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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

EDITORIAL 13.04.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month april 13, edition 000805, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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










  2. SMS GOI :)
























































To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, says Newton's Third Law of Motion which seems to govern not only our physical state but also the far more riveting world of international diplomacy. For what else can explain the US's continued attempts to keep Pakistan engaged as an ally in the Afghan war despite the fact that the latter has made it perfectly clear that it will not support American efforts to destroy terror networks in the region? Indeed, it seems the more Pakistanis want out, the more the Americans want them back in on the war on terror. The US Administration has often said that Pakistan has a 'pivotal' role to play in stabilising Afghanistan but the Pakistanis have no interest in taking up this role. On the other hand, the Pakistani Government believes that it is the war in Afghanistan that is destabilising the country and the region. Yet the US continues to mollycoddle a Pakistan in high dudgeon as is evident in the invitation extended to ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha by his American counterpart at the CIA, Mr Leonne Panetta. Despite the fact that Mr Pasha has been named in a lawsuit filed by families of American victims of 26/11 for his reported role in the Mumbai terror attacks, Mr Panetta nonetheless offered a risk-laden goodwill gesture to mend frayed ties between the two intelligence agencies that had a huge fall-out in January after CIA agent Raymond Davis shot two Pakistanis. It took almost 50 days of intense diplomatic wrangling and $2.3million in 'blood money' to get Mr Davis out of the country — an embarrassment for the US, given that Pakistan literally runs on American aid. The incident plunged bilateral relations to a new low as the two agencies have since stopped all intelligence-sharing which lie at the core of US-Pakistan diplomatic relations and is crucial for the war on terror in Afghanistan. In a bid to improve the situation, the two chiefs met in Washington on Monday to clear "some misunderstandings", said US officials, also hoping to convince their ally to push forward with a full scale military campaign that would flush out militants from Northern Waziristan.

However, Mr Pasha seems to have usurped the opportunity, instead, to present Mr Panetta with a laundry list of demands forwarded by the chief of the Pakistani Army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. These include a significant reduction in the number of CIA operatives and Special Operations forces, and the removal of all American security contractors from Pakistan — an obvious fallout of the Raymond Davis affair. The demands signal further worsening of relations between the CIA and the ISI. Gen Kayani has also demanded an immediate halt to the US drone attacks targeting militants in north-west Pakistan — the military campaign is extremely unpopular with the Pakistanis. It became a sore point with Gen Kayani after a drone attack killed allied tribal leaders along with Talibani militants. Ultimately, the fact remains that in spite of all sorts of appeasement tactics, Pakistan is not interested in being an American ally. In fact, this is an observation made by the Obama Administration as well in a recent report that criticises Pakistan for not doing enough to destroy the terrror networks that flourish within its borders. Why the US still chooses to pander to Pakistan is beyond comprehension. Perhaps Newton would have an answer.







Acouple of months ago, the CPI(M)-led LDF in Kerala seemed all set for a crushing defeat at the hands of the Congress-led UDF in the election to the 140-member Assembly election for which polling takes place on Wednesday. Yet, at the end of the campaign, what earlier looked like a walkover for the UDF now appears to be an evenly balanced contest. The Congress's hopes are pinned on the simple fact that the State has not elected either of the two fronts in two successive polls since 1982. The Left wants to retain power at any cost as it has to protect its honour in the context of an almost guaranteed rout in West Bengal. However, the Left's hopes seem to be not without basis. Pollsters have noted a sudden swing in voter mood, mostly among the apolitical sections, in favour of the Left in the final days of campaigning. Although the mainstream media of Kerala, determined to see a change in Government, insists on a UDF victory, albeit by a narrow margin, reports from the ground show that this assessment need not be correct. One of the factors that is said to have caused the last-minute swing away from the Congress and its allies is the anti-corruption hunger strike by Anna Hazare whose ripples have been felt in the urban areas of Kerala as in other parts of the country. Anna Hazare's agitation has helped in lending credibility to the CPI(M)'s charges of corruption against the Congress. The LDF's star campaigner, Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, who had been attracting huge crowds at his rallies, was quick to cash in on the new mood. This development seems to have made the fight tight in at least 18 constituencies which used to be UDF fiefdoms. The change in the mood of the urban electorate was reflected in the poor turnout at the election rallies addressed by top Congress campaigners like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Mr Rahul Gandhi. None of them could attract huge crowds.

The last minute swing has added to the worries of the Congress-led coalition which has been hobbled with a plethora of problems. Even before votes have been cast and counted, there is already a tussle within the Congress as to who should become the Chief Minister in the event of a UDF victory. While Mr Oommen Chandy, who has spent the last five years as Leader of the Opposition, and his supporters believe the job should go to him, State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala has been declared as one of the contenders for the post. This in turn has led to intense factional fight. Also, the high-cost campaign run by the Congress has not gone down well with the people. While it is anybody's guess as to which way the dice will roll, what is for sure is that it would be premature for UDF to claim victory.









Blindly acquiring military hardware is not going to help as the nature of threat has changed radically. A Strategic Defence and Security Review would help.

Done last year, Britain's first comprehensive Strategic Defence and Security Review since 1998 is far-reaching. It is bold, honest and innovative, entailing analytical risks to extricate the armed forces from the Cold War mindset to face the new ground realities, including cuts amounting to 38 billion pounds over 10 years. It informs of the limits of British power — of what it can do alone and in partnership with allies. Pax Britannica no longer rules the waves. It is high time India carried out a similar full-scale review involving all departments of Government to produce both a macro and micro picture of the security situation.

Paraphrased, Britain's national security strategy which flows from its Strategic Defence and Security Review has put the protection of people, territory and ways of life from major risk uppermost, followed by shaping a stable environment to reduce threats to national interest at home and abroad by tackling potential risks at source.

The high priority risks identified for the next five years are terrorism, including the use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons; cyber attacks by other states; major accidents or related hazards; and, international military crises like the one in Libya. Britain has renewed its commitment to success in Afghanistan with a condition-based withdrawal commencing in 2015.

The most striking feature of the Strategic Defence and Security Review is the admission that Britain will no longer be able to undertake combat missions on the scale of Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Against the 45,000 troops deployed in Iraq in 2003, it will now be able to field only up to 30,000 troops for limited periods and with sufficient notice. For protracted operations over several years, the maximum deployable force will be 6,500 as against 10,000 currently committed in Afghanistan. These are significant shrinkages in combat capability, forcing joint or collective defence.

The shift from high-end conflict to low-intensity operations is removing the Cold War mentality of tank-on-tank battles with heavy artillery in the Fulda gap to counter terrorism in Afghanistan.

The strategic parameters are also changing. Although the Trident submarine fleet will remain till 2016 (when its retention will be reviewed) to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent, a joint nuclear capability with France is being considered. The strategic dialogue with France extends to creating joint and integrated defence capabilities like combined joint expeditionary force, maritime task force, joint military doctrine, joint acquisition of military equipment, etc.

The decision to retain one of the two new aircraft carriers with option to field the second has been made in recognition of the salience of stand-off air power. The existing Harrier fleet has been retired as no aircraft carrier will be operational till 2016. Even then the carrier-based version of the joint strike fighter will become available only in 2020. While British forces will remain deployed in Afghanistan till 2016 at the very least, in the interregnum, compatible allied aircraft could take the deck of the British aircraft carrier. These are big calculated risks which the Government of Britain is preparing to take.

By 2015 the Army is to be reduced by 7,000 to 95,000 troops with cuts in tanks and artillery. Manpower reduction will be compensated by Special Forces and Territorial Army who are doing exceptional work in Afghanistan. Similarly the Royal Navy will be down by 5,000 to 30,000 sailors, main losses being in the frigate fleet and Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft. The RAF will be downsized by 5,000 personnel to 33,000 and many aircraft will be retired. The Government has come to the conclusion that future air wars are unlikely and the RAF will have its fast jet fleet based on two advanced aircraft: Typhoon and Tornado.

Britain's Future Force 2020 will have two aircraft carrier, five multi-role brigades and an adequate Air Force backed by a minimum effective nuclear deterrence. The non-military pillars of security address conflict prevention through building stability overseas, counter-terrorism and counter radicalisation, creation of a cyber crime strategy, a national crime agency, a maritime information centre and a special security policy. Long-term cooperation with France is the cornerstone of bridging the capability gap while maintaining its role in the European Union and allied security architectures like Nato.

Viewed strictly from the military prism and set against the future character of conflict, the Strategic Defence and Security Review has initiated a total transformation of the armed forces. The emphasis is on precision fire rather than suppression and to combat specific challenges like improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan. The Strategic Defence and Security Review virtually rules out conventional war. including air battles. It believes in partnership of shared capabilities, including a minimum effective nuclear deterrent. Transformation entails risks of capability voids which are to be filled by allies.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review's impact on Britain's defence industry is significant. It earns 15 billion pounds annually and employs 355,000 people. Already 7,000 jobs have been lost through suspension and cancellation of programmes, including a 14-billion-pound centralised training academy in Wales.

Accompanying transformation will be the turbulence among combatants made redundant like pilots from Harrier and Nimrod fleets and foot soldiers returning from Afghanistan in a severely recession-hit British economy. Retooling its military has had other consequences. Besides rebasing of 20,000 troops from Germany, a task force set up to scout for forgotten imperial outposts across the world on the payroll of Britain's Ministry of Defence has traced 20,000 British citizens in locations as exotic as yacht clubs in the US.

Britain ordered its first major strategic reconfiguration in the 1960s in what was called the East of Suez drawdown and political vacuum. The current Strategic Defence and Security Review cuts the cloth according to Britain's size and stature as a middle level power.

India should draw lessons, the most obvious being ordering a whole Government review of existing capabilities, threats and opportunities and future forces to cope with the challenges. The Indian Army is engaged in an ad hoc transformation which is 'uplinked' with the other two services. The Indian Air Force and Navy's numbers of aircraft and ships have gone haywire as their long-term re-equipment plans never materialised due to bad planning and funding support. Consequently India is already the world's biggest importer of weapons and will spend $ 100 billion in the next decade.

Britain has cut costs and capability through a defined review mechanism. India is to boost military capabilities which must derive from getting the character of future conflict right without dissipating resources on the fashionable 'full spectrum of war'. Identifying critical missions and affordable risks must come from political foresight, good generalship and deft diplomacy. We must not duck the review at any rate.







It's Iran and Muslim Brotherhood 8; Hamas 6; and the US -11. The tectonic shifts we are witnessing in West Asia ever since the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia have dramatically altered power equations and America's role as well as influence in the region. The net loser so far is the US while those who have gained are the radical Islamists and their patrons

Events in West Asia have moved so quickly that one almost needs a daily scorecard to keep up. This article will try to give a basic picture of what has, and hasn't, changed.

Have Iran and revolutionary Islamists gained in recent months? Yes, since Islamism is advancing at the expense of declining Arab nationalism as well as other reasons.

From the Muslim Brotherhood's perspective gains have been made for its branches and allies in Egypt (which also helps their ally Hamas), Jordan, Libya, Syria, and Tunisia.

That doesn't mean they will take power now but these groups are all stronger than they were at the end of last year.

Iran has benefitted by gains made in Bahrain (though Saudi intervention blocked its clients from taking power), Lebanon, and Yemen along with indirectly in all of the other places except Syria. Moreover, Tehran can take satisfaction in the removal of Egypt, its most important Arab foe, from the anti-Iran and pro-US category to, at best, a neutralist stance.

And all Islamists can take pleasure in the dramatic decline of US credibility and alliances, with Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, and probably soon Yemen no longer cooperating with US policy at all.

Let's list the main aspects of US policy:

·  It is now in no way opposed to Muslim Brotherhoods or Hizbullah being in Government and has helped create a situation in Egypt where the Brotherhood is making a bid for leadership.

·  Backing for all practical purposes Syrian repression of its own democratic upsurge because it sees dictator Bashar al-Assad as a 'reformer'. (Ironically, Mr Hosni Mubarak was much more of a reformer than Mr al-Assad, at least on social and economic issues.)

·  Doing nothing about Lebanon, where Hizbullah and its allies have gained power, making the country a satellite of Iran and Syria;

·  Thinking that the Turkish regime is just fine, in fact a model for other countries (which is strange since the regime is now an ally of Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizbullah);

·  Highly critical of Bahrain's suppression of its opposition (part of which is pro-Iranian);

·  Intervening in Libya, an operation to which none of the Islamists are opposed because they hope to benefit from it. In addition, the US forces could get bogged down in there. Isn't the Libya war just another version of the invasion of Iraq except with less rationale, less to gain, and more to lose?

·  Distancing itself more from Israel than any previous administration has for the last 50 years.

·  Refusing to back the Saudis, having created the worst friction in the history of the US-Saudi relationship.

What's there for a revolutionary Islamist not to like? Obviously, they'd like an end to US sanctions on Iran and other things but, generally speaking, American policy is terrific from their standpoint.

Let's take a quick survey:

Bahrain: The regime has used repression, Saudi intervention, and offers of compromise well to split the moderate (which wants a fairer share of power for the Shia majority) from the radical opposition (which wants a pro-Iran Islamist republic. Minus one point for Iran, no thanks to US policy.

Egypt: The Brotherhood is far more powerful than ever, will win about one-third of Parliament probably; will shape Egypt's cultural, educational, intellectual, and religious atmosphere; and can now help Hamas. Egypt is no longer in the anti-Iran and pro-Western camp. Two points for Brotherhood, two points for Hamas, one point for Iran. Minus two points for US interests.

Gaza Strip: Egypt has turned from enemy to ally. Arms and terrorists flow in freely. Two points to Hamas and one each to Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran. Minus two points for US interests: Hamas and revolutionary Islamism get stronger; future Israel-Gaza or even Arab-Israeli war is more likely.

Jordan: While the monarchy should survive, the Brotherhood there is more active and demanding. It also undermines another anti-Iran Arab state that is pro-Western. Two points to Brotherhood and one each to Iran and Hamas.

Lebanon: Everyone seems to forget Lebanon, which went from having a moderate Government friendly to the West to being a country now largely controlled by Hizbullah and other Syrian clients and in the Iranian-Syrian sphere. The moderates (Christian-Sunni allied forces) tried to build protests against the new regime but failed. One point to Iran. Minus one to the US.

Libya: Hard to say since the opposition is complex. On the other hand, it is not clear that Western interests will benefit and the impact of the Western intervention is unclear. While Muammar Gaddafi was historically an anti-Western sponsor of terrorism, he hasn't caused much international trouble in recent years. No points awarded yet.

Palestinian Authority/Peace Process: The Palestinian Authority knows that it will never face a rebellion from being too hard-line but only if it is perceived as too moderate. If the peace process wasn't dead before, it certainly is now. One point to Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran. Minus one to the US which has now sabotaged once again its own peace process effort.

Saudi Arabia: While the anti-regime effort in the kingdom hasn't gotten far, the Saudis feel that their relationship with the US and the West is undermined and that they need to appease Iran and Syria. Plus one to Iran. Minus one for the US.

Syria: This is also complicated. Syria is an ally of Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah. Thus, its destabilisation is not in their interests. But what if an Islamist Government comes to power, probably a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated one (though non-Brotherhood Islamists could also play a leading role. Minus one for Iran and Hamas, but plus one to the Brotherhood.

Tunisia: While Islamists are weak in Tunisia, the fact that they can operate legally now and that Tunisia will probably move into a neutral-type stance is a gain for Islamists and a defeat for the West. Score one point for Brotherhood and Iran.

Turkey: The Turkish regime, which may well win reelection later this year, is now an ally of Iran, Syria, and Hamas. One point to each. Minus one for the US.

Yemen: In Yemen, all politics is local But the destabilisation of a country that has at least partly cooperated with the US against terrorism is to Iran's strategic advantage, whether or not it has influence on some of the domestic rebels. Score one for Iran. Minus one for the US.

Extra credit: Tensions make oil prices rise, providing more money to Tehran. Score one for Iran.

Obama Administration Factor: The US has lost four friendly regimes — Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Turkey (some would add Yemen) — as well as the confidence of three others — Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia (one might add Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates). With the Palestinian Authority seeing that it can — and in some ways must — ignore American requests to do anything, that is another defeat. For general loss of credibility, minus one for the US.

For failing even now to understand the material in this article — and thus by not recognising defeats or errors being unable to correct them, another minus one for the US.

Muslim Brotherhood: 8
Iran: 8
Hamas: 6
United States: -11

-- The writer is director of the GLORIA Center, Tel Aviv, and editor of the MERIA Journal.







The widespread and stubborn resistance put up by Congress dissidents in West Bengal is a worry for not only the party but also the Trinamool Congress. They could manage to upset the consolidated vote of the opposition in this election

In West Bengal there is no space for a third party, leave alone a third person. It is either 'us' or 'them' in this Assembly election. Surprising as this obsession with what is politely described as 'independents', also known as disgruntled candidates or even maliciously instigated 'dummy' candidates, it is nevertheless intriguing that the Congress and the Trinamool Congress have declared a war against these recalcitrant aspirants.

The Trinamool Congress has complained to the Congress high command that these dummies should be withdrawn. The Congress has issued orders that dummies or independents and even leaders who are seen to be supporting them will be suspended from membership of the party. To emphasise just how rattled he is, Mr Pranab Mukherjee as State Congress president has invoked the power vested in him as the president to take a unilateral decision about which of his party colleagues he would sack. Given the usually laid back style of the Congress as a party, this harsh line is quite extraordinary.

The independents are not only a bother to the Congress, but they seem to be a thorn in the Trinamool Congress side too. During her whirlwind tour of North Bengal, Ms Mamata Banerjee has added the independents to her arsenal of issues. She has declared that the independents and the dummies and the disgruntled are inconsequential since the election battle is between us and them.


And yet the existence of independents seems to be an affront.

Repeatedly Ms Banerjee has called on voters to ignore the independents and instead consolidate their anti-CPI(M) vote behind the Trinamool Congress. Since all her campaigning thus far has concentrated on her party candidates, the fire has been directed against the Congress for failing to manage dissent within its ranks.

The fact of the matter remains that dissidence is a problem for the Trinamool Congress as much as it is for the Congress. An angry Adhir Chowdhury of Murshidabad may agree to toe the line about not directly supporting the independent candidates from Bhagabangola, Sagardighi people he accompanied as they filed their nominations, but does this mean that Chowdhury will work to defeat him? Having been a hard core dissenter herself, is it likely that Ms Deepa Das Munshi will work to defeat her nominee, the indepdent candidate, disgruntled Congressman Kanailal Agarwal from Islampore or Hamidul Rahman from Chopra or Chittaranjan Roy from Hematabad?

As Congress president Mr Mukherjee can issue an order, but he cannot get his leaders to deliver what the Trinamool Congress demands. Two things are clear: The dissidence within the Congress remains strong and a force to reckon with and the dissidents do not care about what happens to them within the Congress. As most of them seem to indicate, the future of the Congress is in jeopardy; their dissidence will allow them to live on with dignity even if defeated.

By one reckoning in over a third of the constituencies in the first phase of the six-phase election in West Bengal, there are dissidents gunning for the opposition nominee. According to Murshidabad MP Adhir Chowdhury, the Trinamool Congress has fielded dissidents against the Congress. In other words, cracking a whip as Mr Mukherjee has done is meaningless.

The widespread and stubborn resistance put up by the Congress dissidents ought to be a worry for not only the party but also the Trinamool Congress. Hailed as a triumph, a win of a small but formidable regional party against the bullying of the big and weak national party, the seat sharing arrangement has turned out to be a somewhat empty exercise. By pushing the Congress leadership hard, Ms Banerjee succeeded in beating down the number of seats to be shared to 65. That it would make a lot of Congressmen unhappy and angry was a truth that she failed to recognise. Her demand that the Congress curb its dissidents now is as impractical as was the bargain she struck.

The point is not whether the dissidents will eat into the consolidated opposition votes and so deliver wins to the Left. The point is that consolidation of opposition votes is not a matter of the leaders going into a huddle to decide on a number; it is much more complex. Consolidation requires the partners to work together. Instead, consolidation in West Bengal has turned into an exercise in bowing to the dominant political party, namely the Trinamool Congress. In paying through the nose for the support it gets, the Congress central leadership may have calculated that it has struck a good bargain. At the ground level, the evidence of resentment is so overwhelming that it should be a cause of concern for the party.

Having blamed everyone in West Bengal for creating a tensely divided polity, the Trinamool Congress should perhaps introspect on how its rigidities have produced divisions and muddied the political space. It may well be that a spectacularly triumphant Trinamool Congress will welcome Congress dissenters into its fold. That, however, will not heal the lesions left by the division.







The 'Jan Lok Pal Bill' movement provided a platform to the people for them to express their mounting anger against corruption and convey a sharp message to politicians that election is not the only tool they can wield

Bigger revolutions get place in history books, but it's the countless smaller revolutions that actually make history. I'm not sure whether we can call the recent 'Jan Lok Pal Bill' agitation a big revolution or not, but it is certainly one of those smaller revolutions that leave long-term impacts. Its supporters, cutting across religious, economic and social strata, are calling it a victory. It remains to be seen whether it's a victory or not, but it is certainly something more than winning the World Cup (although the fireworks and Sonia-dance were missing this time). You may call it, as Malcom Gladwell wrote, a "tipping point".

The staunchest opposition to this movement stems from the idea of an extra-constitutional authority that can derail the entire democratic process of the country. It may set the wrong precedence, they say. If the Government (the so-called elected representatives) cows down this time, such tactics will be used to subvert development projects and misguide the masses. Some even call it an elite timepass activity, a Twitter and Facebook fad (Oh! is Anna Hazare trending?).

Well, we have all been witness to how much of it was a Twitter affair. From rickshawwallahs to Karol Bag shopkeepers to corporate honchos (and a few donkeys here and there) by the end of the day they showed that it was a lot more than a passing trend carried out by a handful of misguided jholawallahs.

For the first time the foreign Press saw an India that is confident, articulate, proud and united. People were converging on their own volition and they were bringing along their friends, spouses, office colleagues, college and school friends and grandchildren. Sounds like a picnic? What's the harm, as long as people can come together and vocally express their existential angst?

Frankly, India was in a desperate need for such a movement. We needed to show that we're more than just the IPLs, saas-bahu serials and teeming millions perpetually being crushed under the mai-baap attitude of Government. There has been a social depression and this protest was the beginning of a long-due therapy. We've been too laid back for our own good.

The fundamental flaw in our parliamentary democracy is that there is very little people's participation. All you can do is elect the Government and then hope that for the next five years your elected representatives will behave. Do they? We all know the answer. You may say that why don't you come out and vote? Vote for who? Someone rightly, yes, on Twitter, pointed out that voting in India normally means making a choice between Chota Rajan and Dawood Ibrahim. Even if it is an exaggeration, you can very well gauge the general mood. Our current political system has practically made it impossible for the common man to join politics (of course there are exceptions but they haven't helped much).

People are looking for an alternative and this is what drew them to Anna Hazare. Being a Gandhian and all is fine, but more than that he has acted as a catalyst, or a trigger, like an ignition needed to start the engine. The juggernaut of corruption is quietly sweeping away the country like an invisible tsunami. And it's not just the numbers (70 lakh crore, etc), it affects every fibre of our day-to-day living. The country has suffered economically, socially, culturally and healthwise because of rampant corruption. Although you can easily blame the common man for perpetuating corruption in everyday life, eventually the blame starts from the top.

These marches, sit-ins and relay hunger strikes signify our coming of age, the real participatory democracy. They send a very strong message to the power-drunk and intransigent politicians that election is not the only tool we can wield. Even just four months after an election if you don't behave we can come knocking at your doors. This will act as a deterrent when our politicians think they are above the law. How much, it remains to be seen.

And what about the apprehensions that it's nothing but mobocracy and henceforth every major decision of the country will be hijacked by mass opinion (what if they start a campaign against consumption of alcohol, for instance?). It's a pessimistic, defeatist way of looking at things. Such protests are by no means a democratic aberration. Examples of protests against democratically elected Governments are a worldwide phenomenon.

About the hijacking thing; it's the other way round actually. Remember how Mr A Ramadoss hijacked the entire system just so that he could sack Dr P Venugopal? Politicians and their close associates have hijacked the system numerous times, in fact most them opt for this career simply to hijack the system and twist it to their own benefit.

Accusations and counter-accusations aside, the common man on the road wants to try out something new and he doesn't care who is running the show as long as something positive manifests. If this doesn't work? Well, the freedom struggle took almost a hundred years, although it started with a small isolated revolt. Similarly, the recent show of strength was just a prelude. Party abhi baki hai.

-- The writer actively supported Anna Hazare on Twitter during his hunger strike.








It's election season in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Assam. These are complex polls, involving sizeable areas, numbers and issues, some volatile. The states are familiar with the violence of identity politics. But in a positive sign for India, trendlines in these key states show the force of identity politics diminishing, with people concerned more with bread-and-butter issues such as development, jobs and price rise.

Assam experienced chaos via the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) from the 1980s.
Ulfa rode a wave of ethnic identity, stating Assam was for the indigenous, all 'outsiders', including those enmeshed in the state's tea economy for generations, were unwelcome, and Assam should secede from India itself. The demands were met with force, ordinary citizens suffering the brunt of killings, kidnappings and imprisonments. Tamil Nadu underwent intense regionalism, expressed in outrage over the selection of Hindi as a national language and a 'Dravidian' identity. West Bengal and Kerala similarly experienced constricting identity politics, in their case ideological rather than ethnic. The Communist Party choked Bengal of industry, driving away business and professionals with its factionalist bullying. In Kerala, despite accomplishing an impressive literacy rate, the state stifled industry, leaving citizens looking Gulf-wards for work. 'God's own country' became known both for its beauty and India's highest suicide rate.

Today, the turn-around is remarkable. In Assam, a breakthrough was achieved when significant factions among Ulfa leaders opted for peace talks. Once-Ulfa strongholds have seen high voter turn-out, the Assamese seeking development and an end to corruption. Tamil Nadu has also seen regionalism relax. With non-Tamils becoming part of the local economy DMK leaders, once bitterly opposed to Hindi, have changed tack, addressing rallies in this language, squabbling with the AIADMK over who speaks it better. In Kerala anti-Americanism has fallen away, the skyline free of Saddam Hussein cut-outs or banners condemning US imperialism. Instead, there is concern over delivering jobs to a population that keeps the Middle East running but which has few options at home.

West Bengal is navigating a similar turn. Unlike earlier years US hegemony, the Indo-American nuclear deal or ideological quibbling have not dominated the hustings. Instead, the Left Front and Trinamool are both working out strategies to attract industry back to Bengal, procure land peaceably and ensure jobs. These changes reflect a desire for peace and a push for progress. The best way forward involves expanding identity, including diversity and accommodating change. If such changes gather force in the Indian political system, we can certainly look to the future with optimism.







The war of words between Union telecom minister Kapil Sibal and social activist Anna Hazare does nothing to further the cause of the Lokpal Bill. The former reportedly questioned the efficacy of the institution of Lokpal to tackle problems in education and healthcare. In response, Hazare shot back that Sibal should withdraw from the joint committee formed to draft the anti-corruption legislation. The unnecessary sniping distracts from the opportunity at hand. Despite the long-standing demand for an anti-corruption ombudsman to check graft at the top echelons of government, the Lokpal Bill has been hanging fire in Parliament for more than four decades. Following the public protest led by Hazare, the joint committee comprising members of civil society and the government provides an innovative mechanism to establish an effective and accountable Lokpal. And it is time they get down to work.

For, bridging the differences between the government's Lokpal Bill and the civil society's Jan Lokpal Bill will take some doing. Both versions are far from ideal. It needs to be borne in mind that neither is the institution of Lokpal meant to be a magic bullet for all administrative woes, nor can it be a super regulator without any accountability. The aim is to institute an ombudsman with the single-point agenda of tackling corruption in the highest public offices of the country. And weeding out corruption at the top is bound to have a trickle-down effect that improves administration at the grassroots and betters the delivery of essential services. A Lokpal Bill that protects democracy and strengthens transparency must be the focus.







There has been considerable discussion and debate on autonomy of educational institutions. But very little attention has been paid to governance in these institutes. There are two main governance models that are prevalent - one is what we will call the IIT model (IM) which prevails in all IITs, IIMs, and many other institutes, and the other is the university model (UM), which is employed in most universities.

First, it should be clarified that institutions under both these models are universities in that they can give degrees, etc, and a university can adopt IM and an engineering institute can follow UM.

In both models, there is a chief executive, called director in IM and vice-chancellor in UM, who is supported by deans, heads, registrars, etc. There is a board which is the principal executive body - the board of governors (BOG) in IM and the executive council (EC) in UM. There is an academic body which looks after academic governance, often called the academic council in UM and academic senate in IM.

A sound principle of governance is that in critical matters, the recommending body and accepting body are separate. This separation is important to keep some form of check on the recommending body. In an educational institute, for most administrative matters, the recommending body is often the executive, and the final accepting body is the board/EC. And it is here the two models differ fundamentally - in IM, the board is chaired by an external person while in UM, the EC is chaired by the vice-chancellor himself.

With the EC and the executive both headed by the VC, the VC has far more in his control than in the IIT system. This is perhaps a legacy of the British Raj, which works well if the VC is visionary, as was the case in early times when we had towering VCs like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. However, it can seriously damage a university if the VC is malleable or incompetent. In our country we can be sure that appointment of VCs will sometimes be political which can put people not competent for the job in the top position. In other words, if we take the university over a period of multiple decades, we can be almost sure that there will be some periods in which it would be headed by a not very competent VC who is a political appointee.

One crucial area where this can show up is in faculty selections. In both the models, recommendation for faculty selection is generally made by a selection committee, which has experts as members, and is chaired by the director/vice-chancellor. However, the power to actually make appointments rests with the board, which it often delegates to its chairman for speedy acceptance. This weakness opens the VC to political pressure for faculty appointments, as it is the VC who effectively decides on appointments. In IM, as the recommendations have to be accepted by the chairman, political pressure is harder to apply. And nothing hurts an academic institution more than appointment of poor quality faculty even a few appointments can help mediocrity to set in, as a faculty member may be with the university for 30 years. The negative message it sends out will dissuade good candidates from applying, thereby creating a snowball effect, from which it can be very hard to recover. This is one of the key reasons why good faculty candidates simply do not apply to universities that are perceived as supporting mediocrity (despite the fact that the salaries across institutes are the same in India). And in a 10-year period, a VC can easily appoint a quarter of the faculty to fill vacancies created by retirement, and new posts. This system also creates problems in other areas such as awarding contracts, etc.

Interestingly, this aspect also encourages internal politics in UM, which can make it harder for well-meaning VCs to implement desired changes. For example, a VC, as the chief executive, is usually the best person to defend a proposal before the EC, which is the final accepting body. But since he is the chairman also, he often cannot do so strongly, and, in fact, has to often rely on the registrar to defend the proposal. As the VC is himself not making the proposal, EC members, many of whom are internal faculty members, are able to lobby against the proposals more easily (and in the process indirectly criticise the VC himself to his face!).

It is not an accident that over the last 50 years, the institutions that have enhanced or preserved their reputation are mostly the ones that follow IM - IITs, IIMs,
IISc, etc. Examples of institutes that were once great but have declined in stature over the years are often universities, including many which were once highly reputed temples of learning.

In modern India, the governance of universities should adopt modern and tested systems. The IIT model is more robust and can better handle occasional bad appointments at the top position. As India increases the number of its universities, to prevent them from becoming mediocre, it is important that they are created with this model, rather than the university model.

( Jalote is director, IIIT-Delhi and Barua is director, IIT-Guwahati. Views are personal.)








Set to be a collective regional platform of artistic expression and exchange of ideas and technology among the public through over 20 light art installations, the 'i Light Marina Bay' festival in Singapore's nightscape is the first major sustainable light art event in Asia. The festival's director and light artist Mary Anne Kyriakou spoke about the installations and energy-saving technology with Romain Maitra :

How did you conceive the means of using energy-efficient lighting in 'i Light Marina Bay'?
I created the concept a number of years ago in
Sydney and we held the first Smart Light Sydney Ltd event in Sydney during May-June 2009. We were invited to make an application to hold a similar event in Marina Bay to coincide with a year-long celebration of project completions there. The overarching theme of our organisation, Smart Light Singapore Ltd, is energy-efficient lighting. A part of the festival goal is to increase the awareness of LED technology as well as encourage the use of sustainable materials. The artists need to work with artificial lights to create new works for public spaces. Many of the local artists had never worked with LED technology in this capacity, and the public gets the opportunity to experience new works that incorporate new ideas and materials in an innovative way. Singapore is a technologically advanced city and it's important that the public get to experience first-hand creative human scale works. This brings about greater understanding and knowledge of technological advances and promotes new thinking.

How do you wish to inculcate public awareness of sustainable light use in a commercial ambience, public spaces and within homes?

One of the key areas is driving awareness about energy efficiency. Our survey results from the event show increased awareness of the necessity of reduction in energy use, and indicated that they would switch off lights or stop overuse of air-conditioners at home. There was also a greater awareness of recycling. One of the festival activities was to bring in a litre of used cooking oil in exchange for an energy-saving LED lamp. The used cooking oil was treated and this powered up biodiesel generators for the largest light installation, Tilt.

How would this movement through art be spread out further?

Activation, innovation, education and sustainability are key drivers for the Smart Light Singapore Ltd and Smart Light Sydney Ltd. The event promotes dark city skies, best practice in lighting and energy reduction, socialising in good atmosphere and public space without advertising material. People in cities need to connect to the nightscape in a new and exciting way. The events are large-scale and have an audience of over 400,000 people, with website traffic of 4.8 million generated in just six weeks. Social entrepreneurship is a key element to driving the movement forward. This means that behind the scenes we work non-stop with receptive governments, innovation leaders in the areas of lighting, telecommunications, consumer products to build up sponsorship. In addition, we partner with organisations that share similar thinking and strive for outcomes that go beyond tangible products and reach out to other aspects of the human psyche such as touch, atmosphere, sight which can drive social activities that are inspirational and meaningful. The Smart Light event is a movement. Every city ought to come to the realisation that joyous city night space is also quality public space.







Is Pakistan smarter than India? It would appear so. Compare the export initiative shown by the two countries. Over the years, Pakistan has become extremely proficient at exporting its biggest product. Indeed, Pakistan has become the world's leading exporter of this product, having some time ago overtaken Saudi Arabia, which previously occupied the top slot in this export category that constitutes one of the fastest growing industries in the world today: terrorism.

Pakistan is widely acknowledged to be the world's biggest and most efficient exporter of terrorism, a fact known only too well by India which constitutes one of the largest captive markets for Islamabad's main product line. Through aggressive marketing, aimed mainly at the US, Pakistan has turned a dangerous liability into a lucrative asset which helps to keep an otherwise bankrupt economy afloat. By supposedly being America's chief frontline ally in Washington's `war on terror' and its so-called AfPak policy, Islamabad annually extracts billions of dollars from the US. This money, which is meant to be earmarked for anti-terrorist operations is in fact diverted into acquiring more arms for use against India and in setting up more terrorist training camps in Pakistan, the alumni of which will be Islamabad's pawns in its `proxy war' against New Delhi.

Few marketing experts could have devised a better business model than Pakistan's
ISI has done. True, of late there have been a few problems relating to production and distribution systems that have gone awry. Like those `export-reject' garments that turn up in cut-price domestic markets, some of Pakistan's terrorist consignments seem to be boomeranging right back where they came from. Among the notable victims of such `export-reject' terror coming home to roost have been Benazir Bhutto, Punjab governor Salman Taseer and Pakistan's minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, the latter two having been targeted for their vocal opposition to the country's anti-blasphemy laws by which those who renounce Islam can be awarded the death penalty.

However, barring such incidents of collateral damage, Pakistan seems to have done well for itself through its terror industry. How does India shape up in comparison? The answer is: not well at all. Though India has enormous potential, it has failed to tap foreign markets for its own special product. Though many people, including the prime minister, have described the Maoists as the biggest single security threat to the country, and despite secessionist organisations like Ulfa and the rise of so-called `saffron terror', gun-toting terrorism is not the product India specialises in. We specialise in another kind of terrorism: financial terrorism. Except that we don't call it that. We call it scams.

Is there any country in the world which produces scams - hawala, fodder, stamp paper, CWG, Adarsh, 2G, Isro - at the rate India seems to? As a nation, we should demand inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records as the country with the highest scam count in the world. You name it, we'll scam it, seems to be our motto. There appears to be no end to our ingenuity for scamming. Why, then, haven't we done what Pakistan has done with terror? Why haven't we exported our scams - and our scamsters - to foreign countries?

The export ministry needs to see how best to incentivise scamming. For instance, indicted scamsters might be granted amnesty if they undertake to relocate to any other country which will have them. Further, like Islamabad which extracts protection money from Washington using the threat of terror, New Delhi could extract similar hafta from the international community using the threat of exported scams. Indeed, as suggested by the case of Rajat Gupta, the Indian-American financial wizard who has been accused of insider trading by the US authorities, the Indian school of scamdal might have already scored its first success.







Industrial growth caught a chill in November and the downturn has lasted all of this winter with rates languishing below 4% for four months on the trot. Factory output grew a measly 3.6% in February 2011, down from 15.1% in the same month a year ago. Industrial performance is looking stunted against the breathtaking pace notched up between December 2009 and March 2010, when the growth rate averaged 16.4%. In fact, the March and April 2010 figures were 15.5% and 16.6% respectively, so the next couple of data sets due on the index of industrial production are poised to look especially anaemic. Having said that, India's industrial growth in April-February 2010-11 at 8.1% has not fallen too far behind the 9.9% of the year-ago period.

The dip this February owes much to shrinking demand for capital goods - the machinery and electric generators that go into the making of the stuff we eventually buy. The output of capital goods fell by 18.4% in February after falling a similar 18.8% in January, but this has to be seen against the eye-popping growth rates of 46.7% and 57.9%, respectively, in the same two months of 2010. Here again, a longer horizon improves the picture: capital goods have grown 14.6% in April-February 2010-11 trailing by not too wide a margin the 17.9% clocked in the same 11 months of the previous financial year. Lumpy investment demand has made India's index for factory output careen wildly, even though consumer demand has steadied after the 2008 credit squeeze. Demand for consumer durables like cars and refrigerators is on trend while that for perishables like soap and packaged food is looking robust against the declines of January-February 2010.

The jumpy factory output data for most of this financial year will influence policymaking in key areas. One, it will temper the central banks' zeal to raise interest rates to cool food inflation, which is stubbornly refusing to come off its high perch. The Reserve Bank of India has resumed its rate-hiking cycle, but the actual hikes going forward could be lower than what it would be happy with. Two, the government's job in pulling up tax rates lowered to fight the 2008 credit crisis may get that much more difficult: the inflationary impact of higher taxes is all too apparent, and the dips in industrial production will lend weight to the naysayers.  Finally, the index of industrial production has been gyrating wildly, sometimes in direct contradiction to the anecdotal evidence. To be useful as a forecasting tool, the index itself may need an overhaul.





The family of the former telecom minister A Raja is nothing if not consistent. Even as Raja is cooling his heels in the clink, his older brother has got himself in a spot of bother when the police nabbed him distributing cash and calendars to voters in Tamil Nadu. This is proof if any were needed that the prospect of incarceration is no deterrent to the determined bribe-giver.

Or it could be that the need to spread wealth, irrespective of the means, runs deeply in the genetic make-up of the Raja family. It also suggests that the Raja siblings are not very adept crooks, the second having bitten the dust soon after the first. But the offender might well argue that he was not doing anything other politicians are not engaged in. Come elections, the vote-seeker has to come up with ever innovative ways to catch the voter's attention. So if one party offers a mixer as has been the case in Tamil Nadu, the rival has to throw in a grinder as well. If a buffalo is on offer, it has to be bested by sweetening it with at least a chicken. Now that Raja is out of public sight, the poor brother was ensuring that people don't forget him through the smart use of the calendar which bore the former's picture as also that of the party leader M Karunanidhi. Earlier, a son of the DMK supremo allegedly tried to improve the health of the voters by plying them with Horlicks, something the portly rival from the AIADMK objected to.

Now the brothers Raja could argue that this is their way of giving back to the public what the public gave via the money so lovingly entrusted to them during the allocation of the 2G spectrum. This may not carry much conviction with the Election Commission but we are sure that the contrite brother can explain this conduct of public duty. Meanwhile, if you want a free calendar, do write in to your nearest DMK office and get to feel like a Raja for a few days.






Indian companies and financial institutions are poised to assist Iran in sidestepping international sanctions by using the German financial system to facilitate the transfer from India to Iran of billions of dollars annually for oil sales. The Indian government should take immediate action to prevent this abuse of the financial sector. Failure to take a strong stance will allow a rogue regime to fill its coffers with the hard currency it needs to repress its people and facilitate terrorism.

On March 29, Germany's foreign and economic ministries ratified an arrangement that would allow India to transfer an estimated $12.65 billion to the German Central Bank to pay for Iranian oil. The money would then be routed to Iran through the European-Iranian Bank (Europisch-Iranische Handelsbank, or EIH), which has been blacklisted for proliferating weapons of mass destruction. According to the Indian media, New Delhi and Tehran have been trying to find a way to conduct business  as sanctions levied by the United States, Europe and the United Nations have made it difficult for Iran to move its funds internationally.

Until recently, India and Iran were using a relatively unknown clearing house based in Tehran to move billions of dollars annually. Since 2008, India and Iran have transacted business involving some $30 billion  using the Asian Clearing Union. In late 2010, the US government realised that Iran was easily circumventing sanctions using this mechanism. Washington put pressure on New Delhi, and transactions between Iran and India ground to a halt.

The traditional Indian-Iranian relationship has revolved around bilateral trade. In 2010, the two countries conducted $14 billion of business, mostly in the oil and gas sector. It is natural for India, which wants to fuel its economy, to be a voracious consumer of energy. But there are many other sources around the globe; New Delhi's insistence on buying oil from a rogue regime is nothing short of baffling.

There are other reasons why India should seriously reconsider its relationship with Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran endorses a radical form of religion that is at odds with the tenets upon which India rests. Iran was founded upon the values of militant Islam and a strict interpretation of the sharia. Iran financially supports terrorist organisations around the globe that engage in crimes against humanity. The ideology that drives Iran and its proxies is not dissimilar from the one held by those who carry out heinous terror attacks in Kashmir, Mumbai and other places throughout India.

In addition, Iran's human rights record is unspeakable. The regime is criticised by Iranian citizens, international organisations, activists, non governmental organisations and the UN. The government regularly engages in torture, rape and killing of civilians, dissidents and political prisoners. According to Human Rights Watch, under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's human rights record has "deteriorated markedly". Is this the type of regime with which New Delhi wishes to align? The ideals promoted by great leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi could not be further from those of rulers like Ahmadinejad.

India has publicly supported Iran's right to peaceful nuclear technology but Iran must, according to former external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, "satisfy the international community that its programme is indeed peaceful". To their credit, Indian officials have not completely bought Iran's story, and they publicly support the international sanctions regime. But the government feels it is in India's interest to facilitate and expand business relations, with the result that India has  been willing to allow its financial system to be abused to help Iran.

Indian officials and business leaders should be aware that when they make payments for oil via banks such as EIH, they are, in fact, supporting organisations that are part and parcel of Iran's weapons  programme. In September 2010, the US Treasury Department blacklisted EIH because it serves "as a key financial lifeline" for Iran. The bank is reportedly involved in arms trafficking as well as the Iranian missile and nuclear programs. It is also worth noting that two of EIH's main shareholders, Bank Mellat and Bank Refah, are subject to European Union and US sanctions and Mellat is additionally subject to UN restrictions for its role in Iran's nuclear regime.

Indian companies using the German Central Bank/EIH mechanism to transact business with Iran should realise that they risk losing their access to US and European markets. We can only hope that many of these companies will decide to change course. The government and people of India should take a strong stand against Iran as long as it continues to march towards obtaining a nuclear bomb, oppressing its people and proliferating terrorism. Not to do so is a betrayal of the values and ideals that free nations everywhere hold dear.

(Avi Jorisch, a former US Treasury official, is the author of Iran's Dirty Banking: How the Islamic Republic is Skirting International Financial Sanctions. The views expressed by the author are personal.)





The Anna Hazare movement crept up unnoticed, pounced suddenly and unexpectedly seized a country by the throat. Within hours of Hazare announcing his fast, the news, disseminated by 24-hour media, had spread to every city, small town and village. A media event rapidly became a public one. Hundreds heard, pushed back their chairs and charpoys and walked. They walked with candles, they marched to streetside venues. Forty thousand 'liked' Hazare's 'India Against Corruption' page on Facebook. There were protests in 400 locations across the world. Seven lakh people expressed solidarity with Hazare by giving a missed call.

The crowds were peaceful, well-behaved and not a single violent incident was reported. At Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the atmosphere was low key and respectable. No goons. Instead, the new knowledge economy middle class turned up: geeks, students, doctors, litigants who had battled an uncaring state for decades. They came to sit with an elderly man from Maharashtra whose name they may never have heard before but who, they had heard, was willing to die for them.

The movement for the Jan Lok Pal Bill has been criticised. A fast unto death in many ways is undemocratic and sets a precedent of blackmail. There is an authoritarian undertone to a group of unelected civil society members seeking to make law. The movement betrayed glimpses of a disrespect to all democratic institutions like Parliament and seemed to place its hopes on a dictatorial super hero like the Lok Pal with absolute powers. When powers of judge, jury and executioner are all vested in a single entity, its possible that entity could become an instrument of evil.

All these reservations must be taken on board by the committee which will draft the Jan Lok Pal Bill. Our elected representatives are the heartbeat of our republic and if we place them in jeopardy, we will become yet another high-growth authoritarian country like our neighbours in south east Asia. The 'sab neta chor hai' mentality is dangerous. A country that hates its elected politicians soon begins to hate democracy itself.

But those who criticise the Anna Hazare movement as being anti-politician and thus anti- democratic must also answer the question: is Indian democratic politics still democratic? Or is democratic politics now a gigantic multi-crore syndicate in which hereditary bosses control paid vote-banks to repeatedly return to power? According to a study, the total amount spent in 2009 elections was R10,000 crore. The Hazare movement did not became a wildfire phenomenon because of the media. It became a phenomenon precisely because of the helplessness that people feel about politics becoming impervious to public concerns. Democratic politics is in danger of becoming a closed upper class of well-connected super-rich folk for whom India is a playground. Politics is perceived as business-driven, family-driven and cut off from the aam aadmi.

Almost every political party today is dynastic. When a political party represents an idea or vision, voters feel they can vote, donate and support that party. But when a political party represents only a particular family and family enrichment, then how can voters either support, donate or vote for it? No wonder parties can't rely on public donations and must seek nefarious funds to win elections.

All corruption today has its roots in the funding of elections. The DMK is a good example of how hereditary politics is intimately connected with big money. When a candidate campaigns on the strength of his vision and charisma, he can raise money on his agenda for change; when he campaigns for a family name, he relies inevitably on the business connections of his family. When asked why he didn't contest elections, Hazare candidly admitted that since he did not have money and liquor power, he would lose his deposit. In today's democracy, perhaps even Gandhi would lose his deposit.

In his recent book India: A Portrait, Patrick French points out that all MPs under the age of 30 are hereditary. More than two thirds of 66 MPs under the age of 40 are hereditary. Of women MPs, 69.5% are hereditary. If the present trend continues, the Indian parliament will soon be made up of only hereditary MPs and India will be back to the era of the princelings and their kingdoms.

The Hazare movement is then a wake-up call for Indian politicians. Yes, there is a citizenry out there which is severely unhappy with being saddled with a Parliament that has become a closed shop of tycoons and family scions. Yes, there is a citizenry out there that feels helpless and anguished that big money and big power are charting the nation's destiny according to their needs. Yes, there is a citizenry out there that feels betrayed that politicians are handing over their legacies not to the country but to their sons and daughters. Yes, there is a citizenry out there that feels agitated when an aloof and elitist government does not talk to them as equal stakeholders.

Hazare's movement must not be seen as just a movement against corruption; its also a movement against the kind of 'democracy' we are becoming. A fast unto death has gatecrashed the political cocktail party. In a patchy subliminal way, the word 'public' has been re-inserted into the Republic.

(Sagarika Ghose is deputy editor, CNN-IBN. The views expressed by the author are personal)





One of the important issues in the run-up to the just-concluded elections in Assam has been the individual and cumulative downstream impacts of over 100 large hydropower projects proposed in upstream Arunachal Pradesh on the Brahmaputra floodplain - the lifeline of Assam. In spite of being debated, the issue found no mention in the Congress' manifesto. The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), a major peasants' movement in the state, has castigated the party for ignoring an issue that impacts the lives and livelihood of millions of people.

Some of the concerns raised include loss of fisheries, changes in wetland ecology in the flood plains, impact on agriculture on riverine islands and tracts, incre-ased flood vulnerability due to boulder extraction from riverbeds for dam construction and sudden water releases from reservoirs in the monsoons, dam safety and associated risks in this geologically fragile and seismically-active region, drastic daily flow fluctuations due to power generation patterns and disruption of intricate socio-cultural linkages of indigenous communities with the river.

While Opposition pressure ensured that a House Committee of the Assam Legislative Assembly was set up to investigate the issue, the state has been hostile to democratic protests, often alleging that these are backed by Maoists. Priv-ate and public sector players have signed at least 135 MoUs for hydroelectric projects with the government of Arunachal Pradesh in the Brahmaputra basin, each agreement accompanied by huge upfront premiums paid before Detailed Project Reports are completed and mandatory public hearings are held.

It was expected that the public hearings would help democratise the decision-making but that has not been the case as every single project is assumed to be a fait accompli. Let us take the case of the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri hydr-oelectric project on the Assam-Arun-achal Pradesh border. One of the prominent inhabitants of the Subansiri valley in Assam is the Mising tribe. The environmental and social impact assessments presented at the public hearing did not have even a single mention of the impact on the Mising community. Repe-ated requests by locals to re-conduct the public hearing based on credible impact assessment studies were ignored and the project given the green signal. Later, post-clearance impact assessment studies were commissioned  even as construction continued.

After a sustained movement by downstream communities, both the central and the state governments have acknowledged the need for individual and cumulative downstream impact assessment of the hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh. But there has been no word on public hearings in downstream Assam for upcoming projects in Arunachal Pradesh on rivers like Lohit, Dibang and Siang. Official papers related to projects such as the 1,750 MW Lower Demwe (Lohit), 3,000 MW Dibang Multipurpose and 2,700 Lower Siang acknowledges that these dams will impact flow patterns in downstream Assam. Ironically, the state government has not felt the need to take up the demand for public hearings with the Centre.

(Neeraj Vagholikar is a member of Kalpavriksh, an environmental action group. The views expressed by the author are personal.)





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

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

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

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






Union law minister Veerappa Moily is a confident man these days. He has committed his government to meeting an August 15 deadline to have the Lokpal bill passed by Parliament. As per his calendar, he told reporters, the bill should be drafted by June 30, and its passage thereafter in the monsoon session should be possible "if all cooperate". The urgency in the minister's words is arresting. It is not just that he claims to hasten law-making in the aftermath of Parliament's winter session being abandoned to a standoff between the government and the opposition and the budget session curtailed so that MPs could campaign for assembly elections. If his words were meant to reassure us that Parliament will devote itself to the pending legislative business to make up for a bad year, it would be heartening. No, the disquiet over Moily's statement draws from the fact that he is committing his government's, and Parliament's, support to a legislation whose eventual draft no one can be sure of at this point.

The casualness with which the Union law minister can commit the highest law-making body in the land to a deadline imposed by an activist, sadly, doesn't only reflect on Moily's low estimation of Parliament. If "civil society" activists really believe they can ask MPs to do their bidding, the current situation frames an alienation for which the entire political class must hold itself responsible. When Parliament's legislative and deliberative business is so easily, and so regularly, subordinated to the opposition's protests and the government's reluctance to reach out across the aisles to forge bipartisan engagement on bills, is it really surprising that we have reached this moment? A moment when the high street has arrogated to itself the right to give dictation to Parliament — a right being conceded by a Union minister, to the detriment of Parliament's unique role in gathering through its members the noise and concerns of our towns and villages.

Many reasons have been put forth for the legislature's gradual weakening. For instance, the anti-defection law has been sequentially strengthened to take away from the individual MP the right to vote differently from her party whip. When the party whip defines an MP's choices, an individual's voting record counts for little. It relieves the ruling party/ coalition of the need to convince MPs as individuals of the need for a legislation; it makes it easy for opposition parties to be naysayers without fearing a rupture in their ranks. That is why we sometimes have the spectacle of a clutch of bills being passed in minutes on a voice vote. If a bunch of noisy activists, and the law minister too, think they can force another voice vote at an appointed hour, the political class should see the moment for the crisis it highlights.






