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Thursday, March 31, 2011

EDITORIAL 31.03.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month march 31, edition 000794, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. ASSAD SKATES ON THIN ICE
  2. HOW OTHERS SEE US
  3. CAUTION OVER MISADVENTURE - G PARTHASARATHY
  4. CPM TRIES THE SYMPATHY CARD - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  5. REVOLUTION IN THE LAND OF A MILLION MUTINIES - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
  6. LEARNING FROM LIBYA AND SINGAPORE - FYODOR LUKYANOV


THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. POLITICS OF INTOLERANCE
  2. INSURING CHOICE
  3. FOLLOWING THE MONEY TRAIL - SUDIPTO MUNDLE
  4. CLOUD COMPUTING'S THE FUTURE
  5. MORE HYPE THAN REAL POTENTIAL - ANIL THAKKAR
  6. PETTING ALLOWED - BACHI KARKARIA

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. IT'S NOT A DEAD PITCH
  2. TRUTH BE TOLD...
  3. OUR AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE - JAWID LAIQ
  4. KARTAM SURYA'S REIGN - SAMAR HALARNKAR
  5. DOES GANDHI REALLY NEED SUCH PROTECTION? - GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI

 

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. MIND-BODY PROBLEM
  2. SPLITTING HEIRS
  3. FREE THE STANDS
  4. A FATEFUL YEAR THAT STILL IS - PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
  5. RECALL OPTION - M R MADHAVAN
  6. A TASK NOT FINISHED IN 150, OR 140, YEARS - NAYANJOT LAHIRI
  7. THE MATCH THAT MIGHT BE - SHAILAJA BAJPAI
  8. WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK
  9. JAMIA'S BETRAYAL - MANOJ C G

 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. FINE NUCLEAR NEWS
  2. RIGHT TO RECALL
  3. NATURE'S GIFT OR CURSE? - PRODIPTO GHOSH
  4. WHAT CASH TRANSFERS CAN'T SOLVE - YOGINDER K ALAGH

 

THE HINDU

  1. PROBLEMS OF ABUNDANCE
  2. LEARNING FROM DETROIT & TURIN
  3. LONG-TIME LEARNING FROM FUKUSHIMA  - GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI
  4. 'PUBLIC RELATIONS TRAIN WRECK' IN WASHINGTON ON THE EVE OF MANMOHAN'S U.S. VISIT   - HASAN SUROOR
  5. U.S. AND VATICAN WORK TOGETHER  - KATYAYANI MURTI
  6. FOREIGN SECRETARY SAW CLOSER COOPERATION ON COUNTER-TERROR WITH U.S. AS 'SILVER LINING' OF 26/11  - NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN
  7. DOMINANCE OF RSS WILL SPEED UP BJP'S DECLINE, SAID 2005 CABLE  - SURESH NAMBATH
  8. 'PEOPLE WILL SEE THROUGH LDF'S GAME'  -
    OOMEN CHANDY

 

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. INDIA, PAK GESTURES:JUST A PIE IN THE SKY
  2. RETHINKING PAKISTAN - BHARAT KARNAD

 

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. MAKING A COMMON CAUSE
  2. TURNING A NEW LEAF
  3. INSTITUTIONAL INTEGRITY - BY JOGINDER SINGH
  4. SCIENCE & MATHS KITS - BY DHEERAJ JANDIAL
  5. STATUS OF WOMEN IN INDIAN SOCIETY - BY N. SUGUNA

 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. BLACK (MONEY) HOLE!
  2. POST-BUDGET TAXES
  3. SMASH MNC CARTELS
  4. NEW TRENDS IN FOREIGN POLICY - BY G. PARTHASARATHY
  5. TWO-WHEELED IMPRESSIONS! - BY RAJBIR DESWAL  
  6. THE BIG WORRY OVER DIAGNOSIS - S.M. BOSE

 

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. NEW VOICE IN FICTION

 

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. DOUBLE WHAMMY FOR SMES
  2. END REGULATORY STASIS
  3. FIGHTING IMPORTED CORRUPTION - DEVESH KAPUR & ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN
  4. CHARITY BEGINS IN GOVERNANCE - KANIKA DATTA
  5. THE GROWTH-INCOME CONUNDRUM - INDICUS ANALYTICS

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. SURPRISING STRENGTH
  2. ANODYNE LABOUR?
  3. HEMLINE FORECASTING
  4. WAGES OF FISCAL IMPRUDENCE
  5. THE ORIGINS OF THE INDIAN SMALL CAR DREAM  - AVINASH CELESTINE
  6. SAY YES TO BOARD SEATS FOR WOMEN  - T T RAM MOHAN
  7. FOLLOW THE MOTH-TREK  - VITHAL C NADKARNI
  8. LORDS OF FINANCE  - LIAQUAT AHAMED

 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. INDIA, PAK GESTURES: JUST A PIE IN THE SKY
  2. RETHINKING PAKISTAN
  3. WEST ASIA '11: LET'S HOPE OBAMA IS LUCKY
  4. J&K: TRUTH LOST IN TRANSLATION
  5. SOWING THE SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION

 

THE STATESMAN

  1. OVER-SHADOWED!
    LIBYA & THE LEFT
  2. DISILLUSIONED ELECTORATE
  3. DIRELY IN DEBT~I - BY BIBEKANANDA RAY
  4. THE MAN WHO SMILES  - TYAGARAJ SHARMA
  5. BOLLYWOOD ~ A LOVE STORY  - TANYA GUPTA
  6. JUDGES ON RIGHT TRACK!  - RAJINDER PURI

 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. ANOTHER CLASS
  2. WAY TO GO
  3. HARD ROAD AHEAD  - BHASKAR DUTTA
  4. HUG A TREE  - NEHA SAHAY

 

DECCAN HERALD

  1. UNHEALTHY MISSION
  2. MADNESS IN LIBYA
  3. STARK REALITY  - BY DEVINDER SHARMA
  4. NUCLEAR CRISIS SHIFTS GERMAN POLITICS  - BY JACK EWING, NYT
  5. BAG AND BAGGAGE -  BY SNEHALATHA BALIGA

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. THEY'VE GOT TO FIX THEIR PRIORITIES
  2. GOOGLE'S BOOK DEAL
  3. AN EXTRAORDINARY INTRUSION ON WOMEN'S RIGHTS
  4. WITHOUT THE CAMPAIGN DONORS, THIS WOULDN'T BE POSSIBLE
  5. DEMOCRACY IS MESSY - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  6. LET THERE BE LIGHT BULBS - BY GAIL COLLINS
  7. TAKE DIP OUT OF THE BALLGAME - BY BOBBY VALENTINE
  8. WHAT I LEARNED AT SCHOOL - BY MARIE MYUNG-OK LEE

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. WHEN MEDICARE GOES BROKE
  2. CARTER, CASTRO AND CUBA
  3. AS ENGEL STADIUM 'STRIKES OUT' ...
  4. SOME REAL 'BIG FISH' STORIES!

 

HARARETZ

  1. ISRAEL NEEDS TO LAUNCH A PREEMPTIVE DIPLOMATIC STRIKE - BY ARI SHAVIT
  2. ESSENTIAL EXPOSURE FOR THE MOSSAD
  3. A NOBLE CRIME   - BY ISRAEL HAREL
  4. WE MUST STOP THE NATIONALIST AND RACIST LIEBERMAN - BY ELDAD YANIV
  5. SHIN BET HEADS SPEARHEAD THE OCCUPATION - BY GIDEON LEVY

 

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - RENEWED DEATH PENALTY NO ANSWER
  2. SLIPPERY SLOPE - SONER ÇAĞAPTAY
  3. GENDER EQUALITY IN TURKEY: CHP'S POLICY PROPOSALS - KADER SEVİNÇ
  4. HISTORICAL EMBRACEMENT OF IRAQI KURDS - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  5. WORDS FROM MASTER OF WORDS - YUSUF KANLI
  6. BUSINESS AS USUAL - ERSU ABLAK
  7. END-GAME IN IVORY COAST - GWYNNE DYER
  8. END OF THE 'ARAB SPRING' AND TURKEY - NURAY MERT

 

THE NEWS

  1. LOST, AND WON
  2. THE ENTOURAGE
  3. IN THE DARK
  4. SAVE THE KURRAM PEACE DEAL  - DR ASHRAF ALI
  5. CURTAINS FOR BOOKSTORE IN KPK  - NASSER YOUSAF
  6. VIEWERS, SPEAK UP  - ZIRGHAM AFRIDI
  7. THE SINGAPORE STORY  - AZIZ AKHMAD
  8. LOOKING THROUGH A SINGLE LENS  - KAMILA HYAT
  9. AMERICAN HYPOCRISY  - PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. GILANI'S CONFIDENCE IN DEMOCRACY
  2. PAKISTAN TO KNOCK AGAIN AT IMF DOOR
  3. SHARING OF SAMJHOTA INFORMATION
  4. OPPOSION IN A QUANDARY - M ASHRAF MIRZA
  5. US OBSESSION FOR GLOBAL MONOPOLY - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  6. NUDGING DIALOGUE PROCESS - MALIK M ASHRAF
  7. DISGRACING DEMOCRACY - BURHANUDDIN HASAN
  8. DEBASING NISHAN-E-IMTIAZ - DR GHAYUR AYUB

 

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. MEMO MR RUDD: DON'T IGNORE THE NEIGHBOURS
  2. MISSING THE REAL PRICE POINT
  3. WE NEED ROAD RUNNER POLITICS

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. OBAMA ACKNOWLEDGES THE LIMITS TO US POWER
  2. CAPTAIN DECLARES, HOPING TO BAT ON

 

THE GUARDIAN

  1. ARTS FUNDING: CREATIVE TENSIONS
  2. SYRIA: A LOST OPPORTUNITY

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. IMPROVING TIES WITH RUSSIA
  2. MINAMATA DISEASE SETTLEMENT
  3. FRANCE'S HARD RIGHT EMBRACES SOFT POPULISM - BY GUY SORMAN
  4. QUAKE RELIEF EFFORT HIGHLIGHTS A VITAL U.S. MILITARY FUNCTION - BY ROBERT D. ELDRIDGE

 

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. QUO VADIS GRAFT ERADICATION?
  2. LENDING TO ENERGY SAVING
  3. INTELLIGENCE REFORM THROUGH INTELLIGENT LAW - AL ARAF AND DIANDRA MEGAPUTRI
  4. BUILDING TRUE ASEAN COMMUNITY - YULIUS PURWADI HERMAWAN
  5. TRUST IN THE MEDIA ON THE MOVE  - CHADD MCLISKY

 

DAILY MIRROR

  1. THE THREAT OF ATTACK
  2. OF 'CORE INTERESTS' AND OTHERS

 

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. LIBYA AND ALTRUISM...  

 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

ASSAD SKATES ON THIN ICE

SYRIAN PRESIDENT HOLDS BACK ON REFORMS


Despite initial signs that he had learnt his lessons well from other autocrats in the region who were facing similar challenges to their regimes, President of Syria Bashar al-Assad now seems to be following in their footsteps, making exactly the same mistakes. This was sadly evident in Mr Assad's nationally-televised speech on Wednesday in which he agreed that the Syrian people had demands that had not been met and that reforms were the need of the hour but stayed away from making any major concessions; instead he just blamed Israeli conspirators for the ongoing unrest in the nation much to the disappointment of his people. The speech, which came 12 days after anti-Government riots erupted in Syria, was long awaited and much anticipated — it had been preceded by official reports that Mr Assad's Government would scrap the 48-year-old emergency law that stifles civil liberties and legitimises the ruling Ba'ath party's monopoly over Syrian politics. There was also the possibility that Mr Assad would dismantle the much feared secret police who have wide-ranging powers that sometimes even go beyond the President's realm of control. This was particularly obvious when the security forces took matters into their own hands and brutally attacked anti-Government demonstrators in the southern town of Daraa despite orders to refrain from using live ammunition. The attack was followed by minor concessions (a salary hike, freedom for imprisoned activists) and promises for more (new political parties, Press freedom) which pacified the people to some extent but also gave them a taste of success. Then on Tuesday, the entire Syrian Cabinet resigned in response to the protesters' demands for political reform and this was interpreted as a sign that change was around the corner. Of course, there was no doubt that the Cabinet's resignation was only a symbolic gesture — it has no real power and all decisions are made by the President and those in his inner circle. Nonetheless, the act was considered to be a significant one given that in the past the Government had rarely conceded to popular demand. Overall the mood was upbeat as pro-Government supporters rallied around Damascus and people were seen celebrating on the streets.


Yet when Mr Assad addressed the Syrian Parliament on Wednesday in what was touted to be the make-or-break speech of his career, he offered none of the concessions his people were expecting. At this point, it seems like Syria too will follow the trajectory of other Arab states which have also been shaken by similar anti-Government protests — first came the denial (we are not like the others, Mr Assad said on Wednesday), then the bloody crackdown (as Daraa stands proof) and finally the empty promises — although Mr Assad clarified that reforms promised last week were already drafted and would have been passed in Parliament if the Government didn't have to deal with 'foreign policy issues'. Either way, there is some comfort in that the Syrian protesters are yet to demand Mr Assad's resignation. Most still perceive him as a reformer — he made the old socialist economy more market-friendly and that brought prosperity to Syria. Now, his people want political reform. And if Mr Assad can deliver again, there is still a good chance his people will let him stay in power.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

HOW OTHERS SEE US

INDIA RATED FOURTH MOST CORRUPT NATION


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was being disingenuous when he blamed media coverage of the scams and scandals that have tainted the Government he heads for tarnishing India's image abroad. If India's image as perceived by foreigners is none too bright, it is entirely on account of the Congress-led UPA regime's sins of omission and commission. Mr Singh is welcome to pretend ignorance or live in denial, but that is not going to change the reality. Nor will media playing hand maiden to him alter the facts that shape international opinion of the quality of governance in India. The Asian Intelligence report on Asian business and politics, recently published by Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd based in Hong Kong, has rated India as the fourth most corrupt country among the 16 countries of the Asia Pacific region that were surveyed. On a scale of zero to 10 — the higher the score, the higher the level of corruption — India has scored 8.67 points. That has placed India in the company of three other countries known for all-pervasive corruption: The Philippines (8.9 points), Indonesia (9.25 points) and Cambodia (9.27 points). Less than a full point separates India from the most corrupt country in the Asia Pacific region. Thailand, with 7.55 points, has been rated as the 11th most corrupt country while China has scored 7.93 points and Vietnam 8.3 with points. Our dismal ranking should serve as more than a sobering thought for those who rejoice in India's economic growth and related successes: All of them pale into insignificance; what is significant is that we should be seen to be so bereft of integrity and honesty. Predictably, Singapore, which makes a fetish of integrity in public life and enforces corporate governance in the private sector ruthlessly, has emerged as virtually free of corruption: It has scored 0.37 points. The others who have fared well are Hong Kong (1.1 points), Australia (1.39 points), Japan (1.9 points) and the USA (2.39 points). The top five have justifiable reason to feel proud of how others perceive them.


There are no prizes for guessing why India has been rated as the fourth most corrupt country in the Asia Pacific region. The report damns both national and local politicians — while the former score 8.97 points, the latter fare worse at 9.25 points. Bureaucrats who are on the take have strengthened the perception of India as a corrupt country. But local level corruption, which has been highlighted in the past by several reports of Transparency International, contributes far less than corruption in the national Government to how a country is perceived beyond its borders as also among its citizens. As the report says, "The issue of corruption has grown and overshadowed the second term in office of the Congress-led coalition headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh." It now casts a pall of gloom over India.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

CAUTION OVER MISADVENTURE

G PARTHASARATHY


Rather than go along with the West and back its duplicitous decision to 'intervene' in Libya, India has decided to chart its own independent course in foreign affairs.


After emerging from a situation two decades ago, when the country was bankrupt and internationally isolated following the collapse of the Soviet Union, India can derive satisfaction with what has been achieved since then. The nuclear tests of 1998 and end of global nuclear sanctions by the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008, has led to worldwide recognition of India as a legitimate nuclear weapons power. It is now for India to negotiate skillfully with partners like Russia, France, the US and Canada, to see that agreements on nuclear power it signs are economically advantageous and meet the highest standards of transparency and nuclear safety.


With a sustained high rate of economic growth and increasing integration with the world economy, India is now a member of the G-20 and the expanded East Asia Summit comprising the members of ASEAN together with the US, Russia, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand. India is closely linked to emerging economic powers like Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa, through forums like BRICS and IBSA. It is only a question of time before India joins the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, laying the grounds for a larger profile in Central Asia. But, it is crucial that despite its economic progress, India has to retain its strategic autonomy, if it is to be respected internationally.


India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council has been endorsed by all its permanent members except China, which remains distinctly obstructive. But, given the absence of consensus on the size and composition of an expanded UNSC, it is evident that there is still a long way to go before India's ambitions on this score are fulfilled. In the meantime, there have been unambiguous suggestions from the US and even American client states like the UK that India would be considered worthy of a permanent seat in the UNSC only if the 'international community' (a euphemism for the Nato members) is satisfied with how India 'behaves' with its voting on important contemporary issues as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. These are pressures India will have to resist and deftly deal with.


Despite these blandishments, New Delhi appears to have broadly shaped the contours of how it will proceed to deal with Western pressures involving the typical Western double standards on 'human rights' and their pet topic of 'Responsibility to Protect'. One is all too aware of how Nato did not hesitate to dismember Yugoslavia in the 1990s after virtually demonising the Serbs. Force was then used to carve out and recognise Kosovo — an action mercifully not sanctified by a majority of UN member-states. The UN General Assembly Resolution of 2005 on the 'Responsibility to Protect' has been used at the convenience of the Nato members to pressurise and seek to remove regimes alleged to be guilty of "war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity".

Needless to say, Nato would not dare to act on anything the Russians do in Chechnya, or against Chinese clampdowns in Xinjiang or Tibet. Genocide in Rwanda will be long ignored, because it is a poor African country with no oil or mineral resources. A blind eye will be turned when a Sunni minority ruling elite in Bahrain clamps down on the Shia majority in the country, because the US's Fifth Fleet has bases in Bahrain. But, if Colonel Muammar Gaddafi clamps down in oil rich Libya, he is subject to a 'No-Fly Zone' and bombed by the virtuous British and French with American backing.


There now appears to be a clearer enunciation of Indian thinking on such issues. After consultations with like-minded emerging powers like Brazil and South Africa, India made it clear that on issues like developments in Libya it will first seek consultations with regional groupings like the Arab League and African Union before finalising its response. Rather than blindly following the Western lead, India would seek to forge and back a regional consensus in formulating its policies.


This would mean that in developments in sub-Saharan Africa, Indian policies will take into account prevailing views and a consensus, if any, in the African Union. On Zimbabwe, the advice of South Africa would be more important than that of Whitehall. In Myanmar, India will seek to promote and back a consensus evolved in consultation with Asean. The views of the GCC would be of primary importance in formulating policies on developments like the Shia-Sunni divide in Bahrain. This policy makes it clear that India is not going to be a rubber stamp for Anglo-American and Nato policies of selective use of force against regimes considered distasteful.

Over 17,000 Indians living across Libya have safely returned home, thanks to commendable work by our Ambassador Manimekalai and her staff. Col Gaddafi knows that India is not exactly pleased by his use of air-power against his own people (as Pakistan is regularly doing in Balochistan and in its tribal areas). India nevertheless joined hands with Russia, China, Germany and Brazil in abstaining on the March 17 UN Security Council resolution on Libya because of the absence of carefully considered guidelines on the use of force amidst a raging civil war, the lack of specificity on the countries and organisations undertaking the military effort and the absence of any clarity on how a political solution would be evolved to end the Libyan impasse.


The fiasco in Somalia and the attempt for 'regime change' in Iraq demonstrate how misguided external intervention can have disastrous consequences. India is concerned that the military intervention in Libya is going to result in a prolonged stalemate and growing radicalisation in West Asia. It will inevitably be perceived there as an attempt to partition an oil rich Muslim state.


If 'gunboat diplomacy' was the hallmark of European colonial powers in the 19th century, 'No-Fly Zone' Nato diplomacy seems to be the order of the day after the Cold War. Lessons will be learned only after European powers, who have no appetite for real combat and body bags in tough places like Afghanistan, face the wrath of people opposing them, as the Americans faced by ill-advised military interventions in Lebanon in 1983 and in Somalia in 1993. Tired and tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Americans appear understandably more cautious in taking the lead in intervening in Libya.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CPM TRIES THE SYMPATHY CARD

SHIKHA MUKERJEE

 

Realising that it cannot convince voters in West Bengal to elect its nominees on the strength of its claimed 'performance' in Government, the CPI(M) is now trying to play on the people's sentiments by pretending to be honest in admitting mistakes along the way. But this ploy is unlikely to work. The Left Front's failures have left the voters bitter and cynical


Few politicians risk telling the truth as it is. The CPI(M)'s West Bengal secretary, Mr Biman Bose, is doing the same with aplomb. As the campaign for the West Bengal Assembly election gains speed, Mr Bose is going about his business with candour that he perhaps hopes will disarm voters and allow him to persuade them to reconsider their revulsion of the party and Left politics so evident in successive election verdicts from 2008. Summarising what Mr Bose is saying is easy: CPI(M) has been in power for 34 years therefore it deserves credit for the positive changes. Along the way it acquired nasty baggage and that is now in the process of being discarded. Therefore, voters should make a reasoned choice rather than be swayed by malicious disinformation by the Opposition and the media.


The credibility disconnect between the voter and the CPI(M) is the gap that separates emotion from rationality. When Mr Bose or Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee explain that 70 per cent of the population recieves medical treatment from the State-run health services, it provokes annoyance. Because everyone seems to have had either an experience that is nasty or known someone who complains that the experience was nasty. Media reports of shameful neglect, squalor and inefficiency have contributed to the 'experience' of health services in West Bengal. Therefore, the 70 per cent who have received treatment and recovered becomes invalid. Nobody stops to ask them self the question, if indeed the health services were as lousy as the stories about them suggest how did the infant and maternal mortality rates decline, how some more people have survived the experience of State-run health care than those who have died.


If education services in West Bengal have actually collapsed then it would be difficult for 17 lakh students, half of them girls and over two lakh from the minorities, schedule castes and 57,000 from the scheduled tribes to have reached the stage of taking the board exams. When Mr Bose or Mr Bhattacharjee make this point, 'experience' tell voters that the numbers should have been much larger. What is offered up as a rebuttal by the experienced voter is the numbers of children who drop out of the education net in the State. Since experience does not require the voter to verify the dimensions of the school drop out problem in the rest of India, which would be the rational way of going about things, there is disbelief over the message that Mr Bose is delivering.

Governance in West Bengal has not been good for a very long time. Not since the late very turbulent 1960s or perhaps even post-independence. The work culture of Government was a problem in the 1960s when the CPI(M) was in the Opposition. It was bad in 1977 when the CPI(M) came to power and it remains poor even now after the CPI(M) have reigned without a break for 34 years. It is unlikely to change overnight when the Opposition finally returns to power, no matter who joins the Trinamool Congress with plans to overhaul the 'system'.

When retired chief secretary Manish Gupta declares with disarming frankness that the "rot" had set in even when he was in service, he is telling the truth. He, therefore, knows better than most what a new or even the old lot of leaders would be up against. The voter, however, is prepared to believe that the Trinamool Congress and people like Mr Gupta can work wonders, because the belief is not based on a rational consideration of what Mr Gupta is saying, it is based on an emotional reaction to what the Trinamool Congress has campaigned.

The 'stability' and continuity that the CPI(M) has provided by getting re-elected seven times is the curse it carries. Voters cannot recall a time when the CPI(M) was not in power and those few who do filter it through a favourite political prism. Reality, therefore, has nothing to do with what the world is like; in the 'other' places, the Government delivers services, infrastructure is built, investments happen, public places are not shabby, the transport system functions efficiently, there are none of the petty illegalities that pollute the West Bengal environment. Corruption in high places such as the Congress-led UPA regime as revealed through the 2G spectrum scam, the Commonwealth Games scam, the Adarsh society scam is incomprehensible, so absorbed is West Bengal with the pettiness of everyday life.


The voter, therefore, expects that the new regime will continue to protect it from the big, bad world outside West Bengal. That by some magic, the Trinamool Congress will successfully modify the experiences inevitable in an economy committed to market reforms, such as jobless growth, disparities of income, increase in poverty, mounting cost of services. If modernisation costs thousands of jobs in the iconic Indian Iron and Steel Company in Burnpur and land has been appropriated by speculators expecting to making a killing, the voter, it seems, believes that the dynamics of modernisation, industrialisation and the market can be remade by a new set of leadership.

Enclosed in a bubble of the CPI(M)'s making for three decades, the voter is not willing to do anything to burst out of the safety of the enclosed space; instead the voter wants to perpetuate living in protected custody for ever.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

REVOLUTION IN THE LAND OF A MILLION MUTINIES

HIRANMAY KARLEKAR


Resentment is growing in India. Relative — as opposed to absolute — deprivation, experienced in terms of one lagging behind others in savouring the good life, is acutely being felt at a time of rising expectations. Will we see a revolution too?


Can the kind of mass upsurge sweeping North Africa and West Asia happen in India? Prima facie, the answer is a 'no'. The authoritarian Governments of both regions have been ruling principally with the help of the police and ubiquitous and inquisitorial secret police establishments. Elections have been rigged and Opposition leaders and their supporters daring to contest often incarcerated and persecuted thereafter. Police forces in India have a savoury reputation both for their gargantuan corruption and use for conducting political and personal vendetta. There are, however, remedies which are being increasingly used by a people whose political consciousness has grown phenomenally. They have an ally in sections of the print and electronic media which have relentlessly pursued cases of police high-handedness and corruption and attempts by the police to hush up criminal cases. A section of the judiciary has not been far behind. The Jessica Lall and Ruchika Girotra cases in Delhi and Chandigarh respectively are among the landmark instances on the table India has a robust democratic system. Despite rigging at the margins, the elections are overwhelmingly free and fair and their results unfailingly reflect the will of the majority. There is also a tradition of direct political action that dates back to the freedom struggle. Generally peaceful, but potentially violent, these can take a variety of forms from gheraos (blockades) of police stations and Government offices, rasta and rail rokos (blocking of roads and railway tracks), and dharnas (sit-down strikes) to bandhs (general strikes) that may stretch for a couple of days, and have frequently achieved their goals.


While an effective, free and fair electoral system, with a proven track record as an instrument of regime change has been the matrix of Indian democracy, the media and the judiciary have played a critical role in ensuring that the electoral system is not subverted through rigging. Neither of these two institutions are what they used to be. The media has been undermined by the dominance of the consumer culture spreading on the wings of advertising and the transformation of some of its units into purely profit-making enterprises. The judiciary, though much cleaner than the executive and the legislature, and still the only source of succour for the victimised, is slow-moving and occasionally facing charges of corruption. Besides, litigation is highly expensive.

Resentment is growing. Relative — as opposed to absolute — deprivation, experienced in terms of one lagging behind others in savouring the good life, is acutely felt at a time of rising expectations. The resultant discontent has been harnessed by groups that are the strongest in their regions. Mobilisation has been along a multiplicity of lines-caste, communal, religious, linguistic and ideological — and led to violent mass movements and insurgencies. These, however, have been limited to specific regions and either suppressed or reduced to sporadic, low-level activity.


India's vast expanse and diversity, mutually antagonistic ideological doctrines ranging from Islamist fundamentalism to Maoism, and the generally satisfactory rate of economic progress, have been among the factors preventing the rise of a common, nationwide upsurge. There have, however, some effort by various groups to come together and the Internet has removed one of the main hurdles, communicational, in the way of coordinated nation-wide upsurge. Besides, history has a way of surprising people. Very few, if any, could have anticipated the tidal wave of protest sweeping North Africa and West Asia. Nor, with the uprisings of 1905 crushed and the Stolypin reaction ruthlessly suppressing all challenges Tsardom, could anyone have, on the eve of World War I in 1914, foreseen the successful Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.


Poor performance in World War I and the hardship caused by the latter, were the immediate causes of the Bolshevik Revolution, as the Great Depression that hit Germany in 1932 was the immediate cause of Hitler's rise to power. The economic burden of another war or a severe economic crisis caused by a combination of factors like a disastrous drought, steep increase in oil prices, an even more accelerated rate of inflation, and political instability, can lead to a nationwide surge of intense anger in India. Given the rapid erosion of the credibility of the political system thanks to skyrocketing corruption, one can only hope that its expression can be kept within the framework of parliamentary democracy. Otherwise...

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

LEARNING FROM LIBYA AND SINGAPORE

FYODOR LUKYANOV


Singapore serves a role model for all the post-Soviet rulers of Central Asia who are closely monitoring the travails of Libya's autocratic long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Will they emulate the success and stability of this South-East Asian nation?


The revolutionary fervour that has gripped West Asia has not yet spread to the relatively stable former Soviet Republics of Central Asia. The only weak link among these durable post-Soviet regimes is Kyrgyzstan, which has seen a series of Government overthrows since 2005.


But while enjoying relative political stability at home, Central Asia's ruling elites are, no doubt, taking in the lessons of North Africa.


For example, an 'election campaign' for April's early presidential vote is underway in Kazakhstan. The country's Government has changed its track several times since mid-December, entertaining the public with some truly original plot twists.


Voters in a national referendum overwhelmingly supported extending President Nursultan Nazarbayev's term until 2020, but the President rejected the offering, vetoing Parliament's motion to bring the referendum into law. The lawmakers insisted that Mr Nazarbayev heed to the will of the people, and he relented.


The Constitutional Council challenged the legitimacy of the proposed amendments on the grounds that they are 'vaguely worded'. The President did not protest. Rather he called an early election and registered as the ruling party's candidate. Now his triumphant re-election is only a matter of time.


But his 'triumph of democracy' seems a bit fishy if you consider that the whole re-election game got started immediately after Kazakhstan's OSCE presidency, which the country had worked toward for a long time and which was supposed to be a symbol of its democratic maturity.


Mr Nazarbayev's choice to stand in a conventional election rather than accept the results of the referendum may have been a response, in part, to recent developments in North Africa and West Asia. Which is not to say that the Kazakhstan's President feels vulnerable. On the contrary, he is quite secure in his position and confident that he won't suffer the same fate as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak or Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali .


Indeed, Kazakhstan stands out from the other post-Soviet countries, especially those in Central Asia. A savvy foreign policy has allowed the country to maintain good relations with all world powers, including Moscow, Washington, Beijing and Western European capitals. It's safe to assume that no one outside Kazakhstan has any interest in supporting an opposition movement. However, the anti-Government protests in West Asia show that turmoil may break out just as a spontaneous expression of popular discontent, not a plot by foreign Governments.

Of all the post-Soviet rulers, Mr Nazarbayev is the only one who could have had an even more spectacular career if the empire had not fallen apart.


He may have become Soviet Prime Minister, perhaps even rising to the very top of the country's political hierarchy, if only the masterminds of the August 1991 military coup had not derailed the signing of the Union Treaty.

Alas, it was not to be. Mr Nazarbayev became the leader of a much smaller country. But he has achieved impressive results nonetheless.


Kazakhstan has come a long way since gaining independence twenty years ago. Now it is the most powerful country in this corner of Eurasia, with a higher political profile than most of its neighbours. This is all the more impressive when you consider that Kazakhstan's statehood began with the rule of Mr Nazarbayev and that he had no historical tradition to rely on.


Mr Nazarbayev is successfully balancing Asian-style moderate authoritarianism and Western European decorum. But any Government based on the rule of a single man is vulnerable and his is no exception.


Every autocratic ruler faces the same problem: How to achieve a smooth transfer of power. The only post-Soviet leader to have solved the succession problem is Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliyev, who transferred power to his son. But hereditary rule does not work everywhere. The current turmoil in Egypt, Libya and Yemen shows just how much outrage this nepotism can provoke, especially when the son is seen as unfit to lead.


Turkmenistan is another country that has achieved a smooth transfer of power, despite the unexpected death of President Saparmurat Niyazov. The country is ruled by a reclusive, hard-line Government, reminiscent of North Korea's.

In comparison with Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan looks like an oasis of openness — an asset not worth risking by attempting to found a political dynasty.


Singapore is a role model for all post-Soviet rulers, from Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev to Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili. Despite its lack of democratic freedoms, it has become one of the world's most prosperous nations.

And the transition achieved by Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, offers cause for optimism. He stepped down as Prime Minister more than 20 years ago, handing over the post to a well prepared successor, while reserving for himself broad oversight powers.


His son Lee Hsien Loong took over only in 2004 and has been running the country ever since.


Lee, Sr, now 87, remains the nation's main stabilising force and the principal guarantor of its future development. Every effort is being made to prepare for the blow against the system his death may cause.


It cannot hurt dreaming of Singapore, of course, but the lack of liberal democracy is perhaps the only feature shared by that country and former Soviet states. All of Singapore's assets — meritocracy, zero tolerance for corruption, an efficient bureaucracy, a cult-like devotion to education — are not to be found in any of the post-Soviet nations.


Lee, Sr is renowned worldwide as one of the greatest politicians of the 20th century, and his achievement is, indeed, outstanding. But while admiring Singapore's helmsman, post-Soviet leaders should also try to learn the lessons of Mr Mubarak and Col Gaddafi. And the sooner they do their homework, the better.


-- The writer is the editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs journal.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

POLITICS OF INTOLERANCE

 

A storm has gathered over Joseph Lelyveld's book, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India. And it's uniting unlikely partners such as Union law minister Veerappa Moily and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Indian politicians are fulminating over the book's purported description of Gandhi's years in South Africa during the early 20th century, particularly that part of the volume carrying letters between Gandhi and his German friend, Hermann Kallenbach. While Moily states that the Centre is outraged enough to consider a ban, Modi has actually proscribed Great Soul in Gujarat. Maharashtra is close to following suit.


The outrage, however, seems based on misunderstandings. Intimate in a typically Victorian manner, mentioning bodies, lust and slavery, Gandhi's letters to Kallenbach contain sections highlighted by reviewers who've implied that Lelyveld may have been suggesting that Gandhi was 'bisexual'. They also said remarks about indigenous Africans attributed to Gandhi showed Lelyveld's understanding of him as 'racist'. Note that the author himself disowns both interpretations. Only, our politicians aren't listening.


Largely choosing to ignore the 'racism' charge and fixated on the sexuality angle, Moily wants a ban to "protect the nation from being taken for a ride", Modi for the book's apparently "perverse writing which has hurt the sentiments of those with capacity for sane and logical thinking". Clearly, neither end of this political rainbow considers average Indian readers intelligent enough to make up their own minds about what offends or doesn't, or mature enough not to require a nanny state to burn, bury or ban books on their behalf. This politically self-serving coddling has a long history. In 1988, claiming to protect 'Muslim sentiments', the Congress government banned Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. In 2003, Taslima Nasreen's work, Dwikhandito, was banned in Bengal by a Left Front shoring up its Muslim votebank. James Laine's book on Shivaji was banned in 2004 and 2006 in Maharashtra, and Javier Moro's 'fictionalised biography' of Sonia Gandhi was targeted in 2010.

Such politics betrays an insecure touchiness about our icons that's out of place in a mature democracy professing to uphold freedom of expression. Ironically, many famous personalities themselves challenged official projections of their image in their own lives. Gandhi himself was passionately honest. He chronicled his trials with "truth" in detail, leaving diaries and letters for future generations to read and interpret for themselves. These writings provide deep and diverse insights into the complexity of the figure of Gandhi. We have seen intolerance of views with regard to other icons as well, from Netaji and Ambedkar to Satyajit Ray. Evidently, the more India marches ahead, the more illiberal its politicians seem to get.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

INSURING CHOICE

 

Insurance reform has been hanging fire. With the government yet again seeking broad political consensus to pass a Bill allowing 49% FDI, up from the current 26% in the sector, it's hoped matters will bear fruit this time round. While asking the Left to junk ideology-driven antipathy to financial sector liberalisation may be an exercise in futility, the BJP must act responsibly by backing the measure. Reportedly, the newly-formed Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission may also look into an old proposal to pull out FDI from under the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act's ambit, to fast-track the change. Either way, let's get moving. It's in India's interest to send an investor-friendly signal at a time FDI has been sliding. Big-ticket commercial and infrastructure investments require hedging risk, and liberalising insurance norms will bring long-term funds into the country.


We as a nation are woefully under-insured. If unmet urban and rural demand means huge commercial opportunities, it also warrants promoting inclusion. In particular, insurance penetration in the countryside is grossly inadequate. Millions of Indians have no life insurance - not least for want of information about its benefits - and face escalating health costs. Whether villagers individually or in groups, the salaried middle class or businesses, consumers need safety nets against risk and reliable investment avenues. With more private players, the sector will see increased competition, spurring innovation in products and technology-aided services delivery, greater consumer choice and market expansion. Besides, our high savings and rising incomes can be mobilised via long-term insurance instruments and productively used to deepen capital markets or build infrastructure. Insurance business is estimated to be growing at 15-20% despite the 26% ceiling. Indicating the sector's yet-untapped potential, nothing makes the case better for opening it up.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

FOLLOWING THE MONEY TRAIL

SUDIPTO MUNDLE

 

This financial year, starting April 1, 2011, the central government will spend Rs 12.6 lakh crore on various public services and development projects. Adding to that the expenditure of the state governments, total government spending in the country will be in the order of a massive Rs 36 lakh crore, though the final consolidated numbers are yet to come in. How much of that will be wasted, and how much will translate into actual delivery of development projects or public services, and what quality of services? Nobody really knows. There is a general impression, reinforced by daily headlines about new mega-scams and our individual experiences of poor performing government agencies, that the waste of public resources is colossal. The CAG's heroic efforts notwithstanding, nobody has any estimate about the scale of such waste or, conversely, the quantum and quality of public services that citizens are getting in return for the taxes they pay. Is there some way of tracking where our tax money is going and what it is delivering?


Recently, i had the privilege of moderating a discussion on this question by a remarkable panel of individuals: Nandan Nilekani, one of the iconic founders of Infosys who is now leading the government's UID initiative in e-governance; Jay Panda, one of the best informed and most professional among our young parliamentarians; T R Raghunandan, an authority on panchayati raj who gave up a career in the IAS to work with NGOs and is best known as coordinator of the ipaidabribe.com initiative; and Madhav Chavan, who gave up his career as a chemistry professor at Houston to establish Pratham, India's leading education NGO. The panel was convened to discuss the PAISA 2010 report. PAISA is a pioneering effort to track the flow of public spending on education, especially spending under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the central government's flagship programme in education. However, the discussion expanded beyond education to public spending in general, and the challenges of monitoring and assessing it.


Turning first to education, PAISA reports that of the 13,000 rural schools surveyed, over 80% received their SSA grants and, according to Jay Panda, many parliamentarians cutting across all parties are in favour of doubling public spending on education from around 3% of GDP to over 6%. That's the good news. The bad news is that a large share of grants is disbursed so late that schools are unable to use the funds effectively within the financial year. Furthermore, Madhav Chavan pointed out that SSA is crowding out state funding for other education programmes in many states, resulting in large inequalities in per capita education funding across states. Combined with the increase in teacher salaries, which has spawned a thriving market in jobs for bribes, this is playing havoc with education goals. This probably accounts for the very poor learning outcomes that the Annual State Of Rural Education (ASER) has been reporting.


Building on the education story, Raghunandan lamented how power-hungry bureaucrats at the Centre use their discretionary powers to allocate resources under centrally-sponsored schemes to undermine the decision-making autonomy of the states. This makes a mockery of fiscal federalism as many researchers, committees and finance commissions have pointed out. State governments in turn do the same with zilla parishads, the third tier of government, in many cases. Calling for a replication of the PAISA expenditure tracking initiative in all sectors, Raghunandan suggested that transparent public information about the flow of government funds at different levels would enable public scrutiny of government decisions. This could curb the Leviathan-like tendencies of politicians and bureaucrats alike that undermine democratic decision-making processes.

Nilekani picked up that thread, describing the electronic Expenditure Information Network (EIN), one of the e-governance systems his Technology Advisory Group has proposed. It is a brilliant scheme to embed a totally democratic, non-hierarchical hub-and-spokes architecture of information flow within a decision-making structure which is and will remain hierarchical. Emphasising that political economic reforms to align the incentives of politicians and bureaucrats with the democratic aspirations of civil society are essential, Nilekani suggested that technological fixes like EIN could help catalyse such reforms. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

A friend of mine recently complained at an MTNL office that her internet had been down for days because MTNL was not replacing a damaged router. A wag in the office responded, "Madam, we have no money left to replace routers because Raja has taken it all." What else can junior staff do but joke about the bigwigs as they watch the latter loot the country?


From alleged mega-loot by the Rajas of our times to 'Loot for Work' programmes at the grassroots; from rising crimes against women to increasing reports of judicial impropriety; from deaths by negligence in hospitals to missing teachers in schools; from merciless police bashing of cricket fans in Bangalore and Mohali to missing cops at gridlocked traffic jams, the list of multiple governance failures grows longer by the day. But in the midst of this gloomy landscape of a malfunctioning state, perhaps there is a small glimmer of hope. Perhaps the collective effort of the thousands of unknown Raghunandans, Nilekanis, Madhavs and Jays will one day manage to contain the worst excesses of a Leviathan state.


The writer is emeritus professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

CLOUD COMPUTING'S THE FUTURE

 

In an era of rapid technological obsolescence, no computing device's future is assured. With cloud computing offering unparalleled convenience and portability to the user, the same could be said for the future of the personal computer. Cloud computing means that people can have access to their digital files and software on the go, with little more needed to access them than simple input and output devices as well as an internet connection. Amazon has launched two new products, Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, which allow users to tap cloud computing and store all their music and video files on a network of remote storage facilities. While such bold new products ensure ease and affordability for current users, they also herald a future where not only the denizens of New York and London but also the poor from India to Africa, can take advantage of the opportunities provided by computers.


The poor will be the greatest long-term beneficiaries of cloud computing because it eliminates the cost barriers to accessing the digital age. People can opt to use the most basic hardware, amounting to little more than a keyboard and screen. Gone is the need for large and expensive hard-drives and processors capable of operating them. But this won't result in any loss in productivity or effectiveness because people using basic machines will be able to access huge amounts of data - stored remotely - and process it using software which is provided and paid for by someone else.


All of this is premised on internet connectivity. Here again, the poor can piggyback on the rich. As more people armed with computers move to areas without internet or with poor connectivity, it is in the interest of providers to expand and enhance networks to serve customers better. Not only does cloud computing close the digital divide, consumers too benefit because accessing larger markets will spur corporations to innovate even more.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

MORE HYPE THAN REAL POTENTIAL

ANIL THAKKAR

 

For all the hype surrounding it - and there has been plenty ever since it became the latest buzzword in tech circles - cloud computing as a complete solution remains firmly in the realm of the hypothetical. As far as Amazon's latest gambit goes, it will directly tie into and boost Amazon's formidable digital media marketplace. Which explains why it's attracting attention. It's the same reason that cloud computing in general is grabbing headlines; it has more to do with internet giant Google pushing it, given that it ties in well with Google's services and revenue streams, than inherent value.


There are two simple reasons for cloud computing simply not being viable as a replacement for robust conventional operating systems and data backup. The primary one is security. By definition, part of cloud computing entails storing data off-site in massive data farms. As one might expect, this raises serious concerns for any number of enterprises as well as personal users. Beyond loss of control over sensitive data - for instance, financial records - it raises the question of misuse of data as well as vulnerability to hackers. Factor in the inability of the actual data owners to oversee and audit security and it becomes clear why any number of enterprises are wary of cloud computing.


The second problem is the rather basic one of connectivity. If you are dependent on cloud computing and your internet data transfer speeds are inadequate, your functionality is greatly crippled. In India where internet penetration, let alone data transfer speeds, is a serious problem, this is the kiss of death. India isn't the only country; there are a number of others, including the US, where the infrastructure in this area is lacking. Until that is fixed, cloud computing as the mainstay of enterprise and personal solutions will remain a pipe dream.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ERRATICA

PETTING ALLOWED

For most of middle-class India, Pet is only a kitchen container. But as i sit on flight DL 2439 from Washington DC to Atlanta, i am distracted by the Sky Mall magazine which features a plethora of equipment to luxe up the life of your family of other animals.


All of the past week i have once again marvelled at the access which opens up every public space for the wheelchair-bound human in this capital, and even every Smallsville for that matter so my eyes fall first on the ramp/staircase for your very young, very old, or otherwise mobility-challenged cat, dog, rabbit and, since this is the United States of Anything-goes, who knows, maybe even 'gator. In 'furniture-quality design with walnut finish' this 'Pupstep helps them get onto their favourite chair or sofa'. Oh, and thank you, a human convenience is also considered since 'these sturdy steps save you from lifting your pet up and down'.

 

Or here's the 'Original Comfy Couch'. The 'best in class pet bed features a 11/2" thick orthopeodic foam foundation, removable tufted cushion and upper bolster filled with high-loft, spun polyester fill for ultimate comfort and support'. And here's something more to chew on, the piece-de-resistance is the free bone-shaped pillow in linen. Pamper the mutt further with the 'Elevated Dog Bed'. Its powder-coated steel frame snaps together easily to provide a premium napping spot away from cold floors, wet grass and ground insects. You can cozy it up further with a 'soft sherpa cover' filled with 'cuddly polyester'.


There's enough to petrify me on almost every second page of this Sky Mall. A bacteria-repellant 'Ceramic Canine Fountain' to quench the pooch's thirst. The Litter Kwitter 3-Step Cat Toilet Training System which potty trains kitty 'to use any human toilet in eight weeks or less'. Faster than you can train your kids. What impresses me most is the Canine Genealogy Kit which analyses your dog's DNA and identifies the breed in its 'ancestry'.

All this makes me realise that, as with wife-beating, the very poor and the very rich are permitted their own pet policies. On our footpaths, four-legged Kalu enjoys every facility (or lack of it) as two-legged Kaliya. They sleep on the same paving stones (or lack of them) and eat the same garbage pickings. And in the sprawl of Akbar Road bungalows, Brutus lives a life as luxurious as the well-heeled brute who has paid a king's ransom to import him in the hope that the canine's pedigree will somehow be mistaken for his own.


Any SEC 1 pet now has his personal trainer, masseur, gourmet meals, designer coats (or booties) and other comforts which the great unwashed humans would need several births to attain.


But look at it another way: keeping lower life forms in the cosmic picture indicates a higher state of evolved-ness. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam should not be an exclusive club.


Mea culpa, my childhood kinship with the pigeons that gurgled on the ledges of our old house has flown out the window thanks to the unrelenting hordes which colonised the 'dry areas' of my flat. The shoo is on the other foot as i fight a vain battle to keep them out. My former cooing has been driven out by the billing which the cleaning up and netting up entails.


Universal oneness, i guess, will some day triumph even among the unevolved. We humans are doing our bit to close the gap, what with Dober-men, Rotter-weillers - and tell-tail pet poodles.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

IT'S NOT A DEAD PITCH

There may be something more substantive in cricket diplomacy than face paint, flag-coloured T-shirts after all. The spirit of Mohali seems to have helped the home secretaries of India and Pakistan to move beyond the barrier of 26/11. Islamabad's agreement to allow an Indian commission looking at the Mumbai attacks to visit Pakistan — if it goes beyond the principle stage — goes beyond Pakistan's past intransigence. New Delhi has responded by agreeing to share information about the Samjhauta Express attack and other cases of 'Hindutva' terrorist activity. These are small steps, and so far all on paper, but constructive when compared to the spectacular diplomatic failures of the past few years. The real question is whether this positive attitude reflects a consensus within the politico-military leadership of Pakistan that the time has come for a meaningful dialogue with India. This is yet unclear and will determine whether 'cricket diplomacy' will end as abruptly and comprehensively as World Cup fever.

The most important question is whether General Ashraf Kayani and his corps commanders have come to believe whether they should continue where Gen Kayani's predecessor, Pervez Musharraf, left off when it came to talks with India. It is possible. Gen Kayani seems to have believed that Pakistan's cards would improve if he delayed talks. That does not seem to happening. The United States will not withdraw from Afghanistan anytime soon. Pakistan continues to be wracked with internal terrorist problems, highlighted by recent high-profile assassinations. India's Kashmir problems have died down for now. If he has concluded time is not on his side, then the home secretaries talks may be a first step to a genuine dialogue.

For years Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has effectively argued that India must try and try again to seek better relations with its most important neighbour. The benefits of success would be almost incalculable and the costs of failure negligible. India can afford to suffer the odd symbolic setback given the trajectory of its future as compared to that of Pakistan. So far, his policy has been one of setbacks. And, to be fair, the larger Indian public has been unconcerned. The latest talks are incremental in their progress. They may yet be a false dawn. But compared to the cratered path of dialogue going back to the ill-fated Sharm el-Sheikh meet, the present shift in diplomatic winds is worth watching out for — besides all the excitement over cricket.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

TRUTH BE TOLD...

Former New York Times editor Joseph Lelyveld has written a book in which among other lines, he quotes Tridip Suhrud, a cultural historian: "They were a couple". Mr Lelyveld goes on to write in the next line: "That's a succinct way of summing up the obvious — Kallenbach later remarked that they'd lived together 'almost in the same bed' — but what kind of couple were they?" The Kallenbach mentioned is Hermann Kallenbach, a Jewish East Prussian architect in early 20th century Johannesburg and the 'they' is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Kallenbach. That's right, Mohandas 'Bapu' Gandhi, the Father of our Nation and that secular name uttered to make everything sacred.

Mr Lelyveld, a journalist, quotes another Gandhi scholar characterising the Gandhi-Kallenbach relationship as "'clearly homoerotic' rather than homosexual'", then adding "intending through that choice of words to describe a strong mutual attraction, nothing more". The author goes on to write: "The conclusions passed on by word of mouth in South Africa's small Indian community were sometimes less nuanced. It was no secret

then, or later, that Gandhi, leaving his wife behind, had gone to live with a man."

Well, Mr Lelyveld has, since the huge brouhaha over Gandhi's possible sexuality mentioned in his book Great Soul, denied that he has described the Mahatma as a 'bisexual' anywhere in his biography. But you don't need to be a homophobe, let alone someone who considers it to be impossible that the Mahatma in his incarnation as Mohandas may have been a human with human desires, to figure our what Mr Lelyveld is suggesting. So what? Does that diminish Gandhi's greatness? Does the Indian psyche find it abhorrent that its icon and paternal mentor could have erotic longings, any kind of erotic longings? If it does, isn't that our problem? Going by that most revelatory and 'truthful' of texts, My Experiments with Truth, it certainly wouldn't have bothered Gandhi.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

 

OUR AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE

JAWID LAIQ

Now that Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani have watched the India-Pakistan World Cup cricket semi-final  at Mohali together, an American embassy cable to Washington revealing former National Security Advisor (NSA) MK Narayanan's attempt to subvert Singh's Pakistan policy can be highlighted without too much worry.

In his first meeting on August 10, 2009 with US ambassador Timothy Roemer, Narayanan readily disclosed the innermost contents of the highest level meetings of the Government of India, exposed critical policy differences on Pakistan between Singh and his senior advisors and scoffed at the PM's views. The cable sent by Roemer the following day clearly shows that Narayanan not only betrayed Singh but divulged privileged information to a foreign power that amounts to a serious breach of national security.

In his cable, Roemer observed that Narayanan's readiness to "distance himself from his boss" would suggest that "Singh is more isolated than we thought within his own inner circle in his effort to 'trust but verify' and pursue talks with Pakistan". Narayanan recounted to Roemer that after the PM spoke to his advisors about India's "shared destiny" with Pakistan, Narayanan had retorted to the PM: "You have a shared destiny; we don't."

The NSA then proceeded to instruct the ambassador about how important he was within the top hierarchy of India's governance. Roemer's cable says: "Narayanan noted that all matters related to nuclear and space issues, defense and foreign policy, should be directed to him."

Some of our lower government functionaries have also followed a similar path of being garrulous and obsequious, ever eager to please their American interlocutors. Gaitri Kumar, joint secretary (Americas) in the ministry of external affairs, went to the extent of ratting on her own colleague, Hardeep Puri, days after his appointment as India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. According to US political counsellor in New Delhi, Ted Osinus, Kumar told him at a meeting on April 29, 2009 that "we should let MEA know if we have any complaints" (against Puri).

Not to be outdone, at a meeting on May 1, 2009 with Osinus, Puri told the US official that "his specific brief" was to seek a "higher degree of convergence" with the US. These two meetings were reported by Osinus in a cable dated May 1, 2009.

Our political class also competed in revealing their low-life trade secrets to sundry US officials. During the May 2009 election campaign, key political workers of the Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu and the Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen in Andhra Pradesh bragged about the mechanics of distributing money to the electorate in return for votes. One method of distribution revealed to the visiting US consular team from Chennai was to place cash inside the morning newspaper. (Cable sent on May 13, 2009 by Frederick J Kaplan, an official of the US consulate-general in Chennai.)

In these intimate conversations with US representatives, a significant number of Indian politicians, diplomats and officials do not show the slightest realisation that they may be debasing their own country or subverting national honour and pride.

Our establishment's cultural and racial biases are fully in accord with the instincts of vast sections of our upper and middle classes who crave to be familiar with Americans and other 'white' men even at the cost of demeaning ourselves. There is no need for the Americans to woo us and win our hearts and minds when we have already bared our hearts and minds to them.

Jawid Laiq is a political commentator and author of The Maverick Republic. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

KARTAM SURYA'S REIGN

SAMAR HALARNKAR

For a poor boy from the dark heart of tribal India, constable Kartam Surya has done well. An 8th class pass from the village of Misma in South Bastar's Dantewada district — in the so-called Maoist 'liberated zone' in Chhattisgarh — 26-year-old Surya makes sure he gives his father, a marginal farmer scratching a living from the land, enough money to live in peace and comfort.

"Surya is a good son I suppose, but innocents have had to pay for his family's comforts," a local official who knows the constable and his family told me.

Accused of rape, intimidation and other sundry violence against villagers, Surya and three 'special police officers' (SPO) — semi-official vigilantes who assist the regular police in informing on or hunting down Maoists — have been declared absconders by the South Bastar Sessions Court since November 2009. Surya should have been suspended from service, arrested and tried.

Not only does Surya continue to, well, serve, but he lives in the local police barracks and was bold enough last week to lead a mob that stopped official deliveries of emergency food supplies to three villages where 300 homes had been burnt, three women sexually assaulted and at least two men murdered. It isn't clear who was responsible for the atrocities, but an anti-Maoist operation was underway, and if men like Surya have something to hide, the implication is the attackers were security forces or the anti-Maoist vigilantes they nurture.

The three villages — Tadmetla, Timapur and Morpalli — are out of bounds not just for the media but anyone who wants to investigate what happened there between March 11 and 15. This unofficial ban includes government officials who have not joined the intimidate-the-people school of anti-Maoist operations — as then Dantewada district collector R Prasanna found when he tried sending those relief supplies; as additional superintendent of police DS Marawi found when he unsuccessfully tried to get his colleagues to register a case against the SPOs and vigilantes who attacked social activist Swami Agnivesh and reporters headed for the three villages.

"The procedure is that police should register a case on the basis of my report," Marawi told the Indian Express after identifying more than 40 attackers, mostly from the state-armed, supposedly extinct Salwa Judum ('peace march' in the tribal Gondi language). As this article went to press, the police had, reluctantly, agreed to register the complaint.

The reasons for the reluctance rest with his superior, and until five days ago Dantewada's police chief SRP Kalluri who called the attacks on the three villages "Maoist propaganda", the latest in bizarre, intimidatory behaviour. In January, he gained international attention when he accused aid agencies Médecins Sans Frontières and the Red Cross of helping the Maoists; his boss had to quickly issue a retraction. Under Kalluri's watch, noted economist and National Advisory Council member Jean Dreze was once attacked while leading a march to ensure rural employment guarantees, and Nandini Sundar, a Delhi University professor and Infosys national award winner, had to face vigilantes armed with AK-47s. Sundar cannot now visit Dantewada.

Kalluri was transferred out of Dantewada after the attack on Agnivesh, who was cleared by chief minister Raman Singh to visit the area. This strengthens accusations that many police and vigilantes have gone rogue, like 'absconding' constable Surya and his rape-accused colleague Kichche Nanda, who was once Kalluri's bodyguard.

Formerly an SPO, Surya is a Koya commando, specialised police recruited from among surrendered Maoists or tribals affected by Maoist violence. The irony, said the man who knows him, is that Surya was once an "andarwala" or one from inside the forest, a Maoist. They kicked him out when he started extorting money from villages.

Surya's rise and the blatant disregard that men like him show of the law indicate how Chhattisgarh — with tacit support from Delhi — has suspended democracy for its own citizens in its battle with the Maoists and is even willing to punish officials who try to do the right thing.

When police chief Kalluri was moved out of Dantewada, so too was his IAS counterpart and antithesis, collector Prasanna, who had ordered an inquiry into the attack on the three villages. "There could be no greater injustice than this," a local official, requesting anonymity, told me. "It sends a wrong message to those in the villages who are intimidated by both the Maoists and the state and to all of us who had been encouraged by Prasanna to speed up development." Prasanna had reopened two roads, shut for the greater part of a decade, into Dantewada's Maoist-dominated interiors. He restarted a hospital and schools, shut for five years, in Chintalnar (where 76 paramilitary soldiers were killed in a Maoist ambush last year) and nearby Chintagufa. Prasanna also hoped to reopen about 50 schools in his efforts to reestablish civil administration in Dantewada.

In equating Prasanna with Kalluri, chief minister Singh could not have sent a worse signal to those in his administration willing to brave the Maoists and work for Chhattisgarh's tribals, some of India's poorest and most illiterate people. Singh, a soft-spoken, well-regarded administrator, appears to have quietly condoned over the last six years the random killings and burning of villages and intimidation.

The Centre is unlikely to intervene, and there has been little progress in the Supreme Court, which for three years has been hearing a public interest litigation filed by Sundar, the writer Ramachandra Guha and others, asking that Chhattisgarh compensate and rehabilitate victims of the conflict (regardless of whether the perpetrators were Maoists or the state) and at least register complaints. As the experience of officer Marawi shows, even this basic procedure is hard for anyone — as long as the reign of those like Kartam Surya continues.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

DOES GANDHI REALLY NEED SUCH PROTECTION?

GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI

Mahatma Gandhi's life invites scrutiny. His writing facilitates it. Innocent unconcern about likely distortions makes his letters and speeches peculiarly charming. It also makes tendentious mutilations of the story of his life particularly easy.

