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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

EDITORIAL 12.04.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: editorial@samarth.co.in 

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Editorial

month april 12, edition 000804, 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. FIGHTING CORRUPTION
  2. FEAR OF FLYING
  3. IT'S A CIVILIAN COUP D'ÉTAT - SANDHYA JAIN
  4. FROM POLICING TO HURLY-BURLY OF POLITICS
  5. SPACE RACE: FROM ORBIT TO THE MOON
  6. ROUGH ROAD AHEAD FOR TUNISIANS -  KARIN LAUB

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. BATTLE OF COALITIONS
  2. SPACE AND BEYOND
  3. THE MAGNIFICENT ELEVEN - BORIA MAJUMDAR
  4. OTHER ENERGY SOURCES BETTER
  5. ENSURING A GREEN FUTURE - DEEP K DATTA-RAY
  6. BASHIR'S INDIAN REVOLUTION - ANAND SOONDAS

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. LET'S LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED - TIME FOR BABYTALK
  2. LOST IN THE BACKWATERS - LALITA PANICKER
  3. BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION - SUHEL SETH

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. RS 100, A SARI, A BOTTLE
  2. SCIENCE FICTION
  3. MERA WALA COLOUR
  4. A BAG OF BRICS - C. RAJA MOHAN
  5. WHAT THE DEATH FORETELLS - RIYAZ WANI
  6. THE SEEDS OF AUTHORITARIANISM - NEERA CHANDHOKE
  7. WHY TAR ALL POLITICIANS WITH THE SAME BRUSH? - MADHU PURNIMA KISHWAR
  8. THEY GOT THE GUNS, BUT WE GOT THE NUMBERS - ROGER COHEN

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

1.     SLIPPING ON OIL

2.     A NEW LANGUAGE

3.     LESSONS FROM THE DRAGON - ARINDAM BHATTACHARYA

  1. ENDING PLANT-LEVEL FERTILISER PRICING - YOGINDER K ALAGH

THE HINDU

  1. FIFTY YEARS SINCE GAGARIN'S FLIGHT
  2. CREATIVE ECONOMY AND DEVELOPMENT
  3. RUSSIA STANDS BY ITS REACTORS  - VLADIMIR RADYUHIN
  4. WIKILEAKS HAS PROVIDED THE CRITICAL CLIMATE FOR POLITICAL REFORM: ASSANGE

  THE ASIAN AGE

  1. MAKE GOVERNANCE MORE TRANSPARENT
  2. A HERO BY DEFAULT - ASHOK MALIK
  3. WHY ANNA GIVES IT THOSE ONES - PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE
  4. A BINARY REVOLUTION - PARANJOY GUHA THAKURTA

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. CHINESE KARAKORUM MENACE
  2. SAVE MUBARAK MANDI
  3. PANCHAYATI RAJ IN J&KWILL IT BE A MEASURE OF EMPOWERMENT OF PEOPLE.? - BY BALRAJ PURI
  4. FDI IN MULTI-BRAND RETAIL - BY NANTOO BANERJEE
  5. FIGHTING CORRUPTION - BY SRINIVASAN K. RANGACHARY

THE TRIBUNE

  1. NO POLICY ON LOKAYUKTAS
  2. SAVE GIRL CHILD
  3. PHONE TAPPING
  4. CHINA'S FOOTPRINTS IN POK - BY RUP NARAYAN DAS
  5. REMEMBERING YURI GAGARIN - BY SIMRITA DHIR
  6. THE BEATS OF CULTURAL CONVERGENCE  - MALLIKA SARABHAI
  7. BHANGRA ALL THE WAY - VANDANA SHUKLA

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. WELCOME, THE NEW TIGER

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. PLAYING FAVOURITES
  2. CORPORATE BANYAN TREES
  3. UNCERTAINTY, RISK AND DEVELOPMENT - SUMAN BERY
  4. THE MISSING LINK IN MULTIPLEX MARKETING - VANITA KOHLI-KHANDEKAR
  5. THE HAZARE FALL-OUT - A K BHATTACHARYA
  6. PAKISTAN - THE GUIDEBOOK APPROACH - NILANJANA S ROY

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. ONE LAW NOT ENOUGH
  2. REAL FIXES FOR REALTY
  3. GAME CHANGERS
  4. SWAVALAMBAN: A UNIQUE SUBSIDY
  5. THROUGH THE THIRD EYE
  6. FAULTY ANTENNA
  7. BUILDING TRUST WITH CHINA - RUP NARAYAN DAS
  8. ENLIGHTENING THE MASTER  - MUKUL SHARMA
  9. THE LINKED ECOLOGIES OF ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS  - RAKESH KHURANA

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. MAKE GOVERNANCE MORE TRANSPARENT
  2. A HERO BY DEFAULT
  3. PRESIDENT OBAMA: MISSING IN ACTION
  4. JAITAPUR PROJECT: TIME FOR RETHINK
  5. WHY ANNA GIVES IT THOSE ONES
  6. A BINARY REVOLUTION

THE STATESMAN

  1. RELEVANT QUESTION
  2. LOAN NOT CLEARED
  3. TIME RUNNING OUT
  4. PAKISTAN AT THE CROSSROADS!
  5. US SUPPORT VITAL TO UN SUCCESS, SAYS BAN
  6. WE NEED THE NETAS TOO - MADHU PURNIMA KISHWAR

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. FACE THE FACTS
  2. STOP PUSHING
  3. STRUGGLING WITH INDIA
  4. LAST STRAW  - MALVIKA SINGH
  5. A NON-VIOLENT LESSON IN A VIOLENT WORLD - SURENDRA MUNSHI

DECCAN HERALD

  1. KILLER EFFECT
  2. JUST RIGHTS
  3. ANNA SHOWS THE WAY -  BY SUDHANSHU RANJAN
  4. ON MY KNEES - BY J S RAGHAVAN
  5. CHINA'S WHITE PAPER: MORE SOUND THAN LIGHT - BY RUP NARAYAN DAS TIMES FREE PRESS
  6. 'DEBT CEILING' IRRESPONSIBILITY
  7. 'DEBT CEILING' IRRESPONSIBILITY
  8. THE 212TH COMES HOME
  9. OVERDUE REVERSAL ON TERRORIST TRIALS

HARARETZ

  1. PARTNERS, NOT ENEMIES
  2. FALSE ALARMS  - BY MOSHE ARENS
  3. WHAT ELSE NEEDS TO BE UNCOVERED?  - BY MOSHE MIZRAHI
  4. AN EQUATION WITH TWO UNKNOWNS - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  5. ON THE WAY TO AUTHORITARIANISM - BY GABI SHEFFER

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - DEMOCRACY STARTS FROM WITHIN PARTIES
  2. TURKEY'S LIBYA DILEMMA GROWS - SEMİH İDİZ
  3. THE ARAB SPRING, THE KURDISH SUMMER - KADRİ GÜRSEL
  4. INSIGHTS ON THE KURDISH ISSUE - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  5. NEW CHP, NEW NAMES - YUSUF KANLI
  6. ARE ECONOMISTS DEPENDABLE? - ERDOĞAN ALKİN
  7. WHY ANKARA SHOULD NOT BE HELPING IRAN GO NUCLEAR - AVI JORISCH

THE NEWS

  1. DRONES DIE OUT?
  2. THE MQM PROMISE
  3. SUFISM AND THE TERRORIST SCOURGE
  4. S IFTIKHAR MURSHED
  5. THE WHITE HOUSE REPORT - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  6. DEVOLUTION FUNDAMENTALISTS VS HEC CHAMCHAAS - MOSHARRAF ZAIDI
  7. WHY NOT A 20TH AMENDMENT?  - TASNEEM NOORANI
  8. MARCH OF FOLLY - DR MALEEHA LODHI
  9. FOR INTERFAITH HARMONY  - RIZWAN ASGHAR

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. LISTEN ALTAF ON BALOCHISTAN
  2. REDUCED DEVELOPMENT FUNDING
  3. BRIDGE ENERGY SHORTFALL RIGHT NOW
  4. UNREST IN PAKISTAN & ARAB WORLD - DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI
  5. HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN INDIA - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  6. US ENDGAME IN LIBYA - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  7. TERROR THREAT FAR FROM OVER - LUBNA UMAR
  8. US IS BACK IN THE 'SMART POWER' GAME - LEWIS M SIMONS

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. COMING TO THE DEFENCE OF WOMEN IN FORCES
  2. PROTECTING SCIENTIFIC EXPERTISE

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE HUMAN FACTOR IN DEFENCE
  2. POKIES WRAPPED IN THE FLAG
  3. CYCLISTS SHOULD KNOW WHEN TO STOP
  4. BEWARE FALSE SAVINGS IN MEDICAL RESEARCH

THE GUARDIAN

  1. BANKING: BIG BRAINS, SMALL IDEAS
  2. IVORY COAST: FALL OF A DESPOT
  3. IN PRAISE OF … YURI GAGARIN

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. RECONSTRUCTION AFTER THE DISASTER
  2. REFIGURE A WAY TO RENEW JAPANESE SOCIETY - BY MICHAEL SUTTON
  3. A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR SUSTAINING GROWTH - BY JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ AND OTHERS

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. TO WHOM DO THEY LISTEN?
  2. INTEGRATED EFFORT TO RESTORE CITARUM - WAHYUNINGRAT
  3. WHY GEOTHERMAL IPPS HAVE YET TO SUCCEED IN INDONESIA - MONTY GIRIANNA

DAILY MIRROR

  1. PEOPLE POWER TO END CORRUPTION
  2. LAST ACT IN THE MIDEAST! - ANDREW J BACEVICH
  3. DOUSING THE FIRES OF HATRED  
  4. ARGUING ABOUT ACCOUNTABILITY
  5. ON MAKING VALID POINTS AND FUDGING CRITICAL ISSUES

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. FAR FROM EXTINCT - BY B COMBER

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

FIGHTING CORRUPTION

UPA REFUSES TO RATIFY UN CONVENTION


Almost a year before the Congress-led UPA came to power in the summer of 2004, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention Against Corruption to whose drafting and passage our diplomats posted in New York contributed in no small measure. The BJP-led NDA had taken a political decision to support the Convention and that was reflected in the energetic participation of India's Permanent Mission in the proceedings that led to the UNCAC's adoption by the General Assembly. Sadly, with the return of the Congress to power, and the arrival of a Prime Minister who is intrinsically opposed to taking a firm stand on issues related to corruption — for evidence, look at the terrible record of the Government he heads and his inability to comprehend the enormous damage that the loot under his watch has inflicted on the nation in more ways than one — the bureaucratic establishment in New Delhi and New York retreated from its earlier position and the Convention was all but forgotten. True, the Government did sign the Convention in 2005, but that was more out of necessity to be seen as keeping prior commitments than to see the UNCAC implemented. For, the Convention is meaningless as far as India is concerned unless it is ratified, which in our system means ratification by the Cabinet and appropriate notification of that ratification to the UN. Ostensibly this has not been done because the Union Government has not bothered to amend existing laws, or introduce fresh legislation, to put in place greater checks on corruption and ensure transparency. Seven years, it would seem, are not long enough for the Prime Minister to have focused on this crucial aspect of governance, although he has had the time to pursue elusive foreign policy objectives with the sole intention of earning a place for himself in history. It is noteworthy that reminders about India's pending ratification have been stoutly met with resistance from the Department of Personnel and Training, which reports to the Prime Minister, on the plea that matching mandatory reforms in Indian laws to bring them in line with the objectives of the Convention have not been initiated as yet. This, of course, does not answer the question as to why the Government has dragged its feet rather than act with decisive purpose.

Apart from aiming to strike at the root of much of corruption by seeking changes to make funding of political parties and election campaigns transparent, the Convention also seeks to enable Governments to track down and bring back illicit funds that have been parked by corrupt individuals, including public servants and politicians, in foreign bank accounts. Had India ratified the Convention, we need not have involved ourselves in tortuous negotiations with countries where tens of thousands of crores of rupees have been stashed by Indian businessmen, politicians and possibly bureaucrats. The Convention also seeks greater transparency at home by way of mandatory disclosure of funds and assets by public servants (including Ministers, members of all legislative and other elected bodies, and bureaucrats) and stiff penalties for concealment so that concealment of illicit wealth becomes difficult if not impossible. Needless to add, the Convention criminalises bribery and embezzlement as well as influence-peddling, which is also known as 'lobbying' of the variety that led to the 2G Spectrum scam. While the Government, more so the Prime Minister, owes an explanation to the nation as to why nothing has been done to meet the objectives set forth by the Convention to which we are a signatory, the Opposition too has a lot to answer for. The only voice we have heard in support of the Convention is that of Mr LK Advani. Since the NDA had taken extraordinary interest in the adoption of the Convention in the UN, the BJP should take up its ratification with matching interest.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

FEAR OF FLYING

FAKE PILOT SCAM REVEALS ROT IN DGCA


It all started when the pilot-wife of an IPS officer used the nose wheel of her IndiGo aircraft, instead of its rear landing gear, to land at Goa airport on January 11. When Captain Parminder Kaur Gulati flew back to Delhi, the nose wheel had developed a snag thanks to the pilot's faulty landing technique. Further investigations revealed that Captain Gulati had submitted fake mark sheets to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the Government body that serves as an industry watchdog. By the time Captain Gulati was arrested on March 8, her case had opened up a proverbial can of worms from which had wriggled out a particularly slimy one by the name of Garima Passi. The pilot- daughter of a top DGCA officer, Ms Passi was involved in two separate landing incidents while training in the US and had returned to India without a license. Here, of course, her poor flying skills did not prevent her from becoming a pilot, given that her father was then the Director of Air Safety at the DGCA. How ironical that the man who was responsible for the safety of millions as they flew 30,000 feet above ground would give his own daughter the license to kill? Sadly, in the past few weeks authorities have found a slew of such commanders and co-pilots with fake certificates and till date, they have only screened one third of India's 4,500 pilots.


Additionally, the fact that three DGCA officials and three flying school members have been held while all 40 flying schools in the country are under investigation speaks volumes about the the flying school-DGCA-politician nexus that lies at the heart of the 'fake pilot scam'. Industry rules require aspiring pilots to clock at least 200 hours in flying time and take several examinations before they get their licenses. Instead, instructors at flying schools 'sell' flying hours — only 50 hours will suffice — and then manufacture fake mark sheets in collusion with corrupt officials at the DGCA examination cell that ultimately produce 'fake' pilots who have no idea what to do when they take their seat in the cockpit. The fact that most flying schools enjoy political patronage makes it particularly difficult to bring them under the scanner. As a result, when you board a domestic flight in India today, you may as well be riding a death machine. In fact, if you thought terrorists were the only ones trying to kill you in-flight, think again!

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

IT'S A CIVILIAN COUP D'ÉTAT

SANDHYA JAIN


The inclusion of 'civil society' representatives in the drafting committee of the Lok Pal Bill raises several discomfiting questions. Where are we headed as a nation?


Since RTI campaigner Arvind Kejriwal was micro-managing Anna Hazare's drive for a Lok Pal Bill conforming to one drafted by select activists claiming to represent civil society, and as this Bill will yield an institutional structure giving sweeping powers to a certain ideological clique, it may be in order to demand accountability from activists associated with this Lok Pal movement.


Readers may recall that under electoral reforms made by our defamed politicians, candidates for public office have to declare all assets and monies held by them, their spouses, and minor children, before the Election Commission at the time of filing nominations. Bureaucrats make declarations to relevant authorities at the Centre and in the States.


As the Lok Pal Bill activists derive their clout from involvement with the Right to Information legislation, this writer hereby submits an open RTI application on behalf of the nation. We demand that all prominent persons supporting civil (read a chosen faction) participation in drafting a new Lok Pal Bill, make full disclosure of all personal assets and monies held by them, their spouses and minor children.

 

Disclosures must cover assets and monies of NGOs they run directly or are associated with, complete with details of projects, funding and utilisation, diversification of funds (if any). The institutional revelations must extend to trustees / board members of these NGOs, to reveal links with current or retired civil servants and / or politicians. And since prominent NGOs tend to corner a disproportionate share of Government funding, they should henceforth submit to the scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.


As for Anna Hazare, he has repeatedly shifted the goalposts of his agitation — from civil society participation in drafting a 'Jan Lok Pal Bill' jointly with Government, to membership of the joint committee, to naming its leadership. In his haste to achieve results, Anna Hazare repeatedly invoked Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the National Advisory Council, and urged her to make the Prime Minister concede on chairmanship of the draft committee and notification.


This forced Ms Gandhi to come forward and urge him to end his fast, with diplomatically worded assurances. Her foray into the domain of the executive and the legislature discomfited even Congress stalwarts, not to mention outfits like the Samajwadi Party, which questioned the creation of legal structures not derived from Parliament, and entrusting power to unelected crusaders with unknown agendas and ample funds to whip up moderate street participation.


The Hazare saga has ended; but the real fate of the draft and legislation lies ahead because what was attempted was a palace coup to destabilise Mr Manmohan Singh. It was a calibrated urban relay-revolution tapping into the Facebook-Twitter crowd's quest for a 'worthy cause' to espouse, with prime time TV playing ball with the patrons of the draft. But there are limits to the attention span of Twitterwallahs, and as IPL 4 grabbed eyeballs on April 8, the Hazare camp began cracking under pressure as many owed their prestige to Government patronage and could not afford scrutiny; a compromise was quickly sewn up to retreat from Jantar Mantar.

The spectre of a civilian coup d'état becomes clear as one peruses the draft of the 'Jan Lok Pal Bill' which seeks to subsume the Central Vigilance Commission so that political leaders and officials come under its ambit, as also the Judiciary. This Lok Pal will have police powers to file FIRs, chargesheet the accused, and file cases. It will have judicial power to conduct judicial hearings, send people to jail, and seize private property.


The Prime Minister's Office would fall in its ambit, something all Governments have resisted, even though Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee was personally willing to be covered by the Lok Pal, and the present Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, has nothing to fear from it. The issue, obviously, is about the prestige of the office, not the person manning the post. Worse, this 'Jan Lok Pal Bill' seeks to make decisions of the Lok Pal and State Lokayuktas binding and final. These include powers to dismiss corrupt officials, including judges and politicians.

It does not take a rocket scientist to see that as there is an overlap in membership of the 'Jan Lok Pal' draftees and Ms Sonia Gandhi's publicly-funded National Advisory Council, both the draft Bill and the agitation to inflict it upon the nation draw strength from the NAC.


The draft Bill is nothing more than an Uber Ordinance trying to force Parliament to enact it into an Uber Law in order to make the NAC the de jure power of the nation. With such totalitarian powers at its command — equivalent to wielding Emergency-style powers without invoking an Emergency and without needing parliamentary endorsement for any action — Ms Sonia Gandhi and her coterie will elevate themselves into the ranks of awesome leaders.


One admires the breathtaking audacity. The only institution they dared not touch (in the first instance) is the Armed Forces. One shudders to think of our fate should they ever acquire powers to meddle with national security.

Since this proposed Hyper Government of NGO-Kings must be selected and validated by a hyper-elite club, the proposed selection committee inter alia includes: The chairpersons of both Houses of Parliament; two senior-most judges of Supreme Court; two senior-most Chief Justices of High Courts; chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission; Comptroller and Auditor-General of India; Chief Election Commissioner; Bharat Ratna award winners (a ruse to include foreign nationals like Amartya Sen who managed the mysterious academic credentials of Mr Rahul Gandhi); all Nobel Laureates of Indian origin (possibly the Chemistry laureate with an American wife); and the last two Magsaysay Award winners of Indian origin (whose contributions to society were hardly known till they received the stamp of approval from the Rockefeller Foundation).

Interestingly, the claim that the 'Jan Lok Pal' draft compares with the powers of the Hong Kong ombudsman is untrue. The Hong Kong ombudsman has no powers of prosecution; he merely submits a report to the Chief Executive; and is appointed by politicians. Actually, no country in the world permits civil society nominees to initiate prosecution against citizens, and judge and punish them. It decapitates the constitutional separation of powers. Ms Sonia Gandhi must explain why she wants such powers for a band of moral pretenders owing allegiance to her.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

FROM POLICING TO HURLY-BURLY OF POLITICS

MAMATA BANERJEE HAS HAND-PICKED FIVE FORMER SENIOR POLICE OFFICERS TO CONTEST THE WEST BENGAL ASSEMBLY ELECTION ON THE TRINAMOOL CONGRESS'S TICKET. EACH ONE OF THEM HAS HAD A DISTINGUISHED CAREER IN UNIFORM. NOW THEY PLAN A CAREER SHIFT. SUTAPA MUKERJEE PROFILES THEM


Joseph Wambaugh would have been rather inspired had he been here in West Bengal at this time: Like most of the heroes in his books, the men we are referring to are all (retired) police officials. These officers who on duty have often been compelled to compromise with their principles, now feel unleashed to give their aspirations full throttle in their new avatar — The five cops have been hand-picked by the All-India Trinamool Congress to contest the Vidhan Sabha election this time.


Let us begin with Mr Upen Biswas who is an AITMC candidate from Bagda constituency in the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. His story seems out of pages of a Shakespearean tragedy. Like Julius Caesar he was 'thrice presented a kingly... He would not take the crown (read candidature). Therefore it is certain he was not ambitious.' It was almost 25 years back that his admiration began for a 'young fire- brand leader' in Bengal. "You may say it has been a case of 'situational variable'. I found it difficult to reject the offer this time when I realised Ms Mamata Banerjee was on the lookout for an investigator, a criminologist and a sociologist. I knew I would well fit the bill, and that was it." While posted as Additional Director-General in CBI, he came into limelight when he investigated the 'fodder scam' (where Mr Lalu Prasad was accused).


No matter what, "I have never compromised with honesty", says Mr Biswas. His adherence to 'truth' has put him through immense tribulations but he never gave up. But politics is not a clean game either? Coming to politics is a challenge for me. I may be successful in cleaning up some of the murk that has infiltrated our State."

The academician-retired senior cop has a mission: "It is my dream to bring retribution. The injustice meted out to the refugees in Marichjhapi in 1979 is something that haunts me every day. I shall not rest in peace till I bring the criminals to task." As a political leader, if given a chance, he dreams of constituting a commission for each of the alleged 'State-sponsored massacres in West Bengal' that have taken place under the prevailing Government. But there is one dream that prevails above all others — revenge of the Marichjhapi killings. So much so he literally wears the pain around his neck. "Can you see this locket?"


A tiny locket hangs from a chain around his neck on which is inscribed-Marichjhapi. "If I succeed in my mission this will be taken off and if I don't this locket will be burnt with my body after I die." Just like Mr Biswas, Mr Rachhpal Singh, yet another retired IPS too wants to avenge all the injustice that he had to endure and sometimes face the scorn of the 'ruling party'. He is contesting from Tarakeshwar. Mr Rachhpal Singh is willing to share all the pains and losses he faced as an IPS officer in West Bengal. Mr Rachhpal Singh goes on to describe how in 1993-94 he had single-handedly nabbed 14 Khalistani terrorists from different spots in West Bengal. "I was shocked when the then Chief Minister Jyoti Basu wasted to get rid of their trial here and shifted the charge to Punjab Police — this was against the law. In Punjab all 14 were killed in different encounters. The terrorists then targeted my family, kidnapped my brother and killed him." Through the political platform, he hopes he can bring back 'law' in Bengal. "The loss of my brother has left a wound that shall never heal."

He says that his admiration for Ms Banerjee began when 'she was at Singur fighting for the deprived peasants'. At that point he decided to join Ms Banerjee in her crusade against the existing Government.

His stories of pain are unending. He says how everything here in Bengal has been in the mercy of the party cadre. Though no one takes the risk of opening up during their service period, Mr Rachhpal Singh states how most of the police officers are extremely frustrated in Bengal. The districts are worst-hit where the district secretary of the CPI(M) through a union (only of its kinds in the country) form a Non-gazette police karamchari samittee. Transfers, postings and so on are prescribed by this union.


This officer had been nominated for Gallantry Award thrice and 'each time the then Home Minister (present Chief Minister), Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee removed my file.' Filled with remorse this man wants to fight a battle to bring back justice for all and a turn the State to a worthy enough place where IPS officers can follow the law and not be guided by the whims of a political outfit.


As far as the whims of the Chief Ministers and their party men are concerned, Mr Aboni Joardar (retired IPS) too has an axe to grind. He is contesting from his hometown, Krishnanagar Uttar constituency. In conversation with this correspondent he stated, "Let me tell you something, Ms Banerjee never forgets anything. She remains grateful to people who have been good to her in any way." After this somber statement he relates an incident... Ms Banerjee in 1992, as an MP had brought a deaf and dumb girl to the Writers' Building. Her purpose was to show the Chief Minister (Jyoti Basu) the kind of physical atrocities the party men had brought to this young girl. When Ms Banerjee was not allowed inside the Chief Minister's office, she sat in a 'dharna' outside. As the DC Calcutta central Division, the Writers' Building was under Mr Joardar's charge. Orders came that he should arrest her. Reminiscences Mr Joardar, "I voiced my opinion; I stated that Law says it is not right to arrest someone known who is in dharna, besides it is a bailable offence. So why go for it?" The Police Commissioner then by-passed me and gave charge to another senior cop and Ms Banerjee was put in lock-up."


Once there, Ms Banerjee refused to accept bail. Mr Joardar was ordered to go release her. Having left with no choice but 'follow the orders of the Police Commissioner' he did as was ordered but wrote a letter specifying that he was 'forced to work against my conscience'. He also sent a copy to the then Home Secretary. That was it, after this incident Mr Joardar was sent out of Kolkata and never again had a decent posting right till the end of his services.


What moved him that night was that "finally Ms Banerjee conceded and moved out of the lock-up when I pleaded with her. I realised she was very perceptive when she said, 'I can see you are under tremendous pressure and I don't want you to be in more trouble'."

If Mr Joardar's admiration started one night in a Police Station, Mr Sultan Singh took a liking for the AITMC leader when he stayed at a railway bungalow in Alipore, Kolkata. He says he was taken in by 'Ms Banerjee's simplicity and no-airs'. She would often seek his help to deal with the visitors who dropped by to meet her at her official residence (she was Minister for Railways — first stint) that was bang opposite Mr Sultan Singh's. He adds, "Besides, politicians and police always get to know each other well."


So what is so special about 'Didi' that brought Mr Sultan Singh to join her party? "The fact that she loves her State passionately and above all she has been very daring and focussed in uprooting the CPI(M)." He adds his purpose now, "You see I am here not dreaming to be a Minister, but I am here to support Ms Banerjee. I believe in being a karmyogi. As the Gita specifically mentions, Karm kiye jaa, fal ki chinta na kar (Work steadily but do not ponder over the results)." Mr Sultan Singh is a TMC candidate from Bally.


Almost sharing the same sentiments is his one time colleague in the Government, retired IPS officer Haider Aziz Safwi (now, TMC candidate from Uluberia Purba), who served the State for 38 years. He admits, "It is Ms Banerjee's determination and courage that drew my attention and admiration for the Lady." The grouse remains the same, "It was not easy working with the CPI(M). Those who spoke their language had a cushy time or else it was very tough. Throughout their rule all the governmental institutions have been over-politicised. It is high-time things move the right way and I want to play an active role in bringing this change."

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

SPACE RACE: FROM ORBIT TO THE MOON

DURING THE 1960S THE US AND SOVIET UNION WERE LOCKED IN BATTLE TO BECOME THE WORLD'S LEADING SPACE POWER. KONSTANTIN BOGDANOV RECALLS THE COMPETITIVE JOURNEY OF BOTH THE NATIONS TO SPACE


In the 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a fierce battle to become the world's leading space power. Countless books and memoirs (mostly contradictory) have been written on the space race's tortuous beginnings, but without understanding the spirit of the times and the limits of what was considered possible then, it is impossible to grasp the significance of the first manned spaceflight and all that it has led to.


It was in the late 1940s that scientists began to seriously contemplate the possibility of using rockets to venture beyond the earth's atmosphere. During the 1950s, both the US and the Soviet Union conducted suborbital flights to gain experience in flight and telemetry and to study the upper atmosphere.


Between 1954 and 1956, the Soviet rocket designer Sergei Korolev developed a series of projects for manned rocket launches, which he claimed were sure to succeed. Meanwhile, the US was occupied with low-intensity suborbital launches. The Soviet Union had a chance to leap ahead in the space race, and the Soviet leadership took the risk.


The first major step towards launching a spacecraft into orbit came on August 21, 1957. After many mishaps, the world's first intercontinental ballistic missile R-7 lifted off from a test facility in Tyuratam (later Baikonur) and fulfilled its flight path.


Ill suited for use in combat due to its vulnerability during launch preparations, fuelling problems and low accuracy, R-7 proved valuable to the Soviet space programme. The USSR now had a tool to win supremacy in space.

The race intensified. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union used the rocket to launch the first man-made satellite, Sputnik. Ordinary Americans were shocked. (The famous American writer, Stephen King, has written about his childhood impressions of the launch.) The Soviets sent Sputnik into orbit, they wondered, and how about us?


It was the triumph of Sputnik that forced the US Administration to join the space race in earnest. Latecomers usually make little impact. Few can now remember the date the US launched its first satellite Explorer-1 (February 1, 1958). But it was a red-letter day for Wernher von Braun, the general designer of the Third Reich's rocket systems, the man who developed Germany's V-1 and V-2 'vengeance weapons'. At the same time, the US Administration launched the Mercury programme in a bid to speed up US efforts towards a manned orbital flight.

But time was running out. In 1959, the USSR set its sights on the moon: First, Luna-1 flew by it (January 2) and then Luna-2 made a hard landing (September 13). By 1960, work was underway at Tyuratam to send a human into orbit on the Vostok spacecraft.


On August 19, 1960, Sputnik-5 returned to earth with the dogs Belka and Strelka inside. It was the first time a living creature returned after being launched into orbit. On January 31, 1961, the chimpanzee Ham made a suborbital flight under the Mercury-Redstone programme. The superpowers were now going toe-to-toe in the fight to send the first cosmonaut into orbit. The Americans, however, were the runners-up.


"Two more successful launches and then a man," Korolev said firmly. His talent as a manager was unique: His decisions, however unconventional, always proved right in the end. The tests of the Vostok spacecraft on March 9 and 25, 1961, went according to schedule. But between these flights, tragedy struck the Soviet cosmonaut team: On March 23, Valentin Bondarenko, a cosmonaut-in-training, burned up in a pressure chamber during a practice session.


On April 12, 1961, Yury Gagarin became the first man in space in a spacecraft with a 50 per cent chance of success. "We just could not see all the risks involved," Boris Chertok, one of Korolev's assistants, said later. "Today no chief designer would have given the go-ahead to such a spacecraft."


On May 5, 1961, the US Mercury-Redstone programme finally delivered, but it was too late and the results were too unspectacular to grab the headlines. The Mercury-3 capsule with Alan Shepard on board just scraped the boundaries of outer space, reaching an altitude of only 186 km. The US Press for years afterwards tried to tout Shepard as the first astronaut, but a 15 minute suborbital flight is nothing compared the Gagarin's true orbit flight. And besides, Gagarin and the Soviets got there three weeks earlier. In Western countries, space enthusiasts have been celebrating "Yury's Night" (the equivalent of Russian Cosmonautics Day) since 2001.


On July 21, 1961, Virgil Grissom repeated the flight on Mercury-4. But the first real US orbital flight came on February 20, 1962 when John Glenn spent nearly five hours in orbit.


Meanwhile, the Soviet space effort — fueled by Korolev's ambition, Soviet engineers' tireless efforts and Gagarin's triumph — soldiered on. August 11, 1962 saw the formation flight of Vostok-3 and Vostok-4. On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova flew a mission. On March 18, 1965, Alexei Leonov performed the first space walk.


The Americans, meanwhile, were plodding along, making progress slowly but surely. The Gemini programme was already preparing astronauts and designers for the great leap looming on the horizon. On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy set for America the goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely home before the end of the decade.


The Americans had the Apollo programme, and the Soviets had Zond. The question was, who will get there first? The Soviet Union was clearly winning the race. Korolev's team was preparing plans for missions to the Moon and Mars.


But on January 14, 1966, Korolev died, and the Soviet space programme stalled. Vasily Mishin, who replaced him, did not have Korolev's ability to weigh the risks based on unerring instincts and a deep understanding of rocketry. Nor was he able to handle the growing conflicts between production men and designers, while at the same time withstanding the pressure of the military and politicians.


The writer is a Moscow-based expert in science and technology.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

ROUGH ROAD AHEAD FOR TUNISIANS

AFTER THE ARAB SPRING, THERE'S A SENSE OF FEAR IN TUNISIA THAT FREEDOM COULD SPIN OUT OF CONTROL, WRITES KARIN LAUB


In the new Tunisia, a store window in the capital displays books that were banned under the former regime. Protesters shout for jobs or justice almost daily on tree-lined streets. And after half-a-century of one-man rule, Tunisians can choose from more than 50 political parties.


Yet the freedom that is intoxicating Tunisia comes with a sense of fragility, a fear that it could spin out of control. So helmeted troops backed by armoured vehicles stand guard along the central Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis, and some buildings are ringed with barbed wire. Police have sealed off a plaza where Tunisians held days-long sit-ins not so long ago, and have fired tear gas to prevent new rallies there.


The contradictions playing out in Tunisia's streets show how this tiny country's burst of freedom is marred by a growing anxiety over the future. With elections coming up, liberals worry that democracy will bring the Islamists, perhaps the best-organised political movement in post-revolt Tunisia, to power. Economists fear that continued turmoil will scare off investors and tourists. And activists who helped drive out dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January are concerned his die-hard supporters will try to regroup.


At stake is more than Tunisia itself. Just as Tunisia's overthrow of Ben Ali sparked anti-Government uprisings across the Arab world, its success — or failure — in moving towards a stable democracy could once again send a strong signal to its neighbours.


"Tunisia has particular symbolic value as the first Arab revolution," said Mr Shadi Hamid, an analyst at the Brookings Doha Center. "If it (the transition) fails, and you see outbreaks of violence or low-intensity civil conflict, that is going to further the arguments of Arab autocrats that democracy equals chaos and instability."

One morning this week, several dozen activists sipped espressos at a sidewalk cafe on Avenue Bourguiba before their daily protest against the transition Government. They said they wanted more drastic change, including swift prosecution of the former oppressors, because they fear Ben Ali's supporters are plotting to regain power.


"We would like to cut with our past," said Tasnim Dridi, a 22-year-old student of Chinese, her hair covered by a headscarf. Her fellow protesters, drawn together by Facebook, included a woman draped in a red-and-white Tunisian flag, a hairdresser from a provincial town, university students and jobless men in their 20s.


The activists then marched across the avenue and shouted through loudspeakers, "Tunisia is for all!" But first, this country of 10.5 million people will need to rebuild a political system from scratch.


In coming days, the rules will be finalised for July 24 elections for a National Assembly that is to write a new Constitution. The Assembly will decide, among other things, whether Tunisia gets a presidential or parliamentary system, and whether separation of religion and state becomes part of the law.


Ben Ali's Government had nominally permitted some parties and groups to function, but secret police harassed, detained or even tortured activists to squash dissent. The dozens of parties formed or legalised since his ouster cover a wide range of ideologies, including socialist, conservative and Islamic.

But with little opportunity in the past to develop, even the Progressive Democratic Party, a political veteran, still

has the ad hoc feel of an underground movement.


At party headquarters, a cramped walk up in downtown Tunis, Arabic language posters on the wall celebrated recent post-revolt achievements, including the dismantling of the political police and of Ben Ali's party.

-AP

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

BATTLE OF COALITIONS

 

Last Saturday, Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi told this newspaper that there's nothing wrong in having a coalition government in Tamil Nadu and he'll head one for the next five years if the DMK fails to gain a simple majority in the upcoming assembly election. This remark reflects a realistic assessment of the emerging political situation in the state and the post-poll options available to the DMK.


With just a day left for the campaign to conclude, Karunanidhi seems to recognise that he has a tough task in hand, in winning the election as well as deciding his successor. That he, despite his 87 years, plans to head the DMK after the election is a clear signal to his two sons to hedge their leadership ambitions and contain factionalism in the party. A divided DMK is a loser and Karunanidhi, more than anyone, knows that. Similarly, he recognises that the DMK has little chance of winning a simple majority on its own: the party is contesting a mere 119 of the 234 assembly seats. The AIADMK too may fall short of a simple majority, unless, of course, it sweeps the polls. Forced to accommodate various allies, the party is contesting only 160 seats.


With no clear wave in sight for either of the fronts, voters in Tamil Nadu may, for the first time, deliver a fractured verdict, which will necessitate a coalition government. The DMK seems reconciled to that prospect and prepared for that eventuality. A confident AIADMK, on the other hand, has refused to discuss any scenario other than a clear victory in its favour. Karunanidhi's first pro-coalition government remark close to the polling day is also a signal to the Congress, which may be open to a post-poll deal with the AIADMK. The DMK and the Congress share an uneasy relationship in the state and that has reflected in the election campaign. Leaders of the two parties have argued the case for their alliance in front of the electorate, but the party cadre are a divided lot. The prospect of office could bridge the differences between the two parties and prompt the cadre to work together for the front's victory.


With no single issue dominating the campaign, the decisive factor in the election could turn out to be the collective strength of the coalitions. The two fronts are evenly matched in terms of representing various political and economic constituencies, but the AIADMK front has looked a more cohesive coalition. That could come handy since corruption, especially the 2G scam, didn't become the decisive electoral issue that many thought it would. The welfare measures introduced by the DMK government, especially through the public distribution system, and the numerous sops it has promised may contain the repercussions of inflation, a major contributor to the anti-incumbency sentiment.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

SPACE AND BEYOND

 

Yuri Gagarin's historic space flight 50 years ago to this day was more than a remarkable scientific breakthrough. Besides kicking off a 'space race' between the erstwhile USSR and the US, it fired the latent human desire to explore uncharted territory. Since then, not unlike the great naval expeditions of the age of discovery, space exploration has continued to be an object of exciting research and an index of technological prowess. From landing on the Moon to sending robotic probes to every planet of the solar system, man has steadily increased his footprint in outer space. The International Space Station, a perennial laboratory for astronauts, orbiting the Earth bears testimony to how far we have come. And given the almost exponential rate of technological advance, manned expeditions to Pluto and beyond over the next 50 years cannot be ruled out.

Change too is inevitable in the form and structure of space programmes. They have traditionally been funded by national governments. But thanks to budget cuts brought on by the recent economic slowdown Nasa, America's premier space agency, has been financially hamstrung and unable to push some of its ambitious projects. The deficit can only be made up through private sector participation and creating a viable commercial model for furthering space exploration. Space tourism, being pioneered by private entities such as
Virgin Galactic, could pave the way for greater interest and investment in space. With ambitious space programmes of their own, the implications are significant for India and China. Their desire to send manned missions to the Moon over the next decade is proof that Gagarin's legacy lives on.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

THE MAGNIFICENT ELEVEN

BORIA MAJUMDAR

 

The World Cup is history. It is time now to delve into the impact of this iconic tournament on the future of Indian sport. For starters, it has ensured that cricket, already perched at the very top of the sporting ladder in India, will have no competition in the foreseeable future. Cricketers have turned deities and corporate India will only help expand the size of the cricket industry in the aftermath of the competition. Brand cricket, thanks to the World Cup, is at an all-time high and is now considered the safest investment in trying to capture millions of eyeballs across the country. For 28 years the nation had waited for its moment. Now that it has finally arrived, it is only natural that its legacy will be long-lasting.


In the short term, the success of the World Cup will rub off on the IPL. With cricket reigning supreme as the opium of the masses, the talk of excessive cricket and saturation is no longer pertinent. While player fatigue is surely a factor, crowd or viewer fatigue is no longer a serious issue in the World Cup aftermath. Rather, the IPL comes as the perfect relaxant. While it will ensure that cricket fanatics will not have withdrawal symptoms in the post-World Cup scenario, it will also ensure that they don't have to follow the matches with nerves strained and fists clenched. With nationalistic passions no longer of consequence, fans can just continue to savour the World Cup success while enjoying their dose of cricket entertainment on offer in the IPL.


In fact, the IPL could not have come at a better time. Had the World Cup been followed by a tri-series or a bilateral series, the expectations from the Indian team would have been at their peak. From the world champions, the fans would brook no failure. Dhoni's boys are now expected to crush any and every opposition and win almost every game they play. Any failure would be looked upon as a major let down in the post-World Cup context. A win is par for the course and a loss an aberration. In such a scenario, the IPL is the best thing to happen to Indian cricket. Fans will have their cricket demands fulfilled without having to turn jingoistic or without having to give vent to their nationalist ardour. While you can continue to see your favourite stars in action, you can watch them in a far more indulgent manner in the IPL.

 

With the short-term legacy benefiting the IPL, the long-term legacy is expected to strengthen the foundations of the game in India in a manner similar to what had happened after India's first tryst with cricketing destiny on June 25, 1983. All it took was the excitement and energy following that one victory, India's first World Cup win. That evening, what used to be a mere sport was converted into a lucrative career option, and cricketers into default national icons. And from then on, Indians - and along with them, the rest of the region - began to look to cricket as both a relaxant and something into which to channel their energies, patriotic and otherwise. Soon enough, the corporate world would take note - and the rest of the world would follow. The big difference between then and now is the well-developed nature of the Indian media industry. If the media could appropriate the sport then and convert it into the nation's singular passion, the impact of the 2011 win is expected to be far more dramatic.


Post-1983, the game came to be perceived as a viable path to fame and income for middle- and lower-middle class Indians. Post-2011, cricket, it can be conjectured, will no longer be restricted to urban middle-class India. With Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina already setting the stage, it will hardly be a surprise if small towns rule the Indian cricket landscape over the next decade. Also, 2011 has offered the media the event they needed to build hype around and portray cricket as the salve for a troubled nation. Today, no hyperbole can capture the importance of cricket in the everyday life of the country. And the reason for this can be traced to one of modern India's most sensitive dichotomies: India is the world's second-most populous country, but its global sporting presence remains relatively insignificant. On the world sporting stage, although desperately trying to edge itself into the circle of super powers, India has not quite made it, our recent Asian and Commonwealth Games successes notwithstanding.


As a consequence, cricket has become integral to defining the culture of post-colonial India, a country anxious to define its position in a world rapidly changing and characterised by globalisation and growing interdependence. This is because the fortunes of the Indian cricket team encapsulate the story of post-colonial India in microcosm: a tapestry being woven around the performance of 11 men, who carry on their shoulders the hopes and demands of a country of a billion. The World Cup's lasting legacy can be best summed up, then, by stating that it has made sure the widely-voiced aphorism is true: for us Indians, cricket is much more than a game.

The writer is senior research fellow, University of Central Lancashire.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

OTHER ENERGY SOURCES BETTER

 

Beijing has jumped onto the biofuel bandwagon, and in a big way. Thailand is the world's biggest exporter of cassava chips - used for making ice cream, paper, and a host of other products. But most importantly, it happens to be one of the crops that are used to produce biofuel. And that is why 98% of its cassava chips exports last year went to China. Given that Beijing is looking to secure more energy supplies to keep pace with its rapidly growing needs, it isn't surprising that it has started looking seriously at alternatives to hydrocarbons. But by emulating the US and other countries and plumping for biofuels, it has made a serious misstep.

Biofuel evangelism started in the 1970s and was at its peak in the following decades. But over the past few years, there has been a mounting pile of evidence that going the biofuel route can cause more harm than good. There are two broad reasons for this. One, of course, is economic.
World Bank reports, among others, have come to the conclusion that the growth of the biofuel industry has a serious impact on food scarcity and food inflation the world over. The more arable land is diverted to growing biofuel crops, the less there is for cultivating food crops. US markets have seen major distortions in the food market because of ethanol subsidies while there has been food scarcity in Mexico because of the diversion of corn for ethanol production.

The other reason is environmental. Ironically enough, biofuels, supposed to help clean up the environment, actually end up polluting it more given that more energy is put into producing a gallon of many kinds of biofuels than is contained in it. Far better, then, to look to other sources of truly renewable energy - solar, wind and hydroelectric. The time for biofuels has come and gone.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

JUGULAR VEIN

ENSURING A GREEN FUTURE

DEEP K DATTA-RAY


Criticised for driving up food prices, our increasing reliance on biofuels however manages an urgent need. Biofuels require no new innovation, yet are an effective tonic for our dependency on dirty polluting fossil fuels. All that's needed is to grow more biofuel friendly crops such as corn, sugar and palm oil. Such farming pays better and appeals to farmers, and not just to the super-sized western variety. Starch rich cassava is a case in point. Most of it is grown in Thailand and China buys nearly all of it. However, despite all these benefits, opposition to biofuels is inexplicably mounting.


To cave into this resistance would be disingenuous because biofuels offer the tantalising possibility of a leap to an altogether new energy cycle. Changing one's ways is always painful, but we must because of what's at stake. The future of our world is threatened by green house gases. Ensuring that the cycle is realised could also eliminate the food inflation bandied about as the chief reason to stop the transition to biofuels. That's because the very inflationary food pressures people complain of now are bound to catalyse innovators to reduce those prices. The example of Thomas Malthus shows how. In 1798, he predicted that the world's population would drastically shrink because there wouldn't be enough food to feed everyone. But he was superseded by technology and the Green Revolution ensured that his dire predictions never came to pass.


Biofuels are practically as old as the industrial age and were first used for cars by Rudolf Diesel - the inventor of the diesel engine - in 1893. Yet they're only now becoming part of our energy mix. Disseminating what is actually a very old technology and free from patent also means that countries on the verge of industrialising can do it in an environmentally friendly way. In short, we can't focus on the short-term and sacrifice the long-term benefits of biofuels.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

BASHIR'S INDIAN REVOLUTION

ANAND SOONDAS

Kadir Bashir wasn't too pleased to hear that my favourite Indian film was not Fanaa. And when i told him it wasn't even in my top 100, he looked crestfallen. "But that blind girl is more beautiful," the Jordanian who's now made Geneva his home pleaded. Bashir uses 'more' to mean 'very' and it took me a while to fathom that. Every time i asked him more than who, he would say, "More, more beautiful, mister."


Another favourite film of his, he told me at the Geneva chocolate store i met him in, was Veer-Zaara. But this time i didn't want to disappoint him, so i said i watch Veer-Zaara at least once every month and that i get withdrawal symptoms if i don't. He gave me a happy smile at that and said, "It's number 1 for my wife."


As he wanted to talk to me about India, i walked with him a bit instead of flagging down a taxi to the Geneva Auto Show, where i was headed. As we strolled past the Grand-Theatre opera house, he pointed to Guillaume Henri Dufour on horseback and said, "See, he was great man, so they made him statue." Saying there were other famous Swiss like the 19th century general, Bashir added with a flourish to show off his knowledge of the city and the country that he had adopted a decade ago that all of them had been turned into statues.


I asked him if the revolutions of the Middle East would eventually see the back of Jordanian king Abdullah II, who after firing his government, is now apparently on the path to greater reforms. But Bashir wasn't too interested in answering questions about his country of birth. "I don't know," he said. "I am here in Switzerland. There are no revolutions around." He had a theory about revolutions, not terribly incisive but interesting. Citizens go against governments when there are more cops on the street than common people, he said with some authority. As Bashir announced this, he looked at me in anticipation of praise for his deep analysis of nations in turmoil. When he saw none coming, he turned his attention again to India. Some of his wife's cousins, he said, lived in Old Delhi. Then, as if to surprise me with what he was convinced would be a great revelation, he said, "I have been to India, you know. Seven days. More beautiful."


He liked the food, he said. "Spicy." He liked the women too. "Spicy", he said again. But wasn't he with his wife? "Yes, yes," he said vehemently, denying all bad intentions. "Nothing wrong in telling Indian woman beautiful. Even my wife find Fanaa blind girl more beautiful."


There were two regrets he was carrying, though. One was that he could not see the wonderful palaces of Rajasthan he had been told so much about by his Old Delhi kin-in-laws. The other was that he couldn't go to Agra. But he did fulfil his dream of watching a Bollywood movie on the big screen. Did he have fun? Yes, he said. In the toilet he saw a man unbutton his shirt, pull out a thread and hang it around his ear until he was done. "That was fun," he grinned. "Do you do that?"


If there was something that left him sad, it was the way the taxi-wallahs scalped him. "Same journey with my cousins, hundred rupees. Same journey with me and wife, four hundred. Here, you go to prison for that. No one do that. Get me no wrong, you live in great country, but i see that everywhere, in hotels, markets, streets. This lying, always cheating. No good at all. Gives you bad name. If India need revolution, it is against this." Corruption? "Yes," he nodded, solemnly. "More bad."

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

LET'S LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED

Misfortune and bloodshed seem to visit themselves on Kashmir as relentlessly as the Furies in a Greek tragedy. The latest round of disquiet follows the recent assassination of Jamiat-e-Ahli-Hadees' Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah, a moderate cleric though of the puritanical Wahabbi mould. Since unknown gunmen carried out the dastardly act, speculation - a potent catalyst for violence - is rife on who killed the Maulana who was vocal against all forms of violence in the Valley. Last year, he had openly condemned the stone-pelting incidents, saying that such disruptive activities were un-Islamic. For his stand, he earned the ire of hardliners like Syed Ali Shah Geelani. In fact, after his killing, Mr Geelani termed the incident as the "the handiwork of the anti-Kashmiri and anti-Islam". Other than the fact that the Valley has lost a strong moderate and calming voice, comments like these have the potential to stir up another round of violence in the state.

While it is very important to nab the Maulana's killers as soon as possible and ensure that justice is done, the government should also consider Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq's proposal. In a positive move, the Mirwaiz has called upon New Delhi to facilitate the establishment of a Kashmir group in Parliament, comprising senior representatives of major political parties and Kashmiri representatives. In the same breath, however, he also talked about engaging Pakistan - a plan that is sure to not go down well with New Delhi. The killing also gives credence to what senior Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Bhat had said last year that murders like these could be the handiwork of people who see any kind of dialogue process and movement on the Kashmir issue as antithetical to their cause. The Indo-Pak Mohali bonhomie and also the positive response the three central interlocutors have received in the state must be worrying to such people. While Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front's Yasin Malik has promised not to resort to street fights and protests, there will be many others who may see this as an opportunity to trigger another round of violence. The challenge will be to contain such moves. This killing, though regrettable, should be an opportunity for the separatist parties to look into the negative culture of violence in the state and weed out those who threaten to kill moderate voices and any move for peace in the state.

Unlike in earlier instances, chief minister Omar Abdullah reacted quickly and visited the family of the slain religious leader. In the world of politics, such gestures can go a long way in calming nerves and lowering the chances of debilitating violence.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

TIME FOR BABYTALK

If ever an icon has united this vast and complex land of ours (way more than cricket or Bollywood), it must be the slightly podgy 'Amul girl' in a polka-dotted dress, focused on her buttered slices of bread but an earnest observer and commentator on all things Indian. Also known as the 'Amul baby', for once, she seems to have found herself more at the centre of news than the sidelines from where she usually supplies her witty observations. The controversy is as ancient and elemental as humanity itself: the clash between the conflicting egos of youth and old age, how age actually withers and if the old order should yield place for the new.

The battleground, in this case, has been the verdant fields of Kerala, where the 87-year-old chief minister VS Achuthanandan is in running for a further five-year term in office. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is reported to have mentioned that Mr Achuthanandan, in case he wins, will be 93 around the time of the next elections. Miffed at the arithmetic, the latter has called Mr Gandhi an 'Amul baby'. The comparison is baffling, considering Mr Gandhi is 40 years old; interesting, though of lesser consequence, is the fact that the iconic Amul ad representation itself was created 45 years ago.

We, who never like to miss out on the fine print, already see how Mr Achuthanandan has cleverly supplanted the 'Glaxo baby', representative of multinational interests and, therefore, anathema to an old guard Communist, with the 'Amul baby', the epitome of grass-root level cooperative success. Nor do we discount the possibility of that eternal cultural disconnect among regions north and south of the Vindhyas, whereby the 'babalogs' of the north transmute into the 'baby' of the south. In all this baby talk, one would have loved to hear what the girl in the polka-dotted dress might have to say.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

LOST IN THE BACKWATERS

LALITA PANICKER

In the sable darkness of the broken ribbon of a highway snaking across the north of Kerala, car headlights like mutant glow worms bounce about, blinding drivers. State transport buses leave you reeling in their tailwind, as they careen past the plush Audis, BMWs and Mercs favoured by the rich in this part of the fabled Malabar region. Yet this is a state with crippling unemployment and Gulf money alone does not explain the opulent lifestyles of the select few.

The runaway growth of mafias, whether in the sand business, construction or money-lending, under the benign eye of political parties is something everyone knows about, but few in the public eye ever speak about. So, as campaigning comes to an end in the enervating heat and dust, we are left with a sense that this most naturally magnificent of states is on a downward curve, let down by its unimaginative leaders and hobbled by its crippling social problems.

The run-up to the assembly election has been one of unrelenting negativity. The geriatric challenge from the Left Democratic Front (LDF) is tired enough to lull you into somnolence. Antediluvian rhetoric about exploitative capitalism, marauding private sector enterprise and shortchanging workers has ceased to have any relevance to the problems that Kerala faces. But if you thought that the United Democratic Front (UDF) was cutting a dash in the ideas department, you could not be more off the mark. Beyond telling the people everything that the LDF messed up on, it has no positive agenda.

The only amusing sidebar is the jousting on age, the octogenarian chief minister VS Achuthanandan being the butt of ageist jokes and his rasping riposte on youth being a deterrent to responsibility. Nothing at all, it would seem, is on the dhobi list for the people who despite knowing better seem to wait for some sign from their leaders much like in the plot of Elippathayam (Rat trap), the iconic film by Adoor Gopalakrishnan. In it, the protagonist, unable to deal with adversity in a feudal set-up withdraws like a rat into a hole. He is then unable to communicate with anyone including the villagers who wait for a word from him. But he doesn't stir from his intellectual slumber. This goes on for the most part of the film after which it comes to a gory end. If there are gory endings in Kerala, it will only be for people of the state which has very high alcoholism, unemployment, domestic abuse and morbidity, among other problems.

To its credit, the LDF government has provided a sort of subsistence lifestyle for the people, giving them higher pensions, some livestock and other forms of petty dole. But this has only served to knock the initiative out of them. Across Kerala, you will find many able-bodied young people whiling their time away in public spaces, their only occupation being to queue up for liquor when the shops open or head to the nearest toddy shop. With the alcohol comes domestic violence, which most women suffer in silence for fear of disapproval in an ultra-conservative society.

Despite high literacy levels, most people here seem to have little initiative or drive. Part of it has to do with the fact that militant trade unionism has wiped out private enterprise and hobbled agriculture in the state which now suffers from water scarcity. The tourism industry seems the only one which is thriving, but then it not nearly enough to even begin to address the problem of unemployment.

The dank, depressing, overgrown towns in the state form a startling contrast to the Gauguinesque beauty of the lazy lagoons with their Chinese fishing nets and the silvery waterways, once the lifeline of Kerala. On the election trail, one can't escape the gigantic hoardings on both sides of the serpent-tailed highways, almost all of them advertising gold. The women on the billboards seem to wear jewelry by the tonnage rather than grams, endowing them with the air of caparisoned pachyderms so popular in temple festivals. Bizarrely enough, the main model pedaling gold is not any sylph-like creature from the catwalk or nubile starlet, but a podgy Mohanlal, one of the most popular matinee idols in the state. At 50 plus, the jowly, pasty-faced actor is so in your face across the state that you might be forgiven for thinking you have wandered into a set of Attack of the Clones.

The lack of aesthetics does not end with the portly actor selling you necklaces and earrings, it extends to the sartorial horrors that you witness among people in general. Synthetics rule in the nausea-inducing humidity and frills and furbelows are a fashion statement, not to mention excessive amounts of sequins and zari. These eyesores are considered the height of glamour in Kerala where most people look like they have escaped from a particularly tacky C-grade movie set.

It may be fanciful to say this, but along with this abandonment of taste has also come a jettisoning of liberalism, whether it comes to embracing the market economy or accepting women as equals. This explains why both the LDF and the UDF have fielded a negligible proportion of women in the elections with the chief minister not hesitating to make the worst kind of sexist remarks against his female opponent.

The state which has produced some of the most erudite politicians, litterateurs, feminists, educationists and artists has today come to accept and celebrate mediocrity and sloth. Those who have made good have had to leave the state or have had the good fortune to be born into privilege. Kerala does not need just a change in political rhetoric and intent. It needs a paradigm shift in mindset which need not be politically driven. Its people have to stop being content with the small goodie bags given out in instalments by the political parties, they need to shake off their inertia and demand their rights.

The other less privileged states have left Kerala in their dust and there seems little prospect of it moving ahead at more than a snail's pace on its broken highways.

A new government will be in place very shortly, but whether Left or Right, it is clear that god will help those who help themselves. Something that should not be lost on people in the now clichéd 'God's Own Country'.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION

SUHEL SETH

If I were to believe every TV commentator during the last week then India has had two major victories: in the cricket World Cup and the people's movement, dubbed by many a Bollywood actor as the 'peacock revolution'. I find it silly, and the tragedy is that many of my friends in the electronic media didn't have the courage to carry a contrarian view. I have been amused by the many tweets I received imploring me to be at Jantar Mantar. Ironically, I saw the same kind of group at the Gateway of India that I had seen post-26/11. Except this time they were singing Gandhian bhajans and not lighting candles. Yes, the same people who are good at cleansing their guilt-filled souls and come out on such occasions, believing they've done their bit as citizens, but perhaps never come out and vote.

So what has Anna Hazare taught me?

That there is genuine anger against the establishment and it would be unfair to target only this government. We've seen corruption everywhere, including at the state level. Hazare has captured a sentiment and spun it brilliantly. What he also taught me is the latent disenchantment among Indians, especially the youth, and their rising angst. But then just letting them vent, as Hazare did, is only a part of the solution. How do you harness this angst to work for the people? We can't, as Hazare expects, be a nation of protesters hereafter. I fear that Hazare has lit a ticking timebomb, which will haunt our democracy in the days to come.

But the most critical thing Hazare has taught me is that the civil society movement has now been hijacked by another set of people. Earlier it was the Left, which got co-opted by Sonia Gandhi in the National Advisory Council (NAC). Today, it's a different set of people and, sadly, it is a bit like the George Bush syndrome: either you're with Hazare or you are not a patriot.

Now that Hazare has so many followers singing his paeans, why doesn't he float a political party and fight elections? I will vote for him. You can't live in a democracy, take advantage of the freedom of speech and then subvert it in the manner that has happened. Many can ask who is Hazare to decide who will represent civil society in the committee that will work jointly with the government on the Lokpal Bill.

The question that begs an answer is: have we created a different form of governance model over the last one week? Will these protests stop with the adoption of the Bill? I am afraid not. This, as Hazare rightly said, is only the beginning. Does this augur well for a functioning democracy?

