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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

EDITORIAL 19.04.11

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month april 19, edition 000810, csollected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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









































































It is extremely unfortunate that the so-called 'Joint Committee' which has been set up by the Government to draft a Lok Pal Bill with the help of self-appointed representatives of 'civil society' following social activist Anna Hazare's dramatic fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi should have run into a storm of controversies. The Congress, which made a public show of suing for peace with Anna Hazare and his irate followers to douse raging middle class anger against the Government it heads and which is perceived as the most corrupt India has been ever saddled with, continues to snipe at the 'civil society' representatives who have been co-opted in the committee. Its spokespersons and senior leaders, including general secretary Digvijay Singh, have been relentless in questioning the credentials of individuals who claim to be repositories of honesty, integrity and probity in their public and private lives. So much so, one of them has threatened to file criminal defamation charges against Mr Digvijay Singh whose statements have been defended by the Congress on the specious plea that in a democracy everybody has the right to freedom of speech. It could be argued that Mr Digvijay Singh is given to casting aspersions on one and all barring Ms Sonia Gandhi and Mr Rahul Gandhi who, according to him, can do no wrong. Hence, it is not surprising that he should train his guns on men who insist their integrity is unimpeachable and claim to represent 'civil society', never mind that they have nothing to prove the level of their representation. But since the Government has in its wisdom decided to involve these individuals in a task that was till now the prerogative and constitutionally-mandated responsibility of the executive, it was expected that the Congress would refrain from seeking to besmirch their reputation, not the least because Anna Hazare appears to have reposed his faith in Ms Gandhi and continues to appeal to her for decisive intervention. Are we then to assume that the Congress, as usual, is playing a devious game? That the party's leaders have decided to make a great show of pandering to Anna Hazare and his men while raising doubts about their integrity quotient at the same time? If this is true, surely Ms Gandhi cannot but be aware of it?

The Congress's shenanigans apart, there is also the parallel effort, undertaken by as yet faceless individuals, to undermine the 'civil society' participation in the drafting of the Lok Pal Bill by leaking to the media taped telephone conversations whose details, if true, are highly damaging. The person at whom this is directed has debunked the authenticity of the taped conversations and produced what he says is evidence to prove his point. This has not prevented others from asserting that the conversation did take. In brief, it has become a slanderous slanging match that has the potential of distracting attention from the proposed Lok Pal Bill and in the end put a question mark on the intentions of those involved in the task of drafting it. In which event, little or no purpose would have been served either by Anna Hazare's agitation or the Government's seeming capitulation. It would be wise for both the Government and the men nominated by Anna Hazare to sort out their differences and also get the Congress on board. Otherwise, we will be witness to a prolonged tamasha.







Given the renewed vengeance with which the Maoists in Nepal are currently pursuing their anti-India agenda even after joining their country's political mainstream as a member of the ruling coalition, it can only be said that old habits die hard. Disruptive politics has always been the hallmark of the UCPN-Maoists but one had hoped that after being elected to lead the new democracy, the former insurgents would behave more responsibly. It seems that is not to be. Despite their new role as law-makers and indeed, nation-builders, the Maoists remain intent on imposing their violent ideology of chaos and anarchy. This is particularly evident in the Maoist response towards Indian investment in, and assistance to, Nepal. For quite some time now, India has been working with Nepal to provide financial assistance and make other investments that would, for example, help build infrastructure in the conflict-ridden state but the Maoists have twisted our offer of help out of context and presented it as the ever-extending arm of a closet coloniser. Consequently, the Maoists cadre have on multiple occasions tried to register their 'protest' by carrying out appalling acts of disrespect and contempt towards the Indian state. Already, India's Ambassador to Nepal, Mr Rakesh Sood, has complained to both the Indian and Nepali Governments about several such incidents during which the Maoists have shouted anti-India slogans, waved black flags at him and even denigrated the Tricolour at the sites of joint-venture projects.

Every year, India provides financial aid worth `200 crore to implement development projects in Nepal but the Maoists have constantly rebuffed our efforts. This has to stop. As members of the ruling coalition, the Maoists cannot continue to behave like a band of rebels. Hopefully, Minister for Foreign Affairs SM Krishna's upcoming three-day visit to Nepal will help mitigate the growing anti-India sentiment. Mr Krishna is scheduled to meet several high level officials, including Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal and Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal. These are steps being taken in the right direction, especially given China's growing interest in Nepal — the Chinese have already sent a high-level military delegation to Kathmandu with promises of hefty military aid and are also helping build roads and railways that conveniently lead them to India. Thus, it is imperative that New Delhi continues to work with Kathmandu to strengthen bilateral ties between the two nations, not only for the larger good of helping build a strong democracy in the neighbourhood but also prevent Nepal from becoming a Chinese satellite state and thus a threat to our national security. The time has come to stand up to the Maoists.








If the Congress had been sincere about fighting corruption, it would not have drafted a toothless Lok Pal Bill whose provisions are laughable.

The promise of bringing in an effective law to curb corruption in the top echelons of the state should undoubtedly go down as the biggest hoax played by the political class on the people of India after independence. Every Government, from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru to Mr Manmohan Singh, promised to establish an institution to bring to book corrupt Ministers and MPs and reneged on it.

But, going by the statements of Mr Manmohan Singh and Ms Sonia Gandhi after the recent settlement with Anna Hazare, there can be no doubt that the Congress and the Prime Minister have taken deception to a new level altogether.

The first acknowledgement that the cancer of corruption had begun to destroy the great gains of the freedom movement came in the 1960s when the Santhanam Committee was appointed to assess the extent of the problem and to suggest remedial action. This was followed by the report of the first Administrative Reforms Commission which recommended the appointment of a Lok Pal to inquire into the conduct of Ministers and MPs.

The farce vis-à-vis the Lok Pal Bill began after Mrs Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister when her Government introduced it in the Lok Sabha in 1968, knowing fully well that the Bill would lapse if the Lower House was dissolved prior to its passage in Parliament. Sure enough, the Lok Pal Bill faced sudden death when Mrs Gandhi opted for early dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 1971. Since then, eight more half-hearted attempts have been made to legislate on this issue in Parliament and on a majority of these occasions, it was the Congress that was in power.

After all this humming and hawing for over four decades, the Lok Pal Bill proposed by the Manmohan Singh Government last year constitutes an affront to the intelligence of every citizen. Here, it must be made clear that this draft had the tacit approval of the Congress and the attempt to distance party president Sonia Gandhi from it is as disingenuous as the attempts by the ruling party to accuse Anna Hazare of resorting to "blackmail" and undemocratic means.

Instead of empowering the aam admi to complain against corrupt Ministers and MPs and arming the Lok Pal to go after the wrong-doers, the Government's draft Bill seeks to protect the corrupt in a variety of ways, while simultaneously trying to intimidate complainants.

The Government's draft says the Lok Pal will only be an advisory body without any police powers or the power to register FIRs against the corrupt. Nor will the CBI be under it. Further, the Lok Pal will have no power to initiate suo motu action or receive complaints of corruption from citizens. It will be empowered to proceed only if the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (both political appointees) permit it to do so. And, after all this, the punishment for guilty politicians who swindle the exchequer of thousands of crores of rupees will be a minimum of six months and a maximum of seven years in jail.

As against this bogus Bill drafted by the Government, Anna Hazare's 'Jan Lok Pal Bill' wants the Lok Pal to be an independent body like the Election Commission with suo motu power to investigate complaints against Ministers, MPs, judges and bureaucrats, to file FIRs and prosecute the corrupt, and not be just an 'advisory body'. Further, the 'Jan Lok Pal' will directly receive complaints from people and act on them.

There is another major point of difference. Mr Singh and Ms Gandhi do not want the Lok Pal to have the power to investigate the Prime Minister in regard to foreign affairs, security matters and defence-related issues. Anna Hazare's draft makes no such exception and rightly so. Bofors was a defence deal (purchase of field guns) in which Ottavio Quattrocchi, a friend of the Gandhi family, received commission payments from the Swedish company. Obviously fearing a repeat of a scandal of such proportions, the Government does not want the Lok Pal to investigate defence deals.

The Government's draft Lok Pal Bill is also so cleverly worded that everything can be classified as coming within the purview of 'security matters' and thus kept out of the Lok Pal's scrutiny. For example, if we had a Lok Pal last year on the lines proposed by the Government, the Prime Minister would in all probability have claimed that the Rs 1.76 lakh crore 2G Spectrum scam was a 'security matter' that cannot be probed by the ombudsman.

There are other areas of divergence which are equally significant. Mr Singh and Ms Gandhi prefer to go soft on the culprits (jail term of six months to seven years) whereas Anna Hazare wants the jail term to be five years to life imprisonment. Further, Anna Hazare says the loss to Government must be recovered from the accused. For example, if A Raja is held guilty, then all his properties must be confiscated. Mr Singh and Ms Gandhi do not want such a provision.

Finally, there is a clear attempt in the Government's draft Lok Pal Bill to scare away complainants by saying that those who file false complaints will be penalised and imprisoned. Anna Hazare's Bill is devoid of such intimidation.

All this is not to say that everything is fine with Anna Hazare's draft 'Jan Lok Pal Bill'. It has its flaws and hopefully these will get ironed out in the coming months. But, is it not ludicrous for Mr Singh and Ms Gandhi, who are primarily responsible for allowing Quattrocchi to walk away with the Bofors loot, to now claim that they are committed to a strong anti-corruption law? Or for Congress loudspeakers to claim that the settlement with Anna Hazare is indicative of the "sagacity and wisdom" of Ms Gandhi and Mr Singh?

Even more laughable is the contention of the 'Amul Baby' of the family (whose great grandfather, grandmother and father fooled the people into believing that they would bring a strong anti-corruption law) that he too favours a strong anti-corruption law. If so, what was he doing all this while when his party and Government were circulating a draft Lok Pal Bill not worth the paper it was printed on?

It has been wisely said that you cannot fool all the people all the time. But this is one lesson that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty will never learn.







The northern district of Baramulla has been one of the worst militant infested districts of Jammu & Kashmir. It is the largest of 10 districts in the Kashmir Valley, both in terms of population and area. Spread over 4,588 sq km, it is bordered by Kupwara in the west, Budgam and Poonch in the south, parts of the summer capital, Srinagar, and Kargil in the east, and the Neelam district in Pakistan occupied Kashmir in the north. Baramulla, consequently, has immense 'geo-strategic importance' for the Pakistani handlers of terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and other foreign terrorist formations, as it serves as a principal route of infiltration into the Indian side. As a result, Baramulla has emerged as a nodal point of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir.

According to the Institute for Conflict Management database, a total of 627 people, including 401 militants, 119 Security Force personnel and 108 civilians, have been killed in terrorist-related incidents in the district since 2001. While there was a continuous increase in fatalities till 2006 (barring 2003), the fatalities have registered a broadly declining trend since. There was, however, a spurt in 2010 to 72 killed, with SF fatalities at 22, and terrorists accounting for 45.

Significantly, 2010 also equalled the 2006 peak in the number of encounters, at 41, between SFs and terrorists. There were 26 encounters in 2007, 18 in 2005 and 17 in 2008.

In the most recent encounter, the SFs killed a foreign militant, Chacha Talha, of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba in Reban village in the Sopore area of the district on March 28, 2011. Talha was active in the Sopore-Rafiabad belt of the Baramulla district.

Some other major encounters since January 2010 include:

October 23, 2010: Three terrorists were killed as the Army foiled an infiltration bid near the Line of Control in Uri sector.

August 29-30, 2010: The Army killed nine terrorists in a failed infiltration bid near the LoC in the Uri sector. Sources said the number of militants in the infiltrating group was about 15.

May 7, 2010: Seven Lashkar-e-Tayyeba militants and two Army personnel were killed in a gunfight that lasted over 24 hours, ending in the evening in the Shiekhpora forest area of Rafiabad.

February 23, 2010: Five top militants and three SF personnel, including an Army officer, were killed and three soldiers were injured in a fierce 18-hour gun battle between the SFs and militants in the Sopore town.

Unsurprisingly, Baramulla has been notified as a 'Disturbed Area', along with Jammu, Kathua, Poonch, Udhampur, Rajouri and Doda Districts of the Jammu Division, and Srinagar, Budgam, Anantnag, Pulwama and Kupwara districts of the Srinagar Division, under Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990. The Act came into being in 1958 and was extended to Kashmir in 1990, and has remained in force since.

Sources indicate that a large number of armed militants are present in Baramulla. Shiv Murari Sahai, Inspector-General of Police (Kashmir Zone), thus noted, in November 2010, "Around 150 militants were active in three north Kashmir districts of Bandipora, Baramulla and Kupwara. They had used the recent unrest in the Valley to regroup and reorganise their ranks." Militant outfits such as Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen have been very visible, with the maximum number terrorist fatalities drawn from these two groups. Since 2001, at least 93 Lashkar-e-Tayyeba terrorists have been killed in the district, along with 17 Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and 11 Jaish-e-Mohammad cadres. The terrorists killed include one Deputy Chief of Operations, two Divisional Commanders, one District Commander, five Commanders of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba; one Deputy Chief, four Battalion Commanders, two District Commanders and three Commanders of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen; one Divisional Commander, two District Commanders and one Commander of Jaish-e-Mohammad; one Chief Commander, two District Commanders and two Commanders of Al Badr.

On a positive note, there are very few fatalities among the civilians in terrorism related incidents in the district and the general trend on this index is declining. Nevertheless, Baramulla bore the brunt of the summer unrest of 2010. Out of 104 protesters killed, 33 (31.73 per cent) died in this district alone. Though the escalation started in Srinagar in the last week of June 2010, it progressively swelled, with a large number of demonstrations erupting in Sopore in Baramulla district. Media reports indicate that, between January 1 and July 7, 2010, the town of Baramulla accounted for 46 clashes (involving violent mobs), while nearby Sopore, which has been an historic stronghold of the Jamaat-e-Islami, witnessed 21 clashes.

This was far from coincidental, since Sopore has emerged as a significant hub of terrorism and subversion in the State. On March 2, 2010, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had noted, "Militants are grouping in the Sopore area and Kulgam district. These areas are a challenge for us on the militancy front. We are taking extra measures to deal with the militants there." Subsequently, on June 30, 2010, Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram observed, "Anti-national elements are clearly linked to Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, which is active in the Sopore area."

Clearly, troop cuts, long pushed by an uncomprehending 'peace lobby', both domestic and international, and by aggressive Pakistani diplomacy, have had an adverse impact on the security scenario in the State in general and Baramulla in particular. Significantly, the Central Reserve Police Force was withdrawn from Baramulla in the aftermath of unrest following the killing of four civilians in June 2009. Mr Chidambaram, however, had insisted that the disengaging of the force from law and order duties in Baramulla was part of the latest strategy agreed to by the Union and the Jammu & Kashmir Government to "redraw the lines of responsibility" of the various forces stationed in the State. "When I visited Jammu & Kashmir on June 11 and 12, we agreed that the lines of responsibility (for maintenance of security in Jammu & Kashmir) must be redrawn... we have been in touch with Jammu & Kashmir to allow us to withdraw some of the CRPF companies," Mr Chidambaram had said on July 1, 2009. He added, further, that it was only on June 30, 2009, that the Chief Minister had got in touch with him to convey that the Jammu & Kashmir Police was ready to take over from the CRPF in Baramulla.