I have not read Joseph Lelyveld's book. And so I ought not to — and will not — comment on it. But the media excitement in India, we should realise, has not been generated by a book but by a review of the book. Lelyveld has, in a riposte, said the review does not quote him right.

Should we get shocked, one way or the other, by what a review says a book says when the author of the book maintains he doesn't? We should not.

But there is something else fit for our contemplation in this event. Gandhi has had so huge an impact on human thought (though nowhere near as huge on human action) that those uncomfortable with his 'way', have sought to counter his impact by strenuous attempts to locate flaws in his personality.

His 'fads' and his fetishes, his frankly unorthodox and — to all 'normal' sensibilities — his bizarre experiments in brahmacharya, his 'inner voice' and outer appearance, have all been found handy by demolition squads. He has, of course, collaborated in the proceedings most generously by his self-excoriating candour and by his lavish use of phrases and gestures of trust in fellow-beings.

Despite this, Gandhiphile thinking and writing continues to grow and continues to dwarf the Gandhiphobic. This is not just because of what Tara Ali Baig once described as "Gandhi's shining veracity" but because the shape of human experience from Hiroshima to Fukushima, from global terror to global warming, from Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin to Pol-Pot, Idi Amin and Mubarak points to its wisdom.

The Gandhi-Kallenbach story, as given in the review, should help us place tendentious newspaper reviews where they belong, namely, the green bin for bio-degradables. It should also lead us to three things:

One, to a study of the remarkable career of that German architect of Jewish descent, Hermann Kallenbach, whom Gandhi helped transform from a high-living urbanite in Johannesburg to a 'New Age' comrade in ecologically intelligent living but with whom Gandhi differed seriously, in later years, on the question of Palestine.

Two, to a self-examination by ourselves (and the media) on the jumpiness over intellectual non-events and non-sequiturs.

Three, it should alert us to the folly of banning books not because we respect the subject of their scrutiny but because it pays to appear as its protector. Gandhi, least interested in self-protection, is best protected by the strength of his own words and the wordlessness of his own strength.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi has edited Gandhi Is Gone. Who Will Guide Us Now? He is also a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MIND-BODY PROBLEM

 

The new Gandhi book, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India, is struggling with India before it has even been read here. Former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld's biography of Gandhi has predictably been reviled and banned, based on a clutch of initial reviews that highlighted a few racy bits about Gandhi's possibly sexual affection for a young Jewish architect Hermann Kallenbach, and his less-than-immediate solidarity with blacks in South Africa. These are only fleeting mentions in the book, as many reviewers acknowledge, and are intended to humanise the Mahatma, rather than detracting from his tremendous achievements — but that hasn't stopped the flood of self-righteous fury in India. Maharashtra and Gujarat, the most easily excitable states, were the first to announce the ban, but Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily has assured the public that the Centre is also considering a ban.

This furore is depressingly predictable. Partly, it is because we prefer nationalist history to sound like a bedtime story of the good and the bad, and no one is so unambiguously good as Gandhi. Then again, in a country where Article 377 that criminalised homosexuality has only recently been struck down, sexuality is not a matter of airy speculation. When the suggestion is made of the sainted Gandhi, some controversy was only to be expected. However, Gandhi did not abide by these limits. His letters and conversations reveal him as consumed with the idea of bodily discipline, matters of diet, hygiene and sexuality — he truly experimented with these ideas, rather than accepting the givens of his culture, even if he returned to an idealised vegetarianism and chastity. It's a pity that those who are so protective of his halo now do not possess that capacity to think for themselves.

But what's truly abhorrent, even though it has been seen over and over again in India, is the alacrity with which we ban and proscribe books. Instead of letting people judge Lelyveld's book, and discard it if the scholarship fails to persuade, the state declares it incendiary and closes off the possibility of reading it at all. In Maharashtra, for instance, political parties fight each other to appear most intolerant, to slap down scholarly and artistic works over the flimsiest pretexts, instead of defending free thought and inquiry.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SPLITTING HEIRS

 

Screenwriter-politician M. Karunanidhi knows a thing or two about timing and some more about turning politics into an unseemly family enterprise. The two instincts came together when the DMK chief scotched all rumours of succession and confirmed that his son Stalin is indeed his political heir, just a fortnight ahead of assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. And he did so not in one of those grandiloquent party affairs that the state is known for, but in a media interview, sending the signal that the patriarch is in control, that the power share at home, and by extension in the party, has been suitably carved out. If younger son Stalin is the Kalaignar's heir apparent in the state, then elder son Alagiri could be, along with daughter Kanimozhi, the party's mascots at the Centre. The dynasty, the contours of which have been emerging over the past few years, has been quietly and, for now, unequivocally formalised.

While Karunanidhi incongruously paralleled his own rise under C.N. Annadurai to Stalin's, he conveniently forgot the party's backstory, how a fiery political organisation that was the standard-bearer of radical socio-political ideas, and traces its roots to the grand ideals of social justice and equality of Periyar's Justice Party, got deplorably reduced to this family arrangement, with little fiefdoms labelled for the members of his large and unwieldy household. And that could be the greatest disservice the 86-year-old has done to his party and its cadre.

The trouble within the DMK between Stalin and Alagiri has been out in the open, with the latter making it abundantly clear until recently that he would not accept the authority of anyone but Kalaignar. If Karunanidhi intends to take the party beyond such sibling rivalry, well and good, but by replacing it with something worse, sibling shareholding, he has just underscored the power-minus-ideology politics that the party has come to be identified with of late. It also remains to be seen for how long this could have a stabilising effect on the fractious first family of the DMK. Or whether this stranglehold of the family over the party would be enough in the coming polls, where the DMK is facing not just anti-incumbency but the spectre of 2G spectrum.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FREE THE STANDS

 

Once India had confirmed their place in the semi-final at Mohali to take on Pakistan, the scramble for a ticket to Wednesday's game acquired an almost manic frenzy. Anecdotes flew around about the astronomical sums someone had paid for a seat, and also about the wads of cash prospective spectators had held out in vain. But amidst the amusement and derision this spectacle drew, the fact remains that Indian sport is yet to be democratised at the turnstiles.

A semi-final of the World Cup — let alone one that brings India and Pakistan face to face during yet another freeze on cricketing tours — will never, of course, accommodate all the spectators. Yet, this World Cup has also highlighted how stacked the odds are against anyone wanting to go to any exertions to get in as a buying spectator — by camping outside ticket offices, for instance. There are just not enough tickets on sale, as a percentage of seating capacity in our stadia. For instance, when World Cup tickets first went on sale, just about 4,000 were available for the final at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium. The Maharashtra Cricket Association pleaded helplessness, saying the majority of seats had to be allocated to the ICC and affiliated clubs. The story is true at other stadia. And this is why getting a ticket so often becomes a factor of one's capacity to pay (to buy it off a ticket-holder) or, more likely, one's connections to wrangle a pass.

Even at a remove, on the television screen, it's clear how an audience keeps the sport true. We saw that, most clearly, during the Commonwealth Games when a new Delhi demographic brought the stands alive. It's time the excuses of our cricket and other associations were junked, and the spectator given her rights at stadia.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A FATEFUL YEAR THAT STILL IS

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

 

Bangladesh declared independence on March 26, 1971 and set in motion a train of events that make 1971 arguably the most important year in the strategic history of the subcontinent. Forty years later, we are still grappling with the shadow of that year. The unfolding genocide in East Pakistan, which the world watched with indifference, led to an unparalleled refugee crisis, culminating in a full-scale Indian intervention and war. The war itself was an unprecedented global event. India does not formally subscribe to the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect. But this war was perhaps the most effective application of the doctrine before its time. The shameful conduct of Kissinger and Nixon, much against the advice of the US State Department professionals, it has to be said, cast a shadow on Indo-US relations for decades.

But the psychic consequences of 1971 still reverberate from east to west. Three contemporaneous events around us, Gilani's visit, Bangladesh's independence celebrations, and even the elections in Assam are tied together by the shadow of 1971. One can debate the roots of Pakistan's crisis. For India, the war may have been a humanitarian intervention laced with a touch of self-interest. If P.N. Dhar's narrative is correct, India deliberately did not leverage the outcome for a decisive settlement on Kashmir. But Pakistan internalised a more traumatic narrative. The creation of Bangladesh exacerbated Pakistan's identity crisis. Pakistan was created a self-professed homeland for the subcontinent's Muslims. Within this conception the place of Islam as a political ideology was always ambiguous. But the trauma of 1971 exacerbated this confusion. Defeat opened the way for more radical Islamic ideologies, and undermined the possibilities for a liberal Pakistan. But more importantly, it turned a political and military rivalry between India and Pakistan into a game of deep existential resentment. India was cast as the power responsible for Pakistan's dismemberment, a permanent existential threat. In a sense Pakistan's strategy ever since has tapped into that existential fear that 1971 made more livid. It legitimised its strategy for avenging humiliation by the policy of inflicting a thousand cuts. It led to a greater nuclearisation of Pakistan. It has been hyper-paranoid about any Indian activity in Afghanistan.

Scholars like Farzana Shaikh have argued that Pakistan requires a negative identity predicated on opposition to India. 1971 exacerbated that syndrome very vividly. These were compounded by the vested interests of the army. There has also been very candid discussion of 1971 inside Pakistan. But most of it is devoted to why Pakistan failed, not how it can move beyond that history. Pakistan's options are fundamentally limited so long as its elites are gripped by the trauma of 1971. If they can overcome the fear that India poses any kind of existential threat, so much more political space can open up both domestically and internationally. Whether 2011 can overcome that trauma, particularly in the military, is an open question. But the big lesson of 1971 is this: the resentments of a wounded party cast a longer shadow than the logic of open combat. And we have few tools to deal with the former.

The new nation that 1971 brought into being, Bangladesh, has also had to deal with the ghosts of 1971. The independence of any nation, especially one that emerges under violent circumstances, will be subject to contesting narratives. This has several layers. If India underestimated the consequences of defeat in the west, it overestimated the goodwill of victory in the east. The full scale of atrocities in 1971 is still a matter of debate. But the newly independent nation quickly lost control of its own narrative, as Bangladeshi politics became, in part, a replay of 1971 by other means. The "anti-liberation" forces continued to shape Bangladeshi politics as it, for a long time, lurched from one political crisis to another. Whether the war crimes trials will provide a full reckoning of 1971 and give the right kind of closure is still an open question. But at the moment, Bangladesh seems to have a window of opportunity unprecedented in its recent history. Its state is showing a resolve to pacify violence in an exemplary way, and provides a signal lesson that states can sometimes curb terrorism if they have political clarity.

The outcomes are not a foregone conclusion, but the signs are good. The principles of 1971, particularly secularism, have been assertively reclaimed. Macro-economic indicators in Bangladesh are encouraging. There is an extraordinary sense of innovation in a range of sectors form delivery of social services to industry. Bangladesh has given something of a reply to Kissinger's characteristically hubristic judgment that the place is "and will always remain a basket case". Much of innovation in Bangladesh is homegrown. India has the impossible task in the west to convince Pakistan that it does not pose an existential threat. In the east it has the task to become a partner in Bangladesh's development, without the condescension that comes naturally to us. There have been remarkable breakthroughs on a range of issues recently, from terrorism to connectivity. But India needs to be both as generous as possible and deliver as quickly as possible; or else we risk becoming a basket case on implementing promises to neighbours. While there remain unresolved issues around 1971, Bangladesh is now showing a determination not to be tethered to its past. This is never easy in the subcontinent. But the only way to deal with history is often to move beyond it.

We often need a reminder of how irrevocably our histories are linked. Migration from Bangladesh remains a live issue in Assam politics. But this issue also operates in the shadow of 1971. The IMDT Act allows those who came to Assam before March 25, 1971 to become citizens. The cut-off date is the day before Bangladesh's declaration of independence, almost symbolically signalling that we still have not, in a legal sense, come to terms with the refugees that came as a result of the crisis. In Assam, political discourse in various quarters has often confused native Assamese-speaking Muslim settlers and recent migrants, and after 1971 it is increasingly hard to disentangle the two. But even for India, particularly in the Northeast, the 1971 war and its aftermath reopened the fundamental question of the subcontinent: the question of who belongs where. If there is a signal lesson from 1971, it is this: this question is itself a death trap of sorts. 1971 produced a slew of existential fears that still mark us. It is time to move beyond them.

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

RECALL OPTION

M R MADHAVAN

 

The Nitish Kumar government has proposed that the electorate be given the right to recall corporators. This is yet another of recent experiments from Bihar, after the cash-transfer schemes for bicycles and school uniforms, and the abolition of the MLA Local Area Development Scheme. We discuss the merits and conditions under which a recall system could be effective.

The Bihar proposal is a modification of an existing right to recall councillors. Under the current Bihar Municipal Act, a councillor can be removed on a petition signed by two-thirds of his fellow councillors. Under the proposed system, this power is given directly to the electorate — if two-thirds of the registered voters of a constituency sign a petition to the urban development department, the government can take steps for removal of the corporator.

Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have also permitted recall of corporators. The Chhattisgarh system differs from the Bihar proposal. The process can be initiated against a corporator who has completed two years in office. Three-fourths of fellow councillors have to write to the district collector asking for a recall election. On the recommendation of the district administration, the state election commission holds a "confidence" vote in the constituency. If the majority of the voters vote against the councillor, he is removed. In 2008, three presidents of municipal councils were removed through this procedure.

The main argument for the right to recall is as follows. The people of a constituency decide who represents them in the corporation, state assembly and Parliament. The representative has to be held accountable for their actions. During the term of the representative, there is no way of ensuring performance accountability. The electorate has that power only at the time of the next election. There could be merit in providing the electorate with the power to ensure accountability during the term.

The main argument against the power to recall is that this impedes medium- and long-term policy implementation. Many policy decisions have a gestation period for implementation gains, and could have short-term costs. Representative will take such decisions only if they are confident that they will not be penalised for doing so. Having the assurance of a four- or five-year term permits them with the leeway to take such risks. This is the reason most national governments take tough decisions in the first couple of years of their term — witness President Obama's health bill and the British welfare cuts. As an analogy with the corporate world, managements focused on quarterly results may often underperform than those with a longer-term shareholder view; this distorted the incentive structure for derivative traders and exacerbated the systemic risks that led to the global financial meltdown in 2008.

The recall system needs several conditions to work. First, it should be recall for individual non-performance, and not because a political party has become unpopular. Otherwise, even a well-performing representative can be penalised for some decisions taken by his party. It may be difficult to ensure this distinction in cases where a representative is elected on a party ticket. Second, there should be a minimum grace period to judge the performance — Chhattisgarh does not permit recalls for the first two years. Third, the process should be cumbersome enough to deter casual usage. The Chhattisgarh law does this by requiring a three-fourth majority in the corporation to initiate the process. In Bihar, the proposed law required two-thirds of the electorate to sign a petition — a high barrier, given that most elections do not even see that level of turnout.

The issue is more complicated for MLAs and MPs. The anti-defection law mandates that they vote on party lines. There could be instances when the party mandate is contrary to local interests. This would place the MP (or MLA) in the difficult position of choosing between the risk of being disqualified for defection, or being recalled by the people of his constituency. This example highlights the tension between accountability to the electorate and to the party. The recall system could work better in small constituencies in which members are elected as independents (without explicit backing from a political party). For example, it could work in municipal corporations in Uttar Pradesh, as all corporators had to contest as independent candidates.

Democratic processes have to evolve, adjust and respond continuously to new challenges. Given our federal structure, states are an ideal place for experimentation within the overall constitutional scheme. The recall processes in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar will hopefully throw up learnings that can be utilised by other states considering a recall system.

The writer is with PRS Legislative Research, Delhi express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A TASK NOT FINISHED IN 150, OR 140, YEARS

NAYANJOT LAHIRI

 

Is 2011 a milestone in the history of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)? The ASI certainly thinks so since, at the end of this year, it sees itself turning 150.

As early as 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke of the ASI completing 150 years in 2011, and the urgency of pooling "our wisdom and experience to revitalise this great organisation." At the beginning of 2011, the director-general of the ASI said much the same.

But is the ASI celebrating a wrong date? The ASI has no doubt about its founding year. It celebrated its centenary in 1961, which was marked by a special postage stamp. The supposition is that in the winter of 1861, an archaeological investigation of "upper India" was sanctioned by the viceroy Lord Canning, which the ASI considers the birth of the Archaeological Survey of India. But this was a one-man survey, with an initial limit of two years, to be done by Alexander Cunningham, who had just retired from the army. During the course of his operations as archaeological surveyor from 1861 till 1865, Cunningham documented some 165 sites in north and central India, providing descriptions of Bodh Gaya, Basarh, Sarnath and Delhi, and identifying important places mentioned in our ancient literature, including Taxila, Kushinagara and Nalanda.

Despite the importance of what Cunningham dug out, his survey lapsed in 1865, and in 1866 he went back to England. No organisation had to be wound down — because no Archaeological Survey of India existed in 1861. It was only in 1871 that a Central department was set up with an annual budget of 5,000 pounds. It was also in 1871 that, simultaneous with the creation of this archaeological department, the survey suspended in 1865 was revived.

It may well be, then, that the ASI is 10 years younger than it imagines. Of course, 140 is as good a moment as 150 for reviewing the work of the principal keeper of India's archaeological heritage. So I shall use this occasion to spell out how I see the state of the ASI and its role. Given its rich history, I see it as a national asset that should not be allowed to atrophy.

First, with regard to its responsibility for expanding knowledge about the archaeology of India — the ASI has not published reports on the bulk of excavations that it has conducted since Independence. Major discoveries ranging from the Harappan city of Dholavira in Gujarat to the stupa site of Kanganahalli in Karanataka, which yielded a labelled sculpture of Ashoka, lie partially reported. Publishing these reports should be a priority.

So should the creation of a state-of-the-art research wing. The ASI is the largest government organisation doing archaeology anywhere in the world, yet it does so without a laboratory for dating archaeological samples! This is absurd, tantamount to the Indian state making a deliberate mockery of archaeology as science. A national institute of archaeological science attached to the ASI is absolutely necessary.

The other duty of the ASI is to preserve India's monuments and archaeological remains. By no stretch of the imagination has it been doing this. Scores of monuments that the ASI is supposed to protect have been destroyed. Even where the ASI has been vigilant, it has generally been unable to prevent unlawful encroachments because FIRs filed against violations have not been acted upon. The physical and chemical conservation of monuments has been compromised. In contravention to the long-cherished conservation policy that "reconstruction" will be done only when it is necessary for the preservation of old structures, the ASI has taken to "reconstructing" monumental elements — from stupas in central India to decorative plaster in Humayun's tomb (which covers almost 50 per cent of its exterior). The mix of corruption and shoddiness manifest in virtually everything handled by organs of the Indian state seems well in evidence within the ASI.

Finally, the ASI needs to give us a comprehensive documentation of India's archaeological heritage. If it traces its beginning to 1861, it should complete what Cunningham began. Regrettably, in spite of Cunningham's work and that of many committed researchers, there is still no detailed database of India's sites, monuments, and antiquities. On August 15, 2003, a national mission for this task was announced. It took four years, till March 19, 2007, for the National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities, under the umbrella of the ASI, to be launched; so far, no publication or regional catalogue has emanated from that mission.

Rather than applaud ritual celebration, it would be more fitting to honour the ASI by appointing an independent assessor to provide us with a ruthless scrutiny of the problems and challenges faced by it. What the ASI needs is less celebration and more introspection. It needs a route map to rejuvenate and carry forward the legacy it seems largely to have abandoned.

The writer is a professor of history, University of Delhi. Her book 'Finding Forgotten Cities' is dedicated to the Archaeological Survey of India

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE MATCH THAT MIGHT BE

SHAILAJA BAJPAI

 

For the second time in three weeks, it's difficult to write a column on TV. If Japan's earthquake-tsunami was impossible (not) to watch and write about, today's difficulty is what to write about. This is being written the afternoon before the semi-final between India and Pakistan but is being read the morning after. Ditto for the meeting between our prime ministers.

Since the Mohali muqabala and the mulaqat are what everyone will be watching even as they occur, we're faced with the unenviable job of describing the pre-match-meeting coverage (in a word, berserk) that none of you will want to read about, post the match-meeting.

And because we have absolutely no idea — despite Kapil Dev's exhortations to get one — about the outcome of either the game or the meeting, we need the services of a superhuman intelligence. Alas, Sherlock Holmes is unavoidably detained in London, tracking down a suicide serial killer (you read right). So.

So, suffice it to say, that all the Pakistani cricketers and commentators predicted a Pakistan win and the Indians a Pakistan loss. The Indian prime minister's masterly gambit to divert crazed fans on both sides of the border from a high-pitched ball, sorry build-up, to the "kaante ki takkar" by inviting his Pakistani counterpart, worked to the extent that more than Dhoni's helicopter shot, TV news has been discussing the helicopter security cover for the stadium.

Otherwise, news TV has been possessed by the spirit of cricket, unleashing the most (un)holy patriotism, with havans, prayers, and so on, none of which had anything to do with the game (Aaj Tak).

More interesting was to watch cricketers we hadn't seen for so long, we had ceased to recognise them. Was that Inzamam-ul-Haq with a beard almost as dazzling as the shots he used to play (Aaj Tak)? And was that bowler Sikander Bakht, once a gangly youth who didn't know what to do with his arms except to turn them over, now filled out and looking like a prosperous businessman (Times Now/Neo)?

Javed Miandad's hair, meanwhile, has gone blacker with age, so he's looking younger than he did when he carted Chetan Sharma for a six at Sharjah in 1986.

Finally, there's the confusion with names. Each time, they said Zaheer on IBN-7, you expected to see the current Khan of cricket steaming into bowl but what you got instead was this greying, dignified batsman, Zaheer Abbas, talking about Pakistan's chances. All very confusing.

Time to call in Sherlock (BBC Entertainment). With his newly-acquired powers of deduction including the ability to mentally map future moves, he may have discovered who was going to win the match before it was played, or God forbid, it was fixed.

For instance, the tan on Afridi's fingers would have told him which way he turns the ball; the way Sachin Tendulkar twitches his shoulders, where he is going to hit his next four and the sweat on Yuvi's brow whether he will take a run or run out his partner.

Don't believe us? Had you watched the first episode of the new Sherlock Holmes series set in a contemporary London with the dapper young man-detective, eccentric but with extra-sensory senses, you'd be less sceptical. He knew by handling a mobile phone that Dr Watson's brother was an alcoholic with a troubled marriage; so predicting the winner of the India-Pakistan match is baby's day out for him.

The repartee is wonderful, the actors very much in character, and the series modernised to the point of blurring the line between mediums: we know what Holmes thinks because it is literally spelt out.

The mobile phone and the computer become key players in the suspense and the detection, while the entire whodunit has the air of a sci-fi thriller, like Inception meets Sherlock. Holmes is a likeable, foppish cad with an acid tongue, maybe from drugs and maybe not. But one thing's for sure, he's anaemic. You can tell from the sheer whiteness of his skin. Elementary, my dear Watson.

This detection game is fun. Former Pakistan President Musharraf said on Zee News that he would be glued to the TV from the first ball to the last.

Aha, so he's used Fevicol on his eyes, right?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

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.

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 Shia hardliners. 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, 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 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! 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.

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." 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 Gaddafi as we want, or as post-Gaddafi 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 Gaddafi'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 US 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.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

JAMIA'S BETRAYAL

MANOJ C G

 

Jamia's betrayal

The RSS's Organiser continues to criticise the grant of minority status to the Delhi university, Jamia Millia Islamia, by the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions. A front-page article calls it "the decline of secularism as minorityism." The article asks: "Why should a secular state finance an institution with a communal tag, and why should taxes collected from Hindus be used to prop up and sustain minority institutions?"

"As a Central university it has been offering the constitutionally guaranteed 22.5 per cent reservations to SC and ST Hindus in educational seats and employment; and, steps to introduce 27 per cent reservation for OBC Hindus were in the process. But Hindus were robbed of these reservations without having been given any hearing," the article argues, saying that, following the principles of natural justice and fair play, it is the law of the land that a statutory body must invite objections from all those parties which are likely to be adversely affected by its orders.

The NCMEI, it says, was originally not empowered to take such a decision; its definition of a minority educational institution was a college or institution (other than a university) established or maintained by a person or group of persons from among the minorities. But, "subsequently, Kapil Sibal as human resources development minister in the Manmohan Singh government brought out an amendment in May 2010 to the NCMEI Act, allowing the statutory body to award minority status to universities too," it says.

The SC must see

An article in Organiser, anxious to keep the cash-for-votes issue alive, demands a inquiry by an independent agency monitored by the Supreme Court. "A hugely corrupt government shouldn't be allowed to sweep the scandal under the carpet," it says, while rejecting Prime Minister's Manmohan Singh's statement on the matter. "Lame excuses and half-lies traded by the PM to obfuscate the cash-for-vote scandal have severely undermined his credibility, or whatever is left of it," it claims; "Even the USA, which is deeply upset over the leaks, has not challenged the veracity of the cables. It is only the Indian PM who says he can't confirm the veracity, contents and even the existence of such communications."

"The government can, if it has the will, find out the identity of the person in the US embassy who claimed he was shown money kept around the house to buy MPs and, if necessary, can request the United States to withdraw immunity of the diplomat, if he is indeed a diplomat, to help the country find out the truth behind this grave fraud on democracy and the Constitution," it adds.

US and UPA

In Panchjanya, an article by former deputy NSA Satish Chandra cites the latest WikiLeaks revelations to claim that the US establishment routinely interferes in the day-to-day functioning of the Indian government. Chandra says India has acted at the behest of the United States not just in voting against Iran at the IAEA or replacing Mani Shanker Aiyar with Murli Deora in the petroleum ministry, but also in softening its stand against Pakistan, which he says regularly exports terrorism into India.

"We have had excellent relations with Iran. In many respects, this relationship was special. First, Iran is a very important regional power. Second, it is an important source of oil. Third, it is India's gateway to the Middle East. But because of American influence, our relationship with Iran has been adversely affected. This is a big mistake on the part of India," Chandra writes.

Chandra says no strategic expert would argue against a good and healthy relationship between India and the United States but this should not come at the cost of India's traditional friends and allies. "If we gain in strength and become a major power ourselves, the United States will have no option but to come to us. The United States doesn't befriend anyone just like that. It is only looking for markets and India has the market," he writes.

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FINE NUCLEAR NEWS

The Prime Minister's assurance that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) will be converted into a truly autonomous and independent regulatory authority, and to ensure that it is of the highest and the best international standards, is welcome. The tragedy at the Japanese nuclear power plant has raised worldwide concerns that have to be addressed and it is the AERB in India that is the primary agency concerned with assessing the safety of the facilities during the siting, design, construction, commissioning, operation and decommissioning stages. That the PM has been prompt in rising to the occasion and directing a technical review of all safety systems of our nuclear power plants right after the accident is also a wise move. Since India has a very creditable record on the nuclear safety front (in fact, as pointed out by Manmohan Singh, our impeccable safety track record in nuclear power stretches over the past 335 reactor-years of operations), strengthening of the AERB will add to to that record.

One of the key calls the AERB can take is on the issue of promoting the number of fast breeder test reactors. The design, especially the sodium-based cooling system, was India's response to the nuclear apartheid. An independent AERB will be expected to arrive at a decision that will be acceptable to all constituencies. Positioning of AERB outside the government-controlled nuclear establishment will be in line with the emerging global consensus to put regulatory institutions at an independent distance from the nodal ministries or other facilitating and promotional agencies. In India, the distance has been lacking so far as the chairman of the AERB reports to the secretary, Department of Atomic Energy. It is time that AERB is made independent of the government departments that operate the nuclear power plants owned by the public sector. It is also important that the regulatory institutions are designed to limit the scope for political interference in regulatory decisions. International experience shows nuclear safety regulations work better the more independent and open they are. While strengthening the regulatory framework, it is equally important to ensure consistency of regulatory processes and the simplification of procedures, which are essential to remove uncertainties and encourage new investments. Uncertainty and delays while seeking regulatory approvals have been a cause of concern and have a debilitating impact on investments. Another aspect that needs greater attention is the safety of the nuclear fuel facilities. Traditionally, the regulatory attention has been focused more on power plant design and operational issues that have a greater potential for accidents. Fuel facilities that handle greater quantities of radioactivity usually receive less priority. This lacuna should also be addressed.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

RIGHT TO RECALL

 

The difference between a privately-run organisation and a government one, it's obvious, is really about the fear of losing your job. From the lowly peon to the highly-paid chief executive, the fact that all can, and have, lost their jobs for non-performance has surely been a big factor in ensuring productivity in the private sector is higher. Imagine what the principle would do if applied to politicians, if they knew their jobs were on the line 24x7. This is what Bihar has done through the amendment of the Bihar Municipal Act—if two-thirds of voters submit a signed petition, elected corporators can be recalled. This is not the first time this has happened. Apparently, it goes back to the ancient Athenian democracy in 500 BC and is a feature of several provinces in Canada, in several cantons in Switzerland and in some states in the US—some states tried to ensure the same rule was followed for US senators, but the proposal didn't get passed. The number of elected representatives that have been recalled, it is true, is very few and even farther in between, but the fear of losing one's job has as much of a disciplining effect as the actual losing of a job. While the Nitish Kumar government traces the origins of its new law back to the JP days of 1974, the Madhya Pradesh government ushered in legislation a decade ago to ensure that gram sabhas had the powers to recall the sarpanch or a panch. The best-documented right-to-recall effort took place in Chhattisgarh, when the president of three municipal bodies were recalled though a secret ballot in 2008. Under Chhattisgarh law, the process of recall gets initiated when three quarters of elected corporators or councillors write to the district collector and demand a recall. The request is then processed by the state government.

Why not extend what applies to corporators to MLAs and MPs as well? In principle, the idea is appealing, but it's a good idea to see just how it plays out at the local level first. In any case, applying a two-thirds majority principle at a municipality level is surely a lot easier than trying to do this at the level of much larger constituencies of MLAs or MPs. Blindly applying the principle upwards can also cause havoc considering that voters in elections for MLAs or MPs are just as likely to hold MLAs or MPs responsible for problems that corporators are meant to deal with. It's like holding the MP from South Delhi responsible for the fact that teachers don't turn up in the NDMC school in South Extension.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

NATURE'S GIFT OR CURSE?
PRODIPTO GHOSH

What is common to Naxalism, the 2G scam, fratricidal African wars, the Narmada controversies and the US's patronage of Pakistan for over six decades now? Each is driven by competition to appropriate one or more of nature's bounties. With naxalites vs outsiders, the resources are forests and minerals; with Narmada, it is the hydropower potential of the site and the waters of the river; with 2G, the shares of the ethereal 'wires' that carry electronic signals; the African tensions involve control of resources ranging from diamonds to uranium; and the US patronage of Pakistan is explained by the latter's geographical position, which confers great potential advantage in military or commercial access to the Eurasian heartland.

What does this competition involve? For a resource to evoke interest, it must be both useful and scarce. The 'usefulness' typically derives from advances in technology. Until the invention of the internal combustion engine, the pools of dark oil that trickled from the ground in Central Asia—described by Marco Polo—evoked curiosity, not conflict. Until the development of mobile telephony, the relevant spectrum frequencies held only academic and scientific, not economic interest. However, even a useful resource acquires value only when its quantity is limited in relation to the requirement. No one prices sea water, even if nuclear power plants require vast quantities for cooling the reactors; or competes for satellite orbits, while there is great international competition for the limited geostationary slots. Till recently, anyone could burn all the coal he needed, but concerns for climate change have resulted in intense international competition for the now limited atmospheric space.

Precisely what is the nature of the advantage that is sought during such competition? Typically, there is a gap between what it costs to exploit or extract the resource and its price in the market, by itself, or embodied in the resulting goods (metals) or services (mobile telephony). The gap or resource rent—oil costs a few cents a barrel to produce but sells for over $100—is what the competitors fight over.

Colonialism was, in large measure, driven by seeking control over natural resources (and trading through cartels in captive markets)—the present day division of the world into rich and poor countries is one result. But even without formal colonialism, in many cases, resource-rich countries (think Liberia, Afghanistan) and regions (think Jharkhand, Orissa) tend to have low growth rates, high poverty levels, and are prone to conflict. What explains this?

There are numerous possible sources of such conflict. First, there is a disjunction between formal 'ownership' of a resource and the decision makers who control its use. If rights are auctioned and the bidders numerous, the full resource rent would be realised by the owner. However, a personal pay-off to the Panjandrum with control over the resource may enable access without an auction, paying but a pittance to the formal 'owner'. Thus, General Mobutu became rich beyond imagination, while his country remained dirt-poor. Not surprisingly, both decision makers and resource users argue, often very creatively, for retaining discretion in allocating the resource.

Second, if the seekers themselves are not numerous, but few, and auctions are the norm, but repeated, the bidders could collusively share the spoils by bidding less than the true resource value. The incumbents, in such cases would not welcome a new kid on the block, with whom the spoils would have to be shared. Literal cloak-and-dagger operations against one's rivals are going out of fashion, but well-funded campaigns by personable, telegenic and hyper-earnest young people highlighting real or imaginary humanitarian lapses by the newcomers achieve the same objective while disguising one's true motivations.

Third, the 'ownership' of the resource may itself be contested. Rival subnational groups may engage in civil war, with lavish support from their respective corporate backers. Currently, at least 17 such wars are on—from Colombia (oil, gold, cocaine) to the DR Congo (copper, coltan, diamonds, gold, cobalt) and Western Papua (copper, gold). Alternatively, say in the case of naxalites, local communities may assert a moral right to the resources, contrary to the formal legal arrangements, in whose formulation they insist that they were not represented, and thereby take up arms to claim the resources for themselves.

Such a rich typology makes for a daunting policy conundrum. However, some broad guidelines may be presented. One, rights of ownership, including possibly shared ownership, must be clarified through democratic participation and processes, if armed or otherwise disruptive conflict is to be avoided. Two, while auctions should be the default mode of allocation, if the market is irretrievably cartelised, other transparent and publicly defensible non-discretionary methods of allocation may be employed in lieu, and the resource-rent (which may vary over time), being determined by an independent regulator on the basis of transparent methodologies that seek to ascertain from market data the true economic resource rent. (Of course, preventing regulatory capture is a non-trivial matter that has never been fully resolved anywhere).

Finally, in the international domain, the decision makers must not be susceptible to extraneous blandishments, and remain focused on obtaining the country's fair share of the global resource at issue. Otherwise, in future, Parliament may be disrupted over carbon scams, on a scale that would make 2G seem like child's play. After all, 2G has happened because past Indian negotiators' failed to garner sufficient bandwidth for the country.

The author is fellow, The Energy & Resources Institute. Views are personal

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT CASH TRANSFERS CAN'T SOLVE
YOGINDER K ALAGH

The finance minister has declared that "for both kerosene and fertilisers, the Government will move towards direct transfer of cash subsidy to people living below poverty line in a phased manner." Initially a carefully-made statement, this was later linked to the UID and a target given to complete the process this year. A fascinating set of arguments has emerged with the geeks' nirvana being around the corner. My worry in all this is that the UID, an otherwise excellent effort with its own carefully drawn out time perspectives in the 13th Plan, may get jeopardised in this welter of expectations. The UID is a number and the delivery of a benefit in a complex society where skills are used, and to corner them is also a process. The direct delivery of cash subsidy to India's farmers, more than half still small and tenants, is an attractive holy grail of economists, including yours truly. It would be non-distorting and take care of leakages.

The last time the government asked an expert committee to develop a new pricing regime for fertilisers, it was under my chairmanship and the siren of direct transfers was also bewitching me. So, I went to a village in northern Gujarat near my weekend retreat. Now, it becomes very difficult to get the man who actually tills the soil to come to the chaupal as the place is for the Patels, in the north for the Chaudharis, and so on. In this village, only 11 farmers tilled the land in their own name. More than 45 were tenants. But tenancy is not recorded. It is, in fact, illegal. So, a large number of farmers don't have an identity as farmers and some who have an identity in the village records, farm other people's land taken in on illegal reverse tenancies. I came back chastened. But not to be thwarted by such obstacles, I persisted, for the siren beckoned. Some of the best fertiliser factories in India are cooperatives, like Iffco, Kribhco and GSFC. I got together with them since they are old comrades and we decided that in the areas they know well they will take on the challenge and make it successful. We could then expand with the lessons learned. They said that as a special concession to their economist friend they will do it in five districts. So, the published report of the Working Group recommended that "in districts where the cooperatives and joint sector of the fertiliser industry have strong roots with farmers' associations, grass-root village level cooperatives and well-worked out distribution systems, a subsidy directly aimed at the farmer could be attempted to be administered in consultation with the farmers' groups."

The then finance minister was not to be deterred by these careful messages and so he announced that the policy would be implemented in 30 districts with smart cards. Since that was not possible, nothing happened. Now, we are going one step forward and will implement it in the entire country. But a few days before the Budget, Sutanu Behuria, the fertiliser secretary, in an interview to this paper replying to a question on giving subsidy directly to the farmer, having presumably performed a revenue function in his early career, said in a somewhat matter-of-fact manner, "State-level land records cannot be relied upon to identify the farmer as many of them do not own land. Besides, these records may not indicate whether the title holder does agricultural activity himself."

The question is not the UID, which Nandan will surely implement in his own measured pace. It is the identity of the man, actually in many cases the woman, who is behind that number. Does s(he) have an identity of farming with fertilisers with that number? That is a question of the socio-political structure and not the Android's sweep. Like the cat's grin, the targeting question keeps on resurfacing in the direct subsidy case, since in fertiisers, at present, anybody can buy in the market at the subsidised price. So, those not effectively targeted will miss out. To be fair, the problem will be less if the price of urea is raised, again a point my expert group had raised in 2003 to implement the nutrient-based price. The government is well advised to raise the price of N and adjust the subsidy to reflect nutrient values.

In fact, the cash subsidy makes more sense in kerosene or food. Here the PDS doesn't actually target much any more anyway. Many decades ago, Kalpana Bardhan had, quoting a committee I chaired on food distribution in Gujarat, shown that the number of ration cards is more than the population. Both me and Vijay Vyas had shown that if the non-poor are excluded, and for them some records are always available, the remaining population was close to the number of the poor. In food and kerosene, since the identification system is bad, direct subsidy or cash transfer won't make us worse off. The poor don't get covered now, and other things remaining the same, they won't be with the direct subsidy. The siphoning off is there now and will become easier but the market price won't be distorted and in the overall sense we will be better off. Only the non-poor cheats may unfortunately have an easier time.

Identifying the non-poor is of little consequence for those who argue that close to 70% of the population must get subsidised grain. These are the people with an identity, and with cash transfers they will be happier and distort the market less. Ditto for kerosene. The CM of Bihar, in a poverty seminar responding to me, said that targeting was impossible and argued for cash transfers. Another CM has implemented the scheme of cash transfers. A third announced a free TV set. If you can't identify and give the really poor food, give everybody else a cash transfer. The more difficult governance questions will lie ahead and we will have time to solve them.

The author is a former Union minister

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

PROBLEMS OF ABUNDANCE

Even as a season of bountiful harvest of the rabi season crops, wheat followed by rice, gets under way, India's food management policy has come under a great deal of stress. The main objectives of food management are unexceptionable: procurement of food grains from farmers at remunerative prices; distributing them to consumers, particularly deprived and vulnerable sections of the people at affordable prices, and maintaining buffers for food security and price stability. It is the instruments used — the minimum support price (MSP) and the central issue price (CIP), and the nodal agency, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) — that have come under scrutiny at a time India is facing problems of plenty. An immediate problem has been one of storage. As of March 1, the FCI was reportedly holding 45.8 million tonnes of rice and wheat — more than twice the prescribed buffer stock norm, which includes a food security reserve of five million tonnes. A sizable part of this is stored in the open, with minimal protection. The FCI has also used private warehouses for stocking grain for which it incurs a heavy carrying cost. The problem of storage will become acute if, as expected, the FCI procures another 15-20 million tonnes of wheat during this season.

There are no easy ways out. Export of grains to reduce the surplus may not be an optimal solution. Like many countries, India has been very selective in permitting exports of food grains. The interests of domestic consumers have been paramount. There have been occasions when Indian exporters were priced out. Sales in the domestic markets to reduce the stocks are possible but even here a coherent strategy is needed. In many places, open market prices of wheat are reportedly ruling below the MSP. Solutions to the storage crisis will have to be found in a larger context of reordering the food management and procurement policies. The old fixes will not work at this juncture. Procurement of wheat and rice is open ended and the MSP, which has been raised by successive governments, sets the floor price, thereby contributing to higher prices. There is, at this point, very little chance of restricting each year's procurement to actual production. Nor can the mechanism of MSP be revisited in its entirety, given the political sensitivity involved. According to the Economic Survey 2010-11, the economic cost of food grains to the FCI has increased substantially over the last few years but the issue price has not gone up, so the food subsidy bill will go up. The continuing tragedy is that the Indian system is not able to deliver the 'surplus' food grain to the hungry.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LEARNING FROM DETROIT & TURIN

Recently released United States census data have confirmed the sad truth that Detroit's 40 square miles of abandoned and vacant plots have conveyed in recent years: the city has collapsed. Over the last decade, Detroit, which in 1990 was the seventh largest city in the U.S., lost 25 per cent of its population. In absolute numbers, this outward migration is worse than what happened to New Orleans after hurricane Katrina ravaged it. Detroit's urban decay explicates the perils of myopic urban policies that tether a city's growth to only one economic activity and neglect the challenge of urban inequalities. Since the beginning of the 20th century, when Ford revolutionised automobile production, the city has emerged as one of the world's largest hubs of the automobile industry. It peaked in population in 1950. In the two decades that followed, city planning imprudently encouraged urban sprawl: as many as 20 auto plants were set up in the suburbs, draining the city of employment and importance. This unsustainable suburbanisation also split the city racially, with the relatively affluent white population living in the periphery and the deprived African-Americans inhabiting the core. Investment in infrastructure on the less inhabited periphery at the expense of the deteriorating city core widened the inequalities. From the late 1980s, the automobile industry in Detroit witnessed an economic slide and this one-industry town a flight of capital and people. The recent recession made a bad situation much worse.

Detroit is an example of what could go wrong when industries get complacent and cities lose their bearings. Efforts to revitalise the core area of the city by constructing a spectacular convention-cum-office complex and a $300 million baseball stadium did not produce the desired results. Such cases demonstrate that development projects, however huge they may be, will not deliver unless they are integrated with the overall redevelopment and the benefits get equitably distributed. Lessons can also be learnt from Turin, the Detroit of Europe and the headquarters of Fiat, the Italian car company. Between 1980 and the early 1990s, the city was severely affected by the economic slide in the automobile industry: it lost 80,000 jobs and was saddled with one million square feet of abandoned industrial sites. Good governance, the creative re-inventing of Turin as the cinema capital, and a public-participatory planning process turned the ailing city around. All this should serve to remind Indian city managers — who in the last decade have tended to over-emphasise the role of the IT sector in urban growth — that the key to a prosperous city is economic diversity and equitable growth.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

LONG-TIME LEARNING FROM FUKUSHIMA

THE IRONY IS THAT SEISMICITY IS ABOUT THE PRESENT MOMENT, EXCEPT THAT UNLIKE THE TICKING HOUR-HAND AND MINUTE-HAND ON THE CLOCK, IT MOVES UNSEEING AND UNSEEN.

GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI

The period 2010-2011 can be termed Earthquake Year. After Fukushima, it can also be termed Nuclear-Quake Year.

Public memory is notoriously short and self-centred. The Haiti quake of January 12 , 2010 that killed over 2,30,000 people and left 1 million homeless seems to us as far back in time as that place itself is, in space. The one that shook Chile on February 27, 2010, triggered a tsunami, killed hundreds, and displaced 1.5 million is now material only for seismological archives.

Even the one that shook Islamabad and its environments the very next day, on February 28, is as far back in our memories as the Chilean, though as close in physical terms as this printed page is to the reader's hands.

And yet these are not part of our active memories. Fukushima may also soon get 'filed' in that befogged zone.

At what cost?

Natural calamities like earthquakes and tsunami are happening at more frequent intervals than they used to, and are shrinking planetal distances more than before.

I have listed only the 2010 earthquakes that occurred outside India. But earthquakes do not recognise national boundaries, sovereignties and border disputes. If Pakistan was shaken rudely last year and Myanmar this March, India needs to be awake to the prevailing seismicity of our geological bequest. Equally, of what we in our state of seismic and geological indifference have done to ourselves.

What is the seismic scene? Earthquake zoning divides India into four seismic zones (Zone 2, 3, 4 and 5) with Zone 5 held to have the highest level of seismicity and Zone 2 with the lowest level of seismicity. Kashmir, Punjab, the western and central Himalaya, the North-East Indian region and the Rann of Kutch fall in this zone.

What is the nature and level of the indifference?

First, there is indifference in society, in us. This probably has something to do with our lacking what Jawaharlal Nehru called 'the scientific temper.' It also has something to do with our obsessiveness about the present moment. The irony is that seismicity is about the present moment, except that unlike the ticking hour-hand and minute-hand on the clock, it moves unseeing and unseen. Few know how many of our nuclear reactors are located or will come up in Zones 5 and 4, that our national capital territory Delhi and its neighbourhood and the entire Indo-Gangetic basin, Jammu and Bihar fall in Zone 4, that Narora falls within Zone 4. Not many would even otherwise have heard of Narora but for the fact that it houses a nuclear reactor. But it needs to be known and understood that Narora's twin reactors (2X220 MW) are an Indianised version of the Canadian CANDU-Type reactors, which operate on natural uranium as fuel which would be procured from the U.S. under the '123 Nuclear Treaty'. And that this major installation stands on Zone 4.

Second, there is a lack of urgency in seismic preparedness, in earthquake-tsunami policy. If the aam aadmi's indifference can be assigned to habits of mind, should those concerned with augmenting our seismic preparedness not address that indifference? Should we not be told in clear terms that non-scientists can understand, that are not self-justifying or self-exculpating but frank and consultative, as to how and why we need not worry about our reactors being located where earthquakes and tsunami are expected to occur? There is, after all, such a thing as error. And that can include errors of judgment in the calculation of the risk-factor. Should we not be told how and why we need not be anxious about the safety of our reactors? And, if there is cause for anxiety, if not alarm, should the nation not be taken into confidence about those areas of anxiety?

I was working in Colombo when the Kutch earthquake hit us, on our Republic Day, 2001. Shortly thereafter I called on Arthur C. Clarke in his Colombo villa-cum-futurist office. The visionary was confined to a wheel chair from an old spinal injury. He opened the conversation with the earthquake and wheeling himself to his bookshelves pulled out a copy of the squat novel co-authored by him, Richter 10. The novel, unusually, has a foreword by him which begins thus:

"Many years ago I was standing in a Delhi hotel when I became aware of a faint vibration underfoot. 'I had no idea' I said to my hosts, 'that Delhi has a subway system'. 'It doesn't,' they answered. That was my one and only experience of earthquakes."

So, Arthur Clarke's only novel about earthquakes begins with his only real-life experience of an earthquake. And that was in Delhi. Richter 10 is triggered by Delhi, which is right within Seismic Zone Four. Nothing seismically significant may happen in this zone for decades, even centuries. It could, today.

The protagonist in Clarke's novel, Lewis Crane, has been crippled and orphaned in the 'great' Californian earthquake of 1974. He grows to be a physicist and a Nobel Laureate with a passion for devising a method for earthquake prediction.

The world does not heed him. The consequences are terrible.

Returning to the Kutch earthquake, Clarke went on to say that while earthquake prediction may take some more time, what should be done is to inaugurate a new architecture in quake-prone areas which would not oblige the devastation.

Where does earthquake anticipation in India stand today? There is some good news. Only, it is still not widely shared! India and Iceland are working together in this vital life-and-death field. But why does the nation not know more about that venture? Ought we not, for the sake of being better informed and being better prepared, be made aware of the consequences of ignorance and inaction and the advantages of preparedness?

As to quake-resistant architecture, do we know of major initiatives in our cities and towns to identify buildings that are vulnerable, either on account of their age or their quality? We do not. Do we know of clearly visible steps to regulate high-rise constructions in zones of high vulnerability? We do not. On the other hand, we have been treated to the following advertisement recently of a high rise residential structure coming up in the very heart of Zone 4: " …offers a variety of living solutions ... With …'s unprecedented levels of luxury, comforts & services, live above everyone else. Height titillates. Height satiates your desire to fly. It's at height that you come alive. With height, you break away from gravity and feel free …"

Building activity of the multi-storeyed kind proceeds in our Zones of High Risk remorselessly. That New Delhi and Narora where we have a nuclear power plant are located in Zone 4 where the general occurrence of earthquakes is of 5-6 magnitude, a few of magnitude 6-7 and occasionally of 7-8 magnitude and that, therefore, Delhi and Narora lie among the high-risk areas is something we should know about, and the State must do something about, visibly and credibly.

'Richter Ten' is not fantasy for us in India, where the sub-continent's tectonic push into the sub-continent goes steadily on. Our great monuments, our gleaming new airports, our sky-scrapers and many of our nuclear reactors, existing and due, are all as vulnerable to the fatal caprice of that crawl as are our smaller homes and hearths.

The Prime Minister's announcement that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board is to be a more autonomous and independent body to boost accountability and transparency in the functioning of the country's nuclear power plants is timely and is to be welcomed. It reflects a wholesome interiorising of Japan's experience. But this step needs to be accompanied by certain other steps like an independent, transparent safety audit of our nuclear facilities (as suggested by Professor Romila Thapar and others.) And these steps should be part of a major re-assessment of engineering and architectural styles, and a re-fashioning of construction regulations in seismic zones and the re-examining of plans such as Coastal Expressways, with a view to long-time learning from Fukushima.

(Gopalkrishna Gandhi is former Governor of West Bengal.)

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THE HINDU

OPED

'PUBLIC RELATIONS TRAIN WRECK' IN WASHINGTON ON THE EVE OF MANMOHAN'S U.S. VISIT

CONCERNS OVER HOW INDIAN PROPOSALS FOR UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL REFORMS WERE BEING ATTACKED IN NEW YORK

HASAN SUROOR

LONDON: United States diplomats in New Delhi apparently watched with nervousness as their colleagues in New York attacked Indian proposals for UN Security Council reforms days ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington in July 2005. Charge d'Affaires Robert Blake, in a strongly-worded cable, called it a "public relations train wreck." He contrasted it with how "astutely" China had handled the issue.

The proposals calling for an expansion of the Security Council were part of a joint Framework Resolution tabled by the G4 countries — India, Germany, Japan and Brazil — in the General Assembly on July 12.

In the cable dated July 14, 2005 ( 36569: confidential), Mr. Blake wrote that the U.S. move had been "badly received in India but the GOI is doing damage control to preserve the positive atmospherics of the PM's July 18-20 Washington visit, including working to ensure the resolution will not come up for a vote while the PM is in Washington."

The cable, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, took potshots at the Indian media and political observers for focussing "only'' on the U.S. position while "neglecting all other comments made during the course of the General Assembly debate'' on the resolution.

"Political observers from across the spectrum," the cable said, "have commented on how astutely the Chinese have managed the gullible Indian public on the UNSC question: despite Beijing's determined but private opposition to the G-4 efforts, the public in India only remembers [Chinese Prime Minister] Wen Jiabao's nod to Indian membership during his April visit, and the Chinese Ambassador's subsequent reaffirmation of Chinese support…In contrast, most Indians see the US position as simply opposed to UNSC expansion and, by extension, Indian aspirations. The aftermath of our UN statement could have been a public relations train wreck given its proximity to the PM's departure, but MEA has stepped in to minimize the effect on the overall message from the visit."

The Indian government, Mr. Blake noted, was "engaged in a delicate balancing act over how much it can manage down expectations of US support for the UNSC seat during the PM's Washington trip without publicly appearing to betray its long campaign."

India's frustration

Other cables on the subject show India's frustration at American foot-dragging. One senior Ministry of External Affairs official likened it to the uncertainty that comes with not knowing whether the other side would ever say 'yes' to a "marriage proposal."

The exchange, which was passed off as a "quip," is reported in a cable ( 34940: confidential), sent by U.S. Ambassador in New Delhi David Mulford on June 17, 2005 after a meeting between the Embassy's Political Officer and Ministry of External Affairs Deputy Secretary (UN Political) Pankaj Sharma.

Mr. Mulford wrote that Mr. Sharma "quickly turned the subject to G-4 UNSC reform proposals, pointing out that the issue 'has been debated for twelve years now'.'' And he "…quipped that India is waiting as if it had made a marriage proposal: the wait is less of a concern 'as long as we get the right answer'."

On another occasion, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Nirupam Sen asked his U.S. counterpart Susan Rice why "the heirs of Gandhi" were being denied a place on the top table.

Mr. Sen's rhetorical poser to Ms. Rice is recorded in a cable dated February 4, 2009 ( 190474: confidential), sent from the U.S. Mission at the UN.

Ms. Rice, who had just taken up the post, told Mr. Sen (both officials have since retired) that the U.S. was "eager to sustain and accelerate recent progress in the U.S.-India bilateral relationship" and wished to enhance cooperation in multilateral fora, especially the UN.

Mr. Sen, according to the cable, "emphasized India's focus on Security Council reform, and asked: 'If the heirs of Stalin and Mao have a seat on the Security Council, why not the heirs of Gandhi?'"

It may not have been the most persuasive argument in support of India's claim to a permanent seat on the Security Council, but it clearly lightened the mood.

Ms. Rice responded that America was "open to Security Council reform and recognizes that the Security Council must change its post-World War II architecture, provided that the changes do not diminish its effectiveness and efficiency."

Mr. Sen insisted that it was important for member-states to know that the U.S. was "open and benevolent" to reform, although it was "not absolutely necessary for the U.S. to weigh in on current negotiations beyond that basic message."

Mr. Sen returned to the theme during a debate in the General Assembly a few months later. There he argued that those aspiring for a permanent seat on the Security Council were more deserving than some of the current permanent members. The remarks touched off a diplomatic row, and the Americans told India such an observation was "in conflict" with New Delhi's official position.

A cable dated November 18, 2005 ( 45547: confidential) from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi reported that Senior Advisor on UN Reform Shirin Tahir-Kheli raised the issue with MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) S. Jaishankar, and the Prime Minister's media adviser Sanjaya Baru.

"In both meetings,'' the cable said, "our interlocutors underlined that PermRep Nirupam Sen's remarks are in conflict with the GOI's expressed position on UNSC reform…Ambassador Tahir-Kheli noted that even if aimed at a 'non-aligned' audience, such comments ripple more widely and raise concerns about the fruits of the 'transformed' US-India relationship…Both Jaishankar and Baru took the point on board and promised to raise it with senior level officials. Baru specifically said he would brief the Prime Minister and was 'not surprised' at Sen's comments, stating he is a 'creature of the 1970s'."

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

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THE HINDU

U.S. AND VATICAN WORK TOGETHER

KATYAYANI MURTI

CHENNAI: Though the Vatican's Deputy Foreign Minister, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, "noted that the Holy See could never applaud warfare" and "shared concerns that the military campaign was outstripping political strategies," according to a leaked cable dated November 2, 2001, he assured U.S. Ambassador Jim Nicholson and South Asia Bureau Afghanistan Coordinator, Jeffrey J. Lunstead, that "the Holy See would support further political and financial initiatives" ( 2134: confidential).

Just over two weeks later, however, according to a cable dated November 19, 2001 and classified by Mr. Nicholson, "Vatican criticism of the war effort is now less likely, according to the Vatican Afghanistan Desk Officer [Monsignor Luis Marrano De Montemayor], since advances by the U.S.-led coalition facilitate a more effective response to Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis than [the Vatican] anticipated" ( 2205: confidential).

The U.S. actively worked to cultivate the Vatican's approval, as evidenced by Mr. Nicholson's recommendation that the U.S. "explore means to engage the Vatican in order to reinforce tacit Vatican support for U.S. policy goals in Afghanistan," suggesting that "U.S. inclusion of [Vatican umbrella aid arm] Cor Unum (and Caritas, a related relief arm) would help elevate the Vatican to the rank of a coalition partner in the next phase of [U.S.] efforts," according to the cable.

The Vatican, meanwhile, strove to convey the function of religion in establishing peace in West Asia, carving out a role for itself in the process.

"The masses in Islamic societies…depend on religious leadership," Migliore is quoted as saying in the November 2, 2001 cable. "If religious leaders will not distance themselves from violence, then neither will the population at large…the Holy See can play a role to convince religious counterparts to repudiate violence" ( 2134: confidential).

Nine months later, the Vatican appears to have maintained a similar position, according to a cable documenting a meeting between Acting Deputy Chief of Mission George Frowick and Archbishop Antonio Veglio, Secretary for Eastern Churches and former nuncio in Beirut.

Modern option

According to the cable, Veglio "argued that people in Middle Eastern states should have the 'modern' option of being secular, which makes for a better polity than does theocracy" ( 3387: confidential, dated July 26, 2002).

The cable recounts Veglio asserting that "in many Arab states the constitution is effectively the Koran."

"Governments should no more have the Bible than the Koran as their constitution," said Veglio, according to the cable, at least "if countries in the region were to move toward genuine democratic and tolerant governments."

Christianity, of course, remains the main interest of the Vatican, and Veglio expressed worries about Church stability in the Arab countries, suggesting that this was a cause for concern for secular states as well.

"Christians are leaving the Middle East in great numbers, hollowing out millennia-old Christian communities," according to Veglio, the cable says.

"The younger, more modern, secular and usually Christian people in the Arab Middle East are giving up on their countries and emigrating…Christian communities have been decimated by this emigration, which is something 'the [radical] Muslims want'," it said.

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

 

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THE HINDU

FOREIGN SECRETARY SAW CLOSER COOPERATION ON COUNTER-TERROR WITH U.S. AS 'SILVER LINING' OF 26/11

ON THE GROUND, THOUGH INDIAN INVESTIGATORS SHARED MUCH EVIDENCE WITH THE FBI, THE DISTRUST DID NOT DISAPPEAR

NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN



CHENNAI: Shivshankar Menon, who was Foreign Secretary at the time of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, believed that the crisis presented India with an opportunity to build closer cooperation with the United States.

In a cable dated November 30, 2008 ( 180629: confidential) accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, U.S. Ambassador David Mulford wrote that Mr. Menon saw this as the "only silver lining" of the gruesome attacks.

Mr. Menon told the envoy that India had experienced incidents of terrorism earlier, but the Mumbai attacks were "on a whole new level."

