. Subsequently, however, the camera trapping method — 800 such traps were laid — was deployed in select sample areas covering 10,500 sq km, or around five per cent of the total. It is on the basis of extrapolating these results that the final figure of the tiger population — 1,706 — was reached. Some experts though, are not persuaded about the reliability of the process. The government would do well to give satisfactory answers to some of the questions which have been raised. Another source of concern is the shrinking of the land area — from nine million hectares to 7.5 million hectares — in which the tigers survive. The curtailing of tiger corridors on account of human development brings up the human versus animal issues that have political and economic overtones, and are seldom easy to resolve.






Here is yet another Mahyco-Monsanto tale, one of defiance and breaking the law even as the scientific community looks on. Monsanto is the world's largest investor in seed and biotechnology research investing $1 billion/`5,000 crores and is also the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed. It provides the technology in 90 per cent of the world's genetically engineered seeds.

The Mahyco seed company had approached the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in its meeting on January 12, 2011 for permission to produce seed of genetically engineered cotton containing a herbicide tolerant gene. This non-Bt cotton was not proposed to be released as a herbicide tolerant (HT) crop but to be used as the refuge crop for when BG II RR Flex cotton is finally approved for cultivation. Currently it is in trials. BG II RR Flex refers to Bollgard II, a cotton hybrid that carries two Bt genes as well as a gene conferring tolerance to Roundup Ready, which is a herbicide. This double Bt, single HT cotton is a stacked cotton hybrid, which is piling on Bt genes to stay ahead of the bollworms that are fast catching up and becoming resistant to the Bt toxin inside the plant, which is meant to kill them.

Mahyco had already applied to GEAC in September 2010 to produce the same seed and had been turned down on the grounds that the hybrid had not cleared the regulatory process and did not have permission for environmental release. Therefore, according to the Rules of 1989, which govern biotechnology, Mahyco could not be given permission to produce seed of the unapproved cotton. But did Mahyco accept the GEAC ruling and desist from using the unapproved HT cotton seed? No it did not.

It went ahead, cocking a snook at GEAC, made seed of the unapproved non-Bt RR Flex cotton and is using it to plant the refuge crop in the trials of its double Bt, single HT cotton hybrid BG II RR Flex. A 20 per cent "refuge crop" of non-Bt cotton is required by the law, to be planted along with Bt cotton so that the invading bollworm has a non-toxic cotton to feed on, to delay the build up of resistance to the toxic Bt cotton. The Mahyco Company is merrily carrying on using the unapproved cotton as the refuge planting in the trials of its new double Bt, single HT cotton hybrid even after GEAC had denied it permission to do this.

So why is Mahyco breaking the law to plant (the unapproved) herbicide tolerant cotton as the refuge for its double Bt, single HT cotton hybrid? Because it slyly admits what we have been pointing out all along, that planting a herbicide tolerant crop, like the new Bt-HT cotton, and using the matched herbicide (Roundup Ready) during its cultivation will destroy all the neighbouring crops and the adjoining biodiversity. This will happen when Roundup Ready lands on them when fields of the HT crops are being sprayed. Only plants carrying the HT gene can survive the herbicide spray. Since the other crops and the surrounding biodiversity do not contain the HT gene, they will die when the Roundup Ready hits them.

HT crops can only be cultivated if all the other crops in the region are also HT (which is an impossibility), otherwise they will be destroyed when they catch the Roundup Ready spray drifting in the wind or if they get sprayed inadvertently. In several articles and submissions I have made to policy bodies, this is why I have argued that the herbicide-tolerant genetic trait must not be permitted for use in India. First because it will displace agriculture labour (weeding provides wage labour), second because it will destroy all the surrounding biodiversity that rural communities use as food, fodder, medicinal plants etc. and third because of what Mahyco-Monsanto now themselves admit, that Roundup Ready sprays will destroy all the other non-HT crops in the neighbourhood.

The Director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur acknowledges the problem with HT crops, saying that the refuge for the Bt-HT cotton must be planted with HT cotton during commercial cultivation. Otherwise the refuge will be killed by Roundup Ready spray drifts. According to the minutes of the 106th GEAC meeting of January 12, 2011, the CICR director's views are recorded as follows: "If the Refugia in BG II RR Flex comprise only of non-Bt cotton without RR-Flex (HT trait), there is every likely possibility of the refugia patch getting destroyed due to spray drift or inadvertent application of 'Round-up' on the 'non-RR-Flex-non-Bt-cotton'". So the scientists admit there is a problem with the implementation of HT crops in real life. The CICR director, however, does not propose a strategy for how other crops and biodiversity should be protected when Mahyco's new Bt-HT cotton is planted commercially and Roundup Ready is widely used in the fields.

Because Mahyco has blatantly defied the directions of the GEAC not to produce HT cotton seed until it gets regulatory approval, the regulators have decided to issue a showcause notice to the company, seeking explanation on why penal action should not be initiated against it under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), for violations of the Rules of 1989. The Rules of 1989 are framed under the EPA that is the umbrella legislation.

It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds. Will the GEAC really follow through and take action against Mahyco for its defiant stand and blatant violations? Or will Mahyco walk home free as it has done in the past? It is openly mentioned that the Mahyco-Monsanto gang are used to getting their way with regulatory agencies like the GEAC. Do they indeed get away with things? The grapevine is full of gossip and names are mentioned openly. This situation is untenable for a society that lays claim to scientific achievement. After the disgraceful performance of the scientific community in the Bt brinjal case, let them redeem their reputation and tighten up the regulation of genetically modified crops so that it is rescued from being the farce that it is today.

Dr Suman Sahai, a genetic scientist who has served on the faculty of the Universities of Chicago and

Heidelberg, is convenor of the Gene Campaign






Although the interlocutors appointed by the Centre have so far denied it, the media has been persistently reporting that pre-1953 status is being recommended for Kashmir.
The crux issue in Kashmir has been obfuscated by virulent propaganda and misrepresentation of facts. The common thinking is that Kashmir has a Muslim majority and the people there want to break away from India and join Pakistan or become independent. This is contrary to ground realities. In 2002, a Mori poll conducted by a British NGO under the patronage of Lord Avebury, a known protagonist of Pakistan, found that 61 per cent of the population of the Valley wants to remain in India, six per cent wants to join Pakistan and 33 per cent is undecided. Even if we do not give credence to this survey, we cannot ignore the fact that the Valley Muslims, referred to as Kashmiri Muslims, are a minority in Jammu and Kashmir. They constitute about 45 per cent of the population. Other Muslims, like Gujjars, Bakherwals and Kargil Shias, are 20 per cent.
Non-Muslims, that is Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, are 35 per cent. The silent majority among the Valley Muslims is of Sufis who are being gradually marginalised. The Sunnis constitute the bulk of the intelligentsia and hold the levers of political and economic power. It may be mentioned that the office of J&K chief minister has been a monopoly of Kashmiri Muslims. Senior Congressmen of the state once met me to express grave reservations at Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad being appointed chief minister. I pointed out that he was a son of Jammu, educated in Kashmir, and a son-in-law of Kashmir, an ideal combination for CM. He was not allowed to complete his full term.

The people in the Valley are often misled by false propaganda projecting threats to Islam. This happened in 1963 when the Holy Relic at Hazratbal had disappeared, and again in 2008. On the latter occasion, it was alleged that Hindus were going to be settled on a 100-acre plot of waste land to change the demography of the Valley, like Israel had done in Palestine. This despite the fact that this land is unapproachable and uninhabitable eight months of the year. This plot had been given on lease for `2 crore.

The ownership was to remain with the state government and it was stipulated that no permanent structure was to be put up on that plot. At that time Omar Abdullah, in an emotional outburst in Parliament, had asserted that they would give their lives, but not their land. This only exacerbated matters.

Delhi has never had a road map for a solution of the Kashmir problem beyond reiterating that Kashmir is an integral part of India and a solution will emerge through dialogue. It has no media policy, with the result that we have been losing the media war internationally, nationally and regionally. Not only do we not effectively counter hostile propaganda, we fail to project our national viewpoint on Kashmir. The Valley press is often more anti-India than the Pakistan press. They assert that Kashmir has never been a part of India, forgetting history and that Srinagar was founded by Emperor Ashoka.

They put facts on their head when they state that the Indian Army invaded Kashmir on October 26, 1947 and Pakistan sent raiders to help the freedom struggle. They maintain that Kashmiri Pandits were made to move out from Kashmir in 1989 by India to give the freedom struggle a bad name and, of course, ignore that their 100 odd temples were vandalised.

As regards Kashmir reverting to pre-1953 status, those making this demand do not want the restoration of the Dogra dynasty. They are asking for an elected Sadr-e-Riyasat.

What is being demanded implies permits for other Indians to enter Kashmir, for the Indian flag to not be flown in Kashmir, for the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, Election Commission and Comptroller and Auditor General to be withdrawn from Kashmir, a Prime Minister for the state and no IAS or IPS officers in Kashmir. In other words, it involves breaking political links with India as far as possible while continuing with maximum economic assistance from New Delhi, and, while demanding maximum autonomy at the state level, letting autonomy at the regional and panchayat levels remain neglected. The self-rule demand involving dual currency (India and Pakistan) and a joint Upper House in Kashmir with Pakistan goes a step further, giving Pakistan a foothold in Kashmir.

There appears to be a consensus on maintaining the territorial integrity of the state, but this can only be the residual part comprising the Indian administered part. Given the present international scenario, it is not practicable to recover the Pakistan- and China-occupied areas of J&K. Article 370 may continue, but putting back the hands of the clock and loosening political links with India can only be suicidal. Appeasement whets the appetite for more. In any case, a constitutional amendment will require a two-third majority in Parliament, at present an obviously impracticable proposition.

There can be no change in the present Centre-state equation. Good governance, economic development and maximum autonomy at the regional and panchayat levels need to be ensured.

There must also be a robust media policy to counter false propaganda. It must be repeatedly brought out that notwithstanding few unfortunate incidents, for which the guilty are being duly punished, the Indian Army's human rights record in Kashmir is far superior to that of the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Pakistan Army's in Balochistan and Waziristan, leave alone what happened in Vietnam and in East Pakistan. The fate of Sufis in Pakistan should be highlighted in Kashmir.

Internationally, we need to emphatically project that we are not only fighting to uphold secularism in Kashmir but also serving the interests of the international community by fighting against international jihad, to which the US seems to be succumbing in Afghanistan.

The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.






Cricket encounters between India and Pakistan come with the inevitable mix of passion, paranoia, politics and propaganda. Like the central event in Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, a match between these two countries is interpreted differently by a variety of stakeholders and spectators. Often we take away from such a match only what we want to take away.

Take the iconic Australasia Cup final of 1986. For an entire generation it is remembered just in terms of the "victory or death" last ball — Chetan Sharma's full-toss and Javed Miandad's massive six. A quarter-century on everybody talks of, exults at or agonises over that final delivery. Nobody recalls the compelling 99 overs and five balls that preceded it.

This should not surprise us. An India-Pakistan clash is much more than sport. There are extreme emotions at play: great hostility interrupted by irrational affection and a contemplation of history's ifs and buts. This was most apparent, for example, during the Indian tour of Pakistan in 2004, perhaps the happiest cricket series of all.
My favourite story from then is of a strait-laced Maharashtrian cricket journalist walking around the bazaars of Peshawar. He was accosted by a burly shopkeeper who enquired if he was from India. Our man nodded; his interlocutor jumped and pushed him into an inner room. The sports writer was decidedly in panic, seeing visions of a long innings in a Taliban camp. It turned out the shopkeeper was a cricket fan and wanted to give his Indian guest a gift. He put something in his visitor's hands and informed him it was the best cocaine in Peshawar, and it was his for free!

There are other moments when an India-Pakistan cricket match can seem nothing but the latest skirmish in a primal conflict. A rampaging Pathan takes on a seasoned Maratha campaigner, or perhaps a devil-may-care Jat Sikh. Could this be Panipat 1761, Jamrud 1837 or Saragarhi 1897? Maybe it's only Shahid Afridi plotting the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh.

Can one trace Indo-Pakistani diplomacy through cricket matches? Between 1952 and 1961, the two teams played each other three times. The cricket was tepid: two successive series ended 0-0. Nevertheless, cricket tourists crossed the Wagah, old friends met again. Lala Amarnath was only team manager in 1954-55, but was welcomed as Lahore's prodigal son. Nostalgia was still fresh; the Cold War hadn't consumed both nations yet, hadn't forced them into irreconcilable camps.

As for the cricket, it did serve up its delicious ironies. The first India-Pakistan series was decided when the hosts won at the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay in November 1952. India took a 2-1 lead, which it retained by drawing the remaining tests. Two centuries were scored for India at the Brabourne, the first hundreds for a predominantly Hindu nation playing against one crafted by Muslim secessionists. The century makers were Vijay Hazare, a Christian, and Polly Umrigar, a Parsi. Somebody in the Great Pavilion in the Sky had a sense of humour.
In 1978, it took new regimes in Islamabad and New Delhi — General Zia-ul-Haq's dictatorship and the Janata Party government respectively — to accede to the first test series since 1961. The testy Zulfikar Ali Bhutto-Indira Gandhi relationship, with the Bangladesh War and the Shimla Conference as its baggage, was sidestepped.
In 2004, it was Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf promising a new start. That sentiment extended to the Manmohan Singh era: to Pakistan's arrival in India in 2005, and India's return visit the following season. Soon enough, the diplomacy began to taper. When 26/11 crippled it, cricket could only fall by the wayside.
The intensity of India-Pakistan cricket needs to be distinguished from its frequency. For India, the hyper-nationalism probably peaked in the 12-15 years between the mid-1980s and the end of the 20th century. In the 1980s, India and Pakistan began to play each other more and more, in home and away series and in biannual tournaments in Sharjah. By the 1990s, television had converted limited-overs cricket games to gladiatorial contests, with Imran Khan infamously likening playing India to jihad. Every India-Pakistan match — wherever it was played, Toronto to Singapore — began with war bugles being sounded.

Gradually there was simply so much cricket between the two countries — partly a result of their greedy administrators, allies in global cricket politics, milking the hyped-up rivalry — that the crowds began to pick and choose. You couldn't rev up emotions every week, could you?

India has played (and beaten) Pakistan four times in the 50-50 World Cup. Only once has it really mattered, in 2003, when Sourav Ganguly's XI smashed Pakistan and almost everybody on its way to the final. In 1992 and 1999, victories in a sub-continental sideshow were small consolation as India crumbled overall and Pakistan marched to the final. In 1999, the World Cup match was played during the Kargil war, with Manchester police worried about a spill-over effect. The game itself was pointless. India was all but out of the tournament.
Three years earlier, on the other hand, the World Cup quarter-final in Bengaluru captured the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry at its most intense and pulsating — or at its ugliest. There was a context to this frenzy. By 1996, India had lost its way after the initial surge of economic reform. Cheered by the generals in Rawalpindi, the Taliban was at the gates of Kabul; Kashmir had become India's bleeding wound; a war with Pakistan seemed imminent.

By 2003, in contrast, it was a more confident India (and Indian team) that took on Pakistan in a fine game in Centurion, South Africa. As it grew as an economy, middle India developed other priorities. It still wanted its cricket team to beat Pakistan, as it does this week, but there were (and are) also other things it wanted in life. Today, the ability to shrug shoulders and move on — and the opportunity cost to not doing so — is greater than at any time earlier.

May this essential equanimity (easy to miss while watching over-the-top news television shows) come through this Wednesday night. Admittedly it would be nice if it were preceded by an Indian victory.

Ashok Malik can be contacted at







The concept of forming non-government organizations (NGOs) developed when it was felt by one of the organs of a state, namely the Executive that it needed comprehensive input from the civil society if its governance had to reckon with universality of approach. The entire thinking developed from the concept of good governance. Though some irresponsible NGOs in our country failed to give a proof of their sincerity to the cause of human welfare, and had to be de-listed, yet, by and large, NGOs in this country, running in thousands, have been contributing positively in some measures to the welfare of the civil society. A rather non-descript Jammu-based NGO namely Citizens Forum has taken up an important issue though print media has given it only scant coverage. It has taken up the cause in the name of senior citizens though in fact what it has demanded is the concern of millions of people of this country who come to Jammu as visitors, pilgrims, ordinary working people and members of security forces. The NGO has made a plea to the railway authorities in Jammu for installation of escalators at Jammu railway station for the convenience of all passengers. In doing so, the NGO has touched on only one of the disabilities or inconveniences faced by the passengers, whereas there is a lot to be said on the subject. Since the matter has been touched upon, we would like to take the entire gamut of Jammu railway station into consideration for a critical assessment.

Jammu railway station has several peculiarities or distinctions. It is perched on some height in the small plateau of lowly heights of Pir Panchal. It commands a panoramic view of the city of temples. It is one of the most crowded railway stations in the country, and it is the last big and important terminal of Northern Railways. It serves more than ten million annual pilgrims to Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. Besides, it handles a large influx of security related manpower that looks after the security of entire Northern India. It is the embarkation and disembarkation station for more than one million and a half population of Jammu city plus millions more in the rest of the state. As such, it should have been equipped with compatible space and infrastructure to handle the movement of men and material. It is all right to say that no fewer than forty or fifty goods and passenger trains chug in and out of Jammu railway station every day. The important thing is to see if the station is capable of handling this huge traffic and crowds without hassles and confusions. Honestly speaking, it is not. Therefore the foremost question is of remodeling the Jammu station by expanding its physical size and equipping it with all pre-requisites of a commodious and passenger-oriented station. Its present infrastructure might have been planned well at one point of time, but in view of manifold increase in goods and passenger traffic on Jammu bound rail traffic the present space is too small. Railway authorities would do good to join heads with civilian officials and all others concerned with the industry to draw a blue print for a drastically improved and expanded railway station in Jammu. The railway station is perched on some height and as such it has tremendous potential to become a scenic and attractive railway station if the landscape is drawn by environmentalists and town planers and railway experts in unison. It is common sense that approach to a railway station situated much higher than the ground level of the plains presupposes such modern facilities as would make passage convenient and hassle free. This is mechanical age in which we are living and gradually all such faculties like escalators, lifts, lounges, snack bars, luggage carrying trolleys, porters etc. have to be provided. This asks for vision and initiative. Absence of escalators at a station at considerable height is unimaginable. Two sets of escalators will be required; one that takes the passengers from the station minibus stand up to the entrance and the second from entrance up onto the platform. At the same time, the railways need to install lifts at both places for the convenience of passengers. It is also important to invite the attention of railway authorities to the reconstruction of the mini bus yard which is in shambles at present. Its present very ugly look and untidiness plus dirt and litter are a slur on railway management. A circular park with fountains and flower beds must come up and a modern type of clean and easily accessible yard for the incoming and outgoing vehicle has to be provided. Passengers must feel attracted to sit on the benches provided in the park so that they not only feel comfortable but also look respectable. Again the entry to the railway station from the main road stands choked by hawkers and vendors who have made encroachments and raised temporary structure for petty shopping. One wonders how authorities have allowed the choking entry to a sprawling railway station. Is it the inefficiency or corruption on the part of the police? Is it a nexus between the shopkeepers, police and railway authorities? Nobody knows about the physical limits of the area under the possession of the railways. Who is to look into the encroachments made illegally? We hope that this will not turn out to be a big scam or nexus between the swindlers but the concerned authorities will have to take up the question for examination. There are many complaints about reservation system. Electronic reservation is done but it is not foolproof. How come that it has become rather impossible to make reservation for a confirmed seat? Even if one makes reservation for a particular class a month and half ahead of the date of departure, the chances of getting a confirmed ticket are zero. There appears some snag somewhere in the reservation process. Authorities need to look into it. There are about 20 counters at the reservation office but even during peak hours not more than three of them remain open and the remaining put up the signboard "CLOSED". Why normally 17 or 15 reservation windows remain closed and people are forced to make miles long queue to buy a ticket. This has to be taken up very seriously. Jammu railway authorities have turned a deaf ear to many complaints. Even if these complaints are unsubstantiated, yet the authorities will need to liaison with the people on this major means of public transport. After all Indian railways are the largest industry in the country and the world. It has to raise its standard and the base line is that of providing comfort to the masses of people.








The tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan has raised renewed concerns about the safety of such plants world-wide, but that does not make a case for a moratorium on new nuclear power projects in the pipeline. The anti-nuclear power lobby may have acquired fresh wind as a result of the accident, which has given rise to radio-active fallout, but their continuing opposition goes against the national interest. A dire need of power for energy-hungry India cannot remain unfulfilled for reasons not related to its economics.

The agitation now going on against setting up a nuclear power plant at Jaitapur in Maharashtra has nothing to do with safety, or otherwise, of the project. It is related mainly to inadequate financial compensation to farmers, whose land is to be acquired for the plant and long-term rehabilitation including ensuring alternate means of livelihood which the state must do. But, the issue of compensation and rehabilitation must not be allowed to derail projects for stepping up power generation at a fast pace to meet domestic, as well as, industrial demand to sustain a high growth rate and help end poverty, unemployment and social deprivation.

Environmental considerations, such as, avoiding indiscriminate use of polluting coal, oil and gas leading to unstoppable increase in global warming, make a strong case for using atomic energy for power generation. Of course, there can be no compromise on safeguards to prevent repetition of Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island (US) accidents. Responding to the possibility of public confidence in the use of nuclear power being shaken as a result of the Fukushima accident, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acted quickly in ordering an immediate technical review of all safety systems of our nuclear power plants, particularly with a view to ensuring that they would be able to withstand the impact of large natural disasters, such as, tsunamis and earthquakes.

The earthquake that hit Japan was close to nine on the Richter scale, which was unprecedented in the country's history, as was a tsunami it generated, causing catastrophic damage, flattening towns, devastating farmlands and rendering hundreds of thousands homeless, besides killing thousands. The radiation fallout from the crippled nuclear plant compounded the damage by forcing a large population within a radius of thirty kilometers to evacuate farther to safety. Japan, as well as, neigbouring countries need now to cope up with the long-term effects of Fukushima. A through technical inquiry alone will reveal whether the safety systems installed were adequate -- particularly because the plant is an old one -- and whether these were protected from malfunctioning in the event of accidents. The reactor is of the same type as we have in Tarapore, but our scientists claim that it is much better protected against such accidents.

It needs to be noted that the Madras Atomic Power Station had to be shut down during the 2004 tsunami as a precaution, though it was already factored in the design, such as, location at a higher level. Power generation was soon restored after a regulatory review. Higher elevations have been chosen for the units under construction at Kudankulam. Jaitapur too is located much above the sea level. The severe earthquake that hit Bhuj in January 2001did not affects the Kakrapar atomic power station, which continued to operate during and after the quake. As Dr. K. S. Parthasarathy, former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board points out, it is an unforgiving technology. One has to constantly keep learning and relook at design features of all our reactors after the Fukushima experience.

Mr. Srikumar Banerjee, Secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy assures us that India's reactors are probably better prepared to handle a Japan-like situation. Process of technology upgradation and safety enhancement is a continuous one, and it was during such exercises that innovative options like a thermo-siphon have been installed at the Taraur plant. The Russian supplied Kudankulam reactors have third generation safety design features ensuring that the core is always filled with water containing boron and temperate of water is well below limits. Each reactor is provided with four redundant diesel generators of which only one is required to keep the reactor in a cool state under shutdown conditions.

The diesel generators are located at an elevation of 9 meters (30 feet) above mean sea level, isolated from tsunami-like calamities. In the most unlikely event of core melt, a special feature is incorporated -- Core Melt-Catcher -- to contain the molten core, if it at all happens. To convert any hydrogen formed, passive hydrogen recombines are provided in the containment to recombine the hydrogen back to water. This precludes the possibility of accumulation of explosive quantity of hydrogen in the containment. The system circuits have been hydro-tested and the result accepted by the Indian and Russian specialists, as well as, the Indian Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

The opponents of nuclear energy argue, that the though installed capacity of nuclear power has increased, actual production of electricity from this source has been falling. The installed capacity rose to 4,340 MW in 2009-10 but power generation measured in terms of million units produced per MW has fallen from 7.16 in 2001-02 to 4.29 in 2009-10. The generation of power per MW installed has been going down every year since then. Power generation from nuclear stations installed constitutes 2.30 per cent of total power generation last year, which is just a fraction of the transmission and distribution losses. The conclusion drawn is that India could do without nuclear power if it cut down transmission and distribution losses of generation from traditional sources.
There is a strong case for exploring alternative sources of electricity, such as, wind and solar power and from ocean waves. Even though solar energy is comparatively expensive, wind turbines are commercially available and can be installed on a large scale. Only equipment costs are involved as wind and sunshine are freely available throughout the country. The country should invest more in the alternative energy sources to save coal and gas, which are polluting. Though this may not suffice in view of the growing demand, reliance on nuclear power cannot be reduced considering the projected growth in demand for massive industrialization needed to give the economy a big push. (NPA)








Aerosols influence climate indirectly by changing cloud properties and precipitation and hence can have a profound impact on the hydrological cycle. Among the various aerosol types, black carbon aerosols have greater impact because of the high absorption of solar radiation. Hence it is essential that measurements of black carbon aerosols from ground, aircraft and space are necessary to answer crucial questions related to the impact of black carbon on climate. Several studies have suggested that aerosols may modify global warming by changing the planetary albedo, but the magnitude of the impact of aerosol on climate is still uncertain says IPCC 2007.

Measurement of Aerosols over Indian Region: Current Status

There is a large spatial and temporal variability of aerosols in India and hence several field campaigns were undertaken to characterize the optical, physical and chemical properties of aerosols and their radiative impact. The major goals of these experiments have been the characterization of regional aerosol properties and estimation of their direct and indirect radiative forcing. In India, a systematic investigation of the physico-chemical properties of aerosols, their temporal heterogeneities, spectral characteristics, size distribution and modulation of their properties by regional mesoscale and synoptic meteorological processes have been investigated extensively since the 1980s at different regions as a part of the different national programs such as the I-MAP (Indian Middle Atmosphere Programme), and later the ISRO-GBP (Indian Space Research Organization's Geosphere Biosphere Program).

During the I-MAP, a project was initiated to monitor the aerosol characteristics over the Indian region at a few selected locations. This became operational in the late eighties and has been continued after the I-MAP as a part of ACE (Aerosol Climatology and Effects) project of the ISRO-GBP. A national network of multi-wavelength radiometers (MWR) was setup under the ACE project of the ISRO-GBP, to facilitate the long-term observations of aerosols over distinct geographical environments.

Measurements of Black Carbon Aerosols

As a part of the (INDOEX) extensive measurement of black carbon was carried out over the Indian Ocean. Based on these measurements Satheesh et al. (1999) developed an aerosol model for tropical Indian Ocean, which demonstrated that black carbon contributes 11% to composite aerosol optical depth. Later, using several calibrated satellite radiation measurements and five independent surface radiometers Satheesh and Ramanathan (2000) showed that even though black carbon contributes 11% to optical depth its contribution to radiative forcing can be as much as 60%. Over continental India, Babu and Moorthy (2001) reported the anthropogenic impact of aerosol black carbon mass concentration at a tropical coastal station (Trivandrum). This is probably the first report of black carbon measurement over continental India. Thereafter, several investigators have measured black carbon measurements at various locations in India.

A road/land campaign (LC-I) was conducted during February to March 2004 under ISRO-GBP initiative, to understand the spatial distribution of aerosol and trace gases over Central/peninsular India. Simultaneous measurements were made over spatially separated locations, using identical instruments. These measurements covered an area of more than a million square kilometres over the course of a month from land based mobile laboratories, and generated a wealth of information on black carbon as well as important aerosol parameters including size, mass concentration, optical depth, and scattering and absorption coefficients using state of the art instruments.

As a continuation of this experiment, Land Campaign II (LC-II) was organized by the Indian Space Research Organization under ISRO-GBP during December 2004, to characterize the regional aerosol properties and trace gases across the entire Indo- Gangetic belt. All these studies showed the persistence of high aerosol optical depth and black carbon concentrations near the surface.

The Integrated Campaign for Aerosols, gases and Radiation Budget (ICARB) was a multi-institutional, multi-instrumental, multi-platform field campaign, where integrated observation and measurements of aerosols with special emphasis on black carbon, radiation and trace gases along with other complementary measurements on boundary layers and meteorological parameters were made simultaneously. The main goal of the ICARB was to assess the regional radiative impact of aerosols and trace gases, and to quantify the effect of the long-range transport of aerosols and trace gases, involving the Indian mainland, the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and tropical Indian Ocean during February-May period of 2006. The ICARB was conceived as an integrated campaign, comprising three segments namely the land, ocean, and aircraft segments. In each one of these segments, measurements of the optical, physical and chemical properties of atmospheric aerosols were carried out. The land segment comprised a network of ground-based observatories, representing distinct geographical features of India, and providing a time-series observation during the period when spatially resolved measurements were made using the moving platforms in the other two segments.

Quantitative estimates of the vertical structure and the spatial gradients of aerosol extinction coefficients have been made from airborne LIDAR measurements across the coastline and around the oceanic regions along the east and west coasts of India.

The research group at Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) lead by Prof. M.M. Sarin has made substantial efforts in characterizing organic carbon/ black carbon ratios over a few locations in India. The atmospheric abundances of elemental carbon (EC), organic carbon (OC) and water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) have been measured by this group in aerosol samples collected during wintertime (December-March) from selected sites (urban, rural and high-altitude) in northern India.

Even though all these international and national field experiment and campaigns have provided vital information on the optical, physical as well as chemical properties of aerosols, they are limited to a certain period or location. In this perspective, the long term experiments at different locations have the added advantages of understanding aerosol influences on a longer time scale thereby helping us to infer the signs of anthropogenic impact. A sufficiently long time series can also help in inferring climate change signals.
The ISRO-GBP is maintaining 32 surface observatories covering representative locations in India. In all these sites black carbon measurements have been made. The duration of data available from these sites vary with location. In addition there have been a few field campaigns such as LC-I, LC-II and ICARB. Thus, we have information on the spatial and seasonal variation of BC at the Earth's surface. ICARB aircraft segment carried out a few measurements of altitude profiles of black carbon aerosols. Our knowledge on the OC/BC ratios are based on isolated measurements only.

There are several aspects on which the knowledge and understanding is rather fragmented and inadequate. These include Vertical distribution of Black Carbon State of mixing of Black Carbon with other aerosols Organic Carbon / Black Carbon Ratio Effect of Black Carbon on Cloud Cover and Effect of Black Carbon on Monsoon.

A hybrid approach, which involves field experiments including network measurements as well as aircraft-based field measurements along with multi-satellite analyses is essential for the assessment of the impact of aerosol black carbon over India. Combining ground measurements with multi-satellite data can create synergy that will benefit both methods. This approach will provide new insights into the problem and new methodologies to gather information on black carbon aerosol can be formulated. Using the outcome of this project, crucial questions related to climate impact of black carbon aerosols can be addressed.

The author is Deputy Director (M&C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi.








Is there a silver lining in a grim world with popular protests in several countries facing excessive violent repression and a grave national calamity that has hit Japan? No doubt, Japan is dourly trying to pick up the pieces and re-emerge from the grave tsunami and earthquake disaster. Yet, petroleum and energy supplies are adversely impacted with oil prices showing no signs of returning to normal levels, but floating well above $100 and $110 per barrel level, depending on its quality and area where it is extracted. In spite of the crises that nations, including India, face, are the people and governments keeping their heads cool and not yielding to panicky scenarios?

Are the BRIC nations--Brazil, Russia, India and China--shining examples for many countries in crisis management? Indeed, it is so, especially for developing nations in Asia, Latin America and even Africa, besides offering opportunities to the First World of escape routes from rising fears of recession. To give many nations of the world, a window of opportunity, India is trying to throw its doors wide open to foreign investment, including multi-brand retail, manufacturing, financial sector like banks and insurance and several other areas. There are no doubt fierce debates in the political and small business circles about the wisdom of these come one, come all policies, but the Government insists that it has little or no choice in taking the globalization and liberalization route if India has to ensure 9 per cent growth and overcome the specter of recession, which shows no signs of being contained. Especially, there are strong objections to multi-brand retail of the foreign kind because they will initially offer sops to tempt the buyer, but gradually impose a vice-like grip and throw out the neighborhood or mom and pop stores out of business and leave the consumer little or no option to use facilities that are time honored and which are the backbone of small and big town life styles.

On the part of the Government and free market votaries, it is argued that already chain of Indian and foreign brands are slowly displacing the small shopkeepers just as small strip malls and next door markets or even central locations like Connaught Place in New Delhi are hit by the culture of big malls, which have cinemas and food courts galore besides top international brands and expensive eateries. The possibility is that the Government will perhaps go a little slow with multi-brand retail even as the likes of Walmart have entered several tier II cities with wholesale cash and carry outlets to present-day retailers whom they will ultimately throw out of business.

Is this trend stoppable or unstoppable? Is this the writing on the wall with no holds barred? The Government believes that the process of opening up, begun in 1990, and slowed down for several years in view of objections in Parliament, especially by the leftists supporting the government from the outside and objectors within all parties, must be revived in full measure and liberalization must be given a push as never before. On this, there seems to be a broad agreement between the Congress and the principal Opposition parties, with parties supporting the United Progressive Alliance and National Democratic Alliance remaining muted, if not silent, and eager to pursue their own agendas in coalition.

Yet, the government and the nation remains concerned over dearer energy and no escape from it as speculators around the world make a fast buck even though the supplies of oil have not been much affected by the Libyan crisis or protests in West Asia. It is in this light that governments of the world feel that in spite of the tsunami, which has wrecked a Japanese nuclear plant, is not a sufficient ground for going slow with nuclear power generations and setting up new plants. France depends for more than 80 per cent of its electricity on nuclear generation and Japan 40 per cent, while the US reliance is about 30 per cent and is now considering setting up new facilities. India proposes to generate 62,000 MW in the next few decades, the same level as France's, but it will meet only 10 per cent of India's power requirements. Russia insists that the two new nuclear power plants being built by it for South Indian locations will have high levels of safety features to overcome fears of natural calamities. But international nuclear experts insist that the future lies with nuclear fusion rather than nuclear fission for cost-effective and greater safety solutions, while other observers believe that as oil reserves around the world diminish, solar energy, wind power, geo-thermal and other non-conventional sources offer great and diverse options, not yet fully explored. With Britain having coalmines many years ago, the new energy options are the way to go, but large countries like India cannot afford to miss out on coal as the requirements are very huge and other energy sources will take a long time to explore and exploit.

For Europe, Russia remains the only source of gas through pipelines and assured supplies of petroleum and India has taken a stake in several Russian petroleum exploration and exploitation projects. Russia is attracting considerable foreign investment, as is India. But the Libyan crisis has won Russia a promise that it will be welcomed to the World Trade Organization or WTO. India's economic and defense ties with Russia are strong and there is considerable scope for trade and investment in both countries, mutual and international. (NPA)









Khalsa College, Amritsar, has a rich heritage. A galaxy of eminent teachers and alumni, a unique campus and a special place in the history of the region sets it apart from other such institutions. The Khalsa College Management Committee's (KCMC) recent decision to convert it into a private university has raised a storm of controversy, both in India and abroad, among the Indian diaspora. The committee's right to seek the change of status is not disputed. What, however, is debatable is whether it is desirable. Though Khalsa College, Amritsar, proudly proclaims its status as "college with potential for excellence," in recent years, it has not been able to rise up to that level, and in fact has shown a decline in the number of students as well as in academic performance. There has been a persistent demand that the college should be so good that it attracts the best and the brightest students, and thus stands tall, as it once did.


It is doubtful if changing the status of the college and making it a private university would automatically make it better. Change always causes disquiet, and it is for the management to assure the public that the move will benefit the college in the long run. How will it help the students and the community? What kind of courses, teachers and facilities would the proposed university provide to potential students? Is the college being hampered in its endeavour to provide quality education to its students by the university it is affiliated with, or does the onus rest on administrative lapses by the college management?


What the KCMC is proposing will significantly impact the 119-year-old institution. The management committee would do well to spell out and share its vision for the future of this institution which has such a great past. It should not take any steps in haste and should reflect, discuss and debate this change and what it entails.









With the entry of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) in Libya, replacing the troops of the US and its Western allies, the intervention by the international community has taken a new turn. Now the Libyan dictator's argument will have no meaning that it is not fair for foreign forces to meddle in the "internal affairs" of a sovereign nation. NATO's action comes after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973 to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya and to prevent the killing of civilians by Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces. The Security Council has also imposed an arms embargo on Libya, which will be enforced strictly now. NATO's involvement, however, does not mean an end to the military role of the US, France, Britain and other Western powers. However, they will not be able to use their military-related activities in Libya for reaping political capital back home. This was a major charge against French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as France is slated to have elections soon.


One question that seems to have divided the international community is whether NATO's intervention will remain impartial. Will NATO not provide cover to the Libyan rebels, who are disorganized and unable to consolidate the gains they initially made? First it was Turkey which expressed doubts over the real purpose of bringing NATO in the Libyan war theatre. Now Russia has warned the world that foreign intervention in a sovereign country has not been mandated by Resolution 1973. These questions have found mention at the on-going London conference of the UN, NATO, the African Union and the Arab League on Libya.


The truth is that the global community indirectly wants regime change in Libya but no one is prepared to admit, not even President Barack Obama, that all that is being done under the cover of Resolution 1973 is aimed at ending the dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi. The US appears to be under tremendous pressure from its allies in West Asia like Saudi Arabia not to take any step which may make people get the impression that the Western forces are there in the Arab world to instal rulers of their choice in the garb of bringing about democracy. The ideal course can be to create a situation in which Colonel Gaddafi is forced to leave the country to the people of Libya as it has happened in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco.









The dwindling number of tigers, which stood at a dismal 1,411 in the last census, has been a cause of concern for some time. In the light of the plummeting tiger population, the recent figures that show a perceptible increase is indeed reassuring. According to the latest tiger census, there are 1,706 big cats in the wild. While the growing number, which indicates that conservation efforts in the recent past have paid some dividends, is likely to gladden the hearts of conservationists, much more needs to be done to save the species on the verge of extinction.


Nearly a century ago India's tiger population stood at a heartening 40,000. Over the years, poaching, deforestation and general apathy towards the majestic animal have threatened its existence. Despite ambitious projects like the Tiger Project launched way back in 1973, the big cat has been fighting for its survival. Fortunately, while earlier only the news of tiger killings would wake up the authorities, more recently there has been an attempt to drive home the tiger's crucial role in the ecosystem and the impending ecological catastrophe, if it disappears. Nevertheless, indiscriminate deforestation has deprived the tiger of its home. The latest census report which the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has rightly called a "mixed bag" too points at the shrinking habitats which could decrease further and put more pressure on the wild animal.


There is little doubt that saving forests could translate into saving tigers. However, to counter the threat, which the endangered species is facing, both poachers and encroachers have to be dealt with severely. The skepticism of tiger experts over the new figures may be taken with a pinch of salt for the 2010 tiger census is more accurate than the ones in the past as it has used scientific methods like camera trapping and DNA tests. However, they are dead right in asserting that better ways to conserve tigers have to be found. If the Global Tiger Recovery Programme has to meet its target of doubling the tiger population by 2022, the efforts to protect the National Animal too have to be doubled. Challenges enroute tiger conservation are many and have to be tackled head-on.









IN Parliament one often comes across complaints from members of a "breach of privilege". Experience says that many of these complaints do not disclose any breach of any of the privileges of either the members or of the House. The world outside the legislature is confused quite a bit about the exact meaning or implications of this term. Ignorance of parliamentary law of privileges has landed many in trouble. Since it is not a codified law, the ignorance of and confusion about the privileges of the legislature persist.


Privileges of a legislature are the special rights of the House and its members which are essential for its functioning. These rights are required to maintain the authority and dignity of the House which is the highest representative body of the people. So every democratic parliament in the world enjoys these privileges. Any individual or institution doing anything or saying anything having the effect of challenging the authority or violating the dignity of the House will be committing a breach of privilege of the House and is punished by the House.


Article 105 of the Constitution of India confers certain privileges and immunities on the members of Parliament. The most important and crucial privilege which is specified in the Article is freedom of speech in the House. This right enables a member of Parliament to speak freely and fearlessly on the floor of the House. This right, of course, is subject to the other provisions of the Constitution and the rules of the House. The intensity and dimensions of this right can be best perceived when one takes a close look at the immunity which is provided to a member of the House. Article 105(2) says that no member shall be liable to any proceedings in any court of law for anything said or any vote given in Parliament or its committees. This immunity is absolute and it has been confirmed by the Supreme Court in the JMM case. Although many eyebrows were raised at this judgement, the position today is that even when a member is proved to have taken bribe which has a nexus with his vote in the House, he is not liable to be prosecuted under the law on corruption.


Privileges are not defined by the Rules of Procedure of the House. The Constitution says that in respect of privileges other than freedom of speech, one has to refer to the House which existed prior to 20-06-1979. In fact, before the Constitution was amended in 1978, the reference was to the House of Commons which was omitted through this amendment. Nevertheless, the privileges, other than freedom of speech, of the Indian Parliament and its members are those which were enjoyed by the members of the House of Commons at the time when the Constitution of India came into force. The Rules of the House merely lay down the procedure to be followed in dealing with a question of breach of privilege. So, to understand the nature of privileges enjoyed by Indian parliamentarians, one has to look into the privileges of the members of the House of Commons as they existed on January 26, 1950.


However, the purpose of this article is not to expatiate on the privileges of the House of Commons. Suffice it to say that some of the privileges of the House of Commons have no relevance to India, but most others have been adopted by us by virtue of Article 105(3).


The notices of breach of privilege against the Prime Minister given by Mrs Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and others accuse the Prime Minister of misleading the House by the statement he made in the House on March 18 in connection with the WikiLeaks disclosure of an alleged attempt to bribe MPs of the 14th Lok Sabha in the context of the confidence motion. As could be gathered from the newspapers, the relevant part of the statement which forms the basis of the notice is as follows:


"The allegations of bribery were investigated by a committee constituted by the 14th Lok Sabha. The committee had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to draw any conclusion of bribery."


The committee referred to by the Prime Minister in his statement quoted above was appointed by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to "inquire into the complaint made by some members regarding alleged offer of money to them in connection with voting on the motion of confidence". This committee was appointed subsequent to the display of Rs 1 crore in Parliament by some members of the Opposition who complained to the Speaker that this money was paid to them by a member of the Rajya Sabha for voting or absenting from voting in favour of the government on the confidence motion. Thus, this committee was appointed basically to investigate the truth of the complaints that money was paid to the three members, Mr Ashok Argal, Mr Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mr Mahavir Bhagora by Mr Amar Singh, a member of the Rajya Sabha. If it is found as a fact that these members were bribed in an attempt to influence them in their parliamentary conduct it would be a breach of privilege. Bribing a member of Parliament for the purpose of influencing his conduct as a member entails two consequences — breach of privilege of the member and legal action for the criminal act of bribery. The remit of a fact-finding committee of Parliament is to investigate the matter to find out the fact of bribery for the purpose of establishing the breach of privilege. As regards the criminality of the transaction, it has to be dealt with by the investigating agencies of the government and the court.


The committee headed by eminent parliamentarian V. Kishore Chandra Deo after a detailed investigation came to the conclusion that "the material on record does not conclusively prove that the money contained in the bag, which was eventually displayed in the House, was actually sent by Shri Amar Singh for the purpose of winning over Shri Ashok Argal, Shri Faggan Singh Kulaste and Shri Mahavir Bhagora to vote in favour of motion of confidence."


Now, the question arises whether the Prime Minister can be accused of misleading the House when he stated that there was insufficient evidence to draw the conclusion of bribery. The committee says that material on record does not conclusively prove that the money was sent to win over the members. A perusal of these two statements clearly shows that the Prime Minister's statement in the Lok Sabha on March 18, accurately reflects the conclusion reached by the committee in this regard. Accuracy of the statement knocks the bottom out of a charge of breach of privilege.


However, the committee made a significant observation after reaching the above conclusion in respect of Mr Amar Singh's role. This observation is with regard to the role of one Sanjeev Saxena who was an active participant in the bribe giving operation. The committee said in para 141 (xv), "He could very well be giving bribe with a view to influencing the members in their parliamentary conduct…Therefore, his role in the matter needs to be investigated."


The members of the Opposition who gave notices of breach of privilege perhaps rely on this observation of the committee to contend that the statement made by the Prime Minister is misleading in the sense that the issue of bribing the members has not been conclusively disproved.


The House has the inherent right to get correct and true facts from its members and the government. So, misleading the House deliberately is a breach of privilege. But to bring a statement within the mischief of breach of privilege, it needs to be shown that the person who made the statement had deliberately done it with the intention of misleading the House. Eminent speakers of the Lok Sabha have given rulings on this point. The following ruling was given by Sardar Hukan Singh on August 17, 1966, in the Lok Sabha:


"Incorrect statements made by a minister cannot make any basis for a breach of privilege. It is only a deliberate lie, if it can be substantiated, that would certainly bring the offence within the meaning of breach of privilege."


The above ruling by the Speaker makes it clear that it is only a deliberate lie which attracts the charge of breach of privilege. One cannot even imagine that the Prime Minister of the country will utter a "deliberate lie" and mislead the House. It is axiomatic that malice cannot be attributed to the actions of the government. In fact, no case of breach of privilege against a minister or the Prime Minister on the ground of misleading the House has ever been proved. The reason is that there is a presumption that the government will not deliberately and intentionally mislead the House. There can be a case of inaccuracy or inadequacy in a statement made by a minister. The Rules of the House have a provision for correcting such statements.


The writer is a former Secretary-General, Lok Sabha.








My mother is not recognising anyone, not even me. Can there be anything more painful than that? She is bed-ridden and lost. I see her helplessly withering away." This status on Facebook of a dear friend shook me. Senior in age and years, he has been a picture of serenity and strength. But then even the most powerful are distressed on such occasions.


I was far away to console him in person. I rather needed help myself. His status brought out the greatest fear I had since I became conscious of life and death. It is the fear of losing my mother.


