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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

EDITORIAL 05.04.11

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Editorial

month april 05, edition 000798, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. ISLAMISTS ARE AT IT AGAIN
  2. FIGHTING AIDS
  3. MINDSET THAT STIFLES HOPE
  4. CASH REWARDS ARE WRONG - NITIN PAI
  5. CHANGE, NOT REVENGE - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  6. NEW REGIME IN ASSAM LIKELY - VANI TRIPATHI
  7. BABU JAGJIVAN RAM CONTINUES TO INSPIRE - PRASANNA KUMAR PATASANI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. HOW INDIA WON
  2. THE BURNING MAN
  3. UNSOLICITED SMS - RAGHU KRISHNAN
  4. DRESSED TO THRILL
  5. SNOBBISH TO THE CORE - RUDRONEEL GHOSH

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. THE SPOKES OR THE HUB?
  2. THE DADAIST IN DIDI
  3. A MASS MOVEMENT
  4. PRAYING TO BE HEARD - DOMINIC EMMANUEL

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. TEAM EFFORT
  2. LEARNING BY EXPERIENCE
  3. MINIMUM SUPPORT
  4. LIBERATE BY GROWTH - ILA PATNAIK
  5. SOMETHING TO CHEER ABOUT - UMA VISHNU
  6. CRICKET'S TEN COMMANDMENTS - DILIP BOBB
  7. TEARING AT THE SEAMS - ALIA ALLANA
  8. DRAWING A LINE IN THE LIBYAN SAND - ROGER COHEN
  9. MOMENTS OF SWEET TRIUMPH - KARTHIKKRISHNASWAMY

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. WRONG PRESCRIPTION
  2. AYURVEDIC FIX
  3. COMPETITION LOWERS POWER COSTS - SHANTANU DIXIT
  4. CRICKET DIPLOMACY: GONE FOR A SIX?

THE HINDU

  1. CHARGE SHEET IN THE TIME OF ELECTIONS
  2. EDUCATING INDIA
  3. BANGLADESH: CRISIS OF THE GRAMEEN BANK  - HAROON HABIB
  4. RETHINKING THE KABUL ENGAGEMENT  - SUHASINI HAIDAR
  5. INDIA'S TRYST WITH LDCS: IS IT WORKING?  - RAJIV BHATIA
  6. EGYPT-TUNISIA FOOTBALL MATCH ENDS AS BATTLE  - JACK SHENKER

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. 2G CASE: CBI TO BE UNDER CLOSE WATCH
  2. SAIL AT YOUR OWN PERIL – SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  3. LESSONS FROM JAPAN - ARUN KUMAR SINGH

DNA

  1. SALUTE THE MEN BEHIND WORLD CUP VICTORY - N RAGHURAMAN

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. PULLING UP PDC
  2. HEART AS A WEAPON
  3. POLITICS AND CLIMATE CHANGE - BY PALLAB BHATTACHARYA
  4. CONSTRAINTS IN FOREST PRODUCTION - BY PROF (DR) R. D. GUPTA
  5. REGULATING FLYING SCHOOLS - BY SHIBAN KHAIBRI

THE TRIBUNE

  1. EDUCATION AS BUSINESS
  2. IT'S RAINING CRORES
  3. ONE YEAR OF RTE
  4. THE MOHALI INITIATIVE - BY H.K. DUA
  5. NOT A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH - BY VANDANA SHUKLA
  6. PLUGGING THE PANDEMIC PLUNDER - GEORGE JACOB

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. SUPERPOWER PLAY

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. SPORT AND NATION
  2. MESSING UP SUCCESSION
  3. AN IDEA OF INDIA
  4. BALANCING GROWTH AND INFLATION - C RANGARAJAN
  5. PROMOTING CRISIS IN THE MILITARY - AJAI SHUKLA
  6. A NEW LEASE OF RICE - SURINDER SUD
  7. BANS AND BANANA REPUBLICS - NILANJANA S ROY

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. ICC MUST PAY TAX
  2. GET ON WITH IT
  3. KILLER APPS
  4. INDIA: SOFT STATE TO SOFT POWER
  5. THROUGH THE THIRD EYE
  6. THE 'FREE' ELECTION OFFER! - RAGHU KRISHNAN
  7. THE LESSER KNOWN MIRACLE  - MUKUL SHARMA
  8. LEADING CHANGE  - JOHN KOTTER

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. 2G CASE: CBI TO BE UNDER CLOSE WATCH
  2. SAIL AT YOUR OWN PERIL
  3. THE CLIMATE DENIERS CAN'T HANDLE TRUTH
  4. 'OPINION POLLS CAN BE TWISTED'
  5. LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT
  6. LESSONS FROM JAPAN

THE STATESMAN

  1. DO THEY KNOW?
  2. VETERAN'S PANEL
  3. SCHOOLS UNDER PICKAXE
  4. STATE WITHIN STATE - RAJINDER PURI
  5. LARGE OR SMALL?  - SOMDEEP NANDY
  6. SEE NO EVIL!  - ISHWAR PATI
  7. MYANMAR: UN WANTS SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. OIL TRAIL
  2. WAR ZONE
  3. THE CUP OF JOY  - MALVIKA SINGH
  4. MAHATMA GANDHI AND AMERICAN DISCONTENTS
  5. VENU MADHAV GOVINDU  
  6. UNDIPLOMATIC UTTERANCE

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. OBAMA RUNNING AGAIN
  2. BAILOUT MERRY-GO-ROUND
  3. NOT QUITE 'OPEN GOVERNMENT'
  4. AIRLINER CRASH THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN!

HARARETZ

  1. THE SOLUTION IS ARBITRATION
  2. THE FAT KEEP GETTING FATTER   - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  3. ARE WE REALLY BEING PERSECUTED? - BY MERAV MICHAELI
  4. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL IS BETRAYING HIS ROLE  - BY MOSHE NEGBI
  5. PEERING INTO THE FUTURE  - BY MOSHE ARENS

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - THE TRUE TEST OF EDUCATION
  2. PROSPECTS FOR TURKISH-ISRAELI TIES REMAIN BLEAK - SEMİH İDİZ
  3. LIBYA RELEASES EUROPE'S OLD RIVALRIES - ARIANA FERENTINOU
  4. FIRST 2013, THEN 2023 - ERDOĞAN ALKİN
  5. DON'T BE FOOLED, EU VIEWS ANKARA DIFFERENTLY - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  6. NUMBER OF SEATS MATTERS - YUSUF KANLI
  7. OBAMA, BUSH (SENIOR) AND LIBYA - GWYNNE DYER
  8. CYBER-UTOPIANISM REFLECTING ON THE ARAB REVOLUTIONS: TOO OPTIMISTIC TOO EARLY? - NAZLI ÇAKIROĞLU

THE NEWS

  1. KEEP ON TRYING
  2. CRISIS IN THE WARDS
  3. MURDER SUSPENSE
  4. NOT AMERICA'S FINEST HOUR  - ROEDAD KHAN
  5. NEITHER 'NEW' NOR A STRATEGY  - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  6. SUICIDE BOMBER VS SUICIDAL STATE  - MOSHARRAF ZAIDI
  7. WHEN CULTURE IS AN IMPORT  - FAROOQ SULEHRIA
  8. PEACE PROCESS NEEDS BETTER RUN RATE  - DR MALEEHA LODHI
  9. SUCH HATRED! - JEFF SPARROW

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. US MUST ACT AGAINST THE PASTOR
  2. THE BLASTS AT SHRINES
  3. SINDH CARD IRKS POLITICIANS
  4. WHO IS BEHIND ATTACKS ON SHRINES? - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. PAKISTAN: A FAILED STATE? - DR M IRFAN ABBASI
  6. SHALL WE STAND FIRMLY? - ZAFAR ALAM SARWAR
  7. GIVING THE PROFESSOR HIS/HER DUE! - KHALID SALEEM
  8. CRICKET DIPLOMACY AND APRIL FOOL? - ALI ASHRAF KHAN

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. GILLARD NEEDS A DEBATE ON POLICIES, NOT VALUES
  2. ISRAEL HAS ITS DAY OF ATONEMENT
  3. CONSUMERS PAY DEARLY FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY TARGET

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. WITH ROD AND GUN, NEW NSW
  2. OUR NOT VERY CLEVER COUNTRY
  3. SCHOOLS' NEGLECT HAS REAL-WORLD COST
  4. CHINA'S RULERS SHOW THAT THEY HAVE NOT LEARNT

THE GUARDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF … TERENCE RATTIGAN
  2. IVORY COAST: THE FINAL BATTLE
  3. HEALTH REFORMS: SECOND OPINION

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. SHINKANSEN LINES 'SHRINK' NATION
  2. GETTING KIDS GET BACK TO SCHOOL
  3. EQUALITY FOR WOMEN HELPS TO REDUCE HUNGER - BY CESAR CHELALA

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. ROBBERIES IN PRIVATE BANKING
  2. DEMOCRACY: THE INDONESIAN EXPERIENCE - JULIAN ALDRIN PASHA
  3. NATO EVOLUTION, SOUTHEAST ASIAN SECURITY
  4. LEARNING FROM 'MAS' PARDI  - YASMI ADRIANSYAH
  5. SENAYAN: AN ENDANGERED URBAN PARADISE - EKO BUDIHARDJO

DAILY MIRROR

  1. HYSTERIA, FANATICISM AND THE REALITY OF CRICKET
  2. WHEN ALL YOU CAN DO IS HOPE AND BELIEVE…
  3. STRENGTHENING FAMILY TOGETHERNESS: A PRIORITY FOR NATIONAL UNITY
  4. 'NEW LAWS WILL STRENGTHEN DEMOCRACY AND ENSURE TROUBLE-FREE ELECTIONS'
  5. AN EXCITING DISCOVERY
  6. RADICALISM MUST TREAD GENTLY ON LEGEND AND TRADITION

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. TECHNOLOGICALLY PUZZLED...   - BY B COMBER

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

ISLAMISTS ARE AT IT AGAIN

VIOLENT PROTESTS AGAINST EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN


A year after they tried to scuttle the Government's efforts to overhaul the education system in Bangladesh, albeit with little success, the Islamists in that country are at it again — this time, it is the National Women's Development Policy 2011. Approved a day before International Women's Day, on March 7, the policy is an important initiative by the Awami League Government that aims to bestow equal rights on women and includes a landmark proposition that allows women equal inheritance rights. Current laws which are governed by shari'ah allow daughters to claim only a quarter of the inheritance that is available to their male siblings. Additionally, the NWDP also ensures that women have all the rights to assets they earn themselves and are allowed equal opportunity in business and employment. The recent reforms, which have been in the works since 2008 and essentially builds upon the older Women's Development Policy from 1997, have been welcomed in most quarters in Bangladesh, a moderate Muslim-majority nation that is governed by a secular Constitution. Predictably, however, the policy has faced significant resistance from Islamist groups, chief among them the Islami Oikya Jote, a coalition of fanatical Islamic groups. Led by former Member of Parliament, Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini, who chairs one of the IOJ factions, the group organised a nationwide strike on Monday. As expected, the demonstrations quickly turned violent despite the strong presence of security forces. At least 50 people were injured and another 200 Islamists detained all over the country as activists clashed with the police. Similar clashes on Sunday had claimed the life of a young student in Jessore. It is unlikely though that any of this would deter the hardline Islamists who believe that the policy is in violation of traditional Muslim laws. In fact, the mufti has unequivocally stated that the very basis of the policy — equal rights and opportunities for women — contradicts the Quran. Apparently encouraged by the violent 'success' of his protest rally, the mufti announced a two-month-long countrywide agitation that would culminate in a major rally in Dhaka on May 27 — a worrying development, to say the least.


Nonetheless, the Government's response in this situation is praiseworthy. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed deserves applause for pushing through the new policy and showing rare political will. She has refused to give in to Islamist bullying; instead she has refuted allegations of an un-Islamic policy by pointing out that Islam favours gender equality and, indeed, it is discrimination against women that goes against the tenets of Islam. The clever politician that she is, Sheikh Hasina has well used the Islamic card against the zealots by stating that not only has her Government not enacted any law against the Quran, it was prepared to take action against the mufti for misinterpreting the book. Indeed, such action is much needed in a country where recently a 14-year-old rape victim was flogged to death after being falsely charged with having an adulterous relationship with her rapist — her much married older cousin. The punishment was meted out by the local imam who issued the fatwa despite the fact that such religious rulings were banned 10 years ago..

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

FIGHTING AIDS

INDIA IS ON THE RIGHT PATH


When the first AIDS case was reported way back in 1986, India like other countries across the world was groping rudderless for direction to fight the debilitating disease. With odds like illiteracy, poverty, poor awareness about safe sex and less than ordinary economic growth stacked against it, the Government could do precious little to fight the epidemic that struck with a vengeance. By the time the Government established a semi-autonomous body, the National AIDS Control Organisation in 1991 to focus on blood safety, prevention among high-risk populations, raising awareness about AIDS and improving surveillance, the reality was stark. Incidence of AIDS was increasing by the day making India home to the world's third-largest AIDS population. Even as it seemed that India, where speaking openly about sex is a taboo, was fighting a losing battle, it has managed to rein in the scourge finally. The latest report on AIDS, published by the UN, shows the country has registered a 50 per cent drop in the number of new cases registered in the last 10 years. The number of new infections has come down from 24,000 per year in the beginning of the decade to 12,000 per year at present. Though the trend is being reversed, still the number is alarming — in 2009, 1.2 million people were newly infected with HIV. Another positive is that access to treatment is expanding as is evident from the fact that 0.4 million HIV people are on anti-retroviral therapy. However, odds are still stacked against us as mother-to-child transmission remains quite high — maximum cases being reported from the south and the north-eastern parts of the country — although the global coverage of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV has reached 50 per cent patients. The report highlights the need for better coordination between State Governments and the Union Government to reach out to pregnant women and the importance of encouraging institutional deliveries so that pregnant women can be tested for the disease as a preventive measure.


However, India should remain vigilant despite the drop in the number of infections as AIDS can have adverse effects on the nation's economic growth if not contained in time. Pointing out that high welfare cost and more pressing priorities like poverty eradication may take the steam out of AIDS programmes, the report warns it will lead to "a potential loss of several years of economic growth if the epidemic is not contained". Hence, there should be political will to curb the epidemic. It is imperative that India focuses on sustained measures to ensure greater access to treatment, counselling and testing facilities for AIDS, alongside creating awareness, to achieve the 'zero infection' and 'zero deaths' goal. Involving the youth in the fight against AIDS and reducing discrimination will be a step in the forward direction.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

MINDSET THAT STIFLES HOPE

GAUTAM MUKHERJEE


There is no reason why we cannot redefine governance except perhaps the mindset of much of our bureaucracy and political class steeped in socialism.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:,
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air...


Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard brings back school life memories for many of us, replete with the occasionally baffling rigours of poetry appreciation. The lines quoted above are not only a poignant ode to anonymity, evocative of the unsung and obscure life, but profound in their implication of a tragic waste.

Gray was lamenting the fate of the generic peasantry in a bucolic agrarian 18th century British setting, but the times may not have changed that much when applied to India, bursting at the seams with a population of over 1.21 billion.

Quantity we indubitably have and the recent performances in the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and, most spectacularly, the Cricket World Cup win after 28 years, demonstrate that our winners often come from small towns and villages. This may be evidence that some Government-funded facilities are indeed being provided. Or it could be occasioned by native talent and merit, like the Kenyan runners, that cannot be eclipsed by rank neglect. The question is, as a rule, just how much do we do to nurture quality?

To enhance this quality is essential to our better tomorrows. We must have a full belly, robust health and a dynamic education system to do so. The Government is not, as yet, doing enough to modernise agriculture towards that full-belly of nutrition. We are still reaping the harvest from the Green Revolution of the 1980s, with nothing substantial done to improve the agricultural, food processing and cold chain infrastructure since then, as WalMart, breathing heavily at the gate for some time now, will be glad to tell you. And this despite persistent food price inflation and the pressure of a huge and growing population.

But, lo and behold, the Union Government seems to be doing something worthwhile about the major lacunae in our health and education allocations at last. In the flurry of information packed densely in the Union Budget for 2011-12, there is a potential gem of great value, typically embedded in the detail. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has sought to boost the fortunes of both education and health by making a deft structural change in policy he is well known for.

"Henceforth," intoned Mr Mukherjee, "capital stock in educational institutions and hospitals will be treated as infrastructure sub-sectors," while replying to the discussion on the Budget in the Lok Sabha. He went on to state that both would now qualify for capital subsidies through "viability gap funding".

Now, what this jargon exactly means will be revealed in time, but it seems to suggest that the Government will pitch in with funds to meet budgetary shortfalls for upgrading and expanding existing schools as well as on new schools, colleges and technical training establishments and, probably, for immunisation and public health awareness programmes apart from new, improved, hospitals and clinics too.

Where the Government will find the considerable resources needed to uplift these woebegone and chronically inadequate infrastructures is not known, but perhaps the miracle of deficit financing will come to the rescue yet again. There is also the vaunted but largely under-utilised public-private partnership and build-operate-transfer mechanism, inclusive of foreign funding, such as the Japanese funding for the Delhi Metro.

In an economy growing at near double digits, the deficits will certainly be bridged as long as the Government is not too profligate and the intended beneficiaries are actually delivered their benefits. Obversely, to not create the necessary infrastructure in health and education not only retards growth but gives the lie to our democratic aspirations.

This policy shift, if a sub-paragraph in the Union Budget can be called that, could have very favourable consequences. Already Ms Sheila Dikshit's Budget for Delhi does seem to echo this changed emphasis with its higher allocations for both health and education and the welcome announcement of free healthcare for school-going children.

But a major worry is the Government's talent for ruining a good initiative by administering a policy thrust in typically sarkari fashion. The private sector, with its clear-cut profit and growth motives, may be far more successful at maintaining standards, collaborating successfully with foreign educational and health entities, unleashing competition, achieving economies of scale, and so on. They need to be incentivised though and this may be a beginning in that direction.

Should this programme be privatised in the main, one will not hear of school buildings collapsing in the first rainy season after they are built. Nor about rampant corruption that creates black holes into which as much as 90 per cent of development funds disappear.

In such a scenario, where the Government stays away, we would not have to deal with the callous imperviousness engendered by the job from which one cannot be sacked. We would not be building classrooms without teachers or clinics with a higher rodent population than humans. We would not be looking at the waste of unusable and ill-maintained medical equipment. We would not be paying the bill for inflated and manipulated tenders and an almost complete lack of accountability. In short, for such routine delights that come as a consequence of most governmental implementation and execution.

The Economist in a recent article headlined "Bamboo Capitalism" suggests that most of the double-digit Chinese GDP growth, an estimated 70 per cent of it, is "produced by enterprises that are not majority-owned by the state.. In fact, China has surged forward mainly where the state has stood back".

The venerable journal may, however, be subtly pushing its Western agenda, because in my opinion the Government of India's role as facilitator is important. Japan, China, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and others in our region have all benefitted from strong Government support of private enterprise that executes objectives the Government holds dear.

There is no reason why we cannot mould governance into the role of referee and coach instead of inept player, except perhaps the entrenched mindsets of much of our present bureaucracy and political leadership nurtured in the socialist and public sector favouring decades.

Therefore, it may take some doing before we properly start implementing policies meant for a resurgent 21st century economy. Still, the Government needs to be congratulated for doing something good about a vital need at last.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CASH REWARDS ARE WRONG

NITIN PAI


We must challenge medieval-style patronage at public expense


You have heard it in stories. You have seen it in plays and movies. The all-powerful king is sitting on his throne. A poet, artist or athlete arrives in his court, and impresses the king with his accomplishments. The king then hands out a reward — gold coins, land, and sometimes even his daughter — to the man. You might even remember scenes where the king takes off a pearl necklace from around his neck and throws it around that of the grateful subject.


Times have changed. India is a democratic republic. Unlike kings and emperors its political leaders do not rule over us. They are the representatives we appoint to govern our affairs according to laws made with our consent. India's treasury is not their personal purse to do with as they please. They are the custodians of the taxes we pay to be used for purposes we have pre-approved. Sadly, this is only in theory. In reality the relationship between the Government and citizen is more like the one between king and subject rather than between republic and free citizen.

It is precisely this mindset of giving inams that causes our State Governments to shower cash prizes and land allocations on the members of India's world champion cricket team. Let there be no mistake — it is important for Governments to publicly recognise and honour excellence in any field. But it must be done so in an appropriate manner. There is no reason why the Indian taxpayer should spend even a paisa rewarding the Indian cricket team for winning the World Cup. The tax rupee has many more pressing uses.


Now it can be reasonably argued that the money thus given away does not pinch the exchequer. What's a few crore of rupees in budgets that run into thousands of crores of rupees? This view misses the point. These are not the private funds of the politician giving away the money to bask in the afterglow of India's World Cup victory, but public funds of which the politician is merely a custodian. The legalistic response that these funds come out of the discretionary fund of the Chief Minister does not wash, because even discretionary spending must be in


It is not that the Republic lacks ways to honour and reward accomplished citizens. There are the Arjuna awards for sportspeople. Why have the awards if crores of rupees are arbitrarily handed to cricketers? Why hand out crores of rupees when there are Arjunas?


There are other ways the state can honour sportspeople. There are tens of stadiums in the country named after Jawaharlal Nehru, a great man certainly but one whose sporting achievements were modest. Why not rename these stadiums after sportspeople who have done the nation proud? It won't cost more than a coat of paint to paint a new signboard. Bangalore's Anil Kumble Circle is in the right direction, but why not name new urban landmarks after them (yes, this can be done only after creating new urban infrastructure)?


There is another reason why inams are unacceptable. They perpetuate the medieval mindset of a Government that rules and patronises its subjects, rather than a Govern- ment that governs and respects its citizens. It is the same mindset that robs people of their dignity by patronising them. It is the mindset that robs people of power by doling out entitlements.


The entitlement economy aims to make India a nation where goods are free but people are not. As Ramesh Srivats said on Twitter, "Get a free laptop. But not the freedom to say what you want. A free TV, but not the freedom to see what you want." It bans Websites that you should not visit. It bans books that you should not read. It gives you the right to education but insists that you cannot send your children to a nearby school because it does not have a playground.


Javed Akh- tar's unfortunate comment on Twitter ("All State are rewarding their World Cup winners by at least 1 crore but the rich Gujarat is giving 1 lakh each to Pathan and Patel. Great!") shows just how entitlements cause divisiveness and lead society down the path of competitive intolerance.


Far more than any external threat or domestic challenge, it is this mindset that holds India back. If the person handing out the pearls believes he is the ruler, it is implicit that the person taking the inam is subordinate and subject, not a free citizen.


-- The writer is editor of Pragati and blogs at www.acorn.nationalinterest.in

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CHANGE, NOT REVENGE

SHIKHA MUKERJEE

 

Mamata Banerjee has promised a Government of reconciliation, an administration that will heal the wounds and set right the wrongs of the last 35 years during which the Marxists have been in power. She has a blueprint to deliver on this promise and revive the spirit of West Bengal


An India in transition has reinvented several models to deal with the issues of delivering development and growth. In West Bengal, as the Trinamool Congress prepares its blueprint for an effective administration that can deliver a turnaround in six months, that is just under 200 days, a command-and-control model seems to have been selected as the tonic for speedy recovery from 35 years of misgovernance.


In a wide-ranging interview to a local television channel, Trinamool Congress icon Mamata Banerjee set her priorities and unveiled her design for development. Critical departments of the State Government — education, health, administration and investment — would be supervised by the Chief Minister for some time in order to rejuvenate the 'system'. It seems that agriculture, land and employment would also be monitored from the Chief Minister's office.


A centralised or rather 'coordinated' onslaught on the rickety structures of the administration would be the key strategy for the Trinamool Congress. In this, the role of the Congress, as junior political partner, seems to have been taken for granted. In Ms Banerjee's perception, the Congress "is not going to make any demands. There won't be any problems." Either discussions have already taken place with the Congress about the post-poll Government formation or Ms Banerjee is guessing that the Congress will not be in a position to raise awkward demands, converting the formation of a Government into a bargain hunt.


The thought underlying the design for development is that "if you are strong, confident and positive, constructive work can be done. I am always positive." The groundswell of support that the Trinamool Congress receives shall galvanise West Bengal into changing itself for the better. How else can Ms Banerjee expect that the creaky machinery of Government where the CPI(M) has a long-established base would overnight "change the mindset", make itself impartial and enthusiastically participate in delivering development?


Because the plan is to convert dalatantra (Government of a political party) into ganatantra (Government of the people) the Trinamool Congress seems confident that the supporters within the Government of the CPI(M) will fall in line. The hitch that could occur in implementing this optimistic design would be when and how Ms Banerjee times the three politically explosive issues that she clearly believes are crimes by the CPI(M) against the people of West Bengal.


The three issues are — Forward Bloc leader Hemanta Basu's murder in the early-1970s, the violence in Singur, Nandigram, Sainbari and Cossipore; case by case verification of charges against arrested Maoists by an expert committee rather than human rights activists; and, errant autorickshaw drivers. Ms Banerjee has promised that she would do all this and much more through a "Government of reconciliation". Her slogan is "Badal chai, badla noi" — We want change not revenge.


The practical possibility of pulling all this off would crucially depend on the CPI(M)'s strength. If the CPI(M)'s share of votes plummets to some as yet incalculable low then it would be politically possible for the Trinamool Congress to chase in whatever manner it chooses as many events, major or minor where slaughter was the outcome of political rivalry. If the CPI(M)'s share of votes does not register a dramatic drop then the entire exercise could trigger exactly the sort of responses that would defeat the idea of a 'Government of reconciliation' and 'change rather than revenge'.


All of this would call for great political wisdom, perfect timing and enormous skill. Since the Trinamool Congress is an untested phenomenon, there is no reason to doubt that it can indeed do what it promises. The advantage that it enjoys is its newness and the willingness of the voter to support its bid to win the people's mandate.

The formal announcement by the Trinamool Congress that it intends to revive the Legislative Council as a second chamber in the State legislature is a politically smart move. To create additional room for inducting some people cannot be without a purpose. The new fashion of Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers from the Upper House will perhaps be adopted in West Bengal after the revival of the Legislative Council. Everyone who either chooses not to contest or is forced to stay out of this election would be accommodated.

The irony is that the Trinamool Congress intends to have a leaner Cabinet even as it creates a separate chamber where it will add more people and perspectives for they will represent different constituencies. As a first draft of its declaration of intent, this would possibly undergo revisions as required by the logic of circumstances.

It would be reasonable to conclude that whatever be the apparent contradictions, these would be seamlessly synthesised under the command structure headed by Ms Banerjee. Therefore, investments would be a priority for which land would be made available without any pressure on the peasantry to surrender their small plots at rates that are just compensation for losing livelihood. Special Economic Zones, in other words the Nayachar petroleum and petrochemicals hub, would be unnecessary as there would be sufficient land to set up new industries, land-sellers would be job-gainers and a host of other difficult negotiations would be smoothly completed, because the mantra of 'change' would work like magic.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

NEW REGIME IN ASSAM LIKELY

VANI TRIPATHI


The people of Assam are tired of corruption and the continued influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They want a Government that delivers development and meets the aspirations of the youth. The Congress could get voted out


Travelling to Assam, spending time on the campaign trail and interacting with the youth of the State extensively has brought into focus the condition of a strife-ridden State going to absolute decadence due to the problem of mass infiltration in the borders areas and how it has led to extreme frustration among young men and women.

The unabated influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh into Assam and the consequent perceptible change in the demographic pattern of the State has for long been a matter of grave concern. It threatens to reduce Assam's indigenous people to a minority in their own State.


There is a tendency to view illegal immigration into Assam as a regional issue, affecting only the people of this State. Its more dangerous dimension of greatly undermining our national security is thus ignored. The long-cherished design of Greater East Pakistan/Bangladesh, making inroads into the strategic land link of Assam with the rest of the country, can lead to severing the entire land mass of the North-East, with all its rich resources, from the rest of the country. This will have disastrous strategic and economic consequences.


The dangerous consequences of large-scale illegal immigration from Bangladesh, both for the youth of Assam and more for the nation as a whole, need to be emphatically stressed. No misconceived and mistaken notions of secularism should be allowed to come in the way of doing so.


As a result of population movement from Bangladesh, the spectre looms large of the indigenous people of Assam, specially the youth, being reduced to a minority in their home State. Their cultural survival will be in jeopardy, their political control will be weakened and their employment opportunities will be undermined.

Assam is in a state of disarray right now. With the 2011 State Assembly election underway it looks like after a decade of Congress rule, the people are going to vote for a non-Congress Government.


It looks like there is no law and order in Guwahati and other districts of Assam. Vast sections of the youth are unemployed, angst ridden. Poor and young girls are in a state of confusion and helplessness with rape and kidnappings the most easy crimes to commit anywhere in Assam right now.


Scams upon scams have happened in the past five years in Assam, the latest being the Rs 1,000-crore development council scam. After years of misrule and the presence of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, infiltration seems to be the focal point of this election apart from lack of development. It seems that the people who do not belong to the State have eaten into the socio-economic pie of the people of Assam. The vote-bank politics of the Congress has contributed to the prevailing mess and made the situation worse. The Congress regime has been helping illegal immigrants get passports, ration cards and voter identity cards, whereas these aliens should have been detected and deported.


This Assembly election could change the situation radically. Suddenly it seems the people of Assam have decided to vote for development and choosing a Government which will free them from the shackles of misgovernance, terror and lack of development. People are fed up with a Government which has Ministers with blotted track records but have managed to get away because they are also television news channel owners with a great hold on local media.


Some questions that come to mind: Where is the money that is allocated in the name of the North-East economic package every year? Where are the roads, schools and jobs for which the people are crying out aloud ? These and other questions will influence voting.


The era of lies and strife will come to an end and it seems that this election will usher new hope for the people of Assam and the rest of North-East. If the incumbent Government is thrown out, hope shall prevail.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

BABU JAGJIVAN RAM CONTINUES TO INSPIRE

HIS PRINCIPLES, IDEALS AND VALUES WILL FOREVER GUIDE THE GENERATIONS TO COME, SAYS PRASANNA KUMAR PATASANI


Babu Jagjivan Ram, a giant colossus among the galaxies of leaders during the freedom struggle and later in independent India has been a beacon of hope for millions who believes in democracy, equality and an inclusive society. He had a rare sensitivity of a revolutionary who single handedly fought against the prejudices heaped upon the dalits and downtrodden. Undeterred by the atrocious discrimination since his young days, he waged a relentless battle to dismantle the abhorrent practices and inhuman treatment meted out to the dalits during the 1920s and afterwards. The life of Babuji, is indeed a saga of struggle, hardwork, commitment and uncompromised dedication to usher in an era of equality, justice and liberty and to emancipate the millions of downtrodden and underprivileged who were victims of an unequal social order. He had proved each one of his detractors wrong and had earned the admiration of the staunchest of his critics for his efforts to eradicate caste prejudices from the society.


His thoughts and actions were the perfect recipe to stimulate young mind to fight against the age-old oppression and injustice. He was one of the most impressive personality who had a deep imprint of his struggle on me from an early age. His inspiring initiatives and steadfast movement to bring the underprivileged to the mainstream had brought about many changes in socio-political and economic domain. He fiercely advocated for a casteless and classless society and I from my student days have been advocating for the same.


I was indeed highly inspired by his myriad efforts to build a cohesive and inclusive society. When orthodoxy was at its peak, I had started a movement in my State to facilitate dalits to enter temples restricted for them since ages. Though initially I had to confront stiff resistance from various quarters, later on I managed to convince all concerned and contributed in a small way to bring the dalits to social mainstream. Through my writings I have always voiced for the voiceless and the deprived and let it heard by the Government of the day. I cannot somehow fathom the idea that even today millions of my own people are being persistently placed at the mercy of a handful few.


From my young days, I have been a keen observer of Babuji's personality. As a parliamentarian, Jagjivan Ram had the distinction of being elected from his constituency, Sasaram continuously for nearly four decades. His humility, modesty, sharp intellect, quick repartee and grasp of various subjects and above all, his understanding of the issues affecting common man are rare qualities today we see in the younger legislators. The amount of hardwork he put in while heading different Ministries during his illustrious legislative career speak volumes of his statesmanship. In fact, he is synonymous with many firsts, be it the National Transport Policy, major electrification programme in Railways, Pension Scheme for Railways workers and the welfare of Railway Employees including reservation in promotion of SCs & STs in Railways.


Though Babuji is no longer with us, his principles, ideals and values will remain ever to guide the generations to come. Now we can witness many of his qualities in his worthy daughter, the first woman Speaker of Lok Sabha who within a short span has earned the admiration from the Treasury Benches and the Opposition with equal elan.

-- The writer is a Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

HOW INDIA WON

 

Nerves. Small cells stemming from the brain across the body, sending signals, impacting behaviour. Nerves win battles and sometimes, lose lives. Recently, nerves secured India the World Cup. They also united the nation in an extraordinary display of citizenship.


Leading the country in holding its nerve was M S Dhoni. As Sri Lanka challenged India, the deadly Lasith Malinga striking to remove Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar early from the game, Dhoni kept his cool, thinking clearly and cleverly, blending energy with control, keeping flair for the end. The team seemed in step with its captain, its coordination evinced by remarkable fielding and professional quietness. Although India's team is a galaxy of stars, there were no displays of ego. Although criticised for not being 'big-match players', there were no nervous collapses. Instead, the team played as one, led by its wicket-keeper-captain producing the knock of the contest, proving that it is possible to win them all. You just have to want to badly enough.


It was also poetically apt that the burden of winning this battle, ephemeral, yet epic, was not on the shoulders of those who've already won several glories; instead, a younger side came of age as it fought, reassuring many that Indian cricket passes into safe hands. And as our cricketers transmitted these messages, we responded in kind. Audiences displayed a new maturity, stepping away from an earlier petulance and pettiness often marring games, previous spectators hurling bottles or insults when under pressure. Even the high-voltage India-Pakistan match saw an understanding of South Asia's shared ardour for cricket. As the players spared each other aggression, Indians applauded Shahid Afridi.


This citizenship, an element of passion with a quantum of calm, was fully displayed when India won. Despite celebrations erupting across the country, people driving, dancing and crying in joy, few incidents of hooliganism were reported. So positive was this pride, draped in the national flag, more an expression of citizenship than state control, that the police stepped back while politicians tried to appropriate the aura of the cricket victory. Winners think not of themselves but of a combined unit, breaking down the divisiveness, cynicism and incompetence that Indian politics all too often encourages. Winners show winning is not a one-off, but a progression of excellence that must be maintained. These are lessons many Indians know, for by instinct, they are winners. Saturday reaffirmed that. Dhoni and his men should not now let victory go to their heads, just as they did not succumb under pressure.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

THE BURNING MAN

 

The last time Florida pastor Terry Jones threatened to burn the Quran, he was headed off at the pass by pressure from the White House. This time around, no such luck. His March 20th spectacle has reverberated halfway around the world as had been feared. The attack on the UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan is one of the worst the organisation has suffered anywhere in the world in years, leaving seven UN personnel dead. The danger here is the attack - and the continuing protests over the Quran burning - changing threat perceptions to the extent that it affects the operations of foreign aid agencies, so vital for continuing reconstruction efforts.

The entire situation highlights the fundamental differences in socio-political contexts between Afghanistan and the US. Judging by reports, the mood on the street in Afghanistan is that Jones must be arrested and punished by the US government for disrespecting Islam. And if the US government does not do so, the inescapable conclusion is that it condones his actions and is therefore directly to blame. The concept of democratic freedoms - that the US Constitution guarantees a citizen's right to say and do things that might be considered repugnant by the public or the government - doesn't appear to enter the equation. Such perceptions are rooted in political and cultural tradition, which can be exploited by the Taliban. The primary challenge facing the US and NATO remains, as it always has been, reconciling those traditions with the modern style of democratic governance they are trying to institute in the country. And the pastor's wrongheaded, wilfully blind publicity stunt has highlighted just how far they still have to go.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

UNSOLICITED SMS

RAGHU KRISHNAN

 

Those who keep receiving unsolicited SMSs can get irritated with that all-too-frequent beep-beep which intrudes on their work-related or home-oriented state of mind. A Sunday afternoon beep-beep can even disturb one's siesta just when one is getting away from past and future tensions by dreaming of uninterrupted tranquillity. SMS can thus stand not for Short Message Service but Stupid Monotonous Statement. However, even unsolicited SMSs have much to tell us. It's not just a case of the medium is the message, as that seminal thinker Marshall McLuhan pointed out some 45 years ago in the context of television and the global village. Peruse the unsolicited SMSs you receive and you can perceive the lifestyle trends of this day and age.

For starters, the most frequent SMSs are all about homes for sale. Thus you have SMSs talking about "290 sq ft villas from 10.9 to 50L. Just 20 mins drive from Electronic City." The very next SMS could ask, "Does a 2 Bed Home of 1026 sft 25 lacs (Inc all) with No Dwn Pymt 100% Home Loan Sound Interesting?" Property is still the best investment, as the late Nani Palkhivala told us year after year while reviewing India's budget to packed auditoriums all over the country. If there was a Nobel Prize for popularising macroeconomics for the largest number, Palkhivala could have got it for his critical review of the budget whose finance minister-presenters were aware that the last word lay with the maestro. But then, those were the days when Nobel prizes, even for peace, were not given on the basis of opinion polls, unlike now where the 2009 recipient is regarded as modest when he acknowledges that he doesn't deserve the prize!


And then there are SMSs which say "Sale Variety of Jacket, Shirts, T-shirts, Jeans, NightWear Sets 4 Ladies, Men, Kids@(address given)". There is a booming business for garments, especially those sold through discount sales. Dressing for the sake of dressing is now a full-time activity and people go to sales and talk about sales unlike a time which T S Eliot made immortal when he wrote, "In the room the women come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo." J Alfred Prufrock would have wept!


And then there are SMSs which offer "a reliable Platform for Decent friendship in ur choice ur city interested call today". Which doesn't answer the question of why we can't call tomorrow. But, then, tomorrow will be today when we call tomorrow. And Decent friendships are not to be scoffed at and should be fostered unlike pests for which an SMS has a solution: "To get rid of cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes, bed bugs, termites, etc, contact us".


And finally there are coaching classes but not just for mathematics or math as the Americans would put it. An SMS offers "Football training with English premiership academy coaches. Hurry ltd places." There are even SMSs offering coaching in "Acting, Direction, Editing, Anchoring". And SMSs which say "We provide Funky Body Massage Only For Men By Beautiful Models."


If you don't qualify for the above, you don't have to feel left out. You can be sure of receiving an SMS saying "Congrats Your mobile NO has been awarded 2 million dollars in CDC 2011. To receive your award, send your details to markwhite_cdc@hotmail.com". The first and last letter in SMS could well stand for the $-sign.

The year 2006 will be remembered, and not just because the SMS became a $81-billion global industry then. A prize was awarded that year for poetry inputted on the SMS. You could talk of contradictory impulses or remember that India's HRD-cum-telecom minister Kapil Sibal has published his collection of SMS verse. And so what if the late Arun Kolatkar, whose Jejuri raised the bar for Indo-Anglian poetry and won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1977, never kept a phone in the house where he lived and wrote!

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

DRESSED TO THRILL

 

The countdown's begun for yet another mega-fashion week starting April 6. Organised by the Fashion Design Council of India, the event is backed by the commerce and industry ministry, indicating that the fast-growing fashion industry is being taken seriously. And rightly so. Indian fashion isn't just about glamour and frivolity. A lot of hard work, talent and investment have made it what it is: inspired by age-old sartorial traditions and embodying the modernity and creativity of a youthful, aspirational and cosmopolitan India, our colourful fashion scene has expanding national reach and global profile. And yet Indian designers are often bashed for supposedly focussing on the rich and making wacky or unaffordable clothes. The criticism is misplaced.

Designers everywhere build brands. Having high-end clients is great for business, but that doesn't preclude catering to others. Outlandish styles serve a similar stake-out purpose. Fashion isn't just about everyday clothes. Marked by a sense of fun and playfulness, it also challenges conventions, making people look at themselves in new ways. In that sense, it is art, allowing the imagination free rein. Also, fashion is relevant with Indians increasingly becoming appearance-conscious without apologising for it. With its millionaires' clubs and growing middle class with disposable incomes, India's a hugely promising market for domestic and global players.

Producing luxury clothing as also prjt, sports and casual wear, India's fashion world isn't a bubble delinked from larger society. Rather, it's an ecosystem, providing sustenance and livelihoods to countless people, from textile-makers and tailors to models, beauticians and choreographers. Fusion being its USP, traditional skills of weaving or embroidery are always in demand, benefiting craftsmen. It's estimated that India's apparel business as a whole is worth Rs 1,00,000 crore a year. So, fashion serves both social and economic objectives by generating jobs and wealth. With the Made-in-India label making waves, let's give our show-stoppers a big hand.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

SNOBBISH TO THE CORE

RUDRONEEL GHOSH

 

There is no denying that fashion shows in India are the ultimate symbol of snobbery. Showcasing and retailing clothes that few can afford, the Indian fashion industry is of the elite, by the elite and for the elite. That even prjt labels are financially out of reach of the aam admi bears testimony to how far removed the industry is from the realities of Indian society. In a country where at least 46% of the population lives below the poverty line, the elitist culture of the fashion world is precisely the kind of thing that promotes social tension.


Status and vanity are the driving forces of the fashion industry. Owning haute couture from a famous design house is akin to moving up the social ladder. Unwittingly, the fashion industry reinforces notions of class hierarchy and highlights the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The argument that designers, like other professionals, churn out products that can be described as works of art doesn't cut ice either. Most couture here is imitative of western designs that make little sense in the Indian context. It is also true that each and every Indian designer is supported by scores of faceless workers who toil away without any recognition and little monetary compensation. Behind the glamour of catwalks and celebrity models this underclass of oppressed workers represents the underbelly of the fashion world.


Unlike the West where the fashion industry is commensurate with market demands - especially prjt labels -Indian fashion has no desire to cater to the common man. The latter can make itself relevant by reaching out to the masses. This would require Indian designers to stop thinking in terms of profit and start thinking in terms of volume. It is only then that the industry can break free from its snobbish tag. But given its elitist core, such a change is highly improbable.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

THE SPOKES OR THE HUB?

As the first phase of the assembly elections in Assam kicked off on Monday, there was an inaudible click that registered the fact that something had been put on test. Apart from the ruling Congress in Guwahati - and the various other parties heading governments in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala - electoral theory is also being tested. The matter of bringing peace to a troubled state may not apply as an election issue outside Assam, but the matter of ridding corruption from politics and its vast hinterland could well apply to the rest of the country, and certainly in Tamil Nadu. Historically, we are at an important juncture in how states vote their legislators into - or out of - their assemblies. There was a time when 'national' issues were part and parcel of state elections, as they are still made out to be by those whom these serve well. For instance, for the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP)-led Opposition in Assam, the connection between the Tarun Gogoi government and the scam-tainted government headed by the prime minister - who incidentally is a Rajya Sabha member from the state - will be played up. For the government, this linkage will be portrayed as old-fashioned machinations; the real issue being the taming of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) and development. It will be the people of Assam who will decide which basket to pick.

The Tamil Nadu scenario is more obviously linked to matters in New Delhi. After all, the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is the company that has largely trained the UPA. J Jayalalithaa's All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) will find it easier to make the tainted Centre-tainted state link simply because the dramatis personae in both the theatres are the same. But with brand loyalty mixed with the politics of freebies playing their roles in the hustings, the DMK may indeed manage to sell the electorate what it wants it to buy. The case in Kerala is more parochial. The turnstile-style 'United Democratic Front (UDF) in, Left Democratic Front (LDF) out' electoral algorithm should hold unless the Left's confusion is overridden by the Congress's reputation at the Centre.

The most quarantined and localised of all the assembly polls this time has to be the one being contested in West Bengal. It's a straightforward vote for or against change - with the million rupee question: does Bengal's electorate really want a change? Whether assembly polls have now become self-contained contests, rather than a mix of 'national' and 'state' issues will become more apparent as the voters across these states come out to vote. And in all this, of course, there will be the perennial arithmetic of alliances and votes translated into seats. So if there's no neat pattern we have for you for the assembly elections that's now underway, that's because a month and a half from today, there won't be only a verdict on who comes to power in the four states, but on whether what happens in the 'nation' matters enough in the 'states'.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

THE DADAIST IN DIDI

Trust Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to put a Muse to good use. Ms Banerjee doodles, as we all know, every time she manages a breather from her otherwise single-minded pursuit of dislodging the Left Front government. Over time, these have given way to serious strokes, with the leader reportedly getting familiar with mediums like acrylic and charcoal. Some of those paintings are now being showcased at an exhibition, the proceeds from the sales of which will enrich not only the aesthetics of 'the people' but also her party coffers.

Since it is the 'cause' that has propelled the exhibition (aptly named Twenty-Five Hours a Day) to news, there is not much sense in analysing Ms Banerjee's interpretation of nature in her artworks. Artist Shuvaprasanna, also curator of the exhibition, says as much when he points out that the paintings are worth appreciating for the 'passion, zeal, grit' that shines forth. And to think that us laypersons (and makers of small cars) thought that the Trinamool leader had the length and breadth of an entire state and its people as a broad-enough canvas to give expression to her fiery passion through performance art forms such as bandhs, fasts and other forms of avant garde agit-prop, post-Dadaist disruption.

Ms Banerjee's forays into aesthetics might have been designed to prove one point: that she is capable of shouldering the responsibility of leading a state that prides itself on its intellectual  bearings and that she would be as sincere a proponent of kaalchar as its current office-bearer. Which leaves us only with a single thought: if pictures are indeed worth a thousand words, will we, in future, hear less and see more from the beloved Didi?

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

 

A MASS MOVEMENT

SITARAM YECHURY

Yes, we have done it. After 28 years, India has lifted the cricket World Cup. It has been a long journey, from listening on radio sets and watching on black and white TVs at the neighbour's, to satellite TV sets showing the thrilling Saturday encounter several times over already.

The first results of Census 2011 show that we are home to 121 crore people, the largest numbers anywhere in the world, for whom, cricket is virtually a religion. China with 19.4% of the world's population, as compared to our 17.5%, has mercifully not yet entered the field of cricket visibly.

The census operations in India, probably the largest such exercise anywhere in the world, have an immense importance in our history as well as in our contemporary lives. While delivering the Sixth Sumitra Chishti Memorial Lecture, Professor Ashish Bose, one of our foremost demographers, underlined the importance of the census by saying "census data have determined the destiny of the Indian subcontinent in many ways. The partition of India was based on the census data on religion. The reorganisation of states in 1957 on a linguistic basis used census data on languages (mother tongue), the delimitation of electoral constituencies, ever since India held its first general election in 1952 is based on census data". Likewise, the determination of reserved seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are based on census data. Equally important is the fact that the Finance Commission that recommends allocation of resources between the Centre and the states bases itself on the census as does the Planning Commission while preparing the Five Year Plans.

Census data has been central in formulating population policy. Consequently, to ensure the southern states that were more efficient in implementing the population policy do not lose out as against those states that weren't as efficient in terms of their representation in Parliament, the Constitution had to be amended to freeze the number of seats in the Lok Sabha till 2026.  Census data, however, also had the potential to be used to strengthen the process of political unification of modern India or to feed the disruptive tendencies that British colonialism so perfectly used for their divide-and-rule policies. During the transition towards independence, the census operations, pregnant with the possibility of Partition, assumed passionate expressions of strife.

Given such potential for conflict, the issue of caste-enumeration in the census had become a contentious issue in last year's parliamentary proceedings. Having amended the Constitution to grant reservation and other benefits to the other backward classes (OBCs), it had become important to quantify the numbers that are entitled to such benefits. While the Mandal Commission did so many years ago, the current status is very opaque. It would be, therefore, necessary to arrive at some scientific assessment on this score. The census enumeration however, is based on voluntary disclosure of information. It thus lacks a scientific methodology to authenticate an individual's claim. So the Left has suggested that the estimations of the OBCs must be based on a scientific evaluation and not on voluntary disclosures. This could have been done through surveys conducted by constitutional entities than through voluntary census enumeration.

But the UPA 2 government, under the by-now familiar 'coalition compulsions', decided to conduct a caste enumeration as a part of the Census 2011 operations conducted between June and September 2011. While one can't have an ostrich mentality and ignore the powerful caste reality and consequent social oppression, such an enumeration should not be allowed to become yet another cause of tension. In this context, quite apart from the existing reality of anachronistic khap panchayats, the census data revealed the most disturbing reality of continuing gender discrimination. The child-sex ratio fell to the lowest level since independence: 914 females to 1,000 males. This atrocious, bordering on criminal, antipathy to the girl-child reflects the age-old hierarchical attitudes. What is worse is that the data shows that this phenomenon is most acutely manifested in what are considered as the most economically developed parts of the country.

This draws discussion towards the emergence of a modern India. On the one hand, we applaud our status as an emerging economy where our PM rubs shoulders with the high and mighty at the G20 high table. We aspire to be a nuclear powerhouse. Yet, on the other hand, the vast backyard of our society continues to live in the morass of traditional backwardness that is the complete anti-thesis of modernity.

This is the modern Indian paradox. Those considered 'modern', in terms of flaunting the latest gadgets and fashion, simultaneously perpetuate age-old prejudices based on caste and gender. Sociologist Dipankar Gupta defines a modern society as one that has the following characteristics: "Dignity of the individual; adherence to universalistic norms; elevation of individual achievement over privilege or dis-privilege of birth and accountability in public life." The Iranian intellectual Jalal-e-Ahmed coined the term, 'westoxification' as opposed to westernised. He was referring to those who embrace western technology and the high life while negating the equality of opportunity. In the Indian context, a more appropriate term would be 'modern toxicity' as opposed to 'modernity'. Unless we in India embrace modernity in its completeness, the dreams of India as an emerging economy would be impossible to achieve.

In order to win this battle of realising this modern idea of India, we need to immediately set right the policies that perpetuate the creation of two Indias - the privileged and the dispossessed in India.

Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP.

The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

PRAYING TO BE HEARD

DOMINIC EMMANUEL

Before the report, 'Hindu group involved in Orissa, Karnataka blasts', appeared in this paper on March 24, little had been written or spoken about the possible connection of 'Hindu terror' with attacks on Christians. Now, hopefully, some attention will be given to the role of the Hindu extremist group Abhinav Bharat in several attacks on the Christian community in the country as stated by the military investigator's report. The cases being handed over to National Investigation Agency will hopefully bring out this aspect more clearly and firmly.

For India's Christians, this revelation is nothing new. Their voice is often ignored by the police or by the powers that be. Let us take the case of Swami Aseemanand's confession before the magistrate. With revelations made by Aseemanand about his links with various terror attacks such as Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer dargah and the Samjhauta Express, it would be  instructive to look into the role played by him and others in anti-Christian attacks.

Aseemanand had reportedly taken upon himself the task of targeting Christian missionaries working in the Dangs district of Gujarat ever since he arrived there in late 1995. Under his leadership, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal organised a rally on Christmas Day in 1998 in Subir to prevent Christmas celebrations. A person, allegedly planted in the crowd, threw a stone at the Hindus  who had gathered to attack the Christians. The carnage that began on December 25 lasted for 12 days. The panic-stricken Christian community did not know where to turn, for there was a BJP government in Gujarat and the BJP-led NDA at the Centre.

The Aseemanands of the world heard the message loud and clear. In 2006, Aseemanand organised a Shabri Kumbh in the Dangs. The slogan was, 'Every single person converted to Christianity adds one more enemy to the country'.

The pattern followed by Aseemanand in the Dangs was replicated in Kandhamal by Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. After Saraswati's death in the hands of the Maoists, Sangh parivar workers unleashed violence against Christians for 42 days, killing nearly 100 people, burning 147 churches,leaving nearly 48,000 people homeless, and raping a nun.

The story is the same in Karnataka. According to Justice Michael Saldanha who led the People's Tribunal Enquiry into the attacks on Christians, "The state is under an unprecedented wave of Christian persecution, having faced more than 1,000 attacks in 500 days... On January 26 [2010], the day we celebrated India's Republic Day,  Karnataka's 1,000th attack took place in Mysore city."

In the past few years, the number of attacks on Christians, recorded by the Evangelical Fellowship of India, has been more than 1,000 attacks a year. On a petition by the spokesperson of the Madhya Pradesh Church, Father Anand Muttungal, the MP High Court asked the government to explain how in one year there had been more than 180 attacks on Christians.

India's Christians do not expect much from political parties, as the community is not perceived as a vote-bank for them. But they certainly expect the media to bring  the injustice against them to the fore.

Dominic Emmanuel is director and spokesperson, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese

The views expressed by the author are personal.

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TEAM EFFORT

 

In victory, we must be modest. In defeat, gracious. When the remains of the day lie abandoned by the exhausted revelry, it is that generosity of spirit — in both defeat and triumph — that judges us, on either side of the celebratory divide. The Indian and Sri Lankan cricketers at Wankhede were exemplars of the virtue, as much in the thick of it, as after the battle was done. But as we drift further from the headiness of the night of April 2 with each passing day, now is the time to gather together what we want to remember World Cup 2011 by in our collective memory. To begin with, it will be the hospitality and effort of the three host nations — Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. That includes hard technicalities — upgrading stadia and infrastructure and making the host venues welcoming in look and feel — as well as words and gestures, to say nothing of the initiative seized by the Indian and Pakistani political establishments.

To begin with, it was in the fitness of things that the opening extravaganza took place in Dhaka, announcing the arrival of the subcontinent's junior-most full member of the ICC on the world hosting stage — and that at a time when Bangladesh is a healthy turnaround story on many indicators. To end with, this edition of the Cup takes away two conspicuous claims to uniqueness — the first title victory by a host nation, and the first intra-subcontinent final match. And this story of the triumph of cricket will never be complete without recounting the runner-up captain Kumar Sangakkara's gracious speech at Wankhede. From M.S. Dhoni and Shahid Afridi to Ricky Ponting, captains at World Cup 2011 rose to the occasion as leaders and as ambassadors of sport. And barring a couple of poor cheers, so did the spectators, who are such a tiny fraction of the huge TV audiences but absolutely critical to the proper conduct of sport.

There were, of course, slip-ups and misses. So it was unfortunate, but unavoidable in the circumstances, that Pakistan lost its status as a co-host long before the tournament began. In every other way, the purported "snooze-fest" of February ended as the delight of spring, to which ICC associate members like Ireland contributed every bit.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LEARNING BY EXPERIENCE

 

The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act was passed in August 2009 — a momentous decision, if decades too late. Since last April, when it started functioning, the state has been required, by law, to provide a neighbourhood school that meets a minimum standard within three years. The act mandates a whole range of measures to upgrade the number and quality of schools, like specified teacher-student ratios, making sure teachers attain a nationally designated level of qualification within five years, and local school-management committees to oversee the implementation.

However, a year on, RTE remains riddled with problems. Only 11 states have created a commission for child protection, the grievance redress mechanism that makes the act meaningful. Many key features of the act have been adopted in varying degrees — these include the the non-detention policy, which 27 states have embraced, 28 states have banned corporal punishment, and 26 have scrapped the board examination. These changes are relatively easy to enact. But other provisions have been harder to push through. Education being a concurrent subject, there needs to be a more sensible apportioning of responsibility between the Centre and states. So far, the question of schooling has been largely handled by states, which are trying to adjust to the sudden largesse and rules foisted by the Centre. The three core issues of elementary education are access, retention and quality, with access being the least of the problems by now. Now, with this expansive national legislation and the promise of 65 per cent funding from the Centre, states do not have the same initiative. What's more, they have entirely different experiences of school education, and the management structures prescribed by the RTE run counter to their existing arrangements. A state like Kerala, for instance, is ahead of the RTE, and finds many of its provisions besides the point. In states like Maharashtra, many community-run schools, missionary schools, etc, have objected to the monitoring by local bodies, asking why the panchayat should be involved in decisions when it did not help create the school, and have sought amendments.

As it irons out the last wrinkles in RTE, the Centre must avoid the homogenising impulse, and adopt a light touch, rather than micro-managing elementary education.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MINIMUM SUPPORT

 

As part of the Central government's development offensive in Naxal-affected areas, the Planning Commission has proposed a minimum support price (MSP) for minor forest produce — bamboo and non-timber products like mahua and tamarind that are a source of income for tribal communities. Such a move is expected to put more money in the hands of the tribals, give them some amount of financial independence that would translate into freedom from both the oppressive, exploitative middle men who buy their products for a pittance and the Naxals who find in them and their deprivation a constituency and a cause. If implemented properly, it can deepen the tribals' rights to livelihood, and stem the flow of funds from the middle-men to the Naxals and undermine the authority of both in our forests.

There is no faulting the intention of the proposal, which, however, requires both clarity and structure in its implementation. The institution of MSP has to be followed up with the constitution of an organisation to administer the prices. While the government charts that out, it has to factor in several issues that are essential to the economic development of tribal communities: the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act that grants tribals complete rights over minor forest produce is often disregarded by several states and needs to be strengthened, and gram sabhas that are meant to protect community resources should be given suitable powers and resources to make them operational bodies in the local level and not vulnerable organisations that can be easily manipulated.

While the fixing of MSP could give a thrust to a programme for regenerating and harvesting forest produce, there should be a move to slowly dehyphenate our big-ticket tribal welfare programmes from anti-Naxal initiatives. The former, by themselves, are needed — and for their own sake.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

LIBERATE BY GROWTH

ILA PATNAIK

 

For every 1,000 boys in India, there are only 933 girls in the age group of children up to 6 years old. Blaming the failure of the health regulatory system in preventing female foeticide is a superficial response. The bias against the girl child is a much deeper disease. The child sex ratio is only a symptom of that disease. As long as the deeper problems remain with us, the preference for the male child and his better care during childhood are likely to stay. These deeper problems are cultural, sociological and economic. Though increased literacy and GDP growth are not sufficient conditions to overcome them, they are necessary conditions. Increasing paid employment of women outside the home, or family farm, is a precondition for caring better for our daughters.

India is among the worst in the world in reversing discrimination against girls. We do not want girls. If we don't kill them before they are born, then we neglect them after they are. A study on child mortality shows that while in the rest of the world in the age group of one to five years male and female children are equally likely to die from disease, in India (and in Pakistan and Bangladesh) girls are 30 to 50 per cent more likely to die. The cause is sheer neglect. For example, it has been found that 33 per cent of girls with high fever or respiratory infection are more likely to remain untreated compared with boys.

