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Saturday, April 2, 2011

EDITORIAL 02.04.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month april 02, edition 000796, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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




















































  6. "50 - 50 rule" of the Market Value! (Amending the rent act)









Indians are now 1.21 billion strong. There are 181 million more Indians today than there were 10 years ago but at least our population is no longer growing as fast as it was in the past. We are also more literate now than we were in 2001. A larger number of women are being educated than before and, consequently, the gap between literate males and literate females is speedily narrowing. But Indians are also killing more female babies either before or after they are born than they were a decade ago. These and several other demographic and social trends have been revealed by the 2011 Census provisional data released on Thursday by the office of the Registrar-General and Census-Commissioner of India. Some of these have given us a reason to smile while other statistics have given us much reason to worry. Overall, it is a mixed report — surely, there are areas that need a lot more work but at the same time we, as a nation, deserve to give ourselves a pat on the back for the progress that we have made in other crucial sectors. Take a look at population growth, for example. It is true that the number of people we have added to our national populace since 2001 is equivalent to the entire population of Brazil and perhaps many would baulk at the idea that India is still on course to take over China by 2030, but one should seek comfort in the fact that our decadal growth rate has dropped for the first time in almost a century. The only other time a similar drop was noted was during the decade of 1911-1921. Our current growth rate is 17.64 per cent, which is down from the previous decade's 21.5 per cent — the sharpest decline in growth rate since 1947. But perhaps the most heartening development in all of this is the progress that the nation has made in the education sector. Today, 74.04 per cent of Indians are literate, as compared to 64.83 per cent in 2001 — a phenomenal hike of 9.21 per cent that will serve India well as it prepares to take on a greater role in the international arena. Additionally, the fact that female literacy level has increased — from 53.67 per cent in 2001 to 65.46 per cent in 2011 — more than the male literacy level, which has gone from 75.26 per cent to 82.14 per cent, serves as the cherry on the cake. There is little doubt that the increase in female literacy and the consequent empowerment of women is one of the reasons why India has registered a drop in the population growth rate.

Yet amid all these positive numbers, the fact that India's child sex ratio has dipped to 914 girls for every 1000 boys is particularly disturbing. The numbers have consistently declined in the past decades — from 978 girls in 1961 to 927 in 2001 and now down to 914 — and is evidence of India's failure to fight discrimination against the girl child. More specifically, it points to a greater need for the Government to effectively implement the existing law that prohibits pre-natal sex determination test, which is often followed by abortion if the foetus is found to be that of a female. Additionally, it also emphasises the fact that education alone cannot bring about radical change in social mindsets. Let us not forget that female foeticide is highly prevalent even among the rich and the educated. Society as a whole needs to change and learn to value its girls and women before we can expect any positive change in the child sex ratio. The 2011 Census has shown that India is capable of bringing about collective change. Now, it is time we apply ourselves to the next challenge.







Three decades ago when the scourge of AIDS first cast its dark shadow on continents across the world, nobody quite knew how the epidemic would play out. It was the new age plague; a killer on the rampage, felling both men and women, young and old, rich and poor. The 21st Century, it seemed would be blighted by a disease that struck with vengeance in the closing decades of the 20th Century. But once again humankind has triumphed against odds and AIDS has been tamed, if not eliminated, through innovative measures and sustained investments by Governments across the world. According to a new report, 'Uniting for universal access: Towards zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths', released by the UN on Friday, global incidence of HIV infection is declining while treatment access is expanding. The rate of new HIV infection, states the report, has fallen by 25 per cent over the past decade in 33 countries. Even Sub-Saharan Africa — which with an estimated 22.5 million people living with HIV had a higher incidence of the disease than any other region — has shown marked improvement. The report, based on data submitted by 182 countries, reveals that by the end of 2010 more than six million people were on anti-retroviral treatment in low and middle-income countries. For the first time global coverage of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV has reached more than 50 per cent patients. However, the report also cautions against complacence. The success in fighting AIDS, though promising, needs to be taken to new levels. The campaign against AIDS has to be pursued more aggressively as every day more than 7,000 people, including 1,000 children, are globally infected by the virus.

The report highlights genuine concerns that the progress in fighting AIDS may be threatened owing to high costs and the global economic downturn. International funding for HIV assistance has declined for the first time. This trend must be reversed by world leaders moving towards an HIV-free generation. Advising countries to prioritise funding for anti-HIV programmes and generate appropriate resources — which they can — the UN has called for programmes that are cost-effective and cost-efficient. Simultaneously, Governments will have to vastly reduce discrimination and gender inequality that continue to undermine efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services. Or else, the accomplishments will be rendered futile. The battle against AIDS has been joined, but victory is still far away. The UN member states must ensure mutual accountability to translate individual commitments into collective action. Without doubt, if countries resolve to fight the scourge together, it is possible to create a world with 'zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths' by 2015.









The World Cup has demonstrated how far behind Pakistan has fallen when measured against its neighbours. It has become a dysfunctional state.

As India and Sri Lanka prepare for the big match this afternoon, Pakistan will no doubt contemplate its poignant absence from the festivities and fireworks at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium. The reference here is not just to the semi-final defeat of Shahid Afridi's team in cricket's Fifty50 World Cup. True, that has evoked a sense of loss and frustration in Pakistan. Yet this tournament has also demonstrated, in several unrelated ways, how far behind that country has fallen even when measured against its neighbours.

Contrary to fears and apprehensions, this has been a successful tournament. Of course, the advance of the popular South Asian teams has helped. However, fears that the age of Twenty20 cricket would diminish the appeal of traditional limited overs' cricket have also been negated. Commercial valuations have zoomed. Security concerns have been absent. India and Sri Lanka and even Bangladesh — the third host — have celebrated. Pakistan has been the odd man out.

It wasn't meant to be like this. In 2006, the cricket boards of India and Pakistan had bid together for the 2011 World Cup, bringing in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as co-hosts to give them a stake in what was essentially a bilateral enterprise. Pakistan was supposed to host a fair share of matches. The semi-final played in Mohali was originally planned for Lahore. It would have been a home game for Afridi's men.

In 2006, the Afghan war was in full swing and Pakistan was a frontline state. Even so it was presumed the conflict would stabilise by now, 10 years after 9/11. By then Islamabad, which seemed to be moderating and modernising — at least its leaders were promising to do so in the early years of the 21st century — would see the World Cup as a motivation, an impetus to get itself in order.

It turned out otherwise. In 2007, there was a surge in suicide bombings within Pakistan. From six such attacks in 2006, the number soared to 56 the following year. In December 2007, about 18 months after the World Cup bid was won, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. In 2008, the Champions Trophy, scheduled to be held in Pakistan, was cancelled. In 2009, the Sri Lankan cricket team faced gunfire on the streets of Lahore. In parallel, sectarian warfare, jihadi assaults and targetted killings of political leaders continued. Finally, Pakistan lost the World Cup as well.

Consider how the past five years have turned out for India and Sri Lanka. India has survived the worst of the global business slowdown and continued to grow robustly. Government policies and a polity that is essentially non-reformist are still holding it back, but the direction is unmistakable. Indian business has grown rapidly and expanded its geographical footprint.

If he looked around and sent his scouts to visit the air-conditioned boxes in the Mohali stadium, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani would have got a sense of the new India. Some of the world's richest men, wealth-creators and job-creators of renown, were packed into those boxes, cheering their team. So were movie stars and cultural icons who have built India's soft power reserves. Chandigarh airport was overburdened with requests from private planes and corporate jets.

Tacky and over-the-top as India's new-found ostentation may be, it is nevertheless undeniable. It is also an indication of the distance between India and Pakistan. Even in the late-1990s, the Pakistani elite lived and dressed and 'looked' richer than its Indian counterpart. Today, this would be a no contest.

The phenomenon runs deeper. A decade of high GDP growth rates has revolutionised the Indian middle classes and their attitudes. It has transformed priorities from issues of history and identity and embittered victimhood. Cricket has been a beneficiary of this rise of middle India — whether in the form of a sponsor and advertiser rush to the World Cup or, to cite another example, inventing the Indian Premier League and making it one of sport's most successful start-up ventures ever.

How has Sri Lanka fared in this period? It has fought a ruthless, 'take no prisoners' war with the inner core of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The aftermath of that war did see angularities and unfair treatment of Tamil civilians in refugee camps. At least some of it was avoidable. Yet the larger achievement — dismantling the LTTE and destroying its local and overseas network — cannot be discounted.

Today, Sri Lanka is reaping the peace dividend. Tourism and business are looking up. An infrastructure and reconstruction boom is just beginning. To draw a comparison, the Chinese are building massive port facilities in both Hambantota (south Sri Lanka) and Gwadar (Balochistan, Pakistan). Even after accounting for Beijing's strategic agenda and the possible dual-use (military and civilian) nature of these facilities, the fact is both these ports will one day be used by cargo ships.

Which one is likely to become an international trade hub quicker — Gwadar or Hambantota? The answer is obvious. The global community will bet on Sri Lanka.

In contrast, Pakistan is engulfed by a religio-political civil war, unending paranoia about blasphemy laws or a world-wide conspiracy against Islam, and its establishment's active support of terror syndicates and millenarian cults. It has lost opportunity after opportunity — whether economic (inability to leverage the process of globalisation) or social (failure to incubate a middle class that can take charge of its nation) or sporting (an atrophying cricket system).

Take that final example. Pakistan appointed its team captain two weeks before the World Cup; it sent him to the tournament with minimal support staff. The Generals and politicians who run Pakistani cricket were simply preoccupied. In contrast, MS Dhoni has a contingent of about a dozen professionals to call upon, from a South African coach to specialists working on physical conditioning and mental strength.

In the past few years, Pakistani cricket has been battered by a series of fixing scandals. Young cricketers, deprived of the mentorship that comes from a structured cricket environment or the economic opportunities — frequent home series; the chance of playing in the IPL; high-paying endorsement deals — that could act as disincentives against corrupt conduct, have succumbed to greed. If this has not happened to Indian cricketers it is not because they are inherently superior souls to their Pakistani counterparts. It is just that their cricket framework — and their country — is not dysfunctional.

Pakistan, unfortunately, is dysfunctional, and this World Cup has provided disturbing evidence of that. Cruel as it may sound, it is now the Sick Man of Asia. As Mr Gilani, his colleagues and countrymen look back at their day in Mohali, at the sumptuous meal and the reception they got, at the dazzle and bright lights of India's showstopper sports moment, they need to ponder that hard reality. This future is Pakistan's for the asking, but only if it wants this future in the first place.







In the aftermath of the US-led intervention in Libya, it seems a Seven Years' War situation has descended on the lead nations of the world as they are actively frittering away the gains from the previous 60 years of collaboration

The violence in Libya has exposed divisions far beyond its shores — in the Arab League, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the UN Security Council, and among top officials in the United States. As foreign intervention in Libya intensifies and the toll mounts, the limited unity behind establishing a no-fly zone over Libya has begun fraying.

The roots of this emerging split lie in the chastening experience of US-led military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq — and resulting weariness of Western publics to wars in Muslim countries. This factor weighed heavily with US President Barack Obama as the crisis unfolded.

During his election campaign, Obama highlighted his opposition to the Iraq War. Decrying President George W Bush's policies of unilateralism and proclivity for exercising military force, he renounced Washington's self-appointed role as global policeman and committed himself to multilateralism — with major international decisions to be implemented collectively with the legal sanction of the United Nations.

As civil war erupted in Libya, Obama deliberately let the European powers take the lead in debating how to handle the conflict. The idea of a no-fly zone over Libya was first mooted in European capitals.

The proposal proved controversial, dividing not just France and Germany, leading nations of the EU, but also Obama's cabinet. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates argued that enforcing an air-exclusion zone in Libya would be tantamount to a declaration of war and getting embroiled in a Muslim country's civil strife. By contrast, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton favoured the idea.

Across the Atlantic, French President Nicolas Sarkozy zoomed ahead of other Western leaders, recognising the Benghazi-based Libyan Interim Transitional National Council, also known as the Interim Governing Council. By so doing, he tried to underscore the primacy that France claims in the Mediterranean region. In addition, he seemed eager to make amends for the unconditional backing his government gave to Tunisia's military dictator.

Sarkozy's rash, unilateral step antagonised German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the extent that she disagreed with him publicly, violating their long-held understanding that the Mediterranean region was to be left to Paris while Berlin focused on eastern and central Europe.

In Germany, the idea of an air-exclusion zone was put to maximum scrutiny, with most politicians lambasting it. Cautious by nature, Merkel emerged as its foremost opponent. She calculated that, with two out of three Germans against Germany's continued involvement in the Afghan War, it would be unwise to involve her government in another military operation.

Like other European leaders weary of military entanglements, Merkel realised that, after imposing a no-fly zone, airstrikes were just one more step in the slippery slope of deeper involvement – as the Pentagon's activities in Iraq between 1992 and 2003 had shown.

Such considerations weighed on Arab League foreign ministers as they debated the Libyan crisis in Cairo on 12 March. They therefore called for a no-fly zone in Libya, nothing more. Of course, as Gates pointed out, to create a no-fly zone, destruction of anti-aircraft capabilities is a necessary precondition. The presiding Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Allawi emphasised that the Arab League was "opposed to any foreign intervention" in the Libyan crisis, and that a no-fly zone "must end with the end of that crisis."

Allawi's statement that all Arab states supported the call for a no-fly zone clashed with reports by Al Jazeera TV and Daily News Egypt: According to these sources, Algeria, Mauritania, Syria, Sudan and Yemen voted no at the meeting.

Nonetheless, the Arab League resolution provided the basis sought by Obama. That plus the prospect of a bloodbath in Benghazi in the wake of its capture by the forces of Muammar Gaddafi, who had issued a "No Mercy" warning to Benghazi's rebels, apparently tipped the scale for Obama to join the interventionist camp.

Those who drafted the resolution on Libya at the UN Security Council based their case on a need to protect Libya's civilians from attacks and facilitate dialogue between warring camps. The March 17 Resolution 1973 authorised UN member states to "take all necessary measures" to achieve theses aims, but ruled out the presence of foreign troops on Libya's soil. Though the resolution called for an immediate ceasefire, the US ambassador to the UN later said that it would permit helping the rebel forces with weapons.

Proposed jointly by Britain, France and Lebanon, seconded by the US, it was backed by the three non-permanent members of Africa, raising the total yes vote to 10. The remaining five members abstained.

Russia and China questioned the merit of using force when other means had not been exhausted, an argument backed by Brazil and India. The four nations pointed out the lack of clarity about who would enforce the measures. Thus, for the first time the major powers denoted by the acronym BRIC — Brazil, Russia, India and China — adopted a unified stance on a matter of war and peace. Brazil's ambassador raised the prospect of the resolution exacerbating current tensions and "causing more harm than good" to the civilians targeted for protection.

While refusing to contribute forces to any military operation, Germany's ambassador warned that those who participated in implementing the Security Council resolution could be drawn into a protracted military conflict that draws in the wider region. He also pointed to the lack of exit strategy. This stance by Germany, backed by another NATO member Turkey, illustrated the fissure in the Western military alliance.

Soon different interpretations of Resolution 1973 followed. At one end was Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League — credited by Western capitals as the font for the robust UN Security Council resolution — and at the other end were British Prime Minister David Cameron and Sarkozy.

Moussa reiterated strict limits on foreign intervention: The Arab League had not backed invasion of Libya; all it had done was to call for a no-fly zone over Libya, not aerial bombardment or attacks — a restriction ignored by the French bombing of Gaddafi's forces near Benghazi on March 19.

Of the 21 Arab League members, excluding Libya, four attended the Paris summit. Of the 12 countries that signed up to implement Resolution 1973, only two — Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — are Arab, each contributing a token number of aircraft. Calling for a no-fly zone is one thing, imposing it is more difficult. Washington's repeated attempts to persuade Saudi King Abdullah to participate in enforcing an air-exclusion zone in Libya have failed.

By contrast, on Friday, Obama repeated his call that Gaddafi "must leave." Cameron said that he and Obama had agreed that "Gaddafi should depart from power now." In short, it was a call for regime change.

The inexperienced Cameron is suspected of using the Libyan crisis to make a mark on the international scene. Sarkozy's aggressive stance on Libya could be aimed at recovering from low approval ratings as he heads to an election. On a broader level, the clash between the BRIC nations and the West is centred on the vexing issue of sovereignty. BRIC views humanitarian interventions as violations of national sovereignty by a powerful West, selective about human rights violations to suit its economic and strategic interests.

Military and diplomatic stalemate is likely after the initial blitzkrieg by the US-led coalition, as well casualties among civilians it claims to protect. Only then will more fundamental issues of sovereignty and humanitarian intervention come to dominate the debate in the international community.

Reprinted with permission from Yale Global. Dilip Hiro is the author of "The Essential Middle East: A Comprehensive Guide." His latest book is "After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World."







This week everybody is discussing the Obama doctrine: is it about promoting cracks in the war which was considered just and right in the western world? A Saturday Special examination

American and indeed the dominant world opinion estimated Barack Obama as a devoted liberal who could carry out his campaign promises to resolve conflicts and disputes through dialogue and diplomacy rather than through coercion and military muscle. He was bestowed with the Nobel Peace Prize with the expectation that he would showcase America as a civil leader of the world and not a global policeman.

The manner in which Obama handled the closure of American military operations in Iraq, tackled the Iranian nuclear issue and confronted North Korean belligerency with hardly any threat of use of force indicated his ability to address complex international issues with little or no military option. There was not much international opposition to Obama's handling of the Afghan War and his deployment of drones to track down and strike terrorist strongholds in Pakistan. Islamabad protested in public, but acquiesced in private.

Obama also deftly handled the political upheaval in Egypt. While losing a long standing friend at the helm of affairs in Cairo, Washington has managed to keep its interests in that country well protected. President Obama refrained from aggressive diplomacy or use of threat of military intervention in the face of domestic challenges to pro-US regimes in some Arab countries, such as Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.

But what went wrong in Libya? Obama has joined the British and the French and a few others in enforcing a UN Resolution on establishing a no-fly-zone, which clearly lacks clear-cut objectives and goals. It does not appear to be Obama's initiative. He appears to be a reluctant warrior who was enticed into military operations by some of his NATO partners, especially the French.

Unlike his defensive diplomacy in Afghanistan that has succeeded in keeping the coalition intact, military air strikes in Libya to protect Libyans from their own government do not have the full backing of America's allies and strategic partners. Germany, Russia, China, India, and Brazil decided to abstain rather than support the UN Security Council Resolution. While the US military took the lead in aerial strikes, Obama was too quick to announce that it would back out from the leading role. Now there is no coordination, strategy or agreement about the next round of command and control after the US ceases to take the lead.

The French reportedly does not want NATO to take charge. Paris argues that it would be interpreted as Western intervention in yet another Muslim country. The British, on the other hand, are backing the idea of a NATO-led command and control operations in Libya.

As the coalition quarrels over the next leader and next targets, now that much of Libya's air defense and air force have been grounded, Obama has begun to face opposition fire at home. The US legislators have grumbled that President Obama took pains to consult the NATO partners and Arab leaders, but failed to consult the Congress before participating in the anti-Gaddafi military operations. Some of them have raised the legitimacy of Obama's decision on the basis of the War Powers Act.

Many have questioned the desirability of opening yet another military front in a Muslim country when efforts are reportedly made to find out the best ways to extricate the US military from the Afghan quagmire. Members of both Obama's Democratic and Republican Party have also asked the President to inform the American people the cost of such operations in the midst of an on-going recession. There is also a demand that the US President explain the goals of military intervention, even though from the air and the sea alone. President Obama has repeatedly said that the goal was not regime change. But the US diplomat was reportedly supportive of such a policy at the time of negotiations in the UN Security Council for a resolution. The resolution limited the goal to protecting the civilians from the excessive use of force by the government. Was it then a failure of the US diplomacy?

The diplomatic problem has mounted after days of aerial attacks on Gaddafi's forces, even as the Arab League has started to distance itself from the US-led military operations. Washington and its European allies sought to justify and legitimise their action with Arab support. But the initial enthusiasm of the Arab League vanished into thin air once it was realised that the Western powers, and not the League, would decide the time, strategy and the goals of the military operations. Several other Arab governments, facing real and potential revolts against the regimes, are wearily watching the civil war in Libya and are certainly not in a position either to support or to oppose the Western initiatives.

Meanwhile, American academia have opined that Libya under any circumstances is unlikely to emerge as a democratic country even after Gaddafi relinquishes office or is overthrown from power. Some argue that the no-fly-zone in Libya would neither bring democracy nor alleviate the sufferings of the people.

As revelations tumble out on the weaknesses of the Libyan opposition and questions raised about the size of their military (roughly about 1,000 untrained and inexperienced fighters) and the general cohesiveness of the opposition in the backdrop of acute tribal differences, Obama has to face increasing difficulties in explaining to his people and to the Muslim World (that he promises to engage constructively and peacefully) the timing, objectives and the exit strategy of his military operations in a country it has little leverage.

If Gaddafi goes sooner than expected, more uncertainty might plague the country and the oil market may grow more volatile. If he remains in power, his recent cooperation with the US in combating terrorism and promoting nonproliferation may just disappear.

The writer is Professor, School of International Studies, JNU








Rumour has it workaholics want to file an anti-cricket PIL. All because a report estimates that World Cup season translates into a loss of 768 million man-hours, which the spoilsports say goes against 'public interest'.

cricket lovers, who hope to win the trophy, must also plead and win this case. Let's state the truth and nothing but the truth about the fictions we've spun to bunk work, whether to watch the recent India-Pakistan clash or today's India-Sri Lanka battle at Wankhede. Who says it's been all play and no work? Start at the top.

Weren't our PM and his Pakistani counterpart Mohali's men-at-work, preparing the pitch for diplomatic powerplay? And didn't the Nehru-Gandhis slog hard to not hog the limelight, despite their telegenic team being out in full force?

A survey made the silly point that six out of 10 babus would skip office. True, half-day leave's been much-solicited, for pressing "family matters" like joint spectatorship. An epidemic was expected too, with ail-and-hearty government employees taking sick leave and collectively retiring hurt. Call it team spirit. But, courtesy mandays lost to innumerable public holidays or absenteeism, it's dhak dhak go-slow for babus and netas - our famed toil mafia - anyway.

Also, mega-shows like Mohali or Wankhede mean unofficial day-off for many truants who don't even offer excuses. Nobody wants a slip between World Cup and lip, be it Surat's diamond polishers, Bhopal's bankers or Bangalore's geeks. On their part, Tamil Nadu's poll campaigners refuse to emulate DMK's Kanimozhi. Campaigning hard, the lady was to skip Mohali. That's understandable: the DMK-AIADMK match is coming up, Karunanidhi's wondering if he has limited overs and Jayalalithaa's perfecting her sweep shot.

Though believers in work ethic, private companies too have given work-from-home permission or arranged match screenings at office for employees. In this game of kaam chori, if you can't beat them, join them. That is, unless you can literally beat them, as lathi-wielding cops have done with cricket fans trying to buy tickets selling in black for as much as Rs 1.25 lakh! Evidently, games venues are now restricted to celebrity parades; aam janata are merely telly-ported there. But look on the bright side: public service has improved immeasurably during the tournament. Take
Delhi. With VVIPs and traffic cops both off the streets, route diversions are down and vehicular congestion has reduced, promoting the cause of galli cricket. Or take Madhya Pradesh. Worried that load shedding could hit match telecasts, the CM bought extra power to guarantee supply. An electrifying knock, that. Taxpayer-sponsored, too.

Why, the World Cup has made even judicial delay look good. Thanks to Mohali magic, advocates and litigants in many a cacophonous courtroom gave disputes a rest, with opposite parties cheering the game on the same side! To conclude, any case against cricket is frivolous and warrants quick dismissal...Only, judicial umpires aren't around to decide this run-out appeal. Why? They've called in sick. Today's the World Cup final, stupid.








For Periyar EV Ramasamy Naicker, the founder of Dravidar Kazhagam, the "Aryan" North unfairly dominated the " Dravidian" South. Tamils, therefore, had every right to secede. It is a sign of the times that P Chidambaram has reversed this relationship somewhat. WikiLeaks allegedly nabbed him saying that the southern and western parts would have developed faster, but for the burden of the North. According to our home minister, it is the economy of these regions that provides the meat in the sandwich for the rest of India.

Chidambaram quickly denounced the leaks and apologised for hurting sentiments, especially those of MPs from the North. Be that as it may, what the home minister is said to have said still has many takers. It may sound politically incorrect, but is it not true?

Take a look at Bihar, UP and Rajasthan from any angle and it really is an embarrassment. India's southern and western profiles are certainly very attractive; far more arresting than its full face frontal which includes the North. It is true that UP, Bihar and Rajasthan are poor, very poor, but banish them from sight and India's economy would not shine as much.

Consider the construction industry. Without cheap labour from Chhattisgarh, UP, Jharkhand and Bengal real estate development would grind to a halt. Or, take the textile sector. Forget the mighty Jalandhar; even without Panipat and Jaipur, the loom sector would face a serious crisis.

Carpets next.
India generates 11% of the world's trade in carpets. Most of these floor coverings are produced in the UP districts of Jaunpur, Mirzapur and Bhadohi, with a lot of help from Latehar and Lohardaga in neighbouring Jharkhand. Moreover, factories in Vapi and Bardoli in Gujarat as well as those in Maharashtra's Mumbai-Pune belt, depend heavily on cheap labour from the northern states.

Tirupur, which is the hosiery capital of India, has workers from Jharkhand, Bihar and from far away Kishenganj too. The reason they are welcome in the heart of Coimbatore district is because they can be satisfied with poor wages. Besides being low cost, migrant workers are pliant, take less leave and can be easily switched around by contractors from unit to unit. This strategy keeps local labour under control everywhere. Nobody has found a better way yet of shutting trade unionism out.

This also explains why there are so many passengers on Indian trains. Poor labourers from the North are travelling everywhere in search of jobs. It is not surprising then that over one billion railway tickets are sold every year. Add the ubiquitous ticketless passengers to this number and the figure swells by several million.

This hunger for jobs is so great that it has overtaken marriage as the major reason for migration. Today, over 41% up and leave their homes in search of employment, and those who journey the farthest are from the North. They may be lowly skilled, but are high risk takers; they travel for miles on a prayer and a promise of work.

Before we take a lofty attitude, let us remember that this scruffy under-class contributes as much as 43% of our export earnings. The bulk of them labour in small-scale units located in different parts of North India. In fact, the poorer the state the greater the number of household industrial units. In this connection, we should also note that tiny non-agricultural enterprises employing less that 10 workers have increased by 110% in the last two decades.

The attraction of cheap labour is so great that even in the organised sector about 46% of the workforce belongs to the informal category. This explains why formal employment numbers have remained stagnant at just over 24 million for decades. If the ledgers show that organised sector production has risen, it is because of the contribution of this ragtag labouring class. They come largely from UP, Bihar and Rajasthan, and they also come cheap.

China, India primarily exports low technology goods. The humble weaver in a dug out loom in a dark cottage in deep UP produces carpets for international buyers around the world. Likewise, the illiterate brass worker in Moradabad crafts bric-a-brac for European living rooms. India also accounts for 8% of world trade in gems and jewellery. Take away Rajasthan, and this sector will face a near collapse. Once again, it is cheap labour that wins the day.

Further, without Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, without Bhilai and Bokaro, where would India's steel and coal come from? This is not low quality swill, but essential for the development of capital goods in the country. These northern states may be poor, but they are rich in mineral and natural resources, so essential for development everywhere.

Nor does
Tirupur grow the cotton it weaves. It gets most of it from the North and makes up for the rest through imports. In India, productivity rates of cotton are highest in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The growers may look scruffy, but their cotton is white. Without them the giant hosiery industry of the South would collapse.

Whichever way one looks at the North-South relationship in India, it would be thoughtless to say that one does not contribute to the growth of the other. Whether it is raw material or raw manpower, it is the drab North that gives the South that certain glow.

South, be not proud!

The writer is former professor, JNU.







The controversy surrounding renowned Bharatanatyam exponent Leela Samson's appointment as the chief of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is baseless. True, breaking with tradition the information and broadcasting ministry has chosen someone without a film background. But this doesn't mean that the choice is wrong.

The primary objective of the
CBFC or the censor board is to certify films for public exhibition. In other words the board is supposed to look at films from the point of view of a moviegoer, not from that of someone involved in making films.

What matters is that whoever is appointed for the job brings to it a modern and fresh outlook compatible with contemporary culture, and a certain level of artistic sensibility. These qualities aren't exclusive monopolies of filmmakers. If that were so it would suggest that filmmakers are out of sync with film viewers, but few filmmakers would argue they don't wish to connect with an audience. What's more, a number of people from within the film fraternity were approached for the job but declined the offer.

Apart from being a classical dancer, Samson is the head of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, runs Chennai's premier culture academy Kalakshetra and is a cultural adviser to the prime minister. Why should someone with a background like that be considered unsuitable for the job of CBFC chief? Someone from the film world would have technical knowledge about filmmaking, but not necessarily the skills to review films with a certain sense of detachment.

Neither should the 59-year-old danseuse's age be held against her. There is no guarantee that having a young censor chief will translate into liberal policy. Some of the most radical artistes and thinkers have been well beyond their youth. Maturity should not be confused with conservatism.







It's natural that Leela Samson's appointment as the new chief of the Central Board of Film Certification ( CBFC) has been greeted with cynicism in the Indian film industry. Not only must her selection be taken with a pinch of salt, there ought to have been a genuine debate whether a non-film figure should head an organisation that deals with films.

Filmmakers go through a lot of travail in making films, to which a lot of money is committed as well. But sometimes censor boards reject them for no reason at all, denying audiences a chance to make up their mind about the film. It's imperative therefore that censor board chiefs should have some notion of what it takes to make a film as well as some sympathy for a filmmaker's point of view. And who could do this best but someone with an explicit film background?

That's the main reason a tradition has already been established, whereby screen legends such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Shakti Samanta,
Asha Parekh, Anupam Kher and the outgoing chief Sharmila Tagore have been appointed to the job.

There's no good reason to break with this precedent. The ministry's preference for a classical dancer over film industry veterans like Gulzar, Shabana Azmi and Ramesh Sippy - who were reportedly in the fray - doesn't make sense.

The ministry also ignored that Samson's plate is full. Besides heading two academies she also works as a cultural adviser to the prime minister. It would be tough for her to juggle between so many roles and still able to devote quality time for an industry that makes around 1,000 films a year, of diverse variety and genre.

Given that censor boards have a reputation for being heavy-handed and out of touch with contemporary trends, is there any reason to magnify this tendency by appointing outsiders to the film world to this job? ***************************************




Did India do the right thing in abstaining from the vote on UN Resolution 1973 on Libya? It is easy to criticise India for being foolish and cowardly. However, the decision is defensible and may prove to be a sensible one.

Those who argue that India should have voted for the no-fly zone and for the authorisation to use all means, short of occupation, to protect the Libyan people base their case on three main contentions.

The first is that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is busy killing defenceless people, and India should have supported what is a
morally proper move to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

The second contention is that since the
Arab League and Muslim opinion in many places were behind 1973, India, as a member of the UN Security Council for the next two years, would have earned the understanding, if not gratitude, of these countries by voting for the resolution.

The third contention is that India would have done well strategically.
New Delhi would have been regarded as a power player, as a 'constructive' member of the global community, and would have built bridges to the US and other western powers (as a 'responsible stakeholder'). This would have strengthened India's case for permanent membership of the Security Council.

This is not a trivial case. Yet, abstaining is defensible on moral, political and strategic grounds (voting against the resolution would have been almost impossible).

Morally speaking, the question is: if the world is to intervene against Gaddafi, why not against others who may be as bad or worse? Indian diplomats at the UN argued it would have been proper to get more evidence of the situation in Libya. Clearly, Gaddafi's men are killing ordinary unarmed citizens as well as those who might be lightly armed. Yet, there are places in
Africa where the situation is harrowing. Is Gaddafi's Libya worse? Furthermore, what if rebellions such as Libya's explode into violence in several other places? Will the world rush to defend those peoples as well? This seems unlikely given the pool of resources to deal with such problems.

There is another moral quandary. Will the opposition in Libya be more democratic and respectful of human rights? The groups fighting Gaddafi are, reputedly, drawn from diverse clans and tribes. Will they live in peace with each other and other Libyans? No leadership worth the name has emerged, and no party or council with a vision for the future has made its appearance to help us decide these questions. Bad as Gaddafi is, are we even reasonably sure that intervention would leave Libyans happier?

Politically, while many Muslims are calling for Gaddafi to be stopped, there are also many others fearful of what an intervention by largely western forces will mean politically. In the wake of the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan, westerners fighting Muslims and killing them (even if unintentionally in their bombing raids against Gaddafi) could be destabilising for a whole range of governments - and worrisome for liberal modernisers in various countries who will be identified as pro-western because of their liberalism.

Finally, Indian strategic caution over Libya is not incomprehensible. Libya could become an unending military quagmire and help radicalise many Muslims who will increasingly see intervention as a West-versus-Islam war, if it drags on. India will not be helped by a world in which Islamic extremists gain ground. There is also the ingress of
China into Africa and other regions, as Beijing presents itself as a bulwark against bullying western democracies. Voting with the West and allowing China to stand as the champion of the weak in Africa, Asia and Latin America is not a strategic plus for India.

Finally, and most crucially, there is India's insistence on the sanctity of sovereignty. With so many internal dissidents in India, New Delhi unsurprisingly is extremely wary about supporting intervention, even on humanitarian grounds, for fear that this might be turned against India someday.

Whether or not India has done right will become clear in the months and years ahead. But to say that New Delhi's decision was senseless and base is unfair.






The 2011 Census is a rude wake-up call for policy makers, activists and the general public. Despite plenty of schemes and significant monetary incentives, the child sex ratio of the second-most populous country in the world and an emerging economic powerhouse is a shoddy 914, down from 927 girls for every 1,000 boys (2001 census).

This is the worst dip since 1947. After the worrying numbers came out on Thursday, senior government officials and politicians parroted the expected lines: our policies are just not effective enough.

We must thank them for this goldmine of information that our laws lack teeth. Should we now thank the census commissioner for telling us the truth? Are we to believe that India's mammoth bureaucratic set-up — the rusty steel structure — had absolutely no inkling about what is happening right under its nose? If our babus did know, what were they doing about it?

Yes, we do remember seeing a couple of black and white advertisements released by the publicity department with the photos of some ministers, but probably that's about it. But you can't blame them for not changing mindsets.

As we know, it's always a 'cultural' thing. We are sure there must have been Herculean efforts in pockets to reverse the trend at certain places, but clearly they are exceptions, not the norm.

Along with the dip in numbers, it is also the geographical spread of infanticide and foeticide that is worrying. In 2001, the worst-hit states were Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

While the sex ratio has improved a bit in the first two, Punjab and Haryana still remain the worst offenders.

The sad news is that the rest of the 27 states also show a decline in the population of girl children. But don't only blame the poor for killing girls. The middle and upper middle class families, the educated masses, are equally adept at it. In fact, in certain cities, they are the worst offenders.

It is true that the reasons for killing the girl child are cultural, economic and the well-oiled criminal system of sex determination and termination. For the rich, there is also the option of going abroad for a quick detection and abortion.

But we have to fight this war with all the forces available at our disposal. There is absolutely no other way but to improve implementation of the pre-natal diagnostic techniques law. The law should also be  updated and its definition expanded to meet the advances in technology. Also, the conviction rate of people involved is very poor.

But, most importantly, proper and effective sensitisation will be the game changer.





When they're not scamming the country, disrupting Parliament or schmoozing with businessmen and film stars at cricket matches, our netas fall back on their next favourite past-time: Saving Bapu.

We have a fine tradition of Saving Bapu. In 2009 liquor baron Vijay Mallya saved Bapu by coughing up Rs 9.27 crore for assorted memorabilia including his sandals and glasses. In 2007, the government threatened YouTube for a video of admittedly bad taste that showed Gandhiji dancing. 

And, of course, we will Save Bapu from companies who use his name to sell overpriced fountain pens.

Now the Save Bapu movement is on full swing as this government mulls a law that would ban 'insults' to Mahatma Gandhi. The provocation comes not so much from a book but reviews of that book that conclude that author Joseph Lelyveld claims that Gandhi was both bisexual and racist.

Lelyveld is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has reported out of India and South Africa. He denies that his biography, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India reaches either conclusion. "The word bisexual nowhere appears in the book," he says. He also denies calling Gandhi racist.

But so astute is our political class that it has raised the Save Bapu alarm on a mere reading of the reviews — the book is still unavailable in India — in such journals as the Daily Mail, Britain's middle-market tabloid.

The first state to ban the book is BJP-ruled Gujarat. This is ironic because the Hindu right detests Gandhi nearly as much as the radical Left. Next to likely follow is Maharashtra, which has a long record in banning books from James Laine's Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India (the Supreme Court overturned the ban in 2010 but the book remains unavailable) to Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey, which was removed from the Mumbai University syllabus last year under pressure from the Shiv Sena.

Gandhiji has no shortage of detractors in this country. His ongoing battle with Bhimrao Ambedkar is well-documented. In 2009, Mayawati created a minor rumpus by calling him a natakbaaz.

Historian Ramachandra Guha tells of how Naxalites in West Bengal brought down statues and how Kondapalli Seetaramaiah, founder of the People's War Group, made a trip to Gandhiji's parental home just to spit on it.

In recent times there have been serious attempts to understand the work, life, philosophy and evolution of this remarkable and complicated man. That we still feel the need to revisit Gandhiji is to pay tribute to his continuing relevance not only to Indians but to the rest of the world.

Not all accounts are flattering. British historian Jad Adams's 2010 Naked Ambition claimed that Gandhiji was sex-obsessed. Much has been written of his somewhat bizarre views on celibacy, birth control, alcohol and women. Few, if any, in India follow his lifestyle. Post-1992, many values lie officially abandoned. So much for Saving Bapu.

To ban on a book, no matter to what extent it deviates from the officially permitted deified portrait, is to limit our understanding of the man who brought freedom to this country. We owe to future generations a complete picture of a completely human man — full of misgiving and doubt but great in spite of them.

Gandhiji's own family is against a ban. Gopalkrishna Gandhi says his grandfather "is best protected by the strength of his own words". Rajmohan Gandhi, another grandson, says a ban would be wrong 'from every point of view'. And Tushar Gandhi, Bapu's great-grandson points out: "How does it matter if the Mahatma was straight, gay or bisexual? Every time he would still be the man who led India to freedom."

If India is to be a global leader then surely we must be more than an outsourcing destination or a market for consumer goods. We must be thought leaders and equal participants in a knowledge society where there is free exchange of ideas. We must demonstrate our maturity to absorb, debate and then, if need be, reject unpalatable ideas.

Banning books will not save Bapu. Reading about him, trying to understand his ideas and placing him in contemporary relevance will.

(Namita Bhandare is a Delhi-based writer, the views expressed by the author are personal.)







'Serious sport has nothing do to with fairplay,' wrote George Orwell in 1945, sweepingly dismissing the primal emotion that defined international sporting events as 'orgies of hatred'.  

His provocative and much-quoted observations on the latent aggression of competitive sport were made in the year that World War 2 ended. As formal peace agreements were drawn up, the Soviet Union had sent a team of footballers on a "friendly" tour of Britain. But what followed was anything but convivial.

As crowds jeered and players came to blows, the Russians abandoned the trip mid-series, prompting a cynical Orwell to write that sport is "bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words it is war minus the shooting."

Orwell's pithy but vastly over-stated quote would soon become the anthropologist's favourite template to study the rituals of mass hysteria that inevitably mark the clash of countries on the field. But there were equally robust counter-arguments to the Orwellian broad stroke.

In The Ancient Olympics, Nigel Spivey raised the most commonsensical one. "If denunciation were intended, the obvious riposte is that war minus the shooting is surely preferable to war with the shooting," going on to argue that neither the Greeks nor the Romans ever imbued their sports with any philosophical gentleness, believing "essentially that all games were war games".

If either Orwell or Spivey had been present at Mohali this week, both men may have had to amend and nuance their conclusions with the complexity and contradictions of real life.

There is no doubt that a certain gladiatorial hunger characterised the India-Pakistan semi-final clash. Losing, the players on both sides knew, was almost unforgivable. That would explain Shahid Afridi's rather endearing, gracious and moving apology to his nation after the defeat.

And yet, for all the intense friction on the field, there was a laidback friendliness in the stands. As we roared in support for our team to win, catching our breath every time Tendulkar got to stay on, gasping in incredulous joy at the number of catches the Pakistani fielders dropped, we also smiled indulgently every time a small splash of green would bob up and cheer in the sea of tricolours.

The Pakistani fans sat shoulder-to-shoulder with us Indians in a state that was once the most bitterly impacted by Partition, but today seemed ready to step out of the shadows of the past.

The dichotomy of the moment —  the merciless jokes on the one hand and the bonhomie on the other — perhaps most aptly captured the often schizoid India-Pakistan relationship.

Cricket today is the modern metaphor for a relationship that is both hostile and sentimental at the same time, befuddling outside observers with its many paradoxes. Competition and conviviality co-existed this week in Mohali, in many ways drawing on the best energies that only an honourable, well-fought game can provide.

The energy was definitely contagious.

I met the two prime ministers as they came strolling off the grounds having shaken hands with players of both teams. Usually a formal bureaucracy and a tense secrecy envelops all India-Pakistan encounters.

This time, however, both Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Gilani seemed at ease, informal all-smiles, and more than willing to stop and chat. Both leaders could also draw comfort from the fact that very few people in the subcontinent cared what they were up to that afternoon.

For the first time in recent history there was a de-facto summit-level meeting between India and Pakistan without the scathing pressure of public scrutiny.

That perhaps was the smartest aspect of Singh's diplomacy initiative — the spotlight was not on their talks at all.

Sitting in the stands, both men got more time with each than most structured bilaterals permit. And mercifully this was one cross-border conversation that did not get constricted by the need to deliver a joint-statement or by the pressure to make a big-ticket announcement.

Indo-Pak watchers have rightfully warned against over-romanticising the 'Mohali Spirit'. And it's true that what plagues the relationship between New Delhi and Islamabad is that it has such little emotional detachment, fluctuating wildly between love and hate. Neither is healthy, when there are real issues that need tackling with sobriety and engagement.

A smothering sentimentalism will only harm this equation further without strengthening it substantially. So the absence of hyperbole around the prime ministerial talks or the dinner diplomacy that followed is most welcome.

In fact, the most promising development came this week when the home secretaries on either side agreed that an Indian panel will travel to Pakistan to follow up on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

The circumstances of cricket provided Singh with an opportunity to resurrect a dying equation. Now, if Islamabad were to show concrete and visible progress in bringing the perpetrators of those attacks to book, the Indian PM may get domestic support for furthering his initiative.

He would then be able to more easily accept the long-pending invitation to him to travel to Pakistan.

As it stands, cricket has provided a rare moment where a big fight has underscored the potential for a better friendship. 

George Bernard Shaw scathingly said of the English, "They are not very spiritual people, so they invented Cricket to give them some idea of eternity." In a game that the once-colonised subcontinent has now made its own may lie a few answers to the tumultuous questions that plague our region and our future. 

(Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV, The views expressed by the author are personal)



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

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

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

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






The provisional figures released by the Census of India are both heartening and challenging. Population growth has slowed this decade, by 3.9 per cent — the biggest drop in the population growth rate since Independence, though it has been gently waning for the last four censuses. And for the first time ever, there are more people made literate than the number added to the population, shrinking net illiteracy by 31 million.

But once you measure it, you proceed to manage it. What these numbers reveal is that we are now firmly on the other side of the great demographic bulge, sloping downwards. They imply that a whole sea of children is growing up, moving towards primary and secondary school, then higher education and the employment market. We need to do much better by them than we have for previous generations. Literacy levels have climbed, especially for women, which means a cascade of benefits apart from simple parity of opportunity — such as fewer children, lower infant mortality rates, better chances of children staying in school, and a more balanced workforce. But while the literacy spurt is a concrete, commendable improvement, it is nowhere near enough. India needs to convert this huge empty potential into something meaningful, for which it needs innovative policy in schooling, higher education and skills-training and employment. The value of schooling has clearly sunk in across India, but schools need to fulfil that aspiration. The right to education act is a good start, but is still riddled with problems, like an acute shortage of teachers. Meanwhile, we need to break free of old controlling paradigms in higher education, and expand institutional capacity and standards — while opening up options for the private sector, since the state's capacity to deliver is being questioned. As of now, there is a dangerous abyss between the numbers of young people lining up for higher education and jobs, and the paucity of options that confront them. We need to close that in the coming years — and that also involves pushing through better and more accessible skills acquisition programmes, which must expand employer involvement in curriculum design and training.

With these preliminary numbers, we have been presented with a statistical atlas of the nation. But to turn these numbers into better numbers in the next census, we have to work desperately hard in this crucial window of time to harness the energies of a growing India.






It is claimed to be more than an apocryphal story. One fine day in the 1970s, H.R.F. Keating received an invitation in the post. It was from Air India, saying that word was about that he had not yet seen Bombay, the city where Ganesh Ghote, the hero of Keating's bestselling detective fiction, worked — and how would he like to be transported to and hosted in the city. To read The Perfect Murder, the first Ghote book published in the 1960s, the reader would not have guessed that, in the tradition of Hergé and Tintin, Keating had worked with extremely good research to convey a familiarity with the locale. (Perfect is the name of the murdered man, a Parsi secretary to a millionaire.)

But Keating's Ghote, an inspector in the city police, was not just a curiosity; he became one of the most beloved characters of detective fiction. Keating, who over time became a leading reviewer of detective fiction, kept to the coordinates of classic detective fiction, placing enough clues in his books to allow the reader to reflect and see how she could have worked out the mystery herself. And Ghote was his essentially decent, gentle detective, not only solving crimes but also working amidst the social and bureaucratic constraints of his time.

Bombay, now Mumbai, is now the setting for more gritty crime fiction. But Ghote's successors, they who dignify diverse professions by being so giving of their time, attention and empathy in heeding calls for assistance, are now a thriving group in 21st century crime fiction. Even as crime fiction now deals ever more with that grey zone where the line between right and wrong gets blurry, detectives are now able guides to different lands, using the singularity of the criminal act to gain very local profiles.






When public interest litigations (PILs) were first introduced into India's jurisprudence in the 1980s, they had a very clear role: to enhance access to justice on behalf of those who had been historically excluded from the justice-delivery system. Yet, over time, like many nobly intentioned innovations, they have been warped away from their original purpose; alongside those that are genuinely filed in the public interest, there are some that are filed with malice aforethought; and some that are filed frivolously, for the sheer exercise of power to bring something down or to halt some development. Anger has been building for a while at this misuse of what is a fragile part of our legal machinery. In 2006, the well-known lawyer Fali Nariman said that "PILs are definitely being misused... The courts have realised that they need to control them. There must be a screening process. A PIL was meant for those who didn't have the wherewithal to approach the courts. Now there are corporate PILs." In June last year, Law Minister Veerappa Moily angrily declared that the government would seek compensation from those whose petitions caused public developmental work to be stopped before being dismissed. And on his first day in office, in May 2009, the current chief justice declared that he would cut down on frivolous PILs, and tighten procedures.

The Supreme Court has now moved to act on that pledge. A two-judge bench heard a petition asking that a retired UPS officer be removed from any connection with the temple in Tirupati; it dismissed the PIL, saying that there was insufficient information as to what the petitioner was. Unless the petitioner was "apparently and patently above board", they said, PILs would be rejected.

This stand by the SC must be welcomed. Too often, as the judgment pointed out, "behind the beautiful veil of public interest, an ugly private malice, a vested interest, or publicity-seeking is lurking." This not only adds to the enormous case backlog in the higher courts, but also, as Moily warned, risks grinding growth to a halt. The SC's decision to act as regulator is both necessary and timely.







This is kaliyug, they say, an age of decline. Wherever you look, great social movements have become first business-as-usual political parties, and then venal family businesses, buying their votes through crass populism instead of high-mindedness.

The party of independence is now a centrally planned monolith, with state-level leaders differentiated by Delhi only on the basis of how many bags of money they can deliver. The communists have taken a wrong turn on the road to social democracy and are now rapidly losing themselves and what remains of the long-tried patience of India's Left in the moors of irrelevance. The Lohiaites have turned mathematicians, calculating and recalculating equations with caste and subcaste variables till they get the solution they want.

But Tamil Nadu, surely, has been witness to the sharpest decline. The two great Dravidian parties seem to have become mere machines, competing only in petty giveaway populism. Periyar is but a formidable, bearded cut-out now, his radical politics a memory; one party is led by a Brahmin, the other by an ageing patriarch apparently concerned only with satisfying his squabbling, grasping family.

This is an incomplete, cartoonish view of reality. But then the complex politics of Tamil Nadu has always been temptingly easy to reduce to simply digestible stylised "facts": that the Dravidian party that allies with the Congress always wins, for example. This election will test that hypothesis among many, and may come up confounding most of them. But the larger theory of decline will surely be unquestionable. Does not new data come in to support it practically daily? Did not Karunanidhi, just this Tuesday, announce that his son Stalin would follow him to the leadership of the DMK? Did not the AIADMK's Jayalalithaa feebly attempt to one-up the DMK's freebie populism last week? (Laptops for first-year college students? Ha! I'll offer them to high-schoolers, too!) Has not the biggest story of the past year been our long-delayed awakening to the way that the DMK has used the ministries that they bargained their way into at the Centre as mere instruments to enrich themselves, and finance their politics?

All these points are undeniable. Yet something remains to be explained. How, for example, does Tamil Nadu rack up the social and economic indicators it does, if its politics is so dysfunctional? Its share of India's GDP soared, not dipped, in the 30-year era of decline; its human development indicators are among the top two or three in the country; it has not struggled to urbanise, with 44 per cent of its citizens living in towns, the highest proportion in the country; it regularly ranks at the top in surveys gauging economic freedom and the ease of doing business. This is not the profile of a state in which politics and policy-making consists of unthinking populism. Perhaps we need to think again.

Consider the now famous midday meal scheme. When M.G. Ramachandran universalised it in 1982, it was derided. What else but such tokenism can be expected, people asked, from a film actor who hijacked the movement of which he was merely supposed to be the pleasing face? Yet its benefits — increased school attendance, a dip in malnutrition, the reduction of caste distance, more jobs for women — caused it to be adopted by other states, and then be promoted by the Centre under Narasimha Rao.

Finally, following a push by the Supreme Court, it was adopted nationwide. Seeing that famous picture of MGR, glasses and hat firmly in place, carefully eating his rice and sambhar amid equally intent schoolchildren, everyone outside Tamil Nadu succumbed to a familiar reductionist temptation: that masterly image-maker was just creating a powerful visual moment. We now know he was doing much more.

The truth is that populist gestures and tokenism have always played a role in the Dravidian movement. In the 1950s, the spark for the decade of anti-Hindi agitation that brought the DMK to power was pure, brilliant propaganda. In Tiruchirapalli district is a town of a few thousand people known as Kallakudi. At that time, the presence of a cement factory there had caused it, or its railway station, to be called Dalmiapuram — a name stinking, to the DMK, of the exploitation of the South by the North. On July 15, 1953, party activists painted over the name of the railway station, lay down on the tracks, fought the police and were killed or arrested. Nehru thundered that playing with paint was sheer childishness. But that spark set Madras state ablaze, and the leader of those activists would have sat in jail and pondered the uses of tokenism.

His name was Karunanidhi, and he was 30 years old.

That young agitator shot up through the DMK's ranks because of what we ignorant North Indians are assured is his consummate grasp of one of the world's great languages for oratory; but also because of his mastery of the populist gesture — and, apparently, his careful attention to funding. (Karunanidhi was for years the DMK's treasurer, financing its rise to power; after Annadurai took over in 1967, he became minister in charge of road-building and the public works department, in an eerie echo of the DMK's preferences today.)

But even so: from Dalmiapuram and midday meals to TVs and mixies? Is this not a descent?

Perhaps not. The way these social movements wind up as people-pleasing parties makes tragic sense. Here is one narrative to play with. Take a rigid, hierarchical, unequal society. Give it access to liberal democracy, a nominally egalitarian space. Democratic politics initially replicates those primitive patterns of domination, but the dispossessed slowly wake up to the fact that they now have access to some sort of power, a vote — and use that to demand self-respect in other spheres.

But once that's partly achieved, they look elsewhere. And so we get welfarism; and here this irresistible force towards righting historical wrongs meets the immovable object that is the Indian state's incapability. No government can target welfare properly. So we get midday meals and rice subsidies being promised by parties founded to transform society.

But eventually, we get richer, better fed. The party of social transformation knows, still, that it has society to serve, but now that society is more confident, and somewhat more aspirational. So they wind up offering you TVs, and mixies, and laptops. Unless, of course, you're a voter in a close constituency. Perhaps the DMK is merely more efficient than the government it runs: it, at least, knows precisely whom to target with cash.

These are the three levels of populism that all our social-transformation parties, even the Jan Sangh/ BJP, have gone through. One day, perhaps soon, the Indian state will learn to target welfare; blunt equalising instruments will no longer have to be used. Where our politics will go, then, remains to be seen. But I'll bet my best mixer-grinder that a Dravidian party will be leading the transformation.








A Chinese army chief does not undertake a visit to Nepal routinely. General Chen Bingde was in Nepal for three days in late March — the first in 11 years by a chief of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). And the message that he has given has implications not only in the bilateral context of Nepal-China relations but also the larger regional context.

Chen, who led a 15-member delegation, signed an agreement with the Nepal army, not with the defence ministry as the host government wished. China promised a grant of 160 million yuan for modernising the military hospital in Kathmandu and for army construction activities. Not only has China substantially increased its assistance to the Nepal army, but it has also conveyed keenness on army-to-army relations with Nepal.