Why doesn't Hazare take the cause to its lowest common denominator? In my conversations with SY Qureshi, the chief election commissioner, I have come away convinced that the movement against corruption must be a deterrent to people getting a ticket from their party to contest elections. Qureshi rightly says it is better to stop corrupt people from getting into Parliament than getting them to exit. So why don't we actually create a citizen audit, which puts pressure on the leadership of various parties to deny tickets to people with criminal records?

While there is no disagreement with the cause, I have reservations over the means we've adopted. They smack in the face of institutionalised democracy. In the last week, we shifted the centre of power from Parliament to Jantar Mantar. Where does it leave our democratic process? I wish Hazare had (and still does) focused on corruption at every level, which would mean not just identifying political parties but also people outside, who we know have created business empires by fixing the system. The silence against them is baffling. It will not help us get rid of this scourge of corruption.

In sum, it is a great movement but, like anything in India, it is fuelled by hype and tokenism without a clear strategy of what's next and how best to work with governments rather than against them. We can't ever have a situation where we put governments into a corner and blackmail them into involving the citizen in either policy-formation or nation-building. That would be disastrous. And not quite cricket!

(Suhel Seth is CEO of Counselage, a Delhi- based brand and marketing consultancy. 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

RS 100, A SARI, A BOTTLE

 

Anna Hazare made an odd statement. He explained that he would never seek to contest an election because he would lose — indeed, forfeiting his deposit, as the "ordinary voter does not have awareness. They cast their vote under the influence of Rs 100 or a bottle of liquor or a sari offered by candidates. They don't understand the value of their vote." The line between this disdain for the voter that Hazare expressed and the belief that he can nominate a committee to draft a bill is clear and damning. This institutionalises the contempt for established parliamentary democracy that Hazare has revealed, one he shares with those in the Indian urban elite who do not trust a state that rests on the votes of the poor and "illiterate" — votes they imagine are cast thoughtlessly and for a bribe. How much more efficient if these voters were reined in properly! What sensible governance could then be!

An echo of South Mumbai's post-26/11 "secession" refrain, this anti-democratic, anti-poor message was unfortunately, and hopefully unwittingly, hammered in during Hazare's press conference. He reminded us of his long campaign against voting machines, implying that elections were not won legitimately. He spoke out for the right to recall representatives — which would topple India's hard-won political stability. Even while showing disdain for the voters' wisdom, he yet demanded that voting should be compulsory, or at least that those who do not vote should lose access to public services. He claimed that voters should have the right to choose "none of the above" when they vote. But why should they want to choose that? Obviously, none of the above will not get them "Rs 100 or a bottle of liquor or a sari". The contradictions are obvious; the only thing more obvious is how Hazare is, hopefully unthinkingly, playing into an elitist disdain for parliamentary process. The most glaring contradiction: if 80 crore Indians — the number of voters — are so corrupt as to be bought for Rs 100, which Jan Lokpal will clean things up?

Of course, it is not a contradiction if one understands that such thinking holds in contempt everything that parliamentary democracy can deliver. Hence the elite's adoption of Hazare — these sentiments are so similar to the "we-won't-pay-taxes" rhetoric in Mumbai after the terror strike. Of late, some of India's elite, egged on by sundry babas and "spiritual" leaders, have hankered to cut democratic empowerment out, to rein in the choices of the poor. It is similar to the anger against reservation and affirmative action for disadvantaged classes, which was also expressed in terms of a yearning for good governance. The language of these activists could so easily turn against the people for whom they claim to speak.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SCIENCE FICTION

 

When a study by the reputed medical journal Lancet identified the NDM-1 "superbug", caused by the rampant use of antibiotics in Indian surgeries and transplants, India's medical community was furious. Now, as the journal claims that the bug has crept into public water sources, the government has swept aside the research with even greater force. Accusing the journal of a bid to defame New Delhi by the nomenclature (never mind the fact that it is standard practice to tag the place of origin), of motivated methodology, even of having illegally smuggled across samples for study, India's health officials have stooped to new lows. When confronted with a troubling study about their practices, why is their reflex simply to deny and stick their heads further into the sand? Lancet says that the Indian government "actively suppresses the truth by threatening and abusing their own scientists".

The fact that we overdose on antibiotics is no secret — doctors prescribe them even for mild infections, pharma hucksters incentivise them, patients demand them imagining themselves insufficiently treated without a full regimen. This blunts the effectiveness, by encouraging mutant microbial strains that can withstand the meds, with dangerous public health consequences. This is not India's special failing, many countries are guilty of antibiotic overuse and are only just developing stronger regulation. So why would our medical professionals and officials act as though this was a figment of an evil foreign imagination?

If our drug habit has caused a new enzyme that encourages microbial populations to resist treatment, that deserves serious contemplation, and immediate action. If, on the other hand, our government and scientists have a serious foundation to their dismissal of the Lancet study, then they should furnish proof, publish their rebuttal in an equally rigorous forum. Medical research cannot be led by an insecure government establishment that frames it in terms of national pride and insult, or reduces science to a question of clashing stories. Superbugs respect no borders, and ignoring the problem will end up endangering ourselves and the world. We need a responsible government, not one that treats scientists like sock puppets.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MERA WALA COLOUR

 

The colour code of cars can be a curious pointer to the way the automobile industry has evolved and expanded in this country. First it was just black, white and that peculiar hue that we call off-white of the Ambys and the Fiats that mostly lumbered on our roads. Then Maruti brought in its shocking red. With more car companies driving in, we got — and got used to — blues and yellows and such neologisms like that dubious, much-loved shade in India called champagne silver. Yet there was a catch. You could not paint the car the colour of your choice. You followed the hue dikats of the company; if it had only midnight black and cherry red, then you painstakingly chose one of those two. You played with the interiors, added a sunroof, got some whacky bumpers even, but in that colour-predestined world, you could not coat it with a shade of pink or mauve. Now, maybe, you would be able to.

The ministry of road transport has proposed allowing four-wheel owners to change the original colour of their car. A draft cabinet note for amending the Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) 1988, however, will require the car owners to get the colour-change endorsed on the registration certificate. Along with this, the note also proposes doubling or trebling the amount payable for offences such as over-speeding and jumping the traffic lights — moves meant to make the road that much safer.

What could change the roads in an entirely superfluous way would be the colour supplements, that mera-wala-purple offroader cruising by in custom-made hauteur.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A BAG OF BRICS

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh heads to Hainan Island for a summit with the presidents of China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa this week, one can't but wonder how a flaky concept from Wall Street is having such a remarkable political run on the world stage.

Invented a decade ago by Goldman Sachs to promote an investment fund in emerging markets, BRICS is now either lionised or denounced as a countervailing bloc against the West. For third-world radicals orphaned by the end of the Cold War and the developing world's embrace of neo-liberal economic policies, the BRICS forum has emerged as the definitive new tribune.

For those in the West, so accustomed to dominating the international political discourse during the last two decades, the prospect of a powerful non-Western bloc is deeply disconcerting. That Russia, China, India and Brazil abstained in the United Nations Security Council vote authorising the use of force in Libya last month has been greeted with some hostility in the West.

South Africa, which joins the forum this week and converts the small 's' in the BRICs into a capital letter, had, however, voted for the resolution. As the Libyan intervention begins to falter, there is speculation whether South Africa might change its mind about supporting "humanitarian interventions".

The negative reaction has not been limited to the West. Some third world intellectuals too have seen the BRIC vote on Libya as revealing the fact that the emerging powers are not ready for global prime time. The former Mexican foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda, argues that the "world's rising economies lack the ability — and the values — to project their power on the world stage". Castaneda insists that rising non-Western powers lack the commitment of the Western powers "to supranational institutions and universal values such as human rights, the collective defence of democracy, a robust climate-change framework, nuclear nonproliferation, and so forth". Giving permanent seats on the UNSC to India, Brazil and South Africa, Castaneda concludes, might make this body more representative, but "might weaken the very foundations of the liberal democratic order".

To be fair, the leaders of the BRICS themselves had never really made exalted claims for their forum. It is the supporters and critics who injected it with a lot more political purpose that it could really bear.

Viewed from the realist prism, the BRICS forum is no more than a sack of potatoes, formless and without a specific strategic orientation. As a group, BRICS have little political coherence. Located in different corners of the world, BRICS is not a forum to promote the regionalism that has had much success in Europe and East Asia. Yet their geographic disparateness would not have mattered much, if the BRICS had a shared set of political and economic values.

The declarations from the Hainan summit must then be read for the many contradictions that confront the BRICS. One is about their divergent attitudes towards the West in general and the United States in particular.

It was in the mid-1990s that Russia proposed the construction of the so-called "strategic triangle" with China and India. China, which was enjoying a growing economic and political partnership with the US, was not too enthusiastic. India, which was trying to improve ties with the US, did not want to offend Moscow and chose to go along. The Russians brought Brazil into the forum in 2009 and the Chinese strongly supported the entry of South Africa into the BRICs.

All the forum's members want to build a special relationship with the United States, and wish to use the forum as a leverage to expand their political space with Washington. That is part of political jockeying in a multipolar world.

As the US offers to reset relations with Russia, flirts with the notion of a "G-2" with China, and seeks to develop new partnerships with rising powers like India, Brazil and South Africa, there is little incentive for any one of these to build a solid anti-US block. That India has chosen to announce a new trilateral strategic dialogue with the US and Japan days before the Hainan summit of the BRICS suggests the limits of anti-Westernism as a glue binding the BRICS.

Second, the economic crisis in the West and the rise of Chinese power have also begun to alter the dynamics within BRICS. Beijing clearly wants to mobilise support from the rising powers to deal with its growing divergence with the US on how to rebalance the world economy. On the eve of the summit, Chinese officials underlined the importance of greater financial coordination between the BRICS and the need to develop a common position at G-20 meetings. China, however, has made it clear that exchange rate of the Chinese currency, the yuan, is not on the table at the Hainan summit. But India has concerns about its growing trade deficits with China and has often raised questions about the yuan exchange rate.

Third, India and Brazil would want to see the BRICS forum endorse their claims for a permanent seat in the UNSC. Beijing is clearly not too enthusiastic. The last summit in Brasilia endorsed the expansion of the UNSC — but would not come out in support of India and Brazil.

These contradictions do not mean that India should not take the opportunity to expand political and economic engagement with the major economies represented at the forum. What Delhi needs to avoid is a political romanticisation of BRICS, which is only one of the many plurilateral organisations that India participates in.

While taking a practical view of BRICS and other forums, India must become more assertive in articulating its own interests. After all, multilateralism is about pursuit of national interest by different means and is not an end in itself.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi. express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT THE DEATH FORETELLS

RIYAZ WANI

 

Maulana Showkat Shah, head of the Jamiat Ahle Hadees, the Valley's influential puritanical religious group, had left a little earlier from his home in Lal Bazaar locality to deliver Khutba — the customary recitation of a part of the Quran before Friday prayers — on April 9. He arrived at Ahle Hadith mosque in volatile Maisuma a little past noon. While his driver, son and two security guards were parking their vehicle, Shah headed to the back of the mosque to take the stairs that led to the pulpit, little knowing that an IED tied to a bicycle was parked close to the steps. As he started climbing, the device exploded, killing the 55-year-old cleric. Srinagar plunged into chaos, with Maisuma as the epicentre.

Thousands of Ahle Hadith supporters were joined by JKLF activists since Shah was a close associate of JKLF chairman Yasin Malik. They crowded the street outside the mosque, chanting slogans. But beyond a surge of anger, the incident has confounded many. For one, this has happened at a time when Kashmir is apparently free of political discord over a dialogue with the Centre. The Valley is no longer in the throes of a polarising public unrest. Besides, the situation in Kashmir, even though it continues to be uncertain, had transformed enough over the past couple of years for many to conclude that political assassination is a tragedy of the past.

However, it is that very fact that had emboldened many in the separatist ranks to indulge in some "truth-telling'' about the political murders that happened in the first one and a half decade of the separatist struggle — from Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq's murder in 1991 and Qazi Nisar's in 1994 to Abdul Ghani Lone's in 2003. Ironically, Showkat Shah was the first to break the taboo on this by calling for a fresh inquiry into the killings early this year. Soon after, senior Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Bhat disclosed in a speech that all these leaders had been killed by their "own men''.

That statement has returned to haunt the region, as questions are raised with even more urgency on who killed Maulana Showkat Shah — and why.

He had been attacked twice earlier, and on both occasions the Valley was in the midst of a polarising political climate. The first was in 2006 when unidentified gunmen fired on his vehicle. The second was in 2008: there was a grenade attack on his Lal Bazaar residence. At that time, there was a public groundswell over the Amarnath land row and Shah was a member of the Hurriyat Coordination Committee, charged with formulating protest programmes. A little-known group called Hizbul Muslimeen later took responsibility for the attack.

Was Shah assassinated because of his religious and political role which some quarters saw as too liberal for a Wahhabi and sometimes contrary to the general separatist tenor in the Valley? He had met former governor of J&K, S.K. Sinha, during the 2008 Amarnath agitation and had recently opposed those who pelted stones, calling stone-lobbing un-Islamic. Or should it be traced to a gathering momentum for a political consensus on Kashmir? Shah's death could be designed to send a tough message to separatists who are inclined to accommodation on a Kashmir settlement. Separatists, who are now open to acknowledging the role of "own men'' in political murders, are not ruling out any angle.

Whatever be the reason for the killing — Shah's personal politics, an extreme message to separatists or some other unknown factor — it is a huge setback for the situation in Kashmir.

The killing, this time, is likely to affect the Kashmir dimension of the ongoing process of dialogue on the state which seemed headed for resuscitation following the resumption of India-Pakistan talks.

Last year, it was the attack on veteran Hurriyat leader Fazal Haq Qureshi that put an end to the fledgling "quiet dialogue'' between the Centre and the Hurriyat doves and prevented its revival.

Showkat Shah's assassination is destined to leave a much deeper impact and could limit the ability of separatists to engage sustainably with New Delhi unless of course they are sure it will lead to an acceptable outcome. Much will also depend on how India-Pakistan dialogue will progress in the days to come.

Shah's assassination also shows up the fragile nature of Kashmir's political environment, caught as it is in a predictable pattern of peaceful interludes and long periods of exceptional tumult. The situation goes off on a tangent when peace appears bona fide and poised to last.

riyaz.wani@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE SEEDS OF AUTHORITARIANISM

NEERA CHANDHOKE

 

Any perceptive analyst of democracy will testify that there is no necessary relationship between democracy and a corruption-proof regime, or development, or political stability. If we were to evaluate democracy from the vantage point of the desired ends we expect it to realise, it would fare rather poorly when compared to authoritarian governments, say the one institutionalised in Singapore by its former prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew. Yew transformed Singapore from a malaria-infested swamp to an economic powerhouse, and a major centre of finance. The island-state has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, possesses a world-class educational and health system, and boasts of an incorruptible public service.

But the regime ruthlessly controls the press, does not permit freedom of expression, and stamps out dissidence — and, often, dissidents. It might have controlled corruption, achieved material well-being, and become one of the financial power centres of the world; but Singapore does not respect the two prime fundamentals of democracy as India does: popular sovereignty and the equal moral status of citizens.

This is not to celebrate India's democracy, which is deeply flawed in many crucial respects. It is to point out that the proposed solutions for a corruption-free India that are currently on offer might not be democratic at all. I am by no means downplaying the achievements of the struggle against corruption. Anna Hazare is significant because his fast unto death catalysed the exasperation and the anger of Indian citizens against a system which has trapped all of us in its ugly and greedy clutches. The sight of hundreds of people holding candles in their hand was moving because it transmitted two powerful messages.

One, the political elite is but the representative of the people, and the people are entitled to demand accountability of these representatives for all acts of omission and commission. Two, all those hundreds of crores that pass from hand to hand; from ministers, to industrial houses, to lobbyists, to shady firms, and to individuals, are public money. People have a right to demand that the taxes that are extracted from them are spent for the public good and not for private gain.

So, when members of the political elite castigate the campaign against corruption as blackmail, it occasions a blink. Hello guys, this is what civil society is about. In 1790, the eminent Irish orator, wit, legal luminary, and member of the British parliament, John Curran (1750-1817) had suggested that "the condition on which god hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance." This is the historical mandate of civil society. In democratic states, civil society is expected to keep watch on violations of democratic norms by the state, through citizen activism, the making and circulation of informed public opinion, a free media, a multiplicity of social associations and sundry means of protest.

Yet a word of caution might be in order here. Confronted with the intractable problems that the messy but occasionally creative world of democracy brings with it, some civil society organisations prefer to substitute democracy with administration. Establish a Jan Lokpal, endow it with colossal power, bestow on it the status of a Leviathan, and all our problems will be solved. Sorry, this is not democratic.

If democracy on the one hand is about popular sovereignty, freedom and equality, it is also about procedures and principles. One of these principles is the separation of powers. It is of the utmost importance that power should not be concentrated in one institution, and that democratic decisions should be subject to review not only by citizens, but also by other state institutions to ensure conformity with the Constitution. Democracy is the only form of government that is capable of self-correction; this should not be compromised for any reason whatsoever.

Certainly corruption is a major issue and needs to be fought, but according to procedures and norms, and in keeping with the mandate of the Constitution. The country is not Ralegan Siddhi, where alcoholics are flogged to make them give up their ways. India is democratic, and in a democracy even guilty people have rights. Anna Hazare may have earned the status of a big brother, but no democrat can allow him to turn this Lokpal into another big brother right out of the pages of George Orwell's projected nightmare.

More worrying are the political beliefs held by this gentleman. He wants corrupt people to be put to death! In a civilised society, surely, the very idea of capital punishment is anathema. What gives cause for even more anxiety is the extraordinarily low opinion that this Gandhian has of the very people who had rallied around him during his fast. "Ordinary voter [sic] does not have awareness", he is reported to have said in a meeting with the press. "They cast their vote under the influence of Rs 100 or a bottle of liquor or a sari offered by candidates. They do not understand the value of their vote."

This is an astonishing statement. Does not contempt for the ordinary Indian citizen defy the very rationale of democracy, and that of its major claim to legitimacy, that of equal moral status? Moreover, Anna Hazare should pay more attention to the history of elections. Does he really not remember how arbitrary and non-performing governments have been voted out of power in national and state elections?

More significantly this "voting out" has been carried out by the very ordinary Indian who he betrays such disdain for. Despite all its flaws, political democracy in the country has enabled large numbers of poor and marginal people to understand the power of the franchise, enter the public arena of politics, and to some degree influence the political discourse, and the fate of governments.

To wrap up the argument, it is time the holders of state power understand that mobilisation in civil society against or for policies, is an integral part of democratic politics, particularly when our representatives have betrayed us time and again. The state enacts, implements and adjudicates policies in our name, and governs in our name. We, therefore, have the right to ask why we should accept unjust and arbitrary policies, and above all, corruption.

But this does not mean that we uncritically accept civil society initiatives as wholly good and entirely democratic. Civil society is a plural space, and some organisations can carry within them the seeds of authoritarianism, and of an inexorable "will to power". These initiatives should also be subjected to public scrutiny and engaged with. Eternal vigilance is, after all, the price we willingly pay for democracy.  

The writer is professor of political science at the University of Delhi

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHY TAR ALL POLITICIANS WITH THE SAME BRUSH?

MADHU PURNIMA KISHWAR

 

We should be grateful to Anna Hazare for dedicating his life to the people and battling for accountability in governance. Millions look to him for inspiration and guidance. We are all sick of mismanagement, venality and the lack of accountability that plague not only governance but also other institutions, including many NGOs that call themselves "civil society" institutions, the term made fashionable by international donor agencies.

The support base of this anti-corruption movement covers a large spectrum, from small shopkeepers to IT honchos, film stars, retired bureaucrats and housewives. However, the main support and mobilisation effort comes from a range of religious and spiritual gurus like Sri Sri Ravishankar and Baba Ramdev, who command larger and more committed followings than many of our political parties.

I feel perturbed by the disdain with which some in the movement treated elected representatives, MPs and MLAs who expressed their support. Our politicians have indeed failed us, so have many others — the judiciary, the police, the bureaucracy and "religio-spiritual" leaders. Many of these worthies are no less venal than the worst of our politicians. No politician can get away with corruption and crime without the collaboration of the bureaucracy, police and the judiciary.

Let us also remember that Mahatma Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and B.R. Ambedkar all fought elections. Those who claim to draw inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi cannot afford to be so self-righteous. The arrogance of "tyaag" is no less dangerous and corrosive than the arrogance of money and power. If the movement is ready to welcome celebrities who may well be evading taxes and bypassing laws, why single out elected representatives?

We would do well to remember that people like us are self-appointed representatives of "civil society." There are times when they are able to express popular sentiment much more effectively than elected representatives. At many points, such leaders, including epochal ones like Mahatma Gandhi are ignored or even ridiculed by society. Does it mean that they lose the right to raise public issues? The groundswell of support for those who are ably leading the current movement should not undermine the importance of those who actually go to seek the mandate of the voters. They can also be removed through elections, whereas we self-appointed representatives cannot be voted out when we exceed our brief.

To tar all politicians with a black brush is to declare war on democracy. Our politicians are as much the victims of the money- and muscle power-dominated electoral system as they are its beneficiaries. By declaring that politicians cannot even come and express support to the anti-corruption movement from Anna Hazare's platform is to treat them as untouchables.

Corruption is no longer confined to politicians and bureaucracy. It has percolated into the very vitals of society. Many of those who are now shouting against corrupt politicians could well be evading taxes, or violating building and other laws, selling adulterated goods and manipulating the system. Just as that does not undermine their urge for a clean polity, so too politicians currently using corrupt means to win elections could well be yearning for a more dignified entry into electoral politics.

The Lokpal bill has already invited a good deal of well-meaning criticism from those who share Anna's hatred of corruption but have alternative strategies. Merely making the Lokpal a supra-government body and giving it full powers to make its own appointments will not ensure that the institution becomes worthy of the trust reposed in it. For example, the power to appoint Supreme Court and high court judges was taken away from the government and entrusted to a collegium of Supreme Court judges. That has not stopped some of the most corrupt in the judiciary from rising to the very top.

The legitimate concerns of all sections of society must be taken on board if we want to create an India where people don't have to resort to bribery, string-pulling and subversion of laws in order to carry out an entrepreneurial activity — whether as street vendors, farmers, petty shopkeepers or as industrialists.

It is equally important to recognise that the present scope of the bill is so overarching that it could collapse under the weight of its own gigantic ambition. Anna Hazare is aware that the existing machinery of governance is not just corrupt, it is also dysfunctional. We need far-reaching administrative, judicial, police and electoral reforms if the Lokpal is to become an effective instrument. If our municipal offices, police stations, public hospitals and courts are not equipped with the appropriate personnel, incentives and resources with mechanisms of accountability, there is no way that a Lokpal or Lokayukta can get the system to work. The blueprint prepared by the Administrative Reforms Commission for wide-ranging reforms has been gathering dust. We need to bring that reform agenda on the table along with the Lokpal bill in order to restore the health of our institutions of governance. Otherwise, the Lokpal will either collapse under the tsunami of complaints or become yet another unaccountable bureaucracy that uses its extraordinary powers to add to the harassment that we routinely experience in our dealings with the government.

The writer is founder-editor, 'Manushi', and professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THEY GOT THE GUNS, BUT WE GOT THE NUMBERS

ROGER COHEN

At the start of his brilliant, funny novel The Pregnant Widow, Martin Amis writes: "This is the way it goes. In your mid-forties you have your first crisis of mortality (death will not ignore me); and 10 years later you have your first crisis of age (my body whispers that death is already intrigued by me). But something very interesting happens to you in between."

That passage resonated, perhaps because I've hit the latter of the ages mentioned, and I recall my father, a doctor, saying that ageing is not a smooth process but more like a staircase — you go along heedless for a while with nothing appearing to shift and then, oops, you find you've gone down another step and the exit is closer than the entrance.

Now, Amis goes on to say what it is that happens in between. Life, he says, "thickens out again." And the thickening is due to "an enormous and unsuspected presence within your being, like an undiscovered continent." What is this presence? Amis answers: "This is the past."

Yes, the past! How rich in consolation it becomes. It grows, eddies, recedes and blossoms by turn, making its claim on the imagination. Amis's book unfolds in the early 1970s in Italy where, a decade after the arrival of the pill, a group of Brits gathered in a castle go through their iteration of the sexual revolution. The narrator's pondering of that heady time provides the elegiac counterpoint to the passions of a faraway Italian summer. I was in Italy the summer of 1973 with a group of friends, at one of those moments when, like in this season of upheaval, time seems to accelerate. As Lenin once observed, "Sometimes decades pass and nothing happens; and then sometimes weeks pass and decades happen." The staircase principle works for peoples as well as individuals.

A postwar generation, in Europe and America, came of age. Everywhere barriers broke. There was political turmoil — Paris '68 and Prague and Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and the Chicago convention — reflecting a social revolution in which the answers to everything seemed wondrously to be, "Yes."

Perhaps Jim Morrison put it best: "The old get old and the young get stronger¿They got the guns but we got the numbers. Gonna win, yeah we're takin' over." I can think of several capitals right now, from Damascus to Tripoli, from Sana to Manama, where autocrats might ponder that line about guns and numbers. A baby-booming Arab generation is also coming of age. There is no turning back, however turbulent the passage proves. Another generation must have its say.

What worries me is the loss of mystery since that time: The world was uncharted, the unknown was everywhere with its liberating invitation. What reassures me is that progress, however uneven, has been immense. People are freer and live longer. As Bob Dylan put it, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

The leadership of China, where Dylan has just been touring, knows that. OK, Dylan was compliant on the surface in Beijing. But he's as subversive as the epoch in which he came of age. You can't direct genius like trade sanctions. He said it long ago: "To live outside the law you must be honest." Amis's conclusion is reassuring. "I'm as old as NATO. And it all works out," he writes, and continues: "Your eyes get hotter — but that's all right because your hands get colder (and you can soothe them with your frozen fingertips.)" Yes, "It all works out in the end."

It does — even in times when the world is a "pregnant widow," one world gone and another not yet born.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SLIPPING ON OIL

A week after RBI deputy governor Subir Gokarn indicated that the central bank would continue to hike rates in order to prevent inflation from spiralling, the IMF's World Economic Outlook (WEO) gives much the same message. The WEO reiterates that there was no major change in the Fund's projections for global growth from that made in the January WEO—after a 5% growth in 2010, the April WEO also projects that global growth in 2011 will be 4.4% (that for advanced economies has been lowered 0.1%, to 2.4%). That said, the WEO projects a sharp hike in inflation levels in the months ahead. As compared to a projection made in January of a 6% hike in consumer prices in 2011 for emerging and developing economies, the April WEO's project is a sixth higher at 6.9%. This higher inflation is driven by a 44% higher projection for non-fuel commodities like food (the January projection was 11% over those in 2010 as compared to 25.1% in April) and a whopping 62% hike in oil inflation (from 13.4% in the January projection to 35.6% in the April projections). While that's terrible news for India's beleagured oil PSUs who'll now have to shell out a lot more in subsidies, it presents a greater macro problem. As RBI raises interest rates (the IMF says India's real rates are lower than they were three years ago), this could reduce investment rates. All of which means the policy environment will continue to be a bit iffy.

While the IMF sticks to its January growth forecasts, it adds the "downside risks continue to outweigh upside risks". Much of this risk has to do with higher oil and non-oil commodity prices, but there are other problems as well. In the US, while corporate activity is picking up, the pace of fiscal consolidation has been tardy—instead of falling 0.9% of GDP, the IMF projects the US structural deficit will rise 0.6% of GDP in 2011. In overall terms, the global growth momentum is up, stock markets in the US are approaching their pre-crisis peaks. Indeed, despite the crisis in Japan, the impact on global GDP is expected to be minimal—Japan's GDP is projected to grow 0.2% slower than was projected in January. What matters, of course, is not the impact of individual events but the impact of all of them when combined together. As for that, the IMF concludes "many old policy challenges remain unaddressed (fiscal adjustment in OECD) while new ones (runaway commodity prices) come to the fore."

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

A NEW LANGUAGE

As the lack of transparency in business reporting emerged as one of the biggest root causes for market failure leading to the global financial meltdown, measures to improve upon this crucial element caught the fancy of regulators, investors and businesses alike. Xbrl (extensible business reporting language), the 'harbinger of transparency' in financial reporting, is just what the doctor ordered. The ministry of corporate affairs has mandated that all companies listed in India and their subsidiaries, including overseas subsidiaries as well as those with a turnover of R100 crore or over, file their financial statements in the xbrl format for the year ending March 31, 2011. Although the deadline to implement xbrl, September 30, 2011, draws closer, its mechanism, uses and implementation remain a bit of a mystery. First off, since xbrl is not an accounting standard but a language for the electronic communication of financial data, this mandate will not change any requirements pertaining to the preparation of companies' balance sheets and P&Ls. It will only reflect a change in how the data is transmitted to regulators. Using xbrl, reported figures will be organised by giving each item of data a computer-readable identity tag, which, in turn, will improve the accuracy and reliability of data by eliminating manual re-entry and comparison.

But what does tagging data have to do with increasing transparency? Instituting a single data standard for firms across the board leads to a reduction in the time and effort required to identify anomalies in reported data, an effective tool in making them easier to catch. A study by Myiris covering companies in the manufacturing and services sectors found that the financial results of over 209 listed Indian companies have discrepancies. For example, in MTNL's consolidated financials, the sub-total for sundry debtors as at March 31, 2009, does not tally with the sum of the line items—there is a discrepancy of R2,927.5 million. This is because MTNL's standalone financial report has an additional line item 'Income Accrued from Services', which appears to have been clubbed with the line items in the consolidated debtors schedule for FY2008 but not for FY2009, explaining the sub-total error. Such errors, indicative of an attention deficit rather than fraud, can easily be caught using xbrl. That said, xbrl's mandate doesn't extend to fraudulent reporting. It does, however, reduce the risk of fraud by making it harder to pull off. Via its tagging mechanism, another potential use of xbrl could be in anti-money laundering reporting, extendable to track terror financing. Since successful implementations of xbrl have been witnessed in the US, Japan and Australia among other countries, implementing this standard makes great sense.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

LESSONS FROM THE DRAGON
ARINDAM BHATTACHARYA

China regained its position as the largest manufacturing nation after nearly 150 years, dethroning the US, which reigned for about 100 years having taken over from Great Britain towards the beginning of the 20th century. In recent months, I have been part of several discussions with leaders from the manufacturing sector from around the world on this shift in leadership. These discussions usually feature how China, in recent years, is shifting the focus of its manufacturing industry from low-end, labour-intensive to higher value-added and IP-rich products, and the central role played by the Chinese government in the development of their manufacturing sector.

Starting sometime in the 1980s, China was rightly seen as the world leader in manufacturing of low-cost and/or labour-intensive products, ranging from textiles, toys and consumer durables to electronics and automotive components. Hardly a cause for alarm for leading global manufacturing companies. But few realise that China has also become the world leader in many industrial products and capital goods. It is the global leader in thermal power equipment, wireless telecom equipment, marine containers, large cranes, textile equipment and has two of the world's top five railway rolling stock manufacturing companies...

This recent shift presents a fast-growing competitive challenge to the 'incumbents' in these industries from the developed countries. The incumbents believe that they are competing not with individual Chinese competitors but rather China Inc—an industrial ecosystem consisting of the companies, the government and academic institutions with none playing by the rules, in particular, on intellectual property rights. There is no doubt that the Chinese government has led the development of the manufacturing sector. The recent shift into value-added products has been driven by its explicit policy on developing 'pillar' industries—strategic industries where they want to build globally competitive capabilities—as described in the five-year plans. To achieve this shift, China has exploited different policy levers that include: (i) creating huge national demand (can vary from 15% to 80% of global demand) through large investment programmes, (ii) promoting local ownership through state participation and/or limiting foreign ownership, (iii) offering preferential market access to local firms or restricting participation of foreign owned firms, (iv) setting standards that influence local demand and favour local firms, (v) offering fiscal incentives and preferential access to funding to local firms, and (vi) facilitating technology absorption and development by local firms.

Many of these policies are seen by global firms as the 'price' of doing business in China—the largest market in the world for many products and services. Of these, the one on technology absorption and development is perhaps the most critical for global competitiveness and which gives sleepless nights to western firms. There are two parts of this 'China IP' development strategy. One part is using the power of the 'state' to access technology based on terms of trade, i.e., "access to China market vs IP transfer through partnerships". Local firms then digest, optimise and improve transferred technology. The second part of this policy lever is to build domestic capability through technology parks and business incubators with access to funds and technical support, create technology transfer markets and strong linkages to universities, and develop China-specific technical standards and government testing institutes.

This understanding and knowledge about China and its industrial strategy can be the subject of a good academic paper. What use is it to India and its industrial companies?

Our finance minister in this year's Budget speech said "...it is imperative that the growth in manufacturing sector picks up. We expect to take the share of manufacturing in GDP from about 16% to 25% over a period of ten years…". While this is a bold aspiration for the nation, despite having the second-fastest growing manufacturing sector in the world, the share of manufacturing in GDP has not changed much over the past decade.

Clearly, business as usual is unlikely to achieve this aspiration. What, then, should be India's strategy for the sector that will change this trajectory? This is where China's experience becomes relevant and several lessons can be drawn.

China's success has resulted from making clear choices, and then developing policies and deploying the state's full resources to support the choices made. China made two fundamental choices. The first choice was to create manufacturing zones with the best 'enabling environment' in terms of the infrastructure, ease of setting up new businesses, and flexible labour policies to attract foreign investment and become the 'factory for the world' for labour-intensive products. It achieved this objective spectacularly and, in just two decades, became the largest manufacturing economy in the world. The second, more recent, and perhaps the more important choice was on creating 'pillar' industries—industries seen as critical for the country's security and long-term manufacturing competitiveness.

If we have to achieve the bold aspiration that we have set for ourselves, we have to make our own choices. We face well-recognised challenges on creating new industrial capacity in terms of access to land and raw material, and an enabling environment for ease of operations, including flexibility in employment. Solving these challenges will require us to make choices. A more fundamental choice is on building our own 'pillar' industries and developing IP, and the role of the government in this development. We can follow the current trajectory laid out after liberalisation, of limiting the role of the government, and not be seen as playing 'favourites' and letting the market forces do the job. Or like China (and other emerging countries) have done, believe that at this stage of our economic development, the state has to play a key role in shaping the future of the industry, and implement policies in the short and medium term that will specifically guide the choices.

India's manufacturing sector has an unprecedented 'window of opportunity' to determine its future. Over the next two decades, India will make large investments in infrastructure, defence equipment and new manufacturing capacity. At the same time, millions of new consumers will come into the market and will need all manners of goods and services. We can use this opportunity to create our own 'terms of trade' to build local capabilities and knowledge. The choices we make today will determine not only if we achieve the target of 25% share of GDP, but more importantly, the future global competitiveness of the manufacturing sector.

The author is managing director, the Boston Consulting Group, India.

These are his personal views

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ENDING PLANT-LEVEL FERTILISER PRICING
YOGINDER K ALAGH

For almost a decade we have seen the most amazing stop/go policies in fertiliser, and urea pricing, in particular. Since the average cost of a tonne of nitrogen produced in India is much lower than import prices, one would have thought it was not a very complicated problem to solve in a nation saturated with economist policymakers. But this was not to be. So, there is a great amount of clout of some groups to create a problem when solutions exist. Fortunately, it seems that a committee working under Planning Commission member Saumitra Chaudhuri has found a way forward, if press reports are to be believed. But keep your fingers crossed until the last mile is covered. I will give the main points of that solution and my interpretation of the logic behind them, though the distinguished planner should not be held responsible for that logic. As my teacher—the Nobel laureate Lawrence Klein—taught me, facts are few and theories are many, so more than one theory is compatible with the facts.

According to press reports, the proposals are that all gas-based units will get a flat subsidy, and there will be a uniform price at which gas will be supplied to them. The non gas-based urea units will be a second group and they will get two years to move over to gas, by 2014. This pricing formulation will give a very powerful incentive to reduce energy consumption per tonne of urea since it will give high financial incentives to those units that make efforts and reduce energy consumption per tonne of urea, the major component of the cost. It will also punish inefficient units. More important, since firm-level cost plus pricing is avoided, is that the framework of market reform is set firmly as the final objective. All this is known, the interesting question is why it was ignored in policymaking for around seven years.

The last expert analysis of the urea pricing policy was by the working group on urea policy that reported in 2005. Its preferred policy was to work with a single producer price, to provide for an energy pass through, and to significantly simplify movement and product control. To provide, once and for all, a capital subsidy of the kind indicated in the government's SPV for economic infrastructure projects for existing fertiliser units to convert to gas-based feedstock, a committee under the chairmanship of the secretary (fertilisers), including representatives of the ministry of petroleum, department of expenditure and the fertiliser industry should be constituted to negotiate the prices of feedstock used by the fertiliser industry. These policies emerged from earlier recommendations made by Hanumantha Rao and me, arguing that in the supply price of fertiliser, the ideal option would have been to move over to the long range marginal cost or the long range average cost price of fertilisers for the economy. Simultaneously, there would be a package of once-and-for-all incentives for non gas-based units to move to the most efficient technologies available to the country.

In this working group report, there was also a SBS (second best strategy). In the SBS, there were two groups—a gas-based group and a FO/LSHS (furnace oil/low sulphur heavy stock) based group. There would be incentives for efficiency within each group and the so-called unintended gains would be much less. In this SBS, energy prices would be a by-pass subject to the upper limits set by a mandated committee under the secretary (fertilisers) with representatives from the concerned ministries and parastatals. For the transitional regime in the SBS formulation, the working group suggested once-and-for-all incentives of the kind designed in the SPV announced by the finance ministry for the public-private partnership in infrastructure. These incentives would be given to units switching from Naphtha/FO/LSHS and to units that had modernised in the last five years, and still had substantial debt servicing and interest payment obligations on account of investments made in line with recommendations by the government. It was noted that around 5 million tonnes of additional capacity was possible from de-bottlenecking, revamping and new and expansion projects, and it would get the long run average cost benefit. It took the government four years to implement this last policy and now it is coming out with the SBS and the energy bypass.

The working group had suggested that the energy policy should be one that works with the principle of sovereign control of these assets. This has consequences for regulation and pricing disciplines. These don't seem to be explicitly talked about and would, in the interest of transparency, need explication since the working groups report has been published and is in the public domain. I had chaired that group and it had said that its proposals were 'self contained and … they should not be tampered'. We hope the Chaudhuri proposals are self-contained and are not tampered with by sectional interests. It also proposed mildly raising the price of urea by, say, the increase in the weighted average price received of output of the agricultural sector. This has been implemented in the last two years. This was logically a precondition for a nutrient-based subsidy, which it should now be possible to move to. It also recommended that in districts where the cooperatives and joint sector of the fertiliser industry have strong roots with farmers' associations, grass-root village level cooperatives and well-worked out distribution systems, a subsidy directly aimed at the farmer could be attempted to be administered in consultation with the farmers' groups. Instead of five districts to begin with, the FM wanted the policy in 25 districts. That never saw the light of the day. Now it is aimed at the entire country, with no awareness that a UID is not a substitute for legal entitlements and that if you don't have land rights you won't get farm-based giveaways.

The author is a former Union minister

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

FIFTY YEARS SINCE GAGARIN'S FLIGHT

On a sunny morning 50 years ago, the 27-year-old carpenter's son turned Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, stunned the world. Blasting off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Gagarin became the first human to travel into space. His journey aboard the Vostok spacecraft was unquestionably one of the great achievements of the 20th century and a landmark in human history. Coming as it did during the height of Cold War, Gagarin's success appeared to establish his country's supremacy in space technology. Just four months later, another Soviet cosmonaut, Gherman Titov, spent more than 25 hours in space and completed 17 orbits of the earth. America's muted response saw Alan Shepard carrying out a sub-orbital flight lasting just 15 minutes in May 1961. The United States could redeem some pride only in February 1962 when John Glenn completed three orbits in space. Just a month after Gagarin's historic space voyage, President John F. Kennedy declared that the U.S. would put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. The space race was on — and it was a race that America won hands down. In July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin became the first men to set foot on another world. Ten more of their compatriots too left their footprints on the Moon.

But the U.S. Congress and the American public were not willing to continue funding further manned space exploration on the same scale. The U.S. space agency then turned to building the world's first reusable spacecraft that could take humans and cargo into orbit. The first space shuttle, Columbia, flew in 1981, followed by four of its siblings, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. America's dominance in space has continued unabated after the Soviet Union's break-up. But with space programmes becoming more demanding, many major space initiatives are now joint endeavours involving many countries. The launch of the Hubble space telescope in 1990, a joint venture between the U.S.'s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency was the first such initiative. The International Space Station (ISS) involving 16 countries, including the U.S. and Russia, is another excellent example. Even India's Chandrayaan-1 carried payloads from other countries. After NASA mothballs its shuttle programme this year, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft will be the only way that astronauts can travel to the ISS. The interest in manned spaceflight appears to be flagging in both the U.S. and Russia. It is, however, on the rise in China and India. Fifty years after man first ventured beyond the confines of Planet Earth, it is perhaps time for the spacefaring nations of the world to come together on a bold programme of manned space exploration.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

CREATIVE ECONOMY AND DEVELOPMENT

If information technology has enabled emerging economies such as India to change the commercial equations with the developed world, another speciality is being recognised for its potential: the 'creative economy'. This segment, according to a classification by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), comprises goods and services produced by the 'creative industries' such as art-crafts, audio visuals, design, new media, performing arts, publishing and visual arts, the 'creative services' (including advertising and architectural services), and their 'related industries'. For nearly a decade, UNCTAD has been attempting to turn the spotlight on the promise the creative economy holds for domestic development and international trade. Going by the evidence available, this segment emerges as one of the better performers even during a recession. In 2008, despite a contraction of 12 per cent in international trade, the creative economy did well: global exports in this sector, at $592 billion, were more than double of what they were in 2002.

The UNCTAD report, Creative Economy: A feasible development option, released in December 2010, has done well to urge developing countries to enhance their creative capacities. For, this sector's exports grew faster in developing economies between 2003 and 2008 (at 13.55 per cent a year) than in developed countries (10.02 per cent), and were above the world average (11.53 per cent). There is a difference, however, in the composition of exports. While music and audiovisuals, publishing/printed media, and new media and design topped the list of exports from the developed world, art-crafts and design products dominated the list from developing countries. Although India — unranked in 2002 — registered the fastest growth in such exports between 2003 and 2008 (15.7 per cent) to reach the 10th position in 2008, its market share of 2.3 per cent is way behind that of world-leader China at 20.8 per cent. China's rise in this dynamic sector can be traced to two policy actions: identifying this as one of the pillars of its future economic development and integrating it to its planning process. India, on the other hand, is yet to have a clear focus. Given the vast potential the country has to gain from its creative industries — be they films or crafts — a well-conceived policy that coordinates issues at the national level will go a long way in elevating its global position in this dynamic sector.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

RUSSIA STANDS BY ITS REACTORS

EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THE JAPANESE CRISIS, MOSCOW CLINCHED NEW REACTOR DEALS ASSERTING THAT NUCLEAR POWER IS SAFE IF REACTORS ARE BUILT IN THE RIGHT PLACE AND ARE DESIGNED AND MANAGED PROPERLY.

VLADIMIR RADYUHIN

Even as the world reels in awe at the unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan, Russia has reiterated plans for a dramatic expansion in nuclear power and has firmed up deals to build half a dozen atomic reactors abroad.

The reactor crisis in Japan has led many countries to re-examine the role of nuclear power. Germany vowed to close down seven old reactors and froze plans to modernise others; Italy and Switzerland put on hold plans for new reactors; and Venezuela cancelled plans to go nuclear. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flagged her concern about "the costs and the risks associated with nuclear power," and China, Britain, Bulgaria and Finland called for a nuclear safety review.

Russia went against the tide, reaffirming its faith in nuclear energy.

President Dmitry Medvedev said nuclear power was safe if reactors were built in the right place and were designed and managed properly.

"Everyone is asking a simple question: can atomic energy be safe? The answer is obvious: it can be and is safe, provided correct decisions are taken about the location of the plant, about the design and the operator," Mr. Medvedev stated.

"It is impossible to speak about a global energy balance without the nuclear power industry," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, pointing out that nuclear power accounts for 16 per cent of Russia's power generation and more than 80 per cent in France.

Despite the nuclear catastrophe in Japan, Mr. Putin said, Russia would "not change plans" to build dozens of nuclear power stations in coming decades.

Russia's emphasis on nuclear power seems illogical at first glance. The country sits on the world's largest hydrocarbons reserves, accounting for 13 per cent of proven oil finds, 34 per cent of natural gas and a quarter of all coals. However, the Russian government decided it would be more profitable to set aside more coal, oil and gas for export and for processing into petrochemical products, and scale down their use in electricity production. The expected surge in demand for oil and gas in the post-Fukushima world has only strengthened Moscow's resolve to expand nuclear power.

"Russia will stick to its policy of fast-track development of the nuclear energy sector," said Russia's Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko.

Presently Russia has 31 nuclear reactors, which generate about 147 billion kilowatt-hours per year, or 16 per cent of the country's overall electricity production. Government plans call for building up to 26 reactors till 2025 and increasing the nuclear power share to 25 per cent.

Russian leaders feel confident that a Fukushima type of accident can never happen in their country.

"Modern systems, modern nuclear energy units are equipped with safety features that prevent the possible development of events along the lines of the current Japanese scenario," Mr. Putin said.

None of Russia's nuclear power plants are situated in regions threatened by strong earthquakes or tsunamis. Paradoxical as it may seem, technologically advanced Japan has some of the world's oldest nuclear reactors (the stricken Fukushima-1 plant is 40 years old), whereas Russia has the world's youngest reactors, with an average age of 19 years. This compares with 26 years in Europe and 30 years in the United States.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, caused by gross human errors, pushed Russia to invest heavily in designing safer reactors and foolproof safety systems that do not require manual intervention and guarantee safe shutdown even in a total power blackout. This is something that was lacking in Fukushima, Russian officials say.

"The Fukushima accident is the result of unlearnt lessons of Chernobyl," said Sergei Novikov, official spokesman for Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear energy corporation. "We have been learning our lessons for the past 25 years."

The official cited the Kudankulam power plant with two VVER-1000 units as an example of high safety standards of Russian reactors.

"The Kudankulam reactors have the most advanced passive safety features, such as the heat removal system. It allows the heat from the reactor to escape via air chutes to the top of the containment dome where it is cooled by outside air, gets condensed back to water and returns to the cooling system," Mr. Novikov said. "This helps cap temperature inside the sealed reactor containment at 600 degrees Centigrade and prevent uranium meltdown in case of an accident."

If a meltdown still happens, molten fuel will be trapped in a core-catcher beneath the reactor and will not leak into the ground and the atmosphere. Had such systems been installed at Fukushima, there would have been no containment explosions, no fuel meltdown or massive radiation leakage. The Kudankulam plant has also been built to withstand strong earthquakes and high tsunami waves.

"During the 2004 tsunami local residents took refuge on the high grounds of the Kudankulam plant, which suffered no damage," Mr. Novikov said.

However, critics, while conceding that Russia-designed third-generation reactors comply with high safety standards, point out that more than a third of Russia's operating reactors are of the ill-fated Chernobyl design. Moreover, many of them are past their original 30-year working life and had their licenses extended after modernisation and safety enhancement.

Responding to concerns prompted by the Fukushima disaster Russia has promised to subject all its reactors to rigorous top-to-bottom safety checks and close down those that fail the scrutiny. Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko last month reached an agreement with the U.S. to cooperate in conducting joint stress-tests at nuclear plants in both countries.

Mr. Medvedev has called for adopting stiffer international safety standards for reactor building based on Russian safeguards. This would, among other things, involve a ban on nuclear construction in areas prone to magnitude eight earthquakes. The Russian leader also urged a shift in policy away from extending the life of old reactors towards building new safer ones. Rosatom has already decided to speed up work on the fourth-generation reactors, the so-called fast breeders. When Mr. Medvedev visited India last December he offered a partnership in developing commercial fast neutron reactors where Russia has a global lead.

Nuclear energy is one area where Russian industry is highly competitive. Russia currently holds a 50-per-cent share of the global market in nuclear reactor exports and before the Fukushima disaster Rosatom hoped to triple worldwide sales by 2030 to $50 billion annually. The goal may look doubtful now, but in the midst of the Japanese crisis Moscow clinched new reactor deals.

Russia and Belarus last month signed a framework agreement to build a 2,400 MW nuclear power plant in Grodno, close to the border with Lithuania.

Also last month, Mr. Medvedev and visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed plans to build Turkey's first nuclear power station. Under a deal signed last year Russia will build and own four 1,200 MW reactors in Akkuyu. The town sits in a quake-prone zone some 25 km from an active fault, but the Russian and Turkish leaders brushed away concerns for the safety of the proposed nuclear plant.

In fact, Russia is so confident of the safety of its nuclear technologies that it has offered life-long guarantees on its reactors for Turkey. Under a new scheme devised for the project, Russia and Turkey will jointly own and manage the project through a JV.

"Our nuclear industry is prepared to take responsibility for the [nuclear] plants they build, not only in Russia, but also in other countries," Mr. Medvedev said.

During her visit to Moscow last week, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni confirmed plans to sign an agreement with Russia later this year for the construction of two nuclear reactors at Rooppur in Pabna.

Russia's biggest hopes for reactor exports are India and China. Under a 2008 agreement, Russia will set up four VVER-1000 reactors at Kudankalam in addition to the two units that are going online this year. India has also allocated a new site for Russia in Haripur, West Bengal, where four to six reactors would be built. Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko said Russia hoped to construct up to 16 new nuclear reactors in India.

Moscow never fails to point out that in addition to safe designs Russian reactors come with attractive financial terms. Announcing a $6-billion line of credit for the planned nuclear plant in Belarus, Mr. Putin recalled that Russia has offered $2.5 billion in credit to China and $2.6 billion to India, and was in discussions to extend $4 billion in credit to India for the construction of the four additional reactors at Kudankulam.

With the global market of nuclear plant construction likely to shrink in the wake of the Japanese disaster Russia is demonstrating resolve to fight for its share of the pie.

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

WIKILEAKS HAS PROVIDED THE CRITICAL CLIMATE FOR POLITICAL REFORM: ASSANGE

I AM VERY ENCOURAGED BY WHAT IS HAPPENING IN INDIA. IT HAS TERRIBLE CORRUPTION BUT IT'S ENCOURAGING TO HEAR THAT SO MANY PEOPLE ARE PUSHING STRONGLY AGAINST ITINDIA ACCOUNTS FOR SOME OF THE HIGHEST DEPOSITS IN SWISS BANKSIT IS A FASCINATING STORY, THE EXTRAORDINARY SPRING MENA COUNTRIES HAVE BEEN GOING THROUGH

 

Starting March 15, 2011, The Hindu became the first Indian newspaper to offer readers a broad spectrum of articles and reports based on a first selection from 5,100 India Cables aggregating six million words, made available to it by WikiLeaks. On April 8, Julian Assange, the brilliant and articulate Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, gave a one-hour interview at Ellingham Hall in the county of Norfolk to N. Ram, The Hindu's Editor-in-Chief, who was accompanied by Hasan Suroor, the newspaper's U.K. Correspondent. The interview covered a broad range of issues relating to India, the world, political economy, journalism, the goals and methods of WikiLeaks, and the theoretical framework worked out by its chief. Here is Part One of the interview:

Mr Assange, the publication in March-April 2011 of the India Cables accessed by The Hindu through an agreement with WikiLeaks — and thank you very much for that — has made a dramatic impact on politics and public opinion in India. As you know, it rocked Parliament and put the Manmohan Singh Government on the back foot, at the same time not sparing the Opposition. The Indian news media, newspapers as well as television, have picked up the continuing story in a big way and, I think, WikiLeaks has become a household name in India. Not that you were not known before but now it has great relevance in India, as Bofors did in the late 1980s and early 1990s. How do you think this compares with the impact Cablegate had when it first broke in November of 2010 through The Guardian and four other western newspapers?

I am very encouraged by what's happened in India – for The Hindu that's 21 front pages and there's a spectrum of publishing in India which I think eclipses that of the Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and the New York Times, and El Pais, which were our original partners, although some of them had also done some very fine work. This is something we have seen with some of our other regional partners in Latin America, like Peru and Costa Rica coming up before elections — that the local focus is able to really burrow into important details. I am tempted to say, based upon my reading of The Hindu, that it is in a position to report more freely than these other papers are in their respective countries. That may be, I suspect, not just as a result of the strength of The Hindu but as a result of the weakness of the Indian federal government as a structure that is able to pull together patronage networks and suppress journalism as a whole in India. While it's certainly true that each one of the factions involved in Indian national politics is able to exert pressures, I think it is encouraging that India as a whole has not turned into one central pyramid of patronage, which is something we do see a bit in other countries like the United States.

Thank you. India and its 1.2 billion people — that's the latest figure from the new census, the Census of 2011 — are emerging as a rising economic and political power on the world stage. The cables we have worked on so far expose the venal and sordid underbelly of India, which is corrupt, non-transparent, and vulnerable to manipulation by the big powers, in particular the United States. But first on the issue of corruption: you have cash-for-votes as 'a way of political life' in South Indian elections, you have cash-for-votes in a parliamentary confidence vote in 2008, you have sops and cash for chemicals — the manoeuvres of Dow Chemical Company, heir to Union Carbide's Bhopal liabilities, to get its plants cleared. And you have the contradictory and, in fact, to some extent corrupt responses from powerful politicians on this issue too. What does this say about corruption, which I think has emerged as the Number One issue for rising India right now?

It says that at least you've been able to talk about it. Of course India has terrible corruption and something must be done about it and it's encouraging to hear that so many people are now pushing strongly against it, including the Gandhi-ist who is on a fast…

Anna Hazare.

Yes, Anna Hazare. We saw, for instance in Tunisia, that publication of cables in early December last year produced a very critical political climate against Ben Ali. But then it did take a courageous individual to go and take a personal physical action to really trigger things off. So, perhaps, that's a method that will provide widespread will to battle against corruption. I must say that India is not alone. I mean in our work we have exposed billions of dollars of corruption all over the world. And the First World is also not at all immune from it. Frequently we see the developing world corruption being facilitated by First World banks, which suck the money offshore and so on. And, in fact, India accounts for some of the highest amounts of deposits in Swiss banks, which must be questioned as to what that money is doing there.

Yes. You are working on the Rudolf Elmer material. What's the state of play there?

The state of play there is Rudolf Elmer has been put in prison and he has been there for some eight, ten weeks now. But he's not been charged with anything; there's no evidence against him. He is in a position where he has severely embarrassed the Swiss state, which gains nearly 50 per cent of its GDP from Swiss banking — and Switzerland holds nearly one-third of all the world's private wealth. So we of course are not in a position to be able to talk about the material in any direct way that he is alleged to have given us.

The impact of the publication of these cables on African countries — some African countries. Tunisia, perhaps Egypt. How much can you attribute what's happened there, the 'revolutions' that have taken place, to WikiLeaks?

It is a fascinating story, what we know so far. The MENA [Middle East and North Africa] countries that have been going through an extraordinary spring in the last few months; not just Tunisia and Egypt and parts of Libya but rather really the whole region. Kings who have not been deposed or Presidents and dictators who have not been deposed have been handing out tremendous concessions in order to stay in power.

This is a result, I believe, of two matters.

One is, we can think of the region as like wood that is drying; and it has been drying for over the past five years and has become more and more susceptible to a sudden reform. And the factors going into that are, firstly, increasing use of satellite dishes. That has pulled Al-Jazeera into the region, the decision by Al-Jazeera to actually report protests outside of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which they are not reporting — and Qatar — which is a problem. The increasing Internet connectivity in the region, the increasing numbers of mobile phones, youth demographics, increasing education, travel between North African states.

So that produced a situation whereby if there was a sudden push, a strong push for reform, the fire would catch. The question is why did it catch at this moment?

Cablegate and Tunisia

So we, working together with Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper, and Almasry Alyoum in Cairo in early December, started publishing many cables from around this region. Al-Akhbar was then immediately attacked and had its entire domain name taken down and redirected to a Saudi site, received denial service attacks, and then very sophisticated computer hackers came in and took out all of Al-Akhbar. The Tunisian Government banned WikiLeaks and Al-Akhbar. Computer hackers loyal to us went into Tunisian government websites and redirected them to WikiLeaks. On December 16, a young computer technician who was working in the market place trying to sell fruit and had been denied a licence because of corruption set himself on fire. And, on January 4, he died in hospital. That event took the political revelations and the geo-political revelations from the cables and the protests associated with that into the physical realm and really pushed the ground protest.


The cables themselves for Tunisia, yes they revealed corruption and opulence and decadence within the Ben Ali family. Which was not something that was that unknown to Tunisians but it was outside proof of it. Further, it showed that the U.S. diplomatic position was such that they would probably support the army over Ben Ali if it came to a struggle between the two. That gave activists and the army in Tunisia great hope and it also sent a warning to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region that they should not interfere to support Ben Ali or they might end up on the wrong side of the equation with the West. Similarly, the Tunisian cables revealing that the State Department had been speaking of the abuses of the Ben Ali regime and its corruption — and human rights abuses — prevented the United States, prevented Hillary Clinton from coming out and saying, 'Ben Ali is a great guy, he should stay, he should be supported,' etc. Similarly, the allies of the United States in Western Europe such as France and the U.K. also could not say frankly that they supported the regime when U.S. Ambassadors were making such critical comments.

Soccer club revolution

When it spread to Egypt, we had the soccer clubs in Egypt form the central organising role for the young revolutionaries. So it was not the Muslim Brotherhood, as Mubarak and people in the United States and all the others who were trying to support that regime suggested it would be. Rather the revolution came from the average man and the average man as a young man was engaged in soccer clubs. They produced a revolutionary manual of some 40 pages. On the first page of the manual, it says, 'do not use Facebook and Twitter' and the last page of the manual says, 'do not use Facebook and Twitter.' Later on we saw Hillary Clinton and others trying to claim that the U.S. had supported this revolution all along and it was a result of good American companies like Facebook and Twitter. But the guide that the revolutionaries used said to avoid that. Rather, Facebook and Twitter were used by people in the West and by the expat community to spread information about what was happening in Egypt.

You may remember what happened in Iran with the so-called Twitter revolution. The Twitter revolution never happened. It was all a sort of figment of western imagination.

WikiLeaks oil on Egyptian fire

Well, the same thing happened in Egypt. But there was actually a revolution. The revolution in Egypt occurred as a result predominantly of these young people being organised. We did feed in very specific cables into the situation and poured as much oil on to this fire as we could by releasing hundreds of cables about the Egyptian regime and specifically about Mubarak's abuses and [Omar] Suleiman.