India's citizens are far too distant from their government. They approach it as supplicants, pleading for the services and information that its various organs are supposed to provide as their right, anyway. This distancing breeds anger, and then — in the case of the empowered middle class — contempt for those who they feel are monopolising what the state provides, those skimming off the benefits of governance. The inchoate anger against corruption that we have all had to deal with recently originates not just in an inability to see how our democracy is functioning, but also in a sense, common among India's citizens, that we are still subjects of an unfriendly leviathan of a state.

It is incumbent upon those who care about governance and about the framework that sustains our democracy, therefore, to work out how to narrow that distance. One such effort is on, The Financial Express reported on Tuesday, in the Centre's department of information technology. A policy framework is to be released, we are told, that will ensure that mobile phones will be able to provide public services and information. To start with, all government websites will be made mobile-compliant — not an easy task, one imagines, given their ugly, buggy, slow and sarkari nature. There already is a National eGovernance Plan, which links several websites that claim to be able to tell you the status of your passport or PAN card application, check agricultural prices, file for a death certificate, or check land records. (Not all of these work.) What is necessary, however, is to broaden the scope of what can be done online and, as this new policy would do, ensure that it is accessible even to those who do not have access to an Internet-ready computer.

Various states and Central departments have shown the way. In Kerala, information about local public health resources is available on the phone. The Goa government uses SMS alerts for various services in a big way; the Central passport office and the Railways have figured out how to use SMSes as well. Two-thirds of Indians have mobile phones.

All of them think the state is too remote. Here is a gap crying out to be bridged.







Burning questions — too long to be put on SMS or Twitter — but all unanswered so far. Why are you worried about who is on the committee to draft the Lokpal bill or what this movement comprises? What is this movement's politics, which will decide on this important bill? Is Baba Ramdev in or out? Was Narendra Modi ever in? It reflects a mood, we have been told, and that the government has accepted it as such, so enough is enough. A retired IPS officer explains, wincing as she enunciates the word "representation": "It is not about representation. The people in the panel know the law and will give us a good Lokpal bill."

No one is making a case for the disappearance of pressure groups or NGOs to try and change things and strengthen ideas of representation. On the contrary. Movements, social and political, past and present, have helped India's democracy mature and deepen — from Vaikom, where there was a move to enable Dalit entry to temples, to anti-zamindari movements that helped India break the back of feudalism and create conditions for the middle class to emerge. The freedom movement was not just about the overthrow of colonial rule. It explored the idea of citizenship and enfolded identity into a brand of inclusive nationhood through a series of stirring agitations, including the real Gandhi's very own projects and fasts against communalism and caste oppression. Indeed, with the Periyar-led movement for backward castes in south India and the Mandal movement for the OBCs in north India many years later, political agitations deepened democracy by exploring the meaning of equality and opportunity. They drew more people into the discourse, by giving them a vote and a voice and thereby opening up access to power.

Of course, the link between rulers and those who have elected them has often been tenuous and imperfect, but there is no denying the incremental progress — even if gradually the citizen is acquiring a sense of being a participant in Indian democracy, a real stakeholder. Huge and shocking inequalities of opportunity remain, there is a lot we need to demand from our "system" and push it to be more responsive, something each of these movements did. And along with dignity and ideas, each of them threw up their own sets of leaders and representatives, who pulled in their weight, imparting some of their colour, energy and personality to the system. A whole new set of leaders were embraced by successive movements who weren't nihilists, but had worked hard on ways to broaden the idea of representation and make their place in the democratic structure.

This latest demand by some NGOs, that their self-appointed representatives be given a final say in law-making, is therefore of an entirely different order. It begs the question, why did the Central government give in to these demands so easily? Certainly, the agitation found the Congress at a most vulnerable moment, when the air is thick with talk of scams. But more than that, the tactic of para-trooping a Gandhian "outsider" as part of a "civil society" movement has hit the ruling establishment where it hurts the most.

The top three faces of UPA-2 — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi — had managed to together convey stirring images of dependability and trustworthiness during the spectacularly successful 2009 Lok Sabha campaign. But it was constantly emphasised between the lines that their redoubtability drew from being "outsiders" to the "system". The "system", whether in government or in the party, was always shown to be separate from their personal images. Dr Singh played the non-politician; the Congress president is not part of the executive formally nor is Rahul Gandhi. Being the outsider gave each of them a certain halo and distance from the "mess" the system was supposed to be in. And it worked.

But now, when a few pushy activists threw in a genuine outsider, a hinterland "Gandhian" known to champion "causes" with "fasts", with his spartan, raw appeal, it served up a useful symbol for some of the middle classes (known so far, for an entirely different set of consumption patterns from Anna Hazare's). And suddenly, in contrast to the "Gandhian", the PM and the Congress leadership now appeared starkly as "establishment" and this made allowing images of the continuation of the fast live on TV very damaging. Therefore, the imperative to act quickly — especially when many in the opposition had also begun to appropriate the anti-establishment mood.

This is where the political class is flirting with danger. It is failing to articulate a political position that emphasises what is wrong with imposing something, howsoever good, without a legitimate process — that it will eventually undermine the very "system" that is being sought to be fixed. If the "system" can so easily dispense with basic democratic procedures, what is this shiny new "system" we are working towards? In the future, if someone does not like something about the "system", could she just rally anger around the subject, cite it as injustice and create the atmospherics to have her way?

Also, assertions of being apolitical and pious have often been the most dangerous ones, as they are used to keep ideas and ideologies beyond questioning. To silence questions that are raised about this movement by saying that it has no ideology is disingenuous, and absolutely undemocratic. Of course, for the political parties, including those in government, it may appear to be easy to play along with this "civil society" quest for a one-shot solution, instead of summoning a patience with procedures, and genuinely cleaning up and simplifying them to fix the "corrupt".

But the quick and easy path in this case is also the more dangerous road, and it is one on which we have already embarked — all because there are some people around who talk loud enough to make claims about representing "the people". We, the electors and those we elected, have just given them a walkover.








The increase in agricultural production shown by the Third Advance Estimates — 235.88 million tonnes of foodgrains during 2010-11 compared with 218.11 million tonnes in the previous year — is impressive by any standards. Weather plays a role in short-term agricultural growth in India and assessments are treacherous, but this time, whichever way you look at it, it is all green. Agricultural growth of 5.4 per cent comes after a low base. The average of the past three years is less than 2 per cent, which means that at the outside 0.5 per cent of GDP is weather-related but that does not take away the sheen.

What is more interesting is the pattern of growth, which has been established in the past few years. The structure is that of low growth of cereals and more of oilseeds and cotton — and that remains intact. This time the welcome part is the production of pulses.

There is more good news, and in a very significant way: we are right at the top. But we need to run fast to keep it up. Let's see why.

If we look at rice production, comparing this year's third advance estimates with the last, there is growth. It is largely in yield. There is a a welcome increase in Assam and Chhattisgarh, with scattered evidence of hybrids picking up. Growth is also there in states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat. Much to the embarrassment of international think-tanks, which say Gujarat is specialising in commercial crops, the state is growing more rice and wheat and the share of area in grain crops is up again. Flush with Narmada waters, some directly and some through tanks since the lower-level canal system is yet to come in a big way, the area under cultivation has gone up to 0.76 million hectares and the price of paddy in the mandis is nearly the lowest in India. Ditto for wheat and, of course, Bt cotton, where technology is still a forward force.

The great story is pulses. The portal of the ministry of agriculture tells it with some pride. Their strategy was to bring in new areas and to concentrate on the seeds they had. The agricultural universities in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, for example, had achieved in districts yield almost 40 per cent higher than the average and they went for that. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and the ICAR's Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Kanpur, were there. Good prices helped and retiring CACP chairman Mahendra Dev's parting gift in high MSPs gave the right signals. Some private players also entered the market with packets for farmers in select areas. Area under tur and gram cultivation went up by almost a million hectares each, to be precise nine lakh hectares. Urad was also on a high with a four-lakh-hectare increase. Output went up by almost a fifth, and without it for the same supplies we would have had to double imports.

The other happy news for me is soya, not just because I stay away from bad cholesterol. Here the production went up by 20 per cent and minister Jairam Ramesh may please note that hybrids and also GM varieties rule the roost. A few decades ago, soya was a hey-you crop in India. It was largely a planning-inspired push and Madhya Pradesh's kharif fallows were used for it. But in the Eighties agriculture scientist R.S. Paroda pushed new technology there. It is now a new ball game and soya a star performer. Another oilseed which the Eighties gave a technology push to was castor which has again done well, with a 30 per cent increase.

Twenty-thirty per cent growth rates in oilseeds and pulses! Does it mean that we have crossed the hump? No. We should be happy but not laid-back. The kisan has done it again. When the planner and the policymaker have a clear vision, when Krishi Bhavan has a go-getting crowd, we know India does well in agriculture. It happened in the mid-Seventies and in the latter half of the Eighties. This time the problems are more complex, because the demand is larger and more diverse and the resource base is shrinking in terms of land and water.

The EGoM on food security is meeting on April 25 and I hope it will take a good decision. It is terribly important that we succeed in abolishing hunger. We will need more grains from less land. Seven per cent per capita growth will mean we need more of everything in agriculture. It is good to succeed but the bars will be raised and in pulses, oilseeds and grains, global yields will be the next in sight.

The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand.







Is the Lokpal the next "krishnaavatar"? Is this the last and final stroke required to root out corruption? The conclusion that the state is unable to tackle corruption because it does not have a mechanism or an institution to do so, is unfounded. Kiran Bedi has said that the Lokpal will clean up corruption from our society in five years. This euphoria is unfounded too, because the devil lies in the details. There is no universal, singular, dramatic solution to the all-pervading problem of corruption. Acceptance of this truth is not pessimism, but an admission that we need to work harder. In a functional democracy, working on the nuts and bolts of all its institutions is necessary — but there is nothing romantic about that.     

In recent times, the political mobilisation against corruption started with the Right to Information, or RTI. The present mood of despair partially stems from the perceived ineffectiveness of the RTI. It is a logical consequence that Anna Hazare, who was instrumental in the making of the RTI and in keeping it intact, is now demanding a Lokpal bill. RTI activists always felt there was a vacuum in that after they got hold of documents which prima facie showed wrongdoing, they had little way of ensuring that some kind of enquiry was started against the wrongdoers. In spite of this, we have witnessed grave instances of RTI activists getting killed just for having the information — though they were unable to book anybody for the irregularity that they had unearthed.  

In addition to the experience of activists, the common man is frustrated with the corruption all around; be it Rs 20 demanded by a traffic policeman or gigantic scams like that surrounding 2G spectrum. Hence the growing support to the "India against Corruption" movement. 

But there are some steps that need to be taken first, before a Lokpal bill would be effective.

For one, the RTI stands to be ineffective for two reasons. One is that the infrastructure needed — like the number of information commissioners and their offices — are not in place in a number of locations across the country. Two, and most importantly, the data required is just not available. The data that would constitute a minimum transparency requirement for any government programme are not defined. The collection of data about inputs, process and output indicators is ad hoc, sporadic and shabby, if it happens at all.

This is serious. Regardless of how much the government spends, especially on welfare programmes and public goods and the like, any data is conspicuous only by its absence. And if there is some data being collected, it is not uniform across time and region. What those of us who work with the RTI thus wind up with is scattered information, spread across a lot of documents. 

To capture an irregularity in any function of the government is certainly not simple. The road is slippery because the road is ill-defined. That is why a clearly-defined set of procedures and criteria is important. Then the process needs to be followed, and data generated as it unfolds. Process data is especially relevant to understand if there is any misuse — even though procedural lapses do not necessarily mean that there is misuse or misappropriation. 

And so what we need to demand is instead good governance, defined as putting in place systems with clearly-defined rules, procedures and guidelines, and good data-capturing mechanisms, which collect data at all points of delivery. Most of this information must be in the public domain as soon as it gets generated.  

For example we have seen how the railways, electricity boards, public-sector banks and the like changed drastically after reengineering their processes. Transparency increased and the general frequency of irregularities decreased. While with 2G and the CWG, precisely the opposite happened. No one knew the procedure that was intended for allocation, or the one that was to be adopted. Information related to CWG purchases was not put in the public domain as a matter of course. So if we do not define what is "regular" how could we catch what could be "irregular"? 

A Lokpal bill, in whichever form it may come, it is unlikely to be effective if systems are not in place across state functions, systems designed for transparency and accountability. Given this we can catch irregularities, and have documents to prove each one, which could then be taken to the appropriate authority for redressal.  

Good governance is a prerequisite for an effective Lokpal or any such authority. Expecting a Lokpal bill to give you good governance is, in my opinion, putting the cart before the horse. This means civil society must engage with the government in several ways, at many levels, and on a sustained basis. Unfortunately, the prevailing mood may not find this proposal appealing.

The writer is a Nashik-based agricultural economist







In the three days that I was travelling and away from the TV set, my fellow citizens had plotted and enacted a revolution, and I missed it.

When I returned, our nation's moral conscience that resides inside 24x7 idiot boxes had already inspired thousands of middle- and upper-class Indians to hold hands or light candles against corruption. In Delhi's Jantar Mantar, the pavements were taken over by the well-to-do, who had come to express their solidarity with Anna Hazare in his crusade against corruption. Anything that gets the Great Indian Middle Class to hold a candle or give a fig about anything but themselves deserves to be called a revolution.

But am I wrong in suggesting that the candle-holding middle-class Indian is not very different from the Maoist in his or her ideology?

Both have no faith in the constitution. The Maoist takes up arms to dismantle Parliament. The middle-class dismantles it by shunning it, reviling it and neglecting it. Ironically, both are reactions to the concentration of power in the hands of a few; both will eventually erode democracy and concentrate power even further.

Let me explain. April 13 is the date for assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. In an effort to bring candidates to engage with voters, a group of people from a South Chennai constituency organised an all-candidate meeting on Saturday. A day earlier, many debutant middle-class activists had rushed off to the Marina Beach to join the call for a law against corruption. The organisers of the all-candidate meeting invited their public-spirited friends to also attend their function.

But many of the optimistic candle-holders were cynical. The organisers were told that politics was dirty, that politicians were evil, and that nothing good would come out of engaging with the assembly candidates.

MLAs and MPs are the lawmakers of the state and the country. We need to educate ourselves about them, educate them of our needs, and hold them accountable. Otherwise, no amount of holding candles will bring accountability and integrity in public life. Law-making is not the remit of hunger-strikers, although in a democracy that is a legitimate way to push one's point.

That said, I am faced with a terrible dilemma. I am as fearful of a silent, lazy middle-class as I am of a vocal, active one. What worries me is the predominant culture among the middle-classes that equates education with virtue, and suggests a strident libertarianism with openly anti-poor values as ideology. Bereft of any exposure to the extreme hardships faced by the poorer sections of society, this culture has no compunctions in prioritising the individual over the collective, with imposing a consensus on the conversion of multicultural cities into exclusive monocultural enclaves, or selectively calling vendors on the beach or on our sidewalks as encroachers, while leaving the corporate giants that forcibly take over indigenous lands out of the purview of that definition.

The practitioners of this culture view anything sarkari as automatically venal, corrupt, ridiculous, dirty and inherently immutable. This sentiment is being used to hand over state-run enterprises, the PDS and utilities to private players.

In Jantar Mantar last weekend, and every time I see the middle classes raise their substantial voices, I nurse a niggling fear that the stage is being set for a de facto dictatorship.

If I we're to avert that, we need a radical transformation of middle class culture. We need a middle-class that is as moved to take to the streets to condemn police atrocities against adivasis in Chhattisgarh as it is to support the call for justice for Aarushi Talwar.

The writer is a Chennai-based journalist and researcher






It is imperative Afghanistan doesn't become the "forgotten war," as happened after 2002. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in February of a "political surge." NATO's senior civilian representative, Mark Sedwill, said last month "the time is now right to take the risk and pursue the political agenda with the same energy we have brought to the military and civilian surges."

The 2014 NATO end date will prove illusory unless there is an endgame. And that endgame must be negotiations with all factions in the Afghan struggle and their regional backers.

The issue is not that the political arm of the Defence-Development-Diplomacy triad has been missing in action. A political settlement is not one part of a multi-pronged strategy in a counter-insurgency; it is the overarching framework within which everything else fits and in the service of which everything else operates.

First, the UNSC needs to appoint a mediator to facilitate talks, setting out principles of the endgame and an invitation to all. The mediator should come from the Muslim world. His job would be to create the confidence for, and commitment to, a process for talks. He should develop the idea of a safe place in a third country for all sides to talk. We need steps by which each side can prove its bona fides. The Taliban want an end to night raids, safe passage, prisoner releases. We need to propose localised ceasefires, security for development projects, a Taliban declaration of disassociation from Al Qaeda.

Third, there should be clarity of civilian command, to match the clarity of military command. As the US appoints a new ambassador this year, this appointment needs the personality, instruction and length of mandate to convene and cohere the disparate strands of civilian effort. The job description would include being President Hamid Karzai's interlocutor and liaising with the military.

Pakistan needs a long-term relationship with the US and the EU based on responsibility and respect. It cannot have privilege, but pressure will not get it to deliver. Pakistan needs an upfront deal that we will support their long-term security in return for their help now in protecting ours; the alternative is that we end up negotiating with the Taliban and Pakistan in a delayed endgame.

The new UN envoy should be responsible for regional talks. In the first instance, these should be bilateral. The medium-term goal should be a council of regional stability that oversees a compact between the neighbours.

Our leverage will decline, not improve, as 2014 approaches. The insurgency can spread; the warlords can strengthen their grip. Inter-ethnic strife can come to look more and more like civil war. Two international conferences, in Kabul and Bonn, currently have scant agenda or preparation. The agreement on a new political approach would make them historic occasions. It is time we stopped behaving as if there were a military solution and developed a political one. For that politicians need to give a lead. That is the way forward in Afghanistan: working to mend it, not rushing to end it.

The writer was UK foreign secretary.







Anna Hazare afterthought

After whole-heartedly supporting Anna Hazare's fast and proclaiming that the Jan Lokpal bill was the need of the hour, the CPI appears to have nuanced its stand.

At the height of the Hazare-led campaign, the party had demanded that the government let the Jan Lokpal bill be tabled in Parliament and end the fast-unto-death undertaken by the social activist. An editorial in the latest issue of CPI journal New Age, however, says that while "we are all for a comprehensive Lok Pal legislation covering each and every functionary of the establishment including the prime minister, it has to be within the basic framework of our Constitution and should not lead to subversion of... parliamentary democracy."

It adds that corruption cannot be fought in isolation as it has been seen as a by-product of economic neo-liberalism. "Similarly, the fight against corruption should not be used to side-track much more serious issues like price-rise, unemployment, continuously widening gap between the poor and the rich and wholesale hawking of the national assets of PSUs."

It adds: "We have no quarrel with Anna Hazare and his supporters, some of whom have (a) very shady record as far as corruption and misuse of official position is concerned. We would like that, if they are really interested in wiping out the evil of corruption from the society, the platform... be much wider, covering all the evils of economic neo-liberalism."

Social insecurity

With the government finally taking the long-awaited pension bill out of cold storage, the Left has restarted its opposition to the legislation. An article by CITU General Secretary, Tapan Sen, in the latest issue of CPM weekly People's Democracy says that the bill has paved the way for a new regime, replacing an assured pension with a pension system governed by market forces, that plays with employees' life-time savings. "Most alarmingly, through PFRDA bill, the government now plans to attract the savings of the 46 crore unorganised sector workers for investment in the stock market on the same scheme of market-based uncertain returns," it says. The real reason behind the pension bill is altogether different, it argues: "The share market needs a continuous flow of liquidity to keep up profits for the speculators and brokers. Pension fund can be one such source for such liquidity as it belongs to none but the poor workers who can be risked for speculative purposes... Pension will no longer remain a secure social security; it will become a funding source for unscrupulous investors, both domestic and foreign."

Foreign hands

The government's new FDI policy, recently announced by the department of industrial policy and promotion, came in for harsh criticism from People's Democracy. The paper reported that multinationals which have entered into India through joint ventures with Indian companies have now been allowed to make investments in the same field, outside the joint venture, unilaterally — without obtaining approval from the Indian partner. "This move will ensure the tightening of the stranglehold of the MNCs over our economy at the expense of Indian companies. The move also exposes the extent to which global agribusinesses are dictating the course of policy decisions in India," it says, quoting the All India Kisan Sabha.

The article also says that the government has allowed 100 per cent FDI in the development of seeds, horticulture, planting materials and services related to agro and allied sectors, where the entry route is automatic and unrestricted, and that "this is bound to seriously compromise the interests of millions of peasants engaged in dairying, poultry and other such activities for their livelihood," as well as lead to the quicker dismantling of the National Seeds Corporation.

"Indian seed manufacturers will be adversely affected and peasants would be at the mercy of the MNCs for the supply of seeds. There will be no control over seed prices or royalty and seed monopolies will be further strengthened," it adds.

Compiled by Manoj C.G.






Telecom minister Kapil Sibal's announcement that, when it is finally announced, the New Telecom Policy 2011 will delink licences from spectrum is a big leap forward in cleaning up the mess that A Raja and various recommendations by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) have created. While Raja's largesse resulted in a situation where his favoured firms got spectrum at a fraction of its market value, Trai recommended putting the older players at a further disadvantage. While firms like Uninor paid a fraction of the 3G spectrum auction-costs for their spectrum, Trai recommended that firms like Bharti/Vodafone/BSNL/MTNL would pay 1.5 times the 3G rates—for their extra spectrum right now, and at the time when their licences came up for renewal starting 2014. By saying that no spectrum will be given when licences are renewed—it will have to be bid for—Sibal has ensured there will be no scope for favouritism of the Raja kind or through flawed reasoning of the Trai kind in the post-2014 period. There will, of course, be a problem when the Bhartis and Vodafones pay 1.5 times the 3G price for their extra spectrum while the post-2014 spectrum they will get can be at lower auction-determined prices—this, however, is a legacy issue and may need to be endured if it cannot be cured.

There are, however, some areas that need some more thought if Sibal's overarching objective is to be achieved. The easier M&A norms Sibal spoke of are an urgent need, but there is no reason why Sibal should want 6 players to be there in each circle at any point in time. It is better than today's 14, but there is enough evidence to show that 3-4 players are enough to ensure competitive pricing in most industries, including telecom—in any case, since the existing law only speaks of four players, Sibal may end up making M&A even more restrictive! The 10% cross-holding limit, similarly, is largely irrelevant once there are more than 3-4 players. But, most important, if M&As are to take place, the cap of 15 MHz for a merged entity is the surest way of ensuring no M&As take place—one of the big drivers of M&A is the larger amounts of spectrum available and the consequent savings that result from larger spectrum amounts. Interestingly, Trai has recommended this cap be lowered to 14.4 MHz. Since Sibal has till the end of the year to come out with NTP 2011, hopefully these glitches will be ironed out by then.





Given it was the CAG report that forced the government to finally act on the Raja scam, and got it in all manner of trouble with the Supreme Court, it was always obvious the government would be hopping mad. Indeed, the government has lost no opportunity to trash the report, to argue that its R1.76 lakh crore loss was the result of a fevered imagination more than anything else. No one bought the argument made by the government, indeed the more forcefully the argument was made, the more the figure stuck in the popular mind. Ironically, a report by a former CAG head, VK Shunglu, who is himself investigating the corruption in the Commonwealth Games, may now serve to gag the CAG. As part of his report on the CWG, Shunglu has suggested that the CAG be recast along the lines of the Election Commission. So instead of having just one person who heads it, have a panel of three CAG Commissioners as it were. Remember the Election Commission pre- and post-TN Seshan, and the problem this caused when the election commissioners were not in sync? Shunglu has also suggested that a regular audit be carried out of the CAG reports by an independent team of accountants appointed by the Public Accounts Committee—right now, while the PAC discusses the CAG reports, the CAG findings are pretty much considered to be accurate.

It cannot be anyone's case that institutions cannot be improved upon, and the CAG is no exception. Its reports have been criticised by many in the past, as have Shunglu's on the CWG by everyone he has held guilty, but the cure suggested is likely to be worse than the disease. Getting the CAG to institute more internal controls is one thing, getting outside auditors to examine each point is quite another. The institution of the CAG was brought in to assist the government and legislators in governance and that is why it was given a special status and the CAG (DPC) Act of 1972 set out those roles.

Irrespective of whether bringing in a multi-member CAG will require a constitutional amendment, the problem with bad ideas is, once set in motion, they are difficult to eradicate.





It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting," said Sir Tom Stoppard. So, while we wait, for the just concluded Assembly elections results in Assam and the polling to begin in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Pondicherry, an overview of the profile of the people the electorate is voting for in states, in collaboration with the Empowering India project by the Liberty Institute, may prove to be of interest.

While the Prime Minister and his wife, both registered voters in the Dispur district of Assam, decided against exercising their franchise in the Assembly elections, the second phase of polling went off fairly glitch-free, with a voter turnout of nearly 70%, marginally lower than the 76% turnout in 2006. Assam is an exception amongst the four states in terms of women's representation, which increased by 1.6 percentage points to 8.3%, as opposed to the other states where the percentage as well as the number of women candidates declined. In Tamil Nadu, where the percentage of women has decreased to a measly 4.7% of all candidates, interestingly, the AIADMK only gave 9 of 152 seats to women, a drop from 23 women in 2006—this when the party is led by Jayalalithaa! Even the DMK has a better record—they've put up 9 women but that's out of 109 candidates, making their representation numbers slightly better. With such poor showings, it is hardly astonishing that the Parliament has yet to pass the Women's Reservation Bill, which proposes to reserve 33% of all seats in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas for women.

Tamil Nadu also has the distinction of having the richest candidates amongst the four states going to the polls, with average declared assets of R1.6 crore, a 179% growth. The DMK candidates saw the fastest acceleration in their wealth at a whopping 875% and had an average asset value of R8.1 crore. The AIADMK were several points behind at R3.7 crore, an increase of 600%. West Bengal, by contrast, were the poorest, with average assets of only R20.5 lakh—the CPM showed the smallest increase in assets even though it has been in power for 35 years, while the Trinamool candidates' wealth grew by 183%. Although the average asset of a candidate in Assam was R52 lakh, the richest hopeful, belonging to the Indian National Congress, had R50 crore and the poorest, from the CPI(M), had only R401. Well, declared assets, anyway. Contrary to intuition, a trend observed across the board is that being an incumbent does not necessarily make one richer (except in Tamil Nadu).

It is somewhat difficult to fathom how individuals can declare wealth worth several crores and yet not have a PAN card. But this is true for over 50% candidates across the four states. While Assam had the highest PAN card declaration rate of 64% in 2011, up from 34% in 2006, over two-thirds of the candidates did not have or reveal their card numbers in Kerala. Interestingly, Kripanath Singha, an independent candidate from Matagari Naxalbari constituency, is the richest amongst the first phase candidates, with a declared wealth of R2.2 crore, but does not have a PAN card. Purendu Ray, from the Mekliganj constituency with only R500 to his name and the distinction of being the poorest candidate in this phase, possesses a PAN number. In Kerala, of 765 candidates, there are 71 who have declared assets worth over a crore, yet 23 of these 71 either don't have a card or haven't declared it.

Now for the most honoured distinction of all amongst potential members of legislative assemblies—criminal records. Good news first. Assam, at 8% of all candidates, had the lowest percentage of candidates with a past record or legal proceedings in progress against them. However, Kerala, it seems, has a penchant for men in striped pyjamas, with the percentage of people with criminal records going up from 20% in the 2006 Assembly elections to 25% this year. The Kerala Congress (M) has outdone itself in fielding 53% candidates with criminal records.

So how does this affect the likely election results? According to a study by Poonam Gupta, Icrier, and Arvind Panagriya, Columbia University, of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, candidates who are richer and who have a bigger criminal record are more likely to win. The study also points out, though, that the political party affiliation makes a big difference in states where growth is higher. In low growth states, like Assam and West Bengal, however, individual traits make a big difference. While economists will use the election results to validate or invalidate their models, another truth confronts the electorate—while their chosen representatives will be richer, they will also have more criminal records and barely any will be women.





With Portugal joining the list of European peripheral economies being bailed out through 'tough love' emergency aid, the terms being foisted upon the hapless indebted states of the continent are coming in for criticism. The severe austerity measures required of nations availing the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) have not yet helped previous recipients—Greece and Ireland—tide over their respective crises. Long after being bailed out, these two countries face double-digit yield spreads on 10-year government bonds, a crushing new layer of debt servicing burdens, and no sign at all of revival of economic growth.

Portugal is now awaiting the dreaded footfall of IMF and European Central Bank bailout specialists, who will arrive in Lisbon with a catalogue of conditionalities that the lame duck government has to sign on to. Whether drastic austerity measures imposed by the aid bureaucracy from Brussels will ever restore balanced budgets in prostrate European economies is the gnawing question.

Why were the 'PIG' economies not allowed to restructure their debt, i.e., by reducing or writing off gargantuan obligations to foreign banks, instead of having to fall under the knife of bailouts and extreme budget cuts? The bailout of Portugal, estimated to be around $113 billion, has been designed to assist the repayment of Portuguese debt to banks in France, Germany and Britain, which have high exposure.

In the context of European Union politics, these are the heavyweight powers that dominate policymaking and that are at the forefront of devising harsh fiscal conservatism preconditions on bailout recipients. Much to the resentment of the 'PIGS', these heavy hitters have decided that they will do everything in the interests of previous loan recoveries for their own banks, even at the expense of peripheral economies stagnating in debt ghettos for years to come.

The New York Times quoted economist Simon Tilford as saying that the pound of flesh being extracted from 'PIG' by Europe's big players on behalf of their bondholding banks is a case where "taxpayers of Greece, Ireland and Portugal are bailing out German, French and British taxpayers and depositors—not the other way around."

Undoubtedly, Europe's present-day sick men have themselves to blame for past overspending and fiscal indiscipline or outright fabrication of national accounts, but the manner in which they are now being hammered through the collective will of the stronger economies of the EU smacks of utterly self-centred action, far from the supposed magnanimity of the block's stronger economies.

As has been repeatedly pointed out, the absence of the option for Eurozone members to devalue individual currencies to beat back their mounting public debt has been another crippling institutional hurdle for 'PIGS' economies. Unfortunately, these countries have reached such a comatose condition in terms of their ability to bounce back with productivity, innovation and exports, that opting out of the European Monetary Union is not a solution either. If any of the disgruntled 'PIGS' economies exits the euro currency zone, it risks foreign investor boycott and even steeper increases in borrowing costs, squishing possibilities of eventually climbing out of the deep quagmire into which it has been tossed.

The only fair outcome for these debt-plagued economies would have been a generous and farsighted response from Europe's better performing and stronger economies. But

alas, that was not to be, tearing to shreds the ideas of shared suffering and joint prosperity, which underpin genuinely solidarity-bound regional organisations.

The time to celebrate and toast the EU as the world's most successful regional integration project is over today. Relatively speaking, the EU still towers over any other single market structure, but its undemocratic core has been exposed. The old questions of whether the EU benefits all members or is an instrument for domination and exploitation of a few over the rest are bound to resurface.

Since the crash of 2008, bailouts in advanced economies, including the US, have sadly been covert redistributive wealth transfer mechanisms

that hurt the weakest and undermined long-term rebounds. With Spain

next in line for a 'corporate welfare' rescue, the meltdown has become a

crisis of democracy rather than that

of capitalism.

The author is vice-dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs







After two decades of rapid urbanisation, many Asian cities have become economically productive and prosperous. But have they become desirable places to live in? A report on the "State of Asian Cities 2010/11," published by the U.N. Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), says 'No' on the strength of an empirical study. This insightful report cautions urban planners that unless they are made more liveable and environmental damage is reduced, Asian cities will not be able to harness the urban dividend any longer. Over the past two decades, 45 million people have been added every year to the Asian city population, which in 2010 touched a staggering 1.76 billion. This transformation has created vibrant economies and reduced poverty levels. However, the benefits have been unevenly spread and a spatial divide has emerged at the regional as well as intra-city level. In India, for instance, while mega cities receive a good deal of investment, many smaller towns have suffered neglect through short-sighted state policies. Within cities, access to water supply and sanitation has improved, but affordable land and health facilities have become less accessible.

Urbanisation in Asia is set to accelerate. Based on current trends, this means the conversion of more than 10 square kilometres of fertile land to non-agricultural use every day. City planners, as the U.N. report points out with concern, have to build a minimum of 20,000 houses and mobilise an additional six million litres of potable water every year to meet basic needs. Such demands on resources may appear daunting, but restraining urban growth is neither a workable nor a wise option. A business-as-usual approach will not be sustainable. Neither a vastly expanded low-density city nor a linear urban-corridor pattern that depends on private motorised transport, a model that is popular in India, can be the answer. Instead, a network of dense nodes, linked by efficient and affordable public transport and served by an intra-nodal non-motorised transport grid, is an alternative to explore. When 215 cities across the world were surveyed using a 'liveability index' — an evaluation of 39 aspects of a city including environment and safety — none of Asia's cities made it to the top 30. Only Singapore and four Japanese cities managed to get into the top 50. This does not augur well for Asia's urban future. If cities in the world's most populous continent by far want to sustain their economic competitiveness and secure their future, they must invest substantially in environmental and housing programmes.





The Peruvian presidential election has shown what ordinary people, given voice by imaginative political leadership, can achieve in a democratic polity. With the incumbent, Alan García Pérez, constitutionally barred from contesting a second consecutive term, the campaign has been dominated by the leftist Ollanta Humala — a former army officer who had made a quiet start but then forged ahead by focussing on the country's huge inequalities and rampant corruption. With about 96 per cent of the votes counted, Mr. Humala led by 31.8 per cent to 23.4 per cent for Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the authoritarian former President Alberto Fujimori (currently serving a 25-year prison term for his involvement in death squads and corruption), and 18.7 per cent for former Prime Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. As for the key issues, the huge inequalities persist despite 7 per cent aggregate growth, which is driven mainly by the exploitation of mineral resources. A third of the 29-million population lives in poverty, one fifth lacks access to running water, and one child in five is malnourished. The poor also suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change and Mr. Humala's rivals have had no option but to promise action. Former President Alejandro Toledo, who is also a candidate, says companies do not have a blank cheque to pollute. Mr. Kuczynski calls for an end to violence over the Southern Copper Corporation's $1 billion project in Arequipa province. The company has now suspended work.

Although all indications are that Mr. Humala will not win outright and the presidential contest will go into a runoff round on June 5, his commitments such as state ownership of natural resources are in line with a powerful social-democratic trend across the whole of Latin America. No fewer than nine major countries in this region have elected Left or centre-left leaders since 1999 — from Hugo Chávez of Venezuela to Cristina Kirchner of Argentina — in response to the political and economic destruction wrought by decades of brutal dictatorships and economic policies enforced by international financial institutions. The progressive policies have led to heartening social outcomes. On a continent that has some of the world's worst inequalities, primary school completion rates are now close to 100 per cent. Robust counter-cyclical government spending has mitigated the effects of the global economic crisis. Further, bodies such as the Union of South American Nations have strengthened multilateral cooperation. Latin America's working people are asserting their priorities in no uncertain terms and there are lessons here for developing countries in Asia and Africa.







The current international situation is undergoing profound and complex changes characterised by the turbulence in the Middle East and North Africa, and the lingering negative impact of the financial crisis on world economy. The international community is facing both challenges as well as opportunities.

Against such backdrop, the leaders of China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa will gather in Sanya, Hainan Province of China on April 14, 2011 for the Third BRICS Leaders Meeting. With Broad Vision and Shared Prosperity as its theme, the Leaders Meeting has already attracted widespread attention from all over the world. The outcome of the meeting will not only benefit the five countries but also contribute to the world development.

The BRICS is a unique cooperative mechanism of the 21st century. It came into being in the wake of the emergence of a group of developing countries. In the past decade, the BRICS has evolved into a multi-level cooperative framework with the Leaders Summit as its highest form, assisted by meetings of Senior Security Representatives, Foreign Ministers, Finance Ministers, Governors of Central Banks as well as think-tanks, business circles and financial institutions.

The accession of South Africa and its participation for the first time at the Leaders Meeting signify an important development of BRICS, which made BRICS a mechanism covering the area of Asia, Africa, Europe and America and further enhanced its representation and influence.

At present, the five BRICS countries account for nearly 30 per cent of the world's land area, 42 per cent of the global population, make up 18 per cent of the world GDP and 15 per cent of the world total trade volume. The trade among these five countries experienced a rapid growth at 28 per cent annually from the year 2001 to 2010 and reached the amount of $230 billion. When the concept of BRICS first became known to the public, no one would have ever imagined that it would have developed into such a vibrant cooperation mechanism for the emerging markets in a short span of time.

BRICS countries are amongst the fastest growing economies in the world with tremendous potential. The cooperation among BRICS members reflects the development of international situation as well as the desire and choice of emerging economies.

The members of BRICS share a lot in common in many senses. They are in the similar stage of development and face the same historical task of developing their economies and improving the well-being of their people. At present, the five countries are also facing similar challenges or problems in restructuring the economy, maintaining a healthy and sustainable growth and in achieving an inclusive, equitable and green development. The BRICS cooperation has provided a valuable platform for the five countries to share development experiences and work together on development problems. Meanwhile, the BRICS countries enjoy highly complementary advantages and solid foundation for extensive cooperation to promote common development based on equality and mutual benefit.

BRICS countries also share the same concerns and views in reforming and improving global economic governance and relevant institutions. They make joint efforts in meeting the global challenges together to serve the common interest of their own as well as the international community at large. BRICS countries are working closely in forums such as the United Nations and G20, and on issues like food and energy security, the Doha Round of trade talks, climate change, Millennium Development Goals and the reform of international financial institutions, and striving to increase the voice and representation of emerging economies and developing countries. The issues discussed by BRICS members mainly focus on the economic, financial and development issues. In a sense, BRICS countries act as advocates and practitioners in forging a global partnership for development.

The cooperation of BRICS is different from many other international and regional mechanisms, such as the G8. It is neither another new grouping of big powers nor a political alliance. The countries are partners in development. The cooperation of BRICS countries diversified the growth of the world economy and became a driving force for the democratisation of international economic relations. The BRICS mechanism is not in competition with other mechanisms. It is open, transparent and inclusive and will always follow the principle of consensus building. It also serves as a bridge of communications and exchanges between the developed and the developing countries.

The forthcoming Leaders Meeting aims at achieving positive results in the following aspects: First, to arrive at a consensus on how to cope with global challenges and make contributions to resolving global problems. Second, to enhance coordination and collaboration among BRICS countries in international affairs, work closely on the issues of international monetary system reform, bulk commodity prices fluctuations, climate change and sustainable development and accelerate the improvement of global governance. Third, to further deepen and expand BRICS pragmatic cooperation in all fields. Fourth, to further strengthen the bilateral relations among BRICS countries. On the sidelines, the Leaders will have bilateral talks, Trade Ministers will meet and a Business Forum will also be convened. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Sanya Declaration will be adopted as an outcome of the Meeting. In short, the Leaders Meeting is aiming at "gathering consensus, strengthening coordination and deepening cooperation."

India is an active member of BRICS and China highly values India's important role. At the invitation of His Excellency Mr. Hu Jintao, President of China, the Prime Minister of India His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh is going to attend the Leaders Meeting. China is willing to work with India in addressing global issues such as financial crisis, climate change, food and energy security, counter terrorism, advancing the reforms of international economic system and promoting the multi-polarity and democratisation of international relations. The mutually-beneficial cooperation in various fields between China and India has brought tangible benefits to the peoples of the two countries and contributed to the development of the world as well.

We believe that with the cooperation among China, India and other BRICS countries, the Third BRICS Leaders Meeting will send out the signal of "confidence, solidarity, cooperation and win-win situation" to the international community. The meeting can also become a milestone in the process of cooperation among BRICS countries and set a good example of South-South cooperation. It will definitely create more opportunities for growth and bring benefits to human beings.

(Zhang Yan is Chinese Ambassador to India.)








'We have suffered censorship as a result of a belief about what power groups within Washington want, not as a result of a proper administrative or judicial process.'

'We know of no instance — and neither is one alleged by any official in the United States or another country — where an individual has come to harm as a result of our publishing.'

'I think what will come out of this is a much more nuanced understanding and practice within government, within academia, within the media, of how the world actually works.'

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, Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, gave a one hour interview at Ellingham Hall in the county of Norfolk to N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu , who was accompanied by Hasan Suroor, the newspaper's U.K. Correspondent. The first part of the interview was published on April 12, 2011. In this concluding part, the WikiLeaks chief responds to questions on the government and political reactions in India; the scale and accuracy of the WikiLeaks releases and the care taken not to harm vulnerable and innocent people; the nexus between the policies of the U.S. and other governments and the interests of big business; WikiLeaks as journalism; the distinction between cable reporting and cable journalism; the goal and method of WikiLeaks and the theoretical framework within which it plays its role on the world stage; and what motivates and moves Julian Assange.

In India, after the initial stunned reaction, the tone of the official response to our publication of the India Cables was set by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh questioning or disputing in Parliament the authenticity of the cables and what the U.S. Embassy and consulates were reporting back to the State Department. Here's what he actually said in the Lok Sabha, our House of Commons, on March 18. He said the government "cannot confirm the veracity, contents or even the existence of such communication." This seems to have set the Indian government apart from the rest of the governments, the rest of the world, at the receiving end, doesn't it?

Yes, it does.

Have you come across this reaction anywhere else?

We have not come across this reaction and that reaction disturbed me. Because Hillary Clinton had been involved in informing the Indian government, in December [2010], as well as many other governments, that this was coming. There has been no question as to the credibility of any document we have ever published in the last four years, let alone the [U.S. Embassy] cables — which have been authenticated by the very aggressive action of the State Department towards us and by hundreds of journalists from the most reputable institutions across the world.

That is why I said I find that statement a deliberate, knowing attempt to mislead the Indian population. And that is something which is quite concerning. Because that is not just an allegation, it is directly from Prime Minister Singh's mouth and he knows better than to do that. While I have heard — I have no proof but the consensus seems to be that — he is not personally corrupt, here's a clear attempt to cover up for the possible corruption of other people. Rather than simply playing it straight, which he should have done, and say, 'Look, there are allegations. They are serious and we will investigate them and come to the truth of the matter and give a full report to the Parliament.'

'Covering up is a habit'

I think if he had taken that approach, he would have been served a lot better. So he has acted against his own interests and acted against the interests of his party, which is odd. So I would suggest it means that he has a habit that he was following rather than thinking things through — and a habit of reactively covering up allegations of corruption.

However, a senior Opposition figure, L.K. Advani, former Deputy Prime Minister and BJP leader — he was in a "Meet the Press' programme in Mumbai where I was on the panel [of editors asking him questions] — he said these [cables] are true. He praised WikiLeaks and us for getting it. But basically he said that a cable can be divided into three parts. I think you've said something like that in interviews but he had come to his own conclusions. One is the fact element, based on facts. He said, 'So far as I'm concerned, they're true. Because they're not meant for anyone other than their headquarters and it's true.' Then, he said, there's interpretation and the third component is advice provided by the Embassy.

Yes, yes.

Similarly, other BJP leaders have used it when Congress is at the receiving end. And interestingly, in a recent election campaign, Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress, used WikiLeaks because one of the BJP leaders said, 'Hindu nationalism is an opportunistic issue.'

Yes, I saw that. Fascinating.

And she used it. They're tying themselves up in knots. I thought I'd get your insight on it. But you have said your score on two issues is perfect. One is, not a single item that you have put on WikiLeaks has been shown to be anything other than accurate. Secondly, there's not an instance where it has harmed any innocent person.

Well, well not physically harmed. Not physically harmed. And I don't know a case where it has harmed any innocent person either, in a non-physical way. Many politicians have had to resign or ambassadors that have had to leave their countries because their relationships became unworkable as a result of the lies they were telling their counterparts, and governments have lost elections and dictators like Mubarak had been expelled. But we know of no instance — and neither is one alleged by any official in the United States or another country — where an individual has come to harm as a result of our publishing.

Accuracy and care

Obviously, that record can't hold for ever, to the degree that any organisation involved in industrial-scale publishing must, through the interactions of the world and their work, have been involved in one tragedy or another. But we do take care and so far we are in the enviable position where we have a perfect record on both accuracy and care.

The India Cables have shown a nexus, sometimes unholy or dubious, between U.S. international policy and the interests of its big businesses, for example the Dow Chemical Company, or Boeing, or nuclear reactor suppliers. This nexus seems to be very evident in India as well. Do you think the publication of these cables will make a difference? Or is it something we have to live with, this nexus between powerful government policy and the interests of big business, in controversial areas? Not all business is bad, obviously.

Yes, I think big businesses are powerful and they are able to throw their weight around, in terms of the United States context funnelling money to congressional campaigns. The statistic for Washington is 50 lobbyists per Congressman. So that's an enormous amount of intellectual power being placed on each individual to manipulate them. Similar activities take place in other parts of the world where big companies, not just from the United States but from Russia and China and the United Kingdom specially, do try and manipulate and get inside levers of government.

What these cables do is not stop that situation directly but make it absolutely clear that that is going on. One way to look at them is, if we put them all in book form, there will be 3,000 volumes! At this end 1966 and this end 2010. Together they comprise the most significant encyclopaedia of political history to have ever been written, and it is recent political history. So that gives us a constant way to understand the world and the structure of geopolitical relations, including interactions between big companies and nation states. That understanding, I see, is feeding in — in a more general way, not just news stories. Now it is the case that the cables are cited as historical documents, as facts of history (even though it's very recent history), and that is moving into academic papers and it is moving into position papers by political parties, and so on.

I think what will come out of this is a much more nuanced understanding and practice within government, within academia, within the media, of how the world actually works. And as a result of that, we can get good and just policy, not all the time but much more frequently than we have been able to do previously.

WikiLeaks vs authoritarianism

Your work, "State and Terrorist Conspiracies' [written in November 2006]...I found this quite interesting online discussion of a theoretical framework attributed to you. Basically on authoritarianism and conspiracy and how a powerful system operates, it needs to put things on record, it needs to communicate internally…


…and the role of leaks in this. Is there an update on your theorising on this?

Yes, I have. That was a small discussion paper for some friends who were involved in talking…instead of game playing, what would happen when WikiLeaks really went into action? Would it be the case that powerful organisations that were exposed would simply take everything off paper? We've just incentivised taking them off paper, so we might have a win for a little while for justice but then ultimately the system would restructure itself so that we would not continue having successes with that sort of approach.

Giveaway paper trail

What I found was that that was very unlikely, and that large centralised institutions are that way because they have developed an internal system, which is able to come to central policy decisions and spread it within the network or within the institution and then have it implemented. To do that properly, there needs to be rapid and accurate internal communication. And that means having things on paper or having things on email. Otherwise, there exists simply a sort of Chinese whispers within the institution and the institution itself falls apart. It's not able to carry out its policies.

So you can have small oral conspiracies where things are not put down on paper. But because they're small, by definition the amount of injustice that they can inflict is relatively low. For wide-scale injustice, you need systematisation of unjust policies and to systematise unjust policies, you have to have a paper trail.

I saw that in practice with Guantanamo Bay. We got hold of the two main manuals for Guantanamo Bay and released both of these. What we discovered amongst many types of abuses is instructions to falsify records for the Red Cross, which has an international mandate to come and visit prisoners of war.

Guantanamo manuals

I was shocked at this. This was a policy manual for Guantanamo Bay, professionally produced by the military like all their other manuals. Why would they put such egregious conduct down on paper as policy? Well, it's because what sort of people want to work in Guantanamo Bay? What sort of person wants to be a prison officer in Guantanamo Bay? These are really grunts at the coal base. While Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney may be able to have an oral conspiracy and [U.S. Army Major General] Geoffrey [D.] Miller, the head of Guantanamo Bay, you can't get soldiers to accurately carry it out unless you put it down on paper. So they had to put it down on paper and so we discovered it.

After a number of these discoveries, conditions in Guantanamo Bay have substantially improved.

So in a regime of free transfer of information and robust press publishing rights — and abilities, I have to say; really, it is the ability to robustly publish by having a transnational operation like we do or very fast publishing because of the Internet or cheap publishing that creates the ability of a publisher to go on — that sort of regime means that organisations engaging in plans for unjust conduct or to cover up conduct they have been engaged in that has been unjust are caught on the horns of a dilemma.

Two win-win outcomes

On the one hand, they can take everything off paper or most things off paper or some things off paper, or lock things down in expensive security protocols, in safes, and encrypted transmissions, and as a result be very inefficient — and hence contract their power. And reduce their competitiveness, both at a commercial level and at an intergovernmental level. Or they can be more open and simply do things that are less embarrassing. Do things that don't outrage people when they are exposed. So I think that either of these two outcomes is good. Organisations can reform themselves to be more just — and we have more just organisations — and reveal any unjust actions that they have done very quickly to the public. Or they can lose their importance and influence as institutions.

That's quite a good choice. Of course we're still a long way from that being an enforced, mandatory choice for everyone. But that's the way we are trying to push things and we are succeeding in some areas.

What moves Julian Assange?

So justice is what moves Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. That's your lodestar, your conception of justice.

Yes. We have a method and a goal. Our goal is justice and WikiLeaks and its various publishing activities and sourcing activities is the method that we use to try and head towards this goal to have a more just society. And if you ask why am I interested in that, well there's a lot of things I can do. I'm in a fortunate position where I am able to do many things and have done many things. But I see that the world is my world and I am unhappy that my world has injustice in it. I think it is less of a world and it makes me sad to see those things in it. I want to be happy, so I want to make the world more just.

And finally, your latest article in the New Statesman (April 11, 2011), "Of the people and for the people," where you connect with journalism, mainstream journalism, as Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks. You place yourself in the long tradition of radical journalism, of publishers who are courageous, and the long tradition of elites versus the general population. To quote from your article, "In the long view of history, WikiLeaks is part of an honourable tradition that expands the scope of freedom by trying to lay 'all the mysteries and secrets of government' before the public. We are, in a sense, a pure expression of what the media should be: an intelligence agency of the people, casting pearls before swine" (that of course being an allusion to a statement by a 17th century writer on how radical publishers were setting up the 'vulgar' and so on, so that's the allusion). Are you satisfied with the response of WikiLeaks to the big challenges placed in your path today, the fierce attacks and so on, given this conception?

Are we satisfied with our response?

Of your supporters, of the network?

They have been tremendous. Overwhelmingly, we have the support of the people and that is deeply encouraging. And that is true throughout the world. It is especially true of the parts of the world that are not connected to the primary power institutions that we have exposed, such as the United States.

Friends and enemies

But even within the United States, there is tremendous support from young people and from people who were radicalised in the 1960s and 1970s. I also have to say, just from the average man and woman who are not political, there is this cultural tradition in the United States that free speech is important. It is one that has been eroded substantially after the end of the Cold War. During the Cold War, you had liberal intelligentsia and people following Enlightenment and Jeffersonian traditions pushing for free speech and the media as an industrial body pushing for free speech. And you had the military-industrial complex pushing for free speech outside the United States, using it as a moral stick [with which] to beat the Soviet Union. So you had a very interesting combination of two forces that are normally opposed to each other that set up a certain cultural inertia within the United States that unfortunately has been decaying since the early 1990s when the military-industrial complex broke off from this coalition.

Extra-judicial blockade

But what we find is that the further people are removed from proximity to state power, the more supportive they are. That in itself is very interesting. Amongst the press, that press which is close to U.S., Washingtonian power we see campaigning against freedom of speech in relation to us. That was really an extraordinary thing to see, as was Visa, Mastercard, Western Union, Bank of America, and other finance institutions engaging in extra-judicial economic blockade against our institution and me personally to prevent this goodwill of the people of the world translating into cash support to keep us afloat.

Those reactions to our publishing, in a way, almost reveal something as important as what we have published. They reveal the compromise of the Fourth Estate in the United States, in the U.K., and some other countries. They reveal that financial institutions, including ones in London, are so connected to Washington that they will conduct extra-judicial blockades as a result of a sort of McCarthyist fear of what Washington wants. That mirrors a Soviet sort of repression where there is censorship as a result of a belief about what political power groups in the Politburo want. Similarly, we have suffered censorship as a result of a belief about what power groups within Washington want, not as a result of a proper administrative or judicial process.

About cable journalism

You spoke to me earlier about cable reporting and cable journalism. Could you give us some insight into that difference?

Most of the early reporting on cables that have released, by our media partners and others, is what I call cable reporting. It is to read a cable, to pick out a few quotes, to say who the principal characters are, and then to publish that story. It is not cable journalism. Cable journalism is to read the cables, correlate them with other cables, with interviews of people, with archive searches, with record searches, and investigate the whole situation. And produce something that is more complex, describes a more complex situation. It takes longer but ultimately is the only way to really get at complex situations or situations that occur multiple times in the cable history.

Thank you very much. May I also, on behalf of our newspaper — it's 132 years old — and our readers, over five million of them, thank you very much for enabling us to publish these India Cables. And I look forward to a deepening of this partnership, doing more work on this.