Why is the girl child discriminated against? A number of studies have traced the preference for sons to either higher expected returns from the labour of male children or anticipated old-age support systems. The systematic neglect of daughters has been linked to the cost of marriage and dowry. Well-being of girls is seen to improve where women have greater earning opportunities. This outcome is seen to be a rational investment (in terms of time and money) decision of parents, as boys are expected to contribute more to the household.

Amartya Sen has argued that two contrasting explanations have been offered to account for the neglect of women. He says that while there is truth in both, neither of them is adequate. The first emphasises cultural differences between the East and the West. Sex ratios in Japan bunk this explanation. Unlike most of Asia, sex ratios in Japan are similar to those in the US and Europe. The rise of women to powerful political positions, and the relatively better electoral success of women in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in contrast to the West, also does not support this view.

The economic development view emphasises a simple, straightforward relationship between GDP and the sex ratio. The main argument is that all countries with a bias against women are poor. If poverty was to explain the sex ratio, then Sub-Saharan Africa should not have seen the excess of women that it does. Within India, Punjab and Haryana, the richer states, should have done better than Kerala, where the ratio is in favour of women. Similarly, in China the sex ratio became worse after economic reform and speeding up of economic growth. Looking at the results of the provisional estimates of the India Census 2011, the same argument can be made. India has witnessed high per capita income in the last decade, yet its child sex ratio has worsened.

If simple GDP growth is not the story, how does one explain the discrimination against the girl child? Sen argues that economic, social and cultural factors interact in a complex way to explain regional differences in the sex ratio. Empirical evidence suggests that working outside the home for a wage has the biggest impact. First, outside employment for wages does not merely provide women with an income to make a living, and rely on themselves; it also changes their social status, giving them the role of a bread-winner. This brings social respect, outside experience and less vulnerability. If this allows women to support their parents in their old age, it improves the way girls are treated at home. This change in social status does not come when women engage in housework or even work on family farms or family-run enterprises. Even though the work is productive, when it is not possible to separately recognise the contribution of a woman, her contribution does not have the same effect.

This helps explain the Chinese puzzle. Changes in Chinese agriculture that accompanied reform made it difficult to delineate women's contribution to the family's farm. This increased the pro-male bias and helps explain worsening sex ratios despite higher GDP growth.

Worsening sex ratios can thus be addressed not by merely banning female foeticide, but by far-reaching measures that change the status of girls in the eyes of their parents. If discrimination against the female child is a rational response by investing parents, then the task is to reduce the bias in favour of the male child.

Government polices can help in changing the perception of parents by bringing change in opportunities for gainful employment of women. Better educated girls are more likely to get jobs. However, the problem in India is not limited to female education. Making the education system work is a challenge. The advances in enrolment are only a step in the right direction. The next task is to make sure children learn.

More jobs get created with GDP growth. A better regulatory environment that encourages investment and brings about employment opportunities will bring jobs for men and women. Law and order and contract enforcement improve working conditions. For this India needs better governance.

When parents have no health insurance or old-age pension, their dependence on their sons is greater. If the state helps develop and regulate old-age security systems and health schemes, it can reduce the male bias. Even after these changes, South Asia may take years to undergo the cultural and social changes that are necessary for improving the status of women.

While it is important to improve the status of women in many small ways by giving them better legal rights and opportunities, the child sex ratio statistics should serve as a reminder of the unfinished agenda of economic reforms and better governance, without which daughters will continue to be neglected.

The writer is a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi, express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

SOMETHING TO CHEER ABOUT

UMA VISHNU

 

In 1911, J. Charles Molony, superintendent of census, Madras, wrote: "The Village Officer, source of all Indian information, is the recorder of his village, and it well may be that amid the toils of keeping accounts and collecting manuals, he pays scant heed to what he and his friends consider the idle curiosity of an eccentric sarkar." A century later, at a village in Mewat, Haryana, Jamaluddin thought so too. So when the census enumerator came, Jamaluddin answered questions about his wives and their children with a perpetually befuddled smile on his lips. "Just why do you want to know?" he kept asking. But the "eccentric sarkar" kept counting its people — from 252 million in 1911 to, as the provisional census figures now tell us, 1.2 billion people. That's 1,21,01,93,422. Just to satisfy that idle curiosity, let's look at what that number says about our country.

The 1961 census reported that India had a population of 439 million, a number that beat all predictions then: the Central Statistical Organisation had estimated a population of 431 million and the Planning Commission was way off the mark at 408 million. An increase of 78 million over the previous decade was disturbing. Fifty years later, that number of 439 million seems a fraction — the population in the whole of India in 1961 fits into present-day UP, Maharashtra, Bihar and West Bengal, which, according to the 2011 provisional census, have a combined population of 505 million.

India's 1.2 billion people make up 17.5 per cent of the world's population. A big number, but for the first time since 1961, there's something to cheer about in India's population story. At a growth rate of 17.64 per cent over the population reported in 2001, this is the slowest the country has grown since Independence — down 3.9 percentage points over the 21.54 per cent growth rate recorded in 1991-2001. But that's not good enough to stop India from overtaking China, which is growing at a much lower 5.43 per cent, by 2030. Only Pakistan (24.78 per cent) and Nigeria (26.84 per cent) are growing at a rate faster than India.

The drop in growth rate is one of the big positives that this census has thrown up. But it was made possible by the fact that for the first time, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa — what are known in administrative parlance as the Empowered Action Group (EAG) states or what Ashish Bose calls Bimaru states plus Orissa — registered a significant fall in the growth rate of population, after years of remaining stagnant at rates above the national average.

The provisional census report now says that between 1951 and 2001, the EAG states have hosted between 43 and 46 per cent of India's population. Which is why, a dip of 4 percentage points in the growth rate of these states — from 24.99 per cent in 1991-2001 to 20.92 per cent in 2001-11— helped pulled down the country's decadal growth rate. This decade was the first time that both EAG states and the rest of India registered significant drop in decadal growth rates — EAG states by 4.01 percentage points and non-EAG states by 3.91 percentage points.

This decade also marked the spread of the phenomenon of low growth beyond the four southern states, a trend that had begun to show in 1991-2001. Besides the big four southern states, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Orissa and Maharashtra have registered a growth rate between 11 and 16 per cent in 2001-11 over the previous decade (below the national average of 17.64 per cent).

But the provisional data shows why the population clock may have slowed but is still ticking away at a rate that will make it difficult for India to achieve a "stable population" anytime soon. India is at what experts call Stage 3 of population growth, a stage at which birth rates fall but population continues to grow because of a significant number of people in the reproductive age group, a result of the high fertility of the previous generations.

What is of concern is that during 2001-11, the decadal growth rates in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are still above 20 per cent. The report says that is a level where Kerala and Tamil Nadu were 40 years ago — that'll take a lot of catching up to do. Kerala now has a decadal growth rate of 4.9 per cent, the second lowest in the country after Nagaland (-0.47 per cent).

India's National Population Policy of 2000 says that the long-term objective is to achieve a stable population — one with low birth and death rates and high socio-economic development — by 2045. But even with the significant fall in rate of population growth that this census recorded, that could be a stiff target.

uma.vishnu@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

CRICKET'S TEN COMMANDMENTS

DILIP BOBB

 

Now that sanity has been restored and we can all go back to what we were doing before this World Cup transported us to the Kingdom of Dreams, it's time to step back into our respective creases and reflect on the extraordinary hold this game has on an entire population, one that embraces all ages, sexes and political, philosophical or religious beliefs. If, as the well-worn cliché goes, cricket is a religion, it's also the communal adhesive that is more powerful and attention-grabbing than any call to arms, barbarians at the gate or a scandal-ridden political crisis. No Kargil hero was ever given such adulation and showered with financial reward as the Men in Blue, as they are now permanently christened. Post the World Cup, we are more addicted to cricket than anything we can sniff or snort. In retrospect, the events of the last few days have exposed some naked truths, and they have nothing to do with the model who promised to parade in her birthday suit if India won. Here are the ten commandments of cricket, in no particular order.

* Thou shalt not worship any other sport: Cricket is not our national sport, it is our national obsession. We have won Olympic golds in hockey, yet if there was a quiz question on who is the current hockey captain, 1.2 billion Indians will be hard-pressed to get the right answer. We have an Olympic gold medalist in shooting but 1.2 billion Indians will not be able to guess his particular event. Vishwanathan Anand is world champion but only a handful follow his chosen discipline. It's an old argument but cricket alone provides our collective sporting fix. It is the only sport that produces eye-popping TV ratings while others show minuscule numbers, if they are shown at all. It also dominates the commercial sporting pie, to around 80 per cent of the total money spent on sport by government or private players. When it comes to the crunch, the First Commandment holds: You shall not follow other sports that involve bats and balls. You shall not bow to them or worship them; for I, cricket, am a jealous god, who'll strike with the wrath of Lasith Malinga or Shoaib Akhtar at those who reject me.

* Thou shalt not lose: The first lesson every cricketer who plays in the subcontinent has learned. Remember 2007? The same man who the fans are hailing as Midas S. Dhoni had his house stoned, along with Zaheer Khan's restaurant, by those very same fans. The hysteria and hype is mainly responsible, raising expectations to such unreal heights. Bangladesh is the latest victim of fickle fans, even though it was the unfortunate West Indians who got stoned by mistake. No industrialist, scientist, innovator or religious leader is put on the same lofty pedestal as our cricketers, giving them the aura of supermen. Fictional heroes never lose which is why we readily replace fact and reality with fiction and fantasy.

* Thou shalt not lose to Pakistan: Losing is one thing, losing to Pakistan quite another. Again, blame mass jingoism, unabated since Partition and bolstered by subsequent events involving the two neighbours. The media has added fuel to the fire, with TV channels displaying tanks and bizarre weapons and cricketers in body armour. Losing to Bangladesh was bad enough but losing to Pakistan is the ultimate sin, capable of sending an entire country and the stock market into prolonged depression.

* Thou shalt worship one true god: It may be a team game, but cricket demands one superstar who symbolises greatness and durability and inspires the rest of the team. Sachin Tendulkar has been anointed in that role for many years, regardless of who is captain or his own form. His has been a model role or role model, and his "tears of joy" are now part of official cricketing history.

* Thou shalt turn cricket into a sociological phenomenon: It's a very Indian trait, the tendency to analyse everything to death and give it a sociological spin. So now our victory is being seen as a symbol of new India, confident India, emerging superpower, a sign of optimism and hope among the new generation, and other variations of pop psychobabble. Here's the downside. The emotional vacuum now the Cup is over, writes one psychobabbler, could have serious side-effects, like a sudden impulse to shave your head.

* Thou shalt always convey a sense of history: The history making has been overwhelming — first host team to win, first Asian finalists, first after 28 years, biggest TV audience, all time greatest captain, greatest team, the headline writers are having a historic time.

* Thou shalt honour the sponsors: "Men in Blue" has become a universal catchphrase but it was thought up in an advertising agency on behalf of a multinational client. Commerce and cricket are two sides of the specially minted coin, which is why it's getting difficult to recognise the players for the logos.

* Thou shalt challenge the umpire: The umpire decision review is the most interesting innovation in cricket since bottle tops. It's sweet revenge for players who have got a raw deal earlier while umpires can, equally, get stuck with those who like to appeal at the drop of a helmet. It's called reverse swing or the crooked finger.

* Thou shalt use cricket for the greater good: Here's the ultimate accolade to the sport — cricket as the agent of social change, as in we all celebrate together, rich and poor, servant and master, mister and mistress. Others allocate its rise as parallel to India's symbolic triumph over colonialism. Cricket, more than other sports, has always been a great social leveller but you'll never believe that if you watch the big screen in the stadium and see the famous faces the cameras follow.

* Thou shalt give proper thanks: It's just not cricket if you don't thank everyone for your performance — your guru, your coach, captain, teammate, teammates, mothers, fathers, in-laws and sundry other individuals, but in India, you have perforce to give a billion thanks, or thank a billion people, whichever comes first. It's an emotional moment, so our cricketers can be forgiven their trespasses as long as they forgive us ours when we expect them to win the next World Cup, and the next.

dilip.bobb@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

TEARING AT THE SEAMS

ALIA ALLANA

 

Why has fighting started?

The fighting seen in Ivory Coast has its roots in the presidential elections held in November 2010. Alassane Ouattara was elected by 54 per cent of the vote; the election was monitored by the UN and was lauded as free and transparent. However, Ivory Coast's constitutional council dubiously revised the vote, annulling a large percentage of Ouattara's vote and thereby making the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo the legitimate president. Gbagbo refuses to step down despite international recognition to Ouattara's win.

How have the election and its outcome again ignited sectarian tensions?

It was hoped that the November elections would unite the country after the 2002 civil war that had divided the north and the south. The north is predominantly Muslim and the south Christian. The north-south divide can be traced back to the policies of independent Ivory Coast's first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny. As wars gripped Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, Houphouet-Boigny invited Africans to come settle in then-prosperous Ivory Coast, largely to work on its abundant cocoa plantations. He also allowed settlers to own land they worked on. With his death, divisions were born between immigrant and native, north and south and Muslim and Christian. Ouattara is a northern Muslim; he was prevented from participating in Ivory Coast's first elections due to his mother's ethnicity. Gbagbo has reignited the "Ivoirite" (Ivorian-ness) sentiment to stay in power.

Who are the two men at the forefront of this election battle?

Laurent Gbagbo came to power in 2000. Formerly an opposition member, it was he who challenged heavyweight Houphouet-Boigny's one-party state. His supporters have been accused of xenophobia, and have attacked Muslims and immigrants. His nom de guerre is "little brother" and his support base is the Christian south. His election campaign was titled "we win or we win." An economist by training, Alassane Ouattara, known as "Ado" by his supporters spent much of his career at the International Monetary Fund. His attempts to run for presidential elections were barred twice; his mother is from Burkina Faso. Ouattara's supporters come largely from the Muslim north. It is his supporters, the rebels or New Forces that are fighting Gbagbo's army.

Why was Duekoue targeted?

Duekoue is strategically important, as it is the gateway to the country's cocoa crop heartland. The town has been at the centre of the "Ivoirite" debate. The Red Cross estimates that 800 civilians were killed by guns and machetes on March 29. This attack took place as Ouattara's troops moved towards Abidjan. The UN mission in Ivory Coast claims that it was the Dozos (traditional headhunters) who recently united with Ouattara's forces that are responsible for the killing, though he has been quick to distance himself.

Where is the fighting centred now?

The coastal city of Abidjan. Despite it being Gbagbo's power base, the rebels have advanced to the city. Though they have captured much of the country, the conclusive battle for power will be in Abidjan where Gbagbo's most reliable fighters are located. This is the 2500-strong elite Republic Guard. Food and essential supplies have run out as wide spread looting is reported; the UN has accused pro-Ouattara forces of firing shells into residential areas. Gbagbo's presidential palace is protected by the elite forces and Ouattara has formed his government in a hotel. It is estimated that one million people have fled Abidjan alone (UN figures).

Is this civil war again?

By international law, this would be civil war but there have been no official declarations of war. It was only after a coalition of former rebel groups united that Ouattara had an army (the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast — FRCI), though this coalition is not united on domestic issues. Ouattara has been encouraged by senior-level defections from the Gbagbo camp. Five months of violence have led to more than 1,300 killed (according to UN official estimates) and aid agencies expect a quarter of a million refugees to arrive in neighbouring Liberia by the end of June — thus far, 80,000 have already arrived. Liberia is one of Africa's poorest countries and an appeal to raise 25 million pounds has been launched.

What is the international community's response?

Rarely has the international community responded with such unanimity; the African Union (AU), Ecowas (the West African Regional Body), the UN and the EU have all called on Gbagbo to step down. Sanctions and cocoa export bans have been imposed to force him out. But deadlines have been ignored by Gbagbo, the AU ordered him to step down on March 24. The International Criminal Court has looked into investigating Gbagbo for crimes against humanity. There are 12,000 UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast; the mission's mandate allows them to intervene but there are worries of dragging peacekeepers into combat. The French have 1,400 members as part of an agreement with the United Nations Operation in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI). They have been tasked with taking control of the Abidjan airport.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

DRAWING A LINE IN THE LIBYAN SAND

ROGER COHEN

Near Carthage, in Tunisia, there's an American cemetery where 2,841 military dead rest, victims of the North African campaign in World War II. Among them is a young man from Stillwater, Minnesota, named Robert Lund. He was 25 when he was killed on March 29, 1943. A long time ago, I would sit on a porch in the pretty town of Stillwater and wonder at the gale that could lift a young man from the middle of a placid continent to death on a faraway shore.

With the return of the resonant datelines of the "Desert War" against Hitler — Tobruk, Benghazi, Tripoli — and the return of US forces to Libya, I've been thinking about Lund and American power. The limits of that power confronted President Barack Obama. He adheres, by instinct and experience, to the middle ground. Taking office in a nation drained by war, he found arguments aplenty to bolster his inclination for ending conflicts.

American exceptionalism — the notion of the United States as a transformative moral beacon to the world — made him uneasy. The disappearing jobs of the home front were his domain. And yet, and yet, this cautious president, who has been subtly talking down American power — with reason — has involved the nation in a new conflict in Libya, one in which his own defence secretary holds that the US has no "vital interest." He has joined a long line of US leaders in discovering the moral imperative indivisible from the American idea.

There were many good reasons for staying out of Libya. A chief strength of the Arab Spring is that it was homegrown. The Levant's suspicion of the West is bottomless. Obama needs no tutoring in colonialism. Its lessons were bred into him. But could he, the nation's first African-American president, have sat passive as the forces of Muammar el-Gaddafi delivered a massacre in Benghazi on the North African shore?

Maybe there wouldn't have been a massacre, just another modest Gaddafi bloodbath. Gaddafi is not Hitler, not even Saddam. But his nature is murderous. And so I say Obama was right to draw a line in the Libyan sand.

But now what? There was an Allied offensive during the North African campaign called "Operation Brevity." It had mixed results, but I'd borrow the name. Speed in ousting Gaddafi, the objective from which Western leaders cannot retreat, is essential. We all know what happens if this Mad Max war festers: The coalition fractures, jihadists seep into a failed state of porous borders, mission creep begins.

Gaddafi can go three ways: through military defeat, the least likely given the chaotic rebel traffic-jam on the coastal highway; through a negotiated departure, a long shot despite Turkey's efforts; or though his inner circle deserting him, the most promising avenue.

Moussa Koussa, the foreign minister, has just fled to London. He's the biggest prize yet from an intense US and British effort to turn top aides. "We're doing a tonne in that regard, golden parachutes etc.," one person involved told me.

The tone of the Gaddafi entourage keeps changing: first panicked, then ebullient tirades, now plaintive. That's encouraging. Do whatever it takes. This regime reeks of ricketiness. Talks with Libya in recent years mean top Western officials have relations with the core people who must, like Koussa, be turned. Abdullah Al-Sanousi is one prime target.

Obama, having embraced in extremis the radical idea that "the United States of America is different," having taken a shot at nations that "may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries" (the rising powers — Brazil, Russia, India, China — all abstained on the Libya vote) must now deliver on his honed interpretation of American exceptionalism.

The US is strongest when it aligns its values and interests and is not itself when it turns its back on the meaning of Lund's sacrifice. Americans understand that. Which is why the moral imperative is not only indivisible from the American idea, it's indivisible from re-election.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MOMENTS OF SWEET TRIUMPH

KARTHIKKRISHNASWAMY

 

India vs West Indies, Lord's, 1983: Gordon Greenidge's ill-advised shouldering of arms, Kapil Dev's 30-yard sprint to catch Viv Richards on the midwicket fence, and Jimmy Amarnath's gleeful dash to grab the stumps at the end — images seared into the memory from repeated viewing every four years. Kapil's Devils have their successors now, but the first time is always the sweetest.

India vs Pakistan, Melbourne, 1985: If '83 was a bolt out of the blue, the World Championships of Cricket two years later showed that India could be a consistently brilliant ODI side. India won five out of five matches, downing Pakistan breezily in the final thanks to a three-for from leg spinner L. Sivaramakrishnan and a confident century stand from openers Ravi Shastri and Kris Srikkanth.

India vs England, Lord's, 1986: Dilip Vengsarkar's third successive hundred at Lord's, unlike the other two, resulted in an India win. The Colonel's 126 gave India a 47-run lead, before Kapil Dev and Maninder Singh ran through England's second innings, leaving India just 134 to chase. Victory in the next Test at Leeds sealed India's only away Test series win in the '80s.

India vs Australia, Kolkata, 2001: After the largely forgettable '90s, India's slow ascent to Test match greatness began at the Eden Gardens, with the most astonishing comeback of all time. V. V. S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh would all become vital cogs in a machine that specialised in coming back from the dead, and Sourav Ganguly, in due course, would become India's most successful Test captain.

India vs England, Leeds, 2003: The Holy Trinity's greatest performance in concert — masterful self-denial from Rahul Dravid on day one followed by fireworks late on day two from Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. All three made hundreds, and India — having elected to bat on a green top — cantered to a series-levelling innings win.

India vs Pakistan, Multan, 2004: After shading a close one-day series 3-2, India won its first Test on Pakistani soil in 15 years in a brutally one-sided manner, thanks to Virender Sehwag's one-of-a-kind genius. Sehwag's 309, the first triple hundred by an Indian, set up an innings win, and provided ample glimpse of the man who would become India's biggest game-changer over the next decade.

India vs Pakistan, Johannesburg, 2007: With close to zero experience in the shortest format, an experimental side skippered for the first time by M. S. Dhoni surprised everyone by winning the inaugural World T20, sparking the greatest revolution in cricket since Kerry Packer. Portentously, Gautam Gambhir top-scored in the final, a tense clash of arch-rivals.

India vs Australia, Perth, 2008: Ricky Ponting had emulated his predecessor Steve Waugh by leading Australia to 16 Test wins in a row, the last of which was an ill-tempered victory over Anil Kumble's Indians at Sydney. India stormed back at Perth, with Irfan Pathan's all-round display the highlight of an incredible team effort.

India vs South Africa, Durban, 2010: India's seam attack had looked club-class in the first Test at Centurion, in a defeat that brought the team's number one Test ranking into question. The return of Zaheer Khan changed everything — after his early wickets had helped the visitor gain a 74-run lead, all that remained was for V. V. S. Laxman to perform yet another second-innings high-wire act.

India vs Sri Lanka, Mumbai, 2011

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WRONG PRESCRIPTION

With six big ticket acquisitions of big Indian pharma firms, including Ranbaxy and Piramal, since 2006, the government is rattled enough to consider altering the law on foreign direct investment in the sector. While the law allows 100% FDI through the automatic route, the government is planning to reduce the automatic route to 49%—anybody wanting to buy more, will have to apply for the Foreign Investment Promotion Board's permission. The reason behind the plan is the government's fear that if enough big Indian pharma firms get taken over by MNCs, this will drive up prices of Indian medicines and two, it will ensure Indian R&D is more focused towards finding cures for western diseases instead of for Indian diseases. Apart from the problems that reversing a policy creates among the investor community, the move is ill-advised.

For one, there are nearly 23,000 companies that manufacture 60,000 brands of generics in the country, so market concentration in Indian pharma is next to impossible—even market leader Abbott has only a 6% market share, and most top-selling drugs are made by 8-10 firms. Normally, market-concentration theory tells you, having 4-5 players in any industry is enough to ensure prices are competitively determined. And, in any case, the government has a variety of price-control policies that prevent pharma firms, whether Indian or MNC-owned, from raising prices beyond a point. The government needs to just look around at industries dominated by foreign firms to know that this is true. The biggest players in the passenger car market are foreigners, but the exit of Indian players hasn't resulted in prices rising. The retreat of several Indian players, the latest being the Essar Group, from Indian telecom hasn't resulted in tariffs rising either.

The issue of R&D for Indian diseases is a valid one, but even bigger Indian firms were largely investing in finding molecules for western diseases since this is where the big money really lies. The way to fix this, ironically, is to allow pharma firms to get a decent return on their investments in R&D as opposed to the current policy of keeping prices down by policy—the reason why Indian pharma firms choose to export more than half their production is because Indian price levels are uneconomical; this applies in greater measure to new drugs on which large sums are spent on R&D. The solutions to the problems of India's pharma industry are well known, but for reasons best known to itself, the government insists of administering the wrong prescription.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

AYURVEDIC FIX

It's no coincidence that even as Indian philanthropy or lack thereof has raised a heated debate, the Tatas have put their weight behind the Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, a 100-bed hospital that will integrate modern and traditional systems of medicine while conducting research and treating patients. These pages have argued that the Messrs Buffett and Gates' model of giving is not the only one that can or should work in India. Because the Indian social and growth model is distinct from the one that these gentlemen have grown up with, our models of giving have to address a distinct set of needs and context. To focus on India's healthcare needs specifically, we know that these are expanding fast, whether on account of a growing middle class or on account of the general push to make the best of our demographic dividend. We also know that these needs cannot be met via the rich world's bloated health strategies. In the US, for example, medical spending per head has nearly tripled since 1990 even as health indicators have barely budged. Technological innovation is one way in which Indian medicine has been channelling the more frugal cardiac surgeries, maternity services and so on. Traditional medicine is obviously another way. With its roots still surviving across the country's hinterlands, tapping tradition could help construct an economical and sustainable health model.

The challenges cannot, of course, be underestimated. Consider that all sales of unlicensed herbal medicines are set to be banned in Europe this month. That's a reflection of sustained scepticism about traditional medicines, whether African or Chinese or Indian. Counteracting such scepticism requires appropriate understanding and infrastructure for clinical trials alongside documentation of safe and efficacious use. Lack of such infrastructure means that traditional knowledge (a) fades away or (b) gets appropriated by more patent-savvy agents. Remember how when an American company had gotten a patent for a product based on the neem seeds in 1994, it took the Indian authorities more than 10 years to have the patent overturned. As a research centre, the Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine will help address these issues. As a non-traditional financier of healthcare, Tata will give a heads up to imagining philanthropy out of the box, which is what India needs today.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

COMPETITION LOWERS POWER COSTS
SHANTANU DIXIT

Private sector participation in the power sector started in the 1990s when the Indian government adopted a policy on Independent Power Producers (IPPs). However, IPPs were not selected on a competitive bidding basis and most MoUs were signed in an absolutely opaque manner. The general public was not informed about the impact of such contracts on consumer tariffs. Following the IPP policy, several MoUs for over 1,00,000 MW capacity were signed (at a lightning speed of 95 MW/day). However, in the next 10 years, less than 10,000 MW capacity (based on these MoUs) was actually added. Realising the drawbacks of MoU-based projects and their adverse impacts on consumer tariff, efforts were made to adopt a competitive bidding route since 1995. But these attempts failed to take off until the Electricity Act, 2003, provided a robust legal framework for capacity addition through the competitive bidding route.

After the enactment of the 2003 Act, the government also issued the notification of competitive bidding guidelines in 2005. Since then, the state electricity distribution companies have contracted over 42,000 MW capacities through the competitive bidding route. These contracted projects include four ultra-mega power projects as well as over 15 projects (over 16,000 MW) through Case-1, i.e., location non-specific; and over seven projects (over 10,000 MW) through Case-2, i.e., location specific project route. Most of these projects are using more efficient super-critical technology. Also, the recent policy changes have made it mandatory for distribution companies to enter into all-new long-term power purchase contracts through the competitive bidding route only. Considering the capacity already contracted and the recent policy changes, it is likely that over half the capacity addition in the upcoming 12th Five Year Plan would be through the competitive bidding route.

Recently, Prayas undertook a detailed analysis of the outcome of competitive bidding so far. This analysis shows that though many players are participating in the bidding process and have succeeded in bagging projects, over 50% of the capacity through the bidding route is being developed by two players, Reliance ADAG and Adani. Also, for over 50% capacity being built, EPC contracts are placed with Chinese companies. Prayas further analysed the tariffs and found that tariff discovered through the bidding process is quite competitive vis-à-vis projects coming up on a cost-plus basis. For example, the capacity charge of competitively bid Case-1 projects is equivalent to the capital cost of about R3.5 crore per MW to R4.5 crore per MW. However, many cost-plus projects coming up in the public as well as the private sector have capital costs between R4.5 crore per MW and R5.8 crore per MW.

In the case of fuel cost, too, competitively bid projects show a significant advantage, in terms of more predictability and certainty of fuel cost. Most Case-1 projects have quoted fuel charges less than R2 per unit (in nominal terms, after applying CERC's escalation rates) even in the 10th or 15th year of the project. This certainly compares well with many cost-plus projects having even a current year fuel cost of over R2 per unit. Large capacity contracted through the competitive bidding route and the competitiveness of discovered tariff certainly demonstrates the success of the competitive bidding framework in attracting investment in the capital-starved power sector.

Thus, there is no doubt that the competitive bidding route has taken off well in the country. However, Prayas's review of the bidding process in several states also highlights many governance lapses. It shows several instances and ways in which the integrity of the bidding framework could be compromised, leading to preferential treatment for a particular bidder or non-competitive tariff discovery. These include re-bidding, post-bidding or non-transparent changes in bidding documents, and changes in project nature/structure after the conclusion of bidding. It was also observed that many procurers have not been adhering to various transparency and accountability related provisions of the bidding guidelines, such as publishing bid evaluation and all contracts signed with successful bidders immediately after awarding contract.

Non-adherence to power purchase agreements by project developers is another cause of concern. There are already many cases before the regulatory commissions of Gujarat and Maharashtra on issues relating to the purported inability of project developers to comply with power purchase agreements, or for changing the terms of such agreements. With over half of the total generation cost being dependent on fuel cost, project developers' fuel supply strategy often plays a crucial role in determining tariff competitiveness. Constraints in the domestic fuel sector, such as lack of transparency and accountability in fuel (coal) allocation and supply, limited fuel availability, and transportation bottlenecks are a major hurdle in further optimising generation costs. Unless urgent steps are taken to address these problems, competition will remain restricted to a few players who can 'manage' these constraints.

The Prayas analysis Transition from MoU to Competitive Bidding: Good take-off but turbulence ahead*, thus, shows that the introduction of a robust competitive bidding framework based on uniform guidelines and standard bidding documents has not only taken off smoothly but has also been successful in attracting large investments and competitive tariffs. However, it warns that we should not turn complacent about this outcome. There remain several governance challenges that, unless addressed immediately and in a comprehensive manner, could lead to turbulence in the coming years, and that can negate the advantages of competitive processes. Problems may surface in the form of increased market power by few players, non-competitive tariff discovery, project delays or non-compliance with contract terms, etc. To avoid the negative outcomes of the bidding process, it is essential to continuously monitor bidding procedures and take timely remedial measures.

* Available at www.prayaspune.org/peg

The author works with Prayas Energy Group, a Pune-based policy research and advocacy group

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

CRICKET DIPLOMACY: GONE FOR A SIX?
SHREEKANT SAMBRANI

The Manmohan Singh-Yousuf Raza Gilani Flying Circus went to and came back from Mohali, all a good day's work for the two Prime Ministers beset with myriad other troubles. It raised expectations, with spin doctors hard at work. Former aides of Dr Singh recalled in glowing terms the arcanae of his last initiative in 2005. The impact of this latest bonhomie between the two leaders on the fraught Indo-Pak situation is likely to be even less than that on the foretold outcome of the cricket match.

There is as much precedent for informal meetings between the two heads of governments leading nowhere as there is for the World Cup encounters between the two nations. India won all four previous matches as it did on March 30, 2011. The 1987 Gen Zia visit to Jaipur ostensibly for a cricket match was followed by heightened cross-border insurgency in Kashmir valley from 1989 onwards. The bus journey of 1999 was followed by the Kargil war and the 2005 visit by Gen Musharraf to Delhi did nothing to stop the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, and far more tragically, the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai.

If this were the only burden of history, one would be happy to join the band of revellers in Mohali to say that the past must be overcome with these new people-to-people bonding (we have been here as well; these sentiments are expressed de rigueur following every sports contact between the two countries). What militates against any expectation of normalcy of relations between the two countries is far too widespread and deep-seated animosity, unlikely to be overcome by these superficial balms.

This is based on what I consider to be a realistic, but hard-headed assessment and not any personal prejudice or bias. The process began in 1997, when I visited Pakistan with an entrepreneur friend, at the behest of Syed Babar Ali, a leading businessman and former finance minister of Pakistan, who was then the head of the Nestle Group in Pakistan. The purpose was to discuss possible joint ventures in completely non-strategic and mutually supportive areas. We travelled to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, and met a number of prominent persons in politics, business, academics and civil society.

I came back greatly impressed by what Pakistan represented then. This was the start of the second Nawaz Sharif administration. Just prior to our visit, he had announced a whole slew of reforms, more far reaching than ours. Pakistan had undertaken an aggressive campaign to attract foreign investment and the international community was then more inclined towards Pakistan than India as an investment destination. Our travels around the country showed far less evidence of poverty and squalor and much greater middle class influence as compared to India.

Among other things, we had worked out possible joint ventures for seeds and planting materials and food processing, which we all thought would have no problem of getting the required approvals. We believed they would have been the first joint ventures between the two countries. Babar Ali was also the founder-president of the Lahore University of Management Studies, almost a mirror image of our own IIM, Ahmedabad. Knowing my association with the latter, he had organised a meeting and there seemed to be a genuine interest in pursuing mutually beneficial contact and exchange of views and visits.

We pursued these initiatives for some time, up to the time of Vajpayee's visit two years later on. Nothing came out of these even after that euphoric journey. I have since given much thought to the possible reasons for this and compared notes with other Indian business travellers. Among these is an old classmate who headed the South Asian arm of an American cutting-edge medical technology enterprise and visited Pakistan often.

In my early enthusiasm, I had put aside a couple of factors, which I believe are critical. The first is the overall Pakistani middle class view holding Kashmir to be theirs by divine right and all of India being beneath contempt. Senior politicians in their salons, business persons in their clubs and schoolchildren in Clifton roadside eateries in Karachi all believed that India as a whole was poor, dirty, corrupt and opportunistic. We met the patron saint of Track-II diplomacy in Pakistan, Mubashar Hassan, who was a founding-father of the Pakistan People's Party and the finance minister to ZA Bhutto. He treated us to a monologue on how India was so wrong on Kashmir and then spoke at length to another visitor about his acute discomfort in Delhi during his recent visit caused by the filth and the obsequious people.

The second is what we never discussed with anyone there: the completely unquestioning adherence to Islam and the rock-solid belief that the infidels were inferior beings. Politeness prevented our hosts from saying this openly to our faces, but their questioning of our mores and ethos at all times left us in no doubt about what was in their mind.

We have since moved on. India is now on the ascendant and Pakistan in decline. Yet what binds our neighbour together even in this phase is the very logic that brought it into being in the first place: a complete antipathy to India. To say this is not to overlook our own intolerance of Pakistan. But we now have other, more important and worthwhile external focal points for our sights. Pakistan, sadly, continues to be monomaniacally obsessed with India. Even in cricket, we can rejoice almost as much in beating Australia as we do in defeating Pakistan, but the rivals across the border seek the holy grain of coming up trumps against us.

"Aman ka chhakka (sixer for peace)" is how the Pakistani media described Manmohan Singh's invitation to the Mohali match. Gone for a six, an expression familiar to schoolboys playing cricket to describe the failure of a major effort, could be a more appropriate translation!

The author has taught at IIMA and helped set up IRMA

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

CHARGE SHEET IN THE TIME OF ELECTIONS

Despite some breakthroughs made in the criminal investigation into the 2G-spectrum allocation scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation has been unable or unwilling to go more than half steam in the charge sheet filed before the Special Court constituted to hear the case. That the Supreme Court of India is monitoring the investigation does not seem to have prevented the CBI from wilting under political pressure and piecing together a charge sheet that is unsatisfactory on several counts. True, a charge sheet in a criminal case needs to be filed within 60 days of the arrest of the accused to ensure they are not entitled to bail, and the CBI was working under a time constraint. But this does not explain why the leads in the investigation have not been followed to their logical conclusion. The arrests too have been suspiciously selective. Robust investigation into the money trail — which according to the charge sheet leads circuitously to Kalaignar TV, a television channel owned by members of the family of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi — has been put off until after the Assembly elections, which is why there is talk of a supplementary charge sheet. The investigating agency appears to have relied for the most part on the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General. However, while the C&AG indicated presumptive losses between Rs.57,666 crore and Rs.176,645 crore, the charge sheet pegs the figure at about Rs.22,000 crore.

The CBI has also betrayed a keen desire to absolve Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of any culpability in the allocation of 2G spectrum by stating that he was "misled" on the issue and that he had "appropriately flagged the issue of processing of large number of applications received for fresh licences against the backdrop of inadequate spectrum to cater to overall demand." As Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, has pointed out, the job of the investigating agency is to deal with criminality — not give a "clean chit" to any one. It is no one's case that the Prime Minister is criminally culpable but what is clear is that he had foreknowledge that something was rotten in the state of telecom, evidenced by the fact that he had received several complaints, which he took up with Telecom Minister A. Raja but failed to do anything about. It is possible that the CBI's investigation has been constrained by the proximity of the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and three other major States and that the situation will change after May 13. But what lowers public confidence in the independence of the investigation into India's biggest ever corruption scandal is the fact that other than Mr. Raja, no politician or major corporate figure has been named in the main charge sheet.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

EDUCATING INDIA

India's performance over the past decade on one key development indicator, literacy, is not bad at first glance. Data from the provisional population tables of Census 2011 show the 'effective literacy rate' (the percentage of the population above seven years that is literate) has increased by 9.21 percentage points over the decade to reach 74.04 per cent. A clear positive is that literacy rates among women grew faster than those for men. This growth in bare literacy reflects the significant steps free India has been taking to create a more literate society. It stands out when one compares the relevant pre- and post-1947 data. In 1901, the crude literacy rate (the number of literates as a percentage of the total population) was an insignificant 5.35 per cent. In 1951, this was a still dismal 16.67 per cent. In contrast with a 11.32 percentage point increase between 1901 and 1951, the crude literacy rate rose by 48.22 points between 1951 and 2011, with the 1991-2001 decade registering the highest growth (11.67 percentage points).

But this encouraging portrait must be understood in context — and also in comparison with what other countries have achieved. Any set of data is only as good as its definitions. By the prevailing Census definition, anyone above the age of seven who can read and write with understanding in any language is considered 'literate'. The giveaway is that it is not necessary for the literate person to have received any formal education or to have attained any minimum educational standard. This is a huge conceptual weakness that calls for a radical course correction. The rhetorical question before policymakers is this: does the mere ability to read and write 'with understanding,' albeit no mean achievement, add real value to the self-realisation of the individual and to social development? Conceptually, therefore, rising India must earnestly set about realising the true meaning of literacy by aiming to provide its whole population — male as well as female — a nationally acceptable minimum level of educational qualification. This floor can be nothing other than school education for ten years. This means creating public opinion and developing public action that obliges policymakers to put in place effective measures to solve the problem of school dropouts, especially in the Hindi-speaking States. It also means no-nonsense implementation of the fundamental Right to Education and taking this beyond the primary stage.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

BANGLADESH: CRISIS OF THE GRAMEEN BANK

U.S. SUPPORT FOR MUHAMMAD YUNUS IS SO STRONG THAT DHAKA MAY FIND A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT TO PROTECT THE NOBEL LAUREATE'S IMAGE AND THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE GRAMEEN BANK.

HAROON HABIB

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus's three-decades-long journey with microfinance was laborious. But he most certainly did not encounter a crisis like the one he is facing now. It was only in December 2010 that the Bangladeshi — who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the Grameen Bank in 2006 — first came across an utterly odd situation when a Norwegian television documentary accused him of diverting huge aid funds to a business concern. The news was widely reported in the local media, particularly those sections which were not appreciative of his model of microfinance for poverty alleviation. Dr. Yunus denied this and other allegations in the media that he developed many businesses using the Grameen brand name. The Norwegian government, too, came out in his defence.

Following the controversy, the Bangladesh government in January formed a committee to review the Grameen Bank's activities. As the issue deepened, Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith argued that the 70-year-old Yunus should hand over the bank to others as, according to the country's banking rules, the retirement age for executives in private banks was 65. "He is a respected man … but you don't continue all the time in any institution," Mr. Muhith told media.

Mounting debate

Amid a mounting debate for and against Dr. Yunus, Bangladesh's central bank on March 2 ordered his removal as Managing Director on the ground that he had crossed the retirement age. Dr. Yunus defied the order but the High Court rejected his writ petitions challenging the legality of the central bank's action. His appeal, pending in the Supreme Court, is to be heard today.

The local media were sharply divided. Some sections supported him — accusing even the Prime Minister of disrespecting the "highly respected Nobel laureate" — and others said he flouted the laws and indulged in other malpractices.

Meanwhile, Dhaka is facing a strong reaction from the West, particularly the United States. The U.S. has called for a dialogue and compromise between Dr. Yunus and the Hasina government for an "honourable solution." "A compromise is possible and I am encouraging dialogue between the parties to find a mutually acceptable solution,'' Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, told a news conference. "If there is no compromise, it will have an effect on bilateral relations," said the senior official, who was in Dhaka recently to demonstrate Washington's strong backing for the Nobel Laureate.

The former World Bank president, James Wolfensohn, was also in Dhaka to back Dr. Yunus, who has strong admirers in the West. "Friends of Grameen," another powerful international backer, came out strongly against the Hasina government. Sa-dhan (the association of Community Development Finance Institutions consisting of over a hundred microfinance practitioners and experts of India) has also lent full support to Dr. Yunus.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton personally communicated her concern to the Bangladesh Prime Minister and talked to the embattled microcredit pioneer, who is a close friend of the Clinton family. Re-emphasising the U.S. concern, Mr. Blake said "we in the United States have been deeply troubled by the difficulties he is currently facing."

'A distraction and departure'

The official, while being appreciative of the Hasina government's achievements in many sectors, saw the removal of Dr. Yunus as "a distraction and unnecessary departure from all the great work being done." Mr. Blake's comments drew partial support as some government sympathisers claimed that the removal of Dr. Yunus should not have been the government's top priority since it had other important issues to be resolved.

To a pointed question whether the U.S. stand was not an "interference" in Bangladesh's internal affairs, Mr. Blake did not give a straight reply. He merely said: "Prof. Yunus and the Grameen Bank have a positive reputation in the U.S. and among many Congressmen, members of the Bangladesh congressional caucus, President Obama and Secretary Clinton. This is a matter of great interest in USA."

Whatever the criticism of the U.S. stand in Bangladesh's political and social circles, analysts believe that it is a clear disapproval of the government action against Dr. Yunus, although the Grameen Bank is neither an NGO nor private bank. It was founded in 1983 under an ordinance and the government still holds a 25 per cent share in it. Dr. Yunus had been the Managing Director ever since the bank was founded.

Dr. Yunus has mustered meaningful support at home too, making the ruling party more apprehensive. The main opposition, BNP, led by Khaleda Zia, is siding with him. However, a section of the media and Left-leaning parties dubbed Mr. Blake's statement a "naked interference" in the country's internal affairs. A section of the ruling Awami League leaders, who have long suspected that Dr. Yunus has a "hidden political agenda" and that he was extending "secret support" to past military rulers, has also criticised Mr. Blake.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told Parliament recently that the Opposition wanted the government to satisfy "the foreigners," compromising on the laws of the land. But "this will not happen," she asserted. However, Gawhar Rizvi, Prime Minister's adviser on foreign affairs, said the government was trying to find an amicable solution.

Despite the controversies, many analysts are of the opinion that the Hasina government may take the U.S. stand seriously but it will, for sure, find it difficult to come to an amicable solution since the Supreme Court verdict is awaited. The government's attitude was amply reflected by Mr. Muhith who, following Mr. Blake's strongly worded remarks, issued a statement asserting that the government was seeking an amicable solution and still looking for a mutual understanding to resolve the issue. But he insisted that Dr. Yunus initiate the dialogue. However, the mainstream Bengali dailies have reported that a committee was formed to broker a compromise, an indication of a shift in the government stand.

The fact is the present government is not very appreciative of Dr. Yunus' contribution to poverty alleviation through the microfinance model, although Sheikh Hasina in her first tenure attended the world microcredit summit at the United Nations where he got the world body's support. The Prime Minister has accused him of treating the Grameen Bank as his "personal property" and claimed that the group is "sucking the blood of the poor."

A host of studies have disagreed with the claim that microfinance is a panacea for poverty. Many have even called the model a "villain." But Dr. Yunus has the support of many important sections, particularly from the world's powerful lobbies. In any case, the present crisis is not over the microfinance model but with his becoming the life-long Managing Director of a bank that is allegedly flouting the law.

But the West's support to him is so loud that, it appears, even if the final court verdict goes against him, a negotiated settlement may be found so that the Nobel Laureate's image and his contribution to the institution are well protected, and the independence and smooth functioning of the Grameen Bank remains undisturbed.

But for an out-of-court compromise, Dr. Yunus will have to withdraw his case and start a dialogue with the government. If the government decides to let him continue as Managing Director, the law will have to be amended.If, on the other hand, an "amicable solution" is brokered for his "honourable exit," many observers are of the opinion the Grameen Bank chief may not get back his previous position. With Dr. Yunus indicating that he is ready to sit with the Prime Minister to find a solution, some of his supporters have already suggested a way out — making him chairman with necessary powers. It appears that Dr. Yunus has successfully challenged the political authority by mobilising powerful lobbies in his favour. Only an open-minded negotiation can bring a solution.

(The writer, based in Dhaka, is an author and senior journalist. E-mail: hh1971@gmail.com)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

RETHINKING THE KABUL ENGAGEMENT

THE AFGHAN LANDSCAPE IS CHANGING AND INDIA MUST RECOGNISE THE NEED FOR A TRILATERAL TALK THAT INCLUDES PAKISTAN, AND REVISIT ITS STAND ON TALKS WITH THE TALIBAN.

SUHASINI HAIDAR

Speaking to a gathering of intelligence officials in New Delhi recently, India's Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Satinder Lambah revealed a small but startling fact about his trip to the famous Bonn Conference in December 2001 to discuss a post-Taliban Afghanistan. The Indian delegation reached the German government's official Hotel Petersberg to find that India was of so little importance that there was not even any booking for it.

While India certainly got a foot in the door in the decade that followed — including designated hotel rooms during many conferences on the future of Afghanistan — it has so far been accorded only a ring-side seat. At the London conference in 2010, for example, the Indian delegation was blind-sided when the British hosts brought up talks with the Taliban leadership. At the next conference in Istanbul, India was purposely cut off altogether — as U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by the WikiLeaks reveal — at the behest of Pakistan.

Changed perspective

However, 2010 was a year of key developments in the great Afghan game, many of which swung in India's favour; events New Delhi would do well to recognise, and reconsider some of its stated positions on how peace can be built in this geographically and historically critical South Asian country.

Last year saw the highest number of casualties in Afghanistan in the decade since 9/11 — 709 coalition soldiers were killed, while civilian deaths rose 20 per cent past 2,500. The critical change compared to the previous years was that three-fourths of the civilian casualties were caused by Taliban strikes. Deaths in action by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan National Army (ANA) dropped from 30 per cent to 12 per cent.

The Taliban's terror offensive in the cities is seen as a desperate reaction to losses it has suffered on the frontlines — from Helmand to Kandahar — including three of its most senior Marja commanders in an encounter in Quetta this February. A suicide blast at a Jalalabad bank, an attack on spectators at a game of Buzkashi in Faryab and another on crowds in Kunduz are examples of attacks on civilians this year that killed more than 120 people.

What this proves is that sections of the Taliban are beginning to feel the pressure of the ISAF and the newly trained ANA and police forces. "The critical element," says Antonio Giustozzi, author and editor of three books on the Taliban, "is to gauge the optimal time to talk to the Taliban, or at least one part of it. They must feel the heat to want to talk, but still have enough command and control of their men to effect a ceasefire."

The talks proposed last year in London have now taken a new form. To begin with, the Hamid Karzai government seems to have given up on talking to the hardliners — Mullah Omar, the Haqqani group and others reportedly under ISI protection. During his visit to the U.K. this year — first to any western country since his stint at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre — the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Zaeff, went one step further, asserting that the militia group leaders now in Pakistan were unlikely to return to Afghanistan. A paper by two scholars close to Mr. Zaeff also makes the case that the Taliban's closeness to the al-Qaeda is at an ebb, with only an estimated 50-60 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan today, albeit many more have taken shelter just across the Durand Line. Finally, there are the growing differences between the Pakistan-controlled Taliban and the newer Afghan Taliban commanders. Many are pointing to the two unsuccessful assassination attempts on JuI leader Maulana Fazlur Rahman as indicators of deepening intra- jihadi schisms.

Talks, a reality

The rift between Pakistan and parts of the Afghan Taliban notwithstanding, India needs to recognise that talks with the militant outfit will happen, sooner or later. In fact, some leaders who are ready to give up the power of the bullet for the ballot are already being engaged by the U.S., the U.K. and the Afghan government. By giving up its blanket opposition to talks with the Taliban, India may be able to nudge a greater role for itself in who will ultimately be talked to.

Meanwhile, the role of the U.S. itself has changed in the past year. After much back and forth, Washington seems to have reconciled itself to an indefinite haul in Afghanistan, and is now contemplating military bases in the country. Its relationship with Islamabad has taken several hard blows — from the case of the U.S. bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad to Pakistani anger against U.S. drone attacks, which erupted with mobs torching dozens of NATO trucks and shutting down the Af-Pak border, and the Raymond Davis case. Pakistan's ties with Afghanistan, too, have fared badly in the past year; far from President Karzai's statement last March, likening the two to conjoined twins, Kabul is back to accusing its "twin" of fratricide.

In contrast, New Delhi, partly by design and partly by chance, has an easier relationship with both Kabul and Washington at present. An India-Pakistan-Afghanistan trialogue this year to try and dispel some of the suspicions Pakistan has over India's ambitions in Afghanistan may be the way forward. This is particularly important as the bulk of India's projects in Afghanistan are in the Pushtun areas, a fact which fuels Pakistan's concerns. It seems hard to conceive of moving forward on others without, in some part, seeking to assuage those concerns.

In any case, most Indian infrastructural projects like the Zaranj-Delaram Highway and the Parliament building will be completed by 2011-2012 and, so far, New Delhi has not committed itself to any similar large project in rebuilding Afghanistan for security and other reasons. Also, India is yet to explore ways of using the Pakistan-Afghanistan transit trade agreement signed in 2010 to its own advantage, as well as initiate projects in agricultural storage, climate change management and media exchanges, given Bollywood's large following in Afghanistan. The next big push may come from mining contracts, with about 15 Indian companies lining up to bid for iron ore exploration in Hajigak.

With its foot in the door at the United Nations Security Council this year and with ambitions of a place at the high table, for India, surely the first step to becoming a world power is to set its position at the regional high table. In Afghanistan, it is no longer enough to wait tentatively by the door as a friendly but unobtrusive neighbour but India must take a step inside and be counted as a family member.

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THE HINDU

INDIA'S TRYST WITH LDCS: IS IT WORKING?

ENGAGING THE LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES TRANSCENDS OUR CAMPAIGN FOR A PERMANENT SEAT AT THE U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL; IT TOUCHES THE VERY CORE OF OUR NATIONAL CONVICTIONS.

RAJIV BHATIA

If South Block mandarins are looking for reasons why their initiative to host the historic India-Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Ministerial Conference received only limited notice in the country, they need not look far. Looking within will do; an exercise not just they but we, as a nation, should undertake with candour.

A common thread running through our ancient philosophy and the teachings of the Father of the Nation is the advice to care for the poor, the weaker section of our community. Doing so is both good principle and prudent policy. This needs to be practised at the local, national and even international levels, given our natural ambition to be a Great Power. The government's decision to host the first-ever conference where all 48 LDCs were represented is laudable, but a critical assessment is essential for appreciating whether we are doing the right thing, in a right manner, at a right time, and whether we will fulfill our commitments. These questions are unavoidable because the conference has been seen by many as merely India's endeavour to advance its case for permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council and also because scepticism prevails regarding our capability to deliver.

A primer

The U.N. created a new category of its member states — LDCs —in 1971. There were 25 of them at that time. Forty years later, the number has shot up to 48, a clear indicator that whatever the U.N. and the international community have been doing to reduce poverty, disease, illiteracy and low productive capacity of its weaker section, has proved to be ineffective. Of these 48 countries 33 are in Africa, 14 in the Asia-Pacific region and one in Central America. Five of our neighbours — Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar — are LDCs. Only three LDCs, namely Botswana, Cape Verde and Maldives, have managed to graduate out of this unenviable category. The LDCs contribute only one per cent to global trade, despite their 12 per cent share of world population.

The U.N. holds a major conference once a decade to assess the state of development of the LDCs. In the backdrop of previous conferences — Paris (1981), Paris (1991), and Brussels (2001) — the challenge for the conference in Istanbul, to be held shortly, is to go back to the design board and suggest how the ambitious goal to halve the number of LDCs can be achieved by 2020.

Delhi Declaration

The Delhi conference was a preparatory event for the forthcoming Istanbul conference. India has been assisting the LDCs on a broad front for long, even if it took us 63 years (after our Independence) to host a conference exclusively devoted to the LDCs. The conference was inaugurated by External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna. At a separate meeting with the leaders of delegations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated India's commitment to development of the LDCs, underlining the high importance it attached to South-South cooperation.

The conference was prepared and managed quite well. This was reflected in the Delhi Declaration, the outcome document notable for its refreshing brevity, unusual clarity of thought and a combination of realism and optimism. It highlighted the conference's theme on 'Harnessing the Positive Contribution of South-South Cooperation for Development of Least Developed Countries.' Calling upon the international community to express "its highest commitment" for supporting the Istanbul conference, it stressed that the world needs to accord "its highest priority to the cause of LDCs" for ensuring peace, security and prosperity.

Mr. Krishna quoted India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who had observed so aptly: "Peace is said to be indivisible, so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated segments."

The Delhi Declaration listed the LDCs' demands and suggestions pertaining to the Doha Round, food security, climate change, and co-relation between South-South cooperation and North-South cooperation along the expected lines.

In an exceptionally important paragraph, the declaration indicated that the LDCs want the world to adopt "a comprehensive approach" for creating an effective solution to the development challenges faced by them. Obviously they need more financial resources, but they expect much more of other kinds of assistance too, which would augment their "productive capacity, institutional strength and policy space to lead their respective national development processes."

India's approach

India's policy approach is welcomed by the LDCs. They are, however, clamouring now for a 'New International Support Architecture' — NISA. Our economic and foreign affairs experts should reflect on this and come up with fresh inputs for government's consideration.

Taking a macro view of what India, as a key development partner, has done and has promised to deliver further, one could discern several important components of cooperation: duty free and quota free treatment to imports from the LDCs, expanded capacity building and technical cooperation under the ITEC programme, cumulative value of previous loans to the LDCs amounting to $4.3 billion, additional LOCs of $500 million for next five years, and a special fund of $5 million for follow-up actions in regard to the Istanbul conference. Total investment by Indian public and private sector companies in the LDCs now stands at $35 billion. India's annual imports from the LDCs are valued at $10 billion at present.

At the pre-conference briefing, Hardeep Puri, India's Permanent Representative to the U.N., pointed out that the LDCs, together with other small island states and land-locked countries, account for about 100 out of 192 members-states of the U.N. Clearly they represent a very important constituency. Dilip Sinha, Additional Secretary in MEA, emphasised that the development experience of some of the "emerging economies" such as India is of "greater relevance" to the LDCs.

Conclusion

India has been on the right track, leading from the front in developing an extensive partnership with the LDCs. The Delhi conference has imparted a fresh momentum, creating hope that the LDCs would receive higher attention in future by the Indian authorities. While our diplomats may have reasons to be reticent, there is little harm in acknowledging that assisting the LDCs more will help the campaign for a permanent seat at the high table. But our policy on the LDCs transcends this campaign; it touches the very core of our national convictions.

Critics would, however, suggest that India should be more generous, earnest and efficient in ensuring timely fulfillment of its commitments. For this purpose, the MEA needs a major reform, i.e. the establishment of a separate Development Agency as its own capacity to implement new commitments seems to be getting stretched to outer limits. Further, India Inc, and not the government, is now the engine of economic growth; hence the former will have to be persuaded to become more pro-active in respect of investing in the LDCs.

Two additional points may be made in the end. Firstly, if the MEA wanted greater media and political attention to the conference, it should have requested the President or the Vice-President to inaugurate it. Secondly, speechwriters of the External Affairs Minister need to take fresh lessons in diplomatic history. Not just four — Nehru, Indira, Rajiv and the present incumbent — but all our Prime Ministers have consistently followed the policy of close partnership with developing countries. Assisting the LDCs enjoys not selective political but broad national consensus. This fact should be projected widely.

(A former diplomat, the author served as Ambassador to Myanmar and High Commissioner to Lesotho, both countries being LDCs.)

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THE HINDU

EGYPT-TUNISIA FOOTBALL MATCH ENDS AS BATTLE

JACK SHENKER

It was trailed as a sporting celebration of freedom over tyranny: clubs from north Africa's two revolutionary nations going head to head on the football pitch, just weeks after mass uprisings toppled dictators in both countries.

It ended with a thousand-strong pitch invasion, unprecedented riots and Army intervention. Egypt's new Prime Minister has offered a formal apology to the Tunisian people after an African champions league tie played in Cairo on Saturday descended into chaos, on live television.

The match — between Egyptian team Zamalek and Tunisian outfit Club Africain — kicked off in a festive atmosphere. But as the game entered stoppage time with Zamalek trailing 5-4 on aggregate and facing elimination from the competition, supporters of the home side began pouring on to the pitch in droves, incensed at having a goal ruled offside.

In scenes later described by the Egyptian Interior Minister as an "act of thuggery", fans attacked the referee, stripped Tunisian players of their kit and dismantled goalposts. Nine people were injured and an unspecified number were arrested.

The violence came just days after Egypt's football calendar restarted after the anti-government protests which swept the country. The ruling military council has promised to return stability to the Arab world's most populous nation, but in the aftermath of Saturday's drama soccer chiefs believe the domestic league may now be halted indefinitely.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

 

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

2G CASE: CBI TO BE UNDER CLOSE WATCH

The first chargesheet in the 2G spectrum allocation case against former communications minister A. Raja and eight others was filed last Saturday, 60 days after Mr Raja had been taken into custody and interrogated at the pushing of the Supreme Court. The Central Bureau of Investigation, to which the case has been entrusted, just managed to beat the deadline. If the country's premier investigating agency had taken even a day longer in filing the first chargesheet, Mr Raja would have had to be released on bail.