Now there was a ploy to put Suleiman in power when Mubarak started to be questioned. Suleiman was the intelligence head, hated by human rights activists within Egypt but supported by United States and Israel. Suleiman had been their man on the ground in dealing with the Gaza issue. And we released cable after cable showing how the U.S. ambassadors had said that Suleiman takes care of suppression of various groups in Egypt and Mubarak is happy to turn a blind eye to his methods. Other cables came out suggesting that Suleiman had personally been involved in supervising the torture of one or two Canadian men who had been renditioned to Egypt. That statement made it impossible for the U.S. to support Suleiman aggressively and publicly.

'High-tech terrorist'

We had had the case just before those cables were released that Joseph Biden, the Vice President of the United States, had called me — called me personally — on the one hand a 'high-tech terrorist,' and then on the other Mubarak not a dictator and someone who should not resign from power. After the release of that material, statements like that from Biden became completely impossible. So the western support for Mubarak was reduced and support from the region also reduced.

Another aspect is that we can look at a lot of these Arab spring revolutions as pan-African phenomena or pan-Arab phenomena. Saudi Arabia supports a lot of dictatorships in that region — intelligence sharing, gives them money, arms, etc. So that includes Bahrain, which it has just invaded at the behest of the Bahrainian King; it included Mubarak and a number of other influences. Similarly, Israel props up a number of these governments because Israel fears that if there is a democratic government elected, then it would be more hostile towards Israel and that was their big fear in relation to Egypt as well. And the United States is involved in that equation for many different reasons, but including to support Israel and what its view of the region is.

Forced to look inwards

When we released cables about the region as a whole, including Saudi Arabia, those countries were forced to turn inwards and look at their own domestic political concerns. Saudi Arabia, for instance, started out handing concession after concession to its own domestic Shia population.

That means the ability of these countries to prop up a dictator who is at risk of being overthrown by his people was reduced because they had to redirect their efforts and attentions to their own domestic political concerns. So I think that is really the way we and the activists that are operating within this region are trying to conduct these reform operations. It is to treat the region as a whole as opposed to just one country.

Think that was a full answer, right? ( laughs)

Then there is this second overarching theme placed on the national agenda by the India Cables. 'Pro-US tilt in Cabinet shuffle' (confidential cable 51088); 'U.S. presses a sceptical India for a vote against Iran' at the IAEA and the Manmohan Singh government surrenders (several confidential and secret cables); 'Hillary checks out Pranab [Mukherjee] and the competition'; he's now Finance Minister, earlier was Minister for External Affairs, Foreign Minister. Various things like this come on, including 'American prescription for ending Naxalite menace.' But very serious is the military angle — not only intelligence-sharing but the Defence Framework, where India has moved towards a much closer military collaboration with the United States. It's not a complete project yet but there's a movement. And here's the paradox, it seems to me. When India was less developed and more dependent on foreign aid, it seems to have had a more independent foreign and domestic policy. Whereas now, with India called a Rising Power along with China, foreign policy seems to be a lot less independent. Can you provide any insights into this from your knowledge of the world?

That's very interesting. The behaviour of the U.S. government through its Embassies in trying to collect political intelligence and influence democracies is something we see throughout these cables. The situation in India mirrors that of other countries, which does not mean it's right.

For example, in Australia, which is meant to be a very close ally of the United States, there were secret reports by a Minister of Cabinet. He was going into the U.S. Embassy and giving political intelligence on what the considerations were of the Australian Parliament and the ruling party in Cabinet. Similarly, that happened in Germany and an individual was discovered and fired as a result. The description of the Australian U.S. spy was that he had been a contact of the United States Embassy, trusted throughout his political rise. So they had really gotten in there very early on in a left-wing Australian Labor Party and cultivated people on the way up. And that's what has been done in nearly every country. To that extent, we can see these operations as fulfilling the caricature that South American Marxists gave of the State Department in the 1960s.

Cold War throwback

We also see many reports from these U.S. Embassies about unions. Are unions growing or shrinking in the various countries where U.S. Embassies are operating? And always couched in a negative sense, so if there is more union membership, this is a bad thing! And that appears to be some kind of institutional throwback to the 1960s, to the Cold War where the United States' political view was that unions were more opposed to the United States and closer to the Soviet Union. It's now re-engineered in relation to foreign investment; or another big U.S. firm wants to invest somewhere but doesn't want unions to be interfering with its ability to get the lowest wages possible.

This contradiction that you bring up, that as time goes by India has become more economically powerful and its population more numerous, has a bigger military, and has more people, and yet has a less independent foreign policy is very interesting. I think that is true for other countries as well. It seems to do with the rapidity with which groups in different areas can interchange power with each other.

So how do groups interchange power? Will they do it through cash transfers? They do it through information transfers. And they do it through the provision of military hardware or other valuable assets. And because the world has become more globalised, which means all those things can be done faster, I think there is a blurring out of the differences between one nation and another. Sometimes that's very good, when the nations are small. Other times, when there's a superpower involved and it is blurring the boundaries between it and other nations, then you must question whether the superpower is getting too much power.

There is a basic structure to geopolitics, which is not often mentioned. One way to think about it is that every country that is not very isolated has to sign up to one provider of intelligence or another. And there are a number of providers in the market. The U.S. is the market leader. And then you have really Russia and China and the U.K. providing a little bit. If you don't sign up to one of these, then you can't see what's happening around you in your borders — because you don't have geo-spatial intelligence. Information about individuals who may be coming into your territory or conspiring, you do not have; and that's something that military groups and intelligence groups in various countries want to have. It increases their relative power within their own nations.

That doesn't mean the nation needs it but rather that, for Indian intelligence, they can, for example, tremendously increase their influence within India by being signed up to all that intelligence product that the United States produces. Similarly, the Indian military can increase its power by having all these relationships with the U.S. military. And those relationships are not just pushed by the U.S. military or by the U.S. intelligence services. Nowadays, most of the economic activity involving intelligence and military in the United States occurs in private companies.

So there's a blurring out in the United States between what is part of government and what is part of private industry. And these private industry groups, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and so on, and many thousands of smaller companies, lobby and push the U.S. State Department, Congress, and other countries directly to sign up as part of this system — so they can get more power and influence within the United States and have a greater ability to suck money out of the U.S. tax base and out of the tax bases of other countries.

Rising military expenditure

A way to see if that is happening — a clear way to see it — is that U.S. tax revenues since the last financial crisis have declined approximately 25 per cent. At the same time, within the first year of [Barack] Obama being in office, the amount of money going into the intelligence and military sector increased 6 per cent. So if you look at the U.S. as an organism, you have an organism that's getting weaker, by 25 per cent, and yet some part of that organism — the kidney, we talk about the military and intelligence as the kidney — has gotten bigger and has sucked up more of the energy and resources and is disproportionate. Given that the military and intelligence sector doesn't make anything directly — it's not pulling oil out of the ground or producing any energy itself — what that means is its political influence, versus, say, the Department of Health, is increasing. So it's able to get a bigger share of the U.S. tax base. And that seems to be something that's happening in other countries as well.

I think this has to do with the secrecy that surrounds these institutions. So if we look at, say, in U.S. context the Department of Health and the CIA as two government departments competing for money politically, and for prestige and power and connections, when the U.S. Department of the Health makes a mistake, the media can expose it. And people become very critical of it and say, 'Well, why should we put good money after bad? You misspent this money we gave you.' If the CIA makes a mistake, what the CIA says is, 'You can't know anything about the mistake. You can't report on the mistake. We're not going to tell you anything about the mistake.' So as a result, it is able to say, 'Look, if you do not give us money, you will all die.' Doesn't reveal how it is spending money or what sort of mistake it is making. So it is free from proper democratic oversight and this is why it is expanding more and more.

(To be continued)

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

MAKE GOVERNANCE MORE TRANSPARENT

All kinds of people took an active part in the recent campaign that centred on the charismatic grassroots community leader Anna Hazare. Some of them are known for suggestions and public pronouncements that cannot but fill us with dread. Nevertheless, it needs to be remembered at all times that the basis on which Mr Hazare was able to rouse the conscience of the nation pertains to the notion of transparency in governance, the absence of which has bred corruption at all levels on a gargantuan scale. Over the six decades that we have been a self-governing, sovereign republic, our governing elite — both political and bureaucratic, at the Centre and in the states — have encouraged the creation of a thicket of rules that have rendered opaque the functioning of our democracy. These have virtually ruled out interrogation of the so-called servants of the people. The direct consequence of this has been to alienate the people, in whose name policy is framed and public money spent, and exalt those in positions of authority. In many spheres, especially on the political side, a self-perpetuating fiefdom of the undeserving has emerged. Whether the cry of the war on corruption yields long-term results of value, there is little doubt that this is exactly what the average citizen would like to see.
While we hope the bill to establish an effective Lokpal, or national ombudsman — to formulate which a committee of senior ministers and respected civil society figures has been set up in the wake of Mr Hazare's energetic campaign — will see the light of day within the stipulated period, we take the opportunity to reiterate the need for transparency in all aspects of governmental functioning. Any rules and regulations made, any amendments effected to these, and even chargesheets framed against public officials, should be made available in the public domain. In this Internet and mobile age, it is much easier to enable this than it would have been in an earlier era. As of now, ordinary citizens have to run from pillar to post — in the process spending money and time — to access the most basic information that they should have as a right. These are symptoms of a pre-democratic order and must change as we seek to push for the political grammar of entitlement. In short, the privilege of the governing elite to think they know best must now end.
Mr Hazare has said there should be video-recording of the deliberations of the joint panel to frame the Lokpal Bill. The idea is not without merit, although there might be pitfalls in it too. A video-recording, which might be subsequently telecast, might encourage some to play to the gallery. Something akin to this is visible in the two Houses of Parliament since live telecast of their sessions began. A midway point could be sought — perhaps a detailed record of the committee's deliberations on the Lokpal Bill draft could be made public. The idea is not as radical as it might sound. The debates of the committees of the US Senate and House of Representatives are available for public scrutiny, barring some exceptions.
In addition to making the record of its deliberations public — let's say by placing it in the Parliament House library as well as on its website, for anyone to read and publicise — the panel to draft the bill might also see it fit to invite suggestions from the public. While the country debates and ponders over various suggestions, the government would do well to make its views known in the light of the changing mood of our people, instead of pursuing the old way of citing procedures and rules to block ideas which emanate outside of the traditional establishment.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

A HERO BY DEFAULT

ASHOK MALIK

All democracies have a government and an Opposition. Some democracies have a Cabinet and a shadow Cabinet. India is unique. It has a National Advisory Council and, starting this past week, a shadow National Advisory Council. The confusion this will lead to can only be guessed.

So far there was a draft of the Lokpal Bill prepared by the government of India and an alternative draft — the Jan Lokpal Bill — designed by civil society activists who backed Anna Hazare's fast at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar. Now a joint committee, comprising some but not all factions of the pro-Hazare activists as well as members of the Union Cabinet, will produce a third, compromise draft. The "official" National Advisory Council (NAC) — the body headed by Sonia Gandhi, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson, and part of the Congress' attempt to incorporate civil society groups into its political fold — will also draft its own version of the Lokpal Bill.

That aside, those activists left out of the drafting committee by Mr Hazare will no doubt quibble and insist on their own non-negotiable inclusions in any Lokpal Bill. In Parliament, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Left and numerous other parties will also present their changes to one or many of the several draft Lokpal Bills that will be presented to the nation sometime before August 15, 2011 (the deadline put forward by Mr Hazare).
Multiple voices and a degree of noise are a welcome part of democracy. When a law is proposed in Parliament, whether by the government or an individual legislator, ordinary people, lobby groups, non-governmental organisations, business associations and a variety of other segments have a right to object, propose changes and urge a second look. That is not in dispute here.

What is disquieting about the Lokpal Bill controversy is the manner in which self-appointed civil society regiments — all of which have a right to be heard — have arrogated upon themselves the role of being the sole and authentic representatives of public opinion. The standing of elected representatives of the people has been undermined. What the Congress began with its institutionalisation of the NAC in 2004 has now become a runaway fever.

This may sound harsh and unfair given the robust support for Mr Hazare, cutting across regions and cities. As the very symbol of the Little Man, the silent but frustrated common citizen taking on the might of an uncaring and insensitive state, Mr Hazare was a winner from day one. Yet it is important to understand why he got the traction he did, and what this represents and what it doesn't.

Mr Hazare has been around for years. A former soldier who narrowly escaped being killed in the 1965 war, he returned to his native village in Maharashtra to focus on water conservation, small, localised irrigation mechanisms, rural uplift and prohibition. Combining the determination of an old soldier with the semiotics of Mahatma Gandhi, to his followers he is the very embodiment of the Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan sentiment.
One need not believe in everything Mr Hazare says: young people in Ralegan Siddhi, his village, have been known to complain that Mr Hazare's rural idyll creates few modern job opportunities for them; prohibition has never worked in practice, leading to bootlegging and crime syndicates. Nevertheless, as the proverbial god's good man, it is impossible to rail against Mr Hazare and not come out seeming churlish.
When this man was posited against the record of the UPA government over the past year — a succession of scandals and the perceived inability of the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues to take pre-emptive or even strong remedial action — the result was a foregone conclusion.

The middle classes who watched television for hours and hours and then came on the streets, whether in New Delhi or Bengaluru or Ahmedabad, were not so much concerned with the niceties of the Lokpal Bill. They were fed up with what they felt was a venal system and agitated at the shortcomings of the Manmohan Singh government. Disgust with the UPA ended up becoming support for Mr Hazare by default.
In hindsight, the UPA made one crucial mistake as the protesters gathered at Jantar Mantar. It completely underestimated the emotive appeal and impact of Mr Hazare adopting Gandhian tactics. When Mr Hazare began his fast — to the accompaniment of bhajans, and with a portrait of Bharat Mata in the background — the Congress' managers did not sense he would evoke a response from the national media, the city middle classes, the business elite and the intelligentsia.

Indeed, the tone used by Congress politicians through the Jantar Mantar protests — the government will talk to the "other camp"; if the activists have "their chairperson", the committee will not have "our ministers"; Mr Hazare is given to "whims" and "blackmail" — was cutting and condescending.

It is ironical that this is exactly how the Congress elites — in Bombay, Poona and Calcutta, for example — scorned Gandhi when he took to mass movements in the 1920s. The issue here is not to compare Mr Hazare to the Mahatma. It is to stress that when operating conditions are similar, and when popular anger with a supposedly discredited government has hit critical mass, even so-called "obsolete" (another word used to describe the Hazare-led activism) devices can work.

Consider the following extract: "I always strongly criticised (his) views and his methods such as fast for achieving his objectives… (He) could thrust his… fads on that Congress government by resorting to such a simple trick as threatening a fast… The Congress had to surrender its will to his and had to be content with playing the second fiddle to all his eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision… He alone was the judge of everyone and everything".

This sounds remarkably like the rhetoric of Congress spokespersons in the past few days. It's actually from Nathuram Godse's November 1948 statement to the special court at the Red Fort, trying him for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi!

Ashok Malik can be contacted at malikashok@gmail.com

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

WHY ANNA GIVES IT THOSE ONES

PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE

Anna Hazare and his mop-up team have busted one of the fondest myths in this country — no matter what you do, nothing is ever going to change. Call those who gathered in the big cities and small towns across India, and everyone else who rallied behind the 73-year-old and his team in their battle against corruption whatever names you want — causerati, chatterati, digirati or plain nutty, but something did move.

Anyone who was there at any of the sites where Mr Hazare's supporters gathered could not fail to notice the sheer diversity of the people. Young India, old India, shiny India, grimy India, had broken the barriers that pigeonhole them in their everyday lives, and for a few magical hours had come together to support an old man who had captured their imagination. Was there a touch of the carnival, a touch of romance in all this? Of course. There was also a dash of the reality show which drew the television crews. But did the TV manufacture the spectacle? I think not. It was a genuinely inspirational moment for tens of thousands of people across the country who are at the end of their tether, grappling with corruption every day. It is a networked society and the word spread fast. There is no taking away from this moment, no matter what happens or does not happen in the weeks and months to come to Mr Hazare's warriors and their campaign to push through the anti-graft agenda.
But you have to be starry-eyed to think that a piece of legislation will purge the country of scams. No one that I met thought so. The Jan Lokpal Bill itself is a negotiating tool. There have been many versions of the bill already, and there will be more before it takes its final shape. To focus solely on its minutiae, and argue about the technicalities, however, is to miss a deeper point: Why does a fasting Gandhian, albeit with an illustrious record of public service, enjoy rockstar adulation among so many of India's urban youth who inhabit a vastly different universe?

The short answer is because the message and the messenger struck a chord and the timing was perfect. Mr Hazare's moral eminence is a strategic differential in a world of steady, drip-drip scams where the power elite is seen to be utterly compromised. Mr Hazare struck a chord among young India because he tapped into their frustrations and fear of being checkmated by corruption, and because his core message was simple and straight: no citizen, no matter how high, is above the law. Embedded in this message is the idea of an India where the ordinary citizen, used to being passive and powerless, has a better chance of taking on the errant powerful.
Young India is unwilling to accept many things which earlier generations had accepted with resignation. Credit it to the prising open of the Indian economy. This country is much more integrated into the global market place than it was 20 years ago. The sarkari Indian mindset, however, continues to remain in a time warp with its notions of waivers for politicians and other VIPs.

Many of the youngsters who took time off to express support for Hazare are, in essence, challenging this notion of VIP privilege. This generation knows more about the warts afflicting society than their elders, thanks to the Right to Information Act legislation. The sheer scale and magnitude of the scams in recent times have added to their sense of outrage. They also know more about the world outside through inter-personal exchanges, satellite television, Internet and social media. They now want not only the goodies from the Western world, but also their protocols of everyday life which empower ordinary citizens, where rules prevail, and where there are few exemptions to "very important people".

At Jantar Mantar and India Gate last week, I heard the word "future" many times. The young say they are supporting Mr Hazare because they trust him to bat for their future. The "system" against which the youth are rebelling has not grasped this fundamental fact adequately.

The disconnect shows up in so many telling ways. The latest example is the Municipal Corporation of Delhi's decision to show its "token of appreciation" to the four cricketers from the city (Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Gautam Gambhir and Ashish Nehra) who were part of the victorious Team India in the cricket World Cup by waiving their house tax for life.

Similar "appreciation" is shown to a whole galaxy of VIPs by exempting them from security checks at airports which ordinary folks cannot bypass. Airports are not the only places where you can watch the fast-track and special treatment reserved for the VIP. Drive down a national highway and you will inevitably see a big board which lists all those who are exempt from paying toll tax. It starts from the President, includes the vice-president, the Prime Minister, governors and a host of others. Last year, the Central government decided that members of Parliament as well as all members of Legislative Assemblies and Legislative Councils were also to be exempted from paying toll tax while driving down highways within their own states. The issue is not the money that is waived. It is the underlying mindset which equates "appreciation" of the important and the worthy with exemptions from rules that govern everyone else. Such "VIP privileges" are premised on the belief that a certain person's time or feelings are somehow more important than that of the ordinary man or woman.
Young India is rebelling against the political class because it sees it as the initiator and preserver of these VIP privileges which eventually balloon into a big protective umbrella for all manners of wrongdoing. Young India is desperate for a "hero" it can trust. Mr Hazare is the man of the moment.

The government is on the backfoot. But it can start bridging the trust deficit by simply giving the ordinary person a greater sense of equality. One can take a leaf out of the Maruti success story in India and the Japanese work culture. At the start, Maruti's Indian managers were resistant to new ideas like wearing a uniform, eating in the same canteen as their juniors and sitting in open offices. But slowly they came around and it has helped the company. If the government wants to win back the people, it could start with doing away with VIP privileges.

Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at patralekha.chatterjee@gmail.com

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

A BINARY REVOLUTION

PARANJOY GUHA THAKURTA

Although Anna Hazare has been able to epitomise public anger against corruption in high places, euphoric descriptions of these events as the beginnings of a middle-class inspired "revolution" or as an example of "street power" prevailing over "state power" (as in Egypt) are uncalled for. To see in the 73-year-old activist another Jayaprakash Narayan in the making or even a Vishwanath Pratap Singh would be premature. Mr Hazare himself has argued that the fight against corruption has only just begun — but this struggle has to go far, far beyond an empowered Lokpal, better electronic voting machines or the right of voters to recall their elected representatives.


Until the nexus among politicians, businesspersons and criminals — which is facilitated by the bureaucracy — is considerably weakened and unless the manner in which election campaigns are funded is radically altered, much of civil society's desire to reduce the incidence of corruption in the country would be meaningless. Consequently, the so-called popular "uprising" to create institutional systems whereby the corrupt are expeditiously identified, prosecuted and punished, would get dissipated despite the overdose of righteous indignation that has been expressed, especially by some of our hyperactive television anchors.
There remains a lot about putting together the structure of an empowered people's ombudsman or Lokpal that will not be easily resolved by the committee that has equal representation from the government as well as those who are supposed to represent the diverse and fractious "civil society" of this country. The contentious issues relate not just to the modalities of appointing a Lokpal, including the setting up of an electoral college, and whether his jurisdiction would prevail over not just politicians, but bureaucrats and judges as well.
Let us for the time being believe that the Lokpal's relationship with law-enforcing authorities and agencies responsible for investigating criminal acts of corruption — such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Central Vigilance Commission, to name only two — would be seamless, if not smooth. Let us also optimistically assume that the Lokpal himself would behave in a transparent manner and also be "responsible" when it comes to critical areas where corruption overlaps with foreign relations and national security. Even if one presumes that these controversial contentions can — and will — be amicably resolved within the deadlines set by Mr Hazare, the question of the Lokpal not having to seek either the government's or Parliament's prior permission/sanction to act against the corrupt in high places would still have to be thrashed out. This will not be easy but nevertheless worth attempting.


Take the case of the Karnataka Lokayukta Justice N. Santosh Hegde's detailed investigations into illegal iron ore mining in Andhra Pradesh's Bellary district in recent years. His reports have been well-documented. His findings have been endorsed by reports prepared by bodies that operate under the Union government, among which was the technical regulator of the ministry of mines, the Indian Bureau of Mines. But ask Justice Hegde why the state government under B.S. Yeddyurappa has virtually chosen to ignore his recommendations and why whatever action that has been initiated so far has been cosmetic, to put it rather mildly? Why indeed?
The reasons are obvious. The promoters of privately-owned mining companies in Bellary and the adjoining Ananthapur district, who used to fund the activities of political leaders in the past, are today important politicians themselves. Among them are the Gali Reddy brothers, two of whom hold ministerial positions in the Yeddyurappa government. Gali Janardhana Reddy is minister for tourism and infrastructure development and Gali Karunakara Reddy is revenue minister while Gali Somasekhara Reddy is president, Karnataka Milk Federation. A close associate of the Reddy brothers, B. Sreeramulu, is health minister in the state government. The Reddy brothers and their supporters have links with influential politicians in Andhra Pradesh (like Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy) where they have promoted the Obulapuram Mining Company.


This is merely one instance of the nexus between politics, business and crime. There are many such examples across the country. Many believe (and rightly so) that the fountainhead of corruption in India is the manner in which election campaigns of politicians and political parties are covertly funded. According to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the autonomous and independent Election Commission of India is meant to ensure that the expenditure incurred by individual candidates (whether at the national or at local levels) adhere to a "model code of conduct" wherein expenditure limits and heads of spending are clearly specified.


However, there are glaring loopholes in the law. Political parties can spend unlimited amounts on the campaigns of their candidates as can his friends and associates. If corporate captains or criminals "invest" in the election of a particular person, it is hardly surprising that they would seek to "recover" the expenses incurred through questionable means after the concerned candidate becomes a member of Parliament (MP), a member of Legislative Assembly or a minister. It has been estimated that close to a fourth of all elected MPs in India have criminal records, though not all of them have been accused of "heinous" crimes or acts of corruption.
Mr Hazare's sudden popularity is a consequence of the middle classes' need for a new "hero" after a number of "villains" like A. Raja and Suresh Kalmadi have hogged headlines, points out political scientist Yogendra Yadav. But this anti-corruption movement can hope to proceed thus far and no further if it posits issues in binary terms — primarily, the "good" NGO activist versus the "bad" politico. If that indeed happens (as seems likely at present) corruption will not be rooted out, leave alone reduced.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CHINESE KARAKORUM MENACE

 

China has departed from its policy of neutrality on Kashmir and has adopted a stance favorable to Pakistan's position on the issue. While China is consolidating its position in Gilgit-Baltistan at the same time, it challenges India's locus standi in Kashmir. Despite denials by both Beijing and Islamabad, Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan region has been recently confirmed by the US intelligence agencies to New Delhi. It reported that Chinese troops were deployed all along the LoC in Kashmir. In the beginning China said that only a technical workforce engaged in building and repairing of the Karakorum Highway had been deployed in the region. But now sizeable presence of Chinese military personnel is reported by dependable media.

Bordering Afghanistan, Tajikistan, China, India, and Pakistan, and as part of the original State of Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan is one of the most politically sensitive and geo-strategically situated regions in the world. As a resource-rich region abundant in minerals and energy-sources; a lynchpin for China to access Afghanistan, Iran, the Indian Ocean region, and Africa; China has over the past decade become increasingly involved in Gilgit-Baltistan both strategically and via economic investment. With Chinese involvement in the region comes a wide array of political, security, and economic sensitivities, but also a slew of environmental concerns as Chinese-funded infrastructure projects like dams, mineral exploratory activities and strategic infrastructure development worth billions of dollars begs immediate attention. Gilgit-Baltistan is an economically under-developed and socially fractured society and very vulnerable to such outside interventions. The impact of even a small Chinese presence is highly disproportionate on a marginalized mountainous region like Gilgit-Baltistan. This situation of creeping process of control by China can turn into a serious challenge to India's northern frontier. This was precisely what the GOC-in-C, Western Command Lt. Gen. Parnaik meant to tell the audience in a recent seminar. China's projects like mega dams increase seismic activity and submerge habitable areas and thousands of acres of agricultural land. At the same time, it accelerates glacial melting and occurrences of flashfloods. While comparing Gilgit-Baltistan with Tibet and Xingjian, we cannot ignore the damage which may be caused to flora and fauna due to China's infrastructure development. Senge Sering, a noted Tibetan expert and commentator on South Asian region had said in a seminar in the US that China's activities in Gilgit-Baltistan were leading to environmental degradation and failed to benefit the natives of the region. The local people who oppose China's role in damaging glacial resource, pastures and cultural heritage continue to face sedition charges in the Pakistani courts. Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed territory, yet both China and Pakistan exploit natural resources sans constitutional guarantees." He asserted that China's involvement in Gilgit-Baltistan is comparable to advancing the great game in the region.

In strategic terms, Chinese military and intelligence presence in Gilgit Baltistan region will have far reaching impact on the developments taking place in the war zone of Pakistan's NWFP and Afghanistan now known as Af-Pak region. China has already established foothold in the contiguous Central Asian State of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Even China's reach in Afghanistan has been acknowledged by knowledgeable circles. This gives China very sensitive strategic lever to influence the course of history in the entire region. With Pakistan's outright support and agreement, China will use its political and diplomatic machinery to support and promote Pakistan's role in the future political formulation of Afghanistan, something which Pakistan is very eager to clinch. China's another and equally important interest in the region is to safeguard the transportation of Central Asian gas from Turkmenistan or Iran to Xingjian via Pakistan and the Karakorum Highway link. China is working on laying the railway line through the Himalayan watershed besides the gas pipeline. Once completed, this will have far-reaching impact on political and economic scenario of the region. One important reason for Chinese inroads into the Gilgit-Baltistan region is that Pakistan has not been able to convince the US that India should have no role in the democratic process in Afghanistan. Washington has come to the conclusion that India's role and presence in Kabul would strengthen the US-NATO led peace process in Afghanistan. Chinese advance into Gilgit-Baltistan is a retaliatory move; a hangover of the days of Great Game in Central Asia.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SAVE MUBARAK MANDI

 

A row has surfaced over the issue of what to do with the Mubarak Mandi complex, the official seat of Dogra rulers of the State since its inception in 1846. The row was caused by the government allocating the complex to private entrepreneurs for building a five-star hotel. This was objected to by philanthropists on two counts. One that it is a historical complex and should remain as such, and second that being located in the heart of old city of Jammu, the site was not conducive for a hotel. Now Jammu civil society has been sensitized to the issue and an organization has been formed to pursue the question of preservation of the heritage complex. "Mubarak Mandi Bachao Andolan" is a people's movement to save the complex from being commercialized. The issue has been raised in the state legislature and civil society is now building pressure on the government to accede to its wishes of the people. Great nations have pride in their heritages whatever these are. These heritages reflect the history of the nation. That Dogras consolidated the state through conquests in the second half of 19th century is a historical fact. This cannot be denied and therefore should not be demolished. Andolan Committee has rightly appreciated Sayed Rafiq Shah MLC for raising the issue of preservation of Mubarak Mandi heritage in the Legislative Council. Committee's decision of holding a silent march from Purani Mandi to Mubarak Mandi in Jammu City on 15th April 2011 is to spread the message to the people to rise and save Mubarak Mandi from being converted to 5-star hotel and from destroying its historical structure. The government should not let things pass to a level where confrontational postures will be adopted. The issue should be resolved without hurting the feelings of the people of Jammu. Jammu-based political leadership should immediately intervene in the matter and find a solution. Snowballing the issue will lead to public unrest and this is not at all advisable.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PANCHAYATI RAJ IN J&KWILL IT BE A MEASURE OF EMPOWERMENT OF PEOPLE.?

BY BALRAJ PURI

 

The Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, has constituted a high power committee, headed by the Chief Secretary Madhav Lal for formulating a road map for the transfer of vital functions and finances to the panchayats, to which elections are being held from April 17.


Why could this be done before announcing the elections? And the road map prepared by the high power committee be publicly debated or at least discussed in the assembly, the session of which is just ended? Till the map is released, we have to keep our figures crossed. As it is, the present Panchyati Raj Act is mere an instrument of further centralisation of power rather then a genuine measure of empowerment of the people.
Here I raise some pertinent questions which the high powered committee should consider.
Last time panchayati election was held in 2001.There was hectic discussion between political parties, including the coalition parties in the state government, on some reforms in the Panchayati Raj before this announcement. The Congress party and the opposition parties of Jammu had demanded that the new panchayats should be formed after adoption by the state of 73rd amendment to the Indian constitution which would have made panchayats a genuine instrument of decentralisation of power. It is not 73rd amendment as such that is important. The state, after studying its working in other states of country could have adopted even a better law than elsewhere if the objective was empowerment of the people.


The state assembly, however, did enact a law to constitute an Election Commission to conduct the election. But by that time code of conduct had been enforced which means the Commission would work from next elections. The coming election would be conducted by the Election department of the state government.
The fears about centralization of power through the cover of panchayati raj are further confirmed by some provisions of the State law. While the Central Law provides for direct election to all panchayati raj institutions, it is not so in the state. For instance, not a single member of the district board, under the J&K law shall be directly elected. Chairman shall be nominated by the government who is elected under the Central law. A provision has now been added for an elected Vice-Chairperson of the board. But the supreme power will continue to be exercised by the chairperson.


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


At the block, level also, unlike the Central law, the State Act does not provide for direct election of any member. It shall comprise sarpanches of halqa panchayats and chairman of the marketing society within the jurisdiction of the block. With the Block Development Officer, an ex-officio secretary, the block development council is also brought under the influence of the government. The government shall also have power to nominate two members to give representation each to women, scheduled caste or any other class. The Central Act provides for 33 per cent reservation for women and, according to the population ratio, for the Schedule Castes, but it does not, provide for any nomination at any level. The State law provides for nomination but not reservation. Further the term other class is so vague that it can be used by the State Government to nominate any person on the block council to represent it. The nominations can always ensure majority for the ruling party.
It is only at the halqa panchayat level were all members shall be directly elected. But even at this level, a government employee, i.e., the village level worker, shall be the member secretary who shall thus ensure government presence at the base of the panchayati raj system. Moreover, the government shall have the power to nominate two members on the halqa panchayat on the same pattern as it does on the block council.
One more flaw in the State law with regard to the functions of the halqa panchayat is that its members have not been made accountable to the people after they are elected. There is no provision for a gram sabha which could act as a sort of assembly for the panachyat and could meet once or twice a year to pass the budget and to exercise some control on the working of the panchayat, including the right to pass a vote of no confidence against the members and elect new members in their place.

 

A pre-requisite of the success of the panchayati ran system is its financial viability and autonomy. The 73rd Amendment to the Constitution also provides for appointment of a Finance Commission by the State Governments to make recommendations for a) determination of the taxes, duties, tolls and fees which may be assigned to panchayats, b) distribution between the State and panchayats of the net proceeds of taxes, duties, etc; c) grant-in-aid to the panchayats by the States.


J&K law neither fixes minimum amount of grant-in-aid by the State to the panchayats for providing nor autonomous machinery for objective allocation of funds. It has no assured source of income, either. The law, therefore, does not ensure financial viability and autonomy of the panchayats and leaves enough financial power in the hands of he State government which it could use arbitrarily to influence the working of the panchayats.
Panchayat adalat is another important feature of the new panchayati raj law of the State. For the modern system of justice is not only very expensive and time consuming, but is also virtually inaccessible to most of the rural and far-off areas. Panchayati adalats have been used in many states to supplement the formal judicial system by reviving and legitimizing the traditional system of justice.


But by empowering the State government to nominate members of the panchayati adalat, and to remove its chairman or any member, the new law robs independence of the institution of justice at the grass roots level. It amounts to supplementing the judicial system and the traditional system of justice, both supposed to be independent of the executive, by a third sector of justice controlled by the State Government.
Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act does not accept the jurisdiction of the Union Election Commission "for superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of elections in the State" nor that of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India "for the audit of the accounts of the panchayats" as the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution proposes to do for other States.


The State is not only independent of the federal autonomous institutions like the Election Commission and CAG, it has also not made any Amendment in its own Constitution corresponding to the Amendment in the Indian Constitution. Such an Amendment would not have compromised autonomy of the State, but would have projected the interests of the panchayati institutions against bureaucratic encroachments by, say, making re-election of superseded panchayats constitutionally mandatory and reserving a list of subjects in the constitution for exclusive management by the panchayats. J&K State needs genuine panchayat raj, more than any other state. For its much more diversities than others. In view of its multi-ethnic and multi-religious character, the panchayati raj is not only is a means for devolution of power and participatory democracy but also is vital instrument of accommodating its wide diversities. Panchayati raj implies a federal continuum through which power devolves form Centre to State and then to District, Block and Villages. In the case of J&K, regional tier is an indispensable part of the federal continuum.


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

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FDI IN MULTI-BRAND RETAIL

BY NANTOO BANERJEE

 

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is also one of America's biggest importers. The retail giant contributes little to the US job market. On the contrary, its import of low-cost products and commodities from all over the world has taken away hundreds of thousands of American jobs and resulted in the shut-down of many 'uneconomic' US manufacturing facilities in the face of strong competition from those low-cost exporting economies. China leads the pack of Wal-Mart's most preferred suppliers. The phenomenal growth of Wal-Mart is based on the laissez faire concept which is at the heart of US consumerism. It gives run for money to other retailers. Its strength is the gang of bargain hunters, who give a damn to manufacturing labels or supply sources as long they are affordable and less pocket-pincher. The US of A, the world's richest economy, can afford Wal-Mart. US dollar is one of the world's most preferred currencies. The question is: can India with all its present economic and currency weaknesses afford to ape the model now?


The answer is: an emphatic 'no.' First of all, the argument that the permission to MNCs to get into multi-brand retail business will open a floodgate of foreign direct investment is totally wrong. Conversely, it will open an import floodgate of items from sewing needles, nail clippers and candles to kitchen wares, home decors, luxuries and what-have-you, draining out billion of dollars in precious foreign currencies year after year. Even fruits and vegetables, grains, processed foods may be imported into the country if such imports work out to be cheaper than the domestic produce. Cheaper Pakistani red chilli, Bangladeshi and Pakistani readymade garments, Lankan, Indonesian, Chinese and African tea, Thai bananas, Philippine pineapple, Chinese broccoli, Vietnamese coffee and Thai rice may change the very look of the display racks of retail stores in India and, with them, the fortunes of traditional Indian farmers, small industrial enterprises, self-help groups, artisans and small traders.


Secondly, India's economy is simply not ready to face the onslaught of multinational retailers on its business territory, which is still primitive in many areas because of the years of government and social neglect. The country has neither the adequate amount of money, nor the infrastructure, technologies and skills to evenly face those specialized supplier-exporters from other parts of the world. Unless multinational retailers are served with entry-level restrictions on dealing with imported products, or slapped with domestic procurement obligations, or their operations are made export-linked, the country will find it difficult to sustain the luxury of multi-brand retailing by MNCs. India's retail market is its economy. It can't be surrendered to MNCs. The latter are most welcome if they want to grow this economy by investing in domestic production and procurement and share the fortune, in the process.


India's uncomfortable foreign exchange position, large trade imbalance, low level FDI in manufacturing and its soft currency hold against the argument in favour of foreign entry in the multi-brand retail business. The first half of the fiscal 2010-11, for which official financial data are available, showed the FDI into the economy dropping by 55 per cent to only $5.3 billion from the corresponding level ($12.3 billion) in the previous year. The trade deficit (BoP) during this period was $67 billion. During this period, India's external debt jumped by 12.8 per cent to $295.8 billion. Against this backdrop, the country's foreign exchange reserves were estimated at only $ 299 billion, which include a hot money flow of 24 billion by way of portfolio investment, mostly by FIIs, during this period. The foreign investments in the volatile secondary market showed a big jump, by 33 per cent from the level of $18 billion in April-September, 2009. Financially, this can hardly be regarded as an appropriate time to invite FDI in domestic retail trade, which will soon lead to an additional drain of foreign exchange by way of imports and repatriation of profits and royalties.


However, this is not to deny the importance of the organised retail trade in modern economy. In fact, there exists a great opportunity for India's domestic companies, especially large business houses, in the organised retail business to grow and help create strong local brands as it is happening in China, Brazil, Finland, Lithuania, South Korea and Spain. Fortunately, this is happening in India as well. The trend promises a big boost to the Indian economy. Domestic suppliers to these local retail chains, which also display limited quantities of import brands, are realizing the value of product quality and branding and investing in technologies, packaging and transportation.


The Indian multi-brand retail chains such as Shoppers' Stop, Pantaloon, Big Bazar, Spenser's and Westside have become household names while the stores like Foodworld, Reliance Retail, More, Wills Lifestyle (Landmark), Crossword and Globus are fast spreading across the country. The business is still at a nascent stage. Not all entrepreneurs are making big money. With property rates in India shooting up, the companies are finding it difficult to acquire right sized properties in right locations - the most important part of investment for the success of the business - at viable cost. The only role the government may be advised to play to boost the retail trade and investment is to help this new domestic multi-brand retail firms with some incentives to become global players themselves. If the Moroccan retail chain, Mango, can come to India to do a profitable business with imported women's wear from Morocco, Indian retail chains too should find their moorings in Morocco or Malaysia carrying Indian brands in their train before Wal-Marts and Carrefours and Tescos of the world are given supermarket license to operate in India. (IPA)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FIGHTING CORRUPTION

BY SRINIVASAN K. RANGACHARY

 

If there is a mismatch, common sense will tell you that prices of products will either fall or rise based on the imbalance. When things go wrong in companies, Strategy consultants often tell management to look at the organisation structure or the entire supply-chain process to set things in order.


So it is with the fight against corruption. It needs to be looked at in its entirety -- supply, demand and the continuum of such transactions. There is a symbiotic relationship between the giver and taker in every corrupt transaction and they indeed share the loot. In the battle against corruption thus far, the focus has rightly been on politicians and bureaucrats.


The omnipotent misuse of public office for private gain makes them the biggest beneficiaries of ill gotten wealth. But for the fight to be pervasive and to crack the politician, bureaucrat, businessman nexus, attention also needs to be on the giver. In the past, there have been many individuals who have attempted in vain to take on the system or expose the giver single handedly. Their efforts have been futile and in some cases have paid dearly with their lives. Recently Amit Jethwa, an RTI activist who tried to end illegal mining in Gujarat was shot dead by people who were profiteering from the act.


Last year, Satish Shetty another RTI activist, who had blown the whistle on a series of land scams in and around Pune was brutally murdered. In 2003, Satyendra Dubey the outstanding project director at the NHAI was killed in Bihar for exposing corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral contracts. Close on its heels came the murder of a young IIM graduate Manjunath Shanmugham in Uttar Pradesh, who tried to take on corrupt petrol dealers of Indian Oil Corporation.


The sombre effort of these fine individuals makes a compelling case for a concerted collective action by citizens against the giver. There is no better form of collective action known to mankind than Gandhigiri. It can be used effectively to boycott products or services of companies that foment corruption in government and fleece the taxpayers. What if the telecom services of Swan Telecom and Unitech were boycotted by consumers for their involvement in the 2G spectrum scandal?


Citizens do not need new laws or assistance from the government to launch an effective campaign against the giver. All they require is a credible institutional mechanism that is cost effective to make the boycott successful. Like a group of women who effectively organised a 'pink chaddi' campaign on the internet to silence rabble-rousers and bigots in a short period of time, a group of eminent individuals whom the citizen's trust can act as watchdog, evaluate government contracts and publish the results on internet.


The group 'India Against Corruption' is eminently qualified to act as a watchdog. It has many accomplished individuals - Sri Ravi Shankar, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare and Mallika Sarabhai - distinguished men and women with impeccable credentials and unimpeachable integrity. The other group that can take on the mantle of a watchdog is Transparency International. Being part of the World Economic Forum's - Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI), they already have a process to evaluate government contracts in many countries.


Every month or periodically, an evaluation can be conducted on the Central and state government contracts and clearances. If companies are found to be corrupt, they can alert the public of boycott of products or services or ask other corporations to stop dealing with them. Companies can also submit themselves to this group on a voluntary basis once they win a government contract to prove to taxpayers that the contract was awarded without paying bribe. Rampant corruption is fast corroding the confidence of investors and is beginning to have an adverse impact on the India growth story.


With ever increasing public appetite for better infrastructure and government penchant for social programmes, Central and state governments are expected to spend more than Rs. 25 lakh crore over the next decade in public works contracts and various schemes. In the current scenario more than half this money will likely be siphoned off by the politician, bureaucrats, businessmen nexus with citizens passively watching.


With corruption being cynosure of public eyes, there is a window of opportunity that exists now to cleanse and reform the system. It is time for citizens to declare an open war on corruption, follow the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and resolve to fight it through collective action. A people's initiative to boycott products or services of corrupt companies is more likely to have far reaching effect on politics and politicians as well as corporations than any law or regulation enacted by the government. INAV

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

NO POLICY ON LOKAYUKTAS

LAW NEEDED TO ENSURE UNIFORMITY IN STATES 

 

Close on the heels of the Centre's decision to heed social activist Anna Hazare's demand for a bipartisan consensus on drafting a comprehensive Lokpal Bill at the Centre for checking corruption, the spotlight is now on the Lokayuktas in various states. The Gujarat Government's honest admission of failure in appointing a Lokayukta since 2004 sums up the dismal state of affairs in various states. Either there is no Lokayukta in the states or if it exists, it lacks teeth to check corruption firmly and decisively. On Sunday, Gujarat Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas accused the state Congress of creating hurdles in setting up a Lokayukta. The Congress has, in turn, blamed the BJP for the impasse. Whatever the arguments and counter-arguments between the state government and the Opposition on the issue, the responisbility squarely lies on the government for its failure to set up the institution of Lokayukta.

 

Unfortunately, the scenario in all other states is equally bleak. In Orissa, for example, the Lokpal has no investigation wing and the State Vigilance Department does not report to him. Moreover, he cannot act against anyone on his own. And if his recommendation for action against any corrupt person is not carried out, all he can do is to bring the matter to the Governor's notice. How can corruption be checked if he is not given suo motu powers?

 

In Punjab, the situation is by and large the same. The Vigilance Bureau does not report to the Lokpal and it works independently under the Chief Secretary. Worse, he doesn't have adequate staff and resources to process the complaints. And even if he forwards the complaints to the Governor for onward transmission to the government, the latter keeps mum and doesn't take any action. In Haryana, too, it is a toothless body and it is left to the whims and fancies of the state government to implement the recommendations of the Lokayukta. In Karnataka, Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, who has now been made a Member of the Drafting Committee for the Lokpal Bill at the Centre, has been playing a proactive role in checking corruption in the state. Sadly, however, the Yeddyurappa government is not helping him in his endeavours. The institution of Lokayukta in all states can be effectively strengthened if the Centre accepts the recommendation of the Association of Lokayuktas for a Central law to ensure uniformity in the functioning of the office.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SAVE GIRL CHILD

SEX DETERMINATION GOES ON DESPITE LAWS

 

THE preference of Indian parents for a male heir is a centuries-old malady. Leave alone equal economic and social rights, women and girls have not even got a violence-free existence to boast of. That is why a law against sex-determination tests was brought into operation in the country from January 1, 1996. It was later amended in 2003 to make it more comprehensive and renamed the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act. In all these years of operation, it should have helped in increasing the number of girls born as compared to boys. But the provisional figures of Census 2011 show that quite the contrary has happened. The child sex ratio has dropped to a new low, with only 914 girls per 1,000 boys – as compared to 927 in 2001.

 

Jammu and Kashmir has shown the maximum decline. What makes the decrease all the more shocking is the fact that it is not confined to North India, but has been noticed even in the supposedly more progressive states like Maharashtra. Despite tall claims, the sex-determination tests continue with impunity. Those working to uphold women's rights have presented a grim picture about the government's earnestness to nip this evil in the bud. The Central Supervisory Board set up to oversee the implementation of the PNDT Act did not hold a single meeting in three years. Advisory committees set up in states also meet rarely. The Centre has now reconstituted the board and one hopes it will be more active.

 

The need for doing so cannot be overstressed. The global benchmark for child sex ratio is 950 girls for 1000 boys. That means that because of the ghastly practice of pre-natal sex selection and the resultant female foeticide and infanticide, some 1,600 girls go missing every day. That is nothing less than mass murder. While it is alright to exhort society to rail against this practice, ultimately it is the responsibility of the state to stop the killings forthwith. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

PHONE TAPPING

NEED TO TACKLE MISUSE

 

Sometime ago conversations of various individuals were splashed in the media and became the focus of much attention as part of the Radia tapes which surfaced as a fallout of the 2G scam. The telephonic conversations had been recorded because of taps authorised by the government. The media leaks of this information, however, were not authorised and brought to the fore the need to adopt information security measures for telephone intercepts. Indeed, there has been growing disquiet about telephone tapping in general, and the lack of uniform processes and procedures by which such tapping is authorised.

 

It is, indeed, surprising that till now the standard operating procedures (SOPs) had not been drafted, and thus there was a degree of ad hocism in the process. The government has done well to constitute an inter-ministerial group (IMG) to go into the provisions of tapping as well as taking steps to ensure that such information is not leaked to the public. The 15-member group has in it the chiefs of Intelligence Bureau, CBI, Narcotics Control Bureau, NIA, DRI and ED, and representatives of CBDT and Signal Intelligence (Defence Ministry). These are the agencies that are involved in tapping telephones.

 

Every individual has a right to privacy, which can only be impinged by the State for specific reasons, like involvement in or association with criminal or subversive activity. Intercepted conversations must be treated seriously, and the Cabinet Secretariat is correct in asking investigating agencies to destroy parts of the transcripts that are not relevant to their investigation. Various technical processes and other procedures also need to be tightened so that the demands of the individual's right to privacy on the one hand and the investigating agency's need to probe suspicious activities, on the other, are balanced. In many advanced democracies, judicial review ensures that citizens' rights are not trampled upon by administrative or political exigencies. The all-pervasive nature of telephones makes it even more imperative that the IMG should deliberate, not only the SOPs, it should also look into the possibility of judicial oversight into telephone tapping orders.

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

CHINA'S FOOTPRINTS IN POK

THE IMPLICATIONS FOR INDIA

BY RUP NARAYAN DAS

 

THE reported statement of Lt-Gen K.T. Parnaik that Chinese troops are stationed near the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan one week ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to China commencing on the 13th of this month to participate in the BRICS Summit in the Chinese city of Sanya, where South Africa is to be formally admitted to the BRIC forum, is a clear message to Beijing that India simply cannot take a benign view of the China's footprints in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

 

While the Sino-Pak nexus has always been a matter of concern for India, what has exacerbated the matter further is the degree of seamlessness between China and Pakistan that PoK is fast acquiring. This has prompted celebrated journalist Selig S. Harrison to comment in an article in the New York Times on 26th of August last year, "Islamabad is handing over the de facto control of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region in the northwest corner of the disputed Kashmir to China." The article further mentioned that there has been an "influx of an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers of the People' Liberation Army".

 

One need not have to depend on the veracity of the article to discern the growing footprints of China in PoK over the years. It is against this backdrop that the statement of Lt- Gen K. T. Parnaik assumes importance. As far as physical occupation of Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, it may be mentioned that while India is in possession of 45 per cent and Pakistan controls 35 per cent of the region, China occupies about 20 per cent of the territory (including Aksai Chin and the Sakshgam valley ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963). The Karakoram Highway, which connects China's Xinjiang region with Gilgit-Baltistan, was constructed by Chinese and Pakistani engineers over a period of time and was completed in 1986.

 

China is currently involved in several infrastructures in the disputed region. China and Pakistan signed a deal in 2006 to upgrade the Karakoram highway. Once the projects are completed, the transport capacity of the strategically significant region will increase significantly. The Karakoram highway will facilitate China's free access to the oil-rich Gulf region through the Pakistani port of Gwadar in Balochistan. It is significant to note that during the visit of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to China in August 2010, Beijing declared Kashgar , in north-west Chin's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, as a Special Economic Zone like the Shenzhe which borders Hong Kong. The announcement makes Kashgar the sixth Special Economic Zone of China.

 

The strategic significance of Kashgar for China is that it is the hotbed of Uighur separatists indulging in sporadic violence to press for their demands for an independent East Turkmenistan nation. China has been seeking both intelligence and military support from Pakistan to keep the Uighur separatists in check, and cut off their links with pro-Taliban forces. China and Pakistan have worked out anti-terrorism programmes under which Pakistani security forces push back Uighur fighters trying to cross the border to seek sanctuary in terrorist camps in Pakistan. China and Pakistan have held anti-terrorism exercise in 2004 and 2006.

 

The third round of such joint military exercise between these countries was conducted in July 2010 to crack down on Islamic militant groups like the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The ETIM, regarded as a pro-Al-Qaeda group, is active in Xinjiang, the Chinese Muslim-majority province bordering Pakistan, and the Chinese officials have complained that their cadres are being trained in terrorist camps in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.

 

The Sino-Pak collaboration in the hydropower project in the Pok region is also a matter of concern for India. During the visit of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to China in August 2009, the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the construction of a hydropower station at Bunji in the Northern Areas. New Delhi is of the view that Islamabad cannot undertake any project in the territory under its illegal occupation.

 

Besides this MoU on the hydropower project, there were MoUs for cooperation in education, fisheries, agriculture, dams and investment. However, the most important of them was the construction of the hydropower project on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis, which means that all the investment will be made by Chinese entrepreneurs. The dam is estimated to cost between $ 6-7 billion and will have a capacity to generate 7000 MW of electricity. During the visit, the Pakistani President also invited Chinese companies to bid for the construction of over a dozen small and medium-sized dams in all the four provinces of Pakistan.

 

It is against this backdrop that China should show sensitivity towards Indian's concern over an issue which is central to India's security and territorial integrity. Mere denial is not enough. There should be credible evidence to support the denial. If Beijing is sincere in its approach to build bridges of friendship with India, then it must refrain from aiding and abetting Pakistan. This is more so when China's international profile is rising and it is trying to project itself as a responsible global power. BothIndia and China can work together in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Nepal.

 

Instead of making South Asia a region of conflict and competition, the two Asian giants should cooperate to take the countries of the area in a trajectory of growth and development and realise the true spirit of Asian renaissance. India has no problem in Beijing's role in facilitating growth and development in Pakistan or any other country of South Asia. But this should not happen in PoK as that would be detrimental to India's security interests. It is expected that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of BRICS conference in China will reiterate India's concern and will receive some assurance from the Chinese premier with whom he has established a perfect rapport.

 

The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

REMEMBERING YURI GAGARIN

BY SIMRITA DHIR

 

One of the most vivid memories of my growing up is of wrapping my fingers around the Soviet story books which were so integral a part of the lives of many children in India in the 1980s. The Soviet story books were made hugely available at school book exhibits at more than affordable prices. Many people emerged from within the pages of those books and caught my imagination — there were stories of children living in communes and working on collective farms after school, there were of course stories about Vladimir Lenin and of his childhood in a house in the woods. However, most of all, I loved to read about the celebrated peasant boy who grew up and travelled to the stars and beyond.

 

Many a Soviet book told me the brave story of Yuri Gagarin and his first in the history of mankind flight into a place above the other side of beyond. While the notion of space and space exploration was still hazy in my mind back then, Yuri Gagarin sure emerged as an undoubted hero. An image of the forever young Gagarin, smiling in his Soviet Air Force uniform, remains captured in my mind.

 

Later, when I went to the US for graduate school in the 1990s, I was both amazed and amused at the varying versions of space history that some of my American classmates liked to float around. None of their Orwellian attempts at retelling history could change the fact that the story did not begin in 1969. It started when Yuri Gagarin went into space back on April 12, 1961 in a spaceship called Vostok.  April 12, 2011 marks the completion of a half century since he embarked on that magical flight that opened new vistas beyond any stretches of imagination.

 

The triumphant story of Yuri Gagarin had been brought to me by little books and had filled my childhood with wonder. As much as I may wish to put my hands around those books again, I know that in a new world where a superpower, a nation, a thought and a geographical space on the world map has been dissolved, those books are lost forever.

 

Interestingly, in the swimming pool locker the other day, a young Russian woman nursed a similar thought when she complained about how history stood lost and stolen, how the stories of her childhood were no longer relevant even in present-day Russia. She looked at me quizzically and expressed surprise that in an age of everything Americana, and in the midst of NASA and Neil Armstrong, I had remembered Yuri Gagarin and his ethereal flight 50 years ago.

 

The truth is that like numerous others, I can never forget Yuri Gagarin. He is a part of my childhood, a picture of inspiration, a vision of unbridled youth, and a metaphor for unimaginable human possibility. His exquisite enigma stands trapped in time at that equally exquisite age of 34.

 

And while Lenin and his busts have come crumbling down, neither a disintegrated USSR nor his untimely death can dim the appeal of Yuri Gagarin. His legacy dares us to dream!n

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE BEATS OF CULTURAL CONVERGENCE 

CULTURAL STREAMS CREATE STRANGE CONFLUENCES. PUNJAB AND GUJARAT- TWO STATES THAT DO NOT HAVE CLAIM TO ANY CLASSICAL DANCE FORM HAVE FLOWED THROUGH A CURIOUS TIME-RIVER TO MERGE WITH CLASSICISM IN DANCE. 
MALLIKA SARABHAI

 

During the festival of Navaratri dedicated to the Mother Goddess, Ahmedabad is transformed. As dusk turns to night, a sense of excitement and urgency fills the air. Dinners are hastily eaten, house work wrapped up, as people start trickling, then pouring out of their houses making their way towards the open space beside the cross roads, the courtyard of a temple or the nearest community hall. And as the night hours flow on, the people of Ahmedabad dance. The old and the young, the fit and fat, the wealthy and the poor, they dance the Dandiya Ras and the Garba, to the music of the villages. The banker in a freshly starched Ghaghra choli (long skirt and blouse) might partner a motor mechanic in the vast circle of dancers that spill out of the courtyards.

In Gujarat with the early worship of Shakti and Shiva, mingled the worship of Krishna. It is from this legend, of Krishna dancing with milkmaids at Dwarika that the Ras and Garba are said to have been born. In the Dandiya Ras men hold short lacquered sticks as they quickstep in a whirling circle to the beat of drums and cymbals. The Ras can also be danced by men and women together. In the Garba circular form represents the womb, the gharbha, and the light in the middle, the life form.

 

In villages too, there are songs and dances associated with festivals, ceremonies, or the different seasons of the year, or patterns of work. For example in Saurashtra, women levelling roofs, with heavy sticks started singing and beating their sticks in time to lighten the load of work. From this was born Tippani. And as though to give solace at the death of a loved one, there developed the soulful songs called the Marasiyas, describing the lost one and the grief of their passing.

 

Along with its varied palette of music and dance, Gujarat gave birth to a fascinating style of folk theatre called the Bhavai. Thought to have been developed in the 15th century, and traditionally performed by men from the Targala or Bhojak clans, the Bhavai was an itinerant theatre form which provided social commentary with entertainment.

 

The performance included skits, acrobatic feats and magic shows. Popular for many years, it fell unto bad times in the mid fifties, but was revived through the efforts of local theatre artists like Chimanlal Naik. In the 70s there was a school set up to train traditional artists in this form in Visnagar, and modern playwrights were being encouraged to write contemporary scripts in the same style. Alas, a lack of financial support and the State government's apathy to the arts has lead to the collapse of this form, save in the recent adaptation of the Rangla-Rangli.

 

Traditionally Gujarat was the state of the gypsy and the nomad, where traders met and exchanged goods and stories and went on their way. As early as the 5th century wanderers from Central Asia, Greece and Arabia came by and settled for a while in the land. Some were called Gujjars and gave their name to the state. Succeeding rulers- Hindu and Muslim, left their mark on the architecture, language, food and dress of her people. But unlike south India with its Chola and Vijaynagara dynasties, which patronized the classical arts, encouraging the growth of music, literature and dance in their kingdoms, Gujarat's strongest voices were from the villages and from the adivasi, tribal settlements. There were exceptions, like the devadasis who danced in the temple of Somnath, or the classical musicians in the court of the Gaekwads. But the dominant culture of the state remained that of the rural areas.

 

The classical dance scene in Gujarat was non-existent till the late forties. But a happy accident led to a south Indian Bharata Natyam dancer marrying into Ahmedabad. The bride was Mrinalini Sarabhai who, with the establishment of her academy, Darpana, in 1949 started a new chapter in the state's cultural history.

 

Originally performed by devadasis or temple dancers for hundreds of years in southern India, Bharata Natyam in its form as a classical dance was revived this century when non-devadasi took to learning and performing it. With the opening of Darpana in Ahmedabad, it became fashionable for young Gujarati girls to learn the classical Bharata Natyam, even though careers in dance were still found unacceptable.

 

Another bride, Kumudini Lakhia, this time from the north, brought with her the classical style of Kathak. This form too began in the temples and was evolved by traditional story-tellers (Kathaks) based on the Radha-Krishna lore, but with the advent of Muslim rule in the 12th century, it was also picked up by the courts and courtesans who further evolved the technical base of complex foot work and introduced graceful movements. With the establishment of Kumudini Lakhia's school, Kadamb, in the 70's Ahmedabad took further to classical dance. Today, hundreds of schools of dance dot the state, and there are perhaps more children learning Bharata Natyam in Gujarat than in southern India.

