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Friday, April 15, 2011

EDITORIAL 15.04.11

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Editorial

month april 15, edition 000807, csollected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. AT THE EXPENSE OF INDIA
  2. DAMAGE ASSESSMENT
  3. HAZARE INSPIRES MASSES - ARINDAM CHAUDHURI
  4. WHITE MAN'S BURDEN - ANURADHA DUTT
  5. WHITE MAN'S BURDEN - ANURADHA DUTT
  6. NOBLE INTENT, FORLORN HOPE- PREMEN ADDY
  7. CIVIL SOCIETY CORNERS GOVERNMENT - KALYANI SHANKAR
  8. NEED TO SCRUTINISE INDIA'S FOREIGN POLICY - CP BHAMBHRI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. THE NEW ORDER
  2. RIDE THE IT WAVE
  3. OUR RIGHT TO REFORM
  4. 'THERE'S NO POLITICAL CONNECTIVITY BETWEEN BRIC POWERS'
  5. ECONOMICS OF DEATH - JUG SURAIYA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. PLAYING WITH A STRAIGHT BAT
  2. IT'S A REAL STEAL
  3. HAZARE IS NO SAVIOUR - SUJATA ANANDAN
  4. IT'S NOT THE REAL DEAL - ASHOK MALIK
  5. WHERE THERE'S A BILL, THERE'S A SAY - GOPAL JAIN

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. HU STEPS FORWARD
  2. NOTHING FUNNY
  3. ROUGH JUSTICE
  4. EVERY VOTE COUNTS - SUHAS PALSHIKAR
  5. ARMS ACROSS THE HIMALAYAS - HARSH V. PANT
  6. THROWING BRICS AT DOLLARS - P. VAIDYANATHAN IYER
  7. SEE THE SPIRIT OF ANNA'S MOVEMENT - FARAH BARIA
  8. ESCAPING INDIA'S 'GILDED AGE'
  9. OF THE PEOPLE - SEEMA CHISHTI

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. WIRING WOES
  2. THE CURIOUS CASE OF DATACOM - RISHI RAJ
  3. IMF'S NEW NORMAL FOR TOKYO - WILLIAM PESEK

THE HINDU

  1. CASH, CHECKS, AND ELECTIONS
  2. THE KILLING OF A MODERATE
  3. JAN LOKPAL BILL: ADDRESSING CONCERNS  - PRASHANT BHUSHAN
  4. FROM KASHMIR TO KENYA — LINGERING LEGACY OF THE RAJ  - HASAN SUROOR
  5. LANGUAGE'S ONLY SPEAKERS BLANK EACH OTHER
  6. SOME OTHER LANGUAGES FACING EXTINCTION  - EMINE SINMAZ
  7. SEA PIRACY AT A RECORD HIGH, SAYS MARITIME BUREAU

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. RE-ENGAGING OF PAK HIT BY RANA FACTOR
  2. TRUST NO ONE - K.N. BHAT
  3. LEARNING FROM FAILURE - V.S. ARUNACHALAM & ESWARAN SUBRAHMANIAN
  4. BEST, BRIGHT & BLUE

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. SEASON OF GIFTS - BY TAVLEEN SINGH
  2. EMERGING PANCHAYAT RAJ INSTITUTIONS IN J&K - BY COL J P SINGH, RETD
  3. INDIA HEADING FOR 2ND GREEN REVOLUTION - BY ARABINDA GHOSE

THE TRIBUNE

  1. TOWARDS INDIA-CHINA BONHOMIE
  2. BRISK POLLING
  3. BRUTALITY NEAR BAREILLY
  4. STALEMATE IN LIBYA - BY INDER MALHOTRA
  5. OF JACK, JILL AND JANATA - BY VANDANA SHUKLA
  6. HOW INDIA CAN REAP DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND - BY R.K. LUNA

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. MANY QUESTIONS, FEW ANSWERS

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. HU-SINGH'S NEW TUNE
  2. POWER WITHOUT ABILITY
  3. KEEP IT LESS TAXING, PLEASE - JAIMINI BHAGWATI
  4. A TRIBUTE TO SARAH WELLS - JAMAL MECKLAI
  5. SUCCESSION BLUES - SHYAMAL MAJUMDAR
  6. HAS INDIAN CRICKET PEAKED? - SHANKAR ACHARYA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. TRIBULATIONS
  2. GO SLOW ON THIS ONE
  3. HOW MANY WIVES?
  4. GEAR UP FOR LIFE WITH $100+ CRUDE
  5. CAN LOKPAL ALONE WIPE OUT CORRUPTION?
  6. THE HAZARE PHENOMENON  - MANOJ PANT
  7. TWO KINDS OF GHOSTS  - MUKUL SHARMA
  8. THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES  - SIDDHARTHA MUKHERJEE

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. TRUST NO ONE
  2. RICH ECONOMY, FAT ROBBER BARONS
  3. TELECOM PSUS IN NEED OF REVIVAL
  4. LEARNING FROM FAILURE
  5. BEST, BRIGHT & BLUE
  6. THE PEOPLE OF THE HEART

THE STATESMAN

  1. EC'S BRAHMASTRA
  2. CRICKETING PAWNS
  3. SOFTLY, SOFTLY
  4. BRICS MEETING IN CHINA - SALMAN HAIDAR
  5. IT'S INDIA'S JASMINE MOMENT!  -  RAJINDER PURI
  6. WHAT NOW, AFTER CHERNOBYL RATING?
  7. GLIMPSE OF GANDHI  - ML KOTRU

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. PEOPLE'S POWER
  2. RIGHT OF PASSAGE
  3. TIME FOR A REALITY CHECK - DASGUPTA
  4. WHAT AILS THE SYSTEM  - BONAFIDE: MALVIKA SINGH

DECCAN HERALD

  1. MOVING FORWARD
  2. IMPRESSIVE TURNOUT
  3. AGONY AND ECSTASY  - BY KULDIP NAYAR
  4. AN UNHEALTHY BOOM IN CAPITAL FLOWS TO DCS - BY LMAZ AKYUZ, IPS
  5. DOUBLY BLESSED  - BY JUNE CARVALHO

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. OBAMA'S NEW TAX HIKE PLAN
  2. OBAMA'S NEW TAX HIKE PLAN
  3. MORE SLEEPY AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS
  4. OBAMA VS. 'THE DONALD'? HORRORS!

HARARETZ

  1. THE FOUR SONS FROM THE HAGGADAH - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  2. OUR LEADERS SHOULD MOVE TO FINLAND  - BY YOEL MARCUS
  3. LEFTISTS, MEET YOUR REPRESENTATIVES - BY YOSSI SARID
  4. THE LEVER OPERATOR  - BY DORON ROSENBLUM
  5. LIEBERMAN MUST NOT WAIT TO RESIGN
  6. IN FAVOR OF A GAZA DEFENSIVE SHIELD - BY AMIEL UNGAR
  7. IN FAVOR OF A GAZA DEFENSIVE SHIELD - BY AMIEL UNGAR
  8. SAVING SAFRA SQUARE  - BY GERARD HEUMANN
  9. SIGNS OF AUTHORITARIANISM  - BY MAIRAV ZONSZEIN
  10. SIGNS OF AUTHORITARIANISM  - BY MAIRAV ZONSZEIN
  11. FROM EXODUS TO HOMECOMING  - BY RAFAEL MEDOFF

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - IS THIS A EUROPEAN APPROACH?
  2. NO LONGER TURKEY VS FRANCE, THIS IS ERDOĞAN VS SARKOZY - BARÇIN YİNANÇ
  3. FROM 'SERVANTS OF ARMENIANS' TO JUST 'FRENCH' - BURAK
  4. BEKDİL
  5. IS ERDOĞAN 'FRENCH' WHEN IT COMES TO EUROPE? - SEMİH İDİZ
  6. MENTALITY… - YUSUF KANLI
  7. EUROPE REGRETS, TURKEY IS PLEASED - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  8. FROM MASCULINE DEMOCRACY TO 'GENUINE DEMOCRACY' - ORAL ÇALIŞLAR
  9. ERDOĞAN'S STRASBOURG SPURT - SERGÜL TAŞDEMİR

THE NEWS

  1. RIGHTS AND WRONGS
  2. NO RESPITE
  3. PIRACY THWARTED
  4. ZAB REFERENCE: TAKING EVERYONE FOR A RIDE  - AYAZ AMIR
  5. A PARTNERSHIP UNDER STRESS  - M SAEED KHALID
  6. REGIME CHANGE AT GUNPOINT  - DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL
  7. HIGHER EDUCATION DILEMMA  - DR QAISAR RASHID
  8. CLIMBING UP THE GREASY POLE  - SHAFQAT MAHMOOD
  9. SIDE-EFFECT  - HARRIS KHALIQUE

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. SHAHBAZ FOR NATIONAL UNITY AGAINST DRONES
  2. DEEPENING OF RELATIONS WITH TURKEY
  3. NARGIS SHOWS WAY FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION
  4. JUDGES MAKE INDIA PROUD- M D NALAPAT
  5. THE JEHADIS ARE COMING! - GEN MIRZA ASLAM BEG
  6. ISLAM: A VERSATILE RELIGION - DR AAMINAH ABD-UR-REHMAN
  7. INDO-PAK COMPOSITE DIALOGUE - SULTAN M HALI
  8. WE TOO SHOULD BAN THE BURKA - ALLISON PEARSON

 THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. IT'S FORD'S NEW CAR PLAN
  2. WHO TWEETS FOR ABORIGINES?
  3. UNION REVOLT TESTS SWAN'S ECONOMIC RESOLVE ON TRADE

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. A PM BOGGED IN GOOD INTENTIONS
  2. BACK TO FEARLESS INDEPENDENCE
  3. THINKING DEEPER THAN FACE VALUE
  4. WAVING POLICY STICKS WON'T SWELL WORKFORCE

THE GUARDIAN

  1. POLICING DEMONSTRATIONS: GROUNDS FOR PROTEST
  2. IMMIGRATION: LIVING WITH DIVERSITY
  3. IN PRAISE OF … DAVID RUNCIMAN

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. NO WAY TO RUN A GOVERNMENT
  2. U.S. CIVIL WAR: WHAT IF? - BY GWYNNE DYER
  3. SAFER ALTERNATIVE BEARS ON DOLLAR - BY BARRY EICHENGREEN

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. POLITICAL CHAMELEONS
  2. LETTER TO THE EDITOR: CLARIFICATION FROM CITIBANK
  3. IS MULTICULTURALISM DEAD? - ABDUL MALIK GISMAR
  4. IMMIGRATION LAW MOVES FROM 'THE WALL' TO 'THE GATEWAY' - FAHRI HAMZAH
  5. LEARNING FROM INDIA'S PPPS - EKO WIJI PURWANTO,
  6. AHMADIYAH A TEST OF DIALOGUE, LAW - ANDY FULLER

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. A VICTIM OF CONFLICT...    - BY JENNIFER GNANA 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

AT THE EXPENSE OF INDIA

FOR PM, SOUTH ASIA IS ONLY PAKISTAN!


Following up on talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani that were held on the sidelines of the India-Pakistan Cricket World Cup semi-final match at Mohali on March 30 and the Home Secretary-level talks that happened subsequently, India has now decided to resume cricketing ties with its neighbour. This is despite the fact that terror suspect Tahawwur Hussain Rana has claimed that the Pakistani Government and its agencies sponsored the Mumbai carnage of 26/11. Rana's revelations are not particularly surprising given that it has long been suspected that Pakistan had a role in the Mumbai attacks. That suspicion has now been confirmed. Yet, Mr Singh refuses to read the writing on the wall, continuing, instead, with his 'cricket diplomacy' — a flawed and ineffective foreign policy tool. For some inexplicable reason, Mr Singh likes to believe — possibly because the US wants him to believe so — that if leaders of the two nations watch a cricket match together it will magically pave the path to better bilateral relations. Nothing could be farther from the truth; if anything, Mr Singh's emphasis on 'cricket diplomacy' shows how frighteningly little he understands the real politics of the game as it plays out among fans on both sides of the border. A quick look at the post-Mohali vitriolic coverage in the Pakistani media of the semi-final match — touted to be a goodwill gesture — reveals how terribly critical even the mainstream English media, let alone the habitually antagonistic Urdu Press, has been of India's well-deserved victory. And then of course there was the shocking comment from Pakistani captain Shahid Afridi: "Indians will never have hearts like Muslims and Pakistanis." Shahid Afridi is not known for his diplomatic skills but, like it or not, he has voiced popular opinion in Pakistan.


Given this backdrop, South Block's narrow focus on Pakistan is nothing less than a diplomatic disaster in the making. What is particularly worrying is that Mr Singh's Pakistan-centric regional policy comes at the cost of India's relations with its other neighbours — namely, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, all of whom have rightly complained that they are often sidelined by the incumbent regime in New Delhi, especially at regional events such as SAARC Summits which are often reduced to India-Pakistan talks. That India's policy-makers have for several years now focussed on mending fences with a recalcitrant Pakistan while ignoring friends in the region speaks volumes about the quality of our leadership. Take Bangladesh for example: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed is undoubtedly one of India's strongest regional ally — she heads a secular republic, has cracked down on extremist groups and handed over wanted separatist leaders. Yet when she inaugurated the Cricket World Cup in Dhaka which was a major international event for Bangladesh, and a fantastic opportunity for India to show its support, a Pakistan-obsessed Manmohan Singh did absolutely nothing to acknowledge the event. What a waste! It's sad but true that neither Mr Singh nor his National Security Adviser is capable of thinking outside the box and supporting a holistic vision for regional growth. That wouldn't serve American interest.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT

GREEN APPROVAL SYSTEM DEEPLY FLAWED


In a regime where accepting responsibility and conceding failure are rare virtues, Minister for Environment & Forests Jairam Ramesh stands out for his plain speaking. Admitting that the present system of 'environmental impact assessment' of proposed industrial and other projects has been rendered dysfunctional, he has described it as "a joke". There is merit in his contention because the system requires those setting up a project to furnish the EIA report. It is debatable whether those who have a stake in a proposed project will get a fair assessment done and not hide any potential adverse impact on the environment. If integrity is lacking in the Government, the private sector is no different. After all, consultants appointed by stakeholders are known to have obfuscated facts in EIA reports prepared by them. Worse, often they have done a cut-and-paste job from other reports to help the project get the green nod. For instance, the EIA report on the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant has shown two functional creeks, which will flank the plant and are rich in marine life and biodiversity, as "filled up". Similarly, a cement factory coming up in a wetland in Gujarat was given the go ahead as its EIA report showed the plant was being constructed on wasteland. Which brings us to certain questions: Why were environmentalists, who have been crying hoarse about blatant loopholes in the system of getting environment clearance, not consulted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests when it issued the amended EIA notification in 2006? Is it because the then Minister, A Raja, had given in to pressure from the all-powerful mining and power lobbies?


Mr Jairam Ramesh's admission only underscores the need for sweeping changes in the present EIA system. If we are serious about conservation, these changes have become imperative to arrest the rot. More so because the loss of ecology and biodiversity can lead to the extinction of flora and fauna and have an irreversible impact on humankind for generations to come. The Ministry's decision to introduce an accreditation system for consultants which will allow those found to have furnished fraudulent reports to be blacklisted is a welcome measure. Similarly, the move to get a third party to conduct environmental assessments for projects in ecologically sensitive areas is praiseworthy. That said, the State Governments also need to be involved in the exercise as certain environmental clearances are given by them. At the same time, Mr Jairam Ramesh should ensure that development projects do not get stalled on account of changes in the law. The idea is not to raise barriers but get credible assessments done by institutes that are known to be scrupulous. Anything less will give impetus to reflexive reactions from special interest groups that use environment as a shield while attacking the Government whenever a development project is approved. The Narmada Bachao Andolan's bogus protest is a case in point.

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

HAZARE INSPIRES MASSES

ARINDAM CHAUDHURI


There's something intensely touching about Anna Hazare's simplicity and unbending conviction that India must be rid of corruption. Along with his followers like Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal, he stands out in the crowd of corrupt people in public life. These are the men who should lead India


Many have been surprised by Anna Hazare's success in mobilising the people of India and making the Government accept his demand. However, Anna Hazare is not a new phenomenon. Twelve years ago, the IIPM think-tank had initiated visits to Anna Hazare's village and undertaken a study. That is when one realised why he is an icon to many. Therefore, when he decided to come to New Delhi, one instantly knew that one needed to support him and his cause.


Ms Kiran Bedi, a respected former police officer, had come to IIPM during the Bharatiya Manavata Vikas Puraskar ceremony — where she had received an award for her long-standing commitment to changing India — and had given a passionate speech to support the cause. Mr Arvind Kejriwal, to whom the entire nation should be thankful for fighting for the RTI Act, was also there with Anna Hazare. So was Swami Agnivesh, a man with a very balanced outlook on social issues. Thus, it was a group that one could feel proud of. And these are the people one would like the country to be led by.


After meeting Anna Hazare in person one realised that he is a man of different mettle. His overwhelming personality was so impressive that one felt like commenting, "Anna is my Prime Minister." India is a country where many people live on barely two dollars a day — the globally defined standard of poverty line. Anna Hazare is one of their true representatives.


In our country, the common man often does not get the chance to pursue college and university education. So was the case with Anna Hazare. He studied up to class VII in Mumbai and then took up a job due to his family's poor economic condition. Yet he is someone whose education from life is worth many doctoral degrees.

India lives in its villages and so does Anna Hazare. India still has a heart of gold and so does this man. When IIPM suggested to him that it wished to institute the 'Anna Hazare Rural Leadership' fellowship, he had such wonderful thoughts on the same. He explained why our country needed leaders in rural India more than it did in urban India if real change was to be brought about. The man, his selflessness, his down-to-earth ways, his simple yet honest and powerful thoughts — everything will make any person bow his head in respect. And yours truly was no exception.


Sitting next to him in the most unassuming manner was Mr Arvind Kejriwal — another inspiration and example of selflessness. He is the man who has given an entire nation hope through the RTI Act and made the Government much more responsible in many ways. Every word they spoke added to the belief with which one went to them — the belief that India needed to bring them to mainstream politics.


Although they both vehemently disagreed with the suggestion of coming to mainstream politics, one was more than convinced that these were the leaders India needed. It is because if we cannot respect our current crop of leaders, then they are of no good. Anna Hazare and his people, on the contrary, are those whom every Indian can easily respect.


One would like to say that it is time that people of India do not breathe easy just with this one small victory that Anna Hazare and his group of committed activists have achieved. One was happy to know that even they do not plan to end it here but want to take their movement forward. At the top of their agenda are judicial and electoral reforms — two issues that are extremely close to people's hearts as well as to the IIPM think-tank.

Anna Hazare and his loyalists plan to raise each of these issues and continue their struggle till things change for the better. One wonders why they are ready to be called unelected people's representatives when they can win elections and do much more than they can do now by staying out of politics. Politics should not be the last resort of unscrupulous men. It should be the first resort of every committed soul. They need to show India the way.

Yours truly, for one, would rather have a man like Anna Hazare as his Prime Minister — simply because he has his heart in the right place — rather than having a doctorate in economics as the Prime Minister of the country who allows corruption to breed and keeps his eyes closed to all the filth around him.


-- The writer is a management guru and editor, The Sunday Indian.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

WHITE MAN'S BURDEN

ANURADHA DUTT


Why is EU eager to monitor Binayak Sen's bail hearing?


The perception that India is gradually being turned by the Congress-led ruling coalition into a fiefdom of Western powers, open to arm-twisting and interference, has gained validity from the Union Home Ministry's directive to the Supreme Court to allow a three-member European Union delegation to observe judicial proceedings with regard to the bail plea of jailed rights activists Binayak Sen. The three observers are Mr Raphael Martin de Lagarde from France, Ms Louise de Brass of Denmark and Ms Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee of EU. In January, the UPA Government had allowed representatives from the Delhi-based missions of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Hungary, Sweden, the UK and the EU to oversee Chattisgarh High Court proceedings concerning Binayak Sen's appeal against the life sentence awarded to him by a sessions court, for anti-national activities.


The presence of foreign nationals in an Indian court, as observers of a case that ostensibly has no bearing on their interests, had prompted severe criticism of the Government's decision. Now, too, nationalist Indians, who value their hard-won independence, and are wary of overt and covert attempts by aliens to influence policy-making, object to the EU team again being permitted to oversee Binayak Sen's case. The EU's excessive interest in the man suggests two things: One, that he has been pushing European interests under the guise of welfare work in the tribal belt; and, two, he is working for the EU or some other Western power cabal. For, others, currently facing trial for sedition, and in jail, like Binayak Sen, have not managed to ignite European support, or even inspired any global rights watchdog to take up their case. So, why is he special? And why is the Government acceding to the EU's wish?


These are questions that must be raised at public fora. However, barring 'civil society' representatives, with one foot on First World soil, and one foot here, and who are also recipients of foreign largesse, both in the form of funding and prestigious awards, people are dismayed at the Government's recklessness. They wonder whether any American or European court would similarly allow a team of Indian observers to oversee judicial proceedings, involving Indians but concerning their national security. Obviously, this would not happen since First World countries are extremely vigilant about guarding their interests, even if this entails subverting or bombing other nations. Tragically, with the ruling coalition seeming to act as a facilitator for EU and its ilk, Opposition parties and patriotic citizens need to join hands to thwart forces, inimical to a sovereign India.

But, first we need to ascertain the democratic credentials of the most prominent constituents of the 27-member EU, and especially those which have been most vociferous in voicing doubts about civil liberties in India. Do they have a right at all to question our adherence to free speech and other rights, guaranteed by the Constitution? How egalitarian, just and free are they? It would astound readers to know that while we embraced democracy in its truest sense on attaining independence, with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi eventually banning royal titles and privy purses, and erstwhile untouchables rising to hold the posts of President, Supreme Court Chief Justice, Union Ministers and Chief Ministers, Europe, which is supposedly progressive, has 12 monarchies. These are based purely on inheritance, bloodlines and religion. The internet portal Wikipedia lists these as being the Principality of Andorra, Kingdom of Belgium, Kingdom of Denmark, Principality of Liechenstein, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Principality of Monaco. Kingdom of the Netherlands, Kingdom of Norway, Kingdom of Spain, Kingdom of Sweden, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the State of the Vatican City. Most claim to be constitutional monarchies but continue to be over-awed by the institution of kingship by birth and right.

Of these 12, seven monarchies are members of the EU: Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The joint monarchs of the Principality of Andorra are the French President and Bishop Joan Enric Vives Sicilia. Yet, these countries never tire of lecturing the developing world on democratic values, and warning them against human rights violations. The high born and wealthy among them enjoy social precedence as well as privileges, out of reach of the vast majority. They also hang on to their royal and aristocratic titles, purses and elitist valuations. Political and economic policies largely serve the interests of the ruling elite, of whom many so qualify by the mere accident of birth. The social divide in these nations is possibly more conspicuous than in India, where people from historically disadvantaged groups are given the chance for social ascent via reservations in premier educational institutions and Government jobs as well as a share in the task of governance by entry into elected bodies.


Our erstwhile blue blood, still vainly clinging to their titles, have seen their power and privileges eroded. For, the Constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens, irrespective of caste, gender and religion, and bans social discrimination. But Britain, India's former ruler, today presents the sorry spectacle of artificial hysteria over a prince's impending nuptials to a commoner. The Queen is still monarch and head of 16 Commonwealth realms. In such a scenario, India really needs no lessons in civil liberties.

 

***************************************


THE PIONEER

OPED

WHITE MAN'S BURDEN

ANURADHA DUTT


Why is EU eager to monitor Binayak Sen's bail hearing?

The perception that India is gradually being turned by the Congress-led ruling coalition into a fiefdom of Western powers, open to arm-twisting and interference, has gained validity from the Union Home Ministry's directive to the Supreme Court to allow a three-member European Union delegation to observe judicial proceedings with regard to the bail plea of jailed rights activists Binayak Sen. The three observers are Mr Raphael Martin de Lagarde from France, Ms Louise de Brass of Denmark and Ms Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee of EU. In January, the UPA Government had allowed representatives from the Delhi-based missions of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Hungary, Sweden, the UK and the EU to oversee Chattisgarh High Court proceedings concerning Binayak Sen's appeal against the life sentence awarded to him by a sessions court, for anti-national activities.


The presence of foreign nationals in an Indian court, as observers of a case that ostensibly has no bearing on their interests, had prompted severe criticism of the Government's decision. Now, too, nationalist Indians, who value their hard-won independence, and are wary of overt and covert attempts by aliens to influence policy-making, object to the EU team again being permitted to oversee Binayak Sen's case. The EU's excessive interest in the man suggests two things: One, that he has been pushing European interests under the guise of welfare work in the tribal belt; and, two, he is working for the EU or some other Western power cabal. For, others, currently facing trial for sedition, and in jail, like Binayak Sen, have not managed to ignite European support, or even inspired any global rights watchdog to take up their case. So, why is he special? And why is the Government acceding to the EU's wish?


These are questions that must be raised at public fora. However, barring 'civil society' representatives, with one foot on First World soil, and one foot here, and who are also recipients of foreign largesse, both in the form of funding and prestigious awards, people are dismayed at the Government's recklessness. They wonder whether any American or European court would similarly allow a team of Indian observers to oversee judicial proceedings, involving Indians but concerning their national security. Obviously, this would not happen since First World countries are extremely vigilant about guarding their interests, even if this entails subverting or bombing other nations. Tragically, with the ruling coalition seeming to act as a facilitator for EU and its ilk, Opposition parties and patriotic citizens need to join hands to thwart forces, inimical to a sovereign India.

But, first we need to ascertain the democratic credentials of the most prominent constituents of the 27-member EU, and especially those which have been most vociferous in voicing doubts about civil liberties in India. Do they have a right at all to question our adherence to free speech and other rights, guaranteed by the Constitution? How egalitarian, just and free are they? It would astound readers to know that while we embraced democracy in its truest sense on attaining independence, with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi eventually banning royal titles and privy purses, and erstwhile untouchables rising to hold the posts of President, Supreme Court Chief Justice, Union Ministers and Chief Ministers, Europe, which is supposedly progressive, has 12 monarchies. These are based purely on inheritance, bloodlines and religion. The internet portal Wikipedia lists these as being the Principality of Andorra, Kingdom of Belgium, Kingdom of Denmark, Principality of Liechenstein, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Principality of Monaco. Kingdom of the Netherlands, Kingdom of Norway, Kingdom of Spain, Kingdom of Sweden, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the State of the Vatican City. Most claim to be constitutional monarchies but continue to be over-awed by the institution of kingship by birth and right.


Of these 12, seven monarchies are members of the EU: Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The joint monarchs of the Principality of Andorra are the French President and Bishop Joan Enric Vives Sicilia. Yet, these countries never tire of lecturing the developing world on democratic values, and warning them against human rights violations. The high born and wealthy among them enjoy social precedence as well as privileges, out of reach of the vast majority. They also hang on to their royal and aristocratic titles, purses and elitist valuations. Political and economic policies largely serve the interests of the ruling elite, of whom many so qualify by the mere accident of birth. The social divide in these nations is possibly more conspicuous than in India, where people from historically disadvantaged groups are given the chance for social ascent via reservations in premier educational institutions and Government jobs as well as a share in the task of governance by entry into elected bodies.


Our erstwhile blue blood, still vainly clinging to their titles, have seen their power and privileges eroded. For, the Constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens, irrespective of caste, gender and religion, and bans social discrimination. But Britain, India's former ruler, today presents the sorry spectacle of artificial hysteria over a prince's impending nuptials to a commoner. The Queen is still monarch and head of 16 Commonwealth realms. In such a scenario, India really needs no lessons in civil liberties.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

NOBLE INTENT, FORLORN HOPE

PREMEN ADDY


British Prime Minister David Cameron's generosity towards Pakistan is entirely misplaced. He would do well to remember that fine words butter no parsnips.


British Prime Minister David Cameron was at his emollient best during his recent visit to Pakistan. He understood Pakistan's present difficulties with terrorism and insurgency; he regretted past misunderstandings and wished to wipe the slate clean and renew Britain's partnership with a strategic ally. Finally, the visitor left behind an education aid package of £650 million for his hosts, signifying noble intent and forlorn hope.

At a time of British austerity and spending cuts, this was generosity indeed. No London street vendor scattering confetti in celebration of the royal nuptials could have done more. Christina Lamb, writing in The Sunday Times, broke ranks with a pliant media: "When David Cameron announced £650 million in education for Pakistan last week, I guess the same thought occurred to many British people as it did to me: Why are we doing this? While we are slashing our social services and making our children pay hefty university fees, why should we be giving all this money to a country that has reduced its education budget to 1.5 per cent of GDP while spending several times as much on defence? A country where only 1.7 million of a population of 180 million pay tax? A country that is stepping up its production of nuclear weapons so much that its arsenal will soon outnumber Britain's? ... As someone who has spent as much time in Pakistan as in Britain over the past 24 years, I feel particularly conflicted, as I have long argued we should be investing in education there."

Ms Lamb, author of an acclaimed book on Pakistan, provided a tour d'horizon of the country: Whatever liberalism there ever was is now as extinct as the Dodo. Western educational aid in the past had been diverted to the military and arms acquisitions, the educational gap filled by Saudi-funded madarsas — training ground of terrorists and the Taliban; the Pakistani middle classes including the legal fraternity were fervent supporters of Salman Taseer's assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, not the Punjab Governor who had questioned the imposition of the country's blasphemy laws on innocent victims, not their legality, nor their moral purpose. During two weeks travelling in Pakistan last month, I feel the situation has gone far beyond anything that a long-term strategy of building schools and training teachers can hope to restrain."

Mohammed Ali Jinnah's construct — peace be upon him — is beyond repair. Some in the American political class appear to be coming round to this view. Mr Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican Congressman from California who sits on House Foreign Affairs Committee and has been dealing with Pakistan since working in the Reagan White House, says he now realises "they were playing us for suckers all along. I used to be Pakistan's best friend on the Hill but I now consider Pakistan to be unfriendly to the US. Pakistan has literally been getting away with murder and when you tie that with the realisation that they went ahead and used their scarce resources to build nuclear weapons, it is perhaps the most frightening of all the things that have been going on over the last few years. We were snookered. As he put it, "For a long time we bought into this vision that Pakistan's military was a moderate force and we were supporting moderates by supporting the military. In fact, the military is in alliance with radical militants. Just because they shave their beards and look Western they fooled a lot of people." It has taken years for the scales to fall from his eyes. Curiously, it takes new born puppies 10 days to acquire sight.

 

Mr Rohrabacher's disingenuous plea of naivety, plain and simple, will not wash. Far from this being a con, Pakistan has been America's partner of choice from the early-1950s. Its military, which has called the shots thereon, was (and is) armed by Washington, DC for the most part, unquestioningly. Successive US Administrations have assiduously certified to Congress that Pakistani Governments were not involved in the incubation and export of terror, nor that they were engaged in clandestine nuclear weapons proliferation, on which Washington had critical foreknowledge.


As India was the target of such activities, it was, apropos of Pakistan, hear no evil, speak no evil in America's halls of power. Not even when the Pakistani military massacred some three million Bengali-speaking East Pakistanis in 1971 and subsequently went to war with India in December that year. President Richard Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger joined forces with China in support of their common client General Yahya Khan in Islamabad.


Donald L Berlin's in-depth analysis entitled "India in the Indian Ocean", published in the (US) Naval War College Review in 2006, contains this telling line: " ... the United States and China with the help of Pakistan [sought] to contain India." This alignment was maintained to the very end of the 20th century. Now comes news from Washington that David Headley aka Daood Gilani and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, the two men of Pakistani origin believed to have planned and conducted the Mumbai reconnaissance prior to the 26/11 terrorist carnage in the city, have implicated the Pakistan Government and its intelligence agency ISI in the attack. In court documents preceding the upcoming trial in Chicago, Rana has confessed that his actions "were at the behest of the Pakistani Government, not the Lashkar terrorist organisation."


All of which brings to mind the following exchange between Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in the Kremlin in the summer of 1941 as Hitler's Wehrmacht pounded the the gates of Moscow. Britain's wartime leader confessed that his was the guiding hand behind the Allied military intervention in Russia in 1919, which had led to a devastating civil war and famine in the country: "Can you forgive me?" he asked his formidable host. Came the famous reply: "It is for god to forgive." The subtext: Redemption and forgiveness are too arduous to be achieved through table talk and idle chatter. It requires spiritual renewal. Americans should revisit their past accordingly.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CIVIL SOCIETY CORNERS GOVERNMENT

KALYANI SHANKAR


The proposed Lok Pal Bill has been languishing for decades despite repeated assurances by successive Governments to enact the law. Anna Hazare's agitation has revived the dead Bill once again


It needed an Anna Hazare to force the Government to take a final view on the Lok Pal Bill, which is expected to work as a bulwark against corruption. The controversial Bill has been eluding Parliament for over four decades now. The first Lok Pal Bill was presented in the fourth Lok Sabha in 1968 based on the recommendations of an Administrative Reforms Commission report and was passed in 1969. However, it was pending in the Rajya Sabha when Parliament was dissolved. Hence, the Bill lapsed. Since then the Bill has been introduced in Parliament in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1995, 2001, 2005 and 2008, but was never passed.


The First Administrative Reforms Commission of 1966, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution of 2002 and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission of 2007 — all dealt with the subject. Meanwhile, 18 States have already set up their own Lokayuktas though they do not have uniform jurisdiction. In some States, the Chief Minister is included in the Lokayukta's purview while in other States that is not the case.


The office of the ombudsman, which originated in Sweden in 1809 AD, is now prevalent in Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Spain, New Zealand, Burkina Faso and the United Kingdom.


Anna Hazare's movement has struck the right chord with the people who are angry and frustrated with the Government's failure to contain corruption. His anti-corruption agitation pressing for the Bill thus saw spontaneous mass support. The veteran social activist was also ready with the draft of an alternate Lok Pal Bill, called Jan Lok Pal Bill, which has been drawn up by prominent civil society activists. It seeks the setting up of a Lokpal, an independent body to deal with corruption in high places among other things. In an unprecedented move, the Government accepted Anna Hazare's demand of forming a joint drafting committee with the Government and 'civil society' having equal representation.


Why the Government yielded to the pressure of rights activists is a question that needs to be looked into. Several scams that have come to light in the last six months have already dented the UPA Government's image. Thus it was afraid that Anna Hazare's agitation may further hurt the already sagging image given the groundswell of anti-corruption sentiment. Further, Anna Hazare was able to mobilise the support of the middle class. The Congress got panicked that the middle class vote bank, which it had wrested from the BJP, may slip out of its hands. Therefore, in a knee-jerk reaction, it tried to protect its pro-common man image. Another factor was Ms Sonia Gandhi's support for the cause. Given the number of rights activists present in the National Advisory Council, the civil society groups have begun to feel that there is someone in the Congress who is willing to hear them out.


The Government's action has raised several questions. Will it set a precedence for other Bills too? For instance, Anna Hazare is already talking of electoral reforms Bill. Now, what if communities like Gujjars, who would like to have a say in reservation Bills, make such demands? Now that social activists have tasted blood this may only be the beginning for them to come up with more demands in the future. Sooner than later, more contentious demands will be raised from across the country and rights activists may want more space in drafting of future Bills pertaining to civil liberties and social causes. Without doubt, the Government will find it tough to tackle such demands.

Whether or not this new experiment will succeed is a question that is being asked. Is it a good practice to involve the citizens in the formation of a Bill, particularly when it is the job of the executive and the legislature? The people's representatives are in Parliament to study, debate and pass these Bills. So suddenly giving this right to individuals and groups is like crossing the line. Political observers are apprehensive of the fact that in a democracy, where there is a role devised for citizens, their elected representatives and the Government, this may create a dangerous trend by upsetting the constitutional balance — if not now, at a later date. Many feel the Government should not have yielded to the pressure tactics of Anna Hazare. It could have consulted civil society groups to get their suggestions instead of allowing them to become a part of the process. Already suggestions have come from the Congress that NGOs and the corporate sector should also be brought under the purview of the Lok Pal Bill.


Coming back to the Lok Pal Bill, it is true that the Government has been dragging its feet over the Bill for too long, The alternate Bill known as the Jan Lok Pal Bill seeks the appointment of an independent body which would investigate corruption cases. Drafted by eminent jurists like Santosh Hegde and Prashant Bhushan, the Bill proposes to prosecute politicians without the permission of the Government and envisages completion of the investigation within a year and completion of trial by the second year.


There is absolutely no harm in the involvement of the people in the drafting stage of the law and greater consultations are welcome. But the role of the citizens, elected representatives, the Prime Minister, Parliament and the executive should be protected as envisaged in the Constitution.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

NEED TO SCRUTINISE INDIA'S FOREIGN POLICY

DESPITE THE PRIME MINISTER'S DISMISSAL OF CABLES PUT OUT BY WIKILEAKS, WE MUST NOT IGNORE THE IMPACT OF US POLICY ON INDIA, WRITES CP BHAMBHRI


The US cables put out by the WikiLeaks have not only established the fact that the US diplomats were keeping a vigil over every aspect of India's domestic politics and governance but also reveals how an anxious India sought US approval for a range of major decisions. It deserves to be stated that the Opposition parties have always warned the Congress-led UPA regime to maintain a distance from America so that the US Administration do not dictate or influence public policy decisions. However, the leaked US cables show that the Government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has consciously allowed itself to be manipulated by the US.


Responding to the Lok Sabha debate on March 23, 2011 Mr Singh questioned the authenticity of the cables by observing, "It was not possible for the Government to confirm the veracity or the contents of such communication." Mr Singh did not stop at dismissing the cables as unverified and unverifiable, he adopted a cavalier approach stating that "If they exist, they would be communications from the US diplomats stationed in New Delhi to their Government in Washington".


Although Mr Singh was being disingenuous by trying to describe the revelations as figments of imagination of a fertile mind, a few facts which have emerged from the cables clearly indicate that every event of consequence was under the scrutiny of American intelligence agencies in India. A look at some important facts that found mention in the US cables will substantiate the argument. First, a cable of April 6, 2005 reported by the Indian media on March 27, 2011, reveals that US Ambassador David Mulford described Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi as "pro-Communist" and that she appeared "more comfortable working with the often high-caste and well-educated Communists than regional satraps of the State based parties". This may have been the reason why US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wanted Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia and not Mr Pranab Mukherjee for the crucial Ministry of Finance as she wanted to checkmate Ms Gandhi's so-called cordial relations with Left parties. It is clear that the Cabinet-making process and the picking of Ministers were subjected to close scrutiny and America's preference for pro-American Ministers was publicly mentioned and conveyed.

Second, the foreign policy matters of India were not kept a secret to the Obama Administration. According to the New Delhi Embassy cable of May 1, 2009 and July 7, 2009 to the US State Department, India's newly appointed Permanent Representative to the UN, Mr Hardeep Puri, conveyed that "... the US-India bilateral relationship had benefited from a 'paradigm shift'" and India seeks "a greater degree of convergence" with the US on foreign policy. How can Mr Singh show innocence after these documented revelations?


The most sensational disclosure in the cable was the description of former representative to the UN Mr Nirupam Sen as "a dyed-in-the-wool Non-Aligned Movement advocate who made coordination with the Indians in the UN difficult". The US was happy with the selection of Mr Puri as he appeared "pragmatic". It implies that Mr Puri is a trustworthy diplomat for the Americans unlike Mr Sen. Again, the cables of March 15 and 17 clearly show that Americans were pulling all strings for playing a 'fraternal' role in India's foreign policy and had influenced India's attitude towards Iran and its decision on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

Further, Mr Singh's Cabinet was clearly tilted in favour of American arms and ammunitions industry. The Indian media reported on March 28, 2011 that the 'New Framework for the India-US Defence Relationship' signed in July 2005 promises extremely profitable business for the US as according to the US estimation, the Indian market for weapons import is worth "more than $27 billion" and it stands to gain from a "closer relationship and cooperation between India-America military establishment".


It is no secret that American corporates are lobbying extensively in India for the pursuit of their business goals and are trying to influence India's decision-making processes. India's Ambassador to the US informed the Government of India about bribes paid by American multinational companies to Indians, including public sector enterprises. Even Dow Chemical Company, the new avatar of Union Carbide — the company responsible for the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984 — is engaged in negotiations and networking with pliable politicians and bureaucrats of Maharashtra.


Therefore, how can one accept Mr Singh's contemptuous dismissal of the WikiLeaks cables in the light of such hard facts? Especially, when the increasing influence of America on Indian public policy formulation whether domestic or foreign is obvious.


Indians should be wary of the fact that the US-led Nato's armed forces have established a permanent headquarter in the neighbourhood. If the US can militarily intervene in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, with a view to impose a regime of their own choice and follows a policy of 'regime change' in countries of direct strategic and economic interests to India, it is imperative that we analyse the direct impact of US foreign policy on India.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

THE NEW ORDER

 

The Goldman-Sachs coined 'BRIC' - Brazil, Russia, India, China - was always going to be a buzzword. But the third BRICS summit on the island of Hainan in China - the first one with South Africa on the roster - has shown how reality has outstripped 2003's optimistic predictions in some ways.


The statement released at the summit makes it clear that as a bargaining group on the global stage, BRICS is becoming a potent reality. Short on details though it was, the statement, with its focus on a revamped global monetary system, a lessened reliance on the dollar and a greater say in international financial institutions, was yet a clear demonstration of intent.


Such sentiments are increasingly buttressed by a very real economic clout in the wake of the global financial crisis. There are growing synergies, as well as points of difference, among the five nations. The former have been evident from common stands on climate change and trade protectionism at international forums over the past few years. The agreement to establish mutual credit lines in local currencies, arrived at during the summit, hones such synergies. With India's and China's focus on services and manufacturing respectively, and Russia's and Brazil's energy resources, there is ample scope for an expansion in trade cooperation. Developed nations have long operated as a de facto bloc in international forums, to their advantage. Finally, the emerging economies are learning the lesson.


But there are numerous hurdles to be overcome, of course, both between member states and as a bloc. China's refusal to allow the yuan to appreciate is a sticking point with Brazil and India. Between India and China, long-standing border issues also serve as an irritant. And if the idea of BRICS is to increase the weight of emerging markets in international forums, China's refusal to support India as a permanent member of the UN Security Council isn't quite consistent with this. And it's inexplicable why Beijing hasn't yet clearly repudiated its recent practice of stapling visas to visitors from Jammu and Kashmir. Surely Beijing, which is jealous of its national sovereignty, should understand New Delhi's concerns on this: the equivalent would be if India were to begin to staple visas of visitors from Tibet or Xinjiang province.


BRICS is clearly an association in the making. Its members lack the common cultural and political context within which developed economies operate. Nevertheless, the summit is a good start. Perhaps the grouping could be strengthened in future by attracting other emerging giants such as Indonesia and Turkey, even if the cost is losing its current catchy acronym.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

RIDE THE IT WAVE

 

The finding of an IMRB survey that internet penetration in rural India is set to double this year is welcome. The digital divide between rural and urban India is one of the main bottlenecks to equitable growth.

The total number of active rural internet users is projected to touch 24 million, an increase of 98% over last year.

The quantum leap can be attributed to increasing awareness, greater accessibility and the maturing of initiatives such as the government's National e-Governance Plan that has led to the mushrooming of 90,000 rural
IT kiosks across the country.

Private sector projects such as ITC's e-Choupal and Google's Internet Bus have done a commendable job in educating the uninitiated about the benefits of the internet. For empowering people it is imperative that the information super highway reaches every corner of India.

Access to the internet could transform the rural economy. It would enable farmers to keep themselves updated about latest farming techniques, weather forecasts and the trading prices of various crops.

Villagers could access information related to welfare schemes, education and work opportunities in the cities. E-governance could streamline the delivery of government services at the grassroots. Leveraging
mobile telephony, access to which is expanding rapidly, to deliver IT services is a good idea.

Thanks to inexpensive mobile handsets, a small investment is all it takes to access the internet. Combined with the unique identification project,
mobile phones can be transformed into powerful tools for rural banking and a plethora of financial services. Organised retail could increase its footprint. With benefits galore, internet access in rural areas needs to be a fundamental entitlement.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

OUR RIGHT TO REFORM

 

Anna Hazare's most telling comment on the second day of his fast - when the government was still dismissing his movement as undemocratic and the Jan Lokpal Bill as utopian - was lost in the general tumult. Hazare told the government: "We are the maliks, you are the sevaks."

Minister, of course, is Latin for servant. Rahul Gandhi may not share his views with us on most issues but he understands the popular mood. Sensing that the nation was increasingly outraged over corruption and nepotism, Rahul told an election rally: "I am your naukar; you are my malik." It could have been
Anna Hazare speaking.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi herself established the validity of civil society engaging with the government on equal terms by instituting - and heading - the National Advisory Council (NAC), packed with just the sort of citizen-activists who wrote the draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill. As the 10-member panel, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and former law minister Shanti Bhushan, meets for the first time on April 16 to begin redrafting the Lokpal Bill by the June 30 deadline, four improvements could make it a strong and practical legislation.


First, power. Some cynics fear that a tough, independent Lokpal body will be a law unto itself - a super-cop or extra-constitutional prime minister's office. This fear can be allayed by building into the Lokpal Bill a clause for appellate judicial review by the Supreme Court of contested decisions. Removal - again by the Supreme Court - of any Lokpal member, including the Lokpal himself, on specific charges of wrongdoing, is already part of the draft Jan Lokpal Bill.


Second, size. The proposed Lokpal has 11 members. That would make it unwieldy. It is wise to restrict the number of members to seven, including the chairperson. The draft Bill already includes a provision for a large administrative Lokpal office and staff.


Third, selection. The Jan Lokpal draft Bill suggests "advertisements" to invite recommendations from the public of candidates of "unimpeachable integrity", followed by public feedback, vetting, videotaped interviews and so on. The process of selection must be as transparent and broad-based as possible, but it cannot resemble a tender. The process must be comprehensive but concise.


Fourth, deemed police status. The draft Bill gives the Lokpal the power to issue search warrants. A better way forward would be to depute officers of the anti-corruption investigation department of the CBI to work under the Lokpal's direct control.


But a strong Lokpal is only part of the larger architecture of political reforms to improve governance. Concurrently, we need to make the CBI autonomous of the executive. The Supreme Court ordered wide-ranging police reforms through a 2006 directive, which governments at the Centre and in the states have cynically not yet implemented.

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill will also come up for enactment into legislation in the monsoon session of Parliament. For citizens, once the Bill is passed, justice will be swifter and fairer. Electoral reforms would then be the next milestone. Nearly 25% of MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha have criminal charges against them. Over half of these are serious charges: murder, kidnap and rape. A candidate facing criminal prosecution in a trial court should be barred from standing for election. In order to protect candidates facing politically motivated charges, prosecutions pending for over one year without a hearing or adjournment would not count as a valid ground to debar candidates. This will filter out a majority of rogue candidates but also provide protection against frivolous political charges.

We need to clean up our Parliament, our assemblies and other elected chambers. The modified Jan Lokpal Bill is one instrument to do that. An autonomous CBI is another. A strong, transparent judiciary is a third. A vigilant media and engaged civil society is a fourth. The country has fought long and hard for the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Right to Education (RTE) Act and now the Right to Food (RTF) Act, currently under review. There is one more legislation a mature democracy of, by and for the people - rather than of, by and for the privileged - needs to enact: the Right to Recall.

In several states in the
United States (notably California, since 1903, and most recently Minnesota, since 1996), the right to recall an elected politician before his term ends is a fundamental democratic right. If a petition against an elected lawmaker crosses a specified threshold number of signatures from citizens in his constituency - on legally verifiable charges of malfeasance, to prevent misuse of the statute - a poll becomes mandatory. If the elected representative secures less than a specified percentage (usually 50%) of votes in the ensuing poll, he is removed from office before the end of his term and a fresh election to the constitutiency called. In 2003, California governor Gray Davis was recalled over mismanagement of the state's budget; 55.4% of the electorate voted to recall him.

The Right to Recall is a critical electoral reform that will complete a quartet of empowering legislations along with the RTI,
RTE and RTF to strengthen Indian democracy. The Lokpal is the beginning of real change.

The writer is an author and chairman of a media group.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'THERE'S NO POLITICAL CONNECTIVITY BETWEEN BRIC POWERS'

 

Frank Wisner is a former ambassador to India and recently President Barack Obama's special envoy to Egypt. He discusses international politics and the outlook for Egypt and the Middle East with Samyukta Lakshman of Gateway House:


How do you see the transition in Egypt from dictatorship to democracy? The Muslim Brotherhood will certainly play a role, but will it play a constitutional role?

We are obviously in early days, i can't be entirely sure how the Egyptian political system will evolve, but i believe that in their holding a constitutional referendum on March 19, the Egyptians have taken a first step. Dates for parliamentary elections and then a presidential poll have also been set. Between now and September, you will see political parties take new life; candidates for the presidency will emerge. The press will be vigorous and free.


Egypt's instincts are to sort herself out. I am hopeful that Egypt will come through this with a democratic system. But there are lots of unanswered questions: What will the role of the Muslim Brotherhood be? How will the army see its role going forward? Will the economy be disrupted? Basically, i am an optimist about Egypt, and i believe that Egypt's instincts will take her towards stability and a higher level of democratic participation.

How has Libya affected the US's withdrawal plans from Afghanistan and Iraq?

The American intervention in Libya is a part of the international mandate called for by the Arab League and provided for by the United Nations Security Council. It is not a unilateral American initiative; it is now under Nato leadership. It is an allied, European effort that has Arab participation and could not be more different from the American intervention in Iraq.


The US is trying to improve its image. We have a reputation deficit, not to put too fine a point on it. We can only improve our standing in the eyes of Muslims by being clear that we are open to and respectful of Islamic values and traditions. Americans need to be proud, as i am, that we are a multicultural and multi-religious society. Internationally, we have no quarrel with Islam. We have a quarrel with those who practise violence.

I think repairing America's image will take a long time. There will be a reduction in the use of force. The president has announced plans to leave
Iraq and Afghanistan. Libya, i am absolutely certain, is a short-term intervention to protect human life, not to begin an occupation. We need to make that clear if we want to sustain Arab and Muslim support for the campaign in Libya.


Were you surprised by India's refusal to vote for the UN action against Muammar Gaddafi's regime?
No, i wasn't surprised that India had reservations about voting for a resolution over the use of force, even for the protection of human life. To many Indians, it meant the intervention of one nation in another nation's affairs. India has long been hostile to such undertakings.


Do you see a BRIC coalition emerging against the US and its allies on issues like military intervention and regime change?

No, i see common interests between India, Brazil, China and Russia but i don't see a political coherence in the line-up. I doubt one is going to emerge. I think India's ties with Washington are important. She will want to preserve her ties with Europe, and it doesn't mean that she won't have good ties with the Brazilians. The same is true of Brazil, China and Russia. There is no political connectivity between BRIC powers.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

JUGULAR VEIN

ECONOMICS OF DEATH

JUG SURAIYA


What price do you put on someone you love? That's the real and unasked question in the debate on passive enthanasia - terminating the lives of the incurably ill who are no longer conscious or capable of acting on their own. I recall a family's terrible dilemma which i found myself involved in some years ago.


One of the sisters in the family was stricken by an irreversible and fatal disease that attacks the auto-immune system and for which there is no known cure. The diagnosis had been made too late to try alternative therapies which might have deferred the inevitable. The patient - to whom i was not related but who was as close to me as if she were my own sister - went into a coma and was taken to a state-of-the-art medical facility in Delhi.

The moment she was admitted into the hospital, the patient, in effect, ceased to be a human individual with human attachments of family and loved ones and became instead the property of a team of medical specialists. No longer conscious of where she was or what was happening to her, she was put into an intensive care unit which no one could enter except those who were treating her. We could see her through a glass pane, attached to mechanical devices which took over from her the business of existence: the breathing of the lungs, the beating of the heart, the circulation of blood, the intake of nutrition. She became a machine, linked to other machines.

Regular as clockwork the attendant team of specialists would look in on the patient. Literally look in. Open the door, look at her from the doorway, make a note on clipboards they were carrying and go away. It was a large team and day by day it seemed to get larger. Who are all these people? i asked a nurse. Doctors, she replied.

What sort of doctors? i asked. Special doctors, said the nurse. They were indeed special doctors, as i discovered. One was a dietitian. Another was a dermatologist. Why did a patient unable to take in any nutrition other than through a drip need a dietitian to visit three times a day? No one knew. Why did the patient need a dermatologist's visit every day? No one knew.


But each time these specialists would look in on her, the visit would be put on the bill. Which, like the team of specialists, was daily growing bigger. It was, after all, a state-of-the-art private hospital. With high overheads, including specialists who occupied expensive offices and had to earn fees in order to pay their rentals.


Twice a day we'd go to see the head doctor. No, there was no change in the patient. No, no change could be expected. No one could bring themselves to ask the question that hung in the silence like a thunderclap: How long do we go on like this, how long can we go on?


The family was reasonably well off. But how long could they afford to keep the patient in the hospital? One month? Two? A year? There were other expenses to meet, a son to be educated, futures to be provided for. But how do you put a cut-off price on a life? Even on the life of a machine kept alive by other machines.

The family couldn't do it. So i volunteered. I told the head doctor there was no more money for the ICU, for the machines. The doctor looked thoughtful. I see, he said. There was no talk of the law, or of ethics. No talk of the sanctity of life. No talk of miracle cures.


Sometime that day, we weren't told when, the machines were switched off. The patient stopped being a patient and became a closed file and a final bill. Which the family paid, racked with remorse, feeling that what they were paying was blood money. Was this sum what a life was worth, no more and no less? To the loss of a loved one was added the burden of guilt.


Parliament can legislate on the ethics of euthanasia. Who's going to legislate on the economics of death, and the cost that conscience has to bear? What is the price of someone you love?

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

PLAYING WITH A STRAIGHT BAT

It was just the other day that we saw business as usual in the neighbourhood. The dragon was breathing fire at the border and Pakistan was playing its customary role of irritant. Today, the plot seems to have changed with India agreeing to resume bilateral cricketing ties with Pakistan as well as high-level defence exchanges with China. Quite a turn up for the books in this neck of the woods. India's backing Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's proposal for a three-match series in Pakistan, of course, is a vindication that the 'cricket diplomacy' that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh initiated was no flash-in-the pan and that the Mohali spirit can be carefully extended. In China, meanwhile, where Mr Singh met the Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, an understanding was reached to resume high-level defence exchanges that had remained suspended since last year when China had decided to issue a stapled visa to an Indian Army commander because he headed troops in Jammu and Kashmir.

Attempting to get things back on an even keel with Pakistan on the cricket front, where ties have remained suspended since the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, must have been a difficult call. For one, the security of the cricketers themselves will be a matter of concern, haunted as we are by memories of the Sri Lankan cricketing team running for cover during a terrorist attack in Lahore in March 2009. Politically, the Opposition is screaming blue murder and has interpreted these gestures as signs of a pusillanimous, weak-kneed diplomacy, especially in the wake of the fresh disclosures that Tahawwur Hussain Rana has implicated the Pakistan government and its intelligence agency ISI, and not the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, in the 26/11 attacks. As far as Beijing goes, there has been a considerable amount of apprehension about recent reports that Chinese troops have been amassing near India's Line of Control with Pakistan. China, decidedly mellow and probably eager to allay those fears, has cleared up a host of irritants in bilateral ties, agreeing to a new border management mechanism to ensure "peace and tranquility" and accepting New Delhi's complaints regarding trade barriers for Indian exports.

These are only incremental steps but assume considerable significance given the hypersensitive nature of relations between India and these two neighbours. But the government has done well to grasp the nettle and keep lines of communication open on the grounds that this minimises risks of conflict among nuclear-armed nations. In the event the outcome is concrete, the advantages will far outweigh any hiccups that may have been encountered during the process. The government and its security establishment also agree that in spite of the feet dragging by Pakistan over investigation into the 26/11 attacks, 'no talk' is no longer a feasible option if there is ever to be any degree of normalisation in India-Pakistan relations. Notwithstanding previous false starts, it is possible that Mr Singh may have sown the seeds of better relations on a 22-yard pitch of cricket.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

IT'S A REAL STEAL

In this age of 24x7 news, anything and everything makes news. And, if you happen to be someone famous, God help you because the public and the media won't flinch one bit from pulling you down from that pedestal. Ask Czech President Vaclav Klaus who has been accused of "stealing" a pen during an official signing ceremony last week in Chile. At the ceremony, Mr Klaus nimbly took out the pen embedded with Chilean lapis lazuli stones from the pen box and slipped it into his pocket. This act was enough to set the Amazon on fire: thousands are protesting on Facebook and the video is a rage on YouTube.

We are a bit amazed at this over-the-top reaction. Anyone in his place would have thought that the pen was his for keeps. Don't we all indulge in a little bit of memento-hunting on our travels? From a bottle of shampoo, a fridge magnet or that headphone meant for in-flight entertainment, everything is for keeps. Of course, the more adventurous among us will even nonchalantly pocket airline cutlery or an extra bottle of wine. Then there was the wife of a former president of India who, the story goes, almost carted half of the Raj silverware from

Rashtrapati Bhawan till someone politely told her that those were not return gifts after the end of her husband's tenure.

For those who are trying to interpret Mr Klaus' act as an extension of his politics or attitude, here is a caveat: don't read too much into the episode. If you witness what else leaders steal in countries like ours, a pen — even though jewel encrusted — is really small potatoes, at best hot potatoes.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

HAZARE IS NO SAVIOUR

SUJATA ANANDAN

Now that the euphoria over the popcorn revolution in New Delhi has settled down, I am adding my own heretical thoughts to that of those who saw the hoopla for what it was: life imitating art in a re-enactment of Peepli Live at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

If this was a war or a revolution, then it was certainly won in the TV studios and through the cameras at Jantar Mantar that did not pick up the nuances and the absurdities of a situation where a few NGOs, godmen and actors thought they could decide the fate of millions of Indians through means that were the exact opposite of what they were advocating over the past week.

Much as we all hate corruption and would like to see the end of graft and venality in public life, I wonder if many of those instant 'activists' can say, with their hands on their hearts, that they did not bribe a cop or two some time or the other in their otherwise flawless existence.

Even Anna Hazare, that beacon of anti-corruption, can't lay claim to a blemish-free conduct. I hate to burst the bubble that the people have been living in but Hazare has been indicted by the Justice PB Sawant Commission for unauthorisedly spending R2 lakh from his Hind Swaraj Trust to, of all things, celebrate his birthday in his village of Ralegan-Siddhi a few years ago. Now R2 lakh is a huge sum for a birthday party even in Bombay. In a village, the enormity of that expense does not even merit counting.

In Justice Sawant's words, it was misappropriation. But as the judge pointed out, Hazare could be forgiven for he apologised while our dacoit-politicians, despite skimming off crores, do not.

I am sorry but I also think civil society is being mindless in supporting the setting up of an institution (lokpal) which is accountable to no one, has draconian powers and is installed by persons who have little or no idea about polity or governance. Moreover, there are no guarantees that the lokpal will not be corrupt or cannot be corrupted with or even without the enormous powers to be judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one with the authority to both investigate and prosecute anyone and everyone without the checks and balances that are required in such processes.

I am also suspicious of the timing and responses to the Hazare agitation. I know as a matter of fact that Hazare is very impressionable and the complexities of situations escape him at all times. Which is why he has endorsed the draconian terms of the Lokpal Bill as drafted by the social activists in toto. And also caused a good deal of embarrassment to himself by his unqualified praise of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

Activists working with Hazare have always known that he is a loose cannon. But for this new set of NGOs, whose movement was going nowhere without Hazare, that was a risk worth taking. However, far from putting the UPA on the mat, they have helped the government get an upper hand over the anti-corruption drive: the UPA has come out of this smelling of roses, appearing to be concerned but without quite giving anything away. Then, again, including a father and son duo on the committee cannot but compromise the Opposition charges of dynasty against the Congress in addition to getting the legal fraternity's back up with statements like "the Bhushans alone are best placed to formulate such a law". Whatever happened to legal luminaries like Soli Sorabjee and Harish Salve? I would rather put my money on them any day!

Not very long ago there was a man called K Chandrashekhar Rao who was on a fast-unto-death for a separate Telangana. Look at what the UPA did to him: he has no Telangana and the utility of the fast as a weapon is over.

Going by the spat between him and Union minister Kapil Sibal, I am afraid that is exactly what will now happen to Anna Hazare and the Jan Lokpal Bill!

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

IT'S NOT THE REAL DEAL

ASHOK MALIK

Indian commentators have a tendency to overstate and overreach themselves. The public response to Anna Hazare's fast has been misinterpreted and magnified beyond belief. Expressions like 'India is overrun by oligarchs' have been bandied about, as if India were as dysfunctional and undemocratic as Russia. The Constitution has been spoken of disparagingly, as if it has failed us. More substantially, comparisons have been drawn with the early 1970s, and the student protests that accompanied the Jayaprakash Narayan ('JP', as he was known) movement.

Are we not getting carried away? To see the Hazare episode as merely a replay of the JP era is not just lazy but fundamentally flawed. India is a very different society from 1975. The defining principle for today's young citizen is aspiration, not adventurism, much less anarchy. There is absolutely no chance of hundreds, let alone thousands, of middle-class youth giving up college and job applications to answer a 'jail bharo' call for the noble but vague objective of ridding India of corruption. More than vacuous demands for revolution, today's Indian is only crying out for structured and structural reform.

The fundamental difference between the India of the 1970s and the India of 2011 is in the degree of prosperity. If India's GDP grows at 8-9% a year, it will double in quantum every six or seven years. At the moment, India's GDP is valued at $1.3 trillion. By 2020, it should reach $3.5 trillion. Consider what those numbers mean: India took 60 years to earn its first trillion, but will take only 10 years to reach its next $2.5 trillion.