There's one thing I would like to say to The Hindu and to Indian people in general. Which is, as an Australian, thank you for speaking English better than the English.








It is just as well that this country's health authorities have at last seen it fit to order a thorough scientific investigation into the charge levelled overseas that water and air in India, particularly in the nation's capital, are susceptible to harbouring a dangerous gene that can render treatment all but impossible. In August 2010, Lancet, the highly-respected British medical journal, published a controversial study suggesting that metallo-beta-lactamase, the gene in question, had been found in international patients who had undergone surgery and treatment in New Delhi's hospitals. When this gene enters pathogen (organisms — bacteria or any other — that cause disease), the consequences can be frightening, as the pathogen is rendered resistant even to carbapenem, the most powerful generation of antibiotics. This virtually means that no medicines will work. To make matters worse, the study christened the gene the New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1). To a fair-minded observer, this was hitting below the belt, as the gene was not being discovered for the first time, and its existence was known for a number of years in Europe and the United States, which pride themselves on their hygiene. To then say the gene originated in New Delhi does not appear to bear an imprint of the scientific method. The inference being drawn by many is that naming of the gene in such a prejudicial manner was aimed at dissuading patients from around the world to visit India for medical treatment. There has, for some years, been a surge in medical tourism to India — including from Western Europe and the US — as our doctors and facilities are deemed high-grade and the costs only a fraction of that in the West.

Only a few days back, Lancet had gone a step further and suggested in a second study that it wasn't just Indian hospitals but also the water system in New Delhi (and elsewhere) that harboured the virtually indestructible NDM-1. This understandably outraged many. Two studies on the same lines in four months appeared to be deliberate and concerted targeting of India and its medical facilities, whose super-speciality areas enjoy a well-deserved reputation worldwide. It might have been a lot better — when the subject was so controversial and laden with commercial implications — if the journal had sought pre-publication comments from respected Indian scientists even if it did not wish to obtain the authorities' response. Lancet had reportedly first rejected the study for publication, only to change its mind later. Also, the study in question was funded by the European Union and not an independent scientific investigation. This brings up the question of a possible conflict of interest as EU countries are losing out patients in good numbers to Indian medical establishments. Another thing. The Lancet article appeared on the eve of the UN-designated World Health Day, whose theme this year is resistance to antibiotics. This heightened the sense of external agencies trying to unfairly target India.






Adaptive solutions are the weapons with which the Trinamul Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front propose to tackle the anxieties and expectations generated by "climate change". Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee's paribartan (change) — a slogan she coined before the 2006 state Assembly elections — was an urgent, if not imperative, demand that the ecological damage to the society, polity and economy of West Bengal needed a different helmsperson.

Having got off the mark faster than everyone else, Ms Banerjee's manifesto is, therefore, an important document for it provides the blueprint of the adaptive solutions that she intends to initiate as soon as she comes to power in West Bengal. The concern is that reversing ecological damage is a slow and cautious process rather than the sort of "Do It Now, first 200 days" promises that both chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Ms Banerjee have made.

As with the real climate change, the process of change in society and governance is slow. And by the time it becomes scientifically true, certain kinds of irreversible changes have already happened. For instance, no one is going to be able to push the population and their investments, no matter how large the compensation, out of the dangerously fragile coastal or Sundarbans delta zone. Likewise, the Trinamul Congress and the CPI(M), in the short term, cannot dismantle the crisscrossed networks of interests that operate across West Bengal.
Not even if the Trinamul Congress succeeds in doing what Ms Banerjee believes will happen — that not one CPI(M) candidate will be left standing like the proverbial lone survivor on the burning deck — can the negative impact of "climate change" be reversed in one election. For in some places the CPI(M)'s existence cannot be uprooted. In the Sundarbans, it would be difficult to imagine a landscape without the CPI(M), just as it would be impossible to think of Burdwan district without the red flag.

The point, however, is not where the toughest challenges exist for the climate changers, for they are on both sides of the political divide. The point is how can adaptive solutions be dreamt up for a manifesto and an election be the roadmap for serious political transformation and with that an economic transformation that cannot be obstructed any longer. The obstacles to the two transformations that are urgent cannot be underestimated. Mr Bhattacharjee came a cropper over the deep-seated resistance that worked as the seed capital for Ms Banerjee to launch and spectacularly succeed with her paribartan and its accompanying and confusing but alliterative slogan — Maa, Mati, Manush (mother, land, people).

Like all capital, the interest networks, including the owners of the 400 acres as per Ms Banerjee's claims in Singur, switched from investing in the CPI(M) to investing in the Trinamul Congress because they believed that the gains from the new political force would be much higher than from the old one. Like all capital, the switchers and those who stayed attached to the old investment are being required by this 2011 election to calculate where their best advantage lies.

In other words, the voter is being forced to think about risk. How much is to be gained from risking their all on the Trinamul Congress? For there is no ambiguity about who will drive the change agenda and the fact that the Congress will be an insignificant contributor to the framing of future policy and its implementation, just as the Trinamul Congress, in the final analysis, is inconsequential to the Congress' policy initiatives at the Centre. Seen as the typical fancy document that every company unloads when it is wooing the public to part with its money through the equity route, the Trinamul Congress manifesto exudes exactly the same sort of optimism. It promises all things to all sections of voters in the belief that contradictions can finally be resolved through that one great adaptive force, Ms Banerjee herself. And, therein lies the problem.

Unless the Trinamul Congress can make up its mind about where it will focus its energies through the government of reconciliation, which it has promised to set up, it will do exactly what it has done with the railways. It will rush in where angels have learnt that treading unwarily can be disastrous, as the CPI(M) discovered when it failed to protect the Tata Motors factory in Singur from people's resistance. As the recent order by the Kolkata high court halting the Dankuni factory for the manufacture of electrical and diesel engine components, the pride and joy of Ms Banerjee's incredibly nimble stewardship of the railways and symbol of the industrial regeneration of West Bengal reveals, there are local interests that do not share the Trinamul Congress' enthusiasm for what it does.

he caution required to handle "climate change" through adaptive solutions is not evident in Ms Banerjee's very upbeat messages to voters. Armed with a "positive attitude" and exuding confidence that her way is the way forward for all of West Bengal, Ms Banerjee is probably being both unrealistic and dangerously reckless. The outcome is that the CPI(M) has launched a rectification programme through which it has signalled that the abusers of power and vested interests will be excluded; some 23,000 workers have been sidelined and 1,100 have been sacked. It has also abandoned its "Do It Now" stand, apologised for its heedless promotion of capitalism and tried to win back the capital that fled around the Singur agitation.

The "first 200 days" agenda is ambitious and a unilateral declaration of change. For it to work, every local and networked interest, it must be assumed, has done its calculation and decided that everything that the Trinamul Congress proposes to do is to its advantage. Alas, that will never be the case. For the 200-day agenda includes much raking and sounds suspiciously like vendetta. Should political capital decide to hedge its bets both ways, then the climate change programme would end up making very little difference as compromise and compacts will be the order of things rather than change.

Shikha Mukerjee is a senior journalist in Kolkata






In the higher secondary school, I happened to come across E.T. Bell's book Men of Mathematics. Written in 1937, it starts with Zeno in the 5th century BC and brings the reader to Cantor in the middle of the 19th century. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, although in retrospect I wish the author had not limited his visors to the European mathematics. For example, important contributions from the Indian subcontinent, Arabia, China, etc. are noticeably absent.

Nevertheless, it was a revelation to a schoolboy that the subject he was taught in school as an abstract exercise confined by logical reasoning had been developed in a non-systematic way with flashes of genius prejudices, rivalries and priority claims playing no minor roles. Indeed, after that book I had the chance to read about development of science in general and found the same phenomenon. Isaac Newton had been opposed to the wave theory of light and his impressive contributions had such impact on contemporary science that future developments in that field had to wait till Newton was no longer on the scene. That science can advance and overtake major players in the field was shown when no less a person than Lord Kelvin, after spending a short period in retirement, walked into the department of his university to enroll himself as a graduate student. He wished to relearn physics which had changed so much since the time when he had made seminal contributions to it.

Indeed, in general, our school science texts seek to present the subject in a cut and dried form so that the student gets the impression that it was always that way. He is not aware of the birth pangs suffered by the scientists involved, often being misled, sometimes running a race to establish priority, or even making an over-claim so as to attract more funds for future work. Ambient social conditions can play a significant part in deciding which way science moves. The rapid research on the atomic bomb was inspired by its potential importance as the ultimate weapon during World War II.

Then there are episodes like Fermat's Last Theorem which are still short of their logical conclusion. Fermat, a leading mathematician from Europe, had conjectured in 1637 that there are no triplets of integers a, b, c such that for any n, an integer equal to or exceeding 3, the nth power of the first two added together gives the nth power of the third. Fermat had noted that he had a "truly marvellous" proof which was too large to be given in the margin of his copy of Diophantus' book Arithmetica. Fermat did not give the proof anywhere else. Although he was a mathematician par excellence, most modern mathematicians now believe that Fermat may have been misled into believing that he had found a proof of his theorem. For, modern attempts to prove the theorem, including the finally successful one of Andrew Wiles in 1995, use methods well ahead of those known in Fermat's lifetime.

Take the case of the idea of continental drift. The idea that the continents on the Earth's surface are plates sliding on the surface under the dynamical forces was proposed and defended by Alfred Wegener throughout his life against hostile criticism of the leading geophysicists. He died in 1930, more than two decades before his idea could be blessed by the establishment. Today it goes under the name of "plate tectonics" and has received considerable supporting evidence. But a student just reading a statement to this effect in his or her textbook will miss the trials and tribulations faced by its originator.

That the objectivity and critical assessment can, on occasion, take a backseat when new findings are announced is apparent in no uncertain terms when we look back at Arthur Eddington's announcement of the results of the experiments his two teams had carried out in Sobral, Brazil, and in Principe in the Island of Guinea at the time of the 1919 total solar eclipse. The purpose of the experiment was to test if the ray of light from a background star changes its path under attraction by the Sun; and if it does whether its "bending" is as predicted by Newton or by Einstein. The expected bending was as small as 1.75 second of arc as per Einstein and half that value as per Newton. (We may mention here that the second of arc is an angle which is 3,600th part of a degree. Thus, we are talking of some 2,000th part of a degree.) Hilarious accounts exist of the chaos and confusion at the actual experiments and the compromises made with the ideal observing conditions. The error bars for various quantities that might have affected the measurement had not been fully appreciated. Indeed, it was in the mid-1970s that radio and microwave measurements gave a reliable verdict in favour of Einstein. But in 1919, the unequivocal verdict given by Eddington in favour of Einstein had already launched relativity on a media-blitz with Einstein as a world figure.

In 2010, there were scientific meetings to pay tributes to the late Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar on his birth centenary.

Chandrasekhar is credited with the discovery of the mass limit on stable white dwarf stars. Reading the technical account of his work conveys the imaginativeness and depth of understanding of the young scientist, then under 25 in age. But such accounts do not convey his mental agony when he had to face severe criticism and ridicule from an unexpected quarter. No less a person than Eddington, in an unexpected attack on Chandrasekhar's ideas, tore his theory apart. This confrontation took place in the august debating hall of the Royal Astronomical Society in London. The typical neutral person in the audience left the meeting under the impression that the idea of a rather inexperienced young scientist had been demolished by an experienced leader in the field. Yet, in science an ultimate objectivity eventually prevails. Within a few years Chandrasekhar was vindicated and went on to receive the Nobel Prize. But episodes like these need to be part of the student's curriculum so as to give him or her the right perspective on science and its practitioners.

Jayant V. Narlikar is a professor emiritus at Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune University, and a renowned astrophysicist






During the controversy over the joint parliamentary committee in Parliament, Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee stated on February 21, 2011, "Parliament cannot be mortgaged to the conceding of a demand", warning that if "hatred for the parliamentary institution was generated, it will lead to the rise of extra-constitutional authority as in the neighbouring country in 1958 when martial law was declared". It is indeed surprising that 63 years after Independence, and in spite of the Indian Army's proven apolitical record, a senior and experienced political leader should fear a military coup. No responsible leader in the West would express such a fear, even though the UK had a Cromwell and France a Napoleon.

Supremacy of the civil over the military is an imperative for a functioning democracy. Even in colonial India, the Viceroy, representing civil authority, was supreme. The Curzon-Kitchener dispute did not question this. It was related to organisational matters and functioning procedures. Till Independence, the Commander-in-Chief in India also held political authority in his additional capacity as War Member and senior member of the Viceroy's Executive Council. Thus, in a way, he was both the defence minister and the deputy prime minister. The defence secretary was his subordinate. Till 1920 this appointment was held by a major general, but thereafter a civil servant started holding this office. Before Independence, the role of the defence secretary was limited to issuing government letters, as worked out by military officers with military finance, answering questions in the Central Legislative Assembly, interacting with other ministries and provincial governments, and looking after defence lands. He hardly had any say in decisions pertaining to military matters. After Independence, a radical change took place. The defence minister now controlled the defence services and the defence secretary, as his staff officer, became a key functionary. The civil service lobby tried to get a higher protocol status for the defence secretary than the Service Chiefs on the analogy of other ministries in which departmental heads are subordinated to their concerned secretary. Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, torpedoed this and the Service Chiefs retained their higher status vis-à-vis the defence secretary. This continues to be so but the latter has acquired a higher functional status. Service Chiefs have to put up papers to the defence minister through the defence secretary. In 1962, when the appointment of Cabinet Secretary was introduced, a higher protocol status was accorded to him than the Service Chiefs. As secretary-general in the 1940, Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai did not have this high status. When General Manekshaw was promoted Field Marshal, a unique ceremonial rank, his protocol status was kept lower than the Cabinet Secretary. No wonder the funeral of the military leader, under whom we achieved the greatest victory of Indian arms of the last millenniym, was a tame affair. The Government of India was represented by a minister of state at his funeral. The funeral of the Duke of Wellington was not only attended by the head of state and head of government of his country, but of several European countries. The colonial pattern of administration, in which the generalist civil servant exercises authority over the specialist professional, obtains in ministries of Government of India like health, home, transport, agriculture and so on. This pattern was now introduced in the defence ministry. The railway ministry has been an exception. The Railway Board, comprising specialists, interacts directly with the minister. This is like the service councils in defence ministries of democracies in the West. In our higher defence organisation, the civilian bureaucrat has a complete stranglehold. The supremacy of the civil has come to mean the supremacy of the civil servant.
As per our Constitution, the Supreme Commander of the defence forces is the President, like the US President is the Commander-in-Chief of American defence forces. In 1955, our Commanders-in-Chief were designated Chiefs of Staff. This has been a misnomer as they continue to function as before. They are separate entities from the ministry. They cannot take any governmental decisions nor do they have direct functional access to the minister. The committee system introduced after Independence at the instance of Lord Ismay, the great expert on higher defence organisation, provided for participation of defence officers in decision-making. This has been gradually scuttled. The defence services have been increasingly isolated from the process of decision-making in military matters. In 1962, Jawaharlal Nehru, on his way to Sri Lanka, told the press that he had ordered the Army to throw out the Chinese from the Himalayas. The Army Chief was reduced to asking a joint secretary in the defence ministry to give him that order in writing. The latter promptly obliged. The rest is history. This incident shows that the Army Chief had not been consulted before that grave decision was taken. After the 1962 war, I was sent on battlefield tour from the Staff College to formulate our training doctrine on mountain warfare. I came to the conclusion that our debacle in the Himalayas was largely due to our faulty higher defence organisation.
The reports of several parliamentary committees urging organisational reforms were ignored. On March 25, 1955, addressing Parliament about designating the Service Chiefs as Chiefs of Staff, Nehru stated that Service Headquarters will be integrated with the ministry of defence and gradually the council system will be introduced. The civil bureaucracy has been much too entrenched in seats of power to allow this to happen. After the Kargil war, the Kargil Review Committee set up a working group on defence under former union minister of state for defence Arun Singh. He requested me for a draft on our higher defence organisation. I was then governor of Assam. I made out a draft recommending introduction of the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff and integration of Services Headquarters with the defence ministry. My draft and recommendations were incorporated by him in his report. The Group of Ministers approved these recommendations but the entrenched bureaucracy derailed them. A headless integrated defence staff without a Chief of Defence Staff was set up, defeating its very purpose. A meaningless cosmetic integration of Services Headquarters with the MoD has been carried out. The civilian bureaucracy has been playing on the fears of the political leadership of the man on horseback, and with the latter's lack of knowledge and interest in matters military, has managed to have its way. Our national interests and defence functioning continue to suffer. The defence services receive step-motherly treatment. India is the only country in the world without a Chief of Defence Staff or equivalent and with a MoD working on a "we and they" syndrome, rather than an "us" outlook. This gravely undermines our defence preparedness and our ability to face the current very serious national security challenges.

Lt. Gen. S.K. Sinha, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir








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.






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.








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.








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)








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










THE slowdown in India's industrial growth is a cause for concern. The official data released on Monday showed just 3.6 per cent industrial growth in February, which is a shade lower than January's 3.9 per cent. The blow to business confidence is accompanied by the IMF's downward revision of India's GDP growth rate to 8.2 per cent for the current fiscal and warning that the economy could heat up. An economy heats up when production fails to keep pace with demand. High demand drives up prices, which has political implications. This puts pressure on the RBI to suppress demand by squeezing money supply and raising interest rates. The RBI's quarterly review of the monetary policy next month may, therefore, see a further tightening of liquidity in the system.


A strong factor influencing growth is the monsoon. If it is normal, agricultural growth would pick up and food prices cool. Lately, encouraging agriculture data has been coming up because of the base effect. A major worry for India and others is oil. Public unrest in the Middle East has spiked global oil prices. The Centre's finances have taken a hit. Despite petrol decontrol, its prices have not been allowed to go up due to the ongoing state elections. Post-elections, oil prices may move up, pushing up inflation.


The gloom is deepening but the IMF is not worried. It is undaunted by the prospect of oil above $120 a barrel. Its optimism stays intact in spite of the turmoil in the Middle East, the ailing financial sector of Europe and a high debt load of the US. "There is no major downside risk at this point", says IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard. "Commodity prices have increased more than expected… (but) we don't think that this time these increases will derail the recovery". India's growth is largely driven by domestic demand, which is petering off. Unless a Middle East flare-up sets oil on fire, India's above 8 per cent growth prospect would continue to pull foreign investment.









THE Supreme Court naming Mr U.U. Lalit as the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) for the 2G Spectrum scam trial, exercising its extraordinary powers to override the Centre's objections, has kicked off a major controversy. By doing so, it has unnecessarily invited the criticism of having committed judicial overreach. Nobody is questioning the Supreme Court's extraordinary powers. Article 142 of the Constitution, for instance, allows it to exercise such powers for delivering "substantive justice". However, this provision is rarely resorted to. Moreover, has the court followed the due process of law while appointing Mr Lalit? During the hearings on April 5, the government had submitted that Mr Lalit did not qualify to be the SPP because he did not have the requisite seven years' experience of working in the government. This rule is explicitly mentioned in Section 46 (2) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.


Of course, one does not doubt the Supreme Court's good intentions. Its primary objective of naming Mr Lalit as the SPP (interestingly Mr K.K. Venugopal, Senior Counsel, had proposed his name at the instance of the court) is to ensure that the 2G trial does not falter like earlier cases where government law officers were special public prosecutors. The government, in principle, wants its own public prosecutors or law officers to take care of controversial cases such as Bofors to deflect the political fallout. The court had once observed that it would not allow the 2G Spectrum case to go the way of the hawala scandal of the 1990s. As the judges had left it to the Centre to handle it through its law officers, nothing came out of the hawala case. Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati did express the Centre's reservations over Mr Lalit's choice on the ground that it was the government's "prerogative" to choose its SPP. However, Additional Solicitor-General Indira Jaising said that it was not necessary to consider the scope of Section 46 (2) "at this stage".


While the judiciary's latest action may be sound and even justified by the court "in public interest", it has the potential of disturbing the delicate constitutional balance and violating the doctrine of separation of powers. For the smooth functioning of the Constitution, all the three organs — the legislature, the executive and the judiciary — ought to function within their respective limits. No organ should try to encroach upon each other's domain.











A no-holds-barred battle gets underway in Tamil Nadu on April 13 with both the Dravidian parties — the ruling DMK and the formidable challenger AIADMK — playing for high stakes. Rarely has there been an electoral battle in which the antipathy between the leaders of the two principal contending parties been so strong as it is in Tamil Nadu this time. That the 87-year-old DMK chieftain M. Karunanidhi has chosen to fight this election under his own leadership rather than handing over the baton to his son M.K. Stalin is an index not only of the extraordinary stakes as of his fear that his anointed heir may not be able to meet the challenge from AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa in the face of dissidence from within his party.


After the last elections in 2006, the DMK had rebuffed its ally the Congress' suggestions to be part of the ruling dispensation. This time around, however, he has publicly stated that he is not averse to a coalition if the situation so demands. Since the DMK is contesting only 119 seats in an Assembly of 234, leaving other seats to its allies, it is inconceivable that it can romp home on its own. Likewise, the AIADMK is contesting 160 seats and is unlikely to make it to the magic figure without the help of its allies. Coalition politics in the state, therefore, seems round the corner.


It would indeed be keenly watched how big an issue corruption would be in this election with the DMK's image dented by its involvement in the 2G scam and the Congress too tarred by the same brush. Jayalalithaa has been crying herself hoarse but the average voter may not give her high marks on integrity considering that she too was confronted by allegations of corruption when she was at the helm prior to 2006. The sharp increase in prices of essentials will predictably put the DMK in the dock. A keen contest is well and truly on the cards.









THE nuclear disaster in Fukushima has wonderfully focused the minds of India's contending pro-and-anti-nuclear energy lobbies. No quarter is either being asked or given.


The pro-nuclear energy aficionados of the International Atomic Energy Commission are on the defensive. But, the anti-nuclear energy jholawalas are having a field day, describing the horrors of the unfolding tragedy in northwest Japan in full detail. Radiation clouds have reached the west coast of the United States. Plutonium has leached into the soil. Radioactive wastes are being discharged into the ocean around the Fukushima reactors. And so on.


The three serious nuclear reactor accidents that have occurred in the past — Chernobyl (1986) in the former Soviet Union, Three-Mile Island (1997) in the United States, and now Fukushima —have been recalled to highlight the risks inherent in exploiting nuclear energy.


On the other hand, the supporters of nuclear energy have redoubled their efforts to claim that nuclear power is the answer to India's burgeoning energy security needs. They emphasise that nuclear energy is clean — no particulate matter issues or green-house gas emissions to exacerbate global warming and climate change. Besides, the initial costs of establishing nuclear power reactors may be high as compared to thermal power stations, but their running costs are negligibly low. Therefore, overall cost economics favour nuclear power.


Two questions arise now. First, are nuclear reactors exceptions to Murphy's Law? The law postulates that if anything can go wrong in any human activity, it will go wrong over time. Thus, it can be argued that Fukushima was bound to happen. But it can also be felicitously argued that Fukushima and the earlier Chernobyl (1986) and Three-Mile Island nuclear disasters were aberrant events. Therefore it is illogical to suggest that they will repeat themselves. These accidents revealed that cooling systems failed to function, and there were defects in basic reactor design, which have been or can be rectified in nuclear reactors worldwide.


The Fukushima accident occurred, very unfortunately, due to a powerful earthquake occurring in conjunction with tsunami. What is the statistical probability of this combination of natural disasters occurring in future? Negligibly small? This underlines not only the obvious need to address the deficiencies revealed, but also to think asymmetrically about the weaknesses that still remain unrecognised.


For instance, all nuclear reactors have automatic shutdown systems that take control when seismic activity crosses a defined threshold. This was proceeding in Fukushima when it was struck by the tsunami, which highlights the need to strengthen water-retention containers for the reactor and having multiple redundancy electrical supply systems. Protection from tsunamis must also be ensured by constructing breakwaters to deflect or mitigate their wave effects. But weak spots remain. Reactor wastes for example, are highly radioactive and are stored in concrete canisters or sealed drums. This was devised as a temporary arrangement, but no permanent solution has yet emerged, and the temporary arrangement has become a permanent solution. Greater thought is necessary to resolve this nuclear safety issue.


Second, is nuclear energy the silver bullet to resolve India's energy security problems? No. For one, official projections of future nuclear energy production are quite fanciful. A target of 10,000 MWs was set by the Sarabhai Profile (1970) for achievement by 1980. To date, actual generation is under 4000 MWs. This has not deterred the official optimists from predicting that India will reach a target of 60000 MWs by 2032 (Meera Shankar, present Indian Ambassador to Washington). Her predecessor, Ronen Sen, predicted a target 260,000 MWs by 2050. Anil Kakodkar, former head of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), has forecast 455,000 MWs being achieved by 2050. It is clear that a Barmecide's feast is in progress. For another, the usual methodology pursued by the nuclear energy lobby is to demolish the case for all other energy sources before promoting their own case.


Thus, fossil fuels — coal, oil and gas — are stigmatised as causing atmospheric pollution, global warming and climate change, whereas nuclear energy is environmentally clean. Solar energy is dismissed because solar cells are expensive and solar arrays require large surface areas, whereas nuclear energy is cheap And so on. Naturally, the problems with nuclear energy like local resistance to reactors being situated in their neighborhood, difficulties in securing capital, problems of waste disposal and so on are slurred over.


Besides, India's nuclear energy program is premised on its fast breeder program, but this technology has been abandoned. Only Russia and India are pursuing fast breeders, whereas the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, United Kingdom and Japan have given them up. Incidentally, India's FBR program is centered on its small operational 15 MW Experimental Fast Breeder Reactor (EFBR). A 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) remains under construction. Little is known about the performance of the EFBR in the public domain. An urgent peer group review is therefore required to examine India's reliance on fast breeder technology, especially after the Indo-US nuclear deal ensures India's access to uranium fuel, which was its major vulnerability earlier.


The lessons from the foregoing are obvious. Nuclear technology is not foolproof. The safety and security issues involved in reactor operation must be constantly reviewed by an independent authority. Greater transparency here would enhance public confidence in the Atomic Energy Commission, which is currently facing an agitation against the sitting of its nuclear reactor complex in Jaitapur. The Fukushima disaster has definitely redoubled public fears regarding nuclear energy. Proceeding further, India cannot place its entire faith in nuclear energy to meet its future energy security requirements, but must exploit all available sources of energy i.e. coal, oil and natural gas; hydroelectricity; biomass; and non-conventional sources like solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, and so on.


Adequate attention must also be paid to conserving energy by proceeding vigorously against the appreciable theft of electricity. The pricing mechanism also requires urgent attention. Clearly free or subsidized electricity to favored sections of the population is economically inefficient and financially disastrous. Ensuring energy security, therefore, is as much about governance as technology.









I am ex-Army, hence comfortable with death with all its subtle and not-so-subtle nuances. This time, however, death beaconed differently — my wife and I were irrevocably hurtling towards it.


Returning late from Shoghi, a sleepy, laid back hamlet outside Shimla, I was driven by an irrational hit-the plains-before-dark adrenalin rush. A micro-second before I crashed into the newly installed, valley side steel anti-crash barrier above Timber Trail, I saw the sugar-ball prasad packets on the Ikon's dashboard from mother's last rites and remembered her.


The sickening crunch of steel didn't pan out spectacularly with car, occupants and stone detritus plunging down 1500 feet, had the car hit the adjacent low stone wall which the steel barriers are replacing. Instead, we were shaken, with nary a scratch; marvelling at the composure with which we transited from certain death to chatting animatedly, minutes later, with little Krish, our grandson, who had insistently been calling his Spiderman Dadu up on cell. I am no para-psychologist but I am certain Mother was there when I needed her.


There aren't too many people around who don't remember God and Mother when in need. I'm no different, but let me explain. Last July, mother passed away at Jabalpur, 57 years after she became a widow at age 33 there. It was in December 1953 when mom and her six siblings (ages 3 to 11) woke up to an insistent midnight knock. With father, a senior Defence Accounts Service officer on tour in Bihar, mom would snuggle us into the drawing room at night for community sleeping. Considered a "man" in her maternal family because she was so brave, she ordered the servant to load father's shotgun. The uniformed, respectful Army officer, who stood in pelting rain, gently informed her that father had died of a stroke at Katihar railway station.


To everyone, mother is pretty and my mother was no exception. Educated, comely, with lustrous black hair, she was full of cheer and love. Her sudden transition post-fathers cremation shocked us. Her world destroyed, she returned with streaks of white hair and an ineffable sadness that never ever left her. She was our only hope as we struggled through life; on the strength of her extraordinary willpower and mental resolve to subsume herself for the sake of her five sons and a daughter.


We were unaware, when growing up, of what travails she must have undergone as she struggled to give direction to her life through her children. It must have taken enormous courage for her elder, married brother, to give her shelter but he selflessly did. We shifted to Lucknow to begin life afresh. Determined to give us the best education, she ensured that; placing everything else on hold.


Not too many mothers choose to send four sons into the Army. She did. One son entered corporate life and her daughter became a doctor.


Mother and God the world over are interchangeable names. We certainly subscribe to this belief. The sugar-ball prasad packets were from Hardwar, where I had immersed her ashes, and were meant for distribution to my siblings. Facing death, I called out to her and she responded — or so I feel. Mother was always special in real life but I feel, from somewhere up there, she still cares.









THE issue of state funding of elections has once again come to the fore. The opinion is sharply divided in the country for and against state aid. Interestingly, Chief Election Commissioner Dr S.Y. Quraishi is himself opposed to it. He has spoken against it at various fora, including the regional consultations on electoral reforms which were jointly sponsored by the Union Law Ministry and the Election Commission of India.


Undoubtedly, the election expenditure of individual candidates in all the elections — Parliament, state legislatures or even the zilla panchayats and city corporations — has increased by leaps and bounds. Though elections are expected to be a level-playing field for all candidates, the rich and the poor, it is always the affluent sections which have an edge in the elections.


Reasons for continued unequal elections are not far to seek. Contesting an election calls for a lot of money, activists and resources. Apart from arranging funds for organising party meetings and rallies, one has to spend money on pamphlets, cut-outs, bills, posters, public address systems, decoration of rostrums, tents, shamianas, vehicles and so on. More important, the candidates will have to take care of the party cadre in arranging them food, cold drinks, etc. Obviously, a poor candidate with no funds and meager resources cannot hope to meet all these requirements and win at the hustings.


The demand for state funding of elections is not new. Over the years, several committees have gone into the question whether at least a part of the candidates' election expenses should be met by the state. The Jagannadha Rao Committee (1971), the Dinesh Goswami Report (1990), the Inter-Parliamentary Council Resolution (1994), the Inderjit Gupta Committee Report (1998), the Law Commission of India Report (1999), the Second Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Dr M. Veerappa Moily (2008) have all examined the issue comprehensively and inferred that state aid should be given to the candidates.


But then, one cannot overlook the flip side of the reform. Though state aid may bridge the dichotomy between the rich and poor contestants in the elections, the demerits of the proposal seem to overweigh its merits. There are genuine apprehensions that if state aid is given to the candidates, everyone would be tempted to enter the fray for whatever worth it is which, in its turn, may hinder the process of polarisation of political parties and the subsequent emergence of a strong opposition party. Also, state aid may turn out to be a source of money-making to some with reckless optimism. Consequently, it may become legalised corruption at the instance of the state.


The provision as such raises too many questions. Should all candidates be given or deserve state aid? If the provision aims at treating all the candidates, irrespective of their party affiliations, on an even keel, its aim and purpose would be lost for the simple reason that both the rich and poor candidates would be treated equally.


Moreover, if the poor contestant is able to raise public funds through other sources (in addition to the money that he receives from the state), the state aid would be redundant and may even be a bonus to him if he succeeds. If the state aid does not help him with certain other sources, the poor candidate, having failed to cope with his endeavour, gets defeated in the election, he would prove that the utility of state aid was practically of little use to him. In which case, state aid would be a sheer waste of scarce public funds.


Some more questions arise on this reform, however genuine and pragmatic the intentions of the protagonists are. If only the candidates belonging to the political parties are eligible to get state aid, what about the Independents? Moreover, if the amount of state aid is small, it won't help the candidate much in the furtherance of his electoral prospects. And if the amount is to be of any significance, it will turn out to be a very heavy burden on the exchequer.


The issue in question is if the amount of state aid is 20 per cent (or one-fifth) of the amount now fixed as the ceiling for election expenses (state aid of Rs 8 lakh over the ceiling of Rs 40 lakh for a Lok Sabha seat or an aid of Rs 3.20 lakh over the ceiling of Rs 16 lakh for an Assembly seat), and assuming that at least ten candidates would be contesting for each of the total seats, the cost to the exchequer would be mind-boggling for the Lok Sabha elections alone, not to speak of the elections to the State Assemblies and local bodies. And the total figure would go up substantially if the amount to each candidate is revised upwards following the hike in the ceiling for election expenditure from time to time.


If state aid is to be given by way of reimbursement after the elections are over, no one would like it to be given to all candidates including those who lost their deposits. And, if a criterion is laid down that only those who retained their deposits would be given aid by way of reimbursement, it may be unfair. For, sudden and unexpected developments may adversely affect the candidate's chances of even retaining his deposit.


Consequently, instead of serving the intended purpose, the provision of state aid may create a dangerous precedent for legalised corruption.


There is also the danger of a chain effect of the proposal for state aid. Followed by organised demands for increasing the quantum of state aid, it may also spread to the lower level of representative bodies like the municipalities, corporations and Panchayati Raj bodies.


Given the complex nature of the proposal and the whopping sums involved in its implementation, the government — at the Centre and in the states — ought to provide state aid to candidates in kind and not in cash. This could be in various forms like free utilisation of public places and buildings for purposes of holding election meetings; free supply of limited quantity of stationery; free delivery of canvassing letters and pamphlets through the postal services of the state; supply of limited quantity of petrol and diesel to the vehicles used by the candidates; and provision for payment to newspaper advertisements carrying the appeals issued to the voters. Expenditure towards these services could be met either from the Election Fund or a separate fund duly budgeted by Parliament.


In the UK, postal communication is accessible free of charge to the candidates. Council halls are made available for holding the meetings. The cost of printing and compiling of the registers are all paid by the state. In France, the state is more generous in this respect. Money is not given there directly by the state but pamphlets, leaflets, posters, handbills and other publicity material including election manifestoes and statements are printed by the state machinery at the candidates' request. Candidates also get help to organise meetings.


To prevent a large number of independent candidates from seeking state aid, it would be worthwhile if India emulated the French system of seeking guarantee from the recipients. Every beneficiary there shall execute a bond and also furnish a bank guarantee for the financial support extended to him/her so that in case he got less than 8 per cent of the total votes polled, he would forfeit his bond and money would be recovered from the guarantor.


The Law Commission is of the view that only partial state funding could be contemplated more as a first step towards total state funding. It says that before the idea of state funding (partial or total) is resorted, the provisions suggested in its report relating to political parties (including the provisions ensuring internal democracy, internal structures) and maintenance of accounts, their auditing and submission to the Election Commission are implemented.


The idea of state funding is not only to eliminate the influence of money power but also end corporate funding, black money support and raising funds in the name of elections by the parties and their leaders. State funding, without the aforesaid pre-conditions, would merely become another source of funds for the political parties and candidates at the cost of the exchequer.

A level-playing field

There is full justification for state funding of elections — constitutional, legal and in public interest. It will ensure a level-playing field for parties with less money. State funds should be given only to national and state parties with duly allotted symbols and not to Independents. In the short-term, state funding should only be given in kind in the form of certain facilities to recognised political parties and their candidates.

— The Indrajit Gupta Committee Report (1998)

Total state funding of elections is desirable so long as political parties are prohibited from taking funds from other sources. While the recommendation for partial funding is practicable, an appropriate regulatory framework should be put in place with regard to political parties (provisions ensuring internal democracy, internal structures and maintenance of accounts and their auditing) before state funding of elections is implemented.

— The Law Commission of India Report (1999)

There is an imperative need for partial state funding of elections for purposes of reducing the illegitimate and unnecessary funding of election expenses.

— Report on Ethics of Governance, Second Administrative Reforms Commission, 2008

While we do not endorse the state funding of elections, we concur with the Law Commission of India Report (1999) that the appropriate framework for regulation of political parties would need to be implemented before state funding is considered.

— The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, 2001








Idon't think Sidney Lumet could have been good at poker. Sure, I see him up there, head of the great American director's table, sitting alongside Hitchcock, Ford, Altman and Welles. And while wild-eyed Kubrick sits it out and Hitchcock stonily rakes in the celestial chips, Lumet, the most recent member of that big table in the sky, looks around him and wonders: how best to capture Welles' cigar, how tightly to frame Altman's permanent scowl, who to engage in conversation to bring out the cleverest dialogue. Sidney Lumet, forever the filmmaker.


I call him that, of course, primarily because of the staggering prolificacy with which he churned out masterpieces – 45 films in 50 years, most of them bullseyes – but also because a close look at his work, or even a casual glance at his seminal book, Making Movies, reveals a man thoroughly and unashamedly smitten with every aspect of the filmmaking process. Lumet made movies because he was well and truly in love with them, and cinema made sure it loved him right back.


The other reason I think he was lesssuited for cards was that he trusted too much. Gifted as they were, actors under him flourished because of his unblinking faith in them, as did cinematographers and editors. And he trusted his audience to understand it. His aforementioned book – one which really is essential reading for anyone truly interested in cinema – is nothing if not a confessional of belief in cinema's cogs and sprockets, and how they serendipitously come together to produce instants of movie magic. And how grateful he is for his luck.


It has nothing to do with luck, of course. A stroke of fortuitous chance is one thing, but Lumet looked at inevitable uncertainties and bended them masterfully into magic, time and again. And this while structuring his films so elaborately, with such immaculate albeit occasionally audacious cinematic grammar, that everything fit together in a way that made it all seem preordained. Lumet made his own luck.


His last film, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, a crime drama made when he was 82, opens with doggystyle sex and zigzags through linearity with insouciant vigor. His first film, 12 Angry Men, made nearly 50 years before that, takes place almost entirely in one room, its only perceptible action being a lot of conversation. Lumet did it all, working the genres with indiscriminate thrill, questing only that the style served the subject and not the other way around. And so the stories, too, loved him right back.


The Anderson Tapes. Dog Day Afternoon. Equus. The Fugitive Kind. Serpico. Long Day's Journey Into Night. Deathtrap. Garbo Talks. Fail-Safe. That Kind Of Woman. They were all films about morality, but also films that made us better people simply by basking in their glow.



 For me, Sidney Lumet was the finest American filmmaker of all-time. (Watch Network again if you disagree.


Actually, watch it again anyway.)

    And poker's loss is all our gain.



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The Union minister for many things, Kapil Sibal, made good his promise to present a new telecom policy in 100 days by delineating its broad contours bang on deadline. The original announcement was made on January 1 when he took over from scam-tainted telecom minister A Raja. The details will take a year to finalise to take all stakeholder opinion on board. Monday's announcement – which will replace the 1999 policy that many regard as being at the root of the 2G scam – was mostly on expected lines and will not surprise mobile service providers. They are unlikely to welcome it wholeheartedly, of course. Most operators have accepted that licence costs will have to rise from the current Rs 1,650 crore, but there is bound to be some nervousness on the pricing of licence and spectrum, the airwaves that enable mobile calls and the epicentre of the current controversy and CBI investigations. There can be no quarrel with the proposal to delink the operator's licence from spectrum allocation. This has been a long-standing recommendation and will free the government from the kind of discretionary allocation of a scarce resource that has plagued telecom policy ever since the industry was opened to private participation.

Much, however, depends on how the spectrum policy that has been entrusted to retired judge Shivraj V Patil pans out. Given the scarcity of spectrum, the proposal to allow operators to share it is also sensible. Operators already share tower infrastructure, so there is no reason why they cannot rent excess spectrum. The prospect will not only encourage more efficient spectrum usage, as a mode of price discovery the process could be as efficient as the auction system that gained currency after the generous revenues that 3G licences yielded for the government. Industry will welcome a relaxation of merger and acquisition rules. As current experience with Swan and Idea has shown, limits such as a 10 per cent cap on intra-circle holdings only promote practices that serve neither the consumer nor the industry. Given that the minister has also said each circle will have at least six competitors instead of four, the dangers of creating market-distorting monopolies are also limited. The big game changer for the industry is Mr Sibal's Monday announcement reducing the tenure of a licence from the current 20 years to 10. The proposal is expected to evoke sharp protest from the 14 service providers, some of whose licences will come up for renewal in 2014. For one, banks lending to telecom companies will be required to take an altogether new valuation perspective. A shorter licence regime, with the re-application process required to be started after seven and a half years, would not only mean higher interest costs, but, crucially, also shorter breakevens. Together with higher spectrum fees mobile operators are bound to feel the pressure, especially newer ones that have not had the opportunity to amortise many capital costs like the older incumbents. Consumers, however, are unlikely to complain since the shorter licence tenures will force companies to raise their service standards in a milieu in which the entry barriers are falling rapidly. Indeed, Mr Sibal had promised a telecom policy that would benefit the aam aadmi, the talisman of the UPA. His test will lie in the details of the final draft.






The Index of Industrial Production numbers for February 2011 released by the Central Statistical Organisation provide little cheer from the pervasive grey enveloping the sector over the past few months. Industrial production for the month was 3.6 per cent higher (year-on-year) than the corresponding figure last year. The results are even more sobering when seasonally adjusted production figures are considered: production in February was down 0.6 per cent as opposed to a marginal increase of 1.3 per cent in January. A review of the performance of each industry within the sector is instructive. Capital goods production declined for the third consecutive term registering a decline of 18.4 per cent, though a high base effect (the sector grew 47 per cent during March-July 2010) adversely affected performance. Consumer goods production, on the other hand, grew by 11.4 per cent (year-on-year), driven by a sharp increase in the production of consumer durables. Mining production in February actually slowed to 0.6 per cent (as opposed to 11 per cent in February 2010) largely as a result of environmental restrictions on the production of coal.

While a high base effect has contributed to the less-than flattering performance of the sector, it would be dangerous to ignore structural factors that could have led to the industrial slowdown. For example, Gross Capital Formation (measured by investments and equipment, construction, raw materials and inventories) for the top 25 private-sector groups in India declined by 50 per cent from Rs 1.69 trillion to Rs 0.81 trillion between 2008-09 and 2009-10. While this coincided with the darkest days of the global economic slowdown, one would expect that investments by these groups would continue. Steadily increasing interest rates have definitely increased the cost of capital for most players in the private sector, except those with a corpus of retained earnings to fund their capex plans. Global liquidity is still tight, a far cry from the glory days of 2003-2008. With oil prices between $120 and $130, and threatening to surge even higher combined with high commodity prices, it would be overly optimistic to expect inflation to decline sharply any time soon. The RBI may have little choice but to raise interest rates even further, which would leave under-leveraged firms largely untouched, but would adversely impact consumption and investment.


Dampened expectations of the future due to the glacial pace of economic and administrative reform, coupled with frustrating policy uncertainty, could well be another (more serious) reason for the slowdown in private investment. The government has never been short of voice in making bold pronouncements about its commitment to reform or predicting a rapid turnaround of the economy in the second half of FY11, but the reality is very different. India remains one of the most difficult places in the world to do business in. Supply-side constraints continue to dog industrial performance. Policy, at the Centre and states, must focus on liberating Indian business from these constraints.








The high-powered committee headed by Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia recently presented its report on urban infrastructure. The report focuses on the infrastructure needs of a rapidly urbanising country and highlights important issues ranging from governance to waste management. I have high personal regard for individual members of the committee and find few faults with specific recommendations. My disagreement with this and other such reports is on the grounds that they read like laundry lists rather than strategic documents. This is the result of a flawed philosophical approach to deal with organic systems like cities.



The basic approach of the high-powered committee was to identify specific problems and systematically resolve each of them. This may appear very sensible but cities are complex systems that do not lend themselves to such a mechanical approach. The reader may feel that my criticism of the urban infrastructure report is a case of philosophical hair splitting but I would request them to indulge me with a small detour into the theory of chaotic systems.

This is a world of non-linear and evolving dynamics, multiple and changing equilibrium, increasing returns to scale and complex feedbacks. Weird as these may sound, they describe many things we see in real life such as weather systems, financial markets, evolving economies and, of course, cities. Modern science is all about dealing with such phenomena. Even the lay reader would have heard of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and of the famous image of how the fluttering of butterfly wings can ultimately cause a hurricane. This is why the suicide of a street vendor in Tunisia could bring down governments across the Arab world.

However, chaotic systems are not random. They may not be deterministic but there are many interesting patterns, probabilities and characteristics that can be exploited when dealing with them. Weather forecasting is a good example of an area where science has developed a dramatically better understanding in recent decades. It may never be possible to pinpoint weather but we can now say quite a lot about it.

Note how the dynamics of the chaotic universe are fundamentally different from the Newtonian world of levers and pulleys. It is over a 100 years since the natural sciences have moved away from the mechanical worldview. Yet social scientists have persisted with the old thinking process. Socialist economic planning and rigid master planning of cities are accepted as failures but the basic process remains embedded in our policy making. Thus, recommendations of Dr Ahluwalia's report eventually boil down to increasing spending allocations to a new and enlarged version of the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission.


There are many interesting implications of thinking of the world in chaotic terms. First, the dynamics of a chaotic system depend on history, time and point of origin. This implies that the timing, angle and point of intervention matter more than the force applied. Less can often mean more. The conventional response to a traffic problem today is that we need more "infrastructure" — which implies ever more flyovers and other hardware. Yet, we know from experience that most flyovers merely redistribute the traffic jam. In contrast, better traffic policing would be far cheaper and provide immediate results.

Second, in the chaotic universe, the overall ecosystem is more than the sum of its parts. Thus, chaotic systems are defined by the dynamics of clustering and increasing returns to scale. Singapore's urban strategy is a successful illustration of this principle. Over the last decade, Singapore has emerged as Asia's leading Global City. This was achieved by investing in the strangest of things — "urban buzz". The Singaporeans deliberately clustered an odd mix of things in the middle of the city — malls, a new university, a casino, theatres, offices, museums, residential apartments, hotels and even a Formula One circuit. None of these ingredients would have done it in isolation but the combination had created an exciting ecosystem that generates thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity. Although Dr Ahluwalia's report has sensibly moved away from rigid urban master planning, it's still about a list of ingredients and not about the cooking.

In defence of Dr Ahluwalia's high-powered committee, its report merely reflects a worldview that is embedded in Indian policy making and is common even abroad. A good international example is the response of financial regulators globally to the recent financial crisis. As already mentioned, financial markets are also chaotic systems. Thus, more regulation does not mean better regulation. After all, the financial system was very heavily regulated even before the crisis and yet the crisis was not prevented. How will more regulations help? Ever more complex regulations will make the system more opaque and make it even more prone to future crises. It is far better to have simple and clear regulations backed up by active management. There is no regulatory framework that can substitute for constant human monitoring and judgement.

This is also true for cities. Indian cities need hard infrastructure but ultimately they are not about buildings, roads and sewage drains but about people and their varied social and economic interactions. In its pursuit of civil engineering and hardware, Indian urban thinking simply ignores the human "software" that brings cities alive. Ultimately, the future of Indian cities will be decided by the process of human capital clustering and interaction, a sense of place and belonging and, most importantly, the spirit of innovation and enterprise. This is why the most important "infrastructure" of a city relates to property rights, access to commons, municipal transparency, clustering of social amenities, upward mobility and so on.

The writer is founder of the Sustainable Planet Institute.
Views expressed are personal









A peaceful revolution seems on the way in India, sans civil strife. It is still in swaddling clothes so the denouement is a long way off. But the uncertainty is matched by hope. In a world where oppressed people, from Libya to China, are either violently struggling to emerge free or meekly remaining in line, Anna Hazare and his band of civil society leaders are trying to chalk out a unique path by non-violently challenging the established order and winning the first battle. Civil society, whose legitimacy lies primarily in its own eyes, has won an equal role in shaping the Lok Pal Bill, which has the potential to change the way India is governed.  


 The uncertainty is on multiple counts. For one, several hurdles have to be crossed before a workable Bill can be hammered out. It has to be decided which part of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will report to whom. A Lok Pal – an ombudsman to keep a watchful eye on the highest political executives, administrators and judges – will need an investigating arm answerable to itself. Also, where will the remit of the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) stop? If the entire machinery of the central government comes under the Lok Pal, then its task will become unmanageable. A similar concern has been voiced by Aruna Roy over the need to not burden the Lok Pal with matters like disputes over dues under the employment guarantee programme. Then again, who will try a superior judge?

The focus needs to be on creating a super ombudsman to investigate complaints against the topmost functionaries. The super ombudsman will investigate, have the required judicial authority at every stage and recommend prosecution which will be mandatorily acted upon. Equally, care must be taken to avoid creating a super authority that has more powers and greater remit than it can handle. And once the Lok Pal Bill is agreed upon, there will be a need to look afresh at the CBI and the CVC to avoid a clash.

Also, once the Lok Pal pursues allegations of corruption against the high and the mighty, it will soon become clear that the system has to be changed so that corruption does not sprout in the first place. This also points to the need for changing the way elections are conducted. In one of the most forthright statements in the last few days the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has pointed out, "If you spend more than [Rs ] two crore to contest an election to become an MLA, you will surely earn [Rs ] 20 crore because you have to pay back … Elections unfortunately have become the biggest area of corruption." 

The demand for change is widespread. A group comprising some of the most distinguished retired civil servants (N C Saxena, Arundhati Ghosh, Keki Daruwalla, Jagdish Khattar and others) has moved a public interest litigation before the Supreme Court for reform in the administrative services by creating an independent civil service board, fixed tenures for civil servants and the need to record in writing all instructions, orders and suggestions, and depoliticise the management of transfers, postings, rewards and punishments. Various government-appointed committees have suggested such changes over decades but no action has been taken so far.

The UPA government is having to carry the can for the sins of the entire political class of which it is a significant part. But there is no doubt that the major political parties, including the BJP and the Left, are equally guilty of perpetuating this situation. Neither party thought it fit to bring forward an adequate Lok Pal Bill and see it defeated, if only to prove the point that "left to us, we would change the system".

On Hazare's satyagraha, the BJP first sang one tune and then quickly changed it once it sensed which way the wind was blowing. Corruption in public life grew from the political culture that Indira Gandhi initiated with the Congress split of 1969. However, if civil society is a voice today and if the right to information is one of its most potent weapons, then the credit goes to UPA and the Congress president's National Advisory Council.  

Former Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy has declared, "If Mahatma Gandhi was alive today, he would have either involved in the corruption, or would have quit politics. Contesting elections and pursuing politics without corruption is impossible in today's context." "The model has failed. The government will not deliver till we make it deliver," says the Comptroller and Auditor General, whose department's labours over the 2G spectrum allocation have ignited the current public revolt against the present system.

It is being argued that no matter how popular Hazare and the present stalwarts of civil society may be, they do not have the legitimacy that elected representative in a democracy do. So, systemic change has to be brought by legislators, not extra-constitutional elements. Simultaneously, however, you have the CEC declaring that when big money vitiates the election process, when false affidavits are routinely sworn and 40 per cent of elected representatives have serious criminal cases pending against them then you cannot expect such a system to change itself.

Change or the impetus for it has to come from outside the system. Then the keepers of the system will fall in line.







The nation has seen candle light vigils demanding tough laws with more teeth to prevent economic corruption. Watching the proceedings in the Supreme Court last week, one would recommend similar rallies to make the existing laws work. It is not just about tainted money parked in nondescript islands and mountain kingdoms or the role of the Central Bureau of Investigation since the Bofors days, but how statutes are lobotomised by mere inaction.

Parliament has created several tribunals to ease pressure on overcrowded courts. However, there is hardly any such quasi-judicial body that has not descended into legal quicksand immediately after its birth. Administrative tribunals, company law tribunals, the Competition Commission have all been enmeshed in constitutional challenges, delaying their establishment for years. Bad drafting was the original sin. The next big vice was the attempt to pack bureaucrats in judicial posts.


 Even after carrying out amendments suggested by the Supreme Court to cure the blemishes in the laws, the tribulations of the tribunals do not end. Appointments of presidents and members (more often non-appointments) are entangled in multi-level politics leading to a second or third round of litigation. Starving the tribunals of basic infrastructure facilities is equally serious.

The latest example pending before the Supreme Court is the state of affairs in debt recovery tribunals (DRTs). These bodies were set up to tackle soaring non-performing assets. The figures are mind-boggling even in these days when scams have inured us to figures stretching up to 15 digits. Tongue-twister laws like the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act and the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act were passed to tackle wilful defaulters. But the machinery to do the job is severely handicapped by sloth and apathy.