That is apt to have sent a message of the government being lackadaisical about dealing with what is arguably the worst case of corruption in a government department since Independence. In the event it would have damaged the reputation of the Manmohan Singh government even further by leaving the impression that it was not serious about seeking to punish the guilty in spite of monitoring by the country's highest court. There is another aspect to the matter. Had a delay occurred, many might have concluded that the government was going out of its way to postpone the inevitable until voting had taken place for the Assembly election in Tamil Nadu so that the Congress' partner, the ruling DMK, may escape at least some of the prejudicial outcome of Mr Raja's actions that are under investigation.

Other than Mr Raja, the chargesheet takes in eight others, including two officials deemed to be close to the former minister in running the alleged racket of allocating 2G spectrum in return for huge monetary favours. Besides, a clutch of real estate companies that were alleged to be in cahoots with a well-known industrial group to deprive the exchequer of thousands of crores of rupees have been brought into the net through the chargesheet. It is evident that the muck that will be raked involves very influential corporate personalities and their accomplices. This essentially means that every effort is likely to be made by those thought to be guilty to use top legal brains to browbeat the system. Thus, the CBI is required to exercise considerable vigilance in dealing with this case. This can effectively happen only if the investigators build a case that is solid. They are wont to do the opposite so that crooks, especially those with political backing, get away. Therefore, the CBI's political masters will be under public scrutiny to ensure that the 2G case is not scuttled for want of diligence and application. The chargesheet that has been filed does not embrace Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi. Some of the information on the 2G affair, which is in the public domain, has made some uneasy that Ms Kanimozhi may have been a beneficiary in the 2G case through Mr Raja. The young DMK leader has challenged the aspersion cast on her and has publicly stated she would stand up and fight to clear her name. It is just possible that she is being unfairly targeted by her political opponents. But that does not mean that the CBI must not strain every nerve to look at any information pertaining to her possible involvement. The agency would be earning minus points if it gave the impression of not acting in right earnest unless the Supreme Court gave it a piece of its mind.

Several speculative figures had been suggested as to the extent of loss to the national exchequer on account of the 2G scandal. The highest of these was `1,76,000 crores. Discrepancies are fundamentally on account of the methodology adopted. The first CBI chargesheet suggests a figure of around `30,000 crores. This is no mean sum, of course. While examining the material furnished by the CBI, the Supreme Court will need to pay attention to this matter as well.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

SAIL AT YOUR OWN PERIL

SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

Paying more for petrol? Blame part of it on Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea, whose attacks on commercial shipping, often close to the western seaboard of India, have drastically escalated maritime risk insurance rates for ships traversing the region. In 2010, 445 such attacks were reported. From 2009, the attacks have increased by 10 per cent, as a result of which the Joint War Risks Committee of Lloyds, London, expanded the boundaries of their "risk exclusion zone" for insurance against piracy, from Longitude 065 degrees East to 078 degrees East.

The original danger area has increased from the immediate vicinity of the Somalian littoral to an enormous sea zone. It covers almost the entire north-western Indian Ocean, stretching north and northeast from the Horn of Africa into the Red Sea and the coast of Oman. More than 1,200 nautical miles east, it almost touches the west coast of India, engulfing the Indian territory of the Lakshadweep Islands.

The zone also stretches south and east covering the East African littorals in Kenya and Tanzania and the Mozambique channel to almost within a hailing distance of Madagascar. Shipping or all types of sailing in this vast exclusion zone have to pay increased risk insurance premia, ranging from $200,000 per month for Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC), transporting crude oil to $50,000 per month for bulk carriers with commodity cargoes and further down the scale depending on the size and cargo of vessels. These are partially reflected in the enhanced prices motorists have to pay at petrol pumps in Indian cities.

In tactics distinctly reminiscent of German U-Boat "wolf packs" operating in distant seas during the earlier stages of World War II, Somali pirates based in Somalia and Puntland are operating at greater ranges into the Indian Ocean in small motorised attack craft. This is supported by larger hijacked vessels as "depot" ships carrying administrative support like food, fuel, weapons and ammunition. The latter have even acquired a new category as "LPSV", a bizarre new acronym for Large Pirate Support Vessels.

Activities of Somali pirates are of urgent concern to India because the Lloyds Risk Exclusion Zone sits squarely astride India's principal maritime economic routes converging onto the focal points of Mumbai, Goa and Cochin on the Konkan and Malabar coasts. It also boosts the landed costs of all types of cargo, particularly crude oil for India's numerous refineries.

In addition, Indian seafarers, who provide substantive components of merchant crews across the globe are vulnerable targets for capture and ransom. There are an estimated 30,000-50,000 Indian seafarers serving on foreign flagged merchant vessels all over the world. All figures are basically educated guesswork, even though INDoS (the Indian National Database of Seafarers) provides the official register of Indian seafarers. But even this does not reflect the true figures accurately, because it comprises the details of only those merchant seamen who have received their certificates of professional competency from government sanctioned institutions in India. Not all Indian seafarers have registered themselves in INDoS, or trained in institutes approved in India. Many sail at their own peril, more or less as indentured labour on unsafe rust bucket vessels operated by unscrupulous shipowners outside the reach of Indian law. The perils from predatory pirate gangs only add to the many natural and occupational hazards that already exist in the profession.

According to various sources, there are an estimated 650-850 seafarers of various nationalities held as hostages for ransom by these maritime highwaymen, along with approximately 53 merchant vessels of various types. This also includes tankers transporting West Asian crude oil to refineries in India and elsewhere. Of these, 79 seamen are Indian. This is an emotive issue. It has already seen public demonstrations on the streets of New Delhi by the families of 11 Indian crew members from the hijacked Egyptian flag — MV Suez — whom the pirates had threatened to kill if their ransom demands were not met within a specified deadline. Security of Indian sailors in international waters is undoubtedly a complex issue, with several complicated factors in respect of jurisdiction as well as responsibility for crew safety. This is typically exemplified in the case of the hijacked MV Suez itself — a 17,300 ton ship owned by the Egyptian Red Sea Navigation Company based at Sharm el-Sheikh, sailing under a Panamanian flag of convenience, with a multi-nationality crew of 23, which included 11 Indians.

There are also disturbing reports of linkages between pirates and Somali jihadis of As Sahab with further affiliations with Al Qaeda and beyond to Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, ultimately reaching back to the dark eminences of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. The Government of India must take a long-term strategic overview of the threat from expanding activities of Somali pirates. If unchecked, this will have serious potential to assume the dimensions of a pirate empire in the Indian Ocean on the lines of the Barbary States of the 17th and 18th centuries in the Mediterranean, threatening the security and even perhaps the existence of small island nations of the Indian Ocean, like the Maldives, Seychelles, Comoros, Mauritius, Reunion and even Madagascar. For the present, a "Limburg" type suicide bombing or an "Achille Lauro" type hijacking and passenger hostage situation in the Indian Ocean involving Indian shipping or personnel is certainly not unthinkable.
The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard have launched Operation Island Watch for anti-piracy and anti-maritime infiltration operations along the Indian seaboard, aimed at protecting merchant vessels and checking piracy along the Indian coastline and in the vicinity of Indian territorial waters. The Navy's operations have undoubtedly been effective, but the roots of Somali piracy naturally lie on shore in Somalia. It is the pirate base area where the situation is wildly confusing, with intense clan fighting amongst dozens of tribal factions and few vestiges of any central authority to control the situation. The African Union has intervened militarily to support a failing elected provisional government, while neighbouring countries of Ethiopia and Kenya, which face a more direct threat, have also intervened periodically. India should examine the option of cooperation ashore with these African countries to safeguard its domestic waters.

Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

LESSONS FROM JAPAN

ARUN KUMAR SINGH

The earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, in northern Japan killed over 20,000 people and a few thousand may suffer from slow radiation poisoning over the next few decades. Global worries about radioactive material entering the human food chain are real as winds and ocean currents spread the radioactive waste.
On April 3, newspapers reported the following about Fukushima reactors: An eight-inch crack was discovered in the maintenance pit with radioactive seawater flowing into the sea.

The air above this pit showed a radiation level of 1,000 milliseverts per hour (the maximum permissible radiation dose is 20 milliseverts per year). Highly radioactive water was discovered in a steam turbine generator compartment.

The basic reason for Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster was the delay in utilising seawater cooling in four operational reactors after the main and standby cooling systems failed.

Once the Fukushima reactors were shut down due to the earthquake, it required a few weeks' cooling (using standby generators) to remove the "decay heat" of reactor fuel "fission byproducts". Unfortunately, 15 minutes later the tsunami came and shut down the standby diesel generators and cooling was done for the next eight hours using batteries and boric acid to absorb neutrons. Once the batteries were exhausted there was a very small time window in which seawater cooling should have been used even though seawater would have corroded and permanently "written off" the reactors. Apparently it was decided to try and save the reactors for future use by delaying seawater cooling, resulting in the reactor fuel meltdown.
Since there are numerous lessons for India, which hopes to import a couple of dozen light water reactors (LWRs), let me first explain that LWRs are of two types: the pressurised water reactor (PWR), which is used in both civil nuclear power plants and nuclear submarines, and the boiling water reactor (BWR) of the type that is in the news in Fukushima.

Both the PWR and BWR use uranium oxide (UO2) as fuel and this fuel heats up water in a "closed loop" to drive a steam generator to produce electricity. To ensure a higher boiling point of water (about 250ºC), the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) which houses the fuel and the pure demineralised water (know as the "first loop") is kept at high pressure to ensure a higher boiling point of water for greater heat transfer. The RPV is similar to a pressure cooker where excess pressure can be vented out by a safety valve.

Unlike the PWR (where the "first loop" is kept isolated from the steam turbine generators), the simpler BWR allows the radioactive steam from the reactor core to go directly to the steam turbine generators. But this requires special precautions to be taken in the steam turbine generator compartments of the nuclear plant due to the radioactive steam. This explains the April 2 discovery of radioactive water in the turbine compartment of a reactor.
The UO2 fuel has a melting point of about 3,000ºC. These UO2 pellets are put in sealed Zircaloy tubes (which have a melting point of 2,200ºC, and these tubes form the "fuel core". This core is stored inside a RPV, which can withstand high temperatures and the very high pressures of the boiling water, which is converted to steam, which then drives the steam turbines to produce electricity. This "closed loop" steam is subsequently "externally cooled" by seawater in a seawater cooled "condenser" that converts the steam into water and the pure water is then pumped back into the RPV to cool the core and become steam again in the closed cycle. If the fuel in the reactor core is not constantly cooled by water the Zircaloy tubes can melt in about 45 minutes, followed soon thereafter by the UO2 fuel, resulting in a "core meltdown". This nightmare scenario is known as LOCA (loss of cooling accident).

Should the reactor core "melt down" due to LOCA, then the fuel is prevented from coming into contact with the atmosphere by a "containment vessel". The explosions one saw on TV at the Japanese nuclear plants were basically hydrogen explosions outside the containment vessel, of steam released from the RPV (at high temperatures steam breaks up into hydrogen and oxygen). With the earthquake of March 11, the reactors were immediately shut. However, each reactor core had "fission byproducts", which require water cooling for a few weeks to reduce decay heat. As explained earlier, this cooling failed and the seawater cooling was delayed, leading to LOCA and reactor fuel meltdown.

The radiation level spikes, followed by the discovery of plutonium (plutonium 239 has a half life of 24,400 years) in the soil on March 29, 2011, indicate a "containment vessel leak" in at least one reactor. The decision of March 30 to decommission four of the six Fukushima reactors was inevitable. Also, the reactors, apart from UO2 fuel, have a few fission byproducts with long "half lives", eg. Cesium 137 is 30 years, Strontiun 90 is 29 years. Hence, apart from entombing the four reactors in sand, lead and concrete, the Fukushima region will need careful monitoring for a long time.

Nuclear power is important for India but a transparent safety audit needs to be done of our existing (and future) nuclear plants, site locations, the tsunami warning system, the national disaster management system and the nuclear emergency response teams. Also, our Nuclear Liabilities Bill must not be diluted, indeed, it needs to be made even more stringent. Safe renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydropower too require a fresh relook.

Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam

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DNA

OPINION

SALUTE THE MEN BEHIND WORLD CUP VICTORY

N RAGHURAMAN

 

The merriment over Saturday's cracker of a cricket World Cup final has drenched the entire country, and why not. It's been the only silver streak in an unending rain of thunderous scams and woes for the common man. It's Tuesday and, for host Mumbai, it's still an extended dream-Saturday. The mirth following the victory of Team India is on.

 

Just as I too raise a toast to the Indian team and salute the gusto of Tendulkar, Dhoni and the rest, I might as well ask you to raise your hands in applause for the people behind the scenes who worked relentlessly to make this mega event worth the spectacle.

 

For once, the state administration was at its best. With noises that select forces of destruction were planning something nasty at Wankhede, no stone was left unturned to ensure safety. More than 5,000 policemen took charge of Mumbai city for more than a week. Even before the semi-final between Pakistan and India at Mohali, the best of police officers from various divisions of the security forces were short-listed and summoned to the megalopolis.

 

They worked almost 20 hours a day to see that no breach of security was perpetrated. Nobody was actually bothered about their comfort. All eyes were on whether they could thwart all exigencies. They did, proving that with requisite will, nothing is unattainable.

 

The navy and coast guard, too, were on high alert, as the sea route offers easy access for terrorists. With the scars of 26/11 yet to heal, the guards had a tough task on hand. Patrolling the sea by night is verily a difficult task. A miss on their part could have been catastrophic. Here, too, the efforts succeeded. The security umbrella was impenetrable, hats off to all these intrepid sailors.

 

Alongside the security chinks being plugged, ambulances, nurses, and doctors from JJ Hospital stood in attention to meet emergencies. The hospital staff tasted food served to the players and everyone was wide awake for almost three consecutive days. Add to the zest those several ground staff who sat on the grass waiting with plastic covers to cover the pitch in case it rained, and those many who worked without wiping their brow for more than a week to give the stadium an impeccable look.

 

Known for uncontrollable traffic, Mumbai's roads were unusually well-controlled by the traffic police, while the fire brigade was on high alert. The air traffic control division at the airport monitored the airspace over the stadium and the central business district, which was turned into a no-flying zone, while Naval Headquarters in Mumbai was in an overdrive. The stadium had trained people who knew how to clear the crowds in the wake of a stampede. Nothing was left unattended to invoke fear.

 

Yes, at the end of the day, you have the Mumbaikars to thank for. From politicians to actors down to the last person, the audience was an epitome of grace. If Tendulkar, Dhoni and Gambhir got an overwhelming applause, Sri Lanka's Jayawardene and Lasith Malinga also got a standing ovation for their spectacular performances. That's one lesson Mumbai teaches the world: a worthy opponent deserves respect, not contempt. Rejoice Mumbaikars. Let this proud moment be an elixir to savour. Forever!

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PULLING UP PDC

 

Energy deficit is a major problem dogging almost all developing countries including India. Coal and gas are the main sources for generating electric power in the country. But in the case of our state, the main source is water, of which we have no dearth. Yet despite that, our state is one with a big deficit of electric power. This is despite the fact that we do not have large industries in the state that need regular electric power supply. By and large, our consumption is mostly for domestic purposes. But still we are deficit in that requirement. Kashmir and Ladakh are both cold regions while Jammu region mostly falls within the hot plains. It is inconceivable that life can be smooth and output will be satisfactory in absence of adequate electric power. Power Development Corporation is the main organization responsible for providing electric power in the state. According to a recent report of the CAG focusing on the functioning and output of this organization, it has found a shortfall of 2811.22 million units in the design energy and the actual electricity generation from nineteen functional hydro electric power generating units in the entire state. Actually the shortfall has been carried forward since 2005 till date according to the CAG report. "Major reasons for huge shortfall were delay in decision making at various levels of the management for timely repairs/ restoration of the damages to the machinery, components and feeding canals of various power houses, low discharge of water, feeding line faults and frequent breakdown of power houses", the report said. The report has pinpointed some cases to show that there has been slackness on the part of authorities in bringing projects to completion within the stipulated time, in updating maintenance process of damaged and repairable machines and units and many more discrepancies which ought not to have been allowed to creep in.


The report has not to be taken something like exclusive censure of the Power Development Corporation. Its merit lies in identifying the bottlenecks in the entire process of power generating in the state. Power Development Corporation needs a shake up to understand its responsibilities. It is exposed to public gaze when crowds come out on streets to demonstrate against power cuts, low voltage supplies, or demands for supply of power to remote villages and localities. We wish the day dawns when people of the state no more need to waste their precious time in bringing out protest rallies against power cuts especially in harsh winters or burning summers. People are actively responding to modern mechanical life style and they have become electric gadgets savvy. As such they cannot think of life without uninterrupted supply of electricity. Entire electric department needs to be overhauled and made responsive to the needs of the people.


While we sensitize concerned authorities to their duty of keeping the machinery well maintained and oiled and give no cause to the general public for complaints in the case of regular supply of electric power, a note of caution to the consumers needs to be sounded. The department has installed electronic meters and pilferage has been arrested to considerable extent. But the vast rural areas still remain without electronic meters and control system with the result that electric revenues from rural areas dwindle. Electronic meters need to be installed everywhere and without delay. It has the double benefit of preventing the misuse or waste of energy, and increasing the revenue of the department. Along with that, efficiency in repairing the damages like dysfunctional transformers, faulty supply lines and connections, speeding up applications for new connections, etc. are also to be taken care of. The CAG report has pointedly said about half-hearted decisions taken by authorities in various aspects of improving power supply or generating more power or purchase of transformers. The department will take care of these observations but the general public assesses the department by the simple test of regular supply of power with satisfactory voltage.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

HEART AS A WEAPON

 

Maligning the army and security forces has been one of the major weapons used by those who instigated and abetted armed insurgency in Kashmir. Maligning campaign intensified when some political parties engaged in mutual rivalry, found it easy to win favour with the separatists by indirectly supporting the anti-army canard. Indian army is one of the world's most disciplined army, which it has proved at a number of times. Even in a disturbed place like Kashmir, army has been doing a number of social activities for the good of general public. Its para medical units have been extending field medical aid to the needy patients in far off areas, which have far less accessibility; running schools in some backward villages, helping supply of drinking water, promoting bharat darshan visits of school going children, interacting with civil society members and elders, organizing exhibitions, tournaments, hiking teams and socializing with civilians on festivities and melas. Our army is an amalgam of soldiers of all faiths and languages. It is a wonderful mosaic and represents India in all of its cultural facets. This is what 15 Corps Commander, Lt. General Hasnain told at a recent press briefing in North Kashmir. He was very right in saying that the army was using heart as a weapon meaning that the army was trying to win the hearts of people. It has to be reminded that ever since 1947 extremely cordial relations existed between the army and the civilian population in Kashmir. There was always and even today as well a brisk intercourse between the two. Hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris earn their bread through army connection like contractors, labourers, porters, suppliers of mutton, poultry, eggs, vegetables, fruit, firewood, timber, building material etc. Army flushed out enormous funds under these heads of expenditure and all the money went to the pockets of the local people. Villagers far and wide in the valley fully remember the rescue works undertaken by the army jawans during floods, fire, cloud bursts and other natural calamities. Herdsmen and shepherds tending cattle on upper reaches remember how army veterinary jawans helped them save their herds and flocks from disease and fatal disabilities. And above all, people in the valley cannot forget the sacrifices of precious lives which army jawans made in protecting their life property and honour. All this cannot go down the drain just because some selfish and short sighted politicians are obsessed with their self-aggrandizement which they think would come their way by painting the army in black colour.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

POLITICS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

BY PALLAB BHATTACHARYA

 

From Copenhangen in December 2009 to Cancun in December 2010 and the road ahead- it was a time to look back and look forward when Environment Ministers of Brazil, South Africa, India and China had met in New Delhi on February 25 and 26 discussing a globally acceptable agreement to tackle the threats posed by climate change.


In exchanging views on the outcome of the Cancun ministerial conference in December last year and the approach to be taken to the future work in the run-up to the next climate summit in Durban in November-December this year, the meeting discussed the roads travelled so far from the previous summit in the Danish capital and the challenges that lie ahead.


In the process, the BASIC countries tried reclaim the leadership role they had lost in Copenhagen by signing an agreement by breaking ranks with other members of G-77 developing countries and small island nations.
The most important outcome of the Delhi meeting was that it brought back the focus on the contentious issue of extension of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires next year and which stipulates that the industrialized countries responsible for major part of global warming would reduce their emission of greenhouse gas to a particular level.


This was the issue that was kept out of the meeting in Cancun in order to save the climate change treaty talks from total collapse after the Copenhagen fiasco.


The meeting noted that while there were several positive elements in the outcome of Cancun meeting and that it was step forward in global action on climate change and provided the space to address some of the outstanding issues, the Cancun Agreements were not a substitute for the roadmap provided at the meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007. In fact, the Delhi meeting of BASIC ministers agreed that the Bali Road Map should, in fact, ''continue to be the template for future work of the parties''. The message is clearly that Cancun is not the end of the road for climate change negotiations- as all fundamental issues have remained unresolved- and the future agreements on the issue need to be anchored in the overall framework of the Bali Action Plan that sets out the essential elements of a comprehensive climate change accord and is viewed by majority of the countries as the bottomline in the negotiations.


The Delhi meeting agreed that the extension of the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 requiring developed countries to continue undertake definite greenhouse gas emission cuts as per target is critical to achieving the global goal of ambitious emissions reduction and global peaking of emissions and a decision on this should be taken at the Durban summit to ensure that there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods.


This reignites an old contentious issue as some of the countries like Japan, Russia and Australia have already rejected extension of Kyoto Protocol, raising grave doubts about the future of the world's only legally binding international agreement to check global warming.


The meeting also stressed that all countries should now also resume discussing issues like equity, intellectual property rights and trade, which are very important for developing countries but were not adequately addressed in the Cancun Agreements.


Another key subject on which the Delhi meeting focused was the one relating to Fast Track Finance of 30 billion dollars the developed countries had promised at Copenhagen to the poorest countries over the next three years to help combat climate change.


Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh pointed out that even after 14 months of the Copenhagen Accord, there is hardly any significant disbursement of funds to these countries. Ramesh, along with his South African counterpart Bomo Edith Edna Molewa, made it clear that unless the poorest countries, most vulnerable to climate change effects, begin to see money flowing, the atmosphere at the Durban summit ''would continue is be clouded by doubts and suspicion''. This is a veiled warning that a climate change accord in Durban would be elusive if the issues confornting the poorest countries are not addressed.
The BASIC countries' espousal of the cause of the poorest countries was also reflected in the fact that representatives of three other countries Argentina, Algeria and Maldives, which represent important regional groups within the G-77 in climate change negotiations, were invited to the Delhi meeting.
The Maldives is a member of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Algeria represents the developing countries in Africa, while Argentina is the current Chair of the Group of 77.


What the Delhi meeting of Environment Ministers has achieved most is to highlight how the way forward is full difficulties. All basic issues remained unsolved, there is no agreement as yet whether the world is going for a new climate change treaty or an amendment in the Kyoto Protocol nor is there any clarity how the Green Climate Fund will attract the money- 100 billion dollars per year by 2020- given the economic slowdown in Western countries and Euro Zone debt crisis triggering a cash crunch.


The extension of the Kyoto Protocol is under discussion for half a decade now. Can the United States be persuaded to give up or dilute its stand that it will not be bound any internationally agreed and legally-binding emission cut agreement? Can the world go ahead without the US ?


Will the Obama administration have the will to agree to concrete action against climate change because that will call for tweaking the economic growth ahead of fresh American Presidential elections next year and entail a


So, will the politics change the climate or climate change alter the politics. One has to wait and see. (PTI)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CONSTRAINTS IN FOREST PRODUCTION

BY PROF (DR) R. D. GUPTA

The main constraints limiting the productivity of the forests are: soil erosion, land slides and land slips, and biotic pressure like heavy grazing of the pastures by the increased live stock population, litter removal and collection of fire wood.

Soil erosion is one of the biggest constraints which restricts the productivity of the forests. In a number of hilly areas, the loss of soil is as high as 1.5 to 2.0 cm thick layer year-1, especially Ramnagar watershed (Udhampur district) which is most heavily eroded valley almost without any kind of vegetation. The top soil has already been lost and bed rock of standsone is exposed. Similar is the situation in the Kanth-Gali-Panchari Landhar-belt, Jasrota to Kathua and Basohli-Kathua and Billawar, Sanasar and Balote Nashri strech. Continuous loss of top soil from Ramban area, has made it unproductive. In some places, jagged sand stone hills can still be seen, which are almost completely devoid of soil. These exposed sandstones humps are incapable of holding any good kind of quantitative and qualitative vegetation.

Foot hills of Pir Panjal Himalayas and north Kashmir ranges have been eroded away to such an extent that their top rich soil has since been washed away leaving behind unproductive mass of gravels, stones and pebbles. Similarly forest growing soils of uplands and ridges of Siwaliks of Jammu and soils of Choha series of Udhampur, are so much eroded that they have become very shallow (40 - 70 cm in depth) and as such, it is not possible to sustain good amount of forests.

Forest soils developed on shales (a type of parents material) are more susceptible to sheet erosion, while those formed on sandstone are susceptible to gully erosion. In forest soils of Kashmir Himalayas, more erosion hazards have been observed in those soils which owe their origin to granites/gneisses and development under mixed type of forests.

Landslides and land slips are the main problems in the hilly areas of the country especially in the Himalayas. They not only accelerate soil erosion but pose an immense threat in the highways, villages, agricultural lands, lands under fruits and grazing lands. Landslides and landslips cause damage to the mountain ecology and losses worth Rupees 1 billion annually apart from the huge losses of vehicle hours, of man hours, of perisable goats etc. The main causes for landslides are weak geology of the rocks, seismic disturbances, overgrazing, deforestation and unscientific mining.

Owing to soil erosion, there is heavy loss of plant nutrients. This as a consequence renders low productivity in forested areas like agricultural lands. The study conducted in this regard indicated that amount of plant nutrients like N, P, K, Ca, Mg and S in surface soils of barren i.e. highly eroded land was to the extent of 50.6, 3.6, 31.1, 1161.0 171.0 and 8.5 ppm, where as in non-eroded forest soils it was 142.0, 11.0 ,73.2, 160.02, 310.8 and 30.8 pp, respectively, revealing thereby that soils having forests had more content of plant nutrients (Gupta, 2005). Further, it is added that soils of non-eroded are as under forests had about 68% higher organic carbon in comparison to eroded soils.

Heavy grazing, loppings, collection of fire wood etc. bring about low productivity of the forest areas. Contrary to this, closure to grazing reduces the soil loss from 1.2 to 6.6 tonnes ha-1 There was also a marked difference in the thickness of humus layer in two types of forests viz; selection forests, and clarified area. The former showed a thickness of humus from 5.0 to 9.4 cm while in the latter it had completely disappeared. Humus which is well decomposed organic matter or humified-matter, acts as a store house of nutrients. It also behaves as "chelating agent."

Forest fires destroy the leaf litter, humus and nutrients in ash are leached out during rains eventually reducing the soil productivity.

Aridity: Another constraint in forest production, which mostly exists in cold arid zone of Ladakh, is aridity. Rainfall in this area hardly exceeds 100 mm.

Control measures: All kinds of control measures like agronomical, mechanical and biological are required to be taken up. Bunding and terracing, strip cropping mulching, crop rotation and manuring are the main control measures, which have been included in agronomical measures.

Mechanical or engineering practices consist of check dams, check walls, gully plugging contour trenches,

Reforestation/afforestation and planting of grasses belong to the biological measures.
(The author is Ex Associate Dean Cum Chief Scientists KVK SKUAST, Jammu)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

REGULATING FLYING SCHOOLS

BY SHIBAN KHAIBRI

Till recently, we had been knowing, one after the other, some glaring instances about unwarranted misuse of money and power committed all on the "ground "giving rise to many defalcations, scams, unprecedented corruption of many hues and loss to the public exchequer in the country but now, the skies too have been brought under the ambit of scams which have recently come in the limelight, thanks to the appreciable efforts of the media. It is the scam of fake pilots - the clandestine system in operation which has been instrumental in allowing certain dubious pilots to fly passenger air craft, thus treating the innocent passengers just like items of cargo, life less and emotion less.

It may be recalled that a few days back , a passenger having boarded a particular flight, informed the cabin crew that he would like to disembark right before its take-off, as he had no trust in the pilot, whom he saw entering the cockpit. Whether his fears were genuine or not is not that important, as is the general impression, that many like him had nursed perhaps about the unsatisfactory flying skills of some of our pilots flying in our skies. His request was duly acceded to.

Only a few days thereafter, a full scam in the skies - a deep rooted nexus surfaced, where a few officials in the Directorate General of civil aviation were allegedly suspected of brazen commissioning of nepotism favouring their relatives . A glaring example of a lady pilot unfolded some layers of the scam who had failed the requisite tests to get a flying license and was removed from her flight training from a US based flying school after an evaluation report brought to light her making erroneous landing and causing damage to an aircraft and suffering from an apparent fear of flying. Her father being a senior official in the DGCA allegedly managed a license for her daughter and she is reported to have commandeered aircraft of a particular airline for over a year though she has now been sacked but not proceeded against criminally. It is also argued in certain sections that it is not a coincidence that some top civil aviation officers have their relatives as pilots and want a thorough probe to unravel the facts. Has a state of decay set in the regulatory mechanism in such a sensitive sector involving the safety of the traveling public? It appears that the element of corruption is induced and encouraged as we saw a few trainee pilots speaking on a TV Channel. Can air safety and the standards of high degree training be compromised? What has the role of Civil Aviation Ministry been so long, also needs a thorough probe as more skeletons are expected to tumble out of the cupboard?

Ten people including the king pin of the racket have been arrested following investigations carried out so far. It is stunning to note that fake records, spurious documents and fudged marks sheets have been submitted in the fraudulent cases to obtain commercial civil licenses. As many as 14 suspect "pilots" have been grounded. When a person successfully completes 200 hours of flying during the training, only then he or she is eligible to fly a commercial aircraft after securing a commercial pilot license and these 14 fake license holders have allegedly not flown the mandatory hours and reported to have got fake certificates from a flying club/institute. Hence institutional corruption in issuing certain fake licenses has been established. It has also been found that dubious flying schools have been operating for the purpose directly or indirectly and in 40 schools, audits and inspections have been ordered. One such school in Baramati, Maharashtra has earned infamy as this school is said to have been allowed to carry on despite some objections raised from DGCA secretariat. It has also come to the limelight that whenever an inspection was scheduled to be carried out of such schools, the information was found to have been received 20 days in advance by such schools as per the beans spilled on a leading TV Channel where this scam has been debated for days together. Definite political clout behind such schools is not ruled out. A few expat pilots on the channel made startling disclosures about the thumb rule of the racket as "Pay your bribe and all your papers shall be cleared." Like wise, they also made known as to the price charged to get a license.

The top Head of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, K. Bharat Bhushan has disclosed that the commercial pilot licenses of around 10000 pilots were under the scanner and another 4000 re verified. He further said that there are two types of frauds in regard to fake pilot licenses, one type of fraud related to not passing the commercial pilot license examination and producing false marks sheet to procure the flying license while the other related to flying schools crediting flying hours in certificates which has actually not been undertaken by the persons concerned.

The Minister Vayalar Ravi is appearing to be determined to take the matter seriously as the rot runs deep and has said that blanket order had been given to go ahead into the complaints and "there is no leniency to any body ". He further said, "This is a big fraud playing with the human lives. We will go very strongly by abiding with the laws, every angle will be looked into, and the issue is very serious." The Minister further said that all fake pilot training institutes would be sealed and such schools would not be allowed to exploit the students who were paying to them…."

That the interests of the security and safe travel of the passengers need to be protected, hardly needs any emphasis but the greed of money reaching even sky levels is unpardonable . It is not an ordinary thing to note that as many as 54 million people are annually traveling by air in the country and therefore just sacking and grounding fake pilots and impounding their licenses is not enough as such elements should be criminally proceeded against so that the confidence of the people is restored in the airlines operating in our country as also the respect and the prestige of those of our skilled pilots with genuine licenses and satisfactory track records, enhanced. Not only that, the need to restructure the Civil Aviation Ministry is long felt and ensuring of imparting quality training to the prospective pilots is paramount. The government must moot the possibility of the aviation sector being brought under more statutory and other regulatory procedures and controls to circumvent the recurrence of any other type of racket and scam. The government must not only act but appear too as acting. It should also be analyzed as to whether too much of privatization has proved as a boon for or the bane of our civil aviation sector.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

EDUCATION AS BUSINESS

PRIVATE SECTOR TOO HAS A ROLE TO PLAY

 

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has debarred certain Punjab colleges from raising the fee for MBBS and other courses. "Primarily, education is service to society", observed a Full Bench. "High fee …will force a student to adopt a commercial approach". S/he will "aim at earning more rather than serving, which can be a bane to society". These are laudable sentiments. Education must remain affordable and accessible to each child, ideally. But that is a gargantuan challenge. The population is growing fast, faster than the growth in educational facilities. People's aspirations know no bounds. Rising middle class incomes are driving parents to spend more on education. A survey of the US Institute of International Education has revealed that Indian students spent Rs 12,500 crore on pursuing education in the US in 2008-09. Similar amounts are spent in other countries.

 

India cannot afford the outgo of such vast sums of money. At the same time the youth demand, as a matter of right and rightly so, quality education. They are not satisfied with what most government educational institutions have to offer. Sensing the huge business potential in education, private institutions, including some from the West, are fast coming up. They won't grow if governments and courts limit their fees. Students expect world-class infrastructure and teachers want fat salaries. Why shouldn't those who can afford pay more for quality education? For others liberal scholarships and soft loans should be made available. The growth of private institutions will reduce pressure on government schools, colleges and universities. A strong regulator, however, is a must to check malpractices.

 

True, a vast majority of Indians cannot pay the market-driven fees. Youth coming from families with modest means are being deprived of college and university education because there are just not enough good institutions. For limited seats and courses they cannot compete with their better-off counterparts from good schools. The government's failure to pay the required attention to education has contributed to vast disparities in the country. To correct the imbalance, it has to spend more on education and upgrade standards to the levels required in the job market. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

IT'S RAINING CRORES

CRICKETERS DESERVE IT, BUT THERE ARE OTHERS TOO

 

AFTER a downpour of cricket for a month and a half has culminated in a grand World Cup victory, it is the turn of the state governments to get into a competitive mood to shower money on the heroes. If Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit has offered Rs 2 crore for M.S. Dhoni and Rs 1 crore for four Delhi players in the winning squad – Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhi, Virat Kohli and Ashish Nehra – Punjab has announced Rs 1 crore each for Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh. Similarly, Maharashtra is to give away Rs 1 crore each to Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan. Other states too have opened their coffers for the golden boys. Mind you, all this is besides the offers of houses, plots, free first class travel and what not from other government and semi-government organisations.

 

While no one grudges the men in blue their place in the sun and the riches that come with it, this liberal showering of the taxpayers' money by the governments of the day is an exercise in self-aggrandisement. Mind you, the team has already won Rs 14 crore as ICC World Cup prize money and Rs 1 crore each from the BCCI for their sterling victory.

 

Now think of the poor states which cannot be so lavish in their rewards for the sons of their soil. Since others have done it, they will also have to follow suit, or get branded as unsporting. So, the whole exercise becomes a fierce game of one-upmanship. What should be borne in mind is that they did not play like Haryanavis or Punjabis or Maharashtrians, but as Indians. It should also be remembered that there are other games too where the champions look askance at their respective governments for even a fraction of what the cricketers are getting. A better way to commemorate the great victory would be to provide superior facilities to the youngsters so that they can turn into Dhonis, Sachins and Yuvrajs of tomorrow. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

ONE YEAR OF RTE

SCHOOL EDUCATION FACES MANY CHALLENGES

 

In a world tilted towards the dictum of 'no free lunches', the RTE (Right of children to free and compulsory education) Act with its egalitarian provisions has completed one year of successful implementation. Successful because 15 states have notified it. On the first anniversary of the enactment of the Act, an upbeat HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal, talked of achieving 'education for all' by 2015. On the other hand, several provisions in the act are proving to be impractical to implement, even to the well-meaning educationists. They also pose a basic question on the concept of 'education for all' per se.

 

Despite self- congratulatory claims of its success, a few moot questions remain unanswered. For example, the government directs inclusion of 25 per cent students from economically weaker sections in private unaided schools. But, it fails to set up reasonable terms of compensation to the schools struggling for survival. Particularly the neighbourhood 'budget schools' which have served the purpose well by providing meaningful education at low cost. Secondly, no method is prescribed for selection for admission. Selection by lottery is as ridiculous and unfair a method as is interviewing the child. Also, the curriculum does not take into account children's experiences and needs, especially of those who come from the weaker sections. Rote-driven, textbook-centred teaching and lack of support as well as motivation among teachers to address the specific situation of diverse kinds of children is another challenge. The moot question is: will these children be able to remain in mainstream education and how?

 

While the Act emphasises the need for child-friendly approaches and higher parental representation in school management, very little is provided for the need to have teacher-friendly and teacher-initiated processes in the school system. The academic administration remains heavily top-down and vertically organized, leaving very little scope for teacher participation or initiative. The Act also disallows any child to be held back or for conducting standardised examinations until completion of elementary education. It certainly offers a trauma-free educational experience, at the same time it puts a child who comes with the disadvantage of illiterate parents at greater risk. Lack of assessment of learning achievements makes it impossible for him to be identified for remedial assistance. Before aiming for a hasty implementation of the act, the planners should have sought insightful remedies for several psycho-social and pedagogic issues that emerge from integrating students from low-income families with those of the privileged class; especially in our society, where class and caste boundaries are indelibly etched. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

THE MOHALI INITIATIVE

SEEKING PEACE IS A GAME OF PATIENCE

BY H.K. DUA

 

To lead is to choose," said Piere Mendes-France, one of the far-sighted statesmen France threw up after the second World War. It seems Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made his choice: He has opted for making another attempt at seeking peace with Pakistan.

 

How far the Prime Minister's Mohali initiative to have talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will take the two countries along the peace track remains to be seen, but statesmen who pursue a vision that is in the larger interest of the people can ultimately succeed and prove the usual skeptics wrong.

 

The Mohali initiative itself does not wash away a 64-year history of wars, tensions, distrust and failed efforts at normalisation of relations, but Dr Manmohan Singh apparently thought that neither country loses anything if the two Prime Ministers met on the neutral territory of cricket which always arouses nicer emotions among the people of the two countries.

 

While the "balle-balle" mood had filled the air on the stands, inside in one of the ante-chambers of the pavilion the two Prime Ministers met one-to-one for over an hour before dinner to discuss how best to resume the Indo-Pak dialogue that had been rudely interrupted by grisly events of 26/11.

 

The details of what the two Prime Ministers discussed have yet to filter down, but they shared the thought that the welfare of the two people lay in the resumption of serious attempts to sort out the differences that have kept the two nations apart all these years.

 

Why not take sporting ties beyond cricket was one of the minor points the two leaders discussed. Turning distrust into mutual trust, it was thought, would help in resolving the bigger issues that have been awaiting resolution. Also, nibbling at the disputes with positive mindsets was considered important.

 

Dr Manmohan Singh is reported to have referred to the developments in West Asia which are bound to have an impact on both India and Pakistan, mainly because a large number of the people from the two countries are working in West Asia, and their jobs are at stake.

 

He is also believed to have pointed out that the West Asian developments could lead to a rise in oil prices and this will have serious impact on the economy of the two countries.

 

That the destiny of the people on both sides of its divide was tied together in the emerging world was the common theme that marked the spirit of the conversation aimed at the resumption of the dialogue.

 

The Vice-President of India and the Speaker — Mr Hamid Ansari and Ms Meira Kumar - have already written to their counterparts to send a parliamentary delegation to India. This will be reciprocated by our MPs' visit to Pakistan. The idea is to involve all political streams into the effort and widen the constituency of peace.

 

Trade talks are in the offing, some relaxation of visa restriction is on the card as discussed by the Home Secretaries who are going to have a hotline now to prevent minor issues from going out of hand.

 

The Foreign Secretaries of the two countries who have been meeting at Thimphu will now get greater political backing to carry on with their effort so that the resolution of the sticky issues like Siachen, Sir Creek, terrorism and Kashmir and Wullar barrage can be sorted out.

 

Bonhomie and some Urdu couplets always prevail when Indians and Pakistanis sit together for dinner. It was left to an MQM leader who began reciting Urdu couplets only to evoke equally warm sentiments as a side dish.

 

That Mrs Sonia Gandhi was also at Mohali was meant to convey to the visitors and the people at home that the Congress party stood by the Prime Minister in his bid to resume the dialogue.

 

While the people in India have responded enthusiastically, the BJP and experts, as they often do, have questioned the wisdom of the Mohali initiative. Their doubts are on familiar lines: that Pakistan has not lived up to its word given back in January 2004 that it will take steps to stop terrorism; that it is not certain that the Pakistan Army is on board in the attempt to resume dialogue with India.

 

It is true that India's policy on Pakistan is ultimately decided by the Pakistan Army top brass, but it can be presumed that Prime Minister Gilani could not have flown to Manali without having a word with Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani.

 

Unlike Gen Pervez Musharraf, General Kiyani certainly keeps his own counsel. He is also known to have shared his thought that he always tended to look at his eastern borders for threat to Pakistan's security. All these factors do not, however, obliterate the need for a dialogue.

 

Indira Gandhi had offered the Treaty of Peace and Friendship to Gen Zia-ul-Haq in 1981. L K Advani should ask Jaswant Singh how far Atal Bihari Vajpayee went in his talks with General Musharraf, despite Kargil.

 

Dr Manmohan Singh's talks with President Musharraf were also proceeding well and they were converging on new formulations on Kashmir, like making the border irrelevant without changing the boundaries. The dialogue got interrupted because of President Musharraf got into trouble after the lawyers' agitation leading to his exit from power.

 

Not to resume the interrupted dialogue after a gap of two years since 26/11 is not a tenable proposition. The skeptics do not have an alternative plan either.

 

The Vajpayee government had mobilised troops all along the Pakistan border after the December 13 attack on Parliament and kept them in combat readiness for two years, but later did not know what to do with them.

 

The world has not been able to abolish wars, and conflicts among nations. But several wars and conflicts have been prevented by leaders with a vision. They did make history of a different kind in their own quiet ways.

 

In our life-time when the world was caught in wars, hot and cold, the nations have had serious talks and kept direct channels of communication open with the adversary.

 

The Americans and the Vietnamese went on meeting at Hotel Majestic in Paris while their forces were fighting in Vietnam. The Chinese and the Americans held endless rounds of discussions in Warsaw. The Cold War was most intense when the US and the Soviet Union went on talking to each other in Geneva for hundreds of rounds.

 

 

The plea that earlier attempts at peace with Pakistan have failed is not a valid argument against making fresh efforts to mend relations with it. The argument that talking to Pakistan is a sign of weakness on the part of the Indian leadership is equally facile. Only strong and confidant nations can extend a hand of friendship without feeling embarrassed. And ask those coming from Pakistan how envious they feel of India's strength. That India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons has made such arguments irrelevant and specious.

 

There is no choice for the two countries, but to go on talking to each other until they are able to settle for durable peace, irrespective of the issues involved. Patience is the name of the game.

 

The writer is a senior journalist and now Member of Parliament.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

NOT A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

BY VANDANA SHUKLA

 

Bernard Shaw did not live to see a 20-over cricket match. Even if he did, I am sure he wouldn't like to change his uttering that baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being over sooner. He would also agree with Richie Benaud that a cricket ground is a flat piece of earth with some buildings around it.

 

I need to quote some big names before I express my opinion. I don't wish to be lynched. I have nothing to munch on from yesterday's leftover. While small groups are huddled together in office, wringing out pleasures from the already dried-out 'drops' and 'catches', I look away with the pretension of a cricket illiterate.

 

Aware of my 'odd fish out' status, I dived deep into the etymology of the C word, and could get no further than this: 'An outdoor game played between two teams. Players try to score points, called runs, by hitting a ball with a wooden bat.' For my limited understanding, wielding a willow means just wielding a willow. It cannot gain the significance of wielding a pen, or, wielding a sword! For me a game is just a game. Everybody is supposed to do some job or the other, these guys are doing theirs! I cannot attribute it significance of geopolitical proportions. I fail to understand why people over-masticate the word 'C'.

 

I have often wondered what sort of planetary chart people share at the time of a train accident or a plane crash? On Saturday, when 1.2 billion people were going crazy over a game of bat and ball, I stepped back to wonder, which star was missing from my horoscope to make me such an exception to the game! I saw people performing "shani pooja" on the TV. The fatality of stars governing movement of the ball did not move me. The euphoria left me cold. If it is some kind of a malaise, I am not apologetic about it.

 

In a way, my self-congratulatory, self-aggrandising ignorance serves me rather well. Unlike an agonised lover, I do not get nightmares of Sachin being 'run out' at five. Or, Bhajji dropping a catch. I do not lose my pitch over an LBW. I do not fret, my nails remain intact with their nailpaint on, and the BP stable. At least, I will not die of a heart attack over a run, nor will I crash into a tree. For me, life remains normal. In my opinion, playing a game is as much an important job as is taking care of the sick, or, filing a news-report. No more, no less.

 

In art galleries and concerts I come across various shades of wannabes. When it comes to C-lovers, wannabes acquire a monochromatic shade. Like a thumri gayak, they keep on going over and over to the same refrain: "Yaar, kya chhakka lagaya." And, keeping in mind the lack of grace in taking defeat in a game, as was shown in 2007 outside Dhoni's house, one shudders at what arrogance of victory could do!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PLUGGING THE PANDEMIC PLUNDER

UNESCO ESTIMATES NEARLY 50,000 OBJECTS HAVE BEEN SMUGGLED OUT OF INDIA BETWEEN 1979 AND 1989 ALONE, WITH FIGURES MULTIPLYING SIGNIFICANTLY IN THE LAST TWO DECADES. YET, INDIA HAS SO FAR NOT BEEN ABLE TO PUT A NATIONAL DATABASE OF STANDARDISED SYSTEMATIC INVENTORY IN PLACE TO TRACK THE STOLEN ART 

GEORGE JACOB

 

In 1997, one third of the priceless historic collections of the museum used by former Viceroys and Presidents of India (already termite ridden, damp and in a state of neglect) at the Rashtrapati Bhavan estate were looted. The museum was last opened in 1992, and was closed a week after for security concerns. By the time the law enforcement finally traced the culprit - a poor rag-picker who had scaled the walls of the Presidential estate, he had already sold off 116 of the 131 stolen items. While a UK- based curator Timothy Wilcox was engaged to prepare a detailed list of recommendations for security and maintenance, the recovered 15 artefacts made their way back to the dank, ill-kept storage of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

 

There is no dearth of references to an all pervasive pandemic plunder of our heritage that is plagued with lack of awareness, initiative and apathy for our national treasure. The dramatic journey of the priceless 500 kg world's tallest bronze Buddha that began in 1861, from Sultanpur, Bihar to Birmingham, UK, still continues. While laying down railway tracks at Sultangunj, an English engineer, E B Harris, chanced upon giant legs of Buddha protruding out of the excavated land. He took only £200 to sell the priceless Buddha to a Midlands industrialist. The statue later landed in Birmingham City Museum, from where it never returned to its place of origin. Then, it was the Koh-i-noor and the Amaravati sculptures to the daring robbery of twenty seven 17th century bronzes from a government museum in Tamil Nadu in 2009. There is a staggering phenomenon of gross national pillage that defies comprehension for a nation that prides itself on its sanskriti.

 

While the 'Birmingham Buddha' gave birth to the famous Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery in 1864, countless statues of the Buddha continue to be vandalized and smuggled across our borders to eager antique dealers and collectors. The November 1978 General Conference of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), meeting in Paris, at its twentieth session adopted a revised Act for the Protection of Moveable Cultural Property in conjunction with the existing International Exchange of Cultural Property in 1976. UNESCO estimates nearly 50,000 objects have been smuggled out of India between 1979 and 1989 alone, with figures multiplying significantly in the last two decades. Out of the reported 11,000 thefts in the same period, a dismal 10-15 objects were eventually traced and recovered. Unfortunately, UNESCO Conventions have no enforcement capability, though endorsed by 120 countries.

 

Interpol database lists 40,000 stolen hi-value burglaries and an added 1.5 million artefacts in stolen objects. Most reputable auction houses check the Art Loss Register (the world's largest private database of lost art) for authenticity and questionable titles before bringing art and antiquities under the gavel. The prowess of Art Loss Register is demonstrated by the recovery of $320 million worth of stolen works of art. Pegged upwards of a whopping $6 billion annually, the illegal trafficking in Art and Cultural Properties is third only to the narcotics and arms trade. Statues of gods and goddesses, antiquities, works of art and heritage fixtures are regularly smuggled abroad as replicas from villages in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and other states.

 

If the percentage of theft and plunder were but a fraction of the treasures we hold in our museums and private collections, one cannot even begin to fathom an insurance premium on the billions in cultural assets that India, as a civilisation holds within its repositories and heritage sites. This is still an enviable position to be in, compared to most African countries that have lost over 95% of their antiquities or Columbia which loses over 10,000 objects each year with a recovery rate of under 1% in the last five decades, according to UNESCO.

 

Increasing number of museums, foundations, private and corporate collectors are enhancing a growing appreciation for cultural heritage, leading to an increased concern in dangers of easy access, inadequate protection, the risks inherent in transport, clandestine excavation, daring and casual thefts, illicit traffic, inadvertent acts of vandalism and illegal colonial acquisition often referred to as "elginism" coined after the famous Elgin marbles removed from the Parthenon in Athens some 200 years ago. As early as 1832 when Greece gained independence from Turkey, it requested the return of its cultural property from the British Museum as a matter of national priority.

 

The increase in market value of cultural items has escalated risks and in-turn the cost of comprehensive insurance in countries like India. Inversely, where the Ministry of Culture's total budget for museums is currently under Rs.135 crore for this fiscal year, inclusive of payroll and overheads; both the financial and human resources remain inadequate. There is no dedicated system of governmental guarantees and rapid mobilization of recovery of lost, stolen or damaged artefacts in place to deal with specialised crimes and sometimes delicate handling of available clues and content in question. The FBI has a dedicated Art Crime Team with trained cultural property investigation special agents supported by Special Trial Attorneys for art crimes with a track record of recovering $135 million in stolen art objects. A pre- requisite for tracking stolen art objects is to create a national database of standardised systematic inventory, condition report and cataloguing of cultural property. India could also benefit from publishing a comprehensive catalogue of lost and stolen items dating back to documented colonial times and post-independence, akin to the 1988 publication from Nepal on Stolen Images by late L.S. Bangdel.

 

The Indian Antiquities and Art Treasures Act- 1972, when tabled was flawed at many levels requiring enforcement agencies to take permission from the 28 or so authorised designated officers of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) before inspection and seizure of antiquities. Arguably, the Act severely dampened legitimate domestic trade of art and antiquities and created cumbersome procedures for registration of objects over 75 years that kept genuine collectors and sellers away fearing prosecution. It prevented new scholarship, deterred collections from developing and spurred underground trade. The two international auction houses Sotheby's (1992) and Bowring's (2004) who sought to revive domestic antiquities market, were literally choked by the twin forces of the CBI and ASI forcing them to shut their operations and resort to even more sluggish court systems for reprieve. With nearly 50% of our museums (including the National Museum) remaining headless without qualified leadership, one wonders who will lead the charge to re-draft some of these much needed provisions, amendments and measures of efficacy, that could position India with its vast antiquities treasure trove, as a vanguard nation with foresight and vision.

 

Movable Cultural Property is sometimes confronted with an ethical dilemma that seldom features in discussions or legal draft frameworks for amendments. It is associated with taking a ceremonial, religious or otherwise significant objects of reverence from its existing context and bringing it within the confines of a museum to display, void of its spiritual or ambient premise. In a land steeped with rich living traditions and omniscient divinity, this becomes particularly significant. There exists no protocol while dealing with such objects that prevents a government institution from such acquisition, storage, transportation and display, let alone a framework for meting out compensatory damages to those impacted by an inadvertent or deliberate act.

 

It is time a comprehensive Art Policy is put in place within an over-arching 2020 Master Plan for our museums and cultural heritage. A strategic thrust that addresses the current and growing needs of curbing cultural theft, both in the tangible and intangible realms of a 5000 year civilization in continuum that defines India, is a necessity. The talent and expertise of professionals passionate about this initiative needs to be harnessed with astute political will that rises above debatable differences towards generating a stellar edifice for our collective future.

 

Author of several books on the future of museums, George Jacob's works span across 11 countries

 

Unsafe contemporary heritage

 

If the British pilfered our antiquities during our colonised status, modern heritage too is not safe in the independent India. The US based auction house Wright , that went ahead with the auction of 24 lots of furniture attributed to Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret on March 31, despite last minute hue and cry made by the UT administration, claimed, the Indian Government had organised the sale of this furniture. While refusing to disclose the identity of their consigners, the director of the auction house declared, all the items for auction had been sourced from various government departments in Chandigarh, including Punjab and Haryana High Court, administrative buildings, Chandigarh College of Architecture and PGI. Surprisingly, there is no procedure in place in the UT for declaring these articles as heritage property. Hence, it never notified any article belonging to Le Corbusier or Jeanneret as 'heritage'. Many auctioned articles, like models, plans, moulds, tapestries, furniture etc were auctioned by the government departments about six times in the past. In 2010, a bidder had set a record by paying $ 24000 for a cast iron manhole cover from the city at French auction house Artcurial in Paris.

 

Acts of antiquity

 

The Indian Treasure Trove Act, last amended in 1949, is obsolete beyond belief. Any object worth more than Rs.10 and found hidden in the soil is designated as a treasure. A person who dutifully reports the find is often made to go through a cumbersome procedure. The Antiquities and Art Treasures Act mandates that antiquities in private possession must be registered and the person trading in them must get a licence. On the other hand, The Portable Antiquities Scheme, implemented in England and Wales, is one of the biggest success stories of recent times. The scheme encourages local communities to voluntarily report and register the discovery of artefacts with the help of experts. The resulting data base is placed in the public domain. So far it has documented 400,000 archaeological finds, including the remarkable eighth-century Staffordshire Hoard. The functional features of such schemes can be modified to suit Indian conditions.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

SUPERPOWER PLAY

WHY A NATION'S PLACE IN THE WORLD CANNOT BE DETERMINED BY A TRIUMPH IN ANY ONE SPORT


At Mumbai's Worli sea face, amidst tri-coloured flags, boys and girls riding shotgun on cars, sitting on the roofs of buses, exchanging high-fives with strangers, giving and receiving flowers, dancing with flimsy tin-foil World Cup replicas in their hands, a man riding pillion on a motorbike shouted the inevitable: "Bharat mata ki jai!" It was a night when everything was beautiful, nothing seemed jarring.

 

 While patriotism can be a great driving force, the World Cup win has implications that can both be overstated and understated in the giddiness of triumph. Principal among them is the rhetoric in the media that this victory defines India's coming of age as a nation. Urban India, now it has enough food on the table to think about other things, latches on to any success as an endorsement of its increasing influence.

 

 It's true that our country has come a long way in the 28 years since Kapil Dev lifted the trophy for the first time at the Lord's balcony. Also granted that how a country does in sport is a reasonable yardstick to measure its advancement in other areas, and perhaps even its pecking order in the global stage. But such an analysis cannot be conducted on the basis of success in any one particular sport. If that were true, football history would indicate that Brazil was a superpower as early as the 1950s, with Italy and Argentina following closely behind.
    To mirror the influence of a country through its success in sports requires a more holistic study across disciplines. At the Olympics, the United States and the Soviet Union were fighting for supremacy right through the Cold War years. Germany, the region of the physical split between the two blocs, was firmly in third place. With time, and with the emergence of strong Asian economies, Japan and Korea starting featuring higher and higher on the medals table, only to be overtaken by China, which eventually topped the United States at Beijing in 2008. The Olympics, though still an unscientific method of judging a nation's brand value, clearly offers a better reflection of the world order.

 

Which brings us to another problem: If India is to develop as a sporting nation, it needs to start doing well in fields other than cricket. For that, these disciplines require greater monetary support, which in turn is not possible until sponsors start getting returns from them. To make money, you need money; to create champions, you need champions.

 

Ever since the 1983 victory, officials have been whining about how cricket corners all the revenue earmarked for sports by corporate houses. How the distribution of funds is so lop-sided that they cannot grow.

 

In reality, the fault doesn't lie with cricket's success, but with these officials themselves. For too long, sport in India has been controlled by a mish-mash of vested interests. It's been run like a sarkari daftar, with politicians sitting on pots of money, protecting their little domain, spreading the largesse to their cronies, treating players like second-class citizens and fans like nonentities. People such as Suresh Kalmadi, who want every wedge of the pie.

 

The problem extends to the way cricket is controlled as well, but somewhere in history its officials realised that their own growth was directly proportional to the game's success. They may have been interested in personal gain, but at the same time they built new stadiums, created better facilities, paid players a higher percentage of the revenue generated, and tried to improve the spectator's on-TV and instadium experience.

 

A major difference between cricket and other sports is that one is run by a autonomous club, and the other is directly under government control. There is a school of thought that believes de-linking these disciplines from the sports ministry and the Sports Authority of India may be the answer, but that suggestion is impractical because institutional funding is critical. It's a chick-and-egg problem; in an open market, these sports would fold completely.

 

Perhaps the solution lies in connecting the popular emotion of national pride – which spilled over on the streets twice last week – with a wider sporting success, rather than a momentous cricket victory. There are enough sportsmen in India (Abhinav Bindra, Saina Nehwal, Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Vishwanathan Anand, Sania Mirza, Narain Karthikeyan, the hockey teams) who deserve attention; whose growth is critical for the explosion of self-belief to become more than faulty rhetoric and a hollow slogan during a night of revelry.

 

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

EDITORIAL

SPORT AND NATION

GIVEN THE MARKET FOR CRICKET, WHY TAX BREAKS AND CASH AWARDS?

The Indian cricket team deserves all the accolades, the love and affection, the wild enthusiasm and all the money it made for winning the World Cup for the country. This was a historic and well-deserved victory for, clearly, one of the world's best cricket teams today. The dancing and revelry across the country showed that the entire nation rejoiced together and felt a shared sense of pride in this great victory. India's captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his team played brilliantly in the finals against an equally good team from Sri Lanka. Mr Dhoni has shown exemplary maturity in the style of his captaincy. Cricket has become a sport of prima donnas and with all-time greats like Sachin Tendulkar playing, and playing well, it would have been difficult for Mr Dhoni to provide the kind of leadership he did. His low-key response to the exciting victory says it all.