A confidential report by the Jammu & Kashmir Police, however, has blamed the resurgence of militancy in Sopore on troop 'relocation'. Yet, Chief Minister Abdullah, on March 18, 2011, boasted that, with marked improvement in the internal security situation and gradual restoration of peace, 35,000 Army personnel and hundreds of Central Paramilitary Force personnel had been shifted out of Jammu & Kashmir in the preceding 15 months alone: "We have reduced thousands of troops and also decreased the number of Central Paramilitary Forces from internal duty without creating any hype... the process (of troop reduction) will continue."

In view of escalating trends in both terrorist and street violence, such a position is clearly problematic. Conspicuously, the infrastructure, logistics and human resources of Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorism are entrenched and active (both covertly and overtly) in the State, with Sopore-Baramulla as their prominent hub. The events of 2010 have unambiguously demonstrated the dangers of complacence and of the hasty, politically motivated, undermining of the security grid. Such dangers can only deepen, particularly in the context of inputs that the latest strategy of Pakistan's external intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence, and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, is to combine renewed infiltration attempts by heavily-armed terrorists with escalating civil unrest, to ensure that Kashmir remains in a state of chaos, despite the loss of tempo on the terrorism front.

The writer is a Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management.







Anna Hazare has given voice to mounting popular anger against the alarming decline in ethics, morals and probity in public life. Till now, there was nobody to articulate middle class sentiments on corruption. He has done so

It was a rare phenomenon witnessed by the young and the not-so-young in free India. The response to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption agitation was so spontaneous and overwhelming that even the die-hard detractors of rallies and demonstrations were surprised. It was unique in the sense that there was not much hype created before the event. There was no visible organisational set-up which could claim the credit for such a massive demonstration of anger against the system of governance and the people who have been entrusted to govern the nation.

The magnitude of corruption and the manner in which it is being defended by those expected to eradicate it are indeed shameful. It is disquieting for the people of India who aspire to have a better future and want the country to move ahead.

After the event, analyses are pouring in from all around. Some leaders have now become vocal about how social activists are trying to hijack the rights of the elected representatives of the people. It is these politicians who kept quiet when criminal elements in droves entered Parliament and Legislative Assemblies.

The founding fathers of our nation who formulated the Constitution believed in moral values, probity in public life, commitment to the nation.They were ready to sacrifice everything for the welfare of the people of India. None of them could probably have imagined that after five decades, India would be reeling from scams and scandals, public money will be salted abroad and corporates would decide policies and portfolio of Ministers. Could they have ever imagined that a person of high academic calibre like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will file a false affidavit that he is a regular resident of Assam? The very concept of Rajya Sabha stands eroded as it has become a 'parking lot' for Ministers who need a back-door entry to Parliament.

Dishonesty is not confined only to monetary transactions. It is common knowledge how the MP Local Area Development fund is being misused. Its amount has been increased from Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore recently and will probably continue to be increased as long as the major political parties remain dependent on regional allies and caste-based politics. As a consequence, the people do not trust even an honest MP who may be following the rules. Corruption has spread deep into the panchayat raj system as well.

This year's Tamilnadu Assembly election has set new standards on how voters could be lured, particularly from the weaker sections of society. It is the emergence of unscrupulous people in politics with vested interests which has reduced the credibility of the election process. They are responsible for the universal disenchantment that now prevails in the country. Is this the democracy that Mahatma Gandhi had dreamt of? It is this disenchantment faced by citizens of every stratum that has resulted in the Anna Hazare phenomenon.

The support for Anna Hazare mainly remains confined to the professional and educated urban classes. However, not many are really keen about technicalities of the Jan Lok Pal Bill proposed by Anna Hazare but they are unanimous on the single point agenda: Politicians and bureaucrats can no longer be allowed to play with taxpayers' money. They should not be permitted to squander away the reputation and credibility of the nation just for their personal gain.

In spite of the limitation of the movement, people have supported it because it is a step in the right direction. However, the squabbles within the 'coterie' have begun to reach the people making them suspicious of the intent. It is a well-established fact that in the field of social activism, personal ego and the desire to gain publicity are what motivate activists, though they all plead to the contrary. Sadly, the mood after the event, even amongst Anna Hazare loyalists, is not as encouraging as it was on the day Anna Hazare broke his fast.

What would India gain out of this momentous show of people's anger, anguish and disgust? Without doubt, politicians are not relishing the success of the movement and voices are already being heard expressing how the Anna-Government accord impinges on the sovereignty of Parliament as drafting legislation is the constitutionally-mandated responsibility of the executive. However, these elected representatives do not publicly cite a single case where the candidate has won a Lok Sabha election by spending only within the permissible limits. Sometimes, the best of the quotable quotes come from unexpected quarters. Mr HD Kumaraswamy, former Chief Minister of Karnataka, has made a very honest statement on dishonesty — that it is impossible to be in politics without arranging extra funds. Public perceptions are also on the same line: It would be a miracle to locate an MP who win a general election without crossing the expenditure limits set by the Election Commission. Interestingly, all expenditure statements submitted to the Election Commission are within these limits.

For long, people were agitated but no one succeeded in finding a way to end corruption and dishonesty. There was a constant search for an honest, self-effacing, sacrificing and committed individual who would follow the delineated code of morals and ethics. Only he could become an icon for the nation. Mr Jayaprakash Narayan was the one who could unite people from all categories. After his demise, there was a vacuum. The search extended to Mr Viswanath Pratap Singh, former Prime Minister, and Mr TN Seshan, former Chief Election Commissioner, but they could not match the expectations of the people for various reasons. The search is far more intense now than ever before because of the alarming decline in ethics, morals and probity in public life. Thus, Anna Hazare has caught the people's imagination. His detractors have become active from day one. He is not necessarily flanked by individuals who enjoy complete public sanction. That could be the main worry..







Since the existing structure of global institutions does not reflect 21st century realities, the BRICS nations have established a political structure that reflects the multi-polar world that is taking shape. They are looking for ways to increase their influence and limits the West's sway over the rest

With the addition of South Africa, the informal group of emerging economies known as BRIC has become BRICS. The expanded group has met for the first time at a summit in the Chinese city of Sanya. But while the composition of the group has changed, the question remains the same: What exactly unites these countries, with all their geographic, cultural and political differences?

There is simply no precedent for BRIC in the history of international organisations. The clever acronym was coined by Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs as a way to generate interest in developing markets among the investment bank's clients. Now the acronym has taken on a life of its own. Russian political scientist Vyacheslav Nikonov has called BRIC a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The global financial crisis exposed differences in the level of economic development among the BRIC nations, leading sceptics to predict an early end for the group. Western commentators have been especially perplexed by Russia's presence in BRIC. What is a petrostate with vague prospects of modernisation doing among the future leaders of the global economy?

Russia indeed stands apart from the other members, and not only because it is growing much slower than China and India. The economies of Brazil, India, China and South Africa have all seen a steady upward trend in the last two decades, lifting the countries (with varying degrees of success) from poverty and backwardness. Russia suffered an unprecedented decline 20 years ago. It has made progress since but has not yet locked into a stable growth trajectory. However, it has not sunk to Third World levels either, even in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse. Simply put, the problems that Russia has encountered are very different from those facing the other BRICS members, who are outpacing Russia in terms of economic growth.

There would be grounds to question Russia's inclusion in BRICS if the group really were all about economic growth, as Goldman Sachs would have it. But BRICS is primarily a political group that emerged in response to the obvious need for a more diverse and less Western-oriented global political structure. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said recently that for Russia, BRICS is first and foremost a geopolitical association.

The surprising unanimity displayed by the BRIC nations during the UN Security Council vote authorising military intervention in Libya is telling. Russia, China, India and Brazil all abstained, suggesting a coordinated position. South Africa supported the Western coalition.

There are several reasons for the growing interest in BRICS.

First, it is becoming increasingly clear that the structure of global institutions does not reflect 21st Century realities, while talk of reform remains just that — talk. To be sure, these five very different countries do not agree on everything. But they are united in their dissatisfaction with their status in the world, even if their reasons are different and even incompatible. Existing political structures were built around the bipolar world of the Cold War and have remained virtually unchanged since. The BRICS nations want a political structure that reflects the multi-polar world that is taking shape. BRIC declarations have rightly questioned the legitimacy of the existing system. But there is little hope that the permanent members of the UN Security Council (a relic of the 1945 balance of power) will voluntarily share their privileges with other countries. True, this also applies to the two BRIC countries that are permanent members, Russia and China.

Second, current global problems demand entirely new approaches. The five BRICS nations believe that the West has monopolised the global debate. This is at odds with the political and economic balance of power in the world, and serves only to inhibit the fresh solutions that could result from a more inclusive discussion.

Third, all of the BRICS nations have found it difficult to increase their influence on the world stage within existing institutions, and they have been looking for ways to strengthen their negotiating position in the ongoing process of forming a new global political structure. The fact that they represent different parts of the world lends even more weight to their aspirations.

For now, the BRICS nations are rapidly developing countries. But they might also be the main poles of the emerging multi-polar world. To see BRICS solely through the lens of economic growth is to miss the point.

BRIC is a useful concept for Russia, which has struggled since 1991 to find a stable identity in the global political arena. It would be hard to imagine a better way to steer global politics in a non-Western direction than BRICS. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was reduced to the level of regional power. The concept of BRICS offers Russia a way to reassert its global aspirations and to draw attention to its economic progress.

Moreover, BRICS allows Russia to do this in a non-confrontational way. All BRICS members deny that the group is directed against anyone. But the US is unconvinced, and sees BRICS as a threat to its power.

BRICS members deny this if only because they all have closely interdependent relationships with the US, be they economic (China, India, Brazil) or political (Russia). Contrary to BRICS's assurances, however, analysts rightly point out that the group can only increase its influence at the expense of Western influence.

The writer is the editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs journal.








THE FOUR women waited patiently outside the Chhattisgarh central prison on Monday evening.


They were ready to wait.


After all, they had fought a long battle for this day.


They were not alone. Hundreds of supporters had gathered to welcome back the paediatrician and hero of the masses. They jostled with the media for a vantage point.


Pandemonium broke out as the frail figure in his trademark kurtapyjamas stepped out of the prison's gates and waved to his supporters. His two daughters — Aparajita and Pranhita — ran to civil rights activist Dr Binayak Sen and locked him in a tight embrace.


After remaining behind bars for nearly four months, Sen was released on Monday evening from Chhattisgarh's central prison where he was serving a life sentence, three days after the Supreme Court granted him bail.


The 61- year- old doctor's mother Anusuya hugged and kissed him. " I am very very happy today. I wish everybody should be happy as I am this evening," she said.


" He looked fine and very happy.


He smiled but said nothing. We couldn't say anything. Today is a special day," she added.


Sen was sentenced to life by a local court on charges of sedition and links with the Maoists. He has been in prison since December 24 when he was convicted.


After his release, the doctor said he was not a traitor and that the Supreme Court observation in his case will have deep political implications.


" I know in my heart that I have never betrayed our country. I am in no way a traitor," he said.


" Everyone needs to come together to work for peace and justice. And I am not a Maoist sympathiser," he added.


Sen said his role as an activist will continue as he is a national office bearer of the PUCL, a civil rights organisation.


" There is an urgent need to campaign for such an Act like sedition.


We need to redefine patriotism and do away with the colonial act", he said, adding that he will continue to work in Chhattisgarh as well as outside the state. He also expressed his unhappiness with the way the Chhattisgarh government is handling the situation in the Maoists stronghold.


Hours before he walked free, additional district and sessions Verma also ordered Sen not to leave the country and to appear in the high court during hearings as and when required.


The judge's direction came after Sen's counsel Mahendra Dubey submitted that the apex court order had left it to the court here to impose the conditions for Sen's release on bail.


" We have struggled for long.


We will continue to work for the tribals," Sen's wife Ilina said.


In an interview to Headlines Today, Sen said: " I am a human rights worker, working for peace and justice." But he admitted it was distressing to be in jail.


Asked how jail had changed him, he said: " I became more definite on what needs to be done." On what these were, he said: " There would be an emphasis on justice, combating structured violence, and an emphasis on peace." " It is a big decision by the Supreme Court whose political implication is very deep," Sen said.


Stating categorically that there was no case of sedition against Sen, a bench of justices Harjit Singh Bedi and Chandramauli Kumar Prasad had said on Friday: " We are in a democratic country. At best he ( Binayak Sen) is a sympathiser." Sen also welcomed law minister Veerappa Moily's stand that the country's sedition laws needed a relook.


Hours after the Supreme Court had granted Sen bail, Moily had dubbed sedition laws as outdated.


Moily said he would consult home minister P. Chidambaram and refer the matter to the Law Commission.


With agency inputs






A Raipur court found Sen guilty of helping the Maoists & charged him under:


Sections 124A & 120B ( sedition) of the IPC


Sections 8( 1), ( 2), ( 3) & ( 5) of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act ( association with banned organisations)


Section 39( 2) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act ( that penalises members of a terror group)




The Chhattisgarh court released Sen on the following conditions


He had to submit his passport and is barred from leaving the country without the permission of the high court


He will have to appear at high court hearings whenever required


He had to furnish a personal bond and a surety of ` 50,000 each




WITH protests against the proposed nuclear power plant turning violent and leading to the loss of one life following police firing, Jaitapur runs the risk of turning into another Singur.



Trouble began early on Monday when local legislator Rajan Salvi began mobilising protesters in Sakhri Nate and Madban village for entering the project site. As soon as the agitation began around 11.30 am, so did stone- pelting by the protesters and cane- charging by the police team.


But the situation deteriorated significantly when the protesters allegedly tried to storm the Sakhri Nate police station in an attempt to burn it down and the police officers issued firing orders.


According to reports, five persons received bullet injuries and one of them, Tabrez Sehkar, later succumbed to the wounds. The enraged mob then started pelting policemen with bamboos and stones and started a small fire in the police station. Skirmishes between the police and the protesters were continuing at the time of filing this report.


Tension was also palpable at the Ratnagiri Civil Hospital, where the protesters did not allow Tabrez's body to be taken out of a police jeep.


The locals were angry that the body had been dumped in the jeep rather than being taken in an ambulance.


The matter was resolved and the body taken for a postmortem examination only after the agitated villagers relented.


Maharashtra home minister R. R. Patil made a statement on the issue in the House and claimed that the firing was necessitated to prevent the protesters from burning down the police station.


Several policemen were also seriously injured after being attacked by the protesters, he added. But the Shiv Sena and the BJP refused to buy Patil's explanation and walked out of the assembly in protest.


Outside the assembly, Sena MLA Subhash Desai said, " We told the government earlier that a district official, Ajit Pawar, had been threatening the villagers that their protests would be replied to by bullets. The state government should immediately suspend him." Meanwhile, the police have arrested 60 Sena activists along with the local MLA, Rajan Salvi, and the Sena has called for a bandh in Jaitapur on Monday.