 

Over the last two decades however globalization has changed the cultural scene and the government's extravaganzas, replete with laser light shows, have taken over the intimacy and community of earlier events. Party plots have replaced town squares and disco lights the oil-lamps. The beautiful hand embroidered Chaniya Choli has been edged out by Tinsel Town glitter. But somewhere the spirit of it all lives on.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

BHANGRA ALL THE WAY

VANDANA SHUKLA

 

THE contribution of classical arts to the human society lies in assisting the expansion of different areas of knowledge. Hence, evolution of art maps the growth of a society. The renaissance was a proof to it. Between the 14th and 17th century, Europe witnessed a resurgence of excellence in humanities, science, educational and social development along with unprecedented progression in fine arts. Societies that inherit classical art forms have stretched the limits of human mind, in pursuit of perfection. Perhaps excellence in one area inspires societies to excel in others. In this context, it is interesting to know how societies that lack inheritance of classical arts make up for the disadvantage. Though, there cannot be definite answers to these intangible issues, if an unprecedented growth of popular culture is an indicator, Punjab has more than filled the vacuum.

 

The last reference to any recorded dance performance in the history of the 19th century Punjab stops at the nautch girls. Beyond that point of time in the tumultuous history of the land, different cultural streams intermingled to give birth to a curious mix, where Sufis danced in abandonment for the love of god. And the feudal supported a whole lot of 'tawaifs' and 'kanjris', whose job it was to entertain the rich and powerful with their skills in dance and music, as the narratives of the time tell us. Though, tawaifs were women of sophistication, the first 'liberated women' produced by the Indian social structure, who had land and property in their own name. They were desirable for their talents by the powerful, but, when it came to social acceptability, both tawaifs and kanjris were treated as outcasts. Understandably, their profession was not something the society would promote for others to emulate.

 

The land had such a long chain of invaders that even the temples were not spared of their peaceful pursuit of 'kathagayan', which in other regions of the North like Rajputana and Central India evolved into Kathak, a narrative dance presentation of the myths and leelas of the gods. The perpetually on- the- run society did not have time to reflect upon the codes and norms to compile a shastra, essential for keeping an art form for posterity. What it did produce were entertainers, who lacked time and space to provide serious deliberations to take their skill to the height of an art. In the absence of refinement and codification, these skills were continued to be treated as a mode of light entertainment.

 

If we peep into the social history of Punjab, it will explain why dance, as a classical art form could not grow here. The macho warrior, who danced with the swords, would not suffice as a performer of enticing movements. And the feudal pushed their women behind purdah. Dance, as a means of entertainment was patronized by the feudal, their decay spelt doom for the dancers. Even though Maharaja Ranjit Singh is said to have married a tawaif dancer, Moran Sarkar, to the chagrin of all, Moran's dancing skills remained confined to entertaining the Maharaja. The Maharaja had about 150 dancers in his court, but none of them could take dance from its erotic overtones to the domain of classical art. In fact, by the turn of the nineteenth century a strong sense of disgust for dancers gripped the society. Pran Nevile, who penned about half a dozen books on The British Raj, and its influence on the societal changes in India, wrote extensively about the social ostracism meted out to nautch girls, the sole professional dancers from the region. Though, dance of the masses, the folk, was not involved in this study.

 

Even though, music was regaining its lost pedestal by the efforts of the likes of Pt Vishnu Digambar Paluskar who opened the first Gandharwa Mahavidyalaya in Lahore, in 1901, the same could not be said of dance, which continued to be treated as a skill of the lowly. Post- independence when Indian states of the South found their Nataraja Ramakrishna and Rukmini Devi Arundale for revival of Kuchipudi and Bharat Natyam, Punjab began its claim to culture with choreographed Bhangra performances for republic day parades with a fervour that would outdo all other art forms of the region. This was its sole claim to culture, the bureaucratic way. Thanks to the over zealousness of a newly carved-out state, many precious jewels of its cultural heritage remained overshadowed by an all- pervasive folk appeal of Bhangra. Today, Bhangra is a celebratory dance popularised globally.

 

In later years, classical art forms have come from other states to make Punjab their home. If Pracheen Kala Kendra opened over hundred branches in the state to make Kathak a household name, Bharat Natyam dancers like Navtej Johar and Suchitra Mitra have popularised the dance from the South in the land of classic Bhangra.

 

 " A group of western educated Indian social reformers, influenced by western ideas and Victorian moral values, joined the missionaries and they started an anti-nautch movement at Madras, which spread to other parts of the country including Punjab. In their anti-nautch campaign, they were now joined by the Social Purity Associations, sponsored by the Purity movement in England for reform of the public and private morals. The Punjab Purity Association of Lahore launched a forceful drive against the nautch girls and published a booklet in 1884 containing the opinions of the educated Punjabis on the 'nautch question.' The booklet highlighted the denunciation of nautch by the eminent social reformer Keshub Chandra Sen who described the nautch girl as a "hideous woman with hell in her eyes. In her breast is a vast ocean of poison. Round her comely waist dwell the furies of hell... her blandishments are India's ruin. Alas! her smile is India's death."

 

(The Nautch Girls of Colonial Punjab- Pran Nevile)

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

WELCOME, THE NEW TIGER

IS HE BACK? SURE HE IS, IN AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT AVATAR THAT UNDERSTANDS HE MUST START FROM SCRATCH

Red shirt, check. Black-and-gold cover on driver, check. Caddy Steve Williams with grey hair creeping out from under his cap, check.

 

But there was something different about Tiger Woods as he walked down the fairway at the Augusta Masters this week. Something not seen before. Something that gave him a look of mellow solemnity, as opposed to stoic certainty (for the first 13 years of his career) or seething repentance (for the last 18 months). He looked like a human being, not a brand. Perhaps it was the eyes.

 

 Since his self-imposed exile after his wife chased him with a golf club for being unfaithful with numerous other women on a number of occasions, he had pretended as if nothing had happened game-wise. He'd first tried to return as the old Tiger -- attacking the flag-stick, putting from a hundred feet away. Then as Tiger 2.0 -- relying on impossible shots no one else could dream of playing. Neither had worked.

 

 So this weekend, the world saw a Tiger who had changed fundamentally; who had accepted that he must start from scratch. It was evident right through the week, even on Saturday when the world dismissed him for shooting a two-over 74. You could tell he wasn't doing much wrong. A few missed putts, a few bad bounces, and nothing more.

 

Then on Sunday, he made up the seven-stroke deficit in less than an hour, drawing the ball around the trees, especially on the 8th where his curling approach from the left fairway must be the shot of the tournament.

 As he climbed the top of the leaderboard, the tournament coverage changed as well. Instead of rolling out the montages when the last group of Rory McIlroy and Angel Cabrera reached the holes, the producers switched to Tiger. When he got to the 9th hole, named Carolina Cherry, the fly-by was aired immediately. Tiger saved par, pumped his fist before the ball had rolled in; and though he promptly went on to bogey 12, another impossible approach from behind the trees on 15 showed he wasn't giving up.

 

 The old Tiger was back, and also the new Tiger: the old one who grabs the lead from seven back, and the new one who misses easy putts. But for the first time, they together formed an entirely different Tiger: this one didn't barrel through with a flurry of birdies, neither did he implode when the ball did not do what he had commanded.


What was also clear was that, along with Tiger, golf too has changed over the last couple of years. At another time, the moment he started to climb the leaderboard, the competition would've panicked. They would've found the trees, or the water.

 

On Sunday, though there was a bit of a flutter, no one except heir-apparent Rory McIlroy got unnerved. Tiger was playing against a breed 10 years younger than him. Golfers who started playing after he won the Masters by 12 strokes in 1997; some who picked up a club because of him.

 

These guys are not surprised by what Tiger does on the course. They've practised the shots he hits. His attitude is a part of their work ethic. They've trained to be like him, and to beat him.

 

Tiger can't expect Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, last night's eventual winner Charl Schwartzel, and Rory McIlroy to stampede off the course every time they see him. To beat them, he would've needed something new by now, perhaps even if his personal life hadn't gone topsy-turvy. Therein lies his challenge.
    When he walked on the 18th on Sunday, his name still on top, Tiger accepted the applause of the clubhouse crowd with a smile and a doff. His eyes seemed both weary and excited. After a long time the fans were clapping not for who he was, or who he could be, but who he is.

 

 Around that time, English cricketer Graeme Swann tweeted: "Like the look of this Woods chap. Where's he from, do we know anything about him?"

 

Maybe not that much. But keep your eyes open, there's more to follow.

 

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

EDITORIAL

PLAYING FAVOURITES

PUBLIC-SECTOR BANKS NEED POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR TOP JOBS

The government has tweaked the eligibility rules for those aspiring to the posts of chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) and executive director (ED) of nationalised banks. There's nothing wrong with that since these rules are arbitrary beyond a point. But look at the nature of changes made. You need to have at least 18 months of residual service – and not two years, which was the rule last year – to be considered for the post of CMD. But in the case of EDs, there has been no such change. Why is it that what is good for CMDs is not good for EDs? The absence of a rational explanation will give the impression that such tinkering is aimed at accommodating one or more candidates with high-powered connections. The last thing a government that is under a cloud over pervasive corruption should do is give cause for speculative allegations to be made, particularly when public-sector banking circles have long lived with the notion that large corporate borrowers with political clout make good godfathers for top management aspirants.

In fact, there is every reason to raise, not lower, the period of residual service left for an aspirant to be in the running. No leader can make a mark in less than three to five years in an organisation and the best-run private- sector organisations typically have CEOs who serve for five years or more. Having a three-year cut-off will be unkind to many managers who have served the sector well in careers spanning decades but frequent changes at the top of an organisation can only do it serious harm. And if there is anything worse than tinkering with the cut-off, it is the failure to fill a top post in time and allowing it to remain vacant – as is the case with one bank at present. This can cause serious damage to the direction and morale of the organisation. What the government urgently needs to do if it wants to win back a certain degree of public faith in its ability to govern is publish a discussion paper on the policy for selecting top public-sector positions. The paper must pay attention to smooth succession, reasonable tenure and the nurturing of organisational ethos. Exceptions will need to be made – say, when a particularly capable manager has less than three years to go – but they should not become the rule, and a public explanation should be given every time an exception is made.

 

An appropriate management policy for public-sector institutions has to balance between two seemingly opposing considerations. Organisations should develop their individual ethos, a strong management cadre and the certainty among all bright people that they have an equal right to go up to the top if merit and health or age permit. Simultaneously, there should be a small quota, say 20 per cent, for lateral entries — the controlled induction of talent will prevent the development of a closed shop and, thus, discourage complacency and cronyism. Perhaps the worst of all possible worlds is what currently prevails among nationalised banks — a game of musical chairs is conducted by the government, in which EDs and CMDs are periodically switched around so that it is impossible to figure out if a bank is doing well or not because of those who lead it.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

CORPORATE BANYAN TREES

SUCCESSION PANGS POINT TO WEAK PLANNING

The year 2011 could end up being the mother of all years as far as corporate succession is concerned. Search panels constituted by Infosys and Tata Sons will name replacements for two of India's biggest companies and even bigger corporate icons — Narayana Murthy and Ratan Tata. For years, the big buzz in corporate circles has been about who would take over from these charismatic gentlemen. Continued uncertainty and media speculation bring into question succession planning in corporate India. Could all the speculation have been avoided? Or, is some of this part of brand- and image-building? The moot point is that succession need not be like 20:20 cricket, in which the fate of the match is decided in the last over. Consider the Tata Group. Eight months after the search committee was set up, one of the senior-most members of the committee said last week in an interview to the group's internal magazine that it is almost impossible to find a replacement for Mr Tata. He added that the committee may have to "change and rearrange" some of the selection norms. This led to speculation that the search hit a wall.

The message that goes out is that all is not well with the succession process. Or, consider the Tata Son board's move last week to reduce the retirement age of all non-executive directors by five years, from 75 to 70, effectively cutting short the tenure of some of the top executives of group companies. There was no explanation what necessitated this sudden change — the third in a decade, again giving rise to talk that this has been done to make sure that Mr Tata's successor has a relatively free hand and help avoid a situation that the chairman faced when he was chosen by J R D Tata. In 2002, when Ratan Tata was to retire at 65, the board promptly re-designated him non-executive chairman, which empowered him to continue for another five years. Three years later, the board ratcheted up the retirement age of the group's non-executive directors to 75, again to retain Mr Tata. The law does not provide any explanation for these moves, but it was not expected from a group that prides itself on the highest standards of corporate governance.

The story at Infosys has not been markedly better, largely owing to the continued speculation about changes at the top. An impression has been created that one man matters so much to such a large organisation, however pioneering his role and visionary his leadership are. The legendary Jack Welch at General Electric identified his talent pipeline by meeting with potential successors individually and asking them: if we were on a plane and it crashed, who do you think should lead the company? Not only did this have a sobering influence on prima donnas and help deflate egos, it also made them nominate other individuals from their peer group as potential leaders. It was an effective way to gauge what individuals felt about the company's senior leadership and also establish a balance between the organisation and the individual. India Inc still has a long way to go, it seems..

 

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 BUSINESS STANDARD

UNCERTAINTY, RISK AND DEVELOPMENT

PLANNING IN INDIA WILL NEED TO CHANGE TO TAKE ACCOUNT OF A MORE VOLATILE GLOBAL ECONOMY

SUMAN BERY

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan and the global financial crisis centred on the US and Britain suggest that decision makers in even the advanced societies experience difficulty in acknowledging, let alone managing, worst-case scenarios in modern, complex systems.

In each case, the underlying "failures" were more political than technical. In the US, both Clinton and Bush administrations believed that market discipline was superior to regulatory oversight in achieving an appropriate balance between innovation and safety. This view was strengthened by the apparent ease with which the US financial markets handled earlier crises, such as the Black Friday stock market crash of 1987, the Long-Term Capital Management crisis a couple of years later, and the succession of emerging market crises, including Asia, Brazil, Argentina and Russia around the turn of the century.

 

Though this success undoubtedly led to complacency, there was little reason to expect that a widely-expected correction in the US mortgage market would lead to the systemic upheaval that ensued. However, in retrospect, one can find prescient voices, such as Raghuram Rajan and Nouriel Roubini, who warned of the build-up of systemic risks. Similarly, in the case of the Japanese catastrophe, the tsunami experienced, though massive, was not unprecedented for the area. The decision to site the reactors there, and to store spent fuel rods also on site, represented a gamble by decision makers and regulators in the face of opposition from more affluent areas.

It is important to draw the right lessons from these landmark episodes, but it is difficult to know what those lessons are. This was clear from a fascinating conference at the Lauder Institute at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania on new perspectives on global risk following the financial crisis. What was unusual about the conference was that it attempted to bring perspectives from various disciplines – sociology, history, business and economics – to reflect on the nature of the global economic and business risk in the wake of the financial crisis. The Japanese disaster was obviously unanticipated at the time when the conference was organised, but many of the insights drawn from the financial crisis are in principle transferable to the Japanese crisis.

Some of these insights had to do with the sociology of knowledge elites, and echoed the points made by me in the last month's column ("The fund of the future", March 15) citing the International Monetary Fund's (IMF's) own internal evaluation of the tendency for "group think" within similarly trained cadres. Within such an "established paradigm", dissenting voices find it hard to be heard until and unless they are "certified" by an accepted authority.

Who exactly should and can perform this legitimising role is a somewhat mysterious process. Clearly, the IMF and much of academia failed to acknowledge these views in the build-up to the crisis. By contrast, since the crisis the IMF has been furiously pedalling to discard one former dogma after the other. Capital controls! Low inflation!! Fiscal restraint!!! All of these old arks of the covenant now lie in ribbons, and it is not clear what will replace them and when, although it is also true that the old rules of thumb did not anticipate that large parts of the world would be caught in a liquidity trap.

It was also important to be reminded of Frank Knight's distinction between risk and uncertainty, as also the fallacies of composition which failed to take into account systemic consequences of behaviour that is rational for each individual actor.

For me, however, the more intriguing issues raised by the conference have to do with the implications for India's own development strategy. It seems more than likely that the global economic environment will remain turbulent in a number of important respects for some time to come, quite apart from enhanced geopolitical security risks. Exchange rates, capital flows and commodity prices are all likely to fluctuate within wide ranges. The question is: how should the society be equipped to deal with this volatility?

A useful start would be to distinguish between the impact at three levels of the nation, businesses and households. A possible extension would be to examine the impact at the level of the individual states as well. In the recent crisis, the national level fared relatively well, essentially because a reasonable amount of fiscal and monetary space had been created. In addition, despite its high debt level, India was protected because its public debt is denominated in rupees and is largely forcibly held by public financial institutions. There was less protection available for businesses and households, however, and some businesses were themselves sources of vulnerability by taking on unhedged foreign exchange exposure. The solution is clear, if difficult to implement: tighter monitoring of corporate borrowers by their banks, and continuing the drive to expand the range of hedging instruments.

The most difficult issues, both analytically and in terms of policy, arise at the household level. As the recent crisis has shown, there is great injustice involved in vulnerable workers being the hapless victims of international forces over which they have no control. Yet I, for one, have no doubt that as a group India' workers (and farmers, for that matter) are better off integrating with the global economy, and taking on board the additional volatility that this implies, as compared to the alternative of disengaging from global involvement. It is clear from the recent experience with food and fuel subsidies that the attempts by government to act as a shock absorber are not sustainable in the long run.

There are two more complications. First, as the recent crisis has revealed, with complex systems it is difficult to anticipate the speed and ramifications of any crisis. Second, for a fast-growing country like India, it is important to facilitate, and not impede, adjustment and also to put safety nets in place that are consistent with longer-term competitiveness and flexibility.

What does this imply for planning? It suggests that our planning increasingly should be about scenarios and gaming rather than point predictions, and that the focus should be on contingency planning as much as the base case. It also raises profound questions about the division of labour between government and the household in bearing risks, which will need to be the subject of a future article.

The author is Country Advisor, International Growth Centre and Member, Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council

Views expressed are personal

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE MISSING LINK IN MULTIPLEX MARKETING

VANITA KOHLI-KHANDEKAR

Do you have a frequent moviegoer card from your local multiplex? Does it give you any news of films with your favourite stars or directors?

The answer is, most probably, no. It has been more than a decade since the first multiplex opened in India. Of about 11,000 individually owned screens, more than 1,050 or 10 per cent of the total now belong to six retail chains. They brought 30 to 40 per cent of the Rs 9,000-odd crore box-office revenues that the Indian film industry earned in 2010.

 

Yet there is little on the ground to suggest that organised retail is being used to improve footfalls, revenues and profits. The six major chains are still struggling with the basics of the business: scaling up and improving revenue share. Though most have managed to derisk by getting more from food and beverages and advertising, the fact is that the last two years have been "not so great" for the film industry.

This is not because of bad films; it is because of bad marketing. It leads to poor monetisation from theatres — the single largest source of revenue for a film.

A theatre chain sits on huge amounts of information: area-wise data on what works and what doesn't, the demographic that watches a film more often in an area and so on. If PVR Cinemas or Inox has trend data on markets, then one look at, say, Dabangg or Peepli Live will tell them how to squeeze the most out of them. This will improve their ability to target the right audience, schedule the film well, price it right at different places and so on.

While there are no estimates of how much this could improve top lines, here is a thought. In a market where it happens, like the US, a film could get three to five times more revenues. Since multiplexes and studios work on a revenue-sharing basis, it is a win-win situation. Why then is none of this happening?

One reason, says Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO, UTV Motion Pictures, is that [generally] studios and producers do not like to show the film to anyone in advance. So, all a theatre owner or a distributor watches is rushes. It is impossible to have a comprehensive marketing plan without knowing what you are selling well in advance. In the US, theatre chains see the film several weeks before a marketing plan is devised.

The other issue is more evolutionary. Sunil Punjabi, CEO, Cinemax, points out that most chains have experimented with a loyalty programme or still have one. And most of them sit on a lot of data. For example, the scheduling guy at a multiplex chain would know that Dabangg will do well only in three of the 20 screens in south Mumbai. But little effort is put into using this data to improve footfalls or top lines.

Punjabi reckons that it is a matter of focus. At this stage of its growth, the industry is focused on setting up as many screens as possible, as quickly as possible. There is very little energy, time and money to spend on building systems and processes that could capture and use data to improve consumer experiences and footfalls. Much of the benefits of building these systems, which could cost anywhere between Rs 1 crore and Rs 2 crore in the back-end alone, are reaped in the long term.

He may have a point. Large retail chains such as the Future Group (which owns Pantaloons and Big Bazaar among other chains) have spent a long time and a lot of money to build the kind of processes they have to capture data which are used to shape strategy. So what could trigger multiplexes to replicate this model?

Punjabi estimates that at 2,000 screens, the scramble to get the best system going could start. That is when competition will force theatres to fight for every footfall, especially in crowded markets such as Delhi or Mumbai. And the whole retail marketing play will become a part of the game.

Till then, wait for the special treatment by your local multiplex.

vanitakohli@hotmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE HAZARE FALL-OUT

GOVERNMENT DECISION-MAKING MAY BECOME A CASUALTY

A K BHATTACHARYA

The Anna Hazare movement leading to the formation of a joint committee to frame an effective Lok Pal Bill is likely to have one major consequence for senior civil servants. Many of them may now become even more reluctant to take decisions. The belief among several government officials is that if you do not take decisions you are unlikely to make mistakes. The tribe of such officers may grow after the Hazare movement.

Recent court orders forcing the disclosure of government officials' comments on a file under the Right To Information (RTI) Act have already made these officials ultra cautious. This is the sense one gets after talking to senior officials in central ministries. Now that they know their comments on a file could become public, officers are more inclined to add all possible caveats to any endorsement of a proposal. The caveats are essentially there to help the officer save his skin if the decision becomes controversial.

 

 Such caveats may or may not always be desirable, but what they do achieve is a slow decision-making process. The tendency now is not stick your neck out, but defer a decision for as long as you can. It is important for corruption to be rooted out, but a slow decision-making process can be an even bigger price for the country to pay. Thus, civil servants in different bhavans in New Delhi are busy assessing the impact of the RTI Act and the Hazare movement on their general conduct and the way they do their work.

To be sure, a large number of officials are in favour of putting in place a system to root out corruption. But they feel that the institutionalisation of such checks and balances in the system through the RTI Act or the Lok Pal is not enough. Civil servants need governance reforms in large doses if the RTI Act and the proposed institution of the Lok Pal were to be effective instruments for cleansing the system.

For instance, the government needs to amend the laws that define corruption by civil servants. Technically, the Prevention of Corruption Act can hold every public servant guilty of corruption if any decision he takes benefits a private person. The clauses in the law are such that anyone can use it against any civil servant who may have taken any decision that might have led to a private person's financial benefit. While an RTI Act with more teeth and a Lok Pal Bill are good ideas, the government needs to supplement them with amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act. Otherwise, the movement against corruption, however desirable, would cause work in government offices to be stalled.

Secondly, there is need to consider seriously the proposal made by the government's chief economic advisor, Kaushik Basu, that the laws on corruption should make a distinction between "harassment bribes" and "systemic bribes". Harassment bribes are those that ordinary citizens pay to an officer for getting a legitimate service delivered. For instance, many Indians would have paid some bribe to acquire a driving licence. That is a harassment bribe. If he does not pay it, then he will get his driving licence, but only after an inordinately delay.

Basu's proposal is that the law enforcement agencies should not treat a bribe-giver in such cases as an offender, so that there is an incentive for such a bribe-giver to spill the beans and authorities to take remedial action. It is only for "systemic bribes", when bribes are meant to bend the system and gain financial favours, that both bribe-givers and bribe-takers should be treated as offenders. In the campaign against corruption, such amendments in the laws should receive the government's priority attention.

Thirdly, the government should move quickly on its digitisation programme. The interface between all government departments providing services and ordinary citizens should be a computer screen and not an officer. Such digitisation has taken place in many government departments, but the human face has not completely disappeared. Getting a passport, paying the annual tax or obtaining a driving licence have all become simpler with the use of computerised services. However, the use of technology in all these areas remains limited and the government officers still come in between the citizen and the service-providing department.

Finally, it is time that the government beefed up its law enforcement agencies to send out the message loud and clear that rule-breakers will have no escape route. The prevailing idea among most civil servants is that you can flout the rules and get away scot-free. In the battle against corruption, better governance, digitisation and stringent law enforcement are all critical instruments.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

PAKISTAN - THE GUIDEBOOK APPROACH

NILANJANA S ROY

In the late 1970s, my family was persuaded by Qantas to pose for a brochure. It was part of a now-forgotten series the airlines had done on families around the world; so you had typical Australian families represented by a Chappell or a Marshall, a typical Nigerian or Canadian or Greek family, and the Roys representing, inadvertently, the typical Indian family.

It was only when the brochure came out that we realised how significant the quotidian details of our lives were. Our humble Ambassador car represented the material aspirations of the growing Indian middle class, my sister's school report card represented the growing educational opportunities of the new Indian woman, and the somewhat slapdash muddle of scrambled eggs-vegetable bakes-Parsi-and-Anglo-Indian dishes that found their way onto our table were firmly banished in the brochure, which informed the world that the Roys sat down to a simple meal of dal, rice and curries every day.

 

A better critic than yours truly would point out that we had been co-opted: behind the apparently simple Day-in-the-Life of the Roys narrative lay the inescapable burden of representation, as we symbolically stood in for the Changing Indian Family.

The Qantas brochure died a merciful death, but I am reminded of it every time I look at anthologies of writing by nation — from compilations of Latin American literature to Rushdie's notorious Mirrorwork to last year's Granta Pakistan issue. With the release of The Life's Too Short Literary Review: New Writing from Pakistan (Hachette) this month, there's a basis for comparing the two Pakistan anthologies.

When Granta 112: Pakistan came out last year, one of the responses to the anthology was witheringly caustic. This was Faiza Khan, in The Caravan: "In choosing writing from and about Pakistan as its theme, the latest edition of the prestigious Granta magazine encourages readers to look to the country for more than violence, religious extremism and abject desolation. It chooses to do this with a collection dominated by pieces about violence, religious extremism and abject desolation."

Granta's issue featured some brilliant writing, as Khan acknowledged — Pakistan fields a good team on the literary playing fields, with the usual suspects, Mohammed Hanif, Mohsin Hamid, Kamila Shamsie, Daniyal Mueenuddin, all arrayed in perfect batting order. And yet, Faiza Khan's criticism was on point; and several other commentators remarked on the absence of languages other than English in the anthology.

Anthologies from the subcontinent often seem to appear in pairs. Rushdie's Mirrorwork, an otherwise excellent selection of new writing from India, enraged critics and readers by confining itself to English — on the grounds that little new writing of note had happened in other Indian languages. This was in 1997, and four years later, the Picador anthology of modern Indian literature, edited by Amit Chaudhuri, appeared in counterpoint, its pages a reproach to Rushdie in their even split between writings in English and writings in other Indian languages.

The Life's Too Short anthology doesn't position itself as a curative or a riposte to Granta's Pakistan issue; this, say Faiza Khan and Aysha Raja, came about as an exercise in curiosity. It's in the last sentence of the editors' note that Khan and Raja set their compass: "While it is tempting to look to writing from Pakistan for insights into a troubled country, we hope that this collection is read simply as good writing, conflict zone notwithstanding."

As a collection, The Life's Too Short anthology has the strengths and weaknesses of similar anthologies of new writing, from Penguin's First Proof to the now perennially awol Civil Lines series. Some pieces, such as the translation from the racy lesbian romp, Challawa, are wonderfully entertaining; writers like Sadaf Halai and Ahmad Rafay Alam prove every cliché about there being a new generation of writers coming up from Pakistan.

And yet, the tension between Granta's Pakistan and this relatively more humble, less ambitious anthology of new writing, remains. For years, Indian writers of a certain stamp bristled when their country's writing was reduced to a set of stereotypes – arranged marriages, three-generation family sagas, pickles and pickle factories, the entire mango chutney school of writing – but were forced to admit that for all that was left out, there was some truth to the clichés.

Taken in tandem, The Life's Too Short anthology and the Granta anthology are up against the emergence of a set of Pakistani stereotypes — these would be violence, bomb blasts, terrorists, assassinations, in shorthand, plus a dose of Karachi nostalgia, Pakistani arranged marriages and the other inherited clichés of subcontinent. Books that don't fit the mould are treated with caution — Mohammed Hanif's viciously comic riff on General Zia's reign, for instance, received far more nervously non-committal reviews in the UK than Daniyal Mueenuddin's easier-to-parse, delicate short stories.  

In the case of writers like Daniyal and Jamil Ahmad, whose insightful and compelling The Wandering Falcon was just released this week, judging them for their ability to "introduce" Pakistan to readers from elsewhere does them a disservice. And this, perhaps, is what Faiza Khan, Aysha Raja and The Life's Too Short team are protesting: writers are not tour guides, and literature isn't a set of welcome-to-Pakistan brochures.

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ONE LAW NOT ENOUGH

LET NOT ONE LOKPAL LAW CONSUME ALL ANTI-CORRUPTION ENERGIES OF CIVIL SOCIETY


 Arjuna, the Mahabharata tells us, excelled all in archery through single-minded focus on his target. He saw just the neck of the bird chosen by his guru as the target for his arrow and nought else, whereas his fellow princes could see, while taking aim, the entire bird, the branch on which it sat, the tree, the meadow and its greenery. Focus, evidently, is a good thing to have. The focus of the ongoing campaign against corruption is a Lokpal Bill, its form and content and who would draft it. Unless the campaign redefines its goal as systemic reform to end corruption and ends its current obsession with the Lokpal, it will miss its target. Politics calls for complex articulation of complex strategies, not linear focus on a single object or objective. To think that one law and the one institution that the law would create can end deep-rooted, systemic corruption is naïve, if not silly. Corruption is endemic because that is the source of finance for India's democracy. Six decades and more after Independence, India has failed to institutionalise political funding. The thinking on the subject is so nebulous that people immediately think of state funding when they think of institutional funding of politics. Since large-scale political funding is essential for multiparty democracy to function, the failure to institutionalise funding leads on to large-scale corruption. Parties fund themselves through loot of the exchequer, sale of patronage and plain extortion. Since all these forms of resource mobilisation require collusion by civil servants, they also end up being corrupt, honourable exceptions notwithstanding. The first step to end such subversion of democracy is to institutionalise transparent funding of political parties, auditing of their accounts, verification of declared expenditure and traceability of every rupee spent to the source of its funding. Prosecuting deviations from the norm comes after establishing a well-defined norm. Such a norm is missing in the context of political funding, and that must be laid out.


The government should not wait for activists to act. On its own, it must bring in laws to regulate political parties and make their funding wholly transparent.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

REAL FIXES FOR REALTY

MONITORING REAL ESTATE DEALS WON'T CUT DOWN MONEY LAUNDERING, REFORMS MIGHT

 

The government wants to crack down on money laundering, and it is logical that it wants a closer look at the real estate market, widely perceived to be the biggest sink of black money in India. It will, therefore, widen the scope of India's anti-money laundering legislation to record all realty transactions with the finance ministry's financial intelligence unit (FIU). Doing this may not be a logistical nightmare: in many places, including Delhi, property registration is a computerised affair, and it should be simple enough to connect all these servers to one maintained by the FIU. This will give the finance ministry more information on real estate registrations, but will it help to lower the amount of cash in real estate transactions? Doubtful. There are several reasons why there is so much cash in the real estate market, and we need to address those urgently.


First, in most places, the registration and stamp duties are set quite high as a percentage of the transaction cost, and property buyers keen to minimise these charges are tempted to pay partly in cash. These duties should come down. Second, the value of urban and semi-urban real estate is kept artificially high by restricting the supply of such land. Land is classified as commercial, residential, farmland and so on and conversion from one use to another is a form of state/political patronage and, thus, of illegal gratification. This has to change. In fast growing India, the demand for urban land is zooming. Swathes of land in every state must be identified where land-use change for creating towns is automatic, and can be transacted online after paying the required fees by individual landowners. Finally, local authorities must auction public land in a transparent way. Online auctions of land will make the market bigger and less prone to cornering by unscrupulous middlemen. Official revenues will increase and so will the number of buyers who make cheque payments. If implemented together, these changes are certain to bring a lot of the money involved in the real estate market above ground. And take some business away from money launderers.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GAME CHANGERS

NEW NAMES MAY ALTER SOME OLD PERCEPTIONS ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT

 

 To have a hat that fits has many benefits, as E T o n S u n d a y has pointed out. Chief Mentor or Chief Monster, Head Gardener or Managing Worker, bosses of Indian companies surely know what they want from their staff and their market when they anoint themselves thus. After all, changing times demand changing descriptions: front office staff become Vibe Managers. But as Indians get increasingly irked with the government, the bureaucracy and the politicians, it may be time to do a bit of judicious jugglery with job descriptions there and perhaps create a few new ones, too. Could the Prime Minister and chief ministers be persuaded to redesignate themselves as Prime People's Minister and Chief People's Minister to demonstrate more clearly where their offices derive power? Remember what the oxymoronic designation People's Princess bestowed upon the late Princess Diana by a clever Tony Blair did for her image and the newly-minted Labour government's — and what the fuddy-duddy stance of Royal officialdom did for the Windsors.
Then if our principal secretaries become Principal Public Servants (considering they enter their professions through examinations conducted by the Public Service Commission) and others down the line are similarly realigned, it could bring them at least mentally closer to whom they are contracted to 'serve'. A Chief Dustbuster charged with cleaning up murky government departments and a Chief Taint Detector to roust out the corrupt may be timely, too. More than just a Chief Vigilance Commissioner and a Chief Election Commissioner, as crucial as these posts are to keep the powerful in line, the government probably also needs to appoint a Chief Belief Commissioner and a Chief Conscience Keeper to rekindle the people's faith in the government.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

SWAVALAMBAN: A UNIQUE SUBSIDY

MANY SALUTARY ATTRIBUTES MAKE THE SCHEME AN EXCELLENT VEHICLE TO POPULARISE THE NATIONAL PENSION SYSTEM

 

The hazard of living too long has been assuming serious proportions in societies across geographies. Currently, the manifestations of its implications are not being perceived in India as much. However, with number of senior citizens growing in geometric progression, it is expected to become a formidable social issue in next couple of decades, and the impact thereof will be felt more among those members of the societies that draw economic sustenance from the unorganised sector. The steady dissolution of the joint family system as an ancient social institution to protect old and infirm has since made economic security post working life a felt need. Fortunately, the nation has woken up early on to look at policy prescriptions, which should propel greater voluntary endeavours by individuals to derisk the hazard.


Financial products' distribution continues to be "push business" in India irrespective of the segments of the society — upper, middle and lower class. The 'pull effect' particularly for the long-term savings products like life insurance and pensions is almost non-existent. Life insurance companies literally engage field armies — own and hired to go about canvassing sales. The sales persons meet more frustrations than fructifications in their calls on the prospects and are, therefore, more remuneratively compensated for their sweat and toil. It is, therefore, imperative that initiatives are taken to architect a 'push'.


In fact, the lacklustre success of the products (under the National Pension System, or NPS) launched by Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), notwithstanding that the schemes offered are world-class, highly profitable and carry a matrix of features to benefit the subscribers, has encouraged it to appoint a committee (Committee to Review Implementation of Informal Sector Pension, or Criisp) to study the issues involved and make recommendations, inter alia, to enable its prepositions garnering greater acceptance amongst the common man.


One of the initiatives announced by the Union government in Budget 2009 was a contribution — a kind of subsidy, of . 1,000 per year per person subject to the contribution of not less than . 1,000 and not more than . 12,000 by individual member. The scheme called Swavalamban was launched to encourage individuals a la common man from the lower echelons of the society, particularly the unorganised sector, to make a beginning; eventually to create a 'pull effect' for NPS.


Though Swavalamban has been announced as an incentive scheme to popularise NPS, its success has propensity to deliver far-reaching beneficial impact (on post-working life) financial security of the citizens and economic development of the country. Some key features that make it a superior framework for socioeconomic development are as follows:


One, unlike other subsidies, this offering is not consumption expenditure. The money doled out gets credited directly to the pension accounts of the individuals from where it cannot be withdrawn until the concerned person reaches the age of retirement. Since the money is transferred electronically from the consolidated fund straight into the pension account, there is no leakage at all. The money so transferred is likely to remain in the pension fund on an average for 20 years. And the funds so pooled are being channelised to long-term investments — equity, debt and other approved instruments. Two, investment decisions are taken by professional fund managers on the basis of the yield expectations and in consonance with the risk-return profile, which is likely to promote more efficacious allocation of financial resources and eliminate inefficiencies arising out of politically directed investments. Thus, the government subsidy as the contribution to the pension account will have the favourable implication on the growth of economy via the investment multiplier.
Three, the fact that government contribution is being contingent upon co-contribution of the person concerned will lead to leveraging of savings of . 1,000-12,000 per person, which become available for long-term investment; the average length of the pension fund being 20 years. In fact, even post vesting substantial part of accumulations, if not the total, will go back to pensioners only as annuities, meaning that there will be only slow withdrawal of the investment in the economy.


Four, with Swavalamban, the Union government has accorded the unorganised sector parity with the organised sector, which gets government contribution of 1.16% towards their pension under the Employees' Pension Scheme, 1995. All these attributes make Swavalamban a unique subsidy, which portends to achieve the twin objectives of promoting social security and economic development through an elegant framework. Any possible concern about the adverse fiscal implications of the scheme on the so-called government expenditure is actually blown out by the fact that it is an investment with a possible multiplier effect of 12 times and not consumption drain. In fact, this is superior even to tax breaks on other long-term savings because of: (a) multiplier effect 1 to 12, (b) lasts beyond the subsidy, and (c) benefits the poorer nontax paying sections of society who are deprived of rebate benefits. The investment decisions by professional fund managers (PFMs) would ensure that the marginal cost of managing the funds does not temper the returns from investments; currently, PFMs charge only 0.009 basis point of the AUM.


Happily enough, the Union Budget 2011 has extended the scheme. However, the multiplicity of benefits proffer a strong argument for converting this scheme into a longterm endeavour like that of rebates for other such savings, instead of yearly basis as at present. This will also promote the NPS, which needs a powerful booster until high rate of returns have a 'pull effect' on it.


(Disclosure: The author is chairman of Criisp)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THROUGH THE THIRD EYE

FAULTY ANTENNA


The way the government dealt with Anna Hazare's fast has raised many eyebrows even within the Congress. Long before the Jantar Mantar show made him a mega star, Maharashtra has been witnessing Anna's periodical 'fast-untodeath' agitations or his threats to do so. This Anna trait had made former Congress chief ministers like Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde specialists in dealing with the veteran activist. These ex-CMs, who share a good personal rapport with Anna, have been dispatching 'special aides' to successfully 'defuse' Anna's threats almost every time. Surprisingly, the Congress/government managers in Delhi chose to completely ignore its own seasoned "Anna-management team" and picked negotiators — both in Delhi and Mumbai — who neither share any personal equations with Anna nor have any expertise in dealing with the kind of players who played a role behind the scenes.


Power Play

After Anna Hazare called off his hunger strike, Sharad Pawar fielded his NCP managers to lament how the UPA regime had set a 'wrong precedent' by giving in to pressure. But beyond these sound bites, the hush-hush talk in Delhi's political circles is about the real Pawar act amidst the crisis. Not many, even in the Congress, are convinced that the seasoned Pawar quit the group of ministers (GoM) on corruption because he was hurt by Hazare's pot-shots. After all, controversies and criticism have always been Pawar's steady companions during his political life. So, why did Pawar resign from the GoM? Pawar watchers reply with a counterquestion: didn't a high-profile Union minister like Pawar resigning from the GoM, presumably under pressure from Anna Hazare, give a huge boost to Anna and his agitators to go for the kill? Well, we don't know. But what we do know is that nothing makes the NCP camp merrier than seeing a first-rate crisis exploding right in the face of the Congress high command.


Plotting Big

Neither his friends nor foes doubt Tamil Nadu Congress chief K V Thangabalu's capacity to plot with a touch of imagination. So, by now everybody knows he "has ended up" as the Congress candidate from Mylapore, after his wife and original candidate Jayanthi's papers were rejected. Anticipating this, Thankabalu had very helpfully filed his papers as the dummy candidate. But the whisper is that ever since Congress made it clear to DMK that it will share power in Chennai in the event of their alliance winning this time, Thangabalu, despite his public stand that he will oversee the campaign, was keen to contest, thinking that since he is PCC chief, he could later eye the post of the deputy CM! So, Thangabalu, his partymen say, has skilfully choreographed his back-room entry to the electoral field despite opinion polls projecting the AIADMK front's victory. The PCC chief is certainly dreaming big.


Snake and Ladder

The appointment of noted dancer and Priyanka Gandhi's former teacher Leela Samson as the new chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has triggered a controversy given her lack of experience in the field of films. Much before Samson was finally chosen, noted actress Suhasini Maniratanam and lyricist Gulzar had turned down the I&B ministry mandarins' request to accept the post. Others like Shabana Azmi and Poonam Dhillon, who were reportedly keen to bag the post, found no takers in the ruling establishment just as the outgoing chairperson Sharmila Tagore's hints about her willingness for another term too was ignored.


The C Factor

The Congress internal survey shows the UDF in Kerala is now locked in a close contest with the LDF. Yet, according to the survey, the UDF will finally manage to cross the half-way mark by surviving the spirited Communist fightback. Hoping for a narrow victory, Congress managers have put the onus on party veteran A K Antony to ensure factional problems in the state Congress, with Oomman Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala eyeing the chief minister's post, do not upset the UDF applecart. So, Antony has been conveying to one and all, in a subtle manner, that in the event of a UDF victory it will be Chandy who will head the UDF. But then, this is also seen as a loaded message for the Church and the Christian community to stand by the party in this close fight against the communists.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

BUILDING TRUST WITH CHINA

RUP NARAYAN DAS

 

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits China on April 14 to participate in the Brics Summit, it will be the 12th meeting between Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao in the last six years. With the emergence of a multi-polar world, what we are witnessing is the proliferation of multilateral organisations of all hues and shades, starting from the G20, the Asean Summit, the Brics Summit, the Asia-Europe Conclave, to mention a few. Since bilateral summit meetings are mostly limited, these meetings provide good opportunity for periodic exchange of views between heads of the states and the governments. The last meeting between Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao, in December last year, took place in the backdrop of jarring notes like the issuance of stapled visas to Indian nationals from Jammu & Kashmir and withholding of defence exchanges between the two countries. Wen Jiabao's visit, however, could not resolve any of these irritants that have soured relations between them in recent times. The only positive outcome of the visit was the Chinese Premier's statement that such issues will be resolved at the appropriate level, and it is reassuring that no stapled visa to Indian nationals from Jammu & Kashmir has since been issued by the Chinese embassy. There was also no clear indication if China would categorically support India's bid for the membership of the United Nations Security Council. The defence exchanges between the two countries are yet to be resumed.


It is against this backdrop of trust deficit that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is visiting China to participate in the Brics Summit. China attaches great significance to the visit as it views India as an important stakeholder in the Brics constellation. In spite of non-resolution of irritants in bilateral relations between the two countries, it is heartening to see that there has been political engagement between them. While regular political engagement and dialogue continues to promote better understanding and cooperation, there have been instances of inept handing of bilateral relations between the two countries. One is that while India is celebrating the victory of the ICC Cricket World Cup, it missed an opportunity to send its cricket contingent to the Asian Games held in Guangzhou, China. While cricket diplomacy is resorted to in case of India-Pak relations, nobody thought of cricket diplomacy in the case of India and China. The second flippancy was when India organised the Aero India show in Bengaluru in February this year, China was extended invitation only at the 11th hour, as a result of which it could not participate in the show. Similarly, permission to cover the show by Chinese media was taken only when the defence minister stepped in. These are only small niceties, but they carry a great volume of goodwill and gesture, and create a climate of trust and confidence. Be that as it may, recently, there have been discernible signals from China to improve ties with India, which is an aspect of Beijing's mellowing of strident assertiveness witnessed earlier last year with a spate over Japan, and China's military posturing in South China sea, and in case of India, issuance of the stapled visas, and assertiveness in case of Arunachal Pradesh. China's latest toned-down attitude can be gauged from its white paper on its national defence, released on March 31, wherein Beijing articulated that China will never seek hegemony, nor will it adopt the approach of military expansion, no matter how its economy develops. One is not sure if this is a bona fide intent or yet another aspect of Den Xiaoping's dictum: hide your strength and bid your time.


It is against this backdrop that in some sections of the Chinese intelligentsia, particularly those dealing with Sino-Indian relations in the Chinese think tanks, there have been positive overtures towards India recently. In a country where opinion and views are filtered and regulated discreetly, it is pertinent to refer to an interview in the Global Times with Sino-Indian relations expert Ma Jiali, "India has a set of relatively sound economic laws, and laws and regulation under which its economy is smoothly operated." Alluding to concern among Indian strategic analysts about the rise in China's defence outlay, he observed that China will not take India as a strategic target, and the development in China and India is not a zero-sum game. It is also believed that some Chinese think tanks advocate closer relation with India to reduce New Delhi's strategic consultation with Washington. Notwithstanding India's strategic ties with Washington of late, there is a realisation in China that India pursues an independent foreign policy and Washington cannot use India as a hedge against China. New Delhi needs to reinforce this trust with Beijing, which calls for a fine balancing act. There should be no zero-sum game, neither between US and China, nor between India and China.


(The author is a senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COSMIC UPLINK

ENLIGHTENING THE MASTER

MUKUL SHARMA


The novitiate was in charge of the temple garden because he loved flowers and plants. One day when some special guests were expected, he took extra care in tending the garden — pulling out weeds, trimming shrubs and raking the leaves. Now it so happened that next door in another temple lived an old Master who was watching him with interest from across the wall. "There is something missing," he said when saw the finished work. "Help me over this wall and I will put it right for you." After hesitating, the novice lifted the old man over and set him down. Slowly, the Master walked to the tree near the centre of the garden, grabbed it by the trunk, and shook it. Leaves showered down all over the garden. "There," he said, "you can put me back now." "Right, I get it," said the novice after some deep thought. "It's a lesson from the Thoreau school of nature appreciation. People should make an effort to do away with the facades they project in everyday life. You should present yourself as freely as possible and not feel so uncomfortable with your identity that you become something you're not." The old Master nodded. "And also, that nature is more perfect than anything man can create. To disrupt that beauty for the sake of creating something beautiful is an absurdity. Beauty is not something you make. It happens spontaneously and naturally by itself. Therefore, there's no need to shake a tree in order to make some leaves fall untimely so that the garden looks natural." Again, the old Master nodded.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CITINGS

THE LINKED ECOLOGIES OF ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS

RAKESH KHURANA


As the main producers of managerial elites, business schools represent strategic research sites for understanding the formation of economic practices and representations. This article draws on historical material to analyse the changing place of economics in American business education over the course of the twentieth century. We use the Wharton School as an illustration of the earliest trends and dilemmas (c. 1900-1930), when business schools found themselves caught between their business connections and their striving for moral legitimacy in higher education.


Next, we show how several of the school's leaders were closely involved in progressive reforms and presided over the development of the empirical social sciences to address questions of labour regulation and control within manufacturing industries-...This episode illustrates the increasingly successful claims of social scientists, backed by philanthropic foundations, on business education and the growing appeal of "scientific" approaches to decision making and management. We also show that these transformations were homologically related to changes in the prevailing mode of governance in the American economy....

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

MAKE GOVERNANCE MORE TRANSPARENT

 

All kinds of people took an active part in the recent campaign that centred on the charismatic grassroots community leader Anna Hazare. Some of them are known for suggestions and public pronouncements that cannot but fill us with dread. Nevertheless, it needs to be remembered at all times that the basis on which Mr Hazare was able to rouse the conscience of the nation pertains to the notion of transparency in governance, the absence of which has bred corruption at all levels on a gargantuan scale. Over the six decades that we have been a self-governing, sovereign republic, our governing elite — both political and bureaucratic, at the Centre and in the states — have encouraged the creation of a thicket of rules that have rendered opaque the functioning of our democracy. These have virtually ruled out interrogation of the so-called servants of the people. The direct consequence of this has been to alienate the people, in whose name policy is framed and public money spent, and exalt those in positions of authority. In many spheres, especially on the political side, a self-perpetuating fiefdom of the undeserving has emerged. Whether the cry of the war on corruption yields long-term results of value, there is little doubt that this is exactly what the average citizen would like to see. While we hope the bill to establish an effective Lokpal, or national ombudsman — to formulate which a committee of senior ministers and respected civil society figures has been set up in the wake of Mr Hazare's energetic campaign — will see the light of day within the stipulated period, we take the opportunity to reiterate the need for transparency in all aspects of governmental functioning. Any rules and regulations made, any amendments effected to these, and even chargesheets framed against public officials, should be made available in the public domain. In this Internet and mobile age, it is much easier to enable this than it would have been in an earlier era. As of now, ordinary citizens have to run from pillar to post — in the process spending money and time — to access the most basic information that they should have as a right. These are symptoms of a pre-democratic order and must change as we seek to push for the political grammar of entitlement. In short, the privilege of the governing elite to think they know best must now end. Mr Hazare has said there should be video-recording of the deliberations of the joint panel to frame the Lokpal Bill. The idea is not without merit, although there might be pitfalls in it too. A video-recording, which might be subsequently telecast, might encourage some to play to the gallery. Something akin to this is visible in the two Houses of Parliament since live telecast of their sessions began. A midway point could be sought — perhaps a detailed record of the committee's deliberations on the Lokpal Bill draft could be made public. The idea is not as radical as it might sound. The debates of the committees of the US Senate and House of Representatives are available for public scrutiny, barring some exceptions. In addition to making the record of its deliberations public — let's say by placing it in the Parliament House library as well as on its website, for anyone to read and publicise — the panel to draft the bill might also see it fit to invite suggestions from the public.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A HERO BY DEFAULT

 

All democracies have a government and an Opposition. Some democracies have a Cabinet and a shadow Cabinet. India is unique. It has a National Advisory Council and, starting this past week, a shadow National Advisory Council. The confusion this will lead to can only be guessed. So far there was a draft of the Lokpal Bill prepared by the government of India and an alternative draft — the Jan Lokpal Bill — designed by civil society activists who backed Anna Hazare's fast at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar. Now a joint committee, comprising some but not all factions of the pro-Hazare activists as well as members of the Union Cabinet, will produce a third, compromise draft. The "official" National Advisory Council (NAC) — the body headed by Sonia Gandhi, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson, and part of the Congress' attempt to incorporate civil society groups into its political fold — will also draft its own version of the Lokpal Bill. That aside, those activists left out of the drafting committee by Mr Hazare will no doubt quibble and insist on their own non-negotiable inclusions in any Lokpal Bill. In Parliament, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Left and numerous other parties will also present their changes to one or many of the several draft Lokpal Bills that will be presented to the nation sometime before August 15, 2011 (the deadline put forward by Mr Hazare). Multiple voices and a degree of noise are a welcome part of democracy. When a law is proposed in Parliament, whether by the government or an individual legislator, ordinary people, lobby groups, non-governmental organisations, business associations and a variety of other segments have a right to object, propose changes and urge a second look. That is not in dispute here. What is disquieting about the Lokpal Bill controversy is the manner in which self-appointed civil society regiments — all of which have a right to be heard — have arrogated upon themselves the role of being the sole and authentic representatives of public opinion. The standing of elected representatives of the people has been undermined. What the Congress began with its institutionalisation of the NAC in 2004 has now become a runaway fever. This may sound harsh and unfair given the robust support for Mr Hazare, cutting across regions and cities. As the very symbol of the Little Man, the silent but frustrated common citizen taking on the might of an uncaring and insensitive state, Mr Hazare was a winner from day one. Yet it is important to understand why he got the traction he did, and what this represents and what it doesn't. Mr Hazare has been around for years. A former soldier who narrowly escaped being killed in the 1965 war, he returned to his native village in Maharashtra to focus on water conservation, small, localised irrigation mechanisms, rural uplift and prohibition. Combining the determination of an old soldier with the semiotics of Mahatma Gandhi, to his followers he is the very embodiment of the Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan sentiment. One need not believe in everything Mr Hazare says: young people in Ralegan Siddhi, his village, have been known to complain that Mr Hazare's rural idyll creates few modern job opportunities for them; prohibition has never worked in practice, leading to bootlegging and crime syndicates. Nevertheless, as the proverbial god's good man, it is impossible to rail against Mr Hazare and not come out seeming churlish. When this man was posited against the record of the UPA government over the past year — a succession of scandals and the perceived inability of the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues to take pre-emptive or even strong remedial action — the result was a foregone conclusion. The middle classes who watched television for hours and hours and then came on the streets, whether in New Delhi or Bengaluru or Ahmedabad, were not so much concerned with the niceties of the Lokpal Bill. They were fed up with what they felt was a venal system and agitated at the shortcomings of the Manmohan Singh government. Disgust with the UPA ended up becoming support for Mr Hazare by default. In hindsight, the UPA made one crucial mistake as the protesters gathered at Jantar Mantar. It completely underestimated the emotive appeal and impact of Mr Hazare adopting Gandhian tactics. When Mr Hazare began his fast — to the accompaniment of bhajans, and with a portrait of Bharat Mata in the background — the Congress' managers did not sense he would evoke a response from the national media, the city middle classes, the business elite and the intelligentsia. Indeed, the tone used by Congress politicians through the Jantar Mantar protests — the government will talk to the "other camp"; if the activists have "their chairperson", the committee will not have "our ministers"; Mr Hazare is given to "whims" and "blackmail" — was cutting and condescending. It is ironical that this is exactly how the Congress elites — in Bombay, Poona and Calcutta, for example — scorned Gandhi when he took to mass movements in the 1920s. The issue here is not to compare Mr Hazare to the Mahatma. It is to stress that when operating conditions are similar, and when popular anger with a supposedly discredited government has hit critical mass, even so-called "obsolete" (another word used to describe the Hazare-led activism) devices can work. Consider the following extract: "I always strongly criticised (his) views and his methods such as fast for achieving his objectives… (He) could thrust his… fads on that Congress government by resorting to such a simple trick as threatening a fast… The Congress had to surrender its will to his and had to be content with playing the second fiddle to all his eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision… He alone was the judge of everyone and everything". This sounds remarkably like the rhetoric of Congress spokespersons in the past few days. It's actually from Nathuram Godse's November 1948 statement to the special court at the Red Fort, trying him for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi! * Ashok Malik can be contacted at malikashok@gmail.com

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PRESIDENT OBAMA: MISSING IN ACTION

 

What have they done with US President Barack Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn't seem to stand for anything in particular? I realise that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there's not much Mr Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn't even using that — or, rather, he's using it to reinforce his enemies' narrative. His remarks after last week's budget deal were a case in point. Maybe that terrible deal, in which Republicans ended up getting more than their opening bid, was the best he could achieve — although it looks from here as if the president's idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the GOP (Grand Old Party), leading to further concessions. And bear in mind that this was just the first of several chances for Republicans to hold the budget hostage and threaten a government shutdown; by caving in so completely on the first round, Mr Obama set a baseline for even bigger concessions over the next few months. But let's give the President the benefit of the doubt, and suppose that $38 billion in spending cuts — and a much larger cut relative to his own budget proposals — was the best deal available. Even so, did Mr Obama have to celebrate his defeat? Did he have to praise Congress for enacting "the largest annual spending cut in our history", as if shortsighted budget cuts in the face of high unemployment — cuts that will slow growth and increase unemployment — are actually a good idea? Among other things, the latest budget deal more than wipes out any positive economic effects of the big prize Mr Obama supposedly won from last December's deal, a temporary extension of his 2009 tax cuts for working Americans. And the price of that deal, let's remember, was a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts, at an immediate cost of $363 billion, and a potential cost that's much larger — because it's now looking increasingly likely that those irresponsible tax cuts will be made permanent. More broadly, Mr Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussion — a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps; the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole programme); and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice! I'm not exaggerating. The House budget proposal that was unveiled last week — and was praised as "bold" and "serious" by all of Washington's Very Serious People — includes savage cuts in Medicaid and other programmes that help the neediest, which would among other things deprive 34 million Americans of health insurance. It includes a plan to privatise and defund Medicare that would leave many if not most seniors unable to afford healthcare. And it includes a plan to sharply cut taxes on corporations and to bring the tax rate on high earners down to its lowest level since 1931. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Centre puts the revenue loss from these tax cuts at $2.9 trillion over the next decade. House Republicans claim that the tax cuts can be made "revenue neutral" by "broadening the tax base" — that is, by closing loopholes and ending exemptions. But you'd need to close a lot of loopholes to close a $3 trillion gap; for example, even completely eliminating one of the biggest exemptions, the mortgage interest deduction, wouldn't come close. And GOP leaders have not, of course, called for anything that drastic. I haven't seen them name any significant exemptions they would end. You might have expected the President's team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the GOP proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval. What's going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America's partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise. But if you ask me, I'd say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a President who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that's not what we're seeing.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

JAITAPUR PROJECT: TIME FOR RETHINK

 

The smoke alarm that went off at the 220MW Kaiga nuclear power plant in Karnataka's North Uttar Kannada district could well have been an alarm bell for the proposed 10,000MW nuclear park in Maharashtra's Jaitapur. Thankfully, in the Kaiga case, there was no fire behind the smoke and so the unit, shut down immediately after the alarm went off, will restart in a week's time after some checks. We have not been told, however, what set off the smoke alarm, though a report is expected. On Jaitapur, which witnessed widespread protests by those residing in nearby villages, minister of state for environment, Mr Jairam Ramesh, appears to have changed his mind. The "green" minister had earlier given it the go-ahead, even after the catastrophic nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima, but now he appears to be in favour of a comprehensive rethink. The agitation against the Jaitapur nuclear park had started long before the Japan earthquake/tsunami struck, but the protests intensified after the Fukushima disaster. The Maharashtra government, however, led by the Chief Minister, Mr Prithviraj Chavan, and senior minister, Mr Narayan Rane, had gone all out to convince villagers that nuclear power was a hundred per cent safe and trying to crush the protests. They even refused permission to the protesters to hold a memorial meeting to commemorate victims of the Japanese disaster, and several people were arrested and jailed. Mr Ramesh had at that time still been in favour of the nuclear park coming up there. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, all countries with nuclear power plants are reconsidering their programmes. Even China, which has the largest nuclear programme on its agenda, is having second thoughts. Only in India did the authorities insist that everything was safe. One wonders at the scientific basis for such confidence. There are also huge controversies around the EPR (evolutionary power reactor) technology that will be used for these plants. Major problems with this have been reported from Canada and South Africa. It is in this context that Mr Ramesh's letter to Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, suggesting a rethink on Jaitapur assumes significance. This does not even take into account the gigantic rehabilitation effort that will be needed to resettle the estimated 27,000 families that will be affected. Besides its pious intentions, the government has still not come out with a concrete blueprint on this. One other issue that Mr Ramesh has raised, and which needs to be considered without any loss of time, is the need to separate India's nuclear regulatory body from the parent department of atomic energy. At present, and in fact ever since its formation, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has functioned under the wing of the department of atomic energy. Many scientists had pointed out the anomaly in such a position as it makes a mockery of the presumed independence of such a board. Most other regulatory bodies, like those in the insurance and telecom sectors, are independent of their parent ministries, but not the AERB. Now that Mr Ramesh has suggested that public confidence in nuclear energy might improve if the regulator were not answerable to the department of atomic energy, it is to be hoped that the government will finally see reason.