Several bar associations have moved petitions before high courts and even gone on strike to highlight the plight of the DRTs. Instead of complying with the directions, the central government has approached the Supreme Court in one case, Union of India vs DRT Bar Association. This appeal against the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court was pending before the Supreme Court since last year. The apex court has been asking the government to give suggestions to make the tribunals fulfil their purpose, but so far to little avail.

The proceedings showed that there was a stalemate between the finance ministry and the Additional Solicitor General on how to clear the mess. The law officer was earlier asked to sit along with the ministry's officials and bring back recommendations to the court. Instead, he complained that his suggestions were not acceptable to the ministry, and he would no longer represent the government in the matter. The court asked him to continue to assist it in the matter. It also appointed a senior counsel, who has experience in the tribunal, as "friend of court" to help draft directions to the government. The judges stated that if the government behaves as it does, they will pass directions which should be followed by the authorities.

One of the grim revelations during the proceedings was that officers of lending institutions are appointed as members of the tribunals. Recovery officers of banks, oil companies and even defence ministry officers have been deputed to the tribunal. The facilities in these tribunals are another story. In one tribunal, the court was told that there was no stenographer to take dictation. The judges remarked, "Perhaps there was no paper either."

The finance ministry has a controlling hand over lending institutions and DRTs. Its officials are on the board of banks and financial institutions. It provides salaries and perks to all of them, including DRT members. It can even put members in fear of their tenure and reputation. Thus, there is a serious conflict of interest and constitutional breach is making inroads into independence of the judiciary.

In this context, some bar associations have taken drastic steps like resorting to strike. Last year, lawyers in Orissa ceased work before the tribunal demanding the posting of a permanent presiding officer in Cuttack. The tribunal was topless for 12 years, though it was in charge of Kolkota and Andaman Nicobar islands.

Earlier this year, the Karnataka High Court expressed its displeasure over the delay in appointing a presiding officer there. A presiding officer from Chennai was visiting DRT in Bangalore for two days a week, after the previous officer was suspended. The court had earlier asked the government to appoint a full-time officer. When the government lawyer said that an advertisement had been placed, the judges wryly remarked that it would take 60 days to get a reply, 100 days to scrutinise it and 200 days more to appoint the officer. Definitely, the government owes the tribunals a better deal.




A tax break should not become a means of avoiding taxation, but a voluntary tax exemption is not such a bad idea

Ayaz Memon
Sports journalistI don't see why the law should be bent. Winning the World Cup was a splendid display of excellence. But that was also the main purpose of playing the tournament

Over the six weeks that the tournament was played, I predicted in various forums that India will win the cricket World Cup. Am I worthy of an award (better still, reward) by some state government as were those who went onto the field and achieved this success?






Full team

Rs 13.2 crore


Each player

Rs 1 crore each


Coach, support staff

Rs 50 lakh each



Rs 25 lakh each


Each player

Lifetime I AC pass 
for self and companion

Delhi govt

M S Dhoni, as captain;

Rs 2 crore


Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir,
Virat Kohli, Ashish Nehra

Rs 1 crore each

Punjab govt

Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh

Rs 1 crore each


Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan

Rs 1 crore each


M S Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar

House or plot in 
Mussoorie; Stadium
to be built and named
after Dhoni

I am being facetious, of course. Like every Indian, I rejoiced in the triumph of M S Dhoni and his merry band. Winning the World Cup 28 years after Kapil Dev's team had done this in 1983 is a big deal, believe me. I witnessed the first deed, and the long period since has been one of multiple heartbreaks — more so for the cricketers than fans and hacks.

Having lived off writing on cricket for more than 30 years, I understand the pressures, pains and travails that go into the making of an international player. The game looks all too easy on a 20-inch screen, but it is far, far more difficult on the field. Add to this a billion armchair critics ready to give advice, to pillory a player for not succeeding, which adds enormously to the hardship quotient of an Indian cricketer.

Too many people have argued for far too many years that Indian cricketers are overpaid vis-à-vis other sportspersons, but I disagree. This is a trite argument that has no currency at least in the current environment in which a lot more non-cricket achievers like Saina Nehwal and Vijender Singh have also been amply rewarded.

I am not saying that non-cricketers earn as much as cricketers today; that comparison would be odious. But high performers from other disciplines are not struggling as much as their forerunners did because the socio-economic conditions in India have changed dramatically in the past two decades.

Ergo the Indian team deserves our thanks and more — even the crores of rupees that are being hurled at them from all quarters. But I don't see why the law of the land has to be bent for this and why they shouldn't be taxed. Winning the World Cup was obviously a splendid display of excellence. But that was also the main purpose of playing the tournament, and at an existential level, also the reason for a cricketer to be.

Several state governments in India have given the winning cricketers additional monetary awards, which must also be taxed. There have been disquieting news reports that some of these governments have dipped their fingers into their education funds to reward the cricketers. It is hard to imagine that any well-earning sportsperson would approve of such actions.

The governments in question would have been more in line if they had instituted scholarships for needy students in the name of the stars rather than use up much-needed funds. Instead, in the euphoria over the victory, everyone tried to jump on the cash dole-out bandwagon, without much thought or consideration.

Of course, sportspersons looking to avoid taxation is hardly a new trend, although I am not suggesting that India's cricketers fall into this category at all. Former tennis great Boris Becker, for instance, fought a long war with the German tax authorities about sharing his earnings.

Monaco is a popular tax haven for sportspersons to set up dual residence, as much as it is for celebrities from the world of entertainment, or business tycoons looking to avoid tax. Ever since Bjorn Borg set up base in this Mediterranean principality, it has become a favourite among tennis stars.

However, as the joke goes, it has some of the highest real estate prices in the world, so what you make on the roundabouts, you lose on the swings!

Death and taxes, as Benjamin Franklin famously said, are the only two things certain in life. This maxim applies as much to large corporations as it does to high net-worth individuals, and those much below that sort of earning bracket who nevertheless fall within the tax net. There's certainly no reason why cricketers should be exempt.

Of course, the Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar is something else altogether. It's a shame that sports does not feature in the criteria for this award. If there is some rule that needs to be amended, it is here, not in the tax policy.

Aniruddha Deshpande
Promoter of Maharashtra Premier League

When a cricketer's career ends, not everybody gets an opportunity to become a commentator, umpire or coach. So there is a case to protect their income

Benjamin Franklin said, "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." A tax break is, of course, discretionary. The dictionary defines tax breaks as: "Tax break is a slang term referring to any item which reduces tax, including any tax exemption, tax deduction, or tax credit. Tax break is also a pejorative term used in the United States to refer to purportedly favourable tax treatment of any class of persons, as in 'individuals get a tax break for xxx'." A tax break is generally considered antisocial in certain societies, while it finds great support in others.

A tax break is normally given on the criteria of profession, age, gender and merit. The tax break for the Indian cricket team falls in the third category: merit. Historically, such breaks have been frowned upon but times are changing. The debate has surfaced after the World Cup rewards for the winning team from the The Board of Control for Cricket in India and others.

Sports enthusiasts like me believe that tax breaks are necessary to promote excellence in sports, like many other countries. Also, promoting sports has a big influence on increasing tourism income, jobs and the overall well-being of society.

There are definite arguments in favour of a tax break for cricketers:

  • Cricketers have a somewhat short career, sometimes one or two Test or one-day international matches in their whole lifetime.

Also, when a cricketer is most productive, the competition may be even severe. For example, when Padmakar Shivalkar was in form, the Prasanna-Bedi-Venkataraghavan trio was also at the peak and Shivalkar's career was very short, especially in the international arena. 

  • When a cricketer's career ends, not everybody gets an opportunity to become a commentator, umpire or coach. Many cricketers neglect their education in the service of the nation or for sports. So there is a case to protect their income. 
  • Many national and international awards are tax-free. Therefore, there is a case for tax exemption on the rewards that the cricketers have got. 
  • Tax exemptions may encourage many high-earning cricketers to allocate more money for charity.

Of course, there need not be totally indiscriminate tax breaks. It may follow certain guidelines:

  • A tax break should be available only for outstanding achievements: A World or Asia Cup win, in all categories of play — Test, one-day international and T-20. 
  • Certain categories of income should be tax-fee after retirement.

As the table shows, almost everybody who was responsible for the World Cup win got something.

Self-imposed or voluntary tax breaks can also be considered. If the tax is 30 per cent, the player can pay only 15 per cent and the balance can go to a charitable institution of his choice.

Finally, tax breaks can be extended to other games with similar achievements. That will certainly dampen the present opposition to the tax break for the Indian team.








India sorely needs a new telecom policy. The one promised by telecom minister Kapil Sibal by yearend would appear to contain some vital ingredients of a sensible policy. But it is not enough for policy to meet current needs; rather, it must allow the sector to evolve, with speed and commercial viability, to meet future needs. A pre-requisite for that is to treat broadband as an integral part of telecom and create a unified policy for it. While the existing telecom policy of 1999 vintage does, in its preamble, embrace internet access, it confines itself, at the operational level, to voice services and leaves internet access to a separate broadband policy. Policy needs to change at a conceptual level. We do not have the luxury of seeing mobile voice, mobile television and broadband as separate services, requiring separate licences and separate spectrum allocation. The advanced parts of the world are moving to make broadband access a fundamental right, and redefine broadband to mean download speeds of 100 mbps at the level of a home and 10 times as much at the level of an institution like a school or a hospital. For India to persist with a fragmented vision of telecom, and accept sub-1 mbps speeds as broadband is to hobble the Indian economy and choke its knowledge and creativity based sectors.
Policy must see telecom networks as data networks and voice as just one functionality of the data networks. This is the only way to make broadband access available to all Indians at affordable prices. So, while the moves to facilitate mergers and acquisitions in the telecom space, to delink spectrum from licences and to reduce the length of the licence period are individually sound, the policy vision in which they are embedded needs greater attention. Advances in technology would make dedicating spectrum to individual segments such as space, television, etc., and individual operators within segments obsolete. Institutional capability to enable real-time sharing of spectrum so that all available spectrum is put to use and spectrum scarcity does not constrain broadband access would flow from the right telecom policy. This is what the ministry needs to focus on.









The lacklustre 3.6% growth in the index of industrial production for February makes a case for proactive policy to kick-start investment. The low growth rate is deceptively modest. For the rise is on top of a high 15.1% increase in the general index previous February, so although the latest year-on-year (y-o-y) figure appears way too low, it shows that the growth in industrial output for two successive Februarys has been over 9%. But it is nothing to be ecstatic about. As a matter of fact, the decelerating industrial trend this fiscal ought to be a matter of some concern. A sectoral break-up for the month shows that mining output, with 10.4% weightage in the composite index, has dropped to 0.6% y-o-y. The state of flux in mining policy appears to be stultifying output. As for manufactures, which have almost 80% weightage in the index, y-o-y growth is just 3.5% due to the high base effect and 16.1% increase in output notched up the last time around. Also notable is the steady growth in electricity output, with 10.2% weightage. Buoyant capacity addition seems to be revving up power output, but sans distribution reforms and clamping down on revenue leakages, value addition would be arrested.
Disaggregated figures show that production of capital goods, with weightage of 9.3% in the index, has steeply declined 18.4%. Once again, a high base — 46.7% growth in February 2010 — is responsible, leaving growth over two years still good. But if capital goods output is mostly concentrated in power equipment, boilers, turbines and the like, it remains to be seen whether investment demand would be broadbased, going forward. Note that output of both basic goods (weight 35.5%) and intermediate goods (weight 26.5%) show a declining trend. The production of transport equipment, denoting automobile output, continues to zoom; and consumer goods (weight 28.7%) output have spurted helped by a sharp uptick in the non-durables (weight 23.3%) segment. But the bottom line is that for April-February, the industrial index has gone up by 7.8%, as against 10% in the like period previous fiscal. Hence the need for proactive policy.






The extent of corruption in India can be gauged by media reports of the Supreme Court asking the Delhi police commissioner to probe an IIT professor's complaint that he had been threatened by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) chief for writing to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) accusing the ED head of enjoying the hospitality of a Kolkata hotel owned by a private company under investigation. Whatever happened to the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers') Resolution of 2004 drafted at the instance of the Supreme Court to provide protection for those who campaign against corruption? The case of the IIT engineer Satyendra Dubey being killed in Bihar after complaining to the PMO during the NDA regime about corruption in contracts cleared by the National Highways Authority is still fresh in mind. One wonders why the 2004 resolution was not effectively implemented in the case of the latest complaint by the IIT professor about the ED head. Or are we saying that the PMO is deluged with so many complaints about so many scams that it cannot even implement a resolution to protect whistleblowers who bring to the PMO's attention instances of corruption? The office of the most honest PM can surely do better!

The intensity of investigation into allegations of corruption seems inversely proportional to the proximity of those charged with the ruling party! There was no investigation into charges of corruption against Jaganmohan Reddy when his father was AP's CM. There was no investigation when Jaganmohan Reddy's father passed away and he stayed with the Congress. However, the minute Jaganmohan Reddy left the Congress and campaigned against the party, official agencies started investigating the charges of corruption against him with retrospective effect!





 Many foreign observers ask, why is the pace of economic reform in India so slow and halting? One answer is that having achieved miracle GDP growth of 8.5%, politicians have little incentive to reduce corruption, misgovernance or unwarranted economic controls. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

Politicians may in tough times opt for reforms as a way out of a mess. But in an economic boom they focus on using the revenue boom to shower handouts on votebanks — employment programmes, subsidised grain, free electricity and canal water for farmers and so on. Such handouts fritter away funds that could better be deployed in building infrastructure, improving governance (more courts and police) and improving social services (education, health). But voters in a poor country have short time horizons, favouring immediate handouts over longer term reforms. So, the political pressure for accelerating reform is limited. Besides, coalition politics hampers radical change. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has lacked a majority in both Houses of Parliament in both its first and second terms (2004-09 and 2009-14). In 2004-09, the UPA survived only with outside support from the Left Front. This gave the Left a virtual veto on reforms. Several reformist bills were introduced by UPA-I — to allow pension funds to invest in the stock market, to increase the ceiling of foreign investment in insurance from 26% to 49%, and to give investors in banks voting rights in line with their shareholding. But the Left blocked these bills. It vetoed legislation to end the public sector monopoly on coal mining. And, of course, it demanded and got a huge increase in social and rural spending programmes. Of these, the most useful was Bharat Nirman.

The 2009 election brought the UPA coalition back to power, slightly short of a majority. It formed a government with the support of minor parties, and no longer needed the left. Yet expectations that UPA-II would surge forward with reforms proved ill-founded.

First, Sonia Gandhi's heart lay in handouts. She, and most folk in the Congress party and media, believe that the emphasis on welfare schemes, especially her employment guarantee scheme, was a key reason for her electoral victory.

Actually, it remains unproven whether the credit goes to rapid growth or increased welfare spending. The labour component of the employment guarantee scheme comes to just 0.3% of GDP, and work under this scheme accounts for only 1% of total rural person-days of work. It seems implausible that this could be the main reason for rural prosperity or Congress re-election. However, most Congress stalwarts continue to believe that welfarism wins votes, not reform.

UPA-II lacks a majority in the Rajya Sabha. It can try to buy off regional parties to get their votes for controversial bills, but such support would be unpredictable and unreliable. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee says most legislation can go forward only with a multi-party consensus — which often means getting the support of the BJP.

BJP support is essential for the biggest reform bill of all — a Constitutional Amendment (requiring a two-thirds majority in both Houses) to abolish the current mélange of taxes levied by the central and state governments, replacing it by a goods and services tax (GST). This bill could truly modernise Indian tax administration. The substance of this bill has been hammered out by state finance ministers over the last decade. But the BJP has recently raised fresh objections that look political rather than technical. It probably will not assent to the GST bill until the central government goes slow on the prosecution of BJP politicians for the mass killing of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Thus, politics complicates economic reform.


The Congress has been rewarded for its patience. The BJP supported a long-pending Pensions Bill which will, among other things, allow private players into pension funds, which in turn will be allowed to invest in equities. In return, the Congress put off a bill creating an Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research, which the BJP objects to. This cooperation between political foes reflects the institutional strength of democracy in India.
The bottom line is that future reform will be slow, but will still move in the right direction. Corruption has become a big issue, thanks to middle class outrage stoked by the media, and it seems all parties may agree to legislation that limits the scope for ministerial discretion in awarding government contracts or selling government property (spectrum, real estate, mines). This will be very positive for economic reform.
Nobody should think that lack of a parliamentary majority, notably in the Rajya Sabha, is the only reason for slow reform. The Congress party has old its socialist roots, and besides it believes that wooing voters with handouts is good electoral policy. No new legislation is required to decontrol oil prices, fertiliser prices, end free power and water for farmers, or to discipline teachers and health workers who are notorious for absenteeism. No legislation is required to allow foreign direct investment in retailing, or to liberalise rigid labour laws that inhibit the growth of labour-intensive industries. Yet UPA-II has shown no inclination to move forward on any of these issues. It is a populist first and reformer only second. This, combined with its lack of a majority in the Raja Sabha, means that future reform will typically be hesitant, episodic, and often half-hearted. It will justify this on the ground that policies that have already achieved 8.5% GDP growth cannot require urgent or major change.









With the implementation of nutrient-based subsidy scheme, the fertiliser sector will also move towards free market system. Limited controls, if any, will go once the government transfers subsidy directly to farmers. The sector needs an all-encompassing agriculture regulatory authority, not a standalone regulator for the fertiliser industry.

The main concern after decontrol will be soil health. Soil health in the past has deteriorated due to imbalance in the use of fertilisers and lack of micronutrients. This needs immediate attention as soil imbalances cause productivity losses, excessive use of fertiliser and so on. There is an urgent need, therefore, to set up soil testing laboratories in the field to monitor the soil health at the national level. We also need to create a database that is accessible to all stakeholders. Once this database is in place, manufacturers can supply the right balance of fertilisers to farmers across the country. An agriculture regulatory authority can oversee this task.
Further, the fertiliser control order (FCO) in the current form needs to be amended to introduce new products. Nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) can be used in any combinations without any hindrance. However, FCO is still product-based. There is a need to introduce labelling of products in FCO in place of the current product-based system. Once labelling is done, quality has to be monitored as per product labels. Again, the agriculture regulatory authority can track this aspect as well once it is in place.
It is observed that the consumption of urea, as compared to other P&K fertilisers, depends on their relative pricing. An agriculture regulatory authority will be best-equipped to monitor the use of fertilisers in enhancing agriculture productivity. The recommendations of several state governments on fertiliser doses are inadequate and should to be modified for raise yields. This has been reflected by various studies carried out by research institutes. There is a need to review state government recommendations and corresponding training of the farmers. Again, an regulatory authority fits the bill to undertake these tasks.




Nowhere in the world does one have a 'fertiliser regulator'. Many, including civil servants, think that this is a ploy of manipulative civil servants to create post-retirement jobs for themselves. There is no doubt about such motives, but the idea is as ludicrous as the earlier proposals to set up regulators for steel, coal and so on. If there was an integrated regulator for the energy sector, one could understand that coal should also be handled by the energy regulator. But we have separate regulators for electricity and oil & gas. Hence coal, which has not yet been deregulated, remains under the direct regulation of the government.

If one understands the purpose of establishing a regulator, it is done mainly for service sectors and particularly as a measure after the deregulation of the sector, as we have seen in the cases of telecom, electricity, petroleum, ports, insurance, etc. Independent regulation also becomes necessary where there are natural monopolies in the sector to mimic competition and where the government is also a competing provider. In all the sectors named above, the government is also a player, besides being the policymaker and implementer. However, there is a major vacuum is in the Railways that does not have a regulator.

The proposed fertiliser regulator will reportedly monitor prices after decontrol and also check quality standards. In the case of product markets, prices find their own water. Where there are market failures, the competition authority handles it the world over. In terms of quality assurance, it is the job of the government to ensure that quality is not compromised through an oversight mechanism which could include the BIS. The proposal to pool gas resources and share it with fertiliser plants to ensure that the prices of gas are fair can be overseen by the PNGRB. You don't need another regulator to do that.

As far as fertiliser prices go, let the government devote its energies to controlling prices of imported fertilisers, potash and phosphates, facilitated by rent-seeking export cartels which is costing us nearly one billion dollars every year.







The brief gap between the World Cup and the Indian Premier League would have been painfully boring but for the display on national TV of the collective meekness of the Congress/UPA leadership in the face of the challenge to India's parliamentary system mounted by Anna Hazare and his bandwagon. The bandwagon comprises civil rights activists, RSS/Hindu Mahasabha/Baba Ramdev foot soldiers, exbureaucrats in search of a cause, sections of the urban elite and Bollywood celebrities. The motley crowd succeeded in playing out their fantasy of converting Jantar Mantar into Tahrir Square for four days; they even got away with thumbing their nose at the entire political class that, barring the very honourable exception of veteran samajwadis Mohan Singh and Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, bore the insult, mute and quailing.

Of course, Anna Hazare's main cause, the battle against corruption, is both just and urgent. The recent spate of big-ticket scams involving the politician-bureaucrat-corporate nexus has shaken the people's faith in the system. And the public perception, with reasonable basis, that sections of the political class, especially in the ruling establishment in Delhi, were active participants or passive facilitator in this loot has triggered widespread anger and disgust. The fact the successive governments havedragged their feet over electoral reforms, instituting a Lokpal, etc, has, rightly, reinforced the antipolitician mood of our metropolitan elite, who, compared to their lower middle class and rural/small town counterparts, are normally more vocal in airing their indignation than in remedial political participation.

The material comfort gifted by post-liberalisation economic boom, aided by the instant political wisdom served daily by television channels directly into drawing rooms, has given the elite a yearning to make up for their traditional indifference to the state of the nation/politics by getting an occasional high of notional involvement. This, indeed, is a welcome development. But the flip side is this section, often driven by hostility to politicians and a jingoistic sense of nationalism, ends up being willing tools in the hands of crafty players with covert plans and ambitions.

And the four-day Jantar Mantar show was an organising marvel in which a group of determined civil rights activists and trained RSS/Hindu Mahasabha cadre brewed a deceptive ideological cocktail that sent a section of urban middle class on a high. While 24×7 TV news channels and Facebook helped market the reality show as a 'nationwide people's revolution', large parts of the real Bharat chose to down the storm in their cups of tea.
Once they succeeded in creating this frenzy in the national capital, the organisers made a mockery of our democracy by demanding that their show be treated as Parliament itself, and themselves as lawmakers who would deliver the draft of a that very questionable Jan Lokpal Bill for the government to just enact it! What a farce that was, played right under the collective nose of the national political leadership. Apart from the government's glaring timidity and mismanagement, this dangerous game got a boost from the Opposition's decision, without exception, passively play along with a show whose signature tune was politician-bashing and aim, to help an uncountable and unelected bandwagon to usurp Parliament's role.

The Opposition ignored this danger for two reasons: it wants to exploit the Congress/UPA's discomfort in facing critical Assembly polls amidst this frenzy; secondly, as is evident in L K Advani's lament about the 'absence of a V P Singh', BJP knows it does not have a credible leadership or political credentials to effectively lead an anti-corruption plank. So, it would rather hope to indirectly benefit from this saffron-sprinkled Jantar Mantar multi-starrer. If the Opposition's fault is opportunism, the Congress/ UPA's has been mind-boggling timidity and mismanagement. For full four days, the AICC and government managers displayed how pliant they can be to daylight blackmail at politicallytricky times like elections, how ineffective they can be in countering a hostile propaganda, how unabashedly they reduce the craft of political negotiation into slowmotion surrender. Not even an attempt was made to rally the entire political class against those who challenge them and Parliament itself. By constituting the National Advisory Council (NAC) in 2004, Sonia Gandhi advertised how the Congress had to now even outsource 'policy-thinking'. The handling of the Jantar Mantar episode now advertises that she and Manmohan Singh need to either outsource their political management, too, or entrust it to the real politicians who still survive within, rather than to their unproductive and apolitical loyalists.







Now that rumours of his sudden demise have been proved false, can former President Abdul Kalam expect to add more years to his life? That happens according popular belief when one dreams or hears about one's own end. As a rationalist, Kalam may not countenance such sentiments. But neither would he be fazed by the rumours. The ones with egg on the face are the rumour-mongers and they have already apologised cravenly and begged for a thousand-fold increase in the savant's lifespan! But the moot question is even if it were possible would the ex-President want it? As Raymond Tallis, noted British savant-scientist, writes in Hippocratic Oaths: medicine and its discontents, "However death is postponed and palliated — by means of medicine, public health, technology and social reforms — birth remains a one way ticket to the grave." As Shakespeare put it memorably in Hamlet, "Thou know'st 'tis common: all lives must die/Passing through nature to eternity." That may perhaps explain why eastern tradition looks upon Death as the greatest of teachers of the secrets of life. In Kathopanishad, for example, Death is shown offering bribes to Nachiketas. Initially he tries to fob off the seeker of the secret supreme. But when Nackiketas stands firm, Death discloses the dichotomy of paths leading to shreyas and preyas; to blessedness and sensory satisfaction. Do not mistake enjoyments for acts of freedom, Death says: Choose what is ultimately real and not what appears to be immediately valuable. Appearances can deceive you, right here and now!







We develop a methodology to collect and analyse data on CEOs' time use. The idea — sketched out in a simple theoretical set-up — is that CEO time is a scarce resource and its allocation can help us identify the firm's priorities as well as the presence of governance issues. We follow 94 CEOs of top-600 Italian firms over a pre-specified week and record the time devoted each day to different work activities. We focus on the distinction between time spent with insiders (employees of the firm) and outsiders (people not employed by the firm). Individual CEOs differ systematically in how much time they spend at work and in how much time they devote to insiders vs. outsiders.

We analyse the correlation between time use, managerial effort, quality of governance and firm performance, and interpret the empirical findings within two versions of our model, one with effective and one with imperfect corporate governance. The patterns we observe are consistent with the hypothesis that time spent with outsiders is on average less beneficial to the firm and more beneficial to the CEO and that the CEO spends more time with outsiders when governance is poor. The findings show a strong correlation between hours worked and productivity — a 2.14 percentage point increase in productivity for every one percentage point increase in hours worked.







                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




It is just as well that this country's health authorities have at last seen it fit to order a thorough scientific investigation It is just as well that this country's health authorities have at last seen it fit to order a thorough scientific investigation into the charge levelled overseas that water and air in India, particularly in the nation's capital, are susceptible to harbouring a dangerous gene that can render treatment all but impossible. In August 2010, Lancet, the highly-respected British medical journal, published a controversial study suggesting that metallo-beta-lactamase, the gene in question, had been found in international patients who had undergone surgery and treatment in New Delhi's hospitals. When this gene enters pathogen (organisms — bacteria or any other — that cause disease), the consequences can be frightening, as the pathogen is rendered resistant even to carbapenem, the most powerful generation of antibiotics. This virtually means that no medicines will work. To make matters worse, the study christened the gene the New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1). To a fair-minded observer, this was hitting below the belt, as the gene was not being discovered for the first time, and its existence was known for a number of years in Europe and the United States, which pride themselves on their hygiene. To then say the gene originated in New Delhi does not appear to bear an imprint of the scientific method. The inference being drawn by many is that naming of the gene in such a prejudicial manner was aimed at dissuading patients from around the world to visit India for medical treatment. There has, for some years, been a surge in medical tourism to India — including from Western Europe and the US — as our doctors and facilities are deemed high-grade and the costs only a fraction of that in the West. Only a few days back, Lancet had gone a step further and suggested in a second study that it wasn't just Indian hospitals but also the water system in New Delhi (and elsewhere) that harboured the virtually indestructible NDM-1. This understandably outraged many. Two studies on the same lines in four months appeared to be deliberate and concerted targeting of India and its medical facilities, whose super-speciality areas enjoy a well-deserved reputation worldwide. It might have been a lot better — when the subject was so controversial and laden with commercial implications — if the journal had sought pre-publication comments from respected Indian scientists even if it did not wish to obtain the authorities' response. Lancet had reportedly first rejected the study for publication, only to change its mind later. Also, the study in question was funded by the European Union and not an independent scientific investigation. This brings up the question of a possible conflict of interest as EU countries are losing out patients in good numbers to Indian medical establishments. Another thing. The Lancet article appeared on the eve of the UN-designated World Health Day, whose theme this year is resistance to antibiotics. This heightened the sense of external agencies trying to unfairly target India. We have the scientific capability to conduct a thorough investigation. Given the nature of the subject, this can be done in a relatively short time. After making a thorough evaluation of the results, our scientists should return the compliment by actually inviting Lancet editors, and the scientists whose findings the journal had reported, for a professional discussion.







Adaptive solutions are the weapons with which the Trinamul Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front propose to tackle the anxieties and expectations generated by "climate change". Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee's paribartan (change) — a slogan she coined before the 2006 state Assembly elections — was an urgent, if not imperative, demand that the ecological damage to the society, polity and economy of West Bengal needed a different helmsperson. Having got off the mark faster than everyone else, Ms Banerjee's manifesto is, therefore, an important document for it provides the blueprint of the adaptive solutions that she intends to initiate as soon as she comes to power in West Bengal. The concern is that reversing ecological damage is a slow and cautious process rather than the sort of "Do It Now, first 200 days" promises that both chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Ms Banerjee have made. As with the real climate change, the process of change in society and governance is slow. And by the time it becomes scientifically true, certain kinds of irreversible changes have already happened. For instance, no one is going to be able to push the population and their investments, no matter how large the compensation, out of the dangerously fragile coastal or Sundarbans delta zone. Likewise, the Trinamul Congress and the CPI(M), in the short term, cannot dismantle the crisscrossed networks of interests that operate across West Bengal. Not even if the Trinamul Congress succeeds in doing what Ms Banerjee believes will happen — that not one CPI(M) candidate will be left standing like the proverbial lone survivor on the burning deck — can the negative impact of "climate change" be reversed in one election. For in some places the CPI(M)'s existence cannot be uprooted. In the Sundarbans, it would be difficult to imagine a landscape without the CPI(M), just as it would be impossible to think of Burdwan district without the red flag. The point, however, is not where the toughest challenges exist for the climate changers, for they are on both sides of the political divide. The point is how can adaptive solutions be dreamt up for a manifesto and an election be the roadmap for serious political transformation and with that an economic transformation that cannot be obstructed any longer. The obstacles to the two transformations that are urgent cannot be underestimated. Mr Bhattacharjee came a cropper over the deep-seated resistance that worked as the seed capital for Ms Banerjee to launch and spectacularly succeed with her paribartan and its accompanying and confusing but alliterative slogan — Maa, Mati, Manush (mother, land, people). Like all capital, the interest networks, including the owners of the 400 acres as per Ms Banerjee's claims in Singur, switched from investing in the CPI(M) to investing in the Trinamul Congress because they believed that the gains from the new political force would be much higher than from the old one. Like all capital, the switchers and those who stayed attached to the old investment are being required by this 2011 election to calculate where their best advantage lies. In other words, the voter is being forced to think about risk. How much is to be gained from risking their all on the Trinamul Congress? For there is no ambiguity about who will drive the change agenda and the fact that the Congress will be an insignificant contributor to the framing of future policy and its implementation, just as the Trinamul Congress, in the final analysis, is inconsequential to the Congress' policy initiatives at the Centre. Seen as the typical fancy document that every company unloads when it is wooing the public to part with its money through the equity route, the Trinamul Congress manifesto exudes exactly the same sort of optimism. It promises all things to all sections of voters in the belief that contradictions can finally be resolved through that one great adaptive force, Ms Banerjee herself. And, therein lies the problem. Unless the Trinamul Congress can make up its mind about where it will focus its energies through the government of reconciliation, which it has promised to set up, it will do exactly what it has done with the railways. It will rush in where angels have learnt that treading unwarily can be disastrous, as the CPI(M) discovered when it failed to protect the Tata Motors factory in Singur from people's resistance. As the recent order by the Kolkata high court halting the Dankuni factory for the manufacture of electrical and diesel engine components, the pride and joy of Ms Banerjee's incredibly nimble stewardship of the railways and symbol of the industrial regeneration of West Bengal reveals, there are local interests that do not share the Trinamul Congress' enthusiasm for what it does. The caution required to handle "climate change" through adaptive solutions is not evident in Ms Banerjee's very upbeat messages to voters. Armed with a "positive attitude" and exuding confidence that her way is the way forward for all of West Bengal, Ms Banerjee is probably being both unrealistic and dangerously reckless. The outcome is that the CPI(M) has launched a rectification programme through which it has signalled that the abusers of power and vested interests will be excluded; some 23,000 workers have been sidelined and 1,100 have been sacked. It has also abandoned its "Do It Now" stand, apologised for its heedless promotion of capitalism and tried to win back the capital that fled around the Singur agitation. The "first 200 days" agenda is ambitious and a unilateral declaration of change. For it to work, every local and networked interest, it must be assumed, has done its calculation and decided that everything that the Trinamul Congress proposes to do is to its advantage. Alas, that will never be the case. For the 200-day agenda includes much raking and sounds suspiciously like vendetta. Should political capital decide to hedge its bets both ways, then the climate change programme would end up making very little difference as compromise and compacts will be the order of things rather than change. * Shikha Mukerjee is a senior journalist in Kolkata






Here's a clunky but unremarkable sentence that appeared in the British Press before the last national election: "Britain's recovery from the worst recession in decades is gaining traction, but confused economic data and the high risk of hung Parliament could yet snuff out its momentum". The sentence is only worth quoting because in 28 words it contains four metaphors. Economies don't really gain traction, like a tractor. Momentum doesn't literally get snuffed out, like a cigarette. We just use those metaphors, without even thinking about it, as a way to capture what is going on. In his fine new book, I Is an Other, James Geary reports on linguistic research suggesting that people use a metaphor every 10 to 25 words. Metaphors are not rhetorical frills at the edge of how we think, Geary writes. They are at the very heart of it. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, two of the leading researchers in this field, have pointed out that we often use food metaphors to describe the world of ideas. We devour a book, try to digest raw facts and attempt to regurgitate other people's ideas, even though they might be half-baked. When talking about relationships, we often use health metaphors. A friend might be involved in a sick relationship. Another might have a healthy marriage. When talking about argument, we use war metaphors. When talking about time, we often use money metaphors. But when talking about money, we rely on liquid metaphors. We dip into savings, sponge off friends or skim funds off the top. Even the job title stockbroker derives from the French word brocheur, the tavern worker who tapped the kegs of beer to get the liquidity flowing. Psychologist Michael Morris points out that when the stock market is going up, we tend to use agent metaphors, implying the market is a living thing with clear intentions. We say the market climbs or soars or fights its way upward. When the market goes down, on the other hand, we use object metaphors, implying it is inanimate. The market falls, plummets or slides. Most of us, when asked to stop and think about it, are by now aware of the pervasiveness of metaphorical thinking. But in the normal rush of events. we often see straight through metaphors, unaware of how they refract perceptions. So it's probably important to pause once a month or so to pierce the illusion that we see the world directly. It's good to pause to appreciate how flexible and tenuous our grip on reality actually is. Metaphors help compensate for our natural weaknesses. Most of us are not very good at thinking about abstractions or spiritual states, so we rely on concrete or spatial metaphors to (imperfectly) do the job. A lifetime is pictured as a journey across a landscape. A person who is sad is down in the dumps, while a happy fellow is riding high. Most of us are not good at understanding new things, so we grasp them imperfectly by relating them metaphorically to things that already exist. That's a "desktop" on your computer screen. Metaphors are things we pass down from generation to generation, which transmit a culture's distinct way of seeing and being in the world. In his superb book Judaism: A Way of Being, David Gelernter notes that Jewish thought uses the image of a veil to describe how Jews perceive God — as a presence to be sensed but not seen, which is intimate and yet apart. Judaism also emphasises the metaphor of separateness as a path to sanctification. The Israelites had to separate themselves from Egypt. The Sabbath is separate from the week. Kosher food is separate from the nonkosher. The metaphor describes a life in which one moves from nature and conventional society to the sacred realm. To be aware of the central role metaphors play is to be aware of how imprecise our most important thinking is. It's to be aware of the constant need to question metaphors with data — to separate the living from the dead ones, and the authentic metaphors that seek to illuminate the world from the tinny advertising and political metaphors that seek to manipulate it. Most important, being aware of metaphors reminds you of the central role that poetic skills play in our thought. If much of our thinking is shaped and driven by metaphor, then the skilled thinker will be able to recognise patterns, blend patterns, apprehend the relationships and pursue unexpected likenesses. Even the hardest of the sciences depend on a foundation of metaphors. To be aware of metaphors is to be humbled by the complexity of the world, to realise that deep in the undercurrents of thought there are thousands of lenses popping up between us and the world, and that we're surrounded at all times by what Steven Pinker of Harvard once called "pedestrian poetry".







In the higher secondary school, I happened to come across E.T. Bell's book Men of Mathematics. Written in 1937, it starts with Zeno in the 5th century BC and brings the reader to Cantor in the middle of the 19th century. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, although in retrospect I wish the author had not limited his visors to the European mathematics. For example, important contributions from the Indian subcontinent, Arabia, China, etc. are noticeably absent. Nevertheless, it was a revelation to a schoolboy that the subject he was taught in school as an abstract exercise confined by logical reasoning had been developed in a non-systematic way with flashes of genius prejudices, rivalries and priority claims playing no minor roles. Indeed, after that book I had the chance to read about development of science in general and found the same phenomenon. Isaac Newton had been opposed to the wave theory of light and his impressive contributions had such impact on contemporary science that future developments in that field had to wait till Newton was no longer on the scene. That science can advance and overtake major players in the field was shown when no less a person than Lord Kelvin, after spending a short period in retirement, walked into the department of his university to enroll himself as a graduate student. He wished to relearn physics which had changed so much since the time when he had made seminal contributions to it. Indeed, in general, our school science texts seek to present the subject in a cut and dried form so that the student gets the impression that it was always that way. He is not aware of the birth pangs suffered by the scientists involved, often being misled, sometimes running a race to establish priority, or even making an over-claim so as to attract more funds for future work. Ambient social conditions can play a significant part in deciding which way science moves. The rapid research on the atomic bomb was inspired by its potential importance as the ultimate weapon during World War II. Then there are episodes like Fermat's Last Theorem which are still short of their logical conclusion. Fermat, a leading mathematician from Europe, had conjectured in 1637 that there are no triplets of integers a, b, c such that for any n, an integer equal to or exceeding 3, the nth power of the first two added together gives the nth power of the third. Fermat had noted that he had a "truly marvellous" proof which was too large to be given in the margin of his copy of Diophantus' book Arithmetica. Fermat did not give the proof anywhere else. Although he was a mathematician par excellence, most modern mathematicians now believe that Fermat may have been misled into believing that he had found a proof of his theorem. For, modern attempts to prove the theorem, including the finally successful one of Andrew Wiles in 1995, use methods well ahead of those known in Fermat's lifetime. Take the case of the idea of continental drift. The idea that the continents on the Earth's surface are plates sliding on the surface under the dynamical forces was proposed and defended by Alfred Wegener throughout his life against hostile criticism of the leading geophysicists. He died in 1930, more than two decades before his idea could be blessed by the establishment. Today it goes under the name of "plate tectonics" and has received considerable supporting evidence. But a student just reading a statement to this effect in his or her textbook will miss the trials and tribulations faced by its originator. That the objectivity and critical assessment can, on occasion, take a backseat when new findings are announced is apparent in no uncertain terms when we look back at Arthur Eddington's announcement of the results of the experiments his two teams had carried out in Sobral, Brazil, and in Principe in the Island of Guinea at the time of the 1919 total solar eclipse. The purpose of the experiment was to test if the ray of light from a background star changes its path under attraction by the Sun; and if it does whether its "bending" is as predicted by Newton or by Einstein. The expected bending was as small as 1.75 second of arc as per Einstein and half that value as per Newton. (We may mention here that the second of arc is an angle which is 3,600th part of a degree. Thus, we are talking of some 2,000th part of a degree.) Hilarious accounts exist of the chaos and confusion at the actual experiments and the compromises made with the ideal observing conditions. The error bars for various quantities that might have affected the measurement had not been fully appreciated. Indeed, it was in the mid-1970s that radio and microwave measurements gave a reliable verdict in favour of Einstein. But in 1919, the unequivocal verdict given by Eddington in favour of Einstein had already launched relativity on a media-blitz with Einstein as a world figure. In 2010, there were scientific meetings to pay tributes to the late Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar on his birth centenary. Chandrasekhar is credited with the discovery of the mass limit on stable white dwarf stars. Reading the technical account of his work conveys the imaginativeness and depth of understanding of the young scientist, then under 25 in age. But such accounts do not convey his mental agony when he had to face severe criticism and ridicule from an unexpected quarter. No less a person than Eddington, in an unexpected attack on Chandrasekhar's ideas, tore his theory apart. This confrontation took place in the august debating hall of the Royal Astronomical Society in London. The typical neutral person in the audience left the meeting under the impression that the idea of a rather inexperienced young scientist had been demolished by an experienced leader in the field. Yet, in science an ultimate objectivity eventually prevails. Within a few years Chandrasekhar was vindicated and went on to receive the Nobel Prize. But episodes like these need to be part of the student's curriculum so as to give him or her the right perspective on science and its practitioners. * Jayant V. Narlikar is a professor emiritus at Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune University, and a renowned astrophysicist







At the onset of Baisakhi, a festival celebrated widely in Punjab to mark the beginning of the new harvest season, one is bound to question the need for festivals and their significance. First, let's analyse the need for these religious festivals. As we work from dawn to dusk, we become tired and dull and, naturally, the need to rest arises. So we go home to eat and sleep and feel revitalised, ready for work the next morning. But as our life continues between work and rest, day after day a kind of monotony sets in. We feel bored and think to ourselves, "I need a change". Although our physical exhaustion is relieved by sleep, our mental exhaustion continues to dissipate our energy. To rid ourselves of this mental exhaustion we look out for entertainment. The Sanskrit word mano ranjana translates as "to delight the mind". Each person has their own way to escape boredom and to entertain the mind. They may watch television or take up a hobby. We look forward to weekends so that we can do something fun and relaxing, which provide us gentle relief from our everyday stress and pressures. Yet, after a while, even they become monotonous and we want to go on a vacation, some place exotic. But even this provides only a temporary relief. Recognising this need for change, our culture provides us special occasions, festivals of a religious nature, called utsava. No religion can last long if it does not understand the desires of the people and merely insists on strict discipline at all times. There must always be room for feasting, singing, dancing and joyous celebrations. Though vacations do provide relief for the mind and body, they are temporary. When a vacation is over, we think, "Oh, now I have to go back to office. What a bore". Often we are left exhausted not only physically but also financially. We have to work extra hard to earn back the lost money; thereby, instead of easing pressure, a new one is added. Why do these means of entertainment not bring about the desired result? Because, there is no real purpose behind such entertainment. On the other hand, our religious festivals have a very different effect. They not only give us occasions for merry-making, but they also give us a noble, divine vision and inspire us to raise our minds to the heights of that great goal. Rather than merely exhausting us physically and mentally, they purify the mind and prepare us to face life with more enthusiasm. On close observation, we find that religious festivals not only point towards the ultimate goals but also provide us with guidelines to reach the goal. Festivals in our culture are classified according to the nature of celebration and its significance. Some celebrate the birth of the great incarnations of the Lord, such as Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, some relate to the change in seasons like Makar Sankranti, which is celebrated usually in January, some occurs when the sun changes its course and starts moving northwards. Holi, the festival of colours, reflects what is happening around us — the blossoming of flowers and so on. The dominant message in such festivals is that we should live in harmony with nature. Other festivals, like Baisakhi and Onam (in Kerala), celebrate also the harvest time, a time of plenty and sharing, signifying both material and spiritual prosperity. Navaratri and Diwali celebrate the victory of good over evil. In addition, we have national festivals like Independence Day, which are associated with great national heroes who led inspiring lives. So this Baisakhi let's ensure that the harvest, not just of the crops, but also of the mind, be to its fullest potential. Let us sow the seeds of inspiring goals and cultivate good habits, so the harvest may result in the growth of a prosperous nation. — Swami Tejomayananda, head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller. To find out more about Chinmaya Mission and Swamiji, visit







During the controversy over the joint parliamentary committee in Parliament, Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee stated on February 21, 2011, "Parliament cannot be mortgaged to the conceding of a demand", warning that if "hatred for the parliamentary institution was generated, it will lead to the rise of extra-constitutional authority as in the neighbouring country in 1958 when martial law was declared". It is indeed surprising that 63 years after Independence, and in spite of the Indian Army's proven apolitical record, a senior and experienced political leader should fear a military coup. No responsible leader in the West would express such a fear, even though the UK had a Cromwell and France a Napoleon. Supremacy of the civil over the military is an imperative for a functioning democracy. Even in colonial India, the Viceroy, representing civil authority, was supreme. The Curzon-Kitchener dispute did not question this. It was related to organisational matters and functioning procedures. Till Independence, the Commander-in-Chief in India also held political authority in his additional capacity as War Member and senior member of the Viceroy's Executive Council. Thus, in a way, he was both the defence minister and the deputy prime minister. The defence secretary was his subordinate. Till 1920 this appointment was held by a major general, but thereafter a civil servant started holding this office. Before Independence, the role of the defence secretary was limited to issuing government letters, as worked out by military officers with military finance, answering questions in the Central Legislative Assembly, interacting with other ministries and provincial governments, and looking after defence lands. He hardly had any say in decisions pertaining to military matters. After Independence, a radical change took place. The defence minister now controlled the defence services and the defence secretary, as his staff officer, became a key functionary. The civil service lobby tried to get a higher protocol status for the defence secretary than the Service Chiefs on the analogy of other ministries in which departmental heads are subordinated to their concerned secretary. Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, torpedoed this and the Service Chiefs retained their higher status vis-à-vis the defence secretary. This continues to be so but the latter has acquired a higher functional status. Service Chiefs have to put up papers to the defence minister through the defence secretary. In 1962, when the appointment of Cabinet Secretary was introduced, a higher protocol status was accorded to him than the Service Chiefs. As secretary-general in the 1940, Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai did not have this high status. When General Manekshaw was promoted Field Marshal, a unique ceremonial rank, his protocol status was kept lower than the Cabinet Secretary. No wonder the funeral of the military leader, under whom we achieved the greatest victory of Indian arms of the last millenniym, was a tame affair. The Government of India was represented by a minister of state at his funeral. The funeral of the Duke of Wellington was not only attended by the head of state and head of government of his country, but of several European countries. The colonial pattern of administration, in which the generalist civil servant exercises authority over the specialist professional, obtains in ministries of Government of India like health, home, transport, agriculture and so on. * Lt. Gen. S.K. Sinha, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir









IS it a sin to grow old? Does the Constitution debar senior citizens from holding public office as it does prescribe a minimum age for contesting elections? Are callow youth ~ not that 41 years of age is exactly youthful, even if it can reflect immaturity ~ of greater value to national life than those who are now moving over the hill but have a record of achievement to their name? These are some of the questions Rahul Gandhi should answer if he is in possession of even a trace of grace or humility. For his seeking to ridicule the veteran VS Achutanandan is not the first of his insults to the grey-haired ~ MS Gill's holding the youth affairs and sports portfolio had also been the subject of one of his barbs. Would he care to consider the age of the man to whom the Congress is hitching its wagon in Tamil Nadu, or closer home write off Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee as being on the verge of their dotage?


Maybe it is a recent facet of the Congress party's culture to ignore the contributions of its elders ~ as confirmed by the side-lining of Kamlapati Tripathi and Arjun Singh ~ but that is not the party, nor indeed the family tradition. Who can forget Indira Gandhi carrying Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan's small bundle of personal possessions when she received him at Delhi Airport some decades ago. Yes age does take a toll, but at least those who "could be 93" when the next election is due have something to "show", rather than those who duck activities involving some accountability. Stray, over-dramatised speeches in Parliament hardly register as accomplishment.

Alas, "who will bell the cat"? Rather than accept that it was Rahul who threw the first foul punch, the sycophants masquerading as the party's spokesmen are contending that the Kerala chief minister's riposte was a slur on all youth. The apologists have tried to "explain" that their icon was talking about "anachronistic policies" ~ as if dynastic rule is a feature of modern democratic entities. It is the widespread chamchagiri in the Congress party that has enabled Rahul to let his tongue run away with him, even if the voters decline to run alongside. Yet all the "clever" spin from the likes of AM Singhvi and Manish Tiwari will not suffice to stifle the chuckles evoked by the "Amul Baby" imagery. This one will "stick".



Twenty years ago, a couple in Durgapur was robbed, and decided to apply for an arms licence. The district administration issued a licence but did not bother to inform the applicant it had done so. Now, a 75-year-old man and his 67-year-old wife are facing constant harassment from police to turn in a weapon they do not and have never possessed against a licence they did not know had been issued to them. Their plight has been reported in these columns, but the ultimate insult is offered by the District Magistrate who has the gall to accuse the couple of being irresponsible for not having informed the administration they had decided not to take a licence they did not know had been issued to them! This is Bengal.

  The district administration is not concerned that a licence issued in the early 1990s was never claimed or renewed; or that a person owning a weapon on the basis of a lapsed licence is as guilty of a criminal offence as one with an unlicenced weapon. All that the administration seems to know is that a licence was once issued, and because it was issued it makes a leap of deduction to assume the applicant must possess a weapon. And because all weapons must be deposited with the administration during the course of an election, it repeatedly harasses two senior citizens who have never owned a weapon. Clearly, the police in Durgapur have little better to do.
It isn't owners of licenced firearms who generally participate in poll violence. The police and administration are aware of this. It is unlicenced weapons, knifes, swords and sticks that make up the political activist's armoury. But those who wield these weapons aren't amenable to police control; indeed in this state, they are the ones who tell officers what to do. So what is the hapless officer to do? He bullies senior citizens. Standards of administration have slid all over the country, but nowhere as alarmingly as in West Bengal. Had the district magistrate even a nodding acquaintance with his responsibilities as a public servant, he would have apologized to the couple for the harassment they faced. Instead, he chose to upbraid them for being irresponsible. What a shame!



SUDDENLY corruption in India has become a "dirty word", thanks to Gandhian septuagenarian Anna Hazare taking the lead to make people aware of its effects on society. Known personalities shared his platform and it is to be hoped that somethign good will come of it. In the North-east, corruption was unheard of until the formation of Nagaland in December 1963, when it was already insurgency-infected. Once the Centre started pumping funds in lavishly for development, corruption raised its ugly head and key players ~ politicians, bureaucrats and contractors ~ reaped a windfall. Even rebels gained in this game of oneupmanship. Soon politicians in other newly-created states learnt the tricks of the trade and, in less than half a century, words like "corruption" and "lakhpatis" sound like jaded clichés. The number of those with a crore or more to their name in the region has long since multiplied, and if the assets declared by candidates running for election is any indication, the tribe is growing.

The North-east boasts of its own Anna Hazare in young Right to Information activist Akhilesh Gogoi, who heads the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity and who, for some months, has been trying to expose politicians. Unfortunately his is a lone crusade. Recently, he alleged that Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi owned property worth Rs 17.88 crore in the USA, where his daughter lives.

The chief minister clarified that his daughter and son-in-law had a house in that country but denied his wife had any assets there. He also said that if the charges were substantiated he would donate all his property to the peasant leader. Last Sunday, Akhilesh Gogoi was arrested in Guwahati for allegedly violating Section 144 but was freed at the chief minister's instance. As things stand, it would seem that any serious attempt to eradicate corruption from public life would amount to shooting the breeze. Then again, perhaps the best way out is to insist the physician heal himself.








THERE are signs in West Bengal today that three decades of Communist rule are about to end. However, this hope is not wholly without apprehension. The suppressed fear is the doubt as to whether totalitarian rule will not be replicated by the new regime. It is reminiscent of post-apartheid Africa where after 1994 it became clear that the principles of racial hierarchy and spatial segmentation, that were the building blocks of apartheid, were no longer legitimate. Yet they persisted at the level of everyday life. It relates largely to the existing social consciousness which may be best described in the 1980 Nobel Prize winning dissident Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz's description of the people's mind under Communism as the "Captive Mind" ~ the title of his Nobel Prize winning book

Milosz wrote The Captive Mind after he went on political asylum in Paris, breaking up with Poland's Communist government. The book narrates his experiences as an underground writer during World War II and his position among the political and cultural elite in Poland. It speaks about the "intellectual allure of Stalinism" and the temptation  among Polish intellectuals of collaborating with the regime. Recounting Milosz at this point in time is perhaps pertinent. Among many of the enlightened minds in Bengal today, there is still a dilemma and hesitation to describe the CPI-M as a regime disguising itself as the progressive rule of workers and peasants. Milosz experienced the same dilemma.