Such a dramatic expansion of wealth can propel ambitions and transform a society. It can also trigger inequities and give scope for incremental corruption (in absolute terms, since there is much more money to go around). To accelerate that transformation and check that corruption is the basic challenge that Indian governance will have to confront. In essence, this is a mandate for greater reform — not just economic deregulation and business-friendly policies, but also a reimagining of government, a rational expectation of what the State should do and what it shouldn't, transparent rather than whimsical and discretionary pricing of finite resources (land, spectrum, energy sources), an education boom, and a leadership that uses a modernist idiom.

What has any of this got to do with Anna Hazare? Everything and nothing. The fact is, in the past two years, the UPA government has been found wanting on all of these counts. The middle classes that came out in support of Hazare were exasperated by and frustrated at the inability of the UPA government to live up to the election verdict of 2009. A veteran Gandhian's fast only become a trigger. The Lokpal Bill was a handy symptom; it was not the main affliction. In any case most people — whether gathered at Jantar Mantar, marching and holding candles in other cities or providing vox pops on television — did not understand or even care for the Bill.

This is not to say a Lokpal law is not needed. Yet the point is if everybody from ministers and civil servants to, as Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh has helpfully recommended, business corporations and NGOs is going to be investigated by the Lokpal, what happens to the normal machinery that fights economic crimes?

From stock exchange regulators to income tax authorities to the plain police: if the job is done at these levels, it may not even need to reach the Lokpal. Adding one more layer at the top without empowering and enhancing capacities in existing institutions, and bringing them up to date with the new India, will be self-defeating.

Most important, the imperative of economic growth — pushing for 10% plus GDP growth rates, rather than slipping, as recent data suggests, to easy-to-achieve below 8% rates — can never be forgotten. Only rapid growth and wealth creation can incubate new middle classes who will, in turn, demand better standards from those who govern. Hazare and many of his fellow activists may have spent a lifetime working with the poorest Indians but, paradoxically, the traction they got this month was directly correlated to India's rising prosperity and the urges and urgencies this is unleashing.

If this cycle is to continue, India will need authoritative rather than authoritarian governance. It will require some party or alliance to put forward a purposeful agenda, challenge the UPA and defeat it in an election. Despite the euphoria and media clamour, the role of civil society activism will be limited.

In the end, such activism can draw up the world's most exacting — or most woolly-headed — Lokpal Bill but it is Parliament that has to pass it. Likewise, the variety of civil society groups — representing pro-Congress civil society, anti-Congress civil society, socialist civil society, religious civil society, well-meaning civil society, self-seeking civil society — may design everything from redistributive schemes to new anti-corruption or pro-welfare bureaucracies. Nevertheless  they cannot boost  the economy and reform the State. Only a sensible government can, and India is desperate for one.

(Ashok Malik is a Delhi-based political commentator)

The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

WHERE THERE'S A BILL, THERE'S A SAY

GOPAL JAIN

A parliamentary Bill/Act has a beginning and an end. A Bill can have a smooth passage or a turbulent journey. But in this process, there is no provision for participation by the people.

The result is that Bills/Acts do not sub-serve the objectives for which they are enacted. They are compromised. The Lokpal Bill is an example — in its present form, it is toothless with no power to deal with the menace of deep-rooted corruption. It cannot be dislodged without an empowered Lokpal. But the journey of a bill is preordained and the rules are such that the government can get off scot-free.

Our Constitution contemplates a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Yet, when it comes to actual implementation, people have no role in formulating laws.

The starting point for a legislation in India is the initiation of a proposal in a government department. The views of other ministries/departments are sought. A draft of the bill is prepared along with a note outlining the need, scope and object of the legislation. The note and the draft bill are placed before the Cabinet for its approval; thereafter it makes its way to the Lok Sabha.

Ordinary citizens have no say or role in drafting/contributing to the bill. While Indian democracy is meant to be participatory, this is far from the truth.

In comparison, the legislative process in other nations (Britain, Singapore and New Zealand) encompasses publication of a green-paper/white-paper (a statement of intent) that solicits views from civil society. Drafting is often placed in the hands of a parliamentary counsel and expert lawyers, which is in line with the concept of a participatory democracy and respects the wisdom of the common man.

The recent controversy surrounding the Lokpal Bill brought these issues to the fore.  Civil society had to wage a long and hard fight though the benefits of civil society participation are many: it gives greater legitimacy to legislation, a sense of participation to the people and allows experts to give their valuable inputs. We need to urgently create a structured process for people's participation.

Certain examples within the existing set-up can be emulated and extended.  Regulatory bodies created in the infrastructure sector, for example, in telecom, power/electricity, airports follow an elaborate system of public consultation with all stakeholders. A recent example is of the telecom ministry where a retired judge of the Supreme Court (Justice Shivraj Patil) has been recruited to draft a new act (the National Spectrum Act). There is no reason why these best practices can't be incorporated in the life cycle of a parliamentary Bill/Act.

Shutting the door on people will shut out good ideas. Good ideas are not the sole prerogative of bureaucrats in the legislative department of the law ministry. They are like a factory dishing out Bills one after another, in several cases a cut and paste job with no application of mind. For example, the transparency requirement in Sec.13(4) of the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) Act and the Telecom Regulatory Authority Of India (TRAI) Act is the same. Similar is the case with provisions for protection of actions in good faith [Sec.45 AERA Act, Sec.55 the Petroleum And Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) Act, Sec.168 Electricity Act, Sec.28 TRAI Act], power to remove difficulties [Sec.39 AERA Act, Sec.59 PNGRB Act, Sec.183 Electricity Act, Sec.55 TRAI Act], power to make rules [Sec.51 AERA Act, Sec.60 PNGRB Act, Sec.176 Electricity Act, Sec.35 TRAI Act].

This is an unhealthy trend and a bad precedent as the common man's 'first hand experience' is crucial for dealing with corruption. Voices from the ground, of people with rich experience and uncluttered minds, will ensure a potent end-product.

People power and power to the people will have a huge impact. Legislation will then fulfil the aspirations of the nation and serve the real constitutional objectives. Such a 'bill' when presented in Parliament will bring a smile to the faces of the founding fathers. What a Bill really needs is will (if not of the government, at least of the people).

(Gopal Jain is a Supreme Court advocate)

The views expressed by the author are personal

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

HU STEPS FORWARD

 

China deserves credit for addressing two important issues that India had raised in recent months — the question of stapled visas to Indian citizens living and working in Jammu and Kashmir and the mounting bilateral trade deficit in favour of Beijing. The signals from Wednesday's meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao on the margins of the BRICS summit at Sanya, Hainan are that Beijing is eager to find a way out. This welcome problem-solving culture in Sino-Indian relations has also been highlighted by the agreement in principle between the two leaders to establish a new forum to manage the long and contested border along the Great Himalayas.

The message from Hainan is that the Chinese leadership is committed to arresting the recent political slide in bilateral ties with India. A series of Beijing's recent actions challenging India's territorial sovereignty culminated last year in Beijing's denial of a regular stamped visa to the commander-in-chief of India's northern armies, Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal. India decided to draw the line, suspend some high-level military exchanges and demand an immediate end to the Chinese practice of issuing stapled visas. During Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit to Delhi last December, the Indian leadership told him that Beijing's position on J&K was hostile and offensive. Beijing appears to have relented a little by agreeing to issue normal stamped visas to a broad-based Indian military delegation led by a major general from the Northern

Command. This artful compromise does not mean China's tilt towards Islamabad in the Indo-Pak dispute over J&K has been fully reversed. What it does mean is that Beijing is ready to acknowledge India's concerns and deal with them.

As Delhi persists in the effort to change Beijing's unacceptable policy on J&K, it must also make the best of the newly agreed Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on border management. This forum should help resolve the many issues that crop up in the day-to-day management of the Sino-Indian border as well as facilitate more expansive trans-frontier cooperation. President Hu also appears to have addressed

India's concerns on the growing trade deficit in favour of China — $20 billion in 2010. India's exports are said to be rising faster than its imports from China in 2011 and Beijing is apparently willing to let Indian IT and pharma companies into its market. The good news from Sanya is that India's current approach to China, firm yet calm and rooted in realism, has a better chance of success than the earlier wild policy swings between romanticism and unreasonable suspicion.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NOTHING FUNNY

 

It was a place where important issues were being discussed: the India Water Forum, in New Delhi, called to examine the crisis in groundwater that northern India is facing. Various dignitaries were present: the vice-president, two cabinet ministers. Another pressing issue came up: the numbers from the Census that show that the Indian sex ratio is becoming even more dangerously skewed in favour of boys, especially in more prosperous regions. The Union minister for new and renewable energy addressed the issue thus: "The day is not far when there will be no girls to marry and we'll all become gays. That might happen."

There is far too little humour in Indian politics. After that statement, there is even less. Farooq Abdullah, the minister who tried his luck at a one-liner and produced words that managed to simultaneously mock gay people, perpetuate ignorance about the causes of homosexuality and belittle the problem he — hopefully — thought he was highlighting. Abdullah revels in his reputation as a maverick, as someone not bound by the chains of convention. In the

Valley, they remember the time he got Shabana Azmi to sit behind him on a motorcycle and took off down the lanes of Gulmarg. But there is a long, long distance between demonstrating an enviable lightness of spirit, and the sort of immaturity, unworthy of a cabinet minister, that he put on display on Wednesday.

Cabinet ministers are expected to think before they speak. They are sometimes social ambassadors, demonstrating through their statements that India is an inclusive, welcoming nation. The Delhi high court, in its judgment reading down Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, decriminalised homosexuality because of India's commitment to the dignity of the individual.

India's ministers should demonstrate that commitment — and to their own dignity, too.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ROUGH JUSTICE

 

Even as the rest of Bihar hurtles towards change, Patna's police appear to be dredging up distinctly older forms of justice, having enacted public shaming ceremonies for at least 100 offenders, with over 3,000 to go. To the drumming of a dugdugi and police band, the names of "proclaimed offenders" are read out in their neighbourhoods, with the announcement that their properties would be attached if they fail to show up in court.

If such gratuitous humiliation sounds shocking and medieval, it is. Before the establishment of modern prisons, criminals were often held up to public ridicule and aggression. Dunce caps, donkey parades, blackened faces and other picturesque forms of punishment have entered our vocabulary from these practices — the pillory, for instance, was a structure for trussing up criminals, as crowds threw garbage at them. These practices were considered distasteful by the 1800s in large parts of the world, when the public was no longer considered the repository and arbiter of virtue. However, they linger on in many places where social bonds are tight, where there is clear pressure to conform, or where the moral edifice is built around shame and dishonour, from the People's Republic of China to the Taliban's Afghanistan. They rear their head from time to time in other places too — Lucknow has experimented with an open cage for sexual harassers, and in Dallas shoplifters were recently made to stand with signboards telling people what they had stolen. Some legal scholars have argued for shaming sanctions, drawing a distinction between rituals that stigmatise, and those that involve social reintegration, like forced community service — but the jury is still out on even that.

What's more, as the Patna case makes clear, they end up hurting and forcing a loss of face on the families of these "offenders", for no fault of theirs. (There is a further indignity in the Patna method, the fact that these people are named and shamed before they have been convicted by the courts). Public humiliation has no place in a progressive system, and must be immediately ended.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

EVERY VOTE COUNTS

SUHAS PALSHIKAR

 

Even as the capital and the national media are recovering from one expression of "democracy" showcased at Jantar Mantar, turnout figures reported from

Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have brought back the issue of relevance of voting and incidence of non-voting. Of course, there are pro-democracy souls in India who believe that the Internet, e-mails, Facebook and blogs are more "real" democratic expressions than "outmoded" democratic instruments such as voting. So, how does one look at the fact that voters in large numbers continue to turn out to the polling stations?

For starters, the robust turnout figures (pegged at 85.2 per cent for Puducherry, 75.2 per cent for Tamil Nadu and 74.4 per cent for Kerala), do not really make a story. These states (and Puducherry) have a history of more or less the same range of voter turnout. In particular, Kerala has always had a voter turnout of 70-plus per cent, except in the 1971 and 1980 Lok Sabha elections. In assembly elections, right from 1957, it has never gone below that mark. Turnouts in Tamil Nadu have been a little more chequered. There was a consistent downslide from 1984 (73 per cent) reaching a low of 58/59 per cent in 1999/2001. In Puducherry, we have consistently witnessed high turnout, ever since 1964. Also, the southern states generally, but

Kerala and Tamil Nadu particularly, always record a higher turnout than the national average (with the exception of 1998-99 when Tamil Nadu recorded a lower turnout than the national average).

Secondly, in most states of India, voter turnout in an assembly election is higher than in a Lok Sabha election. The difference varies from state to state, but the trend is the same. In this high turnout region, that difference is less: during the last decade, the difference in Kerala has been just about 2 per cent; and in Tamil Nadu too, the difference between the 2009 parliamentary election and this election is just 2 per cent. However, the difference between the 2004 Lok Sabha election (60.8) and the 2006 assembly election was huge: 10 per cent. The difference is partly attributable to the greater degree of mobilisation that usually occurs around assembly elections and the possibility that voters relate to state-level elections much more than they do in the case of parliamentary elections.

The issue of turnout often throws up three fascinating questions.

One question is the relationship between turnout and outcome. While this question needs a state-by-state analysis, in all probability there is no intrinsic relation between turnout and the likelihood of the sitting government being voted out or returned to power. Much depends on the kind of mobilisation that takes place during an election campaign and the social sections targeted by different political parties. Thus, it is quite possible that low turnout would mean failure of the ruling parties to mobilise their voters and hence a likelihood of defeat. So, rather than turnout alone, it is the texture and direction of mobilisation that would often make the difference.

The second issue is about non-voters. Idealists would want an even greater turnout and fault either the voters or the system for non-voting. This idealism needs to be contextualised not only with voting figures in other democracies, but two other factors. One is simply that there is a possibility of our electoral rolls being slightly inflated. Democracy activists would, of course, like to believe that the names of many voters are missing from the voters' lists. While this may happen, it is a gigantic task to prune the rolls by dropping the names of voters who have died and ensure that there are no double entries, and it may leave the rolls with some inflation in numbers or registered voters. The point therefore is that we should not be over-critical of the turnout figures even when they are in the range of 60 per cent.

But let us also ask another question: does the citizen have the right to not vote? Does the citizen have the right not to be interested in politics? It is another story that in a country with a penchant for making every good thing from environment education to human rights education compulsory, some democratic enthusiasts would want to make voting compulsory!

The third question is: who are the non-voters? Do they have a social profile of their own? Data from the National Election Studies conducted by the CSDS in 2004 and 2009 suggest that increasingly, the non-voter in India does not have any particular social face. Of course, more women than men are non-voters; more illiterates than the educated are non-voters; young more than the middle-aged are likely to be non-voters; urban voters are more likely to be non-voters than the rural voters; depending upon the political context, minorities may be more likely to be non-voters, as in 2004. But in the case of all these factors, the gap is very narrow and between 2004 and 2009 it has further narrowed. Thus, perhaps it is good news for India's democracy that non-voters are not necessarily concentrated in any one social segment.

One systemic obstacle that stands out in turning potential voters into non-voters is the requirement of identity proof and perhaps its strict, unthinking implementation, something that definitely works against the poor, illiterate and the minorities. In 2004, for instance, among non-voters, over 40 per cent said they did not have the correct identity proof; this number came down to 16 per cent in 2009.

But the mother of all questions will be: does a vote matter? Unless we cynically believe that these 60, 70 and occasionally 80 per cent of our voters are misguided, that they are only ritually celebrating the one-day festivity called an election, or that they are bribed (not necessarily monetarily, but by turning them into "clients"), the message is loud and clear. The vote has come to mean an expression of democratic power, a means of connecting to the complex task of political governance and a starting point for making democracy a realisable goal.

But are any critics of our parliamentary democracy listening?

The writer teaches political science at the University of Pune

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

ARMS ACROSS THE HIMALAYAS

HARSH V. PANT

 

Promising to work at building trust with neighbouring countries following months of tension, the Chinese military last month laid out its vision in a national defence white paper, a document published every two years since 1998. The paper tried its best to maintain a balance between showing off the modernisation efforts of the Chinese military and assuaging the fears of other states that the fast-growing People's Liberation Army (PLA) would be used for expansionist purposes or regional dominance.

The 2.3 million-member PLA is the world's largest standing military and its modernisation has been accompanied by gradual steps toward greater engagement with the outside world, including sending more than 17,000 military personnel to take part in UN peacekeeping. Buoyed by double-digit rates of economic growth, China's official defence spending rose 12.7 per cent this year to about $91.5 billion. This spectacular military rise is causing consternation among China's neighbours, who have called for greater transparency in China's defence policy.

In an apparent recognition of the need for greater communication, the latest white paper included for the first time a separate section on military confidence-building, highlighting defence consultations, joint training missions and exchanges between border units. China, the paper suggested, is pursuing such steps as "an effective way to maintain national security and development, and safeguard regional peace and stability."

The rise of the Chinese military has been much faster than many were predicting just a year ago. After years of top-secret development, the J-20 — China's first radar-evading jet fighter — was put through preliminary, but also very public, tests earlier this year in January just as US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was in Beijing to revise military ties. China's nuclear deterrent, estimated at no more than 160 warheads, has been redeployed since 2008 onto mobile launchers and advanced submarines that are no longer sitting ducks. Multiple-warhead missiles are most likely to be the next phase.

At the same time, China has made significant gains towards fielding a missile system designed to sink a moving aircraft carrier from nearly 2,000 miles away. The "carrier-killer" missile and a new showpiece stealth fighter jet may not be a match for US systems, but they represent rapid advances for China's home-grown technology and defence manufacturing. China also plans to launch upto five aircraft carriers in the coming years — though the white paper, although ostensibly aimed at making China's military development more transparent, did not discuss the carrier project.

The paper, however, underlined China's role in sending military ships to take an anti-piracy role in the Gulf of Aden where Chinese ships are working alongside those from NATO nations, Russia and India.

China, Taiwan and a number of Southeast Asian nations have been squabbling for years over territorial claims to the South China Sea. Then last July, amid heightening tensions in the waters, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rallied with Southeast Asian nations to speak out against China when she suggested that the United States had a "national interest" in the area, and that China and other countries should abide by a 2002 agreement guaranteeing a resolution of the sovereignty disputes by "peaceful means." This was as much to due to America's desire to reclaim its receding strategic space in the region as it was due to pressure from regional states. Despite this, civilian surveillance ships managed to plant a Chinese flag in the southern part of the sea last year.

In November, Chinese Admiral Hu Yanlin suggested that "international anti-China forces led by America" had stirred up discord in the region. Not surprisingly, the white paper argues that while the security situation in Asia and the Pacific was generally stable, it was becoming "more intricate and volatile," with no clear solutions for tension points like the divided Korean Peninsula and with the US increasing its involvement.

The document underscored the desire of the Chinese military to enhance defence linkages with

India but it also underlined the limits of such an engagement when it suggested the "multidimensional" nature of Sino-Pakistan military exchanges. While high-level military exchanges with China have now been resumed, the underlying reality remains that so long as underlying issues in the Sino-Indian relationship are not resolved, there is little likelihood of military relationship getting serious. This also applies to other states in the region and beyond with whom China is trying to enhance its defence linkages.

The latest white paper from Beijing says, "China pursues a national defence policy which is defensive in nature," and "China will never seek hegemony, nor will it adopt the approach of military expansion now or in the future, no matter how its economy develops." But the rest of the world will need more than mere words to take this assertion seriously.

Pant is the author of 'The China Syndrome'

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THROWING BRICS AT DOLLARS

P. VAIDYANATHAN IYER

 

MARCH 2009: In a proposal that made the world stand up and take notice of Beijing's assertiveness, People's Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan pitched for a "super sovereign reserve currency" that would eventually replace the US dollar. Ahead of the G-20's London summit, Zhou's essay reflected China's ambition to influence its response to the financial crisis that had spilled over to the real sector and threatened to push the global economy into an extended recession.

Beijing's investment in US treasuries totalled about three-fourths of a trillion dollars then, so the Chinese central bank governor's proposal was also seen as quite unusual, since it was difficult to believe Beijing would want to rock the boat. Not surprisingly, its call for an alternative to the dollar invited a range of reactions, from acknowledgment that it was time for such an idea to germinate, to circumspection, to plain fear of its intentions.

India took note of China's concerns because, like Beijing, New Delhi too believed that economies of the developing countries were at the receiving end for no fault of theirs. India, nevertheless, did not go beyond appreciating China's dollar worries, but reckoned that the International Monetary Fund must consider an expansion of its special drawing rights (SDR) currency.

Since then, the choice of an alternative currency has shifted from SDRs to the Chinese yuan, with even the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank buying China's argument, acknowledging its growing economic clout.

Cut to April 2011. The leaders of BRICS (S being for South Africa, the latest entrant to the decade-old Goldman Sachs-invented emerging-economy grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China) agreed in principle on Thursday to allow their authorised development banks to establish mutual credit lines denominated in their local currencies.

In simple terms, what this means is that if an Indian power producer wants to import equipment from China, and a Chinese development bank is willing to fund the purchase, the latter can lend to the Indian producer in rupees. This will insulate the Indian company from exchange-rate risk: since the revenue stream for the Indian power company is in rupees and the borrowing too is in rupees, it saves the company the trouble of converting rupees into dollars, the local currency loan obviating any need to hedge against exchange-rate risk.

This was a Chinese proposal, one that clearly takes Beijing one baby step closer to realising its objective of creating an alternative reserve currency. While India seems to have agreed to the proposal, it did not go as far as allowing mutual trade in local currencies.

China, as we know, joined the World Trade Organisation only a decade back, and New Delhi is yet to accord Beijing market-economy status. The Chinese economy is still not quite transparent; it is questionable if their monetary authority is indeed autonomous and independent. The Chinese yuan cannot be freely exchanged except for trade and investment purposes and Beijing has consistently resisted every call for letting its currency appreciate.

An undervalued yuan gives the world's second-largest economy a huge and unfair advantage in international trade. It is difficult to imagine settlements in yuan or renminbi given this background. India hasn't had such a currency deal with any other country except the rupee-rouble deal with the former Soviet Union. But that was a different time in history and now any decision needs to be dictated purely by economic factors.

For China, which is aggressively acquiring natural assets across the world, such a deal makes immense sense. It gives huge comfort to the borrower, since his repayments do not carry an exchange rate risk — but simultaneously, it makes it easy for Beijing to penetrate into the interiors of other countries in search of natural resources.

At the end of the day, it is to be remembered that BRICS is only a market-invented grouping — put together by taking into account the high growth prospects of its constituent members — albeit one that is trying to assert its economic clout in the G-20. But it will make sense for India only if it strongly pursues national interests, dictated more by economic considerations, than trying hard to find a commonality of interest in the new grouping. There may not be any pressing need to get carried away by the promise of the grouping's influence. It's a long way to go before BRICS could present a unified stance to the rest of the world, as its constituents are driven by different, and at times conflicting, priorities. The BRIC countries abstained in the United Nations Security Council vote on the use of force against Libya. South Africa, the latest entrant, voted in favour of the resolution.

A senior government official, who accompanied the prime minister to Sanya for the third BRICS summit, says that it will be a while before the modalities for utilising the mutual lines of credit in local currency are finalised. Expert committees are to be set up by all countries, and only if national laws and regulations allow for such an arrangement, will the political ambition fructify. Clearly, it appears that the approval or comments of nodal ministries — including the finance and the commerce ministry — as well as those of the Reserve Bank of India have not been obtained so far.

A quick first read of the communique does suggest that India is treading a careful path. For now, it is more a feel-good gesture than an actual convergence of political and economic interests. Agreeing to the Chinese proposal for mutual lines of credit in local currencies does not indicate anything more than New Delhi's willingness to play along. That seems, too, to be the right approach.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SEE THE SPIRIT OF ANNA'S MOVEMENT

FARAH BARIA

 

I was truly saddened to read the columns in these pages on Anna Hazare and the Lokpal bill. Not because the views expressed were wrong (they were, indeed, most articulate and valid) but because they exemplify the kind of ivory-tower journalism we can do without in these cynical times.

Yes, Anna Hazare is a naïve idealist, but then protests are seldom rational; they breed in the gut and the gully, they are visceral reactions to indigestible politics. Let us not forget that the French guillotined hundreds of oppressors before the delicate flowers of liberty, equality and fraternity could bloom. And closer home, surely Mahatma Gandhi's ambition of felling the British Empire on the yogic principles of truth and non-violence were once considered puerile, if not downright absurd.

Yes again, Hazare's version of the Lokpal bill is beyond the ambit of democratic institutions. Yet, pray, which of these grand institutions is up to the job? The legislature, which exchanges cash for votes in Parliament? The executive, which is just another name for venality? The judiciary? Or is it our vigilant fourth estate which was, until very recently, scrambling to wipe the muck off its own doormat?

Obviously, none of the above. Which is why, although many of your columnists could tell us what was wrong with the bill, precious few could offer a viable — and wholly "democratic" — solution. And sadly why, when this whole media circus dies down, we will be back to the same old status quo, yet another historic moment lost.

Like the snake that bites its own tail, we prefer to ingest our own venom. Instead of recognising the spirit of a movement, we prefer to wallow in the post mortem. Instead of encouraging a healthy outrage that can temper idealism with expediency, we prefer to cynically nip our fledgling civic consciousness in the bud. Instead of attacking our national disease, we prefer to attack its clumsy doctor and his raw remedy.

Clearly, this sort of journalism has no room for public debate or dissent, at least none that could be seen on these edit pages. But then, ivory towers are not for the janata, are they? Ask any politician.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

ESCAPING INDIA'S 'GILDED AGE'

 

Is corruption the flip side of rapid economic growth? History appears to answer this provocative question with a heretical yes.

The exemplary instance is the Gilded Age in the United States, the era of the robber barons. It was a period of rapid growth, rampant corruption, rising wealth and income inequality. Recently, Ashutosh Varshney, a political science professor at Brown University, has drawn the striking comparison between that age and contemporary India, which too features dizzyingly rapid growth, a new class of superrich entrepreneurs, a clutch of crooked politicians and a seemingly unceasing carousel of corruption scandals.

Historical analogy is tricky, but it is certainly true that India today broadly resembles the earlier American experience, both in the rapidity of economic growth and the structural transformation from an agrarian to a modern economy, and the accumulation of staggering fortunes, often through illicit means, with the attendant widening gaps between rich and poor. One could equally point to other large emerging economies, such as Brazil, Russia or China (with India, the BRICs), which all have experienced this combination of rapid growth, rising inequality and corruption.

What is the explanation? In all of these cases, the causal mechanism is the same: Unregulated capitalism generates both rapid growth and burgeoning inequality. In the absence of legal channels for influencing policy, such as the lobbying and campaign contributions in the United States, such attempts manifest themselves as corruption. That was true of the American Gilded Age, and it is true of the BRICs now.

Is it fair to say, then, that corruption and inequality are natural byproducts of the early stages of market-based capitalism? A superficial survey of history, from Bismarck's Germany to Japan after World War II to East Asia in the 1970s and 1980s, seems to bear this out. Indeed, this might come to be accepted as a social-science theory, like the Kuznets curve, which shows that inequality first rises and then falls with the level of development. It could, in fact, be part of the explanation for this phenomenon.

The American experience also suggests a corollary proposition. Excessive corruption and inequality, by corroding the political process, threaten to delegitimise capitalism and the market system and so create pressures for reform and the redistribution of wealth that then temper the incentive-driven impetus to capitalist growth, which caused the inequality in the first place.

The necessity for redistribution and social policy thus becomes a mechanism for the system to correct itself. In the United States, it took the better part of the half-century preceding World War II for this to occur. The worst excesses of capitalism were reined in only when a middle-class backlash led to legislative change, regulatory reform and anti-corruption rules.

In China, such a process has yet to begin, and is not likely to unless the regime perceives an existential threat. In India and in other poor democracies, by contrast, the pressures for redistributive and social policies are irresistible.

Indeed, in India this paradigm has been embraced and christened by the political establishment as "inclusive development." Critics on the right often deride inclusiveness as vote-winning populism, and those on the left dismiss it as tokenism. There is some truth in both charges. But both miss the point that in a poor democracy, inclusiveness, crucially coupled with the perception of inclusiveness, is the only politically feasible way to press ahead with economic growth and development. This will, perforce, involve redistribution: some good, some bad, but all of it exigent to the political legitimacy of development itself.

The crux is that economic growth must help raise up the disadvantaged, and not merely further enrich the rich. Else continuing poverty and inequality will become socially disruptive and politically dangerous.

It is a mantra of the right that the market can sort itself out, and that inequality tends to taper off of its own accord before reaching the danger threshold. The left has always urged an activist state, excoriating the apparent callousness of a capitalist system that leaves millions mired in poverty and deprivation while a small, privileged elite gilds itself.

But this ideological debate is sterile. Without the natural redistributive tendency of a well-functioning and regulated democratic polity, the combination of crony capitalism and either repressive authoritarianism or quasi-feudal paternalism is a deadly cocktail.

Despite their vastly different histories, cultures and political systems, developing and emerging countries are going to have to find a way to share the fruits of development more equitably and to curtail corruption, without at the same time cooling the engines of growth. The consequences of failing to do so could be catastrophic. The events in the Middle East and North Africa have not gone unnoticed in Delhi, Beijing and other rapidly emerging economies.

Vivek H. Dehejia, The writer teaches economics at Carleton University, Ottawa

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

OF THE PEOPLE

SEEMA CHISHTI

 

Of the people

Describing the wide support for Anna Hazare's campaign against corruption as a "victory of the people of India," Hyderabad's leading daily, Siasat, writes in its April 10 editorial: "Anna Hazare has unleashed a silent storm. Today, the entire country has stood up against corruption... He has emphasised electoral reforms to end corruption so that representatives with a clean image are elected to the legislative bodies."

Commenting on the promptness with which the government responded to Hazare's fast, Rashtriya Sahara writes in its editorial on April 11: "Obviously, with the ongoing campaigns for assembly elections, the situation worried the Congress at the Centre. If the government, faced with one crisis after another, had not taken serious note of Hazare's fast, it would have been a signal that it does not want to fight an honest battle against corruption. Therefore, the government found it expedient to concede Hazare's demands."

Veteran journalist and film lyricist, Hasan Kamal, in his column in the same paper (April 9) says: "We consider Anna Hazare admirable, as well as an object of sympathy. Laudable because his voice against corruption is the most audible and credible; an object of sympathy because the corruption against which he has raised his voice has become an inseparable part of the social order... Moreover, those who have joined his campaign also include upcoming businesspersons. It is possible that these people are committed to clean and honest business, but the business biradari is the world's most dishonest, as has been demonstrated around the world."

Sahafat, published from Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and Dehradun, in its front-page banner headline on April 9, quotes the Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, Maulana Ahmad Bukhari: "Where was Anna Hazare at the time of the massacre of oppressed Muslims?" The Imam is reported to have said in his Friday prayer oration: "Behind the campaign of Anna Hazare, who was quiet at the genocide executed by Modi in Gujarat, are the RSS and the BJP, along with some foreign powers... Communalism is a greater danger to the country than corruption."

Reading the assemblies

Hyderabad-based daily, Munsif writes in its April 5 editorial: "This much is certain about the forthcoming assembly elections, that in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the results will be, if not bewildering, at least worrisome for the ruling DMK and Left Front. If the comrades in West Bengal are denied the support of the people, it can only be considered a tragedy. Yet it is also a bitter fact that after Jyoti Basu, there has been a dearth of any towering personality among the comrades of the state."

About Tamil Nadu, the paper writes: "The image of Congress has been tarnished in the 2G spectrum scam. Even though the DMK has tried to woo the people by promising many freebies, the ghost of 2G still haunts it." As for Kerala, "the Congress is hoping that under the banner of the UDF, it would be able to dethrone the Left Front. But the probability of such an occurrence is not more than 50 per cent."

Bangalore-based daily, Salaar, in its March 26 editorial, 'Voteron ko rijhane ka mausam' (the season of wooing voters), has criticised the DMK and its rival AIADMK for their promised largesse.

Cup runneth over

Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial on April 4, has described India's victory as "a dream come true". It says: "The World Cup victory means more than just winning a game. It is an expression of people's sentiments and enthusiasm, (which) gives one the courage to move forward in all walks of life."

Hyderabad's Munsif, in its editorial on April 9, describes the gifts and rewards showered on the cricket team as "an unfair use of the national exchequer." The paper writes: "India's triumph in the World Cup after 28 years is indeed laudable... But one fails to understand the propriety of rewards from the Central and state governments (in the form of cash plots of land, jobs)."

The paper says that the BCCI's reward for every player of Rs 1 crore is understandable, but the competitive behaviour by governments is "not a sign of a developed and civilised society", and asks if these are "personal gifts from the administrators?"

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WIRING WOES

Until now, the public sector telecom firm BSNL has got over Rs 800 crore from the department of information technology to set up fibre optic cable networks to all panchayats across the country, in order to launch a broadband revolution in India. But BSNL has barely touched the block headquarters in the country and has asked the government for more to reach out to the villages. As a result, seven years after the country got its first National Broadband Policy, the number of subscribers is just slightly above 10 million, about half the target set for 2010. Yet, as statistics like those from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) show, a 10% increase in broadband penetration can push up the growth rate of the GDP by over a per cent. Obviously, we are missing out on something valuable in the delay over the spread of Internet connectivity to all corners of the country. As the experience with the

Common Service Centres demonstrates, despite their erratic performance, there is a massive and rising demand for Internet-based services in India that spread far beyond the cities. But little, if any, of that has got translated into an opportunity in the absence of a basic wire backbone to run the services among the people who need it. In this context, a re-look at the broadband policy is necessary.

The contours of the proposal include reaching 160 million broadband connections by 2014. The key proposal for achieving this number is getting the roll-out plan financed via the universal service obligation fund as well as loans from the government, as per a blue print by Trai. While BSNL will certainly need the fund, it may not be necessary to prod the private sector players to provide the last mile connectivity. The huge price paid by companies for the broadband wireless spectrum as part of the auction of the 3G spectrum shows this is not too much to expect. In fact, the BWA roll-out plans can even short step some of the demand for fibre optic networks. The plans also include classifying the network as a national resource, which means it will be available on the same terms offered to all the operators wishing to provide broadband services. The examples from the FE story on Thursday give evidence that there is literally a lot riding on the broadband. It's time to harness it.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE CURIOUS CASE OF DATACOM

RISHI RAJ

 

The first chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on April 2 before the special court to try the 2G spectrum scam has been seen as weak by many, for it has merely tried to structure the manner in which the irregularities were committed by former telecom minister A Raja and his key officials in connivance with certain private parties. So, clearly, there were three players and the scam could not have happened without the active participation of all the three stakeholders. Put simply, Raja would not have been able to commit the fraud if, say, telecom secretary Siddharth Behura or Raja's private secretary RK Chandolia would not have cooperated with him. Even if the three acted in concert, the scam would not have taken place if the private parties in queue for the licences would not have connived with them to jump the queue for getting licences and spectrum.

Logically, therefore, the CBI earlier arrested Raja, Behura, Chandolia and Shahid Balwa (promoter of Swan Telecom, a key beneficiary) and later chargesheeted them also. In addition, it has chargesheeted another beneficiary firm and its promoter, Unitech and its managing director Sanjay Chandra. Three officials of Anil Ambani's ADAG have been chargesheeted because it is alleged that Swan was a front company for Reliance Communications. However, what is curious is the case of another major beneficiary Datacom (now Videocon Telecom), jointly promoted by HFCL's Mahendra Nahata and Videocon group's Venugopal Dhoot.

Datacom benefited as much as Swan and Unitech in terms of jumping the queue to get licences and spectrum due to Raja's skewed first-come first-served (FCFS) norm, which, instead of taking into the account the date of application, cleverly changed it to the date on which the firms complied with the terms and conditions of the letters of intent, which means those that paid the licence fee first. However, despite this clear benefit, the CBI has not chargesheeted Datacom. It is true that this is only the first, preliminary chargesheet and a second one will be filed on April 25. But, looking at the enormity of the benefit Datacom got, it is a bit puzzling why its name was omitted in the first chargesheet when it should have been sharing the spotlight with Swan and Unitech. Surely, if the CBI has been able to understand the modus operandi of the scam and the benefit accruing to Swan and Unitech, it would not have missed out on Datacom. Or is this because Datacom, unlike the other two firms, was not able to sell part stake to a foreign operator? It was not that Datacom did not try. The firm lost out because Nahata and Dhoot were fighting for control of the company and no foreign player wanted to touch it until this was resolved!

Datacom, which had applied for licences for 21 circles on August 28, 2007, virtually scored the number one position in spectrum priority, jumping the queue over Idea, Spice, Swan and S-Tel, all of whom were in the fray for spectrum in exactly the same circles. In fact, it also jumped ahead of Shyam's (now Sistema Shyam) 21 applications and Tata Teleservices' 3—but that is irrelevant since they were in the queue for CDMA spectrum.

The way Raja and the DoT officials manipulated this feat was not only by changing the FCFS definition to suit favoured companies, including Datacom, but by setting up four counters on January 10, 2008—the day the letter of intents were doled out amidst major fisticuffs at Sanchar Bhavan—and placing Datacom at counter number 1—behind ByCell and Swan. This way, Datacom's position, which was number 6 by date of application, moved up to number 3 at this counter. ByCell later got disqualified and Datacom moved further up to number 2.

In fact, by being able to comply with the letter of intent conditions, it moved to the number 1 position in 19 of the 21 circles—even ahead of Swan and Unitech! It was at number 2 only in two circles. By contrast, Swan was number 1 only in two circles (more prized ones though, namely Delhi and Mumbai), and Unitech was number 2 and 3 in all the circles.

This means that much like Swan and Unitech, even Datacom had drafts for the licence fee and bank guarantees, totalling to almost R26,000 crore ready to be submitted within hours of announcement, thanks only to some insider information. In fact, Swan and Unitech have been charged by the CBI for having the information due to their earlier familiarity as well as proximity to Raja, Behura and Chandolia.

In fact, the CBI chargesheet has provided detailed analysis on pages 37-40 of how the spectrum table stacks up vis-à-vis the date of applications but surprisingly maintains a studied silence on how Datacom, and not Unitech or Swan, was the biggest beneficiary of the FCFS manipulation. (See table).

The CBI may chargesheet Datacom on April 25 but it surely needs to explain why this company and its promoters/officials were spared the honours they deserved on April 2, considering their accomplishment on the historic day of January 10, 2008.

rishi.raj@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

IMF'S NEW NORMAL FOR TOKYO
BLOOMBERG
WILLIAM PESEK

The IMF isn't known for its forecasting prowess in Asia. Even by those standards, its latest guesstimate for Japan is a standout. By the IMF's math, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, a 75-ft tsunami and nuclear reactors leaking radiation will barely nick growth. It now sees Japan advancing 1.4% this year, down from its earlier 1.6% prediction. That raises a very technical econometric question: Huh?

In the days after the March 11 quake, it was plausible to argue that rebuilding efforts would support growth. That was before blackouts shuttered Sony and Toyota plants, foreign executives rushed to the airports and tourism dried up. It was before we knew radiation might spew out of Fukushima for years to come. News that the severity rating of the accident was raised to 7, the highest level on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale and matching the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, will damp already weak consumer and business spending.

Welcome to Japan's New Normal, and it all but ensures that the IMF is way too optimistic. Here are 3 reasons:

No. 1. The doubt factor. Keynesian economics and Japanese history leads forecasters to expect a growth jolt. Lots of roads, bridges, ports, rail lines and buildings must be rebuilt in the northeastern Tohoku region, which accounts for roughly 8% of GDP. What this overlooks is the traumatic nature of Japan's latest experience.

The economy is largely about Tokyo, and that's just 220 km from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Doubt is already aborting recoveries in industries that have been struggling for years. Real estate trusts, for example, are shelving property sales and suspending fundraising plans as the crisis saps investor appetite for assets. Cargo ships and airplanes are being turned away for the faintest traces of radiation. Manufacturers stung by supply shortages over the last month won't soon forget it. This may drive executives—including Japanese ones—to diversify operations away from Japan. That means any business investment over the next couple of years may benefit growth abroad at Japan's expense.

Finally, the inclination of Japanese households to over- save may soar amid worries about another temblor, tsunami and the steady drip, drip, drip of bad news on radiation levels. Fear of what's to come is fostering a spirit of thrift and self-restraint. When luxury shops and posh eateries aren't closed to save energy, they're empty. Shopping, a favourite Japanese pastime, is now seen by many as gauche.

No. 2. Tepid world growth. Japan's recent success in weakening the yen won't be the boon to exports many believe. US growth is limping along, Europe's debt crisis is closing in on Spain and key emerging-market economies are beginning to slow. That includes China, Japan's biggest export market.

One reason Japan recovered so quickly from the Kobe earthquake in 1995 was booming global demand. It occurred as the advent of the Internet sparked a communications and information revolution, while the American consumer helped Japan avoid the worst of the 1997-98 Asian crisis that the IMF handled so poorly. Today, the tech bubble is long past and US shoppers are trying to pay down post housing-bust debt.

It doesn't help that Japan's policy toolbox is empty. Short-term interest rates are already at zero and public debt is double the size of the $5 trillion economy. Worries that credit rating companies will downgrade Japan have lawmakers leaning on the central bank to make 1930s-style purchases of government bonds to fund quake-rebuilding efforts. Fiscal and monetary pump priming will be of limited utility without external growth engines. Even China will become a less reliable one now that policymakers in Beijing are stepping up their inflation fight. Slower Chinese growth will entail waning demand for Japanese goods.

No. 3. Uninspiring leadership. Before the ground shook on March 11, speculation was rife that PM Naoto Kan would step down amid fund-raising scandals and dwindling public support. After a promising start last June, Kan did little to end deflation, raise competitiveness, address surging debt or prepare for an aging population. These challenges are now more complicated. The estimated $300 billion price tag for rebuilding Tohoku leaves less money to address structural impediments to long-term growth. Those estimates probably understate the cost because they don't account for the disruptions to daily life and scuttled business ventures. Since nuclear experts can't agree on the worst-case scenario for Japan, predicting the economic impact is like anticipating just when the ground will shake again, as it does every five hours or so.

Fukushima is now in the history books next to Chernobyl. As Japan's 127 million people and corporate executives hold their collective breaths, does anyone really expect a return to business as usual anytime soon?

Economic revival is largely a game of confidence. In Tokyo, there's little faith in the leadership as the worst postwar crisis unfolds seemingly without end. This political paralysis is part of the mix as we begin to calculate the fallout from Japan's New Normal.

Just something the IMF may want to consider the next time it decides Japan can avoid a recession.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

CASH, CHECKS, AND ELECTIONS

The 2011 Assembly election in Tamil Nadu stands out for several reasons, some of them heartening, others deeply disturbing. The record turnout of 77.8 per cent, which beats the 76.57 per cent of the landmark 1967 election when the Congress was voted out for the first time, came on the back of commendable efforts by the Election Commission of India to ensure comprehensive coverage of voters in the photo electoral rolls. With the names of the dead and the absent punctiliously deleted, the rolls were more accurate this time. Quick, efficient polling through the Electronic Voting Machines shortened the queues at the polling stations. But the 2011 election will also be remembered for the widespread, systematic distribution of cash as inducement to voters, especially by the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and allies such as the Congress. Cash-for-votes is not a new phenomenon, but it acquired an extraordinary dimension after the Thirumangalam by-election in Tamil Nadu in January 2009, when the ruling party doled out cash to almost every eligible voter in the constituency. This was a new trend, and was captured brilliantly in a United States Embassy cable sent on May 13, 2009, which was accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks (http://www.thehindu.com/news/the-india-cables/article1541385.ece). To the extent available resources allowed, the Thirumangalam formula was replicated by the DMK at the State level for the Lok Sabha election in May 2009. But in 2011, the ruling party found a clear-sighted, resolute, and pro-active Chief Electoral Officer, Praveen Kumar, standing in its way. Acting on the instructions of the ECI in letter and spirit, Mr. Kumar and his dedicated team managed to curb the distribution of money and other inducements, by effecting seizures of about Rs.33.78 crore in cash and Rs.12.59 crore worth of materials.

Corruption, the rise in the prices of essential commodities, and freebies dominated the campaign, which was restricted to about two weeks thanks to the tight schedule drawn up by the ECI to ensure effective monitoring of the election process. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam led by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa projected the 2G scam as a defining issue and improved upon several freebie promises made in the DMK's manifesto. For the DMK, octogenarian Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi dwelt on the welfare measures of his government, promising to do more if given a sixth term in office. Fortunately, despite the keen contest and the bitter political rivalry, the State witnessed no major incidents of violence during the campaign or the election. Until May 13, when the results will be out, Tamil Nadu is set for a period of suspenseful peace and quiet.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE KILLING OF A MODERATE

As a religious leader, Maulana Showkat Ahmed Shah was a promoter of the purist Wahabi school of Islam in Kashmir over its indigenous liberal Sufism. As a political voice, he stood with the separatists. Within the limits of these categories, the cleric, who headed the religious group Jamiat Ahle Hadees, was a known moderate who was at pains to dissociate the Wahabism he preached from its violent and regressive avatar in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although not part of the Hurriyat Conference, he was associated with the less hardline of the two factions and was vocal against violence and militancy. He was allied with the secular-minded Yasin Malik of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. Last spring, he opposed the stone-pelters, issuing a fatwa against the protest as un-Islamic. Earlier this year, the cleric defied a taboo in Kashmir by demanding a new inquiry into the killings of three separatist leaders — Mirwaiz Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone, and Qazi Nissar. This is possibly why Abdul Ghani Bhat, former chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, dared to declare that these leaders were killed by "our own people," a cry later picked up by the Lone brothers, Sajjad and Bilal, about the killing of their father. Mr. Shah was also the only separatist leader to meet the government-appointed team of interlocutors. Tragically, but not surprisingly, the man who escaped attempts on his life in 2006 and 2008, finally fell victim to Kashmir's relentless violence. This time, the assassins left nothing to chance; they killed him with an improvised explosive planted on a bicycle as he entered a mosque in Srinagar to deliver the Friday sermon on April 8.

The killing has served to highlight the uncertainty in the Valley. The hope is that the tentative moves to break the 26/11 ice on the India-Pakistan engagement will lead to forward movement in Kashmir. The interlocutors are set to hold a round-table conference with all sections of Kashmiri opinion later this month, and have invited the separatists to participate. If the moderate Hurriyat faction led by Mirwaiz Omer Farooq was at all reconsidering its refusal to engage in the dialogue, the killing of Mr. Shah is likely to act as a deterrent. An unusually strong statement from the Pakistan government has condemned Mr. Shah's killing as "abominable," and stressed that "violence against innocent persons cannot be justified on any grounds." But it does not bode well that Hafiz Saeed, head of the Jamat-ud-dawa, who vows to take Kashmir by force, used the killing to resurface in Islamabad, reiterating his own agenda, and criticising last month's cricket diplomacy. All in all, complacency is the last thing Kashmir needs.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

JAN LOKPAL BILL: ADDRESSING CONCERNS

THE DRAFT BILL SEEKS TO CREATE AN INSTITUTION THAT WILL BE INDEPENDENT OF THOSE IT SEEKS TO POLICE, AND WILL HAVE POWERS TO INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE ALL PUBLIC SERVANTS, AND OTHERS FOUND GUILTY OF CORRUPTING THEM.

PRASHANT BHUSHAN

A number of commentators have raised issues about the provisions in the draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill. They have asked whether it would be an effective instrument to check corruption. They have pointed to the manner in which Anna Hazare's fast put pressure on the government. It is therefore important to understand the provisions of the bill and how it seeks to set up an effective institution to deal with corruption.

Corruption in India has grown to alarming proportions because of policies that have created enormous incentives for its proliferation, coupled with the lack of an effective institution that can investigate and prosecute the corrupt. Under the garb of liberalisation and privatisation, India has adopted policies by which natural resources and public assets (mineral resources, oil and gas, land, spectrum, and so on) have been allowed to be privatised without transparency or a process of public auctioning. Almost overnight, hundreds of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) have been signed by governments with private corporations, leasing out large tracts of land rich in mineral resources, forests and water. These allow the corporations to take away and sell the resources by paying the government a royalty, which is usually less than 1 per cent of the value of the resources.

The Karnataka Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde, has pointed out in a report on mining in Karnataka that the profit margins in such ventures are often more than 90 per cent. This leaves huge scope for bribe-giving and creates incentives for corruption. The same thing happened when A. Raja gave away spectrum without a public auction to companies at less than 10 per cent of its market price. Private monopolies in water and electricity distribution, airport development and so on have been allowed to be created, where huge and unconscionable levels of profit can be made by corrupting the regulator and allowing private monopolies to charge predatory prices. Tens of thousands of hectares have been given away to corporations for commercialisation in the guise of airport development, construction of highways, creation of Special Economic Zones and so on, at prices that are less than 10 per cent of the value of those tracts of land.

Apart from creating huge incentives for corruption, such policies have resulted in the involuntary displacement of lakhs of the poorest people, leaving them on the brink of starvation and forcing many of them to join the Maoists. The beneficiaries have stripped the land of natural resources (a good deal of which is exported) and destroyed the environment. Most ominously, such deals have resulted in the creation of monster corporations that are so powerful and influential that they have come to influence and virtually control all institutions of power — as we see from the Radia tapes.

While adopting policies that thus create huge incentives for corruption, we have not set up effective institutions to check corruption, investigate and prosecute the corrupt and bring them to justice. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) continues to be under the administrative control of the government, which is seen as the fountainhead of corruption. Thus, no action is usually taken by the CBI to effectively investigate high-level corruption — except once in a while when the court forces its hand. Often we see the CBI itself behaving in a corrupt manner, with no other institution to investigate that. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which is supposed to supervise the CBI, has failed to act, since its own appointment process is riddled with conflicts of interest. The Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Leader of the Opposition (who has been a Minister and hopes to become Prime Minister one day) want to avoid their own accountability and are thus interested in having weak and pliable persons to man the institution that is expected to supervise the CBI. Moreover, the CVC and the CBI have to seek the government's sanction to investigate and prosecute wrongdoers; such sanction is usually not given when it comes to high-level corruption. The CVC depends on vigilance officers in various government departments. They are often middle-level officers from the same departments and cannot be expected to exercise vigilance over their bosses who write their confidential reports. The judiciary, which must try and convict the offenders, has become dysfunctional and is afflicted with corruption due to lack of accountability of the higher judiciary.

The draft Jan Lokpal bill seeks to create an institution that will be largely independent of those it seeks to police, and which will have effective powers to investigate and prosecute all public servants (including Ministers, MPs, bureaucrats, judges and so on) and others found guilty of corrupting them. Since corruption involves misconduct and gives rise to grievances, the draft proposes that the Lokpal will supervise the machinery to pursue disciplinary proceedings against government servants (the Vigilance Department) as well as the machinery to redress grievances. Thus, misconduct by government servants, and grievances, will come under the ambit of an independent authority rather than the government — where the machinery has become ineffective due to conflicts of interest. It is proposed that if the Lokpal finds that a contract is being given for corrupt considerations, it can stop the contract. It cannot otherwise interfere with government decisions or policy.

It has been said that this would create a super-cop with enormous powers and no accountability. There is a misconception that the proposed Lokpal will have judicial powers; there is no such provision in the bill. The need of the hour is to have an effective cop who can investigate and prosecute the high and mighty without interdiction from the very people who need to be prosecuted.

The bill seeks to make the Lokpal accountable. First, it is mandated to function transparently so that everything related to its functioning is known to the people (without compromising the investigation itself). Exemptions from disclosure provided in the Right to Information Act could be included. Secondly, the Lokpal's orders will be subject to review in the High Courts and the Supreme Court. Lastly, the members of the Lokpal could be removed for misconduct, by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court.

There has been some criticism of the Lokpal selection committee and the selection process. Given the erosion in the integrity of most of our state institutions, it was thought that the best bet would be to have a broad-based selection committee and build transparency and public participation into the selection process, while trying to keep out those who are most likely to be within the ambit of the Lokpal's investigations. That is why in the draft bill Ministers were sought to be kept out.

One criticism has been that this shows contempt for democracy. We have seen how the "democratically elected" Prime Minister, Home Minister and leaders of the opposition have normally selected weak and pliable CVCs. So the draft bill proposes a selection committee comprising the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Rajya Sabha Chairman, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Chief Election Commissioner, the two seniormost judges of the Supreme Court, two seniormost Chief Justices of High Courts, the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission and the outgoing members of the Lokpal. This proposed composition of the committee will certainly be discussed, and perhaps improved upon, during public consultations and discussions within the drafting committee that will now take place.

It has been said that putting the function of redress of grievances on the plate of the Lokpal would make its work unmanageable. Though the Lokpal will only reorganise and supervise the grievance redress machinery (rather than dealing with each grievance itself), this is an issue that will be discussed openly by the committee. By next week, a website that will formally take in all the opinions and suggestions on the Jan Lokpal bill will be launched and announced. People are welcome to read, understand and send their comments on it, to be taken note of.

One must not, however, be under any illusion that the Lokpal law by itself would solve the problem of corruption. Unless we tackle and change the policies that create enormous incentives for corruption and monster corporations that become too powerful for any institution to control, the fight will be incomplete. The judiciary too is in need of comprehensive reforms.

But an independent, credible and empowered Lokpal is a necessary, though not a sufficient, condition to effectively control corruption. Let us work at least to put that in place.

(Prashant Bhushan is a senior Supreme Court lawyer and member of the joint committee to draft the Lokpal bill.)

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THE HINDU

OPED

FROM KASHMIR TO KENYA — LINGERING LEGACY OF THE RAJ

DOCUMENTARY PROOF OF THE 'EVIL NATURE' OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE AND OF ATROCITIES COMMITTED IN ITS NAME HAS BEEN UNEARTHED.

HASAN SUROOR

of sorts by British Prime Minister David Cameron over Kashmir that upset many on the Right. Answering a question on a visit to Pakistan about what Britain could do to help resolve the Kashmir dispute, he said: "I don't want to try to insert Britain in some leading role where, as with so many of the world's problems, we are responsible for the issue in the first place."

This caused outrage back home. He was accused of "distorting" history and "running down" his own country while on foreign soil to buy cheap popularity with his Pakistani audience. There was shock and horror in right-wing circles at the sight of a proud Tory trying to "distance himself from Britain's imperial past." The Tory press, ever on guard against any attacks on the long-lost empire, dug up an old quote in which Mr. Cameron had spoken of the glories of British history and said that Britain should do more to celebrate it. So what was going on? Critics argued that even Labour leaders had not stooped so low to please their hosts. The Telegraph said Mr. Cameron "could learn something from his predecessor in No 10," Labour's Gordon Brown who, on a visit to Africa, declared that "the days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over" and that "we should celebrate much of our past rather than apologise for it."

Not be left behind were quite a few Liberal academics. Tristram Hunt, a respected historian and a Labour MP, called Mr. Cameron's remarks "naïve" saying he had "a tendency to go to countries around the world and tell them what they want to hear, whether it is in Israel, Turkey, India and Pakistan."

But Mr. Cameron's mea culpa was nothing compared to what was to hit the Raj wallahs a few days later: shocking official documentary proof of the often evil nature of British empire and of the atrocities committed in its name.

The Mau Mau revolt

After denying their existence for more than 50 years, the British Foreign Office was forced last week to produce a cache of documents relating to Britain's brutal and violent suppression of the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya in the 1950s and its attempts to cover up what is regarded as one of the most shameful episodes in British colonial history. The papers — some 1,500 files — were secretly taken out of Kenya in 1963 before the country gained independence and brought to Britain as the colonial administration feared that they "might embarrass Her Majesty's Government," according to extracts published in The Times.

Until now, officials had claimed that the papers had been "lost" and were untraceable. In the event, they were found safely hidden in a Foreign Office archive; and they may have remained hidden there had the Government not been forced to unearth them following a High Court order after four surviving victims of British atrocities sued the Government demanding an apology and compensation for their ill-treatment. They claimed they were victims of a "system" of torture and abuse and the Government in London knew what was going on but did nothing.

Case supported by Kenya

Their case is supported by the Kenyan Government but Britain, while not denying the allegations, argues that it cannot be held responsible for the actions of the colonial administration which transferred all legal liability to the Kenyan republic on independence in 1963.

The files which were removed days before Kenya was formally granted independence reveal systematic abuse of suspected Mau Mau rebels. One document says that an officer was implicated in burning alive a suspect. The methods used to crush the eight-year-long rebellion included whippings, beatings and even sexual abuse. In 1952, an army officer Colonel Arthur Young, who was sent from London, brought this to the notice of Kenya's governor Sir Evelyn Baring and complained that not enough was being done to stop it.

"I do not consider that in the present circumstances government have taken all the necessary steps to ensure that in its screening camps the elementary principles of justice and humanity are observed," he wrote.

Yet the abuses continued.

The files also show how attempts were made to cover up the abuses with the Attorney-General of Kenya's colonial administration observing: "If we are going to sin, we must sin quietly."

Files have 'new information'

According to David Anderson, professor of African politics at Oxford University and an expert witness who appeared on behalf of the claimants, the files reveal a "highly significant amount of new information."

"Many of the documents provide copious detail on the administration of torture and substantive allegations of abuse," he said.

Describing the papers as the tip of the iceberg, Prof Anderson said there might be similar "missing' documents relating to other British colonies such as Malaya, Cyprus, Nigeria which have not been disclosed.

"The Mau Mau claim is not the only claim the British Government may have to worry about. Claim may arise from, for example, Palestine and there is a fear that a successful claim (in the Mau Mau case) could set a precedent," he said.

According to the Kenya Human Rights Commission, 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed while 1,60,000 were detained in appalling conditions on suspicion of their involvement in the uprising.

The Raj apologists have sought to shrug it off arguing that the rebels themselves were guilty of "unspeakable crimes" not only against the British but those of their own countrymen who did not support them. It was simply a case of "appalling atrocities" by the rebels provoking "appalling retaliation" by the British, wrote one such apologist.

But others believe that modern Britain's refusal to acknowledge the ugly legacy of its imperial past is "a dangerous encouragement," as The Guardian writer Seumas Milne warned, "to ignore its lessons and repeat its crimes in a modern form."

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THE HINDU

OPED

LANGUAGE'S ONLY SPEAKERS BLANK EACH OTHER

MEXICO'S AYAPANECO TONGUE SURVIVES IN A 'LINGUISTIC ISLAND'; A DICTIONARY IS BEING PRODUCED IN AN EFFORT TO SAVE THE 'TRUE VOICE.'

JO TUCKMAN

The language of Ayapaneco has been spoken in the land now known as Mexico for centuries. It has survived the Spanish conquest, seen off wars, revolutions, famines and floods. But now, like so many other indigenous languages, it's at risk of extinction.

There are just two people left who can speak it fluently — but they refuse to talk to each other. Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, live 500 metres apart in the village of Ayapa in the tropical lowlands of the southern state of Tabasco. It is not clear whether there is a long-buried argument behind their mutual avoidance, but people who know them say they have never really enjoyed each other's company.

"They don't have a lot in common," says Daniel Suslak, a linguistic anthropologist from Indiana University, who is involved with a project to produce a dictionary of Ayapaneco. Segovia, he says, can be "a little prickly" and Velazquez, who is "more stoic," rarely likes to leave his home.

The dictionary is part of a race against time to revitalise the language before it is definitively too late. "When I was a boy everybody spoke it," Segovia told The Guardian by phone. "It's disappeared little by little, and now I suppose it might die with me." Segovia, who denied any active animosity with Velazquez, retained the habit of speaking Ayapaneco by conversing with his brother until he died about a decade ago. Segovia still uses it with his son and wife who understand him, but cannot produce more than a few words themselves. Velazquez reputedly does not regularly talk to anybody in his native tongue anymore.

Suslak says Ayapaneco has always been a "linguistic island" surrounded by much stronger indigenous languages.

Its demise was sealed by the advent of education in Spanish in the mid 20th century, which for several decades included the explicit prohibition on indigenous children speaking anything else. Urbanisation and migration from the 1970s then ensured the break-up of the core group of speakers concentrated in the village. "It's a sad story," says Suslak, "but you have to be really impressed by how long it has hung around." There are 68 different indigenous languages in Mexico, further subdivided into 364 variations. A handful of other Mexican indigenous languages are also in danger of extinction, though Ayapaneco is the most extreme case.

The name Ayapaneco is an imposition by outsiders, and Segovia and Velazquez call their language Nuumte Oote, which means the True Voice. They speak different versions of this truth and tend to disagree over details, which doesn't help their relationship. The dictionary, which is due out later this year, will contain both versions.

A last attempt

The National Indigenous Language Institute is also planning a last attempt to get classes going in which the last two surviving speakers can pass their knowledge on to other locals. Previous efforts have failed to take hold due to lack of funding and limited enthusiasm.

"I bought pencils and notebooks myself," Segovia complains. "The classes would start off full and then the pupils would stop coming." Suslak says the language is particularly rich in what he calls sound symbolic expressions that often take their inspiration from nature, such as kolo-golo-nay, translated as "to gobble like a turkey".— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE HINDU

OPED

SOME OTHER LANGUAGES FACING EXTINCTION

EMINE SINMAZ

Ter Sami: Spoken by only two elderly people in the Kola peninsula in the north-west of Russia. Had about 450 speakers at the end of the 19th century until it was prohibited in schools in the 1930s.

Kayardild: Kayardild is spoken fluently by four people — all elderly Aboriginals — on Bentinck and Mornington Islands in Queensland, Australia.

Lengilu Language from the north-eastern area of Kalimantan, Indonesia. It was at one stage spoken by 10 people. Today, there are four.

Mabire: Three people reportedly speak Mabire in the Oulek village of Chad. The chief of the Mabire is the only Mabire speaker in his village so people doubt whether he is still fluent.