According to Mr. Mulford, the Foreign Secretary said: "My first thought was back to your frequent offers of counter-terrorism assistance, which it is clear we really need."

Referring to a slew of newspaper editorials suggesting that India should learn from the experiences of the U.S. in such contexts, the Foreign Secretary told Mr. Mulford this could be a "silver lining."

"We must make opportunity out of crisis," Mr. Menon said, adding, "we look forward to cooperating as closely as we can."

The Foreign Secretary's remarks have to be seen in the context of opposition in powerful sections of the Indian security establishment to counter-terrorism cooperation with the U.S., and their differences with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) over this.

The opposition stemmed from the Indian security agencies' distrust of the U.S. and the perception that its cooperation with India was bound to be half-hearted as long as it continued to depend on Pakistan for counter-terror cooperation in Afghanistan.

The MEA has traditionally taken a more liberal view, and there is an illustration of this in a cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi on July 10, 2006 ( 70813: confidential).

It quotes MEA Additional Secretary (International Organisations) K.C. Singh as telling Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission, that allegations in the Indian press that a U.S. diplomat used the joint Cyber Security Forum to recruit officers in India's National Security Council Secretariat and that the issue would give Indian intelligence agencies were an excuse not to cooperate with the U.S.

He suggested that a planned visit by a high-level envoy on counter-terrorism cooperation be postponed until a meeting of the India-U.S. Counterterrorism Joint Working Group in October or November 2006. The passage of time would allow for "a more conducive climate among Indian intelligence agencies," he told Mr. Pyatt.

The cable noted that Mr. Singh himself was committed to counter-terrorism cooperation and had raised the allegations "more in a spirit of sorrow than anger."

A face-off

Though Indian investigators subsequently shared plenty of evidence from the Mumbai attacks with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the distrust did not disappear.

Other cables published by The Hindu show that behind the scenes, India and the U.S. had a face-off over how much information from its own Mumbai investigation the FBI could share with Pakistan.

India eventually relented to a conditional sharing of the U.S. demand for information-sharing with Pakistan. As the cables reveal, even the FBI did not get an easy pass to investigate the attack.

When Mr. Mulford and Mr. Menon spoke on November 30, 2008, hours after the security forces had brought the situation in Mumbai under control, one of the items on the Ambassador's agenda was to tell the Foreign Secretary that wherever American citizens were among victims in such situations, his government "insisted" on enhanced law enforcement cooperation and intelligence liaison.

Mr. Menon was able to confirm to him that the Intelligence Bureau had already cleared an eight-member FBI team arriving on November 30 to participate in the investigations. But, he told the Ambassador, until the sites were secured, the team would have to work off-site.

The tensions would continue. But there was cooperation, too. Enough for National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan to declare to the new U.S. Ambassador, Timothy Roemer, on August 11, 2009, ten months after the attacks, that counterterrorism and intelligence-cooperation was "one of the most 'vibrant' areas of U.S.-India cooperation" ( 220281: confidential/noforn).

Mr. Naryanan wanted the U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Cutler Blair to visit India by October 2009 to "build on our success."

But when Mr. Roemer asked Mr. Narayanan if India would be willing to share its classified "after action report" on Mumbai, the envoy noted that the NSA "demurred."

Pointing out that the report had been prepared by the Maharashtra government, he told Mr. Roemer that the Central government would share it as soon as it became available.

When Mr. Roemer suggested that the U.S. and India consider holding a conference to compare lessons learned from 9/11 (New York) and 26/11 (Mumbai), Mr. Narayanan suggested that perhaps an "off the record" brainstorming session would be most useful.

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

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THE HINDU

DOMINANCE OF RSS WILL SPEED UP BJP'S DECLINE, SAID 2005 CABLE

SURESH NAMBATH

CHENNAI: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its Hindu nationalist allies scored a major political victory by intimidating Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani after his positive remarks on Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and the developments could increase the BJP's political decline, according to an assessment by the United States Embassy in New Delhi.

Mr. Advani, during a visit to the Jinnah mausoleum in Karachi on June 4, 2005, had described Jinnah as a "rare individual" who had espoused the cause of secular Pakistan. Subsequently, in a speech to the Karachi Council of Foreign Relations, Economic Affairs and Law, he cited Jinnah's address in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, and said that the founder of Pakistan envisioned a state that guaranteed "equality of all citizens in the eyes of the state and freedom of faith for all citizens." These remarks resulted in the BJP leader coming under attack from within the Sangh Parivar.

U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Robert O. Blake, in a cable sent on June 13, 2005 ( 34527: confidential), noted that Mr. Advani had accepted an inner-party compromise formula that credits him for a successful trip to Pakistan that brought the people of the two countries closer together, but criticises Jinnah for having led a communal agitation to achieve Partition.

Mr. Advani's withdrawal of his resignation as party president [in these circumstances] "demonstrated the power of the RSS and its Hindu nationalist allies, and their continued dominance over the BJP, and will likely increase the party's political decline," Mr. Blake commented.

Referring to the BJP's stated position that the very idea of Hindus and Muslims being two separate nations was repugnant to it, he said this contradicted the historical record, as the two-nation theory first originated in 1923 with the progenitor of Hindutva, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

"Although the BJP leadership patched together a face-saving solution to the crisis, the deep divisions within the BJP and between the BJP and the NDA [National Democratic Alliance] remain. The crisis underlined that there is no second generation BJP leader who can currently bridge the two BJP camps like Advani," the Charge wrote. "The behavior of the second tier of the BJP leadership, such as Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi, which failed to come to his aid when he came under attack from the Sangh Parivar (family of Hindu organizations) reportedly shocked Advani, as he had selected them personally."

In a separate cable sent on July 7, 2005 ( 36045: confidential), the Embassy reported that the BJP was increasingly desperate as it had entered a period of protracted decline. Sensing the Ayodhya attack [in July 2005 by Islamist terrorists who were seeking to target a makeshift Ram temple at the site of the demolished Babri Masjid] as an opportunity, the party moved quickly to exploit the issue, but over-reached itself, according to Geoffrey R. Pyatt, Minister Counselor of Political Affairs. "BJP verbal attacks on Pakistan and burning the Pakistani flag will not go down well with Indians bent on normalizing relations with Islamabad. Likewise, the violent acts of BJP goons to enforce the strike will further alienate Indians fed up with political violence."

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

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THE HINDU

'PEOPLE WILL SEE THROUGH LDF'S GAME'

Q&A
OOMEN CHANDY


In 2006, Oommen Chandy was a man in a hurry, trying to accomplish many things in the short time he was Kerala Chief Minister. After five years as Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Chandy has developed a clear political and economic strategy for the State. Unperturbed by the Left Democratic Front's campaign, led by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, Mr. Chandy asserts that the people of Kerala want peace and prosperity in an interview with GIRISH MENON . Excerpts:

Is Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan's electioneering, which is focused on corruption, the land mafia and sex rackets, disturbing?

The last five years of LDF rule have seen nothing but disputes and controversies, while the problems faced by the people got little attention. Now, the LDF is still continuing with controversies, with the Chief Minister saying he will jail those involved in sex rackets, bring to book the corrupt, and take action against the land mafia. These are things he could have done by merely issuing instructions to his officials; but he has shown extreme lack of political will in taking action. The Opposition raised all these issues in the Assembly, but Mr. Achuthanandan did not even bother to order a probe. He is now seeking a vote for the LDF for the continuation of the existing situation. The people of Kerala will see through this game.

Can you elaborate on the UDF's slogan 'Development and Care'?

The UDF has a clear vision: we are emphasising eco-friendly development that does not promote only profit-making. One of the main stumbling blocks for Kerala's development is the shortage of land — it takes nearly three to four years to acquire land for various development projects, and this stymies progress. In our manifesto, we have proposed a scheme that will ensure adequate compensation for those who give up their land for development; and a rehabilitation package that will ensure that those who sacrifice for the State's development will be the first beneficiaries. Development, while being eco-friendly, will also focus on employment generation and increase in production and productivity. The basic idea is to create new wealth and ensure its equitable distribution to all sections of society. The development model that Kerala has followed is to distribute whatever was available, which led to a higher debt burden. Now we have reached a situation where we cannot incur further debt. There is a large section of people that cannot wait for development to just happen. We want to make it happen in the shortest time.

Kerala appears to be caught up in the politics of rice.

The LDF has promised rice at Rs.2 per kg to all sections, including those above the poverty line. But the government has not made any budgetary allocation for this. In our manifesto, we have promised ration rice at Rs.1 a kg for up to 25 kg per month. We can do this without incurring any additional financial burden.

Are you satisfied with the law and order situation?

Kerala is second in terms of violent crimes reported in 2009, according to the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau. The crime rate is much higher than the national average. Police stations have come under attack, and out of 49 such cases, the CPI(M) was behind a majority of them. The party appears to have given a free hand to its cadres to take the law into their hands. The latest incident of an MLA assaulting a journalist is one example. The basic issue is the functioning style of the CPI(M) leaders and cadres. The people want peace and prosperity; they want the rule of law and their representatives to be law-abiding, credible and transparent. The hallmark of the CPI(M) has been arrogance. More than administrative failures, the verdict in the 2009 Lok Sabha election and the local body elections in 2010 was against this functioning style.

How many seats will the UDF get?

We will win in an impressive manner. The UDF is totally united. For the first time in the last few Assembly elections, there will not be a single rebel in the fray. This is a positive development.

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

INDIA, PAK GESTURES:JUST A PIE IN THE SKY

The joint statement issued on Tuesday at the end of the two-day meeting of the home secretaries of India and Pakistan in New Delhi gives little indication that the relationship between the two countries has been particularly fraught in the past few years following the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. There are anodyne references in the document to both sides committing themselves to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, but none to specifics such as cross-border terrorism or to punishing those who planned and executed the Mumbai attacks.

It is evident that the tone of the common note, and its substance, do not even tangentially seek to capture the principal demands India has been making of Pakistan in recent years. The Indian public could have been spared the espousal of generalities that are meant to signify responsible international behaviour but, if the past is any guide, do not mean much as far as Pakistan is concerned.

Judging by the contents of the joint statement, it appears it had been decided in advance to not aim for negotiations of any kind but to amble through the proceedings with generalities. Is it good diplomacy not to test your interlocutors even when deliberations are meant to be friendly? For Indians, this will be revealed as time goes on. In the light of the present, however, it is legitimate to wonder if the tone of the joint statement — even if it were considered expedient to have one — would have been this if the meeting of the Prime Ministers of the two countries were not in prospect as a result of the cricket diplomacy initiative taken by Dr Manmohan Singh on the eve of the Mohali semi-finals between India and Pakistan in the ongoing cricket World Cup series. Looking at the overall picture, there is every reason for Pakistan to be overjoyed with the outcome. Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik has naturally been effusive about thanking "brother" P. Chidambaram for the smooth outcome. Similar had been the ecstatic exclamations by that country's Prime Minister after the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in July 2009.

Improving the optics before a summit — even one inaugurated in the precincts of a cricket stadium — is a valid exercise provided the ground has been prepared beforehand to extract substantive gains for both sides. Alas, only an incorrigible optimist would say we are there. Such is the parlous state of our diplomacy — especially when guided by the political hand — that Pakistan has been permitted once again to get away with putting its concerns on India's alleged meddling in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province into the joint statement. This, of course, is an entirely artificial construct dreamed up by Pakistan to balance what India has said for years — with offers of proof — about Islamabad's nurturing of jihadists against this country. Balochistan had first found mention in a joint statement after the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, much to the discomfiture of our Parliament, although Pakistan has offered not a shred of evidence to back its claim.

Not unexpectedly, there are placebos in the joint statement. In principle, Islamabad has agreed to receive an Indian delegation to pursue the 26/11 case. This is a gesture of goodwill — under the principle of "comity and reciprocity" — in return for India letting a Pakistan judicial commission to make inquiries about 26/11 in this country. Therefore, it can't mean much. Pakistan would also offer voice samples of those we think planned and executed the Mumbai attacks provided the Lahore high court permits this by overruling a lower court decision. The home secretaries will now be on a hotline phone to transmit real-time intelligence on terrorism to one another. It's all too good to be true. On the whole, we are looking at a pie in the sky.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

RETHINKING PAKISTAN

BHARAT KARNAD

"Cricket diplomacy" and the meeting of the Indian and Pakistan home secretaries are important because these were approved through the back channel maintained by Delhi with the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — the hub of power in Pakistan. Whatever one may think of the Pakistan Army, it is a professional force driven by cold calculation. If it thinks it can get away with some outré action or the other against India, it does not hesitate to prosecute it (think Kargil).

Equally, it will do an about-turn and sue for "honourable peace" if some adventurist action misfires (recall Pervez Musharraf's prodding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seek US intervention in the Kargil conflict, and his virtual mea culpa of January 12, 2002, after the December 13 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament the previous year, in order to pre-empt a punitive Indian response and potentially uncontrollable escalation).
Apparently, Gen. Kayani and his uniformed cohort believe that the policy of orchestrated terrorist outrages has run its course, at least for now, as the Pakistan Army, in the grip of excesses at home by the Tehreek-e-Taliban outfits, unremitting drone attacks by its ally US and of the pressure of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) forces in Afghanistan on the Pashtuns of North Waziristan that's skewing the delicate tribal balance the Pakistani state has obtained over the years in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, needs relief on its eastern border. The question is can India capitalise on what seems to be rethinking underway in the Pakistan Army?

Alas, there is surprisingly less give here than is generally assumed. Rewind to the aftermath of Sharm el-Sheikh and how quickly Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was forced to backtrack on the issue of supposed concessions to his Pakistani counterpart. This is because India's Pakistan policy is hostage to the petty calculations of the political class in the country and powerful ministries within the Indian government with vested interest in portraying Pakistan as menace. Pakistan Army's nursing of terrorism as an asymmetric tool to keep India discomfited sustains this impression. But it does not over-ride the facts of the neighbouring country being economically weak, politically in a pitiful state and destabilised by unending violence and internal strife perpetrated by Islamic extremists. Nor does it preclude the need for a realistic assessment of the "Pakistan threat" given the sheer disparities. Pakistan's gross domestic product, for instance, is less than one-quarter of the market capitalisation of the Mumbai stock exchange!

The trouble is that for the Indian politician ties with Pakistan are an externalisation of the sometimes tense Hindi-Muslim relations at home and both are manipulable for electoral gain. This is crass cynicism at work but the "Pakistan threat" also powers the Indian military's existing force disposition and structure. Thus, the Army's main force is deployed in the west, the short-legged Air Force is attuned mostly for contingencies involving Pakistan and the Navy has its stock North Arabian Sea orientation. Then again, how else can three strike corps worth of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and towed artillery accounting for 26 per cent to 32 per cent of the defence budget be justified if not with reference to Pakistan? Meanwhile, the far more substantive and credible threat emanating from China is only minimally addressed.

The nine Light Mountain Divisions desperately required as offensive capability to keep the People's Liberation Army ensconced on the Tibetan plateau honest is nowhere as glamorous as armoured and mechanised formations. Like the IAS that ensures its group interests are never compromised come hell or high water, "cavalry" generals too are loath to see a reduction of armoured strength sufficient only to thrust and parry against a weak adversary's limited capability.

Indeed, Pakistan is now the touchstone to get the government to wake up to even strategic deficiencies that are far more telling vis a vis China. Rapid Chinese strategic nuclear buildup was met with passivity, but recent press reports about Pakistan surpassing Indian nuclear weapons strength galvanised the government into ordering some remedial action.

Such Pakistan-centricity is ironic in light of the severely controlled wars of manoeuvre India is politically compelled to wage against Pakistan owing to the organic links of kinship and shared religion, culture, language and social norms binding the two countries. There is, moreover, the factor of the politically conscious Muslim electorate wielding the swing vote in almost half the Lok Sabha constituencies, who may countenance bloodying Pakistan but not its destruction. Such systemic constraints are not acknowledged by either side but have been in force from the 1947-48 Kashmir operations onwards. In any case, which Indian government would order a military dismantling of the Pakistani state resulting in 180 million Muslims, pickled in fundamentalist juices for half a century, rejoining the Indian fold?

The home ministry, intelligence agencies and Central and state police organisations, animated by an institutional habit of mind, are, likewise, Pakistan-fixated and feed the popular paranoia of a rogue Pakistan always preparing for the next terrorist spectacular on Indian soil. As the 2002 Operation Parakram showed, the right response to Islamabad-supported jihadi actions is not mobilising field armies but instantaneous retaliatory airstrikes on terrorist installations in Pakistani Kashmir in tandem with targeted intelligence operations elsewhere in that country. Combine the stick of such pressure with the carrot of incentives to wean Pakistan from its hostility, such as unilateral easing of the visa regime, and offer of open trade and investment. It is a policy mix Delhi has not seriously pursued.

But, surely nuclear Pakistan poses a threat? Short of total demolition, which India has not intended even with conventional military means, Pakistan will be offered no excuse for going nuclear. However, if despite the nuclear taboo the General Staff in Rawalpindi contemplates nuclear weapon use for any reason, including in what passes for "wars" in these parts, they'll be ultimately dissuaded by an "exchange ratio" prohibitively stacked against their country. Loss of two Indian cities is not recompense enough for the certain extinction of Pakistan. It is simply a bad bargain.

bharat karnad is professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

MAKING A COMMON CAUSE

Two days ago MLAs from all parties in the Legislative Assembly staged a walkout from the session. The reason that brought them together was that a senior bureaucrat in State administration had not shown proper courtesy to an MLA who had come to see him in his office in connection with some public matter. The bureaucrat is alleged to have given him scurvy treatment. The shouting and protesting MLAs demanded in unison that MLA protocol needed to be implemented in letter and spirit, and their representative position acknowledged without a grudge. Some of the MLAs fervent to superimpose their status were heard placing MLAs higher in status to Chief Secretary according to the protocol. In Parliamentary democracy it is rather uncommon that the entire House stages a walkout for not too serious a case or a cause that should ordinarily be addressed by the top echelons of administration, namely the Chief Secretary.

Kashmir watchers have been heard of making one particular observation in this context. It is alleged that Omar Abdullah Government does not hold a firm grip on the bureaucracy. The culture of administrative dominance emanating from compulsive accountability in democratic set up, and in essence representing the will of the State is rather weak with the present regime. This has manifested in the form of protestation by the legislature. This could be a signal that tidying up control over the bureaucracy cannot be underestimated. Going to the core of legislature-executive spat, one finds that the MLAs, one and all, have been finding themselves ill at ease with the nature of relationship presently existing between the two. In a sense, it is a tussle between the two for supremacy. This conflicting scenario is not exclusive to our State; it is an on-going phenomenon of democratic arrangement anywhere. Though the constitution and administrative jurisprudence of rules of business provide sufficient material that helps demarcating the areas of activity for each organ, yet in an overall estimation, only reasonable coordination between the legislature and the executive provides the requisite conditions for smooth running of the State administration.

MLAS and MPs are public servants with deep and wide roots among the people of their constituencies. As representatives of the people they are enjoined to push forward needs and aspirations of the people and also help solve these through persuasion and intervention. On this basis, they expect the bureaucracy to be all helpful and cooperative. It is their right to approach official quarters for getting things done. The bureaucrats have to give them a patient hearing. They cannot be ignored or given a cold shoulder. Even if the bureaucracy is unable to do as they want things to be done, that is no excuse for being discourteous. Apart from that, there are other aspects of the situation which we would like to take note of. It has been observed that MLAs often brandishing their strength as people's representatives, want the bureaucracy to break or circumvent the established norms of red tape-ism and the entire process of disposing off official formalities established by law, which, in ordinary course of time, is somewhat cumbersome and time consuming. MLAs exert great pressures on bureaucrats to get things done in the twinkling of an eye. At times, the MLAs even want the bureaucrats to even defy rules and oblige them in appointments, promotions, transfers, postings, assignments and contracts etc. MLAs cannot deny such thing happening within their knowledge or on their behest. Bureaucrats are bound by the established rules and regulations. Their first duty is to see that they discharge their official duty strictly in accordance with the rules. An upright bureaucrat will tell an MLA with all politeness that he is incapable of doing something if it goes against the rules. True that humanism and ground realities sometimes demand specific action in specific cases, but that is an exception and cannot be the practice. There is some misunderstanding between the MLAs and the bureaucracy in the present regime. The Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary will have to confer seriously on how this relationship should be streamlined and made productive. They are the two persons who should provide a roadmap for smooth relationship between the two components of the State. As far as the people are concerned, they expect good governance in any case and that means coordination between all organs of the State. The ultimate purpose is to establish welfare state in letter and in practice. The mechanism of building rapport between the legislature and the executive is in place and has been fully functional. Being pragmatic is the essence of any mechanism meant to direct the course of events and actions.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

TURNING A NEW LEAF

Home Secretaries of India and Pakistan both have termed their two day meet as successful and fruitful. The 17-point joint statement issued at the end of the meet reveals the areas that have been deliberated upon. These areas of utmost importance for reducing trust deficit and bringing relations of a different keel of cooperation. Hence it inspires the hope that Indo-Pak relations are wriggling out of old mindset on either side and are being remodeled on new note of cooperation and coordination. If it happens, this would be an achievement of the two Prime Ministers who have a new vision of the entire gamut of bilateral relationship. The Home Secretaries have done their homework to the satisfaction of stakeholders and the ground is now prepared for the two prime ministers to take another step forward. The most crucial result of the meeting of two Home Secretaries is the commitment of both sides to work against terrorism and to ensure that no malevolent elements are allowed to vitiate relations between the two countries. It is encouraging to note that the democratically elected Government in Pakistan is gradually asserting and the powerful military has understood that it has to give support to peace initiatives made by the representative Government. Peace initiatives are bound to strengthen her democratic institutions. Recent developments in the Middle East and the aspirations of vast populations there for replacement of autocratic and despotic regimes by democratically elected representative governments is the only way of changing their destiny from a dependent to an independent State. The future of India-Pakistan fraternal relationship lies in their close cooperation in the fields of international relations, economics, science and technology and culture. It should be possible for them to be effective in SAARC and to think of forging a new South Asian Countries Union on the pattern of European Union. If this kind of thinking gains ground, then we can hope that the world outside will be too happy to extend its helping hand. Winning the goodwill of world community is a source of strength. Both need it and Pakistan needs it rather badly because of home-grown terror straddling her backyard.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

INSTITUTIONAL INTEGRITY

BY JOGINDER SINGH

A self anointed class of politicians have come up, in the form of some MLA's, MP's and Ministers, who not only feel that they are above the law, but also suffer from the delusion, that they are above any system. This is, despite the Supreme Court ruling which says, that ''However High You May Be, The Law Is Above You''.

As the Governments in the Centre and some States are cobbled up coalitions, the tantrums and demands, however unreasonable and even against the law are conceded. Even otherwise, the party hopping is not something new, and a favour done for love or money or possible votes in future, may earn dividends many times more.

Delhi Lokayukta recommended the removal of Delhi Government PWD Minister, for trying to protect, a leading resort in a tax evasion case. The order was in a case pertaining to the Minister's alleged involvement in influencing a team of tax officials to provide relief to the resort in a tax evasion case.

''In his order, the Lokayukta has recommended to President of India to withdraw her pleasure in allowing the Minister to continue as a Minister in Delhi Government.''

The Lokayukta has made the recommendation to the President, who is the competent authority to withdraw the pleasure for the Minister to hold office in terms of clause five of Article 239 (AA) of the Constitution of India and Section 12 of Delhi Lokayukta-Uplokayukta Act, 1995. The Lokayukta has also recommended prosecution of the Minister under various Sections of Delhi Value Added Tax Act, 2004.

When questioned by the media, the Minister said, ''I am a public representative. I always try to help people. I may have made the call to help somebody who had requested me for some favour. ''He claimed that his orders were of recommendatory nature only.

The Lokayukta had taken suo motu action on media reports that VAT Commissioner had written to the Delhi Government saying that a Minister had asked him to recall enforcement team from the survey Morality is simply knowing, what you have right to do and what is right to do.

A Government Minister simply taking a defence that a voter or a public man had approached him to save him from a tax raid or survey, can be stretched, theoretically by any Home Minister that since a public man had approached him to save a person accused of murder or dacoity or rape or pick pocketing as he simply telephoned police, to help him as did in the present case.

The Constitution of India, guarantees equality of status and opportunities to all and not only to those, who can gain access to the Ministers, either for love or money or for any other reason. This approach trotted by the Minister is a violation of the his oath of secrecy and office and of ensuring equal justice to all.

Another Government, that is Maharashtra, has issued an order in January, 2011, asking the police officers not to mention about the recommendations of politicians in criminal matters in their Police diaries. It claimed that it is not in the interest of administration of justice.

The decision seems to have been taken after the apex court of the country pulled up former Maharashtra Chief Minister and now Union Minister, for interfering in police investigations in a case involving money lending allegations against his close Congress compatriots.

The investigating officer in that particular case is reported to have mentioned the recommendations in police diary and after taking serious note of this the apex court has said, that the manner in which the constitutional functionaries, behave was extremely shocking.

The circular mentions that there have been instances when Police officers have mentioned details of their telephonic conversations with the politicians and have sent them to the court, adding that no such communication should be mentioned in station diaries henceforth.

In the present case, it was stated that as many as 34 complaints were registered against the MLA and his family till June 28, 2006, but due to then Chief Minister's interference, no subsequent cases were registered by the police forcing the distressed farmers to move the high court. The Supreme Court observed in the above case; ''It is sad and shocking to see how the Government allows and appreciates such Ministers. Not only that, it also gives them a cabinet post.

It is not a dignified act and I would call it a shameless act... It said the action of Deshmukh was condemnable as he acted beyond ''all legal norms'' for ''political consideration'' despite Vidharbha region having the dubious distinction of witnessing the largest number of farmers' suicides.

''Chief Minister's instructions are so incongruous and anachronistic, being in defiance of all logic and reason, that our conscience is deeply disturbed. We condemn the same in no uncertain terms.''

Due to vote bank politics, some politicians, also use police, to fix their opponents giving telephonic directions to cops. Again, Maharashtra Assembly witnessed uproarious scenes and adjournments, in March, 2010, as the Opposition protested against the police manhandling an opposition MLA named Jadhav and sought action against the policeman concerned.

The MLA and State Home Minister traded charges in the House, with the latter mentioning the previous cases against MLA and alleging that he had assaulted a policewoman after his vehicle was stopped as per the security restrictions which led to the incident in January. However to buy peace, the Government suspended the police officers, as sacrificial lambs.

While quashing the appointment of a former CVC, who no doubt would have pulled very high strings to get the job, the Supreme Court has used the word of Institutional Integrity, without going into the details of any individual.

In our democracy, no Government, which is separate from a political party, can go beyond the rule of law. It requires some authority under the law or rules framed and approved by the competent authority.

There are no special rights of the Ministers or MLA's under any law. But a Government made-up of coalitions is averse, to stick to rule of law. It would rather stick to chair, either by hook or crook or use of any means, fair or foul, thus sacrificing governance and rights of the poorest of the poor.

Churchil had this to say during the debate in British Parliament on grant of Independence to India, in 1947. 'Liberty is man's birth right. However to give the reins of Government to Congress at the juncture, is to hand over the destiny of hungry millions into the hands of rascals, rogues and freebooters.

Not a bottle of water on a loaf of bread shall escape taxation; only the air will be free and the blood of these hungry millions will be on the head of Mr Atlee.

India will be lost in political squabbles... It will take thousands years for them to enter periphery of philosophy or politics.

Today, we hand over the reins of Government to men of straw of whom no trace will be found after a few years'. One hopes that Government listens to the prophetic warning of Churchill and tries to prove him wrong. (PTI)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SCIENCE & MATHS KITS

BY DHEERAJ JANDIAL

"The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book….."Anonymous

There has been a rapid expansion of knowledge in recent years. Realization of the relevance of education as reflected in human thought, style, social values and culture have made it imperative to upgrade the curriculum and learning approaches in order to improve the quality of life. To make a student scientifically literate citizen as envisaged in the National Policy of Education (NPE) 1986 and National Curriculum Framework, 2005 (NCF), there is an imperative need for learner to understand and apply the basic concepts of science, learn scientific enquiry skills of gathering information and develop desirable attitudes and values appreciation for truth and objectivity.

The National Curriculum Framework-2005 recommends that children's experience in school education must be linked to the outside school so that learning is joyful and fills the gap between the experience at home and in community. It recommends diffusing the sharp boundaries between different subjects and discourages rote learning. Precisely, it is in this context that National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has designed, developed and produced Science and Maths Laboratory Kits for all stages and levels. These Kits which are more or less a prototype of carry-away laboratories stored in a container and hence christened as 'KITs' help in learning the scientific principles effectively besides promoting development and use of technology. The overall objective which the Science and Maths Kits have desired to achieve is to shift the emphasis from rote memory based, content oriented and teacher-centered method of teaching to hands-on, head-on and heart-on approaches (i.e 3H methodology involving the joy of experimenting with ones own hands, with ones own mind and then having the ecstasy of achieving knowledge).

What is most remarkable about the Science and Maths kits is that it provides an suitable alternative to the country to promote science learning in a practical way by taking Laboratories to the Classrooms rather than expending on infrastructure that may take decades. For a country like India, where infrastructure in rural schools is dismal, such brilliant ideas can definitely transform the whole concept of teaching and learning. The development of micro laboratories in the form of Science and Maths Kits by NCERT has provided the answer to the connoisseurs who kept citing the reason that infrastructure creation in form of laboratories is impeding the growth of scientific temper among the posterity in India.

These Laboratory kits (mobile) are packet in a container housing all the salts, solutions and implants ranging from a handy microscope to a mini-generator. The Kits even have written material in the form of manuals describing how to proceed with the experimentation and analysis. Thus, the approach provide plenty of opportunity for thinking, reasoning and looking at science in its totality as a highly rational, intellectual, problem solving human activity. However, to make the best use of the learning situations, it is very essential that the teacher is provided with effective learning practical know-how in addition to textbooks.

Remember, what Albert Einstein once said "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." It is in this context that textbooks alone cannot provide the right learning material. Unfortunately, teaching of science in India has been textbook centered. No doubt textbook serves as a springboard for instructions and learning, yet Hands-on, Head-on and Heart-on (3 H) learning activities through kits are used to reinforce and extend what the students have been reading in the text and what they have learned through class discussions. At the completion of a chapter or unit, these activities are useful in helping students to establish the relationship of concepts and synthesize their knowledge. The teaching of laboratory skills, problem-solving strategies and group learning techniques can be easily incorporated into the learning activity through the Kits. Teachers who use only textbooks often wonder why their students lack the motivation to learn, as well as why their students often have difficulty learning facts for tests. Contrary to this teachers who provide appropriate materials for children to interact and experiment succeed in raising both motivation and understanding of the rudimentaries amongst their students.

NCERT Science and Maths kits are therefore an attempt to improve this scenario as these propel the learner to:-

* firstly investigate;

* secondly to develop observation skills;

* thirdly to record observations;

* fourthly to structure, organize and communicate;

* fifthly to hypothesize and analyze data, and;

* lastly to draw relevant inferences.

The Science and Maths Kits as such provide a viable alternative in introducing laboratory culture into institutions too poorly equipped, apart from reducing the health risks to students and teachers owing to chemical reactions especially under the Chemistry discipline. These Kits being potable also needs smaller storage area and therefore overcomes the space constraints besides cutting-up reliance on intensive ventilation systems with a significant reduction in electricity and water consumption. Above all, the Science and Maths Kits stimulate a pleasant working atmosphere, which is basic to any learning pedagogy.

For the hilly states like Jammu and Kashmir, where educational institutions face space and financial constraints to build up laboratories, Science and Maths kits developed by NCERT for all stages i.e Primary, Upper Primary, Secondary, Senior Secondary and Toy kits offer instant and perfect solution. Let us not forget that the genuine objective of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives. One must seek inspiration from the American educator Marva Collins, who successfully started Westside Preparatory Schools for the impoverished in Chicago during the later-half of the 20th century and was of the opinion, "There is a brilliant child locked inside every student. Don't try to fix the students, fix ourselves first. The good teacher makes the poor student good and the good student superior. When our students fail, we, as teachers, too, have failed…..".

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

STATUS OF WOMEN IN INDIAN SOCIETY

BY N. SUGUNA

If we look at the environment around a woman in the Indian Society, three things become obvious, we have entered the 21st century, still women are projected as a dependent soul on and for material, moral and physical support. She cannot exist without a man and vice versa. We never had a woman's liberation movement worth the name; and social taboos which discriminate against women are perpetuated by the women themselves. Still an average Indian woman considers that a male child is better than the girl child.

Secondly, the entire media both print and electronic project women, by and large, as a source of pleasure and entertainment, if we take the entire Indian film industry, how many films do we have, with woman in a dominating role. Probably one can count them on their fingertips. And take the women magazines and compare them with the rest. Unconsciously, they perpetuate the traditional image. They never project the image of women on the move.

Lastly, the fiction around us project the suffering and exploitation of women in such a lucid fashion, over a period of time women have been conditioned to think that our lives have to be like that.

In other words, woman as an unfortunate person has been accepted by one and all including women themselves. The result of this unconscious conditioning has been many and varied. For instance, even if the government wants to bring revolutionary changes in the status of women, the social structure makes it a painfully slow process, almost giving the impression they refer status quo. To give one example of this status quo, while the toys with which a girl child played remained more or less same, there is a revolution in the toys for male child, the "Lakkapidatalu"(toys made of lac &wood popularily known as Lakkapidatalu in Andhra) of our childhood is replaced by a stainless steel kitchen set. On the other hand "Bongaralu" (top or lattu) of my brothers were replaced by pistols, aeroplanes in tune with the changing times.

The end result of this status quo thinking among Indian women resulted in negative thinking. If we take 10 articles written by women at random, hardly 3 or 4 would reflect the persecution psyche, and the remaining would be how to cook or how to dress or beauty care. And in the process women are projected as dumb dolls who always are interested in kitchen or enhancing their beauty.

One explanation that can be given for this unusual phenomenon could be that we are living in a transitory social system. We are all born and brought up in small towns and villages of interior India; and there was no information revolution then. Things have changed considerably in our life time itself. First the television exposed the trend in modern living all over the county. Secondly the process of computerisation, urbanization is making us aware of these changes. Few of us may undergo change, but our next generation will have a different outlook. Probably this is true to certain extent.

But this process can be accelerated in a number of ways and to inculcate an element of positive thinking among women. Foremost among them would be to encourage writings which would bring out a women's personality in a constructive way. They should project women, not just as an exploited person, but women as a focal point. This should be done at popular level, in literature, movies, television programs. For instance a TV serial like 'Udaan' should not be an exception.

Since we have one of the most progressive political systems, women should make full use of it to bring in the needed changes in our perceptions. For instance, non-governmental organizations should monitor the implementation of the laws of the land regarding women. Today most of the NGOs focusing on women are truly focusing on getting photographed with politicians in 'pooja's' and picnics. One of the areas the NGOs could work is free education for the women for the next twenty five years. Lastly, the social set up has succeeded in highlighting an issue like bride burning. If we also succeed in getting the society to project a woman's achievements with equal amount of vehemence, we will be making these women to get out of this negative thinking and persecution mania. (CNF)

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BLACK (MONEY) HOLE!

COUNTRY HAS BEEN BLED WHITE

 

THE Supreme Court has been going hammer and tongs against the octopus called black money but the lethal creature remains in fine fettle. There is reason for the apex court's activism. An astronomical sum of $1.7 trillion, whose enormity a common man cannot even comprehend, has been stashed away in foreign bank accounts, leaving the country in an anaemic state. While other nations like Malaysia in the neighbourhood who gained independence at almost the same time as India did gallop forward to almost join the developed world, our country has been struggling to provide even two square meals to its citizens. Whether it is health, roads or education, the country presents a sorry picture. How can things be any better when a large chunk of its wealth goes towards lining private pockets?

 

Somehow, most of the black money trails lead to politicians. If they are themselves not minting billions, it is their proxies. This has been coming to light extraordinarily forcefully in the Hasan Ali affair. No wonder politicians only deliver speeches about cleansing the system but never walk the talk. It is a vicious cycle. A large portion of the black money is utilised to win elections. As a result, more and more undeserving people get elected and then further vitiate the system.

 

The reputation of investigating agencies happens to be in the mud and the country figures so high on the corruption list. This politician-criminal-bureaucrat nexus has taken a stranglehold on the body politic. It is ironical because the country happens to have a Prime Minister whose personal integrity and honesty are above reproach. In his second term, he should make it a matter of honour to go after the corrupt with the same zeal that the Supreme Court is showing. Otherwise, his personal reputation can get besmirched by the numerous scandals that have erupted during his regime

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

POST-BUDGET TAXES

PUNJAB GOVT TAKING THE BACK DOOR ROUTE

 

THE Punjab Cabinet raised the purchase tax for wheat and paddy from 4 per cent to 5 per cent on Tuesday. Payable by the Food Corporation of India, the tax will fetch Rs 100 crore annually for the exchequer. The Centre pays the price ultimately and it will accordingly limit annual increases in the minimum support prices for wheat and paddy, which means farmers too will feel the heat. Farmers grow wheat and paddy and the FCI buys these, but the "farmer-friendly" state government imposes mandi taxes. This raises the cost of food for common people. In February Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had told the state chief secretaries that to tame inflation "there seems to be a strong case for abolishing mandi tax, octroi and local taxes, which impede the smooth movement of essential commodities".

 

The Punjab government extracts its price for giving "free power" to farmers. Experts suggest the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) Act should be amended to let farmers sell their produce direct to private buyers or even export. At present farmers have to sell wheat and paddy only to government agencies, which pay only the minimum support prices and not the market prices. Private firms keep off Punjab and Haryana mandis because of the high local taxes. A group of Central ministers has also favoured an amendment to the APMC Act to prevent cartels of traders from manipulating prices.

 

It is true the cash-strapped Punjab government needs to raise revenue. But why do it after presenting a budget with no new taxes? A day after the budget on March 14 the government imposed a tax on commercial institutions and buildings coming up outside the municipal limits and having a covered area of more than 500 square feet. Then at its Tuesday meeting the Cabinet quietly cut VAT on truck and bus body fabrication from 12.5 per cent to 5 per cent, indirectly benefiting state politicians, including the Badals, running transport businesses. The questionable budgetary figures, the non-transparent slashing of the allocation for power, the post-budget tax hikes and tax concessions to the undeserving sections present a government less than honest in managing its affairs.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

SMASH MNC CARTELS

LIFE-SAVING MEDICINES MUST BE AFFORDABLE

 

MAKING life-saving drugs available to the poor in developing countries remains a challenge. Prices tend to fall if competition is ensured among drug-manufacturing companies in the market. Quite often multinational corporations join hands to form cartels and jack up medicine prices. This is quite possible since the regulatory systems in the developing countries are often ineffective and open to influence. Therefore, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma's comment at the CII-Exim Bank Conclave in Delhi on Monday that MNC cartels deny ordinary people an access to life-saving medicines comes as no surprise.

 

Though the Commerce Minister referred to MNC cartels operating in poorer regions like Africa, the situation is not very different in India. Even though the drug prices are controlled by the Indian government, malpractices abound in the sector. Overcharging is common. The systemic laxity can be gauged from the fact that narcotics are easily available at chemist shops in Punjab. Identical medicines' prices tend to vary vastly. Stents are not very expensive if bought in the open market, but when private hospitals offer these to heart patients in an emergency, they charge astronomical prices. A cleanup of the healthcare system is urgently required.

 

The issue of providing access to life-saving drugs to the poor has been discussed at various forums, including the WHO and the WTO. Experts have suggested "differential pricing" as a solution. It means companies should charge different prices in different countries depending on the purchasing power of people. For long drug prices in countries like India had been low because domestic firms produced drugs originally made by MNCs by following a different process. The patent law was flexible. With globalization, drug MNCs are putting pressure on governments to protect their intellectual property rights. Companies which spend heavily on research and production of rare drugs need to get reasonable returns on their intellectual and financial investments. It is in this context that the idea of differential pricing has come up and is gaining wider acceptance.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

NEW TRENDS IN FOREIGN POLICY

LEARNING FROM WESTERN ACTION IN LIBYA

BY G. PARTHASARATHY

 

AFTER emerging from a situation two decades ago, when the country was bankrupt and internationally isolated following the collapse of the Soviet Union, India can derive satisfaction with what has been achieved since then. The nuclear tests of 1998 and the end of global nuclear sanctions by the Nuclear Suppliers Group have led to worldwide recognition of India as a legitimate nuclear weapons power. It is now for India to negotiate skilfully with partners like Russia, France, the US and Canada to see that the agreements on nuclear power it signs are economically advantageous and meet the highest standards of transparency and nuclear safety.

 

With a sustained high rate of economic growth and increasing integration with the global economy, India is now a member of the G 20 and the expanded East Asia Summit comprising the members of ASEAN together with the US, Russia, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. It is closely linked to emerging economic powers like Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa through forums like BRICS and IBSA. It is only a question of time before India joins the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, laying the grounds for a larger profile in Central Asia. But it is crucial that despite its economic progress, India has to retain its strategic autonomy if it is to be respected internationally.

 

India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) has been endorsed by all its permanent members except China, which remains distinctly obstructive. But, given the absence of consensus on the size and composition of an expanded UNSC, It is evident that there is still a long way to go before India's ambitions on this score are fulfilled. In the meantime, there have been unambiguous suggestions from the US and even its client states like the United Kingdom, suggesting that India would be considered worthy of a permanent seat in the UNSC only if the "international community" (a euphemism for the NATO members) is satisfied with how India "behaves" with its voting on important contemporary issues as a non-permanent member of the UNSC. These are pressures India will have to be resisted and deftly deflected.

 

Despite these Western blandishments, New Delhi appears to have shaped the broad contours of how it will deal with pressures involving  typical Western double standards on "human rights" and their pet topic of "Responsibility to Protect". One is all too aware of how NATO did not hesitate to dismember Yugoslavia in the 1990s after virtually demonising the Serbs. Force was then used to carve out and recognise Kosovo—an action mercifully not sanctified even now by a majority of the UN member-states. The UN General Assembly resolution of 2005 on the "Responsibility to Protect" has been used at the convenience of the NATO members to pressurise and seek to remove regimes alleged to be guilty of "war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity". Needless to say, NATO would not dare to act on anything the Russians do in Chechnya, or against Chinese clampdowns in Xinjiang, or Tibet.

 

Genocide in Rwanda will be long ignored because it is a poor African country with no oil or mineral resources. NATO will turn a blind eye when a Sunni minority ruling elite in Bahrain clamps down on the Shia majority in the country because the US Fifth Fleet has bases there. But if Colonel Gaddafi clamps down in oil-rich Libya he is targeted with a "no fly zone" and bombed by the virtuous British and French, with American backing.

 

There now appears to be a clearer enunciation of Indian thinking on such issues. After consultations with like-minded emerging powers like Brazil and South Africa, India made it clear that on issues like developments in Libya, it will first seek consultations with regional groupings like the Arab League and the African Union before finalising its response. Rather than blindly following the Western lead, India would seek to forge and back a regional consensus in formulating its policies. This would mean that in developments in sub-Saharan Africa, Indian policies will take into account the prevailing views and a consensus, if any, in the African Union.

 

On Zimbabwe, the advice of South Africa would be more important than that of Whitehall. In Myanmar, India will seek to promote and back a consensus evolved in consultation with ASEAN. The views of the GCC would be of primary importance in formulating policies on developments like the Shia-Sunni divide in Bahrain. This policy makes it clear that India is not going to be a rubber stamp for Anglo-American and NATO policies of selective use of force against the regimes considered distasteful.

 

Over 17000 Indians living across Libya have safely returned home, thanks to commendable work by Indian Ambassador Manimekalai and her staff. Col Muammar Gaddafi knows that India is not exactly pleased by his use of air-power against his own people (as Pakistan is regularly doing in Baluchistan and in its tribal areas). India nevertheless joined hands with Russia, China, Germany and Brazil in abstaining on the March 17 Security Council resolution on Libya because of the absence of carefully considered guidelines on the use of force amidst a raging civil war, the lack of specificity on the countries and organizations undertaking the military effort and the absence of any clarity on how a political solution would be evolved to end the Libyan impasse.

 

The fiasco in Somalia and the attempt for "regime change" in Iraq demonstrate how misguided external intervention can have disastrous consequences. India is concerned that the military intervention in Libya is going to result in a prolonged stalemate and growing radicalisation in West Asia. It will inevitably be perceived there as an attempt to partition an oil-rich Muslim country.

 

If "gunboat diplomacy" was the hallmark of European colonial powers in the 19th century, "no fly zone" NATO diplomacy seems to be the order of the day after the Cold War.  Lessons will be learned only after European powers, who have no appetite for real combat and body bags in tough places like Afghanistan, face the wrath of people opposing them, as the Americans did because of the ill-advised military interventions in Lebanon in 1983 and in Somalia in 1993.

 

Tired and tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Americans understandably appear more cautious in taking the lead in intervening in Libya. It is heartening that despite serious controversies in Parliament on issues ranging from the WikiLeaks disclosures to the 2G spectrum scam, our parliamentarians were unanimous in opposing the use of force by NATO members in Libya.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

TWO-WHEELED IMPRESSIONS!

BY RAJBIR DESWAL

 

Virtually on the 'pillion' of this middle, I reserve my right not to be sued by two-wheeler producing companies, since what I shall be hiking with is just the impression created in the minds of people about the personality of the people who rode those two-wheelers before Pankaj Kapoor's 'Splendor' era dawned. Remember the ad when he suggestively reconnoitres the curves of the two-wheeler; a biking experience recalled with an eye gone blind, though!

 

Let's go wrooming then! Call me subjectivity-possessed or self-conceited, but my father had in his youth, one of the first Jawas (later Yezdi) of the three imported, as the first consignment reaching Delhi in 1949, for 'just' 1700 bucks. Till it tossed out of the market, the brand was a guarantee of the owner's 'most eligible bachelor and a gentleman' status. The way it was put in the first gear, with a polished and pointed shoe, could make any girl of those times swoon and drool, before opting for a marital-pillion.

 

Royal-Enfield was real royal. In style as also in looks. The exhaust-sound of dhub-dhub-dhub-dhub announced its robust, well-meaning and dependable character. The Army and the police professionals had a near-crush on it. And they looked awesome in their uniform riding it, as if the bike was a natural part of the enforcement guys' paraphernalia and ensemble. The bike has been known for its balance — literally. It earned a sobriquet — Bullet — for its 'customer-killer-instinct'

 

Rajdoot was another brand which suited the field operators, at a slightly lower functional level of bureaucracy, business and delivery-services. In fact, being comparatively economical, this brand became a darling of the toiling classes, of whom the milkmen dominated the scene, driving with tight-hanging containers, like a moving Christmas tree.

 

Before I move on to the scooters, a mention of the rearview mirror, on all the three brands here, is interesting to recall. Bullet had two on either side; Jawa had one on the right; and Rajdoot either didn't have any, or one dangling on to its handle!

 

In the scooters category, Lambretta was masculine in appearance and preference. It had two bonnet-covers on either side. Also it had two funny bicycle-like seats. Generally bank managers, advocates et al preferred them.

 

Vespa in its later avtar of Chetak Bajaj became a sudden craze for all and sundry. It had a huge premium on it and the wait too used to be long. People in the pre-Maruti era, if they were something in their social reckoning, would invariably go for it. It was sleek and curvy and was more feminine. Women preferred it though! Priya was another name worth mentioning.

 

I remember in my school, a boy from an affluent family had an engine mounted on his bicycle and it was other lesser mortals' envy and the owner's pride. Then came the moped. It was a 'cross' between a mobike and a bicycle. Some had chains and pedals too like you have in bicycles. Generally the clerks and babus preferred them for their fuel-efficiency and low cost.

 

Harley Davidson and BSA were only imported, though the former, of late, has reached India. Kinetic, Scooties, Karizma, Pulsar, Enticer, Yamaha Fireblade, BMW Bikes Hayabusa, Yo Bike have still to find their own brand of buyers. But yes, many of them don't need jhik-jhi-jhik  kick-start but button-ignitions to wrooooooooooooom!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE BIG WORRY OVER DIAGNOSIS

HEALTH CARE LATELY HAS BECOME A VERY ATTRACTIVE BUSINESS VENTURE AND LABORATORIES FOR VARIOUS INVESTIGATIONS ARE MUSHROOMING RAPIDLY. HOWEVER, THEIR GROWTH IS HAPHAZARD AND THEIR UTILISATION WITHOUT ANY DEFINITE DIRECTION OR CONTROL

S.M. BOSE

 

Investigations now form an integral part of medical management of a patient. The emerging importance of this may be gauged from the fact that while a quarter of century back, one could find laboratories only in big hospitals, at present a large number of laboratories, may be 10 times more than the number of hospitals, are found all over the country. These labs have facilities in radiology, radio imaging, nuclear medicine, endoscopy, haematology, biochemistry, virology and immunology etc.

 

These investigations are necessary. The labs are welcome additions but their growth is haphazard, their utilisation without any definite direction or control. Let us evaluate the relevance of the investigations and these laboratories.

 

Need for investigations

 

Three to four decades ago a doctor solely depended upon his clinical examination for establishing the diagnosis of the problem and its sequel. Hands, eyes, ears and nose of the doctor cannot enter the body cavities of the patient (skull, chest and abdomen). The diagnosis could not be certain and mostly used to be very late when cure was a remote possibility.

 

In contrast to this, the present-day doctors do not examine the patient at all, of course exceptions are always there. A large number of patients complain that doctors do not get up from their cozy chairs and all they get in return for the fat consultation fees are slips for investigations.

 

Ideally speaking, a detailed history of the patient should be followed with full systemic examination from head to toes, a provisional diagnosis made; the patient is prescribed medication and asked to undergo specific investigations. Such a systematic routine will establish the correct diagnosis, evaluate the stage of the disease and also assess the patient for his problems.

 

A large percentage of consultants feel that 60 to 70 per cent of patients can be reasonably diagnosed and evaluated only by a good clinical examination. Every senior consultant can recall a number of cases where omission of clinical examination has led to gross errors in spite of sophisticated investigations. Just to give an example, a 70-year-old man was diagnosed to be having lung cancer on the basis of X-ray and CECT scan of the chest. He came to me for second opinion and gave history of urinary problems. His rectal examination revealed a large sized tumour of the prostate gland. The FNAC confirmed my diagnosis of cancer of the prostate and the lung lesion was metastasis.

 

Another patient referred for urgent surgery, had CECT of the abdomen suggesting impending perforation of appendix. Rectal examination revealed constipation. Simple enema cured his problem.

 

Advising investigations without a clinical examination is like going on a tour without having any information about either the route or the destination.

 

Profs. V.K. Kak and S.K.Khanna, eminent surgeons, opine that all the investigations are at present advised not because they are essential but because of other reasons; and this is true to a greater extent in the private sector. It is common knowledge that specialists employed in private hospitals are coaxed to raise the hospital revenues; and prescribing unnecessary and costly investigations is an easy way to achieve this.

 

Evaluation

 

Relevant sophisticated and high-tech investigations are very important but the mere presence of the facility does not help. The clinician should know what specific investigation to advise and more important is also to interpret the result because a good percentage of investigations are not reported correctly.

 

The man behind the machine always remains more important.

 

Health care lately has become a very attractive business venture and laboratories for various investigations are mushrooming rapidly. There is an acute shortage of competent experts to man these labs and error in their interpretation may lead to serious problems.

 

Take for example Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology (FNAC) carried out to establish the diagnosis of breast cancer. Afalse positive interpretation will result in removal of breast and a false negative will lead to a delay in proper management of cancer. Both are serious errors. These problems are seen more frequently in investigations like CT & MRI scans, angiography, Radioactive Isotope studies etc. Ultrasound examination, done very frequently, is cent per cent performer dependent. Varying results are, therefore, common.

 

Mammography is another example, which has come in a big way because of the increasing incidence of breast cancer all over the world. Twenty to 25 per cent of biopsies done for suspicious mammography findings are negative, a big disadvantage but presently there is no better alternative.

 

The error is not only due to non-availability of competent specialists but because of the busy schedule also. A good CT scan of abdomen takes slices at 3 to 5 mm distance and 80 to 100 pictures need to be evaluated and in a busy lab, a specialist finds it difficult to spare that much time.

 

Quality

 

It is a common experience that investigations from different labs give varying results (blood sugar levels of 102 and 140 mgs %); and even the treating doctor does not know which one to rely upon.

 

Unfortunately in our country there is no standardisation of labs and more importantly no stiff penalties for such gross negligence. Need for good equipment, their proper maintenance, availability of quality chemicals is as much essential for reliable results as the meticulous procedures. A large number of investigations are very sensitive, requiring not only proper procedure and reliable chemicals but also proper collection and storage.

 

A recent trend has started to get samples from all over the country through their collection centres and the tests are carried out in their central labs. Naturally one is apprehensive about their modus operandi - collection, storage and transport.

 

What can be done?

 

Investigations are important and an integral part of management of a patient. These will continue to play an

important role but surely one has to look into different aspects of this and all-out efforts should be made to make it more patient friendly.

 

Kak, Khanna and Suri are not alone to feel that marketing forces are calling the shots in all fields of patient management and investigations are no exception.

 

High-tech radiological imaging can be beneficial but must be used very sparingly and only when absolutely necessary because it exposes the body to dangerous ionizing radiation - radiation that is proven to cause cancer. MRI and ultrasound examination can be substituted for an investigation that gives ionizing radiation to the patient.

 

The writer, a former Senior Prof. & Head of Surgery, PGI, Chandigarh, is a former President, Association of Surgeons of India

Excess can be bad

Unnecessary investigations are directionless and can cause major disadvantages; and radiological ones are the worst in this respect.

  • The rapid growth of CT scans, which provide extremely detailed pictures of the body, has led to big increases in the average total radiation exposure. Dr Mercola feels that Americans are now exposed to seven times more radiation from diagnostic scans than they were in 1980 - a risk for everyone but greater for children. "About one-third of all CT scans that are done right now are medically unnecessary … Virtually anyone who presents in the emergency room with pain in the belly or a chronic headache will automatically get a CT scan. Is that justified ?"

David Brenner of Columbia University in an article in New England Journal of Medicine estimated that the overuse of diagnostic CT scans may cause up to 3 million excess cancers over the next 20 to 30 years.

  • These are not free bytes and can be very costly - PET CT Scan in the private sector costs Rs 25000.
  • Majority of the investigations are invasive and are associated with complications, even deaths are known to have occurred.
  • Prof. Sudha Suri, a former head of the radiology department of the PGI, says that the cumulative dose of radiological investigations may be harmful.

A CT scan of the chest delivers 100 times the radiation of a conventional chest X-ray - a fact not known to majority of doctors who prescribe or perform this investigation.

  • The labs get burdened and the quality goes down. Labs are known to write down fake reports without even undertaking the tests.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE

There is an urgent need for a regulatory body which should be empowered with:

Sanctioning the establishment of a lab, however small or big it may be. Anybody with a bag full of money should not be allowed to start a laboratory.

The labs should be graded and should be authorised only to undertake sanctioned investigations.

Labs should be periodically inspected, facilities evaluated, quality assessed and then only recertification sanctioned.

It may be appropriate to fix the rates for investigations so that the patients are not taken for a ride.

Auditing of case files in hospitals and nursing homes is another need of the modern-day patient care. This would surely decrease the number of unnecessary investigations.

Points to ponder

Advising investigations without clinical examination is like going on a tour without having any information about either the route or the destination.

Specialists employed in private hospitals are coaxed to raise the hospital revenues; and prescribing unnecessary and costly investigations is an easy way to achieve this.

We should constantly remember that medical laboratories are concerned with human lives and errors will only bring misery on all fields. We should be able to minimise them.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

NEW VOICE IN FICTION

PREM NATH'S CROWDED ROOMS ETCHES URBAN EXISTENCE IN FINE DETAILS AND DEFTLY MINGLES REALISM AND SURREALISM


Blurbs often exaggerate. This one doesn't. It says, "In the nine stories in Crowded Rooms, Prem Nath etches urban existence in fine detail — a world of towering high-rises, claustrophobic rooms, haunted highways and impersonal office cabins. And even as his characters deal with the boredom and the displacement of modern life, they find new ways of engaging with the world they live in — some real, some dreamlike, but always fresh. Vividly imagined, witty and warm, Crowded Rooms marks the debut of an important new voice in Indian short fiction." (Penguin 2010)

 

It's a pleasure to read English (not an approximation of it) handled with ease, to read stories that are deft in mingling realism and surrealism, and dialogue that is authentic. Two of my favourite stories are the ones in which objects take on a life of their own, but there is a wide range of effects from lyrical to manic: In "a blue day," Rohan learns to accept the end of a relationship. In "the room with the lamps," two bored teenagers shoot at the lamps in Maya's flat from across the road, while members of a teenage gang, similarly bored, alarm an entire city when they paint "You are all guilty" on a prominent billboard.

 

 "TV is good" features Stasis who has been sitting in front of his TV for four years, in a mood of "serene boredom." His parents scream at him to "get a life", but he always replies, "This is my life. I like it." But, one day, alarmed by something he sees on a Reality Show, he decides to switch it off – "although he himself would have probably rated the word 'decided' to be an overstatement, for it was more like a reflex action or perhaps a really powerful twitch." The TV, a wildly sophisticated model a Croatian sold to Stasis, resents being turned off, decides to take revenge. It begins by raising itself off the table, two inches, then four…

 

The Finance head in "an office story" doesn't like Tauro in Marketing: "Too much ponytail, too much moustache – too much bloody hair, frankly." And there's something very suspicious about Tauro using the landline when he has a cellphone. The head writes a memo. As it makes its way Upstairs and Beyond, the memo grows into a mountain of paper. Looking at the faded letters on the carton – Maya Jal Mineral Water – a woman in the US head office decides it's probably part of her project to save the Third World, and sends it to Africa…

 

The narrator in "hill house," refers to the method Prem Nath has chosen, and the role of both writer and writing. Zygote is trying desperately to write a love song for a commercial. In the parking lot where he's gone for a breath of fresh air, he meets a woman called Mrinalini. She turns out to be his muse, but he also likes her as a person. How can he keep both image and person? A muse has to remain distant. He will just have to invent a third Mrinalini, "someone only he knew. Someone he wouldn't have to share with the world. As he walked down the stairs, he started inventing nicknames for her."

 

Towards the end of the story, the narrator says of Zygote, "…if we accept, like he did, that we are part flesh, part stardust, we must also accept that our reality is only half the dream that is life. And the only way into the dream is imagination. The stories we tell, the songs we make, the pictures we paint, they are the only medium through which we can recast our lives and make them beautiful, perfect, even sublime – if only for a moment."