No one is bigger to a person than his mother. No one is more important. No one knows you better in and out than her. No one smiles at your lies and no one tells you to remain rooted to the ground when you fly high at minor successes.


Since childhood, I had this fear. And no amount of sermonising has diminished it. I often used to cry at the dead of night at the thought of my mom's death. I stuck to her. And she tried her best to console quoting from Guru Granth Sahib and other religious books.


As I grew old, I read some on my own. I learnt nothing dies in this world. It just changes form. And I learnt soul is never destroyed. I recently read psychologist Dr Brian Weiss and his regression therapy quoting real life rebirth experiences and the joy and traumas and debts we carry to our next birth.


Rebirth stories pleased and comforted me a little. I read: "Death be not proud" of John Donne again and again. All those gave me temporary relief. My fear of losing my mother persisted.


Even now I talk to her about the fear I still carry. She strokes my hair and calls me "paagal" (mad). At 65, she is hale and hearty. I want her to be like that for all times. She is contended. She wants to leave early.


I want to tell her that the womb was the safest place I ever was. Since my birth, I am used to touching her cold elbow. It has lulled me to sleep. It is heavenly soothing. My troubles vanish when I hold her elbow. And it is always cold.


Who would soothe me when she is not there? She just has to be there. I want to tell her all this when she is in a position to recognise me and understand it. I want to tell her that I knew and remembered how many times she slept on a hungry stomach to feed us. And how much she denied herself of certain essential things to provide us education and clothes and good diet!


The need to earn and make a career forces us away from our mothers. Distances do not affect this bond. She is happy if you are happy. I have a strong urge to rush to her and hold the elbow again. I want to go on and on telling her my stories and ambitions, which many, including my father, term as "Sheikhchili dreams", while she listens with all interest and sparkle in her eyes. All the while I am with her, I want to live every moment. For, when she won't be around, I would never have the strength to visit our house in Patiala where she lives. Wish you a long long life, mother.


And I wish that for all mothers.







I described the 2011-12 Punjab Budget as a "fudge" and I mean it. The fudge is evident both in the ridiculous claims made by the government as well as its unashamed attempt to conceal its non-performance amidst half-truths and lies.


The Finance Minister, Dr Upinderjit Kaur, claims that Punjab is without problems and stridently marching to becoming the proverbial "land of milk and honey". According to her budget, we live in one of the fastest-growing states in the country, which is close to becoming power surplus and has already provided the people with world-class infrastructure, education and healthcare. What actually stares us in the face is stagnant agriculture, dangerously declining industry, our cities buried in filth, abysmal infrastructure and a financially (and morally) bankrupt government.


It is this dichotomy between the government's bravado and the grim reality that I exposed through my interventions during the general discussion on the budget in the Vidhan Sabha. And it was in this context that we demanded a White Paper to establish the true state of Punjab's finances and enable all of us to contribute to retrieving the terrible state of our economy.


Instead of accepting our suggestions and opening a healthy forum for discussion the government's response is laughable. While the Chief Minister insists the budget is itself a White Paper, the Deputy Chief Minister incredulously eulogises it as the "best ever presented", and the Finance Minister feebly attempts to refute our stand by citing the same fudged figures from her budget, bizarrely trying to cover a fudge with another fudge!


In reality, the budget is nothing more than the culmination of the Akali-BJP combine's "patron-client" model of governance, which assumes that people are not citizens, who demand good governance as a matter of right, but supplicants. The Badals, it seems, believe that people only deserve government handouts in exchange for votes, which for them are an "irritating" but constitutional necessity to remain in office. Hence, we witness the great election year budget fudge!


Having said so, we are not oblivious of the fact that the budget is no more than the annual financial statement of government income and expenditure. Obviously, we do not expect it to offer magical solutions to all our woes. But what was required, and what this budget lacks, is directional guidance, or imaginative strategies to ward off a despondent and dark future.


Budget estimates and actual figures do not have to necessarily conform. There could be and there usually is a variance of 5 to 10 per cent. But violent variations immediately raise questions about the integrity of the budget. Consider, for instance, the variation in the budgeted revenue/fiscal deficit and actual.


If the budgeted revenue deficit of Rs. 3,787.73 crore during 2009-10 actually turns out to be Rs. 5,251.36 crore, (variance of 40%) and is then projected even lower at Rs. 3,705.18 crore in the BE 2010-11, and at a still lower level of Rs. 3,378.99 crore in the BE 2011-12, it certainly smacks of tampering.


There are more riddles. While the revenue deficit is projected to come down from an actual of Rs. 5,251.36 crore for 2009-10 to Rs. 3,378.99 crore as per the budget 2011-12, the fiscal deficit is slated to sharply increase from Rs. 6,170.09 crore to Rs. 8,801.33 crore for the same period.


This government evidently plans to rely heavily on debt, not only to fund the revenue deficit, but also the annual plan of Rs. 11,500 crore for the year 2011-12. The impossible-to-achieve Plan is built on a sandcastle as most of the debt the government will need to raise, will go towards meeting its committed expenditure.


On the face of it the government implemented a Plan of Rs. 4,974 crore against an approved Plan of Rs. 8,625 crore for 2009-10, so one must possess an overstretched imagination to believe that a Plan of Rs. 11,500 crore is feasible during 2011-12.


The government's claim of fast growth is equally hollow. Not only did the rate of growth tumble a few notches between the Governor's Address and the budget, the claimed rate of growth of 9.25%, 6.55% and 7.84% during 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10, respectively, is way below the corresponding national average!


Punjab's debt position is also grossly misrepresented. Apart from the government's public debt, contingent liabilities arising out of the government-guaranteed debt, deferred liabilities and loans raised by various parastatal entities by mortgaging assets and future revenues have to be reckoned with. This critical aspect has not even been mentioned in the budget.


There is more. A gallant, albeit foolhardy, attempt has been made to prove Punjab is on its way to fiscal recovery and targets have been set out in the 13th Finance Commission's fiscal correction path. For this budgetary figures have been fudged and various fiscal ratios worked out with reference to an enhanced GDP, which is due to the change in the base year from 1999-2000 to 2004-05.


If the state is truly on the path of fiscal recovery, why have the arrears of revised pay and pension not been paid to employees? Why has the Punjab State Power Corporation been paid subsidy for free power by loan adjustment and not in cash? Why is the government seeking the enhancement of its loan limit while simultaneously seeking a waiver of the previous loans?


The projected Rs. 35,405 crore revenue expenditure in the BE 2011-12 compared to the last fiscal is a mere increase of under 4 per cent against an annual trend of 15 per cent. The entire increase is attributable to education, medical and public health, social security and welfare and the police, which means grossly inadequate provisions under other heads.


The cat is truly out of the bag when one considers provisions for power - down from Rs. 3,375.59 crore in BE 2010-11 to Rs 3,020 crore - and under the head "Others", showing a decrease of Rs. 613 crore compared to the previous year. These two heads relate to salaries and pensions, interest on loans and subsidy to Powercom.


Does this government mean to stop employee remunerations, to default on debt servicing or to rollback the free power to farmers? The actual expenditure under these heads will inescapably be far higher than what has been provided. Thus, neither are the enhanced outlays for education, health and social security nor the plan of Rs. 11500 crore likely to be implemented.


The budget as presented to the Vidhan Sabha on March 14 can serve little purpose. We had, therefore, suggested that the government should seek a three-month vote-on-account and fruitfully employ the time to prepare and present a White Paper on Punjab's true fiscal health alongside plausible recuperative remedies. We would readily join a special Vidhan Sabha session for this crucial undertaking. In explanation, since the government chose not to accept our sincere suggestions, we considered it futile to further associate ourselves with the academic ritual of passing this budget in its original, dishonest form.


We are now intent on taking these issues to the people, who, we believe, will reject the culture of corruption, nepotism and unprecedented deceit perpetuated by the Akali-BJP government.


There has been criticism, inspired by the government, of my Vidhan Sabha speech as being "academic", curiously forgetting that budgets are in fact a serious academic exercise that cannot be wished away in frivolous political rhetoric. Another critic, who used the expression "insipid", was perhaps looking for more flavour and aroma in fiscal numbers.


The writer is a former Chief Minister of Punjab and the president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee









The Punjab Finance Minister said in her budget speech: "Budget is a vision document that seeks to address the hopes and aspirations of all stake-holders and sections of society". It, therefore, becomes imperative to seek what the budget holds for the future overall development and prosperity, which is sustainable.


The SAD-BJP government's budget for 2011-12 was its last in view of the coming assembly polls. The budget does not impose any fresh taxes, though it has not compromised on expenditure. In an annual plan size of Rs. 11,500 crore, the fiscal deficit will be Rs. 8,801.33 crore, but the resource mobilization for this has relied just on "expectations" of an increase in revenue receipts.


It is pertinent to mention here that the fiscal deficit as a percentage of gross state domestic product is higher than the previous year. Instead of innovating revenue raising ways, the Finance Minister has preferred to put the entire blame on the Union government for worsening the debt burden of the state.


Focussing on specific sectors, the approved plan outlay as a percentage of the total plan outlay has declined as compared to 2010-11 for agriculture and allied services, rural development, transport and social services, while it has marginally improved for science and technology and remained almost the same for energy.


Further, the all-important agriculture sector has been allotted a sum of Rs. 453 crore. It includes commendable steps like relief bonus to farmers for paddy crop, productivity bonus equal to payments to power bill and restoration of free electricity supply to agricultural pump sets.


But there has been on mention of the harrowing tale of indebtedness of farmers, particularly from non-institutional sources. The FM's resolve to (I quote) "impress upon the Government of India to provide incentives to our farmers who make timely payments of their installments to banks and cooperative institutions" did not divulge details of the incentive sought and conveniently deleted the already announced relief of a lower rate of interest chargeable to such farmers in the Union budget just two weeks before her own state budget presentation.


And if the Central budget did not make a mention of farmer indebtedness from informal sources or of providing any relief to the kin of farmers who had committed suicide due to indebtedness, the state budget is equally at fault by not taking any moral responsibility or initiative for the same.


Education has figured prominently in the budget, with heart-warming schemes like free education till Class XII, free bicycles for them, free uniforms for BC and EWS children. For higher education, the state's share in the budget of the state universities has been increased by 50 per cent, but it must be pointed out that the state's share in the total budgets of the universities is miniscule and will not contribute much to the financial health of these "state-run privately funded" universities.


Further, a paltry sum of Rs. 1.5 crore for each of the 17 new government colleges has been assigned and that too to the university concerned. This is not sufficient to set up even the basic infrastructure. Alongside, the already existing colleges are starved of funds and faculty. The major onus for the payment of 60 per cent of arrears to the government employees (in which category do university and college teachers fall?) has been conveniently shifted to whichever party forms the next government in 2012.


In the health and social security sector, the brighter side of the picture is the extension of financial benefits in healthcare, institutional deliveries, insurance policy of newborn girl child and the lowering of age for old age pension benefits for women. But pray, will the government hospitals and other healthcare centres get a face-lift in terms of state-of-the-art infrastructure as well as adequate regular doctors and other staff not to speak of assured supply of free medicines?


On the whole, the state budget for 2011-12 has several popular proposals but it lacks vision for bringing Punjab to the forefront of sustainable economic development. A budget can, understandably, never be a please-all-statement but it should carefully set out a visionary approach to future development. Resorting to Centre-bashing only for the state's financial mess will not lead anywhere. It has to be realised that we have to make efforts on our own to rise to the occasion and set out on the path of development.


The writer is a Professor of Economics, Department of Distance Education, Punjabi University, Patiala









Alovely ladyfriend called up yesterday to tell me how she hugged her HR-head on learning that office would run from 8 am to 2 pm today, breaking from the 9-6 rigmarole in deference to the biggest match of them all. She isn't alone. Several offices are giving up on making people work (or at least pretend to work while refreshing Cricinfo with crossed-fingers), with even the stock market having succumbed to the nailbiting and shutting shop half-day.


So with everyone taking Wartime Wednesday off and bringing out their bluest clothes, how dare I play spoilsport and talk about mere film? So here then, a seemingly silly but ultimately entertaining proposal.

Everyone's been stoked since the quarter finals began, which is why it's easy to forget now just how tiresome the league matches were. Two groups of seven countries playing each other ensured several one-sided encounters with the top eight unsurprisingly heading into the QF knockouts where they have to sink or swim.


There are two fundamental flaws here: one, that the top eight don't get to square off against oneanother; and two, more critically, that the league matches – which essentially do not matter – are spread out for a whole month while the QFs, Semis and final happen within 10 days.


The kneejerk reaction is to keep only the Test-playing teams in the Cup in the first place, but to throw out the Associate nations is both unfair and silly. The brightest moments of the month-long league matches were brought to us by Ireland, Netherlands and Canada. So stay they should, but perhaps not for as long.


Which is where my suggestion comes in: let the Associates play, but let their matches be knockouts: so if Ireland beats England, they live to play another day, but if they lose it's back to Dublin for them. The Test teams all stay and battle, winning, failing and racking up points as they go along.


Ah, you say triumphantly, but what of scheduling? If Canada lose to England and go home, what about the matches they were supposed to play with the other countries? Well, now here's where the Vince McMahon influence kicks in: Challenges. The Test nation now devoid of an opponent challenges a fresh one from the other groups. So when South Africa doesn't get to play Canada, they can decide to use that match to rumble with Pakistan instead.


Sure, they can choose to take on Ireland instead, but the simpler opponents will mostly be gone pretty quick. And each team can only be externally challenged thrice – so nobody can keep picking on, say, Bangladesh. Or England. Also, most teams would relish both the challenge and the opportunity to take on the toughest before the QF knockouts. Imagine much warrior-giri as Shahid Afridi insouciantly challenges Michael Clarke and as Darren Sammy pluckily calls out MS Dhoni.


Daft as this may initially sound, give it a minute to sink in. The format helps in a lot of ways, not least of which is that, having gotten points off each other already, teams head into the knockout stages decisively knowing who ranks where on the table. The advantage of one group being weaker than the other is nullified rather effectively. And, most importantly, it shakes up the tournament, not just making the schedule unpredictable but also making every match count – and even if the game is technically just a group game and not do-or-die important, it's still personal. Which, in sport, is even awesomer.


No more excuses. Grudge-matches, rivalries, increasingly macho posturing and much putting of the money where the mouth is. Now doesn't that sound like a helluva World Cup?


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




Every time the Indian stock market goes up, there is an eager tribe of market pundits willing to talk it down. So, the current debate is whether the benchmark index of the Bombay Stock Exchange will correct by 10 per cent to 16,000 before zooming to 21,000 by the end of the year. Some see an imminent correction, despite a smart recovery last week, and here's why. After record foreign inflows of $29 billion in 2010, foreign institutional investors have hit pause, resulting in a withdrawal of $1.7 billion from the market earlier this year. This brought indices down. Concern about inflation, corruption, high interest rates and rising commodity prices fed the bearishness. In the subsequent two months, nothing has changed for India. If corruption and macro-economic threats persist, so does the country's long-term growth story. Quarter after quarter, the central banker continues to battle inflation with rate hikes, and corporate India strives to get a grip on profitability as raw material costs mount. Some analysts expect weak fourth quarter results, with input cost pressures mounting to an extent that earnings growth will tail off quite significantly.

These are valid concerns, but the good news is that a majority of market pundits think otherwise. The overriding view is that the recovery in the markets has been on the back of a surge in consumption demand, which has remained high in spite of high inflation. And that is not going to change in a hurry. Besides, the market is now reasonably valued at about 15 times, which is more or less in line with earnings growth expectations for FY12. This is specially so when the global environment remains uncertain. The majority view also is that the market has already priced in some oil price rise due to the tension in West Asia, a tight monetary policy stance for some time and the expected less-than-satisfactory Q4 results. Interestingly, over the past 12 months, investors have been rewarding stocks of companies with low capex, rising institutional ownership, stocks with inexpensive valuations and trailing monthly performance. In contrast, low free cash flow companies have been losing out. The underlying mood remains bullish. Only a weak monsoon would dampen these sentiments.


In the midst of all this bullishness, there is, however, one emerging area of concern. Over the last one year, it seems the FII interest in index options has substantially increased. Looking at the volumes on NSE, it is evident that nothing significant is happening in the cash markets as all the action is concentrated on the index options side. Week after week, the volumes on the options side are increasing, which is what pushed Nifty past the 5,600 mark last week. Clearly, investors are shorting the market and little money seems to be going into delivery stocks or even stock futures. Some view this as a dangerous trend since foreign investors, who are market makers for Indian equities, seem to be punting on the index and not taking a long-term view investing in equities. That's a risk investors should be aware of.







Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mamata Banerjee remains an enigma to many, despite her long years in politics and her record in government at the Centre, and the jury is still out on what kind of government she will offer West Bengal if her party defeats the long incumbent Left front. Ms Banerjee's recent record in the Union railway ministry is mixed — neither too worrisome nor too inspiring. The Indian Railways may not be in desperate need of a turnaround, but the hapless state of West Bengal is. Most political pundits expect Ms Banerjee to win the elections to the state assembly because the people of Bengal are fed up with three uninterrupted decades of Left Front rule. It is a negative vote, an anti-incumbency vote at long last, rather than a positive vote that most expect will bring Ms Banerjee to office in Kolkata. Curiously, she has herself chosen not to contest the elections, stating that she needs all the time to campaign for others. This cannot be the real reason. The stakes are high for Ms Banerjee and she does not want to become victim of electoral sabotage by the communists who have perfected the art of booth-capturing and rigging in Bengal. Once sworn in as chief minister Ms Banerjee would have the government under her control and she can expect a fairer poll.

Ms Banerjee is obviously aware of the fact that many in Bengal's middle and business class worry about what kind of government she would offer. Her decision to field Ficci secretary-general Amit Mitra in the elections, with expectations that he would become the state's finance minister, should reassure investors and business persons. Ms Banerjee must say more and do more to show convincingly that she will rebuild Bengal into once again being one of India's foremost industrial states. The TMC's election manifesto is certainly re-assuring on that count. It promises a three-pronged strategy to revive the state's industrial glory with a focus on micro, small and medium enterprises; plans to restart and remodel closed PSUs; and, new large-scale projects in labour-intensive sectors like engineering, steel, tea, jute, textiles and other areas of manufacturing, mining, power and food processing. Ms. Banerjee's slogan, "Agriculture is our inspiration, industry is in our consciousness" echoes the Left's own slogan of 2006 "Agriculture is our foundation, industry is our future".


 To show that she means business, Ms Banerjee has spelt out a 200-day agenda of social and economic development, which is quite impressive. However, for Ms Banerjee to carry conviction she should demonstrate her commitment to a new culture of constructive politics. On issues like bandhs and general strikes, which have been the bane of Bengal's economy, the TMC has been no different from the anarchic communists. Ms Banerjee should have no illusion that the people of Bengal are in fact seeking to 'throw out the old' rather than 'ring in the new'. Hence, they want to see a very different style of functioning. A virtual regime change. Which means Ms Banerjee does not have to spend money buying votes. But she must be prepared to raise money and invest it wisely after the votes are in and her government has to manage the fisc.







Coffee growers in Orissa have demanded that subsidies for the expansion of coffee plantations in areas that have traditionally not grown coffee should be the same as those given for such expansion in traditional areas. In other words, their grouse is that, being non-traditional growers, the subsidies they get from the Coffee Board is a lot less than what the Board gives to traditional growers. In particular, the association of coffee growers in Orissa are demanding that the subsidy for bringing new areas under coffee should cover 50 per cent of the costs of doing so with a cap of Rs 1.75 lakh per hectare. Currently, the subsidy they get is 25 per cent of the cost with a cap of Rs 60,000 per hectare on plantation project cost. They make two points to support their claims: (a) the current subsidy figures are based on calculations made in 1992 and so, need to be revised upwards as costs have gone up since then and (b) the non-traditional area growers receive less than the traditional area growers and that, they claim is unfair.

Let us consider the arguments one by one. In 2011, people are arguing that the subsidies being given for the last 20 years need to be revised upwards. Though they do not say as much, I presume that they are saying that coffee production is not spreading in non-traditional areas because even with the subsidy, this economic activity is not lucrative enough for the producers.


 The obvious question is why is it important to increase coffee production in non-traditional areas? Is coffee a strategic crop that India needs to produce and, hence, one should not look at its own economic profitability? Are there wider consequences for national security or, for the profitability of other activities? Or, may be, is it a public good and considerations of private profitability alone will lead to under-investment in this activity and that is inefficient? The reason why I am speculating along such lines is because, for the life of me, I am unable to get the argument. When I start thinking about it, I am invariably led to the following inescapable inference: if a subsidy that has continued for 20 years leads one to the conclusion that more is needed for a further unidentified length of time, and at a greater scale, then probably it is better to scrap the subsidy altogether. Unless of course, we can find some other non-commercial reason for growing more coffee in non-traditional areas. I am sure that after another 20 years we will be able to come up with such justifications for we would have then found that a number of people working in these plantations kept going because of the subsidies. And then, any reduction or stoppage of the subsidy will mean loss of livelihood of these workers and, hence, we can argue that subsidies should continue in perpetuity. Moreover, by then the number of people whose livelihoods will be at stake would have increased manyfold due to the growth of coffee in non-traditional areas.

It is wonderful that the Coffee Board has identified more areas where coffee can be grown. However, I presume that it is not only the technological feasibility — soil and weather, for instance — but also the commercial feasibility that should be considered. If after continuous subsidisation for 20 years, one clamours for more, there has to be something seriously wrong with the process of such identification. I can just imagine what could be done with the Rs 1.75 lakh per hectare amount by the children of the would-be coffee plantation workers. May be they can get some education and training and end up working for Infosys! Perhaps, I am being silly.

Now let me take the second reason put up by the Orissa coffee growers — that of equity between traditional and non-traditional area growers. One would think that the traditional areas had some specific advantages to growing coffee and, hence, their legacy. Of course, it could be pure luck that they started growing coffee before the growers in non-traditional areas. But now that they know that such opportunities exist for them too, the non-traditional growers should seize the moment and start making profits. Indeed, that is what they are trying to impress upon the government and the Board. Well, because they have understood the real way to make profits — through subsidies! And, hence they demand equity; if the government allows some groups to benefit from government's largesse, then why not everyone in a rule of law, democratic society.

Once again, I wonder. Coffee growers will be transferred money by the government but that money does not belong to the government or the coffee growers. It belongs to the non-coffee growers and, of course, the coffee drinkers. Instead of going to the Board, should not the coffee growers ask those whose money they want to take? For example, should they not spell out exactly why they need the subsidy and how it will help the non-coffee growers to encourage them to give up their money? Is it not the responsibility of the government that gives subsidies and the takers of these subsidies to explain to those whose money is being taken how the subsidy is helping any one (other than the takers)?

Every time someone questions any subsidy, those who receive and bleeding hearts fill the air with cries of "loss of livelihood" and "down with markets". The only problem is that this has been the pattern ever since Independence and 1991 notwithstanding. However, livelihood issues are not any less significant than before and our only effort at addressing that seems to be concentrated on conjuring up newer and newer ways to subsidise.

The author is Research Director at IDF







Of all the state assembly elections round the corner, the one in West Bengal is by far the most engrossing in terms of the evolution of political forces and the underlying social realities that they bring to the fore. For sheer contrast, compare them with the last assembly elections in Karnataka. Those were utterly issueless — legitimised corruption (one village or panchayat after another asking each candidate how much money he could put on the table for the votes) overlaid on unchanging historical caste equations.

In West Bengal, on the other hand, after a historic 33 years of uninterrupted rule, a social democratic movement with strong Stalinist characteristics may well be forced to give up power by a system in which periodic free and fair elections have become the opiate of the masses. A people may be readying to throw out a people's party by adopting an alien system left behind by their former colonial rulers. Quaint customs evolved at the palace of Westminster standing next to a littler river called the Thames are holding sway over a people brought up around the mighty Ganga whose ebullient ways could not be more different from that of the phlegmatic British.


 What is happening is riddled with contradictions. The largest political party currently ruling in Delhi, the seat of political power for millennia in India, is meekly getting down to playing not second but fourth fiddle, if there be such a position in an orchestra, to a party, Trinamool Congress, that is more of a movement whose firm contours are barely visible as they are still ill-defined, like a baby that is nowhere near ready to leave the womb. Just as such a baby takes shape week by week, this movement has taken shape as an evolving coalition, picking up a new partner with every phase. First it was a disillusion urban middle-class that called the ideological bluff of the left theorists. Then the peasantry, the backbone of people's power in Asia, changed sides and joined hands with the bhadrolok form the city. And finally, the intellectuals and the cultural articulators of the people's dream left the corrupt apparatchik and joined the rabble, as rag tag as the hordes that raided the Bastille.

The ancien regime, that is the Congress, which has been the oldest home to the rulers of independent India, has given up without a fight. The Trinamool said take these 65 seats or else, and come the end of the weekend, the venerable old party capitulated. A leader in the party's stronghold, Murshidabad district, is revolting by readying to put up several rebel candidates. Leaders elsewhere who have been winning elections ever since elections were invented have seen their redrawn constituencies (Kabitirtha, Metiabruz) given to the Trinamool and are readying to fight as Independents. All that will be left of the Congress in the state will be a signboard, sacrificed at the altar of retaining power at the centre, accuse some. It had already become one, reply others, pace the results of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections when the Congress fought without the Trinamool and you know what happened.

Forecasters are fiercely divided. Mamata Banerjee will ride the crest of a wave, no less, say some. The left is regrouping, argue others. Wherever the Trinamool has exercised power, as at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation or the South 26 Parganas zilla parishad, people have seen the Trinamool merrily misrule and have begun to ask questions. But disputes over the margin of victory are pointless as most have given away the match to the Trinamool. So, the real issue is what next. How exactly will the Trinamool and its leader, who is an untamed phenomenon, govern? And it is here that doubts begin to cloud the certitude born out of victory foretold.

The strongest argument of the leftists in countering Miss Banerjee is her record at the railways. The national carrier, like the bureaucracy, is supposed to provide the system with a kind of iron frame. It takes a lot to shake it, not to speak of hurtling it downhill. And that is precisely what she has done. The railways' finances are in the doldrums, projects have not taken off, despite her not being hamstrung by ideology, as the leftists are. Public private partnerships were to be the vehicles of rapid investment, but indecision, a one-point concern of not getting into any kind of scam, ala A K Antony, has incapacitated her. Again, opinions are sharply divided. She has handpicked great advisers who will run key ministries, say some. Others retort that the same great advisers are there at the railways and look, which way it is headed.

The more careful analysts of her career so far say that she has all along had a one-point programme to defeat the leftists in West Bengal and to achieve that she has stopped at nothing, including joining hands with the Maoists while keeping the UPA in power at the centre, enabling it to hunt down Maoists all over the country. But she has not yet worked out what to do with power once it is her's. Without personal administrative acumen and wary of anyone else in her party getting too big, she is today a one-woman band of administrative incompetence.

Even this is unsurprising. Historic change always comes in waves, leaving little time for tomorrow's leader to engage a trainer to prepare for life after victory. To have victory in hand and not know what to do with it is part of the overall contradiction.







Parliament has not been able to pass an updated land acquisition law for several years, though this is a burning issue and innocent blood has been shed in many states. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court continues to deliver judgments in which disputes arose several decades ago. Two such decisions in recent weeks deal with the governments' claim of urgency in land takeovers. The governments' subsequent conduct showed the acquisition was neither pressing nor imperative. The court, therefore, underlined that the landowner's right cannot be "flattened and steamrolled" on a mere declaration that the acquisition is urgent.

Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 empowers the government to acquire land for urgent reasons without following the procedure of giving land losers a hearing. This provision is prone to great abuse, as illustrated in the two judgments.


 Incidentally, this is not the only provision that has been consistently manipulated by governments to benefit powerful interests. The omnibus term "public purpose" is a woolly and hard-to-contradict excuse for land acquisition. The rate of compensation is another sore point in the acquisition law, because of which farmers have to climb the shaky ladder of law up to the Supreme Court to demand a just amount. The litigation often turns out to be the only bequest for their children.

Returning to the urgency clause, the judgment in the appeal case State of West Bengal vs Prafulla Churan reveals the high-handedness of the state government. The land in Kolkata was acquired first in 1944 under the Defence of India Act. While the government still held possession, it invoked the West Bengal Requisition and Control Act in 1959 to continue to hold on to the land. This was challenged by the owner and the Calcutta High Court asked the government to return the land to the owner. But the government invoked the "urgency" clause in the Land Acquisition Act on the grounds that the land was required for the state ceramic development board. The litigation continued with the government losing all the way. Now it has lost in the Supreme Court too.

The court stated that all schemes relating to development of industrial and residential areas must be urgent in the context of the country's need for increased production and more residential accommodation. Yet, the very nature of such development schemes does not appear to demand emergent action to eliminate summary enquiries that are imperative. The development of an area or a city takes many years so there is no reason that summary enquiry as contemplated under Section 5-A may not be held and objections of landowners may not be considered.

In the second judgment dealing with the "urgency" claim, Dev Sharan vs State of UP, the government wanted to build a new jail in Shahjahanpur because of congestion — 1,869 people are lodged in a 140-year-old, dilapidated building at present. But the noble intention would not justify the deprivation of the property rights of the agriculturists. The government moved slowly and took nearly a year to complete the acquisition process. There was sufficient time to give the landowners a hearing. Unfortunately, the writ petitions of the farmers were dismissed by the Allahabad High Court; it approved of the emergency requirement of the government.

On appeal, the Supreme Court noted the recent negative trend in land acquisition and pointed out how it affected the property rights of the citizens. The law is of colonial, pre-constitutional vintage, said the judges, and it is "drastic and expropriatory in nature as it confers on the state a power which affects person's property right. Even though right to property is no longer fundamental and was never a natural right, and is acquired on a concession by the state, it has to be accepted that without right to some property, other rights become illusory. This court is considering these questions especially in the context of some recent trends in land acquisition."

What follows after a discussion on the rampant misuse of the amorphous phrase, "public purpose", should awaken state governments eager to take over land and give it to industries. The judgment reads: "The courts must examine these questions very carefully when little Indians lose their small property in the name of mindless acquisition at the instance of the state. If public purpose can be satisfied by not rendering common man homeless and by exploring other avenues of acquisition, the courts, before sanctioning an acquisition, must in exercise of their power of judicial review, focus their attention on the concept of social and economic justice." Even during the current election fever, no political party has seriously taken up this raging issue.




The suggestion works only if the state goes after the bribe-takers, but bribe-givers are also abettors and contribute to the uneven distribution of resources

Laveesh Bhandari
Director, Indicus Analytics


The problem has to be addressed by changing the rewards and penalties of the bribe taker and giver. The Chief Economic Advisor is right in identifying this as the problem

The first time I was in a bribing situation was when the cops caught me running past an amber signal on Outer Ring Road. They quickly gathered. I was getting late for a flight and decided to take the "delay approach". They would not give me a ticket, nor would they take my licence but insisted on taking me to the nearby police station. The choice between the Rs 5,000 air ticket and the Rs 100 payment (this was about 15 years ago) was quite apparent.

The second time was when dropping a lady home at night. The cops at a check post in Delhi at night "accompanied" us to the nearby police station despite having no cause. The gentleman in me would have yielded to the "harassment approach" but for this magnificent woman who preferred to risk trouble at home and work.

The third time was when I required a landline. Months had passed and there was no phone. Using the "familiarity approach" the nephew of the officer concerned contacted me. Between perennially ill senior citizens, a new wife, a schizophrenic uncle and a business that was just starting off I needed to be contactable 24x7; there was no choice.

The fourth time was when a mistake was made with some paperwork in the accounts office. The repeated visits of the inspector stopped work in the department for many days. I was advised to work with a consultant who specialised in handling the related government department. The consultant used the "agent approach", took some cash and that was it. To this day I don't know whether he bribed the inspector or just cleaned up the paperwork. But the harassment stopped.

Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) Kaushik Basu has an interesting thought: Protect the bribe-giver. Will it help? The answer is yes, but only partially so. Consider the four broad approaches to taking bribes — each reflected above.

First, the taker delays things, using some clause in some law until the other party offers to pay. Here the bribe- taker is not the first one to ask, but he creates a situation in which the giver "convinces" the bribe-taker to take something. I suspect protecting the giver would help a bit in such situations, but only a bit, since delay (given the way the Indian state functions) is difficult to characterise as harassment.

The second is the "harassment approach". Here the bribe-taker deliberately harasses. Potentially, this is where protecting the giver could help the most. But only in cases where the interaction is one time and not repeated.

The next is the "familiarity approach". Here the bribe taker facilitates things if the giver benefits someone known to him. The benefits can be jobs, land, equity stake or, for that matter, cash. Such bribes are difficult if not impossible to prove. Typically, only those agents of the state get caught red-handed who are novices at this game — and there are few novices in this day and age.

The last is the "agent approach". Who is the bribe-giver here? The agent? He has no incentive to report anything to the authorities. Such a law may actually make agents more pervasive.

Bribes or side-payments are a very important part of the day-to-day lives of all Indians. Most indulge in it in some manner. And those who do not take this route can survive only if they let it happen around them. It is, therefore, easy but pointless to address this problem on the moralistic dimension. The problem has to be addressed by changing the expected rewards and punishments of the taker and giver. The CEA is right in identifying this as the problem. He believes that by changing the incentive structure of the giver, one can also increase the bribe-taker's expectation of getting caught and punished.

Protecting the giver would help and should be done, but only if the state also goes after the taker. The CEA's suggestion is in the right direction, but only impacts harassment bribes that are based on a one-time interaction. At some point we will need to go after the bribe-takers at the top of state organisations. The signals against corruption, the likelihood of being punished and the expectations are only addressed when the Indian state refuses to tolerate bribe takers at the highest level.

Kiran Bedi
Activist and Former Director General, BPRD*

No crime of corruption takes place without the nexus of money, position and power, so the bribe giver has to be penalised for distorting the system

Cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle once said, "Everywhere you turn there is the aroma of corruption in the air. I wonder if that is the new graduation degree you need."

To substantiate this here is the analysis of a C Fore survey conducted last year across 10 cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Patna, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Bhopal and Hyderabad.

The revelations of the survey of bribe-giving are mind-boggling: (a) one out of two admitted to having paid a bribe to get their child's birth certificate; (b) one out of three paid a bribe for school admissions; (c) two out of three bribed the traffic police for getting out of traffic violations; (d) two out of three procured their driving licence by bribing their way; (e) one out of eight got a government job or posting by bribing the secretary or an official; (f) One out of five bribed a municipal authority to allow an illegal extension of his home; (g) one out of four bribed to allow an extension of their work places; (f) two out of three bribed a tax official to evade sales tax; (h) one out of four paid bribes to continue flouting pollution norms.

Bribes that big corporations pay, according to industry sources, are: (a) land use change: 5 per cent of land revenue value to the collector; (b) pollution clearance (one time): Rs 1 crore if it's a polluting industry; (c) excise officials: 10 per cent of evasion; (d) electricity officials: 30 per cent of the theft; (e) tax officials: 10 per cent of I-T refund; (f) national highways: Rs 50 lakh per km; (g) police: Rs 25,000 per month; (h) factory inspectors: Rs 5,000 per month; (g) boiler inspectors: Rs 5,000 per month; and (h) railway wagon: 5 per cent of the value of the goods.

This level of corruption in bribe-giving is worsening by the day. The bribe-receiver grows richer while the bribe-giver either "survives" or "thrives," depending on the situation.

Consequently, this form of corruption has serious ramifications because all violations have a price that we pay individually or collectively, directly or indirectly, as a society.

The bribe-giver contributes to uneven distribution of resources, fouls the merit system, pollutes the environment, increases human hazards, and spreads discontent and mistrust, which weakens the foundation of any country by producing corruption-tolerant generations. Which, as the survey reveals, is what has happened in India today.

The bribe-giver is either under duress to give for certain life-threatening or business compulsions or is greedy to acquire more wealth and influence. On both counts he is an abettor and culpable under the Indian legal system. While on the first count it is his claimed defence, and requires him to produce evidence of those circumstances, on the other count he is a clear abettor, perpetrator, conspirator and deserves to be indicted.

The UK has recently passed the Bribery Act 2010, which defines and clarifies offences of general bribery. It says, "If a person offers, promises or gives a financial or other advantage to another person and that person intends the advantage to induce a person to perform improperly a relevant function or activity or to reward a person for the improper performance of such a function or activity shall be punishable, on summary conviction with 12 months and on indictment up to 10 years. The functions & activities which fall within this scope are … any function of a public nature; any activity connected with a business performed in the course of a person's employment performed by or on behalf of a body of persons (whether corporate or unincorporated) even outside the United Kingdom…."

The Janlokpal Bill drafted by the India Against Corruption Movement, and offered to the Government of India, has provided for a similar clause: "…Any person who obtains from the government by violating any laws or rules that person along with public servants who directly or indirectly helped that person to obtain those benefits shall be deemed to have indulged in corruption…."

No crime of corruption takes place without the nexus of money, position and power. So the bribe-giver has to be penalised for distorting the system — more so when it is for greed and national plunder.

*Bureau of Police Research and Developmen








It is not surprising that bidder response in the ninth licensing round for hydrocarbon acreage has been lacklustre. Reportedly, 74 bids — mostly from stateowned ONGC and several small companies — have been received for 33 of the 34 blocks on offer for exploration and production (E&P). Bidding for E&P blocks in Indian sedimentary basins also involves much regulatory risk, policy rigidities and other attendant delays. Notice that the $9.6 billion Cairn-Vedanta deal has been awaiting governmental nod for several months now. Meanwhile, the fiscal regime for oil E&P has also changed, apparently to be in line with international norms. Be that as it may, the seeming lack of transparency and regulatory predictability appear to have watered down investor interest, for years. Global oil majors have generally preferred to stay away from bidding, both initially in the 1990s, and for a decade now under the new exploration licensing policy for oil & gas or Nelp. Of the more promising eight deepwater blocks on offer in Nelp IX, five have gone to ONGC, two to Reliance and one to Britain's BG, which has tied-up with mining major BHP for the bid.

The recent gas finds in the Krishna-Godavari basin in the eastern offshore and the Cairn oil find in Rajasthan point at attractive geological prospects here. The way ahead is to opt for clear-cut rules and much more openness generally, when it comes to oversight in the upstream oil & gas sector. Abroad, the mature oil & gas licensing regimes have elaborate codes of practice, guidance notes and up-to-date legislation for stepped-up investor comfort in the high-risk and hugely capital-intensive E&P sector. Also, the government, on its part, needs to be far more proactive in garnering the muchneeded investments. Note that almost half our sedimentary basins remain only partially explored. The sevenyear tax holiday hitherto available on profits on oil production has now been replaced with an investment-linked tax incentive framework. But in tandem, what is essential is to overhaul sectoral oversight, shun opacity and the overt reliance on the case-by-case approach to upstream oil & gas regulation.








To build infrastructure fast, India needs to involve private players who work efficiently; these players, in turn, need the government to get involved to cut many risks involved in such projects — that was the idea behind public private partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure. Though there are over 650 of these at work today — mostly building roads, but also power plants, ports and developing urban infrastructure — there are problems, delays and inefficiencies with PPPs. The government wants an overall policy to get rid of confusion and clutter, a good idea provided the policy addresses some vital things. First, governments, mostly at the state level, allow private players who win in competitive auctions to wangle sweetheart agreements with the state thereafter. This has to stop. There must be no post-bid revisions of the contract. Second, governments must take away projects, or impose strict penalties on private players if they fail to meet project milestones. Third, almost every state has its own PPP department, each functioning with its own set of rules. These rules have to be harmonised among states, to make sure that there is no race to the bottom. If states start competing among themselves to give sops to attract projects, the quality of governance and state revenues will slide dramatically.

Finally, most PPP projects begin with the assumption that governments will acquire land for the private party to work on. Over the last few years, after Bengal's botched attempts to acquire land forcibly at Singur and Nandigram, land acquisition has become a political minefield. A new law to humanise India's colonial-era land acquisition rules is yet to come in force: what's being debated is how much land the government should acquire for a PPP project. It would be better to debate the terms under which land is being acquired. Land is an asset because it yields an income — through farming, rentals or some other use. If the original owners of land have to make way for new developments, they need to be guaranteed an income, which could be in the form of annuities, as Haryana's new land law says.







THE cultural crosscurrents of a continuously shrinking world are indeed fascinating. What one country does find echoes in the most unlikely places in another. Few would be surprised that Gujjars, at their latest panchayat sitting, have declared that girls would be forbidden from wearing jeans or using cellphones as they incited immorality. The difficulties of enforcing such a diktat — and the obvious paucity of empirical evidence to show the connection between attire, accessories and morality — are implicit. For instance, not much has been heard about what has happened in the two years since a similar order prohibiting girl students in Kanpur from wearing 'western clothes' was passed by the university, though the move was allegedly hailed even by local officialdom. Not that non-compliance stops conservatives from passing such orders.

However, before judging these to be merely the perorations of non-progressive communities, consider that last year, the equally obscure Southampton City Council told its female staff that skirts should be of "reasonable" length and male workers must be dressed "appropriately". And last week, Russian MPs and their aides were given a new ethics code that, among other things, forbade miniskirts and "indiscreet behaviour." Whether violations of the second directive may be exposed by WikiLeaks at some later date, adhering to the first means showing a "business style marked by formality, restraint, tradition, and neatness". Now that does not sound all that different from what the worthies at Kanpur envisaged, and therefore the point is moot whether the Gujjars influenced the Russians or the other way round. Sadly, it seems that authorities everywhere do believe that people should be judged by appearances and not actions.








A uniform law applicable to charities across the country is indeed a laudable objective. However, it is likely to run into rough weather and may never see the light of day. Regulation of charity, or the lack of it, varies from state to state. Even large and bona fide charities often prefer to operate from a state where there is no law regulating charity (West Bengal and Tamil Nadu) due to the fear of being embroiled in mindless overregulation as also vexatious and frivolous litigation. Maharashtra and Gujarat have the strongest tradition of law relating to charities in the form of the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950. However, levels of efficiency and integrity are not very high in case of charity regulators, to say the least. In addition, most large trusts are constantly involved in litigation either before the Charity Commissioner or the courts, directly affecting their smooth functioning. A national law will make for better regulation on the lines of the company law administration. However, itwill be severely opposed by minorities, including Muslims and Indian Christians, to the extent that it seeks to replace the existing laws which apply to a particular minority. In addition, legislations like the proposed uniform law on charities are likely to gather dust in the form of a draft bill as they are unlikely to get legislative priority. While undoubtedly bona fide charities are on the increase in India as philanthropy management becomes more serious, it is equally true that several unscrupulous elements float charity trusts only to evade taxes by abusing the generous exemptions under the income tax law given to charities. A national law will make it difficult for such elements to operate with impunity. Over a period of time, a national charity directorate is highly desirable and required. Even in the developed countries, regulation of charity is a slow process. Only late last year, New York becomes the 47th state in the US to adopt a new uniform law for managing, investing and spending of charitable endowments. Let's hope that the new law will be simple and rational and encourage philanthropy management in India, rather than be a deterrent to it.




Charitable and religious institutions in India are governed by a plethora of laws. To be recognised as an organisation established for religious or a charitable purpose, the entity has to first register itself at a state level under either the Trusts Act, Societies Registration Act or under section 25 the Companies Act. Thereafter, to seek tax exemption, it has to register under section 12Aa of the Central Income Tax Act. If it receives funds from foreign sources, the organisation has to register with the Home Ministry under FCRA.

It is still not clear whether the new model law will provide a single-window registration and eliminate the need for organisations to register and then report to various departments such as the charity commissioner, income tax and the home ministry.

There is a lot of dichotomy between state and central legislations. For instance, section 11(5) of the Income tax Act allows charitable or religious trusts to invest their funds in a mutual fund. However, at the state level, the charity commissioner under Bombay Public Trusts Act 1950 allows investments only in certain MFs. A Section 25-company registered with the Registrar of Companies may easily borrow funds or alienate property, but a trust or society registered in Maharashtra or Gujarat cannot do so without prior permission of the charity commissioner.

Indeed, a uniform law could eliminate this dichotomy and streamline processing and reporting systems. Often, the government tries not to annoy religious bodies. When it introduced section 115 BBC a few years ago to tax anonymous donations, it targeted only 'charitable' and not 'religious' institutions. Also, 'charitable' trusts established after 1961 for specific religious communities or denominations do not enjoy tax benefits. But, a trust wholly for 'religious purpose' could!

In my opinion, whether the institution is 'religious' or 'charitable', legislation should be such that it 'regulates' rather than 'controls' and regulation should be such that it promotes maximum transparency and accountability. Merely because an institution is religious does not give it a right to be exempt from regulation. In this regard, legislation should be equitable for both religious and charitable institutions.








One just hopes the Indo-Pak Mohali match will live up to the grand build-up. Let there be dozens of sixes and rib-threatening bowling. It doesn't matter who wins or loses, what matters is that the players should fight it out till the very end, drenched in sweat and blood.

The last thing the expectant gallery wants is a star batsman throwing up his bat on being hit by a bouncer a la Arun Jaitley after being whacked by a WikiLeak.

The WikiLeaks on Delhi's US embassy's communications with Washington offers almost as much spice as the Niira Radia tapes did, although one gets the distinct impression that the 'political wings' of many Delhibased missions are seriously into recycling the gossip of the local press.

Yet, the WikiLeaks spell in Delhi has had many interesting fallouts. Though Indian politicians, true to their original Third World moorings, are traditionally moulded to display a politicallycorrect deep distrust for anything American — leaving the truly pro-American politicians hiding their affiliations inside their dens — the WikiLeaks helped them shed all those inhibitions. For once, we saw a Right-to-Left grand opposition chorus declaring all the American embassy's cabled whispers to be the gospel truth! Even the Americans might have been quite bewildered by the sight of the Indian communists and 'Swadesi rightists' jointly swearing by the American cables to fight the presumably 'pro-American' Manmohan Singh regime.