Tehuelche: Originally the language of nomadic hunters in Chile. The last four speakers live in Patagonia, Argentina.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE HINDU

OPED

SEA PIRACY AT A RECORD HIGH, SAYS MARITIME BUREAU

Sea piracy worldwide hit a record high of 142 attacks in the first quarter this year as Somali pirates become more violent and aggressive, a global maritime watchdog said on April 14.

Nearly 70 per cent or 97 of the attacks occurred off the coast of Somalia, up sharply from 35 in the same period last year, the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur said in a statement ( See: http://www.icc-ccs.org/piracy-reporting-centre).

Attackers seized 18 vessels worldwide, including three big tankers, in the January-March period and captured 344 crew members, it said. Pirates also murdered seven crew members and injured 34 during the quarter.

"Figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea in the past three months are higher than we've ever recorded in the first quarter of any past year," said the bureau's director Pottengal Mukundan.

He said there was a "dramatic increase in the violence and techniques" used by Somali pirates to counter increased patrols by international navies, putting large tankers carrying oil and other flammable chemicals at highest risk to firearm attacks. Of the 97 vessels attacked off Somalia, he said 37 were tankers including 20 with more than 1,00,000 deadweight tonnes.

Credit for Indian Navy

International navies have taken a tougher stance against pirates, with the Indian Navy alone arresting 120 mostly Somalian pirates over the past few months. The U.S. and other nations have also prosecuted suspects caught by their militaries, although some were released as countries weigh legal issues and other factors.

Mukundan said the positions of some of the attackers' mother ships were known and called for stronger action to be taken against these mother ships to prevent further hijackings. Pirates held some 28 ships and nearly 600 hostages as of end-March, the bureau said.

Elsewhere, nine attacks were reported off Malaysia and five in Nigeria in the first quarter. Last year, there were 445 pirate attacks worldwide, a 10 per cent rise from 2009. Pirates seized 53 vessels and captured a record 1,181 hostages in 2010, almost all of them off the Somali coast. — AP

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

RE-ENGAGING OF PAK HIT BY RANA FACTOR

Recent disclosures in a Chicago court by Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Canadian of Pakistani origin, would appear to have placed in political difficulty not only the Americans but Indians as well. Rana dropped a bombshell when he informed the court in a pre-trial statement earlier this week that he was a part of the 26/11 attack on

Mumbai as a reconnaissance agent (along with David Coleman Headley or Dawood, a Pakistani American) at the instance of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, and not the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. When the news hit the American media, ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, then on a trip to Washington to confabulate with his CIA counterpart and others in the US establishment, is reported to have hurriedly rushed back home. It is easy to see why. Whatever the legal technicalities about standards of proof, it was plain that the ISI, officially Washington's key ally in the so-called war on terror and the bulwark of its AfPak policy, had meticulously orchestrated a defining attack on innocent civilians in India. The United States has not only sought to befriend India in recent years, it also renders New Delhi constant advice to reassure Pakistan that it has no hostile intentions toward its troublesome neighbour.
Mr Rana's statement, of course, refurbishes the stated Indian view on the ISI's explicit "non-peripheral" role in 26/11. His exoneration of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba need not detain us here, especially when it has been noted around the world in recent years that the ISI engages in terrorism through the LeT: in short, the two do no not inhabit separate, watertight compartments. Why Mr Rana chose to name the ISI while pointedly leaving out the LeT (he could have omitted reference to the latter) is a matter of conjecture at this stage, and is likely to be revealed in course of the trial which begins in May. But concerns for his own safety is likely to have been uppermost in his mind. The arms of the LeT are said to stretch far. Testifying before the Senate armed services committee earlier this week, the US Pacific Command chief, Adm. Robert Willard, spoke of the "global reach and ambition" of the LeT which was "no longer intent on targeting only India".
Damaging revelations about the ISI's role in the made-in-Pakistan terrorist assault on Mumbai cannot augur well for the fresh lease of life infused into India-Pakistan ties with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh making the perfect pitch with his cricket diplomacy late last month. In short, New Delhi's dilemma is not dissimilar to that of Washington in seeking to maintain steady relations with Islamabad. Now external affairs minister S.M. Krishna tells us that India's unease flowing from the Rana statement will be taken up with Pakistan. The expected denials, and denunciation of the reconnaissance man, may follow from Islamabad. But none of this is apt to quell doubts here, whatever the official line. In principle, we have agreed to restore cricketing and hockey ties with Pakistan. As a way to build bridges at the people level, this is laudable. But questions will be raised about the security of our sportspeople. In 2008, six Sri Lankan cricketers were fortunate to escape with relatively light injuries in a suicide attack.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

TRUST NO ONE

K.N. BHAT

The nation feels relieved that social activist Anna Hazare has ended his fast. But if the Jan Lokpal Bill he has been pushing becomes a law, Mr Hazare may have to undertake yet another fast demanding its repeal because the intended institution to deal with corruption in high places is more likely to be a parallel body that can paralyse the government without being answerable to the people. A guarantee for anarchy.

The cumbersome process of the selection of Lokpal begins with the conception of an unwieldy and unsafe selection committee. "Unsafe" because while involving a huge number of ex-officio individuals, the chances of getting on board a few avoidable ones are real. Any apple farmer will tell you that bigger the lot larger the rot. The Lokpal Bill prescribes that the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission shall be one of the selectors and so shall be two senior-most chief justices of high courts. This means that if the selection committee is set up in the near future, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P.D. Dinakaran will be its members. The proposed law requires all Nobel laureates of Indian origin, the latest two Magsaysay awardees and all Bharat Ratnas to be in the selection committee. Hopefully, Sachin Tendulkar, too, will be there to select the first Lokpal.

Consider the near impossibility of congregating all of them at one place on a day "to meet and discuss" the material, not just once in a lifetime but whenever the need arises.

Why indulge in such a tamasha? The presiding officers of the two Houses, the Prime Minister, two leaders of Opposition, holders of constitutional offices like the Chief Justice of India, the Chief Election Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General can together handle the job. And if they cannot, one can presume that the situation in the country is beyond the hands of any Lokpal.

The bill proposes that four out of the 11 Lokpals should be "with legal background" — into this vague phrase anyone can be fitted — a lawyer's clerk, to wit. "Un-impeachable integrity" is now a well-understood phrase, thanks to P.J. Thomas, the former Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). But the search for candidates "having demonstrated their resolve and efforts to fight against corruption in the past" may be a euphemism for marked persons like Magsaysay awardees or public interest litigations masters. Our media, too, can produce a few of them. Every selector has to justify his/her recommendation and grading. And in its anxiety to be transparent, the bill requires the names of the persons evaluated and grading done by the galaxy of selectors to be published on a website. Remember, no candidate applies to the post — the public is expected to sponsor names of their choice. Chances are that one may find one's name among the rejects without having applied to the post.
"Trust no one" is apparently the philosophy behind this Lokpal Bill. It stipulates the Bench strength of the Supreme Court to hear a petition against a Lokpal, a presciption till now made only by the Constitution of India. The bill commands that the apex court shall not dismiss a petition against a Lokpal in limine, however frivolous it may be. And many details about the conduct of business within the court are sought to be regulated by the bill. Even the chairperson of the Lokpal is not allowed to constitute the benches or assign cases — it is to be done by computers. While prescribing video cameras for all proceedings, the Supreme Court is mercifully spared.

Mr Hazare's call is to deal with corruption, but the bill expects the Lokpal to deal with all "complaints, mal-administration, misconduct" and more, to be added to the list from time to time. Lokpal was conceived as a body with high political functionaries on its radar. But the bill targets every "public servant", including judges of the high court and Supreme Court, who have special protection under the Constitution. Every government servant, chairman or vice-chairman of public sector undertakings and such other authorities as the Central government may also, by a notification from time to time, come under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal. Consequently, the CVC becomes redundant and is recommended to be scrapped.

Pray, restrict Lokpal's scope to only the high functionaries of the political administration and those, including in the private sector, who are party to the conspiracy in a corruption case. Leave the rest to the CVC.

The judiciary needs to be dealt with separately not only because its problems cannot be appreciated by a Lokpal having just a "legal background", but also because the growing corruption among the sitting and retired judges acting as arbitrators or mediators calls for a full-time agency. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, now pending before Parliament, after suitable amendments, should be able to deal with corruption without affecting the constitutionally-guaranteed independence.

This criticism of the well-meaning Jan Lokpal Bill is intended to warn against the promise of extending or recommending blind support to it. In its present form, the bill reminds one of a toothpaste advertisement that sees only germs everywhere and recommends repeated brushing leaving little time for anything else. But, on the other hand, the official draft bill can, in all fairness, be termed as a "Corruption (Protection and Promotion) Act". A single provision prescribing prior sanction of the presiding officers of the Houses as a pre-condition for the Lokpal to entertain a complaint is enough to render the law useless. Exclusion of matters relating to defence and the like, where corruption is known to breed and thrive, makes that bill suspect. Designing of a realistic and workable machinery to deal with corruption in high places of public life is vital — television coverage of the proceedings is not; it will be inhibitive of free and frank exchange of views.

So, was Mr Hazare's fast futile? Surely not. It has commanded the attention from quarters that matter on a vital issue; attention that was needed but was missing for too long. Further, the agitation has resulted in the constitution of a drafting committee that could be surpassed in terms of ability and acumen only by the Constituent Assembly that framed our Constitution in November 1949. I trust them to be equally sagacious. But, perhaps, harnessing the experience of former Indian Police Service officer Kiran Bedi in place of a lawyer could have at once neutralised the obvious pro-lawyer and gender tilt and also avoided the odious allegation of nepotism.

K.N. Bhat is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and former Additional Solicitor General of India

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

LEARNING FROM FAILURE

V.S. ARUNACHALAM & ESWARAN SUBRAHMANIAN

Recent reactor accidents in Japan have thrown open a fresh arena for acrimonious debates between nuclear power proponents and the naysayers. The opponents, charged with the evidence of a catastrophe in Japan, will claim that nuclear power never should be considered, and the proponents will argue that our reactors in India are safe and that the kind of catastrophe we are witnessing in Japan would never happen here.

Both are viewing the problem only from their highly tinted lens of perspectives.

Successes and failures are an integral part of designing any engineered system. Correcting failures helps in creating successful design, but successful design does not obviate failure in a context that was neglected, wished away, or in a world different than that of original construction (and calculation).
The history of technology is one of evolution through correcting past failures. Engineers — like generals in war — correct previous failures. To say that all designs will fail because the last one did will lead to no progress in technology.
Machines of today — nuclear reactors, giant oil rigs or superthermal power stations — are large, complex systems with hundreds of subsystems and components that are closely coupled. They must all perform faultlessly to avoid failure. To ensure such operations, materials are chosen and tested carefully for meeting the specifications imposed by the design. Systems are designed and manufactured to operate safely. Major and complex designs also incorporate back-up systems to provide for operational redundancies — remedial measures spring into operation, preventing failure of a component or a subsystem from ballooning into major catastrophes.

The Daiichi Fukushima nuclear power plant reactors, presently under distress in Japan after the disastrous earthquake and tsunami, have multiple diesel generators and batteries to pick up slack to continue operating pumps and other required systems.

Examine other well-known nuclear failures: the Three Mile Island nuclear power station, for instance, had two backup cooling systems for the steam generator, relief valves and indicators to show whether the valves were working or not. In spite of these redundancies, the reactor came close to a total meltdown. The trouble at Chernobyl started with engineers decoupling the control rods from the main reactor operations. The emergency cooling system, instead of depending on gravity to operate, was powered by the electrical system that was vulnerable to failure.

Coming back to the present crisis, in Japan even after the batteries took up the load, no standby power generators were available to connect to the reactor pumping network. It is too early to speculate on the reasons for this failure. We can cite similar horror tales from many other areas that operate large, complex and close-coupled engineering systems. In the past 60 years alone there have been three major nuclear power system accidents, a major failure of the chemical plant that killed or maimed thousands of people, and a space vehicle disaster that pushed the space programme back by many years.

With High Technology Social Service Systems growing bigger, more complex and closely coupled, the likelihood of technological disasters increases. In the next 20 years, India alone plans to build about 100 nuclear power reactors for generating 80,000 MW of electricity.

A conceptual framework for managing technological disasters has three elements: minimising the likelihood of such accidents; controlling accidents to prevent major catastrophes; and, coping with the aftermath. As scientists and engineers, we are typically more concerned with minimising the risk of accidents and increasing the probability of safe performance.

The recent collapse of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and the consequent uncontrolled gushing of oil suggests one more area to focus: to develop post-accident technologies and operational regimens to minimise the loss to life and property. Imagining and planning how to deal with future accidents, with no past history to go by, will be a challenge but it has to be developed and practiced.

Forensic analysis of accidents has many lessons to offer. One of them is a lack of training of operators for handling emergencies. People when faced with impending catastrophes either "choke" or panic. The training they are imparted is not adequate for the tasks or the operator tries to improvise with unproven responses. For example, the alarm siren warning of gas leakage in Bhopal was not operated continuously. There are reports of similar shortcomings in the operators' response when there was an uncontrolled gas leakage in the Gulf of Mexico. Operator after operator hesitated in pressing the panic button. They were told of the financial loss of delays but not warned or trained to handle emergencies where safety would take precedence over all other concerns.

The main problem lies in our limited ability to anticipate all failure modes. Who would have thought, for instance, that the recent earthquake in Japan would be as powerful as 8.9 in the Richter scale when the design was for standing up to 8.2 Richter, about five times less intense!

How, then, does one manage such disasters and bring them to a closure with minimum loss to life and property? Technical actions are the first line of defence and management actions must run along with it. To determine the technical response, it is important that the managers directing the remedial measures have a ready access to a pool of talented professionals who are identified well in advance for the relevant technologies and systems. What we are suggesting here is reminiscent of a jury system. A recent example where an Airbus 380 aircraft crippled with an engine failure that affected its hydraulic, fuel supply and electrical systems could still make it to the airport was attributed to the ready availability of five pilots with advice in the aircraft itself with a total flying experience of over 70,000 hours.

Our society cannot avoid building large complex systems that have thousands of closely coupled components. The terawatts challenge for power generation that the Nobel prize winner Smalley talks of calls for tripling the global power generation to 40 terawatts with minimum CO2 emissions. This means more nuclear reactors, and more oil and gas exploration and wind power stations far into the oceans. Until we eliminate our ignorance of all that can go wrong with better information and knowledge, we should pay as much attention to managing disasters as minimising their occurrence.

V.S. Arunachalam is the chairman of Centre for Study of Science Technology and Policy (CSTEP), Bengaluru; Eswaran Subrahmanian is a research fellow, CSTEP

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

BEST, BRIGHT & BLUE

KAMAL DAVAR

Sixty-three momentous years ago an ancient civilisation blossomed into a nation-state with a million promises to keep. But the lack of a strategic culture and unity in thought and action has haunted and weakened India over the years and it is now time to seriously address our endemic and congenital shortcomings as we take our rightful seat at the high table.

As the second-largest growing economy, after China, and with myriad formidable security and developmental challenges, India has to ensure a peaceful and stable environment within, build the necessary wherewithal for peace with its neighbours and beyond. Do we need crisis situations to shake us out of our slumber, as in 1947-48, the 1962 debacle or the Kargil 1999 surprise? Or do we formally and periodically introspect, analyse and put into place corrective and institutionalised measures emerging from a well thought-out, all-encompassing national security strategy to confront the multitude of challenges which stare at us today and might come in the way of our march forward? Noted American author Walter Lippman in the 1940s very succinctly said, "A nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate interests to avoid war and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war".

No one will question the fact that in today's disturbed world and the volatile neighbourhood we live in, a hard, holistic look at our security preparedness in all its manifestations and nuances is called for periodically. The elements, instruments, spectrum of potential conflicts and all determinants of national defence and security need to be regularly studied. Our security planning must cater for the complete spectrum of conflict ranging from aid to civil authority, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations, varying levels of conventional war to a war involving weapons of mass destruction. Military doctrines, combat profiles, force structuring and induction of new and relevant weaponry, capabilities in information warfare, psychological warfare, intelligence capabilities and now nuclear assets and space warfare need to be thoroughly deliberated upon in comparison with capabilities of likely adversaries. Knee-jerk reactions and panic decision-making in moments of national crises are thus avoided.

In many democracies the world over, Blue Ribbon Commissions are appointed to look into the problems of the armed forces, as in the United States and the similar Royal Commissions in the United Kingdom. Since Independence, no such commission has been appointed in India though after the Kargil War, the high-level Kargil Review Committee (KRC), which reviewed the entire gamut of security, higher defence management in India and the alleged intelligence lapses and made useful recommendations, came somewhat close to a Blue Ribbon Commission. It will be worth mentioning here that the chairman of the KRC, the respected security analyst, late K. Subhramanyam, had, in 2008, strongly recommended a Blue Ribbon Commission for the Indian armed forces. He had suggested that such a high-powered commission could be headed by an eminent personality who commands high credibility, like chairman of Tata Sons Ratan Tata or Infosys chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy and have other reputed retired experts from the forces, the intelligence community, the defence and foreign ministries, and management specialists. He further advised that once such a commission submits its recommendations there will be no further nitpicking by bureaucrats or the government — the report should be accepted and implemented in good faith. I would add the name of Arun Singh, former Union minister of state for defence and a Rajiv Gandhi favourite, to head such a commission as he has a remarkably clear vision of India's security challenges.

Not many are familiar with the term Blue Ribbon Commission or why is it called so. Briefly, it is an independent and exclusive commission of non-partisan experts and eminent personalities constituted to look at any issue or concern of national significance. Though it has no legal or any other authority to implement its recommendations, its suggestions are accorded due attention by the government as such commissions are composed of eminent and respected experts.

The term "blue ribbon" comes from the commission members being the "best and brightest" in their respective fields. Thus, these commissions are different from a parliamentary committee, a government-sponsored internal study group, a judicial commission, a committee of secretaries or a group of ministers. Being non-partisan in composition, such commissions transcend parochial inclinations of inter-governmental departments and civil bureaucracy versus the armed forces conflict. However, those cynical of such commissions allege that these commissions tend to exaggerate existing and future problem areas, may display an overly individualistic approach, lack accountability (since it is not responsible for implementation) and are unrealistic in their financial projections. Be that as it may, the cardinal necessity of such commissions is accepted the world over, and, when composed of the most respected leaders and experts in their respective fields in the country, it is a sacrilege to apportion any negative attributes to the members of such commissions.

The Indian armed forces have a two-and-a-half front obligation (China, Pakistan and internal security). Over the years, its combat profile vis à vis its potential adversaries has been slipping to unacceptable levels. It is a truism that combat capabilities take a long time to accomplish. Compounded by our sluggish equipment induction procedures, despite governmental allocations, the capabilities of the services will continue to slide downwards unless the desired impetus is accorded by the government and the service headquarters. Given a nuclear, terror-exporting Pakistan, the growing assertiveness of China and the Maoist threat in our hinterland, a comprehensive and an all-encompassing look is required at our security preparedness.

The Government of India sets up a pay commission every 10 years. A Blue Ribbon Commission should be set up on similar lines to look at our higher defence management, force structures, equipment profiles and new and futuristic challenges, including the military, internal security, intelligence, information warfare, nuclear and space dimensions. Speedy implementation of reforms and recommendations of such a commission will go a long way in ensuring India's security.

Lt. Gen. Kamal Davar (retd) was the first chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency and deputy chief of the Integrated Defence Staff

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SEASON OF GIFTS

ON THE SPOT

BY TAVLEEN SINGH

 

With so much talk of corruption in the air I hoped in my optimistic way that Anna Hazare's campaign would find reflection in Tamil Nadu's election campaign and that the Election Commission would ban the open bribing of voters. This did not happen so we have seen a campaign in which politics was reduced to a farce with both the main political parties making not promises of better governance but of better free gifts. So when K. Karunanidhi promised blenders for the rural poor, laptops for engineering students, insurance for fishermen and washing machines and refrigerators for all and sundry J.Jayalalitha came up with her own goodie bag. Blenders and a fan for women, four free sheep for poor families; four grammes of gold for brides from poor families; 60,000 cows for 6000 villages and free cable TV for everyone.


How has this open attempt to bribe voters got past the Election Commission's hawk eyed inspectors? They have publicly displayed the huge piles of cash that they have seized from candidates in Tamil Nadu. The total amount is said to be nearly Rs 40 crores and this is probably only a fraction of the black money that has been spent on the campaign but what about stopping both political parties from openly bribing their voters? If the code of conduct does not forbid free gifts to voters then it is time that it was changed to include such a provision. In the old days, before the code of conduct came into being, candidates could forfeit their election if caught trying to bribe voters with free liquor and free gifts. So what has changed now that political parties in Tamil Nadu are so easily able to announce freebies in the middle of an election campaign? Ironically, the Election Commission is so strict about what it considers illicit inducements to voters that incumbent governments are not allowed to announce major infrastructure projects once a date is set for polling. But, both Tamil Nadu's main political parties have got away with promises of free gifts.


It is to the DMK (Dravidra Munnetra Kazhagam) that credit must go for introducing free gifts, paid for with taxpayers money, into their political campaign. When I was in Tamil Nadu recently, wandering about the wilds of rural Coimbatore, I met people who said they were disinclined to vote for the DMK because of the 2G Spectrum scandal but they believed that innocent rural folk would go ahead and give the DMK their vote because of the free television sets that were distributed after the last election. It was the one thing that they said they liked about the Karunanidhi government. That this kind of populism has worked is evident from Jayalalitha introducing free gifts into her campaign. She has railed endlessly against Karunanidhi and his family and has threatened to throw them out 'lock, stock and barrel' but copied their methods of wooing voters. The DMK heiress, Kanimozhi, defended her party's policy on national television by saying that what the media called 'freebies' were actually welfare programmes that the poor were truly grateful for. Would they not have been just as grateful if her Daddy's government had delivered on such things as 24-hour electricity, clean water and decent schools in every village? Would they not have been just as grateful if Mr. Karunanidhi had not turned the DMK into a family business?


When an election campaign is reduced to becoming an instrument for the distribution of free gifts to voters it shows not just a cynical disdain for the voters' intelligence but a complete contempt for real political issues. And, there are many real political issues in Tamil Nadu of which corruption has to be one of the most important. In this state the story of corruption is a long and tragic one that has affected nearly every political party.
If Karunanidhi has shamelessly promoted his army of relations during his time as chief minister not much better can be said of the reign of Jayalalitha. I use the word 'reign' deliberately because her style of functioning was so imperious that party workers routinely prostrated themselves at her feet and she made no objections to their servile behavior. As for corruption the list of cases against her are nearly as long as the catalogue of corruption that has emerged from the sale of 2G Spectrum under Karunanidhi's close associate, A. Raja.
My son studied in a school in Kodai Kanal during Jayalalitha's reign and I can remember going up to that balmy hill station and discovering some new tale of corruption nearly every time. Once some workers associated with Jayalaltiha's friend and confidante, Sasikala, marched into a property that belonged to the local church and without any qualms took it over. On another trip to Tamil Nadu I remember being in Chennai when Jayalalitha was organizing the wedding of Sasikala's nephew. Such huge amounts of money were spent on this event that the bazaars of Chennai buzzed with stories of the chief minister's ill gotten gains.
Corruption was one of the reasons why Karunanidhi managed to defeat Jayalalitha and keep her out of power for so long which makes it so sad that this time it is Karunanidhi and his family who have become symbols of corruption and nepotism. Karunanidhi has placed so many of his close relatives in positions of power in Tamil Nadu that the state has been run like a personal fiefdom of the Karunanidhi family. Unfortunately for the voters of Tamil Nadu the main challenger to the family is a woman who in her fashion has shown herself to be even more imperious in her manner of functioning. So there is not much of a choice in any real sense except that in the brouhaha over 2G Spectrum some of Jayalalitha's past misdemeanours have been forgotten. A businessman I met when I was in Coimabtore analyzed the political situation for me in these words, 'See the thing is that the Karunanidhi family is very unpopular because of the 2G Spectrum scam. Tamil people feel embarrassed by it and this gives Jayalalitha an advantage but she may not be able to capitalize on it because of the distribution of free colour television sets in the villages.' That sums up succinctly the flavor of this election campaign that has been more about free gifts than politics.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

EMERGING PANCHAYAT RAJ INSTITUTIONS IN J&K

BY COL J P SINGH, RETD

 

70 % of Indian population and 60 % of nation's work force lives in villages who push the wheels of economic and political development of India by their committed and generous indulgence; for which the govts of the day have to be grateful to them. Hence the importance of villages in India and the genuine necessity of empowering rural people and their local self govt institutions cannot be ignored. Jammu & Kashmir has once again, though belated, embarked on the path of holding Panchayat Election after a gap of 10 years with a view to empower villagers and provide them good governance. Starting from 13 April 2011, people will be electing their representatives and strengthening the basic edifice of local self government, the much cherished dream of Father of the Nation and Rajiv Gandhi. This is a welcome step by which the villagers will step into another glorious phase of democracy at the gross root level. They will elect their Panches and Sarpanches for carrying out development works in their areas which were till now at the mercy of MLAs and civil servants and generally neglected in the absence of systems and channel of accountability to the recepients of the services.
Democracy is a system of involving common man in the process of decision making. Decentralization of power is basic ingredient of democracy so that people themselves carry out their development works with the help of civil servants. Even after over six decades the fate of people in rural areas has not changed much because rural areas continue to be neglected. The root cause of many ills of the country, particularly in rural areas is misgovernance. This menace can be easily tackled by governance through Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) and rejuvenating Gram Sabhas by involving men, women and youth in the process of rural development. Panchayats in India deal with rural development, dispute settlement, social justice, promotion of education and health services, protection of public assets and many other welfare activities and hence they must be fully empowered to deliver on these subjects of their intimate concern.
Panchayat Raja Act came to effect in J&K in July 1989. The Act provides for constitution of Halqa Panchayats, Block Development Councils and District Planning & Development Boards. The essence of Act was to ensure the effective participation of people in decision making process and implementation of developmental programme. But this essence of the Act is not being implemented in the true spirit. The PRIs in J&K, sadly enough, have not been fully empowered as per the 73rd Constitutional Amendment despite demand from Congress Party and the opposition combined for the reasons best known to the coalition govt of which the Congress is a partner. Insensitivity of the govt in empowering PRIs as per 73rd Amendment, which is legitimate right of people, is a matter of concern and contest. If implemented in real sense this amendment provides for direct election to Halqa, Block and District Level institutions. But our state Act does not provide for direct election to block and district level PRIs; on the contrary it stipulates appointing an elected MLA ( Minister in the govt ) as Chairman of District Development Board, BDO as secretary of Block Development Board and Gram Sevak as secretary of Halqa Panchayat. It also provides for nominating members in Halqa Panchayat Adalts as well as in Block and District bodies, thereby retaining the powers and authority of maneuverability in the functioning of PRIs. The nominated members in these bodies can put road blocks in their democratic and transparent functioning. Hence the arbitrary appointment of members in PRIs should be avoided. Although constitution of State Finance Commission to apportion funds for PRIs has been accepted by the govt but this provides enough financial strength to tail twist the PRIs. If these are the intentions of the govt, sadly, it amounts to the centralization of powers rather than decentralization / empowerment of people and hence a step towards weakening democracy in J&K. Yet process of election and formation of Panchayats may not go a long way, but certainly it will cover some distance in providing the much needed good governance provided the representatives elected are good, educated, honest, strong, non political and public friendly. It takes lot of time and dedicated effort to develop institutions on just and firm footing. The onus of developing and strengthening PRIs devolves on the elected representatives. Hope the coming lot of Rural leadership will exert, deliver, work untidily and selflessly to strengthen PRIs.

Govt's declaration that the Panchayat Election will be held and contested on non-party basis is another good step in the right direction by which the villagers will have the freedom of electing their favourite candidates whom they can trust for the assigned job of ensuring that their basic necessities such as bijli, pani, sadak, seeds, fertilizers, speedy resolution of local disputes and authorized PDS rations. These services were otherwise at the mercy of civil servants who held no accountability to the public. Hence the need of the hour is to elect honest, committed and dynamic persons as panches and sarpanches for creating a pool of rural leadership which can subsequently reach Block and District Development Boards and State Assemblies for making laws and getting funds for much needed rural development. Of late newspaper reports and Assembly debates have revealed that politicians and bureaucrats have grabbed common village and govt lands and are involved in other malpractices also. These things happen when either there is leadership vacuum in the villages or the village leaders join corrupt politicians in malpractices for petty benefits. Due to such selfish interests, politicians and govt officials are getting involved in the process of panchayat elections to get their nominees elected so that they can carry on with their agenda. Such practices do not augur well for our democracy. Election commission must take note of this phenomenon and prevent politicians campaigning for ensuing panchayat election.
People select good physicians for their treatment and good lawyers for fighting their court cases. But the tragedy is that they invariably do not elect good representatives. Hence the competence, wisdom, delivery and accountability are rare phenomenon in the governance. We cry about bad governance without realizing that it is we who are to blame, if anyone is to be. The potential and the power that the people have in our democracy can transform their lives if they are utilised judiciously. Hence Gram Sabhas, as provided for in 73rd Amendment should be formed as part of local self govt. They can act as watch dog of democracy by monitoring and supervising the functioning of PRIs.


The PRIs should be given authority to exercise checks and controls over public servants employed in their areas and penalize them for dereliction of duty, frauds and embezzlements and reward them for good performance even if they are not fully empowered as per 73rd Amendment. Practice of accountability to PRIs can provide a direct link between service providers and service receivers by shortening the long chain of delivery and accountability under which crooked officials manage to hood wink innocent villagers, embezzle funds and escape punitive action for dereliction of duty on account of complicated legal systems.
(The writer is a columnist, political analyst and social worker)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

INDIA HEADING FOR 2ND GREEN REVOLUTION

BY ARABINDA GHOSE

 

Soon after the UPA Government had come to power in May 2004, President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had been repeatedly calling for the advent of the "Second Green Revolution" in Indian agriculture.


While showering praise on Mr. Sharad Pawar for the successful performance in agriculture in his home district of Baramati in Maharashtra the Prime Minister had called for a second green revolution at the conference on rural development held at the Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi in early 2005.


He as well as the President have lost no opportunity to stress the need for a second green revolution in agriculture. Other leaders of the ruling party have been continuously asking for the onset of the second green revolution in agriculture even after UPA-II came to power in 2009. The Prime Minister had made such a statement during his visit to the United States too in 2008 at the invitation of President Bush.
India produced 234.47 million tonnes of food grains in crop year 2008-09, the highest production of food grains so far in any (agricultural) year. Could that harvest be called the setting in of the second green revolution in agriculture? Apparently not, because even after this performance of Indian agriculture, dignitaries have been asking for the second green revolution.


However, the third advance estimate for production of food grains revealed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on April 6 in New Delhi have clear indication that production of food grains this year ( 2010-11) would touch dizzy heights which might enable agricultural experts to declare the onset of the second green revolution in agriculture.


Announcing the third advanced estimates of the agricultural production on April 6,while inaugurating the "Kharif Campaign" Mr. Pawar created a sensation by announcing that the food grains production during 2010-11 would touch the figure of 235.88 million tonnes, already about 1.40 million tonnes more than the highest ever production in of 234.47 million tonnes in 2008-09.


As is well known, there will be a fourth advance estimated to be published by the end of the current kharif which will reveal some more dramatic facts about the production of food grains. Let us take wheat first since this is the crop which is now being harvested. While the Ministry of Agriculture had targeted the production of wheat during the current year at 82 million tonnes, the second advance estimate published on February 9, 2011, showed the prospect of the production of 81.47 million tones. However, the third advance estimate published on April 6 placed the likely of production at 84.27 million tones.


This figure has been arrived at as the likely production of wheat during the current crop year. However, one must take into account the fact that this figure relates only to the third advance estimate. Wheat has continued to grow, at least in the north western plains till early April because of the prevailing cold weather, caused by the Western Disturbances. As such when the fourth advance estimate is published three months later, chances are that the figure then would be higher than 85 million tonnes.

 

Then rice. The third advance estimate places the production at 94.11 million tonnes. However, this figure has been computed apparently without taking on the rice harvests in large parts of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhanad, West Bengal and Orissa. Which grow considerable volume of "Boro" (summer) Rice, which is yet to be harvested. The large crops of "Samba" rice of Tamilnadu too has not been taken into account, understandably so because there crops are yet to be harvested. One can be reasonably certain that these rice crops would add to the third advance estimate of 94.11 crores and if nothing goes wrong, by the end of the present crop year, rice production will show a figure of 102 million tonnes or so as has been targeted by the Ministry of Agriculture.
We have yet to mention the unprecedented growth in pulses and oilseeds. The third advance estimate has already shown 19, 29 million tones of pulses and 3025 million tones of oilseeds These two figures are ecstatic that one of the greatest names in agriculture today Dr. Y.K Alagh has gone ecstatic at this performance of Indian agriculture In an article in the Indian Express on April 13, he says: "Twenty-thirty per cent growth rate in oilseeds and pulses? Does it mean that we have crossed the hump"


One would like to agree with his view and would make this humble suggestion that the production of food grains in India during this year will be about 244.50 million tonnes as targeted by the Agriculture Ministry and such a high production certainly deserves to be described as the advent of the Second Green Revolution in agriculture (NPA)

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TOWARDS INDIA-CHINA BONHOMIE

TOGETHER, THEY CAN SPEED UP THEIR GROWTH

 

The on-going BRICS summit in Sanya in China has provided a fresh opportunity to New Delhi and Beijing to give a new direction to their bilateral relations. It is, therefore, good that India and China have decided to establish a working mechanism to sort out their border disputes which have been coming in the way of cementing their ties. There are clear indications that both sides are enthusiastic to narrow down their differences on any issue concerning the region or the world so that they can together lead the coming Asian century. It is not without significance that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Hu Jintao preferred to downplay the irritants between the two countries during their meeting on Wednesday. They have changed the political climate involving India and China, and this can definitely help them to find a way to settle their disputes.

 

India-China relations had suffered a setback when Beijing started the unjustifiable practice of issuing stapled visa to anyone from Jammu and Kashmir or denying visa to people from Arunachal Pradesh trying to visit China. India was stunned when China refused to issue a visa to Lt-Gen B. S. Jaswal because he commanded the country's troops in Jammu and Kashmir. India reacted strongly to this and decided to discontinue with the practice of military exchanges between the two countries. However, now military exchanges may be resumed soon, as National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon told journalists in Sanya.

 

India and China have massive scope to strengthen their economic relations. They can benefit a lot from each other's achievements in different areas. At present the balance of bilateral trade is in favour of China. India has to work hard to reduce it. India may gain considerably if China allows greater access to India in areas like information technology (IT), pharmaceuticals and agro-products, as Dr Manmohan Singh pointed out during his meeting with President Hu. It is not difficult for the two countries to attain the bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2015 if there is enough understanding of each other's requirements. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BRISK POLLING

J AND K DEFIES SEPARATISTS

 

This is the first time that panchayat elections are being held in Jammu and Kashmir in a decade — that too after the violent protests in the Valley during last summer. Separatists have issued a boycott call. If still people have voted in such large numbers in the first phase on Wednesday, it is a loud hurrah in favour of democracy. Those who came out to vote are as much to be complimented as those who "dared" to contest, cocking a snook at the diktats of Syed Ali Shah Gilani and others. The voters showed the earthy wisdom that while politicians may continue to quarrel over political matters, local affairs like development and basic amenities cannot be ignored any longer and it is important to have their local representatives in place.

 

This is almost a replay of the 2008 Assembly poll, which too was hotly contested, despite boycott calls and the public protests some months before that. Apparently, people have now come to realise that those bent on disturbing the elections are no friends of theirs. The security forces too deserve a pat on the back considering that the three-tier security provided by them was effective and non-intrusive.

 

But what must be borne in mind is that this is only the first of the 16 rounds of the elections, and there is no room for complacency. A strong vigil needs to be maintained right till the last round takes place on June 18. In fact, the election has been prolonged so much only because of the extraordinary situation prevailing in the state. Panchayat elections are contested on a non-party basis but it is an open secret that political parties mentor their own supporters. They will be well advised to rise above narrow political considerations and not stand in the way of the yearnings of the common man. The empowerment of the local self-government can be the answer to many grouses that the Kashmiris have. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

BRUTALITY NEAR BAREILLY

CRIME FLOURISHES UNDER MAYA, MAMATA

 

What can be more tragic than a national-level young sportswoman being pushed out of a running train by some hoodlums just for a gold chain and waking up in hospital to find her leg amputated? No words can be strong enough to condemn the brutality of the incident, which took place near Bareilly on Tuesday morning. The minimum that the UP government could have done to calm anxious minds was to order a thorough inquiry and ensure the immediate arrest of the culprits. Leaders of political parties saw in the tragedy an opportunity to fish in troubled waters and played the familiar blame game.

 

The tragedy also points to the way the police functions in such circumstances. Instead of reaching out to the victim with sympathy — if nothing else — a top officer tried to bail out the railway police by denying that there was a robbery attempt. He tried to fob it off as an accident. The fact remains that there are not enough policemen to check lawlessness on trains passing through UP and other crime-prone states. The incident is another reminder to show how unsafe and vulnerable women are in Chief Minister Mayawati's Uttar Pradesh and on Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's trains. Their insensitivity has stood out time and again.

 

Apart from accidents and Maoist attacks the Railways has witnessed an increase in cases of robbery and dacoity in the past four years. Uttar Pradesh has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of crimes against women in the country and is followed by Delhi, also ruled by a woman Chief Minister. The Railway Minister washes her hands off crimes on trains by stating that the maintenance of law and order on the railway premises is the duty of the state police. All this will only add to the pain of the latest crime victim, Sonu Sinha. No words will be soothing enough and no relief adequate to compensate her for the loss she has suffered.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

STALEMATE IN LIBYA

WHAT IF GADDAFI DOES SURVIVE?

BY INDER MALHOTRA

 

SINCE the Western military intervention in Libya is more than a month old, it is worth assessing the results of the relentless bombing and allied covert activity by the intervening powers. However, pertinent facts of the situation need to be listed first. Without doubt, Muammar Gaddafi, the country's megalomaniac and monstrous ruler for the last 42 years, provided enough justification for the action against him. After all, he threatened to annihilate all those Libyans that had rebelled against him and were concentrated in the eastern city of Benghazi "from house to house, like rats". This has surely been prevented.

 

For the international community unhesitatingly sanctioned the plans of the coalition of three — the United States, France and Britain — whose motives might have been mixed but who were swearing by human rights. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973 authorising the enforcement of a no-fly zone all across Libya and "all other necessary measures" to protect civilian lives. It is noteworthy, however, that India, together with Russia, China and Brazil, abstained from voting. This country did not vote against the resolution and both Russia and China refrained from vetoing it.

 

There were two reasons for this: Nobody could possibly have wanted to be on the side of Col Gaddafi and his savage methods. More importantly, the plan of the interveners had the crucial and decisive support of the Arab League. Specialists on West Asia have pointed out that since the uprisings that began in Tunisia and Egypt had spread to almost the entire region, other dictators in Arab lands felt that Western military action against Col Gaddafi would take some heat off them. Most of these dictators and despots are America's staunch allies, in any case. Ironically, rulers of many Arab countries, included beneficiaries of Col Gaddafi's largesse, were happy to see him go. They, therefore, endorsed the UNSC resolution enthusiastically. Immediately after massive bombing of Libya started and took a heavy toll, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, criticised the coalition. But the Arab League collectively hasn't said anything yet.

 

Of the utmost importance, however, are the second thoughts of the Obama administration, and US withdrawal from the lead role in the intervention to a "supporting one". This suits France and Britain, the main movers of the military intervention in Libya. The US may have transferred the command of the operations to NATO, but the Anglo-French remain in control. The Security Council itself has hardly any further role to play.

 

The regime change is no part of the UN mandate, nor an announced objective of the interveners. Yet, this is precisely what the interveners are bent on. By stretching the interpretation of "all necessary measures" they have been trying hard to get rid of Col Gaddafi by hook or by crook. They even bombed his compound but he is still around. The no-fly zone was established in a matter of days as a relentless and remorseless rain of missiles and bombs, but bombings of the forces loyal to the regime have continued on one pretext or another. This has prevented the movement of the colonel's tanks but nothing more. On the contrary, the rebel forces that were overreaching themselves and hoping to overrun coastal cities and towns, eventually reaching Tripoli, have had to beat a retreat.

 

Clearly, the rag-tag army of the Benghazi-based rebels is not worth its name. No wonder, it is no match for Col Gaddafi's well-trained, well-equipped forces even though there have been defections from it. This perhaps explains why — according to western media reports that are the principal source of information on Libya — the interveners have brought in Special Forces from the US and Egypt to train the rebel army and arm it with sophisticated weapons. CIA operatives, with ample cash at their disposal, are also said to be active.

 

Significantly, nobody but nobody calls those opposed to the Colonel anything but "rebels". No one believes them to be "reformers" or "democrats", as the demonstrators in Tunis and Cairo were. The reason for this is obvious: no one knows who constitute the medley crowd in Benghazi and other rebel-held towns. They could be followers of Al-Qaeda or downright thugs. The rebels may not have any interest in liberal democracy, only in replacing one reprehensible dictatorship by another. France and Italy are the only two countries to recognise the Benghazi rebels as the "sole government of whole of Libya" to justify their arming of them.

 

In other words, regime change remains the main aim of the West European powers. If so, they must know that Special Forces and CIA agents alone cannot do so. The interveners would have to land ground troops there, which is strictly ruled out by the Security Council. Would France, Britain and Italy have the stomach to do so, especially when the US, already mired in the Af-Pak mess and still having to retain 50,000 troops in Iraq, is opposed to this course.

 

Only the other day, the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, said that any future Defence Secretary agreeing to land ground troops anywhere in Asia or Africa would "need to get his head examined". Over the weekend, James Baker, a former US Secretary of State, warned of the grave dangers in the European countries' attempt to get the US and NATO involved in the Libyan civil war.

 

The African Union (AU) is busy trying to bring about a cease-fire in Libya. Col Gaddafi has reportedly accepted its peace proposals but a high-powered AU delegation has been met with hostility in Benghazi. Whether this mediation succeeds or fails, the likely course of events in Libya seems to be a stalemate that could lead to a de facto partition into the rebel-held eastern wing and the western one ruled by Col Gaddafi. Libya is a thicket of mutually hostile tribes, and that the colonel's tribe, Gaddafa, remains fiercely loyal to him.

 

If Libya's division does take place it would be an immense disaster. On the one hand, not only in Libya and the Arab countries but also throughout the Islamic world the Western-encouraged partition would be seen as the continuation of the "Christian crusade" against Islam. This would inevitably strengthen the jihadi forces that are already a major menace to mankind. Moreover, Libya's neighbours, particularly Egypt, the largest and the most influential Arab country, would be gravely concerned. Egypt's position would be no different from what India's was in 1971 when millions of refugees from East Pakistan started swarmed into this country's eastern states.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

OF JACK, JILL AND JANATA

BY VANDANA SHUKLA

 

Whenever Jack goes up the hill to fetch a pail of water, he is going to fall and break his crown. This is not a new law of dynamics. This is the democracy way. The media-hype way. The opposition-conspiracy way. The 'outside-hand' way. The global warming way. It has been the eternal way. And Jill, as usual, will come tumbling after.

Jill always comes after Jack, even in the post-modern era. Even when it involves a fall. This too is an eternal trend.

 

The 'jacks of all ( ambitions)' have not learnt their lessons. Though, they were made to learn it ad-nauseam, from the nursery level on! Why do Jacks not learn lessons by the example of others? Jill dared to ask. So, even though Jack fell, he ensured that Jill too tumbled down after him.

 

Well, that was a feminist digression. The moot question is, why do Jacks fail to prevent their fall?

 

The ballads wrote songs of glorification for the Jacks- with- the- crown. Those who dug the well, paved the road and made the rope for Jack's uphill task were treated as jackasses and jennies.

 

Those who had the formula for securing the pail of water were killed, with suicide notes thrust into their pockets.

 

The road up the hill became very slippery on return, with the pail of water spilling out. Jack was told not to overfill. But, once he reached the hilltop, he grew in awe of his capabilities. He didn't heed any advice.

 

Jacks with crowns become bad listeners — under an eternal curse.

 

Jack didn't watch Baba channels, so he remained spiritually challenged. Nor did he follow yoga enough to get blessed by the most enlightened guru.

 

Jack never liked reading. If only he could read a few self-help books like, "A to Z of How Not To Fall While Carrying A Pail Of Water" authored by VS, his fall could be prevented. Excerpts from the book exclusively for the readers of this daily:

 

"The Jacks shall exercise every morning. They should understand that most people in the country are lazy. They do not wish to exercise but they wish to become Jacks. Not only do they wish to become Jacks, they also wish to fetch a pail of water. Not from up the hill, from down the hill, from the north, south, from the fodder, from shoes, from hooch, from coffins, from 2G, UG, me G, we G, and from janata G. In such a scenario, one must not forget to study only those wearing a crown, others may also have some old tricks under their hat. People with hats may also be going up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Hats must be studied with care. Of all times and histories…" 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

HOW INDIA CAN REAP DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND

INDIA'S RISING POPULATION WAS ONCE CONSIDERED AN IMPEDIMENT TO DEVELOPMENT. HOWEVER, THERE IS NOW A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE ISSUE. BY FOCUSSING ON HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, INDIA CAN REAP THE DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND THAT NO OTHER COUNTRY CAN HOPE

BY R.K. LUNA

 

The provisional population results of 2011 reveal many facets of the country. As expected, we have grown to 1.21 billion within a decade. The only consolation is that the population growth has shown a sharp decline to 17.6 per cent from 21.5 per cent ten years ago, the lowest growth since 1921. While the world's population was adding 75 million a year, India alone has added 18.1 million annually during these years.

 

In the developed world, the increase in the population, which was growing rapidly till the middle of the 20th century, has slowed down due to rising incomes and abundant food production and its availability. Improved sanitation has reduced the incidence of infectious diseases. Continued advances in medical sciences have brought down infant mortality (the death rate under 1 year of age) from 1 in 5 births to 1 in 20. The life expectancy at birth rose from 47 years in 1900 to 68 by 1950 in the U.S. With this dramatic reduction in the death rate, the overall population growth rate slowed down. This slowdown corresponded to the decrease in the number of children each woman had. Fertility (the number of children per female of reproductive age) continued to decline so markedly that at the end of the millennium, mothers in most of Europe, North America and Japan were each bearing fewer than two children.

 

Currently in these areas, two typical parents do not bear enough children to replace themselves, resulting in an absolute population decline excluding, of course, immigration. Till now, death rates have continued to fall, although not as dramatically as in the first half of the 1900s as the diseases of old age such as cancer and heart attacks are more difficult to control.

 

India has adopted many measures through different programmes of poverty alleviation such as providing food at subsidised rates, health and sanitation missions, education and empowerment of women but with a varying degree of success. The coercive methods applied in the family planning programmes in the 1970s gave a big jolt to the government, making it rethink the policy on population. The result was the Population Policy in 2000. This policy is guided by the fact that a growing population is a serious impediment to development efforts.

 

When the world population on an average is having an annual growth rate of 1.3 per cent, India is still growing at 1.5 per cent. While we have been able to reduce the death rate to 6.4 per 1,000 persons, the birth rate is still high at 21.76 births per 1,000 population. The fertility rate is as high as 2.72 children born per female. The urge to produce more children lies deep into the various cultural, religious and socio-economic reasons of communities, but the burden of new births is insurmountable considering that already nearly 2 million children under the age of 5 die every year, 55 million under 5 are malnourished, 15 per cent are out of school and thousands live in slums.

 

Apart from children, women are the worst sufferers. Women continue to deliver babies in their homes and many die at the time of delivery because of inaccessibility to life-saving drugs, blood and money. Some had to deliver babies in toilets and trains. How pathetic it is when teenagers give births to children. For every 1,000 adolescent girls, 68 have already given births. If this was not enough, child marriage, outlawed long ago in the country, is still prevalent in many parts of India as girls are married off before they are 16. Many times women are unable to determine the number and spacing of their children. Unwanted pregnancies persist due to the unmet demand for contraception.

 

What in the census figures, however, is most disturbing is the emerging skewed sex ratio, which could cast a shadow in the developing society. The rights of women and girls are taken away even before they are born by prenatal sex determination tests and abortion of female foetuses. The results show that the sex ratio for children below 6 years has dropped from 927 in 2001 to a dismal 914 girls for every 1,000 boys. This decline is continuing unabated since 1961 except in a few states.

 

Proving Malthus and Ricardo wrong about the ability of our country to feed the increasing population, India has emerged instead a food surplus state from a food-deficit state. India is estimated to harvest an all-time record output of 235.88 million tonnes of food grains in 2010-11, sufficient to feed 1.2 billion despite building a comfortable buffer stock.

 

There are, however, more serious threats in future to the environment, agriculture land, soil productivity, water bodies and rivers, forests and its bio-diversity. The grain area in India is just 650 square metres per person, compared to 1,900 square metres in the United States, and with most available farmland already in cultivation, it is inevitably to shrink due to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation.

 

Another pressure that looms large is the water situation, which is extremely grave. Already a quarter of the

country's agricultural farms are irrigated by pumped aquifers and the rivers are either drying or are loaded with effluents. At the same time about 28 per cent of agricultural land is estimated to be becoming less productive because of erosion, water-logging, desertification and other forms of degradation. According to the World Bank, resource degradation costs the Indian economy 4.5 per cent of the GDP annually.

 

Considering that India has 35 per cent of its population below the age of 15 and that by 2020 we will have the advantage of having the largest working population in the world, this can by no means become a demographic dividend unless the population is equipped with right skills and resources to participate in capital building. As the population grows, so does unemployment, which is as high as 7.8 per cent.

 

We need to create at least 10 million jobs for gainful employment annually to meet this challenge. China pulls 1 per cent of its population out of agriculture every year by providing them jobs in the construction and manufacturing sector. Job creation of this scale has not happened in India yet.

 

Reaping the demographic dividend will mean creating a good human capital through human development initiatives such as education, public health, family planning and economic policies. However, key indicators show that we have fallen short of expectation and rank 134 among 177 countries on the Human Development Index. One-third of our population is still below the poverty line.

 

The heartening point is that our literacy rate has touched 74 per cent from just 30 per cent after Independence. However, our four high population states accounting for 44 per cent of the country's population -- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh —have not been able to bring the literacy rate to even 70 per cent.

 

High population densities have led to overloaded systems and infrastructural stress in our urban areas. More than 25 per cent of the urban population lives without sanitation and 24 per cent without access to tap water. India's 72 per cent population will be urbanised by 2030. At this trajectory, India will require the construction of 3.6 million housing units in each year, besides 66,000 new primary schools and 3,000 new health centres. Good connectivity, sanitation and health services are all more important for the population to function.

 

To sustain economic growth, it is important, therefore, to stabilise the population growth by implementing a combination of short- and long-term measures, bringing down disparities between different regions, societies and ethnic groups. There can be no two ways to reduce the fertility rate of 2.72 to the replacement level of growth.

 

Statistics show that India's poorest and most illiterate states — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh — have the highest average fertility rate of 4.3. On the other hand, states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have fertility rates equal or slightly higher than the replacement level of 2.1. This has been possible as the governments in these states have focussed on human development, opened up local economies and improved social services.

 

An improvement in women's and children's health has always brought down infant mortality rates and a decline in child birth rates. Similarly, literacy of women, longer stay in schools tend to decrease fertility rate of women. Indeed, life expectancy of Kerala is higher than that of China's 71 years. The female-male ratio of Kerala is again 1.06 which is comparable to China's 0.94 and exactly as it is in North America and Western Europe. In South Korea, two factors planned by the government have brought a rapid "demographic transition". First, the population became urbanised as they were given jobs and second, the government gave high priority to birth control education and contraceptive use. The high literacy rate was another important factor to bring the demographic advantage.

 

There is need, therefore, to shift the population policy objectives in favour of human development in India at the earliest. Fewer children also mean more income for parents and more spending by the nation on physical capital. Declining fertility means more women can join the workforce, reducing the dependency further. More workers mean more savings, which can fund more investment. The economic advantage of a workforce is so large that some economists attribute a sharp growth of the GDP to the increase in the working force. As human development brings up good human capital, the resurgent economic growth will bring in more employment, more income, more food and less poverty. Thus by focussing on human development, India can reap the demographic dividend that no other country can hope.

 

The writer is an Indian Forest Service officer and writes on socio-economic issues

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

MANY QUESTIONS, FEW ANSWERS

WE NEED A LOKPAL WHO IS NOT THE HAMMER OF GOD BUT THE SCOURGE OF OUR CONSTITUTION


It isn't a good feeling, this confusion and sense of conflict of the past week or ten days. Yes, we understand what everybody and his uncle have been saying (mea culpa): the Jan Lokpal Bill, or People's Bill, is undemocratic, dangerous, Draconian. It puts too much power in a few hands, and it hasn't got enough controls on the use of that power.

 

But many of us do want a Lokpal bill because we see how deep the rot has gone, corrupting all our political, social, and administrative systems. The intention of this initiative ('movement' has a strangely familiar bad smell now) is one that appeals to everyone. No one suggests that it's acceptable to continue wallowing in the sewage of our civic governance.

 

The trouble is there doesn't seem to be a consensus on what we're going to address and how and already they're into the detailing. Drafting a statute is like building a house. You must first define precisely what you want and then add the rooms and verandahs. Here, it seems that everyone is insisting on putting in the room of his choice without care for the consequences. The result is confusion and uncertainty, and these are last things we need, for they are corruption's fodder.

 

How do we deal with frivolous complaints? The government wants heavy punishment--jail and fine. The bill's proponents say fines are adequate. Are they? Wouldn't there be a flood of complaints? Every losing litigant and every unsuccessful bidder is a potential complainant. What if his complaint is vengeful, motivated, frivolous?

What manner of creature is this Lokpal? Everyone says he's an ombudsman and point to Scandinavia and Old Norse but our Lokpal now seems to be something very different. The concept has its roots in Roman law. In the last years of the 5th Century BCE, plebian soldiers defied the orders to march to war issued by their Patrician masters and seceded to the Aventine Hill. Rome was at war. Without the soldiers, it was threatened. In a desperation very like what we see today, the patrician government gave in and allowed them to elect their own tribunes; hence tribuni plebis; tribunes of the people. They were there to protect ordinary citizens from the arbitrary exercise of state power. They could issue writs of habeas corpus and veto elections, laws and senate decrees. They were elected by the people; and only an ordinary freeman (not a patrician) could ever be tribune.

 

That continued till the tribune's powers were assumed by Rome's emperors.

 

The Lokpal we are to have is more tribune than ombudsman. Typically, an ombudsman has no direct enforcement powers. His role is recommendatory but carries great moral authority. But our experience suggests that mere recommendations will be ignored. How do we work around this? Suppose, for instance, we were to say that a recommendation of the Lokpal will be enforced by the government unless at least five out of a bench of seven Supreme Court judges feel it should not. Would that not be enough?

 

The present version of the People's bill has a reward (not exceeding 10% of the value of the confiscated property) as an 'incentive' to make complaints. Does fighting corruption need financial reward? Doesn't this put a bounty on the head of every public servant, judge and bureaucrat?

Should judges of the higher judiciary be brought under the Bill? Bhushan pere et fils say yes. They have been fighting corruption in the judiciary for the longest time, so this is understandable. But other judges and lawyers disagree, and their reasons are good. Doesn't letting the Lokpal judge our judges undermine something fundamental to our Constitution? Of course, we have corrupt judges – but we find those everywhere, from the Bible onwards; and there is another bill aiming to correct precisely that.

 

Prior sanction for prosecuting government officers is seldom given, and perhaps this provision is essential. But what is the likely backlash in administration? Especially without sufficient deterrent against frivolous complaints?

 

What is the cumulative effect of a parallel judiciary and police force rolled into one? Judges don't have police powers, and police don't function as judges. In the Jan Lokpal Bill, the Lokpal's proceedings are deemed to be judicial proceedings and the Lokpal is to have all the powers of a civil court plus all the powers of the police plus special investigation teams and the powers to the compel performance of its orders. Yet the Lokpal is largely unaccountable. Should such power be vested in any one body, ever?

 

Are the appointment procedures and qualifications safe enough, given the nature of the powers? In matters like these, surely powers should define qualifications. The Jan Lokpal Bill says the Chairman (and staff) should have "demonstrated their resolve to fight corruption in the past". How? That seems to reduce the pool to the handful at the core of this agitation.

 

We all want this to work, but in a way that is meaningful and just. It's not just about corruption, whatever your definition. It's about the one thing we seem to have left by the wayside a long time ago: social justice. We need a Lokpal who is not the hammer of God but the scourge of our Constitution.

 

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

EDITORIAL

 

HU-SINGH'S NEW TUNE

NEW WARMTH IN A BLOW HOT-BLOW COLD RELATIONSHIP

After the "new assertiveness" of 2010 that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh complained about, there seems to be a "new accommodativeness" in 2011 between China and India. The first sign of a cooling down of temperatures came during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi in December 2010. At Sanya, on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, China's President Hu Jintao, the more conservative and hard-headed leader, exuded uncharacteristic warmth and seems to echo the sentiments of the more liberal and reform-minded Premier Wen. That Prime Minister Singh and President Hu have agreed to not just hold a Strategic Economic Dialogue and promote people-to-people contacts, but also resume defence and military exchanges and put in place a working mechanism for consultation and coordination on border affairs, augurs well for the bilateral relationship.

At a time when things at home have not been going well for him, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should derive great satisfaction from the fact that his interaction with both the prime minister of Pakistan, at Mohali, and the president of China, at Sanya, has borne concrete fruit in terms of further advancement of the bilateral dialogue between India and her two difficult neighbours. Ending the stapled visa controversy and resuming military-to-military contacts were major steps forward in rebuilding trust between the two. Hopefully, the economic dialogue will address the issue of the ballooning bilateral trade deficit in China's favour. China must do more to open its economy to imports from India and be more transparent about its tax, pricing and subsidy policies. A more balanced trade relationship is vital to further growth of trade to the new target of $100 billion by 2015.

 

 The leaders of both China and India have shown exemplary wisdom and statesmanship in being able to iron out differences and seek better relations. Dr Singh has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to be both warm and generous, when possible, and tough and business-like, when necessary, in his dealings with both neighbours. The resolve he showed in not yielding to Chinese pressure on the Arunachal Pradesh and Nobel peace prize ceremony issues had balanced his accommodative stance on the Olympic torch and at the Copenhagen climate summit. In this wise management of the India-China relationship, Prime Minister Singh has been well served by two distinguished Indian diplomats, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and India's Ambassador to Beijing Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

 

China and India have demonstrated repeatedly, despite their differences and mutual suspicion, that they have the wisdom and sagacity to manage their relationship and each other's economic rise. No Indian should have any illusion that China is currently miles ahead of India as an economic power. Equally, China should have no illusions about India's ability to catch up. But, as Dr Singh has said so often, "The world is large enough to accommodate the growth aspirations of China and India." As they rise economically, both Asian neighbours must remain sensitive to each other's political and security concerns. It is reassuring, not just for the people of both countries but for the whole of Asia and the world, to see the two rising powers manage their relationship, their differences and their interests, in a mature manner despite the many differences that divide them.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

POWER WITHOUT ABILITY

LIMITATIONS IN PROJECT EXECUTION CAPABILITY BEDEVIL POWER SECTOR

Two seemingly disparate statements by the Union ministry of power in the past month are confounding in that they portend two very different scenarios for future capacity addition in the domestic power sector. The first, disturbingly familiar, was a sombre announcement that the 11th plan target of 78,000 Mw would be missed by more than a third. The second announcement, more heart-warming, was that India would add over 20,000 Mw of power during FY 2012. A simple extrapolation of the second announcement would imply that India has developed the capacity to add over 100,000 Mw in a five-year period, exactly what the 12th five year plan envisions. So, has India's power sector turned the corner in meeting the ambitious goals it has set for itself? It would be tempting to assume it has, but the reality on the ground is less palatable. A nuanced look at the data suggests that a significant portion of the 20,000 Mw that would purportedly be added to the existing capacity this year is from projects that should have come on stream long ago, but did not, owing to the familiar inefficiency in project execution. The cumulative generating capacity that was to be added in the 11th and 12th plans is 178,000 Mw. Given the shortfall in the 11th plan, approximately 128,000 Mw (or approximately 26,000 Mw per annum) would have to be added during the 12th plan to be "at-par". The record of the power sector to date does little to engender confidence that this challenging target would be met.

The inability of the domestic power sector to leverage the considerable latitude provided by the landmark Electricity Act (2003) is well-documented. Problems with land acquisition, the inability of most new entrants to secure fuel linkages for existing and planned power projects and delays in getting environmental clearances have all led to frustrating delays in projects getting off the ground. Liberalisation in power generation (the Electricity Act also allowed more limited participation in transmission and distribution) was expected to provide a much-needed efficiency boost to the private sector. Unfortunately, that has not happened. Even as the private sector is undeniably affected by these problems, an equally daunting shortcoming is in project execution capability. This weakness is reflected most visibly in the inability to mobilise the labour and capital needed to execute projects in a timely manner. The shortage of a skilled workforce has emerged as a major constraint on infrastructure growth. China has shown the way forward with its abundance of technical training institutes. Singapore is willing to invest in such institutes as long as it can make money doing so. While "learning by doing" is a good way of training people, it is not necessarily the best way. A coordinated plan to mitigate the problem of skills shortage and inadequate project implementation capability, using foreign, including Chinese, capital and skilled manpower if necessary, is urgently needed if India has to dramatically improve the power situation.