The players, their coaches and selectors have all been adequately rewarded not just in kind but also in cash. In any case, India's cricket players are the richest among the country's sportspersons, given the money in the sport, the sponsorships and the advertisement budgets. The glistening diamonds worn by the wives of Indian cricketers, and their fancy cars, tell a tale of adequate recompense. So why did the taxpayer have to shell out more cash, in the form of cash awards from state governments and a tax break from the central government? There are games sportspersons play to win and there are games they play to make money. The Indian Premier League is a money-making enterprise. But a World Cup match is about winning for the country. It is the kind of achievement that finds recompense in the form of a Padma Shri or a Padma Bhushan award.

 

 But tax breaks and cash awards from the government are an unnecessary indulgence. Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi has resisted the cash award idea; instead, he has so far restricted himself to giving the Eklavya award. Some of India's world-class sportspersons deserve financial support given the lack of adequate investment and the absence of a mass market in their respective sports. Cricket is certainly not one of them. The market is doing a good job, and the government, too, has done a good, indeed an excellent, job in ensuring security and safety of the players and the huge audience. The arrangements and the law and order management, both in Mohali and Mumbai, were excellent. Terrorists who may have aimed to disrupt, stayed away. Having done the job it must, and that too well, the government need not have tried to ingratiate itself with the players with more cash!

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

MESSING UP SUCCESSION

SBI DESERVED BETTER THAN THIS FROM THE FINANCE MINISTRY

There was no reason why the Union finance ministry should have messed up succession planning at the country's premier bank, State Bank of India (SBI). If the idea was to allow the incumbent managing director, R Sridharan, a limited tenure in the top job, as a consolation since he missed out being considered for the job given the existing rules on age and eligibility, it is understandable. No harm done if you allow a senior person a brief term, before the regular appointment is made. In the past, even the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had such interim governors. However, if the reason for the present situation was lack of proper paper work by those responsible for the selection process, then it reflects poorly on the Union government and the Union finance ministry. Also, it is unfair to whoever finally gets the top job at the country's biggest bank. It is axiomatic that the successor to an outgoing top executive of any important organisation should be identified at least six months in advance. Not doing this lays the system open to the allegation that there is a conscious desire to build scope for extended lobbying and influence peddling.

As and when a chairman with a reasonable tenure takes over, he will have his hands full, and a handicap to boot. The previous chairman had defied the RBI by not fully meeting the provisioning norms laid down. Doing so now will immediately depress the bottomline, thus putting it in an unfavourable light compared to the earlier period. This will reinforce an unfortunate pattern in the reporting of public sector banks' bottomlines. As the time for one chief to go approaches, performance starts smelling of roses and there is a sharp decline immediately after the new chief takes over, inviting the notion that he has inherited a poor legacy.

 

Another challenge the next chairman will face is to improve the quality of assets. It is far from what it should be, with SBI trailing its peer group. There was, in fact, no improvement in this regard during the long tenure of the previous incumbent. The asset quality appears to have been sacrificed on the altar of high growth and improvement in market share, important as they are. Therefore, a period of consolidation instead of chasing growth for the sake of growth may be in order. The outgoing chairman, O P Bhatt, had displayed remarkable aggression vis-à-vis the competition and this can-do attitude had enthused the organisation and enabled him to lead from the front. The challenge for the new leader will be to continue to enthuse without some of the earlier bravado, particularly picking a fight with the regulator. But though motivation is needed, there must be something to motivate. It is highly doubtful if the likes of Mr Bhatt are being recruited now at the entry level. Four decades ago, not only were the bank's entry level salaries among the best in the country, including the private sector, the number of decent private sector jobs obtained on merit was far fewer. The bank has developed a serious talent deficit and the government has to do something to allow it to win appropriate talent across levels.

SBI is a national organisation so it must get the best in the national interest. Better leadership planning is a necessary part of building organisational morale, which is critical to attracting good talent in any organisation.

 

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 BUSINESS STANDARD

AN IDEA OF INDIA

MORE WORK NEEDED NEXT DECADE TO IMPROVE PROFILE

India's population of 1.2 billion, according to the 2011 decennial census, is growing at the century's slowest rate of 17.6 per cent — four percentage points lower than in the previous decade. India is approaching, but has not yet reached, the replacement level. This means India's population will stabilise somewhere between 1.5 billion and 1.6 billion by 2030, making it the world's most populous country. It is hard to discern a pattern in state-wise growth, except that the states with the lowest growth rates – Kerala (4.9 per cent), Goa (8.2 per cent), Sikkim (12.4 per cent) and Himachal Pradesh (12.8 per cent) – are small states with high literacy levels. Surprisingly, growth rates in the more developed southern and western states were only slightly below the national average, with the growth rate in Gujarat almost two percentage points above. On the other hand, growth rates in the so-called BIMARU states of northern India dropped by an average of five percentage points, with Rajasthan (seven percentage points) registering the sharpest decrease.

India's literacy rate has inched to 74 per cent, but it is still among the lowest in rapidly developing Asia. Particularly heartening is the increase in female literacy from 54 per cent to 65 per cent. India has to do more to catch up with East Asia and Southeast Asia's rates of literacy and skill development, but the past decade has shown an acceleration of performance that should continue into the next. It needs to be investigated whether the increase in literacy rates is owing to new enrollments in primary schools, thanks to schemes such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, or the recently launched adult literacy drive. Nevertheless, the results are encouraging.

 

The fall in the female sex ratio from 927 females for every 1,000 males to 914 within a decade is disturbing. Punjab (846) and Haryana (830) remain at the bottom of the barrel, despite an actual improvement in their respective ratios compared to the midterm evaluation in 2006. The ban on sex determination tests seems to have little effect on the ground, with the proliferation of sex clinics even in Tier-II and Tier-III cities and beyond. It is a matter of deep concern that the practice of female foeticide is widely prevalent even among the educated and affluent, despite widespread documentation of the adverse sociological consequences of such practices. The policy response would necessarily have to go beyond enforcement which has limitations. Mass education, through the print and electronic media, coupled with the involvement of NGOs, has proved far more effective in the past.

The findings of the census warrant serious analysis given that it is arguably the most exhaustive and reliable source of primary data at the household level. For example, it would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between higher female literacy and decline in population growth rates, as seen elsewhere. At first glance, declining fertility rates and increasing literacy levels would indicate that more people aspire to hitch their wagon to India's economic boom. If this is true, one could not ask for a more solid foundation for inclusive growth. The policy challenge is to deepen and widen this sentiment.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

BALANCING GROWTH AND INFLATION

HIGH GROWTH NEED NOT ENTAIL HIGH INFLATION

C RANGARAJAN

The high level of inflation in the last two years has raised certain questions about the relationship between inflation and growth. The issue of a trade-off between growth and price stability is usually discussed in relation to the conduct of monetary policy. A critical question in this context is whether pursuing the objective of price stability by monetary authorities undermines the ability of the economy to sustain high growth. Empirical evidence of the relationship between growth and inflation in a cross-country framework is somewhat inconclusive. This is because such studies included countries at one end with an inflation rate as low as one or two per cent and at the other end those with inflation rates going beyond 200 to 300 per cent. Most of these studies, however, clearly establish that growth rates become increasingly weaker at higher rates of inflation.

The well-known Phillip's curve postulated an inverse relationship between unemployment and wage rates. Several economists have challenged the basic microeconomic underpinning of the wage and price mechanism that leads to the possibility of a trade-off between inflation and growth. The Phillip's curve becomes purely vertical if the role of expectations is explicitly included. An environment of reasonable price stability is considered conducive to economic growth. Many people would regard price stability as a necessary condition for long-run growth. This, however, does not rule out the possibility of some trade-off in the short run.

 

 The case of price stability as a major objective of economic policy rests on the assumption that price volatility creates uncertainties in decision making. Rising prices adversely affect savings even as they make speculative investments more attractive. These apart, there is a crucial social dimension, particularly in developing countries. Inflation adversely affects those who have no hedges against it and that includes all the poorer sections of the community. This is a very strong argument in favour of maintaining price stability.
 

GROWTH RATES OF SELECT INDICATORS
(in per cent)

Year

Inflation
year-end*

Inflation
(average of
 months)*

GDP

Money
supply

2004-05

5.3

6.5

7.5

12.0

2005-06

3.9

4.4

9.5

16.9

2006-07

6.8

6.5

9.6

21.7

2007-08

7.7

4.8

9.3

21.4

2008-09

1.5

8.1

6.8

19.3

2009-10

10.2

3.6

8.0

16.8

2010-11**

7.5

9.2

8.6

17.0

* Figures for 2004-05 and 2005-06 are on 1993-94 base;  
Rest on 2004-05 base. ** Expected. 

India has had two years of high inflation. The year 2009-10 was badly affected because of the deficient monsoon. Food grain production declined by 11 million tonnes. As a result, inflation was triggered by an increase in food grain prices. Inflation as measured by the wholesale price index touched the peak of 11 per cent in April 2010. We had expected that inflation would moderate through 2010-11. It, in fact, started happening till November 2010. The prices started rising after that. As of February 2011, year-on-year inflation was 8.3 per cent. While the last year's food price inflation was triggered by a rise in food grain prices, this year it has been caused by a rise in the prices of vegetables, fruit, and eggs, meat and fish. The rise in vegetable prices has been significant. The late rains had a severe impact on the supply of some vegetables including onion. The last four weeks have shown a declining trend in vegetable prices and inflation is expected to come down in the coming weeks.

Thus, the extraordinarily high level of inflation seen in the last two years is owing to certain severe supply constraints, particularly of agricultural products. The table that shows the inflation rate and the growth rate for the last six years clearly indicates that in the three years when the growth rate was around nine per cent, inflation rate was lower. To understand the behaviour of prices, we need to look at not only the growth rate of the economy but also the rate of increase in money supply.

However, the fact that inflation is triggered primarily by supply-side shocks does not mean that monetary policy has no role to play in such conditions. Food price inflation, if it persists long enough, gets generalised. It becomes a cost-push factor as far as the manufacturing sector is concerned. Thus, monetary policy and, at one step removed, fiscal policy have to play their part in containing the overall demand pressures.

There are, however, situations in which growth can contribute towards pushing up inflation. A high growth rate may result in higher inflation, when the growth rate exceeds the potential capacity of the economy. That will be the situation of "over-heating". We have had examples of such situations in the recent period. In 2007, inflation picked up because the economy was operating at full capacity. But it did not last long because the investment rate was high and the output caught up with increased demand.

So, determining "potential" growth of the economy is crucial. Since the investment rate now exceeds 36 per cent and can realistically be expected to rise to 38 per cent under favourable investment conditions, even with an incremental capital-output ratio of 4:1, we should be able to grow at 9 to 9.5 per cent comfortably. This rate of growth may be regarded as the "potential" of the economy. This, however, has not been the case in the last two years when the inflation rate remained at double-digit levels for several months. Supply constraints have been the main trigger for inflation. In fact, what we need to watch out for is the impact of high inflation on growth. Persistent high inflation can distort the motives for investment, thereby undermining growth.

There has been considerable debate on what an acceptable level of inflation is. I had in a different context used the term "threshold level of inflation", defining it as the level beyond which inflation costs begin to rise sharply. The Chakravarty Committee (of which I was a member) regarded four per cent as the acceptable rise in prices. This, according to the Committee, will reflect changes in relative prices necessary to attract resources to growth sectors. Growth is not uniform in all the sectors. Thus, maintaining an absolute price stability, meaning a zero rate of increase in prices, may not be possible. Nor is it desirable. Obviously, there is a certain amount of judgement involved in determining the acceptable or threshold level of inflation. One has to factor in not only the impact on output but also distributional implications.

In the early decades after India's Independence, the argument that inflation was endemic in economic growth led to a very steep increases in prices. We should not let that happen in the years of high growth. We must remain committed to maintaining inflation at a low level. High growth does not warrant a higher level of inflation. We must use all our policy instruments to bring down the current inflation and re-anchor the inflationary expectations to the four- or five-per cent comfort zone.

The author is Chairman, Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

PROMOTING CRISIS IN THE MILITARY

AJAI SHUKLA

South Block is being roiled by a face-off between military and the ministry of defence (MoD), which co-exist at the best of times in mutual loathing. Since September, the MoD has blocked the routine promotion of army officers to the senior-most levels of command. Today, the commanders of several army divisions and corps – combat formations that are headed by major generals and lieutenant generals, respectively – are serving extended tenures since nobody is being promoted to relieve them. The Indian Army's elite 1 Corps, which strikes deep into enemy territory in war, currently has no commander. Two major general posts in the crucial Military Operations Directorate and one in Military Intelligence Directorate are lying vacant.

Such a situation is unthinkable in India's security environment, where a combat-ready military is regarded as the deterrent that holds back more Mumbai-style terrorist attacks. Even before terrorism became a factor in our security calculus, the military valued smooth succession at higher levels of command. When former army chief and India's military legend General S H F J Manekshaw found the MoD dilly-dallying on the appointment of one of his army commanders, he unilaterally issued an order posting a suitable general and asked the MoD to regularise it in due course.

 

 But that was a different era and Manekshaw was Manekshaw. Since then the MoD has asserted its supremacy, especially in the 1998 sacking of navy chief Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat for refusing to implement the government's appointment of Vice Admiral Harinder Singh as deputy chief of naval staff.

The cause of the ongoing confrontation is as follows: three years ago the army chief at the time, General Deepak Kapoor, implemented new criteria for promotion, in which subjectivity was minimised in assessing an officer's suitability for higher rank. The new "quantification system" sought to translate into a set of numbers every measure of officers' performance — in day-to-day functioning; on courses of instruction; special appointments; honours and awards and so on. This was to eliminate subjective judgement, which could scuttle a deserving candidate or elevate someone relatively less capable. This system was to be evaluated for three years and then tweaked if required.

When General V K Singh, the current army chief, took over from General Kapoor, feedback gleaned from army officers suggested changes in the quantification model. The new chief also decided to roll back another Kapoor-era policy to divide generals into two streams: those cleared for commanding combat formations and others who were cleared only to fill staff posts in headquarters. The army headquarters sought permission from the ministry, but the bureaucrats wondered why each new army chief had to tinker with promotion policies. For months, the matter hung in limbo.

Eventually, in January, the army promulgated the new quantification model and conducted promotion boards to the ranks of major general and lieutenant general, clearing all successful candidates for command and staff. Predictably, the MoD has refused to clear the board results. The army chief has met the defence minister, but there is no resolution. Mr Antony appears to agree with his bureaucrats who point out: every new army chief sets about reversing his predecessor's policies.

Watchers of the Indian military believe that the absence of a formal promotion policy allows the flourishing of patrimonial interest, where policy changes are manipulated to benefit supporters and service constituencies. Unlike the civil services, where an iron-clad promotion policy has long existed, the military's rulebook takes the form of policy letters, many of which are superseded as each new chief implements his ideas. This theoretically allows for responsive and adaptive promotion policies, but it also creates suspicion about the motives behind policy changes.

Noting that frequent policy changes have sharply increased the number of generals who approach the courts, the army's former Judge Advocate General, Major General Nilendra Kumar, believes that, "When policy is changed almost every alternate year it indicates lack of consistency and suggests efforts to favour or bail out certain people. This leads to uncertainty and anxiety within the military."

It also leads to poor policy, like the "pro-rata" system that the army implemented a decade ago. This involves allocating vacancies to each arm, at the rank of brigadier, in proportion to the number of officers in the arm. If the infantry comprised 55 per cent of all officers, they would get 55 per cent of all brigadier vacancies. Slammed by critics as the "Mandalisation of the army", this divisive policy, backed by heavily populated arms like the infantry and the artillery, threw out the meritocracy that had governed higher rank in modern armies ever since the famous Prussian general staff had demonstrated its advantages.

Instead of learning from history, the army extended "pro-rata" to selecting major generals and was all set to extend this to the lieutenant general rank as well. Fortunately, when the proposal came up for discussion at the Army Commanders' Conference in 2008, the famously outspoken Lieutenant General H S Panag acidly observed that the logical next step would be to select the army chief, not on merit or seniority, but turn by turn from each arm. That effectively quashed the proposal.

It is time to end the uncertainty caused by this endless tweaking of promotion policy. High-grade officers are retiring before their time, while the MoD refuses to release their promotion board results. The MoD must clear the army's current proposals and ensure that all three services codify promotion policy in a simple rulebook. 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

 A NEW LEASE OF RICE

A NEW METHOD OF RICE FARMING INCREASES CROP YIELD WITH FEWER INPUTS

SURINDER SUD

In Kerala, where paddy cultivation is going out of favour because of labour problems and high costs, the novel System of Rice Intensification' (SRI) has shown the potential to rehabilitate this crop.

This innovative technique ensures substantially higher productivity and lower input use. The SRI system has, in fact, proved its utility in many other regions as well, spanning Sikkim in the north-east to Tamil Nadu in the south.

 The environment-friendly SRI method of growing rice involves transplanting relatively young paddy seedlings (eight to 10 days old instead of usual 20 days or more), along with the soil that contains their roots. The spacing between plants and rows is kept relatively wide at around 25 cms to provide room for the robust growth of both root and plant.

Plant nutrients are supplied largely through farm-yard manure, supplemented with need-based fertiliser applications. The most significant aspect of SRI is that the fields are not kept submerged under water all the time, as is usual in rice farming, but are allowed to remain just wet without flooding.

The success of SRI technology in most places where it has been tried in the past few years has led to its promotion in a big way by Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs or agricultural science centres) and other farm research bodies under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). What makes the SRI method an instant hit with paddy growers is the saving of almost all key inputs (water, seed, fertilisers, pesticides and labour), and a perceptible spurt in crop productivity, which has, of late, tended to stagnate at many places.

The saving on water, which is rapidly turning scarce in most paddy-growing tracts, can be 30 to 40 per cent or more; that of costly seeds over 50 per cent. The reduction in the requirement of other inputs varies according to field conditions.

Higher crop yields in SRI fields are attributed to several factors. Since the seedlings are planted along with the soil in which these are growing, it helps the undisturbed roots to develop more profusely and enables it to tap more nutrients from the soil. This, in turn, facilitates a larger number of tillers (shoots) per root-system, vigorous plant growth and, more importantly, longer panicles (ear-heads) to accommodate more grain per plant.

Moreover, the fact that the seedlings are planted in wide-apart rows makes it easier for farmer to remove weed and other rogue plants that normally compete with the main crop for extracting nutrition from soil.

SRI fields also have a lower incidence of pests and diseases, mainly on account of lower humidity because the fields are not kept inundated. Overall crop yields have been found to surge by anywhere between 20 and 100 per cent over those obtained with normal cultivation practices.

The introduction of the SRI technique in different states has shown that it works well with both high-yielding varieties and local varieties of paddy. In east Sikkim, for instance, where farmers tend to grow only traditional varieties, such as Attey, Krishnabhog and Dudhetulsi, the new method enabled farmers to bag, on average, over 23 quintals of grain per hectare, against 19.6 quintals with conventional method, in kharif 2009-10. Farmers earned an average net return of around Rs 25,550 per hectare, more than double the production cost of Rs 10,950, according to sources in the KVK run by the ICAR Research Complex for the north-eastern hilly region, located in East Sikkim district.

In the Nellanad area of Thiruvananthapuram, where the SRI technology has been introduced by the local KVK in collaboration with the Coimbatore-based Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, farmers have reportedly reaped a paddy harvest of nearly 7 tonnes per hectare, against the state's average crop productivity of 3 to 3.5 tonnes a hectare. This has spurred the state government to include the promotion of SRI in its overall agricultural development policy. Kerala's example can surely be emulated elsewhere.

Similar encouraging results have been reported from Tamil Nadu's key paddy belt in the Mettur dam command area where the uncertainty over the release of canal water from this dam has been posing problems for paddy growers. With the SRI technique, farmers can manage comfortably with whatever water is available.

surinder.sud@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

BANS AND BANANA REPUBLICS

NILANJANA S ROY

At the height of the uproar over Joseph Lelyveld's new biography of Gandhi, one question deserved to be asked: what would we do with a negative, critical biography of a revered national figure? The answer, sadly, is dismal: we would probably ban it.

Lelyveld's Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India is a respectful look at the philosophical growth and evolution of Gandhi's philosophy. The current controversy centres around two minor sections in the book, and also around the larger question of whether we're comfortable with honest examinations of national heroes as humans, not gods.

 

 The biography deals briefly with Gandhi's ambiguous relationship with the architect and bodybuilder Kallenbach; they exchanged letters calling each other "Upper House" and "Lower House" in which Gandhi testified often to the closeness he felt for his friend. Gandhi was open on the subjects of sexuality and relationships, detailing his struggle to maintain celibacy with the same exactness as his other experiments with truth, and his relationship with Kallenbach was one of a series of not easily classifiable relationships.

Lelyveld clarified that he had never directly called Gandhi bisexual or homosexual in his biography; the outrage felt and exploited in states like Gujarat and Maharashtra, which imposed premature bans on the biography, was misplaced. (A question few asked is why we should be outraged at the idea that Gandhi, or any other national figure, might be homosexual — or are we officially a nation of homophobics?)

The second issue remained largely unexplored in the Indian media, but in many ways is a far more uncomfortable matter —was Gandhi a racist? Reading many of the letters he wrote in South Africa reveals his open airing of his prejudices about the "kaffirs"; and Lelyveld raises the right questions here.

In both cases, the Lelyveld biography broke no new ground. The Kallenbach letters are in the National Archives; they are also readily accessible on the Internet as part of a broader collection of Gandhi's letters from that period, the deep, complex affection between both men very evident. Gandhi's letters where he speaks of "troublesome, very dirty" 'kaffir' convicts are also a matter of public record.

Lelyveld's reaction to the proposed ban on his biography was the puzzled anger of the outsider unused to India's bizarre political circus. For any author, a ban on one's writing is the most unjust of edicts—it's an erasure of one's words, a brutal silencing of one's voice. Lelyveld couldn't believe that a country that calls itself the world's largest democracy would countenance a ban of a book on the basis of biased reviews—but he had little way of understanding the history of India's bans, which have been largely political in nature over the last two decades.

Lelyveld's book has revealed nothing of Gandhi's political thoughts or private relationships that was not already in the public domain. He has speculated freely, but not irresponsibly. Nothing Lelyveld has written about Gandhi is any more incendiary than Gandhi's own letters and autobiographical works — but as many commentators have said, today's politicians would ban Gandhi's own words if they could.

What Lelyveld's case demonstrates are the ways in which book bans work in India. They are now largely symbolic; the courts have subsequently overturned almost every ban on a book issued by various state governments. They are almost always demanded by political parties, not by private individuals or the ordinary reader; the book ban is now roughly the same as the one-day fast, a token, banal gesture of protest.

They will also always mis-represent the book, so that Rohinton Mistry's beautiful exploration of the common man's Bombay and corruption in India can be called a book that contains swear words, and Lelyveld's words can be twisted beyond recognition.

The damage done to the cause of free speech as states and politicians vie to be the first to ban a book is immense — but it is also almost secondary, because the politicians who seek book bans, from any party, are not thinking of the complexities of free speech issues.

So what does a book ban, of the kind the Narendra Modi government has sought on the Lelyveld book, mean in today's India? At its simplest, a ban is just an opportunity for a political party to claim the mantle of protector — protector of a faith, of a community, of a national figure, of Indian culture. It is a no-cost opportunity; the small minority of readers in English is not considered a useful votebank, and banning a book offers immediate access to national television.

There are tiny signs that politicians may have over-used the book ban. The central government and the Congress party have backed away from supporting a ban on the Gandhi biography, and it is very likely that the state bans will be overturned by the judiciary.

So far, though, no politician has had the courage to step up and say what Lelyveld has said: this ban, with its disregard for the basic principles of free speech, is shameful. Nor have our politicians acknowledged another sobering truth: our record on book bans and our lack of support for free speech are more appropriate to a banana republic than a democracy.

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ICC MUST PAY TAX

PAYING TAX IS A COROLLARY TO RECOGNISING SPORT, NOT JUST CRICKET, AS VALID BUSINESS

 

The government has erred in granting an incometax exemption to the International Cricket Council (ICC) for the 2011 World Cup, even if the tax rules allow for such a waiver. Sport is not just celebration of human athletic prowess. It is also business, very prosperous business. There is no reason to exempt sport as business from tax. Cricket has become a money spinner for cash-rich ICC that prides itself as a truly global business organisation. It also earns huge revenues through sponsorship and media rights. And this is not small change. So, there is simply no reason why ICC should not contribute to the tax kitty. Sure, the cricket body has not violated law as the government has now spared subsidiaries of ICC from paying tax on the income generated from the World Cup here. A precedent was set when the income-tax law was amended in 2006 to grant a tax waiver to the ICC for the Champions Trophy. The government had then empowered itself to grant such waivers to global sporting bodies organising events in India, but on a case-to-case basis. Such tax exemptions are arbitrary and provide political patronage opportunities. They must be eschewed. The government should scrap the rule and withdraw the power to grant such exemptions. Similarly, there is no logic in exempting the Indian Premier League (IPL), an arm of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), from paying tax on its income. The BCCI has ceased to promote cricket as a 'charitable' activity. It has become a commercial entity with huge revenue streams. Revenue generated from the IPL is shared between the umbrella cricket body and its franchisees. But the taxman does not get a look-in and this is unacceptable. The BCCI also uses only 10% of the surplus money on promoting cricket and the balance is shared with players. Cricketers pay tax on their income from IPL matches. So do franchisees, but not BCCI. The tax department is, therefore, right in raising a tax demand on BCCI's past income. Sport by itself is huge business and promotes a host of related businesses and entertainment in general. Profits from sport must contribute to the exchequer on par with other businesses.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GET ON WITH IT

PROSECUTION IN THE TELECOM SCAM, POLICY CORRECTIVES SHOULD PROCEED WITH SPEED


Now that the CBI has finally filed its chargesheet in the telecom scam, prosecution should move fast. Our judicial processes have reached such a level of dysfunctionality that the rich and the powerful quietly die of old age before the law reaches a final conclusion on cases pending against them. If the accused are poor and devoid of political patrons, they languish in jail as undertrial prisoners. That a special court has been set up for trying the telecom scam is welcome. It should help the case move ahead fast. The chargesheet pegs the loss to the exchequer from former minister Raja's alleged misdeeds more than . 26,000 crore lower than the lower limit of the broad band of presumptive loss estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor General: . 57,600 crore — . 1,76,000 crore. Even this figure might not stand scrutiny once superior tax collections arising from faster economic growth and better connectivity enabled by the competition-driven drop in telecom costs are factored in. The exact amount of the loss is not the real issue. A bank robber's culpability does not come down if the amount he has looted is . 1 lakh, and not . 1 crore as originally thought. The nub of the chargesheet is that the then-telecom minister connived, with the help of senior officials, with some companies to give them licences, along with spectrum, without having to compete with other aspirants for licences, and caused loss to the exchequer in the process. The chargesheet exempts other members of the Cabinet, particularly the Prime Minister, from blame.


Policy must draw the right lessons from the scam and its aftermath. The goal is to tailor spectrum policy to achieve high-speed data-based connectivity for the entire population at the lowest cost, maximising growth and long-term government revenues. Devising a non-arbitrary and transparent system of deciding who gets to use the spectrum should not stop at auctions. Auctions are one method, and one which jacks up costs. We need to explore other means as well. This focus should not be lost, even as we revile and revise Raja's discredited ways at the telecom ministry.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

KILLER APPS

IAN FLEMING WOULD HAVE LOVED MI5'S REVELATION OF DEADLY NAZI PLOYS

 

That Q was not the only one dreaming up ingenious gadgets for James Bond to vanquish Goldfinger and assorted villains should come as no surprise. Fiction is often merely as strange as the truth. If declassified MI5 documents assert that the Nazis planned to bump off their enemies with poisoned sausages and aspirin tablets, lethal powders and pistols embedded in swastika-emblazoned belt buckles, all Ian Fleming can be accused of is adapting a few ideas that he may have picked up during his stint as a naval intelligence officer to suit the needs of his smooth-talking assassin. Had Fleming ever got wind of the possibility of a German Mata Hari picking off Allied targets as she powdered her nose — using microbes hidden in her mirrored compact case — he could not have resisted the temptation to get a Bond babe to try the same thing. Even Agatha Christie's murders set on trains, ships, islands, houses and other limited spaces could have been immeasurably enhanced by the possibilities offered by the Nazi security service's invention of a powder that could kill if swallowed but not inhaled, or a tiny pellet that could be placed on ashtrays and would vaporise with the heat of a lit cigarette and kill anyone close by.


With coffee, chocolates, liquor and, indeed, anything that may tempt an unwary enemy soldier or civilian, it was a wonder that the plan was never carried through. Unless of course, the entire information — garnered as it was from captured German agents —was an elaborate ploy to make Allied forces look askance at everything from handbags to medicines and thus divert them from their main goal of defeating the Axis powers. If only these documents had surfaced while Fleming was in full flow, then their talents would not have gone waste…

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

INDIA: SOFT STATE TO SOFT POWER

AS THE GLOBAL POWER EQUATION SHIFTS FROM FORCE TO INFLUENCE, INDIA HAS SUFFICIENT CLOUT TO EMERGE A WINNER


India has, for long, been regarded as a soft state. Gunnar Myrdal is credited with inventing this term, intended to mean a country where law enforcement and social discipline are low; by extension, one that is as timid and diffident in its dealings with other nations as with its own citizens.


Unlike tough and totalitarian states, or power-projecting countries like Israel, India was seen as mild and non-aggressive; preferring compromise to confrontation.


A look at contemporary history may belie this: right from Hyderabad, immediately after Independence, to the liberation of Goa, the annexation of Sikkim, and interventions in Sri Lanka and Maldives. More recently, its muted and measured reaction to the Parliament attack and Kargil, and to China's reported border incursions, have been lauded as signs of responsibility, as the maturity and confidence of an emerging power. In fact, some have already anointed India as a potential or soon-to-be superpower. If the size and growth of the economy are a criterion, then India does fit the bill. Its impressive growth over the last two decades is but the prelude to even more acceleration in the next few years. In fact, the prognosis — as indicated in a recent Citi study — is that (in PPP terms) it will be the thirdlargest economy by 2015, overtake the US by 2040 and, around 2050, become even bigger than China.


Many welcome the move from the pejorative 'soft state' to macho 'superpower'. The xenophobic brigade sees this as a fulfilment of India's destiny, recapturing its 'glorious past'. Yet, an objective assessment will hardly justify this appellation: India's military capabilities are but a fraction of China's, and its nuclear arsenal reportedly smaller than Pakistan's. Relative to others, India's coercive abilities in the region of its immediate interest are very limited.


How, then, can India influence developments in countries of interest to it? Relevant to this is the definition of brand India. Are its primary attributes related to military power: the fact that we are the biggest importer of armaments or have the third-largest army? It is unlikely that this will give us greater clout than competitors. Surely, it is not arms and armies, but culture and cuisine, democracy and diversity, spirituality and software that we would rather be known for.


It is these and similar facets of India that people elsewhere look up to; and, fortunately, in today's world, it is these that are increasingly important. These have become the new currency of power, as countries realise that the battles of tomorrow are not about occupying land, but capturing hearts and minds. Hard evidence of this is visible in the turmoil in north Africa and west Asia — as it was earlier in central and eastern Europe — where ideas and ideals are beginning to trump military force. Earlier waves had seen the triumph of other ideals — first nationalism and then religion — sweep many countries. Some had predicted a similar wave of market, or capitalist, democracy ousting all other ideals, but the last decade has not seen this materialising.
It is this ability to obtain what one wants through cooption and attraction, rather than coercion (without the threat, or actual use, of force) that has been defined — most cogently by Joseph Nye — as soft power. This is India's biggest strength and USP; it is this that can give us competitive advantage, complementing our economic attraction and supplementing our limited military strength. In fact — from the viewpoint of outcomes (which is what ultimately matters) — there is a trade-off between soft power and military force and, for India, an investment in the former will have far higher pay-off. No longer is Stalin's famous jibe relevant ("The Pope? How many divisions has he got?"); and, as global power transitions from force to influence, India is well placed to be the dominant player.

The popularity of Indian music and movies is well-known and widespread, extending beyond our neighbourhood or Indian diasporas (Tamil movies in Japan and Hindi songs in Vietnam are but two examples); now added are India's intellectual and democratic credentials. Undoubtedly, it is these cultural exports that have contributed to the perception of the 'non-threatening rise of India', making for a special comfort about India and things Indian. The paradigm for many countries — which we can help to reinforce — is 'China's aid, American technology, but Indian friends'.


India's soft power, which began with spirituality, movies and the broader impact of Indian culture — whether contemporary or ancient — and added independent and morality-based global policies, now encompasses institutions and knowledge. Its democratic institutions (particularly the judiciary, Election Commission and media) are respected, just as its knowledge-based sectors (including nuclear, space, pharma and IT) are admired. This provides India the wherewithal for its soft power, not only opening doors for commercial deals, but enabling strong leverage for 'persuasive' diplomacy on the geopolitical plane.


This huge fount of sustainable and growing power needs to be nurtured and further developed. It is diminished by blemishes like human rights violations in Kashmir and Chhattisgarh, by our treatment of Binayak Sen and Irom Sharmila, by corruption and scams, and by burning or banning books. If we are to enhance our soft power, such aberrations cannot be permitted; if ever they happen, one expects media attention, a public outcry and prompt corrective action by the state. Apart from civil society, the corporate world has both a role and responsibility in this.

 

KIRAN KARNIK

INDEPENDENT POLICY AND STRATEGY ANALYST

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THROUGH THE THIRD EYE


Different Strokes
The semi-political/sport parallel shows by Sonia Gandhiled 'Congress cricket fans' and L K Advani-led 'BJP cricket fans' alongside Bollywood celebrities seem to have made up for the absence of colourful professional cheerleaders at the Mohali and Mumbai World Cup blockbusters. When Sonia and Rahul accompanied PM Manmohan Singh to the Mohali stands to cheer the Indo-Pak cricketcum-diplomacy match, many reporters on the BJP beat in Delhi got calls from the L K Advani establishment informing them that a megascreen viewing had been arranged at home for the BJP veteran and his inner circle at the initiative of his daughter. As promised, the Advani-led BJP team travelled to Mumbai for the final to make up for their Mohali absence on 'security grounds'. While there were no helpful hints throughout the day on how Mrs Gandhi was planning to watch the final from her 10, Janpath residence, after India's win, the SPG-protected Sonia Gandhi did a road show on Delhi's streets amidst cheering cricket fans. Given the distinctly jingoistic buildup to the Indo-Pak semi-final, some of his supporters think Advani too should have hit the streets, after the Mohali match, to ride what has been his party's hobby-horse — Pak-bashing euphoria. Maybe there is a next time….
Meaningful Gifts
The post-match show by Karnataka CM Yeddyurappa has literally stunned both the BJP and Congress camps. Of course, nobody expected the BJP CM to lie low when many chief ministers are competing with each other to capitalise on the national mood by showering gifts on the victorious Indian team. Yet, nobody imagined the otherwise back-foot political player in Yeddyurappa would be so daring as to choose such 'politically live' gifts for the players - prime housing plots just when he and his family members are embroiled in land scams! This prompted a Delhi politician to wonder what A Raja would have offered the players if he was still at the helm of Sanchar Bhawan — free spectrum!
Rat-Race in House
Those experiencing an emotional vacuum after the World Cup carnival can perhaps look for compensation on the action front by tuning in to a potential mud-slinging race between the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) that are simultaneously probing the 2G Spectrum scandal. After fighting it out via s1ound-bites for a fortnight, JPC chief P C Chacko and PAC head Murli Manohar Joshi have moved the Speaker's court, accusing each other of trying to stifle or scuttle the others' body. Even as the Speaker is looking into these petitions, Joshi seems to have clearly scored over Chacko's JPC in the early rounds. A flurry of activity on the Joshi front has resulted in the JPC stealing the show by summoning big players like Ratan Tata, Niira Radia, Anil Ambani etc. Even those in the BJP who had initially seen Joshi's alleged 'overenthusiasm' in the PAC as being politically incorrect now seem to agree that he, indeed, is giving the JPC a run for its money. Though not many doubt Chacko's experience and skill in engaging Joshi in an eyeball-to-eyeball contest, for the time being, the Congress leader from Kerala is saddled with electioneering duty on home ground.
Reality Check
Just where are those 'bright, Gen-Next Young Turks' at a time of electoral battles? That is what seasoned Congress and BJP leaders are asking these days, mocking the near-absence of almost all young MPs who otherwise thrive in Delhi's networking circles as the promising movers and shakers. Barring Rahul Gandhi, there is no demand for any of the Congress 'Young Turks' for campaigning in any of the election-bound states. Since the popularity of the BJP youth wing chief Anurag Thakur supposedly shot up after the aborted Jammu Tiranga show, he was expected to storm the campaign by flashing the tricolour. Instead, Thakur put up a show, so far, only in the VVIP stands during the World Cup matches. And while Varun Gandhi has been eager to hit the Assam campaign trail as party secretary-in-charge, BJP leaders, wary of their own Gandhi's counter-productive inflammatory campaigning style, have put him out of action by saying the young man is away on his honeymoon trip. Some of these young MPs, though, even if there are no takers on the ground, are still pursuing their state leaders to 'invite' them for campaigning. Quite a reality check.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

THE 'FREE' ELECTION OFFER!

RAGHU KRISHNAN


" FREEBIES WILL BE THERE

as long as you have the poor," the DMK patriarch and Tamil Nadu chief minister Karunanidhi was quoted the other day as saying. Some weeks ago, a Chennai-based relative of mine was offered a free colour TV (CTV) set under the government scheme launched to alleviate the plight of the poor, as promised in the DMK manifesto for the 2006 assembly elections. The relative was not exactly poor, having already purchased and installed in her doublestoreyed house two TV sets, one more than what I have at home in Bangalore. An HR professional based in Chennai told me more recently that 'poor' people were driving down in their Mercedes Benz to collect their free CTV sets. Maybe, the DMK government in Tamil Nadu has its own definition of poverty and the BPL — below the poverty-line!


Maybe, India's Election Commission could define poverty for the benefit of political parties which seek to alleviate the plight of the poor. The free-TV sop was announced in the DMK manifesto along with a scheme to provide the poor with free and cheaper rice (at . 1 a kg) and this has clicked to an extent where coffee planters in Karnataka tell me they have problems in hiring labour to work since migrant workers from Tamil Nadu now prefer to stay at home. Some of the migrant Tamil workers I meet in Karnataka tell me they are going back to their state where the rice being provided for the poor is of good quality. Hopefully, the cheaper-rice scheme will not be made more inclusive by way of covering those Tamil Nadu voters who can afford to buy basmati! And so, what if the cheaper-rice scheme was a pre-poll offer! It would be unrealistic in this 2Gscam day and age to expect India's political parties "to do the right thing for the right reason", as articulated by the saintly 12th-century protagonist of T S Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral.


While defining poverty, maybe the Election Commission of India could also spell out something called conflict of interest. It would, for instance, be considered unethical and conflict of interest if Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal or his Kingfisher counterpart Vijay Mallya was tomorrow appointed India's minister for civil aviation. So why should the Election Commission not intervene when the DMK government distributes free CTV sets to the 'poor' even when the Kalaignar TV network is owned by the CM's wife and daughter while the state's leading Sun TV network is owned by his nephew's son? In its latest manifesto for the coming assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, the DMK has announced that it will continue the free CTV and free and cheap rice schemes while offering new sops like free mixies or grinders for ration-card holders, and free laptops for SC, ST and BC first-year students in professional colleges. After initially railing against how the DMK's freebies were reducing a self-reliant people to takers of alms, AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa has joined the race by not just offering free and cheap rice but also free mineral water for the poor and laptops for all poor first-year students in professional colleges. She has also thrown in 60,000 free cows by way of a scheme which she says will make the beneficiaries self-reliant. It is not known at this time where the cows will be sourced from!
All this in the context of the 2G scam allegedly perpetrated by A Raja — Karunanidhi's choice to replace his grandnephew Dayanidhi Maran as India's telecom minister in the summer of 2007 — is part of a malaise which is vitiating public life. The latest release of Wiki-Leaks tells us of votes allegedly being bought in the Thirumangalam byelection to the Tamil Nadu Assembly for . 5,000 per head by the patriarch's elder son, with the money being allegedly dropped in envelopes with the morning newspaper, along with DMK voting-slips!
So, should India's Election Commission be more proactive and take cognisance of all this? If the Election Commission isn't sufficiently proactive, should someone file a PIL in the Supreme Court and can that catalyse a much-needed chain-reaction? Stranger things have happened. A year ago, would anyone have anticipated India's telecom minister Raja's resignation and arrest as part of a CBI investigation? As Tamil Nadu's poet-saint Thiruvalluvar said centuries ago in his work Thirukkural: "Even if it yields good results, abandon the wealth/Which has been obtained by unjust approach." Thiruvallavur went on to add: "The moment one covets the property of others/ One's family name is spoilt and guilt accrues." And who should know better than the poet-scholar Kalaignar (Tamil for artist) Karunanidhi who insisted on taking the oath of office as chief minister in 1989 in Chennai's Valluvar Kottam where the 1,330 couplets of the Thirukkural are inscribed!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COSMIC UPLINK

THE LESSER KNOWN MIRACLE

MUKUL SHARMA


Ever the unbeliever, George Bernard Shaw is said to have remarked after observing the objects cast off by visitors to Lourdes, which is famous for its so-called miracle cures: "All those canes, braces and crutches, and not a single glass eye, wooden leg or toupee." What he meant was if a miracle can make a crippled person walk why can't it grow back an amputee's limb? Point taken, but somewhere in that logic a greater miracle is missed. Consider the cripple. Assuming he was not faking it, the fact still remains that he was able to discard his walking support. Hardnosed rationalists would not call that a miracle. They'd say that if such an event occurred at all, it was probably due to some psychosomatic effect — if they didn't say it was a placebo thing outright. And that's the common everyday miracle they would be missing; how does the mind effect the body? Consider amputees next. Over 50% of people who have an arm or leg surgically removed report what is called "phantom pain" in parts of the limb which is no longer there. Medical science doesn't have a coherent theory why this happens though, amazingly, medications — including placebos —can reduce the pain. Now, a placebo is a substance containing no active drug that's only prescribed or given to reinforce a patient's expectation to get well. So, in effect, what we have here is: a fictional medication effecting something that has no right to exist in an imaginary body part. There's your real miracle. One wonders what Bernard Shaw would have said.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CITINGS

LEADING CHANGE

JOHN KOTTER


By far the biggest mistake people make when trying to change organisations is to plunge ahead without establishing a high enough sense of urgency among fellow managers and employees. This error is fatal because transformations always fail to achieve their objectives when complacency levels are high... Major change is often said to be impossible unless the head of the organisation is an active supporter. What I am talking about here goes far beyond that. In successful transformations, the president, division general manager, or department head plus another five, 15, or 50 people come together and develop a shared commitment to improved performance along with the teamwork needed to realise that commitment.


This group rarely includes all of the most senior people because some of them just won't buy in, at least at first. But in the most successful cases, the coalition is always powerful - in terms of formal titles, information and expertise, reputations and relationships, and the capacity for leadership. Individuals alone, no matter how competent or charismatic, never have all the assets needed to overcome tradition and inertia except in very small organisations. Weak committees are usually even more impotent. Efforts that lack a powerful enough guiding coalition can make apparent progress for a while. The structure might be changed, or a reengineering effort might be launched.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

2G CASE: CBI TO BE UNDER CLOSE WATCH

 

The first chargesheet in the 2G spectrum allocation case against former communications minister A. Raja and eight others was filed last Saturday, 60 days after Mr Raja had been taken into custody and interrogated at the pushing of the Supreme Court. The CBI, to which the case has been entrusted, just managed to beat the deadline. If the country's premier investigating agency had taken even a day longer in filing the first chargesheet, Mr Raja would have had to be released on bail. That is apt to have sent a message of the government being lackadaisical about dealing with what is arguably the worst case of corruption in a government department since Independence. In the event it would have damaged the reputation of the Manmohan Singh government even further by leaving the impression that it was not serious about seeking to punish the guilty in spite of monitoring by the country's highest court. There is another aspect to the matter. Had a delay occurred, many might have concluded that the government was going out of its way to postpone the inevitable until voting had taken place for the Assembly election in Tamil Nadu so that the Congress' partner, the ruling DMK, may escape at least some of the prejudicial outcome of Mr Raja's actions that are under investigation. Other than Mr Raja, the chargesheet takes in eight others, including two officials deemed to be close to the former minister in running the alleged racket of allocating 2G spectrum in return for huge monetary favours. Besides, a clutch of real estate companies that were alleged to be in cahoots with a well-known industrial group to deprive the exchequer of thousands of crores of rupees have been brought into the net through the chargesheet. It is evident that the muck that will be raked involves very influential corporate personalities and their accomplices. This essentially means that every effort is likely to be made by those thought to be guilty to use top legal brains to browbeat the system. Thus, the CBI is required to exercise considerable vigilance in dealing with this case. This can effectively happen only if the investigators build a case that is solid. They are wont to do the opposite so that crooks, especially those with political backing, get away. Therefore, the CBI's political masters will be under public scrutiny to ensure that the 2G case is not scuttled for want of diligence and application. The chargesheet that has been filed does not embrace the Rajya Sabha MP, Ms Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK supremo, Dr M. Karunanidhi. Some of the information on the 2G affair, which is in the public domain, has made some uneasy that Ms Kanimozhi may have been a beneficiary in the 2G case through Mr Raja. The young DMK leader has challenged the aspersion cast on her and has publicly stated she would stand up and fight to clear her name. It is just possible that she is being unfairly targeted by her political opponents. But that does not mean that the CBI must not strain every nerve to look at any information pertaining to her possible involvement. Several speculative figures had been suggested as to the extent of loss to the national exchequer on account of the 2G scandal. The highest of these was `1,76,000 crores. Discrepancies are fundamentally on account of the methodology adopted. The first CBI chargesheet suggests a figure of around `30,000 crores. This is no mean sum, of course. While examining the material furnished by the CBI, the Supreme Court will need to pay attention to this matter as well.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

SAIL AT YOUR OWN PERIL

 

Paying more for petrol? Blame part of it on Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea, whose attacks on commercial shipping, often close to the western seaboard of India, have drastically escalated maritime risk insurance rates for ships traversing the region. In 2010, 445 such attacks were reported. From 2009, the attacks have increased by 10 per cent, as a result of which the Joint War Risks Committee of Lloyds, London, expanded the boundaries of their "risk exclusion zone" for insurance against piracy, from Longitude 065 degrees East to 078 degrees East. The original danger area has increased from the immediate vicinity of the Somalian littoral to an enormous sea zone. It covers almost the entire north-western Indian Ocean, stretching north and northeast from the Horn of Africa into the Red Sea and the coast of Oman. More than 1,200 nautical miles east, it almost touches the west coast of India, engulfing the Indian territory of the Lakshadweep Islands. The zone also stretches south and east covering the East African littorals in Kenya and Tanzania and the Mozambique channel to almost within a hailing distance of Madagascar. Shipping or all types of sailing in this vast exclusion zone have to pay increased risk insurance premia, ranging from $200,000 per month for Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC), transporting crude oil to $50,000 per month for bulk carriers with commodity cargoes and further down the scale depending on the size and cargo of vessels. These are partially reflected in the enhanced prices motorists have to pay at petrol pumps in Indian cities. In tactics distinctly reminiscent of German U-Boat "wolf packs" operating in distant seas during the earlier stages of World War II, Somali pirates based in Somalia and Puntland are operating at greater ranges into the Indian Ocean in small motorised attack craft. This is supported by larger hijacked vessels as "depot" ships carrying administrative support like food, fuel, weapons and ammunition. The latter have even acquired a new category as "LPSV", a bizarre new acronym for Large Pirate Support Vessels. Activities of Somali pirates are of urgent concern to India because the Lloyds Risk Exclusion Zone sits squarely astride India's principal maritime economic routes converging onto the focal points of Mumbai, Goa and Cochin on the Konkan and Malabar coasts. It also boosts the landed costs of all types of cargo, particularly crude oil for India's numerous refineries. In addition, Indian seafarers, who provide substantive components of merchant crews across the globe are vulnerable targets for capture and ransom. There are an estimated 30,000-50,000 Indian seafarers serving on foreign flagged merchant vessels all over the world. All figures are basically educated guesswork, even though INDoS (the Indian National Database of Seafarers) provides the official register of Indian seafarers. But even this does not reflect the true figures accurately, because it comprises the details of only those merchant seamen who have received their certificates of professional competency from government sanctioned institutions in India. Not all Indian seafarers have registered themselves in INDoS, or trained in institutes approved in India. Many sail at their own peril, more or less as indentured labour on unsafe rust bucket vessels operated by unscrupulous shipowners outside the reach of Indian law. The perils from predatory pirate gangs only add to the many natural and occupational hazards that already exist in the profession. According to various sources, there are an estimated 650-850 seafarers of various nationalities held as hostages for ransom by these maritime highwaymen, along with approximately 53 merchant vessels of various types. This also includes tankers transporting West Asian crude oil to refineries in India and elsewhere. Of these, 79 seamen are Indian. This is an emotive issue. It has already seen public demonstrations on the streets of New Delhi by the families of 11 Indian crew members from the hijacked Egyptian flag — MV Suez — whom the pirates had threatened to kill if their ransom demands were not met within a specified deadline. Security of Indian sailors in international waters is undoubtedly a complex issue, with several complicated factors in respect of jurisdiction as well as responsibility for crew safety. This is typically exemplified in the case of the hijacked MV Suez itself — a 17,300 ton ship owned by the Egyptian Red Sea Navigation Company based at Sharm el-Sheikh, sailing under a Panamanian flag of convenience, with a multi-nationality crew of 23, which included 11 Indians. There are also disturbing reports of linkages between pirates and Somali jihadis of As Sahab with further affiliations with Al Qaeda and beyond to Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, ultimately reaching back to the dark eminences of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. The Government of India must take a long-term strategic overview of the threat from expanding activities of Somali pirates. If unchecked, this will have serious potential to assume the dimensions of a pirate empire in the Indian Ocean on the lines of the Barbary States of the 17th and 18th centuries in the Mediterranean, threatening the security and even perhaps the existence of small island nations of the Indian Ocean, like the Maldives, Seychelles, Comoros, Mauritius, Reunion and even Madagascar. For the present, a "Limburg" type suicide bombing or an "Achille Lauro" type hijacking and passenger hostage situation in the Indian Ocean involving Indian shipping or personnel is certainly not unthinkable. The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard have launched Operation Island Watch for anti-piracy and anti-maritime infiltration operations along the Indian seaboard, aimed at protecting merchant vessels and checking piracy along the Indian coastline and in the vicinity of Indian territorial waters. The Navy's operations have undoubtedly been effective, but the roots of Somali piracy naturally lie on shore in Somalia. It is the pirate base area where the situation is wildly confusing, with intense clan fighting amongst dozens of tribal factions and few vestiges of any central authority to control the situation. The African Union has intervened militarily to support a failing elected provisional government, while neighbouring countries of Ethiopia and Kenya, which face a more direct threat, have also intervened periodically. India should examine the option of cooperation ashore with these African countries to safeguard its domestic waters. Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE CLIMATE DENIERS CAN'T HANDLE TRUTH

 

So the joke begins like this: An economist, a lawyer and a professor of marketing walk into a room. What's the punch line? They were three of the five "expert witnesses" Republicans called for last week's Congressional hearing on climate science. But the joke actually ended up being on the Republicans, when one of the two actual scientists they invited to testify went off script. Prof. Richard Muller of Berkeley, a physicist who has gotten into the climate sceptic game, has been leading the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, an effort partially financed by none other than the Koch foundation. And climate deniers — who claim that researchers at Nasa and other groups analysing climate trends have massaged and distorted the data — had been hoping that the Berkeley project would conclude that global warming is a myth. Instead, however, Prof. Muller reported that his group's preliminary results find the global warming trend "very similar to that reported by the prior groups". The deniers' response was both predictable and revealing; more on that shortly. But first, let's talk a bit more about that list of witnesses, which raised the same question I and others have had about a number of committee hearings held since the GOP (Grand Old Party) retook control of the House — namely, where do they find these people? My favourite, still, was Ron Paul's first hearing on monetary policy, in which the lead witness was someone best known for writing a book denouncing Abraham Lincoln as a "horrific tyrant" — and for advocating a new secessionist movement as the appropriate response to the "new American fascialistic state". The ringers (i.e., non-scientists) at last week's hearing weren't of quite the same calibre, but their prepared testimony still had some memorable moments. One was the lawyer's declaration that the Environmnetal Protection Agency can't declare that greenhouse gas emissions are a health threat, because these emissions have been rising for a century, but public health has improved over the same period. I am not making this up. Oh, and the marketing professor, in providing a list of past cases of "analogies to the alarm over dangerous man-made global warming" — presumably intended to show why we should ignore the worriers — included problems such as acid rain and the ozone hole that have been contained precisely, thanks to environmental regulation. But back to Prof. Muller. His climate-sceptic credentials are pretty strong: he has denounced both Al Gore and my colleague Tom Friedman as "exaggerators", and he has participated in a number of attacks on climate research, including the witch hunt over innocuous emails from British climate researchers. Not surprisingly, then, climate deniers had high hopes that his new project would support their case. You can guess what happened when those hopes were dashed. Just a few weeks ago, Anthony Watts, who runs a prominent climate denialist website, praised the Berkeley project and piously declared himself "prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong". But never mind: once he knew that Prof. Muller was going to present those preliminary results, Mr Watts dismissed the hearing as "post normal science political theatre". And one of the regular contributors on his site dismissed Prof. Muller as "a man driven by a very serious agenda". Of course, it's actually the climate deniers who have the agenda, and nobody who's been following this discussion believed for a moment that they would accept a result confirming global warming. But it's worth stepping back for a moment and thinking not just about the science here, but about the morality. For years now, large numbers of prominent scientists have been warning, with increasing urgency, that if we continue with business as usual, the results will be very bad, perhaps catastrophic. They could be wrong. But if you're going to assert that they are, in fact wrong, you have a moral responsibility to approach the topic with high seriousness and an open mind. After all, if the scientists are right, you'll be doing a great deal of damage. But what we had, instead of high seriousness, was a farce: a supposedly crucial hearing stacked with people who had no business being there and instant ostracism for a climate sceptic who was actually willing to change his mind in the face of evidence. Like I said, no surprise: as Upton Sinclair pointed out long ago, it's difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. But it's terrifying to realise that this kind of cynical careerism — for that's what it is — has probably ensured that we won't do anything about climate change until catastrophe is already upon us. So on second thought, I was wrong when I said that the joke was on the GOP; actually, the joke is on the human race.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

'OPINION POLLS CAN BE TWISTED'

 

With four states and one Union Territory headed for Assembly elections, Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi tells Parul Chandra in an interview that it is "an extremely unfair criticism" to be accused of enforcing the model code of conduct excessively. Q. For the Assembly polls, the Election Commission (EC) has asked for the mandatory opening of a separate bank account by each candidate for election expenses, and the filing of revised expenditure affidavits. Why? A. This is part of our initiative to eliminate bad money from elections. The opening of separate bank accounts and paying for all expenditure by cheque will not only leave a money trail, but also provide clues on the amount being used from a candidate's own funds, the party funds, as well as other sources. We have an enormous responsibility which becomes more urgent because of the growing menace of money power. The most important reform has been to set up a regular machinery for expenditure monitoring. Q. What will the expenditure monitoring division do? A. Headed by a senior income-tax official, it will advise the EC on all important policies concerning the curbing of money power in elections. The guidelines we prepared were implemented for the first time in the Bihar polls on an experimental basis last year. They worked extremely well. The feedback from political parties also indicated that these measures were quite successful. Parties have been asked to not incur any cash expenses. This arrangement helps bring transparency. We feel that the excessive use of money is a competitive phenomenon between political parties and candidates. If one candidate/party uses it, the other feels compelled to do the same and the level-playing field is disturbed. The same goes for criminalisation. If one party puts up a muscleman as a candidate, the others feel intimidated and also field a candidate with a criminal background. Q. Yet, parties continue to field candidates with a criminal background. A. One feels embarrassed when various election watch organisations come out with disturbing data on this. There's embarrassment when it's pointed out at international fora that of the 543 members in the present Lok Sabha, as many as 162 have a criminal charge pending against them, of which 76 are serious criminal offences. Indeed, the number of members of Parliament with pending criminal charge is going up. The basic objection of politicians who don't want criminals banned from contesting is often that parties and candidates file false cases against one another. Two, the law of the land says that unless you're convicted, you're innocent. With conviction taking 15 to 20 years, persons with criminal antecedents, and some with heinous crimes against their names, will be lawmakers when actually they have been law breakers. Senior politicians and the Law Commission have said all right, ignore cases that are politically motivated or frivolous. But in the case of a heinous charge that can lead to a conviction of five years or more, if a court has framed charges against them, at least on that basis disqualify them. The EC has added a safety clause saying that such cases should have been filed six months before the poll so that there is time to undo the damage if it's a false case. Q. What are the tools the EC will use in the coming Assembly polls to check electoral malpractices like distribution of money, gift, liquor etc by political parties? A. Everyone knows there is a model code of conduct which needs to be enforced. So, to be accused of enforcing it excessively is an extremely unfair criticism. If there is a law, should we not enforce it honestly? When you use excessive money power, you obviously want quick returns, and that leads to all kinds of questionable actions. The EC has also appealed to political parties to desist from carrying large amounts of cash in a constituency. Banks have been asked to report any suspicious withdrawal of cash from individual accounts. This will be closely monitored. The Financial Intelligence Unit of the department of revenue has been asked to pass on cash withdrawal reports and suspicious transaction reports and the IT department has been asked to oversee movement of cash in a constituency. Surveillance teams will keep a close watch on the distribution of tokens by political parties which can be encashed later. Q. Why have you called for a ban on opinion and exit polls? A. Because they disturb the level-playing field. There is undue influence and confusion created in the minds of voters in a scenario where multi-phased polls are increasingly taking place. Besides, there are reports that such polls get manipulated in favour of or against contending parties. So, in 2009, Parliament enacted a law banning exit polls. The EC wants a ban on opinion polls too and has asked the government to enact legislation for banning them. We feel that an opinion poll too can be manipulated, especially when we're grappling with the phenomenon of "paid news". Q. Will there be a comprehensive framework to tackle criminalisation and corruption of the electoral process? A. The law ministry and EC are working jointly to evolve a whole set of electoral reforms based on countrywide consultations so that these can be soon made into law by Parliament. I'm hopeful that some major reforms will become a reality soon. Q. Why are you not in favour of state funding of elections? A. Because we don't think this is the answer to the problem we're dealing with. It does not put a stop to unauthorised expenditure by political parties or candidates. Nobody knows this better than the EC. The money spent in an election is all black money. We fear that if there is state funding, it will only make more money available to political parties for use as black money. The issue is really one of honest enforcement. When such honest enforcement has not happened today, what is the guarantee that after state funding it will all become straightforward? Even the Indrajit Gupta Committee had said that without overall reforms involving the total internal democracy of political parties and transparency in their funding, state funding will actually be counter-productive. Q. Should a ceiling be imposed on electoral spending by political parties? A. For financial discipline, we have also been asking political parties to get their accounts audited by auditors appointed by the EC or Comptroller and Auditor General, and to put their annual accounts in the public domain. We have suggested that election expenses of a political party should be subject to a ceiling, and that all political donations should be by cheque, so that the public knows the quid pro quo — that I've taken a donation from you and the next day I take a favour from you. Political parties are receiving large donations mostly in cash through the sale of coupons. As they do not have to report donations exceeding `20,000, transparency is affected. The EC is now examining a strict reporting system for cash donations received by political parties and to bring accountability in coupon sales.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT

 

Only life can know life. A thought cannot know life. An emotion cannot know life. An ego cannot know life. Only life can know life. How can one claim to know life? If you stop being a bundle of thoughts, opinions and emotions and just exist here as life, just throbbing pulsating life, knowing life is just natural. A state of enlightenment is to have greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation. Often people ask what is the state of enlightenment? It is To give spiritual or intellectual insight. So what we are referring to as enlightenment is just this: instead of being a thought, instead of being an emotion, instead of being an ego, you just become life — simply life. Enlightenment is not the ultimate thing. Yes it is in one way. It's the most basic thing because first you're life; only then you're everything else, isn't it? Only because you're alive, you're capable of thought and emotion and capable of ego. So, this is like becoming very basic, just life, pure life nothing else. All other things are there, but you're never identified with it. Experientially, intellectually knowing I am not this, I am not that, doesn't liberate a person. Right now, the centre of your existence is your identity or your identification. You are identified with your job, your family, your home… So currently the very centre of your existence is something that you have put on and not real. So when you're not in reality, the question of experiencing life as it is doesn't arise. For you today, words and classifications have become more important than the experience itself. If you look at the sky, you will see the sun and the moon, and the clouds and the flowers and the trees and a million other things that you have divided life into. If you just become life, there are no clouds, there is no moon, there is no flowers; there is simply pulsating life. If you become just life, none of those things exists. Only life exists, just this pulsating mass of energy. You can call it creation; you can call it Creator; or you can call it myself, it's the same thing. What you call it, it doesn't matter; but it's just life. Some of it manifest; most of it un-manifest, but still life. All of it is some kind of possibility. Every atom in the existence is a possibility. So it's life. What you call as life is just a possibility. What you make out of it is all that it is, isn't it? — Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a prominent spiritual leader, is a visionary, humanitarian, an author, poet and internationally-renowned speaker. He can be contacted at www.ishafoundation.org

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

LESSONS FROM JAPAN

 

The earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, in northern Japan killed over 20,000 people and a few thousand may suffer from slow radiation poisoning over the next few decades. Global worries about radioactive material entering the human food chain are real as winds and ocean currents spread the radioactive waste. On April 3, newspapers reported the following about Fukushima reactors: An eight-inch crack was discovered in the maintenance pit with radioactive seawater flowing into the sea. The air above this pit showed a radiation level of 1,000 milliseverts per hour (the maximum permissible radiation dose is 20 milliseverts per year). Highly radioactive water was discovered in a steam turbine generator compartment. The basic reason for Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster was the delay in utilising seawater cooling in four operational reactors after the main and standby cooling systems failed. Once the Fukushima reactors were shut down due to the earthquake, it required a few weeks' cooling (using standby generators) to remove the "decay heat" of reactor fuel "fission byproducts". Unfortunately, 15 minutes later the tsunami came and shut down the standby diesel generators and cooling was done for the next eight hours using batteries and boric acid to absorb neutrons. Once the batteries were exhausted there was a very small time window in which seawater cooling should have been used even though seawater would have corroded and permanently "written off" the reactors. Apparently it was decided to try and save the reactors for future use by delaying seawater cooling, resulting in the reactor fuel meltdown. Since there are numerous lessons for India, which hopes to import a couple of dozen light water reactors (LWRs), let me first explain that LWRs are of two types: the pressurised water reactor (PWR), which is used in both civil nuclear power plants and nuclear submarines, and the boiling water reactor (BWR) of the type that is in the news in Fukushima. Both the PWR and BWR use uranium oxide (UO2) as fuel and this fuel heats up water in a "closed loop" to drive a steam generator to produce electricity. To ensure a higher boiling point of water (about 250ºC), the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) which houses the fuel and the pure demineralised water (know as the "first loop") is kept at high pressure to ensure a higher boiling point of water for greater heat transfer. The RPV is similar to a pressure cooker where excess pressure can be vented out by a safety valve. Unlike the PWR (where the "first loop" is kept isolated from the steam turbine generators), the simpler BWR allows the radioactive steam from the reactor core to go directly to the steam turbine generators. But this requires special precautions to be taken in the steam turbine generator compartments of the nuclear plant due to the radioactive steam. This explains the April 2 discovery of radioactive water in the turbine compartment of a reactor. The UO2 fuel has a melting point of about 3,000ºC. These UO2 pellets are put in sealed Zircaloy tubes (which have a melting point of 2,200ºC, and these tubes form the "fuel core". This core is stored inside a RPV, which can withstand high temperatures and the very high pressures of the boiling water, which is converted to steam, which then drives the steam turbines to produce electricity. This "closed loop" steam is subsequently "externally cooled" by seawater in a seawater cooled "condenser" that converts the steam into water and the pure water is then pumped back into the RPV to cool the core and become steam again in the closed cycle. If the fuel in the reactor core is not constantly cooled by water the Zircaloy tubes can melt in about 45 minutes, followed soon thereafter by the UO2 fuel, resulting in a "core meltdown". This nightmare scenario is known as LOCA (loss of cooling accident). Should the reactor core "melt down" due to LOCA, then the fuel is prevented from coming into contact with the atmosphere by a "containment vessel". The explosions one saw on TV at the Japanese nuclear plants were basically hydrogen explosions outside the containment vessel, of steam released from the RPV (at high temperatures steam breaks up into hydrogen and oxygen). With the earthquake of March 11, the reactors were immediately shut. However, each reactor core had "fission byproducts", which require water cooling for a few weeks to reduce decay heat. As explained earlier, this cooling failed and the seawater cooling was delayed, leading to LOCA and reactor fuel meltdown. The radiation level spikes, followed by the discovery of plutonium (plutonium 239 has a half life of 24,400 years) in the soil on March 29, 2011, indicate a "containment vessel leak" in at least one reactor. The decision of March 30 to decommission four of the six Fukushima reactors was inevitable. Also, the reactors, apart from UO2 fuel, have a few fission byproducts with long "half lives", eg. Cesium 137 is 30 years, Strontiun 90 is 29 years. Hence, apart from entombing the four reactors in sand, lead and concrete, the Fukushima region will need careful monitoring for a long time. Nuclear power is important for India but a transparent safety audit needs to be done of our existing (and future) nuclear plants, site locations, the tsunami warning system, the national disaster management system and the nuclear emergency response teams. Also, our Nuclear Liabilities Bill must not be diluted, indeed, it needs to be made even more stringent. Safe renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydropower too require a fresh relook. * Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

DO THEY KNOW?