Prem Nath, an English Literature graduate, works in advertising. He says, "I would say I have been writing all my life in one way or another. But after getting through a caferati contest for which the prize was a dekho from a publisher, I started working on this collection in earnest."

 

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EDITORIAL

DOUBLE WHAMMY FOR SMES

RISING WAGE INFLATION ADDS TO THE WOES OF THE STRUGGLING SECTOR

The operating environment of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India has never been an object of envy. Despite accounting for 40 per cent of manufactured goods exports and over 70 per cent of sectoral employment, SMEs have consistently been the Cinderella of the Indian economy. The inability to revitalise the SME sector has arguably been the primary reason for India being reduced to simply admiring China's manufacturing prowess from afar. Concerns about inclusive growth will continue to ring hollow as long as this very important sector of the economy is allowed to languish. SMEs have traditionally been perceived as a lending risk by financial institutions, which have made it extremely difficult for them to borrow in both domestic and international markets. While the Reserve Bank of India moved to relax lending rules in 2008, it left the actual decision to lend to individual banks, which have yet to shed their earlier misgivings. The result is: SMEs tend to be highly undercapitalised, characterised by pervasive technological obsolescence.

Following the economic recovery of the past two years, SMEs increasingly have to contend with another problem: rising wage inflation. Nominal wages in the industrial sector are estimated to have gone up by 23 to 28 per cent in recent months, which is squeezing the already precarious situation of the SMEs. As expected, sharply rising wages have resulted in a high employee turnover, which sharply reduces the incentive for employers to invest in augmenting skill levels through on-the- job training. Studies across the board indicate that the employers are able to capture a significant proportion of the returns from training only if it is firm-specific in nature. In the case of more general training, the returns accrue to the employee. Given that not many SMEs are engaged in niche activities, it is not surprising that few SMEs invest in developing human capital, if at all.

 

The exception to the generally bleak scenario in which SMEs are concerned is the new generation of upcoming "boutique" SMEs in design, systems integration and testing, and even manufacturing. These firms, though small, are classified as "high tech" and do not suffer from the same funding constraints as the traditional SMEs. This is due to greater access to private equity and venture capital funding. Several of these SMEs have been set up by returning expatriates and are well embedded in global knowledge networks. The SME sector in India is characterised by increasing duality, though the new SMEs are currently outnumbered by the traditional SMEs.

Clearly, SMEs need more policy support and hand-holding by larger firms and the financial sector. The measures announced in the recent Budget to this end were disappointing. So SMEs would have to contend with wage inflation in the foreseeable future. However, given the prevailing macroeconomic situation, dedicated government support by way of greater credit availability, facilitating technology transfers and harnessing the benefits of agglomeration economies could make a noticeable difference to SME performance. The problem of integrating SMEs with the broader economy is by no means unique to India. Countries that faced comparable problems – such as Korea and China – are aggressively addressing the issue. India simply cannot afford not to.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

END REGULATORY STASIS

EMPOWER OR WIND UP THE COMPETITION COMMISSION OF INDIA

Since its inception in 2003, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has been in the news, and for all the wrong reasons. The Competition Act, under whose dispensation the CCI was born, came into being a year earlier in 2002, but soon ran into a strong headwind. Members of the judiciary challenged those provisions of the Act that they perceived to be an encroachment into their jurisdiction. In particular, they questioned the legality of the clauses under which the government could exclude members of the judiciary while considering candidates for heading the CCI. The legal tangle was so complicated that Deepak Chatterjee, who was the commerce secretary at the time and was to head the CCI, could not take charge of his new responsibility. The legal battle remained unresolved for several years, weakening the institution since its inception. For well over five years, the CCI could not have a full-time chairperson and for most of this period, it had only one functioning member in Vinod Dhall, who was also the acting head of the body. In 2007, the government got the Competition Act amended after addressing the concerns expressed by members of the judiciary. However, when it came to appointing a full-time chairperson, its decisions seemed to honour only the letter of the law, raising questions on whether it ignored its spirit. The CCI had a delayed and inauspicious kick-off despite the fact that it was meant to bolster the legal framework to eliminate anti-competitive practices, promote competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the country's different markets.

The latest challenge to the smooth and effective functioning of the CCI has come from within the government. The finance ministry has piloted an amendment bill for the banking sector, which seeks to preserve the suzerainty of the Reserve Bank of India over matters pertaining to mergers and acquisitions (M&As) by banks. In other words, the CCI will lose its jurisdiction over M&As among banks, although the Competition Act clearly says that the CCI alone can endorse any such exemptions from its purview and such concessions can only be for a limited period. Given the background of its troubled past, the CCI may well perceive this to be the thin end of the wedge. An amendment bill for bank regulation is now seeking to retain for its regulator the power to adjudicate on M&As or any other potential anti-competitive practices in the banking sphere. There is no reason why this would not encourage similar amendments in legislation for regulating other sectors to deny the CCI the right to have any say in anti-competitive practices in those areas. This can soon acquire a momentum of its own and the CCI may end up having little to do with M&As. This is not desirable, nor was this the intended objective of those who had brought in the Competition Act to create the CCI. The government has two options before it. One, it can decide that the CCI must be suitably empowered by ending all such legislation in different sectors and by putting in place an effective team at its helm. Two, it can take the bold decision to scrap it without further delay. The cost of continuing with an ineffective the CCI is much more than giving it a decent burial.

 

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 BUSINESS STANDARD

FIGHTING IMPORTED CORRUPTION

ENDING THE MAURITIUS TAX TREATY IS THE KEY TO CURBING GLOBALISATION-ENABLED CORRUPTION IN INDIA

DEVESH KAPUR & ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN

The anger that we feel against today's "elite" bribe-takers in India comes with a major question: where does that money go? How are such massive amounts of ill-gotten wealth laundered without being easily traced? When Sukh Ram took his cut, he could still put it in suitcases, but when Madhu Koda raked it in, the sheer volume meant he had to be much more creative. Benami land transactions and real estate purchases are possible, but large and frequent purchases are not easy to hide. Discreet foreign jurisdictions have, therefore, become the preferred destination for bad money. And here India's global integration – and the ease of moving money into and out of India, both through current and capital accounts – has facilitated, albeit not caused, skyrocketing corruption in India.

Consider the three dimensions of what might be called globalisation-enabled corruption: the analytics, the mechanisms and possible policy solutions.

 

 MACROECONOMIC ANALYTICS

Two distinct outcomes are associated with globalisation-enabled corruption. First, it could simply lead to a flight of capital overseas, as happened in Latin America during its period of instability and continues to happen in corrupt autocracies around the world. But this cannot be the complete story of globalisation-enabled corruption in India today. India today, unlike these places, is a booming economy, offering high rates of return for clean and illicit investments alike. Corrupt Indians must be looking to earn high rupee returns on corrupt income, and not just looking for safe havens abroad offering anaemic dollar returns. In other words, at least some of what goes out must be intended to come in.

In macroeconomic terms, the old story was that of capital flight reducing domestic savings and investment. The newer version, ironically, might entail fewer macroeconomic costs because savings are not totally lost to the Indian economy. The greater cost is distributional: not just does public wealth become concentrated in a few private hands, illicit wealth is provided with implicit subsidies in the form of taxes avoided, secrecy conferred and preferences accorded. This is because this money comes back as the much sought-after "foreign" investment. This is not unique to India. Estimates are that between a quarter and one-third of foreign direct investment (FDI) into China is "roundtripping".

TRANSFER MECHANISMS
Money goes out and comes in many ways. In the case of the current account, money can be easily moved out through services trade. It is much easier to over- or under-invoice services trade just as it is much harder to capture services in the tax net.

Remittances also offer an easy route. The money can be paid overseas to a relative and then sent back to the corrupt official or another relative as remittances. With public sector companies like Oil and Natural Gas Corporation spending billions of dollars on overseas purchases in countries with weak governance, the ambiguities of the purchase price relative to the asset leave room for considerable creativity. Just last week the Comptroller and Auditor General of India pointed out that losses of Rs 1,182 crore were incurred in operations in Russia and about Rs 800 crore in Sudan and Qatar. Losses might simply reflect poor business judgement and practice, but if malfeasance is intended, the scope for doing so is plentiful.

Then there is the banking channel. Madhu Koda, the former chief minister of Jharkhand, who reportedly amassed a fortune of Rs 4,000 crore, may have had more than 1,800 bank accounts all over the world. And in recent weeks, the agencies investigating the 2G spectrum allocation scandal believe that at least five beneficiary companies routed money to entities related to them in the UAE, UK, Norway, Libya, Singapore, Isle of Man, Jersey, Russia, Cyprus and, of course, Mauritius.

There is something odd when FDI that comes from Cyprus is as much as that from both France and Germany, or when Mauritius accounts for more FDI into India than all the G7 countries (more than $53 billion since 2000, close to its cumulative GDP over this period). This is partly the result of Mauritius' low tax regime (three per cent effective rate of corporate tax on foreign companies incorporated there) and the tax treaty with India, which is such that an investor routing investments through that country does not pay capital gains tax either in India or Mauritius. It is not just that India loses tax revenues, but the lower transparency there makes it easier to hide the true source of the money. The seeming ease with which rupees made illicitly domestically come back as "foreign" investments through Mauritius to earn rupee returns is perhaps one reason why politicians have not been eager to remedy this situation.

POLICY OPTIONS
The roots of India's corruption epidemic lie primarily within the country and so do its solutions. But solutions can be both national and international.

Broadly, India should take the lead in pressing for an international regime that makes it easier to share and access information on overseas assets of its citizens. After all, if these assets are legal, no one has anything to worry about. To be sure, the establishment would hardly be enthused about an outcome that works against its interests. But India did take an important step in this direction by joining the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), whose scope can be broadened from terrorism-related financing to cover all illicit wealth. If India's prime minister and the Congress party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left are as sincere as they claim to be about corruption, this is something to hold their feet to the fire.

Three other steps are also worth considering. First, in the G20 meetings, India should propose that the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation work on data systems to reconcile global services trade flows and remittance flows between country pairs. Second, there should be greater scrutiny of the foreign operations and capital flows of state-owned enterprises. And above all, India should abolish any double taxation agreements with countries that are not members of the FATF, membership of which at least offers a modicum of transparency. There are many ways India can, and should, build its strategic partnership with Mauritius — but the treaty must be discontinued as soon as possible. Curbing globalisation-enabled corruption will be a long and difficult haul but discontinuing the tax treaty with Mauritius is a good place to start.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CHARITY BEGINS IN GOVERNANCE

HOW MUCH WOULD IT HELP INDIA'S HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS IF INDIA'S RICHEST BUSINESSMEN ASSIGNED THE BULK OF THEIR WEALTH FOR PHILANTHROPY

KANIKA DATTA

How much would it help India's human development indicators if India's richest businessmen assigned the bulk of their wealth for philanthropy, as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates exhorted them to do last week? Though the notion sounds suitably noble and has been gaining traction since the global financial crisis made wealth creation a vaguely evil activity, the answer is: not much. This is not for lack of money or inclination – quite the opposite, in fact – but the sheer scale of the effort needed to bootstrap India up the human development ladder.

If the total wealth of India's ten richest businesspeople as of December 2010 were added up, the number would come to Rs 5.6 lakh crore, according to a calculation by Business Standard Research Bureau. This is roughly equivalent to what the state and central government spent last year (Rs 5.2 lakh crore, according to the Budget Estimates for 2010-11) on what the Economic Survey calls "social services", meaning health, education and sundry other schemes.

 

 The obvious misleading element about the wealth estimates above is that, unlike government expenditure, not all of it is available on tap — this "money" is essentially the market value (as of December 2010) of the promoter holdings in companies. So even if these promoters were to assign all or a bulk of their holdings to social causes, as Azim Premji did last December, it is only the dividend income from these shares (which is a percentage of their face value, not market value) that would be available for investment — and that, in turn, is a function of how the company concerned performs.

But even assuming our billionaires also employ other assets at their disposal for the purpose, there are limits to the transformative scale of their philanthropic spending, for several reasons. For one, philanthropic agendas are rarely truly disinterested in nature, so the inclination and proclivities of the businessperson concerned need to be taken into account. Although some of India's big industrial houses have long-established traditions of wide-angle investing in health, education, sports and culture and so on, most businessmen focus – wisely – on a cause or two.

Again, philanthropic activities tend to be confined by the limitations of a corporation's location and capabilities. For instance, a car maker with its factory in Chennai may well be able to leverage institutional resources to set up and run efficiently a low-cost primary school in that city; it is unlikely to replicate that school in, say, Bihar or Jharkhand, to name two laggards, with the same level of efficiency, especially if it does not have units in those states.

Inevitably, therefore, the catchment area of corporate philanthropic activity is limited by its very nature (indeed, Gates is the very notable exception that proves the rule). So the impact of even a multi-location company setting up, say, low-fee primary schools wherever it has factories is restricted. Unless they experience a Gates-like epiphany, few conglomerates have the institutional wherewithal to accomplish the kind of scalability that India needs and even the government, with its country-wide institutional ambit, struggles to achieve.

This is not to say that corporate philanthropy per se has no uses. It certainly has a place in evolving societies in filling the gaps left by the government. Serious philanthropic activity cannot transform the lives of millions but, as a best-case scenario, it can have an impact on hundreds — and in a country like India that's not a bad thing. Again, like NGOs, a vibrant and responsible corporate philanthropic culture provides the political establishment with a mirror to society.

And more than anything else, it goes a long way towards legitimising wealth creation as nothing else does. This was a truth that the Victorians discovered when the inequalities of the industrial revolution created the kind of social unrest that India faces today. In that sense, the climate of giving that seems to have afflicted the business world globally is scarcely different.

But corporate philanthropy, even on a large scale, can rarely transform a country. Whether it is Europe, the US or the Asian Tigers in modern times, it is difficult to deny the power of good governance as an effective force multiplier on which corporate activity, profit and non-profit, can grow. In that sense, India is one of the few outliers in achieving consistently faster growth despite abysmal human development indicators and a poor culture of corporate giving. So maybe, Gates and Buffett were not being unduly optimistic in their message after all.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CHARITY BEGINS IN GOVERNANCE

HOW MUCH WOULD IT HELP INDIA'S HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS IF INDIA'S RICHEST BUSINESSMEN ASSIGNED THE BULK OF THEIR WEALTH FOR PHILANTHROPY

KANIKA DATTA

How much would it help India's human development indicators if India's richest businessmen assigned the bulk of their wealth for philanthropy, as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates exhorted them to do last week? Though the notion sounds suitably noble and has been gaining traction since the global financial crisis made wealth creation a vaguely evil activity, the answer is: not much. This is not for lack of money or inclination – quite the opposite, in fact – but the sheer scale of the effort needed to bootstrap India up the human development ladder.

If the total wealth of India's ten richest businesspeople as of December 2010 were added up, the number would come to Rs 5.6 lakh crore, according to a calculation by Business Standard Research Bureau. This is roughly equivalent to what the state and central government spent last year (Rs 5.2 lakh crore, according to the Budget Estimates for 2010-11) on what the Economic Survey calls "social services", meaning health, education and sundry other schemes.

 

The obvious misleading element about the wealth estimates above is that, unlike government expenditure, not all of it is available on tap — this "money" is essentially the market value (as of December 2010) of the promoter holdings in companies. So even if these promoters were to assign all or a bulk of their holdings to social causes, as Azim Premji did last December, it is only the dividend income from these shares (which is a percentage of their face value, not market value) that would be available for investment — and that, in turn, is a function of how the company concerned performs.

But even assuming our billionaires also employ other assets at their disposal for the purpose, there are limits to the transformative scale of their philanthropic spending, for several reasons. For one, philanthropic agendas are rarely truly disinterested in nature, so the inclination and proclivities of the businessperson concerned need to be taken into account. Although some of India's big industrial houses have long-established traditions of wide-angle investing in health, education, sports and culture and so on, most businessmen focus – wisely – on a cause or two.

Again, philanthropic activities tend to be confined by the limitations of a corporation's location and capabilities. For instance, a car maker with its factory in Chennai may well be able to leverage institutional resources to set up and run efficiently a low-cost primary school in that city; it is unlikely to replicate that school in, say, Bihar or Jharkhand, to name two laggards, with the same level of efficiency, especially if it does not have units in those states.

Inevitably, therefore, the catchment area of corporate philanthropic activity is limited by its very nature (indeed, Gates is the very notable exception that proves the rule). So the impact of even a multi-location company setting up, say, low-fee primary schools wherever it has factories is restricted. Unless they experience a Gates-like epiphany, few conglomerates have the institutional wherewithal to accomplish the kind of scalability that India needs and even the government, with its country-wide institutional ambit, struggles to achieve.

This is not to say that corporate philanthropy per se has no uses. It certainly has a place in evolving societies in filling the gaps left by the government. Serious philanthropic activity cannot transform the lives of millions but, as a best-case scenario, it can have an impact on hundreds — and in a country like India that's not a bad thing. Again, like NGOs, a vibrant and responsible corporate philanthropic culture provides the political establishment with a mirror to society.

And more than anything else, it goes a long way towards legitimising wealth creation as nothing else does. This was a truth that the Victorians discovered when the inequalities of the industrial revolution created the kind of social unrest that India faces today. In that sense, the climate of giving that seems to have afflicted the business world globally is scarcely different.

But corporate philanthropy, even on a large scale, can rarely transform a country. Whether it is Europe, the US or the Asian Tigers in modern times, it is difficult to deny the power of good governance as an effective force multiplier on which corporate activity, profit and non-profit, can grow. In that sense, India is one of the few outliers in achieving consistently faster growth despite abysmal human development indicators and a poor culture of corporate giving. So maybe, Gates and Buffett were not being unduly optimistic in their message after all.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

THE GROWTH-INCOME CONUNDRUM

INDICUS ANALYTICS

A low per capita income indicates that India's economic growth has not been substantial

India has had a high growth trajectory in recent years and is the fourth largest economy in terms of GDP measured on the basis of purchasing power parity. However, when it comes to per capita income the country ranked 127th out of 181 countries in 2009. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) data, China, the world's most populous nation, has almost double the per capita income of India. What is more remarkable is that China, with its sustained high economic growth and lower population growth, has moved up from 128th rank in 1984 while India has moved down from rank 117 over the same period.

 

A look at the state-level data enables one to identify areas that contribute largely to India's poor performance. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh were once referred to as BIMARU states since they were lagging in terms of development and retarding India's overall economic progress. Though, the concept of BIMARU barely holds together now, particularly with the current upsurge in Bihar's economy, the fact remains that these states continue to have a low per capita income. According to the recent CSO estimates, while the per capita income in India in 2009-10 is estimated at Rs 46,492, in Bihar it is merely Rs 16,119. Bihar continues to trail way behind Uttar Pradesh, which has the second lowest per capita income of Rs 23,132. Manipur, Madhya Pradesh and Assam are the other three states with per capita incomes of less than Rs 30,000 per annum. Rajasthan is relatively better off than these states with per capita income of Rs 34,189, though this is still lower than the national average. Among the newer states, we find that Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh lag the national average, while Uttarakhand is better placed with the twelfth highest per capita income. At the other end of the per capita income table are states with a small population base — Goa, Chandigarh and Delhi are the only three states with per capita income exceeding Rs 1 lakh per annum. Haryana and Maharashtra are among the bigger states with an annual per capita income of more than Rs 70,000. (Click here for chart)
 

THE INCOME GAP
Nations ranked on the basis of GDP in terms of purchasing power parity 

Country

Per capita GDP-PPP in 2009 (current international dollar)

World rank

Singapore

50,180

4

United States

45,934

6

Brazil

10,499

76

South Africa

10,229

77

China

6,778

97

Sri Lanka

4,764

113

India

3,015

127

Pakistan

2,683

133

Bangladesh

1,487

154

Source: World Economic Outlook October 2010, IMF

Looking at the annual growth in real per capita income since 2004-05, the state of Uttarakhand has shown the best performance with a double-digit growth. Maharashtra comes second, with Bihar trailing slightly at the third position. Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Haryana have all achieved more than 7.5 per cent annual growth in real per capita income over the period. However, Punjab has turned in a below average performance on the growth front. It is disappointing to see Assam at the bottom of the growth performance chart; Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan also have a lower than average growth record. This is a cause for concern given their huge population.

India's low per capita income clearly indicates that the growth in the economy has not been substantial enough to meet the needs of an increasing population, even as the vast regional differences cause imbalances that need to be addressed urgently.

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

sumita@indicus.net  

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SURPRISING STRENGTH

INDIA MUST UNDERTAKE SERIOUS REFORM TO REALISE ITS BIG POTENTIAL IN MANUFACTURING


India was the ninth largest manufacturer in the world in 2010 in terms of manufacturing value added (MVA), says the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, ahead of all emerging markets save China. This is both a reason to celebrate as well as to introspect. Celebrate, as it comprehensively disproves widespread pessimism over India's manufacturing potential and Indian industry performs against daunting odds: deficient infrastructure, official interface that is dilatory and extortionate, complex tax structures, stunted formal finance and inflexible labour laws. But India accounts for just about 1.8% of the world MVA. China accounts for 15.4%, and the US 23.3%. Similarly, India disappoints on per capita productivity: average output was estimated at $107 compared with China's $841.6. Given that India is a large market, fairly rich in natural resources and entrepreneurial ability, India could and should have done better. Yet, fragmented capacity — a legacy of the licence raj era — has only served to keep manufacturing suboptimal in India. But that need not remain the case, if businesses identify manufacturing activities that offer comparative advantage. The point, really, is about ambition on what Indian industry wants to achieve in manufacturing. Already at home in niche, high-value segments, industry can conquer the mass market with two kinds of changes. Governance reform must liberate industry from the sort of constraints described above and industry, on its part, must shift its focus from keeping labour cheap to boosting productivity. Manufacturing has been a steady 16% of the real GDP for several years. Although MVA has been steadily rising since liberalisation, employment has not kept pace. This trend will undoubtedly continue, as technical progress steadily erodes manufacturing's labour intensity. Industrial activity should not be expected to absorb vast numbers of new workers. Rather, as the economy expands further and the rising demand for land for non-farm activities accelerate the urbanisation process, the services sector will have to emerge as primary avenue of employment, overtaking agriculture and industry.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ANODYNE LABOUR?

INDUSTRY AND UNIONS MUST WORK TOGETHER TO RAISE THE GAME FOR THE INDIAN ECONOMY


In a welcome development, industrial disputes have been at their lowest ebb in 2010 (ET, March 29). This is so, despite some high-profile industrial disputes involving violence and killing. While the overall direction is, no doubt, right, some underlying trends continue to cause concern. Many strikes tend to centre on a demand to make temporary workers permanent, and gain recognition for trade unions. Workers and unions complain that large numbers of workers continue to remain temporary after years of continuous service, in violation of laws that prohibit protracted employment of temporary workers. Employers, on their part, are chary of taking on workers who cannot be dispensed with even if economic conditions warrant cutbacks in production and the associated workforce. Both sides miss the real point in a dynamic economy such as India's whose potential is just about beginning to be realised. In many sectors of the economy, the challenge is not how to downsize, but how to prevent attrition, as workers shift jobs to better their own prospects. Those sectors witness intense demand for skilled labour because they are globally competitive, and growing fast. If other sectors of the economy, too, become globally competitive, their challenge, too, would be to find an adequate supply of skilled labour, and then to retain them. And to be globally competitive, it is no longer sufficient to be an efficient sweat-shop. World-beating quality cannot be produced by under-paid, unhappy workers who curse their working conditions, their employers and their fate as they mechanically perform their assigned tasks. Quality is produced by workers whose creativity is tapped at the workplace. And that calls for a new paradigm in labour relations.


Industry is right to expect flexibility but must turn more generous on compensation at the time of retrenchment. It must also create conditions that make creativity flow. Workers must focus on improving skills and mobility, not on permanence. Sure, this calls for a change of heart on both sides. But the result would be well worth the effort for both parties.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

HEMLINE FORECASTING

FICKLE HEMLINES SEE-SAW WITH BUSINESS CYCLES, THE SAREE FOR STEADY GROWTH


In the recent fall fashion collections shown in Europe and the US, the favoured hemlines varied from just above the knee to just above the ankle. The message is loud and clear: miniskirts are passe. This figures with the pronouncements of folks familiar with fashion and business trends: hemlines go up during boom times and come down with recession. The correlation has been fairly consistent from the early 1960s, a time of terrific growth in the West when the first miniskirts, introduced by the legendary Mary Quant, set ramps on fire. Subsequent business cycles have witnessed a parallel hemline cycle and made forecasting simple as well as easy on the eye. Now, correlation does not quite mean causation. It could well be that the economic mood causes the hemline to travel, or vice versa.


Hemlines could also provide a solution to the enduring riddle of why Indian business cycles are so shallow and short-lived. As the West went through the gut-wrenching financial crisis of 2008 and the economic downturn that followed, India shrugged everything off with a couple of quarters of around 7% growth. And then resumed cruising at 8%-plus rates. Why does this happen? To put it bluntly, the answer is in the saree, which does not have a variable hemline. Unlike the fickle skirt, whose hemline fluctuates periodically setting off economic cycles, the saree's unvarying length brings a reassuring stability to our growth numbers. Analysts waste a lot of time tracking hundreds of other, largely irrelevant, variables to try and anticipate the direction of India's economy. They should instead look at sartorial trends among India's women. As long as the saree is their preferred choice, the economy will be largely immune to business cycles. Ask your grandmother. She knows.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

WAGES OF FISCAL IMPRUDENCE

GROWTH AND BUDGET TARGETS STAND TO BE UNDERMINED BY THE PERCEIVED DITHER IN GOVERNANCE


As per the Budget estimate, India's fiscal deficit will be 4.6% of GDP and total borrowings will be . 3,43,000 crore. Both these targets are likely to be exceeded. First, the revenue side depends critically on 9% GDP growth and this will likely not be achieved. Most independent forecasts are now around 8%. Then there is the iffiness about the monsoons. We also can't assume that 8% growth of the last two years will just continue. It was largely driven by deficit spending, with the fiscal deficit doubling from 3% of GDP to 6%, an increase of a whopping . 2.5 lakh crore. Therefore, almost 3% of our GDP growth came from higher government spending backed by borrowings from the market. This increased the country's overall debt level from 72% of GDP to 78% over two years. Higher debt reduces our economic flexibility to withstand any future economic shocks.
Second, on the income side, there is a hefty . 40,000 crore built in on account of divestments which may fall significantly short. Last year, we managed only . 22,000 crore when there were record FII inflows of $29 billion. This year will see reduced FII inflows as the sentiment is that the India story has run into the triple whammy of high oil prices and inflation, high interest rates and relative overvaluation against other emerging markets.


Thus, there will likely be a shortfall on the revenue side. The expenditure side is a bigger worry as the increases forecast are rather small. Last year, we had a deficit of 5.1% — excluding the 3G auction revenues, it was closer to 6.5% — or almost 1% higher than the original forecast. Most of this increase came out of a supplementary grant that was as an addendum to the Budget when it became apparent that there would be a substantial windfall on account of 3G. Nevertheless, we are starting from a position of softness as far as expenditure management is concerned. It is hard to believe that a government that has consistently shown high fiscal deficits on the back of lax spending controls will suddenly rein in its basic taxand-spend instincts and turn thrifty. Every political challenge and election thus far has been bravely met with further largesse and entitlement programmes.
Specifically, the Budget assumes that spends on subsidies, including MGNREGS, fertiliser, food, oil under-recoveries, interest costs, agriculture and rural spends, etc., will remain flat. In addition, it has assumed oil prices at $84. Every extra $10 in oil prices increases the government's borrowing requirements by . 36,000 crore and the fiscal deficit by 0.3%. Given all this, chances are high that the fiscal deficit will be overshot and, therefore, borrowings of . 3.43 lakh crore will also be exceeded.


Meanwhile, inflation of almost 9% implies interest rates of well over 11-12%. These rates are by themselves sufficient to choke growth in the medium term. Remember, when we last had these rates, growth was about 6%. The acceleration to 8% happened only when rates had come down to 5-6% for two to three years in the middle of the last decade. Also, remember that the acceleration happened with a lag of two to three years — therefore, expect that structural deceleration in response to higher interest rates will also happen with a lag. High interest rates gnaw away at the vitals and the vitality of an economy impacting both the demand and supply side. Consumers will soon begin to balk at financing homes and durables purchases, and corporates will not want to borrow to fund projects, fewer of which will remain viable. Similarly, as deposit rates increase, the marginal money will find its way into the deposit market rather than the stock market.

 

The founding base for interest rates is inflation, which itself depends on supply-demand mismatches, upon which is layered the government's borrowing programme. As the government continues with the disequilibrium of pumping deficit money into the economy, thereby creating demand for consumer goods, while at the same time not creating a conducive investment environment, inflation will be created. Couple that with high food prices as a result of mismanaged policies, and high oil and commodity prices — it explains why base inflation rates are so high. The least the government should be doing is to borrow as little as possible and so create as little pressure on real rates as possible. The market has clearly discounted the 4.6% fiscal target, expecting it, along with borrowings and interest rates, to be much higher.


This is bad news for investments and corporates. The latter will be squeezed between the double hammer of slower top line growth on the one hand, and higher wages, interest rates and input costs, on the other. Earnings growth will slow. And investors will remain cautious. Keep in mind that of the improvement in the tax-to-GDP ratio, almost 80% has come from the corporate sector due to improved bottom lines. If this is hit, it will again impact the fiscal deficit, increase government borrowings and thereby interest rates — thus moving the economy into a negative spiral.


Everything is thus linked and interconnected and based on expectations. Once the stars align, and it takes several years of hard policy work for this to happen, we move into a virtuous cycle of low inflation, low interest rates and high growth. However, if there is drift, policy paralysis or quite simply, wrong policies, quite the reverse can also happen — and it may just be that we are at the beginning of the unravelling of our virtuous cycle. Unless the government takes quick action.

 

SUMANT SINHA CHAIRMAN, SAVANT ADVISORS

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NEURAL NET

THE ORIGINS OF THE INDIAN SMALL CAR DREAM

AVINASH CELESTINE


When did we, as a nation, first start dreaming of 'small cars' or a 'car for the masses'? Those below a certain age will, of course, point to the Tata Nano. Those above a certain age will point to the Maruti 800 launched in 1984. But few know that the history of the Indian 'small car' project started as early as 1959.
In that year, faced with a serious foreign exchange crisis, the Nehru government looked about for ways to cut dependence on foreign imports. The theme of 'Swadeshi', being a buzzword born perhaps as much out of necessity as ideology given the foreign exchange shortage, prodded the government set up a committee in April 1959 under L K Jha, an additional secretary in the commerce ministry, to look into possibility of making a 'lowcost' car for . 5,000- 7,000, after soliciting proposals from both Indian and foreign manufacturers. Proposals for the manufacture of now long-forgotten models such as Baby Hindustan, Baby Fiat, DKW, Renault and Standard were given to the committee.


The report of the committee was submitted in February 1960. It said that, yes, a small car was feasible but did not recommend a particular model. It did state, however, (and rather vaguely), that the small car should be 'roomy', 'sturdy' and 'capable of carrying an average Indian family'. The 1950s had seen a virtual doubling of automobile output, but the sector was still tiny —production had risen from around 14,602 units in 1950 to about 26,800 units 1958. In this context, Premier Automobiles' chairman Lalchand Hirachand told the Jha committee that the idea of a new 'small car' was unwise — it would be much better to focus on expanding the scale of production of existing models, which would in itself lead to lower costs over time. This view was to be echoed elsewhere. The real problem with the Indian car industry, it was argued, was that it was not a mass production industry, like it was in the West — there were too many models and a fragmented production system.


The other question was not what car to produce, but by whom — the private sector or the public sector? In 1960, the then minister of industry told Parliament that "we will have the people's car, of the people, manufactured by the people, for the people of this country." Given our prejudices about that era, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that this was a project by, of and for the public sector. But this was not clear at the time — even as late as 1964 (when the project still wound slowly through the bureaucracy and possibly delayed because of the 1962 war), a government minister told reporters that private sector participation was certainly on the table.


This was all academic, though. A war with Pakistan, famine and another foreign exchange crisis in the late 1960s meant the plan was effectively shelved — but not cancelled. The Planning Commission in fact, refused to pony up the money for the project in the fourth plan (which ran from 1969 to 1974). Despite this, however, it was revived in 1970 when the Union Cabinet finally passed proposals to make the small car — with an option either to go with Renault of France or Tokyo Kogio of Japan, and to set up the unit in the public sector, with the former being seen as more favourable because the French were willing to bear foreign exchange costs. By this time, the budget for the project was around . 20 crore, with an initial production run of 50,000 vehicles per annum. An additional impetus to the project came from the fact that by this time, two private sector car makers – Hindustan and Standard, were in trouble.


But the key decision was to also approve two private sector proposals — one by a Madan Mohan Rao of Madras, and the other, by a certain Sanjay Gandhi. In his proposal in 1970, Sanjay Gandhi had proposed an entirely indigenised two-door model, powered with a 552 cc engine.

This, then, was the prehistory of Sanjay Gandhi's 'entry' into the small car dream and the eventual morphing of that dream into Maruti. One last note — how did the car prices stack up? The on-road price of the basic Nano is . 1.37 lakh today. A small car, if actually manufactured in 1960 as was promised, for . 6,000, would be worth about . 1.54 lakh in today's prices (ex-factory). And the Maruti 800, which entered the market at a price of about . 52,500 in 1984, would be worth . 2.88 lakh in today's prices.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THE BIG PICTURE

SAY YES TO BOARD SEATS FOR WOMEN

T T RAM MOHAN

 

The ministry of company affairs wants companies with five or more independent directors to have at least one woman director. This is an idea whose time has come, although the compelling argument in favour of this initiative is not necessarily the one that is usually put forward. The ministry should go ahead and incorporate the necessary provision in the new Companies Bill.


The case for a quota for women on boards is generally made on grounds of gender equality or social justice. Those in favour point out that women account for less than 5% of board members in India, and these, too, are mainly from promoter families. In the US, women constitute close to 15% of the board; in the UK 12%.
Those who oppose the proposal put forward a number of arguments. Board members must be selected on 'merit' alone. Not enough women may be available who satisfy the requirements for board membership. Quotas for women are patronising — women must and can make it to boards on their own steam. Having women on boards is little more than tokenism — the government should focus on other areas that require empowerment of women. These objections are easily disposed of.


The argument that 'merit' alone must count in selection has, well, little merit. It is familiar enough since it has been used to oppose quotas for disadvantaged groups in India. The contention is that not focusing on 'merit' will mean compromising on quality or performance.


For educational institutions or jobs, 'merit' is defined in terms of academic performance. A person who has secured the cut-off level of, say, 85% is deemed to be meritorious. A person from a disadvantaged group, who gets 82%, is said to lack merit even if he has managed the performance without paying for expensive tuitions. One can see how specious the argument about 'merit' is.


In the case of independent directors, claims about selecting people on merit sound even more hollow. First, promoterrun companies in India overwhelmingly prefer to select independent directors from amongst friends and associates. Secondly, retired bureaucrats, serving or retired corporate executives and celebrities, who are the second-most important source of independent directors, also tend to be people known to the promoter.
Thirdly, independent directors are not so independent of management because it is management that selects them and compensates them handsomely. In this situation, the so-called merit has little bearing on the key outcome, namely, good governance.


So, any suggestion that imposing a quota for women will imperil board quality or board performance must be dismissed out of hand. The point is simple enough: it can't get any worse. When corporate bosses say that they may not be able to find enough qualified women, what they mean is 'we may not find enough women known to us'. But that is indeed the primary reason why we need to bring women on board.


The biggest problem with independent directors today is that they are all members of a closed club. Getting boards to induct women will compel to reach out beyond the closed club in which they now operate. It will usher in diversity in the board-room.


Diversity in itself spells quality. One of the great lessons driven home by the bestselling book, The wisdom of crowds, is that the more diverse a group, the better is the quality of judgements and decisions it makes.
One country that has shown the way in the matter of women sitting on boards is Norway. In 2006, the government there passed a law imposing a minimum requirement of 40% for women on corporate boards. Business leaders warned of a collapse in shareholder confidence and a flight of foreign capital. By 2008, most companies had complied.


A survey showed that the women who joined the boards were brighter and younger than their male colleagues and most of them had distinguished themselves in their professions before being appointed to boards. By some measures, governance has improved. There appears to be no improvement in performance of the companies but nor has the bottom (or, rather, the bottom-line) caved in. Spain and France have since followed suit with 40% quotas for women on boards to be achieved by 2015 and 2016, respectively.


Some would argue that putting women on boards does little to enhance the position of women in the corporate world. We need more women executives, not women directors. This is true but then, we should stop viewing quotas for women on the board primarily as instrument of gender equality or social justice. It is simply a way of undermining the closed shop mentality that rules most boards. Having women on boards will not make boards independent. To achieve that, we need a much bigger reform, namely, independent directors who are chosen by stakeholders other than management. But it will introduce a different quality of thinking on boards. It will get boards thinking about different things. This will not revolutionise governance but it can certainly improve it.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COSMIC UPLINK

FOLLOW THE MOTH-TREK

VITHAL C NADKARNI


"You don't get anywhere by chasing stars," says the father of the moth in James Thurber's Fables for Our Time. Moth Junior aspires to fly up to a star and keeps trying to reach that impossible goal. Of course, his peers all laugh at him. They advise him to have a 'realistic goal' such as flying up to a date with that pale white thing the poets call Shama! Needless to add, they all fly to candles and are 'extinguished' as a result. In stark contrast, the dreamy, unrealistic youth becomes 'distinguished' for his obsession with the star. "He went right on trying to reach the star, which was four and onethird light years, or twentyfive trillion miles, away," wrote Thurber. "(For) the moth thought it was just caught in the top branches of an elm. "He never did reach the star, but he went right on trying, night after night, and when he was a very, very old moth he began to think that he really had reached the star and he went around saying so. This gave him a deep and lasting pleasure, and he lived to a great old age. His parents and his brothers and his sisters had all been burned to death when they were quite young." The existential moral of the story is that sometimes, it pays to resist the wisdom of crowds: he who has the courage to stand apart can eventually brand himself to great happiness. But exactly what one believes in can be crucial for survival. As the renowned baiter of religion, Sam Harris says, there are some beliefs — like kids believing in the tooth fairy — that aren't dangerous; then there are others like you ought to burn non-believers at the stake!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CITINGS

LORDS OF FINANCE

LIAQUAT AHAMED


In December 1930, the Bank of United States, which despite its name was a private bank with no official status, went down in the largest single bank failure in US history, leaving frozen some $200 million in depositors' funds. In May 1931, the biggest bank in Austria, the Creditanstalt, owned by the Rothschilds no less, with $250 million in assets, closed its doors. On June 20, President Herbert Hoover announced a one-year moratorium on all payments of debts and reparations stemming from the war. In July, the Darmstadt and National Bank, the third largest in Germany, foundered, precipitating a run on the whole German banking system and a tidal wave of capital out of the country....


Later that month the crisis spread to the City of London, which, having lent heavily to Germany, found these claims now frozen... As the unemployment lines lengthened, banks shut their doors, farm prices collapsed, and factories closed, there was talk of apocalypse. On June 22, the noted economist John Maynard Keynes told a Chicago audience, "We are today in the middle of the greatest catastrophe — the greatest catastrophe due almost to entirely economic causes — of the modern world. I am told that the view is held in Moscow that this is the last, the culminating crisis of capitalism, and that our existing order of society will not survive it."

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

INDIA, PAK GESTURES: JUST A PIE IN THE SKY

 

The joint statement issued on Tuesday at the end of the two-day meeting of the home secretaries of India and Pakistan in New Delhi gives little indication that the relationship between the two countries has been particularly fraught in the past few years following the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. There are anodyne references in the document to both sides committing themselves to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, but none to specifics such as cross-border terrorism or to punishing those who planned and executed the Mumbai attacks. It is evident that the tone of the common note, and its substance, do not even tangentially seek to capture the principal demands India has been making of Pakistan in recent years. Judging by the contents of the joint statement, it appears it had been decided in advance to not aim for negotiations of any kind but to amble through the proceedings with generalities. Is it good diplomacy not to test your interlocutors even when deliberations are meant to be friendly? In the light of the present, however, it is legitimate to wonder if the tone of the joint statement — even if it were considered expedient to have one — would have been this if the meeting of the Prime Ministers of the two countries were not in prospect as a result of the cricket diplomacy initiative taken by Dr Manmohan Singh on the eve of the Mohali semifinals between India and Pakistan in the ongoing World Cup. Looking at the overall picture, there is every reason for Pakistan to be overjoyed with the outcome. The Pakistan interior minister, Mr Rehman Malik, has naturally been effusive about thanking "brother" Mr P. Chidambaram for the smooth outcome. Similar had been the ecstatic exclamations by that country's Prime Minister after the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in July 2009. Improving the optics before a summit — even one inaugurated in the precincts of a cricket stadium — is a valid exercise provided the ground has been prepared beforehand to extract substantive gains for both sides. Alas, only an incorrigible optimist would say we are there. Such is the parlous state of our diplomacy that Pakistan has been permitted once again to get away with putting its concerns on India's alleged meddling in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province into the joint statement. This, of course, is an entirely artificial construct dreamed up by Pakistan to balance what India has said for years — with offers of proof — about Islamabad's nurturing of jihadists against this country. Balochistan had first found mention in a joint statement after the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, much to the discomfiture of our Parliament, although Pakistan has offered not a shred of evidence to back its claim. Not unexpectedly, there are placebos in the joint statement. In principle, Islamabad has agreed to receive an Indian delegation to pursue the 26/11 case. This is a gesture of goodwill — under the principle of "comity and reciprocity" — in return for India letting a Pakistan judicial commission to make inquiries about 26/11 in this country. Therefore, it can't mean much. Pakistan would also offer voice samples of those we think planned and executed the Mumbai attacks provided the Lahore high court permits this by overruling a lower court decision. The home secretaries will now be on a hotline phone to transmit real-time intelligence on terrorism to one another. It's all too good to be true. On the whole, we are looking at a pie in the sky.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

RETHINKING PAKISTAN

 

"Cricket diplomacy" and the meeting of the Indian and Pakistan home secretaries are important because these were approved through the back channel maintained by Delhi with the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — the hub of power in Pakistan. Whatever one may think of the Pakistan Army, it is a professional force driven by cold calculation. If it thinks it can get away with some outré action or the other against India, it does not hesitate to prosecute it (think Kargil). Equally, it will do an about-turn and sue for "honourable peace" if some adventurist action misfires (recall Pervez Musharraf's prodding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seek US intervention in the Kargil conflict, and his virtual mea culpa of January 12, 2002, after the December 13 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament the previous year, in order to pre-empt a punitive Indian response and potentially uncontrollable escalation). Apparently, Gen. Kayani and his uniformed cohort believe that the policy of orchestrated terrorist outrages has run its course, at least for now, as the Pakistan Army, in the grip of excesses at home by the Tehreek-e-Taliban outfits, unremitting drone attacks by its ally US and of the pressure of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) forces in Afghanistan on the Pashtuns of North Waziristan that's skewing the delicate tribal balance the Pakistani state has obtained over the years in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, needs relief on its eastern border. The question is can India capitalise on what seems to be rethinking underway in the Pakistan Army? Alas, there is surprisingly less give here than is generally assumed. Rewind to the aftermath of Sharm el-Sheikh and how quickly the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, was forced to backtrack on the issue of supposed concessions to his Pakistani counterpart. This is because India's Pakistan policy is hostage to the petty calculations of the political class in the country and powerful ministries within the Indian government with vested interest in portraying Pakistan as menace. Pakistan Army's nursing of terrorism as an asymmetric tool to keep India discomfited sustains this impression. But it does not over-ride the facts of the neighbouring country being economically weak, politically in a pitiful state and destabilised by unending violence and internal strife perpetrated by Islamic extremists. Nor does it preclude the need for a realistic assessment of the "Pakistan threat" given the sheer disparities. The trouble is that for the Indian politician ties with Pakistan are an externalisation of the sometimes tense Hindi-Muslim relations at home and both are manipulable for electoral gain. This is crass cynicism at work but the "Pakistan threat" also powers the Indian military's existing force disposition and structure. Then again, how else can three strike corps worth of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and towed artillery accounting for 26 per cent to 32 per cent of the defence budget be justified if not with reference to Pakistan? Meanwhile, the far more substantive and credible threat emanating from China is only minimally addressed. The nine Light Mountain Divisions desperately required as offensive capability to keep the People's Liberation Army ensconced on the Tibetan plateau honest is nowhere as glamorous as armoured and mechanised formations. Like the IAS that ensures its group interests are never compromised come hell or high water, "cavalry" generals too are loath to see a reduction of armoured strength. Indeed, Pakistan is now the touchstone to get the government to wake up to even strategic deficiencies that are far more telling vis a vis China. Rapid Chinese strategic nuclear buildup was met with passivity, but recent press reports about Pakistan surpassing Indian nuclear weapons strength galvanised the government into ordering some remedial action. Such Pakistan-centricity is ironic in light of the severely controlled wars of manoeuvre India is politically compelled to wage against Pakistan owing to the organic links of kinship and shared religion, culture, language and social norms binding the two countries. There is, moreover, the factor of the politically conscious Muslim electorate wielding the swing vote in almost half the Lok Sabha constituencies, who may countenance bloodying Pakistan but not its destruction. Such systemic constraints are not acknowledged by either side but have been in force from the 1947-48 Kashmir operations onwards. In any case, which Indian government would order a military dismantling of the Pakistani state resulting in 180 million Muslims, pickled in fundamentalist juices for half a century, rejoining the Indian fold? The home ministry, intelligence agencies and Central and state police organisations, animated by an institutional habit of mind, are, likewise, Pakistan-fixated and feed the popular paranoia of a rogue Pakistan always preparing for the next terrorist spectacular on Indian soil. As the 2002 Operation Parakram showed, the right response to Islamabad-supported jihadi actions is not mobilising field armies but instantaneous retaliatory airstrikes on terrorist installations in Pakistani Kashmir in tandem with targeted intelligence operations elsewhere in that country. Combine the stick of such pressure with the carrot of incentives to wean Pakistan from its hostility, such as unilateral easing of the visa regime, and offer of open trade and investment. It is a policy mix Delhi has not seriously pursued. But, surely nuclear Pakistan poses a threat? Short of total demolition, which India has not intended even with conventional military means, Pakistan will be offered no excuse for going nuclear. However, if despite the nuclear taboo the General Staff in Rawalpindi contemplates nuclear weapon use for any reason, including in what passes for "wars" in these parts, they'll be ultimately dissuaded by an "exchange ratio" prohibitively stacked against their country. Loss of two Indian cities is not recompense enough for the certain extinction of Pakistan. It is simply a bad bargain. Bharat Karnad is professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WEST ASIA '11: LET'S HOPE OBAMA IS LUCKY

 

There is an old saying in West Asia that a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee. That thought came to my mind as I listened to the US President, Mr Barack 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" West Asia. 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 Shia 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 — Mr 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 West Asia 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 West Asia we've got, not the one we want — and this is the one we've got. That's why I am proud of the US 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 March 28 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 Libya's Col. Muammar Gaddafi. 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 Col. Gaddafi as we want, or as post-Gaddafi 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 Col. Gaddafi'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 US 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. By arrangement with the New York Times

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

J&K: TRUTH LOST IN TRANSLATION

 

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.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

SOWING THE SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION

 

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

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

OVER-SHADOWED!
ATMOSPHERICS DEVALUE PROGRESS

 

IT is so typical of the subcontinent's puerile obsession with the theatrics of governance (tamasha?) that public attention was more focused on the atmospherics of the dinner-date in Mohali than appreciative of the forward movement, albeit limited, of the home secretaries' interaction in New Delhi. Downright insulting to the high officials of both governments was the description of their meeting as the rolling out of the red carpet for the Prime Ministerial jaw-jaw at which one eye could possibly have remained fixed on the activity on the cricket field. Much work had been done before the scheduled meeting of officials, sadly there was small evidence of that ahead of the Manmohan-Gilani conversation. Is there need for reminders of how the bus trip to Lahore, or overtures under the allure of the Taj Mahal proved nothing more than media events: the latter, from an Indian perspective, being a whopping media disaster? It would be naïve to have expected that the conclusions of Mohali would contain specifics like those agreed upon by the home secretaries ~ specifics that have the potential to pay some dividends in selected areas. Given the long-contentious bilateral relations, even that brief list must fall on the right side of progress. That a host of big-wigs that accompanied the Prime Ministers to the World Cup semi-final (all in the VIP complimentary box while thousands of genuine fans could not buy their way into the stadium) told a tale of how the glare of publicity mesmerises our leaders: Chaudhary Qamar Zaman and GK Pillai have been trivialised. In some way that may have been fortunate ~ the diversion of the hype to Mohali facilitated their doing a little business.


Regardless of the outcome of Mohali, it was disturbing to note reports that the external affairs ministry was not fully on board when the invitation to Gilani was sent by the PMO. Did one section of South Block seek to upstage the other? That reconfirms gut feelings that far too many "initiatives" are knee-jerk reactions, comprehensive policy remains of notional relevance. Happily, though he had not been sounded, Gilani responded positively: else the invitation risked being slammed as a "clever" gimmick. Had he declined for any reason (his family is dealing with a medical situation) sections of the Indian establishment could have trumpeted that as spurning an offer to dismantle fences. Foreign policy cannot be thus trivialised ~ that's not playing cricket!

 

LIBYA & THE LEFT

MR BHATTACHARJEE'S ELECTORAL PLANK

BUDDHADEB Bhattacharjee's performance at Sunday's madrasa convention was noteworthy for what he said and also as much for what he did not. On the face of it, there can be no connection between Libyan oil and the electoral compulsions in Bengal. However, in a robust condemnation of the American air-strikes, the Chief Minister asserted: "We know oil is the reason behind this; the world is angry with the treatment of Muslim countries by America and its allies." So too is the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The Chief Minister has made a predictable attempt to woo the Muslims by sympathising with the community in the world at large. Small wonder he has drawn a parallel with Iraq. The pattern of voting over the past three years suggests that the minorities have voted for Trinamul since the panchayat elections in 2008 ~ the first in the series of electoral debacles. Psephological records affirm that they can swing the vote in Bengal not least because they constitute 25 per cent of the electorate. Mr Bhattacharjee must be acutely aware that the government's forcible attempt to acquire land ~ 70 per cent of Nandigram's peasantry are Muslims ~ and its handling of the Rizwanur case have deepened the disenchantment. The granting of OBC status and a 10 per cent quota for poor Muslims in government jobs hasn't quite cut the ice, as expected. Hence the depiction of Muslims as a group that has been consistently sinned against by Uncle Sam. The applause of the captive audience at Rabindra Sadan suggests that the Chief Minister may have struck the right emotional chord, but anyone saying what he did would have drawn the same applause.


At another remove, Mr Bhattacharjee was circumspect enough to skirt the issues that he has raised over the past five years. Notably, his repeated emphasis on the need to modernise the madrasa syllabi instead of being caught in the time-warp of fundamentalist instruction. Indeed, his stress on contemporary disciplines was never endorsed by party hardliners,  let alone the bigoted section of  the community. No less crucially, his alert against the emergence of unaffiliated madrasas in the districts bordering Bangladesh was also untouched. Altogether it is too hot a potato for an electoral presentation. As calculated as the reference to the Libyan tragedy was the compulsion not to rock the boat at this juncture over sensitive issues. He has been a politician, and nothing more. The community will convey its message through the six phases of the election.

 

DISILLUSIONED ELECTORATE

KARNATAKA CM'S IMAGE DENTED

THE Karnataka voter is disillusioned today. Barely into his third year as BJP's first-ever chief minister in southern India, B S Yeddyurappa has evoked  a range of emotions. Initially there was joy and enthusiasm at what was perceived as the dawn of a new era. This has given way to frustration, a sense of having been cheated, and even outrage as the government and its ministers have come under the scanner for every conceivable reason. These range from sexual assault and violation of rules in recruitment of medical teachers to land-grabbing, illegal mining and nepotism. Nothing seems to faze Karnataka's rulers; their refrain that earlier dispensations had done all this doesn't help matters. Added to this is the alleged misuse of a trust floated by the CM's immediate family and supported by industrialists as a quid  pro quo for  government favours. The public has also been witness to ministers, legislators and other partymen airing their dissatisfaction with the chief minister; even demanding a change in leadership. The worthies, first-timers who want to be ministers at any cost, seek posts and designations which would be hard to come by even  for more experienced politicians. Predictably, this lot finds it easier to join likeminded seniors and run to the party high command in New Delhi at the drop of a hat, and accuses the CM of ill-treating them. The ritual has become so predictable that the chief minister too has been spending more time in the national capital, seeking to counter allegations. To underline what he terms as his indispensability to the party in Karnataka, a cornered and desperate Yeddyurappa has often used his Lingayat caste card and that dominant community's support, along with a  threat to dissolve the assembly. This seems to have helped in getting him a reprieve for now, especially because the BJP is preparing for the three bye-polls in Karnataka alongside assembly elections in four states. Not willing to add to its woes, the BJP leadership has chosen to defer a decision while it awaits the outcome of an investigation into complaints of land-grabbing against the CM and his family. But the party's image has been badly dented as Yeddyurappa and his team provoke widespread disgust; clearly the Chief Minister is among the least liked men in the state.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

DIRELY IN DEBT~I

QUEST FOR WAYS AND MEANS TO AVERT A DISASTER

BY BIBEKANANDA RAY


WEST Bengal's outstanding debt of Rs 200738 crore, as on 21 March, and the negative balance in the exchequer during February and March has no precedent. A little over 29 per cent of the amount ~ Rs 58254 crore ~ was incurred in excess of the Left Front regime's cumulative deficit over 34 years (Rs 142485 crore) for which loans are normally taken. Was this additional debt utilised to make up some other deficit?
West Bengal's financial crisis, which peaked late last year, shows no sign of abating. To quote the Governor, it is "turning grim with every passing day". In February, the 87 treasuries withheld all government payments on the basis of a "verbal embargo" from the finance department. On 1 March, the exchequer's negative balance was Rs 1450 crore. On 5 March, the finance secretary admitted to the Governor that the state was facing a severe liquidity crunch as the treasuries could not defray even daily routine expenses of about Rs 1000 crore.
The revenue has been dipping since January.  The model code of conduct came into effect on 1 March. With the financial year set to end on 31 March, the departments hurriedly withdrew their unspent allocations, draining the exchequer further. The pay and pension for March of around 10 lakh employees will come to around Rs 20,000 crore. The payment cannot be effected without appropriating from other non-Plan allocations and unspent Central assistance. April could turn out to be "the cruellest month", if the Reserve Bank does not make certain relaxations.


In November last year, the Union expenditure secretary had warned Dr Asim Dasgupta that he had failed to mobilise the additional revenue of Rs 4575 crore that he proposed in the 2010-11 budget. In view of the mounting debt and the political uncertainty, the state's credibility in terms of repaying market loans was held at a discount. Private financial institutions were hesitant to lend.


This alarming situation should have justified the proclamation of financial emergency under Article 360 of the Constitution. But the Centre is trying to keep the sinking state afloat by throwing the lifebelt in the form of special Central assistance.


However, the state cabinet was impervious to the crisis.  For the last 7-8 months, it approved the creation of thousands of posts in government offices. On 22 February, it sanctioned 3221 posts and the recruitment of 771 forest guards. After the vote-on-account was presented by the finance minister on 21 March, the government asked the state public service commission to recruit at least 10,000 personnel in an effort to gain publicity mileage.
If it does not return to power, the next government will have an albatross around its neck. The exchequer will be virtually drained out, making it extremely difficult to pay wages, subsidies and sundry allowances. On 1 March, after the poll schedule was announced, the finance minister worked beyond office hours to clear the files that had piled up. They related to the creation of posts, filling of 1474 vacancies in the irrigation department and approving promotions.


Till February, the state additionally borrowed Rs 1800 crore from the Reserve Bank. This was in addition to the Central loans and advances, amounting to Rs 27439 crore, excluding the ways-and-means advances. The state's primary deficit owing to low yield in agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining and extraction of oil and gas had risen to about Rs 9815 crore in 2009-10. It drew repayable ways and means advances 38 times, totalling Rs 2000 crore, and overdraft for hundreds of crores from the RBI.


The one per cent increase in VAT and 10 per cent cut in non-plan expenditure from 15 November did not yield the expected revenue of Rs 1200 crore. In 2010-11, the state raised a market loan of Rs 20845 crore, including bonds valued at Rs 1.45 lakh crore. The outstanding debt including PF, Reserve Funds and deposits in the revised total of 2009-10 was Rs 169756.66 crore; to this was added Rs 36658.62 crore on the same account in 2010-11. Of the outstanding loan, Rs 5676.64 crore was repaid. This brings the government's cumulative debt to Rs 200737.64 crore, which constitutes over 43 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Products (GSDP), the highest among the states.


The facts run counter to Dr Dasgupta's claim in the vote-on-account that the outstanding debt in 2010-11 will be reduced by Rs 6000 crore because of enhanced VAT collection in the final count. The finance minister has often attributed the state's fiscal problems to the Centre's apathy. He has now appealed to the Centre to pay Rs 8645 crore on such heads as the disputed coal royalty arrear, interest relief for enacting the FRBM last year, subsidy for reducing inter-state sales tax and compensation for the Cyclone Aila victims and drought. Even if he gets the money from the Centre, it shall hardly make any difference to the state exchequer.


The years 1991-92 and 2010-11 were the most critical in terms of ways-and-means advances and overdrafts from the RBI. In 1991-92, Dr Dasgupta took recourse to overdraft 17 times, totalling Rs 415.21 crore. In 2010-11, the overdrafts ran into hundreds of crores. Over the past ten years, he obtained overdraft amounting to Rs one lakh crore.


Since the 2003-04 fiscal, the state budgets have opened with negative balances. On 31 March 2009, the state's deposit with the RBI fell to about (-) Rs 222.20 crore. The RBI and the CAG have been warning the state for some years that mounting indebtednes and "negligible return on government investments" could lead to fiscal disaster. The warning was ignored by the finance minister. Central funds lapsed as the money wasn't  utilised in time, notably for NREGS. Out of 91.76 lakh job-card holders, only about 25.73 lakh got work only for 25 days in 2008-09.