Mayawati sends injured athlete to AIIMS to score a point over Centre

ON THE face of it, the decision seems to have been driven by purely medical reasons.

On Monday, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati shifted Arunima Sinha to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences ( AIIMS) in New Delhi by a special aircraft of the state government.

The 23- year- old volleyball player, who lost her left leg after being thrown out of a moving train by goons, had undergone a second surgery at Lucknow's Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University ( CSMMU) on Sunday following an infection in the amputated limb.

The surgery was carried out a day after she was shifted to Lucknow from the Bareilly District Hospital after her condition worsened. Besides an infected limb, her heamoglobin count had dipped because of excessive bleeding.

Therefore, Mayawati's decision to shift her to the country's premier hospital in the national Capital seems most appropriate.

But the Uttar Pradesh chief minister's move was influenced not by medical factors but was the culmination of a day- long, high- voltage political tug- of- war between the state government and the Centre over Arunima's treatment.

Apparently trying to scuttle the Congress party's plan to capitalise on the critical condition of the volleyball player, Mayawati took the decision exactly at the same time when Union sports minister Ajay Maken was speaking in Lucknow, after meeting Arunima, that she would not be shifted from the hospital.

" Doctors told me that she is out of danger at the moment. I also talked to her family members.

They are all in favour of not shifting her at the moment. However, I have asked officials of the Sports Authority of India to visit her every day and report me about her condition. UP Congress Committee president Rita Bahuguna Joshi has also deputed some party members to keep vigil on her. There is no point shifting her from here," Maken said.

Minutes later… CSMMU vice- chancellor Prof.

D. K. Gupta said: " Although everything is fine, we have referred her to AIIMS. She deserves the best treatment. After all, AIIMS is AIIMS. Even her family members want to shift her from here." Asked why the state government took the decision minutes after Maken's visit, Gupta said: " Things change minute to minute. The patient is very important and she should get the best treatment." The UP Congress Committee president, however, criticised Mayawati. " Such a decision shouldn't have been taken politically by the state government.

This decision was taken when Maken was meeting with doctors and Arunima's family members.

I think the state government took it in a hurry. She should have been shifted directly to Delhi from Bareilly if the state government was really serious about her treatment.

But the Centre is ready to take the responsibility," Joshi said.

" I saw Arunima in hospital and found her bed very dirty. She has grievous injuries, which could develop into gangrene or septicemia in such conditions." The 23- year- old player of the Uttar Pradesh women's volleyball team lost her leg after being thrown out of a running Padmawat Express while resisting a gang that tried to snatch her necklace.

She was going to Noida to appear in a Central Industrial Security Force recruitment test when the incident occurred near Bareilly on April 18.

Her leg was amputated at the Bareilly District Hospital. She was, however, shifted to Lucknow when doctors failed to treat her infections.

Interestingly, the state government did not think of shifting her to Delhi before Maken's visit on Monday.

Mayawati sprung into action in the morning and sent two ministers within a span of three hours to see the injured player.

State sports minister Awadh Pal, who met the player in hospital before Maken's visit, said: " We are watching her condition.

She is improving. The state government has offered her a job in the sports directorate or sports college, wherever she feels comfortable." Two hours before, state transport minister Ram Achal Rajbhar also met the player. " I couldn't see her earlier because I was busy in a party programme in Bundelkhand.

But since Arunima comes from my area ( Ambedkar Nagar), I was constantly in touch with her family members. Her condition is improving" The player's elder sister Lakshmi Sinha, however, said: " The fact is that the condition of my sister is deteriorating with each passing day. While her leg was amputated in Bareilly, doctors in Lucknow operated on her on Saturday and Sunday. I had been requesting all along that she should be shifted to Delhi, but no one took me seriously.

Now all of a sudden, they have decided to shift her. But I wish to thank them all." piyush.






" FRAILTY, thy name is woman!" Hamlet's denouncement of his mother's remarriage through this famous soliloquy was more to do with the perceived moral weakness of the fairer sex, but for Basanti Soni these words are literally true.

Standing 5 feet, 2 inches tall, 28- yearold Soni, hailing from Jaipur, weighs a mere 14 kg.

Soni was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences ( AIIMS) on Monday morning.

Her state evoked both surprise and sympathy from the doctors at AIIMS. " I have not seen such a case in my career. She is so thin. We immediately admitted her because of her critical condition.

We are trying to diagnose her disease," a doctor attending on Soni said.

The ideal weight for a woman of Soni's age and height should be around 55 kg. Her current weight, 14 kg, is generally attained by a child by the time she turns four.

If Soni's father Satyendra Kumar Soni is to be believed she has always been underweight.

" She was thin since birth. We showed her to a lot of doctors in Jaipur but no one could diagnose her problem. The maximum weight she achieved was 24 when she was 25 years old," Satyendra said.

Doctors at AIIMS suspect Soni suffers from chronic mal- absorption syndrome or hypothalamic tuberculosis and are carrying out tests to find out more.

Chronic malabsorption, which can be caused by many diseases, is difficulty in digesting or absorbing nutrients from food.

" She might also suffer from hypothalamic tuberculosis. In this condition, the brain centres where the hunger points are located, get infected. So, the patient doesn't feel hungry," the AIIMS doctor said, adding, " the patient though does feel hungry, hence it is difficult to say what it is." " An array of tests will make clear the condition," he added.

Soni was earlier thought to be suffering from some endocrine disease and accordingly doctors who treated her prescribed many growth hormones.

" But she didn't recuperate. We married her off and thought she will gain weight after marriage. She also felt embarrassed all her life because of her low weight," Satyendra said.

Her husband Teekam Singh Soni is inconsolable. " My wife is very caring and loving. I have already lost my child, I don't want to lose my wife," Singh said.







The unprecedented 82% turnout in the second phase of the ongoing Jammu & Kashmir panchayat polls - besting the 78% turnout in the first phase - is a positive sign. Taking place for the first time in a decade, the polls represent a great opportunity to invigorate local governance in the state.

Jammu & Kashmir has been backward in terms of institutions of local governance, and a further blow was dealt by the onset of insurgency in 1990. Few dared to vote, rendering the electoral process ineffective. Allegations of vote-rigging further damaged the credibility of such polls. Consequently, the lack of effective local governance meant poor implementation of central welfare schemes and rampant corruption. As a result, many villages in the state continue to lack basic amenities such as drinking water and electricity even though sufficient funds have been sanctioned.

This happened at a time when devolution of power to local bodies was advancing in the rest of India. The absence of development has only added to the frustration of the youth of Jammu & Kashmir. It is precisely for this reason that the enthusiastic response to the panchayat polls needs to be leveraged by the state government by devolving greater power to local bodies. Empowering grassroots institutions is key to enhancing accountability in administration. For far too long the politics of Jammu & Kashmir has been hijacked by vested interests. The focus on bread and butter issues needs to be encouraged to prevent a handful of leaders from directing the fate of the state.

It must also be recognised that the hitherto impressive voter turnout is possible due to reduction in violence. Such an enabling atmosphere needs to be deepened through long-term security reforms. The army footprint in the state must be made lighter, while the local police must be equipped to deal appropriately with routine law and order incidents such as stone-throwing.

The successful conduct of panchayat polls will also belie the separatist call for boycotting them. Separatists have attempted to tap into the changing public mood by condemning the assassination of moderate cleric Maulana Showkat Shah, who was killed after he advocated peace talks and criticised stone-pelters.

But such condemnations are meaningless as long as they are blanket condemnations, which refuse to name Shah's real killers or those of other moderate voices in the Valley. While talks continue on resolving Kashmir both with people in the state and with
Pakistan, improving governance will make the lives of people better while giving separatist sentiment less to feed on







India's economic success story has been moulded to a significant degree by a single cultural factor - our ease with and proficiency in English.

Coupled with that has been a certain complacency that the Indian IT and BPO industries' spots at the top of the food chain are inviolable, given that potential Asian rivals in these sectors have a documented lack of comfort with the language.

Except that that's no longer quite the case as the latest global Education First - English Proficiency Index shows. India stands in 30th place and a spot above it - China. This is the first time it has topped India in these rankings.

For the past six decades, India has been coasting on its colonial legacy when it comes to English. But without the systemic changes needed to ensure greater penetration of the language, the advantage has been shrinking.

In 2009, a report by the
British Council of India said that China was pulling ahead of India in boosting English usage.

The reason? Concerted, planned initiatives by
Beijing and that old Indian bugbear of poor quality education, particularly in government schools. It is not as if demand is lacking.

More than ever, English holds aspirational value for the average Indian who views it as a ticket to economic betterment. But on the supply side, both the central and state governments have been sadly lacking.

It is time they woke up to this particular side effect of the Indian public education system's moribund state. There are economic consequences in the offing. India's far behind China in manufacturing, it could be bested as a services provider as well.








India's unique capabilities in the IT and ITES sectors are well documented. There have been multiple surveys endorsing India's dominance and pegging India's market share at over 50% of the global outsourcing industry. Nearly 75% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Indian software expertise to make them competitive.

The growing concentration of the software services industry in India and lack of further financial incentives from the government have prompted global companies to adopt a de-risking strategy and look at other viable locations for growing their business.

The "India+1" model for software outsourcing is a reality - and Indian companies are seeking to adapt to the changing world order. More and more of them are adding global operations capability to offer this diversification themselves. Most countries wanting to position themselves as an India+1 destination offer strong incentives to invite Indian IT players and others to set up shop on their shores.

The Greater China region, the number one destination for hardware electronics manufacturing today, is well ahead of any other country. It offers unmatched scale, skills and infrastructure. Interestingly, there also seems to be a similar sense of risk awareness among electronics manufacturers and their customers along the China-Taiwan belt - constituting nearly 56% of the global electronics manufacturing industry. There is definitely room for a second destination for risk diversification and keeping costs under check.

Multiple survey reports from service providers in India and China demonstrate the large gap now between China and India in terms of business expense. Salaries in China are shown to be double those of India; property prices also have crept ahead. A 'China+1' strategy seems to be taking shape and India could well be the beneficiary if it gets its act together in the electronics manufacturing space.

Apart from the opportunity the 'China+1' position offers, there is a bigger challenge of increasing domestic consumption which should force us to look at this space very aggressively. Today, the global electronics hardware industry is reportedly $1.75 trillion and is projected to reach $2 trillion by 2014. Demand in the Indian market stands at $45 billion and is projected to grow to $125 billion by 2014.

In India, there is a massive mismatch in demand and supply, with domestic production catering to less than 45% of domestic consumption. This gap will only get wider with increased consumption and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 22% between 2009-20. At this rate and without scaling domestic manufacturing, the foreign exchange needs are estimated to be as big as what we spend on oil by 2020.

Clearly, building India's manufacturing capability is critical. In addition to reduction in technology costs that a full component ecosystem would generate, it would also contribute significantly by creating high quality direct and indirect manufacturing and service jobs in the hi-tech field; giving India greater standing in the global IT manufacturing industry; stimulating increased technology and knowledge transfer to domestic firms; lowering the price of information infrastructure/PCs and other electronic equipment for Indian consumers; and making locally produced electronic hardware more competitive globally.

To better understand the factors keeping the electronics supply chain from being established, a survey was conducted by a leading hardware vendor in which feedback of 35 suppliers was collected and analysed. It found that more than half had never considered India for investment. Of those that had, opportunities for sales within India and the possibility of realising operational cost savings were the primary drivers.

Of those that had not invested in India, concerns over infrastructure, taxes, labour issues and lack of incentives were primary deterrents. High transaction costs - driven by cumbersome documentation and inordinate delays - owing to a complex process are another problem. While infrastructure remains a long-standing issue with enough written about the need to improve in that area, here are the top five enablers we need to work on immediately. These short-term measures can give a boost to us to get this industry started similar to software services in the late-1980s.

One, the government should offer a long-term, stable tax structure and a comprehensive range of incentives to instil confidence among potential investors. Introducing GST and having a unified tax structure for states would lead to ease of conducting business. Two, labour laws should be made more flexible to help reduce overall cost of employment. It is important that India formulates a more liberal contract labour procedure and strives to establish a meaningful skills development programme in partnership with the industry. Moreover, industrial relations, a sensitive aspect in the manufacturing sector, should be made more conducive and cordial by a proactive set of policy measures.

Three, create strong demand generation for technology by expanding e-governance initiatives and IT investments in healthcare and education. Four, reduce steps and extensive documentation requirements. Finally, industry and government should collaboratively launch a communications campaign targeting electronics manufacturers and help resolve misconceptions about doing business in India.

It is heartening to see the government move to address these issues. Apart from creating a multi-tiered special incentive package scheme for electronics manufacturers, the government is also considering the setting up of a special purpose vehicle under a National Electronics Mission, which would act as a nodal agency for the electronics industry. Time is of the essence and we need to act fast.

The writer is president, Dell India.







Corruption is a huge concern today. But, remember, graft can't be beaten just by taking a morally absolutist standpoint against it. The solutions must be institutional, be it via strong anti-graft legislation, or by curbing discretionary powers.

Equally, we can't demonise all those who seemingly 'collude' in systemic corruption by giving bribes. As chief economic adviser Kaushik Basu has pointed out, "harassment bribes" are those that citizens are forced to pay when threatened by withheld services to which they're entitled.

Rather than a criminal, the bribe-giver in this case is the victim of a venal system that persecutes him for no fault of his.

Ordinary people thus harassed can't be put on par with bribe-takers. The latter have the upper hand in this interchange courtesy the authority they wield. Holding public office, they're also more blameworthy. This isn't to suggest that bribe-givers should be let off in all circumstances. But at least in cases of petty corruption, or harassment bribes where common people of little or modest means are bullied into greasing palms against their will, this is a novel approach that deserves to be tried.

Let's face it, six decades of democracy hasn't changed the fact that institutional rot hits ordinary citizens hardest. If they challenge corruption, they must forego services ranging from getting ration cards to income tax refunds.

Or they must seek redressal in often-protracted battles against powerful forces, which is easier said than done. Basu has a point in suggesting that bribe-giving should be legitimised while bribe-taking is punished harshly.

Decriminalised, corruption's victims can be incentivised to come forward and help nail crooked office-bearers. Graft is hard to combat precisely because unscrupulous authorities exploit the supposedly shared 'guilt' of bribe giver and taker. Fix culpability where it really belongs, and corruption cases will dip.






Not only is Kaushik Basu's proposal to allow bribe givers to go scot-free flawed but to implement it would set a dangerous precedent. After all, it takes two to tango. One cannot accept a bribe unless someone's willing to pay it. In completing the circle of corruption both parties, giver and taker, are just as wrong and need to be punished.

At the heart of Basu's proposal is a dangerous idea, it goes against the principle of equality before the law. How can one presume which party corrupts the other when a bribe is exchanged? There are any number of people interested in bending government rules. The driver violating traffic rules and offering a policeman a bribe to let him off without a challan is as responsible for breaking the law as the policeman taking the bribe.