And see who is the star launched by the cables. Nachiketa Kapoor, lieutenant to a third-rung Congress leader, who is projected as the mover-and-shaker of the so-called cash-for-vote operation. The joke has it that Delhi's freeloaders have not stopped calling up Kapoor to find out when he would throw a bash to celebrate his grand arrival on the national stage through global wires. And for all that projected infallibility of the American cable tale, comes a tehelka of an Indian counter-exposé that claims usually indoor players Arun Jaitley and Sudheendra Kulkarni ventured out to mastermind, in the very colourful company of middleman Suhail Hindustani, a sting operation by putting out a discount sale offer of some BJP MPs before the nuclear deal trust vote in 2008. So, which one is your take; the American tale or the desi counter theme? The WikiLeaks politics also showed the different reflexes of the Congress and the BJP. Past masters/beneficiaries in the politics of ambiguity, the Congress brass chose to play by chanting "how can one comment on or glorify the unconfirmed and unverifiable embassy cables"? This helped the GOP stonewall every spicy cable stories: how the trust vote was 'managed', P Chidambaram's so-called politicallyincorrect but clinically-objective analysis on how North spoils India's growth story, etc.

This tact even helped Manmohan Singh to charm a very visibly blushing Sushma Swaraj with an unexpected couplet in Lok Sabha!

But the BJP will have none of this cautiously business. No ifs and buts about the veracity of the embassy cables.

This boldness was bound to boomerang. After having rocked Parliament and bulldozed the government over 'the cable contents', how can one suddenly turn around and tell the people to believe all the cable leaks about the Congress and the UPA and reject as black lies all the leaks about BJP leaders!

As a master spinmeister, Jaitley is used to converting even bad news into good. The flip side is that his limited experience of confronting unvarnished bad news constraints him in slugging it out like a battle-hardened player who treats with equal disdain both a slow full-toss and a high-speed bouncer.

Look at how L K Advani stood by his Jinnah comment as well his Wikileak whispers. Apart from the nervous denial, Jaitley has another option, a true pathbreaking opportunity: bravely own up all the apostasy the cable has attributed to him: from 'opportunistic Hindu nationalism' to 'Narendra Modi is a polarising personality'.
Already, there is 'a wave of sympathy' for Jaitley for having had to play chief poll strategist to a prime ministerial candidate in 2009 despite his conviction in 2005 that the said candidate should leave the scene by 2008 at least! This could well be the beginning of a flood that leads on to political fortune: there is space for a moderate right in Indian politics that, given the right circumstance, could bring under its umbrella disaffected defectors from both the Congress and the Left, apart from the BJP itself.

Given the fate of Balraj Madhok, Govindacharya and even post-Jinnah Advani at the hands of RSS ideologues venting their fury on deviants from their ideology, it does seem to make sense to remember that fortune favours the bold.







It was a huge come-down for post-docs researching into biological roots of longevity. Here they were chugging along nicely in a top-flight lab, expecting to uncover Nobelworthy discoveries. Then came the mice. As the poet Robert Burns sang in his poem, the humble creatures upset the best-laid schemes of men, even as they rewrote their own mousey lives on the treadmill. The mice had been genetically altered to age faster and literally fall apart with decrepitude in just eight months. But these mice had glossy pelts, strong muscles and no signs of age at all as the months went by. The secret of their youth turns out to be plain old exercise: the über athletes had been subjected to reasonably challenging exercise three days a week in the lab: 45 minutes per session at the equivalent human pace of running an 8.5-minute mile. The result was absolutely astounding. The control mice were nearly crippled by old age by eight months, about 60 or so in human years. Not one animal from the sedentary group lived past one year. In contrast, the robust ratracers showed little to no signs of deterioration in brains, follicles, or gonads. They acted liked teenagers, balancing on little rods, and by the end of the year none of them had died of natural causes. Though they all had the mutation blocking cell repair, the athletic mice had generated enough normalcy to overcome their genetic destiny. The moral of their saga was simple: exercise alone alters the course of aging. Finally, it was the size of the mice gonads that goaded the post-docs to run for their lives.






Our topic today is: What are results? And that sounds like a very simple topic, but I've been working on it now for quite some time, and it's becoming worse and worse and more complicated...And so if you want to have an understanding of what management is and what management does, you have to start with results on the outside. In many cases, it's not easy to define results. From the point of view of the shareholder, the only thing of interest is financial results.... From the point of view of the enterprise, the question is: How do we get capital the most cheaply and how do we use it the most effectively? But you'd be surprised, whenever you raise this question how management differs. The question that must constantly be asked is: "If we are doing something because we see the short-term opportunity, will it make it more difficult for us to obtain our long-term results? Or will it help? And vice versa." But go back to the 1950s, when General Electric brought in Ralph Cordiner as CEO. He reorganised GE, and tried to think through how to measure its results. And Cordiner basically operated on the assumption that shareholders didn't matter. This was the prevailing belief — and reality — up until very recently, up until the rise of the pension funds over the last 10 years or so. Now, having these big institutional investors owning such a very large share of big American companies is not a good thing because the pressure is always short term.










Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon, a tall political leader is said to have rationalised, which seemed to suggest that give-and-take of the domestic variety was generally par for the course and nothing really to be worked up about. That was then, in the sclerotic seventies characterised by intransigent non-reform in policymaking and a panoply of rigidities. Fast-forward to the here and now and the latest WikiLeaks disclosures seem to even point at monetary inducements being readily offered to buy votes in Parliament during the crucial non-confidence vote against the government over the Indo-US nuclear deal.

The allegations have been denied outright; the charges are unproven and not provable either, goes the official explanation, as the dispatches of representatives of sovereign states in foreign lands enjoy diplomatic immunity. But such a position is based on mere technicalities. It cannot be gainsaid that the scope for corruption is widespread here and the degeneration appears all pervasive in public life. And there seems perverse incentive to cut corners and resort to corrupt practices, including reportedly forgery of commercial pilot licences. But to express disgust about malpractices and corruption within and beyond legislative halls would hardly herald change and reform.

The way ahead to tackle corruption is to thoroughly reform the root causes for opacity and give-and-take, such as continuing non-reform in the funding of elections by political parties and routine lack of transparency in real estate and housing transactions. We need to plug the institutional lacunae and drawbacks that seem to prevent good governance, including in electoral funding and routine incompliance in the housing market. Now, when it comes to reform of political funding, the tallest in the land say it requires political consensus (which presumably is absent at present). But we surely do need proactive policy to plan and follow through with reform of the housing sector, to bring about the much-needed transparency in buy-and-sell initiatives across the board. Now, the growing economic power of cities is a worldwide phenomenon. But the point is that the urban housing market here is wholly distorted with glaring rigidities, gross anomalies and sheer anachronisms. The mavens estimates that India is likely to have about 45% of its population living in urban areas within the next two decades —up from just about 30% now —and the projections suggest major shortfalls in access to potable water, affordable housing and public transportation in our cities sans sound policy design in the medium term and beyond. What's required is substantial increase in housing stock and infrastructural services, so as to discourage rent-seeking.

It is notable that the recent High-Powered Expert Committee has been estimating the investment requirement for urban infrastructure services in the next couple of decades. The committee pegs the investment requirement for urban infrastructure services for the next 20 years at . 39.2 lakh crore at 2009-10 prices, with the bulk of it — 44% — proposed to be earmarked for urban roads. The expert take is that there is a huge investment backlog in the segment pan-India. Next, infrastructural services like water supply, sewerage and storm water drainage would require another 20% of the funds, or . 8 lakh crore. A smaller corpus, . 4 lakh crore, is allocated for urban renewal including redevelopment of slums. The figure appears to be a gross underestimate, given that over half the population in Mumbai, for instance, already resides in slum-category housing. Note that funds requirement for sectors like power distribution have been excluded, as they are beyond the very scope of the report. The expert panel vouches for a switch to a mayoral system in our cities to rev up accountability, and incentivise proactive policy to shore up muchneeded investments. The present system of state government bureaucrats directly in charge of urban renewal seems sub-optimal, the report avers. The objective of policy ought to be to step up funds flow with innovative mechanisms and actualise investment in trunk infrastructure to boost the housing stock and, so, considerably reduce the massive gap in supply.

In parallel, what is essential is to liberalise and increase the floor area ratio (FAR) in our cities, and not just in the city centres, to increase supply of affordable housing. A McKinsey report last year estimated that with reform of FAR norms and attendant policy and governance reform such as a national mortgage guarantee fund, it should be possible to increase the supply of affordable housing 10-fold, or 20 lakh dwelling units ayear. In tandem, the latter report also suggests that 30% of all affordable housing be available to rent. The bottom line is the need to improve transparency in real estate investment and put paid to the high-cost regime in housing, high stamp duties and the like, to purposefully improve living conditions, networks and foster innovation as well.





                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




A rise in the number of tigers in India is good news, although questions have come to be raised about the accuracy of the reporting in the 2010 tiger census, whose results were made known on Monday. The king of the jungle is the top predator in the food chain and helps maintain a key balance between prey herbivores and the vegetation upon which these feed. Forests that have tigers are said to be responsible for the birth of 600 rivers and perennial streams. Saving one tiger is thought to protect 100 sq km of forest (whose vegetation might have been consumed by the tigers' prey), and also save the other species living in it. Thus the survival of the tiger is deemed crucial to maintaining the ecological balance, as well as air, water, pollination and temperature regulation. The sensitive grasp of this by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi led to India's tiger protection project over three decades ago. In recent years, however, the news has not been good. Wildlife poachers have spread their tentacles across the country's tiger landscape. In the light of this, the reported 12 per cent increase in the tiger population — taking the count from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2010 — is refreshing. But expert opinion is somewhat sceptical. Even if the figures are taken at face value, the rise is said to be over a small base, and magnifies the significance of the phenomenon. Doubts have also been raised whether enumerators actually managed to reach the jungle territories where Maoists have made it difficult for officials to operate. The question thus remains: has the earlier shrinkage of the tiger population been actually reversed? It is worrying that even the data at hand suggests that tiger populations have declined in areas that had the highest concentration of the predator — such as Kaziranga in the northeast (which has 100 tigers, the highest in a single reserve) and the Kanha-Pench-Bandhavgarh belt in central India. At a media interaction on Monday, the minister of state for environment and forests, Mr Jairam Ramesh, acknowledged that poaching and other dangers had been relevant factors in recent years. But he noted that growth in the tiger population was still possible due to "unreported tiger births". This does appear a bit dodgy. If the births were "unreported", then how can we know? That's a straightforward question. There are other questions as well, relating to the methodology of reporting. The census collected field data — incorporating information on tiger signs, prey availability, habitat conditions and human disturbances — in the first phase. Subsequently, however, the camera trapping method — 800 such traps were laid — was deployed in select sample areas covering 10,500 sq km, or around five per cent of the total. It is on the basis of extrapolating these results that the final figure of the tiger population — 1,706 — was reached. Some experts though, are not persuaded about the reliability of the process. The government would do well to give satisfactory answers to some questions which were raised. Another source of concern is the shrinking of the land area — from nine million hectares to 7.5 million hectares — in which the tigers survive.







The Indian victory over Australia and a semi-final encounter with Pakistan has suddenly made sleepy Mohali the centre of attention. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invite to his counterpart added to the frenzy. That it surprised the Pakistanis is obvious as the invitation reached their Prime Minister, Mr Yousaf Raza Gilani, in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, a city where lies interred the marauder Timur. The inauspicious symbolism aside, the move stoked debate on its advisability. Perhaps the Prime Minister played the ball off his own bat, leaving the Cabinet Committee on Security adrift and assuming that the other three would concur as they face elections in their respective states — Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. The Muslim vote is crucial in at least two. Frequent summitry is a post-Second World War phenomena; impromptu summitry an Indian innovation. The perils of unprepared contact at the highest level are obvious. Dean Acheson, US President Harry S. Truman's secretary of state, cautioned that "when a chief of state or head of government makes a fumble, the goal is open behind him". America's John F. Kennedy hit off badly with Russia's Nikita Khrushchev in Geneva, as did an encounter between President Charles de Gaulle of France and British Prime Minister Anthony Eden. In cricketing terms, when Dr Singh was caught outside his crease at Sharm el-Sheikh, allowing in the joint statement references to Balochistan and dialogue de-linkage from Pakistani action on terror, his current national security adviser, Shiv Shankar Menon, the then foreign secretary, threw his own wicket with a drafting mea culpa. The government's supporters can find solace in statesman Lloyd George's view that "if you want to settle a thing, go see your opponent and talk it over with him". Arguably personal chemistry can push talks stalled at the diplomatic/official level by top down injunctions, with the caveat that the two leaders have popular support and the ability to shape public opinion. Prime Ministers Gilani and Singh are loyalists keeping the seat warm for heirs under training or at university. Pakistani Prime Ministers also play the Shimla gambit, effectively used by Z.A. Bhutto against Indira Gandhi in 1972, that it is India that must make concessions as otherwise the Pakistani Army, now additionally the militant right, will devour them. Appeasement is sought as the framework for bilateral engagement rather than a give and take. Which is fine, as Douglas Hurd explains, "if it is applied to trustworthy people with moderate intentions". Austen Chamberlain, whose less intellectually endowed brother Neville as Prime Minister appeased Hitler, contrariwise professed that pride, self-interest and national prestige were more powerful than reason in governing human affairs. J.N. Dixit, the United Progressive Alliance's first and finest NSA, in his magnum opus India-Pakistan in War & Peace, recounts Rajiv Gandhi's July 1989 bilateral visit to Pakistan, a first by an Indian Prime Minister in 30 years, which aroused hope that the scions of two star-crossed dynasties could grasp peace. When Benazir sought unreasonable and one-sided Indian concessions on Kashmir, Rajiv spurned her. Though she lingered beyond Rajiv's electoral loss in 1989 the bilateral relations regressed, the Pakistani Army turning the mujahideen, victorious after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, towards the Kashmir Valley. Another superpower is now planning its exit from Afghanistan. The second coming of the mujahids is anticipated, though they now seek Pakistan's soul. The supine Pakistani ruling elite, fearful of mourning their assassinated Punjab governor and Federal minorities minister, and, if true, an Army Chief cowering before sympathisers of the assassins in his Army, hardly qualify as interlocutors for a serious engagement. The Prime Minister's cricket diplomacy runs two risks. One, that Pakistan often misreads such signals as Indian weakness. President Zia-ul-Haq's visit in February 1987, for the Jaipur cricket match, may have tempered the war hysteria over the 1986 Brasstacks military exercise, but A.Q. Khan's simultaneous interview that Pakistan possessed nuclear devices implied that Indian conventional military advantage stood negated. Although Zia died in 1988, aid and abatement to terror was expanded from Punjab to Kashmir. The second is the cricketing dimension as this match is a clincher. Will public ire over the loss in either country spill over to those causing an unnecessary distraction to players and spectators. Much as we may decry cricket jingoism, it is a reality. Cricket can enhance unfolding thaws or exacerbate lurking tension, which has not dissipated due to Pakistan's reluctance to act against the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, the very city where the final will be played. The home secretaries are scurrying to provide a timely face-saver. Constantine I, Emperor of Rome in the 4th century AD, when banning gladiatorial combat, said, "In times in which peace and peace relating to domestic affairs prevails bloody demonstrations displease us". Dr Singh may have unwittingly flared the very raw passions that he has been attempting to douse with his incessant search for peace. Only by night-fall on March 30 shall it be known that while one winner will leave the pitch, whether two can leave the stadium. * K.C. Singh is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry







Three West Asian countries have been conspicuous for their stability in the storm. They are Turkey, Lebanon and Israel. An odd mix, you might say, but they have in common that they are places where people vote. Democracy is a messy all-or-nothing business. That's why I love it. You can no more be a little bit democratic than a little bit pregnant. Yes, citizens go to the polls in Turkey, Lebanon and Israel and no dictator gets 99.3 per cent of the vote. They are lands of opportunity where money is being made and where facile generalisations, for all their popularity, miss the point. Turkey has not turned Islamist, Lebanon is not in the hands of Hezbollah and Israel is still an open society. All three countries, of course, are also wracked by division and imperfection; but then two great merits of democracy are that it finesses division and does not aspire to perfection. Speaking of Hezbollah, remember all that alarm a couple of months back when a Hezbollah-backed businessman, Najib Mikati, emerged as Prime Minister? After that, Lebanon introduced the Libyan no-fly-zone resolution at the United Nations — a rare, if little noted, example of the United States and a Hezbollah-supported government in sync. Talk to Hezbollah: That's obvious. It's no terrorising monolith. Mikati is struggling with the give-and-take of Lebanese politics. Life goes on in the freewheeling way that has long drawn repressed, frustrated Arabs to Beirut. Hezbollah is a political party with a militia. That's a big problem. Israel's ultra-Orthodox Shas party has an outsized influence over Israel because of coalition politics. That's a problem. The Muslim Brotherhood will loom large in a free Egypt because it has an organisational head start. That may be a problem. Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party is a brilliant political machine with a ruthless bent. That's a problem, too. These are problems of different sizes. But give me all these problems so long as they present themselves within open (or opening) systems. They are far preferable to the cowed conformity common to the terrorised societies of the now doomed Arab Jurassic Park, where despots do their worst. It's over: Enough of the nameless graves that whisper of horror, enough of the 20th-century police states in the 21st-century. Yes, it's over for Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and for Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. It's over for Libya's Col. Muammar Gaddafi, yes it is. How far it's over for the other Arab despots and autocrats, whether of the oxymoronic "republics" or the royals, will depend on how far they can get out in front of their citizens' demand to be heard. You see, you can't do Hama any more. You can't do the Iraqi marshes. Perhaps you can kill dozens, but not tens of thousands. These despots relied on the limitlessness of their terror. It had to be as absolute as their contempt for the law. But now people know. They communicate through the clampdowns. They are Facebook-nimble. The despots gaze into their gilded mirrors and, to their horror, see not themselves but the people who will be silenced no longer. They wonder then if their own myriad agents can be trusted. They are caught in their own web. They flail; they have gone too far to turn back but cannot go forward. Bashar al-Assad, the embattled Syrian President, was about to say something on March 27, before deciding not to. He was trained in west London as an eye doctor. He'd better stop thinking Hama — where his father murdered at least 10,000 — and start thinking Hammersmith. Questions swirl. Who are the Libyan rebels? Who are the angry of Latakia? The Arab transitions will be long and bumpy — like those that brought representative government to Latin America and Central Europe and wide swathes of Asia — but now that fear has been overcome, they are irreversible. Here's who the protesters are: people like Asmaa Mahfouz, 26, the Egyptian woman who on January 18 made a video urging citizens to go to Tahrir Square on January 25 — the demonstration that would start the revolution. She said then: "We'll go down and demand our rights, our fundamental human rights. I won't even talk about any political rights. We just want our human rights and nothing else". And she said people "don't have to come to Tahrir Square, just go down anywhere and say it, that we are free human beings". And: "This is enough!" People are being born throughout West Asia. They are discovering their capacity to change things, their inner "Basta!" That's how the Arab spring began on December 17 in the little town of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia — with a fruit peddler's "enough" to humiliation. In my end is my beginning. Three months later the genie is not only out of the bottle, it's shattered the bottle. I said of Libya in an earlier column: Be ruthless or stay out. So now the West is in, be ruthless. Arm the resurgent rebels. Incapacitate Col. Gaddafi. Do everything short of putting troops on the ground. Col. Gaddafi, as US President Barack Obama has said, "must leave". So that Libya can be an Arab country that is imperfect but open.







Although the interlocutors appointed by the Centre have so far denied it, the media has been persistently reporting that pre-1953 status is being recommended for Kashmir. The crux issue in Kashmir has been obfuscated by virulent propaganda and misrepresentation of facts. The common thinking is that Kashmir has a Muslim majority and the people there want to break away from India and join Pakistan or become independent. This is contrary to ground realities. In 2002, a Mori poll conducted by a British NGO under the patronage of Lord Avebury, a known protagonist of Pakistan, found that 61 per cent of the population of the Valley wants to remain in India, six per cent wants to join Pakistan and 33 per cent is undecided. Even if we do not give credence to this survey, we cannot ignore the fact that the Valley Muslims, referred to as Kashmiri Muslims, are a minority in Jammu and Kashmir. They constitute about 45 per cent of the population. Other Muslims, like Gujjars, Bakherwals and Kargil Shias, are 20 per cent. Non-Muslims, that is Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, are 35 per cent. The silent majority among the Valley Muslims is of Sufis who are being gradually marginalised. The Sunnis constitute the bulk of the intelligentsia and hold the levers of political and economic power. It may be mentioned that the office of J&K chief minister has been a monopoly of Kashmiri Muslims. Senior Congressmen of the state once met me to express grave reservations at Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad being appointed chief minister. I pointed out that he was a son of Jammu, educated in Kashmir, and a son-in-law of Kashmir, an ideal combination for CM. He was not allowed to complete his full term. The people in the Valley are often misled by false propaganda projecting threats to Islam. This happened in 1963 when the Holy Relic at Hazratbal had disappeared, and again in 2008. On the latter occasion, it was alleged that Hindus were going to be settled on a 100-acre plot of waste land to change the demography of the Valley, like Israel had done in Palestine. This despite the fact that this land is unapproachable and uninhabitable eight months of the year. This plot had been given on lease for Rs 2 crore. The ownership was to remain with the state government and it was stipulated that no permanent structure was to be put up on that plot. At that time Omar Abdullah, in an emotional outburst in Parliament, had asserted that they would give their lives, but not their land. This only exacerbated matters. Delhi has never had a road map for a solution of the Kashmir problem beyond reiterating that Kashmir is an integral part of India and a solution will emerge through dialogue. It has no media policy, with the result that we have been losing the media war internationally, nationally and regionally. Not only do we not effectively counter hostile propaganda, we fail to project our national viewpoint on Kashmir. The Valley press is often more anti-India than the Pakistan press. They assert that Kashmir has never been a part of India, forgetting history and that Srinagar was founded by Emperor Ashoka. They put facts on their head when they state that the Indian Army invaded Kashmir on October 26, 1947 and Pakistan sent raiders to help the freedom struggle. They maintain that Kashmiri Pandits were made to move out from Kashmir in 1989 by India to give the freedom struggle a bad name and, of course, ignore that their 100 odd temples were vandalised. As regards Kashmir reverting to pre-1953 status, those making this demand do not want the restoration of the Dogra dynasty. They are asking for an elected Sadr-e-Riyasat. What is being demanded implies permits for other Indians to enter Kashmir, for the Indian flag to not be flown in Kashmir, for the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, Election Commission and Comptroller and Auditor General to be withdrawn from Kashmir, a Prime Minister for the state and no IAS or IPS officers in Kashmir. In other words, it involves breaking political links with India as far as possible while continuing with maximum economic assistance from New Delhi, and, while demanding maximum autonomy at the state level, letting autonomy at the regional and panchayat levels remain neglected. The self-rule demand involving dual currency (India and Pakistan) and a joint Upper House in Kashmir with Pakistan goes a step further, giving Pakistan a foothold in Kashmir. There appears to be a consensus on maintaining the territorial integrity of the state, but this can only be the residual part comprising the Indian administered part. Given the present international scenario, it is not practicable to recover the Pakistan- and China-occupied areas of J&K. Article 370 may continue, but putting back the hands of the clock and loosening political links with India can only be suicidal. Appeasement whets the appetite for more. In any case, a constitutional amendment will require a two-third majority in Parliament, at present an obviously impracticable proposition. There can be no change in the present Centre-state equation. Good governance, economic development and maximum autonomy at the regional and panchayat levels need to be ensured. There must also be a robust media policy to counter false propaganda. It must be repeatedly brought out that notwithstanding few unfortunate incidents, for which the guilty are being duly punished, the Indian Army's human rights record in Kashmir is far superior to that of the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Pakistan Army's in Balochistan and Waziristan, leave alone what happened in Vietnam and in East Pakistan. The fate of Sufis in Pakistan should be highlighted in Kashmir. Internationally, we need to emphatically project that we are not only fighting to uphold secularism in Kashmir but also serving the interests of the international community by fighting against international jihad, to which the US seems to be succumbing in Afghanistan. * The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.






Here is yet another Mahyco-Monsanto tale, one of defiance and breaking the law even as the scientific community looks on. Monsanto is the world's largest investor in seed and biotechnology research investing $1 billion/`5,000 crores and is also the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed. It provides the technology in 90 per cent of the world's genetically engineered seeds. The Mahyco seed company had approached the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in its meeting on January 12, 2011 for permission to produce seed of genetically engineered cotton containing a herbicide tolerant gene. This non-Bt cotton was not proposed to be released as a herbicide tolerant (HT) crop but to be used as the refuge crop for when BG II RR Flex cotton is finally approved for cultivation. Currently it is in trials. BG II RR Flex refers to Bollgard II, a cotton hybrid that carries two Bt genes as well as a gene conferring tolerance to Roundup Ready, which is a herbicide. This double Bt, single HT cotton is a stacked cotton hybrid, which is piling on Bt genes to stay ahead of the bollworms that are fast catching up and becoming resistant to the Bt toxin inside the plant, which is meant to kill them. Mahyco had already applied to GEAC in September 2010 to produce the same seed and had been turned down on the grounds that the hybrid had not cleared the regulatory process and did not have permission for environmental release. Therefore, according to the Rules of 1989, which govern biotechnology, Mahyco could not be given permission to produce seed of the unapproved cotton. But did Mahyco accept the GEAC ruling and desist from using the unapproved HT cotton seed? No it did not. It went ahead, cocking a snook at GEAC, made seed of the unapproved non-Bt RR Flex cotton and is using it to plant the refuge crop in the trials of its double Bt, single HT cotton hybrid BG II RR Flex. A 20 per cent "refuge crop" of non-Bt cotton is required by the law, to be planted along with Bt cotton so that the invading bollworm has a non-toxic cotton to feed on, to delay the build up of resistance to the toxic Bt cotton. The Mahyco Company is merrily carrying on using the unapproved cotton as the refuge planting in the trials of its new double Bt, single HT cotton hybrid even after GEAC had denied it permission to do this. So why is Mahyco breaking the law to plant (the unapproved) herbicide tolerant cotton as the refuge for its double Bt, single HT cotton hybrid? Because it slyly admits what we have been pointing out all along, that planting a herbicide tolerant crop, like the new Bt-HT cotton, and using the matched herbicide (Roundup Ready) during its cultivation will destroy all the neighbouring crops and the adjoining biodiversity. This will happen when Roundup Ready lands on them when fields of the HT crops are being sprayed. Only plants carrying the HT gene can survive the herbicide spray. Since the other crops and the surrounding biodiversity do not contain the HT gene, they will die when the Roundup Ready hits them. HT crops can only be cultivated if all the other crops in the region are also HT (which is an impossibility), otherwise they will be destroyed when they catch the Roundup Ready spray drifting in the wind or if they get sprayed inadvertently. In several articles and submissions I have made to policy bodies, this is why I have argued that the herbicide-tolerant genetic trait must not be permitted for use in India. First because it will displace agriculture labour (weeding provides wage labour), second because it will destroy all the surrounding biodiversity that rural communities use as food, fodder, medicinal plants etc. and third because of what Mahyco-Monsanto now themselves admit, that Roundup Ready sprays will destroy all the other non-HT crops in the neighbourhood. The Director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur acknowledges the problem with HT crops, saying that the refuge for the Bt-HT cotton must be planted with HT cotton during commercial cultivation. Otherwise the refuge will be killed by Roundup Ready spray drifts. According to the minutes of the 106th GEAC meeting of January 12, 2011, the CICR director's views are recorded as follows: "If the Refugia in BG II RR Flex comprise only of non-Bt cotton without RR-Flex (HT trait), there is every likely possibility of the refugia patch getting destroyed due to spray drift or inadvertent application of 'Round-up' on the 'non-RR-Flex-non-Bt-cotton'". So the scientists admit there is a problem with the implementation of HT crops in real life. The CICR director, however, does not propose a strategy for how other crops and biodiversity should be protected when Mahyco's new Bt-HT cotton is planted commercially and Roundup Ready is widely used in the fields. Because Mahyco has blatantly defied the directions of the GEAC not to produce HT cotton seed until it gets regulatory approval, the regulators have decided to issue a showcause notice to the company, seeking explanation on why penal action should not be initiated against it under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), for violations of the Rules of 1989. The Rules of 1989 are framed under the EPA that is the umbrella legislation. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds. Will the GEAC really follow through and take action against Mahyco for its defiant stand and blatant violations? Or will Mahyco walk home free as it has done in the past? It is openly mentioned that the Mahyco-Monsanto gang are used to getting their way with regulatory agencies like the GEAC. Do they indeed get away with things? The grapevine is full of gossip and names are mentioned openly. This situation is untenable for a society that lays claim to scientific achievement. After the disgraceful performance of the scientific community in the Bt brinjal case, let them redeem their reputation and tighten up the regulation of genetically modified crops so that it is rescued from being the farce that it is today. * Dr Suman Sahai, a genetic scientist who has served on the faculty of the Universities of Chicago and Heidelberg, is convenor of the Gene Campaign







Imagine human life without the special sense bestowed on us called imagination. Wouldn't life be a drudgery, a dry desert walk if we could not fly on the wings of imagination? We create a virtual world by using our imagination.We depend on the power of imagination so much because our mundane reality is not very juicy and satisfying. Most of the time we have to make adjustments, compromises and settle for something we have not aspired for. With imagination we can take flight in our own realm, fulfil all the dreams that cannot come true in life. This faculty is also called the "mind's eye" or the "special sense" and it is exclusively human. The human capacity to imagine has allowed mankind to discover some of the mysteries of nature. The evolution of the human brain has created millions of new cells and new pathways that have opened a whole new world for mankind to enjoy. In today's stressed times people more and more take refuge in their own imaginary world. The world of human art and literature is born out of the imaginative creativity. But sometimes a bout of imagination creates funny situations. People start imagining things that are completely unrealistc. An old man is traveeling in a railway compartment and a young man sitting in front of him asks, "Can I know the time, sir?" The old man has a watch, but he thinks for a while. The young man thinks, "Perhaps he is deaf, he is old". So he shouts loudly, "I want to know, what is the time?" The old man said, "Listen, young man, I am not deaf. I have heard that you want to know what the time is, but I was thinking whether to tell you the time or not, because once I tell you the time, there will be an initiation of talks between us. I will ask you, 'Where are you going?' And you will say, 'The next station', and I will say, 'That's strange, I am also going there. In fact I live there, so why don't you come and have a cup of coffee with us?'" "I have a beautiful young daughter and it is absolutely certain that you will fall in love with each other. And I don't want my daughter to be married to a man who does not have even a wristwatch!" This kind of lucid imagination is good for creating fiction, spinning stories but when one starts meditating this habit is a great barrier. Because meditation is a search for the truth and imagination is anti-truth, it clouds the mind. It can destroy the capacity to see clearly. It takes the attention away from the present moment, and lodges you in the future. Actually there are few people who have a clear perception of reality because they don't allow themselves to be swayed by imagination. For average human beings a big amount of energy is locked in imagination, and it creates lots of problems for them. Is it possible to reclaim the energy that is trapped in imagination and using it creatively for spiritual growth? Osho has given an original insight on how to use this resource for strengthening this moment. He says, if you can manage to focus your attention here and now then the imagination will be free to create within the present itself. If the imagination is focused on the real, it begins to reflect the truth. It becomes very creative. The creation may take any form. If you are a poet, it becomes an explosion of poetry. But the poetry will not be a longing for the future, it will not be a fantasy but an expression of the present. Or if you are a painter, the explosion will be of painting. The painting will not be of something as you have imagined it, but as you have known it and lived it. All the mystic poets, painters or artistes create timeless objects because they use their imaginative energy to manifest reality. Life without imagination would be life with the truth. — Amrit Sadhana is in the management team of Osho International Meditation Resort, Pune. She facilitates meditation workshops around the country and abroad.








WHEN the Justice BN Srikrishna Committee submitted its report on Telangana last December, no one suspected that the judge had included a chapter not to be made public to help the UPA government do nothing to resolve the 55-year-old agitation for  restoring statehood to the erstwhile territory of the Nizams of Hyderabad. Offering six open options, Justice Srikrishna, former Supreme Court judge, himself ruled out the first four unacceptable, including the one on maintaining status quo, and held out the fifth or the sixth option  as the "best way forward." The fifth option, which came nearest to the aspirations of the people of Telangana, said: "However, the overall economic viability of Telangana with Hyderabad (as capital) is projected to be stable and as a matter of fact the GDP of this State will be much larger than many other States in the country."  The report also said the continuing demand for a separate Telangana has some merit, though not totally unjustified. Chapter VIII, hidden  from  the  public  but  brought  out  by  an  order  of  Justice L Narasimha Reddy of the Andhra Pradesh High Court last week, paints a completely different picture of Telangana if statehood is conceded. It says that "most of the infrastructure in the fields of education and industries in the Telangana region has historically been owned by Seemandhra (Andhra and Rayalaseema regions) people and are located mostly within the limits of greater Hyderabad. The student community, which is spearheading the separate Telangana agitation, has been using these educational institutions for their agitational activities. This may lead to migration of the faculty as well as these institutions, impacting the availability of local people who can be productively engaged by industry/business houses." How touching!

The secret chapter suggests "political management" to keep the Telangana movement under control. For this to happen, there is a need for providing strong and firm political leadership and placement of representatives from Telangana in key positions, may be as Chief Minister/Deputy Chief Minister. He gratuitously tells the government to send a message to the people of AP, on receipt of his secret words of wisdom, that the Centre will be open for detailed discussions of the committee report sans chapter VIII with the stakeholders in Telangana. That the honourable judge was in tandem with the Union home ministry is given away by one sentence in the secret chapter which says a representative from Telangana has already been made the Deputy Chief Minister. P Chidambaram made a wise decision in announcing the setting in motion of the process to form Telangana more than a year ago. It has been a long wait for the people of the region since then. The formation of Telangana will not drive Seemandhra people away, as Justice Srikrishna fears. Separation is only to fulfill their political aspirations and democratic rights. Mr Chidambaram must realise that he cannot fool all the Telanganites all the time.




IDENTIFYING factors behind the rise or fall in the number of tigers in any, or every, locale was not within the scope of the "estimation" that points to there now being 1706 big cats in the Indian wilderness. Yet in the absence of any such indicators it would be unrealistic to entertain even vague notions of a "turnaround" from the 2006 estimation of 1411. It must not be overlooked that some new habitats beyond the notified game reserves were covered in the latest count, and the Sunderbans were included ~ though the calculation of 70 could trigger some controversy since the West Bengal authorities claimed 200 despite a depleting prey-base. Whether the more accurate method of estimation has proved positively revealing also remains open to question. What, on the face of it, seems difficult to accept is the conclusion that there has been an upswing in the Maoist-infested region. Disturbed law and order conditions and flourishing wildlife do not go hand in hand: Afghanistan is a no-fly zone for birds that traditionally wintered in the subcontinent, only after a ceasefire were improvements noted in forests along the LOC in Kashmir. And if routine administrative action is curtailed in those areas how did the "enumerators" go about their task? Without questioning the 1706 figure, does it really match with the same estimation showing a decline of some 20,000 sq-kms of habitat? The satisfaction that the southern areas and maybe the Terai belt have done well is erased by the decline in Madhya Pradesh, and by Rajasthan just about holding its own. And most worrying is the continuing trend of tigers making do in sanctuaries, struggling in "open" jungle. Does that mean they will survive only in pockets, and like elephants suffer from a lack of corridors/linkages? Sadly, basic issues like poaching, encroachments, "de-humanising" tiger reserves, regulated tourism etc remain largely unresolved.

Jairam Ramesh did well not to go overboard, but how much will that influence politicians and officials down the line? Government agencies have ever tended to flatter themselves over marginal improvements, complacency takes over. Most regretfully almost all conservation efforts remain government-driven. The headlines hailing the 1706 figure could actually prove counter-productive. This is not to decry the efforts of forest officials, anti-poaching squads etc.;  they must be appreciated, encouraged. Yet not for a moment should the urbanised upper-crust run away with the idea that their highly-publicised campaigns have clicked. The tiger may not be "out", it is still very much "down".




LIQUOR continues to be slicker in Nagaland for the simple reason that having passed the Liquor Prohibition Act, 1989, the state government has done precious little to enforce it because of a "lack of manpower". In fact, it was only after pressure was brought to bear by the powerful Naga Mothers' Association that the government reluctantly enacted the law. For some time, the NMA took it upon itself to ensure there was no open defiance of the ban and some of its members displayed extraordinary enthusiasm by checking every vehicle that passed through Kohima, even destroying bottles of liquor they seized from Army personnel entitled to carry home some while on leave.

  The ban on the sale of liquor has in no way promoted sobriety. Instead, it has only encouraged smuggling and blackmarketing. During the recent budget session, opposition members asked chief minister Neiphiu Rio whether the prohibition law exempted VIPs because some of them were seen drinking during December's Hornbill Festival, where some church leaders were also present. They also wanted to know whether local brews like zu and modhu came under the Act's purview. What apparently provoked these questions was the published photograph of the chief minister "having some drinks". Rio was quick to counter that the photograph was taken at a chakhesang morung (youth dormitory) and that he was merely "sipping hot maize soup" and not modhu. Touché … and ironically it was not clear whether he'd been drinking from a glass, a teacup or a bowl. But to be grammatically correct, one is given to understand that soup is usually eaten and not sipped. Which brings to mind that familiar aside about a bar customer sipping from a glass, the clear contents of which would be perceived as anything but water!








THE revolt of Arab masses, who turned against oppressive regimes in quest of liberty, is an inspiring development that has drawn universal sympathy and admiration. Beginning in Tunisia and then spreading to Egypt, large crowds came out on the streets and sent their autocratic and repressive rulers packing. Elsewhere, too, in as many as six or seven other countries, the people are restive and defiant, showing their desire for a better deal, and bringing long established regimes under severe pressure. The rulers are being put to shifts to maintain themselves: some have offered financial inducements; more ominously, others have had resort to physical repression.

While the entire region is affected, the current focus is on Libya, where the movement of people's power that overturned Tunisia and Egypt, neighbours to left and right, has been held up by the determined fightback of President Gaddafi. He has refused to bow, his armed forces remain loyal, and he has shown that he is prepared to use them against his opponents. The militarily much inferior opposition paid a heavy price in its confrontation with the well equipped pro-Gaddafi forces; indeed, the dissenters were in imminent danger of being crushed and were able to survive only through foreign intervention and support.

The external forces that changed the balance in Libya were able to operate by virtue of a resolution of the UN Security Council that called for action to protect the human rights of those opposed to the Gaddafi regime. The relevant UNSC resolution was not unanimous, for two permanent members, Russia and China, and two significant non-permanent members, India and Germany, felt it necessary to abstain. However, the majority vote in favour of the resolution was sufficient to permit NATO countries, including the USA, Britain and France, to intervene militarily, and attacks by their missiles and aircraft have halted the Gaddafi drive on the rebel stronghold in the eastern Cyrenaica province with its capital at Benghazi. The government's forces have been forced to retreat though Col. Gaddafi is far from giving up the fight and threatens a prolonged campaign ahead. By contrast, the other side, having established dominance through a 'no-fly zone' above the battleground, claims that matters will be resolved soon. It is a fluid situation and neither side seems to be in control.

Nevertheless, for reasons not easy to discern, Col. Gaddafi has been able to defy the trend that has seen the toppling of regimes as seemingly well entrenched as the one he has led for so long. His personality has something to do with it, for he is quirky and unpredictable, and utterly unresponsive to the new voices and demands thrown up in the entire region by the internet networks. He seems unmoved by the severe media criticism he attracts, or even by the aerial destruction inflicted on his army by NATO's forces. In some respects, the Gaddafi regime is no worse than several others that have fallen or are tottering, yet he is able to resist where others have had to go. Some experts on the region suggest this may have something to do with the tribal structure of the country that creates allegiances that are difficult to shake. According to one account, Col. Gaddafi's tribe is Libya's largest and most powerful, and provides him with solid support, come what may.
Other factors, too, have to be taken into account, chief among them being oil. Libya is a major oil supplier for Europe which has an obvious interest in maintaining undisturbed its sources of this vital commodity as well as its investments in this critical sector. Cyrenaica, where the revolt is centred, is an important oil producing area, which has encouraged the separatism that has surfaced from time to time in that province and could have some relevance to the current turmoil.

The UNSC has given its imprimatur to foreign intervention but the doubts that kept back India and others from endorsing such a course have only been strengthened by the intensity of the aerial attacks on Libya. Military forces are the target but civilian casualties have occurred. It is noteworthy that there have been murmurings among some early supporters of intervention, like the Arab League which endorsed the UNSC resolution when it was passed but whose Secretary-General, Mr Amr Moussa, has voiced skepticism about the action taken by NATO. Others have also reacted adversely to the sight of an Arab country being pounded by Western arms from invulnerable aerial platforms. Ironies abound: these are the same Western countries whose civilian airliners were destroyed with heavy loss of life through sabotage traced back to Col. Gaddafi's Libya. After decades of estrangement, relations were restored only recently, and now the parties are at war. Nor can it be forgotten that not so long ago, Britain and France in collusion with Israel, were attacking Egypt and its leader Gamal Abdel Nasser in the Suez war, which looked like the last fling of the colonialists ~ but they're back! And this time the USA, formerly against, is with them. Of course, this is no revival of colonial intentions, even if it does bring back unhappy recollections. Military intervention on the present occasion is being undertaken in the name of protecting the human rights of the affected people, and certainly their rights must be protected by all appropriate means. But as the conflict continues, it does not seem so obvious that the means selected, i.e. aerial domination and the establishment of a 'no-fly zone', can serve the intended purpose. Nor do all the parties seem equally committed: mindful, no doubt, of its own domestic opinion which seems sated with war abroad, US leaders have said that though their country will remain involved, they will leave it to Britain and France to take the lead. There are many skeptics of the current Western tactics who take the example of what happened in Iraq after the first Gulf War and conclude that aerial interdiction by itself will not suffice ~ some form of intervention on the ground may be unavoidable. But for obvious reasons, nobody has as yet said anything to promote such a notion. And then, where can the line be drawn: could the aim go beyond insistence on better protection for civilians into the murky area of regime change, for which consensus may be impossible to attain.
Nobody, it would seem, can tell where events may be leading. The flames keep spreading in the Arab world, in Libya the outcome remains very uncertain. Some accounts suggest that some important players are sitting on the fence, waiting to see how events shape. The military situation remains unclear, and while the uncertainties remain, one must fear further strife and bloodshed.

The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary







A former colleague of mine once related an interesting story. After submitting his PhD thesis, when his university informed him that he could finally defend his thesis publicly at its imposing Senate Hall, he was very excited. He rushed to his village in Drenthe, the most rural province in the Netherlands, to invite his parents to witness the ocassion. But his father, who was a farmer, wasn't very enthusiastic. When my colleague persisted, his worried father told him that defending thesis and all was very good, but when was he going to learn a profession?

This simple remark of my colleague's father carried a profound message for college education in India. General degree colleges form the backbone of the Indian higher educational system. But the graduates of these colleges do not learn any profession. Our general degree colleges in most state offer two types of degrees at present: the Honours degree and the General (Pass) degree. Honours students are taught highly-specialised courses in their chosen fields of study, supplemented by some general knowledge in one or two related subjects. One typical example might be a degree course offering Honours in Economics with Political Science and/or History as the supplementary general subjects. This is not very different from similar programmes all over the world. The Honours graduates can follow this up either with a post-graduate programme in a related field or opt for some professional programme or they may just choose to join the workforce. The teaching may not be geared towards generating curiosity in students, there may be too much emphasis on spoon-feeding and not all students may be suitable for their chosen fields of study. But these complaints are universal. The main problem with General (Pass) programmes in our colleges is that they orient students towards no clear career goals. Higher education in states where all undergraduate degrees have a specific major as in the USA or Honours, reflects a mixture of the Honours and pass systems.

General degree colleges in India are all affiliated to one university or the other. This system started when universities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were founded in 1857. It has apparently been imported from the higher education structure  prevailing in London at that time. The higher education scenario in London has undergone dramatic changes in the the past century and a half. I do not know of a similar system existing anywhere else in the United Kingdom. Such a structure definitely does not exist in Continental Europe or in the USA. It is a mystery as to why we are still stuck with this archaic system. One could possibly appreciate the merit of this system in a scenario when students entered colleges after merely 10 years of school education and at a tender age. But the matriculation system was abandoned as far back as 1960 with the introduction of the higher secondary system which initially involved 11 years of schooling and then 12, bringing our education system at par with international practices. But our higher educational structure has never been overhauled accordingly.

Our high school curriculum is as demanding as in Europe, although the emphasis on the type of learning may be different. After completing high school, students pursuing higher education in Europe have two options. Only a small number of students who pass out from special secondary schools known as "gymnasium" are allowed to join universities. They number no more than 15 per cent of all students graduating school in a year. Since universities enroll thousands of students, their number is limited. The educational programme offered in such universities is similar to what Honours students pursue in Indian colleges followed by Master's programmes in universities. The next group of roughly 20-25 per cent high school graduates in Europe joins the higher polytechnic/professional colleges. These colleges are smaller in size, distributed evenly throughout each country and resemble our general degree colleges. The rest go to technical or vocational training colleges, often in conjunction with working part time in a related company.

As things stand now, the General (Pass) programmes offered currently by colleges do not prepare the students for any particular profession. Since the academic session of 1994-95, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has been offering financial support to colleges for introducing vocational subjects in their undergraduate programmes. The UGC clearly recognises the need for such training to help students qualify for the job market but it hasn't gone the extra mile. Surely, it would not have been too demanding to package the present course work with professional subjects such as the ones proposed by the UGC and offer qualified students BA/B.Sc/B.Com degrees in professional fields? This would make our higher education more meaningful and create motivated manpower which is essential for future development. BBA and some revitalised B.Com programmes are steps in the right direction. But Arts and Science programmes are lagging way behind.
But this can be changed. Let us take a typical General (Pass) programme consisting of Economics, Political Science and History. If some elementary courses in Law are added to the package and some existing courses shed so as not to overload the programme, one could transform it into an integral package leading to a General (Pass) degree in Public Administration. Similarly, a programme consisting of Chemistry, Physiology and Zoology may be easily given more focus and lead to a General (Pass) degree in Biology and Medical Laboratory Research. These are but two examples of many such possibilities. These well-oriented programmes will also give students a sense of purpose and a feeling of pride in their achievements. Higher professional colleges in Europe operate on this premise.