It is probably one of the greatest revelations of truth and irony of Marxism that through the very necessity of history the Left regime in Bengal unmasked its schizoid face. Had it not been for the ruse of historical accident through which the world watched on television the firing on farmers in Nandigram, it would perhaps have been impossible to morally confound such a rule. Both in Singur and Nandigram, the Left contradicted its self- description as the progressive party of the poor peasants. The Stalinist form of Communism, which the world has so far witnessed, proclaims itself as the only legitimate form. Inherent is the ideological posturing of being the only regime that is morally valid ~ an argument almost based on the theory of natural right which is nearly impossible to defeat ideologically. There was hardly any parallel discourse which could claim equal moral legitimacy at par with the discourse which legitimised the CPM-led rule as the caretaker of the poor and the oppressed, propped up by the highest social utopia of the historical necessity and inevitability of such a rule.
It is ironic that the Left Front candidates are now inviting the people to experience a higher form of democracy and development by voting the party back to power when for three decades and more democracy was described as a perverse form of government. This takes one back to one of the outstanding liberal thinkers, Isaiah Berlin's lifetime concern over the menace of totalitarianism. In discussing the two forms of liberty, "negative" and "positive" Berlin noted how the idea of positive liberty often became a dangerous weapon in the hands of authoritarians, because it suggested the idea of a self-divided entity: a "higher or true self" and a "lower self", with the former governing the latter. The argument of totalitarianism is both metaphysical and almost religious in undertone as it argues for an ontological necessity for the masses to submit to coercion as it disciplines and subjugates its lower self for ascension into the higher.

The intellectuals in Bengal for long subscribed to this self-congratulatory world-view which reflected their self-description as the great historical agency for building and sustaining progressive rule. This command ideology makes it possible, as Berlin has shown, to claim that totalitarian coercion is not only congenial to liberty but also a necessary condition thereof.

Intellectuals are facing a dilemma over how to simultaneously criticise the totalitarianism of the Left Front and yet attack some of the crude premises of neo-liberalism. In The Captive Mind Milosz struggled to embellish Communism by using a superfluous description of the Left as the New Faith that acted as an antidote to the cultural emptiness of a decadent bourgeois society in Poland. This was the view of almost all the emigre Poles in the Fifties. They were simultaneously attracted by Marxist philosophy and yet repelled by the spectre of  the worst form of coercion in history.

Here in Bengal, there is now a concerted campaign to whip up a degree of frenzy regarding the misrule of the Congress, generally referred to as "the terror of the 70s" prior to Left rule.  Hysteria is raked up to revive the memories of the pre-CPM days, obliterating some of the other chilling episodes of the worst form of necropolitics from Marinchjhanpi to Sainbari.

Democracy in India was not built so much  on the liberal premise as on the socialist and Gandhian ethos. So nearer home it may be best to recall the ideas of freedom contained in the Gandhian answer to the British rulers to leave Indians to its destiny when it tried to warn the leader of the impending catastrophe if the colonial government transferred power to the nationalists. Perhaps it is time now for Bengal too to keep its tryst with destiny for the better or the worse.

The meaning of the all-important term, transformation, may yet appear fuzzy for in essence it implies a change of the old order, an end of the party state to something new and uncharted. There is anxiety about the form that the new dispensation may take. Yet the great enchantment with the idea of transformation is the enchantment with the promises of democracy and freedom; the very possibility and the ability to take a risk for the sake of changing the ossified state that for long has camouflaged itself as a state of stability.

The enchantment with democracy may be misplaced in a neo-liberal world as it was  way back in antiquity when Aristotle considered it not as an idyllic form of rule but a perverse political order showing signs of mobocracy. Yet ultimately in the historical experience of mankind till date, it has remained the only experiment of politics to show the possibility for people to free themselves from captivity.

If anything is to go wrong with the new dispensation in Bengal, it is the captive state of people's mind that has for three decades lived through violence in all spheres of public life. The party-state not only controlled political power but ruled through the various quasi-judicial structures of unions, political henchmen in every service sector, local clubs, citizens' committees, institution of local self-governments in the rural areas, social ostracism, fear of dispossession, suspension of civil rights and torture by the political police. Indeed, to the extent that this form of social consciousness has now become what the famous Italian communist ideologue, Antonio Gramsci, has described as "common sense".

The experience of totalitarianism has become such an archetype that the practice of using the ruling party for sectarian purposes may denude some of the tenets of democracy. Bengal has been unaccustomed to it for as long as it has.

Hence there is still hesitation, anxiety and self-censorship among many to welcome this new democratic upsurge. Yet democracy remains the only form of politics which accepts the presence of the opposition as a necessary condition of good governance without subjecting them to what Michel Foucault called "a juridical process", in order to dismiss and obliterate them completely as the enemy of the people.


The writer is the Indian representative of the International Research Group,
'Women in War', Paris






Mr LK Advani accused the UPA government of being immersed in corruption. Finance minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee retorted by asking why the NDA government did not introduce the Lokpal Bill when it was in power. Mr Mukherjee is very intelligent. Unfortunately, he thinks others are stupid. He could have pointed out to Mr Advani the various cases of corruption that taint the BJP. Instead he invoked the Lokpal Bill as the litmus test for fighting corruption. There is a method in this madness. It calls for some plain speaking. It is time to point out that the entire hysteria whipped up over the appointment of a Lokpal as the means to end all corruption is horribly misconceived.

A legal luminary charged with the responsibility to draft the proposed Lokpal Bill solemnly said: "We need a strong law to fight corruption." This may mislead most people. The present endeavour is not related to passing new criminal laws by which corruption will be tackled. It is related primarily to creating a new and powerful office that will ensure that existing criminal laws are implemented. The need for creating such an office arose from the fact that investigative agencies probing corruption of government ministers and officials were accountable to the same body of persons. This was so because before proceeding with any investigation or prosecution involving a government official, the agency first had to obtain permission from the very government which was being probed. This robbed investigation of all credence. The investigative agencies cannot be liberated from the government's stranglehold by making them autonomous. Investigators have to be made accountable to some higher body. That is the rationale for creating the Lokpal.

When inadequate utilisation of existing law results in failure to provide results, what do our politicians do? They create a new law. Were the founding fathers of our Constitution so inept as to make inadequate laws for dealing with corruption? They were a thousand times more intelligent than the morons of the political class who rule us. Let us understand what the magic wand of the proposed Lokpal will actually entail. The Lokpal will have the jurisdiction to probe allegations of corruption against ministers, bureaucrats and judges. No sanction from the government to probe or prosecute them would be required because the Lokpal would be empowered to decide. The Lokpal would have a separate new investigative agency set up to probe complaints because the CBI functions under the government. Therefore, alongwith the Lokpal, a new investigative agency parallel to the CBI would also have to be created. Who will appoint the Lokpal? That is still being debated. The outrageous suggestion that a collegium including Nobel Laureates and Magsasay Award winners should appoint the Lokpal has also been made! To whom will the Lokpal be accountable? As a Constitutional post, the Lokpal would be accountable to the President. In other words, like the Election Commission and the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Lokpal would also be accountable to the President who has been rendered a virtual dummy of the Union Cabinet. And that brings us to the nub of the problem.

The problem of unaddressed corruption and flawed governance can safely be traced to the brazen distortion of our written Constitution which has been subverted by politicians since the days of Pandit Nehru by treating the President as a titular head stripped of real responsibility. Because the government felt uncomfortable with the huge gap between the written word of the Constitution and its implementation in practice, the 42nd Amendment to curtail the powers of the President was introduced. But despite this Amendment, the President still has vast responsibilities that the office is not allowed to discharge owing to fraudulently-created convention.
Even now, Article 74 states that the President may exercise powers "directly". Article 53 (1), which states that executive power is vested in the President to be exercised "either directly or through officers subordinate" to the President is not negated by Article 74 (1) even after the 43rd Amendment which enjoins upon the President to act in accordance with the advice tendered by the Council of Ministers. Not all duties and occasions require the Cabinet's advice. Instead, by invoking Article 78 (a) the President  can order the Prime Minister to report regularly each week "the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation". The President, through Article 78 (c), can direct the Cabinet to consider any decision by a minister not discussed by the Cabinet and then submit a report on the subject. The President, through Article 86 (1) and (2) can decide to address either or both Houses of Parliament and direct Parliament to discuss any subject. The President can ask Parliament to give substance to the unimplemented Article 263 and set up a permanent Inter-State Council to settle disputes between States, or between States and the Centre. Logically were such a Council established the President elected by Parliament and all the State Assemblies as the only office holder with a nationwide mandate would be required to head it. In short, our Constitution empowers the President to act as a guide and monitor of the Cabinet without direct participation in execution of policy.

However, in the domain of implementing laws, the President is supreme. It is the only elective office with the widest mandate in the country under oath to preserve and protect the Constitution and Laws. Every appointment, transfer, promotion and demotion of an official is in the name of the President. To honour the oath of office to preserve laws that include all official rules the President's discretion is final. By a minor amendment, making the terms of the President, Parliament and all Assemblies fixed and co-terminus, the voters, when supporting candidates to Parliament and Assemblies, would also through indirect election choose their candidate for President. Thereby, within the basic structure of the Constitution the President would be given a popular electoral mandate.

When the Constitution provides such powers to the President elected by all the MPs and all the MLAs of the nation, where is the need for a Lokpal to liberate investigative agencies from the control of the Union Cabinet? Make CBI a constitutional body accountable to the President! Today, India is being simultaneously battered by the 2G scam, the CWG scam, the Hasan Ali scam, the Adarsh scam, the Koda mining scam, the Fake Pilots scam and a host of other scams. We do not need a distant Lokpal to address the crisis. We need a government that can perform according to existing law and not lie and mislead the public. For systemic reform, we need a President to function as the founding fathers of the Constitution intended. For immediate reform, we need the government to act and not prevaricate and deceive. That is what civil society should insist on. When a house is on fire, one does not prepare a draft Bill to make a law to establish a fire station. One puts out the fire. India is aflame. The youth are aroused. If quick results are not forthcoming, the situation could get ugly.     
Even as this is being written, a piquant situation has arisen related to the 2G spectrum case being heard in the Supreme Court (SC) that reinforces my argument. The SC has overruled the Union government and insisted on appointing Mr Uday Lalit as the special prosecutor for the 2G Spectrum case. This scribe had earlier pointed out that Mr Lalit, who is also defending Mr Hasan Ali, can land in a potential conflict of interest. Some of the accused in the 2G scam may have used Mr Hasan Ali's services for money laundering. Subsequently, quoting a technicality, the government wanted to withdraw Mr Lalit's name as special prosecutor. The SC will not allow that. The court has encroached into the domain of the executive by invoking Article 142 of the Constitution.
  Article 142 states: "The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any case or matter pending before it…" The Judges invoked this Article to overrule the executive from exercising its responsibility by saying: "We are issuing this direction in the interest of substantive justice." In what manner would justice not be served if another lawyer not vulnerable to potential conflict of interest were appointed as special prosecutor? It defies belief that across India no other lawyer with adequate competence to act as special prosecutor exists. Mr Ram Jethmalani had already offered his services for the post but was overlooked by the court. There could be other suitable candidates. The SC's decision appears to be arbitrary and irrational. Nevertheless, by invoking Article 142, the judiciary has assumed the responsibility of the executive. Is there no remedy for what arguably might be subversion of democracy which demands the separation of powers?

The remedy is simple and available. The President can consider the views of the executive and the judiciary and decide which deserve endorsement. If the SC opinion is considered wrong, the President can simply refuse to appoint Mr Lalit as the special prosecutor. All appointments are made in the name of the President. Article 53 of the Constitution states: "The executive power of the Union shall be vested in the President, and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with this Constitution." The Supreme Court may invoke Article 142 to overrule the Cabinet. It cannot overrule the President. The SC cannot issue notification of the appointment. The President makes all official appointments. The buck stops with the President. 

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist







Experience of more than half a century as a republic should be rewarding if one is willing to build itself well. By effectively dealing with its chronic debilities, India should have become an exemplary democracy by now ~ more than 60 years after gaining Independence. An equitable distribution of prosperity and opportunity should never have allowed regionalism to rear its head in the country.

Pluralism is hardwired to India's DNA but not separatism. A colourful, cohesive culture that defies dissension is what makes India distinct. Its plurality had always inspired India to rise above parochial considerations. That is, till it gained Independence. Partition changed everything. Sustained strife caused suspicion to seep into the fabric of Indian society and things were never the same again.

Our Constitution was framed, defining our fundamental rights, our nationhood and our privileges. But our bounden duty was never defined. As such, we haven't yet realised that to serve ourselves, we must serve our motherland first. Thus, the true meaning of citizenship remained unclear to us and our civic sense dull. We can assert our national identity only if we make effective and genuine contributions to building one. And, to do that, honesty and integrity are indispensable.

There is a vast difference between the India of past and the India of present. Every sphere of our public life is now reeling under corruption and its unchecked, cancerous growth is eating into our vitals. It's a shame that India has a place of dubious pride on the Corruption Perception Index of 2010. We know that give and take is a law of nature. Trouble begins when the balance gets disrupted. The foundation for a peaceful life is also laid in the same way. More correctly, it is laid on the principle of give more, take less. Society becomes hazardously fragile and calamitous when it happens the other way round. Our real problems started the moment we began concentrating our thoughts on what we could take than what we could give. When our personal considerations began taking precedence over national interest, way too much, the decline started in real earnest.

Our approach towards reforms had been imitated from the West without considering the consequences. Vivekananda cautioned us long ago: "The flash of lightening is intensely bright, but only for a moment; look out boys, it is dazzling your eyes. Beware!" So, instead of blind reforms he would have suggested "move on". In his view: "Nothing is too bad to reform. Adaptability is key to life… Adjustment or adaptation is the outcome of the self-pitted against external forces tending to suppress it." Therefore, admittedly, a nation that adjusts itself best also does best.

India's lack of proper orientation ~ whether towards reforms or development ~ stems from the absence of a proper education system in the country. After Independence, there was no defined initiative to evolve an Indian way of education that will encourage character building like it happened in ancient India. Instead, we kept on clinging to the legacy of Macaulay. The education system that Macaulay had devised to roll out batch after batch of clerically-inclined natives in colonial India, had no place or patience for ancient wisdom gleaned from a way of life and thinking that is thousands of years old. The intrinsic Indian values that held one back from doing wrong were undermined so much that they came to be regarded as out of place. Vivekananda once said: "What we want is sraddha (respect). Unfortunately, it has nearly vanished from India and that is why we are in this mess." Sraddha is a sublime agent which drives one towards perfection. Therefore, it comprised the indispensable core of the ancient Indian way of imparting education. When, upon Macaulay's urging, the pedagogic orientation changed, we were saddled with a system that not only produced generations of people with misplaced priorities but also people with no sense of their place in the world.

Vivekananda once said: "British rule has only one redeeming feature ~ if only by default, it forced India to come out of its shell and renew contact with the outside world. Had this been done with the express purpose of doing the Indian people good, the results would have been spectacular. But when bloodsucking is the main motive, no good, naturally, can come of it."

Decades after Vivekananda's utterance, his message hits home when we consider the scale of loot of public money that has been perpetrated in India since Independence. According to one estimate, India spends US$ 3.3 billion on primary education annually and the black money stashed in tax havens abroad could take care of funding for more than 150 years!


One wonders if there is any difference between the way the British used to treat colonial Indians and our corrupt politicians treat "Independent" Indians now. About 3 million people died in the Bengal Famine of 1940s. But then, the British were avowedly out to conquer the world and fill the Queen's coffers in the process. There was no welfare role involved. What our politicians, bureaucrats and wrongdoers in cahoots with them are doing now is indefensible.  

Indubitably, we are in such dire straits because our priorities are misplaced and perceptions unoriginal. No nation can do well on borrowed idea alone. Swamiji used to say: "Each nation is a type, physically and mentally. Each is constantly receiving ideas from another only to work out its own type." According to him, nationalism is unique to every nation and every nation must devise its own suitable definition of it. Since India has forgotten how to do that, we are sitting on a diamond mine, wasting time scavenging for articles of little value.

Vivekananda compared our nation with a ship which has been plying for ages, carrying a civilisation and enriching all with its treasures. Cruising across the ocean of life, it has taken millions of souls away from the shores of misery. Today, the vessel may have sprung leaks but as a nation, we must learn how to plug them. And, our success will redeem India.

The writer is with Ramakrishna Mission

Vidyapith, Jharkhand





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Sad Occurrence At Fort William

A sad tragedy occurred at Fort William on last Thursday afternoon, when John Rhodes, son of Corporal J Rhodes, Royal Garrison Artillery, was found dead in a bath tub in the bathroom adjoining his parents' house. It is stated that the parents of the child had retired to rest for a couple of hours, leaving the child playing in the room. After the parents had gone to sleep, the child appears to have made his way to the bathroom, and while playing with the water, accidentally slipped and fell into the tub. The sweeper employed by the father, on entering the bathroom and finding the child dead, immediately ran downstairs and informed the artillery sergeant-major of the occurrence. The latter aroused the child's parents, and pulled the deceased from the tub. Captain Chapman, R.A.M.C., the garrison medical officer, was called, but pronounced life extinct. A strange feature of the tragedy is that the child was not heard to cry or raise any alarm. He was found apparently as he fell with his head in the water, and his legs hanging over the side of the bath tub. The body was removed to the morgue.


(From Our Correspondent)

BOMBAY, April 11, ~ In the second round of the Aga Khan Hockey Tournament yesterday evening the 2nd Dorsets met the Durham Light Infantry. After a game in which there was a great deal of excitement, with almost an entire lack of science on both sides, the Dorsets proved winners by the only goal scored. The other match was between the Bombay Educational Society Old Boys and the Pioneers "A" team. Play opened with even exchanges and no score was recorded in the first half. On the resumption the Pioneers were the first to score. The Old Boys soon after equalised, and before the close of hostilities the Old Boys scored a second goal, thus winning by 2 to 1.







By the established order of the swing-door politics that Kerala has witnessed for decades, it is the turn of the United Democratic Front to step in and the Left Democratic Front to make its exit from the government. But none of the two principal forces in the fray for the assembly elections in Kerala is willing to accept this convention as an inevitability. Surely not the LDF, when the situation in the Opposition camp seems to have given it the chance to beat what till now has been the inexorable logic of political change in the state. The UDF is not exactly in disarray, but some recent developments have blunted the edge it appeared to have had over the LDF that was being torn apart by factionalism. The UDF, upbeat after the major upsets it caused to the LDF in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and, more recently, in the local body elections last October, has been hamstrung by fresh disclosures, judicial convictions and legal procedures against several of its leading politicians, including the Congress chief-minister-designate, Oommen Chandy, who is embroiled in the reopened palmolein import case that saw the sacking of a chief vigilance commissioner. The power struggle within the Congress is apparent, and the tussle for seats and influence in the UDF, which now includes a breakaway faction from the LDF, makes it a less cohesive force. But the factor which has truly made a difference is the decision of the LDF, albeit a much-weighed and much-delayed one, to bring back the incumbent chief minister, V.S. Achuthanandan, to lead its campaign. The mending of the rift in the LDF, even though it may be temporary, has denied a significant advantage to the UDF, which was hoping to cash in on the open rivalry between Mr Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan, his comrade and adversary.

There can be little doubt that the entire juggernaut of the LDF is riding on the back of a septuagenarian chief minister. Mr Achuthanandan's own knowledge of this fact seems to have given him enough confidence to belittle his opponents as "Amul babies". But the LDF's dependence on Mr Achuthanandan could be both its strength and its weakness. He is undoubtedly a popular figurehead but a discredited chief minister, who is seen as having failed to deliver the promises he made in 2006 and a man without currency within his own party in more normal times. So despite their misgivings, the electorate may once again trust the age-old formula of alternating their mandate between the two fronts.






Nicolas Sarkozy may be surprised, but the most sensible response to France's ban on the full-face veil has come from certain Muslim leaders. They have said that they support neither the veil nor the ban. Such a position reveals a clear understanding of the norms of a republic while acknowledging divisions regarding religious law within the Muslim community. The French parliament approved the ban last year, but leaders of the large Muslim community in France had asked for six months to explain it to the community. As a result, there has been no major protest from the biggest Muslim bodies in the country. But their reasonableness in supporting the law of their country does not take away from the government's — well-intended — coerciveness. The good — of national integration, secularism, individual freedom — is sabotaged if one particular group is forced not to wear what it chooses.

Whether men compel women to wear the veil is a different matter. Mr Sarkozy himself, by once declaring that a secular republic should not countenance overt signs of religion, and then claiming that the veil is a sign of servitude, has obscured the root of his worry. The separation of State and religion is one thing, gender oppression is another, as are security issues, and women's loss of identity is something else again. Secularism, individual liberty, the status of women of all communities in a free country, the dynamics of power between the State and its citizens, the majority community and the minority, between men and women, all generate a complicated texture of rights and duties in which contradictions and concerns must be carefully worked out. Women's freedom and their authority over their own bodies cannot always be established by cutting the Gordian knot. Neither can a nation be magically integrated by giving at least some citizens an easy means of protest. Rather than discouraging fundamentalism, this would encourage it, since the West likes to make the link between the veil and radicalism. That Mr Sarkozy's move has an immediate political dimension to it — a desire to please the Right — further dilutes the idealistic thrust of the ban. That is a pity, because reviewing the use of the full-face veil could have had a lot going for it.





Hats off to the Americans! Those guys in Washington know how to exercise power, just as our Congress politicians of the Indira Gandhi brand used to know once.

When President Barack Obama's dreaded internal revenue service chose Republic Day this year to make an example of Vaibhav Dahake, an Indian American, by sending his savings to banks back home, and accusing him in a New Jersey court of conspiracy of trying to "defraud" the United States of America by the use of undeclared accounts in India, some of those who are good at reading political tea leaves suspected that this was a signal.

A few days ago, the signal turned into a threat. The threat is serious enough and has the potential to rock India-US relations on a scale Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger did when they sent the US Seventh Fleet into the Bay of Bengal during the creation of Bangladesh.

Four decades ago, a crude display of military might was the weapon to try and bring India in line. Today, when sophisticated financial instruments have as much manipulative power as naval fleets and air force squadrons, Washington is using the economy to make New Delhi toe its line.

The threat by the Obama administration demands that HSBC Bank should provide the IRS authorities with a list of Americans of Indian origin, who have savings of more than $10,000 in their branches in India under various schemes for attracting foreign currency and non-resident external rupee deposits which have been in operation for more than three decades now without any hitch.

Although HSBC is the largest European bank in terms of assets — because it is the bank of choice for the enormously wealthy Hong Kong tycoons and draws on mainland Chinese business from there — it has chosen to crawl when asked to bend, to borrow L.K. Advani's famous description of sections of the Indian media during the Emergency. The bank has hastily closed its offices in New York and in Fremont, California, the two branches which exclusively deal with clients of Indian origin and through which Dahake dealt with HSBC to service his accounts in India.

As soon as Dahake pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring with five HSBC bankers to hide his Indian accounts from US tax authorities, an HSBC spokeswoman, Juanita Gutierrez, told reporters in an email: "HSBC does not condone tax evasion and is cooperating with law enforcement in this matter."

A California judge has now given permission to the IRS to serve a summons on HSBC for a list of Americans of Indian origin who have accounts in India which are perfectly legal under the Indian law but have a shade of opaqueness under the US tax laws. There is no doubt about what this will lead to.

Switzerland's biggest bank, UBS, last year gave Americans a list of its top 4,450 American clients, lifting the historically prized veil on Switzerland's banking secrecy laws. HSBC is unlikely to act any differently to protect the secrecy of its Indian American clients and thus risk its ability to do business in the US.

But HSBC is only the tip of the iceberg. It is actually a warning. Next in line will be the State Bank of India, the Bank of India and the Bank of Baroda, all of which have offices in New York that deal primarily with the inflow of remittances from Indian Americans.

Wealthy clients of UBS left the bank in thousands as the threat of legal action by the IRS loomed until the Swiss parliament agreed to a treaty to give the Americans details of clients whom the US government insists were tax dodgers.

India is not Switzerland, at least not yet, and is by no means a tax haven for wealthy Americans seeking to dodge US taxes. So, by choosing to make an example of Dahake and in threatening HSBC, the Americans are sending a political message that has shades of Mario Puzo's "Godfather" tactics.

It is an open secret in both Washington and New Delhi that India-US relations are lately not going too well, notwithstanding protestations of deep and abiding friendship on both sides and a continuing flurry of bilateral engagements. Unguided by political directives and on their own, Indian officials in New Delhi have willingly genuflected before diplomats from the US embassy in Chanakyapuri as the WikiLeaks cables now reveal.

While the obeisance of Indian civil servants may have made US diplomats in New Delhi feel good, that is really not what Washington seeks. The Americans need a bigger slice of the expanding Indian economic pie in terms of import orders, market access and, most of all, defence purchases by India's army, navy and air force. They also need orders from India for nuclear plants on their terms and they need them quickly: a big order from India which will offset the damage to the nuclear industry worldwide as a result of Japan's post-tsunami travails at a time when America's nuclear manufacturers were just about recovering from a long winter of campaigns against nuclear power not only in the US but also abroad.

But such orders have not been forthcoming: they are, as defence and nuclear imports show, clearly going in favour of Russia, France and Israel. That is not what the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations invested their political capital in India for. The Dahake case and the notice to HSBC represent a Shylockian demand to India to pay its dues to Washington for what the Americans see as the extraordinary lengths they went to in order to end India's long nuclear winter and for having supported New Delhi on a score of other issues under the terms of their bonhomie that turned a page, starting with the Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbot talks on India-US strategic cooperation 12 years ago.

The Americans know that turning the screws on non-resident Indian accounts in Indian banks is a pressure tactic that the Manmohan Singh government will not be able to stand up to. India now ranks at the top of countries which have impressive foreign exchange reserves, but those reserves will significantly evaporate if American actions to curb alleged tax dodging by their citizens of Indian origin were to force Indian Americans to pull out their deposits from such accounts which constitute the bulk of India's foreign currency holdings. The same applies to NRI stock holdings in Indian companies. In other words, the Obama administration has the wherewithal to turn India's impressive foreign exchange reserves into hot money that can evaporate and push India back to the 1990s, when it virtually begged for foreign currency.

But it need not come to that. Indeed, it will not, given the nature and composition of the Indian power structure. The Americans have known for some time now that Indian Americans have considerable influence on their system. But the way NRIs in America were mobilized — first by the National Democratic Alliance government to thwart sanctions against the 1998 nuclear tests and then by the United Progressive Alliance government in support of the nuclear deal — has convinced Washington that NRI power is a double-edged sword: that it is a force which can be used to influence New Delhi as well.

Powerful Indian politicians and senior civil servants have their children, siblings and a variety of other friends and relatives in the US who have NRI accounts in Indian banks which are now under the scanner of Obama's IRS.

Those who hold the levers of power in New Delhi and state capitals are not going to stand by and let the threat of prosecution — as in Dahake's case — hang over the heads of their family members or cause them to lose sleep. That is how the Americans will secure orders for at least a significant share of the 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, the biggest military aviation deal in history. That is how the Americans will secure other import orders and significant concessions from New Delhi.

If these orders and concessions are forthcoming, the threat to India's foreign exchange reserves through withdrawal of hot money through the prosecution of NRIs in US courts will evaporate. In any case, the Americans will have proved that they can decisively influence the making or unmaking of India despite the illusion in New Delhi and Mumbai that India is a rising global power.






What does someone mean by saying that the significance of person X or event Y "cannot be underestimated"? Almost certainly, the exact opposite of what he says. What he intends is that you should not underestimate them. But what his words plainly assert is that no estimate can be too low, X and Y really didn't matter.

I've been reading a book on "the making and unmaking of British India". It's informative and enlightening, though over-full of military detail and short on administration and social change. It was also lamentably proofread. But for some things the author was surely more to blame than any proofreader. Three times — so far — I've met the curious error described above.

It "would be impossible to discount the value" — to the British — our author writes, of their victories around 1760 in Bengal. What he plainly means by that anyway curious phrase is its reverse: their value was very high. In 1857-58 "it would be impossible to underemphasise" the value — again, to the British — of their Indian collaborators. Later in the Victorian era, we are told, the impact of G.A. Henty's tales of courage and derring-do by (young, white, British) lads on the still younger British lads for whom Henty wrote "cannot be underestimated".

Common usage

If a writer of serious history can blunder like this, no wonder you'll often meet the same blunder in the press, or from serious people whom it quotes. How did it arise? After all, not many expressions mean just the opposite of what they say (except sarcastic ones, such as the British-English a likely tale, which means an unlikely one). You might well write that "no praise is too high" for someone you admire, and it would never even cross your mind to write "no praise is too low". But there's a clue here. What do I mean if I write that "I cannot praise this author's English too highly"?

I might indeed mean that no praise would be high enough. But in common usage, I'd mean the opposite: that I can't and won't praise his English, it's pretty poor. That's a fairly modern usage, but most of us, and I'm one, find it perfectly acceptable.

Sometimes, in speech, there's a difference of stress. If I truly meant that I admired his English, I'd probably emphasize too highly; if I were being rude, I might emphasize English, while continuing, for example, "...but all his facts are correct". But that is not always so. If I said, "I can't praise his English too highly, but it's not bad", the stress would be on too highly, even though I was being critical. Even when spoken, such phrases can have two quite opposite meanings.

Maddening phrase

The trouble arises from the word too; it's unneeded. Yet we've come to accept the ambiguous result. In contrast, it still looks bizarre to say that this or that "cannot be underemphasized" or understated, when what you mean is that it should not be so treated.

And why is one ambiguous wording acceptable, but the other not? Partly because underemphasize, understate etc are so clearly the opposite of what you intend. But I suspect the real reason is 'just because' — that maddening phrase that parents use when the kids ask why something must or must not be done. That's English: some oddities we accept, others we reject, for no deep reason, just because.

Still, at least our author did not spoil his blistering attack on Louis Mountbatten by writing that the last viceroy's egotism and vanity "can't be understated." I can't overstate how oddly that would have read.









It appears that the severity of the nuclear crisis at the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear plant that was triggered by an earthquake and giant tsunamis a month ago is far more serious than was originally envisaged. Japanese authorities who had originally put the crisis at a level 5 have raised the severity rating to 7, which is the worst rating on an international scale.

They have put the disaster on par with the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear crisis. The decision to upgrade the severity level was made after Japan's nuclear safety body determined that at one point over the past month, the Fukushima plant was releasing 10,000 terabecquerels of iodine-131 for several hours; level 7 accidents are defined as releasing tens of thousands of terabecquerels.

The jump from level 5 to 7 is an alarming one as level 7 signifies a 'major accident' with 'wider consequences' than the previous level. It is likely to have substantial and long-lasting consequences for health and for the environment.

The reclassification to a higher level has raised fears that the situation in the plant has suddenly gotten worse. Experts have said this is not so. They claim that fuller assessment of available data has prompted the reclassification of the severity level.

While the severity of the Fukushima incident has been put on par with the Chernobyl crisis, experts say there are significant differences. In Chernobyl, the reactor core itself exploded, and fire fanned the release of radioactive material.

A very large amount of radioactive material was released over a very short span of time. Fukushima experienced a less critical hydrogen explosion. The volume of radioactive materials it released is believed to be about 10 per cent of that released by the Chernobyl reactor.

However, this does not mean that we can be complacent as the situation at Fukushima has not yet been brought under control. Radioactive material is still seeping out. So there is a possibility of the radiation here exceeding that from Chernobyl.

Anti-nuclear groups like Greenpeace rated the Fukushima crisis as a level 7 one almost three weeks ago, prompting many to question the government's far slower response. Is the reassessment the result of an attempt to play-down the severity and a belated admission of the truth? The Japanese have suffered enough. Delayed information and cover-ups will stand in the way of efficient protection of the people from the impact of radiation.







A half century ago the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin broke into outer space and completed a successful orbit of the earth in his Vostok-1 spacecraft. It was a great technological advance for the mankind which had always dreamed of breaking the shackles imposed by time and space.

Space travel has lost its novelty now and so it is difficult to imagine the sense of achievement, awe and excitement created by the first space flight then. The first steps of the great leap for mankind which happened eight years later when two Americans landed on the moon were taken by Gagarin.

It showcased not just the power of science and technology in the pursuit to conquer nature. Like all great milestones in the expansion of knowledge and breaching of the frontiers of the possible it gave a new dimension to the self-image of man. The wonderment about the universe out there has not diminished, and perhaps only increased.

Space travel has gone much farther than the rudimentary flight of Gagarin. The Vostok flight triggered off a space race between the Soviet Union and the US in the time of the Cold War. It did help to plan and execute bigger space ventures but politics took a backseat later and economics took over, especially after the US won the race and the Soviet Union collapsed.

The huge cost of the flights took the edge off the competition and attention shifted to co-operation and collaboration. The International Space Station, which orbits around the earth, and the Hubble telescope which is peering into greater distances than imagined, are such joint ventures. New programmes like explorations of Mars are being planned but they are unlikely to be solo efforts by individual countries.

The fascination for manned flights has also decreased because much of what humans can observe and experience can now be done with the help of technology and machines without risking lives.


More countries have drawn up their own space programmes and have achieved various levels of success and achievement. India and China are among them. While they have to catch up with the space superpowers, they can benefit from the lessons and experience of explorations undertaken in the last 50 years. All that started with the Gagarin moment in history.






A preplanned attack by terrorist elements is a totally different scenario. That is the real danger with nuclear power plants.

When a country's economy grows at a whopping 9 per cent per year, its energy needs are bound to grow at an equally rapid pace. This is the case with India which came out of its economic slumber just about two decades ago. Its power needs have risen acutely over the recent years.

At present, India has an installed capacity of power generation of 172 gw (giga watt). By 2017, its power requirement will soar to 315 gw even when the economy grows at a conservative estimate of 8 per cent per annum, according to a McKinsey report. India's need for electrical power is going to more than double the latter figure by 2030, ie the demand for power is going to grow well over 600 gw in another 20 years.

Of the current total installed generation capacity of 172 gw a huge 111.3 gw is thermal power, 37.4 gw is hydroelectric, 18.5 gw is renewable energy and only 4.8 gw is by way of nuclear power. While the country's present nuclear power generation capacity is 4.8 gw, the plans are to increase it to 20 gw by 2020 which would also fall woefully short. As of 2010, India has 20 nuclear reactors in operation in 6 nuclear power plants.

Some of the major projects in the pipeline are those at Kundanakulam in Tamil Nadu, Kaiga in Karnataka, Jaitapur in Maharashtra and Pati Sonapur in Orissa. India's nuclear power industry is undergoing rapid expansion with plans to increase nuclear power output to 64 gw by 2032. India has plans to increase the contribution of nuclear power to overall electricity generation capacity from 4.2 per cent to 9 per cent within 25 years.

But even this figure of 9 per cent is not saying too much about the option of nuclear power. Nuclear energy is certainly not going to solve the problem of our rapidly growing demand for electric power.

It might lend help in meeting the need to a small extent, but it is surely going to be only a minor help. All the present hype about the need for nuclear power seems to be just that — 'hype' or a panic reaction to the realisation of the enormity of the power needs in order to sustain the current economic growth. Some foreign powers that have nuclear power generation equipment to sell would be expected to add to the hype.

Nuclear power has always been associated with awesome risks: 1. Accidents of the Chernobyl (human error) and now Fukushima type (natural disaster), 2. Radioactive waste from the normal operation of the reactor, 3. Stealing of reactive material to make a nuclear device (by terrorist groups) and 4. Attack by terror groups to explode the nuclear power reactor and associated equipment.


The recent Fukushima disaster has not only shown up the weaknesses in the face of natural calamities but also should raise questions about the general vulnerability of the nuclear power plant in the face of other forms of shaking or breaking it up, particularly a terrorist planned attack on the nuclear facilities.

It may be argued that a nuclear power plant cannot cause an explosion like a nuclear bomb. But, the radioactivity released will be of as dangerous a proportion or more. The radioactive fission products of a nuclear power plant are exactly the same as those of a nuclear explosion. One should note that we are not talking about 'accident' at the nuclear plant, but a planned attack by enemy groups.

In an accident, like the one at Fukushima Daiichi, the entire contents of the core of the reactor may not disperse. Accidents are generally incapable of pouring out the core of the reactor; however, a preplanned attack by terrorist elements is a totally different scenario. That is the real danger with nuclear power plants. A decade or two ago, the threat perception from the terrorist elements was almost unthought-of.

The problem is multiplied several times if one considers the fact that, all over the world, the nuclear wastes are stored on the ground at the site of the nuclear power plant. Only 5 per cent of the nuclear fuel rod is used up and the rest — 95 per cent — is stored as waste.

Theoretically, the nuclear wastes from the power plants should best be stored underground in a specially designed space, but no country in the world, including India, has as yet started work on such underground repository. Therefore, the over-the-ground stores of such nuclear wastes could be another additional target for the terrorists. All in all, a nuclear power plant is a sitting duck for the terrorist attacks. Therefore, nuclear power cannot be an alternative whatever may be India's compulsions of energy requirements.

India can put a stop to any further expansion in its nuclear power generation capacity. There are other no-risk alternatives for obtaining power like the renewables. The country will have to do a lot more serious work on its abundant endowments of solar energy. Let us rid ourselves of the West-preached mindset of dependence on high risk-prone nuclear energy. A time should come, and soon enough, when India should be selling solar power technology to other nations of the world.

(The author is a former professor at IIM, Bangalore)






The plan to generate 58,000 mw of thermal power would require water needed for 210 million people.
As the world recently celebrated World Water Day, the state of Orissa seriously needed a rethinking on its current path of growth and industrialisation. Just take the energy sector and the state is headed for a doomsday.

Going by the draft climate change action plan, we understand that Orissa will generate around 58,000 mw of electricity mostly from thermal power plants. If the state achieves this capacity, which will be almost 67 per cent of the total installed thermal power generation capacity of the country (at current levels), it will require a minimum of 2297 million cubic meter of water per year. This is enough to meet the domestic water requirement of close to 210 million people. It means about six states of the size of Orissa's domestic water requirement.

The rivers, surface water bodies and groundwater of the state will be under severe stress if this plan comes to realisation.  Orissa is boasting of two digit growth rate. To maintain that, more industrialisation, through all water-guzzling industries like steel, sponge iron, cement, thermal power and mining, will be pushed through with much vigour. That means the water demand of the state will surpass the supply much sooner than expected.


Water Initiatives Orissa (WIO), a network of people and institutions working on water and climate change issues in the state for over two decades now, has already warned how Orissa is going to be a 'water stressed state' from the current status of 'water surplus state' in a decade and half.

With such an aggressive energy production agenda, which will be mostly to cater to the needs of industrial consumers and the national power grid rather than the need of the people of the state, the state will be devoid of basic water security within about a decade, we warn.

According to the Draft Climate Change Action Plan and other government sources, the present average demand of 2,500 mw will increase to about 4,000 mw in just two-three years and the need for industrialisation will increase this still further. The Plan informs that, in the last 2-3 years, 27 MoUs have already been signed for generation of thermal power to the tune of 35,000 mw. This will go on to about 58,000 mw in seven-eight years.

What we need also to worry is that fact that this will generate a huge amount of Green House Gas emission from the state, whose mining and industrial belts have already become environment hot spots of concern for the entire world. Considering that 1,000 MW thermal power would generate 5 million tonnes of carbon, the government itself admits that Orissa's energy sector will generate 9 billion tonnes of carbon over a 30 year period.

This is almost 30.7 per cent of the total GHG contribution of India (at current levels). So, the thermal power plant belts of the state will not only eat up all the local water sources but also generate heat and pollution to the extent that these areas will experience drastic reduction in agricultural production and hence will push thousands of villages to food insecurity.

We have already seen this in areas near the Vedanta company's captive power plant in Jharsuguda. Jharsuguda is one of the places where there has been a rise of temperature by several degrees over the last one and half decade.

The situation is going to be worse. Similar path of growth and industrialisation being pursued by neighbouring Chhatisgarh will make Orissa further vulnerable. That state is planning about 56,000 mw of thermal power generation, most of it from areas bordering Orissa and using Mahanadi waters. 

The cumulative impact of thermal power generation in both these states will have multiple devastating impacts on the region's ecology and will make us further water insecure.

It would therefore be wise for the state government to refrain from going for thermal power plant and invest more in green energy sources for which its estimated potential is about 3,10,000 mw. Or else, Orissa will soon face both acute water and food insecurity.








Malasabai would sometimes be so famished she would eat the oil cakes meant for cattle.
This is the true story of a poor old woman narrated to me by my grandmother when I was a child. The events that occurred are close to a hundred years old. Malasabai was a 'madi hennumagalu' (ie a Brahmin widow) who lived in a village.

She was an old woman who had to keep her head shaved to follow the customs and traditions of society in those days. Brahmin widows were considered inauspicious for festivals and poojas, and generally undesirable during other times.

So, Malasabai used to lug water from a nearby well and tend to cattle through the evening and night. She had no means of living except for this job, which she did for two square meals, if at all provided by the landlord Brahmin family in the neighbourhood.

Malasabai would eat the leftovers from the landlord family's dinner. Sometimes the landlady would push an utensil towards her and say, "Malasabai, this is the utensil used for heating butter, use the left over ghee for your bhakri (jawar roti)".

The poor widow was an unpaid, overworked and exhausted servant working for the landlord who assigned other chores to her as well, apart from the water-lugging and cattle-tending. At dusk, while feeding the cattle, Malasabai would sometimes be so famished she would eat the oil cakes meant for cattle.

Long, painful years passed and Malasabai grew old. One day she fell severely sick and the landlord had a change of heart. He neither dismissed her nor forced her to work; he even gave her a place to live in and fed her bhakri and tawwi (roti and dal).

When Malasabai was nearing her death, she expressed her last wish, "Naanu chapaati muddi pallya tindu saaitini" ('I wish to eat chapaati and a local dish prepared out of lentil and gongura and then die'). Wheat isn't grown in north Karnataka and so it was expensive to buy some from some other place.

There wasn't any money either, so the landlord approached the family guru and he gave two annas (one anna was 1/16th of a rupee in Nizam kingdom's currency). They bought wheat and gave her desired meal and she died contentedly and in peace.

I believe that, in life, one's desires are proportionate to what one already has. Poor Malasabai who was kept alive by the most meager and least nourishing food had a simple desire of satisfying her taste buds once before dying. Whither poverty of those days and the blatant and obscene expectations of today's poor, who are upset even after accepting cash, TVs, cycles, saris, laptops, etc from politicians?







Chattanooga and our surrounding area have been blessed with a number of major economic development investments over the past few years.

They have included such companies as Volkswagen, Amazon and Alstom Power.

And last Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam was on hand in neighboring Bradley County for the groundbreaking for the single biggest private investment ever in Southeast Tennessee!

Wacker Chemical plans to invest a stunning $1.45 billion in its plant not far from Chattanooga, near Charleston and Cleveland.

Wacker hopes to begin operations in early 2014, just three short years away. It will make polysilicon used in the production of solar panels. About 650 employees are expected to be hired, besides the hundreds more involved in the construction of the facility.

And Wacker's investment may well grow over time. Almost all of the anticipated output of the plant's first year has been sold in advance, and the size of the site where the plant is being built will provide for expansion as needed, Rudolf Staudigl, chief executive officer of Wacker's Germany-based parent company, told those attending the groundbreaking.

The governor remarked on the additional economic advantages that Wacker's huge investment will generate for the region.

Besides the prospect of suppliers setting up shop nearby, "[Y]ou get some reputation benefit," he said. "When people see a company like Wacker make a $1.5 billion investment in your state, they think there must be a reason ... and they become interested."

That interest is justified. Tennessee has remained a low-tax, fiscally conservative state. Sustaining those principles over time should help Tennessee attract additional investments that will benefit everyone.






It was appalling to learn this past weekend that Chattanooga had suffered its ninth homicide of the year.

Obviously, one death from criminal violence is deplorable, but nine violent deaths in the city in less than three and a half months is shocking.

Most recently, Aaron L. Burton, 39, was found shot to death in his Windsor Street home. The circumstances leading to the slaying are uncertain, but Burton himself had pleaded guilty in 1996 to a charge of second-degree murder.

Besides the homicides, nearly two dozen people had been injured by gunfire in Chattanooga as of April 8.

Clearly, the greatest concern is and should be for the innocent people — including two Chattanooga police officers — who have been killed or wounded, as well as for others who may be threatened by reckless or malicious violence.

But the damage doesn't end there.

While the areas of Chattanooga that attract the most tourists are generally safe, a city can nonetheless get a bad reputation if it is plagued by violence in any part of town.

That can scare off potential businesses, tourists and individuals who may wish to move to the city, and that has economic implications for everyone.

There are, sadly, no easy answers.

The police can beef up patrols in one area, but with resources limited, that can reduce coverage of other areas. And considering the brazen nature of some of the shootings, even a strong police presence in troubled areas may not deter some violent criminals.

Plainly, the penalties for violent crime should be severe, particularly for repeat offenders. But with law enforcement limited by scarce resources, the duty falls in part on the public to be the "eyes and ears" of the community. It may not be terribly original to say it, but we all have a responsibility to be on the lookout for suspicious activity and to report it promptly.

That just might save a life.





Last Saturday, April 9, was the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad in 2003 to U.S. troops in the Iraq War.

Do you remember why Americans got into Iraq and ousted tyrannical Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein? It was believed — by Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as by leaders around the world — that Saddam possessed, or was close to developing, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and thus was a threat to the world.

Well, Saddam was ousted. No nukes were found in Iraq. But there was elation throughout the world — including among many Iraqis — that he had been removed from power.

That was 2003 — a long time ago. Nearly 50,000 American troops are still in Iraq today — in 2011!

Many Americans and Iraqis sincerely wish the United States were "out" of Iraq, and most of our forces are officially slated to be gone by the end of the year. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently suggested troops may stay on longer. The problem is that nobody really knows whether some troublesome, extreme or terrorist faction would fill a power vacuum in Iraq if U.S. military forces withdrew.

We are reminded, sadly, of the old Uncle Remus story about Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby. When Br'er Rabbit got his paws stuck on the Tar Baby, he found he couldn't turn loose!

We'd like to "turn loose" in Iraq. But we're "stuck" there, with continuing problems — for both Americans and Iraqis.





A great deal of American history from a century and a half ago is being reviewed, recollected and discussed throughout our country these days. That's because the War Between the States — the Civil War — began with the attack by Confederate forces on Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina on April 12, 1861.

The conflict would sweep this region in September and November of 1863, in areas including North Georgia, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.

Time magazine, in its most recent edition, not only noted the beginning of the conflict, but featured a full-page color picture of historically important Orchard Knob in Chattanooga.

Part of the magazine's message was a lament about how modern developments have encroached on many important historic landscapes.

In Time's picture of Orchard Knob (between East Third and East Fourth streets, several blocks west of Missionary Ridge), what appeared to be streetlight glowed on a stone wall and monument at the small Orchard Knob site — with a parked Cadillac and a small home nearby, as a Civil War re-enactor sat on a paved sidewalk curb.

It is impossible, of course, to preserve all the important sites in the war as they were then. But our area is fortunate that there are many well-kept historic sites here.

The Chickamauga Battlefield is a large, beautiful, pastoral and wooded park that is carefully kept very much as it appeared at the time of the battle.

On Lookout Mountain, Point Park is attractively maintained.

Missionary Ridge now is a residential area, with several small reservations and many historic markers explaining the events that occurred there a century and a half ago.

It is important for us to remember our history and to preserve historic sites and their meaning, as some appealing — and some unsightly — scenes encroach upon them.








Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is assimilating too slowly the possibility - he calls it a danger - that come September, the world will recognize an independent Palestinian state.

One may dispute the idea that such international recognition and the establishment of such a state are a threat to Israel, especially considering the immediate danger from Gaza or from Lebanon, and that a nuclear Iran has been defined as an existential threat. But there is no disputing that the steps Netanyahu proposes to "thwart" the internationalization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - unilateral withdrawal or an international peace conference to renew negotiations - are at best insufficient and at worst another public relations show. Ostensibly, the very willingness to withdraw from territories where there are no settlements is a step in the right direction, and any reduction in the Israeli occupation, no matter how small, should be welcomed. However, without a comprehensive plan that would outline a final agreement, the borders of the State of Israel and of Palestine, the future of the settlers and the settlements and especially security arrangements, that step will become meaningless public relations.

Hiding behind it is the intention to present Israel as ready for concessions that are insignificant and an attempt to blame the Palestinians for the failure of the process.

Netanyahu's plan is based on the assumption that there is very little chance of renewing talks with the Palestinians, and so the Israeli front must move to the international arena.

But if the prime minister wants to pose real obstacles to the danger of international recognition of the Palestinians, or make greater efforts to renew the talks, he knows the conditions full well: a freeze on construction in the settlements, suspension of construction plans in the territories and the dismantling of illegal outposts.

Since Netanyahu has rejected these conditions, it is difficult to expect that the declaration of partial withdrawal will be able to block the campaign to recognize Palestine. Such a step cannot replace substantive negotiations, nor will it be accepted by the Palestinians or the world as a breakthrough. Instead, the prime minister should start planning negotiations with the Palestinian state that will be recognized in September.







When Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu led the opposition to the Oslo Accords, he had a stroke of media brilliance. Speechwriter Netanyahu called the dynamic of the negotiations not "give and take," but "give and give," ridiculing the leaders of the left and promising that he would insist upon reciprocity. The Palestinians would have to pay through concessions for every dunam they receive in the territories. If they give, they'll get, he said on assuming office as prime minister, and if they don't give, they won't get.

One can question the candor and seriousness of Netanyahu's stance, but it had an internal logic that everyone understood. Israel was holding territory as a diplomatic bargaining chip and would agree to withdraw from it if it got fair compensation in return. Withdrawals without compensation, Netanyahu warned, would only project weakness and tempt the Arabs to demand more of Israel.

True to his approach, Netanyahu demanded that Palestine Liberation Organization head Yasser Arafat again rescind the Palestinian National Covenant and in return, he gave up land in the West Bank. He was evasive over support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip, until resigning from the cabinet on the eve of the withdrawal. In the 2006 campaign, he branded Ehud Olmert a leftist who would withdraw without getting anything in return. When he regained the prime minister's post, he discarded his predecessor's peace proposals and refused to discuss "core issues" with the Palestinians.

Now Netanyahu has encountered the same problem that caused his predecessor to shift to the left and abandon ideology and prior declarations, and give more territory to the Palestinians. Netanyahu's international isolation is growing and heavy pressure from abroad is beginning to influence things at home as well. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is warning of a "diplomatic tsunami" that will strike Israel in September with the expected UN vote on recognizing an independent Palestinian state.

The new Israeli peace initiative presented by leading figures in the business and academic communities undermines the central foundation of the Netanyahu-Barak government, which is that there is no Palestinian partner. The prime minister's popularity is damaged when he is occupied with explaining his lavish travels around the world. It is increasingly reminiscent of Ariel Sharon's forlorn autumn that led him to the disengagement policy.

Netanyahu is looking for a way out, and as reported yesterday in Haaretz, is pulling his predecessors' solutions - which he once so vociferously opposed - out of the drawer. The prime minister is considering throwing the governments of the West a bone in the form of the transfer of territory in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority without harming the settlements. In return, the Americans and Europeans will ease their pressure on Israel and refrain from recognizing a Palestinian state, and will convene an international conference where Netanyahu will be presented as a statesman and peacemaker rather than as a stubborn politician.

The party of the disengagement, Kadima, will be forced to support Netanyahu in his concessions. Its support will neutralize the growing threat of early elections against the backdrop of the expected indictment of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The left will praise Netanyahu, the investigation over his trips abroad will be shelved, and the right wing will criticize him but swallow the withdrawal out of concern over falling from power.

It sounds perfect, but there's a problem here. Netanyahu's new policy is not rational. If the territories are important for Israel, as he has argued up to now, why give them up for a deferral of a U.N. vote or for a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama? And if the territories are not important, why hold on to them? If Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is refusing to negotiate and the PA has engaged in incitement, as Netanyahu has argued, how can they be given more territory? And most importantly, let's assume Netanyahu gets through September and buys the deferral of a UN vote with a few thousand dunams of land. What will he do in October?

The world will not abandon its aspiration for an end to the occupation and independence for the Palestinians, and the pressure on Israel will continue.

There is no reason to carry out a miserly withdrawal without a quid pro quo just to buy more time.

There is a logic in a unilateral process that creates fundamental change on the ground and ultimately establishes a new border, such as was done in Gaza. The public will understand and the world will support a major withdrawal that includes the evacuation of dozens of settlements and heralds the end of the occupation while maintaining military control over the Jordan Valley. But such a decision requires courage and political ability on Sharon's level, and it is not enough to be a good speechwriter.








Here's an exercise: Ask a friend who lives in Kiryat Shmona to call the Health Maintenance Organization with which he is insured with complementary insurance, to make an appointment with a nephrologist or a rheumatologist. Surprise! Even if his complementary insurance covers most of the appointment with a specialist, the appointment will be set for next winter, if at all.