The aim should be to eradicate corruption, rather than implementing a plan which will only impact a tiny fraction of the monies paid in bribes. For that it is necessary to hold the bribe giver as well as bribe taker responsible. One cannot win the war against corruption by penalising only certain varieties of it but not others. Given that the
UPA government is under fire from all sides for tolerating high degrees of corruption, it's unbecoming of a government official to come up with a proposal that relativises corruption and legitimises certain varieties of it. If the bribe giver knows there is no punishment for offering a bribe, he'll only try harder.

Finally, Basu's base assumption is that by legitimising bribing, the briber will be motivated to point out those demanding bribes. This is quite an assumption for it's most likely that rather than further deal with the bureaucracy, the briber will just pay the bribe and make his way. Basu's proposal is more than out-of-the-box thinking, it's also out of mind.





That summer vacations are just around the corner is clear from the frenzied parental search for ways to keep their wards from boredom. Boredom has long ceased to be a vacation phenomenon. And as people only too used to tossing that word around, parents cannot point fingers.

The dreaded 'B' word, a fuller description perhaps for the age-old experiences of dullness, lassitude and tedium, may have made it to the dictionary only in the 18th century, first in 1768 as a verb ('to bore') and then in 1852 as a noun ('boredom'). Yet, with every generation, the idea appears to have taken giant leaps.

"The world is eaten up by boredom," remarked author Georges Bernanos. "You can't see it all at once. It is like dust...stand still for an instant and there it is, coating your face and hands. To shake off this drizzle of ashes you must be forever on the go. And so people are always on the go." Although you would seldom catch such people twiddling their thumbs, the phenomenon of ennui, which Oscar Wilde famously called the only horrible thing in the world, "the one sin for which there is no forgiveness", is manifesting itself in our personal, professional and public lives with, ahem, boring regularity.

Curiously, boredom, which got equated by sociologist Jean Baudrillard to a pitiless zooming in on the epidermis of time where every instant is dilated and magnified like the pores of the face, is meriting a good deal of contemporary attention.

Author-researcher and University of Calgary professor Peter Toohey recently brought out a treatise on boredom, chronicling its cultural history, tracing its roots to a combination of human responses ranging from disgust to melancholia, and calling it the fallout of leisure opportunities.

France is all set to replace Gross Domestic Product with public ennui as a measure of popular happiness and economic success.

Inspired by the growing recourse in the US, like elsewhere, to pastimes such as television, iPod, web surfing, texting and tweeting, Trail End, an American historic house museum, recently concluded an exhibition titled 'No Time For Boredom', examining how people spent their free time before the advent of television, radio and the internet.

A survey carried out in Australia suggests that half of the top 10 product categories on which mobile shoppers spent the most money in 2010 - music, software, games, movie tickets and books - are about killing boredom.

Unravelling boredom's links to clinical depression, pathological gambling behaviour and substance abuse, modern research suggests that a conscious but idle brain is given to actions such as recalling autobiographical memory or conjuring hypothetical events, using up only 5% less energy, but making time drag.

When everybody already has so much to do, one wonders why boredom should even rear its head in the first place. Perhaps we are so excessively engaged and engrossed with our everyday lives that when we do get a few moments of respite, we don't quite know what to do with them.

If imbuing free time with meaning is increasingly about television, video games, social networking, instant messaging, cellphones, iPods and numerous other trappings of post-modern life, the plethora of available choices or the inability to pick one - a handicap aptly described by Filipino artist-philosopher Danny Castillones Sillada as 'decisional exhaustion' - can only exacerbate boredom, while exposing us to the seamier side of multitasking.

Viktor Frankl's Sunday Neurosis or depression resulting from the emptiness accompanying the end of a working week is far more rampant today than when it was propounded over six decades ago. In suggesting an antidote to boredom,
Dale Carnegie may well have advised us to throw ourselves into some work that we believe in with all our heart and to live and die for it in order to find real happiness. Turns out we are bored of believing as well.









Few parts of the world excite nearly romantic longing among India's strategic community as much as Central Asia. This is a part of the world that has centuries of cultural and political links with India and whose energy and mineral resources, at least, are a perfect match for India's emerging appetite for the same. All of this sounds good in vacuous speeches and sweeping academic papers. But the reality of the 21st century political map is that there are, in truth, few parts of the world so poorly connected to India as Central Asia.

The Silk Route was one of the great cultural exchange routes of history and made fables out of cities like Bukhara and Samarkand. But it depended on an understanding among the various states through which it passed that this was a matter of mutual benefit. To take the same route today would mean crossing some of the most impermeable borders and going through some of the most xenophobic states in the world. This is why the memory of India's great Central Asian connection is largely irrelevant in the contemporary world. There is a strong case for India retaining a presence and being at least a minor player in Central Asia. But it needs to be done through a more imaginative and innovative means than is presently being considered. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Kazakhstan, geographically the largest and by far the wealthiest of the Central Asian states, has provided some pointers of how this can be done. Kazakhstan has enormous mineral resources but the means to transport bulk commodities to the Indian Ocean littoral are few and expensive. Iran is the obvious land conduit but Tehran's ability to convert agreements into reality, even as simple a thing as a transport corridor, is worse than India's. It says something that the trade route via China and the Pacific Ocean is a less expensive route for India's Central Asian trade.

What India's new Central Asian policy should be focusing on is trade that is viable by air and investment that does not require physical transfers back to India. This also fits in nicely with Central Asian interest in value-adding to their commodity exports. Processing normally means higher weight-to-value ratios and thus makes airfreight more viable. Such policies may mean an end, at least temporarily, to dreams of oil and gas pipelines and a resurrection of the Silk Route. But this reflects ground reality and should be the basis of a genuine hard-nosed Central Asian policy by India.





Who would you say is a politician's worst enemy? In these days of Anna Hazare, you might be forgiven for saying it is the media or even the gullible public. But no, in our intensive research into the matter, we, the maligned media, have found that the old adage, 'you are your own worst enemy' has found resonance with our politicians.

Let us look at the election campaigns to the assembly polls which are not far from public memory, especially in the three states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal. Mamatadi feels that the Left has been helping itself to more than its share of rosogullas, not to mention a bit of mishti doi on the side when it comes to stalling investment, something that the sartorially challenged stormy petrel says she will make khichdi of when she enters Writers' Building. The Left feels that she was not on the watch when her fellow travelers had their hands in the till. In Kerala, old corruption cases have come to take centrestage, some as slippery as the palmolein one which the Left accuses the Congress of being out of the frying pan and into the fire. The Congress, not far behind, has sought to accuse the Left of having its finger in many pies, almost all of them lucrative.

But the cake, the plate and the trimmings have to go to Tamil Nadu where the two contenders have outdone each other in accusations of corruption. Now it is well known that the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader J Jayalalithaa is not one given to spartan living, but for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) to accuse her of splashing the cash sounds a little odd, given the latter's penchant for dishing out the curd rice to family and friends. So, please let us know if we are wrong in being in step with the trend, that of pointing fingers at our politicos. We are only following our leaders.






Fifty years ago, my school in Hyderabad was fortunate enough to be chosen to receive Yuri Gagarin at the airport. As he walked past us, I moved to touch him - to find out if human flesh becomes any different after experiencing weightlessness in space. Gagarin had gone "where no man had gone before". During the days of Cold War hostilities, it was unacceptable for the US to acknowledge the superiority of the socialist system in expanding the frontiers of human endeavour into space. Though US President John F Kennedy congratulated the Soviet Union after the success of Gagarin's flight, he nevertheless had to appear on national TV to assuage hurt American pride by assuring them that they would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In 1969, the US did it.

However, it is truly refreshing to see the universal commemoration of Gagarin's flight. The centerpiece was when a US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts were sent off on April 12 on a Soyuz craft emblazoned with a portrait of Gagarin from that very launch pad that put the latter's flight into orbit on this very day 50 years ago. The director of the European Space Agency said: "We are all sons of Yuri Gagarin". The commander of the Apollo 10 mission went on to say, "Without Gagarin going first, I probably wouldn't have gone to the moon". A film entitled First Orbit was shot from the International Space Station (ISS), combining the original flight audio with footage of the route taken by Gagarin. The Russian, American, and Italian Expedition 27 crew aboard the ISS sent a special video message: "Happy Yuri's Night".

Under the stewardship of Sergei Korolyov, the Soviet space programme went on to put the first dog (Laika) and the first woman Valentina Tereshkova in space, oversaw the first space walk and established the Mir space station. Meanwhile, the US generously funded the Nasa Apollo programme that finally put a man on the moon. However, the Soviets had earlier soft-landed a remote craft. The current commemorations must spur a serious collaboration among countries in space exploration. The US and Europe have put together the revolutionary space observatory - the Hubble Space Telescope. The cooperation between the US and Russia has led to the replacement of the American Skylab station and the Soviet Mir station with the ISS, the single-most complex, collective space-engineering project ever attempted.

Such space exploration is important not merely to satisfy human curiosity. From the fascinating photographs and information that the Hubble keeps sending, it is clear that there is much more in the universe that we do not know about. James Watson Cronin, the 1980 physics Nobel Prize winner, says, "We think we understand the universe, but we understand only 4% of everything". He goes on to say that 96% is made of dark matter and energy, whose composition we cannot fathom. Around 73% of cosmic energy seems to consist of 'dark energy' and 23% of 'dark matter' is the pervasive but unidentified stuff that holds the universe together and accelerates its expansion. Thus, leaving aside the curiosity around the existence of life elsewhere in this universe, we seem to understand very little even about the matter that created the basis for life and civilisation.

International cooperation becomes all the more essential since the US has decided to close its space shuttle programme that began with Columbia's flight in 1981. The world is now left with only the Soyuz spacecraft to keep a link with the ISS, which is designed to function by rotating its crew members comprising US, Russian, European and Japanese astronauts.

Some maintain that meaningful space exploration has taken place through robotic spacecraft that have been in use since 1972. Robotic missions have landed on Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter's moon Titan, and the asteroid Eros. They have deployed balloons, rovers and atmospheric probes to discover the conditions, like the stunning evidence from one of Jupiter's moons, Europa. It is a giant pearlescent drop of seawater (three times more than on Earth). Many scientists consider Europa as the most likely home of terrestrial life inside our solar system.

The NASA's science mission directorate, which runs all US unmanned missions, must strengthen international cooperation with the Russians, Indians, Chinese, French and others, to carry forward such explorations in the interest of both understanding ourselves better and to comprehend our environment so that we can better protect ourselves.

The monies spent by the US on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, estimated at $1.29 trillion and on the current Libyan operation, so far put at $550 million, could be put to better use for research and exploration of space benefiting humanity immensely.

Finally, consider the benefits of cooperation as against conflict: the US's Apollo programme discovered that in simulated weightlessness, astronauts could not keep records as ink did not flow in zero gravity. Apart from funding research to create now-familiar free-flow pens the US sent a CIA team to investigate what the Soviets did. Answer: Soviets used pencils! The pencil that ironically let Gagarin down in orbit by drifting away out of his reach forcing him to pack up his logbook!

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

The views expressed by the author are personal.





Sima is 15, but looks even younger. I met her in Kabul, in the female juveniles section of the Badam Bagh prison, earlier this month. She talks very little, but her eyes are full of grief. A defence lawyer told me it is likely she had been raped.

What is Sima's crime? She is serving her sentence for running away from domestic violence. About half of all women in Afghan prisons are there for the same "crime". Some of them are in prison with their babies. The youngest ones are no older than 12. Having spent time in jail, they will rarely be accepted back by their families and communities.

Ten years since the Taliban fled Kabul, while new laws, policies and development aid have brought some benefits to Afghan women, deep rooted challenges remain. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently issued a report on harmful traditional practices against women and girls in Afghanistan. About half of women get married before the age of 15. It is estimated that 70 to 80% of marriages are forced. Selling girls or giving them away in settlement of a conflict is common practice. The literacy rate of Afghan girls aged 15 or older is just 12%. Unsurprisingly, violence and abusive behaviour against them is widespread. Afghanistan has ratified the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women, but their initial report is long overdue. A law on elimination of violence against women has been adopted recently. However, its enforcement is a real challenge: victims are reluctant to seek help from police officers, 99% of whom are male.

So, what can they do when they face abuse? Desperate girls and women all too often commit suicide, an increasing number of them by self-immolation. Those who have the courage to run away and seek refuge within their family are often returned to their abusive husbands or parents. The ones who try to find a safe haven at their neighbours' or friends' houses face criminal charges for the intent to commit zina (adultery, or sexual relations out of marriage). The punishment is not provided by law, nor, I was told by experts, is it consistent with sharia, which requires witnesses and proof. It is based merely on an instruction of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan. The only safe haven for victims are NGO-run shelters for women and girls, yet Afghan authorities have recently threatened their continued operation.

I visited the oldest shelter in Afghanistan and talked to the girls and women under its protection. It was heart-breaking to hear their pleas for the maintenance of the shelters, as they are the only places they can go to. I raised the issue with President Karzai who assured me that the number of shelters will not be reduced and that he is in favour of the government financially supporting NGO-run shelters.

Recently, the Security Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan. It "strongly condemns" continuing discrimination against women and girls; calls for enhanced efforts to secure their rights; and supports women's shelters. It also addresses the main problem: empowerment of Afghan women and ensuring that women's rights are an integral part of peace, reintegration and reconciliation efforts. If girls are not educated and women not included in political life and public administration and justice system, traditional harmful practices will continue and their human rights will never be protected. Only if they are present and active in peace talks can they be rest assured that even the modest gains secured to date will not be used as bargaining chips.

For peace to be sustainable and just, both the Taliban and women should sit at the negotiating table and be included in shaping decisions on the future of Afghanistan.

Ivan Simonovic is the UN assistant secretary-general for Human Rights.

The views expressed by the author are personal.



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

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

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

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






There is unanimous agreement that India needs some serious alchemy, to make sure that its swelling workforce is up to the job. The preliminary census findings revealed that we have no time to waste — there is a sea of impatient young people moving towards the employment market, and India needs to make sure that it responds now, to make sure its much talked-up "demographic dividend" doesn't double back on it. The late C.K. Prahalad and the CII, in their India@75 vision, suggested that by 2022, India would need a 500 million-strong trained workforce to fulfil its promise.

Unemployment is not as challenging a problem as unemployability — despite the large numbers of those seeking jobs, most of them do not have the skills required to fill the jobs available. Supply and demand are still spinning in different orbits, and jobs that require even the most basic specialisation remain unfilled. Only 2 per cent of the country's workforce has had any skills training (compared to 96 per cent in South Korea, 75 per cent in Germany, 80 per cent in Japan and 68 per cent in the United Kingdom). We have industrial training institutes and skilling centres, but they remain cramped spaces, serving only a fraction of the new entrants to the job market.

However, it is heartening that both government and private sector are pouring efforts into priming our workforce. The prime minister had set up a three-tier structure, helmed by the National Council for Skill Development, a coordination board at the Planning Commission level and a National Skill Development Corporation, to catalyse the private sector, with corpus funds provided by the government. Corporate India has also sensed immense opportunity in the skilling business and gone full-tilt, with or without government showing the way. Ultimately, industry-led training is the only way to get our workforce up to speed, to make sure that the training fills some tangible needs. For instance, in areas like construction, information technology, hospitality, or the auto industry, companies need to identify their needs and train staff to fit them. The nature of these needs shifts, and in order to have a self-directed, agile workforce capable of meeting the market's requirements, private-sector intervention is essential. Now, as new companies emerge, trying to match needs and ready job seekers for jobs, more power to them.