In the absence of the monarchy, that China trusted in the course of its 55-plus years of diplomatic relations, perhaps it has come to realise the significance of the Nepal army. In a country going unpredictably anarchic, many institutions have been largely politicised.

Chen said China is keen to expand its assistance to the Nepal army as "its economy grows". In his close interaction with the top brass of the Nepal army, Chen chose not to conceal China's resentment with the EU, the US and India — either for "instigating Tibetans" or for too much interference in Nepal's internal affairs. He was slightly more diplomatic during his interaction with President Rambaran Yadav and Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal, referring only to EU "instigaton" of Tibetans, and extracted an assurance that "Nepali territory" would not be permitted to be used against its neighbour. Chen, who appeared in a jovial mood during that meeting, said China would not tolerate a third country coming in the way of the friendship between Nepal and China. He said good relations were vital for regional peace and stability.

Although the PLA has been cultivating Nepali Maoists and inviting several delegations to China, Chen chose not to meet any Maoist leader, fully sensitive to the strained relationship between the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) and the army. He brought a message from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to his Nepal counterpart, wishing the peace and constitution-writing process success.

In contrast to India's oft-repeated stance that it is always ready to extend any kind of help that Nepal wanted to complete these processes, China's message was meaningful: "China wants Nepal to complete the peace and constitution-making process on its own, and we believe it is capable of doing it." Analysts say China wants to be seen as favouring an assertion of Nepali sovereignty.

China, like India, is aware of a situation in which a constitution might not be delivered and also understands the role the army would then play. It has been able to convey that China will continue to be a player in its south, and would not like too much meddling from other countries, including India. All at a time when India is not only getting unpopular in Nepal but is largely blamed for the prevailing uncertainty and chaos — as the one that brought various political parties, including the Maoists, together.

There is a fear that the current political dispensation may not be able to hold the country together as a demand for federalisation on ethnic and caste lines has created divisive trends. More political parties at home, except the Maoists, are turning towards the army, calling it the only hope to address the emerging crisis. And President Yadav has come out in open confrontation with the government dominated by Maoists, often criticising them for their laxity in completing the peace and constitution-making process on time. He obviously hopes that the army will at least support him should the executive responsibility fall on his shoulders when the constituent assembly misses yet another deadline (May 28).

The army chiefs of India and Nepal are honorary generals in each other's country and the Nepal army has also been the recipient of the largest volume of assistance, including arms, from India — nearly 70 per cent in grant — in the past. Often India has resisted a direct dealing by the Nepal army with a third country without keeping it informed. General Chen's gesture and promise of support is definitely a test case. As China builds inroads to Nepal and befriends its army, it is not leaving the mountain country to India alone any more.

Incidentally, the supply of arms and ammunition to the Nepal army that India suspended in February 2005, in protest against the royal takeover, continues even now as no government in the past four years has written to India demanding a resumption.

Nepal's army still remains anti-people in the eyes of the Maoists who dominate the government and parliament, and other parties are too week to go against the Maoist will. China understands what a warm handshake and promise of increased support to the Nepal army at this crucial juncture means.







I had the very good fortune to be present at the Mohali match between India and Pakistan. Not the most thrilling of matches, but who needs cricket for excitement, when rivalry provides the fever? And it is this rivalry, and the PM's initiative to attempt to develop peaceful relations with Pakistan that is the subject of my heartfelt inquiry today.

In 1960, I was a few years into my deep fondness for sports, especially cricket. I was all of 12, and excitedly I went to see my first match, a Test match against Pakistan. That was the mother of the most boring of all cricket series. Maybe the England tour of 1980-81 matched it for intensity of boredom. In any case, to enjoy all cricket matches, and not just those involving India, I, like all genuine fans of a sport, had to develop a preference ordering. The natural ordering was Pakistan, and then West Indies. Today, it is Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa and then West Indies. There is a logic to the ordering — culture and third world solidarity. If India had lost at Mohali, I would have been rooting for Pakistan in the final. My South Indian friends would most likely have cheered for Sri Lanka, and Delhi-born or -raised Tamils would be conflicted. This is not only as it is, but as it should be.

It is only a 60-year political history which divides India and Pakistan; a several- thousand-year history unites us. We are the same people, and a North Indian, especially a Punjabi, has a lot more in common with a Lahori than with a Chennai-based Tamil. And the latter has a lot more in common with a Sri Lankan than with me.

What has religion got to do with it?

Back to Mohali. The atmosphere was fantastic, and soaking that in, one realised why even high-definition TV cannot replace the unique enjoyment of an on-the-ground tamasha. So one joined in the shouting, the cheering and the camaraderie. And enjoyed doing so — until the introduction of Hindutva. Haven't been to other India matches for a while (the Ferozeshah Kotla ground is an embarrassment of a stadium, and smells of CWG-type scams for miles) but what logic is there in singing the hymn "Vande Mataram" at a cricket match? Would India supporters sing that in a match against Australia? No; then why special treatment for Pakistan?

Because the song represents Hinduism and Pakistan is Muslim. But India has more Muslims than Pakistan, or any country in the world outside of Indonesia. Should we be singing religious rhymes? The answer is obviously no. Then why did the crowd at Mohali indulge in this? My favourite cheering song is "Chak de India", but I didn't hear that in my stand.

If "Vande Mataram" was bad enough, singing "Jai Mata Di" was even worse. How does that move a player to hit a six or get a wicket? But there was something good about what was not part of the cheering. A couple of attempts were made for slogans which implied death to the visitors. This was quickly snubbed by saner individuals in the audience. This is progress — next time, just "Chak de", please.

And, finally, one good thing that emerged with India's victory was that one did not have to suffer hearing Afridi thanking Allah. With all the problems in the world, God certainly has better things to support than victories in a cricket match — for Christ's sake, please. And a final word about the absurdity of singing VM — ever wondered why national anthems are not part of cheering?

And now from the mind

The quarter-finals, except for the New Zealand-South Africa and India-Australia matches, have been dreary affairs. The two semi-finals were, from a cricket excitement point of view, pretty boring. Indians and Pakistanis may have found it exciting, and, yes, 1.2 billion people reside there, but hey you have got to admit that the cricket per se was well, not a thriller-in-Mohalla. CricketX had rated India's chances of winning the match at 58 per cent, and the match lived up to the forecast. Parenthetically, Sehwag should have been given the man of the match award, because his innings was the difference between the two teams on a slow pitch taking spin.

But get set to watch an intense and close cricket match. CricketX has India as favourites, with a 52-48 per cent advantage. This is about as close as you can get. First innings score predictions: India 245, and Sri Lanka 243. At CricketX, we have developed separate indices for overall team strength, batting and bowling. India's batting is about 7 per cent better than Lanka, its bowling about 6 per cent worse.

We have had an extraordinary run of good luck (along with good analysis!). Could this match be where we get stumped? The six ex-World Cup captains, all players extraordinaire, have Sri Lanka as firm favourites. We say that it can go either way, and will be more exciting than the last several finals. As exciting as 1983? Very possible. Chak de, India!

The writer is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm 







By the time the World Cup concludes, there would have been countless firsts that this event would have witnessed. It will have been the first time that two nations from the Indian subcontinent take each other on in World Cup final; the first time in this millennium that a nation other than Australia is crowned champion. It will have seen the highest viewership ratings, the largest advertising revenues, and collateralisation that would at one time have seemed unattainable.

There are, and hopefully will be, many such firsts when the sun rises on April 3, but there is one first that makes, for cricket purists, a particularly compelling subplot. This will be the first Cup final where both the wicketkeepers will also be their respective teams' captains.

A wicketkeeper is an all-rounder in the truest sense. And, as the international and professional calendar gets busier by the minute, his job is a thankless one. A wicketkeeper in today's sport is required to be at the top of his game and mentally on song for each ball of the entire innings when his team is fielding. He is the spark plug, the live wire, the cheering squad, the master sledging protagonist, and a game-changer — be it due to his successful catches, stumpings and run-outs, or in some cases, like Kamran Akmal's, due to his clunks and drops.

There was a time when the start of the tail began with the specialist wicketkeeper. Ian Healy, Dave Richardson, Kiran More, Jack Russell and others in that mould were useful batsmen, but hardly game-changers. From the 1990s onwards, however, there was a trend towards a wicketkeeper also needing to be more than just a handy bat. Alec Stewart, Mark Boucher and Moin Khan could all wield the willow with ample proficiency; but it took the greatness of Adam Gilchrist to truly set alight the world, and launch the 'keeper-batsman generation.

As an outstanding and explosive opening batsman in ODIs, Gilly was able to dictate terms to the opposition, and with an average hovering in the late 30s to early 40s for much of his career, he freed up the roster for one additional specialist batsman or bowler. What added to his aura was that he was also an outstanding 'keeper — a specialist all-rounder in many ways. In an increasingly batsman-friendly environment, the Gilly era was one of necessity.

A wicketkeeper who is an outstanding batsman is a rarity in any case, due largely to the fact that it's extremely difficult to focus on and excel in batting given that keeping wickets is a mentally and physically draining battle of attrition. This is why outstanding athletes and batsmen often forego their wicketkeeping duties in an effort to specialise in their batting — A.B. de Villiers being one of them.

If keeping wickets and maintaining one's batting average is an arduous task by itself, imagine the toll that captaining a side while being a wicketkeeper and pivotal batsman would take on a man's psyche and performance levels. This is why the least talked about subplot in the subcontinent saga/finale, is also the one where the two sides' progress to the final is best explained.

Kumara Sangakkara is without doubt one of the most fluent, fluid and yet gritty batsmen in the world. He is a specialist 'keeper (although in Tests he has relinquished the gloves to focus on his batting), and also half of the most formidable 3-4 combination in ODI cricket. Even given that his team has so many contrasting styles and personalities, and has featured legends like Jayasuriya, De Silva, Attapattu, Ranatunga, and Muralitharan, Sanga is one the true gems of the Emerald Isle, a quintessential middle-order batsman with a healthy strike rate and a healthier average. And, as an understated captain, he has led his team from the front and to the finals.

His counterpart from India has brought tranquility and calm to a team filled with enough stars to justify a galaxy being named after it. MSD is without a doubt the man in charge, cool, calm, composed, confident and already a champion captain across the other formats of the game. And yet he is a proficient 'keeper, and a batsman who has curbed his attacking instincts to the point where his trademark helicopter shot is unlikely to launch itself barring exceptional circumstances. His batting form may not have been the best in this Cup, but that's a mere blip in his resume. What's amazing is that his biggest contribution to the team is his captaincy and decision-making. In a boiling cauldron of 1.2 billion people, each scrutinising his every move, he has handled himself with tact. He does this despite not having a minute to reflect on-field or off, given his role and responsibilities.

So, despite this being Sachin's destiny, Muralitharan's swansong, spare a moment for the team captains, whose responsibilities extend to wicketkeeping, batting, and managing the expectations of so many in what are arguably the hottest seats in the subcontinent. And above all, for keeping it together when their nation needs each of them the most.

The writer is a Delhi-based sports lawyer






My foreign friends always tell me when they visit that the comment they hear most often from taxi drivers, shop owners and others is, "In Syria, there is security."

True, Syria does seem much more stable than its neighbours. And though I often find it difficult to ascertain the opinions of my countrymen, especially in matters concerning politics and the regime, many do believe that it's a fair bargain: limits on personal and political freedoms in exchange for the stability that is so dear to them. And those limits are quite strict: Syria has been ruled by emergency law since 1963, under a strong-fisted security force; opposing (or even just differing) opinions can lead to arrest, imprisonment or, at the very least, travel restrictions.

For example, I have two separate restrictions, from two different branches of the security forces, that forbid me from leaving Syria. One of these was put in place simply for attending a human rights conference in a neighbouring country.

This apparent lack of real discontent over the restrictions on our freedoms meant that when the revolutions across North Africa and the Middle East began in January, the Syrian regime considered itself immune to them. President Bashar al-Assad said that "real reform is about how to open up the society and how to start dialogue." For years, he said, his government had been having just that dialogue with its people, and he was unconcerned about calls on Facebook and Twitter for Syrians to revolt.

But then, in early February, Syrian policemen roughed up people who had gathered to light candles for the victims of the uprisings sweeping the region. This was followed by a security crackdown. Protests began to spring up in the central square in Damascus and then moved south to Dara'a. Troops opened fire, and several protesters died. Videos of the violence spread.

The Syrian government now seemed to understand that it had to take this surge of unrest seriously. So last week a counselor to Assad affirmed the right to peaceful protest, assuring Syrians that government troops had been ordered not to open fire on demonstrators.

The next day, a Friday, I went out with one of my friends to join a small protest in the Hamidiyah Market in the Old City section of central Damascus. We were, all in all, just a few dozen people chanting slogans for freedom, and yet we were surrounded by hundreds of members of the security forces, who responded with chants in support of President Assad. The security forces then began to beat and arrest protesters. My friend and I slipped away from the market and headed to Marja Square, just outside the Old City, where — it turned out — even more security forces were waiting for us.

First, they went after those photographing and recording the demonstration with their mobile phones. Then they began to hit the rest of us with batons and sticks. Dozens were arrested.

After that, the security forces were joined by other young men, apparently civilians, who formed themselves into a march for President Assad. This demonstration the guards allowed to be photographed and recorded. And, in the evening, state television reported on the marches all over Damascus in support of Assad.

That same day, the situation worsened elsewhere in Syria, when security forces violently oppressed protests in the cities of Homs and Latakia. Dozens of peaceful protesters were killed in Dara'a. When the international community condemned the violence, the Syrian regime began to blame "armed groups," from inside and outside the country, for killing the civilians in Dara'a as well as members of the security forces. This conspiracy theory, to which the regime continues to cling and of which many Syrians have been convinced, means that there are conflicting reports of the violence in places like Latakia.

Syria has degenerated into chaos and bloodshed so quickly in these past few weeks that I keep thinking: was our stability, our distinguishing characteristic, ever even true? The government tells us that if the regime falls the country could devolve into sectarian chaos. But what did the ruling Baath party — the leader of our state and society, according to the Syrian Constitution — accomplish over the last 48 years if that is so?

And then came President Assad's speech on Wednesday. I was waiting for a different speech, one that spoke of holding those who fired on protesters accountable, that announced the end of the emergency laws, that called for closing the files of political prisoners and amending the constitution to create greater freedoms. But what we saw instead was a show of power. There was a clear declaration that anyone who continued to protest, to request our rights, to petition for the future of our country, was nothing but a troublemaker.

Because of his speech, many of those Syrians who called for reform will now begin calling for regime change. MUSTAFA NOUR







Friendly match

Pakistani papers have hailed the talks between India and Pakistan this week. The interior secretaries' meet, coupled with cricket diplomacy and Pakistan's remission of the remaining sentence of a convict accused of espionage injected some warmth into the Indo-Pak equation. Daily Times reported on March 28 that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invitation to his Pakistani counterpart for the semi-final between India and Pakistan was welcomed by the federal government: "Pakistan has appreciated the gesture extended by the Indian premier... Extending of the invitation... and our acceptance indicates that both the countries are seriously coming closer with a realisation that dialogue is the only way forward... Prime Minister Gilani has said that... will provide a 'fillip' to diplomacy where the two countries are set to resume bilateral talks," said the information minister and government spokesperson, Firdaus Ashiq Awan. The News, on March 29 quoted Prime Minister Gilani: "It is also a timely opportunity for the two governments to show the world that the two nations can play together as well as sit and deliberate together on issues of national importance." As a goodwill gesture, Zardari remitted the remaining life sentence of Gopal Das, languishing in jail for the last 27 years, in response to an appeal made by the Supreme Court of India.

Upon his return from Mohali, Dawn reported on April 1 that Gilani met President Zardari and "expressed satisfaction over the resumption of talks between the two countries... Mr Gilani briefed the president on his discussion with Dr Singh and... Sonia Gandhi and on the outcome of the meeting between interior secretaries... He termed the interior secretaries' talks successful and said that many outstanding issues had been resolved." Gilani, reportedly, underscored the importance of the interior secretary talks: "The dialogue process between Pakistan and India was always suspended... when issues at interior secretary level... remained unresolved."

Dawn's editorial on March 31 hailed what they titled the "Mohali Summit": "That the two prime ministers met at Mohali... in an environment enlivened by what by any standards was a carnival is itself an achievement... A breakthrough was never expected, and nobody seemed to share the misplaced optimism generated by some TV channels on both sides. Nevertheless, we can detect a modest diplomatic gain: an invitation was sent by India, and Pakistan accepted it, the grace being mutual. This should be a matter of satisfaction seen against the background of the mistrust that has characterised India-Pakistan ties for six decades. More significantly, the Mohali meeting is a clear indication of the two prime ministers' resolve to pursue the peace process despite the hurdles."

Spoilsport Malik

A day before the high pressure cricket match, Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik's avoidable "strong warning" against indulging in match fixing to the Pakistan cricket squad came as a downer for the players, suggested papers. The News reported March 29: "The Pakistani cricket team was left fuming... after Rehman Malik issued it a public warning against match-fixing. Sources in the team told The News the players were 'really angry'... but decided not to react." The report quoted a player on conditions of anonymity: "Match-fixing has been an issue for the Pakistan team, but what really has angered us is the timing and the manner in which this warning has been issued... The minister does not have a very good command on English so he must have meant something else..." Former cricketer Aamir Sohail was also quoted: "He should have told the players personally rather than telling it out in the media."

Sportsman Afridi

Despite Pakistan's defeat in the match, captain Shahid Afridi is the new hero of the nation. The News, in its April 1 editorial, celebrated Afridi for his graciousness in defeat: "Afridi, who rules the hearts of Pakistanis, was able to win millions of hearts across the border. His post-match speech and press conference was not just graceful and full of sportsman's spirit but his charm and wit bowled over many a heart. Afridi congratulated the Indian team and their nation. He did not need to do it but he also apologised to the Pakistani nation... Pakistan is proud to have reached the semi-final in the World Cup and Afridi and our Men in Green have made us all proud."







For an FDI-starved nation, where people were beginning to argue policy-induced uncertainty was driving away investment, Vodafone's purchase of Essar's 33% stake is good news. The $5-bn deal, coming weeks after Reliance's $7.2-bn deal with BP for a 31% stake in the KG-D6 gas fields, would suggest the India story is back in the news. That the deal is in the scam-scarred telecom space is especially interesting since many argued, irresponsibly given the government mopped up over a lakh crore rupees in the 3G/BWA auction, the sector was not worth investing in anymore. Vodafone was, in fact, one of those making the most noises—about it having to shell out more than $2 bn on taxes for its original purchase of Hutch's shareholding in 2007 and about the spectrum shortage thanks to A Raja's favouritism. Given how Vodafone's global arm has $100 bn of annual revenues, the $5 bn may not be too difficult to absorb; in any case, given Vodafone India's $5.7 bn annual revenues, the amortisation costs of the deal can be absorbed by even the Indian arm.

While Essar has got a great payoff—the $5-bn valuation is significantly higher than the market prices for telecom stocks today—it will be interesting to see what strategy Vodafone adopts to ensure the FDI limits of 74% are not breached. It has been helped in the past by FDI rules that allow foreign firms to disguise their economic interests in Indian firms. Under the rules introduced in 2009, if Indians have a 51% stake in a firm, any investments by this firm are considered Indian investments—never mind if a foreign firm has a 49% stake in the parent firm or whether the Indian partners have raised their equity on the basis of bank guarantees by the foreign partner. This is what happened in 2007, and while Vodafone never got into trouble, it came in for a lot of flak and adverse attention. Given how Essar's exit makes little difference to either Vodafone India's customers or to how the business is run, perhaps it is time to be more transparent and allow 100% FDI in telecom. All that the 74% rule does is to create regulatory opportunities for Indian partners who are willing to play ball. Call it coincidence if you will, but it is significant that Essar's exit came on the same day the government announced the scrapping of Press Note 1—which suggests Indian industry is mature enough that it doesn't need to hold partners to ransom any more.





The single-most important figure in the preliminary Census data put out on Thursday is that of the rising literacy levels, from 65.38% in 2001 to 74.04% in 2011; within this, literacy levels for men have risen from 75.26% to 82.14% and those for women from 53.67% to 65.46%, which essentially means that more women (110.1 mn) were added to the literate pool as compared to men (107.6 mn) in the last decade. The revolution is actually even larger, though the preliminary figures don't give the numbers to help measure it. All literacy figures include those for older people as well, but what really matters from both the policy as well as from the point of view of having impact, is what's happening to the country's youth. While the 2001 literacy levels were 65.38%, that for those in the 10-14 age group were around 82% and around 77% for the 15-19 age group—these are probably in the 90% level today, given the overall 74.04% level. Juxtapose this literacy jump with the impact it has. Wages rise with each year of education—Surjit Bhalla estimates an increase of one year of average education raises GDP by 2.5-3 percentage points. And since it is the previously illiterate that are getting educated, any rise in their income levels suggests inequality levels will also be falling correspondingly. It remains true that literacy levels in populous states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa remain below those in the rest of the country, but the jumps here are greater than the average (from 47.53% to 63.82% for Bihar, 63.61 to 73.45 for Orissa and 57.36 to 69.72 for Uttar Pradesh), and probably explain the higher growth rates in these states.

The fall in the sex ratio for children is bad news and suggests the campaign against it, including making sex-determination illegal, hasn't really worked, though it is of minor comfort that there is some improvement in the habitual offender states in north India. The fall in population growth is welcome for the additional push it will give to per capita income growth, but the real meat will come once the Census processes other data. The rash of controversies over whether growth has been inclusive will be resolved somewhat when the Census comes out with its data on housing and assets—it could also generate more controversies as it did when the 2001 Census revealed there were more TV-owning households than those with bathrooms. The data on caste-groups will be awaited, and the likelihood that the government may ask Census officials to give data on the asset-ownership of various groups. Most important, as in the past, is what the analyses that flows from superimposing various datasets on each other—on housing and ST households, for instance. But we'll have to wait for two years for all the analyses to be available.





I had the very good fortune to be present at the Mohali match between India and Pakistan. Not the most thrilling of matches, but who needs cricket for excitement when rivalry provides the fever. And it is this rivalry, and the PM's initiative to attempt to develop peaceful relations with Pakistan, that is the subject of my heartfelt inquiry today.

Circa 1960 is when I was a few years into my deep fondness for sports, especially cricket. I was all of 12 years of age and excitedly went to see my first match, a Test match against Pakistan. That was the mother of the most boring of all cricket series. Maybe the England tour of 1980-81 matched it for intensity of boredom. In any case, to enjoy all cricket matches, and not just those involving India, like all genuine fans of a sport, you had to develop a preference ordering. The natural ordering (after India) was Pakistan, and then West Indies. Today, it is Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa and then West Indies. There is a logic to the ordering—culture and third-world solidarity. If India had lost at Mohali, I would have been rooting for Pakistan in the final. My South Indian friends would most likely have cheered for Sri Lanka, and Tamils born or raised in Delhi would be conflicted. This is not only as is, but as it should be.

It is only a 60-year political history which divides India and Pakistan, and a several thousand years history that unites us. We are the same people, and a north Indian, especially a Punjabi, has a lot more in common with a Lahorite than with a Chennai-based Tamil. And the latter has a lot more in common with a Sri Lankan, than with me.

What has religion got to do with it?

Back to Mohali. The atmosphere was fantastic, and soaking that in, one realised why even High Definition cannot replace the unique enjoyment of an on-the-ground tamasha. So one joined in the shouting, the cheering and the camaraderie. And enjoyed doing so—until the introduction of Hindutva. I haven't been to other India matches for a while (the Feroz Shah Kotla ground is an embarrassment of a stadium, and smells of CWG-type scams for miles) but what logic is there in singing the hymn 'Vande Mataram' at a cricket match? Would India supporters sing that in a match against Australia? No; then why a special treatment for Pakistan?

Because the song represents Hinduism and Pakistan is Muslim. But India has more Muslims than Pakistan or any country in the world outside of Indonesia. Should we be singing religious rhymes? The answer is obviously 'no', then why did the crowd at Mohali indulge in this? My favourite cheering song is Chak de India, but I didn't hear that in my stand. If Vande Mataram was bad enough, singing Jai Mata Di was even worse. How does that move a player to hit a six or get a wicket? But there was something good about what was not part of the cheering. A couple of attempts were made for slogans which implied death to the visitors. This was quickly snubbed by saner individuals in the audience. This is progress—next time, just Chak de, please. And, finally, one good thing that emerged with India's victory was that one did not have to suffer hearing Afridi thanking Allah. With all the problems in the world, God certainly has better things to support than victories in a cricket match—for Christ's sake, please. And a final word about the absurdity of singing Vande Mataram—ever wondered why national anthems are not part of cheering?

And now from the mind.

The quarter-finals, except for the New Zealand-South Africa and India-Australia matches, have been dreary affairs. The two semi-finals were, from a cricket excitement vantage point, pretty boring. Indians and Pakistanis may have found it exciting and yes 1.3 billion people reside there, but hey, you have got to admit that the cricket per se was well, not a thriller-in-Mohali. CricketX had rated India's chances of winning the match at 58%, and the match lived up to the forecast. Parenthetically, Sehwag should have been awarded man of the match, because his innings was the difference between the two teams on a slow pitch taking spin.

But get set to watch an intense and close cricket match today. CricketX has India as favourites, with a 52-48% advantage. This is about as close as you can get. First innings score predictions—India 245 and Sri Lanka 243. At CricketX, we have developed separate indices for overall team strength, batting and bowling. India's batting is about 7% better than Lanka, its bowling about 6% worse.

We have had an extraordinary run of good luck (along with good analysis!). Could this match be where we get stumped? The six ex-world cup captains, all players extraordinaire, have Sri Lanka as firm favourites. We say that it can go either way, and will be more exciting than the last several world cups. As exciting as 1983? Very possible—Chak de, India!

* Please visit for behind the scenes enjoyment of the great game of cricket

The author is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm





The UID scheme, given our disdain for the current system of providing support to the poor, has spoken of an alternative to the existing structure of public distribution, which is inefficient and needs to be replaced. The Union Budget has spoken of the same and spoken of the ubiquitous committees that will be looking at this issue. Does this really make sense or are we creating a new system that may only be a marginally better solution, if at all?

The problem with the PDS is not that it is intrinsically a bad scheme. In fact, it is a fairly smart scheme if implemented well. There are 4.99 lakh fair price shops catering to 330 million people, according to the ministry of consumer affairs. The problem is with the implementation: the first is the identification issue where the system of selecting the people is warped. The poor could get left out while the not-so-poor come in, which has only partly been addressed with the coloured cards concept. The more serious issue is the leakages in the form of grain being diverted. The question to be asked is, if corruption is in our blood, then can a new system actually overcome this shortcoming?

Let us look at the UID scheme, where each and every individual will have a unique identification number. This will be a laborious process and will be subject to administrative issues just as we have in the case of population census. Assuming that this is taken care of by superior systems by mapping all ration card holders to begin with so that no one is left out, then there is a case of opening a bank account for individuals. We do not have banks everywhere, which have created issues with microfinance institutions. This being the case, where will the money be transferred?

Suppose this is also taken care of through, say, post offices or retailers. Is there any guarantee that there will not be fraud committed by the person responsible for it just as it happens for the PDS where the ration shopkeeper says that the stocks have not come in? We will be back to hoping that the system is honest enough to address this issue. Next, once the money comes in, can we be sure that the person does not spend it on, say, liquor or gambling, which is a problem endemic to rural India. In this case, the money will not really go into buying food and the poor will continue to go hungry. The existing system is better because given the quality of grain distributed; there is no secondary market for the same! Food coupons are what the new pundits talk of. But this would be analogous to the PDS cards where there is fraud being committed and may not work smoothly as a grey market can develop for the same.

Now, to be charitable to this new design of UID, let us assume that these do reach the targeted people. How do we fix the amount of money that has to be transferred? Just remember that prices of foodgrains vary widely across the country. Considering that the people who receive the money have to buy at the market prices, they would have to receive differential amounts to buy their foodgrains. On January 31, for instance the retail price of rice varied between R14 in Agra to R27.5 in Ernakulam. Wheat varied between R12 in Agra to R25 in Hyderabad. How do we arrive at the right price to arrive at the amount to give to a family? Local politicians will try and lobby for higher prices for their constituencies and hence higher allocation.

Further, today we have, on paper, a good system that provides standard products at fixed prices to all the people. We will just not be able to crack this problem as once there is greater demand for foodgrains, automatically the market price will start increasing. We will then have to use another set of price indices to adjust these cash transfers to just as we have for Dearness Allowance for salaried workers. We do not have such indices across the country, and will end up creating a more distorted structure. Further, what happens to these structures of fair price shops that we have created?

This entire concept of UID is technologically speaking very eloquent and needed for the purpose of identification and goes steps ahead of the PAN card provided. But to expect it to change the structure of our distribution system is stretching our luck too far and we may just end up in a bigger mess. We may hence just be creating another white elephant and in the process destroy a system which is still working well in some of the southern states. Besides, when our intrinsic nature is profit-seeking from any good enterprise, structures may not really matter.

The author is chief economist, CARE Ratings. These are his personal views







Sometimes, the good news is inextricably tied up with the bad. Provisional data from Census 2011 indicate that India's population might stabilise soon with the slowing down of the growth rate. From 21.54 per cent in Census 2001, the decadal population growth fell to 17.64 per cent in 2011. In absolute terms, 2001-2011 is the first decade (if 1911-1921 is excluded) to add a smaller number to the population than the preceding decade. The other good news is that literacy rate climbed from 64.83 per cent in 2001 to 74.04 per cent in 2011. While literacy among males rose from 75.26 per cent to 82.14 per cent, an increase of 6.9 points, it rose among females from 53.67 per cent to 65.46 per cent, an increase of 11.8 points. Of the additional literates, women (110,069,001) outnumber men (107,631,940). The gap of 21.59 percentage points between men and women in 2001 now stands reduced to 16.68 points. The full census data, to be released next year, should provide policymakers a comprehensive view of where India stands on key indicators of socio-economic development, set against the goal of creating a more egalitarian and just society.

It is no surprise that the overall sex ratio (number of females for every 1,000 males) has shown improvement, from 932.91 in 2001 to 940.27 in 2011; a good part of this can be explained by the greater natural longevity of women and improvements in health care over the years. Lurking in the provisional population data, however, is a deeply disturbing set of statistics: a steep fall in the child sex ratio, which measures the number of girls for every 1,000 boys in the 0-6 years age group. The sex ratio in the 0-6 age group has been continually declining since 1961 but the fall from 927.31 in 2001 to 914.23 in 2011 is the worst since Independence. This trend and scale of decline in rising India is shocking. It can only be explained by the deadly application of the 'son preference' on a growing scale — through the instrumentality of sex-selective abortion, or female foeticide. Attempts to tackle female foeticide through bans on sex-determination tests imposed by the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act have been largely ineffective. In his essay 'Many faces of gender inequality' ( Frontline, November 9, 2001), Amartya Sen drew on the 2001 Census data to highlight the fact that India split into two when it came to the sex ratio in the 0-6 age group: the South and the East had a decent ratio while the entire North and the West revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Even though the regional split concealed many micro-level variations, the contrast was striking. It would be interesting to see if the same regional pattern continues in the 2011 Census but the overall child sex ratio data, which throw sharp light on social mores, are depressing.





Two recent exhortations by Jagdish Bhagwati and the WTO's Director-General Pascal Lamy to conclude the Doha round, though not original, are timely and send out some important messages. Both have warned against the consequences of a failure. The odds against concluding the round have remained high despite the lip service multilateralism has received over the years. Repeated failures to adhere to negotiating deadlines have induced a sense of scepticism, if not cynicism, over the final outcome. More than nine years after the start of the round, few people are willing to bet on a wrap-up any time soon. In fact, the possibility of a total failure is not ruled out, although trade negotiators, meeting periodically at Geneva, have been working hard for a consensus on some of the key contentious issues. In several ways, the world's major trading nations are moving away from the spirit of multilateral trade. For instance, there has been a strong preference among countries, India included, for bilateral 'free trade' agreements, which, generally, take less time to forge and promise almost immediate results. However, it is not in the best interests of either trade or individual countries that a slew of bilateral pacts should dominate international trade. Going by the experience, these pacts lead to hegemony by the rich countries over the poor as well as discrimination and distortion in trade practices.

A multilateral trade agreement governed by uniform rules and procedures would help avoid such traps. Besides, it would give all member countries access to the disputes settlement body of the WTO, an institution through which the smallest member countries can direct the richest to stop distorting trade practices. Absent an agreement, the rule of law the WTO helped establish would be at risk of being considerably diluted. Even worse, the WTO might find itself becoming irrelevant. The irony is that after the global economic crisis of 2007 the world's leading economies have become acutely aware of the interdependence among them. The G20 countries, which tried to assume leadership of the global economy, bravely tried to find global solutions to common economic and social problems. The Seoul Summit of 2010 wanted the Doha round to be completed by 2011. However, with economic recovery spreading to the richer countries, there have been fewer compulsions to cooperate. On the contrary, jobless growth in the United States has stoked protectionist sentiment. At this juncture, the outlook for the Doha round is anything but bright.








Joseph Lelyveld may be many things — not all of them pleasant — but a falsifier of facts and misinterpreter of men he's definitely not. That's why the over-the-top assaults by Indian politicians on his authorial integrity seem so clueless and churlish. Anyone who's known the fastidiously careful Mr. Lelyveld would be amused by the attacks, which, among other things, have him suggesting in his new book — Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India — that Mahatma Gandhi was homosexual. In the aggregate, Mr. Lelyveld is painted by the pols as a deeply sinister figure with an agenda of his own.

No one has articulated what that agenda might actually be and why Mr. Lelyveld might want to implement it. Of course, the usual canards are being recklessly bruited about by the usual suspects — Zionist, agent provocateur, enemy of the Indian polity, underminer of traditional values, and so on — as if those who shout don't have dark secrets of their own. The jeremiads are certain to get more colourful in coming days. Stay tuned.

Pained as Mr. Lelyveld must be as these public protests become shriller, a part of him might even want to summon a smile. And why not? Since there's no such thing as bad publicity, sales of his 425-page book are certain to soar.

But Joseph Lelyveld, sinister? Please.

He's actually just plain old-fashioned Joe, a by-the-book newspaperman who rose from being a copyboy — a peon — to executive editor of one of the world's elite dailies, The New York Times. You don't get to the top of an international publication's masthead by fibbing your way around.

Neither do you get to be an acclaimed author by playing fast and loose with the world as it is. His memoir of South Africa during the apartheid years, Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White, won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. The prize also went that year to another former New York Times foreign correspondent, J. Anthony Lukas, author of Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families.

They had both served in India by the time they received their Pulitzers but neither man's award-winning works concerned the subcontinent directly. Mr. Lelyveld continued on his trajectory of gaining organisational power. Lukas wrote another magnum opus, Big Trouble, whose sweeping narrative covered the early 20th century, focussing on conflicts between miners and mining officials in the American state of Idaho. Before the book was published, Lukas hanged himself in his New York apartment. He had been suffering from depression for at least a decade.

I bring Tony Lukas into this essay about Joe Lelyveld because both men genuinely liked India when they lived there — and it showed in their reporting, which was empathetic without being egregiously emotional. I have always believed that the best foreign correspondents who covered India were Lelyveld, Lukas, Sydney H. Schanberg, also of the New York Times, and my late mentors, A.M. Rosenthal, who — as Joe did much later — went on to become The Times's executive editor, and James W. Michaels, who was in India during Independence for a wire service and eventually led the Forbes magazine in its glory days.

Smart reporters

They were smart reporters. They felicitously captured the cultures, customs and contradictions of the world's largest democracy. They told their stories as they saw them, but you knew that India had touched them. Each man obviously carried a valentine for India, and you at once understood that the struggle within the reporter was not about how to tell his yarn but about holding back his heart. Each man was immune to accusations of fabrication. And why would you want to make up things about India, anyway? The rich tapestry of daily life, the daily drama of development that these reporters relayed to their global readers possessed a vibrancy and vitality that was impossible to conjure up unless rooted in reality. The high adventure of India, Abe Rosenthal called it.

Of those five brilliant men, only Tony Lukas did not aspire to an editorship, and, of course, he never became an editor. I wish, though, that Joe Lelyveld hadn't become one either.

He wasn't very good at it. His people skills seemed handicapped by shyness, perhaps an affliction traceable to his traumatic childhood with a strong rabbi for a father and a sensitive, fey figure for a mother. Mr. Lelyveld wrote in Omaha Blues, a memoir of growing up, that the youngest of the three Lelyveld brothers had not been fathered by Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld of Cleveland, who had gained international fame for his leadership role in Reform Judaism, and for his support of civil rights in America, and of Israel's right to exist.

I've always held that the sensitivity Joe Lelyveld had amply demonstrated in his reportage from India, South Africa, Congo, London, Hong Kong, Vietnam and China, and in his books, did not necessarily carry over into his dealings with people. As a reporter, he was always tuned in to others' feelings; as an editor, he wasn't always terribly considerate toward his juniors, or especially mindful of their sensitivities.

I've probably read everything that Joe has ever written. But I learned long ago that while one might be an admirer of his style and savvy, there was no percentage in being an admirer of the man. Joe is uncomfortable with admiration, however genuine, and to me he always seemed a deeply unforgiving man.

I think that I can trace it back to the summer of 1968 when, while still a student at Brandeis University, I was serving as a summer intern at the New York Times. Joe Lelyveld had just returned to New York after his India stint. Spotting him in the cavernous Times newsroom, I approached him for an interview. He cordially agreed. I wrote it up for an Indian newspaper — not The Hindu — and I thought that was that.

But years later, after I was promoted to being a reporter for The Times, Sydney Schanberg told me that Mr. Lelyveld held it against me that I had gotten his words wrong. I probably did — would Joe ever lie? — and my version of his reality may have been different from his own. And years later still, after I had become a Times foreign correspondent in my own right and Joe was my editor, I could never push away the sense that Joe was out there, scolding silently. His editor's sarcasm — maybe it was wit? — didn't much reassure me as I traversed Africa and the Middle East, dealing with the dictators and fledgling democrats out there, and with demons of my own.

I once very nearly told Joe that I wished he hadn't left the correspondent's camel for the editor's saddle. But I wisely kept my own counsel. Joe was never one to laugh easily, and I always felt that he bore grudges.

I don't want to seem petty or jejune: I will leave settling scores for my memoirs. This is, after all, Joe Lelyveld's special moment in the sun, with mostly laudatory reviews of Great Soul, and with promising sales. He's already had many bright moments in a glorious career spanning six decades — he's 74 now — and Joe's bound to produce more magazine journalism in his post-editorship life as a reborn reporter. I hope that he also turns out more relentlessly researched books such as his Gandhi biography.

What he writes matters

My point, I suppose, is really this: Whatever one's view of Joe's extraordinary journalism and puzzling personality, what he writes matters. It matters because he is always the model reporter — even when he's donning the cap of an author: thorough, sceptical, a man who feels for his subjects, a man who synthesises cannily, a writer who is always accurate and graceful. There aren't nearly enough of Joe Lelyvelds out there.

And say this for Joe: It's impossible to imagine him making things up about Gandhiji, or about anyone he may be writing about. The Joe Lelyvelds of this world simply don't lie. They don't need to. They value truth — just as Gandhiji did.

(Pranay Gupte's next book, Dubai: The Journey, will be published by Viking Penguin this year. He can be reached at:








LONDON: Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party Government in Gujarat tried to use the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), the respected Ahmedabad-based non-governmental organisation, as a "conduit to disseminate communal ideologies"; and when the group resisted there were attempts to "obstruct" its work by withholding grants, "ostensibly over financial irregularities."

This is revealed in a United States diplomatic cable accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

The cable ( 41091: unclassified), sent by the U.S. Consul General (CG) in Mumbai, Michael S. Owen, on September 22, 2005, quoted SEWA general secretary Reemaben Nanawati as telling him that the organisation was facing the "wrath" of the State government for "resisting" pressure.

Mr. Owen wrote: "The general secretary of SEWA, a large and well-respected union and self-help organization for poor women, claimed that the GOG [Government of Gujarat] was hoping to use the group's reach and extensive membership as a conduit to disseminate communal ideologies. SEWA was resisting fiercely, the CG was told, and feeling the wrath of the GOG as a result."

The State government, Ms. Nanawati alleged, was being "vindictive" and "obstructing" SEWA's activities in the Kutch region.

'Withheld grants'

"The GOG was withholding grants for state projects being implemented by SEWA in the (Kutch) region, she said, ostensibly over financial irregularities…SEWA was resisting…since communal harmony among its members was an important factor for its success, she said. The resistance was making the GOG more vindictive and causing it to step up its pressure on the organization, she added. Due to lack of funds, over 12,000 extremely poor SEWA members have not received wages for over five months, Nanawati claimed," Mr Owen said.

Ms. Nanawati said the State government was trying to project an air of "normality" after the 2002 communal killings, but "politically" it was still pursuing a "divide and rule" agenda: a claim, Mr. Owen wrote, he heard from a number of Muslim and Christian activists he met.

Mr. Owen's own take on the situation in Gujarat was: "peaceful on the surface, yet state government continues its policies of communalization."

"In the longer term," he added, "the state government's clearly visible attempts to marginalize the Muslim minority and its discreet attempts to further communalize public life can only increase the risk of heightened tensions and renewed bloodshed in a state with a history of communal rioting."

Gujarat Chief Secretary Sudhir Mankad "lost his patience" when asked how many people had been convicted for their role in the 2002 riots, Mr. Owen wrote.

'Why the obsession?'

"He asked the CG why the U.S. was 'so obsessed' with the riots. 'You always express concern about the riots, but look what else is happening in the world,' Mankad complained…Reps of other diplomatic missions visited Gujarat to discuss the economy, education or cultural issues. The U.S. was always different. 'When I saw your schedule I asked myself why you need to talk to all these groups', he said, referring to the CG's NGO interlocutors…," Mr. Owen wrote, adding that he "underlined the importance the USG attached to human rights, and said we would continue to follow this issue closely."

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







CHENNAI: Did India have any "ulterior motive" in seeking to help Mauritius? The answer, according to a cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in Port Louis on December 15, 2006, citing Mauritian and Indian diplomats, was that India indeed had a subtext to its moves, and oil prospecting was one of them. Surprisingly, Mauritians, as the cable noted, were not only aware of this, but also ready to let India have its way, even indicating "willing subordination" ( 89644: confidential).

The Indian Ocean archipelago and India have strong cultural-historical links. Between the 18th century and the mid-20th century, the French and British colonisers of Mauritius brought Indians to work in the plantations or build its cities. Many of them settled in the island, and today more than half of the country's population is of Indian origin. Bilateral trade has been growing: in 2008 India exported goods worth Mauritian Rupees.31.76 billion (about $1 billion).

In 2006, reports appeared in the press alleging that Mauritius was thinking of ceding to India the 2,600-hectare twin Agalega islands, which are located 1,000 km north of Mauritius, en route to the Seychelles. Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam categorically denied these reports in the Mauritian Parliament. He stated that the "Government of India was willing to develop an economic development plan for the islands," and might improve an unusable landing strip.

However, after speaking to top aides of Mr. Ramgoolam, who apparently denied the reports, the U.S. diplomats recorded that Mauritian officials "displayed an unusual degree of nervousness and word parsing, which might indicate that there is more to these reports that the government has admitted."

There were also additional reasons for U.S. diplomats to suspect India's hidden interest in Mauritius.

The cable said: "Capt. Guy Adam, the President of the Seychelles Petroleum Company, told Conoff [consular officer] that he suspects there is exploitable oil reserves in the region between Seychelles and Agalega, and that this explained India's interest."

In October 2006, a three-member team from India visited the islands and assessed it. In addition, India, on its own initiative, carried out a hydrographic survey of the Agalega region, "at no cost to Mauritius." None of these assessments were handed over to the Mauritian government at least till the date on which the cable was sent. To Mauritian politicians, according to the cable, it was increasingly becoming evident that the motivation for India's assistance did not stem "from cultural affinity or magnanimity." Indian diplomats too confirmed to U.S. diplomats that 'Mother India' was not offering help "for cultural or sentimental reasons."

None of these seem to have been a matter of concern either to the government or the opposition parties. "The Leader of the Opposition privately told the DCM [Deputy Chief of Mission] in early 2006 that he supported the government's tilt towards India because 'India is the wave of the future and Mauritius is going to ride that wave'," the cable noted. It added that "India's domination of this relationship is skewed further by Mauritius' sense of economic vulnerability," partly caused by the EU's sugar pricing policy.

For the U.S., Mauritius has particular strategic importance because of Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos islands, where it has a military base. In 1965, these islands, which once belonged to Mauritius, were 'separated and retained by Britain.'

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





CHENNAI: The tale of an increasingly strained relationship between the Vatican and Pakistan, with the former suspecting the latter of supporting radical Islamist terrorism, emerges from cables accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

Two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, U.S. Ambassador Jim Nicholson and South Asia Bureau Afghanistan Coordinator Jeffrey J. Lunstead met the Vatican's Deputy Foreign Minister-Equivalent, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, and East Asia and Afghanistan Desk Officer Monsignor Luis Marrano De Montemayor, to discuss U.S. military actions in the Middle East, as well as Pakistan's role in counter-terrorism actions.

The Vatican's representatives appeared reluctant to trust Pakistan; Mr. Lunstead attempted to mollify their concerns.

Though "Lunstead conceded the problem was grave" and that "certain terrorists in Kashmir had received training in Pakistan and in Al-Qaida camps," he made it clear that "the Secretary…had condemned all terrorism" ( 2134: confidential, dated November 2, 2001).

"General Musharraf," Mr. Lunstead said, "had a unique opportunity to curb extremist elements in his country," according to the cable.

However, Mr. Lunstead said, "while committed to [the American-led] coalition, Musharraf faces domestic pressure because Pakistanis oppose the air campaign," which led the Pakistani General to call "for its early end."

While "Migliore worried further at the risk to Pakistan's stability," Mr. Lunstead "voiced confidence in General Musharraf, praising his swift repudiation of the Taliban, a turnaround that raises hopes Musharraf will now also face down radical Islam within Pakistan," the cable says.

Over two weeks later, however, the Vatican remained unconvinced.

'Unreliable player'

According to a cable dated November 19, 2001 and classified by Mr. Nicholson, Vatican representatives restated that the Holy See "judges Islamabad an unreliable coalition player and distrusts Musharraf" ( 2205: confidential).

"Montemayor made clear that there is no love lost between the Vatican and Musharraf."

He recounted how "in a late October visit to Islamabad by Archbishop Paul Cordes, head of Cor Unum, the Vatican's umbrella aid arm, contact with Musharraf and the [Government of Pakistan] was kept to a minimum."

Despite previous U.S. assurances that Pakistan could be trusted, Monsignor Montemayor stated that, as far as the Vatican was concerned, "Pakistan…remains a nation of grave concern."

Monsignor Montemayor then went on to question Pakistan's loyalty to the anti-terrorism efforts, accusing Musharraf of being "unable or unwilling to challenge Islamic radicals," in the cable.

"The Vatican strongly doubts reports of a sea change in Musharraf's politics," according to the cable. "If Bin Laden finds refuge in Baluchistan," said Monsignor Montemayor, "the U.S. would find Musharraf hard put to deliver on his pledges."

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






CHENNAI: Turkey's attempts to maintain diplomatic ties with Pakistan stemmed from concerns that the latter was becoming increasingly "isolated" on a global scale, but the efforts benefited Turkey as well, according to a January, 26, 2004 cable, classified by Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Ankara Robert Deutsch ( 13493: confidential).

A January 19-22 visit to Turkey by Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf is described as "heavy on ceremony and warm rhetoric," but lacking in substance. Instead, it appeared "designed to cement ties, which had become testy in 2002, and to avoid controversy," according to the cable, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

"The Musharraf visit was another step in cementing relations that became testy in 2002," when Turkish Prime Minister Mustafa Bulent Ecevit, upon "visiting India in April, said it would be impossible for Turkey to support a military regime (in Pakistan)." And, "citing health reasons, Ecevit…canceled a scheduled May visit" to Pakistan, the cable says.

However, upon succeeding Mr. Ecevit, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan "visited Pakistan in June 2003," according to the cable.

According to an unnamed Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, the Government of Turkey "sees the Musharraf government as relatively good, considering Pakistan's internal situation, and does not want to see Pakistan further 'isolated' internationally," the cable says.

However, Turkey benefited from maintaining the diplomatic ties. "The Musharraf visit appealed to two very different currents in Turkish foreign policy," according to the cable. "For the secular establishment, Musharraf gives the image of a secular authority figure who, at least rhetorically, has taken on religious extremism. For PM Erdogan's [conservative Justice and Development (AK) Party] government, cementing ties with Pakistan gives AK's more pious supporters a greater sense of Islamic solidarity."

Though "public rhetoric from Musharraf and his Turkish interlocutors during the visit repeatedly condemned terrorism and religious extremism," and "Turkey and Pakistan signed an anti-terror cooperation agreement," it may have been more symbolic than anything else, according to the cable.

"If we squeeze Pakistan too much we're afraid we may lose them," the cable quotes Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs South Asia Head Ergin Soner as saying.

This attitude may have led to Mr. Deutsch's assertion, according to the cable, that Turkish and Pakistani officials "apparently skipped over key issues."

Nuclear "non-proliferation was a non-issue in the visit," the cable says, and "public statements during the visit avoided any mention of the subject."

Despite "historically close mil-mil [military-military] ties," according to the cable, "interlocutors gave no sign that the two sides discussed further enhancement."

Instead, the cable says, "economic aspects were the most important," at least according to Pakistani Third Secretary Janbaz Khan, "who did the advance work on the visit."

"Pakistan and Turkey signed three economic agreements during Musharraf's visit," which Mr. Soner hoped would "help pave the way for Turkish construction firms to win major contracts in Pakistan." Mr. Soner complained "that Turkish companies have been shut out and Chinese firms have won contracts instead," according to the cable.

Mr. Khan "said Pakistan is interested in Turkish construction firms, but has been reluctant to hire Turkish firms since an incident in which a Turkish construction firm defaulted on its contracted performance and the Turkish bank guaranteeing the project refused to pay damages," the cable says.

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







The provisional 2011 census data released on Thursday reinforces our status as the world's most populous nation after China, but it's now clear the gap has closed so much that the two Asian giants can almost be treated as a joint number one. While China's population is 1.35 billion, we have just learnt we are now 1.21 billion. On income and development indices, however, India is so far behind China that our policymakers must innovate desperately — and implement policy efficiently — if this country is to have the chance to convert its huge population into an impressive human resource. This essentially boils down to crafting policy, and inducing the means, to ensure food, shelter, education, health and training for around 40 per cent of our people in an environment in which the economic infrastructure is rapidly expanded (so that healthy, well-trained people can make a contribution to the national economy). It is not just a question of matching China. The Chinese example is cited to show that very large populations can be a national asset, and not a curse — as the traditional view has it. The question is really one of bringing comfort to our own people. This is what the principle of inclusive growth, which our leaders so routinely pay lip service to, mandates. The task is humongous. If we are not equal to it, all the talk over the past decade about India's international power status will be mocked at — by our own people and the rest of the world.

Thankfully, the decadal population growth has slowed down. In 2001-2011, the rise was 181 million (increase of 17.6 per cent). With the exception of 1911-21 (nearly a century ago), this is the first time the population grew less than in the previous decade. This is fortunate, or the aggregate of development tasks would be an even greater challenge.

The conventional theory is that population numbers are prone to decline when the level of economic well-being rises (and there are no other strong factors like war, mass migration or comprehensive famine). So we can give ourselves a small pat on the back. Despite our blundering ways, we must have done a few things right. But beware: we have not set the stage for a celebration. But it is just conceivable that we may be in the takeoff stage on the trajectory of self-sustained growth. That, however, won't happen if we can't successfully address the kind of problems that people like the Maoists seek to bring to our attention every day through their violent acts. Really, if intense and cooperative national effort can be mounted to pull up laggard states like UP and Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, MP and Chhattisgarh by their bootstraps, we should be home and dry in the next 10-15 years. Sympathetic policy — appealing to market and non-market institutions and structures — and the right political and social environment must be espoused and supported by the national and state-level leaderships. Anything which divides or denigrates ordinary people must be out of the window.

To our shame, this census also shows the decline in the child sex ratio (the number of girls for every 1,000 boys in the 0-6 age group) has been the worst in a long time, and that this declining trend has taken hold over half a century (since 1961). Some of the disturbing data comes from relatively prosperous states like Punjab, Haryana and Tamil Nadu. Instead of being tempted to blame this on our feudal gene, we as a society need to seek answers. If the prejudicial trend persists, we run the risk of becoming an unenlightened society and, finally, a sub-optimal population.







"Where Modesty is eloquent,

Humility is drama..."

From Pale Shrieks

by Bachchoo

The law of all countries that respect freedom of speech says that you can't libel the dead. The law of libel, of which I became aware when working for television, rather than through legal study, in the UK is intended to prevent causing someone harm or distress by questioning or ruining their reputation. This remains true even if the denigration of the person's character or a description of their behaviour happens to be true.
Exposure of a private individual's foibles, misdemeanours, ridiculous or questionable habits or tastes are not fair game unless it can be proved that the exposure is in the public interest. So the behaviour of politicians and people who presumably, being in the public eye, are considered to have some public responsibility can be probed and exposed. Wanna be a celebrity? Take the flak, you're stupid enough to be fair game!
If a private individual, for instance, uses prostitutes and a newspaper publishes the fact and thereby ruins his marriage and his business, that's libel. If the deputy chair of the Conservative Party, such as Jeffrey Archer was, is exposed as using prostitutes, that's not.

In a democracy the public good is up for constant debate. It is obvious that if a parliamentarian buys votes, the exposure of that fact is good and necessary. If a person entrusted with running a public fund or event sidelines the money set aside for it or takes bribes that too is more than worthy of exposure as it's criminal activity. No argument.