(To be concluded)


The writer is a retired officer of the Indian Information Service

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

THE MAN WHO SMILES

DISSIDENCE AGAINST KARNATAKA CHIEF MINISTER MR BS YEDDYURAPPA IS PEAKING AGAIN. BUT THE HEAD OF THE FIRST BJP GOVERNMENT IN SOUTH INDIA KNOWS HE HAS NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT, WHAT WITH THE PARTY'S CENTRAL LEADERSHIP UNWILLING TO ROCK THE BOAT AHEAD OF IMPENDING

BYPOLLS AND ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS, WRITES TYAGARAJ SHARMA

Karnataka chief minister Mr BS Yeddyurappa appears to have more lives than a cat, going by the manner in which he has repeatedly managed to cling to his chair. This, notwithstanding the ritual dissidence which invariably picks up on the eve of a bypoll or a major political event in the state, as is happening now. But then, ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in May 2008, Mr Yeddyurappa has encountered more dissidence and rebellion from his colleagues than he would like to remember. While it does say a lot about his style of governance, the fact is, the BJP in Karnataka remains a divided house, despite its claims of being a party with a difference. No wonder, every year Mr Yeddyurappa has been compelled to rush to New Delhi to seek support from party leaders to counter the growing internal grumbling. If it was the rebellion led by the powerful Reddy brothers from Bellary the year before the last, last year, 11 BJP legislators sided with Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former chief minister Mr HD Kumaraswamy and nearly succeeded in pulling down the government. As such, the chief minister was forced to prove his majority twice within a week in the House ~ an unprecedented event in itself. This year has been no different. More than 40-50 dissident MLAs closed ranks in the last fortnight, though, not without the blessings of the BJP's Karnataka unit chief Mr K Eashwarappa. If that was not enough, another senior leader and arch rival of the chief minister, Mr Ananth Kumar, too joined the displeased lot. That this got Mr Yeddyurappa worried was evident from the manner in which he rushed to the party office where the peeved  legislators were meeting. Subsequently, he convened a meeting of his own supporters, as if to prove a point. There are many reasons for the MLAs' growing disenchantment with their chief minister. But the immediate provocation, for a section of first timers, for example, was that their demands for berths in the Council of Ministers was not being entertained. Each of these worthies wants nothing less than a plum post, if not a ministership. Seniors in the BJP, on their part, feel that after the huge dent in the party's image following charges of nepotism and corruption involving land allocation against the chief minister and his family, it is becoming embarrassing to defend them. Additionally, a section of BJP ministers too has come under the scanner over charges of sexual harassment, violation of rules in appointing medical staff and illegal mining, not to mention allegations of misappropriation of payment meant for farmers from whom the government had purchased land for development. This does not augur well for the party.If that was not enough, the latest charge against the chief minister and his family has made his supporters  jittery. Mr Kumaraswamy and his father ~ the former Prime Minister ~ Mr Deve Gowda are alleging that industrialists are patronising a trust run by Mr Yeddyurappa's family in return of government favours. Fearing similar exposures in future, these leaders are unanimous in their assertion that unless the party's central leadership acts fast, the BJP may lose all that it had gained in the state. What is making matters worse for the BJP and its supporters alike is the chief minister's  refrain: "Such things happened in the past as well. If it was not such a big deal for earlier governments, why is it becoming an issue now?"

The recent charges against Mr Yeddyurappa raises another issue. Some of the allegations against Mr Yeddyurap-pa and his family go back to the time when he was the deputy chief minister in a JD(S)-BJP coalition. As such, the then  chief minister, Mr Kumaraswamy, would have been surely privy to  the alleged irregularities committed  by his deputy. How is it that he had kept quiet then and got vocal about it only now? Mr Yeddyurappa's counter attacks on the JD-S and his allegations against Mr Kumaraswamy is equally disquieting. The chief minister has alleged that as the chief minister, Mr Kumaraswamy, had been guilty himself of grabbing land, encouraging illegal mining and stoking corruption. This, naturally, raises the question as to what had prevented Mr Yeddyurappa from spilling the beans then? Was it because it would have been inconvenient to do so?

If anything, both the JD-S and the BJP should be held guilty of committing irregularities when they were part of a ruling coalition. Trading charges now does not instill confidence in the parties anymore. This is the point that voters here have been raising repeatedly. The common man finds it difficult to understand why the BJP leadership in Delhi is not doing anything to rectify its sagging image. The people would like a change in leadership, at least till the charges against Mr Yeddyurappa are proved or otherwise.

But the party high command must think twice before making any changes. This is largely because of the huge support Mr Yeddyurappa enjoys in his Lingayat community. It was largely through the support extended by this dominant section of Kannadiga people as well as several muths run by it that Mr Yeddyurappa was able to lead the BJP to the Vidhan Soudha (Assembly). As such, any action against the chief minister, the BJP fears, may deprive it of the Lingayat community's support in the coming years. By exploiting this insecurity reigning in New Delhi, Mr Yeddyurappa has repeatedly threatened to dissolve the Assembly if only to teach his party's rebels, as also the Opposition leaders, a lesson. Each MLA knows that in the event of a mid-term poll, his/her chance of returning to the Assembly may become extremely slim. No wonder, an already weak BJP leadership finds itself in a dilemma despite the UPA's attacks citing its "double standards" in Karnataka. Faced with Mr Yeddyurappa's threats and repeated demands for a change in state leadership from its MLAs in Karnataka, the party high command has chosen to bide its time for now. At least, that is what BJP sources have told The Statesman.

In this context, a proposed investigation by the Lokayukta into the charges of corruption involving land allocation levelled against chief minister and his sons ~ subsequently stayed by Karnataka High Court ~ has come as a blessing in disguise for the BJP's central leadership. This helped it buy time. Signals from Delhi suggest that the party would consider action against Mr Yeddyurappa only if the courts censure him.
Surely, nothing could be more reassuring for Mr Yeddyurappa. Not only he has warded off threats to his position for now but also realises that with three bypolls in Karnataka scheduled later this month as well as Assembly elections in four states, the BJP leadership would not like to do anything at present which could rock the boat.

This is probably why all warring factions in the BJP have decided to join hands against the Opposition for the impending elections which have become crucial for Mr Yeddyurappa. He knows that winning the three seats for the BJP would help him gain an upper hand while emphasising his value to the party. Also, the wins would dash the hopes of the rebels who keep trying their best to unseat him. No wonder, Mr Yeddyurappa is seen wearing a broad smile these days.

The writer is The Statesman's Bangalore-based Special Representative

 

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THE STATESMAN

BOLLYWOOD ~ A LOVE STORY

NOW AND AGAIN

TANYA GUPTA

 

As a little girl, I loved the larger-than-life world that Bollywood movies depicted. My life, painted in white and gray, was in stark contrast to the "technicolour" character of Bollywood movies whose protagonists, with their ability to sing, dance, cry, fight or go up in flames at the drop of a hat, fascinated me.

 

In Lucknow, where I spent my early childhood, my love for Bollywood movies was seen as normal. Then my family moved to Delhi and with it came a heart-wrenching shift to the big, bad world of a metropolis. In the pseudo-sophisticated world I now moved in, I discovered, among other things, that Bollywood was "garish", "vulgar", "lacked culture" and meant for the "lower classes" and "small town people". As an uprooted 12-year old, stuck in an entirely new environment, it wasn't hard for me to sell out so that I could fit in. I switched from Bollywood to Hollywood, which wasn't a bad trade, except that I had begun denying what had become an essential part of me.  


Years passed. I went to college in the USA at 18. Although I was up-rooted again and found myself in a completely new environment, this time, I did not buy into things because I wanted to fit in.  I had learned that fitting in was not all that it was cracked up to be and definitely not worth the sacrifice of one's individuality. Long torn between my love for many things Western, and South Asian, I realised that the "twain could meet" and began exploring how they could. And, I found myself beginning to fall in love, all over again, with Bollywood.


Many years have passed and I notice that attitude towards Bollywood movies, at least of the generation before mine, hasn't changed that much.  Bollywood lovers still need to remain in the closet to continue to hang out in South Asian intellectual circles in the USA. They fail to recognise that Bollywood has undergone a sea change. I think that's because India of today is better, brighter and bolder, and as Jules from Pulp Fiction would say: "More righteous!" And, I love that.  


Not all movies fit the bill, though. The ones that do make it big are truly democratic. The appeal of these films cut across the language, caste, religious and gender lines that divide India. They do this by touching the one thing we all have in common ~ our basic goodness, our human values.  


Also, in a land where people set themselves on fire to protest, where the  widow of a slain leader becomes a political icon,where innocuous remarks lead to bandhs and bloody riots ~ films have to make a connection at an emotional level. These movies cannot afford to be pedantic; they have to entertain, and they have to do it over three long hours. Dev D and Lage Raho Munnabhai probably capture best the changing India.
The India I see in Bollywood movies of today, reminds me of America of yesteryear ~ the country that conquered the world through the power of its ideas and not by the idea of its power.


Not that life has become more cushy in India; on the contrary, the struggle for survival has become tougher, particularly for the deprived and the dispossessed but it is the mindset that has changed. It is not longer good enough to quietly accept your kismet.  


It is not the movies that make India what it is today. It is the India of today that has inspired these Bollywood movies. An India that re-defines Devdas, that encourages a fighter who is strong but does not always need to raise his fists. Yes, Bollywood has come a long way and I love it for that.

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

JUDGES ON RIGHT TRACK!

RAJINDER PURI

 
There is light at the end of the tunnel! If the Supreme Court continues pursuing its present line of inquiry, there is every chance that the Hasan Ali case will be cracked, illegal black money in foreign accounts will be unearthed, and the rich and the powerful will stand fully exposed before the Indian public. If that happens, India's Jasmine moment will have arrived.


On 23 March, it was written in these columns: "The Enforcement Directorate should not waste time. It should first of all release the names of those already revealed by Hasan Ali. This should be done to activate the named politicians to expose their higher bosses." This advice was based upon a well established and effective norm in investigation. When subjected to heat, the small fry start squealing to expose the big fish.   


Recall how the Watergate case was cracked. Mr John Dean was the White House Counsel appointed to help cover up the Watergate crime. As exposes tumbled out, he sensed that he would be made the scapegoat. Meanwhile, US President Richard Nixon fired Mr Dean who had earlier asked Nixon for immunity from prosecution for any crimes he may have committed while serving in the White House. Nixon refused. Mr Dean began to cooperate with the prosecution. Dean testified before the Senate Watergate Committee. He implicated Nixon, former attorney-general John Mitchell and other big shots. He was the first official to accuse Nixon directly. Mr Dean's testimony had little legal impact, being his word against the President's. Nixon denied Mr Dean's accusations. But then the secret White House tape recordings surfaced. That nailed Nixon and the rest to create history.


Last Monday, the Supreme Court judges, after reading the status report of the case submitted by the ED, expressed shock at its contents. The judges pointedly asked: "Tell us why you are claiming privilege? Why not they (the names of people contained in the status report) be disclosed? Let the people of the country know what is happening. Now there is no privilege on one name. People have come to know everything."


That is right. Disclosing Hasan Ali's name has led to some information. Disclosing other names will lead to more information. The Supreme Court has sought the CD prepared by dismissed deputy police commissioner Mr Ashok Deshbhratar which contains Hasan Ali's interview. After viewing it, the judges will doubtless get more enlightened. Further, if the judges direct the ED to question Cabinet minister Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh and Mrs Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Mr Ahmed Patel as to why they met Hasan Ali on 15 March 2008, they will most likely get even more enlightened. If the judges continue with their relentless pressure, the nation surely will get the whole truth.

 
The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

ANOTHER CLASS

Surveys of anything to do with sex usually yield conservative results, particularly in India. So the fact that the ministry of women and child development found 53 per cent of Indian children to be victims of sexual abuse in its 2007 study of child abuse in 13 states is an alarming indicator of the magnitude of the evil. From that study, the ministry has formulated the protection of children from sexual offences bill, 2011. The bill now awaits passage in Parliament. Targeted chiefly at penetrative and non-penetrative sexual abuse of children, and the use of children for pornography, the proposed legislation is meant to include all those specific sexual offences not covered by any other law. Any law will have its weak points, but no critic would deny the long-felt need for the proposed legislation. It has taken many years and much talking for the Indian government to accept that the sexual abuse of minors, when absorbed into the law against homosexuality, for example, or that against custodial rape or even minor marriage, not only loses the specificity of the criminal act, but is also fragmented into secondary bits of broader crimes. And many forms of it vanish through the gaps. The crime needs to be regarded separately. The child abuser is a criminal like no other. The evil is, and has always been, widespread. The Indian joint family environment and the value accorded to men, together with the culture of respect towards authority, have simultaneously nurtured and silenced this horror. Any law would help.

Inevitably, the bill has a number of problems. In a stretch of pragmatism, it qualifies abuse in the case of children between 16 and 18 years of age by basing it on the lack of consent. The confusion in Indian laws regarding the ages of consent, marriage, adulthood and so on throws long shadows. How soon do children have independent agency in sex? How is the notion of childhood affected by the sexual consciousness of the child? These questions are never easy, even less so when they concern people of widely differing standards of education and income, of varied, many-layered cultures, caught in a time of rapid change. And that, perhaps, is the greatest difficulty of the bill. All societies, in cities and villages, must comprehend its full impact. Otherwise it will not be used, or be merely abused to punish innocent people. And it will completely miss the children who need it intensely — in shops, fields, factories and kitchens.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WAY TO GO

In Syria, every political action is balanced by an opposite, and often ferociously unequal, reaction. If one version of the events suggests that the Syrian cabinet was sacked by its authoritarian president, Bashar al-Assad, on Tuesday, another account says that the cabinet resigned of its own accord. Political life in Syria, dominated by the al-Assad family for more than four decades, has been poisoned by such calculated ambiguities. Coercion and fear have been seamlessly integrated into State policy to make the people subservient to their rulers. So, even as a section of the Sunni majority has broken out in revolt against the ruling Alawi minority, terror continues to define the Syrian attitude to the crisis. If thousands braved the threat of murderous reprisals to challenge the rotten core of the al-Assad regime, there are as many out on the streets chanting pro-government slogans who have been mobilized by the administration. It is perhaps significant that the current president's father was a dear friend of the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, who had mastered the terrible art of popular repression.

Unlike the fate of the Jasmine Revolution in most other Arab countries, the uprising in Syria may not automatically lead to the removal of the autocratic regime. The al-Assad family has shown remarkable staying power against all odds. It has been able to linger on for so long by carrying out a project of domestic colonialism. After a bitter struggle to free themselves from French colonial rule, Syrians were yoked with the oppressive strategies of the Baath Party, run by the al-Assad family. The latter successfully created a population with no political personality, and it may be too late now for Syrians to come together as a force that will overthrow the deeply entrenched status quo. Further, Syria's towering reputation as an anti-West nation and a symbol of pan-Arab nationalism is also dubious. Syria has not hesitated to side with Iran against Iraq, it has created fissure among Palestinian ranks, brokered a truce of sorts with Israel, agitated violently within Lebanon, and even complied with George W. Bush's programme of extraordinary rendition. Over the last three years, both the United States of America and Israel have tried to influence Syria to cut off ties with Iran and the Hizbollah. The al-Assads have made friends with those who matter; they will not mind much losing the faith of the people.

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THE TELEGRAPH

HARD ROAD AHEAD

A SPELL IN OPPOSITION MAY BE JUST WHAT THE LEFT FRONT NEEDS BHASKAR DUTTA

In a few days' time, voters in West Bengal will cast their verdict on the three decades of Left Front rule in the state. During all the previous elections after 1977, the only question on everyone's lips was the size of the eventual majority for the ruling coalition — there was no doubt that the Left Front would come back to power. It is vastly different this year — most political pundits give the Left only a slim chance of returning to Writers' Buildings.

Predictions about election results in India have often been wrong and they could also go awry this time around. But predictions are based on ground realities and this one is no exception. The initial euphoria dissipated long ago, only to be replaced by growing disenchantment with Left Front rule. This disenchantment was given concrete shape during the last Lok Sabha elections when the alliance led by the Trinamul Congress secured well over half the seats in the state.

Is this bitterness and disappointment of the typical voter in West Bengal unreasonable? How has his relative position changed compared to his brethren in other parts of the country?

The Left Front government started its innings in Sehwag-like fashion, blazing away with the launch of Operation Barga soon after coming to power. The successful implementation of this hugely important reform ensured legal protection to tenant farmers against eviction and also ensured that they got their rightful share of the produce. There is no doubt that Operation Barga made a tremendous difference to the lives of vast numbers of poor and marginal farmers. It has been the Left Front's most impressive achievement.

Unfortunately, this has been virtually the only policy initiative of such major significance undertaken by the ruling coalition. It is difficult to think of any criterion according to which the Left Front will get more than a passing grade. Consider first the overall income criterion. In the early 1960s, Bengal's per capita income was higher than that of India as a whole. The position of the state declined in the latter half of that decade during the first spell of Left Front rule, when there was a marked flight of capital out of the state. The ratio of the state's per capita net domestic product to that of per capita net national product has remained virtually unchanged at just below one between 1977-78 and 2008-09.

At first sight, this may not seem so bad since it suggests that the state has kept up with the impressive rate of growth achieved by the Indian economy as a whole during the last three decades. However, much of the increase in state output has come from agriculture, which has actually performed very well. The flip side of the coin is that there has been a virtual de-industrialization of the state. This neglect of industry has been an almost deliberate act of state policy, and can have disastrous long-term consequences. The agricultural sector simply cannot grow as fast as the rest of the economy, and so the state's relative position in the income ladder will slip if the industrial sector is not strengthened.

Supporters of the Left may claim that the Front should be judged on the basis of how the state has performed in terms of distributional criteria such as the incidence of poverty and indicators of human development. In 1978, the ratios of the rural and urban populations in the state below the poverty line were 56 and 38 per cent, while analogous figures for India as a whole were 51 and 41 per cent. The corresponding figures in 2005 are 38.2 (rural) and 24.4 (urban) per cent for West Bengal, while they are 41.8 (rural) and 25.7 (urban) per cent for India as a whole. In other words, the reduction in rural poverty in the state has been better than that for the country as a whole, perhaps because of Operation Barga and the impressive growth of the agricultural sector. The reduction in urban poverty has just about kept pace with the rest of the country. This is surely not a creditable achievement for a ruling coalition which claims that its USP is "caring for the poor".

Life expectancy in the state is roughly the same as the all-India figure. However, the state has been able to achieve a much faster decline in infant mortality compared to the rest of the country. In contrast, its performance in the education sector has been pretty dismal for a state which takes great pride in its literary and cultural traditions. Bengal's relative position in terms of literacy rates amongst the major states is much lower today than it was in 1981.

Can the Left Front come up with legitimate alibis and excuses which can possibly explain what has been at best a very mediocre performance? Throughout the three decades in power, a constant refrain of the ruling coalition has been the allegation that the Central government has been biased against the state. There is some truth behind this claim. There is ample empirical evidence that successive governments at the Centre use Central grants to the states to further their political objectives, discriminating against those states which are ruled by Opposition parties. It did not help the cause of West Bengal that an overwhelming majority of its members of parliament have also been from the Left.

However, this can only provide a partial explanation of the experiences during the last three decades. For example, the Left enjoyed a lot of clout with the first United Progressive Alliance government until it withdrew support over the nuclear deal. But there is no evidence suggesting that the state government used this influence to further the economic prospects of the state during this period.

Moreover, the Left Front has also enjoyed an advantage that should have more than offset what has often been labelled the "stepmotherly" treatment from the Centre. The coalition has been remarkably stable during this long period, in stark contrast to virtually all other coalitions that have been in power in other states. This political stability has meant that the state has been spared the populist policies and rent-seeking activities which are typically associated with unstable coalitions, and which have plagued many other states in India. In addition, the overwhelming majority of its leaders have been honest and upright — qualities that are not typically associated with Indian politicians.

Unfortunately, the Front has not been able to translate these advantages into concrete economic benefits for the state, almost entirely because of its doctrinaire mistrust of the capitalist system. Until very recently, there has hardly been any attempt to attract capital into the state — at a time when other Indian states were falling over each other to get fresh investment projects for themselves. No state in India possesses the financial resources to set up large public sector enterprises that can generate adequate levels of gainful employment. So the failure to attract private capital has meant that the growth process in the state has been almost solely dependent on agriculture. Unfortunately, the sector is structurally incapable of absorbing additional labour. Indeed, no large, overpopulated, land-scarce economy can grow without a sizeable industrial sector. West Bengal has been no exception. The leaders of the Left Front must have been extremely myopic and unbelievably naïve to believe otherwise.

Elections are a great disciplining device. The threat of losing power can induce good governance. The lack of any credible opposition has enabled the Left to come back to power repeatedly, and has resulted in arrogance and the inability to learn from past mistakes. Perhaps a spell on the opposition benches is just what the doctor should order for the Left.

The author is professor of economics, University of Warwick

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

HUG A TREE

CHINA DIARY - NEHA SAHAY

Last week, Nanjing's residents did what the people of Mumbai and Bangalore have not been able to: get the city authorities to stop cutting their trees. The first thing that strikes you in Nanjing is the canopy of trees that lines both sides of the main roads. These tree-lined boulevards are a sheer delight; a treasure peculiar to Nanjing. The provincial capital is described as one of China's four 'furnace cities' because of its hot summers. But the wutong trees with their wide trunks and broad leaves have protected its residents through the summer.

The demands of a third subway line — for 2014, when Nanjing will host the Summer Youth Olympics — however, outweighed the value of these trees, and 40 of them were cut early this month, of a total of 600 marked for cutting. The sight of the stunted trunks in place of the majestic trees was shocking, but commuters hurried by. One man didn't. He stood alone with a poster, saying, "The Nanjingers care about the trees. Stop the offensive to the trees!"

By then, pictures of the stunted trunks had been posted on the internet. So also of this man's lone protest. Far away in England, a design student from Nanjing saw the pictures and designed two posters, one of them showing a sleek train going through a wutong leaf. She posted them on a popular Chinese networking site. Within two days, the posters were forwarded 5,000 times, and used by Nanjing celebrities and heritage experts on their blogs. Soon, the city's residents were out on the streets, tying green ribbons on the bare trunks. A meeting was held on the steps of the Nanjing Library on a Saturday afternoon.

A few days later, the mayor announced a halt to the tree cutting till a study was done on how to minimize it. He promised that the future of the trees would lie with the residents. He announced a tree census, with every tree being numbered; a green assessment panel, which would include citizens and experts, to be set up to vet every project, and public comments to be invited for any project that required tree cutting.

The irony is that Mumbai and Bangalore already have all this, and are part of the world's largest democracy, yet, they have been unable to make their authorities listen to them.

Green revolution

Nanjing's protest is unique. Other internet-spurred citizens' protests have always been over gross abuse of power. The Chinese authorities' disdain for the environment matches that of the Indians'; but hardly anyone protests here.

Why was Nanjing different? For Nanjingers, the trees are part of their history. They were planted in the late 1920s, to honour Sun Yat-Sen, the Father of Modern China, deeply loved by the people. His body was brought to rest in Nanjing, and the trees were planted on both sides of the main roads along which his cortège passed. In fact, this history promoted a Taiwanese politician to write to the Nanjing government asking it to protect the trees out of respect to the founder of the Kuomintang. Even during the Nanjing massacre by the Japanese, the trees were left untouched. "They are part of our family,'' said Nanjingers, while bloggers admitted to being reduced to tears at the sight of the stumps. Earlier, subway construction had also resulted in tree cutting and transplantation, but few of the transplanted trees survived.

However, barely had the Nanjingers savoured their victory when 37 wutong trees on one stretch of road were cut overnight in Shanghai, again for a subway, the cutting approved of by the Shanghai Municipal Afforestation & City Appearance Bureau. Again, pictures of the grand trunks lying uprooted, mangled and bleeding, were posted online, and 24 hours later, the bureau held a press conference promising the "replanting" of 150 trees. Shanghai's residents remain cynical, but haven't yet hit the streets.

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

EDITORIAL

UNHEALTHY MISSION

'THE SCALE OF MISUSE AND WASTAGE OF FUNDS IS CLEAR.'


The national rural health mission is an ambitious scheme launched by the UPA I government to take health care to villages. The government's publicity department has made it out as a flagship scheme that has done wonders. It has been claimed that it has delivered on all fronts and across social segments and has set new standards. But the claims appear to be gross misrepresentation and exaggeration in the light of the actual state of implementation. There have been many reports of corruption, mismanagement and other problems.  Now the Public Accounts Committee of parliament has given details of how wasteful and inefficient  the scheme has been.  The PAC has called the scheme a joke and a fiasco and told the health ministry to restructure it.


Some facts about the scheme discovered by the PAC are shocking. Health centres in villages are used as cowsheds and godowns. Doctors are not available, not to speak of specialists. Even nurses, midwives or paramedical staff are in short supply. Testing facilities and services are non-existent or inadequate. In places where machines and equipment are available they are not used and long periods of lack of use make them unusable. Medicines past their expiry dates are given to patients and in many states there is no check on the quality of medicines which are purchased. The state of infrastructure and hygiene is very bad and there is virtually no monitoring. The government has not made any assessment of the performance of the scheme after it was launched. The PAC audit has found that the scheme can be said to be not a failure only in two of the 18 states where it is implemented.


Considering that the government has spent Rs 30,000 crore on the scheme till now, the scale of misuse and wastage of funds is clear. Bringing health care to villages is full of difficulties and challenges and only the government can effectively do that. It spends only one per cent of the GDP on health care though a target of 3 per cent has been set. If even the one per cent is spent the way the PAC has found it is, any increase in fund allocation will hardly help, except to increase corruption. The government needs to take a hard look at the scheme again, make it useful to ordinary people in the villages and stop the misuse of the funds.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

MADNESS IN LIBYA

'NATO INTERVENTION HAS GONE IN GADHAFI'S FAVOUR.'


Libya's steady descent into civil war confirms that the Nato-led military intervention is fuelling the fighting there.  Nato's aerial bombardment of cities and military installations that is supposedly to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya did deal Libyan government forces a blow initially. It did seem that president Muammar Gadhafi's troops had been pushed on the defensive. But that was short-lived. They have now begun to re-take towns. The rebels' westward advance has been arrested by Libyan troops. The pendulum is now swinging in the latter's favour. If Nato forces believed that their aerial bombardment of Libya would contribute to ousting Gadhafi in a matter of days, they have been proved wrong. The Libyan strongman has indicated that he is no pushover. Clearly, he does enjoy some support among the people, a point that Nato leaders failed to factor in when they charted out their grand strategy to oust him. According to media reports coming from Libya, residents in towns like Nawfaliyah are fighting alongside government forces. This is an ominous sign of an upcoming civil war. The mounting civilian casualties from Nato's aerial bombing seem to have increased public support for Gadhafi.

A conference of 40 countries has given Gadhafi an ultimatum to step down and go into exile or be prepared to face more bombardment. Why would Gadhafi go when he is regaining ground in his country? The Nato intervention has gone in his favour. The US, which appears to be playing a secondary role to Britain and France in the military operations, has said that Nato is providing only food, medicines and communication equipment to the rebels. However, president Barack Obama has not ruled out the supply of arms to them. Instead of correcting a flawed strategy, the US and its Nato allies seem determined to escalate their military involvement in Libya.


Nato commanders insist that their mission in Libya is purely to protect civilians. But thousands of civilians have perished in the bombing to save them. It is hard not to be reminded of a quote from the Vietnam War era — "We had to burn the village to save it" — that American commanders glibly offered to justify their savage destruction of Vietnamese society. Libya's descent to civil war must be halted. An immediate ceasefire is needed.

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

STARK REALITY

BY DEVINDER SHARMA

 
By deliberately keeping the poverty line low, economists and planners had actually betrayed the poor.
In a significant move, the supreme court has questioned the very basis of counting the poor in the country. Realising that the poverty line is a gross underestimation, the supreme court has done what economists had failed to see all these years.


By deliberately keeping the poverty line low, economists and planners had actually betrayed the poor. These faulty poverty estimates became the foundation of the entire development strategies and programmes. No wonder, 64 years after Independence, poverty continues to be robustly sustainable, and is in reality increasing in a geometric proportion.


Now take a look. Planning Commission had worked out poverty at 27.5 per cent in 2004-05. An expert group set up by the Planning Commission again to review the methodology for poverty estimates for the same year (2004-05) upped it to 37.2 per cent. If we go by the international poverty norms of people living on less than $ 1.25 per day than over 456 million Indians live in poverty.


The National Advisory Council simply pegs poverty at 50 per cent. As if this is not enough, we now have the new Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which pegs poverty in India at 55 per cent. It has added another 10 indicators, including child mortality, school enrolment, drinking water, and sanitation.

Before you get lost, let me decipher the criteria that are used to first gauge the prevailing level of food insecurity and hunger. Previously poverty estimates were done using the calorie norms provided by the Indian Council for Medical Research. Accordingly, 2,400 kcal in rural areas and 2,100 kcal in urban areas formed the basis of the poverty estimates. I don't know why the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) uses lower per capita calories consumption estimates of 1,770 kcal, which actually is an incorrect estimate.


By keeping the food consumption norms low, the FAO succeeds in deliberately hiding its own inefficiencies in reducing global hunger. Current estimate of global poverty by the FAO at 925 million therefore is a gross underestimation. A realistic poverty estimate for India alone would be around what the FAO projects as global poverty.

In India, what the supreme court finds it astonishing is that as per the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) 2004-05 report those spending less than Rs 12 a day in rural areas and those spending less than Rs 17 a day in the urban areas, were categorised as poor. This is what has baffled the supreme court. After all, how can the planners be blind to the ground realities? How can they presume that someone can survive with such a paltry amount?


Poverty criteria

Later, a panel headed by Suresh Tendulkar, formerly chairman of prime minister's Economic Advisory Council, reworked the formula by adding certain more items like food, sanitation and education to the poverty criteria. It however used lower calorie consumption norms of 1,999 kcal for rural areas and 1,776 for urban areas, which would perpetually keep the population food insecure. By lowering food expenditure and adding some new items to the daily expenditure list for the poor, it based its calculations on estimates of Rs 15 for the rural areas and Rs 19 for the urban centres.


It makes me wonder as to why economists fail to realise that the indicators adopted for measuring poverty are inadequate, and did not reflect the prevailing realities. I don't know why they feel that by hiding the number of poor they are doing a service to the nation. That is why the supreme court had to step in.


What makes all these poverty estimates look unrealistic is the 2007 Arjun Sengupta committee report (officially the report of the National Commission on Enterprise in Unorganised Sector), which had estimated that 77 per cent of the population or 836 million people were unable to spend more than Rs 20 (less than 50 US cents) a day. This is more or less a correct reflection of the extent of prevailing poverty, and therefore needs to be accepted as the new poverty line.

 

The recommendation of the Tendulkar committee, which estimates 37.2 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, is actually a reflection of acute hunger that prevails. Knowing that Rs 19 a day cannot feed a human being in urban centres, the Tendulkar committee estimate should constitute the food insecurity line. It means 37.2 per cent of the population is food insecure and need emergency food aid programmes to meet the challenges of hunger.


In other words, India's existing poverty line is actually a euphemism for severe food insecurity. I only hope the supreme court directs the government to draw two estimates — a poverty line at 77 per cent of the population as suggested by the Arjun Sengupta Committee, and a food insecurity line at 37.2 per cent, which comprises people who constitute the existing percentage of people living below poverty.


For the poor it doesn't make a difference. They know poverty is their destiny. They are born in poverty and they die in poverty. Rest all is statistical jugglery.

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

NUCLEAR CRISIS SHIFTS GERMAN POLITICS

BY JACK EWING, NYT


The elections in Baden-Wurttemberg on Sunday were transformed by the events in Japan.


An election in a comfortable and prosperous corner of Germany, half a world away from a radiation-spewing nuclear plant and ruined villages in northeastern Japan, was a political tsunami of sorts for Europe's most populous country and its most powerful economy.


Economists have played down the effects that the earthquake and nuclear emergency in Japan will have on global growth. But the elections in the state of Baden-Württemberg on Sunday were transformed by the events there. After a contest that became largely a referendum on atomic energy, voters swept aside the Christian Democratic Union, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel that had governed the state for 58 years, and set the stage for the first German state government led by the Green Party, longtime opponents of nuclear power.

The vote is all the more astonishing because Baden-Württemberg is a conservative, wealthy state that exemplifies both the post-1945 birth, and the renaissance of Germany's export-driven economy. Stuttgart, the state capital, is the headquarters of Daimler and Porsche. The medium-sized firms that are the backbone of German export success flourish, while the Black Forest embodies a very German reverence of nature.

Curb on speed

Now the Greens, led by a former Communist, will be in charge. They want speed limits on the autobahns where those Daimlers and Porsches roam free. Their party platform refers to cars as "the most inefficient form of mobility."

The most direct affect of the vote on Sunday will be to push Germany away from nuclear power, which today provides 23 per cent of its electricity.


Merkel, whose belated conversion to nuclear power critic did not win over voters, conceded as much on Monday. "In view of the incident in Japan and the shape of things in Fukushima, we simply can't go back to business as usual," she said in Berlin.


The vote signalled that the categories that have defined politics here since World War II have eroded. For decades, the center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats dominated, with the Free Democrats playing a supporting role.


The Greens emerged in the 1970s, from an era of protest untypical of orderly West Germany. Now the Greens are in a position to lead a German state for the first time — with the Social Democrats as minority partner.

The Greens espouse many political positions that would be considered left-wing in America, but behind the progressive image lurks a strain of conservativism that was key to success on Sunday. The party has in effect become a new political entity, liberal on social issues but wary of much of modern life.


The Green Party is skeptical of digital technology and its potential to be used to gather information on citizens. Its emphasis on preserving the environment was in step with conservatives' desire to preserve the traditional character of Baden-Württemberg, exemplified by vine-covered hillsides and tidy Black Forest villages.

The party also channeled popular outrage against a costly expansion of the Stuttgart train station that had been supported by the Christian Democrats.


Winfried Kretschmann, the 62-year old former teacher who leads the state's Green party, was a communist organiser as a university student but said on his website that his radicalism back then was a "fundamental political error." Instead, Kretschmann emphasised his Catholic roots.


The website of the Green Party reassured voters that its leaders do not plan to tamper with the region's economic success, built around big manufacturers like Bosch and mid-sized engineering and machinery companies. At 4.5 per cent, Baden-Württemberg has the lowest jobless rate in Germany.


That contrasts with other protest parties in Europe, many of which lean rightward, embrace nationalism and mistrust immigrants.


Kretschmann will face difficult tests of party principles against economic reality, choices that may determine whether the vote in Baden-Württemberg marks a permanent political shift or just a short-term reaction to catastrophic events far away.


The state is 45 per cent owner of Energie Baden-Württemberg, or EnBW, which generates about half of its electricity from nuclear power plants. In its election platform, the Green party promised to shut down one plant immediately and the other in 2012. Both have been shut down temporarily because of a moratorium declared by Merkel after the disaster in Japan.


It is unclear where the replacement power will come from, said Georg Zachmann, an energy specialist at Bruegel, a research organisation in Brussels.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

 

BAG AND BAGGAGE

 BY SNEHALATHA BALIGA


Hoping for a semblance of order, I went in for a multi-sectioned hand bag.


According to a British survey, a woman's handbag (rather its contents) is worth 342 pounds! A symbol of women's emancipation, the ladies' handbag has long since come out of its vanity status to be a part of feminine life and apparel. My mother-in-law never carried it. Nor did my mother. For them their lord and master who accompanied them on those rare outings doled out whatever was needed. For them, shopping was limited to home-delivered groceries and the mobile vegetable vendor. Carrying house keys was irrelevant as joint families never locked their houses.


The question 'name the creature with a pouch on its body' and the answer 'the bus conductor' was a joke that made rounds during our childhood. As years went by the question acquired many more answers like 'the school child' and 'the modern woman'. Yet, going by my personal experience and that of a major chunk of female fraternity, this laurel to her spending capability and earning capacity (or both) is her most taken for granted and messy companion, popping up confusing, embarrassing or annoying situations.


Meena often requests the first mobile phone user she bumps into to ring up her number to locate her mobile hiding in the folds of the medical prescriptions and reports, bank pass books and cheques, credit cards and diaries that she carries in her bag. The other day Neelima fumbled for her pen at the bank counter only to take out a pen knife.

 

Seema's bank locker keys accompanied her on her out station trips many times over, nestling in her hand bag. 'Look into her hand bag' is a common solution suggested when a thing gets misplaced in my house. It is as if a Pandora's Box for my family to dig into for missing things, but the rummaging is not always fruitless.

Hoping for a semblance of order through compartments and classification I went in for a multi-sectioned hand bag. Thus the mobile went into the side pocket, the middle space was for reading glasses and papers, and the pen and keys perched in the other, and the sections zipped safely. A few days later I was on my way to the market when the mobile beeped. I opened the bag and could hear the mobile ringing and see it blinking too from below the bag lining, I could feel my pen and grope the purse but alas! They were all out of bounds. All the contents had slipped through the torn lining of the bag to disappear into the blackhole at the bottom. Reclaiming them needed the skill of a surgeon doing a caesarean section.


The topic of hand bags is incomplete unless the hand bag hater who like the koel laying and hatching her eggs in the crow's nest, dumps her belongings in her companion's bag.  While parting, the companion has no other go but to give back all that was dumped including the entire cash as it is too mean to deduct her share of the expenses.

 

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

EDITORIAL

THEY'VE GOT TO FIX THEIR PRIORITIES

The banks may have weathered the financial crisis, but the rest of the country hasn't. Taxpayers are still on the hook for federally guaranteed bank debt. Homeowners' equity continues to erode. Small businesses still have trouble getting loans, and savers are still getting hammered by near zero interest rates. Joblessness remains high. State budgets are ravaged.

So whom have Washington policy makers singled out for help? Bank shareholders, including bank executives who are invariably big holders of stock in their banks.

The Federal Reserve recently gave the all-clear for several banks to increase dividends and expand share buybacks, among them JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. That's good news, at least in the short run for bank investors, but it is a dubious development for everyone else.

The dividend-boosting banks that were too big to fail before the crisis are even bigger now, while reforms to rein them in are under political attack even before they have been implemented. Sheer size and inadequate regulation — the combination that led to the crisis — argue for banks to use their earnings to build bigger capital cushions, not to pay dividends and repurchase shares.

Yet Fed officials have concluded that many banks are safe and sound enough to pay out cash and still withstand a severe shock should one occur again. It's hard to share their confidence. Before it approved new dividends, the Fed required banks to test their crisis-readiness against several criteria, like elevated unemployment, but it did not release detailed results of the tests. Public data do not inspire confidence either. There is much debate over whether banks are valuing their mortgage assets correctly, and, by extension, whether they are adequately capitalized.

What is known is that recent bank profits have been boosted not by increasing revenues, but by downward revisions to expected future losses. With house prices falling anew, further reducing the value of mortgage assets, how reasonable is that?

Even if banks were ready for anything, more dividends and buybacks still would be premature. Big banks that plan to increase payouts still hold nearly $120 billion in government-backed debt under a crisis-era program from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The subsidized bonds come due between now and the end of 2012. Paying shareholders before the bonds are retired puts bank investors before taxpayers — talk about skewed priorities. Banks also face potentially huge fines in court cases and in settlement talks with government officials over mortgage and foreclosure practices that have harmed both homeowners and mortgage investors. It is irresponsible for the Fed to allow bolstered dividends before the penalties are known and paid. It is also a disturbing omen. Regulators are part of the settlement talks over the banks' wrongful practices. Are they assuming that banks can afford both stiff penalties and bolstered dividends? Or are they assuming that the penalties will be weak?

When it comes to redress and reward, bank shareholders should be at the back of the line, behind taxpayers who stand behind too-big-to-fail banks and behind homeowners who are bearing the brunt of a housing debacle for which banks bear considerable responsibility. For the Fed to allow new dividends and bigger buybacks before these issues are settled is a display of the same type of "banks first" favoritism that got us into this mess to start.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

GOOGLE'S BOOK DEAL

Google's ambitious proposal to scan, index and make available every book ever written promised a cultural revolution. Yet for all its promise, Judge Denny Chin of the United States District Court in Manhattan was right to strike down the plan last week, ruling that a settlement with the Authors Guild and publishers that would allow Google to put millions of books online without the explicit consent of their authors "would simply go too far."

Google, like anybody else, is entitled to scan and post books that are in the public domain. As for new books, most publishers cut deals for Google to provide access to portions of their new titles and give readers an option to buy a digital copy. The settlement, signed in 2005 and revised in 2008, covered books in the middle, those out of print but still protected by copyright.

The agreement would have given new life to millions of half-forgotten titles collecting dust in out-of-the-way libraries. Readers could browse through portions and buy digital copies. And authors could opt out of the deal.

But Judge Chin rightly pointed out that the Authors Guild — which has 8,000 members — hardly represents the entire class of authors. It had no right to enter into an agreement that automatically put their works in Google's system unless they opted out. This was particularly problematic for so-called orphan books — those for which the owner of the copyright is not known or can't be found. Only Google would be allowed to digitize these books.

Altogether, Judge Chin argued that the agreement would grant Google a virtual legal monopoly over the online book search. That is too high a price to pay. Google's loss means that, for now, its search results will show only snippets of text from books that are under copyright but out of print. But Judge Chin suggested Google's deal still might work if authors had to opt in rather than opt out. Google's lawyers have rejected this option, arguing that it is too slow and that many books would probably be left out. But Google and its partners should give it a try.

Congress, meanwhile, can resolve the problem of orphan books. In 2008, it almost passed a bill that would allow anybody to digitize orphan works without fear of being sued for copyright infringement as long as they proved that they had tried to find the rights' holder. This would give all comers similar legal protection to that which Google got in its agreement.

Congress should approve this legislation. While it's at it, it should consider promoting a nonprofit digital library, perhaps seeded with public dollars. The idea of a universal library available to all is too good to let go.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

AN EXTRAORDINARY INTRUSION ON WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Far too many states are putting new obstacles in the way of women seeking legal abortions. But South Dakota's new law stands out for its intrusiveness and its abuse of women's rights.

About half the states, including South Dakota, require women to wait 24 hours after an initial doctor's visit before terminating a pregnancy. The South Dakota law, which takes effect on July 1, now extends that waiting period to three days, making it the nation's longest.

As a practical matter, the 72-hour wait is likely to stretch to a week or more. With no local doctors willing to perform abortions, the sole provider of nonemergency abortions in the state, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls, flies in doctors from Minnesota once a week. The new law will further compound the hardship for low-income women who must travel long distances to reach the clinic and who will be forced to make several trips or arrange to stay away from home between appointments.

The new law's intrusions don't stop there. All women seeking abortions, including victims of rape and incest, will be forced first to attend a counseling session at one of the state's crisis pregnancy centers. These are unregulated facilities run by private groups with the aim of discouraging abortions, typically by displaying graphic photos or with ideological or religious messages or medical misinformation about psychological or physical risks.

We trust the courts hearing the inevitable legal challenge will agree that this is Big Brother gone wild. Women considering an abortion need facts and medical expertise, not a mandatory visit with anti-abortion activists, the compromising of their privacy or a prolonged waiting period that pushes the procedure later into pregnancy.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WITHOUT THE CAMPAIGN DONORS, THIS WOULDN'T BE POSSIBLE

Even by Washington's low standards, the House's Republican freshmen are turning pandering into a high art. At a recent transportation hearing in his home district, Representative James Lankford of Oklahoma heaped praise on a panel of private sector witnesses. Three of the four executives so publicly favored were later discovered to be donors to Mr. Lankford's campaign.

Nothing illegal in that, nor in the enthusiasms of another freshman, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, dubbed the Congressman from Koch for championing the conservative agenda of the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David. They contributed handsomely — $80,000 worth — to Mr. Pompeo's campaign kitty. Once elected, Mr. Pompeo hired a former Koch Industries lawyer as his chief of staff.

Mr. Pompeo said he ran for Congress because as a businessman (whose business included some Koch investment money) he saw "how government can crush entrepreneurism." His contributions to the House Republicans' budget-slashing legislation included two top priorities of Koch Industries: killing off funds for the Obama administration's new database for consumer complaints about unsafe products and for a registry of greenhouse gas polluters at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The congressman said he was concerned that the database would encourage false accusations about good products and that the registry would increase the E.P.A.'s power and cost jobs. Those arguments are nonsense, but Mr. Pompeo represents an early warning of the shape of things to come when the Supreme Court's misguided decision to legalize unfettered corporate campaign donations fully kicks in next year.

The Koch brothers are planning to spend tens of millions in the 2012 campaign, as are Democratic power brokers and unions. Ordinary voters may be making a show of demanding real political change, but they are being increasingly outbid at the big money table where American politics happens.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

DEMOCRACY IS MESSY

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

CAIRO

Egypt is a mess.

Nearly two months after street protests inspired a democratic revolution, the transitional military-backed government has proposed — you guessed it — a law banning protests. That's partly because everybody is protesting, even the police. The cops want more money, perhaps because their diminished authority means that they can now extract less in bribes.

With the police out of commission, the army uses thugs to intimidate its critics. And, when it really gets irritated, it arrests and tortures democracy activists. As I wrote in my previous column, it has even tried to humiliate female activists by subjecting them to forced "virginity exams."

The Muslim Brotherhood, once banned, has been brought into the power structure. Instead of denouncing the system, it is becoming part of it — and some of its activists are rampaging around Cairo University.

Yet for Americans, what is unfolding is perhaps a reassuring mess. Westerners have mostly worried that Egypt might plunge into Iran-style Islamic fundamentalism — and, to me, that seems a reflection of our own hobgoblins more than Egypt's. Indeed, it seems increasingly likely that Egypt won't change as much as many had expected. Moreover, the biggest losers of the revolution are likely to be violent Islamic extremist groups that lose steam when the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood joins the system.

"There is a determined effort to stop the revolution in its tracks," notes Prof. Khaled Fahmy of the American University in Cairo. That's disappointing for democracy activists like him, but reassuring to those who fear upheaval.

Based on my third trip to Cairo since the protests began, here's my guess as to how events unfold:

• Post-revolution Egypt will look a lot like pre-revolution Egypt, but modestly less repressive and with a more powerful civil society. The army will continue to run the show, as it has since 1952 through onetime officers like Hosni Mubarak, and will ensure continuity.

• People will continue to be tortured, but will complain about it more. Peace with Israel will continue, but Egyptian officials will speak up more forcefully about suffering in Gaza.

• The best bet for the next president is Amr Moussa. He's a former foreign minister who has led the Arab League: a veteran politician and pragmatist who would constitute a breath of fresh air but not a gust of it.

• Islamists will play a greater role in society and government, as they do in Turkey. But this will also mean that they are trying to build things rather than blow them up.

Islamic groups are certainly more active than before. Mohammed Alaiwa, a professor of literary criticism at Cairo University, told me that he was in a dean's office recently when a Muslim Brotherhood student burst in, pulled out a pistol and threatened to shoot the dean unless he resigned then and there (the student eventually backed down). Professor Alaiwa said that he now fears the Muslim Brotherhood students.

Meanwhile, the up-and-comer Islamists are Salafis, who think the Muslim Brotherhood is far too moderate. A group of Salafis recently attacked a Coptic Christian, apparently accusing him of illicit sexual activity and cutting off his ear.

Order is breaking down somewhat. When Egyptians celebrated International Women's Day on March 8, gangs of men harassed them. When Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner who is running for president, tried to vote in a recent referendum, a mob attacked him.

When foreign reporters show up to cover news that might portray Egypt in a bad light, angry mobs sometimes chase them away. Fortunately, terrified reporters have so far proved to be swifter runners than Egyptian xenophobes.

Yet we have to be realistic: roads to democracy are always bumpy — and, frankly, I feel pretty good about Egypt. Despite some excesses, the Muslim Brotherhood has been tamed by being brought into the system. It says it won't field a candidate for president and will contest only a bit more than one-third of parliamentary seats. Its Web site suggests that its aim is "a civil state" rather than "a religious state," and it emphasizes the importance of respect for the Christian minority.

The big loser from the Muslim Brotherhood's rise is probably its enemy, Al Qaeda, which wasn't a part of the democracy protests and always argued that the only path to change was violence.

All in all, Egypt today reminds me of other countries in transitions to democracy — Spain after Franco, South Korea in 1987, Romania or Ukraine in the 1990s, and, most of all, of Indonesia after the ouster of its dictator in 1998. Indonesia was dodgy for a while — I once encountered Javanese mobs beheading people — but it settled down, the extremist threat diminished, and Indonesia is now a stable (if unfinished) democracy.

 So, yes, Egypt is messy. A young democracy almost always is. Let's get used to it.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

LET THERE BE LIGHT BULBS

BY GAIL COLLINS

Of all the controversies now raging in Washington, the one I find most endearing is the fight over federal regulation of light bulb efficiency.

"Instead of a leaner, smarter government, we bought a bureaucracy that now tells us which light bulbs to buy," complained Representative Michele Bachmann in her Tea Party response to the president's State of the Union address.

Bachmann has strong opinions on this matter. She is the author of the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, which would repeal a federal requirement that the typical 100-watt bulb become 25 percent more energy efficient by 2012.

Bachmann hateshateshates that sort of thing, as you would expect from a woman whose Earth Day speech in 2009 was an ode to carbon dioxide. ("It's a part of the regular life cycle of the earth.")

Hysteria over the government taking away our right to buy inefficient light bulbs has been sweeping through certain segments of the Republican Party. Representative Joe Barton of Texas, sponsor of the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, says we're about to lose the bulb that "has been turning back the night ever since Thomas Edison ended the era of a world lit only by fire in 1879." Barton's vision of the standard 100-watt incandescent is so heroic, you'd think it would be getting its own television series.

"When Congress dictates which light bulbs folks in South Carolina must buy, it's clear the 'nanny state' mentality has gotten out of control in Washington," said Senator Jim DeMint, one of 27 co-sponsors of a Senate bill calling for repeal of the new efficiency standards.

The great thing about this battle, which has spawned predictions of widespread light-bulb-hoarding, is that it will take your mind off Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and the pending government shut-down. It's a little like the Donald Trump presidential candidacy, only less irritating.

Opponents of the law claim that the newer, more energy-efficient and cost-saving breeds of bulb give a less pleasing light, although that doesn't seem to have dissuaded the American consumers from moving away from the incandescents in droves. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association says demand for the allegedly beloved old bulbs has dropped 50 percent over the last five years.

A terribly cynical mind might suspect the whole hubbub was just for political show. Jeff Bingaman, the chairman of the energy committee, said he had not actually been accosted by any of his fellow senators begging him to help get angry light bulb aficionados off their backs.

"I heard the statements at the committee hearing, but nobody's walking the halls lobbying me about this," he said.

That was the famous hearing during which Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky began with a rant about light bulbs and wound up complaining that his toilets back home didn't work. "You busybodies always want to tell us how we can live our lives better," he said passionately. "I've been waiting for 20 years to talk about how bad these toilets are."

If Paul has been stewing about his bathroom fixtures since 1991, it may go a long way toward explaining his rather gloomy worldview. But the crux of his argument came at a different point, when he demanded to know whether Kathleen Hogan, a Department of Energy official, was "pro-choice."

"I'm pro-choice on light bulbs," Hogan said cannily.

Paul, not to be dissuaded, claimed that Obamaites favored "a woman's right to an abortion, but you don't favor a woman's or a man's right to choose what kind of light bulb."

The proper comparison here would really be between the energy-efficiency regulations and the government rules that set minimum standards for sanitation and medical care when an abortion is performed. If you were willing to overlook the fact that any attempt whatsoever to equate abortions and light bulbs is completely nuts.

It's a classic Tea Party herd of straw horses. Paul managed to lump the light bulb regulations with things his supporters hate (abortions/federal government telling me what to do) while ignoring the fact that the rules are much closer to things they like, such as standards that guarantee that if they go to a hospital or clinic, the place will be clean and staffed by qualified personnel.

Although the Rand Paul crowd is blaming the light bulb regulations on Obama, the rules were actually signed into law in 2007 by George W. Bush. And as Roger A. Pielke Jr., a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, wrote in a Times Op-Ed article recently, Washington has been in the standard-setting business since 1894, "when Congress standardized the meaning of what are today common scientific measures, including the ohm, the volt, the watt and the henry, in line with international metrics."

You have to wonder if, back in 1894, there was a general outcry against the federal government trying to tell an American citizen how big his  ohm should be.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

TAKE DIP OUT OF THE BALLGAME

BY BOBBY VALENTINE

Stamford, Conn.

EVERYONE who's ever been around the game of baseball, whether as a player, manager, youth coach or dedicated fan, knows the feeling of anticipation that comes with opening day. That sense of hope and excitement that we feel today is one of baseball's great gifts, and we should no longer allow it to be diminished by a blot on our sport: the use of smokeless tobacco at Major League Baseball games.

Everyone in baseball knows someone who chews — it's estimated that a third of players use some form of smokeless tobacco. Even I chewed during games when I was really bored. For many of us, it is simply part of the sport. It wasn't until I had chewed for years that I realized what a bad example I was setting and quit.

I also gave it up for my health: smokeless tobacco causes oral cancer, mouth lesions, gum disease and tooth decay; it has been linked to heart attacks and pancreatic cancer. Smokeless tobacco use by young people may also encourage them to try cigarette smoking, the nation's leading cause of preventable deaths.

Quitting for me was easy, and so far my tobacco use doesn't seem to have affected my health. Others haven't been so lucky. Last fall, Tony Gwynn, a Hall of Famer who is now the coach at San Diego State University, announced he had parotid cancer, which he suspects was caused by years of chewing tobacco. Bruce Bochy, who managed the San Francisco Giants to a World Series title, has talked extensively about his own difficulty in quitting.

So has Stephen Strasburg, the phenomenal young pitcher for the Washington Nationals who played for Gwynn in college and is now trying to quit tobacco, a struggle even though he is recovering from surgery and thus away from the familiar rhythms of baseball that make it so easy for players to start chewing.

Major League Baseball has taken steps to discourage chewing tobacco, like providing medical advice and educational programs, but Strasburg and other players who continue to use tobacco are proof that these have failed. The pressure is too great: though tobacco was banned in the minors in 1993 and by most colleges as well, Strasburg has said that he started using it as a young player to imitate big leaguers.

Indeed, chewing tobacco isn't just part of the culture of baseball; it's part of the allure. Young players look up to star players and copy them — the stance, the swing, the way they adjust their caps. Unfortunately, they also copy the bulge in the lip and the outline of tobacco cans in the uniform pocket.

Nor is that allure limited to aspiring ballplayers. Smokeless tobacco use among high school boys has climbed 36 percent since 2003. The tobacco industry is spending record sums to market smokeless products, and is promoting them as a substitute for cigarettes. Major League players who chew tobacco on the field are, in effect, providing free advertising for these efforts.

In response, several other sports organizations, including the National Hockey League and the N.C.A.A., have banned tobacco chewing by players and coaches. But Major League Baseball has not, even though it has banned smoking tobacco during games.

This has to change. As they negotiate the 2012 contract, Major League Baseball and the players should include a comprehensive ban on the use of tobacco products during games.

True, some players say tobacco use is nobody's business — that tobacco is legal, that they are adults and that chewing tobacco is a personal choice. But they are public figures and need to recognize the added responsibility that the limelight brings. And they would still be free to use tobacco on their own time, just not while playing baseball.

Major League Baseball has the opportunity to protect today's players and provide positive role models to the millions of kids who want so much to be like their heroes. All it has to do is get tobacco out of the ballpark.

Bobby Valentine, a former manager of the New York Mets, is an analyst for ESPN and the director of public safety, health and welfare in Stamford, Conn.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WHAT I LEARNED AT SCHOOL

BY MARIE MYUNG-OK LEE

Providence, R.I.

THE tumult over state budgets and collective bargaining rights for public employees has spilled over into resentment toward public school teachers, who are increasingly derided as "glorified baby sitters" whose pay exceeds the value of the work they do.

But how exactly do we measure the value of a teacher?

As a writer, I often receive feedback from readers I have never met. But the other day, I received a most unexpected message in response to one of my essays:

"I am so proud of you and all you have accomplished. I shared your opinion from The L.A. Times with my family and reminisced about you as my student at Hibbing High School."

It was signed Margaret Leibfried, who was my English teacher — a teacher who appeared at a critical juncture in my life and helped me believe that I could become a writer.

Thirty years ago, in Hibbing, a town in northern Minnesota that is home to the world's largest open-pit iron mine, I entered high school as a bookish introvert made all the more shy because I was the school's only nonwhite student. I always felt in danger of being swept away by a sea of statuesque blond athletes. By 10th grade, I'd developed a Quasimodo-like posture and crabwise walk, hoping to escape being teased as a "brain" or a "chink," and then finding being ignored almost equally painful. I spent a lot of time alone, reading and scribbling stories.

Ms. Leibfried taught American literature and composition grammar, which involved the usual — memorizing vocabulary and diagramming sentences — but also, thrillingly, reading novels.

Thrilling to me, that is. Many of my classmates expressed disdain for novels because they were "not real." For once, I didn't care what they thought. Ms. Leibfried seemed to notice my interest in both reading and writing, and she took the time to draw me out; she even offered reading suggestions, like one of her favorite novels, "The Bell Jar."

That year's big project was a book report, to be read aloud to the class. However, Ms. Leibfried took me aside and suggested I do something "a little different." Instead of a report, I was to pick a passage from a book, memorize it and recite it in front of the class.

While I longed for the safety and routine of the report, I was curious how this new assignment might work out. By then obsessed with "The Bell Jar," I chose a passage that I thought showed off the protagonist's growing depression as well as Sylvia Plath's sly humor.

The morning of the presentations, I remember my palms sweating so badly as I walked to the front of the class that I held my hands cupped in prayer formation, so I wouldn't wipe them on my shirt.

I saw the days of the year stretching ahead like a series of bright, white boxes, and separating one box from another was sleep, like a black shade. Only for me, the long perspective of shades that set off one box from the next had suddenly snapped up, and I could see day after day glaring ahead of me like a white, broad, infinitely desolate avenue.

It seemed silly to wash one day when I would only have to wash again the next.

It made me tired just to think of it.

I wanted to do everything once and for all and be through with it.

Dr. Gordon twiddled a silver pencil. "Your mother tells me you are upset."

I finished and, to my surprise, the class broke out in applause. "As a writer and a good reader, Marie has picked out a particularly sensitive piece of prose and delivered it beautifully," Ms. Leibfried said, beaming. I felt, maybe for the first time, confident.