Anna Hazare, when asked on Sunday about what he planned to do if Parliament rejected the Lokpal bill in the form drafted by the "joint" drafting committee which contains both his nominees and those of the government, reportedly gave an answer that will have set at rest some of the fears engendered by what had appeared to be the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of the agitation that he had sparked off. "We will have to accept it," the activist said, "we believe in democracy." These reports have, however, now been denied by those around him, and they say Hazare is committed to the August 15 deadline for passage of the Lokpal bill, or else. This returns him to the strategy outlined when he broke his fast more than a week ago: he had said that he would not accept any hurdles in the way of the passage of his preferred draft. He had spoken, on that occasion, of reviving his agitation and marching to Parliament if his aims for the bill were frustrated by the cabinet or in committee.

This is unfortunate. Much of the anger that expressed itself in the days of Hazare's fast reflected a genuine anxiety that Parliament appears insufficiently deliberative. These are concerns that the political class must deal with, and that we as an active citizenry should always highlight. But, as citizens, we must also be mindful of the democratic process, and the representative nature of the legislature that is supposed to frame our laws. It should equally be kept in mind that the process of law-making is a complex procedure and any proposed legislation is put through a series of deliberative appraisals before it is even put up for vote in Parliament.

There continue to be areas of principle on which those who care about the nature of democratic decision-making disagree with Hazare's stance and methods; he himself has called his agitation the "terrorism of principles". But there should be an acceptance of the supremacy of Parliament when it comes to lawmaking, as a demonstration of a common basic commitment to the structure of a functioning democracy.






If a school is meant to be an inviolate, inspiring space for a child to learn, play and grow, then the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has no such conception of it. The richest civic body in the country, one which is responsible for the infrastructure and administration of the largest metropolis, Mumbai, is grossly dismissive of the needs of a prime, vulnerable constituency: the students in its schools. The BMC schools are meant to make education accessible to the large, less privileged sections in and around the city which cannot afford expensive private schools.

Yet, in almost a third of its over 1,300 primary and secondary schools, students have to share space with NGOs, trade unions, private coaching centres and even a law court and an organisation for alcoholics anonymous to which the BMC has rented out rooms. As this newspaper reported on Monday, in some instances, schools have been shut down and the buildings given over for commercial purposes. Just last week, the Bombay high court came down on the BMC's proposal to demolish a school building and erect a mall on the premises.

While it could be an infringement of land use laws, it is even more so a violation of the dignity and rights of students. Of those children who are restricted from playing in the ground because a court is in session. Of those children who are sandwiched between or surrounded by a horde of organisations that have no business to be working out of a school building. Of those children who deserve better amenities and facilities, but are forced to share even their meagre resources. The BMC says it has stopped renting out rooms and has to review its policy regarding the old tenants. It is something on which the civic body can no longer sit idly.








The visit over the weekend to Afghanistan by Pakistan's army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has been described in the Pakistani media as a "historic" breakthrough that could align the "shared destinies" of Kabul and Islamabad.

At the end of the visit, Pakistan and Afghanistan announced the formation of a two-tiered joint commission that would give the Pakistan army leadership a formal role in negotiating the arrangements for reconciliation between Kabul and the insurgent groups based in Pakistan, including the Taliban.

Underlying this agreement is Kayani's relentless outreach to Afghan President Hamid Karzai after the Obama administration announced plans in December 2009 to draw down US forces in Afghanistan from July 2011 and end their combat role in 2014.

Meanwhile, Karzai, looking to his political future after the US withdrawal, has sought Rawalpindi's help to find a modus vivendi with the Taliban. While many contradictions remain between Karzai and Kayani, each has solid tactical reasons to befriend the other.

Should India, then, be concerned about a potential rapprochement between Pakistan and Afghanistan? The answer should be a definitive "no". India should instead wish its two neighbours well in resolving their many longstanding differences. This is also a good moment for India to dispel the widespread impression that it is locked in geopolitical rivalry with Pakistan in Afghanistan.

One look at the map of the northwestern subcontinent would make it clear that Delhi cannot, even if it wants to, compete with Rawalpindi in Afghanistan. The Durand Line that divides Pakistan and Afghanistan is nearly 2,500-km-long and is an open border. A large Pashtun population straddles the Durand Line. India has no free geographic access to Afghanistan.

Delhi can certainly complicate things for the Pakistan army by raising the temperature on the Indo-Pak international border and the Line of Control in Kashmir. That India has done nothing of the sort is reflected in the fact that the Pakistan army has been able to shift thousands of troops from its eastern frontier to the west in recent years. Nor does India rain drones on Pakistan's western borderlands. Yet, Pakistani propaganda has succeeded in selling the myth that India is the main threat to it in Afghanistan.

It is precisely for this reason that India must welcome the direct and intense talks between Kabul and Rawalpindi. After all, Afghanistan and Pakistan have many unresolved issues between themselves that have nothing to do with India.

Take, for example, the legitimacy of the Durand Line. It is Afghanistan, and not India, that questions the legitimacy of the Durand Line. The line drawn by the British Raj between undivided India and Afghanistan was inherited in 1947 by Pakistan as its western boundary. While the Afghans were willing to live with an arbitrary line drawn by the powerful Raj, they were not willing to accept it as the border with a partitioned rump. Rejecting the Durand Line, Afghanistan was the only country that voted against the entry of Pakistan into the United Nations in 1947. Landlocked Afghanistan has long quarrelled with Pakistan on issues relating to trade and transit.

Again, on Pashtunistan, India has never supported the idea. Many Afghan leaders in the past openly called for the creation of a Pashtunistan in Pakistan by combining all its lands west of the Indus.

As Karzai and Kayani negotiate on the accommodation of the Taliban in a future political set-up, the opposition will come less from India than from the non-Pashtun minorities in Afghanistan. The return of the Taliban to Kabul will pose a greater threat to Iran and Central Asia than to India.

Ensuring a stable ethnic balance within Afghanistan and in the region is not India's preoccupation alone; it will indeed concern all the major powers and the international community.

How then should India respond to the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan? Five propositions present themselves. One, India should welcome the new and integrated thinking about the ethnic and territorial problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan. After all, the conflict in the two countries can no longer be segmented.

Two, India should strongly support the unity and territorial integrity of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Providing legitimate and internationally endorsed boundaries to Pakistan on its western and eastern frontiers should address the genuine security anxieties of its ruling elite.

Three, as current disputed lines are converted into legitimate borders, India should demand greater respect for the political aspirations of different ethnic groups for autonomy within the current state system and greater institutional cooperation with their brethren across the frontiers.

Deepening internal devolution and cross-border consultative mechanisms are exactly the benchmarks that India used in negotiating a settlement with Pakistan's General Musharraf over Jammu and Kashmir in 2005-07. Those principles — devolution at home and mechanisms for cross-border cooperation — should serve well in satisfying all dissatisfied ethnic communities, including the Pashtuns, between the Indus and the Hindu Kush.

Four, as Kabul and Rawalpindi negotiate on how best to accommodate the Taliban, and Turkey offers it international legitimacy by allowing its offices to open in Istanbul, India should open a direct engagement with the Taliban.

Five, India must offer a plan for regional economic integration that would allow Afghanistan and Pakistan to develop a sustainable economic strategy based on their geopolitical location as the bridge between the subcontinent, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

Taken together, these five propositions provide a constructive basis for India to engage Kabul, Rawalpindi and the international community and contribute to the emergence of a stable order in the north-western subcontinent.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi,







In what must be an unprecedented development, the Bombay high court admitted a winding-up plea against Wockhardt last month. This was in response to a lawsuit moved by a few of the company's unsecured creditors who hold $74 million worth of convertible bonds and haven't been paid back. The move must have come as a rude shock to the near-bankrupt drug firm which reported losses of Rs 1,000 crore in the year up to March 2010, partly the result of mishaps with cross currency derivatives. After all, Indian promoters are not used to being pulled up by their lenders; not even banks who have the most money at stake and who have a stronger case because their assets are secured. So the fact that a pack of unsecured lenders was determined to get its money back must surely have jolted the Wockhardt management. Wockhardt won a small reprieve, with the court conditionally staying the winding up till May 3. But it is good news that a group of foreign creditors, led by Singapore-based hedge fund QVT, has decided to fight for its money.

For nearly two years now, Workhardt has been trying to negotiate a bailout with bankers for the debt on its books of approximately Rs 3,500 crore. Had Wockhardt not rushed to acquire half a dozen companies in the space of a few years, it would not have piled up so much debt. But then the money was there for the taking and Wockhardt succumbed to the temptation and now the banks have been left carrying the can. The story at Kingfisher Airlines, which has a debt on its books of over Rs 7,000 crore, is not too different. Recently, a consortium of 13 bankers, led by the State Bank of India, converted a part of these loans into shares at Rs 64.48 apiece when the market price was around Rs 48. It's hard to understand why the conversion price is at a premium to the market price. Even before Kingfisher, there have been several instances of loans of real-estate developers being restructured by banks — in other words, banks do not need to classify these loans as bad and doubtful. Strangely enough, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) doesn't seem to be objecting to such treatment, behaving as though these assets are not dodgy; all it has done is raise the risk weights on restructured loans. While there must no doubt have been a fair amount of political pressure on the banks, perhaps even at the time when the loans were sanctioned, they need to take far greater care of their money.

Indeed, Indian companies need to be shaken up; for far too long have they been pampered by banks and got away with excesses because the regulations aren't effective enough. Bankers somehow seem reluctant to let them go bankrupt. The Essar Group was bailed out by IDBI in 2000 when Essar Steel needed to pay back holders of $250 million worth of floating rate notes. ICICI Bank, which had lent Arvind Mills around Rs 500 crore, took a big haircut of about 40 per cent, to help out the firm which ran up a debt of close to Rs 3,000 crore. Other banks in the consortium too took bigger haircuts of over 50 per cent while some settled for a five- or a ten-year rollover.

Although there are regulations in the form of the Sick Industrial Companies Act (SICA), they aren't effective enough. The cases drag on for years unlike in the US where Chapter Eleven, under which a company files for bankruptcy, ensures that a solution is found quickly. Banks in India, for some reason, are reluctant to penalise the promoters; it's also a fact that companies take advantage of the excruciatingly slow progress that is made in the courts. Once the case is in court, they are rest assured that it will drag on for years. Understandably, banks would like to avoid a situation where their money is blocked indefinitely. However, it is wonderful that the bond-holders who went to court don't seem to have been deterred by the prospect of delayed justice.

It's a pity that shareholder activism in this country is virtually non-existent. Even institutional investors don't seem to be perturbed when managements don't make adequate disclosures; it could be because some of them have prior information. It was only when the Satyam scam broke that the funds suddenly found their voice. But it was the initiative of a foreign fund that forced the Vedanta Group's management to roll back its restructuring plan — the demerger of the energy and aluminium businesses from Sterlite. If shareholders and banks become even a tad more assertive, a lot of the taxpayer's money will be saved.

The writer is resident editor, 'The Financial Express', Mumbai,







My guest today, well, if I may say so, is a general in the middle of a small war, Mr S Y Quraishi, Chief Election Commissioner. And the war is a virtuous war, an election. Tell us a little bit about where you see the electoral process today because electoral corruption is the fount of all political corruption, or most of it.

Yes, rightly said. In fact, several committees of Parliament have said the same thing—that it starts with the election when people have to overspend and then they recover that money superfast. Obviously, there will be quid pro quo, the money is taken from criminals or business houses for some return and that becomes the basis of corruption in the country. This is a great irony that the election has become the source of corruption. At the same time, things have improved. You know there used to be booth capturing, which was very common.

Booth capturing, electoral violence, stuffing of ballot's all over.

It's all history because over the years, we have learnt from experience. We have one important tool in our hands—on the slightest suspicion, we order a repoll. So if the toughies think they can get away with it, there's no chance. Sometimes we order a repoll of the repoll till we are satisfied that this poll is a perfect poll. We don't give up. So all those things have improved. Now only two things are bothering us: one, of course, is the money power, the black money. There are two types of money, one is the ostensible expenditure which is accounted for, which we can monitor, but it is the other money which we cannot know, through envelopes, in kind, cash.

Suitcases. Envelopes are too small.

Yes, but when it goes in retail, when it goes to the voter—Rs 1,000, Rs 2,000, Rs 5,000...that kind of competition is really destroying the fabric of democracy.

But is that only in some states, or in a lot of the country?

No, it's there across the country, but in some states it's very pronounced. For instance, of the five states, interestingly, Tamil Nadu has the biggest problem. The neighbouring state of Kerala...


Yes. When we went there, we talked to all political parties and we asked them whether they have a similar problem. All of them unanimously said they don't have that problem. I said why? You have more money, you have even petrodollars, you have NRI money, why is it that money does not play any role in Kerala? They said that the Kerala voter is so enlightened, he has already decided where he's going to vote. Money will make no difference, so why waste money?

Does money make a difference in Tamil Nadu or it's just become a habit?

Anecdotally, we feel it does because we have been told repeatedly that even in bribery, there is some code of conduct. Anybody who accepts money has a tendency to vote for the party who gave it to him and if he receives from two, they vote for the party that gave them more.

What about liquor?

Liquor is a problem everywhere. In fact, in the northern states, it is little more—in UP, Bihar, liquor has been a serious problem. Actually, across the country, that's more universal than money power.

Did we see a lot of liquor used in the last Bihar election also?

Not really, because that was a standalone election and we were fully prepared. We sealed the borders. We started monitoring the liquor production and liquor warehouses two-three months in advance, so it was very much in control.

You know what I'm getting to. Anna Hazare said that you don't have to take electoral success so seriously because voters are not aware. They only vote on the basis of who gave them a saree, or a bottle of liquor, or some money.

It's partly true. But at the same time, since all candidates try to do the same thing, it gets neutralised and our vigil and citizens' awareness is very important. In fact, we have started emphasising voter education.

This leads also to the question of total contempt for the political class...that the political class is responsible for everything that's wrong. Everything that's going right happens because of the enterprise and goodwill of what is described as people.

Yes, you know the notoriety which the political class has got is very disturbing.

Is it well deserved?

Partly well-deserved, partly undeserved.

Is it 50-50 or, say, some percentage well deserved or mostly undeserved, or mostly deserved?

I'd rather say 50-50. After all, all politicians are not dishonest, the fact that India has become a superpower is thanks to the political leadership. Look at the neighbours. They haven't been able to achieve what we did. Because we had political leadership. And, it's only the black sheep which have to be identified and prevented from coming to power in the first place. That is the point we're trying to make.

You've been in this business now for quite some time. You've dealt with politicians all your life in your and my native state of Haryana. Do you think the political class has got better or worse?