In India though, where the sacred overlaps with the profane, there seems to be a grey area or even a contradicting confusion about the distinction between libel and blasphemy. Some national figures, some dead and some alive, are presumed to be beyond unfavourable comment because they've achieved the status of saints.

Some years ago I wrote a film called The Rising, also known as Mangal Pandey, about the first mutineer in the 1857 Uprising in the East Indian Company army. On the release of the film some litigants sought to sue the producers for bringing a national hero into disrepute. They claimed direct descent from and so a family connection with Mangal Pandey. Denigrating him would denigrate them. The fact that Mangal had been dead for a 150 years should have prevented any such case being filed, but the law in India seems to be flexible and their case was admitted, heard and dismissed. The producers, it was deemed, in an extremely eloquent long and even literary judgment, had no case to answer.

That was Mangal Pandey. But what of living souls of a certain notoriety? A year and some ago I wrote a novel called The Bikini Murders. Its central character was called Johnson Thaat. When it was published, Charles Sobhraj who is, rightly or wrongly, serving a life sentence in a Kathmandu jail, and his French lawyer considered that I had libelled Sobhraj. There is no hiding the fact that my acquaintance with Charles supplied me with suggestions for the life patterns of a fictional serial murderer, but I really don't know if or how Charles Sobhraj himself murdered anyone. That's best left to the courts and not to writers of fiction to decide.
Nevertheless both Charles and his lawyer appeared on TV and threatened to sue me (how do Indian TV journalists get into a Kathmandu jail? I demand a parliamentary enquiry!). I don't know if a convicted murderer can argue that a book of fiction has brought him into disrepute. I suspect the case for libel won't be filed and, yes, I constantly watch my back.

And now a book that alleges that Mahatma Gandhi was bisexual is in the process of being banned from India. For the reasons that I feel the law of libel should be followed to the letter and that I feel Gandhiji can be acknowledged as a Mahatma but shouldn't be mythologised and sainted, I don't agree with the ban. I do, however, understand the sentiment that impels it.

When I was in my teens my father overheard me in a heated discussion with Marxising friends about nationalism in which I said "Gandhi... etc." My father, an Army officer, uninterested in the argument, approached me frowning.

"You! In this house you say 'Gandhiji' or 'Mahatma Gandhi' or get out!"

I don't feel the lesson in respect should extend to American writers. Joseph Lelyveld's book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India quotes the correspondence between Gandhi (he was in South Africa and wasn't "Mahatma" yet!) and his German friend Hermann Kallenbach. The prose is Victorian/Edwardian and overblown: "Your portrait (the only one) stands on my mantelpiece... the corns, cotton wool and Vaseline are a constant reminder".

And then again "how completely you have taken possession of my body... this is slavery with a vengeance". Gandhi writes to him later after they form a "contract" by which Gandhi enjoins Kallenbach to "promise not to look lustfully upon any woman". The two then pledge "more love, and yet more love... such love as we hope the world has not yet seen".

Apart from the conventions of the prose of the time, there are two elements that Lelyveld may have overlooked. The first is the Sufiesque expression of unchained and intense "love" which need not take any physical form but is expressed physically to denote even a divine devotion. Compare for instance, Rumi's poetic declarations to Shams-u-Tabriz.

Secondly, Gandhiji imposed several disciplines on himself believing that sexual attractions were distracting from moral purpose and that sexual activity was in some sense sapping moral intent. He certainly believed that abstinence was the path to rectitude and perhaps in that context urges celibacy on his friend Kallenbach.
I don't know what the corn, cotton and vaseline are about — but honi soit qui mal y pense.

As for India banning the book I can't see why the American or foreign public should have material available to them which Indians are denied. Surely Indians, most concerned about and most acquainted with Gandhiji's works and character are best equipped to query, comment on, criticise or refute Lelyveld's contentions or interpretations?






Has Mahatma Gandhi's charkha come full circle? Is our Father of the Nation dying of the once flourishing symbolism that he had nurtured? The state of the nation he left behind, crowned by the banning by his home state of a new biography that hasn't yet reached bookstores, suggests as much.
Joseph Lelyveld's Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India has just been published in the US and instantly banned in Gujarat. Because reviewers armed with advance copies mentioned that the book suggests that Gandhi was slightly racist in his early years in South Africa, and perhaps had a homosexual or "homoerotic" relationship with his friend Hermann Kallenbach. Maharashtra, that uninhibited protector of chauvinist sentiment, is contemplating a ban too. So was the Government of India, though it has backed off. But how can the Centre not take credit for protecting Gandhi's honour? So it seems to be cunningly devising ways to jail anyone who dares to disrespect the Mahatma. Apparently, the law ministry is tweaking the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, so that disrespecting Gandhi is treated at par with an offence against the National Flag or the Constitution. Finally, the Mahatma of Symbols is getting proper recognition.
Gandhi's incredible vision and human insight made him one of the greatest leaders of the world, the "naked fakir" who armed the wretched of the earth with a deadly moral weapon. But what really made him the Mahatma was his brilliant use of symbols. He recognised the importance of symbols as a rallying force and used it to fantastic effect — from building the "Mahatma" brand to leading a huge, demographically diverse, politically fractured, culturally pluralistic, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-caste, multi-linguistic, mostly illiterate country to Independence.

Politics is largely a game of cultural symbolism, and Gandhi perfected the art. It started with his own body — the frugality of his vegetarian meals, the poor and "Harijans" he ate with, the loincloth he wore instead of a lawyer's suit and tie. "It has become the fashion to laugh at my loincloth", he had said archly to the British. And explained why. "Millions of Indians own nothing in the world but that little strip of cloth which preserves them from disgrace. I am not leading a 'back to the loincloth' movement. We have been in these straits ever since the British have ruled India. In London, if I am invited to visit His Majesty the King Emperor, I will wear nothing more than that which is the symbol of India's distress — the loincloth".

Gandhi harnessed the power of symbols. So a march to the seashore to pick up a handful of salt could unite the country in rebellion. His protest fasts could bring the Raj to its knees. His broom and his community prayers could gather followers in humility to build a casteless, pure society. And his charkha could become the symbol of self-reliance and the struggle for freedom.

But symbols have their limits. Especially when you forget what the symbol represents. Rabindranath Tagore, who was Gandhi's good friend and supporter and the one to hail him as "Mahatma", had voiced this fear way back in 1925. "The charkha does not require anyone to think", he said, "one simply turns the wheel of the antiquated invention endlessly, using the minimum of judgment and stamina".

In his essay Cult of the Charkha, Tagore made an incisive and perhaps prophetic argument against Gandhi's symbolic use of the spinning wheel. He pointed out that opposing scientific advancement with ancient technology was against progressive thought, and emphasised the importance of intellectual judgment and clear reasoning against mechanical wheel-spinning in any struggle for self-realisation. "I am afraid of a blind faith on a very large scale in the charkha, in the country which is so liable to succumb to the lure of short cuts…" Tagore wrote, "Our country is the land of rites and ceremonials, so that we have more faith in worshipping the feet of the priest than the Divinity whom he serves". He hated the idea of a "people dazed into obedience" mindlessly spinning. Tagore wished for more intellectual involvement, more rational commitment of the people for any constructive social or political change.

"I am strongly of the opinion that all intense pressure of persuasion brought upon the crowd psychology is unhealthy for it", he wrote. "Some strong and widespread intoxication of belief among a vast number of men can suddenly produce a convenient uniformity of purpose, immense and powerful". This "miracle of a wholesale conversion" is a "catastrophic phenomenon" that "stuns our rational mind" raising false hopes "like a boom in the business market". We need to go beyond symbols for lasting progress.
Today, almost a century later, we fiercely cradle symbols while crushing the ideas they stand for. Banning Great Soul is just another example — along with the rampant corruption, dishonesty, caste politics, religious appeasement and other ailments of Mother India — of how horribly lost we are in empty rituals. Keeping booze shops closed on October 2 doesn't quite make up for it.

This week, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi announced in the Assembly that he was banning the book because it was "perverse" and "hurt the sentiments of those with the capacity for sane and logical thinking". (No, we don't know why such easily hurt people did not employ this "capacity for sane and logical thinking" while thousands of Muslims were butchered in Gandhi's home state in 2002.) The Congress opposition quickly chimed in supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party government, calling the book perverse, baseless, an insult to the Mahatma and calling for means to ensure that such things never happen again.

As all parties fall over each other to protect Gandhi from aspersions of bisexuality, they reveal our ignorance of Gandhi's ways and our shameful homophobia. We have forgotten that Gandhi had embraced celibacy as a symbol of purity — and wrote at length about his experiments with his own sexuality — but retained a passionately amorous language to express his love for others. The death of his nephew Maganlal had "widowed" him, he said. And wrote to the sick C.F. Andrews: "If you cannot have a nurse like me, who would make love to you but at the same time enforce strict obedience to doctor's orders, you need a wife…" Maybe the Mahatma's protectors would like to ban his Collected Works?

In the hands of the rudimentary, simple-minded folk who rule today, Gandhi's three monkeys telling us to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, have become censors of free thought. Sadly, the charkha of Gandhi's symbolism has turned against Gandhi's quest for truth.

Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at:






Thank God good sense prevailed on Union law minister M. Veerappa Moily as he decided not to ban Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India written by Joseph Lelyveld, the former New York Times editor. Having spouted furious condemnation about the book (without having read it) and even considering an anti-blasphemy law protecting the Mahatma's memory from desecration, Mr Moily had second thoughts or has been persuaded by higher powers to change his mind. A welcome move, which we can only hope that the chief ministers of Gujarat and Maharashtra will follow. To even allow this sort of constant suppression of literature and art by both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress ruled states makes one wonder what kind of country we aspire to be. Is this India, a thriving opinionated democracy? Or is this China where you can be jailed by the thought police?

For far too long we have suffered from biased and sycophantic biographers and historians who prefer to apply a liberal dose of whitewash to everything we get to read, especially about politicians. And the reason behind their fearful accounts is obvious: if they were to publish the truth, their careers may be destroyed, the books may be banned or access may be denied forever to the powers that be.

Thus, often we have to turn to historians abroad to get another point of view. No matter what the source, at least this nurtures a plurality of thought. However, the current fracas reveals an overwhelming fear. What if the icons we worship were found to be human after all? What if they had human failings and were occasionally, even politically incorrect? The immediate reaction is to shoot the messenger.

But the nonchalant answer to all this brouhaha should be "so what?" The strangest part in this controversy is that it concerns Mahatma Gandhi, who had maintained a transparency between his public and private life. He had put everything about himself, his family life, his sexual thoughts, even about the state of his stools into the public domain, along with his political agenda. In fact, were he alive today he would be blogging and tweeting 24x7. He would tweet about what was happening to and around him.

His own experiments with truth, with his body and mind are well recorded (by him) and certainly, even this new "accusation" that he was bisexual would have possibly intrigued him, but never angered or upset him. He was a modern man, curious and adventurous. And his answer would probably have been: "let's take out those letters and look at them, and let me re-examine my own relationship". Why not? He had the courage of integrity and conviction.

Lelyveld has now been forced into saying that he has not mentioned anything about bisexuality or racism in his book. But, the Mahatma would have surely replied: "Let's talk about it anyway. What is sexuality, and what is bisexuality? And how do you define racism?"

Quite amusingly, while Narendra Modi, Ashok Chavan and Mr Moily are all gnashing their teeth over this insult to the Mahatma, at the other end of the spectrum are so-called liberals who are aghast that Lelyveld has not understood the special asexual relationship men from the subcontinent often share with each other. Both point of views are equally ridiculous because obviously, none of the current dramatis personae were present when the Mahatma was interacting with his German friend Hermann Kallenbach. All that Lelyveld has done is presented a series of facts before us with some quotations from people he has interviewed.
The interpretation of these is up to us but we have no right to impose that opinion on anyone else. Even if he has referred to the relationship as being homoerotic, would that distort the fact that Mahatma Gandhi was able to change the history of India? And as for reviewers? Well, by sensationalising it, the tabloid concerned may have helped to actually sell more copies of the book.

On a sadder note, according to the latest census report, once again there is a decline in the sex ratio of children between the ages of zero to six; with around 914 girls for 1,000 boys. Is it time to stop congratulating ourselves about how well we are doing and wake up? Obviously, this indicates rampant sex selection and the continuing failure of government policies to reverse the trend.

Nothing will shake up our patriarchal system unless women are given a completely equal social, economic and political status, alongside men. This is well known the world over and other governments are working towards it, with positive measures, such as quotas and reservations.

One wonders why the Indian government cannot, instead of a caste-based quota, introduce universal gender-based quotas for girls at all levels, right from primary school onwards up to reservations for jobs. Too much time has already been wasted. And now there should be some urgency before millions of more infant girls die.

Meanwhile, on an interesting evening in Delhi, one listened to the controversial pit bull mom, Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska. Even though I disagreed with much of what she had to say at the India Today Conclave, I was impressed with her optimism both about America's future and herself. She even highlights the fact that she is a mother and a wife and that she writes her speeches on her kitchen table, speaking with a simplicity that sometimes borders on caricature.

She is a completely unique American women politician. While others aspire for intellectual credentials she abjures sounding too smart or too clever. And yet, I have to say that there were many in the room who nodded in agreement with her views on small government and low tax regimes… But would she stand for presidency again? Ms Palin left us guessing.

Kishwar Desai can be contacted at








The semi-final at Mohali is over. It was all smiles as the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers held an impromptu mini-summit over a cricket match in Mohali, saying they would work toward achieving permanent peace between their nuclear-armed nations. The meeting - put together over the last week as their cricket teams faced off for a World Cup semifinal match - seems to have restarted efforts to restore trust after a long period of testy relations. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Wednesday's meeting a "good beginning," while his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani said his country desired "good neighborly relations" and invited Singh to visit Pakistan. Whether the comments reflect a real change in diplomacy is yet to be seen. Similar overtures have fallen flat in recent decades with both sides holding deeply entrenched opposing views on key issues, including rival claims to Kashmir, where heavily armed troops remain deployed along a cease-fire line. India - still cautious after Pakistan-based militants went on a deadly terror rampage in the city of Mumbai in 2008 - says Islamabad has failed to crack down on militants on its soil. This is despite several reminders from New Delhi and passing on dossiers that contain detailed proof of the involvement of Pakistani agencies. Both prime ministers also face strong opposition to compromise at home, after decades in which the countries have viewed each other as major threats to national security and fought three wars. Gilani's civilian government also struggles to operate independently from Pakistan's powerful military. India's main opposition BJP insisted that any efforts to resume talks "cannot be de-linked from the terror threat. Pakistan will have to give enough assurances to India about steps being taken to check sponsoring of terror from its soil" before full-scale talks can begin, BJP spokeswoman Nirmala Sitharaman said.

The prime ministers, mindful of the deep mistrust on both sides, emphasized their desire for friendship between their nations, which have deep cultural, religious, linguistic and familial ties stretching back before they were created in 1947 and won independence from British rule. "There are difficulties on the way, but we will make every honest effort to overcome those difficulties," Dr. Singh said after the meeting, which included a dinner attended by dozens of high-ranking Indian and Pakistani officials. "The resolution of all issues through dialogue will bring peace and prosperity to our people," Gilani said in a statement.

The feel-good factor trickled down to those at the game. Even as India won the match, fans in the stands cheered heartily for both teams, and one sign held aloft read "Friends Forever." Players on both sides made gracious remarks about the skill of their opponents. And with all hotels near the match stadium booked up, residents opened their homes to visiting Pakistanis. Ruling Indian Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul, also watched the match and joined Singh and Gilani for dinner - underlining the government's support for resuming dialogue with Pakistan. India wants to be seen by the world as a responsible country, not a petty one. At the same time Indian side is trying to bolster Pakistan's civilian government, and this cricket match was a great way to do that. No one can object to such a meeting over a cricket match. India and Pakistan have yet to resume formal peace talks on resolving their most rigid disputes, such as Kashmir though lot of spade work has been done by the home secretaries of the two countries. Seeking little victories to start off with, they resumed dialogue on less controversial issues only this week, after a two-year break over the 2008 Mumbai attack. The home secretaries, meeting in New Delhi, agreed to set up a terrorism hotline and to cooperate on the Mumbai attack investigation - a major step in placating Indian concerns. The secretaries for commerce, defense and foreign secretaries are to meet in coming months, eventually leading to a resumption of the peace dialogue between the foreign ministers, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said. India's former ambassador to Pakistan, Gopalaswami Parthasarathy, said the plan seemed reasonable, though he was skeptical of any major breakthroughs being made soon. "What is important is to avoid a fiasco at high-level meetings. That is why there was no particular agenda for the meeting," Parthasarathy said. Notwithstanding this and other cautious views, New Delhi is trying to engage the Pakistani civilian government for repairing fractured relations between the two countries, an effort which should evoke positive response and support from their respective civil societies.







On Saturday, cricket giants, India and Sri Lanka will clash for the cup. Speculations are rife who would be the winner. Even top cricketers world over are keenly watching the event but at the same time are unable to predict the outcome. Kapil Dev, the legendry all rounder captain and winner of world cup for India is a man with rare vision and understanding of the philosophy of the game. Commenting on the performance of the Indian Captain MSD, Kapil had the final word. He said that a captain has not to be judged by whether he wins or loses the match. He has to be judged from aspects beyond that. Then he cited the example of Australian captain Ponting saying that despite having won two world cups, Ponting was removed from the captaincy of his team. This is a remarkable appreciation from one great cricketer of another great cricketer. Before the semi final, Kapil had said that a cricket match had to be appreciated beyond the winning or losing factor; vast number of people have deep interest in the game and the skills displayed by the players. The game provides entertainment to the watchers and unfolds the beauty of the game, which, in a sense, is a thrill people enjoy. Moreover it brings people closer and establishes cultural and psychological links among them. The final between India and Sri Lanka on Saturday has to be appreciated from that point of view as well. It should not evoke childlike euphoria but should stimulate sublime thinking that it is nice to be the citizen of the world.









i told myself there's no point in awaiting the outcome at Mohali where India and Pakistan are still battling it out as I write. Looking up north, towards the sub-Himalayan cricket ground, on the outskirts of Corbusier's city beautiful, Chandigarh, from my basement workroom in the fast growing city of high-rises, a far cry from the description of millennium city bestowed on it by money-sharks, the builders, I wonder what all the hullabaloo is about, with all those dusty tracks and pot-holed roads.
Someone, I am told bought a Rs. 750 ticket for a lakh plus for the Mohali Indo-Pak match; The man let me assure you had not gone to Mohali to see the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan. More likely he wanted to check on how much and how efficiently the bookies had done the people in. I don't know who decided to call this silly game called cricket, the King of sports. Far from it.
I would any time spend my 90 minutes TV watching a distant football match played somewhere in the UK or Italy or Spain. Don't say I am spitting sour grapes. No, not at all. I am a member of the longstanding Delhi and District Cricket Association founded in 1935. You wouldn't know that in 1950 when I began my professional journey it was as a sports reporter. Coming from a non-cricketing background my first "victims" included Abdul Hafeez Kardar. Lindsay Hassett, the three Ws, Worrell, Walcott and Weekes not to mention the likes of Amarnath, Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Merchant Mushtaq Ali.
Since I did not own a car then to flaunt my parking label I planted my label on the kerosene-lit front light. Technology got rid of the kerosene contraption within a couple of years on when BSA, Hercules etc. "invented" the other contraption that generated "electricity", when the head of the fist-sized machine rubbed against the moving wheel. The harder you pedalled the better you saw. Mind you, I did not need the light to see the handsome Frank Worrell cuddling the big-bosomed Begum Para, a Mumbai actress who later went to Lahore with her filmi beau, Begum I can vouch for it did not need much persuasion to let Worrell have a little play before he left the members lounge at Willingdon Pavillion, located on the ground floor, visible to one and all, leaving it to his bat to do the talking.
You didn't need a six-figure amount to buy a ticket; the East Stand was populated by students at eight annas per head; the west stand with large neem trees providing shade cost Re. one and the pavilion, tiered grassy stands Rs. 2 with a car park ticket thrown in for those who owned cars.
By the time I became a member of the four-wheeled club five of us (four non reporters) had formed our own cricket club at the ground; we would buy four five bottles of beer from Laxmi Bar in Chandni Chowk at ten annas a bottle, half pint of gin bottle for five rupees to down all the parathas and keema we had got from home (rotational basis), with.
Yes, I did miss an over or two at each break but goodmen like S.K. Gurunath (Hindu) K.N. Prabhu (Times of India), Uncle Jadhav from Hindustan Times, Cyril Flory (The Statesman) and others would always fill in the gaps, always wagging the accusing finger (alcoholics!). I could have gone on and on, for instance how I covered a six day test match (the fourth day used to be a break) in Lucknow against Pakistan - Kardar, Fazal Mohammad Nur Elahi, Khan Mohammad Imtiaz etc- on a princely allowance of Rs. 70 which included return train fare and board and lodge for seven days. By the time the players and the covering Press began to travel like Kings, I had shifted to politics with an overdose of Foreign Office, Parliament and some their Central Ministries.
I look out of my basement window, seeing myself in the middle of the noisiest part of the Mohali crowd, sadly surrounded not by knowledgeable students of the game but by policemen, uniformed and civvis, some carrying weapons openly others discreetly hiding them - their eyes fixed on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gilani a second look out of the window I saw a whole lot of eyes staring at me not because of my imaginary Mohali trip but wondering actually, if I had gone mad at the late hour.
The Prime Ministers obviously couldn't have been seeing cricket all the time. The feed-back from the Home Secretaries talks held the previous day in Delhi had already been received by them. The two leaders had so much to talk that even two to three days would hardly have sufficed. Unlike the captains of the two cricket teams, just before the start of the match, the Prime Ministers couldn't afford to have said "we have prepared to our strengths, it's a question of who play better this day".
Singh and Gilani must have envied the two captains. They didn't have the luxury enjoyed by the captains. Manmohan Singh's main objective at Mohali would conceivably have been threefold. To underscore that India and he personally remain committed to building a relationship with Pakistan imbued with good neighbourliness. This reiteration was called for given the eddies of domestic politics in India - and in Pakistan. Wikileaks cables from the American embassy from Islamabad have shown that Manmohan Singh commands much more respect in Pakistan as a statesman who sincerely wishes for friendly relations. Do not think of the swelling number of Jihadists in Pakistan, remember that the groundswell of public opinion in that country always favours a predictable, normal relationship.
Dr. Singh in suddenly asking his Pakistani counterpart to comeover to Mohali to see the two countries at play would have factored in that only through a hands-on approach can India and Pakistan relationship be turned around. History is replete with instances when hopelessly bogged down relations like the one between India and Pakistan are rescued by direct top level diplomacy. God alone knows how many opportunities have been lost by the Indian and Pakistani (military included) leaders in the past 65 years to mend bilateral relations.
Beginning with Nehru and Liaquat Ali to the last days of Gen. Pervez Musharraf I can reproduce a very long list of missed opportunities.
Many a time I have seen the delegations of the two countries having virtually come to signing an agreement on one issue or the other only to be consigned to the dust-bin. How often have I not heard of the willingness of the leaders of India and Pakistan wishing to discuss proposals with foresight and determination. And yet, sadly come in to the square one in the end.
Takes me back in time again. I was working with a lesser known version of Indian Express then, when our very fertile Jodhpur Correspondent sent us an innocent cable (it used to be a telegram) saying Jawaharlal Nehru was willing to go halfway to meet his Pakistani counterpart Liaquat Ali Khan.
Promptly our man in Jodhpur concluded with the help of a set square etc. to fix the halfway point exactly between Karachi and Delhi at the correspondent's favourite city of Jodhpur
Then there was the time when Gen. Ziaul Haq wanted to stop over in Delhi officially en route to Nepal. No sooner was a suggestion received in New Delhi, than Mrs. Gandhi said no to an official stopover. The General could instead join her for a quick lunch, and resume his flight to Kathmandu. Some ten of us from the Press corps reached a far end of the VIP tarmac operated by the Air Force. I don't know where exactly Mrs. Gandhi was hiding but the moment Zia touched down she drove straight up to his ramp taking the General and his daughter etc. for a quick lunch not at her house but at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Some six of us reporters were waiting in the open right up to 3.30 p.m. when the car reappered to deposit the General at the ramp. It's something else, that we shouted and screamed forcing the General to walk back to where we were standing. Mrs. Gandhi obviously had no intention to be seen with Zia on his arrival or departure..
If you wish to hark back to an interesting period in Indo Soviet relations around the same time you will see how a much older Ronald Reagan and waited for Mikhail Gorbacheve to end the cold war at a one one-on-one meetings in Washington and the U.S. And the two were no great friends before that. Will it be too much to expect Dr. Manmohan Singh to draw up a programme of his approach to Indo-Pak relations which he would then carry to Pakistan for his overdue visit to that country and hopefully restore peace between the two neighbouring countries. Without sounding patronizing it would do a world of good to Manmohan Singh's currently dented image in the country.







India celebrated as we won a hard fought battle in Mohali and the semi final clash between India and Pakistan has produced many a 'winner' and once the euphoria of the victory subsides we should pause, reflect and think of the road ahead into what clearly is going to be a difficult year for the global society. Society does not live on the doom and gloom syndrome and despite a troubled relation ship with Pakistan on several counts we had several positives in our relations on a short term and several windows of opportunity between the two countries and if nothing else is achieved we have succeeded in bringing happiness and peace to families who were suffering jail terms on both sides. Pakistan has been through a nightmare with internal conflicts and a power struggle which threatens to engulf the country in internal chaos and coupled with all this we have seen excessive and unexpected rains and flooding which have wrecked 25% of the country but despite all the negatives combined the atmosphere on both sides is in favor of peace, settlement and an end to hostility. We have won the Cricket match but will the Mohali contest be seen only in terms of runs scored and wickets taken and the success and failure of individuals and the debate on this can go on forever and as I was watching the match and saw Harbhajan Singh produce a stunning delivery to bowl U Akmal for a brilliant 29 and a possible victory was visible I could not help thinking that we were all witnessing more than a game of cricket as the stadium in Mohali, Chandigarh contained besides the political and social VVIP'S all the 'greats' of the game past and present from across the globe and could anyone have dreamed that this was possible a decade ago? We will shortly have the IPL tournament and it would be a good thing if we see the talented Pakistan cricketers in the game and once the intent is clear rules and regulations are not really an issue for the future.
The semi final is over and on to the final and another tough match and we will watch all the super stars of the game debating tactics for the match on the 2nd of April 2011. I think it would be wise not to make any predictions for the final and as we have seen in the semi final the 'star' bowlers faltered whilst the others on both sides succeeded and while India fielded brilliantly [this was a weakness] the Pakistani team considered good fielders were patchy through the match and dropped Sachin Tendulkar on four occasions! The Sri Lankan team is well balanced and on paper they have a superior bowling team but in a high pressure game it is always difficult to predict the individual star performers as we saw yesterday in Mohali.
The events in the Middle East are deeply disturbing as events in Libya unfold and the double talk and oil politics played by major global players unfold and will anyone in the UK and parts of Europe punish those who have benefited from the generosity of Colonel Gaddafi and his military regime and has all the talk of 'financial assets' being frozen any credibility? We have a civil war situation in Libya and there is a upheaval in almost every country in the area as 'Absolute' regimes based on the power of feudal linkages play the global power game at the behest of super powers and the people are deprived of their political and economic freedom with the security forces and their weapons of destruction.
Information technology brings home the facts on our TV screens and we see events as they unfold and no government in the Western World can afford to play the game of hide and seek without losing the support of the population and 'puppet' regimes are going out of fashion. The transition to a democracy are never easy and can take decades but the process has began and only a matter of time before the Colonial structure in the Middle East and Africa collapses and I think all the BRIC nations have a decisive role to play and in the influence of China, Russia and India is visible and will give a greater stability to the process of change. Complex situations have to be explained in simplistic terms and across the globe it is apparent that the global power pattern has changed as the GDP and growth projections of the USA and much of the Western World are more than matched by the BRIC nations and we will have a greater 'balance' in decisions in the future.
We are looking at short term turbulence and as the financial re structuring takes place we will have two distinct patterns emerging where many in the Developed World will have to learn to live with 'less' and moderate consumption patterns and this can result in a great deal of political turbulence as we witness in the UK where 250,000 protested the cuts in spending and in many parts of Europe where governments can be voted out.
In the Developing world we have to ensure greater equity in income distribution and if necessary we have to do this by legislation. The advance in information technology is resulting in greater transparency and levels of effective governance will result in a great deal of 'expectations' and change at all levels will become a pattern of our lives. We often speak of our favorable demographic pattern but are those in governance fully aware of the increased expectation level and the fact that what took a decade earlier has now to be delivered in a year! The pressure will be on all political leaders both at the Center and in the States and we have to shift to a greater youthful pattern in the immediate future and we have a surfeit of talent bursting at all levels and those who speak of lack of alternatives will do well to remember that in politics there are few vacancies and for every job there are ten contenders!








There have been or at least expectations of a real bumper crop in the country this year (July 2010-June 2011). One feels this is the time for structural change in the food distribution system in the country, with a structural change in the distribution of food grains to the needy. In spite of the high production this year, there are still areas where starvation and semi-starvation status of the people continues.
The National Advisory Council (NAC) of the Government of India headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi which is struggling with measures aimed at ensuring food security for all in the country is making heroic efforts on this front. The NAC however, does not appear to have discussed structural reforms in the Constitution in order to ensure unfailing food security for all.
This, despite the fact that the most important personality in this NAC besides the political leadership, Prof M.S. Swaminathan, has made radical suggestions while presenting the fifth and final report of the National Commission on Farmers Presenting the fifth and final report of the National Commission on Farmers, on October 4, 2006, Dr Swaminathan had suggested the setting up of a National Food Security and Sovereignty Board He had also suggested that Agriculture should be included in the Concurrent List of the Constitution through an amendment.
At present, under the Constitution, Agriculture is a State subject. This creates some problems in implementation of the policies enunciated by the Centre. In his suggestion for a National Food Security and Sovereignty Board, Prof Swaminathan had said that the Prime Minister would be the Chairman with the Union Minister for Agriculture and Food, Union Ministers of Finance, Rural Development, Commerce, Water Resources, and other ministers concerned, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Chief Ministers of a few food surplus and food deficit States and leaders of principal political parties as Members.
The objective of the proposed board was to promote policies based on a holistic review and national consensus on pricing, procurement, and universal Public Distribution System and commerce (home and external).
The National Commission had urged the Central and State Governments to consider seriously the question of including Agriculture under the Concurrent List in Schedule VII, Articles 246 of the Constitution. Important policy decisions like those relating to prices credit and trade are taken by the Government of India. Also, several pieces of legislation including the Protection of Plan Varieties and Farmers" Rights Act, the Biodiversity Act, and the Food Bill are administered by the Government of India.
He had said that substantial funds were provided by the Government of India for rural infrastructure development including irrigation, village roads and markets. By placing agriculture in the Concurrent List, serving farmers and saving farming became a joint responsibility of the Centre and the States, a truly national endeavor in raising the morale, prestige and economic well being of our farm women and men, Prof. Swaminathan said.
It should not be forgotten, that even today ,about three crores of Indians still go to bed hungry every night according to FAO figures often quoted by writers on this topic. The State has the responsibility to feed them too. One recalls that in ancient days, the rulers would not partake of food unless they were convinced that all their subjects had had their daily bread this should be the ideal behind ensuring food security for the country.
In the last ten years, about ten million children have been born in India. It is the duty of the State to feed all of them. These children do not understand what is a Union List, a State List or a Concurrent List in the Constitution of India .If they are born in India, they have the right to food and it is the duty of the State to feed them. They are assets of the Nation. This principle should be adopted towards tackling hunger.
Incidentally, questions are being asked about the Constitutional aspect of the National Advisory Council led by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. What after all is the NAC? Does it enjoy the people's mandate? It is not an elected body either. Mo wo0nder the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council enjoy's more legitimate powers and its opinion has to accepted .The advice of the NAC does not have a legal and/or Constitutional powers. One hates to mention it, but most members of the NAC is considered by many as "jholawalas". None of them except Mrs Gandhi and Dr Swaminathan are members of Parliament. However, NAC is not even a Parliamentary Body such as the Standing Committee .How can this body be taken seriously by either Parliament or the Government? [NPA]










The bitter finding of Census 2011 that we now number 1.21 billion appears somewhat palatable only if one weighs it against the fact that the growth recorded in the past one decade is the lowest in 90 years. Yes, there is some slowing down but the numbers are still frighteningly high and way above the projection by the expert technical group appointed by the government.


When you add 181 million to your population every decade, which is almost the population of Brazil – the fifth most populous country of the world – all attempts at development and growth come to naught. What to talk of development, even sustaining whatever little we have, becomes a Herculean task. The increase can be only partially attributed to the declining mortality rate. The main culprit remains the failure of the family planning drive and there is need to redouble the efforts if the runaway increase has to be curbed.

Equally alarming is the phenomenon of missing daughters. The sex ratio has improved marginally from 933 in 2001 to 940 in 2011 but the dip in the child sex ratio (below the age of six) is a matter of serious concern. The ratio of girls to boys in the 0-6 age group has dwindled from 927 in 2001 to just 914 in 2011 — with Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh being the worst culprits. It is the lowest since 1961. Jhajjar in Haryana has the dubious distinction of having the most skewed gender ratio (774) in the country, with Mahendragarh (778) coming a close second. The ills of gender discrimination and female foeticide and infanticide are taking a heavy toll. While 29 states showed clear improvement in the sex ratio, it declined in Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar and Gujarat. Apparently, the law banning sex-based abortion is not stringently implemented.


The strong urge to have a male heir is also fuelling the overall population increase. Even if a girl child is allowed to survive, she is hardly counted as an issue. The quest for offspring continues till there is a male heir. And as far as sons are concerned, two are supposed to be better than one and three to be better than two.


No wonder today we are more than the population of the US, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan combined. One silver lining is that the literacy ratio has improved in the country. It is nowhere near the Planning Commission target of 85 per cent but even 74.04 percent is some improvement over the 64.83 per cent that we had a decade back.


Although India is now out of the league of countries with very poor development record, it is still to catch up with Congo (81 per cent), South Africa (88), Brazil (90), Sri Lanka (91) and China (93). One main reason for this is that four high-population states accounting for about 44 per cent of the country's population — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh — have not even managed 70 per cent literacy. On an all-India level, the literacy level grew more among women than men. While the female literacy in 2001 was 53.67 per cent, it has gone up to 65.46 per cent in 2011. In comparison, the male literacy rose from 75.26 to 82.14 per cent. If only women are given equal opportunities, they can one day inch ahead of men.


Thanks to sophisticated number crunching, the voluminous data painstakingly collected till just a few weeks ago has been collated in a short time and the provisional figures have been brought out quickly. The lessons learnt must be applied equally quickly to decelerate the runaway population increase. 








One more protectionist barrier has come down. Foreign firms having joint ventures in India will no longer require their local partner's permission to float a competing venture in the same or related field. Thursday's policy change aims to lure foreign direct investment (FDI).


The government's Press Note 18, issued in 1998, protected Indian firms from competition with their global partners. However, of the 350 FDI proposals received between 1999 and 2005 only two were rejected due to objections from local partners. The latest move, therefore, is unlikely to boost FDI inflows in a big way. The government has just removed a hurdle in doing business in India.


There has been a slow but steady change in government thinking since liberalisation began in 1991. In the initial years Indian industry under the umbrella of the Bombay Club opposed the opening up of the economy and sought a level-playing field before letting multinational corporations in India. Press Note 18 was the product of such a protectionist environment. Now the government has recognised that it has no role to play in commercial dealings between two enterprises. At the fag end of its term in February 2009, UPA-I had allowed, what its Leftist allies called, "a back-door entry" to foreign investment beyond the ceiling in restricted sectors.


Even though the government is no longer saddled with the Left's ideological baggage, it has not resumed the pending reforms such as allowing FDI in insurance, media, defence production, banking and multi-product retail. In the just-ended fiscal year India got FDI inflows of $ 27.6 billion, down from $35.6 billion in the previous year. The investment environment has deteriorated in the last few months as the country witnessed high inflation, tighter monetary policy and a series of scandals. The hardening of oil prices, the developments in the Middle East and an uncertain US and European recovery have further vitiated the business environment. India needs to take more than baby steps if it wants to pull FDI beyond the stock markets. 











The ruling military junta in Myanmar seems to have realised at last that the days of dictatorship in this natural resource-rich South Asian country are over. That is, perhaps, the reason why it has handed over power to a group of nominated civilians, who will be running the government from now onwards.


Prime Minister Thein Sein has been sworn in as President. He is a former military strongman, who shed his uniform to contest last November's elections, which was boycotted by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. But the situation is a little confusing as Mr Sein's name was approved by Myanmar's military-dominated parliament in February. In all, 58 new Cabinet members have been sworn in. The ruling State Peace and Development Council has been dissolved with its chairman, Senior General Than Shwe, having been replaced as army chief.


But it is not clear whether the new army chief, Gen Min Aung Hlaing, who attended the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, will be controlling the levers of power like his predecessor, General Sein. It is difficult to believe at this stage that Myanmar is truly moving towards an elected form of democracy unless free and fair elections are held afresh with the military going back to the barracks. The November 2010 elections that were held after 20 years of military rule could not get legitimacy as these were marred by allegations of cheating and intimidation.


The change announced by Myanmar's military junta may also be aimed at ignoring the call by Ms Suu Kyi for a political dialogue with the military rulers to end the misunderstanding between what she says as the forces of democracy and the military (locally known as Tatmadaw). Her 2100 supporters have been languishing in jail for a long time and there is no hope of their getting released soon. They may get freedom only when there is a genuine move for democracy. We in India hope for an early dawn of democracy in Myanmar.









The election to the panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir are scheduled to be held on April 17. The last panchayat polls were conducted in 2001. There were hectic discussions among political parties, including the coalition partners in the state government, on introducing reforms in the Panchayati Raj system before this announcement.


The Congress and the opposition parties of Jammu had demanded that the new panchayats should be formed after adoption by the state of the 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution which would have made panchayats a genuine instrument of decentralisation of power. It is not the 73rd Amendment as such that is important. Jammu and Kashmir, after studying its working in other states, could have enacted even a better law than elsewhere if the objective was the empowerment of the people.


The state assembly, however, did enact a law to constitute an Election Commission to conduct the elections. But by that time the code of conduct had been enforced, which meant that the commission would work from next elections. The coming elections would be conducted by the Election Department of the state government.


The fears about the centralisation of power through the cover of panchayati raj are further confirmed by some provisions in the state law. While the Central law provides for direct election to all panchayati raj institutions, it is not so in the state. For instance, not a single member of the district board under the J&K law shall be directly elected. The chairperson shall be nominated by the government. A provision has now been added for an elected vice-chairperson of the board. But the supreme power will continue to be exercised by the chairperson.


The other members include the chairmen of the Block Development Councils, Town Area Committees and the Municipal Council in the district, MLAs and MPs who would be ex-officio members of the District Board. Though they are elected, it is well known that voters often choose different parties at local, state and national levels as the issues are different at these levels. Members of the Assembly and Parliament, in their capacity as members of the district boards, cannot, therefore, be said to represent the wishes of the people. In many states where MLAs and MPs are members of the district boards, they have no voting rights. But under the J&K law, they shall have these rights also.


At the block level, unlike the Central law, the State Act does not provide for direct election of any member. It shall comprise sarpanches of halqa panchayats and the chairman of the marketing society within the jurisdiction of the block. With the Block Development Officer, an ex-officio secretary, the block development council is also brought under the influence of the government. The government shall have power to nominate two members to give representation each to women, the Scheduled Castes or any other class.


The Central Act provides for 33 per cent reservation for women and, according to the population ratio, the Scheduled Castes, but it does not provide for any nomination at any level. The state law provides for nomination but not reservation. Further, the term "other class" is so vague that it can be used by the state government to nominate any person on the block council to represent it. The nominations can always ensure majority for the ruling party.


It is only at the halqa panchayat level where all members shall be directly elected. But even at this level, a government employee — a village-level worker — shall be the member-secretary who shall thus ensure government presence at the base of the panchayati raj system. Moreover, the government shall have the power to nominate two members on the halqa panchayat on the same pattern as it does in the case of the block council.


One more flaw in the state law with regard to the functions of the halqa panchayat is that its members have not been made accountable to the people after they are elected. There is no provision for a gram sabha which could act as a sort of assembly for the panachyat and could meet once or twice a year to pass the budget and to exercise some control on the working of the panchayat, including the right to pass a vote of no-confidence against the members and elect new members in their place.


A prerequisite for the success of the panchayati raj system is its financial viability and autonomy. The 73rd Amendment to the Constitution also provides for the appointment of a finance commission by the state governments to make recommendations for the determination of taxes, duties, tolls and fees which may be assigned to panchayats; distribution between the state and panchayats of the net proceeds of taxes, duties, etc; and grant-in-aid to the panchayats by the states.


The J&K law neither fixes a minimum amount of grant-in-aid by the state to the panchayats nor autonomous machinery for objective allocation of funds. There is no assured source of income either. The law, therefore, does not ensure financial viability and autonomy of the panchayats and leaves enough financial power in the hands of the state government which it may use arbitrarily to influence the working of the panchayats.


Panchayat adalat is another important feature of the new panchayati raj law of the state. For the modern system of justice is not only very expensive and time consuming, but is also virtually inaccessible to most of the rural and far-off areas. Panchayati adalats have been used in many states to supplement the formal judicial system by reviving and legitimising the traditional system of justice.


But by empowering the state government to nominate members of the panchayati adalat and to remove its chairman or any member, the new law robs independence of the institution of justice at the grassroots level. It amounts to supplementing the judicial system and the traditional system of justice, both supposed to be independent of the executive, by a third sector of justice controlled by the state government.


The Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act does not accept the jurisdiction of the Union Election Commission "for superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of elections in the state" nor that of the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India "for the audit of the accounts of the panchayats" as the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution proposes to do for other states.


The state is not only independent of the federal autonomous institutions like the Election Commission and the CAG, it has also not made any amendment in its own Constitution corresponding to the amendment in the Indian Constitution. Such an amendment would not have compromised autonomy of the state, but would have projected the interests of the panchayati institutions against bureaucratic encroachments by, say, making re-election of superseded panchayats constitutionally mandatory and reserving a list of subjects in the constitution for exclusive management by the panchayats.


J&K needs genuine panchayati raj, more than any other state. For it has more diversities than others. In view of its multi-ethnic and multi-religious character, panchayati raj is not only a means for the devolution of power and participatory democracy but is also a vital instrument of accommodating its wide diversities. Panchayati raj implies a federal continuum through which power devolves from the Centre to the state and then to the districts, blocks and villages. In the case of J&K, regional tier is an indispensable part of the federal continuum.



Lack of trust in the people seems to be the only plausible explanation for the type of law the state has passed. Which is more an instrument of regimentation and centralisation than empowerment of the people.n


The writer is Director, Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, Jammu.








The 'dhabas' are the favourite spots of the tired truckies. But these old-world restaurants are now firmly flourishing in the academic environs of universities as well, relieving stress and tensions of the young minds. Steaming sweet tea, lusty paranthas and fried pakoras are the well-known items on their menu.


'Ramdhan Ka Dhaba' in my alma mater, Kurukshetra University, set up on the bank of a canal running through the campus was the refuge of all hostellers. Not more than a thick thatch cover resting on low brick walls, string charpoys spread out in the open were all the trappings that it had. It functioned overtime during examinations when Shakespeare and Dickens were discussed on charpoys and wooden stools. "To be or not to be" was every examinee's dilemma besides Hamlet's. But what comforted the disturbed souls was the optimism of Micawber of David Copperfield: 'something will turn up".


Away from classrooms the dhaba was both a refuge and an academy where dialogues among the pupils in the manner of Plato's Academy "contrasted the impact of written works with that of the contact of living minds".


The dreariness of the dhaba used to occasionally liven up when the inmates of the girls hostel passed by it, some looking askance, a few — placed in the predicament as ours — exchanged smiles and some notes but most others ignored us. The canal served as a 'Lakshman Rekha'.


Exams over, we walked into an uncertain future. It was not just the hostel, the classroom and the library that we missed, but 'Ramdhan-Ka-Dhaba' the most. Leaving it behind with the canal flowing quietly was a wrench.


Then came the convocation to unite us once again. With degrees in hand, we all trouped to the dhaba in our robes. No one was better pleased to see us than Ramdhan silently rejoicing in his own contribution.


After obtaining degrees earning livelihood was uppermost in our minds. But Ramdhan had his own convocational advice, quite in tune with Micawber's advice to young David Copperfield: "Gist of life: your income 20 shillings, expenses 19, result: happiness; your income 20 shillings, expenses 21, result: misery".


'Ganga Dhaba' in Jawaharlal Nehru University is a quaint mixture of stone age and modernity. No charpoys, no stools. Only rocks and rocks – of varied sizes – under the trees double as its furniture. Bristling with the ideas discussing almost everything under the sun from the 'left' to the 'right', farmer's suicides to rising GDP, the young academicians – boys and girls, both – mix well in this sylvan setting.


The dhaba stands out as the only 'restaurant' which its young entrepreneurs Sushil and Anil run at night to help the 'night birds' who study the whole night recharge themselves with its heady concoctions. If the JNU is hailed as an intellectual workshop, Ganga Dhaba should be remembered for fighting globalisation by catering to the needs of Aam-admi i.e. food and shelter, albeit temporarily.









Even as the grim reality of farmer suicides in Punjab has been increasingly exposed in recent years, the inter-generational and gendered effects of suicides have received scant attention. These are more than mere 'collateral damage' as they exhibit the deeply afflicted condition of rural Punjab and call for urgent policy changes at the Centre and state levels.

Currently, masking apathy in various political and economic clichés, we are ignoring how the children of suicide victims continue to suffer the very plight that led to the suicide in the first place. Unsurprising then are the multiple suicides in a single family: right on our watch.


A puerile numbers war has raged around the issue of rural suicides. Accuracy of various statistics has been noisily challenged, while equally boisterous calls for more statistics have been made. While the state and Central government can agree to disagree with civil society's estimates, they can no longer limit their response to questioning the authenticity of suicide statistics.


Such delay tactics are particularly unacceptable when one looks at the urgent needs of the children of suicide-affected families. Take the case of Gurmeet Kaur, from Bhutala Khurd village, Sangrur district. In 2005, Gurmeet had completed her Class XII boards. Then one day, not too soon after, Gurmeet's father, Roop Singh, committed suicide.


"We had no clue that the debt situation was so bad. He didn't really tell any of us anything. He had left for work at 9 am that morning, and apparently ran into some bank official on the way, who reminded him of the outstanding debt. He walked into the fields where he worked, and drank pesticide," Gurmeet recalls. The family took Roop Singh to a local hospital, where, after 15 days and Rs 80,000 spent on treatment, he breathed his last.


In post-Green Revolution Punjab, marginal and small farmers such as Roop Singh find themselves facing mounting debt, since the input costs of agriculture far outweigh the returns. The Green Revolution was ushered in with the encouragement of the US, where the prevailing wisdom in the 1960s was that Communism could be kept at bay by combating low standards of living and rural discontent stemming from food shortage.


Punjab was singled out by the Central Government as the site for the counter-revolutionary Green Revolution experiment. Though a relatively dry state, Punjab had the colonial-era canal network and a predominant agrarian population.


The 'success', in terms of increased yield, of the 'revolution' depended on foreign-developed high-yield seed varieties. However, these seeds increased yield only under certain circumstances: they needed increased fertiliser and irrigation. Starting in the 1970s, small farmers, unable to afford sufficient amounts of expensive inputs, found their holding becoming progressively less profitable.


Meanwhile, grain prices remain comparatively low even as input costs increase. Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) of grains—the pre-season price guarantee for farmers that is set by the Centre—are not associated with the Price Index, which is adjusted for inflation every six months and dictates all other prices in the country. Thus, the farmer who provides food security to the nation faces insecurity within his own home.


Gurmeet's father had owned 1.5 acres of land which he put up as collateral with moneylenders about a decade ago. "Even after he lost his land, he didn't lose all hope. He kept working hard on other people's land to pay back loans and to keep us alive. But the loans were too big, and he didn't even make enough to pay the interest every month."


Commission agents in the area continue to charge incredible 40-60 per cent interest rates. While older laws such as the 1900 Punjab Land Alienation Act under Sir Chottu Ram have fallen inexplicably into disuse, the government has, just as inexplicably, shied away from passing a new legislation to regulate money-lending, a routine and necessary activity in Punjab villages where institutional credit is hard to come by.


By 2005, Roop Singh had taken Rs 40,000 from the local cooperative bank, about Rs 1,00,000 from the State Bank, and a little over Rs 1,00,000 from a local aartiya (commission agent).


"The banks were still further away, but the aartiya was right there, in our village…he would stop by and taunt my father, and make demands," Gurmeet recalls. "You can calculate, he killed himself over about 2.5 lakh rupees. That amount is still outstanding today; it's sitting there, accumulating interest for us to pay…someday." While lenders can recover from the deceased's estate, including the family house—regardless of the fact that there may even be minor children in it—often the kin like Gurmeet remain unaware of the legal limits of such recovery or the legality of the means employed for recovery.


Neither in 2005 nor today is Gurmeet's family in a position to repay the debt. But in 2005, there was also no source to pay day-to-day expenses. Gurmeet is the oldest of five children. The second eldest, Gurjeevan Singh, began looking for work as a daily labourer to bring home some income, while Gurmeet and her mother began looking for work from fellow villagers. "We stitched suits, made daris, and tried to earn whatever little we could. What other honourable work is there for women in our villages?"


However, Gurmeet's mother's eyesight was failing, and she was having difficulty doing this work. "Anyway, I kept thinking, this all will hardly even pay for our daily rations. In many families, after the first suicides, things get so bad that other family members also eventually resort to suicide…I didn't want to think like that, but things were very bad at home."


Then, Gurmeet heard of another option. The Baba Nanak Education Society (BNES), an NGO operating in Moonak and Lehran subdivisions of Sangrur district, was asking about families where the breadwinner had committed suicide due to agrarian debt. They were 'adopting' such families, giving them between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,200 a month, but on one condition: the children of the family must continue their education.


Gurmeet met with BNES field workers and answered all their questions. "I thought that this money would help with our daily expenses and also allow for me to study and get a job, to get my family out of this situation."


While Gurjeevan Singh remained skeptical and saw 'no point' in going to school, Gurmeet eagerly shared information with BNES and was hoping they would help her.


Gurmeet Kaur and her family were duly sponsored by the society. Gurmeet's younger siblings went to school and Gurmeet was given a full scholarship to go to Jashmer Singh Jaijee College at Gurney Kalan, also run by BNES. I kept thinking, "If I do well, I can help pay for my sisters to also go to college." Gurmeet earned her BA in 2009 and started working as an office administrator at the college itself.


"Education helps as the children at least have some chance to get jobs. There is no future in agriculture for most people. And for girls, if they are educated, lesser dowry is demanded, and they get respect as they are earning members of the family," explains Gurmeet.


Looking for a slightly better salary, Gurmeet asked BNES if she could be employed in their Chandigarh office, where she now works as an Office Assistant. "This means more exposure, and a chance to work on my computer skills because those are essential these days," she says with the confidence of a self-starter. "Also, it allows me to work for other families of people who have committed suicide. In Bhutala Khurd alone, 17 or 18 farmers have committed suicide."


But Gurmeet's worries are far from over. "The work is great, but I don't make much. I want to work very hard and earn enough to pay back the lenders, and help with my siblings' weddings. I don't want to get married. When some relative sometimes mentions it, I ask, 'Why would someone else's son come and take responsibility of my siblings and of our family debt?'"


Once again, recognising herself a role model for other girls in the village, she says, "I want to show my sisters, and the others, that girls can study, make money, and don't have to be dependants. Except from BNES, we've never received any compensation or scholarships from the government. Now, I want a government job. I'll work for my family's future."


Gurmeet provides a painful reminder of the long-festering agrarian problem in the country and the state. Immediate solutions include providing relief to families that have had suicides, while long-term solutions require a holistic governmental approach that both ensures renewed profitability of agriculture and creates clean industries as alternatives to agriculture.


The Gurmeets of Punjab are not asking for handouts. They have a right to be heard beyond the election cycles and provided the minimum necessities required to dig their way out of a debt that accumulated despite their being the brave and hard-working daughters of the 'bread basket'.


The writer focuses on gender and security issues in South Asia. She holds a Master in Public Policy from Harvard, and a JD from the UC Berkeley School of Law.


Rural Suicides: The Human Toll


The government's own studies have shown that the problem of rural suicides is by no means insignificant. A 2009 study by Punjab Agriculture University reports 2,890 suicides in the two districts of Bathinda and Sangrur between 2000 and 2008, while the Punjab Farmer's Commission, created by the Punjab government in 2005, estimates about 2,000 farmer suicides per year.


Civil society estimates are more chilling: The Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU-Rajewal), estimates 90,000 suicides between 1990 and 2006, while Punjab-based Movement Against State Repression (MASR) estimates 50,000 suicides, after having recorded 1,842 individual cases in 91 Punjabi villages between 1988 and 2010 (and accounting for the reality that these 91 villages are from two subdivisions of Sangrur district, one of the 20 districts of Punjab, but also that all districts are not equally affected).


While the suicide victims are overwhelmingly men, the surviving women, children, and elderly become particularly vulnerable. Currently, these families receive no relief. Moreover there is no protection against the debt against the farmer passing on to his minor children. In some of these families there have been multiple suicides. NGOs have stepped in to provide immediate relief in the form of monthly education scholarships to the children of suicide victims, but there is no substitute for the required policy changes by the Center and state governments.








When it comes to the topic of sex, this column prudently defers to an adjoining page [Ask the...], which is much more articulate and informative. But on the topic of sex ratio, there is a lot to discuss here, since demography and economy are related.