KNOW, THAT THERE'S AN EDUCATION ACT


IF ONLY six out of the country's 28 states have notified the Right To Education Act, the sluggishness is of a piece with the tinkering that has marked the execution of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and also, of course, the Right To Information Act. In real terms, families in the below poverty line segment in as many as 22 states are scarcely aware that their children are entitled to free and compulsory education up to Class VIII. This represents approximately 79 per cent of BPL families across the country, indeed those who are eminently entitled to welfare handouts that don't come in the category of vote-bank lollies. If supposedly landmark legislation ~ is 'flagship' the fashionable terminology? ~ is enacted for the welfare of the people, it devolves on the states and no less on the Centre to acquaint the people of its existence. The chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Ms Shantha Sinha, does have a point when she laments that 'it's really sad that only six out of 28 states have notified the Act in the last one year'.  Equally must it be accepted that part of the responsibility also devolves on the Centre not least because the Act is an embodiment of the will of the people in the national legislature. Publicity on this count is decidedly more urgent than the lakhs that are expended on the opening of railway booking counters in West Bengal.  As with several other facets of welfare, there is little or no coordination in the execution of such Centre-state joint ventures in public policy.


Even in the also-ran category, West Bengal's performance has been pathetic if another critical parameter is considered. Notably, the constitution of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), which monitors the implementation of the RTE Act. West Bengal doesn't figure in the list of eleven states that have such a panel in place. It is in the league of 16 states where even the fundamentals don't exist, let alone the people being acquainted about the entitlement. A year after its enactment, the legislation remains an embroidery in Parliament's record books. The chairperson of NCPCR has been remarkably candid when she admits: 'While people are not aware, even teachers' and head teachers' knowledge is rudimentary.'


VETERAN'S PANEL

Why the MoD reluctance?

WITH the Parliamentary Standing Committee joining the Supreme Court in expressing distress over the dithering in the establishment of a National Commission for Ex-Servicemen, the defence ministry will be hard pressed to defend its calculated inaction when the issue next comes under focus. For neither the apex court nor the committee buy the sarkari line that adequate mechanisms are in place to ensure all welfare measures listed on paper actually translate into action. Action for the benefit of those who gave the best years of their life doing among the most arduous tasks the nation asked of any of its citizens. It would be over-simplistic to attribute the dithering to the bureaucrats' standard refusal to understand that the schemes legislated or in place via government orders do not deliver. There has been far too much criticism from the judiciary (which in this context includes the Armed Forces Tribunal), and what the netas see for themselves to maintain the façade of all being generally good, the occasional 'horror stories' mere aberrations. Perhaps it would also be an unfair exaggeration to suggest callous indifference or ingratitude on the part of the ministry. What then? Most likely it is the ingrained cynical refusal of both the MoD and Service Headquarters (the villains of some of the horror stories hail from the uniformed community too) to permit any scrutiny of their functioning. Having long deemed itself a sacred cow the defence establishment maintains an archaic mindset that it is not accountable to the public and moves towards transparency in governance end at the moat it has created around itself.
That 'establishment' has found its fingers burnt by the 'opening up' that followed the appointment of the Tribunal, a veterans' commission would prove devastatingly embarrassing. For with the exception of some of the northern states (the most fertile recruitment fields) the treatment of former defence personnel is pathetic:  not that it is faultless in Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal and Uttarakhand. A Commission may not be a magic wand but since they exist in abundance ~ for women, minorities, SC/STs…, why not for ex-servicemen? AK Antony is fortunate that Kerala's contribution to the forces is largely technical personnel, those veterans do not suffer like former footsloggers, else his present poll campaign might have run into a little trouble. Tragically the Standing Committees are virtually toothless, and Parliament tenders the soldier the ultimate insult by allotting no time to discuss defence issues ~ kickbacks in purchases excepted.


SCHOOLS UNDER PICKAXE

THE STATE, THE MAOIST AND THE LEARNER

NITISH Kumar's famous victory hasn't quite helped the Bihar administration to countenance the extremist in 33 of 38 districts. The challenge remains ever so forbidding. The continuing outrage, if institutional, conveys a message to the Bengal administration as well. In both states have school buildings in the volatile belt been converted to police camps to accommodate the paramilitary, recalling the conversion of Presidency College to a CRPF barrack in 1970-71. There is a message too for the standard-bearers of universal primary education; it is a mockery of the latest fundamental right if school buildings are used for a purpose that is far removed from learning. Not that the Maoists in Bihar have been driven by an anxiety to uphold the right. No fewer than 100 government schools have been bulldozed by extremists in a hugely destructive form of protest against the state's misuse of these buildings to launch operations against Left radicals. It is a cruel irony that hundreds of thousands of school girls in north Bihar have no schools to go to on the cycles gifted by the Chief Minister. And going by the CPI-M's manifesto, the gesture may even be emulated by the Bengal Left, if re-elected. The children of the poor in Bihar had suffered for generations both on account of governmental indifference towards education and societal impediments. It is a tragedy that school buildings have now come under the Maoist pickaxe. The affront to learning could not have been more outrageous, and the state as much as the Maoists must accept responsibility. It has verily neutralised Bihar's  forward movement over the past few years, and perhaps more so after the Right to Education found its way to the statute book, however horribly belated the entry.


The spurious rationale behind using school buildings for security operations calls for reflection. It is quite obvious that states like Bihar and Bengal have chosen the seemingly easy option. But tragically, the deleterious effect this can have on children and learning has never been thought through. And between disingenuous official policy and the Maoist backlash languish the victims ~ predominantly first-generation learners in the subaltern belt. It is the State, as an entity of governance, that will have to take care of those who are thus being deprived of learning. No, a school can't be a base camp for counter-mobilisation. This is not to sympathise with the Maoist; only to emphasise that the Right to Universal Primary Education ought not to be another embroidery. The target group deserves better.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

STATE WITHIN STATE

WHY KHORASAN IS CRUCIAL

RAJINDER PURI


ISLAMIC fundamentalists including the leaders of Al Qaida seized upon the legend of Greater Khorasan to inspire followers to pursue their terrorist agenda. According to legend, Prophet Mohammed had prophesied that one day a great power would rise in the east to demolish enemies and spread Islam across the world. That created the legend of Greater Khorasan. The traditional concept of Greater Khorasan included territories of Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of Uzbekistan , Tajikistan and Iran. Well, it seems that the legend of Greater Khorasan is being overtaken by the reality of lesser Khorasan. And that might signify in the view of this scribe a crucial and much desired development.


A distinguished Afghan journalist and author, an authority on the Taliban, Mr Musa Khan Jalalzai, reports that a strong movement for autonomy and self-rule by the non-Pashtun tribes of northern and central Afghanistan is gathering strength. In Pakistan's Daily Times he wrote: 'This irresponsible method of governance (during the Taliban regime) empowered the voices of those politically alienated ethnic groups who finally demanded the division of Afghanistan along ethnic lines. Their demand of territorial autonomy and decentralization of power has received massive support in the northern and central parts of the country… Ten years ago, Tajik groups re-introduced themselves as the direct descendants of the Aryans and claimed that all Persian-speaking people belong to them. Having associated with this interpretation of history, they want to establish an independent Khorasan state and believe Afghanistan is the country of the Pashtuns and not the Afghans. In their understanding, the demand for Pashtunistan itself is the denial of united Afghanistan and they say that the Pashtuns themselves want the partition of the country in terms of an independent Pashtunistan state. They regret supporting Pashtun political demands in the past because their recent demand for an independent Khorasan receives no support from their Pashtun brothers.'


Last week for the first time, the debate for the creation of a Khorasan state within Afghanistan was formally initiated. Afghanistan was described as an artificial state created by the Great Game played between Imperialist powers. Indeed, in 1525 Babar had written: 'The people of Hindustan call every country beyond their own Khorasan… On the road between Hindustan and Khorasan, there are two great marts: the one Kabul , the other Kandahar .' But the current debate for Khorasan has left both the Pashtuns and the non-Pashtun tribes confused. How might the conflicting demands of the Pashtuns on the one side and the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras on the other be resolved peacefully to ensure stability?


There is only one rational way of achieving it. The unnatural legacy of colonialism which created the arbitrary Durand Line dividing Pashtun tribes between Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot possibly endure. Sooner or later ethnic identities will assert themselves. The demand for Khorasan state within Afghanistan is precisely that assertion. The unworkable arrangement that exists presently in Afghanistan-Pakistan was recognized belatedly after painful experience by the Americans themselves. Robert Blackwill's proposal for NATO troops to withdraw from all Pashtun territories and get stationed in northern Afghanistan was acknowledgment of ground realities.


The question is how might ethnic demands of political identity be met without upheaval and discord? Should present nation-states be Balkanized and new sovereign states be created? That would require drastic change incapable of peaceful realization. Should federal arrangements within the present states be attempted to defuse separatist demands? That alone would not deliver satisfactory results. The problem of asserting common identity across international borders would not be addressed. The challenge is how to allow consolidation of cross-border ethnic identities without altering existing international borders.


That can only be achieved through federalism within nation-states being augmented by confederalism in the entire region. In other words, a regional community on the principles of the European Union would have to be created. For both Kabul and Kashmir no other formula would put the region on the road to stability as nature had intended and imperialism had derailed. The realization of a South Asian Union would conceivably create the template for a new world order based upon federal democracy. It could also alter the balance of power in the world. That is why the enemies of India and Pakistan , and the unthinking dummies within both nations manipulated by them, bitterly oppose the concept of a South Asian Union.


On returning to Pakistan from America Benazir Bhutto had outlined her political aim. She said: 'Learning from Europe following World War II, we will build democracies and common markets, we will open up markets, we will open up roads and we will open up endless opportunities for the people of South Asia .' She talked about the region encompassing Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.  This would have frustrated both Al Qaida and those nations strategically opposed to the consolidation of South Asia . That is why on 27 December 2009 this scribe opined that Benazir's agenda led to her assassination. Benazir is dead.


Her agenda lives. It will remain alive until politicians of the region realize what nature intends for South Asia and what one day will inevitably become real. History will compel a choice between Confederation or Balkanization.


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

 

LARGE OR SMALL?

TO FIGHT OUR TREMENDOUS ENERGY POVERTY AND TO IMPROVE RURAL SUSTAINABILITY, DECENTRALISED POWER GENERATION SHOULD GET A HIGHER PRIORITY THAN INDIA'S TRADITIONAL APPROACH TOWARDS CENTRALISED POWER GENERATION, WRITES SOMDEEP NANDY

The concern about mass energy production is growing all over the world. To meet rising energy needs, most countries are planning new thermal power plants, large hydro-power plants and nuclear power plants. India is no exception and is gradually moving towards adopting nuclear and other mass production technologies to support the demands of its burgeoning economy.

But the recent disaster in Japan has scaled up our anxiety and confusion regarding mass production technology by a thousand times. It has now become crucial to take a hard look at the other side of these mass production technologies and compare them with small-scale energy generation technologies such as bio-gas plants, wood gasifier-based power plants, solar thermal energy generators, solar water heaters, solar photovoltaics, to name a few, supported mainly by renewable sources of energy.

The health risks posed by gigantic technologies are staggering. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan has demonstrated some of them in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the country. The aftereffects of the Fukushima radiation will not remain restricted to Japan but will eventually impact the world ~ it can take months or years. The carcinogenic radioactive components released by the embattled Fukushima reactors have a high chance of blending with sea water and land mass and may eventually find their way to India via aquatic or agricultural products. The occupational health hazards in nuclear technology is potentially higher than any other technology-intensive profession. While thermoelectric power plants, even large hydro-power plants, also pose significant occupational health risks, the ones posed by nuclear technology are much more intense.

Health hazards apart, these large-scale technologies also involve enormous environmental risks. Let's consider the water-related aspects. Dr BK Sovacool, assistant professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, says that a nuclear power plant consumes around 150 litre of water for every kilowatt-hour (unit of energy equal to 1000 watt hours or 3.6 megajoules) generated,which is a little less than the per capita water requirement of urban India. A report complied by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) says that India's per capita average energy demand is around 730 kilowatt-hour. Thus, to generate every kilowatt-hour of nuclear energy, the quantum of water that a nuclear power plant will consume can easily meet the needs of 730 urban Indians.

Thermal power plants also use water-intensive technology and its grim pollution and emission potentiality is known to all of us. In fact, large-scale hydro-power plants are also not safe. They cause serious siltation problems and increase the salinity at the mouth of the rivers on which which they are built, which eventually reduces fertility of and food production in the catchment area.

The technologies discussed so far represent centralised mass production systems which are nothing but a waste of energy. In thermoelectric power generation systems, consumers get only 30 per cent of the input energy. Transmission and distribution can erode efficiency by as much as 10 per cent. But localised productions can eliminate these efficiency losses.

Our traditional centralised power generation systems involve staggering infrastructural and management cost. Our electricity bills, for instance, are structured such to recover infrastructural overheads stemming from a sprawling energy system involving transmission lines, transformers, cables and the like.
If we consider the job-generating potential of such energy-generation systems, a few myths are easily dispelled. For instance, a report compiled by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that the total job potentiality of coal-fired and natural gas-fired plants is almost 7-11 times less than solar photovoltaic energy production units. The job-generating potential of the bio-energy production sector is also double that of traditional electricity generation systems. Interestingly, most of these jobs are not concentrated in urban areas ~ thus not only providing localised energy generation solutions but also opportunities of rural employment generation which can eventually reduce the number of migrants making a beeline for India's town and cities in search of a livelihood.

India implemented the National Biogas and Manure Management Programme (NBMMP) as far back as in 1981. In 1992, the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) became the first such ministry in the world dedicated to development of renewable energy sources. However, the exact energy generation potentiality of biomass-based systems still remains ambiguous. Although India is a world leader in the bio-energy field, most of the installed biogas plants and biogas ovens are not in use any more. The bio-ethanol production process has not really picked up either.

But for that, the blame can be laid at the door of government indifference in the matter of exploiting the potential of rural India. Even to this day, more than 50 per cent of Indian households use kerosene for cooking and illumination purposes and as much as 70 per cent Indians use highly-polluting firewood, crop residue, wood chips and cow dung cakes to meet their energy needs. They have neither the awareness of the ills nor the option to think about an alternative to burning raw hydrocarbon indoors. As many as 1.5 million premature deaths take place in this country because of indoor air pollution.

Solar thermal and solar photovoltaic installation mechanisms have also not proved as much efficient as thought to be. The Global Status Report published by Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN 21) last year mentions that in 2008, the capacity of solar hot water systems newly installed in India was around 70 times less than what China had installed. In the wind power sector as well, India added capacity measuring only 1.3 Gigawatt-hour in 2009 while China added 13.8 Gigawatt-hour during the same period. Evidently, while government initiatives are being made, they are done half-heartedly without any obvious faith in the non-traditional that is, mass-scale systems of energy generation.

To fight our tremendous energy poverty and to improve rural sustainability, decentralised power generation should get a higher priority than our traditional approach towards centralised power generation. Underestimating our rural and natural potentials will not help us tide over the crises of energy and rural unemployment that India is facing. The time has come for the government to make a choice ~ large or small?

The writer is a research assistant at Centre for Sustainable Asian Cities, National University of Singapore

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THE STATESMAN

 

SEE NO EVIL!

NOW & AGAIN

ISHWAR PATI

 

The cute triumvirate of monkeys on my mantelpiece is cute no more. They remind me of Dhruv, my late friend Dhruv, who had gifted it to me with the instruction to give the sculpture a place of prominence in my drawing room. He had quipped that the aura of truth released by the monkeys would drive away all wickedness from my house. How could they confront evil, I wanted to ask him, if they could neither see nor hear nor speak it? But I had refrained myself, so as not to hurt his sensitive nature. Dhruv was like that. A person full of boisterous spirit and empathy right from the time he was the class head boy to donning the college cricket team captain's hat. The corporate world that he joined later did not take kindly to him ~ Dhruv could never really join the "rat race" because of his tendency to call a spade an unsparing spade.


How ironical then that the social apathy he so abhorred should claim him as its victim! Dhruv was on his way to work one morning when his bike skidded while trying to negotiate a pile of chips on one flank and a scooter coming from the opposite direction on the other. Dhruv slipped, lost consciousness and started bleeding from his mouth. The scooterist too took a tumble with his young daughter riding pillion. But having received very minor injuries, he was back on his feet in no time and scooted away to drop his daughter off at school as she was running late. All the while, Dhruv lay bleeding profusely on the road, with not a single a passerby coming to his aid. Only when a colleague on his way to office spotted him that an ambulance was summoned which rushed Dhruv to the nearest hospital. By then it was too late. My friend had died from drowning in his own blood which had choked his windpipe. A young, bubbly life was snuffed out so tragically because not a single kindly soul on a busy road came to his rescue in time.


As if to mock us all the more, it emerged that the scooterist was none other than a co-worker of Dhruv's, for whom sending his child to school punctually assumed far more urgency that saving someone's life! How can he reconcile with this singular "evil" act of apathy that cost a life? But it seems he can.  


When I look at the three monkeys on mantelpiece, I realise that Dhruv can now see, hear and speak no evil. Perhaps it's best that he can feel no evil as well. Had he survived, his heart would have been broken by such wanton poverty of human goodness. I don't like the three important monkeys anymore ~ they have become the epitome of human denial for me: a denial of not only all that is evil but also all that is good. But it's not possible to live without the three monkeys. Doing that would insult Dhruv's memory.

 

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THE STATESMAN

 

MYANMAR: UN WANTS SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE

 

UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon has noted the official announcement by the Myanmar junta in Naypyidaw to transfer power from the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to the new government of Myanmar, according to a statement quoting Mr Ban issued by UN deputy spokesman Mr Farhan Haq in New York. Mr Ban urged Myanmarese authorities to demonstrate that this change was one of substance and a genuine move away from almost 50 years of direct military rule. Mr Ban wants the authorities to engage in an inclusive dialogue with all relevant parties on broad reforms necessary for the development of a credible system of government that can effectively address the political and socio-economic challenges that Myanmar is facing.
He responded to the longstanding aspirations of the Myanmarese people for national reconciliation and democratisation and said respect for human rights remained essential to laying the foundation for durable peace and development in the country. Mr Ban stressed in conclusion that the UN was committed to work with all relevant actors to build a stable and fully democratic future in which all the people of Myanmar could contribute.


Cote d'Ivoire concern

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said in a statement issued by UN deputy spokesman Mr Farhan Haq in New York that he was closely following the events in Côte d'Ivoire and was concerned about the heightened violence there.
He urged all parties to abide by their responsibility to spare the civilian population harm. "It is essential that all parties cooperate with the UN Mission in Côte d'Ivoire in carrying out its mandate to protect civilians," the statement reads. He iterated that those responsible for inciting, orchestrating or committing human rights violations would be held accountable under international law. Mr Ban is also very concerned about the critical humanitarian situation in both Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, the statement notes.


He called on all parties to allow immediate access to populations in need and appealed to the international community to contribute generously to the resources required to address this emergency. He also urged all to exercise maximum restraint, refrain from exacting revenge and place the interests of the whole nation above all else.


He called on former President Laurent Gbagbo to immediately cede power to President Ouattara to enable the full transition of state institutions to legitimate authorities, the statement concluded.


Mr Ban's special representative to Cote d'Ivoire, Mr Choi Young-Jin, is closely following the unfolding events. According to a Press release issued in New York, the UN mission in the country said that it had been in contact with all parties in order to make sure that civilians were not targeted and to find quick solutions to the humanitarian crisis in the west of the country. The mission has deployed troops in Duékoué to protect some 10,000 internally-displaced persons who found refuge in a church there. The United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (Unoci) added that it had recorded 32 new killings. The total number of confirmed deaths owing to post electoral violence is 494.


'Situation dire in Yemen'

The under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator Ms Valerie Amos has called for restraint by all sides in Yemen, warning that the ongoing violence was worsening an already dire humanitarian situation. UN agencies estimated that the political turmoil in Yemen has led to 82 deaths and injured many.

"I am especially concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen because, even before the recent protests, the country was facing a humanitarian crisis over protracted conflict in the north displacing 300,000 people, some of them multiple times," she said. "The recent fighting has again affected hundreds of people who had not recovered from earlier conflicts."


According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), Yemen is also facing acute water and food shortages. Some 31.5 per cent of the population is food insecure, and 12 per cent or 2.7 million people are severely food insecure, it said in a news update. Ms Amos noted that some relief agencies were facing difficulty in reaching those in need owing to lack of security and that the UN was discussing access with both government and Al-Houthi rebels. "I hope we will have a meaningful agreement on access soon," she stated. "The prolonged and chronic suffering in the country means that humanitarian aid continues to be urgently needed."


Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon and the UN human rights office have voiced their concern over the situation in Yemen where a state of emergency has been declared. Mr Ban has called for a broad dialogue with the political Opposition, youth groups and other elements of civil society leading to "bold" reforms in country.

anjali sharma

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OIL TRAIL

The issue of India's payment for Iran's oil gets curiouser and curiouser. The government refineries that use it would ask the State Bank of India, their mandatory bank, to pay the Iranian oil companies, and the bank would ask one of its New York correspondents to pay; but then the nuclear-paranoid United States of America asked banks there to close all Iranian accounts. The SBI started paying through the Asian Currency Union, an international money changer operating from a back street in Tehran. The ACU was set up by India, Iran and six other Asian countries and is supposed to be at India's beck and call. But it was nominally set up by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; since the sanctions on Iran were imposed through a UN resolution, its moneylender cannot send money to the Iranian central bank, just a few streets away.

That left the SBI at a loss. So it went to its mother, the Reserve Bank of India, and asked what it should do with the oil money. The RBI asked the SBI to leave the money with it, and told the Iranians to come and fetch it. But Iranians had no use for rupees. Now it is understood that the RBI consulted Bundesbank, the German central bank, and it pointed the way to Europäisch-Iranische Handelsbank in Hamburg. It is strange that this bank, which handles payments between Iran and Germany, is still allowed to operate by the Germans, who are supposed to be a party to the UN sanctions. They have another reason to be tough on Iran. Because of the holocaust, the Germans are particularly soft on Israel, which would like to do Iran in for its nuclear programme. It wanted to go and bomb Iranian nuclear installations a couple of years ago, and was stopped just in time by its big brother, the US.

Why then did the Germans help out the SBI to pay Iran? It is supposed to have a connection with another German-Iranian imbroglio. Two reporters of Bild am Sonntag had gone to Tehran in October to interview the son and the attorney of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whom Iran has sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Their crime was that they had gone on tourist visas and then worked as journalists. In February, Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, went to Tehran and got them released. The $9 billion Iran got from the SBI is believed to be a prize for having pardoned the journalists. Such is the convoluted story of Indo-Iranian relations. It may not work out next time, for Germans can be easily suborned by the Israeli lobby. But there is a simpler way. The SBI can pay for oil in Dubai, with which Iran has close relations. Alternatively, India can attract Iranian tourists with its Sufi shrines and romantic films.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WAR ZONE

On the face of it, the problems of Ivory Coast looked simpler than those of the other African nations hit by a political maelstrom recently. It had democratic elections in November 2010, unlike many of the others struggling to have one. These had also produced a decisive result. Alassane Ouattara — the president of the Rally of the Republicans Party and leader of the rebel New Forces, which has the full backing of the Muslim north of Ivory Coast — was adjudged a clear winner by international election observers. The main problem, seemingly, was the refusal of the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, who retains considerable sway over the Christian south, to step down. Months later, as a civil war engulfs Ivory Coast and the death toll among civilians mounts, the line between right and wrong no longer appears to have been drawn as correctly as was assumed before. If Mr Gbagbo seemed to be a ruthless manipulator while he held on to power, Mr Ouattara can now lay claim to the same distinction as he makes a last-ditch effort to dislodge his rival from his palace. The cost the population is being forced to bear — in terms of lives lost, hunger, despair, displacement and damage to property — appears to be of no concern to the two leaders, as they slug it out in Abidjan.

The recent death count — over a thousand in a matter of days — has forced the United Nations to call for an inquiry, which, if allowed to be carried out, may find blood on the hands of Mr Ouattara. That, unfortunately, would leave his backers — the United States of America and France — in a quandary. There is another dilemma for them to work on. There are already cries, rising up in a crescendo, about Ivory Coast deserving the same attention and action the Nato allies have given to Libya, now that it is evident that the presence of UN troops is not enough to safeguard the population. But without any oil, will Ivory Coast prove to be enough of a moral compulsion for the self- appointed protectors of threatened populations?

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THE TELEGRAPH

THE CUP OF JOY

MALVIKA SINGH

The 'victory' was a triumph for ordinary, professional Indians, particularly at this moment, when we are being overwhelmed by corporate, political and administrative scams coupled with inappropriate 'governance' and weak explanations for all that is wrong and dishonest. All these have compelled us, as a nation, to bury our heads in shame and scamper for cover. Suddenly a cricket team representing a young, professional, committed and energetic India restored pride in the minds and souls of over one billion citizens of an ancient civilization. A new generation of Indians was on the streets with the national flag wrapped around their bodies, celebrating, laughing and chanting 'Bharat mata ki jai' and 'jai ho'.

India is 'young' but ruled by the old amongst us, slowing down change and the excitement of fresh ideas and experiments. Only the young can experiment: the old hang on to what is comfortable and easy to assimilate. The sadness of present-day India is this lopsided truth wherein the minuscule minority determines the future of a vast and vibrant, majority. Nothing, nothing at all in the recent past — except for the passing of the Right To Information Act — has given Indians a sense of belonging. The privileged, the mai-baap who rule us, have managed to alienate and completely disengage themselves from those outside their realm except for the few who have been co-opted into government boards and institutions, and are used as tokens of public partnership but who are, in fact, modern-day courtiers.

Everyone — rich or poor, across all castes and faiths — in complete unison and without caveat, in their celebratory abandon, brought back for that brief spell the greatness of this diverse and youthful nation that is suppressed by archaic ideas, laws and regulations, corrupt practices and misgovernance across the board, from sports institutions to government bodies. Team India beat them all and prevailed. They regenerated profound pride and infused hope in India's battered body, mind and soul by reinforcing what Indira Gandhi had said at the time of the last world cup victory — "We can do it" (and may I add, despite and in spite of government).

Old problem

And now, back to the sordid tale of the spectrum scam, with all its delays, exclusions and inclusions, many of which appear to be motivated by extraneous pulls and pressures. To tales of a dodgy 'cover-up'; to alleged attempts by the law minister to break the law that guarantees the freedom of expression by threatening to ban a book on Gandhi, till he was probably told, in no uncertain terms, to retract the ridiculous intervention; to god knows what else. As for the law ministry, it should be cleaning up the lower courts, setting new standards of probity and speedy justice instead of politicking.

Instead of bringing in the 'younger' lot, our leadership hangs on for dear life and does not appreciate or accept that minds slow down with age despite the vitamin pumping and free medical care. In a changed world, these men and women should retire gracefully and part with advice when it is asked for.

Indira Gandhi became prime minister when she was 49 and had died before she was seventy years old. Wherever you look in the larger domain of government and its moribund institutions, cabinets and boards are all brimming with those in their sixties and seventies. Even advisory boards for culture are peopled with old and predictable names collected from here and there. Small wonder that the majority in this young nation shun the 'lecturing' by those who failed India when they had their day in the sun. It is perverse to hang on for dear life till life itself eases out.

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THE TELEGRAPH

MAHATMA GANDHI AND AMERICAN DISCONTENTS

A SURVEY OF M.K. GANDHI'S IMAGE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EXPLAINS MUCH OF THE WESTERN DISTASTE OF THE MAN, WRITES VENU MADHAV GOVINDU

Visionary individuals have always had both admirers and detractors in good measure. The sheer force of their life's work demands that we assess our position with respect to theirs. Consequently, in many instances what we make of these people is far more revelatory of ourselves than of the life being examined. In modern times, no person embodies this litmus test better than Mahatma Gandhi.

Some six decades after his death, the imprint of Gandhi on our public life is at best faint and nebulous. In a similar sense, with the end of the Age of Empire, Western engagement with Gandhi's role as a pioneer of decolonization has also receded. Nevertheless, the Mahatma's ability to generate strong opinions has not diminished one bit. In November last year, we saw the American president, Barack Obama, make a much publicized visit to Mani Bhavan in Mumbai. While Obama's intention was to reinforce his claim as a political legatee of the American civil rights movement, a White House incumbent paying homage to Gandhi would have left many Western intellectuals muttering under their breath. In recent days, a particularly virulent strand of this distaste of Gandhi has appeared in an article in The Wall Street Journal by the British historian, Andrew Roberts.

Purportedly, in a review of Joseph Lelyveld's Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his struggle with India — an analysis of Gandhi's life in South Africa and India — Roberts presented a rant with only a tenuous link to the contents of the book. To make matters worse, the lurid leaps of imagination of Roberts have been thoughtlessly attributed, in many media reports, to Lelyveld's book, leading to much speculation and heartburn. Rather than dignify the many falsehoods in the 'review' by disputing them, it is much more useful to examine the underlying intent. Such an examination is best conducted via a brief review of the career of Gandhi's image in the United States of America.

In the aftermath of the slaughter of World War I, there arose an American interest in the novel methods of political agitation deployed and lead by Gandhi. In a famed lecture in New York in 1921, the Christian minister and pacifist, John Haynes Holmes, declared Gandhi to be the greatest man in the world, one who reminded Holmes of Jesus Christ. Such fervid celebration of Gandhi by the pacifists also generated a backlash from opponents who saw the absolutist position of pacifism as woolly-headed and naïve. In particular, conscientious objection to war by the pacifists was repudiated as an irresponsible and dangerous doctrine. To these critics, Gandhi was also a pacifist.

As far back as his time in South Africa, the arch-pragmatist that he was, Gandhi recognized the problem with this conflation and strove to distinguish his creed from that of the pacifists. Thus, when his movement began to be described as 'passive resistance', he perforce coined the term satyagraha to distinguish it as an active moral force. Nevertheless, the association in the American mind of Gandhi with the pacifists was the source of much misunderstanding of what ahimsa represented. American criticism centred around the terminological misrepresentation of Gandhi's nonviolence as an other-worldly, pusillanimous attitude unbefitting the Western mind.

As an outcome of the debate on pacifism in the 1930s, the prominent theologian and admirer of Gandhi, Reinhold Niebuhr, turned into his most significant American critic. Addressing the question of the moral position of man in an immoral society, Niebuhr saw no essential difference between violent and nonviolent resistance since they both involved 'coercion' of some kind. In a remarkable misreading, Niebuhr held nonviolence to be morally irresponsible as he saw it as the shirking of social obligations. In contrast to this putatively Gandhian position, Niebuhr held that it was necessary, almost inevitable, for one to use force to further justice in the world. This view has persisted in Western political doctrine, the latest example being the action against Libya.

While the debate between pacifists and their critics continued, a far more significant and effective strand of Gandhi's influence emerged amongst that most oppressed of people, the African Americans. While the legacy of the American civil rights movement is most prominent in our minds, African American interest in Gandhi went back much earlier. For decades prior to the 1960s, African American leaders were following the Indian struggle for freedom with keen interest, as they saw their predicament to be homologous to that of colonized Indians. Gandhi's successful deployment of satyagraha made an impression and, over the years, many African American leaders travelled to India to seek his guidance on the race question in the US. This long lineage of interest and interaction meant that a fertile and receptive ground was prepared within the African American community for Gandhian ideas. Thus, when in 1950, the orator and scholar, Mordecai Johnson, delivered a lecture on Gandhi and India, it had a "profound and electrifying" influence on the life of a young man in the audience, Martin Luther King Jr.

In Gandhi's message, King had found a method to convert his Christian idea of love, agape, into a potent force for social and political change. Trained as a Christian theologian, King was deeply influenced by Niebuhr. However, King easily came to recognize that Niebuhr had intellectually erred in interpreting Gandhi. What Gandhi had advocated, and indeed practised, was "not nonresistance to evil, but nonviolent resistance to evil". Between the two positions, King recognized, there was "a world of difference". Although King decisively demonstrated the intrinsic value and practical efficacy of Gandhian ideas, the attacks on Gandhi never abated. They took on particular vigour whenever the Mahatma's nonviolent ideas met with public support.

Thus, if Gandhi is said to be not a Mahatma, but "really a lecher, racist, hypocrite, fool, and faddist", the reader should not attribute it to the febrile imagination of Andrew Roberts. In fact, this characterization dates from some three decades earlier, when the practice of wild accusations and innuendo against the Mahatma reached a peak. The proximate provocation was the success of Richard Attenborough's 1982 film, Gandhi, which won a clutch of Oscars. Appalled by this popular approbation of the film, and by implication the philosophy of its subject, the film critic, Richard Grenier, launched a scurrilous attack in the magazine, Commentary. Although it lacked the intellectual métier of a Niebuhr, Grenier's heady swill of "half-truths, quarter-truths and untruths", it was eagerly lapped up by many commentators who joined the fray. In the words of the distinguished historian and Gandhi biographer, B.R. Nanda, "the certitude of these commentators seems to have been directly proportional to their ignorance of the subject".

While one may easily dismiss the hatchet jobs of Grenier and Roberts, consistent misrepresentation of Gandhi is not confined to the popular press. While Western intellectuals are usually precise in their hermeneutic understanding of Western ideas, many of them have approached Gandhi with all the care of a medieval lobotomist. In 1977, writing in the aftermath of the protests against the Vietnam War, the political theorist, Michael Walzer, wrote a famous treatise on Just and Unjust Wars. Unlike the careful arguments he presents in the main body of his text, Walzer relegated a discussion on nonviolence to a short, cursory dismissal in an afterword. Here, Walzer vaguely refers to Gandhi's statement on the issue of what the Jews should have done under Nazi oppression. Characterizing Gandhi's advice to the Jews as "perverse", Walzer claims that the Mahatma asked the Jews to commit suicide instead of fighting back against the Nazis. In arriving at this strange assessment, Walzer uses a citation at two removes. If he had troubled himself to look up the source, that is, Louis Fischer's Gandhi and Stalin, Walzer would have realized that the Mahatma never said anything of the sort. Rather, Gandhi had argued that "the Jews of Germany made the mistake of submitting to Hitler".

At the heart of these attacks on Gandhi lies the relationship between moral and political power. Unenamoured by the mechanisms of institutional politics, Gandhi located the source of legitimate political power squarely within society, that is, the free and unencumbered moral approval of the people without the threat of coercion or violence. By doing so, Gandhi refused to play by the rules of Empire and eventually undermined its legitimacy. In contemporary times, rightwing conservatives of the likes of Andrew Roberts probably look back wistfully on the heyday of Empire and detest Gandhi for his role in its destruction.

But there is an even greater cause for this animus. Over the years, Gandhi's example has had much appeal within sections of American opinion. This has aroused the ire of conservative critics of Gandhi's politics who believe in Western supremacy backed up by the power of the mailed fist. It is the perennial nightmare of these thinkers that their own societies might accept the values of satya and ahimsa. A Mahatma alive in American minds is a far greater threat to American dominance of the world than any possible attack from outside its borders.

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THE TELEGRAPH

UNDIPLOMATIC UTTERANCE

THE MAP OF SPREADING DEVELOPMENT WRITING ON THE WALL ASHOK V. DESAI

JULIAN Assange continues to make waves, even while he is holed up in a rural cottage in England. His latest victim is our home minister. It was the kind of thing one says to good friends after a couple of drinks; P. Chidambaram could not have known that after dinner, Timothy J. Roemer would go to his computer and reveal to the foreign secretary of the United States of America our then finance minister's witty if incautious remarks (made in 2009). He boasted that the south and the west were India's business and entrepreneurial hub, and that if they could appropriate India to themselves, they could achieve 11-12 per cent growth. It was the sluggish northern and eastern states that were holding India back. He was relying on simple arithmetic — that the states in the south and the west had grown faster. It is not surprising that his leaked off-the-cuff remarks led to rowdy scenes in Parliament. Some of its members specialize in such scenes; they would take any opportunity to start jumping up and down and making an unholy racket. We have just seen a long period of racketeering on the spectrum issue. That was unfortunately coming to an end with the appointment of the joint parliamentary committee; the racketeers could hardly bear the peace that threatened to descend. The home minister inadvertently saved them from the pain of having to listen to a speech, let alone make sense of it.

But not all conclusions can withstand the passage of time; Chidambaram's was a particularly fragile one. Before he became vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, B.B. Bhattacharya was a good research economist. In one of his papers with S. Sakthivel, he compared states' growth rates decade by decade. According to him, the fastest growing state in the 1980s was Rajasthan. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka did well in the south, but so did Haryana and Himachal Pradesh in the north. The picture changed in the 1990s. Gujarat took the lead, followed by Goa and West Bengal. Then came Karnataka and Maharashtra. The same figures were calculated by Montek Singh Ahluwalia and gave somewhat different results; this sort of uncertainty is inherent in the statistics.

The picture changes again after 2000. The leading state till 2009 was Haryana, followed by Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Bihar. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh were amongst the worst performing states, but so was Tamil Nadu. So performance shows no geographical pattern, least of all the one read into it by Chidambaram.

Decadal figures are considerably affected by chance factors such as harvests and fiscal balance. So it is not surprising that they show no regularities; even if they did, they would have to be taken with a pinch of salt. What matters to the position of a state is long-term performance, on which no one has done any decent work. But we are not interested in figures up to the third decimal point; we only want to know which states have done better and which worse. I have obtained an estimate by dividing 1980 figures of state domestic products into 2009 figures. Since the base and terminal prices are different, the absolute figures are meaningless; but their relative rankings are revealing.

According to this calculation, the states which increased their domestic product most were Goa (56) and Haryana (54). Then come a number of states whose growth was 5-15 per cent below that of these two states; they include Tamil Nadu (50), Kerala (47), Andhra Pradesh (51) and Karnataka (49) in the south, Gujarat (50), Maharashtra (46) and Rajasthan (49) in the west, and Himachal Pradesh (56) in the north. Then come states whose growth was 30-40 per cent below the best — Punjab (35), Orissa (38), West Bengal (33) Assam (32), Jammu and Kashmir (33). Uttar Pradesh (28) was 50 per cent below the best; Madhya Pradesh (24) was even worse. The worst was Bihar (20) — 60 per cent below.

This puts Bihar in perspective. Its stellar performance under Nitish Kumar has gone some way to change its image. But it would need some decades and a number of Nitish Kumars before its performance can begin to rival that of other states. However, it is not Bihar that is unique. The performance of all the eastern states — Orissa, West Bengal and Assam — has been below average. But before we identify this as an eastern problem, we should add UP and Madhya Pradesh, whose performance is not great either. And we do not have to stop there; Punjab is below average too. So then, Chidambaram's north-south divide begins to look realistic. The only exception to it is Haryana.

What makes Haryana so exceptional? The rather dated figures we have suggest that Haryana's structure changed dramatically: whilst the share of industry in the domestic products of most states fell, it rose dramatically in Haryana. It claims to manufacture 75 per cent of cars, 60 per cent of two-wheelers, 50 per cent of tractors, 30 per cent of refrigerators and 25 per cent of bicycles. Industrialists like to live and work in Delhi, with its high levels of security and good roads; and Haryana is the closest state where they can set up industry.

But before we conclude that industrialization brings prosperity, we should remind ourselves of a state that did even better, without industry — Goa. It is famous as a tourist destination. But it has also emerged as a place for Indians, especially Bombayites, to buy or build holiday homes. Many Goans also emigrated; especially after Goa was annexed by India, many Goans who considered themselves Portuguese by descent or culture went abroad. But they did not always take their families with them. So Goa gets sizeable remittances from abroad.

Coming back to Chidambaram, I think the north-south contrast can be sustained; but I would be cautious about the conclusion he draws, that the south and west would grow faster if they separated from the rest of India. The reforms of 1991 and after opened up the economy to foreign trade. Its benefit went largely to littoral states. But their development has begun to draw in other parts of India. Gujarat is short of labour, and imports weavers from Orissa and gem-cutters from Rajasthan. As land prices rise in Gujarat, industry is spreading into Rajasthan. As southerners get rich, they are going to Himachal Pradesh for holidays. So development is spreading beyond the south and the west.

But it would seem that it is not spreading towards the north and Northeast; UP, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Assam have lagged behind. These states have a tremendous agricultural potential; they can develop into a granary for the developed south-and-west. But for this, it is necessary to remove barriers to movement. The most serious ones are interstate; but highway police within many states also act like highway robbers. A truck going from Delhi to Bhuj would pay bribes at a dozen outposts at least. And what characterizes the more developed states of India, for instance, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, is the absence of bribe-hungry police. Even if we do not make Nitish Kumar prime minister, he should be given charge of police and taxation in all states of India.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

OBAMA RUNNING AGAIN

It was a big surprise when Barack Obama, a newcomer to the national political stage, was nominated for president in 2008 — and the American people elected him! But it is no surprise that Obama has announced he is seeking re-election.

The question, of course, is whether American voters will make a second mistake by returning him to the White House.

Of course, we don't know who will be running for president against Obama in 2012. But a majority of voters, viewing his unsteady, liberal performance thus far, should decide that next time, we want neither Obama nor just "anybody but Obama." We should insist upon selecting the best and the brightest, the wisest and soundest in principle, to be next our president.

Will we?

In the past, we have elected some presidents who performed tremendously well. Sadly, we should admit that we have elected some presidents (need we name them?) who were not good choices for the United States and the American people.

Was Obama's election a vote of confidence in him — or just a rejection of "the other fellow," moderate Republican Sen. John McCain? Whatever it was, a recent Quinnipiac University poll puts Obama's job approval rating at only 42 percent.

There is no clear GOP front-runner so far this time around, but all Americans should examine the potential candidates carefully, analyze their principles and judgment, nominate an excellent Democrat and an excellent Republican — then elect the better one!

Being president is a huge responsibility. Who could claim to be fully qualified and "up to the job"? No one, really. But shouldn't we do a much better job in choosing our presidential nominees?

We don't desire to demean any of those who have aspired in the past, or who aspire now, to be our nation's leader. But for better or worse, the consequences of whom we select as president are usually huge.

So "just anyone" won't do! Let's elect a president in 2012 who will prove to be the soundest in character, philosophy, wisdom, judgment, ability and devotion to our Constitution.

Do we deserve one like that? That's debatable. But we certainly need the best, or we will suffer the consequences!

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

BAILOUT MERRY-GO-ROUND

There are two main reasons why the federal government should not bail out failing companies:

First, bailouts are unconstitutional.

And second, they reward companies that perform poorly, in effect penalizing better-performing companies that got no bailout.

That's contrary to the free-market principle of letting companies rise or fall based on how well they perform, not on government favoritism.

But now, another reason why Washington shouldn't prop up failing businesses has surfaced.

It seems that many banks are going to use money they got from an unrelated federal program to repay the federal bailouts they got under the $700 billion so-called Troubled Asset Relief Program. In other words, tax dollars paid for the bailout to the banks, and the banks are now going to use other tax dollars to repay at least a portion of the bailout.

And that is all going to happen with the willing consent of the federal government!

While Treasury Department officials have not yet approved banks repaying their bailouts with money they got through a separate small business loan fund program, "they will," a Treasury official told The Associated Press.

Understandably, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, labeling this ridiculous shell game "budget gimmickry."

It's also a slap in the face of taxpayers, who not only had to fund the bailout but now have to fund its repayment.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

NOT QUITE 'OPEN GOVERNMENT'

Keeping the actions of government open to public scrutiny is a serious matter, but the subject turned a little humorous in Washington not long ago.

A number of organizations that promote government transparency — organizations such as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — decided to present an honor to President Barack Obama for what they viewed as his commitment to doing the public's business in public view.

But on the day of the awards ceremony, the Obama administration made an ironic decision: It forbade the news media and the general public to have access to the event at which the honor would be presented.

So the president accepted an award for supposedly making government more open to the public, but the public was kept out!

"The White House didn't immediately comment ... on the apparent discrepancy between the honor and the circumstances under which it was awarded," The Associated Press reported.

We may chuckle over such miscues, but unfortunately we need not look any further than Tennessee to find attempts to do far more important government business without public and media scrutiny.

Elected officials in Chattanooga and East Ridge want the Tennessee General Assembly to let them pull their legal ads — notices of important government actions and meetings — out of the Times Free Press and place them on little-read government websites. In addition, a move is afoot to let government agencies in the state charge "actual labor costs" if it takes them more than one hour to comply with a request for public records.

Both legislative efforts are attempts to reduce government transparency.

Both should be defeated.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

AIRLINER CRASH THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN!

Imagine that you were one of 118 passengers scheduled for a Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix to Sacramento, Calif., last Friday.

You were looking forward to a comfortable, uneventful flight. You settled into your seat and perhaps picked up a newspaper to read, or opted for a nap.

Then, as your Boeing 737-300 cruised at hundreds of miles per hour at 34,400 feet — a 5-foot-long hole tore open in the ceiling of the aircraft cabin, showing blue sky outside!

Your oxygen mask dropped from the ceiling as the pilots began a controlled but rapid descent — and landed safely at a military base!

Incredibly, no one was reported seriously hurt.

Whew!

But what happened?

Aircraft operate with changing air pressure at different altitudes. Maintenance examinations are regularly performed. But apparently there had been some undetected damage in the plane, possibly related to frequent pressurizing and de-pressurizing, and part of the plane's skin "peeled."

Then Sunday, a Southwest jet of the same type had a burning electric smell en route to San Diego. It landed safely. The cause evidently was unrelated to what damaged the first plane.

Jets of the type in question have properly been grounded, and safety inspections are under way.

It is amazing how many aircraft fly so many miles over many years with few lives lost. There are dangers, of course, not only in the air, but on the highways and in all forms of travel. These were potential air tragedies that thankfully didn't happen.

improved performances.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

THE SOLUTION IS ARBITRATION

The doctors are disgruntled and convinced that they are underpaid. They feel mistreated. Some have gone so far as to say that it is as if they were working as volunteers. As a result, they are demanding a major pay increase of about 50 percent to be spread out over eight years.

That is not the entire story, however, because they have a great many other demands, which also cost money. They have presented a list of 20 demands that pertain to all the problems plaguing the health care system, from the shortage of doctors in outlying areas to the paucity of doctors in certain medical specialties. The physicians are also asking for an increase in the number of days of continuing medical education they are entitled to and for bigger contributions to their pension funds, along with other improvements in perks.

Indeed, the time has come to deal with the real problems in the medical system. The number of medical school graduates must be increased. Doctors must be compensated to encourage them to move to outlying areas. Special compensation must be paid to specialists in areas experiencing shortages, and specialists should supplement staff doing hospital shifts. But what about the salary increase? Can the economy afford a 50 percent pay raise for doctors?

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz is not prepared to even hear these numbers. He says the doctors do not represent a deprived sector. He says they are the only public sector employees allowed to engage in private practice on the side. As a result, he is willing to pay them what the public sector as a whole received, but not a penny more. This would mean a pay increase of about 20 percent spread over eight years. If that is the case, the disparity between the two sides is very wide.

The problem is that Steinitz cannot withstand the pressure that a lengthy strike in medical services would cause, in addition to the fact that he is subordinate to a prime minister who is seeking quiet on the labor front. The Finance Ministry has, therefore, proposed introducing arbitration so that someone else resolve the dispute.

For their part, the physicians have agreed to arbitration, but it is not clear that the arbitrator can consider absolutely every issue, like the provision of private medical services at public hospitals (sharap in Hebrew ) as the doctors want, or ending this practice, as the Treasury proposes. This means the real fight is over the scope of issues that would be subject to arbitration.

As a result, it is incumbent on the parties to sit down and reach agreement on an arbitration document to preempt a major doctors' strike and thereby spare the public any unnecessary hardships.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

THE FAT KEEP GETTING FATTER

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

It's easy to understand where the doctors and social workers are coming from. They read in the papers how some people earn a million shekels a month, but when it comes to them, the Finance Ministry is not willing to talk about anything beyond a meager pay adjustment. They are angry and embittered, but really, what else could they be knowing that executives in publicly-traded company earn in a month what they do in several years?

Still, it seems the more the media condemn the exorbitant wages paid at leading publicly-traded companies, the higher the compensation paid to executives at these companies gets. That's because the boundaries of shame have been broken and greed has taken over.

Excessive pay is the outcome of several improper practices that have taken root here. The first is the "grade system," invented in the 1980s by Ernest Japhet, Bank Leumi's legendary chairman, and perfected by Bank Discount's Raphael Recanati. Japhet wanted to pay himself $1 million a year - in today's terms, higher than any of the exorbitant salaries being reported in the media. To get away with this, Japhet was forced to pay huge sums to the bank's managing director and his deputies. That's because you can't just pay yourself without "oiling" the entire system. Recanati perfected the "grade system," and paying huge salaries to senior executives became the accepted norm.

It is important to understood that when the controlling shareholder in a publicly-traded company appoints himself chairman and withdraws millions in salaries, he is effectively robbing the remaining public shareholders. Take David Azrieli, for example. As soon as he took his real-estate and shopping-mall group public, he appointed himself chairman and took an insane sum of NIS 25 million in salary in 2010.

It doesn't have to be this way. There is another way to go. Look at Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, who holds a good number of shares in the company. He pays himself a salary of $1 a year. That's because he knows he'll be paid for his work through the dividends the company pays its shareholders.

The Israel Securities Authority needs to prohibit controlling shareholders in publicly traded companies from paying themselves high salaries. I'm pretty certain that once they are out of the wage game, these generous shareholders will turn into great misers.

Another improper practice is the "pyramid system." This is a perverted ownership system, in which the parent company controls numerous subsidiary companies, and through them a great number of other companies, and so on and so forth. As a result, the controlling shareholder "above" holds the companies "below" by means of a small percentage of the capital. And when he pays his executives high wages, the main burden falls on the public shareholders, rather than on him. The Israel Securities Authority must eliminate this distortion as well by imposing a tax on dividend payments made by the subsidiaries of subsidiaries to the parent company. It must also prohibit offsetting profits within the conglomerate.

Another distortion is in the structure of company boards. In Israel's publicly traded companies, boards are comprised of the controlling shareholders' yes-men, including the external directors. This must be changed so that at least the external directors are appointed by an independent committee, without the intervention of the controlling shareholder. These external directors must also sit on the boards' salary committee. If they don't do their job properly, but instead give away millions just like that, they can be sued personally for negligence and then they'll have to pay the millions out of their own pocket.

The issue of excessive compensation continues to make headlines, and rightly so. It has a harmful impact on society. Monumental wage gaps are tearing society apart, damaging its fortitude, destroying solidarity and causing unrest. It is easy to understand today why the social workers are bitter even after receiving a big wage increase and why the doctors are ready to go on a prolonged strike.

It's because everything is relative. You judge your situation in relation to the society where you live. And when so many are receiving big salaries without any justification, the resentment and rancor increase, labor unrest brews, and ultimately, we all pay the price - including those among us who earn NIS 1 million a month.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

ARE WE REALLY BEING PERSECUTED?