I think it's gone for the worse for sure. It has gone down, because of the very fact that the election process starts with corruption. I was talking to one MLA from Punjab yesterday and I asked him what was the amount he declared. He said, of course, within the ceiling. He said, to what was the actual amount, much much more. That's a reality. So we're trying to do our best, but it is not possible for us to wipe out black money in 30 days. We don't have a magic wand. If we impose our enforcement too strictly, then we are accused of imposing an emergency. So what is the way out? We personally feel in the commission that it is electoral reforms, which have been pending with the government for as long as 15 to 18 years. Several committees have gone into it but nothing is happening.

And if you do nothing, there'll be another Anna Hazare movement. It'll again come to the streets and demand something totally draconian.

Absolutely. In any constitutional democracy, you can't expect decisions to be taken on the streets when there are constitutional institutions available for them.

Yes, but if you ignore constitutional institutions all the time...

...that will be the consequence. I'll give you the analogy of a pressure cooker. If the safety valve gets clogged, it will burst. So we have clogged it.

That's what's happened with the Lokpal situation, for example.

Yes. Even in the Lokpal context, there is corruption, no doubt, but the Lokpal, I would say, has a limited role in the sense that it will only prosecute the corrupt. What we're saying is don't allow the corrupt in the first place to come to power. Here is a situation—criminals, rapists, murderers, dacoits— they become MLAs, they become ministers, law breakers become law makers, which is the reason why they would not allow such amendments to be passed in the legislature.

So give us a gist of electoral reforms which have been on the table.

Well, let me also tell you positive things. After 15-18 years at least, the Law Ministry about six months ago took the initiative. The Law Minister came to the Election Commission and spent about three hours discussing every reform with us and we decided that jointly we will organise symposia countrywide. Seven regional consultations were decided and six have already taken place, starting from Bhopal, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Chandigarh and Kolkata. Guwahati was left but elections were announced, so that got postponed. Second of April, a meeting at the national level was planned. The Prime Minister had given the date. All major parties were to come, but that got postponed because of the cricket match. So we hope that after the election process is over, this process which has been started will be taken to its logical conclusion because it is now or never.

How urgent is it? Can the government put it off because it's distracted?

Well, the fact is that they have been putting it off all these years, so that is the concern.

They've been putting off the Lokpal Bill also. The Lokpal Bill is some answer to high-level corruption.

In any case, they will maybe say electoral reforms in India are confined only to political corruption. It is not dealing with bureaucracy, it does not deal with the judiciary and others, which Lokpal can probably take care of. But obviously, political corruption is extremely important. If the government is corrupt, then the bureaucracy is corrupt. The Vohra Committee had talked of a criminal-bureaucracy-politician nexus. So nothing has been done to break that nexus. Now coming to your question—what are the major reform proposals?

Which are pending...which are on the table.

On the table is that criminals should be debarred from contesting. The standard argument against it is that false cases can be filed. In fact, we had called a meeting of all political parties in October and all of them rejected our proposal for the same logic. We have a formulation which was originally propounded by the Law Commission, that at least those cases which will carry a conviction of five years...where a court of law has framed the charges. Now a court of law is independent, the FIR may be bogus, but the court of law is independent, and for framing the charges there is prima facie application of mind. There may not be total adjudication of a legal point, but they apply their mind and at that stage they can throw out the case. There is another safety clause that we have introduced—that such cases should have been filed six months before the election so that you have an opportunity to get it redressed, you know, if there is a bogus case. Second is transparency in political funding because we have been saying that all money coming to political parties should be by cheque and it should be spent by cheque. Their accounts should be audited by an auditor approved by the CAG, and they should be in the public domain. The audit report should be put on the website, so that people know. Through that you'll be able to make out the next charge. Suppose a business house gives you money and a few months later you are favouring that business house, people will know that there may be quid pro quo. So these two are the most important proposals which can cleanse the system but there are other reforms also. For instance, the Election Commission itself. We have no power to deregister a party. Can you imagine? We can register, we can't deregister. There are any number of bogus parties.

It has to be an amendment to the law.

It has to be an amendment in law. Also, we feel that protection to the Chief Election Commissioner should also be extended to the EC, which is actually logical. At the time when the Constitution gave this protection to the CEC, it was a single-member institution. The protection was not to the individual, but to the institution. Now it's a three-member commission. All three should be given equal protection. Now my two colleagues can overrule me six times a day under pressure from the government, thinking that if the government is not happy, they will probably not be made CEC. Now, this fear has to be removed. Of course, my colleagues are totally fearless.

You're saying this in general, as an example. Not about individuals...

After all, the Election Commission has been able to do what it has only because of the protection provided by the Constitution. Let me also give credit to the politician. Even the model code of conduct, which is a unique instrument, has more compliance than any law of the land, by the way. And this is a creation of political parties.

And they are really scared of it. Nobody wants to mess with it.

You know, if we give a notice to even a senior leader, that we want you to reply by 5 p.m. tomorrow, by 4 p.m. the reply comes. That is the kind of fear...and this is their own creation.

That's a very happy line to hear. You said that the model code of conduct is the most complied with law in the country.

Yes, exactly. Model code of conduct.

Most complied with law when it actually applies to politicians whom you don't expect to follow laws.

Yes, exactly. All other laws, for instance, they even run away from FIRs, police cases never see culmination.

Why is that happening?

Because they feel any notice from the Election Commission has that kind of effect on the people. They don't want to get a bad name which it gives, and the reply also comes in the public domain. The public becomes the judge.

The Election Commission of India has now become a big brand among democracies in the whole world, isn't it? You're invited to Afghanistan, you're invited to Egypt.

We're going to Egypt next week.

And let me say something as a friend of at least 35 years. I know you never like to be reminded of the fact that you are a Muslim. But the fact that nearly 45 crore Muslims in the subcontinent, which is almost a third of Muslims all over the world, are today democratising, even in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Does it owe a little bit to the success of the Indian electoral system? Have we now become an inspiration, particularly the way Indian Muslims are growing, are acquiring confidence in the democratic process? Is that helping Bangladesh, Pakistan, maybe other Islamic societies also?

Yes, I think the Election Commission of India's contribution is quite significant. The way we keep getting delegations from these countries, including from Pakistan. My counterpart from Pakistan came on January 25. They took a lot of interest in our activities. They wanted to know how we are so effective. And, of course, we shared everything that we know, which we are willing to share with anybody. But you talked of Muslim countries, it's ironical that Islam is basically meant to be a very democratic religion, but we have the least democracies in the Muslim world. As you said, the Election Commission of India has become a world brand. At the same time, when they ask us questions about criminals in our Parliament and Vidhan Sabha, when they all know about the money power, it does embarrass us enormously and we need to do something about it.

So what's your agenda, once this phase of elections is over? How are you going to build pressure on the system to make this happen? Before it spills into the streets and we are presented as really bad at making democratic choices, in fact fascist choices.

You know, I would like to give the devil his due. The very fact that the government has taken it so seriously and the fact that six regional symposia have already been organised, attended by top leaders, lawyers, journalists, civil society. There is a momentum, but it needs to be taken to its logical conclusion.

So what's your next step after these elections, because another year and you have another set of big state elections. There's UP next year.

Well UP, Punjab. For the five states next year, we start our preparation for the elections one year in advance.

In the little interregnum that you will get, how do you increase pressure or momentum for reform to happen?

We will try and take this momentum to its logical conclusion, in the sense that we will have the Guwahati convention before the end of this month or early next month. And then we'll push for the national meet, which was postponed for cricket, to take place before long. Because the government and the nation should not miss this opportunity.

And I know you don't want these things done through Jantar Mantar.

Absolutely, not when we have Parliament next door. But if Parliament fails to discharge its duty, that is what forces situations like what we encountered.

That's a very timely warning. And I know nobody can take you lightly because not only do you have credibility as CEC, but you also have respect through your almost four decades of service. Thank you very much and many congratulations to you for the various elections.

Transcribed by Arundhati Chakravarty. For longer text, visit







While those involved, such as lawyer Prashant Bhushan and politician Amar Singh, will deal with the CD controversy in the manner they deem fit—Bhushan's father Shanti Bhushan has filed a criminal contempt against Singh in the Supreme Court—the government has done well to get involved at the earliest. Home minister P Chidambaram has said there will be a "free, fair and thorough" probe by the Delhi Police and that the CD will be examined by at least two different labs for separate reports. The CD, where Amar Singh is alleged to have Shanti Bhushan seated next to him and where they are supposed to be talking of how to fix a judge with Prashant Bhushan's help, goes far beyond the father-son duo who are part of the committee drafting the new Lokpal Bill. The judge whose name is mentioned in the CD is currently deciding on the 2G licensing scam. It is, of course, true that even if the CD is found to be the real thing, this doesn't mean the judge was in any way compromised. The timing of the release of the CD is certainly worrying. So, it is important the government get its labs to give a final verdict since, right now, all we're seeing is Prashant Bhushan giving out details of the forensic reports of his experts while some of the newspapers that reported the matter continue to cite their expert reports which say the CD was not doctored.

The CD saga, of course, opens our eyes to the obvious depths to which credibility has sunk, of politicians, of bureaucrats, among others—as Chidambaram said while announcing the probe, he was glad that in this season of allegations, there was a growing recognition that reputation was also important. The fact that Anna Hazare was able to get the attention he did, including from the government, is testimony to this—a nervous government notification even says the civil society representatives on the drafting committee will be those nominated by Hazare, as if there are no other representatives of civil society. The 2G scam, that majorly contributed to this fall in reputation, ironically, also offers the solution. The probe picked up only after the Supreme Court got into the act; indeed, even the public prosecutor had to be selected by the Court—the fact that the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu had still not been held when the CBI filed its first chargesheet on April 2 ensured it did not deal with the money trail into the DMK chief's wife and daughter's Kalaignar TV. Hopefully such delays are behind us now. An early end to the case, with appropriate justice meted out to all concerned, will prove that no one is above the law, whether it is a politician, a bureaucrat or a corporate.





With increasing instances of the judiciary and the executive being at loggerheads, and the obiter dicta by various judges has only worsened the impression of the conflict, Chief Justice SH Kapadia's MC Setalvad Memorial Lecture comes as a breath of fresh air. In recent months, the courts have pulled up the government for how funds for the PDS were being used, on how the government shouldn't be procuring foodgrains unless it can store them, on the progress in the 2G scam, on the appointment of the CVC, even admissions to nursery schools. Justice Kapadia has warned that "judges do not have the competence to make policy choices and run administration" and it is not their job to direct the legislature. As he put it, "We are not concerned with the wisdom, need or appropriateness of the legislation. We must refuse to sit as a super-legislature to weigh the wisdom of legislation".

But what of the genuine PILs that the courts have entertained to ensure a reluctant government takes appropriate action? Or of the 2G scam where little progress took place till the Supreme Court intervened? Justice Kapadia gives the instance of the court's order that forced the government to implement CNG for public transport in the capital, to make the right to education a fundamental right, to frame rules for admission into educational institutions. He said that while all the judgments were pegged on the belief they affected the life of the citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution, the courts still needed to keep in mind the question: "can judges ignore the separation of powers in the Constitution", especially since they can't be held responsible for their actions by the electorate. In other words, under Justice Kapadia, you could well have a new restraint among judges. None of this, however, should be interpreted to mean the judiciary will not be questioning the government's actions. Justice Kapadia has done well to point out that the Constitution is "a living organic thing" and that the courts have to constantly interpret the meaning and intentions of the framers of the Constitution.





The 2009 Parliamentary election returned the Congress party to power with more seats than even the most optimistic predictions. From 145 seats in 2004, the Congress increased its tally to 206 seats. No doubt, the five-year UPA rule had been characterised by unprecedented growth, but this is too simplistic an explanation since the Congress's performance varied widely across the states in the elections. For instance, it won just nine out of 72 seats in the states of Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. Despite the high growth they experienced, these states voted overwhelmingly against the Congress. Clearly, we need a more nuanced analysis to explain the election outcome.

In a recent paper, Economic Reforms and Elections Outcomes, Arvind Panagariya and I comprehensively analyse the data for 2009 general elections to undertake this task. Our explanation of the unexpected showing of the Congress consists of two steps. In the first step, we connect the victory of the Congress candidates to high-growth states in which it ruled. In the second step, we connect the good fortune of the Congress to its excellent showing in states that performed poorly economically and were ruled by its rival parties.

Our analysis focuses on the larger states that had stable governments between 2004 and 2009. We divide these states into low, medium and high growth states and first evaluate the role of incumbency in determining the election outcomes. We ask whether the effect of incumbency differed across states with different growth records. Our results show that the incumbency factor was most important at the state government level and it strongly depended on the growth record of the state governments. Whether or not voters voted for the candidates of the parties in power in their states depended on the economic growth obtained under the incumbent state government. If a state government delivered growth higher than the national average, the voters overwhelmingly voted in favour of its candidates. If, on the other hand, the growth in a state lagged behind the average growth rate across states, the candidates of the party in power in the state were more prone to losing the election. Put another way, voters exhibited a strong pro-incumbency behaviour in high growth states and a neutral or anti-incumbency behaviour in low growth states.

Consistent with this finding, the Congress party did an encore in the fast growing states where it was in power at the time of elections. For example, in Haryana and Delhi, two of the fastest growing states, where the Congress was the incumbent party, it won most of the parliamentary seats, increasing its tally from 15 seats in 2004 to 16 seats in 2009 out of a total of 17 seats. But this factor by itself is not sufficient to explain the rise of the Congress's tally from 145 in 2004 to 206 in 2009.

Where the Congress made even bigger gains was in the poorly performing states that were ruled by its rival parties. In the states of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress was in the opposition and the growth record of the incumbent state governments turned out to be poor, it made huge gains. As the table shows, these states yielded an advantage of 42 seats to the Congress! Indeed, the Congress's ally Trinamool Congress (TMC) made similar gains in West Bengal, another slow growing state ruled by a rival party. TMC made a gigantic gain of 17 seats in that state, making it easier for the Congress to put together a coalition government. The Congress and its coalition partners together more or less maintained their 2004 positions in most of the medium growth states with one exception: they made a large gain of 13 seats in Kerala, which had experienced a growth rate close to the national average.

It is too early to say how various parties would fare in the 2014 general elections on the basis of the model. But what one can conclude from it is that the outcome will depend significantly on the growth record of the state economies under the incumbent state governments between 2009 and 2014. Our results also suggest that in future elections it would be too naïve to predict elections results based solely on the anti-incumbency factor, as done by some pundits. A more careful approach would combine the status of incumbency of various parties in state governments with their performance as incumbents.

There are at least two important questions our research has not addressed so far. First, our analysis has focused on growth as the determining factor. But it is possible that other factors such as the provision of infrastructure, delivery of public services, governance and the perceptions of the top leadership expected to emerge under alternative coalitions matter as well. We acknowledge that these issues are important, but to the extent that growth is more readily measured and is correlated with at least some of these other outcomes, our approach would seem to be defensible.

Second, if the state governments' performance is poor and the voter looks for alternatives, what factors influence his or her voting behaviour? Specifically, precisely why did the Congress rather than other parties benefit so big in the states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in the 2009 election? Our preliminary analysis suggests that apart from responding to the observable qualities of the candidates, the voter also goes for the main opposition party in his or her state.