With the IT boom, many new jobs have been created beyond the traditional area of computer programming. They range from management information systems to human computer interaction. Media and communication have opened up a whole new range of job possibilities. Psychologists, marketing experts and finance specialists are in demand in the rapidly-expanding new enterprises. Currently, students are required to join private colleges for specialised degrees or have to take courses in some specific areas after graduation to qualify in the job market. This is an expensive proposition for a majority of Indians. If the students develop expertise valued in the job market right in regular colleges, they will be spared the additional expenses. College campuses may also function as a breeding ground for new entrepreneurs. This could have a particularly dramatic impact in the districts far away from the state capital. Propelled by a new kind of livelihood-oriented education, if  small-scale enterprises begin growing in districts, the Indian economy will take a completely new turn. Our economic development will then be truly uniform and organic.

The situation with higher polytechnics is equally relevant. At present, students study for four years in government/private engineering colleges to obtain a B.Tech degree. The alternative is to study in polytechnics with no clear career objective in sight. In most places, polytechnics have been reduced to producing shop floor supervisors. This is not the fault of students. Years of neglect have led to poorer-quality students joining these courses and instructors with inadequate training teaching them. On the other hand, private engineering colleges mushrooming across India do not often have adequate library facilities, sufficient laboratory equipments and enough qualified teachers. Parents spend their last pennies on sending their children to these institutions in the hope that a job in the IT industry would eventually recover all the costs incurred. If India develops more in the future, we would need engineers in a wide array of fields. If we do not take the necessary steps now, the inevitable bottleneck will severely affect our future growth. Why don't we introduce B.Sc degrees in Electrical, Mechanical or Civil Engineering with three years of course work? Of course, the list can be expanded to include Environmental, Chemical and other engineering disciplines. These can be offered in existing colleges where there are substantial library and laboratory facilities, as well as enough basic sciences teachers. Students not able or willing to join (private) engineering colleges could study engineering for three years at general degree colleges itself. They will not be as qualified as B.Tech degree holders, but will be adequately trained for a large number of functions our economy will need. The teaching may be less abstract than in engineering programmes but more attuned to the immediate needs of the industry. If the engineers' lobby frowns upon this, one can offer, for example, a B.Sc in Electrical Sciences instead of Electrical Engineering to assuage their concern. This will help create a new stratum of professionals who will be positioned between the holders of traditional engineering degrees and the polytechnic pass-outs. The European model of higher polytechnic will suit this category of students the best.

The logistics of implementing all this may be less daunting than it appears. The whole process must be implemented step by step, with only select colleges starting with General (Pass) degrees in specific professional fields with some other colleges trying to expand the existing science programs to develop engineering courses. It would be easiest to start these new programmes in the key colleges that are located in district headquarters. These institutions usually have large campuses where expansion can take place relatively easily. Programmes promoting prospects of job in that particular district should be introduced first. This will help many graduates get absorbed in the local job market. The situation in big cities is more complex. There, space constraint is already a problem for colleges and expansion is virtually impossible. But even then, it should be possible to group three-four colleges in a neighbourhood to form one administrative unit. Individual colleges may then specialise in some particular discipline, like arts, science/engineering or commerce/business administration. This concentration would be cost-effective and highly efficient. Colleges on the fringes of the cities may expand without the need of forming clusters.

Any educational experiment in India is hamstrung by the lack of adequate qualified teachers. This is why we should, for a while, concentrate only on the main district colleges and some select ones in big cities. District-level government engineers and practicing lawyers in district courts with didactic talent and good academic credentials may be recruited as part-time teachers. District colleges could benefit from neighbouring industries and government infrastructure. Similarly, district hospitals can also develop programmes in physiotherapy and nursing with practising doctors and nurses helping structure and run them. In big cities, it is relatively easy to get suitable instructors but they must be carefully selected after evaluating their interests and abilities. Competition for talent with private engineering colleges and training centres will be intense and the government must devise ways to beat it.

It is ironic that the Union ministry of human resource development cries itself hoarse over the spectre of a dramatic shortfall of qualified personnel in future but does not take any corrective measures compatible with the existing educational infrastructure to remedy it.  The ministry is determined to let private capital flow rapidly into this sector but can't be bothered about making a dramatic improvement in the situation with very little investment in existing colleges. The government balks at exposing traditional industries to competition but has no qualms about opening up our education sector to the highest bidder. In Europe, the economy is open to capital from all sources but education is zealously guarded to maintain its standard and keep it accessible to all students. A former dean of a major US business school once privately lamented Germany's total lack of interest in the US-style MBA programme. Media and policy makers in India, on the other hand, have accorded US-style pedagogy a mythical status. Is the difference a reflection of our colonial mindset?

The writer is ex-dean and Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of
Twente, The Netherlands






Today Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Gilani will meet when they view the World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan . It will be a happy occasion. It will undoubtedly enhance a cordial atmosphere between both nations to facilitate the resumption of peace talks. Although both army chiefs could also have been invited. The intention of both PMs that made possible the occasion is laudable. Nevertheless, it will most likely prove to be a waste of time. The truth is that the atmosphere between the most influential segments of the civil society in both countries requires little improvement. India-Pakistan discord is not the result of a trust deficit or lack of adequate communication and empathy as most Indians would like to convince themselves. There is a core issue dividing both nations. Without resolving it peace and normalcy with Pakistan will not come about.


The core issue is Kashmir. Britain created the Kashmir dispute to perpetuate the Partition. Now the spirit of the Partition will not be undone without resolving the Kashmir dispute. Indians point out that the tangible gains and losses that could accrue to both nations have little to do with Kashmir. That is true. But the problem will not be solved by bettering the material well being of the people in Pakistan. The problem will be solved only if the obsession that overpowers the Pakistani mindset is diluted. Pakistanis believe that they have been cheated in Kashmir because the Valley does not belong to India . They believe that India was instrumental in breaking Pakistan by helping Bangladesh liberate itself. They believe that unless Pakistan dilutes India's hold over Kashmir their honour will not be vindicated.

One may summon many facts to justify these beliefs. Equally, one may summon facts to rubbish them. The moot point is that these beliefs exist. That is the ground reality. Unless these beliefs are addressed there will be neither any peace settlement with Pakistan nor a sincere whole hearted effort by the Pakistan army to eliminate terrorism. Therefore if India really seeks a settlement with Pakistan it must recognise this reality and be prepared to reappraise its entire approach to the Kashmir problem.

If India believes that Pakistan 's mindset is flawed and it merits no change in India 's approach to the Kashmir problem, the government should not waste time in pursuing a futile peace process. The problem with Pakistan is not dictated by reason. It is dictated by psychology. India must therefore dispassionately assess what it wants, how far it is prepared to go to resolve Kashmir, and calculate the gains and losses that would result through a lasting peace with Pakistan.

One would not like to recapitulate the several alternative peace formulae for resolving the Kashmir dispute. This scribe suggested self determination for different segments of undivided Kashmir within the framework of a South Asian Union that could resolve the Kashmir dispute much in the same manner that the European Union defused the Northern Ireland dispute. Former President Musharraf advocated joint management of Kashmir without altering borders. Others have proposed converting the Line of Control into an international border.
Whatever the solution, the first requirement for both governments is to recognise that without softening existing stands no solution will emerge. This scribe naturally believes in the efficacy of his own solution because it rests on the wishes of the Kashmiri people. But whatever solution is acceptable to the parties concerned would be welcome. The starting point is for New Delhi to acknowledge that this core issue must be addressed for laying the foundation for genuine participation by the Pakistan army and Pakistan's public in a meaningful peace process. It would imply that New Delhi has a clear idea of what it eventually wants in Kashmir , and how far is it prepared to go in order to achieve it.

Does New Delhi know what it wants in Kashmir?    

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist








An Extraordinary Story

There have been of late several fires in the vicinity of Ekbalpore, resulting at times in considerable damage to property. Two outbreaks, in the heart of certain bustees, were of serious proportions, about 50 huts being burnt down and the occupants thereof rendered homeless.

The frequency of these occurrences confined to a particular area, led the police to suspect foul-play, and watch was kept. A boy named Shaik Issac, aged about 16, was caught while attempting to set fire to a hut by lighting a piece of rug soaked in kerosene oil, and was made over to the police. To them he made a confession to the effect that he had been set up along with three other boys to do this by one Osman Gani. This led to the arrest of Osman, who told a story of a strange plot he had made.

He said that some months ago, he fell in love with a Mahomedan girl living in the neighbourhood, and proposed to marry her, but his suit was rejected by her parents, who married her to someone else. Thereupon he resolved to run away with the girl, and with that object in view he used to hang about her parents' house, but the neighbours turned him out of the locality. By way of retaliation he employed the four boys to set fire to all the huts one after the other, and promised to pay them four annas on each occasion.
Of the five youths arrested, one has been discharged for want of evidence by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, and the others are awaiting trial.


Important New Agreement

The Agents of the Jute Mills have agreed to extend the existing short time arrangement up to the end of September next, and this arrangement will be renewed automatically, if there are no dissentients, every three months thereafter until the end of June, 1912.

This measure is likely to stiffen up the gunny market and give American buyers confidence to place their orders.








For those who like figures, the statistics provided in the national tiger estimation report, which was released on Monday, will bring some comfort. The exercise of counting the number of tigers in India — carried out over the last two years — reveals an increase in the number of adult tigers: in 2007, the last tiger census, the number was 1,411; in 2011, the reported number is 1,706. This is not only an improvement but is also suggestive of a reversal of the declining trend. Both the 2007 and 2011 censuses are more reliable than the ones that preceded the 2007 one. All the pre-2007 censuses were prepared on the basis of pug marks, which most experts consider to be unreliable and bogus. From 2007, the more scientific method of setting up camera traps in the forest paths that tigers follow has been adopted. In spite of the improved method used in the 2007 and 2011 censuses, the full details as to how the numbers in the 2011 count were arrived at are still not available to experts. Also, the report must go through a peer group review to make the claim that the decline noticed in 2007 has been reversed.

In fact, various objective factors that threaten the survival of tigers continue to exist and, therefore, the threat is unabated. This induces scepticism about any exaggerated claim made on the basis of the 2011 figures. The habitat of the panthera tigris is disappearing because of human encroachment; where it still exists, it is badly fragmented. There is no evidence that poaching has been eradicated even though this is an easy thing to do. What is alarming is the view of experts that India's reproducing tiger populations are now concentrated in 10 per cent of all tiger habitats, which hold 90 per cent of the country's tigers. These "source populations'' need close annual monitoring. The present practice of providing all-India tiger counts every four years needs to be reviewed. The situation warrants more close and focused monitoring. The fate of individual tigers needs to be tracked. At a different level is the battle against official and societal ignorance and indifference regarding tigers and their link to the overall environmental health. The tiger is an indicator species and is also an apex species at the top of the food chain. Its survival is critical for the survival of human beings in more ways than the latter care to recognize. It is necessary to keep the tiger burning bright in the forests.






It is futile to expect politicians to be ever free from the partisan spirit. But some offices and institutions cannot be effectively run if they are not separated from party politics. The office of the Speaker of a legislature is a constitutional one which should have little to do with politics. The Speakers are popularly elected like other members of a legislature. But the similarity ends there. Once elected to the post, the Speaker represents, not the party whose candidate he was during the popular election, but the entire legislature. His duties and obligations are laid down not by his party but by the Constitution. Unfortunately, partisan Speakers are the norm in India rather than the exception. Even after being sworn in to their posts, they continue to protect the interests of their own parties. What Hashim Abdul Halim did on his final day as the Speaker of the outgoing West Bengal assembly was thus not surprising. The manner in which he voiced his concern over the "change" that the Opposition hopes to bring about in the state after the polls was the stuff of the Left Front's political campaign. The Trinamul Congress and the Congress may have had their own political reasons for boycotting the last day's session. But no reason could justify Mr Halim's partisan conduct. It was particularly unfortunate of someone who is the longest-serving Speaker of a legislature anywhere in India.

Yet, Mr Halim could do himself and his office justice by following the example of a former comrade. Somnath Chatterjee, former Speaker of the Lok Sabha, managed to rise above party politics in order to meet the constitutional obligations of his office. He resigned as a member of the central committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) once he was elected as the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha. Even more exemplary was his defiance of the party, which directed him to resign from the post before a crucial no-confidence vote. The price he paid in the form of expulsion from the CPI(M) was small compared to the moral victory he achieved by upholding the dignity of his office. Mr Halim has been known for his wit and his ability to keep his cool during ugly and even violent moments during the assembly's proceedings. He could have used the last speech from his podium to act and speak like the non-partisan Speaker that he never was. It was obviously too late for him to change old habits.





Here we go again. The holier-than-thou Western allies are galloping in again on their white chargers to create order out of chaos with the gifts of freedom and democracy as we understand them. They may be welcomed by the rebels holding out in Benghazi who appear still a slightly unknown quantity, but without putting troops on the ground, can the allies successfully overthrow the existing Libyan regime? Is that, indeed, what the majority of Libyans want? Do they know and do they care? Most people want freedom, but does the small businessman, getting on with his reasonably satisfactory life in Tripoli, feel the shackles chafing to the extent that he wants to fight for a vaguely understood and decidedly uncertain change?

Does he want someone else to come and lob bombs about on his behalf, upsetting his livelihood and putting his life in danger, for the sake of a righteous concept? Muammar Gaddafi, the man who the world, including his occasional allies, loves to hate, has loyal followers, especially in his capital. They are normal people, whose lives have not done so badly under a regime that has improved healthcare and education, and where few go hungry and life is relatively comfortable. It is a few years since I was in Tripoli: the visitor is easily seduced by blue Mediterranean skies, smiling stallholders in the market and spectacular Roman monuments, but it is not exactly Pyongyang. The bustle of everyday life goes on cheerfully enough and the population, however politically oppressed, may well choose loyalty to the devil it knows over a rebellion in another part of the country and interference by foreigners with a vested interest in its oil, especially if that results in a welter of civilian deaths.

Perhaps our leaders in this case see a clear end to their freedom game. That would make a nice change.

This week I am more exercised about freedom closer to home, the sort that appeared to command government attention post last year's election. The justice secretary, Ken Clarke, was quick off the mark in drawing attention to the lamentable situation in our prisons, where the population has more or less doubled during the last twenty years to become the largest in Europe, with re-offending rates for short-term prisoners running at 60 per cent.

Unfortunately, to be effective long-term, Clarke's laudable goal of reducing prisoner numbers and the enormous attached costs will require more money — short- and long-term — in the system rather than less. While too many minor offenders end up in prison, alternatives are scarce, requiring imagination and proper investment, which we can sing for at the moment. Beyond that, neither offending nor re-offending rates among disaffected youth will be lowered until we deal with the root causes. Poor education, alcohol, drugs most of all, are the symptoms rather than the causes of deep-seated poverty of expectation and lack of hope.

Development-workers know that poor communities in Africa will neither demand education nor send their children to school beyond the basic levels if an education does not provide improved job opportunities. On that basis, what do we think is happening here? Why should parents demand improved education for their children? Why should those children think it worth trying harder? Why should they not escape the boredom and hopelessness with drugs and alcohol? Our poor communities do not even have subsistence farming as a fall-back occupation.

A friend of mine has just started a project, Bounce Back, to provide jobs for released young offenders, a rope ladder out of the grim merry-go-round of re-offending. Sticking plaster only, you might think, but she is attempting to build on the remarkable and imaginative efforts of educationalists and vocational trainers working inside our prisons of which so few people are aware. Problems behind walls may be huge, but much more is being done there to address issues of education, lack of aspiration and drug and alcohol abuse than on the outside, notwithstanding the ready availability of drugs inside.

Hardliners suggest that prisoners today have a soft time of it in prison. We have all heard the mutterings about televisions in cells, as if that made up for an 8x10 foot cell in which two prisoners, a sink and a lavatory, plus that wonderful television of course, are 'banged up' together for up to 20 hours a day. Her Majesty's Prison Wandsworth, which I visited last week, was built in 1851 for a population of 1,000; it now holds 1,700. Only the most dangerous or the most at risk get their own cell. Small wonder that violence breaks out all too easily. Victorian prisoners might think themselves well off.

Wandsworth is the biggest prison in the country with a correspondingly bad reputation. Recent reports by the government agency, Ofsted, have drawn attention to levels of bullying, violence, gang activity and drug availability. Prison staff freely admit to the problems that they are trying to address under circumstances where there is high prisoner turnover and a multinational population of mixed ethnicity and religion. More than half of these prisoners arrive with an existing addiction.

I had not anticipated becoming an apologist for prison workers. In the past, they were one of the least favourite groups in the parliamentary constituency of my father, Charles Morrison, that was affiliated to the harder right wing, with hang 'em and flog 'em mentalities unlikely ever to appeal to wet liberals. No doubt this kind still exists but policies demanding respect, responsibility and personal security for both prisoners and warders throughout the prison service are being implemented by those determined to rehabilitate lives — at Wandsworth and similar overcrowded prisons, under particularly difficult circumstances. Drug detoxification and education programmes are being pushed besides practical training schemes that also supply the embedded literacy skills which are shamefully often lacking amongst young British prisoners.

It is not perfect. The situation, in fact, is pretty appalling but prison professionals are doing what they can to reduce re-offending. Their efforts are all too regularly wasted. It is a buyers' market on the outside and competition for scarce jobs is already hot. An ex-prisoner is still an ex-prisoner even with a national vocational qualification in his hand, but ask if a prisoner deserves a job when there are so many unemployed and the answer is a resounding yes. Most young prisoners have had few advantages in their lives; many of the short-termers in prison are an indictment of our education and social systems. Life is tough for them and they are a tough proposition for potential employers, but they must be encouraged to value prison training and prison job clubs that promote self-responsibility and greater aspiration and offer hope of a second chance. In purely economic terms, the former and, if we do not do more, the endlessly future prisoner, will be back inside, costing us a lot — as much per year, the press has it, as parents are charged to keep their son at Eton.

We cannot afford to keep failing our young people. Prison is a punishment, sometimes necessary, usually we have to suppose, and deserved at the point of the actual crime. The background to that crime is the problem. We need to find alternatives to short sentences and to lesser crimes that will reduce our prison population. The most effective of those would start with better education and social safety nets for children and young people in deprived communities. Such change takes years, decades. For now, we can at least do the best we can with the system we have and that means examining sentencing policy and searching for those elusive alternatives to incarceration for young people alienated from the society they live in.

Small organizations like Bounce Back have prison governors begging them to visit but they have to fight to get into the board rooms of big companies. If we think of Victorian prisons like Wandsworth, we may think also of old pictures of prisoners sewing mailbags, prison laundries — unskilled labour and repetitive occupation. Today's prisoners are getting IT qualifications, learning bricklaying, decorating and motor mechanics and making prize-winning gardens and radio programmes. They come out of prison with real skills but they have to be used, taken up by employers almost at the prison gate, if re- offending is to be avoided. Bounce Back can spearhead schemes that educate employers in properly valuing prison training schemes and qualifications, but it will take the government to provide better incentives for a corporate social responsibility that includes more former prisoners. Offending rates are indicative of social failure; re-offending rates are one expensive waste on top of another.

Our governments, of whichever party, are seemingly and feelingly aware of infringements on international human rights. They are delighted to throw our money into someone else's battle for freedom. Nothing changes. It would be nice if they were not so busy pulling planks out of the eyes of Colonel Gaddafi and his like to look at the motes in their own and focussed instead on promoting more modest, economically sound and relevant aspirations for successful domestic freedoms and the rights of young people at home to an education and a job.





Of all our punctuation marks, the comma, new to English only 450 years ago, is the most used. But very variably so: overmuch by some writers, too little by others. Often these uses are disputed: is a comma needed here or not?

Sometimes there's no firm answer. We'd all write he grows red and green beans. But if there are three adjectives? Oxford University Press prints he grows red, green, and black beans, with a comma after green. Many publishers omit that comma, as I do, unless the result would be ambiguous. Given a string of adjectives, with no and, we put a comma after each one but the last: a tall, thin, ugly man. But what about loud, fat, rich men are commoner than quiet, thin, rich men? Here, rich men is almost a unit. So omit the commas after fat and thin. Some writers do so even when the final adjective and the noun are not really linked. Right or wrong? In any given case it's hard to judge.

The OUP's convention accords with a basic rule: the comma represents a pause in speech, were the phrase spoken. If you wouldn't pause, no comma. The converse — "if you would, use one" — isn't always true. But in its negative form the rule is sound.

Here's a leading newspaper: These laws were always excessive; they now look childish, too. Who needs that comma before too? Would any speaker pause? My old friends at The Economist, maybe. Here's one of two such errors in a single recent issue: China boosts spending on welfare — and on internal security, too. The facts are fact: the comma is crazy. There's a thin case for one if too refers not to the word just before it but to one much earlier; as in, say, My father was a writer; I hoped to be a writer, too. But why not say I too...? The comma's basic use is to divide two equal but distinct parts of one sentence: I went to visit my brother, and my wife went home. Or it may divide off a subordinate clause: I visited him, while she went home. Or a pair of commas may cut off some clause or parenthesis which the sentence could live without.

But note that I put no comma before which there, because what follows is essential: it's defining what kind of clause or parenthesis. Using no comma (or pause), the postman whom I met yesterday is unwell defines which postman, the one I met yesterday. But the postman, whom I met yesterday — your reader knows which one — is unwell merely adds to his illness a lesser fact about him, that you met him yesterday. So that extra information is commaed off.

And not only with who/which clauses. Use no commas in, say, Indira's son Rajiv was murdered: Rajiv defines which son, of two. But in, say, her husband, Feroze Gandhi, died in 1960 you don't need the name. In speech you'd pause; so comma it off.

Still more so if the parenthesis is lengthy: William Pitt, the only British prime minister whose father too had held that office, once said.... Here again my Economist pals had a private rule, anti-comma this one, when describing an informant. They wrote and write — I exaggerate only slightly — Joe Bloggs of the University of California's faculty of paraphysics in downtown Los Angeles argues that.... That lack of commas is not crazy; defying the natural pauses of speech, it's flatly wrong. There's one overriding rule: avoid ambiguity. So you may omit a comma, as (before if) in It's wrong to kill, but it's less wrong if the man is about to kill you. Or add one: The meal was 1950s British — tinned soup, meat and two veg, and a stodgy pudding, where the comma after veg(etables) shows that these go with the meat, not the pudding. Or in such a list turn commas into semicolons. In they came, Nehru, Morarji Desai, the finance minister, the RBI governor, etc. Make this In they came: Nehru; Morarji Desai, the finance minister; the RBI governor; etc. You may know that 50 years ago, the finance minister simply expanded on Morarji. But do all your readers?



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




One important message that the world's third richest man, Warren Buffett, has given to India is that its rich people should contribute more for the welfare of the poor and the needy. The number of millionaires in India is rising every year. But the absolute numbers of abjectly poor and needy people are also increasing. The widening gulf between the rich and the poor cannot be bridged by charity. But there is a strong case for India's rich people to loosen their purse strings for the benefit of the society and to help the less privileged brethren.

It may seem a contradiction that a man as wealthy as Warren Buffett loves his riches less than many less rich persons do. The legendary chairman of Berkshire Hathaway has pledged most of his fortunes to charity, most of it to the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation which is doing significant work in improving health and educational facilities for the poorest people all over the world. He has also contributed billions of dollars to trusts created by his family, which are engaged in social and philanthropic work. Buffett, Bill Gates and a number of other billionaires in western countries have stood out for their charitable instincts and work. They are part of a longstanding tradition in these countries which encourages charity and philanthropy.

Unfortunately this tradition is weak in India and needs to be strengthened. We often disparage western culture as individualistic, acquisitive and materialistic and claim that our culture places society above the individual and sets high store by altruism, sacrifice and giving. Negation of the self and renunciation are virtues emphasised and extolled by our philosophical tradition. But they are rarely followed in practice. While 2.2 per cent of the US GDP goes for charity, the figure is about 0.5 per cent in India. Companies which are flush with funds do not take their corporate responsibility seriously. Recently leaders of companies like Wipro, HCL and the GMR group and the Infosys Foundation have made notable gestures of philanthropic value. Old business houses like the Tatas have been active in areas like health and education. But generally the Indian attitude to charity, both at individual and corporate levels, and activities to reach out to the less fortunate leave much to be desired. We need to understand the pleasures and value of giving and caring for others much more than we do now.






The country may be closer to the much-needed reform in its indirect tax system with the introduction of the 115th Constitution amendment bill on a goods and services tax (GST) in the Lok Sabha. That the government has been able to finalise a legislative framework for the GST is itself an indication of its confidence in winning support for the measure. The case for a GST has not been in doubt and the opposition to it from the states had more to do with the details than with the idea itself. Though politics also has played some part, the major problems related to the states' genuine fears about loss of their fiscal autonomy in the new dispensation. These concerns seem to have been addressed now.

According to the earlier versions of the bill, the union finance minister had a decisive say on the GST rates through a power of veto in the GST council which he would preside over. This would have tilted the balance of power in the council in favour of the Centre and was against the federal spirit of the system, that too in an area as crucial as taxation. The Centre has now made a climb-down and agreed that the decisions shall be taken by consensus. This in fact might create practical difficulties in future, but is better than investing all power in a single central authority.  Since petroleum products and alcohol have been exempted from the purview of the GST,  states will also retain a major taxation power. The Centre in any case did not have other options as a refusal to  remove the states' apprehensions would have meant that the GST regime would not be possible at all. This is because the enabling constitutional amendment cannot come into effect without the support of at least 15 states.

The GST system is expected to turn the country into a single market and simplify the present tax system. It may be the biggest tax revolution since independence. The benefits to industry, trade and consumers will be very large and the economy will get a major boost. The proposal was first announced by the government four years ago and it has missed many deadlines. More work needs to be done if the latest deadline of April 2012 is to be met.







The shift to computer-controlled farming will reduce external risks and will allow secure and year-round production.

The Seattle-based Weber Thompson Architects have designed a multi-storey farm complete with hydroponic grow areas, grey water remediation, research facilities, retail space and living quarters. Once built, such high-tech, water and energy efficient skyscraper greenhouse will occupy less than an acre of land to provide several acres of harvest of grains, vegetables and fruits. With several such designs doing the rounds, vertical farming could soon be a reality.

There are reasons for the idea of farming to go vertical. First, arable land the size of Brazil for growing food to feed extra 1.6 billion mouths in next four decades may not be available. Second, irrigating additional acres is unlikely as 70 per cent of freshwater has already been consumed. Third, frequent crops failure on account of changing climate is proving a setback to farming in many regions of the world. The crisis at the farm seems imminent!

Agriculture has never been as fragile as it is today: ecologically unsustainable, economically devalued and climatically vulnerable. It is only in the last few years that over 15,000 years of settled agriculture is being rendered insufficient and unsustainable, slowly but surely. John Steinbeck's depiction of worst-case farm scenario in 'The Grapes of Wrath' is seemingly coming to life, closing in on an agriculture revolution that has lasted for so long.

Much might have changed since the classic novel was published in 1939 but the tragedies of that period have returned to haunt the farmer and agriculture yet again. Rising input costs, skewed trade barriers, erratic weather pattern, export-driven monocultures and increasing number of farmers' suicides have forced experts to conclude that agricultural practices may not be able to meet the needs of the growing population.

It may seem a doom and gloom scenario but technological advancement into the 21st century is sure to make such troubles history. Notable have been efforts against odds by individual farmers. A Florida farmer, wiped out by hurricane Andrew, reinvested in a greenhouse and replaced some 30 acres of outdoor farmland with a single acre of greenhouse-grown strawberries using hydro-stackers, which allow multiple layers of hydroponically grown crops in a unit area.

Such promising results have led Dickson Despommier, a public health microbiologist at New York's Columbia University, to design the concept of 'indoor' farming. The consequent shift from nature-dependent agriculture to computer-controlled farming will reduce external risks to a minimum and allows for secure, year-round production. The idea is to squeeze a whole ecosystem into one building for high production on a reasonable low resource base.


Such a high-rise building with 30 floors, the size of a Manhattan block in any city centre, would be powered by geothermic, solar, biomass, or wind energy and could generate the entire food needs of 50,000 people. In addition to year-round crop production, a 'farmscraper' will consume 70-95 per cent less water, purify grey water to drinking water, restrict the use of harmful agro-chemicals and ward-off weather related crop failures.
Despommier agrees that any first edition of an invention is going to cost a lot, like any one of our modern conveniences viz, hybrid car, plasma screen and mobile phone. The tangible and non-tangible gains from a vertical farm employing large-scale hydroponics and aeroponics (nutrient liquid and mist) will offset the initial costs — sustained crop production without further damaging the environment and eco-restoration of freed farmlands are important spin offs.

Constructed as a network of facilities, a typical vertical farm includes a building for growing food; a separate control center for monitoring the overall running of the facility; a nursery for selecting and germinating seeds, a quality-control laboratory to monitor food safety, document the nutritional status of each crop and monitor for plant diseases; facility for vertical farm workforce, a green market; and eventually an eco-education centre for general public.

During the last six years Despommier has worked with over 100 research students to combine futuristic architecture with futuristic agriculture. Interestingly, some six universities in the US, Europe, South Africa and Australia are currently researching into farming of the future. The research is focusing on an urban agro-production system such that lettuce or tomato would no longer travel 2,000 miles to reach their final destination.
Despommier has travelled across the world, presenting the idea of 'vertical farm' to government and companies to secure large-scale funding for constructing 20 prototypes." For high-tech, high-efficiency farming, I would ultimately pick countries like Chad, Mali, Malawi and other African countries where farming is not only failing but where farming due to climate effect is unlikely to occur in next 20 to 40 years," says Despommier.

Though technically plausible, the feasibility of farmscraper has been contested on grounds of its capital-intensive nature. Experts do however concur that there is a need for positive interaction between urban centres and food production. Not only is there a need for high-tech urban farm systems to liberate the developing world from a dependence on frail agriculture but equally compelling is the challenge to separate agriculture from impending climate vagaries. All said, Despommier's ingenious idea has the potential to ease the food, water and energy crises by heralding the third green revolution.







SDMCs have been told that they are donation-raisers as the govt cannot provide everything.

Manikanta, the impish school drop-out in Shanthinagar, Bangalore, about whom I wrote a few years ago, is still a drop-out. In addition, he has now become a child labourer. In Deshyanagar slum, more than 50 child drop-outs have failed to join the Residential Bridge Course opened for them. The education department's helplessness in addressing these situations has not changed in these many years. Not much is going to change in the future either if one goes by the final version of the Right to Education Rules of the Sarva Shikshana Abhiyana now sent to the government for approval.

That six decades have passed since we gave ourselves a Constitution which promised to send all children to school within one decade, does not appear to have injected any degree of urgency into our law-framers.

The rules say that all schools shall function as per prescribed norms within a time frame. But this time frame applies only to private schools and not to government schools. In a Triveninagar school, parents complained that their children come home with shit in their underpants as the school toilet is dysfunctional. So the rules are likely to ensure that this state of affairs shall continue.

As for quality of education, the very thoughtful provisions suggested by retired education department officials have been completely removed in the final rules. Those progressive provisions were being seen even by other states as models to emulate.


The rules say that the "School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC) shall ensure that every child is enrolled and gets quality education and that there are no drop-outs or out-of-school children", as if this wishful 'vision statement' is itself sufficient to bring back all children without stipulating how the SDMC will reliably enforce it.


There is a further long list of tasks to be done by the SDMC including preparation of a School Development Plan, estimating financial and other requirements. But there is no guarantee anywhere in the rules that these requirements will be mandatorily fulfilled by the government. Officials claim that the plans sent by SDMCs are the basis for allocating resources to schools and that no cuts are made on them. If that is the truth, then why are our government schools in the state they are in, with leaking roofs, no drinking water and hellish toilets?

While it appears laudable that the government is keen on community participation through the SDMCs, it has to be remembered that these bodies have been kept ignorant all these years about their true powers. SDMCs have been mainly told that they are donation-raisers "as the government cannot provide everything". Moreover, the SDMC is a voluntary body consisting mostly of poor parents who struggle even to attend a monthly meeting foregoing their wages.

If the SDMC and even the elected representatives of the local government have not been able to bring the Manikantas or the Desiyanagar slum children back to school or solve the toilet problems of Triveninagar school in all these years given the existing mechanisms, what justifies the faith that they will solve the problems now, without any radical change in the system?

Where is the rights-based protocol to provide solutions to the physical, cultural, social or economic "barriers to free and compulsory education" faced by children? The protocol should also fix clear responsibilities on designated officials as duty-bearers at every level, to ensure quality schools and compulsory attendance of children.

But without providing these support mechanisms to the SDMC, the rules say that the BEO, DDPI and the CEO of the zilla panchayat shall hold the SDMC responsible for violations of the Act. However, this whole pretence of demanding accountability is entirely suspect as these are the very officials responsible for the poor state of the government schools and trying to put the blame for it on the disempowered SDMC appears to be a charade being played to abdicate government responsibility for government schools. There are no penalties foreseen on officials for this abdication.

Anyone can also complain to the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR). But it is itself a debilitated body incapable of handling complaints from all across the state, which is another way of nullifying the Act.

It is time that an independent body which penalises officials failing to deliver public entitlements within time frames is introduced. Failing which, we will continue to have a make-believe Constitution, make-believe Acts and rules and elected representatives and bureaucrats who strut about in a make-believe drama of enforcement. All in all, a theatre of the absurd.








A crow can sing a soothing tune during hot and sleepy afternoons.

Have you seen a murder of crows? If you are about to say 'no', think again. This rather misleading term denotes a collection of crows, a sight quite common in our country. You may love them or hate them, but you cannot ignore them. Perhaps no other living thing is as familiar as this winged being. It gains an entry into our consciousness early in life, one might say, at the very dawn of memory. Lullabies and stories about these clever birds abound in every language and are handed down generation after generation.

There are numerous legends, superstitions and beliefs around them. They are thought bring change as well as act as harbingers of death. They are regarded too as prescient or revengeful spirits that visit us in disguise.

Lovers of crows will argue spiritedly and insist that these creatures, far from being ugly, are the black who are also beautiful. Consider the Jungle Crow. With its glossy feathers and sleek body, it has an allure all its own. Its strong, shiny and hooked beak adds a regal touch. The house-crow has its own prettiness. It wears a cream scarf that sits well on its grey and black coat. The eggs these birds lay are beautiful — pale blue and green and speckled in brown.

The crow has been reviled for its raucous voice, but would breaking dawn be the same without their ambient calls in the morning? What would the dying day be without their plaintive cries in the lengthening shadows? A well-known fable tells us how a fox flattered a crow's singing abilities and got away with its meal. I, for one, find though that it can sing a varying and soothing tune during hot and sleepy afternoons.

They are very clever birds too, with many a trick up their blackened feathers and they work admirably together to carry them out. They are devoted parents and will attack aggressively to protect their young. I have seen enraged crows pluck caps off to get at the scalp of perceived offenders. Ornithologist, Salim Ali, has pointed out that "his intelligence and boldness carry him triumphantly through a life of sin and wrong-doing.

His thieving propensities though are in a great measure redeemed by his efficient services as a scavenger". And indeed where there is dirt and refuse, there are crows too. But it is we humans who create the mess and also overlook the fact that it is the crows who help in clearing it.

Cleaner cities, it has been observed, have less of crows and it is quite likely that once we learn to keep our surroundings clean, their number will show a drastic decline. A good way for humans to go, but the crow-lover will find that this is something he is not willing to crow about!



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



House Republicans have already won so much in this year's federal budget standoff that they could easily declare victory and put an end to the maddening and dysfunctional cycle. Previous Congresses would have noticed that millions of people are still struggling in an economic downturn and tried to help, but Republicans have succeeded in shutting off that conversation.

They have won the philosophical war, compelling Democrats to agree to tens of billions in spending cuts. Yet that does not seem to be enough for the Republicans who now control the federal steering wheel.

With a hard deadline looming, talks to prevent a government shutdown have been stymied for a week because Tea Party members of the House have demanded everything: not just some of their cuts but almost all of them, and not just a reduction in spending but a reduction only in the programs they don't like. Many are insisting Democrats also agree to nonbudgetary riders, like ending the financing of Planned Parenthood or health care reform.

They simply will not accede to anything that looks like a compromise with President Obama. Caught in this position, Speaker John Boehner knows the public is likely to blame Republicans for the pain of a shutdown, once it sees that the Democrats offered difficult compromises that his caucus rejected. That is the price he pays for riding to power on the backs of people who don't understand that government cannot be built out of ideological rigidity.

If Mr. Boehner cannot persuade his members that the public does not want a government shutdown and will blame them, then much of the government will close its doors on April 8, when the current stopgap funding measure runs out. So far, the Republicans have wrung $10 billion in cuts from earlier deadlines, but their bill to butcher the current year's budget with $61 billion in radical cuts was voted down in the Senate.

Democrats have put together a package of $20 billion in cuts, on top of the $10 billion already agreed to. They have not released the details, but officials say they could include some current spending and some mandatory programs, like agriculture subsidies. This package is likely to be far more painful than the last one and will almost certainly pull back the reins much further than is prudent when the economic recovery is still sputtering. But in the split-the-difference culture of Washington, it will get them halfway toward the Republican goal line, further than imaginable just a few weeks ago.

Does that mean the House will end the week-by-week bloodletting that is already hampering many federal agencies? So far the signs do not look promising. Republicans have told Democratic negotiators that the cuts can only come from their original, rejected bill. Many are still clinging to the ideological riders that will certainly draw a presidential veto. One way or the other, Tea Party lawmakers are about to learn a lesson in how government operates; the only question is whether the public must suffer for their education.






The United States, its allies and Libyan rebels all want to see Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi out of power and support United Nations-mandated military action to keep him from slaughtering innocent civilians. But as an international conference of those allies proved on Tuesday, they are going to have to work hard to maintain that unity of purpose, and they have a long way to go to flesh out a long-term strategy for Libya.

The London meeting, which drew leaders of four dozen countries and international organizations, was a useful attempt to intensify pressure on Colonel Qaddafi and magnify his diplomatic isolation. But the results were limited.

It set up a contact group to coordinate political efforts on Libya's future and backed an offer by Qatar to sell oil produced by the rebel-held parts of Libya to pay for humanitarian needs. The meeting also resolved to keep up the pressure for Colonel Qaddafi to quit. But it announced no significant new steps to aid the rebels and no broader vision for helping them establish an alternate government either now or once Colonel Qaddafi is gone.

The United States and its partners were right to make clear that — even as their forces attack Libyan targets — exile remains an option if Colonel Qaddafi ends the bloodshed. A United Nations envoy will visit Libya soon to explore that possibility. However, there is no serious sign the erratic leader might abdicate.

Although allied airstrikes helped rebels regain battlefield momentum, pro-Qaddafi forces on Tuesday halted a westward push by the rebels and began a counteroffensive. The allies should arm the rebels if needed, and both the United States and France said that is possible. We understand their desire to learn more about the rebels — a disparate, disorganized and largely unknown group — before making that decision.

Ahead of the conference, the interim rebel National Council issued an eight-point statement on its blueprint for the future, including a constitutional democratic system that guaranteed elections and human rights. That is encouraging. There is a lot more the world needs to know about whom the council represents and how widely those principles are embraced.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain also promised that the international community in time would "put right the damage that Qaddafi has inflicted." That will be a tall order.

The United States and its allies have taken on a huge burden and lofty goals. They have a lot more to explain about what they mean and how it all will be carried out.


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It has taken far too long, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development has finally intervened in an outrageous case of housing discrimination by the government of St. Bernard Parish, an overwhelmingly white district adjacent to New Orleans.

Since 2006, in defiance of the Fair Housing Act and several federal court orders, the local government has restricted construction of affordable housing developments with the clear intent of keeping African-American residents out of the district. HUD has now threatened to strip the parish of $91 million in federal aid unless it repeals discriminatory ordinances and complies with the law.

The restrictive ordinances were only the latest in a series of creative exclusionary strategies. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, for instance, the parish approved an ordinance prohibiting property owners from renting to people who were not family members or related by blood. Since 93 percent of the homeowners are white, the provision was clearly aimed at residents in the adjacent, mainly African-American parts of New Orleans that suffered some of the worst damage from the flood.

A lawsuit from the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center forced the parish to repeal the "blood relative" ordinance, but other measures swiftly followed, all designed to keep the district as white as possible. In 2007, the parish council barred property owners from leasing or even lending single-family properties in large sections of the district to anyone. In 2008, the parish imposed a one-year moratorium on multifamily units, essentially stopping construction.

After a federal court declared the moratorium illegal, officials passed a nearly identical measure requiring a public vote on multifamily dwellings of more than six units. Repeated maneuvers like this one seem finally to have exhausted the federal government's patience.

The parish has promised to repeal its discriminatory ordinances at a meeting scheduled for April 5. Federal officials should stand ready to revoke financing at the first sign of backsliding.






Today we learn the word elapidae — a family of snakes that includes the Egyptian cobra (species Naja haje) that has been missing at the Bronx Zoo since Friday. What makes an elapid elapidated? Fangs that are proteroglyphous, which means they appear at the front of the mouth. They are also hollow and short. A cobra can't merely bite to deliver its venom, like a rattlesnake (which is solenoglyphous, with long, folding fangs). It must bite and hang on. It compensates for this inefficiency by having more powerful venom.

Does this give you the willies? It's worth remembering that the missing cobra — a female — is a few months old and only 20 inches long, unlike an adult cobra, which can be 5 feet to 8 feet long. An adult cobra would have no chance of vanishing in the Reptile House, which is closed until the absentee turns up.

But behind the cobra's official habitat in the Reptile House is another habitat — the complex mechanical systems hidden behind the scenes of many zoos. This is a wilderness of pipes, conduits and ducts — a serpentine, longitudinal paradise where a slim, youthful cobra might feel analogically at home.

The Bronx Zoo has prepared us for a long wait while the search continues, but we hope it ends soon, for the well-being of the cobra itself. And if, perhaps, the thought of a venomous snake gone missing doesn't already give you the shivers or put you in mind of Sherlock Holmes's speckled band, we suggest a visit to the Naja haje page at DigiMorph, where you can watch a 3-D CT scan of an Egyptian cobra revolving before your eyes.

That way you'll know what to look for when you check under the bed tonight.






There is an old saying in the Middle East that a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee. That thought came to my mind as I listened to President Obama trying to explain the intervention of America and its allies in Libya — and I don't say that as criticism. I say it with empathy. This is really hard stuff, and it's just the beginning.

When an entire region that has been living outside the biggest global trends of free politics and free markets for half a century suddenly, from the bottom up, decides to join history — and each one of these states has a different ethnic, tribal, sectarian and political orientation and a loose coalition of Western and Arab states with mixed motives trying to figure out how to help them — well, folks, you're going to end up with some very strange-looking policy animals. And Libya is just the first of many hard choices we're going to face in the "new" Middle East.

How could it not be? In Libya, we have to figure out whether to help rebels we do not know topple a terrible dictator we do not like, while at the same time we turn a blind eye to a monarch whom we do like in Bahrain, who has violently suppressed people we also like — Bahraini democrats — because these people we like have in their ranks people we don't like: pro-Iranian Shiite hard-liners. All the while in Saudi Arabia, leaders we like are telling us we never should have let go of the leader who was so disliked by his own people — Hosni Mubarak — and, while we would like to tell the Saudi leaders to take a hike on this subject, we can't because they have so much oil and money that we like. And this is a lot like our dilemma in Syria where a regime we don't like — and which probably killed the prime minister of Lebanon whom it disliked — could be toppled by people who say what we like, but we're not sure they all really believe what we like because among them could be Sunni fundamentalists, who, if they seize power, could suppress all those minorities in Syria whom they don't like.

The last time the Sunni fundamentalists in Syria tried to take over in 1982, then-President Hafez al-Assad, one of those minorities, definitely did not like it, and he had 20,000 of those Sunnis killed in one city called Hama, which they certainly didn't like, so there is a lot of bad blood between all of them that could very likely come to the surface again, although some experts say this time it's not like that because this time, and they could be right, the Syrian people want freedom for all. But, for now, we are being cautious. We're not trying nearly as hard to get rid of the Syrian dictator as we are the Libyan one because the situation in Syria is just not as clear as we'd like and because Syria is a real game-changer. Libya implodes. Syria explodes.

Welcome to the Middle East of 2011! You want the truth about it? You can't handle the truth. The truth is that it's a dangerous, violent, hope-filled and potentially hugely positive or explosive mess — fraught with moral and political ambiguities. We have to build democracy in the Middle East we've got, not the one we want — and this is the one we've got.

That's why I am proud of my president, really worried about him, and just praying that he's lucky.

Unlike all of us in the armchairs, the president had to choose, and I found the way he spelled out his core argument on Monday sincere: "Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And, as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action."

I am glad we have a president who sees America that way. That argument cannot just be shrugged off, especially when confronting a dictator like Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. But, at the same time, I believe that it is naïve to think that we can be humanitarians only from the air — and now we just hand the situation off to NATO, as if it were Asean and we were not the backbone of the NATO military alliance, and we're done.

I don't know Libya, but my gut tells me that any kind of decent outcome there will require boots on the ground — either as military help for the rebels to oust Qaddafi as we want, or as post-Qaddafi peacekeepers and referees between tribes and factions to help with any transition to democracy. Those boots cannot be ours. We absolutely cannot afford it — whether in terms of money, manpower, energy or attention. But I am deeply dubious that our allies can or will handle it without us, either. And if the fight there turns ugly, or stalemates, people will be calling for our humanitarian help again. You bomb it, you own it.