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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WHY ANNA GIVES IT THOSE ONES

 

Anna Hazare and his mop-up team have busted one of the fondest myths in this country — no matter what you do, nothing is ever going to change. Call those who gathered in the big cities and small towns across India, and everyone else who rallied behind the 73-year-old and his team in their battle against corruption whatever names you want — causerati, chatterati, digirati or plain nutty, but something did move. Anyone who was there at any of the sites where Mr Hazare's supporters gathered could not fail to notice the sheer diversity of the people. Young India, old India, shiny India, grimy India, had broken the barriers that pigeonhole them in their everyday lives, and for a few magical hours had come together to support an old man who had captured their imagination. Was there a touch of the carnival, a touch of romance in all this? Of course. There was also a dash of the reality show which drew the television crews. But did the TV manufacture the spectacle? I think not. It was a genuinely inspirational moment for tens of thousands of people across the country who are at the end of their tether, grappling with corruption every day. It is a networked society and the word spread fast. There is no taking away from this moment, no matter what happens or does not happen in the weeks and months to come to Mr Hazare's warriors and their campaign to push through the anti-graft agenda. But you have to be starry-eyed to think that a piece of legislation will purge the country of scams. No one that I met thought so. The Jan Lokpal Bill itself is a negotiating tool. There have been many versions of the bill already, and there will be more before it takes its final shape. To focus solely on its minutiae, and argue about the technicalities, however, is to miss a deeper point: Why does a fasting Gandhian, albeit with an illustrious record of public service, enjoy rockstar adulation among so many of India's urban youth who inhabit a vastly different universe? The short answer is because the message and the messenger struck a chord and the timing was perfect. Mr Hazare's moral eminence is a strategic differential in a world of steady, drip-drip scams where the power elite is seen to be utterly compromised. Mr Hazare struck a chord among young India because he tapped into their frustrations and fear of being checkmated by corruption, and because his core message was simple and straight: no citizen, no matter how high, is above the law. Embedded in this message is the idea of an India where the ordinary citizen, used to being passive and powerless, has a better chance of taking on the errant powerful. Young India is unwilling to accept many things which earlier generations had accepted with resignation. Credit it to the prising open of the Indian economy. This country is much more integrated into the global market place than it was 20 years ago. The sarkari Indian mindset, however, continues to remain in a time warp with its notions of waivers for politicians and other VIPs. Many of the youngsters who took time off to express support for Hazare are, in essence, challenging this notion of VIP privilege. This generation knows more about the warts afflicting society than their elders, thanks to the Right to Information Act legislation. The sheer scale and magnitude of the scams in recent times have added to their sense of outrage. They also know more about the world outside through inter-personal exchanges, satellite television, Internet and social media. They now want not only the goodies from the Western world, but also their protocols of everyday life which empower ordinary citizens, where rules prevail, and where there are few exemptions to "very important people". At Jantar Mantar and India Gate last week, I heard the word "future" many times. The young say they are supporting Mr Hazare because they trust him to bat for their future. The "system" against which the youth are rebelling has not grasped this fundamental fact adequately. The disconnect shows up in so many telling ways. The latest example is the Municipal Corporation of Delhi's decision to show its "token of appreciation" to the four cricketers from the city (Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Gautam Gambhir and Ashish Nehra) who were part of the victorious Team India in the cricket World Cup by waiving their house tax for life. Similar "appreciation" is shown to a whole galaxy of VIPs by exempting them from security checks at airports which ordinary folks cannot bypass. Airports are not the only places where you can watch the fast-track and special treatment reserved for the VIP. Drive down a national highway and you will inevitably see a big board which lists all those who are exempt from paying toll tax. It starts from the President, includes the vice-president, the Prime Minister, governors and a host of others. Last year, the Central government decided that members of Parliament as well as all members of Legislative Assemblies and Legislative Councils were also to be exempted from paying toll tax while driving down highways within their own states. The issue is not the money that is waived. It is the underlying mindset which equates "appreciation" of the important and the worthy with exemptions from rules that govern everyone else. Such "VIP privileges" are premised on the belief that a certain person's time or feelings are somehow more important than that of the ordinary man or woman. Young India is rebelling against the political class because it sees it as the initiator and preserver of these VIP privileges which eventually balloon into a big protective umbrella for all manners of wrongdoing. Young India is desperate for a "hero" it can trust. Mr Hazare is the man of the moment. The government is on the backfoot. But it can start bridging the trust deficit by simply giving the ordinary person a greater sense of equality. One can take a leaf out of the Maruti success story in India and the Japanese work culture. At the start, Maruti's Indian managers were resistant to new ideas like wearing a uniform, eating in the same canteen as their juniors and sitting in open offices. But slowly they came around and it has helped the company. If the government wants to win back the people, it could start with doing away with VIP privileges. * Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at patralekha.chatterjee@gmail.com

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A BINARY REVOLUTION

 

Although Anna Hazare has been able to epitomise public anger against corruption in high places, euphoric descriptions of these events as the beginnings of a middle-class inspired "revolution" or as an example of "street power" prevailing over "state power" (as in Egypt) are uncalled for. To see in the 73-year-old activist another Jayaprakash Narayan in the making or even a Vishwanath Pratap Singh would be premature. Mr Hazare himself has argued that the fight against corruption has only just begun — but this struggle has to go far, far beyond an empowered Lokpal, better electronic voting machines or the right of voters to recall their elected representatives. Until the nexus among politicians, businesspersons and criminals — which is facilitated by the bureaucracy — is considerably weakened and unless the manner in which election campaigns are funded is radically altered, much of civil society's desire to reduce the incidence of corruption in the country would be meaningless. Consequently, the so-called popular "uprising" to create institutional systems whereby the corrupt are expeditiously identified, prosecuted and punished, would get dissipated despite the overdose of righteous indignation that has been expressed, especially by some of our hyperactive television anchors. There remains a lot about putting together the structure of an empowered people's ombudsman or Lokpal that will not be easily resolved by the committee that has equal representation from the government as well as those who are supposed to represent the diverse and fractious "civil society" of this country. The contentious issues relate not just to the modalities of appointing a Lokpal, including the setting up of an electoral college, and whether his jurisdiction would prevail over not just politicians, but bureaucrats and judges as well. Let us for the time being believe that the Lokpal's relationship with law-enforcing authorities and agencies responsible for investigating criminal acts of corruption — such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Central Vigilance Commission, to name only two — would be seamless, if not smooth. Let us also optimistically assume that the Lokpal himself would behave in a transparent manner and also be "responsible" when it comes to critical areas where corruption overlaps with foreign relations and national security. Even if one presumes that these controversial contentions can — and will — be amicably resolved within the deadlines set by Mr Hazare, the question of the Lokpal not having to seek either the government's or Parliament's prior permission/sanction to act against the corrupt in high places would still have to be thrashed out. This will not be easy but nevertheless worth attempting. Take the case of the Karnataka Lokayukta Justice N. Santosh Hegde's detailed investigations into illegal iron ore mining in Andhra Pradesh's Bellary district in recent years. His reports have been well-documented. His findings have been endorsed by reports prepared by bodies that operate under the Union government, among which was the technical regulator of the ministry of mines, the Indian Bureau of Mines. But ask Justice Hegde why the state government under B.S. Yeddyurappa has virtually chosen to ignore his recommendations and why whatever action that has been initiated so far has been cosmetic, to put it rather mildly? Why indeed? The reasons are obvious. The promoters of privately-owned mining companies in Bellary and the adjoining Ananthapur district, who used to fund the activities of political leaders in the past, are today important politicians themselves. Among them are the Gali Reddy brothers, two of whom hold ministerial positions in the Yeddyurappa government. Gali Janardhana Reddy is minister for tourism and infrastructure development and Gali Karunakara Reddy is revenue minister while Gali Somasekhara Reddy is president, Karnataka Milk Federation. A close associate of the Reddy brothers, B. Sreeramulu, is health minister in the state government. The Reddy brothers and their supporters have links with influential politicians in Andhra Pradesh (like Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy) where they have promoted the Obulapuram Mining Company. This is merely one instance of the nexus between politics, business and crime. There are many such examples across the country. Many believe (and rightly so) that the fountainhead of corruption in India is the manner in which election campaigns of politicians and political parties are covertly funded. According to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the autonomous and independent Election Commission of India is meant to ensure that the expenditure incurred by individual candidates (whether at the national or at local levels) adhere to a "model code of conduct" wherein expenditure limits and heads of spending are clearly specified. However, there are glaring loopholes in the law. Political parties can spend unlimited amounts on the campaigns of their candidates as can his friends and associates. If corporate captains or criminals "invest" in the election of a particular person, it is hardly surprising that they would seek to "recover" the expenses incurred through questionable means after the concerned candidate becomes a member of Parliament (MP), a member of Legislative Assembly or a minister. It has been estimated that close to a fourth of all elected MPs in India have criminal records, though not all of them have been accused of "heinous" crimes or acts of corruption. Mr Hazare's sudden popularity is a consequence of the middle classes' need for a new "hero" after a number of "villains" like A. Raja and Suresh Kalmadi have hogged headlines, points out political scientist Yogendra Yadav. But this anti-corruption movement can hope to proceed thus far and no further if it posits issues in binary terms — primarily, the "good" NGO activist versus the "bad" politico. If that indeed happens (as seems likely at present) corruption will not be rooted out, leave alone reduced. * Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

RELEVANT QUESTION

EVEN IF RAISED IN FRUSTRATION


SINCE shoes being hurled at leaders is no longer newsworthy there was little reporting of a recent incident in Nagpur when Baba Ramdev was at the receiving end. Nor is there need to attach significance to the protester's lament that while he had hoped to benefit from a discourse on yoga he was subjected to a lecture on politics and patriotism: just about everybody drifts off to those domains these days. However there can be no ignoring a point the miscreant ~ a member of the central paramilitary ~ subsequently made.
A local newspaper quoted the man as saying, "as for patriotism, he shouldn't talk about it in big cities like Delhi and Mumbai, but also in places like Dantewada, Sopore and Baramulla." Baba Ramdev forgave the man his indiscretion, but the query remains unanswered. By not just the spiritual leader but by all those who reel off sermons on human rights, civil liberties, state oppression, police high-handedness and so on miles away from where the blood is being spilt. True many of those "activists" are sincere in their beliefs, but there is no dearth of those who have mastered the art of making the right noises, (nothing beyond that) at the right time and place ~ when media attention is assured. Didn't a number of them jump on the Jantar Mantar bandwagon last week? The question raised by Mitu Singh Rathore is a full-throated expression of the frustration, dismay and even anger of personnel of all the security forces deployed so heavily on counter-insurgency duties. Neither the central nor the state governments have a comprehensive policy formulation. That translates into only vague mandates for the forces, and often leads to "civil society" projecting the forces as the villains when they would be only too happy to disengage, return to their camps, and let the "underdogs" enforce their own code of governance.
Nobody can condone "excesses" but realistically nobody should ignore what triggers them. Who can deny that many insurgent outfits have political "fronts", or that in a bid to blacken the government of the day opposition parties target the security forces (the central organisations in particular) but project the insurgents in Robin Hood raiment. And after the forces attain the upper hand the politicians fail to take conclusive action. There can be no turning a blind eye to the resentment in the ranks of the forces, also revealed by suicides/"fragging". Yesterday one man threw a shoe, tomorrow it could be a more lethal outburst.

 

LOAN NOT CLEARED

DEEPER IN THE FISCAL MIRE

THE rigmarole would have been laughable were it not for the deleterious implications for West Bengal's stuttering economy. And once again, it is that essential commodity ~ potato ~ that is at the core of the latest mess. The facts are barely stated and they add up to thoughtless economics. The government had allowed marketing agencies to obtain a loan from the West Bengal State Cooperative Bank to buy potatoes from farmers. Admittedly, this was a pro-agriculture, if not a populist, move with the state deciding it would buy potatoes from farmers during the peak season and sell it to the consumers during the lean period. No qualms with the marketing strategy; yet it passes understanding why there was no budgetary provision in 2010-11 for the Rs 400-crore subsidy that was essential to ensure a support price to the potato growers. The new fiscal has only just begun, and the marketing entities are now facing a fiscal crunch, if to a lesser degree than the government's virtual bankruptcy. Now, less than three weeks after presenting the vote-on-account and with the model code of conduct in force, the state seeks an extra-budgetary grant to enable the marketing agencies to clear the loan. The Election Commission has turned down the plea, a testament to the finance department's half-baked crafting of the vote-on-account.

There never was a budgetary provision on so critical a matter as extending the Rs 400-crore subsidy for the benefit of potato cultivators. If the objective was not to include this expenditure in the provisional budget, it is the kind of numerical jugglery that has today landed West Bengal in dire fiscal straits. Clearly, it was a thoughtlessly contrived attempt to show reduced expenditure, a convoluted exercise in self-deception. The EC's refusal verily puts the state in a bind over loan repayment. The agencies have failed to clear the loan after selling the potato, as envisaged. In the net, the crop is either rotting or has been dumped on the road by the cold storage owners, as a report in this newspaper indicates. This is of a piece with the national government's handling of the grain glut. It will be a rotten potato that will be sold at near-zero price. Whichever party gains electorally, the triumph will be neutralised by the fiscal mess, embedded partly in budgetary faultlines. The plot shall thicken after 13 May.

 

TIME RUNNING OUT

WILL NEPAL MEET NEW DEADLINE?

MANY in Nepal are worried. They wonder if their lawmakers will help the constituent assembly meet the new 28 May deadline (extended by a year) to complete the drafting of the new constitution. The exercise suffered many a setback after Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal resigned in May 2009 following differences over President Ram Baran Yadav's reinstatement of the army chief who was forced into premature retirement. The Madhav Kumar Nepal government that succeeded the Dahal administration was more or less a non-functional one with the Maoists ~ the largest party ~ boycotting the assembly for several months. In June last year Nepal, under Maoist pressure, resigned to make way for the formation of a national consensus government, but what followed was a move from the frying pan into the fire. For nearly eight months and until last February the country was without a mandated Prime Minister. Then Nepal Communist Party (United Marxist-Leninist) chairman Jhala Nath Khanal was elected the new premier after the 17th round of election in parliament. But he is yet to establish himself in the driver's seat, having been unable to set up a full-fleged cabinet.
The remaining six weeks until 28 May are crucial because the important ingredient for lasting peace ~ the process of integrating and rehabilitating more than 19,000 former Maoist combatants holed up in half a dozen designated camps ~ is still elusive. The United Nations Mission in Nepal, which was to have overseen the peace process, left in January and now the former rebels are under a special committee headed by the Prime Minister. Fairness demands that after helping Khanal to head the new government the Maoists must cooperate. It is understandable that they find it difficult to disperse their one-time comrades-in-arms who fought with them to achieve the goal of overthrowing the monarchy. But if the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Treaty is to be taken to its logical conclusion, the Maoists have no alternative.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

PAKISTAN AT THE CROSSROADS!

 ISLAMABAD'S ABILITY TO DEFY THE USA CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO ITS CONFIDENCE THAT CHINA CAN ALWAYS BE RELIED UPON AS AN EFFECTIVE COUNTERWEIGHT TO WASHINGTON WHICH OWES TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO BEIJING. THIS ASSUMPTION COULD BE FATALLY WRONG, WRITES RAJINDER PURI

Caught between the conflicting pressures of America and China, Pakistan stands at the crossroads of its destiny. Neither the world, nor the neighbourhood, nor Pakistan itself can tolerate indefinitely the terrorism unleashed from its soil. Pakistan is clearly divided between a liberal civil society seeking democracy and a fundamentalist hard core encouraging terrorism. That is why it has been repeatedly stressed in these columns that the choice for Pakistan lies between a democratic accommodation with its South Asian neighbours and balkanisation. The status quo cannot continue.

The dire prospect of balkanisation does not arise from a fevered imagination. As pointed out earlier, the redrawing of international boundaries to create the New Middle East published in Armed Forces Journal which reflects Pentagon's views has ominous implications for Islamabad . However, political compulsions are persuading the USA to attempt a safer and more peaceful option. By mid-July this year, President Obama has committed commencement of US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan . If he reneges on that promise, it would seriously mar his prospects for a second term. It is confirmed now that back channel talks between the USA and the Afghan Taliban are under way. If the talks succeed, it most likely would lead to an institutional arrangement between Afghanistan and Pakistan . That Pakistan is cooperating in the effort becomes clear from the latest development. Islamabad has become reconciled to accepting Indian relevance in Afghanistan.
As early as next month, Turkey is expected to host the next round of talks with the Taliban. But unlike previous rounds that confined the talks to a few Muslim nations such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates , this time, the USA, UK and even India will participate to formulate a reconciliation package. The softening of Islamabad 's attitude regarding an Indian role in Afghanistan can safely be attributed to American persuasion. This also indicates that New Delhi has changed tack to acknowledge that a dialogue with the Taliban can be undertaken to mutual advantage. Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad quotes a senior Indian security official telling Asia Times: "We appreciate the Taliban as the future force in the Afghan government and therefore we want to open a channel of communication with the Taliban so that Afghanistan is not used against India in the future, like happened in the past."

However, at the same time as moves towards an India-Pakistan-Afghanistan reconciliation is under way, another development is taking place in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). Indian army sources reported that Chinese troops were sighted in PoK. Beijing quickly denied the report. Now, US intelligence agencies have confirmed the presence of Chinese troops in the area. This would embolden the hard liners in Pakistan to stick to their uncompromising stand. Indeed, Pakistan 's ability to defy the USA can be attributed to Islamabad 's confidence that China can always be relied upon as an effective counterweight to Washington which owes trillions of dollars to Beijing . However, this assumption by Islamabad could be fatally wrong.
The rulers in Beijing are hard headed realists ferociously focused on China's core interests. They cannot but conclude that given the hardening global opinion against Pakistan being used as a hub of terrorism, the present arrangement cannot last. Therefore, Beijing too would coolly calculate whether Pakistan integrated with the rest of South Asia would suit it more or Pakistan balkanised into smaller states. And it is the assessment of this question that should make Islamabad sweat. Beijing 's core interests lie in Afghanistan due to its mining and mineral interests. If the Pashtuns break away from Pakistan to create a greater Afghanistan it would in no way conflict with these interests. Beijing 's other core interest lies in Baluchistan which is the gateway to Gwadar port. Present NWFP and Baluchistan comprise the territory through which any future pipeline transporting energy from Iran to China would have to pass. Punjab and Sind are a burden to Beijing offering no core strategic value. The disappearance of India-Pakistan problem might boost India-China trade! So how would Beijing react if events actually threaten the disintegration of Pakistan? Islamabad would do well to make a cold and realistic assessment.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

US SUPPORT VITAL TO UN SUCCESS, SAYS BAN

 

UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon has stressed the need for continued support from the USA to the UN system so that the world body could carry on with its work. "The continued engagement and leadership of the USA is essential for the UN to be able to succeed in the many tasks you look to us to do," Mr Ban told members of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, during his one-day visit there. He stressed that the USA and the UN shared the same goals and objectives.


Mr Ban discussed the situation in Côte d'Ivoire and Libya with the committee and other trouble spots where the UN was playing a significant role. "The UN does on a daily basis what no country can do alone," he said during a breakfast meeting with committee members led by chairman Ms Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and ranking member representative Mr Russ Carnahan, according to information provided by UN spokesman Mr Martin Nesirky in New York.


Mr Ban stated that it was important for US dollars to go as far as possible in these hard times. He agreed with committee members that the UN must deliver on its responsibilities involving Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Haiti or in reforming the UN itself with the greatest possible commitment to accountability, transparency, and effectiveness. This was essential in the best of times and even more important in tough economic conditions, he said. The Secretary-General also held a bilateral meeting with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Mr John Kerry and later met other members of the committee, Mr Nesirky said. While speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Ban said that by working with the UN, no country needed to tackle big challenges alone and no country was alone in footing the bill.


"The UN is fully conscious of the international community going through this era of austerity. That is why I have instructed my senior advisors to come up with concrete plans to reduce our budget by 3 per cent. At the same time, we need to have a robust financial support from the USA," he said.


Mr Ban is seeking a 3 per cent cut in the next UN budget, below the current two-year outlay of $5.16 billion as the world struggles to emerge from the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The contributions to the UN's regular budget are assessed on a scale based primarily on the member countries' ability to pay. In 2000, the General Assembly fixed a maximum of 22 per cent of the budget for a single contribution.


Mr Kerry lauded the work the UN was doing around the world, especially in Afghanistan, Libya, Darfur and Haiti. "The events that are unfolding around the world are not ordinary by any stretch of the imagination. This is a remarkable time… In all of my years in the Senate, I can't remember a time when there have been as many places where the United Nations had stepped in to play a critical a role as it is doing right now." Mr Kerry noted that the USA was facing a "difficult budget moment" and that some people in Congress were talking about reducing the country's support for international institutions. Such a move would be unwise and dangerous, he said.

Ban seeks maximum restraint

UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon has met Israeli President Shimon Peres in New York and discussed the worrying impasse in the West Asian peace process. He said there was an urgent need for a way forward, according to a readout issued by UN spokesman Mr Martin Nesirky. According to the statement, Mr Ban also condemned a militant rocket firing from Gaza, and expressed his serious concern about Palestinian civilian casualties brought about by Israeli military operations. He called for maximum restraint, it noted. Mr Ban earlier voiced concern at the escalating violence in West Asia with Palestinian militants firing rockets into southern Israel and Israeli military forces bombing the Gaza Strip. Mr Nesirky quoted Mr Ban to say he "condemned the recent rocket fire from Palestinian militants, which hit a school bus and injured two Israeli civilians" and "calls for an immediate end to rocket fire".


anjali sharma

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

WE NEED THE NETAS TOO

MADHU PURNIMA KISHWAR

We all owe Anna Hazare a debt of gratitude for dedicating his life to the service of the people and battling for accountability and transparency in governance. Right now, millions of people look to him for inspiration and guidance. We are all sick of mismanagement, venality and the lack of accountability that have become the hallmarks of Indian governance but also of many of our educational, cultural, religious and a host of other institutions including many of our NGOs who have in recent years started calling themselves "civil society" institutions because that is the term made fashionable by international donor agencies.
Mr Hazare is fortunate that the support base of the anti-corruption movement covers a very large spectrum of people, organisations and individuals.  From small shopkeepers to IT honchos, film stars, retired bureaucrats and ordinary housewives, they are all out on the streets demanding accountable governance and clean polity. However, the main support base and mobilisation effort comes from a diverse range of religious and spiritual gurus like Sri Sri Ravishankar and Baba Ramdev who command larger and more committed followings than most of our political parties. I feel perturbed by the disdain with which some of the movement leaders and followers treated elected representatives ~  MPs and MLAs ~ who came to express support for the movement.  I am the last person to defend the indefensible conduct of many of our politicians and elected representatives. As a group, they have indeed failed us badly. But so have many others ~ the judiciary, the police, the bureaucracy, as well as many of our "religio-spiritual" leaders. Many of these worthies are no less corrupt and venal than the worst of our politicians. No politician can get away with corruption and crime without the active collaboration of the bureaucracy, police and the judiciary.

Let us also remember that some of the best and most upright leaders we have had had all been members of political parties. Mahatma Gandhi, Jayprakash Narayan, Lokmanya tilak, Baba Sahib Ambedkar ~ all contested elections. Today, the man credited with bringing about the most progressive changes in Bihar is the state's chief minister Mr Nitish Kumar. The role he is playing for his state is no less historic than Mr Hazare's role. Baba Ramdev himself heads a political party and yet he has been accepted as a leading player in the movement.
Those of us who claim to draw inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi cannot afford to be so self-righteous and declare ourselves to be the epitomes of purity and exclude even those elected representatives who desire to make common cause with an anti-corruption campaign. The arrogance of tyag (sacrifice) is no less dangerous and corrosive than the arrogance that comes with money and political power. If the movement is ready to welcome film stars and other celebrities who may well be evading taxes and bypassing laws for personal benefit, why single out elected representatives especially when they come to make common cause with the movement?

We would do well to remember that people like us are self-appointed representatives of "civil society."  There are times self-appointed representatives are able to give vent to popular sentiment much more effectively than elected representatives. However, at many points such leaders, including the epochal ones like Mahatma Gandhi are ignored or even ridiculed by society. Does it mean at those times they lose the right to raise public issues? The groundswell of support for those who are leading the current movement very ably should not undermine the importance of those who actually go to seek the mandate of the voters and are willing to accept rejection. They can even be booted out through elections whereas we self-appointed representatives can't be voted out at those times when we exceed our brief.  

Elected representatives are an integral and quintessential part of democracy, however flawed it may be. To tar all politicians with the same brush is to declare a war on democracy. There are as many or as few good politicians as there are NGOs or judges. Our democracy is without doubt highly flawed and makes it difficult for honest people to survive in electoral politics. Our politicians are as much victims of the money and muscle power dominated electoral system as they are its beneficiaries. The disdain for politicians can easily translate into disdain for democracy itself. By declaring that politicians cannot even come and express support to the anti corruption movement from Anna Hazare's platform because they are tainted, is to treat our elected representatives as untouchables.

Corruption is no more confined to politicians and bureaucracy. It has percolated down deep into the very vitals of society. Our panchayats are also hotbeds of corruption. Our citizens ~ rich and poor alike ~ have accepted corruption as a way of life. It is our complicity and apathy as citizens that have allowed money and muscle power to hijack the system for their personal profit. We as citizens are complicit in letting thugs come to power. Many of those who are out on the streets shouting against corrupt politicians could well be evading taxes, or violating building and other laws, selling adulterated goods and manipulating the system for personal benefit. Just as that does not undermine their urge for a clean polity, so also politicians currently using corrupt means to win elections could well be like us yearning for a more dignified entry into electoral politics.

The Lokpal Bill has already invited a good deal of well meaning criticism from those who share Mr Hazare's hatred of corruption but have alternative strategies to suggest.  Some of this criticism is as well meaning as his demands. Merely making the Lokpal a supra-government body and giving it full powers to make its own appointments will not ensure that the institution becomes worthy of the trust reposed in it. For example, the power to appoint Supreme Court and High Court judges was taken away from the government and entrusted to the collegiums of Supreme Court judges. That has not stopped some of the most venal and corrupt in the judiciary from rising to the very top, including the office of the Chief Justice of India.

The legitimate concerns of all sections of society including farmers, businessmen, politicians, professionals, must be taken on board if we want to create a corruption free, crime free India where people don't have to resort to bribery string pulling and subversion of laws in order carry out any entrepreneurial activity ~ whether as street vendors, farmers, petty shopkeepers or as industrialists.

It is equally important to recognise that the present scope of the Bill is so overarching that it could collapse under the weight of its own gigantic ambition.  Mr Hazare is well aware that the existing machinery of governance is not just corrupt, it is also dysfunctional. We need far reaching administrative, judicial, police and electoral reforms, including in its recruitment policies, if the Lokpal is to become an effective instrument of vigilance and redressal.  

For example, if our municipal offices, police stations, public hospitals and courts are not equipped with the appropriately-skilled and motivated personnel, the right kind of incentives and resources with mechanisms of accountability inbuilt into their day to day functioning, there is no way that a Lokpal or state Lokayuktas alone can use their extraordinary powers as magic wands to get the system to work well.  Some of the spade work has already been done. But the blueprint prepared by the Administrative Reforms Commission for wide spectrum reforms in every sector has been gathering dust for years.  We need to bring that reform agenda on the table along with the Lokpal Bill in order to restore the health of our institutions of governance.  Otherwise, the Lokpal will either collapse under the tsunami of complaints that will sweep it off its feet or become yet another bureaucratic dead weight on the existing rotten system.

The writer is an academic and founder-editor of the journal Manushi

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THE TELEGRAPH

FACE THE FACTS

The truth is usually bitter. But nonetheless, it cannot be wished away. When the British prime minister, David Cameron, recently admitted his nation's responsibility in creating much of the trouble that afflicts the world today, he was merely reiterating a fact that is amply evident to many across the globe. There was no cause for the press to go into a tizzy over Mr Cameron's remark, which was made during a trip to Pakistan. And the prime minister, too, need not have yielded to the provocation so readily. It is unbecoming of an Etonian, especially of one holding the highest office in his country, to have an outburst of scandalous proportions in public. It may well be that Mr Cameron's history is a bit wobbly in places — his remark was made in the context of the Indo-Pak dispute over Kashmir, the origins of which are more complicated than what the British prime minister insinuated — but the larger point of his assertion remains unassailable. Even school students know of the harrowing legacy of colonialism left behind by the British across Asia. So Mr Cameron was merely stating the obvious — and he was not even trying to be particularly contrite or apologetic about the deadly track record of his people. Rather than having made a "diplomatic gaffe" — as he has been accused of doing by the British media — he appears to have made a judicious comment, one that may earn him the respect of the people of those nations that were part of the erstwhile British empire.

So the spin that has been put on Mr Cameron's remark seems to reflect a certain attitude of the British press and a section of the intelligentsia. Like most colonizers, Britain is prone to an excess of apathy or sympathy when it tries to confront its past. There is either a self-regarding complacency in its self-perception, which encourages warped notions of historic injustice. Or else, there is self-flagellating guilt, which makes a monster of every little move made by the former imperial regime in relation to its ex-colonies. Even beyond Britain, the colonial discourse, in general, has been riven by such opposing logic. Colonialism has been, and still tends to be, either valorized or demonized by post-imperial nations, depending on the extent to which they are willing to confront the apparitions from their past. As a result, the truth gets coated in vanity or righteousness — and a spade is never called a spade.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

STOP PUSHING

The electoral contest in Tamil Nadu is being as keenly watched throughout the nation as it is in West Bengal, though its promise of change may not be as attractive as of that in the latter. The key contestants in Tamil Nadu continue to be the two Dravida Kazhagam parties, which have stitched together a rainbow alliance with a host of smaller parties (with caste and community allegiances) that are calculated to assure them the maximum possible vote share above the 25-29 per cent vote share that they can individually lay claim to. However, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led alliance goes to the hustings with a distinct advantage over its adversary. The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has suffered loss of face over the 2G spectrum scam, the unhealthy sparring with the Congress over seat share and widespread allegations about making governance a family-run enterprise which it has been unable to deny completely. The AIADMK, on the other hand, presents a more confident image, having been able to rope the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam into its alliance and prevent a fracture of anti-DMK votes, and for also being able to drum up the corruption issue at the most inopportune time for the DMK. A wary DMK is concentrating its energies on capturing the rural electorate, which, it believes, is less discerning than the urban electorate and may still be influenced by freebies, subsidies and money. But here, too, it faces strident competition from its rival, which has trebled the lure with promises of electronic gadgets, gold, and a more strident protection of regional and minority interests.

The Election Commission has been unable to prevent this shameless wooing of the electorate, but has tried its best to prevent the outright sale of votes by clamping down on the flow of money. As much as Rs 340 million is reported to have been seized over the past few days through an intensive surveillance of all possible agencies through which the voter may be influenced. Political forces from across the board have been found to be involved in these irregularities and the ingenuity they have used to buy votes has prompted the commission to label Tamil Nadu a "challenging case". Fortunately, money alone has never been able to buy the loyalty of the Indian voter. That is why the results of the Tamil Nadu elections, whichever coalition they favour, ought to be a learning experience for all the political parties in the fray.

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THE TELEGRAPH

STRUGGLING WITH INDIA

HOW MODERN INDIA TREATS GANDHI WITH PIETY AND DISREGARD ANANYA VAJPEYI

The assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on January 30, 1948, by Nathuram Godse, a believer in Hindutva, was neither the first nor the last attack by the Hindu Right on Gandhi's vision of India. Gandhi, who made Hindu-Muslim unity and the eradication of untouchability two pillars of his politics, who bitterly opposed Partition, who spent the day of India's independence, August 15, 1947, in mourning, and whose idea of ethical struggle was the cultivation of non-violence in body and spirit, represents everything that Hindu nationalists are implacably opposed to. Gandhi was so high-minded and self-sacrificing, said the assassin, Godse, in his final testimony, and so many millions held him in such high regard, that he had to be eliminated. As a living force, Gandhi was not an enemy that the Hindu Right could hope to challenge or defeat, and they knew it.

For the chief minister of post-Godhra Gujarat, then, to claim that he wants to protect Gandhi's reputation by banning Joseph Lelyveld's new biography of Gandhi, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle with India, is hypocritical and mendacious. Not only through the orgy of violence against Muslims in 2002, but through a systematic program of segregated urbanization, and economic growth based on aggressive forms of globalized capitalism, Narendra Modi has done everything to root Gandhian ideas out of Gujarat, to erase Gandhi from the social consciousness and the political landscape of the Mahatma's home state. Modi has desecrated the memory of Gandhi more than any other individual in independent India, and done more harm to Gandhian legacy than even Godse himself. If he bans Lelyveld's book, he only underscores his contempt for Gandhi, all the while pretending to uphold Gandhi's good name. Conscientious Gujaratis have to call him on this act of brazen hypocrisy.

For Maharashtra to ban the book, too, would be ironic. Hindutva ideology was birthed and fostered in Maharashtra. Savarkar, Golwalkar, Hedgewar, and Godse, who pulled the trigger — the progenitors of this strand of political thought in modern India — were Maharashtrians. The most virulent articulations of Hindu chauvinism and anti-Muslim prejudice have come from the Shiv Sena in Mumbai. Now suddenly we are supposed to believe that political sentiment in this part of India is such that people there cannot bear to read a historical account that reopens Gandhi's beliefs — on race, caste, class and sexuality — for examination and critique?

Both state governments are proceeding out of a cynical disrespect for their citizens. The fact is that besides Nehru and Tagore, five major nationalist-era leaders whose views, work and personalities most directly affected Gandhi were from these states — Tilak, Gokhale and Ambedkar from Maharashtra, Patel and Jinnah from Gujarat. Gandhi spent at least half his life in conversation with these men. The history of ideas during the period of the national movement is rich and complex enough for Maharashtrians and Gujaratis to want to make up their own minds about where they stand on Gandhi, without this presumptuous assistance from their elected governments of the day. Whether through popular protest or a mechanism like the public interest litigation, readers should contest the book ban — actual or proposed — in both states.

After leading the freedom movement for three decades, Gandhi rejected the way in which India wrested its political sovereignty from the teeth of British rule. Yet we call him the father of our nation. He believed in an economic revolution that would wipe out rural poverty, encourage handicrafts, protect artisanal communities and rejuvenate India's villages. Yet we stamp his face on our currency notes. He preached swaraj (self-rule), ahimsa (non-violence) and satyagraha (insistence on truth), ethical categories alive in our political practice only in their breach, and yet we never hesitate in naming him the very founder of our modern polity. He was obsessed with sanitation, public health and latrines; several hundred million Indians continue to defecate in the open and go without access to safe drinking water.

Neither Gandhi nor Ambedkar managed to loosen the knot in the heart of the privileged Hindu that would allow a true egalitarianism to flourish in India's deeply hierarchical, unequal and unjust caste society. Lelyveld points out that seven decades after killing him, India treats Gandhi with "piety and disregard". Wardha district, where Gandhi set up his Sevagram and spent eight long years in retreat from active politics in the mid-late 1930s, is today, Lelyveld reminds us, known only for its high suicide rate among debt-beleaguered cotton farmers.

The question arises: if we hardly follow Gandhi in any way at all, then why do we put him on a pedestal? Why not just forget him, and get on with double-digit economic growth, hostility with Pakistan, military rule in Kashmir and the Northeast, civil war in Maoist areas, the world's largest arms imports, the elimination of tribals, artisans and peasants, and the disappearance of the last vestiges of what Gandhi used to call sudharo (true civilization)? The answer is that even though the Mahatma's beloved charkha (spinning wheel) might languish in a museum, India is not ready to shut the door on Gandhi.

Arguably we have absorbed Gandhi into the way we conceive of mass politics. We follow his methods every day, so that we hardly pay attention to the fact that he invented the very idioms of mobilization, resistance, protest, and democratic movements that people routinely use in India and South Asia, and all across the world. It was Gandhi who set into motion a wave that swept not only through anti-colonial India, civil rights-period America, anti-apartheid South Africa, but more recently, Tahrir Square in anti-Mubarak Egypt. It is something of a Gandhian impulse that is bringing down regime after oppressive regime in the Middle East this year.

Lelyveld's riveting account of Gandhi's life, from the time he set up a legal practice in South Africa in 1893, to the day he fell bleeding to the ground in 1948, taking the name of god with his dying breath, sets out to illuminate, as the subtitle indicates, the Mahatma's struggle with India. Not his struggle against Britain or for India, but with India. Much as Gandhi may have loved his male friends, the Jewish architect, Hermann Kallenbach, or the Anglican priest, Charles Freer Andrews, he loved India more. That was why his effort over more than 50 years was to engage with, understand, change or persuade his fellow Indians, to suffer with them and to alleviate their suffering. That is also why Indians continue to venerate, remember and honour this extraordinary human being who once walked among us.

It was Gandhi who first put his personal life up for public scrutiny in his articles and letters, his autobiographies and his conversations with friends. It was Gandhi who drew a straight line from sexual abstinence to political non-violence, demanded that the very same Congress worker who wanted to participate in the national movement also be a sanyasi and a satyagrahi. Some four decades ago, Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph wrote a clear-eyed analysis of Gandhi's theory of the relationship between "self-control and political potency". He made no secret of the truth that each day he battled as much against his own formidable appetites as he did against the powerful British empire. Gandhi never hid the desires, dilemmas or doubts that preoccupied him, and he does not need now to be hidden from the gaze of history.

Every Indian who follows literary English should have the opportunity to read Lelyveld's carefully written, insightful and deeply moral book. One comes away from it knowing Gandhi better.

The author is Assistant Professor of History, University of Massachusetts, Boston

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

LAST STRAW

MALVIKA SINGH

When governments treat their constituents with contempt and that attitude pervades the public domain, the rulers are alienated from their people, and responsibility to the nation gets dissipated. The rulers and the people of India have existed in a progressively uneasy relationship from 1975 — with the declaration of an internal emergency — till today, with the 'government', whatever its colour and type, disregarding the trials and tribulations of Indians, and being contemptuous of their needs. This sharp separation between the State and its subjects led to an abnormal situation, which brought together all manner of individuals under the banner of 'Fight Corruption'.

What we witnessed last week was an overwhelming outpouring of a hitherto suppressed but gnawing sentiment, which sadly got entangled with the demand by Anna Hazare for his version of the lok pal bill. Had the members of the present government used its first and second terms in office to restore faith and reconstruct a system where the processes of governance and the delivery of goods and services have become deeply diluted, they would have been the leaders, for a change. Sadly, political parties speak one language before they come to power and then betray the citizens' sensibilities by isolating themselves in the 'protected government enclosures of the mind, body and soul'. India has suffered hugely and, in desperation, grabbed the last straw that came its way — Anna Hazare.

The ridiculous thrust and parry between what is termed 'civil society' and the government of India beat the imagination. Any savvy political party would have co-opted the cause, so to speak, on Day One. The Congress did so only when it realized that another party was on the verge of leading the brigade. What has happened to political timing? Why do our leaders always react late rather than take the kudos by acting swiftly? Why does the government protect the unacceptable — babus breaking the laws they are meant to uphold?

Grow up

Why is the administrative machinery indistinguishable from the ruling political class? Insularity does not augur well for any politician or party. The stances we have witnessed recently smack of arrogance, which, if not checked, will have an adverse impact on the ruling party in the general elections.

A proactive, energetic and creative government should steal the thunder on the lok pal bill by being a strict advocate of probity and transparency in governance, and thereby demand the respect and faith of citizens. The government needs to be ten steps ahead of the demands of civil society. That is what defines governance. To react and then try and act upon a peoples' demand only reinforce the fact that we, as a nation, are plagued by a self-serving, exploitative set of bureaucrats and politicians. India has grown up. Old political tactics are no longer valid.

Here is a god-given opportunity for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance to usurp the 'sentiment' and to spend the next two-and-a-half years restoring faith by acts that will renew trust in the government and judiciary. The 'steel frame' of India needs a complete and ruthless overhaul. Why did this government neglect and then proceed to ignore the Moily reforms? Veerappa Moily is the law minister, and it would have been appropriate had he spearheaded the implementation of his own recommendations instead of supporting a corrupt set of processes and delivery systems. All this clarifies one point — no government is serious about restoring integrity, transparency, legitimacy and probity in its administration of India. India has had enough of this 'assault'. Why does the government not lead?

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THE TELEGRAPH

A NON-VIOLENT LESSON IN A VIOLENT WORLD

ANNA HAZARE HAS SHOWN THAT MORALITY STILL HAS A PLACE IN A WORLD DOMINATED BY MATERIALISM, A TRUTH THAT THE DIFFERENT POLITICAL PARTIES HAVE REFUSED TO SEE FOR A LONG TIME, WRITES SURENDRA MUNSHI

 

Now that Anna Hazare has broken his fast it is useful to put in perspective recent dramatic events. Even before the gazette notification was issued by the government of India that conveyed the success of his effort which brought him into the limelight, his action deserved serious attention. Hazare is a respectable person noted for his outstanding public service. He is widely admired for it and has also been felicitated officially. The work that he has done for promoting social change, especially in his village, Ralegan Siddhi, speaks for itself. Born in a modest family, he represents for many what idealism can achieve even when our public life gives hardly any reason to believe it. When a person of his moral standing decided to go on fast unto death, it deserved serious attention.

 

This serious attention must rise above emotional outbursts. Important questions are involved in Hazare's action. What was he fasting for? He wants a suitable lok pal bill to be passed to fight against corruption in this country. The lok pal bill or, rather, several versions of it, have been under discussion for a long time now. It has not been passed so far.

 

Recently, Indians against Corruption, a civil initiative, has come up with a draft jan lok pal bill which differs in some important respects with the draft lok pal bill of 2010. Hazare's demand was that the lok pal bill should be drafted with people's participation. "If government frames the bill without people's participation," he is reported to have said before embarking on his fast, "it will not be democracy, it will be bureaucracy."

 

Questions can be raised not only about the process of drafting such a bill but also about the desirability of it. Will the drafting of a bill with people's participation undermine institutions of representative democracy? Is it possible that an all-powerful Lok Pal will reduce the authority of existing official positions? Are there other ways of countering corruption? These questions have their merit. We need to consider also that the evasiveness of the official apparatus has been appalling. Why was the decision on the bill not brought to a definite conclusion all these years?

 

India is perceived internationally as a highly corrupt country. It shows a score of 3.3 on the corruption perception index of Transparency International when the best score is 9.3, shared by Denmark, New Zealand, and Singapore. Recent political scandals have been unbelievable in terms of both the amount of money involved and the irresponsible manner in which they were allowed to take place. It is difficult to comprehend the extent of loss to the exchequer in the 2G spectrum scandal going by the estimate provided by the comptroller and auditor general.

 

Does this level of corruption strengthen faith in politicians and the politics of this land? Is it not understandable that Hazare caught the attention of the nation at a time when cynicism is all-pervasive? He seemed to show the way out of our moral decay. Critical questions about Hazare can also be directed to the method he chose for his protest. Is fasting unto death a defensible action? Does it not amount to blackmail, albeit moral blackmail, when it is undertaken for the purpose of imposing one's will?

 

The morality of fasting needs to be reconsidered. Can fasting for a political purpose be justified at all? It seems to me that fasting can be justified if it is undertaken for a right cause, with a right intention, through a right action, and with the possibility of a right solution.

 

I think this is the lesson that can be learnt from Gandhi. Contrary to the popular impression, he was not in favour of hunger strikes under all circumstances. "Hunger-strike has positively become a plague. On the slightest pretext some people want to resort to hunger-strikes." He went on to write in Harijan in August 1939 that "it is...worthy of consideration whether a rule should not be passed by the Working Committee making a public and political hunger-strike without permission a breach of discipline". Yet, he undertook several hunger strikes against British rule in India.

 

To understand Gandhi's thinking on the subject, it is useful to read what he wrote in Young India in May 1924. This was after his first public appearance on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti celebrations in Bombay subsequent to his release from imprisonment. Reflecting on his prison experience, he commented on the hunger strike undertaken by some prisoners there.

 

When Gandhi's fellow prisoners were considering going on a sympathetic hunger strike, the point that came up for consideration, clearly under Gandhi's influence, was whether satyagrahis were entitled to indulge in "a species of violence" against prison officials. It was, moreover, considered: "We had no right to sit in judgement upon the action of the authority. That would be an end to all prison discipline." Further considerations led Gandhi to conclude: "Fasting by a satyagrahi can only be justified when it is a shame to eat and live." Fasting for Gandhi, then, was an instrument of satyagraha.

 

Later, in 1942, he clarified: "Satyagraha is the process of silent conversion." He repeated that it was the duty of prisoners to conform to jail regulations in so far as "they did not come into conflict with known rules of honour".

 

The key to his understanding is the distinction he draws between violent coercion and silent conversion. This silent conversion takes place through ahimsa, non-violence. It is well known that, for Gandhi, satyagraha was the vindication of truth, not by inflicting suffering on others but on oneself. Fasting has a role in this resistance which was seen by Gandhi not as a passive but an active force.

 

Seen in this light, what Hazare was doing could be justified on the strength of Gandhian principles. Nobody can deny that removing corruption is a cause worthy of struggle. It is a matter of shame for all Indians to live in such corrupt conditions. His intentions seemed to be honourable, not polluted by what is often described as a hidden agenda. He pursued his objective through the non-violent means of a satyagrahi. Moreover, he used fasting as an instrument not as the first but as the last resort. He also left open the possibility of right resolution.

 

As Hazare announced on breaking his fast, the struggle for the second freedom has just begun. He sees a long struggle ahead. In the moment of his glory, he did not forget to talk about the responsibility that had fallen upon the shoulders of civil activists struggling against corruption in this country. This is reassuring. In the deliberations of the committee that has been formed, it will be important to keep in mind that if conversion is the intention of a satyagrahi, there has to be space for a reasonable dialogue from both sides.

 

Civil activists have to be careful not to end up undermining the democratic structure of this country which has been created through contributions of several distinguished persons, notably B.R. Ambedkar.

 

If maintaining colonial prison discipline was important for Gandhi, safeguarding democratic institutions of independent India is surely important for Hazare and his associates. All of them are undoubtedly aware that the stubborn insistence on imposing one's will has little to do with truth. Truth, as every Indian child learns through the story of the elephant and the blind men, has many parts. For the government, on the other hand, it will be folly to treat this effort as a passing fad. It should see the writing on the wall.

 

Let the committee that has been formed go about doing its assigned task with the perspective of strengthening the democratic structure of this society. Here is an opportunity that should not be missed.

 

Hazare has shown what politicians of different parties have refused to see for a long time. He has shown that morality has a place in a world dominated by materialism. He has also shown the merit of non-violence in a world rocked by violence. Here is a message not only to India but also to the rest of the world.

 

surendramunshi@yahoo.com

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DECCAN HERALD

FIRST EDIT

KILLER EFFECT

''THE ONLY SOLUTION IS REDUCING USE OF ANTIBIOTICS.''


Misuse and overuse of antibiotic drugs have created a major problem of anti-microbial resistance all over the world. India is specially vulnerable because of the widespread practice of indiscriminate drug prescriptions, bad hygienic conditions and low medical literacy.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) had appropriately adopted the theme of anti-microbial resistance for this year's World Health Day last week. The controversy over a claim made last year that a drug-resistant superbug had originated in India had drawn attention to the problem. Superbugs which have entered India from other countries have also been identified.


Development of resistance to drugs is a natural process for the bacteria that cause various aliments for human beings and animals. A number of harmful bacteria that cause diseases like tuberculosis and malaria,  which are mass killers, have developed immunity and this has made the fight against these diseases more difficult.

Research is at a dead-end in finding more effective antibiotics. The only solution is reducing the use of antibiotics so that the bacteria do not develop resistance. In India doctors are known for indiscriminate prescription of antibiotics even for minor ailments because of pressure from drug companies or drug stores or on demand from patients themselves.


Many patients do self-medication. The WHO has estimated that as much as 53 per cent of the use of antibiotics in India is without prescription. Drug stores do not follow rules and sell over the counter medicines that should only be sold on prescription. Norms about dosage and period of use of drugs are often not followed.


After last year's controversy an expert committee had drawn up guidelines for hygiene standards and appropriate use of antibiotics. There are proposals for ban on some drugs, making prescriptions mandatory for sale of some others, regular scrutiny of prescriptions and an effective surveillance mechanism. They are yet to be made into a proper drug administration policy which can be effectively implemented.


It is most important to educate doctors, stake-holders in the health industry and common people on the need to minimise the use of antibiotics. When antibiotics lose their potency and human beings lose their natural immunity there will be no way of beating back the harmful bacteria that may pose serious threats to life and health.

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DECCAN HERALD

SECOND EDIT

JUST RIGHTS

''IT IS NOT THE FAULT OF A CHILD TO BE BORN ILLEGITIMATE.''

 

The supreme court's ruling on the property rights of illegitimate children corrects an unfair legal provision on the statute book. The ruling has held that illegitimate children have as much right to ancestral and parental property as legitimate children. The law has never recognised these rights in the past, though an earlier ruling has accepted their right to the self-acquired property of parents.


The court has gone beyond that and has given full and equal rights to such children. The ruling follows from the position that live-in relationships are legally recognised now. If such relationships are legally accepted, there is no reason why children born out of wedlock should not be considered legal heirs of their parents.


The ruling is progressive and is line with the trend in judicial thinking to expand the rights of individuals. The courts have increasingly acknowledged the changes in society and how social and personal relationships are impacted by these changes. A restricted interpretation of the legal provisions relating to 'a null and voidable marriage' had resulted in the denial of justice to these children.


The existence of illegitimate children is as old as society and the strong and entrenched patriarchal tradition had ensured that they were not given their right legal status. It is not the fault of a child to be born illegitimate and there is no justification for some to be lesser children than others. Illegitimacy casts a stigma on children and they have to suffer discrimination, social pressure and even ostracism in some cases. Their position is aggravated by the economic non-status of the children. It may take time for the social attitude to illegitimacy to change but the assertion of property rights by illegitimate children will make a difference.


An important fallout of the ruling is the implicit change in the idea of a legal family. By expanding the scope of the property entitlement law it has widened the notion of family and redefined it. It is no longer the entity expressed through marital relationships but made real by the actions and relationships of individuals. It is natural therefore for individual rights and obligations to be recognised as its important features.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

ANNA SHOWS THE WAY

 BY SUDHANSHU RANJAN


Hazare's fast has once again proved the might of people's power in a non-violent way. It's certain that the Lokpal will now become a reality.


People's power has reared its resplendent head kindling hopes of the regeneration of a strong civil society with minimum dependence on the government. Anna Hazare's fast galvanised the whole country against corruption and the government was forced to bow down. People's power is always respected in a democracy, but in India it stands on a different pedestal altogether.


The way Anna Hazare attracted people and media attention made most of the political parties feel jittery. Some of them dubbed the whole movement as something bordering on 'fascism' which is trying to discredit the parliamentary system and foisting its own views on the country. They are questioning the term 'civil society' and the legitimacy of some activists' claim to represent it, and asking whether the politicians are uncivil. But they are not able to proffer any credible explanation as to why the Lokpal Bill has been hanging fire for 42 years.

Hazare's fast, which had an electrifying effect on the country, has once again proved the might of people's power in a non-violent way. It is certain that the Lokpal will now become a reality. The Right to Information Act empowered the people to question the rulers and expose public malfeasance but it does not have any provision for penalising the corrupt. Therefore, a strong Lokpal is needed.


People's power has made it possible. It reminds of Gandhi who shunned political power with contempt as he had an unwavering faith in the people's power which he wanted to strengthen. In 'Hind Swaraj' (1909), he went to the extent of characterising the British parliament, the mother of parliaments, as infertile and a prostitute. His demand for the parliamentary democracy in 1937 was not a volte face but it was meant to be a stepping stone for self-rule as he tenaciously stuck to his philosophy of village republic till the last.


Gandhi stands out as a rare leader in the world who kept away from power after leading the freedom movement successfully though he was the natural claimant to it. In every country, the leader of a freedom movement always assumed the mantle of power after its successful conclusion but Gandhi was very clear that the State alone was not capable of bringing about any meaningful change in the society.


Some similarity can be found in the father of Chinese Republic, Sun Yat-Sen, who led the fight for the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty. After dismantling the Manchu power, Sun was immediately elected provisional president but he declined it in favour of Yuan Shih-K'ai, a former member of the old regime and a successful warlord. Yuan utilised this opportunity for aggrandising power and pelf and Sun fought him fiercely until the dictator died in 1915. After this bitter experience, even Sun accepted office and continued in and out of office fighting one warlord after another.


George Washington

In the case of George Washington too, we find that after winning the decisive battle of Yorkshire in 1781 with the help of the French he returned to Mount Vernon and would have been quite content to remain there had the increasing need for a strong central government not forced him to come back into public life, first as chairman of the Constitutional Convention and afterwards as the first President of the USA. However, he relinquished the presidency after two terms, though he could have continued. Similarly, in South Africa, Nelson Mandela accepted power and then renounced it. But Gandhi is the only exception to have never embraced power.

Gandhi was convinced that state power alone cannot remedy all maladies of the society. In fact, he suggested dissolving the Congress party and forming a Lok Sevak Sangh. On January 29, 1948, the day before his assassination, Gandhi prepared a document for making amendments in the Constitution, saying the Congress had outlived its utility and should be disbanded. The philosophy of Tolstoy influenced him greatly, which included renunciation of political power. Gandhi believed in Tolstoy's proposition that 'wielding power is sinful as it leads to many evils.'


Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) was another colossus to keep away from power. After parting ways with the Congress, he devoted himself to the task of fortifying people's power and village reconstruction and pleaded for lessening of dependence on the State. He undertook an extensive tour of the country for awakening the masses. In course of a journey in 1949 he was injured in a road accident in Bihar.


His left hand was fractured which remained encased in plaster for three months. After the plaster was removed he found that the hand had totally atrophied. After some physiotherapy the blood circulation became normal and the hand regained its movability. JP then wrote: "Similarly (to my hand) the power of lokshakti, that our country had, seems to have evaporated like camphor. The reason is that the power was covered in the plaster of slavery for 100-150 years."


It will be hoped that the euphoria generated by Hazare's fast is arduously fostered to bring about larger political, administrative and judicial reforms in the country and no particular group is allowed to hijack it for its own aggrandisement and leave the people high and dry.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN PERSPECTIVE

ON MY KNEES

BY J S RAGHAVAN


I feared I won't be able to squat like Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the wickets.


The left knee that had served me for decades like a heavy duty brass door-hinge had the temerity to become rigid and throb with pain. It was strange since its twin partner, the right knee had no such dark designs. The rebel knee scoffed at the liniments, ointments, gels, creams, balms, sprays, hot and cold water jets and frequent  maalish given by my attentive right hand as a trainer would do to a wild filly. I was rattled. With such a knee I feared I won't be able to squat like Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the wickets, or sit on my haunches to milk a murrah buffalo, should I become a farm hand.


Ignoring my neighbour's prescription of a hot gruel of horse-gram, I went for shortwave therapy. The knee was placed like a slice of sandwich bread in a pop-up toaster between two pads connected to an electrical gizmo with snaky-cables, knobs, dials, digital timer, beeper, the works, that transmitted heat. A bell was given to summon the lady physiotherapist if the heat overcooked the knee to dark brown. My adamant knee did not budge.

An orthopaedist, who had more number of degrees than bones in his forearms functioning from a Medical 'Maul' was consulted. He critically inspected my left leg with the eye of a homemaker evaluating a snake gourd. After bidding me to shunt like a steam engine, he declared gravely that I had osteoarthritis. "Oh," he continued, "can be tricky.


Since we have already tried other modes of treatments, what we would take is a steroid shot injected directly into the knee." We? He said it as if he was also going to take one gamely with me to ward off my congenital fear for the needle.


"I've two questions, doctor," I asked, "first, why my anatomy is playing favourites? My right knee is still behaving like a good boy. And second. What if that steroid fails to act?"


He smiled patronisingly. "About the same-age query, how do we explain your graying right side-burn while the left one is black? Such ageing oddities can't be easily answered by strides made by medical sciences so far. And well, if the shot is ineffective, we can simply replace the knee."


At home, my wife hissed. "Replace the knee? My left foot! We'll replace the doctor," was her knee-jerk reaction. "Listen, I know one accupressurist..." she began.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

 

CHINA'S WHITE PAPER: MORE SOUND THAN LIGHT

BY RUP NARAYAN DAS


China aspires to move the aviation wing from a support force to a main battle-assault force.
China, which started issuing the National Defence Policy in 1998, has recently issued a white paper on the defence-2010. It is the 7th report in the series and it assumed significance particularly at a time when there is a lot of concern about China's rise and it repercussions on peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

No wonder, therefore, the report claims that it aims to enhance military transparency and boost the world's trust in its commitment to peaceful development. The white paper was released close on the heels of conclusion of the annual National People's Congress that adopted China's 5-year plan and the country's defence budget for the current year.


It is no coincidence that the release of the white paper coincided with the meeting of the finance ministers, central bankers and academics from the G-20 countries at Nanjing.


Among the dignitaries who attended the meeting included French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Incidentally, Beijing has been critical of the French role in Libya. Despite that difference of approach with regards to Libya, Beijing chose to showcase Sarkozy to the world audience, conveying a clear message that conflict and cooperation, the hallmark of Chinese mantra, can co-exist. Another significant point was that the white paper was released ahead of the BRIC summit to be held in China from April 14.


Multi-polar world

The white paper prefaced the changing geo-political scenario, with the seismic shift of the world economy from the West to the Asia Pacific. Referring to the increasing footprints of the USA in the Asia-Pacific region, the white paper mentioned that profound changes are taking shape in the strategic landscape and that the major powers are increasing their strategic investment.


The US is reinforcing its regional military alliance, and increasing its involvement in the regional security affairs. Allaying fears and anxieties in its neighbourhood, the white paper highlighted China's desire for friendship and practical cooperation with neighbouring countries. It also reiterated China's advocacy of a multi-polar world.


Summarising the contemporary geo-political scenario, the white paper states that the international security situation has become complex. While local conflicts and regional flashpoints are recurrent themes, the white paper maintained that China's policy continues to be defensive in nature, and that China consistently upholds the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, and that it will never enter into a nuclear arms race with any other country.