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 BUSINESS STANDARD

KEEP IT LESS TAXING, PLEASE

A SIMPLIFIED TAX CODE COULD BRING ALL-ROUND BENEFITS TO THE ECONOMY

JAIMINI BHAGWATI

On March 23, 2011, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne made a fleeting reference to the Indian tax code in his Budget speech. Embarking on reducing UK corporate taxes from the current level of 28 per cent to 23 per cent by 2014-15 and simplifying its tax structure, Osborne remarked that "our tax code has become so complex that it recently overtook India to become the longest in the world". Separately, on April 9, 2011, The Washington Post reported that the ambassadors of the US, UK, European Union and four other countries had recently written a joint letter to India's finance minister stating that "we have received feedback from many foreign investors that the growing unpredictability in India's tax policies creates unquantifiable risks in investment planning". Irrespective of whether these comments were warranted or not, it is revealing that India is viewed as having a complicated and unpredictable tax framework. This article provides a broad overview of India's tax rates and policies, and implications for investment in India.

 

Table I lists the corporate and indirect tax rates in G20 countries and the global average in 2010.

In the period 2005 to 2010, corporate taxes have come down steadily for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in response to competitive pressures to attract investment. In contrast, indirect taxes have not been reduced. In the last five years, the global average for corporate taxes has decreased from 27.9 per cent to 25 per cent and the OECD average from 28.3 per cent to 25.9 per cent. In the same period, India's corporate tax rates has remained around 34 per cent. The global average for indirect taxes has changed marginally from 15.9 per cent to 15.6 per cent and the OECD average has actually risen from 17.8 per cent to 18.3 per cent.
 

(I) Corporate and Indirect Tax Rates in 2010                                                      (%)

 

Name of
country

Corporate
tax rate

Indirect
tax rate

1

Argentina

35.00

21.00

2

Australia

30.00

10.00

3

Brazil

34.00

19.00

4

Canada

31.00

5.00

5

China

25.00

17.00

6

European Union

23.03

20.44

7

France

33.33

19.60

8

Germany

29.41

19.00

9

India

33.99

12.50

10

Indonesia

25.00

10.00

11

Italy

31.40

20.00

12

Japan

40.69

5.00

13

Korea, Republic of

24.20

10.00

14

Mexico

30.00

16.00

15

Russia

20.00

18.00

16

Saudi Arabia

20.00

0.00

17

South Africa

34.55

14.00

18

Turkey

20.00

18.00

19

UK

28.00

17.50

20

USA

40.00

0.00

 

Global average

24.99

15.61

Source: KPMG Corporate and Indirect Tax Survey 2010

(II) tax rates in india

 

Domestic
company

Foreign
company

Corporate tax

33.99%

42.02%

Minimum alternate tax

20%

19.44%

Dividend distribution tax

16.23%

15.76%

Source: KPMG

Every tax jurisdiction provides a bewildering array of conditional tax reductions or exemptions. Therefore, it would be simplistic to come to any conclusion from the numbers in Table I about the tax rates that are applied in practice to domestic/foreign companies/nationals. It can be seen from Table I that at a base level, corporate and indirect taxes in India are not particularly high compared to the rest of the world. However, India suffers by comparison with other countries where tax codes are easier to interpret and if there are disputes about tax claims, legal remedies are more speedily available. Table II shows that the Indian corporate tax rate is higher for foreign companies and the minimum alternate tax and dividend distribution tax are marginally lower.

Corporations and individuals scout around the globe to reduce tax incidence. For instance, GE's central tax department has several thousand employees and is deemed to be an independent profit centre. Although it would be counterproductive for India to engage in a competitive lowering of corporate taxes, differences in tax rates between domestic and foreign companies are unnecessarily discriminatory.

In a specific on-going tax dispute in India, Vodafone is contesting the tax department's claim of $2.5 billion on its $11.2 billion 2007 acquisition of Hutchison's stake in Hutchison-Essar. International newspapers have repeatedly highlighted this case as symptomatic of the unpredictability of Indian tax laws. However, it appears that despite the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with Mauritius, this tax claim is justified. Consequently, India needs better public outreach efforts to counter allegations of arbitrary and retroactive tax claims as in the Vodafone case.

Among other objectives, the proposed Direct Tax Code (DTC) is intended to limit tax exemptions, broaden the tax base and make the application of the tax code simpler and, thus, reduce litigation between government and taxpayers. It is to be expected that affected entities will object if DTC raises their applicable tax rates. However, there should be longer-term positive consequences of a simpler tax code including an increase in foreign direct investment (FDI). The climate for FDI into India needs every possible encouragement since the numbers have been bleak. For instance, in the ten months from April 2010 to January 2011, FDI amounted to $17.1 billion, a decrease of 25 per cent compared to $22.9 billion for the same period in the previous fiscal year.

The other significant pending tax reform is the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The GST will club together all service, excise and sales taxes. Stamp and registration duties also need to be standardised across states. State governments have been supportive and the proposed legislation includes a GST Council to be headed by the Union finance minister and state finance ministers as members. The general sense is that preparatory work on DTC is ahead of GST. Hence public advocacy efforts for GST need to be increased. Although April 2012 has been indicated as the start date for DTC and GST, there are doubts whether it would be possible to adhere to this time frame.

To summarise, simplification of India's tax codes including stamp and other duties has to be an end objective by itself and the introduction of DTC and GST should not be delayed by protracted discussions. Reasonable people can and do differ on how best to design tax policies to achieve optimal outcomes on a variety of socially desirable objectives. However, the trade-off in terms of foregone growth and employment caused by delays in domestic and foreign investments, which stem from the complexities and interpretational ambiguities of our tax codes, can be expensive. Let us get on with the required simplifications through DTC and GST within fiscal 2012-13, which would also help to widen the tax base and reduce volatility in tax collections.

j.bhagwati@gmail.com

The author is India's Ambassador to the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg
Views expressed are personal

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

A TRIBUTE TO SARAH WELLS

JAMAL MECKLAI

I first met Sarah in New York on New Year's Eve 1977 (I think), when a group of us convened in a vacant lot, dug a pit and lit a fire (it was freezing), and discoursed on art and politics. It was a strange and wonderful and foolish event, and most of the group went their separate ways since then. However, a part of the group, including Sarah and myself, stayed close — indeed, became much closer, almost like family. We spent a lot of time together, celebrating life and sharing each other's joys and idiosyncrasies.

Sarah was a terrific artist and a wonderful woman, and she had this extremely strange focus on what to me at the time was a bizarre Chinese ritual – Tai Chi. She lived near Chinatown so I figured maybe that's how she got into it. But I was amazed at the intensity of her discipline — every chance she got, she'd go to a Tai Chi class or a camp or to practise. She even tried to teach me once (or twice) but it never took — I wasn't really a rules and regulations guy and it seemed much too structured for me.

 

About ten years ago or so, Sarah died. It was a terrible sadness, but I know that today she's laughing about it, delighted as she always was. And, a few weeks ago, at a spa in Thailand, I heard her gurgling laugh when I woke up early one morning and went to – you guessed it – a Tai Chi class.

It was amazing. And amazingly difficult. Now, I'm not the most coordinated person in the world (although I can rock 'n roll till the end of time), and I'm certainly not in any kind of reasonable shape (fat for life is my diet). But, despite these structural limitations, I was shocked at how poorly I fared at this seemingly simple set of movements. And how tired I was at the end of 50 minutes.

Exhausted, I watched the Chinese instructor go through the moves with such supremely simple elegance that made it look like an Oriental ballet (I know, I know, my Westernised slip is showing). And, then, suddenly, I had a revelation.

The instructor had explained that Tai Chi is about focus and purposefulness. All I had felt was ponderous and somewhat foolish — pushing the air with one hand, as if you were pushing an adversary away, and pulling it back with the other to reposition yourself to attack. But, watching him I realised that with regular, continuous and frequent Tai Chi practice – like Sarah – all your movements and, in time, all your activities would become more focused and purposeful till, as a Tai Chi master, you could dance on a pin without any effort.

And the revelation I had was that Tai Chi – deeply rooted in the Chinese psyche – was doubtless a large part of why the Chinese have been able to plan and execute economic development with such an unwavering focus.

Many – perhaps, most – Chinese practise Tai Chi daily. I recall seeing pictures as far back as in Life magazine of hundreds of Chinese people doing Tai Chi in various gardens every morning; it is still a common sight in most Chinese cities, including Hong Kong. No wonder then that the country – and, here, I mean not just the government, but the people as well – functions with such undivided focus. Look at how it has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, without worrying about niceties like labour practices or currency markets; look at the way it has built its infrastructure, or the way it is single-mindedly building its resource base in Africa and elsewhere. No doubt, the political system helps, but it could well be that the culture and ethos of the Chinese people (encapsulated in Tai Chi) predispose them to such a political system, which abjures (relatively speaking) personal aggrandisement for collective achievement.

The only other country that I can think of that operates with the kind of single-mindedness as the Chinese is Singapore, which, again, is largely Chinese-driven. Indeed, Singapore has taken central planning to a whole different level. A senior banker told me that when he wanted to plant trees as part of his corporate social responsibility effort, he was instructed: you will have to pay 200 dollars per tree and plant them here [a specific location], since this is where our orchards will be 50 years from now. It would seem that the Singapore government has – and implements – a 50-year rolling development plan.

Amazing, and a little bit frightening to an "aal is well" Indian like me. I guess I better start Tai Chi classes soon — at least it will keep me remembering Sarah.

jamal@mecklai.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

SUCCESSION BLUES

MOST INDIAN COMPANIES AVOID THE ISSUE AS LONG AS THEY CAN

SHYAMAL MAJUMDAR

Two of India's biggest corporate entities – the Tata Group and Infosys – are in the midst of succession planning. But over 75 per cent of company boards in India do not even discuss the issue and most CEOs are unable to imagine anyone as an adequate replacement. Even if they have to choose somebody, most are inclined to replace themselves with a clone.

Research by US-based management consultancy Bain & Company found that only one in five board members in Indian companies was ever involved in talks about a CEO's succession and little effort was made at the board level to groom top leadership. Some family businesses delay the process of succession planning because their decisions could create conflicts and criticism within the family. Others find it difficult to let go of the reins and want to retain their powers as a leader. Also, issues like death could be uncomfortable to discuss.

 

Bain's findings notwithstanding, it would be wrong to label this an Indian phenomenon only. Other research studies have found that more than half of companies in the US and Canada cannot immediately name a successor to their CEO should the need arise. According to studies conducted by Heidrick & Struggles and Stanford University's Rock Center for Corporate Governance, on average, boards spend only two hours a year on CEO succession planning and almost 40 per cent of companies have zero viable internal candidates, pointing to a lack of talent management. This is surprising considering that the lack of a truly operational succession plan can have devastating consequences.

This is all the more important because fewer CEOs today are internal candidates with long experience in the company they head. Companies now have to mostly look for outside candidates because managers are no longer content with taking the staircase to the corner office and prefer the escalator via frequent job changes.

HR experts say there are various theories on how to go about CEO succession planning, but the gold standard often cited was the three-person contest to replace Jack Welch at GE (won by Jeffrey Immelt, with the two losers immediately decamping for CEO roles elsewhere). This is known as a succession "horse race" that pits two or three senior executives against each other in a battle over performance — the winner becoming the next CEO.

Some observers are uncomfortable with the horse race approach because that makes it an overt competition for the CEO role among several recognised candidates within an established time frame — which is not good for the organisational morale. But leading consultancy organisation Spencer Stuart says horse races have been immensely successful in many companies like GE, Procter & Gamble, Abbott and GlaxoSmithKline, all of whom have produced exceptional leaders. GSK, for example, used to ask the top three candidates to take on year-long CEO-level projects. Apart from internal evaluation, eminent outsiders were brought in to make the system fool-proof.

People who back the horse-race approach say an overt competition for the top job can serve as motivation to individuals throughout the organisation who can see a path to more senior roles in the company. But there are many detractors as well. They say that the overt competition for the top job leads to divisiveness in the organisation and immediate departure of the unsuccessful candidates.

There are two more types of CEO-successors, one of them known as the "inside outsider". Companies choose leaders who are internal candidates but who have the ability to view their role through the lens of someone who just bought the company and is unencumbered by the emotional baggage that comes from a long tenure in the organisation. They also leverage the knowledge they have accumulated about the company's people, suppliers and customers, and future direction. HR experts say this is the best choice because externally recruited CEOs do bring in fresh perspectives, but lack the required knowledge of the company's culture and history. But getting such leaders is a tall order indeed.

Then there is the "outside insider": Someone who knows a lot about the company but has not worked for it, thus free from internal politics. Management consultants who have gone on to head companies are the perfect "outside insider."

While there is no right answer here since choosing the right path depends on each company's individual culture and beliefs, what should not be forgotten is the need for an emergency succession, or drop-dead succession. This is a contingency plan to deal with a situation that can force a sudden succession of the CEO.

A few companies like Marico have such a plan in place. But most of India's family-owned businesses do not, possibly because CEOs in these companies generally love to consider themselves irreplaceable.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

HAS INDIAN CRICKET PEAKED?

EVERY INDIAN HAS VIEWS ON TWO SUBJECTS: PAKISTAN AND CRICKET. AND HERE I AM NO EXCEPTION

SHANKAR ACHARYA

Every Indian has views on two subjects: Pakistan and cricket. I am no exception. India's thrilling win in Mumbai to lift the 2011 cricket World Cup is perhaps an opportune moment to write my first cricket column. First, let's state the obvious. It was a terrific tournament. Even expert, non-Indian commentators have expressed that view. There was so much to admire and celebrate: Kevin O'Brien's fantastic century which powered Ireland to win against England; Bangladesh's heroic win against England; Lasith Malinga's superb hat-trick against Kenya; the amazing India-England tie in Bangalore; New Zealand's spirited victory over South Africa in the quarter-finals; Shahid Afridi's splendid bowling and captaincy, including the convincing win against Australia; outstanding centuries by Ricky Ponting and Mahela Jayawardene in the final stages … the list is endless. And, of course, there were India's three successive nail-biting victories against Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the knockout stages, which won India the crown after 28 long years.

 

Surely, this is the oddest moment to worry about the future of Indian cricket. It's more appropriate to ask the question that a well-known TV news anchor was asking a panel of former international cricket captains the day after India's fabulous win : Has the period of India's dominance over international cricket begun? The panel of cricketing greats politely acknowledged India's unrivalled batting strength but gently wondered about the penetrative capacity of the bowling — Allan Border did enter a caveat about our batting skills on non-Asian pitches.

My answer to the TV anchor's triumphalist query is more forthright. The Indian team has peaked. Perhaps we can stay at or near the top in International Cricket Council (ICC) Test and one-day international (ODI) rankings for a year or two but it's downhill thereafter. Here's why. Take the bowling first. Even today, the bowling attack would struggle to bowl out a quality opposition twice in a five-day Test match. That we recently topped the ICC Test rankings has a lot to do with three years of excellent bowling by Ishant Sharma. And where is he now? Without a pace bowler of his quality, Zaheer Khan cannot be expected to shoulder the burden of the pace attack almost single-handed. And even Khan, though he was terrific in this tournament, is a medium-pacer with a bag full of swing and seam tricks. India simply lacks a really good fast bowler (consistently above 140 km/hr). Sreesanth has the pace but lacks accuracy, control and variation. Can Khan, who turns 33 in October, be counted on as a top-flight pacer for more than two years? Ergo without a couple of new quality fast bowlers, our pace bowling attack is in trouble.

Even in the spin department, our attack may be over the hill. Anil Kumble has gone. Harbhajan Singh still takes wickets but fewer than in the past. In this World Cup, India's second best (after Khan) wicket-taker was Yuvraj Singh, usually described as a part-time bowler. The good news is that, unlike with pacers, there is a visible bench strength in the likes of Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin and others who can develop into match-winning performers.

Let's turn to our vaunted strength: batting. The line-up certainly did well in this tournament, barring the astonishing late inning collapses against South Africa and England. But our highest run-getter was the redoubtable and iconic Sachin Tendulkar, who turns 38 this month — another two years at the most for this great man in international cricket? Just think, three years from now our Test team will probably not include Tendulkar, Laxman and Dravid, three batsmen who are generally credited with the best technique to play on all surfaces and who have contributed hugely to our past Test match successes. Sehwag still destroys opponents' opening attacks at times but the frequency is diminishing. He has made up for lack of technique with his superb hand-eye coordination. But how long can that extraordinary gift last? The Nawab of Najafgarh also turns 33 in October. Without these four giants, our batting line-up will look a lot less formidable, especially in Test matches. Can the likes of Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh (often out of the Test side), Virat Kohli, M S Dhoni, Suresh Raina and others fill the gap? In my view, it's a very tough task. Three years from now we may still field a strong ODI batting unit, but for Test matches – especially outside the subcontinent – the prospects look a lot more bleak.

So I think we have peaked. But there is a silver lining. The exhilarating triumphs of this World Cup will motivate thousands of young cricketers. Money could pour into coaching and facilities. Who knows, five years hence there may be a fresh cohort of talented youngsters vying to play for India. Let's hope they include some good fast bowlers of the quality that Pakistan routinely produces. Then we can climb a new summit.

Let me now mention a few things that caught my attention and sometimes detracted from these wonderfully uplifting and exhilarating past few weeks.

First, I certainly agree with all those who rank Dhoni's captaincy in this tournament as simply outstanding. And his 91-not-out in Mumbai under huge pressure was a stellar captain's knock which won us the Cup. But this gifted skipper could show more grace in victory. At the award ceremonies in the last two big matches the opposing captains, Shahid Afridi and Kumar Sangakkara, were most gracious in praising the performance of the winning Indian team. In neither case did Dhoni return the compliment. It would have been so easy and so fitting to say a few words praising our worthy opponents, who came so close to beating us.

Second, what is the need for the ICC, the Board of Control for Cricket in India, and central and state governments to shower money, tax breaks, land plots, and lifetime free passes for train and air travel on an already rich group of cricketers (many of whom earn huge fees from endorsing products and services)? Isn't winning the World Cup its own reward?

Third, after the tournament was over, why the rash of resignations from captains of competing teams? I can understand Ponting's ; his captaincy had been questioned for a year or more. But why did Afridi and Sangakkara have to tender resignation after superb individual performances and great captaincy?

Finally, on a positive note, there was the Holmesian "dog that didn't bark". In none of the high-profile matches, especially the ones at Mohali and Mumbai, was there a terror attack. In theory, such events must be high on the target list of terrorist groups. Luck may have played a big role. But we should thank enormously the massive security apparatus that was marshalled to deter and screen out potential threats. After all, if things had gone wrong, they would have been in the cross hairs.

The author is Member, Board of Governors and Honorary Professor, Icrier

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TRIBULATIONS

DEBT TRIBUNALS, INSTEAD OF SPEEDING UP RECOVERY, END UP LIKE THE COURTS: TIED UP

 

Many ills afflict our legal system: a huge backlog of cases (estimated at three crore), inevitable delays, poor infrastructure, etc. What makes matters more distressing, however, is that attempts to break the gridlock, by setting up tribunals or fast track courts seem to have met the same fate. They, too, have become victims of the same infirmities. Thus, debt recovery tribunals (DRTs) were once touted as a quick and efficient means of recovering bad debts so that banks' funds do not remain locked up in unproductive avenues. But our inability to match deeds with intent has seen DRTs bedevilled by many of the same problems that dog our courts — lack of qualified staff, poor infrastructure, lack of funds, etc. Ironically, the very institution that was supposed to help clear the backlog of cases has spawned a number of new cases! Several bar associations have moved court and, in some cases, gone on strike to highlight the problems facing DRTs, but to no avail. With the courts and the government busy passing the buck to each other, DRTs symbolise the same apathy that has been our Achilles heel whenever there is talk of legal reform. The will to act has been completely missing from key players, whether in the judiciary or politicians and bureaucrats. So, all we get is mere lip service. Meanwhile, the quantum of banks' non-performing assets continues to grow. There are several reasons for this sorry state of affairs; some are within the purview of the judiciary, others, of the government. In the context of DRTs, the finance ministry and the law ministry seem to be at loggerheads. Dual 'control' with the former holding the purse strings and the latter wanting appointment of more judicial members as against the present tendency to appoint bureaucrats and bankers has meant DRTs are nobody's baby. Better administration and management can cut delays as can greater use of technology and computerisation. But the best of technology and management practices will be of no avail if these tribunals do not have basic infrastructure such as proper premises, computers, telephones, staff and most importantly, a polity committed to their success.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GO SLOW ON THIS ONE

BIOMETRIC PAN CARDS CAN WAIT TILL EVERY CITIZEN IS ISSUED A UNIQUE IDENTITY NUMBER


Biometric cards for the income tax department's permanent account number (PAN) will smother fake ones. So, the income tax department is in a tearing hurry now to issue these cards to taxpayers. The idea is sound, but its implementation is ill-timed. The unique identity number project that collects biometric information — fingerprints and iris — and basic demographic details of every individual is already underway. Every individual will be issued a single unique number that will be stored in a centralised database. It will form the universal identity infrastructure over which various agencies, including the tax department, can build their identity-based applications. The unique ID will also eliminate fake identities, whether passports, ration cards or multiple PAN cards. The tax department should, therefore, wait till completion of the UID project, and not rush to independently issue biometric cards. When UID is allotted to all, PAN cards would need to incorporate that information as well. That would mean fresh cards all over again. PAN cannot be obviated, even with all citizens having unique identifiers. Many taxpayers are companies and other institutions and not individuals. Those without a PAN should be asked to submit their unique identity instead whenever they engage in a transaction that interests tax authorities.


Ideally, everyone should have a PAN. The tax department's unique identifier helps establish audit trails in financial transactions. Unfortunately, PAN is still found missing in many large financial transactions gathered through the tax information network (TIN), breaking up audit trails. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) is, therefore, right in asking the tax department to monitor the issuance of PAN cards to weed out multiple and fake ones. Multiple cards result in a glaring mismatch between the number of PAN card holders and the number of individual assessees filing income tax returns. A fully fool-proof PAN will enable the tax department to identify people with large incomes and collect tax from them, even if they file no returns.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

HOW MANY WIVES?

THE FEAR OF THE LAW CATCHING UP MAKES A HEADCOUNT ALL THE MORE NECESSARY


A Member of Parliament recently told the Patna high court that he did not know how many wives he had. Now, it is not altogether uncommon for members of India's ruling classes to deviate from the unit norm when it comes to spouses. In the olden days, someone like Krishna could marry 16,000 women at one go, moved by their plight after their captor Jarasandha had been killed, rendering these abducted princesses free but shelterless. Kings were also allowed to conduct special liaisons termed g a n d h a r v, which allowed the parties to the transaction to consummate their business without the normal requirement of prior rituals and witnesses. Bharat, from whom this ancient land derives its name, was born out of one such marriage, about which his father, Dushyant, had lost all recollection when the forsaken bride, Shakuntala, presented herself in his court. While most royals allowed themselves to indulge many women, it is unlikely that they did not know how many wives they had, innumeracy aside, even if they might have had some trouble making up their mind as to which one was the favourite . It took the rulers of republican India to manage the feat of forgetting how many wives they had.


Certain of our modern-day chief ministers have been known to maintain more than one spouse but also to diligently keep them all in good humour with generous gifts of TVs and even TV channels. After all, modern times have their ready cures for marital memory loss. A woman has the option of suing her forgetful husband for divorce and alimony, but not before first suing him for polygamy. Being prosecuted is not funny, as a growing number of our ruling elite are finding out. Prudence dictates that all politicians take an immediate headcount of their significant others

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GEAR UP FOR LIFE WITH $100+ CRUDE

EXPENSIVE ENERGY IS ABOUT THE ONLY CERTAIN FEATURE IN THE WORLD'S SHIFTING, HEAVING ECONOMIC LANDSCAPE

 

In the age of instant communication, developments proceed at blinding speeds – some of it quite offtarget. It generates a sense of confusion and awe, much as great natural events – storms, floods and earthquakes — used to do for our ancestors millennia ago. Take the political storm in West Asia/North Africa or the "duty to protect" inspired military intervention in Libya. The US administration surprised even its closest supporters by the speed at which it went in and surely dazzled everyone when it come out of the conflict even faster over a weekend, handing over to its European Nato partners. But US media now reports that "Pentagon revealed for the first time Wednesday (13 April) that US fighter jets have continued to strike Libyan air defences after turning the mission over to Nato".


Evidence of economic recovery in OECD countries saw the price of crude oil (Brent) rise from $78 per barrel in September 2010 to $93 by end-December. The January 2011 protests in Egypt and the turmoil in Yemen pushed it up to over $100 and the Libyan developments, the disruption of half of its exports and fears about Saudi Arabia pushed Brent past $126. With some kind of stalemate developing in Libya and a quietening of tensions in the Arabian peninsula (at least for the moment) resulted in some profit-taking in US oil markets, though even as we write, Brent is quoting $123. High crude oil prices suit oil exporters, big oil companies, financial investors in the commodity and "green" lobbyists. The accident in Japan and the troubles at the Fukushima nuclear plant have given renewed life to anti-nuclear energy proponents and lobbyists, and therefore by default, more potential excess demand for hydrocarbons. That is one very powerful combination of forces and circumstances. It would be safe to assume that unless there are catastrophic economic developments in the US or the EU — probabilities of which are near non-existent in the nearterm — the price of crude oil is likely to get firmly established at a level in excess of $100. How much in excess thereof ? Whatever, the market can bear.
Much as the term "new normal" has been used and overused in recent times, $100+ crude oil is certainly a new normal and big oil importing and consuming economies, such as ours, must learn to live with this. The adjustment will be painful, but there is no getting around this. It will have some short-term inflationary consequences; delay in adjusting prices has made the adjustment harder than it might have. One must, however, recognise that it could have been much worse had some price adjustments not been made over the course of the past 18 months.


Economic growth, especially transportation needs, are potentially very hydrocarbon-intensive. Between 2000 and 2011 (estimated) world demand for crude oil has gone from 77.0 million barrels per day (mpbd) to 89.4 mpbd according to the Parisbased International Energy Agency — i.e. an increase of 12.4 mbpd. Demand from OECD countries has shrunk (on account of higher efficiencies) by 2.6 mbpd. Of the gross increase of 15.0 mbpd, China accounted for the lion's share of 6.6 mbpd, followed by the Middle East's 3.0 mbpd — trailed by Asia other than India (1.9 mbpd) and India (1.4 mbpd). China has raced past the US in becoming the world's largest national market for automobiles. In parallel, it has also become the second largest consumer of oil (10 mbpd) — yet half that of the US (20 mbpd) and more than that of the Eurozone countries combined.
    Inthe short-term, the necessity for price adjustment is obvious. In the medium to longer term, there is an urgency to consider what kind of transportation models — pivoting on railways, urban mass transit based on metro-rail and electric buses and the realisation of greater energy efficiencies — will serve us well in the backdrop of the inevitability of high petroleum prices. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has, in its April 2011 World Economic Outlook, lowered its projections of economic growth for the world as a whole, and that for the US and India in particular. That should not surprise. Conventional ideas would suggest that in the face of higher petroleum prices, higher inflation and monetary responses to this inflation, the pace of demand growth and hence of economic growth should slow. The problem is that there are so many unsettled things out there — including the state of some members of the euro zone — that it is hard not to be found to be off-target only a brief quarter down the line. The only thing that one can be certain about is that conditions of flux will continue to characterise the global macro-economic climate, making for sharp swings in financial markets and investor confidence and hence of exchange rates.


Take the euro, for instance. It has moved up on the US dollar from $1.30 in early January 2011 on the back of rumours about a rate hike by the European Central Bank and then on the fact of it to $1.45, despite the emergence of fresh problems in Portugal and Ireland. How long do you think it will take the pendulum to swerve the other way with the right provocation? In this tempest, money managers are trying to preserve the value of their clients' funds and hopefully make a buck or a million for themselves. It will take the fiscal and monetary normalisation of the US and the euro zone for this chaotic state of affairs to end — but such a resolution is not in sight. Asia must plan to move on under the assumption that the messy situation west of Aden will last for a while or perhaps longer.

 

SAUMITRA CHAUDHURI MEMBER, PLANNING COMMISSION

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FACE-OFF

CAN LOKPAL ALONE WIPE OUT CORRUPTION?

 

ARVIND KEJRIWAL MEMBER, LOKPAL BILL DRAFTING PANEL It is Necessary, But Not Sufficient
The Lokpal is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to fight corruption. Under the present anti-corruption systems in our country, there is not a single anti-corruption agency which is independent of the government control and, therefore, has the powers to independently investigate and prosecute the guilty. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has the powers, but not independent. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has independence, but no powers. In short, the government has ensured there are enough loopholes in the laws to keep these anticorruption agencies ineffective. The people will be shocked to learn that under the Prevention of Corruption Act, even if a person is convicted, there is no provision to recover the losses he/she caused to the government or the money the person made through corrupt means. With such a toothless anti-corruption system, no wonder corruption has become a zero-risk, high-profit business in our country.

 

All that the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill will do is to ensure the certainty and swiftness of punishment in corruption cases. Next time any individual indulges in corruption, he should know he will be investigated, prosecuted, punished and will lose his job. According to the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill, the investigations into the cases have to be completed in two years so that the guilty is punished in a timebound manner. An ordinary person always faces demands for bribe to get his works done. The Lokpal will ensure justice for him and punishment for those who harass him. The proposed Bill has also taken care to ensure the selection process of the Lokpal and its functioning remain totally transparent. Strong measures of accountability have also been incorporated in the proposed Bill to guarantee the Lokpal itself does not become corrupt or undemocratic. In addition to the Lokpal Bill, many more institutional reforms like electoral reforms, judicial reforms and decentralisation of political powers are needed to make the fight against corruption more effective. The India Against Corruption Movement will take up these issues one by one.

(The author is among the leaders of the Jan Lokpal movement)

 

D P TRIPATHI

 GENERAL SECRETARY, NCP No Magic Cure, it Risks Complications

Corruption is eating India hollow. What is most disgusting is, even corruption is corrupt in India! There is no honour even among thieves. Since people are concerned with this malaise, the fast unto death by the distinguished Anna Hazare got considerable momentum. Though this very important issue was raised, unfortunately, it happened through a wrong method, forcing the self-proclaimed representatives of 'civil society' and NGOs, who have no accountability to any institution or anybody, on the constitutional bodies. Though some NGOs have done commendable jobs, most of them are 'non-genuine organisations'. That is why the joint drafting committee, in all probability, will prove to be a 'joint pain' both for the Constitution and democracy. No doubt, Lokpal is essential as a deterrent against corruption and the Lokpal Bill should be passed as soon as possible.


But, then Lokpal alone is not going to be a magic cure for corruption. I am afraid this whole idea of having a Lokpal — as a supreme authority even above the Supreme Court and over Parliament — that can bring under its purview anyone, even the Prime Minister, runs the risk of jeopardising governance rather than making it impartial and effective. Here I am reminded of what Mahatma Gandhi had once said: "It (corruption) has now become worse than before. Restraint from it has practically gone. Corruption will go when the large number of persons, given unworthily to it, realise that the nation does not exist for them to exploit but that they exist to serve the nation. This requires morals, and extreme vigilance on the part of those who are free of the taint. Indifference will be criminal…" I foresee lot of complications both in the making of the Lokpal Bill and its implementation. Who would determine who is most credible and most appropriate? If all the organs of the state are being run by 'suspects', then who among the civil society would be picked up and, by whom, to cleanse the system? The Lokpal is most welcome but the dwarpals (gate-keepers) of democracy, the ordinary voters and the common man, are far more effective against corruption than any Lokpal.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

 

OCCASIONAL PAPER

THE HAZARE PHENOMENON

MANOJ PANT



    The timing of Anna Hazare's fast was perfect. The cricket World Cup had concluded, India had won and for a few days the media was full of post victory celebrations. Then came Hazare's fast and the TV media was all over him. Middle class professionals like doctors, teachers, students and housewives kicking out seasoned politicians and vowing to help Hazare's fight against corruption made great media copy. TV coverage of the fast filled neatly the void left by the World Cup final and the now boring images of Raja being paraded in court. It is interesting to note that while the TV media has backed Hazare's Jan Lokpal bill, this is not entirely true of the print media which has advised caution. Some newspaper articles have in fact outrightly dismissed the agitation as a middle class "page three" event. But while there are some infirmities in Hazare's demands, to dismiss the whole event as a stage-managed one would be dangerous. It would also be an insult to the Indian democracy. Consider some of the objections. That Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh, Baba Ramdev, etc. are playing a political game. More than likely. The visual of a small clearly uncomfortable girl (whose daughter?) giving juice to break Hazare's fast could not have been improved upon even if rehearsed in a TV studio. Frankly, if not for the hovering Bedi, I thought the girl was going to make a break for the open spaces. Yet, this event was not about these individuals but about Hazare. It must be said that, in the past, Hazare has shown no political leanings going after both Congress and Shiv Sena leaders in Maharashtra. Nor has he shown any compromise with politicians of Maharashtra to obtain any personal benefits. Hazare's only failing is his obstinacy. But was that not true of Mahatma Gandhi?

 

Obstinacy of leaders can be dangerous, especially in a democracy. This is where comparisons of Hazare and the Mahatma are rather silly. The Mahatma was fighting a clearly non-democratic colonial government. But in choosing politicians and general corruption as his target, Hazare has clearly struck a chord among the urban middle class. Forget the high level corruption in telecom, the CWG, etc. What irks the middle class is that even 20 years after liberalisation, even legal activities still require payoffs. From home building, issue ration cards, to starting small business to doing music shows, underhand payments are necessary. It is not surprising that every survey I have seen puts the political and executive at the bottom of the trust ladder.


So, it's not about the Jan Lokpal bill but about the failure of governance and regulatory mechanisms. Critics of Hazare argue that there is any number of existing mechanisms: the CVC, the CBI, the commissions for human rights, SC/ST, etc. But these are all governmentcontrolled mechanisms and there is ample evidence of their ineffectiveness and even misuse. A democracy requires independent regulators like Trai, Sebi, etc., which have stood the test of time. The failure of the DGCA in the aviation sector is mainly because it has not developed into an independent regulator.


So, this is what the middle class is hoping for. That the Lokpal will become an independent regulator for the political and the executive class. Given this, it is obvious that non-governmental actors must play a part in giving teeth to this regulator. Hence the demand for nongovernmental representation in drafting the bill seems eminently reasonable.


Consider the other objection. Who will regulate the Lokpal? Will he/she become larger-than-life and as corrupt? This is again a rather silly argument. Rulings of the Lokpal must be subject to judicial review. It must be remembered that as one pillar of democracy, people still have faith in the judiciary. What has come under attack is the accountability of the political and executive class. This is what Hazare has highlighted. Will the Jan Lokpal bill solve all problems? Probably not, even in an amended form. But hopefully, this will start the demand for electoral and administrative reforms which the political class has been unwilling to accept. Maybe the time has come for a permanent civil service, police reforms and state funded elections? It is the lack of these and the arrogance of the political and executive class that has ignited the anger of the middle class. It is easy to dismiss all that has happened as the handiwork of the "middle class" in urban areas. Those using these arguments seem to forget the lesson of history: all successful revolutions have been led by the middle class. It is true that this class usually does not vote in elections. But that is mainly due to disillusionment with all political parties. This is dangerous for democracy. The Hazare issue must be addressed or the remedy might well be painful.
(The author is faculty at JNU)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COSMIC UPLINK

TWO KINDS OF GHOSTS

MUKUL SHARMA


When is one most scared of ghosts? Typically the setting is an abandoned house or graveyard at night with no one else around. Under such circumstances the appearance of an apparition is terrifying because there's no affirmation of life anywhere one can relate to. Suddenly one's own mortality, which is not generally contemplated, is threatened. Also, the apparition either does nothing or remains engaged in some meaningless activity which makes little sense. Yes, they can apparently be hostile sometimes but the fear then is of a physical nature since bodily harm may result. It's not the same as the existential horror evoked by the bodily disintegration we associate with death. When is one least scared of ghosts? Typically the setting is the emergency ward of hospitals when a terminally damaged or diseased individual reports having what is called a near-death-experience. We needn't be concerned about the empirical validity of such an event but consider just the subjective feelings of millions of people from all over the world who have had it. They report among other things travelling through a tunnel with a light at the end and being greeted by long dead family members or friends who tell them that it's not yet their time and that they must return. At no time is there any fear of these "ghosts"; there's only a sense of tranquility. When they return, they remember everything and living for them takes on a new meaning after that. To them there's peace at the end of life and joy in the act of dying.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CITINGS

THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES

SIDDHARTHA MUKHERJEE


Cancer, we now know, is a disease caused by the uncontrolled growth of a single cell. This growth is unleashed by mutations — changes in DNA that specifically affect genes that incite unlimited cell growth. In a normal cell, powerful genetic circuits regulate cell division and cell death. In a cancer cell, these circuits have been broken, unleashing a cell that cannot stop growing.


That this seemingly simple mechanism — cell growth without barriers — can lie at the heart of this grotesque and multifaceted illness is a testament to the unfathomable power of cell growth. Cell division allows us as organisms to grow, to adapt, to recover, to repair — to live. And distorted and unleashed, it allows cancer cells to grow, to flourish, to adapt, to recover, and to repair — to live at the cost of our living...The secret to battling cancer, then, is to find means to prevent these mutations from occurring in susceptible cells, or to find means to eliminate the mutated cells without compromising normal growth. The conciseness of that statement belies the enormity of the task. Malignant growth and normal growth are so genetically intertwined that unbraiding the two might be one of the most significant scientific challenges faced by our species. Cancer is built into our genomes: the genes that unmoor normal cell division are not foreign to our bodies, but rather mutated, distorted versions of the very genes that perform vital cellular functions.

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TRUST NO ONE

 

The nation feels relieved that social activist Mr Anna Hazare has ended his fast. But if the Jan Lokpal Bill he has been pushing becomes a law, Mr Hazare may have to undertake yet another fast demanding its repeal because the intended institution to deal with corruption in high places is more likely to be a parallel body that can paralyse the government without being answerable. A guarantee for anarchy. The cumbersome process of the selection of Lokpal begins with the conception of an unwieldy and unsafe selection committee. "Unsafe" because while involving a huge number of ex-officio individuals, the chances of getting on board a few avoidable ones are real. Any apple farmer will tell you that bigger the lot larger the rot. The Lokpal Bill prescribes that the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission shall be one of the selectors and so shall be two senior-most chief justices of high courts. This means that if the selection committee is set up in the near future, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P.D. Dinakaran will be its members. The proposed law requires all Nobel laureates of Indian origin, the latest two Magsaysay awardees and all Bharat Ratnas to be in the selection committee. Hopefully, Sachin Tendulkar, too, will be there to select the first Lokpal. Consider the near impossibility of congregating all of them at one place on a day "to meet and discuss" the material, not just once in a lifetime but whenever the need arises. Why indulge in such a tamasha? The presiding officers of the two Houses, the Prime Minister, two leaders of Opposition, holders of constitutional offices like the Chief Justice of India, the Chief Election Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General can together handle the job. And if they cannot, one can presume that the situation in the country is beyond the hands of any Lokpal. The Bill proposes that four out of the 11 Lokpals should be "with legal background" — into this vague phrase anyone can be fitted — a lawyer's clerk, to wit. "Un-impeachable integrity" is now a well-understood phrase, thanks to Mr P.J. Thomas, the former Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). But the search for candidates "having demonstrated their resolve and efforts to fight against corruption in the past" may be a euphemism for marked persons like Magsaysay awardees or public interest litigations masters. Our media, too, can produce a few of them. And in its anxiety to be transparent, the Bill requires the names of the persons evaluated and grading done by the galaxy of selectors to be published on a website. Remember, no candidate applies to the post — the public is expected to sponsor names of their choice. "Trust no one" is apparently the philosophy behind this Lokpal Bill. It stipulates the Bench strength of the Supreme Court to hear a petition against a Lokpal, a prescription till now made only by the Constitution of India. The Bill commands that the apex court shall not dismiss a petition against a Lokpal in line, however frivolous it may be. And many details about the conduct of business within the court are sought to be regulated by the Bill. Even the chairperson of the Lokpal is not allowed to constitute the benches or assign cases — it is to be done by computers. Mr Hazare's call is to deal with corruption, but the Bill expects the Lokpal to deal with all "complaints, mal-administration, misconduct" and more, to be added to the list from time to time. Lokpal was conceived as a body with high political functionaries on its radar. But the Bill targets every "public servant", including judges of the high court and Supreme Court, who have special protection under the Constitution. Every government servant, chairman or vice-chairman of public sector undertakings and such other authorities as the Central government may also, by a notification from time to time, come under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal. Consequently, the CVC becomes redundant and is recommended to be scrapped. Pray, restrict Lokpal's scope to only the high functionaries of the political administration and those, including in the private sector, who are party to the conspiracy in a corruption case. Leave the rest to the CVC. The judiciary needs to be dealt with separately not only because its problems cannot be appreciated by a Lokpal having just a "legal background", but also because the growing corruption among the sitting and retired judges acting as arbitrators or mediators calls for a full-time agency. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, now pending before Parliament, after suitable amendments, should be able to deal with corruption without affecting the constitutionally-guaranteed independence. This criticism of the well-meaning Jan Lokpal Bill is intended to warn against the promise of extending or recommending blind support to it. In its present form, the Bill reminds one of a toothpaste advertisement that sees only germs everywhere and recommends repeated brushing leaving little time for anything else. But, on the other hand, the official draft bill can, in all fairness, be termed as a "Corruption (Protection and Promotion) Act". A single provision prescribing prior sanction of the presiding officers of the Houses as a pre-condition for the Lokpal to entertain a complaint is enough to render the law useless. Exclusion of matters relating to defence and the like, where corruption is known to breed and thrive, makes that Bill suspect. Designing of a realistic and workable machinery to deal with corruption in high places of public life is vital — television coverage of the proceedings is not; it will be inhibitive of free and frank exchange of views. So, was Mr Hazare's fast futile? Surely not. It has commanded the attention from quarters that matter on a vital issue; attention that was needed but was missing for too long. Further, the agitation has resulted in the constitution of a drafting committee that could be surpassed in terms of ability and acumen only by the Constituent Assembly that framed our Constitution in November 1949. I trust them to be equally sagacious. But, perhaps, harnessing the experience of former IPS officer Ms Kiran Bedi in place of a lawyer could have at once neutralised the obvious pro-lawyer and gender tilt and also avoided the odious allegation of nepotism. * K.N. Bhat is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and former Additional Solicitor General of India

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

RICH ECONOMY, FAT ROBBER BARONS

 

Is corruption the flip side of rapid economic growth? History appears to answer this provocative question with a heretical yes. The exemplary instance is the Gilded Age in the United States, the era of the robber barons. It was a period of rapid growth, rampant corruption, rising wealth and income inequality. Recently, Mr Ashutosh Varshney, a political science professor at Brown University, has drawn the striking comparison between that age and contemporary India, which too features dizzyingly rapid growth, a new class of superrich entrepreneurs, a clutch of crooked politicians and a seemingly unceasing carousel of corruption scandals. Historical analogy is tricky, but it is certainly true that India today broadly resembles the earlier American experience, both in the rapidity of economic growth and the structural transformation from an agrarian to a modern economy, and the accumulation of staggering fortunes, often through illicit means, with the attendant widening gaps between rich and poor. One could equally point to other large emerging economies, such as Brazil, Russia or China (with India, the Bric), which all have experienced this combination of rapid growth, rising inequality and corruption. What is the explanation? In all of these cases, the causal mechanism is the same: Unregulated capitalism generates both rapid growth and burgeoning inequality. In the absence of legal channels for influencing policy, such as the lobbying and campaign contributions in the US, such attempts manifest themselves as corruption. That was true of the American Gilded Age, and it is true of the Bric now. Is it fair to say, then, that corruption and inequality are natural byproducts of the early stages of market-based capitalism? A superficial survey of history, from Bismarck's Germany to Japan after World War II to East Asia in the 1970s and 1980s, seems to bear this out. Indeed, this might come to be accepted as a social-science theory, like the Kuznets curve, which shows that inequality first rises and then falls with the level of development. It could, in fact, be part of the explanation for this phenomenon. The American experience also suggests a corollary proposition. Excessive corruption and inequality, by corroding the political process, threaten to delegitimise capitalism and the market system and so create pressures for reform and the redistribution of wealth that then temper the incentive-driven impetus to capitalist growth, which caused the inequality in the first place. The necessity for redistribution and social policy thus becomes a mechanism for the system to correct itself. In the US, it took the better part of the half-century preceding World War II for this to occur. The worst excesses of capitalism were reined in only when a middle-class backlash led to legislative change, regulatory reform and anti-corruption rules. In China, such a process has yet to begin, and is not likely to unless the regime perceives an existential threat. In India and in other poor democracies, by contrast, the pressures for redistributive and social policies are irresistible. Indeed, in India this paradigm has been embraced and christened by the political establishment as "inclusive development". Critics on the Right often deride inclusiveness as vote-winning populism, and those on the Left dismiss it as tokenism. There is some truth in both charges. But both miss the point that in a poor democracy, inclusiveness, crucially coupled with the perception of inclusiveness, is the only politically feasible way to press ahead with economic growth and development. This will, perforce, involve redistribution: some good, some bad, but all of it exigent to the political legitimacy of development itself. The crux is that economic growth must help raise up the disadvantaged, and not merely further enrich the rich. Otherwise continuing poverty and inequality will become socially disruptive and politically dangerous. It is a mantra of the Right that the market can sort itself out, and that inequality tends to taper off of its own accord before reaching the danger threshold. The Left has always urged an activist state, excoriating the apparent callousness of a capitalist system that leaves millions mired in poverty and deprivation while a small, privileged elite gilds itself. But this ideological debate is sterile. Without the natural redistributive tendency of a well-functioning and regulated democratic polity, the combination of crony capitalism and either repressive authoritarianism or quasi-feudal paternalism is a deadly cocktail. Despite their vastly different histories, cultures and political systems, developing and emerging countries are going to have to find a way to share the fruits of development more equitably and to curtail corruption, without at the same time cooling the engines of growth. The consequences of failing to do so could be catastrophic. The events in West Asia and north Africa have not gone unnoticed in Delhi, Beijing and other rapidly-emerging economies.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TELECOM PSUS IN NEED OF REVIVAL

 

One can have no quarrel with the contours of the telecom policy that the communications minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, promises to put in place before the end of the year. He has correctly identified several issues, including unified licences, audit of spectrum held by telecom players, reduction in tenure of renewed licenses from 20 years to 10, liberalising norms for mergers and acquisitions, etc. These issues are still ambiguous: for instance, if the licences are only for 10 years, their cost will have to come down, else they will be expensive. The unified licence scheme will be welcome as different circles now have different licences, plus factors like NLD and ILD and a lot of procedural hassles. A single national licence would be more rational. It is to be expected that only national players will finally remain in the picture. Mr Sibal will also simplify M&A procedures. There is some ambiguity on what will happen now to spectrum when two parties merge. How much can the merged entity retain? For example, though Spice Telecom merged with Idea nearly two years back, there are still unresolved issues over the spectrum owned by the merged entity. Mr Sibal will also form a committee to draft the National Spectrum Act. The skilful lawyer that he is, Mr Sibal has cleverly first tackled issues on which there is little opposition from the existing major players. Next is the question of spectrum charge, for which there will be a committee, with backup from the telecom regulator. Another matter requiring the minister's urgent attention is the need to keep an alternative plan ready in case the Supreme Court decides to cancel all 122 licences given by the former communications minister, Mr A. Raja. These licensees were simply hoarding spectrum, and they also caused the government a considerable revenue loss in fees and service charges. Some of them may have had valid reasons, which the court will look into, but most appeared to have been in the business of waiting to resell the licences they secured through political clout or other means. Further, the minister must find ways to encourage the more serious players to remain in the field, but the uncertainty should be reduced. One of the most important issues that Mr Sibal must tackle without further delay is that of local manufacturers of telecom equipment. He will need to find ways to encourage the use of local equipment and give relief if a certain percentage of indigenous equipment is used by the telecom operators. Turning around the existing telecom PSUs and manufacturers like ITI and Telecom Consultants India Ltd will be a major challenge. BSNL suffered losses of `5,000 crores, MTNL `2,800 crores and ITI `360 crores this year, and this affects the livelihood of over three lakh people. Salaries are said to be increasing at the rate of 10 per cent annually, while revenues are falling at the same rate. The wage bill in relation to total revenue in public sector telecom companies like BSNL and MTNL is around 40 per cent, compared to just 3.9 per cent for Bharti Airtel and 4.5 per cent at Reliance Communications. Mr Sibal is new to this portfolio, but there are several people whose experience he can draw on to tackle these difficult problems. BSNL, for instance, has an invaluable underground network, from which it can easily earn revenue of at least `20,000 crores if used rationally. Mr Sibal's predecessor had appeared more interested in almost killing the public sector, and his senior bureaucrats went along with him, leading to the neglect of these companies.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LEARNING FROM FAILURE

 

Recent reactor accidents in Japan have thrown open a fresh arena for acrimonious debates between nuclear power proponents and the naysayers. The opponents, charged with the evidence of a catastrophe in Japan, will claim that nuclear power never should be considered, and the proponents will argue that our reactors in India are safe and that the kind of catastrophe we are witnessing in Japan would never happen here. Both are viewing the problem only from their highly tinted lens of perspectives. Successes and failures are an integral part of designing any engineered system. Correcting failures helps in creating successful design, but successful design does not obviate failure in a context that was neglected, wished away, or in a world different than that of original construction (and calculation). The history of technology is one of evolution through correcting past failures. Engineers — like generals in war — correct previous failures. To say that all designs will fail because the last one did will lead to no progress in technology. Machines of today — nuclear reactors, giant oil rigs or superthermal power stations — are large, complex systems with hundreds of subsystems and components that are closely coupled. They must all perform faultlessly to avoid failure. To ensure such operations, materials are chosen and tested carefully for meeting the specifications imposed by the design. Systems are designed and manufactured to operate safely. Major and complex designs also incorporate back-up systems to provide for operational redundancies — remedial measures spring into operation, preventing failure of a component or a subsystem from ballooning into major catastrophes. The Daiichi Fukushima nuclear power plant reactors, presently under distress in Japan after the disastrous earthquake and tsunami, have multiple diesel generators and batteries to pick up slack to continue operating pumps and other required systems. Examine other well-known nuclear failures: the Three Mile Island nuclear power station, for instance, had two backup cooling systems for the steam generator, relief valves and indicators to show whether the valves were working or not. In spite of these redundancies, the reactor came close to a total meltdown. The trouble at Chernobyl started with engineers decoupling the control rods from the main reactor operations. The emergency cooling system, instead of depending on gravity to operate, was powered by the electrical system that was vulnerable to failure. Coming back to the present crisis, in Japan even after the batteries took up the load, no standby power generators were available to connect to the reactor pumping network. It is too early to speculate on the reasons for this failure. We can cite similar horror tales from many other areas that operate large, complex and close-coupled engineering systems. In the past 60 years alone there have been three major nuclear power system accidents, a major failure of the chemical plant that killed or maimed thousands of people, and a space vehicle disaster that pushed the space programme back by many years. With High Technology Social Service Systems growing bigger, more complex and closely coupled, the likelihood of technological disasters increases. In the next 20 years, India alone plans to build about 100 nuclear power reactors for generating 80,000 MW of electricity. A conceptual framework for managing technological disasters has three elements: minimising the likelihood of such accidents; controlling accidents to prevent major catastrophes; and, coping with the aftermath. As scientists and engineers, we are typically more concerned with minimising the risk of accidents and increasing the probability of safe performance. The recent collapse of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and the consequent uncontrolled gushing of oil suggests one more area to focus: to develop post-accident technologies and operational regimens to minimise the loss to life and property. Imagining and planning how to deal with future accidents, with no past history to go by, will be a challenge but it has to be developed and practised. Forensic analysis of accidents has many lessons to offer. One of them is a lack of training of operators for handling emergencies. People when faced with impending catastrophes either "choke" or panic. The training they are imparted is not adequate for the tasks or the operator tries to improvise with unproven responses. For example, the alarm siren warning of gas leakage in Bhopal was not operated continuously. There are reports of similar shortcomings in the operators' response when there was an uncontrolled gas leakage in the Gulf of Mexico. Operator after operator hesitated in pressing the panic button. They were told of the financial loss of delays but not warned or trained to handle emergencies where safety would take precedence over all other concerns. The main problem lies in our limited ability to anticipate all failure modes. Who would have thought, for instance, that the recent earthquake in Japan would be as powerful as 8.9 in the Richter scale when the design was for standing up to 8.2 Richter, about five times less intense! How, then, does one manage such disasters and bring them to a closure with minimum loss to life and property? Technical actions are the first line of defence and management actions must run along with it. To determine the technical response, it is important that the managers directing the remedial measures have a ready access to a pool of talented professionals who are identified well in advance for the relevant technologies and systems. What we are suggesting here is reminiscent of a jury system. A recent example where an Airbus 380 aircraft crippled with an engine failure that affected its hydraulic, fuel supply and electrical systems could still make it to the airport was attributed to the ready availability of five pilots with advice in the aircraft itself with a total flying experience of over 70,000 hours. Our society cannot avoid building large complex systems that have thousands of closely coupled components. The terawatts challenge for power generation that the Nobel prize winner Smalley talks of calls for tripling the global power generation to 40 terawatts with minimum CO2 emissions. This means more nuclear reactors, and more oil and gas exploration and wind power stations far into the oceans. Until we eliminate our ignorance of all that can go wrong with better information and knowledge, we should pay as much attention to managing disasters as minimising their occurrence. * V.S. Arunachalam is the chairman of Centre for Study of Science Technology and Policy (CSTEP), Bengaluru; Eswaran Subrahmanian is a research fellow, CSTEP

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BEST, BRIGHT & BLUE

 

Sixty-three momentous years ago an ancient civilisation blossomed into a nation-state with a million promises to keep. But the lack of a strategic culture and unity in thought and action has haunted and weakened India over the years and it is now time to seriously address our endemic and congenital shortcomings as we take our rightful seat at the high table. As the second-largest growing economy, after China, and with myriad formidable security and developmental challenges, India has to ensure a peaceful and stable environment within, build the necessary wherewithal for peace with its neighbours and beyond. Do we need crisis situations to shake us out of our slumber, as in 1947-48, the 1962 debacle or the Kargil 1999 surprise? Or do we formally and periodically introspect, analyse and put into place corrective and institutionalised measures emerging from a well thought-out, all-encompassing national security strategy to confront the multitude of challenges which stare at us today and might come in the way of our march forward? Noted American author Walter Lippman in the 1940s very succinctly said, "A nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate interests to avoid war and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war". No one will question the fact that in today's disturbed world and the volatile neighbourhood we live in, a hard, holistic look at our security preparedness in all its manifestations and nuances is called for periodically. The elements, instruments, spectrum of potential conflicts and all determinants of national defence and security need to be regularly studied. Our security planning must cater for the complete spectrum of conflict ranging from aid to civil authority, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations, varying levels of conventional war to a war involving weapons of mass destruction. Military doctrines, combat profiles, force structuring and induction of new and relevant weaponry, capabilities in information warfare, psychological warfare, intelligence capabilities and now nuclear assets and space warfare need to be thoroughly deliberated upon in comparison with capabilities of likely adversaries. Knee-jerk reactions and panic decision-making in moments of national crises are thus avoided. In many democracies the world over, Blue Ribbon Commissions are appointed to look into the problems of the armed forces, as in the United States and the similar Royal Commissions in the United Kingdom. Since Independence, no such commission has been appointed in India though after the Kargil War, the high-level Kargil Review Committee (KRC), which reviewed the entire gamut of security, higher defence management in India and the alleged intelligence lapses and made useful recommendations, came somewhat close to a Blue Ribbon Commission. It will be worth mentioning here that the chairman of the KRC, the respected security analyst, late K. Subhramanyam, had, in 2008, strongly recommended a Blue Ribbon Commission for the Indian armed forces. He had suggested that such a high-powered commission could be headed by an eminent personality who commands high credibility, like chairman of Tata Sons Ratan Tata or Infosys chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy and have other reputed retired experts from the forces, the intelligence community, the defence and foreign ministries, and management specialists. He further advised that once such a commission submits its recommendations there will be no further nitpicking by bureaucrats or the government — the report should be accepted and implemented in good faith. I would add the name of Arun Singh, former Union minister of state for defence and a Rajiv Gandhi favourite, to head such a commission as he has a remarkably clear vision of India's security challenges. Not many are familiar with the term Blue Ribbon Commission or why is it called so. Briefly, it is an independent and exclusive commission of non-partisan experts and eminent personalities constituted to look at any issue or concern of national significance. Though it has no legal or any other authority to implement its recommendations, its suggestions are accorded due attention by the government as such commissions are composed of eminent and respected experts. The term "blue ribbon" comes from the commission members being the "best and brightest" in their respective fields. Thus, these commissions are different from a parliamentary committee, a government-sponsored internal study group, a judicial commission, a committee of secretaries or a group of ministers. Being non-partisan in composition, such commissions transcend parochial inclinations of inter-governmental departments and civil bureaucracy versus the armed forces conflict. However, those cynical of such commissions allege that these commissions tend to exaggerate existing and future problem areas, may display an overly individualistic approach, lack accountability (since it is not responsible for implementation) and are unrealistic in their financial projections. Be that as it may, the cardinal necessity of such commissions is accepted the world over, and, when composed of the most respected leaders and experts in their respective fields in the country, it is a sacrilege to apportion any negative attributes to the members of such commissions. The Indian armed forces have a two-and-a-half front obligation (China, Pakistan and internal security). Over the years, its combat profile vis à vis its potential adversaries has been slipping to unacceptable levels. It is a truism that combat capabilities take a long time to accomplish. Compounded by our sluggish equipment induction procedures, despite governmental allocations, the capabilities of the services will continue to slide downwards unless the desired impetus is accorded by the government and the service headquarters. Given a nuclear, terror-exporting Pakistan, the growing assertiveness of China and the Maoist threat in our hinterland, a comprehensive and an all-encompassing look is required at our security preparedness. The Government of India sets up a pay commission every 10 years. A Blue Ribbon Commission should be set up on similar lines to look at our higher defence management, force structures, equipment profiles and new and futuristic challenges, including the military, internal security, intelligence, information warfare, nuclear and space dimensions. Speedy implementation of reforms and recommendations of such a commission will go a long way in ensuring India's security. * Lt. Gen. Kamal Davar (retd) was the first chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency and deputy chief of the Integrated Defence Staff

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE PEOPLE OF THE HEART

 

Hasan, a Sufi fakir, came upon Rabia one day when she was sitting among a group of contemplators and said, "I have the capacity of walking on water. Come, let us go on to that water yonder and sitting upon it carry out a spiritual discussion". Rabia said, "If you wish to separate yourself from this august company, why do you not come with me so that we may fly into the air and sit talking there?" Hasan replied, "I cannot do that, for the power that you mention is not one which I possess". Rabia said, "Your power of remaining still on water is one which is possessed by fish. My capacity of flying in the air can be done by a fly. These abilities are no part of real truth. They may become the foundation of self esteem and competitiveness, not spirituality". This story is a perfect example of the Sufi way of transmitting knowledge. Sufis speak in parables and poetry. They are not scholarly people, they are people of the heart, therefore the term "Sufism" is wrong. Any kind of "ism" spells dogma, doctrine, philosophy, long logical discussions to prove and disprove certain principles. The Sufis are not interested in saying something, they are interested in showing something to their disciples. What is it that they want to show? It is the experience of truth. And truth cannot be an argument, or a speculation; it is a haqikat, a reality. Reality can only be experienced after all the smoke of thoughts, emotions and mental activities are dropped. The Sufi way has always existed without the "Sufism" brand name because it is pure mysticism. So all the mystics, like Jesus Christ, Mohammad Paighambar, Krishna and Buddha, were Sufis. Osho has given an original interpretation of how the word Sufi was derived: "The word 'Sufi' is quite recent and it was coined by German scholars. In Arabic it is called Tasawuf. Both the words come from the same root: Suf. Suf means wool. It looks very strange. Why would wool become the symbol of the Sufi way? The scholars go on saying that it is because the Sufis used to wear woolen clothes. But why should they be wearing woolen clothes? There is deep symbolism in it. The symbolism is that the wool is the garb of the animals and a Sufi has to become as innocent as an animal. The Sufi has to attain primal innocence. He has to drop all civilisation, he has to drop all kinds of cultures and conditioning. Then the symbol becomes tremendously significant. When man becomes an animal he does not fall back, he goes higher, he becomes a saint. He remains conscious but his consciousness is no more burdened by any conditioning. He is in tune with the existence as deeply as an animal". Suf can also be derived from the the word sufa which means pure. Purity of the soul is when there is no content in the mind, when the mind has disappeared. The Sufi way is a path of love, the way of the heart. The sufianna methods evoke feelings. It takes tremendous strength and courage to sustain the outburst of feelings because they emerge as a cyclone coming from the depths of the unconscious. So the Sufis are strong people both physically and emotionally. They live in the heart and they perceive their beloved, the Divine, through their heart. This is ishque hakiki; love with existence. Sufi masters cannot be found easily because they make themselves invisible. And how do they make themselves invisible? By being ordinary. A Sufi master may be a shoemaker or a carpenter or a tailor. It is easy to miss him. One should have the eyes of the heart to find the extraordinary in an ordinary person. Next time you visit your tailor, look closely, a Sufi may be hiding inside him. — Amrit Sadhana is in the management team of Osho International Meditation Resort, Pune. She facilitates meditation workshops around the country and abroad

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

EC'S BRAHMASTRA

THREAT OF COUNTERMANDING POLLS

 

Even the threat of countermanding election in constituencies where the Election Commission could not stop distribution of cash for votes has not deterred political parties in Tamil Nadu. On the contrary, the parties indulging in the "loot and bribe" model of democracy have warned the EC that it cannot take over running of the government in the name of conducting election. Under the Representation of the People Act, the EC has powers to countermand an election if it is satisfied that excessive use of money and muscle power could affect the result. The ingenuity of political marauders out to destroy democracy knows no bounds. With all its precautionary measures and vigilance, the EC has been able to seize only about Rs. 48 crore out of the thousands of crore earmarked for distribution and kept in high value currency notes. In some places impromptu blackouts were arranged with the help of State Electricity Board staff to facilitate distribution under the cover of darkness. Government ambulances with blaring sirens and even mortuary vans were pressed into service to transport currency notes in bulk.  In earlier elections in the State, the ruling party freely used police vehicles to transport cash but this time the police force was brought under the strict control of the EC. Matchboxes, emptied of sticks and stuffed with currency notes, and ballpoint pens with cash inside are some of the methods used to pull wool over the eyes of the EC officials for cash distribution on the sly. Some EC officials suffered intimidation and physical attacks. Unable to empty the party coffers before 13 April, coloured plastic tokens denoting different currency values and encashable at a stipulated place and time were distributed in places where money could not be reached in time.