Which is why, most of all, I hope President Obama is lucky. I hope Qaddafi's regime collapses like a sand castle, that the Libyan opposition turns out to be decent and united and that they require just a bare minimum of international help to get on their feet. Then U.S. prestige will be enhanced and this humanitarian mission will have both saved lives and helped to lock another Arab state into the democratic camp.

Dear Lord, please make President Obama lucky.







TWO and a half years ago, Congress passed the legislation that bailed out the country's banks. The government has declared its mission accomplished, calling the program remarkably effective "by any objective measure." On my last day as the special inspector general of the bailout program, I regret to say that I strongly disagree. The bank bailout, more formally called the Troubled Asset Relief Program, failed to meet some of its most important goals.

From the perspective of the largest financial institutions, the glowing assessment is warranted: billions of dollars in taxpayer money allowed institutions that were on the brink of collapse not only to survive but even to flourish. These banks now enjoy record profits and the seemingly permanent competitive advantage that accompanies being deemed "too big to fail."

Though there is no question that the country benefited by avoiding a meltdown of the financial system, this cannot be the only yardstick by which TARP's legacy is measured. The legislation that created TARP, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, had far broader goals, including protecting home values and preserving homeownership.

These Main Street-oriented goals were not, as the Treasury Department is now suggesting, mere window dressing that needed only to be taken "into account." Rather, they were a central part of the compromise with reluctant members of Congress to cast a vote that in many cases proved to be political suicide.

The act's emphasis on preserving homeownership was particularly vital to passage. Congress was told that TARP would be used to purchase up to $700 billion of mortgages, and, to obtain the necessary votes, Treasury promised that it would modify those mortgages to assist struggling homeowners. Indeed, the act expressly directs the department to do just that.

But it has done little to abide by this legislative bargain. Almost immediately, as permitted by the broad language of the act, Treasury's plan for TARP shifted from the purchase of mortgages to the infusion of hundreds of billions of dollars into the nation's largest financial institutions, a shift that came with the express promise that it would restore lending.

Treasury, however, provided the money to banks with no effective policy or effort to compel the extension of credit. There were no strings attached: no requirement or even incentive to increase lending to home buyers, and against our strong recommendation, not even a request that banks report how they used TARP funds. It was only in April of last year, in response to recommendations from our office, that Treasury asked banks to provide that information, well after the largest banks had already repaid their loans. It was therefore no surprise that lending did not increase but rather continued to decline well into the recovery. (In my job as special inspector general I could not bring about the changes I thought were needed — I could only make recommendations to the Treasury Department.)

Meanwhile, the act's goal of helping struggling homeowners was shelved until February 2009, when the Home Affordable Modification Program was announced with the promise to help up to four million families with mortgage modifications.

That program has been a colossal failure, with far fewer permanent modifications (540,000) than modifications that have failed and been canceled (over 800,000). This is the well-chronicled result of the rush to get the program started, major program design flaws like the failure to remedy mortgage servicers' favoring of foreclosure over permanent modifications, and a refusal to hold those abysmally performing mortgage servicers accountable for their disregard of program guidelines. As the program flounders, foreclosures continue to mount, with 8 million to 13 million filings forecast over the program's lifetime.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has acknowledged that the program "won't come close" to fulfilling its original expectations, that its incentives are not "powerful enough" and that the mortgage servicers are "still doing a terribly inadequate job." But Treasury officials refuse to address these shortfalls. Instead they continue to stubbornly maintain that the program is a success and needs no material change, effectively assuring that Treasury's most specific Main Street promise will not be honored.

Finally, the country was assured that regulatory reform would address the threat to our financial system posed by large banks that have become effectively guaranteed by the government no matter how reckless their behavior. This promise also appears likely to go unfulfilled. The biggest banks are 20 percent larger than they were before the crisis and control a larger part of our economy than ever. They reasonably assume that the government will rescue them again, if necessary. Indeed, credit rating agencies incorporate future government bailouts into their assessments of the largest banks, exaggerating market distortions that provide them with an unfair advantage over smaller institutions, which continue to struggle.

Worse, Treasury apparently has chosen to ignore rather than support real efforts at reform, such as those advocated by Sheila Bair, the chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to simplify or shrink the most complex financial institutions.

In the final analysis, it has been Treasury's broken promises that have turned TARP — which was instrumental in saving the financial system at a relatively modest cost to taxpayers — into a program commonly viewed as little more than a giveaway to Wall Street executives.

It wasn't meant to be that. Indeed, Treasury's mismanagement of TARP and its disregard for TARP's Main Street goals — whether born of incompetence, timidity in the face of a crisis or a mindset too closely aligned with the banks it was supposed to rein in — may have so damaged the credibility of the government as a whole that future policy makers may be politically unable to take the necessary steps to save the system the next time a crisis arises. This avoidable political reality might just be TARP's most lasting, and unfortunate, legacy.

Neil M. Barofsky was the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program from 2008 until today.






San Antonio, Tex.

WHERE has President Bashar al-Assad of Syria been this past week?

Thousands of Syrians across the country have staged demonstrations against the government, and dozens of protesters have been reported killed by security forces. The cabinet was dismissed on Tuesday, although that's a meaningless gesture unless it's followed by real reform. Through it all Mr. Assad has remained so quiet that rumors were rampant that he had been overthrown. But while Syrians are desperate for leadership, it's not yet clear what sort of leader Mr. Assad is going to be.

Will he be like his father, Hafez al-Assad, who during three decades in power gave the security forces virtually a free hand to maintain order and sanctioned the brutal repression of a violent Islamist uprising in the early 1980s? Or will he see this as an opportunity to take Syria in a new direction, fulfilling the promise ascribed to him when he assumed the presidency upon his father's death in 2000?

Mr. Assad's background suggests he could go either way. He is a licensed ophthalmologist who studied in London and a computer nerd who likes the technological toys of the West; his wife, Asma, born in Britain to Syrian parents, was a banker at J. P. Morgan. On the other hand, he is a child of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the cold war. Contrary to American interests, he firmly believes Lebanon should be within Syria's sphere of influence, and he is a member of a minority Islamic sect, the Alawites, that has had a chokehold on power in Syria for decades.

In 2004 and 2005, while writing a book on him, I had long interviews with Mr. Assad; after the book was published, I continued to meet with him as an unofficial liaison between Syria and the United States when relations between the two countries deteriorated. In that time I saw Mr. Assad evolve into a confident and battle-tested president.

I also saw him being consumed by an inert Syrian system. Slowly, he replaced those of questionable loyalty with allies in the military, security services and in the government. But he does not have absolute power. He has had to bargain, negotiate and manipulate pockets of resistance inside the government and the business community to bring about reforms, like allowing private banks and establishing a stock exchange, that would shift Syria's socialist-based system to a more market-oriented economy.

But Mr. Assad also changed along the way. When I met with him during the Syrian presidential referendum in May 2007, he voiced an almost cathartic relief that the people really liked him. Indeed, the outpouring of support for Mr. Assad would have been impressive if he had not been the only one running, and if half of it wasn't staged. As is typical for authoritarian leaders, he had begun to equate his well-being with that of his country, and the sycophants around him reinforced the notion. It was obvious that he was president for life. Still, I believed he had good intentions, if awkwardly expressed at times.

Even with the escalating violence there, it's important to remember that Syria is not Libya and President Assad is not Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. The crackdown on protesters doesn't necessarily indicate that he is tightening his grip on power; it may be that the secret police, long given too much leeway, have been taking matters into their own hands.

What's more, anti-Assad elements should be careful what they wish for. Syria is ethnically and religiously diverse and, with the precipitous removal of central authority, it could very well implode like Iraq. That is why the Obama administration wants him to stay in power even as it admonishes him to choose the path of reform.

Today, President Assad is expected to announce that the country's almost 50-year emergency law, used to stifle opposition to the regime, is going to be lifted. But he needs to make other tough choices, including setting presidential term limits and dismantling the police state. He can change the course of Syria by giving up that with which he has become so comfortable.

The unrest in Syria may have afforded President Assad one last chance at being something more than simply Hafez al-Assad's son.

David W. Lesch, a professor of Middle East history at Trinity University, is the author of "The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria."







A partial shutdown of the U.S. government is scheduled to begin April 8 — unless there is a budget agreement by Congress.

Democrats are offering nominal cuts. Republicans want bigger cuts.

But if someone doesn't begin to make serious cuts now in the spending that's adding to our $14 trillion national debt, when will we?





In the ongoing economic crisis, the last thing government at any level should be doing is raising taxes.

Our people cannot afford higher taxes, for one thing. And tax increases would discourage both private spending and investment, which are our best chance to enlarge our economy enough to really cut unemployment.

So it was alarming to read a recent headline noting that "Tennessee city, county budget shortages spur talk of taxes." The Associated Press article said cities around the state are having to lay off workers, reduce benefits and postpone projects. It said tight city and county budgets have "given new ammunition to supporters of a tax increase at the state level."

Wrong! While taking more dollars in taxes from families and businesses might seem an easy way to get more money for government, it would have long-term negative consequences.

Government is certainly not going through greater pain than families go through when an earner is laid off or wages don't increase. Many Tennessee families are simply having to make do with less, whether by giving up vacations, keeping well-used cars when they might prefer newer models, or clipping coupons.

The difference is that government can "pass a law" to raise more revenue; families can't just "pass a law" to earn more money or cut their living expenses.

Fortunately, there appears to be little inclination on the part of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to raise taxes at the state level. He has correctly suggested that government will instead have to get by with less.

"What we are seeing in government today really is the 'new normal,'" he said during his State of the State address to the General Assembly. "Every government, ours included, will be forced to transform how it sets priorities and makes choices."

What's more, there is an appropriate move in the General Assembly to amend the state constitution to make it absolutely clear that a general state income tax on salaries and wages is forbidden in Tennessee. (The "Hall income tax" on dividends and interest would remain.)

Some other states, to their distress, have chosen differently. California, for instance, has imposed layer after layer of taxes and bureaucracy, driving out existing businesses and discouraging new economic development. Such policies have virtually destroyed California's automobile-manufacturing industry, and California and other high-tax states face massive budget deficits.

Even in boom times, there is never enough money to fund everything government would like to do. But in a time of economic crisis and high unemployment, raising taxes would be particularly harmful.





Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is reprehensible in the eyes of the United States and of many of his own people, who are in revolt against him.

But without there having been a "hot" attack by Gadhafi's forces on Americans, President Barack Obama had U.S. military forces attack Libya, ignoring the U.S. Constitution's provision that only Congress has the power to declare war.

Obama tried in a national broadcast Monday to defend his decision, largely on grounds of protecting Libyan civilians. But he failed to provide convincing justification for his military action — action for which he had received only U.N. "approval."

Pointedly dodging the word "war" — although that is what he has sent Americans into — he said, "To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are."

Those are noble-sounding words, but in terms of the Constitution, they are almost meaningless.

There is no question that Gadhafi is a tyrant. His country has been involved in terrorism against the United States, and he has victimized the Libyan people. But absent an imminent threat to the United States, sending our forces to attack Gadhafi's regime without a declaration of war by Congress cannot be justified.

There are numerous foreign leaders, in addition to Gadhafi, who brutalize their own people. But it is not a proper enterprise for U.S. forces to take military action to oust Gadhafi — or the others — without a threat to our own security.

Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Armed Services Committee, correctly said, "President Obama failed to explain why he unilaterally took our nation to war without bothering to make the case to the U.S. Congress."

Short of an immediate threat to the United States or to American citizens, our country should not go to war without a declaration by Congress, as the Constitution provides.






There was great optimism when the peoples of various Middle Eastern nations began clamoring for change in their oppressive governments. In some cases, that's exactly what they got.

Egyptians, for instance, forced longtime President Hosni Mubarak out of power. Their reasons for doing so are understandable; he had ruled dictatorially.

Many in Egypt and the West "naturally" assumed that a truly representative government would arise to take Mubarak's place, and set Egypt on the path to liberty and prosperity. But Egypt may descend into even worse tyranny, such as Iran-style rule by radical Muslims.

Mubarak long kept tight controls on a radical group in Egypt called the Muslim Brotherhood. A cell of that organization had played a role in the assassination of Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat.

Protesters who toppled Mubarak thought (or hoped) that the Muslim Brotherhood would, at most, be one voice among many as Egypt tries to form a new governing structure.

But it isn't working out that way.

The Brotherhood "is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes," The New York Times reported. Meanwhile, the "young, educated secular activists" who started the movement for change in Egypt "are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment," the newspaper said.

The Brotherhood's alliance with the Egyptian military is troubling because of the military's long role in suppressing dissent in Egypt.

Some have tried to downplay the radical nature of the Brotherhood, suggesting it is more moderate than the al-Qaida terrorist network that launched the 9/11 attacks against the United States. It is possible the Brotherhood is somewhat less extreme than al-Qaida. But it is still disturbing that it is playing a big role in a huge country in the unstable Middle East.

We all should hope freedom will prevail in Egypt and in other nations in the region. But there is real danger that at least some countries will trade one kind of despotic government for another.









An investigation of trips that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family have taken abroad has revealed problematic conduct on the prime minister's part during various periods in his political career. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is doing the right thing in looking into the legal and ethical aspects of the trips, which were revealed by Raviv Drucker on Channel 10's "Hamakor" program. The junkets were taken during periods when Netanyahu was a Knesset member and finance minister.

It is absolutely appropriate to look into how it happened that the Israel Bonds organization funded such a large number of trips of family members of an elected official, as well as their stays at luxury hotels and their leisure time.

It is also fitting to look into Netanyahu's acquiescence (apparently willingly ) in accepting generous funding to cover travel expenses, accommodations, side trips and entertainment (for himself and his family ) from wealthy individuals in Europe and the United States, some of whom have business interests in Israel.

An investigation should be carried out over whether this is consistent with the law and with ethical standards required of elected officials. This issue is especially important in light of the fact that Netanyahu was not always meticulous about requesting approval by the Knesset Ethics Committee before embarking on his trips.

If it is found that Netanyahu violated ethics rules and the law, the matter will be transferred to the attorney general to deal with the case.

The embarrassing accumulated nature of the trips presents an additional serious aspect, however. The Channel 10 investigation shows a pattern of wealthy acquaintances around the world seemingly assisting in funding items falling in a gray area between private expenditures and political and public ones.

This assistance by individuals whose identities have been disclosed, but whose loyalties and political connections remain obscured, must raise the question as to whom Netanyahu is more indebted, to them or to the Israeli public.

It appears that the prime minister and his family are big fans of a lifestyle of the type led by isolated rulers of oil emirates.

It is true that Netanyahu is not alone. The trips he tried to conceal are in addition to a broader dubious list that includes the luxury hotel suite Defense Minister Ehud Barak rented for the Paris Air Show and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's travels, but it seems Netanyahu went too far.

It is fair to expect that Israeli prime ministers would conduct themselves with a semblance of modesty. And he should absolutely be expected not to owe a thing to anyone.








If you want to kill yourself, you don't have to work too hard, just write a critical article about any subject related to women, and immediately the women's organizations will attack you from all sides, declare you are a male chauvinistic pig and condemn you to the slaughter - metaphorically speaking.

What can you do when the subject is a burning issue that demands a response? The women's organizations are applying massive pressure to politicians to prevent the retirement age for women being raised to 64. As a result of the pressure a committee to discuss the issue has been set up.

Until 2004, the retirement age for women was 60 and for men 65. but it turned out that the Histradrut labor federation pension funds were on the verge of bankruptcy, and the state's pension obligations endangered the budget. A solution was found - nationalization of the pension funds and upping the retirement age for men and women. In July 2004, a process began in which the retirement age for women is gradually being raised to 64 and for men to 67.

The women's organizations aren't pleased. They agree to increasing the retirement age for women to 62 (the present retirement age ), but not to 64. Note that a woman is allowed to retire at the age of 62, but is not required to do so. If she so desires, she can go on working until the age of 67, a significant privilege that men do not enjoy.

Talia Livni, president of the women's organization Na'amat, says older women find themselves outside the job market. If they are forced to wait for their old-age allowance and their pension payment until the age of 64, she says, they will find themselves doomed to "a life of poverty."

What about the men? Who represents them? Don't men work at jobs that lead to burnout, such as construction and industry? Aren't they discriminated against in the job market because of age? Aren't they doomed to "a life of poverty"? Why do they have to work until the age of 67, thereby subsidizing the pension for women?

Natural justice says otherwise. The life expectancy for women in Israel is 83, while that for men is 79. In other words, women benefit from another four years with a pension, and therefore they have to work longer than men, to pay for those four years.

Since I'm afraid of the women's organizations, I won't claim that men should retire before women. I will say that the retirement age should be equalized. We can propose that both sexes retire at the age of 66. We should also work vigorously to equalize wages between men and women. If an employer knows that a certain woman is unwilling to work overtime, or that she will retire five years before a man, that will certainly reduce her chances of promotion to senior positions, and will therefore harm her salary.

A few days ago, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published its annual pension report. It recommends extending the work years of both men and women. The reason: increasing life expectancy. That is why France recently raised the retirement age by two years.

The OECD checked and found that due to early retirement and an increase in life expectancy, today the number of years during which men receive a pension (from retirement to death ) is 16.5 on average, whereas for women life expectancy with a pension reaches 21.6 years - a gap of five years in their favor. Why do they - and not the men - feel shortchanged?

The OECD recommends raising the retirement age for men to 66.6 and for women to 65. Here the recommendation is already being implemented for men; why not implement it for women, too?

Women's struggle to achieve equality is deserving of support. It was accelerated in the mid-19th century, with the social revolution that espoused the value of equality. Here it became significant in the 1970s, with the establishment of organizations that work to promote women's rights.

But equal rights go together with equal obligations. That is why we should take a cue from countries in which equality between men and women is greatest: Scandinavia. There the retirement age for women ranges from 64 to 66.

Although Na'amat is responsible for promoting women's issues, one doesn't have to be a male chauvinist pig to understand that in this case not only is there no negative discrimination against women, there is even reverse discrimination.








As strange as it sounds, everyone in Israel loves Arab dictators. When I say everyone I mean both Jews and Arabs. The favorite dictator of all is president Assad. As Assad junior inherited the oppressive regime in Syria, so did both Jews and Arabs transfer their affection for the dictator from Damascus from Assad senior to his son.

Following the intifada in the Arab states, Bashar al-Assad maintained in an interview to the Wall Street Journal that the situation in Syria is different, adding that Syria is not like Egypt. He also emphasized that Syria was not susceptible to sliding into a similar situation, because it was in the "resistance" front and belongs to the anti-American, anti-Israeli axis.

Well, Assad is right. The situation in Syria is indeed different. The Syrian regime is more like Saddam's defunct regime. The Ba'ath Party that ruled Iraq and the one still ruling Syria both held aloft flags of pan-Arab national ideology. But slogans are one thing and reality is another. All the ideological sweet talk was only talk. For the Ba'ath Party, both in Iraq and in Syria, constituted a political platform to perpetuate tribal, ethnic oppression.

Indeed, the situation in Egypt is completely different. If we put aside the Coptic minority, then Egyptian society is homogenous religiously and not tribal at all. The demoted Egyptian president, Mubarak, never had a tribal-ethnic crutch to lean on. The Egyptian army is also different and not at all like the Syrian or Iraqi armies.

For example, when the United States invaded Iraq, the Iraqi army splintered into its tribal and ethnic fragments. The soldiers took off their uniforms and each joined his tribe and ethnic community. Saddam too adhered to those tribal codes. He did not flee Iraq but went to hide in the well-protected areas of his tribesmen. This is what happens in these societies. In the land of the cedars, as soon as the civil war broke out, the Lebanese army dissolved into its ethnic components and disappeared.

True, Syria is not Egypt. Syria is also different in terms of the price in blood inflicted by the tyrannical Syrian regime. The Syrian tribal government is based on the force exercised by the security branches ruled by the tribesmen and their interested allies.

Inherently, a tribal regime of this kind will always be seen as a foreign reign. This kind of reign can be called tribal imperialism, which rules by operating brutal terror and oppression. This is underscored when a minority tribe rules, like in Syria. Thus every undermining of the government is seen as a challenge to the tribal hegemony and a danger to the ruling tribe's survival. Such a regime by its very nature is totally immersed in a bloodbath.

Both Assad senior and Assad junior advocated resistance against Israel. This slogan was hollow, serving the regime merely as an insurance policy against any demand for freedom and democracy. The Syrian "resistance" government has not uttered a peep on the Golan front since 1973. Instead, the "resistance" regime was and still is ready to fight Israel to the last Lebanese, and if that doesn't do the trick - then to the last Palestinian.

As voices in Israel have recently spoken out in favor of Hamas' continued rule in Gaza, so many Israelis are worried these days over the Syrian regime's welfare. Astonishingly, not only Jews are praying secretly for the Damascus regime's survival, but many in the Arab parties as well. These parties' leaders have been dumbstruck, their voices have been muted and no outcry has been raised against the Syrian regime's massacre of civilians.

All the hypocrites, Jews and Arabs alike, have united. It seems Assad has wall-to-wall support here, as though he were king of Israel.








No more war, no more bloodshed, let deterrence do the job of soldiers and weapons on the battlefield. A great doctrine when it works. It worked for the Soviet Union and America during the Cold War. And it has worked for Israel since the Yom Kippur War as far as our neighbors were concerned.

It was actually the foundation of the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. When the leaders of a nation contemplating an act of aggression realize that they are faced by almost certain defeat or vast destruction that may endanger their hold on power, they desist, they are deterred.

That is the reason Anwar Sadat, after the Egyptian defeat in the Yom Kippur War, concluded that the time had come to make peace with Israel. And that is the reason the Assads, father and son, have not attacked Israel in the thirty-eight years since the Yom Kippur War.

Of course, miscalculation can always send deterrence to the winds. The Japanese in World War II miscalculated and attacked Pearl Harbor, thinking they could defeat America. And Saddam Hussein miscalculated and believed the Bushs, father and son, would not go to war against him despite his provocations.

So the possibility of miscalculation by the other side must always be taken into account in solving the deterrence equation.

It is quite another story when it comes to terrorists. Usually they cannot be deterred. They are difficult to target, they are responsible only to themselves or their organizations, and they do not care if their surroundings suffer from the retribution brought down by their acts.

Not being deterrable, they must be defeated, as the Israel Defense Forces did after the Passover massacre in 2002.

And then there are the terrorists who assume political responsibility in their "home" base and thus become sensitive and vulnerable to punitive measures taken in the wake of their acts of terror.

That is Hezbollah today. Initially they had no political standing in Lebanon, and it was difficult to identify them with the government of Lebanon and hold the government of Lebanon responsible for their acts of terror. Beirut simply claiming they were incapable of controlling Hezbollah.

The Hezbollah model of the terrorist organization that was presumably uncontrollable by the government nominally in control of the area became a paradigm of terrorist operations soon copied elsewhere.

There was a time, over 10 years ago, when the Syrians controlled Lebanon and also Hezbollah, and they could be held accountable for the acts of terror committed by Hezbollah.

Then, the Israel Air Force, in response to rocket attacks on Israel's northern settlements, would attack infrastructure targets in Beirut and other locations in Lebanon, and Syrian pressure on Hezbollah would bring about a cessation of the rocket attacks.

The situation changed when Syria left Lebanon and Hezbollah again became an "uncontrollable" terrorist organization. It has changed again as Hezbollah over the years attained political power and became the dominant political actor on the Lebanese political scene.

In Gaza, a terrorist organization, Hamas, rules and is responsible, although here too we see a repeat of the earlier Hezbollah paradigm: Islamic Jihad assuming the role of the "uncontrollable" terrorist organization.

Why did Operation Cast Lead not establish a long-standing deterrent against rocket attacks on the south?

Leaving aside the question of why the IDF was not ordered to complete the job and put an end to the rocket capability of Hamas in Gaza, there is good reason to believe that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad believe that in the wake of the Goldstone report and the wholesale condemnations of Cast Lead, the Israeli government would hesitate to undertake another ground operation in Gaza.

And the rocket attacks can only be stopped by a ground operation.

Are we seeing a failure of deterrence or are Hamas and the Islamic Jihad miscalculating?









I would like to introduce you to the principle of relative cancellation - a legal rule that says that a defect in the activity of a government authority will not necessarily lead to the cancellation of this activity. And there is no region more suitable for implementing this wonderful principle, with the encouragement of the top legal echelon, than Judea and Samaria, an area in which the settlers' wishes almost totally cancel the rights and needs of others.

Recently the state presented to the High Court of Justice its reply to a petition submitted by Palestinian residents through attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zecharia, against the construction of a water purification plant for the settlement of Ofra on land that is privately owned by Palestinians.

The facts, according to the state's version, are quite clear. Ofra has no valid master plan or defined area of jurisdiction, and therefore cannot be granted building permits. But it has flourished and spread toward Palestinian-owned lands properly registered in the land registry.

A flourishing community needs a proper sewage purification plant and a place for it was in fact found: In the glorious tradition of Ofra, a sewage purification plant was constructed without building permits and without a master plan, and of course on privately-owned land. There even seems to be a suspicion that someone connected to the settlers issued a document that according to the State Prosecutor's Office "looks like a building permit."

But this entire chain of failures, distortions and violations of the law is relatively negligible compared to the profound concern of the state and the settlers for the environment. There is no other solution for sewage purification, says the state, and therefore the plant should be left in place and the area expropriated. It will also serve Palestinian villages, and that will be additional justification for its existence. One of the alternatives that was considered as a solution was using existing oxidation pools inside Ofra, but it was rejected, one reason being that the pools are next to settlers' homes.

It is hard not to be impressed by the closing of the circle, in the course of which the settlers improved their situation while continuing to pollute the environment, and then strengthened their hold on the land even further, in order to solve the environmental problem they created. First they built settlements without permits, and oxidation pools to provide a solution for sewage. These pools are too close to the houses and too small, so they built a new plant illegally outside the community, and now they're legalizing it, because otherwise the environment will continue to suffer.

So why should we complain about the settlers whose handiwork is drowning in sewage? The main responsibility remains that of the state, which came to their rescue after providing "a certain amount of funding," as the State Prosecutor's Office defined it, to build the plant. Now the Palestinian villagers who saw Ofra take over their lands are supposed to rely on the settlement to solve their sewage problem, by means of an additional piece of land it stole from them. If they don't accept the solution, they will be forced to continue to deal with the sewage problem that makes their lives difficult too and endangers the environment. If they accept the solution, they will help to perpetuate the settlement enterprise and even grant it environmental approval.

As far as the settlers are concerned, they will certainly exploit the anticipated refusal of the villagers to use the purification plant, in order to continue with the environmental information campaign that they have recently been conducting. In its context they are urging the government to stop pollution from sewage from Palestinian communities, and reprimanding their neighbors for refusing to cooperate with the settlements in building purification facilities. They certainly will not forget to mention that their viewpoint is not related to any political solution, because after all, the only thing that interests them, as we know, is to keep the Land of Israel green and beautiful.






While Russia has had its share of rough patches throughout history, the vast country's many contributions of culture, arts and civilization are beyond dispute. From Alexander Pushkin's poetry to Rudolph Nureyev's ballet to Pyotr Kapitsa's breakthroughs in physics. We might even add in borscht and vodka. 

So to this list of achievement we hope the world will follow Russia and its embrace over the weekend of permanently set clocks. In case you missed it, Russia followed much of the world to "spring forward" over the weekend and adjust clocks across its many time zones to account for daylight-saving time. The difference is that when the rest of us "fall back" six months from now, Russia will not be among us. "DST," as it is sometimes called, will be the norm year-round.

We admit that we're a little more annoyed than usual at the switch this year, as Turkey delayed its participation in Europe's (and much else of the world's) annual spring theft of an hour from our morning. Rather than switch like most on Sunday, Turkey did so Monday to avoid the inevitable complaints of students sitting for exams over the weekend. But even without this out-of-sync annoyance to travelers, meeting planners and common sense, we still cannot divine a good reason for this bi-annual time shift. As the days get longer with the arrival of spring, we add an extra hour to make them even longer. As the days get shorter with the nearing of the winter solstice, what do we do? We make them even shorter by lopping off an hour. If there is to be any logic found in tinkering with our timepieces twice a year, it would surely be in the opposite direction, evening out the allotment of daylight we get over the course of a year. 

At the start of the 20th century, when England first introduced this nonsense, it perhaps made sense. It was first proposed, for the record, by a New Zealand entomologist who wanted more summer hours after work to catch butterflies. Retailers apparently like the extra sunlight in the summer, and have formed a formidable lobby. But an extra hour of sunlight, however diminished by normal cycles, would surely have as much value in December or January. 

While we don't put much stock in the argument of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who argued the time shifting disturbs not just humans but animals too. The contentment of cows whose milkmaids arrive with buckets an hour late is not a good basis for broad social policy. But we are not convinced by many of the other arguments, of energy savings, boosts of Vitamin D levels, or reduced traffic fatalities, that usually come with defense of DST. 

The Russian approach is the correct one. Let's adjust the clocks once and be done with it. In a world of great dissension and turmoil, this is one consensus the world can actually have. Today Russia. Tomorrow the world.

The views expressed in the Straight represent the consensus opinion of the Hürriyet Daily News and its editorial board members.






Something very unexpected happened last week. Dozens of policemen visited the offices of daily Radikal, a fine newspaper who is just several floors above the Hürriyet Daily News in the same media plaza. The men in uniform were looking for all the available copies of a book draft with the peculiar title, "İmamın Ordusu" (The Imam's Army). Its writer, reporter Ahmet Şık, has been in prison since last month for his alleged ties with the alleged terrorist network codenamed "Ergenekon." And his book, allegedly, was prepared with the orders, and the support, of the same terrorist network.

So, this is the sad point that the Ergenekon case — something that is serious and crucial — has reached. Four years ago, when it began, it was about assassinations and bombings that aimed at destabilizing the country to open the way for a military coup. Nowadays it is about "propaganda on behalf of the terrorist network," and the arrest of journalists who are suspected to have "taken orders" from the would-be coup makers.

Vague accusations

From the first day on, of the arrest of journalists Nedim Şener and Şık, I have said that this is unacceptable. For "propaganda on behalf of terrorism" is a very vague accusation which can easily turn into thought policing. Unless it is clearly proven that a journalist has been in active cooperation to help a crime — such as running a headline that will attract more people to a location that will be bombed — people can not be accused for what they have written. Launching a police hunt on what they have written is even worse.

What is further worse is that the hunted book, "İmamın Ordusu," does not even seem to propagate in favor of Ergenekon and its ultra-secularist, ultra-nationalist ideology. What the book does, apparently, is to propagate against the police forces and the prosecutors who have carried out the Ergenekon investigation. The writer, Şık, seems convinced that the Islamic community led by Fethullah Gülen, a Sufi-minded and moderate-toned imam who lives in Pennsylvania, has penetrated the Turkish police and the judiciary and constitute the "real force" behind the Ergenekon probe.

The spokesmen for the Gülen community, however, deny the accusations, and note that they would have been utterly unwise to prosecute a book which attacks them, if they had really controlled the police and the prosecutors. (That would only be a stupid move which only gives more strength to Şık's argument.)

The same spokesmen have also noted, quite reasonably, that there are at least a dozen "anti-Gülen" books on the shelves of Turkey's bookstores. None of the authors who have written these books, which are often very cheap and paranoid tracts, have been prosecuted. So the idea that "anybody who touches Gülen burns" — as Şık said on the day of his arrest — does not seem very convincing.

These arguments made sense to me. Besides, I already do not buy into the popular secularist conspiracy that the Gülen movement, like the Communists of Senator McCarthy, have "infiltrated the whole state." Such sweeping conspiracy theories, which are all too popular in Turkey, are beliefs that cannot be not proved or refuted with empirical data. Thus, I believe, they should be left aside.

A state tradition

Therefore I am in favor of looking at the Turkish prosecutors and the Turkish police not as the heinous arms of a hidden group, but as actors in themselves. When we do that, we will actually find out that the bizarre raid on "terrorist propaganda" is actually not that bizarre. Turkey's draconian laws, and the authoritarian legal mentality they represent, are very rigid on this matter. No wonder many Kurdish activists and politicians have been prosecuted for calling Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, "sayın" — a word that denotes respect. Most of the "journalists in jail" are in prison for similar words of "propaganda support" for the PKK or various Marxist-Leninist terror groups.

So, what we need in the wake of the hunt on Şık's "terrorist" book, and similar acts of the Turkish police and the judiciary, is not trying to figure out which conspiracy theory about these forces are true. What we rather need is to question our laws, and our legal culture and reform them in the light of the principle of free speech. People should be able to bash the police, the judiciary, the government — and the military, of course — freely. The obstacle to that is our common illiberal mentality.







During 2010, the Russian market benefited from heightened merger and acquisition, or M&A, activity - a trend which has continued into 2011. This was particularly the case during the second half of last year, when the cost of three- to five-year ruble loans dropped to 8-12 percent, down from 13-15 percent during the same period in 2009.

Together with lower credit costs, a more buoyant deal-making environment has also reflected growing cash cushions on the balance sheets of Russia's stronger companies, together with the weakened positions of those firms that the 2008 crisis exposed as inherently inferior.

The largest Russian deal last year was Uralkali's $9.8 billion acquisition of Silvinit to create a Russian potash powerhouse, at a time when BHP's bid to buy Potash Corp. was blocked by Canadian authorities. The next biggest deal was PepsiCo's $5.3 billion purchase of 66 percent of Wimm-Bill-Dann, Russia's leading juice/diary producer. Another high-profile transaction was the sale of supermarket chain Kopeika to Retail Group X5, Russia's largest food retailer, for $1.7 billion. In other sectors, E.On sold 3.5 percent of Gazprom for $4.6 billion and the telecommunications sector saw several multi-billion-dollar deals.

A recently published study of Russian M&A, published by MergerMarket, in conjunction with the law firm CMS (Russia), makes for interesting reading. Total disclosed deal values in Russia jumped from $23.6 billion in 2009 to $68.7 billion last year, a 191 percent rise. The total number of reported transactions grew to 213 in 2010, from 165 the year before.

While the big deals grabbed the headlines, the large number of smaller deals reported by this study reflect the fact that Russia remains a rather fragmented economy. This is a situation that allows long-only, specialized investors like Prosperity Capital Management to benefit from highly value-accretive transactions among lower-tier companies as consolidation, across a range of sectors, continues to take place. Yet while Russia has historically seen most deals at the lower end of the spectrum ($20-130 million), this study shows a shift towards the higher ($131-330 million) bracket.

Unlike many other regions, Russia's biggest transactions in 2010 generally involved domestic players. Only PepsiCo and Trafigura, which bought an 8 percent stake in Norilsk Nickel, featured in the top-10 deals. Yet large multinationals such as BP, Daimler, Renault and Boeing have previously engaged in Russian M&A. In the aftermath of PepsiCo's move, many other large overseas investors are now looking to follow - with big players ranging from Siemens to the China Investment Corporation now voicing their intentions.

While some portfolio investment into Russia can be subject to fads, driven by often garish Western press coverage, strategic direct investors tend to take a more robust (and realistic) view of the business opportunity here after conducting somewhat more thorough risk assessments. Non-specialized equity investors sometimes tell us that they "cannot afford to be in Russia" – given the perceived risks. Major international corporations, in contrast, given the country's resources, technological skills and size of market, often comment that they "cannot afford not to be in Russia."

The sector focus of Russian deal-making shifted last year. During 2009, large-cap energy, mining and utilities deals accounted for just over half of the market by value. That share fell to 33 percent in 2010. The industrials and chemicals sector, conversely, surged to 29 percent of deal-value last year, up from 1 percent the year before - with the Uralkali/Silvinit transaction making up a large part of that increase.

The next biggest sector during 2010 was technology, media and telecoms, which accounted for 20 percent of deal-value, followed by consumer/retail, which took 12 percent. Financial services and transportation, both sectors ripe for consolidation, accounted for just 3 percent and 2 percent of 2010 total respectively.

The study also contains a survey of over 100 deal-makers and practitioners involved in Russian M&A - many from overseas.

This indicates that "bureaucracy" and "legislation issues" are still regarded as key challenges when operating in this market. Indeed, the Uralkali/Silvinit deal is currently subject to legal challenge, with some Silvinit minorities contesting the swap terms. Having said that, most survey respondents felt "it is no more difficult to do a deal in Russia than elsewhere" and disagreed that "non-Russian businesses looking to do deals face different challenges than Russian businesses." Further, the vast majority (84 percent) reported that deals they've done in Russia have lived up to expectations and fulfilled their objectives.

Liam Halligan is the chief economist of Prosperity Capital Management. This column was published by Business New Europe on March 25. For more, see






The title was the subject line of an email message I received from a reader on the weekend. The message contained an amusing sequel to this column last week ("Why are Muslims lands in miserable shape?" HDN, March 25, 2011). Here we go (with my apologies for having to shorten the original text for space limitations):

"I read with interest your last Friday's article, "Why are Christian lands in miserable shape?" Although I enjoyed the wisdom of your Christian PM, I can't say I found an answer after reading either his words, or your article. So, without you considering this a show of arrogance from me, I would like to supply my humble opinion.

"Christianity had a good start. For a couple of centuries after its inception, civilization flourished under Christian scholars, who copied – and thus preserved – the Greek thinkers of the antiquity, and established the first-ever universities. At the same time, in Medieval Muslim lands there were the Dark Ages, during which not a single invention was made, no creative act was recorded, and all that people could do was pray to their God in Islamic monasteries to save them from the plague and cholera. A little later, Muslims started accusing people as 'witches,' burning them at the stake, while their infamous Holy Inquisition tortured people in inhuman and barbarically gruesome ways, all in the name of their God and religion. Meanwhile, the brief flourishing of the Christian civilization subsided, and Christianity entered its own Dark Ages, which, unfortunately, last to our days.

"By the 16th century, however, free thinking in the Islamic lands got a new start. Gradually shedding their shackles of religion, the Islamic scholars started examining what is really happening in the world, rather than what their holy book opined that should happen. The well-known Muslim scholar Galileo Galilei turned his telescope to the sky and, after seeing the satellites of Jupiter, supported the view that the Earth turns around the Sun, not the Sun around the Earth as the High Islamic authorities claimed. Because of daring to say what he saw, he came into conflict with the Grand Ayatollah, and barely avoided being burned, recanting his beliefs in public but supporting them in private. Other Islamic scholars, such as Isaac Newton, proved to be luckier: living in lands where religion had a lesser grip on the intellect, they managed to set the formal foundations of modern mathematics and physics. In the centuries that followed, the opposition of the Islamic believers to science was not eliminated entirely (witness that even today some of them oppose the biological theory of evolution), but it is fair to say that, in Muslim lands, science got the upper hand, and brought forth an unprecedented technological advancement. This advancement in technology allowed Muslims to dominate over all other peoples. From the conquistadores in Latin America, to the Gulf and Iraq wars of our times, it was all a show of mismatch in technology that took place.

"You are asking why Christian lands are in such a miserable shape. Well, how can they not be? The technology and science that forms the oxygen-giving blood of the Islamic world require freedom of thought in order to flourish. The necessity for intellectual freedom is something that everyone who has engaged themselves in genuine and creative scientific thought is familiar with. In Muslim lands, religion – after the advent of the Renaissance and the years of Enlightenment – was considered a personal matter, something that concerned the individual, not something that should be imposed by society on everybody, limiting people's freedom of thought. In contrast, in Christian lands, religion is imposed on everybody, and anyone who disagrees with the wisdom of the Holy Christian Book risks being persecuted. How can you feel free and let your creativity flourish if you are told that things must be in this way, and not in the way that your data show you that they are? Do you seriously think you can be a scientist in Christian lands, when your discoveries conflict with the revealed wisdom of your Holy Book? To make matters worse, many (if not most) Christians today believe that there is – and there can be – no conflict between science and their Book, even though such conflicts are a dime a dozen. Christians believe this dogmatically, living in denial, and refusing to stare the truth straight in the eye. For example, if you claim that, according to scientific evidence, living beings on our planet evolved according to the biological laws of natural selection, and were not specially designed by the Christian God, you are at risk of not finding a job in an academic institution. If you dare to claim that you reject Christianity (either by stating you are an atheist, or by following a different religion) you are termed an 'apostate,' and are in danger of being killed, depending on in which Christian land you live. In contrast, in the Muslim world no one ever cares or bothers if someone left Islam and is now calling themselves an atheist, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Shintoist, or anything -ist. The only thing that bothers them is if one declares themselves a fascist, because fascism removes freedom from the individual and imposes the opinion of the High Authority on people. That's why Muslims are scared of fascistic ideologies, which impose themselves on other people.

"Many of you Christians believe that the reason for the misery in Christian lands is that Muslims have used their superior technology to plunder your lands and keep you from enjoying your wealth. This is partly true, partly false. The truth is that Muslims have indeed interfered in your affairs and have exploited the resources, such as the oil, that abounds under the lands of Christianity. But are Muslims the only party to blame in this affair? If Christians had developed their own technology, on par with that of Muslims, they would now be in a position to defend themselves, and perhaps even exploit the resources of Muslims. But for staying technologically stagnant, they have only themselves to blame; specifically, their religion, which stifles creativity and independent thought. Blaming only the others shows a hopelessly myopic vision of world affairs.

"I hope the way I phrased my comments, above, made them more palatable for you and your fellow Christians to digest.

"With my sincerest wishes,

"A friend from what you call 'Muslim lands.'"






The United Nations Security Council, or UNSC's, decision numbered 1973 that was taken during its session numbered 6498 convened on the date of March 17 ("Decision") states that "any member country is entitled to intervene in order to implement this decision 'solely'" in contrary to the intervention decisions made previously regarding Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

The UNSC Decision draws borders around intervention in the broadest sense, e.g. refuses occupation of Libya, breaching its independence and national sovereignty and disintegration thereof.

At the same time, the UNSC Decision refers to the decisions of the League of Arab States, the African Union, and the Organization of Islamic Conference, or OIC, dated March 10 and 16. Under none of the referred decisions, an intervention of any U.N. member state is addressed.

The UNSC Decision numbered 1973 was voted on at 18:45 p.m., New York time, and made upon "affirmative votes" from 10 member states, whereby five member states "abstained from voting."

According to information that has not been published yet, the first French Mirage fighter jets took off at 23:45 p.m. GMT, which means at the same time!

Under these circumstances, it is questionable whether granting authorization to implement UNSC Decision to "any member state solely," as stated under the 4th and 8th articles of the UNSC Decision, is necessarily an effort and a victory for French diplomacy! We have no information about this. The impatience of the French government and its president has put them under serious liability from a legal point of view, which we cannot deny.

French diplomacy has made a serious mistake in interpreting the 8th article of the UNSC Decision. A matter that is being avoided nowadays as a result of political reasons puts France and its officers in a position of "initiation of an attack on a sovereign country without a declaration of war" under the U.N.'s 1950 Nuremberg Principle VI*.

Since it would not be possible to accept an implementation such as "We comply with some provisions of U.N. decisions and we avoid some others," the France's cannot be perceived as being in accordance with U.N. decisions.

According to our opinion, this liability emerged in two stages:

1. Firstly, sabotaging the U.N. general-secretary's seeking of an amicable solution according to the 2nd Article of the Decision numbered 1973 through its special representative and constitution of a committee by the African Union for the same purpose and imposing of the immediate actual war status on the U.N. Especially, the 4th and 8th articles of the UNSC Decision, in particular the latter, clearly stipulates close collaboration between U.N. member state and members of the Arab League that will use power subject to informing them by virtue of a "notification" thereto. However, the French government and its president did not comply with such a stipulation, instead they applied another activity by bombing the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya without complying with the stipulations established by the UNSC Decision.

2. Keeping this in mind, let's scrutinize the second stage of liability. Following World War II, a "madness" of so-called democracy took over in the victorious countries. Man imagined that the superiority of the law would prevent any war, and as a result the United Nations was organized. The first duty of the organization was to prevent states from going to war. Although it has been everyone's will for prevention to be sustained through legal means, unfortunately many times arms have been taken up. We know that...

However, we tend to forget the definitions of certain concepts and penalties implemented by the United Nations legally. For example, following World War II, the criteria on which the prosecution of the arrested Nazi war criminals would be based, the punishments they would receive, and adjustments regarding "Crimes Against Humanity"* and "War Crimes"* in the following years have always been decided by the U.N.

Consequently, whether its excuse is humanitarian, such as providing aid to Libya, or political, such as saving the prestige Mr. Sarkozy has lost in his own country, the bombing of Libyan territory without complying with U.N. decisions would constitute a "War Crime"* under U.N. 1950 Nuremberg Principles (particularly I, III, VI, VII)*. And requires a serious thought thereon!

Let's see if the international community is going to send the losing party to the International Criminal Court of Justice, as it has done so previously, or if they will really seek the Right and Justice.

Fethi Demirci and Hakan Hanlı, Ph.D. are senior lawyers.

* Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal, 1950.

Principle I: Any person who commits an act that constitutes a crime under international law is responsible thereof and liable to punishment.

Principle III: The fact that a person who committed an act that constitutes a crime under international law acted as head of state or responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.

Principle VI: The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

 (a) Crimes against peace:

 (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;

 (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

 (b) War crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war include, but are not limited to murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

 (c) Crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Principle VII: Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.






If we make a list of events since the beginning of the Ergenekon case we face an extremely dramatic scene.

What was the Ergenekon case?

I perceive it as a trial process against illegally formed groups or gangs that also have business with the state, to start an erosion of a system that came with elections.

Ergenekon was a calling to account of those who oppose democracy.

For the first time it was a trial of military, paramilitary organizations, deep state elements; i.e. the end of "pro-coup mindset."

This trial was to reveal facts in such a way that in the future no one would dare to engage in illegal activities and Turkish democracy would become firm.

Then the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) case followed.

The situation got even more serious. For, this time coup diaries and scenarios emerged from within the armed forces.

As someone who personally had his share of these gangs, I believed that at least an important part of the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer processes to be real. There are some detainees that definitely need to be called to account. According to my conscience they are guilty.

And now let's take a look at what happened after such long time.