Referring to the cross-Strait relations, an euphemism for China's relationship with Taiwan, which is one of the abiding core-interests of China's foreign policy and defence policy goals, the white paper said "on the basis of opposing Taiwan independence, and adhering to the 1992 consensus," the two sides have enhanced mutual trust, concluded consultations and dialogues, and reached a series of agreements for realising direct and bilateral exchanges as well as promoting economic and financial cooperation across the Strait.


Criticising the role of the USA, the white paper said "the US, in defiance of the three Sino-US joint communiqués, continues to sell weapons to Taiwan, severely impeding Sino-US relations, and imposing strains in the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations."


Besides the changing dynamics of geo-politics, the changing natures of future-warfare was yet another point in the white paper. The Gulf War of the 90s had exposed the relative vulnerability of inferior technology of Chinese defence forces. Ever since, technological upgradation, particularly in communication technology — 'informationisation' — has been a major component of the defence modernisation of the three wings of the Chinese defence forces.


As regards the increasing role of the air force, the white paper said that the aviation wing has to move from being a support force, to be a main battle-assault force. The white paper, however, did not make any mention of China's J-20 stealth aircraft, which was in the news recently. Highlighting the changing role of the PLA Navy, the white paper said that the navy endeavours to accelerate the modernisation of its integrated combat forces so as to conduct operations in distant waters and in countries non-traditional security threats.


Lastly, the white paper echoed Mao's dictum of 'political power flows from the barrel of a gun, but it is party that commands the gun'. At a time when there is some mention of a benign tug-of-war between the party and the PLA, the white paper categorically mentioned that the political work of the PLA must guarantee  the nature of the people's army under the absolute leadership of the party.


(The writer is a senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi)

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

'DEBT CEILING' IRRESPONSIBILITY

It is an unfortunate fact that too many presidents and too many members of Congress have used our own money to try to buy our votes through unjustified spending — increasing the national debt in the process.

But from time to time, some members of Congress try to be responsible — and some other members try to appear responsible — by setting a legal "debt limit."

The "limit," of course, is supposed to prevent Congress from spending too much beyond already too-high taxes.

The problem, however, is that every time irresponsible congressional spending approaches the "debt limit," Congress simply passes a new bill to raise the "limit."

That is in the news today because the current legal debt limit is $14.25 trillion. And President Barack Obama's Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, has told Congress the government will hit that mark no later than May 16!

Do Obama and Democrats in Congress want to restrain spending in response to the approaching debt limit? No! They want to raise the "limit" again!

But Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, leader of the majority Republicans in the House of Representatives, and Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin insist they will not OK an increase in the debt limit — unless it is accompanied by serious cuts. Ryan said on NBC that there will have to be "real caps on spending ... so we can take pressure off the debt."

Thus, we may be facing a real showdown on government spending.

What do you think is best? Do you want higher taxes? Do you want the debt limit — and the debt — to be raised recklessly? Or do you want the president and a majority in Congress to start curbing spending in a way that's more significant than the mild cuts in the most recent budget deal?

Obama is scheduled to speak to the nation on the issue Wednesday. Do you believe that he and a majority of the members of both houses of Congress will "do the right thing"?

Shouldn't we insist that the president and Congress quit adding more and more to the debt, which we will have to repay someday, and on which we are already having to pay hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes just to cover the annual interest?

Important — and expensive — decisions are at hand!

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

'DEBT CEILING' IRRESPONSIBILITY

It is an unfortunate fact that too many presidents and too many members of Congress have used our own money to try to buy our votes through unjustified spending — increasing the national debt in the process.

But from time to time, some members of Congress try to be responsible — and some other members try to appear responsible — by setting a legal "debt limit."

The "limit," of course, is supposed to prevent Congress from spending too much beyond already too-high taxes.

The problem, however, is that every time irresponsible congressional spending approaches the "debt limit," Congress simply passes a new bill to raise the "limit."

That is in the news today because the current legal debt limit is $14.25 trillion. And President Barack Obama's Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, has told Congress the government will hit that mark no later than May 16!

Do Obama and Democrats in Congress want to restrain spending in response to the approaching debt limit? No! They want to raise the "limit" again!

But Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, leader of the majority Republicans in the House of Representatives, and Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin insist they will not OK an increase in the debt limit — unless it is accompanied by serious cuts. Ryan said on NBC that there will have to be "real caps on spending ... so we can take pressure off the debt."

Thus, we may be facing a real showdown on government spending.

What do you think is best? Do you want higher taxes? Do you want the debt limit — and the debt — to be raised recklessly? Or do you want the president and a majority in Congress to start curbing spending in a way that's more significant than the mild cuts in the most recent budget deal?

Obama is scheduled to speak to the nation on the issue Wednesday. Do you believe that he and a majority of the members of both houses of Congress will "do the right thing"?

Shouldn't we insist that the president and Congress quit adding more and more to the debt, which we will have to repay someday, and on which we are already having to pay hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes just to cover the annual interest?

Important — and expensive — decisions are at hand!

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

THE 212TH COMES HOME

Specialist J.T. Chapman picks up Victoria Spoor as she embraces him Friday. Friends and family greeted the 212th Transportation Company as they arrived home Friday afternoon from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan. Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press

There were plenty of hugs and kisses Friday when soldiers in the U.S. Army Reserve's 212th Transportation Company, headquartered in Chattanooga, were greeted by family members as they returned home from a yearlong tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The soldiers served capably and courageously. And while some of them were injured during their deployment, it is a blessing that none was killed or disabled.

On the occasion of their return to the embrace of friends and families, we honor them for fine service

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

OVERDUE REVERSAL ON TERRORIST TRIALS

Many Americans were aghast when the Obama administration announced that it would have the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington tried in a U.S. civilian court — lavishing on him full U.S. constitutional rights to which he is not entitled as a foreign terrorist.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has proudly acknowledged that he planned the 9/11 attacks, which killed almost 3,000 Americans. He and four alleged accomplices were captured overseas as non-uniformed enemy combatants. Therefore, they have no right to trials on U.S. soil in civilian courts and should be tried in military tribunals.

Yet by pushing for a civilian trial for Mohammed, the Obama administration created the horrible possibility that key evidence against him — evidence that would be permitted at a military tribunal — would be thrown out in a U.S. trial.

That isn't just a vague "possibility." In a separate case tried in New York in 2010, al-Qaida terrorist Ahmed Ghailani was acquitted of literally hundreds of counts of murder and scores of other charges involving the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Like Mohammed, Ghailani was captured overseas as an enemy combatant. But key evidence against him had to be thrown out of his trial in a U.S. civilian court. He was convicted on only one charge, and could be out of prison in less than 20 years!

Reluctantly — and belatedly — the Obama administration has now reversed course and said it will not seek to try Mohammed and his alleged accomplices in a civilian court, but in a military tribunal. Congress had appropriately voted to forbid terrorism detainees held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from being brought to the U.S. mainland. So, with no real alternative, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Mohammed and the others will be tried by military tribunal after all.

That is the right decision — though it is regrettable that it took the administration so long to make it.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

PARTNERS, NOT ENEMIES

FORTY-FIVE YEARS AFTER THE MILITARY REGIME WITHIN THE GREEN LINE WAS REVOKED, PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND STATE AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TO TREAT THE ARAB MINORITY IN ISRAEL AS A SUSPICIOUS GROUP OF SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS.

A few weeks after the Knesset passed the Nakba Law, prohibiting state funds from being used to mourn Israel's establishment in 1948, Jack Khoury reported in Haaretz yesterday that the Education Ministry recently demanded that school principals in Arab communities immediately submit lists of teachers who did not show up for work on Land Day. In keeping with a long-standing tradition, Israel's Arab population goes on strike every Land Day to protest the loss of Arab lands in the Galilee.

The Education Ministry explained that because Land Day is not listed as one of its official holidays, studies must be conducted as usual on that day.

Forty-five years after the military regime within the Green Line was revoked, public officials and state authorities continue to treat the Arab minority in Israel as a suspicious group of second-class citizens. A clear manifestation of this discrimination can be found in the latest round of WikiLeaks cables published in Haaretz, which exposed a report by the U.S. ambassador in Israel about his conversation with outgoing Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin.

The security-service director apparently told the American official that many Israeli Arabs "take their rights too far." Diskin noted with satisfaction, however, that the Israeli-Arab political leadership's attempts "to take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new direction and give it a new 'national color'" were not succeeding. This is because the public "is more concerned with daily life," he said.

Apart from ongoing discrimination in resource allocation and access to senior public positions, the Arab minority's "daily life" consists of insensitivity to its identity problem in a state that defines itself as Jewish. Legislative initiatives that reek of racism are further excluding the country's non-Jewish minority groups and alienating them from their Israeli identity, and driving many young people to nationalist and religious extremism.

It is to be hoped the new Shin Bet director, Yoram Cohen, whose appointment was approved by the cabinet on Sunday, adopts the approach that concluded his predecessor's conversation with the American diplomat. Diskin said the Shin Bet was pushing the government to integrate Israel's Arabs into state life and sees this as one of the government's main challenges.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

FALSE ALARMS

THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO STAY CALM, NOT PRESS THE PANIC BUTTON, AND NOT LISTEN TO THOSE FAMILIAR FACES WHO REAPPEAR EVERY NOW AND THEN WITH A NEW-OLD INITIATIVE SUGGESTING THAT ISRAEL ANNOUNCE IT IS PREPARED TO WITHDRAW TO THE '67 BORDERS.'

BY MOSHE ARENS

Anyone who has helped design alarms and early warning systems knows the phenomenon of false alarms. They bedevil both the developers and those who are supposed to be protected by the system. The systems being put in place to warn of oncoming "tsunamis" are also affected by this false alarm syndrome. The more sensitive the system, the more likely it is to sound the alarm when there is nothing to actually be alarmed about. Israel has its own tsunami warning system - and it is none other than our defense minister, who has already sounded the alarm.

According to him, Israel will be hit by a political tsunami in September. His warning bell is being echoed by many who demand the government launch a daring initiative before it is too late, before the tsunami hits us. But they have a pleasant surprise awaiting them: Israel will still be here in September, and for many many months to come; it will not be devastated like northern Japan.

States have never been created by UN declarations and never will be. For those who have forgotten, Israel was not created by UN resolution 181 in November 1947, but by David Ben-Gurion's declaration of Israeli independence on May 15, 1948 and by the IDF's ability to take and control the areas of the new state.

A UN declaration, whether at the Security Council or the General Assembly, recognizing a Palestinian state within the borders of the April 1949 armistice lines with Jordan, with Jerusalem as its capital, will be no more effective than Security Council resolution 1701, which prohibited Hezbollah from military operations in southern Lebanon, or General Assembly resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism.

If this latest declaration is actually passed, it will merely serve as another reminder of the impotence of the United Nations and its irrelevance when it comes to dealing with international conflicts. The U.S. government must surely be aware of this.

All this brouhaha about the coming tsunami skirts the fundamental issues preventing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Namely, that such an agreement must constitute the end of the conflict, and that the Palestinian signatories to the agreement must be capable of assuring that no acts of terror will be launched from territories that Israel turns over as part of the agreement.

The current Palestinian spokesman, or president if you like, Mahmoud Abbas, is not capable of satisfying either of these conditions. At best, he represents only half of the Palestinians, and regardless of what commitments he undertakes, Hamas and other Islamic jihadists will have plenty of additional claims on Israel even after Abbas signs an agreement. His control over areas in Judea and Samaria is limited at best, and he certainly cannot be relied on to prevent acts of terror against Israel from those areas Israel would withdraw from.

Until the Palestinians get their act together, there seems little chance of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. That is the sad truth, and no amount of theatrics by Abbas, and maneuvering by the Quartet, the United States and the United Nations, or all of them in concert, will change that. That is what Israeli spokesmen should be explaining to everyone - friends, do-gooders and enemies alike.

And one other point must be made: What they call the 1967 borders are in fact the armistice lines that were agreed on with Jordan in April 1949, an agreement that was violated by Jordan in June 1967. There is nothing sacrosanct about these lines, while many things have changed in the intervening 62 years that cannot be wished away.

The important thing is to stay calm, not press the panic button, and not listen to those familiar faces who reappear every now and then with a new-old initiative suggesting that Israel announce it is prepared to withdraw to the "'67 borders." And to not make any hasty, half-baked statements under the illusion that they will appease those applying pressure on Israel.

At this point, their minds are made up. And such statements will only come to haunt us in the future when the time becomes ripe for proper negotiations with the Palestinians. Only when it is clear that the Israeli government is standing firm on its positions will the pressure on Israel be relaxed.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

WHAT ELSE NEEDS TO BE UNCOVERED?

NETANYAHU HAS ALREADY UNDERGONE A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION AND BEEN THE TARGET OF MEDIA CRITICISM FOR WHAT WAS SEEN AS PUBLIC CORRUPTION. BUT THINGS HAVE GONE ON AS IF NOTHING EVER HAPPENED.

BY MOSHE MIZRAHI

The current media and public frenzy over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ostentatious trips abroad with his family reminds me of an interesting thesis, albeit a false one, brought up in a recently published book about corruption. "The Language of Corruption and Israel's Moral Culture" was written very quickly, against the backdrop of the affairs that entwined former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and in it writer Yossi Shain says the "language of corruption" has taken over Israeli society.

This language, he says, pollutes the atmosphere, impairs public faith in all aspects of government and damages Israel's image abroad. Shain believes that we are afflicted with "moral panic," fanned by harsh agents of morality, whose obsessiveness damages the checks and balances needed to run the country.

According to Shain, the damage done by these generators of "moral panic" and those who speak the language of corruption is more dangerous than the damage done by the corruption itself. But is it?

What more corruption must be revealed for us to understand that we are dealing with a very serious problem? The list of senior and elected officials tainted with corruption touches on all levels of government; quite a few of the politicians are repeatedly mentioned in the state comptroller's reports and are frequent visitors to criminal investigations departments.

Despite all the reports, investigations and suspicions, the acts continue until a "sufficient evidentiary basis" is built against the accused. Some are in prison, some have been convicted and some are on trial.

The list of people who have been incriminated includes two presidents, a prime minister, senior ministers, MKs, mayors and senior government officials. Does this list really indicate that the level of corruption in Israel is comparable to the acceptable amount in properly run countries?

Discourse on corruption does indeed sometimes overflow and touchthose who are not involved. People who have made a good living as private citizens, even if they did make use of the titles they received when they were in public positions, should not be judged harshly even if they chose to buy an apartment in the prestigious Akirov Towers or a home in exclusive Caesarea. But it is another matter if they take advantage of their position in pursuit of pleasure, which, even if it has no trace of criminality, can be tainted with public corruption and justifiably criticized.

Netanyahu has already undergone a criminal investigation and been the target of media criticism for what was seen as public corruption. But things have gone on as if nothing ever happened.

As an MK and finance minister, he frequently traveled abroad, sometimes with his wife and family. The trips, as described in detail in the investigative TV show "Hamakor," were funded by bodies, some of which are private and have vested interests.

Now, claims have emerged of double funding. They all provide ample evidence for the suspicion that the case may border on the criminal. The revelations require the attorney general, who has been invisible in this affair, to investigate it, since he is the only person authorized to decide on such matters. It is still not too late.

Making such a decision about a prime minister is not the same as making it for an ordinary citizen. That is because such a decision can have widespread ramifications. And so not only should the factual basis be studied, but also public interest in an investigation.

Even if it is made clear that this is not a cumulative, methodical series of acts but a single failing, the state comptroller's general investigation should not release the attorney general from his obligation to investigate and decide.

 The writer, a retired police major general, was head of the police investigations division.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

AN EQUATION WITH TWO UNKNOWNS

THESE ARE ALL REVALUATIONS IN REAL TERMS; IN OTHER WORDS, INCREASED SPENDING - EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT EXPORTERS NEED RIGHT NOW. THAT'S WHY BARKAI HAS GOOD REASON TO BE A CONCERNED CITIZEN WHO ASKS TOUGH QUESTIONS.

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

Radio personality Razi Barkai sounded surprised. How is it possible that the stock market is going up when the south is being bombarded by Grad rockets? That's what he asked Army Radio's economics reporter earlier this week. Then, on the very same day, Israeli data showed that exports had continued to rise and reached the high level they had enjoyed in 2008, before the world economic crisis.

How is it possible that the dollar is declining against the shekel and exports aren't collapsing? Barkai isn't alone in wondering why. These two enigmas are causing many economists sleepless nights. I encountered the first enigma during the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. The north of the country, including Haifa, was being bombarded, factories were closed, but investors didn't flee. Price stability was maintained and the economy continued to grow as if nothing had happened.

That was when I understood that something very basic had changed in the economy. It had grown and become stronger and more flexible. If one plant closes the second doubles production. The high level of competition and the openness to imports have led to a situation where no factory can exploit a crisis situation and raise prices, for fear of being thrown out of the market. Israel's business center wasn't affected either: Tel Aviv was outside the game. That's why the economy wasn't upset by the Second Lebanon War, or by Operation Cast Lead or the current rocket attacks in the south.

The stock market is a good reflection of that. It continues to rise because the people don't look at the short term, only the long term. They figure that even if Israel enters the Gaza Strip, the outcome will be a blow to Hamas followed by quiet. In other words, in economic terms, there is no fear of a military campaign - even the opposite is the case.

And now to the second enigma, the exchange rate. In mid-2004 it was NIS 4.5 to the dollar. It stayed around there for two years, but in the second half of 2006 the dollar began its journey south and crossed NIS 4 in October 2007. Exporters began to shout loudly that an exchange rate lower than NIS 4 meant an end to exports, growth and the economy. They said they would be forced to fire people and even close production lines. But the exchange rate continued to decline (despite the efforts of the Bank of Israel's governor ); it is now below NIS 3.5 to the dollar. So why haven't exports collapsed?

Because our private sector doesn't wait for Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer or Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. It is constantly streamlining, inventing products with high added value and penetrating new markets in India and China. This flexibility and prudence enables exporters to continue to export and profit, despite the eroding exchange rate.

And another factor has helped the business sector from 2003 until recently: economic reforms. We have to understand that reforms mean a devaluation in real terms, or to put it more clearly: reduced spending. Because the moment government companies are privatized, or competition is introduced (as in the case of the cell-phone industry ), government spending is reduced, making it possible to lower taxes - which means lower expenses for exporters and therefore an increase in the feasibility of exports.

But in the past two years the engine of reforms has been halted, even though two to three years ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised major reforms - a reform in electricity, which would lower prices, a reform at the Israel Lands Administration, which would reduce the price of land, and a reform at the ports, which would lower the costs of marine transport. But none of these things happened.

To that we should add the generous wage agreements that have recently been signed in the public sector, with some strong trade unions receiving exaggerated wage increases of 20 percent. This means the private sector will also be forced to raise wages so it can compete with the government for manpower. The wage agreements will also force the municipalities to increase property taxes, and the government, which until two years ago lowered taxes, will be forced to raise them to finance all the increases.

These are all revaluations in real terms; in other words, increased spending - exactly the opposite of what exporters need right now. That's why Barkai has good reason to be a concerned citizen who asks tough questions.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

ON THE WAY TO AUTHORITARIANISM

THERE IS NO DISAGREEMENT ANY MORE THAT ISRAEL'S DEMOCRACY IS SICK AND WEAKENED AT THE CORE. THE SIGNS ARE MANY: PRIME MINISTERS AND SENIOR MINISTERS DO WHAT THEY WANT, AND MANY OF THEM HAVE PROVED TO BE CORRUPT.

BY GABI SHEFFER

There is no disagreement any more that Israel's democracy is sick and weakened at the core. The signs are many: Prime ministers and senior ministers do what they want, and many of them have proved to be corrupt. It's the senior officials who are actually determining policy. They decide what to do and what not to do -and not on the basis of laws or government decisions.

The defense establishment and the military set policy and carry out moves as they wish. MKs have essentially no influence; parties are led by "leaders" who were "elected" through internal manipulation; corruption at all levels is on the rise. Tycoons essentially decide a large part of policy; many groups (Israeli Palestinians, women, Ethiopian Jews, gays, lesbians, etc. ) are discriminated against and excluded. Above all, in the vast majority of cases, the citizenry has no influence on where the power goes. Just look at the social workers strike or the movement to bring about the release of Gilad Shalit.

To solve these problems, proposals are put forward to reform Israeli democracy. Academics propose a change in leadership, or adopting a presidential system, and in recent days the Israel Democracy Institute has proposed changes to the structure and organization of the system of governance. These recommendations include increasing the number of MKs and raising the vote threshold for entering parliament, among others.

These recommendations are not original "inventions" of the institute. Most of them, and others like them, were put forth by the Katsav Committee several years ago, and were publicly discussed, but not one was adopted.

That is why Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin was right when he strongly opposed a presidential system, saying that "we are tired of the endless attempts to alter the Israeli parliamentary system."

But Rivlin was wrong when he agreed to some of the proposals of the institute - selecting the prime minister from the largest party and combining a national and a regional election system.

It is essential to understand that all organizational reforms in the electoral system, in the conduct of parties and the Knesset, in the political supervision of the civil service ranks, etc., will change nothing in the failing Israeli democracy. This is because the reasons for the poor condition of the formal democracy run much deeper than the organizational and structural problems.

These elements are connected to a basic lack of recognition of the fact that the citizens are the real sovereign, and not the Knesset, the government or the "leaders." So there is a fundamental need to meet the wishes and the demands of the citizens; it is necessary to overcome individualism, political apathy and the self-indulgence of many in Israel. It is necessary to avoid repeated mention of the security threat. This provides people in power, with links to the defense networks, with near complete control over what takes place here. It is necessary to infuse the entire public, and all the politicians, with the missing understanding of the essence of effective - not formal - democracy.

All this depends mostly on understanding that there is an essential need to alter the political culture in Israel fundamentally before changing the structure or function of political institutions. Given the persons and political institutions in Israel, such change appears to be unreal. But if it does not take place, the political system in Israel will decline further, and sooner or later, it will become an authoritarian regime.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - DEMOCRACY STARTS FROM WITHIN PARTIES

While many nations in the Middle East have hit the streets to replace their autocratic leaders for democratic regimes, the Turkish nation will go to the ballots in two months' time to express their appreciation or disapproval of the policies of the government in power.

It is not for nothing that Turkey has been identified as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. If the point of reference is the Middle East, Turkey, with its predominantly Muslim population, shines in the region for its plural democratic system, unmatched by any other country with a majority Muslim population.

Yet, if the point of reference is Europe, Turkey still has a long way to go to reach European standards for a democratic regime.

Turkey definitely has a good record for holding transparent, multiparty elections. Elections in Turkey have usually been monitored by international organizations, and the few irregularities have been identified as exceptions rather than a general rule.

Yet holding transparent elections is not the only criteria for a plural, representative democracy.

Yesterday was the last day for political parties to submit their official lists of 550 deputy nominees for the election to the Supreme Election Board, or YSK. The Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, which was represented in the last Parliament, was one of the parties that had not submitted an official list of its deputy nominees. The fear of not being able to pass the 10 percent threshold has led Turkey's pro-Kurdish party to run independent deputies, just like it did the last time.

Most probably, around 20 parties on the ballot will not make it into Parliament due to the threshold. While having a threshold is not an unfamiliar practice in Western democracies, the tendency is to keep it below 5 percent. A 10 percent threshold remains well above European standards.

The democratic selection of deputy nominees is another criterion for a representative democracy. Those who have offered their candidacy for deputy nominee have been waiting on the doorsteps of the party headquarters in Ankara, to reach out to the party leadership. One candidate even organized a semi-mystical "sema" dance performance in front of the building of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to attract attention. Holding internal party elections in several districts, a tool resorted to before the 1980 military intervention, has only been used partially this time by the opposition Republican People's Party, or the CHP. In almost all of the parties, the list of nominees has been prepared by the leader of the party together with a small group of advisers. The authoritarianism within party structures remains a bleeding wound for Turkey's democracy.

Hopes for a lower threshold and a more democratic selection of deputy nominees will have to wait for another round of elections.

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

TURKEY'S LIBYA DILEMMA GROWS

SEMİH İDİZ

Angry demonstrations in an Arab country against his person is not something Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would have expected a few months ago, given his ever-rising star in the Arab world due mostly to his vitriolic swipes at Israel.

This is why it must have been an unexpected surprise, perhaps even something of a shock, when hundreds of protestors took to the streets in Benghazi last week chanting slogans against him and protesting Turkey's position on Libya.

Judging by what is coming out of that city – where the provisional National Council is based – many members of the anti-Gadhafi opposition feel that Erdoğan and Turkey are indirectly supporting the Gadhafi regime and prolonging its life. What has led them to this conclusion is not hard to guess, of course.

Erdoğan has been cool to NATO's intervention in Libya from the outset. His remarks in Germany not so long ago, when he asked angrily, "What business does NATO have in Libya?" are still reverberating. He is also going along with the current NATO operation reluctantly, as his statements and demeanor reveal.

Erdoğan has also spoken out against the suggestion that the badly armed anti-Gadhafi rebels should be supplied with weapons. He argues that it is not clear who these weapons will go to in the general confusion reigning in Libya. There are other NATO members who share this concern, too.

Not surprisingly, however, rebels in Benghazi are angry at Erdoğan over his opposition to supplying them with weapons. Rebel spokesmen were also quoted by the Washington Times last week suggesting that NATO air strikes against Gadhafi forces were being stalled by Turkey, a veto wielding member of the alliance.

Turkish officials are adamant that this is not the case and have issued strong denials. "The commander of NATO determines how to run the operation. As every NATO member knows, when an operation is started, command is given entirely to the NATO commander," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal, said when questioned about the claim.

Other government officials have been quick to point out that Turkey is not only supportive of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which enables the NATO operation against Libya, but is also taking an active part in monitoring the no-fly zone over that country, as well as the arms embargo imposed on it by the same resolution.

This is of course a different tune coming out of Ankara to only a few weeks ago, when Erdoğan had harsh words for the prospect of a NATO involvement in Libya, and underscored Turkey's strong opposition to this. No doubt the Gadhafi camp has also taken note of this shift of position.  

In other words, while the rebels in Benghazi look on Ankara as being pro-Gadhafi, Gadhafi supporters in Tripoli cannot have much confidence left either in Turkey's ability to prevent the West from going after their leader. Turks say, "He ended up pleasing neither Jesus, nor Moses." This saying appears to fit the current situation well.

Erdoğan was quick, of course, to blame outside agitators for the demonstrations in Benghazi against himself and Turkey. "We have noted who is behind this," he said in a loaded manner, in what many interpreted as a dig at France whose flag was seen during the demonstrations.  The AKP government is still smarting from the snub from France, which refused to invite Turkey to the Paris summit on Libya last month.

France may, as many commentators maintain, have its own political calculations in Libya – calculations which are said to have more than a little to do with next year's presidential elections – but it is unlikely that the demonstrators in Benghazi needed an "outside prod" to turn on Erdoğan.

They are, after all, fighting for their future and perhaps their lives. That is why Erdoğan's strong opposition to arming them would have provided sufficient reason on its own for their anger. The coolness felt in Benghazi toward Turkey was also reflected in news reports that a Turkish aid ship had been prevented from entering the port in that city last week.

In the meantime the Gadhafi regime took a step last week that is bound to cool already shaky ties between Tripoli and Ankara. Sending letters to the large number of Turkish contractors who have projects underway in Libya, but have had to flee the violence, it ordered these businessmen to return and complete their jobs, estimated at billions of dollars.

This was seen on the Turkish side as being less than a friendly move, and considered to be a ploy by Tripoli to get out of payments to Turkish businessmen at a time when money is in short supply. Ankara responded quickly and made its displeasure known in a diplomatic note to the Libyan government, pointing out that it is not possible for any businessman to travel to that country under prevailing circumstances.

While all of this leaves Turkey standing between "a rock and a hard place" in Libya, Mr. Erdoğan tried to regain some initiative last week by putting forward a three-point political road map for that country. His plan calls for a cease-fire in the cities surrounded by Gadhafi's forces, a humanitarian corridor to be opened to facilitate the distribution of aid, and negotiations leading to free elections.

It seems highly unlikely at this moment however, that Gadhafi will raise the siege on cities and give up his military advantage. It is equally unlikely that the rebels will negotiate with Tripoli under these circumstances, or accept any solution where Gadhafi remains in power.

It also appears that Mr. Erdoğan's road map may have competition given reports about a German-led humanitarian initiative and the African Union-led political initiative spearheaded by South Africa's Jacob Zuma. Meanwhile the situation in Libya itself appears to be grinding to a stalemate.

How the impasse will be overcome is not clear at this stage. What is certain, however, is that from Turkey's perspective the situation in that country has gotten out of hand in ways that were not foreseen.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE ARAB SPRING, THE KURDISH SUMMER

KADRİ GÜRSEL

On both sides of the Atlantic, the way of thinking and the media have reached a mutual understanding to name the uprising and domino effect in Arab countries as "the Arab Spring" inspired by the "Prague Spring." Even the military intervention in Libya could not change this conformity. In fact, the majority of people on both sides of the Atlantic have agreed that the intervention is for the sake of the "spring."

What's being discussed is not why the intervention started but how it will end.

The 2nd Srebrenica [incident] in the Libyan city of Benghazi, or a political massacre, or the "politicide," was prevented by an airborne attack. "Conscience of Europe" was, therefore, saved from a brand new shame.

However, nobody knows how this will end.

If unorganized and unarmed rebels are not strong enough to topple Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, how could it be possible to protect them and their families at the expense of a de facto split in Libya by NATO air force?

It's been clear all along that an intervention launched for one or a few simple reasons could turn into such chaos. And now the situation in Libya has become impossible to be glanced off by current legal ground and methods.

With these unanswered questions and ambiguities, the continuation of the "Arab Spring" seems predestined.

The locomotive of the wave of riots, Egypt, is boiling again. Protesters were in Tahrir Square last Friday and Saturday. This time, they demanded acceleration of reforms and asked the ousted leader Hosni Mubarak and his men to stand trial for corruption. But they were handled without gloves by the military.

In Syria, protests are organized almost every day in various cities. But protesters are getting killed in groups by the regime.

Yemen does not seem to settle for peace.

The "Arab Spring" has given a quite critical result in worldwide perception. The Middle East of leaders is now facing the Middle East of masses. The more the masses in the Middle East have taken to the street, the more their demands have gained legitimacy.

As the world, without hesitation, approves automatic or organized actions of masses in the Middle East, it questions the regime at the source of problems that have caused mass actions.

As the "Arab Spring" continues, every country in the Middle East will be influenced by political effects of the world's way of perception. Let's think about it for a second. Let's see if democracy in Turkey helps the government to gain immunity against the "Arab Spring."

We see that the "Arab Spring" has begun to affect Turkey indirectly.

Discussions over "a Turkey/AKP model for Arabs" due to the "Arab Spring" have put Turkish democracy into an X-ray machine, and made more visible the weaknesses, discrepancies, but more importantly, the course of events leading in the direction of authoritarianism.

After all, if many in the West say, "A country where journalists are arrested and where press freedom is spirited off cannot be presented as a model to Arab countries," it is not Arabs but Turkey that loses.

What's more important, however, is the historic overlapping between "masses in the Middle East turning into actors," and "popularization of the Kurdish question." Plus, any kind of cause and demands defended by the popularization in consequence of the "Arab Spring" in the region become legitimate in the eye of the world.

Popularization has now become a machine of legitimacy.

Fierce struggles between those who skillfully use this machine and those who stand against it wait for the Middle East.

Expected victory of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in the June 12 elections will not change the fact that the Kurdish question is the "Achilles' heel" of Turkey.

Even more so, the Kurdish question has become more sensitive "Achilles' heel" of Turkey because of the "Arab Spring."

After June 12, there will be no more elections in Turkey for a few years. Therefore, clearing away problems faced in the European Union membership bid by making unilateral and creative moves and taking radical political steps in the direction of a solution to Kurdish question are first things to be done in this summer.

Even if you cannot do these, situation in the region will not allow you to feel summer languor.

* Kadri Gürsel is a columnist of daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Monday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE ARAB SPRING, THE KURDISH SUMMER

KADRİ GÜRSEL

On both sides of the Atlantic, the way of thinking and the media have reached a mutual understanding to name the uprising and domino effect in Arab countries as "the Arab Spring" inspired by the "Prague Spring." Even the military intervention in Libya could not change this conformity. In fact, the majority of people on both sides of the Atlantic have agreed that the intervention is for the sake of the "spring."

What's being discussed is not why the intervention started but how it will end.

The 2nd Srebrenica [incident] in the Libyan city of Benghazi, or a political massacre, or the "politicide," was prevented by an airborne attack. "Conscience of Europe" was, therefore, saved from a brand new shame.

However, nobody knows how this will end.

If unorganized and unarmed rebels are not strong enough to topple Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, how could it be possible to protect them and their families at the expense of a de facto split in Libya by NATO air force?

It's been clear all along that an intervention launched for one or a few simple reasons could turn into such chaos. And now the situation in Libya has become impossible to be glanced off by current legal ground and methods.

With these unanswered questions and ambiguities, the continuation of the "Arab Spring" seems predestined.

The locomotive of the wave of riots, Egypt, is boiling again. Protesters were in Tahrir Square last Friday and Saturday. This time, they demanded acceleration of reforms and asked the ousted leader Hosni Mubarak and his men to stand trial for corruption. But they were handled without gloves by the military.

In Syria, protests are organized almost every day in various cities. But protesters are getting killed in groups by the regime.

Yemen does not seem to settle for peace.

The "Arab Spring" has given a quite critical result in worldwide perception. The Middle East of leaders is now facing the Middle East of masses. The more the masses in the Middle East have taken to the street, the more their demands have gained legitimacy.

As the world, without hesitation, approves automatic or organized actions of masses in the Middle East, it questions the regime at the source of problems that have caused mass actions.

As the "Arab Spring" continues, every country in the Middle East will be influenced by political effects of the world's way of perception. Let's think about it for a second. Let's see if democracy in Turkey helps the government to gain immunity against the "Arab Spring."

We see that the "Arab Spring" has begun to affect Turkey indirectly.

Discussions over "a Turkey/AKP model for Arabs" due to the "Arab Spring" have put Turkish democracy into an X-ray machine, and made more visible the weaknesses, discrepancies, but more importantly, the course of events leading in the direction of authoritarianism.

After all, if many in the West say, "A country where journalists are arrested and where press freedom is spirited off cannot be presented as a model to Arab countries," it is not Arabs but Turkey that loses.

What's more important, however, is the historic overlapping between "masses in the Middle East turning into actors," and "popularization of the Kurdish question." Plus, any kind of cause and demands defended by the popularization in consequence of the "Arab Spring" in the region become legitimate in the eye of the world.

Popularization has now become a machine of legitimacy.

Fierce struggles between those who skillfully use this machine and those who stand against it wait for the Middle East.

Expected victory of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in the June 12 elections will not change the fact that the Kurdish question is the "Achilles' heel" of Turkey.

Even more so, the Kurdish question has become more sensitive "Achilles' heel" of Turkey because of the "Arab Spring."

After June 12, there will be no more elections in Turkey for a few years. Therefore, clearing away problems faced in the European Union membership bid by making unilateral and creative moves and taking radical political steps in the direction of a solution to Kurdish question are first things to be done in this summer.

Even if you cannot do these, situation in the region will not allow you to feel summer languor.

* Kadri Gürsel is a columnist of daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Monday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

INSIGHTS ON THE KURDISH ISSUE

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

Two studies recently published offer a clear assessment of why the Turkish Republic has brought the Kurdish issue to its current point. The basic reasons are indecision, the inability to determine what to do and the inability to implement what has been determined.

I've read many reviews on the Kurdish issue. All were very valuable. The latest published by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, or SETA, was called "Türkiye'nin Kürt Sorununun Hafızası" (The Public Memory of the Kurdish Question in Turkey). The book by Hüseyin Yayman covers the period of the Kurdish issue starting from the Ottoman era, the "Orient problem" and goes until the time of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, democratic initiative.

For researchers this book is truly a treasure.

It examines all past mechanisms from the state one by one as well as all reports prepared by political parties and NGOs. To be more exact, it reveals Turkey's twisted view on the Kurdish issue.

More importantly, what did the Kurds ask for and how much of it have they obtained until now?

Turkey encountered the Kurdish problem in 1921 for the first time with what we call the Koçgiri revolt. But the state either did not or did not want to understand the reason behind it and labeled each progress as banditry.

Yayman's conclusions are stunning:

- The Turkish state mechanism facing such an important problem up until today had only 70 reports prepared by political parties and NGOs. Everything was left to the military.

- In general the reports don't suggest comprehensive solutions or visions. On the contrary, they suggest very superficial approaches like temporary day-to-day measures, tactics and strategies. 

- The period from the 1920s to 1950s is very important. This period was actually planned to crush, hit and weaken the Kurds. The revolt that scared Ankara in 1925 was called the Şeyh Sait revolt. This revolt is when the complexness of the split of the country was fixed and as a result the region was closed in 1937 with the Dersim operation. Investments ceased. Mandatory settlement, the process of Turkification and assimilation started. An extremely poor southeast was left to tribal leaders. Nevertheless, 14 revolts took place in this period despite such tight supervision.

- Between the periods of 1960-1980, the first ones to notice were the parties of the left wing. The Social Democratic People's Party, or SHP, and the Republican People's Party, or CHP, were the only parties to recognize that this was not only an issue of security. But they too were not persistent. They did not back the reports.

- The Sept. 12 coup brought back the approach which persisted during the era of a single party administration. "The Kurds only understand hard power. Hit them on the head, hang some of them and they will obey the state."

- The most important change was the involvement of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, starting terror which caused the state to take stronger measures. A state of emergency was announced, village guards and state security courts, or DGMs, were formed and a low-density war started.

- Reports by right-wing and nationalistic parties (other than Turgut Özal's personal approach), the state-oriented view of NGOs (except Professor Ergil's TÜSİAD report) were all in line with reports prepared by the military. All reports gave priority to security. The only target is to make Kurds succumb and prevent a split of the country.

If I were to summarize, I'd say that the Turkish military and the country's civilians generally had a twisted view on the Kurdish issue from day one. The most serious step in the direction of breaking the shell from the Turkish side was the democratic initiative brought by the AKP. But that has not yielded any result yet.

In the Turkish public the Kurdish issue has unfortunately changed with PKK terror. Unfortunately thousands of martyrs were sacrificed and despite all military precautions no results have been obtained. And that is when the public started to deal differently with the Kurdish issue.

Yayman's findings in this respect were very interesting.

What did the Kurds require and what did they obtain?

A list was made up.

The Turkish state at first resisted whatever the Kurds asked for. The state couldn't make up its mind. And when the number of events increased, the death toll increased, which caused the state to fulfill the initial requirements of the Kurds. But then the step was not valuable anymore.  

The list is long:

-Precautions with respect to education in the mother tongue.

-Liberalization of TV and radio broadcasts.

-Returning to burned villages, compensation and the reinstatement of names were changed before.

-The lifting of the state of emergency, of excessive security measures and of DGMs.

-Other requirements were: Education in the mother tongue, a general amnesty and self-management of Kurds through self-administration.

In short, a lack of politics and a lack of consistency has led Turkey this far.

Now there is only one last chance left: the democratic initiative which is expected to step in after elections.

If that doesn't work it means that we will again be condemned to terror.

Suppression of Dersim (1937-1938)

You should definitely read Mahmut Akyürekli's book.

If you want to understand how cruel and oppressive the state of the Turkish Republic treated the Kurds, you should definitely read this book.

I read this book and got goosebumps.

It is based on state reports and other indisputable data.

More importantly, it becomes clear how the mind of the state works.

You get a better understanding of why we as a state still live a dog's life and weren't able to find a solution as of yet.

It is a piece of work full of lessons.

Thank you to both researchers.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

NEW CHP, NEW NAMES

YUSUF KANLI

Fed up with Cyprus. I shall continue on the Cyprus issue a while later. Now, it is high time to look at what's happening on the domestic front, particularly in the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP.

The final list of candidates of the CHP was to be submitted to the electoral board several hours after this article was penned, but who is on and who is off the list was made available to the media by some "friends" within the party as early as midnight Sunday, immediately after the party assembly completed its deliberations on the issue.

Definitely, even though the CHP might not be a "new CHP" as new party chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has been saying since his surprise May 2010 ascent to the helm of the party, the list of candidates was definitely a new one, yet done mostly with the old method.

The fact that in more than 25 smaller provinces the party selected its candidates through by-elections – less than one fourth of the overall number of candidates – does not and should not be taken as a sign of sufficient democratization within the CHP which, like all other parties, left the selection of its remaining candidates to the discretion of the party headquarters, that is, to the party chairman.

For the inclusion of some outside of party figures, such as civil servants, academics, businessmen and yes, perhaps journalists, in active politics, the party headquarters might have a 10 percent or so quota in the preparation of candidate lists, but in a democracy, the candidates of a party should come from the organization of the party and should be selected by the delegates, or indeed members, of a party. This is a must not only for an increase of the participation of people in the workings of democracy but also in order to give self-confidence and some degree of independence from the party leader to the elected deputy. If right from the selection of the candidates the leader is given all the power to decide on the fate of deputies, how do we expect deputies to have integrity, individual views and the courage to defend the interests of his electorate in Parliament?

Of course, to achieve such democratic and somewhat far targets (at least under Turkish standards of democracy) there is a need for a mental democratization, as well as a move toward radical legislative reform which should go further than writing a "new" constitution for a Turkey controlled by a presidential system.

As long as the country does not have a democratic constitution and democratic legislation covering elections and political parties, such problems will unfortunately continue to exist and democratization efforts will all be limited to the generosity of the leaders. Shall Turkey thank Kılıçdaroğlu, for example, for allowing the selection of some one-fourth of the CHP's candidates through by-elections?

Anyhow, the list of candidates handpicked by Kılıçdaroğlu – or to be honest by the new czars of the CHP headquarters, Gürsel Tekin and some others – appears to have excluded almost all the former czars of the party – although they naturally did not go to the extend of keeping former leader Deniz Baykal off the list as well.

The former boss of the politburo of the party, the strong secretary-general Önder Sav is not heading the list of Ankara's first electoral district, a place which was believed to have been registered for life in his name. The name of Sav was not anywhere else on the list either. He was totally off the list. In the traditional place of Sav this year there is Sencer Ayata, the sociology professor who has been instrumental in the writing of the policy papers of the new CHP and one of the silent engines powering Kılıçdaroğlu's reforms within the CHP.

Like Sav, another monumental figure, the perennial deputy parliamentary group chief Kemal Anadol was also left off the candidate list, as well as another perennial deputy parliamentary group chief Hakkı Suha Okay – both of who were instrumental in Kılıçdaroğlu succeeding Baykal as the new chairman of the party after the sex-tape scandal. Headed by Mehmet Sevigen, Tekin Bingöl and Tacidar Seyhan, many important names who were either close to Sav or former leader Baykal were left off the list, as well as some very important names in Turkish social democracy, such as Hikmet Çetin.

Obviously the CHP candidate list heralds the start of a new era with some new names, but there are some expected names, such as journalist Mustafa Balbay and the eminent professor of medicine Mehmet Haberal – both implicated in the Ergenekon thriller but who have now been banished to the Silivri concentration camp – on the list as well.

There will be many new faces sitting in the CHP benches in Parliament but will that be enough to bring about the promised new CHP or carry the CHP to power as public opinion polls show Turks still don't consider the social democrats a viable alternative to the ruling Justice and Development Party?

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ARE ECONOMISTS DEPENDABLE?

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

ealkin@iticu.edu.tr

Who will be blamed when this crisis ends? The science of economics or professional economists?

At first look, the culprit is the science of economics as it was not able to put effective instruments into the hands of authorities that would have enabled them to understand what kind of catastrophe was coming, and then how to fight against the problems that could be created. However, another inevitable question also crops up: Who is responsible for this? Simply, the answer is "economists." They are those who design the science of economics.

However, to be just, it is necessary to make a distinction between amateurs and professionals. The reason is obvious: Among all other sciences, the one that has the biggest group of amateurs is economics. Other sciences also have amateurs, but they can give harm only to a small number of naive individuals, not to a whole society. Unfortunately, some amateur economists who have the authority to manage national economies can destroy all macroeconomic balances. Political regimes and ideologies make no difference; amateurs everywhere can always find a way to get the authority to design the destiny of a nation and they sincerely believe that this is tantamount to a "God-given" duty.

A proper education on economics cannot really change this situation. Amateurs remain amateurs even if they are graduates of prestigious universities. However, to avoid being unjust, it is time to talk about "professionals" or economists who call themselves professional. Unfortunately they are as sinful as amateurs. The distinction is that they generally have no authority to decide on economic policies that a government implements, but have a great influence on those decisions. In other words, they share the responsibility of the crises which emerge not only because of the implementation of irrational economic policies, but also because of their bad advice to authorities.

The present problem is one of confidence erosion for economists. Some of them say the end of the crisis has come and it is time to pay attention not to economic growth but to economic stability (some European governments, involuntarily, are following this path). Some other prominent economists have different ideas about the situation of the world economy – they even defend the idea that a "second dip" is inevitable. Whom to believe? Or more importantly, which authorities believe? If they make a mistake, the second dip this time becomes inevitable.

But who tells them which decision is right and which one is wrong? Again, economists. Are they dependable? To begin to discuss the answer to the same question again is a blind alley. However, it must be accepted that even if there are so many brilliant economists, the science of economics has not yet offered new brilliant theories to explain new economic problems that have emerged. The absence of these new theories naturally prevents the timely design of effective economic policies against economic maladies that generally emerge unexpectedly.

It is not difficult to talk about a probable "second dip." If it is realized, the defenders of this pessimistic projection become famous even if they do not supply any measure to prevent that catastrophe. However, if the "second dip" never occurs, nobody will blame them. It means that there is no risk of losing fame even if any pessimistic prediction is not realized; instead, there is always a chance to become famous. If the history of economic thought is examined thoroughly, it is easily observed that most of the biggest names were pessimistic about the future of both national and international economies and their pessimistic predictions were never realized.

In short, the science of economics needs new theories to explain new problems and to develop new policies to fight against the maladies these problems create. Unfortunately, these new problems are of a complex nature. The big difference between the social and the natural sciences is the object they deal with. Social sciences deal with human relations, which changes almost every minute, while natural sciences use laws of nature that supposedly do not change frequently. However, this big and important difference between the two groups of sciences must not slow down the efforts of the new generation of professional economists to construct new theories to explain new problems. Otherwise, the modern man will continue to feel helpless against every economic crisis as a caveman, who himself felt helpless against every natural disaster thousands of years ago.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHY ANKARA SHOULD NOT BE HELPING IRAN GO NUCLEAR

AVI JORISCH

Will a nuclear Iran be good or bad for Turkey? If Iran goes nuclear, it will become the regional hegemon, extinguishing Ankara's hopes of becoming a key player in the Middle East.

Recently, however, Turkey has helped Iran circumvent international sanctions that target its nuclearization. Turkish companies and banks regularly abuse the financial system to facilitate payments to the Islamic republic, perhaps unwittingly assisting its effort of becoming a nuclear power. Turkey's failure to prevent this type of abuse not only pokes a finger in the eye of the West, but also allows a rogue regime to fill its coffers with hard currency and materiel as it attempts to become the dominant power in the region – at Turkey's expense.

The Turkish-Iranian relationship has revolved around bilateral trade. In 2008, the two countries conducted $10 billion of business, and officials from both countries have called for an increase to $20 billion by 2012. Iran exports mostly oil and gas to the Turkish market. Naturally, Turkey wants to fuel its economy, and Turkish officials have made it clear that they will look to all available sources of energy, including Iran.

The international community has assured Ankara of its commitment to Turkish energy needs, and has pointed out that in the past, Iran has proven to be an unreliable partner in this regard. Since other sources of energy are available to Turkey, Ankara's insistence on buying oil from a rogue regime seems to demonstrate a strong desire to do business with Iran.

What is really behind Ankara's insistence on developing and strengthening its relationship with Tehran? There appear to be two primary motivating factors: an aversion to regional instability and a desire to get closer to the Tehran regime.

Ankara seems to fear new American or coalition military action in the region, including an attack on Iran, more than it fears a nuclear-armed Iran. Turkey's present reality is shaped by the instability in Iraq caused by the second Gulf War, and the low-intensity conflict that continues to the present. According to a recent poll, 43 percent of Turks consider the biggest threat to Turkey to come from the United States, while only 3 percent believe it comes from Iran.

There are those who people believe that the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has an ideological agenda that favors Tehran's regime. One way of determining whether this is true is the party's stance on Tehran; Iran should serve as a litmus test for the leanings of the AKP.

If seen in this light, the Turkish government's stance on Iran is telling. Ankara has consistently expanded its financial ties to Iran. For instance, Iranian Bank Mellat, blacklisted by both the United States and the United Nations, has been operating openly in Turkey. Mellat branches conduct business in Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir, despite the U.N. restrictions on the bank for facilitating payments tied to Iran's nuclear program. Mellat was also designated by the U.S. Treasury Department for allowing weapons of mass destruction to spread. Subsidiaries of the bank around the globe have reportedly been involved in the Iranian missile industry, spreading terrorism and assisting Iran's nuclear regime. In addition, Mellat has agreed to facilitate trade between Turkey and Iran using Turkish Liras and/or Iranian rials, which helps them avoid the use of euros and dollars. International financial regulators and sanction-watchers cannot easily detect payments that bypass the European or American financial systems.

Unfortunately, Iran's ability to secure nuclear materiel has also, in part, been secured through Turkish territory. As an example, this past February, U.S. authorities disclosed that a Turkish company headed by an Iranian national, Milad Jafari, purchased millions of dollars' worth of equipment for the Iranian nuclear and missile programs. The Jafari network exploited the lenient Turkish export rules to import proscribed materiel into Turkey from the European Union, the U.S., and elsewhere, then sent it on to Iran.

Wittingly or unwittingly, Turkey seems to be helping Iran go nuclear. This is bad news for Ankara, for once an authoritarian country becomes a nuclear power, its neighbors are subject to abuse. The example of North Korea is telling in this regard. Since becoming a nuclear power, Pyongyang has fired rockets over Japan and sunk South Korean ships. Does Ankara want a nuclear Iran next door that can flout international law at Turkey's expense?

*Avi Jorisch, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is president of Red Cell, a Washington, D.C.-based national security firm (www.redcellig.com) and the author of 'Iran's Dirty Banking: How the Islamic Republic is Skirting International Financial Sanctions' (2010).

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******************************************************************************************

 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DRONES DIE OUT?

 

There have been no drone attacks for the past three weeks. The buzz of the unmanned US aircraft which unload death, most often on hapless civilians, has not been heard for weeks, and the Conflict Monitoring Centre watchdog believes that the CIA may have discontinued the attacks after the COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani delivered a tough condemnation of the use of drones last month following 40 civilian deaths in a strike over North Waziristan. The issue is likely to figure prominently in the important talks our ISI Director General is currently having with the CIA chief in Washington DC. The aircraft vanished from our skies earlier as tensions over the Raymond Davis affair increased. Nevertheless, there have been a record number of drone deaths in 2010 with 938 people killed in 132 attacks. Previously, 1,114 people were killed in drone attacks in Pakistan between the years 2004 and 2009. The victims' identities remain unknown, but a vast majority was civilian with many women and children among those killed.

Were these deaths worth the few militant scalps claimed as bombs were dropped over villages and towns? The answer of course is 'no'. And as such, the end of drone attacks, if they are in fact over, will be good news. For whatever precise reasons they have occurred, the cessation of the drone flights may bring in some very positive results. The deaths inflicted by them have ignited anger at the US in the north and in other parts of the country and this in turn triggered the hatred that spurs on militancy. We desperately need to ease this rage and the only way to do so is to ensure that the deadly shadows of the drones no longer fall over the conflict zone. The disappearance of these shadows makes it easier to work towards other solutions that also need to be found. Most of all, for the sake of our dignity and standing as a nation, we need to reestablish our sovereignty, regain control over our destiny and prevent anyone from having the audacity to violate it with as much ease as the US has in the past. If this happens, we could turn our attention to more effective ways of ending militancy.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

 

THE MQM PROMISE

 

If there is a single thing that can be said to characterise all political parties and their leaders, it is their ability to say at considerable length how things would be different with them at the helm of affairs. No matter that there is no obvious mechanism by which the promise may be achieved, the promise can be made. Thus it is that we have the sight of the MQM holding a rally in Lahore last Sunday and its leader telling the assembled faithful that they stand on the brink of revolution. Whether this message catches the imagination of enough people to make the radical change proposed by Altaf Hussain a reality is something that will depend on many factors, includingÊhow the MQM positions itself in the largest province.

What may be said about the MQM rally with some certainty is that by holding it the party is demonstrating a potential to develop a national voice. It has made moves outside its traditional power base before, most notably with registering a presence in the last elections in Gilgit-Baltistan. It is also a party that speaks to the middle class and has not been marred by the curse of dynastic politics like most other parties. If it were able to somehow shake off the image of violence associated with it by many, then it might bring a welcome diversity to our narrow political spectrum. What is far less certain is how the MQM would achieve some of the things today being promised by its leader. His offer to mediate between the beleaguered and much-oppressed Baloch and the government is fine in principle. But how is he going to do the mediating?ÊEqually fine is the much-promised end to feudalism  but to be replaced by what? Where is the model by which we transition from feudalism to whatever the MQM vision is of the post-feudal period? For the MQM to be a credible national political force it has to add a lot more substance to broad and fine-sounding promises.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

SUFISM AND THE TERRORIST SCOURGE

S IFTIKHAR MURSHED

 

The long night of terrorist violence in Pakistan was far from over when tragedy visited the country yet again on April 3. Two suicide bombers detonated themselves outside the shrine of celebrated Sufi saint Syed Ahmad Sakhi Sarwar near Dera Ghazi Khan. The attacks, within 20 minutes of each other, resulted in 50 fatalities, with more than a hundred devotees seriously injured. The devastation could have been even more horrific had the two other suicide terrorists in the area not been apprehended before they could carry out their deadly mission. As was to be expected, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility.

 

After the carnage, an editorial in an English newspaper of Lahore commented that the attacks on Sufi holy places signified a desperate attempt "to spread a stringent interpretation of a medieval brand of Islam, more in tune with Pakhtun tribal traditions wedded to a rigid jihadi doctrine." But the assumption that "tribal Pakhtun traditions" are "wedded to a rigid jihadi doctrine" is erroneous.

 

Since May 22, 2006, when the shrine of Pir Syed Shah Bukhari in Hub in Balochistan was bombed, there have been 24 terrorist attacks on Sufi holy places. Seventeen were in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, nine of which occurred in the tribal areas. The most recent incident was the bomb explosion at Musa Neeka's shrine in Angoor Adda, South Waziristan, on Jan 3. This was a day before the assassination of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer because of his opposition to Ziaul Haq's blasphemy laws.


However, the inescapable reality is that Pakhtuns, regardless of whether they are from the tribal or settled regions, are as influenced by Sufi traditions as are their compatriots in any other part of Pakistan. Tribal Pakhtuns do not exclusively adhere to the narrow and aggressive Wahhabi worldview in which good and evil are so sharply defined in line with the literalist interpretation of Islamic doctrine. This becomes all the more apparent when the sizeable presence of jihadi outfits in southern Punjab is factored in. Even worse, the PML-N and PPP politicians in the province have sought the support of the Sipah-e-Sahaba leader Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi during elections, a fact I mentioned in my article, "Not just the clerics" (Jan 16).

In September 2008, Owais Ghani, who was then governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkwa, stated publicly that southern Punjab had become a fertile breeding ground for extremist groups and suicide bombers. Banned outfits with fanciful Islamic names continued to thrive in the area, although it was widely known that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had become an extension of Al-Qaeda, as had Jaish-e-Muhammad in Swat. Nothing was done to stop clerics preaching extremist venom from mosques and no effort was made to counter the rapid spread of the rejectionist Wahhabi mindset.


A far more troubling aspect of religion-motivated terrorist violence is the extent to which Pakistani society has been radicalised. How else would one explain the mammoth demonstrations held by the religious right in support of Salmaan Taseer's assassin Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. It is ironical that the leader of the JUI-F, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who was in the forefront of these demonstrations, narrowly escaped two suicide-bomb attacks. He has to learn that religious extremism is a double-edged sword.


The targeting of shrines represents an assault on the Sufi culture which, over the centuries, became part of the fabric of South Asian Islam. It also reinforces the false narrative that Islam was spread by the sword; that Muslim armies plundered, wreaked havoc and destroyed; that vast multitudes were subjugated; that the edifice of the religion was built on the ruins and ashes of towns, cities and human settlements cruelly razed to the ground. Though this is far removed from the actual teachings of the Quran, which prohibits aggression and permits war only in self-defence, it is also undeniable that the early years of Muslim ascendancy saw military conquest; but this was certainly not indiscriminate and brutal, as it has been made out to be.

An army may be able of capturing territory and subjugating people for a while, but never over an extended period. Yet, with the exception of Europe, Islam remained wherever it went. This was because of the early Sufis. Their message was not of hate, it was of compassion. It was not violence that they preached, it was peace. Perhaps Islam did not remain in Europe because no savants accompanied its generals and captains to the doorsteps of the Hapsburg Empire and the sword failed in its mission. The early Muslims, no doubt, established an empire, but those parts of it which were not inspired by the inclusive Sufi philosophy of tolerance and fellow-feeling withered away.


The experience of South Asia is particularly instructive. Those who had lasting impact were not persons such as Mahmud of Ghazni. Between 1001 and 1026 AD, he invaded the subcontinent 17 times. It was the Sufis who altered the course of South Asian history. They remained when the armies had gone, and lived and died among the local people. They taught and explained the message of Islam, dispensed charity, tended the sick and brought solace to a people who lived under the rigid system of Hindu caste distinction. When Islam came to South Asia, multitudes, and in particular low-caste Hindus, converted to the faith, if only to escape the inequities of the hierarchical class structure. It was the Sufis, with their emphasis on love and equality, who hastened the process.


It is this spirit of compassion and tolerance that the extremist groups have targeted. Admittedly, the number of attacks on Sufi shrines is small, especially when compared to the countrywide terrorist incidents which last year alone totalled a staggering 2,113. They nevertheless reflect nervousness among terrorist outfits because Sufism poses a formidable challenge to the ideology of extremist violence.


Despite the relentless terrorist attacks in the country, there is still a hesitation to recognise that these attacks have been perpetrated by Pakistanis. As far back as Sept 8, 2008, Interior Minister Rehman Malik declared that all suicide bombers and their handlers were Pakistan nationals and were being financed from within the country. He also said that the TTP and Al-Qaeda were hand-in-glove.


The storyline during the Musharraf era had been, and a storyline is precisely what it was, that the TTP and Al Qaeda were different entities. Thus, the military effort in the tribal areas was focused on the latter while little was done to rein in the Taliban. In time, the TTP leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was to become "Pakistan's enemy number one" and his elimination through a drone attack was widely welcomed, despite the ongoing clamour against such strikes.