Ms. Leibfried was followed the next year by Mrs. Borman, quiet, elderly and almost as shy as I was. She surprised everyone when she excused me from her grammar class, saying my time would be spent more productively writing in the library. I took the work seriously, and on a whim submitted an essay I'd come up with to Seventeen Magazine. When they published it, it was big news for the high school — it was even announced on the P.A. system. Mrs. Borman wasn't mentioned, nor did she ever take any credit; in her mind she was just doing her job.

I can now appreciate how much courage it must have taken for those teachers to let me deviate so broadly from the lesson plan. With today's pressure on teachers to "teach to the test," I wonder if any would or could take the time to coax out the potential in a single, shy student.

If we want to understand how much teachers are worth, we should remember how much we were formed by our own schooldays. Good teaching helps make productive and fully realized adults — a result that won't show up in each semester's test scores and statistics.

That's easy to forget, as budget battles rage and teacher performance is viewed through the cold metrics of the balance sheet. While the love of literature and confidence I gained from Ms. Leibfried's class shaped my career and my life, after only four short years at Hibbing High School, she was laid off because of budget cuts, and never taught again.

Marie Myung-Ok Lee, the author of the novel "Somebody's Daughter," teaches writing at Brown.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

WHEN MEDICARE GOES BROKE

Many Americans on Social Security will be upset when they do not see their monthly benefit checks increase next year — just as they were upset when this year's and last year's checks did not increase.

Technically, a slight cost-of-living adjustment — averaging perhaps $10 to $13 per month — is expected in Social Security benefits next year. Unfortunately, rising Medicare Part B premiums — which cover doctor visits — have to be deducted from the Social Security checks of the 45 million Americans who get both. And the increase in Medicare premiums is likely to be greater than the increase in Social Security benefits.

That means most Social Security recipients' checks will not increase. The only silver lining is that the law forbids Social Security benefits actually to be reduced as a result of higher Medicare premiums. But those who were expecting a bigger Social Security check next year are likely to be disappointed.

And that raises a troubling question: What is going to happen to Medicare premiums — and therefore to any chance of higher Social Security benefits — later this decade when Medicare can no longer meet its obligations?

The Obama administration claims that "savings" from the ObamaCare law will safeguard Medicare until 2029, instead of the earlier estimate that the program will be insolvent by 2017. But as The Heritage Foundation points out, that is based on an accounting trick. In effect, the administration is saying it will use ObamaCare savings to extend Medicare's solvency — but it also plans to use ObamaCare savings for new spending!

As Heritage notes, ObamaCare "increases Medicare taxes and imposes cuts in Medicare that are double-counted as offsets for new programs, but are also pledged to extend Medicare's solvency. They cannot do both."

In fact, the administration may not be able to use the savings even once, let alone twice. The savings themselves are doubtful, according to Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office. He says the savings rely on long-term cuts that "might be difficult to sustain ... ." Meanwhile, Medicare's actuary says lower compensation to Medicare providers "might end their participation in the program (possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries)."

So what is likely to happen when Medicare becomes insolvent? Several things: Premiums are likely to increase even more than they are rising now. Benefits may be further reduced. Our already too-high tax rates may rise, harming the very economic growth needed to sustain Medicare and Social Security. And our nation is apt to borrow even more money, on which we must pay hundreds of billions of dollars in interest.

It would be wiser for Congress to stop spending money that the United States does not hav

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

CARTER, CASTRO AND CUBA

It was in 1959 that Communist revolutionary Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba — just 90 miles from U.S. shores.

Then in 1962, the Soviet Union shipped nuclear missiles to Cuba — missiles that could potentially have been fired into the United States!

That's when President John F. Kennedy ordered the U.S. Navy to impose a tight blockade to halt the buildup and ultimately to force removal of the threatening Soviet missiles. Those were tense days, raising the possibility of U.S.-Soviet war — until the Soviets "blinked," and withdrew their missiles.

We recall those dramatic times today because Jimmy Carter, who went from being governor of Georgia to being president of the United States from 1977 to 1981, recently visited Cuba — and Cuban President Raul Castro, who took over when his brother Fidel stepped down. Carter reportedly was trying to "improve relations" between Washington and Havana.

He said he talked with Raul Castro about American Alan Gross, who was arrested in Communist Cuba in 2009. Gross was recently sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison after being convicted of illegally importing communications equipment. Carter was unable to secure his release.

"I hope we can contribute to better relations between the two countries," said Carter, who also visited Cuba in 2002, becoming the only former U.S. president to be in Cuba since Communists took over.

Was he on a "quiet," legal, official mission? Or was he violating U.S. law by engaging unofficially in U.S. diplomacy abroad? We may never know.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

AS ENGEL STADIUM 'STRIKES OUT' ...

It has been many years since Engel Stadium on East Third Street was the fine home of the Chattanooga Lookouts minor league baseball team. A few old-timers may remember the first game there in 1930.

Now, though, Engel Stadium is being "benched," and locked, altogether because the aging facility is considered unsafe.

The ballpark was named for Joe Engel, who was a great promoter. He had a knack for attracting opening-day crowds. Remember his "Elephant Hunt," complete with spear-bearing hunters?

But after the initial hoopla that drew big opening-day crowds, Joe's Chattanooga Lookouts often quickly faded.

Some of the biggest crowds at Engel Stadium were not attending a baseball game at all. More than 280,000 people showed up in 1953 for a Billy Graham Crusade!

If Lookouts players were really good — and some were — they were quickly sent from the Lookouts to its affiliated big league teams.

Some locals will recall that in 1931, the New York Yankees came to Engel Stadium for a spring exhibition game. For the Lookouts, Joe Engel put in young female pitcher Jackie Mitchell, who lived on East Fourth Street in Glenwood. How did she do? Well, she struck out Yankee stars Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in one game!

There is talk of eventual renovations and repairs to Engel Stadium. But for now, Joe and Jackie, and Engel Stadium, are colorful memories of Chattanooga's baseball past.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

SOME REAL 'BIG FISH' STORIES!

Well, it's springtime, and people are taking part in more outdoor activities. That led to some amazing and quite different "big fish" stories in the news over the past few days.

Three men were fishing 50 miles off the coast of Texas when a 375-pound, 8-foot shark suddenly leaped out of the water, joining them in their boat!

The shark was so big, they couldn't throw it back, so they brought it to shore.

Not surprisingly, they plan to mount it, so they will be able to prove their big fish story.

A few days earlier, in Florida, Jenny Hausch and her family were taking pictures of leaping sea creatures when a 5-foot-wide eagle ray, estimated at 200 pounds, jumped into their boat — and on top of her!

The ray was so dangerous and heavy, her companions had a hard time pulling it off! They finally managed it with help from some passersby, though, and the ray and the woman happily survived.

Can you believe it? Well, as proof of her story, she has a potentially lethal barb that the ray left behind.

Who can top these recent fish stories? It's the season, and some will surely try.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

ISRAEL NEEDS TO LAUNCH A PREEMPTIVE DIPLOMATIC STRIKE

BEFORE THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY WILL DECIDE WHETHER TO ESTABLISH A PALESTINIAN STATE IN THE 1967 BORDERS, ISRAEL MUST COME OUT WITH AN INITIATIVE THAT WILL RESHUFFLE THE CARDS IN THE GAME IT'S ABOUT TO LOSE.

BY ARI SHAVIT

The writing is on the wall: 2011 is going to be a diplomatic 1973. In September and October the UN General Assembly will decide whether to establish a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders. The international community will recognize a Palestinian state.

At that moment, every Israeli apartment in Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood will become illegal. Every military base in the West Bank will be contravening the sovereignty of an independent UN member state. The Palestinians will not be obligated to accept demilitarization and peace and to recognize the occupation.

The gap between the declared situation and the situation on the ground will inevitably create friction. The conflict will quickly become a popular confrontation. The Palestinians will march on Jerusalem, and Israel will be condemned. A diplomatic siege from without and a civil uprising from within will grip Israel in a stranglehold.

Also in 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will become Golda Meir and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will become Moshe Dayan. Both will be remembered as leaders who, even though they saw the iceberg, insisted on sailing straight into it. You don't have to be a diplomatic genius to understand that we need a preemptive diplomatic strike. You don't have to be a strategic genius to understand that Israel must come out with an initiative that will reshuffle the cards in the game it's about to lose.

However, the diplomatic genius Netanyahu and the strategic genius Barak are standing on the deck and keeping silent. They see the iceberg coming closer and they're not doing anything. Netanyahu and Barak are still refusing to understand that what held true in the spring of 1973 holds true now: There is no time. History will have no mercy on anyone who doesn't act now. Israel will not forgive anyone who doesn't steal the thunder. Under these blue skies the paralysis is not just irresponsibility; the paralysis is a crime.

A problem: When the Middle East is boiling over, it's impossible to end the occupation peacefully. Not even Yossi Sarid and Yossi Beilin can do this. However, when the Middle East is boiling over, there is also no possibility of clinging to the status quo. Not even Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon can ensure security. However, in face of the Arab Spring of Nations, creative thinking is needed. In face of the Palestinian Spring, a realistic Israeli initiative is needed.

The following is an example of an initiative. Israel at long last distinguishes between the occupation and peace. As a result, Israel declares that, if the Palestinians agree to a complete demilitarization, true mutual recognition, significant border amendments and a total end to the conflict, Israel will end the occupation peacefully. Also, Israel declares that if it emerges that the Palestinians are not accepting these basic conditions, it will have to act unilaterally.

In this case, too, the aim will be decisive: and end to the occupation. But in this case, the way to ending the occupation will be long. In the absence of a Palestinian partner for peace, the Israeli withdrawal will have to be gradual and phased. It will entail getting the approval and backing of the international community.

A realistic Israeli initiative would immediately hand over to the Palestinians sizable chunks of the West Bank while evacuating about 20 isolated settlements. In this way, Israel will prove its seriousness and the Palestinians will be challenged. They will be able to establish a state on 70 percent of the West Bank without ideological concessions they can't yet make. They will be able to advance the process championed by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad before they are compelled to make difficult historic decisions.

But this not enough. The Israeli initiative must offer a gradual withdrawal to the separation line in the West Bank in exchange for recognition of that line as an interim border between Israel and Palestine. The separation line must be the border until peace is made. We are allowed to think about other initiatives but we are not allowed to think about the absence of any initiative. The Iron Dome Israel needs is a diplomatic Iron Dome. If Netanyahu and Barak are not capable of giving Israel a diplomatic Iron Dome, they must go. We will not wait again the way we waited on October 6, 1973.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

ESSENTIAL EXPOSURE FOR THE MOSSAD

THE STATE COMPTROLLER'S REPORT ON TUESDAY SHOWS THAT THE MOSSAD BEHAVED AS THOUGH IT HAD NO BUDGETARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE CONSTRAINTS AND WAS ENTITLED TO TREAT PUBLIC PROPERTY HOWEVER IT WISHED.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss released a first-ever report on the Mossad on Tuesday. The comptroller's investigation was carried out two-and-a-half years ago and focuses on extensive construction work inside the Mossad complex. The findings show that the Mossad abused its shield of secrecy and that the spy agency's top officials allowed themselves to deviate from rules and procedures that other government institutions are required to follow.

The report, only part of which was released for publication, identified "extremely serious flaws," including extensive construction work without comprehensive and proper planning, contracts worth millions of shekels handed out without any bidding process, and significant price overruns on the projects. The comptroller's report describes "improper management procedures to the extent of a faulty organizational culture." It raises fears that such management is "an opening for ethical failings" and calls for drawing conclusions on both a personal and organizational level, as well as expanding government oversight of the Mossad.

The conclusion is depressing: The Mossad behaved as though it had no budgetary of administrative constraints and was entitled to treat public property however it wished, because of its importance to state security and its close connection to the prime minister.

We cannot accept such an attitude. The Mossad chief during the period of the examination, Meir Dagan, was guilty of arrogance and abused his government position when he allowed "inefficiency and wasted funds." The Mossad chief's responsibility does not end with gathering intelligence and executing operations but also includes abiding by rules and regulations.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was negligent in supervising Dagan and did not insist that standards of good governance be upheld at the Mossad. The security division of the comptroller's office, headed by Maj. Gen. (res. ) Yaakov Or, did important work by investigating the Mossad. Publishing the findings was no less important. It proves that no institution is entitled to immunity from oversight and exposure of its failings, even if its operations are secret.

Sunlight is essential to guarantee that civil servants follow the rules and act efficiently and economically. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who is in charge of the intelligence portfolio, along with the new head of the Mossad, must act together to create a new organizational culture at the spy agency.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

A NOBLE CRIME

DEEP DOWN IN THEIR HEARTS, QUITE A FEW ISRAELIS DO NOT TAKE A GRIM VIEW OF CRIMES THAT ENTAIL JEOPARDIZING STATE SECURITY.

BY ISRAEL HAREL

Why was a plea bargain signed with Anat Kamm, if during her first interrogation by the Shin Bet, back in December 2009, she already admitted copying and stealing thousands of secret and top secret documents? Why did the prosecution request (and the court consent to ) house arrest on very lenient terms, rather than a proper arrest? Why did sports broadcaster Yoram Arbel dedicate a soccer game to her? Why did Micha Friedman, the main host of Army Radio's morning news program, call her "salt of the earth" (and he wasn't suspended as Arbel was at Channel 10 )? And why did attorney Hadas Forer-Gafni agree with Friedman on the air and almost apologize to him for having to be the prosecutor in this case?

Broadly speaking, the answer is that deep down in their hearts, quite a few Israelis do not take a grim view of crimes that entail jeopardizing to state security. Had Kamm stolen money from the general's office, rather than operative documents - including planning details of Operation "Cast Lead" - she would have been arrested like any petty thief and taken, cuffed, into real custody. But when it comes to a "noble crime," some of the media support her and the prosecution doesn't demand even one day in custody.

In the house arrest (which was also revoked in the plea bargain, allowing Kamm to return to her Jerusalem home ) everything was unlimited - telephone calls, visits from friends, excursions outside the house, visits from television crews (an empathic movie was broadcast on television about her last night ) and of course media interviews, in which she said, hoping to raise her immunity level, that she voted for Meretz. All these became service broadcasts for this woman of valor (one of these items was titled "Citizen K.," alluding to Franz Kafka's Joseph K. who was a victim of the system ).

When the Kamm affair exploded, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said such a crime - and such damage - had never been committed in Israel's history. So it is not clear why the Shin Bet did not insist that the prosecution treat Kamm according to that guideline. The courts, which authorized the improved arrest terms and the scandalous plea bargain, are partners to this wrongdoing. It has already been argued extensively that the prosecution played down the severity of Kamm's acts because it saw her as "one of our own." It viewed her as one whose actions are motivated by shared ideological agendas, like the struggle against the occupation. Interesting. In the past, when criminals came from the opposite side to Meretz, the prosecution argued vigorously - and in my opinion, justly - that no ideological argument could justify breaking the law. Indeed, people with high moral standards are expected to be able to distinguish clearly between good and evil and between legal and illegal. The ideological argument merely increases their accountability. The courts have already accepted this argument and added some of their own. But not in this particular case where the person in question happens to vote for the same party as some of those who confined her to house arrest on very lenient terms and signed a plea bargain minimizing her offenses.

The plea bargain is scandalous no matter how you look at it. In the future, when other spies are caught - Arabs like Amir Mahoul, for example - they will be able to ask "because justice requires it," for terms similar to hers. It can be assumed that the prosecution and the courts - because after all, we're only dealing with putting other people's lives in danger, not with a punishable crime like theft, robbery or sexual harassment - will be happy to go easy on them as well.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

WE MUST STOP THE NATIONALIST AND RACIST LIEBERMAN

IN THE LAST ELECTIONS LIEBERMAN CROSSED A LINE. A PERSON WHO FOR YEARS WAS THE BAD BOY OF ISRAELI POLITICS, BUT NOTHING MORE THAN A JOKE WITH A GOATEE, BECAME A NATIONALIST AND A RACIST.

BY ELDAD YANIV

Every one who fell for the "either Tzipi or Bibi" canard during the last elections had best not forget where those two, Benjamin (Bibi ) Netanyahu who is now Prime Minister and Tzipi Livni, who is now opposition leader, spent the night between Tuesday and Wednesday last week when the Israeli Knesset passed two controversial laws.

It isn't surprising that Netanyahu and Tzipi fled from their responsibility to preserve a Jewish and democratic Israel. Netanyahu has been sitting with the post-Zionist nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor (Yvet ) Lieberman in the government and in an interview Livni called him a "friend."

Netanyahu, without fawning like Livni, appointed Lieberman foreign minister and acting prime minister.

But it isn't only Netanyahu and Livni who must be remembered upon entering the voting booth next time. The Labor Party ministers and Knesset members must also not be forgotten.

Some of them are running for their party's leadership but every one of them gave their vote of confidence to the government time after time during the past two years.

In the last elections Lieberman crossed a line. A person who for years was the bad boy of Israeli politics, but nothing more than a joke with a goatee, became a nationalist and a racist.

In accurate Hebrew he translated Jean-Marie Le Pen from French or Joerg Haider from German. If some of the race laws he advanced last week in the Knesset had been passed against Jews in European countries, official Jerusalem would have recalled its ambassadors for consultations.

Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, the compass and the conscience of both Netanyahu and Livni, are turning over in their graves.

But not only they. At a convenient opportunity hundreds of thousands of Israelis who vote for Lieberman "because Israel needs a strong leader" really should go back and reread Theodor Herzl's "Altneuland."

If Herzl were to take a quick peek from the world to come, he would say simply that Lieberman is a post-Zionist, not an Israeli, definitely not a Jew and certainly not a democrat.

In order to stop Lieberman we must vow in the next elections not to vote for any party that doesn't commit itself to not sitting with Lieberman in the government. Even if the head of the party is Livni and we hate Bibi. Because what value is there in booting Netanyahu if Lieberman continues to serve as acting prime minister in a Livni government?

This isn't a matter of a demonstrative protest vote, a boycott of Lieberman or casting him out beyond the pale. For the center-left to win in the next elections, it must call the demon it has to exorcise by its name.

Facing the supporters of the nationalist and racist Lieberman, the Zionist camp will assemble, the camp that wants Israel to remain Jewish and democratic, the camp of the middle class, which is fed up with Lieberman thinking Israel belongs to the wealthy and to the settlers.

It is true half the nation is afraid of missiles on Ben-Gurion International Airport but the other half is even more from afraid of having Lieberman as prime minister.

The American consultant Stan Greenberg, who lectured last week to the embryonic leftist group known as the Rubinger Roundtable, thinks that for the center-left to defeat the right it has to become an agent of change amd look opposite to everything the right symbolizes. Thus, an absolute rejection of the possibility Lieberman will already create a center-left government in the next election, with Aryeh Deri as the blocking gatekeeper.

When in the next election campaign Lieberman calls out in Russian "Da, Lieberman, da," it is necessary to stand up before him with an Israeli flag in hand and answer him in exactly the same language: "Yvet, nyet."

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

 

SHIN BET HEADS SPEARHEAD THE OCCUPATION

ISRAEL HAS BECOME THE SHIN BET STATE THAT PHILOSOPHER YESHAYAHU LEIBOWITZ PROPHESIED. UNLIKE ITS COUNTERPARTS IN THE WEST, THIS SECURITY SERVICE IS INVOLVED IN ALMOST EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIVES.

BY GIDEON LEVY

The appointment of that next head of the Shin Bet security service, and it's not that guy they call Y., was greeted with applause by the Jewish National Fund audience, to whom it was announced.

Instead of Y., it was that Yoram Cohen guy. Can you spot the difference? The skullcap on his head has already been written about, as has the synagogue and settlement that lobbied on behalf of his appointment. His status as champ when it comes to assassinations, which is a major Israeli honor, is already legion, but his human relations record is not.

Cohen was photographed coming out of his house, unsmiling, a cell phone attached to his belt, just has things should be for such a job.

It's hard to think of any other democracy where they would break into a prime-time news program to announce the nomination of a security agency head. Raviv Drucker was just about to disclose another facet in the story of foreigners funding the travel expenses of Israeli public officials.

It's also hard to think of another audience that would applaud the announcement. Everything was done, however, in keeping with the position involved. The person nominated to head the Shin Bet cannot be a role model. It's a cruel job which no positive gloss can clean up.

The announcement of the appointment justifies a news flash in Israel because the Shin Bet, unlike its counterparts in the West, is involved in almost every aspect of our lives: from the granting of a security classifications of a large number of people to carrying out assassinations, from the bloated and ridiculous security detail it gives to our leaders to its operations tracking and pursuing left-wing and settlement activists.

It decides who will be allowed to enter the country and who will be allowed to invest here. The Shin Bet state, which philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz prophesied, has already been with us for some time.

The Shin Bet heads have mostly been shown to be rather dull figures, and it's no wonder. Anyone who has spent most of his life at the Shin Bet's facilities, in interrogation work and torture, in recruitment of collaborators through contemptible means, in surveillance and arrests, as mentors for assassins and agents of the occupation, are not supposed to leave an impression in their civilian lives.

Even soft talk by former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Peri and his later success as a businessman and celebrity cannot erase his murky past. Even the housecleaning that followed the Bus 300 affair cannot guarantee we have a Shin Bet that speaks the truth and abides by the law. The Shin Bet continues to operate in the shadows.

Israel needs security agencies and they cannot be anything other than dirty. The problem is the centrality of the Shin Bet, the limited oversight of its exploits and the glorification of its leaders. Maybe someone has to do the dirty work, but all of us should remember how dirty and sullying it is.

Therefore Shin Bet heads cannot be turned into sought-after commentators. Their world is narrow and afflicted with paranoia and hatred of the targets of their manhunts and assassinations. They also have no idea what damage their deeds do to Israel's international standing and image. It's always possible to recount their successes, but who will count the acts of terror that were actually sown by their actions?

In addition, when Shin Bet heads decorate Knesset candidate lists, we need to remember their pasts. That's the public price they should have had to pay for choosing to work in spearheading the occupation and for endangering Israel's democratic character.

The supreme responsibility for all this actually rests with their superiors, with those who have chosen to perpetuate the occupation and who are now choosing to undermine the foundations of democracy. But sometimes the Shin Bet is their loyal servant and sometimes its serves as their dubious excuse and leads the leaders to the shadows. For example, when Yuval Diskin called Israeli Arabs a strategic threat, he was justifying all the anti-democratic legislation against them.

The acclaim of the Jewish National Fund audience on hearing Prime Minister Netanyahu announce his choice as the next Shin Bet head was devoid of meaning, of course. This was true not only because one can assume no one in the audience had the vaguest idea about Yoram Cohen, but mainly because, in its blinded condition, few in the country understand what this all involves.

Diskin is leaving office heaped with praise. He may even soon speak in favor of an agreement with the Palestinians - as perhaps when the time comes, so will Yoram Cohen - but it should be remembered that these people head a strong, unrestrained and cruel organization, which has benefits, but also causes us critical harm.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

SHIN BET HEADS SPEARHEAD THE OCCUPATION

ISRAEL HAS BECOME THE SHIN BET STATE THAT PHILOSOPHER YESHAYAHU LEIBOWITZ PROPHESIED. UNLIKE ITS COUNTERPARTS IN THE WEST, THIS SECURITY SERVICE IS INVOLVED IN ALMOST EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIVES.

BY GIDEON LEVY

The appointment of that next head of the Shin Bet security service, and it's not that guy they call Y., was greeted with applause by the Jewish National Fund audience, to whom it was announced.

Instead of Y., it was that Yoram Cohen guy. Can you spot the difference? The skullcap on his head has already been written about, as has the synagogue and settlement that lobbied on behalf of his appointment. His status as champ when it comes to assassinations, which is a major Israeli honor, is already legion, but his human relations record is not.

Cohen was photographed coming out of his house, unsmiling, a cell phone attached to his belt, just has things should be for such a job.

It's hard to think of any other democracy where they would break into a prime-time news program to announce the nomination of a security agency head. Raviv Drucker was just about to disclose another facet in the story of foreigners funding the travel expenses of Israeli public officials.

It's also hard to think of another audience that would applaud the announcement. Everything was done, however, in keeping with the position involved. The person nominated to head the Shin Bet cannot be a role model. It's a cruel job which no positive gloss can clean up.

The announcement of the appointment justifies a news flash in Israel because the Shin Bet, unlike its counterparts in the West, is involved in almost every aspect of our lives: from the granting of a security classifications of a large number of people to carrying out assassinations, from the bloated and ridiculous security detail it gives to our leaders to its operations tracking and pursuing left-wing and settlement activists.

It decides who will be allowed to enter the country and who will be allowed to invest here. The Shin Bet state, which philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz prophesied, has already been with us for some time.

The Shin Bet heads have mostly been shown to be rather dull figures, and it's no wonder. Anyone who has spent most of his life at the Shin Bet's facilities, in interrogation work and torture, in recruitment of collaborators through contemptible means, in surveillance and arrests, as mentors for assassins and agents of the occupation, are not supposed to leave an impression in their civilian lives.

Even soft talk by former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Peri and his later success as a businessman and celebrity cannot erase his murky past. Even the housecleaning that followed the Bus 300 affair cannot guarantee we have a Shin Bet that speaks the truth and abides by the law. The Shin Bet continues to operate in the shadows.

Israel needs security agencies and they cannot be anything other than dirty. The problem is the centrality of the Shin Bet, the limited oversight of its exploits and the glorification of its leaders. Maybe someone has to do the dirty work, but all of us should remember how dirty and sullying it is.

Therefore Shin Bet heads cannot be turned into sought-after commentators. Their world is narrow and afflicted with paranoia and hatred of the targets of their manhunts and assassinations. They also have no idea what damage their deeds do to Israel's international standing and image. It's always possible to recount their successes, but who will count the acts of terror that were actually sown by their actions?

In addition, when Shin Bet heads decorate Knesset candidate lists, we need to remember their pasts. That's the public price they should have had to pay for choosing to work in spearheading the occupation and for endangering Israel's democratic character.

The supreme responsibility for all this actually rests with their superiors, with those who have chosen to perpetuate the occupation and who are now choosing to undermine the foundations of democracy. But sometimes the Shin Bet is their loyal servant and sometimes its serves as their dubious excuse and leads the leaders to the shadows. For example, when Yuval Diskin called Israeli Arabs a strategic threat, he was justifying all the anti-democratic legislation against them.

The acclaim of the Jewish National Fund audience on hearing Prime Minister Netanyahu announce his choice as the next Shin Bet head was devoid of meaning, of course. This was true not only because one can assume no one in the audience had the vaguest idea about Yoram Cohen, but mainly because, in its blinded condition, few in the country understand what this all involves.

Diskin is leaving office heaped with praise. He may even soon speak in favor of an agreement with the Palestinians - as perhaps when the time comes, so will Yoram Cohen - but it should be remembered that these people head a strong, unrestrained and cruel organization, which has benefits, but also causes us critical harm.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - RENEWED DEATH PENALTY NO ANSWER

As important as are many ongoing efforts to insulate Turkey's judiciary from military influence, this cannot be the sum of reform. Discourse on this topic includes many burning issues, including the incomplete and poorly instituted constitutional referendum approved in September. There is the long list of vexing questions over the means for comprehensive constitutional reform after coming elections in June. There are the very immediate concerns of prosecutors becoming a law unto themselves. The events of recent days and weeks that have trampled on the basic tenets of press freedom are evidence of this.

But moving to a new vantage point to examine Turkey's deeply dysfunctional judiciary, we think the renewed debate to reinstate the death sentence illustrates the growing danger of systemic injustice.

In virtually every modern society, the debate on capital punishment turns on deep emotion and the understandable revulsion that follows in the wake of heinous crimes. In the United States, the last bastion of capital punishment among major democracies, this relationship is well documented. But there are other examples, including Jamaica and Sri Lanka, which ended de facto bans on the death penalty in the wake of highly public and brutal crimes. 

Unquestionably, Turkey has had more than its share of brutal crimes of late. The case last year of a woman repeatedly seeking court and police protection but nonetheless killed by her husband is one. There are recent cases of "honor killings" that have horrified the country. Nothing is so horrific as the murders of children. And the news that three children missing in Kayseri since last year were in fact killed, followed by the murder of a 9-year-old in Istanbul, is as shocking as it is sad.

All of this argues for more and better trained judges and police, more monitoring of released or pardoned criminals, more education at all levels, delivery of promised women's shelters, closing of legal loopholes and much more. These events argue for swift and effective justice. They do not, however, as a growing number of politicians and an active petition drive argue, comprise a case for the death penalty.

Officially sanctioned executions brutalize society, as Turkey well knows from the death penalty heydays of 1980-84 when 50 people were executed, most for political crimes. Capital punishment undermines the development of broad social consensus in condemnation of violence. It may assuage immediate pain of victims' families, it may be momentarily popular, but it is ultimately reactionary and counterproductive. Reinstatement of the death penalty will further distance Turkey from the norms of modernity, democracy and justice to which a clear majority of Turks aspire. 

Turkey formally abolished the death penalty in 2002. It was the right decision then. It is the right decision today.

The views expressed in the Straight represent the consensus opinion of the Hürriyet Daily News and its editorial board members.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SLIPPERY SLOPE

SONER ÇAĞAPTAY

Religious orthodoxy is an ideological beauty contest, in which the winner is always the ugly guy.

The so-called "Turkish model," in which an Islamist party heads an ostensible democracy, has been posited in recent weeks as a likely outcome in post-authoritarian Arab countries. Likely, maybe; but Turkey's experience under the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, suggests that such a path may also be a slippery slope.

The AKP does not aim to create a fundamentalist state in Turkey, but the ruling party's conservative policies might inadvertently lead to just that. For several years the AKP has been transforming Turkish society by making religion the moral compass of the country's body politic. This does not mean that the AKP wants to turn Turkey into a theocracy. But the problem is that once narrowly defined faith becomes a guiding principle in policy, fundamentalists claiming ideological purity become more competitive politically. Their demands for an even stricter implementation of religion-based rules and values are triggering an ideological purity race and risk pushing Turkish society toward radicalization.

History teaches us that fundamentalists always defeat conservatives in any competition for ideological purity. In the 11th century, the religiously conservative Almoravid movement swept the Muslim kingdom of Andalusia in reaction to its liberal ways, especially its embrace of progressive thought and acceptance of non-Muslims. Upon taking over Andalusia, the Almoravids enshrined their illiberal interpretation of Islam as the moral compass of society.

But the Almoravids' brand of conservatism was soon seen as too lax by even more fundamentalist Muslims. The Almohads emerged to protest what they considered the Almoravids' "tolerance," and their takeover of Andalusia radicalized the society, leading to the persecution of non-Muslims and to religious warfare.

Turkey's Islamization under the AKP threatens to follow a similar, if more gradual, trajectory. The AKP's embrace of religious values is not Turkish secularists' biggest problem. The larger threat is that, now that the AKP has centered religion within Turkish society, fundamentalists will gain carte blanche to challenge the AKP as "not Muslim enough." Already last November, the AKP was moved to fire Ali Bardakoğlu, the liberal head of Diyanet, Turkey's official religious authority which has historically checked fanaticism by building mosques and training imams while promoting a liberal understanding of Islam. The AKP replaced Mr. Bardakoğlu with another well-known scholar, Mehmet Görmez, who has an avowedly more conservative take on Islam.

The new Diyanet chief's first act was to fire Ayşe Sucu, who headed the organization's women's branch. Ms. Sucu's initiatives had included suggesting that women should be able to decide for themselves whether to cover their hair. Fundamentalist media and pundits were ecstatic at her ousting, claiming that it signaled that there is no room for a personal interpretation of Islam.

Internally, the AKP has promoted socially conservative values, such as wearing the Islamic headscarf for women and a disdain for alcohol. Turkish bureaucrats and businesspeople complain that embracing these practices to prove that one is a "good Muslim" has become a precondition for getting government promotions and contracts.

Meanwhile, the AKP-run media watchdog recently scolded a television station for broadcasting a program about Süleyman the Magnificent that truthfully depicted the famously cosmopolitan Ottoman sultan drinking alcohol. The official warning followed an outcry led by AKP leaders and fundamentalists alike, who demanded that the show be banned. Radicals now have the upper hand to slowly end Turkey's centuries-old drinking culture. Or take the AKP's new Kurdish policy. In an effort to expand its base among the Kurds before June polls, the party has emphasized Islam as a common denominator between Kurds and Turks to undermine the secular Kurdish nationalist party.

The plan may well help the AKP win its upcoming elections. However, it will also invite competition from religious radicals, such as from Kurdish Hizbullah—a violent Sunni group not linked to the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah, which already boasts a wide grassroots network in the southeast of Turkey.

Recently, leadership of Hizbullah in jail since a crackdown in the late 1990s was released from prison due to a legal loophole. The AKP's emphasis on Islam may help replace the secular-nationalist Kurdish movement with a religious-nationalist one. Expect Kurdish Hizbullah to suggest that neither the AKP nor Diyanet are "Muslim enough" to represent Kurds.

Turkey's shift is also bad news for the U.S. and Europe. The potential radicalization of the Turkish population is an especially pressing concern given that Turkey recently eliminated visa restrictions for a number of Muslim countries—including Iran, Syria, Jordan and Libya. Whatever happens in those countries, the move will facilitate cross-fertilization among radical groups in Turkey. Washington should make contingency plans now to deal with radicals who will challenge the AKP's cooperation with the United States, particularly in Afghanistan.

Turkey's emboldened radicals will also no doubt take issue with Ankara's European Union policy, as if Turkey's EU accession plans did not already face enough problems. Given the large number of Turkish immigrants in Europe, the radicalization of the Turkish population, especially its Kurdish segment, will likely replicate itself in Europe.

The AKP's religious bent, disconcerting in itself, can easily spin out of control. The lesson of the AKP experience for the Arab world and likely Muslim Brotherhood governments there is that religious orthodoxy is an ideological beauty contest, in which the winner is always the ugly guy.

*Soner Çağaptay is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. This column originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

GENDER EQUALITY IN TURKEY: CHP'S POLICY PROPOSALS

KADER SEVİNÇ

The Turkish people's deep civilizational roots and aspirations of living in an advanced information society and democracy in the 21st century justify the highest political focus on the gender equality. This is why the Turkish government, Parliament and the all political parties have an ever more important responsibility to upgrade the Turkish society's gender equality performance above the European average.

Turkey is an interesting case from this point of view. On the one hand, women's rights have been implemented since the beginning of the Republic in 1923. By 1930, women had acquired the right to vote at the municipal elections. Since 1935, Turkish women have been elected to the national Parliament. Turkey has had in the recent past a woman prime minister, president of Constitutional Court, as well as ministers of the interior, economy, education and so on. However, the representativeness of the Turkish politics on the basis of gender equality is still very far from impressive.

Turkish women have also emerged in professional life, reaching the highest levels in the management of large companies. In professions such as engineers, lawyers and bankers the proportion of women is among the highest in Europe. Turkey's leading business organization, the Turkish Industry & Business Association, or TÜSİAD, actually has its second woman president in a row whereas another association, the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey, or Kagider, has been successfully promoting women entrepreneurship. The Association for Educating and Supporting Women Candidates, or Ka-Der, promotes women in elected offices. Mor Çatı provides shelter to victims of violence in the family, a problem against which the Hürriyet newspaper mobilizes important resources as well. Milliyet newspaper manages in its side a wide campaign for young girls' schooling. The Support for Contemporary Living Association, or ÇYDD, helps young girls at university. Many other NGOs work successfully in the field of gender equality supported as well by EU programs.

On the other hand, serious problems persist in the rural areas, which constitute around 25 percent of the active population as well as in women's participation to the work force, including in the urban Turkey. According to the United Nations Development Program, or UNDP, report on the gender empowerment measure of the human development index which was released in October 2010, Turkey is ranked 101st out of 109 countries. A World Economic Forum, or WEF, report in 2010 indicates that Turkey ranks 129th out of 134 countries in terms of dividing its resources and opportunities among men and women. And according to the organization Social Watch, Turkey has been in severe regression since 2004 in terms of gender equity.

The women's employment rate is 22.8 percent, down from over 40 percent a few years ago. This is the lowest level among the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, countries. On top of that, even this figure has been in steady decline for years. Overall, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government's record in women's rights and gender equality, despite some dispersed efforts, is impressively negative.

But Turkey can recover its gender equality performance. In this respect, the Republican People's Party, or CHP, as Turkey's social democratic party proposes the following:

· We propose to create a National Women's Rights Charter and National Women Rights Council to improve women's rights and opportunities and to promote mechanisms to achieve gender equality in all aspects of social, economic and political life.

· We will campaign for equal political representation of women and men in all decision-making bodies at the local, national and international level.

· We also propose to create effective "vocational education centers" focused on women. We believe that vocational education is a key element of women's empowerment.

· We will ensure and promote women's sexual and reproductive health rights throughout Turkey. Family planning needs to be taken more seriously in Turkey. The Turkish government's "at least three children" policy may lead to shifts in women's role in society. Moreover, politicians should not interfere with the private life choices of Turkish women.

· There are only 26 women's shelters in the whole of Turkey, for 81 provinces. We propose to encourage and support efforts and projects to stop domestic and gender-specific violence by allocating a share of the municipal budgets.

· The rate of early marriages is 35 percent in Turkey. CHP proposed a motion to Turkish Parliament and requested a study on the reasons behind early marriages and on preventive measures.

· Role models are important: Unfortunately, the spouses of many politicians holding high-level posts got married at very early ages and left school. Or even if they have a university degree, they are out of professional life. The CHP government will attach importance to positive role models and public opinion campaigns.

· We propose to create a National Women's Data Center in Ankara, Women's Info Centers, and National Women's Rights Council. Gender equality issues should be solved within the framework of participatory approach. These establishments will pave the way for women's direct participation in the policy-making process.

· As emphasized by Ms. Gülsün Bilgehan, the CHP's vice-president in charge of women's rights and organizations, a focal area for the CHP is gender mainstreaming. We defend the integration of the gender equality dimension into every phase of policy-making processes: design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. This involves a comprehensive impact analysis methodology that the CHP is proposing to introduce into the Turkish political culture. We have to assess how policies impact on the social and professional life of both women and men. This is also the way to make gender equality a concrete reality in Turkey's EU accession process.

· A very significant policy proposal was announced by CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in February 2011: "Family Insurance." This scheme, based on a detailed social and financial analysis, foresees monthly financial aid to 12.7 million poor people in the country. According to data announced in early January 2011 by the Turkish Statistical Institute, the number of poor has considerably been increased during the AKP's term in government, compared to previous years. By enhancing the social state and social coherence in Turkey, the CHP's proposal projects as well direct benefits for the gender equality in the education, family life and work environment.

· The CHP also announced the "GenceArtı" (A Plus for the Youth) project to create jobs for youth. The project is being conducted by a leading businesswoman and also a CHP party assembly member, Aylin Nazlıaka. "Personal development" seminars are organized for youth who need jobs in 30 cities. The "GenceArtı" project supports our education system to rise the next generations with self-confidence with tangible results for Turkey's gender equality objectives.

The CHP will continue to fight gender stereotypes and believe that strengthening women's rights and opportunities will bring significant economic, social and democratic benefits for all citizens of Turkey and Europe. In the CHP's social democratic vision of Turkey's future, the EU membership process plays a crucial role. Gender equality is in this respect a key issue which transcends all other main fields of integration such as democracy, economic growth, employment, education, information society, rural development and regional development. In fact, gender equality is at the core of a real interaction between Turkey's EU process, its social and economic development and its contribution to Europe's global competitiveness.

* Kader Sevinç is Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP's, EU representative and member of the PES Presidency Committee (Party of European Socialists).

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

HISTORICAL EMBRACEMENT OF IRAQI KURDS

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

Since the beginning I have kept repeating the "historical nature" of this visit.

But what happened in northern Iraq on Tuesday left all historical emphasis in the shadow.

What happened in Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, proved how stunningly fast relations between Turks and Kurds develop.

Not too long ago, in 2008, we got upset about the sign at our border to northern Iraq that read "Welcome to Kurdistan" and Kurdish flags. Relations were tense. People believed that an independent Kurdish state would be established in northern Iraq and our Kurds with the same spirit would declare their independency to form a Great Kurdistan in the future.

They were criticized for supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and turning their backs on Ankara's demands.

Barzani too would get upset.

He would complain about Turkey not taking him seriously whereas, according to him, the real solution to the PKK issue was to be found within Turkey. But nobody would listen to him.

Take a look at what happened during Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit in Arbil.

There is a great difference.

'Politics of denial is over and done with'

Especially the approach and interest of the people proves how Turkey became a rising star in the region.

But the real player in this perception is Turkey.

It changed its basic politics.

It let go of pressuring Barzani and also of its approach of "Get me the PKK's head first, and then we'll talk." Instead of fighting with security forces, instead of setting up conditions and rules, it preferred to cooperate on the PKK issue. It also cooperated in the Kurdish initiative.

Ankara gave priority to cooperating in economic and investment issues.

And Barzani changed his attitude.

The United States slowly retreating from Iraq starting next year and Iran's increasing influence on the region pushed the Kurds to lean their backs on Turkey.

As interests merged we ended up at this point.

The most important message from the prime minister was to announce that Turkey has put an end to its politics of denial.

This message was not just meant to reach the Iraqi Kurds. It was also meant for Kurds in Turkey.

At the moment the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, administration may seem to be in conflict with the Kurdish issue because of its disinterested approach due to elections but it also shows that a lot of things will change after elections.

In this country as we are experiencing needless developments like the "İmamın Ordusu" (The Imam's Army) book event, we recreated hopes when the prime minister visited Baghdad and Arbil. 

We shouldn't be a country still arguing about capital punishment 

On one side there is a Turkey that has put its mark on the region and everybody is curious about its reactions, with even the international media writing about how democracy in Turkey leads to it being the shining star in the region.

But on the other side there is a Turkey in which prosecutors go on a hunt for a book that hasn't even been published yet. Journalists are being arrested and the police behave boorishly. Each protest ends up with students being beaten up.

Turkey for the first time being able to trial coup attempts turns the Ergenekon epos into a monster.

As if that is not enough all of a sudden once more capital punishment is being discussed. Moreover the brightest people in the administration take it seriously.

The reason is a simple one…

To use the reaction of the public with respect to the killer of the three children to benefit in elections.

We expect a person like Professor Burhan Kuzu, who we consider an important and bright individual, to say, "Let go of such nonsense," but he says he is in favor of capital punishment stating, "We banned capital punishment only because the United States wanted us to do so." And someone else requests a referendum.

Incredible.

Turkey rid itself of the capital punishment shame nine years ago.

It was obvious that capital punishment had no deterrence effect. Besides, capital punishment was banned during a period in which people comprehended that real punishment was to put the criminal behind bars serving a life sentence instead of killing him.

Our understanding has always been, "Hang him to set an example for others."

It didn't work. We hung the criminal but others still did as they pleased.

One last note: Turkey did not abandon capital punishment only because the United States wanted to. The PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan's death sentence was on the agenda and in that case there would have been a bloodbath all over Turkey, not only in the Southeast, thus capital punishment was abandoned.

It's worthwhile to know the truth.

Or are there some that would like to abandon the punishment and hang Öcalan just for the sake of a few million votes?

Please let's be serious.

The public has all the right to be upset but some decisions are made by leaders not the people.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WORDS FROM MASTER OF WORDS

YUSUF KANLI

The Contemporary Journalists' Association, or ÇGD, decided to give its "Special Honor Award" to the master of word, the greatest living Turkish journalist, one of the monumental figures of Turkish literature, a proud Kurdish Turk, Yaşar Kemal.

Because of his age Kemal could not travel to Ankara to receive his award, but he did accept it with a letter which indeed might be considered a manifesto of Turkish journalism. "I am amongst you with the ideas I have penned down," the plane tree of Turkish literature wrote.

He started the letter with an anecdote dating back to 1952, on a visit to the Şarkışla home town in the central Anatolian city of Sivas of great folk poet Aşık Veysel. After his interview with the great folk poet, Kemal learned on Jan. 3, 1952 that a major quake had hit eastern city of Erzurum and as a reporter close to the quake-hit area he immediately traveled there to become the first reporter to reach there after the quake. He was touring the quake-hit region together with a friend of his, Sakıp Hatunoğlu. Those people who survived the devastating killer quake were apparently braving winter temperatures down to -30 centigrade, shivering in thin tents. "Those who survived the quake were in such a desperate situation that they were saying they wished they died under the debris. People were frozen like a stone, frozen soil, the dead who could not be buried and a terrible smell that only those who lived it would know… I saw a frozen baby. It was as if she was living. I was passing on my interviews on the phone; we had no access to newspapers or so. Days later we found a newspaper in which I reported the story of that frozen baby... First my friend started to weep, then I… That day I re-understood once again the power of words…"

I tried to make a summarized summary of the strongly worded reminder from the master of words of the importance of words!

"The power of press is the power of words. That is why the media has always been subject to immense pressures. Buying out writers, journalists and newspapers is a tradition inherited from the Ottomans. Unfortunately, that tradition is still continuing and further intensifying.

"Whoever I saw during the coup period, they were telling me: 'You are not doing right. Is it wise to talk, to write these days? Be patient a little bit! Don't you think of yourself? Besides, under these conditions what would you say, how would you say? Right, you said what you wanted, would the paper you work for be able to publish it? Would your paper take the risk of closure, brave economic pressures? What would people working at the paper say? If the paper is closed because of you and they became unemployed how would you look into their faces?

"In our country there is an excessive fear from the press. The press, on the other hand, is scared of itself. The press is unable to make self-criticism. Journalism is creativity. A newspaper raises its own reader. If politics turns into an arena of gossip and newspapers keep on reporting the same kind of words, gossip and smears by the same persons, and instead of giving people a newspaper prefers to give gewgaws and plenty of topless [photographs] and excessive advertisements, obviously the nation will be fed up.

"A newspaper gives news. A newspaper teaches people. A newspaper does not play ball with the people. A newspaper does not incite its readers. A newspaper stays away from turning a sports event into a major national issue with headlines composed of bold letters as thick as an arm. A newspaper does not play with national problems such as the Kurdish issue. Naturally, a newspaper stays away from hiding realities pertaining to issues related to the future of the country, such as massacre of nature.

"Press is not a profession, it is an art. It is creativity, resistance. Press should not side with any interest, including that of its own. That is what free media means. The concept of freedom has no boundaries. Press, by exposing many evil has engaged in many wars, produced many heroes. To struggle against ideas or to give importance to ideas… In oppressive regimes ideas place one's head in difficulty. So far, [Turkish] has not enjoyed freedom to the full. Always pressure… Always pressure… Always efforts to buy out… That is how we have come to this day."

In the next parts of his letter Kemal explained the importance of freedom, complaining that in Turkey the mechanism of justice itself has become something spreading anger and fear. Though he said seeing the current situation which appears to be desperate the people of this land should not let themselves be carried away by pessimism because men is capable of bringing hope out of sheer hopelessness. "I always said, the alternative of democracy is its absence and Turkey does not deserve it

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

BUSINESS AS USUAL

ERSU ABLAK

It seems that the turmoil in the mobile communications industry will not end in Turkey. Each week there is a new development that would only happen once every few years in any given foreign country.

Last week alone the Information and Communications Technologies Authority declared that the cell phone towers should be shared. Naturally Turkcell didn't like the decision where as Avea immediately declared that it was for the best.

It will be hard to make Turkcell share its billions of dollars worth of investments but the authority made it a priority and wanted the number of stations to be decreased. Elections are coming and the increase in the number of towers is a major issue for Turkish voters. If the government shows that it is taking steps in the right direction, it will have a positive influence on swing voters. The authority has also been organizing conferences to tell people that the towers are not harmful. Last week, the president of the Paolo Vecchia International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection said in a BTK meeting that even the World Health Organization has a tower on its rooof.

If they can force Turkcell to share its stations with Avea and Vodafone, it will be a huge blow to Turkcell's main marketing statement of being the only carrier that can serve 99 percent of the country.

Sharing the towers with rivals is not the only problem facing Turkcell. Due to the constant battle between its shareholders, the management of the firm cannot concentrate on their jobs as the firm lost revenue and subscribers to its rivals in the last two years, creating a big issue at board meetings.

Turkcell shrunk by 9 percent while the industry grew by 3 percent in emerging markets. Because of these factors, the neutral member and the head of the Turkcell board, Collin J. Williams, had to issue a press release last week saying he does what he does to protect the company and smaller shareholders.

But Telia Sonera doesn't think so. On Wednesday morning, the vice president of the company, Cecilia Edstrom, made it very clear that they intend to press charges against the chairman in the coming weeks both in Turkey and probably in the United States as well. 

On top of all this, Vodafone sued Turkcell for stealing their marketing campaign although Turkcell denies the claims. It is said that the company who organized the ad campaign proposed it to Turkcell in 2009 but was rejected. The same company then sold the campaign idea to Vodafone in late 2010; now, the two giants have ended up in a dispute from which neither will benefit. 

All this shows that the communications industry has yet to grow up in Turkey. It is amazing that the firms are still able to generate so much money and that the government can yield so much on taxation issues to firms that are still just trying to manage themselves.

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 HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

END-GAME IN IVORY COAST

GWYNNE DYER

"The general offensive has begun," Seydou Ouattara, the military spokesman of the man who claims to be Ivory Coast's legitimate president, Alassane Ouattara, said Monday. "We've realized that this is the only way to remove [the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo]." On the same day, Ouattara's troops seized two cities in the west of the country, Daloa and Giglio.

While ragtag little armies surge back and forth along the North African coast like a high-speed replay in miniature of the Western Desert campaign in the World War II, a much bigger war is getting underway 1,500 km to the south. And although there are 9,000 United Nations troops on the ground in Ivory Coast, quite unlike the airstrikes-only intervention in Libya, the U.N. troops in Ivory Coast will not intervene to stop the war there.

The U.N. soldiers, all from African countries, were sent there to police a truce between the Muslim north of the country, which has been in the hands of the rebel New Forces since 2002, and the government of President Laurent Gbagbo, which controlled the largely Christian south. They were also there to supervise the election last November that was supposed to end the division of the country.

Unfortunately, the election didn't work. Ouattara claimed victory and 3,000 international election observers backed him up, but an ally of Gbagbo's on the Constitutional Court declared half a million of Ouattara's votes invalid and said Gbagbo had won. Back to Square One.

Ouattara declared himself president, appointed the commander of the New Forces, Guillaume Soro, as his prime minister, and holed up in a hotel in Abidjan, the commercial capital, with three U.N. tanks parked out front to deter an attack by Gbagbo's forces. Gbagbo insisted that he was still president, and threatened to use the army against Ouattara.

The U.N. troops will not intervene decisively because they were not sent to Ivory Coast to take sides in a large civil war, which is how this could end up. It isn't just a quarrel between two stubborn men. It is about a probably irreversible transfer of power from the Christian south to the Muslim north in West Africa's richest country, and there are those in the south who will fight to prevent that.

Christians used to be the majority in Ivory Coast, and they would probably still be if not for the estimated 4 million illegal immigrants who have poured into the country in the past two decades. Almost all of them came from the countries to the north, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali, which are mostly Muslim. Around a million of them are in Abidjan, but most stayed in northern Ivory Coast – Ouattara's territory.

Gbagbo's real complaint about the recent election is not that the vote was rigged but that the voter registration was rigged: that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants were registered as voters by sympathetic Muslim officials across the north. It may not be true, but it certainly could be. And Muslims certainly did vote overwhelmingly for Ouattara.

There was no hostility in the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Ivory Coast 50 years ago: this is entirely a product of politics. Just as every evolutionary niche is always filled, so is every political niche, including the one inhabited by politicians whose method is to build support in one ethnic or religious community by stirring up fear or jealousy of another.

Ouattara and Gbagbo both belong to that political species, although they would deny it to their last breath. They have succeeded so well that Ivory Coast now stands on the brink of a Muslim-Christian civil war (although the news agency reports hardly ever mention this key feature of today's Ivorian politics). The normal result would be a hardening of the current partition of the country, but first there will be one last roll of the dice.

Gbagbo is in deep trouble. The West African central bank has denied him access to Ivory Coast's accounts, the country's main cash crop, cocoa, is being boycotted by the international community, and last month he had trouble paying salaries and pensions to civil servants – including the military. Some got part of what was due them, some none at all.

Gbagbo must pay them again this week, and he probably doesn't have the money. His army has lost every clash with Ouattara's New Forces since the November election, and he has lost control of the mainly Muslim quarters of Abidjan to the "Invisible Commandos," essentially an urban branch of New Forces.

So Ouattara is going for broke. Last week he rejected the peace envoy appointed by the African Union, and at the weekend the New Forces launched their final offensive. Or at least they hope it will be the final offensive.

So far they are doing well, and they may just roll over Gbagbo's disintegrating army and reunite Ivory Coast by force. Even that would leave great bitterness in the south – but it is also possible that Ouattara's big push will stall after a few days. African armies tend to be weak in logistics, and they usually run out of supplies when they advance too fast. Then it turns into a long, mostly static civil war.

Either way, the old Ivory Coast is finished. What replaces it may be very ugly.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

END OF THE 'ARAB SPRING' AND TURKEY

NURAY MERT

The shame of the occupation of Iraq should have taught something to mankind! But that did not happen. A similar scenario is being staged in Libya.

The incidents taking place there cannot be explained or understood through authoritarian orders in the region, Turkish politics being driven into the wall in the region, or by discussing the greed and double standards of the West. This is all saddening and a shame for the history of mankind!

Introduced in haste without thinking thoroughly, The "Arab Spring" lasted so short! In fact, all of the "Arab Spring" or the "Arab Awakening" kinds of expressions are the final product of a sleazy Orientalist language. Somehow, beyond conspiracy theories, it has undoubtedly been adopted. People with different views have searched for an explanation of the situation. But worse is that this language with monkey tricks has proceeded to condemn different views as "Orientalism." As though anyone said so, remarks such as "Why couldn't Arabs make a revolution, why shouldn't they ask for freedom, forget about this Orientalist angle!" have spread all over.

Ottoman nostalgia

The revolt at Tahrir Square has even been described by some as the first uprising for freedom in Egyptian history. And in our country, "Ottoman" nostalgia has been added to this fuss. The Arab experience in the post-Ottoman period is perceived as a "dark" period as a whole. Therefore, modern Arab history, which has been full of freedom and independence struggles, has been wiped out with a single stroke. This is the real Orientalism, but no one has said anything against it.

Some have tried to legitimize the intervention in Libya – as in the case in Iraq – with the justification of "saving people from a dictator." The Arab Spring is said to have arrived in Syria, too. Again, with the excuse of "authoritarian Syrian regime," the risk of a country being dragged into violence is being ignored. But the right thing to do is to seek ways to force current regimes into political negotiations. As the best idea is to seek peaceful ways to increase the efforts of democratization in the region, it is pointless to appeal to clashes.

In the meantime, concerns about the possible impact of the topsy-turvy nature in the region to Turkey are perfectly understandable. Comparing the current political picture in Turkey with that of the regional countries is a big mistake and it is not fair at all. To tell the truth, however, in countries having the most developed democracy, the level of democracy is naturally higher. Lowering the level by making comparisons between Turkey and the regimes in the region, saying, "This is too much democracy for them," on one hand and saying, "There is nothing for Kurds in this," and stepping back to a pathetic line of defense on the other hand is not the right thing to do. Instead of looking for excuses to lower the level of democracy, we have to benefit from difficult developments to elevate this discourse in our country.

Let's not lower the level of democracy

All these are taking place in the region, and it is unfair to read Turkey's prudence as "faltering" and "skidding toward authoritarian regimes." We have to discuss Turkey and the Turkish government's position in such a difficult situation more seriously. But on the other hand, the government should avoid politics that lower the level of democracy in the country. And finally, it should not turn down all peaceful suggestions in the Kurdish question, which requires an urgent solution.

In the process, the "civil disobedience" that was launched by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, and the Democratic Society Congress, or DTK, is an effort we have to take seriously. Let's not forget that despite all its problems, the standard of democracy in Turkey is incomparably higher than the countries in the region. And for that, similar political acts are possible and can be evaluated as the most important guarantees of keeping the process on peaceful ground.

Otherwise, reasons could be raised to think that Turkey, along with the others, is involved in the Middle East for its own interests as the demands of democracy could be victimized as part of this deal. The parties encouraging Turkey to seek intervention, following the small Gulf countries in the Middle East, should be ready to see in the country as much democracy in these countries. The Western world they overrate will not be concerned how much democracy Turkey has, as long as they manage to get Turkey on side. Both the government and the opposition should consider this seriously. Otherwise, everything in this country will be more difficult for everyone.

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

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

LOST, AND WON

 

Our boys could not make it in the end but they fought like brave men and lost to a better side, which had the added advantage of playing at home before their cheering crowds. There could be many reasons and many scapegoats for our loss but it must be said that the Pakistani boys did a much better job in the World Cup than was being expected before the matches began. They defeated many stronger teams and reached the final four to lose to a better team. It was only a game of cricket but there are many bright sides to the entire mega event. The passion which the World Cup generated within the country and the way the entire nation united and rooted for their team, proved that Pakistanis could get together for a cause which inspires and motivates them. The politicians should better get a cue and start working to rally the people around a cause which the people can support with similar enthusiasm and unity of purpose.


The World Cup has ended for Pakistan but it must be said that the overall performance of the team was much better than expected and Shahid Afridi rallied his troops brilliantly to take the team to the semi-finals and fought every match to the best of their ability. This is what cricket and other games are all about. We lost to a better team and there is nothing to be ashamed about. We must welcome back our team with smiles and open hearts and encourage them to do better in the events that will come later. What has been proved by Pakistan in the mega event is that Pakistan can no longer be ignored by the cricketing world and important teams should start playing again in this great cricketing nation. The cricketers have proved that they are the best and now it is time for the politicians and the administrators to get their act together and provide a secure and conducive environment for world cricketers to come and play in Pakistan. This may be more difficult in these trying times than winning a World Cup.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE ENTOURAGE

 

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, at a time when there is much talk of the need for austerity and cutting back on expenses, has taken a delegation of some 90 plus people to India. We do not yet know who these people are, but it can be safely assumed that not all of them have played a part in assisting with talks or performing other vital business. They can then be assumed to be 'joy-riders', paid for with tax-payers' money, who have tagged along only to engage in some cricket watching and perhaps some shopping. Before the giant contingent set off, there was talk of bitter wrangling to get aboard, and journalists were said to have participated in it.