To understand the enormity of the problem, one should read the factually correct confidential cable the US Consulate-General in Chennai sent to the State Department in Washington on 13 May 2009, under the heading "The role and impact of money power in corrupting the electoral process," and made public by WikiLeaks.  It says a regular feature of elections in South India is the ingenious ways the party workers resort to distribute bribe money, hoodwinking security officials and the workers of rival political parties. "At Thirumangalam in Madurai district, the payment was Rs 5,000 per voter, possibly the highest ever," the cable said.  That was in a by-election in 2009. There are about 4.6 crore voters in Tamil Nadu. Assuming each voter is paid at the 2009 rate of  Rs 5,000, it works out to Rs. 23,000 crore, roughly 15 per cent of the 2G spectrum loot. If this scale of bribing voters is allowed without let or hindrance, we can expect more scandals of the 2G spectrum magnitude. A former Chief Election Commissioner had admitted that he found Tamil Nadu the most difficult State to conduct free and fair elections in.  That Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi should campaign in Tamil Nadu exhorting the voters to re-elect the DMK regime makes us wonder if they endorse the Thirumangalam formula of winning elections. 


CRICKETING PAWNS

GOVERNMENTS CAN'T 'FIX' MATCHES

EVERY genuine cricket lover would wish for a resumption of Indo-Pak exchanges. Yet every one of them would also desire that the impetus for reviving the needle competition was of cricketing origin ~ not political/diplomatic diktat. Much as they welcomed the Mohali initiative, which was essentially an invitation at a prime ministerial level, the followers of the sport would be rather perturbed at the players being reduced to mere pawns in the games netas play. The pawn conclusion is inevitable since it is those conveniently unnamed "government sources" who are suggesting an end to the stand-off (and incidentally also a security-determined isolation of Pakistan by all ICC members, and not the cricketing authorities in either country). Hence there is cause for principled disquiet ~ neither Manmohan Singh nor Gilani have the requisite mandate to "fix" matches, or pressure the respective boards into doing so. Their authority to order their military forces into action does not extend to the cricket field: even though, most regretfully, Indo-Pak matches are deemed mini-wars. All that either government should do is to switch off the red light that followed the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers and 26/11 ~ switching on the green light is a cricketing decision. Squarely within the domain of the players, and their respective boards of control. Even at a practical level the government's thinking is myopic. Geelani might have been all sugar at Mohali but the Indian win that evening has not gone down well across the border. Shahid Afridi took one sick line, a Pakistani strategic expert went as far as insisting that Indian techies had doctored the electronic systems used by umpires when reviewing decisions. Is that the climate into which South Block wishes to thrust the players? The argument that the Pakistani players faced hostile crowds at Mohali etc is invalid ~ there is a huge difference in spectator-attitude during an international meet and a bilateral tour. Has the internal security situation in Pakistan so improved that Indian cricketers will not be under serious threat? That the government paid scant attention to ground realities is evident from its going ahead with trumpeting a resumption of ties when both teams have heavy commitments over the next 12 months. There are demands enough on Dhoni & Co., must they be burdened with rectifying the failure of the frequently inept snobs who flaunt the IFS tag?


SOFTLY, SOFTLY

FRENCH DILEMMA OVER DEFIANCE

THE determination with which a Moroccan woman defied the French ban on the burqa on the first day of its enforcement signifies the dilemma of the Sarkozy administration over how to enforce the law that has made covering one's face in public an offence. At stake ~ and the government could not have been unaware ~ is the disconnect between an official fiat and the sartorial and religious rights of women.  Small wonder that  "Hind" ~-she has stopped short of revealing her name ~ was able to walk out of a police station near the Elysee Palace without paying the stipulated fine of 150 euros after being arrested on Monday. She as well as three other activists have verily placed the French police on the backfoot, compelling the interior ministry to adopt a "softly-softly" approach. The administration appears to have acknowledged the need for diplomacy. The stress is on the power of persuasion and counselling sessions on secular values ~ both imperatives couched in the assurance that arrests and fines would be the last resort and, no less crucially, the veil would never be ripped off by a male officer, should the need arise. Well may President Sarkozy claim that the burqa ban will serve as a barrier against Islamic fundamentalism.


  Yet his administration is distinctly loath to take action, a cautious approach that is embedded in the very substantial fear of  riots in the suburban council estates, home to an estimated five million Muslims. In foreign policy, firm action on Monday could well have led to souring of Franco-Moroccan ties, indeed opening another flank in the increasing tensions that have come to mark diplomatic engagements ~ Afghanistan, Libya and the Ivory Coast. Infringement on the right to religious freedom can have a profound impact beyond the borders of France and across the Muslim world. Clearly, the administration of Sarkozy is more circumspect than the President. On Day One, the burqa, the niqab and the Venetian mask have won.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

BRICS MEETING IN CHINA

AN ESSAY TOWARDS GLOBAL REORDERING

SALMAN HAIDAR


Ever since the Cold War ended leaving one sole superpower in the world, there has been considerable uneasiness among others on account of their considerably reduced options. So long as there were two super powers, there was some scope, or so it seemed, for others to jockey between them and gain some leeway for themselves. But the reconfigured world left no such options. The USA alone, now without co-equal, had unexampled reach and influence. The rest of the world had to come to terms with this reality.
This drove many countries to try to retrieve something from the 'unipolarity' that had so effectively been established. There were repeated calls for a "multipolar" world, that is to say, a world not dominated by the sole super power alone. There were many substantial countries with their own traditions and interests, and they seemed ready, individually and collectively, to look to alternatives. Many possible combinations were considered to promote specific joint interests, especially in a regional context. Among these, something that flickered briefly, was the idea that India, Russia and China should coordinate effectively in Asia, where they had shared interests separate from those of the USA. Like other similar concepts, this trilateral notion failed to excite much support when it was doing the rounds a decade-and-a-half ago. None of the three had any intention of adopting a confrontationist position vis-a-vis the sole superpower ~ for each of them maintaining and developing relations with the USA was the necessary key to national security and advancement. And they had to be careful ~ thus on an occasion when the Foreign Ministers of India and China happened to be together in Moscow, they felt it best not to join their Russian colleague for a collective discussion, for they did not wish to give any wrong signals.


Changing circumstances have now opened up new possibilities. The USA has paid a price for the wars in which it has plunged. Its aura of invincibility has been damaged though it would be rash to discount the overwhelming power it can still bring to bear. Newly emerged countries have assumed a much bigger role in global economic affairs and are more ready to strike out on their own. The global economic balance is shifting, towards the east and also towards Latin America and Africa, and with the shift have come revived aspirations. The global reordering that many countries desired but remained unachieved does not today look so impossible to achieve, or so unsettling a likelihood, as it once did.


It is in this changing world that the significance of BRICS is to be seen. This brings together some of the fastest growing and politically substantial countries of the world which believe they share common ground and can coordinate their thinking and action in order to achieve wider benefit for themselves and for the general good of the global community. There have been two previous meetings of the group which has now been enlarged to include South Africa, thus achieving a tri-continental reach. The agenda has been growing from meeting to meeting, in an indication of the constantly rising expectations of the group. Unlike many other comparable efforts of the past few years, BRICS may well survive and have a real impact.


All the members of the group have come up rapidly in the past few years but none has risen faster or further than China. It is China, too, that has shown the greatest impatience with the existing system, especially with the operation of regulatory bodies like the IMF. It has also shown its irritation at repeated Western efforts led by the USA at compelling the revaluation of the Chinese currency as a means of controlling the huge trading advantage currently enjoyed by China. Not to be swayed by external pressures, China has its own understanding of what is needed to improve the situation and it is making some headway in various forums, including BRICS, to gain support for ideas like a much bigger role for currencies like those of the BRICS countries in international trade. Effective urging of this view can help give real substance to this newly formed forum.
Political coordination is not among the stated priorities of BRICS, but its members took much the same position at the UNSC on the question of intervention in Libya; this experience could become an incentive to closer future exchanges between them at the UNSC. Currently, all are on the Security Council, two of them, Russia and China, being permanent members and the others active aspirants to permanent seats. Drawing closer on some important international issues where their perceptions and interests coincide could cement the purposes of this group.


As the summit meeting takes place, there is real expectation that something encouraging might come out of it. Of course, meetings of this type customarily generate real but evanescent mutuality among the participants, which is what seems to have happened at the two previous meetings. However, this time there is a different anticipation, reflecting the changed international circumstances and the stronger commitment of the host nation China. There is general agreement, and not within BRICS alone, that the system of international governance that emerged after the second war has outlasted its relevance and must be reshaped in order to reflect current realities. Many efforts in this direction are being made, several involving the nations that have congregated in China for the present meeting. Maybe this group is best placed to inject new ideas and new vigour into the old system.


It is often the case that the most useful result of a summit comes from events peripheral to the main gathering. Already there are signs that the BRICS meeting in Sanya has helped ameliorate some recent problems between India and China. Of these, one of the most unexpected, and most unnecessary, is the matter of stapled visas for Indian visitors from J&K, or even, in the case of a senior army officer, for someone posted on assignment to J&K. This has been seen in India as a strange provocation that serves no larger purpose. Now it appears that the media group accompanying Dr Manmohan Singh includes some individuals from J&K who have been able to travel without the indignities imposed on their ilk by recent Chinese practice. It would be helpful if this procedure were now allowed to fade away.


The joint military exercises that have done much to build India-China confidence were held in abeyance owing to the visa issue. There are welcome signs that these may be resumed. If for nothing else, the BRICS meeting is to be welcomed for what it could contribute to the improvement to the bilateral India-China relationship.
The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

IT'S INDIA'S JASMINE MOMENT!

 RAJINDER PURI

Consider the state of the nation. The tsunami of corruption that is drowning democracy does not need reminding. Enough has been written about that. The insurgencies, the separatist movements and terrorism tearing the nation apart do not need recall. Enough has been said about that. The collapse of law and order in which public lynching can occur with police standing by does not shock. It is considered normal now. The ugly disparity in which the microscopic rich adorn the pages of Forbes magazine while the rural millions starve and are driven by debt to suicide no longer brings tears. Our eyes are drained and dried by now. And the latest revelation by the Election Commission that hundreds of crores were spent by candidates to buy votes in just one state assembly poll no longer jolts. We are too familiar by now with the ugly face of Indian democracy. Our democracy is not working. Our political system has failed. Our Constitution needs to be rescued from self-serving politicians who have subverted it. India needs its revolution.

In recent days, Mr Anna Hazare's fast to hasten the Jan Lokpal Bill lit a spark throughout the nation. He got enormous support from the media. He also attracted criticism. He and his supporters committed a few gaffes. There are signs of division within the ranks of his movement. It is not known whether his movement will gather force or start to limp. It does not matter. With him or without him India's revolution will come. It cannot be stopped. Too many people know how too few people are looting their wealth and betraying the national interest at every step and in every way. Mr Hazare gave the call for India's second war of independence. It is an old battle cry. The time has come to redeem it.

On 1 February, 2006 under the title India 's Second Freedom it was written in these columns: "In 1997 India celebrated a half century of independence. To commemorate the event a special joint session of Parliament was convened… In his keynote address the Speaker of Lok Sabha, Mr PN Sangma, gave a call to the nation to launch India's Second Freedom struggle… The House unanimously adopted an agenda for India to end corruption, criminalisation, casteism and communalism. There was not one dissenting voice. Isn't it time that the young people of India accepted Parliament's invitation to launch India's Second Freedom struggle…Young people should recall the East India Company. Second or third sons of English lords and aristocrats, at age thirteen or fourteen years, came to India as apprentices of the Company. By the time they were in their twenties they were conquerors. To serve their nation and the Company they learnt and studied languages, dialects and habits of the subjects they ruled… They were members of the English elite who de-classed themselves to conquer India . Why cannot young members of the Indian elite de-class themselves and conquer India? They won't need guns. They have freedom of expression and freedom of association. They can conquer India democratically."

There are three tasks required to succeed. First, to formulate a nationally accepted minimum policy agenda for change that helps India reclaim its identity and democracy; secondly to successfully mobilise support for that agenda across the nation; thirdly to create an effective organisational structure of the movement; and fourthly to form a political party based on that agenda, and relying on the movement's organisation, to win the next general election and replace the corrupt and criminal class that has seized power. That is the real challenge facing the Indian people. These days many young Indians are displaying formidable talent and enterprise in the world of commerce. Well, the challenge of creating a political party is no more daunting than of creating a business corporation. Both enterprises require communication, organisation and marketing. Only, parties deal with ideas and policies and not with products and services.     

It is a tough task. But the national mood revealed by the countrywide reaction to Mr Hazare's fast indicates that the time for it to succeed has arrived. If Mr Hazare and Baba Ramdev lend their weight to the endeavour it will be wonderful. If they don't, it will not matter. Genuine revolutions are not propelled by personalities but by ideas. Those who best articulate those ideas through word and deed succeed in personifying them to emerge as leaders of the revolution. The three most potent segments of society capable of mass action to ensure success are the students, the farmers and the workers. Of these three the students are the best educated. They have the biggest stake in the future. They are the natural leaders of change. History beckons them. Will they respond? It is India's Jasmine moment. They should seize it.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

WHAT NOW, AFTER CHERNOBYL RATING?

 

Risk assessments have see-sawed between hopeful and grim, but never dire, in the month since the Fukushima nuclear complex began leaking radiation. The Japanese authorities' caution showed how variable the nature of determining radioactive contamination was, as well as a wish to not overload the senses of a people coping with the earthquake-tsunami devastation. But it has been hard to keep the faith. The bulletins provided have been utterly useless. Makeshift attempts by heroic, under-protected workers to contain the reactors' overheating exposed abysmal contingency planning by Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the plant's commercial
operator.


With the increase on 12 April in the radiation threat rating, to the maximum seven on the International Atomic Energy Agency's nuclear and radiological event scale, Japan's image has taken a blow. This is undeserved. The praise and sympathy the nation gathered worldwide for the dignified manner in which its people bore their misfortune was an affirmation of Japanese values. Japan had not looked better since its days of superlative economic performance. That may have been dimmed a bit by the state permitting the incompetence of Tepco, which is looking like an unlearned villain of the drama. Tepco has shown itself to be unfit in an industry that requires the highest safety compliance and fallback standards. It has misled the government and the people. Sadly, the Naoto Kan government is not blameless. It did not assert early control in the damage containment and was hesitant about accepting American offers of help within the first 48 hours.


The dramatic turn to maximum-risk rating could be the cue for recriminations among Japan's neighbours, apart from the public health hazard posed not only to Japan itself but also across large swathes of Asia. A seven reading is equal to the hazard level of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster which, by now, the whole world knows was the worst nuclear accident ever. Could Fukushima end up an equivalent? What might be the nature and timescale of the radiation flow? Can disaster be averted still? It would settle nerves if answers are forthcoming. Government spokesmen were Tuesday still serene in their remarks. A Japanese commentator said on Chinese state TV the discharge of contaminated water into the Pacific would have harmed fisheries up to the Russian and Californian coasts. He wondered if the cover-up extended to uranium reprocessing in a secret weapons programme. These are the least of people's worries. They need unambiguous word on the probability and nature of the risks they will be exposed to, and what could be done to minimise them.  


the straits times/ann

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THE STATESMAN

GLIMPSE OF GANDHI

ML KOTRU


I have, I must confess, no first-hand knowledge of India's freedom struggle. Born in the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, I spent the most decisive phase of the freedom struggle there, leaving for Delhi about the same time as the dawn of Independence. My knowledge of the movement was confined to the columns of the now-defunct Civil and Military Gazette, the Tribune (both Lahore publications) and News Chronicle (published from Delhi). Yes, one had radio link but broadcasts, for most part, were limited to goings-on in Europe and Hitler's Germany.


We did, of course, get to set our eyes on some top national leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Jayaprakash Narayan but that was in the 1940s. It's not as if we were totally cut off from the rest of the world. Sheikh Abdullah's political activism and vernacular papers in the state did keep us involved somewhat. And we did have the "Quit Kashmir movement", targeting the Dogra Maharaja, led tenaciously by Sheikh Sahab with Nehru at his beck and call.


The first real whiff of a popular agitation ~ not to mention the many others that followed after 1950 ~ that I got was courtesy Jayaprakash Narayan, against an increasingly authoritarian Indira Gandhi, Indu to JP in private. The Emergency came and lasted a full 19 months, tough, suffocating, unforgiving, with Gandhi's younger son, Sanjay, leading the pro-Emergency goon pack. Compulsive vasectomy was the catchphrase of Sanjay's lexicon, when he was not busy filling his coffers by the hour. I recall the experience of a Delhi industrialist who was once asked to "call" on Sanjay. The man packed Rs 5 lakh in a bag and was soon ushered into the younger Gandhi's presence. Barely looking at the visitor, Sanjay directed him to deposit the bag in corner. No more words were exchanged till he heard: "Achha, jayiye (All right, now get going)." Sanjay's insolence did not bother him, not even the depletion of his resources by Rs 5 lakh (he must have made Rs 50 lakh in return). But something else did. "You know, I lost my lucky handbag. I had been imaging all the time that Sanjay would ask me to sit down and hand over the lolly to him. I had planned to hand him the cash but not the bag." He gave up the idea of asking for the bag back, what with so many henchmen inside the room. "What if that made Sanjay change his mind and resulted in a demand for Rs 10 lakh instead?"


In my long years as a journalist, I have known of many wheeler-dealers and indeed, the paper I served for many long years had an exclusive investigative team which had the distinction of exposing many scandals involving bureaucrats and industrialists alike. At that time, God's good man Mr Anna Hazare must have been driving military vehicles. And it is to this man I owe a teeny-weeny glimpse into how the "naked fakir" must have galvanised the Indian people to send the British packing. And please do remember, when Mahatma Gandhi was practising non-violence, one did not have 24X7 television channels. It was a revelation how one city after another adopted Mr Hazare's anti-corruption agitation for a Lokpal. From Bangalore to Mumbai, Ahmedabad to Aligarh, Kolkata to Kashmir, to Kerala, Hyderabad, Delhi to Puducherry ~  the whole of India seemed to have identified with Mr Hazare and his agitation.


"The second coming of Gandhi!" exclaimed one enthusiastic supporter as the wispy 73-year-old hauled himself up to convey his message for the umpteenth time. "Don't worry about me… We must carry on till victory is ours." Someone on the dais at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi brought up the similarity between his andolan (agitation) and that of Gandhiji's. Mr Hazare instantly touched his ears in alarm. "Gandhiji's was on an entirely different mission: the freedom of India. I am a small man. Gandhiji was a Barrister … mein apna kartavya poora karne ke koshish mein hoon" (I am doing my duty to serve the country and its people by clipping the wings of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats)."

When drained, he would lie down for a while to recuperate and then spring back with vitality. "This agitation is not going to end; we have to achieve our objective and I won't let anyone fool us this time." For those who say he is a simpleton, Mr Hazare is an astute man and the pompous Union minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, realised that when he tried to argue that the talks between Mr Hazare's team and the government would not be gazetted. Mr Hazare responded by saying: "That's what Sibal says." Next, he brushed aside Mr Sibal's suggestion that only bureaucrats would represent the government. Once Mr Sibal had left the site of the fast, Mr Hazare grabbed the microphone and declared that there won't be any compromise. "In the past 42 years, the government has tabled the Lokpal Bill as many as eight times in the Lok Sabha and each time, it was allowed to lapse… Nothing like that will be allowed this time. We must have it in the next two months, latest by 15 August… If that does not happen, we will resume our agitation."


After his team and the government had worked out a deal, Mr Hazare again revealed the tougher, Gandhian side of his personality. This came about when some Baba with political ambitions complained that he had been betrayed. The Godman pointed out that he had been part of the anti-graft campaign but never made it to the quintet chosen to talk to the ministerial team. "It doesn't matter," Mr Hazare told the Baba, "as long as we are sure that we have selected the best legal minds." That shut up the Baba and Mr Hazare's message that no one was bigger than the campaign came across loud and clear.


I wonder, though, why Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh decided on Mr Sibal as the mediator? The man is so consumed by his own oratorial skills that he seems unwilling to see the writing on the wall. Given his legal skills, his first concern is to confuse, to obfuscate. Remember, how, many years ago Mr Sibal, as an advocate, took six long hours to defend Supreme Court judge Mr V Ramaswamy during his impeachment trial in the Lok Sabha? He went on and on ~ citing laws and quoting authorities ~ when three fellow judges of Mr Justice Ramaswamy had already found him guilty and the required number of MPs had backed their judgment. I can't tell how many books and briefs, all beflagged, surrounded him at that time. In the end, though, the entire exercise was rendered futile by the Congress which made a last-minute decision to abstain, thus causing the motion of impeachment to fail. But one remarkable statement by the then Union law minister Mr HR Bhardwaj, made the debate unforgettable. Pooh-poohing all arguments, all evidence marshalled by the supporters of the impeachment motion, the law minister rose to intervene with his customary aplomb. Addressing the MPs who had been screaming about corruption that Mr Justice Ramaswamy had indulged in, he thundered: "Tell me who is not corrupt these days?" No further questions were asked and his party, the Congress, switched sides ~ from proponents of the motion to disinterested non-partisans. I do hope Mr Sibal is not allowed to have a say when the joint panel takes up the Lokpal Bill.


Already there is some noise about need for the office of the Prime Minister to be left out of the ambit of the Bill. Why? Dr Manmohan Singh, for all the fuss that is made about his impeccable honesty, must make sure that the legislation covers him and his office as well. And even as Mr Hazare was preparing to return to his village near Pune early this week, Mr Sibal was at it again, listing the situations in which a Lokpal would have no say. If the PM and Mrs Sonia Gandhi are serious about the legislation, they must ensure that all conditions set by Mr Hazare and accepted by the government are fully met. Not that India is in any grave danger at the moment but some slogans shouted by youths at Mr Hazare's dharna site got me wondering… they were chanting: "Remember Egypt? Remember Tunisia? Don't forget Libya!" Were the politicians listening?


The writer is a veteran journalist and former Resident Editor of The Statesman, Delhi

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

PEOPLE'S POWER

Political observers have often been taken aback by an emerging pattern in Kashmir — the holding of democratic elections immediately after a prolonged bout of anti-India violence and the overwhelming public response to it. This had been the case in the 2008 assembly elections that followed soon after the Amarnath controversy. The turnout then had been an unprecedented 65 per cent, despite the separatist ban on public participation in the electoral process. The same holds true for the ongoing panchayat polls in the valley which are being held only months after last year's turmoil that had seen one of the worst phases of anti-government protests in recent memory. The voter turnout — this time even higher than 2008 and 2009 — need not be seen as a contradiction in the behaviour of the Kashmiri people. In coming out to vote overwhelmingly for the local bodies, they are sending out the same message they had sent out in 2008: they want a government that is responsive to their needs and is accountable to them. There is also a surprisingly clear perception of what they stand to gain from having their own representation in these electoral posts: a better guarantee of good roads, drinking water, electricity and so on, than what a distant minister can possibly ensure. Public enthusiasm in this matter has also been helped by the state government's decision to take political colour out of the process by holding the polls on a non-party basis.

The local body elections would go a long way in filling a gaping hole in Kashmir's governance, which has been run on the whims of political parties and their larger-than-life leaders who have failed to bridge the gulf with the population. That even a popularly-elected government could be out of sync with public sentiment was made evident by recent protests that exposed the coalition government's disconnect with the people. 'Reaching out' to the people form the basis of the eight-point plan the government of India has devised to move towards a solution in Kashmir. As the parleys of the group of interlocutors have shown, the pro-azadi sentiment is intrinsically tied to trust deficit between the people and the government. Confidence-building measures, greater focus on education, reduction of the army's presence and empowerment of the people through democratically functioning grassroots-level institutions will go a long way towards addressing that problem.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

RIGHT OF PASSAGE

David Cameron's self-proclaimed "sober, comprehensive and effective plan" to control immigration into Britain inspires an uneasy question. Is the British prime minister interested in curbing immigration for the sake of a racially less mixed society or is he merely trying to clean up the messy affairs of the home office that the last Labour government failed to do? Although Mr Cameron makes no bones about his supposed good intention — which is to reform the welfare system — he cannot seem to avoid a certain edge in his voice when he decides to upbraid immigrants from outside the European Union. Inability to speak English, for instance, qualifies for instant disqualification, in Mr Cameron's book. Clearly, he does not care to factor in all those who go to live in Britain as dependants. Many of the latter, who often come from the less privileged parts of the world, may have real difficulty in picking up a foreign language, and especially so in a foreign country. But that, for Mr Cameron, is no excuse at all. The British prime minister believes that the inability to speak English is always intentional — he likes to think of it as unwillingness to speak the language — and is chiefly responsible for a less integrated Britain. Whatever the case, Mr Cameron's patrician delivery of what sounds like a well-deserved warning, if not a threat, is not exactly helping the cause of social integration.

Apart from these invectives against those who 'abuse the system', Mr Cameron has not really offered anything that is substantially new. All the checks and balances that he wants to reinforce — to stop forced marriages, identify bogus universities, and penalize fraud immigration agencies — should be part of any nation's immigration policy. So, the fact that Britain has been swamped with illegal immigrants in the last decade is more a comment on the efficiency of the visa-granting authorities than on anything else. Mr Cameron also has as little sympathy for the alarming number of British citizens living on dole as for those who do not speak English. In both cases, his hectoring attitude diffuses the crucial difference between real need and exploitation. Unless Britain follows a nuanced procedure of granting visas to individuals on a case-by-case basis, discontents will continue to grow. It is in Mr Cameron's interest as a politician to pitch his vision of a New Britannia a little safer, than to be sorry afterwards.

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THE TELEGRAPH

TIME FOR A REALITY CHECK

WAS THE JANTAR MANTAR DRAMA A WAKE-UP CALL OR AN AIR-RAID ALERT? SWAPAN DASGUPTA

It is a commentary on the fragility of the dispensation in Delhi that it took barely 72 hours of sustained media indignation, a patchy show of flag-waving solidarity by the middle classes and the obstinacy of a 71-year-old Gandhian busybody to expose the moral nakedness of the Manmohan Singh government. Last week's drama at Delhi's Jantar Mantar centred on Anna Hazare's fast and the appointment of a committee to draft a lok pal bill to check governmental corruption was a much-needed reality check for all those who had somehow assumed that India was on the cusp of greatness. The resilience necessary to cope with periodic political turbulence appears to have deserted the system.

In the coming weeks, particularly if the present round of assembly elections fail to give solace to the Congress, the phenomenon of 'weakness' is certain to be clinically dissected. Is the vulnerability of what the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, loves to call the "Delhi Sultanate" a problem peculiar to a Congress party that is never fully comfortable with a prime minister from outside the 'dynasty'? Or, as India's 57 varieties of Right and Left radicals would no doubt argue, do the tremors created by Hazare point to the larger systemic rot in a tottering First Republic? Was the Jantar Mantar drama yet another wake-up call or an ominous air-raid alert?

From the perspective of those alarmed at the ease with which the government wilted, it may be reassuring to know that a jolted sultanate will try to contain the damage. The reassurance becomes less robust on the realization that the fightback will centre on the only available weapon: subterfuge.

First, cabinet members such as Kapil Sibal have begun decrying the belief that the Lok Pal legislation is a wonder drug for all of India's ailments. The idea is to paint Hazare as a Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

Secondly, the Congress general-secretary, Digvijay Singh, has demanded the extension of the Lok Pal's jurisdiction to include both the private sector and non-governmental organizations, the repository of 'civil society' virtuousness. Although the suggestion is ridiculous, it is calculated to create concern within corporates and NGOs at the dangerous consequences of unbridled populism.

Thirdly, the perceived shortcomings of the five-member panel chosen by Hazare to provide the 'civil society' perspective on the Lok Pal legislation have been sought to be highlighted. The Lok Janshakti Party leader, Ram Vilas Paswan, has lamented the absence of a Dalit face in the committee; the activist, Mallika Sarabhai, has criticized the absence of a woman among the 'civil society' representatives; and umpteen people, not least Baba Ramdev, have referred to the preferential treatment accorded to the father-son duo of Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan. In the coming days, more such fissures will emerge.

Finally, the 'secular' bush telegraph has been used to spread the theory that the Jantar Mantar show was masterminded by shadowy figures in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The overuse of slogans such as 'Bharat Mata ki jai' and 'Vande Mataram' and Hazare's praise for the integrity and administrative acumen of Modi have been cited as proof of deep saffron involvement in the movement. It is being whispered that Hazare is actually a convenient front and that the real muscle for the anti-corruption stir comes from the poster boys of evangelical Hindutva, notably Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

The Congress's attempt at some form of counter-mobilization is understandable. The Hazare bomb, which the government never anticipated, has damaged the party in two crucial ways.

For a start, Hazare has crystallized the middle class disquiet over growing corruption into an angry, anti-politician mood. Although the mood is momentarily against all politicians, it is certain to have the greatest effect on the credibility of the Congress. Unless a new force abruptly emerges to harvest the popular fury electorally, past precedent would suggest that it is the principal opposition party that invariably stands to gain from a wave of anti-incumbency. In other words, the Congress is wary that the middle class disappointment with Prime Minister Singh could facilitate the electoral rehabilitation of the Bharatiya Janata Party and even the emergence of Modi as a possible national saviour.

Secondly, the speed with which the Hazare movement was able to ride roughshod over all obstacles and dominate the national imagination for a week suggested a breakdown of the Congress system of political control. Since 2002, more or less coinciding with the Gujarat riots, the Congress has institutionalized its relationship with the NGO movement and used it successfully as a battering ram against the BJP. The establishment of the National Advisory Council, with disproportionate representation from the community of so-called 'activists', enabled the United Progressive Alliance government to involve the voluntary sector in legislation such as the Right to Information Act, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the food security bill and the proposed anti-communal law. The lok pal bill, which has now been referred to a 10-member committee, was initially supposed to have been vetted and approved by a supra-cabinet comprising select members of the NAC. A reason why the government could not press the constitutionalist argument centred on the supremacy of the elected representatives in decision-making was that it had already ceded a lot of this space to an unelected NAC chaired by the Congress president.

The Hazare-led upsurge has upset all these calculations. By favouring one set of NGOs and extending official patronage to one set of 'activists', the government unwittingly set in motion a countervailing response by those who felt left out of the process. Last week's spectacle in Delhi was their revenge on the co-opted NGOs. The Congress may, arguably, retrieve lost ground and even create a deep schism within the NGO movement as a result of its rearguard actions. However, there is no doubt that in the process the UPA's image as the only political force that is receptive to the urges of 'civil society' has suffered immeasurably. It will now have to cope with a parallel army of the virtuous, including a formidable brigade linked to quasi-religious gurus.

A second pillar of the Congress' political management was TV. The remarkable ease with which the feel-good effect of India's world cup victory evaporated didn't owe merely to the emergence of yet another army of the indignant equally determined to impose its whimsical agenda on a functioning democracy. The near-spontaneous revolt of a middle class driven by consumerism against corruption put many otherwise 'liberal', loosely pro-UPA national news channels in a dharma sankat. They could have opted to exercise restraint in their coverage, perhaps seeing it as just another tamasha rather than as an Indian version of Cairo's Tahrir Square. But their decision to join in the hyperbolic outpouring was dictated by commerce. Swimming against the tide and upholding lofty constitutionalism meant going against the prevailing sentiment in their middle class target audience — a decision that would ultimately be reflected in diminishing viewership figures. Additionally, they had to also cope with the parallel attraction of social networking — a force that has been deified despite its potential as an unguided missile.

The week-long Hazare show that stirred urban India has wounded the Congress grievously. The party will no doubt try to extricate itself from the mess through an elaborate process of manipulation. But it will have to undertake the exercise amid the larger realization that its capacity to stage a moral recovery has been eroded. Hazare has also crippled its shock absorbers.

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THE TELEGRAPH

WHAT AILS THE SYSTEM

BONAFIDE: MALVIKA SINGH

If the government of India means business and would like to show that it has learned some lessons from the anger and frustration on the ground, it needs to rid itself of some 'symbols' that isolate its officers from the people and therefore, from the truth. Imagine if the prime minister banned all the ridiculous red and blue flashing lights atop sarkari cars that break every road rule and add to the noise pollution of our cities and highways even though they cannot move forward or backward when in heavy traffic. He would get huge brownie points for removing the one irritating symbol that defines the arrogance of those who rule. Their drivers park where there are 'No Parking' signs, they jump red lights, they overtake from the wrong side, they cut corners and are plain dangerous. They get away because they have 'Government of India' written on the rear of their vehicles. Officers and their wives, sitting in the cars as they break the rule, allow the misbehaviour.

Government babus and politicians are constantly jumping the queue at airports and stations. This, too, must be prohibited by sarkari order. It is sick-making that our leaders and administrators are constantly doing what they most definitely should not be doing. Anger against the sarkar begins with these uncouth interventions in the public space. There is a deep aversion to this overriding arrogance. Stopping traffic for VIP movement is another ridiculous custom that has been discarded by civilized societies. That strange animal — the 'very important person' — is an alien from the outer space in any functioning democracy that believes in equality and fraternity. The police are deployed in large numbers to stop traffic from reaching offices and appointments on time, only to facilitate empty avenues for VIP movement to cut ribbons and plant saplings.

Course correction

All subsidies that enhance the lifestyle of babus and politicians at the cost of the citizenry — such as electricity, water and free transport for wives — must cease as a start. Then, in a phased manner, government employees must be made to pay 50 per cent of the rent for their sprawling residences, starting from the top down. Parliamentarians must live, for their term, in their constituencies to enable them deliver on promises made at election time. When they visit Delhi to attend Parliament, their accommodation should be studio apartments with attached kitchenettes. No more. That is how India will begin to buck the trend of babus and politicians living off the largesse of the taxpayer and the consolidated fund of India. These will be salutary examples to set and will restore a sense of dignity. Maybe then, India will start respecting its leadership once again.

Exploiting the goodwill and patience of the people is unforgivable. All that we have witnessed during Anna Hazare's sit-out was an outpouring of the frustration, disappointment and often, anger at the manner in which the elected representatives and their babus operate. It has become untenable and unacceptable. The inability to bring in correctives will aggravate the bubbling angst and create new and different monsters. Why does the leadership not see this impending horror? Why are they fearful of clean governance that is based on ethics and integrity? Why use the excuse of 'coalition dharma' to condone what is wrong and against the laws of this land? It is failing every citizen except for the parasites.

It is a shame to watch the government react only when it is compelled by threats of one kind or another. It reduces respect for those at the helm. Had the government addressed civil society issues over the last six years, it would have not been caught in this trap. What prevents the leadership from seeing the truth and bringing about a course correction?

 

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DECCAN HERALD

FIRST EDIT

MOVING FORWARD

''THE DECISION TO RESUME DEFENCE EXCHANGES IS WELCOME.''


The meeting between prime minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese president Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Sanya in China may have helped to straiten the latest creases that have appeared in the relations between the two countries. It was not expected that bilateral issues would figure prominently in the talks where multilateral and trade issues were likely to dominate.


This was because the forum as such had a collective agenda and the Chinese were keen that it should receive more attention than bilateral ties between individual members. But bilateral issues seem to have been discussed in detail at Manmohan Singh's meetings with both Hu Jintao and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.


Two important outcomes of the talks with the Chinese leader were the decisions to resume senior level defence exchanges between the two countries and to set up a mechanism for co-ordination and consultation on border affairs. The defence exchanges were stopped by India last year after China denied visa to an Indian army  officer who commanded the Kashmir region.


The Chinese action had raised doubts about its stand on Kashmir. The stapled visas issued by the Chinese embassy to residents of the state had also pointed to this. Since India has decided to resume the defence exchanges it should be assumed that the stapled visa issue may have been sorted out. But there is no official announcement yet on the matter. The consultation mechanism on border issues is welcome because there is an increasing number of violations of the disputed border in recent months.


It is unfortunate that a permanent resolution of the boundary dispute  still evades both countries. The two leaders have sought more tangible progress on the matter but it is difficult to expect any breakthrough in the near future.

 

The most important theme of the relations between the two countries relates to trade, economic co-operation and investment. While trade is booming and may cross the target of $100 billion by 2015, the imbalance that works against India and the difficulty in access for Indian industry to the Chinese market are matters of concern.

A dialogue mechanism is being activated to address these concerns. While frequent interactions at the highest and other levels will help to remove irritants, the bigger issues should not be overlooked. It should not also be forgotten that these irritants are created by the Chinese.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

SECOND EDIT

IMPRESSIVE TURNOUT

''HIGH VOTER TURNOUT INDICATES THAT DEMOCRACY IS ALIVE.''


The Election Commission should be congratulated for the peaceful and efficient conduct of polls in all the states where Assembly elections have been held. No major incidents of violence or disruption of polls were reported from Assam, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala. The real credit actually goes to the people of the states but the commission had taken maximum pains to ensure that the election process was not vitiated during the campaign or on the polling day.


Repolling or countermanding of elections has not been ordered in many booths or constituencies. One factor that corrupted the election process was the large-scale bribing of voters in Tamil Nadu by the parties. The commission had taken steps to check this, but more effective measures may be necessary in future elections.

Another welcome feature of the elections was the high voter turnout. Kerala registered about 75 per cent and Tamil Nadu 75-80 per cent of polling. Assam recorded a high turnout of 76 per cent and Puducherry about 85 per cent. High voter turnout has been a feature of polling in Kerala and Puducherry. But the turnout in Tamil Nadu shows a high level of voter interest.


High voting figures are also usually indicators of electoral waves in favour of or against parties, or of the working of anti-incumbency sentiments. The Tamil Nadu polling percentages might exceed the earlier high of 1967 when the state had seen a major electoral shift. Whichever party or alliance might gain or lose from the high turnout, the high level of voter participation is salutary.


This is especially so in the case of Assam where many elections in the recent past had been marred by violence and low voter participation. Insurgent bodies like the ULFA had disrupted the election process and made free and fair exercise of voters' choices very difficult. But most of the militant bodies, except a hardline faction of the ULFA, are engaged in peace talks now.


The election issues have also shifted from insurgency and other divisive issues to corruption and development. The high voter turnout and the peaceful conduct of the elections may be signs of this shift and of the increased confidence of the people. The Assam experience can set an example for other militancy-riddled states too.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

AGONY AND ECSTASY

BY KULDIP NAYAR


Exasperated over a string of scams, the society had lost faith in democratic polity. Hazare revived that faith.
When a civil society exhausts its patience, it comes out on the streets. It is angry, but peaceful. Such was the phenomenon one witnessed in India a few days ago. The country was ablaze with passion, petulance and purity for four days. The mood was to overhaul the entire system which people considered rotten to the core.

Thousands of them gathered from different walks of life in several cities and felt good in responding to a Gandhian, Anna Hazare's call to weed out corruption. He had gone on fast unto death to force the government to set up a 10-member committee, with half of them from civil society, to redraft a bill, pending for the last 42 years, to establish an institution of Lokpal (an ombudsman) to ensure punishment to the corrupt, whether in politics, judiciary or elsewhere.


It was a catharsis of civil society which felt wanting within itself and helpless in doing anything against corruption from top to bottom. Hazare's campaign had given civil society an opportunity to participate in a struggle to redeem itself. Exasperated over a string of scams, resulting in a loss of thousands of crores of rupees to the public exchequer, the society had lost faith in democratic polity. Hazare revived that faith.


When the government accepted Hazare's demand for a joint committee, following which he broke his fast, the peaceful mass of people, essentially from the middle class, was convinced that corruption would be eliminated. Maybe, people are expecting too much. Maybe, they consider the Lokpal as the end by itself, not the means to end corruption. Whatever their preference, their belief in Hazare is total. They are fully behind him because they see in him a person who would see the end of corruption, an irritant in their daily life.


Cynics and critics have joined hands to run down the movement because it sought to circumvent the institutions available under the constitution. But they miss the point that such outlets — Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan's movement was one in 1975 — take place because institutions have not been responding or destroyed by the rulers.

Indira Gandhi demolished them at the Centre in 1975-77 during the emergency. Chief ministers have done away with them in states. The administration has now been reduced to a system which is run by the nexus of politicians, bureaucrats, agencies and criminals. Whether a chief secretary or the investigation head, he awaits word from the above.


What can people do? True, they can cleanse the government by electing honest, conscientious candidates. But how do they do that? There has to be a political process to bring in better people. That process has become so expensive that the campaign of a parliament candidate costs at least Rs 10 crore, if not more. Political parties are not willing to jettison even criminals from the list of candidates. (Some 25 per cent are criminals in the current parliament).


Reforms

The Election Commission has been trying to convince the parties to keep out criminals but without any success. What it means is that there has to be electoral reforms to enable honest people to have a level-playing field. Money and muscle men who have distorted the democratic process must be kept out.

Reforms may not form part of the Lokpal bill's new draft which the government and civil society have agreed to finalise by June 30. Hazare has said that it must become a law by August 15. Yet, I see a lot of resistance on the part of the ministerial team headed by Pranab Mukherjee. The government does not want the Lokpal to receive even complaints directly, much less to dispose them.


Human resources development minister Kapil Sibal has made fun of the Lokpal bill. He says that it cannot provide education and medical care to the poor. We all know that the Lokpal is not a panacea for the country's ills. But the institution, when set up, will see to it that politicians, judges and bureaucrats are made accountable.

The basic fact to note in the movement is that the urban middleclass has expressed its exasperation for the first time in a peaceful and collective manner. The bill that emerges from the joint committee of the government and civil society will have to meet the expectations that have been raised. The middle class is scrutinising the developments every day. Both sides are riding a tiger which they can dismount by being on the same page. Otherwise, both will get hurt.


The movement also indicates that the country is boiling. Hundreds of agitations and protests in different parts of the country in the last 10-15 years show that. The lava beneath can outpour if the rulers do not attend to the needs of the common man. Hazare is a symptom, not the disease. The disease is people's disappointment that even after 62 years of independence the living conditions obtaining in the country have not improved.

I feel this is the time for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to rehabilitate himself. He has lost the prestige considerably. He should intervene — and should be seen doing so — to see that civil society representatives have their proposals incorporated in the Lokpal bill. His ministers, particularly P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, are the hardliners. The prime minister would have to curb them.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN PERSPECTIVE

AN UNHEALTHY BOOM IN CAPITAL FLOWS TO DCS

BY LMAZ AKYUZ, IPS


All previous booms started under conditions of rapid liquidity expansion and exceptionally low interest rates.
An unusual feature of the global financial crisis is that for developing countries (DCs) the financial band seems to have picked up the pace of the music. While many advanced economies (AEs) continue to encounter debt deflation, financial stringency and risks of insolvency, the financial problem for most DCs is asset inflation, credit expansion and currency appreciations. Except for a brief interruption in 2008, DCs have continued to receive large capital inflows as AEs have responded to the crisis caused by excessive liquidity and debt by creating still larger amounts of liquidity to bail out banks and governments, lift asset prices and lower interest rates.

Quantitative easing and close-to-zero interest rates are now generating a surge in speculative capital flows to DCs with higher interest rates and better growth prospects, creating bubbles in foreign exchange, asset, credit and commodity markets.


This is the fourth post-war boom in capital flows to DCs. All previous booms also started under conditions of rapid liquidity expansion and exceptionally low interest rates in the US, and all ended with busts. The first boom ended with a debt crisis in Latin America in the 1980s when US monetary policy was tightened.


The second ended with a sudden shift in the willingness of lenders to maintain exposure in East Asia as financial conditions tightened in the US and macroeconomic and external positions of recipient countries deteriorated due to the effects of capital inflows. The third boom developed alongside the subprime bubble and ended with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and flight to safety in late 2008, but was followed by a rapid recovery in 2009.


Credit and asset bubbles

Like these past episodes, the current surge in capital inflows is creating fragility in DCs.  Deficit countries including Brazil, India, South Africa and Turkey are experiencing currency appreciations faster than surplus economies and relying on capital flows to meet growing external shortfalls. Many of those that have been successful in maintaining strong payments positions are facing credit and asset bubbles. Both categories are now exposed to the risk of instability to a greater extent than during the subprime debacle, though in different ways.

It is almost impossible to predict the timing of capital reversals or their trigger, even when the conditions driving the boom are clearly unsustainable. Still, it is safe to assume that the historically low interest rates in AEs cannot be maintained indefinitely and the current boom can be expected to end as interest rates start to edge up.

The US is now under deflation-like conditions and the Fed is aiming at creating inflation in goods and asset markets.  But its policies are adding more to the commodity boom and credit expansion and asset price rises in DCs.

If commodity prices are kept up by strong growth in China, the continued policy of easy money in the US, along with speculation and political unrest in Arab countries, the Fed may end up facing inflation, but not the kind it wants. In such a case, capital and commodity booms may end in much the same way as the first post-war boom ended in the early 1980s — that is, by a rapid monetary tightening in the US even before the economy fully recovers from the subprime crisis.


The boom may also be ended by a sharp slowdown in China. As a result of a massive stimulus programme financed by cheap credits, large capital inflows and rising commodity prices, the Chinese economy is overheating. Monetary breaks now applied to control inflation could reduce growth considerably, particularly if it pricks the property bubble. The consequent fall in commodity prices could be aggravated by the exit of large sums from commodity futures, creating payments difficulties in commodity-rich economies and leading to extreme risk aversion and flight to safety.


Regardless of how the current surge in capital flows may end, it is likely to coincide with a reversal of commodity prices. The most vulnerable countries are those which have been enjoying the dual benefits of global liquidity expansion. Most of these are in Latin America and Africa and some are running growing deficits despite the commodity bonanza.


When policies falter in managing capital flows, there is no limit to the damage that international finance can inflict on an economy. Multilateral arrangements lack effective mechanisms that restrict beggar-my-neighbour policies by reserve issuers or enforce control on outflows at the source.


The task falls on recipient countries. But many DCs still adopt a hands-off approach to capital inflows while others have been making half-hearted attempts to control them through taxes that are too low to match large arbitrage profits promised by interest rate differentials and currency appreciations. In either case taking capital controls much more seriously is now the order of the day.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

 

DOUBLY BLESSED

BY JUNE CARVALHO


The fleeting emotional encounter took me travelling back in time.


Flipping through the newspaper on Ugadi day, my eyes fell on an obituary, in which certain people and a place, distant though familiar, stared at me compellingly. Although more than four decades had passed with no contact whatsoever, it was on a whim that I decided to go to this funeral come what may.


Arriving at Kalpalli crematorium that afternoon, I enquired with one of the mourners as to where Kalpana was. She pointed to a diminutive frame, with strands of grey in her hair, clad in a pure white sari draped in Kodava style, and a white shawl covering her shoulders. Was this the same Kalpana Kuttaiah that I knew when we were little?

Over the past 40-odd years she had become a haze in my mind's eye. Walking up to her I found myself choked for words, before stuttering: "I don't know if you'll remember me… the time we all went to school together all the way to Ammathi? A few of us families had formed a car pool… your mother drove a blue Ambassador, my dad a black one, and Tilak's was a jeep…? This morning when I saw her obituary, I told myself that I had to be here today."


This fleeting emotional encounter took me travelling back in time to my early existence on a coffee estate in Pollibetta, south Coorg, one of a dozen postings in my father's long career as a banker. With the crates that moved with us every couple of years in a rootless kind of life, were also trunk loads of memories — of people, places and events.


While the luggage needed to be unpacked, the memories did not and got stashed away, pigeon-holed into happy or sad ones.


Memories usually remain dormant like a volcano until life springs up some thunderbolt moments when they suddenly come startlingly alive. When life throws us a second chance, it comes with choice as an optional add-on. Not wanting to leave room for regret, I was glad to have used the option to reopen a favourite page from my dusty, dog-eared book of happy childhood memories. The passage of time seemed irrelevant in that moment as Kalpana — who's settled abroad — and I hugged each other tight and wept our hearts out even as she extracted a promise from me to stay in touch.

 

Visibly moved by such an unexpected blast from the past, she in turn had overwhelmed me by tightly clasping my hands into her own before bending down to kiss them, saying in an impassioned voice: "I know my mother has sent you like a blessing to me!" Deeply appreciative of her heartfelt sentiment that day, it was actually I who came away feeling doubly blessed.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

OBAMA'S NEW TAX HIKE PLAN

Given our national debt of more than $14 trillion — and a current federal budget that is expected to add $1.5 trillion in red ink — the president's new proposal to raise already too-high taxes and impose too-small spending reductions offers no realistic solution.

In a speech Wednesday at George Washington University, the president said, "We have to live within our means, reduce our deficit and get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt."

Right! But Obama won't get us on that path with his plan to raise taxes. And he would reduce out-of-control spending far less than a competing GOP plan would.

While Obama did not cause all our financial problems, he has contributed to them. Too many presidents and members of Congress have created the huge debt. There is no quick or easy solution, or even alleviation. But the Obama plan to raise taxes would surely make our problems much worse by removing more money from the job-producing private sector — in a time when unemployment is already nearly 9 percent!

Obama went along with cutting spending by $38 billion this year, to avoid a government shutdown. But later analysis has shown even those undersized cuts are largely budget gimmicks.

And in proposing to reduce long-term deficits by $4 trillion, Obama suggests reducing spending, slowly, by only $2 trillion — and adding $1 trillion in higher taxes on "the wealthy," while hoping for lower interest costs on our staggering national debt to make up the difference.

Administration spokesmen say the president wants to reduce military spending $400 billion — through 2023, a long time from now. Obama reportedly hopes to reduce some domestic spending by $770 billion, plus save $480 billion from Medicare and Medicaid.

He says he would consider limiting a homeowner tax deduction which, The Associated Press notes, "can currently be claimed by filers at all income levels" — not just "the rich." And then Obama wants to raise taxes on the people who already pay the highest tax rates!

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pointed out that the Obama administration has asked for an increase in the debt limit, and predicted that "the American people will not stand for that unless it is accompanied by serious action to reduce our deficit."

Nor should they!

It is, of course, impossible even to begin to address debt, deficit and over-spending problems of many years without pain. But the president's plan for some spending cuts — plus tax increases — does not offer the kind of financial leadership that most Americans want to follow.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

OBAMA'S NEW TAX HIKE PLAN

Given our national debt of more than $14 trillion — and a current federal budget that is expected to add $1.5 trillion in red ink — the president's new proposal to raise already too-high taxes and impose too-small spending reductions offers no realistic solution.

In a speech Wednesday at George Washington University, the president said, "We have to live within our means, reduce our deficit and get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt."

Right! But Obama won't get us on that path with his plan to raise taxes. And he would reduce out-of-control spending far less than a competing GOP plan would.

While Obama did not cause all our financial problems, he has contributed to them. Too many presidents and members of Congress have created the huge debt. There is no quick or easy solution, or even alleviation. But the Obama plan to raise taxes would surely make our problems much worse by removing more money from the job-producing private sector — in a time when unemployment is already nearly 9 percent!

Obama went along with cutting spending by $38 billion this year, to avoid a government shutdown. But later analysis has shown even those undersized cuts are largely budget gimmicks.

And in proposing to reduce long-term deficits by $4 trillion, Obama suggests reducing spending, slowly, by only $2 trillion — and adding $1 trillion in higher taxes on "the wealthy," while hoping for lower interest costs on our staggering national debt to make up the difference.

Administration spokesmen say the president wants to reduce military spending $400 billion — through 2023, a long time from now. Obama reportedly hopes to reduce some domestic spending by $770 billion, plus save $480 billion from Medicare and Medicaid.

He says he would consider limiting a homeowner tax deduction which, The Associated Press notes, "can currently be claimed by filers at all income levels" — not just "the rich." And then Obama wants to raise taxes on the people who already pay the highest tax rates!

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pointed out that the Obama administration has asked for an increase in the debt limit, and predicted that "the American people will not stand for that unless it is accompanied by serious action to reduce our deficit."

Nor should they!

It is, of course, impossible even to begin to address debt, deficit and over-spending problems of many years without pain. But the president's plan for some spending cuts — plus tax increases — does not offer the kind of financial leadership that most Americans want to follow.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

MORE SLEEPY AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS

Americans were alarmed when it was reported in March that an air traffic controller at Washington's Reagan National Airport not only was the lone controller on duty during the overnight shift, but actually fell asleep on the job!

Two airliners had to land without assistance from the airport tower. Fortunately they did not crash.

Many surely hoped that scary incident was isolated.

But it wasn't.

In Reno, Nev., a medical flight carrying a sick patient recently had to land without aid from the tower — again, apparently because the only air traffic controller on duty was sleeping. For 16 minutes, the plane tried to raise the tower without success. Ultimately a faraway radar controller based in California managed to help the plane land.

As it turns out, there have been multiple incidents this year in which a controller evidently fell asleep. A Knoxville radar controller is expected to be fired, Federal Aviation Administration authorities say, after he allegedly slept while on duty in February. There were similar incidents in Lubbock, Texas, in March and in Seattle this month. And the Seattle controller was already under scrutiny over two previous allegations that he fell asleep!

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has now ordered a second late-shift controller into the dozens of towers that previously had only one controller on duty overnight.

"I am totally outraged by these incidents," he said in a statement.

They should outrage us all.

Landing a plane is not simple in ideal circumstances. The danger is far greater when the expected help isn't there. And most assuredly, towers at commercial airports that receive overnight flights should not be staffed with only one controller.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

OBAMA VS. 'THE DONALD'? HORRORS!

President Barack Obama has already announced that he will seek a second term in office.

And we know a Republican candidate will seek to replace him.

But who?

Well, some may be surprised to discover that some opinion polls suggest billionaire Donald Trump — for the moment, at least — is at or near the top of the list of potential Republican presidential nominees.

What? An Obama vs. Trump presidential race in 2012? Many Americans would find that a shocking prospect!

Lacking experience and sound judgment, then-Sen. Obama was a most unwise Democratic Party nominee for president four year ago — and he became a most unlikely victor.

But many surely must also believe that "The Donald," as some call him, would be a most improbable Republican nominee — and a most surprising president of the United States if a majority of voters turned down Obama and selected Trump instead.

We have had some great presidents. We think immediately of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

There have been some other outstanding ones, too, depending upon your point of view.

But, unfortunately, we have had some pretty inadequate presidents as well.

We certainly hope we don't have to choose between Obama and Trump in our next presidential election

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HARARETZ

OPINION

THE FOUR SONS FROM THE HAGGADAH

STANLEY FISCHER IS THE WISE SON; ALON HASSON IS THE WICKED SON; ILAN LEVIN IS THE SIMPLE SON; PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU IS THE SON WHO DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO ASK.

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

The Torah speaks of four sons - one who is wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who does not know how to ask. What does the wise one say? "I have done the impossible. I have succeeded in convincing the public that you can keep two balls in the air simultaneously without them falling to earth even for one small moment, a trick which even the Great Houdini was not able to perform. Look, I am holding both the ball of inflation and the ball of exports in the air and the public is applauding me. Therefore I am the wise son from the Haggadah."

It is true that Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel, has won acclaim from all sides. He is considered "the responsible adult."

Indeed, we are talking of an economic personality of international stature who has elevated Israel's name in the world. However, with regard to inflation and the exchange rate, we are in a complicated situation because it is impossible to keep those two balls in the air simultaneously.

That is also the reason why the Bank of Israel Law states that the bank will concentrate on only one mission - maintaining the stability of prices. And only when this aim is fully realized can the bank free itself to assist with exports and growth.

But now, on the eve of Passover, it turns out that both the exchange rate is dropping and exports are being harmed, and we are being threatened by inflation.

The wicked son from the Haggadah is Alon Hasson, the committee chairman from the Ashdod Port. Three weeks ago, he celebrated his daughter's bat mitzvah, and so that the celebration would be complete, he invited most of the port workers. The result: the port was closed for four solid hours.

The damage to the economy was great. Long lines of trucks formed outside the port, waiting for his royal highness to give his subjects the sign that they must return to work, but they returned only after the coffee and cake were served.

This is an event that does not happen even in a Third World country. The port's management should have been dismissed after this. But who is the management? After all, it is the workers who manage the port. They close it down almost totally when Shabbat starts, they work only partially at night, and this is also true at Passover.

The result: On average, a cargo ship waits in the port six hours, compared with half an hour in other parts of the world. The price is paid by all of us.

The simple son from the Haggadah is Ilan Levin, the Finance Ministry's director of wages. Levin believes that people have good hearts from a young age.

He has a merciful and forgiving heart and is incapable of not sympathizing with the social workers, the doctors, and even the municipal rabbis. He knows that one cannot give everyone everything they are asking for, but the moment he expresses "understanding", he effectively broadcasts to the committee heads - you should ask for more.

In the struggle over the social workers' salaries, Udi Nisan, head of the Finance Ministry's budgets division, suggested a hike of 18 percent. Levin proposed 25 percent (which was accepted ), but the social workers remained dissatisfied.

The question is, why is there such a demand for studies in social work, teaching and medicine when everyone claims that their salaries are so shameful? Perhaps the committees are pulling the wool over Levin's eyes?

The son who does not know how to ask is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has a grasp of economics and therefore he knows that if the budget is increased and there are exaggerated wage hikes, this is a death blow to growth. He knows that in this way it will not be possible to lower taxes and to encourage growth. But nevertheless he does not ask anything. He does not make things difficult and he does not stop them. Because he wants to be the good grandfather that everyone loves. And the economy? He will just leave the next crisis to his successor.

And the same is true of the diplomatic arena. Netanyahu knows that Israel is heading in the direction of international isolation. He knows that in September a Palestinian state will be declared that will be recognized by most countries of the world.

He knows that Europe and the United States want us to withdraw from the territories so that a Palestinian state can be set up so there will be relative stability in the region.

But he does not ask anything, because that is the way the coalition will survive and he will continue sitting safely on his seat and enjoying the pleasures of being in power.

So perhaps Netanyahu is not the son who does not know how to ask but rather the wicked son from the Haggadah?

***************************************


HARARETZ

OPINION

OUR LEADERS SHOULD MOVE TO FINLAND

THE PRIME MINISTER AND DEFENSE MINISTER HAVE TAKEN PICTURES POSING IN FRONT OF THE IRON DOME MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM, WORKING ON A MILITARY SOLUTION INSTEAD OF NEGOTIATING TOWARD PEACE.

BY YOEL MARCUS

"Anyone who came to Israel in order to build his national home here after 2,000 years also has to know how to withstand tests. Anyone who wants absolute quiet should go to Finland." That suggestion by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who considers himself a genius, is the essence of stupidity. Not only is it very cold in Finland, not only is it dark in the winter, but Finland actually handed over large areas to the Soviet Union and evacuated about half a million inhabitants from their homes. If anything, it would be better if our leaders were to go there in order to learn how to evacuate residents from tens of thousands of homes.

The fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak have their pictures taken in front of the Iron Dome missile defence system sends me into despair. It would be better had they been photographed on the occasion of the signing of a peace treaty with the Palestinians instead of boasting about a device that fires expensive missiles (about $100,000 apiece ) and protects a tiny part of the home front on the periphery of the country, which is relatively exposed to the 80,000 missiles of Hezbollah, Syria and Hamas.

The Jewish mind invents patents for us, but the Iron Dome goes counter to the strategy of Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion, to transfer the war to enemy territory and to end it quickly.

Netanyahu tends to come late to meetings and to delay leadership decisions. Since the Bar-Ilan speech he hasn't taken a single significant step. He refused another two-month construction freeze, and promised a Bar-Ilan 2 speech but made it "conditional" on a trip to Washington. Frightened by what Barak calls the threat of a "diplomatic tsunami" awaiting us at the United Nations in September, he began with a freeze here and there in Jerusalem of all places, and without getting anything in exchange. Vintage Netanyahu: waking up too late, and getting nothing in exchange.

The government postpones strategic decisions, and when it encounters problems its members begin to run around like drugged mice. The world, and events, continue to advance - not according to our pace. The 1975 UN declaration to the effect that Zionism is racism is negligible compared to the anticipated recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. And at the same time the mega-flotilla to Gaza is being organized. In other words: They are turning us into a pariah state.

Our contacts with the countries from which the ships will embark or in which they will anchor on their way to Gaza prove that there is a smarter way than ending up with a bloody clash on the open seas, for which the world will once again condemn us. What is this fear, for heaven's sake, let them anchor in Gaza as much as they like, who cares?

Barak was the one who used the expression "tsunami" to describe the anticipated UN decision.

Too strong an expression, considering that it describes the disaster in Japan. But we would do better to decide what to do instead of dismissing what is awaiting us by downplaying the importance of the UN. According to our horror scenario, the Palestinians planned at first to transfer the decision about recognizing their state to the Security Council, but the present leadership is smart enough not to do so, in order to avoid an American veto. September is too close to the November 2012 presidential elections to allow U.S. President Barack Obama to refrain from casting a veto, in order not to challenge the Jewish voter.

Our former UN ambassador, Prof. Gabriela Shalev, believes that the anticipated decision in the UN General Assembly has no teeth. "A Palestinian state without an army, without recognized borders and without Israeli consent is not a state. It certainly won't contribute to peace," she says.

But the mood of our leadership, which believes that Obama is busy with his career and therefore there is no need to hasten to make concessions - is unrealistic. There is no way that Obama is indifferent to what is happening. "He doesn't forget and doesn't forgive," said Zvi Rafiah, a consultant and commentator on U.S. affairs.