With each terrorist attack, the president and the prime minister merely proclaim that the government will not be intimidated by the terrorists, who kill, maim and destroy in the name of religion. This was precisely what they again affirmed after the suicide bombers wreaked havoc in Dera Ghazi Khan. Yet, a well-thought-through counterterrorism strategy is not even on the anvil and the madressah reforms pledged by the prime minister in March 2008 are still in the drawing-board stage. So long as the government remains a passive bystander terrorist attacks will keep taking place.


The writer publishes the Criterion quarterly. Email: iftimurshed@gmail .com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THE WHITE HOUSE REPORT

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN

 

The latest White House report on Pakistan's economy and its economic management, as reported in an English newspaper on April 7, is highly damaging for the government and its economic team. Through this report the Americans have expressed their lack of confidence on the government and its economic team in addressing economic challenges confronting Pakistan.


The report has highlighted several issues. Firstly, it has depicted the country's civilian government as "weak, divided and unable to deal with the problems plaguing the country." As a result, "the government continues to be unable to develop consensus on difficult economic and fiscal reforms that are urgently required, including systemic tax reforms." Secondly, on the rising fiscal deficit, the Report notes that "government spending continued to outstrip revenues and the fiscal deficit may hit 8.5 percent of GDP by the end of the fiscal year in June."

Thirdly, on Pakistan's medium-term stability, the report cautions that "the deterioration of Pakistan's economy and slow progress on economic reforms pose the greatest threat to Pakistan's stability over the medium terms." Fourthly, the report notes that "there has been no progress in cutting subsidies to state-owned enterprises."

Are these issues highlighted in the report based on facts or simply reflect the prejudiced mind of the White House? In my opinion, the listed issues are based on facts and reflect the minds of all those who have interest in Pakistan's economy. I have not only been raising these issues in my columns for the last two years but also giving suggestions based on my experience to address these economic ailments. The government and the economic team in particular have considered me as their critic and therefore never bothered to seriously consider the suggestions that I have been making to address our economic challenges.

For example, on the first issue of weak and divided civilian government, I wrote (Jan 11) that "under the pressure of its allies and opposition in parliament, the government had reversed its own decision of passing on the high cost of international fuel prices to domestic consumers... In so doing, the government has exposed itself as being a lame-duck government."


On the second issue of rising fiscal deficit, I wrote (Jan 18) that "Pakistan is facing the immediate problem of insolvency. Its revenue-expenditure gap is widening and may reach 7.5-8.0 percent of the GDP, if corrective measures are not taken immediately." I further wrote that "there would be no politics without a viable economy. It is, therefore, in the interest of the major political parties to build consensus on key economic issues."


On the third issue of the greatest threat to Pakistan's stability, I wrote (March 14, 2010): "Time is running out. Everybody has to play his role to save the country from an imminent economic collapse." I again wrote: "Pakistan is passing through the most difficult time of its history. The political leadership must realise the gravity of the situation and act fast" (July 6, 2010).


On the fourth issue of cutting subsidies to state-owned enterprises, I wrote "This is the time to get rid of the bleeding public-sector enterprises even if we get Rs1 for each enterprise. At least this will save several hundred billion rupees of the exchequer which can be spent on voiceless millions" (March 14, 2010).

The above analysis clearly indicates that the White House report on Pakistan's economy is based on facts. I was not the only person highlighting the issues discussed above. In fact, Eurasia Group – a UK-based international consultant firm, in its report on Pakistan (Jan 7), also discussed the fragility of the civilian government and its inability to undertake serious economic reforms.


The recently released Asian Development Outlook 2011 of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) also points out similar weaknesses in our economy. For example, it writes that "current subsidy requirements and support for SOEs are incompatible with creating the fiscal space needed to support investment in infrastructure." It further writes that "the current pattern of lower imports, lower development spending and exploding unproductive current outlays undermines domestic and external confidence in the economy's prospects and deters investment."

Only recently (March 24), Mr Wolfgang Herbinger, director of the World Food Programme (WFP) argued that "Pakistan's government has pushed food prices too high for an impoverished population." He further argued that "you may have the country full with food but people are too poor to buy it." This is the point which I have been highlighting for years. In fact, I have identified the criminal increase in support price of wheat as one of the ten economic blunders of this government. As late as Sept 24, 2009 ("Death in a Stampede"), I wrote: "the country has produced a bumper wheat crop in the range of 23-24 million tons this year, but the poor and the destitute are being crushed to death for a few kilograms of flour. There is no shortage of wheat/flour as the country has produced more than its requirements, but at what price flour is available to the people of Pakistan in general and the poor and destitute in particular is a real issue."


I would urge the political leadership and the economic team to take the White House report on the economy seriously. I would also urge them to pay heed to the assessment of international organisations like the ADB and the WFP. Even if you don't listen to what I have been writing, please listen to what others have been arguing for the betterment of the economy of Pakistan.


The writer is principal and dean at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@ nbs.edu.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

DEVOLUTION FUNDAMENTALISTS VS HEC CHAMCHAAS

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI

 

The debate about the status of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in a post-18th Amendment scenario is being presented in interesting ways. One version of the debate is that this fight pits those who favour a centralised Pakistani state, against a band of do-good federalist champions – whose only interest is the strengthening of provinces and their autonomy. This is the version that a lot of well-intentioned people believe to be true. Unfortunately, the graveyards of the world are full of good intentions.

 

Those who are presenting the HEC debate as a battle between centralists and federalists, are essentially (either knowingly, or unwittingly) behaving like devolution fundamentalists. Like all other kinds of fundamentalism, devolution fundamentalism is a way of seeing things, in this case, a post-18th Amendment Pakistan, in starkly black and white terms. This kind of essentialism requires advocates of a federal structure, to be advocates of provincial autonomy, which then requires those advocates to be advocates of stripping away central agency – or the centre's right to legislate, regulate and navigate public policy – in any area deemed to be worthy of being devolved.

In the essentialist world view of the devolution fundamentalist, the reason the HEC must go is because it invades and occupies the province's right to oversee the higher education sector. But the logical corollary of this is that the HEC's existence is, by very design, an attack on provincial space. Of course, that's not really the function of the HEC.


The HEC was designed in 2002, by the Steering Committee on Higher Education (SCHE) which counted among its members, the current PPP Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh (disclosure: I was also a key staff member for the SCHE). There were three key motivations behind higher education reform at the time. The first was to increase university enrollment which was, even by the highest estimates, no more than 280,000 at the time. The second was to improve the quality of university education through standardisation and quality assurance. The third was to ensure better governance and management of universities.


All three of these objectives required a dramatically improved financial allocation for university education, and right from its inception the HEC successfully lobbied for and achieved a quantum shift in higher education funding. From that point forward, the HEC represents one of the most important public policy successes in recent memory. But the HEC is far from perfect.


Even at its inception, there were debates about the correct balance within higher education. Dr Atta ur Rehman's science and technology centric approach ended up being the primary focus of reform. This was countered by the approach favoured by other members of the SCHE who sought a greater role for humanities and arts in Pakistani universities. That debate is an important one that continues to this day.


Other entanglements and debates also ensued. Was it really worth the investment to have a tenure-track approach to teacher employment and retention, whilst not doing anything to change the permanent job status afforded to even lecturers at the BPS-17 level? Was buying accelerators for physics labs worth the investment, when many teachers required basic skills enhancement? These were debates worth having. The HEC may have been wrong about all of them, but they were debates that were relevant to higher education financing, regulation and quality assurance.


Today, in determining whether the HEC should or should not be retained as a regulatory body for higher education, the primary arguments for and against seem to be anything but relevant – either to higher education, or to the cause of a functioning federal state in Pakistan.


The other version of the HEC debate we have heard has been as thoughtless and politically poisonous as the devolution fundamentalists' version has been essentialist. Raza Rabbani is as close as it gets to being a modern day Pakistani hero. The 18th Amendment may now be seen as an effort to assert Pakistani federalism, but it also deepened executive, legislative and judicial control over the country, it effectively removed the fingerprints of military autocrats from the constitution and achieved a rare and lasting sense of legislative achievement by a political class that never gets credit for the good, and always gets pinned with blame for the bad. Rabbani was and remains the instrumental clog that enabled the 18th Amendment to be passed.


So the version of the debate, as framed by HEC defenders, is as ridiculous as the first. Rabbani is not a partisan PPP hack, jealous and scared of the HEC's ability to identify fake degrees. The HEC is not a flawless organisation whose integrity and achievements are beyond reproach. This is not a battle between those who want education and prosperity in the country versus those who want feudal raj.


Those who are making such claims or implying that such a divide exists, are the opposite of devolution fundamentalists. They may be acting out of innocent concern for higher education, but they end up seeming to be HEC chamchaas.


Pakistan doesn't need any devolution fundamentalists, or HEC chamchaas. The truth is that a lot of what the HEC does is legally still the domain of the federal government or the central agency to which the government has delegated authority - in the HEC's case this has been done statutorily through the HEC Ordinance 2002. Quality assurance and standardisation remain important. So too does the ability to shut down universities if they are not providing the minimum benchmarked quality of education. These are legitimate post-18th Amendment federal functions.


The big question is financing. Here, the provinces have a reasonable, but potentially dangerous case. Senator Rabbani would do well to avoid the path of the devolution fundamentalist, by ensuring that his proposed solutions address reasonable concerns without exposing universities, students, and teachers to very high and unnecessary risks.


The problem is simple. Instead of routing money through the HEC, provinces want the money for universities in their jurisdiction to flow through the province. This is a legitimate demand. But the risk here is off the charts. Not only do provinces not have adequate capacity. There are more urgent worries. What if a given province decides to take the money and spend it on handouts for the poor, under the Benazir Income Support Programme? Or take the money and build a new ring road around a big city? Or a new underpass? Or new bullet proof vests for its policemen?


A fiscally autonomous province should be free to make those decisions. But a sane and responsible provincial government would not make them at the expense of university financing. An inter-provincial mechanism could solve this problem. So too could statutory provincial ring-fencing of higher education budgets – both recurring and development. There is a solution here somewhere, if we're willing to find it.


A federal HEC that ensures quality, and enforces standards is not inconceivable. A provincial financing mechanism for universities that ensures adequate and sustained levels of funding is also not inconceivable. We need not be devolution fundamentalists or HEC chamchaas to achieve all this.


The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy.

www.mosharrafzaidi.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

WHY NOT A 20TH AMENDMENT?

TASNEEM NOORANI

 

The quest to find on alternative to this government continues. Even the president has admitted that there is talk of a takeover by "technocrats." But is an extra-constitutional change the answer to our problems?


Constitutionally, the only method possible for a change is the courts passing an order making the president ineligible to hold office. But even then all that will change is that Bilawal House will become the seat of power. The style of governance is unlikely to change.


The major drawback of any extra-constitutional measure is that these three years we suffered in the name of democracy will have been wasted. We will be back to square one, making the change no different from the previous ones in the nineties, apart from giving the PPP a martyr status. If extra-constitutional measures are out, and the PML-N is comfortable with the status quo, as is obvious, then what is the way forward to put this uncertainty to rest? There is one solution which, in my view, takes care of most of the issues which are an impediment to a way forward.


The government's tenure is five years in our Constitution, while no democratic government has ever completed a five-year term in our history. Even Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who ruled for five-and-a-half years, ruled as civilian prime minister for less than four, from 14 Aug, 1973, to July 5, 1977. In the fifties, before Ayub's martial law, the average term of office of an elected government was around one year. In the nineties, when the PPP and the PML-N played a game of musical chairs, the average tenure of government was two years. In the next decade how can we expect a democratic government to last five years?


The logical evolution process would make a three-year term more compatible with our political development. We are still a politically immature and impatient lot and five-year term for a government is incompatible with our temperament. The US president has a four-year term.


If not three (the politician will hit the ceiling at this suggestion) our term of government should be four years. If we have 19 amendments to the Constitution, why can't we have a 20th amendment? The advantages of a four-year term will be manifold. Firstly, the next elections will be due in eleven months, which will divert the attention of the political and other forces from finding ways to get rid of the present government to participation in the next elections. This would stabilise the current uncertain situation, where there is a new rumour every week about a likely new setup. Secondly, the need for looking for an extra-constitutional method or in-house change will be obviated. These four years spent in experimenting with democracy will be counted as time spent in the development of democracy in the country. Thirdly, it will take the pressure off the government which can happily concentrate on governance rather than looking over its shoulder all the time. Fourthly, and most important, it will make the term of government more realistic and reduce the chances of an extra-constitutional intervention in the future.


I have no doubt that such a proposal will be opposed by most politicians, because they will argue that elections have become very expensive and therefore elections should be held every five years rather than four. If the tenure of government is reduced, perhaps the political aspirants of the future will adjust their expenditures accordingly. Some people will say four years is not enough to execute the policies of a new government. One may ask which strategy, policy or project of the current government, in power for three years, is awaiting implementation and will be adversely affected by reduction in term? Four years is adequate, as seen in a number of democracies, to conceive, implement and consolidate most initiatives. If, however, we are going to link the tenure of government to the gestation period of building a dam, we'll have to fix the tenure at ten years.

The response of the PPP is likely to be, why such a proposal in their term? Well, one can say that it offers the party a chance for a graceful exit or coming back again to power for another four years. It may even be an opportune to go back to the voter earlier, because one year later pubic may have become that much more disappointed with the government. In any case, a four-year term will reduce the chance of the government being thrown out. Unless the PPP wants that, because it can then claim that it was not able to deliver because its tenure was cut short.


The PML-N seems complicit with the PPP in letting things drift the way they are, because they are enjoying unbridled power in Punjab, their main, and perhaps only, base. With the indisposition of Mian Nawaz Sharif, the inclination for an early election for the PML-N may be even less welcome.


Despite the likely reluctance of the major political players in the field, the logical and the long-lasting solution is to have the constitutional tenure of the government more in line with the nation's temperament and stage of political development. If we let things slide the way they are doing currently, we may have to restart the process of rebuilding Pakistan, from square one.


The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: tasneem.noorani@tnassociates.net

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

MARCH OF FOLLY

DR MALEEHA LODHI

 

The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.


A seminal book written in the 1980s has lost none of its relevance today. Little known in Pakistan, the internationally acclaimed work examined one of the most intriguing power paradoxes in history – why countries, governments or groups pursue a course of action that is contrary to their self-interest.

In 'The March of Folly' the distinguished American historian Barbara W Tuchman presented a penetrating insight into a number of events in history that characterise folly in government. From the fall of Troy, selected in her book as the symbolic prototype of a freely chosen calamity, to America's disastrous involvement in Vietnam, she analysed a phenomenon that recurs throughout history regardless of place or time.


"Mankind", she wrote, "makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity". "In this sphere wisdom ...... is less operative and more frustrated than it should be". She contrasted how reason fails in government to the great accomplishments man has made from awe-inspiring scientific discoveries to economic and technological advancement.


Her book concerned itself with what she called the pursuit of policy contrary to the self-interest of the state or constituency involved. Tuchman defined self-interest as "whatever conduces to the welfare and advantage of the body being governed". From that follows her conception of folly: a policy that in these terms is counter-productive.

To be considered as folly, the policy or a course of action must meet three criteria. It must be seen as counter-productive at that time, and not by hindsight. After all, she argued, quoting another historian, "nothing is more unfair than to judge men of the past by the ideas of the present." So an injury to self-interest has to be recognised by contemporaries.


Two, a feasible alternative course of action must have been available. And three, to distinguish folly in government from the capricious whims of a single person, "the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler", because misgovernment by a single sovereign is too frequent and too individual to merit a generalised inquiry.


Of course individuals commit folly, so why should it matter if governments do too? Because, Tuchman said, folly in government has more impact on people and obliges governments to act according to reason.

It is evident from these nuggets from Tuchman's book why much of what she described applies to actions and policies undertaken in the present era by countries and coalitions of the willing whether in Iraq or in Afghanistan. It was exemplified here at home by the ill-conceived Kargil adventure.


The latest manifestation of the march of folly is the western military intervention in Libya. Though the maverick Muammar Qaddafi deserves no sympathy for his tyrannical rule and murderous assault on his people this does not justify armed foreign involvement. The ill-thought action threatens to cloud the Arab spring and make western nations' intrusive role an unnecessary complication and polarising factor in the wave of indigenous change sweeping the Middle East.


To compensate for their past backing of autocratic regimes, France and Britain's frenetic effort to get on the 'right side of history' in the oil-rich region pushed an initially reluctant American president to join in the effort to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Ostensibly aimed at averting a bloodbath of anti-government rebels at the hands of Qaddafi's forces in Benghazi there was never any doubt that the 'allied' effort was about regime change. President Obama stated that at the very outset.


The initial move to establish a defensive no fly zone had support from the Arab League and the UN Security Council (with notable abstentions by China and Russia). But its enforcement by a muscular bombing campaign provoked wide international criticism with China and Russia calling for an immediate cease-fire. The air strikes by Nato countries shattered whatever slim consensus was claimed by the movers of the Security Council resolution.

Resolution 1973, invoked as the legal basis to 'protect civilian lives', was misinterpreted to serve as a means for intervening powers to arrogate to themselves the right to overthrow hostile regimes. The humanitarian grounds invoked by those who turned a blind eye to the killings in Gaza or people's rights in 'friendly' Arab states convinced virtually no one. Opinion across the world regarded the coalition's intervention as duplicitous.

The SC resolution is now being put to even more dubious uses – to justify arming and training the rebels as it becomes apparent that the ramshackle, rudderless rebel forces cannot prevail on their own.

The Libyan intervention meets all three of Tuchman's criterion to qualify as folly. It has been questioned in the countries leading the effort where many have asked why their governments are getting embroiled in other nations' civil wars. Doubts have also been raised whether the Libyan uprising represents a democratic struggle or a tribal conflict.


Many see President Obama on a slippery slope, embarked on a venture in which it looks increasingly unlikely that the goal of dislodging Qaddafi can be achieved by the motley bands of rebel fighters. Although Obama has ruled out boots on the ground, reports of CIA and special operations personnel being dispatched to eastern Libya in covert support to the insurgents has heightened the risk of an expanding involvement with no exit strategy in sight.


Was there an alternate policy course to military intervention? Most certainly yes. Sanctions, application of political and economic pressure and achieving a ceasefire were among the available options in a diplomatic toolkit that could have helped to craft a negotiated political solution without the resort to armed force.


A number of troubling questions are raised by the intervention.


Why was the calculation of the intervening powers that the Qaddafi regime will quickly crumble before a ragtag band of rebels so off the mark?


Do increasing signs of a standoff between government forces and rebels mean a protracted stalemate ahead and a slide into a prolonged civil war?


Will the intervening Nato countries become party to the de-facto partitioning of Libya with the oil-rich east controlled by the so-called Transitional National Council and Qaddafi hanging on to the western part of the country?

Will the need to prop up the rebels' administration lead to more deepening western involvement in further contravention of international law and the principle of non-interference?


Do the intervening powers know who the resistance is? If they still cannot be sure who is leading the rebels why are they covertly aiding them?


Even if Qaddafi was to go quickly through a negotiated transition how will an ill-defined and fractious opposition transform itself into a functioning government and assure stability?


Will western involvement only end with a client government being installed?


Is the US objective of preventing al Qaeda from exploiting the turmoil – recently voiced by Defence Secretary Robert Gates – being achieved by the intervention or compounded by the widening political vacuum that the Nato action has fuelled?


Has this external intervention cast a shadow over the dynamics of democratic change in the Middle East?

These unresolved issues engender deep uncertainty about the future of Libya as well as about how this will affect the rest of North Africa and the Arab world. What is already apparent is that this intervention has put at stake the stability of the region – and the interests of the intervening powers themselves, folly's hallmark.

The announcement of initiatives by the European Union and the African Union to help bring about an immediate ceasefire now seems the only way out of a descent into chaos and lawlessness. But diplomatic solutions should have been sought in the first place rather than a rush to military intervention, which betrayed an imperial impulse.

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I. THE NEWS

FOR INTERFAITH HARMONY

RIZWAN ASGHAR

 

We live in interesting times. To respond to a mad act with an equally insane measure is progressively becoming an acceptable fashion across the globe. The recent shameful act of burning the Holy Quran, performed by a Christian fundamentalist pastor in the US and the subsequent response in parts of the Muslim world highlight the urgent need for promoting interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence.


More than 10 people were killed in Afghanistan as a result of violent incidents staged to protest the reprehensible act committed by Terry Jones. Indubitably, the desecration of the Holy Quran is an unbearable crime and an affront to the idea of mutual tolerance among all religions, which is an irrefutable need in this volatile, globalised world. But attacking and killing innocent people in the name of condemning an outrageous act committed by someone else, is not the solution. And Muslims must bear in mind that, at present, the biggest challenge facing them across the world is the negative and distorted image of their religion. So, the only reasonable response could be to ignore the publicity-seeking Terry Jones or condemn his behaviour in a very peaceful manner.


In view of the present state of frayed relations between the two major civilisations, Islamic and Western, it is of the utmost importance that a solution be worked out to reconcile inter-religious differences. Interfaith dialogue can help combat evil forces and rein in fundamentalist elements among various religious communities. In addition, it is the only natural method of relating to people of other faiths and understanding their thinking patterns.

All the religious communities should reaffirm their faith in the values of pluralism and actively participate in undertaking trust-building efforts. Interfaith harmony must be built on the foundations and concerns that all religions have in common.


The sad fact remains that all religions of the world intending to spread the message of compassion and tolerance are invariably used by a bigoted minority with vested interests to fan inter-civilisational discord and tensions. In the post-9/11 era, this pernicious trend has assumed enormous proportions as in certain cases mighty political governments are also adopting this policy. We claim to live in a well-informed world today but, in fact, we are fed a distorted view by sensationalist media of how alien other religions and ways of life are.


The teachings of all religions are based on peace, love and harmony and a true follower of any religion can never think of provoking hatred against other faiths. We have to keep on searching for 'common ground,' keep looking for our essence, and continue talking to each other instead of talking about each other, which in turn will cultivate mutual trust. Civilisations and religions need to forge unity in their ranks and promote dialogue to defeat the likes of Terry Jones, on either side of the fence.


Through dialogue and effective communication, each side will be able to understand the other dispassionately and curb those prejudices that give rise to hatred and conflict.


The era of crusades should be over now and Samuel Huntington's thesis, the 'clash of civilizations,' needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history.


The bonds of friendship cultivated in the spirit of mutual understanding and religious tolerance can enable us all to focus on our shared values: love, peace and an unwavering commitment to building a better future. We are all one, created by the same God, regardless of our religious differences and our social status. May our common God, the Compassionate and Merciful, bless us all.


Email: rizwanasghar7@yahoo. Com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

LISTEN ALTAF ON BALOCHISTAN

 

MQM Chief Altaf Hussain has a point in describing the party's maiden public rally in the provincial headquarters of Punjab as historic, as it was indeed an impressive beginning for a party that was previously considered to be confined to urban areas of Sindh alone. The visionary leader of the MQM is gradually but firmly transforming the character and role of the party by first changing its nomenclature from Mohajir Qaumi Movement to Muttahida Qaumi Movement and now establishing its roots in the largest province of the country.

Formal launching of the MQM in Punjab is a positive and welcome development, which would hopefully have a salutary effect on the overall political environment of the country and especially the provincial horizon. It would not only strengthen MQM's credentials as a national party but also promote deeper understanding among different communities and promote national cohesion and solidarity. As MQM will have its stakes in Punjab as well, it would exercise extra care to ensure that statements of its leaders and its policies are not to be seen divisive in any way and this would, in turn, strengthen relations among federating units. In his wide-ranging and inspiring address to the participants of the Lahore rally, Altaf Hussain touched upon a number of critical issues of concern to the people of Pakistan in general and people of Punjab in particular. Unlike many others who rely mainly on verbosity, the MQM leader highlighted different aspects of the party's manifesto as part of the strategy to reach deeper to the hearts of various segments of the society including his plans to end feudalism, make education compulsory and free up to Matric, hold effective accountability and pursue a truly independent foreign policy. However, his emphasis on resolution of the Balochistan problem is a clarion call that must be listened to by all concerned and concrete steps taken to address the issue without loss of further time. His offer to mediate between Baloch people and the Government is quite understandable and welcome one but appeal to the people of Punjab to save Balochistan, which he believed was drifting towards separation, was somewhat confusing. People of Punjab always wanted strengthening of the federation and for this purpose they have been rendering sacrifices for people of the small provinces, as vindicated in the stance taken by the province in the finalisation of the latest NFC award when it surrendered its due rights and share for the sake of smaller provinces and this was once again reflected by the generous attitude adopted by it in the meeting of IRSA where Punjab allowed Sindh to take its share of water to meet its increased water needs. And right now we have a party in power whose Co-Chairman is President of the country and de facto all-in-all and MQM is coalition partner of the PPP and therefore, it is for the Government to take effective and concrete steps to resolve problem of Balochistan. We hope Altaf Hussain would hammer out this idea with Government leaders and people of Punjab would surely extend every possible cooperation in this national endeavour.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

REDUCED DEVELOPMENT FUNDING

 

ACCORDING to a report, the expenditure on public sector development projects in the first nine months of the current fiscal year was just Rs 112 billion, bringing more than 1,300 projects to a standstill. The resource allocation of Rs 242 billion, announced in the 2010-11 budget, has been cut by about 40 percent to Rs 150 billion, severely affecting development projects and resulting into cost escalation.


Every year, the Government announces with great fanfare huge developmental allocations giving false impression of focus on development and growth but at the end of the day such plans turn out to be just mirage. For the current year too, the Government had announced a Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) of Rs 663 billion, 7% higher than Rs 621 billion of last year, including Rs 280 billion Federal PSDP but priorities and policies changed since then and the allocation was slashed to Rs 242 billion, which too has not been honoured. How can we increase economic activity and create more job opportunities without making releases for developmental projects? The country is passing through worst kind of energy shortage but ironically 41 out of 43 projects in the power sector did not get any funds although over Rs 12 billion were earmarked for the purpose. Ninety-nine projects in communication sector did not receive a penny in nine months against huge allocations of Rs 45 billion in the budget and the same was true of other sectors including higher education. There is something seriously wrong with the economic vision of the government, otherwise there was no justification for this messy situation when remittances by overseas Pakistanis and exports are poised to reach the highest mark, resulting into low trade deficit.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

BRIDGE ENERGY SHORTFALL RIGHT NOW

 

IT was shocking to listen to Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani that the energy shortfall would double in the next fifteen years unless addressed urgently by all stake holders in the public and private sectors. Pakistan had been facing energy shortfall since its creation but it has increased beyond absorbing capacity of the domestic consumers and industrial sector in the last three and a half years.


The country could add just 1700MW of electricity in the national grid in the last three years while on an average the energy demand is increasing at 10% per annum meaning that there has been no relief to the consumers. Speaking at the inaugural session of the three day energy conference on Sunday, the Prime Minister spoke of finding new oil and gas reserves through aggressive exploration activities, optimising production from existing fields by applying the cutting edge technology and import of gas and CNG. On the face of it, these are good ideas, but on the ground there appears to be no practical work. The country is rich with natural resources with oil and gas discovery ratio better than many other countries. There are several oil and gas prospective zones right from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to Balochistan. There is problem of law and order in Balochistan and lack of support of tribal elders for carrying out exploration activities on a massive scale and these two issues could be resolved if appropriate incentives are extended to them. One or two major discoveries in Balochistan can off set the present gas deficit. Nature has blessed Pakistan with vast resources, sufficient enough to meet its growing energy needs for the next few decades. Thar coalfield has an estimated 175 billion tons of coal which, experts maintain, can generate 50,000 MW of electricity. According to Dr Samar Mubarakmand Pakistan has no reason to stay poor after cheap generation of electricity from Thar field. The need of the hour is that the Government must start working right now to bridge the gap between demand and supply and that is possible if there is will and finances are provided for the exploitation of Thar Coal, hydel and oil and gas resources.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

UNREST IN PAKISTAN & ARAB WORLD

AMBASSADOR'S DIARY

DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI

In this column I wish to take matters of home and abroad. At home is an epidemic of unrest in Pakistan these days, like abroad two events are catching attention of the world. NATO's aggression on Libya and the Earth quake in Japan and the visit of British PM Cameron. However, as for the doctors' strike while it was taking place, our commentators failed to high light that on one side was the demand for increase in the young doctors' pay, but on the other was their responsibility to the suffering humanity, particularly in emergency cases. No 'human heart" should have refused treatment to a patient bleeding, with broken limb, to a heart patient, a woman in labour pains, etc.


Doctors are a wealth of the nation, and they earn swab if they serve humanity. They are bound by their oath also not to refuse treatment to any sick person irrespective of his caste creed religion, belief etc. They are benefactors of humanity. A better way of pressing for demands could have been to wear black bands on their arms, , put banners in the hospitals about their demands etc and resort to a token strike of one hour daily except in emergency wards,. No amount is enough to pay a doctor in some sever cases. Shah Jehan gave the English the Trading Rights through Surat port as a reward for healing of his daughter by an English doctor. I am sure that those who are in seats of authority in the Government know better. It would be highly unwise to simplify this situation as mischief, conspiracy against the Government or with such accusations as if it is all in their mind and not reality. They must be watching the unrest in the Arab world.


The doctors should remember that we are a poor nation and in our country "bana hai edh Tajammul Husain Khan kay liey" which we the working people are not! In this context one may recall a statement of the Honourable ex Home Minister of Sindh Zulfikar Mirza. He said that he is going abroad for travel and meeting his children. This is illustrative of how the mighty Tajammul Hussain live in Pakistan: they have their children abroad, they study abroad, their wealth abroad, their ghonsla abroad and politics in Pakistan is only their hobby. .

The damage the havoc the earthquake and Tsunami have done to Japan is very well known. Three points in this connection need be commented upon. First the unique courage and self control with which the Japanese have reacted to this calamity . It is unprecedented and shows the iron will in the Japanese nation. As I wrote on another occasion the great miraculous economic development the Japanese have achieved is not only due to their technology but first and foremost their national character. Our Government despite our poverty has done what little it could do, but may I say that if possible we may send through a ship food items like rice, wheat and fruits, in large quantity as possible. Wheat is used in Japan for making noodles. The quantity might be small compared to the needs but whatever can be done by us must be done. This will still be of some use as we are free of nuclear fall out and food is an important item. I know that we have sent water also and a medical team, but due linguistic problem unless some local Pakistanis join the voluntary work it would not be so much useful as food, fruits and water. The Great Japanese people need our little helping hand.


The other item of considerable concern to us, and of an example to the Arab world and the region is NATO's aggression on Libya. What has been done to Libya can be done in any volatile Arab country The "right to change regimes" and that on the basis that the leader there is persona non grata to the Imperialists is rejected by any principled liberal person. The daily Observer and I was among the first to denounce NATO Imperialist aggression on Libya. At that time the reaction in this region was cloudy and wishfully some western agencies has even reported that Ghaddafi had run away from Libya. I had opposed NATO aggression on principle. Some Libyan rebel group took up arms against Ghaddafi's rule and no sooner then that happened than NATO was bombing Libya. Under the influence of western analysis the press was depicting the rebels on the wave of victory and Ghaddafi regime on the run. Now that this euphoria in anti-Ghaddafi camp has subsided it is becoming clear that there was a highly wishful assessment about the rebels ability to throw Ghaddafi has failed It is noteworthy that several writers, in India and some demonstrators in Europe have also criticized NATO aggression.

Now, let us come to two recent indications that the rebels are a feeble and militarily ineffective group. Under dateline April 7 AFP has carried a story " Libya rebels success unlikely – US General" and another article "Training Libyan rebels" by Patrick Wintour. The first item is the testimony of US General Carter Ham, who led the first stage of coalition air force attack on Libya, before the US Senate Committee, in which he said , I am selectively quoting him :" It was unlikely that Libya's rebel forces could launch an attack on Tripoli and oust the regime's leader Moamer Ghaddafi" — Pressed to reply to answer the same question , the General said" " Sir, I would assess that as a low possibility".


The article by Patrick Wintour states, and I am enumerating his suggestions: " (1) Britain is to urge Arab countries to train the disorganized Libyan rebels, and so strengthen their position on the battlefield before negotiating on a ceasefire" "(2) The private soldiers could be paid by Arab countries to train the unstructured rebel army"; "(3) It is now being acknowledged that the disorganized Libyan rebels are not going to make headway on their own" "NATO countries are looking at requesting Arab countries. Qatar and UAE to train the rebels" Blackwaters are being mentioned as the possible trainer. It shows also that " the rebels" advance 30 kilometer up the road then retreat as soon as they face the Libyan government firepower" It also says that US and Uk believe that under the UN Resolution it is legal to train the rebels and pay for them.


This suggestion can be summed up by Urdu proverb "Hamara sar our hamara jota" I might add a little foot note on France's participation in this imperialist campaign. In modern age this is the first time that France has joined any imperialist adventure which those who know France's pro-third world record fail to understand why it is being made the spearhead of anti-Libyan imperialist adventure. France record had been praise worthy as a friend of the third world.. When France claims that it depends only 8 per cent on Libya oil, and it has no strategic interest in this adventure why is France taking part in it . Stoking fire through a proxy war is not a praiseworthy act. Is it because Sarkozy is a jew , and Jews have been dedicatedly anti-Ghaddafi. Well, I hope the British Prime Minister flying visit to Pakistan was not to seek Pakistan's support to Libyan adventure. Pakistan has already declared that it has "reservations" on (NATO action on) Libya. Which diplomatically means it does not support it.


The Arab countries should try to reach a peaceful solution of Libya. This can be possible only if the rebels are not encouraged to destroy their country. Now that the rebels feebleness has been demonstrated on the field, no interest will be served by stocking fire in Libya. Sane policy would be to avoid being merchants of death. But work for peace and reconciliation. Diplomacy should come in action instead of destroying Libya by an internecine civil war which NATO has planned , and being merchant of death and destruction Of course Ban Ki Moon is no Boutros Boutros Ghali or Salim Ahmed Salim ( of Tanzania) but he should make an attempt to become an ally of peace than of merchants of death He should work now or a cease fire resolution now when it is manifest that the rebel group is a weak group.


It is a pity that the Arabs are so immersed in their personal animosities with Ghaddafi that they cannot play a part in positive diplomacy in Libya. In this circumstances African Union or former OAU can play a positive part having tested a Biafra. Could one hope that instead of being NATO's knife France return to its traditional role of a friend of the Third world, and drop war by proxy in Libya Arabs should know that in their present fragile condition proxy wars can be played in any non grata country. They should have the greater picture before them than myopic vision of hatred for this leader or that. They should support a cease-fire in Libya in conjunction with African Union.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN INDIA

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

The US state department released a report on global human rights abuses discussed situation in other countries including China and Pakistan, but it dwelled at length on gross human rights violations committed by Indian security forces on Kashmiris – from killings to torture – in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) and other conflict-hit regions. "There were numerous reports that the government and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including the extra-judicial killings of suspected criminals and terrorists, especially in areas of conflict such as Jammu and Kashmir, the North Eastern States, and the Naxalite belt, where non-governmental forces also committed such killings," the US State Department said in the annual 2010 assessment of the state of human rights around the world. India's repression in Indian Held Kashmir is despicable. In September, Indian government reinstated the four police officials allegedly involved in the May 2009 killing of Neelofar Jan and Asiya Jan in the Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir despite the fact the high court had ordered the arrest of those officers on the charges of suppressing and destroying evidence in the case. On June 28, Shakeel Ahmad Ahangar, Neelofar's husband and Asiya's brother had filed a petition to hold inquiry into the killings of the two women.

The petition remained pending before a Srinagar court till year's end. Relatives and police had discovered the bodies of Neelofar and Asiya in a stream, and local residents and examining doctors alleged that Indian security forces gang-raped and killed Neelofar and Asiya. In addition, several government officials stated that police involvement in the killings could not be ruled out. Perhaps, no other nation has gone through such a long ordeal and suffering in the history and their unending nightmare continues. Since 1989, Kashmiri youth started struggle against atrocities, killings and ruthless exploitation, and since then about 90000 Kashmiris have laid down their lives. Human Rights Watch and other groups every year issue reports of Indian forces' brutalities. Even international human rights groups have more than once called for a probe into whether the unmarked graves held bodies of civilians who "disappeared" when Indian security forces tried to crush the freedom movement.

The world must take notice of the atrocities perpetrated on Kashmiri people by Indian security forces, especially on the women and children, and help Kashmiris to get their right of self-determination. In June 2008, Kashmiri Muslims had protested against allotment of land to Delhi-based Amarnath Shrine Trust in violation of the law. In 2009, there was strike in Muslims' areas of Indian Held Kashmir against anti-Muslim riots, vandalism, looting of Muslim properties, economic blockade of the Valley and inter-regional ex-communication by the Hindu fanatics and extremists of occupied Jammu region.

In fact, Congress-led government had earlier allotted a piece of land near the shrine apparently to facilitate Hindu pilgrims that throng the shrine in large numbers, but Kashmiris were suspicious of the government's intentions, as efforts were being made to encourage migration of Hindus to the state with a view to diluting Kashmiri Muslims' 98 per cent majority in the IHK. Despite all odds, Kashmiris are determined to take their freedom struggle to the logical conclusion, and are willing to give any sacrifice to get rid of Indian yoke.Pakistan and India had many rounds of talks including the composite dialogue that started in 2004 and stalled after Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008. In the past, India had always insisted that before discussing Kashmir disputes other issues of lesser importance should be discussed and resolved. However, it so happened during every round that whenever the time for discussing the core issue of Kashmir came, India did find an excuse to end the dialogue. Having that said, the resumption of talks between Pakistan and India is a welcome move, but it should be borne in mind that without resolving the Kashmir dispute, the genuine peace in the region cannot be achieved. In fact, the core issue between the two countries needs to be sorted out first for normalization to occur in the two neighbours' relationship. In fact, Indians have the obsession that all terrorism in India emanates from Pakistan, even as their own investigators had traced down many a terrorist assault in their land, but they slapped on Pakistan instantly.

Anyhow, Kashmir is boiling once again. The new generation of young boys that were born under the shadow of Indian bayonets since 1989, and witnessed murder, rape and killings of their kith and kin in fake encounters, are burning with rage and revenge. Last November Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had emphasized the need for dialogue with Kashmiri leaders. Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M) Syed Ali Geelani however rejected stating that talks could be fruitful and acceptable only after India accepted the three points - right to self-determination, complete troop withdrawal and talks within the ambit of United Nations resolutions vis-à-vis Kashmir dispute.

The All Parties Conference on Kashmir called by the government could not reach consensus and ended in a deadlock. Congress President Sonia Gandhi had made an impassioned appeal to the participants for creating space for reconciliation that could end turmoil and conflict in trouble-torn state. She had said: "The legitimate aspirations of those young people in the Kashmir Valley who have grown up in the embrace of violence, of conflict and brutality must be understood and respected". During June 2010 to November 2010, Indian paramilitary forces had murdered 86 teenagers with firing and tear-gas shelling. One wonders as to what happened to the champions of human rights, freedoms and liberties? Can't they see Kashmiris's carnage in the Valley? In June, only UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon had expressed shock over killings in Kashmir, but he too backtracked quickly. The UN chief was misreported, said his spokesman. So he too was not shocked. Kashmiris are unfortunate lot because their cause is legitimate and lawful; they have the UN mandate on its back, as United Nations Security Council has decreed that they will determine their own destiny in an UN-supervised plebiscite. For the last 62 years, India reneged upon its commitment to this UN decree, and despite first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's commitment on the floor of the assembly, India did not honour its commitment.

Showing utter disregard to the UNSC resolutions, India has been using a brute military force to suppress the Kashmiris' freedom movement without ever being held to account by the international community. In a brutal campaign, over half a million-strong Indian army has perpetrated unspeakable atrocities on them to crush their uprising. Yet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had the audacity to say that he was "shocked and distressed" by deadly protests in Indian-administered Kashmir and called for calm to enable talks on the crisis to take place. "I was shocked and distressed to see young men and women - even children - joining the protests on the streets," Singh said at the opening of a meeting of political parties called to debate ways of easing tensions in the region. Leaders of India's main political parties had debated whether to ease harsh security laws in Indian-administered Kashmir as the government searched for a strategy to end months of increasingly violent protests in the region, but could not decide on the matter.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

US ENDGAME IN LIBYA

ALI ASHRAF KHAN

 

While Afghanistan is certainly going out of hand of US-NATO Coalition, and Pakistan is at the brink of chaos and the Middle East is boiling, the US thinking themselves to be the lone world power who can act according to their sweet will have manipulated the UN, a second fiddler of US into a military action in Libya claiming to act as saviours of civilian population. This new military adventure of the US, which is right now trying to cope with an economic and financial crisis which is threatening to break the US back in rendering obsolete their economic prevalence.

It is no news that in the wake of globalization international economic power relations have changed and that it is becoming increasingly clear that the future of the world lies with Asia, with China to be particular. This has been developing for quite a while without being noticed because the Chinese attitude other than the US one is that of quietly working and not of noisy boasting. Chinese economy has been growing at a rapid speed, very well diversified and expanding into those areas and markets which the West and the US would neglect such as Africa in general and Libya in particular. As a newly developing super power China needs access to energy resources and other than the US it would secure those legitimate interests of its own not by invading oil rich countries, or by trying to stir revolts and change their governments but by investing into them, by sponsoring development where nobody else wants to invest such as Libya and Nigeria in Africa and Pakistan as another spectacular example.

Just recently it was disclosed that China had overtaken Japan as the second largest economy. The recent financial crisis emanating from US, which had hit the capitalist systems of the West hard, did not harm Chinese economy so much because they would follow a different model of financial policies. The US can clearly see now that their economic and financial system is highly fragile because of excessive printing of dollar currency and resultant dis-equilibrium therefore their political leadership has also come under attack and may be this process is already beyond repair. But this is what the old super power does not want to acknowledge. They are hell-bound to fight it out without caring for the consequences of these mis-adventures because of mediocrity in administration and Libya is one central battle field for this.

While Colonel Ghadafi might have made mistakes also and some people may have legitimate grievances against him, where in the world does a leader command the undiluted admiration of all of his people, the US did what they have done before: they sent the CIA operatives into the country in order to stimulate the grievances of those few critics and encourage them to rise against the regime. They would give money and weapons and instigate an uprising, pumped in insurgents from neighbouring countries. When this was not enough they got the UN manipulated into it and sent arms and ammunition to the rebels in order to make sure that Ghadafi will fall soon. Ghadafi of course had no other choice left than to fight the foreign sponsored rebels with all force at his disposal. By thus inciting a civil war the US managed to kill two birds with the same stone they thought: one, the regime of Ghadafi will have to go and second, in the wake of the civil war Chinese will have to close down their projects and businesses and 30.000 Chinese workers had to leave the country in a rush. The Western world feeling their domination coming to an end have joined their leader US in this last-ditch effort to save Western supremacy, which is diminishing fast.

But the conscience of people in the world can not be fooled that easily by false insistence on safeguarding from civilian casualties. In their mad rush US and NATO troops are killing scores of civilians each and every day in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, what a double standard it is when they stand by, when Israel is killing unarmed Palestinian women and children, when it is invading Lebanon and when it is killing Turkish civilians on humanitarian missions. They stand by in Bosnia when ethnic cleansing is going on, in Rwanda and Congo, who would believe that out of a sudden they have become interested in civilian lives in Libya? A country where they were not only selling arms and ammunition but were also involved in business transactions in Libya.

American greed for power and their arrogance in addition to a failing capitalist system are losing grip over the world. What we are seeing is the final struggle for survival. The Obama government itself has been close to collapse just a few days back; only a last ditch compromise with the Republicans have saved them for the time being. But this safety is a fake one; it is the beginning of the end not only of Obama government but of the supremacy of this country and the Western world at large. The rest of the world including our own country would be well advised to read and understand the writing on the wall and take their political decisions in the light of this ongoing endgame. If we do not mend our ways and distance from US policies in East, we might end up perishing together with them.

No matter how one feels about Libya today and the role of the Ghadafi government; I refer to a bold speech of Mr. Farrakhan on 31st March in USA, when he rightly said that no body in the world now approves of civil war because it brings the bloodiest torture to mankind, US has deployed CIA operatives in Libya to bring a regime change in Libya, how America can do that or US doesn't like Ghadafi face because he used billions of dollars of oil money to build road, houses, food and clothing, he discovered water in Sahara desert and through pipeline network irrigated desert land from one corner to other upto Tunisia. According to Farrakhan some thing is under this that 3 Imperialist powers Britain, France & US wants to destabilize Libya regardless of how one evaluates the Libyan opposition, which seems to be stimulated from outside a US-led war or intervention in Libya is a disaster for the Libyan people, and for peace and progress around the world.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

TERROR THREAT FAR FROM OVER

LUBNA UMAR

 

Terrorism has become an accepted movement as it embraces the Pakistani geo-political environment with a furious grip from which we are finding it hard to disengage. Despite hundreds of episodes of terror, sudden surges and waves such as the one that rocked Dera Ghazi Khan in a blood splattering destruction of human lives gives rise to a heightened suffering and helplessness. Even the coldest of hearts managed to issue a few words of condemnation denouncing such horrifying acts as inhuman and barbaric and so on…This clearly indicates that the terrorists have deciphered the prevalent political trends that can be read as familiarity breeds indifference and that for them to really make a difference and a significant impact on the psyche of the people and leaders, terror devices such as sudden and potent surges need to be employed chronically.


Internal strangulation and restriction of movement faced by the extremist inside Pakistan, apparently, does not ensure a curb on their activity unless such similar and strong measures are taken by the forces across the porous border of Afghanistan that cannot boast the presence of enough check posts to scrutinize the diffusion of miscreants along with an unlimited supply of arms and funding to carry on the insurgency. The links between all factions ensure the continuous and successful functioning despite sincere efforts made by the Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies that are always found lacking in their performance and have been recipients of relentless abuse from the international and national media.

What needs to be brought to the forefront is the factor that poses major problems for the Pakistani forces this side of the border. These issues are significant and need to be addressed prior to any other step taken by the security forces that are already under great duress after launching various operations against militancy without support from the government machinery that fails to take over the cleared areas. Furthermore, an economic slashing and a deep mistrust in the Pakistan-US relation after the emergence of the recent US report that has most blatantly blamed the Pakistani troops for not doing enough on the security front in terms of managing and reversing the Taliban momentum. This relentless pressure is further severing ties between Islamabad and Washington. A global war on terror needs to be fought by dependency and trust, without which the entire table may turn in the favor of the enemy.

Pakistan has repeatedly raised this issue of cross border infiltration at various platforms at the international level, but no concrete step has either been taken by the international community to stop it. Take for instance the case of Bajaur and Mohmand agency where, despite launching multiple low and high intensity operation by the security forces, the area remains unstable. The indubitable reason behind this instability is not the ineffectiveness of the operations, but the fact that these regions lie adjacent to the inherently porous Afghan border. The militants with great ease and comfort infiltrate to the Pakistani tribal belt and carry out their subversive activities and exit right out in the same manner, a fact that has been highlighted by the Pakistan army many times, stressing the point that a majority of attacks on Pakistani soil are being contemplated and executed in Afghanistan by the hardcore Afghan factions of the militants.

For them to exist in a lawless land such as Afghanistan, where the puppet government has virtually no control over state, conveniently handing over the reins to the foreign troops that have interest in limited areas, thus leaving a huge expanse of vacant territory for all and sundry to do as they please. The Afghan government has been provided detailed information of the cross border interference and clandestine activities being launched from the Afghan soil. Virtually nothing has been done so far as the indifference of the Afghan government towards Pakistan's concern is apparent by the tacit silence adopted by it. The Kunar province, the most dangerous militant stronghold allows absolute refuge for all those who need protection in order to plan and orchestrate attacks in both countries. This specified militant stronghold is exerting a huge strain on the efforts of the Pakistani security and law enforcing apparatus as their reach is only restricted within their territorial radius. Furthermore, underhand operations of the Indian consulates in the Afghan territory has become a major source of irritation for the Pakistani forces as a relentless supply of arms and gadgets is being supplied to the militants that keeps fueling the insurgency in the Pakistani soil. In this backdrop, foreign intervention of such scale and magnitude can undergo a reversal only if the Afghan government takes it upon itself to deal with such infiltration to and from its territory. These militant sanctuaries need to be dismantled and the terror nexus destroyed in order for peace to prevail in both countries which is possible only through close cooperation.

A joint declaration had been signed between the foreign ministers in the year 2009 in which both parties had agreed to develop a joint comprehensive strategy for combating terrorism by working in close collaboration. So far nothing tangible has been seen as the relationship between both countries has seen continuous highs and lows thus effecting the joint declaration adversely.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

US IS BACK IN THE 'SMART POWER' GAME

LEWIS M SIMONS

 

In Indonesia, home to 205 million Muslims — the greatest Islamic population in any nation— the administration recently opened in an upscale shopping mall a state-of-the-art, high-tech cultural centre. It is focused specifically on the country's vast number of teenagers and twentysomethings. The launching follows the return to Indonesia last summer of Peace Corps volunteers for the first time in 45 years. Another crop of volunteers has just begun training in Hawaii, preparing for service in Indonesia's neighbour Malaysia, where the Muslim majority numbers some 17 million. The Peace Corps last operated in Malaysia 30 years ago. In the interim decades, both countries — as well as the United States — have undergone sea changes. Just as Tunisians, Egyptians and other Middle Eastern Muslims have risen up over the past few months and toppled their autocratic rulers, millions of Indonesians took to the streets in 1998 and overthrew the korupsi-riddled regime of President Suharto. Indonesia's about-face from dictatorship to functioning secular democracy has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Malaysia, on the other hand, drifts from post-colonial secularism toward Islamic theocracy — to the consternation of its substantial ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, as well as its more moderate Muslims. At the same time, the United States, having helped drive the Soviet Union first into penury and ultimately into dissolution, switched its obsession from defeating communists to overcoming Islamists. In Southeast Asia — which only three decades ago was the abattoir in which 58,000 young Americans were killed — our latest round of wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, had the unsurprising effect of alienating the region's Muslims. Even more basic is their view of unremitting U.S. bias toward Israel in the endless Palestinian struggle. In Indonesia, these elements culminated in a series of deadly attacks on Americans; in Malaysia, with a surge of anti-American street protests.

In our 2009 book, The Next Front: Southeast Asia and the Road to Global Peace with Islam, former senator Christopher Bond and I appealed to the then-incoming Obama administration to bring "smart power" to bear in Muslim Southeast Asia — in particular through renewed cultural and educational emphases — as the only feasible alternative to hard, military power. It is beginning: Young men and women, shod not in combat boots but sneakers and sandals, are teaching English to striving Muslims only a few years' their junior. Techies operate giant Liquid Galaxy maps and pass out iPads to high-school visitors at the glittering new America cultural centre in downtown Jakarta. Some Americans, particularly those agitating to further involve U.S. troops in the Libyan fight, will snicker. Personally, I am thrilled.

Built at a cost of $5 million with a projected operating cost of $3 million a year, America was strategically located in one of Jakarta's ubiquitous high-rise shopping malls. As in the U.S., malls are irresistible magnets for Indonesian youths. "The best part of America is its location," U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel told me in an e-mail. "Young people in Indonesia spend their free time in the mall. So, we are going to our audience and sharing with them the best of the United States — our ideas, ideals, ingenuity and diversity. ... We hope that young Indonesians will realise that the U.S. is an open, culturally diverse country, that can be a good partner and friend for Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim majority country."

But the fact that America is located in Pacific Place, already one of the most heavily guarded malls in Jakarta, and that visitors to the new center must undergo body scans, has set some teeth on edge. "Security is extremely important but it should not be at the expense of mutual trust," said Achmad Munjid, president of Nahdlatul Ulama Community in North America, the largest Indonesian-Muslim organization in the USA. "If anything, America is overly and always heavily guarded. What is the message? Where is the trust and friendship?" Also, said Munjid, "the fact that Americans and Muslims, generally speaking, desperately want to convince each other that they are 'nice' tells us more about the haunting suspicion on both sides."

America is the first U.S. cultural centre opened since the 9/11 attacks. In the early 1970s, more than 300 government-run U.S. centres and libraries dotted major cities around the world. Today, there are 39. Jakarta, a booming metropolis of 9.5 million, has been without one since the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, China has opened 320 so-called Confucius Institutes throughout the world, dozens of them in Southeast Asia. Americans have been dropping out of the public diplomacy contest as the Chinese are racing ahead, winning hearts and minds in a part of the world where for centuries they have been anathema.

Welcoming spaces where the United States can toot its own horn to audiences of intrigued but wary Muslims are the narrow end of a new wedge into their resistance. American culture warriors wielding made-in-America technology can make smart power become to Islamist terrorism what containment was to communism: a means of promoting the collapse from within of an inhumane doctrine without risking worldwide war.

—The writer, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is an expert in US-Asian affairs.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

COMING TO THE DEFENCE OF WOMEN IN FORCES

WHAT began as one reprehensible incident at the Australian Defence Force Academy is now a passionate debate about defence force culture.

The abhorrent betrayal of a young woman's trust by fellow cadets always warranted a thorough investigation, but this incident has uncovered deep-seated and widespread concerns about sexism in the defence forces, triggering a range of reviews, actions and inquiries.

Given what is already on the public record, The Australian considers the debate timely and the reviews warranted, so long as they lead to practical improvements. Defence Minister Stephen Smith deserves praise for his strong leadership but even he concedes such reviews are hardly new. Mr Smith's challenge is to turn the talk of cultural change into the reality of a defence forces workplace that is welcoming, safe, rewarding and respectful for women.

As we pointed out last week, ADFA failed to live up to its own value of respecting others in its handling of the so-called Skype-sex scandal. Mr Smith rightly maintains Commander Bruce Kafer seriously erred in judgment by pursuing separate disciplinary action against the young female victim of the sex broadcast, while she was attempting to deal with its repercussions. Against some resistance, Mr Smith has imposed his will on the uniformed hierarchy and the commander, described as a "good officer and good bloke", has been advised to take leave while the issue is properly investigated.

The power struggle between defence ministers and the uniformed leaders often creates tension, yet Mr Smith has judged public expectations well and convinced the military to respond to those standards. Inquiries will now examine ADFA's handling of the Skype-sex case, its treatment of women, conditions for women across the forces, cross-overs between military and civilian law, assessment of more allegations flushed out by the controversy and behavioural issues around alcohol and social media.

If a culture of sexist intimidation exists, it needs to be confronted and eradicated once and for all. Defence faces a challenge recruiting the large numbers of young people it needs and if it cannot provide an attractive career path for women, it will seriously handicap itself. So it is timely that the minister and the defence force chiefs have taken this opportunity to fast-track the movement of women into combat roles, declaring that only physical and intellectual capacity, and not gender, will be assessed in allocating roles in the future. This will help remove any sense of women being the lesser of equals in the forces, but much work needs to be done on the practicalities of implementation.

At what seems like a momentous time for Australia's defence forces, it is appropriate to issue a word of caution. There is a great risk that the numerous reviews, policies and inquiries unveiled yesterday will become bogged down in process. In the end, it is not reviews and processes that will improve defence culture but rather a willingness and expectation that any sexually offensive or intimidatory behaviour will not be tolerated, and will always attract prompt investigation and appropriate penalties, including dismissal. As a priority, any alleged victims must be treated with care and sensitivity.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

PROTECTING SCIENTIFIC EXPERTISE

AUSTRALIANS have reason to feel proud of the nation's leading scientific and medical researchers, whose discoveries have saved lives and improved quality of life for generations around the world.

If the standards set by immunologist Frank Macfarlane Burnet, cervical cancer vaccine developer Ian Frazer and 2005 Nobel laureates Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who discovered the bacteria that causes peptic ulcers, are to be maintained, research must not be short-changed. The prospect of cuts to the National Health and Medical Research Council budget of up to $400 million over three years has alarmed scientists, as has Health Minister Nicola Roxon's prim retort that she has a "difficult message" for them in the budget.

No area of government expenditure should be immune from scrutiny and taxpayers are entitled to expect value for money. The federal deficit must be cut, but the task is all the more difficult because of the billions wasted on poor value stimulus projects. The political problem is that given a choice between pink batts and cancer research, voters would not have to think twice. The government should look for savings in areas other than the NHMRC, which already subjects funding applications to rigorous scrutiny and peer review.

In their quest for the next breakthrough in the fight against cancer, heart disease, schizophrenia, Alzheimers or asthma, institutions run on tight budgets, pay relatively low wages and compete for a limited pool of public and philanthropic funding. Globally, duplication is avoided by scientists working in tandem with their international colleagues on such long-term projects as pinpointing the genes that cause and protect individuals from diseases, including breast cancer. Team leaders at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, the QIMR, the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and other centres and universities know that a substantial cut to the NHMRC's $800m annual funding will drive some of the best researchers and some of our most promising projects overseas, leaving other nations to reap the economic returns of new therapies, vaccines, diagnostic tools and drugs.

Most Australians, whether touched by serious illness or not, would be reluctant to see the research budget cut. For instance, a $400m cutback over three years to the National Broadband Network, which construction companies fear will blow out to $44 billion to build, would have a minimal impact compared with a similar cut to the NHMRC. Contrary to the claims of its proponents, including independent MP Tony Windsor, the NBN, in its Rolls-Royce form, is not essential for isolated Australians to stay in closer contact with their doctors through e-medicine, which was developing years before the NBN was mooted.

For all the high-profile breakthroughs that change lives including Fiona Wood's spray-on skin, Susan Beal's discovery that cot death would be vastly reduced if babies were not wrapped too warmly or allowed to sleep on their tummies and Victor Chang's heart transplant program, many scientific achievements take decades of painstaking work.

Once such expertise is lost, it would take years for Australia to regain its standing in a field where the nation performs well above its weight. Curtailing life-saving projects when other spending cuts are available would be unconscionable.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE HUMAN FACTOR IN DEFENCE

A lot of posturing has developed around the incident at the Australian Defence Force Academy. It continues with the decision of the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, to call a judicial-type inquiry into this case, to hold another inquiry into gender issues within the Defence Force, and to pressure the academy's commandant, Commodore Bruce Kafer, to go on leave.

It's hard to escape the impression that Smith, having leapt too injudiciously into the controversy last week, is digging himself in deeper to cover up his earlier impetuosity - uncharacteristic for a minister previously known for being over-cautious.

Instances of a sexist, abusive ''culture'' in particular military units have already led to inquiries and courts martial. This latest case has brought allegations of even worse incidents and cover-ups going back many years. It is a worthy subject for a wide-ranging inquiry to see how prevalent it is.

Yet that seems to be getting away from what happened at the academy. Two cadets had consensual sex, not illegal but against disciplinary rules. The male cadet had secretly rigged a camera to video the encounter and stream it via the internet to six other males. That was immoral, quite possibly illegal under communications law, and perhaps cause for a civil action by the female cadet. Meanwhile she was facing discipline for absence without leave and alcohol abuse.