The all-India census of 2011 results have started trickling in, and one startling fact is the decline in the child sex ratio. This is the ratio of girls to boys in the age group of 0 to 6. That ratio is greater than 1 in places like North America, Europe and Japan.


In these places, not only is child sex ratio in favour of girls, but even the overall sex ratio, i.e. all women to all men, is also high, about 1.05. Women tend to be hardier, more resistant to disease and live longer. Hence, all other things being equal, the world should have 5 per cent more women than men. But in India this ratio is 0.94, that means we have approximately 6 percent fewer females.


Twenty years ago, Amartya Sen wrote an article titled "100 million women are missing". He expressed concern that the sex ratio in large population countries like India and China was as low as 0.94, when it should be 1.05 as per European standards.


 Sen's analysis implied that the girl child was neglected, starved, malnourished, or even worse there was selective foeticide and abortion. A society obsessed with having a male progeny would reflect such sex ratios. Rampant misogyny was evident. In the case of China which has followed a one-child policy, the male child is more preferred. Or was there another explanation to this Asian anomaly?

Yes, there was.


 It turns out that Sen was half wrong. Half of the missing girls were explained by absence of Hepatitis B (jaundice) vaccination. A researcher called Emily Oster showed that in societies which did not have 100 per cent Hepatitis vaccines for pregnant women, the girl child sex ratio was low. For some reason, statistically, pregnant women with Hepataitis B tend to beget more boys than girls (or have female foetus miscarriages).
    Since western countries have much better pre-natal care and vaccination coverage is wider, the child sex ratio is closer to 1. Whereas in countries like China and India, the ratio is much less than 1. Oster's findings simply reduced Sen's number; instead of 100 million missing women, maybe it was only 50 million. Oster's analysis didn't negate the glaring misogyny manifest in Asia which had been pointed out by Sen.


That dismal observation of Sen from 1990, is unfortunately vindicated further by the latest census. The overall sex ratio is still a dismal 0.94, but worse, there has been a shocking and dramatic decline in child sex ratio. It has gone down from 978 in 1961, to 927 in 2001 to 914 in 2011. This number is lowest since Independence. Maharashtra at 0.833 has a lower child sex ratio than even Bihar (0.912), Uttar Pradesh (0.899), Madhya Pradesh (0.912) and Rajashtan (0.883).


 Why are there so few girl children in Maharashtra? Among the poor families, maybe the girl child gets less nutrition (in these times of high inflation), fewer visits to the doctor, and more sickness than boys. Among the non-poor, there may be selective foeticide (even though it is illegal), and more sex determination tests and preemptive abortions.


It would be interesting to see stats on the sale of sex-selection kits, or urine self-test kits which can tell you the sex of the foetus, very early in pregnancy. Even though there's a ban, these kits can be found by Internet search. The census revelations are a stark reminder, that in Mumbai, girls may be topping exams and universities, but they are vanishing altogether, in much larger numbers.



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This week is a good time to discuss who deserves goodies from the government. Here are three candidates. The first is Members of Parliament (MPs), who have been given a 150 per cent hike in their budgets under the MP local area development (MPLAD) scheme. Each MP can now spend Rs 5 crore every year, up from Rs 2 crore till now, and Rs 1 crore when MPLAD was introduced 17 years ago. Inflation neutralisation would have taken that figure to about Rs 3 crore, so the extra Rs 2 crore per MP per year (Rs 1,600 crore annually for about 800 MPs) is a bonus. If you want to know how this money is used, read the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Among other things, it points out that MPs can and do select those who get contracts under the scheme. Interestingly, Nitish Kumar has scrapped the Bihar variant of the scheme for Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs); he has also announced a doubling of the pay and perquisites for MLAs. If the two announcements are connected, you can draw your own conclusions about whether kickbacks flourish in the name of local area development.

The second candidate for government largesse is the International Cricket Council (ICC), presided over by Sharad Pawar. The government has just given the ICC's World Cup tax-free status. The reports say this means a tax saving for ICC of Rs 45 crore, though the figures of revenue (Rs 1,476 crore) and expenditure (Rs 571 crore) suggest a much larger giveaway. It is easy to see why the government has played ball; Mr Pawar is the leader of a coalition partner, and agriculture minister. Oddly, the sports minister argued against the freebie. So did a note put up by the finance ministry, though the finance minister seems to have batted for the ICC. As happens all too often, the Prime Minister has chosen the path of least resistance.


Now the history of the ICC is that, once cricket became a big money game some years ago, this London-based body decided that it needed tax shelters. It created a subsidiary for its business operations and housed it in Monaco. But running between London and Monaco was inconvenient, so the ICC told the British treasury that it would re-locate entirely to London if the government offered tax-free status. When the response was a polite "No", the ICC moved to Dubai. Penny-pinching London could learn a thing or two from the generosity that New Delhi shows to the really deserving.

But the most deserving of all is Vijay Mallya, owner of yachts, private jets, vintage cars, a cricket team, an island in the Mediterranean, and homes on every continent, and also two-thirds owner of Kingfisher Airlines. Kingfisher has been so run that it has been losing money, and borrowing up to its gills. The lenders (13 banks led by the government-owned State Bank of India) have now agreed to convert some of the loans into equity — at a share price of Rs 64.48, when the going market rate was Rs 40. That means a loss straightaway of nearly 40 per cent of the loan value — and there are further loans outstanding. Could the lenders have flexed their muscles, since the airline is in no shape to repay loans? Yes. Could they have threatened to buy out the promoters' 66 per cent shareholding at the going value of Rs 740 crore, and put in new management? Almost certainly, yes. So if Mr Mallya still has majority control of the airline, it tells you the scale of the government banks' largesse.

Anyone out there willing to bat for the poor?








Monday after the disastrous Japanese earthquake and tsunami saw the start of a deluge of predictions and speculation over the economic impact in our connected world. Trajectories of prices were variously configured, as a function of the time path of restoration of Japanese demand, and the duration of shut-downs of Japanese manufacturing facilities.

Oil prices fell in the immediate aftermath, on the expectation of a worldwide slowdown following lower Japanese imports of industrial inputs and consumer goods, but very soon started rising again. Fossil fuel demand will increase even in the short-run in Japan, with demand crossing over from electricity shortages. India of course is among the countries most vulnerable to higher oil prices. And coal prices are expected to go up sharply too, as Japan attempts to replace the 5 per cent of electricity generation capacity it has lost irretrievably. Both oil and coal have undergone supply shocks, with political turbulence in North Africa, and flooded coal mines in Northeast Australia.


Outward Japanese investment is expected to slow down in the short term. Infrastructure in India (the Delhi-Mumbai corridor) will certainly see some delays, if not outright cancellation. The medium term forecast is that Japanese companies might diversify into countries will lower seismic risk, but India does not feature in the list of the most attractive destinations even so.

India will not suffer a tourism loss. The ghastly experiences of some Japanese women tourists have curbed what was once a widespread desire to see the land of the Buddha. And Japan as a destination accounts for only around 2 per cent of Indian exports. At a more disaggregated level, like seafood exports from Kerala, and Darjeeling tea, the demand shock will clearly be very acute.

But much the biggest issue is the impact on the nuclear power generation industry, in the world, and in India. Defenders of nuclear power generation in India are tired of pointing out that the high-level nuclear disaster just seen is a low probability event, as against the kind of grinding low level but cumulative damage to public health ever present with thermal generation. They have pointed out repeatedly that what precipitated the nuclear disaster was not the earthquake, but the tsunami. The tsunami shut down both the alternative power source from which water to cool the nuclear reactors was sourced, and the back up in the event of failure of the primary source. All that is true of course.

But the nuclear incident has driven home three very sobering lessons. First, it turns out that Japan, a model of collective order for us here in chaotic India, where the trains ran to split second timing, was also a place where information flow to the regulator was obstructed. Stories are emerging of how employees of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which ran the nuclear facilities, were instructed to alter inspection photographs required by the utility regulator, to conceal cracks in pipes. If this could happen in Japan, how much more possible it could be elsewhere.

Second, the world realised, for perhaps the first time, that a key ingredient for running nuclear facilities is abundant water. Clearly the water needed will be fresh water, because it was the emergency resort to use of sea water, with its corrosive salt content, which knocked out the Fukushima reactors for good. Fresh water is very scarce in India, even in coastal zones. Even with water recycling, it is not too far-fetched to visualise an eventuality where fresh water will have to be pumped out of ever deeper aquifers to keep those facilities going, while drinking water for the surrounding human population is trucked in from ever increasing distances.

Third, the world realised, also for the first time, that it is not known whether the plans for disposal of the nuclear waste from Fukushima and other such plants after orderly closure remain possible after a disastrous closure of this kind. There is fear, and we do not know whether it is misplaced, of the slow leaching of its residual poisons into the soil and into the water sources of Japan.

None of these problems is insurmountable going into the future. A robust regulatory system should in principle be possible even in India, where the conduct of elections has been rendered largely impervious to meddling. The water problem is harder to resolve. Water is not priced in India at scarcity value. It is not even priced so as to cover the cost of delivering it. More even than the pricing issue, there has to be an assessment of the quantum of water requirement of a nuclear facility, and whether this quantum can be sustainably supplied going into the future. For that matter, the water requirement of thermal generation is not insignificant either. We need a critical look at the efficiency of water use in electricity generation, bother thermal and nuclear. Finally, the plans for disposal of reactor fuels at the end of their useful life, under a variety of disaster scenarios, also have to be openly discussed.

Meanwhile, we don't seem to have lent much of a helping hand to the Japanese people in their hour of need. We sent a few blankets, but could have done much more for a country that has made such major contributions to Indian infrastructure and industry. We don't know if our National Disaster Management Authority had any engagement at all with the search and rescue teams from the UK and US who arrived at the scene within 48 hours, with their equipment and dogs. We would have honed our own disaster management skills had we sent a team from here to join in that effort.

The writer is Honorary Visiting Professor, ISI, Delhi






I cannot remember when I witnessed traffic jams at India Gate at midnight last. The mood in the capital on Wednesday night, replicated everywhere else in the country, of explosive jubilation made one wonder if a cricket-crazed nation had been hoarding firecrackers in anticipation of India winning the World Cup semi-finals. Would they have been stashed away till Diwali if India had lost? Would the hysteria have been in lower key if it wasn't an India-Pakistan match? Would there have been a few million viewers less if the might of India's sports, political, business and Bollywood establishment wasn't visible in its glorious array at Mohali? The game brought out the best of passion play with a twist of jingoist one-upmanship.

For me the evening was rich with ironies. As it happened, I watched the match on a screen set up in the garden of Charles Correa-designed British Council building in Delhi — an appropriate venue for a game inherited from the British. The occasion was the launch of the graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee's latest book and the precincts of the large charbagh were packed to capacity. The crowd, several hundred-strong, was both cosmopolitan and international, but it was doubtful how many were there for the audio-visual reading, the jazz from Blue Frog in Mumbai or even the free booze. Inspired though the choice of venue and presentation were, all the audience wanted was Sarnath's vivid and witty drawings to be taken off screen and the match to resume.


It also happens that the novelist is married to a Pakistani, the talented Karachi-born video artist Mahbano Abidi, popularly known as Bani. As the cliff-hanger of a game wore on, Pakistan's loss became patently clear, and the mixed crowd rooted and cheered and hugged one another for India's victory, Bani was placed in a tricky spot. She was happy for India but how could she be jumping with joy at her country's defeat? A game is just a game, but the emotions it arouses between enemy nations are more complex.

These were once astutely analysed by the writer E M Forster in a famous essay in Two Cheers for Democracy in which he poses the question: What does one do if it comes to the hard choice between betraying one's country and one's closest friend?

Forster was writing in the context of the Second World War and its violently divisive aftermath that tore apart old frontiers and friendships. I won't spoil the story by giving away the conclusion he comes to in his brilliantly reasoned and philosophical disquisition. But a fiercely contested game between hostile nations can also become a bridge, as the spirit of détente demonstrated by Dr Manmohan Singh by inviting his Pakistani counterpart and opening the border crossing for cricket fans. It can also bring together the unlikeliest bedfellows.

I met a London-based NRI this week, part of a high-end tour group of 20 cricket lovers from countries as far apart as Australia, Fiji, Hong Kong, South Africa, UK and the US who met on the Net. They paid $20,000 a head for a chartered plane, best stadium seats, luxury hotels and lavish meals to attend the last three World Cup matches in Sri Lanka and India. I asked if his new-found companions were mainly of Indian origin. No, he said, they were a varied mix of ethnicity and nationality, the Fijian being of Bangladeshi by birth! They were winging their way to Mumbai from Mohali for the final game but friendships so firm had been forged amongst several in the group that they swore there was no better way of seeing the world than travelling together to cricket matches.

Cricket's passion play is by no means unique to India. Other countries grow as obsessive about sports (Europeans about soccer or Americans about baseball) but cricket challenges as well as cements India's layered realities. Saturday's game will define precisely how.







I, like millions of people, had never heard the name Joseph Lelyveld till the other day. He hasn't done himself any good, nor can he do Mahatma Gandhi any harm. It is much like spitting on the moon. Gandhi is so great a phenomenon that his dethronement is virtually ruled out.

I have not read Lelyveld's book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India. But excerpts from the book indicate that Lelyveld is an insensitive and shallow author, even though he has won the Pulitzer prize. I can name half a dozen authors who should never have been awarded the Nobel prize for literature. The Pulitzer jury is not infallible.


I am generally opposed to books being banned. At the same time, I believe that some books need to be banned — for example, if they lead to communal riots, or hurt the deeply felt sentiments of a large number of people, or grossly debase human values. There is a thin line between banning and not banning a book. Knee-jerk reactions do not help. So Lelyveld's book should be read before it is banned. Will I read it? Yes, I would, if it comes my way. Will I buy the book? No. I'm not interested in promoting the vulgar curiosity of this author. I do respect the shrines of the minds of those who make our lives and polity purer and richer.

Would Gandhi have been in favour of banning this book? Certainly not. His life was an open book. He was too conscious that those in public life must be prepared to be smeared and tarnished. Yet, he never got stuck in the muck or mud. Lelyveld and his book will be forgotten soon; the Mahatma, never.

Moving on to the various scams, which are taking a heavy toll, some heads have rolled. Others will or should follow. People's power is being realised all over the world, from Algeria to Bahrain, from Cairo to New Delhi, from Tripoli to Saana. There is a fresh democratic wind blowing all over the Arab world. Even Syria has caught this benign infection.

Take Libya. Except for his rabid followers, Muammar Gaddafi has no takers. Go he will but the price the people in Libya are paying, and paying in blood, is heavy. That leader is a law unto himself, a fearsome comic figure who knows how to dig his heels. Not one Arab or Muslim country has spoken in his favour.

The arrogance of the Western powers – the US and The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – is reminiscent of the gun diplomacy of the nineteenth century. Who has made Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy the policemen of the world? Might is not right, be it Gaddafi or Obama. The United Nations Resolution 1973 passed by the United Nations Security Council is being used as a fig leaf. So much was expected of President Obama and so little has he delivered. Guns and bombings targeted at the protesters are sowing the seeds of an anti-West explosion. But what after the explosion? No new set of leaders has emerged so far. Change is a double-edged weapon; it has to be managed or else the derailment of history is unavoidable. Who will manage the changes in Tripoli, Damascus, Saana and so on? Are people thinking of new Constitutions? Who is looking at this crucial post-dictatorship era? One mess should not be followed by another. Rebuilding requires self-less dedication, hard work and determination.

Once again the weakness of the UN Security Council has been exposed. The gentle but helpless Secretary General, Ban ki-Moon, has made a well-meaning pronouncement. Is anybody listening? India will remain in the Security Council till December 2012. We should be engaged more constructively.

The WikiLeaks revelations have wounded and maimed – politically speaking – many stalwarts in the Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Heated accusations are cancelling each other. Yesterday's saints are today's devils. As the saying goes, "Hamam mein sab nangey hai." People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. WikiLeaks has dealt the image of United Progressive Alliance-II a blow, and so as that of the Prime Minister, who is getting merciless battering in the entire media, with cartoonists in the lead. This is unprecedented and it tells us which way the wind is blowing.

Moreover, the Assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are on the horizon. Not only will their outcome decide several political fates, it will also impact the national political scene. Watch out for Assam — if the Congress party retains the state, it will receive political blood transfusion; if not, it's doom and gloom for the Congress.






With developments in print and communications technology led by Google's search engines, the Internet, Rights to Information Acts and now WikiLeaks, there is hardly any piece of information that can be kept under wraps. In fact, there has been information overkill in the last decade. But hardly anyone has bothered to ask: What is the problem to which this surfeit of information is the answer? The technology may be dazzling but is there really a place for it? If the answer is more information faster, then it's a waste of time. Our problem now is: how to deal with the mass of information we've already got? More importantly, how is Google's ubiquity affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge and how has the corporation altered the rules and practices that govern companies, institutions and states?

Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor of media studies at Virginia University, deals with these problems in his latest book Globalisation of Everything — And Why We Should Worry (University of California Press, £18.95), to raise ethical questions on information gathering and its dissemination throughout the world. In many ways, Vaidhyanathan's work can be described as "google bashing" because it is "harmful and dangerous" but it goes beyond that to attack "blind faith in technology and market fundamentalism". Not surprisingly, it is classic "Marxist false consciousness" stuff and "consumer blindness" that Vaidhyanathan speaks of based "on false idols and empty promises". "Googlisation of Us", for example, sees consumers as "ignorant sheep led to cyber slaughter, tricked by the smokescreen of free online services and freedom of choice".


"The whole damn digital bourgeois class of modern tech capitalists is out to sedate us using the false hope of consumer choice. Celebrating freedom and user autonomy is one of the great rhetorical ploys of the global information economy… We are conditioned to believe that having more choices – empty though they may be – is the very essence of human freedom. But meaningful freedom implies real control over the conditions of life."

By the time we come to chapter 3, Vaidhyanathan puts his cards on the table. "Living so long under the dominance of market fundamentalism and techno-fundamentalism, we have come to accept the concept of choice… So comforted are we by offers of 'options' and 'settings' made by commercial systems such as Facebook and Google that we neglect the larger issues. We weave these services so firmly and quickly into the fabrics of our daily social and intellectual lives that we neglect to consider what dependence this might cost us.

And many of us who are technically sophisticated can tread confidentially through the hazards of these systems, forgetting that the vast majority of people using them are not aware of their pitfalls or the techniques by which users can master them. Settings only help you if you know enough to care about them. Defaults matter all the time..."

Many in India would agree with what Vaidhyanathan has to say about consumer capitalism and the overwhelming role that technology plays to make it work. But can you do without technology when it has become an integral part of life? Vaidhyanathan doesn't dodge the question but his solution is: centralisation or "a command economy" that would "identify a series of policy challenges, infrastructure needs, philosophical insights and technological challenges with a single realisable goal in mind: to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible".

The professor needs to be reminded that centralised planning had been tried in the Soviet Union and it did not work because modern economies had become far too diverse and sophisticated to be guided by a command structure. His case for a centralised vision boils down to his fundamental distrust of market processes, matched by his implicit faith in the technocratic elite that would chart a more sensible path forward.

The post-Google agenda is described as the Human Knowledge Project that would consider "questions of organisation and distribution at every level: the network, the hardware, the software, the protocols, the laws, the staff, the laws" and a whole lot of other paraphernalia. Who wouldn't want this, even assuming that the whole world would agree on the priorities and provide the money for it?

The dream of building a future that is fair and would work is based on the assumption that it would be possible to straighten the crooked timber of humanity. This is a big "if". Man is essentially an irrational creature influenced by what he feels rather than what is good for him. Austrian-British economist Friedrich von Hayek had warned in The Road to Serfdom (1944): "To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm." It's a lesson that many countries and cultures have learned at great expense, but one that many dreamers like Vaidhyanathan still ignore.







Destruction of public property and disrupting train services cannot be allowed in the name of agitation. The political parties behind such agitation must be derecognised and people must be sent behind the bars for such acts. Such activities are not acceptable and it promotes lawlessness." This is what the Supreme Court said about the agitation to demand reservation for Jats last month. The order galvanised the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)-led government in UP into action. Jats who were stopping trains in western UP were turfed out from railway tracks. Although Chief Minister Mayawati had earlier said she supported the agitation, the administrative action in her state was exemplary.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Haryana. In a sense the consolidation of Jats began in Haryana. The result of that process found expression in UP later. Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda's record on the management of his bureaucracy continues to remain a bit spotty. The way the Harayan government handled the agitation was a case in point.

Let us be under no illusions. Jats are the ruling class of Haryana. The state's politics has been dominated either by this community or by a coalition of castes against this community. Hooda is also a Jat — a Stephanian, but a Jat nevertheless.

Hooda had a triple disadvantage. If he had been from some other community, he could have said the Jats don't take him seriously on account of the fact that he doesn't belong to their caste. But he does: and they still don't take him seriously.

What makes it worse is that he is ringed with adversaries who are from the same caste. On one end of the spectrum are O P Chautala and his erudite sons. At the other end are Ranbir Singh Surjewala and Kiran Chaudhary, both challengers to Hooda from within the Congress. Of them Surejwala is by far the most powerful as he is both highly educated and a good orator (Hooda isn't an orator at all).

And of course, there is the political performance issue. In 2005, when Hooda first became CM, he had a charmed life. With 67 seats in the 90-member assembly, every third MLA was a Congressman. If a minister stepped out of line, he could be told he would be sacked if he didn't behave. Hooda, in fact, had a range of options he could exercise against errant MLAs — this included telling Sonia Gandhi to suspend or sack legislators. He was Gandhi's blue-eyed boy and was showcased as a CM who was getting it right.

Today, he wears a hangdog look. With 45 MLAs, he's just about been able to form a government. He is at the mercy of independents so that they don't cross over to Chautala whose Indian National Lok Dal, with 31 MLAs, is snapping at his heels. He's managed to break Kuldeep Singh Bishnoi's Haryana Janhit Congress and get three MLAs to the Congress, otherwise the government would have been fighting for survival.

The Hooda favourites are no longer part of the government, so the critical ballast he needs as the leader of the team is missing. Venod Sharma, the controversial Congress leader from Chandigarh whose son Manu Sharma is serving a life sentence for the murder of Jessica Lall, is out of the government again. Hooda would have dearly loved to have him in. As one of the most influential and prosperous liquor barons of India, Sharma has stood by the chief minister through thick and thin. But Hooda was unable to include him in the team. Instead, there are nondescript ministers like Agriculture Minister Paramvir Singh (whose only claim to fame is that he's the son of a senior Congress leader in Haryana). Industrialist Gopal Kanda has been given the state home and the sports portfolio.

Denied of political supporters, Hooda had to take resort to supporters from the bureaucracy. The CM's cell has as many as eight people. Each one is a power centre. The Principal OSD to the chief minister was an undersecretary in the Union government who has now been brought to Harayana. He does the CM's "oral kaam". In the past, the chief secretary and the principal secretary to the chief minister used to be forces in counterbalance to one another. In Haryana today they have joined forces. Sisters and husbands appear to run the state and no one hears the CM complaining.

Quite the reverse. A year ago, in a village called Mirchpur, Hissar, a disabled dalit girl and her septuagenarian father were burnt alive. The village is Jat dominated. The SHO, a Jat, refused to register a case. Finally, when the court intervened in the matter, the state government had to take action.

Similarly, when Jats went on a rampage demanding reservation a few weeks ago, Hissar Superintendent of Police Subhash Yadav, ordered firing to prevent destruction of public property, leading to the death of one youth. Instead of punishing the rampaging Jats, the Hooda government suspended the SP, bringing the high court down on the government like a tonne of bricks.

While Hooda's second in command, Finance and Irrigation Minister Captain Ajay Singh Yadav, openly voiced his concern over the handling of the case, others in the Cabinet made no secret of the fact that they were angry at the government's "capitulation" to the Jats.

Hooda obviously believed two terms as chief minister is quite enough. He's content to let things slide in Haryana. The result: corruption, inefficiency and injustice.






India's failure to match social development with its high rates of economic growth over the last two decades has rightly been highlighted at the highest levels. The world's fourth-largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity continues to be in the three-digit zone of human development. But the current thinking in some quarters that private initiative or public private partnerships are solutions to this problem is misplaced. Privatisation is not the solution for human development.

Indeed, if there is one lesson from programmes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan ( SSA) and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), it is that we must continue to invest in crafting credible public systems. The task is tough, the deficits massive and public systems have their own inertia to counter. Solutions may take a decade or more, but there is no going away from a well-funded public system for social development. As the human development indicators of many erstwhile Soviet bloc countries have demonstrated, social development needs public systems.


Neoliberal economics may be good for achieving high rates of economic growth; it is not the route for sustained human development and inclusive growth. Given the fact that almost a billion people live in over a million towns and villages, it is only through enhanced public capacity that we can reach out to all households to guarantee human development. Sectors like health have added problems of information asymmetry and the likelihood of market failures.

Take the case of malnutrition. Again, the current focus on the efficacy of cash transfer misses the point. Conditional cash transfers are not a solution when basic services are missing. Let us not forget that Brazil's Bolsa Familia cash transfers to poor households took place after an investment of eight per cent of public expenditure for health and an adequate provision for universal education. Cash transfers can only be a source of additional disposable income in the hands of the poor to seek services. The child, the adolescent girl and the pregnant woman require universal entitlements to food and health care for our nutrition status to improve. It is no rocket science; it is in the realm of the possible. NRHM is clearly demonstrating in many states that the health Millennium Development Goals are achievable if we continue to invest adequately in a credible public system with new public management skills, and accountable and innovative policies for public recruitment.

Though limited in their impact, the changes that SSA and NRHM have brought about are significant. At the turn of the century when SSA was launched, we still had 60 million children out of school. Today, the most independent of surveys finds this number to be only a few million. It is also a fact that infrastructure in schools has remarkably improved with the success of SSA.

The reduction in the infant mortality rate (IMR) of three points between 2008 and 2009 – the rate of reduction being double in rural India compared to urban areas – in the last two years confirms the slow but steady success of NRHM. Even hard-to-convince international agencies acknowledge that India's maternal mortality ratio in 2008 is 230 instead of the 450 reported by UNICEF. UNDP in its 2009 publications, confirms the silent but significant change that NRHM is bringing about in India. The fact that a four-point reduction in IMR between 2008 and 2009 was recorded in hitherto BIMARU states like Bihar, Rajasthan, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh confirms that the gains of NRHM have started showing in high-focus states. While Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka are using NRHM funds to improve their health system, the change and priority for the health sector is now visible in all states and union territories.

NRHM has been designed as a state-led platform for flexibility, innovation and change since health is a state subject. The central government saw its role in pushing reforms with resources and in sharing good practices for cross-learning. Partnerships with the non-government sector for achieving public health goals allowed the harnessing of all human resources in health for a public purpose. A public system is required in the health sector as it does not lend itself to market principles. The countervailing presence of a well-functioning public system has positive consequences for the cost and quality of care even in the private sector.

India's public expenditure has barely moved from a little less than a per cent of GDP to a little more than that, which is some distance from the promised two to three per cent of GDP. India continues to have one of the lowest public expenditures on health in the world. NRHM has demonstrated that even a slight increase in resources for public systems can considerably improve the availability of services, efficiency, effectiveness and achievement of health indictors. There is clearly a case for greater provision of resources for public systems, both for rural and urban areas.

Good health is not only about hospitalised medical care; it is also about wider determinants like clean water, sanitation, women empowerment and social access. Mere provision of insurance for tertiary and secondary care without adequate regulation may lead to distortions of market with surgeries taking place even when they are not required.

India needs a public health revolution like the West that fought public health challenges with clean water and better hygiene. We are trying to do it with antibiotics and that is why we do not succeed. We need to debunk the economic capacity of the state argument and create public systems for human development that are built on principles of service guarantees, reformed public recruitment systems and skilled public management systems with all the expertise needed to guarantee quality services.

The writer is a civil servant with a deep interest in the social sector. The views expressed are personal.  










Ruia-controlled Essar has sold its 33% stake in Vodafone Essar, India's third largest mobile operator, to the British giant for $5 billion. This will be good for the company, which will now see a united management. In the past, relations between the Ruias and their overseas partners — first Hutchison Whampoa and then Vodafone — were less than cordial. It is also a massive windfall for Essar, which has received a fortune for being a sleeping local partner in a joint venture run entirely by overseas players. From 1995, when India's mobile telecom was just opening up, to 2006, when it was near its peak, Essar, which held licences but had little or no activities, was gradually bought out by Hutchison, which spread its operations across India. One year later, Hutchison sold its part of the business, now a highly lucrative one, to Vodafone. Essar tagged along, simply because Indian regulations say that at least 26% of any telecom business must be owned by Indians. And proved that tagging along can be worth a staggering . 22,000 crore.

The Essar-Vodafone deal shows that sectoral caps are an ineffective way of controlling foreign investment in India. If it doesn't want foreign investment in some areas, it should have a complete ban. If FDI is allowed, it should be allowed without fetters. Sectoral FDI caps, varying between 26% and 74% across sectors as varied as insurance, banking, media and telecom, have created a policy maze. Worse, these caps have created a lucrative market for any Indian businessman to become a passive partner of overseas companies wanting to set up shop in India. Effectively, the local businessman becomes entitled to dividends — and more — in the joint venture by putting up only his passport as equity. In any case, Indian FDI rules have been changed and tweaked so much that some of the caps have become meaningless. In the case of telecom, for example, foreign companies can effectively own as much as 87% of the business and still comply with the law: they can own 74% directly, and own 49% in a company that holds the remaining 26%. They can control 100%, if obliging Indian partners surrender voting rights to the equity they hold. End this farce. Scrap the FDI limits.









What do State Bank of India (SBI), the largest commercial bank in the country, and ONGC, the state-owned oil and exploration major have in common? Neither has a permanent head, after their chiefs retired. While ONGC has been headless for a while now, ever since R S Sharma, its former chairman, superannuated in January this year, SBI is a recent entrant to the crowded club of headless public sector undertakings (PSUs). Unlike vacancies caused by the death of the incumbent head of an organisation, there is no uncertainty regarding vacancies arising as a consequence of retirement. Ideally, there should be no cause for uncertainty even in the first eventuality. Indeed, many would argue that in well-run companies there is a second line of command groomed over the years to take over the reins; if necessary at short notice. PSUs, unfortunately, do not come into that category. The choice of successors is often driven not by merit but political considerations, usually the whims of minister of the day. Even so, retirement dates are a given. So, there is no reason why the government cannot complete the selection process sufficiently in advance. This will ensure PSUs are not left headless and will also give more time for the successor to take over. Instead, what we have is an ever-growing list of headless PSUs. ONGC, NHAI, BSNL and MTNL have been waiting for a head for varying lengths of time.
The inertia that gripped the UPA government following the series of scams, in particular the controversy over the appointment of P J Thomas as Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), seems to have aggravated matters. CVC clearance is required for top appointments and the body is now headless. But delays are not new; they are endemic to a system where ministers view the PSUs under them as personal fiefs and seek to appoint their chosen men to the top job. Sure, we have a Public Enterprises Selection Board. But it lacks credibility. We need to restore its credibility and end today's crony appointment system. Regardless of their status as temples of modern India, PSUs deserve the best talent, not ministers' favourites.







Former international cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga referred to them on TV as Lanka's freak bowlers who excelled in taking wickets with unusual bowling actions. First there was off-spinner Muttaiah Muralitharan who was called for throwing until it was established that his action was due to a congenital defect in his bowling arm. Then came fast-bowler Lasith Malinga with his sideways slinging action. Then came the slowmedium off-spinner Ajanta Mendis whose "carrom ball" legbreak could not be distinguished from his conventional deliveries because it was bowled with a flick of his finger. The three Ms—Murali, Malinga and Mendis — mesmerise batsmen.

Given their accuracy, especially Malinga's who seems to have the ability to fire wicket-taking yorkers at will, Indian batsmen will have to strike a balance between seeing off the more accurate bowlers and scoring off the others. However, in the last two games against Australia and Pakistan, respectively, India has proved it can not just chase down a score but defend a tally of 260. The Indian batting is regarded as the best in the world, with Sehwag and Sachin, followed by Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhoni and Raina. Which could put the Lankans under pressure if Sangakkara wins the toss and bats first. India's bowling and fielding will have to be accurate and tight to maintain the pressure on attacking Lankan batsmen. If the Wankhede pitch is slow, off-spinner Ashwin may replace one of the three seamers and complement Harbhajan and Yuvraj, while Zaheer and Munaf spearhead the pace attack. There are reports that Muralitharan and Malinga may be nursing injuries and could be replaced with off-spinner Randiv and the very experienced opening bowler Vaas. All in all, it should be a fascinating final.








    If ever there was a game created for mathematicians, statisticians, trivia buffs — in short, all mad men — then it must be cricket. It has three formats — Tests, ODIs and T-20s. You have bilaterals, triangulars, World Cups, Champions Trophy. There are umpteen activities on the field — batting, bowling, wicket-keeping, fielding, umpiring, captaincy and now third-umpires and match referees. Football, hockey and rugby have only goals but in this great game, you can get out in 10 different ways and at least five are always the norm. Grounds and crowds have also crept into the statistics. Multiply all the above and you can have a tome of records — even creepy little ones like this — which lefthanded bowler has taken the most right-handed batsmen wickets? Which batsman has the largest percentage of lbw dismissals? Each record can have qualifications as to how many innings/matches someone needs to have played to be considered. You can have any number of answers — whether it is the format, home or away, name of tournament, which ground and which countries are involved. There are any number of right answers and even more wrong answers! Quiz competitions usually give 15 seconds for an answer — perhaps we need to impose these limits for quiz-masters in cricket! For years, things were relatively simple — number of runs, number of wickets, averages — that was just about it. But with technology upgrading itself, pie-charts, bargraphs (Manhattans — though Uncle Sam does not play), worms and wagonwheels have all become household words. Then came the Mother Matrix — the exotic combinatrics and probability avial of mayamathics — more difficult than Einstein's Theory or the Riemann Hypothesis — Duckworth-Lewis to the uninitiated. If you can solve even one problem, the Clay Institute will gladly reward you. Delving into hitherto esoteric terms like resources, constraints (much like a SAP or ERP programme) teams and captains have fallen prey to its machinations and have been reduced to tears by an error of just one run.
It is, however, the various other methods that cricket has appropriated to itself — against the principles of maths and logic — that makes the game even more befuddling. Take for example — margin of victory. In Tests, mercifully there is no ambiguity — one team has to lose all 20 wickets. Even if you declare, it is deemed that you have sacrificed all the remaining wickets. In fact, from 1877-1889, declarations were not allowed. From 1890-1900, declarations could be made only on the third day. Then, in 1901 on the second day, but only after lunch. Only from 1910 onwards did declarations become free. If you wanted to declare before 1910, whenever you wanted, then you had to deliberately get out! Talk about throwing wickets!
But in ODIs and T-20s, we have an odd situation. Here, a team batting first and scoring 200 for no loss loses to the other if they score 201/7. But the margin is stated as 3 wickets although the team batting second has lost more wickets and the margin is expressed as if the first team has lost all its wickets. But has it? Their innings ended only because the number of overs is fixed and it was exhausted. So far, no one has had the courage to declare in an ODI or a T-20! Then is the winning margin expressed logically? If the scores are tied at the end of 50/20 overs, then shouldn't the team that has lost fewer wickets be declared the winner? Perhaps the number of wickets should become redundant at the end of an innings and it should be deemed that the team has won by so many runs only.


 And all winning margins should be expressed as runs — since only runs count and wickets don't. Thus, in 50/20 overs, one team scores more runs than the other and is the winner by that many runs. The margin will be deemed to be 1 run if the winning team has batted second. Note that net run rate or NRR, perhaps deliberately to ensure a run-fest, takes into account only runs and overs and not wickets. Shouldn't it — who's scared of this?
The methodology of calculating a batsman's average is curious, specially the treatment of not outs. For example, since not-outs are not added to the denominator, a batsman can have an average higher than any of his scores, a paradox! This is indeed new maths! If a batsman scores 30*, 35*, 25* and gets out for 10 in his last innings, he is credited with an average of 100, much more than any of his scores! The third conundrum is how centuries are counted. Double and triple hundreds are counted as only one century and this is patently unfair. A double or triple century requires that much more concentration and physical effort than a single century. In fact the difference is tremendous if one considers the degree of difficulty in scoring double centuries and triple centuries. From 1877 to date, about 2000 centuries, 200 double centuries and a little over 20 triple centuries have been scored. Thus the degree of difficulty increases 10-fold for each increasing century. If this is taken into account and double and triple centuries given appropriate weights, Bradman will still be ahead of Tendulkar and Gavaskar. But then what weight will you give Lara's 400?!! Any answers? Can we at least begin by counting 200s and 300s as two and three centuries?








On March 6, a covey of 12 philanthropists from the US, the UK, Canada and Taiwan made a quiet trip to Karnataka to study local groups looking to bring about change in their communities. Leading the group was Katherine Lorenz, a young philanthropist from the US. The philanthropists, most of them billionaires, have a history of giving in India, but preferred anonymity. Hence, their fiveday visit did not attract the publicity reserved for Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in India earlier this week.
Lorenz, 31, is the granddaughter of George Mitchell, the Texan businessman whose oil fortune of $2.2billion ranks him at 135 on the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest people. Mitchell signed the Gates and Buffett Giving Pledge in December 2010. Mitchell's long history of giving has influenced his granddaughter. Lorenz took to philanthropy when she was 24. "My grandparents and my parents have engaged in philanthropy and giving back to the community in a significant way since I can remember," says Lorenz.
Lorenz was in India as a facilitator for the UK-based Institute for Philanthropy, which educates global donors in strategic philanthropy. The 11-year-old institute works with a global network of wealthy individuals and families in partnership with private companies, trusts, foundations and schools. It conducts The Philanthropy Workshop, a donor education programme focused on helping global philanthropists have more impact in their giving. Lorez herself had taken the course. "I realised I could make more of an impact by helping other donors be more strategic in their giving."

Lorenz says philanthropy has always been present in her life. "Anyone less fortunate or who needed help in some way was always welcome at our home. We sponsored families at Christmas and spent more time shopping for them than for ourselves." Lorenz is now a deputy director at the Institute of Philanthropy. But she is due to take over as the head of the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, whose assets are more than $1billion. Lorenz will focus on philanthropic efforts in Texas in the areas of energy and water as a way to address climate change at the new job. Climate change, she says, is the "pressing issue of our time". Lorenz has the credentials to facilitate a philanthropy workshop. In 2003, she established a not-for-profit organisation focused on health and agriculture in southern Mexico, where she worked for nearly six years. Before that, she spent two summers living and working in rural, poor communities in Latin America with a volunteer programme known as Amigos de las Américas.

Lorenz says she was always encouraged to follow her dreams. "I felt no pressure to get involved in philanthropy. Without student loans to pay off and with a supportive family, I had the freedom to choose a career that didn't pay very well, which was the most incredible gift I could have received."
In Karnataka, Lorenz was facilitating a module that advises fellow philanthropists on the best ways to give away money effectively. The aim of the visit, she says, was to learn and not specifically to support charity programmes in India. Similar workshops were held in Brazil and China in the past two years. The institute chose India to help become a leader in global philanthropy after the sterling growth of its economy.
Karnataka was picked because as the Silicon Valley of India, "it is one of the most entrepreneurial hubs in the country". Karnataka represents the New India while also presenting opportunities to address persistent problems in Old India. The philanthropists say they saw "fascinating models of forprofit solutions to poverty and excellent examples of the use of information and communication technologies in development".
The group learned that India is presenting to the world interesting models of how private philanthropy can partner the public sector. Several of India's philanthropists are taking traditional forms of charity and reinventing them for contemporary solutions. The group says it was impressed with Rohini Nilekani's strategic work with water supply and Azim Premji's approach to education reform. The institute is looking to partner philanthropists in India to improve the skills and networks of its own philanthropists. The group says the visit to India, coupled with the visit of Buffett and Gates, shows Indian philanthropy is truly opening up to the world.
As for Lorenz, transition into a full-time role at her grandfather's foundation is at hand. She says work at the institute has given an opportunity to work with other philanthropic families. "I can share many of the lessons I have learned over the years with other people in similar positions."

The heiress to billions of dollars is yet to give away money. "I give my time and my energy."



Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation







 In the aftermath of the triple disaster — tsunami, earthquake and nuclear meltdown — in Japan, the flourishing India-Japan relationship, too, may be hit. With all Japan's attention, resources and effort focused on reconstruction, India may have to exert its utmost to ensure that the unprecedented progress achieved on many bilateral tracks in the last 10 years does not get swept away. This requires New Delhi to be mindful of its own obligations and sensitive to Japanese concerns. The stakes are high, considering the many advances in political, economic, defence and nuclear cooperation beginning from 2001. As a result of the crisis in Japan, at risk is not only the civil nuclear cooperation agreement which was all but finalised for signing, but also the rewarding economic partnership.

Regardless of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement clinched during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit in October last and the strategic partnership between the two countries, the upward momentum in India-Japan ties has come to a halt for now. As one of Japan's two top economic partners, the adverse impact would be substantial and far-reaching. In this context, trade figures alone can be misleading. Though the volume of bilateral trade at $10 billion is far from impressive (India-China trade is $60 billion), combined with Official Development Assistance (ODA), FDI and FII, the total economic cooperation is phenomenal. The only other country in the same league with Japan is the US. China may be No. 1 in FDI investment, but India is No. 2, and not too far behind.

In recent years, India has overtaken China as the top recipient of ODA (India was the first country to receive ODA, in 1958). Apart from ODA, FDI, and FII inflows into our stock and bond markets, there are at least two major Japanese initiatives underway in India.

One is the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, with the corridor extending to 150 km on either side of the freight track. The corridor, which envisages "smart cities" along its route in the states through which it passes, may involve as much as $120 billion. Two, there is the upcoming Chennai-Singapore Corridor. Japanese companies, especially auto and parts manufacturers, are keen on rapid development of this eastern connection with Chennai as the entry port. The enthusiasm is evident from the increasing concentration of Japanese companies in Chennai. The fact that the number of Japanese companies trebled from 250 to 750 in five years underscores the scale of cooperation — and how much may be lost now.

With the direction of Japanese capital flow being debated, there is a question mark over FII. Less doubtful is that both ODA and FDI would shrink. The DMIC would be adversely affected, as would projects involving Japanese construction and infrastructure companies, because their priority now would be reconstruction at home.

Central to economic cooperation and political and strategic partnership is the civil nuclear programme. Although the money and muscle of the global nuclear industry is bound to push hard to ensure that the India-Japan civil nuclear agreement is not delayed indefinitely, Japanese public sentiment and industrial interests may pull in the other direction. The Fukushima meltdown and radiation fears have reignited Japanese public sentiment against nuclear power and compelled a worldwide rethink. China has halted ongoing N-projects; Germany has shut down seven plants; and, the US and India have ordered a safety review. Second, Japanese technology is at the heart of sophisticated nuclear power equipment, be it from Areva in France or Westinghouse and GE in the US. Their Japanese collaborators, namely, Mitsubishi, Toshiba and Hitachi, are unlikely to let these companies make a killing in India unless Japan also benefits from the N-power projects; and, that depends on their being able to overcome opposition at home. As of now, it seems that the protests in Japan may tend to heighten opposition to N-projects such as the one in Jaitapur.

Such an assessment of damage or loss to India and bilateral ties does not take into account the consequences arising from New Delhi's response to Japan's multiple crises.

With resolve and grit, the stoic Japanese will surprise the world by an early recovery. The Japanese are also sentimental and have a long memory. They will remember who came to their aid and how. Whenever a calamity strikes anywhere, the Japanese are the first to reach out with relief, as they did when an earthquake struck Gujarat on January 26, 2001. As a "global and strategic" partner, Indian visibility and presence, not to mention participation, in crisis-ridden Japan is barely noticeable. The US is there, along with its army, navy and air force, followed by the UK. China, despite the recent, ugly face-off on the high seas, has reached out conspicuously in this hour of need.

Is India lagging behind?

(Among others, sources for this article include conversations with former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh and former ambassadors to Japan Arjun Asrani and Aftab Seth)







Water lilies at the Deepor Beel Sanctuary in Assam during a recent visit reminded your columnist of Prince Rama's famous question from the Yoga Vashishta: how does one deal with the vyavahaara (work) in this world without being tainted, like a water droplet shining on a lotus leaf ? A large Rohu flashing through the wetland evoked Rama's revolutionary insight from sarga 31: just as it is impossible for aquatic creatures to remain outside water so it is unthinkable for humans to remain untouched by vyavahaara! Does that mean that it is impossible to be unaffected by worldly concerns? Not really. Mere existence of suffering does not negate the possibility of liberation. This is the essence of the Buddha's original insight, which is also incorporated in an earlier version of the Yoga Vashishta called Mokshopaya. Produced on the Pradyumna Hill in Kashmir around 10th century, the Mokshopaya was meant to be used by Kshatriya and Vaisya householders. It openly disdains claims of divine authorship. These were interpolated later into the Yoga Vashishta along with a new frame-work of stories and a pro-Advaita-Vedantic philosophical slant. "It is only by one's own effort (paurusa) that one can be liberated from the bonds of existence," the Kashmiri magus concludes: "For one, who knows the reality, "fate" (daiva) does not mean anything, something like 'fate' does not exist and has, accordingly, no consequences at all." No wonder, some foreign scholars regard Mokshopaya as 'probably the greatest philosophical poetic work of all times'.








The principle of deep relaxation therapy is to create Theta Waves... Our everyday mind that is engaged in an activity of active concentration, analysis, action or debate will generate Beta Waves, which also relate to cognitive thinking. Beta waves move at a rate of 15-40 cycles per second and reveal a strongly engaged mind. When the mind begins to slow down, perhaps through just sitting and taking a break, walking, reflecting, perhaps even watching TV, Alpha Waves are generated which are a slower frequency of energy that move at a rate of between 9-14 cycles per second. Theta Waves are the next level of slowing down brain activity and are related to a sense of detachment from physical reality in one form or another. The frequency range moves between 5-8 cycles per second.... The electrical energy creating theta waves comes from a sense of time lost... where the mind drifts off, and is not aware of the physical body yet retains a level of sensory awareness. Out of this theta state of mind often arise great new ideas, reflections flow freely during this repose, and is therefore a very positive, healing frame of mind. Daydreaming, deep meditation, massage, spa bathing and other repetitive movements where the body is somehow forgotten or at rest, when the mind is free to roam are common situations that generate these brain waves.










Ever since election to the Tamil Nadu Assembly was notified on 1 March, Chief Minister and president of the ruling DMK M Karunanidhi has been voicing a litany of complaints against the Chief Election Commissioner for making an honest effort to clean up the "cash-and-goods for votes" practised by the major political parties in the State. Top police officers starting with Latika Saran, DGP, and State intelligence chief MS Jaffer Sait, ADGP, were sent on leave till 15 May. Director-General (Election Expenditure) of the EC, PK Dash, was deputed to the State to draw up an elaborate plan to tackle money power in the election. He has put into place preventive as well as punitive measures to ensure the "Thirumangalam formula" was not repeated. In the by-election to the Thirumangalam Assembly seat in Madurai last year, there was a competitive bid for each vote. Crores of rupees in cash was transported to the constituency by the ruling party under police escort for distribution to the voters. To avoid a repeat, the EC has posted senior police officers from outside Tamil Nadu in all the districts to keep a watch on the 13 April election. No wonder Mr. Karunanidhi has been protesting. A Division Bench of the Madras High Court headed by Justice Elipe Dharma Rao, taking suo motu cognizance of newspaper reports on the Chief Minister's complaints, formulated issues like whether the EC could unilaterally announce the election schedule and also order transfer of officials, including the DGP, for consideration, and directed the Registry to treat it as a public interest writ petition and posted it for hearing on 28 March. Chief Justice MY Eqbal was not amused. He directed the matter to be placed before the First Bench.
The EC, in its counter, said the State government was fully aware that election would be held in April or May. The Commission held detailed discussions with the State government officials on 30 December last and with leaders of political parties subsequently. According to law, all officials designated for conducting election were deemed to be on deputation to the EC for the duration of the election. Mr Justice Eqbal observed that it would not be proper for the court to take notice of any published news item and treat it as a writ petition suo motu without referring it to the Chief Justice. The High Court's power to initiate writ petitions suo motu in public interest should be exercised and regulated in accordance with rules and norms. Treating the matter as closed, the First Bench observed that in the light of law laid down by the Supreme Court and its rulings, it was of the view that no constitutional issue needed further adjudication by the High Court in the suo motu writ petition. It is common knowledge that High Court judges in several States have not yet got over the hangover of the Indira Gandhi days when the judiciary was expected to be "committed" to the ruling party. By his closure order on Justice Dharma Rao's suo motu writ petition against the EC, Chief Justice Eqbal has sent a clear message to brother judges that the times have indeed changed.




TRIVIA is fast becoming the staple diet of the designated spokespersons of major political parties. Nothing proves that more than their interpretation of the off-field activity at World Cup semi-final. Without a shred of evidence to confirm any such thing as a "Mohali spirit" the Congress loudmouths went on as if this was the first-ever meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, and that the presence of mother-and-son ~ who moved out of the VIP enclosure to make sure they "made it" to the small screen ~ would so charm the people of Pakistan that decades of animosity would dissipate with one wave of what another Mrs Gandhi had likened to a windshield wiper in action. Not to be outdone the BJP harped on not mixing politics with sport ~ correct: it should not be permitted to pollute any other form of human activity ~ and wondered why India was talking to Pakistan since it had not cracked down on terrorism. That actually caused diplomatic observers to wonder on what evidence of anti-terror action had Pervez Musharraf been invited to Agra: then allowed to steal the show? Of course that query was based on analytical reality ~ party spokesmen never allow themselves to be distracted by what makes sense.

Nonsense actually runs riot in the Capital every afternoon when the spokesmen hold their daily media interaction. Often the smaller parties try their luck at picking up crumbs of the media cake. There is a second scene of the farcical act played out in the evenings ~ in TV studios. And while rushing from one to another the poor fellows often forget their script. Talking of script, there is reason to suspect that the Congress' squad has to author its own ~ they are not really privy to party thinking. Come to think of it, precious little thought goes into what is being said, yet duty demands they "speak" every day. It is no easy task, yet one which arouses jealousy for all those who make pretence to netagiri believe the media is the motorway to success. Political consensus is elusive but it would be an act of compassion if there was agreement on two spokesmen-free days a week. It might even help elevate the political discourse. But make no mistake, even as the spokespersons make fools of themselves they also fool a host of journos who feast on every inanity they utter!




AS one of the Arab world's icons of repressive authority, the Syrian President confirmed on Wednesday that he is ever so loath to give up authority. That, in sum, was the stark message of his promised address to the beleaguered people, delivered in parliament. The prospect of Bashar al-Assad following in the footsteps of  the rulers of Egypt and Tunisia just doesn't arise any time soon. The withers of the ruler remains unwrung despite the relentless upsurge over the past month, the increasing resonance of the cry for "freedom" and the death of 60 people in the State's counter-mobilisation last fortnight. Even the hope that the almost institutionalised Emergency ~ in which is embedded the authority of President Assad ~ will be lifted has been dashed. He appears to have backtracked too on the indication of reforms, as part of a carrot-and-stick policy towards a patchwork quilt. His contention that  "reform is not a seasonable issue" suggests that Syria may yet be at an angle to the revolution in the Arab world. Indeed, the whiff of jasmine ahead of the Arab spring would appear to have ended in Libya as much as in Syria. Both countries appear to be headed for a summer of still deeper discontent. The country's parliament, to summon the description of Al-Jazeera, has been reduced to "a circus of support". Syria needs to be reformed with an end to emergency laws, a free media, a fair judiciary and the release of political prisoners. Together they constitute the bedrock of democracy, even after the past fortnight's bloody strife against autocratic rule.

The resignation of the Prime Minister, Mohammad Naji Otri, and his prompt re-appointment as the caretaker PM is no more than a farcical exercise to confound the hundreds of thousands of protestors clamouring for freedom. Real power in Syria is vested in the President. And Bashar al-Assad remains the President and crucially on his terms. The upsurge is bound to get still more furious. The President's address has reinforced the forces of continuity in the struggle for change.









Joseph Lelyveld, a scholar who researched the South African apartheid, has written a new book on Mahatma Gandhi titled Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India. One has not read the book. One has read informed comment on the book. The book is in praise of India's greatest son in modern history. It contains letters by Gandhi written to his close friend Hermann Kallenbach. Those letters are available in the archives. One British tabloid daily newspaper has interpreted, or misinterpreted, those letters to suggest that Gandhi's affection for Kallenbach was unnatural. From certain recorded statements of that time the newspaper also concluded that Gandhi was racist with bias against Blacks. The author himself has rubbished these views. He has pointed out that nowhere in the book has he remotely stated that Gandhi was either racist or was not practising chastity.

However, the British tabloid's sensationalism created the book's notoriety and a fierce controversy. Indian politicians, who most likely have not read the book, swung into action. Union Law Minister Moily said the central government was contemplating a ban on the book. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi pre-empted him by banning the book in his state. The Maharashtra government is thinking of doing the same. Mr Moily also said that the law may be amended to punish any insult to the Mahatma.

Two grandsons of Mahatma Gandhi, Mr Rajmohan Gandhi and Mr. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, and his great-grandson, Mr Tushar Gandhi, have strongly opposed a ban on the book. Mr Rajmohan Gandhi opposed a ban even though he felt that despite the author's denials it contained an innuendo against the Mahatma. The fact is that the controversy created by the book has not arisen from what the author personally wrote, but from the archival letters of Gandhi which he quoted. Should the Law Minister also expunge from the records those letters written by Gandhi?

The views of Mahatma Gandhi's grandsons may be considered of little consequence. They are after all merely his grandsons who possibly conversed with the Mahatma and saw him at close intimate quarters. It is the views of the leaders of our national political parties that count. They are custodians of the nation's morals and represent parties that through criminal negligence allowed minorities to be butchered in Delhi and Gujarat. Gandhi spent his life protecting the rights and the safety of these minorities.