BY MERAV MICHAELI

In an op-ed piece published in The Washington Post, Richard Goldstone wrote that if he knew then what he knows today, the report would have looked different and that it would have been best had Israel cooperated with him.

In fact, it was immediately after Goldstone's report was publicized that many here concluded that it would have been best for Israel to lend its cooperation to the UN-appointed committee, according to a study conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute. Indeed, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel made a recommendation along these lines to the government before the Goldstone commission was even formed.

But this is not the conclusion that Israel's leadership has drawn. Both Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the decision not to cooperate with Goldstone "was the correct one."

While Israel had reasons to believe that an inquiry commissioned by the UN's Human Rights Council would be hostile, in this extraordinary case, it was possible to think otherwise. Goldstone is known to be a particularly serious individual, a Jew and a supporter of Israel. Indeed, he was opposed to the original mandate which required that he focus his probe solely on Israel. Goldstone agreed to lead the investigation after he was given clearance to examine Hamas' actions as well. Israel had nothing to lose by cooperating with Goldstone.

This lesson could have been learned from a previous episode - the 2004 hearings held in the International Criminal Court in The Hague involving the West Bank separation fence. The ICC is an important, independent legal authority. There was no reason to suspect that it would be one-sided. But then, too, Israel refused to recognize its authority. It did not take part in the discussion nor did it present its position, all so that it could later claim that the ruling handed down was one-sided and caused Israel serious international damage.

It is often said that a wise man learns from the mistakes of others, while a fool learns from the mistakes of his own. Those who do not learn from their own mistakes confirm that insanity is repeating the same act while expecting a different result. In our case, this insanity is an insanity of persecution.

Our belief that "the world is against us" has in recent years turned into a real obsession, a sense that we are constantly under attack, a fear of delegitimization, an insanity of persecution. If is unclear whether Israel is truly capable of differentiating between a real enemy and those who wish it well, or if it is simply complaining about being persecuted because it believes this serves its interests. Now the prime minister is demanding that the Goldstone report be nullified, while the defense minister is calling for "Goldstone to be compelled (! ) to speak before the UN." If this gambit doesn't succeed, it will serve as yet further proof that we are being persecuted.

As the years pass, Israel has grown stronger militarily, economically, and demographically. This has not prevented our leaders from intensifying their warnings about the campaign to get us. They are wont to complain about the one-sidedness and the bias in favor of our enemies. They are also quick to warn against attempts to delegitimize, even destroy, Israel.

There are great parallels between our leaders' statements decrying the persecution of the State of Israel and their statements decrying the persecution aimed at them personally. This holds true for Lieberman, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu. As our leaders feel increasingly persecuted on an individual basis, they respond by ratcheting up the rhetoric that all of us are the victims of persecution.

Aside from the instinctive reflex of all Israelis to assume the role of victims, there is also cynical exploitation here of real hostility that does exist. As such, there is no room for an honest analysis of these statements, and reality becomes distorted.

As he laments the "persecution" to which he and his wife are subjected, much the same way that he railed against the "persecution" of Israel, Netanyahu is so deeply immersed in his suffering that he doesn't even notice that in both cases, the whining simply does more damage - both to him personally and to the image of the State of Israel. Complaining about persecution is not a policy, nor is it a strategy. Rather, it is a tactic that just inflicts more damage on us.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL IS BETRAYING HIS ROLE

BY MOSHE NEGBI

In a state that does not want to resemble a banana republic and where there is rule of law, it is intolerable not to conduct a full investigation into suspicions of private funding of vacation trips taken by a public figure and his family. This is because such funding is prima facie not only an ethical and aesthetic problem but also a criminal offense. However, it is desirable that the attorney general, rather than the state comptroller, undertake this investigation.

A public figure's hedonism in itself is perhaps repugnant, but does not warrant an investigation. Nor does payment of his expenses by public organizations desiring his services as a lecturer for purposes of fund-raising (on condition, of course, that this is based on honest reporting of expenses and not on fictive receipts ). However, when a private individual pays for vacation flights and hotels for a public figure and/or his family, he is giving an expensive gift; accepting this gift without permission and without reporting it is prima facie a violation of the law. This is not a new decree invented recently by people "out to get" the prime minister and his wife, but rather a law passed many years ago - the 1980 law prohibiting gifts to civil servants.

Indeed, the findings broadcast in Aviv Drucker's investigative report on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's travel history over the years might arouse the worrying concern that this is not only a matter of prohibited giving but also of corrupt giving; not only receipt of illegal gifts but also breach of trust and even bribery. "There are no free lunches," declare the Americans, meaning that when a person heaps favors on someone who is not a relative or a close friend, he is most probably expecting something in return.

In order to prove a crime of bribery it is not necessary to prove that a public servant indeed gave something in return. It suffices that he realized his benefactor expected a return. And when is this proof necessary? The Supreme Court has given this question a decisive answer: "The inevitable conclusion from granting of favors beyond a commonly accepted trifle is that the benefit was given because of the recipient's position," i.e. it is tantamount to bribery.

It appears the favors to Netanyahu Drucker described indeed exceeded "a commonly accepted trifle." A suspicion of crime, and certainly a suspicion of bribery, is supposed to be investigated by the person responsible for enforcing criminal law - the attorney general.

The state comptroller does have formal authority to investigate a suspicion like this as well, since he is entitled to look into any complaint of flawed integrity but does not have at his disposal the sophisticated investigative mechanisms and police resources available to the attorney general. Nor does his investigation have "teeth." Even if he does succeed in substantiating and confirming the suspicions of criminality arising from the journalistic investigation, he does not have the authority to order or even recommend an indictment. All he will be able to do is send the findings to the attorney general for examination.

Why, then, should the attorney general not jump in at this time and immediately order a police investigation of the findings of the television report? We have, clearly, a very active state comptroller, but even his excessive activity cannot always successfully fill the dangerous vacuum created by the attorney general's passivity.

In the past the High Court of Justice ruled in no uncertain terms that "the role of the prosecution authorities is to shape worthy norms of behavior and to root out improper behavior" on the part of cabinet ministers. When the attorney general refrains from ordering the police to investigate the apparently improper behavior exposed in Drucker's investigation and then drawing the necessary conclusions, he is betraying this essential role.

The author is the legal commentator for Israel Radio.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

PEERING INTO THE FUTURE

BY MOSHE ARENS

Trying to evaluate the implication of the wave of demonstrations sweeping over the Arab World, one is reminded of Zhou Enlai, the premier of the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong - who when asked what he thought of the French Revolution, reportedly replied that it was too early to tell. Samuel Goldwyn's well-known aphorism reminds us that we should not hasten to predict future events: "Never make forecasts, especially about the future," he said. And especially not about the future of the Middle East, one might add.

A number of Middle East experts who were asked to comment on recent events in the region and, throwing caution to the wind, dared to predict where this was all heading, found themselves with egg on their face within 24 or 48 hours.

It is not the experts alone who on occasion get the picture wrong. It happens to our politicians as well. Do you remember how Ehud Barak, on becoming prime minister, began showering Hafez Assad with complements, referring to him as "the builder of modern Syria" - the same Syria Assad ruled for many years using brutal repressive measures that should have landed him in the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity. The "modern" Syria of which Barak spoke remained a third-world country throughout Assad's corrupt rule, and it was in that sorry state that he bequeathed Syria to his son Bashar.

Ehud Olmert, as prime minister, completely misreading the developments in Turkey, sought out Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that "great friend of Israel," to serve as the "neutral" mediator between Syrian President Bashar Assad and Israel.

Cognizant of these mistakes, one needs to be very careful when venturing guesses regarding the direction the current events are going to take. Nevertheless, can we discern anything when we try to peer into the future in light of the dramatic events of the past few weeks, and gauge the impact they may have on Israel?

The wave of demonstrations sweeping over much of the Arab world these past weeks is aimed to overthrow autocratic rule. It is directed against dictators who have held power and abused that power for many years. Israel quite naturally sympathizes with those calling for democratic rule, whether in Tunisia, Egypt or Syria. The concern that has been rightly voiced, and not only in Israel, is that once democratic rule is established it would be hijacked by extremist elements, like the Muslim Brotherhood.

The possibility of such a development has raised concerns not only Israel. If the Muslim Brotherhood were to take power in Cairo, it might spell the end of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. How likely is such a development? There is no way to assess the probability of such a turn of events, but to take place a number of obstacles would have to be overcome. Even if the Muslim Brotherhood were to attain power in democratic elections overseen by the Egyptian army and then establish dictatorial rule, the group would have to contend with the secular liberal elements that played a prominent role in the Tahrir Square demonstrations. They will most likely make their appearance again in the square should they feel they have been cheated.

The West's military intervention in Libya has added a new dimension to the events unfolding in the Middle East. Any group in power is likely to be cautious when considering drastic action against opposition groups, out of concern that such moves might lead to outside intervention. Thus dictatorial rule by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and abrogation of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, although a possibility, does not seem likely for the time being.

Similar considerations apply to Syria, where the younger Assad is at the moment holding on to power. He is not likely to repeat the brutal repression of opposition carried out by his father in Hama, in which tens of thousands were killed. Should the Assad regime be overthrown it may affect the existing alliance between Syria and Iran directed against Israel, which would be welcome news for Israel and the rest of the world. And if the wave of protests reaches all the way to Iran, that would be good news indeed.

So all in all, there is room for some optimism.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - THE TRUE TEST OF EDUCATION

Alas, there may have been a secret code imbedded into the Higher Education Exam, or YGS, that took place across the nation a little more than a week ago. Or, as the head examiner Ali Demir sought to explain, the ability of a parent to solve a majority of questions, by following a consistent pattern in the placement of answers, may be a fluke. We will leave the question to the cryptographers, numerologists and conspiracy theorists to endlessly debate.

But the larger question needs no code:

First hypothesize an overextended, creaking university system, rapidly expanded without a great deal of thought to the educational needs of a country in which more than half the population of 75 million is under the age of 30. Imagine that 1.7 million young people sit each year for a mind-bending, three-hour exam for just 450,000 university places, of which no more than 100,000 places are likely to a yield a diploma that will lead to a meaningful career. Postulate that family pressure born of a cultural milieu that equates diplomas with knowledge and success are an inseparable dimension of the problem. The result?

A) An angry, alienated population of young people with no faith in the "system."

B) A deepening skill deficit that robs society and the economy of the intellectual energy and skills necessary for Turkey to play a dynamic role in the new global economy.

C) A diversion of scarce resources to a network of cram schools known as "dersane" that drills test-taking skills into the minds of youth but permanently impairs their critical thinking while consuming more resources than the cost of the university system itself.

D) All of the above.

No special study is required to get the answer right on this little quiz. The joblessness of angry youth driving protests and challenges to governments across our region should be reason enough to think through the implications of this quiz. The day of reckoning may be postponed. It cannot be avoided. Yet nothing from any of the government's reforms to date or those proposed – nor for that matter anything in the main opposition's latest report on youth and education – suggest the situation is taken seriously.

We certainly believe there are elements of Turkey's education system that form the basis of comprehensive reform. The network of English-intensive high schools that has given this newspaper many of its reporters and editors is one example that comes to mind. There are a number of fine universities, both state-run and semi-private. Despite its limitations, the "Open University" that provides online and televised courses is an international model. But these are the exceptions to the grim rule of mediocrity.

Creating an alternative to this may be the most important test Turkey faces. There is no secret code.

The views expressed in the Straight represent the consensus opinion of the Hürriyet Daily News and its editorial board members.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

PROSPECTS FOR TURKISH-ISRAELI TIES REMAIN BLEAK

SEMİH İDİZ

Alon Ben-Meir, a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU, argued in an article in the Jerusalem Post last week that many of the challenges Turkey and Israel share in the region today could serve to bridge the gaps that have kept their reconciliation at bay and reshape their relations. These relations have been extremely sour since the famous Davos incident, in which Prime Minister Erdoğan gave Israel President Shimon Peres a public dressing down over Gaza and the infamous Mavi Marmara raid last year by Israeli soldiers that left nine Turkish activists dead. The logic that Ben-Meir is pursuing here is understandable of course. Given factors that unite the two countries – such as being the only democracies in a generally autocratic environment – they should be able to work out their differences in order not just to contribute to the mutual interest, but also to stability in a region that is increasingly being taken over by political and social turmoil with no apparent end in sight. "In the context of the regional unrest, and the growing sense on both sides that each must acknowledge the need to look forward, the current moment could be exploited to begin to lay the foundation for improved relations" Ben-Meir declares. It is hard not to share his sentiments and it is also clear that there are diplomats and other officials on both sides today who want to see this rapprochement achieved as soon as possible. Even Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, on of the key figures contributing to the souring of ties, reportedly told the European Policy Center in Brussels recently that Israel and Turkey should stop blaming one another and work instead to mend relations.

The question however remains the same. How is this going to be achieved given the sentiments in both countries where mutual animosity has reached the public domain? What is making the matter harder to solve is that the present state of affairs is rapidly becoming the status quo, rather than representing an aberration in ties. In other words it is going to take more than back-room diplomacy and political good-will gestures to overcome the stalemate. As matters stand, back-room diplomacy has been going on for some time but to no avail. Turkey's assistance to Israel in battling the Mount Carmel forest fire in early December, on the other hand, failed to produce anything concrete in terms of improving ties, regardless of the gesture of political good-will on the part of the Erdoğan government that this move represented.

Given this environment a rapprochement does not seem likely anytime soon. Regardless of what some are arguing now, recent developments in the region have not brought the two countries closer either. To the contrary, Erdoğan's warning to Israel to keep its nose out of Egypt only reinforced the impasse.

The bottom line is that Turkey's position on Israel remains rock solid. Ankara continues to demand an apology and compensation for the killing of nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists on the Mavi Marmara. This has turned into a "sine qua non" for the Turkish side, if any semblance of normality is to be achieved in ties with Israel. Put another way, there is no Turkish politician that can appear to be reaching out to Israel in any real sense unless this apology and compensation for the dead are forthcoming, especially at a time when crucial general elections are just around the corner. Ben-Meir indicates correctly in his Jerusalem Post article that "the expectation that criticism of Israel may be used as a political tool during the campaign season has dampened" given that the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, appears to be facing an easy victory. The fact that he overlooks, however, is that if Ankara were to give the impression of conceding to Israel, without having gotten anything in return, this would reanimate the anti-Israeli rhetoric in Turkey almost instantly, whether election campaigns are underway or not. Meanwhile the position on the Israel side appears equally rock solid. The Netanyahu government continues to believe that an apology and compensation to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident would amount to admitting culpability, which it is feared may set a precedent against Israel and its defense forces. Therefore few observers expect Israel to move in that direction. 

This matter aside, though, there is also the fact that most Israelis firmly believe that the raid on the Mavi Marmara was fully justified, and therefore giving in to Turkey over this issue would be demeaning for their country. This does not exactly provide much hope that the two countries will "wise up," given what is happening in the Middle East and North Africa, and "act sensibly." In the meantime it is more than apparent that developments in the region have caught Turkey as much by surprise as they did Israel. Put another way, things have not gone according to plan as far as Foreign Minister Davutoğlu's grand scheme for the region is concerned. Notwithstanding this fact, Turkey is nevertheless poised to be a potential player in the region, not just due to its Islamic character, but also due to the fact that it has developed over the past few decades in a direction that people in the Middle East also want their countries to go. Israel on the other hand remains a regional pariah whose isolation is seen to be increasing with recent developments.

Rather than altering its own policies in the face of these developments in order to facilitate more stability in the region, Israel is said by western observers living in that country to be going the opposite way. In other words it is becoming an increasingly militarized country in both the mental and physical sense of the word. This is said to be ensuring that it turns more and more introverted and right wing in its outlook, as can be seen in the defiant Israeli attitude on issues like building new settlements on lands stolen from Palestinians. This attitude will hardly contribute to reducing Israel's regional isolation, let alone helping along a process of rapprochement with Turkey. The same concern about being isolated is therefore not something that is shared by Turkey whatever else it may share with Israel vis a vis the region. 

The only way to break the ice therefore is for Israel to bite the bullet over the Mavi Marmara incident. This however seems highly unlikely, which means that Ben-Meir's well-intentioned desire to see Turkey and Israel rise above the fray, as he puts it, in the face of what is happening in the Middle East is sadly no more than wishful thinking at this stage. 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LIBYA RELEASES EUROPE'S OLD RIVALRIES

ARIANA FERENTINOU

"Whatever the outcome, what seems most unlikely is that the rebels' newly visible generals will be leading their troops into Tripoli any time in the near future," claimed the writers of a comprehensive coverage on the latest developments in Libya published in the British Guardian.

Peter Beaumont and Chris McGreal also claim that the situation in Libya is likely to "descend into a stalemate as U.S. winds down air strikes." And if latest rumors prove to be true, the reverse of fate on the ground in favor of the Gadhafi troops has now opened the way to an energetic diplomacy between the western alliance and the Libyan leadership which may lead to a middle solution instead of a radical change. A middle solution would keep the status quo with Gadhafi in charge but with a commitment to reform.

"We are talking to both sides, of course we do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of another country but we believe we have the experience and the knowledge to give our advice to whoever needs it in order to contribute to a peaceful and democratic solution," a senior government official said in reply to my question inquiring about with whom Ankara was talking to in the Libya affair just before the London Conference. It was also an answer to another question: "Why is it that the Turkish prime minister has not come out to advise Gadhafi to listen to the call of the times and leave his post in order to prevent bloodshed."

But Libya is obviously not Egypt and the identity of the "voice of the people" is not clearly defined. Plus, Libya has got enormous economic importance for Turkey which was enhanced during the Gadhafi regime. Ankara's cautious if not unsteady diplomatic treading before the London conference can be seen as an attempt to buying time in order not to burn its bridges with any of the sides in Libya on the one hand, while keeping its role as a trusted member of NATO on the other. If the situation on the ground turns decisively in favor of the Gadhafi regime, then this will alleviate the burden on Turkish diplomats to having to start a new chapter of relations with the opposition leadership.

But while Ankara's diplomatic zigzagging has been discussed, justified or criticized extensively in this part of the world, less attention was given to the other country that had also opposed the western intervention to Libya – like Turkey, initially – but did not change its position in the end – unlike Turkey: Germany.

An interesting debate has started both inside and outside Germany about the deeper meaning that the alliance against Libya has had for European politics. And this debate centers around the assumption that during the last years, Germany has risen as a European economic and political superpower against France and Britain; its newly acquired status has given it the superior hand to impose its terms and conditions within the Eurozone – an attitude which Greece in particular was made to experience in its toughest form for the past year. Here is an interesting approach by Greek commentator Y. Malouchos writing for TA NEA newspaper: "Through this international intervention against Gadhafi, the most important change is the one which takes place inside Europe itself: after so many years, Europe ceases to be just a technical/financial concept –something that never was throughout its history – and becomes again what it always has been above all: a geopolitical concept. Financial issues, although they do not cease to be of highest importance, they lose their monopoly of power in Europe which finds something of its old lost self, balancing its priorities through a new more complex set of balances where the Pact for the Euro and the Competitiveness Pact are no longer the only deities worshiped in the Old Continent."

"The war in Libya put a break to the German-European hegemonic attitude. It demonstrated that Berlin has neither the capacity nor the necessary will to move as a leader on tough power issues. That its monetary and industrial power is not enough for the role it wishes to play…Not only could it not dictate what it was going to happen in Libya, but it also found itself isolated against the rest of the West," writes Greek Professor N. Kotzias, who has long experience in German politics.

This particular analysis of course elevates the role of France as a representative of the old "central" Europe and ignores the importance of the U.S. in European politics.

At any rate, there is no doubt that the prolonged conflict in Libya will bring to the surface more interesting aspects of struggles for supremacy within Europe and the degree of involvement that the U.S. wishes to have in the events in North Africa. It will also show where the diplomatic ball of Ankara will finally settle.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FIRST 2013, THEN 2023

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

ealkin@iticu.edu.tr

It was revealed that the Turkish economy grew by 8.9 percent last year. Even if the base effect is taken into account, this was a big success at a time when most Western economies are struggling to ease the pain of the recent crisis.

However, this does not mean that the economy will continue to grow with the same pace in the coming years. It is an important point to note as political parties in Turkey have begun to announce their 2023 goals. In Turkey it is called "vision." The year 2023, of course, is an important year, as it is the centennial of the Turkish Republic. However, it is better to be realistic while setting these targets and use at least simple mathematics.

Let us begin with per capita income figures. The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, is more optimistic than the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in targeting $31,500 per capita income by 2023. The AKP's declared figure is only $25,000. It means that Turkey's national income, according to these estimates, will reach either $2.6 trillion or $2 trillion. To reach the first figure, the CHP is aiming for an annual growth rate of 7 percent. The AKP's figure is obviously lower than this target. However, both of them are over-optimistic.

To attain 7 percent in annual growth, the ratio of total investments to gross national product must be around 30 percent. If there is a detailed program to increase productivity and if it is possible to implement this program and be successful in a rather short period, that ratio can be pulled down to 25 percent. However, historical examples show that in a modern democracy, it has been impossible to force people to attain that almost impossible goal.

Thirty percent investment requires 30 percent financial support. The source of this support is domestic savings – voluntary savings plus taxes – and external borrowing. To force domestic savings to considerably higher levels during a short time period in a democracy is also impossible. The remaining alternative is, as seen several times in many developing countries and in Turkey, excessive external borrowing and inflation. This method of rapid development means repeated economic crises and social and political turmoil.

A modest growth rate target such as 6 percent is more realistic and more suitable to Turkey's economic, social and political conditions. If some success is attained in increasing the domestic savings rate and national productivity even slowly, it is possible to realize an annual growth rate of 6 percent without creating economic, social and political problems. And in the end, the national income level, although a little bit lower than the targets of the two political parties, will be satisfactory and suitable to national interests.

The export targets are also over-optimistic. As many problems emerge every day in international markets and as some large developing countries continually invent new, unjust competition methods, it will not be easy to attain the $500 billion export target. To compete in those markets, it is not wise to use the same peculiar methods. It will harm the production structure of the industry, which cannot be repaired, even in the long run.

Naturally, being optimistic and hopeful for the future cannot be criticized. But it is also necessary to be ready for the probable problems that could emerge in the near future and be wary about the problems that might occur because of the forced implementation of over-eager development strategies.

The foreign trade and current account deficit targets for both political parties can be realized if their export goals are reached. However, it must be accepted that even if exports cannot reach $500 billion annually, it will be necessary to pull down the current account deficit to reasonable levels. Otherwise, any external shock could create serious problems in financial markets.

Another over-optimistic goal of CHP is to pull down the unemployment rate to 6 percent by 2023. Even most Western countries that have quite big production capacities have tried hard for years to pull down their unemployment rates to at least below 10 percent, but they have never succeeded. The recent crisis has added more difficulties in their fight against joblessness.

In short, it might be normal for political parties to be optimistic. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says self-confidence is the key factor in achieving goals. This is a just and realistic approach for an important politician.

However, as a second alternative, it is better also to plan the future with more modest figures in order to prevent disappointment. Turks have a strong desire to reach the standards of wealthy Western countries in a reasonably short period. For that reason, politicians must be more cautious in order to prevent future disappointments when they declare their grand visions.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

DON'T BE FOOLED, EU VIEWS ANKARA DIFFERENTLY

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

The crisis in Libya was full of lessons for all sides involved. Turkey understood that it does not have the power to act without the European Union or the United States; and Europe understood that without Turkey it is unable to conduct effective politics in some regions.

The Turkish people feel very negative about recent events in Libya which they followed on TV. It seems that relations with the EU have developed friction.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dragged France and French President Nicolas Sarkozy through the mud with his statements.

And Sarkozy has done everything possible to leave Turkey disabled.

In the end, NATO became involved and the fight calmed down to a certain extent.

The scene reflected that Turkey and the European Union again faced each other for mutual benefits.

Actually that is not the case.

On the contrary, the crisis was full of lessons for all sides involved.

It has been understood that a Middle Eastern Turkey separated from the West wouldn't be of any good to the region.

We all followed the situation.

If the United States, France and the United Kingdom hadn't intervened with weapons Moammar Gadhafi would have crushed the opposition and obtained what he longed for. The intervention of the three prevented a human disaster.

Turkey has no such power.

The impossibility of debating with someone like Gadhafi to find a solution is obvious enough.

As this crisis progressed, Ankara understood how important relations with the United States and the European Union were.

We all saw that a Turkey without any relations with NATO and EU, putting all its efforts into the region and acting like a Middle Eastern country would not be attractive or powerful. A Middle Eastern Ankara would be a loss for all of us.

Ankara realized this truth and openly showed that it had no intention of locking in on the Middle East. Today in view of the latest steps we may say that Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu started to have a different view on Europe compared to their previous perception. Turkey has openly signaled that it will behave like a European country living in the Middle East placing itself in a position in which it will defend the sensibility of Middle Eastern countries in Western forums.

Europe too understood that without Turkey it wouldn't be able to conduct effective politics in some regions.  

The same is true for the European Union.

Wherever the EU turns it faces Turkey.

Actually, Ankara gets involved in almost each incident in the Middle East. In developments in the Caucasus or the Balkans, Ankara's "soft power" is very useful for Europe.

Turkey's most powerful side in the region is actually its "soft power." Alongside Europe's and the United States' "Hard Power" Turkey's "soft power" is so valuable that it need not be ignored.

In summery, the EU may resist as much as it wants or Sarkozy may try and bypass Erdoğan like he did recently, Turkey's importance in view of Europe becomes more obvious with each passing day.

Why are we just upset with the EU or the US?

If you were to pay attention, we all talk about "the West being two-faced and having a double-standard" in respect to the Middle East.

We drag everybody through the mud, starting from the intervention of the West in Libya, to ignoring Saudi Arabia sending military troops to Bahrain, to France attacking Tunisia and praising Gadhafi whom it previously used to attack.

As if Turkey behaves very ethically.

We may tell everybody to "stop acting only on behalf of your benefits from oil and act with remorse," but why does Turkey struggle this much?

Is it for Libya's sake or for the sake of saving $25 billion of Turkish investments?

We need to be consistent with ourselves. No other country in the world acts on behalf of its remorse when it comes to external politics. Everybody is after some benefit. It's best if we carry on without exaggeration.

Let's separate true from false

Everything was mixed up during the crisis.  

Let's separate the truth from the falsehoods.

- Sarkozy has not been left inactive during these events and especially not by Turkey. NATO's intervention was requested by the United States. NATO is to oversee the embargo and France actively involved in the attacks. According to external media, Turkey is not in a position to create problems and punish France. Let's not create an unrealistic atmosphere of Turkey aligning everybody and fire them with rumor.

- Sarkozy may receive much criticism but in the end he gained in internal politics and in the international arena. He put Europe back in the Middle Eastern equation after it lost its effectiveness at one point. 

- There was no need for Erdoğan and Sarkozy to talk boorishly about each other. If you have noticed, the EU reacted to Sarkozy's general attitude but no one said anything negative to knock each other out. We hope that the French President started to realize that he needs to restrain himself from his habit of being sarcastic with respect to Turkey.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

NUMBER OF SEATS MATTERS

YUSUF KANLI

Though he refrained from making estimation about the vote percentage his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, might get, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan forecast that his party would probably produce between 315 and 335 deputies in the forthcoming June 12 elections.

Many people thought that the prime minister might be considering a decrease in the AKP vote from the 2007 level of 46.7 percent, with which the ruling party had produced 340 deputies. However, the prime minister still hopes that his party would receive over 45 percent of the vote but concedes that changes in the allocation of deputies to cities – in favor of bigger cities of western Turkey and at the expense of small central Anatolian or eastern cities – mean the AKP would produce fewer deputies that it otherwise would produce while the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP – which is stronger in bigger western cities and in the coastal areas of Turkey – would produce a few more seats than it would otherwise obtain.

Even one seat, however, will be very crucial for the prime minister in the next parliament. Under the current Constitution, the Constitution can be amended without the need to go to a referendum if in two consecutive votes on the articles and the whole of the amendment proposal at least 367 deputies, or two-thirds of the overall 550 members of Parliament, voted in favor. Of course the president might still refer the changes to a national vote, but going to a referendum is not a must. If, however, a constitutional amendment package receive a vote in either of the consecutive two votes in between 330 and 367, that is in between three-fifths and two-thirds of a qualified parliamentary majority, even though the package receive full support of the president, such amendments can only enter into force after the package is approved by the nation in a referendum. Any vote less than 330 kills a constitutional amendment package.

The AKP has been so adamant in legislating constitutional amendment packages single-handedly and without feeling the need to seek consensus with the opposition parties because of its comfortable majority, well over the minimum 330 votes needed, though less than the qualified absolute majority of 367 votes. Besides, there has been a notary at the Çankaya presidential palace since the election of Abdullah Gül as president in 2007. Whatever the AKP parliamentary majority single-handedly and in a majoritarian understanding excluding the opposition parties legislated through Parliament, received presidential approval on the way to Çankaya, I may say with some exaggeration. But, it is no secret that in the past period Gül demonstrated great skill in completing examination and approving glossy reform packages or laws within minutes after they reached the presidential office.

The prime goal of the AKP in the next parliament, as is declared so far, is to write a new constitution. If the AKP or Prime Minister Erdoğan will not change all of a sudden or "change their shirts" once again – Erdoğan and most other members of the AKP come from the Islamist Saadet, or Felicity Party, or Nationalist View background which has been staunch anti-West and anti-EU. In 2002 Erdoğan had said he has took off the Nationalist View shirt – from their present from majoritarian and obsessive political style to a democrat and reconciliatory political understanding seeking consensus with the opposition, the AKP needed at least 367 votes or at least 50 percent of the national vote so that it can write a new constitution at ease.

Is over 50 percent of the vote or producing over 367 deputies within reach for the AKP? Despite all his "tension politics" – which he believes helps the AKP boost its popularity and past record proves him right –Erdoğan appears not so confident of achieving that.

There are serious doubts anyhow since Erdoğan personally suggested the probability of carrying the issue of moving Turkey to a presidential system of governance to a public vote that he perhaps cared less about writing a new constitution and perhaps his target was limited to becoming the first president of a presidential Turkey.

No one can blame Erdoğan of having such an aspiration. He has been a de-facto absolute ruler, wants to become a de-juro one. That is all. But, to achieve that and probable other constitutional reforms he might wish to see in the period ahead, he must have at least 330-seat parliamentary majority. If, as he forecasted, the AKP remains at the 315-seat level he will have to readjust all his scenarios.

The number of seats indeed matters.

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 HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

OBAMA, BUSH (SENIOR) AND LIBYA

GWYNNE DYER

Once upon a time, a U.S. president was appalled by the actions of a murderous Arab dictator. He got the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force to stop the dictator, put together a coalition of NATO and Arab countries, and did precisely that. Sound familiar?

The president's name was George Herbert Walker Bush, and the Arab dictator was called Saddam Hussein. Saddam had invaded the sovereign state of Kuwait, and the U.N. authorized Bush to drive him out again. It did not authorize him to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam – so he didn't.

The senior Bush has been vilified ever since for sticking to the letter of the U.N. resolution, and not using his army to overthrow Saddam Hussein when he had the chance. What are the odds that President Barack Obama will do the same and not overthrow Moammar Gadhafi in Libya? Pretty good, if you believe what he says.

"Our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives," Obama said in his speech on March 28, denying that the real goal of the air campaign against Gadhafi's military forces was regime change. The United States had acted militarily because it "refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action," but there would be no foreign troops in Libya and no direct attempt to overthrow Gadhafi.

If Obama sticks to that resolve, then there is a very good chance that Gadhafi will still be in power, in the western half of a divided Libya, five years from now. The cities of Tripolitania (western Libya) have already been reduced to submission by his forces, with the sole exception of Misrata, as the rebels in Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) show no sign of being able to defeat his army in the field.

Should Gadhafi try once more to reconquer Cyrenaica, then the air-power of the coalition (basically the NATO countries but also including a few Arab countries) will stop him again. But if he just consolidates his hold on the west, who's going to force him out? Certainly not the hysterical rabble of rebel fighters who repeatedly charge west along the coast highway, and then come fleeing back as soon as they stumble into the first ambush.

U.S. troops could easily drive Gadhafi from power if they were let off the leash, but Security Council Resolution 1973 does not permit the entry of foreign troops into Libya. Moreover, no Arab country wants to see this too-familiar sight once again.

If Obama abides by the terms of the U.N. resolution, however, he is likely to end up in the same awkward position as his predecessor, President George H.W. Bush. He will have sent U.S. forces into battle, and yet he will not have got rid of the bad guy. But is that such a terrible thing?

George Bush senior was acting to repel an unprovoked invasion when he committed American forces to the liberation of Kuwait, but he was also trying to restore the role of the U.N. Security Council as the bulwark against aggressive war. The Cold War had just ended, and Saddam's invasion of Iraq was an opportunity to demonstrate how the system should work.

That's why the senior Bush would not exceed the limits of his authority as an enforcer of the U.N. rules against aggression. The U.N. had not authorized him to overthrow Saddam, and so he did not. He then muddied the waters by calling on the Kurds and Shias of Iraq to rebel, and standing by while Saddam massacred them, but that does not invalidate his original decision.

Fast forward 20 years, and Barack Obama is trying to enforce a fragile new U.N. rule: that the Security Council may authorize military intervention if massive abuses of human rights are being committed by the government. He has carried out the intervention, and the wholesale massacres that would probably have occurred if Gadhafi's troops had overrun Cyrenaica have been averted.

That's the limit of Obama's U.N. mandate, so, like George H.W. Bush, he should now stop. The aerial campaign was meant to prevent mass killing, not to provide the rebels with close air support in what has become a civil war.

One side in this civil war is run by a brutal and cynical dictator, while the people on the other side are brave idealists seeking democracy, but that doesn't mean that foreigners should decide the outcome. That would be contrary to international law – and besides, if there is to be a real democratic revolution in Libya, then the Libyans must do it for themselves.

If that means that Libya must spend some months or years as a divided country, with the western half still under Gadhafi's yoke, then so be it. The only legitimate tools that foreigners may use against him are financial sanctions, trade boycotts and diplomatic isolation.

Cut off his cash flow, and Gadhafi might fall quite quickly. Or he might not, which would be a pity. But the only reason that Resolution 1973 got the support of the Arab League, and abstentions by China, Russia and India, was that it authorized military action to "protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack." And that is all that the coalition should do.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CYBER-UTOPIANISM REFLECTING ON THE ARAB REVOLUTIONS: TOO OPTIMISTIC TOO EARLY?

NAZLI ÇAKIROĞLU

"If you want to liberate a society, just give them the Internet," Wael Ghonim said following Egyptian ex-President Hosni Mubarak's resignation on Feb. 11. One of Egypt's tech-savvy revolutionaries, Ghonim had employed his business and design skills to construct a Facebook protest community and later emerged as a leader of the Egyptian revolution. Thus shines Ghonim in global liberal circles as the prince of "cyber-utopianism," a view wildly popular in Western circles about the sweeping impact the Internet can have over the social mobilization against "authoritarian" regimes.

It seems like there is little to discuss, let alone try to refute about the impact the Internet's social media tools have had in the Tunisian, Egyptian and ongoing protests in other Arab countries. The discussion on this has worn itself out so much that some have gone so far as to proclaim, "The Net revolution debate is dead." However, continuing uprisings ranging from those in Syria to Bahrain present us with new insight into how cyber-utopianism may both be presenting an overly optimistic view of how societies can organize against authoritarian regimes, as well as concealing some of the ironies about the very champions of cyber-utopianism. Thus, the Net revolution debate is far from dead, it merely needs wait for the dust to settle in the Middle East and possibly change course from its wrongheaded "optimistic" direction as we collect more insight.

Looking at events unfolding across the Middle Eastern uprising landscape, it seems that the process of dictatorial regime overthrow in the Middle East has been halted. In countries like Libya, Syria or Bahrain, autocrats seem determined not to surrender to popular pressure but to cling to power by resorting to violence. To make a case as to why a regime hasn't been overthrown yet, it could be argued that these countries so completely repress the Internet that the citizens cannot circumvent it and organize through social media. The reality, however, is that in Syria, the ruling party supported the digital tools that have proven disastrous for authoritarian regimes elsewhere. Soon after the initial Feb. 4 demonstration the Syrian government legalized Facebook, which had been banned since 2007, according to local Internet users.

One of the few scholars courageously fighting cyber-utopianism, Evgeny Morozov, the author of "The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom," argues that, "The end result is that the Syrian police will be able to monitor its opponents much better, and they would be able to trace their locations, they would be able to arrest them and intimidate them."

Another case in point, Bahrain also seems to validate Morozov's claims. On Wednesday, Bahraini authorities arrested respected blogger Mahmood al-Yousif due to his opposition to the current government. Bahrain is not overtly restrictive in its Internet policy, but just like many authoritarian governments, it plays the game of blocking online access when public protests begin to swell though still using the web for its own monitoring purposes only too well.

The ironies that arise from the champions of cyber-utopianism are another significant case in point, making it even more necessary to approach cyber-utopianism with reservations, which is a case that deserves more attention and will receive a separate article devoted to it.

"A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding," Marshall McLuhan argued in his seminal work, "The Gutenberg Galaxy." As the story goes with the Middle Eastern uprisings and the role of the Internet, enthusiasm for technology should not surpass understanding of it. The best insight seems for all of us to watch what will unfold across the Middle East and in Turkey, to make a healthy and not "overly optimistic" case for the role of the Internet in the democratization of these countries.

*Nazlı Çakıroğlu, MSc London School of Economics and political science, is a communications and corporate social responsibility expert.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

KEEP ON TRYING

 

The Wikileaks saga is going to run for years, and will be mined for nuggets of data for a generation to come. One of the more interesting aspects of the whole affair is that whilst there have been a variety of embarrassments in the diplomatic community around the world as a result of the disclosures; there has been minimal challenge to the veracity of the content of the Wikileaks material. What we see with Wikileaks is a version of the truth that is closer than we generally get when fed a diet of diplomatic platitudes – designed to tell us little or nothing. Those diplomatic dealings now revealed relating to the Kashmir issue are of particular interest to us, and a report in this newspaper tells us that in the period immediately preceding the Mumbai attacks there was talk of a deal being on the table which both our President Zardari and India's Manmohan Singh were prepared to sign up to.

Tantalisingly, we have no indication as to the content of the deal and a search of the Wikileaks database has turned up no flesh to put on the bones of the report that there was 'a text' ready for signature. The report comes from what may be assumed to be a reliable source – an official on the Pakistan Team of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who would never have expected her words to become public property and we may therefore assume to be free of the dissembling that would be the 'wraparound' if they were. There was a clearly expressed opinion on the British side that it was possible to do a deal on Kashmir and that the time was right to do so. A stumbling block was said to be our military command, which needed to be persuaded, but nowhere is there a suggestion that this was not possible. The deal never saw the light of day and went into the post-Mumbai deepfreeze. But today, post-World Cup and a discernible thawing in the freeze as our two prime ministers sat side by side to watch a historic encounter, the frost on the edges of 'a text' may be thawing. The solution to the Kashmir problem is not beyond our grasp – or India's. That we have a reliable report of a proposed deal that both sides were close to signing is as clear an indicator as any that this is a goal that we

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

 

CRISIS IN THE WARDS

 

The anarchy seen in Punjab's public hospitals since early March, when members of the Young Doctors' Association began action to demand better pay and other perks, has worsened rapidly. Following the Punjab government's rejection of the YDA call for salaries to be raised to Rs 90,000 and for other privileges for their members, and the consequent strike by thousands of doctors, 60 have been dismissed from service and notices have been served by the Punjab Health Department to 84 others. The YDA, which claims to have 8,000 members, says the strike will continue. There are indications of support from Sindh and backing from the Pakistan Medical Association whose members moved into wards on a humanitarian basis to tend to patients. Despite this, 22 are dead. The toll could mount with no breakthrough in sight.

The Punjab government says all kinds of development work would need to be abandoned to meet the YDA demands. The organisation remains defiant and says the conditions under which young doctors work, for low salaries, are unacceptable. The situation involves quite a few complexities. It brings up questions of medical ethics and the oath taken by doctors. But it is also a fact that payment structures and other issues need to be reviewed. Some degree of flexibility is needed on both sides. The collapse of negotiations and the hardening of lines augur ill for patients. They must be given priority and some mechanism set up to resolve a crisis that has assumed dangerous proportions, with much at stake in terms of lives and welfare. Perhaps, a panel of intermediaries can be set up to look into the issues raised by both sides and suggest mechanisms that can help solve a crisis that has been brewing for too long and has contributed to a worsening in the already grim conditions that prevail at almost all public-sector facilities where those unable to afford the greater luxury of the private-sector seek the care they need.

The issue needs to be addressed as an urgent one. There is now a real risk that the strike could spread. There is a limit to the time for which senior doctors can carry the burden borne in normal circumstances by their junior counterparts. This is how things are around the world. Without the young doctors who serve as house officers and in other capacities, the system would not work. The YDA undoubtedly has some concerns that are relevant. But it needs to adopt a realistic attitude and also consider the government's perspective. This matter needs to be solved without delay so that calm returns to the wards and doctors return to their duties.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

MURDER SUSPENSE

 

The mystery surrounding the contents of the investigation report on Benazir Bhutto's murder continues. After a detailed briefing on its contents, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said making it public now could jeopardise the legal process involved in obtaining justice for his late mother. His talk of a massive conspiracy, carried out, he says, to prevent an end to terrorism only adds to the suspense surrounding the affair. There is mention again of persons involved in the plot who remain outside the country and of the arrest of all those who are alive and within our borders. As the saga continues, key CEC members are to be briefed in secret as to the contents of the report.

Fears are now rising that we may never discover who killed Benazir Bhutto or what all the cryptic references made point to. Over the three years and three months since Benazir died, things have grown increasingly complex. So much money and time has been spent on investigations into this murder. This money went out from the exchequer. As citizens, and tax payers, we need then to hear what happened, sooner rather than later.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

 

NOT AMERICA'S FINEST HOUR

ROEDAD KHAN

 

Americans don't like to be reminded of Commodore Mathew Perry because he conjures up an Imperial image that makes them uncomfortable. Perry appeared in Tokyo Bay on July 8, 1853 with four ships mounting more than sixty guns and nearly 1000 men, carrying a list of demands and an ultimatum from President Fillmore. The Japanese were overwhelmed by Perry's firepower and yielded. Historians agree that President Fillmore sent Perry to Japan largely because America needed oil - though back then it was the oil from whales found off the Japanese coast!


The invasion of Iraq, the only secular, modern, progressive socialist state in the Islamic world, was, as everybody knows, premeditated, unprovoked, cruel, unjust and avaricious. Iraq was not involved in 9/11, posed no threat to the United States, was dead against Al Qaeda and had done no harm to the United States or its citizens. And yet, Iraq had to be invaded because it had oil. And what is worse, it is Muslim. If Saddam didn't have oil, he could torture his citizens to his heart's content. Other leaders in the Islamic world do it everyday with the blessings of the American President.


John Quincey Adams, then Secretary of State, summed up American policy in 1821. "Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled there will her (America's) heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own." Today, contrary to John Adam's advice, America stalks the world in search of monsters to destroy.


Today the US is once again in an expansionist mood, moved by the lure of oil in Libya and the notion of Manifest Destiny to export democracy and Western civilisation to the Islamic World. Anyone can see what is happening in Libya. It is nothing less than a war of colonial conquest fought for oil, dressed up as a crusade for western life and liberty. Nobody believes that what compelled President Obama to act so quickly was the immediate prospect of mass atrocities against the people in Libya. Today the dominant view in the Islamic world is that Americans are attacking Libya not to protect civilians, not to spread democracy but to steal Libya's oil.


Once we thought this one-of-a-kind American president could do great things. In his inaugural address he focused more on 'soft power' and told the Muslim world that he wants "a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect". All that seems to have changed. When millions of young students gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo, President Obama jettisoned America's ideals and placed himself on the wrong side of history. He decided to side with the Pharaoh right to the very end. Many questions come to mind: Why did Obama react so slowly to the democratic revolution in Egypt? Why did he maintain support for Mubarak so long? Why did he move more cautiously in the present crisis than did President Reagan in moving away from Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines? Why was President Obama so slow to embrace the young protestors? Why President Obama didn't come out more strongly and more quickly on the side of the protestors? And last but not least, why is Obama not supporting the democratic revolutions in Bahrain and Yemen and supporting despotic rulers in these countries? Why doesn't he stop the use of brute force against unarmed, innocent protestors in these two counties? Why has he turned a blind eye to the monsters in Bahrain and Yemen and the atrocities they are perpetrating? Why is he on the wrong side of history in Bahrain and Yemen?

Two hundred years ago, America caught the imagination of the world because of the ideals which it stood for. For decades the United States has played a unique role in the world, because it was viewed as a society that was generally committed to certain ideals, which Americans were prepared to practise at home and defend abroad. Today Americans seem to have forgotten America as a source of optimism, as a beacon of liberty. Today America's example is tarnished with military adventurism and conflicts abroad. For the first time America's commitment to idealism, democracy and liberty, worldwide, sounds hollow, hypocritical and makes people laugh. Today the United States is self-centred, preoccupied only with itself, and subordinating everything else in the world to an exaggerated sense of its insecurity.


America does not care for democracy in the Islamic world and has no intentions of bringing about radical, political, social and economic changes in the region. The American diplomat (late) Richard Holbrooke pondered this problem on the eve of the September 1996 election in Bosnia. "Suppose the election was declared free and fair and those elected are racists, fascists, separatists or religious zealots. That is the dilemma". Indeed it is, not just in Bosnia, Algeria, Turkey or Pakistan but in the entire Islamic world. No wonder, Obama's speech in Cairo about bringing democracy and freedom to the Islamic world, has fallen on deaf ears and left people cold. It is now abundantly clear that no country in the Islamic world will ever be allowed by the United State to be truly democratic for one simple reason: were free, fair and impartial elections, the essence of democracy, the inescapable sine qua non, held tomorrow in the Islamic world, the resulting regimes would almost certainly be anti-American, anti-Israel, and pro-Islamic. No wonder, America didn't accept the result of a free, fair and impartial election in Algeria.


Though it rejects imperial pretensions, America is perceived in the world as peremptory, domineering and imperial. The war on terror is used to topple weak regimes. History will hold America and its president responsible for undoing one of its noblest dreams. What many friends of America find hard to understand is how America, upholder of the Rights of Man and the beacon of liberty, could be transformed so quickly into an Imperial power. The world sees America as an aggressor acting in support of the oppressors.

Today the Islamic world is a prime target for America, the latest imperial power, virtuoso in the art of smashing Islamic countries and establishing its control over the remains. It has all the requirements to make it the perfect American target. It has enormous natural resources; it has a rotten socio-political system in an advanced stage of decay and decomposition; its rulers are corrupt, despotic, authoritarian, unresponsive to the prime needs of the people, accountable to none; it lacks the will to defend itself because what its rulers represent is not worth defending; it is highly vulnerable to attacks; a coup de grâce, or a coup de main, a powerful kick and the entire rotten structure will come crashing down. At relatively little risk and cost, America can gain strategic advantages in the Islamic world and place itself increasingly in position to control the world's resources and life lines. The aim is to gain control of the energy treasure house of the Middle East and the Gulf.

Democracy, freedom of choice, rule of law and human rights, are highly desirable American goals but their priority has obviously diminished since September 11. Many in the Islamic World are wondering: why is Obama pushing democracy only in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya? Why is he advocating democracy only in authoritarian regimes that oppose America and not in authoritarian regimes that are pro-America? Today American policy towards the Islamic world, as described by Thomas Friedman, renowned American columnist, is 'to punish enemies with the threat of democracy and reward its friends with silence on democratisation'.

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk, www.roedadkhan.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

NEITHER 'NEW' NOR A STRATEGY

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN

 

On March 29, I commented on the "new" growth strategy, a document prepared by the Planning Commission. In my comments, I stated that the document is technically weak and lacks cohesion, and that some parts of it are based on incorrect facts. I also questioned the "newness" of this growth strategy and argued that it is nothing but old wine in a new bottle.


The salient features of the "new" growth strategy include a discussion on demographic dividend, the private sector as major driver of growth, the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in promotion of economic growth, the major constraints to growth, various indices of competitiveness, the role of mega-cities, quality of investment in physical and human capital, improvement in public-service delivery and governance, the inadequate transport and storage facilities, land titles, connectivity, and youth engagement.


Are these features "new" for the growth strategy propounded by the Planning Commission? Have these features not been part of the "old" growth model? There is nothing "new" to the new growth strategy. The second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP-II), under the title "Ensuring a Demographic Dividend: Unleashing Human Potential in a Globalised World" prepared by the ministry of finance in April 2007, and presented to the Pakistan Development Forum, has been renamed new growth strategy. The PRSP-II contains all the salient features of the new growth strategy described above. The same has been summarised in the Pakistan Economic Survey 2006-07 as well (pages xviii-xxii).


While the new growth strategy discusses demographic transition, it fails to discuss how the transition can be converted into dividend. On the other hand, the PRSP-II is centred on converting transition into dividend through seven pillars. The salient features of the new growth strategy have been enshrined in the seven pillars of the PRSP-II.


The new growth strategy regards the private sector as a growth driver. The second pillar of the PRSP-II rests on the role of the private sector and states that "the private sector will play an increasing role in driving growth and creating job opportunities. A strong Private Sector Development strategy will therefore be a key element in enhancing the competitiveness of the private sector.


The new strategy discusses the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in promoting economic growth. It is common knowledge that innovation and entrepreneurship development come only through the investment in human capital, particularly higher education. How can innovation and entrepreneurship be promoted in the midst of the systematic destruction of higher education in Pakistan? I leave it to the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission to explain.


The new strategy highlights major constraints to growth and compares Pakistan with other countries in terms of various indices of competitiveness. The second pillar of the PRSP-II deals with competitiveness issue. It states that "the government recognises improving competitiveness as a cornerstone of its economic growth strategy." It is in this connection that the government and USAID established a Competitive Support Fund whose main task has been to prepare a State of Pakistan's Competitiveness Report and assist the private sector in improving its competitiveness.

The new strategy discusses the role of mega-cities in promoting market and economic growth. This aspect has been covered in the first pillar of the PRSP-II. Under the subtitle of "mega-cities as engine of growth," it states that "urban centres provide massive opportunities for overall economic development. Development of mega-cities has a multifaceted impact on the economy. Pakistan will see the rise of large urban centres and mega-cities which will propel the growth of national economy."


The new strategy emphasises the quality of investment in physical and human capital. This issue is extensively covered in the fifth and the third pillars of the PRSP-II, respectively. Under the title of "World Class Infrastructure," the fifth pillar states that "the government's vision for economic growth and poverty reduction sets ambitious targets, which will require massive investment in quality and affordable infrastructure to sustain high rates of private sector-led growth that enhances the competitiveness of its economy."

On the issue of quality of human capital, the third pillar of the PRSP-II, under the title of "Harnessing the Potential of the People," states that "educational attainment has a positive impact not only on economic growth and poverty reduction but is also directly linked with technological adaptation, innovation, and increased productivity." The entire chapter is devoted to improving the quality of primary, secondary and tertiary education as well as vocational and technical education.


The new strategy underscores the importance of improving public service delivery in particular and governance in general. This aspect has been covered extensively under sixth pillar of the PRSP-II. Under the subtitle of "Effective Social Service Delivery," the sixth pillar states that "expanding inclusive service delivery is critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and maximising gains from the upcoming demographic dividend. Government's efforts in the next three-five years will focus on better aligning, accountabilities and expenditures, resources...to improve social service delivery." This chapter is yet another good reading for the deputy chairman to apprise himself about the work needed to be undertaken.


On the remaining salient features of new growth strategy such as inadequate transport and storage facilities, land titles and connectivity, I would urge the deputy chairman to read various pillars of the PRSP-II as these are well documented there.


It is now abundantly clear that the "new" growth strategy as propounded by the Planning Commission is nothing but the recycling of the PRSP-II, and therefore is old wine in a new bottle. The deputy chairman and his consultants have lived outside Pakistan for decades, and as such have little understanding of the ground realities and little knowledge of the work done in their absence. There is nothing wrong in carrying forward the strategy discussed in PRSP-II. It has worked in the past and will work in the future as well. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.


The writer is principal and dean at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@ nbs.edu.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SUICIDE BOMBER VS SUICIDAL STATE

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI


 The reason it is fruitless to allow ideology to be the primary filter through which you see the world is simple. Ideology is complicated. It obfuscates the obvious, and invests us in the hidden. It is the foundation of conspiracy theories. We seek hidden meaning in things that have obvious implications.

If you're a neocon who hates Muslims, or better yet, a Muslim who hates Muslims (and Pakistan has more than its fair share of self-loathing latter-day colonists who'll say anything to seem more Hollywood than Lady Gaga herself) then nothing suits your narrative more than the atrocities and murder that took place in Mazar-e-Sharif last week, in reaction to the burning of a Quran in Florida. Such events help perpetuate the twisted narrative of Muslims as generically rabid fanatics with no compunctions about beheading innocent people.

If you're an anti-Semitic, Hinduphobic, anti-American right winger who believes Pakistan was made the day Bin Qasim landed at Kemari, and for whom killing people on street corners for purported offenses of speech (and we know with certainty that our living rooms, televisions and streets are overflowing with such vileness), is no big deal, then the burning of the Quran itself is a boon to your trade. Nothing helps sell hatred more than a made-for TV drama like Terry Jones. Too many of the politically irrelevant mullahs in the Muslim world live and die for a chance to stir up reactions to the Terry Jones' of the world.

Similar ideological brouhaha exists at the local level within Pakistan. As a parade of terrorist attacks on Pakistani shrines continues unabated, if you're interested in proving that your version of Islam – starring Junoon songs, colourful clothes, and a drag of marijuana is better than the orthodoxy of Pakistan's post-Wahabbist fundamentalists, then the shrine attacks make sense to you. But if you're among the minority of Pakistani religious conservatives, or the majority of Pakistani religious centrists, attacks on shrines are likely to stir conspiracy theories in the mind, or at the very least, utter confusion – we've heard this question all too many times: "why would supposed Muslims, kill Muslims?"

The point is rather simple. When we try to understand the world from the perspective of a specific set of ideas about why people do things a certain way, then we affix ideas-based agency to other people's actions. But since we aren't the other person, we can't possibly know what really motivates them. We could literally spend decades in this abstract purple haze. Meanwhile, the important work of preventing murder, protecting human rights, and enabling the weak and the dispossessed to live more freely and prosperously gets relegated to oblivion. When we invest all our energy in debating the finer points of the differences between sufis and salafis, or between the sincerity of American liberals and the cynicism of its neocons, we're really missing the whole point.

You don't need to be a fan of Bulleh Shah's poetry to understand that police in Mazar-e-Sharif should have the equipment, training and numbers to overwhelm any and all crowds. Peaceful protest is one thing. But the moment someone burns the first tyre, or raises the first murderous chant, law enforcement has to physically enforce its power. It has to let the entire crowd know that if you step out of line, the fuse of the Afghan government's monopoly over the exertion of violence will be tripped. Infractions of the public peace must be dealt with so swiftly and decisively that the mere thought of facing the state's reaction must make one shudder. If this sounds extreme, perhaps we need to consider the context. A mob went and beheaded seven UN staff who had nothing whatsoever to do with the burning of the Holy Quran. A little show of strength by the state here is not a violation of liberal principles. It is in fact a demonstration of those principles.

Similarly, you don't need to be a salafi traditionalist to understand that without legal sanction of some kind, rating whores like Jones will continue to find fame and fortune in doing things that are designed to exploit the cheap cynicism of liberals and the even cheaper outrage of conservatives. Of course, once we enter legal sanction territory, we need to be clear and indiscriminate. On our scales of moral outrage and in the law and its enforcement, urging on rioters to burn human beings alive has to trump alleged blasphemies. It isn't just a matter of humanity. It is a matter of urgency for Pakistani Muslims to have unstinting moral clarity about these issues, from a decidedly Islamic perspective. We cannot allow fitna to overtake us. We cannot become hostages to fitna.

Of course, it is not an ordinary Pakistani's job to fight the madness. It is the state's job. As we were still smarting from the atrocities committed in Mazar-e-Sharif, the authorities in Dera Ghazi Khan had to begin counting dead bodies from a terrorist attack on Darbar Sakhi Sarwar. We have lost count of how many times shrines have been hit by suicide bombers. The minister of interior claims there is no defence against a suicide bomber. If this isn't a declaration that Pakistan is essentially at the mercy of violent takrifi extremism, I don't know what is. The official proof is pretty compelling. Pakistan has no counter-terrorism strategy. It has no counter-radicalisation programmes. It has a lame and pathetic counter-extremist narrative – as it continues to use Bush-era language about its resolve in the 'war on terror'.

So the problem is rather simple. It isn't an ideology that enables terrorism in Pakistan. It is the weakness and incapacity of the Pakistani state's response to terrorism that enables it. The insistence on exploring the sectarian dimensions of different terrorist groups, and the obsession with trotting out hackneyed rhetoric about Pakistan's sufi traditions are distractions from a real and necessary conversation. That credible and decisive state action is needed, regardless of what inspires this violence.

Fanatics in Pakistan have more and more space everyday. The space for normalcy and sanity shrinks every time evangelical Muslims intimidate hospital patients into reciting the declaration of faith. It shrinks every time reasonable debate about procedural lacunae in the laws is muted by fear, and it shrinks with every terrorist attack.

Credible state action, that asserted itself forcefully, decisively and with no compunctions about its ferocity would have put this jack, back in the box. Of course, this is a fool's paradise. The only kind of decisive action this state will take is action that sustains and deepens the many structural advantages and comforts enjoyed by the military, political, bureaucratic and industrial elite. In this way, the Pakistani elite have something in common with the violent extremists that torment the people of Pakistan. Both have a death wish. It is the suicide bombers vs the suicidal state. Unfortunately, it is the Pakistani people that lose in this contest. A contest they never, ever chose to be a part of.

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy. www.mosharrafzaidi.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

WHEN CULTURE IS AN IMPORT

FAROOQ SULEHRIA

 

The way our cultural mujahideen grilled Veena Malik a few weeks ago, one could not help but recall Maupassant's most famous short story "Boule de Suif." Set in the period of the Franco-Prussian War. A group of wealthy residents of the French town of Rouen, which has recently been occupied by the Prussians, decide to flee. Joining them was Boule de Suif, the woman whom the self-righteous disdainfully regarded as a prostitute.