The videoing came to light when one of the watchers had misgivings and reported it. Kafer's first response was to call in the ACT police, who could then see no legal offence. Kafer put admonitions on the record of the male cadets. The female cadet then took the issue to a TV show, and became subject to slurs by fellow cadets. Kafer meanwhile went ahead with the disciplinary hearing on the unrelated matters, to which she pleaded guilty. This was perhaps an unwise step, when deferral might have been more sensitive, and it gave rise to Smith's assumption the victim was being punished for speaking out. But making Kafer stand aside looks unfair: this is an officer whose first reaction was to call in the police. It contrasts with the decision to allow the seven male cadets to continue their studies (''We don't jump to conclusions,'' says the Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston).

Whether this illustrates anything about the Defence Force ''culture'' is arguable. These are 18-year-olds, straight from high school, eight weeks into their first year at an institution that is halfway between university and military academy. If anything it shows the culture of teenagers brought up in the internet era.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

POKIES WRAPPED IN THE FLAG

In its latest study, published last June, the Productivity Commission found - after a long examination of the problems of gathering statistics - that between 0.5 and 1 per cent of the adult population are likely to be problem gamblers. In other words, between 80,000 and 160,000 people suffer severe consequences from their gambling habit. Another group - between 240,000 and 350,000 - are at moderate risk from gambling, suffering lesser consequences but in danger of seeing things get worse. These are the people - up to half a million Australians, not counting the members of their families who suffer with them - that the club and pub industry wants the public to believe are not worth helping.

According to the industry's advertising, it would be un-Australian for the government to take any steps - such as a licence - to make individuals limit in advance how much they are prepared to lose each time they start gambling. Problem gamblers lose a lot, particularly on poker machines. The commission estimated - again, with the proviso that estimates of spending on gambling are difficult - that between 22 and 60 per cent of the $10.5 billion spent annually on poker machines comes from problem gamblers alone. Add the moderate-risk group, and the share of the money passing through poker machines from people who find their gambling to some degree harmful and difficult to control rises to between 42 and 75 per cent. With that percentage of poker machine turnover at risk, no wonder the clubs want to stop the federal government helping the addicted.

It is true clubs use poker machine revenue to support many worthwhile activities - particularly to do with sport and recreation - and that those contributions, along with jobs in clubs themselves - would be cut back if revenue fell. It is also true that many more individuals enjoy gambling and can control their indulgence than find it a problem.

Even so, there is much to object to in the clubs' leech-like attitude to vulnerable individuals. There is the fact that Australia has more poker machines per head than any other country. Gambling has also become a big source of state tax revenue - so governments are addicts too. But most objectionable of all is the fake patriotism of the club industry's message. The clubs call the federal government's plans un-Australian - a tarnished term too often used by rogues and shysters to disguise the flaws in their argument. If anything deserves that name though, it would be a campaign founded on a self-interested desire to exploit the weak.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

CYCLISTS SHOULD KNOW WHEN TO STOP

AS MELBOURNE adapts more and more to becoming a city for cyclists - something long equated with our enviable reputation as one of the world's most liveable cities - there are some imperative lessons still to be learnt by those who prefer two wheels to four. One is elementary road etiquette.

As The Age reported yesterday, a survey by the Monash University Accident Research Centre has found Melbourne's cyclists are running red lights at an alarming rate. Hidden cameras placed at 10 city intersections filmed 4225 cyclists, almost 7 per cent of whom ignored the red lights; at one intersection, 13 per cent went through the light.

These statistics, while disturbing, are hardly surprising to the many people - behind a wheel or on foot - who share public roads with cyclists. Of course, there are as many law-observing cyclists as there are drivers or pedestrians; conversely, however, this means there is also a rogue element whose flagrant breaching of the rules taints the guilty and innocent alike. In the case of cyclists, such cavalier behaviour only feeds the already strong negative attitude in which they are held by some drivers.

It should be remembered that red lights - let alone the rules that govern the direction of one-way streets or the provision of footpaths for feet only: areas that some cyclists regard as their territory - are there for good reason. Compliance means safety; ignorance poses potential risk to life and limb. Cyclists are not exempt. This is all the more critical because of the continuing growth of pedal power. More than a million bicycles are sold in Australia each year, and bikes have steadily outsold cars for many years.

There is strong argument that Victorian roads have not been safe for cyclists - each year, an average of nine are killed and almost 500 seriously injured - but changes are happening to ensure Melbourne is becoming, like Copenhagen or Amsterdam, a bicycle-friendly environment.

But with such privileges there must also be inherent responsibility: no self-respecting Dutch or Danish cyclist would sail through a red light; it is part of their heritage to abide by the rules.

In Melbourne, cyclists can be fined $299 for running red lights. There might be some sense in increasing this, but, like most road regulations, it can never be thoroughly policed. Likewise, the notion of registering bicycles and licensing cyclists would create extra bureaucracy.

The solution rests with the riders, who should realise that responsibility starts with them.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

BEWARE FALSE SAVINGS IN MEDICAL RESEARCH

'SELF-EVIDENTLY, health and medical research can save on healthcare costs,'' states a 2010 report for Research Australia on ''the evidence for exceptional returns'' on investment in health and medical research.

The World Health Organisation concludes ''overwhelming'' evidence shows such investment lifts productivity and economic growth. Only a short-sighted government would cut such valuable funding, but the Gillard government has made no effort to deny reports it plans to do just that.

A cut of $400 million over four years is widely reported to be in the May 10 federal budget. A more far-sighted way of balancing the books would be to tackle much costlier bad policy such as fringe-benefit tax incentives to use company cars - a flat rate per kilometre could save $1 billion over four years - and restore fuel excise indexation, recouping billions. Both measures would serve the policy purpose of reducing wasteful fossil fuel use. Some might say one can expect protests from self-interested researchers who rely on National Health and Medical Research Council grants of $750 million. Research bodies say a $100 million-a-year cut, or about 13 per cent, will lead to at least 1000 job losses and fewer, smaller research grants, with applicants' success rate blowing out from less than one in four last year to one in 10.

Greater uncertainty about funding and positions will again trigger a brain drain to better-supported research in countries such as the US and Britain, which in the past have welcomed our best and brightest, including Nobel laureates Elizabeth Blackburn and Peter Doherty. The government is making a grave error if it treats research as a soft target simply because it believes voters will accept cuts in this area. Even though the US and Britain face much more urgent budget cuts, their governments have sought to spare medical research.

Any research funding cuts are a false saving. Although $400 million is barely 0.1 per cent of Commonwealth expenditure, the multiplier effect of investment in medical research means the costs of such a cut will run into billions. As The Age reports today, research funding pays off in countless ways by producing drugs, treatments, therapies and management policies that improve public health and cut care costs. Many applications and products of medical research also are of immense commercial value to Australia, provided it holds the rights. As Professor Doherty writes: ''Lose the scientists and you lose the discoveries and the investment benefits that follow.''

A 2008 Access Economic study found that every dollar invested in Australian health research earned a return of $2.17 on average, with some research returning much more. Australian research is highly productive in this regard.

Health research spending is estimated to be 1.1 per cent of global expenditure, but produces about 3 per cent of world health returns. Australia's research legacy includes: Aspro; the heart pacemaker; lithium treatment for bipolar disorder (a 1994 US study calculated this saved $145 billion in hospitalisation costs); in vitro fertilisation; the bionic ear, or cochlear implant; Relenza, the first anti-flu drug; spray-on skin; the discovery that bacteria cause stomach ulcers and gastritis, revolutionising treatment; and Gardacil, the first vaccine for cervical cancer, which has a $63 million a year return on annual costs of $8.5 million.

Rich countries invest heavily in health research not just because they can but because their wealth depends on it.

Everyone is affected by this research, as doctors draw directly on its products and findings in all aspects of medical practice: preventive health, medication, hospital treatment and chronic disease management. Australian medical research is ''right up there with the very best in the world'', observes the 2010 Prime Minister's Science Prize winner John Shine, and this country is both healthier and wealthier because of it. Only a dumb country would put that legacy at risk.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

BANKING: BIG BRAINS, SMALL IDEAS

The question raised by the commission's report is whether stiffening simple rules can tame more complex financial beasts

The prototype banker was a smith, who kept gold bars safe and wrote promissory notes on the strength of them. In his long lost world, it would have been easy enough to set prudential rules about how many notes he could pen for each bit of bullion. The question raised by Monday's report by the Independent Commission on Banking is whether stiffening simple rules can tame today's more complex financial beasts.

The distinguished panel headed by Oxford economist Sir John Vickers said it wanted to reduce the temptation for banks to take risks, to improve their ability to absorb them, and to make it easier to clear up the mess when things nonetheless go wrong. The stress was on crisis prevention, and three years after the financial world stopped turning the exercise could be likened to installing fire sprinklers in a building that has already burned down. But the sad truth is that it is imperative to act now to avert another crunch. The scandal of institutions that were too big to fail would be as nothing compared with the catastrophe we'd be in next time, with huge pre-existing public debts that would render some banks too big to rescue.

It is a mark of the calibre of the commission that it felt no need to proclaim its recommendations radical, as most reports nowadays do. Instead, they straightforwardly proposed a mixed menu of "moderate measures" which they hope will combine to check the City's reckless ways without destroying its competitiveness. Attention was grabbed by the suggestion of forcing financiers to split casino and day-to-day operations into different divisions, a pale imitation of the outright split into different companies which the US imposed in the depth of the Great Depression and which Vince Cable had demanded at the peak of the crunch.

Having shrunk from going the whole hog, the commission seemed doubtful about the difference it could truly make here. It is "mindful of regulatory arbitrage possibilities at the boundary", which translates into English as an acknowledgment that financial professionals who make a handsome living from wriggling around rules and taxes will soon enough find the means to connect notionally separate divisions. This pessimistic note is in keeping with the previous scribblings of one commissioner, the Financial Times journalist Martin Wolf, who has warned of the huge difficulties of policing any boundary between retail and investment activities, and also questioned the point. The crisis, after all, has revealed that the taxpayer is effectively obliged to rescue all manner of things that fall on the wild side of the border, including corporations such as Lehman Brothers, which never took retail deposits. Aside from some significant but tangential suggestions for curbing the power of HBOS on the high street, the meaty recommendations were for higher capital requirements. These could have made a difference last time around, by forcing banks to underwrite more gambling with resources of their own. But there was a touch of naivety in the recommendation that for non-retail banking, the requirements need never exceed international standards. With the threat of unilateralism removed, the banks would be emboldened to work with their counterparts overseas to frustrate multilateralism.

The more general sense is that the "moderate measures" are not commensurate with the scale of what went before – an inevitable effect, perhaps, of the terms the chancellor set. An irresponsible sector beset by conflicted interest is now more certain than ever that the taxpayer stands behind it. There is still no onus on anyone devising new gambles to explain what good these are supposed to do, even though the top regulator, Adair Turner, has said many are "socially useless". And there is still no thought about how the state might use banks that it unexpectedly acquired for the common good. Big as the commission's brains are, all these questions must await another day.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IVORY COAST: FALL OF A DESPOT

The capture of Laurent Gbagbo has lifted a threat to millions of Ivorians and the wider region - and now he should stand trial

There will be some relief today that a foreign intervention has gone right, for once. The French military spokesman in Abidjan denied reports that Laurent Gbagbo had been captured by French special forces. Not one French soldier had gone into the residence in which Gbagbo had been arrested, Commander Frederic Daguillon insisted. But the matter was decided by a column of 30 French armoured vehicles. And the fact is that had the French and the UN not been stung into action by attacks on their headquarters, the Golf Hotel – where Alassane Ouattara and his government in waiting were holed up – and also the residence of the French ambassador, a civil war would still be raging.

Until the assault, Gbagbo's men had been gaining ground. They recaptured the television station and attacked civilians in the Adjamé and Attécoubé neighbourhoods of the city, which contain many opposition supporters. There was a real risk of a repeat of the ethnic slaughter that took place recently in Duékoué. French forces may want to disguise the role they played, but the result of the assault is welcome. A strongman who defied the outcome of a fair election, who rejected numerous offers of safe passage out of the country, and who had plunged it back into a civil war, has been captured alive. This is important for several reasons.

Gbagbo's refusal to go was a threat not only to millions of his own countrymen but to the region as a whole. The election in November was already five years late and the result of a series of compromises with the rebels in the north. There was no doubt that he lost the runoff nor that his militias resorted to gang warfare, abductions and rape to enforce his unwelcome stay. The terror was premeditated. Hundreds died before northerners decided to settle matters militarily. Eleven other elections are due to be held this year in Africa, not least in Nigeria. After three successive flawed elections, ethnic violence may yet undermine Nigeria's fourth attempt. It is essential that elections mean what they say and that the collective will of regional groups like the Economic Community of West African States is enforced. This may be the only way to break the link between elections and civil disorder.

But it is also important that Gbagbo should now stand trial. The worse his militias behaved, the more it is incumbent on the rightful government to re-establish the rule of law. This did not happen in Duékoué, and, as Human Rights Watch has urged, Mr Outtara will have to investigate and prosecute abuses by both sides, and especially his own, if peace is ever to be established in this country.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … YURI GAGARIN

Editorial: The first human to travel in space remains an inspiration 50 years after Vostok's perilous launch into orbit

It is difficult for heroes to remain untarnished, still less Soviet ones, but on the 50th anniversary of the first human travel in space, such a fate is reserved for Yuri Gagarin. The 108-minute flight itself very nearly ended in disaster. The hatch had to be taken apart to mend a faulty sensor shortly before takeoff; the combined weight of Gagarin, his spacesuit and chair was 30lbs over the limit and part of Vostok's internal apparatus had to be dumped; he was blasted into a higher than intended orbit when one of the engines failed to cut out; his capsule went into a dangerous spin on re-entry and he was subjected to a G-force that increased his body weight tenfold; after which he had to bail out, landing in a ploughed field 200 miles off course. But walk away from it he did, and into history. If, in Moscow, he got the acclaim reserved for war heroes (his childhood city of Gzhatsk was renamed after him), the reception he got in London in 1961, in an open silver Rolls-Royce with a special issue licence plate "YG-1", was no less rapturous. He symbolised the future. He embodied the illusion that the Soviet Union was outperforming the west, and launched the 1960s as a decade of space travel, which ended when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. One year earlier Gagarin died in a plane crash. He could not have thought that when he said "off we go" on the launch pad that he personally would have touched so many people's lives. He still inspires today and deserves his place among the world's great explorers.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

RECONSTRUCTION AFTER THE DISASTER

A month has passed since the massive quake and tsunami on March 11 devastated the pacific coastal area of the Tohoku region. Some 13,000 people perished and about 14,500 people are missing. Some 148,000 evacuees remain at temporary shelters. It is unlikely that the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant will end in the foreseeable future.

The Japanese government and citizens need to consider what they should and can do to help and give hope to people who have lost their loved ones, lost jobs, businesses and homes, or have seen their communities destroyed. The hardships of the people who evacuated their communities because of the nuclear accident, or those who have chosen to stay despite the crisis, should not be forgotten, either.

It is understandable that the thought of the hardships suffered by the victims of the disasters is putting a damper on festive activities and keeping everyone in a pensive mood. It is reasonable that given the power shortage caused by the nuclear crisis, people economize on the use of electricity. The latter must be continued. But too much restraint in daily activities that leads to curtailment on consumption will have an undesirable effect on the economy. This would then negatively impact the local economies of the region hit by the quake and tsunami.

People in the affected region would rather see their fellow citizens cheerful and happy, which would help brighten their hearts and restore hope. It's important that people outside the disaster area lead normal lives (except that they continue curbing power consumption) while continuing to help the victims by giving financial or material support to people or organizations engaged in relief activities in northeastern Japan. If products are identified as coming from the devastated areas, people will buy them, thus helping producers in the region.

The central government and Tepco should wholeheartedly tackle the task of mitigating the crisis at Fukushima No. 1. They should stop pretending that the crisis can be managed easily. They should open their eyes and minds to get the necessary help from a wide range of experts and organizations, whether they are Japanese or non-Japanese.

Providing accurate information about the Fukushima No. 1 crisis to the public is indispensable. The government should give accurate information on the accumulated radiation levels at various points. It also should not hesitate to simulate the spread of radioactive substances and their radiation levels in various critical situations that could develop at the plant and make the simulation results public. People would be better prepared if they are informed about what they should do and what the government will do during each situation.

The Nuclear Safety Commission refuses to carry out simulations, saying that its monitoring posts near Fukushima No. 1 have been destroyed. This sounds like an excuse. If the monitoring posts have been destroyed, why not set up new ones?

The Meteorological Agency should provide information on wind direction and velocity to people both near and far from the plant. If anemometers around Fukushima No. 1 were destroyed, the agency should repair them or install new ones.

The nuclear crisis will force the government and the power industry to drastically review the nation's nuclear power policy. Pushing further energy conservation, especially electric power, is inevitable. At the very least a thorough examination of Japan's nuclear power plants should be carried out. The government and the power industry should have the courage to shut down a nuclear power plant that is standing on a vulnerable location where a large quake is expected.

They also should immediately start a project to build enough stations to convert the frequency of electricity from 50 hertz to 60 hertz and vice versa so that power companies in western and eastern Japan can deliver electricity to each other in the case of a major natural disaster like the March 11 quake and tsunami. The current restrictive market structure of the power industry should be reformed so that renewable power sources as well as newcomers to traditional power generation can flourish, thus strengthening Japan's resilience in a power supply crisis.

The biggest task for the government is to reconstruct the devastated region. Merely restoring communities may not be appropriate because they may be destroyed again by a large tsunami. A completely new approach will be required to build new communities and production bases. Japan should embark on the challenging task of building a new society that can ensure the well-being of people by lessening the reliance on mass production and mass consumption.

The efforts to reconstruct the devastated region should be used as a chance to make all of Japan resilient to disasters. The current trend of concentrating adminstrative and business functions in Tokyo should be changed.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

REFIGURE A WAY TO RENEW JAPANESE SOCIETY

BY MICHAEL SUTTON

SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES

In the wake of the catastrophic tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster in Tohoku, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has bowed to pressure and terminated an increase in the child allowance program from ¥13,000 to ¥20,000 per month for children under 3.

The current monthly payment of ¥13,000 for children through the third year of junior high school will be extended temporarily for six months.

This decision raises more questions than answers at a time of national uncertainty. What are the implications of this for Japan? How will Japan reverse its declining birthrate and manage a rapidly aging society?

The natural disasters in Tohoku are appropriate justifications for the bill to be revisited at a more opportune time. Since opposition parties were against the bill before March 11, the demise of the original bill cannot be viewed as being entirely in the "national" interest.

Even though terrible events have become government priorities, the failure of the DPJ to remain committed to one of its most coveted policies — the child allowance — will erode public confidence in future promises. The essential problem is that this recent change creates further uncertainty. The opposition parties controlling the Upper House opposed the increase in the allowance, which is distributed irrespective of income levels, and how it was to be funded.

There was also opposition from local officials unwilling to fund a program that the government promised in 2009 would be entirely funded at the national level. Since 2009, the government has scaled back the payment from the promised ¥26,000 per month to ¥13,000 per month effective from April 2010. The termination of the current bill was replaced by a six-month extension of the current policy beginning April 1. How many further changes will occur in coming months?

Despite a low fertility rate since 1974, it is clear that, even in 2011, there is no national consensus on the policies necessary to arrest, mitigate or reverse low fertility and manage the costs of an aging society. This is deeply troubling, not only for Japan but also for other East Asian countries where demographic dynamics are following a similar path.

As the challenges of an aging society go beyond party politics, policies should enjoy bipartisan support regardless of who is in power. This does not necessarily mean a return to, or a revitalization of, pronatal policies. The efficacy of these policy instruments is unclear.

While viewed as a means to raise the birthrate, the child allowance program's generous extensions under the DPJ were revised versions of policies implemented by previous governments. Whatever the actual amount, it remains to be seen whether this policy is capable of stimulating a fertility revolution to the extent necessary to return the birthrate to less anxious levels.

The proposal to merge day-care centers and kindergartens to create the kodomo-en is another plank of this flawed pronatal agenda. It is unlikely to survive in its current form. Enthusiasm in some quarters for the adoption of a "work-life balance," "gender equality" and immigration openness in Japan will likely meet similar obstacles.

Since few options remain, the very notion of demographic renewal should be revisited. Japan's demographic rethink could take advantage of the new climate in bipartisanship. Any "grand coalition" could be extended beyond reconstruction to aid in reaching a unanimous agreement on a new policy for demographic renewal.

After almost 40 years of low fertility, and decades of failed policies, a new approach can only be positive. Expecting a consensus to emerge is ambitious, but not impossible and would be in Japan's national interest.

Michael Sutton, Ph.D., is a research fellow at the WTO Research Center in Tokyo (eastasiandemography@gmail.com).

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR SUSTAINING GROWTH

BY JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ AND OTHERS

BEIJING — In March, at a meeting in Beijing organized by Columbia University's Initiative for Policy Dialogue and China's Central University of Finance and Economics, scholars and policymakers discussed how to reform the international monetary system. After all, even if the system did not directly cause the recent imbalances and instability in the global economy, it proved ineffective in addressing them.

Reform will, of course, require extensive discussion and deliberation. But the consensus in Beijing was that the Group of 20 should adopt a modest proposal this year: a limited expansion of the International Monetary Fund's current system of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). This proposal, while limited in scope, could play an important role in initiating discussion of deeper reforms while helping to restore the fragile world economy to health and achieve the aim expressed in the G20's Pittsburgh declaration: strong, sustainable and balanced growth.

We suggest that SDRs' role be expanded through new issues and by increasing their use in IMF lending. Doing so would build on the enlightened suggestion made at the G20's London meeting in April 2009 to issue SDRs equivalent to $250 billion, which was then quickly implemented. The G20 could suggest that the IMF issue a significant volume of SDRs over the next three years. We would suggest, for example, an issue of SDR150-250 billion annually (approximately $240-$390 billion at current exchange rates).

Such a measure would have several positive effects. First, it would reduce the recessionary bias in the world economy, especially during crises and in their aftermath. Many countries continue to accumulate high levels of precautionary reserves, especially to avoid future crises stemming from reversals on their capital and trade accounts. Recent financial crises have taught countries that those with large reserves are better able to weather the vicissitudes of international financial markets.

While such reserve accumulations help protect countries, in certain periods they reduce global aggregate demand. Given its relatively small scale, the annual issue of SDRs would only partly offset these deficiencies, but it would nonetheless help sustain and accelerate global recovery without causing inflationary pressure.

Ideally, additional issuance of SDRs would be accompanied by further measures to increase their effectiveness. For example, countries' unused SDRs could be held as "deposits" by the IMF, which the Fund could then use to finance its lending programs. This should be understood as the first step toward integrating "general resource" and "SDR" accounts into a single IMF account, and to increase the SDR's role in IMF transactions so that it eventually becomes the main mechanism for IMF financing. During a declared crisis, IMF lending should be financed entirely by new SDR issues in unlimited amounts.

A working group could be established to study other reforms that would enhance global financial stability further and address other global economic and financial objectives. For example, alternative systems of SDR allocation, with a greater proportion of SDRs given to countries actually demanding the reserves, might contribute to global growth and stability. One advantage of this modest proposal is that it would not prejudice the outcomes of the working group on broader reforms, like new distribution formulas for SDRs. The issuance of additional SDRs, while contributing to global stability today, would not alter in any fundamental way existing monetary arrangements.

The G20 showed its effectiveness in responding to the crisis that erupted in 2008. The question today is whether, with the moment of crisis passing and countries' circumstances and perspectives diverging, the G20 can demonstrate the leadership the world needs in addressing its ongoing critical problems. A failure to take concrete action would risk breeding disillusionment.

Our proposal would reaffirm the G20's continued leadership in ensuring greater stability and sustained growth in the world economy.

Jean-Paul Fitoussi, Sciences Po and Luiss University; Haihong Gao, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Stephany Griffith-Jones, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University; Yiping Huang, Peking University; Peter Kenen, Princeton University; Jing Li, Capital University of Economics and Trade, Beijing; Jose Antonio Ocampo, Columbia University, former finance minister of Colombia; Yaga Venugopal Reddy, former governor, Reserve Bank of India; Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize in Economics (2001), Columbia University; Ulrich Volz, German Development Institute; Robert Wade, London School of Economics; Benhua Wei, former China director of IMF, deputy governor of SAFE; John Williamson, Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington D.C.; Wing Thye Woo, University of California at Davis; Geng Xiao, Director, Columbia Global Center for East Asia; Yu Yongding, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Liqing Zhang, Dean, School of Finance, Central University of Economics and Finance; Andong Zhu, Tsinghua University. © 2011 Project Syndicate

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

TO WHOM DO THEY LISTEN?

It has been disappointing — and at the same time embarrassing — to see the ongoing controversy surrounding the House of Representatives  leadership's persistence in proceeding with the planned construction of the Rp 1.16 trillion (US$118 million) new office tower despite strong objections from various circles in society, including "an appeal" from the country's top executive, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to reevaluate the project.

The reluctance of the House leadership — symbolized by House Speaker Marzuki Alie — to listen to the voices of the masses is unbelievable and against the true spirit of representation in the country's political system.

The planned construction of the new House building has been controversial since the very beginning.

After it was thrice proposed and rejected during the previous 2004-2009 term of the House and Yudhoyono's presidency, the plan was reintroduced last year only to face another round of opposition from the public. But, only recently, the House leadership announced they would go ahead with the construction project in June, only with a compromise that they would reduce the initial estimated cost of the project to Rp 1.8 trillion.

A statement by Marzuki, which ignored comments from ordinary people who had aired their disagreement with the project by arguing that they knew nothing about the improvement of state systems and infrastructure and that they were only concerned about their stomachs, jobs and shelter, was indeed an insult to Indonesian people in general. His statement neglected the people's constitutional rights of freedom of opinion and expression and their demand for transparent and democratic decision-making processes in the country's top legislative body.

Only a few hours prior to Marzuki's public remarks on Thursday, President Yudhoyono called for a reevaluation of the plan as it might be a waste of state funds. The House speaker's statement of assurance that  House leaders would carry on with the new building construction is therefore an insult to the executive branch of government, especially because the project would be funded completely by the State Budget, the approval and supervision of which falls under the government's (i.e. the Finance Ministry's) jurisdiction.

Now that the House leadership remains firm with their initial plan, there have been increasing motions from various groups of Indonesians from different professions and activities demanding that the project be halted. A group of intellectuals and senior architects issued a joint communiqué in Semarang, Central Java, on Sunday opposing the House building construction.

Meanwhile, a poll meant to oppose and reject the building construction has been conducted online, with the number of people clicking their support for the cause continuously increasing.

The opposition to the project gained momentum on Monday when a group of people under a Civil Society Organization (CSO) coalition filed a civil lawsuit with Central Jakarta District Court against 13 top government and legislative officials in the country, including President Yudhoyono, House Speaker Marzuki, Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo and heads of the House factions.

All the motions against the House building construction are grave evidence of the general public's disagreement with the project, and daily updates of more and more people joining the cause are valid grounds for House leadership to reconsider the project.

The more stubborn the House leadership is, the more people will express their disagreement with the project. The choice lies with the House.

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THE JAKARTA POST

INTEGRATED EFFORT TO RESTORE CITARUM

WAHYUNINGRAT

Where does our capital city's water supply actually come from? About 80 percent of Jakarta's water comes from the Citarum River. The river's current condition is critical, urgently requiring special attention from many sectors.  

There are 13 rivers criss-crossing Jakarta that mostly originate from three main rivers: the Citarum, Ciliwung and Cisadane. Despite its poor water quality, the Citarum has become the most important river due to its role as a supplier of Jakarta's water for drinking, cooking and daily sanitary activities.

Groundwater is another source, but pumping water from the ground has its difficulties because it can cause land subsidence.

The Citarum River is one of the largest rivers on Java, and is the largest and longest river in West Java.

It has a strategic function as the backbone of the water supply for the capital. Citarum's catchment area is 6,614 square kilometers, or 22 percent of the area of West Java.

The river originates from Wayang Mountain in the southern part of Bandung and travels north for about 350 kilometers until it reaches the Java Sea. It serves a population of 25 million (15 million in West Java and 10 million in Jakarta).

The total population living along the river is 15,303,758 (BPS, 2009) with half residing in urban areas.

The Citarum is the source of drinking water for Bandung, Cimahi, Cianjur, Purwakarta, Bekasi, Karawang and 80 percent of Jakarta. It is the most densely populated river basin in West Java.

Given its function, Citarum is categorized as a super priority river. It crosses the borders of Banten, Jakarta and West Java provinces. Its basin covers an area totaling 12,000 square kilometers and spans 13 administrative regions

The Citarum also plays an important role in supplying electricity. There are three hydroelectric
dams located on the upper section of the river's basin (PLTA Saguling, PLTA Cirata and PLTA Ir. H. Djuanda, or better known as PLTA Jatiluhur) producing a total of 1,400 megawatts of power. So, the river is a primary source of electricity for Java and Bali.

The river also supports the country's food production, as it irrigates 400,000 hectares of agricultural land that produces over 5 percent of the nation's rice stocks.

With almost 40 million people depending on it, the Citarum is the most important river basin in West Java. But today the river is in peril. Economic development and population growth have harmed the Citarum's health.

The deforestation of the water catchment areas is destroying the ecosystem and causing erosion, landslides and floods. Cities, communities and industries along the river's course treat it as a convenient sewer to dump untreated wastewater and domestic garbage.

Sadly, the Citarum is known as one of the world's dirtiest rivers. And, international and local media have put the river under the spotlight. The International Herald Tribune in its Dec. 5, 2008, edition wrote "Citarum, The World Dirtiest River" and The Sun in its Dec. 4, 2009, edition called Citarum "The Dirtiest River".

The national newspaper Kompas wrote "Citarum Sungai Limbah" (Citarum, a river full of waste) in
its Nov. 25, 2009, issue. The Jakarta Post on Nov. 12, 2009, wrote, "Key River Suffers Upstream, Downstream Pollution".

Lately, several international television broadcasts have also featured Citarum's conditions. "Asia Brief: Citarum Clean Up Pollutant," (Al Jazeera, Aug. 10, 2009), "CNN Ecosolution: Finding a cure for Indonesia's sick river (CNN, March 30, 2010) and "101 East — Indonesia's water woes" (Al Jazeera, Aug. 30, 2010) are among the sad stories.

The Directorate of Water Resources and Irrigation at the National Development Planning Agency, which is coordinating efforts to clean up the river, said the Citarum presented a myriad of problems (Asiaviews, February 2010).

The depletion of protected forest areas, the slashing of trees and land conversion have all led to erosion upstream and subsequent flooding.

Further down the river, waste from cattle produces 190 tons of sewage per day that can potentially contaminate the water.

Many of the factories in the area also blatantly pollute the river, causing fish deaths and people to suffer skin rashes.

Heavily populated areas along the riverbank contribute to the mounting garbage in the river, in which the same people also wash their clothes, bathe and defecate.

Then comes integrated water resources management (IWRM). It brings a new paradigm that integrates various sectors, environmental management and individuals.

This concept takes a bottom-up approach and supports multi-sector and multi-disciplinary resource management (WVLC, 2009).

Agenda 21 of the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 recognized the importance of integrated water resources management in multiple sectors in national social and economic frameworks.

Indonesia adopted the concept under Law No. 7/2004 on water resources and enforced it to try and resolve the Citarum's problems.

In 2007, the government formed the Integrated Citarum Water Resources Management Investment Program (ICWRMIP), a roadmap approach for an incremental development program along Citarum's river basin.

However, the implementation of this roadmap is challenging. It relies on the full commitment of every sector so it is impossible to cope with downstream problems without addressing problems upstream. It is also unlikely to conduct a restoration program in one district without taking care of neighboring districts.

The preservation of Jakarta's Citarum River requires the participation of all stakeholders, including the local community and the private sector.


The writer is a consultant at the Citarum roadmap unit at the National Development Planning Agency. The views expressed are his own.

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THE JAKARTA POST

WHY GEOTHERMAL IPPS HAVE YET TO SUCCEED IN INDONESIA

MONTY GIRIANNA

It is expected it will cost US$3 million per megawatt (MW) to develop geothermal fields in Java and Bali, while those on the outer islands would cost $3.5 million per megawatt.

Nearly 1,000MW, scattered from east to west Indonesia, are currently being developed to be commissioned in early 2014.

These projects are being undertaken by state-owned companies or their subsidiaries, and are thus still within the ambit of the government i.e., public investments.

The debt financing for these projects, from multi- and bilateral development finance institutions, has either been secured or the loans are currently being appraised.

In addition to this, 13 fields with a combined capacity to produce up to 1,000MW have been identified and can be commissioned by 2015.

The Geothermal Area concessions for these sites, mostly greenfields owned by local governments, have been obtained by a private company and price negotiations either for production of steam for PLN or for electricity are underway.  The estimated financing required from private finance institutions is around $3.7 billion.

Depite the 2,000MW commissioned before 2015, the pace of greenfield development is not fast enough to contribute to the electricity supply portfolio.

The government has continueously made considerable efforts to accelerate the development of greenfields by working to attract more investors from the private sector — independent power producers (IPP) — to bring in new technology, efficiency and capital.

However, these efforts have not produced any measurable level of success for two reasons.

The first is a perceived high risk of resource exploration because of a lack of adequate data, and the second is because of the absence of a bankable Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the electricity recipient (PLN).

The current data on geothermal energy in Indonesia is insufficient. The power production capacity of greenfield concession areas cannot be determined, and this has a tendency to make any form of investment in such fields uncertain, unless some form of guaranteed return is assured.

Defining the electricity price at an early stage of the transaction, i.e. during the concession tender, based primarily on preliminary data, constitutes a substantial risk to developers and leads to pricing for a worst case scenarios.

"PLN might be perceived as facing financial difficulties, hampering its ability to pay for electricity purchases."

This lack of adequacy of data stems from a structural difficulty where local governments owning geothermal resources lack sufficient funds and technical capabilities to assess them.

The absence of a bankable PPA with PLN, on the other hand, is a result of many factors. The inability of geothermal power proponents to commit to a volume and price is a major factor.

Second is a complication arising from various rules and regulations on how PLN should appropriately price its PPAs — electricity rates. Third, there are political difficulties in getting more subsidies that may be required for geothermal PPAs. Based on today's prices, there is a cost differential between  coal-fired power plants and  geothermal power plants.

To address these, the government has allocated $120 million this year to assist local governments with
the cost of exploration. The government plans to increase the budget for exploration and is currently improving the implementation mechanism for a geothermal resource risk-sharing fund.

An assessment is also being made to see whether this fund only fits small-to-medium-scale developments.

A new pricing regulation has recently been put in place. This is intended to impose on PLN, under certain conditions, obligations to purchase electricity for a price determined by the outcome of a concession-bidding process for geothermal fields.

Thus, for new projects the rate will be fixed at a price proposed in the bidding documents of the successful bidder, subject to a cap of 9.7 US cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) computed at the point of power transmission.

For projects awarded licenses before the new regulation, the rate will remain fixed at the price proposed in the bid documents of the successful bidder.

However, if that rate is higher than the cap, PLN and the developers must renegotiate the price
with reference to PLN's own estimated rate as contemplated in its internal bidding manual for electricity procurement.

Such negotiations might take some time and there would likely need to be strong justification for agreeing on a new rate that is substantially above PLN's own estimated rate.

Funding that will be required to support these investments will depend on the actual cost of development of the greenfields.

Based on the projected capacities of 5.6 GW in five to 10 years, geothermal needs at least $19.1 billion.

Assuming 70 percent debt financing, the debt funding required will reach $13.4 billion. Although this is a high figure, the annual requirements seem to be manageable. With single borrowing limits of up to $600 million, the large local banks  can provide the required debt financing.

While debt financing, assuming that projects are viable, might be less of a problem, the equity financing required, more than $5.7 billion, is really a challenging task.

Even if it is assumed that 50 percent of this would come from local sources, attracting $2.9 billion
in foreign investment in private equity for geothermal is going to be  difficult.

Moreover, from the perspective of private investors or project lenders, PLN might be perceived as
facing financial difficulties, hampering its ability to pay for electricity purchases.

Albeit the government guarantee of the creditworthiness of PLN, investors and project lenders typically seek additional means to mitigate this payment risk.

So that there can be more IPPs, there needs to be adequate geothermal data to support the tender process and PPA pricing must be sufficiently fulfilled.

In addition to this, PPA heads of terms have to presume off-taker payment risk mitigation, notwithstanding the availability of off-taker creditworthiness guarantees.

With all these in place, we can bring geothermal private IPPs into the national (renewable) power sector. Other than a contingent liability of the government, there is no need for the government to allocate huge public funds up front.


The writer is the director of the energy, mineral resources and mining division of the National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS). The views expressed are his own.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

PEOPLE POWER TO END CORRUPTION

It is an open secret that rampant bribery and corruption, the plundering of state resources and the extravagant lifestyles of our political leaders are diluting if not polluting Sri Lanka's 2,500 year-old culture. Often we read or hear of instances where little or nothing is done in most public institutions when complaints are made of money having to be paid under-the -table to get a job done. The millions needed to upkeep the country's jumbo cabinet, and the inflated delegations, which accompany VIPs on foreign trips, are a waste of people's money and of little or no benefit to the country.

Recently the shocking disclosure by a deputy minister in parliament provided an insight or another dimension of corruption, which is assuming monstrous proportions in Sri Lanka. He said a staggering Rs.411.87 million had been spent to construct a four-kilometre stretch of road along the Maha Oya-Chenkalady highway. Among others too numerous to mention, the latest is the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) scam. The SLC which at one time was one of the richest private institutions is now faced with empty coffers. According to media reports the SLC owes a massive Rs.4.5 billion to suppliers during the cricket World Cup and if this is not enough at least Rs.47 million in ticket sales are not accounted for. That was probably why former Sports Minister C.B. Ratnayake described the unelected SLC as one of the most corrupt institutions. How can we stem this rot or the cancer that is eating into nearly every segment of our society? Media keep reporting it, several have complained about it but the caravan of corruption moves on though the watch dogs keep on barking.

Against this backdrop we have the news of a death fast, by a 78-year-old Indian social activist and a Mahatma Gandhi devotee Anna Hazare, against corruption in that country. The movement, gathered momentum with hundreds of thousands including men, women and children from all walks of life joining Mr. Hazare in conveying a strong message to the government that enough is enough and corruption, which has plagued the Manmohan Singh-led Congress administration, must stop and stop now. Mr. Hazare ended the fast after four days when the Indian government agreed to accede to his demands. His main demand was that members of civil society sit on a committee that would draft an ombudsman or Lokpal Bill, which would give teeth to anti-corruption laws enabling the prosecution of politicians including ministers and public officials. A sewing shop worker making his way to the protest on crutches said he was a poor man but came to show that this is not a fight of one man but there are thousands standing right behind him for an end to corruption and for a more equitable distribution of the country's wealth and resources. In recent years India has been riddled with allegations of corruption in high places, the latest being that of the 2G telecom scam, which forced government minister A. Raja – a member of the Congress ally, DMK to resign.

It is high time that Sri Lankans too stood up against corruption and compelled the government to work for the welfare of the people without just mouthing empty words. It's time we thought of and spoke of a people-centered democracy where people have a say in governance instead of a government-centered democracy where a group of politicians enjoy all possible perks paid for by the people and are unanswerable or unaccountable to none but themselves. If corruption, plunder and extravagance are ended and the billions thus saved diverted through proper channels to development projects then Sri Lanka can be transformed not only into a hub or wonder of Asia but also into a genuine participatory democracy instead of merely a representative democracy.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

LAST ACT IN THE MIDEAST!

ANDREW J BACEVICH

Ever since Britain and France set out to dismember the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago, the West has been engaged in an incoherent, haphazard, episodic, but more or less relentless effort to impose its will on the Middle East.

Methods have varied. Sometimes the "infidels" have employed overt force. At other times they have relied on covert means, worked through proxies, or recruited local puppets.The purposes offered to justify Western exertions have likewise varied. With empire falling into disfavour, the pursuit of imperial aims has required conceptual creativity. Since 1945 resistance to communist subversion, a professed antipathy for brutal dictators, support for international law, and an enthusiasm for spreading freedom have all been pressed into service (albeit selectively) to legitimize outside intervention. Today's "responsibility to protect" extends this tradition, offering the latest high-minded raison d'être for encroaching on the sovereignty of Middle Eastern states whenever the locals behave in ways that raise Western ire.

During the Eisenhower and Kennedy eras, Americans hesitated to become too deeply involved in places that seemingly offered little but grief. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s — not so incidentally, decades when the US became highly dependent on imported oil — that ambivalence diminished. With the promulgation of the Carter doctrine in 1980, it disappeared altogether and the American instinct for activism kicked into high gear.

The results? As with the British, so with the Americans: an endless series of plots, alarms, excursions, and interventions ensued. Indeed, to combine first British and then American efforts to pacify the Middle East into a single seamless narrative is to describe an epic march to folly. Despite stupendous Western expenditures — the United States spent trillions trying to decide the fate of Iraq alone — the region as a whole has remained unpacified, untamed, unstable, and unpredictable. And now the ongoing Arab uprising has demonstrated that the people of the Middle East have an organic capacity to engineer change themselves, demolishing the patronizing notion that they (and by extension their neighbours) need outside oversight, guidance, or protection.

Yet thanks to Muammar Gaddafi's heavy-handed attempt to crush those seeking his ouster, the United States and its allies are now elbowing their way back onstage. To supplement the Carter doctrine (and smooth off the Bush doctrine's rough edges), we now have the Obama doctrine, elaborated by the president in last week's speech to the nation, which treats the plight of civilians caught in the path of war as a renewed argument for lobbing Western bombs and missiles, if not launching full-fledged invasions.

Will our bombs be enough to topple Gaddafi? Are recent defections of high-level Libyan officials a sign of the government's imminent collapse? Or will the US and its allies eventually have to send in ground troops to amplify the work of the covert operatives who have already been providing support to the rebels for weeks? As important as these questions seem to us now, the answers will not change the underlying dynamic of the situation. Gaddafi's fall (assuming it occurs) will close a chapter in Libyan history but won't open a new chapter in the history of the Middle East. Libya is an outlier. It won't be and can't be a bellwether. Apart from enabling policymakers in Washington, London, and Paris to reclaim a sense of self-importance, Western intervention in Libya will have little effect on the drama now unfolding in the Middle East. Pundits can talk of the United States shaping history. The truth is that history is shaping itself, while we are left to bear witness.

In due course the dust will settle. At that time, prudence will dictate that the West make what it can of the outcome, offering support and assistance to Arab governments that share our interests and values and withholding them from those that do not. The big story is this: the century-long battle to control the Middle East is ending. We lost. They won. No amount of high-tech ordnance can alter the outcome.

Andrew Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University
Underlying this great variety of methods and professed motivation, two things have remained constant across the decades. The first is an assumption: that Arabs, Persians, Afghans, and the like are incapable of managing their own affairs, leaving the West with no choice but to act in loco parentis, setting rules and enforcing discipline. The second is a conviction: that somehow, some way, the deft application of Western power will eventually fix whatever ails the region. At first Britain served as principal enforcer. Roughly since the Suez crisis of 1956, the lead role has fallen to the United States.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

DOUSING THE FIRES OF HATRED

On the fourteenth of April at the auspicious hour the national new year's celebrations will begin as is customary. This year ofcourse the actual celebrations of preparing for the festival season earlier, making sweetmeats, purchasing gifts for the family, buying of new clothes and in certain instances even repainting of the house may be reflected with the escalating costs of living.

Essentially however looking back to the traditional value systems that prevailed in the earlier years when we seniors were young and were more concerned with the waiting till the new year commenced to taste the aromatic food that had been prepared, the elders of those eras, the grand parents and the parents rigidly observed that nonagathe period with religious observances.

The dousing of the fires on the hearth signalled the death of an old year. Traditionally and ethically it meant not the mere cleansing of a fireplace and the absence of the preparation of any food in the house after the period of nonagathe began, but it was a time for reflection, a spiritual cleansing of oneself.

Symbolically the literal dousing of the fires meant that one's thought of anger, hatred and revenge were doused by spiritual meditation. So often on radio and TV we hear so many erudite monks speaking of the need to forgive and forget past wrong doings and restart one's life contemplating as one should that all material things are temporary and power, wealth and ambition are as transitory as life itself. After all as Lord Buddha said "He who has destroyed craving overcomes all sorrow" Dhammapada. Craving is a fire which burns in all beings: every activity is motivated by desire. To satisfy desire, human beings fight, kill, cheat, lie and under the delusion of one's ego, a person clings to things which are impermanent, changeable, and perishable.

Unfortunately very often we celebrate with rigid tradition the customs attached to the celebration of the New Year. But how few of us really consider the significance attached to the tradition. Today while on the one hand some politicians are vying with each other trying to claim that all the shortcomings that the people face are not due to their own inactivity and their craving for power and wealth bur rather due to the failure of the previous governments. In their speeches delivered at any opportunity they get whether it is to a horde of students who quite do not understand what they are talking about or newly recruited State employees who are anxious to obtain their perks politicians often just list out grievances that people have and state how effectively they will solve them all. The City of Colombo will be planned and programmed and high rise apartments will be put up for the marginalized shanty dwellers, but  one wonders whether anyone bothers to ask the people is that what they want.

The first teachings of the Buddha, the Four Noble Truths, follow this pattern. First, the insight that "life is dukkha". Dukkha is variously translated as suffering, pain, impermanence; it is the unsatisfactory quality of life which is targeted here -- life is often beset with sorrow and trouble, and even at its best, is never completely fulfilling. We always want more happiness, less pain. But this 'wanting more' is itself the problem: the second noble truth teaches that the pain of life is caused by 'thanha' -- our cravings, our attachments, our selfish grasping after pleasure and avoiding pain.

Perhaps this New year let us all attempt to teach a generation that appears to be growing up with the absolute conviction that power and wealth, regardless of how one gets it is the only thing that matters that all things are transitory and the greatest lesson that one can learn is that one must douse one's ambitious desires which lead to corruption anger violence hatred, revenge and realize all things can be conquered only through love and compassion.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

ARGUING ABOUT ACCOUNTABILITY

One must re-scrutinize the emphatic assertion that post-war accountability, democracy, good governance and post-conflict reconciliation are integral parts of a single package or located on a continuum. It is argued that greater democratization and fuller accountability regarding the war are indispensable complementarities. 

 The argument is put forward that without accountability there will be no reconciliation, and the question is therefore raised as to what the international standards and best practices of accountability are. Opinion divides between those who advocate or spport an 'independent international inquiry' and an independent domestic inquiry.

 What if the wrong question is being asked, to wit, what are the best practices with regards to post-war accountability? 

The discussion today takes place against dual frameworks, those of democracy and post conflict reconciliation. What does the overwhelming evidence show, in both these realms?

 In the first place, let us examine the evidence with regard to democratization. Even if one were to adhere to the notion of a worldwide trend towards democracy, I would remind the reader that there is no single worldwide or universal trend, there are universal trends (plural), some of which tend to cancel the other out, or combine in a fashion that modifies the outcome. Thus the 'End of History' meets 'the Clash of Civilizations', with unforeseeable results.  Authentic adherence to pluralism has not only a domestic but also a global dimension; recognizing that there is a plurality of global trends, such as democratization as well as multi-polarity propelled by newly emerging powers, and the Asian resurgence. 

This being said, I think the late Prof Huntington was onto something when he wrote of the Third Wave. He was referring to the great waves of democratization, the first being in Southern Europe in the 1970s, when the long lasting dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and the 'younger' ones in Greece and Turkey collapsed. The second wave swept Latin America. The Third wave (or was it the fourth?) took down the Soviet bloc. I would say the fourth (or was it the third?) wave was in East Asia: the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia. My slight confusion is because the Philippines restored democracy in 1986 and Indonesia in 1998, with the events of 1989 in Eastern Europe and Russia '91 falling in-between. The Arab world is experiencing the fifth wave. 

Now it must be emphasized that in the overwhelming number of these democratic transitions (with the GDR case being a short-lived exception), openings or re-openings, there were no accountability hearings with regard to the conduct of the militaries of those countries. More: an amnesty, or the pledge not to rake up accountability issues, was part of a compact which underpinned democratization and guaranteed stability and forestalled further polarization.

 So accountability probes were not part of the great waves of democratization, and were perceived to be counterproductive to the grand bargain that underpinned the project.  More starkly, democracy and accountability did not go together. It was, more often than not, a question of democracy OR accountability.

 The picture is no different with regard to post conflict reconciliation. From the Spanish civil war to the Philippines and Indonesia, the post conflict reconciliation process did not involve accountability probes. These were regarded as dangerously lacerating and polarizing. Here again, accountability was not understood as a precondition for reconciliation but as a potential threat, and it was often a choice of reconciliation OR accountability.

 In some cases, accountability issues have been allowed to surface only after decades have passed. Chile is about to probe the death of President Salvador Allende not only almost forty years after the event but a few decades after the restoration of democracy. Bangladesh is opening an inquiry into atrocities committed by militia during its war of independence in 1971, forty years ago.

 Most societies settle accounts with their violent pasts by classically cathartic means such as artistic expression and public debate. Thus, some accounts are better balanced by History and left to what the French called la longue durée, the long term -- and to future generations.

 Reconciliation is more readily achieved and more rooted through a negotiated compact between all democratic stakeholders. Such a process has already been initiated in Sri Lanka.

 No external claim of accountability is more important than the accountability of a government to its own citizens; its own people. That is the corollary and concomitant of popular sovereignty.

 (An expanded version of remarks made at the discussion that followed a paper presented by invitation by the author, at the Workshop on Global Leadership, Yale University, USA)

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

ON MAKING VALID POINTS AND FUDGING CRITICAL ISSUES

Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, in what he purports to be a response to critical reports about the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) of which he is the Executive Director and to what he thinks are 'personal attacks', has made some very valid and thought-provoking observations (see 'Hack-attack,' in the Daily Mirror of April 7, 2011).  He has not mentioned what the 'personal attacks' are or who has made them. Neither has he mentioned what these 'critical reports' are about or who the critics are. That's interesting and pertinent. 

I did comment on Saravanamuttu and the CPA at length in an article titled 'Is an election a 'village tank' to monitors and donors?' in the Daily Mirror of March 22, 2011, mentioning the enormous sums of money that the CPA has received from the governments of several countries in its capacity as the most visible member of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and perhaps the only member with any real on-the-ground presence.  In that article I raised some questions about promise and delivery and about the logic of requiring scandalous amounts of money to pay for what seemed to be inexpensive services. 

I also asked why the CPA has not come clean on how much was spent on what and who got how much for what. Elsewhere I noted the fact that the CMEV, for all the millions upon millions of rupees it has got its hands on over the last 12 years, failed to convince enough people about the importance of the work they do in order to build in sustainability to their projects.  I noted that the CMEV, perhaps for lack of funds, did next to nothing during the recently held local government elections. 

Saravanamuttu has, as I said, made some valid points.  He has said, for example, that the CPA had furnished all financial reports requested by the CID when MP Rajiva Wijesinha raised some questions in Parliament last year.  He has said that in any case the said information was already available with the Registrar of Companies in accordance with relevant audit requirements.  He has also raised the (valid) question, 'why investigate right now?' and added 'why at all?' He has asked whether the CPA has been guilty of crime.  These are questions that the relevant authorities might want to respond to, although I don't think that an investigative body has to launch action based on auspicious times or that investigations should be launched after it is established that a crime has been committed. 

In general, Saravanamuttu's response does raise the question of selectivity, though.  In addition, the entire process and its political overtones do indicate that the regulatory apparatus is lacking in many ways and perhaps has in-built loopholes that make for inefficiency.  As he has pointed out, the CPA and CMEV are legitimate bodies and recognized as such and moreover accorded respect by the Elections Commissioner. If any mischief has been committed by the CPA/CMEV then the Elections Commissioner is automatically an accessory after the fact of mischief-making and other relevant wrongdoing. 

Saravanamuttu has not asked why the condition of accountability has not been raised with respect to other organizations, non-governmental, corporate and of course state agencies.  As far back as 2002, I insisted that for transparency and accountability to have any meaning in governance, there should be an Independent Audit Commission written into the now defunct 17th Amendment, flawed document though it was for reasons I have elaborated in many. 

He claims he has been threatened, harassed, branded as traitor and that the public has been exhorted to spit on him.  He says he has been accused of being supportive of the LTTE and terrorism.  He has said there has been no substantiation of the allegation that he nor the heads of the other organizations about whose financial questions have been raised and which share with the CPA 'a common critique of the regime' have indeed been supportive of the LTTE and therefore terrorism.  This is not true. 

Whitewashing the LTTE, bending backwards to legitimate that organization and give it parity of status vis-à-vis the Government of Sri Lanka, turning a blind eye to fraternal organizations purportedly engaged in rehabilitation in LTTE-controlled areas when in fact they were knowingly providing money and material to the LTTE and doing the utmost to save the LTTE leadership during the last days of the conflict are only some of the 'evidence' of support, not to mention of course the fact that they were actively endorsing the LTTE's preferences in all stages of all negotiations.  There's nothing illegitimate in all this of course.  Feigning neutrality in the political arena and claiming to be apolitical, however, is rather disingenuous.  As for threat and harassment, again, this shows in the very least flaws in the overall security apparatus, even though it is true that those diametrically opposed to the views held by Saravanamuttu and his ilk have suffered the same kind of abuse but in greater magnitude with scars to show to boot.  

What I find strange about Saravanamuttu's response is that he thinks passing the buck to the Registrar of Companies is adequate answer to questions about financial matters.  This is strange because he claims often and is recognized by his donors and others who frequently quote him as representative of civil society.  This ought to make him answerable to the general public and moreover, given known antipathies, should not make him see the state as an organ of civil society in all things transparent and accountable. Whether or not the mechanisms of the state are flawed, whether or not state agencies are engaged in a selective and unwarranted investigation of his organization, Saravanamuttu, knowing very well the problems pertaining to information flow between state and public, ought to have come clean about how much, from whom, for what and to whom. 

He says foreign donors are aware of what the organizations monitoring elections do and that the organizations report to these funders.  That multiple funders appear to have given money to the CMEV for the same project, that relevant amounts seem highly exorbitant and that the monitoring outfits appear to have axed sustainability in order to milk and re-milk a set of generous donor cows doesn't give his boast much meat, especially since the other organizations he mentioned, PAFFREL and CAFFE (one assumes) would have also obtained similar quantities of dollar-milk from these very same dairy.  He has not explained why the CMEV required so much money and from so many donors.  He has not explained why the CMEV spent Rs. 1.12 million in rent for a headquarters to monitor activities in the Eastern Province over a period of 48 days, for example.

Saravanamuttu says that CMEV's audited accounts are electronically available on the CPA's and CMEV's websites.  CPA's website is, for the record, 'under construction' and does not give all the annual reports and none since 2009.  The CMEV's accounts are hidden in the middle of a large pdf document in literally very small print. I am not claiming that the relevant auditors have been negligent or mischievous.  Audit reports are essentially summaries.  The onus on Saravanamuttu, who talks of transparency and accountability, is to give the details that don't go into these reports. 

Instead of all this, Saravanamuttu chooses to point fingers at those who have criticized the CPA/CMEV, demanding that they reveal who gave them the information.  I have the photocopies of agreements that the CPA has signed with several donors. Suffice to say I have friends in government as well as the cartel that calls itself 'civil society organizations'. Saravanamuttu knows he has more enemies within than without, given the competition for the same funds from the same donors. 

What is relevant moreover is whether the claims made are accurate or not.  He has not denied.  Nor has he explained, in the public interest that he professes to care so much about, how much was received, for what exactly and into whose bank accounts the money went.

He asks the valid question, 'Are these individuals (those who have criticized and raised questions regarding the CPA/CMEV and others) acting alone or are they acting on instruction?' I can't speak for others, but I am hardly acting on 'instruction' for I owe no one any favours, except those I love and the tax payers who paid for my education. Whether or not the state has got its act together, these are questions that need to be asked, especially considering the holier-than-thou nature of rhetoric spouted by the likes of Saravanamuttu about transparency and accountability. This is not about bucks. This is about big bucks.  It is about coming clean. The ball is in Saravanamuttu's court, not as far as the state is concerned, but insofar as 'civil society' is implicated. 

Malinda Seneviratne is a
freelance writer who can be reached at
msenevira@gmail.com

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

FAR FROM EXTINCT  

BY B COMBER

The year was about 65.5 million BC and the dinosaurs were meeting for their annual scientific conference. After the usual papers on subjects such as the impact of continental drift on fauna of the mesozoic era, or improvements in the design of aerofoils for pterodactyl wings, the cave in which the meeting was held became packed with delegates who had come to hear the much-heralded talk by the diplodocus known affectionately to all as 'Doc' and widely regarded as the most brilliant and gifted of all dinosaur scientists.

Rex, the tyrannosaurus chairing the meeting, gave the speaker the briefest of introductions: "You all know our next speaker. 'Diplo-' is the diploma marking his first degree of BSc, 'doc' is his doctorate or PhD and 'us' may be taken either as a mark of the esteemed American university he went to, or the fact that he speaks for all of us. So without further ado, I hand the rostrum over to the dinosaur we all know as Doc."

The new speaker quelled the thunderous applause with a swish of his neck. "Lizards and gentlebeasts," he said, "I come to warn you."

"Here we go again," a velociraptor interrupted from the back of the hall. "What is it this time? Another ice age? Don't make me laugh."

"Enough of that," Doc said. "So I was wrong about us all being wiped out by Global Cooling. But it's only the timing I wasn't right about. You mark my words, there's another ice age on its way and we'd better be ready for it. If, that is, we survive the disaster that is threatening us at this very moment."

"There's always something, isn't there?" said the velociraptor. "You're just a professional doom-monger. If it's not Global Cooling, it's earthquakes and volcanoes. You've always got something to worry us."

"It's not earthquakes and volcanoes this time," Doc continued, "it's an asteroid. According to my calculations, there's one hurtling towards us that could bring the whole of the Cretaceous period to an end and lead to a mass extinction."

"Cretaceous as in 'cretin' and 'fallacious'," the velociraptor said, bringing a ripple of laughter to the cave. "Even if an asteroid did hit the planet, it would just cause a big dent at worst. It might lead to extinction of the guy it fell on, of course, but there's nothing for anyone else to get worked up about."

"Look," said Doc, "this is serious. I've done all the calculations and if this big asteroid, which is heading right for us, makes an impact, it would not only send shock waves around the Earth, but would send up a cloud of dust that would shut the Sun out for years."

"So what do you propose doing about it?" the velociraptor asked.

"We could crossbreed spiders with goats, then get the goats to spin a web so strong it would catch the asteroid and bounce it back into space."

"Don't be ridiculous," the velociraptor said. "Goats aren't going to evolve for another 50 million years at least.

"Good point," said Doc. And not long after, the dinosaurs became extinct.

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