Providing a rationale for amending the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act to render any action or gesture showing disrespect to Gandhi punishable with imprisonment for a jail term, Mr Moily said: "Mahatma Gandhi is revered by millions… we can't allow anybody to draw adverse inferences about historical figures and denigrate them." Would criticism of certain political decisions of Gandhi be considered denigration, or would that judgment be left to the arbitrary whims of the government?

Of the entire world's political personalities in the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi arguably was the greatest human being among them. However he was human. It is human to err. Gandhi committed grievous errors of political judgment. Remaining silent when the Congress Working Committee adopted the resolution to partition India as early as 3 June 1947, long before genocidal riots compelled mass migrations, was one such error. It was Gandhi's greatness that he recognized his error. He sought to undo its consequences even though he knew it might cost him his life. As in the case of Subhash Bose, there remain mysteries surrounding the death of Gandhi which the government that presumes to preserve his reputation has never bothered to clear.
We know that Gandhi was advised by Lord Mountbatten not to oppose the results of the Partition. We know that Gandhi nevertheless obtained permission from Jinnah to spend his remaining years in Lahore to create accord between India and Pakistan. We know that he wanted the dissolution of the Congress Party and when he informed this to Congress leaders Pandit Nehru was most upset. We know that on 28 January 1948 Gandhi wrote that if anyone kills him the assassin should not be hated but be considered a mad man. We know that he had finalized plans to march with 50 Punjabi refugee families staying in the Purana Quila Refugee camp on 14 February 1948. We know that Dr. Sushila Nayar had earlier been sent to Lahore to complete the arrangements for the stay of Gandhi and the 50 families accompanying him. We know that on 30 January 1948, two weeks before his intended departure, he was killed by Nathuram Godse. We know on that very day Gandhi wrote his last Will and Testament urging dissolution of the Congress. We know that five attempts had been made earlier on the life of Gandhi. We know that Godse was under heavy police surveillance because he was staying in Bombay with Narayan Apte who owned illegal arms and was under police watch. We know that Narayan Apte accompanied Godse to Delhi to kill Gandhi, which journey must have been under police surveillance. We know that after Gandhi's death Jayaprakash Narayan accused the government of criminal negligence allowing Gandhi to be assassinated. We know that the government would have been in crisis had Gandhi who sought dissolution of the Congress gone to Lahore to undo the spirit of the Partition. We know that after Gandhi's murder the Congress Party benefited hugely by making his life the brand image of the party worldwide. We know all this which is part of history.

What we do not know is whether there was a larger conspiracy behind Gandhi's death and if so who was the mastermind. That is something which the government should research and help the world to discover. The government presumably will do no such thing. Instead the government intends a new law to make any "insult" to Gandhi a crime punishable by a prison sentence. If such a law does get enacted one fervently hopes that Veerappa Moily and Narendra Modi are prosecuted for insulting the memory of Mahatma Gandhi by favouring a ban of Lelyveld's book. Gandhi's life was spent experimenting with truth. The lives of those who presume to protect his reputation have been spent experimenting with the denial of truth.


The writer is a veteran journalistand cartoonist







Mr Ardhendu Bhushan Bardhan, 85, is the general-secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI) which is contesting 14 seats ~ the fewest among the ruling Left Front's four major partners (the CPI-M, the Forward Bloc, the RSP and the CPI) ~  in the coming West Bengal Assembly election. Mr Bardhan was quick to blame the CPI-M for the Front's miserable show during the 2009 Lok Sabha poll. He was critical of the lack of coordination that he thought had led to election debacles and admitted that the cadres had indeed gone astray. In this interview given to DEEPAK RAZDAN at the CPI headquarters in Delhi in the midst of campaigning, Mr Bardhan has answered questions on the trying times the Left is passing through and its chances in the upcoming six-phase election in West Bengal.

 Does the Left feel that it is losing power in West Bengal?

I don't think we are losing power in West Bengal. This was a relevant question a year ago. The situation was really bad then, immediately after the parliamentary and panchayat elections. In the course of this one year, there has been a complete turnaround. Many corrections have been made, both at the government and party levels, many mistakes conceded. Many announcements have been made, many schemes proposed. For instance, with regard to minorities, West Bengal is the only state that has implemented the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Misra panel reports.

Why do we then hear such a cry for parivartan (change) in West Bengal?

It is only a cry from anti-Left entities which have joined forces ~ the Congress and the Trinamul Congress. They think they are already in power but it remains to be seen if they really will be.

Did the Left Front not pay for both its style of functioning and its quality of administration in the last Lok Sabha election?
Years of power in the state had infused the cadres with a sense of arrogance and complacence but that has been remedied to a great extent. The government and party leaders have accepted their mistakes and are trying to win back the people. Indian people have this great ability to forgive anyone who approaches them with humility.
Your rivals, particularly, the Trinamul Congress, have cited data to assert that Bengal has lost out on industrialisation and young professionals see no future in the state.
What are they saying? Those who spearheaded the anti-industry movement are saying this? What right do they have to suggest all this? They opposed industrialisation of Singur and now they are talking of reviving it there.
But young professionals from West Bengal see no future in the state.

I want to make one thing clear. West Bengal is not an independent country where the Left is ruling and following the path of socialism. It is a state like any other in the Indian Union. Most economic policies such as those pertaining to taxation are formulated by the Centre and not states. All these have their impact. Prices have gone up. Corruption is rampant.

 You often talk of alternative policies. You had plenty of time to implement them…

These policies can't be implemented in a single state. These are policies that have to be followed by the Government of India. In a federal structure, the key policies are formulated by the Centre and implemented by states. As far as policies which can be defined by states alone are concerned, West Bengal has done enormously well. After all, land reforms have been implemented thoroughly only in West Bengal. The democratic decentralisation reflected in the panchayati raj system with full financial powers has been implemented only in West Bengal. The state has done its best. Other changes have to come at the Central level.  
Did you work in complete harmony for 34 years or were there episodes of internal dissension?
No. But I have been critical of the functioning (of the Left Front) sometimes, critical in the sense that there should have been more consultations, there should have been more collective decisions, the Front should have met more often and all partners in the Front should have been consulted on every occasion.
After the Left Front's reversal in the Lok Sabha and panchayat elections, you had said that the biggest partner must take the main blame…  
It always happens that way. And that holds good for the Centre too. Is it not strange that the Congress leads the ruling coalition at the Centre but puts the blame on others when something goes wrong? From Prime Minister down, everyone indulges in blame game. If it is price rise, Sharad Pawar is responsible; if it is telecom policies, A Raja is to blame. What's going on?  
In case of the Left Front's poor showing in West Bengal elections, the CPI-M should take the main blame then?
No. I am saying that the biggest partner should shoulder the largest share of responsibility for all that goes wrong.
Are you facing a leadership crisis? For 23 of the 34 years that the Left Front has been in power in West Bengal, you had Jyoti Basu to lead you. Is a sophisticated Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee an effective counter to a down-to-earth Mamata Banerjee?
Every time finds its own leader. Jyoti babu could not have been around for ever. He is no more. Buddhadeb fortunately took over when he was still with us. I think this country should note that Mamata has had multiple stints as the railway minister ~ right from the days of the NDA regime ~ and she has successfully led the railway ministry to bankruptcy by announcing projects which never get implemented.
What makes the Left feel that it has regained ground? What are you promising now that you could not deliver earlier?
First of all, the Left Front has corrected its style of functioning by going back to the masses, by admitting its mistakes, by telling people what ought to have been done and what had been done in terms of policies and their implementation. In the sphere of agrarian reforms, in the sphere of administration, it has done excellent work. Many things remain to be done, but it has done particularly well in the matter of minorities welfare. West Bengal is the only state that has not seen any communal riot in the past 34 years.
What do you think is the weakest point of your rival, the Trinamul Congress?
The Trinamul Congress does not have any focus. It talks of change but doesn't tell you precisely what it is going to change. It is led by a woman who is very willful.
Are you prepared to face the grand alliance put in place by Miss Mamata Banerjee?
We have faced a similar alliance comprising the Trinamul and the Congress earlier as well. The Press would predict every time that we will be defeated but we came out with flying colours. There is perfect unity in the Left Front today.
In the past couple of decades, you have targeted the Centre for its alleged lapses. But has West Bengal, after three decades of Left rule, become a haven for people?  
We have been suggesting a number of things to the Centre but it either prevaricated or opposed them. Even the Common Minimum Programme (of UPA I) was not adhered to. Nothing has been implemented as per that programme. We did advise the government as and when we thought necessary. The WikiLeaks expose has revealed what the UPA I was up to at the time we were lending it peripheral support and how the USA had a say in so many things, including Cabinet reshuffle.





 "It was a goodwill gesture on the part of the Indian Prime Minister which the Pakistan Prime Minister reciprocated positively and gracefully."

AICC general secretary and the Congress' media department chairman Mr Janardan Dwivedi
"The BJP has always favoured good relations with our neighbouring countries, including Pakistan. But we see cricket and diplomacy as distinct from each other."
BJP spokesman Mr Shahnawaz Hussain
"For a country that calls itself a democracy, it is shameful to ban a book that no one has read, including the people who are doing the banning."
Pulitzer prize-winning author Joseph Lelyveld after Gujarat banned his controversial book on Mahatma Gandhi
"We have played good cricket through the tournament and have done well against India in the past. The pressure will be on India since they are playing at home, but we are familiar with the conditions in Mumbai."
Sri Lanka's coach Mr Trevor Bayliss
"It was not a typical Mohali track, it was turning. We read the wicket wrong and that's why we went with three seamers."
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, captain, Indian cricket team after India won the World Cup semi-final match against Pakistan
"I am sure stepping down will have a positive effect on Ponting. Now that the pressure is off his back, he can concentrate on playing his best cricket. He can definitely take inspiration from Sachin Tendulkar. It will be a huge motivation for Ricky to do something like Tendulkar has done for India over the past few years."
Former Australian captain Allan Border
"I do not know what exactly she does or has done, but our party follows a process of punishing members if they are found guilty. It is a standard process and I do not feel we need to deliberate much on the matter."
Chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee after facing a barrage of questions from students and youths on former party MP Mrs Sarala Maheshwari's staggering wealth
"The CPI-M has ferried armed cadres to Khejuri and Nandigram to unleash a fresh reign of terror ahead of the Assembly poll. In the name of rehabilitating ousted party workers, CPI-M leaders, in connivance with a section of police officers, have positioned armed cadres at key points across the district."
Trinamul Congress MP Mr Subhendu Adhikari






When the Gospel of Luke was translated into colloquial Bengali a number of purists were much perturbed by what they regarded as the use of a degraded form of the language, though it is the form which is universally employed in conversation. But they had the good sense not to let their literary fastidiousness run away with them, and the colloquial version has proved a great success. It is easily understood by any villager to whom it is read, and, so far as the language goes, requires no note or comment. But in Greece a similar attempt to utilise the spoken language as the basis of a translation of the Scriptures led to a riot some years ago and has now been prohibited by law. It is not very easy to understand the amount of feeling which has been imported into a purely literary question. Many people in England have a strong dislike for the Twentieth Century New Testament and other versions which aim at a more modern form of English than that which is found in the Authorised or Revised Version. But a clergyman or Nonconformist minister could read Weymouth's or even Fenton's translation in his church without any risk of physical damage. Not so is it in Greece. When the modern version was about to be given a trial in the Cathedral at Athens so great was the tumult that it led to the resignation of the Archbishop and the fall of the Prime Minister. Precisely why the matter has again acquired prominence is not clear. A motion was, however, introduced in the Chamber proposing that a new clause should be added to the Constitution prescribing the exclusive use of the purified literary language in all the State departments and prohibiting the translation of the Scriptures into the spoken tongue. To overawe the Government a great demonstration was held, the chief participants being the students, whose feelings have been worked upon by some of their professors. According to the Athens correspondent of the Times the excitement was such that a large number of troops were called out, cavalry being placed in the streets, while both the Chambers and the University were guarded by infantry. Even when thus protected, the Government had not the courage of their convictions, and meekly yielded to the purists on every point. One can appreciate the sensitiveness of those Greeks, who, proud of the glories of ancient Greek literature, are anxious to remove Turkish and other corruptions from their language. Their zeal is the more intelligible because the purified language of literature is already producing an effect upon the spoken language of the educated classes.








It is no longer possible, for the most literal of reasons, to mock cricketers as "the flannelled fools". Most of them are playing in coloured clothes and they are, especially in India, all celebrities. Cricket, from being England's summer game, has become India's national game. Nothing excites the passions of Indians as much as cricket. Nothing unites Indians more. Cricket is India's grand obsession. So it needs no wizard to predict that today, after 2.30 pm, the attention of the nation will be focussed on events in the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. A game of cricket will be imbued with emotions and sentiments that have nothing to do with the game per se. It is not the quality of the cricket that is played today which will matter; what will is India's victory. The score and which way it tilts will determine the swing from euphoria to despair.

This is not to suggest that there isn't enough material for drama in today's match. For one thing, India is playing a World Cup final on home turf. For another, the two sides playing are both from South Asia. India comes buoyant to the final after having defeated its arch-rival, Pakistan, in the semi-finals. In spite of this, most followers of the game of cricket — the word, followers, is used advisedly to make a distinction between fans and those who watch cricket without abandoning their critical faculties — will argue that India does not go into the finals as the favourites. The Sri Lankans, right through the tournament, have looked the better side in all departments of the game. This does not mean that the result of the final is a foregone conclusion. There is cricket's proverbial uncertainty and also the adverse effects of tension and stress on performance. These will affect the course of today's match. The semi-final in Mohali also demonstrated that some objective factors — as distinct from performance, form, skills of individual players — play critical roles to determine the course of the match. In Mohali, it was the nature of the wicket. It became slower and slower as the evening progressed and stroke- making became more and more difficult.

There are thus quite a few imponderables. These make cricket an exciting game, and one- day cricket even more so since everything gets concentrated in 100 overs. This excitement, cutting across every conceivable divide, will act as the great unifier of Indians this evening. But some thought should be spared for the Sri Lankans. The latter are relative newcomers to international cricket. But since their entry, they have never looked back. They play an entertaining, powerful and competitive brand of cricket. The Indian team knows that Sri Lanka will be a difficult team to defeat. Playing against India in India is never an easy proposition. Thus, despite being the better side, the Sri Lankans are cast today as the underdogs. As tensions mount, let no one forget that it is only a game of cricket.







Did Queen Elizabeth pass or fail the Tebbit test? It's said she could barely contain her excitement during a Test match in Australia when the England team did something spectacular. Jumping up and down in her seat, she clapped and exclaimed "Oh, well done! Well done!" until her spouse muttered, "Your Majesty forgets you are also Queen of Australia!"

The ultimate test of loyalty, held Norman Tebbit, one of Margaret Thatcher's ministers, is the side an immigrant cheers. He would heartily have approved of Sonia Gandhi's noticeable excitement at Mohali, "grinning ear to ear atop a drinks trolley" among ordinary folk, according to Sankarshan Thakur in this paper. Two days before the match, The Telegraph published an exultant picture of her with arms aloft and mouth open, presumably in full-throated war-cry, at last year's Commonwealth hockey match. Nit-pickers might quibble that Italians don't play hockey and aren't in the Commonwealth. But you can bet your bottom dollar she would have cheered the Indian side even more lustily if it had been engaged with 11 good men and true from the land of her birth.

The queen's multiple identities and loyalties are more challenging, as Prince Philip, who was Greek and Danish before becoming British, should appreciate best. His uncle outraged Lord Beaverbrook's xenophobic Daily Express by once signing himself "Prinz Louis von Battenberg" (whence Mountbatten) at a German hotel. Since cheering betokens identification, and the Commonwealth Her Majesty heads symbolizes inclusiveness, she must root for the teams of all 52 member-countries, though rather more enthusiastically for the 16 (including England and Australia) that acknowledge her as sovereign. She probably also claps especially warmly for the five other monarchies in the Commonwealth, feeling their hearts are in the right place even if they have the wrong monarchs. Suspended Fiji merits a cold stare until it recants and is readmitted but Her Majesty has every right to boo and hiss at Zimbabwe which stormed out sulkily instead of taking suspension sportingly.

Given India's societal complexities, we knew the logic of Tebbit's argument long before he voiced it in 1990. I recall angry murmurs in the Sixties when a well-known Anglo- Indian sports commentator was seen to hold his head in his hands and wail "Noooo!" because an English player missed a catch. I also remember cosmopolitan Muslim friends grumbling about a conspiracy to exclude Mohammedan Sporting fans — poorer, they said, than Mohun Bagan or East Bengal supporters — by increasing the gate money for football matches. They also complained of the stands groaning when Mohammedan Sporting scored a goal and rejoicing when it suffered one.

Consider the two incidents. One appeared to confirm that a then very visible and highly articulate minority identified with its British parentage while suppressing its Indian blood. The other expressed the fear even among sophisticated apolitical members of India's largest minority that they are being squeezed in insidious ways. Syed Shahabuddin listed other such ways: lighting inaugural lamps or cracking green coconuts to launch ships, he said, are Hindu, not Indian, rituals.

So, the passions unleashed on the cricket pitch and football ground should not be underestimated. Sport is war by other means, witness lurid phrases like "scalped", "mother of all battles" and "fight to the finish" so beloved of sports writers. Anglo-Scots fixtures resonate to the strains of Flower of Scotland, celebrating victory over England in what historians call "the decisive battle of the First War of Scottish Independence". That was Bannockburn in 1314. Seven centuries of smouldering patriotism led to devolution in 1999. The British football song, Two World Wars and One World Cup, directed at Germany, more brutally expressed the xenophobia that drives sporting contests but was notably absent at Mohali.

The welcome message could be that some equations are changing. Zaheer Khan was a boon to bowling but as unnecessary politically as it is for any of today's Bollywood Khans to masquerade as Dilip Kumar. The dog-in-the-manger communalism that prompted Mohammad Ali Jinnah to insult Maulana Abul Kalam Azad rears its ugly head only among British-Pakistanis who jeered at the Lancashire-born bowler, Sajid Mahmood, as a "traitor" for playing for England and Wales against Pakistan at Headingley in 2006. No one taunts Nasser Hussain, possibly because a Madras-born British Muslim can't be pinned down in the subcontinent's ethno-political geography. Someone without an obvious tribal home cannot betray it.

It's a moot point whether the 2007 London bombers with their Yorkshire accents would have rooted for Pakistan. They must have known that English nationalism carries the British National Party's ultra-right taint. Yet they still cultivated English tastes and played cricket, probably in the spirit of Madame Defarge encouraging Jacobin initiates to cheer what they were committed to destroying. But religious fanaticism and alienation from conventional politics had taken them to another plane of engagement. Tebbit would have been prouder of Anwar Choudhury, Britain's ethnic Bangladeshi high commissioner in Dhaka, who refused to speak Bengali because — so the locals whispered — his broad Sylheti would come tumbling out. They also sniggered that His Excellency had taken care to pass the Tebbit test before kissing hands on his appointment as Her Majesty's first non-white envoy.

Some imponderables remain. Who would the 1.13 lakh inhabitants of 55 Bangladeshi enclaves in West Bengal or the more than two lakh people in 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh support if the occasion arose? Indians who complain of discrimination would undoubtedly back India. But Bangladeshis with ration cards and other Indian documentation, thanks to Left Front opportunists, have the best of both worlds and might consider which side their bread is buttered most. And the wives that Indian Muslims sometimes import from Pakistan? Or vice versa? Residents of Nawaz Sharif's ancestral village near Amritsar might also be in a quandary since they still benefit economically from the connection.

Such linkages might explain the demand even in Calcutta for green jerseys and Pakistani flags. Kautilya's enemy's enemy theory also accounts for some bizarre partnerships. But Rehan Butt, Pakistan's veteran hockey player, told us that Pakistanis supported India against Australia because they didn't want to be done out of the drama of Wednesday's match. They were also inspired by a genuine desire in the best spirit of the game to see Sachin Tendulkar, their favourite, in action.

The 1952 India-Pakistan Test must have held poignant memories for the two captains, Lala Amarnath and Abdul Kardar, who had played in the same team earlier. "All said and done, I am a Lahori," Amarnath reportedly told a friend. But however moving at a personal level, that sense of lost belonging doesn't help political ties with either Pakistan or Bangladesh. Watching from a distance I would say that a big gain of Mohali was that it engaged two countries without any of the bogus sentimentality that is one (there are many others) obstacle to understanding. Neither Shahid Afridi nor Yousaf Raza Gilani could complain of being treated like errant Indians who had to be coaxed back to the fold. Neither could India fault their generous response to defeat for holding any tinge of bitterness.

It's all a question of identity and identification. Defying genetics, Lord Swraj Paul boasts of being simultaneously 100 per cent Indian and 100 per cent British. Britain's more modest royal family was content with 50 per cent of that heritage but, sadly, its name — Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, derived from Queen Victoria's husband — was more aggressively non-English than the ambiguous Paul. Realizing that people seek instant recognition, Queen Elizabeth's grandfather changed it to Windsor, much to the merriment of his cousin and rival, Kaiser Wilhelm, who demanded a stage performance of 'The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha'.

He lost his throne but relations normalized once the umbilical cord was severed. It would be a small beginning if the Pakistanis didn't have to fly back via Dubai.


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




A fast track court's conviction of movie actor Shiney Ahuja on charges of rape and criminal intimidation indicates that justice can be done if the country's courts and its law and justice machinery are determined to nail the guilty. After sexually assaulting his 20-year-old domestic help, Ahuja had tried every trick in the book to avoid having to face the long arm of the law. The help was reportedly threatened to ensure she would not go to the police. When she did, every effort was made to undermine her credibility by maligning her reputation. Initially, the actor denied the rape charges levelled against him.

But later he admitted to having sexual relations with her, albeit of a consensual nature. In September last year, even as the trial was on, the maid retracted charges, claiming that she had been persuaded by a previous help to press false charges against Ahuja. Given the weight of medical and DNA evidence against Ahuja it seemed obvious that she had backtracked either due to pressure or allurement. Fortunately, the court stood firm in its pursuit of justice. It rejected her deposition before the court, choosing to take note of her statement before the magistrate. Based on this, the medical evidence and the DNA match, the court has now convicted Ahuja. The actor has been given a seven-year rigorous imprisonment.

Convictions in cases of rape are rare in this country. This is because assailants often use intimidation to silence the victims. There are social pressures too that prevent victims from going to the police and the courts. Initially, Ahuja's maid overcame her fears and inhibitions to go to the police but relentless pressure saw her withdraw her charges.

However, the court has allowed textile tycoon Abhishek Kasliwal to get off the hook. Kasliwal was charged with raping a 52-year-old woman but the court has acquitted him. In this case too, the victim was under immense duress; she vanished mysteriously for several months. Thus our courts have a patchy record when it comes to ensuring justice when the rich and the famous are in the dock. Especially in such cases, it is the responsibility of the court to ensure the safety of the victim. Courts must understand that victims are bound to change statements under pressure; so to drop charges on this account will not further the cause of justice.







India's roads have remained death traps for the millions of people who use them. Newspapers every day have reports of major and minor accidents. There are very few people who cannot remember an accident involving a person known to them. Accidents have become so common that people forget that they should be rare. Statistics also prove personal experience. In 2009 about 1,27,000 people died in road accidents and this is the highest for any country in the world. The WHO has drawn attention to the high number of fatalities  on Indian roads through its global status reports. China, which once had this dubious distinction, has now managed to bring down the number of accidents and deaths on the road. But the numbers are increasing in India every year. It is not only absolute numbers which are increasing. The number of deaths per lakh of population is 15 times more than that in developed countries.

The reasons are well-known. Wanton violation of traffic laws, drunken driving, lack of care in issuance of driving licences, refusal of many people to wear helmets and seat belts, poorly maintained or unlit roads, non-availability of immediate medical help and inadequacy of the public transport system. There are not enough traffic police men to regulate traffic in cities and towns. There is a need for better maintained roads to ease congestion, both in cities and the countryside that connects them. Accident rates are high both in cities and on national highways. With the vehicle population increasing and travel and goods transport set to grow, the risks are set to increase unless steps are taken to ensure greater safety on the roads.

Each of the factors contributing to the high number of accidents calls for actions of different kinds. The Centre has recently decided to ban movement of overloaded vehicles on highways in the entire country. There are many laws which are being violated with impunity and there is rampant corruption and collusion between authorities and the violators. The road sector needs immediate improvement and expansion. The public transport system should improve so that there will be less number of private vehicles on the road. Since road accidents are estimated to cost about 3 per cent of the country's GDP and incalculable human cost, actions on all fronts to reduce them are urgently needed.







The large illegal foreign and domestic holdings of Indians include, it is said, of many politicians and bureaucrats.

The UPA coalition has witnessed many more scandals mainly of stealing government funds, especially by the Congress party's coalition partners, than the NDA coalition before it. The Telugu Desam did get funds from the Centre ostensibly for development expenditures.

Under the UPA, bribes for environment and forest clearances by the DMK minister, the notorious bribery for allocating telecom spectrum again to a DMK minister, the emerging scandals about the surrender of valuable Air India and Indian Airlines routes to private airlines, clearance of fake qualifications of pilots, etc, under a NCP minister, the frequent changes of the NHAI's chairmen so as to enable the DMK minister to grant road projects to private investors, the theft of public funds for the Commonwealth Games and the supporting Delhi infrastructure, the mafia that has developed for milking the important rural employment guarantee scheme and other social schemes, are some of the examples. By contrast the NDA apparently had its own smaller telecom spectrum scams, some allegations on disinvestments, but nothing on the scale of the last seven years.

The prime minister and his officials are rhetorically focused on economic growth. They will tolerate double-digit food inflation, damage the environment, ruin the lives of poor tribal peoples, encourage large-scale land acquisition in the name of creating SEZs for stimulating exports and industrialisation. At the same time, this government has also not honoured its word on treating its signed contracts as sacred.

The latest example is that of the Cairn-ONGC dispute on royalties. Government wanted foreign investment in oil and gas exploration and accepted that ONGC would pay 100 per cent royalty even with only 30 per cent of the shareholding. Now government wants to renege on this obviously unfair burden on ONGC, which should be a government burden. India is yet to clarify its position on many issues. One of them is the treatment of Indian assets of foreign companies when the holding company is sold to another foreign company. There are instances other than the Vodafone purchase of Hutchison's overseas holdings.

There appears to be no clarity in thinking in our governments. The views change with different ministers and bureaucrats. This cannot remain so. We are hoping to attract large foreign direct investment. Instead, last year it fell by over 25 per cent. If investors cannot expect our governments to keep their words on signed contracts, or to introduce new rules afterwards, foreign investment is going to be frightened away.

Real beneficiaries

The stench of corruption that is beginning to pervade this central government is another factor that is beginning to deter foreign investment. The large illegal foreign and domestic holdings of Indians include, it is said, many politicians and bureaucrats, not merely the Dawood and other gangs, and businessmen. The way in which there is no attempt to close the Mauritius route for foreign funds inflows to India because of the exemption from short-term capital gains taxes there, and the use of anonymous participatory notes through registered foreign institutional investment firms by anonymous investors abroad, are recognised as routes for laundering Indian money, sending it abroad and bringing it back cleaned. Nothing is done to close these large holes in our financial system. Why should it be when many of the decision-makers are probably its beneficiaries?

It is widely suspected that the reason why the physical public distribution of foodgrains, cheap kerosene, etc, are not replaced by either cash transfers or a universal cheap grains policy, is that there are too many people in government who benefit from these schemes as they are. Now there is a suggestion to use the CAG to monitor the national employment guarantee scheme than build capacity for social audits at the village levels. Many suspect that this is because the CAG is not an instant reporter — it will take time. In any case it will have to fan our over thousands of villages. The local villager is better placed, with help from a few bureaucrats, to do it faster and well. But the beneficiary mafia that has developed around all social schemes is unlikely to want a superior, faster, and local, monitoring system.

We must rethink our paradigms of economic development. Should we tolerate double-digit inflation, or large current account deficits, or volatile inflows of largely illegal moneys, or allow the worse-off in India, namely the forest dwellers, tribal people, and the poorest among the rural population, (perhaps about 300 million people), to be exploited so that inequalities that have boomed since 1991 grow further?

We must thank the intrusive and aggressive television media, the courts and the RTI Act, along with a few ministers like Jairam Ramesh who want to implement the laws in the books, for trying to reach out the economic development in India to benefit the poorest of the poor people and not just the few who already control the economy and society through sheer might.







Khokrains are a caste group of Punjabi Khatris, comprising Kohlis (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan are Kohlis), Sahnis or Sawhneys, Chaddhas, Anands, Sabharwals, and perhaps some other sub-sects belong to the sub-sect who prefer to make matrimonial alliances among themselves.
 I know quite a few of them but no one knew how and when the word Khokrain came from.

I have the answer now from the recently published autobiography written by I P Anand entitled 'A Crusader's Century: In Pursuit of Ethical Values' (KW Publishers). He writes: "Centuries ago when the Aryans were moving down and since Alexander's and Porus's time, certain sects from the principality of Khokhar, somewhere between Baluchistan and Afghanistan, also moved down. Their descendants were called Khokrains. In the Indian side Porus ruled the region that fell between the rivers Jhelum and the Chenab, also called 'Chai'. They were noted for having defeated and killed Mohammed Ghauri, to avenge the murder of Prithvi Raj Chauhan, who was a striking figure in Indian history during the latter part of the 12th century.

"Porus was known for his bravado and for the clout that he had acquired with the support of all those who had accepted his leadership of the Khokrains. That led to great support for him when subsequently Alexander came into conflict with him near the Jhelum. Thus Porus who was of the Sabharwal sub-caste and a part of Khokrains caste group, came to be the leader."

I P Anand joined the Thapar group of companies to become the chief spokesman of its multi-faceted enterprises. He was jailed in the Quit India Movement. He came into contact with many Congress leaders as well as Jayaprakash Narayan. He was also with the ILO (International Labour Organisation). He has a high opinion of himself and wants his readers to share it.


'Honourable' politicians

During election time
Our honourable politicians
After getting garlanded
Amidst the multitudes,
Enjoying the sounds of
Drum beats, fireworks,
And music through
And other accompaniments
Solemnly walk along the roads
With folded hands
And hooked humility
And gently
Knock all doors
And with forced smiles
Beg for votes.
And afterwards,
They pack things quietly
And therefore
They're heard no more.
And if got elected,
You're sure to meet them
Only at the next election!

(Contributed by C J George. Courtesy: Poets International, Bangalore)

Different phases of a man

After engagement: Superman
After marriage: Gentleman
After 10 years: Watchman
After 20 years: Doberman
a a a
There is only one perfect child in the world and every mother has it.
a a a
There is only one perfect wife in the world and every neighbour has it.
a a a

Prospective husband:
Do you have a book called 'Man, The Master of Women'?

Sales girl:
The fiction department is on the other side, Sir.
a a a
The world's thinnest book has only one word written in it: 'Everything' and the book is entitled 'What Women Want!'
a a a

A man who surrenders when he's wrong, is honest.
A man who surrenders when he's not sure, is wise.
A man who surrenders when he's right, is a husband.
a a a

Girl friends are like chocolates, taste good anytime.
Lovers are like pizzas, hot and spicy, eaten frequently.
Husbands are like dal rice, eaten when there's no choice.
a a a

Man receives telegram: Wife dead — should be buried or cremated?

Man: Don't take any chances. Burn the body and bury the ash.
a a a

Question: Why dogs don't marry?

Ans: Because they are already leading a dog's life!
a a a

Fact of life: One woman brings you into this world crying and the other ensures you continue to do so for the rest of your life!
a a a

Q: Why doesn't law permit a man to marry a second woman?

A: Because as per law you cannot be punished twice for the same offence.
a a a

Lady to her maid: Oh Sita, I have reason to suspect that my husband is having an affair with his secretary.

Sita: I don't believe it! You are just saying that to make me jealous!








The heavy metal and screeching is hardly music to my ears.

It may seem a tad unfair to label me old-fashioned but when it comes to contemporary western music, I suppose I am a bit out of tune. The short email I received recently stated very briefly that the organisers are unable to accommodate me for 'Thirty seconds to Mars'.

Clueless but excited about prospects of a potential trip to our neighbouring planet, I wasted no time in phoning the PR manager who signed the mail, drawing her attention to the 'Mars' invitation. "Ooh, we are extremely sorry Sir. The tickets got sold like hot cakes," she said in a melodic voice, adding they might hopefully send me a pass for the next one. But I never asked for a pass I hastened to add, only to be told that my name was included in the mailing list on recommendation by a company director. Before she could ring off, I was curious to know what the Mars thing was. "It is the US rock band Sir playing this weekend," she returned with a hint of amusement. I bit my tongue and thanked her.

Earlier this year, a junior colleague asked me if I was interested in 'Usher'. Presuming he wanted me to be an usher at some event, I declined, reasoning the job was tiresome and I'd rather relax at home. He guffawed. "Haven't you heard of Usher," he asked in amazement and waxed lyrical about the R&B rap artist. As teenagers in the 70s we grew up on a diet of Beatles and BeeGees, Eagles and Bellamy Brothers, the likes of Donna Summer, Dolly Parton and some other pop icons. Today's world of western music has thousands of singers and an equal number of bands that it is almost impossible to tell Foo Fighters from fire fighters or Garbage from trash! Besides, the heavy metal and screeching is hardly music to my ears, although this generation of teenagers including my two kids will vehemently disagree.

The other day my son and his friend were practicing some songs with electric guitars for their college fest. At dinner he was babbling about the upcoming show when I asked him if they finalised on their piece for the competition. Judas Priest or Green Day, he answered, suppressing a smile, certain that his father would draw a blank at the ambiguous names.  Indeed, who wouldn't if bands adopted such monikers. Just then my daughter, whose music collection includes intriguing titles such as 'Linkin Park', 'Anberlin' and 'ACDC' piped in to suggest Green Day was passe and the boys would do well to belt out a Rancid or Godsmack number. That too went over my head. I quickly tucked into my rice and curry.



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



At the Justice Department, it's called the post-Sept. 11 backlash — the steady stream of more than 800 cases of violence and discrimination suffered by American Muslims at the hands of know-nothing abusers. These continuing hate crimes were laid bare at a valuable but barely noticed Senate hearing last week that provided welcome contrast to Representative Peter King's airing of his xenophobic allegation that the Muslim-American community has been radicalized.

Offering federal data rather than mythic scapegoating of an easy political target, the Senate hearing focused on the fact that while Muslims make up 1 percent of the population, they are victims in 14 percent of religious discrimination cases. These range from homicides and mosque burnings to job, school and zoning law abuses, according to the Justice Department.

In running the hearing, Senator Richard Durbin tried to set the record straight about the patriotism of a vast majority of American-Muslim citizens and the continuing assaults on their civil rights. He warned against the "guilt by association" whipped up by Mr. King's broadsides — that there are "too many mosques" in the nation, that most of them are extremist, and that American Muslim leaders have failed to cooperate with law enforcement against home-grown terrorism.

It was former President George W. Bush who first warned against turning on Muslim Americans after Sept. 11, 2001, stressing the fact that Islam is "a faith based upon love, not hate," regardless of the religious veneer the fanatics of 9/11 tried to attach to their atrocities. Since then, American Muslims have served as the largest source of tips to authorities tracking terror suspects, according to a recent university study.

The Senate hearing was not designed as a full refutation of Representative King's wild thesis, but it put a more human and factual face on a community that has been badly slurred. Mr. King is promising more committee haymakers. This is unfortunate. At least Mr. Durbin's hearing made clear that the nation's struggle against terrorism is best served by information, not dark generalizations.






New York's lawmakers passed a $132.5 billion budget before the April 1 deadline, a rare event. That is, on the whole, a political win for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who cut $10 billion out of it.

But the way he chose to do it will bring unnecessary pain to the less fortunate across the state, while allowing some of the richest residents to escape their share of the burden of a recession-era budget. Tellingly, legislators passed the 2011-12 budget behind locked doors early Thursday after angry protesters chanted in the Capitol corridors on Wednesday.

EDUCATION The final budget restores a small amount — $230 million — to the $23 billion allotted for state spending on K-12. Mr. Cuomo originally had wanted to cut that spending by $1.5 billion. But this is still a thoroughly regressive budget that hurts poorer school districts even more than the one initially proposed by the governor.

Consider this comparison between the wealthy Syosset school district in Nassau County and the downtrodden district of Ilion, in economically distressed Herkimer County upstate. Under the new budget, Ilion, which runs its schools on little more than $25 million a year, will lose nearly $1 million. Syosset, with a budget of more than $188 million, will receive a smaller cut of about $760,000.

New York City schools were also particularly shortchanged because their expected allocation of state aid of $6.2 billion was cut by $840 million. A rare bit of good news in this area: the governor's proposed property tax cap is gone. It would have squeezed the poorer school districts already losing vital state money.

MEDICAID Mr. Cuomo's cuts would reduce projected state and federal spending on Medicaid by more than $5 billion, a big but manageable number to absorb. The adjustments to Medicaid are mostly fair, as recommended by the Medicaid Redesign Team earlier this year.

The final budget wisely rejects a cap on malpractice awards for pain and suffering of $250,000. The way to deal with rising malpractice insurance costs is to work harder to stop malpractice. The budget also drops proposed increases in co-payments, which could discourage the needy from seeking medical help. A cap on the state share of Medicaid spending should rein in this part of the budget.

REVENUES The major flaw is on taxes. Mr. Cuomo and Senate Republicans decided to give a tax break to millionaires while cutting money for schools, the elderly, the poor and the sick. That's inhumane and fiscally backward.

Individual New Yorkers earning more than $200,000 a year and married couples earning $300,000 pay a modest surcharge that expires in December. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver made some effort to extend the tax and should stick to his pledge to keep trying. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has complained so loudly about how the state budget hurts the city, should also support this tax. The governor has said he won't approve any new tax, but this is an extension of taxes already being easily paid by the state's most fortunate citizens.

THE COURTS Mr. Cuomo and the Legislature have agreed to cut the court system by an additional $70 million, for a total of $170 million. That portends delays and layoffs and threatens much-needed plans to expand legal services for low-income New Yorkers.

Perhaps most important, this budget does not tackle the huge costs of pensions and benefits to the state, New York City and other areas. It does not grant New York City the power it needs to negotiate its own pension deals with unions, rather than leaving them up to the Legislature. And it does not scale back state laws or mandates that cost local districts too much money.

Now that this miserly budget is officially done, Mr. Cuomo should push legislators to get back to work quickly on its shortcomings — as well as on real reform of redistricting and ethics laws.

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







The cold March mist could not drench the piercing moral clarity on view Thursday afternoon at the Tea Party rally outside the Capitol, where a small crowd of the faithful gathered to save the country from compromisers.

There must be no bargaining when it comes to slashing government spending and ending government health care, according to a succession of activists and lawmakers who spoke into a P.A. system turned up far too loud. Not a single step backward, not an inch of ground lost.

Inside the building just behind the protesters, leaders of both parties were busy selling them out. To keep the government open and, more important, to avoid the blame of having it shut down, each party was contemplating giving up something it once considered precious to reach a deal. And that was unimaginable to the people at the rally, who prefer to think of their government as a sleek and pristine civics-book ideal, rather than the sweat-stained product of exhausting negotiation.

The sense that unreliable Republican leaders were giving away the store lent an air of shrill desperation to those trying to stop them, who built in volume into a bullhorn of negative fury.

Many of those present couldn't decide whom they despised the most: subversive Democrats, who were occasionally compared to the nation's historic enemies, or spineless Republicans, who had abandoned their post in the nation's darkest hour.

"Taxation with representation ain't much fun either," read a sign held by Dee Meredith of Callao, Va., who said she was disgusted with the Republican establishment for not standing fast with Tea Party principles. If this backsliding continues, she predicted, many Tea Partiers will break with the Republicans in the next election and form a third party.

If so, some of the loudest Republican lawmakers who spoke at the rally will have a decision to make. All of them spoke vehemently against precisely the kinds of proposals now on the table: cutting $33 billion from this year's budget, rather than $61 billion, and continuing to spend money on health care reform and Planned Parenthood.

"It's time to pick a fight," said Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, who just a few years ago was considered one of the more thoughtful Republicans on fiscal issues. "This far, and no further."

In front of him, a sign bounced with the words "Grow a spine." Another read, "Invertebrates and Congress cannot stand tall." A man repeatedly called out, "Cut NPR!"

As was intended by its fervent sponsors, the rally brightly illustrated the division within a Republican Party that is being held together with Speaker John Boehner's cellophane tape.

Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, said Thursday that a deal is in hand if Republicans can tune out the voices of the Tea Party. But Mr. Boehner cannot simply tune them out; he would not be speaker without them, and many lawmakers in his own caucus are trying to torpedo any talk of compromise. At some point in the next few days, he — and the very angry people who drove all night to raise their voices — will have to make a choice.






Donald Trump has run faux campaigns for president before, flirting with the Democrats and independents. This time, he's playing a conservative Republican. By 2016, he'll probably be talking about his affinity for the Alaskan Independence Party or the Whigs.

And, of course, he's suddenly a birther. "This guy either has a birth certificate or he doesn't," he said of President Obama. "I didn't think this was such a big deal, but, I will tell you, it's turning out to be a very big deal because people now are calling me from all over saying: please don't give up on this issue."

It was a perfect vocalization of the New York Street: People are calling me up! Don't believe everything you hear, unless it comes over the phone.

In a potential Republican field that includes Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, it's hard to come up with a line of attack loopy enough to stand out from the pack. But darned if Trump didn't manage to find one.

"If he wasn't born in this country, it's one of the greatest scams of all time," Trump told Bill O'Reilly, who demurred: "I don't think that's the case."

Vote for Donald Trump, the man who can make Bill O'Reilly look like the most sensible guy in the room.

Trump's main argument for why he should be taken seriously as a presidential contender is his business success. Has Obama ever hosted a long-running reality series? Owned a bankruptcy-bound chain of casinos? Put his name on a flock of really unattractive high-rise apartment buildings? No!

"By now my name is big enough and equated with the gold standard to the extent that I don't have to say too much about it," wrote Trump in one of his books, before going on to say a lot more about it. He is extremely sensitive to any gibes about his business record, which has been up and down over the years.

During one down period, I referred to him in print as a "financially embattled thousandaire" and he sent me a copy of the column with my picture circled and "The Face of a Dog!" written over it.

Trump was one of the first people I interviewed when I came to New York as a reporter back in the '80s when he was a developer-wunderkind who had started in the business with nothing but a smile, a dream and his father's large holdings in real estate.

He's still promoting, 24/7. Some people believe that his presidential flirtations are an attempt to draw viewers to his TV show, "Celebrity Apprentice." In it, people who are alleged to be famous compete for money for their favorite charities and what one former contestant revealed was a salary of $16,000 apiece. That isn't much for network TV work, but since one of this year's celebrities, disgraced former steroid-using baseball player Jose Canseco, recently tried to make a $5,000 fee by sending his brother to impersonate him in an exhibition boxing match, you have to figure it comes in handy.

"Celebrity Apprentice" is widely regarded as terrible and cheesy programming, but, actually, it has its moments. I recently saw an episode in which a former top model had a serious discussion with a fellow competitor about whether this was the 20th century or the 21st. You can't get stuff like that on "Mad Men."

The series is a perfect reflection of Trump himself: an orgy of product-placement and personal aggrandizement. All the contestants, including the ones in their 70s, have to refer to their host as "Mr. Trump." They all somberly devote themselves to making faux commercials about whatever enterprise has coughed up cash for a major mention that week. Then it's off to the boardroom where people talk ceaselessly about their performance in order to stretch the whole enterprise into a low-cost, two-hour show.

When you think about it, "Celebrity Apprentice" has a lot in common with the current Republican presidential campaign. Endless blathering. Strange contenders who did something vaguely notable in 1986. And Donald Trump, looking extremely cheerful.

Beyond having the moral fortitude to tell Dionne Warwick she is fired, Trump's qualifications for being president of the United States include having co-written a large number of books, including "Think Big and Kick Ass" ("People always ask me: 'How did you get so rich?' ") and "Never Give Up." ("This book is about a subject near and dear to my heart — never giving up.")

To establish his birther creds, this week Trump produced his own birth certificate, after one failed attempt in which he came up with a document that was too weak to qualify for a passport. By the time he worked things out, we had an entire news cycle devoted to Donald Trump having been born in New York.

 Now, let's try asking to see his tax returns.

Charles M. Blow is off today.






MIXED martial arts is one of the fastest-growing sports in America. Yet for years the New York State Legislature has refused to sanction M.M.A. — making New York one of the last states holding out against the sport's expansion. (Connecticut is a holdout, too.) After helping to block a clause in last year's budget that would have legalized M.M.A., Bob Reilly, a state assemblyman, called it "a violent sport not worthy of our society."

As the editor in chief of Men's Health, I'd been a de facto supporter of New York's ban by refusing to put a mixed-martial artist on the magazine's cover — despite the entreaties of several editors and even my own brother, Eric, who trained in M.M.A. I edit a health magazine, after all, and this is a sport in which men use nearly every means available to beat one another into submission, from jujitsu to kickboxing to simply slugging one another in the face with nothing but lightly padded gloves on their hands.

But I've come to believe that, in fact, the New York Legislature is wrong. Mr. Reilly is wrong. And more to the point, I was wrong (an admission my brother will hold over my head as long as I live). Mixed martial arts may be a violent sport, but it is much safer than other, supposedly more civilized competitions, and New York and its fellow holdouts should finally sanction it.

We think of more traditional violent sports like boxing and football as safer in part because of the helmets and padded gloves their athletes wear, and that supposedly protect them from harm. These are, in fact, more like the equivalent of poorly designed sunscreen — "protection" that allows athletes to submit to even greater levels of punishment.

For instance, studies show that up to 40 percent of former boxers have symptoms of chronic brain injury, the result of repeated, if padded, blows to the head. And recent studies have demonstrated that most professional boxers, including the majority who show no outward signs of impairment, have some degree of brain damage.

In comparison, a 2006 Johns Hopkins study noted "a reduced risk of traumatic brain injury in M.M.A. competitions when compared to other events involving striking." The reason is simple: Boxing's "protective" padding, coupled with its 12-round bouts and rest periods, means the boxer is subject to dozens of brain-jostling head blows in each fight. In M.M.A., most bouts end in a wrestling match, with one opponent forcing the other into submission; only 28 percent of all M.M.A. bouts are decided by a blow to the head, according to a study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.

As a result, M.M.A. fighters have not only a lower risk of cognitive impairment, but of death. There have been only three fatalities in the 17-year history of American M.M.A. But we average almost that many in a single year in boxing: 129 fighters have died in American rings since 1960.

Some might argue that such statistics only make the case that boxing, too, should be banned. But what about hockey or football? Men's Health has proudly and without controversy featured Drew Brees, Tom Brady and other N.F.L. stars on our cover — despite the fact that football and hockey combined sent 55,000 Americans to the emergency room for head injuries in 2009 alone.

Hall of Famers like Harry Carson, a former linebacker for the Giants, and Pat LaFontaine, who played center for the Islanders and the Rangers, have talked publicly, even courageously, about the physical and emotional toll of their multiple concussions. And watching 41-year-old Brett Favre dragging his swollen body onto the field week after week last season was an exercise in spectator-sport sadism.

Compare that to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the premier M.M.A. league, where 23-year-old Jon Jones recently won the light heavyweight championship but injured his hand in the process; as a result, he is barred from competition until doctors say he has healed. In fact, fighters who suffer knockouts are suspended and barred even from sparring for three months; in the N.F.L. and N.H.L., we cheer when a player leaves the game on a stretcher and returns the next week — and even louder if he comes back the next period.

The New York State Assembly and Senate both have bills in committee that would allow M.M.A. into the state, and it only makes sense to push them through. In the meantime, I've changed my policy: This month Men's Health features the U.F.C.'s reigning welterweight titleholder, Georges St-Pierre, on its cover. Sometimes the more raw and visceral a sport appears, the more humane it may actually be.

David Zinczenko is the editor in chief of Men's Health and the editorial director of Women's Health.







LAST month, Egyptians approved a referendum on constitutional amendments that will pave the way for free elections. The vote was a milestone in Egypt's emerging democracy after a revolution that swept away decades of authoritarian rule. But it also highlighted an issue that Egyptians will grapple with as they consolidate their democracy: the role of religion in political life.

The vote was preceded by the widespread use of religious slogans by supporters and opponents of the amendments, a debate over the place of religion in Egypt's future Constitution and a resurgence in political activity by Islamist groups. Egypt is a deeply religious society, and it is inevitable that Islam will have a place in our democratic political order. This, however, should not be a cause for alarm for Egyptians, or for the West.

Egypt's religious tradition is anchored in a moderate, tolerant view of Islam. We believe that Islamic law guarantees freedom of conscience and expression (within the bounds of common decency) and equal rights for women. And as head of Egypt's agency of Islamic jurisprudence, I can assure you that the religious establishment is committed to the belief that government must be based on popular sovereignty.

While religion cannot be completely separated from politics, we can ensure that it is not abused for political gain.

Much of the debate around the referendum focused on Article 2 of the Constitution — which, in 1971, established Islam as the religion of the state and, a few years later, the principles of Islamic law as the basis of legislation — even though the article was not up for a vote. But many religious groups feared that if the referendum failed, Egypt would eventually end up with an entirely new Constitution with no such article.

On the other side, secularists feared that Article 2, if left unchanged, could become the foundation for an Islamist state that discriminates against Coptic Christians and other religious minorities.

But acknowledgment of a nation's religious heritage is an issue of national identity, and need not interfere with the civil nature of its political processes. There is no contradiction between Article 2 and Article 7 of Egypt's interim Constitution, which guarantees equal citizenship before the law regardless of religion, race or creed.  After all, Denmark, England and Norway have state churches, and Islam is the national religion of politically secular countries like Tunisia and Jordan. The rights of Egypt's Christians to absolute equality, including their right to seek election to the presidency, is sacrosanct.

Similarly, long-suppressed Islamist groups can no longer be excluded from political life. All Egyptians have the right to participate in the creation of a new Egypt, provided that they respect the basic tenets of religious freedom and the equality of all citizens. To protect our democracy, we must be vigilant against any party whose platform or political rhetoric threatens to incite sectarianism, a prohibition that is enshrined in law and in the Constitution.

Islamists must understand that, in a country with such diverse movements as the Muslim Brotherhood; the Wasat party, which offers a progressive interpretation of Islam; and the conservative Salafi movements, no one group speaks for Islam.

At the same time, we should not be afraid that such groups in politics will do away with our newfound freedoms. Indeed, democracy will put Islamist movements to the test; they must now put forward programs and a political message that appeal to the Egyptian mainstream. Any drift toward radicalism will not only run contrary to the law, but will also guarantee their political marginalization.

Having overthrown the heavy hand of authoritarianism, Egyptians will not accept its return under the guise of religion. Islam will have a place in Egypt's democracy. But it will be as a pillar of freedom and tolerance, never as a means of oppression.

Ali Gomaa is the grand mufti of Egypt.






Whenever the world's greatest investor gets in a tight squeeze, he straps on his angel wings, readjusts his halo, and leans on his reputation for avuncular straight talk to make the problem go away.

Warren Buffett did it in the early-1990s, when one of his holdings at the time, Salomon Brothers, was caught in a Treasury bond scandal. He did it in the mid-2000s, when executives at General Re, owned by Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, were prosecuted for concocting a phony transaction with A.I.G.

Now he's doing it again as he attempts to gloss over the actions of a close associate that look suspiciously like insider trading. The deputy, David Sokol, resigned earlier this week, claiming he wanted to concentrate on his "philanthropic interests." (That's what they all say.) The resignation, said Buffett, came as a "total surprise." (They all say that, too.)

In a statement, Buffett laid out the facts about Sokol's stock purchases of Lubrizol, a company Berkshire Hathaway agreed to buy two weeks ago. To give Buffett his due, this is decidedly not what chief executives usually do in this circumstance. That's why the Oracle of Omaha has such a glowing reputation in the first place. But the statement also contains a sentence that only Buffett would have the chutzpah to write:

"Neither Dave nor I feel his Lubrizol purchases were in any way unlawful."

Yeah, well, Raj Rajaratnam has said he didn't do anything unlawful either — and he's being prosecuted for insider trading. No matter how pure Buffett believes Sokol's heart is, it shouldn't prevent the government from investigating this case. either. Yes, it's possible that there's an innocent explanation. But based on what we know so far, it smells to high heaven.

Let's recount the story, shall we? On Dec. 13, some investment bankers meet with Sokol to pitch possible acquisitions. He expresses an interest in Lubrizol and tells them to convey his interest to its chief executive, James Hambrick. He then buys 2,300 shares, selling them a week later. (Go figure.)

The plot soon thickens. In early January, Sokol goes back into the market and buys 96,000 shares at around $100 apiece. A week later, Sokol calls Hambrick and has a preliminary discussion about a possible deal. Sokol then takes the idea to Buffett, mentioning "in passing" that he owns some Lubrizol stock. Buffett expresses "skepticism" about a deal. Inexplicably, he says nothing about Sokol's stock holdings.

Does Sokol let the matter die there? No. For some reason — what could that be? — he's got a bee in his bonnet about this deal. On Jan. 25, he has dinner with Hambrick; when he reports back to Buffett about the conversation, Buffett becomes interested in making a deal. By early February, Buffett himself is wooing Hambrick. He tells the Lubrizol chief executive that he would like to buy all the company's outstanding shares for $135 a share.

Sokol, of course, owns a nice little chunk of those outstanding shares. When the deal is announced in mid-March, Buffett's trusted deputy walks away with a nifty little profit of $3 million or so. Not bad for a few weeks' work.