With the surroundings raging, Obama believes that a diplomatic solution here will contribute to stabilizing the region. The U.S. administration's starting point is that a status quo is not sustainable. Sooner or later it leads to a bad outcome, while for Netanyahu personally the present situation of no movement is preferable.

Netanyahu and Obama lack a common denominator. There may even be bad blood between them. Confidence in Barak's promise to "deliver" Netanyahu has also been lost.

President Shimon Peres' report from Washington about Obama's mood was depressing. The administration expects an Israeli initiative, otherwise it will give Israel "a shot in the ass"? (as the next generation of WikiLeaks will probably reveal ), in other words, a forced solution.

The fact that this threat is heard from one generation to the next and is not carried out doesn't mean that one day we won't find ourselves confronting a presidential "enough is enough" from the U.S. That may be the only way that Netanyahu can go down in history.

***************************************


HARARETZ

OPINION

LEFTISTS, MEET YOUR REPRESENTATIVES

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE LEFTIST-VOTER IS CONSTANTLY UNDERGOING A PROCESS OF MATURATION, AND IN THE 2009 ELECTIONS IT REACHED ITS PEAK OF SOPHISTICATION - IN OTHER WORDS, ITS QUINTESSENTIAL FOOLISHNESS.

BY YOSSI SARID

The rain has passed and the sound of elections has not yet been heard in our land. Yet nevertheless a lot of ink has already been spilled. How will the Israeli left run in the next elections? As one large camp, together with everyone to the left of Kadima? Or each movement under its own flag? Will the new replace the old, and what form will this new entity assume?

It was not because of its configuration that the left shrunk in the past 10 years. Nor because of its messages. It was because of its electorate.

The leftist - as everyone knows - is not like other people. He is intelligent, not to say an intellectual; he is rational, sophisticated and level-headed; he doesn't tend to become overly emotional, like the hotheads from Likud; he's independent, with his own ability to think and analyze; he has an inborn objection to the herd mentality; and, as a multidisciplinary and multicultural personality, he sees the situation in all its nuanced colors, rather than in black and white. Nobody will say that he returns to the stable like a blind horse, simply because of that familiar smell.

As a person with an opinion, but free of prejudice, he knows that the enemy of the good is the very good, and that's why he will choose the lesser evil, knowing there can be no good without bad.

That's how he voted in 1999, when Ehud Barak was the lieutenant general of our dreams. That's how he voted in 2003, when Amram Mitzna was considered more Meretz than Meretz, certainly no less. But Labor quickly rejected him as a transplanted organ, because even Meretz-lite is too much for it.

And in 2006 the left's choice was self evident, just as it was a serious blow to Mapainiks (Laborites ) from the house of Herzog-Hohenzollern: Amir Peretz burst forth as a promise at dawn, caught fire like a twig in the socialist tribal campfire, and in an instant was extinguished for lack of oxygen in his party.

The importance of the leftist-voter is constantly undergoing a process of maturation, and in the 2009 elections it reached its peak of sophistication. In other words, its quintessential foolishness. This time, it took another giant step forward. In order to block Benjamin Netanyahu, it voted for Dalia Itzik, Eli Aflalo, Tzachi Hanegbi, Avi Dichter, Shaul Mofaz, Orit Zuaretz, Arie Bibi, Ruhama Avraham Balila, Majali Wahabi, Robert Tibayev, Yoel Hasson, Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich, Otniel Schneller, Marina Solodkin, Israel Hasson, Gideon Ezra, Shai Hermesh, Yohanan Plesner and Ronit Tirosh... my apologies to anyone I've omitted here.

This impressive collection was preferred to Haim Oron, Ilan Ghilon, Nitzan Horowitz and Zehava Galon, who remained outside due to a sudden shortage of ballot slips. And now the leftist is wondering and making calculations about where his camp disappeared to and why it hasn't been heard lately. And yet Netanyahu was still elected, in spite of the fact that the leftist himself sold his vote, and in spite of all his clever tactics.

The 18th Knesset will go down in perpetual disgrace due to its racist-chauvinist character, which even its speaker rejects; it will leave behind it a long trail of legislative excrement. Not only did Kadima fail to stop the abominable legislation, it supported it. Only last month most of its members supported the Nakba and Acceptance Committee laws, whether by voting in the plenum or by fleeing from it. Let me correct myself immediately: they didn't support some of the racist laws, they initiated them - the list is long and it's in front of me at this moment. These are your representatives, left-wingers, how goodly they are.

In advance of the coming elections I have an original idea, tell me what you think.

Maybe for once, and for a refreshing change, let the sophisticated, foolish voter give his vote to those who represent him faithfully all year round, and not only at Purim, when people don disguises.

***************************************


HARARETZ

OPINION

THE LEVER OPERATOR

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU USES EVERY FRACTION OF A CHANCE IS EXPLOITED BY HIM TO 'LEVERAGE' HIMSELF AS SOMEONE WHO IS PORTRAYING THE PRIME MINISTER.

BY DORON ROSENBLUM

 

The sense of deja vu that accompanies Benjamin Netanyahu's second term in office reached another deceptive climax this week when his lawyer tried to squelch reports of his hedonism with libel lawsuit threats. The lawyer, in a terrifying tone, said that "since the 1950s there has not been so grave a case of slander and malicious mudslinging in the State of Israel."

As we were wondering what the awful precedent was (the Israel Kastner affair? The Shurat Hamitnadvim civic association's libel conviction after accusing Amos Ben-Gurion of receiving improper benefits? ) it was difficult not to recall an earlier and no less terrifying appearance by Netanyahu himself. In January 1993, in the "sizzling tape" affair, he accused "one of the senior Likud members, who is surrounded by a gang of criminals" of an attempt to blackmail him to drop out of the Likud leadership race with a tape purportedly showing him having an affair.

In both cases, Netanyahu tried to create the impression that invisible forces of darkness were trying to snatch the premiership from his hands. That is a somewhat absurd claim considering the fact that in 1993 he hadn't yet been elected to attract dark forces and in the current case he hasn't done anything in his position as prime minister.

Even in normal times Netanyahu seems like a neurotic chihuahua who is guarding his bone, though without knowing what to do with it. And indeed, only when the redeeming "mudslinging" occurred did it seem that Netanyahu had awakened suddenly from that prolonged state of somnolence that he had experienced in airplanes and luxury hotels, and went back to the main essence of his life as prime minister: repulsing the attempts to stop him from being prime minister.

There are those who say that the "mudslinging" and the need to deal with trifles like the laundry, the shoes, his wife and which book he did or did not read keep the prime minister from dealing with more important matters. But there is no greater mistake: The laundry and the book are the very core of what Netanyahu does as prime minister.

After he brought Israel's diplomatic efforts to a total standstill (and to his credit: also any hasty military efforts ), Netanyahu discovered "leveraging," including leveraging the "mudslinging" as a reminder and proof of the fact that he is "the prime minister."

But contrary to Archimedes who said: "Give me a lever and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I can move the world," Netanyahu is satisfied with "Give me a PR or a legal fulcrum, and I shall cause [TV commentators] Shelah and Drucker to blush because of some proofreading error."

Every fraction of a chance is exploited by him to "leverage" himself as someone who is portraying the prime minister. He leveraged the blaze on the Carmel mountain to serve as the backdrop for the savior in the supertanker; he immediately leveraged the success of Iron Dome for a photo-op with the launcher in the background, his hands on his hips, like General Patton during the landing.

And as someone for whom appearance was, and still is, essential, the supposedly diplomatic "leverage" is always done "for PR purposes." Thus the terrorist attack at Itamar was "leveraged" by distributing pictures of the bodies, and the missile that hit the school bus was almost leveraged "for the sake of the PR effect" by a three-way summit between the prime minister, the children who got off the bus before the missile hit, and the singer Justin Bieber.

What is common to all the copywritten ideas from Netanyahu's bureau is the leveraging of the hump of misfortune and victimization, like in a Yiddish play by Abraham Goldfaden. This is out of the childlike and naive, or perhaps ghetto-like, hope that it will be possible to derive for eternity some benefit from the guilty feelings of the goyim.

And there is also another aspect that is shared by both kinds of leverage, the diplomatic and the personal - in every case they end up as a failure (and make him look like a shlemazel ). In judo, people are taught to use their rival's strength as a lever to beating him. Netanyahu uses the power of a rival to topple himself time after time.

***************************************


HARARETZ

OPINION

LIEBERMAN MUST NOT WAIT TO RESIGN

IT IS INCONCEIVABLE FOR THE STATE OF ISRAEL TO BE REPRESENTED INTERNATIONALLY BY A PERSON WHO'S SEEN BY HIS OWN GENERAL PROSECUTION AS A SERIAL FRAUDSTER, A CHEAT, A MONEY LAUNDERER AND A HARASSER OF WITNESSES.

Yehuda Weinstein was chosen as attorney general thanks to his varied experience, including some as a prosecutor in the 1970s and much as a defense attorney for public figures. Weinstein indeed brought to his lofty position, and few are loftier, the viewpoint of the defense attorney. He may not be expected to sign indictments lightly.

When he took up his post, he found waiting for him a police recommendation to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Weinstein deliberated and weighed the matter and in the end he decided in favor of a serious indictment, including among its charges breach of trust and money laundering.

In theory, this is a conditional decision, because in a hearing before Weinstein, Lieberman and his attorneys might be able to persuade the attorney general that such things never happened, or that they were not criminal. They may also be able to persuasively argue that no judge will be impressed by the evidence in the file to the point of conviction.

In fact, working against the decision being overturned in a hearing is the long and even exaggerated delay in making the decision, and the defense attorney's eye ingrained in prosecutor Weinstein.

And so the situation is that the potentially accused Lieberman retains the presumption of innocence, as a citizen who has until now only been a suspect. However, it is also inconceivable for the State of Israel to be represented internationally by a person who's seen by his own general prosecution as a serial fraudster, a cheat, a money launderer and a harasser of witnesses who planned and carried out, for years and across continents, a series of offenses punishable by a long prison term.

During the past two decades, since the indictments against former minister Aryeh Deri and former deputy minister Rafael Pinhasi, the custom in Israel has been that cabinet ministers resign their post if the attorney general decides to indict them.

Not later, when convicted, but not sooner, while the police are investigating and the prosecution is discussing. The middle phase, the hearing, in terms of a right and not an obligation of the candidate for indictment, allows the minister to retain his or her place in the cabinet.

But it is more proper in this context to emulate former Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson, who resigned during his investigation.

With the cloud of Weinstein's decision hanging over Lieberman, it is not proper for him to continue serving as deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

***************************************


HARARETZ

OPINION

IN FAVOR OF A GAZA DEFENSIVE SHIELD

THE 'DEFENSIVE SHIELD' OPERATION IN 2002 RADICALLY CHANGED THE SECURITY EQUATION BY PULVERIZING ARAFAT'S TERROR APPARATUS, REVIVING ISRAEL'S INTELLIGENCE ACCESS IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA AND CREATING A MORE IDEAL MILITARY SITUATION.

BY AMIEL UNGAR

When the proposal was first made last week, following the missile attack on a school bus near the Gaza Strip, that the government implement a clause in the coalition agreement stipulating that Israel regard Hamas as a strategic threat, and that it work, accordingly, to topple its regime, the news broadcasts emphasized that it was Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party that made the suggestion. The implication was that if the idea indeed emanated from the pugnacious Lieberman, it automatically deserved to be consigned to derision.

What the news editors generally chose to ignore was a statement over the weekend by former National Security Adviser Maj. Gen. (res. ) Giora Eiland that Israel should consider implementing a "Defensive Shield"-like operation in Gaza. Note the distinction: Eiland was not talking about a repeat of Operation Cast Lead. Cast Lead was launched in Gaza two years ago to achieve a deterrent effect, but as we can readily see, that effect wears off after a certain period. Defensive Shield was launched after the Park Hotel seder atrocity, on March 27, 2002, when a homicide bomber massacred 30 Israelis at the Netanya hotel.

That operation radically changed the security equation by pulverizing Arafat's terror apparatus, reviving Israel's intelligence access in Judea and Samaria and creating a military situation whereby small elite squads can snatch wanted terrorists without causing collateral damage. The change has obviously been extremely beneficial to Israeli security, but it also incidentally helped fuel the current Palestinian prosperity that resulted there once the grip of the rival terror warlords was broken.

Had the Kornet anti-tank missile launched from Gaza last Thursday struck the Israeli school bus a few minutes earlier, before it had dropped off most of its passengers, we would now be in all-out war with Gaza. Why wait till our luck runs out?

A Gaza Defensive Shield is the only way we can avoid repeated cycles of the missile terror that has paralyzed the Gaza perimeter and threatened to wreak similar havoc on Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be'er Sheva - with Hamas reserving for itself the threat of striking at the holy of holies, Tel Aviv. It is also the only recourse that Israel has if it is to be able to seal off the smuggling tunnels that provide terrorism in Gaza with its lifeblood of modern weaponry and operatives freshly returned from advanced military courses in Iran.

The option of doing in Gaza what was successfully accomplished in Judea and Samaria is being resisted by the same people who opposed Defensive Shield back in 2002. For them, re-imposing Israeli rule where it was rescinded constitutes a step backward (and an acknowledgment that Oslo was a tragic mistake ). While Israelis in the south are in shelters, those opposing a ground operation prefer to harp on the success achieved by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. In their heart of hearts, advocates of Israeli retreat hope that technology can effectively compensate for territory, or at the very least a military presence on the ground. This explains President Barack Obama's alacrity in offering more money for Iron Dome. The United States has an obvious military interest in such systems, and Israel's success will be shared first and foremost with the Americans, but it is the land-for-hardware approach that informs his action.

Israel definitely can take satisfaction in the technological achievement of Iron Dome, but it is not intended against flat trajectory fire like that of the Kornet. After that attack, an anonymous security source suggested putting up a wall to shield the railroad from similar missile fire.

What next: fuel tanker trucks and bottled-gas delivery vehicles equipped with missile-defense systems? Why not go all the way to private vehicles? How long will Israel be able to sustain an equation whereby we send up $50,000 missiles to swat down DIY missiles or the more advanced ordnance that Iran supplies gratis to its Gaza emirate?

A Gaza Defensive Shield operation means restoring the occupation of Gaza, chirp the critics - and so it will. But have we really gotten rid of the occupation label even after we surrendered every last inch, including communities contiguous with the Israeli border that now function as Hamas launching pads? We are still reviled occupiers. Israel rather than Egypt is still expected to supply electricity and other necessities to the Hamas predators. If we are occupiers, let us have the benefits of occupation.

An interesting objection comes from columnist and author Haggai Segal, whose opinions I generally share. If Israel will sacrifice blood in a major Gaza operation, argues Segal, the ultimate beneficiary will be the Ramallah regime of Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah movement. Israel will be pressured to reinstate them in Gaza and welcome a unified Palestinian state.

I recognize the validity of Segal's objection, but it is essentially an indictment of a craven policy that draws a nonexistent distinction between "peace-minded" Fatah and implacable Hamas. It was Mahmoud Dahlan, Fatah's security chief a decade ago, who originated the targeting of school buses in Gaza, such as the Kfar Darom attack of November 2000. Lest anyone argue that this is ancient history, we have just been treated to the spectacle of an award ceremony in the home of Hamas suicide-bomb mastermind Abbas Al-Sayed. On March 28 Issa Karake, the Palestinian Authority minister of prisoners' affairs, visited the family of Sayed, now serving concurrent life terms in an Israeli prison, and bestowed an official, festive plaque to commemorate the anniversary of the massacre. It is time that Israel provided a more fitting commemoration, by launching Defensive Shield in Gaza.

Dr. Amiel Ungar, a political scientist, is a regular contributor to Haaretz English Edition.

***************************************


HARARETZ

OPINION

IN FAVOR OF A GAZA DEFENSIVE SHIELD

THE 'DEFENSIVE SHIELD' OPERATION IN 2002 RADICALLY CHANGED THE SECURITY EQUATION BY PULVERIZING ARAFAT'S TERROR APPARATUS, REVIVING ISRAEL'S INTELLIGENCE ACCESS IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA AND CREATING A MORE IDEAL MILITARY SITUATION.

BY AMIEL UNGAR

When the proposal was first made last week, following the missile attack on a school bus near the Gaza Strip, that the government implement a clause in the coalition agreement stipulating that Israel regard Hamas as a strategic threat, and that it work, accordingly, to topple its regime, the news broadcasts emphasized that it was Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party that made the suggestion. The implication was that if the idea indeed emanated from the pugnacious Lieberman, it automatically deserved to be consigned to derision.

What the news editors generally chose to ignore was a statement over the weekend by former National Security Adviser Maj. Gen. (res. ) Giora Eiland that Israel should consider implementing a "Defensive Shield"-like operation in Gaza. Note the distinction: Eiland was not talking about a repeat of Operation Cast Lead. Cast Lead was launched in Gaza two years ago to achieve a deterrent effect, but as we can readily see, that effect wears off after a certain period. Defensive Shield was launched after the Park Hotel seder atrocity, on March 27, 2002, when a homicide bomber massacred 30 Israelis at the Netanya hotel.

That operation radically changed the security equation by pulverizing Arafat's terror apparatus, reviving Israel's intelligence access in Judea and Samaria and creating a military situation whereby small elite squads can snatch wanted terrorists without causing collateral damage. The change has obviously been extremely beneficial to Israeli security, but it also incidentally helped fuel the current Palestinian prosperity that resulted there once the grip of the rival terror warlords was broken.

Had the Kornet anti-tank missile launched from Gaza last Thursday struck the Israeli school bus a few minutes earlier, before it had dropped off most of its passengers, we would now be in all-out war with Gaza. Why wait till our luck runs out?

A Gaza Defensive Shield is the only way we can avoid repeated cycles of the missile terror that has paralyzed the Gaza perimeter and threatened to wreak similar havoc on Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be'er Sheva - with Hamas reserving for itself the threat of striking at the holy of holies, Tel Aviv. It is also the only recourse that Israel has if it is to be able to seal off the smuggling tunnels that provide terrorism in Gaza with its lifeblood of modern weaponry and operatives freshly returned from advanced military courses in Iran.

The option of doing in Gaza what was successfully accomplished in Judea and Samaria is being resisted by the same people who opposed Defensive Shield back in 2002. For them, re-imposing Israeli rule where it was rescinded constitutes a step backward (and an acknowledgment that Oslo was a tragic mistake ). While Israelis in the south are in shelters, those opposing a ground operation prefer to harp on the success achieved by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. In their heart of hearts, advocates of Israeli retreat hope that technology can effectively compensate for territory, or at the very least a military presence on the ground. This explains President Barack Obama's alacrity in offering more money for Iron Dome. The United States has an obvious military interest in such systems, and Israel's success will be shared first and foremost with the Americans, but it is the land-for-hardware approach that informs his action.

Israel definitely can take satisfaction in the technological achievement of Iron Dome, but it is not intended against flat trajectory fire like that of the Kornet. After that attack, an anonymous security source suggested putting up a wall to shield the railroad from similar missile fire.

What next: fuel tanker trucks and bottled-gas delivery vehicles equipped with missile-defense systems? Why not go all the way to private vehicles? How long will Israel be able to sustain an equation whereby we send up $50,000 missiles to swat down DIY missiles or the more advanced ordnance that Iran supplies gratis to its Gaza emirate?

A Gaza Defensive Shield operation means restoring the occupation of Gaza, chirp the critics - and so it will. But have we really gotten rid of the occupation label even after we surrendered every last inch, including communities contiguous with the Israeli border that now function as Hamas launching pads? We are still reviled occupiers. Israel rather than Egypt is still expected to supply electricity and other necessities to the Hamas predators. If we are occupiers, let us have the benefits of occupation.

An interesting objection comes from columnist and author Haggai Segal, whose opinions I generally share. If Israel will sacrifice blood in a major Gaza operation, argues Segal, the ultimate beneficiary will be the Ramallah regime of Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah movement. Israel will be pressured to reinstate them in Gaza and welcome a unified Palestinian state.

I recognize the validity of Segal's objection, but it is essentially an indictment of a craven policy that draws a nonexistent distinction between "peace-minded" Fatah and implacable Hamas. It was Mahmoud Dahlan, Fatah's security chief a decade ago, who originated the targeting of school buses in Gaza, such as the Kfar Darom attack of November 2000. Lest anyone argue that this is ancient history, we have just been treated to the spectacle of an award ceremony in the home of Hamas suicide-bomb mastermind Abbas Al-Sayed. On March 28 Issa Karake, the Palestinian Authority minister of prisoners' affairs, visited the family of Sayed, now serving concurrent life terms in an Israeli prison, and bestowed an official, festive plaque to commemorate the anniversary of the massacre. It is time that Israel provided a more fitting commemoration, by launching Defensive Shield in Gaza.

Dr. Amiel Ungar, a political scientist, is a regular contributor to Haaretz English Edition.

***************************************


HARARETZ

OPINION

SAVING SAFRA SQUARE

MONUMENTALLY SCALED AND USELESS, THE PLAZA, BOUNDED BY DEAD ARCADES, HAS LITTLE SIGNIFICANCE; TODAY IT IS RARE FOR PEOPLE TO GATHER THERE IN GREAT THRONGS FOR PRAYER OR TO HEAR SPEECHES.

BY GERARD HEUMANN

When asked several years ago to explain the failure of Safra Square, architect Amir Kolker, one of its designers, argued: "The square is not empty because it is unsuccessful, but because Jerusalem is unsuccessful. If the Mamilla quarter were to be constructed, making it possible to tie Jerusalem to Jaffa Gate, the square would be full of life."

Well, Mamilla is now up and running - and thriving - while several hundred meters away, Safra Square, in the city hall complex, remains, as always, deserted. With the light-rail line about to begin operation at long last in the capital, Jaffa Road will come back to life. This is the time to strengthen its southeastern terminus.

At the time of its completion, in 1993, the complex was the most expensive enclave of public buildings ever constructed in Israel, at a cost of $112 million. Though well-proportioned and even beautiful in some parts, it is the ultimate example of an architecture that is aesthetically correct but dead. Dirt and disorder were exchanged here for cleanliness and boredom. The dilapidated has disappeared, but what has replaced it is a giant, organized "nowhere." With all of the city's administrative activities crammed into a single compound, the entire complex is in fact something of an internment camp for bureaucrats. During office hours, few willingly traverse the bare, shadeless plaza. From the end of the workday until morning, the area resembles a ghost town. Safra is a single-use precinct that destroys urban qualities, by making human communication as difficult as possible, and by lacking entirely that essential quality, variety, which is the very spice of life.

Ignored - incredibly - in the design was its relation to historic Jaffa Road: Witness the fact that the entrance to the main building is set back a great distance from that thoroughfare, and that the palm-covered entrance plaza to the complex is an anti-urban design solution. The pedestrian axis linking the Russian Compound to Mamilla and the Old City, a key element in the plan, has proved to be an abstract notion divorced from reality. The poorly located and almost invisible commercial space along this axis has long been, as was to be expected, boarded up. At the heart of the complex, and unrelated to anything going on there, is Safra Square itself.

Monumentally scaled and useless, the plaza, bounded by dead arcades, has little significance. Today it is rare for people to gather there in great throngs for prayer or to hear speeches. Television and the Internet have mostly taken care of that. Over the years, countless attempts to fill the vast sterile space of the square have fallen flat. Once a year, a giant sukkah, lacking all intimacy, just makes matters worse. Surrounding the space with some 200 painted lion sculptures, as was done for a time, served only to further emphasize its hopeless sterility.

Monumentality should of course have been rejected in favor of "contact space" - or better still, in this case, a series of spaces having social dimensions. Public places need meaning beyond their mere existence. Plazas are successful when life goes on around them as well as within, when they invite participation and are well-proportioned, when they offer a variety of uses and activities. A place where people meet informally, talk, stroll, make music together.

What is needed is to find ways to make this area come alive. With the single exception of the underground parking garage, every possible planning error has been made here. If there is still hope of making Safra Square meet this goal, cosmetic solutions must be rejected out of hand. Only major interventions, some of them quite costly, will do.

A mixed-use strategy must be adopted. In order to draw people in, it is critical to establish such facilities as a municipal library, a cinema, a theater and the like. A visitors center might replace the existing, rarely used stage. A new, human-scaled, open-space system should be integrally related to these activity nodes. Appropriate commercial enterprises should be employed to enliven the edges of the open spaces. Reinforcing residential land use in the area surrounding the complex will help intensify the use of the facilities day and night.

An intimate, urban entry square should be created off Jaffa Road, defined by a low, two-story commercial structure replacing the existing palm colonnade, thus contributing to a lively atmosphere there, as well as to the main plaza's southern edge. The possibility of tucking commercial frontage underneath Daniel Park, along Jaffa Road, should be investigated, as a response to the light-rail station immediately adjacent. The arcade on the perimeter of the municipality's main building would be opened up onto the building's interior, then filled with commercial uses along the route to the entrance.

Opposite, there could be colorful awnings providing shade to a seating area, narrowing the main plaza's enormous width. Additional tree-shaded seating, as well as fountains, providing focal points, and cooling in summer, would be added. The existing buildings opposite the square on Jaffa Road would be rehabilitated, with special attention to their revitalization at street level. Given a reason for being, Safra Square can yet become a significant addition to Jerusalem, and now is the time to face up to this task.

Gerard Heumann is a Jerusalem architect and town planner.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

SIGNS OF AUTHORITARIANISM

ARRESTS OF ISRAELI PROTESTERS ON THE RISE; THIS IS A TACTIC OFTEN USED BY THE POLICE TO KEEP ACTIVISTS AWAY FROM DEMONSTRATIONS FOR A SUBSTANTIAL PERIOD OF TIME, EFFECTIVELY STRIPPING THEM OF THEIR RIGHT TO PROTEST, WEAKENING THE ENTIRE MOVEMENT.

BY MAIRAV ZONSZEIN

This week, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ordered the police to pay NIS 25,000 in compensation to four Israeli activists from the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, whom they arrested without due cause while they were protesting peacefully in front of city hall in February. Many called the decision a victory for democracy, but an examination of how the police and the Israel Defense Forces have been behaving in the face of civil disobedience reveals a frightening pattern in which these state institutions repeatedly break the law in order to suppress political activism - and for the most part get away with it.

Over the last year and a half, the police arrested over 160 Israeli protesters from the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement during demonstrations in Jerusalem, usually on a claim of illegal assembly.

In January 2010, after the Association for Civil Rights in Israel director Hagai El-Ad was arrested in Sheikh Jarrah along with 16 other activists, the courts ruled that the police could no longer require a permit for such protests. By law the police are also authorized to disperse a protest at any time if they deem it to pose a threat to public security. However, the protests - which have been going on weekly since November 2009 in opposition to the displacement of Palestinian residents of the neighborhood by Jewish settlers - have repeatedly proven to be peaceful and harmless, as evident from footage filmed by the police, and shown in court.

When the four activists were arrested two months ago, the police offered to immediately release three, but asked Sara Benninga, one of the leading figures of the movement, to sign an agreement accepting certain conditions: in this specific case, a 180-day ban from participating in any demonstrations in Jerusalem, although by law the maximum number of days the police can demand is only 15. Knowing this was an exorbitant amount of time aimed at stifling her political activism, the other three refused the terms and all four faced a judge under threat of a six-month ban.

Arresting protesters is a tactic often used by the police to keep activists away from demonstrations for a substantial period of time, and by doing so, effectively stripping them of their right to protest and weakening the entire movement.

These tactics have been used against Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as well, specifically in the neighborhood of Silwan, where tensions have been high between them and both Jewish settlers and members of the security forces. Since January, Silwan resident and community organizer Jawad Siyam has been serving repeated sentences of house arrest for alleged assault of a fellow Palestinian resident - this despite the fact that the Magistrate's Court has already ruled that the state does not have sufficient evidence to convict him. Jawad is director of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, which aims to raise public awareness about Jewish settlement in the heart of Silwan, seen by the center as a deliberate effort to erode the Palestinian character of East Jerusalem. A leading figure in the community who openly opposes the settlement project, Jawad, even more so than his Israeli counterpart protesting in Sheikh Jarrah, is apparently seen as a threat by the police, who continue to arrest him under dubious pretenses in an effort to silence him.

The same tactics are also applied in the West Bank, when Israeli activists are arrested - often without due cause and in direct breach of Supreme Court rulings - and are asked to sign a release form stating they will not return to the area for 15 days. While the army claims the activists pose a threat to public security, this assertion has yet to be substantiated in a court of law.

In some cases, as happened recently in the southern West Bank near the illegal outpost of Havat Ma'on, 16 Israeli anti-occupation activists were arrested and asked to sign a release form that would prohibit them from entering the area for 15 days. Most of them refused, not only because they did not want to accept the ban, but also because they knew that the law was on their side and that if the case was brought to court, they would win. Indeed, after spending a night in jail, the activists faced the judge - who announced that the IDF had used erroneous judgment in declaring the area a closed military zone - and then released them all.

In all these cases, the courts have deemed the police and army's management of acts of civil protest to be in contempt of the law; in only one case has a handful of activists been compensated. Hopefully the threat of having to pay legal fees will compel the security forces to think twice before making illegitimate arrests. However, there is no sign that they are internalizing judicial rulings. In any event, it should not be the job of the courts to regularly correct the behavior of the very state apparatuses that are supposed to protect, not infringe upon, civil rights. Moreover, members of civil society should not be required to risk criminal records and enter expensive legal battles just to remind everyone what the law is and whom it is designed to protect.

Although the ruling handed down this week does show the ability of Israel's judiciary to step in when the state commits illegal and undemocratic actions, it is not so much a victory for democracy as it is a frightening indication of just how authoritarian a state Israel has become: A state where the security apparatus is regularly breaking the law in order to suppress individuals who oppose the government's particular political agenda.

Mairav Zonszein is an Israeli-American journalist based in Jerusalem and a writer and editor with 972mag.com.

***************************************


HARARETZ

OPINION

SIGNS OF AUTHORITARIANISM

ARRESTS OF ISRAELI PROTESTERS ON THE RISE; THIS IS A TACTIC OFTEN USED BY THE POLICE TO KEEP ACTIVISTS AWAY FROM DEMONSTRATIONS FOR A SUBSTANTIAL PERIOD OF TIME, EFFECTIVELY STRIPPING THEM OF THEIR RIGHT TO PROTEST, WEAKENING THE ENTIRE MOVEMENT.

BY MAIRAV ZONSZEIN

This week, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ordered the police to pay NIS 25,000 in compensation to four Israeli activists from the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, whom they arrested without due cause while they were protesting peacefully in front of city hall in February. Many called the decision a victory for democracy, but an examination of how the police and the Israel Defense Forces have been behaving in the face of civil disobedience reveals a frightening pattern in which these state institutions repeatedly break the law in order to suppress political activism - and for the most part get away with it.

Over the last year and a half, the police arrested over 160 Israeli protesters from the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement during demonstrations in Jerusalem, usually on a claim of illegal assembly.

In January 2010, after the Association for Civil Rights in Israel director Hagai El-Ad was arrested in Sheikh Jarrah along with 16 other activists, the courts ruled that the police could no longer require a permit for such protests. By law the police are also authorized to disperse a protest at any time if they deem it to pose a threat to public security. However, the protests - which have been going on weekly since November 2009 in opposition to the displacement of Palestinian residents of the neighborhood by Jewish settlers - have repeatedly proven to be peaceful and harmless, as evident from footage filmed by the police, and shown in court.

When the four activists were arrested two months ago, the police offered to immediately release three, but asked Sara Benninga, one of the leading figures of the movement, to sign an agreement accepting certain conditions: in this specific case, a 180-day ban from participating in any demonstrations in Jerusalem, although by law the maximum number of days the police can demand is only 15. Knowing this was an exorbitant amount of time aimed at stifling her political activism, the other three refused the terms and all four faced a judge under threat of a six-month ban.

Arresting protesters is a tactic often used by the police to keep activists away from demonstrations for a substantial period of time, and by doing so, effectively stripping them of their right to protest and weakening the entire movement.

These tactics have been used against Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as well, specifically in the neighborhood of Silwan, where tensions have been high between them and both Jewish settlers and members of the security forces. Since January, Silwan resident and community organizer Jawad Siyam has been serving repeated sentences of house arrest for alleged assault of a fellow Palestinian resident - this despite the fact that the Magistrate's Court has already ruled that the state does not have sufficient evidence to convict him. Jawad is director of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, which aims to raise public awareness about Jewish settlement in the heart of Silwan, seen by the center as a deliberate effort to erode the Palestinian character of East Jerusalem. A leading figure in the community who openly opposes the settlement project, Jawad, even more so than his Israeli counterpart protesting in Sheikh Jarrah, is apparently seen as a threat by the police, who continue to arrest him under dubious pretenses in an effort to silence him.

The same tactics are also applied in the West Bank, when Israeli activists are arrested - often without due cause and in direct breach of Supreme Court rulings - and are asked to sign a release form stating they will not return to the area for 15 days. While the army claims the activists pose a threat to public security, this assertion has yet to be substantiated in a court of law.

In some cases, as happened recently in the southern West Bank near the illegal outpost of Havat Ma'on, 16 Israeli anti-occupation activists were arrested and asked to sign a release form that would prohibit them from entering the area for 15 days. Most of them refused, not only because they did not want to accept the ban, but also because they knew that the law was on their side and that if the case was brought to court, they would win. Indeed, after spending a night in jail, the activists faced the judge - who announced that the IDF had used erroneous judgment in declaring the area a closed military zone - and then released them all.

In all these cases, the courts have deemed the police and army's management of acts of civil protest to be in contempt of the law; in only one case has a handful of activists been compensated. Hopefully the threat of having to pay legal fees will compel the security forces to think twice before making illegitimate arrests. However, there is no sign that they are internalizing judicial rulings. In any event, it should not be the job of the courts to regularly correct the behavior of the very state apparatuses that are supposed to protect, not infringe upon, civil rights. Moreover, members of civil society should not be required to risk criminal records and enter expensive legal battles just to remind everyone what the law is and whom it is designed to protect.

Although the ruling handed down this week does show the ability of Israel's judiciary to step in when the state commits illegal and undemocratic actions, it is not so much a victory for democracy as it is a frightening indication of just how authoritarian a state Israel has become: A state where the security apparatus is regularly breaking the law in order to suppress individuals who oppose the government's particular political agenda.

Mairav Zonszein is an Israeli-American journalist based in Jerusalem and a writer and editor with 972mag.com.

***************************************


HARARETZ

OPINION

FROM EXODUS TO HOMECOMING

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST I.F. STONE SPENT THE SEDER WITH HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS IN A DETENTION CAMP ON THE ISLAND OF CYPRUS IN 1947; STONE NOTED THE DEEP PERSONAL MEANING PASSOVER HAD FOR THESE RECENTLY 'ENSLAVED' JEWS.

BY RAFAEL MEDOFF

The famed investigative journalist I.F. Stone undoubtedly took part in some interesting Passover seders in his time, but he had never spent one with Jews whose lives particularly connected them to the events in ancient Egypt - until 1947, when he participated in a remarkable seder with Holocaust survivors in a detention camp on the island of Cyprus.

"This is being written 3,000 feet up over the blue Mediterranean," began Stone's dramatic account in the pages of the New York City daily newspaper PM. "I am in a tiny four-passenger two-motored mosquito plane bound for Haifa from Nicosia in Cyprus, where I have just spent the first two days of Passover in camps established by the British to intern 'illegal' Jewish immigrants seized in Palestine."

They were tumultuous times, to say the least. Hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors still crowded the displaced persons camps in Allied-occupied Europe, clamoring for the right to immigrate to Palestine. The British, bowing to Arab opposition, had almost completely shut the gates to the Holy Land. Palestine itself was in flames, as Jewish underground forces waged guerrilla warfare against the British authorities. Meanwhile, in Washington, the Truman administration wobbled back and forth on the politically controversial issues of Jewish immigration and statehood.

In a desperate race for the Promised Land, survivors were boarding Aliyah Bet (unauthorized immigration ) ships bound for the Palestine coast. More often than not, they were intercepted by British naval patrols and taken to Cyprus. That's where I.F. Stone's story began.

"There are two sets of camps on the sweet-smelling ancient Greek Isle of Cyprus for 11,300 refugees now held there," Stone explained. "Both are being enlarged to meet the expected Spring rush of Aliyah Beth boats which will probably boost the Jewish population to 20,000 before the end of June."

The detainees were living in Nissen huts, which Stone described as "the ugliest architecture known to mankind - a sort of tin igloo with cement flooring set in bleak rows on the level grassless plots near the sea, surrounded with barbed wire and a row of latrines." A typical hut housed three families in three rooms.

On Passover eve, "unexpected and unannounced," Stone and a friend, Alex Taylor of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, dropped in on the Efrati family: Moshe Efrati, 35, "a laundryman by trade," his wife Rachel, their 15-year-old daughter Miriam and 12-year-old son Eliezer. Despite the lack of an invitation, the visitors "were at once made welcome."

"Father Efrati sat at the head of the table, reclining on a pillow as is customary for the seder," Stone's account continued. "On his right, sat his bright-eyed son of 12, already a student in the yeshivah organized by religious Jews in the camp. On the father's left sat his good wife and daughter. Alex and I were given haggadas (Passover service books ) and the seder went on."

"It was no hop-skip-and-jump affair, as is customary in most American Jewish homes," Stone noted. "Efrati left nothing out. We rose to drink our wine with blessings, partook of the bitter herbs and first matzohs. Efrati sang the parts with relish and explained and translated as he went along..."

Stone, himself a secular Jew, was clearly moved by the warmth and religious devotion of the family in the midst of such difficult surroundings. "The mother looked on as if she didn't know how one man could be so bright," he wrote, "and the daughter was fascinated while the son's eyes shone."

What struck Stone the most was the connection between past and present. "The Passover has a deep personal meaning for these Jews ... For them the ancient cruel taskmasters were no fable: They had been in slave labor camps under German occupation. For them, the God who smote the Egyptians was the same God who brought the Third Reich low."

Stone was profoundly impressed by the vibrant life he saw among the Cyprus exiles, as he strolled around the camp the next day. "Life flows on strong, and vigorous babies are being born at the rate of 30 to 40 monthly," he reported. "There have been almost 600 weddings since the camps were established last August, and there were 135 nuptials during the two weeks before Passover.

"There are schools and synagogues, camp newspapers, an art exhibition, and workshops," not to mention "several soccer teams which often play the British guards and boast they have never been beaten."

What did the future hold? The seder at the Efratis' offered a clue. "Were [the displaced persons in Cyprus] not like the Jews under Moses?" Stone asked. "Moses went through one kind of wilderness or another to the promised land. And as Efrati explained in his own running commentary to the service comfortingly, 'We had to go down into Egypt for 400 years, but we need only be six months or so in Cyprus.'"

Stone thought Efrati's prediction too optimistic. Given the severe British restrictions on Jewish immigration, he observed, "it will take 18 months before the latest arrivals get their chance to go to Palestine."

But British rule in Palestine did not last another 18 months. That autumn, in the face of the Jewish underground's military assaults and sharply escalating international pressure - generated in no small measure by sympathetic journalists such as Stone - the British surrendered. Seven months after Stone's Passover with the Efratis, London accepted the United Nations vote on partitioning Palestine and announced it would withdraw. Four months later, the first British troops began leaving, and two months after that, on May 15, 1948, the British withdrawal was completed.

For the Efratis and thousands of other displaced persons whose plight I.F. Stone helped publicize with his impassioned prose, the exodus was over and homecoming was finally at hand.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies (www.wymaninstitute.org ).

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - IS THIS A EUROPEAN APPROACH?

Fair enough. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has a very good sense of the art of oration, which he has proven so many times in Turkey and abroad. Blunt but undiplomatic rhetoric does obviously work in his favor in his political speeches, even in Strasbourg on Tuesday where he addressed thousands of Turks living in France, however, we should be frank, it is no use at the Council of Europe.

As it hit the headline of the Daily News' edition yesterday, Erdoğan appeared before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, or PACE, two years after he last visited the city. No surprise occurred. European parliamentarians' questions were tough and so were Erdoğan's responses. Questions that varied from press freedom to election threshold, from minority rights to constitutional amendments were as legitimate as they could be. However, we cannot really say the same thing for Erdoğan's responses, neither style-wise, nor content-wise.

The prime minister was too aggressive and assertive in his dialogue with the parliamentarians, often bashing them with his strong words full of one-sided arguments. As seen visibly, Erdoğan's single argument was his assertion that "those who criticize his government had no genuine information and were misled by anti-government circles." That stance was once again reflected when answering French MP Muriel Marland Militello's question on minority rights and Dutch MP Tiny Kox's question on election threshold. Instead of explaining the fundamentals of his government on these specific issues, he chose to engage in a quarrel with the MPs with a set of incomprehensible arguments. 

Take this for example: He said Turkey will not ask PACE or any other Council of Europe institutions to decide the fate of Turkey's 10 percent election threshold. If that line of thinking would be the real case, we would respect his words without any reservation. But it was the same government who invited the council's Venice Commission to advise them on re-shaping the judiciary, which was later put to a referendum. Again the government sought the same commission's consultations on allowing individual applications to the Constitutional Court. And furthermore, it was Erdoğan himself who promised better representation for parties in Parliament in the past. So, what's this bluster for?

Don't take us to be so naïve as to not be able to see the purpose behind the actions. As a European MP told the Daily News, Wednesday's session was perhaps the de facto commencement of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, election campaign. Perhaps it was not.

One thing we are sure about is that this demeanor will not help boost ties with the European Union or Turkey's negotiation talks. Another aspect the government should not forget is the importance of the Turkish public opinion in the EU bid. This kind of rhetoric seriously hurts this support.

Last but not least, we believe government officials should be keen to embrace a more civilized, polite manner in their dialogue with European institutions.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

NO LONGER TURKEY VS FRANCE, THIS IS ERDOĞAN VS SARKOZY

BARÇIN YİNANÇ

Do you recall Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's frustration when he first heard about Israel's military offensive on Gaza, just a few days after having hosted Israel's then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert? Actually frustration is an understatement. Erdoğan was very, very angry. Israel's bombs not only destroyed Gaza, they also destroyed the tremendous progress, achieved by Erdoğan's personal efforts, for reconciliation between Israel and Syria, something that looked to be just around the corner.

Erdoğan is known to hate smokers and smoking. But he was so satisfied with the progress he had scored after a lengthy, face-to-face discussion with Olmert and on the phone with Bashar al-Asad that he could not turn down his guest's wish to smoke a big cigar.

A similar disappointment seems to rein over Erdoğan with French President Nicolas Sarkozy's policies. Just a few days after Sarkozy's short visit to Ankara last March, during which he praised Turkey's role in international affairs, France avoided inviting Turkey to the conference it held in Paris to evaluate a possible military intervention to Libya.

Not only Erdoğan but also many Turkish diplomats are extremely frustrated with France's attitude. The excuse voiced by France on the grounds that Turkey was against military intervention is rebuffed by the Turkish diplomats who point to the invitation offered to Germany, which had even abstained on the United Nations vote opening the door to military intervention.

"What was Greece, who can't even see right in front of its eyes because of its economic crisis, doing there?" asked Turkish officials. When a French official was asked what for instance Iraq's Kurdish Foreign Minister was doing in Paris, the answer was: "We wanted to make use of their experience of the implementation of the no-fly zone over northern Iraq."

"It was Turkey that was implementing the no-fly zone together with the Americans," reacted his Turkish counterpart.

Even colder winds have been blowing between Ankara and Paris since then, as both sides started to hit below the waist. Turkish officials are convinced that France has been provoking the Libyan rebels against Turkey, saying the Turkish government is halting the pace of NATO bombardments. As a result, short of naming France, Erdoğan's criticism of France has increased in its sharpness and frequency.

As I have expressed previously, Sarkozy seems to be obsessed (negatively, obviously) by Turkey. He just does not want to have anything to do with Turkey. His stance, naturally, affects the position of the French bureaucracy.

The recent official visit of Turkey's EU chief negotiator Egemen Bağış to Paris is the latest example of how French diplomats are terrorized by Sarkozy. There was not a single word about his visit on the French Ministry's website, whereas the visit of the Greek Patriarch Bartholomew that took place a few days later was all over the website.

New trend in Turkish-French ties

Sarkozy's dislike of Turkey, the French bureaucracy's limited influence over Elysee Palace, and the overall strategic blindness of France is not something new. France (not only Sarkozy but all of its institutions) needs to make a mental shift and see that Turkey is now a different ball game.

But the uneasy relationship between the two countries looks to be taking on a new trend.

Interestingly, as the two leaders are facing elections, Erdoğan in two months time and Sarkozy in a year's time, it seems to me that the tension between the two countries is becoming less about the two governments' differences but more of a clash of two strong personalities with similar characteristic.

During his visit to Strasbourg, Erdoğan did something that is very rarely seen in diplomacy; he criticized a president on the territory of his own country. In addition he has done it in a way that would irritate Sarkozy, who believes the Turks of Anatolia have no place in Europe.

While in Strasbourg to attend a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, he addressed thousands of Turks in a rally-like meeting. "You are our members of the European Union despite opposition from some circles," he told them. He again accused France on Libya, saying the French see nothing but oil wells.

He was also indirectly critical of the recent French ban on wearing a veil, as he talked of Islamophobia calling it "inhumane" and saying it is as dangerous as racism. He continued criticizing Sarkozy while answering questions from members of Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, accusing France of not respecting individual freedom of conscience.

While we should expect this tension to continue between Erdoğan and Sarkozy, this clash of the two strong personalities might have grave consequences in the mid- and long-term at the grass roots level.

The social problems of the Muslim communities in France are an issue of highest sensitivity, which does not have the luxury of being used for Turkey's domestic agenda.

The recent ban targets only 1,900 people, none of whom are Turks. The 550,000-strong Turkish community makes up nearly 10 percent of the Muslims in France. The clear majority of Muslims there do not approve of extremely conservative interpretations of Islam, like wearing a burqa. Yet there is the fear that initiatives such as the recent ban might start becoming disturbing and is increasing disapproval against the French state.

As a responsible Turkish government, representing a secular democracy with a majority Muslim population, which has the asset of understanding the sensitivities of Muslim communities as well as secular systems, the right thing to do would obviously have been to convey Turkey's messages through diplomatic channels. Even if Turkey's advice is not sought after or that it falls on deaf ears, that still does not legitimize Prime Minister Erdoğan's public criticisms that can be perceived by the larger French public as igniting hatred among local Muslim communities.

That is the last thing we would want in the already problematic relations between Turkey and France.

Erdoğan might not realize it, but Sarkozy is not liked by his own people. While according to the latest polls, a clear majority of France is supportive of the military intervention in Libya, this has not affected Sarkozy's popularity that sits at about 30 percent.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM 'SERVANTS OF ARMENIANS' TO JUST 'FRENCH'

BURAK BEKDİL

I am not sure if this is something the French should be proud of. But in less than three decades they have been upgraded from being "servants of Armenians," as stadiums full of Turks shouted at visiting French teams, to "just French," as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan referred to them on Wednesday, meaning "they are totally ignorant of [Turkish] affairs."

During a question-answer session at the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg, a French MP asked him a question about how he would guarantee freedoms for religious minorities in Turkey. "I believe this friend is French. She is also 'French' to Turkey," Mr. Erdoğan answered, resorting to a blunt Turkish saying that teases someone who is a total stranger to a subject.

Perhaps the entire European audience was "French" because, otherwise, at least a good three-quarters of the MPs would have fainted from extreme fits of laughter when Mr. Erdoğan said that "Turkey enjoys the best of democracy." I was disappointed over the level of ignorance (Frenchness) on Turkish affairs, as evinced by the lack of MPs admitted to hospital. Ah, the French! They are everywhere…

But this is not the first time the council's hall is full of "French" MPs. I particularly remember sessions in which the entire audience hailed Mr. Erdoğan as a true reformer in previous years. And yes, Mr. Erdoğan is a true reformer. He has reformed Turkey into an "Islamic democracy," as President Barack Obama refers to the Crescent and Star, which practically means "democracy for pious Muslims only."

But what is Mr. Erdoğan's problem with France? It's definitely not about the French skepticism about Turkish accession into a club Mr. Erdoğan has no intention of leading Turkey into. It's not about a French parliamentary resolution that recognized the Armenian genocide almost two years before Mr. Erdoğan came to power. It's about the fact that Mr. Erdoğan is in a cold war with France, precisely for the same reasons why he has been in a (not-so-cold) war with secular Muslims in Turkey.

On Wednesday, Mr. Erdoğan accused France of not respecting individual religious freedoms. Apparently, France's recent decision to ban women from wearing the (Islamic) full face veil has added to his anti-French (read: anti-secular) sentiments. In truth, Mr. Erdoğan's anti-secular ideology, disguised as pro-democratic reformism, views the land of Voltaire as the enemy outside – and secular Turks as the enemy within.

Mr. Erdoğan often resorts to arithmetic democracy to justify controversial legislation at home that is often aimed at undermining the country's (once) secular ethos. Words like "but this is how the democratically-elected MPs wanted it," or "this is the will of the nation," or "the elected have thus decided on behalf of the nation, so this is democracy" abound when he needs to defend an Islamist practice/legislation. Every decision approved by the Turkish Parliament, which is ruled by his party's majority, has been sacrosanct by definition, and those who did not like it had to respect the will of the nation by proxy – Parliament.

Now it's time Mr. Erdoğan applies the same logic, the same rhetoric to the French Parliament's decision. The veil ban can be good, bad, democratic, undemocratic; but it reflects the will of the French nation by proxy – Parliament. Or is Mr. Erdoğan telling us that parliamentary decisions in favor of Islamist practice are by definition sacred especially when passed in the Turkish house, but parliamentary decisions safeguarding secularism (and against Islamism) are by definition undemocratic especially when passed in the French house?

In Strasbourg, Mr. Erdoğan boasted that Turkey fully respected religious freedoms for minorities (non-Muslims). To justify his claim, the prime minister said that he generously allowed prayers (once a year or so) at Greek and Armenian Orthodox and Christian churches in Turkey. If the freedom to prayer is sufficient evidence for religious freedoms, he should be grateful, not full of hatred, to France, where millions of Muslims pray freely at mosques everyday.

And at least in France, imams are not being killed.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

IS ERDOĞAN 'FRENCH' WHEN IT COMES TO EUROPE?

SEMİH İDİZ

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's highly abrasive performance in Strasbourg, at the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on Wednesday, has set a new tone for Ankara in its dealings with Europe. Some are taking this performance as the most concrete expression to date of Turkey's drifting away from the West under the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, administration.

Erdoğan did of course have important and highly valid points to make during his speech and the text is available on the Prime Ministry's website for those interested to know what these were. These important remarks were nevertheless totally overshadowed with the angry responses he gave to the deputies in the question-and-answer session.

Erdoğan's angry remarks appeared to exemplify a person who does not feel like part of the Western system but like someone who is outside that system, and who believes the best defense is offense in the face of criticism coming from alien quarters.

Again, as we have seen at the U.N. and NATO in the recent past, it appears Mr. Erdoğan speaks at international fora, not as the prime minister of a secular Turkey that has belonged to the Western system for over half a century, but as an outsider and someone who considers himself to be a spokesman for the Islamic world against a Christian West that is still driven by the desire to conquer and colonize.

Speaking from this perspective he was, in effect, telling the European deputies in Strasbourg who directed questions at him to look at their own deficiencies first before criticizing others, and not to poke their noses in matters that are "nobodies business but the Turks,'" to quote the refrain from the famous song "Istanbul-Constantinople" popularized by the late Eartha Kitt and others.

The fact however is that Turkey has been a member of the Council of Europe for 61 years, as Erdoğan himself acknowledged during his address on Wednesday, and it was telling that a Turk was heading the assembly as he spoke.

He should therefore have been informed better by his advisors that it is very much the council's business to poke its nose into issues like minority rights, press freedom and electoral barrages in Turkey, or in any member state for that matter.

Mr. Erdoğan's anger is of course really directed at the EU, and at France in particular, which under President Sarkozy has turned into an object of national hatred for many Turks.

The driving force of this anger is clearly the negative noises coming out of Paris concerning Turkey's membership in the EU, and the efforts by France to marginalize Ankara in North Africa, not to mention the Armenian issue, which appears set to raise its head again in the coming weeks in the French parliament.

This is why anything French is making Erdoğan see red these days, and this was made amply clear in his less than diplomatic outburst when a French deputy asked him about minority rights in Turkey on Wednesday. Erdoğan accused that deputy of "being French" on this subject, a remark which was no doubt totally lost on the deputies gathered there.

The French may have their "Tete de Turc" [an expression meaning scapegoat or whipping boy], but the Turkish expression "being French" means that the person is "clueless" about the matter in hand. The French deputy who asked him about minority rights – meaning of course Christian rights – unfortunately played into Erdoğan's hand here. Had she done some homework and acknowledged the things Erdoğan went on to point out in his response, the outcome would have been quite different.

Instead a perfect opportunity was handed to Erdoğan to self-righteously highlight the positive steps the AKP administration has taken, concerning the Orthodox Patriarch. He also underlined that his administration had opened the way for Christian rites to be held at the monastery in Sümela, and the Church on Van's Akdamar Island, which was restored by his government.

This does not mean, of course, that Turkey has done enough in this regard, neither does it justify Erdoğan's outburst. While the question to him could have been much more informed, he could have made his point in a much friendlier manner.

One cannot overlook the fact, however, that this tone of his has a receptive audience at home. This is why many commentators were quick to point out that what Erdoğan did in Strasbourg was actually to kick off his political campaign prior to the June elections.

It is nevertheless clear that Turkey is going through its own "freedom fries" moment, just as the U.S. did after its invasion of Iraq, and this situation seems unlikely to change anytime soon.

European deputies who questioned Erdoğan on Wednesday on issues like press freedoms and the 10 percent electoral barrage were of course fully justified in doing so. It is after all the job of the Council of Europe to question these matters. There was, therefore, no need for Erdoğan's angry retort to the effect that if Turkey decided to reduce the electoral barrage this would not happen because someone in Europe wanted it.

He was also misinformed when he indicated that there are electoral barrages as high as 8 percent in Europe. Someone should have told him that the highest electoral barrage in Europe, if we discount Russia where it is 7 percent, is 5 percent.

Neither was he justified in trying to show journalists who have been arrested under the Ergenekon case as supporters of military coups, and equating their writings with "bombs." Given that it is still not clear what the indictment against these journalists contain, Erdoğan put himself in the position of prosecutor, judge and jury.

Regardless of all this, however, it is still a healthy sign that Erdoğan's remarks are also being strongly criticized by sensible Turks, regardless of what populist appeal he may be trying to generate at home among the masses. Many Turkish commentators are accusing Erdoğan of "being French" when it comes to European institutions and standards, even if they acknowledge his assertion that not all European countries are acting according to these standards themselves.

Such Turks also continue to be concerned about the direction their hitherto Western-orientated country is taking under the AKP administration.  While this apparent drifting away from Europe by Turkey is undoubtedly pleasing to introverted right-wing Europeans, it must be of some concern for those sensible enough to see that a Turkey out of the Western fold will pose serious problems for Europe in the future.

Prime Minister Erdoğan's outbursts should provide them with some hints in this respect.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

MENTALITY…

YUSUF KANLI

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari was one of the participants of the Turkish Economy Policies Research Foundation or TEPAV, a think tank of the Turkish Union of Chambers. Ever since its establishment TEPAV has become an excellent center contributing immensely to intellectual activity and naturally to expansion of democratic awareness in the Turkish capital.

Democracy is a difficult phenomenon. As Winston Churchill said, however, it is the "worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried." Even though apparently this writer and many other people at home and abroad have difficulty in grasping the virtues of "advanced democracy" of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, the fundamentals of "simple" democratic governance are rather plain and easy to comprehend for anyone.

First of all, unlike "advanced democracy" where everyone is free in praising and flattering in whatever way he or she might consider appropriate the undertakings, policies, perceptions, assumptions of the absolute ruler and his political clan, in simple democracy criticism is welcome as well and people who dare to criticize the politicians in power are not banished to concentration camps, let's say like the one in Silivri. Even if politicians did not like to hear what those nasty critics say, out of respect to right of expression that even enables a rough absolute leader deliver insults to deputies at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, they are given the opportunity to express themselves.

Freedom of expression and the freedom of press, of course, are among the central pillars of a democracy and in the absence of them no roof of democracy can exist. Those freedoms alone are not sufficient of course for democratic governance. There is definitely a need to respect freedom of conscience and within that framework a firm commitment by the state to stay at equal distance to all religions, make sure that all citizens have the right to freely exercise requirements of their religion without hindering the rights of the others. For that, there is absolute need for the state to be secular. Of course there is no need for the constitution of a country to have a secularity clause in its constitution like Turkey, but in practice a state ought to be secular should it want to be a democracy. Perhaps not having a secularity clause and being secular in practice is far better in view of the bitter Turkish example where there is a secularity clause, yet a state agency – the Diyanet or religious affairs directorate – regulates how the people should perform requirements of the religion yet some section of the society live in constant Islamist threat perception while a huge section of the society keep on complaining that they cannot live their religion as they would like. And of course, in a democratic society there ought to be supremacy of law and equality of all in front of law. Plus, there must be institutions of democracy.

But, they will not be enough for a healthy democracy. A while ago I came across in a book a rather complicated and lengthy philosophical analysis on the difference between modernity, civility, democratic mentality and primitivity, rudeness and radical mindset which indeed might have been summarized in one or two sentences. Of course modernity, civility and primitivity, radicalism or rudeness are as far apart terminologies as day and night. One requires reconciliation, consensus, dialogue the other is brute, confronting, uncompromising. One is for building, the other for demolishing.

Pakistan's President Zardari – who concedes that is yet striving to acquire full democratic governance and despite all the problems would remain committed to the road to democracy – spoke at the TEPAV roundtable with some vivid examples. He used the terms of "culture of revenge" and the "culture of reconciliation" for example, in trying to explain the challenges ahead. If a society opts for culture of revenge, he said, it should not be forgotten that "if you walk behind men holding arms, must know that a day will come those men holding arms will walk on you." Yet, civilized people wishing to prosper in democracy must be capable of accepting the bitter reality, reconciling with the challenge, solve problems through reconciliation and walk towards prosperity in democratic governance. If 100 lives are lost in a problem but the toll might be in thousands if a policy of revenge is continued, it is wiser to seek reconciliation, limit the loss in 100 lives and walk ahead toward a resolution in reconciliation, he explained.

Pakistan is not claiming to be an advanced democracy. It is trying to progress toward democratic governance despite all tribal problems and difficulties emanating from "friendly fire" in nearby Afghanistan. It is aware that in some distant lands, like the "smaller Turkey" or "divided Libya" plans, there are "smaller Pakistan" designs, but appears confident that the "majority" will not allow such "hostile designs."

Mentality does matter…

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

EUROPE REGRETS, TURKEY IS PLEASED

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

The Turkish public was very pleased with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's speech in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.  

I might summarize as follows:

"Enough now, they've been constantly criticizing us for years. No matter what we do we can't seem to please them. Someone had to step forward and give a piece of their mind. And the prime minister did a great job. He put them down."

Of course, there are those, like columnist Ahmet Altan who criticized this speech and wrote headlines like "To remain Turk in Europe" stating that there is no need for such brisk reaction because Turkey as part of Europe needs to accept some values.

I was curious about echoes of the speech in Europe.

I have talked to those who in Strasbourg and Brussels follow Turkey closely.

As you might guess, this speech has not become a subject on the European agenda. It has not created much echo but some circles have been fairly interested.

The most interesting interpretation was made by leaders of political groups in the Council of Europe during a traditional dinner held the same night the prime minister held his speech. During dinner the most important and common content of conversation was, "If you invite a leader who has entered into election campaigns you need to be prepared for such reactions."

These leaders don't blame Erdoğan explicitly and actually justify him for political reasons but stress that the timing wasn't right.

Not difficult questions

To tell the truth, questions directed to the prime minister were not difficult. In all these years as a journalist I have participated in such meetings. And I have seen many Turkish ministers of foreign affairs being torn apart during the period of 1970 and 1990.

President Abdullah Gül participated twice in these meetings, once as prime minister and once as president. He was asked worse questions and answered them in a calm way.

But Erdoğan has different manners.

His expression of "We know what to do…" and his statement about the 10 percent national election threshold were interpreted as internal politics and part of the election campaign.

But his statement in the lines of "those who contribute in the making of a bomb have to be considered guilty as well," with respect to the book event has attracted much reaction and criticism in Strasbourg and Brussels.

To summarize I'd say that the Europeans are aware that Erdoğan is a blunt leader. Even if getting accustomed to his manner is beside the point, they are at least no longer shocked by it.

Tension with France increasing

One other point that attracted attention in the speech of the prime minister was the targeting of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

His words in the assembly and during the meeting with Turkish citizens as well as during the press conference paint a clear picture.

Just like Sarkozy made the issue of keeping Turkey outside the European Union one of his most important element of his election campaign Erdoğan exhibited the same approach.

Instead of attacking Europe in general he targeted Sarkozy.

There are two reasons behind that.

One is that in May the Armenian "genocide" resolution seems to come before the French Senate once more. This is to signal that such a step would worsen the existing tense relationship.

The other is developments in Libya.

General belief in Ankara is that France is undermining Turkey.

People say that Paris blames Ankara for the lack of support to the insurgents, for the ineffectiveness of the NATO bombing and for lobbying Gadhafi to keep some power of administration in his own hands.

Meaning that Turkey is being bullied.

And this increased Erdoğan's reactions.

The 10 percent threshold

The prime minister said that the election threshold being as high as 10 percent provides political stability. He then said, "And you have a barrier of 7-8 percent. And beside, we don't have to get your permission?" (There is no 8 percent in Europe. Only one country has a 7 percent barrier).

Actually, he may have referred to the European Court of Human Rights' decision and be more convincing.

You may recall that decision; it read: even though it is unfavorable in respect to fair representation it is not a breach with respect to the law. And the court decided that independent candidates should be elected without being bound by a quota or threshold.