Those travelling with her in the carriage initially distance themselves from the woman. But she is carrying a basket full of good food, and large-hearted as she is, Boule de Suif offers to share the food with the hungry travellers. The carriage blunders into territory occupied by the Prussians and a Prussian officer detains the travellers at an inn, without offering any explanation for the detention.

The travellers are extremely indignant when Boule de Suif tells them the Prussian officer is going to detain them until she agrees to sleep with him. She is repeatedly called before the officer, and returns extremely agitated after refusing his demand. Initially, the travellers support her modesty and condemn the lecherous officer's behaviour. However, their indignation begins to evaporate, to the point where the hostages grow angry with Boule de Suif, for her refusal to sleep with the officer. Over the next two days, the travellers invoke both logic and morality to persuade Boule de Suif that sleeping with the officer would be the most appropriate thing to do. So she gives in and spends the night with the officer, who allows the hostages to leave the following morning.

Our Syed Noors have no problem when in Lollywood productions girls pose in the most vulgar fashion, or even undress. The cultural jihadis do not find anything objectionable in "Al Rais" (The Boss) the Arabic version of "Big Brother." "Al Rais" was broadcast in the Middle East by a channel owned by a Saudi prince. Ironically, the countrymen of this prince have been funding the Taliban. , In turn, these brutal, self-appointed custodians of Islam not only stage public hangings and beheadings but also make bonfires of television sets from Kabul to Swat, because in their opinion television was a vehicle for the popularisation of vulgarity and obscenity.

It is strange that the cultural Taliban in Pakistan, who are so annoyed by Veena Malik, have no problem with reality television itself, or with game shows and talent-hunt serials, which all originate from the "vulgar" West.

At the same time, they do not object to the increasing commercialisation of the media, or the Western-dominated global political economy driving the electronic media. In 2008-09, of the top ten advertisers on privately-owned TV channels, nine were trans-national corporations.

In the good old days, before members of an Islamic outfit began to plant bombs in theatres, audiences would flock to cinema houses for Hollywood productions. Even our anti-vulgarity crusader Gen Ziaul Haq, who in his crusade virtually destroyed cinema in Pakistan, did not ban Hollywood films, because they were American.

However, Indian films, although they follow Hollywood trends, remained under a ban. As did films from many other parts of the world, but in particular from the Soviet bloc. In the case of Hollywood films the Censor Board did apply the scissors here and there, to cut out kisses, hugs and alcohol, but the films were allowed to be released.

We witness the same kind of hypocrisy on the mini-screen today. Cultural imports from the West are merely dressed up in a local setup, and all is well as far as the cultural mujahideen are concerned. No one seems to care if Western content with an "Islamic" touch still brings Western values home, values which are hardly "Islamic."

Chile's Marxist media scholar Armand Mattelart declared in 1970: "It goes without saying that it is not simply by suppressing all programmes manufactured abroad – especially from North America – that the degree of cultural dependency will be reduced. A 'Chileanised' programme can produce exactly the same ideology and therefore be guilty of the same vices as foreign material, the only difference being that these vices may be less explicit."

And what are these values? Trying to summarise the set of dominant values in the production of Westernised mass culture in Latin America, researchers Luis Ramiro Beltran and Elisabeth Fox drew up the following list: individualism, elitism, racism (to which one could add ethnocentrism), adventurism, conservatism, conformism, the feeling of inferiority, and aggressiveness.

According to them, individualism is "the belief that the needs and aspirations of the individual predominate over those of the community to which he or she belongs." Conservatism is defined as "the belief that the socio-economic structures characteristic of capitalism constitute the only desirable and natural social order and that, as such, they must be indefinitely maintained for the good of all."

According to Mattelart, all these values are satellites of a central planet: integration into the world of consumption. Thus, culture has become "the vulgarised superstructure of the capitalist mode of production. Above all, this culture represents a lifestyle, forming a unique and coherent totality which creates daily standards that contribute to supporting the dynamics of consumption and production."

Hence, the problem with the culture industry is not only the imported genre and format but values attributed to celebrity, trivia, and self-aggrandisement. The road to stardom is through cutthroat competition. Happiness is impossible, but pleasure (entertainment) is within reach.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Email: mfsulehria@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

PEACE PROCESS NEEDS BETTER RUN RATE

DR MALEEHA LODHI

 

The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.



The semi-finals of the World Cup at Mohali turned into a good innings for the fledgling peace process even if it left Pakistani fans disappointed by the lacklustre performance of their cricket team.

The first India-Pakistan match played in the subcontinent since the Mumbai incident afforded an opportunity for the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India to meet and talk about a broad range of issues. This marked a new thaw in relations coinciding as it did with the resumption of formal talks agreed at Thimphu in February.

The agreement between the foreign secretaries in Bhutan ended the prolonged impasse over reviving a comprehensive dialogue between the two countries. Disrupted by India's suspension of the peace process after the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist incident, the 'composite dialogue' covering eight baskets of issues (plus one added at Thimphu) has been revived in all but name.

This agreement on the terms of re-engagement provided the essential backdrop to the carefully scripted encounter at Mohali. The initiative for the 'cricket summit' came from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and there was much diplomatic communication between the foreign ministries to get both optics and the substance right for the 'cricket summit'.

This worked and the mini-summit saw both sides matching the other in making positive statements. There were mutual declarations of working together to secure permanent peace. For Prime Minister Singh's beleaguered government, rocked by a series of corruption scandals, the peace initiative was a welcome distraction from domestic turmoil and a paralysed parliament. As one observer put it: Singh followed a time-honoured tradition and "turned to foreign policy because he had simply run out of ideas on the domestic front".

But there seemed more to the Indian Prime Minister's pursuit of cricket diplomacy than this. At Thimphu, the Indian Foreign Minister MK Krishna had told Pakistani officials that his Prime Minister wanted to make peace with Pakistan his legacy, reiterating a message also conveyed earlier of his desire to achieve a lasting rapprochement as his career draws to a close.

To reciprocate the Indian desire to restart the process Islamabad made diplomatic concessions to provide room for Delhi to come out of the corner it had painted itself into by setting a pre-condition for formal talks – action on the Mumbai case. By sequencing the planned series of meetings in the revived dialogue in such a way as to start with the interior secretaries' meeting on counterterrorism, Islamabad allowed Delhi a face saving way to back away from its conditions-based approach.

A consideration behind this show of flexibility by Islamabad was to bilateralise the conversation on counterterrorism and limit Delhi's ability to use this as a means to malign Pakistan internationally and put it under pressure as it had done with great relish in the past two years.

The outcome of the first encounter of the renewed bilateral discussions acknowledged the Indian priority: agreement that inquiry commissions from each country will visit the other in connection with the Mumbai incident. The joint statement issued on 29 March after the meeting between the interior secretaries said that "the modalities and composition (for this) will be worked out through diplomatic channels". India too met Pakistan's demand to provide information about the probe into the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing in which 48 Pakistanis were killed by Hindu extremists.

These mutual undertakings marked a concrete step forward in a difficult area. The agreement to set up a hotline is more symbolic, as it basically means that the two secretaries of home and interior will now have each other's mobile phone numbers. But it does reflect a mutual readiness to increase cooperation.

The start of the composite dialogue amid the smiles and handshakes of the Mohali encounter has helped to improve the tone and tenor of the relationship. But there is much ground to cover to improve the content of relations. Better atmospherics may be necessary but they are not sufficient to normalise and reset ties.

If the past is any guide, the peace dialogue will have to improve its run rate if it is to avoid disappointment or a reversion to a wearingly familiar 'one-step forward, two backward' pattern of diplomatic engagement. This means that the two sides should consider whether there are issues that can provide the 'quick wins' the peace process needs to acquire real momentum, build wider public support and marginalise hardliners on both sides.

Two 'quick wins' within the realm of possibility are on Siachen and Sir Creek, among the many disputes that have bedevilled relations. Previous progress on these issues could be made the basis for agreements. After all understandings were reached on them at different junctures in the past. But in both cases Delhi was unable to surmount opposition from its military and unwilling to translate progress into concrete agreements. If past understandings could be revived and accords forged this would send an important signal to the people of the region and to the international community that Pakistan and India are capable of solving their problems and take 'ownership' of their affairs – in the Pakistani Foreign Ministry's latest phrase of choice.

An opportunity to improve the quality of engagement will also come when the trade talks convene later this month between the commerce secretaries. Both sides have an interest in enhancing commercial ties and increasing bilateral trade – which reached an annual peak of $250 million pre-Mumbai – in areas where it is in their mutual advantage.

But Delhi has to be urged ahead of these talks to end its opposition to the market access deal offered to Pakistan by the European Union in the wake of the July 2010 floods. The time-bound trade offer, giving Pakistan preferential access to European markets, is of modest significance but has met stiff Indian resistance. Delhi led the opposition from a small group of countries in the WTO that has to grant a waiver to the tariff concession to enable the deal to go through.

In last month's meeting of the WTO's Council for Trade in Goods, India again opposed the deal. A waiver will now be considered in another meeting in April but the Council is now obliged, under the rules, to report to the General Council of the WTO, set to meet on May 3-4. A positive signal from Delhi before this meeting can resolve this matter, and serve to demonstrate that India is prepared to accommodate issues of concern to Pakistan in the effort to build better ties.

Progress in the peace process will likely be incremental but where confidence can be built and mutual accommodation reached opportunities should be seized. The calendar of meetings in the next three months on different issues on the agreed agenda will test the ability and resolve on both sides to move the process forward. Although Kashmir remains the litmus test of sustainable normalisation there are other issues whose resolution can help create the climate to address the core dispute.

Between now and June/July, when the foreign secretaries would have met and the foreign ministers will conclude the present round of meetings by reviewing the progress, there will be plenty of opportunity to determine whether the Mohali spirit will produce a long and rewarding innings or turn out to be another dropped catch.

 

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I. THE NEWS

SUCH HATRED!

JEFF SPARROW

 

In 2010, Jeremy Morlock and Andrew Holmes, two US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, set out to kill a civilian, for no other reason than that they could. The latest edition of Rolling Stone magazine documents the activities of Morlock and Holmes and the so-called 'Kill Team' they led, activities that culminated in the murder of a young farmer named Gul Mudin.

The story is shocking. But, depressingly, much of it is also very familiar. Consider, for instance, a brief video taken by the soldiers, documenting an airstrike on two suspected insurgents. Like Wikileaks' 'Collateral Murder' video, the soundtrack records the unabashed pleasure the men take in watching the Afghanis die.

The soldiers subsequently edited the clip for distribution, sexing up the footage with a rock soundtrack and a title card reading 'Death Zone'. Throughout the internet, there's a flourishing genre of such home-made combat films. As far back as 2005, the Pentagon denounced the proliferation of clips in which real deaths had been overdubbed with heavy metal or hip hop, on the basis that, as the New York Sun rather diplomatically put it, 'they could be regarded as anti-Arab'.

Another clip from the Rolling Stone story shows soldiers gunning down two armed Afghan men riding a motorbike. After the shooting, the men gather round the corpses. 'I want to look at my kill,' says one, and all the soldiers pull out cameras and begin snapping. That photographic enthusiasm produced a cache that Rolling Stone's Mark Boal describes: a grotesque image gallery of severed heads, mutilated torsos and other body parts, sometimes adorned with props.

Boal argues that the photos from the Kill Team's Third Platoon exemplified a culture of hostility toward, and contempt for, the people of Afghanistan. 'Most people within the unit disliked the Afghan people, whether it was the Afghan National Police, the Afghan National Army or locals,' one soldier explained to investigators. 'Everyone would say they're savages.'

That was the context in which Morlock and Holmes embarked on their thrill-killings. And that was the also context in which no-one tried to stop them. The military trains soldiers to kill; killing entails dehumanisation. But in wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, it's very easy for that dehumanisation to take on an explicitly racial dynamic.

Authorities might talk about the need to win 'hearts and minds' in Afghanistan and Iraq. But in the context of an occupation there's a countervailing pressure to discourage soldiers from empathising with the locals they police.

As it happens, the soldiers from the Third Platoon 'Kill Team' are, in fact, in trouble, with five soldiers charged with murder. Yet Rolling Stone describes an army desperately scrambling to portray those involved as 'bad apples' even though murders of civilians were allegedly 'common knowledge' among the unit. No officers have been charged – indeed, some have been promoted – despite allegations they knew about the killings from the beginning.

Conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan require very young men to police a population that's largely hostile to their presence. The dynamic between occupiers and occupied facilitates a racial antipathy, such that some of those young men will inevitably do terrible things.

Yes, individual perpetrators must be held accountable for their crimes. But should we not also be asking questions about the character of wars that foster such a tremendous hatred toward the civilian population in whose name we are supposedly fighting?

The writer is the editor of Overland magazine and the author of Killing: Misadventures in Violence.

Courtesy: www.counterpunch.org

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

US MUST ACT AGAINST THE PASTOR

 

THE unholy act of burning the last revealed book by a cursed American pastor has rightly triggered a wave of protests and indignation around the globe with demands of stern action against evil-minded Terry Jones but regrettably so far the attitude of the US administration, lip-service statements of some of the leaders notwithstanding, gives a vivid impression of complicity.

 

There are reasons to believe that such actions are done deliberately to insult Muslims and injure their feelings and those indulging in Muslim-bashing are encouraged by policies and actions of some of the Western Governments that lose no opportunity of humiliating believers of Islam. Terry Jones' hellish action has been condemned not only by Muslims but also by saner elements of other religions and non-Muslim states but ironically champions of human rights are sanctioning such behaviour on the pretext of freedom of speech and action despite the fact that no society could and should allow the sort of freedom that encroaches upon rights of others. It is because of such biased interpretation of the sinful deed of Terry Jones that the bedamned pastor has announced further anti-Islam plans. The inaction on the part of the US administration is generating widespread resentment across the Muslim world. It is also highly unfortunate that the UN, which is supposed to be representative of all human beings, has maintained criminal silence and that is why during fiercest reaction in Afghanistan one of the UN premises was also attacked. You also cannot absolve yourself of the responsibility to act by labeling Terry Jones as lunatic, as it is duty of the US administration to control him to ensure that others are protected from the misdeeds of an insane person. We would, therefore, urge Obama administration to take notice of the satanic deed of the pastor and bring him to justice under American law. We would also urge Pakistan Government not to confine itself to telephonic contacts between President Zardari and his Turkish counterpart and instead take concrete measures both at OIC level and other forums to agitate the issue and urge the international community to play its role in prevention of such incidents in future.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THE BLASTS AT SHRINES

 

SUICIDE attackers have killed more than 44 people and wounded many more at Sakhi Sarwar shrine. The blasts took place on Sunday evening when hundreds of devotees from various parts of the country had thronged the shrine to attend the week-long Urs-cum-spring festivities in the remote town of Sakhi Sarwar, 35km from Dera Ghazi Khan city.


The frequent explosions at Sufi Saints Shrines across the country are part of a deep-rooted conspiracy to divide Pakistan on sectarian lines. The objective is to weaken the Pakistani society that would give a free hand to the enemies of the country to act without any challenge from the people and the security agencies. The defunct Tehrik-i-Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. "Our men carried out these attacks and we will carry out more in retaliation for government operations against our people in the northwest", spokesman for the Taliban Ahsanullah Ahsan told local and foreign media outlets. The attack on the Sakhi Sarwar shrine ended a months-long respite in a relentless militant campaign against the shrines founded by ancient adherents of Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam that sees chanting and visiting holy sites as expressions of devotion to God. Shrines have been one of the main targets of militants since some of their leaders issued edict calling suicide bombings religiously illegitimate. Several thousand people were marking the 942nd anniversary of the death of the saint Ahmad Sultan, known as Sakhi Sarwar, when the bombers struck crowds waiting outside. Earlier there had been similar assaults on the shrines of Hazrat Ali Hajveri, known as Data Sahib killing 47 people in Lahore, Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine in Karachi and several others in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. There should be no doubt that local and foreign militants have been behind such attacks that targeted not only shrines but key government installations particularly those of security agencies to create scare among the people. It is time that the Government must deeply look into such attacks and unearth those who are planning and executing the explosions otherwise there could be a backlash and people of different sects would be pitted against each other.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SINDH CARD IRKS POLITICIANS

 

THE PPP has started using the so-called Sindh card so blindly and brutally that even those politicians who normally abstain from making comments on such things have also expressed concern over the tendency. During their meeting in Islamabad on Sunday, PML (Q) leader Ch Shujaat Hussain and JUI(F) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman were unanimous in their view that the PPP was using Sindh card by reopening the case of ZA Bhutto.

Their apprehension is not unfounded as there have been a series of incidents and happenings which proved beyond any doubt that the ruling PPP was exploiting Sindh card for petty party interests and at the cost of national interests and solidarity. It is regrettable that on the one hand the party claims to be symbol of federation but on the other hand it is pursuing policies that go against the interests of the federation. There have been periodic statements from various PPP leaders and functionaries that reinforced the impression that the party is deliberately pursuing this policy for transitory gains. In the latest move, the PPP not only made mockery of the judiciary by giving calls against the Supreme Court verdict dismissing appointment of Syed Deedar Hussain Shah as Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) but also behaved arrogantly when the apex court issued contempt of court notices to two of its provincial leaders in the matter. Almost all members of the provincial assembly belonging to PPP and other local office-bearers of the party reached Supreme Court wearing Sindhi cap and Ajrak in an apparent bid to send message to the court. Luckily inside the courtroom no untoward incident took place but outside the premises, Zulfiqar Mirza used language and adopted tone and tenor that amounted to brow-beating the court. He went to the extent of threatening that they would fill jails if any one of the two MPs was convicted in contempt of court charges. Earlier too, the PPP adopted similar posture whenever its Government faced trouble and in the process even unnecessarily targeted Punjab on various occasions. We would urge the President, who is also Co-Chairman of the party, to review the strategy as it would not only harm the federation but also the PPP in the long run.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WHO IS BEHIND ATTACKS ON SHRINES?

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

At least 41 people were killed, including five children and nine women, and more than '00 injured as a result of twin suicide blasts at Sakhi Sarwar shrine near D.G. Khan on Sunday. Hundreds of devotees from different parts of the country had gathered at the shrine for the annul Urs celebrations when the attacks took place. Last year, terrorists attacked revered shrines Data Ganj Bakhsh, Baba Fariduddin Gang Shakar and Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi. The question is who is behind these attacks. As all these acts of mindless terror motivated by fanatical hatred continued unabated, Pakistan's Deobandi leadership blamed the "foreign hand" (India) for all these attacks. According to government, there is credible evidence that foreign agents have made inroads in local militant organizations. Anyhow, the first bloody attack on a Sufi shrine was a suicide assault in 2005 on Bari Imam atop a hill overlooking Islamabad. Bari Imam, like any Sufi shrine, attracts devotees across the sectarian divide. A puritan sect vows to stop, what it says, worship of shrines. In Peshawar on December 18, 2007, terrorists exploded bombs at the shrine of Abdul Shakoor Malang Baba in Peshawar on Dec 18, 2007.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the second attack was on March 3, 2008, at the 400-year-old shrine of Abu Saeed Baba in Bara Tehsil that claimed at least 10 lives. The shrine itself was set on fire. The shrine of Ashaab Baba on the outskirts of Peshawar was desecrated in 2008 through detonation of explosives in it. Attacks on shrines were downplayed by the media because of fear of the terrorists. However, it was the attack on the legendary Sufi poet Rehman Baba in March 2009 that finally made headlines in a large number of newspapers. The attack on Rehman Baba's mazar could not be ignored. A day after the attack on Rehman Baba's shrine, the shrine of Bahadur Baba in Nowshera was desecrated. In May 2009, Sheikh Omar Baba's shrine in Peshawar was reduced to rubble. Simultaneously, terrorists torched schools in Swat, Malakand and elsewhere in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. After the armed forces decimated the infrastructure and strongholds of the militants, the government has started focusing on construction of schools, and meanwhile kids are going to schools again. In the past, Tehreek-i-Taliban had been claiming having destroyed schools.


The question is that if Pakistani Taliban have any link with the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, then why are they involved in heinous crimes of killing innocent people, torching schools and attacking public places as shrines. In Afghanistan, reacting to a statement from President Hamid Karzai accusing Taliban of attacking schools, hospitals, madaris and other public places Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman to the supreme leader of Afghan Taliban, Mullah Muhamamd Omar, in a recent statement said that the basic objective of Taliban struggle was freedom and development and Taliban could not even imagine of attacking schools and hospitals. He added those who attack such places were agents of the enemy and Taliban have nothing to do with them. He said: "Taliban consider education an ultimate way of success both in this world and the world hereinafter and they could not even imagine attacking educational institutions". It appears that Afghan Taliban have learnt from their mistakes and are on the right path. Pakistani Taliban should stop destroying institutions and killing innocent people. On May 10, 1933, German students gathered in Berlin and other German cities to burn books with 'un-German' ideas. Books by Einstein, Thomas Mann, HG Wells, Sigmond Fried and others went up in flames as they offered Nazi-solute. Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbles delivered a speech stating: "You have done well to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past". More than 100 years before books were destroyed in Germany, a German Poet and critic Heinrich Heine had said: "Where books are burnt human beings are destined to be burnt too". In Pakistan, not only books but schools were torched and of course human beings - suicide bombers and their victims were burnt. In Pakistan, militants had burned hundreds of schools especially girl's schools. Maulana Fazlullah had been broadcasting through illegal FM radio station in Imam Dheri village to warn the residents not to send girls to schools. The militants opposed to female education in the valley had asked all the schools to stop female classes.

On 19th February in 2008, a primary school in Chilas was dynamited. On 4th May, militants burned down many schools in Swat district. Around 50 rebels entered the school in the Charbagh area 150 kilometres from Peshawar and used petrol bombs to destroy school, its library and science library. On May 7, Taliban militants burnt down a primary girls' school in Sharpalam area of Swat district. Anyhow, they continued torching girls' schools and in 2009, around 200 such schools were reported to have been destroyed. Matta, Kabal and Kooza were the worst-affected places where more than 20000 girls had to abandon their studies. No one can deny the fact that Islam exhorts every man and woman to seek education. The Qur'an was revealed on our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the first word which was revealed to him was Iqra meaning read. The Qur'an also sets the benchmark to differentiate between the learned and ignorant: "Are those who know equal to those who know not?" (39:9). In the Quran Allah has prescribed prayer to seek knowledge: "Lord! Increase my knowledge." (20:14). God commands mankind to acquire knowledge of His nature and find Him. He despised all those who do not use their faculties of sense perceptions and intelligence to excel towards progress and development. At this point in time when Islam is being demonized, Muslims are facing crises throughout the world; when terrorism is identified with Islam, it is imperative for the religious scholars and parties to persuade their followers to abandon the course of extremism. In order to survive and to gain strength with a view to having an Islamic Renaissance, they should include in the curriculum of their madaris the subjects of science, mathematics and computer sciences. The students armed with knowledge of deen and modern sciences can make Pakistan a developed country and a great Islamic state for others to emulate. Equipped with fresh vision and outlook towards life and religion, Pakistan can set the course of changing its priorities, goals, and acquire intellectual, scientific and scholastic achievements.


Francis Bacon had said: "Learning conquers or mitigates the fear of death and adverse fortune". He also quoted Virgil's great lines, which he translated in English: "Happy the man who has learned the causes of things, and has put under his feet all fears, and inexorable fate, and the noisy strife of the hell of greed". The extremists and militants who go about destroying girls' schools and other educational institutions would not understand what renowned philosophers and men of learning say, because they do it in the name of Sharea, and in fact their act is contrary to the dictates of Sharea. In the Holy Quran, Allah addresses the Muslims and lays emphasis on seeking knowledge and improving intellect, and considers only that understanding as knowledge, which can be confirmed by three faculties ie hearing, seeing, feeling or thinking. "And follow not that of which thou hast no knowledge, for verily yours ears, eyes and hearts will be asked about it" (17.36). Our religious scholars should come forward to persuade those burning schools and killing Muslims on the pretext of enforcing Shariah in the country.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

PAKISTAN: A FAILED STATE?

DR M IRFAN ABBASI

 

In this era of economic recession, aggression and political uncertainty when our governments is just busy in defying Supreme Court decisions, appearing of articles on declaring Pakistan a failure or near to failure state are highly disturbing and serving just a certain agenda. This type of articles seems an effort to diminish our hopes. No one is serving any purpose if it is not containing suggestions to tackle with the worsening circumstances and improving the situation. However, the situation presented in these articles is lacking a good analysis of whole circumstances and relatively discussing the present era comparing this country with the western advanced and developed countries.

We may analyze from the very beginning of the independence and even before it, because declaring a state as failed is not a political statement but really needs in-depth study. We get independence from British Empire, a European Nation in origin and foreign occupiers of Indo-Pak subcontinent. Hence, they did everything wrong to our social fabric and societal inter-woven mechanism that benefited their rule and offered prolongation. Though, every ruler (except for some awe inspiring) did the same thing but the difference between an inhabitant and a foreign occupier is merely a sense of belonging to the same society which prevents him going beyond limits.

This was not the case of Britain. So, the parameter or signs of failures set by western intellectuals are not quietly applicable here, because we inherited very different societal and political environments where all the efforts and policies are to maintain a status quo to benefit those who already are a privileged class. Environment for a change and making progress and developing further is quite lesser here than the societies who are setting a criterion of failed state. We must analyze of our rulers and the societal vices that are very rarely present in European states. Very conscious of made leaving sooner of later, British rulers immensely damaged our social fabric that makes a society harmonious and keeps the routine life going on. Opportunists at that time made their best and kept themselves intact with the society with hypocritical policies. Ultimately, they gained best and inherited wealth and influence that provided them basics to rule their society after independence. This aspect leaves us with rulers (not leaders) who inherited habit of obeying foreign dictation and getting benefits.

Having a sense of what we inherited and the prevailing class, military as an institution established itself well. Since, there was no other power to challenge the state of affairs, military intervened (this is not to favour the Dictators). Now analysts are of the view that Pakistan made much better progress during Dictatorships than the ear of elected governments, yet human made good efforts always have their detriments as well, so is the case of Pakistan where different military operations are in progress. However, the steps taken at a certain time of crisis cannot be judged later because the conditions had already changed and especially when a matter of survival was in question.

Divergence of religious ideologies in Indo-Pak sub continent caused in establishing a separate state for Muslims and the many centuries awaited dream of Indians to unabatedly govern the Muslims vanished. Hence, we got a by born enemy India which always pretended a threat in emerging more powerful. This eventually resulted in a race of arms in South Asia, maintaining bigger armies and quest for nuclear technology that are just a nightmare for a nation like us but became true. And if someone is in doubt in the pretext of some kind of "wish for peace", he may not forget three wars that Pakistan had to fight. Geo-strategic importance of Pakistan brought it to become a focal point for international powers (super powers) in the tussle of control over energy resources of unexplored Afghanistan and energy rich Central Asian Republics. Pakistan appeared as the shortest way to Russia ambitions to reach the Straight of Hormuz and now US led west are dreaming something similar via Baluchistan.Ethnic diversity of Pakistan gained momentum because of the lack of the leadership qualities of our rulers that guide the general public toward betterment. Instead, these ethnic issues were made a way of blackmailing the federation and getting political gaining.

Unequal approach to economic and well being facilities that we inherited from British left us with lack of necessary infrastructure to develop the undeveloped areas equally thus the gap between already developed areas widened further, consequently airing many political differences among the provinces. Soviet invasion on Afghanistan and regional and extra regional resistance left this region in an undeclared state of war that yet persists in different shapes. Militants who previously fought against Russia and respected as Mujahideen got seize able power, especially in Afghanistan. But after the US led west invasion on Afghanistan in Post 2001 frenzy denied any space for these militants and they retreated to tribal belt on Pakistan – Afghanistan border, hence furthering their activities in especially in NWFP (Now Khyber Paktunkawa) and rest of the provinces relatively safe provinces.

Religious affiliation affects most a man in life and when exploited, it is most dangerous scenario. A certain sect, supported and promoted during the era of Afghan war got a ruthless power over others, consequently resulted in violence when was resisted by other sects. Ultimately, others being victim of terrorism, retaliated and religious extremism got a momentum, and ever present when a good chance to happen. Issue of Baluchistan though originally political, but converted in rebellion partially by mishandling by the federal governments and partially by foreign interests since 1970s. This state of insurgency in Baluchistan surely depreciates the situation in rest of the country whether political or economical. Situation in Baluchistan worsening since the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2006 and will take many years to come back to normalcy, with many dispensations like Aghaz-e-Haqooq –e-Baluchistan. Worsening the situation further is our population growth of 1.589 per cent (estimated) which disables all the efforts toward the betterment of the general pubic. Augmented further is continue flow of Afghan refugees.

Natural calamities like the earthquake of Oct 2005 and floods of July – August 2010 are things that took years to eliminate their affects on the life of inhabitants of affected areas. Even management of assistance for these areas is quite difficult and similar in all over the world except corruption and embezzlements. The price for maintaining a counter balance in South Asia, being only nuclear state of Muslim world and geo-strategic importance surely, deteriorating economy, dependence on foreign aids and facing numerous swarming political and ethno-religious issues. Thus when a matter of survival may be in question or many external threats are hovering around, issues like education, well being, violence against women, religious extremism, health etc are of second priority. In this scenario, role of our intelligence agencies is often criticized but the fact is that the matters of intelligence agencies are always kept secret all over the world from general public. Intelligence basically is something special, not a common one, to be discussed everywhere at every forum. However, these words do not aimed to support each and every activity blamed to be of intelligence agencies.

In reality Pakistan is in a state of transition from the feudalism to democracy, transforming from the clutches of establishments and inherited political elite to the common people. So, this eventuality will have several pros and cons and the ongoing situation is representing the changing paradigm of our society. Independence of Judiciary and Media are examples of this change and others are actively following them. Citing this changing scenario and predicting Pakistan a failed or near to be failed state is an avowal made in haste and needs to be reassessed with in-depth scrutiny.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

SHALL WE STAND FIRMLY?

ZAFAR ALAM SARWAR

 

When shall our train reach the destination and when we shall we get rid of poverty and exploitation, and firmly stand on our own? That's one of the questions elders and youths of Rawalpindi-Islamabad, Peshawar, Bannu and Kohat asked one another seriously during travel by Pakistan Railways economy class service. But the conscience pricking question was raised by 84-year-old man who had marched from Delhi to Lahore soon after the Partition: Why are we not really uniting even in this hour of trouble?" The octogenarian Khawaja Sahib spoke Punjabi, Urdu, English and Arabic. He could understand Pushtu also. Old men and women travelling by the once modern railways but now almost destroyed by the corrupt political system related the story of Pakistan coming into being. Khawja Sahib recalled how millions listened to a radio broadcast and thousands of them boarded a special Lahore-Rawalpindi-Peshawar-bound train in New Delhi where they had gathered from different parts of India to say goodbye to the British Raj.

They had dreamt an independent homeland of their own where they could breathe and feel as citizens free from any foreign influence and dictation. Everyone in the train talked about future happiness and prosperity and thought of the man who had advised the freedom lovers to concentrate, wholly and solely, on the well-being of the compatriots, especially of the masses and the poor. The man, who earned people's respect as Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was from a class of leaders who inspired others to join the freedom struggle. He had pursued legal studies in England and returned home to plead the cause of the oppressed. He succeeded in uniting the majority of people on one platform, who believed in one God, one Book and one final Prophet. The special Delhi train passengers, who developed self-confidence, thought they were the final arbiters of their destiny. One can assert that masses were inspired by the Quaid who, as leading driver, had spoken loudly to the world long before one could think of an end to the foreign rule. For instance, he emphasised Islam stands for justice, equality, free-play, toleration and even generosity to non-Muslims who may be under our protection like brothers. He shared and voiced the sentiments of the people, saying the train would be on track of peace, democracy, social justice and Islamic socialism, equal opportunities for all, welfare, happiness and prosperity. Physically weak but mentally strong, he was shocked over bloody attacks on the train, killing and kidnapping of men, women and children, and rape by extremist Hindus and Sikhs. The sacrifice of the special train passengers for independence was as great as that of the driver and his comrades.

The train stopped at Lahore for a while and then resumed journey to Karachi and from there to Rawalpindi where the second driver was shot dead as soon as he stood up to address the people at Company Bagh. The march to prosperity was disturbed, now and then, by change of drivers under foreign plots. The train moved sometimes fast and sometimes slow, up and down, but didn't stop. Change drivers in 2002 and 2004—and then in 2008 under an understanding between the last uniformed driver, a politician and a foreign country who considers herself a super power on the earth. The former special train and the Pakistan Railways economy class passengers recall the determination of the Quaid-i-Azam, the last words of Shaheed Liaquat Ali Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who, despite feudal background, looked revolutionary and as handsome as his daughter Benzir Bhutto who too was killed by a bullet of foreign make. Three generations have boarded the train, most of them hit by poverty and exploitation, in search of prosperity since it left for new destination on August14 in 1947. Surprisingly, the passengers by way of joke say they are not satisfied with the pace at which the Pakistan-bound train is moving.

In the wake of foreign-aided militants and extremists invading bogies of the train, the passengers expect of the present drivers replenishment with righteous guards, inspectors and experts to handle affairs related to their health, education, economy, finance and protection from looters, raiders and foreign-sponsored adventurers. An interaction with them reveals they pray for an early end to bloody fight which is in the way of the train. The passengers are hungry, have little money to buy bread for themselves and children. Most of the so-called leaders have lost the confidence and trust of the people who voted them into power time and again. The common man now calls them self-seekers who have made the country a slave to others, especially the International Monetary Fund. Political parties, he says, need family planning to kill germs of disunity. That will help the country return from poverty to prosperity.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

GIVING THE PROFESSOR HIS/HER DUE!

FRIENDLY FIRE

KHALID SALEEM

 

It would be hard to find anyone who has not heard or read jokes featuring the (absent-minded) professor. With the possible exception of the mother-in-law (about whom more some other time), the most popular subject for subtle, sophisticated humour intended to liven up any party remains the hapless 'absent-minded professor'. Pick up a joke book – any joke book – and you are bound to find a good number of hilarious jokes featuring the dignified figure of the professor. These are the irrefutable facts that would form the bedrock of this dissertation.

Be that as it may, one can hardly move forward without pausing to delve into the basic question: why does the subject of the absent-minded professor of all people particularly appeal to the wits. To put it another way, with a myriad other samples of the species to choose from, why, in deed, pick on the hapless professor? One can pose the fundamental question: why an absent-minded professor, when it could just as well have been a member of any other profession? Surely there are other professions that are just as much, if not more, joke-worthy and/or susceptible to the state of absent-mindedness? Why then zero in on the professor?

Having withstood this somewhat convoluted reasoning this far, the reader may well be justified in enquiring what gives one the right to make this matter one's business. Considering that the joke in question is apt and good enough to provoke honest laughter why, then, go into unnecessary and irrelevant details? One's honest and simple defense is that one is obliged to go into all these sordid details simply in the interest of research. What with the Higher Education Commission, in its heyday, having once declared that any one devoid of a research degree is not an asset but a liability for the country, one can hardly be expected to let such an opportunity slip by. A good research scholar, one learns on reliable authority, never lets go of any such opportunity that passes within striking distance.

Coming then to the res, as legal eagles are wont to put it, one can also add that the professor probably got the nod because he happened to be a harmless creature and certainly in no position to strike back. This type of adversary would be the obvious choice when one is faced with a state of confrontation (ask any general!). What is more, 'absentmindedness' in the teaching profession can be justified by the observation that, given an earnest and single-minded quest for knowledge, the professor can be excused if he/she loses sight at times of the more mundane aspects of human existence.

Come to think of it, the quality of absent-mindedness in professors, mercifully, would also not transgress beyond the pale of humour - thereby disturbing the laws of nature - as would be the case in several other professions. An absent-minded engineer, for instance, could well bring the house down, literally! An absent-minded surgeon would be nothing short of an utter disaster. An absent-minded general would, if anything, be a darn sight worse. One would be well advised to pause here, not be carried away by rhetoric and stick to the absent-minded professor in so far as humour goes. The controversy having been amicably set at rest, one can move on to whatever it was that one had started to tackle in the first place before one was absent-mindedly distracted from the straight and narrow.

There is this joke, then, about the absent-minded professor who decided to move house after having lived at the same address for some twenty years. As he was leaving for the university on his last day in the old house, his wife turned to him and said, "Now look, dear, we have lived in this house for twenty years. Today we are moving to a new house. So, do not forget that when you come back from work, you are not to come to this house, but to go to the new one we are moving into. And just to make sure, I am taking away your old key and putting the key to the new house in your pocket."

As was to be expected, the professor had forgotten all about it by the end of the day's toil, and duly turned up at the same old address. He tried the key; it would not fit. So he tried ringing the bell but no one answered. He peeped in through the window and saw that the furniture was all gone. And, then, it suddenly all came back to him; they had moved to a new house. But, for the life of him, he could not remember the address of the new house.

He looked around and espied a little boy messing around with a football. So he beckoned him over and said, "Little boy, I have lived in this house for twenty years. Today we moved to a new house. Do you, by any chance, know where we moved to?" The little boy looked at him, nodded his head sadly and said, "Yes, dad; mum said this would happen!" Then there is tale of an absent-minded professor who was very much in love with his equally absent-minded wife (also a professor?). It so happened that of an evening the two were relaxing in the lounge of their home - exchanging sweet nothings - when all of a sudden the doorbell rang. The wife sprang up from the couch, turned white and gasped, "Oh my God, that must be my husband!" Without a word, the professor got up, jumped out of the window and vanished into the night.

There you have two classical examples of good-natured humour at the expense of the absent-minded professor. These are just stray examples. This humour may be a trifle unkind, but the fact remains that the teaching community has accepted it with good grace over the years. It is doubtful if members of any other profession would have exhibited equal accommodation. Perhaps it is due to this spirit of graceful accommodation that professors have managed to maintain their dignity in a profession that has never been afforded the credit or the honour that it deserves.

And, who knows the absent-mindedness may be a veneer that professors tend to wrap around themselves in order to isolate themselves from all the inanities that go on around them. It may perhaps be this very state of splendid isolation that makes it possible for them to excel in the intellectual pursuits that others around them can only aspire to. And isn't it about time that society gave some well-deserved recognition to the members of this very under-rated profession?

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

 

CRICKET DIPLOMACY AND APRIL FOOL?

ALI ASHRAF KHAN

 

The defeat of the Pakistani cricket team in the match against India at Mohali has been a bad enough experience for the nation; now we are learning that the match had been fixed by the same government that had been warning against match fixing before. It has been sold to the Indians in a bid to promote Indo-Pak talks while bypassing the core issue of Kashmir and that too probably under US pressure. This government is also eager to report at least some success after they have been miserably failing on the domestic front with security deteriorating, economy in shambles, strikes, suicides increasing, prices soaring and inflation galloping when governance has become non-existing that there is a complete free for all and lower income group are the worst sufferers while the high income groups are enjoying extravaganza in their daily life. One example is that the corporate sector including Banks, Multinationals and Oil companies have been not included for imposition of 15% flood tax resulting in loss of around Rs. 10 Billion to the national exchequer in the Presidential Ordinance issued on the night of questionable release of CIA Operative Raymond Davis.

One would like to believe that the match fixing news was only a rumour that is aimed at soothing the aching Pakistani pride but the fact that the Punjab cabinet under the stewardship of Chief Minister went to receive the losing cricket team on April 1, 2011 (April fools day) and the kind of praise that is showered upon them unfortunately points not only towards making fool of the entire nation, but the Punjab government announcing dolling out half a million rupees as reward to every member of the team, while the junior doctors agitating for reasonable increase in wages has been refused on account of constraints of budget if so then what justification is there for such adventures by Punjab when the cricketers are already pocketing millions and millions from visible and un-visible sources, the validity of this rumour that we lost the match in order to win the Cricket diplomacy initiated by hidden hands is a matter of shame, bravo Pakistanis who kept every thing idle on this day in order to win the cup, which was given in a silver platter to India to play Final with Sri Lanka in Mumbai otherwise the World Cup Trophy would have come to Pakistan by conveniently out playing Sri Lankan again, which did not suit the super power agenda who seems to be more inclined towards their Indian partners these days. The body language of Indian leaders joining at tea in Mohali shows India being given another chance to kill two birds with one stone and our leaders are busy in fooling the nation by receiving the team at airport and giving state reception at Prime Minister's house that politicians can perform better through sporting channels of " khaiya piyya kuch nahi galass tora barra anney "

This kind of political expediency leads to expose that the destiny of Pakistan has been finally abused after the sell-out of our sovereignty to the US by allowing drone attacks on our citizens and the Raymond -Davis-deal resulting in burning of Muslim Holy book in Florida by Terry Jones, who was earlier told to wait till Davis release, when he had announced to do so on 9/11 last year to facilitate in achieving their goal in this case. For the thinking intelligentsia in Pakistan any relief from such a situation can only come if drastic measures are considered such as a complete dis-association from the West and USA and their organs of economic and political exploitation, Workout our own national developmental plans and implement them without foreign intervention or otherwise Pakistan will also end up the way Libya does. Libya's membership in the UN, OIC, Arab League and African Unity, so Pakistan has to think twice before choosing any option of the West to become their so-called ally because no such arrangement can not prevent foreign invasion and destruction of a Sovereign country, when the chips are cast down by the neo-colonial and neo-liberal to promote their own national interest. So this lesson should be kept in mind by those who profess allegiance with Pakistan and its people and not follow the two-track or cricket diplomacy to sell out the hopes and prayers of the Pakistani people in dealing with Indian hawks.

Here those people who feel proud in making April fool must be ignorant of the fact that what the message behind making April fool is. The bitter fact hidden behind it is that some one thousand year back Spain was ruled by Muslims and the Muslim power in Spain was so strong that it could not be destroyed easily. The Christians of the West wished to wipe out Islam from all parts of the world due to fear that it may engulf the entire Christianity, Jews and Buddhists, and they did succeed to some extent. But when they tried to eliminate Islam in Spain to conquer it, they failed. They tried several times but failed. The unbelievers then sent their spies in Spain to study the Muslim there and find out what was the reason and power they possessed and they found that their power was Taqwa. The Muslims of Spain were not just Muslims but they were practicing Muslims, which we are lacking today again. They not only read the Quran but also acted upon it. When the Christians found the power of the Muslims they started thinking of strategies to break this power. So they started sending alcohol and cigarettes to Spain as a free gift. This technique of the West worked out and it started weakening the faith and character of Muslims in particular the young generation of Spain .

The result was that the Catholics of the west wiped out Islam and conquered the entire Spain bringing an end to the eight hundred years of rule by the Muslims in Spain . The last fort of the Muslims to fall was Gharnatah ( Grenada ), which was on 1st of April. From that year onwards, every year they started celebrating April fools day with more vigour and zeal.

In doing so they did not make a fool of the Muslim army only in Gharnatah, but the whole Muslim Ummah. So they have a reason to celebrate this day to remember making fools of Muslims and look at their designs that they are using this very tactic even after a thousand years through weak Muslim rulers to wipe out Islam and Pakistani government is proudly accepting defeat in match to a victory in cricket diplomacy an Oasis, which earlier brought an end of Gen Ziaul Haq rule and General Musharraf's rule, who also acted as opening batsman in Cricket diplomacy. History is full of doom of every ambitious ruler and the little corporal 'Napoleon Bonaparte' end in 1815 is mostly well read history in modern times where Throne of the World was seen and St. Helena was what he got.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

GILLARD NEEDS A DEBATE ON POLICIES, NOT VALUES

ARGUING OVER BELIEFS DISTRACTS FROM GOOD GOVERNMENT

AUSTRALIA is in the middle of a values debate it should not be having.

Shared values are vital in every society but in a functioning democracy such as ours, where there is broad agreement on key beliefs, politicians are best employed pursuing policy, not pontificating on lifestyles and life choices. The argument over values that is beginning to eat up too much political oxygen is one that would not be under way if the Gillard government had managed to show voters what it stands for and what it wants to do. It is Julia Gillard's failure to convince voters by her deeds that has forced her to try to win them with words. Rather than attacking the Greens on family values, the Prime Minister should be attacking policy bottlenecks that threaten prosperity.

Instead, she is mired in a product-differentiation exercise created by her decision to form an alliance with Bob Brown and his colleagues. It was the price of minority government but it has clouded the Labor brand. More than seven months after the election, Ms Gillard is still something of a mystery to the electorate, with her party's unpopularity reflected in today's Newspoll. Labor's national profile is fuzzy, a perception problem made worse by the paucity of real policy and causing increasing difficulties for the government.

This has become evident in recent days as Senator Brown has responded to the Prime Minister's comment in her Whitlam oration in Sydney last Thursday that while the Greens have some "worthy ideas", they "fail to understand the centrepiece of our big picture: the people Labor strives to represent need work." She went on: "The Greens will never embrace Labor's delight at sharing the values of everyday Australians, in our cities, suburbs, towns and bush, who day after day do the right thing, leading purposeful and dignified lives, driven by love of family and nation."

Whether or not this was intended as a dogwhistle on the Greens' push to legalise same-sex marriage, it is now being used to accuse Ms Gillard of homophobia. At the least, her comment opened the door -- not just to the Coalition and Senator Brown but to her erstwhile colleague Mark Latham. Yesterday, the former Labor leader was busy testing the boundaries with his comments to ABC Radio National's Fran Kelly about the lack of empathy of Australian women -- and, one assumes, men -- who choose not to have children. His gratuitous insult to Kelly in the middle of an interview did not deter her: she pursued Mr Latham tenaciously as he outlined the Prime Minister's alleged emotional deficit. These sentiments have no place in our politics, yet Ms Gillard is to blame for a policy vacuum all too easily filled by her critics.

Doubtless Labor thinks it will do better with mainstream voters by dishing it up to the Greens. But any advantage is likely to prove fragile unless Labor gets back to the real job of government -- burning up the road with policy action and outrunning its rivals, as Paul Keating so neatly put it just last week. That former prime minister was not a natural fit with many voters. Like Ms Gillard, Mr Keating could polarise public opinion in a way that Bob Hawke never did. Yet Mr Keating's policy credibility was so strong that he was able to withstand voter resistance for much of his career. Ms Gillard is attempting to adopt the reform image of Mr Hawke and Mr Keating, yet she is a long way from demonstrating capacity to formulate, sell to the electorate and implement the policies needed to ensure Australia captures the full benefit of the boom.

Indeed, as editor-at-large Paul Kelly wrote in The Weekend Australian, Labor is going backwards, with an industrial relations system that works against an economy where flexibility and productivity are more important than ever. How can Ms Gillard suggest she is standing in the shoes of these former Labor leaders when she is an unabashed proponent of the 1907 Harvester judgment that argued against market forces and in favour of wages based on employee need, not on an employer's ability to pay? As Kelly wrote, that "unresolved contradiction" lies at the heart of Ms Gillard's prime ministership.

It is a contradiction not lost on voters, who remain unconvinced by her occasional "vision" speeches about policy. To date, Ms Gillard's efforts have centred on three taxes -- the flood levy; the mining tax; and the carbon tax -- all seen by voters as imposts rather than improvements. The most contentious at the moment is the carbon tax, which this newspaper, while supporting action on emissions, finds hard to envisage as a positive economic measure.

In a modern, tolerant country such as Australia, voters ultimately will not judge Ms Gillard on her personal choices around marriage and family but on whether she can deliver policies that improve the opportunities offered to their families. Cost-of-living issues, not the living arrangements of our politicians, should decide elections. The Prime Minister needs to move on from a values debate that is proving a distraction from the real job of addressing the challenges facing the nation.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

ISRAEL HAS ITS DAY OF ATONEMENT

YOM KIPPUR, IT HAS BEEN SAID, HAS COME MONTHS EARLY FOR RICHARD GOLDSTONE, THE SOUTH AFRICAN FORMER JUDGE WHO REPORTED FOR THE UNITED NATIONS ON THE 2008-09 GAZA WAR BETWEEN ISRAEL AND HAMAS.

According to Israel and other critics, Goldstone's 2009 report was always destined to be biased, and those fears were realised when it accused not only Hamas, but also Israel, of committing war crimes. The controversial report has been seized upon ever since to demonise Israel as a malicious aggressor. Now, in a staggering volte-face published in the United States last week, Goldstone effectively has admitted he was wrong. The Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is about recognising past wrongs and repenting, but in this sorry case no amount of repenting will repair the damage done.

Israelis know the true meaning of terror because they live with it daily. This is the reality that sees metal detectors and guards vigilant against guns and bombs in Jerusalem restaurants or children in the southern town of Sderot scampering for bomb shelters when rockets are fired from Gaza. In just over a decade, more than 1100 Israelis have been killed in acts of terrorism ranging from suicide bombings to shootings, home invasions and rocket attacks.

Responding to Palestinian demands, the Israeli military withdrew from Gaza in 2005, leaving the Palestinians in charge of their own domain. But by 2007, Hamas extremists had taken control and the terrorist campaign was accelerated. More than 3000 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel, killing civilians, including children, and injuring hundreds of people. Israel sought a diplomatic resolution, built bomb shelters, installed warning devices and provided rocket-defence training for the residents who remained in vulnerable areas. In December 2008, Hamas responded to condemnation from the UN Secretary General by firing yet more rockets. Israel finally responded with the military action that it has always maintained was justified as an act of self-defence. In the ensuing war, 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Even when he accepted his mandate from the UN Human Rights Council, Goldstone noted it was a jaundiced brief, focused only on Israeli actions rather than Hamas, too. On this basis, and because of past experience with UN "justice", Israel refused to co-operate. Nonetheless, Goldstone sought changes and proceeded, but his report paid scant regard to Israel's casus belli; its right to defend its citizens. Information on the public record that refuted claims Israel had deliberately targeted civilians in Gaza, along with independent evidence suggesting Hamas had stored or fired rockets from mosques and schools, effectively using the Palestinians as human shields, all seemingly was ignored by Goldstone.

He was duped by UN prejudices, his report was a sham, and The Australian said so at the time. By allowing that Israel might have intentionally targeted civilians, the report enabled the usual assortment of Israel's national enemies, traditionally activist NGOs and media critics, to get on their moral high horse, condemn Israel and portray the Hamas terrorists as hapless victims. Yet in his stunning apologia Goldstone now says: "If I had known then what I know now, that report would have been a different document." He reaffirms Hamas intentionally fired rockets at civilian targets, but retracts the allegations against Israel, saying information now available indicates "civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy".

Tunisia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia sat on the UN council that gave Goldstone his brief, and the body was chaired by Libya just eight years ago. Little wonder then that the United Nations struggles for moral authority or that Israel chooses not to co-operate with such inquiries. Little wonder also that Israel is demanding an apology. But at a time when we have seen anti-Israel rhetoric infecting even Australia's political debate, the ongoing tragedy for Israel is that the damage is done. Goldstone's retreat will never receive the publicity of his initial jaundiced report and, as usual, we can expect few mea culpas from those who have used it to unfairly tarnish Israel.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

CONSUMERS PAY DEARLY FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY TARGET

THE MANDATORY 20 PER CENT TARGET SHOULD BE REVIEWED

Martin Ferguson's acknowledgment that mandated renewable energy quotas come at a price is both a statement of the obvious and a refreshing injection of common sense into a debate where straight talking is in short supply. In a speech last week, the Energy Minister confirmed that government's mandatory target to generate 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 was displacing investment in generation that would otherwise come from non-renewable technologies.

Mr Ferguson's remarks are part of a growing realisation that the renewable energy target, increased to 20 per cent by Labor from the 2 per cent set by the Howard government in 1997, will cost the community. Wind and sunlight may be free but the cost of harnessing their power is, for now, exorbitant. Treasury documents released under Freedom of Information laws on Friday predicted that the mandatory RET would add more than 4 per cent, or $40, to the average household energy budget every year until 2015 and more in subsequent years. Treasury argues that the scheme should be reviewed with the introduction of a carbon price, to which we say: amen.

The Gillard government must act on this advice if it wants to continue to brand its climate change strategy as market-based. Dismantling programs such as this one is often complex and costly, but the inherent flaw of the mandatory RET is that "picking winners" among current, high-cost technologies not only guarantees higher prices, it also holds back other potential solutions such as sequestration, hot rocks and geothermal energy. It skews investment towards the most mature, and thus cheapest, option, which is wind. RET-imposed market distortion has left electricity providers and consumers no choice but to pay high transmission costs for wind power often generated in remote areas or to underwrite expensive, state-run schemes that pay households to produce power from rooftop solar panels. Both cost consumers far more than coal-fired power, even with a price on carbon in the band likely to be adopted.

The inherent unsustainability of this so-called sustainable energy policy should give both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott cause for concern. For the government, abandoning the mandatory RET or imposing a sunset clause would create political problems. The Greens heavily favour greater use of renewables but are rarely troubled by economic details. The longer the scheme continues, the more is likely to be invested in technology to produce power that would be uneconomical without heavy subsidies passed on to consumers by electricity companies. Even with a ready market, the owners of Australia's biggest baseload renewable energy project, the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative, have been forced to call in receivers because of lower than expected green energy prices.

The opposition has a good case to argue against the market-distorting impact of the RET, even though it was pioneered, on a smaller scale, by the Howard government. In rejecting an emissions trading scheme, the Opposition Leader needs to avoid the same pitfalls as the RET scheme in its "direct action" policy. That promises to accelerate the rollout of renewable energy in homes, schools and communities with $100 million to be spent each year "for an additional one million solar energy homes by 2020". As the Grattan Institute argued last week, carbon markets are not perfect but they encourage least-cost solutions, promote innovation and respond to changing circumstances.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

WITH ROD AND GUN, NEW NSW

BARRY O'FARRELL was handed an embarrassment of choices as he formed his ministry, given the fresh talent and regional representation brought into his Coalition caucus by the state election landslide. He has evidently striven to balance obligations to the MPs who stuck out the long years in opposition with opportunities for the new faces, some of whom abandoned established and successful careers for the risky path of politics.

Overall, long service and electoral politics have prevailed over pure talent. Generally, former frontbenchers have been given the appropriate slot in the ministry, with the implicit understanding that weak performance will not be tolerated for long. The newcomers elevated to ministries represent regions that have swung away from Labor or independents, a trend O'Farrell hopes to reinforce into permanence with steady political cultivation. Those who do not have this political cachet will have to wait on the backbench.

It remains to be seen if some of the new ministers will be ornamental figures around a core of cabinet members running the half-dozen super-ministries that O'Farrell is trying to fashion. Kevin Humphries, for example, will be in charge of mental health and healthy lifestyles, apparently separate from the key health portfolio, as well as being Minister for Western NSW. The most notable surprise is the dumping of the former environment spokeswoman, Catherine Cusack, from the ministry, and the divvying up of the Environment Department. Cusack was in the sights of the Shooters and Fishers for opposing the hunting of feral animals in national parks and the shrinking of marine reserves. O'Farrell's government will depend on the vote of this interest group in the upper house. Cusack, an old colleague and a woman in a mostly male caucus, has been duly sacrificed, it seems.

The Coalition brings a new outlook on the environment anyway. Its members are not Bob Carr types, admiring of a pristine wilderness in which only man is vile; they see a world to be exploited and enjoyed. In line with this more utilitarian approach to nature, management of marine parks and water catchments (dealing with land clearing) shifts to the Department of Primary Industries. Its ethos is to promote farming and fishing. Its new minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, is a Nationals MP. The rest of the Environment Department - most critically the Environment Protection Authority - becomes part of the Department of Premier and Cabinet. O'Farrell says this ''elevates'' environmental issues, bringing them to his direct attention with the help of a new minister, Robyn Parker. We shall see how much weight they get in practice.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

OUR NOT VERY CLEVER COUNTRY

THE issue breaks out every few years: are standards in schools slipping? The National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests purport to measure basic skills, and to reassure parents and the community that standards are being maintained. On its results, too, a whole superstructure of educational policymaking and measurement has been built.

A new report on the basic skill levels of trainees and apprentices has asked the question in a slightly different way, however, and has come up with much less reassuring answers. The report has been drawn up by 11 industry skills councils, whose interest is not in whether individuals can pass a test but whether apprentices and trainees have the skills they need to function effectively at work. The answer is alarming: roughly half the working population has difficulty with arithmetic and reading. These are not vocational skills - they are basic skills. That reading or numerical tasks required in the work place are sometimes beyond half the workforce is an appalling result.

Some industries have claimed that the problem is due to the relatively large number of immigrant workers in Australia's workforce. But the report finds little reason to be confident about the quality of students born and raised here. Comparing basic skills test results from 2009 with those from 2000, the report notes that not only have standards been declining in Australia so that fewer Australian school students perform at the highest levels than previously, but that Australia is unique among OECD countries in that students from immigrant backgrounds perform better than those with no immigrant background.

Many companies and industries, to their credit and the school system's shame, take it as given that trade trainees will not possess the basic skills and put them through remedial courses. Schools appear to have washed their hands of responsibility for equipping students with basic skills. In its defence, the school system has changed radically with the demand that virtually all students complete six years of high school. The proliferation of low-grade university courses to attract fee-paying students has also altered vocational education. Trade courses and apprenticeships are perceived - wrongly - as less demanding and somehow of lesser worth, and school leavers who might once have taken unskilled jobs now end up in them. Anecdotal evidence suggests many in this group only realise the point of what is taught at school once they leave it. The shortcomings of a simplistic policy which confuses prolonged time at school with educational achievement are now becoming obvious.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

SCHOOLS' NEGLECT HAS REAL-WORLD COST

GOVERNMENTS and government institutions have a bad habit of denying problems until the problems become undeniable.

Schools are struggling with the consequences of long declines in the pay, conditions and status of teachers. Governments don't back their ritual motherhood statements about education with investment in educators. The Baillieu government is the latest to baulk at restoring pay levels to at least those of other professions with which teaching was once comparable. The worst teacher shortages are in maths and science, where schools compete with other employers. It's no coincidence that school leavers lack basic skills in these areas.

Over 10 years, the ElectroComms and Energy Utilities Industry Skills Council has recorded an alarming decline in new apprentices' starting skills. In the early tests, the apprentices, who were not allowed to use a calculator, recorded an average score of 70 per cent. Now, with calculators permitted, the score has fallen to 58 per cent. It is not that the questions are more difficult; the apprentices lack basic skills.

According to council chief executive Bob Taylor, principals say that ''we have to lower our expectations''. The council has begun remedial maths and physics courses, at employers' cost. Mr Taylor was speaking at the launch of a report by 11 skills organisations, pointedly titled No More Excuses.