A last possible limitation of our work is that it is based exclusively on the 2009 general elections and thus the results possibly cannot be generalised to the assembly elections or to the past elections. These are the issues on which we hope to report in the future on the basis of our ongoing work!

The author is a professor at ICRIER







Revaluing the renminbi and aligning the exchange rate of the Chinese currency with the market trends has been a contentious issue for some time. The developed economies that have consistently pushed China to allow the renminbi to appreciate, in line with the huge surplus in the Chinese balance of payment accounts, hope that market-driven rates will help bring down the trade imbalances by reducing the growth of Chinese exports and increasing that of their imports. The Chinese, on the other hand, fear that an appreciating renminbi will hit their exports, push up imports and reduce employment.

The Chinese fears of currency appreciation are largely based on the experience of Japan more than two decades ago, when a sharply appreciating yen—value of which increased by more than 50% in the latter half of the 1980s—hit Japanese exports. But the Indian and global experiences in the last few years are more pertinent examples of how flexible exchange rates boost trade prospects, both in terms of quantity and quality.

An appreciating rupee has always been a bugbear to Indian exporters, who usually use their clout and manage to wrench new export concessions from the government whenever the rupee appreciates for prolonged periods or at an accelerating pace. However, the reality is that export growth has more than doubled under flexible exchange rates, especially since the middle of the decade, when the rupee started appreciating, and imports have risen much slower that exports.

Although India had shifted to a dual exchange rate in March 1992 and to full market-based exchange rate in February 1993, the immediate impact on exports was minimal as the rupee continued to steadily depreciate for almost a decade until 2003-04 when it touched a peak rate of R48.4 per dollar. Since then the rupee has appreciated in six of the next eight years with the exchange rate now hovering around R45 per dollar.

However, the flexibility in the rupee exchange rate—with the value fluctuating in the -15% to +5% range in the 2003-04 to 2010-11 period—has seen Indian merchandise exports pick up by an annual average rate of 21%, more than double the 9.5% growth averaged in the preceding eight years. The rise in imports was much slower, with inflows growing at 23.7% in the last eight years as against the 13.5% increase in the previous eight.

But rather than volumes, the more substantial impact of the new found flexibility of the rupee was on the structure of exports. The flexible currency, in fact, has helped improve India's export basket, with the share of high value products increasing much faster than in the previous period. Engineering goods have, thus, replaced textiles as the largest export product, with the share of engineering goods in merchandise exports going up from 19% to 26% between 2003-04 and 2008-09. The second largest export product now is petroleum products, with its share almost trebling from 5.6% to 15.9% during the period.

Share of the previously dominant traditional export products like textiles has almost halved from 20% to 11% during the period while that of agriculture products has gone down from 11.8% to 9.5%. More flexible exchange rates have obviously helped exporters move up the value chain by focusing on goods where India's skilled workforce confer a trade advantage as distinct from traditional exports where the regulatory regime impinged on the competitiveness of labour-intensive exports. The total trade numbers also show that the greater flexibility in the exchange rate has helped push up overall openness of the Indian economy, with the share of goods traded going up by more than a third from 24.1% of the GDP in 2003-04 to 41% of the in 2008-09.

The larger global picture also validates the importance of flexible exchange rates. The most recent numbers for 2010 show that as global exports shot up sharply by 22%, after falling by 23% in the global slowdown of 2009, the pick up was quicker in the economies with more flexible currencies. For instance, the global trade recovery in 2010 helped the US push up its merchandise exports by an impressive 21% in 2010, which is around three times the general trends rates and double the rates achieved in 2008, just before the slowdown. In fact, the growth of merchandise exports in the US was much more substantial that in the China, despite its relatively more stable currency. Chinese exports went up 31%, which was just about double their trend rates.

The US is no exception. The numbers, in fact, show that other countries with more flexible exchange rates registered a faster recovery of exports than in China. Countries where the growth of merchandise exports in 2010 was more than triple the trend growth rates include Canada, Mexico, France, the UK, Italy, South Africa and Japan. In other countries like Brazil, Germany and the Netherlands, the pick up in exports was more than double the trend growth rates. So, it is now for China to join the dots and opt towards more flexible exchange rates.







It is now obvious that Nato's purported mission, under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, to protect civilians in Libya is expanding into a flagrantly illegal attempt at regime change. With fierce fighting between rebels and government forces reported in the eastern city of Adjabiya and the western one of Misrata, President Barack Obama has stated that a military stalemate obtains. That means Nato has failed to protect civilians and prevent Muammar Qadhafi's ground forces from recapturing key rebel-held areas, with civilian casualties as a tragic consequence. In response, however, Mr. Obama and his main Nato collaborators, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, have published a joint article in The Washington Post, The Times, and Le Figaro, holding that "it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in power" and that "so long as Gaddafi is in power, Nato and its coalition partners must maintain their operations."

The main problems in this exercise in military adventurism have been caused by the Resolution's lack of a clear political objective; it is the political issues that are now proving the most troublesome for the Alliance. One major miscalculation was the assumption that Mr. Qadhafi might be sufficiently influenced by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) or the League of Arab States (the Arab League) to consider an agreement with the rebels or even to leave office. The Libyan President's defiant reaction exposed that idea as vacuous. Now Mr. Cameron refuses to rule out the deployment of ground troops, despite the fact that the U.N. Resolution specifically excludes that. The coalition's disarray is further confirmed by France's proposal, with which the United Kingdom disagrees, of a new Resolution; in any case Russia and China are likely to oppose anything that authorises regime change. Nevertheless, the evidence is increasingly clear that, even before they obtained the existing mandate, Washington, London, and Paris wanted only to remove Mr. Qadhafi. The U.S. has since approached various African Union member states about giving asylum to Mr. Qadhafi provided he leaves office. Secondly, at a recent coalition conference, Qatar and Italy pressed for arms supplies to the rebels. The most damaging evidence, however, is that the U.S. has sent an envoy to Benghazi to learn more about the rebel grouping, the Interim Transitional National Council. In effect, going through the U.N. was only a smokescreen for regime change. The Obama administration and its allies are repeating all the mistakes and miscalcuations made by George W. Bush and Tony Blair over the infamous and illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003.





No angle of the Khalil Chishty episode provides a pretty view. The octogenarian Pakistani was recently convicted in a 1992 murder case and handed down a life sentence by a trial court in Ajmer. Two weeks ago, the Rajasthan High Court turned down his plea for suspension of the sentence. For the nearly 20 years the case took to be decided, Dr. Chishty — a highly-qualified virologist — was out on bail, but remained hostage to the shockingly slow pace of the proceedings. His passport impounded, he could not return to his country. The case in which he was one of four accused related to a group clash in Ajmer that resulted in one person succumbing to a gunshot injury. Dr. Chishty, on a visit to Ajmer from Karachi, was present when the clash took place, apparently between two sets of his relatives. The trial court was evidently not impressed with his claim that he was only an onlooker and played no part in the violence. Independent of the merits of the case, it defies comprehension that a sessions court should have taken 19 long years to decide the matter. This is glacial speed even by the standards of the Indian judiciary. Even less comprehensible is the Rajasthan High Court's observation while turning down Dr. Chishty's plea for suspension of the sentence that "no leniency" could be shown to him as he was a Pakistani national, even as it granted identical appeals by the three others convicted in the case. Dr. Chishty, who is unable to walk unaided, began his sentence at the end of January this year; he is warded in the Ajmer jail hospital. While the courts may have decided to make an example of Dr. Chishty, awarding an old, infirm and ailing Pakistani, a life sentence after a delay of two decades is hardly a shining example of the Indian judiciary at work.

Dr. Chishty's saga stands out all the more in the light of the generosity of spirit Pakistan demonstrated by releasing Gopal Dass, an Indian citizen who had been incarcerated for 27 years, on an appeal from the Supreme Court of India. The recent thaw in relations has also seen Pakistan and India release a number of each other's nationals from jail. The two governments have decided to speed up the release of other prisoners. It seems to have finally dawned on the two sides that prisoners — mostly arrested for minor offences such as overstaying their visa or crossing the border — must not be used for settling scores between the two countries. In keeping with this, it would only be right for the Indian government to respond positively to the appeals for the release of Dr. Chishty by his family and human rights activists in both countries. He should be allowed to return to Pakistan and to his family immediately.







The magnificent Egyptian uprising, after a brief introspective but impatient pause, has flared up again. On February 11, it brought down dictator Hosni Mubarak and drove him into peripheral existence in Sharm-el-Sheikh, the resort city on the Red Sea. Yet, even when the euphoria generated by the exit of the oligarch was in full flow, many among Egypt's seasoned protesters observed, "We have brought down the dictator, not the dictatorship."

By April 9, less than two months after Mr. Mubarak's unceremonious exit, the uprising gathered its second wind. With clarity and focus, it declared war on the remnants of the regime, which had remained largely unmoved from institutions and had, for three servile decades, served Mr. Mubarak unquestioningly. More significantly, the protesters' perception of the military top brass, who had taken over the state after Mr. Mubarak's ungainly departure, changed dramatically. It began to dawn on them that the military was not people's friend. It was as much part of the old oligarchy, which was yet to make way for people's power.

The Egyptian media have been quick to pick up the military's fading appeal. An article in Al Ahram Online observed: "The army's advent to Egypt's streets in the early days of the revolution was welcomed by the people who met the officers and soldiers with flowers and the chant 'the army and the people are one hand.' But as tensions cloud the relationship between the two sides, the optimistic chant is becoming increasingly rare."

What has changed in a couple of months? How will the realisation that the military could be the revolution's chief obstacle, rather than being an ally, impact Egypt's future?

The reluctance to put Mr. Mubarak, his family and inner-circle cronies on trial first sowed the suspicion that the new military rulers were protecting prominent members of the entrenched elite. Besides, many top activists of the Egyptian youth movement, which spearheaded the anti-Mubarak revolt, began to conclude, after their interaction with the new rulers, that the military leadership might no longer be sensitive to the aspirations of the uprising.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Ahmed Maher, a top leader of the April 6 youth movement, conveyed the impression that the relationship with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), Egypt's top decision making body, was souring fast. He pointed out that the meetings between youth representatives and Generals Mohsen al-Fingare and Mohd. Higazi had become infrequent. "The present situation is ambiguous, nobody knows what they [the military] are thinking," he said. "We respect the army, there's no doubt about that, [but] nothing will be imposed on us … without being thoroughly discussed with us."

The military's image has also taken a beating following its recent moves to target individual protesters, and hand down heavy sentences to them in shadowy closed-door trials. Among those who have suffered from the army's proclivity for handing summary justice is Michael Nabil, a prominent blogger, who is undergoing a three-year sentence.

The military's inclination to violate human rights has made it hard for people to differentiate its behaviour from the darkness of the Mubarak era. Besides, its recent move to ban labour strikes and demonstrations is turning out to be disastrous. It has alienated the working class, whose widespread participation in industrial action during the first phase of the uprising proved decisive in toppling Mr. Mubarak.

It was, therefore, not surprising when hundreds of thousands of people assembled at the Tahrir Square on April 8, demanding from the army the liberation of public institutions from the influence of Mr. Mubarak's nepotistic cliques. For the first time after Mr. Mubarak's exit, the crowds attacked Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tanatawi, a former Mubarak ally and now SCAF head. From a stage at the Tahrir Square, one of the speakers chanted: "Oh, Field Marshal, why are you quiet? Are you with them?" Yet another ominously shouted: "Dictator, dictator, Tanatawi is next."

By first light on April 9, the Field Marshal became a popular hate figure. This was because the army, under cover of darkness, ordered a brutal crackdown on the few protesters who chose to stay overnight, after the bulk of the dissidents had departed. Those who did not leave wanted to protect a dozen army officers, fearing retribution from their high command because they had switched sides and joined the protests at the Tahrir Square. Before daybreak, the troops arrived in strength and the crackdown began.

Amateur video showed the security forces surrounding most parts of the square, aglow with street lamps. Then, for several minutes, the crackle of gunfire could be heard as the protesters battled a hail of rubber bullets and teargas shells. Finally, the protest was broken; a number of army dissidents were arrested and at least one person later died of injuries in a Cairo hospital.

The military's imprudent attack has re-ignited the uprising. The Tahrir Square has once again come alive, and protests are acquiring new political dimensions. Hossam el-Hamalawy, socialist journalist and activist, said on Twitter that many Palestine flags could be seen at the square where protesters have pledged not to leave until those responsible for the April 9 crackdown are put on trial.

The military's counterproductive recourse to violence is the result of its gross underestimation of the depth of the revolt, and its aversion to the plutocratic elite. At the heart of the uprising is a supercharged working class movement, which has made itself felt since 2006, when workers went on strike at a textile mill — the largest in West Asia — in the Nile delta town of Mahalla. The strike inspired similar industrial action in other parts of the country. Mahalla again came into the limelight in 2008, when three persons were killed after police tried to quell a mini-uprising, triggered by a sharp rise in bread price. The Mahalla incident triggered a similar revolt in El-Borollos, north of the Nile delta. In an article in The Guardian, Mr. Hamalawy points out that "the country continued to witness almost on a daily basis strikes and sit-ins by workers, and smaller demonstrations by activists in downtown Cairo and the provinces." It was in 2008 that the youth movement formally embedded itself in the working class agitators, after Ahmed Maher, leader of the April 6 Youth Movement, took the lead in supporting the textile workers.

The military is unlikely to have understood that the Egyptian uprising is the result of a complex enmeshing of social groups, mobilised by the April 6 Youth Movement and the We are All Khaled Said group, which has stood up against police brutality. The youth mobilisation fused into a vibrant working class movement. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood later joined the movement, which, in the words of Pepe Escobar, combines "pro-labour Islamists, leftists, liberals, and left-wing nationalists." This critical mass, with a working class core, aspiring as much for food and clothing as for dignity, is unlikely to be satisfied by driblets of reform offered by the military or deterred by its scaremongering tactics.

Many in Egypt have begun to realise that the military, despite its size and sophisticated weaponry, is inherently fragile. The presence of the dozen officers at the Tahrir Square on April 8 was an indication that the protesters are likely to enjoy a great deal of empathy within the rank and file of the army. It is commonly felt among pro-democracy activists that the military has suffered a "horizontal split"— the junior officer corps and ordinary soldiers facing off with the top brass, who view the uprising as a serious threat. Thus SCAF is unlikely to deepen its crackdown, as pervasive use of force against the protesters can seriously threaten the institutional cohesiveness of a deeply divided military.

There is a view that driven to desperation, the military could seriously pursue "divide and rule" tactics by making a determined attempt to co-opt the Muslim Brotherhood and shear it away from the uprising. But given the high momentum of the revolt, it is unlikely that the Brotherhood will become the military's partner as the move could terminally impair its credibility among ordinary Egyptians.

Amid an irreconcilable contradiction between the entrenched interests of the military, which also has struck economic root, and the aspirations of the mainstream protest movement, Egypt is likely to pursue an unscripted course of transition, which may no longer be orderly or free of violence








"The easiest way to achieve complete strategic surprise," reads the motto on U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates' desk, "is to commit an act that makes no sense or is even self-destructive." Journalist Peter Bergen uses the maxim to begin his book "The Longest War" which is about U.S. action in Afghanistan, but it has an equally frightening meaning for the ongoing strikes against Libya.