It does not make any sense to defend the 10 percent threshold. It is inevitable to lower the barrier to 7 percent. This barrier was designed to keep Kurdish politicians out of parliament but that doesn't work anymore.

All parties oppose this threshold while being the opposition party but forget about it when they party to power.

But this injustice will be put straight eventually.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM MASCULINE DEMOCRACY TO 'GENUINE DEMOCRACY'

ORAL ÇALIŞLAR

Politics in Turkey is a man's job. Politics in Turkey is an old person's job. This is what we have seen all along. Our politics as driven by old men does not have a flamboyant and pleasant past.

"Masculine politics" had two legs: The elected and the appointed. Since the appointed were superior to the elected, we have always been governed by a limping, insufficient democracy. In recent years though, politics in Turkey is on its way to becoming free of the hegemony of the appointed.

Those who never had to worry about being elected have played down social needs and expectations. For instance, how valuable could the votes of women – constituting half of the population – be in a country when its government cannot be formed by elections in real sense? That the appointed have been in control of politics has always been a factor that determined politics' masculine character. The prime principle of democracy is elections and that the system enjoys stability without being threatened by coups. But it is not the one and only principle. Democracy cannot advance without guaranteeing minority rights, having an election system that provides realistic popular representation, as well as mature inner-party democracy.

As "elections have forestalled coups," voters have begun to cast their weight around more. Political parties seem attentive to the idea of including women and youth on deputy candidate lists. Parties know that from now on, women and youth will look at female and young candidates on electoral lists, not at "big men." (It is not easy to increase the number of female parliamentarians to 275, but the expectation is that the figure might almost double this time in comparison to the 2007 general elections.) Still, let me remind you that candidate lists are made by three "male" political party leaders. And one more reminder is that women wearing headscarves are still prevented from Parliament.

What the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, does differently from the other three parties is ensure the equal representation of women in the party administration. However, there is a risk that the BDP, 36 of whose representatives were women in the last elections, will send fewer females to Parliament this time. (Only 13 of a total of 61 candidates are women, and that makes one think about the risk.)

We hardly have a positive answer if you ask, "Is the energy high for the election?" There is no strong energy flow to wipe away all our concerns. The candidate lists released have quited us down, keeping the tempo in one spot.

The most interesting part of the process is the new constitution project. The governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in fact, is focusing on the constitution project as part of the election program. I don't think the opposition leader Republican People's Party, or CHP, will look negatively – or will adopt a pro-status quo approach – toward the project.

But the real issue is to reach consensus over a new and democratic constitution. Former CHP leader Deniz Baykal had insisted on, in short that "whoever risks facing a coup or being hanged can change the Constitution." Efforts to change it have always been hampered by the opposition's threats, military interventions and the judiciary's resistance. (Didn't the AKP do anything wrong along the way? Of course, it did…)

Although several representatives of the of the etatist core of the CHP will be elected to Parliament, the CHP parliamentary group will be quite different this time. And if the AKP conducts the process very well, a renewed CHP will make contributions to the process of redesigning the country at the behest of the popular will. The CHP's list has seemed to fall into line with the energy in spite of everything else.

The BDP has hopes with candidates and dynamism in the southeast, and the AKP is excited for an approaching third election victory. The National Movement Party, or MHP, however, seems less enthusiastic about the process; among the four big political parties, the MHP is having difficulties understanding the changes. The problem is not with candidate lists, but the inability in generating new discourses or new solutions.

Let me say that the new Parliament is likely to have a higher percentage of popular representation compared to past terms despite the 10 percent election threshold.

Author's Note: Title of my piece is a slogan used by the Association for the Support and Training of Women Candidates, or Ka-Der. I thank Ka-Der for their efforts in the election period.

* Oral Çalışlar is a columnist at daily Radikal, in which this piece first appeared. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ERDOĞAN'S STRASBOURG SPURT

SERGÜL TAŞDEMİR

Three months ago, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan clearly stated in a Newsweek article that Turkey was no longer a "country that would wait at the European Union's door like a docile supplicant." In the same article, "The Robust Man of Europe," Erdoğan claimed that Turkey needed the EU as much as the EU needed Turkey – a sentiment he repeated Wednesday in the European Council Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg.

The enthusiasm toward EU membership seems to have been fading in the last few years. The country's accession process gained huge momentum with the opening of negotiations in October 2005 but this did not last long due to Turkey's non-compliance in opening its ports to Cyprus in December 2006.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's so-called "new foreign policy," which is said to have set the main agenda of current Turkish foreign policy since 2002, started to be even more assertive in the second term of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, from 2005 on. Today, the AKP, which aspires to a third term in power, is focused on the upcoming general elections in June, along with everyone else in Ankara. The parties declared their lists of candidate deputies on Monday.

In the meantime, the AKP's campaign transcends national boundaries. Prime Minister Erdoğan seems not to be wasting his time while he is abroad. However, the European Council Parliamentary Assembly might not have been the right place to do this. In his response to the parliamentarians, Erdoğan frequently mentioned the words "us," "our government" and "our people." He did not even hesitate to use a slang Turkish idiom in his answer to the French (UMP) deputy Muriel Marland-Militello, when she asked Erdoğan about the protection of the rights of religious minorities in Turkey. Erdoğan lashed out at this question using an unfortunate idiom, saying that she "was French on the issue," meaning that one is unfamiliar with the issues. Erdoğan confirmed that the parliamentarian was French and then accused her of "being French on the issues" in Turkey and not following what is happening in the country.

The manner he used when answering questions from parliamentarians will be discussed a lot, and it has already begun to be interpreted as a second "one-minute" crisis. The international community might be familiar with Erdoğan's diplomatic manners at Davos, and the actions in Strasbourg will not take Turkey further in its European aspirations. On the contrary, the main opposition against Turkey's membership in the EU coming, especially from France and Germany, will get even stronger and more widespread among other member countries.

As a statesman, Erdoğan has to know how to control his anger in these kinds of high-level meetings that the whole international community is closely watching. If the aim in Strasbourg was to gain more popularity back home, then it is no doubt that the shot was successful enough to find its target.

However, the damage caused in Europe will only take Turkey a couple of steps backward instead of moving forward, as would have been expected from a country that has long had a commitment to joining the EU.

Let's just hope that all the years invested in the EU won't be in vain after all.

* Sergül Taşdemir is a graduate student at Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

RIGHTS AND WRONGS

 

The 're-trial' of the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case could, arguably, still bring forward facts that are relevant to our history. This is the reason that the PPP top brass cites for reopening the matter – even though doing so won't, of course, undo the events of April 1979 and the hanging at dawn which changed the destiny of an entire nation. Many who were old enough at the time recall – as was the case with the assassination of President Kennedy or the events of 9/11 – precisely what they were doing at the moment they received the news. This makes it relevant that the full truth be known. But while the Supreme Court has indicated that it will ensure this happens, the real motives behind the PPP's reopening of the case are open to question. Concerns have been voiced that the real intention may be to embarrass the apex court or distract attention from other issues. So far, the party has only succeeded in exposing itself by indulging in behaviour that many already consider ludicrous.

Bizarrely, the man who has taken upon himself the role of defending ZAB in the case, Babar Awan, is well known for having spoken out bitterly against the founder of the party in the days that led up to his death and even advocated his execution. His role as part of the opposition to the PPP too lives on in the memories of many. The fact that this man now holds so much power within the party – even as others known for years of staunch support for Bhutto and his late daughter have been sidelined – can only leave one wondering at the hypocrisy and deceit involved in the whole affair. Awan, in typical melodramatic fashion, has said that he will 'speak' in the voice of ZAB. It is a relief that the late Bhutto, a man admired for his courage and his refusal to abandon principle, is not alive today to see the charade, apparently thought up by Awan himself. Awan must also have considered all the consequences. Inevitably, tough questions about his own past will come up in court. We wonder what answers he will be able to offer about his own past or the reasons why the PPP should have allowed him to plead the case, given the feelings he once had against ZAB. While looking into history is important, it is also a fact that many will wonder if this is not a luxury we cannot afford at this time of multiple crises, when so many problems that concern our present need to be addressed on an urgent basis.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

 

NO RESPITE

 

The deaths of six more people in South Waziristan, killed by a drone on Wednesday, is the clearest message yet that we are not masters in our own house. There have been ups and down in the frequency of such attacks in the last four months, with a lull at one point suggesting that there had been a rethink in US policy and that such events were to be either absent or rare henceforth. It was a false dawn and the drones are back with a vengeance. Perhaps as many as 50 died in a single strike on March 17 prompting an unusually vehement response from Chief of Army Staff General Kayani, and now we hear of diplomatic efforts to rein in the Americans. Prime Minister Gilani said in the National Assembly that we were seeking to enlist the help of 'friendly countries' in an effort to bring pressure or influence to bear. Considering that there are relatively few countries that might be considered to be actively friendly to us, and those that are actively friendly may have little clout when it comes to persuading the US towards another course, Mr Gilani may be erring on the side of optimism.

Over-optimistic or not, we are right when we say that the drone strikes do nothing to enhance the image of America in the eyes of our population. The strikes act as negative reinforcers and the Americans have yet to devise a strategy that might provide a counter-current to the tide of negativism flowing in their direction. That the strikes are to continue whether we like it or not seems to have been made clear at the recent meeting between the director of the CIA and the head of the ISI. America can do as it wishes not only with us, but with any number of other smaller states where it has power and influence and which have a part to play in US grand strategy. The difference this time may be that we have started to 'push back'. A habit we should do much to cultivate.

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

PIRACY THWARTED

 

Piracy on the high seas is a very modern phenomenon. These days it is not a matter of buccaneers sailing under the Jolly Roger with a parrot on their shoulder; it is deadly serious business conducted by Somalis who have taken dozens of ships and millions of dollars in ransom. Piracy in the Indian Ocean and up in to the mouths of the two great gulfs either side of the Arabian Peninsula has reached such a pitch that an international force now patrols these waters in an attempt to limit it. Why this is a matter of concern for us is that there are many Pakistani crew members on the ships that ply these waters, and inevitably, some of them have fallen into piratical hands.

We have the Danish navy to thank for rescuing 16 Pakistanis and two Iranians who had been held since last year. The owners of the ships that they were crewing were trying to negotiate their release, but in March the pirates threatened to kill the Pakistanis they were holding unless $20 million was paid to them. On April 2 the Danish navy rescue team, with air support, fought a pitched battle with the pirates and captured 15, along with the vessel they were using as a 'mother ship' to extend their operational range. Careful note should be taken of the way in which the pirates have advanced their operational envelope over the last three years. They started seizing ships that were close inshore, but now are able to reach right across the Indian Ocean and it is not inconceivable that they may eventually find their way into our own coastal waters. They are efficient, ruthless and very good at what they do. Heavily armed and often well-led, they present a significant threat to shipping of all types across tens of thousands of square miles of sea. Piracy in the eighteenth and nineteenth century was eventually defeated by prolonged naval action. Piracy in the twenty-first century requires the same response. We are pleased to welcome our sailors home, but suspect that they will not be the last to fall into the clutches of these latter-day Captain Blacks and Bluebeards.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

ZAB REFERENCE: TAKING EVERYONE FOR A RIDE

AYAZ AMIR

 

You have to hand it to this crew, the coolest on record, nothing fazing it, nothing making it lose its cool. Just when you think that it has run out of tricks, out comes something else from its hat, testifying to its unrivalled capacity for distracting manoeuvres. Its detractors, never in short supply, have been predicting its demise for the last two years, giving interminable deadlines of its imminent fall. Even the froth on their lips has dried out but the government, having mastered the art of stonewalling and of turning a deaf ear to its critics, marches on.

Messengers of doom, again not in short supply, had their sights fixed on the government's seemingly endless troubles with the Supreme Court, the NRO verdict and so on, hoping that on this front if no other matters were coming to a head. But just when it seemed the government had exhausted all options, out comes the rabbit of the Bhutto reference.

It might have been expected that their lordships would take a dim view of the matter. But they seem to be going along with the emerging drama. It is already being said that a larger bench may be formed to hear the presidential reference – calling upon their lordships to "revisit" the death sentence passed against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – and there is word that a host of amici curiae may be called upon to assist the court. So this promises to be a longish entertainment.

This is good news for the Supreme Court which has a somewhat cosmic idea of its functions and responsibilities. From what we have seen so far its time is consumed by 'larger' issues, having a bearing upon national fortunes, to put it no clearer than that. Normal judicial work, the hearing of appeals and so on, has had less importance in its eyes.

On the question of Bhutto's trial and his hanging, history has already rendered its verdict. Apart from diehard Bhutto enemies, and their number is not small, most people in Pakistan consider his trial a travesty of justice and his hanging a judicial murder.

But Zardari and company obviously have different ideas. Or is it that their motives are different? And so something about which neither Benazir Bhutto when she was alive nor anyone else felt the slightest need is now before their higher lordships – further testimony to the Pakistani talent for frittering away time and energy on the inconsequential.

And the central character of this drama, the star player on stage, is my imperturbable friend, the very picture of cool, Dr Babar Awan. Nothing fazes him. Hurl anything at him and it just doesn't stick. Didn't we all make heavy weather of the fact that Monticello University, from where he supposedly received his doctorate in international jurisprudence or something equally fancy, existed only in the realm of the imagination, that it was about as real as President Zardari's graduation certificate? But did any of this bother him?

A lesser man would have wilted, or felt slightly embarrassed – a rush of colour, say, to the cheeks. Not Dr Awan who remained his cool and jovial self, chatting and laughing and not a bit put out by all the snide remarks about that celebrated seat of learning, Monticello University, which had to close down, as we were to learn, for issuing fake degrees.

So all the cannons now pointing at him for having distributed sweets on Bhutto's hanging and for being an acolyte and admirer of Gen Ziaul Haq, the guy, if we care to remember, responsible for Bhutto's plight, should be seen in the same perspective as his doctorate. It is not going to bother him at all, Babar Awan simply not being cut from the cloth where anything like embarrassment exists. His critics may choke at the throat, not him. His grandstanding has already begun and before the lights go out on this affair we should be prepared for more of it.

Pity Mr Bhutto. First his enemies hanged him and now the so-called keepers of his legacy are not sparing his memory. Many a circumstance since his hanging, not least the transformation of the PPP and its hijacking at the hands of a crowd Mr Bhutto would have been hard put to recognise, would have made him turn in his grave. But none, I suspect, more so than the thought that after all these years who should be defending him in court but someone like Babar Awan, whose first steps in politics consisted of Bhutto-baiting.

People have made a career out of idolising Bhutto. And some have made a career out of hating him. Bhutto is the only Pakistani leader to have had this distinction, inspiring blind ecstasy and blind hatred in equal measure. You have to have something in you for people to hate you. Anyway, Babar Awan cut his political teeth demonising Bhutto. Now he awaits political stardom defending Bhutto in court.

Bhutto's real lawyers during his trial are largely forgotten figures. Who remembers D M Awan who defended Bhutto in the Lahore High Court? Even Yahya Bakhtiar is a receding figure from the public mind. Transcending the past now steps into the breach our good doctor. For his sense of timing and sense of spectacle, not to mention his gift for the diversionary move, he deserves the highest accolades.

As for the old PPP and the real PPP, this is a narrative and a debate which have lost their appeal and, indeed, their relevance. Is Yousaf Raza Gilani old PPP? He wasn't anywhere near the PPP when Mr Bhutto was alive. His maternal uncle Hamid Raza Gilani was a Bhutto friend from Bhutto's time in the Convention League under Ayub Khan. When Bhutto was forming the PPP he asked Hamid Raza to join him but he didn't, no doubt to his everlasting regret. He joined the PPP later during the twilight of Bhutto's prime minister-ship. But then the shadows had already begun to close in on what still remains the most colourful and dramatic chapter in Pakistan's history.

Come to think of it, even President Zardari can't claim to be old PPP. His father was a PPP MNA in 1970 but by the time of Zia's coup, or shortly thereafter, he had joined the NDP, the precursor of the present ANP. Asif Zardari contested the 1985 partyless elections from Nawabshah and got a few thousand votes (to his everlasting chagrin, we can be reasonably sure). But then his marriage to Benazir Bhutto in 1987 changed everything.

The PPP had begun to change under Benazir Bhutto. The anti-Americanism and many of the radical slogans which were a feature of the party's ethos were discarded, as were the 'uncles' who had been associates of her father. With her marriage a new power centre within the party formed around her husband. With her assassination this clique assumed the reins of the party leadership. Just as Pakistan today is not Jinnah's Pakistan, the PPP of today is not the party of Bhutto. To some extent it may still be the party of Benazir Bhutto. But on its flag the most vivid imprint is that of Asif Zardari. This is how the wheel turns. Such are the ironies of history.

Babar Awan becoming Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's judicial champion, the Mark Antony who will be reading his funeral oration so many years later, is less strange than Asif Zardari, through the workings of fate, becoming the PPP's undisputed leader.

As I said right at the beginning, the chief characteristic of this government, and one for which it will be remembered, is its capacity to stay calm and shrug off criticism. Powerful parliamentary governments have come before and wrecked themselves on the rocks of impatience and hurried decisions. This government is a weak government, weak not only in performance but dependent on coalition support to stay alive. But it has mastered the art of defusing crises, both major and minor, and of avoiding direct conflict. In other words, it seems to have mastered the art of the indirect approach. If anything explains its survival, contrary to the predictions of all doomsday artists, it is this.

Tailpiece: The way Gilani handles the National Assembly, doling out lollipops to all and sundry and never getting angry, is a study in the art of higher management.



Email: winlust@yahoo.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

A PARTNERSHIP UNDER STRESS

M SAEED KHALID

 

The United States of America, the world's sole superpower, has assumed the role of a locomotive with the other countries either attached to the engine or left in the yard. After the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, Pakistan agreed to become a wagon of the American train and benefited from the traction provided by the locomotive. The relationship between the two countries, although it is inherently unequal, surmounted the obstacles and hurdles in its way.

But America ultimately succeeded in achieving its objective of placing a much larger number of CIA operatives in Pakistan and raising the frequency of drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas. As a result, Pakistan-US relations now have to endure an unusually bumpy ride. America's intrusive methods in dealing with the militancy led to the Pakistani army, and especially the ISI, feeling cornered on their home turf.

The Americans are frustrated over what they consider a less than enthusiastic attitude of our army. They want it to adopt a still more vigorous approach towards the indigenous Taliban. This aggravated further the resentment caused by Washington's public exhortations to Pakistan for it to "do more," although its army already finds itself overstretched in its struggle to curb extremist elements involved in an armed jihad against "the infidels" and those who support them.

On the other hand, Pakistan has its own concerns regarding the United States' designs in the region. Foremost among these is the worry that America's staying power in Afghanistan is limited while the Taliban can live with the hope of fighting another day. And when that day comes, with America's power already waning, the plausible permutations of forces within Afghanistan do not give reasons for hope as far as Pakistan's strategic interests are concerned. And yet Washington's tilt towards India in pursuance of America's vital security and economic interests grows unabated. These two factors are sufficient to understand Islamabad's skepticism about the United States' commitment to Pakistan beyond Afghanistan.

The United States is keen to forge a strong civil nuclear partnership with India. At the same time, it appears to be trying to undermine the supply of Chinese nuclear power plants to Pakistan and obstruct the development of a gas supply link with Iran. These are policies which have greatly damaged America's standing in Pakistan. The proverbial last straw was the decision of President Barack Obama to exclude Pakistan from his trip to this region and then criticising Pakistan during his visit to India last year.

Given this background, it was something of an exaggeration for Ambassador Cameron Munter to claim during his talk at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad on Monday that Pakistan-US relations were strong. He also said that, despite the problems these relations encounter, he was optimistic about their future. Disagreeing with those in America who belittle Washington's relationship with Islamabad, Munter described both India and Pakistan as America's friends, and concluded by emphasising that both relationships were important to the US. Another interesting remark Munter made was that the US wanted Pakistan and India to become strong friends and Washington was persistently making efforts for the realisation of that goal.

Munter countered the suggestion by one participant that Pakistan-US relations had landed in the intensive-care unit. This was in line with his opinion about the strengths and weaknesses of the Pakistani media. Answering a question about the media, Munter said that he was impressed by the vigour of Pakistan's media. However, he said that sometimes the press here follows "fashion" rather than presenting ideas.

The media can reflect on Munter's remarks in their own time. But there is no doubt about the growing trend of Pakistani media highlighting the decline in this country's relations with the United States. In doing so, the media overlooks the positive elements. Munter's claim that the Fulbright programme for Pakistan was on way to becoming the largest in the world has not produced any headlines. It is left to the readers to think about the many facets of Pakistan-US cooperation which are not newsworthy but may be producing deeply beneficial effects for the country.

The murder of two Pakistanis by Raymond Davis in Lahore and the CIA's deadly drone attack in North Waziristan after his release last month marked the low points of Pakistan-US relations this year. Another attack following the visit of ISI chief Gen Shuja Pasha to Washington threatens to undermine the efforts to repair the damage. Regional security considerations are paramount in Pakistan-US partnership and military cooperation tends to dominate the agenda. It is for the civilian government to highlight the fact that US assistance and diplomatic support to Pakistan in economic, social and cultural fields is as important as the security dimension of the Pakistan-US partnership.

 

The writer is a former head of the Americas Division in the ministry of foreign affairs

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

REGIME CHANGE AT GUNPOINT

DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL

 

It is simply baffling. Even a few years ago, it was impossible to imagine that such outrageous acts were possible at the dawn of the twenty-first century, but then came 9/11 and everything changed. The United States of America created an atmosphere of terror around the world and ushered humanity into an era of an endless global conflict. Twelve years later, the whole world is in turmoil and the war on terror has become a war of terror. What was not imaginable before the dawn of this new era, has now become common place.

Libyan situation replicates eighteenth and nineteenth century classical scenarios of colonial occupation. The format of this classical modus operandi was simple enough: a local traitor or a group of local traitors were encouraged to revolt against the rulers. Money and arms were supplied and invitation was extracted to come and help. These were considered legitimate reasons to send hired mercenaries (Gurkas, for instance) as a first step; in certain cases, this step was eliminated and white soldiers were sent right away. Local population was divided and 'corridors of freedom' were established. Then demands were made to the rulers to leave. In most cases, they all ended up in unmarked graves.


This scenario was repeated in numerous African and Middle Eastern countries; its modified version was played out in Latin America and whole-scale massacres of aboriginal population were added to the script in Australia, New Zealand and certain parts of South America. In North America, a slightly different mechanism was adopted to take over vast tracts of land from the local tribes, but the end result was the same in all cases: white supremacy established on the strength of brute power.


The latest case of European and American hegemony is Libya, where a dictator has ruled for over forty years with brute force. Suddenly European powers realised that the Libyan strong man is a dictator. They then extracted a resolution from their mistress called the United Nations, which is the vaguest and most open-ended resolution this mock organisation has ever passed in its history. But even in its broadest interpretation, there is no way to include regime change as mandate of the intervening European powers, yet that is exactly what is being demanded openly by Americans and Europeans.


The role of media is yet another amazing aspect of this new brute war. The whole affair has been hushed up; real and concrete information has been blocked and whatever comes through news channels is quickly taken away into folds of secrecy. Yet, one can gather the following facts from what has been revealed so far: France was the first to recognise the Libyan rebels as legitimate rulers of Libya, it was considered a 'mad idea' by all states, but the racist ultra-rightist French president stuck to his decision; three other states have now joined. The media has constantly called the Libyan armed groups fighting against the dictator 'rebels'. If they are 'rebels' then how can any legitimate government supply military aid to them? Yet, despite this strange adjective, European powers are dealing with them as if they are the legitimate rulers of the country.


In reality, the whole affair revolves around Libyan oil. The 'mad colonel', as the dictator is called by many Libyans, has lost favour with his Western buyers. Thus, suddenly, his duck has stopped laying golden eggs. But no one is telling the details of how he lost his multi-million dollar deals with the Western oil companies. Why, after forty-one years, these powers have suddenly turned against him? What is the inside scoop on his illegal money in Swiss and British banks? Who is benefitting from the interest on millions of dollars in these accounts?

Then there is an absurd 'Arab link' to this façade: of all countries in the world it is Qatar that has been set up against Libya. Imagine, a tiny Gulf state, where no one can speak against the potentates, funding insurgency in Africa in the name of freedom! Nothing can be more absurd than this, but we are really living in an absurd world now; nothing makes sense anymore.


First the world was told that a no-fly zone has been authorised by the UN and that it is only a matter of days that the Libyan dictator will be ousted. The Libyan dictator proved tougher than that and the tiny Gulf state, and its European masters needed to cook up other stories. The latest is the creation of an 'international' fund to help the Libyan rebels against Muammar Gaddafi.


There is hardly any other word in English language that has been debased more than the word 'international'; but let us call that linguistic collateral damage and move on the next phase of the Qatari-Parisian-Londonite junta trying to hunt down a mad colonel for crimes which they are not even telling us: what they are doing now is, in fact, exactly a replay of UN oil-for-food programme used to alleviate sanctions against Iraq under Saddam Hussein. But, it does not matter how many comparisons are made; what matters now is just brute force.

While Nato bombardments have killed 'rebels' in friendly fire, destroyed civilian infra-structure and even killed innocent civilians, the vague claims by William Hague continue to pour forth at maddening pace. "Nato's decisive action has saved thousands of lives!" He claimed in Qatar last week. "We have sent more ground strike aircraft in order to protect civilians. We do look to other countries to do the same, if necessary, over time." What other countries? William Hague actually wants Arab countries to pay for the cost of this mad adventure and Arabs to bomb Libya so that the buck is passed on.


Despite all these tall claims, and despite tremendous European efforts, there is no organised opposition in Libya. The rebels are fractured and divided among themselves. Even though there might be some well-meaning individuals among them, they are obviously playing into the hands of European powers that have their own goals for Libya. This is no way to get rid of a dictator; only a mad idea to launch the country into an endless civil war. Regime changes at gunpoint may have worked in the nineteenth century; it is too late to replay that nauseating movie again.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: quantumnotes@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

HIGHER EDUCATION DILEMMA

DR QAISAR RASHID

 

For one to envisage what is forthcoming, slogans such as 'shame on you – fake degree-holding parliamentarians' displayed on banners in the streets of Islamabad by university students on April 12, must be sufficient.

The students seem to believe that they are being asked to countenance disassembling the Higher Education Commission for the sake of provincial autonomy but actually, the underlying reason for attempting to dissolve the HEC is to distract attention from the fake degrees scam involving politicians sitting in provincial and federal legislatures.

The problem generally with students is that they romanticise notions of equality, candour, equity, and merit. In a sense, the positive in the prevalent higher education crisis is that students have become aware of the real world outside their institutes before they formally finish their studies. In other words, practical life has overwhelmed them even before they enter it.


One wonders how a fake degree holder – now baptised into a law-maker – might be envisioning the aspirations of students studying in universities that he has never had been to. Parliamentarians, boasting both genuine and fake degrees, seem contemptuous of the fact that in the history of the world, universities are not only considered centres of learning and research but are also deemed the womb of revolutions.


Veiled in the fake degrees of parliamentarians is the muck of deceit and lies, the bane of Pakistan's progress. The protesting students seem to have fallen short of assimilating the reality that politicians holding fake degrees can hoodwink the Election Commission (EC), deceive voters, get elected, join the rank of parliamentarians, draw hefty salaries, enjoy perks and privileges and enact a law – to influence the future of all, particularly students.

In political circles, securing access to the corridors of power in such a way may be considered the success story of a politician, but the question is, by doing so, what lesson is the parliamentarian teaching students? That having a fake degree and maneuvering around that to acquire public office is not a crime to be ashamed of, but a matter to be proud of?


Students do not know that politicians also make possible the existence of fake voters in thousands in each constituency to vote for them. The bogus votes help them win elections. Besides, the existence of more than one hundred fake degree-holding parliamentarians means that the electoral system is too feeble to preclude lateral entries and too fragile to hold the offenders accountable.


In this regard, the EC has failed miserably to meet its constitutional obligations. One wonders why dungeons are not the final abode of these esteemed fakes – our parliamentarians. The political system cannot be rectified otherwise, nor can society be edified.


The students at the protest were also justified in questioning the rationale of the fake degree-holding parliamentarians who have the power to decide the future of higher education and research. Parliament should reply to their questions.


It is still not clear how a fake degree-holding legislator can protect the constitution, abide by the law, and promote democracy. The point is, it is not only the duty of the media, civil society and the judiciary to hedge the political system against falling into the clutches of military dictators but it is also the duty of politicians to clean their stable and ensure the transparency and smooth running of democracy.

Even if more than two hundred legislators of both provincial and national assemblies are disqualified – as is anticipated – owing to holding fake degrees at the time of their electoral candidature, why can't a bi-election be held?

Secondly, why is dismantling the HEC considered a better choice than making arrangements for a bi-election? Parliamentarians – those with genuine credentials – should take note of the matter before people lose faith in institutions themselves.


Has anyone thought about what impression the world would have of our parliamentarians? That Pakistani parliamentarians practice trickery and lie to their countrymen and, perhaps, to the world? The world must also be noting that all Pakistani parliamentarians are bent on destroying an institution which exposed their true faces to the Pakistani masses. That was the original sin of the HEC. Had that not been the case, the EC would have hitherto sent the degrees of the rest of the parliamentarians to the HEC for verification of their authenticity. The EC is evading the HEC, it seems.


In this discussion of blight and plight, one must remember that Professor Dr Atta-ur- Rehman, former chairman of the HEC, made history by working honorary for eight years (2002-2010). One wonders why this example of dedication and sacrifice is not emulated by existing parliamentarians.

Pakistanis pay tribute to the services of Dr Rehman and realise that Pakistan is in dire need of more such people. Nevertheless, the services of incumbent Chairman of the HEC Dr Javed Leghari are also praiseworthy. Dr Javed did not succumb to the pressure exerted on him (by certain quarters) to render around one hundred fake degrees genuine, in favour of parliamentarians. A salute to him as well!



The writer is a freelance contributor.


Email: qaisarrashid@yahoo.com



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I. THE NEWS

CLIMBING UP THE GREASY POLE

SHAFQAT MAHMOOD


 A recipe for success in life should be obvious: basic intelligence, good education, hard work and a few lucky breaks. It works quite often, but only up to a point. Those who reach the very top have something more: fire in the belly, native cunning, eye always on the ball and a willingness to pay any price, bear any burden.

I was reminded of this after Babar Awan's sacrifice of his ministry to plead the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto reference to the Supreme Court. Here is a man accused of distributing sweets after the great leader's hanging. Ijazul Haq claims that the said Awan was a diehard supporter of his father and was the stage secretary on Zia's first death anniversary. And now, twenty-odd years later, the same man is going to plead the Bhutto case.

It is not as if Babar Awan's chequered past is not known in the party. Politics is a hard playground and the competition in the parties for a few crumbs of office is cutthroat. Anything and everything is used to bring a competitor down. Lies are easily manufactured if evidence of perfidy is not available, but if it is, no one lets you forget it.

So also it has been with Awan. When he first made his appearance in the party ranks in the late nineties, he was not only looked at with suspicion but every possible garbage was thrown at him. Yet, he has not only survived but prospered.

The reason is that little extra he brought to the table. He was willing to defend the indefensible, say and do anything that pleased the boss, and never for a minute let conscience or any other nicety of life, such as morality or right and wrong, bother him.

These are the qualities that not only he but many others have used to inch up life's greasy pole. Another classic example in the PPP is Rehman Malik. He is everyone's favourite: Zardari, Gilani, the Americans, even the military. The simple fact is that, besides being smart, he has dollops of native cunning.

For instance, he has a sharp eye for power and is willing to bend until his head touches the floor to serve those who have power. Stupid things like ego or self-respect never bother him. Moral values as generally perceived are conceptual constructs he has never had the time to pay attention to. He was too busy fighting his way up. From a lowly FIA employee, he is now the interior minister of the country, and a very rich man to boot.

Lest it is misunderstood – because Rehman Malik is very nice to me whenever we run into each other – I say this not in a condemnatory tone but admiringly. The Babar Awans and Rehman Maliks of this world, who started with few advantages in life, have a fire in their belly that many others, eminently good people, don't have. They are determined to succeed, come what may, and do.

Such people thrive in our political milieu. If our political parties were collegial enterprises in which everyone could aspire for leadership, things like education, understanding of policies, probity and uprightness, loyalty to party ideals and, of course, tactical skills would be highly valued. But this is not the case here.

Our political parties, with one or two exceptions, are family enterprises passed from generation to generation like other material assets. This obviously means no internal party democracy because the leader is supreme and whatever he or she decides is unchallengeable. People rise and fall within them seldom for political reasons, but because the leader takes a fancy to or develops an aversion for someone.

What the leaders generally cannot stand is anyone who disagrees with them, even if the reasoning is good. They also value people who would be ready to do anything and in their estimation further the family enterprise. At these times, it does not matter what their past is or what nasty political affiliations they have had. It is their skill and can do spirit that is considered important.

A quick look at the federal setup is a testimony to this. There is a whole legion of good people in the PPP, such as Raza Rabbani and Taj Haider from Sindh, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, Qasim Zia, Ghulam Abbas from Punjab, and many others from KPK, who have been left by the wayside. They are not only honest, educated and hardworking but have stood by the party for a long, long time.

Yet, what do we see. The top positions are occupied not only by Rehman Malik and Babar Awan – recent entrants with questionable histories – but Firdous Ashiq Awan who was in Musharraf's party, Hina Rabbani Khar, who was Shaukat Aziz's minister, Hafeez Sheikh, ditto, and, until recently, Waqar Ahmed Khan, who has been everywhere.

The situation is not too different in other parties. Makhdoom Javed Hashmi and his allies are out of the loop in the PML-N not because their sacrifices are less than anyone else's, but because the leadership does not like them. Others continue to hold high positions because they please the leader. It is this that makes or breaks a career, not their performance or popularity among the party rank and file.

I am using politics as an example because the figures are well known, but it is no different in other organisations. Intelligence, education and hard work would carry you up until a glass ceiling is reached. Beyond that, other factors would start to weigh in.

Among the military, the system seems fairer because people at the top are generally better than the rest. But I sometimes meet two- or three-star retired generals, admirals or air marshals who are not very bright, and it makes one wonder. And a few retirees who did not make it to the top ranks appear sharp as nails. Well read, bright, and apparently competent, but obviously, that extra bit was not there.

Life is hard and the road to success not easy. Some would quibble with the use of the word success to describe worldly advancement. A good case can be made that real success is spiritual attainment or living a stress-free life, with greater space for aesthetics and morality.

Fair enough, but in this case, the focus is on career paths and people who reach the top in their specific spheres of activity. The good life in a philosophical sense is a different quest altogether. The parameters for it are otherworldly and satisfaction not easy to calculate. It is the crass material world that provides easily identifiable examples.

Let us then stop and admire those that have gone up the greasy pole of worldly success inch by inch. It takes determination and perseverance. Let those left behind worry about honour and morality.



Email: shafqatmd@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

SIDE-EFFECT

HARRIS KHALIQUE

 

The world we live in continues to be unjust, unequal and undemocratic. There is no parity between the rich and the poor nations, the privileged and the underprivileged classes, the powerful businesses and the captive consumers. But the poor nations negotiate, the underprivileged agitate and the captive consumers strive to get a fair chance to participate in the collective decisions that affect their fates. This struggle ad infinitum waged by the majority of people around the world in so many different ways against a minority that commands and controls has brought dividends to humanity as a whole.


Critics may emphasise on new forms of oppression mutating and evolving at the same time, but the fact of the matter is that we as people living in the world today have more possibilities to improve our lot. While this remains a long haul for humanity, examples are many to sustain my point.

However, we see empires crumbling, states disappearing and nations perishing along the way. When I say nations perish, it doesn't necessarily mean that all people occupying a territory are annihilated. Rather, their primary identity, political ideology, dominant way of thinking and prevalent lifestyles get metamorphosed or redefined after they have gone through a lot of pain and suffering. History tells us that this could happen to powerful countries and societies as well, let alone to an indigent and troubled country like Pakistan.

The examples of Nazi Germany and Stalinist USSR prove that it is not abject poverty or military inferiority that brings an end to powerful countries but the authoritarianism in the way the state is governed and a rampant self-deception in its political and civil society. If the misdemeanour is limited to those running the affairs of the state, people have a chance to overthrow them. But if a large number of people start subscribing to similar ideals or choose to stay quiet, outsiders are provided a chance to intervene and have their way.

To use a cliché, Pakistan is at crossroads in this respect. For it is downright mendacity that defines the social order which has resulted in a somewhat overriding individual sentiment of self-deception in many – a belief in being a unique people who are beleaguered and besieged by the wicked forces of profanity. But, unfortunately, this has little to do with Pakistani nationalism in terms of both its land and people. For the word 'nationalism' in Pakistani politics is attributed to aspirations of smaller nations and communities for the realisation of their rights in the federation of provinces.

Being Pakistani has acquired a different meaning for those who are trained to associate with a particular form of Pakistani ideology hammered into their minds by powers that be and their radically religious stooges. It means being a beleaguered Muslim. They are conspired against and always discriminated against by the rest of the world because they are the ones who carry the divine mission to transform this world into a Kingdom of God. Sounds like a bit Judaic and also like the Medieval Christian thought, doesn't it?

But there are Pakistani Muslims who believe that their country embodies these hopes for a resurgence of Muslim power in the matters of the world. Mind you, resurgence not renaissance. For the whole ideology takes us back into an imagined past and has little understanding or preparation to take on the challenges posed by the present day and age. This gets reflected from the discourse in our mainstream media to the remarks made by our cricket captain about our singular large heartedness.



The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy advisor. Email: harris. khalique@gmail.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SHAHBAZ FOR NATIONAL UNITY AGAINST DRONES

 

AS ISI Chief General Ahmad Shuja Pasha was briefing President Asif Ali Zardari in Turkey about his interaction with CIA Chief in Washington on issues of national security especially the highly sensitive one of drone attacks, Americans demonstrated once again their proven arrogance in the international diplomacy and bilateral ties. Killing of eight people in South Waziristan on Wednesday in drone attacks is a crude reminder that the United States is least bothered about sensitivities of people of Pakistan or reaction of our leadership.

Drone attacks have always been resented in the length and breadth of Pakistan but the anger reached to the highest point when the United States killed participants of a tribal jirga at Dattakhel area of North Waziristan Agency on March 17, sparking strongest public condemnation by Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. In the backdrop of strong position adopted by Pakistan, it was widely anticipated that something positive would emerge out of General Pasha's parleys with the US spy chief but the latest attack sent a clear message that Americans have no plan to budge an inch from the unilaterally chosen path of disgracing Pakistan. The treacherous move, apart from evoking widespread condemnation, also upset governmental circles as reflected by the strong protest lodged by the Foreign Office and statement of the Prime Minister in the National Assembly where representatives from all political parties were furious over glaring violation of the country's sovereignty. There was logic in demands that the country should review its cooperation with Washington in the so-called war on terror. We believe that what Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif said on the issue offers a way out of the complicated situation. He has called for a national stand on the issue where all segments of the society, the Government, the Opposition and the military should adopt a united position to get these provoking attacks to a halt. This is the right approach because drone attacks are not an issue relating to the government alone but also concerns the entire nation and we should all work in unison against these humiliating attacks in which about one thousand people have so far been killed, majority of them innocent people. The issue should be debated thoroughly in Parliament and a strategy formulated on its basis that conveys not only a clear message to Americans but also suggests reprisal measures if the US attacks continue.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DEEPENING OF RELATIONS WITH TURKEY

 

DURING the all important visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to Turkey, a number of agreements were signed to comprehensively upgrade strategic partnership and intensify political and economic cooperation particularly to promote trade and investment. The agreements between President Zardari and his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul for currency swap, upgradation of Islamabad-Istanbul railway line and opening of branches by Turkish banks in Pakistan were step in the right direction which would facilitate and promote trade from $ one billion to $ 2 billion by 2012.


Pakistan and Turkey are time-tested friends and there is a dire need that their relationship in economic arena and other fields must match the depth in political relations. Leadership of the two countries had been emphasising since long to enhance economic ties but the private sector did not exploit the atmosphere of goodwill for their mutual advantage. Now that the two countries have agreed on removing hurdles in the two way economic cooperation and over provision of necessary facilities like bank branches and running of fast goods train, one hopes that the two way trade would witness a quantum jump. It is a reality that Turkey is emerging as a fast growing economy and its importance is being recognised in the West and the Middle East. Pakistan can benefit a lot with the signing of Free Trade Agreement with Turkey as that would open another route for export of our goods to Europe. There is no doubt that Pakistan is seen as a close friendly country by the Turkish leadership and the people and they are ready to help us wherever possible. Turkish assistance to Pakistan in time of need like last year's devastating floods and earlier during the earthquake is seen by the people here with appreciation. In this atmosphere of goodwill, the need of the time is that the two countries work hand in hand to exploit the vast potential in industrial, energy, communications and infrastructure sectors. We hope that the agreements reached during the visit of the President would be followed with all earnest to further deepen relations with Turkey to the mutual advantage of the two countries.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NARGIS SHOWS WAY FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION

 

PAKISTAN, one may say, is turning into a strikes and demonstrations-ridden country as hardly a day passes without protests and rallies by one section of the society or the other. On Wednesday, those attached with CNG business closed their stations and protested non-supply of gas in a novel manner by playing cricket at these stations.

People are forced to come on roads because of one reason or the other and in many cases the Governments were to be blamed for adopting callous attitude towards the plight of the agitators. One such example is that of strike by young doctors in Punjab where the Provincial Government tried to handle the issue in a bureaucratic and autocratic manner and as a consequence the problem aggravated to such an extent that many patients died in hospitals as seniors also joined their junior colleagues to express solidarity with their cause. The situation would have assumed similar dimensions at the centre as well if Federal Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi, who is also incharge of the Health Ministry, would not have intervened with the sincere commitment to resolve the issue amicably. She had marathon sessions with officials of the Finance and Establishment Divisions and held intensive dialogue with young doctors, which led to announcement of a highly lucrative pay package for doctors and health professionals. This was such good news for doctors that they not only went back happily to hospitals but also marched towards the parliament house to express gratitude to the Government on acceptance of their demands. The revolutionary idea of delinking doctors and health professionals from basic scales is a glowing tribute to the innovative thinking on the part of Ms. Nargis Sethi whose performance both as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and as Cabinet Secretary would be cited as a role model for civil servants. Sethi is considered as work-alcoholic, devoted and committed to whatever responsibility entrusted to her and this time too she came up to expectations of all concerned. It was because of her devotion and selflessness that she received otherwise unusual public acknowledgement from the chief executive. The way she handled the doctors' issue is a laudable example of conflict resolution and all issues can be resolved if same spirit is followed by others as well.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

JUDGES MAKE INDIA PROUD

GEOPOLITICAL NOTES FROM INDIA

M D NALAPAT

 

This columnist switched from journalism to academics in 1999, by which year it was more important for newspapers in India to carry details about the vital statistics of fashion models than it was to investigate the illegal activities of VVIPs. Small wonder that in a country where 300 million people go to bed hungry each night, and 460 million do not have a weatherproof roof over their heads, weeks are spent by newspapers and television channels dissecting the Cricket World Cup series. Soon, Sachin Tendulkar is expected to be given India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, for his skill in using the willow to nudge a ball towards the boundary. A feat that has indeed ended poverty, but only in his family. During the many days when a cricket series gets played in India or even outside, it is torture for television viewers interested in matters other than eleven men staring at the two behind the crease. That the media in India has followed the Rupert Murdoch formula of dumping down its message to as to reduce events to entertainment is clear from even a cursory perusal of column inches or television time in the world's most populous democracy.

In all the fuss about cricket, the media seems to have paid much less attention to the individual who most deserves the Bharat Ratna, which is Chief Justice of India S G Kapadia, who took office a year ago. Few who knew the courtly Parsi jurist of 63 would have guessed that he would prove so spectacularly wrong those who were confident that the high-octane legal team of the Government of India ( led by Attorney General of India Goolam E Vahanvati, who - like the Chief Justice – cut his legal teeth in Mumbai) would ensure that the Supreme Court would remain passive in the face of the huge increase in corruption that has been witnessed in the country since 2001. Indeed, in India, history seems to move around in circles. During the Vajpayee era, it used to be said that the Sangh Parivar or family (including the RSS) had far less influence over the PM than the "Vajpayee Parivar". His close friend Brajesh Mishra and his "foster" son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya had the run of the government, throwing into the shade senior ministers such as Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh. These days, it is Sonia Gandhi's turbocharged son-in-law, Robert Vadra, who is said to be playing a key role, especially in matters involving land in and around the vicinity of Delhi, together with relatives of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

Altogether, and to almost complete silence by India's "free" media, the sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, nephews, nieces, brothers and sisters of key members of the Manmohan Singh cabinet have soared in wealth since the team came to office in 2004,even according to their Income-tax statements, which in the case of VVIPs, conceals far more than they are made to reveal. While the Prime Minister is himself honest,as is - most unusually for India - is close family members, the sad truth is that Manmohan Singh has been singularly inept at tackling corruption in his own alliance, many of the leaders of which are wallowing in money-making schemes. Even after accidental disclosures revealed the dry rot that has spread throughout the establishment, the PM seems unable to take the decisive steps needed to redeem his reputation as a reformer and as a man who is not merely honest but effective in tackling graft. All his perambulations in world capitals ( and as this is written, he is in Beijing for the BRICS summit) cannot disguise his failure thus far in bringing to book the Big Fish responsible for the sorry state of the country.

When the case involving the 2G spectrum scam landed in the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Kapadia entrusted the hearings to a bench comprising of two judges as shy of publicity as himself, Justices A K Ganguly and G S Singhvi. It seems to have been an inspired choice. Since the hearings began, the two have made mincemeat of the numerous clandestine efforts of key Cabinet ministers to ensure that the high-level guilty escape, and that only the minnows get caight. Indeed, this has been the norm in India, and if the CBI and other investigating agencies had theor way, would have taken place in the case of the 2G scam as well. By a series of far-reaching decisions that have more than justified Chief Justice Kapadia's confidence in them, Justices Ganguly and Singhvi have steadily been nudging the case towards its concluding act, which is the bringing to justice of the actual masterminds of the scam. Small wonder that several super-powerful and also super-rich people in Delhi and Mumbai are praying incessantly that the two be shifted from the Spectrum bench! Every now and again, gossip to this effect sweeps across the VVIP quarter of Delhi, only to die down once the next hearing commences.

Although much is - correctly - written about India's corruption, the fact remains that more than 70% of officials in India remain honest even while the political class swims in muck the way pigs do in dirt. Only about 10% are corrupt, while the remaining 20% are do-nothings, making zero impact for good or ill. Since the end of the 1950s,and especially since the 1970s,when Indira Gandhi centralized power to a degree not seen even in British India, the tenth of the civil service who are corrupt has been the segment that grabbed most of the promotions, thrusting to oblivion the Honest Majority. Should Chief Justice Kapadia and the Singhvi-Ganguly bench succeed in nudging Prime Minister Singh to finally take action against the top politicians, officials and businesspersons guilty in the $ 45 billion Spectrum scam, they would create a revolution in India. The 10% of civil servants who are crooks would at last be on the defensive, and the honest 70% would finally get their due. After all, change starts at the top. In the case of India, the relative absence of corruption in Bihar and Gujarat can be explained by the honesty of chief ministers Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi, a fact that has been affirmed even by Gandhian reformers who have distaste for the fact that Gujarat saw a slaughter of innocents following the killing of some passengers of a pilgrim train in Godhra in 2002, a series of events that brought shame to India. Despite its fascination for the physical attributes of stars and starlets (and who can deny the attractiveness of these?), the media in India have finally been forced to give prominence to the war on corruption that is being waged across the country by a growing number of volunteers, including two former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of India, Justices Verma and Venkatachelliah. How has this storm broken out? In the opinion of this columnist, the unsung hero of this change is Chief Justice Kapadia, who through the Singhvi-Ganguly bench has finally given hope to citizens that change is on the way. Unless there be hope of victory, few would be willing to fight. The daily spectacle of corporate, political and administrative bigwigs going to jail in the 2G scandal has electrified the country, and made millions believe that corruption can be defeated. Of course, as yet only the second rung has been touched. The top rung is still escaping, thanks to the diligent efforts of the CBI and other agencies to rescue them, efforts that have in the past proved successful in allowing known scamsters such as the influential Italian businessman Ottaviano Quatrocchi to escape from India. During the court hearings for his extradition in Malaysia and Argentina, it was widely said that the legal briefs of the prosecuting team used to first get vetted by Quatrocchi's lawyers before getting presented in court. Those responsible were since rewarded with sinecures by a grateful government.

An example of the way in which corruption endangers national securitycan be seen from the fact that India gets its currency printed from the same dealer who prints cash for Pakistan, thereby making counterfeiting of notes very easy. Because of the political heft of the dealer ( whose people ensure that such logistics as corporate jets get provided to VCVIPs and their relatives outside India) , thus far, this agency has not been replaced. Such examples of the way corruption trumps security can be multiplied. Sadly, in India, agencies looking after security are focussed only on the personal and political needs of a handful of VVIPs, rather than on the interests of 1.26 billion citizens of the Republic of India. Thanks to the Supreme Court of India, that may soon change. Sachin Tendulkar or Justice Kapadia for the Bharat Ratna? The choiceis obvious, except for those who seek to fool the people with circuses at a time when bread is made scarce by their greed.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

THE JEHADIS ARE COMING!

GEN MIRZA ASLAM BEG

 

The 'Unholy Alliance' of the West, launched the 'Crusade' against Gaddafi in support of the rebels, but is having cold feet now, realising that, the Jehadis from the neighbouring countries are entering Libya, in support of Gaddafi. Not only the West, but Gaddafi himself is nervous, which explains the dilemma that, the Jehadis will soon gain power and influence in Libya.

The West has geo-strategic interests in the Mediterranean Rim Countries and Africa. Libya occupies an important position. With the establishment of the 'AFRICOM, West's objective is to establish hegemony over the region. Out of twenty countries of the Mediterranean Rim land, only Libya, Lebanon and Syria are not allied to NATO, and so are Somalia, Eritrea, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast, from fifty African countries. Zimbabwe is the exception, while Somalia, Eritrea and Ivory Coast, are facing revolt. The so called "repressive regimes", Sudan, Syria and Libya, the weakest has been invaded. The 5th American fleet is located in Bahrain, where the revolt is being suppressed by the Saudis and GCC armed forces. Thus morality has been sacrificed by crushing the rebels in Bahrain, while the Libyan rebels are being whole heartedly patronised.

As soon as the 'No Fly Zone' was established over Libya, the SAS men, Marines and CIA operatives from USA, UK and France numbering over 1500, landed to supply arms and ammunition and provide command & communication support to the rebels. An amount of US$ 1.1 billion, out of the seized assets of Gaddafi, was promptly released to support the war. Libya is important because of large oil and gas deposits and huge fresh water deposits, called Nubian Sandstone Water, estimated at 200xyears of flow of the Nile River. The French cartel, which controls 40% of global water market has deep interest in this water.

The Jehadis at the very beginning of the war on Libya, what I wrote in my article, titled "Obama's Call for Jehad Into Libya" is coming true: "The worst that will happen is that, very soon the Jehadis from Iraq, Afghanistan and the neighbouring countries, particularly the Takfeeris from Iraq will enter Libya to liberate the Muslim land, as it happened in Afghanistan in 2001. The rebels and the Jehadis are joining Gaddafi's forces against the West. The powerful Salafi leader, Abu Masaab al-Wadood, has joined the Jehad against the 'Crusaders' and is getting arms and ammunition from Gaddafi. In fact, Libya is another Afghanistan in the making," because this conflict doesn't seem to be coming to an end soon. The West has rejected the African Union agreed proposal for seize fire and reforms. West wants Gaddafi out, which is not likely.

The situation is frightening both, for the West as well as Gaddafi, who will not be able to stand-up to the Jehadis, once they gain power and influence. In fact, West is supporting Al-Qaeda Magrab (AQM) in the same manner, they supported Mujahideen in Afghanistan 1980-88. The Jehadis are coming as they did, when Iraq was occupied by USA in 2003. An incident, narrated to me by my journalist friend in Karachi in 2003, explain the phenomenon: "It was about two months after the occupation of Iraq, that while traveling in a taxi, the driver told me that he was working in Saudi Arabia, I asked him, how was life in Saudi Arabia? He said, he was having a roaring time there, because every evening he would pick-up the Jehadis in his taxis and show them the way into Iraq. I asked him who are they and who is supporting them? He said "name any country, they are coming on their own, and no one supports them." I said, "God help the United States." And now in Libya, "God help the West, and Gaddafi", who will be facing the Jehadis, after the air war dust settles down.

Gaddafi is threatened by the Jehadis upsurge in Libya. Himself a 'moderate Muslim', he follows the philosophy of his 'Green-book'. If he wins, he would stand to loose, both, his regime and his philosophy of moderate Islam. Having smelled the threat, he sent his foreign minister, abroad "for medical treatment, under the pretext of abdication.", with the message to the West, that before it was too late, they better readjust their priorities. He is also ready to cooperate as he wrote to Obama saying "You are our son, who has enough courage to annul a wrong."

It always pays, to be honest and straight forward, and that is where the West has gone wrong. When nations like Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Kashmir fight for their freedom, their struggle is dubbed as terrorism. Al-Qaeda is the name of the terror, considered responsible for the 9/11 disaster threatening the homeland security of USA. They see Al-Qaeda behind every bush and with every movement for freedom. That is the dichotomy which has blurred their vision. They have been chasing shadows in Iraq & Afghanistan and have lost the asymmetric war there. And now in Libya, they are fighting a war, which was lost, before it was joined.

Democracy is promoted as the utopia for the empowerment of the people but the same is not acceptable for Iran, Iraq, Lebanon or Ghaza, even if they get elected through fair means of the ballot, because they are Islamists. On the other hand, the model democracies in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen and Qatar are being patronized. This kind of duality is the painful realization of the Muslim World.

Swept by strong passion for change, the Arab World and the Muslim countries, see the decline of the most powerful nations of the world during the last thirty years – a symptomatic phenomenon, similar to post World War II decline of the colonial and imperial powers, which caused the surge for freedom of many countries. Neo-imperialism has failed in the first attempt to dominate the Asian Muslim region 1990-2010. It will fail again in dominating the Afro-Mediterranean region now. The world has changed, because the oppressed of the world desire change, which has been correctly understood only by the Chinese, who provide the living example of a true initiative for 'Peace, Cooperation and Engagement.' We as Pakistanis enjoy the best of relations with China, despite having different ideologies, different political culture and traditions. Chinese never pull strings, never interfere in our internal matters. They only help us to be self-reliant, self-respecting and strong. That is the recipe for change, which Obama promised.

—The writer is former Chief of Army Staff.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

ISLAM: A VERSATILE RELIGION

THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

DR AAMINAH ABD-UR-REHMAN

 

Last decade this world witnessed a lot of people crashing into the pit of discontentment when economic recession hit their otherwise impeccable lives. Their Godfather bank betrayed them. So many of them found it better to "rest in peace" over living in this heartless world. They killed themselves, just to fluctuate the statistics of Suicide worldwide. If only had they considered Allah as their real "Rub" instead of banks trusted Him, and known that killing themselves would only add to their misery. They will keep on dying in the similar way till they get up at doomsday, they would have never gone to this path from the beginning. People who harbour suicidal and parasuicidal tendencies are not merely sinners, but psychiatric patients. In addition to those afflicted by brutal banking system of the world, there are others, with other causes of suicidal ideation. And the more we unfurl its vista, more we find Islam as its prevention & its management.

Islam contains a holistic approach towards diseases. As religion and as a code of life not only can it be applied as cognitive behaviour therapy for numerous mental distortions, but provides preventive strategy for plethora of physical ailments. While media on the one hand is bombarding us with succulent & fatty cooking programmes showing us the recipes of Lasagne and Chocolate Mousse on the other hand it is advertising fancy diet plans like Atkin Diet, Tony Fergosun & British slimming Centre. Islam trains us simple yet serious ways to prevent disfigurement & dyslipidemia. God doesn't expect from us to have convex bellies like dexterous companions of the Holy Prophet (SAWS) but getting up early in the morning, Swimming, Martial arts & wrestling taking light meals throughout the day, keeping one portion of stomach empty" one third with food, one third with drink and one third with air (Narrated Tirmidhi and Ibn e Majah)"all of which are Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAWS) can prevent the formation of pear/apple shaped abdomen & reflux.

Prohibition of Alchohal In Quran & Ahadith 1500 years ago, if applied today can save mankind from diseases like liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cancers like oral, esophageal & liver cancer, Nephrolithiasis & Hallucinosis. Also Islam entertains the etiology of Alcohal & substance abuse. It aims at moral upbringing of children in disciplined Islamic environment thus preventing aggressiveness & Coprolalia, a manifestation of Tourette syndrome & oppositional defiant behaviour in children. Holy Prophet (SAWS) has declared an adult out of the boundary of Islam who is merciless with children. It was His (SAWS) Sunnah to make an eye contact & full body contact with anyone conversating with him, some ways which can prevent Stammering, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder & Autism in children.

Also Muslim parents are directed to get their children married when they grow up contrary to our practice in seemingly modern yet an era agog with sexual perversions, frustration & obscenity. Islam declares Matrimony "Nikah" as a way of completing half of the religion, not a puppet show & business transaction in which the man & his family reserve their right to exhibit edacity. Allah has put feelings of mercy & friendship "Mawwada wa Rahma"(Quran 30:21) between couple thus eliminating any delusion of grandiosity & Narcissism that is anticipated to arise in male counterpart. Islam entitles a woman to have her separate abode, doesn't impose upon her any responsibility to serve her inlaws, thus addressing a lot of marital issues which become the contributing factors in spread of STDs & HIV via extramarital affairs & relationship with multiple sexual partners. The incidence of Cervical Cancer in Muslim women is lesser than non Muslims because they are prohibited to have multiple sexual partners simultaneously.

Islam saves woman from body dystrophic disorders by ordaining her to stay properly dressed thus curbing her instinct to look seductive in front of all men except for her husband. Following the footsteps of Ummul Momeenen Hazrat Aisha (RA), leader of women in heaven Hazrat Fatima (RA)& empowered business women Hazrat Khadeeja (RA),women can stay out of the shackles of Anorexia Nervosa & anxiety neurosis of various sorts. Islam directs a man to lower his gaze so that he doesn't have any opportunity to compare his wife to any Hollywood actress, "lower their gaze & guard their modesty"(Q:24:30).Islam encourages a woman to breast feed her offspring for two years, which is not only a natural contraceptive but also decrease the incidence of breast cancer in women, a leading cause of mortality in females of western society. Islam elevates the standard of Mother so high that instead of suffering from Empty nest syndrome, she enjoys the services & respect of her child in old age. "If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them 'ugh' nor chide them,& speak to them a generous word(17:23-24)".Also Islam warns a woman that if she gives her child any mixed message, an etiological factor in Schizophrenia, she will go & drag with herself four men of her family into the abyss of hellfire, thus putting her "feminine impulses" in high accountability.

"Wudu" & "Ghusl" which are mandatory practises for a Muslim are in reality saviour from countless bacterial & fungal skin infections & sinusitis. "Salaah" as a whole serves as physiotherapy of vertebrae, spine & knee joint & protects a Muslim from hemorrhoids & hernia by increasing the venous return to heart in posture of "Sajda". Islam promises us a magnificent afterlife if we keep our chins up in the face of adversities in this mortal world. It reminds us that every "Nafs" will taste death(Q:29:57)thus spiritually connecting us to Allah & His love which calms down the spirit of mutiny & transgression we see in psychotic patients.

All we need to do is to ponder over Holy Qur'an and 'Seerat' of the Holy Prophet (SAWS) alongside pharma guide & self help books; stay in the companionship of faithful and wise people take guidance from them in addition to medical specialists & psychologists. If Allah becomes the priority in our life, we can find antidotes for all poisons in our versatile religion.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

INDO-PAK COMPOSITE DIALOGUE

SULTAN M HALI

 

Foreign Secretary level parleys between India and Pakistan are positive steps indicating efforts to promote the peaceful process of dialogue between the two nuclear rivals. In fact the continuity of bilateral talks between India and Pakistan is the best option to resolve all the disputed issues between the two countries. The negotiations, however, must be meaningful and purposive in nature enabling both the nations to find out solutions of contentions issues. The meetings must be held on the basis of equality and fairness while the conferring sessions must conclude with tangible results. Demonstrating good intentions and display of excellent diplomacy are essential for the success of dialogue.

Cricket diplomacy and summit level reunion in Mohali provide good opportunities to show benevolent goodwill for each other. Though Pakistan has always shown her earnest sincerity and solemn commitment to resume result oriented peace talks with India, yet Indian authorities have never been able to shed off their local prejudices. In fact Indian intransigence and high headedness have been the main cause of failures in negotiation process. India has to develop faith in peaceful resolution of all issues including the Kashmir dispute and issue of distribution of water. Pakistan being victim of terrorism requires Indian cooperation to fight against the global threat of terrorism. Insinuations and accusations simply spoil the game and therefore need to be avoided. Indian political elite must realize the importance of composite dialogue and the dire need to remove trust deficit.

In the past too Pakistan has endeavoured for peace and normalization of relations with India and has bent backwards to accommodate confidence building measures. Commencing with permitting Kashmiris to cross over from both sides of the unofficial divide commonly known as the Line of Control, trade goods and commercial trucks was the beginning. Exchange of cultural troupes and artistes was a good beginning along with relaxation of the visa regime. However, India has not shown any flexibility whatsoever. At the first excuse, India not only banned the exchange of sporting teams but also banned Pakistani cricketers from participating in the Indian Premier League matches.