The polite secretary will inform your friend that there is a drastic shortage of experts of that kind in the north of the country, and will suggest that he asks his physician to refer him to an outpatients clinic at the nearest hospital. Another surprise! At that hospital, there are no specialists in that field. But don't worry. The HMO has recently signed an agreement with the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and the secretary will recommend heartily that he drives there via Route 6.

We shall assume that your friend has a car and that he secured an appointment for three or four months' time. When he gets there, he will find that if he has to undergo an invasive or complicated examination, he will have to wait another few months. If, heaven forbid, he has to undergo a transplant abroad, they will inform him that he will have to raise NIS 250,000 on his own. The HMO, for its part, will cover part of the expenses since he is an important client and has "platinum" or "gold" insurance. Your imaginary friend is lucky because he belongs to the 80 percent of the population that acquired complementary insurance, and not those who live below the poverty line and have to forgo even medications.

"The high rate of insured people who have complementary insurance," says a senior doctor from a hospital in the north, "is a mark of shame that shows a lack of faith in the system. In Europe, on average, 30 percent of those insured have complementary insurance. But Israelis understand that even though they pay for state insurance that is not cheap, the state shirks its responsibility for their health. So even those for whom it is difficult make the effort and pay.

"On the face of it," he adds, "the insured client can choose his doctor. But there is a choice only in the center of the country. Therefore those in the periphery, who hardly utilize this choice at all, subsidize those who live in the center."

This injustice, which is eroding the basic right embodied in the state health law at an alarming rate and is making health a commodity that is not affordable to all, is being intensified by various elements. The next target is laundering the private health service ("Sharap" ) in the public hospitals.

Earlier this week, the counter-pressure from doctors who are responsible and have consciences forced the Israel Medical Association to state that the demand for a private health service was not included in the demands of the striking doctors. The association, which is fighting not only for public opinion but also for its image in the eyes of the doctors, is aware of the fact that young doctors, interns and doctors in the community are opposed to the private health service, but it was having difficulty withstanding the pressure from senior doctors and directors of large hospitals. Until it shook them off, it accused the Finance Ministry of spin.

Opinion in the Finance Ministry is divided over the question of the private health service, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who likes to see the government paying less and being less responsible while the public pays more and gets less, and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who represents a heavy sector of private health service consumers, are still applying pressure.

If they win and the private health service is instituted, only the central hospitals will attract doctors. Who will want to work in a small hospital with few specialists and means that serves only the poor? And when will the small number of surgeons who work in the hospitals of the periphery find time for those patients who cannot buy "a short-track appointment"? Those who favor the private health service claim that it will leave the experts in the hospitals rather than in private clinics, but in view of the shortage of doctors and popular specialists, another bottleneck will be created that will give birth to new and expensive insurance.

Be that as it may, no specialist will give up his status at a prestigious university hospital. The private health service system will merely allow him to exploit it.

Medicine in Israel needs to be strengthened; it needs additional employment, the studies need to be expanded, doctors need to be encouraged to serve in the periphery, and there should be commensurate work and salaries that will constitute a worthy competitor to the private path. The association's announcement that the private health service is not an issue is encouraging, but the Israel Medical Association cannot enable the supporters of the private health service to act clandestinely together with the government, and thus miss another opportunity to make the public health system healthy.







"For those who want total quiet, there is Finland and Western Europe, and they can go there," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said this week, apropos the situation in the south of the country, in a radio interview with Aryeh Golan. That's not a mistake. Barak said that in his own voice. Those who came here, to the State of Israel, in order to set up a national home after 2,000 years, should also be able to face the tests. Those who want total quiet, can go to Finland."

Beyond the fact that this statement totally contradicts any Zionist concept - after all, those who came here after 2,000 years came expressly for the quiet, Barak, in saying this, summed up with the entire doctrine of the regime in Israel: I am the ruler, you are my cannon fodder. You'll do exactly what I decide for you, and not the opposite.

This reality has shaped every social struggle here over the past 30 years, and even more so the "political" struggles demanding an end to the occupation, making peace and, in effect, the cancellation of rule by a security sect over us.

"All the possibilities are available to us," Barak continued in the same interview and added immediately: "Hamas is elaborating and the Israel Defense Forces is elaborating." That is the equation and there is no other.

Peace, an agreement, are not among the possibilities available to us, according to Barak.

Maj. Gen. (res. ) Yom-Tov Samia, former OC Southern Command, wrote in Hebrew Haaretz last week that "there is no army in the world that was forced by its leaders to rule over another people for almost 40 years." The key word here is "forced."

For 44 years, the regime in Israel has forced its citizens, the vast majority of whom want peace and do not want the settlements, to continue to die on the front and to be blown up on the home front, simply because it can.

In his book, "Wars Don't Just happen," Motti Golani shows how in 1967, before the Six-Day War, Levi Eshkol forbade the then head of the Mossad to go to Egypt for talks. In 1970, Golda Meir forbade (World Zionist Organization Chairman ) Nahum Goldmann from speaking to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. She said: "There's no one to talk to." Sound familiar?

In 1973, the government refused attempts to reach an arrangement with Egypt and Jordan, turned down offers of mediation from the United Nations, the mediation of the English and mediation on the part of former American President Dwight Eisenhower - even though the results of this refusal were completely clear; it was worried how it would look to the public, but this did not prevent the government from going ahead with full force to war.

The regime continued in this fashion, with the lingering of the first Lebanon War, with the lack of planning for the Second Lebanon War, with going to the talks at Camp David without prior planning and without backing for a failure, in ignoring the Saudi initiative, in the disengagement from Gaza without an agreement, in the continued construction in the settlements.

Since then, we have had additional shock-shelled people, and we continue to become more shell-shocked and traumatized citizens after being forced to be selectors at roadblocks, to break arms and legs, to kill civilians, little girls and boys, to be victims of suicide bombings and Qassam rockets and terror - people who live in a perpetual nightmare year after year.

Now, more than ever before, our leaders sacrifice individual citizens for "nationalist" reasons, so to speak, that serve mainly their own private national ego. Ehud Barak, who has been compared to Napoleon, apparently is closer in identity to Louis XIV in feeling that "l'etat c'est moi" ("The state is me" ). Therefore, anyone who doesn't feel good with me should kindly get up and go to Finland.

The time has come for us to say that "the state is us" - and that we want leaders who would like to achieve quiet here, not in Finland.







The media circus surrounding the successes of the Iron Dome missile defense system is undoubtedly raising morale and filling Israeli hearts with pride. Unfortunately, the joy is a bit premature and to a large extent misplaced.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which produced Iron Dome, has inarguably racked up an impressive achievement. It's no small matter to develop a defense system capable of intercepting a rocket in flight. The only problem is that Iron Dome is not the right or desirable solution to the Qassam rockets and mortar shells being fired from the Gaza Strip.

Let's start with the financial angle. The cost of intercepting each rocket is so high that all the Palestinians need to do is keep firing more and more of their cheaply made rockets, and within a relatively short time they will deplete the stockpiles of Israel's anti-projectile missiles - each of which costs an estimated $100,000. This means the quantity of missiles Israel can acquire is limited from the outset, unless the defense budget becomes dominated by defense- missile purchases.

In a drawn-out war with Hamas, which has thousands of rockets, Iron Dome is likely to run out of missiles, and then we'll be just as exposed as we were before. At the moment the Israel Defense Forces has two Iron Dome systems. The number of missiles allocated for each is classified, but there is reason to fear that if the Palestinians intensify the rate of rocket fire, we will soon be left without defense missiles.

In addition, these batteries can only defend a limited area, leaving the rest of the south - Ashdod and the surrounding area, for example - unprotected.

In any case, Iron Dome does not provide hermetic defense. On Sunday the system tried and failed to intercept a Grad rocket. Fortunately, the rocket didn't cause any injuries. But what will happen if a Grad that pierces the defense system ends up hitting a school in Ashkelon in the middle of the day? The euphoria surrounding the deployment of the Iron Dome system will evaporate immediately.

Nonetheless, the media reported this week that on the heels of the system's success in intercepting rockets, the cabinet is expected to approve the purchase of four more Iron Dome batteries. Not only will this be extremely costly, it also fails to provide immediate protection since it will take years before the units are deployed.

And these aren't the only problems. The main problem is that Iron Dome is simply incapable of protecting the Israeli population centers nearest the Gaza border, particularly Sderot and the schools that fall under the jurisdiction of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. It has been clear since the development of Iron Dome began that the anti-missile system cannot intercept rockets aimed at areas less than four kilometers from the border.

Iron Dome is also incapable of countering mortar shells, which are a very significant aspect of the threat to the border area. In other words, the defense system does not provide a solution for the basic need that prompted its development - to protect Sderot and its neighbors.

As the celebrations of Iron Dome's success continue, defense officials are ignoring the existence of an efficient, functional and cheap defense system that is protecting U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan from rocket and mortar fire and could also be used to counter the threat facing the Gaza border area. The system being used there is the Vulcan Phalanx rapid-fire cannon system, which can be brought to Israel immediately, at a negligible cost. The time has come to figure out why Israel's defense establishment has not brought it here and deployed it near Sderot. After all, it can't hurt.








Last Friday, my piece (What unites Turkey and Iran – on Israel, the Daily News, Apr. 8) concluded that: "…the fundamental – [although] not fundamental enough to block opportunist deals – differences between the makers and traders of fine Iranian carpets – Iranians and Turks – are still in effect: Muslim Turks want a 'smaller Israel,' whereas Muslim Iranians want 'no Israel.'

"The trouble is that the mullahs think they are smarter than all evil foreign men. They may be right. But they should not underestimate the Sunni mullahs, be they in Ankara or in Pennsylvania."

Now… Let's refresh our memories, trusting that big, serious statesmen do not talk like the patrons of village coffee shops:

"Although the main solution is the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate ceasefire must be implemented," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's great friend, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is also the president of Iran, said in 2006.

"The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon the same way the Soviet Union was," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in 2006.

On Quds Day in 2007, the Iranian government's IRIB News in English reported that Mr. Ahmadinejad "repeated an earlier suggestion to Europe on the settlement of the Zionists in Europe or big lands such as Canada or Alaska."

"The idea of 'smaller Israel' is also dead. The very notion of Israel is dead – just like the idea of 'Greater Israel' died 30 years ago," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in 2008.

"The Zionist regime… will soon disappear from the geographical scene," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in 2008.

"The Zionist regime is on its way to annihilation," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in 2008.

"The Zionist regime… actually ended its possibility of existing anymore," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in 2010.

And most recently, on April 4, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that "…attempts will not save Israel from extinction."

What a colorful variety of wording, full of surprises… Now, let's listen to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu: "Turkey and Iran share a very long, common history."

Ironically, there are two more versions of this fancy, lovely, friendly talk: "A common destiny, a common history, a common future is the slogan of Turkey and Syria," is also from Minister Davutoğlu, while the words, "We have a common history, a common destiny and a common future, as well as cooperation between Greece and Turkey," also came from Mr. Davutoğlu.

Inevitably, one wonders which countries Turkey does not have a common destiny, common history and common future with.

(But there is one! And it's not too far away from two of the countries that we share a common destiny, history and future with… Yes, you guessed correctly!)

But let's go back to Minister Davutoğlu's statements. There is this: "Today our citizens can pass through Syria and free Palestine!" I understand Syria is Syria but why is Palestine "free Palestine?" Or is Syria not free?

This one gives a clue: "Al-Quds [which also goes by the name Jerusalem] will soon be the capital of Palestine, and we'll all pray at al-Aqsa Mosque." Did anyone say Turkey was a fair broker between Israel and Palestine?

Now, I guess this one in November 2010 sums it up: "Israel will not be able to remain an independent country over time."

The difference between the rhetoric of Messrs. Ahmadinejad and Davutoğlu is that the Iranian talks about "no Israel" in plain language while the milder Turk talks about a "smaller Israel" in subtle language. To achieve the goal of "no Israel," the radical Mr. Ahmadinejad resorts to bombs he says he is not building. For his "smaller Israel," the moderate Mr. Davutoğlu resorts to politics.

The foreign minister recently said that "it is now time to naturalize the flow of history" with which he probably did not mean granting broader rights to Turkey's Kurds or officially apologizing to the Armenians for the genocide he says did never exist.

Here is how Mr. Davutoğlu thinks he can achieve his goal of "smaller Israel (or of praying at al-Aqsa Mosque in the Palestinian capital): "As a member of the Group of Twenty, Turkey wants to be a leader of a new order… The United Nations and its policy-making bodies should no longer comprised to the winners of World War II, they should represent the whole world."

The idea looks worth trying. For a trial period imagine putting Iran, Turkey, Venezuela and Hamas' Palestine in the U.N. Security Council as members with veto powers. Sounds like real excitement and fun.






Political parties have just declared their candidates for the upcoming general elections. Thus we had a chance to get a sense of how the new Turkish Parliament will be. Let me look at them one by one.

But first a reminder: In the West, candidates of a political party are often elected by the local branches of that party. In other words, the system works from bottom up. In Turkey, it is almost the reverse: Candidates are elected by the "central committee" of the party, which is often dominated by none other than the leader.

This "patrimonial" tradition (to speak in Weberian terms) has not changed in this campaign: It actually got worse. In other words, it was not the ruling or main opposition party organizations that elected the deputies of these parties: It was their leaders. So we should speak of "Erdoğan's candidates" and "Kılıçdaroğlu's candidates."

Dominating leaders

This "leader domination" is constantly criticized in the Turkish media, and I often agree with those criticisms. But I also note that what matters most here is political culture, rather than laws and regulations about the political system. In other words, what makes party leaders that strong is the society's attitude of regarding them so definitive. When you ask, "Who will you vote for?" most will say "I will vote for Erdoğan," or "I will vote for Kılıçdaroğlu." When leaders matter so much in people's minds, they naturally matter so much on the ground as well.

No wonder this election campaign seems to have given those two top leaders a chance to consolidate their power. Erdoğan has already been very strong in the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, but now word has it that some of the 164 current deputies that he excluded from the lists include the ones whose "loyalty" he suspected. What will then emerge, probably, is an AKP whose obedience to Erdoğan is further secured.

Erdoğan, in fact, seems to be planning to leave Parliament at some point, after the end of Abdullah Gül's presidency, and get elected as the next president of Turkey. Moreover, he apparently wants to change the whole political system into a "presidential system," and crown himself with more powers. Add to that a "loyal" AKP majority in Parliament, and you will get a sense of Erdoğan's vision for the future: He doesn't plan to become a "lame duck" at all.

Meanwhile, Kılıçdaroğlu seems to have accomplished an even greater redesigning in this own party. Many prominent names within the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, including the all-powerful and all-sinister Secretary-General Önder Sav, have been surprisingly excluded. Personally, I can only be happy with the elimination of those names, most of whom are dogmatic Kemalists. But Kılıçdaroğlu's "change" seems to be matter of cadre rather than ideology, because some of the new names, including three suspects in the Ergenekon case, are dogmatic Kemalists as well. No wonder people speak of the "purge of the Sav team" or the "purge of the Baykal team," but less so about a change of vision within the main opposition party.

However, Kılıçdaroğlu's leadership in the CHP will be truly secured only if he shows considerable success on June 12, when the elections will be held. Nobody expects the CHP to defeat the AKP, but if the party can't make a considerable leap forward by getting something close to 30 percent of the votes, Kılıçdaroğlu's leadership might be challenged.

Turks, Kurds and Islamists

Among the other major parties, the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, seems to be the least inspiring one. They have some new names from the old center right, but they really do not have much of a promise other than keeping "Turkishness" intact. I guess they will pass the 10 percent threshold, but only barely, and form a smaller group in Parliament then what they have now.

The fourth major political force, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy, or BDP, is perhaps the most creative and vibrant. They have shown some "independent" candidates (independent because of the election threshold) that are not coming from their own political line. That is certainly good news, as is the apparent lack of "leader domination" in this party. But the latter comes, in my view, not because of a true democratic mindset, but because that the true (and absolute) leader of the party, Abdullah Öcalan, is in jail for life for the terrorist crimes he orchestrated. 

In other words, the true test for "democracy within" for the BDP will be whether they can distance themselves from Öcalan and denounce the violence that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, still occasionally uses. Only then, their recent calls for "civil disobedience," which I find reasonable, will be more legitimate.

Here is a final note: One of the less promising parties in this race is the People's Voice Party, or HAS, led by Numan Kurtulmuş. This new movement is a bit more Islamic-minded than the AKP, and is quite pro-Palestinian. Yet they have shown a member of Turkey's Jewish community, Lina Gaon, as one of their candidates in İzmir. This is certainly a good and commendable step, which might help overcome the anti-Semitic biases within the Islamic camp. Congratulations.







There is an idiom rarely used in our day, "love as you are loved; have respect as you are respected!" I think I've heard it first from my grandmother. She was using it within the framework of family relations for those who take advantage of respect, therefore forcing unbearable and blind authority onto others with the assumption that respect exists by default. The idiom in general points out the fact that if one forgets that love and respect are mutual, that love and respect are destined to fade away.

In fact, social political relations do not exist on the basis of "love and respect." Language we used in this frame is the "authority-legitimacy" relation, a similar equivalent. Legitimacy means acceptance of political authority based on social consent (even at the least). A political system and its legal system can survive only if legitimacy is maintained.

Legitimacy crisis

Political system in Turkey has been suffering a serious legitimacy crisis for long. In terms of freedom of religion and conscience, persistence on "strict secular" understanding has lost legitimacy in the eye of conservatives. The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government with vast social support is first of all an outcome of this process, not of some secret powers, such as religious communities as some seculars presume. So has the legal frame lost prestige as it was forced into a strict secular frame. For instance, that freakish understanding like "headscarf ban in public institutions" has lost its legitimacy to a great extent.

The same goes for the Kurdish question as well. The more the Kurdish conflict has been pushed outside the current system and legal frame, the more the ground for illegal struggle has gained strength. On the other hand, Turkish-Kurdish brotherhood and the discourse of "historic-social rooted ties" have been exploited more every day as Kurds have lost confidence in the system. The discourse of "fraternity," just like exploitation of love, has lost meaning as a result of an ongoing exploitation. However, as people who speak on behalf of Turks hesitate to keep their side of the bargain they have overlooked the deterioration in the ground of mutual consent, trust, and even love.

At this point, policies and discourses of those in err are still considered appealing! Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, is being excluded insistently. But the worse is that there are efforts to tie up the "recognition" of this representation to a split in social ground. In fact, the demand for a split between legitimate political representation and illegal political struggle seems extremely understandable at first sight. However, the legal ground is being narrowed constantly and the elected are put behind bars in the trial of the illegal Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK. On the other hand, under these circumstances, the fact is ignored that the distance kept with the armed illegal struggle is at the same time is the distance with the social ground.

Lastly, the peace building "civil disobedience" process led by BDP and the Democratic Society Congress, or DTK, is criticized constantly, instead of being taken seriously, as efforts are exerted to "criminalize" the process.

The "civil obedience," however, is a choice of struggle within the system and in this angle an important opportunity. If we lose this opportunity, conflict becomes inevitable. On the other hand, hope for peace will fade away if military measures, counter-terrorism efforts and disproportional force are at issue.

Social-political peace doesn't arrive through democracy ex gratia or "dictation" of rules. It arrives by paying attention to existing facts, taking the other side seriously, accepting him/her as an addressee, and keeping mutual respect and trust high. In fact, Kurds expressing themselves under BDP are asked to accept unilateral peace terms and have consent with some rights "recognized out of kindness". And the best example is the discourse of recent times "You are easily talking about things that were impossible in the past, what else do you want? Why don't you have some patience? Wait a little, the rest is yet to come…"

If things in the Kurdish question that had never been easy to talk in the past yet are now being talked easily this didn't occur as ex gratia. It was mostly as a result of decisive struggle of the Kurdish political movement. It was because some Kurds did not want to have patience anymore and did want to make big sacrifices along the way. It is unfair to overlook the fact.

The strangest of all is that some who name themselves social democrats are the leading voices of a choir inculcating Kurds to be patient and obedient. Those who on one side accuse the BDP and the armed struggle on the other for cutting ways that had already been cleared by the ruling party for the "democratic" initiative do nothing but falsifying the truth. By pointing out the governing party and its policies as the only architect and only guarantor of recent democratic gains, some people are trying to cover the fact that the Kurdish political movement and, before that, leftist politics are the most critical components if there has been a little progress made in the Kurdish question.

A conference, "Building up Peace," was held by the "Peace Initiative" over the weekend. Covered by the media mostly because of Rakel Dink's very impressive speech, the meeting was a significant call for "building peace." Along the process, let's highlight the importance of similar efforts and keep going with similar occasions and think everything through again before it's late. Otherwise, waiting for peace without doing anything is futile. Forget about building up a new and firm peace, people living in this country are losing the ground for love and respect already.

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






 narrative has emerged to explain the varied responses of the Turkish government, led by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to the Arab revolts. The assertion is that Turkey's trade ties with the countries experiencing revolutionary tremors serve as the basis for its reactions.

Analysts add that, from calling for the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak to leave at the onset of the Tahrir demonstrations – Turkey was the first country to demand that Mubarak step down – to voicing support for Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and attempting to block NATO action against him, Turkey's policies toward the Arab revolts are simply driven by economic factors. They suggest that powerful Turkish financial interests in Libya forced Ankara to support Gadhafi, and that because Ankara did not have similar financial concerns regarding Egypt, it felt free to call for Mubarak's ouster.

Again, in contrast to its policy of confrontation toward Mubarak, the AKP vowed support for the Syrian dictator, calling for reforms, but not for Bashar al-Assad's departure.  So what determines the AKP's position toward the Arab revolts?

Our research demonstrates that the primary motive behind the AKP's stance toward the Arab regimes is not money. Rather, the desire to show solidarity with certain anti-American regimes and distaste for pro-American ones appears to have shaped the AKP's policies. Among the three countries mentioned, Turkey has significantly larger financial stakes in Egypt than in Syria or Libya.  Yet, it has voiced support for these countries' regimes in reverse order. Political solidarity seems to be driving the AKP's varied responses toward the Arab revolts. Hence, should revolts unfurl in new Arab countries, expect the AKP to call for the ouster of regimes that are America's friends, while making it difficult to oust regimes that oppose the United States.

* Soner Çağaptay is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Hale Arifağaoğlu is a research assistant at the Institute Washington Institute for Near East Policy.






We thought we would face an unexciting election process but with the announcement of the deputy candidates, the climate has immediately changed. The current picture reveals that there will be important changes particularly in the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, and pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.

The AKP took a brave step and changed half of its deputies. In general parties in power do not prefer to take such risk in third elections. They try not to disturb the balance. Have you noticed how Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan while announcing new candidates tried to appease those who were not considered candidates? I don't think that he will face a major problem here.

It was somewhat of a surprise when the prime minister tried to look after the "big brothers" of the party. Perhaps he did not want to play around with the balance. He preferred a rotation on the top level of his party.

Overall, Erdoğan seems to have preferred a homogenous team that prioritizes professional people and have stuck to his promise he gave to women, young people and the handicapped.

The majority of those who are left out involve those who have not been active within the past four years.

Newcomers were carefully selected according to the party's criterion.

No matter how much the prime minister states that he is not the "sole selector," the public generally perceives him to be appointed by "leaders that have the position of a sole selector" for candidates. Even if this practice probably comparably applied more carefully in the AKP and pre-selectively in the CHP it does not change general perception.

No matter what, as long as headquarters are the ones to select deputies and the location we can't speak of democracy within the party.

It will always be called Turkish style democracy.

Kılıçdaroğlu takes a correct step

No matter what anyone says, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu put his fist down and announced his leadership.

His former team needed to be replaced and that's what he did.

Usually Kılıçdaroğlu seems abstaining but this time he was very clear. Those left out we know their value and power but we may say that the party has realized the most radical change ever.

I think this change was long overdue anyway.

By the way, it was very wise not to touch the party's former leader Deniz Baykal. If he were to eliminate him he'd have encountered much resistance. He knew he had to stop there. Or maybe he didn't dare to.

Around 78 percent of the CHP's parliamentarian staff has changed.

We wouldn't know how the newcomers would perform but there are bright people among them like Rıza Türmen.

The most arguable side is that the party drew people like Sinan Aygün and Mehmet Haberal who remain reasonably on the right wing of the party. There is no such response given with respect to Mustafa Balbay, Ergenekon suspect journalist in jail pending trial.

Kılıçdaroğlu in his commercials broke news that a man is on his way seemingly pulling the party from the left wing to central or even central right wing.

Let's see if the CHP with its new staff and concrete proposals for the first time in the history will obtain the long expected success.

MHP wants to make peace with its past

The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, has appeared to be consistent not making major changes within the party.

The party's leader Devlet Bahçeli's most interesting approach was that he always got the message across that he embraces his former fellows no matter how much their views differed.

Rumors on how the party would remain below the election barrier until now have come to an end. In general the MHP has overcome the famous barrier issue of which it is unknown where it stirred from in the first place.

Bahçeli does not like change very much.

He has his own equilibrium and does not intent to spoil it.

He took on a determined attitude in respect to Ergenekon.

Engin Alan being a candidate from Silivri is very meaningful in this respect.

The MHP seems to be the most tedious party when it comes to selecting its deputies from headquarters. Everybody succumbs to what the leader says. Extreme discipline is applied.

Of course, the questions come up for the MHP as for other parties.

Performance in upcoming elections will prove where the party is headed to.

BDP surprised everybody

No one expected it.

The BDP being stuck between İmralı and Kandil, sticking to names suggested by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, was expected to lead to a chaos.

But the expected did not happen.

It did not only select various candidates from within the party but it also selected people who remain distant to the PKK. And by also looking at people it selected from outside the party we openly see that this party is planning to emerge with a new identity and approach in the new term.

It is not certain if the leaders of the party will adapt to this change. For, the majority of the newcomers are not people who would obey to directives.

One of those is primarily Şerafettin Elçi.

Elçi's name was first mentioned when he as a deputy did not speak Turkish with his guests who did not know any other language then Kurdish. He was announced traitor.

Elçi is a parliamentarian who always opposed terror and kept a distance to the PKK and PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan trying to solve problems in a political manner. And he never got tired of this struggle. He has been in and out of jail, parties he formed were shut down but still he never gave up. From the very beginning he defended that the best solution is the union.

The PKK and parties he formed rejected Elçi for a long time. But in the end they understood his significance and did the right thing. This way they enlarged their variety in range.






It is obvious that the blame for the current economic problems in northern Cyprus cannot be placed solely on the shoulders of either the current or the past Turkish Cypriot governments. Turkish Cypriot politicians, irrespective of how much they might be accused of failing in proper governance or how corrupt they might be, of course tried to do the best that they could to contribute to the prosperity and well-being of their people and their country. However, the political climate did not allow them to develop decisions or policies on their own. Thus, in whatever they did or did not do, the political authority and the civil servants in Ankara were not equally but primarily responsible.

For example, was it the consecutive Turkish Cypriot governments that in a bid to slow down the migration of Turkish Cypriots abroad, mainly to Britain and Turkey, since 1974 tried to recruit at least one member from every family into public offices? Was it the Turkish Cypriot governments that instead of finding ways to export Turkish Cypriot agricultural products encouraged Turkish Cypriot farmers with "drought compensation" – even at times when there was no drought at all – to stay away from farmlands? Or who was it that turned a blind eye to the collapse of the small- and medium-sized industries or businesses? Who remembers the Cypruvex – the state-owned company dealing with citrus packaging and export – or the Sanayi Holding? What about the tourism administration and the hotels it was operating? Most lately, how did it happen that Turkish Cypriot Airlines was sacrificed or killed through rampant mismanagement?

No one, of course, can place the blame for the current economic impasse in northern Cyprus solely on the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government in Ankara either. Perhaps, compared to previous Turkish governments, the AKP government has far less share than the previous Turkish governments in the mess created in northern Cyprus.

Thank God in its repeated attempts so far the AKP failed to produce a Turkish Cypriot AKP so far – either that or the AKP created on the island has not yet been able to receive sufficient public support to be considered seriously – but politics in northern Cyprus was made crooked as well by Turkish parties who all tried to dominate politics there.

The problems in northern Cyprus, therefore, cannot be solved simply by hoisting the flag of the Cyprus republic – which since the 1964 ouster of the Turkish partners from the joint administration by Greek Cypriot force unfortunately ceased to be the joint flag of the two peoples of the island – on the parapets of the Turkish Embassy in northern Nicosia, or with a handful of demonstrators declaring that they do not want Turkey's "bureaucrats, soldiers and money" on the island.

The immediate problem, unfortunately, is the absence of a credible government in northern Cyprus. The İrsen Küçük government has been very fragile since the first day it came to power a year ago. It just underwent a reshuffle last month, and a second reshuffle might be in the offing. The government is so fragile that despite the obvious existence of political will, Prime Minister Küçük is failing in public diplomacy, while the leadership of his own National Unity Party, or UBP, appears to still be under the firm control of its former leader, President Derviş Eroğlu.

Without going to election and proving his leadership with a strong electoral victory – if he can get it – Küçük will remain a lame-duck prime minister constantly fearing defection from his party or being compelled to resign after a probable no-confidence vote in Parliament. An early election, however, might further complicate the economic situation. Besides, an early election would probably be opposed strongly by Turkey for two reasons: 1) It might endanger the Cyprus talks process while the coming June-December period might be the "last hope" for success as various factors, led by electioneering and the approaching Greek Cypriot EU term presidency, will most probably hold the process hostage come December. 2) An early election would mean shelving the current economic reform program for at least several more months, thus allowing the already-serious economic situation to worsen greatly.

However, since one way or the other almost identical copies of the current program was negotiated and signed between Ankara and all major political parties in northern Cyprus, perhaps the wisest way out is not in trying to salvage northern Cyprus from its savior Turkey, or from Turkish Cypriot labor unions – as some people in Ankara have started to joke – but to seriously consider whether this is not a time to establish a grand left-right coalition government in northern Cyprus.

A strong Turkish Cypriot state, of course, will be a requirement of sustainability for a Cyprus settlement as well if there will ever be a settlement.







There appears to be much mending of fences as the dust begins to settle on the Raymond Davis affair. After a fortnight spent in his home country, Ambassador Cameron Munter was back and speaking to the media. He called for a policy of 'renewal' after what he described as a period of 'acute problems' and was clearly doing his best to turn a threat into an opportunity. Unfortunately communal memory is rarely in step with diplomatic requirements. We may be a large aid recipient that America gives money to in support of its foreign policies, but there is a deep and abiding suspicion of America at every level of society and it is difficult to say that all of it is unfounded. That suspicion is sometimes manifest as outright hatred. To say that America has an 'image problem' in Pakistan understates the case by several orders of magnitude.

Creating a countervailing narrative to that which currently pertains is an uphill job for America, and Cameron Munter's speech was long on emollients and platitudes and short on anything new or insightful. It is going to be some time before there is 'business as usual' between us and the US, and there is going to have to be a significant diminution in the numbers of covert operatives or private contractors, and those that are here of necessity need to have their diplomatic status defined with crystal clarity before they set foot on our streets. We are going to need to see fewer drone strikes and preferably no drone strikes at all. There need to be joint operations at every level. For Munter to say that he was 'more optimistic about our relations today' than when he came to Pakistan, suggests that he has little or no contact with the average Pakistani. It is that fundamental disconnect that needs addressing, because without it the mindset of a majority of the population is going to remain unshakeable, unchanged. The dust may be settling on the Davis affair but the wounds it has left are going to take years to heal and for some they never will. It may prove to be the single most damaging incident to US/Pakistan relations for decades. The directors of our intelligence services and the head of the CIA have met in the US to continue the repair work, although their meeting seemed strangely truncated and our man returned home after twenty-four hours, with silence on all sides as to the nature and content of their discussion. No matter how damaged relations may be, a stark truth remains. We need America, and America is just as needy of us but in a different way. American dollars may keep us afloat, but our cooperation across a range of military and intelligence matters floats the American boat as well. But this is no love marriage, instead a marriage of convenience. And it is going to need a lot more than a soft-centred speech by Mr Munter to smooth what remains a rocky road.








An Indian Supreme Court judge and a group of eminent citizens of India, approached by the Aman ki Asha initiative of the Jang and Times of India groups, have moved into swift action to try and secure the release of Dr Muhammad Khalil Chishty, a Pakistani prisoner in India. He is 77 and in failing health at Ajmer Prison Hospital. The story of Dr Chishty, once a well-respected virologist in Karachi, is an especially tragic one. He had been implicated in a case that is widely believed to be false while he was visiting Ajmer in 1992 to care for his sick mother, and after a quarrel with neighbours. (An inquiry by Indian citizens "reveals that he was falsely implicated"). He was finally convicted by a sessions court in Ajmer last December, nearly 20 years later. Throughout this time, held in detention and under strict surveillance at his family house near Ajmer, he had never missed a hearing or failed to follow court orders.

One of Dr Chishty's daughters wrote to Aman ki Asha seeking to bring about his return. Aman ki Asha approached Justice Markandey Katju, the same Indian Supreme Court judge in response to whose appeal Pakistan had freed Indian prisoner Gopal Das who had spent two decades in jail. The judge set in motion the legal effort for Dr Chishty's release. The appeal by prominent Indians who have taken up the case with zeal is a follow-up and continuation of this effort. They have sent a letter to the Indian president urging the release of the aged prisoner. It is signed by veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, journalist Jatin Das, retired Indian naval chief Admiral L. Ramdas, and Kavita Srivastava of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, an NGO that has been trying to help Dr Chishty over the past many years. It is hoped that the Indian media too will highlight the case and press for an old man to return home "alive" as his daughter put it. The case of Dr Chishty had once received wide attention. Through the years he has essentially been forgotten, in his own country as well as in India. The campaign now launched brings the case into the limelight once more. This is the first stage in securing the release of the doctor. Humanity demands that he be set free. No purpose can be served by holding a sick man in a foreign jail. It must be hoped also that the recent thaw in ties between Pakistan and India can work in favour of Dr Chishty, as it did in the case of Gopal Das. He has been convicted by a lower court and a higher court may overturn the sentence. The one thing Dr Chishty does not have, as his daughter said, is time. We hope that the Indian courts will order his release on humanitarian grounds. The effort being made for the release of Dr Chishty points to the immense importance of groups and people coming together for a cause. We believe such initiatives can make a big difference in the lives of individuals when they inspire people to work to mitigate the plight of their fellow human beings. And if it is true of individuals -- and if initiatives like Aman ki Asha are owned and embraced by civil society and political leaders -- there is every reason to believe that the two great nations of the subcontinent will benefit immensely from a more collective and social expression of the basic humanity we share with each other.








A number of analysts recently commented that cricket was the only remaining factor that united the people of Pakistan. If this is so then that is a very sorry state of affairs indeed. But the intensity of the frenzy that gripped the whole nation during the ICC World Cup and the fact that the same passion is woefully lacking in more weighty matters cannot but lead to the conclusion that these assertions are not so far off from reality.

Winning the World Cup was never going to address the issues of lawlessness, unemployment, sky-rocketing prices of essential commodities, corruption, systematic dismantling of state institutions and breach of national sovereignty. Yet the public remains idle spectators to all that, apart from the occasional gnashing of teeth and sanctimonious wailing over their misfortune.

As a consequence of repeated mishandling of a plethora of crises and issues of national importance, inequitable distribution of political power and national wealth and disgraceful governance, the sinews and tendons that normally bind society have atrophied and decomposed, leaving the country dangling by a cricket ball string. We have lost the common identity and purpose that led to the creation of this country.

Pakistan was founded on the concept of protection of the rights of the minorities (Muslims being a minority in India), but now the minorities and all those who speak out for them have become hunted prey here. This homeland of the Muslims has come into disrepute around the world as the breeding ground of extremism and terrorism in the name of Islam. The constituent units that came together to form Pakistan under the promise of autonomy and sovereignty in the Pakistan Resolution have been made to succumb to the dictatorship of Islamabad, controlled by the one majority unit. The dream has indeed soured.

If something is to be salvaged from the wreck this country is turning into, deep rooted change is urgently needed. The litmus test of any system is its ability to correct anomalies and jettison bad blood. This system has failed us on both counts. The institutions and organs of state that are its supporting pillars are haemorrhaging under the merciless onslaught of the Zardari administration.

If the judiciary tightens the noose around the government because of its corruption and misconduct, it is rendered helpless and ineffective by simply ignoring its orders with impunity. If NAB is an obstacle in the robbing of public funds and is unearthing ghosts of corruption scandals past, it has to be neutralised by putting it under the charge of a compliant stooge or crippled and rendered useless. If the HEC is pursuing members of parliament who hold fake degrees, it must be done away with. How can the state function without such vital institutions and organs?

There is often a tendency to cling on to the known and familiar, even though it is harmful, rather than venture forth into the promising unknown. This phobia of the new is exacerbated by fear-mongering by old crumbling orders. Presidents Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt both claimed that if they were to go, their respective countries would be plunged into civil war. They are both gone, but far from being plunged into civil war, their countries have made great strides towards liberal democracy. From being a one party dictatorship, newfound Tunisian liberty has found expression in the mushrooming of over thirty political parties within a few months. The dreaded secret police stands disbanded.

The 33-year-old blogger who played a prominent role in igniting the revolution over the internet and was imprisoned and tortured by Ben Ali is now a member of the interim cabinet. In Egypt, virtual one man rule has given way to profound positive change. Recently, the constitutional changes proposed by the interim ruling council were approved in a referendum. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for September with presidential polls to follow shortly thereafter.

But in Pakistan, apart from those who have a vested interest in the stagnant status quo, even some reasonably enlightened elements seem terrified of initiating any process of change. It is said that revolution causes too much upheaval and disorder. Did the partition of India in 1947 not unleash disorder in the short run? Was it not worth it? Instead of focusing on the transitory period of disorder, why can't we look beyond it to the fruits that are to be reaped? The Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions caused temporary upheaval but the positive change there is already palpable.

In societies where the old failed order is firmly entrenched and refuses to make way, revolution becomes a necessary instrument of political progress. Just as cancer cells having completed their natural life-cycle, refuse to die and instead fester and become malignant, outdated and failed old orders in society too are a malignancy in the body politic of the state and need to be removed. Cancer can be successfully treated if detected in the early stages. Societies too can be saved from ruin provided the requisite change is brought about before it is too late. The beauty of democracy and power of the people is that it transforms seemingly chaotic discord into a melody from which order is born, embodying the will of the people and imparting legitimacy to representative governments.

There also appears to be an underlying fear in some quarters in Pakistan concerning the difficulty in evolving a consensus in the framing of a new order, the sort that was achieved in 1973. If there is indeed any substance to these fears and our sense of nationhood has disintegrated to such an extent that we can not even agree on how to save the state from sinking, then it makes the argument for change even more urgent.

The slide down the slippery slope of fragmentation cannot be halted by sitting on our hands and pretending all is well. We need to do something about it; the sooner the better. Let us not look to failed leaders and political parties to save us. They will do no such thing. They have their own vested interests to attend to.

What is needed is a general consensus among the people about the direction they want to go in. The skeleton of such a consensus already exists; people want an end to loot and plunder of the state, they want an honest and clean government committed to protecting national and public interests, they want safety of life, honour and property and they crave succour and sustenance. It is such basic aspirations that ignite revolutions and in the fires of revolutions are tempered clean and honest new leaders.

But the psyche of the people of Pakistan is quite baffling: We work ourselves up into a frothing frenzy over a game of cricket, but idly watch the cancer destroying our country from within. We smash our television sets to pieces when Pakistan loses in the World Cup semi-final, but do not seem to mind the compromising of national sovereignty in drone attacks or in the Raymond Davis case. What a strange nation we are!

We need to get our priorities right. Hard decisions have to be made, and soon. Anything that is meaningful and worth having cannot be achieved without struggle and sacrifice. A better and brighter future awaits the brave people of Tunisia and Egypt. They earned it by paying a heavy price for it. If we are not prepared to pay the same price, then we have no right to continue with our favourite national pastime of wailing on incessantly about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

The writer is vice-chairman of the Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.








 "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end." – C S Lewis

Today, with an elected president, prime minister and parliament we are lured into the (false) belief that we enjoy democracy. Marred by war, insecurity, corruption, poverty, divisive politics, cronyism and the conduct of a client state, essential requisites like the betterment of citizens and the prime duty of being accountable to the voters are starkly absent. Tormented without end, this is just a democracy delusion.

Over time, our politics has proven a self-centred hierarchical environment. It has also increasingly encouraged the law of the jungle. Politicians preach Alfred Smiths' mantra of "all ills of democracy can be cured by more democracy". Our politicians are autocrats of their own political fiefdoms. Their ills seem to multiply along with their ill-gotten wealth. The trickle down effect sees subordinates jostle for the same ascendancy amongst each other. Some semblance to the trappings of a state is maintained, not for the love of the land but to just keep alive a source of unending largesse.

In a democracy, honest governance and welfare of the common man secures legitimacy along with the strength and capacity to rule. The present political dispensation, given its policies, has failed to create that basis of governance. This has resulted in an extremely lopsided balance between the state and the common man. As a result, we see a political system hell-bent on self-destruction yet wishing survival.

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Our democracies, scant as they have been, do not seem to learn from their tumultuous past. A democracy is a contract between the voters and the elected. A breach by those elected results in alienation, instability and anger. All that an intervention requires is one catalytic event.

To name a few, in this democracy we have insecurity, total erosion of the rule of law, militancy, rampant corruption, target killings, defiance of the judiciary, muzzling the media, frontal assault on higher education (ironically the HEC was established by General Pervez Musharraf) and poverty. Trotsky once remarked that if poverty were the cause of revolutions, there would be revolutions all the time because most people in the world were poor. Third world democracies prone to losing their way invite interventions, not revolutions.

In a democracy we have no recourse but the ballot box, that too if it is there after five years. In this time the damage done to state and society can be fatal. As it is, five years is too short a period for a caring ruling dispensation, an eternity for the likes of the omnipotent moral busybodies that we have. Come the post-five year chance, the best voters can do is shift power between the political elite. Elections for us have become an expensive exercise to choose the least bad option, not a significantly or even marginally better tomorrow.

We have political shenanigans such as the renaming of the NWFP, Ajrak Day, calls for protests on trivial matters by the sitting government and its partners leading to death and destruction, reference against the Bhutto verdict, perpetually dragging of the Benazir assassination case and the perpetual saber rattling of a pliant and complicit opposition and coalition partners. This delusional game is all smoke and mirrors - a diversion to keep the people occupied. Patience, in this situation, is equivalent to complicity.

Democracy – the best revenge type – has lashed out with a vengeance that could put any dictatorship to shame. We have been repeatedly failed by democracy, the reason being its abuse by none other than the political juggernauts. The two largest political parties, the PPP and the PML-N have had their chances. Both failed the masses miserably. Both were marred by mammoth charges of mismanagement and corruption. The two-third mandate lion ended up acting like a fascist. His antics gave us Musharraf, whose legacy is the NRO which in turn spawned the tormenters we have.

Eric Ambler said: "Political prestige is the reward of not the shrewdest diagnostician, it's the decoration conferred on mediocrity by ignorance." Those monetarily comfortable within us are apathetic to the ballot and its outcome and the voting class that is totally dependent on the feudal or urban political elite, can easily be manipulated. It cannot be blamed for the same. Our average voter has not been allowed to build up the financial and psychological autonomy to make independent judgments necessary for a healthy democracy.

"Our politics," as Einstein put it, "is a pendulum whose swings between anarchy and tyranny are fuelled by perpetually rejuvenated illusions." President Zardari, our Pericles of funeral orations, chose Garhi Khuda Baksh again to voice an illusion. He fears an engineered technocrat take over. If this illusion becomes reality, not a tear will be shed on yet another political "martyrdom." After all, it is his delusion of democracy that beckons the same.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email:








Yusuf Haroon was a legend. Son of an illustrious father, Sir Abdullah Haroon, who was a comrade of the Quaid-e-Azam and ADC to the Quaid, Yusuf Haroon rose high in politics, entrepreneurship and social work.

I knew Yusuf Haroon as owner of Dawn. Altaf Hussain, then editor of Dawn, asked me to write for the newspaper. I agreed but, added that I would write for Jang too. Altaf Hussain said, "Jang is an Urdu paper and Khalilur Rahman, the owner- editor of Jang, will not mind if you write for Dawn, which is an English paper." So I wrote the first article in Dawn on May 18, 1962, on tax policies. And, lo and behold! Yusuf Haroon calls me and says: "Thank you and congratulations." I asked: "For what"? He replied: "Thank you for writing for Dawn and congratulations for the cheque." He added: "You may take pride in your article as Dawn never publishes an article which does not deserve payment." I responded, "Thank you, but I also don't write unless I am paid.

Further, I also ask newspapers to pay the writers and ask writers not to write unless they are paid. This adds to the quality of writing and readability of the newspapers on the whole." However, I asked Yusuf Haroon, "How is it that you know a humble writer and a humble payment for a humble article?" He said he leaves that all to the management. He only keeps himself informed about the cash flow – how much cash comes in and where it comes from and where it goes.

Altaf Hussain and M A Zuberi then led Dawn as editor and assistant editor, respectively. Dawn followed its policy whatever the case. In the Ayub-Shoaib era, however, the government took exception to the Dawn strategy. After a long period of controversy of do's and don'ts in Dawn's strategy, both the editor and the assistant editor were removed under government orders. Yusuf Haroon was sad when they were removed; he was also sad when Altaf Hussain accepted a ministerial position in the government. (Not M A Zuberi who, among others, opted to have his own paper.)

Altaf Gohar, before becoming editor of Dawn, had differences with Bhutto. Altaf Gohar was a former civil servant and was known for his honesty, competence and self-respect. When Altaf Gohar was deputy commissioner of Karachi, Bhutto had appeared before him for some case and a heated exchange ensued between the two. Bhutto never forgot it. When he came to power, he started targeting Dawn – and Altaf Gohar. Altaf Gohar stuck to his guns. One of the editorials that Altaf Gohar wrote, "Mountains don't cry," was with reference to Bhutto's idiosyncrasies. The editorial became famous.

However, Yusuf Haroon was not happy about the editorial. He remarked that the media should avoid bypassing the government, or for that matter any institution. The media are there to help, guide and direct what is right and what is wrong. All this can be done through sorting out differences. "Negative action results in negative reaction: positive action results into positive reaction.

However, at last, the newspaper is equally at stake if not more," he added. Later, Altaf Gohar was arrested: nobody knew why. He remained in jail for quite sometime. When he came out, he was no more editor.

(Thrown in the deep sea and advised not to get wet)

Having set up business in West Pakistan, I decided to explore East Pakistan. There were views in favour of and against expansion plans in East Pakistan. I decided to consult Yusuf Haroon also, who was then a recognised politician, entrepreneur and social worker of foresight. He said: "No." He added: "There is nothing common between East and West Pakistanis except religion. Religion is never a binding force in socio-politico-economic matters. The binding force comes from political, economic and social bondages. Socially, East and West Pakistanis are poles apart. Their language is not our language, and vice versa. Language is important for bondage."

Strangely, he added that we never asked Bengalis to join Pakistan. It was they who asked to join us. It was generally some of their stalwarts, and particularly the Nawab family led by Khawaja Nazimuddin, who did it. Experience has shown that we have nothing in common. They will separate ultimately: otherwise we will, as we are a different people from the Bengalis. Chaudhry Mohammad Ali also used to say this. So think of your investment in these circumstances. Many West Pakistanis are not investing there. Not the Haroons either. I did not follow his advice and instead followed those few who were investing in East Pakistan. Atlas put up a huge investment in East Pakistan.

Soon afterwards, Atlas discovered that Yusuf Haroon was right as the East Pakistanis started showing signs of separation. I was disturbed. During a lunch with Field Marshal Ayub Khan on Dec 27, 1971, I asked him at what point of time did he reach the conclusion that a break with East Pakistan was inevitable.

He replied, "I sent Kalabagh to Dhaka to divide the assets of the PIDC (between East and West Pakistan). Upon his return, he said: 'They don't want a division of the PIDC, they really want a division of Pakistan. It will surely happen but you must not be on the scene when this occurs.' " I asked him if he had considered a confederative structure for the two wings. He replied that we do not have the temperament of the Swiss, and with India in between, it would not work.

Anyhow Pakistan was dismembered. East Pakistan turned into Bangladesh. Yusuf Haroon rose as mayor of Karachi and governor of West Pakistan. As a politician, he was always active and respected. He was prudent in all respects. No one raised a finger at him. He was a fine politician and businessman and a true gentleman.

Late in his life, Yusuf Haroon was dissociated from Dawn. Dawn went under the exclusive management and control of his younger brother, Mahmood Haroon, and is now under his descendants. He chose to leave Pakistan and settle in America. He became a director of Pan-Am and stayed there till the airline was wound up. He would visit Pakistan periodically and used to be depressed about the political, economic and social degradation of the country. For long, he never visited Pakistan and stayed in the USA as an ordinary citizen. He died there. One would have wished he had lived in Pakistan and died in Pakistan. People like him are national assets. They build the society.

Yusuf Haroon has gone, but he has left a great name, great memories and an immaculate record.

The writer is the founder/chairman of the Atlas group of companies. Email: yhs, Website:








Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, the outgoing Sindh home minister, says that extortion and targeted killings will end in Karachi after he leaves, as these were "orchestrated" for his removal from the home ministry. If he is right, the city will bid him a fond farewell, like it would anyone who was a bane.

Also bidding a fond goodbye to the minister, hoping that they are seeing his back at last, would be residents of the Defence Housing Authority. He has created chaos their lives, with what seems like half the security apparatus of the city positioned outside his residence. The other half is stationed at Bilawal House in Karachi, providing the kind of security to both residences that is probably tighter than the security of the country's nuclear assets.

It is strange that the home minister should whine that he is being hounded out with "orchestrated" happenings, although he was himself in charge of controlling the situation. Extortionists and those engaged in targeted killings, criminals whom he was supposed to bring to book, have prevailed, and it is he who has to leave, rather than their going to jail. If that is the case, what exactly has the minister achieved in the three years he has been in office, besides enjoying the perks of his ministerial position?

The chief minister of Sindh has assumed charge of the home ministry. As chief executive of the province he was always in charge, even with the home minister in office. So was the prime minister, as chief executive of the country. And the president, who is also co-chairman of the PPP, and who is known to micromanage the country, calling the shots in whatever passes for governance in Sindh and in the country. Where were these worthies when Zulfiqar Al Mirza was making a mess of law and order in Karachi? Maintenance of law and order is something which is the prime duty of any government.

Zulfiqar Ali Mirza has given Farooq Sattar of the MQM the label of "liar," and hinted that the MQM rally in Lahore was financed with "donations" collected by the MQM in Karachi. He has asked journalists "not to take seriously" the statements of Interior Minister Rahman Malik, and declared that Pir Mazahrul Haq, the parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Sindh Assembly, "doesn't know what he is saying." The prime minister has weakly made up to MQM by saying that "Zulfiqar Mirza's views of the MQM are his own."

No one holding his or her own views in the PPP has escaped banishment to the boondocks. Interestingly, for holding his own views, Zulfiqar Mirza is being tipped for the Senate, or an important position in the centre. This is as good a Viennese Waltz danced around the MQM by the PPP as one would see outside Vienna.

Zulfiqar Mirza's dexterity in playing the "Sindh card," and his utterance of vitriol against settlers of all shades and hues in Sindh, have been well used by the PPP to instil a measure of healthy respect for the among the principal political players in urban Sindh, who are mostly Urdu-speaking Sindhis, or the MQM. The dance was choreographed by the president, of that there is little doubt. The inimitable signs of presidential choreography appear in every whirl and swirl.

All the above is not to say that in gaining healthy respect for itself with the MQM, through the dance almost flawlessly executed by Zulfiqar Mirza, the PPP does not have the same respect for the MQM. The difference now is that no one party has an exaggerated sense of its primacy, or of the other's vulnerability, in urban Sindh.

Where a new sense of unease must now prevail, however, is in the top PPP ranks. The president is known for not only standing by his friends but generously rewarding those who have done him a service. The latest yeoman's service rendered is by Zulfiqar Mirza, and he is an ambitious man, as ambitious as the president is generous. If he is given a seat in the Senate, while his wife sits on a high rostrum to preside over the National Assembly proceedings as its speaker, Zulfiqar Mirza's feeling a bit queasy sitting on the benches in the Senate would be natural.

As for an important slot in the centre, it could also be looking after the interior of the country, not just of Sindh. If there is at present an element of unease with some, in the Senate and elsewhere in the power complex as it is set up at present, the reason is Zulfiqar Ali Mirza.

The writer is a former corporate executive. Email:








Sustaining and running a coalition government could be a messy affair and this is what is happening in Pakistan. A way had to be found to relieve the Pakistan People's Party Sindh senior vice president Dr Zulfiqar Mirza of his job as home minister to satisfy the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which has always been a very demanding partner, and this was done by sending him on medical leave.