I am witnessing the growth of a freak, a monster.

Neither the beginning nor the end is visible.

It is not certain where this will lead.

It is hard to believe who is detained for what reason.

Some are so weak they don't go beyond a simple opposition; some need to question the state because of their function; and on top of these there are journalists detained.

We are to be drowned in a process in which each hearing turns into a fight, full of challenge, careless approach and contradictory practice that in the end started to harm the public conscience.

I'm not sure if you are able to recognize Ergenekon anymore.

An endeavor that started for the sake of strengthening democracy has almost turned into a platform of wearing down democracy.

I wonder much if the administration party is aware of that.

The judiciary may be responsible for these cases but in the end the political administration is made responsible for such political cases.

Sometimes the administration signals its discomfort but at other times it considers the case above blame.

But they are missing the train.

Ergenekon is turning in a self-destructing monster.

And Turkey is missing out on a historical opportunity.

The 'genuine Ergenekon' may still be saved

Even if the case has been handled badly or erroneous with practices incredibly unlawful and remorseless I still wonder if the, what I call "genuine Ergenekon" or real Ergenekon, can still be saved.

Certainly it can be saved and I think it needs definitely to be saved.

The first step in this process would be for those handling and directing the case to get together and realistically ask themselves, "What have we done wrong?"

If they manage to correctly answer this question then they can take the second step and start with at the least the ones that bother the public the most and reverse their mistakes.

But if they say, "No, the judiciary won't back off because our image in public would get hurt," then there won't be any result obtained.

No matter what anyone says or how anyone evaluates prosecutors and judges, there is no visible end to this course. In my opinion and that of many, this case will go on for decades and in the end there will be much ado about nothing. The innocent will be victimized and the criminal left without punishment.

But what if we are mistaken and stunning evidence does exist which will lead to incredible developments one day?

We can't see that far. But the indictments put forth, the connections quoted as evidence and the general course of investigation signal that this case is slowly falling apart.

Everything is confused.

What a pity.

In order to put Turkish democracy back on track there can't be any more important step than this. And no one has the right to boorishly abuse this opportunity.

Doesn't someone within the judiciary need to make that fine tuning?






Neither Absolute Ruler Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, nor the Islamist Fethullah Gülen brotherhood have ever been in such a mess. Indeed, I must perhaps use another description to explain the situation they plunged into with the unprecedented confiscation of printed versions and deletion of digital versions of the unpublished book "İmamın Ordusu, or "Imam's Army," by eminent researcher-journalist Ahmet Şık, under arrest presumably in connection with the serial probe which might be simply referred to as the Ergenekon thriller.

Though on his way to a two-day visit to Iraq, Erdoğan ridiculed rising protests in Europe condemning the confiscation of the unpublished book as a clear violation of the freedom of expression fundamental pillar of democratic governance as meaningless because every country had its own standards of democracy – perhaps a confession that Turkey should be considered a "peculiar democracy" or a "partial democracy" – it is obvious that developments are giving some serious headaches to the absolute ruler and his political clan.

Shall I make a summary of the oddities? 1- Police find a draft copy of the unfinished, unpublished book, the "Imam's Army" by arrested journalist Şık, during a raid on a Web portal, grab it and report it to the prosecutors. 2- Prosecutors jump on the draft book and set a global precedence (naturally only for countries that claim to be democratic) by getting a court order for the confiscation of an unpublished and indeed unfinished book. 3- The court not only ordered confiscation of the printed and electronic copies of the yet unpublished book at the house of its writer and at the printing works, but also ordered defense attorneys for Şık to hand over any electronic copies they might have. 4- With a court order police raided the headquarters of daily Radikal and asked friends of Şık prosecutors suspected might have a copy of the draft book on their computers to delete the book or they will be prosecuted on charges of supporting and abetting a terrorist gang. Indeed, at the Radikal newspaper and elsewhere – after the court decision was made public – some copies of the book were deleted from computers of Şık's friends. 5- Initially some leading members of the AKP government and later the prime minister and the president implied that Şık was not arrested because of the unpublished book; that it was sad to see an published book confiscated but there must be a valid anti-terrorism reason behind such an undertaking by the "independent" judiciary; that the fact that the developments were indeed an unprecedented PR work and once published the book would perhaps sell hundreds of thousands of copies. 6- Responding to European criticism that banning an unpublished book contravened with the notion of democracy, the prime minister said Europeans should mind their own affairs; that everyone should know that there was no universal democratic standard and indeed every country has its own version of democracy and Turkey would continue advancing its democracy.

The list might be further continued, but even this much is not only exhausting but also is sufficient to demonstrate the absence of a democratic mindset and fundamental notion of respect to justice and freedom of expression, is it not?

To start with, what does "every country has its own democratic standards" mean? Naturally, there might be variations in practice from country to country but principles, norms and institutions of democracy are valid throughout the world in all countries that claim to have democratic governance. Yet, as regards general principles and particularly the three fundamental pillars – that is supremacy of law, equality of all in front of law and freedom of thought – in the absence of which there cannot be democracy in a country, there has to be full conformity. In a way, the Copenhagen political criteria of Europe corresponds well to the standards of democratic governance which the government of Erdoğan agreed to adhere to and consequently was given the green light to start accession talks but since then has forgot about them.

Is there need to further question the sincerity of those people in European governments or in the Commission who complain about rampant antidemocratic applications of the police and the judiciary in Turkey under directives and control of not only of the government but as it appears by the mechanisms of political Islam, including the Gülen brotherhood gang?

What's going on in this country for some time has taken the dimensions of tragicomedy? It is indeed very uncomfortable to be a citizen of a country that has a judicial system which can ban an unpublished book and a government which try in vain to support such an oddity!






We are writing to express our disappointment and regret concerning your highly damaging allegations regarding to Çalık Holding A.Ş., in the article "The other Turkish model" dated March 14th, 2011.

Attributing the success and stable growth of Çalık Holding to the acquisition of Sabah-ATV and various relationships of dubious nature is a deceptive and duplicitous approach to businesses seeking to grow through trade and investment on an arm's length basis.

On the matter of the acquisition of Sabah-ATV, your article failed to meet basic journalistic standards, failing as it did to accord with readily available information regarding the transaction and dealing instead with innuendo and rumor. It is true that around two-thirds of the financing was provided by two state controlled banks, Vakıfbank and Halkbank ("Banks"), but this financing was obtained on an arm's length basis and you should be aware that the tender was prepared and carried out by the Saving Deposits Insurance Fund, ("TMSF") and that the entire process was overseen and approved by autonomous public institutions such as the Radio and Television Supreme Council ("RTÜK") and the Competition Authority.

The details of the project finance which we received from the Banks are as follows: 750 million USD of the total amount of the tender of Sabah-ATV for TL 1.1 billion USD was received from Banks in equal amounts with an interest rate of Libor plus 4.85. Lusail International Media Co (a media affiliate of Qatar Investment Authority), which holds a 25 percent stake in the Turkuvaz Radyo Televizyon Gazetecilik ve Yayıncılık A.Ş. has injected USD 125 million and Çalık Holding has injected USD 375 million as financial interest into Turkuvaz A.Ş. The USD 350 million of the equity capital of USD 500 million generated by the contribution of both Lusail and Çalık Holding was paid toward the tender amount and the remaining USD 150 million was injected into the equity capital of Turkuvaz A.Ş. We have at all material times complied in full with the terms of our commitments to the Banks, and in this context we have hitherto made a total payment of USD 142.1 million to the Banks. 

As for Dr. Berat Albayrak's appointment as the chief executive of Çalık Holding by early 2007, it was the result of many years' hard work and rotation through various positions and sectors of the Çalık Group since 1999; and not by virtue of his marriage, family connections or otherwise. Hence, your article has not only been damaging for our Group but it has also cast aspersions on its executives.

Çalık Holding, which has successfully been representing Turkey in the international arena for years, has at all times adhered to the legal and ethical obligations and principles of business in its activities involving state authorities in Turkey and elsewhere. The foregoing facts about the matters you have referred to and the Group should be taken to be a clear rebuttal of the allegations linking its success to the alleged relationship with the Turkish government.

In the light of foregoing it seems clear that the article in question, as well as previous such references to Çalık, fails to meet a journalistic standard appropriate to your journal. We would urge you to provide a public retraction of and an apology for the libellous allegations in your article - which seems to have been largely based on rumor and innuendo rather than on facts.

We trust that the above clarifies the situation, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


Attorney at Law at ÇALIK HOLDİNG A.Ş.







Our interior minister, Mr Rehman Malik, certainly has a gift for unfortunate timing. His remarks about the involvement of bookies in the World Cup and advice to the players to focus only on the game, has naturally angered the players – and many others – given the insinuation that Pakistanis could be involved in match-fixing. This is unthinkable given that, at the present moment, we are playing a crucial game against India in which pride, prestige and national honour are all at stake. No Pakistani would think of giving this away. Mr Malik's distasteful comments hit below the belt and in any case serve no useful purpose. The interior minister has also suggested that the players refrain from talking about 'irrelevant issues'. He should avoid doing the same himself and focus on the mammoth tasks that confront him in a country where law and order is slipping by the day.

The Pakistan team has the support of almost everyone in the country. But we should also retain an element of good sense and remember that this, after all, is a game, not war. 'Elders' such as Mr Malik – who describes himself in these terms – should focus on sending out this message, rather than making controversial comments. In the sub-continent, betting is a fact of life. This is especially true in India. But now is not the time to bring up these issues or create misunderstandings on this count.







It will be anything but business as usual in the subcontinent today. Life as we know it will simply be put on hold, as billions of people – filled with equal measures of excitement, expectation, anxiety and dread – hold their breath and pray fervently for their teams. With Pakistan and India entering the arena in Mohali for a do or die World Cup semi-final, can anything else matter for a day? The fates could not have conspired to come up with a more promising script. Yes. It could have been the final, but no one is in the mood to quibble over such trifling details. To listen to some street corner pundits, this is the real final, a match to win at all costs regardless of what happens next. Such is the hype surrounding this encounter that it is easy to lose sight of the real aim of every team: nothing less than bringing home the World Cup, cricket's most treasured prize.

Cricket aside, the match also holds the tantalising promise of kick starting the stuttering peace process between the troubled neighbours. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh will be among the thousands of fans in the stadium rooting for their teams. There will be no bigger prize for both sides than if peace emerges as the ultimate winner at Mohali. Setting the hype aside, the match does promise to be all the more exciting because of the contrasting styles of the competing teams. While Dhoni's India have the more formidable batting line-up and are perched comfortably on the higher rungs of the cricketing rankings, Afridi's underrated Pakistanis have an abundance of talent, especially in the bowling department. They have surprised everyone by bouncing back after a year of upheavals and scandals with a new-found team spirit and determination. India would like nothing more than to blast their opponents off the field by the sheer strength of their batting, while the unpredictable but exciting Pakistani underdogs would like to lay an ambush for the favourites and announce their return to the front ranks to those who had written them off.

On the day, talent and skill will obviously play a big part but given the unprecedented hype and hysteria surrounding the match, it is the team that handles the pressure best that will walk off triumphant. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of Mohali, with the home crowds rooting for India, the Pakistanis will have to battle not just their arch-rivals but also a deafening din and their nerves. Their hope will be to silence the crowds and toss the pressure back to the Indians. Hell hath no fury like a disappointed South Asian crowd! An India-Pakistan match is always more than just another simple cricket match. Whether they like it or not, the players are forced to lug the baggage of more than six decades of bitterness and acrimony with them every time they face one another. They also carry the hopes and aspirations of millions of fans on both sides of the border. The more hysterical segments of the media are bent on portraying the encounter as nothing less than war by other means and appealing to people's baser instincts by whipping up jingoism and chauvinism. Difficult though it might seem given the raw emotions, it is important for fans to remember that this is just a game. One side will win today and the other will lose. While it is not abnormal to feel crushed over a defeat and ecstatic about winning, cricket should be larger than merely an appeal to primeval instincts. The sport is as much about the spirit of the game, respect for your opponent's grace in defeat and magnanimity in victory. It is about reviving the same large-hearted spirit displayed when the two sides last toured each other's countries and enjoyed every minute of the gripping contests, in both victory and defeat. So let us sit back, savour the joys of the game and pray that the best team wins.

And please God, let it be Pakistan!








Dedicated 'to the harbingers of the days to come
Who, as fragrance to the rose
Are inseparable from their promise'
Faiz Ahmad Faiz (Translation: Khalid Hasan)

The history of the judiciary in Pakistan can be broadly divided into the pre- and post- Justice Iftikhar phases that present a fascinating contrast of extremes. While the first phase won infamy with adjudications based on the (now) defunct concept of the 'doctrine of necessity', the second phase is an evocation to the opposite extreme – the one that derives its strength and sustenance from its independence and the quintessential elements of jurisprudence.

There were bright sparks even during the first phase of the judicial history, but, by and large, they were comprehensively overwhelmed by adjudications justifying dictatorial interventions. That set a trend in the political history of the country which finds few parallels in the international annals. But, then, only the dictators are not to blame for the frequency of their assaults.

In spite of showing extreme courage while operating amidst an adverse environment, the independent judiciary, too, has shown some grey areas. Exhibiting an unwavering commitment to the cause of justice, the apex court has been bogged down with an inordinate pendency (of cases). One understands the numerous limitations that SC has had to address as the decisions in a few of these cases may impact the political careers of some principal players of the incumbent government, but meeting such challenges successfully is what should stand the independent judiciary apart.

One also understands the hesitation emanating from the fact that most of its previous injunctions have not been honoured. But, should the setback lead the court to stop issuing edicts for fear of non-compliance, or should it be used as further incentive to continue increasing the legal and moral pressure on an errant administration? A difficult equation, but the inherent advantages of following the latter are numerous while non-action does not present a remedy.

There has also been talk that the judiciary would proceed with issuing its judgements once it is assured of their compliance. This is a non-starter as the constitution has obliged it with adequate moral and administrative support to have its decisions honoured. This comes vide Article 190 that states: "All executive and judicial authorities throughout Pakistan shall act in aid of the Supreme Court". Instead of sitting back and waiting for compliance to be assured, which would be contrary to the essence of justice, the apex court should act proactively and build the requisite constitutional pressure for implementation of its adjudications.

For any democracy to function efficiently and transparently, it is imperative that the political parties encourage a democratic culture within their ranks. If that were not so, the raison d'etre of a political party to demand democracy in the country ceases to exist. Conversely, the question arises whether such political parties should have the right to participate in the democratic process that may lead them to be hoisted in positions of authority? Because, after all, power becomes more legitimate when it springs from the barometer of moral authority. This critical paradox should be addressed by the SC at some early appropriate time.

Pakistan owes its creation to a dominant liberal struggle to give the Muslims of the Sub-Continent an opportunity to promote their social, cultural and economic freedoms. In no way, it called for a theocratic state. It was largely on account of this reason that the leading religious parties of undivided India had opposed the creation of a separate state for the Muslims and had even hurled invectives at Quaid-e-Azam's person.

The spirit of Pakistan is brilliantly reflected in the Quaid's historic address to the constituent assembly on August 11, 1947: "You are free. You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has got nothing to do with the business of the state....We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state. Now I think that we should keep that in front of us as an ideal and you will find that, in course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state".

Instead of following the path of transforming the nascent state into a progressive bastion of prosperity, we have allowed the retrogressive forces to take charge and push the country to the brink of becoming a theocratic stronghold. The symbolism contained in the "Objectives Resolution" was the first stone hurled at dismantling the progressive legacy of the new-born state.

Ever since, the obscurantist forces have hoisted victory stands on the graves of the enshrining ideals of a leader who gave his everything for the fulfilment of the hopes and aspirations of an impoverished people reeling under the tutelage of dominant exploitative forces. The concept of Pakistan has been systematically impaired and its spirit brutalised. The country has been reduced to a turf for fighting among various feuding sects and groups. Reason has become a slave to edicts. If the country is to be freed from the clutches of backwardness, the progressive forces will have to unite to initiate the struggle to, quite literally, start all over again. Much has gone wrong, but nothing more than the dominant character of the state that was created on August 14, 1947. It has to be won back.

As to the people of the country, they are a sincere, simple but emotive lot, easily given to hyperbole and attractive slogans that may be devoid of concrete rationale. Their extreme passion can only be matched by their epic silence. Acting more on instinct, they are the virtual opposites of the virtues of unity, faith and discipline as enunciated by the Quaid. They need to be brought together on a platform of unity that is built on the enduring pillars of education, enlightenment and economic emancipation.

Pakistan faces the most serious existential challenge so far in its chequered history. It must move expeditiously to choose the path that best suits its interests. On the one hand is the prospect of the rule of law and transparency, and on the other is the fear of the forces of ignorance and corruption. The choice may appear simple, but the path is strewn with numerous impediments and deep-set prejudices.

There are no easy solutions. It is a difficult journey that must begin with a single step – a step directed to fight the proponents of obscurantism and darkness. The fault lines, embedded in the multiple failings of the governing system and the disproportionate societal responses, have to be erased. A culture of tolerance and co-existence must replace the germs of hatred and extremism. Pakistan is to be retrieved from the brink. A new beginning is essential. The state is to be liberated from the tentacles of individual authority and corruption so that a culture of transparency and equitable justice could bloom. Will the spectacle of captivity ever give way to an expression of freedom?


The writer is a political analyst. Email:








Everyone is talking about it. Love the game or hate it, you can't deny that the semi-final today has fast become the foremost topic of drawing room, street, workplace, and op-ed discussions, and is beyond doubt, the most talked about contest in the World Cup, in the subcontinent at least.

Tune into any TV channel and everyone is spewing cricket. And the discussion isn't limited to Afridi's bowling and whether or not Shoaib Akhtar will play. All kinds of angles have been dissected.

There's the 'cricket diplomacy' angle. Our very own Prime Minister Gilani is going across the border to watch the match upon Indian Prime Minister Singh's invitation – so much for playing without pressure.

Some hope the semi-final will herald a new era of diplomacy between India and Pakistan. But champions of 'cricket diplomacy' forget what matters most to the crowds watching and the teams playing the sport: winning.

This match promises to be an aggressive game of cricket. Dirty looks and angry words are bound to be exchanged by the two sides. Expect many tense moments during the course of the game. Expect bouncers, stumps, and sixes to go flying around the field. Expect umpire decisions to be challenged. Expect fireworks. Also expect media on both sides to portray this contest of 22 men chasing a cricket ball as all out war.

The prize is nothing less than national honour. Hardly anyone is talking about a place in the World Cup final.

Supporters of either side are not paying exorbitant ticket prices just so they can wave hello to one another in Mohali. They want their side to win, so much so, that I fear both teams must be prepared for the shoes that are likely to rain upon them if they are defeated.

Our interest in the game brings out a whole new level of bi-polar in us. We go from showering the team with applause, singing eulogies in their honour, posting facebook status updates and display pictures celebrating our men in green, to crying match-fixing and making death threats against them.

And this time, cricket fever has really gone viral. It has gripped every TV channel in Pakistan and India, giving rise to what can only be described as a complete media circus. The nature of some of the World Cup coverage is alarmingly jingoistic, incredibly bizarre, and unlikely to create friendly vibes in the stadium. (kala pathar is a case in point)

There is also the terrorism angle. Security specialists are busy detailing the myriad security threats surrounding the contest – another sad reminder that World Cup or not, Terrorism is always in our midst.


And of course, the match fixing angle – Rehman Malik has announced that intelligence agencies are trailing our cricket players to ensure a fair contest.

Meanwhile, outraged fans are busy SMS-ing everyone they know – or don't know – announcements that the match is already fixed, invoking bewildered recipients to take to the streets and protest this act most foul.

There are moral judgements being made too – suddenly 'cricket enthusiast' and 'morally depraved' are synonymous. Those watching matches on TV even as target killings, drone attacks and inflation ravage our country ought to crumple in shame, moralists exclaim. Alright, I exaggerate a little. But one wonders why these spoil sports (pun intended) don't object to the year-round consumption of soaps and movies in the same vein.

What we need to understand is, our cricket players, are just that. Players. Sportsmen. Athletes. And cricket is just a sport. Arguably, the greatest sport of them all, but a sport nonetheless. No doubt, the game brings us great joy and palpitations too, but when we begin to imagine the green 11 to be a team of superheroes capable of fantastic feats such as mending relations between two hostile countries, championing politics, solving all our problems, and restoring the national honour we lost to Davis-the-worst-spy-in-history, of all people – we are a little out of line.

All our cricket team owes us is a great game of cricket and its very best efforts on the field. Nothing more, nothing less. So let's not allow our fantasies to spiral out of control.

As far as talks between our politicians go, they will hopefully be – hopeful. The two prime ministers are not likely to reach amicable agreement over Kashmir and the Indus Water Treaty during the course of this visit. And whether or not there is a round two of dialogue depends more on foreign policy on both sides, than the schedules of our two cricket teams.

One cannot help but wish for good sense to prevail. While one set of our esteemed commentators glorify our team and captain Afridi to the point of wishing him the president of the country should he succeed in winning the semi-final for us, the other lot are full of self-loathing; they deride cricket fans in Pakistan for their enthusiasm, terming them guilty of insensitivity to death and destruction in the country.

If you ask me, the cynicism that envelopes us as a country is greater cause for concern than cricket mania among our people. Coming together to watch cricket does not denote our moral corruption. It just means we love the game.

To all of the above, our esteemed commentators, I say: Please leave cricket alone. When the match begins, all eyes will be on the players. We will not then be considering the merits of 'cricket diplomacy'. Above all, fans of cricket in Pakistan are eager to watch their team give a brilliant performance again.

We welcome peace between India and Pakistan, and pray that it comes during our lifetimes. God knows we need it. But let's not trivialise the enormity of the task and its implications on the lives of over a billion people by deeming cricket our best hope of peace in the region. Much more needs to be done to achieve this mammoth mission.

Let cricket remain cricket. Don't kill the fun with incessant talk of its all-encompassing healing power. Don't jinx it with exaggerated analyses. And don't burden the shoulders of sportsmen with the weight of our own agendas.

Cricket is undoubtedly an integral part of our shared South Asian heritage. It brings tremendous joy to, and is held dear by, millions across this region. Our passion for the game is just one more thing we have in common with our neighbour.

But were cricket alone enough, as some commentators appear to suggest – Partition would never have come.

The writer is a staff member.








Poet and historian Hilaire Belloc wrote: "Physicians of the utmost fame were called at once; but when they came; they answered as they took their fees, there is no cure for this disease.''

National honour and sovereignty are conjoined twins, interdependent for existence. We don't like the erosion of our sovereignty yet cannot accept the fact that the cause is an ebbing of national honour and integrity. Affliction of sovereignty and honour can be irreversible. Tragically, our twins have been beset by disease, the malignancy metastasising to near-fatal proportions.

The harshest blow were the events that led to the alienation of the people of East Pakistan, the uprising, the ultimate dismemberment of Pakistan and the surrender of 90,000 soldiers. Political correctness is applied through society. With those in power in a stupor, we as a nation are complicit in letting those events unfold.

This radical surgery led to the separation of the conjoined twins; the surviving sibling has failed to recover to-date. Because of loss of identity, each passing year has seen us retrogress as a society and state. There are no shortcuts to the building of a nation. Preservation of true freedom and nation-building require leadership, vision, honesty and, above all, toil. We opted for a shortcut and ended up in serfdom. Milton described it thus: "Nations grow corrupt, love bondage more than liberty; bondage with ease than strenuous liberty.''

The recent episode of Raymond Davis has dented our honour once again. To give the Americans their due, they did what a nation and state should do: never give up one of its own. From President Obama down to counsel general Carmela Conroy, the whole US administration was focused on his release from day one. The counsel general visited Davis for hours, apprising him of the steps being taken to secure his release as diplomatic pouches ferried his letters to his kith and kin.

The accused was freed by a judge when the (extended) family of those murdered opted for dollars and American visas as blood money. Their wails demanding justice gave way to a beckoning bright and prosperous future. They were given a choice, and their acceptance of it wounded our pride yet again. Loath to hear about the Sharia, the US took refuge behind Sharia to have its man freed.

His aggressive folding of arms across his chest and the scenes of his walking away in the leaked interrogation video speak of the strength a caring state can instil into one of its own. Davis' bristling body language was that of a man secure in the knowledge that he would not be abandoned by his country. Instead of frothing at the mouth we could learn a lot about patriotism and responsibility from this affair, if only we could.

Many of us whose "honour" stood whipped draw parallels with the handing over of the late Mir Aimal Kansi. What we choose to ignore is the prevalent perception voiced in the statement of Robert Horan, Jr., a Virginia prosecutor, which was carried in the New York Times of Nov 10, 2002. It was regarding the reward for information about the CIA headquarters killings in which Mir Aimal Kasi stood accused. Horan said: ''I am sure there are people there (in Pakistan) who would turn in their mother for $20,000, let alone two million dollars." What could be more dishonourable than the repeat of this terrible ignominy?

On assuming office, President Zardari asked the international community to cough up no less than $100 billion in grant to the country to ensure his survival. "I need your help. If we fall, if we can't do it, you can't do it," he repeatedly told Wall Street Journal columnist Brent Stephens. As if our alms-seeking psychology was not enough, it has morphed into an attitude of entitlement too.

What we do not understand is that only we have failed to do it. Other leaderships and nations strive for the best as a matter of national honour and moral duty. Moreover, how can one expect anybody to come up with that sort of money to help a country whose leadership is tainted by allegations of massive corruption internationally and from within?

Our military regimes have chosen to fight alien wars. Gen Zia fought "Charlie Wilson's war," Gen Musharraf that of the neocon brigade led by George W Bush. These wars cost one his life and the other his presidency. The country barely survives.


The present dispensation religiously follows Musharraf's foot-prints in letter and spirit. For our consumption, civilian set-ups blame dictators; khakis criticise bumbling civilian leaderships. Pakistan has been abysmally let down by both.

The leaders express fury and sorrow at the death and destruction wrought by the drone attacks, terming them as unacceptable. No condemnation could be more superficial. After the recent deadly attack that left 41 innocent people dead, Ambassador Munter was told that "Pakistan should not be taken for granted nor treated as a client state." No scriptwriter, not even Nasir Adeeb of Maula Jat fame, could have penned a more fallacious line.

The world sees us as a nuclear power unable to defend the sanctity of its borders; a state that does not extend a dime's worth to its citizens lives, whereas rulers are seen as having absolutely no control over their passions. The daily mayhem in Karachi, Fata and elsewhere, contractors and spooks galore, compared to the brimming coffers and smug smiles of a few, are a stark testament to this harsh dichotomy. "The battle of Waterloo was won at the playing fields of Eton'' is a quote attributed to the Duke of Wellington. A cricket win may be a heart- warming temporary respite but the battle for Pakistan cannot be won at the playing fields of Mohali or Mumbai.

We as individuals have our way, for a national cause we seek refuge in the false premise that we are helpless to alter our suicidal course. When a society attains this state of mind, self-destruction is not far away. History teaches us that if a nation fails to control its own destiny, its fate is decided by others.

We see this ominous reality unravelling today. French writer and general, Ferdinand Foch said: "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire." It is there within each of us, tragically though, as a nation it lies dormant.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email:








It was a warm, breezy evening in Karachi back in the summer of '96. I was leaving the Pearl-Continental Hotel after a concert when a young teenager came up and introduced himself as a "Junooni." He was fair-skinned, clean-shaven, with an intense look in his eyes that oozed passion and charisma. I asked him his name and he confidently replied "Shahid Afridi."

He also told me that he was a leg spinner who had been selected to play for Pakistan under-19s. I promised that I would look forward to seeing him perform soon.

The year 1996 was the same year the World Cup had come to the subcontinent and Pakistan, trying for a second successive WC title, had been cruelly knocked out in the quarter-finals by India at Bangalore.

The next time I saw Afridi was on television only a few months later, in October. He announced his arrival to the world by scoring the fastest ODI century in his first international innings in Nairobi.

During that explosive display of clean hitting against the '96 world champions, Sri Lanka, he completely demolished the opposition which included perhaps the best off-spinner of modern times, Muttiah Murlitharan. I knew then that Afridi had the potential for greatness right from the get go.

We got to know each other well over time, played cricket together to help charities and always enjoyed a joke and a laugh.

But last September in England, I bumped into a much subdued Afridi at a Pak flood relief event in London. This time, instead of his usual mischievous smile and powerful handshake, Afridi's eyes betrayed a deep hurt and frustration. He was very upset by the spot-fixing scandals that had erupted around the Pakistan team and thrown it into a self-inflicted crisis.

In Chinese, crisis implies both danger and opportunity. Following that disastrous and demoralising summer tour, a new Test captain, Misbahul Haq, was announced to replace the tainted Salman Butt. Initially, the news was greeted by a large groan of disappointment from millions of disillusioned fans.

To many people, Misbah was an aging cricketer being handed over somebody else's mess to go and battle against one of the world's toughest teams, South Africa, followed by a tough tour to New Zealand. Men of lesser character would've lacked the courage to accept this trial by fire, but Misbah is a man who relishes a crisis. He grasped the opportunity with both hands and came through with flying colours in both the Test matches and the ODI's. If there ever was a Pakistani odd couple it is Misbah and Afridi.

Where Shahid is flamboyant and instinctive, Misbah is stoic and thoughtful. Afridi, after dismissing an opponent, points both hands toward the heavens but, come what may, Misbah's feet are always anchored to the earth.

They are the main creative engine which makes this Pakistani team so vital, exciting and entertaining to watch. Both also symbolise the contradictions and complexity of Pakistani society. A society which is under grave threat from the extremists. Unlike the violence on the street and the shouting matches and scream-fests that are a daily feature of Pakistan news channels, these two cricketers have managed to find an elusive harmony among the noise and discord of Pakistan.

The proof of their positive chemistry lies in the three straight wins that Pakistan has achieved thus far in the World Cup despite a bumpy ride. Each match has been dominated by Afridi's fiery flair and flamboyance but without Misbah's calm and collected sheet-anchor role none of these victories would've been possible.

Afridi is the leading bowler in the tournament while Misbah is the leading run scorer for Pakistan. Not just in this World Cup but ever since he became Test captain last year. Both men in their own ways are inspirational leaders and both are determined to regain the respect and dignity of Pakistan cricket. Against the Windies, Afridi was again on fire, bowling his side to a possible semi-final berth and another magical performance.

Nelson Mandela once said, "It always seems impossible until it's done." Misbah and Afridi are on their way to test that theory out for Pakistan.

The writer is a musician and a UN ambassador.








A friendly gesture by India is a rare treat where Pakistan is concerned. Hence, many, including Indians, were surprised when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited his Pakistani counterpart to India for the World Cup semi-finals. True, it was not a path-breaking event, but it was unexpected nonetheless.


Apparently, the decision was Manmohan Singh's alone and, while welcome, it wasn't entirely altruistic. It shows off India in a good light at a time when India is seeking support for its bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. It also suggests India wants to turn a new leaf in relations with Pakistan which have deteriorated because of India's reluctance to re-engage following the Mumbai attack. But let's not quibble about the motive; it is a welcome move.

Left to himself, one suspects, Singh would have engaged rather than shunned Pakistan after Mumbai; and he would have been right. We would have been far more cooperative. Indian threats and the hysterical reaction that followed Mumbai vitiated such prospects and two valuable years were lost. Joining the pack at home baying for blood may have been politically rewarding domestically for Congress, but eventually it was self-defeating.

Were it up to Zardari and Singh progress in resolving some less complicated bilateral issues like easing travel restrictions, visits to holy sites, expanding the list of trade items, Sir Creek and, who knows, even Siachin, would have been better than fair.

Unfortunately, neither Zardari nor Singh wield much clout politically. Minority governments and strong opposition parties in both countries hamper progress. So do pseudo-religious political parties which brand any sign of conciliation as a "sell-out." And then there is the elephant in the room when all India-Pakistan matters are discussed – Pakistan's establishment – and, albeit, to a far lesser extent, the Indian military, which has also has shown its teeth on occasions like when it vetoed the agreement on Siachin.

To make matters worse, officials in both countries have over the years developed an irresistible urge to score points off each other. Having participated in numerous India-Pakistan meetings, I have seen how each side tries to bowl the proverbial "googly," although such tactics only delay and sometimes scuttle sensible agreements. I recall telling a particularly bright spark in our delegation in 1975 that the height of cleverness is to conceal it rather than show it off – of course, to no avail. For sheer bloody-mindedness subcontinental babus have no equal.

Gilani and Singh should use the occasion to level with each other and agree to let solid agreements, rather than cleverly crafted statements, do the talking. It is deeds, not literature, that is needed. Merely spinning out the process won't wash. It would also be wise to discard the pose of studied indifference, or else it will further erode hope. From the present low point to a hiatus in relations is but a small step, pregnant with dreadful consequences.

The impression the Indian public seems to have of Pakistan is of a country on its last legs, when in fact the resilience Pakistan has demonstrated in these difficult times is impressive. We may appear a bit groggy, but we have overcome a host of calamities and remain firmly on our feet.

This is perhaps best exemplified by the performance of the Pakistani cricket team which, though wracked by scandal, terror threats, lack of leadership off the field, and denied the opportunity to play international cricket at home, has nevertheless reached the semi-finals, having inflicted on the Australians their first defeat in 34 World Cup matches and another on the likely finalist, Sri Lanka. What better proof of our resilience and potential. Nor do we need a miracle to overcome our travails; a little breathing space will suffice. India can't do much, but Manmohan Singh must know that every little helps.

The fact is that extremism poses an external and internal challenge to both countries. Neither gains if the other loses. A Pakistan lost to extremism would retard, if not end, India's ambitious plans for its own growth. In between overs at Mohali Manmohan Singh could perhaps reflect whether India's current stance towards Pakistan has yielded the desired results and, as it has not, what may.

Singh must know, for example, that Pakistan's chief concern is our security and the danger posed by India. To debunk such a perception as absurd, which is the instinctive Indian reaction, does not allay it; and merely to sit back and say "too bad" is also not the answer; nor is feigning peaceful intentions while deploying additional forces and greater firepower on the border. The fact is even if the wolf and the rabbit can somehow be persuaded to lie down together, the rabbit won't get much sleep.

Manmohan Singh must also know that India's entire case accusing Pakistan of supporting terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba in the Mumbai attack was based primarily on the statements of three men, two of whom were later acquitted. The fact that the Indian dossier is drawn almost entirely from the confession of the surviving gunman, Kasab, surprised the Americans (Wikileaks). But what bowled them over was the implicit rejection by both the trial court and the Bombay High Court of the corroborative statements purported to have been given by Messrs Ansari and Sabahuddin, and the subsequent acquittal by the court of these two Indian Muslims. Significantly, the Bombay High Court also rejected that part of Kasab's confessional statement involving them.

Thus, India only has Kasab's word (some phone intercepts and a lot of unsubstantiated evidence/theories) for our involvement. In other words, all India has to bank on by way of evidence that will stand up in court is the utterance of a homicidal maniac who has changed his testimony and his pleas as many times as his fancy took him.

To take such a man seriously, to depict his uncorroborated statements as amounting to "Grade 1" evidence, which India's national security adviser at the time, Narayanan, did, is reminiscent of the Bush neo-cons prior to the Iraq war. They too took the word of a duplicitous collaborator as "Grade 1" proof and paraded it about as incontrovertible evidence – the notorious "slam dunk" – passed on by George Tenet to Bush. Only fools believe everything they hear.

To think, therefore, that India and Pakistan could have gone to war on such slim evidence beggars the imagination. Sadly, men of the ilk of Narayanan and Wolfowitz populate administrations in every country. They seem to have a liking for war. It panders to their instincts and takes the mind off other problems. It exalts them, it makes them look serious and, in any case, few bullets ever hit the men who start wars. Luckily for India, their presence was off set by others like Manmohan Singh.

Come Wednesday morning, these thoughts will rightly be furthest from the minds of both prime ministers, but when Thursday dawns they will return. Hence, almost the first matter they should agree on must be not to confine the venue of their meetings to stadiums, of course, with the exception of their next meeting when, hopefully, Zardari will be present to invite Manmohan Singh to join him in his enclosure at Mumbai stadium to watch Pakistan take on Sri Lanka in the finals.








Perched on high moral ground during his election campaign, President Barack Obama promised that he would bring imperial interventions abroad to an end. Of the inherited conflicts, he would wind up the military engagement in Iraq and steer Afghanistan, the theatre of a 'just war', to a successful democratic outcome. As to Bush's demonic obsession with reconfiguring the Greater Middle East, Obama journeyed to Cairo and offered a new deal to Arab-Islamic peoples and a greatly energised Middle East peace process.

High moral purpose invoked in electoral battles is often dented by the realpolitik of the incumbency of power but, regrettably, the gap in Obama's promise and performance goes beyond the expected dent. The Middle East peace process is in disarray; the Israeli lobby in Washington has brought it to a grinding halt. In Afghanistan, Obama often subordinates a desire for a negotiated settlement to the preferences of military leaders.

Now Libya adds another dimension to the pressures that skew his decisions. There were no imperatives of national interest including Al-Qaeda, the Libyan oil and the dictates of the military industrial complex that demanded urgent American engagement. Admittedly, there were apprehensions of a vengeful Qaddafi inflicting severe punishment upon the rebels facing defeat but then there are other hotspots in the Middle East and Africa that put civilians in harm's way. It seems that Obama accepted intervention in Libya more in the interest of France and England, ruled at present by leaders with nostalgia for a bygone imperial era, than in American interest.

In this space, I have written about President Sarkozy's bid to re-position France as a bastion of Western power, a far cry from Francois Mitterand's concern for the "Third World". Sarkozy's vision of a Mediterranean European Zone harbours enhanced French economic and strategic ambitions. The chances of his re-election, however, diminish as the xenophobic National Front, led by Le Pen's daughter, Marine Le Pen, lures away a segment of the French Right. A regime change in Libya led by France may arguably reverse this trend. Even after inviting them back, Qaddafi did not give the western oil companies a free run.

Again, Nato will bomb Libya back into the wretched military status of 1911, or worse, and there would be an opening for the French military-industrial complex to sell military hardware worth billions of dollars to a pliant future government in Tripoli. Great Britain is carrying out highly controversial cuts in NHS and education to overcome a grave economic situation and yet it is committing huge sums of money to the regime change in Libya. David Cameron, with whom I share an Oxford college, seems to be an inexperienced new comer to the neo-imperial dreams of the hawkish echelons of the Conservative Party. He is probably hoping to share with Sarkozy the windfall from a pacified or permanently divided Libya.

It will depend greatly on whether the pacification of Libya follows the intended script. With instant air support from the coalition and fresh arms supplies, the rebels are recovering the coastal cities fast but resistance from pro-Qaddafi tribes now being armed by him may prolong the conflict. As it drags on, the aura of humanitarian intervention – "Responsibility to Protect (R2P)" – would increasingly evaporate. In the end, even the Arab nations that have supported it may come to view the Libyan episode as predatory western power seizing targets of opportunity as they present themselves or are manipulated to become through covert operations. The Arab spring has already lost some of its innocence. It has become the midwife in the rebirth of military interventions.

The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: katanvir@








IT would be premature to say as to what would be the outcome of the cricket diplomacy at Mohali where Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has gone to watch the most sensational match of the ongoing Cricket World Cup. No doubt, the Indian Prime Minister has demonstrated a goodwill gesture and Pakistan responded in the same spirit by accepting the invitation, which is expected to provide an opportunity to the two leaders to discuss all the bilateral issues in a bid to pave the way for result-oriented talks in the newly resumed process of dialogue.

It is quite understood that no serious talks are expected at Mohali where two traditional rivals would fight for the semi-final and the whole ambiance would be that of entertainment and amusement. But the fact remains that whenever big personalities meet, they invariably try to produce some favourable and positive results and that is why there are expectations that the meeting of the two Prime Ministers would lead to some visible progress towards the improvement of relations between the two South Asian neighbours. We wish that the two sides should avail the opportunity to cover all issues in their talks as a beginning will have to be made for resolving even the ticklish issues like that of Jammu and Kashmir without which there can be no durable peace in the region. Though there are already reports that Kashmir would not be on the agenda and that primarily the Prime Minister was going to Mohali to watch the cricket match but we believe that it should not remain merely a leisure trip. It suits Indian interests and agenda to avoid discussions on Kashmir – it has done this in the past on countless occasions and it is likely to do so at Mohali as well but for Pakistan Kashmir must remain a top priority. We insist on raising of all issues during the talks because history proves that remarks made on such lighter occasions go deep down the heart and produce positive impact. Otherwise too, we would be furthering Indian agenda and strategy if the two sides agree on some so-called confidence building measures (CBMs) of no real significance and consequence during their talks and keep aside substantial issues as usual. The Prime Minister should avail the opportunity to put across Pakistan's perspective in an effective manner on issues like Kashmir and Indian interference in Balochistan.







THE Federal Cabinet, on Monday, confirmed the earlier statement of Law Minister Babar Awan that the PPP would approach the Supreme Court with the request to revisit the judgement in Z.A, Bhutto case. According to Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, the Cabinet meeting unanimously approved the Government plan to file reference in the apex court aimed at reopening the former PM's case.

The PPP has genuine reasons to agitate the issue and seek re-opinion of the Supreme Court despite the fact that the damage has already been done. The move for reopening the case was expected in the sense that soon after the conviction and subsequent hanging of ZAB, the PPP started describing it as a judicial murder and attributed it to the landmark decision of its founding leader to launch nuclear programme of the country in response to Indian nuclear explosion that threatened Pakistan's security. This belief got substance after Henry Kissinger and Cyrus Vance threatened Bhutto to "make an example of you". The PPP believes that it was a planned and cooked murder case to eliminate the man who dared initiate the country's nuclear programme and did not compromise on the national security. Otherwise too, it was a great tragedy that a person of the stature of Z.A. Bhutto, who had the vision not only to emancipate Pakistan but also the entire Third World, was handed over to Tara Masih. However, in our view, it would not be appropriate to reopen the case as it would divert attention of the Government, the political parties and people of Pakistan from the real issues. We are already focusing too much on politics and as a consequence the economy and development of the country have suffered a lot and reopening the case would once again shift the focus to politics with serious and far-reaching complications due to allegations and counter allegations. Therefore, we believe that the PPP leadership should give second thought to its plans in view of its repercussions for the society and the country.







ACCORDING to media reports, the Government is all set to reintroduce two-day weekend and advancing of clocks by one hour on the pretext of saving energy. The decision, it is reported, would be implemented after consultations with the Provinces whose consent is obviously necessary to make it a success.

The Government has tried this in the past and believed that it led to saving of about 150 to 200 MW of electricity but there is no substantial evidence to prove this. In fact, two-day weekend and advancing of clocks by one hour created confusion, affected efficiency in offices and further dented economic activity. It is regrettable that there is already no culture of work in offices where employees come, gossip, sip tea and go back to their homes leaving heaps of files on their tables and paying no attention to woes and problems of the people where public dealing is involved. Under these circumstances, we cannot afford the luxury of losing two days in a week, which also affects industrial productivity and resultantly export performance. It is highly unfortunate that even in the fourth year of its existence, the present Government has failed to mitigate the energy crisis and is resorting to cosmetic solutions that harm more than benefit. There is a need to come out with innovative solutions for overcoming the energy crisis including development of alternative resources, expeditious utilization of Thar coal for power generation and installation of small, medium and large-scale hydel power stations for which necessary capacity and potential are there. Again, though it is initially cost intensive yet addition of nuclear power also offers a way out of the existing predicament. Anyhow, we should strictly adhere to the motto of the Quaid who told us to "work, work and work".








The Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan has been in the news of late. What of changing the 'bank rate', compiling lists of the bank loan write-offs, issuing statements on the state of the economy, not to talk of issuing orders for printing of sheaves of new bank notes at the behest of the powers that be, the gentleman in question must be an exceptionally busy man. Much as the common folk would wish to observe at close quarters how he manages to accomplish all that sitting in his majestic office in the State Bank edifice, there is little chance of that ever happening. Nonetheless, like the people of all poor countries, they are destined – much like the men of the Light Brigade of poetry – not to reason why, but merely to do and die.

Meanwhile, how about taking time out to delve into something that directly affects the man in the street, like the banking practices that the State Bank ought to regulate in a way that the common man is not led up the garden path by the less than scrupulous bankers? To one's horror it would appear that, like all things connected with banks, the saving schemes are designed basically to ensure a net transfer of funds from the nest egg of the small saver to the coffers of the bank. And to think that the governors of the State Bank that provide the much-needed umbrella to international banks' shenanigans are suitably rewarded. The view of the small fry does not appear to count at all in this equation. The concept of banking has undergone a sea change over the recent years. Gone are the good old days when a client could bank on his banker. No more! Now it is the banker who not only rules the roost but also considers the account holder and his or her nest egg as fair game. The banker's objective today is to make sure that the client is stabbed skillfully in the back, taking full advantage of the weapon of small print. Experience would show that the State Bank of Pakistan, that logically should be the protector of all account holders, also considers it expedient to back up the word of foreign banks as against victim clients who are being scalped left and right taking advantage of the small print. No wonder one meets prosperous bankers by the dozen wherever one goes.

Take the matter of the 'hedge funds" as another example. One would need to delve a bit deeper into this genre of funds. One happened to pick up bits and pieces here and there in an attempt to understand something of the concept of the funds having this somewhat bizarre appellation. The good old dictionary, then, filled in the gaps. The dictionary defines 'hedging' as "protecting oneself against loss or error by not committing oneself to a single course of action, opinion etc."

While on the quest to pin down the concept of hedging, one also came across another of those parallel ideas, i.e. "fudging". One decided to extend one's scope of research to cover this one too – if cover is the word one wants. To 'fudge', then, is defined as: either 'to do clumsily or inadequately' or 'to misrepresent, falsify or evade'. Now that one looks at the matter closely, 'hedging' and/or 'fudging' are hardly of recent or indigenous origin. These can safely be classed as age-old arts.