Trips overseas are everyone's right. So is enjoying cricket. But wasting public money at a time when we are in such dire economic straits, doesn't say much about the government's priorities. Surely, the prime minister is aware of our financial struggles. He must set a personal example of tightening the belt, keeping expenditures to the minimum, thereby demonstrating that his administration is capable of resisting pressure and doing everything it can to lead from the front in these difficult times. Doing so would win for it far greater respect than merely loading as many people as it can on the plane bound for India and in doing so, undoubtedly earning the scorn of many. This then, is the price to be paid for trying to please many, at the cost of the welfare of millions of citizens who cannot even dream of a ride to Mohali or any other place in the world, for that matter.

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

IN THE DARK

 

Even after Raymond Davis has flown out of the country, all kinds of mysteries and doubts continue about the event and its aftermath. The Punjab government has told the Lahore High Court that it was the central government that brokered the deal and that the Punjab government knows nothing about the whereabouts of the relatives of Faizan and Fahim, the two young men killed in Lahore by Davis. Their families have been missing since the killer was freed, and the court was hearing a habeas corpus petition in which the fear was expressed they may have been kidnapped given that they were carrying a large amount in blood money.

The sense of mystery has been heightened since the court was told that Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah informed the media that the families of the two victims are living in Rawalpindi and keeping a low profile. The LHC asked for further details to be sought regarding the law minister's comments and other details he may be aware of. There were rumours that one brother of each of the two deceased had been whisked away to the US with Davis. There has been a denial of this from official quarters. A lot of this is immaterial now that Davis is back home. But the question of his diplomatic immunity lingers on. It is likely we will never know the whole truth. But at stake here is an important principle. As citizens we deserve not to be kept in the dark about an issue which impacts people everywhere. In any democracy citizens hold an important place. They must be told about the goings on – for trust between people and their government is, after all, vital in any state.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SAVE THE KURRAM PEACE DEAL

DR ASHRAF ALI

 

The rising militant activities in the Kurram Agency have once again put the credibility of the recently concluded peace deal in danger. A lethal suicide attack on the Doaba Police Station in Hangu, which left eight people dead and 25 injured on March 24, was one of the deadliest acts of violence to hit the area in the past few weeks. A collapse of the peace agreement could lead to events whose consequences and ramifications are too frightening to imagine at the moment.


It was the recent killing of a Shia community member in the busy Qissa Khwani bazaar in Peshawar triggered off the new wave of terrorism and violence. The following day, an attack on an Attock-bound vehicle near Mamu Khwar in Doaba left four people, including a woman, dead. On March 13 members of the Mangal tribe attacked a passenger vehicle killing 12 members of the Turi tribe. A police party led by station house officer Haleem Khan killed three of the attackers. The SHO had to face consequences for his action in the form of a remote-control bomb attack on his mobile party. The SHO was one of the 11 members of the police force who sustained injuries in the revenge attack.


On March 25 the militants attacked three passenger vehicles, killing and injuring eight persons. The militants commandeered the three vehicles and kidnapped 45 passengers from the Bagan area of lower Kurram. This was the third attack of its kind since the peace deal was concluded on Feb 8 this year, with passenger vans carrying people belonging to the Turi tribe being hit. A few days ago, armed men led by a militant commander, Sattar Wazir, abducted 20 men from the same area in Bagan and another four from a neighbouring area at gunpoint. The fate of the two young men belonging to Turi tribe who were abducted from Makhezai area a few days ago is still not known. The suspense has added to the bitterness and tensions in the area.

 

The rising militant activities in Kurram Agency have sent a shockwave among the residents of the area, especially alarming the Shia community. Tribal elders convened a jirga and demanded immediate action against the persons involved in the violence. A Shia leader, former senator Allama Abid Al Hussaini, has urged the government to take action to save the peace deal. He warned that if the government failed to recognise the gravity of the situation it would be unable to prevent it degenerating into a crisis. The agreement had come after a yearlong conflict in Kurram, the resumed militancy has shattered the hopes arising from the peace deal and put the agreement in danger of being jeopardised.


According to the agreement, the main Tall-Parachinar road was to be opened immediately to all kinds of traffic. This was to be followed by the rehabilitation of the displaced people (Shias from Sadda and Sunnis from Upper Kurram), a process which was to begin on March 5. A committee consisting of Sunni and Shia leaders, parliamentarians and officials of the political administrations was assigned the task of working out arrangements for the relocation and rehabilitation of people displaced by the conflict and pay damages to those who lost family members and had their properties destroyed in the past few years of the conflict.

Following their last meeting with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad members of the jirga announced a package of Rs1 billion for this year and Rs700 million for next year as compensation. But elements which did not want the return of normalcy in Kurram sabotaged the peace efforts once again.


Due to its strategic location, Kurram Agency has always been critical for the militants. It connects the tribal areas of Pakistan to Afghanistan through lower, central and upper Kurram, providing the militants easy access to and from Afghanistan and far greater freedom of movement than they now have. In lower Kurram, Shaheedano Dand and Ahmadi Shama points provide the militants convenient points of exit to Zazi Maidan in Afghanistan's Paktia province and to Maqbal areas of Khost province. The three Managl routes under their control give them a passage to Zazi area. It is alarming fact that the other outlet from central Kurram that passes through Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency is already under the control of the Taliban.


The Taliban, led by Fazal Saeed Haqqani, made every effort in Kurram Agency to gain control of the Borki and Kharlachi outlets that connect Parachinar in upper Kurram with Afghanistan. But the locals, who knew their intentions, are not prepared to let the Taliban succeed in their objective. For their part, the militants are doing everything possible to get control of Borki and Kharlachi outlets.


If the militants wrest control of the Borki and Kharlachi posts, they will find Kurram Agency as an extremely useful sanctuary, both in terms of safety and logistics. Once this area is at their disposal, the Taliban will gain access to important routes leading from North Waziristan to Afghanistan through the troubled Orakzai Agency. That, in turn, will make it easy to melt away among the locals. Khyber Agency will still be a good option for the Taliban, but control over Kurram Agency will make them virtually invulnerable in the strategic sense.

To save the agreement from being jeopardised, the government should immediately start making active efforts to get it implemented, in its entirety and in letter and spirit. This it can do by securing the roads, devising a transparent system for the compensation money to be paid out to those effected and displaced by the conflict and making a practicable and sustainable arrangements for the relocation of the displaced people. Otherwise, once things go really wrong, the situation will spin out of control, and restoration of normalcy will become a formidable and daunting challenge which the authorities may not be able to meet in the near future.

Indeed, the situation is already so grim that the leader of an anti-Taliban militia, Dilawar Khan, made the threat that his militia will be forced to join the Taliban if the government did not come to its assistance. Dilawar Khan's statement came after a suicide attack on the funeral in Adizai that claimed 37 lives and left more than 60 people injured. A statement from the members of the Grand Tribal Jirga of North Waziristan in response to the Dattakhel drone attack conveys the same alarming message to the authorities.


At a press conference in Peshawar, flanked by other tribal elders, Malik Jalal Khan Wazir, swore vengeance and declared that the elders had given permission to members of their families to carry out suicide attacks against the Americans to avenge the killings in the drone attacks. This declaration should not be taken as an ordinary threat because, once suicide attacks become socially permitted, the consequences of the violence would be ruinous for the area.


The government must start taking measures to rescue the Kurram peace deal. It cannot afford to waste any more time.

The writer heads the Fata Research Centre. Email: khan45@ gmail.com

 

***************************************


I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SAVE THE KURRAM PEACE DEAL

DR ASHRAF ALI

 

The rising militant activities in the Kurram Agency have once again put the credibility of the recently concluded peace deal in danger. A lethal suicide attack on the Doaba Police Station in Hangu, which left eight people dead and 25 injured on March 24, was one of the deadliest acts of violence to hit the area in the past few weeks. A collapse of the peace agreement could lead to events whose consequences and ramifications are too frightening to imagine at the moment.

 

It was the recent killing of a Shia community member in the busy Qissa Khwani bazaar in Peshawar triggered off the new wave of terrorism and violence. The following day, an attack on an Attock-bound vehicle near Mamu Khwar in Doaba left four people, including a woman, dead. On March 13 members of the Mangal tribe attacked a passenger vehicle killing 12 members of the Turi tribe. A police party led by station house officer Haleem Khan killed three of the attackers. The SHO had to face consequences for his action in the form of a remote-control bomb attack on his mobile party. The SHO was one of the 11 members of the police force who sustained injuries in the revenge attack.


On March 25 the militants attacked three passenger vehicles, killing and injuring eight persons. The militants commandeered the three vehicles and kidnapped 45 passengers from the Bagan area of lower Kurram. This was the third attack of its kind since the peace deal was concluded on Feb 8 this year, with passenger vans carrying people belonging to the Turi tribe being hit. A few days ago, armed men led by a militant commander, Sattar Wazir, abducted 20 men from the same area in Bagan and another four from a neighbouring area at gunpoint. The fate of the two young men belonging to Turi tribe who were abducted from Makhezai area a few days ago is still not known. The suspense has added to the bitterness and tensions in the area.


The rising militant activities in Kurram Agency have sent a shockwave among the residents of the area, especially alarming the Shia community. Tribal elders convened a jirga and demanded immediate action against the persons involved in the violence. A Shia leader, former senator Allama Abid Al Hussaini, has urged the government to take action to save the peace deal. He warned that if the government failed to recognise the gravity of the situation it would be unable to prevent it degenerating into a crisis. The agreement had come after a yearlong conflict in Kurram, the resumed militancy has shattered the hopes arising from the peace deal and put the agreement in danger of being jeopardised.


According to the agreement, the main Tall-Parachinar road was to be opened immediately to all kinds of traffic. This was to be followed by the rehabilitation of the displaced people (Shias from Sadda and Sunnis from Upper Kurram), a process which was to begin on March 5. A committee consisting of Sunni and Shia leaders, parliamentarians and officials of the political administrations was assigned the task of working out arrangements for the relocation and rehabilitation of people displaced by the conflict and pay damages to those who lost family members and had their properties destroyed in the past few years of the conflict.


Following their last meeting with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad members of the jirga announced a package of Rs1 billion for this year and Rs700 million for next year as compensation. But elements which did not want the return of normalcy in Kurram sabotaged the peace efforts once again.

Due to its strategic location, Kurram Agency has always been critical for the militants. It connects the tribal areas of Pakistan to Afghanistan through lower, central and upper Kurram, providing the militants easy access to and from Afghanistan and far greater freedom of movement than they now have. In lower Kurram, Shaheedano Dand and Ahmadi Shama points provide the militants convenient points of exit to Zazi Maidan in Afghanistan's Paktia province and to Maqbal areas of Khost province. The three Managl routes under their control give them a passage to Zazi area. It is alarming fact that the other outlet from central Kurram that passes through Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency is already under the control of the Taliban.


The Taliban, led by Fazal Saeed Haqqani, made every effort in Kurram Agency to gain control of the Borki and Kharlachi outlets that connect Parachinar in upper Kurram with Afghanistan. But the locals, who knew their intentions, are not prepared to let the Taliban succeed in their objective. For their part, the militants are doing everything possible to get control of Borki and Kharlachi outlets.


If the militants wrest control of the Borki and Kharlachi posts, they will find Kurram Agency as an extremely useful sanctuary, both in terms of safety and logistics. Once this area is at their disposal, the Taliban will gain access to important routes leading from North Waziristan to Afghanistan through the troubled Orakzai Agency. That, in turn, will make it easy to melt away among the locals. Khyber Agency will still be a good option for the Taliban, but control over Kurram Agency will make them virtually invulnerable in the strategic sense.

To save the agreement from being jeopardised, the government should immediately start making active efforts to get it implemented, in its entirety and in letter and spirit. This it can do by securing the roads, devising a transparent system for the compensation money to be paid out to those effected and displaced by the conflict and making a practicable and sustainable arrangements for the relocation of the displaced people. Otherwise, once things go really wrong, the situation will spin out of control, and restoration of normalcy will become a formidable and daunting challenge which the authorities may not be able to meet in the near future.

Indeed, the situation is already so grim that the leader of an anti-Taliban militia, Dilawar Khan, made the threat that his militia will be forced to join the Taliban if the government did not come to its assistance. Dilawar Khan's statement came after a suicide attack on the funeral in Adizai that claimed 37 lives and left more than 60 people injured. A statement from the members of the Grand Tribal Jirga of North Waziristan in response to the Dattakhel drone attack conveys the same alarming message to the authorities.


At a press conference in Peshawar, flanked by other tribal elders, Malik Jalal Khan Wazir, swore vengeance and declared that the elders had given permission to members of their families to carry out suicide attacks against the Americans to avenge the killings in the drone attacks. This declaration should not be taken as an ordinary threat because, once suicide attacks become socially permitted, the consequences of the violence would be ruinous for the area.


The government must start taking measures to rescue the Kurram peace deal. It cannot afford to waste any more time.

The writer heads the Fata Research Centre. Email: khan45@ gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CURTAINS FOR BOOKSTORE IN KPK

NASSER YOUSAF

 

An utterly bland banner hanging outside the closed shutters of a bookshop in the Peshawar Cantonment makes a foreboding announcement: the owners have shut down the shop and could now be approached for business in Islamabad. It is more than a month now since the mournful notice was hung. Pedestrians and motorists pass by it at all hours of the day, but give it little more than a casual glance.


It was the biggest and one of the oldest bookshops in the town, nay in the entire province, and a repository of stationery and books from around the world. The elderly owner, who had lately disappeared into the basement leaving the counter on the ground floor to his son, appeared to be distinctively aware of the literary sense of his visitors. One could thus find nearly all major works of renowned authors, otherwise unavailable even in cities like Karachi and Lahore, prominently displayed on the racks.


The bookseller was also quite daring; one would often observe the gradually diminishing copies of titles as enticing and controversial as Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' being replaced with a gusto. Glossy fashion magazines for men and women including GQ and Cosmopolitan would also be found spread invitingly on tabletops in addition to a continuous supply of several US, UK and Middle East-based daily newspapers.

The protracted Afghan conflict and the resultant rush of Western journalists to the region added another chapter to the success story of the bookshop. The raging fury of the conflict, its myriad interpretations, and paradoxical dimensions suddenly found their way to the bookshop on Arbab Road Peshawar.


The enterprising bookseller made most of the opportunity as titles on the Afghans and Pakhtuns, long lost to memory, suddenly reappeared in new jackets. And the bookseller knew perfectly well how to flaunt those titles: a shelf right at the entrance decked with eye catching colourful covers would welcome the visitors. But these windfalls alone could never have enabled the bookseller to set sails for the higher climes.


The business fortunes of the booksellers had in no small amount been propelled by local purchases, more specifically purchases in the public sector. The bookshop had virtually served as the single source in as far as supplies of all types of books to the libraries in the government and non government sector were concerned.

A casual visit to one of the more than half a dozen libraries in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province may provide irrefutable evidence to this effect as every next book could be found indelibly stamped with the seal of the closed bookshop. The burgeoning growth of English medium schools in the private sector also spelled a bonanza of sorts for the increasingly reclusive bookseller.


What then forced him leave his long held fort for good that set tongues wagging? One of the probable reasons bandied about referred to the prevailing fluid law and order situation in the province, particularly in Peshawar. The ever present threat of kidnapping for ransom has left the rich and famous of the town confined to their cavernous quarters. Some accounts also referred to boredom induced by the age-old routine as the likely cause of the closure that came like a bolt from the blue for the fast dwindling club of book lovers. The latter believe that the sad event should not go unnoticed.


The bookseller on his part could hardly be faulted for shifting his place of business. The undesirable security situation in Peshawar makes his decision understandable. Islamabad is teeming with affluent refugees from Peshawar. 'Run with your money to Islamabad,' is the fad in Peshawar these days. The bookseller and his ilk have one common denominator: they all accumulated their riches in Peshawar. Selling books in an embattled town with the wealth thus hoarded could be the last wish of the hoarders.


Those addicted to books will continue to get them from all quarters of the world. But for students and, above all, the image of the land, the closure of the town's premier bookshop is a matter of inconsolable grief.

Recent events in the area have seriously impaired Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's image as a civilised place. The place that for decades has been home to Edwardes, Islamia and Burn Hall schools and colleges and the lush green sprawling campus of Peshawar University is under attack from bigotry brigades. The morning news bulletins invariably begin with news of bombings in more schools in this godforsaken province. Why, for God's sake, is there no word of protest from those who perceive the militants to be angry only with American presence in the region?

A small segment of the Pakhtun literati recently circulated an article that draws reference to an inflammatory account of the Pakhtuns by Jules Stewart under the title 'The Savage Border.' The book has dubbed Pakhtuns as wild, savage, barbarians, not versed in the civilised ways of the world. One may not like it, but the bombings of schools and the closure of the bookshop provide ammunition to Stewart and vindicate him and his ilk.

Why is Alexandria and Cordoba being done to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa? No one appears to be ready to answer this, and this is the saddest tragedy to befall the Pakhtun nation.


The writer is a Peshawar-based freelancer. Email: nasseryousaf@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

VIEWERS, SPEAK UP

ZIRGHAM AFRIDI

 

The feeling of one's being forced to view the plethora of advertisements has reached a point where one begins to wonder: is there any control over what we watch on TV? Do we have the choice of watching our favourite shows without all these advertisements? Especially, is there anything we could do about it?


Then there is the dissatisfaction with some of the content being aired on our screens. Our television adverts always become a topic of discussion whenever the TV is on at home, or at the office, say, during the World Cup. A recent survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan revealed that 56 percent of Pakistanis from across the country feel that indecency on TV has increased, up from 41 percent ten years ago. You feel that our social fabric is slowly being moulded by a tiny group of powerful businesses. And we, the viewers, have little choice but to adapt ourselves to the new trends, regardless of whether we like them or find them acceptable.


A friend, who is a lawyer by training, recently decided to take a stand. He sought to move the authorities to get them to regulate the content on our television screens in accordance with "accepted cultural norms." So he appeared before the Council of Complaints. The council is a body set up by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) comprising six "eminent citizens" to judge the merits of complaints.


There are many interesting aspects to his story which are worth sharing.

 

First of all, there are a lot of people out there who are unhappy with the content of some of the TV advertisements. In the case of films, dramas and comedy shows one at least has the option of simply switching off the channel. Advertising, on the other hand, is virtually unavoidable, no matter what type of programme one is watching. Due to this, my friend focussed his complaint on a single advertisement, so that whatever decisions was taken by the authority concerned would establish a yardstick for similar advertisements in future.

It is not worthwhile specifying or describing the advertisement itself, so I will just mention the key points of the complaint he lodged.


There exists a legal code which caters to the subjective, seemingly unimportant, opinions of individuals regarding the nature of TV programmes in Pakistan. The legal code is detailed, and is not based on any other principles but those of basic Islamic edicts.


The complaint begins with some everyday language expressing the sentiments which many people increasingly share with regard to the "overwhelming majority of Pakistanis, particularly our young, [who] spend several hours a day" watching television programmes, whose content would be considered by many as "vulgar, indecent and likely to deprave, corrupt and injure public morality."


It then cited the Pemra Ordinance of 2002, which mentions "the preservation of the national, cultural, social and religious values and the principles of public policy as enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan" and tries to make sure that "programmes and advertisements do not contain or encourage violence, terrorism..., obscenity, vulgarity or other material offensive to commonly accepted standards of decency."

A Code of Conduct for media broadcasters and cable TV operators formulated by Pemra itself goes further. It prohibits broadcasters from airing any programme which is "obscene or indecent, or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality." It states that "no advertisement shall be permitted which...glorifies adultery, lustful passion or non-Islamic values; contains indecent, vulgar, or offensive themes; [and] contains material which is repugnant to...Islamic values." But who is to judge what constitutes "Islamic moral standards"? And what our "cultural, social and religious values" are?


Someone needs to clarify the limits that TV content may not cross. There is also the increasing need for regulation of the times at which certain programmes can be aired. The same applies to advertising. There must be a regulation on the themes that can be used to attract customers. It may ultimately be for the judiciary to make these decisions, but someone has to begin active regulation of the content of what is aired on our TV screens.

My friend's action is a reminder of the need for active vigilance on the part of ordinary citizens; in this case, television viewers. Viewers must have a choice in whether or not they are to be exposed to one kind or another of advertisements, which are placed by those who wish to make profit out of them. The Council of Complaints, he notes, is entitled to entertain the complaint of "any person aggrieved by any aspect of a programme or advertisement."

Contrary to our negative expectations, the council, particularly its chairperson, the poet Kishwar Naheed, was supportive. In fact, as she said, the council had been waiting for "raushan khayal" (enlightened) young people to bring such issues before it.


The complaints cell is eager to forward the views of the complainants and wants citizens to come forward. You too have a voice and your active participation will make the job easier for the council. Pemra and other such government bodies must make it easy for an individual to register his or her complaint. And the common man must actively use such outlets in the interest of Pakistani society.


The writer is an Imperial College London graduate and an alumnus of the BHSS Pakistan. Email: zirgham@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

THE SINGAPORE STORY

AZIZ AKHMAD

 

Recently, I happened to spend a month in Singapore. A first time visitor cannot help but be impressed by Singapore's Changi Airport. Not only by its vast size and the amenities it provides, but also the ease and efficiency with which passengers are processed. On average, an incoming passenger is out of the airport and into the waiting car in 25 minutes minutes – alongalong with the luggage. The airport ranks as one of the world's best airports.


It's not just the airport that impresses the visitor. It is also the general cleanliness and orderliness of the city, its buses and the subway that run like clockwork, the gleaming shopping malls, its well maintained parks, civic services and other facilities. Economically, Singapore ranks ahead of many developed countries of the world. Its GDP growth last year was 14.5 percent and GDP per capita purchasing power parity (PPP) was US$62,000. (For comparison, the figures for the US, UK, China, India and Pakistan are 47,000, 35,000, 7,400, 3,400 and 2,600, respectively.


If you are one of those people who believe GDP is economic nonsense, take a look at Singapore's other indicators: Unemployment is two percent; homeownership is nearly 90 percent, financed through a cleverly designed Central Provident Fund; and an affordable healthcare system is accessible to everyone. Corruption and crime are very low.


Literacy rate is 97 percent, and over 90 percent of the population aged 25 and above have secondary education. The quality of education is good. Singapore school students rank at the top in the international education scores in science and math. Two of its universities, Singapore National University (SNU) and Nanyang Technical University (NTU) rank among the top 100 universities in the world.


How did all this happen? How did this tiny island, a dot on the world map, with no hinterland or natural resources – not even water and construction sand, which have to be brought in from Malaysia and Indonesia, respectively – was able to transform itself from a colonial backwater to an economic powerhouse, and such a nice place to live in? How did a multi-racial and multi-religious society with a history of racial tensions, and even bloody racial riots, in 1964, transform into a peaceful, productive and politically and economically secure society?

Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister and the architect of modern Singapore, answers these questions in his memoirs, written some years ago. In spite of the size – two volumes and nearly 1400 pages – the books, titled The Singapore Story and From Third World to First, tell a gripping story. The memoirs, particularly the second volume, From Third World to First, can be a useful handbook for the leaders of developing countries in general and of Pakistan in particular, that is, if they were inclined to read.


Basically, what Lee Kuan Yew did was, he invested in and capitalised on the only natural resource he had. The people. (Singapore's population at independence, in 1965, was 1.5 million. Today it is five million including the permanent residents.) Mr Lee writes in his memoirs: "I was gradually forced to conclude that the decisive factors were the people, their natural abilities, education and training. Knowledge and possession of technology were vital for the creation of wealth." Therefore, he proceeded to create a system of education that provides quality education and training to all its citizens, both men and women. To ensure that no racial group feels excluded, four languages, English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil are taught in all schools. English remains the working language.


Elsewhere in the book, Lee Kuan Yew observes: "when misguided policies based on half digested theories of socialism and redistribution of wealth were compounded by less than competent government, societies formerly held together by colonial power splintered, with appalling consequences." That belief seems to have guided his economic policies, which strived to create a fair state as opposed to a "welfare state". Also, Mr Lee seems to believe that the age-old wisdom of keeping the expenses less than the income is not only good for individuals but also for states.


Lee Kuan Yew also talks about Pakistan in some detail, in his memoirs. He writes: "I spent a week in Pakistan from 28 February 1992. I had two meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his key cabinet colleagues, including his finance and economic minister, Sartaj Aziz, an irrepressible optimist. After I returned I sent Nawaz Sharif a report together with a personal letter to summarise the actions he should take.


"It was soon obvious that they faced dire and intractable problems. They had a low tax base, with income tax yielding only two per cent of their GDP. Many transactions in land sales were not documented and tax evasion was widespread. They subsidised agriculture, railways and steel mills. Defence took 44 percent of the budget, debt servicing 35 percent, leaving 21 percent to administer the country. Hence their budget deficits were 8-10 percent of their GDP and inflation reaching double-digit figures. The IMF had drawn their attention to these parlous figures. The solutions were obvious but political will was difficult to exercise in a country without an educated electorate and with the legislature in the grip of landowners who controlled the votes of their uneducated tenant farmers. This made land and tax reforms near impossible. Corruption was rampant, with massive thievery of state property, including illegal tapping of electricity." Pg 468


Mr Lee goes on to say: "[Nawaz Sharif] was a man of action with much energy ... He always believed that something could be done to make things better." And then, as if in exasperation, Lee Kuan Yew writes: "The problem was often he had neither the time nor the patience to have a comprehensive study made before deciding on a solution."


And, yes, one more thing that helped make Singapore what it is. While its constitution ensures that every person has the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion. It also ensures that religion is not used to disturb public order, public health or morality. In other words, any one using religion to create hatred and disorder will be processed through the Singapore's justice system as efficiently as incoming passengers are processed at Changi Airport.

 

The writer has worked in the area of Human Resources with multinational companies. Email: azizakhmad@gmail. Com

 

 

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I. THE NEWS

LOOKING THROUGH A SINGLE LENS

KAMILA HYAT

 

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

In today's world, events in one place almost always influence those in others. The age of instant news means details of developments of every kind reach people flicking through TV channels quite literally the moment they occur.

And more than any other time in human history, we now live in a massive global village where everything that happens is connected to the other in a long chain. A tug at one end instantly sets off motion at the other. It is hard to stay disconnected.

Small amounts of radiation released by the crippled nuclear power at Fukushima in Japan are reported to have drifted across to China, triggering mass panic. The drift, in terms of other events, may not be so literal or so easily discernible through the use of scientific equipment, but the same kind of influences make their way across the globe from one country to the other, from one region to the next.

We saw this happen in the 1990s as countries in Eastern Europe changed forever one after the other. Happenings in one place had an almost instant effect on those in others.

We see the same phenomenon today in the Middle East where an unruly storm rages across the region with, even islands where the breeze hardly moved, such as Bahrain, getting caught up in the gusts.

The desperation of leaders is demonstrated by actions in Libya and also Yemen where there is an attempt to hold onto power and resist the changes that people are determined to usher in.

What is curious is that even gales that blow quite close to our borders, creating the events we see today in North Africa and surrounding areas, caused little more than a ripple at least as far as the electronic media goes in Pakistan.

The events taking place in these nations have received only passing mention in terms of talk shows and other programmes that dominate the dozens of TV channels competing with each other to win over viewers and attract maximum attention.

The channels, of course, have a right to decide their own policies and priorities. But the demonstration of the increasingly insular view we take of the world, is somewhat alarming.

Like the prima donna in a ballet performance, we seem to have become obsessed with ourselves, constantly peering into the mirror to see how we look, rather than gazing out the window at the world outside. The problem with this is that it gives us only a very narrow vision of the world and all that is out there.

Even the events that gain the attention of news anchors in the country are becoming more and more limited. There is an unchanging focus on political wrangles and the ongoing power-play in various places.

Matters that deserve far greater attention, such as the issue of food security, are hardly ever taken up. The warning by a senior UN official that many people could no longer afford to buy food to eat because of the high prices attracted some newspaper headlines but little further discussion.

There are some dangers inherent in this. We need to see ourselves as part of the global community rather than as a single, isolated country that stands and acts alone. This is, in many ways, tied in with the need to develop a broader vision that can enable us to take in more of the world and occupy a place within it.

This reluctance to draw up the blinds and look outside at the wider spaces – rather like a person who has developed a bad case of agoraphobia – is one reason why we have become so unhealthily obsessed with issues such as blasphemy or why even the most trivial political discord draws instant attention.

It is time we recognised the dangers of living within a virtual reality created by the few who set the agenda and moving outside into what is actually taking place.

The events in the Middle East, to the extent that they take up issues such as inflation, poor governance and general disorder, certainly hold relevance. But we should also be looking beyond the obvious and ignoring the depictions of a western media – which like our own, offers only what it chooses to put out before viewers.

It is worth noting that, in Egypt for example, while a dictatorship has gone, fundamentalist groups attempted to prevent women in that country from celebrating International Women's Day or gathering at Tahrir Square to do so.

Change can lead to events that are both positive and negative. This too is worth remembering.

A single line of focus is a dangerous thing. We seem, at this time, to have donned a set of big, thick blinkers. They prevent us from even looking back into our own past, at a time when we were not so occupied with ideas of religion, morality and the bigotry that is now fed to children almost from the time they are born.

The result is the creation of a kind of disabling hatred that leads people to consider those who follow other religions to be enemies, worthy of nothing other than death. The extent to which such views are expanding is in more ways than one, quite terrifying.

It is no longer easy to dam a river that flows forward fast and furiously. Yet, if we are to save ourselves, this is something we will have to learn to do.

The question to be asked is how this will happen. There are, of course, no instant answers. None are available given the complexity of the issues we face.

But the undoubted fact is, we need to keep pace with the world and continue the process of moving forward. We must look towards others – both to our east and to our west – and learn from what they are doing.

If we are not able to do so, there is a risk that we will be left behind while the rest of the world moves forward at an accelerating pace that prevents us from catching up.

Email: kamilahyat@hotmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

AMERICAN HYPOCRISY

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

 

What does the world think? Obama has been using air strikes and drones against civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and probably Somalia. In his March 28 speech, Obama justified his air strikes against Libya on the grounds that the embattled ruler, Qaddafi, was using air strikes to put down a rebellion.


Qaddafi has been a black hat for as long as I can remember. If we believe the adage that "where there is smoke there is fire," Qaddafi is probably not a nice fellow. However, there is no doubt whatsoever that the current US president and the predecessor Bush/Cheney regime have murdered many times more people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia than Qaddafi has murdered in Libya.

Moreover, Qaddafi is putting down a rebellion against state authority as presently constituted, but Obama and Bush/Cheney initiated wars of aggression based entirely on lies and deception.

Yet Qaddafi is being demonised, and Bush/Cheney/Obama are sitting on their high horse draped in cloaks of morality. Obama described himself as saving Libyans from violence while Obama himself murders Afghans, Pakistanis, and whomever else.

Indeed, the Obama regime has been torturing a US soldier, Bradley Manning, for having a moral conscience. America has degenerated to the point where having a moral conscience is evidence of anti-Americanism and "terrorist activity."

Washington, focused on its newest war, is oblivious to America's peril. As Joseph Stiglitz, former chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers notes, the costs of the Iraq war alone could have kept every foreclosed family in their home, provided health care for every American child, and wiped out the student loans of graduates who cannot find jobs because they have been outsourced to foreigners. However, the great democratic elected government of "the world's only superpower" prefers to murder Muslims in order to enhance the profits of the military/security complex. More money is spent violating the constitutional rights of American air travellers than is spent in behalf of the needy.

The moral authority of the west is rapidly collapsing. When Russia, Asia, and South America look at Europe, Australia and Canada, they see American puppet states that contribute troops to the aggressive wars of the Empire. The French president, the British prime minister, the "president" of Georgia, and the rest are merely functionaries of the American Empire. The puppet rulers routinely sell out the interests and welfare of their peoples in behalf of American hegemony. And they are well rewarded for their service.

In his war against Libya, Obama has taken America one step further into Caesarism. Obama did Bush one step better and did not even bother to get congressional authorisation for his attack on Libya. Obama claimed that his moral authority trumped the US Constitution. The hypocrisy reeks. How the public stands it, I do not know:

The American president, whose drones and air force slaughter civilians every day of the year said Libya stands alone in presenting the world with "the prospect of violence on a horrific scale." Obviously, Obama thinks that one million dead Iraqis, four million displaced Iraqis, and an unknown number of murdered Afghans is just a small thing.

The writer was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an assistant secretary of the US Treasury. Email: PaulCraigRoberts@ yahoo.com

Courtesy: www.counterpunch.org

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

GILANI'S CONFIDENCE IN DEMOCRACY

 

AT a national seminar organized by Nazriya Pakistan Council (NPC), Islamabad, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani sounded very positive and believed that in Pakistan democratic moorings are getting deeper and stronger. He dwelt at length about the democratic culture as envisioned by founder of the State Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and urged all political parties to contribute their share in realization of the dream of the Quaid.

The Prime Minister took extra pain in hammering out the point that the PPP and he himself strongly believed in strengthening of the democratic process and that is why a conscious decision was taken to pursue the policy of national reconciliation, as is manifest from the coalition arrangement. It is true that after various experiments in the past, there now appears to be consensus among all political parties in Pakistan that every elected government should complete its constitutionally mandated five-year term. It is because of this that barring a few small parties that could not participate in the previous elections are making demands for mid-term polls while other parties especially major ones are not in favour of fresh polls at this point of time. Even PML(N) stalwart Mian Nawaz Sharif, who is gradually sounding pessimistic about performance of the Government and is levelling charges of corruption, though occasionally comes out with fiery speech yet he too is not ready to cross the danger line to make any serious call for snap polls. There is a general impression and rightly so that the PML(N) leader is treading the path very carefully in view of its bitter past experience and doesn't want to create conditions that could harm the system and the democratic process in any way. This is a positive indication and augurs well for the country as the ideals of good governance and transparency are deeply linked to continuation of the democratic process that creates checks and balances through different means. However, in our view, democracy itself would not bring prosperity if the governments in power do not focus on addressing the economic challenges and pursue right policies for the purpose. It is also a cause for concern that for various reasons, institutions are getting weaker and both the Government and the Opposition should go deeper into the causes and take steps to remove them. Democracy elsewhere in the world is considered to be the best form of government only because it delivers and, therefore, here too it should demonstrate its ability to deliver.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN TO KNOCK AGAIN AT IMF DOOR

 

ACCORDING to a report, the country, which is struggling hard to repay its debt, has decided to seek another loan of US$3 billion to $5 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under the harshest terms yet, after concluding fifth review of the Fund's present $11.3 billion standby arrangement in June. Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh is scheduled to visit Washington next month to discuss options for the new programme with IMF officials.


Pakistan sought IMF loans in the past as well but for a short duration and got out of it at the first available opportunity. However, it is regrettable that it is falling again and again into the lap of the Fund during the tenure of the present Government that has obtained record volume of loans from it and seeks recourse to it yet another time. It is generally believed that taking of loan is not a vice in itself but wrong utilization of the borrowed money is the real curse. It seems we have been securing credits to pay salaries and incur non-developmental expenditure and as a consequence today we are compelled to obtain loans to pay old loans. This policy is unacceptable as every government tries to go for stop-gap arrangements and pass on the buck to the successor. IMF loans are hated also because they come with bitter and humiliating conditions and make life of the consumer and common man more miserable. Already, Pakistan has hiked power rates to highest in the region under pressure from the IMF and there is insistence to increase them further. Similarly, as per IMF conditions, the Government is eliminating subsidy even on food items which are given all over the world as part of the social obligations of the State. We would urge the rulers to review this strategy and instead take steps for optimum utilizations of local resources, which are in abundance if we have the will and commitment to exploit them.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SHARING OF SAMJHOTA INFORMATION

 

THERE appears to be some breakthrough during two sessions of talks between the Interior Secretaries of Pakistan and India in New Delhi. The joint communique issued at the end of the talks has some silver lining as India provided information on the ongoing Samjhota Express blast case investigation and it also agreed that after filing of report in the court updated information will be shared with Pakistan.


We are glad that Pakistan's Interior Secretary Chaudhry Qamar Zaman presented Pakistan's point of view very well and as a result there has been progress on several issues which had been lying pending for long. India had earlier flatly refused to share its probe findings into the February 2007 Samjhota Express blast with Pakistan on the grounds that investigations were still ongoing and it was too premature to pass on any information to its neighbour. The Samjhota Express bombing was more serious and gruesome terrorist attack that occurred around midnight on 18 February 2007 than the Mumbai terrorist attack as charred bodies of passengers were seen lying every where and many of them were even unrecognizable. After having shared information on the Samjhota, we expect that Indian authorities would proceed further to award punishment to those behind this heinous crime. It was heartening that the two Interior Secretaries also agreed on several other issues including fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the need to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice. The Pakistani side also provided an update on the ongoing trial and investigation in Pakistan on the Mumbai terror attack and conveyed its readiness in principle to entertain a Commission from India for investigations with respect to Mumbai attack. The agreement for the release of civilian prisoners and fishermen who have completed their sentences would also be welcomed by the affected families in both the countries. We hope that the two countries would build on the goodwill created during talks between the Prime Ministers and Interior Secretaries of the two countries and resolve their outstanding issues including Kashmir for peace and prosperity in South Asia.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

OPPOSION IN A QUANDARY

M ASHRAF MIRZA

Opposition leaders have again withrawn to their cosy abodes after a short spell of rabble rousing for non-implementation of ten point agenda, Raymond Davis episode and Dattakhel drone attack. They have seemingly gone into hibernation once again that manifests their passive support to the government, irrespective of the pressing public issues such as price hike, power shortage, unemployment, mounting utilities' cost including petrol, gas, electricity, atta, sugar, edible oil and petroleum products as well as on other serious issues of corruption, insecurity, sagging economy, lawlessness and target killings in Karachi and Balochistan, Terrorism and national security is neither the concern of the government or the opposition. These issues have been left to the Pak army to handle. Both the government and the opposition are least bothered about the public misery and agony on account of the grave issues staring in the nation's face.


Understandably, Nawaz Sharif's heart ailment has diverted PML(N)'s attention to some extent, but there is hardly any reason for other opposition parties including Tehrik-e-Insaf, PML(Q), JUI (F) and Jamaat-e-Islami to withdraw pressure from the government for mitigation of public hardships. The political scenario is, therefore, quiet for the government to continue to confront the Supreme Court and let its functionaries plunder the national dignity and wealth. Thanks to the Cricket World Cup that has kept the nation comprehensively absorbed in the game especially Pakistan cricket team's performance. As if the nation has already not enough issues at hand that the government has preferred to raise fresh issues to divert the public attention from the pressing national problems after miserably failing to address common man's hardships on multifarious counts. The latest of these is its plans to file a reference in the Supreme Court to revisit the judgement of late ZA Bhutto's case.

The Cabinet has approved the plans. Will anyone benefit from the decision? Had it been so, Benazir Bhutto, who held two stints of power, would not have ignored it especially it pertained to his father. She had not done so because she knew that it will not benefit the public. Besides, the common man is least interested in reopening of the case. It will rather open Pandora's Box and further complicate the nation's political scene especially because the reference will be contested by the certain quarters particularly Ahmed Reza Kasuri. The other issue is the Interior Minister Rehman Malik's statement about arrest of BB's assassins. The public reaction to the Interior Minister's revelation is certainly not to the government's liking on the ground that it comes after three years of President Zardari's rule, who is on record having repeatedly said that he knew BB's assassins. Isn't it an aspersion on the government that it was unable to get hold of the criminals, whom the President of Pakistan knew full well. Interestingly, Rehman Malik's announcement of arrest of a terrorist of Maldives origin, whom he alleged to be mastermind of an attempt to disrupt the Cricket World Cup competitions has since turned out to be a sheer ruse since the Maldives' court has freed him after finding him not involved in any such criminal act. A perception has developed that instead of providing relief to the masses on any of the fundamental issues such as corruption, insecurity and high cost of living, the government is engaged in diversionary tactics to hoodwink the people. What ever the motive behind these moves, the common man is certainly not convinced about the government's sincerity in pursuing them. The initiative is seemingly the brain child of President Zardari's inner circle that is determined to drift him into political abyss. History is replete with instances wherein cronies and dwarfs around the leaders are invariably instrumental in the destruction of their masters. President Zardari, therefore, needs to be cautious since he is already caught up in the political whirlpool.


The fact of the matter is that both the government and the opposition don't appear to be interested in the resolution of the public problems of high cost of living, electricity shortage, petroleum products' prices and social justice. While the government is taking shelter behind Gen Musharraf's legacies in the political, economic and security sectors for its own failure to revive the national economy, bring social justice and check mounting cost of living, the PML(N) has deemed it enough to announce parting of ways with the government due to non-implementation of its 10 point agenda and removal of PPP ministers from the Punjab Cabinet. The PML(N) has apparently not yet come out of its shell of 'friendly opposition' despite public criticism. Deplorable is also the PML(Q)'s attempted inroad into the ruling coalition for its selfish motive of saving Moonis Elahi's skin from the NAB for its alleged share in the National Insurance Corporation corruption scandal. The arrest of Moonis Elahi has, however, compelled it to stay away from the ruling coalition. MQM's conduct has been highly controversial for its policy of quitting and re-entering the PPP led ruling coalition. Hardly any other political party has taken somersault for so many times either for the sake of power or to escape the rigours of opposition especially in Sindh province with hold on Karachi and Hyderabad. Maulana Fazlurrehman (JUI) is also silently watching the spectacle of public misery after quitting the Gilani government.

The irony is that the government and the opposition are on one page to the detriment of the masses. Imran Khan (Tehriki-e-Instaf) is only boasting without doing anything practically to compel the government to address the public grievances. He either lacks confidence to lead movement and bring the people to the masses or is simply enjoying politics. His contribution in flood relief is undoubtedly tremendous. There is a general opinion that he should pay attention towards national cricket and do social welfare work rather than doing politics since his party has hitherto remained non-starter despite tall claims. Jamaat-e-Islami has lost its exuberance with Qazi Hussain Ahmed's departure. Being out of the National Assembly, it's not playing its due role in the national politics.

It's, therefore, a depressing political scenario. The government has, in fact, a free hand to continue to act whimsically and erratically as is evident from its latest moves. The irony is that there are serious issues staring in the nation's face, but the government is pursuing its own agenda which is totally different from the nation's aspirations. It's, therefore, time for the Opposition to unite that compel the government to act in the public interest.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

US OBSESSION FOR GLOBAL MONOPOLY

ASIF HAROON RAJA

 

The US past and present gives credence to the fact that there is no other country matching its destructive game play. The US used incendiary bombs against German cities in 1942 and adopted it as a strategy. Both the US and British air forces carried out massive night bombing of Dresden in 1945 resulting in 55000-250,000 casualties. Florence city was reduced to rubble within hours. It is the only country which forced Japan to surrender by dropping atom bombs on the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and causing deaths to millions. Living beings of these unfortunate countries suffer from nuclear after affects even today. Atomic bomb option was used at the fag end of 2nd world war in 1945 as means of pre-empting its invasion of Japanese heartland, which was sure to cause very heavy American casualties. In Hiroshima instant deaths were 100,000; the toll later rose to 200,000. In Nagasaki, 40,000 died instantly while 150,000 died eventually. 330,000 people perished in conventional aerial incendiary bomb attacks.


In 1953, the US and allied forces tried hard to annex whole of Korean Peninsula so as to establish US military bases right along China and Russia borders. In Cambodia, the US Boing B-52 bombers carried out high-altitude carpet bombing from March 1969 till August 15, 1973. Purpose was to disrupt supply routes of North Vietnamese Peoples Liberation Army. Holocaust of 2756941 tons of bombs over 113000 Cambodian sites killed 150,000 rural Cambodians which provoked insurgency that had enjoyed little support until the bombing began.

The US forces bombed Iraqis fleeing from Kuwait Highway on night of February 26/27, 1991. Defenceless Iraqi forces along with Kuwaiti captives and civilians were retreating. The entire line of convoy of 2000 vehicles was strafed for hours killing tens of thousands of helpless soldiers and civilians. Idea was to cripple Iraqi defence equipment and soldiers before the eventual ground assault on Baghdad. The international community saw the carnage which was gross violation of Geneva Convention 1949. During Bush rule, Ethiopia was instigated to invade Somalia in 1991 and bring down Union of Islamic courts. Since then, Somalia has never seen stability. Harsh economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf War in 1991 resulted in death of 500,000 Iraqi children.


CIA has a despicable history of toppling governments, meddling into internal affairs of other countries, assassinating key figures, masterminding and executing coups and supporting dictators. The CIA was behind major coups done in the world after 2nd World War. Most coups brought dictators in power. CIA toppled Mosadek regime in Iran in 1953. Manuel Noriega, the strong man of Panama remained on payroll of CIA for many years but was eventually abandoned in December 1989 since he was becoming too powerful. Jean Bertrand Aristide in exile was given the power in 1991 but was toppled in 2004. In 2009, a coup was engineered in Honduras and its elected president Manuel Zaleya was dragged out of his bed and flown out of country in his night suit. Gen Vasquez led the coup at the prompting of CIA. However, it failed in Venezuela to oust Hugo Chavez in 2002 and in Ecuador against Rafael Correa in September 2010.


In Latin America , Venezuela , Bolivia and Ecuador have joined hands to fight back US military and economic hegemony and China is aligning itself with progressive regimes. US-NATO forces wrought massive destruction in Afghanistan in end 2001 and later in Iraq in March 2003 causing well over 1.6 million fatalities. CIA played its part in engineering 9/11 and demonizing Al-Qaeda and later cooking up story of WMDs to justify invasions. The US used white phosphorous in Fallujah and massacred the civilians as well as combatants ruthlessly. Fallujah massacre was admitted by US.

CIA was behind Rose, Orange , Tulip and Twitter revolutions in Georgia , Ukraine , Kyrgyzstan and Moldova . CIA has intensified efforts to forge and expand military alliances and deployment in Asia-Pacific region. Russia , China , North Korea , Myanmar and Iran are not in its loop. CIA is now actively involved in Iran , Pakistan and Tibet . However, its color revolutions in Iran and Myanmar failed. CIA has always aspired for safe and secure playing fields wherefrom it could conduct its covert operations against target countries.

Tehran, Lebanon, Hanoi, Cairo have remained its major bases. Each base got disrupted due to indigenous upheaval because of which it had to depart hastily and shift elsewhere. At present, Kabul has been turned into the major base of CIA where five other intelligence agencies are its partners. Of late, this base too has become vulnerable and even Kabul is getting encircled and with each passing day liberty of action is getting restricted.

The CIA uses anti-drug fight as a tool to gain political control over countries. Bolivian President EW Morales said the US uses fight against drug trafficking to 'politically subdue' Latin American regimes and establish its hegemony in the region. Ironically CIA uses drug trade as a means to fund secret wars as it is presently doing in Afghanistan which provides 80% of world's opium and business is worth $3 billion annually.

The US military is occupying foreign lands, training death squads, torturing, abducting, killing innocent civilians in Iraq , Afghanistan , Philippines , Colombia , Somalia , Yemen , Pakistan and elsewhere. Leaked video footage dated 6 April 2010 shows American Army Apache helicopters open fire on civilians in Baghdad, repeatedly shooting and gunning them down as they try to flee. It was released on website WikiLeaks.org. Firers are heard laughing and discussing as if playing video games. One said, 'ha, ha, I hit him'. Other said, 'look at those dead bastards'. The US has military bases all over the globe and its naval fleets are operating in all the oceans. In Middle East , it has bases in Iraq , Israel , Jordan , Kuwait , Oman , Qatar and Yemen . Despite being the most powerful nation on earth and having military apparatus on a scale greater than the sum of every other country, the US has patently failed to impose its solution on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Far from intimidating Iran to abandon its nuclear program, Iran is gaining strategic strength with each passing day. Minuscule North Korea refuses to be browbeaten. Neither the US has been able to encircle China nor block its economic upsurge. All its military ventures have so far failed. It is now justifying its invasion of Libya on the pretext of saving innocent people from the wrath of Qaddafi's forces but US-UK jets and warships are causing more civilian deaths and destruction.


It is seeking China's monetary assistance as well as that of oil rich Arab states to absorb the shocks of global recession. At the same time China-US economic rivalry is sharpening despite the fact that both are economically inter-dependent. While the US has become debt ridden, economy of its major foe China has up surged. Both are trying to outrival other's economic influence in the vital regions of East Asia , South Asia , Central Asia , Middle East , Africa and Latin America .


The two powers are desperate to gain monopoly over economic resources in Eurasia . China plans to launch its own aircraft carrier this year to signal its resolve to rise as a super power. It is also working on a 'carrier-killing' ballistic missile 'Dong Feng21 to sink US carrier from a distance. In next five years, China's economic power will grow much faster and in turn will boost military power. China poses greatest threat to US imperialism but the US neither has the will nor the heart to confront it militarily. It however is trying to assert its global monopoly by terrorizing and pulverizing militarily weak and economically impoverished Muslim states.

—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

NUDGING DIALOGUE PROCESS

MALIK M ASHRAF

 

The invitation extended by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to President Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the cricket duel between arch rivals in the sporting arena and the decision by Prime Minister Gilani to travel to India in response to the invitation— viewed in the backdrop of the suspended talks on CBMs and Composite Dialogue—— is not all about the fun of the game. The move is indicative of a strong desire on both sides to ease tensions between the two countries, in the wake of an incessant blame- game and sabre-rattling after terrorists attack on Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay in November 2008. Responding positively to the Indian overture is an imaginative diplomatic initiative that sends a loud and clear message to the world community that Pakistan is always prepared to seize any opportunity to resolve its disputes with India through peaceful means.


The occasion, like similar initiatives in 1987 and 2005 known as Cricket Diplomacy, coming on the heels of the resumed secretary level talks, provides yet another opportunity to the leadership of both the countries to warm up to each other and nudge the stalled process of dialogue. The fact that both the Prime Ministers have met twice before on the sidelines of Non-Aligned Summit Conference at Sharmul Shaikh in Egypt in July 2009 and SAARC Summit in Bhutan last April, should help them to use the already existing amity between them to talk in a rift free environment. Although no formal talks or agenda of the meeting between the two Premiers has been drawn up by now but it would be naïve on any body's part to assume that no formal talks will take place between the two leaders.


There are strong indications that the two leaders will discuss the whole range of issues, including the Kashmir conundrum although no major breakthrough can be predicted or expected on this core issue in view of the continued Indian insistence on discussing the peripheral issues. Nonetheless, in view of the prevailing security situation in the region exacerbated by the war on terror and the Indian involvement in fomenting subservice activities in Balochistan and Sind for which undeniable evidence of nexus between RAW and Mossad is available, it is imperative to keep the channels of communications open to defuse the heat and to eliminate an ambience of mistrust that mars the relations between the two countries. There are no two opinions about the fact that without the resolution of the core issue of Kashmir there is no possibility of ending animosity between the two countries and ensuring permanent peace in the region. It is also an undeniable reality that the Kashmir dispute cannot be resolved through military means as is evident from three wars between the two countries which further aggravated the feelings of hate and spurred the sense of eternal enmity between the two countries. Honestly speaking the Kashmir dispute has become extremely convoluted due to the Indian intransigence to fulfill its international commitments on Kashmir and some unimaginative indiscretions on part of the Pakistani establishment.

The dynamics of the dispute have changed after acquisition of nuclear capability by both the countries. The only and the preferred option therefore is to resolve this issue through peaceful means that will require an uninhibited political will and unswerving resolve on both sides to off-load the past baggage and the syndrome of playing hostage to the hard line lobbies on both sides of the border. There is a strong desire among majority of people in both the countries to normalize relations between the two countries and the leaders need to stoke these sentiments into workable policy initiatives and make relentless efforts to undo the effects of hate syndrome whipped up and sustained over the last six decades.


The continued hostility and consequent arms race between India and Pakistan forced both the countries to divert their scant and precious resources to enhancing their defence capabilities, which they could have employed on the social and economic development and changing the economic situation of millions of people groaning under the weight of abject poverty. The region has a great potential for economic progress, waiting to be exploited to the advantage of the poor masses of the two countries. That however depends on ensuring peace in the region through the resolution of all disputes between the two countries. The resolution of Kashmir issue undoubtedly is a gateway to the regional peace and amity. Both India and Pakistan are under obligation to create conducive conditions for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute in consonance with the UN resolutions. The Indian leadership must realize that they cannot keep the people of Kashmir under subjugation for long because keeping Kashmir under Indian tutelage has a cost which they cannot pay indefinitely.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

DISGRACING DEMOCRACY

RANDOM THOUGHTS

BURHANUDDIN HASAN

 

In some countries like Japan and South Korea there is a tradition that opposition parties quite frequently disrupt the proceedings of parliament on contentious issues, members sometimes come to blows and even hit each other with chairs causing injuries. In Pakistan too when democracy emerged after a dark night of dictatorships, two leaders Mian Nawaz Sharif and Late Mohterama Benazir Bhutto disrupted the proceedings of parliament during the mandatory annual addresses of the Presidents.


Mian Nawaz Sharif emerged victorious in 1990 election with a comfortable majority to form a stable government. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan came to address the joint sitting of the parliament in December 1991, not knowing what was in store for him.


As soon as he started reading his speech, the opposition leader Ms Benazir Bhutto whose government was dismissed by Ghulam Ishaq Khan only three months ago was sitting on opposition benches fuming with rage poised to attack. As soon as the President started speaking Ms. Bhutto launched a venomous attack, raising a slogan along with her party members "Go Baba Go". Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who had never been subjected to such an insult particularly when his speech was being telecast live nationally and internationally, started fumbling, and then gradually cracked up as his body trembled and beads of perspiration appeared on his forehead. He somehow continued reading his speech till the finish. Ms. Benazir Bhutto repeated her star performance nine years later when she not only repeated her favorite slogan "Go Baba Go" but also made a parallel speech along with President Rafiq Tarrar. Her party members kept shouting and hurling insults at the old man. Nobody could make head and tail of what the President was saying.


Mian Nawaz Sharif, who was prime minister, described the behavior of the leader of the opposition "as undemocratic and immoral". But only a few years ago when Nawaz Sharif was leader of the opposition, he and his followers did the same thing to humiliate President Leghari with added attraction of displaying banners and placards with anti-Leghari slogans all over the floor of the National Assembly.


Former President General Musharraf was also hooted down by opposition parties during his first address to the parliament and was so annoyed that he raised his clenched fists at the end of his speech indicting, "I will see you". In fact he did. He never addressed parliament as long as he was in power. President Zardari had better deal. He addressed parliament four times without facing any embarrassment. As the time approached for his fourth speech the belligerent opposition parties were in an ugly mood indicating that they were ready to disrupt the President's speech. President Zardari who is no orator was not willing to face the protest. The Prime Minister played the role of go between and started meeting political leaders to explore their minds. All indicated that they were planning to disturb the President's speech. MQM, which has serious grievances about daily target killings in Karachi which have claimed more than one hundred lives so far, and were still continuing at the time of the President's speech ate the humble pie and not only attended the joint session but also kept quite. It is obvious that they are not willing to quit the government despite the President's backtracking on his promises to end target killings which not only claim the lives of those killed but also destroy their families. All other opposition parties did not disturb the President's speech but adopted a civilized approach and walked out of the House. The speech itself was not only brief and disjointed but also failed to address the burning issues which people are facing today. The common man is suffering from high prices of food, acute shortage of energy, daily increase in the prices of petroleum products which in turn adversely affect the prices of all essential items. Although he mentioned energy shortage, circular debt, taxation reforms, restructuring of public service entities but did not offer any solution to these major problems except "the need to build up consensus to resolve these problems". PML-N had given a 10 point agenda for the solution of these very problems on which marathon talks were held with the government officials but consensus could not be achieved. In fact, democracy cannot function through consensus with the ruling parties. The government's job is to solve the problems while the opposition parties' duty is to criticize the government and offer alternatives. The President invited all political parties for political dialogue, but the parties which refused to listen to his echo do not seem to be in a mood to help the government to solve the problems created by the government itself. It has to put its own house in order.

The MQM which is still supporting the government has also become skeptical of President's promises to control the target killings in Karachi. Commenting on the President's address, the MQM leader Dr. Farooq Sattar said actions must speak louder than words. He said the killing spree and extortion in Karachi is destroying the edifice of trade and industry. The wheel of development has already been jammed by frequent breakdown of law and order in the city. He said assurances will not work any more because dozens of his party workers have been killed. President Zardari was sitting in Karachi when the target killings started, but it is surprising that being fully in the picture but he did not take any action to stop this carnage. How then, the Mohajir community should believe his words or his intentions. The time has come that MQM should pull out of the orbit of Mr. Zardari and take immediate actions to save Mohajir boys from indiscriminate slaughter.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

DEBASING NISHAN-E-IMTIAZ

DR GHAYUR AYUB

 

Let us raise our hands and pray for the health, as defined by WHO, of president Asif Ali Zardari and thank him for the gallant actions he is known to take. He has made records in every field he has tried his hand at. And there have been many of them. For example; his ability to find the appropriate words at special occasions is unique. Who can forget the bouquet of oratory flowers he presented to Sarah Palin. And what about his knowledge of etiquette in official meetings with royalties and other dignitaries? Let us not forget the formal engagements in which his sense of preferences take inexplicable turns. People still remember how he left an official function and rushed to a private gathering at a restaurant in New York where he used to go with his buddies in the good old days of his exile? It was the same restaurant about which a former foreign secretary had this to write, 'We were having dinner at this posh restaurant (in NY) and in walked Asif with a group of men who would never be seen in polite company.' And what about his commitment to promises, telling the media that they shouldn't be taken as sayings from divine scripture. The list goes on. His unpredictable generosity took a new turn when it was whispered that he might be behind the free-for-all distribution of 'Nishan-e-Imtiaz' on March 23rd this year.


Before coming to that, let me give a brief account of such awards. Basically, there are two types of awards; orders and decorations. The distinction between the two is somewhat vague. But generally, orders are limited in number while decorations have no such limitations and are awarded purely to recognize high merits or superior accomplishments of the recipient. Both come in multiple classes. Today almost all countries have some form of orders of merit or country decorations. Historically, the origin of orders of merit and decorations can be traced back to the Middle Ages when they were created by European monarchs to mimic the military orders of the Crusades. Most of the monarchs that followed had either kept an existing order of chivalry or created a new one to reward loyal civilian and military officials. Such orders remained out of reach of the general public up until the 18th century when by 1757 AD they were gradually opened to any deserving officer regardless of social origin. For example, in 1802 Napoleon created the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honour), which could be awarded to any person, regardless of status, for bravery in combat or for 20 years of distinguished service. It is still France's highest award and serves as the model for numerous modern orders of merit in the Western World, such as the Order of Leopold (Belgium, 1832) and the Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom, 1917). Despite this change, some orders in Europe remained out of reach of the common men; such as the Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary (1764) which still requires one to have at least four generations of noble ancestors. Today, most European orders are comprised of five ranks or classes. The highest is usually called the Grand Cross, with descending ranks of Grand Officer; Commander; Officer; and Knight. Each of these ranks wear insignia. Depending on the seniority of the officer these insignia, which can be in the form of cross, medal or star, are worn from a sash, around the neck, or on the left chest. Once awarded, an order may be revoked if the individual dies, commits a crime, or renounces citizenship. The United States removed titles and honours that represented nobility but kept the Medal of Honor for members of the military and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal for civilians. Some of these awards have special privileges attached to them. In Communist countries orders of merit usually came in one to three grades, with only a badge worn with or without a ribbon on the chest. Also, unlike the Western orders, the Communist orders could be awarded more than once to an individual. After the collapse of the Soviet bloc most Eastern European countries have reverted to the Western-style order of merit.