The main responsibility for these problems, however, lies not with principals - who must work with whatever staff they can get - but with governments that underfund public education. Our best students are globally competitive, but too many of the rest lack a proper grounding. The variability in Australian students' skills, 11 per cent more than the OECD average, is far too great.

The system is one of haves and have-nots as a result of the lack of qualified teachers in key subjects and the declining academic standard of teaching recruits. Their average university entry score is the lowest in more than a decade. The worst shortages of teachers recorded by the Education Department are in maths, science and technology. It has been that way for years.

This year, 40 per cent of government schools - and 50 per cent of secondary schools - reported having to place teachers in subjects they were unqualified to teach. The state's response, 400 science teaching scholarships and 100 primary-level maths and science scholarships, is a drop in the ocean for a system that employs almost 38,000 teachers. How bad must the problem get before governments invest fully in fixing it? Australia is already feeling the pain of this neglect.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

CHINA'S RULERS SHOW THAT THEY HAVE NOT LEARNT

CAN the sound of gunfire in Libya trigger alarms in distant Beijing? It might seem unlikely, but few observers of China's politics doubt that the recent detentions of prominent dissidents are a response to the ''jasmine revolutions'' that are shaking some of the Middle East's longest-established authoritarian regimes. China's ruling clique does not want demands for democracy, which it brutally repressed in Tiananmen Square in 1989, to be heard on the streets again.

Last week Yang Hengjun, a former Chinese Foreign Ministry official who now writes one of the country's most influential political blogs, mysteriously disappeared after phoning a colleague from Ghangzhou airport to say he was being followed by three men. After several days Dr Yang contacted family members to say that he was in hospital but would be discharged soon. They did not believe this explanation, and when he said he had been ''talking to old friends'' they understood this to mean the secret police.

Dr Yang has since been released and, as an Australian passport holder, allowed to travel to Sydney to see his children. He says he will return to China, but it remains to be seen whether this will be allowed, and whether his release from custody has been obtained in exchange for a pledge to refrain from public criticism of China's government or the Communist Party.

The detention of Dr Yang, like the earlier prosecutions of Australian businessmen Stern Hu and Matthew Ng, raises questions about China's proprietary attitude to foreign citizens of Chinese descent, and about the impotence of Australia's government, which has not even been able to insist on the usual consular access to Australian citizens arrested abroad. And publicly, at least, the government has accepted without question the story of Dr Yang's hospital admission, a story that his friends, colleagues and family derisively dismiss. It must be hoped that when Jia Qinglin, a Politburo member who ranks fourth in the official order of precedence, arrives in Canberra today, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd will find the courage to tell him that the treatment of Australian citizens has been unacceptable, and that Ms Gillard will be equally frank when she visits China later this month.

But the new repressiveness is not just aimed at Chinese Australians. The latest and most prominent detainee is Ai Weiwei, China's best-known artist, who, among other achievements, is a co-creator of the Bird's Nest Stadium built for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Mr Ai's arrest may be an attempt to prevent him leaving the country, for he had been trying to set up a studio in Germany if it became impossible for him to work in China, as now seems to be the case.

The arbitrary detention of one of the world's most acclaimed artists makes the spirit of openness to the wider world evoked during the Beijing Olympics seem hollow. But the world's awareness of the plight of Mr Ai, Dr Yang and other dissidents also suggests that China's rulers are no longer keeping dissent as tightly under control as they have mostly done since the Tiananmen massacres. The world knows what is happening because the prominent dissidents have networks of sympathisers who keep the world informed - a state of affairs reminiscent of Eastern Europe immediately prior to 1989, which is no doubt why the party and government leaders are so alarmed.

The more China modernises, the more its people, and especially its intellectual elites, will be influenced by the wider world and the more the demands for democracy will increase. The record of China's rulers suggests that they will resist those demands at every stage, and that fundamental change is unlikely to happen without violence. That prospect is the most bitter legacy of the events of 1989.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … TERENCE RATTIGAN

A great injustice was done when the plays of Rattigan were swept aside by the Royal Court-led theatrical revolution of the 1950s

It has long been recognised that a great injustice was done when the plays of Terence Rattigan were swept aside by the Royal Court-led theatrical revolution of the 1950s. But the centenary of Rattigan's birth has not only brought a spate of revivals – the latest is In Praise of Love at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton. It has shown that the very qualities for which Rattigan was once so despised are a source of strength. His work was thought to epitomise a deeply English upper-class verbal and emotional reticence. But although it is true that Rattigan was, as Winston Churchill observed on a visit to Flare Path, "a master of understatement", his work is also a sustained assault on our fear of passion and commitment. In After the Dance, a marriage needlessly dies because neither partner can admit to the love they feel. The Deep Blue Sea, arguably Rattigan's greatest play, shows a heroine driven to attempted suicide by the desertion of a lover who cannot fulfil her sexual and emotional needs. And in Cause Célèbre, now at the Old Vic, he does belated justice to Alma Rattenbury, who in the 1930s was thought to have committed a crime worse than murder: the seduction of her 18-year-old chauffeur. It helped, of course, that Rattigan learned about dramatic structure by studying the Greeks at school. But the centenary revivals have forced us to recognise the real truth about Rattigan: that behind the quietly oblique dialogue lies a profound understanding of the human heart and an awareness of the illogicality of love.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IVORY COAST: THE FINAL BATTLE

Responsibility to protect loomed large in the debate about intervening in Libya, but was long curiously absent from Ivory Coast 5 April 2011

Responsibility to protect loomed large in the debate about intervening in Libya, but was long curiously absent from Ivory Coast. There, a large modern city with 4 million inhabitants was running out of food and water; looters roamed the streets; and a UN peacekeeping force was – until last night – sidelined to the role of outraged observers. In the end, a final assault by the presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara on the city of Abidjan began when French helicopters opened fire on a military camp of forces loyal to the former president Laurent Gbagbo. In this act, both the UN force and the supporting French one moved to centre stage.

This is not without its risks. Any move by the armed forces of a former colonial master carry the charge that the clock is being turned back and a new puppet is being installed. Until now French forces were only there to protect French nationals, and they also took over the airport. However, the conflict had probably gone too far, and France claimed it was responding to the request of the UN secretary general to neutralise the heavy weapons belonging to Gbagbo's troops. As Gbagbo spent months resisting calls from the African Union to honour the result of an election which he lost and step aside, much of the blame for Ivory Coast's relapse into civil war rests squarely on his shoulders. But not all.

The "New Forces" of Mr Ouattara contain some elements of older militias who also have blood on their hands. The International Committee of the Red Cross stuck by its claim that about 800 were killed when Mr Ouattara's forces swept through the town of Duekoue, and an account of the aftermath by the BBC's Andrew Harding makes disturbing reading. Mr Ouattara's government blamed the UN for withdrawing its forces when the fight for the town took place. As Mr Ouattara and his cabinet-in-waiting owe their survival to UN troops guarding them at a hotel, they should at least take responsibility for the behaviour of their troops. They should be told international support is contingent on correct behaviour. The besieged inhabitants of the Golf hotel have been unable to protect even the homes of their relatives, which have been targeted by Gbagbo's elite paramilitary force, Cecos. Now the situation is reversed, rebel forces have a responsibility to uphold the basic rules of warfare, such as protecting the lives of noncombatants, and taking combatants prisoner where possible. As firing could be heard from the direction of the presidential palace last night, it can only be hoped that the final battle is brief and that Gbagbo's troops seeing the writing on the wall, which had somehow eluded the gaze of their master.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

HEALTH REFORMS: SECOND OPINION

Andrew Lansley felt the need to go to the Commons yesterday and express confidence in his bill

The need for a public vote of confidence is reliably more instructive than the ringing terms in which it is couched, as many a football manager knows to his cost. After being hung out to dry in the press, Andrew Lansley felt the need to go to the Commons yesterday and express confidence in his health bill. He did so even though he has already steered his legislation most of the way through that house, and even as he announced a review so vague that the bill's final shape is utterly unknown. No wonder he sounded miserable.

The pretext for yesterday's pause for thought was the "genuine concern" of many who work in the service; in truth the opposition of the medical profession had long been expected. Having left Mr Lansley alone in the lab to brew up explosive plans, David Cameron wobbled as to the wisdom of exposing the potion to sunlight at the turn of the year, but with the bill about to be published he resolved to take the doctors' brickbats, keep calm and carry on. What has really changed is the party politics.

As Liberal Democrats have studied the small print that Mr Cameron did not bother with until the ink had dried, the realisation dawned that a coalition which they are a part of was proposing to dismantle a nationwide structure in whose founding Liberals had once played a proud part. Mealy-mouthed for too long in addressing Tory excesses, Nick Clegg has been forced by his party to stand up to his partners on this one. With terrible judgment, the Lib Dem health minister Paul Burstow signed off on the abolition of the primary care trusts that his own party's manifesto and the coalition agreement had committed to democratise. Former doctor Evan Harris rallied Lib Dem opposition around this flagrant breach of promise at his party's spring conference and among the lords. He has now set out a long list of "essential amendments" that would effectively rewrite the entire bill. Mr Lansley seemed at pains yesterday not to preclude any of these specific changes. Rarely if ever in history can a defeated backbencher have held the sort of cards in his hand that Mr Harris is holding today.

What matters, of course, is how far the open tone of Mr Lansley's remarks translates into an open mind in refining the bill. No one is pretending that the NHS can drift on as it is – money is tight, and about to get tighter, while the pressure of ever more elderly people will only intensify. But the health secretary can no longer pretend that he has all the answers. Simply delaying things while Messrs Cameron and Clegg go on a roadshow to tell worried members of the public to calm down will not suffice.

Disempowering the expert drug rationers of Nice from doing their nasty job, and sacking commissioners who have been getting better at their work, is institutional vandalism. It ought to stop – and now. Already, half of all trusts are muddling through with temporary executives, who now have no idea where they are supposed to be muddling to. Several MPs yesterday asked Mr Lansley to apologise to those staff who have already lost their jobs in his rush to reform. If his claim to deliberating afresh without prejudice is to have credibility, he must immediately desist from creating new facts on the ground.

The lack of accountability for the new GP consortiums, which could be gobbled up by corporates and prone to conflicts of interest, must also be addressed. Above all, the dogma that the regulator must actively promote competition from all comers has to be rethought. Unless it is, family doctors who value a relationship with their local hospital could end up in court under EU competition law – the point on which Ed Miliband recently rattled an unprepared Mr Cameron. Until yesterday many parliamentarians were understandably reluctant to get embroiled in competition law and governance structures, but these things now move centre stage. For lurking in this detail is the devil who could do for the NHS.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SHINKANSEN LINES 'SHRINK' NATION

The entire super-express Kyushu Shinkansen Line, linking the cities of Fukuoka and Kagoshima, was quietly opened March 12, a day after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan. This follows the December opening of the completed Tohoku Shinkansen Line linking Tokyo and Shin Aomori. Now the top of Honshu and bottom of Kyushu are connected by shinkansen lines, although one has to change trains at Tokyo Station.

Japan's fastest bullet train, the Hayabusa, made its debut last month, traveling at speeds up to 300 kph to link Tokyo with Shin Aomori in a mere three hours and 10 minutes (although service on some parts of the line are suspended due to quake damage). On the Kyushu Shinkansen Line, the fastest trains can link Fukuoka city's Hakata station and Kagoshima Chuo station in one hour and 19 minutes, Kumamoto station and Shin Osaka station in two hours and 59 minutes, and Kagoshima Chuo and Shin Osaka in three hours and 45 minutes — about one hour less than before.

The faster travel times mean that competition between shinkansen services and domestic airline services will grow more fierce. But if shinkansen services and international airline services can cooperate, they may be able to mutually benefit by attracting more tourists from overseas. The nation's tourism industry also needs to raise its level of service to ensure it is as accommodating as possible to tourists from abroad.

JR Hakata Station is located in Japan's largest commercial station building, which was opened March 12 to great fanfare. Fukuoka city is now a mere 33 minutes from Kumamoto, stirring fears in some locales that their traditional tourism customers may now choose to spend their leisure time in Hakata instead. They should remember that the door swings both ways and develop a strategy to attract new tourists from Fukuoka city.

New shinkansen services are scheduled to open between Nagano and Kanazawa in fiscal 2014 and between Shin Aomori and Shin Hakodate in Hokkaido in fiscal 2015. The government and respective railway companies need to make efforts to ensure these new shinkansen services are profitable

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

GETTING KIDS GET BACK TO SCHOOL

Classes have resumed in the 12 elementary and middle schools of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. In the heavily damaged city of Ishinomaki, north of Natori in Miyagi Prefecture, all the elementary and middle schools are scheduled to resume classes in late April.

But many other schools in disaster-struck northeastern Japan are experiencing great difficulties. More than 6,500 publicly-run and private schools — including 1,054 in Ibaraki Prefecture, 920 in Miyagi Prefecture, 471 in Iwate Prefecture and 134 in Aomori Prefecture — sustained severe damage.

Many children and teachers died in the disaster, including 221 in Miyagi Prefecture and 48 in Iwate Prefecture and 36 in Fukushima Prefecture. Many more teachers and children remain missing, meaning that the final death toll will greatly increase. Other children survived the quake and tsunami, but have lost their parents and other family members.

Many school buildings continue to serve as temporary shelters for evacuees. Teachers who are helping evacuees are suffering from fatigue. The disasters have traumatized many children, and for some their trauma is being exacerbated by their long stays in temporary shelters. A resumption of classes is important because meeting friends and teachers will help to heal children's psychological wounds.

The Miyagi city of Tome is inviting families from of the devastated neighboring town of Minami Sanrikuto to move there and enroll their children in schools. Many children in other devastated areas are expected to study in schools in nearby municipalities or in other prefectures. The central government and local governments across the nation must do all they can to help the children affected by the disaster, including streamlining procedures for their transfer to schools outside their municipalities, reducing tuition fees, dispatching teachers to affected areas as needed, and helping those who are traumatized.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

EQUALITY FOR WOMEN HELPS TO REDUCE HUNGER

BY CESAR CHELALA

NEW YORK — Giving women the same tools and resources as men, such as financial support, education and access to markets, could reduce the number of hungry people worldwide by up to 150 million, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The agency estimates that 925 million people across the world are undernourished. Of this number, 906 million live in developing countries.

The greatest burden of economic crisis falls on those less able to sustain it, women and children, particularly in nonindustrialized countries. At the same time, services such as education, health, women's and children's health and nutrition sink lower on the agenda of national priorities.

FAO reports that women make up 43 percent on average of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, and they tend to be kept in low-paying jobs and have mostly seasonal or part-time work. Plots managed by women tend to be lower, on average, than those managed by men, and they have less access to tools and technology compared to male farmers.

Women have the traditional role of both producers and carers for children, old people, the sick, the handicapped and all those who cannot care for themselves. In Africa, women work an average of 50 percent longer each day than men. I remember visiting the countryside in Equatorial Guinea where I saw what is called casa de la palabra (house of words), where men gather in the afternoon after work and spend several hours chatting or trying to solve some problem in the village or community while their wives continue to work at home. A similar situation probably exists in other African countries.

There is little recognition of the critical role that women can play in increasing agricultural and business productivity. Although some commercial banks are lending more to women entrepreneurs to develop new agricultural services and products, some interventions such as land tenure rights and access to markets continue to leave women out of the picture. In Cameroon, for example, women hold less than 10 percent of land certificates even though they do a significant part of the agricultural work.

Several years of work at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) have proven that improving women farmers' access to adequate resources, technologies, markets and property rights can help them increase agricultural productivity and improve household nutrition.

This is relevant since many people still go hungry every day, and this has an impact on their overall nutritional status. According to the Global Food and Farming Futures report, the existing food system is failing half of the people on Earth. It estimates that 1 billion people lack crucial vitamins and minerals in their diet.

Women should have easier access to better seeds, fertilizers, time-saving technologies as well as better credit, land and job opportunities. In Kenya, it has been shown that women with the same levels of education, information, experience and farm resources as men increased their farming yields by 22 percent.

There is increasing recognition that women are essential agents of development. That is why all the work, including the special capacities they bring to work outside the home, that they provide should be taken into account by national and international agencies.

As Sandra Bunch and Rekha Mehra write in their ICRW report "Women Help Solve Hunger. Why is the World Still Waiting?," "If the global community is to increase agricultural productivity and income-generating activities in hunger-prone communities, it must be willing to adjust its vision and see women as central to both food security and agricultural economic development."

Cesar Chelala, M.D., is the author of "Maternal Health," a publication of the Pan American Health Organization.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

ROBBERIES IN PRIVATE BANKING

Bank Indonesia (BI) should have acted firmly long time ago but it seemed to need more victims and scandals to jolt it into realizing the imperative for enforcing a more stringent code of conduct on private banking services.

BI Deputy Governor Muliaman Hadad on Friday said the central bank would issue a special regulation on private banking services, only after the revelation of a scandal at Citibank Indonesia where a senior relationship manager had siphoned off more than US$2 million from clients' accounts over a period of almost three years until her fraud was discovered a few weeks ago.

Later in December 2008, preliminary police investigations found how Bank Century (now Bank Mutiara) clients had lost more than $120 million because the investment products of PT Antaboga Delta Securities they bought turned out to be fraudulent. The bank customers seemed to have been lured and misled by Bank Century's private banking officers to buy those fraudulent securities.

Yet more damaging were the suspicions that many big transactions through private banking seemed to smack of money laundering.

Testimonies in the trial of corrupt tax auditor Bahasyim Assifie in Jakarta in January and the preliminary findings of the investigations of the fraud at Citigold last week showed how private banking relationship managers often conducted big transactions in the homes of wealthy clients.

Assifie was sentenced in early February to 10 years in prison for corruption and money laundering worth around $7 million.

Many major commercial banks, amid the fierce competition to attract big depositors, have set up private banking departments or wealth management services especially to serve customers with deposits of more than Rp 500 million ($55,000).

Private banking is about much more than traditional banking services of deposits and loans.

But don't confuse private banking with real private banks, such as Swiss UBS, Julius Baer and Credit Suisse, which serve only super-rich individuals. Julius Baer, for example, manages more than $190 billion in assets, and only accepts clients with at least $3 million to invest.


At ordinary commercial banks, the management assigns a relationship manager to each of the rich customers to provide a comprehensive menu of sophisticated products and services that cater for their particular financial needs. The managers address a client's entire financial situation and needs that can increase fee-based incomes.

The problem, however, is that many of the wealthy clients have very low financial literacy. They are put under the wealth management (private banking) department not because of their educational level, but because of their big financial assets.

Thus many of them tend to fully trust their relationship managers for any transactions they need, unconsciously making themselves vulnerable to scrupulous practices by bank officials who, under fierce competition pressures for career promotions or bonuses, may resort to reckless dealings without taking into account the risk profile of their customers.

Given the increasingly fierce competition in the banking industry, bank managements also tend to reward relationship managers only for the number of wealthy clients or the volume of clients' financial assets they can bring to their banks, disregarding manners and protocol for how such achievements should have been made.

This is the main reason why BI should establish a strong oversight mechanism and enforce a stringent code of conduct for private banking services.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

DEMOCRACY: THE INDONESIAN EXPERIENCE

JULIAN ALDRIN PASHA

As a country that has experienced various forms of democracy, Indonesia knows about the struggle between theory and practice.

However, Indonesia today is far from a state of struggle. Rather, after India and the United States, Indonesia is rapidly securing a place in the realm of great, emerging democracies.

It was at the Bali Democracy Forum in 2008, sponsored by Indonesia and Australia, that more than 30 countries came together to exchange ideas on how best to consolidate democracy.

Humble about its successes and shortcomings as a young democracy, Indonesia was quick to promote greater political cooperation with its neighbors, while expressing determination to do what needed to be done at home.

The forum today is alive and kicking with more than 70 countries participating.

In Indonesia, democracy started in 1998 when students took to the streets of Jakarta demanding change. Though its start was bloody, the ball of democracy has never ceased rolling.

During the tenure of the nation's four post-1998 presidents, massive reforms have radically altered the way that politics and governance are conducted in the country.

Indonesia has learned that the process of trial and error, no matter how imperfect, is the best recipe for success.

Take the example of decentralization. The concept was introduced to empower regions by increasing local spending and, among other things, putting in place a new intergovernmental fiscal system.

The results so far, one has to admit, have not been as sunny as previously forecast. However, as the country continues to mature, its system of government keeps transforming, forcing bureaucrats to learn from their mistakes.

Pending revision of the Law on Local Government, Jakarta is determined to put a hold on the formation of any new districts.

Learning from past mistakes, the Grand Design prepared by the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) pays special attention to demographic, geographic and administrative matters, along with the classic issue of financing.

Keep in mind that as a nation we are undergoing huge changes. Indonesia is moving from being one of the most centralized nations in the world to one of the most decentralized.

As for the corruption charges facing certain governors and regents, recent legal proceedings have shown that the law is being upheld.

While it is not good news that almost every week a local leader is named a suspect in a corruption case, the reality of the situation is a reminder that our political system, including the electoral process and post-election governance, must be open to improvement to bolster the quality of our democracy.

Democracy in Indonesia has also paved the way for freedom of expression, allowing new groups to emerge and publicly state their identities.

Some have spoken louder than others, promoting views that aren't necessarily shared by everyone.

Some have stayed the course, sticking to their beliefs, however unpopular. Such freedom of expression is guaranteed by our Constitution — but rest assured, there won't be room for violence, nor tolerance of vigilantism.

It isn't easy to bring together the many faces of this nation while keeping everyone in harmony. Such a delicate dance requires versatility, understanding and deftness — all of which must be reflected in the laws and policies that guard our daily lives. This is oft forgotten by the harsh critics of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

As Sun Tzu reminds us: "The masterful leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to proper methods and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success." The President has been elected to two consecutive terms. He must be doing something right.

We must remember that the political stability that we now enjoy, after years of tribulation, has not come cheap.

Ours is a system that mandates that the executive and legislative branches to work closely together, without always seeing eye-to-eye.

After all, no major government activity can be undertaken without the consent of the legislature, whether central or local.

Some may call it horse-trading, but in reality the government and its supporting parties have got to do what it takes to govern through negotiations and, if needed, wrangling.

US president Abraham Lincoln once said: "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy."

Furthermore, readers of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals can certainly appreciate Lincoln's skillful political outreach in getting his former rivals to join his team. Keeping his goals in focus, the political genius did what he had to.

Though easily misunderstood, such maneuvering is also apparent in Indonesian politics.

However, let there not be any mistake that the end goal is actually for the people to benefit from government programs, which have been aptly defined as having a four-track strategy: pro-poor, pro-growth, pro-job and pro-environment. With three years left in Yuhoyono's administration, this country can expect to gear up more and more.

The writer is President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's spokesman.

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THE JAKARTA POST

NATO EVOLUTION, SOUTHEAST ASIAN SECURITY

PENI HANGGARINI

Over the past 62 years, a military alliance of democratic states called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has demonstrated institutional change by expanding into 28 member states since its establishment in Washington DC on April 4, 1949.

NATO has transformed from a collective defense organization into a collective security organization. The transformation indicates a big leap from just defending member states from external threats to handling various types of domestic and non-military security threats.

Countries from the ex-Soviet Union are now members of NATO. Today, 21 member states of the European Union (EU) are also members of NATO. Twenty years ago, we would never have expected this could happen.

However, many scholars have argued that the enlargement and shifting of direction of the alliance have been misplaced.

Additionally, many argue that this alliance imposes an imbalance of burden-sharing on the US, which appears to always lead in some NATO initiatives.

NATO member states perceive different security threats, and consequently may disagree about the means and approaches by which it goes about achieving security.

For instance, "splits" in the alliance emerged after 9/11 when the US preferred to use preemptive action with its war on terrorism, while European member states throughout the EU proposed to use incentive programs to prevent the roots of terrorism from growing.

The evolution of NATO can be explained by the argument that if an actor wants to survive on the international stage, it needs to equip itself with adequate security assurance.

With the growing security threats these days, NATO can be a reliable security forum for the North American and European member states.

The relationship between the North American and European member states of NATO can be seen as a "marriage," thus there should be a balance of burden and benefit while obtaining relative gains from the alliance.

As stated in the Article 5 of the NATO treaty, a threat to a member is a threat to all. In this "marriage," a threat to the husband or the wife could be perceived not only as a threat to each partner but also to their marriage.

Unfortunately, the US and other member states which are aligned under this "marriage" by the name of NATO do not live under one roof. This is not a marriage between two persons rather engagement of the US with a number of partners.

They rarely meet and only if there is a high level of disagreement among them. Last week, member states met in Brussels to discuss
a more NATO technical role in the command structure for the operation in Libya, following US President Obama's decision to hand over command the leadership of operation to NATO.

Additionally, the meeting was aimed to settle out Turkey's and Germany's deliberations that the western coalition would resort to regime change in Libya.

What is significant about this "powerful marriage" under the name of NATO to Southeast Asia? Will this alliance complicate or contribute to Southeast Asia's security?

The most evident lesson drawn from the evolution of the alliance is that NATO's development would somewhat contribute to the security of the region.

However, such an evolution has no direct implications. Southeast Asia has its own dependent security cooperation, but this is not also to suggest that any security cooperation in the region could perform as the best security guarantor.

One of the aims of the alliance's establishment as Brzezinski (2009), a former US national security adviser, suggests is that NATO can be "the hub of a globe-spanning web of various regional cooperative-security undertakings."

Therefore, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) may be one of the actors that can link to this hub.

However, with bureaucratic institutional problems developing as the group gets larger, it appears that Brzezinski expectation is too good to be true — at least for now, unless regional and international security organizations and NATO are more willing to cooperate.

They took the first step when a NATO official met for talks with senior political and military leaders from Asia-Pacific which gathered in Jakarta for Jakarta International Defense Dialogue on March 23-25.

Since we do not intend to build military alliances in the region, it is still important to observe this evolution of NATO, if not call it a development of a collective defense organization.

Different approaches must be taken when dealing with military alliances compared to bilateral military relations.

In two respects, analyzing NATO will affect our understanding of the changing perception of security among the members of the alliance and how the member states use different means and approaches to respond to threats.

More disagreement emerged as the memberships are enlarged. It is also interesting to see how some new member states enjoy their status as "the free-rider members", which rely for their security on the alliance, and particularly upon the US.

So, how far would NATO go? This "marriage" could go further under the condition that it can still maintain its identity as a collective defense or collective security organization of democratic member states. One of the keys is to seek balance between US and the members of the alliance.

Therefore, it is a good step for NATO to share responsibilities in protecting civilians through enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 which was adopted on March 17, 2011.

The writer is a lecturer at School of International Relations, Paramadina University, Jakarta. She is also a Fulbright-DIKTI doctoral degree student at the School of Political Science, Northern Illinois University.

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THE JAKARTA POST

LEARNING FROM 'MAS' PARDI

YASMI ADRIANSYAH

Many of us likely know that Indonesia is emerging. Many of us know that the present Indonesia is pursuing its economic growth and development ambitions.

Many of us also know that, in order to pursue these ambitions, Indonesia needs investment — particularly from external sources.

Investment is indeed one of the crucial factors in stimulating economic development. Investment has multiplier effects as it is the most important engine for businesses
to run.

A well-running business will undoubtedly be able to generate jobs as well as provide products and services needed by consumers.

As often heard from the media, Indonesia needs, and therefore sets as its investment target, Rp 240 trillion (US$27.6 billion) for 2011, mainly coming from foreign sources.

This is undoubtedly an ambitious target. But let us hope and support so that this target can be achieved.

Certainly all the descriptions are of a strategic or even grandiose dimension of Indonesia's investment ambitions. But how can we, the common people, contribute to these ambitions?

I propose that we start thinking of being investors or even business owners ourselves, albeit on small scales. No matter how much we contribute, it will add to the pool of investment in the country.

For the newcomers in the world of business and entrepreneurship, you may start thinking of establishing small-and-medium enterprises.

Check several sources of information on business and entrepreneurship, as there is a wealth of information around us.

Some people might argue that they cannot establish businesses due to a lack of capital. Others might say they do not posses the necessary skills to become investors or business owners.

Although those reasons are valid, it is better to think otherwise, that the capital and skills will be acquired if strong willingness is there. History shows that it is willingness and eagerness to learn that play important roles to success.

In this regard, I wish to share a life experience and the ambitions of a colleague who currently works as a concierge or even a cleaner at an office here in Geneva, Switzerland.

His name is Ledy Supardi, better known as Mas (brother) Pardi. People might think that his type of work is low-rank or blue collar. His salary is not on par compared to the high Geneva standard, but at least he can send home remittance to make his family's ends meet.

Interestingly, Mas Pardi does not think in a short-term perspective. He saves some of his small income as he dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.

Sooner or later he will quit his job and invest in a business that he will run personally.

His plan and ambition is not merely wishful thinking. Mas Pardi's plan might not be sophisticated, but slowly he has been materializing it. His ultimate target is opening a mini-market in his hometown, Magelang, in Central Java.

As a start-up, he already bought a plot of land that he pledged not to sell even though the price might triple from what he paid.

What he is currently collecting is capital expenditure to build the mini-market, the monthly budget for product resale and other operational costs.

He foresees 10 people as necessary to run the business, which means he will create jobs.

This strategic business planning comes from a junior high school graduate who happens to work in an international city like Geneva.

The journey of how he arrived in Geneva is quite a long story, but Mas Pardi believes it is due to his attempt to be always on good terms with others and dedicated to whatever assignments he is given, including as a cleaner or even as a housemaid.

Mas Pardi is very keen on entrepreneurship, thanks to his experiences in business activities since a very young age due to his family's unfortunate financial situation.

He used to sell cigarettes door-to-door and chicken-noodle at a traditional booth. Though it was quite a tough time for him, he believes all the experiences were valuable and groomed him to become a better entrepreneur.

In short, within the next five years, he expects to own a real business with a modest investment. He will contribute, albeit a little, to Indonesia's economic development, and who can know if his business grows with time?

What about the rest of us? Assumingly, readers of this newspaper are highly educated individuals. They have university degrees and work for many prominent companies in Indonesia or abroad.

But the number of entrepreneurs or business owners among these readers are, arguably, not many.

Entrepreneurs account for around 0.5 percent of Indonesia's population.

It is therefore timely for us to shift our mindset. For those who already have substantial financial capital as well as skills, you may start developing and running your own businesses. For those who are still studying at schools or universities, it is also timely to have entrepreneurship in mind.

There are many books, articles and videos on how to become an entrepreneur.

There are also abundant stories of successful entrepreneurs, including from within Indonesia.

The notable stories of young entrepreneurs such as Sandiaga Uno, Elang Gumilang, or Hendy "Baba Rafi" Setiono are worth mentioning.

At least, at such a very young age, their contributions to Indonesia's economic development were significant.

It is time for us to contribute more to this country. It is not a matter of how big the contribution is, but more importantly the willingness and determination to do something.

A small contribution, if donated by a large scale of society, will give significant impact to Indonesia's development.

The writer is a graduate of Oxford University and currently resides in Geneva, Switzerland. He can be contacted at yasmi_adriansyah@hotmail.com.

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THE JAKARTA POST

SENAYAN: AN ENDANGERED URBAN PARADISE

EKO BUDIHARDJO

It is most ironic that while statesmen from all over the world such as Al Gore are promoting the green movement, part of the lush green open space of Senayan will be cleared to make way for a new skyscraper.

A 36-story high-rise building has been planned for members of the House of Representatives, who ought to be sensitive to the voices of people at grassroots levels.

The problem is not solely because of its luxury, or because of the provision of a swimming pool, massage parlor and spa.

Nor was it because the cost of the planned building is equivalent to 10,000 low-cost apartments or 10,000 hectares of rice fields. The real and biggest problem of the "legislative palace" is that it will encroach on urban green space, which is already scarce in the capital.

Let us refer to the 2007 Law on Spatial Planning, which was in fact composed by members of the House themselves. It states clearly that every city in Indonesia is obliged to set aside at least 30 percent of urban land for green open space, which consists of 20 percent public open space and 10 percent privately owned space.

According to my records, the remaining green open space now only accounts for 9.6 percent of the Jakarta area. This means it is less than half the legally required area. It is not surprising that every time it rains Jakarta is almost paralyzed because of flooding.

If this 9.6 percent is further reduced to make way for the House skyscraper, one can only imagine the additional impact this will have on the citizens of our beloved capital city.

In the discipline of landscape architecture, there is an epithet: "Green open space is urban paradise". This means that changing green open space into a skyscraper is equivalent to changing heaven into hell — a very big sin.

Are the decision makers in the House ready to bear that sin? Are they aware that they will afflict children and grandchildren of future generations, who will be stricken with the lack of open space as a source of oxygen, water absorption and a vehicle for social contact between residents?

Mistakes experienced by other big cities of developed countries need to be considered.

Some metropolises in the developed world have been labeled "miser polis" or miserable cities. The city of tomorrow is even called a city of sorrow. Chicago for example, was nicknamed Sickago.

Los Angeles was nicknamed The Lost Angels. Some years ago when there was a plan to build a new skyscraper in the city center of Washington DC, the people of the city balked. They said if the gigantic plan was implemented traffic would come to a standstill, and 'DC' would stand for 'Dysfunctional City'. Fortunately, the urban managers finally realized the errors of the plan and cancelled it.

No less worrisome, especially for professional architects, is the architectural design of the planned legislative skyscraper.

Several members of the Indonesian Institute of Architects (IAI), have said it shows indications of plagiarism, bearing similarities to the Congress Building in Chile. And if we trace back a little further, it is that different to the Great Arch at La Defense in Paris 2000.

The pictures and photos showing the similarities between the buildings have been circulating on cyberspace mailing lists for some days now. The big question is why the design of a building that will determine the face of the city, or become a landmark, was not opened to a competition.

Through such a competition we could have obtained a lot of alternatives and then chosen the best alternative, which would not necessarily have taken the form of a skyscraper.

Perhaps it would have been better if the legislators were less obsessed about going on study visits to big cities in foreign countries, but to middle-class Indonesian cities such as Surakarta or even small towns like Kuala Kencana in Timika.

The design of the new building for the Indonesian central bank, Bank Indonesia (BI), beside the old BI building, which was heritage listed, was decided through a national competition.

The planning and design of a corridor from Kasunanan palace to Pasar Gede and Chinatown in Surakarta was also opened to competition. This produced a strong feeling of democratization in the realm of planning and design in Surakarta.

In the planning of Kuala Kencana in Papua, a well known Balinese sculptor Nyoman Nuarta was invited to design a sculpture in the center of the town square. Very charming.

New ideas on an urban renaissance in the early third millennium have proclaimed a paradigm shift. Formerly, planning was more bureaucratic, and even tended to be militaristic. Now it should be more democratic and participatory.

In the past, planning was based on "predict and provide." Nowadays, it should be based on "debate and decide". The involvement of scientists, academicians and professionals, referred to as the "intellectual infrastructure", is a prerequisite in urban development planning.

Other information that is also very worrying is that the design of the legislative skyscraper was not presented to be reviewed by the Jakarta Advisory Team on Urban Architecture Specialists (TPAK).

We should keep in mind that architects dealing with architecture are completely different to traditional midwives handling babies.

Whenever a baby being treated by a midwife dies, the midwife's mistake will be buried together with the baby.

In the domain of architects and architecture, however, there is no grave for works that are ugly, failed, destructive to their surroundings or damaging to the environment.

Hopefully public servants, especially the top officials who make the final decision on this building, will understand that the planning and design of the new office tower will turn Senayan, Jakarta's heaven, into hell.

For these reasons, the best option is to hold an architectural competition for the redesign of the existing legislative office building, so it will be more livable and enjoyable for all members.

The writer is a professor of architecture and urban planning at Diponegoro University, Semarang.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

HYSTERIA, FANATICISM AND THE REALITY OF CRICKET

A crash at the winning post! That's how the World Cup can be described for Sri Lanka in a cricket ball. Not only did two months of hysteria come to an end but also the dirty games played by some officials and politicians in the name of cricket merely to settle old scores and have a crack at their detractors.

For our part we were able to see the winners and losers and never misled anybody or any organization to make capital from nothing. Almost overnight, some media organizations and reporters were mushrooming all over the place with just a computer. Just ask the International Cricket Council how complicated it was to host the World Cup in one of the most impoverished regions in the world.

It was evident from the start that Sri Lanka was not seriously in the hunt for the World Cup. That Sri Lanka came this far without matches against India, South Africa and Australia (rained off) was largely due to its grouping. But how do you appease the teeming millions in this country who thought the Cup was theirs before it even began, backed up with the hype created by their masters in some electronic media. Of course with so much of expectations given, either these media organizations who became the messiahs of cricket in the country need to hold their own post-mortem examinations, or the so-called guardians of the game should be ordered to explain why Sri Lanka with just a match away from the Cup inflicted four changes in a team that has a notorious history of not making even one change when the team loses.

Cricket analysts may be wracking their brains to recall if ever there was a World Cup in which a player, in this case off-spinner Suraj Randiv, was parachuted to play in a high intensity final while two other players of similar mould Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath who had a hang of the proceedings and performed without question marks were sulking in the shadows. Why was Chaminda Vaas who was not good enough in the first place two months ago, hurriedly told to pack his bags and join the team with just two days remaining for the World Cup final. Did emotions get the better of Sri Lanka that one individual Muttiah Muralitharan who was half fit had to play at the expense of the whole team so he could make a fairytale exit?

Too many experts seemed to have ruined the toast and those fanatical supporters who would not have settled for anything short of the Cup for a celebration will now have to be brainwashed by the selectors who are masters at doing it. In a few days time the majority of the players will be back in India playing in the money-making Indian Premier League. We don't grudge any player marketing himself. This is natural for a professional. But apart from a few players, the distractions will be inevitable for the rest.

It will now be left to be seen whether Sri Lanka will change a corruption-ridden cricketing establishment and prepare four years down the road for the next World Cup possibly earmarking a captain among other matters. Who will be the next set of administrators we don't know. But kissing goes by favour and to expect changes in a country like Sri Lanka is also like expecting the sun to rise from the West. Those who lose will always lose. This is the simple story of winners and losers.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

WHEN ALL YOU CAN DO IS HOPE AND BELIEVE…

Every time a child enters the world we hope against hope that despite the cruelty, difficulty and negativity that abounds in this world that our child will survive, make it against the odds and come out triumphant, healthy and honest. We anticipate that we will raise that individual that makes an impact on this world whether it is through fame, fortune or simply idealistic good deeds. Thus we do all we can to provide him/her with the basic necessities to succeed; love and care, education, nutrition and protection. Every parent tries to utilize all that they posses to do the best for their off-spring. Yet when illness befalls our beloved progeny we are left in a desperate state where all we can do is hope and believe that the minute goodness in the world will come to our rescue.

Ajith Kumara and Kumari were left in this fraught situation when their child Gauri Wasana Kumari became ill with a neurological dysfunction that is yet to be given a proper diagnosis from doctors. Residents of the Heenwella, Diggala area in the Kegalle District their daughter was born on the 7th of May 2007. Kumari tells the story of her daughter's birth and the trial her family went through after that day. "She was born at a hospital in Kegalle and I breast-fed her but this was not agreeing with her. She kept vomiting and then became unconscious and I thought that she was dead—I honestly didn't think that she would survive," Kumari says.

 Doctors then rushed the child to the Colombo Lady Ridgeway hospital, yet Kumari wasn't allowed to travel with her child. "They hadn't discharged me, because I had complications during my confinement and the birth therefore my pressure was high. My husband stayed with me because of this and he wasn't informed that we could go with our child," she says. Kumari recalls the scary days that followed where she and her husband were left in the dark about the situation of their child.

After a number of days the parents decided to hunt down their child in the maze of hospital bureaucracy. "After about a week I told my husband that he must go to Colombo and look for our child at the hospital. When he went there our child was already in the incubator. That is all he told me after that I had no information about what was happening to my child," she says. "Three days after I went to Colombo, they took the child out of the incubator and then she was fine—there was nothing wrong with her according to the Doctors," Kumara says.

After a few weeks Kumari brought home their child and all seemed fine. "She was active and there seemed to be nothing wrong with her, we treated her like a normal child and she would play and develop like a regular child. And this is what the doctors told us; that nothing was wrong with her and she would grow up healthy and strong," she says. However an unforeseen and undiagnosed twist was ahead for the family. "At the age of about one year she suffered a fit. This was something the doctors had never told us about and we never expected that this could happen," she says.

"She stopped responding and I saw the light go out in her little by little. When she was about one and a half years we noticed that she was no longer moving normally or doing the regular developmental activities for her age—this is when we started to get worried," Kumari explains.

When Kumari explained her baby's medical history to the doctors she was told that the seizure that had caused Gauri's developmental stunt could have been the result of a brain germ. "They told me that during the time the child was a new born and vomited my breast milk she could have contracted a brain germ due to supplements that were given to her," Kumari explains.

However Kumari and her husband are unable to properly comprehend their doctor's advice or discover the real reasons for their child being handicapped—all they understand is that government doctors recommend they obtain private medical care, which they cannot afford.

Kumari is the matriarch of her family and shoulders the responsibility of caring for Gauri and her eight-month-old old son Kavishka. Her husband who met with an  accident a few months before Gauri's birth; although fully in control of his faculties is unable to comprehend matters to an extent of supporting his wife in household or parenting activities. He works at a rubber plantation nearby and draws a meager salary which must be used for transport to medical consultations, everyday sustenance and upkeep of their second child.

Kumari watches helplessly as her daughter struggles bedridden and helpless yet still smiling. "She recognizes me and knows that I am her mother but can't really make any responses. Before her fit when she was about 10 months I remember that she would talk quite normally and say 'Thatha'—but now she is unable to do that," she explains Gauri is not in control of her faculties due to a neurological weakness, as they understand. "She eats quite normally when I feed her but she has issues with swallowing water. She keeps the water in her mouth for a long time and then it spills out," Kumari explains.

Most of us know what it is like to watch a loved one suffer and be unable to do anything to ease their pain—our inside writhe even more when it is a child or our child that is in agony. We hope that we never have to go through that day that our children will grow up healthy and strong and beat all the odds of the cruel universe— yet in a corner of our minds we know that the worse could happen. And at that moment all you can do is hope and believe in medical miracles and the goodness of people.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

STRENGTHENING FAMILY TOGETHERNESS: A PRIORITY FOR NATIONAL UNITY

Today, life in our little once Paradise Island has changed a great deal and in the process lost its priorities.  Not only has the nuclear family come into being but the extended family has been disrupted with families losing touch with each other. In rural Sri Lanka and among marginalized urban families parents especially the mothers have migrated as domestic workers.

A couple of days ago I went to visit a rather sick octogenarian relative on the occasion of his birthday. My visit was more duty oriented since I too am limited in my movements due to my bizarre accident so many months ago. But since the traditional new year will soon be with us, this visit brought back to my mind memories of past new years we had spent, for it was a replica of families getting together to celebrate an event in the traditional and customary style of togetherness.

There were a few octogenarians and other senior relatives some in wheel chairs or walkers, other displaying with their walk the catch-up ailments of old age, then there were the not so old professionals and business entrepreneurs who were dynamic entities in society, the young married and teenagers who were more attuned to the IT and would in their homes  spending time on Facebook or Twitter or whatever new IT game that in was in vogue. There were grandchildren who have perhaps never seen their cousins at an earlier occasion.

The occasion to honour a much loved relative was so reminiscent of the New Year family gatherings.

 Unfortunately even the New year celebrations appear to have been unable to keep that simple togetherness alive, where kids played games within the house and did not need any extra equipment for them to devise their play, teenagers stopped for a couple of hours thinking of their superior IT play instruments, connections and music and learnt that family roots do matter to establish their identity as a family.

As spontaneous enjoyment continued and the usual sing song of simple Sinhala and English songs took place with the not so senior members leading the young. The laughter and joy of the family gathering was almost tangible.

It made me wonder whether we cannot celebrate our national new years with the same family togetherness. Today most of the traditional food we use are usually bought from shops , kavun , kokis and asmee are available now in super markets. No longer do the mothers have time to make them and neither are old relatives willing to make them because they too know that when their children come to visit them it is often a rushed visit for so many other activities are now awaiting their return to the urban areas.

And often a visit to a parent housed in such an Elder's home fulfils the duties of the offspring who does not for a moment think that parents are longing to be at home for the New Year among the family and not in some sterile well disciplined elders home.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

 

 

 

 

'NEW LAWS WILL STRENGTHEN DEMOCRACY AND ENSURE TROUBLE-FREE ELECTIONS'

The all-important 'Local Government (Special provisions) Bill to amend the Municipal Councils and Urban Councils Ordinance and the Pradeshiya Sabha Act of 1987 will be taken up for debate today in Parliament.The Bill is a result of the recommendations of the all-party Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms (Committee) chaired by Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardana. 

Q: The voters, political parties and the civil society have been agitating for many years for electoral reforms. As the chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reforms, can you elaborate on the progress your committee has made up to now?

Yes, voters, political parties and the civil society were agitating for electoral reforms for a long time. There was an unprecedented demand to come up with a system that reflects clearly the mandate of the people in a free and fair election which is not the case under the current Proportional Representation system, popularly known as the PR system.

It is a fact that the PR system brought many ills to our political system and worst was the intra party and inter party rivalry among candidates of the same party. Winner in many instances is determined not on merit but on the financial and influences a candidate could wield on others under the PR system.

It is rarely the education, civility or a service rendered to the society of a candidate become factors for voters to choose their candidate in elections under the PR system.   This has been the norm mainly at the Parliamentary, Provincial Councils and Local Government elections since the introduction of the PR system. Removing of the PR system will benefit voters, candidates and elected members, the society and the country at large.

I believe the restriction of the PR system to 30 per cent maximum under the new Act strengthens democracy and pave the way to conduct trouble free elections.  

         

Q: What are the reforms you expect to introduce to the existing law?

A Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms was first appointed under my chairmanship during the 2001 – 2002 UNP regime. That committee recommended the freeze on the number of seats in Parliament to the current number and the conduct of polls on a Saturday.

A second committee was appointed in 2004, under the UPFA rule that included all political parties represented in Parliament. There were 32 members in that committee who were instrumental in drafting the Electoral Reforms Bill now in Parliament. It remained in office until 1st of April 2010. The Committee prepared an interim report and presented to Parliament on June 05, 2007 which was the ground for electoral reforms the government is now in the process of introducing.  

Q: The JRJ administration that drafted the current constitution in 1978 has taken several leaves out of French and US constitutions. Has the Electoral Reforms Committee done the same in drafting proposed reforms?

The Committee heard submissions on various angles on possible electoral reforms. There were extracts from Constitutions in the US, France, Germany, India and Japan. I am confident that the Committee has done a satisfactory job by deliberating all these suggestions and presentations and came up with the best set of proposals for Sri Lanka with the consensus of all the stake holders including the political parties represented in the Committee.   

Q: What support did your committee receive from the opposition?

Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and I had several one-to-one discussions with the opposition and were able to come to a compromise on the recommendations at the final stages of the Committee deliberations.

I expect the cooperation of the opposition to get the Bill through Parliament on the 5th without a division.   

Q:The electoral system in major democracies like US, UK and France has remained basically intact for centuries with little or no amendments at all as opposed to developing countries. Why do you think that is?

Electoral reforms in major democracies are being agitated for the last few years and in some instances there have been even clashes between the parties vying for electoral reforms and against it.

Since late, there have been demands in the west for economic policy changes, environment issues and political reforms together with cries for electoral reforms. This is becoming a global phenomenon as people with more freedom and opportunities are constantly demanding reforms.

Q: The next local government polls are due in early 2011. Do you think you can get electoral reforms through parliament in time paving the way for the forthcoming polls to be held under the new law?

We have conducted polls for 234 out of 335 local government bodies on March 17, under the current electoral system. Demarcation of new local government zones and wards is prerequisite to implement the new Act. It will take another 8 – 10 months minimum to complete the process by the de-limitation commutes to be appointed on district level after the Act was passed in Parliament on the 5th.

Therefore, chances are minimal to hold elections for the remaining 101 local government bodies under the new electoral system. But I can assure that all other local government elections in future will be conducted under the new system. 

       

Q:There will be new local government boundaries under the new laws?

Yes, the new Bill introduces a fresh delimitation of electoral boundaries as a very vital factor which was accepted by the majority who made representations before the Committee. The Attorney General indicated in his submissions that the Delimitation Commission should ideally be a commission standing perpetual.

As such, legislations will be enacted through the new Bill to take steps as early as possible for the constitution of a Delimitation Commission to implement the proposed system of elections and Article 95 to 99 of the Constitution be amended suitably to re constitute a Delimitation Commission.

Further, it is mandatory to take into consideration the concerns of the minorities by the Delimitation Commission when it springs into action.

Q:What is the composition of the de-limitation committees and what have these committees been instructed to do?

There are six members in a district de-limitation committee for the 25 districts. It will comprise of a member nominated each by the Survey General, Commissioner General of Elections, Director General of Census and Statistics, Commissioner General of Local Governments, District Secretary and the Attorney General.   

Q: What is the methodology the de-limitation committees would follow in their endeavour?

The de-limitation committees will call submissions from all stake holders including the minority parties, civil society and even security officers. The final report of the de-limitation committees will be a clear demographic picture of the country.     The methodology is to make the local government elections and local government administration simple and people friendly and democratic in its true meaning. The members of a local government body are expected to directly involve in the development activities in their wards. The voters could contact him individually and discuss matters and even question him.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

 

AN EXCITING DISCOVERY

The discovery of Acheulian tools no younger than one million years, and possibly as old as 1.5 million years, in Tamil Nadu overturns the current thinking that hominins or early humans lived in India merely 0.6 million to 0.5 million years ago. The exciting finds are from a site at Attirampakkam, in the Kortallayar River basin, about 60 km northwest of Chennai. Previous age estimates indicated that hominins who moved out of Africa dispersed across Asia and Europe around the same time. This was inconsistent with the widely accepted current theories of early human migration from Africa to Asia. By dating the artefacts as at least one million years old, a paper published online in Science ("Early Pleistocene presence of Acheulian hominins in South India by Shanti Pappu et al., March 25, 2011) comes close to placing them in sync with the migration of early humans from Africa to the rest of the world through Asia. The latest study used two dating methods – palaeomagentism to date the sediments from where the tools were recovered, and aluminum-beryllium isotope technique to date six artefacts. Combining the two techniques helped make the dating robust.

Attirampakkam was identified by the British geologist Robert Bruce Foote in 1863. The Indian researchers took nearly a decade of holistic study of the site to understand the archaeology in relation to paleo-environment. Among the more than 3,500 quartzite tools recovered from the site, the most common ones were the oval and tear-drop shaped bifacial hand-axes, cleavers, and small fakes (small chipped stones). Quite a number of tools discovered at the lowest buried Acheulian levels indicate that they were brought from elsewhere and only the final shaping was done at Attirampakkam. This is not unexpected: hominins using Acheulian tools were

highly mobile.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

RADICALISM MUST TREAD GENTLY ON LEGEND AND TRADITION

The revolutionaries of the 20th century were, admittedly, influenced mostly by the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the Germanic notion of 'stages', the on-the-ground example of the Russian Revolution and the voluminous theories it engendered, Euro-Centric, deterministic and in other ways flawed of course.  

The formulation included an observation that the capitalist epoch would obliterate things ancient and even new-formed opinions and prejudices would themselves be antiquated instantaneously (Communist Manifesto: section on 'Bourgeois and Proletarians').  What we witnessed is the opposite, but perhaps we are still not yet as far into the capitalist age as warranted by the description 'late capitalist' frequently used by some Marxists.

Marx also rubbished history and tradition and created the impression that revolutionaries and revolutions are 'revolution-bound' to abandon/destroy everything touched or smeared by the 'past'.  In the '18th Brumaire of Louis Napolean', Marx plays on Hegel's claim, 'all great world-historic facts and personages appear twice,' offering that the first time it is tragic and the re-enactment a farce.   What he failed to anticipate was that Marxism and its adherents would end up creating their own histories, develop their own iconography, temples and holy cows, and consequently their own tragedies and farces, although not in the order of Marx's formulation.  What did make sense and indeed made for healthy revolutionary practice was the question mark that he stamped on 'the past', including tradition, customs, prejudices and opinions.  His know-all followers, handicapped by the yes-no, black-white, either-or logical frame on which their gurus built the theoretical edifice that they came to regard as temple and consequently worship, unfortunately read question-mark as revolutionary license to rubbish and destroy.  They've not progressed much either in the elimination of 'tradition' or in bringing the exploited closer to emancipation. 

What is pertinent to this discussion is the fact that Marx had a point, even though it was vulgarized by his followers.  Marx predicted or at least hoped that man would in the end be 'compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind'.  There is very little in life that is 'compelling' and the compelling is as influenced by reason as by emotion, as much by cold logic as by burning blood.  The sobriety that Marx would have liked quickly gave way to fixation.  

It is perhaps an indicator of colonial servility that prevented many Marxists from discovering and/or acknowledging that Siddhartha Gauthama, our Budun Wahanse, had in less dogmatic and therefore more 'compelling' and sober ways outlined the importance of questioning 'tradition' and 'legend'.  'Do not believe in traditions and legends simply because they have been handed down for many generations,' the Compassionate One told the Kalamas in outlining the pithy and telling Charter of Free Inquiry, the Kalama Sutta.  What is recommended is not the wholesale abandonment of tradition and legend, but an informed and critical engagement with these elements.

Marx wrote that the tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living and warned that they are particularly heavy in 'revolutionary' moments, with 'revolutionaries' conjuring up the spirits of the past, borrowing from them names, battle slogans and costumes.  Marxists are as guilty of this error as any other 'revolutionaries'. 

It is true, is it not that we tend to treat legend and myth as fact? Are we not selective when we refer to history, prone to valourization of that which feeds our political project and suppression of that which is uncomfortable or disconcerting?   How ready are we to obtain a narrative of some reasonable degree of approximation by peeling off rhetoric and poetry?  Is it not true that people whose accounts of community and lineage are short on acceptable evidence often depend on ballad and slogan while rubbishing history as irrelevant? Don't those who belong to communities whose track record is made of bloodletting and pillage prefer political discourse to be limited to the here-and-now and do they not call for the virtual burning of books (that survived the arsonist adventures of fellow-practitioners of an earlier era) by outlawing 'history' from school curricula?  Is it not true that some faiths happily embellish the relevant doctrine by borrowing artifact, symbol and even tenet from other traditions and thereafter treat these as 'god-given', sacrosanct and exclusively owned by the faith from then to now and all time?  

The importance of questioning legend and tradition stems from a simple observation, i.e. such things are not cast in stone but are in fact products of contexts and histories.  That which makes sense in one context, i.e. in a particular time-space matrix need not necessarily have meaning in another.  The difference between the Marxian formulation and that of our Budun Wahanse is that the former is dogmatic and lends to finality whereas the latter advocates the exercise of reason and the application of logic taking into consideration all available facts pertaining to the context.  Underlining it all is the call for equanimity.  Budun Wahanse neither recommended the hard grip or fixation, nor did he advocate out of hand rejection. What is stressed is 'critical engagement'.   To the Kalamas he said, "When through the exercise of the intellect and the testing through observation and practice you discover that these things are bad, these things are blamable, these things are censured by the wise and these things when undertaken and observed lead to harm and ill, abandon them'.  That which is and that which was, by virtue of existence in the 'now' or in the 'past', respectively, are not necessarily good and/or wholesome.

 In the case of traditions and legends, the revolutionary would do well, I believe, to assess their dimensions, relevance and benefits. If they are indeed good, if they are not blamable, if they are indeed praised by the wise, and if, when undertaken and observed, they lead to benefit and happiness, then, as Siddhartha Gauthama advocated it would be logical to enter on and abide in them.  Not otherwise.  

A revolutionary, accordingly, is by definition, called upon to apply his/her critical gaze not only on that which he/she seeks to change but that which he/she considers 'articles of faith' as represented by relevant legends, myths and traditions. 

 Sabbe Satta Bhavantu Sukhitatta. May all beings be happy!

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

TECHNOLOGICALLY PUZZLED...  

BY B COMBER

What, I find myself increasingly wondering, is going on inside my computer? I press a button on the keyboard in order to tell it to do something or other and it whirrs a bit as though pondering the matter, while refusing to accept any other instruction or allowing me to retract the order I have given it. Eventually, it usually does get round to doing what I told it but often only after the passage of what, in computer terms, seems like a very long time. So what has been going on in its impenetrable thinking processes?

Now I do not know very much about what happens inside my computer but I know it has a lot of things plugged into other things and it stores and manages information and carries out instructions by turning things on and off and it's all done by electrons, or something like that, which travel at the speed of light, or pretty close to it.

Now light, I am reliably informed, travels at a speed of about 186,000 miles a second and the box in which all the whirring is going on is no more than a foot or so across and even if we have to allow a bit of extra time to get to the screen, the whole journey comes to nothing like 186,000 miles so, even for an elderly electron that is no longer as sprightly as it once was, the trip should be all over in the tiniest fraction of a second. So what is going on while it whirrs for minutes on end?

I'm pretty sure the electrons aren't just taking it easy or stopping to admire the view, because I have good reason to believe that they find it difficult travelling at much less than the speed of light even if they want to, unless it's remarkably cold or they are being forced to trudge through something very sticky.

There must therefore be something else happening inside my computer that is slowing down their progress.

Whatever it is, bearing in mind the confined space inside the wretched machine and the vast distances covered when you are travelling at a speed of 186,000 miles a second, these electronny thingies must be whizzing round in a vast number of circles, causing a great deal of congestion and forcing other electronny doodahs to come to a screeching halt every hundred-thousandth of a second or so.

Yet the silicon-based thinking contraption does eventually carry out the desired order if I wait long enough, which leads me to the conclusion that the electrons do not keep on colliding with each other like hadrons at CERN but are kept in order by a very efficient traffic control system.

I can see it all now. One electron applies its emergency brakes and stops to let another electron whizz past and a voice, talking very fast, says: "You are being held at a red signal. We should be moving shortly". Or the electron might be vrooming round in circles, as the voice says: "The next circle line electron is about a mile away and will arrive in approximately one 186,000th of a second. Services on all other lines are running normally."

It's the delays caused by a bug under the motherboard at Silicon Valley, however, that really give me cause for serious concern.

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Cell: - 0091-93131-03060

Email – samarth@samarth.co.in, central.office@samarth.co.in

Registered Office: Rajendra Nagar (East), Near Bhagwati Chowk, Lachchipur

Gorakhnath Road, Gorakhpur – 273 015

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