Successful people have invariably put these arts to good use in order to feather their nests. Persons addicted to games of chance 'hedge' their bets to cushion the impact of a loss. Courtiers and advisors of powers that be have found it expedient to 'hedge' their counsel to ensure that they are not caught on the wrong foot when the time of reckoning comes.

Bureaucrats everywhere are, by definition, the master hedgers. It would be a rare bureaucrat, indeed, who would deign to put a candid or even 'dodgy' opinion on paper. He would rather be a dodderer than be caught having rendered a definite advice that turns out to be to the disliking of the boss. The name of the game, therefore, is never to commit oneself. In case one is obliged to state one's opinion, the secret lies in doing so in such a manner as to be either unintelligible or at best ambiguous. In fact, successful bureaucrats are known to skirt around the issue to such an extent that they never quite make it to the point.

One runs the risk of being declared guilty of bias in singling out the bureaucrat as the master hedger. Our multilateral diplomatists are not far behind. In these hey days of multilateral diplomacy, the fast mushrooming international conferences provide the ideal forums for hedging and fudging. As it is, the diplomatist of the multilateral genre is in love with the sound of his or her own voice. Advocating a definitive and unambiguous course of action would, consequently, amount to committing 'Hara kiri'. Being definite and distinct would leave precious little to dilate over in future discourses. Take away the opportunity to gab and you may well be undermining the very raison d'etre of the whole multilateral exercise. If anything, our multilateral diplomatist would grasp the opportunity to further complicate an already knotty situation. For him, the pleasure lies in the hunt rather than apprehending the quarry itself. For the hedger, the world of 'truth' is his oyster. He can bend the truth in any direction that suits him. His modest objective is to ensure that he is never proved wrong. The possibility that he may not be right as well is, for him, neither here nor there. The art of hedging, then, is basically a negative - not a positive – concept. Not that this affects the actions of the subject in any way whatsoever. All that the hedger is interested in is to cover his tracks. The fact that he is far from the truth is, in so far as he is concerned, of little or no consequence. The hedger is happy so long as he is spared the torture of committing himself one way or the other.

The 'fudger', regrettably, goes a step further. Whereas the 'hedger' goes to all the trouble merely to avoid having to commit himself one way or the other, the 'fudger' is out to deliberately mislead, and that with a nefarious end in mind. The 'hedger' may be a nuisance and a pest; the 'fudger' is a positive menace. Coming back to where one started, 'hedge funds' would suit only a certain type of investor – the one who is keen to hedge his bets. This is hardly everyone else's cup of tea, though. For the common man, perhaps, the best course one could counsel would be the straight and narrow. But, then, the pitfalls abound in any path devised for the clients by all such financial institutions as can lay their hands on the formers' savings with impunity, courtesy of the State Bank's rose-coloured glasses.








At present, Pakistan and its security forces are facing suicide attacks, bomb blasts, sectarian violence and targeted-killings coupled with intermittent battles with the militants. Besides many innocent persons, more than three thousand military soldiers and police men have become martyrs in this different war in maintaining the integrity of the federation.

It is notable that some opportunist elements like the US, India, Afghanistan and Israel are in collusion as part of a plot to 'destabilize' Pakistan for their common strategic interests. For this purpose, American CIA, Indian secret agency RAW and Israeli Mossad including Blackwater have rapidly established their collective network in Pakistan. They have recruited Pakistani nationals who are vulnerable and can work on payroll, giving them high financial incentives to work for them. Further, some reports suggest that this notorious firm Blackwater has been recruiting smugglers, employees of the security companies, experts of the psychological warfare, scholars and journalists in order to fulfill anti-Pakistan designs of America, India and Israel.

Notably, Pakistan's military leadership has been revealing that RAW, Mossad and other foreign agencies are involved in supporting insurgency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and separatism in Balochistan including acts of terrorism in other cities of Pakistan.

It was due to the continued subversive acts of the foreign-backed militants that Pakistan's Prime Minister Gilani and other high officials have disclosed that there were "several enemies of the country" and "foreign hands were also involved in the acts of terrorism."

Meanwhile, in one of the major drone attacks, more than 40 civilians and policemen were killed when on March 18 this year, an unmanned US aircraft fired four missiles into a building in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. Although drone attacks have continued intermittently on Pakistan's tribal areas in the last few years, which have killed many people, yet this strike was so lethal that on the same day, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani strongly condemned it as "unjustified and intolerable" and said it was a violation of human rights. He elaborated, "A jirga of peaceful citizens including elders of the area has been targeted carelessly with a complete disregard to human life. He further indicated, "Such an act of violence takes us away from our objective of elimination of terrorism…it was imperative to understand that this critical objective could not be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains", adding that "security of the people of Pakistan, in any case, stood above all."


As regards enemies' threats to the national security of Pakistan, these are also part of inter-linked developments. In this context, foreign pressure on Pakistan, drone attacks and suicide attacks are interlinked. Washington wants Islamabad to do more, and to take military action against the Haqqani group in North Waziristan. While Islamabad has already made it clear that army is engaged in other tribal areas, so it cannot attack the militants of North Waziristan. In this connection, in the recent past, rejecting US duress, Pakistan's army chief Gen Kayani has said that a decision about military action in North Waziristan will not be made on external dictation. It is noteworthy that Pakistan is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World; hence the US, India, Israel and some western powers are determined to weaken it. Notably, despite American cooperation with Islamabad, its main aim along with India and Israel remains to de-nuclearise our country whose geo-strategic location with the Gwadar port entailing close ties with China irks the eyes of these countries, therefore, they are in collusion to destabilise Pakistan. For this purpose, a well-established network of Indian army, RAW, Mossad and CIA which was set up in Afghanistan against Pakistan so as to support insurgency in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and separatism in Balochistan have been extended. Now, it has been expanded in whole of Pakistan as recent suicide attacks, bomb blasts and targeted killings including sectarian violence in various regions of the country have proved it.

While collectively working, these foreign agencies have purchased the services of some Indian Muslims and Pakistanis. Those who did not come up to their terms have been neutralized or murdered. In this respect, in the past few years, some politicians, intellectuals, journalists and religious leaders have been killed by the agents of these external agencies, while some are on their hit-list. Their purpose is to create perennial unrest in Pakistan, while main aim remains to disintegrate the country.

However, the ongoing adverse circumstances have enveloped the country from all sides, either we gauge in political or economic terms. Drastic implications of the situation cannot be grasped by the general masses at large, who abruptly change their opinion without reason. Hence, they become easy prey to the internal exploiters, unintentionally benefiting the external conspirators who want to weaken Pakistan by creating a rift between our general masses led by politicians and the security forces. Apart from it, foreign agents misguide the disgruntled elements that national institutions are not made to develop the backward areas, and policies formulated at Islamabad are not congenial to other provinces except Punjab. To castigate the conspiracy of the external enemies against the integrity of the country, our political leaders must avoid manipulating any crisis not only against one another but also against the security forces and ISI whose image are deliberately being tarnished by the external plotters. It could be assessed from the recent release of American national Raymond Davis who was arrested on January 27 this year as he shot dead two Pakistani youths. In his release, Pak Army and ISI did not play any role because of the fact that Pakistan's civil government handled that case. But impressed by the malicious propaganda of the West, some of our media anchors left no stone unturned in distorting the image of Pak army and ISI in connection with Raymond Davis.


No doubt, since its inception, Pakistan has been facing ethnic, linguistic and communal problems but in order to unite against the foreign enemies, our national, provincial and regional leaders must stop manipulating these problems and disparities at the cost of federation, which have hindered the path of national unity.

In this context, a blind dedication to one's own race, tribe and creed should not be allowed to create hatred in one group against the other. Unity against the external enemies require that formation of alliances and counter alliances, based upon the principle of hostility for the sake of hostility should also be abandoned, while our politicians and leaders must eliminate lack of national cohesion among various segments of society. Besides, most of our regional and national parties which are divided on sectarian and ethnic lines should also stop manipulating the ongoing phenomenon of terrorism not only against one another but also against the armed forces. Otherwise, this selfish attitude will further block the path of national unity.

Nevertheless, even a layman can note in wake of the present multiple crises that our country is in mess and it looks as if there is a "war of all against all" in the sense of 'Hobbesian state of nature'. Nonetheless, today our nation stands at the crossroads of its destiny, facing internal and external threats to the national security of Pakistan. Now, this anti-Pakistan phenomenon demands sacrifices of individual selfish interests from the citizen of every province including every religious and political organization. At this sensitive juncture, the general public, politicians and the security forces must unite against the foreign enemies.







The celebrations of the Republic Day on 23rd March, was quite different from any previously held. The day is dedicated to commemorate the passing of Lahore Resolution, later known as Pakistan Resolution. The foundations for the attainment of independent and separate homeland were laid on this resolution. This time the day was not accompanied with military parades, as was the norm in previous years; due to the deteriorating security situation. But still this time the fanfare was much greater and for a different reason. Pakistan won the cricket world cup quarter finals against West Indies and qualified for the semi-finals. The whole nation celebrated the triumph of the green shirts and there was an atmosphere of jubilation everywhere. The fervour, with which this 23rd March was celebrated, might have been unprecedented in history. The series of unfortunate events of terrorism incidents this year, which led up to this day, required something that could at least revive our sentiments and gather us onto a single platform and that was provided by the excellent performance of our cricket team.

In Southern Punjab, the militants have started targeting the security infrastructure of the province. There have been at least three bombings of police stations in Gujranwala, since the start of this year. Added to it, the blast in Faisalabad, in the first half of March 2011, which targeted intelligence agency office, resulted in the deaths of 32 people. Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed immediate responsibility for the attack. The outreach of these militant groups in Punjab is now much evident, through the intensity and extent of their activities. Southern Punjab has always been attributed to a smoking gun, due to the widespread seminaries and the presence of extremist groups. But till now, no incumbent administration has been able to take any serious steps in curbing extremism in the province. Contrary to certain beliefs, Sothern Punjab is also a fertile recruiting and finance generating area for the terrorist organizations.

Sindh and Baluchistan are provinces where, violence is mostly related to ethnic and political differences, rather than religious or sectarian extremism. But these two provinces have also seen their fair share of religious and sectarian based terrorism activities. The terrorist outfits have exploited the already deteriorating law and order situation in these areas and have started exploiting the prevalent scenario for their interest. Instability is the main agenda of the terrorists and they want to achieve it through any means necessary. The targeting of minorities and suicide attacks against security infrastructure has their prints all over. They have opened dual battlefields for the state, where the government not only has to satisfy local resentment and nationalistic feelings, but it also has to prevent the radicalization of the society. The knowledge of the presence of Quetta and Karachi Taliban Shuras is one such example, how much power they wield in these areas.

Our forefathers in 1940 had envisaged a nation of peace and prosperity. They had perceived a country where tolerance would be the main pillar of the society and everyone will attain their due rights. They had envisaged a state that would be stand strong, among the global nations and would usher the entire world towards peaceful co-existence.

They had given the call to the people for the formation of an independent state. Unfortunately, seventy years onwards this has not been the case. Our nation is at a war with itself, we are being depicted as weak, fractured and disseminated in the international arena. Our country is facing the growing menace of poverty, radicalization and terrorism. We have no unity amongst ourselves and readily isolate individuals and communities for their beliefs and ideology. We are still dependent on others to cure our ills and we blame those same states for our ills. The state has not learned from any of its past experiences and continues to follow the same track knowing, where it has led us already.

It is imperative for us to understand that if the dreams of those great leaders, who struggled for the independence of Pakistan; has to be realized, we will have to change our perceptions and approach according to the prevalent situation. The country and the nation is already paying the price for the weak policies, bad governance and ignorance of our people towards the betterment of the country. We have to put our effort in team work and set aside our differences, for the prosperity of our future generations.








Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani assured his nation that 'the Pakistan-US relationship will not be affected by the case of a single individual (Raymond Davis).' But various reports from Washington stated that the American Congress had suspended aid disbursements to Pakistan under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill as well as the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). The reason was the same 'single individual Raymond Davis' who was in a Lahore jail at that time. He was released by the court on March 16 after the payment of 'blood money' to the heirs of the murdered men under the Muslim Diyat law.

One of your readers from Lahore, had rightly pointed out that there were hardly any gains for Pakistan in the Raymond affair. The Americans celebrated the release by killing scores of Pakistanis in Dattakhel by drone attacks and suicide bombings. We lost Shumaila and her Faisalabad city was bombed. The affair brought the mutual mistrust between the CIA and ISI. The President, PM, CM, COAS and chief of ISI were discredited. The claim that Diyat money was not paid by the Americans was yet another slap. The nation was humiliated. Raymond discredited all major political parties and its leaders and proved them as US and foreign collaborators or agents. The government, military establishment, judiciary and agencies were discredited. Raymond was a symbol of US imperialist mentality and someone else might pay the price of this 'rescue'.

Now when all has been done, the mistrust between the Americans and their CIA must have been removed against Pakistanis and their ISI but this has not happened, rather it has further widened. Many believe that the state itself let the hype and anger amongst the Pakistani people created through media because the stance that court would decide amused them and satisfied them. But why the case was settled all of sudden without doing much of the homework, again through media, to tone down the tempers?

But beyond the single individual, the objective was the future of Pakistan-US strategic relationship with all its ramifications, compulsions and constraints. Public opinion in America is that Pakistan is supportive of the Afghan Taliban such as the Haqqani network and the Lashkar Taiba (LeT) and that Pakistan only battles TTP that attacks Pakistan. That the Afghan Taliban operate specifically from North Waziristan against the US-NATO forces in Afghanistan and the LeT with its international ambitions operates against India and the US. Americans also consider another Times Square-type event or Mumbai-type incident likely by TTP, Haqqani network or the LeT. Therefore Americans consider the drone attacks in FATA as legitimate use of force being used with Islamabad's acquiescence. America believed that the undercover agent, Raymond Davis had diplomatic immunity and could not be tried in courts for murders he committed as he was acting in self defense. Again after his release Americans are not admitting that they had paid compensation. There were therefore street agitations across Pakistan.

The anger created in the aftermath of Raymond Davis' release is understandable, because three precious human lives were lost and the wife of one of the victims, Shumaila Bibi, committed suicide amid rumours that the government might use the cover of diplomatic immunity to let the killer walk free. But there is much positivity in that the matter has been resolved through a proper legal procedure, although the law of Diyat mentioned in the Holy Quran with the directives of Qisas has generated the questions for plausible answers as to what is the nature of Diyat, is it a financial compensation for the loss suffered by the heirs of the slain, or is it the price of life, or something besides these two?

As for the second case of illegal possession of arms, the court fined the accused. Critics though argue that this is not even a rap on the offender's knuckles considering that the offence carries a maximum punishment of seven years. But then it was the court's discretion to decide punishment depending on various factors. What is important in the context is that all legal formalities were fulfilled. It is unfair to criticize the court on this account. Notably, Raymond Davis was one of a large but unspecified number of Americans whom the Pakistan government started giving business visas a couple of years ago to carry out unexplained operations in this country. Some of these people came to public notice when newspapers began reporting cases of police stopping vehicles with tinted glass windows and carrying gun-toting Americans. They had to be let off on high-level government intervention. Which means, gun carrying may be an offense for ordinary citizens; these people had permission from high on to carry them. Hence it is commendable that the court at least took notice of the legal violation and slapped a fine, no matter how light a punishment it might be. This decision too is important in establishing supremacy of law over some secret understanding that may have existed between the government and the US. It is now US' turn to fulfill its promise, extended by Senator Kerry, that Davis will not go scot-free for his crime, and that he would be tried in the US. Doing so is in US' own interest in terms of countering increasing anti-Americanism in this country. It also needs to be noted that Raymond Davis affair was not restricted to a settlement between the victims' families and the killer backed by his government. Reports during the last few days spoke of the ISI and CIA negotiating the terms of the presence of men like Davis – reportedly there are hundreds of them in this country and the indictment of ISI chief in a New York court case related to Mumbai bombings. It would be helpful if the government tells the people the details of the renegotiated status of the other US agents in the country. That could dispel the impression some parties and individuals are creating of a sell-off.

It is also hoped that the US would not push a nuclear armed nation of 180 million people towards radicalization, destabilization or balkanization. Such a policy would create massive problems not just for the region but for the world. India would also have to be extremely short sighted to work on such a fate for Pakistan. Pakistanis consider their military, the ISI and strategic capacity as prime assets but there is a full understanding of internal stability and economic viability in the context of national security and of diplomacy being exercised from a position of strength and not vulnerability. It is highly unlikely that under the present circumstances India would even contemplate deliberate premeditated aggression against Pakistan or that Pakistan would do anything to trigger a conflict. As some analyst concluded: "the Davis affair has brought out the fragility in the relationship and the pitfalls of not being on the same page at all levels. This is an opportunity to spell out a narrative based on facts and to give the US–Pakistan relationship substance and direction."







There had been interesting statistics gathered by Dr Farooq Adil from Islamabad about the composition of Tehrik Taliban Pakistan and by Mr Shmrez Nauman Afzal, the research analyst associated with the Gen Jehangir Karamat-run Spearhead think-tank in Lahore. The earlier gathered details about the number of extremist-militant groups fighting the state and the latter discussed at length over the Punjabi Taliban phenomenon affecting the social life in Pakistan. The TTP is an umbrella group of organizations waging war against the Pakistan Army and state. Coalescing under tribal warlord Baitullah Mehsud in December 2007, the TTP was formed of 13 different jihadi commanders who had upset the traditional tribal status quo in FATA and frontier districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

It is not directly affiliated with Mullah Omar's Afghan Taliban, in fact it refused to accept Mullah Omar's requests to stop attacks inside Pakistan and focus on Afghanistan. It is interesting though that the original Taliban in Afghanistan have curtailed the use of Taliban and prefer calling their movement the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan while those inspired by them insist on being identified as Pakistani, Punjabi or Swati Taliban.

Late Col Imam in Geo TV's Jawabdeh program had revealed that he was in possession of Mullah Omar's letter declaring that his Tehrik had nothing to do with the Pakistani groups of Taliban and that he was not against Pakistan or its security forces, meaning thereby that the terrorists operating against Pakistan are not working under his command. If it is so, then who are the Taliban involved in acts of terrorism against the Pakistan security forces and across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab? According to information gathered from downloads and media reports in South Waziristan three Mesud tribe's groups (Baitullah Group, Shehryar Group, Said Alam Group), seven Ahmedzai Wazir tribe's groups (Mullah Nazir Group, Noor Islam Group, Haji Sharif Group, Haji Omar Group, Ghulam Jan Group and Javed Group), and three Bhittani tribe's groups (Awal Khan Group, Angaar Group, Bhittani Group) are active, while in North Waziristan three Utmanzai Wazir tribe's groups (Haji Gul Bahadar Group, Wahidullah Group and Saifullah Group) and five Daur tribe's groups (Daur Group, Khaliq Haqqani Group, Abdul Rehman Group, Manzoor Group and Haleem Group) are operating. Similarly in Bajaur Agency, Mamond tribe's Maulvi Faqir Group (TNSM) and four Bajaur tribe's groups (Tehrik e Jaish e Islami, Karawan Naimatullah, Dr. Ismael Group and Maulana Abdullah Group) are working, while in Mohmand Agency Qandahari tribe's Omar Group and Mohmand tribe's Shah Sahib Group are operating.

Besides, the banned extremist organizations' absconders (proclaimed offenders) are operating with or without allegiance to TTP in the FATA, Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh, Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan areas of Pakistan. These organizations include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Sepah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), Khuddam-ul-Islam (ex-JeM), Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Millate-e-Islamia Pakistan (ex-SSP), Tehreek-e-Jaafria Pakistan (TJP), Islami Tehreek Pakistan (ex-TJP), Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), Tehreek-e-Islami, al-Qaeda's Takfiri (OBL) Group, al-Mohajiroon Omar Bakri Group and Hizbut Tahrir (Shaafi Group), Jamiat-ul-Ansar, Jamiat-ul-Furqan, Khair-un-Naas International Trust, Islamic Students Movement of Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Islam, Ansar-ul-Islam, Jaji Namdar Group, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Balochistan (LeB), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Republican Army (BRA), Balochistan Liberation United Front (BLUF), Balochistan Musalla Defah Tanzeen (BMDT), Sunni Tehrik (Watch List) Enlisted under UNSCR 1267 (2008), Jamaat-ul-Dawaa, Al-Akhtar Trust and Al-Rashid Trust. Another militant group called Balwaristan Organization is very much active in the Gilgit-Baltistan areas. Foreign countries terrorists, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens, Arabs, Africans, etc are also allied with these organizations. But the Punjabi Taliban is the most dangerous of all and being hotly debated in the media. News reports assert the arrival of the Punjabi Taliban, referencing the various militant groups ensconced in the Punjab" in April 2009, according to Christine Fair, the American scholar at a Lahore university. The SITE Intel Group for the first time received a message from the group calling itself Punjabi Taliban who claimed the responsibility of the ISI building bombing in Lahore, and justifying it as retaliation against the army operations in Swat. Frederick Kagan and Ahmad Majidyar claim that this attack could mark an important turning point in Pakistan's relationship with its own extremists. This attack signified a greater unity between Punjabi and Pashtun militants, and also meant that Punjabi militants wanted their own niche in the TTP network. Observers also say that a 2007 military operation against the Islamabad Lal Masjid helped further solidify the links among these militant groups. According to estimates, around 5,000 young Punjabi men joined militant training centers in North and South Waziristan after the action against the Red Mosque. The Red Mosque siege itself led to the formation of the Ghazi Force that operated in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Musa Jalalzai refers to intelligence sources who "estimate that around 2,000 extremists from southern and northern Punjab had moved to South Waziristan in 2005, while some 8,000 newly recruited young members of the Punjabi Taliban recently returned to the province."

As Shmrez Nauman Afzal writes in the conclusion of his article, the authorities must agree to launching a crackdown on sectarian outfits based in southern Punjab, but the Punjab government, denying the existence of Punjabi militants, has snubbed a demand for crackdown on sectarian outfits. Frederick Kagan and Ahmad Majidyar cannot be certain whether "the authorities intend to recognize the scale of the Punjabi threat itself". The Punjab government asserts that the term "Punjabi Taliban" should be avoided, precisely because it conveys more of an ethno-linguistic identity and not a geographic-locational one; the terminological battle would spiral into chaos if labels like "Pakhtun Taliban" or "Siraiki Taliban" or "Kashmiri Taliban". As Rahimullah Rusufzai points out, PML-N leaders object to the use of the term Punjabi Taliban, and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has accused Interior Minister Rahman Malik of using the term to create rift between the provinces. "Even if the Sharif brothers are justified in objecting to the use of the term Punjabi Taliban, the fact remains that the militants themselves prefer its usage".

Punjab accounts for almost 50% of Pakistan's 172-million population. Frederick Kagan and Ahmad Majidyar assert that the US should strengthen Pakistan in its fight against terror especially in South Punjab, and enable it to defeat and control its own extremists. Shaheen Buneri laments that "while pro-Taliban groups are largely united by their terror agenda, the political leadership has failed to define a shared vision and develop a unified strategy to defeat militancy and religious bigotry". She observes that "the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, and the killing of Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti attest to the fact that the resolving of political, constitutional, and legislative disputes is now being done through violence, terror, and murder".

Leading journalist Amir Mateen recommends that "the breeding ground of terrorists in Punjab has to be dealt with. The network is fully operational there and may be getting stronger. The nexus among al-Qaeda, TTP and Punjabi Taliban is a serious threat that may cross the threshold if not attacked in time".

Dr Farooq Adil has warned, saying: "That their funding is generated from drug money and kidnapping for ransom is not enough unless they are supported and funded by the enemy-nexus countries. Weapons and sophisticated devices in their use expose their financiers and hidden hands behind them. All of them may have different and complex ideologies, but they all have only one agenda i.e. to destabilize Pakistan.









Presenting Bob Brown with a cake might create a great deal of frustration. The Greens leader no doubt would want to have his cake, and eat it too. On a range of issues the Greens adopt this attitude. They want clean energy but won't contemplate dams or nuclear power; they supported a flood levy but only after funding their pet projects; they wanted an ETS but not the one the Rudd government offered; they support a carbon tax but don't want industry compensation. Now they want a new mining tax but not the tax cuts it funds. In a playground you would call them spoilsports but in Canberra they are Julia Gillard's partners in a rainbow coalition.

The government's mining tax compromise is not even close to the substantial economic reform put forward by the Henry taxation review. But it is a worthwhile arrangement brokered in the public domain that provides a new profits-based taxation regime for the large coal and iron ore miners. It will capture some of the proceeds of the resources boom and reinvest them, in part, by funding a small cut in company tax to provide relief to business around the nation.

The cut from 30 per cent to 29 per cent is a tiny move in the right direction, attempting to share the nation's wealth and keep our business tax scales internationally competitive to support jobs and growth. But the Greens say they'll back the mining tax while rejecting the company tax cuts -- having cake and eating it. The pettiness of all this is brought into sharp focus when you consider that when the Hawke-Keating government took office in 1983 the company tax rate was 49 per cent. That Labor government undertook substantial taxation reform, including cutting company tax by a full 10 points to 39 per cent and then, later, to 36 per cent before the Howard government lowered it further to 30 per cent. Treasurer Wayne Swan's tax relief is trifling, especially with businesses also funding increased superannuation payments. Still, business will think a thin slice is better than none.

By splitting the mining tax and the company tax cuts into separate bills, the government has allowed the Greens to play these games. On the face of it, this appears to be clever politics because it wedges the opposition, who oppose the mining tax, into possibly antagonising their business base by blocking company tax relief. It also continues what looks suspiciously like an orchestrated charade of product differentiation between Labor and the Greens. But the government should be careful, politics that is too clever by half leads to the sort of reckoning we saw in NSW on the weekend. Serious economic reform should be devoid of game-playing. Better to tell the Greens there is no magic pudding and that extracting revenue from the private sector also requires supporting it. This ploy by the Greens shows what an extreme outfit they are, relying as much for internal direction on former communists and avowed socialists as they do on environmentalists. Given the power they now wield in Canberra, it is time the government, the parliament and the media held them accountable. Just as The Australian exposed the deceptions of their Marrickville candidate Fiona Byrne in the NSW election, we need to see more pressure placed on Senator Brown to explain his party's economic nihilism.






Yesterday's appointments to the Reserve Bank board continue the tradition of tapping the wisdom and knowledge of a group of people with real-world experience of the economy. This is one of the strengths of our independent bank and has helped make it one of the leading central banks in the world. The six external members act as a crucial sounding board for the technocrats.

The new people -- resources executive Catherine Tanna and John Edwards, a market economist -- have the requisite backgrounds and credentials for this important national role. As managing director of the Australian operations of the energy giant BG Group, Ms Tanna represents a growing sector. Dr Edwards, a former journalist and economics adviser who worked for Paul Keating, is a former chief economist for HSBC. He is working in Bahrain but will resign that post before joining the bank. His breadth of experience should counter any fears he is too close to Labor.

That said, there will be gaps on the board. There is no academic economist in the tradition of Bob Gregory, Adrian Pagan or Trevor Swan -- or, for that matter, Warwick McKibbin, who will not be reappointed. With the departure of Donald McGauchie -- a former Telstra chair and National Farmers Federation president -- after 10 years, there is no one with strong rural or regional expertise remaining on the board.

It is perhaps not surprising that Professor McKibbin, one of our most esteemed economists, did not get an extension of his 10 years, given his outspoken criticism of some government policies in recent times. But Treasurer Wayne Swan, a man who does not easily brook criticism, has left the board without a highly trained, academic economist able to challenge the technocrats at the bank and bring a particular dimension to deliberations. Scholars, with theoretical and technical expertise but who have been steeped in the Australian tradition of practical, applied economics, have been a fixture on the bank board.

With only six external directors, it is not possible to cover off on every aspect of the economy via these appointments. Mr Swan has had to make some hard decisions. Now it is up to the board to ensure it continues to independently reflect the diverse elements of our economy.







Ricky Ponting's decision to make himself available for selection after stepping down as Australia's captain yesterday is a bonus for a side in transition. Ponting's century from 118 balls in the World Cup quarter-final in India last week was a reminder of the talent he still has to offer the game. Cricket followers will be hoping that, like Sachin Tendulkar, 37, Ponting's batting will flourish now that he is free of the responsibilities of the captaincy. With a Test average of 53.5 from 259 innings, Ponting is the second-highest run scorer in Test history, behind Tendulkar. His 39 Test centuries eclipse any other Australian player, past or present, and he now has the chance to build that total closer to 50.

Ponting bowed out of the captaincy on his own terms, as graceful as his on drives, with sound timing. He leaves the job with his head high, as the most successful Test captain of any nation in 134 years. Despite losing three of four Ashes series as captain, his teams' 48 victories from 77 Tests put him ahead of Steve Waugh, South Africa's Graeme Smith, Clive Lloyd of the West Indies and Allan Border in the captains' rankings list.

Ponting sometimes fell short as a tactician under pressure, but he had the leadership strength to guide his players to impressive victories against all major Test competitors and to two World Cups. In his early years as captain he had the good fortune, as one of game's most talented players, of leading a team of once-in-a-century champions such as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist.

But like Border, Ponting's task for much of his captaincy was to lead a team in decline, which made his success all the more remarkable. And apart from the past year, Ponting, like Grumpy, has been a stalwart at the crease, salvaging Australia's bacon time and again after others failed.

Unfortunately, Australian cricket continues to pay the price for poor administration and lack of renewal. The incoming captain, Michael Clarke, will need a long-term effort to rebuild our Test supremacy and Punter should be a valuable asset in the team, at least for a few years.

But the real challenge is to emulate what Tasmanian cricket officials did in 1988 when they spotted an "especially promising" 13-year-old batsman from Mowbray, Launceston, ensured coaching and playing opportunities came his way, and paved the way for Ricky Ponting to make cricket history.







WHO is this man? After working as an electrician, he became an organiser with the Electrical Trades Union and active in Labor politics, eventually being elected to the leadership of the unions' peak body in NSW. He was also nominated by the Labor Party to a seat in the Legislative Council, before moving to the lower house to assume the parliamentary leadership at an election which saw a huge swing against Labor.

It might almost be John Robertson, the man widely tipped to be Labor's next leader. In fact, though, it is Barrie Unsworth - the last NSW Labor leader but one to lead the party to a shattering defeat. History, of course, does not repeat itself exactly. The difference is that where Labor in 1988 appointed Bob Carr, no factional dinosaur, to lead and undertake renewal after the rout, in 2011, amid the smoking ruins of an election result which is worse even than 1988, the party believes a contemporary version of Unsworth is the man of the hour.

The impression of an entrenched party hierarchy still unable to contemplate the significance of its defeat is confirmed in virtually all the comments of its members. The party's state secretary, Sam Dastyari, his predecessor, Senator Mark Arbib, the MLC Eddie Obeid - all seem incapable of understanding the decision voters have made. Defeat certainly is understood. But the reasons for it are not. Instead of analysis there are excuses; instead of perception, denial.

In Barry O'Farrell NSW voters have chosen an undemonstrative representative of middle Australia, a quiet achiever. In seat after seat they have chosen new representatives whose careers - and ideas - have been formed in the real world of trades, professions, businesses and economic engagement, not in the closeted and stale world of political manipulation where too many Labor MPs have spent their working lives. The electorate has rejected the party of entrenched factional interests, of quiet deals stitched up behind closed doors, of a rancid oligarchy too arrogant to stay in touch even with its own rank and file, let alone voters. But although the voters' verdict on Labor was unprecedented in Australian political history, their collective voice, apparently, is not loud enough for Labor to hear. John Robertson's selection was, it appears, stitched up months ago. It is a done deal, yet another done deal.

The former planning minister Frank Sartor told the ABC on Monday night that he thought ''the next Labor premier is not in the Parliament at the moment''. He may be right. At present, Labor seems about to begin its inevitable journey of transformation with a single step - in the wrong direction.





BOB BROWN is getting into very dangerous territory by promising to oppose part of the tax changes the federal government will be putting to Parliament later this year. The Greens leader does not like the idea of big companies getting the promised one percentage point off their company tax rate from July 2013. He thinks a 30 per cent tax rate is low enough for them. Small businesses should get the cut, not big business.

The concession is part of the deal worked out by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, after the initial bungle over the former Treasury secretary Ken Henry's review of the tax system.

A very ambitious mining super-profits tax has been brought down to a more modest one, applying only to a couple of the main minerals. It is still funding the one point cut in the company tax rate, which is partly offset by a planned rise in the superannuation contribution paid by employers from 9 to 12 per cent.

Brown has got some research that finds the loss to revenue from the company tax cut will be $1 billion more than the Treasury estimate of $1.4 billion a year. Included in the lost revenue will be $295 million in a tax break enjoyed by the four big banks, and half a billion dollars by the two mining giants, BHP-Billiton and Rio Tinto. The money would be better spent raising the Newstart allowance for the unemployed, or a national dental scheme.

These are all valid enough points. Yet using blocking power in the Senate, which the Greens will have in three months' time, is a very risky

game if Brown is serious. Interfering with tax and other supply bills strikes at the very ability of a government to function. Removing one part of the tax scheme could bring down a very shaky edifice: first the peace settlement worked by Gillard and Swan with business and the states, secondly the foundation of the government itself.

The Greens already have a record of blocking the good move for the sake of the perfect, when they opposed the Rudd government's legislation for a carbon price. That was perhaps a timid step, but it was a first step towards the goal sought by the Greens. Instead we still have no progress, and almost got a government that questions climate change science and wants to wait for the rest of the world. We may still get one, thanks to Bob Brown.






ONCE again, Melbourne's heart has been broken by a tragedy on the West Gate Bridge. In 1970, 35 people died when a span of the bridge crashed to the ground during construction. In 2009, four-year-old Darcey Freeman suffered massive internal injuries and ultimately drowned after being thrown from the bridge. A jury on Monday night found her father, Arthur, guilty of her murder after hearing that he had been enraged about the outcome of a battle for custody of his three children and in killing his daughter was motivated by spousal revenge.

After the bridge collapse, a royal commission was convened and changes were made to safety protocols for the construction. Since Darcey's death, barriers have been built along both sides of the bridge in an effort to reduce instances of suicide or murder. Both responses were appropriate, but neither will expunge the emotional damage done to friends and relatives of those who died, indeed to all who live in Melbourne.

For years it was impossible to drive across the West Gate without thinking of the collapse. But what happened then - a bridge crashing to the ground during construction - was within our comprehension. Now it is impossible to drive across the West Gate without thinking of Darcey, and the pain is all the more intense because what happened to her - an innocent, trusting, helpless child thrown to her death by a parent in front of her siblings - is beyond ordinary human comprehension.

It is the very ordinary details of that January morning that will haunt everyone who followed the court hearings. Darcey was pulling faces at her little brother, two-year-old Jack, in the back seat of their dad's four-wheel-drive on her way to St Joseph's primary school in Hawthorn. Big brother Ben, then aged 6, was tapping his knees like a drummer. It was Darcey's first day of school and her mother, Peta Barnes, and maternal grandmother were waiting at the school gate for the occasion. Worried that the children were running late, Ms Barnes rang her former husband. His response, the court was told, was: ''Say goodbye to your children … you'll never see your children again.'' At 9.15am, Freeman pulled over to the emergency lane of the West Gate, switched on the hazard lights, pulled Darcey out of her seat, walked her to the railing and threw her over. After Freeman returned to the vehicle and sped off, Ben said to his father: ''Go back and get her … Darcey can't swim.'' ''I kept saying it over and over again and he never did it,'' the six-year-old later told police.

Now comes the apparently inevitable search for lessons, as we seek to give some meaning to an unspeakable act. The Victorian president of Parents Without Partners, Rhonda McHugh, spoke a lot of sense when she said parents finding it difficult to cope with painful custody battles should be reassured they are not alone. ''There are people out there to help you,'' she said, nominating beyondblue, the Lone Fathers Association and Relationships Australia. ''And sometimes, when the pain is too much, you've got to walk away. In 10-12 years' time, the children will come and find you, but if you hurt them or yourself, nobody can help anyone.''

Less sensible, in our view, is the suggestion in some of the discussion on newspaper websites and talkback radio stations that this killing exposes the family law system as being broken. Of course we should use this tragedy to again consider whether anything more can be done to reduce the pain and anger when family breakdowns become matters for the courts. But family law was not on trial here; Arthur Freeman was. A conscientious jury has concluded that he consciously, voluntarily and intentionally murdered his daughter to cause pain to his former spouse. We should give no truck to the idea that any family law system could eliminate such aberrant behaviour.

Darcey's dad is responsible for what happened to her. The system, indeed the society, is not.





RICKY Ponting's announcement that he is stepping down as Australia's cricket captain was delivered with all the assurance that he has brought to the crease in 152 Tests as one of the world's best batsmen. His demeanour yesterday offered persuasive evidence that the 36-year-old was not pushed; the decision was his.

As Ponting conceded, the past six months have been trying. Losing the World Cup quarter-final last week convinced him the timing was right. However, he made very clear his desire to play on under a new captain. While that immediately sets off a fresh debate, Ponting has reason to believe he has still more to offer as a cricketer.

As captain, he conceded, he felt the pressure of defeat in the Ashes series this summer - the third in his four series as captain - and the World Cup. Australia lost a generation of great players in a few years and Ponting did sometimes show that the burden in this time of transition was getting to him.

In seven years as captain, he welcomed 32 newcomers to Test cricket, compared to six in the teams led by Steve Waugh. Yet, under Ponting's captaincy, Australia had won the past two World Cups, along with just about every other trophy in the game. Australia won 48 of the 77 Tests in which he was captain. No other captain has won more. Nor has any team bettered his run of 16 Test wins in a row. And Ponting has led from the front as Australia's highest run scorer from 152 Tests at the third-best average of all time, as well as the highest scorer from 359 one-day internationals, including 163 wins in 227 games as captain.

Ponting made his first-class debut at 17 and has ''come through a lot of different generations of Australian cricket''. He would now like to develop the next one. We won't know until today, when the squad for next month's one-day series in Bangladesh is named, whether selectors will grant his wish. His century in the World Cup quarter-final suggests he can emulate the late-career example of Sachin Tendulkar, the only man to have scored more Test runs. Ponting is also anything but a liability in the field.

The doubts relate to the fact that it is unusual in Australian cricket to play on after giving up the captaincy. The Indians who beat Australia last week may wonder at this ''problem'' - their team included four past captains.

Australia's new captain, with Ponting's endorsement, is likely to be Michael Clarke. If he is comfortable with the arrangement, the selectors should be too. After 15 years as a Test player, Ponting's dream is still to ''win games for Australia''. If anyone has earned the right to bat on, it is Ponting.










A future generation of British political historians may be tempted to award a modest footnote to what happened yesterday. Here's why. After a year of unprecedented bitterness between Labour and the Liberal Democrats triggered by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, the Labour leader Ed Miliband appeared on a joint platform with senior Liberal Democrats and the Green party leader – though not with Nick Clegg, who was conveniently in Mexico – to campaign for a yes vote in the 5 May referendum on reform of the voting system.

Does this matter? Yes, and for two reasons. The first is because the joint appearance boosts the chances that there will be a majority in favour of the yes campaign, which wants to see the current first past the post system for elections to the House of Commons replaced by the alternative vote system, in which voters can rank the candidates in order of preference. Mr Miliband said a number of sensible things when he joined the former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy and party president Tim Farron on the yes platform yesterday. But the most important were that AV is a fairer system than FPTP (because, unlike the current system, it requires an elected MP to have the support of a majority of the votes cast) and that AV encourages parties to build bridges between each other rather than barriers. On both counts, Mr Miliband placed himself firmly on the side of modernity, fairness and new politics.

Sadly, he does not speak for a united party. Significant parts of the Labour party – including the GMB union, which is shamefully helping to finance the no campaign – are equally firmly on the side of conservatism, unfairness and old politics. Nothing symbolised this political bankruptcy better yesterday than the abject sight of Labour's Margaret Beckett and Keith Vaz joining a quartet of large and small-c conservatives – William Hague, Malcolm Rifkind, Douglas Hurd and Geoffrey Howe in a mendaciously misleading attack on AV. No liberal or progressive should be in any doubt about which of these two groupings is to be supported.

Mr Miliband was right about something else. Britain is not fundamentally a conservative country. But a progressive majority may only be sustainable – especially under a fairer voting system, though also sometimes under FPTP – if the parties of labour and of liberalism work together, not against one another. FPTP helped to force the Lib Dems into coalition with the Tories in 2010. But if there is to be an alternative government after another election, the bridges of which Mr Miliband spoke will have to be honestly rebuilt. That may be the longer-term significance of yesterday's initiative – and in time it will have to involve Mr Clegg as well.






What economists and policymakers sometimes call the Spanish crisis is no such thing: it is in fact three big problems rolled into one huge and enduring mess. There is the financial collapse within the eurozone, in which over the past year the governments of first Greece then Ireland have been blocked from borrowing from financial markets at any but exorbitant interest rates. There is the meltdown of the Spanish property market, which has in turn triggered a crisis for both the cajas (regional savings banks) and the government treasury. And finally there is the long-run problem of Spain's labour market, where one in five workers are officially out of a job.

These are three discrete areas, and they require different solutions to be implemented over varying periods. The problem is that the Spanish government has not had the opportunity to deal with those latter two domestic problems on its own timetable because of the first Europe-wide crisis. In his efforts to beat back the eurozone's financial bushfire and stop it from swallowing up Spain, the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has been forced to bin election pledges and to concentrate on the ultra-short term.

No one should expect that pressure to ease up any time soon. Yesterday the eurozone came under more pressure, as Standard & Poor's slashed its ratings on Portuguese and Greek sovereign debt. According to the credit rating agency, Portugal now stands on the brink of junk-borrower status. The reason for this, S&P's second downgrade of Portugal in less than a week, is that the likelihood is rising that Lisbon will have to be bailed out by the rest of the single-currency club. At the moment, this has all the hallmarks of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the interest rate on 10-year loans to the Portuguese state shot up again yesterday, taking the yield above 8%. That puts Lisbon far closer to the sovereign intensive-care ward of Dublin and Athens (where market interest rates are now over 10%) than it does to the likes of Berlin (which can get away with paying 3.3% on its 10-year loans).

For the past year, Mr Zapatero has been desperately trying to prove to investors that Spain should not be lumped in with Portugal, let alone Greece and Ireland. His government has made sharper and faster spending cuts than it originally planned; after a delayed start, the central bank has launched a speedy clean-up of the troubled cajas. So far, the effort seems to be paying off – the interest rate on loans to Madrid is 5.2%, which indicates that the market judges its creditworthiness to be somewhere between Berlin and Lisbon. But if Portugal does call it quits and apply for a bailout (although how it will do that without a functioning government in place is an interesting thought experiment), traders and investors will once again ask if Madrid is next.

The shame of all this is that Spain's problems, while large, are nothing like those of other southern European states. Its government did not go on a borrowing binge in the past decade; its households and companies did. True, public borrowing has risen sharply during Spain's severe recession – but that is largely because tax revenues have naturally collapsed. If Madrid does manage to keep the bond-market vigilantes from its door, that will still leave its policymakers with the huge job of rebuilding a broken economy. Going by the official figures, joblessness in Spain is the highest in the eurozone, while two in five young people are out of work. Officials refer to its "dual" labour market, in which a select group of workers have jobs for life, effectively, while the rest are on short-term contracts. Then there is the problem that much of Spanish industry is uncompetitive, with very low productivity. The sad reality is that even if Madrid is not dragged into the eurozone financial bushfire, it faces a long, slow haul to fix its economy.






Remnants of it have been found in the stomachs of 5,000-year-old bodies preserved in peat bogs in northern Europe. Scraps of it still adhere to the kitchen walls of 1930s semis, evidence of otherwise forgotten marital quarrels. There is still some of it, profoundly carbonised, at the bottom of your mother's best saucepan. We speak, of course, of porridge, a dish once more important than bread, and in more recent decades a well-known Scottish substitute for central heating. Its popularity had faded, but now it appears its time has come again. Pret a Manger, selling 50,000 bowls a week, is coasting to much-improved profits on the back of its porridge offerings. Porridge vans roam the streets of Edinburgh, while the Irish, too, are reporting increased consumption. Porridge is even enjoying a new vogue as a missile: a large lump of it was thrown at a football referee in Durban, South Africa, a week ago. Porridge is one of those dishes which, made well, can be ambrosial, as the French heroine of that wonderful film Babette's Feast proved when she transformed the grim sludge that the Danes call øllebrød, a kind of rye porridge, into a delightful morning treat. Her porridge began the process of spiritual renewal through good food which transformed the life of the remote Danish village to which she had been exiled. In another sign of change, Goldilocks was acquitted in a recent mock trial in Los Angeles, leaving the court without a stain on her character. Truly, the voice of the spurtle is heard in the land.







And now, it is Portugal's turn. Last Wednesday, the government in Lisbon was forced to resign when the opposition refused to back a tough economic package designed to tackle the country's fiscal crisis. The result is a political crisis on top of an economic mess, one that threatens — again — to spill over into the European Union. Portuguese and EU officials say the damage can be contained, but developments in Portugal suggest that the time has come for a new approach for dealing with economic crisis.

Portugal has long been one of western Europe's poorest countries. Even during the go-go years of the last decade, its economy struggled: Growth has been below 1.5 percent for all except three years and was negative in 2004 and 2009. Unfortunately, that anemic performance did not slow government outlays. As a result, the country ran up a budget deficit that reached 9.3 percent of its GDP in 2009. (Incredibly, that figure was only fourth largest in the eurozone.)

That shortfall contributed to a total debt that is, by one estimate, a stunning 350 percent of GDP. Foreign indebtedness exceeds 200 percent of GDP. The government has pledged to cut the budget deficit to 4.6 percent of GDP this year, to 3 percent in 2012 and 2 percent in 2013. To do that, the government proposed tough austerity measures that would cut spending, raise taxes on incomes and pensions and up the value-added tax.

While all parties appreciate the need for fiscal discipline, the opposition Social Democrats said enough after four attempts, rejecting the idea of yet more taxes when economists predict another year of negative growth and the unemployment rate is already 11.2 percent.