It isn't clear how long Dr Zulfiqar Mirza's sick leave would last because if he is really not feeling well, as the Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah claimed, then it may take some time for him to get healthy again. It is possible that the doctor from Badin fell ill while trying to find a cure for the many diseases plaguing Karachi, which probably has been suffering more killings and extortions than any other mega city in the world. And that he failed to deliver is obvious because the target-killings and the 'bhatakhori' as the extortions are referred to in Karachi have continued. His critics even accused him of inadvertently contributing to some of the crimes by allegedly patronising the Lyari Peace Committee in Karachi. However, it must be said to his credit that he tried his best to do his job and wasn't shy of taking on the criminals and their patrons.

Dr Zulfiqar Mirza is unlikely to return as the home minister once his unspecified medical leave is over. He wasn't removed to be brought back after a while though he is still a provincial minister with the portfolios of prisons and forests. There has been speculation that he could be given some role in the federal government. That would take time and involve going through an electoral process.

Call it Dr Zulfiqar Mirza's 'sacrifice' or refer to it as something inevitable keeping in view the political situation in Sindh, his forced departure helped keep the coalition between the PPP and the MQM intact. In fact, there were indications for some time that he was on the way out. His tough statements targeting the MQM and holding it primarily responsible for the lawlessness in Karachi, couldn't have gone unchallenged. Though he represented a viewpoint that is largely shared by the PPP rank and file in Sindh and also elsewhere in the country, such views are supposed to be expressed in private and not publicly. Matters were made worse by his fiery style of public speaking that could easily provoke those being attacked.

His high stature in the PPP as a senior party office-bearer and the husband of National Assembly Speaker Fahmida Mirza and his closeness to President Asif Ali Zardari were reasons that delayed his ouster as Sindh home minister.

As has been the case for the last three years after the 2008 general election, the president has gone out of the way to accommodate his political allies, particularly the MQM and the ANP as part of his reconciliatory politics based on power-sharing. The ruling PPP, looking weak and disjointed, cannot afford to lose any of its two major allies, MQM and ANP, after having lost Maulana Fazlur Rahman's JUI-F as it would signal the unravelling of the painstakingly managed politics of often unnatural alliances and trigger events that could eventually cause the collapse of the coalition governments in the centre and provinces. Sending home the provincial home minister was, therefore, not a high price to pay for the higher goal of staying in power at all costs.

However, this could turn out to be a transient measure to overcome the present challenges facing the PPP-led coalition government instead of finding a durable solution of the serious problems afflicting not only Karachi but also the PPP-MQM alliance.

If the past is any guide, the issue of exercising authority as part of the coalition government would continue to be a bone of contention between the PPP and the MQM. The two parties have joined hands not due to any ideological reasons or fascination for each other but on account of the simple fact that they need one another to remain in power. Aware of the compulsions, they at times try to be understanding of each other. For the most part though, both parties tend to exploit the situation at the expense of the supposed ally. Their public brawls and politics of demanding favours by fixing deadlines are now a familiar and amusing sight. It is now taken for granted that the two parties would reconcile just as dramatically as the eruption of any crisis in their uncertain relationship.

If the departure of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza is MQM's gain, the ANP leaders in Sindh see it as their loss. They were happy that Dr Zulfiqar Mirza was pointing accusing fingers mostly at the MQM for its role in the target-killings and were hoping that the killers in government custody would be prosecuted and their sponsors exposed. The major ANP worry now is that Dr Zulfiqar Mirza's removal would demoralise the police officials and make them reluctant to do their job to go after criminals linked to political parties. Already, a number of policemen who in the past took action against such elements have been eliminated. There are many instances of police officials being targeted and killed for having investigated and nabbed killers having influential connections.

It is going to be a tough balancing act for the PPP to keep both the MQM and the ANP happy. The priority, however, is to keep the MQM amused because it is a bigger political party in Sindh and has more street power than any other party in Karachi. The ANP has been making noises lately about reviewing its decision whether to continue being part of the coalition government in Sindh. It has alleged that the promised funds for development work in the Pashtun localities, almost all of which are slums, in Karachi have not been provided during the last three years and the problems facing Pashtuns remained unresolved. The ANP has two provincial assembly seats in Sindh and is thus in no position to put enough pressure on the PPP and the provincial government to accept its demands. However, the ANP has considerable political clout as an ally and coalition partner of the PPP in the federal government and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. In fact, the ANP has been the most loyal ally of the PPP and, therefore, cannot be ignored.

The PPP until now has managed to keep both the MQM and the ANP on its side despite the growing rivalry between these two largely ethnic-based parties. It may succeed in retaining their support for the remaining two years of the government's five-year term because all the parties have a vested interest in remaining in power. However, the important question is whether their success in keeping their opportunistic alliance and coalition governments intact could lead to an improvement in the lawless situation now prevailing in Karachi. There isn't much hope that such a turnaround in the situation is possible.

In such a scenario, it is the people of Karachi who would continue to suffer the daily round of killings and the general lawlessness that brings life to a standstill and interrupts their ability to earn livelihood. For now, the elderly Qaim Ali Shah would be looking after the home ministry portfolio in place of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza. The Sindh chief minister is already burdened with quite a few portfolios and in any case the home ministry needs to be assigned as a full-time job to someone capable and powerful to deal with the huge challenge of tackling acts of terrorism and crime in Karachi and also the rest of the province.

Proposals have been made about making the country weapons-free, using the army to cleanse Karachi of the various mafias as the scope of the challenge was beyond the power of the police and rangers and prompting the political parties to stop patronising criminals and target-killers. These are measures which are needed but impractical given the state of affairs in Pakistan, at least for the time being. One wishes the situation changes for the better and Pakistan is able to overcome the problems tearing at the fabric of our society.







In the fairly intense debate going on about the future of the Higher Education Commission one has to hold on to two significant strands: one, education is a provincial subject and the process of devolution cannot be scuttled; two, there are aspects of higher education and research that the federal government should remain engaged with under the rubric "standards in institutions of higher learning". A third consideration is that if the state is disassembling such a large institution as the HEC which kept growing with little value added for its purported objectives, the provincial and federal governments should have plans, resources and resolve to set in place better institutions.

Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination and Chairman, Implementation Commission on the 18th Amendment Mian Raza Rabbani's disclosure that Islamabad is 'evolving' a new commission raises the hope that the genuine fears of the opponents of the HEC 'dissolution' can be redressed. But one has to withhold applause till a number of questions have been answered. Is there a judicious assessment of the successes and failures of the existing HEC? If so, what metrics of quantity and quality were applied and by whom? How wide and deep is the consultation in evolving the new commission? How many of the eminent scholars who have followed educational reforms since the Ayub era have been consulted?

Then there are individuals who have looked at higher education not only from the viewpoint of excellence, particularly in science and technology, but also its role in fostering a more enlightened society. Have they been brought into the loop? Does the government plan to hold nation-wide seminars and symposia to ensure a comprehensive review of higher education?

In the post-Benazir Bhutto era, the PPP is getting increasingly dominated by elements that distrust knowledge, intellectuals, free research and an inquisitive and questioning culture. Can Rabbani assure us that his project would not become another administrative fiat, another sleight of the hand by an incompetent government?

Universities represent the apex of a country's spiritual, cultural and intellectual life. They are expected to play a crucial role as the custodians and interpreters of the moral, ethical and ideological values of a people. They are also the main instrument of a planned and orderly change that enables communities to keep pace with time. Modern societies are heavily dependent, in the material domain, on excellence and achievement in higher education, particularly in science and technology. It is, therefore, natural that its practical functions receive special emphasis.

But higher education is equally vital for objectives and purposes which are not directly related to economic progress but which are good in themselves, and lead to the enrichment of life, be it individual or collective.

Our universities are hampered by a poor base of universal literacy and an indifferently developed system of secondary education. The Zardari regime has shown no interest in revolutionary approaches to mass literacy or secondary education or for that matter to improving facilities for vocations, trades and skills. The HEC promised a revolution at the university level but got lured away by the siren call of numbers leaving quality of faculty and students to deteriorate further.

Universities not only impart the existing knowledge, but also, create it. Education and research are inseparable, and fundamental to the idea of a university. Sadly, a large number of university graduates fail to acquire even an acceptable level of knowledge; research output remains abysmal.

Since no drastic decline in internal and external funding is apprehended at this moment, the federal government should come out with a white paper on its plans for devolution in the field of education and the improved commission that Rabbani has talked about.

The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email : katanvir@









PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari has, this time, come out with a definitive statement about nature of the conflict in the neighbouring Afghanistan and its implications for Pakistan both in short and long term. In an interview to a British newspaper, he pointed out that the war in Afghanistan is destabilising Pakistan and seriously undermining efforts to restore democratic institutions and economic prosperity.

There is no doubt that this war was thrust upon Pakistan not by the incumbent but the previous regime but three years was long enough period for the present Government to move towards disengagement from this catastrophic conflict if it really wanted to. Had the rulers been visionary and innovative, they would have found some way out of the trouble. What the worthy President has said is known to every Pakistani but the most relevant and important question would be what the Government has done or plans to do to extricate the country out of this messy situation. The President has also lamented over slow pace of efforts to end the Afghan conflict and limited understanding of US politicians of the impact of the American policies and his observation was vindicated by latest policy statement of US envoy Cameron Munter who told audience at the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISS) on Monday that the US has no intention of vacating its aggression in Afghanistan even in 2014 when the withdrawal is supposed to be completed. This shows that Americans have long term plans in Afghanistan and we will have to adjust our policies accordingly to safeguard our own national interests. We believe that problems for Pakistan can be mitigated to a great extent if two-way infiltration is stopped by Pakistani forces on this side and NATO and American troops on the other side of the Durand Line. Karzai as well as Americans showed lack of interest in the oft-repeated Pakistani proposal for fencing or mining of the border but the idea has the potential to address concerns of the two sides in an effective manner and therefore, should be given serious consideration. Similarly, Pakistan has been complaining about colossal economic losses but so far it has not been able to present its case before the international community especially the so-called allies in Afghanistan about the need for appropriate compensation without which the country would not be able to sustain the war for long. There is also need to initiate the process of much-talked-about dialogue, as focus on use of force is exacerbating the situation further with the passage of each day.







RENOWNED nuclear scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand, who is associated with the task of exploiting the world's second largest coal reserves at Thar in Sindh, has again talked about huge potential of these deposits to resolve the energy crisis. Addressing a ceremony in Islamabad on Monday, he asserted that exploitation of just one percent of reserves would generate ten thousand megawatts of electricity.

We have been hearing such fanciful statements since long including the one that captivated minds of Pakistani people by depicting rosy picture of Thar deposits generating 50,000 MW of electricity for 500 years besides making the country surplus in diesel. The potential and prospects might be there but the question arises as to what we have so far done to translate this into reality. Dr. Mubarakmand himself has been assigned the responsibility of a pilot project for gasification of the coal that would serve as an incentive for investors to come and establish power plants but no one knows fate of the project despite different deadlines being given for its successful demonstration. Similarly, the ticklish issue of ownership of the deposits that marred progress has been resolved but Sindh Government, which is infamous for moving at snail's pace, has not so far finalized even a single project for installation of coal-based power plants despite the fact that a number of foreign countries and companies have shown keen interest for the purpose. All this reflects poorly on the ability of our experts and determination of our political and bureaucratic leadership to make expeditious use of an asset that can transform the lot of the country. People and even foreigners are right in asking as to why Pakistan, which is out every now and then with a begging bowl, is affording the luxury of sitting idly over vast coal reserves in Sindh and similarly huge gold and copper deposits in Balochistan.







SUDAN has accused Israel of carrying out an air strike that killed two people in a car near the city of Port Sudan on Tuesday. Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti said the attack was carried out by two Israeli Apache helicopters which unleashed a barrage of Hellfire missiles and machineguns fire.

The Sudanese Foreign Minister was right in accusing Israel for the attack because the US made helicopters were not owned by any country in the region except Israel. There has been no comment from Israel about the attack but observers believe Israel was definitely the attacker as it carried out similar raids in the past inside Sudanese territory. Israelis had the courage to attack a Turkish flotilla that was carrying relief goods for the Palestinians in Gaza in May, 2010. In 2009, the Sudanese authorities said a convoy of people smugglers was hit by Israeli aircraft in Sudan's eastern Red Sea State. The then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, appeared to give credence to the idea that Israel was involved in that attack by saying: "We operate everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure - in close places and in places further away." That statement showed that Israel was acting as a policeman in the Middle East and it hits target of its choice caring least for international laws. Israel had earlier attacked several other neighbouring countries in the Middle East and except for verbal protests there had been no practical retaliation from any country. That gave the Israeli leaders more courage to strike wherever they like. The latest attack in Sudan has come at a time when several countries of Middle East are facing a host of issues and the attack on Sudan has created a new situation which is a condemnable act. While one fully realizes that the Arab countries are deeply involved in their domestic issues, it is also the duty of the Arab League and the OIC to take serious notice of such incidents and raise the issue at the international level. Sudan has already suffered a lot for many years and now this open aggression should not be tolerated in any way.







The Capitol Hill has once again played 'hot and cold' with Pakistan by releasing a critical report questioning Islamabad's commitment to defeat terrorism amidst its stance of mending its tattering ties with Islamabad by extending invitations to Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and ISI chief Gen Shuja Pasha to visit Washington for dialogue. The US CENTCOM chief Gen James Mattis' trip to Islamabad was also obviously meant to intimidate Pakistan in order to 'keep it on track'.

The Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayan has, however, given the thumb down to the White House report by expressing 'satisfaction over the conduct of the stability operations in the Tribal Areas'. He also appreciated the 'beginning of transition to civil control' in some of the areas in Malakand Division. Understandably the COAS also conveyed Pakistan's reservations on the report during his meeting with Gen Mattis. Gen Kayani had also strongly reacted to the drone attack on a Jirga in Tribal areas recently saying that it's 'unacceptable' and called for forthwith stoppage of such missions on Pakistan territory.

The estrangement of ties between Pakistan and US is not a new phenomenon. Their relations have witnessed periodic swings from good to lukewarm to bad. It's, however, unfortunate that like Bush administration, the Obama administration that came with a promise of change has also sought to bully Pakistan to act on its dictates in the war against terror in its Tribal areas. Disgustingly the US is in the habit of seeking its objectives even at the cost of other countries' national interests. Pakistan too fell prey to the US manipulation when the former President, Gen Pervez Musharraf surrendered to the Bush doctrine of 'you are with us or with our enemy' and pushed Pakistan into war on terror in Afghanistan in utter disregard to the national interest. And Pakistan's achievements and sacrifices in the war are far more than the combined US-NATO forces fighting against Taliban and Al-Qaida within Afghanistan, yet it's being subjected to the mantra of 'do more' with no regard to its support to the war on terror. Historically, Washington has been passing the buck of its own failures and follies in Afghanistan on to Pakistan on one pretext or the other.

The latest report claiming that Pakistan has no clear path to fight terrorism is also part of the same old saga. The army chief's satisfaction over the military operations in areas of Malakand division and South Waziristan Agency as well as the process of transition to civilian control in Shangla and Buner in Swat is obviously the right way to repudiate the US unjust and uncalled for assertion. Pakistan has made it clear time and again that the decision to launch any military operations will be exclusively its own in keeping with its national interests. Besides, the timing of more military operation will be of its own choice.

Pakistan obviously does not share the US assessment about Pakistan's commitment to the anti-terror war as made in the impugned White House report. As a matter of fact, President Obama is desperate to have some face saving to support his bid for the second term in the white house and it wants Pakistan to help him achieve it in Afghanistan even at the cost of its own national security. The White House report is, therefore, an attempt to blackmail Islamabad to fall in line with Washington's plans. Pakistan does have its own plans to fight terrorism, but it's certainly not based on US motives in the region. Foreign Office spokesperson has said: 'The references to Pakistan (in the report) are unwarranted as it does not subscribe to the notion of Af-Pak that has been abundantly made clear to the US on a number of occasions'. Pakistan has its own assessment of the strength and weakness of the strategy and approach being followed by US-ISAF viz-a-viz counter terrorism and on issues of peace and security in Afghanistan. 'Pakistan has a clear strategy in dealing with this and other issues and solely guided by its own national interests' the spokesperson said. The US claim is also repudiated by the fact that Pakistan has deployed about 150,000 troops along the Pak-Afghan border and the number is more than the combined US-NATO troops in Afghanistan. Washington's demand to do more is, in fact, a conspiracy against Pakistan since by doing so, it will have to weaken its position on the eastern border with hostile neighbor. Isn't it an irony that the US doesn't bother to reduce India-Pakistan tension by making New Delhi resolve the core outstanding issues of Kashmir and Water, yet it has the audacity to pressurize Islamabad to follow its 'dictates' in the war against terror even at the cost of its own security. On the contrary, it is supporting India right and left to the peril of Pakistan. Washington must, however, understand that Pakistan cannot close its eyes to the objective conditions prevailing in the region. It must, however, have no illusion that New Delhi shall never pursue its strategy in the region to the detriment of its own national interests.

A cursory look at the situation in Afghanistan presents a pathetic scenario. Several of its coalition partners are disillusioned because of its lack of direction in the war on terror. Isn't it glaring failure of the US-NATO forces that they have not succeeded in restoring peace in Afghanistan even after a decade of anti terror war. Except a small strip near the Bagram airport in Kabul, there is hardly any area in the country that is under the Afghan government's control. Either Taliban/al-Qaida fighters are controlling the Afghan cities and towns or warlords are reigning supreme there. The people of Afghanistan have remained at the receiving end for over quarter of a century with bombings, gunfire and warplanes' strafing and are enduring death and destruction. The US has brought misery to the people of Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai is also also on record having sought withdrawal of US troops from his country due to its failure to bring sanity to the situation even after a decade of its occupation.








Under the guise of reviewing preparedness for any possible terrorist attack, another anti-Islam and anti-Muslim hearing was held by the New York State Senate on Friday, April 8, 2011. Like a similar Muslim-bashing hearing by the Republican congressman Peter King last month, the New York hearing drew sharp rebuke by Democrats. In a letter addressed to Republican lawmaker Greg Ball, who called the controversial hearing, 11 Democrats said that the hearing is designed to "isolate and villify Muslims."

Ball was blasted by the Democrats for inviting two nationally known critic of Islam - Nonie Darwish and Frank Gaffney - to the hearing. "The actions and words of some of the witnesses invited by you seek only to inflame hysteria and place an entire faith under suspicion," Brooklyn Sen. Kevin Parker said in a letter about the hearing, which Ball calls "Reviewing our Preparedness: An Examination of New York's Public Protection Ten Years After September 11." Parker, who said he represents the largest Muslim Pakistani community outside of Pakistan, added, "When you look at his line-up this looks more like a Peter King attack on Islam than it is a valid investigation of New York's ability to protect itself from a terrorist attack."

"They are not people who are experts in security," said Senator Kevin Parker. "They are folks who have developed their name by spending their time criticizing and attacking Islam, which is not where we think we ought to be as a legislature." Nonie Darwish, who was born in Egypt and converted to Christianity after immigrating to the U.S., has written books assailing Islam as oppressive to women, intolerant and diametrically opposed to American views about individual liberty. Frank Gaffney was a witness for the plaintiffs in a controversial lawsuit against the construction of the Tennessee mosque. Gaffney has promoted the false belief that President Obama is a Muslim. "This hearing will provide a venue to unqualified individuals who profit from maligning Muslims," reads the letter signed by 11 senators, including Bill Perkins, Liz Krueger and Velmanette Montgomery. "The Senate should not lend voice or credibility to those who advocate intolerance, hate, and promote bigotry," the letter states. The letter also calls for an investigation of hate crimes and discrimination against Muslims as well as those from the Arab, Sikh and South Asian communities.

A coalition of civil rights and interfaith groups challenged the anti-Islam bias of Nonie Darwish and Frank Gaffney, two of the nation's leading Islamophobes. CAIR-NY Civil Rights Manager Cyrus McGoldrick appeared on a panel with Linda Sarsour, advocacy and civic engagement coordinator for the National Network for Arab American Communities. Sarsour, a Brooklyn native, said there were hundreds of thousands of peace-loving, law-abiding Muslims in the city. She said giving a public platform to people who wished to assail the religion in the name of national security just added to "a new era of increasing xenophobia." "We are part of the solution," she said of her fellow Arab-American New Yorkers.

"CAIR believes that political correctness has no place in discussions of security. We also believe that facts, not fear-mongering or false allegations, are the foundation of a sober and objective review of public protection. Finally, we believe that founding principles such as liberty and pluralism need not be escorted to the back of our national bus as we achieve our goal of defeating violent extremism," McGoldrick said adding: "Issues negatively impacting American Muslim civil liberties include bigoted opposition to the building and expansion of American mosques, the use of Muslim-bashers as law enforcement trainers, violent extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda, and the introduction of anti-Islam legislation in state legislatures nationwide."

McGoldrick's testimony also examined the role of American Muslim individuals and institutions in preventing violent extremism, outlined CAIR's work in helping to undermine violent extremist narratives, detailed the major issues impacting the civil liberties of American Muslims, and offered recommendations such as funding Muslim community organizations' programs that protect youth from violent extremist influences.

Nonie Darwish argued that Islam is a threat to the U.S. She said that schools and mosques throughout the Arab world commonly teach children to embrace violence as a way of dealing with nonbelievers and that women are brutally punished for perceived sexual crimes. "You're supposed to hate America," she said. "You're supposed to hate Western culture." That brought an angry response from Sen. Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat. "It wasn't the Quran that brought down our buildings," he told Darwish. "You are bringing hate and poison into a diverse country." Addressing Ball, the committee chairman, he demanded to know "why are we allowing her to bring this poison into a hearing" dealing with the state's preparations for a possible terror attack. That didn't quite end the argument. Darwish, continuing her argument that her former religion was a sinister ideology, went on to complain that Islam allowed men to have women as slaves for sexual purposes. "Are you aware of the number of Muslim cops who are protecting the city?" said Adams, who was a police officer for two decades before becoming a legislator.

Darwish, a self-styled "former Moslem" has written that "Islam is cruel, anti-women, anti-religious freedom and anti-personal freedom in general." A review of her book, "Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law," states: "For Darwish, Islam is a sinister force that must be resisted and contained." She told the New York Times: "A mosque is not just a place for worship. It's a place where war is started, where commandments to do jihad start, where incitements against non-Muslims occur. It's a place where ammunition was stored." Darwish's group, Former Muslims United, once put up a billboard stating "Stop the Murfreesboro Mosque" in an attempt to block the construction of a mosque in Tennessee.

On its now password-protected website, SANE offered a policy proposal that would make "adherence to Islam" punishable by 20 years in prison, called for the immediate deportation of all non-citizen Muslims and urged Congress to declare war on the "Muslim Nation," which SANE defined as "all Muslims." The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recently noted that Yerushalmi has "a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry." New York Lower Hudson Valley Journal News has denounced the anti-Islam witnesses at the New York State Senate hearing. In an editorial titled, "Greg Ball's 'security' role? Helping spread intolerance," the paper said under the guise of exploring the serious issues of emergency preparedness and public protection, Sen. Greg Ball has invited a pair of virulent, high-profile and unabashedly anti-Islam critics to testify in hearings Friday in Manhattan. The odds of either Nonie Darwish or Frank Gaffney, Ball's firebrand invitees, informing or improving our safety and security are absolutely nil. Here under is the text of editorial: "One reality of religious bigotry and intolerance is that those who spread it, or aid and abet in its dissemination, very often aren't the ones who have to answer for it. "For instance, a deranged Florida preacher burned a Quran last month in Gainesville, and more than a score of innocent people in Afghanistan have lost their lives, victims of Taliban-exploited anger and extremism. The dead have included U.N. workers in tinderbox regions who sought to preserve human life and dignity. They needed Pastor Terry Jones' help like a kick in the teeth. "We hope the same isn't said later of state Sen. Greg Ball, R-Carmel, who heads the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security & Military Affairs Committee, a key assignment in a state that knows all too well the derivative costs of intolerance and religious extremism — and should also know of the need for more understanding, smarter heads and less vitriol. "Under the guise of exploring the serious issues of emergency preparedness and public protection, Ball has invited a pair of virulent, high-profile and unabashedly anti-Islam critics to testify in hearings Friday in Manhattan. The odds of either Nonie Darwish or Frank Gaffney, Ball's firebrand invitees, informing or improving our safety and security are absolutely nil.

"No doubt it was just such comments that state Sen. Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn, had in mind when he wrote in a Tuesday letter to Ball: "The actions and words of some of the witnesses invited by you seek only to inflame hysteria and place an entire faith under suspicion." Eleven Democrats signed the letter; it should have been a bipartisan condemnation. "Gaffney is no less incendiary than Darwish. He alleged in a 2009 TV interview that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center — all theories the Daily Kos blog properly noted under the label "Wingnuttery." He was recently profiled in a series by The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville about "Anti-Muslim crusaders (who) make millions spreading fear."

"This is the kind of hairbrained thinking and pseudo expertise that Ball, the newly minted committee chairman, has lined up to help advance the causes of safety and security in New York, which actually is under constant threat of terrorist attack, according to real experts. So far, Ball and his dim helpers offer little help."

—The writer is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective.









The Prime Minister of India, the good Dr. Manmohan Singh, has been reported to have said that he was desirous of permanent peace between India and Pakistan. A laudable sentiment if ever there was one. Who in his right mind would not be in favour of peace? But then peace, though a consummation devoutly to be longed for, is not there for the asking. For one thing, hankering after 'peace' while putting the contentious issues on the backburner amounts to putting the cart before the horse, to use the well-worn cliché. The objective of good health cannot be achieved by merely suppressing the symptoms of the disease. The disease needs to be tackled at the source, if need be through extensive surgery. Resorting to mere cosmetic measures just because they "look good" is neither here nor there.

Peace is an ideal well-worth striving for. Just because a majority of the people of both countries desire peace and friendly relations, it should not be presumed that they would plump for any peace. To be meaningful and lasting, peace has to be equitable. If it does not aim for peace with honour, then no project will be worth the paper it is written on. Not all that long ago, the two governments believed that quest for peace lay down the CBM road. Can anyone honestly believe that the countless CBMs, strewn all over the bilateral field, have brought the goal of peace any closer? Having said that, it may be worthwhile to perhaps take a stab at evaluating the impact of some of the CBMs in place, beginning with those relating to facilitating "people-to-people contact". So much fuss had been made about the need of 'people-to-people contact' that it appeared that it would turn out to be a panacea for all bilateral ills. Several 'intellectuals', who aught to know better, had over the years continued to press for people to people contact as the end all be all of all bilateral efforts between the two countries. Some had even gone to the extent of claiming that once "people-to-people contact" became a reality all other issues (Jammu & Kashmir included) would automatically lend themselves to amicable settlement. It is for this reason that one feels the need to assess its impact, if any.

It must be recognized that most of the enthusiasm for contact so far has emanated mainly from the side of Pakistanis. The visits from India (apart from those of members of divided families that owe little to the CBMs) have been few and far between. Leaving aside the few inspired visits by selected members of the showbiz family and jet-set crowd (those too on express invitations from the Pakistan side), one has yet to witness any great enthusiasm from Indians in general to join the people-to-people contact race. One would have thought that Indian visitors of all shades of opinion would be queuing up to visit Pakistan in droves. Had this happened, the expected objective could perhaps have been achieved to some extent! But nothing of the kind appears to have materialized. Apart from those few who responded to personal invitations from Pakistani friends, few Indian visitors appeared keen to take advantage of the somewhat relaxed visa regime.

Now, let us have a look at the other side of the coin. Pakistanis literally went overboard at the opportunity that this afforded. Individual visitors apart, innumerable group tours - including several of ladies' social clubs - paid visits to India. Some of these ladies' groups came back from their yatras so satisfied that gossip has it that they not only got their friends interested but also planned several sequels for themselves.

If anything, the CBMs in question appear to have done a lot of good to the Indian tourism industry. Whether or not this will have any salutary effect on efforts aimed at the settlement of the contentious issues between the two countries remains a moot point, though. Looking at the overall picture, it would appear that most CBMs that the two countries had gone in for with so much gusto are hardly living up to their promise. In fact, one sees little or no indication of the contentious bilateral issues coming near to a settlement. It does make one think seriously whether the path strewn by CBMs that the two sides had opted to traverse was really the right choice. All they appear to have succeeded in doing, so far, is to provide grist for the mills of those cynics who delight in saying "we told you so". Is it not time for the leaderships of the two countries to face the facts of life? They have to decide either to seriously tackle the outstanding issues in a businesslike fashion or alternately to adopt some other strategy to achieve the goal. Merely to keep on repeating that settlement of long-standing issues will take time is neither here nor there. Let it be said, all issues are amenable to prompt, equitable and lasting settlement; all that is needed is political will. And political will, need one add, is hardly dependant on any CBM, however lustrous it may appear at the end of the rainbow. One should not lose hope, though. It is time for the establishments of the two countries to count their blessings and to move on to more viable options. At the same time, it is imperative to keep in mind that time is of the essence.

After all, for how long will problems be swept under the proverbial rug? And how long can a people afford to keep festering issues on the backburner? This region has been suffering from self-inflicted lacerations for several decades. Must this incongruous situation be allowed to continue indefinitely? The peoples of South Asia can ill afford to miss the bus once again. It is time for the leaderships of both India and Pakistan to get accustomed to the reality that the two countries are destined to live as neighbours for all times to come. If they opt to live as good neighbours, it would be to the benefit of both peoples. Continuation of tension never did any region any good. All tension does is sap the resources and divert attention from working for the well being of the common folk. It is still not too late to make amends. It is time for good people on both sides to give this a thought.







In the absolutely incomprehensible muddle that Pakistan has become in the inadequate hands of a farcical democratic regime, the Raymond Davis case has further added a flavor of being a completely out-of-the-hand situation as pressure, albeit on the diplomatic level is increasing with the visit of every American representative. The ten point agenda presented to the government so enthusiastically by Nawaz Sharif has become instrumental in a separation between the two major political parties, thus relieving the Zardari led government from the support that had served as an adhesive to ensure minimal systemic functioning in the name of democracy. Now whether Zardari let go of this unrelenting pillar of strength knowingly or unknowingly is something that he knows best.

But the end point of this departure is taking its toll as the support of other significant parties becomes scarce to mirror the public perception of the current governing mechanism that they have had about enough of. The continued indifference and greed defines almost every Member of Parliament notorious for illegal wealth accumulation and tax evasion and having the audacity of flagrantly deceiving public through a web of unbelievable excuses on talk shows. Now with the PML-N conveniently out of the coalition framework and the Maulana already estranged due to long standing inter party conflicts that budged under the hefty weight of the Haj scam the government can hardly stand under the hefty self inflicted burden of corruption, nepotism and lack of governing skills.

Now coming towards the Mutahida, one cannot be too sure of the stance they adopt under the prevalent trend of breakups and patch-ups, as the MQM leader Altaf Hussain has been found paradoxically either issuing invitations to patriotic generals for taking over the reins of the country or imposing allegations upon them for being instrumental in damaging democracy in Pakistan. Now whether he has the uncanny ability to perceive the future course the State is to experience or spell the political game plans with closed eyes is something that we shall know of sometime in the future surely. Another interpretation could also explain his ramblings as mere threats to undermine and undercut the bare functioning of the current regime. So, this means that the government has been left in the lurch- a fact that they are absolutely responsible for- completely raw and vulnerable as two very significant members were slain by extremists, thus exposing the dysfunctionality for the entire world to view.

Apparently, the monster of extremists among the masses is more of a creation of endless indifference and deprivation by the elected representative rather than the dictators as people who had expected a phenomenal change of attitude and posture towards the public in a democratic takeover are utterly betrayed. The impetus of this betrayed lot is now translating all their frustration and pent up annoyance according to the only ideological framework they are familiar with provided by the famous political Islamist Zia, the application of which can be viewed through the warped sense of understanding they have for adopting radicalized view points. The Frankenstein that had hitherto served to maintain power monopoly and keep dominations of certain entities intact has eventually taken hold of its inventor for whom it may be the time to payback. This mindset may be denounced but the stark reality of its encroachment and profound embedding in the societal constitution remains.

It seems that invitations are the order of the day as Punjab Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif's call for inviting representatives of both the armed forces and the judiciary at a proposed All Parties Conference is being seen largely as another controversial statement. The apparent rationale behind such a call, however, is quite well argued by the PML-N as it declares the engagement of the army and judiciary as completely constitution based as both fundamentally are forces that the masses have invested their trust on as major stakeholders in the Pakistani political landscape. A fact that surely cannot be denied. The Punjab Chief minister certainly has a valid point there when interpreted in the backdrop of the chaotic situation of lawlessness that prevails without any proposition of change from the government. The statement "to prepare a broad based national agenda to steer the country out of crisis" has an appeal to it and is surely called for at this point.

Infact, the representatives of the media ought to be taken on board as well since its role has been largely instrumental in various significant and promising changes in the country and the public psyche. A gradual trust upon the media has made it another major stakeholder that needs to be taken on board for the collective communal betterment for presenting and proposing a framework for an immediate crisis resolution. This call, therefore should not be dismissed just as a mere aberration, but ought to be taken as at face value with absolute seriousness by the government.







More than once during the Civil War, newspapers reported a strange phenomenon. From only a few miles away, a battle sometimes made no sound — despite the flash and smoke of cannon and the fact that more distant observers could hear it clearly.These eerie silences were called "acoustic shadows." Tuesday, the 150th anniversary of the first engagement of the Civil War, the Confederacy's attack on Fort Sumter, we ask again whether in our supposedly post-racial, globalized, 21st-century world those now seemingly distant battles of the mid-19th century still have any relevance. But it is clear that the further we get from those four horrible years in our national existence — when, paradoxically, in order to become one we tore ourselves in two — the more central and defining that war becomes.

In our less civil society of this moment we are reminded of the full consequences of our failure to compromise in that moment. In our smug insistence that race is no longer a factor in our society, we are continually brought up short by the old code words and disguised prejudice of a tribalism beneath the thin surface of our "civilized" selves. And in our dialectically preoccupied media culture, where everything is pigeonholed into categories — red state/blue state, black/white, North/South, young/old, gay/straight — we are confronted again with more nuanced realities and the complicated leadership of that hero of all American heroes, Abraham Lincoln. He was at once an infuriatingly pragmatic politician, tardy on the issue of slavery, and at the same time a transcendent figure — poetic, resonant, appealing to better angels we 21st-century Americans still find painfully hard to invoke.

The acoustic shadows of the Civil War remind us that the more it recedes, the more important it becomes. Its lessons are as fresh today as they were for those young men who were simply trying to survive its daily horrors. And horrors there were: 620,000 Americans, more than 2 percent of our population, died of gunshot and disease, starvation and massacre in places like Shiloh and Antietam and Cold Harbor, Fort Pillow and Fort Wagner and Palmito Ranch, Andersonville and Chickamauga and Ford's Theater.

Yet in the years immediately after the South's surrender at Appomattox we conspired to cloak the Civil War in bloodless, gallant myth, obscuring its causes and its great ennobling outcome — the survival of the union and the freeing of four million Americans and their descendants from bondage. We struggled, in our addiction to the idea of American exceptionalism, to rewrite our history to emphasize the gallantry of the war's top-down heroes, while ignoring the equally important bottom-up stories of privates and slaves. We changed the irredeemable, as the historian David Blight argues, into positive, inspiring stories. The result has been to blur the reality that slavery was at the heart of the matter, ignore the baser realities of the brutal fighting, romanticize our own home-grown terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan, and distort the consequences of the Civil War that still intrude on our national life.

The centennial of the Civil War in 1961 was for many of us a wholly unsatisfying experience. It preferred, as the nation reluctantly embraced a new, long-deferred civil rights movement, to excavate only the dry dates and facts and events of that past; we were drawn back then, it seemed, more to regiments and battle flags, Minié balls and Gatling guns, sentimentality and nostalgia and mythology, than to anything that suggested the harsh realities of the real war. Subsequently, our hunger for something more substantial materialized in James McPherson's remarkable "Battle Cry of Freedom" and many other superb histories, in the popular Hollywood movie "Glory," and in my brother Ric's and my 1990 documentary series "The Civil War."It was an emotional archaeology we were all after, less concerned with troop movements than with trying to represent the full fury of that war; we were attracted to its psychological disturbances and conflicted personalities, its persistent dissonance as well as its inspirational moments. We wanted to tell a more accurate story of African-Americans, not as the passive bystanders of conventional wisdom, but as active soldiers in an intensely personal drama of self-liberation. We wished to tell bottom-up stories of so-called ordinary soldiers, North as well as South, to note women's changing roles, to understand the Radical Republicans in Congress, to revel in the inconvenient truths of nearly every aspect of the Civil War.

Today, the war's centrality in American history seems both assured and tenuous. Each generation, the social critic Lewis Mumford once said, re-examines and re-interprets that part of the past that gives the present new meanings and new possibilities. That also means that for a time an event, any event, even one as perpetually important as the Civil War, can face the specter being out of historical fashion. But in the end, it seems that the War of the Rebellion, the formal name our government once gave to the struggle, always invades our consciousness like the childhood traumatic event it was — and still is. Maybe Walt Whitman, the poet and sometime journalist who had worked as a nurse in the appalling Union hospitals, understood and saw it best. "Future years," he said, "will never know the seething hell, the black infernal background of the countless minor scenes and interiors … of the Secession War, and it is best they should not.—NY Times








THE bloody actions of the winner must be closely scrutinised.

Not a moment too soon, and only because of French intervention, the defeated Ivory Coast presidential candidate Laurent Gbagbo has been winkled out of his palace in Abidjan, clearing the way for the victor in last November's election, Alassane Ouattara, to be sworn in.

What should have happened five months ago has finally been achieved. With 10 elections due in countries across Africa, including Nigeria, we can only hope the lesson of Mr Gbagbo's fate will not be lost on other leaders. His intransigence in refusing to accept the UN-authorised outcome, in which he lost 54-46 to Mr Ouattara, has caused devastation that has reduced what was for many years under the late president Felix Houphouet-Boigny one of Africa's rare success stories.

These days, Ivory Coast, the world's leading cocoa producer, is pitifully being compared to Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Ethnic conflict between forces loyal to Mr Gbagbo, whose traditional powerbase is in the Christian and animist south, and Mr Ouattara's Muslim, northern-based forces, has reduced the nation to a train wreck. The accounts of merciless killing, of the summary execution of political opponents and of indiscriminate rape are horrifying. Importantly, these appalling human rights abuses are blamed by groups such as Human Rights Watch as much on Ouattara loyalists as on Gbagbo thugs. The challenge to the UN and the international community -- especially France -- is to ensure there is an end to the killing and a start to achieving political reconciliation. This will not be easy. France itself is an issue because of its role in seizing Mr Gbagbo and its support for Mr Ouattara. Post-colonial Africa remains sensitive to intervention by former colonial powers. Central to the process of reconciliation is dealing with Mr Gbagbo, a Sorbonne-educated history professor. He is earmarked for investigation over alleged war crimes. This is a process that is essential if blame for the bloodshed is to be properly apportioned.

So, too, however, is it essential that the actions of Mr Ouattara's forces are closely scrutinised. They are accused of some of the worst abuses, including the massacre of 1000 civilians at Duekoue.

Until those responsible for such outrages -- on both sides -- are brought to book, it is hard to see how the President will be able to achieve the reconciliation that the suffering people of Ivory Coast deserve.






Just two days into Queensland's flood commission of inquiry, it is already obvious that the state's Water Utilities Minister, Stephen Robertson, and the managers of southeast Queensland's Wivenhoe Dam have failed to address the hard questions about the summer floods that inundated Brisbane and surrounding areas. It defies common sense that dam levels were allowed to rise to "190 per cent capacity" on January 11, when it was clear that forecasts of a wet La Nina summer were accurate. The dam, completed in 1985, was built to even out the flow of river water to prevent a recurrence of the 1974 floods that put about a quarter of Brisbane under water. It also has a second purpose: to store water for the city when rainfall is low. After a protracted drought in southeast Queensland during which dam levels fell to a perilous 16 per cent, authorities were reluctant to release water too early.

But why dam managers put their faith in flood models that took no account of rainfall as Brisbane was deluged, and why Mr Robertson did not do more to ensure dam levels were reduced earlier, remain unanswered, despite several hours of robust cross-examination by counsel Peter Callaghan SC. Nor does it make sense that Mr Robertson shelved a proposal to increase the flood-storage capacity of Wivenhoe four months before the floods on the grounds that a 5 per cent change would be "meaningless".

Yesterday, senior staff from SEQWater insisted that even a 25 per cent increase in the flood buffer would not have saved householders from ruin because of the sheer volume of rainfall from January 6 onwards. Such arguments, however, merely underline the fact that in hindsight, major releases should have been made weeks or even months earlier. Why this was not the case and who was responsible is one of the most important issues that must be uncovered by the inquiry. Not only must those individuals be held accountable but processes need to be put in place to prevent such mistakes being repeated.

After promising that the inquiry would leave no stone unturned, Premier Anna Bligh acted properly yesterday when she released documents to the inquiry that were previously held under parliamentary privilege. The material will help the public understand what went wrong.






Means testing rebates to middle-class families might be a tempting option to help get the Treasurer out of a financial hole, but it will never pass the test of genuine budgetary reform. Yesterday, Mr Swan confirmed the government would continue with its plan to means test the private health insurance rebate and refused to rule in or out means testing the childcare rebate. Yet, even if the government moves on this, it hardly qualifies as serious spending restraint given the billions allocated to flawed projects such as the Building the Education Revolution and the National Broadband Network. Nor can a reduction of benefits to households earning more than $150,000 be passed off as deep structural reform to the budget.

Middle-class welfare is a burden on the Australian economy, locking in recurrent expenditure into the distant future. Former prime minister John Howard was good at talking tough on welfare while presiding over a wasteful tax-welfare churn that did nothing to increase productivity. It is reasonable to apply some rigorous income-assessment to benefits given to families. But true reform would involve tackling the tax side of the equation, a much more challenging task that Mr Swan appears reluctant to embrace. Last year, the government shelved most of the tax reforms in the Henry report, choosing to embrace a single measure -- the mining tax -- in a poorly conceived form that risked slowing the economy. Thirty years ago, a Labor predecessor, Paul Keating, addressed welfare while also cutting income and company tax. His was a serious attempt to improve incentives and make the economy more competitive. Today, rather than cutting marginal tax rates Labor is introducing a mining tax, a carbon tax and a flood levy, while cutting company tax by just 1 per cent.

Former Treasurer Peter Costello noted the problem in a recent speech when he argued the government was doing nothing to increase productivity or bank the proceeds of the mining boom. He showed how productivity peaked in the early 2000s and is now falling -- a problem the Rudd government acknowledged, but one Labor has failed to address. Mr Costello's era, as we have noted, had its shortcomings. He was unable to deter his prime minister from using benefits to satisfy key sectors of the electorate rather than as assistance to those in genuine need, but to his credit he always maintained a more rigorous approach to welfare than Mr Howard. Mr Costello's first budget in 1996 was as tough as any, making the hard decisions. But as he says, "all the debt we have paid off is back again".

The debate over middle-class welfare lets Mr Swan off the hook on real changes he should be making. He claims spending restraint based on meeting a cap of 2 per cent in real terms in spending, yet it is hard to argue that a budget that grows by around 6 per cent in nominal or money terms can be regarded as a tight budget. This is Labor's contradiction: it advocates fiscal responsibility yet pursues expensive projects such as school building and broadband while doing nothing to cut effective marginal tax rates. It shaves spending while failing to address the structural deficit in the budget. Saving money is no bad thing, but it's only half the story of economic management.







AS ANOTHER Anzac Day approaches, the values it enshrines - mateship in particular - have been brought sharply into question by recent events. The Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, is clearly determined to use incidents at the Australian Defence Force Academy and on HMAS Success to reform attitudes to women in the forces, including opposition to women serving in frontline combat roles. He is meeting concerted resistance.

Neil James of the Australian Defence Association has put part of the case against women on the front line. ''The nature of war doesn't change just because some feminists kick up a fuss,'' he said yesterday. ''If you put women in some jobs where you directly fight men … then we are likely to suffer more female casualties than male casualties.'' That is possible - though modern weapons do much to even the balance between a male and a female soldier. Certainly casualties and deaths among women personnel would be likely. That is the frontline soldier's (and sailor's, and airwoman's) lot.

But the objection to women serving on the front line runs deeper than deaths in action. Brigadier Jim Wallace set out the case on ABC radio yesterday. ''Armies throughout the world that fight best come from a culture which has a strongly ingrained male bonding in the culture … You can read it right throughout Australian military history, that the reason Australian troops have fought so well is because of the strength of mateship in our culture, carried into our army.'' Mateship is fundamental to morale, and morale is fundamental to winning battles. Crucial to this argument, though, is the claim that mateship is exclusive to males.

In the past, certainly, mateship implicitly excluded identifiable groups - non-whites, overt homosexuals and women among them - from the inner circle of mates. Misogyny can run deep in groups where male mateship seems strongest - as some footballers' recent behaviour has shown. Some in the military establishment clearly fear putting women into a fighting unit will divide that unit into the mates and the women. But why could mateship not include women? Civilian workplaces made the transition long ago - at times in the face of concerted male resistance. The culture of mateship in many workplaces has duly expanded to include women. Certainly it requires adjustment of some traditional male - and female - attitudes. But it can happen.

Some have tried to explain the misbehaviour at the Australian Defence Force Academy as reflecting attitudes in wider society. Whether true or not, a reflection of modern attitudes to women is overdue in the armed forces.






ALEXANDER DOWNER has accused the government - chiefly because of the global preoccupations of his current successor as Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd - of ''leaving its home garden unattended''. By that he means it is neglecting its neighbourhoods in Asia and the South Pacific, regions where it has had some influence and a level of local knowledge respected in Europe and in North America.

He particularly takes a shot at Rudd for his high-profile urging of intervention in Libya, pointing out that the countries that counted were the ones that were going to provide the armed force for the job. He suggests this distracted us from the calamity of the tsunami in Japan, when we should have been a ''champion'' for Japan. He sees low interest in Indonesia, contrasting with the Howard government's various agreements and projects, and criticises the government for being too soft towards Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, and that country's corruption problems.

It could be pointed out that Downer was foreign minister in a government that came to power in 1996, swinging attention back from Asia to traditional friends in the anglophone world, and that that government applied the squeeze on Australia's diplomatic resources that continues under Labor. But his comments, in an essay for Melbourne University's Asialink institute, are clearly meant to be constructive, and identify Downer himself as being in Australia's foreign policy mainstream.

Our diplomats indeed should be digging deep in south-east Asia, the region of middle-sized countries whose friendship is critical to our interests and which are coming under growing pressure from China. They need the staff with language skills. Indonesia is far from being ignored, but Julia Gillard's idea of a refugee centre in East Timor is a silly one, and neither she nor her predecessors have had any answer to the decline in Indonesian-language studies in our schools.

As for Japan, Downer does not suggest what could have been done to ''champion'' it during the disaster. Canberra provided immediate rescue aid. The last thing Tokyo needed was foreign leaders turning up.

The South Pacific is indeed a conundrum. Fiji's coup leader is moving to elections at his own pace and under his own terms, and subverting the hardline diplomatic approach of Canberra and Wellington. Somare presides over a corrupt government sliding down the Transparency International chart. But Downer's ''more aggressive'' approach resulted in the Australian police officers provided to clean up crime and corruption being sent home. But the point about the pre-eminence of the ''home garden'' is well made.






THERE is an uneasy sense of deja vu concerning moral misconduct at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. In fact, the recent cadet sex affair posted on Skype, which has led to Defence Minister Stephen Smith's instigation of multiple inquiries on the treatment of women in the military, is certainly not an isolated incident. Rather, it is the latest in a long line of similar demeaning occurrences at the academy stretching back years.

For example, in June 1998 a damning review of sexual harassment and related offences at the ADFA concluded that victims had been denied adequate protection or justice, and recommended a ''zero tolerance'' policy. The then defence force chief, General John Baker, announced ''significant change'', but said it would take ''two to three years'' to change the dominant culture at the academy.

In the event, over nearly 13 years of more incidents and subsequent inquiries and assurances, that culture remains embedded in the bedrock of not only the military's training ground, but through the Australian Defence Force. As The Age said last week, the 8000 women in the ADF are entitled to the same respect as the men, and there is no place for gross misconduct and disregard for the rules. As it is, the number of female members of the ADF since 1998 has increased by a mere 1 percentage point (from 12.8 per cent to 13.8 per cent), in spite of the force's best intentions to recruit more women to its ranks. But, for as long as the ADF retains its ''boys' club'' culture, this is likely to persist. Changing the culture is the only way to create a level battlefield.

It must be said that Stephen Smith has certainly seized the chance to turn a crisis into an opportunity. On Monday, the minister announced five inquiries: two to investigate the management of the Skype incident and its aftermath; another into the management of complaints and treatment of victims; a review into binge drinking and use of social media; and an inquiry by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick into the treatment of women and their role as leaders in the academy and defence force. Pragmatically, Ms Broderick has said she agreed to lead the review ''on the express understanding that the findings will be taken seriously and the recommendations acted upon''.

Whatever their respective findings or recommendations, all these inquiries are important for reasons not only of gender equality but of public perception and the ADF's ability to recruit talented people. As the minister said, when asked if he is capable of changing the mindset that Defence is considered a law unto itself, ''… that … can no longer be the case in and for Australia''.

In a separate, more contentious, plan, Mr Smith said the government will move as soon as possible to enable women to take on roles in the military from which they are presently barred, including infantry, artillery, engineering and special operations forces. While Defence Chief Angus Houston rightly says 93 per cent of positions in the forces are currently open to women, it is that extra 7 per cent that will make all the difference between partial and full involvement - and, by confirming them as equals, possibly attract more women to serve. Although the government has yet to determine when the front line will be an equal-opportunity zone, we hope it will be sooner rather than later: after all, women are permitted to fill active combat roles in such countries as New Zealand, Canada, Israel and Germany. In the United States, a military advisory commission has recommended abolishing the policy that bans women from serving in combat units.

In Australia, women have long excelled in corporations, academia, science and culture; it is time the armed forces fell into line.





HERE we go again. Another massive advertising campaign has been launched against government policy. The $20 million campaign by Clubs Australia and the Australian Hotels Association aims to force the government to drop plans to require poker machine players to set limits on their losses. Last year's $22 million advertising blitz against the mining tax led to Julia Gillard replacing Kevin Rudd as prime minister and concessions that will cost the Commonwealth about $60 billion over 10 years. Regardless of the arguments in each case, it is of concern that public policy can be decided by advertising that, being political in nature, is not legally required to be factually accurate.

The latest campaign has been described as premature by the government and dishonest by independent MP Andrew Wilkie, whose support for the minority government hinges on the gaming law changes. Yet it isn't just this government that finds itself on the receiving end of hostile advertising. The Howard government faced a devastating $30 million union campaign against WorkChoices, using ads that sometimes strayed from the truth.

Of course, success is not guaranteed; the retail industry's call for GST to be imposed on all online purchases backfired. The key point is that advertisements relating to political parties, issues and policies can make whatever claims they like. Blatantly false or self-serving claims risk a loss of credibility, but there is no danger of the penalties for misleading or deceptive conduct that apply to other advertising.

The big political parties' refusal to subject themselves to laws requiring truth in advertising means they may well have only themselves to blame when they rail at misleading campaigns. The ultimate losers, however, are Australians when complex and important policy debates can be hijacked by advertising campaigns that rely heavily on emotional appeals based on dubious claims. A carbon tax could be the next target. The campaign with the deepest pockets has a huge advantage, so governments are inclined to respond with improper taxpayer-funded campaigns of their own.

This is the antithesis of the to-and-fro engagement of a democratic policy debate founded in fact, which ought not be won by smearing opponents and misleading the public. Deceptive political advertising of all sorts erodes the integrity of democratic decision making.

On election day, The Age called for laws to require truth in political advertising, which independent MPs later set as one of seven conditions for supporting a minority government. This reform is becoming ever more urgent.







More and more politicians are adopting the infant discipline of happiness economics - but they may face painful questions

"Man does not strive after happiness; only the Englishman does that," wrote Nietzsche in The Twilight of the Idols. It's a fair bet that the old misery-guts would have hated the launch of Action for Happiness, the self-styled "new mass movement to create a happier society". The rest of us, though, might be rather more welcoming – albeit cautious about the happiness movement's terms and objectives.

It should be admitted at the outset that Action for Happiness offers latter-day sceptics (whether following Nietzsche or not) plenty of targets to have a pop at. There is the grandiosity of that self-description – splendidly undercut by the prosaicness of the "twenty practical actions for happiness", which urges people to hug each other, exercise more often and say thank you more often.