How is this not, on its face, evidence of insider trading? A guy buys stock in a company and then talks his boss into buying the company. The fact that his boss is Warren Buffett makes it even more "material," to use the word the S.E.C. favors when it investigates insider trading. If a company executive trades on material information, knowing that he is privy to stock-moving news that hasn't yet been divulged to other shareholders, he is likely to be committing a crime. When Warren Buffett buys a company, the stock price goes up. Everybody knows that — including, presumably, Dave Sokol.

What is galling about Buffett's stance is not the recitation of facts, but the way they were spun to make Sokol's actions look benign. "Dave's purchases were made before he had discussed Lubrizol with me and with no knowledge of how I might react to his idea," he writes. "In addition, of course, he did not know what Lubrizol's reaction would be if I developed an interest."

I'm sorry, but that's ridiculous. Since when do companies turn their backs on Buffett? Besides, Sokol knew that his idea would get a serious hearing; he was so esteemed by Buffett that he was rumored to be the Great Man's successor. When you strip away the Buffett gloss, the facts are harsh. Sokol (a) brought the deal to Buffett, (b) brokered between Buffett and Hambrick, and (c) persuaded Buffett to pull the trigger. All while owning 96,000 shares he'd bought a few weeks earlier.

No one is suggesting that Buffett himself did anything wrong.  But these flimsy excuses are embarrassing.  They damage Buffett's own reputation, which he cares deeply about.  If he keeps it up, he's going to have to  turn in his angel wings. 








Our outstanding University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is not only celebrating its history of 125 years of educational opportunities for the people of our community, but is emphasizing the greater excellence that it rightly hopes to achieve in the future.

UTC Chancellor Dr. Roger Brown welcomed University of Tennessee system President Dr. Joe DiPietro from Knoxville on Friday to cheer on the university's fundraising and its quest to become even better.


While DiPietro and Brown noted our university's commendable past, their focus appropriately was on its future — and what it will mean personally to thousands of UTC students and our whole Chattanooga community and economy.


Visitors to the UTC campus these days find much more than just the familiar, historic buildings. There also is much evidence of construction under way, improving the facilities and landscape.


But the UTC supporters' major emphasis is not on history and buildings.


The focus is on the students, and their improved learning and lifelong opportunities.

UTC has come a long way since its founding in 1886.


The UTC motto in Latin is "Faciemus," which in English means "We shall achieve." UTC certainly is seeking to achieve even more.


It is providing a path for both student and community excellence.


UTC not only has the Tennessee General Assembly's appropriations from our state taxpayers, but also has an important inspirational and economic stimulus from the UC Foundation.


The UC Foundation originated from and expanded through generous giving over many years to support the University of Chattanooga when it was an independent school.


Now the foundation fortunately continues to enrich UTC student opportunities, and to benefit UTC beyond state appropriations since UC became part of the University of Tennessee system.


UTC is unique in many other ways, too.


One example is the high-tech UTC SimCenter — the National Center for Computational Engineering. It simulates all sorts of engineering situations and analyzes them by computer, serving industry and science throughout the United States.


While Brown has reported on the many "strengths and opportunities" at UTC, he and DiPietro also lauded the school's "bold pledge":



It is to assure that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga — which already is a competitive school in the South — will become one of the top five master's universities in the nation by 2021.


We have a most outstanding asset in UTC. And it is "on the move" for even more progress.


It is impossible to grasp fully how valuable UTC is to our community as a whole — and certainly to its individual students.







For several decades, most members of Congress, several presidents and a great many American taxpayers have accepted a dangerous mental disconnect between exorbitant federal government spending and exorbitant federal taxing.


Taxes have been far too high — but spending has been far higher!


Chattanooga's Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann commendably faced our terrible financial problem in comments in Congress this week. All of us should join him in his concern. And all Americans should insist — at least — that Congress make some tough decisions to keep the problem from getting worse.


Fleischmann reminded us:


• Our national debt is more than $14 trillion!


• That's equal to $45,000 for every U.S. citizen!


• The debt is headed toward being equal to 100 percent of our gross domestic product — everything we produce in our country in a year!


• We owe 47 percent of our public debt to foreign sources!


• Our federal government is borrowing more than 42 cents for every dollar our country spends!


And Fleischmann pointed out that "the cause of this problem is increased spending, not a lack of revenue."


Nobody wants higher taxes — especially taxes to cover just the interest on the debt. Last year, interest cost us almost $414 billion!


And there is no easy solution to our astounding financial irresponsibility. In fact, the president and many of his fellow Democrats in Congress are demanding more spending.


But shouldn't we as taxpayers, voters and Americans insist — at a minimum — that Washington start curbing its excessive spending instead of making deficits worse?







Our world has been shocked in recent days by the damage that a tsunami caused at a nuclear power plant in Japan. Appropriately, countless scientists, public officials and ordinary citizens in Japan, the United States and throughout the world have been reassessing nuclear dangers.


We have been assured that the Tennessee Valley Authority has applied every prudent safety measure at our local Sequoyah Nuclear Plant and elsewhere throughout the TVA area. And it is sensible that the whole subject is being re-examined. We want safety first, and service.


But U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., made some important points at a Senate committee meeting Wednesday.


"Twenty percent of our electricity in the United States comes from nuclear power; 70 percent of our clean electricity comes from nuclear power," he said. "So it's hard for me to imagine how we have a future in the United States without substantial expansion of nuclear power."


The senator fittingly reminded, "The 104 civilian reactors we have in the United States have never produced a fatality, and the Navy ships that have had nuclear reactors since the 1950s have never had a fatality from a reactor accident."


While it is vital to "ask questions" and to act with sufficient caution, Alexander said, the United States has a safety record that remains unsurpassed "by any other form of energy production."







Chattanooga's Sen. Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has appropriately raised serious questions about the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy actions that President Barack Obama recently ordered against Libya.


The Republican senator said that while Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi has "engaged in a reprehensible campaign against his own people, I have yet to hear the clearly defined U.S. national interest in participating in what appears to be a developing civil war in the country ... ."


Corker also said he wants the administration to "present to Congress a detailed accounting of the cost of operations to date, any expected additional expenses to be incurred by the U.S. related to military and humanitarian operations in Libya and how the administration will cover these costs."


While it is easy to deplore the evils of Gadhafi, it is hard to justify the U.S. military attacks on Libya, to explain how they might bring about a reasonable solution, and to account for the cost of the U.S. military intervention.


Corker's concerns surely are shared by a great many other Americans.









The new foreign policy designed and implemented by the government is being tested thoroughly against the uprising in the Middle East and North Africa, or MENA. The new era in foreign policy began as a "happy coincidence" in March 2003, i.e. by the rejection by Parliament of the government's proposal to authorize U.S. troops to cross Turkish territory to enter Iraq. The "happy coincidence" brought prestige to the government, both in the country and in the region. In recent weeks, we see that foreign policy moves in the region are seriously tottering since they do not originate in a well-thought strategy or from the lack of it for that matter. Future foreign policy moves regarding Syria, Iran, Lebanon and countries populated with Shiite Arabs where uprisings are yet to deepen, signal more trouble.

Launched in 2003, the "new Turkish foreign policy" is like a caravan being formed along the way proceeding with the help of numerous assumptions. At first sight, we see a "communitarian" approach built on geographical, historical, religious and ethnic bonds. Relations with those "brotherly" countries develop through trade if no open domestic crisis exists. It quickly falters, however, as soon as a problem occurs.

In fact, a closer look into the policy reveals a failure in shifting from an ethical assertion based on religion or culture to a universal moral claim putting human being in the center.

Other factors tip the balance when universal human rights are not the main paradigm. The language is quickly swept into a passé third worldly rhetoric decorated invariably with communitarian elements. Here are two excerpts from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Muslims do not commit genocide," and "I suggest our Western friends to especially see hungry and poor children, mourning mothers, battered women and poverty when they look at the East and South. I hope they will see not only oil, gold mines, underground natural resources but I hope they will also look at these regions through conscience."

An extension of this approach is absolute legitimism. In these countries, the moral supremacy provided by the religion is eventually a guarantee for the prospective victory of common sense. When the motto is "members of our community cannot make mistakes, but there could be deviations," injustice taking place in those countries would potentially be corrected by itself. Another quote from the prime minister: "Our sensitivity is for flawless transformation in Libya." Therefore, there shouldn't be any international intervention and issues should be resolved through some "arrangements." The Turkish government wouldn't be interested in the rebels for they are against the legitimate authority. Yet they could be considered as interlocutors only if they can help the rulers to "reform." "Turkey will never be the one pointing guns at Libyan people," says Erdoğan.

The Libyan crisis is a "brilliant" implementation of this foreign policy approach. At the same time, however, it reveals its limits regarding both Turkey's Western alliances and the future of its role in MENA countries.

There is no Erdoğan poster in Benghazi and the Allies assume Turkey is the spokesman of the Islamic world in NATO.

The MENA societies are the actors of an irreversible process of change from now on. Changing through massive convulsions for almost 30 years and gearing up during the last decade, Turkey set a good example for them and deeply encouraged these peoples.

However, faltering in the face of the recent uprisings means the government doesn't duly assess democratic transformation in Turkey and is not at all ready to export it yet. Ideological assumptions I mentioned above are main reasons to that. Contrary to Turkish society including its own constituents, the government cannot grasp the value of change and transformation in Turkey. If it had, it could've continued being the leading actor of democratic transformation domestically and become the carrier of it outside, in the close neighborhood. Instead of trying to be kind to Moammar Gadhafi, Omar al-Bashir, Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it could've supported the suffering peoples of these countries in every way. Confining itself to the narrow slot of "the Islamic community" and restricting every change process to that slot in and out of the country are the result of this ideological choice and sheer lack of vision.

P.S. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's analysis for Reuters last Wednesday in London clearly contrasts with the prime minister's views examined here. However, deeds not words will prevail.






Those who are new to Turkey might not recall the weight the military use to carry over foreign policy decision-making. In the days when the national Security Council, or MGK, enjoyed tremendous influence over the government, the secretariat general of the MGK acted as a key body, even on the daily conduct of foreign policy. It enjoyed so much authority that it had a say in almost every issue, whether it had a security dimension or not.

Diplomats posted abroad have seen the days when they received written instructions from the MGK Secretariat General to get in touch with local authorities to have a monument of Talat Paşa, an Ottoman political figure abhorred by Armenians, to be erected in the cities they were assigned too. Neither the minister nor the top administration of the ministry had the courage to tell the military about the absurdity of its suggestion, let alone tell it not to stick its nose into issues that were not a direct concern to the armed forces.

I recall the frustration of diplomats who complained about the obstructions of the military whenever a different policy was suggested in order to solve the country's ossified foreign policy problems and improve Turkey's negative image as an intransigent interlocutor.

Northern Iraq has been one of the areas where the military's stance has not exactly benefited Turkey's national interests.

(At this point I'd like to remind those neo cons in Washington and Israeli hawks who are lamenting the military's diminishing role in Turkish politics and blaming deteriorating bilateral ties with the United States and Israel on the military's loss of power that the first Gulf War represents a turning point in the military's outlook on Washington. The fact that the implementation of the no-fly zone in Iraq has opened the way for the Kurds in northern Iraq to form a separate entity tremendously irritated the Turkish military. Anti-Americanism reached such levels that we even saw a former MGK secretary-general, Tuncer Kılınç, suggesting that Turkey increase its cooperation with Iran and Russia.)

At any rate, due the fact that northern Iraq has served as a safe haven to the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK, it was inevitable that the military would have a say on the issue.

However, in the first half of the 1990s, the foreign ministry weighed in over the military in dealing with northern Iraqi Kurds. Yet in time, the military started to take the upper hand. However, as the Iraqi Kurds became more assertive, following the second Gulf War, the military was incapable of managing the new situation on the ground. They ended up antagonizing the Iraqi Kurds, who always used the PKK's presence as leverage on Turkey but were wise enough to realize that they could not survive in a constant state of hostility with a huge neighbor.

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, policy of zero problems with neighbors, coupled with its efforts to curb the power of the military, has changed a trend in northern Iraq that was going downhill. Needless to say, the AKP's conviction that it cannot fulfill its aspiration to be a global power without putting its house in order – namely, solving Turkey's own Kurdish problem – has also affected its stance vis-à-vis northern Iraq.

Murat Özçelik, Turkey's current ambassador to Baghdad, who was the government special representative to northern Iraq, has played a considerable role in improving Turkey's relations with Iraqi Kurds. The engagement policy with the administration in northern Iraq came despite provocations from inside as well as from PKK ranks that would have paved the way for confrontation, something that would have played well into the hands of hawks in both Turkey and within the PKK.

The government is now reaping the benefits of its policy in Iraq.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to Iraq earlier this week says a lot about the policy course chosen by the AKP government. Turkey enjoys respect in Baghdad as well as in the north and in the south.

Ironically, Turkey's privileged position in Iraq is in stark contradiction to the initial "anti-imperialist" discourse Erdoğan took in the early days of the turmoil in Libya. The Turkish prime minister implied very clearly that those countries that intervened in Libya – the United Kingdom, France and the U.S. were after Libyan oil. (Never mind the 25,000 Turks working in Libya, they were probably doing charity work.) 

The prime minister often cited the examples of Afghanistan and Iraq while voicing criticism for a military intervention in Libya. The underlying message from his statements was clear. The imperial Western powers destroyed these countries only to reap its natural resources.

But the facts show us that in the Iraqi case for example, it is not only these powers, but Turkey as well, that is benefiting economically from the post second Gulf War era. There is almost no Turkish province that does not export to Iraq. While it is true that prominent Western companies have taken important shares from the Iraqi oil industry, the Iraqis seems to have proven that they are not going to let their oil resources be exploited freely by the powers that present themselves as their liberators.

Besides, the companies that have been taking a share from the energy industry in Iraq have not been limited to Western companies. Turkish companies have also been awarded some bids in the sector, as well as companies from countries like China.







Turkey's controversial Ergenekon case, which is about the crimes of the state and the schemes for a military coup, has become more controversial lately. The arrest of two journalists, who are apparently accused of "supporting Ergenekon with propaganda," seemed unacceptable to many, including me. But such excesses of the case should not blind us to the real crimes and criminals that it tries to unearth.

On the latter front, the case in fact took an important step in the past 10 days: It focused on the anti-Christian hate campaign and the horrendous massacre of three Protestant missionaries in the eastern city of Malatya in 2007.

Protecting Turkishness

First, let me give you some background. If I ask the question, "Who would hate Christians to death in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country?" many non-Turks would probably say, "Well, probably the Islamic pious." But that would be the wrong answer. For sure, the Islamic camp in Turkey has its own biases against Christians, and especially the missionaries who want to convert Muslims. But the most fanatic camp on this matter has rather been the Turkish nationalists, some of whom are quite secular and even atheist.

The reason for that apparent paradox is the religious nature of "Turkishness" – its most definitive component is Muslimness, even if the latter is purely nominal. Consequently, in the eyes of the nationalists, Turks can freely become atheists, agnostics or deists — but they just cannot be allowed to become followers of Christ.

That should explain you why Turkey's infamous National Security Council, the institution by which Turkey's powerful generals used to dictate to elected governments, defined "missionary activity" as a "threat to national security" in 2001. The hyper-secular generals who made that insane definition were by no means fans of Islam. But they had even less tolerance for Christianity.

And their definitions had consequences. "The gendarme intelligence focused on monitoring all missionary groups and churches," says my friend Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a lawyer, a human rights defender and an advocate of religious freedom. (This bizarre institution called gendarme — which Turkey, like many other nonsense, adopted form France — is the all-encompassing arm of the Turkish military over Turkish society.)

Then, in 2006, a new stage began. "More than a dozen ultra-nationalist 'civil society' institutions were formed," Cengiz says, "which all had retired officers in their ranks and which had very close links with the gendarme." An exemplary one was the National Forces Society, which took oaths on the "purity of the Turkish blood." All these groups were fiercely anti-AKP, anti-European and ferociously anti-Christian. For them, the AKP government was "selling" the country to "imperialists" — for the AKP's Islamic cadres lacked the "pure blood," and the lunatic nationalism, of the hardcore Kemalists.

An interesting center for these fascist groups was the Turkish Orthodox Church, which the Turkish Republic created in 1922 as a counter-force against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the real beacon of the Orthodox Christian faith. (I visited that "church" once; its courtyard had huge posters of Atatürk, and simply nothing that reminded of Jesus Christ.)

Gendarmes at work?

In the same year, 2006, the gendarme was also carrying out a spy game against the Christians. A gendarme captain with the initials D. U. (who later became an informant in the Ergenekon case), joined the Protestant community and played his role of a born-again Christian so well that he ultimately became a pastor. (Documents would reveal later that the man was still on the payroll of the gendarmes while singing his Hallelujah.) Then, suddenly in 2007, the spy-pastor had another "aha" moment and reverted to his original Muslim faith — only to come out and expose "the evil plans of the missionaries against the Turkish nation."

A madly anti-Christian theologian, Zekeriya Beyaz, who is also a great fan of the Turkish military, accompanied this Mr. D. U. on various TV channels, to help boost further paranoia about the missionaries. This is the same Dr. Beyaz whose house was searched by the police last week, as a part of the Ergenekon investigation.

As a result of all that hate mongering, three ultra-nationalist youngsters attacked a Christian publisher in Malatya on April 18, 2007. They first tortured and then slaughtered three missionaries, whose only "crime" was to evangelize their faith. But the young killers had rather been made to believe "the missionaries will invade our country, rape our sisters and kill our children."

Now, the Ergenekon prosecutors are looking at the behind-the-scenes of this monstrosity. The spy-turned-pastor-turned-informant told the prosecutors that the "Malatya operation" was mastered in the gendarme headquarters in that city. He just added that while the young murderers were ordered to "scare" the missionaries, they had gone all the way to butcher them.

So, this is just one of the many evil episodes in Turkey's near history. And we still need cases such as Ergenekon to discover the demons behind them.






A delegation from Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, was in Washington this week for the first time to present their "New CHP" foreign policy vision to U.S. government officials, Congressional leaders and think tank circles.

The oldest party of the Turkish Republic has come to be known as an anti-U.S. and anti-Western party in recent decades, especially in Washington. And that must be why the head of the delegation, former Ambassador Osman Korutürk, emphasized that the "New CHP" was a calculated and smart move to help give his party a renewed and up-to-date identity. While talking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, on Wednesday morning, Korutürk began his speech by making this break known once more. "We call ourselves the new CHP because we have a wider vision and we are more open than the former CHP on international relations." 

The CHP's few-decades-late arrival in Washington came at a time that voices of concern about Turkey's democratic standards are becoming more concerted.

The latest rounds of jailed Turkish journalists, the never-ending detentions of suspects of the Ergenekon coup-plot case and last week's police raids on daily Radikal's headquarters to confiscate a draft book made significant impact in the both the U.S. media and governmental circles about Turkey's direction.

Worsening standards of Turkish democracy, including whether Turkey still has the ability to hold "free" and "fair" elections, were top talking points on the agendas of the American parties the delegation met with.

Besides Turkey's domestic issues, its "zigzagging" Libyan policy (as Korutürk stated how some of the American officials described it), also created another hot current topic for the delegation to lay out its own clear differences from the ruling party in Washington.

How, then, did the delegation of the New CHP perform in such a period when the ruling Justice and Development, or AKP, appears to be a dubious friend of Washington? Has it clearly made an alternative case for a vision that is different from the Davutoğlu doctrine?

Those who expected to hear about a clear break from the Davutoğlu doctrine from the CHP delegation would have been disappointed by listening to Ambassador Korutürk's very diplomatic language. About Ankara's relations with Iran and Israel, the most annoying two for Washington, Korutürk's arguments were "more or less" (as he once himself described it) the same as the AKP's. Korutürk, several times, had to remind his audiences at various talks that the CHP is determined not to use a foreign relations issue as an election campaign issue.

On Iran, Korutürk praised the friendship with Iran, gave personal accounts about the importance of this friendship and how past Iraq sanctions hurt the Turkish economy the most (the identical arguments of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP). At the saemt time, he also argued in stronger terms that Iran has to come forward and be more transparent about its nuclear ambitions and criticized the AKP for appearing to be a supporter of Iran in the international arena.

On Israel, Korutürk's difference was his party's willingness and clear intention to have better relations, as in the past – something that we have hardly heard from AKP officials in quite some time.

Korutürk also used carefully calibrated words to treat Turkey's Libyan policy, a policy that was described by moderator Bülent Alirıza, the Turkey project director at CSIS, as "effectively protecting the Gadhafi regime which is bombing its own people," a view that is shared by many in Washington, he added.

When I asked Korutürk whether he sees any parallels between the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the Libyan operation, as many AKP top officials do, Korutürk patiently explained the differences between the countries of Iraq and Libya, discrediting the comparison arguments diplomatically, but nevertheless doing it without openly criticizing Turkey's current national foreign policy on the matter.

The CHP delegation ultimately had a very difficult assignment in its historic visit to Washington. On the one hand it tried to strike a very balanced position that avoided taking direct shots at the AKP's and Turkey's current foreign affairs for national unity reasons, but on the other hand, it also had to articulate a convincing set of arguments as a viable alternative to the ruling party.

However, the timing of this difficult task was helpful for the CHP. The governing AKP, once known for its reformist and freedom-oriented posture on the international stage, is now increasingly being identified by its static and autocratic tendencies. And the delegation's strong emphasis on greater freedoms, gender equality and more respect for human rights during the visit were important testaments for the CHP's will to replace the AKP's "past" reformist role.

The delegation neither missed any opportunity to hammer the AKP's role in terms of Turkey's retrograding democratic image in Washington, nor did it shy away from conveying publicly the American interlocutors' dismal complaints about the AKP's performance. In addition, the delegation, while carefully selecting its words publicly, was much more candid during their private meetings with the U.S. officials, according to one participant at those meetings.

For some, Korutürk's diplomatic line and cautious messages were "very elegant" and had a "manner of responsibility," as one American observer stated.

I also wanted to check the delegation's comments about U.S. officials' high level of dissatisfaction about the AKP government with a distinguished American foreign policy expert who is very close to U.S. governmental powerhouses.

The expert confirmed the delegation's accounts and added this: "Davutoğlu's late night calls to the State Department wore many Turkey desk officers thin there over the last months. About every significant turn of events that relate to both countries, Turkey's repeated objections and 'new' conditions were tiresome. When [President Barack] Obama went to Turkey early in his presidency and proposed a 'model partnership,' the expectation was that whenever the U.S. would need a favor from Turkey, it could count on it, and whenever Turkey needed a favor, it could count on the U.S. Well, things have not gone quite that way and apparently Ankara's understanding of that partnership is very different than Washington's. And after nine years in its governing, there should be a reason for people to still ask about Turkey's direction."

Yigal Schleifer, an American journalist based in Washington who follows Turkish affairs closely, explained the reason of the great heed shown in the CHP delegation by officials and Turkey watchers in Washington: "Because there's great interest among those who care about Turkey that there should be a viable political opposition in the country. I think many people were very curious to see if the CHP is starting to move beyond the dead-end politics that characterized the Deniz Baykal years. It's not so much an issue of preferring the CHP over the AKP, but rather based on the perception that the health of Turkish political life depends on there being a truly functional opposition party in the picture, and currently the CHP is the most likely candidate to play that role."

Therefore the delegation's apparent success was mostly tied to the current environment of Washington in which one can easily find many who are irritated by the AKP's style and foreign policy conduct.

Now the difficult period starts where the CHP has to articulate its own vision clearly – one that can compete with the Davutoğlu doctrine – while interpreting the past, judging today and picturing the future.

That is where CHP will meet with harder tests to prove it is indeed a viable rival to the current government.

Nevertheless, the delegation should enjoy its hard-earned Washington success, which was a big step for the New CHP and certainly for the future of Turkish democracy.






The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, both wants to prevent bloodshed in the southeast and aims to create tension with the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, by keeping people on the streets through acts of civil disobedience organized in the region.

The BDP is doing this because it cannot stomach losing Kurdish voters who could be influenced by the AKP's Kurdish initiative. BDP Group Deputy Chairman Bengi Yıldız says the acts will continue until the elections.

Recently, I had a chance to talk to a leading figure in Kurdish politics, former Democracy Party, or DEP, deputy Sedat Yurttaş. BDP candidates will have an impact on the party's success in the elections, the deputy said. Other than some symbolic names, if the BDP does not invite certain figures to run for the party and embrace Kurdish voters, it may encounter difficulty in reaching its desired 30 to 35 deputies in Parliament.

At the present time, there is another considerable hurdle in front of the BDP: A total of 2,606 years in prison as demanded by prosecutors for 19 deputies…

In the history of the Kurdish movement, from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, to the BDP, rarely has one seen the site of a deputy being released from prison to become a deputy – along with the parliamentary immunity that includes. The most famous recent case was Sabahat Tuncel, who was in prison while being tried in a PKK case. She was nominated in 2007 while serving time in prison, won in Istanbul and then entered Parliament. It was a symbolic act for the Kurdish movement given that thousands are in prison and standing trial.

This time, however, the situation is the opposite: The party administration may pave the way from Parliament to prison for some current deputies through its choices.

A total of 587 summaries of proceedings for 19 BDP deputies have been sent to the Parliamentary Speaker's Office in four years, with prosecutors asking for more than 2,606 years in total. The deputies are accused of "making propaganda for an illegal organization" and "praising crime and criminals." The hard time that the 19 could face is as follows:

Akın Birdal-Diyarbakır (5 years – 5 summaries of proceedings); Ayla Akat Ata-Batman (170 years – 39 summaries); Bengi Yıldız-Batman (169 years – 35 summaries); Emine Ayna-Mardin (335 years – 69 summaries); Fatma Kurtulan-Van (168.5 years – 27 summaries); Gültan Kışanak-Diyarbakır (145 years – 28 summaries); Hamit Geylani-Hakkari (109 years – 28 summaries); Hasip Kaplan-Şırnak (23 years – 11 summaries); İbrahim Binici-Urfa (114 years – 47 summaries); Nezir Karabaş-Bitlis (65 years – 18 summaries); Nuri Yaman-Muş (65 years – 13 summaries); Osman Özçelik-Siirt (140.5 years – 44 summaries); Özdal Üçer-Van (340 years – 63 summaries); Pervin Buldan-Iğdır (134.5 years – 35 summaries); Sabahat Tuncel-Istanbul (149 years – 26 summaries); Selahattin Demirtaş-Diyarbakır (75 years – 23 summaries); Sevahir Bayındır-Şırnak (255 years – 40 summaries); Sırrı Sakık-Muş (68 years – 16 summaries); Şerafettin Halis-Tunceli (71 years – 21 summaries).

I spoke to BDP Co-Chair Kışanak. According to her, Kurds are being made to pay the price of not having freedom of thought. "On one side, there is freedom of thought, so it's been said. But on the other hand, deputies are facing imprisonment because of their statements. As deputies, we don't have freedom of thought," she argued.

This heavy summary blockade has triggered yet another discussion inside BDP. As in all political parties, there is a cut-throat candidacy race going on in the BDP. The grassroots are lent an ear; but for the decision, the views of Kandil and İmralı are given importance, too.

Several names, such as Leyla Zana and Hatip Dicle, who were immortalized after spending 10 years in prison for trying to take their parliamentary oaths in Kurdish in the 1990s, are key candidates for nomination. The BDP also wants to nominate a few common names with some leftist groups under the banner of what is referred to as the Democratic Front. There are also candidate nominees among detainees in the outlawed Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, case. Plus, the candidacies of incumbents are also an issue.

The BDP has not made up its mind yet on who will be nominated again among the 20 deputies. If the incumbents are not nominated following the June 12 elections, they will have to face the court and will stand trial for hundreds of years in prison.

This is the reason the BDP administration is trying to keep several names in play. We'll see in the days to come whether or not this "heavy sentences table" will have a serious impact on candidate lists…

Undoubtedly though, the BDP administration is well aware that it could send its friends from Parliament back to prison this time around in a complete reversal of four years ago. Needless to say, BDP administrators are treading extremely delicately because of this table.

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan will have the final say on the issue; in this, it is useful to note that he fiercely criticizes seeing "being a deputy as a way out from prison."






As a European expat, this is your first meeting with your largest account in Turkey. You have decided to welcome them at 8:30 a.m. sharp in order to show that you are an early riser and a hard-working executive. It is already 8:30 and no one is there. You are getting a bit annoyed. Your local sales manager tries to explain to you that crossing the bridge sometimes takes longer than expected, but this is no excuse for you. At 8:40, one of his subordinates arrives and informs you that his boss has been stuck on the bridge, but will arrive in about five minutes. He and his other subordinate arrive at 8:50. You welcome them, but not as sincere as you would have had it been 8:30. They feel it. It is not a good start.

You: They should have calculated this and arrived for this first meeting on time.

Him: Oh god! Another cold, stubborn European who is ready to teach us lessons.

He starts talking about how the traffic in Istanbul is getting worse every day. You look at your watch and think about your staff meeting scheduled for 9:30. Then he asks you where your new home is in Istanbul. You answer Yeniköy, but this is not enough; he says that he has a friend living over there and wants to know which part of Yeniköy. The last thing you want to do is give your home address to someone with whom you might have a dispute in the future. You tell him that even you have a hard time finding it. Next he asks you which school your kids are going to go to. Help help!! You answer an international school. Then he tells you about his own children and about the football game they went to see together on Sunday.

You: How can I avoid such personal questions?

Him: How can I start a warm personal relation with this cold guy?

It is already 9:10. You look at your watch and consider informing him about your next meeting. He asks whether you like football or not and asks you to join them for a derby. You are not accustomed to this and do not find it right to become closer to one of your clients in this way at this early stage. Family is a great excuse. At 9:15, you at last find the chance to ask him how his business is. He gives you a five-minute speech on low margins, inefficient payment terms and bad market conditions. Then you give him a five-minute speech how powerful the brand is and how big the potential is in Turkey.

You: A typical key account who wants to get something out of a newcomer?

He: Another newcomer who has absolute no clue about what is going on in this market.

At 9:25 you cannot stop yourself telling him that you have another meeting at 9:30. Now he seems irritated. He says he has issues in which he needs support from you. You think that he should have come earlier then. He counts the issues fast and waits for a reply. You tell him you will evaluate them with your team and get back to him. Actually you have no clue about what he is talking about. You stand up, they follow. You lead the way and shake hands at 9:30.

You: I am glad I made it for my 9:30 meeting so as not to give a wrong impression to the team.

Him: What kind of person calls you over so early from such a long way for such a short meeting?

A year later, after being late a couple of times yourself, you will be an expert on talking about traffic and short-cut routes as meeting warm ups. You will make sure that you have planned extra time for these meetings. Acknowledging your sensitivity, your key account will start arriving earlier. He will continue talking about the market exactly as he did during the first meeting while you talk about the power of the brand and the great potential – in doing this, you can reach goals by working together.

Business talks are the same around the world just the behavior differs from country to country. If we acknowledge and respect the differences, time will lead the way and you will end up with the following:

You: He will never end up asking new things, but I like his sincere, friendly attitude.

He: I know I will never get all that I want, but it is amazing how fast he has adapted himself to the local conditions. I hope he stays for awhile so that we do not start with a newcomer all over again.

Zafer Parlar is the founder of istventures (, which supports international companies in their market entries and development in Turkey, as well as Turkish companies in their local operations and international expansion plans.






AKSA, an affiliate of Akkök Group, has a world market share of 13 percent in acrylic fiber production.

The company started production with a capacity of 5,000 tons per year in 1971. Today, it's a world leader in acrylic fiber production with a capacity of 308,000 tons per year.

AKSA can build production facilities in any part of the world or sell technology licenses. The progress achieved in 40 years is a critical example to show the progress of Turkish industry.

The company's new endeavor is to become a world leader in "carbon fiber," with which transport vehicles of the future will be manufactured. Carbon fiber is described as the raw material of the 21st century.

Where is carbon fiber used?

First of all, I should say that carbon fiber is fourfold to fivefold stronger but fourfold to fivefold lighter than steel. Each carbon fiber is as thin as 1/10th of a hair, but has incredible tensile strength.

As a matter of fact, I can say that I was quite surprised by what I saw at the Composites Show in Paris.

During a quick tour at the fair with Akkök Chief Executive Officer Mehmet Ali Berkman and Akkök Executive Board Member and AKSA Board Member Mustafa Yılmaz, I realized the importance of carbon fiber, which I had not been aware of it until now.

'We can lift off a helicopter'

Let's go back to where it's used: the aviation sector, land and sea transportation, infrastructure and seismic protection, wind energy plants, cables, computer hardware and cell phones.

Fifty percent of Airbus A380 bodies are built with carbon fiber.

And the plan is to build 100 percent of the aircraft's body with carbon fiber as of 2013.

Berkman talked about where it's used in Turkey.

In the aftermath of the Adapazarı earthquake in 1999, carrier cables of Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge (the second Bosphorus Bridge) in Istanbul were strengthened with carbon fiber.

An Italian Lamborghini I saw at the fair is completely made of a carbon fiber composite material.

The same material is also used in the body of helicopters manufactured by Eurocopter Eads.

Yılmaz claimed that body of this helicopter is so light that even three women can lift it up together.

But of course we women in the group did not try to prove his claim.

  Catch up on 30 years

Returning to the claim of Yılmaz, and therefore of AKSA, the company is on the way to become a world player in carbon fiber production.

AKSA decided on carbon fiber production in 2006 and focused on research and development for three years accordingly. The production started in 2009.

Within 1.5 years, the company managed to rank ninth in a 10-manufacturer list.

I should say that the other players on the list have been in carbon fiber production since 1980.

In other words, we are talking here about a Turkish company, without needing any license from abroad, catching up on 30 years through R&D studies and with the efforts of Turkish engineers.

This is a clear indication that Turkey is on the "advanced technology" train.

AKSA exports almost all of its annual carbon production of 1,500 tons.

The facilities processing carbon fiber in Turkey are just growing.

On the day of producing "carbon fiber" material for Airbus or BMW hybrid cars, Turkey will definitely have stepped into a new age.






After the nuclear disaster in Japan, humanity is concerned, and rightfully so, about nuclear safety and whether or not it is worth using it. At the same time, you humans are showing us everyday examples of how to provide energy without using fossil fuels or nuclear energy. So then why don't you play it safe and do what the Swedes do. But what do they do? 

The city of Kristianstad, with a population of 80,000, uses no oil, no natural gas and no coal to heat homes and businesses during the long frigid winters. So how do they produce energy? It generates energy from an assortment of ingredients like potato peels, manure, used cooking oil, stale cookies and pig intestines. [hmmmm… Maybe sheep intestines could be used in Muslim countries instead.] A 10-year-old plant on the outskirts of the city uses a biological process to transform the detritus into biogas, a form of methane. That gas is used to create heat, electricity or is refined as fuel for cars. 

The startup expenses, covered by the city and the government were considerable. The centralized biomass heating system cost $144 million, including constructing a new incineration plant, laying networks of pipes, replacing furnaces and installing generators. But the payback has also been significant. The city spends now about $3.2 million a year to heat its municipal buildings rather than the $7 million it would have spent had it still relied on oil and electricity. The operation of the biogas plant brings also money because farms and factories pay fees to dispose of their waste. Transportation now accounts for up to 60 percent of fossil fuel use and city planners are looking for ways to produce more fuel.

So if a city of 80,000 can produce safe and non-fossil energy, why can you humans not do it all over the planet? Is it the vested interests of the nuclear-energy humans, or the oil-producing humans, or is it just plain human greed? But please keep in mind that if you do destroy the planet, you will have destroyed yourselves first, and you will cease to exist. So greed will be totally useless for you in the long run. 

By the way, the whaling industry of Japan was destroyed by the tsunami that followed the earthquake. While we were sorry for the unfortunate fishermen, we cannot but share the joy of the whales who can now circulate the oceans of the planet without the fear of being hunted down. Earth protects some of its inhabitants in funny ways. 

Ponder our thoughts, dear humans, for your benefit.






The de-facto absolute ruler of the country has finally let the cat out of the bag and disclosed – on a visit abroad, as has become his habit in disclosing such important decisions – his "inclination" to "allow" the Turkish people go to the booths sometimes after the June 12 polls, this time to vote in a national referendum on a new constitution which would carry Turkey to a presidential governance.

The sleeping beauties, geriatrics, secularists, Kemalists, nationalists, patriots and all others – whatever and whoever they might be – who are wishing and daring to criticize the absolute ruler and his majoritarian democratic governance understanding should wake up and try to comprehend what the de-facto absolute ruler has said. Tomorrow might be too late. When the ballot box is placed soon in front of the nation in a referendum on a new constitution carrying Turkey to a presidential governance rather than the multi-party parliamentary governance – which unfortunately is already converted into a majoritarian rule that suspended separation of powers, supremacy of justice, equality, transparency, sanctity of private life and such fundamental principles and norms of democratic governance – no one should come up with a claim that they are subjected to yet another political ambush of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

Well over a year ago the AKP and the absolute ruler revealed the probability of Turkey moving on to presidential governance for the sake of consolidating integrity of governance, boost administrative stability and help cement political and economical predictability sought by investors. At the time it was Burhan Kuzu – a constitutional law professor and an AKP deputy who is heading the constitutional commission of Parliament and who has been one of the leading political musketeers of the absolute ruler – was masterminding the promotion of the "reform" to the nation and the absolute ruler was just saying as a democrat he wanted all ideas be discussed in the country but such an issue was not on his agenda. Now, he is no longer that shy in talking on the issue.

Most probably, he has realized that not only those who have allegiance links with him or are in some sort of an Islamist brotherhood solidarity with him and who would not dare to oppose him anyhow or the staunchest of his opponents, but, as they say in Turkish, even the "deaf sultan" was aware that he has been dying to become the first president of a presidential Turkey and briefly gave up his rather deceptive and ambiguous stance on the issue declaring that he would ask the nation in a referenda whether they wanted to introduce a presidential system of governance in Turkey.

Why the absolute ruler gave up his deceptive and ambiguous stance on the issue might also be a product of his over confidence that his ruling AKP would come back strong-enough in the June 12 parliamentary elections to pen down a new constitution without feeling the need to establish a consensus with the opposition parties. The absolute ruler, who has been saying that he has conducted three public opinion polls the outcome of which are so far are hidden in his safe, must indeed be confident of getting over 50 percent of the vote and winning a comfortable at least two-thirds majority or at least 367 seats in the 550-member Parliament that would allow the ruling AKP legislate a new constitution on its own.

Naturally, if the absolute ruler has such a radical target in his head this issue must be raised in the election campaign. People should be explained what kind of a constitution the ruling party, as well as other parties, have in their minds. It will not be democratic at all to ask the people to vote in parliamentary elections without adequately explaining to the people what that parliament will primarily do. Constitution ought to be a national charter rather than a text written by a political party irrespective what is its parliamentary strength. A part getting over two-thirds of the seats in Parliament because of the crooked election system cannot have the power to write a new constitution on its own. If a new constitution will be written by the new parliament, at least for this special parliament the 10 percent national electoral threshold must be taken down to a reasonable level allowing minority views to be represented adequately. The 10 percent threshold means the loss of representation for some 10 million people; how can Turkey legislate a constitution with millions of Turks – irrespective of whether they are ethnic, linguistic, cultural or political minorities – none of whom are represented at all in Parliament?

With rampant signs of an advancing police state; political aspirations carrying the absolute ruler and his political clan to tyranny; perennial tradition of the society to worship power many of us might be approaching presidential rule with serious concerns. Perhaps those concerns are exaggerated. Perhaps presidential rule will provide Turkey better governance. Don't we need to discuss pros and cons before electing the deputies who will somehow write that "national" charter?

Sorry, was asking such a question allowed? Would the absolute ruler allow people posing such nasty questions to stay out of prison?

P.S.: I have downloaded "İmamın Ordusu" (The Imam's Army) book, which had been banned before being published, and am reading it. So far I just cannot understand why it was banned.






In the wake of the Cold War, the United States faced an ongoing dilemma of superpower proportions: Should it accept the global policeman's badge and use its military might to patrol the world's trouble spots? In many cases, it did. Ironically, following a decade-long spending spree, the question is no longer whether the U.S. should continue honoring this responsibility, but rather whether it can afford to do so.

Trumpeting the benefits of economic interdependence around the globe, U.S. policymakers have overlooked the potential costs of free trade and unrestricted capital flows that developing country politicians internalized years ago. Now U.S. officials are reminded that when economic interdependence turns into economic dependence, it creates a harsh reality where the politics of possibility can quickly become the politics of austerity. A growing foreign debt has not only changed U.S. domestic politics, but also infused more of a multilateral tone into its global politics. Notwithstanding the U.S.'s seismic economic and military strength, partisan conflict over domestic budgetary pressures exposes the fault lines of the post-Cold War hegemonic order.

Over the last decade, the U.S. government adopted a strategy from the Latin American playbook, opting to use foreign funds to finance its budget deficits. In a management blunder of historic magnitude, George W. Bush swung the federal budget surplus deeply into the red. Borrowing trillions of dollars from foreigners, including China, the Bush administration funneled debt proceeds toward lofty tax cuts, a dual-front war in Iraq and Afghanistan, "global war on terror," and homeland security spending. Shockingly, the Bush administration not only expanded national debt by one-quarter of its size in eight short years, but in doing so, became increasingly reliant on foreign creditors. This practice was a clear break from the past. By the end of Bush's time in office, foreigners held about two-thirds of the government's total debt.

In light of the dollar's global reserve currency status, the U.S. government should continue to readily attract foreign capital for the foreseeable future. However, the U.S. suffers from a more immediate vulnerability. Against the backdrop of the Republicans' mid-term election victory, spending cuts have again taken center stage. Reminiscent of the Contract for America, House Speaker John Boehner and his cadre of Republican peers are proposing billions in budget cuts that include foreign military and developmental aid. In his State of the Union address, President Obama similarly seized the "post-crisis" political window, emphasizing the need to reverse the country's "legacy of deficit spending."

The emergence of austerity politics in North America has important geopolitical implications. Is the United States' ability for global leadership waning? While a wave of democratization and the proliferation of new states flourished in the 1990s under the watchful eyes — and active support — of the United States (and its allies), today this commitment may be wavering. The substantial drop in U.S. foreign aid, investments and contributions toward weak states around the developing world could be seen as important signs of this trend. Pundits have commented on the U.S. absence in the most recent wave of protests in the Middle East; part of this was dictated by the politics of austerity at home. Despite its low-profile and multilateral approach during the Libyan intervention, the Obama administration still met significant domestic resistance from across the political spectrum.

In the hopes of enhancing its geopolitical sphere of influence, the U.S. government has often invested in the smallest nations (e.g. trading preferences, IMF financing privileges, military investments, and development aid). Indeed, although the economic rules of the game are skewed in its favor, the U.S. sometimes changes these rules to benefit the smallest nations for political purposes. With the rise of austerity politics, however, the U.S. may not be as willing — or able — to extend such trade and finance benefits to smaller nations. 


Cloaked in a rhetoric of economic nationalism and austerity, the U.S. may withdraw support from small, strategically less important countries, like Djibouti, placing the latter's economic and political survival at risk. The U.S. urges developing nations to open their borders, yet it champions "Buy American" shovel-ready projects and its own protection for pharmaceuticals. Refusing to liberalize its agricultural sector, the U.S. has left the multilateral Doha development round mired in a stalemate, instead aggressively negotiating bilateral deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. 

Faced with such economic institutional gridlock globally and higher budget constraints domestically, does the United States still have the political will and resources to preserve all of its spheres of influence? Is it willing to be the world's sheriff, especially given its recent difficulties in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

There is a very real temptation for the United States to neglect the prosperity and security of the periphery. Mired in its own economic struggles, the U.S. may contemplate withdrawing from its geopolitical commitments. But there is rarely a void in the international system. Other actors, such as Iran, Russia or China, may seek to fill it. Whether conflict is instigated internally such as in Libya or by the interference of stronger neighbors such as in Bahrain, political opportunism could quickly escalate into full-blown conflict. Like the slow plunging of ice shelves into the arctic, the vulnerabilities least visible from the center may be precisely those that most threaten the global system's long-term viability.

*Stephen B. Kaplan and Harris Mylonas are assistant professors of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.






Sima is 15, but looks even younger. I met her in Kabul, in the female juveniles section of the Badam Bagh prison, earlier this month. She talks very little, but her eyes are full of grief. A defense lawyer told me it is likely she had been raped.

What is Sima's crime? She is serving her sentence for running away from domestic violence. About half of all women in Afghan prisons are there for the same "crime." Some of them are in prison with their babies. The youngest ones are no older than 12. Having spent time in jail, they will rarely be accepted back by their families and communities.

Ten years since the Taliban fled Kabul and new laws, policies and development aid have brought some benefits to Afghan women, but deep-rooted challenges remain. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently issued a report on harmful traditional practices against women and girls in Afghanistan. About half of women marry before the age of 15. It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of marriages are forced. Selling girls or giving them away in settlement of a conflict is common practice. The literacy rate of Afghan girls aged 15 or older is just 12 percent. Unsurprisingly, violence and abusive behavior against them is widespread. Afghanistan has ratified the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women, but their initial report is long overdue. A law on eliminating violence against women was adopted recently, but its enforcement is a real challenge: victims are reluctant to seek help from police officers, 99 percent of whom are male.

So, what can they do when they face abuse? Desperate girls and women all too often commit suicide, an increasing number of them by self-immolation. Those who have the courage to run away and seek refuge within their family are often returned to their abusive husbands or parents. Those who try to find a safe haven at their neighbors' or friends' houses face criminal charges for the intent to commit "zina" (adultery, or sexual relations out of marriage). The punishment is not provided by law, nor, I was told by experts, is it consistent with shariah, which requires witnesses and proof. It is based merely on an instruction of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan. The only safe havens for victims are NGO-run shelters for women and girls, yet Afghan authorities have recently threatened to halt their continued operation.

I visited the oldest shelter in Afghanistan and talked to the girls and women under its protection. It was heartbreaking to hear their pleas for the maintenance of the shelters, as they are the only places they can go. "If this place is closed, I have no option but to kill myself," a young woman told me. I raised the issue with President Karzai who assured me that the number of shelters will not be reduced and that he is in favor of government financially supporting NGO-run shelters.

This week the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the U.N. assistance mission in Afghanistan. It "strongly condemns" continuing discrimination against women and girls; calls for enhanced efforts to secure their rights; and supports women's shelters. It also addresses the main problem: empowerment of Afghan women and ensuring that women's rights are an integral part of peace, reintegration and reconciliation efforts. If girls are not educated and women not included in political life and public administration and justice system, traditional harmful practices will continue and their human rights will never be protected. Only if they are present and active in peace talks can they rest assured that even the modest gains secured to date will not be used as bargaining chips.

For peace to be sustainable and just, both the Taliban and women should sit at the negotiating table and be included in shaping decisions on the future of Afghanistan.

* Ivan Simonovic is the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.








Looking in the mirror and understanding what we see reflected there, particularly if the image is not what we imagine for ourselves, is not a national characteristic. Critical introspection is limited to a thin layer of society, and it is the view from outside that is sometimes the more accurate reflection. One such mirror-moment is provided by the publication on Thursday of the 2010 Human Rights and Democracy Report, 2010. This is a publication of the British government and it examines annual progress across a range of countries where Britain has an interest. Pakistan merits 10 pages out of the 348, and they make miserable reading. The picture that emerges is diametrically opposite to that of Pakistan which was presented by the president in his recent address to a joint sitting of parliament. According to the report, we are a country tainted by corruption, lawlessness, lack of transparency and a weak and ineffective judiciary at all but the highest level. Our jails are at 194 percent capacity and of those detained two-thirds are in prison awaiting trial. The government repeatedly tries to muzzle a critical media, and the report singles out the media regulatory body PEMRA as targeting media groups that take the government to account. It also notes that whilst there is a robust free press, large sections of the media are open to corporate and political manipulation.

The courts have a national backlog of over a million cases – though there had been some reduction of this figure in 2010 – and the judiciary is under-trained and under-resourced. The police fare no better, with prosecutions brought on the basis of allegation rather than evidence, and when trials do happen they are frequently far from free or fair and are often delayed and flawed by intimidation and corruption. Civil society struggles against all of this but is self-censoring, being more afraid of the military establishment than it is of civil government which it increasingly challenges but with little discernible effect. Human rights advocacy groups face regular intimidation from extremists and if anything, the plight of women worsened in 2010 as legislation designed to protect them was either rolled back or stalled by extremists. The minorities continue to endure a miserable existence, and their vulnerability has increased as society as a whole embraces intolerance and illiberalism. The image we see in the report is in many ways old news. There are no surprises and it glumly concludes that there is little likelihood of much getting better in 2011. Viewed from afar, this is a state whose moral compass which, if not completely broken, is in urgent need of recalibration. But that would require the efforts of a body of moral men and women at the heart of governance who are blessed with courage and fortitude, and a cursory examination reveals few – the little good news thus being that such exemplars are not extinct.






So, we have timed bombs, suicide bombs and now petrol bombs. Who knows what kind of missive the government is going to throw at us next, but we can be certain it will be one designed to wound and leave behind terrible scars that may never fade to thin, white lines. The nine to 13 percent raise in PoL prices is a blow that would fell even the strongest. We suddenly find petrol prices up by nearly seven rupees per litre, diesel rates by Rs 10.67, and the price of every other oil product climbing higher too. As has now become the norm, petrol stations shut down before the rise to maximise profits. Transporters have immediately raised rates, the prices of most other items will go up and opposition parties have lodged their protests. We have seen it all before. The giant newspaper ads taken out by the 'people's government' blaming the increase on international rates, do nothing to soften the blow or make it any easier for people whose budgets are already stretched beyond their limit to manage in practical terms. Many can simply no longer do so.

It is ironic that the raise comes only days after a senior official of the UN's World Food Programme warned about the impact of rising food prices on people and pointed to high levels of malnutrition notably in Sindh. We wonder if the government has any idea what it expects people to do now to put bread on the table. The hike in PoL prices will break many backs. Tens of thousands of people commuting to offices, factories and other places will need to pay much more to do so. The increase simply isn't sustainable. This is not a burden that the already impoverished people can carry without bending over and perhaps dropping to the ground. The government needs to consider if it can live with such measures. The subsidy on oil items will go down after the increase. But all kinds of other pressures will soar. The leaders will need to live with the growing distress and disillusionment of people; they will also face a growing chorus of criticism from all directions. In the midst of this cacophony, it may be hard for the PPP set-up to make itself heard at all. Attempting to solve economic problems at the cost of peoples' welfare can only have a negative effect. We do not see austerity measures or a serious effort to cut down on government expenditures. This is what is needed most of all. The growing burden on people could trigger a crisis which will make recovery all the more difficult.







The assembly election process is about to begin in four states in India: West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam. The elections could prove a turning point for many parties, in particular the Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK), the All India Anna DMK (DMK), the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and above all, the Left. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has no major support base or stakes in the four states, but the results will significantly influence the future of its alliances.

In Tamil Nadu, the DMK-Congress alliance's biggest challenge is from the AIADMK-led alliance comprising the Left parties and a state party led by a film-star. This would disproportionately benefit from even a slight decline in the DMK's vote-share (26.5 percent in 2006). Jayalalithaa's party already commands about a third of Tamil Nadu's vote and is strong in its southern part.

If the DMK-led coalition wins, the Congress can be in government – for the first time since 1967. This would happen with a change in the alliance system long prevalent in Tamil Nadu, under which parties which help one of the two major Dravida biggies win don't get to participate in government.

The DMK has consolidated its influence over various institutions, including the media, by fully exploiting both its power in the state and its participation in the central government for over 14 years, barring March 1998 to October 1999.

Yet, the DML isn't going into electoral battle with great confidence. It's trying to lure voters with all kinds of promises, including free laptops for college students and Rs4 lakhs in assistance to single women-headed households. The AIADMK is matching this with, among promises of other gifts, a fan, a mixer and a grinder for each household, 20 kg of free rice every month, besides 60,000 cows!

Such competitive populism isn't confined to Tamil Nadu. In Assam, the Congress under Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has promised nine lakh new jobs, 30 percent reservation in government employment for rural people, and a doubling of the monthly quota of 20 kg of rice to all below-poverty-line families. Also promised are new commissions on employment generation, skill development, knowledge, and education for the minorities.

Whether Gogoi becomes Assam's first chief minister since 1970 to complete a decade or more in office will partly depend whether Assam's Muslims, 30 percent of the population, support the Congress or the preponderantly Muslim All-India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).

The AIUDF would have liked to cultivate the AGP, but it has a tacit understanding with the BJP: the two are not fielding strong candidates against each other. Luckily for the Congress, both the United Liberation Front of Assam and Bodo separatist groups, which call for election boycotts, have been greatly weakened.

However, it's in West Bengal and, to an extent, Kerala that potentially the most dramatic changes could occur. In West Bengal, the Left Front – in office for an uninterrupted 34 years – is in decline and faces anti-incumbency.

The Front won 227 of the 294 assembly seats in 2006, with 48.4 percent of the vote. But, by the 2009 Lok Sabha election, it only led in 99 assembly segments, with a 43.5 percent vote-share. It also lost recent local body election and various by-elections. Besides, the opposition is now firmly united under Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress.

The Left Front's support base has eroded because land reform and other progressive measures lost momentum, and the government pursued thoughtlessly pro-corporate policies ignoring people's basic needs. The state's health and education indices have stagnated or fallen, knocking out its claim to inclusive pro-people development.

The Left's ideological image as a force of radical change and social transformation doesn't hold much appeal to young Bengalis, over 60 percent of whom were born after the Front came to power in 1977.

The Front's brutal crushing of grassroots resistance at Singur and Nandigram earned it popular ill-will and hostility, even as these became household words in India for the injustices of neoliberal policies. The Left Front hasn't learned enough lessons from these fiascos.

Banerjee has systematically capitalised on the Left's failures. Sections of the extreme Left and the middle-class intelligentsia, disillusioned with the Left, have extended support to her. She has bullied the Congress into accepting a measly 65 tickets.