In Pakistan, these awards were established on March 19, 1957. following the proclamation of Pakistan as an independent Republic on March 23, 1956. The announcement for the awards is usually made on August 14th and the investiture is followed on March, 23rd. The Civil Awards comprise five Orders, each with four descending categories: Nishan, Hilal, Sitara and Tamgha, such as; Nishan-e-Pakistan (national); Nishan-e-Shujaat (bravery); Nishan-e-Imtiaz (excellence); Nishan-e-Quaid-i-Azam (leadership);and Nishan-e-Khidmat (service). It should be noted that these are civil decorations awarded to civilians for distinguished service but military personnels can also achieve them for services of a non-military nature.


The award under discussion Nishan-e-Imtiaz is the top decoration in the category of order given to a civilian. This award is given to a person who has accomplished duty beyond what is assigned to him/her. It is important to understand that just accomplishing routine duty is not the criterion for the award. The person has to show eminence and be outstanding in providing excellent service in a significant field of activity. It means that he/she has to prove that he/she has achieved distinction and thus provided distinguished service beyond his assigned duties in the fields of literature, arts, sports, medicine, or science. This award is usually given to individuals in isolation not in groups because the whole purpose of the award is to assess the recipient's individual capabilities in par excellence. In the past this award was given to outstanding personalities in their fields such as Dr Abdul Qadir Khan, Abdul Sattar Edhi, Dr. Abdus Salaam and Akhtar Hameed Khan, to name a few. When we compare the expected capabilities of the past and present award holders, we find a great disparity between them. For example, most of those political players who were given the Nishan-e-Imtiaz have not shown any individual excellence in their work nor have they displayed extraordinary professional skills deserving of such an honour. Handing over these honours as they have been is like honouring a child who was told to perform an operation. After all, the majority of those randomly selected 27 parliamentarians have very little legal knowledge to frame the intricate constitutional rules and regulations where a single dot or comma can change the meaning of a sentence. I personally know a few of them who cannot speak or read proper English-the language of address. The inadequacy in their end-product (the 19th amendment) was reflected in the highest court in the country which sent it back for review; the public who found an obvious tilt in favour of party leaderships; intellectuals who found it hollow in its substance; and even fellow politicians who found the amendments lopsided. In short, no body found par excellence in their work which is the primary requisite of the award. On top of it a few of the team members carry tainted reputations. Every body knows that Babar Awan, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Naveed Qamar are linked with the Punjab Bank scandal, Private Rental Power scandal and LNG scandal respectively.

So the question is who was the initiator of this nomination and why these facts were ignored? All fingers are pointed in the direction of the man residing on the hill and known for favouring his cronies. If it is true than his unique style of obtuse politics has given a new twist to this prestigious award. He, in his usual candidness without fear of getting tainted with disrepute and even corruption, obliged his friends yet again. Some would call it a most distasteful act as this time he has put a few toadstool mushrooms (Babar et al) with the sweet mushrooms (Abdus Salaam et al) in one basket. How sad. The question is when, how and where is it going to end?

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

MEMO MR RUDD: DON'T IGNORE THE NEIGHBOURS

FAILURE TO CONVINCE DILI UNDERLINES REGIONAL CHALLENGE.

The Gillard government persisted against the odds with its plan for a regional processing centre in East Timor. Not only was the idea ill-conceived, Canberra's diplomatic preparation was also appalling and its failure to come up with convincing alternatives abysmal. The idea has finally dissolved at the Bali summit on people-smuggling and Labor must now drop its political point-scoring and turn back to the centres at Manus Island and Nauru that formed part of John Howard's Pacific Solution.

The lack of interest from East Timor and Indonesia underlines the truth that asylum-seekers are essentially an Australian challenge. These people are not seeking safety in Indonesia, the main stepping-stone to Australia. It is we who must do the heavy lifting through painstaking regional diplomacy, strategic resourcing and restoring the off-shore processing system to send the right signals to people-smugglers. Australia's failure to convince Dili over the offshore centre is bad enough, although not surprising, but the absence from the Bali summit of East Timorese Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa, who is at a Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting chaired by Fiji's military leader Frank Bainimarama, points to a broader problem with our regional diplomacy.

As prime minister, Kevin Rudd won applause in Papua New Guinea, and beyond in the Pacific, when his first foreign visit was to Port Moresby. Since then, that shine has faded. The demands on Mr Rudd as Foreign Minister are immense -- from the Middle East to natural disasters in New Zealand and Japan. Even so, every Australian government must ensure key relationships are well-oiled. That includes building the best and broadest possible links with the neighbours. Tensions are bound to arise, as regional politicians seek -- probably without winning extra votes beyond a few urban malcontents -- to affirm their independence by stressing differences with Canberra. This happens especially as elections approach, as in PNG, where they are due in the middle of next year, and as governments form, as in Solomon Islands, with wafer-thin majorities. The sense of edginess and transition is strong in the islands today, with PNG especially awash with money from its resources boom. The digital revolution sweeping the Pacific is presenting new opportunities for business. Canberra can no longer presume that its influence will persist purely by default. Seductive alternative forms of governance are emerging -- from China, to a degree, but more worryingly from Commodore Bainimarama's militarised Fiji. He is seizing the day, squeezing his chairmanship of the MSG for all it is worth as Fiji is suspended from the larger Pacific Islands Forum grouping that also includes Australia.

There are no short cuts for Australia. We must reapply ourselves to winning hearts and minds in the Pacific. That involves frequent visits. And -- Wayne Swan take note -- better resources for diplomacy.

While we are reconfiguring and increasing our aid efforts, it is essential we do the same for our other channels of engagement. Starving our diplomatic missions of the staff and funds they need undermines our capacity to project policies beyond the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

MISSING THE REAL PRICE POINT

MANDATING RENEWABLES ONLY ADDS TO ENERGY COST.

Ross Garnaut is not wrong to suggest the regulation of our electricity networks could be beefed up. The system is hampered by a history of ineffectual state regimes. But the government's climate change adviser is on the wrong track when he says regulators have presided over a "gold-plating" of infrastructure which has in turn pushed up the price of power to consumers. In his eighth update, Professor Garnaut claims problems with regulation of electricity markets have allowed companies to increase prices by about 12.4 per cent in the past 12 months. He cites a "prima facie" case of excessive increases due to regulation, and calls for an urgent inquiry.

The reality is a little different. The high prices we are experiencing are a result of three factors. The first is that we are seeing a catch-up in prices that were held artificially low for years by state regulatory authorities worried about the political fallout from price hikes. The second is the increased costs associated with forcing retailers to include a certain proportion of energy from renewable sources in their grid supply. This mandating means that this year retailers must purchase renewable certificates to the equivalent of about 15 per cent of sales. This is energy from renewables such as solar and wind that comes at astronomical cost. The Australian has reported that some solar power cuts emissions at a price 25 times higher than the cost of cutting emissions under a cap-and-trade system. The third reason is that, far from excessive infrastructure investment, energy companies in this country have failed to make improvements. Australia is confronting big rises precisely because of the sector's need to update.

It is clear that there is room for improvement in our regulatory framework, but Professor Garnaut's hard line on electricity suppliers is unrealistic. The carbon tax will add to costs and he admits it could threaten coal-fired power stations. Indeed, he recommends commonwealth loan guarantees to keep high-emissions generators operating if they lose the support of their bankers. Yet he rules out compensation.

Professor Garnaut's analysis would have benefited from closer scrutiny of how a carbon tax does nothing to counter the distortion caused by government intervention, such as through mandating renewables.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

WE NEED ROAD RUNNER POLITICS

THE FORMER PRIME MINISTER SPELLS OUT THE REAL POLICY LESSONS.

ABC TV's 7.30 flicked the switch to vaudeville on Tuesday night. Paul Keating did not disappoint. The former prime minister's hair is a little greyer with each passing year but he is as black-and-white as ever when it comes to the formula for good Labor governments. It's policy, policy and more policy, according to the man who, with Bob Hawke, led the great reform projects of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Mr Keating made the point to Leigh Sales in his vintage style: "I had this Road Runner analogy with John Hewson. I was the Road Runner and he was the Wile E. Coyote and I used to say to the caucus, 'If you run fast enough, you burn the road up behind you, there is no road for anyone else'. Governments that wander along, uncertain about where they are, looking over their shoulder, invariably get run over themselves."

We could not have put it better. As we have argued consistently to both the Rudd and Gillard governments, the politics of spin will get you nowhere. Voters want clarity and direction from politicians and they reward the leaders who show commitment to policy reform and a capacity to lead and explain. Mr Keating made political mistakes in his time, which ultimately cost him power. But unlike so many of those now running Labor across the country, he had a sound framework of ideas and ideals from which to generate the deep structural reforms which transformed the economy and set Australia up for decades of prosperity.

These days he critiques his own beloved party as few others have the courage to do. On Tuesday he repeated his searing attack on NSW leader-in-waiting John Robertson; carved up image-maker Bruce Hawker for his "sicko populism"; and buried the Sussex Street machine men. Few can match Mr Keating's turn of phrase, nor his passion. But this is not just about raking over the entrails of a morally diminished NSW administration. The value of Mr Keating's comments was his analysis of what destroys governments: a gun-shy approach to policy. It is a wake-up call from someone who still cares deeply about the Labor project.

Mr Keating understands success in politics is about knowing what you want to do and then pursuing it relentlessly. Julia Gillard has talked the talk on returning to the reformist culture of the Hawke/Keating era. She is yet to show she knows how to burn up the road and run the race to the end.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

OBAMA ACKNOWLEDGES THE LIMITS TO US POWER

THE EMPIRE IS OVER. FORTUNATELY THE IDEALISM IS NOT.

SIXTY-FOUR years ago, in the aftermath of the Second World War, then US president Harry Truman declared that it would be ''the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures''. That policy, which became known as the Truman Doctrine, became the defining stance of the US throughout the Cold War and beyond. This week, President Barack Obama, in a speech setting out his administration's reasons for taking military action against the Gaddafi regime in Libya, also talked about the need to help peoples resisting attempted subjugation, though he did not allude to his predecessor's words. Like Truman, he cast US intervention in moral terms: ''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. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States is different.'' But the President also uttered remarks that were veryun-Trumanlike, and which, indeed, the world is not used to hearing from leaders of the superpower.

''In such cases we should be prepared to act,'' Mr Obama said, ''but the burden of action should not be America's alone. As we have in Libya, our task is to mobilise the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all the burden ourselves.'' Previous US presidents have, of course, cultivated alliances, and the longest-standing and most important of those alliances, NATO, is now directing the operation against the Gaddafi regime. But previous presidents did not characterise their task as mobilising the international community. The US led, sympathetic nations followed and others resisted, sometimes to their cost. At the height of the Cold War, talk of mobilising the international community would have seemed almost pusillanimous, and some of Mr Obama's American critics may choose to interpret his speech in that way now. For those accustomed to believing that the US is a unique nation with a global destiny unlike any other's, it must have been a painful speech to hear. Their President, while repeating the view the US is ''different'', was also saying it doesn't only have allies, it cannot do without them..

Is this an Obama Doctrine, a post-imperial creed to replace the Truman Doctrine for the 21st century? It is possible to read the President's speech as an attempt to avoid being doctrinaire at all: Mr Obama has said the US will intervene to prevent atrocities being committed but won't always be able to do so, which sounds like an attempt to keep idealists and realists onside. In that sense, it is as subtly crafted as every Obama speech. But it is no mess of contradictions, either.

In the first place, the speech's endorsement of intervention only within very specific constraints is an emphatic repudiation of the global strategies of Mr Obama's immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, though he did not name him. There was a ''Bush Doctrine'', too: that the US would depose foreign regimes it regarded as a threat to its security, even if the threat was not immediate, and that it would use such interventions to impose democracy abroad. That doctrine is now officially buried, with Mr Obama's insistence that all the US can or should do in Libya is protect its people; they must liberate themselves. But the President's speech is not just notice that there will be no more Iraq-style US interventions. It is an acknowledgment that, just as the Cold War has passed into history, so has the period of unchallenged American global dominance that followed it. It is a welcome admission by the US commander-in-chief, though he may yet pay a domestic political price for being so frank about the limits of American power.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

CAPTAIN DECLARES, HOPING TO BAT ON

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.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

ARTS FUNDING: CREATIVE TENSIONS

These are wrong cuts to one of the most successful, vibrant and cost-effective sectors in British life

Just before the 2010 election, the head of one of Britain's most admired arts organisations was asked how his sector should respond in the event of a Conservative government cutting spending on the arts. "More than anything," he replied, "I hope we won't be too childish about it." Yesterday that hope – that the arts would not overindulge in some of the too easily caricatured anti-Tory scorn of the past – was put to the ultimate stress test. And it passed.

That moment came as Arts Council England, which administers most of the public funding for the arts in Britain, parcelled out what was left after its funding was cut by 30% in the autumn spending review. Judging by its generally more sorrowful than angry tone yesterday, the art world's mood is healthily self-aware these days. Arts cuts are rightly seen in the wider context. Yet there is no disguising that these are large, destructive and wrong cuts to one of the most successful, vibrant and cost-effective sectors in British life. Coming on the day when the taxpayer-owned Lloyds banking group revealed it is paying its new boss a signing-on fee of £4.6m, on top of an annual salary of £1.06m, the arts cuts are a reminder that we are certainly not all in this together.

The autumn spending review handed the Arts Council – which is headed by Dame Liz Forgan, who also chairs the Scott Trust that owns the Guardian – an incredibly difficult hand to play. But the council has played the hand as well as could reasonably have been expected. Having been forced to cut 15% off its funding programme, the council was right not to salami-slice 15% off its existing funding to all of its 849 previous clients. Instead, it took the opportunity to reapportion the diminished funds from scratch, to conduct a proper review which seems to have been fair and open, and has ended up supporting 695 organisations over the forthcoming spending period, of which 110 are newly funded. This is a brutal outcome for the 206 arts organisations which will not now receive Arts Council funding at all, and it faces most of the council's remaining clients with grim choices in balancing their books in the light of their reduced grants. Overall, however, it is surely the least worst way.

The council's approach combines good administration with smart politics. As well as bravely making hard artistic judgments (as it is supposed to do) about the organisations to be supported and not, the review and rejuvenation of the client list means that the process contains some excitements rather than universal gloom. It is good that events like the Manchester Festival or the Kendal Arts International, along with organisations like Suffolk's HighTide theatre, have won funding for the first time. It is also right that the biggest previous recipients have taken their share of hits – though on purely artistic grounds it is hard to see why English National Opera has been relatively lightly treated. Some of the tougher decisions are harder to understand, however, and it looks as though the regional breakdown has penalised the south-west, where both the Northcott in Exeter and St George's concert hall in Bristol got nothing. Dance, too, has been badly treated, especially given its immense potential for expansion. And while London's theatre does relatively well, it is hard to understand how the Almeida, described by the council yesterday as "an exemplary organisation", thereby deserves a 39% cut for its efforts.

Yesterday was a black day for the arts. Yet paradoxically the arts are not entering a new dark age. The old argument about whether the arts should be publicly funded has been won, not lost. There is far wider recognition today, including among politicians of all parties, of the creative dynamism and economic vibrancy of the arts sector than a generation ago. The arts have taken a hit. But they are still standing. It is time to start preparing the case for better public arts funding when conditions allow.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

SYRIA: A LOST OPPORTUNITY

The president's address consisted almost entirely of generalities, offered no new measures and made no specific promises

Has President Bashar al-Assad missed his moment? He has certainly succeeded in disappointing the expectations raised by predictions, some of them apparently leaked by his own government, that he would make a historic speech this week charting a new path of reform for his country. Instead, after nearly two weeks of protests and violence in Syrian cities, he appeared yesterday before parliament to deliver an address which consisted almost entirely of generalities, offered no new measures and made no specific promises. Historic it was not.

His main purpose seemed to be to demonstrate that he would not allow himself to be pushed into panicky action by street protests, an impression reinforced by the orchestration of excessive displays of support by members of parliament and by the crowds waiting outside. The approach was to claim for his regime kinship with the popular movements that have brought political change across the Arab world, and to point to a long-standing reform programme in Syria as evidence that his government welcomed the new importance of the Arab street.

Reform in Syria had been under way for years, he said, but had been delayed by the urgent need to respond to threats from abroad, and to strengthen the Syrian economy. The troubles in Deraa and Latakia had been fomented by foreigners, even if meddling by outsiders was not their only cause. The security forces had been told to avoid bloodshed, the deaths were regrettable, and there would be investigations. This vague commitment aside, Syrians are left contemplating proposals they already knew about, some of which have indeed been in the legislative pipeline for years, and which were dusted off once again late last week.

These plans, which include the possible lifting of emergency rule, a political parties law, a media law, and measures against corruption, are hardly to be rejected in principle. But Syrians have long experience of political and constitutional rearrangements that leave the substance of power in the hands of one party and one family and its associates, of anti-corruption campaigns which inexplicably fail to target the main offenders, and of media relaxations which at best move the line of control a few millimetres.

Assad has some advantages. He is closer to the protesters in age, his foreign policies bring him some support, and the regime does offer some protection to minorities, Kurds excepted. But, if he wants to be seen as part of the solution and not as part of the problem, he will soon have to offer the detailed, convincing measures he signally failed to produce yesterday.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

IMPROVING TIES WITH RUSSIA

Following Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's Nov. 1 visit to Kunashiri Island, one of the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, the Japan-Russia relationship has been in a chilly state. But Japan should carefully watch recent Russian moves and look for a clue to improving ties.

On March 11, less than three hours after the massive earthquake hit northeastern Japan, Mr. Medvedev announced that his country was ready to help Japan. The next day, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, "Japan is our neighbor, our friendly neighbor, and despite various problems, we have to be reliable partners." He also ordered energy shipments to Japan in view of the nuclear power plant crisis in Japan.

On March 14, Mr. Medvedev and Prime Minister Naoto Kan talked by telephone and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presented flowers at the Japanese embassy in Moscow, expressing "solidarity with Japan."

Meeting with Mr. Lavrov in Paris the same day, Japan's new Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto said that while Tokyo holds that the four islands are an integral part of Japanese territories, it would like to deepen ties in every field including politics, economics and cultural exchanges and to make progress in the territorial talks. Mr. Lavrov said if Japan pursues the line of former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, both countries can be optimistic about their relations.

Japan should pay attention to Mr. Lavrov's remark. Mr. Maehara tried to build a trustful relationship with Russian officials through face-to-face meetings. Japan should be firm in its stance on the so-called Northern Territories issue. But Japanese politicians should refrain from emotional remarks for domestic, political consumption on Japan-Russia relations as well as from remarks that contradict agreements agreed on in direct talks with Russian officials.

Japan should also take advantage of Russia's proposal to set up a committee of history experts as a chance to examine the results of World War II from various angles and to build trustful relations — the foundation for solving the territorial row.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MINAMATA DISEASE SETTLEMENT

A total of 2,993 Minamata disease patients who have not been officially recognized as sufferers of the Japan's worst industrial pollution-induced disease have reached a negotiated settlement of their compensation lawsuits against Chisso Corp. and the central and Kumamoto prefectural governments.

The company had caused the disease by releasing methyl mercury into the Yatsushiro Sea of Kumamoto Prefecture. Under the terms of the settlement reached at the Tokyo, Kumamoto and Osaka district courts on March 24, 25 and 28, respectively, Chisso will provide some 90 percent of the plaintiffs with a ¥2.1 million lump sum each as well as a ¥3.15 billion fund, and the central and prefectural governments will shoulder part of their medical costs. Those plaintiffs excluded from the settlement will receive similar benefits, with the money paid out from the fund.

The settlement will give impetus to providing relief measures to a much larger number of unrecognized sufferers of the neurological disease, who did not join the lawsuits. Since May 2010, more than 41,000 such people have applied for the separate relief measures under a 2009 special law to help unrecognized victims. It is hoped that the government will provide the same relief benefits as provided by the negotiated settlement to the applicants.

But the relief law comes with a proviso. It says that within three years after the relief measures start, all the sufferers eligible for the benefits will be identified. This means that after the three-year period expires, unrecognized Minamata disease sufferers will not be able to apply for the benefits. Such a deadline should be abolished and the benefits should be provided irrespective of the time when the application is filed.

Many Minamata disease victims around the Yatsushiro Bay area have not come forward, fearing social stigmatization. There is also a strong possibility that some sick people do not realize they have symptoms of the disease. The central and Kumamoto prefectural governments must carry out a comprehensive medical examination of local residents to find new victims.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

FRANCE'S HARD RIGHT EMBRACES SOFT POPULISM

BY GUY SORMAN

PARIS — The central paradox of French politics was confirmed once again March 27. In a nationwide vote to select local authorities (the so-called Conseiller General), the far-right National Front gained 11 percent of the votes cast, but secured only 0.1 percent of the seats.

This discrepancy between the National Front's popular strength and its actual representation has been a permanent feature of French politics since Jean-Marie Le Pen established the party 40 years ago. But Le Pen was replaced in January by his no less charismatic daughter, Marine. And with that change, the fate of the Front may be changing, too.

The Front's scant number of elected officials reflects the strategy pursued by its two main adversaries, the Socialist Party and President Nicolas Sarkozy's Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP, formerly the Gaullist party), which have essentially shared all elected posts at the national and local level since the 1980s. In order to preserve their shared domination, they have more or less agreed to a "Republican Front" strategy aimed at excluding the National Front in the second round of all elections.

Thus, in a direct runoff between a Front candidate and a Socialist or UMP candidate, the Socialists and the UMP usually vote for each other. The most striking demonstration of this "Republican" alliance was the 2002 Presidential election, when, with Socialist support, Jacques Chirac, the Gaullist incumbent, received 85 percent of the popular vote in the runoff against Jean-Marie Le Pen.

So far, this "Republican Front" strategy of exclusion has succeeded in keeping the far right out of any significant political office for four decades, but it has never reduced the size of its electoral base. On the contrary, the National Front gains credibility by never having to test its program in government.

For last Sunday's runoff, however, Sarkozy broke with convention: In races where a Socialist candidate faced off against the National Front, his position was "No, neither." As a result, UMP voters split between abstaining, supporting the Socialist, and voting for the National Front.

Compared to Chirac's rigid refusal to consider any kind of rapprochement with the Front, Sarkozy's policy is thus a small step toward recognition of the Front's legitimacy. The left has, of course, denounced this move as risking fascism. But like it or not, the Front is a legal party. It may be xenophobic, but its leaders never denigrate the Republic: there may be fascists members within it, but the party plays by the democratic rules.

And, like it or not, the Republican Front may crumble altogether under Marine Le Pen's leadership of the party her father founded. Her father was, above all, an ideologue, a "populist" Napoleon who would never moderate his vision of a white and Catholic France in need of a moral revival. Thus, he rejected the French Revolution and the modern welfare state as much as he opposed Muslim immigration.

Gaullists and Socialists are proud that they never compromised with Jean-Marie Le Pen, but he would not have negotiated with them, anyway. Le Pen's ambition was always to "save" France, not to become Minister of Tourism.

His daughter, however, has clearly softened the tone. Since Marine Le Pen took the helm, she has proven herself able to combine the National Front's trademark anti-immigration stance, the hard core of its ideology, with praise for the state and the Republic. And she has brought a fresh anti-capitalist tone to the Front's rhetoric — always a crowd pleaser in France.

Marine Le Pen is seeking the same path to power traveled by Italy's Northern League, the Flemish Interest Party, Liveable Netherlands, and the Danish People's Party, all of which first became "soft" populist parties. As a result of this shift, in the near future Sarkozy's conservatives may have no choice but to ally with the Front. Sarkozy's attempt to co-opt far-right rhetoric on security and immigration has not worked, because, when it comes to national chauvinism, the French prefer its authentic purveyors.

And the French — and voters elsewhere in Europe — vote for far-right parties the most when the far left is weakest. Indeed, the National Front is strongest precisely where the Communist Party once was the leading force. Between one-quarter and one-third of Continental Europeans feel permanently disenfranchised, and are prepared to vote for any "protest" party, whether far right or far left.

The reason is essentially the same throughout Europe: slow economic growth implies few prospects for a better life, while the welfare state has failed to create jobs. The far left indicts capitalism; the far right points the finger of blame at immigrants. The far left would recommend revolution; the far right, ethnic cleansing.

Anti-capitalist revolution was tried in half of Europe in the last century, with dire results. Expulsion of immigrants has not. Given a slow economy, a failed welfare state, and uncontrolled immigration — challenges for which no mainstream parties on the right or the left have any coherent proposals — the appeal of the far right's soft populism will continue to haunt France and Europe.

Guy Sorman, a French philosopher and economist, is the author of "Economics Does Not Lie." © 2011 Project Syndicate

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

QUAKE RELIEF EFFORT HIGHLIGHTS A VITAL U.S. MILITARY FUNCTION

BY ROBERT D. ELDRIDGE

SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES

SENDAI — In September 2009, I resigned my tenured faculty position at a Japanese national university to begin working for the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa. While at Osaka University, I had the opportunity to teach many talented Japanese and international students over the years both at the undergraduate and graduate school levels. Several went on to join the media.

I met one of those former students while I was in Miyagi Prefecture participating in the initial two weeks of "Operation Tomodachi," the American contribution to the Tohoku earthquake relief efforts that now involves more than 20,000 military service members and other U.S. personnel. He is currently based in Sendai and works for a major Japanese news agency. He visited the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force's Northeastern Army Headquarters, which is serving as the headquarters of the Joint Task Force set up to respond to the earthquake, and to observe and report on the Japan-U.S. Bilateral Coordination cell, which was established to coordinate the U.S. contribution to the Japanese efforts. I was one of the U.S. participants in the cell.

Afterward, I received a short note from him by e-mail. "I was so glad to see you the other day. Thank you for working so hard every day. I already began to feel it the other day when I came to report (on your meeting), but as a victim of the disaster, I want to say that I have never felt as strongly as I do now about the importance of the U.S. forces in Japan and thankful for all their contributions."

I was surprised that he, as someone who had intensely studied the alliance during his schooling, seemed unaware of the various roles that the U.S. military in Japan serve. But I now realize that although we spent much time in our classes discussing precisely these issues, the topic — security, alliance affairs, the U.S. military in Japan — remains academic to most people unless they are directly involved through their work or feel some sort of direct connection.

Indeed, one could argue that the response to the March 11 Tohoku-Kanto earthquake and tsunami has validated Harvard professor Joseph's Nye point made in the mid-1990s in an article in Foreign Affairs that "Security is like oxygen. You do not notice it until you begin to lose it."

The nature of security, or more precisely the definition and discourse about security, has been evolving over the past two decades to include human security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. It is in these nontraditional roles that we have been seeing during this same time the U.S. military, and in particular the U.S. Marine Corps, plays a larger and larger role in the Asia-Pacific region.

This humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) role has been largely external to Japan. This region is fraught with natural disasters.

Indeed, some 60 percent of the world's large-scale natural disasters happen here, in this "Ring of Fire."

It was almost 20 years ago this spring, for example, that the Okinawa-based U.S. Marines led the international effort to provide relief to Bangladesh following the horrific cyclone of April 1991 in what was known as Operation Sea Angel. Readers may remember a similar effort in Bangladesh again in the fall of 2007 with Operation Sea Angel II.

Perhaps the most famous effort to provide HA/DR in recent times was Operation Unified Assistance following the massive magnitude 9.3 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The December 2004 catastrophe was the fifth most destructive earthquake in history, with more than 230,000 people killed.

The immediate response by the III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) and other U.S. military forces, however, working with the militaries, civilian agencies, and nongovernmental organizations of the affected countries and other nations, limited the misery and second-order effects of the disaster to the smallest amount possible and allowed for the recovery to begin.

In the six years since that response, the Okinawa-based U.S. Marine Corps, as the "Force in Readiness," has responded to 10 significant HA/DR missions in this area of responsibility alone. Those operations include: the Pakistan Earthquake Response (October 2005-March 2006), Philippine Mudslide Response (March-April 2006), Indonesia Earthquake Response (May-June 2006), Legazpi Typhoon Recovery (March 2007), Solomon Islands Tsunami Response (April 2007), Sea Angel II Bangladesh, Caring Response Burma (May-June 2008), Taiwan Typhoon Relief (August 2009), Philippine Typhoon and Indonesian Earthquake Relief (October 2009), and the fall 2010 Philippine Typhoon response.

Col. Craig Q. Timberlake, the commander of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Forward), III MEF, in Sendai, explained in detail to a reporter following a visit to the governor of Miyagi Prefecture the mission that the U.S. is performing, and added that the U.S. military "also does windows." What he meant was that U.S. forces will and can do just about anything to expedite the relief and recovery of the Tohoku area, working closely with the Japanese-led Joint Task Force.

HA/DR, in other words, is just one of the many capabilities the U.S. provides in support of its near 60-year alliance with Japan. Employing those capabilities in Japan at its request and working together in a real-world operational capacity now signals a new and important stage in this history and ever-deepening relationship.

It was a double-honor for this former university professor to have been involved in the still-ongoing relief operations in the Tohoku region: first to be directly helping the people of Japan such as my former student and his family, and second, to be working side-by-side during planning and actual relief operations with the U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen as they went about with some of the many things they do so well on behalf of the alliance to provide "oxygen" in the form of peace and stability to the Asia-Pacific region.

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.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

QUO VADIS GRAFT ERADICATION?

Doubt has been cast over the Yudhoyono administration's commitment to corruption eradication, as evidenced in the government-sponsored antigraft bill, which potentially weakens the fight against corruption itself.

Some even speculate a systemic move to sabotage the anticorruption campaign is in action as the House of Representatives pushes to revise the 2003 Law on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which many perceive will instead eradicate the graft busters.

Simply put, our hope of establishing a clean government, one of the raisons d'etre for the reform movement in 1998, may now be facing its toughest test ever as both the executive and legislative powers are joining forces to shatter the dream. Whether it is the work of transactional politics following the aborted plan to launch a House inquiry into the tax corruption saga and the KPK arrest of 24 politicians related to bribery in the election of the Bank Indonesia senior deputy governor in 2004, only time will tell.

But such suspicion has strong grounds. For the political elites, both in the executive and the House, the KPK has long emerged as a force that goes beyond their control. KPK leaders are jointly selected by the government and the House and therefore are politically indebted to the elites. But, as is the case of the current KPK leadership, the anticorruption drive it has launched rejects compromises.

The KPK had its wings practically clipped when three of its five leaders were embroiled in legal cases in 2009, and with only one year left before their terms end in 2012 can they regain their feet and consolidate?

The House politicians, at least some of them, play a part in the apparent move to undermine the antigraft body with their consistent refusal to accept KPK deputy chiefs Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra M. Hamzah, despite the fact that the Attorney General's Office has stopped an investigation into alleged bribery and extortion implicating them.

Now, through their initiative amendment of the KPK law, the politicians insist on reducing the corruption busters to an ordinary law enforcement agency. The bill says the KPK can drop investigations into graft cases for the sake of the presumption of innocence principle. This contradicts the current rule of the game that the KPK has upheld since its inception in 2004 that prohibits it from giving up investigations.

The point of no return code has forced the KPK to launch investigations only if evidence is solid and it can effectively bring to justice many corrupt officials. There have been cases that showed the state prosecutors' or the police's discretion in halting graft investigations leaves them prone to bribery or political compromises, therefore giving judiciary mafia broad room to play.

More devastating is the proposed amendment to the 2001 Anticorruption Law, which scraps the death penalty and reduces the minimum sentence to only one year. Another revision says that those convicted of embezzling less than Rp 25 million (US$28,000) in state funds can escape prosecution if they simply return the money.

If passed, the new Anticorruption Law will lose its deterrence effect and therefore prove that the current administration's talk referring to corruption as an extraordinary crime is mere rhetoric to woo voters or build a good image.

With a powerful KPK in charge, Indonesia remains far from winning its war on corruption. With a weakened antigraft body, we certainly lose the battle.

Civil society in the country needs to stretch to the limits to speak out and act against the two bills that are feared to bring our anticorruption drive back to the previous dark age.

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THE JAKARTA POST

LENDING TO ENERGY SAVING

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.

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THE JAKARTA POST

INTELLIGENCE REFORM THROUGH INTELLIGENT LAW

AL ARAF AND DIANDRA MEGAPUTRI

Countries are rearranging strategies and security systems to achieve national interests amid the complex threats that emerged after the Cold War — a situation exacerbated by globalization, democratization, human rights, technological advances, rapid information exchange and intra-state conflicts.

Changes in a nation's strategy and security systems have often been conducted under security sector reform programs by many countries, including Indonesia.

During the reform era, Indonesia's security sector reform agenda recorded positive achievements, such as the enactment of the Defense Law, the National Police Law and the Indonesian Military Law.

However, those achievements failed to comprehensively regulate the security sector, specifically Indonesia's intelligence community. So far regulations on national intelligence bodies are covered only by presidential decree. Due to that concern, the House of Representatives drafted a bill on intelligence.

Enacting an intelligence law should be part of the intelligence reform agenda. Therefore, the law should not only be aimed at strengthening the capacity of intelligence agencies but also re-arranging the structure and functions of their activities in a democratic way.

There are several basic democratic principles that the House's proposed bill should not miss include human rights, civilian supremacy over the security sector, the division of responsibilities, a legal foundation, political non-partisanship, transparency and accountability.

Unprofessional and ineffective intelligence communities are characterized by excessive military influence, misuse of intelligence agencies for political interests, extra-constitutional activity, a lack of legal liability for malfeasance and a lack general and budgetary of oversight.

Unfortunately the House's intelligence bill contains various weaknesses as it has not fully accommodated democratic principles.

The human rights NGO Imparsial, for example, expressed concern on the unlimited authority to intercept communications given by the bill to the nation's intelligence agencies.

Based on a Constitutional Court decision in February, another rights group, Elsam, insisted that eavesdropping be regulated by a new law, separated from the proposed bill on intelligence.

Meanwhile, the National Commission on Human Rights is concerned about the absence of a complaint mechanism for citizens who might fall victims to abusive intelligence operations. In some cases, intelligence information might be used to support private political or economic interests.

There is no doubt that Indonesian intelligence agencies need the authority to intercept suspicious communications.

However, such authority needs to be regulated by standard procedures such as the prior consent of a court or prosecutor. Unfortunately, the intelligence bill fails to require such oversight.

Furthermore, the definition of intelligence information secrecy as stated in articles 24 and 39 of the bill is not sufficiently specific and may lead to multiple interpretations and threaten the freedom of information and the freedom of press.

Moreover, the government proposed that the final bill authorize intelligence agencies such as the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) to make arrests. This authority might violate human rights as it may legitimize abductions considering the secretive nature of intelligence operations.

The BIN and other intelligence agencies are not law enforcement agencies and should be kept separate from law enforcement institutions. Under the rule of law, arrest authority is the sole province of law enforcement agencies such as police or prosecutors.

Giving intelligence agencies arrest authority might not only undermine the criminal justice system but also lead to overlapping authority among security actors.

The BIN's primary function is to collect, process, select and analyze information that will be submitted to the President or other authorized stakeholders.

In addition, intelligence agencies have the authority to conduct covert and counterintelligence operations. However such operations cannot be carried out against citizens or institutions but only against foreign powers.

Intelligence should serve as tool to support foreign policy and be aimed at foreign governments or people or groups outside the country.

In order to enhance intelligence accountability, multiple levels of oversight should be established and conducted not only by the House but also the intelligence community itself, in addition to executive oversight, judicial oversight and popular oversight.

In an organizational context, the structure of the intelligence community should be differentiated through a strict division of job areas such as foreign intelligence, domestic intelligence, military intelligence and law enforcement intelligence.

Unfortunately, the substance of the intelligence bill focuses on a new body called the National Intelligence Coordinating Body (LKIN).

There were cases previously when intelligence agents or other security actors had to obey the decisions of their commanders although they violated the law and human rights. As a result, operational intelligence agents were brought to court but their superiors enjoyed impunity.

Therefore, it is important to regulate the objection and complaint mechanism for intelligence agents when it comes to the potential for an operation to break the law.

Such objections and complaints should be addressed to the intelligence commission in the House before the operation is conducted. This mechanism is important to prevent human right violations.

Finally, the intelligence bill should consider the balance between national security and personal liberty.



Al Araf is the Imparsial program director and Diandra Megaputri studies defense management at the Indonesian Defense University.

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THE JAKARTA POST

BUILDING TRUE ASEAN COMMUNITY

YULIUS PURWADI HERMAWAN

The concepts of people-centered community, people-driven community and people-oriented community were recently coined to demonstrate the new face of ASEAN and the commitment to further deepening ASEAN integration.

The terms were introduced to respond to critiques suggesting that ASEAN constitutes an elitist organization or a state-driven community. There has been a lack of progress in developing a broad sense of popular engagement with the institution because of the lack of involvement of people, the would-be-citizens of ASEAN.

It is hard to expect a sense of ASEAN identity to emerge unless ASEAN is driven by the people, or at least until ASEAN puts them at the center of its activities.

The campaign for building a true people-to-people community has been an integral means to accelerate the realization of the ASEAN vision by 2015, particularly since 2008, when ASEAN leaders introduced a roadmap for an ASEAN community for 2009-2015. Are we realistic in dreaming of building a people-to-people community within such a short time? Is ASEAN really on the right track to becoming a community that upholds one vision and one identity?

It is not difficult to find an honest answer to those questions. Just go outside and ask anyone whether they really know about ASEAN and how well they know what ASEAN has actually done to benefit their daily lives.

Or, if you are too lazy to go outside, just browse the Internet. You will find many skeptical comments about "ASEAN people's lack of awareness towards the variety of progress that ASEAN has made since its inception in 1967".

It is indeed challenging for Indonesia, as ASEAN chair, to set up a more appropriate approach to accelerate the vision.

To define the steps, it is necessary to understand why there is so little concern about the ASEAN integration process while skepticism towards the achievement is so high. Many observers blame ASEAN leaders for failing to deliver concrete, tangible benefits of ASEAN to the people, regardless of various achievements ASEAN has made particularly in the last few years.

From the social perspective, we can see two major reasons why ASEAN gains only little attention from many people. First, the social interaction between people in this region remains less frequent and intense. Second, people have a very little knowledge about other people from other ASEAN state members.

The key concept of the ASEAN's people-driven community is of course the social interaction between citizens of ASEAN member states, either individually or collectively. Unless social interactions develop, there will be no social integration. The first agenda for promoting ASEAN's people-driven community is therefore to facilitate intense and frequent interactions between people across the region.

The social interaction first refers to so-called dyadic or face-to-face transactions involving the people directly. The intense and frequent transactions will generate a common understanding on shared values. Social interaction may help social integration between people evolve along with the development of modern transportation and communication means. In this perspective, we cannot expect to see a full social integration within the next few years.

Yet social interaction does not always refer to dyadic communication. It may become a kind of virtual transaction. Communication media is very important in this respect. Social network media has become a new forum for interactions that can be utilized to strengthen the ASEAN-imagined community.

Mass media holds a pivotal role in building the imagined community.

The provision of the information about the living dimensions of each nation that forms ASEAN would help the people in the region to identify commonalities as well as differences between themselves. Awareness of the differences that may lead to conflict can be developed. Similarly, they will uphold a faith that the commonalities enhance common understanding to further their cooperation. It is mass media's role to provide sufficient space to enrich the ASEAN nations with broader knowledge about commonalities as well as particularistic characteristics.

In the education field, there is great opportunity for increasing interactions between the people.

Cooperation between ASEAN member states' universities is still not well-promoted. In contrast, many universities in Indonesia have established cooperation with worldly reputable universities in Europe, Australia, Japan and the United States. Indonesian students enthusiastically participate in exchange programs at the universities rather than in Southeast Asian universities.

ASEAN obviously needs to encourage and facilitate any initiative for building closer cooperation between universities, including developing joint curriculum on Asian studies, joint publication and student exchange programs.

There are certainly many agendas that Indonesia, as chair nation of ASEAN, can do to set up conditions to accelerate the ASEAN social integration. First, Indonesia needs to convince other ASEAN leaders to work harder to actively encourage their people to get engaged with ASEAN programs and activities. ASEAN leaders should be active in facilitating the formation of forums of networks that can bring various social groups together.

Second, the Indonesian government has to prove its competence in convincing its own people that ASEAN is their sweet home where they can find peace and harmony despite embedded differences between the member countries. Of course, ASEAN's established structure as an inter-state community should prove effective in settling the differences, including the ongoing conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.

If Indonesia succeeds in carrying out her tasks, by the end of this year, ASEAN will become a much ever-closer community in a more realistic perspective.

The writer is a full-time lecturer in the Department of International Relations, Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung.

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THE JAKARTA POST

TRUST IN THE MEDIA ON THE MOVE

CHADD MCLISKY

It may surprise many people to know that faith in the media to do what is right has an astounding following among Indonesia's informed public, especially when compared to other Asia Pacific (APAC) countries.

Based on the results of the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer, a survey that my company publishes on an annual basis on the state of trust in media, government, business and NGOs, now in its 11th edition globally, and the third time in Indonesia, trust in media here jumped 11 percentage points to reach 86 percent compared to 61 percent in APAC, and 51 percent globally.

So, you may ask, what's so special about Indonesia's media that sees these very influential respondents rate it as a trusted source of information about a company?

To my way of thinking the answer is a combination of current technology trends, better journalism, and market characteristics. In fact online, print, and corporate sources were all seen at varying levels as trusted in this survey. Around 34 percent of Indonesian respondents (compared to 25 percent in Asia Pacific) mentioned they would go to online search engines first to find information about a company — the technology connection; followed by print and television outlets (33 percent). Interestingly, the ubiquitous media release proved a popular choice (35 percent compared with 24 percent in Asia Pacific), which probably reflects the fact that Indonesian releases are longer and arguably more informative than the one-pager favored by communications professionals in the region.

Only 11 percent said they would make advertising their first reference. Viewed holistically, the findings reinforce the need for business to engage with both online and offline media if it is to reach out to its influencers and stakeholders.

Another often overlooked factor that impacts trust levels here is the rise in media credibility.

Indonesia and its thousand plus media outlets has become a role model for media freedom in Southeast Asia, something many neighboring countries (including first world Singapore) are still striving to achieve. The Reporters without Borders 2011 survey of 178 countries places Indonesia at 117, Singapore (136), Malaysia (141), Thailand (153), the Philippines (156), and Vietnam (165). (By contrast Iraq is positioned at 130).

In the years since 1998, when the democratic reformation commenced, and the press was freed, the standard of reporting and access to information has improved, allowing the various media institutions to become genuine watchdogs, albeit some with more bite than others.

A third point is the unique relationship that exists between the Indonesian media and the other groups that form the focus of the study, business, government, and non government organizations. Unlike the media habits of many countries, CEOs — Indonesian and non-Indonesian — are readily accessible to the media and will willingly provide their contact details, or take calls while playing golf or attending social events. Technical experts, such as lawyers, are usually just as accessible.

While building and maintaining these relationships has always been a key success factor to doing business in Indonesia, this year's survey also tracked some subtle changes to the list of individuals that respondents trust the most to deliver honest information about a crisis.

In general, CEOs are still expected to respond to a company crisis (32 percent), but during a product recall, a company's technical expert is rapidly gaining ground as a credible source (28 percent compared to 26 percent respectively), while in the event of a crisis involving a local community, a third party is almost equivalent in credibility to the CEO (29 percent compared to 27 percent).

I am frequently asked why we track these informed publics and not the general public? Basically they are more attuned to business news and information and are more likely to act on their beliefs (either through purchase behavior, spreading "word-of-mouth" or supporting/opposing regulation based on their beliefs to mention a few). Typically, this is the population that adopts an opinion or action earlier and then influences downward (to the general population). One of their key characteristics is that they pay close attention to business news and information and follow public policy issues closely.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote "An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox." As this year's Trust Barometer findings also reveal skepticism across all markets, it predicates the need for multiple voices and channels. Business needs to truly engage successfully and credibly with its audiences if it is to avoid the sharp stings of journalists.

Life is moving too fast for any of us to be complacent in our management of trust.

The writer is chairman of IndoPacific Edelman.

***************************************


THE JAKARTA POST

TRUST IN THE MEDIA ON THE MOVE

CHADD MCLISKY

It may surprise many people to know that faith in the media to do what is right has an astounding following among Indonesia's informed public, especially when compared to other Asia Pacific (APAC) countries.

Based on the results of the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer, a survey that my company publishes on an annual basis on the state of trust in media, government, business and NGOs, now in its 11th edition globally, and the third time in Indonesia, trust in media here jumped 11 percentage points to reach 86 percent compared to 61 percent in APAC, and 51 percent globally.

So, you may ask, what's so special about Indonesia's media that sees these very influential respondents rate it as a trusted source of information about a company?

To my way of thinking the answer is a combination of current technology trends, better journalism, and market characteristics. In fact online, print, and corporate sources were all seen at varying levels as trusted in this survey. Around 34 percent of Indonesian respondents (compared to 25 percent in Asia Pacific) mentioned they would go to online search engines first to find information about a company — the technology connection; followed by print and television outlets (33 percent). Interestingly, the ubiquitous media release proved a popular choice (35 percent compared with 24 percent in Asia Pacific), which probably reflects the fact that Indonesian releases are longer and arguably more informative than the one-pager favored by communications professionals in the region.

Only 11 percent said they would make advertising their first reference. Viewed holistically, the findings reinforce the need for business to engage with both online and offline media if it is to reach out to its influencers and stakeholders.

Another often overlooked factor that impacts trust levels here is the rise in media credibility.

Indonesia and its thousand plus media outlets has become a role model for media freedom in Southeast Asia, something many neighboring countries (including first world Singapore) are still striving to achieve. The Reporters without Borders 2011 survey of 178 countries places Indonesia at 117, Singapore (136), Malaysia (141), Thailand (153), the Philippines (156), and Vietnam (165). (By contrast Iraq is positioned at 130).

In the years since 1998, when the democratic reformation commenced, and the press was freed, the standard of reporting and access to information has improved, allowing the various media institutions to become genuine watchdogs, albeit some with more bite than others.

A third point is the unique relationship that exists between the Indonesian media and the other groups that form the focus of the study, business, government, and non government organizations. Unlike the media habits of many countries, CEOs — Indonesian and non-Indonesian — are readily accessible to the media and will willingly provide their contact details, or take calls while playing golf or attending social events. Technical experts, such as lawyers, are usually just as accessible.

While building and maintaining these relationships has always been a key success factor to doing business in Indonesia, this year's survey also tracked some subtle changes to the list of individuals that respondents trust the most to deliver honest information about a crisis.

In general, CEOs are still expected to respond to a company crisis (32 percent), but during a product recall, a company's technical expert is rapidly gaining ground as a credible source (28 percent compared to 26 percent respectively), while in the event of a crisis involving a local community, a third party is almost equivalent in credibility to the CEO (29 percent compared to 27 percent).

I am frequently asked why we track these informed publics and not the general public? Basically they are more attuned to business news and information and are more likely to act on their beliefs (either through purchase behavior, spreading "word-of-mouth" or supporting/opposing regulation based on their beliefs to mention a few). Typically, this is the population that adopts an opinion or action earlier and then influences downward (to the general population). One of their key characteristics is that they pay close attention to business news and information and follow public policy issues closely.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote "An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox." As this year's Trust Barometer findings also reveal skepticism across all markets, it predicates the need for multiple voices and channels. Business needs to truly engage successfully and credibly with its audiences if it is to avoid the sharp stings of journalists.

Life is moving too fast for any of us to be complacent in our management of trust.

The writer is chairman of IndoPacific Edelman.

***************************************

 

 


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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

THE THREAT OF ATTACK

Civilian casualties mounted in NATO (US) led air war in Libya, as the war over resources progressed in its second week.

The US, British and French bombs and missiles left hundreds of Libyans dead and injured. The number of civilians killed in the air war touched 100 early this week.

It looks like after its failed attempts to encroach into South Asian oil deposits, the fossil fuel hungry West had decided to take the Chinese juggernaut head on.

It's surprising that since ancient times the wars fought over resources had not changed much.

According to a report on the web British Petroleum Survey, Africa had proven oil reserves of 117,481 billion barrels at the end of 2007, or 9.49 percent of the world's reserves. Five countries dominate Africas oil production, accounting for 85 percent of the total—Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Angola. But Gabon, Congo, Cameroon, Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ivory Coast also produce oil, and exploration is ongoing in Chad, Sudan, Namibia, South Africa and Madagascar.

Africas oil is of a high quality and easy to mine, often from offshore rigs, and is distributed through existing sea lanes. The continent is the location of more than a third of the world's new discoveries since 2000 and could be the site of far greater reserves than now thought. It is also the site of 8.22 percent of global natural gas reserves, ranks first or second in quantity of world reserves of bauxite, cobalt, industrial diamond, phosphate and what not and holds substantial gold deposits.

One observer pointed out that Washington was particularly anxious to "offset the challenge to its influence in Africa coming from China."

Trade between Africa and China was estimated at $115 billion a year ago with a 43.5 percent increase.

For the European powers, particularly France and the UK, the shaking of the political kaleidoscope in North Africa and the Middle East is viewed as a golden opportunity to at least partially overcome the subordinate position into which they have been long cast in their former colonial preserves by Washington and, latterly, Beijing.

The British Foreign Secretary William Hague last week said "these momentous events do not necessarily stop at the borders of the Arab world," he identified the Ivory Coast as well as Sudan and Zimbabwe as countries where others like Gaddafi stand in the way of a brighter future for their countries.

Most alarming is that he has said that Britain had an ambitious foreign policy which seeks to build up our standing and influence in the world, and to support our economy," he said "the nations of Africa" as a strategic area of UK interest.

This looks more like the beginning of the World War 1. Berlin now fears losing out to Paris and London in a post-Gaddafi Libya. Another country that is wary of the implications of the war is Italy-the colonial ruler of Libya and has the biggest investment in the country's oil. Turkey, which initially opposed the war but has since shelved its opposition, is also maneuvering to benefit from the carnage, one commentator said.

Meanwhile Turkey has recognized the Interim Transitional National Council (TNC) (Ring any bells?) and guess who is the Prime Minister is? It's Mahmoud Jibril, who taught for many years in the US after receiving a PhD at the University of Pittsburgh-it would be too naïve to remind Dr. Rudrakumaran here.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

OF 'CORE INTERESTS' AND OTHERS

There is no one to interpret conflict today. But, everyone agrees that terrorism and elements that threaten stability and peace in the world must be wiped out. The disagreement in the international community lay in how they view that mechanism to be exercised and more importantly their perception of threat. The way US President Bush 'perceived' a threat to US soil by Iraq and waged war there. The way President Barak Obama sees a threat to US 'interests' that must be secured.

Addressing the nation on Libya on Monday, he said; 'There will be times, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are.' Hence the UN resolution to immobilize Libyas air force. The questions over if the US and its allies may have interpreted the resolution differently and if the consequent attacks did not over step its mandate, is yet unclear.

Mr. Obama is right on many counts. 'There is no question that Libya – and the world – will be better off with Gaddafi out of power.' A man who vowed to show 'no mercy' against his own people for opposing his oppressive regime; Gaddaffi has shown little reason for his people to accommodate him further.

No doubt, the NATO actions helped avert a human catastrophe of immeasurable magnitude that threatened to take place on Libyan soil. In that sense the present attacks are valid.

It is in the duplicity of values enshrined in the US push to resolve the Libyan conflict that one may be confused. Or when the global super powers deems it its natural right to override all 'humanitarian' considerations to release air attacks, which could be seen to penetrate beyond the UN resolution of creating a no fly zone.

While the interpretation of which of US's 'core interests' are threatened by the conflict in Libya is in itself debatable, when its own Defence Secretary Robert Gates tells Jake Tapper of ABC's This Week on Saturday, that Libya did 'not' pose an 'actual or imminent threat to the United States'.

Q:  Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the United States?

SECRETARY GATES:  No, no.  It was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about – the engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian question that was at stake.  There was another piece of this, though, that certainly was a consideration.  You've had revolutions on both the east and the west of Libya.  They're fragile.'

The USs concerns for the 700,000 people of Benghazi who faced the threat of being overrun if they had not intervened, is highly commendable. It is its' refusal to appreciate the justifiable responsibility of the Sri Lankan government in protecting the Tamil civilians from the LTTE's grip at the height of the war, that is confusing. Prabhakaran threatened innocent civilian life of his own people the way Gaddhafi threatens his people today.  Tamil civilians held as a human shield by the LTTE were released by security forces during the height of the conflict here, in the same manner the UN resolution seeks to do the Libyans today. It is the same refuge that the people of Libya seek of the US or NATO that the Tamils sought refuge in the Sri Lankan state forces then.

It is unclear, on what grounds the actions by the Sri Lankan state against a terror outfit that threatened every single human right that the US leads in protecting, continues to be criticized. Certainly, the threat to democracy in the warped manner it existed in Libya needs to be saved.

 The innocent civilians, who would have paid dearly if Gaddafi's forces were not to be immobilized, needed to be released. The NATO intervention therefore is rational, and necessary. The same way it was for a country held to ransom by a group of terrorists, far removed from the real aspirations of the people.

Civilians are civilians everywhere. Whether the concern is tainted by oil or not, the fears of civilians fleeing both tyrants and terrorists are the same. They seek the same refuge.

The safety, they were provided in ample measure by the security forces here. All actions of a war; by whatever definition that befits the global interpretations stand wrong today. Sri Lanka can not be continued to be hunted down for standing up against the threat to it's 'core interests'; those of human safety and dignity. Interpretations of which seem to differ in the US and its allies' vocabulary.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

LIBYA AND ALTRUISM...  

THEY have committed themselves to a war, but they have no plans for what happens afterwards. They swear that they will never put ground troops into Libya, so their strategy consists solely of hoping that air strikes on Colonel Gadaffi's air defence systems (and on his ground forces when they can be targeted without killing civilians) will persuade his troops to abandon him. They don't even have an agreed command structure.

So why is this "coalition of the willing" (which has yet to find a proper name for itself) doing this? Don't say "it's all about oil." That's just lazy thinking: all the Western oil majors are already back in Libya. They have been back ever since the great reconciliation between their governments and Gadaffi in 2003.

Maybe it's just about local political advantage, then. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France was the driving force behind this intervention, and he faces a re-election battle next year. Is he seeking credit with French voters for this "humanitarian" intervention? Implausible, since it's the right-wing vote he must capture to win, and saving the lives of Arab foreigners does not rank high in the priorities of the French right.

Prime Minister David Cameron in Britain was the other prime mover in the Libyan intervention. Unless the coalition government he leads collapses (which is quite unlikely), he won't even have to face the electorate again until 2014. So what would be the point in seeking political popularity with a military intervention now? Even if that were a sure route to popularity in Britain, which it is not.

As for Barack Obama, he spent weeks trying to avoid an American military commitment in Libya, and his secretary of defence, Robert Gates, was outspoken in denouncing the idea. Yet there they all are, intervening: France, Britain, the US, and half a dozen other Western countries. Strikingly unaccompanied by Arab military forces, or indeed by anybody else's.

There is no profit in this for the West, and there is a high probability (of which the interveners are well aware) that it will all end in tears. There is the danger of "mission creep", there is the risk that the bombing will kill Libyan civilians, and there is the fact that many of the countries that voted for Security Council Resolution 1973, or at least abstained from voting against it, are already peeling away from the commitment it implied.

So why have the Western countries embarked on this quixotic venture? Indians feel no need to intervene, nor do Chinese or Japanese. Russians and South Africans and Brazilians can watch the killing in Libya on their televisions and deplore Gadaffi's behaviour without wanting to do something about it.

Even Egyptians, who are fellow Arabs, Libya's next-door neighbours, and the beneficiaries of a similar but successful democratic revolution just last month, haven't lifted a finger to help the Libyan revolutionaries. They don't lack the means - only a small fraction of their army could put an end to Gadaffi's regime in days - but they lack the will. Indeed, they lack any sense of responsibility for what happens to people beyond their own borders.

That's normal. What is abnormal is a domestic politics in which the failure to intervene in Rwanda to stop the genocide is still remembered and debated 15 years later. African countries don't hold that debate; only Western countries do. Western countries also feel guilty about their slow and timorous response to the slaughter in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Nobody else does.

Cynicism is a necessary tool when dealing with international affairs, but sometimes you have to admit that countries are acting from genuinely selfless and humanitarian motives. Yes, I know, Vietnam, and Iraq, and a hundred years of US meddling in Latin America, and five hundred years of European imperial plunder all around the world. I did say "sometimes". But I think this is one of those times.

Why is it only Western countries that believe they have a duty to intervene militarily, even in places where they have no interests at stake, merely to save lives? My guess is that it's a heritage of the great wars they fought in the 20th century, and particularly of the war against Hitler, in which they told themselves (with some justification) that they were fighting pure evil - and eventually discovered that they were also fighting a terrible genocide.

This does not mean that all or most of their military adventures overseas are altruistic, nor does it mean that their current venture will end well. In fact, it probably won't. No good deed goes unpunished.

 

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EDITORIAL from The Pioneer, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, The Statesman's, The Tribune, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald, Economic Times, The Telegraph, The Assam Tribune, Pakistan Observer, The Asian Age, The News, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The New York Times, China Daily, Japan Times, The Gazette, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Guardian, Jakarta Post, The Moscow Times, The Bottom Line and more only on EDITORIAL.

 

 

 

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An Organisation for Rastriya Abhyudaya

(Registered under Registration Act 1908 in Gorakhpur, Regis No – 142- 07/12/2007)

Central Office: Basement, H-136, Shiv Durga Vihar, Lakkarpur, Faridabad – 121009

Cell: - 0091-93131-03060

Email – samarth@samarth.co.in, central.office@samarth.co.in

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