So far, so fluffy. But there is more substance to the happiness movement, as evidenced by the people behind it – including the LSE economist Richard Layard, and Geoff Mulgan, the former director of the government's strategy unit. There is also serious academic research into how and when we are happy, whether by economists such as Andrew Oswald, David Blanchflower and Richard Easterlin, or psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt. Finally, the argument that there is more to a flourishing society than ever-increasing national income is also gaining ground among policymakers. David Cameron used to talk about GWB, or general wellbeing; Nicolas Sarkozy has commissioned Nobel laureates Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz to explore how to include wellbeing in measures of economic performance.

Happiness, flourishing, wellbeing: these terms are used interchangeably by many of those in the happiness movement, but they all mean subtly different things. And that is one problem with those who would wish to include measures of wellbeing in policymaking: it is hard to pin down what they wish to measure. That need not be fatal: happiness economics is an infant discipline, and is still working out such questions. But if a bunch of academics and government advisers decided what they meant by happiness and how to have more of it, they would be deemed patrician – and rightly so.

Happiness, as Nietzsche could have told you, only became a policy goal after the Enlightenment – when the US constitution laid down the right to pursue happiness. Ever since, it has borne a whiff of consumerist self-indulgence, and its advocates then and now are accused of prizing sensation over anything more profound or ostensibly value-laden. That is a serious question, and one that the happiness advocates need to address. Finding the answer may be more painful than pleasurable





Its crucial report on cuts to the BBC World Service is critical and independent, and will put the coalition to the test

Back in the bad old days before 2010, when party whips still controlled the membership of parliament's select committees, the foreign affairs committee rarely made waves. A committee place was often more of a travel opportunity for trusties than a chance for independent backbenchers to shape foreign policy. Today, with committees elected, things need to change. The new foreign affairs committee report on cuts to the BBC World Service is a useful test of the new order. The report is certainly independent. It criticises the disproportionate cuts suffered by the World Service in the Treasury spending review. It wants the cuts reversed and the World Service budget ringfenced because of its value to the UK. It says the international development department should pay for balancing the service's accounts. It says that recent cuts in the Hindi and Mandarin shortwave services, and to the Arabic service, are particularly damaging. And it says there must be no transfer of funding responsibility from the Foreign Office to the BBC unless and until proper safeguards for the World Service are put in place. Richard Ottaway and his fellow MPs have done well. These are all urgent priorities if the service, which Kofi Annan told the committee is "perhaps Britain's greatest gift to the world", is not to suffer death by a thousand cuts. The foreign affairs committee is often lazily described as influential. The coalition response to this crucial report will help show whether the description is deserved or not.





It may take more than just one speech by the prime minister, Naoto Kan, to persuade Japan that the worst is now over

Japan has been shaken by more than 400 strong aftershocks since the earthquake and tsunami hit a month ago. Hard on the heels of a collective silent prayer on Monday to mourn the loss of an estimated 28,000 people, there was another shock: the decision to put the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi reactors on a par with the explosion at Chernobyl. This is not only an admission that the amount of radiation released is of a new order of magnitude (although it is still only a 10th of that form the Soviet accident). It is also a marker for the future. It could take Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) months to get the stricken reactors and spent-fuel-rod pools under control, and as radiation continues to leak, the total amount could, it is feared, exceed the levels of the 1986 disaster.

Has the pendulum been made to swing too far the other way, by the very people who dismissed comparisons with Chernobyl only weeks ago? In many ways, Fukushima bears little comparison to the world's worst nuclear accident. The explosion and fire at Chernobyl sent parts of the reactor core high into the atmosphere in a plume that drifted over Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and western Europe. The contamination around Fukushima could potentially spell a terminal blow for the communities around it, as we report today, but those communities lie within 25 miles of the plant and the area affected is still local. The equivalent vehicle for the dispersal of radiation from Fukushima is water rather than air, in this case a rather large quantity of it – the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, the particles are being carried by a strong current away from population centres, dispersing and diluting them. There are unknowns in this too, such as the degree to which radioactivity will become concentrated in the food chain. But in terms of its geographical reach, Fukushima is still, thankfully, a long way behind Chernobyl.

Both disasters have however this in common: weeks after they happened, the experts are no nearer dealing with the root of the problem. They have stopped pumping low-level radioactive water from the buildings into the sea, but they are no closer to restoring the plant's cooling system. And there is potentially three times as much material to contain in Fukushima as there was in Chernobyl. That is the problem of assessing the risk of living with nuclear power. Other industries, such as coal extraction, have incomparably higher death tolls and many more accidents. The risks of a nuclear accident are small in comparison. But when one of them happens, it does so big time.

It may take more than just one speech by the prime minister, Naoto Kan, to persuade Japan that the worst is now over, that the situation at the plant is stabilising, and that people should now concentrate on reconstructing the areas devastated by the tsunami. Formidable problems still remain, such as the 150,000 people still living in emergency shelters – a number that could nearly double if the 130,000 living between 20 and 30 kilometres from the plant have to leave their homes too. Anger at the ever changing assessments of the radiation dangers and advice has so far been directed at Tepco. The governor of Fukushima prefecture, Yuhei Sato, was so upset he refused to meet Tepco's president, who had travelled to the area to apologise.

The Japanese have responded to the worst disaster to befall them in modern times stoically – some, such as the workers who volunteered to stay in the stricken plant, heroically. It has been a month from hell for people who have had little time to mourn the loss of their families and their homes, let alone devise new lives for themselves. But their test has only just begun, as the impact on the economy starts to show through. It could be that the nation finds heart and fresh purpose in the reconstruction, but it will take massive amounts of will and discipline to ensure that it does.







The Democratic Party of Japan was routed in the first round of unified local elections on Sunday — following its defeat in the July 2010 Upper House election. The DPJ failed to win governorships in Tokyo, Mie — which is DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada's stronghold — and Hokkaido, which is former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's stronghold. In elections for 41 prefectural assemblies, the DPJ's strength was slashed from a pre-election level of 415 seats to 346 — about one third the number of seats that the Liberal Democratic Party won.

The Sunday election results should be taken as a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Naoto Kan, indicating people's concerns about his ability to mobilize Japan's resources to help people affected by the March 11 quake and tsunami, reconstruct the disaster-struck areas and overcome the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. He may have to consider resigning in the near future.

Although the DPJ was battered, other parties should refrain from harboring a false sense of security. The LDP's strength in the 41 assemblies was diminished from 1,247 seats to 1,119, the Japan Communist Party from 94 to 80 and the Social Democratic Party from 50 to 30.

Komeito increased its strength from 167 to 171 seats. But a Komeito incumbent failed to win re-election in Osaka, the party's stronghold. Your Party ran 103 candidates but only won 41 seats, though it made significant gains from its pre-election strength of 11 seats. The election results show that the traditional parties need to improve their ability to understand and respond to the needs of the people.

By taking advantage of voters' dissatisfaction with the traditional parties' performances, local parties created by local government heads made gains. A party led by Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto won 57 seats to achieve a majority in the 109-member Osaka prefectural assembly and became the No. 1 party in the 86-member Osaka city assembly after winning 33 seats. These local parties threaten to turn assemblies into a rubber stamp for local government heads. The traditional parties must hone their policy-making abilities to counter the local parties' populist appeal.





Along with police officers, firefighters and members of the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. armed forces, municipal workers are playing a vital role in helping and supporting people who have lost their property or family members in the March 11 massive earthquake and tsunami.

A significant number of these workers themselves have been directly affected by the disasters, losing their property, family members or colleagues. Many of the 35 municipal workers of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, 30 to 40 municipal workers of Minami Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, and 70 to 80 of some 300 municipal workers of Rikuzen Takada, Iwate Prefecture, went missing. The mayor of Otsuchi was confirmed dead.

In difficult conditions, municipal workers in northeastern Japan are doing such work as supplying food, water, blankets and other articles to evacuees, burying those killed by the disasters and restoring family and resident registries. Without their help, volunteers cannot work efficiently.

The duties municipal workers have to fulfill will expand. They will have to provide prefabricated houses to local residents affected by the disasters, help people who are moving to other areas with administrative procedures, including children who will have to attend new schools, and assist people who will have to find new jobs. They also will have to negotiate with the central and prefectural governments. Their work of helping local residents hit by the disasters will continue for a long time.

Among the residents who need their help are those who live near Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and have been forced to leave their homes.

Municipal workers are very likely suffering from fatigue. A sufficient number of municipal workers from areas not affected by the March 11 disasters should be quickly sent to affected areas to provide assistance.

Some public servants have been criticized for being too inefficient or placing too much emphasis on red tape. But the March 11 disasters highlight the vital role played by the public sector. The current trend of reducing the number of municipal workers to improve financial efficiency risks could negatively impact the functions of local governments in emergencies.







Japan's nuclear disaster highlights a contentious and still unresolved issue: how best to manage and dispose of highly radioactive used fuel from reactors that generate electricity.

The explosions, fires and radiation leaks at the Fukushima plant not only involve over-heating in some of the reactor cores. Most of the radioactive material at the site is uranium fuel that has been "burned" in reactors, then removed and put in temporary storage ponds to cool.

In Japan and the nearly 40 other countries in Asia, North America and Europe that operate nuclear power reactors, the amount of spent fuel has been mounting since the first commercial plants started in the 1950s. There are now about 270,000 tons of used fuel in storage, much of it at reactor sites where critics say safety and security needs to be improved.

Each year, at least 12,000 tons of used fuel is added to the pile. About 3,000 tons is reprocessed to remove unburned uranium for reuse as reactor fuel, and to extract plutonium for mixed oxide reactor fuel. But after reuse, this fuel must also be stored.

The cheapest and easiest method of temporary storage for used fuel is in reinforced concrete pools. Water keeps it cool and prevents leakage of radiation.

However, the huge earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant last month caused water levels in some cooling ponds to become dangerously low. This has prompted a worldwide review of spent fuel storage because about 90 percent is in ponds. Some spent fuel has been there for decades and many reactors' pools are either full or becoming overcrowded.

The remaining 10 percent of spent fuel is in dry cask storage. This is safer but more costly. Spent fuel that has already been cooled for at least a year in a pool is locked away inside big steel casks or concrete vaults, surrounded by inert gas.

Unlike water ponds, dry cask storage does not need to be mechanically cooled. Advocates say it should be expanded as an interim measure, until long-term storage systems can be agreed and built.

This, too, is becoming more urgent as the pile of used fuel mounts. After 40 or 50 years, the heat and average radioactivity have fallen to about one thousandth of the level at removal from the reactor. Handling and storage become easier.

However, some of the by-products of nuclear fission in reactors remain extremely dangerous. Plutonium, for example, has 15 different forms, or isotopes. Some are created in the reactor as uranium atoms split and generate fission energy.

They include plutonium-239, which takes 24,000 years to lose half its radioactive potency. In concentrated form, plutonium-239 is also used to make advanced nuclear weapons.

Most countries with nuclear power programs agree that disposal deep underground in geologically stable rock caverns is the best long-term method of storing used fuel.

Sweden and Finland are pace-setters. The former is committed to spend $ 3.8 billion constructing a national underground storage, starting in 2015. The first intake of used fuel is expected in 2020. Finland has a similar plan.

However, getting local agreement for underground storage can be difficult. The United States has the world's sole operating deep repository in the state of New Mexico. But it only accepts waste from nuclear weapons research and production.

In 1987, Congress authorized development of underground storage for high-level waste from U.S. civilian reactors beneath Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Although $ 12 billion in taxpayers' money was spent on the project, the Obama administration canceled it in 2009 in the face of local opposition.

Even if the project is reactivated, it will take at least 10 years before the facility starts accepting atomic waste. Meanwhile, the amount of spent fuel in the U.S. is already greater than the planned storage capacity at Yucca Mountain.

Japan, too, has struggled to confirm a site for underground storage because of its vulnerability to earthquakes.

There is also a deeper question to be settled by governments: should secure underground storage be permanent or just long-term, in case future nuclear technologies can turn the spent fuel into a valuable new source of energy. Used reactor fuel still contains much of its original uranium and over half its original energy content.

Beyond this is another question that concerns countries that decide to develop relatively small-scale nuclear power programs, but do not want to be saddled with the costs and responsibilities of long-term waste storage.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should provide an answer if multiple member states opt to develop nuclear power, despite the risks exposed at Fukushima. Indeed, the crisis over nuclear safety in Japan could help forge a common policy on nuclear energy in Southeast Asia, including spent fuel storage and disposal.

In 2009, 14 small nuclear power nations in Europe formed a working group to develop a regional used fuel storage model for possible adoption by next year.

An alternative path for Southeast Asia could be fuel leasing, in which local nuclear power plant operators hire fabricated fuel from foreign suppliers and send it back to them after use.

Either way would show that ASEAN is committed to safe, secure and peaceful development of atomic power.

Michael Richardson is a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.








Without much fanfare, the past few months have seen no anti-American demonstrations and no burning of American flags across the Arab world. Arabs seem increasingly willing to accept — and even applaud — the Obama administration's policy toward the region.

Of course, Arabs are still unhappy with the United States' continued bias toward Israel. Its inability to end the 44-year military occupation of Palestinian lands has not gone unnoticed. But many Arabs nowadays prefer to give the U.S. a break. With the exception of the Obama administration's lack of resolve in denouncing the treatment of protesters by the U.S.-allied regimes in Bahrain and Yemen, America's position on the Arab revolts has been welcomed.

Arabs, especially young Arabs, who comprise the majority of the region's population, look up to America for its global power when it upholds democratic morals and values. There is high respect for the concept of rule of, by, and for the people, as well as for the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of freedom of expression. It is precisely the failure to apply these values in areas such as Palestine or Iraq that has made — and can still make — countless Arabs vehemently anti-American.

U.S. President Barack Obama's election two years ago positively shocked Arabs and empowered Arab democrats, who saw it as proof of America's true democratic nature. Obama's Cairo speech, delivered on one of his first foreign trips, promised a new U.S.-Arab beginning, and certainly invigorated Arab democrats.

But the first test of Obama's foreign leadership disappointed many Arabs. A U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution — supported by the council's 14 other members — to oppose Israeli settlements seemed to signal that Obama had crumbled under pressure from America's pro-Israel lobby. The U.S. had not revised its policy, even with an African immigrant's son living in the White House.

A more positive view of Obama emerged when the Arab revolts began in Tunisia and Egypt — countries with pro-U.S. regimes. While the U.S. initially demonstrated prudence in word and deed, it quickly understood that the revolts truly reflected the will of the people and acted to align itself with the democratic cause.

The same people that Obama had called on in his Cairo speech to seek democracy had now formed the most important nonviolent movement the world had seen in decades. Arab youth had finally moved, and Obama and his team made the right statements to encourage them, while also making it clear to the Egyptian and Tunisian regimes that they could no longer hide behind the claim that they were fighting America's war in north Africa.

Pulling away from dictators without trying to take credit for or hijack the revolt was exactly what was required. Arab youth had to fight and win democracy for themselves. All that what was wanted from America, most of the young people thought, was withdrawal of its support for allies like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other Arab dictators.

In Libya, however, the need was different. The same energy on display in Cairo and Tunis was evident among Libyan youth, but this time, America was able to do little diplomatically because it had no relationship with Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

So, no surprise, the energy of Libyan youth ran head-on into Gadhafi's inclination toward brutality and, more importantly, into his paid mercenaries. America had a moral responsibility to protect the young people whom Obama had encouraged. Another type of help was needed, but deciding what form it should take was complicated.

Arab countries, especially Egypt, had hundreds of thousands of their nationals working in Libya. Their governments saw themselves as Gadhafi's hostages. But what the Arab countries couldn't do with military support, they were able to do by providing political cover for the military intervention led by the US, Britain, and France.

The Gulf countries, which have no citizens working in Libya, were the first to denounce Gadhafi. Then the Arab League met to follow the Gulf states' lead. With angry young Arabs from different countries demonstrating outside its Cairo offices and demanding support for their Libyan brethren, the Arab League took an uncharacteristic position: it agreed to denounce a fellow Arab leader. Clearly, the Arab world was changing, and the US was suddenly no longer an enemy, but a friend.

After gaining Security Council support, the U.S., Europe, and some Arab countries began doing exactly what should be expected of the international community when a government is preparing to butcher its own citizens: prevent the slaughter.

Of course, America's problems with Arabs and its challenges in the Middle East are far from over. Obama must still fulfill his promises to celebrate with Palestinians their full membership of the U.N. this fall and to draw down its forces in Afghanistan.

But, for the moment, Arabs are not demonstrating against America. Instead, with America's help, they are enjoying the first blush of freedom.

Daoud Kuttab is general manager, Community Media Network, Amman, and a former professor of journalism at Princeton University. © Project Syndicate, 2011.







The government decision last week, with the full support of the House of Representatives, to exempt foreign-flagged vessels serving the hydrocarbon industry from the 2008 Cabotage Law, which is scheduled to be enforced early next month, is a timely way out of the uncertainty that had gripped oil and natural gas exploration and production.

The new policy on the cabotage principle — a maritime term for a ban on foreign vessels carrying domestic cargo — is also rather strategic, given the steady decline in Indonesia's oil output and the upward trend in international
oil prices.

However, the policy change is not so drastic as to totally annul the cabotage principle for foreign vessels supporting the petroleum industry, as the exemption is only temporary until national shipping companies are able to provide equivalent ships.

The exemption is given to several types of vessels used for seismic surveys, drilling, offshore construction, operational support for offshore activities, dredging and deep-water operations, as long as they are not used to transport goods and people and equivalent ships cannot be supplied by national companies.

Put another way, the policy change was made to correct the mistake of the government and lawmakers who overlooked the inability of national shipping companies to provide special vessels designed to support offshore oil and gas explorations and production.

Oil and gas companies need to move sophisticated and expensive ships such as drilling rigs, seismic vessels and cable layers in and out of the country and from one island to another within the country as they are required.

The Indonesian Petroleum Association has estimated that Indonesia could lose US$13 billion in oil and gas
investments if the cabotage principle is applied to the hydrocarbon industry without giving national shipping companies adequate time to fill the vacuum when foreign vessels supporting oil and gas operations have to leave Indonesia.

The government and the House deserve our commendation this time for their quick response to the problem of the hydrocarbon industry and their great awareness of the increasing importance of offshore oil resources.

The upstream oil and natural gas regulatory agency, BPMigas, announced last week that the national crude oil output in the first three months averaged only 908,000 barrels per day because of unanticipated shutdowns in several production fields, bad weather and low productivity in many old wells.

This shortfall could certainly increase the fiscal deficit to a dangerous level because the Rp 96 trillion ($11 billion) fuel subsidy allocated for this year assumes an average oil output of 970,000 barrels per day.

The slight change in the enforcement of the cabotage law would not sabotage its main objective of accelerating the development of inter-island shipping which is vital for an archipelagic country such as Indonesia.

Efficient and extensive coastal shipping services would deepen economic integration and linkages between all the major islands in Indonesia.

The enforcement of the law would go a long way in making shipping companies more attractive to bank lending because the cabotage principle will increase cargo volume for national freighters, which in turn would require more cargo vessels.

The expansion of coastal freight services has become more imperative now with a sharp increase in demand for inter-island shipment of coal, palm oil, petroleum products and various other bulk commodities.

However, the enforcement of the cabotage law itself will not be effective in spurring inter-island shipping unless the government empowers shipbuilding industries in cooperation with banks, traders and manufacturing companies.





In politics, timing is everything. US President Barack Obama's decision last week to announce that he will be running for his second term in the 2012 election seemed to have been chosen with timing very much in his mind.

But the budget battle with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in the same week took much of the limelight away from his announcement.

Obama had been widely expected to stake his claim in the 2012 race. Monday, April 4, seemed like the perfect time not only because it was in the middle of the cherry blossom that had turned the tidal basin area yards away from the White House from white to purple with sakura petals.

By declaring his intention, Obama is stealing a big head start, months ahead of anyone intending to challenge him in the election. Those extra months mean many more millions of dollars in funds to raise.

As the incumbent, Obama has practically clinched the Democrat nomination and could target his campaign early on in areas where he needs to win votes.

He may not have as much time campaigning because he needs to divide it with running the country, but he does have the advantage of huge resources at his disposal, as well as his early start.

The coast for his nomination was pretty well cleared when Hillary Clinton, his secretary of state who he beat in the 2008 Democratic convention, announced she had no intention of running again. Clinton is the only figure in the Democrats who could seriously challenge Obama, and her decision had disappointed the army of supporters within the party.

Barring any major events that could undermine his popularity within Democrats, the incumbent could stay focused on attacking the Republicans as they sort out their internal power struggle.

The Republicans have yet to come out with clear frontrunners. The primaries begin in January, so who the main contenders are should become clearer in coming months. With the Republicans split between the ultra-conservative tea party and the mainstream camp, it is looking like an ugly battle that could sap much of their energy before they even take on Obama.

The Republican pack is still filled with too many players for any pundit to pick three or four serious contenders for the primaries.

Only former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission. Others listed by the BBC who are expected to run are former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, former Alaskan governor and 2008 VP nominee Sarah Palin, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, and millionaires Hermann Cain and Donald Trump.

The Obama for America 2012 campaign began with an email from the president to his supporters and a two-minute video on urging people to sign up as volunteers and send in donations.

This is looking like a repeat of the successful 2008 formula using the Internet to reach out to as many people as he can. The president has also been actively updating his Facebook and Twitter accounts to stay in touch with supporters.

No longer the outsider, he also has the luxury of turning to the more conventional fundraising methods.

One Obama 2012 dinner in San Francisco reportedly went for US$30,000 a plate. His campaign managers say they expect to raise more than the $750 million collected for the 2008 race.

Obama the incumbent in the 2012 race would be vastly different from the idealistic and vibrant young senator from Illinois in 2008. Whether the same formula can still work its magic remains to be seen.

His 2008 slogan "change we can believe in" has now become passé with voters and supporters disillusioned by his failure to bring meaningful changes to Washington politics.

The president lost so much of the political capital when he pushed the healthcare bill through Congress last year that cost his popularity among middle class Americans.

The routing in the mid-term elections last November saw his party conceding control of the House to the Republicans. Washington pundits then began to write him off for 2012 unless he changed tack. Obama did change strategy to temper his ambitions and become more accommodative to the Republican demands, to the consternation of supporters on the left of his party.

This pragmatism was not lost among one late-night TV talk show host. "President Obama said he plans on running for re-election against the Republicans. After the tax cuts for the rich, the bailouts for Wall Street, and the bombing in Libya, I already thought he was the Republican candidate," cracked Jay Leno on the night of Obama's announcement.

Obama's popularity has rebounded from its lowest point in November. The economy is doing relatively well, with unemployment at the lowest level in two years. The president's approval rating stands at 49 percent, according to the latest CBS News poll.

But while Obama steals an early start, he can expect a frontal attack from Republicans where he is most vulnerable: his policies. With the House firmly in their hands, Republicans will give him a hard time even as he becomes more accommodating.

In the same week he announced his candidacy, Obama lost the budget battle with the House. He averted a shutdown of the federal government this weekend but only after conceding to Republican demands for bigger spending cuts that affected some of his social programs.

The battle for 2012 has just begun.

The writer is a fellow at the East West Center in Washington and senior editor of The Jakarta Post.





Malinda Dee has emerged as a new celebrity in Indonesian mass media for her infamous acts of embezzling Rp 17 billion (US$1.95 million) of Citibank customers money. It is believed that the exploitation occurred over a period of around three years before three of her victims approached Citibank over suspicious unauthorized fund transfers from their accounts.  

Before the crime was uncovered,  Malinda, or Inong Malinda, was considered a model employee trusted to handle priority customers with account balances worth at least Rp 500 million.

In addition to being attractive, she was also perceived as a friendly and polite person and was able to maintain good relationships with her customers.  

The fraud scheme itself was judged by the authorities to be "fairly simple", where Malinda abused her wealthy customers' trust and transferred huge amounts of their funds to her own accounts. In doing so she used several companies as intermediaries for channeling the illicit funds to her own accounts. At least 30 accounts have been identified by the authorities as being used by  Malinda to facilitate her criminal activities.  

In her fraud scheme, Malinda often forged customers' signatures to withdraw funds before transferring money to her own accounts. Additionally, with her close relationship with her customers, it was easy for her to obtain blank signed forms or blank checks that were subsequently used to withdraw funds at higher amounts than were actually requested by clients.

This was because priority customers generally no longer had to queue before tellers to withdraw funds. They only had to see Malinda and ask her to make the withdrawal for them. This is how the opportunity was made available for  Melinda to embezzle customer funds.

A recent global fraud survey conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) identified several common traits normally found with people orchestrating fraud. Based on the study, there are a number of "red flags", or signs of potential fraud that should have been spotted in the  Malinda case.  

First, an offender is often seen clearly living beyond his or her means. Malinda was at the top level of her organization, but still, even with her position as a senior customer relations manager (and occasionally a fashion model), her income was far from enough to support her extravagant lifestyle.  

Second, despite an extravagant lifestyle, people guilty of fraud are often perceived by business superiors and co-workers as model employees because of their demonstrated dedication to their work.

This way, no one suspects that he or she is actually planning or is actively running fraudulent schemes.  
In the Malinda case, she was praised for her ability to maintain close relationships with customers, presumably due to her exceptional communication skills. Another trait identified by the ACFE's survey was an "unusually close association with customers".

This enabled her to remain in her position longer than she should have partly due to the preference of her customers. The longer a corrupt employee works for their organization, the more knowledge he or she gains about internal controls and how to bypass them.   

Although their existence (or relevance) within the Malinda case has yet to be confirmed, other traits suggested by the ACFE's study include: divorce or family problems; a "wheeler–dealer" attitude; excessive pressure from within an organization; instability in everyday life circumstances; and refusal to take vacations. All factors may indicate that fraud has already occurred within an organization.

Theoretically, from a criminology point of view, three factors may have existed that caused Melinda to become a criminal: pressure/motivation; opportunity; and rationalization (justification to avoid feeling guilty).

Ongoing investigations have indicated that inadequate supervision over Malinda's authority to manage customers' fund is evidence of an opportunity unwillingly provided by Citibank for the fraudulent activity to occur. Although further investigation is required to confirm this, her desire to live an extravagant life may have been a motivating factor that drove Malinda to commit fraud in the first place.  

Furthermore, as written in several mass media publications (and is yet to be confirmed by the ongoing investigation), Malinda may have invested customer funds to generate financial returns, some portion of which may have been used to replace the funds initially embezzled. This means that she may have used the excuse of "borrowing customer's money" to justify her acts instead of "stealing".  

Finally, the case is a hard lesson for the Indonesian banking industry, which clearly needs to enhance protection against not only external fraud but also internal fraud committed by its own employees.

One of the keys to eliminate, or at least minimize fraud within a financial institution is building strong monitoring mechanisms to at least create an impression that any fraudulent acts will be immediately uncovered and severely punished.

Failure to establish such mechanisms may result in customers losing their trust in the financial institution and may eventually force them out of business.

The writer is a lecturer at the Islamic University of Indonesia, Yogyakarta, specializing in forensic accounting. He obtained his Masters and PhD in forensic accounting from the University of Wollongong
in Australia.





Bulk cargo carrier the MV Sinar Kudus was hijacked on March 16 approximately 320 nautical miles northeast of the island of Socotra in the Somali Basin. It has even been reported that the ship had been used as a mothership to launch a different attack on another merchant vessel, the MV Emperor, within 24 hours after being taken.

A total of 20 Indonesian sailors were kidnapped and ransom has already been demanded by the pirates.

Nevertheless, for almost a month, there has not been a strong government response nor any indication of a stern reaction in sight.

The government said negotiations with the pirates were still underway, but it is understandable why some may doubt Jakarta's determination to resolve the problem — and doubt is growing each day.

Indeed, no one seems to bother with the plight of our sailors —the very people we should be
grateful for because the sea is our national lifeline as an archipelagic nation.

Almost 90 percent of our external trade is transported by sea (David Ray, 2009). According to an International Labor Organization (ILO) report, the majority of some 72,000 seafarers employed by national and foreign-registered ships are working in poor conditions due to a lack of skills and an absence of supervision by authorities.

The Indonesian Seafarers Association stipulates that most Indonesian sailors are severely underpaid. Many stewards and officers recieve about Rp 300,000 (US$35) per month and there are cooks who receive as little as Rp 85,000 a month. Captains and deck officers are paid between Rp 3 million and Rp 7 million. International wage standards stipulate that a seafarer is entitled to a minimum Rp 5 million per month, plus insurance (The Jakarta Post, Nov. 5, 2008).

Of course, a long-term, system-based approach is needed to address this problem. The enaction of the 2008 shipping law is part of the solution. With this incident in light, however, swift and stern action is an urgent necessity.

We never seem to believe that the bedrock of our security interests also lies with the protection of our people's well-being, here or abroad, be it for our sailors, our migrant workers or just our ordinary citizens who live overseas.

We must learn from what South Korea, and even our neighbor, Malaysia, did in their brave attempts to rescue their sailors.

A blatant attack on our people, or even a single individual, must be construed as an attack on our national security. In fact, this is the core logic of national sovereignty.

As a people, we surrender some of our sovereign rights to the state. We carry a passport, we pay taxes and we obey the law because we solemnly believe that our state will protect and defend us, wherever
we are!

Our national security is not limited to, nor bounded by, geography. It is this strong determination of resolve that we must also project abroad, and not always the peace-loving, dovish face that has mostly painted our diplomatic halls. Our charm is not enough.

Our teeth and muscle are needed too. This incident is clearly a perfect moment to project our power — a time to show that we are neither unfaltered nor deterred by a bunch of gangsters in a lawless land. Show them the fury of Indonesia!

Enough is enough. This is a time for action. Any efforts to negotiate with the pirates are too little and
too late.

They do not even deserve the diplomatic option because they are neither a government nor respresentatives of one.

To the sailors' families, we must ensure that a deadline has been set to secure their freedom. To the pirates, they surely deserve the wrath of our navy commandos. Of course, there is a risk involved in this operation, but it is definitely a risk worth-taking.

It ensures that our country is determined to defend its interests and security in the far-flung reaches of the globe, with force if necessary. This is the only way we can deter our enemies, be it state or non-state actors. It must come to mind that diplomacy is not always the best

Diplomacy must be taken in a pragmatic sense. We hope that our government can come to terms with this and stop playing it safe.

The writer is a M.Sc. student in Strategic Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technology University, Singapore, and research assistant at the Center for East Asian Cooperation Studies (CEACoS), University of Indonesia.









While Sri Lanka's traditional external beauty as a tropical paradise or the Pearl of the Indian Ocean is being gradually restored after almost three decades of a devastating ethnic war we need to focus more today—the eve of the National New Year on the potential for the more important and lasting inner beauty in multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural unity in diversity.

The National New Year today is the heart and the highlight of unity in diversity and the people of Sri Lanka need to be conscious of the role they could play in protecting and promoting the beauty of this unity in diversity. It is this multi-religious and multi-ethnic unity which could make Sri Lanka one of the foremost nations in the world.

Educating the people and inspiring them to get involved actively in this noble mission of unity in diversity must essentially be the role and responsibility of enlightened leaders of all major religions. They need to do this because especially during the past three decades most party politicians instead of working sincerely and sacrificially to unite the people have instead resorted to deception or double games for their personal gain or glory. To cover up their hypocrisy and the sanctimonious humbug, most of these party politicians divide the people and divert attention to selfish and self-centred donkey tricks like the battle for preference votes at regular elections. Therefore it is necessary for religious leaders to come forward and foster unity in diversity among the people of all religions and races. We are happy to note that Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo is taking a major initiative to cooperate with Buddhists and other prelates to build lasting unity with peace and justice in Sri Lanka.

The natural examples for the importance of unity in diversity are plain to see. Take for instance the human body itself. Every part is different and plays a different role. But they act together for the common good of the whole body. The eyes play an important role as do the ears, the mouth, the head, the hands and feet and even the seemingly less important finger nails or toenails. Yet they are all equally important. And it is the diversity that makes for the beauty of the body. The human eyes are important as are the ears. But imagine a situation where the whole body is one big eye or one big ear. It would be a monstrosity. Yet some people seek such uniformity apparently not knowing how absurd or ugly it would be.

Another good example is a flower garden. Its beauty lies in the diversity of the flowers in terms of shapes, sizes and colours. While the rose is a beautiful flower, a garden full of roses and roses only would be like a crown with more thorns than roses. So is the illusion for uniformity.

This country's Sinhala Buddhist people, being by far the majority have a greater privilege and a greater responsibility to foster the spirit of unity in diversity. Essentially this spirit of unity in diversity grows when people while practising their own religion and acting according to their own culture and tradition, learn the importance of respecting the religious beliefs of others and also the customs and traditions of people of other religions. It is such a spirit of respect that will bring about a National New Year not confined to festivals and feasts but a significant event that will help build a Sri Lanka that becomes a wonder of the world.





We spoke to some of the Political parties to weigh in their sentiments this Sinhala and Tamil New Year which marks the second New Year after the war ended.

United National Party (UNP) Spokesperson Gayantha

The Government is responsible to provide relief to the public. During the government elections they said they will not increase gas and fuel prices, although the UNP stated that soon after the elections the government will increase the gas and fuel prices. At the time the government claimed we were lying. They will never increase prices before or after the New Year but they did so on the eve of the World Cup. People are getting ready for another festival with no relief from the Government. The duty of a government is that during a festival to provide some kind of material and financial relief. However during this period people are facing severe difficulties and shortcomings. The burden of the cost of living has worsened. This is the second New Year after war although people have yet to be relieved of their burden. The relief is not coming. It is the worst state the cost of living has been in comparison to even the war years.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Leader Somavansa


On the 14th dawns the New Year called the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year. The JVP wishes not only the Sinhalese and Tamils but to all, a happy New Year. Almost two years have passed since the end of the war, the government has miserably failed to gain a lasting solution to the national question. The 30 year old emergency laws are not lifted. Capitalism has no solution for economic, social and political problems. Although the Central Bank says there is a growth of eight percent the people of this country must not forget that Sri Lanka is an indebted country. The so called growth hasn't had an effect whatsoever on the income of the down trodden people. Sri Lankan capitalism is no exception. It is moribund system and its guardians must go. People of Sri Lanka must unite against capitalism and fight for socialism in the New Year.

Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) Spokesperson Nishantha
 Sri Warnasinghe

This year, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year is very important to us. Its two years since the end of war. The country has passed three decades of darkness due to the war. Throughout the country lives and property were destroyed and people were fearful of their lives. As a country we couldn't celebrate the New Year in peaceful bliss. Therefore within one country, as a nation united we should celebrate hand in hand this New Year. Now our focus should be to achieve economic development and prosperity. There not simply physical development but also spiritual development and cultural development. Food security and national security should be our top priority setting a side party and religious divides. In the same way not allowing separatism raise its head again, we should be prepared and united in our ambition to face international threats.





With the cruelty towards animals increasing in leaps and bounds, the outraged cry of animal rights activists are to be heard, condemning acts of cruelty and demanding that the ill-used law be brought forth and action be taken.

Many suggestions and requests have been made with petitions now being signed to ban the slaughter of animals, but the government is yet to make a move towards updating laws activists say have been enacted during the British rule that are now redundant.

Laws and the changes that need to take place
Animal rights activists say that not only does the existing law need to be changed to bring together all acts dealing with cruelty under one such law, but that the existing laws of the country need to be fully explored.

With many not knowing the law while others simply not following it, there have been a rising cry of outrage from animal activists alleging that more need to be done for these gentle beings who suffer in silence.

The Sri Lanka Animal Rights Protection Association (SLAPA) said though there have been amendments to the laws of the country dealing with cruelty towards animals, they were those put in place during the British rule. The recent amendments to the act they say have been done with much difficulty with continuous lobbying by activists.

"According to the amendments in the new law, cattle that have been confiscated during illegal transportation can now be given to animal care organizations and they could be used for agricultural purposes," said SLAPA, Lorraine Bibile. She explains that previously any of the cattle confiscated in such a manner was handed over to the owner once legal proceedings had ended making such laws on animal protection redundant.

"Apart from this, we find that most people do not know the laws when it comes to animal cruelty or they simply do not follow it and laugh the matter off," she said. Ms. Bible explained that many did not go to the police station to complain of cruelty towards animals as they were laughed at, therefore the Association made it a point to arm animal lovers with a copy of the law when making a complaint to the police. 

The SLAPA had conducted many awareness programmes in an attempt to reduce cruelty towards animals due to ignorance. "We find that many of these acts take place due to ignorance rather than the need to harm them, not to say there aren't people who do so," said SLAPA Secretary, Sharmini Ratnayke.

Prominent Environmentalist, Jagath Gunawardane on the other hand said that though the law in the country needed to be changed, the existing law should be fully exploited and fines increased.

"The laws that we have now mostly relate to cattle and I think that all laws for animals should brought together under one umbrella where all animals are given the same rights," he said. Mr. Gunawardane held animal rights groups responsible for the lack of usage of the laws.  

"Unlike in the protection of wildlife, there is a clear consensus among the society that cruelty towards animals is wrong, therefore they only have to enforce it," Mr. Gunawardane stated. He explained that many activists often had no clear cut strategy or action plan, thus leaving environmentalist the unavoidable task of assisting those who do not have any idea of the legal background.

Mr. Gunawardane said that a network had to be built within the society to enable interested parties to contact activists and that action, whether it is legal or not should be taken at the proper time. "The new act that has not been taken up in parliament as yet, goes into more details about cruelty, the fines as well as more information on the confiscations and punishments given," he said. 

Animal rights activist and President of Sathva Mithra, Sagarica Rajakaruna said there was a need for a special authority that would look into the rights of animals as the police, under whose purview this came did not have the time or the necessary man power to do so. "Things such as animal rights have not become a main issue with the politicians as people do not raise it to become a major issue during elections as something that needs to be addressed," she said.

Other activists such as Narendra Gunathilake agreed that all existing laws for animal cruelty should be brought together as one. "There are many contradictions in the laws with a lot of loop holes that need to be covered," he said. Mr. Gunathilake pointed out the definitions in some acts as an example. "In one act the word cow means just the cow but in another it also includes animals such as the pig and the goat as well," he explained.

The Humane act of slaughtering animals
The SLAPA explains that it is the cattle that have suffered most when it comes to animal cruelty. Members recollect gruesome tales of legs of cattle being broken to fit in to transport vehicles that could only hold half the number of cattle that are being transported. "We also know that permits and the animals are not fully checked before they are taken to the slaughter house, with many of the laws being violated," said Ms. Bibile.

The Association say they have begun a petition to ban the slaughter of animals and have so far collected more than 500,000 signatures and hope to hand in the petition to President Mahinda Rajapaksa soon. "We are not telling people not to eat meat, what we are saying is that the slaughter be conducted in a humane manner that ensures the animal suffers the least possible pain," said Ms. Ratnayake.

Ms. Rajakaruna explains that the existing laws have been created with agriculture and the meat industry in mind and therefore need to be changed.  "We are hoping to lobby for a law that does not allow the cows to be slaughtered because it is not fair to slaughter her just because she is barren after we have drunk her milk," she said.

"Though we would be happy the day that all slaughter of animals is stopped we understand that is not possible as we are living in a multi cultural society," she said. However, Ms. Rajakaruna hopes to see a change in this in the future for the better.

The controversy that was
 Munneshwaram Kovil
"There is a procedure to be followed when slaughtering an animal and we got to know that this was not followed at the Munneshwaram Kovil, which is why we lodged a complaint at the Chillaw Police hoping that they would take action," said Activist, Narendra Gunathilake.

 He explained they were afraid the number of animal sacrificed would have increased in comparison to the previous year as the war had just ended.

"We understand that as law abiding citizens that we cannot take the law into our hands, which is why we made a formal complaint to the police," he said. Mr. Gunathilake explained they were sure there were no valid permits for the animals or permits saying they were suitable for consumption.

He explained that even though, the slaughter at Munneshwaram was a tradition that had been there for years, tradition was not above the law as everyone should follow the laws laid out by the state when slaughtering an animal.

"Our final aim to stop the slaughter of animals but we know that this is not a possibility unless there are discussions between communities, a dialogue among all religions and a decision and compromise is arrived upon," he said.

 Mr. Gunathilake stated there was a need for the change in the law as the fine for the illegal transportation of cattle was just Rs. 100 according to the laws set out in 1893, which when put into the modern context was a ridiculous sum.


SLAPA explains that many of the cruelties towards animals take place due to ignorance, where people do not understand or know how animals are to be treated. "When we talk to most people they think that tying up a dog or keeping it in a kennel all the time is what you need to do but they do not understand that they too are beings that need to move around and not be kept walled up in one place," said Ms. Ratnayake.

Environmentalist Jagath Gunawardane on the other hand said that he does not see ignorance but deliberate cruelty to animals the most. "There are types of fish that we import, that can consume only a particular type of sea weed, but once these fish are caught and exported, they die of starvation as they do not have proper food," he said.

He explained that when animals are tied up and not given the food to eat it is deliberate cruelty rather than ignorance that prompts the action.

A better plan for strays:

Sterilization and immunization
Though the numbers of stray dogs and cases of rabies reported have reduced, activists say that more could be done. "When the programme was started there was nothing done to ensure that a steady flow of veterinary surgeons were available for the job. We are not saying that the sterilization programme is not successful, what we are pointing out is that more could be done," said Ms. Rajakaruna.

She explained that the programme which was handed over to a private veterinarian had eight teams under him but it was not sufficient number and that more were needed. "What we suggest is that there are unemployed vets in the country who could be given the job of sterilizing strays on a contract basis, this would ensure a sufficient flow of vets," she said.

The SLAPA said that even though the programme was successful to a degree, more attention needed to be given to the health factors of stray dogs. "They need to see what happens to these dogs once the sterilization is done," Ms. Ratnayake said.

Registration of pets
The SLAPA says a programme to register pets need to be launched in order to take better action for stray animals. "The problem with such a programme however, would be the community pets that are looked after and fed by a number of people but none of whom will step forward to take its responsibility," Ms. Ratnayake said.

Another reason for the registration of pets as the Association points out is the irresponsible breeding of pets by its owners. "A license should be given to people to breed their pets as many make it a commercial venture with no thought for the animal," said Ms. Bibile.

 She explained that the female dogs are sometimes made to breed pups every six months, with no proper care taken of these dogs.

She explained that this not only led to questions on morality where the animals were not given a rest but also to inherent diseases in the pups that are not visible when they are purchased.

The Association therefore said it was important to make the registration and sterilization of pets mandatory to stop such irresponsible breeding.





The African fraternity has come to Libyas rescue. The African Union's plan to broker political peace in the war-weary country is highly appreciated.

The otherwise docile organization in world affairs has, at least, made the difference by travelling all the way to Tripoli and persuading the embattled Libyan leader to make room for reconciliation. Irrespective of the fact whether his exit has been deliberated or not, a complete ceasefire and a negotiated transition to democracy will come as a great relief to the people who at the moment are in the range of fire between the rebels and pro-government forces. Restoration of civil order is a must in Libya and that can only come when the warring factions stepped back from the brink of disaster. It is, nonetheless, a good sign that Gaddafi had acceded to the demands of the African leadership to make room for a transition in the corridors of power, and broaden the scope of governance.

Notwithstanding how the AU-brokered roadmap works out, a point of consolation for Gaddafi is that he is still calling the shots for Libya, and the battery of African leaders who met him had simply acknowledged that fact. Unlike the European Union, the United States and many of the Arab countries, the African Union hasn't made public its 'desire' to see Gaddafi step down. This aspect could bolster Libyas faith in AU's peace plan and even lead to a humble exit of the Libyan dictator. African politics is ripe with such examples. The AU deal's salient features of an immediate ceasefire, unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid and a dialogue between the adversaries is in need of implementation. No time should be wasted in fine-tuning its modalities, nor should it be left at the discretion of either party to choose as when to begin with. In fact, Britain and France who spearheaded the movement to cripple Gaddafi regime with a no-fly zone and air strikes could have achieved much more if their envoys would have patiently shuttled for a while between Tripoli, Paris and London.

The AU's five-member panel under South African President Jacob Zuma, which enjoys the mandate of the European Union to mediate in Libya, should not come to pass. The United Nations and the Arab League should put its weight behind the AU initiative and ensure that the North African country is saved from sliding deep into the abyss of anarchy and chaos. At the same time, Gaddafi stands a chance to sign out of his international isolation by gracefully restoring peace and bowing out in a statesmanlike manner. The AU initiative is more than a blessing in disguise, as it comes to ensure the country's territorial integrity and the much-desired political rapprochement. Gaddafi and the rebels cannot withstand to ignore it.

Khaleej Times





Nothing, it seems, hurts the United States (US) than being ignored. No longer the economic super power it deemed itself to be, the US needs to remain relevant. More importantly, Washington needs to divert attention away from its own economy which is in shambles. Or, the grave it is digging itself in Libya-- especially when it is yet to move out of Afghanistan. Barak Obama's dwindling popularity is another serious concern. Human rights, democracy and accountability of other countries' are all attributes that can help.

Of serious concern to the US is the disillusionment of an entire generation that grew up looking up to the centre in upholding these values. As the fate of such values becomes more exposed when the US interests are threatened and lines grow hazy, so is the duplicity. As its own policies become increasingly questioned and a definitive cynicism allowed to grow, the threat to the system is unavoidable. It is this vacuum that criticisms of human rights and practises of governance elsewhere help fill. 

The reality is that this is still a country in transition; in transition from terrorism to peace. The process is not easy and the job of the facilitator unenviable. The misconceptions that served the creation of a separate state are as stubborn as the mistrust between communities. Much needs to be done to bridge the gaps and allow for peaceful co-existence. Infrastructure development in the war ravaged areas is a good first step -- the longer the day to day hardships exist the more difficult it is for such co-existence.

A genuine commitment towards such from both the government in power as well as community leaders is imperative. So is a genuine desire to engage the communities to allow for it. Moving a generation that grew up believing the lies from both sides will prove a Herculean task for the government-- but a necessary one. The dignity that it seems to be allowing those from the minority communities is another step in the right direction.

Certainly, much remains undone. The situation of the displaced is awaiting completion. 35,000 people still remain to be settled, and schooling and livelihoods creation underway. Granted, the situation is not ideal. But, that the government ensured that not one person died of hunger, or prevented tragedies of malnutrition or disease from engulfing the camps is to be commended. As is the strength of the centre that prevented an economic breakdown given that it is still coming out of the embers of war.

In the rush to enjoy normalcy and freedom it is easy to forget the manic proportions that such terrorism existed in. The ethnic cleansing that that the LTTE engaged in or the innocent Tamil people held as human shields at the last stages of the war are all indicative of the despicable levels such terrorism ran to. The endorsement of the many atrocities that the LTTE carried out against all communities of this country meant that it was elevated on par with every democratically elected government.

The 'international community' went on to happily negotiate with the megalomaniac that Prabhakaran was. Their fascination knew no bounds as he strapped women of his own community with suicide vests and hung cyanide capsules on the tender necks of children armed to die. Where were the reports that questioned these children's rights denied by a man who held a country to ransom for three long decades? The deafening silence of the impressive women's rights lobbies on the rights of the women suicide cadres is a case in point.

It is ironic that there is no appreciation of the freedoms the end of war granted the people of this country, be they Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim. The same US led Western forces that wage war against terrorism in the Muslim world, seem in such oblivion to these freedoms.  Freedoms that the Western belief system upholds are certainly necessary for societies to appreciate. They help societies evolve and grow. They provide for human dignity and equality. There in lies, the duty of the civil society to ensure them. But, such moral dictates cannot be at the expense of countries denied the right to its' own pace to achieve thus. They can't also be allowed to provide a distraction from the West's own failures, or to feed it a success story. The basis for a democratically successful Sri Lanka need necessarily be written, endorsed and elected in Sri Lanka. Washington must find its entertainment elsewhere.








This article will surprise many readers, but what we witnessed between February and March requires a very detailed post-mortem. This should not be left unwritten and unread, for it is part and parcel of a chronology of this historic event which shocked even the wisest of men.

Apart from aggressive, misleading and biased broadcasts by the BBC, CNN, Al Alam, Press TV and others, one area has been left untouched - the role of Western diplomats in Bahrain.

Here I question members of two embassies, both representing English speaking nations. Background to the anarchy and disruption recently witnessed, unfolded many months earlier. From when the British Ambassador controversially communicated with Al Wefaq, and continuous visits and meetings by a member of the American Embassy with so-called opposition figures - those who subsequently pushed the nation to the brink of catastrophe.

At the suggestion of my British associates last autumn, I was asked to attend a very private and exclusive dinner with this unpolished US 'envoy' who was accompanied by a gentle American colleague. Recalling the meeting, he openly and frankly admitted that he was in contact with several opposition members and talked about them passionately, giving an impression that they were right and others wrong. This was further enforced when on March 18 in a text message forwarded to me, he said: "Why the hell did you call me about Clinton's statements when none of your propaganda rags published the US Government's criticism of the situation?" Is this emotional outburst the language of a diplomat who is supposed to be neutral? Or are we to understand that he was so involved with the so-called opposition that he felt their failure was his?

One also wonders how far the British Embassy helped escalate the situation in Bahrain. They convinced the Foreign Office to charter three aircraft, encouraging British citizens to leave Bahrain. What sort of report had they filed that made London reach such a decision?

Fortunately only 18 British nationals took up this offer, thousands totally ignoring what was illogical and unnecessary advice. I sincerely and truly thank all those noble and decent Britons who felt a sense of duty not to leave Bahrain at a time that this country was badly in need of their professional and moral support.

As our country returns to normal, it would be very abnormal if we did not highlight and question the role of a diplomat. I hope that we do not need to say that a diplomat is a decent man sent abroad to lie on behalf of his country.

In a world where immorality is becoming the norm, should we maintain a protocol of immunity for the Diplomatic Corp when they seem to be licensed to harm without any accountability?

State security is vital. Maintaining law and order is important and whoever abuses these sacred sanctities of a nation should be considered persona non grata.

A diplomat is welcomed in any country with an open heart and trust that under any circumstance he or she should not interfere in the internal affairs of the host country. I fear that with these two diplomats this has not been the case.






As a teenager growing up, I learnt some very valuable lessons from my mother, one of which was, the difference between 'want' and 'need'.

I am sure most of you will agree that at 13, or rather at any age, there is never an end to our wants.

Many of us find the need to have the latest in accessories, shoes, clothes and fancy gadgets, as a means of being part of the fashion scene and fitting in with the crowd.

Furthermore, as a youngster, the last thing on my mind was whether it was affordable or not. I didn't know, or even think to ask about our financial status, and no-one told me. On hindsight, ignorance is bliss.

I recall being told at times that I would have to wait until my birthday to get what I had asked for. It was disappointing, but I never thought to question why.

However, I remember a time when I desperately wanted a particular dress to wear to a friend's party, but my mother said it was way too expensive.

At 15, when your life revolves around your friends and you are trying to make an impression, it was heartbreaking and brought about endless tears.

My mother who had the patience of an angel, made me sit down for a chat. While she said she understood how I felt, she talked about the value of money, of appreciating what we have and ended by suggesting I try a new approach whenever I wanted something.

"Ask yourself, do I really want it or need it?"

At that age, the answer was obvious - of course I needed it, what would my friends think? I had nothing to wear and I couldn't go to the party without a new dress.

Needless to say, despite my tantrums, I didn't get the dress and refused to go to the party. I felt pretty stupid later, especially after my friends said it was one of the best parties.

However in time, with new-found maturity, I learnt to take my mother's advice whenever I had to make a purchase. I didn't always listen to what I knew was right, but I tried.

As I got older, I started earning, loved the freedom to spend and I splurged.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed once I realised how quickly that hard- earned money disappeared.

It was a timely reminder to put the brakes on my reckless spending as I reverted to what I called my mother's mantra: want it or need it?

I gave myself a pat on the back every time I walked away without a purchase.

I had several guilt-trips, when I succumbed to temptation and imagined my mother in Heaven nodding her head in disapproval.

It made me feel like a disobedient five-year-old as I would look skywards, ask for forgiveness and hoped she understood.

With time, I have become older and wiser. The two words - 'want' and 'need' - have over the years helped me with major decisions, in various aspects of my life.

Whether it was something basic or life changing, from buying a dress, a new laptop, a top of the range mobile phone, a career move or job offer, I unfailingly stopped and asked myself the question and got more clarity, enabling me to make a decision.

As a wife and mother, I have imparted the same wisdom to my two children. My husband too has, in times of uncertainty, found it helpful.

It is amazing how a simple question like that can be so profound, so thought provoking. It just reaffirms the timeless phrase - mum knows best!



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a trust – of the people by the people for the people

An Organisation for Rastriya Abhyudaya

(Registered under Registration Act 1908 in Gorakhpur, Regis No – 142- 07/12/2007)

Central Office: Basement, H-136, Shiv Durga Vihar, Lakkarpur, Faridabad – 121009

Cell: - 0091-93131-03060

Email –,

Registered Office: Rajendra Nagar (East), Near Bhagwati Chowk, Lachchipur

Gorakhnath Road, Gorakhpur – 273 015

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