This doesn't mean that the Left won't put up a fight. But it faces an uphill task. If the Left loses in West Bengal, it will suffer not just ignominy but also intense repression from the TMC, which remains full of lumpen elements that use strong-arm methods.

If the Left clings on to power, it will be a much weakened force, with little freedom to try innovative approaches to regain lost ground. Indeed, some Left supporters believe that an electoral defeat will be good, as it will force the Left to rethink its strategic perspectives and economic and social policies.

In Kerala too, the Left Democratic Front isn't well-placed – not only because the state tends to alternate between the LDF and the Congress-led United Democratic Alliance from one election to the next.

The LDF faces anti-incumbency because of its poor performance in public services delivery and charges of corruption, not least against the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM)'s state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, for allegedly receiving kickbacks in a financial scam. Vijayan is the first Politburo member of an Indian communist party to face a central police inquiry.

The CPM presents a picture of horrible disunity in Kerala. Vijayan hasn't lost a single opportunity to embarrass Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, a well-regarded, popular politician with a Spartan lifestyle and great integrity. Worse, Vijayan has tried to undo many of Achuthanandan's progressive measures, on the spurious ground that they are 'old-fashioned'.

What the young generation needs in Kerala, Vijayan argues, is not education, healthcare and jobs in small industries, agriculture and plantations, but expressways, entertainment parks, glittering shopping malls, and service-sector jobs like those in information technology. But these jobs haven't materialised.

The CPM leadership made another blunder by not presenting Achuthanandan as its chief ministerial candidate – thanks to pressure from Vijayan.

A defeat in West Bengal and Kerala will diminish the Left parties' national stature and parliamentary strength. Their Lok Sabha tally fell from 61 in 2004 to 24 in 2009. If it falls further, the Left would become a marginal force in parliament.

But the Left can reverse its decline only if it completely overhauls its politics, mobilisation strategy and organisational structures. Clearly, among all major political groupings, the Left has the most to lose in the coming elections.

The Left's decline will push Indian politics' centre of gravity further to the Right. This would be tragic, as poverty-mired Indian society should naturally favour broad Left-of-centre politics, with empowerment of the poor and emancipatory policies at its core.

However, the Left's decline doesn't mean that India will evolve towards either a monochromatic politics or a bipolar system dominated by the Congress and the BJP. Many social trends and political currents in India inhibit such an outcome.

The Indian polity has become strongly polycentric with Dalit and OBC upsurges, the rise and consolidation of regional parties, and social movements which resist the onslaught of neoliberalism and globalisation.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1@yahoo.







February is an unusually busy month. It is the month when parents of two- and three-year-olds prepare themselves and their toddlers for multiple trials, like screening, scanning and scrutinising, so the children get into the best of the best educational institutions. Professionals, or rather those well-versed in the tricks of the trade, work with these children and their hyper-anxious mothers, providing them with every possible proposition from what to say and how to dress for the D-day.

The children are robbed of their playtimes and naps to go to these "must attend" sessions. The positive side of all this is that children who exhibit even the slightest below-average performance, according to these self proclaimed experts, are sent for reading, writing, IQ, speech evaluations. (The yardsticks by which average and below-average performance is measured would take another thousand words to explain.)

It wasn't very unusual when a mother told me that the tutor asked her to get her son assessed, since he seems to be "in his own world." Other consultants had merely considered the child inattentive, hyperactive and thus unable to develop age-appropriate speech and language skills. But the phrase "in his own world" had struck her. It was a red flag, something the tutor had noticed but others hadn't. By the time she came to me, she had already read about ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Before I could even suggest that her child might be under the ASD spectrum, she herself asked, "Is my child autistic?"

What was surprising was that a teacher, not a medical practitioner, could sense that something wasn't right. The alarming aspect of this situation is that every child with a speech delay, different set of social skills or even superior speech and language skills is now suspected to have autism or Asperger's syndrome. Amir Khan's Taarey Zameen pe became the salvation of children with dyslexia. Since then, most tutors, or someone simply familiar with the term, might suggest that a child struggling with reading and writing could be dyslexic. A number of children with learning differences (not disabilities) are being sent for screening and evaluation to rule out the possibility of dyslexia only because their tutors are of the opinion that they are learning-disabled.

Similarly, My Name Is Khan came as a ray of hope for parents of children with Asperger's syndrome. But it also created trouble for every child who performed better on academics but had the slightest difficulty in social interaction or had a particular set of interest – or, in other words, could not be stereotyped.

A number of other movies, like Rain Man, have been made on similar topics. While these movies have helped remove certain misconceptions, we must remember that, in order to add entertainment value, they present a dramatised version. The point to remember is that high functioning children or adults with autism or Asperger's have a much lower population than children with autism who are non-verbal, low-functioning.

ASD, as its name implies, is a spectrum disorder. One could be right in the middle, with all the symptoms, or just borderline, with few symptoms. According to the DSMIV (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders), ASD has four symptoms: a. impaired communication; b. repetitive stereotypic pattern of behaviour; c. lack of pretend- or imaginative play; and d. impaired social interaction.

Symptoms vary from one individual to another, and sometimes overlap with other developmental disorders. A child obsessive with cars and not interested in other toys may not necessarily have autism. What is important is the way she/he plays with them. If the child is involved in multiple-action and multiple-play episodes – e.g., if he copies dad or mum, pretending to drive, remembering different makes, parking them in the garage – he is clearly demonstrating imagination and creativity and picking up perception and cognition from the environment.

Similarly, nor can a child who doesn't interact with other kids be labelled as autistic. He could be shy or may have some other sensory integration issues preventing him from behaving and playing like other kids. It is always the context in which a certain behaviour takes places that needs to be measured and evaluated before a child is labelled. Such behaviour does not occur in isolation, but in tandem with other difficulties.

After years of research, Dr Eric Schopler, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, has developed a methodology called CARS (childhood autism rating scale) to assess and identify children with autism and distinguish them from those developmentally handicapped but not autistic. CARS assesses children above the age of two on five different areas: relating to people, body use, adaptation to change, listening responses and verbal communication. Physicians, psychologists, special educators, speech language pathologists and even professionals with minimal exposure to autism can be trained to use CARS. The scores help categorise children into mild to moderate to severely autistic.

Unfortunately, parents looking for help are often misguided. In the absence of standardised tools, children are sometimes misdiagnosed and, despite intervention, reap little or no benefit. Then, there is the mushroom growth of the so-called rehabilitationists doing strange things in the name of therapy. Children are evaluated, without their parents, in 30/40-minute sessions and parents are told not to do anything at home, because the child will start becoming "normal." Most of their victims are people from the underprivileged classes although, out of desperation, educated people also fall prey to them.

I would request that even though this has become quite fashionable, please do not "label" kids with autism or any other disorder. Either suggest that parents seek professional help, or do remain silent.

The writer is a speech therapist. Email:








 Pakistanis are not known for professionalism; we don't know our bounds as journalists, judges, opposition leaders and rulers. Whoever succeeds in politics turns into a dictator, a little bit of fame turns journalists into self-styled leaders and experts, while judges follow whims instead of laws. We have developed the habit of treating ideological differences as personal insults. For us, sports, particularly cricket, are an intense passion bordering on craze.

We treat our matches with other teams as a war between Islam and non-believers, thus paralysing our routine life. Or we make it a point of discussion in every meeting and try to impose our views on sports on others. In such a situation, the sport becomes boring. However, many people are of the view that it is better to watch cricket, or talk about it, instead of slitting throats, making others' lives miserable with protests and processions, dacoities, theft, backbiting, corruption and useless political analyses.

Notwithstanding the varied views on cricket, the sport has played a very important role in the context of Pakistan-India relations and their normalisation. For both of us, the game has domestically been a uniting factor and works to arouse nationalistic feelings. Without considering the ethnicity or region of Pakistani cricketers, people from across the country pray for each and for every player to bring glory to the game and to Pakistan. Our leaders like Asfandyar Wali leaves all business to watch cricket matches and his family pray for the win of our team. Similarly, Altaf Hussain wishes Afridi the best in the match and promises to give him a good reception on arrival at Karachi Airport.

Cricket has played a huge role in avoidance ofwars between India and Pakistan. This time round, the game has again become a source of rapprochement between the two countries. In the decade of the eighties, the two countries were on the verge of war, but Gen Zia found a good opportunity in a cricket match to visit India and cool the tempers through deft diplomatic messages.

This time round, the Mumbai attacks had already vitiated the atmosphere. Earlier, the tension had reached the stage of a war between the rivals. But once again the Indian prime minister proved mature enough to invite the Pakistani president and the prime minister to watch the Mohali cricket match to open the way for a new start between the two countries. Now, after the cricket mania has died down, the test of the two leaderships has begun. More than a billion dwellers of the subcontinent are watching their leaders that how they exploit this opportunity to pave the way for peace. Or it is squandered like the previous ones because of the stubborn approaches by the establishments on both sides.

The Indian leadership's invitation to Pakistani leaders to watch the cricket match shows that Indians now realise the importance of peace in the subcontinent. Recently, they had expressed such interests in backchannel talks before this. One example of this interest was the meetings of various tops figures of the Indian establishment with the head of Kashmir Committee of the National Assembly, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, during his visit to India a few days back to condole the death of a leader of the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e Hind.

A secret meeting between the Maulana and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh followed these interactions with officials of the Indian establishment. In this meeting, the Indian leadership expressed the wish for resumption of dialogue from the point where it broke during the Musharraf era. However, the Maulana insisted upon his interlocutors to acknowledge the centrality of the Kashmir issue and then start negotiations afresh.

The warming does not mean the Indian leadership has changed its mind vis-a-vis Pakistan or has started liking us overnight. There is still a very strong anti-Pakistan lobby in the Indian establishment. They have their fair share of extremists as well. However, it seems that India's priorities have undergone a serious change; they have concluded their dream of rising as a competitor against the rising China would not be realised in the presence of continued tensions with Pakistan. Similarly on our side, the leadership knows that tensions with India further inflame extremism and terrorism in our midst. These dangers have challenged the very existence of this country.

Historical wrongs cannot be corrected with quick fixes. Our enmity and differences have been fed by hate for many decades and have now become almost insurmountable obstacles to peace in the region. Both countries have produced powerful interests that feed on war and tensions. Such interests will scuttle this nascent process. However, if leaders on both sides show courage and determination, nothing is impossible.

Both countries had misread each others sincere intentions for rapprochement in the past. Pakistan extended hands for normalization of relations at times, but it was rejected by Indian leadership due to fear of a backlash from the extremists in their fold.

Similarly Vajpayee came to Lahore to start a new chapter in the relationships, but Pervez Musharraf vitiated the whole process through the Kargil misadventure. However, a cricket match again provided a good opportunity to restart the process. It is yet to be seen whether or not Manmohan Singh canresist pressures from extremist elements like Bal Thakray and BJP leaders.

Our leaders and permanent governments give little importance to the opinions of the people when it comes to the relationship between India and Pakistan. The people are mere spectators like the ones watching the cricket match in Mohali.

This beginning should not end with one's loss and the other's gain, or one's disgrace and the other's win. Both the leaders and establishments should know the fact that people on the two sides of the border have no stomach for further games of tension and wars.

People thought that India-Pakistan enmity would quickly come to end like a twenty-20 match, but instead it has not come to an end for the last five decades. This game has cost us many opportunities. We are among the poorest, most illiterate people in the world. Terrorism has also crept into our lives.

Leadership on both sides needs to play clean, give sacrifices and show maturity and courage. This is the best opportunity for both leaders (the politicians) and players (the establishments) to take a new start for peace and prosperity of the billion-plus inhabitants of the subcontinent.

The writer works for Geo TV.









The implementation commission of the 18th constitutional amendment, in its recent session, has taken the final decision to devolve the Ministry of Education. The next round of deliberations will decide the modalities of devolving another set of ministries, including the Ministry of Health (MoH). My comment in these columns on December 25, 2010 – The Vanishing Ministry – outlined several institutional considerations that need attention whilst making decisions in this regard. One of these refers to the question of the national role in health and related institutional arrangements. Lessons from other countries are instructive in this regard. There are at least 25 countries with federating structures where health is a fully devolved subject. All have federal institutions – a ministry, state department, directorates or equivalent institutions – taking responsibility for 'national mandates' in health.

Contrary to what is being planned, there is need for stepping up capacity within the MoH, as there are many ominous indications of its constrained capacity – the case of polio and H1NI are illustrative. But it seems that for the implementation commission, 'ministerial abolition' in subjects, which have been devolved, has become symbolic of the entire process of devolution. The best option is to develop a constitutional solution.

This viewpoint is being used to draw attention to a recently conducted analysis, on which inputs are being solicited. The paper presents the technical and constitutional rationale for retaining the national role in health and discusses options for a way forward.

The paper defines the following as national functions in health: health information and disease security, international commitments, drug regulation, certain aspects of human resource regulation, overarching norms, and standards where inter-provincial conformity is needed. It then goes on to discuss the impact of certain changes brought about by the 18th Amendment on these national functions - abolition of the Concurrent Legislative List (CLL), shifting of entrees from Part 1 to Part 2 of the Federal Legislative List (FLL), insertion of a new entry in Part 1 of the FLL, amendments in Article 144 and 270.

Although sweeping changes have been made by the 18th Amendment, the Constitution still provides space for the federal level to assume responsibilities for most of the national functions referred to above. The only exception is drugs.

The paper makes a strong case for also retaining a 'national role in health' and underscores the need for an appropriate federal institutional arrangement to fulfil national health responsibilities. Attention is drawn to constitutional provisions and rules of business of the federal government, which when viewed in context of the present devolution drive, call for creating a health division.

The paper also discusses systemic challenges, which plague the current MoH and stresses on the need to use the present opportunity to bridge these weaknesses as the ministry is 'recast' as a division. The relationship of five institutional streams, which are envisaged to report to/link with the health division, has been elaborated.

It has been accepted that with the responsibility for health completely devolved, the policymaking role has automatically been transferred to provinces. This notwithstanding, areas within the national policy purview have been enumerated and the convening fora for mandates granted to the national level under Part I and II of the FLL have been discussed – in particular prerogatives of the cabinet vs. the council of common interest.

On the subject of regulation, the paper refers to the post-18th Amendment prerogative of parliament to create federal regulatory authorities and alludes to the problem which can arise when the subject for which a federal regulatory agency is created, is devolved. The complexity of this for the area of drugs regulation has been alluded to in detail in the paper. This consideration has implications for the regulatory mandate in many other areas/subjects, and deserves a dedicated discussion in another comment.

With respect to drugs, the paper emphasises the strong policy rationale for retaining regulation at the national/federal level and elaborates why the appropriate constitutional mechanism to enable that is Article 144. Other subjects touched upon in the paper include national functions with respect to service delivery, national public health programmes, health information systems, human resource, federal fiscalism, health financing and international agreements.

With respect to the national public health programmes, incremental devolution has been recommended and a unified interim federal structure has been described to assume responsibility till such time that provincial capacity is fully developed. A case has been made for folding all programmatic activities, such as research, health information and mobile service delivery, in other cross-cutting interventions. The need for retaining a unified minimal federal structure has also been flagged to support functions on an ongoing basis where inter-provincial policy coordination is needed.

The analysis states how the amendment does not drastically alter federal functions related to human resource but describes the interplay of provincial concurrence, which may now become necessary for human resource decisions at the federal level. A section of the analysis clarifies the constitutional position with regard to health information, which the viewpoint argues is an important national/federal responsibility in the wake of disease security concerns. It clarifies that constitutional provisions potentially enable the function to be retained federally, but makes a strong case for reform of the health information institutional landscape to bridge current weaknesses in individual streams. It also calls for creating an apex mechanism to comply with International Health Regulations, 2005.

Through this comment, I am soliciting inputs on the draft paper. A copy of the latter can be made available by sending a request at Meaningful feedback will be collated and acknowledged in the paper.

The writer is the founding president of the thinktank Heartfile. Email:







The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

The judicial reasoning in Sindh High Court Bar Association vs. Federation of Pakistan (whereby the Supreme Court has struck down the Parliamentary Committee's decision not to confirm certain nominations of the Judicial Commission) has multiple problems.

To start with it is disingenuous, for while interpreting provisions of the Constitution introduced through the 19th Amendment it disregards the fact that these recommendations were actually proposed by the Supreme Court itself through its interim order while hearing cases challenging the 18th Amendment. It seems logically inconsistent for it relies on flawed deductions, and the mechanics employed by the Constitution to give effect to principles are mistaken for principles themselves. The changes introduced to the Constitution by the latest amendments are underplayed and the court forces old wine into new bottles.

While expounding provisions of the Constitution to delineate the respective scope of authority of the Judicial Commission and the Parliamentary Committee, the court doesn't rely on settled principles of textual interpretation. As a consequence, disparate treatment is meted out to the role and importance of the Judicial Commission and the Parliamentary Committee.

In defending the authority of the Judicial Commission (essentially run by the five senior most judges of the Supreme Court) the apex court doesn't seem to have applied restraint and taken into account the age-old maxim that no one should be the judge in his own cause.

And while the court seems conscious of the principle of separation of powers and the limitation it applies to the scope of judicial authority, such consciousness does not shape the operative part of the ruling.

Let us recall that the Supreme Court opted to hear challenges against the 18th Amendment despite the constitutional prohibition that "no amendment of the Constitution shall be called in question in any Court on any ground whatsoever". While the case remains pending, the Supreme Court, through an interim order, provided parliament a window of opportunity to re-amend the Constitution to the court's liking. As this sword hung over the 18th Amendment, the parliament passed the 19th Amendment to appease the Supreme Court. Parliament abided by the court's 'recommendation' that the Parliamentary Committee should give reasons if it doesn't endorse the Judicial Commission's advice, but it didn't write in the Constitution that such reasons shall be justiciable as the court wanted. Through the Judicial Nominations Case the court has now had its way.

The interim ruling in the 18th Amendment case was not a marvel of jurisprudential merit. But those who followed the proceedings of the case feared that the dreaded adoption of the basic structure theory and striking down of a provision of the Constitution was imminent.

When the court found a pragmatic solution to avert such outcome, there was relief. One hoped that if parliament responded with maturity and addressed the concern that the turf of the apex court was being encroached, the court would also back off. By adopting the 19th Amendment, parliament rose up to the expectation. Unfortunately, the court has not backed off.

In striking down the Parliamentary Committee's rejection of a few judicial nominations, the ruling states that as law doesn't explicitly oust the court's jurisdiction, it can question the merit of the Parliamentary Committee's decision. This logic would be fine if it was uniformly applied. The court doesn't state that accordingly the recommendations of the Judicial Commission are also subject to judicial review.

Further, we also know that the court doesn't shy away from exercising authority over issues even where its jurisdiction has been explicitly ousted, such as in reviewing a constitutional amendment. (The only exception being the ouster clause within Pakistan Army Act, which is consistently upheld.)

The ruling in the Judicial Nominations case lacks rigour. First, its deductions do not flow logically. While allegiance to the principle of judicial independence is a cornerstone of our Constitution, why assume that should serving judges not have a veto over who adorns judicial robes judicial independence will be compromised?

What about all those countries that boast independent judiciaries with judges having absolutely no role to play in the appointment of future judges? Second, the ruling confuses principles enshrined in the Constitution with the mechanics adopted to realise them. Judicial independence can be secured through multiple ways.

Appointment of judges through a rigourous, consultative and transparent mechanism is imperative to safeguard such independence. But while discussing who should play the lead role in such process - members of the executive, judiciary or legislature – we are talking mechanics, not principles. And then the ruling doesn't follow the established principles of textual interpretation and makes no attempt to give plain words their ordinary meaning. It approvingly refers to the Al Jihad case in which the Supreme Court declared that in the select context of seeking the chief justice's views regarding the appointment of judges, the word "consultation" would mean "consent".

The Al Jihad case was celebrated, not for its approach to constitutional interpretation, but as a mark of the Supreme Court's desire to break from the past and stop functioning as an appendage to the executive. It wasn't right but it became acceptable in such socio-political context. Today, there is no such context. The independence of the judiciary was secured through a mass national movement and the last thing our Supreme Court can be accused of is being an extension of the executive.

Why is it impossible to contemplate that the Constitution was amended to introduce bipartisan parliamentary oversight over crucial appointments such as those of judges and the election commissioner? What would be the point of making such drastic changes if the Judicial Commission and the Parliamentary Committee were merely meant to step into the erstwhile shoes of the chief justice and the federal government respectively, with the former having decisive control over who becomes a judge?

The court believes that the work of the Judicial Commission will be rendered 'nugatory' if the Parliamentary Committee has the right to question its recommendations. Can reasonable minds not reach different conclusions based on the same information?

The test prescribed by the Supreme Court is that it is illegal for the Parliamentary Committee to consider any information about judicial nominees that has been deliberated upon by the Judicial Commission. What independent stream of information does the Parliamentary Committee have for the consideration of which the Constitution specially created it?

In effect, each time the Parliamentary Committee disagrees with the Judicial Commission, it would have travelled beyond the zone of legality according to the Supreme Court test. Why have the Parliamentary Committee at all then? To discuss the antecedents of proposed judges, we are told, and nothing else. And please don't think the court is encroaching upon the vast powers of the legislature. The eight member bipartisan parliamentary committee is actually a part of the executive according to this ruling.

The Supreme Court is a court of limited authority and incapable of producing elixir for all our national ills. So far it has been the khaki saviour instinct that has molested our Constitution and political process. Would it not be a shame if the apex court followed in the stead and allowed a do-good approach to interpret the Constitution?

Emphasising the doctrine of limited powers in the much celebrated PCO Judges Case of 2009, the Supreme Court held that, "neither the Supreme Court itself possesses any power to amend the Constitution, nor can it bestow any such power on any authority or any individual." It is a settled principle of law that what cannot be done directly, cannot be done indirectly.









President Bashar al-Assad accepted the resignation of the Syrian cabinet a couple of days ago in an attempt to defuse protests against his rule as hundreds of thousands of people attended pro-government rallies in most of the country's cities.

Syrians were awaiting a speech by President Assad, who has remained silent during the 11-day crisis, laying out reforms including the lifting of the 50-year-old state of emergency.

Protesters will want to see a real reduction in the arbitrary power of the security forces and guarantees of greater political and civil rights.

The president has a core of support and many Syrians are fearful of sectarian divisions turning to violence. But the turnout for March 29th demonstrations, dubbed 'loyalty to the nation marches' where marchers chanted 'the people want Bashar Assad' was enhanced by schools and other state institutions being closed for the day.

The resignation of the cabinet is largely symbolic since it holds little power, which remains in the hands of the president, his relatives and senior officials in the intelligence apparatus. Naji al-Otari, the prime minister since 2003, is to remain caretaker until a new government is formed.

The government still appears divided on how it is going to respond to the unprecedented unrest which has so far led to at least 61 protesters being killed, mostly in and around the southern city of Deraa.

There has also been violence in the port city of Latakia on the Mediterranean coast, where the population is divided between the Sunni and the Alawites, the minority Shia sect to which the Assad family and other members of the ruling elite belong.

Troops are patrolling streets in the centre of the city while unofficial vigilantes have set up barricades in the outskirts.

In Deraa people are increasingly calling for a change of regime, but it is highly unlikely that the state security apparatus will allow its power to be diluted significantly. President Assad, a 45-year-old

British-educated doctor, was seen as a possible reformer when he succeeded his father, President Hafez al-Assad on his death in 2000. But the changes he introduced were largely cosmetic and those who took advantage of the more liberal atmosphere to criticise the regime later found themselves targeted.

The Syrian authorities have a long tradition of refusing to make concessions and fighting back vigorously against all opponents.

So far this strategy has enabled them to withstand pressure from the US and Israel in Lebanon and to crush domestic opposition movements, such as guerrilla war by fundamentalists in the early 1980s and serious unrest among the Kurdish community in 2004.

In trying to seize the initiative from the protesters the regime is emphasising Syrian nationalism and a plot against the unity of the country. 'Breaking News: the conspiracy has failed!' declared one banner waved by a demonstrator at a vast rally in Damascus.

In addition there were the more traditional chants of 'God, Syria and Bashar'. In Deraa protesters changed this to a chant of 'God, Syria and freedom.'

The government is also clamping down on the foreign media, expelling three Reuters journalists.

In all Arab countries affected by the pro-democracy protests governments have struggled to gain control of information and modern communications.









WITH Pakistan too getting weary of possibility of so-called mediation by influential countries of the world especially the United States and the European Union in resolution of the long-standing Jammu and Kashmir conflict, Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan has proposed a fresh and innovative idea to move towards the goal of final settlement of the lingering problem. His proposal for convening a regional summit on Kashmir has the potential to bear fruit and should be given serious thought by both Pakistan and India.

The inventive suggestion has come in the backdrop of statement of Foreign Office spokesperson "we do not need a third country for us to take ownership of our own affairs" and that Pakistan and India should take the ownership themselves, which is reflective of growing frustration of the country over prospects of any mediatory role by important countries of the globe who have their own axes to grind. We know that during his election campaign, Mr Barack Obama made an unequivocal commitment to work for the resolution of the dispute but after coming into power he conveniently turned his face towards other side. However, the idea of regional summit on the issue can produce the desired results because all countries of the region have stakes in regional peace, progress and prosperity and the objective would remain a dream until and unless major disputes threatening peace and security are resolved in a just manner. The region has immense potential for development if irritants are removed in the way of meaningful economic cooperation and, therefore, the countries of the region can contribute meaningfully towards the solution of the problem. SAARC is the ideal platform for making collective endeavours for progress and development but the Association has not been able to move forward because of constant tension between two member States mainly because of Kashmir dispute. Indian policy has all along been to avoid substantial discussions on the issue but it is somewhat discouraging that Pakistan too is not taking up the issue in right earnest, as was manifested in mute attitude of the Pakistan Prime Minister during his Mohali engagement with his Indian counterpart. Kashmir issue cannot be put on the back burner, as it is not a mere question of geographical boundaries and unfinished agenda of partition but above all is an issue that directly concerns with the aspirations and human rights of fifteen million Kashmirs, whose third generation is waging struggle to get right of self-determination. We would, therefore, expect that the Indian leadership would adopt a sagacious policy for the sake of peace and progress of the region and give serious consideration to the wise proposition of the AJK Prime Minister.







WHILE addressing the second convocation of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) in Islamabad on Thursday, President Asif Ali Zardari made an impassioned call to the economists to come out with out-of-box solutions to the economic challenges facing the nation. He also called for laying more emphasis on research and development, higher education, quality education and right kind of incentives to help exploit fuller potential in different spheres of economy.

No one would differ with the worthy President that the country needs imaginative solutions to the economic difficulties but we believe that the call made by him is somewhat belated. Elsewhere in the world, Governments settle down in first one hundred days during which they set direction in different fields and make strenuous efforts afterwards to make progress. However, nothing of the sort has happened in Pakistan as yet, as the country is still clueless to which direction to head for to get rid of the rising level of abysmal poverty, ignorance and backwardness. There is no dearth of visionary people in Pakistan and we are confident that they can offer workable plans and strategies to overcome the economic and financial crisis but regrettably we have not benefited from them. However, they say it is never late to mend and we hope that the Government would pursue the call of the President and invite technocrats from various walks of life and irrespective of their political affiliation to get their input and formulate a coherent strategy to move forward. This is necessary and should be done without loss of further time, as the Government has already lost three precious years and cannot afford the luxury of wasting two more. Though the Government leaders and officials often try to present a rosy picture of the economy, as did the President as well on Thursday by proudly referring to surge in home remittances and wheat export but he overlooked the factors that contributed to this and the negative impact of unprecedented hike in wheat procurement price that snatched morsel from mouths of millions of people. Similarly, the economy is in a shambles because there is a total lack of enabling atmosphere due to precarious security environment, crippling power and gas shortages, unreasonably high rate of interest and growing corruption. How the economy can make progress when industrialists and businessmen are forced to go on strike over inability of the Government to stem 'bhatta' (extortion) culture in Karachi? Economists can propose out-of-box solutions but it would again be for the Government to implement them..







WHILE the country is still in the grip of shock and grief over Mohali debacle, reports emanating from different sources and directions indicate that a well-conceived and sustained propaganda campaign carried out by Indian media against Pakistani cricket team and its players was one of the major factors in the defeat of Pakistani team in the semi-final.

A deeper analysis of the policy of the Indian media shows that it launched a venomous tirade and orchestrated character assassination campaign against Pakistani players and in some of the talk shows so-called Indian experts and leaders as well levelled all sorts of accusations against Pakistani team. It was particularly so in the case of the captain of the team — vibrant Shahid Afridi — who was repeatedly labelled as 'super cheat'. A section of the Indian media also targeted Younis Khan by claiming that he had no stamina and plays at the strength of inhalers. Even Indian film-stars like Shahrukh Khan, who are hailed by Pakistani people, made indecent remarks in a bid to paint Pakistani players in black. Apart from this, in one of his statements, captain Shahid Afrida has revealed that he received frequent telephone calls from Interior Minister Rehman Malik, which had negative impact on morale of the cricketers. The attitude of the hostile Indian media was in sharp contrast of magnanimous approach of Pakistani media that gives full credit to Indian players for their performance. Anyhow, this is what Indians are accustomed to and they also did this right during the meeting of the Pakistani Prime Minister with his Indian counterpart when an official of Pakistan High Commission was lifted by Indian agencies without caring for diplomatic niceties.








Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Dr Mnmohan Singh, who met in Mohali on the eve of the ICC Cricket World Cup second semi final at Mohali on Wednesday, have reiterated their resolve to address 'all outstanding issues' between India and Pakistan through dialogue. Mr Gilani told reporters after the meeting that the two sides have the 'will and ability' to resolve their problems. Dr Singh said on the occasion that Pakistan and India should work together to find 'cooperative solutions'. The two countries need 'permanent reconciliation' to live together in dignity and honour, he said adding 'We should put our ancient animosities behind to attend to the problems of our two nations', he said.

Though not new the Indian Prime Minister's statement is a source of encouragement and may help boost the process of seeking peace, security, stability and progress in the South Asian region. The irony, however, is that the Indian leaders' professions seldom take the shape of actions. India has always adopted double standards in its dealings with Pakistan. It talks of peace, but dishes out excuses to wriggle it out subsequently. It talks of 'permanent reconciliation', but continues to support renegades in Balochistan with money and weapons. A cursory look at the past reveals that Pakistan and India have held series of talks in the past, but New Delhi has never crossed the psychological barrier of inhibitions.

It has never allowed the process of dialogue to reach the logical conclusion of action. Even Dr Singh has been expressing such views time and again, but he too has never let his words turn into action. If Dr Singh is really serious about 'permanent reconciliation' with Pakistan, then the Indian government will have to stop interference in Balochistan and decide that the dialogue process shall not be allowed to become hostage to the machinations of the negative forces that do not want peace and normalization between the two countries. The Incident of Mumbai terrorist attack was made an excuse to suspend the dialogue process with accusations about Pakistan's involvement knowing full well that the region is in the grip of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan since the US invasion of the landlocked country. It's proven that private actors were responsible for the incident and that Pakistan was responsible for the terrorist attack. It's simply disgusting that the Indian authorities and media has developed the habit of pointing accusing finger towards Pakistan if and when any such incident takes place even before any inquiry is held. It has become Indian mindset to blame Pakistan for anything bad happening in India. It needs to change this mindset to make real progress in realization of the objective of the 'permanent reconciliation'.

It's a matter of record that Pakistan has always sought peace with India right from the beginning. On the contrary, it's India that has never seriously responded to Pakistan's cherished desire. It has rather been undermining Pakistan's security, stability and integrity. India had pampered Sheikh Mujiburrehman, created insurgency in East Pakistan and ultimately separated it through military aggression. It's now indulging in a similar exercise in Balochistan, where it is inciting insurgency. India is, in fact, pursuing the policy of 'dagger and cloak'. It will have to shun this tendency for establishing 'permanent reconciliation'. India's seriousness and sincerity in this connection will remain in doubt if this double standard dealing with Pakistan remains unchanged. India is bigger country in the region and, therefore, a greater responsibility devolves on it to be friendly with its neighbours as well as to establish durable peace between the two countries. India has unfortunately exploited its geographical vastness, military strength and economic stability to intimidate and destabilize its neighbours. It has thus grossly violated the principle of co-existence. India must shun its arrogance and develop flexibility to achieve the objective of establishing 'permanent reconciliation' in the region in general with Pakistan in particular. As both India and Pakistan are in possession of nuclear weapons, India ought to understand that the situation is fraught with equal dangers to their security in case of nuclear conflict. India and Pakistan must, therefore, enter into meaningful and result oriented dialogue as dialogue is the only civilized way of resolving the disputes between any two countries. The sooner India realizes this truth, the better would it be for all stake holders in the region.

It's, however, a matter of satisfaction that Indian authorities have conceded that it had over reacted to the Mumbai incident and that its hostile posture towards Pakistan was unnecessary. Its reaction to the attack on Indian Parliament in 2003 was equally uncalled for. Pakistan itself is victim of terrorism. It has sacrificed thousands of lives due to this menace. It's, in fact, fighting against terrorism to save other countries from this scourge. Morality demands that all countries of the region, especially India should support Pakistan in this fight. It's, however, regrettable that New Delhi's approach is totally negative.

Kashmir is the root cause of tension between the two countries. It has even led them to war in the past. There can be, therefore, no 'permanent reconciliation' between the two countries without resolution of this dispute. India has unleashed a reign terror in occupied Kashmir where innocent people are being brutalized for their struggle for freedom. India is committed to afford opportunity to the people of Kashmir to exercise their right to self determination. It's high time that it stops victimization of the Kashmiri people and respects its commitment that it made at the United Nations Security Council. It's also imperative that the dialogue process between the two countries must address the Kashmir issue. Without resolution of the Kashmir issue, there cannot be peace between the two countries much less permanent reconciliation. Any attempt to sideline the Kashmir issue in the dialogue process will be detrimental to the peace process itself.

Prime Minister Gilani has said that there is 'will and ability' on the two sides to address the outstanding issues between the two countries. There is no harm in saying so, but time will only tell whether Indian Prime Minister is really capable of implementing the decisions taken during the dialogue process. There is strong perception that the solution of some of the problems outstanding between the two countries had been agreed through the Track II process during Musharraf era, but the Indian establishment had vetoed it. It's hoped that the Indian Prime Minister will be powerful enough to implement the agreements reached with Pakistan.








Before the semi-final, India had invited president and prime minister of Pakistan, and Yousuf Raza Gilani accepted the invitation. While watching the cricket World Cup semi-final, Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani did find some moments to discuss the prospects of restoring normal relations and achieving durable peace between their two countries. Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao did not give details of what two prime ministers discussed, but stated: "These were not formal talks but a wide-ranging conversation in which they touched upon a number of issues of relevance to the relationship". A day earlier, the India-Pakistan Home/Interior Secretary level Talks were held in New Delhi on March 28-29, 2011. The Indian delegation was led by Shri Gopal K. Pillai, Home Secretary of India, while the Pakistan delegation was headed by Mr. Qamar Zaman Chaudhary, Interior Secretary of Pakistan. The meeting was held in pursuance of the decision taken in Thimphu (Bhutan) in February 2011 by the Governments of Pakistan and India, to resume the dialogue process. But it is yet to be seen as to whether India this time round would show flexibility on core issues like Kashmir, Siachin, water, Sir Creek and find the solutions.

Anyhow, after ministerial talks, a joint statement was issued which mainly addressed the issues like information-sharing with respect to terrorist threats, commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and exchanging updates on the ongoing trial and investigation in Pakistan on the Mumbai terror attacks. India provided information on the ongoing Samjhauta Express blast case investigation. Both sides noted and welcomed the release of prisoners and fishermen by each other since the last round of talks. Both sides agreed that the problem and issues of the inadvertent crossers should be viewed sympathetically. Both sides shared the concern of the growing menace of Narcotics/Drugs and agreed that cooperation between NCB of India and ANF of Pakistan should be enhanced to ensure an effective control on drug trafficking. It was further agreed that Talks between DG, NCB and DG ANF would be held annually. It was decided that India's CBI and Pakistan's FIA will schedule a meeting to work out the technical details of moving forward on issues of human trafficking, counterfeit currency, cyber crimes and Red Corner Notices (RCNs).

During the last 62 years, Pakistan and India had many rounds of talks including the composite dialogue started in 2004 and stalled after Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008. In the past, India had always insisted that before discussing Kashmir disputes other issues of lesser importance should be discussed and resolved. However, it so happened during every round that whenever the time for discussing the core issue of Kashmir came, India did find an excuse to end the dialogue. Having that said, the resumption of talks between Pakistan and India is a welcome move, but it should be borne in mind that without resolving the Kashmir dispute, the genuine peace in the region cannot be achieved. In fact, the core issue between the two countries needs to be sorted out first for a normalisation to occur in the two neighbours' relationship. It is not Pakistan's stance that terrorism is their common threat, which they need to work jointly to eliminate. In fact, Indians have the obsession that all terrorism in India emanates from Pakistan, even as their own investigators have traced down many a terrorist assault in their land that they had earlier conveniently slapped on Pakistan instantly.

It is unfortunate that four rounds of the stalled composite dialogue covering the whole gamut of disputes keeping the two countries at loggerheads had passed without any remarkable progress on any of the important issues including the core issue of Kashmir. We would not delve into the reasons for India's decision to resume talks but would hope that those who took initiative would create climate conducive to just resolution of the issues bedeviling the relations between India and Pakistan. After November 2008, it was the first time that on 25th February dialogue between India and Pakistan took place in New Delhi. And it was decided to hold interior sectaries level talks that have been held on 28-29 March. Pakistan had made it clear that resumption of composite dialogue is the only way and India should commit that it is open to discussing all subjects, including Kashmir and water. Though interior-secretary level talks were not supposed to discuss the core issues, yet neither a single word about the core issues like Kashmir, water and Siachin was mentioned nor was there an expression of intent in Gilani-Manmohan Singh meeting that these issues would be discussed.

Of course, the credit for having offered olive branch to Pakistan in 2004 goes to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but after elections when the Congress formed the government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also underscored the need to resolve the festering issues. He, however, had simultaneously foreclosed the possibility of a peaceful resolution by saying that there would not be any change of borders between the two countries. Later, both sides agreed that matters of trade, communication contacts including Srinagar Muzaffarabad, Khokharapar-Monabao, Siachen, Sir Creek and other issues would form part of the composite dialogue. Pakistan and India had held talks on communication links, economic and trade cooperation and upgrading military hotline. Some of conventional confidence building measures between India and Pakistan were mere affirmation of what was already in place, like holding the cease-fire on the LoC and Siachen. When the second round of confidence building measures had ended in the last week of April 2006, India had rejected Pakistan's proposal to demilitarize Kashmir stating that it was its sovereign right to keep troop formations in the state.

The third and fourth rounds had also ended without any substantive progress. The truth of the matter is that the composite dialogue was moving at a snail's pace even on the issues that were not as thorny as the Kashmir dispute. And when both countries were about to discuss Kashmir, Mumbai terrorists attack roiled the dialogue. International community has shown apathy to the appalling plight of Kashmiris, nevertheless it is too well known that Kashmir is a disputed territory and there are resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council to that effect. India and Pakistan also failed to settle their disputes over water reservoirs being constructed on western rivers with the result that Pakistan had to take the Baglihar Dam issue to the World Bank for arbitration. And perhaps Pakistan would have to approach the World Bank regarding Kishan-Ganga and other projects of river diversion plans of India. The leaderships of both India and Pakistan should resolve the long-standing issues, and should now focus on 'conflict resolution' - the core issue of Kashmir and constructing dams on Pakistani rivers - because Pakistan would consider it an effort to make Pakistan a wasteland, which Pakistan would never allow. It has to be mentioned that the present secretary-level talks was continuation/follow up of the foreign-secretary level talks and the foreign ministers' meeting during SAARC Conference in February 2011 at Thimpu the capital of Bhutan.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.








Pakistan is a country with many resources and a history of fighting off all kinds of crises but this time it seems that we could lose the battle also. There are so many problems piling up, so many things we didn't do and which we should have done and vice versa. To begin with, there is a government which consists of people taking advantage of the infamous NRO â?"otherwise they would not have been able even to re-enter the country- and who insist in staying in power though the NRO has been declared null and void by the Supreme Court of Pakistan because their loot and plundering spree is not yet accomplished. This government which has come about through the â?~good officesâ?T of the US and their midwifery of the NRO since its inception is committed to the US and their agencies World Bank, IMF and WTO, which has economically brought the country to the brink of collapse. Unsound policies such as RGST in one form or the other is going to press upon Pakistani population in collusion with unsound policy such as nepotism, bad governance, corruption, price rise as a result of hoarding has resulted in a huge rise in poverty level and is undermining the social peace and the very existence of Pakistan.

Now, instead of trying to mend their ways this government is using another device to distract the attention of the people from the real problems and keep them quiet and thus prolong their rule. They create hype about non-issues such as a new inquiry into the trial of ZA Bhutto or the cricket virus spread to pocket millions and billions through match fixing as admitted by top betting agents on electronic media culminating to semi final cricket match played at Mohali with India and bringing the countries trade, commerce and productivity to a point of stand still in an already sick economy when every one knows that cricket is not a game for viewers rather it is meant for bookies and betting Mafia to make money. What relief will any of these non-issues bring for the poor, the ailing industry, the failing governance or the crippled economy? None at all. But for hours and days we get annoying comments on the pages of the newspapers as well as on all channels of TV about the glorification of cricket or the reopening of Bhutto case, when we know that hardly any of the verdicts of even the Supreme Court of Pakistan is ever hailed or implemented in letter and spirit. The tragedy is that the people of Pakistan go along with this happily. Even the educated people stop thinking when a cricket match is on the cards and political expediency becomes more important than any principled stand on any issue. It is this situation of callousness, which seems to lead towards a complete break-down of this country.

One of the latest cases is the dismantling of the HEC, which was created with foreign funding has come from the same donors who have allocated part of the funds now for the provincial governments for streamlining primary education, instead of federal government, one of the institutions which has so far not resisted to commercialization of education and loot sale of professional degrees without imparting proper education at the level of M.S, MBA, Doctors, Engineering and Ph D's will be flooded in coming days without any sound knowledge. Education is a matter of serious concerns and we should not allow it to be made a joke. In the early days of infancy Punjab Education Minister Mr. Abdul Hameed Dasti is on record of Cabinet meetings having said that we can not allocate more funds because Punjab can not afford the luxury of educating the masses.

The hype about the forthcoming cricket match is even smoothening down the most recent blunder of this government â?" the bail-out for the CIA agent and spy against Pakistan Raymond Davis who had come into the country on a mission which is inconsistent with the policy of â?~partnership in the war on terrorâ?T which the US is claiming to pursue. His disappearance from Pakistan while his name was placed on exit control list by the order of Lahore High Court and his passport is still in the custody of Punjab government as claimed by the Chief Minister Punjab while he was allowed to escape by passing the immigration for which the Interior ministry & Punjab government owe an explanation to nation. The misuse of the Islamic qisas and diyat law for his release which could have probably catered for excuse from his cold-blooded murder of Pakistani citizens but not for the release from accusations of high treason against the Pakistani state is just another proof of the degradation of system under the PPP & PML (N) governments and its members. But the crisis is not limited to these two parties or their government only.









If there is one conclusion that can be drawn out of the recent meeting of the Pakistan Interior Secretary and the Indian Home Secretary, it is that the Indian side is now intent on converting the bilateral dialogue into one based on a 'one-item addendum' i.e. terrorism. The much-vaunted composite dialogue is now as good as dead, at least for the immediate future. When the two sides decided to revive the 'dialogue', they could have started it with a working group dealing with a contentious issue crying out for settlement. Why begin with the one relating to terrorism and drug trafficking? In any case, the composite dialogue was nothing better than a time-gaining exercise so far as India was concerned. They milked the holy cow for as long as feasible, throwing the bait of CBMs to placate the critics and to provide ammunition to the 'peaceniks'. Now, when they see themselves on firmer ground – their intensive propaganda in the West having paid dividends – they see no need even for the fig leaf.

In many ways, it would not be fair to be harsh on the Indians. Their strategy and tactics were always clear. After all, they made no secret of the fact that they were not interested in settling contentious issues except on their own terms. We cannot escape the fact that India is, after all, the 'status quo power'. It is Pakistan that wishes to disturb the status quo. So there! The fault lies not in the stars but in the failure of our own strategy that was not only full of holes but also was never well thought out. If we have one fault it is that we never think a thing through. That, and the fact that we somehow never devise a 'plan B' to fall back upon!

On another note, let us admit that we as a nation have become the victim of what can be termed as the 'single-item agendum'. Terrorism may not have got us on the ground, but in so far as diplomacy goes we have had it. It will be recalled that - what now appears a long time back - talks between Pakistan and India within the framework of the 'Anti-terrorism Mechanism' – whatever that connotes - had ended on a comparatively positive note. Among other things, the two sides had agreed on immediate sharing of urgent information on priority basis, which represented an advance of sorts. In addition, they had agreed to an early finalization of the structure and framework of the Mechanism and further that it would meet regularly every quarter. Now that one looks back, the only purpose it served was to spawn another inane bilateral 'mechanism'. It may not be out of place to recall that in drawing up the parameters of the Anti-Terrorism Mechanism, it was agreed that specific information would be exchanged through the Mechanism to assist investigations on either side related to terrorist acts and prevention of violence in the two countries. One wonders what happened to all this rigmarole post-Mumbai! Needless to repeat that recent history of the relations between Pakistan and India shows that the erstwhile composite dialogue between Pakistan and India was interrupted more than once due to India's misgivings about Pakistan's motives regarding certain activities on Indian soil. Pakistan too has had reason to look askance at India's motives as regards acts of violence on Pakistan soil, particularly in the province of Balochistan. Unlike India, though, Pakistan refrained from using the pretext of these activities in order to interrupt the ongoing dialogue. The India establishment had regrettably no such qualms and recklessly went ahead to scuttle the talks more than once.

On a wider canvas, the single item agendum has helped drive Pakistan against the wall. This unenviable situation could have been avoided if only we had played our cards well. For a long time now, all our joint communiqués after visits have featured 'terrorism' to the exclusion of all else. Granted that terrorism is a problem Pakistan has faced for sometime and one it is facing valiantly against fearful odds. But we should not have allowed our interlocutors to pin the badge of terrorism on our collective chests. What gives the powers that be the right to brand Pakistan as the most dangerous country to visit? This is particularly offensive when one considers that it is these very powers that have indirectly placed this country in the unenviable position it finds itself in. We are suffering because, true to our reputation, we never drew up a 'plan B'. In particular, in the context of our relations with our neighbour, we have invariably been caught on the wrong foot.

The world is beset with myriad problems since the upheaval in the wake of the nine/eleven episode. The a sea change since then as a direct consequence. The advent of extremism and/or terrorism is an offshoot of the various radical changes taking place in the world environment. Of these, what are of particular concern are developments that result in the denial to significant groups of people of their fundamental rights, as also blatant violation of their human rights. The impact of what may be called 'state terrorism' has tragically pushed these people - particularly the youth - against the wall. This unfortunate state of affairs has spawned such extreme acts as suicide bombings. It would be in the fitness of things if the countries of the South Asia region were to resolve to effectively tackle the root causes of such extreme acts as well as of extremism itself. What needs to be eschewed in particular is the tendency to play a blame-game as, in deed, to try to paper-over the cracks. The time has now come to think positively and to work towards creating an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence. Without this, all interim measures will come to naught. One hopes that the much-vaunted "Cricket Diplomacy" indulged in by the two Prime Ministers was not meant just to play to the gallery and that the two leaders took advantage of the occasion to sow the seed of amity and good-neighbourliness. Failing this, this occasion may figure in the archives as just another missed opportunity.









If there is one conclusion that can be drawn out of the recent meeting of the Pakistan Interior Secretary and the Indian Home Secretary, it is that the Indian side is now intent on converting the bilateral dialogue into one based on a 'one-item addendum' i.e. terrorism. The much-vaunted composite dialogue is now as good as dead, at least for the immediate future. When the two sides decided to revive the 'dialogue', they could have started it with a working group dealing with a contentious issue crying out for settlement. Why begin with the one relating to terrorism and drug trafficking? In any case, the composite dialogue was nothing better than a time-gaining exercise so far as India was concerned. They milked the holy cow for as long as feasible, throwing the bait of CBMs to placate the critics and to provide ammunition to the 'peaceniks'. Now, when they see themselves on firmer ground – their intensive propaganda in the West having paid dividends – they see no need even for the fig leaf.

In many ways, it would not be fair to be harsh on the Indians. Their strategy and tactics were always clear. After all, they made no secret of the fact that they were not interested in settling contentious issues except on their own terms. We cannot escape the fact that India is, after all, the 'status quo power'. It is Pakistan that wishes to disturb the status quo. So there! The fault lies not in the stars but in the failure of our own strategy that was not only full of holes but also was never well thought out. If we have one fault it is that we never think a thing through. That, and the fact that we somehow never devise a 'plan B' to fall back upon!

On another note, let us admit that we as a nation have become the victim of what can be termed as the 'single-item agendum'. Terrorism may not have got us on the ground, but in so far as diplomacy goes we have had it. It will be recalled that - what now appears a long time back - talks between Pakistan and India within the framework of the 'Anti-terrorism Mechanism' – whatever that connotes - had ended on a comparatively positive note. Among other things, the two sides had agreed on immediate sharing of urgent information on priority basis, which represented an advance of sorts. In addition, they had agreed to an early finalization of the structure and framework of the Mechanism and further that it would meet regularly every quarter. Now that one looks back, the only purpose it served was to spawn another inane bilateral 'mechanism'. It may not be out of place to recall that in drawing up the parameters of the Anti-Terrorism Mechanism, it was agreed that specific information would be exchanged through the Mechanism to assist investigations on either side related to terrorist acts and prevention of violence in the two countries. One wonders what happened to all this rigmarole post-Mumbai! Needless to repeat that recent history of the relations between Pakistan and India shows that the erstwhile composite dialogue between Pakistan and India was interrupted more than once due to India's misgivings about Pakistan's motives regarding certain activities on Indian soil. Pakistan too has had reason to look askance at India's motives as regards acts of violence on Pakistan soil, particularly in the province of Balochistan. Unlike India, though, Pakistan refrained from using the pretext of these activities in order to interrupt the ongoing dialogue. The India establishment had regrettably no such qualms and recklessly went ahead to scuttle the talks more than once.

On a wider canvas, the single item agendum has helped drive Pakistan against the wall. This unenviable situation could have been avoided if only we had played our cards well. For a long time now, all our joint communiqués after visits have featured 'terrorism' to the exclusion of all else. Granted that terrorism is a problem Pakistan has faced for sometime and one it is facing valiantly against fearful odds. But we should not have allowed our interlocutors to pin the badge of terrorism on our collective chests. What gives the powers that be the right to brand Pakistan as the most dangerous country to visit? This is particularly offensive when one considers that it is these very powers that have indirectly placed this country in the unenviable position it finds itself in. We are suffering because, true to our reputation, we never drew up a 'plan B'. In particular, in the context of our relations with our neighbour, we have invariably been caught on the wrong foot.

The world is beset with myriad problems since the upheaval in the wake of the nine/eleven episode. The a sea change since then as a direct consequence. The advent of extremism and/or terrorism is an offshoot of the various radical changes taking place in the world environment. Of these, what are of particular concern are developments that result in the denial to significant groups of people of their fundamental rights, as also blatant violation of their human rights. The impact of what may be called 'state terrorism' has tragically pushed these people - particularly the youth - against the wall. This unfortunate state of affairs has spawned such extreme acts as suicide bombings. It would be in the fitness of things if the countries of the South Asia region were to resolve to effectively tackle the root causes of such extreme acts as well as of extremism itself. What needs to be eschewed in particular is the tendency to play a blame-game as, in deed, to try to paper-over the cracks. The time has now come to think positively and to work towards creating an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence. Without this, all interim measures will come to naught. One hopes that the much-vaunted "Cricket Diplomacy" indulged in by the two Prime Ministers was not meant just to play to the gallery and that the two leaders took advantage of the occasion to sow the seed of amity and good-neighbourliness. Failing this, this occasion may figure in the archives as just another missed opportunity.








The FBI defines international terrorism as the unlawful use of force or violence committed by a group or individual, who has some connection to a foreign power or whose activities transcend national boundaries, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment there of in furtherance of political or social objective.

William Blum truly writes further in his book "Rogue State" that the FBI definition although meant to describe acts directed against the United States, would seem to cover rather well countless acts of the US Government itself. American government is carrying out bombing intervention, tortures, chemical and biological warfare in number of globes. Similar nature of acts against civilian of Pakistan is being carried out since 2004 by CIA drones.

According to some of the Western media reports pentagon and CIA has clash over the Afghan Issue. CIA seems to be running its own state within the state. CIA independent actions in the shape of employment of black water, drone attacks and carrying out sabotaging activities in collaboration with Israeli and Indian intelligence agencies are damaging pentagon interest in the global war on terror and becoming the sole cause of creating hate in Muslim community against America. Recently, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have strongly condemned the CIA drone attack in Datta Khel, North Waziristan Agency on March17, 2011. Prime Minister stated that it will only strengthen the radical and extremist elements and reiterated that such an irrational behaviour negatively impact the efforts to separate the militants from peaceful and patriotic tribesmen of the areas.PM and Governor further expressed their sympathies with the bereaved families and assured that all possible security measures would be taken to protect the people of the region. In this attack 41 innocent persons have been killed and several injured. In this regard credible sources disclosed that CIA launched the said drone attack without taking Pentagon into confidence and that too was in the resentment of the arrest and later on release of her station chief Raymond Davis.