Pakistan was a co-host of the recently concluded World Cup Cricket Tournament but India, which wields considerable influence with the ICC, made sure that Pakistan is deprived from hosting the premier event. So much so that Indian spy agency RAW conducted an attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team at Lahore and using that as a plea, Pakistan was declared unsafe for hosting the event. Thus the people of Pakistan were not only unable to watch the international teams in action live but also Pakistan cricket board lost the opportunity to earn revenue while the downstream hospitality industry also lost the chance of earning goodwill as well as some revenue. Pakistan has attempted to meet Indian leaders at least at the sidelines of different international meets like Non-Aligned Movement or SAARC, and hope has been built up. Last July Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani met his counterpart Dr. Manmohan Singh at Sharm-ul-Shaikh at the side lines of the NAM Summit and both leaders reiterated to renew the peace dialogue and even issued a joint declaration to the effect. However, the moment Manmohan Singh landed back, the hawkish elements in Indian Parliament attacked him tooth and nail and India had to backtrack.

Mohali has been another fruitful development but time will tell whether the Indian Prime Minister was sincere in his invitation. While the two Prime Ministers were parleying at Mohali, a Pakistani official of its High Commission was illegally taken into custody at Chandigarh airport, muddying the waters. India's insistence that Pakistan punish the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks before any dialogue can take place is unreasonable because despite Pakistan's requests, India has not provided any evidence. India is also adamant that Pakistan cease the training of militants and shut down the camps on its soil. It does not take into consideration that Pakistan itself is the victim here. Nary has a week gone by when a major attack takes place in Pakistani, taking a heavy toll of innocent lives. Pakistan's security agencies have traced out the roots of these attacks to RAW and its operatives. Even the RAND Corporation of USA and terrorism analysts like Christian Fair has written in Op-Eds carried by "Foreign Policy" magazine that Indian Consulates along the Pakistani border in Zabul, Iran and in Afghanistan are teeming with RAW operatives, working under the guise of Consular staff but instead of issuing visas, they are recruiting, training, arming and launching insurgents in FATA and Balochistan, to destabilize Pakistan.

Another major divergence in the views of Pakistan and India is the core issue of Kashmir. For a long time, India did not recognize the Kashmir issue, insisting that Kashmir was an integral part of India and not open for discussion. When Pakistan pointed out that UN Resolutions to the effect, which came into effect because Indian Prime Minister Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru approached the UN to bring about a cease fire after the Kashmir war of 1947-48, India insists that the UN Resolutions are outdated. How can the UN Resolutions be out dated, when they have neither been rescinded nor withdrawn by the UN. India takes the plea that the Simla Accord supersedes the UN Resolution, which is also preposterous. India has been reneging from its obligation to fulfill the UN Resolutions, since the UN recognizes Kashmir as a disputed territory and provides the Kashmiris the right of self-determination to join either Pakistan or India. Now India has started a new drama. It is asking Pakistan to deal with soft issues and gradually progress onto hardcore issues. This too is unreasonable. One cannot have friendship or even amity when Kashmir continues to bleed and the Indian Armed Forces continue with their reign of terror, killing, maiming and hurting innocent Kashmiris. The Indian Armed Forces Special Powers Act empowers its soldiers to shoot first and ask questions later. India has to withdraw such draconian laws before peace talks can resume.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WE TOO SHOULD BAN THE BURKA

ALLISON PEARSON

 

There is a mosque in the East Midlands, an impressive building, exuding a sort of muscular serenity. Almost next door, is a private girls' secondary school, an offshoot of the mosque, where, from the age of 11, the niqab is a compulsory part of school uniform. Just across the street is an advice centre that offers rulings to the community on points of Islamic law. If you go to the centre's website, as I did, and click on Women's Issues you will find the Islamic equivalent of the Cathy and Claire problem page. Only instead of an agony aunt, we find a chap offering solutions to those tricky, girly dilemmas that keep us awake at night. Women Exposing Their Arms Whilst Driving – Should It Be Allowed? Are Tampons Permissible to Use Before Marriage? Can Women Travel Without a Male Relative? The Female Voice and Singing (is it OK to sing in front of men?) and – this has to be my absolute favourite – A Comprehensive Guide to Women's Nakedness.

For those of you scratching your head over the toast and marmalade, the answers are as follows: Women are most certainly not allowed to expose their arms while driving. Anything above and including the wrist is likely to inflame passing motorists so "Muslim sisters must not be careless in this regard and should wear long tight sleeves." I'm afraid it's a no to tampons before marriage for reasons too weird to go into. As for females moving around freely, "It is impermissible for a woman to travel the distance of three days (48 miles) without her husband or a male relative." Meanwhile, singing, that most natural and joyous act of human expression, also falls into the dread category of temptation. "The charm in the voice of a female plays a vital role in provoking the sexual appetite of a man," explains our guide. This goes some way to solving the cruel mystery of why, in certain primary schools, parents have insisted that Muslim children be excused from music lessons. My youthful feminist instincts may have grown slack with disuse, but the website's ruling on female clothing made me want to kick and shout. The chap advises: "There should be no imitation of the Kuffar (non-believers) because 'whosoever imitates a nation is amongst them'."

A Muslim woman is allowed to dress like a British slapper in the home, if it pleases her husband, but if the intention is to imitate Kuffars – that's creatures like you and me with our brazenly exposed wrists – then it's forbidden. According to this chap, if a Muslim woman starts copying the style of the country she lives in then she will soon be part of it – and we can't have that, can we? No man is an island entire of itself, said the poet. A beautiful sentiment, but the women of this mosque and its girls' academy seem to be instructed, quite specifically, to be an island, separated from the mainland where the rest of us live. — The Guardian

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

IT'S FORD'S NEW CAR PLAN

THE automaker's cuts underline the sector's problems.

Anyone needing evidence of the hazards of propping up the Australian car industry to quarantine jobs should look no further than yesterday's announcement that Ford Australia will cut its workforce by 240. The decision to reduce daily production of the Falcon and Territory from 260 to 209 because of falling demand comes just two months after car companies extracted a promise from Prime Minister Julia Gillard she would not cut their billions of industry assistance. Since rationalisation of the sector began 25 years ago, tariff cuts have led to more choice and lower prices for consumers, but taxpayers' money continues to underwrite the industry. Ford says jobs will go from Broadmeadows and Geelong but that most workers will be redeployed, with the remainder shed through voluntary redundancies. The strategy to cut volume makes sense. After all, if people aren't buying them, why make them? Ford would be aware of the problems encountered by Mitsubishi a few years back when it discounted the Magna only to see the market collapse. Union leaders blamed the downsizing in part on tariff cuts yet there is no going back on restructuring. After 60 years of support and endless reform plans, the industry continues to face major challenges. By now, the unions and companies should have worked it out.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

WHO TWEETS FOR ABORIGINES?

 BITTER STRUGGLE FOR AUTHORITY IN INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIA.

The comments were crude in the extreme but the real import of the Twitter commentary about indigenous leader Bess Price is how offensive it is to thousands of Aboriginal men, women and children living in regional and remote Australia. When Larissa Behrendt wrote that Price's appearance on ABC TV was worse than watching "sex with a horse" the city-based legal academic exposed the deep divide in the indigenous community.

Behrendt, who belatedly apologised yesterday, may portray her words as a throw-away comment about Price's performance on Monday's Q&A but there is more going on here. The Twitter exchanges reveal the split between urban and remote Aboriginal leaders over Canberra's intervention in dysfunctional communities. Behrendt's comments are made against the background of a bitter struggle between these two groups for power and the authority to speak for Aborigines. Behrendt and those who joined her on Twitter oppose the intervention but that is really a proxy for a fight over turf, resources and the direction of indigenous politics. Those on Behrendt's side elevate rights and legalities over everything else. But The Australian is on the side of those who believe housing, education and jobs are the pre-eminent steps towards equality.

That Behrendt is herself involved in a racial vilification case against News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt adds irony to her comments. That action has people across the political spectrum concerned because of its implications for free speech. At its core is the identification by Behrendt and others as Aboriginal. This is not the place to argue the merits of the action, but Behrendt's professional career is central to the split exposed on Twitter. Like others who work in the urban indigenous industry, she has built a career on indigenous issues and policy. Like others, she argues against the 2007 intervention initiated in response to appalling levels of violence, addiction and child abuse. Difficult as it is to believe, this newspaper has been lobbied directly by Aboriginal leaders in Canberra to stop reporting on the despair of communities in the far-north, central Australia and the Kimberley, and to focus on success stories of urban Aborigines. In essence, these leaders have urged us to ignore the shameful state of affairs in so many areas and boost the good-news quota in our pages. Such a view is not just out of touch with the needs of remote Aborigines, it casts them as unworthy of attention. These urban dwellers are prepared to risk the health, education, physical safety and futures of other Aborigines in the cause of an out-dated, leftist agenda which privileges "rights" above well-being. There is a "let them eat cake" touch about it all.

All this when there is a largely bipartisan approach on indigenous policy and when non-indigenous Australia is committed to improving the living conditions and education and work opportunities for disadvantaged communities. Many Q&A viewers would have cheered when Price spoke so plainly of indigenous needs. Australians want to see better outcomes and an end to the shameful conditions endured by many Aborigines. Yet the professional class of urban blacks is more interested in bridge walks or the agenda of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The Left once stood for improving the living standards of the poor. Today, it would appear to prefer gesture politics and symbolism.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

UNION REVOLT TESTS SWAN'S ECONOMIC RESOLVE ON TRADE

AWU LUDDITES MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO DICTATE POLICY.

If ever a prime minister needed the backing of a strong, effective treasurer it is now, when Julia Gillard finds herself boxed in by the Australian Workers Union, which has threatened to withdraw support for her proposed carbon tax if one job is lost. The union, which is flexing its factional muscle within the ALP in the wake of the demise of the NSW Right at the state election, is also mounting an attack on the Prime Minister's push to liberalise trade policy. Unfortunately for Ms Gillard and the nation's economic interest, Wayne Swan, although he purports to support free trade in principle, opposed Ms Gillard's initiative in cabinet on the dubious grounds that it had no political constituency.

For all their political hostility towards each other, Peter Costello and Paul Keating shared a sound treasurer's instinct for expanding the economy, chopping waste and reform. In contrast, Mr Swan's quest for populist political support is born of his experience as a political neophyte in the Queensland AWU and as ALP state secretary. Such an instinct was evident in the Fuel Watch and Grocery Choice debacles, which were national versions of the Pricewatch surveys that proved popular among pensioners in Mr Swan's Lilley electorate. The original resource super-profits tax, of which Mr Swan was a key driver after he cherry picked a potentially worthwhile idea from the Henry tax review and bungled it, was another populist quest, based on the erroneous idea that workers wanted to see miners slugged and wealth redistributed.

However ruthless AWU national secretary Paul Howes's tactics in contributing to the demise of Kevin Rudd as prime minister and now forcing Ms Gillard's back to the wall over carbon tax and trade policy, Mr Howes's economic instincts are crass and unsophisticated. In declaring that no one with "half a brain" would liberalise trade at a time manufacturing was struggling, he was reflecting the naive views peddled by the AWU in shearing sheds and mining backblocks for generations in Queensland, where past Labor governments ran "government butcher shops".

What Mr Howes, many Queensland Nationals and other agrarian socialist free trade opponents such as Bob Katter fail to grasp is that resources and agriculture, Australia's biggest export industries, whose workers are represented by the AWU, have most to lose from protectionism. As other nations retaliated against Australian protection of manufacturing, some would look elsewhere for commodities and force up the costs of imported machinery with their own tariff barriers -- an equation grasped in the 1860s by the south in the US Civil War but not yet by many in Australia.

Rather than arguing that dismantling trade barriers has boosted prosperity since the Whitlam government slashed tariffs by 25 per cent in 1973, Mr Swan has left Trade Minister Craig Emerson to explain why "trade equals jobs", just as former finance minister Lindsay Tanner was left trying to impose a modicum of fiscal discipline in Labor's first term. It is extraordinary that in 2011, after decades of reforms that opened up the economy, Australia finds itself with a Treasurer who appears to be in sync with some of Mr Howes's views.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

A PM BOGGED IN GOOD INTENTIONS

HARD work has been something of a theme throughout Julia Gillard's prime ministership. Often in speeches she draws on her own background and that of her parents to stress that Labor is, or at least would like to be, the party of hard work - the party that encourages and rewards those who work hard. Less emphasised is the corollary that Gillard Labor is not particularly impressed with those who can work yet depend on welfare for their income. She was at it again in a speech to the Sydney Institute on Wednesday night. Though her speech was her usual more-or-less linked sequence of delphic utterances and hints, she appeared to be sketching out a pretext for changes to welfare rules, presumably to be delivered in the budget next month.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the effect of the mining boom on the employment market was uneven. Skilled workers were in high demand in mining or minerals handling centres, while unemployment might be high elsewhere. She praised one of her neighbours in Melbourne, a skilled tradesman who is now working on the Gorgon project in Karratha, Western Australia, on a fly-in fly-out arrangement. So, should we assume then, that Labor will change the rules to encourage, or perhaps force, the long-term unemployed to look for work or training? Will they be encouraged somehow to move to where the jobs are? Is she saying to the jobless, as legend has Margaret Thatcher's employment minister Norman Tebbit saying to recession-hit Britain: "On your bike"?

We simply do not know; she did not say.

Gillard is certainly right that in a boom such as Australia is now enjoying every effort should be made to get the unemployed back into the workforce, and to ensure Australians are trained for skilled jobs before employers look to import skilled immigrants. But the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, is right, too, that Gillard's ideas do not amount to more than platitudes - at this stage.

Gillard ended her speech with a defence of her tactics: she is not trying to manage the 24-hour news cycle, rushing out with news releases whenever some media panic blows up. Rather she is refusing to be distracted, and working quietly and steadily towards her government's policy goals. That is excellent news. At some point, though, voters expect to see some results from all this quiet, undistracted work that has been going on behind the scenes. For Gillard and her government, the coming budget should be that time. Roll on May 10.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

BACK TO FEARLESS INDEPENDENCE

LEADERS of incoming governments often harbour suspicions about the state of the bureaucracy they inherit from their opponents. The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has already shown what he thinks of the leaders of Labor's public service by his actions - sacking or swapping around senior officials virtually from day one. Now he has gone further, appointing Peter Shergold, formerly the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet under John Howard, to head a new Public Service Commission. Its first task: to superintend a top-to-bottom review of the state bureaucracy by the outgoing head of the Premier's Department, Brendan O'Reilly.

The review will be useful, and in the appointment of Shergold and O'Reilly - one from each side of the fence, as it were - the government shows it knows balance is needed. The new arrangement, which seems to hark back in some respects to the Public Service Board abolished by Nick Greiner, should offer, moreover, a good opportunity to reform a bureaucracy that has too frequently been expected to meet the partisan needs of the party in power to the detriment of good administration. It cannot turn back the clock: politicians are subject to intense demands now that were rarer 20 years ago, and for which a politically sensitive public service is unavoidable. But many of the signal failures of the Labor government might have been avoided with a more independent bureaucracy better able to tell ministers the truth rather than what they wanted to hear. The CBD metro would never have been announced. Canberra's embarrassing dismissal of all NSW's major infrastructure projects as unready for funding might have been avoided.

The idea that the public service should be politicised dated from the days when parties of the left suspected there was an innate bias towards conservative politics at the bureaucracy's highest levels, while parties of the right felt that business methods and attitudes were more appropriate to modern management. Neither view is true; both are destructive.

State government is mostly about service delivery, in which there should be little political content at all. There are no Labor hospitals or Coalition police stations, only hospitals and police stations. And they are public services, not businesses.

Today's public is rightly suspicious of a politicised public service. The public also expects that the public service will carry out its functions with an eye to what is best for NSW, not what is best for individual departments and agencies. Shergold's commission, and the O'Reilly review, give the government a chance to return to an independent, permanent, professional bureaucracy.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THINKING DEEPER THAN FACE VALUE

CURIOUSER and curiouser grows the nebulous wonderland that is social networking. In the process, the boundaries between what should be matters of private or public concern are becoming even harder to define as society tries to catch up with the elusive legal, moral and ethical implications of 24-hour online media.

On Wednesday in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, these matters arose, with some complexity, in a case brought by a Melbourne academic, claiming she felt threatened by comments and images posted by an artist on Facebook. Elizabeth Grierson, the head of RMIT's fine art department, was seeking an extension to a temporary intervention order granted last month against painter and former RMIT lecturer Steve Cox, who has been critical of Ms Grierson's administration of the department, and made his points on Facebook - his private page and another, Save Art from RMIT. In a surprising out-of-court settlement, Ms Cox agreed not to ''look at [Mr Cox's] Facebook page'' or ''cause her servants or agents to look at or otherwise monitor'' the page for the next 20 years. In return, Mr Cox has undertaken to remove three offending posts and to refrain from referring to Ms Grierson ''with malice''.

While compromise appears to have won the day, the overall result remains inconclusive: causing offence to someone via the internet is just as harmful as printing it in a newspaper or saying it on air, and any legal remedies should be the same. As prominent media lawyer Peter Bartlett told The Age yesterday, people ''need to be very careful what they say and report about others and what material they place on a social media site''. This message, with the underlying reminder that such sites can present such information with blinding speed and to a potential audience of millions, has not yet hit home in some quarters. The unprecedented power of the web, and how easily it can be used or abused, has recently been proved by the scandal of the teenage girl, sex claims and AFL stars.

This week's case breaks new ground. Is ordering a person who has been harassed online to keep away from the offending website page necessarily a better solution than placing the onus on the perpetrator to make amends? If a newspaper was involved would it make sense not to read part of it for the next 20 years? The whole matter requires deeper consideration to ensure the establishment of legal and social norms that apply equally to all forms of media.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

WAVING POLICY STICKS WON'T SWELL WORKFORCE

A KEY TO EMPLOYMENT IS THE SUPPLY OF SKILLS, NOT JUST BODIES.

SEEKING ''tough'' spending cuts that match their budget rhetoric but remain acceptable to most voters, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott have come to similar conclusions. Welfare payments eat into the budget. Hard workers hate welfare ''bludgers''. Employers need more workers. Put all those elements together and it's politically easy to sell tough back-to-work policies.

The Prime Minister's speech on The Dignity of Work involved more posturing than policy detail. That, presumably, is in next month's budget. Mr Abbott had already waved the opposition's policy sticks: income quarantining for all long-term unemployed; mandatory work for the dole for long-term unemployed under 50; changes to benefits for people with ''readily treatable'' disabilities; and suspension of benefits for people under 30 in areas with unskilled job vacancies. The age discrimination is politically revealing, as are other unspoken assumptions. Welfare dependency and cheats exist, but not at the levels that are popularly imagined.

''Tougher'' policies would suggest that employer needs can be met by the numbers on welfare who ''choose'' not to work because their lives are too ''easy''. In fact, the OECD regards the unemployment benefit of $234 a week as too low. (Marginal tax rates of 50 to 70 per cent that discourage more work by family benefit recipients are a real problem.)

Since 2000, the numbers on the more generous disability benefits, now about 800,000, have exceeded those on unemployment benefits. Experts in the field say a minority on disability benefits, about 250,000 people, could do some kind of paid work, if they had more support and flexibility at work.

An estimated 60 per cent of the 593,000 unemployed - only 4.9 per cent of the workforce - do not have the language, literacy or numeracy skills to do the jobs that employers require. The 356,375 long-term unemployed are especially disadvantaged. Even of those in work, up to 8 million, according to Australia's industry skills councils, lack key skills needed to train for trade or professional jobs.

No policy stick can overcome the mismatch between employers' needs and what job seekers can offer. Only investment in training, support and flexible work can do that. Spending on employment assistance is relatively low, despite potentially large pay-offs.

The Productivity Commission has identified low rates of participation by women aged 25-44 and men and women aged 55-64. The first statistic reflects Australia's tardiness in providing good maternity leave and flexible arrangements for mothers. Many never return to work. World leader Sweden has 85 per cent participation for women aged 50-54, 80 per cent for 55-59 and 57 per cent for 60-64; Australia's rates are 73, 55 and 31 per cent.

Discrimination discourages older workers, too, although a political push to change attitudes, backed by tax incentives, has lifted participation over the past decade. About 1.6 million people between 55 and 69 are not in work, but many are able to work, even if only part-time.

The 3.35 million part-time workers, or 30 per cent of the workforce (almost twice the OECD average), are a neglected resource. Two-out-of-three male part-timers and almost one-in-two female part-timers want full-time work. Workers aged 15-24 account for one in three of the underemployed. These Australian Bureau of Statistics figures point to a problem that is even greater for the unemployed: the common obstacles to work are not lack of desire, but lack of experience, skills, confidence and good health.

A punitive approach is pointless. Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has suggested intensive case management of long-term unemployed. It doesn't sound tough and involves initial spending. Yet policy carrots worked for older workers, so why not others? Structured support to help people become employable, rather than just demanding they find work, offers much better prospects for employment and savings.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

POLICING DEMONSTRATIONS: GROUNDS FOR PROTEST

It is increasingly clear that something had gone badly awry with the Met's handling of protests in 2009

No one would dispute that policing a charged protest is a difficult task, requiring delicate judgments that must be made under great pressure. Certainly, the high court would not deny it, and yesterday it did all it could to be fair to the Metropolitan police, as it passed down a ruling on the containment, or so-called "kettling", of demonstrators who had assembled to make their point as the world's leaders swept into London for the G20 summit two years ago. The court cited examples of mad men running amok with guns, and quoted all manner of precedents to make the point that there is a distinction between the necessary restriction of liberty and the unlawful deprivation of it.

For all its understanding of the police's predicament, the court ruled that the Met had slid from one to the other, by acting in a manner that was "not necessary or proportionate". The police had, after all, swept up a great mass of innocent citizens and indiscriminately detained them along with any troublemakers, on a day when one chant in the air was "this is not a riot". There were two protests that day, a disorderly gathering known as Meltdown, and the more pacific Climate Camp, with which yesterday's ruling was concerned. The police failed to distinguish adequately between the different moods of the two, and casually kettled the Climate Camp because of the supposed danger of them intermingling.

With the inquest into the death of newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson rumbling on amid suspicions that there were attempts to cover up the police blows he received that same day, it is increasingly clear that something had gone badly awry with the Met's handling of protests in 2009. At the start of that year Lois Austin, a protester who had been kettled several years previously, lost an action she had taken all the way to the law lords. The top brass did not concern themselves with the nuance of the ruling, and instead appear to have deemed themselves to be free to restrain demonstrators at will. Chilling remarks from officers about imposing control on demonstrations pre-emptively combine with the lack of proper procedures to prevent the cavalier brandishing of riot shields as a weapon, another shortcoming the courts picked up on yesterday, to suggest a force that had lost all respect for the right to assembly.

Things could get more difficult still for the Met, depending upon the Tomlinson verdict and the progress that Ms Austin makes with her case at Strasbourg. At stake in the latter is, potentially, the legality of the whole kettling tactic. Wherever that gets to, yesterday's ruling has removed any doubt that it must be a last resort. Around the G20 it was not, and so the police are deservedly being brought to book.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IMMIGRATION: LIVING WITH DIVERSITY

There is a history of deploying immigration as an issue when the Tories need to restore the confidence of core supporters

It was the first speech of the local election campaign, so perhaps it is not surprising that David Cameron's claim yesterday that immigration has damaged social cohesion so comprehensively captured the front pages. In its content and its timing it had all the hallmarks of the kind of smooth strategic planning that the Conservative party has often done so effectively but which Downing Street has struggled to reproduce in the past year. The party machine has wrested back control of the political message with predictable results and some collateral damage to the coalition.

Conservatives complain that their critics never allow them a right time to talk about migration. But that is because there is a long history of deploying it as an issue just at the point when the party needs to restore the confidence of its core supporters. And there is no doubt that Mr Cameron has vociferous critics on his own backbenches. The more outspoken ponder openly whether the party leader is really a Conservative at all. And while tracking polls never suggest much support for alternative parties of the right such as the UK Independence party, at last month's Barnsley byelection Ukip beat both of the coalition parties. The start of a local election campaign which will be difficult for the Conservatives and possibly disastrous for the Lib Dems seems too needy a moment for a speech on immigration to be treated as anything more serious than a piece of politicking.

Of course, Mr Cameron is anxious to signal that he understands voters' concerns, that there is something that can be done about them, and that he is doing it. His tone was generally moderate, and it is true that immigration worries people in a way that the last government was slow to appreciate. It is also the case, however, that migration from other EU countries is not something the UK government can directly affect, although making sure that British people have the right skills for whatever jobs are locally available would be one way of reducing the appeal of the UK as a destination. Most migrants last year – two-thirds, according to the Office for National Statistics – came from outside the EU, and they came to work or to study. Many of those who came to work will have taken seasonal jobs, although they have in places (some of which, like North Lincolnshire, have local elections in three weeks' time) put very heavy burdens on community infrastructure. That makes it even more curious that the government has cut the cash for the migration impacts fund that Labour introduced and abandoned the citizenship survey which sought to monitor the impact of new migrants. And the axe – curiously, since in his speech Mr Cameron also complained that not enough migrants speak English – has fallen too on the budget for English language teaching. But most importantly, neither immigration nor ethnicity is the primary predictor of a lack of social cohesion. Instead, as the most recent research has shown, it is the level of economic deprivation. Neighbourliness and extreme poverty tend not to go together.

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron appeared to be playing fast and loose with the coalition agreement. That was certainly what the business secretary, Vince Cable, thought. It is true that the half page of the agreement in which migration appears avoids all mention of targets. That has not prevented the government making a clear commitment to halve net migration to 100,000 in this parliament. Mr Cable argued strongly against limiting highly skilled workers and the graduate students who make such a large contribution to university budgets, but he won only a partial victory. That may explain his initial denunciation of Mr Cameron for inflaming extremism, and his subsequent recantation. The next three weeks will be a severe test as the parties establish the load-bearing capacity of a coalition in an election. Expect more of the same.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … DAVID RUNCIMAN

This political scientist's insights about the real world often take the form of a paradox which baffles before it enlightens

The political science is just as dismal as the economic one. Its models, schemas and game theories can provide any insight – except for those shedding light on the real world. David Runciman stands out as a practitioner who can deploy all these tricks where they're useful and put them back in their box the moment they're superfluous to making sense of politics. He has drawn a telling distinction between "sincere liars", such as Blair and Clinton, and "honest hypocrites", such as Gordon Brown, a condition which he shrewdly predicted would leave Brown ill-suited for life at the top. His London Review of Books essays range from cricket to Dylan to America's death tax, and whatever the subject he produces a paradox which baffles before it enlightens. At a sweeping London lecture on Wednesday, which drew on world history to assess democracy's chances of withstanding everything from China to climate change, his love of seeming contradictions was much in evidence. Democracies only fight wars they can win, he explained, except when the confidence born of this rule tempts them into misadventures that break it. His quirky syllogisms lend themselves to pleasing rhetoric, as when he distinguished the "trick" and the "trap" views of democracy according to whether people power is too good to be true or instead too true to be good, a phrase reversal worthy of Kennedy or Churchill. If he came down from his ivory tower and took to a soap box, the politicians he studies would need to watch out.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO WAY TO RUN A GOVERNMENT

A shutdown of the United States government has been averted. At the last minute,negotiators from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives struck a deal with their Democratic Party counterparts from the Senate. The final compromise cuts $38.5 billion from the 2010 budget. While that sounds like a lot, it is barely a drop in the proverbial bucket of red ink that is drowning the U.S. economy. Worse, it is merely the first clash in a budget battle that is going to intensify.

This game of legislative "chicken" — daring the other side to do something stupid and dangerous, like shutting down the government when the economy is fragile — is no way to govern. It is difficult to take the idea of U.S. leadership seriously when its elected representatives act like this.

When he submitted his 2011 budget in February 2010, President Barack Obama proposed to spend $3.8 trillion. Despite controlling both houses of Congress, the Democrats did not pass the budget before the November elections, which gave the GOP control of the House of Representatives.

Many in the new crop of Republican legislators were fiscal hawks, committed to cutting the deficit (which would have grown $1.65 billion as a result of the Obama budget) and to cutting the size of government. For many of them, any compromise in efforts to reduce the deficit by $100 billion in 2011 — and $1 trillion over a decade — was a betrayal of their election mandate. In a world in which the government "is the problem," as Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of conservatives, noted in the 1980s, they welcomed the prospect of a government shutdown.

While reducing the federal deficit must be a priority, most economists believe a government shutdown as the economy struggles to escape recession would be a disaster. It would deprive millions of citizens of support they need — from unemployment checks to tax refunds — to deal with difficult economic conditions. It would furlough hundreds of thousands of federal workers, depriving them of income. It would insert additional uncertainty into the calculations of businesses.

In short, it would deprive the economy of significant stimulus and stability as the country tried to regain its footing.

GOP hawks stuck to their guns even though other members of their party remembered the last time the government shut down. That was in 1995, when Republicans felt similarly empowered after a 1994 election groundswell. Voters then blamed the party for acting irresponsibly and those gains were reversed in the 1996 elections.

Sober GOP leaders feared they would suffer a similar fate if they refused to compromise this time around. The result was an 11th-hour deal, reached Friday night last week minutes before the government would have to shut down. While the final agreement called for $78.5 billion in cuts from President Obama's original budget proposal, it also added $40 billion to federal spending.

Therefore the final deal actually means there will be $38.5 billion in cuts. That is, as Mr. Obama noted, "the largest annual spending cut in our history." It is also peanuts given the scale of total U.S. government spending. Worse, the agreement only covers fiscal 2011, which is already half complete. The 2012 budget will yield another bruising fight. Republicans are aiming for still deeper cuts in their goal to reshape the contours of the federal government. That battle will focus on entitlements — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — in an attempt to transform the very relationship between the U.S. government and its citizens. As one GOP leader explained, the 2011 budget battle "is the first bite of the apple."

More immediately, however, is a seemingly mundane measure that could have even more profound implications for the U.S. and the world. There is a legal limit — the debt ceiling — to how much money the government can borrow. That figure is $14.29 trillion and, according to the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. will hit that amount no later than May 16 (although it may be able to squeeze out another two months through legal technicalities).

If Congress does not raise that limit, then the U.S. would technically default on its debt — the trillions of dollars it has borrowed in the form of its bonds. That would be, by all accounts, catastrophic. It would mean that investors around the world would lose faith in the confidence of the U.S. to pay its bills as Washington could not borrow more to service its debt.

Given the U.S. dollar's status as the world's reserve currency, a U.S. default would undercut the foundations of the global economy. Yet the deficit hawks are prepared to hold that legislation hostage to force still more budget cuts. It is a dangerous strategy.

It is dangerous not only because it threatens U.S. economic stability and could visit considerable uncertainty on the world, but it is also a body blow to U.S. credibility in all policy concerns. It suggests that parts of the U.S. body politik are prepared to risk "financial Armageddon" (as one Republican politician suggested) to advance their agenda. It indicates an absolutism and narrowmindedness that is contrary to the very nature of democratic politics — the forging of consensus to accomplish nationally agreed goals.

This "consequences be damned" hostage-taking bodes ill for the ability of the U.S. to lead, a notion that it takes seriously. It is the height of irresponsibility. It is certainly no way to govern.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

U.S. CIVIL WAR: WHAT IF?

BY GWYNNE DYER

LONDON — It's not much as anniversaries go, but most of us won't be around in 50 years, so we'll have to settle for the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. The groups who re-enact Civil War battles were therefore out in force on Tuesday, but does it matter to anybody else?

Not much, I hear you cry. But it's still an intriguing question: how different would the world be now if the South had succeeded in seceding from the United States?

As it happens, we have a half-million-word answer to that question: the series of eleven "alternate history" books that American novelist Harry Turtledove has written about a world in which the Confederate States of America successfully won its independence in 1863. It ends up in 1945 with death camps in the CSA and nuclear weapons on Philadelphia and Charleston, and it is fully plausible every step of the way.

Turtledove's instincts as an historian are impeccable because he actually is an historian, with a Ph.D. in Byzantine history. Nothing unlikely or inexplicable happens in his books. He just tweaks the outcome of one local conflict in the 1860s — and the whole of modern history unfolds very differently, but entirely credibly.

The Confederacy gets its independence in 1863 by winning the Battle of Gettysburg (that could certainly have happened), whereupon Britain and France grant it diplomatic recognition (which probably would have happened). The rest of the former U.S., still twice as numerous as the Confederacy, is very bitter about its defeat, but apart for one brief clash in the 1880s, the two successor countries live side by side in peace for 50 years.

Geopolitics causes the problems. The U.S., hostile to Britain and France because their recognition of the Confederacy made the division of the country permanent, aligns itself with the rising new power in Europe, the German empire. As the alliances take shape in the early 20th century, it's Germany, Austria-Hungary and the U.S. versus Britain, France, Russia and the CSA.

Turtledove has a nice touch with the fine detail of daily life in a changed history. Kaiser-Wilhelm-style mustaches are popular in the U.S. because of the German alliance. The linguistic change that happened after the real American Civil War, when Americans stopped saying "the United States are" and began to say "the United States is," never happens in the alternate world.

American politics is different, too. The Republican Party, blamed as much as the despised Abraham Lincoln himself for losing the war, vanishes. Lincoln ends up in the Socialist Party, which eventually emerges as the main rival to the Democratic Party. But it is the wars that really change.

When World War I finally arrives, it is fought in North America too, with trenches from tidewater Virginia to the Mississippi River, and another set of trenches dividing Canada, part of the British empire, from the northern U.S. The black former slaves of the Confederacy, freed by President Robert E. Lee in the 1880s but then left to rot, rise in a Communist-backed revolt in 1915 but are ruthlessly crushed.

The U.S. Army finally conquers Canada, and in 1917 its new "barrels" (tanks) break through the Confederate trenches in Kentucky and Virginia. A revolution (though not a Communist one) takes Russia out of the war, and the U.S. Navy begins to starve Britain, which depends on Atlantic convoys for its food. The U.S. and Germany win the war.

The victorious powers impose harsh peace terms on the losers — territorial losses, "war guilt" reparations, and disarmament — just like they did in the real history. So politics becomes radicalized in the defeated powers, Britain, France and the Confederacy, and fascist parties gain control in all of them. The demagogue who is voted into the presidency in the CSA is rather like Hitler in his rhetoric, though his hatred is aimed not at Jews but at blacks.

The Second World War arrives on schedule, and opens with a Confederate blitzkrieg in Ohio that almost cuts the U.S. in half. The weight of numbers begins to swing the balance the other way after a while, but even as Confederate armies retreat, the death camps run by the Freedom Party to exterminate the South's blacks continue to run full blast.

Both sides are also racing for nuclear weapons, and some are used in the end. But Germany and the U.S. have more of them than Britain and the CSA, so the victors in World War I win again. And this time, the Confederacy is fully occupied and formally abolished, though a genuinely reunited U.S. will clearly not come to pass for several generations, if ever.

There. Now you know the plot, and I just saved you a month of reading. But the point is this: it could have happened like that. Indeed, it is no more bizarre than what actually did happen.

Turtledove has given us a plausible depiction of a world in which the Confederacy became an independent great power, and it is even less attractive than the world we know.

So it is an important anniversary after all, you see. Even though back in 1861, it could still have gone either way.

Gwynne Dyer's latest book, "Climate Wars", is distributed in most of the world by Oneworld.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SAFER ALTERNATIVE BEARS ON DOLLAR

BY BARRY EICHENGREEN

BERKELEY, Calif. — This is the season for international monetary conferences. In March, national leaders assembled in Nanjing, China, to speechify on exchange and interest rates. And, in early April, leading thinkers and former policymakers met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, the birthplace in 1944 of the International Monetary Fund and our dollar-centered international monetary system.

The 1944 Bretton Woods conference was marked by a clash between the United States and the United Kingdom, represented by the economists Harry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes, respectively. The U.K. wanted a system in which global liquidity would be regulated by a multilateral institution, while the U.S., for self-interested reasons, preferred a dollar-based system.

Given its immensely greater economic and financial power, America predictably carried the day. Keynes failed in his quest to endow the IMF with the power to create a new international reserve unit as an alternative to the dollar. And he failed to secure agreement on measures that might force surplus as well as deficit countries, and the issuer of the international currency as well as its users, to adjust.

The latter failing haunts us to this day. Countries that run chronic external surpluses, like China, and countries whose currencies are widely used internationally, like the U.S. do not face the same pressure as other countries to correct their policies when economic imbalances arise.

Policymakers at Nanjing promised to address this problem. They tasked the Group of 20 nations with developing a set of indicators that would signal when any country, including the U.S. and China, was at risk of a crisis. They called for a process to ensure that when the warning lights flashed yellow, the country in question would be compelled to correct its policies.

Unfortunately, such early warning indicators are better at reflecting the last crisis than they are at preventing the next one. The nature of financial risk is constantly changing in ways that are difficult to predict using backward-looking indicators like those being devised by the G-20. The only process for acting on such indicators is "peer pressure," which is unlikely to deliver results.

The other fashionable policy idea that will ultimately prove impractical is to transform the IMF credits known as Special Drawing Rights into an international currency to rival the dollar. The problem is that SDRs are used neither to settle cross-border transactions nor as a unit in which to denominate international bonds. That means that there are no private markets for SDRs, and creating such markets would be a long, hard slog.

In addition, for the SDR to become a true global currency, the IMF would have to be empowered to issue more of them in a crisis, much like the U.S. Federal Reserve provided foreign central banks with $ 120 billion in emergency credits following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. In other words, the IMF would have to be given the powers of a global central bank. It seems unlikely that Ron Paul, the libertarian chairman of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, who doubts that even the U.S. needs a central bank, would agree.

Instead, what will ultimately replace today's dollar-centric international monetary and financial system is a tripolar system organized around the dollar, the euro and the Chinese renminbi. Despite all of the current wailing and gnashing of teeth in Europe about its future, the euro isn't going anywhere. And China, for its part, is working energetically to internationalize its currency — and it is making faster progress than most people appreciate. The world will be better off as a result. The existence of alternatives to the dollar will mean that the issuers of internationally used currencies will feel market discipline earlier and more consistently. When the U.S. again shows signs of falling prey to financial excess, it will not receive as much foreign funding as freely as it has in the past.

After all, central banks seeking to accumulate foreign-currency reserves will have alternatives to acquiring dollars, so foreigners won't give America so much rope with which to hang itself.

The result will be a safer financial world. After all, the ultimate cause of the 2007-2009 financial crisis was the dangerous inconsistency between our multipolar global economy and its still dollar-dominated monetary and financial system.

The good news is that this will change over the coming decade, bringing international monetary arrangements back into line with economic realities. The bad news is that 10 years is a long time. Salvation could still be three crises away.

Barry Eichengreen is professor of economics and political science at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of "Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System." Project Syndicate 2011 (www.project-syndicate.org)

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

POLITICAL CHAMELEONS

The floodgates of reform opened at the end of president Soeharto's repressive and monarchial New Order have, directly and indirectly, paved the way for unlimited political freedom in Indonesia.

Many things that were unimaginable in the past have become commonplace in the present. Some developments have been good; others have proven unhealthy for the democracy that we have been and will continue to fight for.

The ambiguous nature of certain aspects reform has been underscored by recent chameleon-like changes in the loyalties of the country's political elites. More precisely, it has become common for politicians to change their party colors ahead of local elections throughout the nation.

The color-changing chameleon offers an apt metaphor for Indonesian politics: local parties are associated with specific colors on ballot sheets: yellow for the Golkar Party, for example, or green for Islamic parties.

The politicans' opportunism is so blatant and ubiquitous that switching (party) colors might be termed a trend for party executives facing reelection to top posts at the national and regional level.

Recent party-switchers share one thing in common. By and large they have abandoned the parties that backed their campaigns and moved to the big winner of the 2009 election – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party.

It remains to be seen, however, why many have defected to the Democratic Party. Some might have been driven by a desire to cling to power. Or perhaps the Democratic Party, hoping to repeat its success at the ballot box, has been recruiting incumbent officials to switch parties.

In any event, it is no secret that incumbents have all the benefits when running for office.

The latest incident of party switching is the widely reported exit of West Java deputy governor Dede Yusuf from the National Mandate Party (PAN). After securing his billet running with PAN's support, the actor-turned-politician has reportedly expressed a desire to run for West Java governor under the banner of the Democratic Party.

Dede never officially confirmed his departure, but PAN chairman Hatta Rajasa said Dede would run. "He said he wanted to be governor, so he needs a bigger party. I said that's okay," Hatta said.

Bandung mayor Dada Rosada is on a similar path. Dada, who secured his post with the Golkar Party's support, has not denied rumors of his move to the Democratic Party — or of his intention to run for West Java governor.

Previously, Tangerang mayor Wahidin Halim, who won his current post with Golkar's support, moved to Democratic Party and was elected as chairman of the party's Tangerang branch.

Others party switchers include West Nusa Tenggara Governor Muhammad Zainul Majdi, a Crescent Star Party (PBB) politician who was recently elected as chairman of the Democratic Party's West Nusa Tenggara chapter; North Sulawesi Governor Sinyo Harry Sarundajang, who won with the support of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Makassar mayor Ilham Arif Sirajuddin, a former chairman of Golkar's South Sulawesi chapter who was elected chairman of the Democratic Party's local chapter last year.

Incumbent party switching does not violate the Constitution, Indonesian law or regulations, including political parties' internal regulations. However, the repeated exoduses only raise questions about the commitment of politicians to the noble ethical norm of faithfulness.

Party switching has no legal consequences but it brings with social sanctions: a loss of public respect and trust – and the stigma of being branded as a politician without integrity.

It is their choice.

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THE JAKARTA POST

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: CLARIFICATION FROM CITIBANK

I refer to your article headlined "Family seeks damages from Citibank" on page 9 of Wednesday's edition of The Jakarta Post.

Your story quoted me as saying that "Citibank had made a friendly gesture to Irzen Octa's family by offering to cut his debt by a large percentage". This is incorrect.

Citibank actually offered Octa himself several packages to help him repay his debts to the bank since June 2008, when his record of delinquency began.

We made calls, but many times were unable to reach him. Hence, our debt recovery agents visited him several times.

It was then that we offered to help him repay his debts by reducing his principal by 40 percent. We also offered five other repayment packages, but he did not accept any of these.

The 40 percent discount offer was therefore made directly to Octa and not to his family after their bereavement.

          
Ditta Amahorseya                                            

Director, Country Corporate Affairs Head
Citi Indonesia
Jakarta

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THE JAKARTA POST

IS MULTICULTURALISM DEAD?

ABDUL MALIK GISMAR

The idea of multiculturalism became fashionable in Indonesia after the Reformasi in 1998. It was adopted by many circles in lieu of creating a more tolerant society amid the burgeoning sectarian conflicts following the resignation of long-time ruler Soeharto.

Today, while tolerance is in short supply everywhere, the concept faces serious challenges in the West. Not very long ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that, in Germany, multiculturalism had "failed, utterly failed". Sharing the podium with her, Horst Seehoffer, the Bavarian State Premier, more strongly stated that "multiculturalism is dead."

Is multiculturalism dead, too, in Indonesia?

Merkel's statements echo the anti-immigrant sentiments rising sharply in Germany and Europe in general over the past few years. In the week before she made her remarks, a study by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung foundation found more than 30 percent of people surveyed agreed that Germany was "overrun by foreigners" and some immigrants had only come to Germany to take advantage of its social welfare, and therefore "should be sent home when jobs are scarce". This is regardless of the fact that, as Germany's Labor minister Ursula von der Leyen said, for several years, more people have been leaving Germany than entering it.

The irony here is that the death sentence for multiculturalism was "officially" announced in Germany, the birthplace of the enlightenment project that played a significant role in fertilizing the growth of modern liberalism. But, perhaps, the current intolerance stems from the very assumption of liberalism itself.

Liberal toleration, at least in its Lockian-Kantian strand, was based on the assumption that there is a universal truth, a universal idea of a good life. People hold different values and lead different ways of life because they don't see the truth in the law of nature yet.

"What is toleration?" asked Voltaire. "It is the appurtenance of humanity. We are all full of weaknesses and errors; let us mutually pardon each other for our follies." Toleration is needed so that rational debate can occur which will lead to the enlightenment and consensus. Hence, the end of toleration is a rational consensus.

This assumption emerged in the early modern Europe and was successful in a homogenous Europe. For more than 200 years, liberalism has been a powerful force of emancipation, tolerance and open-mindedness in Europe. The problem is that it does not have room for differences that cannot be rationally resolved.

Implicit in this rational toleration is that you will be tolerated as long as you can be tolerated; but if you are too far astray, you cannot be tolerated. This is why John Locke, considered by many as the father of liberalism, did not extend toleration to Catholics and atheists. This is the limit of liberal toleration.

Chancellor Merkel apparently is tired of waiting for the Turks and the Kurds to be "enlightened". Instead of embracing the mainstream German culture, they keep their faith, speak their language and, in the words of popular German author Thilo Sarazin, "continue to produce little head-scarfed girls". Just like the Catholics and the atheists in Locke's time, they, too, cannot be tolerated. They must assimilate!

It is doubtful that Merkel's solution will work. Germany, Europe and the world of today, with its high migration and communication technology, are heterogeneous worlds. In these worlds it becomes obvious that not all values are universal; values are often incompatible and even universal values are often incommensurable.

Perhaps what Merkel encounters today is the real difference: the value incompatibility that cannot be reconciled by rational consensus, fundamental differences in the idea of good life. It is hard to see assimilation as the solution for this problem. The boundary of assimilation is always shifting; to what extent people have to assimilate is never clear.

In Indonesia, Merkel's solution is impossible even to entertain. Indonesia is the diversity par excellence. Indeed, even the national language, Bahasa Indonesia, is a second language for most Indonesians. Assimilation is a luxury Indonesia does not have.

We need to think of a way to deal with real differences. We need to conceptualize a toleration that does not end in rational consensus, but in coexistence. Instead of thinking about a melting pot, we should imagine what former Mayor of New York City David Dinkin called a "gorgeous mosaic". Long live multiculturalism.

The writer is a lecturer at Paramadina Graduate School and senior advisor at Partnership for Governance Reform.

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THE JAKARTA POST

IMMIGRATION LAW MOVES FROM 'THE WALL' TO 'THE GATEWAY'

FAHRI HAMZAH

The newly endorsed immigration law has won big applause from both citizens and foreigners staying and interested in investing in Indonesia, as it expresses the country's respect for human rights and is an integral reform for the immigration bureaucracy and the people's traffic into and from the country.

Law and human rights can be described as two sides of the same coin: distinctive but inseparable. Law enforcement requires an appreciation of human rights values, while respect for and protection of human rights without law enforcement is powerless.

The new immigration law essentially regulates the traffic of people, especially their entrance into and exit from the country. In this context, immigration functions as the wall and as the gateway that connects citizens with foreigners.

As a wall, immigration is reflected by complicated and even illogical immigration rules. The United States, under the George W. Bush presidency, for example, set up harsh immigration law, and it is considered by many as being unfriendly to foreigners. Its immigration policy as part of its war against terrorism resulted in tight arrangements for foreigners to enter that country.

As a gateway, the immigration law shows a country's hospitality and respect for human rights, since it facilitates foreigners to come in. This paradigm has become the face of immigration in many countries, particularly developed ones. Immigration is implemented as an instrument to facilitate the entry and exit traffic of people, including immigrants and refugees, into and out of a country.

Indonesia's immigration outlook under Law No. 12/1992, is appropriately categorized as the wall for several reasons. First, it tightly regulates foreigners living and staying in Indonesia. In addition to diplomatic and official residence permits, foreigners who live or stay in Indonesia must have a residence permit to work. Working permits are granted only to those who have certain qualifications and must not occupy high-level positions in companies, especially as human resources directors. Therefore, the recruitment of foreign workers is very selective to protect local workers and their interests.

Second, the previous immigration law doesn't distinguish categories of foreigners: Between foreigners wanting to work and those who stay for reasons of marriage or family integration. The requirement to obtain residence permits for foreigners married to Indonesian citizens is similar to the one on the grounds of work.

Thus, a foreigner who is married to an Indonesian citizen should have his or her job as regulated by the 2003 labor law. As a result, many expatriates have to live separately over a long distance from their Indonesian spouses because they do not meet the qualifications of being foreign workers. Such unfortunate consequences also affect their adult children who apply for foreign
citizenship.

Third, foreigners who are considered to be refugees are forced to leave the country on the grounds of persecution. Indonesia has not yet ratified the UN Convention on Refugees, which is why such cases have been handled by UNHCR and IOM. The absence of rulings on refugees have brought about the current regulations, entered at the discretion of the government. Yet the refugee issue in Indonesia has become serious because Indonesia is used as a transit stop by foreigners seeking asylum in other countries.

The new immigration law clearly specifies which foreigners deserve visas and the reasons and objectives for the visas being granted. The inclusion of this provision in the law reduces the government's discretion and will help avoid deviation from the rulings by immigration officials.

The new law also identifies foreigners living and staying in Indonesia with the various categories: missionaries, workers, investors, retired persons, families of mixed marriages, husbands, wives and/or children of permanent residence permit holders and adult children of mixed marriages. Excluding mixed-marriage families, permanent residence permits are obtained after three consecutive years of residency. The previous law required a consecutive five-year stay in Indonesia.

Another phenomenal provision given in Chapter 51 is of the rights for the family of mixed marriages and their adult children who hold permanent residence permits to work and do business to earn a living and support their family. The right to work is a basic right and has a close connection with the fulfillment of other rights such as the right to live.

Although the new immigration law does not regulate on refugees implicitly, it recognizes the non-refoulement principle, which does not require them to return to their home country for humanitarian reasons.

Refugees considered to be human trafficking victims are not subject to deportation and punishment, and the government has the obligation to hand them over to UNHCR and IOM.

The new law is not ideal, but at least it shows Indonesia's endeavor to boost its openness and become part of the world's borderless community.

The writer is a legislator of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and chairman of the House's special committee that deliberated the immigration bill with the government.

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THE JAKARTA POST

LEARNING FROM INDIA'S PPPS

EKO WIJI PURWANTO,

Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) have become buzz-words in infrastructure development. Even though they have been known since the 1990s, only in the last five or six years has the government realized that to cover the infrastructure funding gap would require private sector participation.

Does this mean that before recently we never utilized PPPs? During the 1990s, the government implemented PPPs in such a way that only those close to the elite could bid for the projects.

The Asian economic crisis in 1997 changed almost everything in Indonesia. Political reforms reshaped the socio-economic environment. As a consequence, many PPP projects were cancelled.

One major impact of the crisis was poor infrastructure. In medium-term development planning for 2005-2009, the government realized that achieving the targeted economic growth rate of 7 percent per annum would require better infrastructure. Proper infrastructure is a necessary condition for development.

In early 2005, the President announced that the government lacked the budget to cope with infrastructure problems, therefore private sector participation was a must. The government organized the Indonesia Infrastructure Summit in 2005, the Indonesia Infrastructure Conference and Exhibition (IICE) in 2006 and many other initiatives to promote PPPs, including institutional reforms and new regulations. A total of 91 projects were offered at the 2005 summit, and 10 model projects were launched during IICE 2006, but none of the projects have been implemented so far.

There are many countries that have succeeded in implementing PPPs that Indonesia can learn from, including India.

Currently, India is implementing an infrastructure development program worth over US$500 billion. As a developing country, India is becoming the focus of global investment. Domestic investors and local developers act as the locomotive for infrastructure investment in India with an average foreign direct investment (FDI) of 10 percent except in certain sectors (airports, seaports) where the FDI is significantly higher. In addition, India is relatively successful in administering all aspects that relate to infrastructure development in partnership with the private sector.

There are many similarities between Indonesia and India. Both are experiencing economic growth and striving to maintain and increase their economic growth.

India, like Indonesia, is a democratic country that adopts decentralization of government. Its robust economy needs massive infrastructure back-up to continually stimulate the growth. As a result, the need for huge funding calls for the involvement of the private sector to maintain the momentum of growth.

Furthermore, both India and Indonesia have large areas with diverse populations and face problems in infrastructure management such as growth versus equality of development and development versus social welfare.

India's experience in implementing PPPs can be summarized in four major categories. First, paradigm shifts for all stakeholders. Successful reform initiatives have universally relied on leadership, i.e. the government head. Infrastructure reforms in India have been led by the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI), chaired by the Prime Minister. PPPs have gained wide ownership and support throughout the government.

Second is funding for infrastructure provision. As in Indonesia, there are competing demands on budgetary resources for other public goods such as infrastructure, health, education and rural development. On the other hand, budgetary allocations cannot be increased beyond 9 percent per annum. In real terms, reliance on private investment is inevitable. In India, private equity is not viewed as a constraint and markets have responded well. Debt required by public sector and private sector enterprises is estimated at US$247 billion in the 11th Plan (2007-2012).

Unfortunately, the tenure of bank loans is inadequate as their deposits are short or medium-term.

Asset-liability mismatch is emerging as a serious regulatory issue constraining long-term financing by banks. Shorter tenures raise costs (user charges) and banks are exhausting their prudential limits in terms of sector, borrower and project exposure.

To solve problems in infrastructure financing, India has set up infrastructure debt funds to channel long-term insurance and pension funds through credit, introduce tax-free infrastructure bonds and a take-out financing scheme introduced by India Infrastructure Financing Company Limited (IIFCL).

Additionally, a high-level committee has been set up to recommend policy initiatives necessary for financing $1 trillion in investment.

Third is good governance. Typical problems related to good governance in India are incumbent mindsets, unwillingness of incumbents to cede control over construction and operation of projects, denial of a level playing field, rent-seeking, inadequate and inefficient project roll-outs and greater demand for PPP projects than supply.

One major step taken by the government to create good governance is forming a Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI) chaired by the Prime Minister. The CCI is supported by a PPP appraisal committee that evaluates and recommends all PPP projects for the central government.

The CCI is also equipped with an empowering committee to approve proposals by the state governments for viability gap funding. In both supporting units, planning commissions do the appraisals and are chaired by the Finance Minister.

The CCI creates greater reliance on inter-ministerial and inter-disciplinary dialogue to enrich outcomes and minimize conflicts of interest. In line with those efforts, the government enforces consultations with stakeholders, including users and investors, and also the simplification and standardization of documents and processes.

Last but not least is a clear and transparent procedure on PPP processes. For all stakeholders and mostly investors, clear and transparent PPP documentation is crucial.

There are two kinds of documents: substantive and process documents. Substantive documents consist of concession agreements, manuals of specifications and standards (general guidelines and sector guidelines) and rules for user charges.

Process documents are comprised of requests for proposals (RFPs) for the selection of consultants, RFQs for bidder pre-qualification and RFPs for financial bids. Some key points on PPP documentation are the assurance of independent and competent advice and the standardized RFP documents for selection processes, evaluations and agreements.

Standardized RFQ/RFPs establish generic guidelines and provide requisite sector-specific and project-specific flexibility to accelerate and to streamline decision-making through simplified matrices, both quantitative and transparent.

In the end, fair and transparent pre-qualification and bidding is a pre-requisite for competitive and efficient PPPs.

There are pains in implementing PPPs in India. To achieve our objective, better infrastructure provision for better development, we may not need to follow the other country's path, but to be sure, India is a good example for us to learn from.



The writer is a senior planner for PPP Directorate, the National Development Planning Agency
(Bappenas). The opinions expressed are his own.

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THE JAKARTA POST

AHMADIYAH A TEST OF DIALOGUE, LAW

ANDY FULLER

In the wake of attacks against Ahmadis on Feb. 6, 2011, many have called for a dialogue between the members of Ahmadiyah and groups — such as Front Pembela Islam. In other instances, commentators have emphasized the legality of citizens to practice their religion in the manner that they choose.

The practice of dialogue and the enforcement of particular laws, however, will not necessarily bring about the easy resolution to conflicts between groups such as FPI and a religious minority such as Ahmadiyah. Dialogues and laws also offer the opportunity for some to further their will upon others.

Although a "dialogue" is a welcomed alternative to physical violence, a dialogue is not without its own pitfalls and needs to be judged on its own merits. It is worth questioning, for example, as to who participates in the dialogue and for what ends.

A dialogue is not something that can be forced to take place. Dialogues also present an opportunity to perform a kind of discursive violence: a violence, which even if only spoken, still rejects the other participants in the dialogue.

In the days after the attacks on Ahmadis in Cikeusik, Banten, some leaders referred to the belief of Ahmadis as being blasphemous of Islam. Elsewhere, in Sabili a conservative (and popular) magazine, Ahmadiyah members are blamed for inciting the violence against them.

Moreover, they are referred to as being intolerant of non-Ahmadis. There has been a rush to be considered as "tolerant", as well as a claim to being "offended". Discourses regarding religious orthodoxy and deviancy somehow become more important than the criminality of three killings performed in broad daylight.

Dialogue, however, might be more useful as a tool to prevent violence, rather than to solve cases or ease tensions after grave violations of one's rights has already taken place. Since the killings and other attacks, no one has volunteered a statement in which he or she acknowledges a kind of complicity in sharpening attitudes against Ahmadis.

Calls for dialogue, thus, become an effort to avoid accountability. Groups that have participated in discursive and physical violence against others, should not participate in public "dialogues" unless they are willing to acknowledge the violence of their actions and words. Ahmadis or others, do not need to validate such calls for dialogues, until those who are guilty have faced public and criminal censure.

Some commentators have pointed to the weakness of the state in allowing the killings of Ahmadis. That is, the state has not been able to implement laws that protect Ahmadis (just as it should for any other citizen) from criminal acts of violence.

One of the curious elements of recent attacks on Ahmadis, however, is the presence of the state.

Throughout the footage that shows the killings in Cikeusik, police are present. They are shown to be passive in watching the killings as they occur.

Some publications have continued to report on how different levels of the police force knew about the impending attacks on Suparman's house in Cikeusik. Here, the state is clearly present: but it is a state that is willing to take sides with an outraged and violent mob.

Just as public forums have served to discriminate against Ahmadis, so have the decrees of various governors sought to criminalize belief. These laws are curious as they seemingly go against the laws that are part of the Constitution that state that each citizen is able to hold his or her belief in accordance with their wishes.

It seems that these governors, however susceptible they are to different political interests, are willing to give in to the demands of different radical groups. Instead of moving to protect Ahmadis from further discrimination and violent attacks, the state through laws issued at the provincial level have provided more room for discrimination against Ahmadis.

Hate-speech is normal when talking about Ahmadiyah. So, the state is present and laws are being created. These laws, however, have followed the demands of "the mob", rather than referring back to the authority of the Constitution and the state ideology, which states "unity in diversity" and "social justice for all".

The clashes between a self-proclaimed mainstream Muslim majority and that of a minority Muslim sect (Ahmadiyah) are representative of a conflict between "the orthodox" and "un-orthodox". The orthodox and those who claim to be so, are unwilling to accept those who divert from what is considered to be "the true" or "the real" Islam.

This is seen clearly in recent attempts to re-convert Ahmadis away from their chosen faith and back to "the real", "the right" and "the true" Islam. In such an instance, the orthodox clearly consider themselves to be the paternal representatives who know what is best for the infantile "other" who has strayed from "the straight path".

A negotiation of values was strikingly absent on that morning of Feb. 6, 2011. It was a moment when "dialogue" was no longer possible. It was a moment for violence and rejection of the other.

Decrees at the provincial level have further normalized violence against Ahmadis. A dialogue "after the fact" won't solve anything until the injustices against this particular minority are recognized.

It is not the time for a dialogue, but the time for openness and arguments: where people are willing to accept the legitimacy of others to hold their beliefs. Until guilt and culpability is established, a monologue of violence — both physical and discursive — will persist.



The writer is based at the Asia Institute, the University of Melbourne, Australia. This is an English language version of a presentation given at Sunan Ampel State Islamic University, Surabaya.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

A VICTIM OF CONFLICT...  

BY JENNIFER GNANA

THERE were no dramatic fireworks lighting up the cold Himalayan skyline as Nepal entered the Year 2068, according to the unusual calendar it follows.

It was by candlelight and electricity made possible through generators that revelries were held in the mountain kingdom.

As excited as I was by the prospect of being in a timeline 57 years ahead of the rest of the world, I was also deeply saddened that its technological development had failed to catch up.

The countryside where I stayed closes down with the sunset, as there is little electricity.

Since February, the country has been reeling under routine power cuts that last up to 14 hours per day.

It is the result of load shedding imposed by Nepal Electricity Authority to conserve electricity, but it has crippled people's day-to-day life.

Students appearing for exams have a difficult time studying, as lights go off at 7pm every day.

Generators are an absolute must, although it's not an affordable option for many.

To bring the government's attention to the plight of people crippled by the power cuts, one of Nepal's television channels has presenters reading the 7pm news by candlelight.

The trouble is most people can't watch it, as there is no electricity.

Years of conflict with the Maoists has allowed for poor development of infrastructure that cannot fully tap the potential of the resource-rich kingdom.

Despite being enclosed by the majestic Himalayas with fresh springs providing enough water to generate electricity, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world and its citizens seek low-skilled jobs elsewhere to escape poverty.

It is heartening, however, that the people are resourceful and try to make the best of what is available - making the country one of the best South Asian destinations.

Restaurants have candlelight dinners in the evenings and most people have solar-powered heating systems to cut costs and conserve energy.

Although the genial atmosphere of the place more than makes up for its lack of basic infrastructure, you can't help thinking about how the country could have transformed itself if political willpower and some foresight were applied.

Though very different from its neighbouring countries, you can still see a semblance of neglect by the ruling classes reflected in the way the country functions.

The failure of South Asian countries to empower their citizens to make the changes they desire, such as providing proper housing, sanitation and electricity, has slowed the wheels of development.

Also, the general apathy of the ruling elite who do not share the discomforts of the majority, and the corruption that underscores most developments, has put these countries' growth back several decades.

If the region gets its priorities right and acknowledges the people's right to dignity, then maybe a Nepal that is truly ahead of its time can actually become a reality.

* Ms Gnana is a former Bahrain resident now studying in Mumbai

 

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