The political crisis means that there is no plan in place even as Portugal has to service its debt. The government has said that it can meet a 4.5 billion euro ($6.4 billion) bond repayment that is due next month, but it is unclear it if will be able to repay 4.9 billion euro ($6.9 billion) debt that is due in June.

Cognizant of the conditions imposed on other governments that requested financial help, the outgoing government has resisted the idea of going to the EU for a bailout. Prime Minister Jose Socrates explained that "I know what it meant for the Greeks and the Irish, and I don't want that for my country."

But the collapse of the government means that the country is likely to call new elections — all the parties being consulted prefer that option to a unity coalition — putting on hold any economic package. That raises the prospect of a default on debt payments. Consistent with that outlook, yields on Portugal's 10-year benchmark bonds topped 8 percent, hitting a record high; that level is thought to be unsustainable given the amounts that need to be refinanced this summer.

The EU has the money to help Portugal out; it is the terms that are a problem. Portugal is already experiencing national strikes — there was a 24-hour train strike last week — and the squeeze will get even tighter if the EU loans Lisbon funds to service its debt.

Most political observers believe that public unease forced the Social Democrats to reject the government's plan, seeing a collapse as the best way to take power. Opinion polls show the party prevailing if a vote is held.

European publics are increasingly restive over the terms of those bailout packages. To put it plainly, banks and other bondholders are being paid at the expense of ordinary citizens. To many in Europe, that is unfair.

Truly all Europeans should be sharing the pain — no class of citizens should be exempt. The failure of economies that have adopted extreme measures to recover and the scale of the downturns they are experiencing have convinced many politicians that the current approach is unsustainable. Even bond markets seem to share that view: The interest rates on Greek and Irish bonds have been moving upward even after they received help from the EU. That suggests that markets anticipate renegotiations on repayment terms.

Failure to agree on a tougher austerity package could force default and the fear among bankers and European politicians is that it would spread throughout the eurozone. The next potential domino is Spain. Spanish officials believe that their situation has turned the corner and say they are not worried about contagion from Portugal. Spanish banks hold about $100 billion of Portuguese debt, however, and a default would hit them hard. Even if the government does have measures in place to keep the banks solvent, they would be expensive.

European leaders know they have a problem. They had promised to devise a comprehensive solution to the debt crisis at their summit last weekend, but the developments in Portugal, along with elections elsewhere in the EU, forced a delay. Those leaders agreed on terms for funding a European Stability Mechanism that will become operational in two years. Unfortunately, it will take longer to fully fund — five years instead of three. That means doubt will persist about Europe's ability to support economies in trouble. And the threat of default among its members raises concerns about the entire eurozone.






SINGAPORE — Before Japan's nuclear crisis struck, the world appeared to be on the verge of a nuclear renaissance. An increasing number of countries, especially in Asia, were turning to atomic power to provide electricity for rapid economic growth without the carbon emissions that many scientists say are causing dangerous climate change.

The series of explosions, fires and radiation leaks from reactors and spent fuel storage pools at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Japan's northeast coast since it was hit by the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11 have rekindled a global debate about nuclear risk, especially in areas of known seismic activity.

The strong earthquake on March 24 near Myanmar's borders with Thailand and Laos, which shook buildings hundreds of kilometers away in Bangkok, Hanoi and Nanning in southern China, will heighten nuclear safety concerns in Asia.

Many Asian countries, including Indonesia and the Philippines, lie on or close to geologically unstable fault lines around the Pacific basin that also run through Taiwan, Japan, Alaska and down the west coast of the Americas. This so-called Ring of Fire is prone to volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunami.

The United States is reviewing safety standards at all its nuclear facilities. Regulators are also scrutinizing the location of existing and new power plants.

Governments in Europe are divided over whether to scale back or continue nuclear expansion. Italy recently delayed for at least one year a re-start of its nuclear power program closed down in the wake of the Chernobyl reactor meltdown in Ukraine in 1986.

Germany had earlier announced the temporary closure of the seven oldest of its 17 plants while France, the world's second-largest producer of nuclear power after the U.S., and several other European states said they would continue to use the technology.

But the key to the question whether nuclear power will remain an indispensable component of the world's "clean" energy future lies in China and other economies in Asia that need huge amounts of low-carbon electricity to sustain their rapid growth without the air pollution associated with fossil fuels like coal.

Before the Fukushima crisis, more than 155 power reactors were planned and over 320 others proposed worldwide. If all were to go ahead, they could more than double global nuclear generating capacity by 2030.

Some 440 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 economies currently generate about 15 percent of the world's electricity.

Of the 85 power reactors under construction or about to start, 56 are in Asia. Thirty three are in China, eight each in India and South Korea, six in Japan and one in Taiwan. These economies are already so far down the nuclear power generation path that it would be difficult to turn back without disrupting their national development plans.

Still, China — which plans to nearly quadruple nuclear generating capacity by 2020 — announced recently that it was temporarily suspending approval for all new nuclear power plants until the government issues revised safety rules. Safety checks will be made on existing nuclear facilities and those under construction.

India, South Korea and Japan are also reviewing safety standards and the capacity of nuclear plants to withstand large-magnitude natural disasters. Taiwan says it may defer the scheduled 2012 start of a 2,700-megawatt nuclear plant, on the coast about 40 km east of Taipei, following Japan's calamity.

Some Southeast Asian countries that planned to introduce nuclear power have also announced delays and reviews.

But Indonesia and Vietnam, the countries with the largest-scale plans for nuclear power generation in Southeast Asia, have indicated they will go ahead, although the Indonesian government has delayed awarding a tender this month for a feasibility study on the first plant.

Indonesia's National Atomic Energy Agency proposed an island off the north coast of Sumatra as a possible site for the four nuclear power reactors it wants to develop, arguing that the area is not located in an earthquake-prone zone. The government plans to build the reactors by 2022. An earlier proposal to build a plant near a volcano on the south coast of the main island of Java was shelved after protests.

The lessons from Japan are clear. Rigorous safety standards must be applied. Backup diesel power generators at coastal nuclear plants need to be protected from tsunami damage. And only the safest possible reactor designs and spent fuel storage systems should be used, in Asia or anywhere else.

Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore.







Immediately following the tragic earthquake and tsunami on March 11 in the Tohoku region, U.S. military forces in Japan began sending supplies, equipment, and personnel to the devastated area to assist in the relief operations known as "Operation Tomodachi."

We are still in the middle of this large effort to support the Japanese people through its government and the Japanese Joint Task Force, but some of us participating in the relief operations are already accumulating lessons learned and thinking about the future.

One of those lessons learned, which I identified years ago in a published paper, is the need to increase the involvement of the U.S. military in domestic disaster exercises here in Japan. There are only a few prefectures, such as Tokyo and Shizuoka, that include elements of the Japan-based U.S. military in their exercises.

This is not surprising as local Japanese authorities have been reluctant in the past to include their own Self-Defense Forces. However, the reality set in — especially after the January 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake — that natural disasters quickly overtax the capabilities of local authorities to respond and that the SDF needs to be involved.

This catastrophe, which involved a magnitude-9.0 earthquake (and thousands of aftershocks), a massive tsunami and problems with the nuclear reactors, has shown more than ever that devastation knows no administrative borders. Hundreds of communities in almost 10 prefectures have been affected. Many different layers of the bureaucracy — at the local, prefectural and national level — are involved, and because of the time necessary to navigate and coordinate the various jurisdictions, quick responses are often not possible.

Despite the magnitude of this disaster and the number of lives lost, I think it is safe to say that this was just a warning of things to come. We will likely see more major catastrophes such as this one in the future, and perhaps in more heavily populated areas such as Tokyo, Nagoya, or Osaka.

The earthquake may not be as strong as a magnitude 9, but it could easily do as much or more damage depending on where it strikes especially in light of the irony that the more modernized countries become, the more fragile they sometimes are. This likelihood therefore makes it critically important that new approaches to disaster preparation and relief be undertaken.

The 1995 Kobe earthquake was a serious wakeup call for Japanese society and its crisis-management system. Existing laws were reviewed and new procedures established. Most important, however, was the change in the mindset that it is important both to prepare and to respond quickly and effectively to a large-scale disaster.

The magnitude of this disaster will likely have the same effect. It is for this reason that I would like to propose first and foremost that Japan and the United States take advantage of this tragedy to sign a mutual support and assistance agreement on natural disasters, and then to conduct exercises to help develop the patterns of cooperation and shared expertise that would pay off if either country (or a third country or region) were affected.

The agreement could be called the Mutual Assistance and Support Agreement in Disasters (MASAD). The essence of the agreement would be that U.S. and Japanese forces would come to each other's aid in the event of a large-scale disaster that goes beyond the capabilities of either country.

The agreement should be signed by the president and prime minister, and annual bilateral meetings between the military and civilian authorities should be held to regularly update each other's planning, disaster assessments, and latest response capabilities/lessons learned. Ideally, it could form the framework of a structured regional response framework, with many countries participating and best practices shared.

In order to raise the capabilities and levels of cooperation between the Japanese and U.S. militaries in responding to disasters, bilateral exercises should be held (hopefully, the sooner the better) that consider scenarios such as a Tokai, Tonankai, and/or Nankai earthquake and possible tsunami in order to quickly identify opportunities and challenges to U.S. support of Japan's disaster response. Similar exercises could be done in the U.S. as well.

These exercises should include the participation of local authorities at the appropriate time. Moreover, lessons should be learned from other major disaster responses, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and this one. International and regional organizations, such as the Kobe-based Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution as well as the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs OCHA, could be involved in educating responders and planners.

Equally important is to involve the U.S. military and civilian agencies in the regional disaster preparedness exercises at the prefectural level here in Japan, either at the observer level or better yet in operational capacity.

Human beings will never fully be able to stand up to nature's ravages, but it is important that at least the U.S. and Japan stand together. A mutual agreement to formalize this new level of cooperation, and civil-military exercises at all levels to strengthen this relationship is necessary now more than ever.

Robert D. Eldridge is deputy assistant chief of staff at the community policy, planning and liaison office, widely known as G5, of the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa.







Japan is known not only for its experience with devastating disasters, but also for innovations in disaster risk reduction. Back in 1990, when the United Nations started its first International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction (1990-1999), Japan was one of the strongest supporters.

In 1994, Japan hosted the first World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Yokohama, which gave a strong boost to the decade-long activities of disaster risk reduction. In the following year, in 1995, Japan experienced one of the major urban disasters in recent times: the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, causing more than $100 billion of direct losses. Over a number of years, the city of Kobe and the prefecture of Hyogo struggled to recover from the physical, social, economic and psychological aspects of the disaster. The recovery lessons were widely utilized in other countries.

In the year following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Japan hosted the second World Conference on Disaster Reduction, which coincided with the 10th anniversary of the Kobe earthquake. This was the year when the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) was adopted by United Nations member states as the basic agreed outline for disaster risk-reduction activities. This is considered the most important recent policy contribution from Japan to the world in disaster studies.

Now that Japan is trying to cope with the devastating earthquake, tsunami and radiation leakage, the question is whether Japan can manage this disaster by itself or needs external support. There are several discussions and online forums that argue that Japan is a developed country that has its own resources to support the recovery process. I don't agree with this argument. I call it a misconception that has arisen from a lack of appropriate information. The recovery does not depend on financial resources only. It needs intellectual resources, plans, policies, strategies and innovative solutions. No country is independent and self-reliant when it comes to its resources. Japan is no exception.

The 2001 Gujarat earthquake in India also initially threatened the recovery process due to the scale of the destruction it caused. The total length of the devastated area was more than 600 km.

Unlike tsunami damage, which is mostly concentrated in coastal areas (more specifically, in a zone within 2 to 3 km of the coast), the damage caused by the Gujarat earthquake was spread over a vast area.

The key lesson from the Gujarat earthquake is the necessity for coordination and proper management from the initial post-disaster phase. The coordination should not be limited to government departments. It needs to include nongovernmental (NGOs) organizations and other relief-based organizations. At the prefectural level, a coordination center needs to be set up, which should be a "one-stop shop" for information. This coordination center should be connected horizontally with all relevant departments, as well as vertically with the national and local governments. One-point coordination is of key importance to avoid confusion and mismanagement. A sector-based approach is preferable where different sectors such as shelter, health, education and livelihoods will be handled separately, but under the same coordination unit.

In the current disaster, 54 out of the 174 coastal towns and local governments on the east coast of Japan were affected by the tsunami. A more severe impact was seen in the case of the Indian Ocean Tsunami in Sri Lanka, where 73 percent of coastal areas were affected.

Sri Lanka started a village adoption policy, where different organizations were responsible for the total recovery of a designated town or local government. A similar approach was also undertaken in Tamil Nadu state in India after the 2004 tsunami. The same village adoption principle can be applied to the current case in Japan, where governments of prefectures that have not been affected and/or NGOs can adopt a specific village or town to oversee its holistic recovery. This prefectural government or NGO would be responsible for coordination and collaboration with other entities.

The arrival time and height of the tsunami in the March 11 disaster raised serious issues with regard to hazard mapping and designated evacuation centers in the coastal areas. Thinking of the aged and vulnerable populations concentrated in the small and medium-size cities and rural towns in Japan, there is a strong need for a "one village, one shelter policy" to be implemented rigorously in different parts of Japan, both as a recovery measure and for long-term preparedness. Bangladesh has been a model case for a coastal early warning system with shelters, volunteers and networking. A similar system is required in Japan, both in terms of short-, medium- and long-term recovery.

There are several other emerging issues that need attention in the coming days. Environmental issues, contamination of soil and water and the impact on the food chain are some of the crucial ones. After Hurricane Katrina in the United States, the New Orleans government and Environmental Protection Agency conducted a detailed environmental assessment and found serious issues with regard to industrial waste, debris management and raw sewage, among others. These lessons will be very useful to Japan in the current context.

Finally, unlike past disasters in Japan, the Tohoku earthquake has produced more than 250,000 evacuees who need to be relocated outside their hometown or even outside their prefectures. The strong communities that existed in these rural areas are on the verge of collapse, posing a serious problem in terms of human relationships, networking and information flow. The key is how to keep these communities together. Sri Lanka has demonstrated some excellent examples of sustainable post-tsunami human resettlement, which will need to be reflected in Japan too. Different innovative approaches and lessons were found through single-village relocation or multiple-village relocation (several villages coming together as the same village in a new location), and this needs strategic planning from the inception phase.

With all these examples and justifications, Japan needs urgent assistance in different sectors, from volunteer management, to health risk reduction, to prevention of environmental degradation, mass relocation, shelter management, strategic planning and policy direction, to name but some. Japan is known for its reserved nature, dignity and modesty. Japan has been generous to support several countries in different disaster situations, mostly without drawing attention to itself.

It is now time to reciprocate that support and to assist Japan in its time of crisis with nonmonetary resources.

Rajib Shaw is an associate professor in the laboratory of International Environment and Disaster Management at Kyoto University's Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies.







The most remarkable thing about the response so far to the "genpatsu shinsai" (nuclear-earthquake disaster) that has engulfed Japan is that there are still people who think nuclear power has a future. Should this be attributed more to the dependence of modern industrialized societies on massive inputs of energy, or to a collective lack of imagination?

We do not yet know how this unfolding catastrophe will end, but we can be sure that if most of the radioactivity in the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant remains on site, then the true believers will claim that this is as bad as it gets and that the risk is worth taking. The environmental damage of localized contamination and releases to sea will be discounted and long-term health impacts from exposure to low levels of radiation will be denied. Even those workers who suffer from acute radiation sickness will not find their way into the most commonly quoted statistics, unless they die promptly.

The truth is that even in the best-case scenario the environmental and human consequences of this disaster will be enormous. The potential impact of a worst-case scenario is beyond most people's comprehension. To give an indication of the amount of radioactive material involved, the total capacity of the three reactors that were operating at the time of the earthquake was double that of the Chernobyl No. 4 reactor that exploded 25 years ago in the Ukraine. To this you have to add the radioactivity in the spent fuel pools of all 6 units and of the shared spent fuel pool.

All of this is at risk and, due to the long-term heat-generating properties of the fuel, the situation will not be stabilized any time soon. Even if the radioactivity does not travel far, the release of just a fraction would have incalculable consequences for human beings and the environment.

Besides the true believers, there are also those who regard nuclear energy as a necessary evil. They don't particularly like it, but they see no alternative. But is it true that there is no alternative? For those who can't see beyond the current centralized, supply-driven electrical power systems and who assume an eternally increasing demand for energy, then perhaps it is difficult to imagine how modern societies could survive without nuclear power.

But if you allow the possibility of decentralized systems that reward the efficient provision of energy services, rather than the supply of raw energy, then hitherto unimagined options open up.

After last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and now the Fukushima No. 1 genpatsu shinsai, people must realize that business as usual is not an option.

To claim that nuclear energy has a future represents a colossal failure of our collective imagination — a failure to imagine the risks involved and a failure to imagine how we could do things differently.

If future generations are to say that there was a silver lining to the cloud of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it will be because human beings now looked beyond their recent history and chose to build a society that was not subject to catastrophic risks of human making.

Philip White is the international liaison officer of the Tokyo-based Citizens' Nuclear Information Center.






AMSTERDAM — Amid the horrifying news from Japan, the establishment of new standards of political leadership there is easy to miss — in part because the Japanese media follow old habits of automatically criticizing how officials are dealing with the calamity, and many foreign reporters who lack perspective simply copy that critical tone. But compared to the aftermath of the catastrophic Kobe earthquake of 1995, when the authorities appeared to wash their hands of the victims' miseries, the difference could hardly be greater.

This time, Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Democratic Party of Japan government is making an all-out effort, with unprecedented intensive involvement of his Cabinet and newly formed specialized task forces. The prime minister himself is regularly televised with relevant officials wearing the work fatigues common among Japanese engineers.

In 1995, Kobe citizens extricated from the rubble were looked after if they belonged to corporations or religious groups. Those who did not were expected to fend mostly for themselves. This reflected a 'feudal' like corporatist approach, in which the direct relationship between the citizen and the state played no role. This widely condemned governmental neglect of the Kobe earthquake victims was among the major sources of public indignation that helped popularize the reform movement from which Kan emerged.

Unfortunately, today's Japanese media are overlooking that historical context. For example, the newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun recently lamented the shortcomings of the Kan government's response, emphasizing the poor lines of command running from the Cabinet to officials carrying out rescue and supply operations. But it failed to point out that the feebleness of such coordination, linked to an absence of Cabinet-centered policymaking, was precisely the main weakness of Japan's political system that the founders of the DPJ set out to overcome.

When the DPJ came to power in September 2009 it ended half-a-century of de facto one-party rule by the Liberal Democratic Party. But even more significantly, its intentions addressed a cardinal question for Japan: Who should rule, bureaucratic mandarins or elected officials?

The LDP, formed in 1955, had not done much actual ruling after helping to coordinate postwar reconstruction, which extended without debate into an unofficial but very real national policy of, in principle, unlimited expansion of industrial capacity. Other possible priorities hardly ever entered political discussions.

The need for a political steering wheel in the hands of elected politicians was highlighted in 1993, when two major political figures bolted from the LDP with their followers. By doing so, they catalyzed the reformist political movement that resulted in the DPJ, the first credible opposition party that — unlike the Socialists who engaged in mere ritualistic opposition — was prepared to win elections and actually govern rather than merely maintain the facade of government that had become the norm under the LDP.

Lowering the prestige of the government right now is the fact that Kan has not shown any talent for turning himself into a TV personality who can project a grand image of leadership. But his government is dealing without question as best it can in the face of four simultaneous crises, its efforts encumbered by huge logistic problems that no post-World War II Japanese government has ever faced before.

The efforts of Kan's government are obviously hampered by a rigid and much fragmented bureaucratic infrastructure. The DPJ has had scant time to make up for what the LDP has long neglected. Its 17 months in power before the current catastrophe have been a saga of struggle with career officials in many parts of the bureaucracy, including the judiciary, fighting for the survival of the world they have always known. Other countries could learn much from the DPJ's attempt to alter a status quo of political arrangements that has had half a century to form and consolidate.

But it was the United States that first undermined the DPJ administration, by testing the new government's loyalty with an unfeasible plan — originally the brainchild of the George W. Bush-era U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld — to build a new base for the U.S. Marines stationed on Okinawa. The first DPJ prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, miscalculated in believing that a face-to-face meeting with the new American president to discuss long-term matters affecting East Asia could settle the issue. He was steadily rebuffed by the American government. As Hatoyama could not keep his promise to safeguard the interests of the Okinawan people, he followed up with a customary resignation.

Japan's main newspapers have mostly backed the status quo as well. Indeed, they now appear to have forgotten their role in hampering the DPJ's effort to create an effective political coordinating body for the country. A half-century of reporting on internal LDP rivalries unrelated to actual policy has turned Japan's reporters into the world's greatest connoisseurs of political factionalism. It has also left them almost incapable of recognizing actual policy initiatives when they see them.

The rest of the world, however, has marveled at the admirable, dignified manner in which ordinary Japanese are dealing with terrible adversity. I am repeatedly asked why there is no looting or signs of explosive anger. The term "stoicism" appears over and over in media coverage of Japan's calamity.

But, in my half-century of close acquaintance with Japanese life, I have never thought of the Japanese as stoic. Rather, the Japanese behave as they do because they are decent people. Being considerate, they do not burden each other by building themselves up as heroes in their own personal tragedies. They certainly deserve the better government that the DPJ is trying to give them.

Karel van Wolferen, author of "The Enigma of Japanese Power," is emeritus professor of comparative political and economic institutions at the University of Amsterdam. © 2011 Project Syndicate






Only a few newspapers paid any attention to the Asian Development Bank's (ADB's) press release last Friday addressing its approval of US$200 million in new loans to Indonesia's state-owned export credit agency, Indonesian Export Financing Agency (LPEI).

But the new loan package is strategically important, especially in the latest wave of the oil price shock, because a portion of the credits will be used for major energy efficiency improvements.

The loan will fund a pioneering financing mechanism for energy efficiency improvements because banks in Indonesia are not yet familiar with the business concept of lending to industrial companies for upgrading plants and purchasing equipment to make energy cost savings and meet new international energy management standards.

As the experiences of most other countries have shown, a viable, long-term energy policy should cover not only energy diversification away from fossil fuels into a wide variety of renewable energy, but also should encompass compulsory energy conservation measures.

Only with this combination of programs will a country be able to improve the energy efficiency ratio of its economy, which is the unit of energy used to generate one unit of gross domestic product.

Certainly, a market pricing mechanism alone is not sufficient to force users to conserve energy. It should be supplemented with financing facilities and fiscal and financial incentives to encourage companies to conduct active in-house management of energy efficiency through maintenance and housekeeping measures, replacement of oil-guzzling equipment or technology.

The government announced last year that it was finalizing a special regulation which would require big energy users (minimum usage of 11.63 megawatt hour) to improve their energy efficiency through an incentive-disincentive mechanism.

Energy users, the government said, would be required to establish an energy management system, implement energy conservation programs, conduct periodical energy use audits and report the progress in their energy conservation efforts to the central government and local administrations.

But, unfortunately, no further development of the planned policy was heard of.

ADB estimated that energy efficiency improvements by industrial companies in Indonesia could cut peak electricity demand by around 2,500 megawatts — equivalent to the current power shortfall faced by the State Electricity Company (PLN).

An ADB study conducted in 2009 concluded that Indonesia needed to invest $4 billion in improving real-sector energy efficiency over the next five years to make the economy more competitive.

The estimate covered electrical retrofits and other energy-saving projects, including improving the efficiency of air conditioning, lighting and waste-heat recovery in commercial buildings and industrial facilities.

It will take sometime before the energy conservation can significantly improve our energy efficiency, but strong energy policies can serve as clear-cut directives for long-term investments in energy-efficient plant equipment and the choice of manufacturing technology.

Hopefully, the ADB-pioneered program for lending to energy-efficiency and conservation programs will create a business model that can be replicated by domestic banks for their credit portfolio.

Like it or not, we will continue to live with a periodical bout of oil-price gyration. But consistent enforcement of energy conservation and diversification policies will eventually cut down our dependence on fossil fuels, among the main sources of global warming.





Advances in Internet technology have changed the way people live. For many it has brought the appealing promises of global community, democracy and openness.

Many others fear technological threats such as alienated individuals, anarchy, surveillance and repression. The House of Representatives' proposed intelligence bill is a clear example of the latter.

The bill, if enacted into law, would give the authorities a free pass to monitor conversations and exchanges on the Internet.

Even worse, the bill would give legal justification to the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) to detain anyone suspected of threatening public security based on exchanges on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

While the very same social media have given birth of a new type of civic engagement globally, in Indonesia, in the eyes of the bill's drafters, technology is a threat.

The bill is an anachronism not only in terms of our knowledge economy and information society, but also when considering the democratic progress the nation has made in the reform era.

What are the roots of this anachronism?

First is the inability of the state to comprehend the complexity of information and communication technology (ICT) and its consequences, intended or unintended. As an example, look at how the Communications and Information Technology Ministry imposed Internet blocks, despite their ineffectiveness, to ban access to pornography. It showed not only the naivety of the government, but also the fear and technical incompetence of government officials.

The intelligence bill indicates a similar level of technophobia. Restlessness voiced through social media is seen as a potential security problem, motivating the bill's drafters to make people subject to arrest for status updates on social media websites.

Such a view is flawed. Freedom of expression is a civil right. The speech of citizens in any medium is an essential right that must be guaranteed by the state — be it in conventional media such as pamphlets or in contemporary media such as Twitter. The unique features of the Internet and social media cannot alone ensure this right.

For those unable to understand the intricacies of technological innovations, it is easy to feel trapped and see the problems and disadvantages technological progress brings to society, rather than acknowledging and taking advantage of its benefits.

The benefits are legion and unexpected. Facebook was used by civil society groups to mobilize support for Prita Mulyasari as well as Corruption Eradication Commission deputies Bibit S. Rianto and Chandra M. Hamzah. The Jalin Merapi civil society group used Twitter to mobilize aid when Mount Merapi erupted.

At the moment, hundreds – if not thousands — humanitarian and environmental "causes" are organized on Facebook, from supporters of the Lapindo mudflow to those who dislike local sinetron soap operas.

Twitter has been instrumental for new civil society movements such as Blood for Life (#BFL) which seeks blood donors, or Save Jakarta (#savejkt), which discuss ideas on improving life in the capital city.

These examples show how the Internet and social media can be used strategically to make social change.

Unfortunately, understanding the rich and nuanced ways that the Internet and social media has transformed our society may be beyond the state's capacity.

Instead of proactively creating a regulatory framework or ensuring equal access to the telecommunications infrastructure that can help citizens reap the benefits of ICT, the government has used new technology for coercion.

For example, the government's recent action forcing the makers of BlackBerrys to install Web filters and to build a local server network was interpreted by critics as an exercise of state power aimed at public surveillance.

Perhaps, as Evgeny Morozov said, we all have utopian ideas of the Internet. The very same technology that supports the Internet and social media are as much tools for authoritarian regimes to control or coerce populations as they are for "liberation".

A quick reality check will show that technology has been used to repress as well as liberate nations.

If the intelligence bill is enacted there is a possibility that civil society activists (including trade unionists, rights activists and political demonstrators) will become targets of the government. The bill would give the authorities a blank check to violate Internet users' privacy. It is no exaggeration to say that there is a great danger that online privacy may soon just be an illusion.

If we let this happen we will create a "surveillance society" in Indonesia. Orwell's Big Brother, soon to be more powerful than ever, will come back, watching all of us.

George Washington once said, "Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." The quote from America's first president reminds us of Juvenal's question: Who watches the watchmen?

The writer is a Hallsworth research fellow in the political economy of innovation at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom.





The bill proposing to reform intelligence will be incomplete unless the chief of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) is an independent professional.

So far the leaders of BIN have been appointed by sitting presidents who selected close confidantes within the Indonesian Military (TNI) or the National Police to run the nation's spy agency.

The selection process has undermined BIN's professionalism and independence in carrying out its main task of providing early warnings of threats to state security, defense and national interests.

Incumbent BIN chief Sutanto, a retired police general, and his predecessor, Syamsir Siregar, a retired Army general, are close supporters of Presdient Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Former president Megawati Soekarnoputri appointed her close aide (and former commander of the Kopassus special forces) AM Hendropriyono run the spy agency.

The bill has not proposed a mechanism to appoint the BIN's chief that has passed muster with civil society groups and human rights activists.

The House of Representatives' Commission I overseeing defense, information and foreign affairs has been deliberating the bill and been divided on how to appoint BIN chiefs.

Legislators from the President's Democratic Party and from the House's military/police faction maintain that BIN chiefs should be directly appointed by the President in a manner similar to appointing ministers.

Other parties want the President to nominate several candidates who would be sent to the House for fit-and-proper testing to ensure their professionalism and independence.

The appointment camp argues that the President must have the freedom to name a close professional confidant as the job hinges on trust.

The nomination camp (and human rights watchdogs) have instead proposed establishing objective criteria for selecting a BIN chief to prevent the agency from being misused by the government to maintain the status quo, as was done during the New Order era.

A BIN chief could be still appointed by the President, according to the nomination camp, but only after securing approval from the House as is the current practice for selecting the chiefs of the TNI and the National Police chiefs.

Soeharto, during his 32-year tenure, directly appointed intelligence chiefs chosen from the ranks of senior military officials to detect anti-government underground movements, through, among other things, abducting democracy activists.

In the reform era, BIN has failed to provide early warnings of terrorist bombings that have rocked embassies, churches and nightclubs in Bali. Meanhile intelligence agents were allegedly involved in securing the victory of Yudhoyono and the Democratic Party in the 2009 general election.

The bill reforming BIN would proscribe the agency from being ordered (by the President, for example) monitor political parties and their leaders without evidence of a threat to national security or the Constitution.

However the President has to deploy BIN to detect terrorist networks as early as possible since terrorist acts might disrupt the state security, create political instability and undermine national interests.

Under the proposed bill BIN and other state institutions with intelligence units, such as TNI and the National Police, would no longer be able to arbitrarily abuse their power.

The intelligence community's remit would be synchronized with the human rights law, the freedom of information law, the state secrets law and a proposed bill on national security.

The appointment of an independent and professional BIN chief will ensure that the agency will detect all activities, including transnational crimes, that threaten state security and national interests.

A professional chief will encourage BIN to coordinate with the Indonesian Military chief, the National Police chief and the Attorney General to provide information and intelligence analysis to the President.

An independent BIN chief will help the agency conduct its operations professionally, especially in preliminary investigations. Special authority will be given to allow the spy agency and relevant institutions to work rapidly and professionally to detect terrorist threats and transnational crimes.

An independent and professional BIN chief will ensure that the intelligence agency will not be misused by the ruling regime to crackdown on its political foes in its attempt to maintain the status quo.

To monitor potential abuses of BIN's power, the bill also limits the retention of classified information to 20 years and authorizes courts to obtain classified information to prosecute intelligence community officials for misconduct.

Unfortunately, the bill does not mention if the limitations on keeping material classified are retroactive or not. If it is retroactive, many documents, such as Sukarno's Supersemar letter, which supposedly authorized Soeharto to suppress (bloodily) the Indonesian Communist Party in 1965, can be revealed. The move would allow the nation to rewrite its history and prevent us from teaching lies to our children.

The establishment of a national intelligence council and code of ethics and the imposition of harsh sanctions on rogue intelligence agents is no guarantee that BIN will not abuse its power.

The Agency must be led by independent professionals nominated by the President and approved by the House.

The author is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post





During his recent visit to Australia, Vice President Boediono told the media that he had been mandated by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to formulate a draft of a presidential decree to address more comprehensively questions regarding Papua.

According to the draft, the government will form a delivery unit called the Unit Percepatan Pembangunan Papua dan Papua Barat (UP4B/ Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua) to deal with problems in Papua.

What can we learn about the process of drafting this decree? First, the slow and long process might indicate the complexity and delicacy of the situation in both provinces, which requires consultation with many Papuans. Second, this may reflect the disagreements among different government institutions in how to deal with Papuans. Third, Papua and Jakarta are not a single entity. Both consist of a number, if not many, actors representing both places. Finally, it might indicate a stalemate in dealing with the two Papuan provinces.

Based on these four possibilities, I would argue that it is far too simplistic to view the problems in Papua as polarized, that is, Papua vs Jakarta, independence vs the unitary state of Indonesia, dialogue vs special autonomy, etc. If we follow what has happened in Papua in the last 10 months, there is a spectrum of political aspirations, from demands for independence, referendum, dialogue, a review of special autonomy, the implementation of special autonomy as well as inexpressible voices. With the exception of those unheard voices, each perspective by and large has organized representatives to articulate concerns and political stances.

In a similar vein, although government agencies are united when it comes to aspirations for Papuan independence, they may apply different approaches. One institution might be genuinely receptive to the idea of dialogue as promoted by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences and the Papua Peace Network. Another agency might want to continue the strategy of surveillance of the Papuan community. An agency might stick to the idea of economic growth and welfare as the best solution, while another may prefer the formation of new regencies to secure power at the local level.

The multifaceted elements in the so-called Papua and Jakarta rivalry may lead us to appreciate not only the complexity of the problem but more importantly, the hopes that various elements have expressed. Hopes for peace, justice and conflict resolution have been repeatedly articulated by many actors in both Jakarta and Papua. This means that there is a common ground in the desire for peace. The question is how to translate this hope into reality.

There is no magical spell for this and I do not pretend to have an answer either. I would rather go back and reflect on the idea of UP4B. No doubt this proposition is still fragile and begs a more detailed explanation.

On Jakarta's side, the shocking experience of the encounter between the "100 team" of Papuan leaders and then president B.J. Habibie, which led to the division of Papua, remains unforgettable. Although Indonesia successfully achieved a peace agreement in Aceh, such an extremely difficult and lengthy process cannot be directly extrapolated to Papua.

The special autonomy package, with the dramatic increase of funds, has met with strong opposition from Papuans. The emergence of Indonesia as the third largest democracy has put pressure on the Indonesian government to comply with democratic principles and the rule of law. Therefore, the combination of these factors has generated ambivalence and indecisiveness towards Papua.

On Papua's side, it has learnt how it was betrayed when the Dutch, who initiated some preparations for an independent state in Papua, left without any notice. They then confronted a repressive regime in the New Order like every other part of Indonesia. Although special autonomy was granted in 2001 by the Megawati Soekarnoputri administration, it took only 13 months for the same administration to issue a controversial presidential decree to divide Papua into three provinces, which contradicted the special autonomy itself. When Papuans handed back special autonomy, the Indonesian government and the House of Representatives continued approving the formation of new regencies in Papua.

In this difficult situation brimming with distrust, both sides may consider being guided by an alternative approach of "principled engagement", which offers a middle ground between isolation and the business-as-usual approaches. This means direct engagement with those responsible in decision-making processes, as well as other groups in society, to address concrete problems and improve the practical framework for a solution, particularly with human rights protection, as Kinley and Pederson wrote in a forthcoming work.

Both sides would need to take risks and listen to each other in what can only be painful processes. Both sides would need to genuinely respect the anxieties, fears and hopes present within one another and towards one another. Both sides would need to give up some of their positions to reach a compromise.

Based on these understandings, both sides will need to translate their shared hope for peace into a legal foundation such as the UP4B or any other document that both can commit to. No doubt this will be the hardest part given the complex nature of the players on both sides. After all, many peace initiatives do not succeed and can backfire.

However, if both sides can pass that critical stage, they may be able to establish a common ground to rebuild trust.

The writer is former director of the Office for Justice and Peace at the Catholic Church in Jayapura, Papua, and is currently a Ph.D. student at the Regulatory Institutions Network at the Australian National University.








 Siddhartha Gauthama, our Budun Wahanse, in the Kalama Sutra, advocated that the Kalamas should not take things at their face value.  In this discourse that can be taken as a Charter on Free Inquiry, this particular element of 'not going by revelation or report' contains very useful and pertinent lessons to the radical or would-be radical as well as to any other individual who seeks to engage in a better-informed and therefore more productive and wholesome manner, to him/herself and the relevant social or organizational context.

A couple of days ago I was privileged to come across a slim volume titled 'Critical Studies on the Early History of Buddhism' authored by the late Ven. Dhammavihari and published by the Buddhist Cultural Centre in 2003.  The learned bikkhu clearly well versed in the pitfalls that ignorance, arrogance and rank sloth construct, pointed to several erroneous conclusions arrived at by well-known and highly acclaimed scholars and showed in the eloquent, simple and genial manner that characterizes his writing, the danger of uncritical acceptance of written word.

Ven. Dhammavihari goes further, in fact.  He suggests that such conclusions and subsequent claims could be the product of a determinism that defers to preferred reading and outcome of political process against a defensible construct of verifiable fact.  What happens thereafter is pretty common.  The error is repeated and magnified by interested parties and after this is done over a considerable period of time and repeated frequently enough it acquires or is accorded a halo and treated as 'truth'.  Cross-referencing, checking for reasonable corroboration and even dissecting claim to undress it of frill is tedious and moreover can prove to be inconvenient.  The easier course of action is to take the written word (especially if it is authored by a fellow-traveller and buttresses strongly held views) as the final authority on the particular issue.

This is true of all things, not just history and reading of history.  People swear by a 'theory' until someone comes along and discovers that the premises upon which it was constructed are false or have been misread or exaggerated or else that the theory holds only in particular contexts.  Newtons laws, for example, were taken as 'final word' until Einstein came up with his formulation.  Thomas Kuhn's 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions' is an admirable treatise on how theories get constructed, worshipped, found to be flawed and replaced by others which have greater explanatory and predictive power.

Ignorance, naiveté, umbrage and even a sense of justice and fair-play can fire someone to object to something.  The source of the agitation is not our concern here.  It is in the 'what should be done' that free inquiry becomes necessary, if not for anything because erroneous interpretation, analysis and consequent 'logic' of response can be counter productive.  Typically, those who have little experience and for reasons of youth or something else answers blood-call as opposed to careful consideration of all available information and reflection on all pertinent factors.  A theory is picked and held on to with dear life, discarding as unnecessary even the occasional investigation of claims pertaining to its predicates.  All windows are closed save this theoretical aperture.  Arrogance is a natural product.  It is only when life hits the word for a six that sobriety returns, often after a lot of water has gone under the bridge, carrying with is blood and dead bodies.

It is of course useful to have a 'Book of Revelations' as a kind of reference manual, but it can be useful only if it is taken as guide and recognized as a human construct and as such prone to flaw.  'Reports' are not value-free.  They are often made of exaggerated claims with little or no substantiation which are then quoted as 'fact' and used to construct overall picture and formulate response.  A recent example would be that of Iraq having 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'.  It was a carefully constructed lie.  It was a flag that was waved.  It legitimated a genocidal war.  Today, almost a decade later, not a single WMD has been discovered in that unhappy country.  Only those who were not ready to take 'report' as fact could surmise intention, predict outcome and attempt reversal.  Sadly their numbers were small and their capacities to correct error limited.

What we see instead is the quick and easy option of name-dropping and text-naming.  'So and so said this,' we are told.  'As so and so has pointed out,' claims are often underlined.  'In such and such a book,' some would use the bibliographical convenience as substitute for plain and straightforward logic.

This is not 'radicalism'.  It is sloth.  It is a pandering to the 'herd instinct'.  For all the claims of righteousness and insistence of selfless sacrifice for the betterment of the collective or the championing of the disposed, mindless faith in 'The Book' (whatever the book may be) or 'The Report' or 'The Revelation' amounts to embracing the Sloth-Option.  The Kalama Sutra is an invitation to inquiry and one which does not exclude a questioning of Buddha Vachana or the Doctrine of the Buddha.

All words are useful, even those in texts that make exaggerated claims and are based on supposition and fantasy. This is the recommendation embedded in the Kalama Sutra.

"Kalamas, when you yourselves know [that] 'these things are unwholesome, these things are blameworthy; these things are censured by the wise; and when undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill, abandon them.  Kalamas, when you know for yourselves [that] these are wholesome; these things are not blameworthy; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness, having undertaken them, abide in them."

Sabbe Satta
Bhavantu Sukitatta.

May all beings be happy.





Irrespective of whether 'cricket diplomacy' between New Delhi and Islamabad gets third-time lucky — Zia-ul Haq tried it in 1987 and Pervez Musharraf in 2005 — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must be commended for sticking his neck out and inviting Pakistan's President and Prime Minister to Mohali to share in an event that will be watched by hundreds of millions of people in the subcontinent and around the world on Wednesday. Since the high-excitement World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan coincides with the resumption of full spectrum dialogue after a hiatus of 27 months, much is being read into the invitation, which has been received in Pakistan with guarded optimism amid talk of a possible high-level interaction on non-cricketing issues as well. But even if nothing tangible comes out of it, the sight of the two premiers sitting side-by-side cheering their teams and applauding good efforts from either side makes for powerful imagery. Cynics on both sides of the border have sought to dismiss this latest edition of cricket diplomacy as a non-starter, given the general impression that neither Prime Minister carries much weight within the government he heads. In Pakistan, Dr. Singh is viewed as a man isolated in his advocacy of better relations with Islamabad and some have interpreted the invitation as an attempt by the telecom-scam-cum-WikiLeaks-bruised premier to deflect attention from the damage caused to his image.

Whatever happens on the cricket field on Wednesday, there can be no denying the feel-good factor Dr. Singh's invitation and the Pakistan President's reciprocal gesture of pardoning a long-incarcerated Indian prisoner have generated. The Facebook generation seems to have caught on to the spirit; creating a 'Together We Shall Win' link that is already celebrating the subcontinent's half-a-chance at winning the cup and deciding to cheer together irrespective of which team goes on to Mumbai for the final. Since this is the generation for whom today's policymakers are supposed to be making decisions, the sentiment ought to be celebrated even if history is replete with instances of bilateral relations souring on one pretext or another, including non-inclusion of Pakistani players in the IPL teams last season.

The Hindu






It is ironic that for the country that gave the word Tsunami, to our vocabulary, was devastated Japan on March 11th, 2011 by its effects. In December 2004, when a similar predicament befell the South-Eastern and the Western costal belt of our island, there was some ambiguity in the media circles over the term with which it had to be identified. Some said it was tidal waves, whilst others said it was sea storming. However, everybody finally had to settle for the Japanese term, Tsunami, an unfortunate natural phenomenon the  Japanese have had experienced many a time.

Major disasters have always created turning points in the socio-economic path of Japan. The 1923 Great Kantô earthquake pushed Japan towards militarism while the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing saw the country veering towards a peaceful path with the adoption of a 'Peace Constitution'. The latter helped a battered Japan to rise as a global economic giant and by early 1990s it reached the peak of its prosperity emerging the second biggest economy in the world.

During the present hour of need, it is with much gratitude we should remember Japan for being the first country to lend us a hand when we were confronted with an identical catastrophe in 2004. Japan is world famous for its generosity. It is much loved by Sri Lankans as they are aware that there are no hidden agenda or political strings attached to Japanese grants and extended soft loan facilities. In contrast, Sri Lankans are also aware as to how certain western countries in the past have had exploited the rich natural wealth of their motherland. When compared with that of Japan, some of these western countries are very stingy with their extended aid facilities to others. However, they do not hesitate to give lessons on good governance to their beneficiaries. These so-called donors, are Euro Centric in their attitude and approach, covertly or overtly endeavour to impose their so-called universal values on culturally rich Asian countries or any other non western country. Japan on the other hand, being an Asian country, is very sensitive to Asias cultural diversity and social systems and as a result it does not impose its values on other countries in the world.

Notwithstanding the Japanese generosity and empathy, it is now saddled with a terrible environmental calamity. According to the figures released so far, nearly 8,500 people have been confirmed dead and over 13,000 reported missing. This means, within one day, Tsunami has taken nearly 20,000 lives in Japan. Undoubtedly, this is the worst disaster Japan has ever experienced after the atomic bombing holocaust of Hiroshima – Nagasaki, carried out by the USA in 1942. The estimated direct costs Japan has suffered on the latest Tsunami and the previous Kobe earthquake are around U$235 billion and U$100 billion, respectively (in addition to the financial losses, the Kobe incident had taken 4,500 lives). However, the indirect cost of damages would be much higher. The world renowned car manufacturing, heavy equipment and electronic industries are reported to have suffered heavy damages.

It is imminent that the meltdown in Fukushima nuclear plant and feared radiation leakage will lead to major power outages causing untold misery to millions in the country. Nearly half a million are displaced with no proper shelter, adequate water supply and decent sanitary facilities. Deprivation of these basic needs has compelled thousands to flee the country. Its exports will be very badly affected due to obvious fear of being contaminated with radioactive elements. There is chaos and confusion all-round which will take months, if not years, to settle down. It is also ironic that Japan being a country, building power plants in many parts of the world are now closing down its own power (nuclear) plants. The net result of the entire situation is that, the world third largest economy is now confronted with an uphill battle. With their deflation and high public debt (120% of GDP) it will be a herculean task for Japan to raise money for its reconstruction work. With their economic retardation, the first indication was that oil and gas prices to go down. But, after the announcement of nuclear plant shut down, the prices of oil, gas and coal  shot up again. The Fukushima leak has rung alarm bells resulting in a steep rise in coal and oil prices. While the reconstruction work of the damaged towns would trigger a construction boom, the importers of Japanese goods are also likely to be in for some trouble.

Japan is located in very close proximity to the boundaries of four tectonic plates known as pacific, Philippines, Eurasian and American. This is similar to Java – Indonesian islands being located very close to Indian, Pacific, Philippines and Eurasian plates. Description of our earth crustal features are based on plate tectonic theory. Accordingly, the earth crust lithosphere consist of several rigid and separated slabs which move independently, forming parts of a cycle in the process of creation and destruction. These movements are responsible for seismic and volcanic activity movement of earth crust, calculated to be 3.75cm per year. It forms ridges, trenches, conviction currents and also it varies the magnetic field created by molten iron contained inside the earth crust. When these plates collide with each other, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and Tsunamis manifest as natural phenomena. However, there are some other contribut