In this connection, Pakistan Army Chief of Staff General, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani too declared this strike "unjustified and intolerable" and said it was a violation of human rights. The General categorically said Pakistan army will protect her nation with full strength and any such attempt of violation in future will be dealt severely. General Kayani asked the local commander to provide all out assistance to the victims of Drone attacks. He further expressed that security forces are there only to deal with the militants and respect the peaceful and patriotic tribal. He very rightly said that such type of attacks will going to damage the global war on terror efforts.

Foreign office also summoned American ambassador and registered Pakistan's strong protest against drone strike of March 17, on a tribal gathering at Datta Khel. Pakistan also declined to attend the forth coming talks on Afghan Issues. Civilian causalities of as result of CIA drone strikes always remained questionable and source of friction between the Pakistani and U.S. it is mentionable here that from 2004 - 2011 CIA has carried out 234 drone strikes. Out of revealed strikes 118 were in last year and 21drone attacks have been launched just only in the last three months. According to the reports over 2200 individuals have been killed which include innocent persons apart from militants.

The US unmanned aircraft operation always caused widespread anti-American sentiments, which are running particularly high after the release of a CIA Spy Raymond Davis. It is known fact that troika of intelligence agencies (CIA, RAW and Mossad) is carrying out some joint operations in Pakistan, Iran and China, which resulted into some unpleasant situation in ISI and CIA. Now, it is an open secret that CIA does provide tacit support to Balochistan Independence movement. According to Wikileaks, Americans are interested to increase their influence in Gawadar and other part of the Balochistan. According to regional think tanks, damaging China-Pakistan joint venture of development of Gawader port is one of the main US interest in Balochistan.

The rebels of Balochistan are being tacitly support by India, Afghanistan and US. Some Baloch leaders have prepared a proper plan of sabotaging the law and order situation throughout Balochistan. They are also determined to cause unrest in other big cities of the country too. The rebels' leaders are in the opinion that now it's the time to cash and exploit US interest in Balochistan. CIA has also provided the forum to the Baloch leaders in the shape of churches in US for the independence of Balochistan. In this connection proper prayers have been organized for the Baloch movement. The Baloch rebels' plan will be discussed separately in an article shortly by me. Coming back to the topic, I would like to mention here that arrest of Raymond Davis provided a chance to ISI to unveil CIA and RAW nefarious design in Pakistan and other Arab States. There are reports that troika is cooperating with each other against Arab States, China, Pakistan and Iran. It also attempted to create unrest in Arab States; Saudi Arabia, UAE, Syria and Libya. Therefore, ISI and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) of China probably are showing more harmony as compared to the past for countering joint operation of troika in the region. In this connection KGB might also be thinking to extend her hand to China's intelligence agency for neutralizing CIA, which will finally off set the US interest in the region.

In this case Pentagon interest of GWOT will also be jeopardized. Moreover, if CIA does not stop drone attacks and other anti Pakistan campaign then there are likely chances that Islamabad government which is already under criticism because of Raymond Davis case will be forced to revise her policy in relation to GWOT. Thus, it's better for Washington to control CIA operating against the frontline ally of GWOT.

—The Writer is a defence analyst.










Mainstream Australians have not been hiding; they still live in the suburbs, aspire to home ownership, a good education for their children and a country where a fair go permeates all aspects of life. Which makes us wonder why Julia Gillard had to use Thursday's inaugural Whitlam Institute oration as a belated attempt to reattach her party to its middle-Australia base. By identifying the Greens as a party of "protest" and the Liberals as a party of "extremism", the Prime Minister was on a mission to show Labor occupies the centre. The Weekend Australian believes the ALP should be a party for the mainstream, so we welcome Ms Gillard's awakening. But it will take more than platitudes and denunciation of her opponents to cement the claim. As the saying goes, don't tell us you're funny, make us laugh.

Much of what Labor has done in recent years, federal and state, has pointed to a disconnect between the party and its base. The direction of its policy and its rhetoric has been shaped by the progressive, moral middle-class agenda from which Ms Gillard now seeks to distance herself. To listen to the Prime Minister and her colleagues address issues such as the carbon tax and border security has been to hear disdain for the legitimate concerns of working Australians. Rather than listening to Australians who object to the party's progessive policies or explaining the party's approach, Labor's elites have thrown around words such as nutters, deniers, racists and extremists. This will never pass muster for a people's party.

Labor's drift to the progressive Left has created policy contradictions, with a tough/welcoming border regime and a low-emission/growth-driven economic policy. The confusion has it losing ground to the Greens in inner-city electorates with their prosperous young professionals. In the suburbs, socially conservative working families have switched to the Liberals. Maps in our pages show how this plays out across Sydney after the NSW poll, with Labor battling Greens in the inner city, clinging to seats in the most working-class of areas and losing to the Liberals across a range of suburbs. Many of these are the aspirational suburbs where Ms Gillard realises Labor must rediscover its base. She must also hope that disgust at NSW machine politics doesn't tarnish federal Labor.

She was right to point out the Greens don't understand the fundamental importance of a strong economy. The question then is why she entered into a formal agreement with them before forming government, an unnecessary move that has created a problem in perceptions and probably in policy development. Ms Gillard has cited the new parliament as reason for breaking her promise on carbon tax. We can only hope her robust critique of the Greens' economic ineptitude will steel her will against their calls to limit industry compensation in the tax package.

Even if they sneak into the lower house seat of Balmain, the NSW election, just like last year's Victorian poll, was a disappointment to the Greens. With a statewide swing of more than 13 per cent against Labor, the Greens picked up just over 1 per cent. Even in Balmain, the Liberals won more first preferences than either Labor or the Greens and in Marrickville, where the Greens expected to win, their candidate's extremist anti-Israel policy, and her evasiveness about it, cost them dearly. Yet we learn this week that incoming NSW Greens senator Lee Rhiannon is planning to take this vile agenda to Canberra. While Greens leader Bob Brown has rejected the policy, we are left to wonder about a national organisation, accredited as mainstream by the ABC, that lets a state branch run a separate, damaging foreign policy.

Senator Brown once joked that the Greens have as many factions as MPs. For anyone seriously contemplating their role in national policy formulation, that observation is beyond a joke. The Greens are a fringe political group and although they rail against it, The Weekend Australian will continue to scrutinise them. It is heartening that after starting to venture down their garden path, Ms Gillard has recognised another road towards the middle ground. It is Tony Abbott, not Senator Brown, who can beat her at the next election; the battle needs to be contested by both major parties in the mainstream.






After one of the wettest summers in decades on the eastern side of the continent, it is counter-intuitive to be talking about managing drought. But in the driest continent on earth, history shows that the big dry follows the big wet as sure as night follows day.

Human ingenuity, which made settlement possible and has driven prosperity, is the key to better management that will underpin future growth and security. Better storage, fairer water allocation and more efficient irrigation techniques will go a long way. But it is encouraging that the federal standing committee on regional Australia is looking beyond the immediate issues of controversial water buy backs in the Murray-Darling Basin to consider the promising results of recent trials of rain-enhancement technology.

Trials in Queensland and the Mount Lofty Ranges have shown positive increases in rainfall in target areas using ionisation to increase the proportion of cloud moisture that falls as rain. Programs using "cloud seeding" technology are already under way in the US, Israel and China. Given Australia's climate and our reliance on agriculture for domestic consumption and export earnings, potential returns are substantial. The technology on the horizon will not put an end to drought, but it could ease it.







Syria's President, Bashar al-Assad, has learned nothing from the Arab Spring. He is a former ophthalmologist trained in London and married to a Harley Street cardiologist's daughter who had a highly successful merchant banking career with Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan. But his defiant, unsophisticated response to democracy demonstrations shows he is his father's son, an apparatchik of the corrupt Baathist dictatorship that has ruthlessly suppressed and looted Syrians for 48 years.

Before he addressed parliament this week, aides tipped an announcement of reforms that would herald a historic break with the regime of his late father, Hafeez al-Assad, including an end to draconian emergency rule imposed in 1963 and a curbing of the all-pervasive powers of the notorious Mukhabarat secret police. But the speech was disingenuous claptrap, with Assad blaming the demonstrations on a conspiracy by so-called saboteurs intent on enforcing an Israeli agenda. Without the histrionics and headgear it could have been Muammar Gaddafi speaking. Assad has not got the message of the uprisings that have swept away long-entrenched leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, and is likely to pay a heavy price for his obduracy.

It is not the first time Assad has disappointed since succeeding his father in 2000 in a shameful act of dynastic corruption. While touted as a new breed of Arab leader and a potential partner in a peace process with Israel, Assad has instead continued to meddle in the affairs of Lebanon and beyond, supporting such evil surrogates as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. He has forged a close alliance with Iran in support of global terrorism, a relationship that has seen the first Iranian warships to pass through the Suez Canal since 1979 dock at the Syrian port of Latakia to establish a base. His sinister nuclear program was snuffed out only when Israel bombed the facility in 2007.

For the West, the crisis in Damascus presents profound challenges. Syria has a potent arsenal of missiles, rockets and chemical warheads capable of hitting targets in Israel. Now that Assad has his back to the wall, that potential is even greater. Were he to be deposed, it's likely that Sunnis, possibly Muslim Brotherhood extremists, would take over. Assad has himself to blame for the crisis. He failed to bring about reforms that could have been a template for the region. He must adapt or go.







THE emergence of players who received or are seeking compensation for career-ending brain injuries explains why the AFL had to adopt new guidelines on concussion. A year ago, The Age was sufficiently alarmed by research findings to urge that players who were clearly concussed should miss the next match. The AFL has not adopted that as a rule. Its guidelines do require that players not return later in a game in which they were concussed. In round one, Joel Selwood was heavily concussed, but Geelong was controversially able to consider playing him this week, before ruling him out yesterday.

The AFL has accepted arguments that club doctors would not do anything that risks players' welfare. History suggests otherwise. Players played when they shouldn't have, although doctors may not have knowingly put them at risk. However, one club doctor even says the guidelines will ''make people under-diagnose concussion'' to enable players with minor concussion to return to the field. Not all cases of concussion are the same, but it is noteworthy that brain specialists are inclined to take a more cautious approach. One has proposed that the AFL independently monitor adherence to the guidelines. Head protection has also been suggested for junior footballers whose developing brains are especially vulnerable to injury.

The experts are cautious because they know the difficulty of assessing concussion, the effects of which may last days, weeks, months or even years. They also know that a person who has been concussed is more vulnerable to another concussion, and that as few as three episodes of concussion multiply the risks of lasting ill effects such as depression, dementia and lapses in concentration and memory. While the AFL's commitment to further research is welcome, it must be mindful of potential legal liabilities. The same professionalism that creates pressure to put players back on the field increases the costs of making the wrong call. This is why concussed American footballers must sit out the next game. The potential consequences for players' careers and lives long after football demand that the AFL err on the side of caution.






It is good to learn that Kenya's rose-growing industry has been transformed since we reported on its damaging impact

In a world of many bad news stories, it is good to learn that Kenya's rose-growing industry, worth $500m a year, has been transformed since we reported, in 2003, on its damaging impact on the people and environment of the shores of Lake Naivasha. Better, safer working conditions and a dramatic new emphasis on sustainability are the upshot of a mix of public criticism and a devastating drought followed by floods that left no alternative but a radical rethink about the way the growers and their workforce used water. Backed by huge charitable organisations like the Rockefeller and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundations, there is an upsurge of interest in this kind of impact investment, where developed-world capital seeks projects in Africa, Asia and South America which can generate commercial returns from sustainable development. Wealthy individuals prefer social enterprise to charity; ethical fund managers look for vehicles that do good at the same time as doing well.

The dilemma is how to judge at what point the costs outweigh the benefits. The current controversy over another Kenyan project, to grow the poisonous and invasive South American plant jatropha for biofuel, shows just how difficult it is to strike a balance. The project's critics protest at damage to the Dakatcha woodland, an important habitat, warn against the extensive planting of an exotic species, and argue that jatropha will produce more carbon than it saves. Its supporters promise jobs and investment in an arid, poverty-stricken part of Kenya. In the wake of land grabs by China, Asia and the Middle East seeking food security for their own people, there is widespread suspicion of an agribusiness invasion, and persuasive arguments against commercial agriculture in countries where more than 90% of the people still rely on subsistence farming. But their backers claim projects that promote food security, create opportunities for smallholders and are environmentally sustainable in countries like Tanzania or Malawi show what can be delivered by good design and careful management.

The best way to judge is by an internationally recognised set of standards. The Global Impact Investment Network's IRIS project seeks to do just that. Yet some impact investment funds are still reluctant to sign up: they recognise the protection such a system would offer; but they are reluctant to commit to anything that might slow the cash flow. Plenty of African entrepreneurs find some funds' concerns to promote equity and transparency irrelevant in a marketplace desperate for cash. Our report today makes clear that consumer pressure is a powerful incentive. That Mother's Day bunch of roses smells a little sweeter now than 10 years ago.





From the beginning of the intervention the encouragement of defections has played an absolutely central role

From the beginning of the intervention in Libya the encouragement of defections has played an absolutely central role. Indeed it has been the constant refrain of prime ministers, presidents and foreign ministers as they sought to explain how they thought the coalition would achieve its aims in north Africa. Libyan civilians of course had to be protected from attack. But otherwise the military measures, the economic sanctions and even the threat of international legal proceedings were not ends in themselves.

They were instead means, as William Hague, Hillary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama repeatedly made clear, to signal to Libyan soldiers, civil servants and high functionaries that the regime had no future – and nor would they, if they stuck with it. The important thing was to peel away from the Gaddafis the supporters without whom they could not maintain their rule. The defection of the Benghazi garrison in the early days of the protests brought about the swift collapse of the Gaddafi government's authority in the east, while the resignations and declarations of many Libyan diplomats undermined what little was left of the regime's legitimacy abroad. Defections were the way to go, and the prospect of more was relished.

When it was a matter of barely known military officers changing sides, or western-educated diplomats whose unease at representing the regime had long been noted, or even of Gaddafi ministers migrating to the Benghazi camp in Libya itself, all was grist to the mill. But there was a contradiction looming. When defection is vital to success, can amnesty be far away? This is the problem dramatised by the defection of Moussa Koussa to Britain this week. Koussa has both harmed and helped Britain in the past, with the emphasis in recent years more on the latter than the former. And, with his knowledge of the workings of the Gaddafi inner circle, he can still help us now by pinpointing its weaknesses and identifying other figures who might come over soon.

Some are demanding he be put on trial if evidence emerges of responsibility for attacks on western targets. But it would be amazing, whatever David Cameron says in public, if Koussa had not been given assurances about his own future. And it would be foolish not to listen to what other Gaddafi associates who come to Britain have to say.

One does not have to look far in regional history for examples of the practical taking precedence over the ideal. General Eisenhower confirmed the Vichy Admiral Darlan as chief in north Africa in order to secure the allegiance of Vichy army units. Later the second world war allies installed Field Marshal Badoglio, a general who had fought in Libya but abandoned Mussolini, as head of an interim Italian government.

The short history of the international criminal court, which has since earlier this month been investigating the possibility of charging members of the Gaddafi regime with war crimes, shows that an indictment can have the effect of isolating a head of state, as it did in the case of Slobodan Miloševic. The wider the criminal net is cast, however, the more it may stiffen rather than undermine a faltering regime. There is sometimes, in other words, a choice to be made between absolute justice and bringing a desperate and dangerous phase in a nation's affairs to an end.

Ultimately the decisions about who should be punished, who pardoned, and who allowed, in spite of past sins, to continue to play a part in Libya's political life, should be made by Libyans themselves. But the coalition has for the moment the responsibility of measuring how high a price we should pay for the defections we encourage. The line should surely be drawn at the ruling family itself. How much wider it should go is a hard question. But there may be some unpalatable compromises ahead.





Is it to be imagined that Sachin Tendulkar should fail in Mumbai, to emerge a World Cup winner

Is it really to be imagined that Sachin Tendulkar, one of the greatest batsmen in the history of the game – and one capable, as we saw against Pakistan, even when playing erratically and repeatedly being dropped, of making 85 runs and emerging as man of the match – should fail on this day in his home town, Mumbai, to emerge a World Cup winner, and possibly with his 100th international century under his belt? Even were he to fail, then surely some other Indian star – the rampaging Virender Sehwag, perhaps, or Yuvraj Singh, with his knack of coming up with something decisive when it's needed – would do the job for him. And yet is it really conceivable that a second of the world's greatest cricketers, even when struggling with injury, should fail, if he plays – and they may not be able to stop him – to stamp the name Muttiah Muralitharan on the result? Or that tested performers like the valiant wicketkeeper-opener captain Kumar Sangakkara, from a nation which may remember that a generation ago Sri Lanka was deemed by many English wiseacres unfit for test cricket, should fail to ensure that he leaves on a winning note? For Murali, at 39 – as for now-retiring captains Ricky Ponting, Andrew Strauss and Daniel Vettori, and very likely too for Tendulkar, who'll be 41 in 2015 – it is going to be the commentary box next time. On that basis, the non-aligned, which of course after last weekend includes the English, ought perhaps to hope for a tie. But that surely is truly unthinkable.







The March 11 massive earthquake and tsunami and the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant at one point made some 450,000 people, mostly from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, homeless. Now some 170,000 people are staying at temporary evacuation shelters. An encouraging development is taking place among some local governments in areas not affected by the disasters. They are offering to accept evacuees from northeastern Japan.

Not only prefectures near the devastated areas, such as Akita, Yamagata and Niigata, but also more distant prefectures, such as Okinawa and Saga, are inviting evacuees to stay in their areas. Katashina village in Gunma Prefecture, with a population of about 5,000, has accepted some 920 people from Minami Soma city in Fukushima Prefecture, who were forced to evacuate their homes due to the nuclear power plant crisis.

The regional federation of Kyoto, Osaka and seven other prefectures in the Kansai region is ready to accept tens of thousands of evacuees. It says that it will make efforts to enable them to maintain communities in their new environment.

It is hoped that local governments that accept evacuees will make adequate preparations, such as offering employment and providing public services including education so that evacuees can stay in their areas for as long as necessary. These local governments should also involve residents and enterprises in their projects. Their support would help evacuees more quickly adapt to their new environment.

While it is understandable that some evacuees might be reluctant to move so far away from their home regions, they should not hesitate to accept invitations to move to other areas of Japan. Doing so will make it much easier to provide them with food, shelter, employment, education and other essentials.

In the areas devastated by the disasters, it is necessary to get local administrations up and running. In some areas municipal offices were obliterated and in some cases municipal staff, including mayors, were killed. The associations of prefectural governors and city mayors should consider dispatching public servants under their jurisdiction to devastated municipalities. National public servants also should be loaned to such municipalities.





The record ¥92.41 trillion budget for fiscal 2011 was enacted Tuesday. Although the opposition-controlled Upper House voted it down earlier in the day, it was enacted due to a constitutional provision that mandates that a Lower House vote on a national budget prevails over an Upper House vote. Even with the enactment of the budget the Kan administration faces many hurdles.

Diet divisions make the passage of budget-related bills — among them a bill to issue bonds to raise some ¥40 trillion — difficult. Hoping to gain the cooperation of the opposition forces in Diet deliberations, the Kan Cabinet decided to withdraw a bill to increase the child allowance — a key policy of the Democratic Party of Japan — from the current monthly ¥13,000 to ¥20,000, particularly for children under three. Instead, a stopgap bill to extend the current child allowance program for six months beyond March 31 was enacted Thursday with the help of the Japan Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.

With the nation in the midst of a dire emergency caused by the March 11 massive earthquake and tsunami, both the ruling and opposition forces must work together for smooth execution of the initial fiscal 2011 budget and for the early passage of a supplementary budget for reconstruction of the region devastated by the disasters.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan hopes to craft an initial extra budget of more than ¥2 trillion to pay for reconstruction. The initial fiscal 2011 budget includes a contingency fund of ¥1.16 trillion. Since this fund is not enough to cover the planned extra budget, the government will need to raise funds by reducing spending on the DPJ's key policies. The government and the DPJ should demonstrate sincerity in its talks with the opposition forces on this point. By doing so they may get the opposition's cooperation in passing the budget-related bills.

The government will need additional supplementary budgets for reconstruction. It should not rule out an issuance of bonds for raising funds because tax increases in this situation are likely to depress the economy and further diminish tax revenues.








In my article published by The Jakarta Post, "Indonesia: A Battlefield of Linguistic Survival" published on Jan. 29, I pointed out that "multilingualism in Indonesia is in a real state of catastrophe".

My statement is not an exaggeration, since research conducted by a prominent research institution, the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), stated that no less than 86.7 percent of the 735 languages in Indonesia are at risk of extinction. These languages are spoken by fewer than 100,000 native speakers and are only partly alive.

In Indonesia's contemporary world where political hypocrisies, weak law enforcement, and religious intolerances form an endless thread of news consumed by the people, the skeptical may ask, "Can concerns about language maintenance enter the realm of people's daily lives?"

Well, I am an optimist, so I would answer "yes" to that question. Re-cently, the Post showed some posters in Javanese characters carried by several students of SD Bright Kiddie 3 on their visit to Panjebar Semangat magazine in Surabaya, East Java.

These children might not be aware of the nature of their visit, but what they did was a simple example of language policy, a good sample of language conservation.

With the intention to support the campaign to use Javanese as a native language in Indonesia, the children demonstrated what schools could do to prevent local languages from disappearing. I would like to argue that two elements that need to be fully considered when maintaining languages include the societal aspects of the language and the presence of competitor language(s).

First of all, improving the functional values of an endangered language needs to be a priority. In order for a language to survive, it should have a social function. Put simply, a language needs to be spoken for it to be well-preserved. Thus, a language that is not spoken in society needs to at least be spoken at home. Parents, in this regard, need to speak in their local languages with their children.

Children who live in urban areas are usually victims of modernity. Many of these children are the offspring of inter-ethnical marriages. Their parents could be Javanese and Sundanese, or Betawi and Sundanese, or Bimanese and Malay, so they are often native speakers of two different languages.

Children may be exposed to Indonesian both at home and at school, and learn English at school or in private courses, but they sometimes do not have chances to speak with their parents in their local languages. As a consequence, most of these children don't have the slightest idea of simple terms in their parents' local languages, not to mention conversing in them.

What parents can do is to promote a family language policy. Let say a family consists of a Javanese husband, his Sundanese wife and their two children.

In private conversations, the father needs to speak Javanese with the children, whereas the wife would speak Sundanese. When they hold family gatherings, however, all family members switch to use Indonesian. Both Javanese and Sundanese are well-preserved within the family and the use of Indonesian is promoted.

The family strategy is proved viable as in the case of a friend of my colleague who has mastered both English and Gujarati. His success story adds to countless cases of children who speak both Spanish and Portuguese or English and German.

The next step to empowering a language is through social institutions. In fact, language policy efforts at a local level are manifold and can be achieved through various social domains. Schooling is a domain in which language policy can take place, as the students of SD Bright Kiddie 3 have demonstrated.

Children can learn Javanese at school and learn how alphabets are formed in these languages. They can also attend extra-curricular activities in Javanese or even read comics in Javanese and do some sort of Javanese traditional performances, like Ludruk and others.

The religious domain is another viable means for language conservation. Children who speak local languages in Mahakam, Kalimantan, can maintain their language through chanting religious spells in their local religion.

The presence of a competitor language also needs to be fully considered. In this sense, Indonesian has become a rival to local languages, according to scholars such as Ajip Rosidi. In many cases, during the New Order regime, efforts to use local languages were deemed unsupportive to national development.

Although the spirit to promote the status of Indonesian as the national language was meritorious, there were misconceptions in the early years of Indonesian independence, which then built strong prejudices against vernaculars or local languages in Indonesia.

A common misconception about the 1928 Youth Pledge is that instead of declaring "We, Indonesian youths, highly respect the use of a united language, the Indonesian language," people say "We, Indonesian youths, speak one language, the Indonesian language".

As a result, the motivation to secure vernaculars against extinction was seen as a separatist movement that deviates from a national vision of having one nation with one national language. No wonder local languages are seen as ancient and against modernity.

English could also be a rival to local languages. The fact now more and more primary schools offer English to students in various places in Indonesia and the fact that lots of children learn it at private courses is undeniable.

It is true that children need to learn English for their future, but they also need to learn their local languages. Acquiring English at the expense of their local languages is ill-advised. Thus, some sort of language policy should be created to support preservation of local languages and on the other hand promote Indonesian and English.

The author, a PhD candidate at the Australian National University (ANU), is an English instructor at the University of Canberra's English Language Institute.





Our efforts to improve the quality of pedagogy and research in the humanities have been severely hampered by a long-standing myth: phenomena related to pedagogical and social issues and problems are assumed to be resolved by resorting exclusively to a scientific-empirical orthodoxy, which is not uncommon in natural sciences.

In the pedagogy, for example, we are seeing the stigmatization of social science in favor of hard science. The former is regarded as inferior to the latter.

Students, for example, are enthusiastic in, and even proud of attending the Physics Olympics nationwide, but are often hesitant in appreciating literary works.

The promotion of the importance of hard science through such international competitions unwittingly perpetuates the superiority of hard science over social science.

Similarly, current research in the field of the humanities such as education, language and literacy studies, and cultural studies, among others, have the tendency to prize rationality, logic, and conventionality.

It seems rather surprising that most research in the humanities in our country always compels researchers to mention explicit research methodologies, which in many cases are relatively unimportant in the humanities research.

The pursuit of objectivity and universality — which is strongly rooted to the positivist tradition — as the ultimate goal in the knowledge-making process, is evident in our profession and has been valued highly and glorified in humanities research.

In fact, scholarly journal policy in the humanities (accredited and non-accredited) at most universities here tends to encourage scholars to adopt a scientific-empirical pattern as a mode of research reporting.

The acceptance and rejection of articles is often determined by whether or not a researcher abides by this dominant mode. This policy, which seems to be tacit, adjudicates on the infallibility of the positivist tradition as the gate-keeper in the search for truth in humanities research.

Also, scholars affiliated with natural sciences have greater opportunities to win research grants provided by the state over those who come from the humanities.

If grants are indeed provided for the humanities, the provision is much smaller than for those for the natural sciences.

The exultation of scientific knowledge in the humanities will be pernicious for several reasons. First, it can perpetuate the idea that only a single paradigmatic mode of research with the label "scientific" is the best for all kinds of disciplinary fields.

Those bearing the name "qualitative studies", for instance, are downplayed as they are argued not to employ the so-called "scientific methodology" in their inquiry.

Novice researchers who lack experience can easily be riveted by a false impression that objectivity and universality are the ultimate goal of a research product, but they are never made aware of the subtle research processes a researcher must go through and of the interwoven unexpected variables that mask the intricate research process.

Second, it evades the uniqueness of socio-political and cultural contexts where the research is carried out.

As the scientific-empirical paradigm assumes neutrality and uniformity of discourse and repudiates plurality in thinking, there is no room for a researcher to explore their personal resources by making use of their reflective knowledge.

Third, a strict conformity to the conventions demanded by the scientific-empirical research paradigm often suppresses the researchers' agency and denies their complex subjectivities, values, ideology and their discursive traditions, all of which function as an important mediator in the process of knowledge construction.

Probably enticed by the ostensible infallibility of the dominant scientific research paradigm, local scholars are beguiled in generalizing its usefulness for all disciplinary fields, simply welcoming and employing it unquestioningly without critically interrogating the philosophical orientations underneath it.

The fact that the scientific tradition remains predominant and enjoys paradigmatic status in the humanities also attests to its axiomatic status.

Apparently, the employment of scientific-empirical research may, to a great extent, be incompatible with the nature of social studies, for example in education and literacy and cultural studies, which in a stark contrast acknowledge and value researchers' subjectivities, biases, values and ideology that mediate the research process.

In addition, rather than conforming to mechanically rigid conventions prescribed by the empiricist tradition, a general consensus in research in the humanities calls for creativity on the part of researchers, in voicing their inner feelings and thoughts. It encourages discovery of new forms of discourse, rather than simply reproducing those already available.

Even if we insist that scientific research be used (and indeed it is widely used nowadays) as a preferred research paradigm in humanities, in doing so will be unable to fully explore the subtleties of the human subjects we investigate, thus reducing the significance of the humanities as a legitimate field of inquiry.

It is thus reasonable to suspect that the reasons for the lack of research in the humanities in this country and the poor quality of research can be highly complex, but two factors are obvious here.

The marginalization in the provision for research funds intended for the humanities is just one contributing factor.

Another, but no less significant, is the lack of awareness, or probably ignorance, of using a research methodology appropriate to the nature of the humanities.

The writer is an associate professor at Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta, and is currently writing a dissertation on the strategies of textual construction. He is the chief editor of the Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching.





The plan to construct special lanes for bikes is finally being included in the Jakarta Urban and Area Planning scheme for 2030. However, its implementation remains unclear due to discouragement, if not opposition, including from Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo.

As an initiator of the back-to-bike campaign and advocate of bike lanes in Jakarta, I am certainly flabbergasted by the rejection. It is simply astonishing that it is extremely difficult to construct bike lanes in Indonesia, including in Jakarta, but it is easier to construct inner-city toll roads that result in air pollution and excessive use of gasoline.

Governor Fauzi has on various occasions stated that he would construct bike lanes only if the population of bikers in Jakarta hit 1 million. It is clear from this statement that he will not construct bike lanes because people will certainly choose not to bike in the current unpleasant and unsafe traffic conditions. Jakarta residents definitely do not want to risk their lives in the face of reckless public transportation drivers who do not respect the rights of pedestrians or bikers, let alone other vehicles on the road.

As an expert who resided in Germany for a period of time and who often traveled abroad, Fauzi must have experienced first-hand life in cities that pay great attention to bike transportation. Bikes are given special lanes and road signs to provide an enjoyable biking experience. In Germany, bikers even have special driving licenses and wear helmets, and thus they have to abide by the law. This means that biking is a legalized mode of city transportation.

Here in Indonesia bicycles are not recognized as a legal means of transportation, and are thus ignored by the government. Bike lanes constructed during the Dutch era, both in the downtown areas or between cities, were demolished to make way for motorized vehicles.

The cities of Bogota (in Colombia) and Marikina (the Philippines) demonstrate cases of how governments can take bikes into account. With the provision of bike lanes in these cities, the number of residents who use bikes doubled within three years. Why? Because people feel safer and more secure in riding bicycles without having to be afraid of getting hit by motorized vehicles.

This is what is called latent demand. No one seems to be interested in using it, but once the facility is provided, the number of users increases significantly. There may be 1,000 bikers in Jakarta now, but if bike lanes are constructed the number will definitely increase tenfold.

The Jakarta administration has also refused to construct special bike lanes due to space limitations, which is certainly illogical. Bike lanes do not require a lot of space. Two meters is enough to facilitate two-way traffic. Many cities across the world integrate their bike lanes with pedestrian facilities, with a clear separator. Each is facilitated proportionally.

The Blok M-Kota route is the right location for a bike lane and could be integrated with pedestrian facilities. The only narrow path is only between the Attorney General's Office building and Pemuda statue. The rest is quite wide except in the Kota area where it would compete with street parking and roadside business activities.

Bike lanes can also be constructed along Harmoni-Pasar Baru, Kota-Ancol, Jatinegara-Gunung Sahari, Matraman-Pulo Gadung and Jl. Yos Sudarso, on the condition that on-street parking is banned.

For by-pass roads (Wiyoto Wiyono flyover to Yos Sudarso), particularly Jl. Perintis Kemerdekaan to Tanjung Priok, bike lanes could be built on the east side of these roads by utilizing spaces currently occupied by bushes.

The key to realizing bike lanes in Jakarta is not a matter of technical issues or space availability, but a political will. If the government has a strong commitment, technical issues can be solved easily. The lack of commitment can be seen from the government's reluctance to clear on-street parking. Bike lanes will bring benefits to many parties.

First, bikes do not consume gasoline and do not cause pollution, and thus can reduce air pollution and global warming impacts.

Second, bicycles are more space efficient because one bike only requires 90 centimeters for its mobility, while motorbikes and cars take up 2 meters and 3.5 meters, respectively.

Third, encouraging bike use could reduce road fatalities because this mode of transportation has a lower fatality rate than that of motorbikes or cars.

Fourth, bikes could serve to strengthen social interaction because they enable direct social relations among bikers.

Fifth, the development of biking activities in Jakarta could promote small enterprises such as bicycle garages and bicycle accessories stores that are labor-intensive and eventually reduce unemployment and poverty rates.

Considering the many benefits of constructing bike lanes, it is therefore logical to construct them in Jakarta. This, however, is not a mega project and therefore it is probably less lucrative for those in legislative or executive powers.

People may start realizing the urgency of constructing bike lanes only when it is not possible to drive motorbikes or cars because the streets are so congested. People will be forced to abandon their motorized vehicles and shift to bikes or public transportation. Unfortunately, when that time comes, no bike lanes will be available.

Should we wait until the traffic in Jakarta comes to a complete standstill before we build bike lanes?

The writer is deputy chairman

of the MTI (Indonesian Transportation Community)




Recent heavy downpours — accompanied by strong winds or sometimes a gale — have frequently caused serious problems in Jakarta.

Apart from creating pools of water in many parts of the capital city that have led to severe traffic jams, the storms also brought down many trees — not necessarily old ones — along many of the city streets that unfortunately damaged dozens of cars and motorcycles parked under them or traveling on the streets along which the trees stood.

Falling trees still remain a threat as the extreme weather has yet to recede and strong winds could return at anytime. As it is impossible to change the weather, or avoid raging storms, we do hope that the city authorities will take necessary actions to prevent, or at least minimize, the impact of the natural phenomenon.

The latest heavy downpour and gale on March 16 resulted in the damage of at least 14 cars and several motorcycles due to toppled trees. Fortunately, no casualties were reported.

The Jakarta Parks and Cemeteries Agency recorded that about 40 trees, mostly planted in the 1970s, toppled that day. Meanwhile, fallen branches from hundreds of trees also blocked roads and worsened the traffic gridlocks in many parts of the city.

The presence of roadside trees is undeniably important in a city like Jakarta, of which many green areas — parks, swampy areas and even small lakes — have been converted into commercial sites and other urban facilities.

Roadside trees not only help make riding or driving more pleasurable but also help reduce air pollution, such as that produced by vehicle exhaust.

With less than 10 percent of Jakarta being green areas (far from the ideal figure of 30 percent), tree planting,
including on roadsides, is vital to make the city more comfortable.

Therefore, we appreciate moves to plant trees on any vacant land by government agencies, private companies and individuals.

However, the trees should not become a threat to people, including road users. We therefore need to seriously heed the advice of those knowledgeable about planting strong and safe trees in our surroundings.

Environmental experts claim that many trees along the city's roadsides are not safe in times of raging storms, particularly the fast growing angsana (Pterocarpus indicus) trees, the branches of which are easily broken when bent by strong winds, let alone gale-force winds.

Extreme weather still plagues the city as heavy rains and strong wind remain a threat.

The city administration, therefore, needs to anticipate such a threat so that no more falling trees endanger the lives of road users and their property.

Identifying and replacing dangerous trees would help minimize such incidents, while maintenance efforts like regular pruning may also help unwanted incidents during storms.

To start with, the city needs an adequate budget allocation to plant more trees as part of the city's re-greening campaign and to cover the maintenance of the trees.

The moral of the story is that Jakarta needs stronger trees that can withstand heavy storms, which can visit the city at any time.









The way in which the main Opposition United National Party (UNP) resolved or beclouded its leadership crisis that had been threatening to split the party for more than four months was in a way amazing and in another way amusing. Hambantota District parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa who is also the son of former President Ranasingha Premadasa all of a sudden as if in a miraculous way caved in and gave up his leadership aspirations and agreed to take up another deputy Leader post apart from the one held by Karu Jayasuriya.

This surprised many within and without the party as there has not been any sign of giving up on the part of Mr. Premadasa even just before the crucial working Committee meeting last week at which he compromised his stance. His apparent sudden heart change for sure might have disappointed those hoped to see a new leadership for the Grand Old Party with a view to change the destiny of the party and the country, whether that hope was realistic or not.

The ostensible rationale behind the intermittent move to oust Ranil Wickremesinghe, the incumbent leader of the UNP by a section of the party for the past decade or so had been that the main cause of the repeated election defeats incurred by the party was his leadership. Ironically there has not been anybody in the party hierarchy, especially among those who opposed Wickremesinghe's leadership, who had shown the capacity to replace him and take the helm to lead the party to the victory.

Needless to say that leader of any party has to take the moral responsibility for the defeats of the party although people claim ownership only in case of victories, as the saying goes the victory has a thousand fathers while the defeat is often an orphan. Wickremesinghe may not be so charismatic or does not have the organizational or fighting capacity compared to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the UNP dissidents incriminatingly claimed. But at the same time they always failed to bring forth an alternative with or without those capacities until Sajith Premadasa was automatically pushed forth. However, leadership alone cannot be attributed to the victory of a party.

It is not clear as to what made Mr. Premadasa to believe that he would get the majority support in the party or that he would be able to run the party better than Mr. Wickremesinghe before the last Working Committee meeting of the party. It is even unclear as to what forced him to back down from the leadership race at the last minute. Only thing that could be attributed to his sudden mind change is that he might have seen that Wickremesinghe was commanding a larger support within the working Committee.

On the other hand Wickremesinghe said on Wednesday at the oaths taking ceremony of the UNP's newly elected members of local authorities at party headquarters 'Sirikotha,' that the working committee had decided not to have internal elections for any posts in the party in future.  Accordingly suitable people for the top posts would be selected through consensus. This decision had been taken despite the newly adopted constitution of the party which stated that suitable people for top posts should be chosen by secret ballot.

When the party constitution was amended recently so as to hold elections for the top posts in the party both Sajith group and Wickremesinghe group claimed that it was done adhering to the democratic principles. However, Wickremesinghe now says that the party would not follow those principles and the dissident group too keeps mum on it.

The important question that has to be raised here is as to whether those in the party who clamoured genuinely for a leadership change with the belief that elections cannot be won so long as the incumbent leader is at the helm would adapt to the new situation. On what ground are they to accept that elections could be won under the present setup? The volcanic activities within the party therefore might last until the dissidents find a new leadership or the party gets a boost by a major electoral victory.

The UNP has been in the Opposition since 1994 except for a brief period of about two years and three months. On the other hand country needs a strong Opposition especially in light of the increasing centralization trend in the administration. Therefore, it is in the interest of the country that the UNP has to resolve its internal crisis for ever. It does not mean that UNP should be in the Opposition and the UPFA should run the country. Prudent people who have experienced the administration of both the two main parties do not care what party should be in power, except for some specific circumstances.





The way in which the main Opposition United National Party (UNP) resolved or beclouded its leadership crisis that had been threatening to split the party for more than four months was in a way amazing and in another way amusing. Hambantota District parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa who is also the son of former President Ranasingha Premadasa all of a sudden as if in a miraculous way caved in and gave up his leadership aspirations and agreed to take up another deputy Leader post apart from the one held by Karu Jayasuriya.

This surprised many within and without the party as there has not been any sign of giving up on the part of Mr. Premadasa even just before the crucial working Committee meeting last week at which he compromised his stance. His apparent sudden heart change for sure might have disappointed those hoped to see a new leadership for the Grand Old Party with a view to change the destiny of the party and the country, whether that hope was realistic or not.

The ostensible rationale behind the intermittent move to oust Ranil Wickremesinghe, the incumbent leader of the UNP by a section of the party for the past decade or so had been that the main cause of the repeated election defeats incurred by the party was his leadership. Ironically there has not been anybody in the party hierarchy, especially among those who opposed Wickremesinghe's leadership, who had shown the capacity to replace him and take the helm to lead the party to the victory.

Needless to say that leader of any party has to take the moral responsibility for the defeats of the party although people claim ownership only in case of victories, as the saying goes the victory has a thousand fathers while the defeat is often an orphan. Wickremesinghe may not be so charismatic or does not have the organizational or fighting capacity compared to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the UNP dissidents incriminatingly claimed. But at the same time they always failed to bring forth an alternative with or without those capacities until Sajith Premadasa was automatically pushed forth. However, leadership alone cannot be attributed to the victory of a party.

It is not clear as to what made Mr. Premadasa to believe that he would get the majority support in the party or that he would be able to run the party better than Mr. Wickremesinghe before the last Working Committee meeting of the party. It is even unclear as to what forced him to back down from the leadership race at the last minute. Only thing that could be attributed to his sudden mind change is that he might have seen that Wickremesinghe was commanding a larger support within the working Committee.

On the other hand Wickremesinghe said on Wednesday at the oaths taking ceremony of the UNP's newly elected members of local authorities at party headquarters 'Sirikotha,' that the working committee had decided not to have internal elections for any posts in the party in future.  Accordingly suitable people for the top posts would be selected through consensus. This decision had been taken despite the newly adopted constitution of the party which stated that suitable people for top posts should be chosen by secret ballot.

When the party constitution was amended recently so as to hold elections for the top posts in the party both Sajith group and Wickremesinghe group claimed that it was done adhering to the democratic principles. However, Wickremesinghe now says that the party would not follow those principles and the dissident group too keeps mum on it.

The important question that has to be raised here is as to whether those in the party who clamoured genuinely for a leadership change with the belief that elections cannot be won so long as the incumbent leader is at the helm would adapt to the new situation. On what ground are they to accept that elections could be won under the present setup? The volcanic activities within the party therefore might last until the dissidents find a new leadership or the party gets a boost by a major electoral victory.

The UNP has been in the Opposition since 1994 except for a brief period of about two years and three months. On the other hand country needs a strong Opposition especially in light of the increasing centralization trend in the administration. Therefore, it is in the interest of the country that the UNP has to resolve its internal crisis for ever. It does not mean that UNP should be in the Opposition and the UPFA should run the country. Prudent people who have experienced the administration of both the two main parties do not care what party should be in power, except for some specific circumstances.





Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily's announcement that the central government would ban the book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle with India had no justification in fact, law, or common sense. The threatened ban on the book — the contents of which Mr. Moily dramatically described as "heresy" — was based, at best, on a total misreading of it and, at worst, on no-reading but relying on grossly misleading reviews in a section of the western media. The biography, written by Joseph Lelyveld, a former editor of the New York Times, does not claim that Mahatma Gandhi was bi-sexual; neither does it portray him as a racist. In the course of a serious exploration that traces the links between the beginning of Gandhi's political life in South Africa and its development in India, the book refers to his close relationship with East Prussian architect Hermann Kallenbach. The strong emotional bond between the two, who lived together for a while on Tolstoy Farm near Johannesburg, is more than borne out by the letters Gandhiji wrote to Kallenbach. Mr. Lelyveld quotes a Gandhi scholar in the book as characterising their relationship as "homoerotic" rather than "homosexual," an interpretation one is free to dispute. But surely, that cannot be a basis for banning a book as the Gujarat government has done with great alacrity and the Government of India was seriously considering until Mr. Moily did an about-turn on the issue."I am of the earth, earthy … I am prone to as many weaknesses as you are," the Mahatma famously declared. He explored a number of these weaknesses with extraordinary honesty in My Experiments with Truth. Most publishers love, and some even stage-manage, the kind of controversy that has broken out over what is a small section of a chapter in Mr. Lelyveld's biography. Not so long ago, in grandson Rajmohan Gandhi's Mohandas, a small episode in the Mahatma's life — his relationship with Rabindranath Tagore's niece Saraladevi Chaudharani ("around which Eros too might have lurked") — became the frenzied focus of the media. Section 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure empowers authorities to proscribe books if they contain material that breaches the peace or causes communal tension. Surely, it is no one's case that Great Soul does that. The Supreme Court, which has consistently opposed crude attempts at censorship, has severely limited the use of Section 95 to proscribe books. From a quick reading of the controversial references in the Kindle edition, it seems that Mr. Lelyveld has made too much of what is essentially thin source material on the subject. The answer to that is reasoned, informed criticism. The Mahatma would have been the first to protest against any suggestion of an obscurantist ban.









Q:Are you really happy with the way the Party leadership issue was resolved?

Well, I can only be happy if the UNP becomes victorious, because given all these events if one is to give judgment on if it was good or bad at the end of the day if we're able to ensure that the UNP is victorious, and then only can I say I'm happy. But a lot of people were expecting something big- they were expecting me to assume power as the Leader; that's a fact. But unfortunately those views were not reflected in the Working Committee. The seniors were keen that there was no division and ensure unity and not let this episode lead to a breakup of the Party- it is in appreciation of those opinions that I came to the conclusion that it was better for me to assume a Deputy Leader's position with power, authority and responsibility. I will make sure that the Party is revamped and reenergized towards victory.

Q:You spoke of a position with power. Is there really sufficient power to implement the kinds of changes you speak of?

Most may come to that conclusion because they won't know the facts. If one sees the minutes of the Working Committee you'll see that it provides me with sufficient power to take a lead role in the grassroots level organization, with reference to youth, women and party branches, coordination of the Women's and Youth Wing, handling the JSS and unions- then there's a lead role in handling the provincial councilors and the local authority members. I have been given a lot of powers. What is important is to ensure that I'm able to act without hindrance, obstacles. I want to take an optimistic stance- and not start pessimistic. I believe I'll be able to play a lead role in reenergizing the Party cadres.

Q: You spoke of obstacles. Your group's nominee for the post of National Organizer Mr. Ranjith Maddumabandara was shot down by  Ranil Wickremesinghe on the grounds of seeking a consensus as there would be other contenders as well. How do you expect to move ahead if this attitude of disunity is going to prevail?

Let me clarify that- I am Deputy Leader of the Party and Deputy to the Leader of the Opposition; Mr. Maddumabandara is a good friend who has worked with me to go on a modernizing approach. But he is not a nominee of any group. He was nominated and seconded by two senior UNP stalwarts, with absolutely no connection to any group. His nomination was not shot down by anyone. At this moment his is the only name that has been nominated for the post.

Q:But wasn't Mr. Wickremesinghe concerned that there would be others who would have to be considered therefore the need for an amicable resolution?

Yes, there must be. We will try a consensus approach to appoint a National Organizer. And if this approach doesn't work there will be an internal competition for that. But either way no proposal has been shot down.

Q: How do you view the decision by Mr. Wickremesinghe to disallow any internal elections to choose office bearers for the Party as he announced Wednesday?

No, he never said any such thing. He and I are both of the same view that a consensus approach is the best path to take. I decided to take a step backwards in the name of Party unity and the call by the seniors to have no division. So I decided to take a small step back- a consensus approach. Similarly as far as the National Organizer position is concerned we will have to see who the other nominees are and each of those nominees will have to decide on their own whether their going to go for a consensus approach or step back. It's up to them to decide- not the UNP hierarchy to decide what the consensus is.

Q: How necessary would you say the provisions of the newly adopted constitution which maintains that selection for the top posts should be through a secret ballot, be in this present scenario?

It is in the case of an absence of consensus. That is very important. When there is an absence of agreement in these posts the most democratic manner to resolve the issue is to go for a secret ballot. I think it's a great thing. It's one of the most laudable proposals that have come up in terms of Party political matters in recent times. I think we have shown to the world how democratic our system of politics is.

Q: How democratic is the UNP today?

With the new Constitution I think democracy is working. When the WC met last no body got up and said 'ok, this person is the National Organiser'! No body nodded in accordance and the issue laid to rest. There is an internal debate that is very healthy- we're looking at the pros and cons. This is not a game- we have to be serious and precise in our decision making, strategic and our efforts concerted to achieve our goals. Bear in mind achieving victories at elections is a huge task, when there is such concentration of power in the hands of the governing Party.

Q: What will change now to obtain the gains you speak of? What strategy adopted?

Future UNP activities will very much be grassroots oriented. We'll have a more methodical structure in place in town and rural levels, and devise novel approaches to get the people to our side, ones; that will not involve lies and deception. We'll have a hearts and minds approach and provide the country with a realistic agenda which the people will accept.

Q: What would change so much that the people will believe you now?

The people are disenchanted, there is political degradation. Our society is being decapitated in an ad hoc manner- we're all talking of large earnings and extreme increases in GNP but the social divide is expanding. The richest 20 percent are enjoying 53 percent of resources and poorest 20 percent only 4 percent, 1.5 million have no housing- youth unemployment increases and large chunks of government funds are spent excessively. All this is alarming. Issues of human rights, rights of the individual are being eroded- we need a Bill of Rights. People are yearning for a viable alternative- the UNP is that.

Q: But how do you expect the Party to fare well when the leadership issue itself is unresolved? Isn't the build up to the next general elections itself in trouble over this?

When you're in govt, you have the powers and perks available to you indiscriminately. The UNP however has an edge at the upcoming provincial and local elections. They will both provide us the chance to remobilize the Party, and provide the people a credible message. I believe the message has to be credible and the messenger credible. UNP is not a monolithic institution where everything is concentrated in one person. We have several power centers. All of has to perform if Party is to perform.

The political reality is that you carry a lot of baggage given your father's negative political career.

He has done immensely for the country but there have also been certain shortcomings. I have been one of the few to openly espouse the cause of getting the plusses and negating the negative. I don't carry anyone's baggage but my own. Certainly the attributes of his politics will remain but I won't repeat his programs- I have my own vision and objectives when the country is concerned.

Q: You only won nine councils at the LG polls. And the next round of elections is expected to happen before end May. What needs to happen on a short term to change that trend?

However a strong a political personality one is its extremely difficult to win at local level when you have all the other levels controlled by the governing Party. In 2002 Mr. Rajapaksa failed to win in his own Hambantota district. But we have to ensure that we keep our base in tact.

Q: The President has already started his campaign for the next Presidential election. Isn't the leadership battle holding the Party back?

The election is a few years away. Before we speak of those we have to sort out our fundamentals and meet up to the immediate challenge of facing the govt. at the LG polls. With time we'll have adequate time to organize at that level and face up to those challenges. It's unrealistic to talk of the Presidential yet. These elections don't happen in a vacuum. It must be seen in context. We don't know the issues that will play then. We will make it a strong sound viable Party able to face any challenge.






Often the young Medical reps come in to meet us doctors and I sincerely wish they are trained better. Many of them bend down almost double trying to be very submissive  which can be pretty embarrassing for the doctors. It maybe because some doctors may be treating like lesser mortals but these are upcoming youngsters. They must be taught that their job is as good as that of a doctor and they must do it with dignity.

They must be taught they need not be subservient to the doctors rather just tell the doctors about the medicine they are promoting and ask them to try it out. On the other hand they also must know not to try to teach the doctors A, B, C of medicine. They must assess the doctor's willingness to listen and restrict the talk according to it.

It is a very bad habit to catch the doctors in the car park or just when they are getting into the hospital for then the doctors are forced to listen to them rather reluctantly. This is not going to bring much of results. These youngsters are going to be tomorrow's leaders hopefully. So it is imperative that  the companies give them proper training.

Dr. Mrs. Mareena Thaha Reffai




"50 - 50 rule" of the Market Value! (Amending the rent act)

Letters continue to appear from time to time in the daily newspapers, similar to the one below, wherein a landlord requests that the Rent Act which is tenant-friendly as it is, should be repealed, I would like to inform the readers of your newspaper the Islamic Ruling and also share with them my personal suggestion for the legal luminaries to consider in revising the existing Rent Act.

According to the Islamic edict, it is incumbent on the tenant to handover the premises if and when the owner requires it, irrespective of what is stipulated in the Rent Act. And if the tenant refuses to do so, he or she is doomed as the punishment in the Hereafter is very severe. This is, as per one of the hadees (Sayings) of our Prophet (PBUH). Given below is the relevant hadees and the commentary regarding same.

'Aa'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said to Abu Salamah ibn 'Abdur Rahman, may Allah be pleased with him, who was disputing with some people over a piece of land, "O Abu Salamah, beware of seizing land unjustly because the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him said, 'Whoever seizes unlawfully a hand-span of land, a collar of seven lands will be around his neck (in the Hereafter)." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Commentary: This hadees tells us that even a minor injustice to anybody in this world can cause great trouble on the Day of Resurrection.

My suggestion for a solution to the landlord–tenant tussle is to get the market value of the property and the tenant pays 50 % of it to the landlord or vice versa.

If this is not possible due to both the landlord and the tenant being unable to foot the bill, then the property has to be sold to a third party and the proceeds from the sale to be shared equally.

 This, in my opinion, is the ideal solution, in particular, for a tenant who has been the occupant for a long time and unable to part with the property as he /she is already eking out a hand to mouth existence.

Mohamed Zahran








Recently, a friend sent me a story about an economics professor who proved to his class that socialism is bound to fail. It was sent as a true story, not as hypothetical.

The economist's story is not only hypothetical, it's impossible. It's a myth concocted by a wealthy capitalist opposed to any redistribution of wealth.

Here's the story, Food for Thought.

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before but had once failed an entire class.

That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equaliser.

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism. All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A."

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B.

The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.

As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the third test rolled around, the average was an F.

The scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

Could not be any simpler than that. End of story.

It's more than simple. It's simplistic, which is a way of treating complex issues and problems as if they were much simpler than they really are.

First of all, it assumes that people are motivated by the same things. It doesn't allow for different motives that any group of people have:

Economics is only one motivator. It moves those interested in money (or in this instance payment in grades). To the banker, the professional investor and the economist, this story would make sense.

However, there are those who are not motivated by economics. I know many scientists who have theoretical motivations. They spend their lives in labs devoted to finding out how things work. They couldn't care less about how hard working or lazy others might happen to be.

Others interested in creativity and innovation - artists, poets, musicians and designers - have an aesthetic motivation. Devoted to their art, they too would not be moved by economic concerns.

Many who go into politics are interested in having power. They fill leadership positions like managers, teachers and officials whose concerns are more political than economic.

Religiously motivated people want to commune with God, whether through prayer or meditation and are less concerned with a ratio of compensation to work than they are with matters of faith.

Then there are those who help others - social workers, doctors, nurses, some teachers and writers, who are socially motivated. Their concerns would have more to do with a fair distribution of wealth than with disappointment over someone else getting better results for less work.

The only way the economist's story would work would be if the entire class was motivated by the same thing. Life isn't that simplistic.



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