This week marks a month since the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and its allies began their bombardment, after UN Security Council resolution 1973 authorised members "to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Arab Libyan Jamahiriya." The threat to civilians had been portrayed as being dire and imminent. Yet a month later, after more than 1,150 air strikes on Qadhafi-controlled Libya (2,700 sorties in all), the countries carrying them out have yet to prove how dire that threat is, and are no closer to making Libyans any safer than when they started out. In fact, it is quite the reverse.

Reversal of stand

To begin with, the action in Libya itself was based on a shaky premise that led the U.S. to reverse, practically overnight, its stand on the need for air strikes. Just days after Mr. Gates called the need for strikes 'loose-talk,' the U.S. was talking war at the Security Council, pushing through the resolution. France and Britain were the original sponsors of the action, no doubt, but it would have been a non-starter without the U.S. turnaround. Explaining the vote at the time, President Barack Obama said the resolution was to halt "a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world." The need was so urgent that the Security Council didn't even wait for the UN Secretary-General's special envoy, who had travelled to Libya, to return with his report. The speed was necessitated by the 'conscience of the world,' heavy with guilt over not having moved fast enough in Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda.

Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi may be capable of cruelty, yet weeks later where is the evidence that he had planned or carried out any act of genocide? For more than a month before the strikes, the international media has been freely reporting from Benghazi and other rebel-controlled cities, the areas most threatened by Col. Qadhafi. Many thousands fled these areas to neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia and were free to tell their stories. Yet there was no mass grave, gruesome image of bombed civilian areas or proof of mass casualties. It must be remembered that the former U.S. President, George W. Bush, took months to prepare the world when he said he would bomb Iraq in 2003, and built several cases, some false, on Saddam Hussein's stocks of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and his links to the 9/11 conspiracy before going in. It is surprising that the U.S. administration and its European allies didn't feel the need for these.

What 'dire threat'?

So what was the 'dire threat' Mr. Obama referred to? In his address, he mentioned Col. Qadhafi's by now famous 'Zenga-Zenga' speech in which he threatened to hunt down insurgents in every alleyway. The words were menacing, and could be compared to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud-Al Fasal's threat, at a press conference the same week, to "cut off any finger" raised against the government during proposed protests. The double standard has continued through the conflict. The latest worry for the western press have been reports that Col. Qadhafi's forces are using banned 'cluster-bombs' in Misurata — the same weapon Israel used for months in its bombing of Lebanon in 2006, and with no threat of reprisal.

The next false premise was that of international consensus. At the Security Council, 10 countries voted for the strikes, while five including India abstained, with serious reservations. In an article last week, co-authored by Mr. Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the leaders stressed that they had bombed Libya on the Arab League's prompting. Yet within 24 hours of the first strike on March 19, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa condemned it. Foreign Minister of Bahrain (which is a key U.S. ally) Sheikh Khaled bin Khalifa told CNN-IBN that the "Western action on Libya isn't really protecting the people of Libya." Pushing for regime change was not part of the Arab League's mandate, he added, and it was only causing more suffering for the people of Libya. Next to follow was the 53-nation African Union's boycott of the Libya conference in London, expressing disappointment with "western military attacks."

The emerging nations Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) summit in Sanya last week criticised the strikes, marking a turnaround for South Africa in particular, that had voted for the UN 'no-fly' resolution. Within NATO too, there have been sharp differences over the road ahead, putting paid to the Obama-Cameron-Sarkozy contention, in their article 'Libya's Pathway to Peace,' that the coalition has been united from the start and united in what needs to happen next.


Perhaps the greatest dissonance has come from Mr. Obama who on March 27, said "broadening the military mission to include regime change would be a mistake," but in the article on April 14 he said that it was "unthinkable" that Col. Qadhafi should remain in power. Perhaps President Obama should remember the words of Candidate Obama, who had said in December 2007, "The President doesn't have the power, under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the United States."

But memory seems in short supply, given the proposal now to arm and train the rebels in eastern Libya against Col. Qadhafi's forces. It would seem unthinkable 30 years after the 'Mujahideen' experiment — of raising and funding thousands of fighters to carry out a mission of regime change in a foreign land that went so horribly wrong — that the U.S. and Britain can even consider something similar so openly. The U.S. has succeeded in confusing even the al-Qaeda now, leaving it unsure 'who the enemy is', as this weekend, Ayman Al Zawahiri put out a statement calling for Muslim countries to "rise up and fight both the mercenaries of Gaddafi and the rest of NATO" if they sent ground troops in.

Maybe the best hope for the world now is that Col. Qadhafi, like the West, doesn't learn lessons from the past. Author and international commentator Mahmood Mamdani quotes a chilling story during a state visit by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai to Egypt in the 1970s, where he asked President Nasser about a young man in uniform. "Why?" asked Nasser. "That's Gaddafi, the new Libyan leader." "Oh!" replied Zhou, "Well he just asked me what it would cost to buy an atomic bomb!"

Col. Qadhafi must be wondering today if he did the right thing by giving up his dreams of nuclear deterrence at the behest of the West. Instead, he embarked on a mission to please the countries now bombing him, sent his children to be educated in the U.S. and the U.K, gave those countries preferential oil deals, and, in the process, built his own economy. In 2010, Libya held the highest per capita income in Africa (approximately $12,000), afforded its citizens free housing and had a very low rate of inflation. It was also a remarkably liberal country, one of the few Arab nations without the presence of the al-Qaeda. As he sits in his Bab el Aziza compound, friendless amidst the ruins of his country, pondering this, it must be hoped that the NATO alliance will also pause its bombings to think of what they are paving the way for — given that the rebels it has relentlessly supported have no popularity in other parts of the country and can never hope to control the whole of Libya. The Gates desk motto "lacking in sense and even self-destructive" comes to one's mind.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, they say. It would seem the road to interventionist hell in Libya today has been paved with nothing but folly.

( Suhasini Haidar is Deputy Foreign Editor, CNN-IBN.)







President Nicolas Sarkozy, having suddenly engaged France in shooting wars in Libya and Ivory Coast, seems to be harking back to the old days of French African policy, sometimes known as Françafrique, when Paris and its army dictated politics in its former colonies and reaped economic rewards.

French troops and helicopters were vital in bringing the drama in Abidjan to a close, striking the heavy weapons and presidential palace of the defeated Ivory Coast presidential candidate Laurent Gbagbo and making possible his arrest. And France has been the country that has pushed hardest for intervention in Libya on behalf of the opposition to Col. Muammar el-Qadhafi.

But Mr. Sarkozy and the Foreign Ministry reject the suggestion of a return to colonial reflexes, emphasising that in both cases France acted under a mandate from the United Nations Security Council that authorised the use of force to protect civilians. French officials also point out that Libya was an Italian colony, never French; that French troops did not arrest Mr. Gbagbo; and that Paris was slow to understand the depth of the anger in its former protectorate, Tunisia.

Mr. Sarkozy's line for Africa has been "neither interference nor indifference."

France's colonial empire covered much of North and West Africa, from Algeria to Ivory Coast. The colonies were gradually granted independence in the 1960s, but France still has troops based in Africa and close business, political, linguistic and personal ties to its former colonies, which as a whole give France more importance in the world.

Accusations persist

Accusations persist of France taking sides to make new presidents or overthrow old ones, of illegal political contributions and payoffs, of parallel but separate policies run by the Élysée and the Quai d'Orsay.

The newspapers, for instance, have depicted the friendship of Mr. Sarkozy's former wife, Cécilia, with the French wife of Gbagbo rival Alassane Ouattara, and Mr. Gbagbo played heavily on anti-French sentiment in his effort to retain power.

The French newspaper Libération said of Ivory Coast that "even if wrapped in a U.N. resolution and supported by countries in the region, this French mission resembles the interventions of the past and risks being seen as such by young Africans." Fifty years after African independence, the paper said, France has "found itself anew on the front line in a continent to which Nicolas Sarkozy promised a 'renewed' relationship, the end of old privileges and a military disengagement."

Achille Mbembé, a Cameroonian-born historian and critic of French involvement in Ivory Coast, said that France continued to support African dictators, mentioning the leaders of Gabon, Cameroon, Congo, Chad and Togo. He saw "a continuity in the management of Françafrique — this system of reciprocal corruption, which, since the end of colonial occupation, ties France to its African henchmen."

Albert Bourgi, a professor of law and brother of Robert Bourgi, a lawyer who helped manage African matters for France for Jacques Chirac and his successors, wrote in Le Monde that Ivory Coast "reawakens the memory, sometimes damning, of numerous excesses of French African policy between 1960 and today."

He recalled the words of Louis de Guiringaud, a former foreign minister, who said in 1978, "Africa is the only region of the world where France can take itself for a great power, capable of changing the course of history with 500 men."

But other historians and analysts suggest that Mr. Sarkozy was sincere when he said that his African policy would emphasise partnership and not paternalism, and note that he does not share the same ties to Africa as his predecessors, in particular Mr. Chirac and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, infamous for a scandal over African diamonds allegedly received as a gift.

'No nostalgia for ex-colonies'

"Sarkozy has no nostalgia for the former colonies, and I believe there has not been any real change in his African policy," said Antoine Glaser, former editor-in-chief of Lettre du Continent, an African newsletter, and co-author of "Sarko in Africa" and "How France Lost Africa." He added: "The policy is still marked by realpolitik and pragmatism. For Sarkozy, it's much more the political, diplomatic and geostrategic opportunities of the moment."

Stephen W. Smith, former Africa editor of Le Monde, co-author with Mr. Glaser and now an instructor at Duke University, said that France was not returning to the period of Françafrique, which largely ended in the mid-1990s and was most closely associated with Jacques Foccart, who ran Africa for Charles de Gaulle.

'More a nuisance than asset'

"Sarkozy is not interested in Africa, but sees it as more of a nuisance than an asset," Mr. Smith said. Africa is important for energy and France's self-image, he said, but French presence and influence in its former colonies are much reduced with generational and political change. As the long Gaullist period ended in France, so did the reign of the early African fathers of independence, most of them French-trained or empowered, and democracy has loosened what were effectively partnerships.

"Françafrique was a Franco-African construction," Mr. Smith said, "a deal struck with African leaders who knew what they were doing." With time and politics, he said, the deal degraded into corruption, secret political financing and more personal ties. "Foccart guaranteed a continuity impossible in France today and the African fathers of independence were in power a long time," he said. "When you started to have more democracy and alternation in power, the system fell apart."

Today, France has little corporate involvement in the main economic pillars of Ivory Coast, cocoa, coffee and oil, Mr. Smith said. In the 1980s, there were 50,000 French expatriates in Ivory Coast; now the number is 12,000, of whom at least 7,000 are dual nationals.

France is visible in construction, electricity and telecommunications, but has bigger investments in non-Francophone Africa. In Ivory Coast, France ranks only fifth in import-export totals, while Nigeria is first.

Still, French businessmen are investing all over Africa, and many feel a tie to a French-speaking former colonial empire. But the special French mix of accusation and guilt over African colonialism is a kind of relic, Mr. Smith said.

"In the period of Françafrique, there were very few dissident voices in France," Mr. Smith said. "There is a kind of rediscovery, a soul-searching exercise that is also an exercise in identity. Many French don't look at Africa as it is, but at themselves, as a mirror effect, mostly as a villain, but sometimes as a help."

But on the left and the right, Mr. Smith said, "the centrepiece is always France." In a straitened French media world, too, he said, which can afford fewer foreign correspondents, "the presence of the people of Africa dwindles."

Libya and Ivory Coast represent, then, a kind of "caricature of Françafrique," said the Socialist legislator François Loncle. But as Mr. Glaser said, "So long as France has soldiers deployed on African soil, the ambiguity will last."— © New York Times News Service




The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) called on the United Nations and the international community to halt "flagrant Iranian interference" in Gulf affairs, Al-Arabiya TV reported on April 18.

After a meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh, the six-nation GCC urged the UN Security Council in a statement to take "necessary measures" against the Islamic republic to prevent it from sowing regional discord.

The statement said the GCC "categorically rejects all foreign interference in its affairs," and slammed "aggression against Saudi diplomats" in Iran. The GCC is a union that includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. Earlier on April 17, Riyadh threatened to recall its diplomats from Tehran in case the Islamic republic does not take the necessary measures to ensure their safety. Iranian students demonstrated outside the Saudi embassy in Tehran to condemn Riyadh's military intervention in Bahrain.

Iran, predominantly a Shiite Muslim country, has repeatedly condemned the dispatch of Saudi troops to Bahrain to support the Bahraini forces' crackdown on demonstrators, who were mostly Shiites protesting against the Sunni rule in the tiny Gulf nation. Iran's Fars news agency, which is close to conservatives who dominate Iran's politics, reported that "six to seven petrol bombs were hurled against the embassy" as students chanted anti-Saudi slogans.

Tehran has repeatedly condemned the dispatch of GCC troops to Bahrain. However, on April 18, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the U.S. of wanting to create tension between Iran and Arabs. — Xinhua







It is a sorry state of affairs that mobile and landline subscribers across India must live with unsolicited messages and phone calls offering everything from unbelievable airline travel packages starting at `500, selling a generator to beat the summer heat or purveying a 3BHK sea-view apartment in South Mumbai or a similarly swank residence in Gurgaon/Noida. Desperate real estate agents blitz cellphone users all week, and even on weekends, and then of course there are magic cures for everything from hairfall to a swelling waistline! With the holiday season looming, get ready for a blitz of "attractive" four-nights-five-days options in Bangkok, Singapore, or wherever... And don't forget annoying credit card offers with holiday vouchers or, post mobile number portability, an incredulous voice asking why on earth you wouldn't want to change your service provider! It almost seems these pesky calls and SMSes are here to stay forever, and no one can do anything.
More than a quarter of the year has passed since the January 1, 2011 deadline by which Trai, India's telecom regulator, had promised to end — or rein in — this menace. The pesky calls/SMSes are still with us, with Trai having pushed back the deadline twice. The January 1 deadline was first deferred till March 31; and now that this date too is long past, there is no clarity on what the deadline is — if there is one. The Trai chairman had pledged at one point that action would be taken in 15 days, which too has passed or will soon pass. The hurdle appears to be putting in place infrastructure allowing effective filtering of unwanted calls and text messages. The department of telecom has to allocate a special code number for telemarketers; for this it has to make the necessary changes, such as upgrading systems in all fixed line exchanges across the country. It appears this might take a long time, if it happens at all! There is a genuine security issue — as monitoring of such calls will be difficult, particularly if local ones, unlike an STD call where one can see at least the place from where it is originating as every city has its own code. There is scope for mischief-mongers to intrude into the system and misuse it, therefore ways to deter such activity must be in place. The DoT has already allocated a number code for mobile telemarketers; it is only in the case of landlines that the matter is stuck.

Trai has now put the ball in the DoT's court, saying it was yet to be allocated a special series of landline numbers through which telemarketers can operate. The DoT, however, says it is up to Trai to find a solution as it has been issuing deadlines on the ending of pesky calls. It now transpires that Trai has been announcing these deadlines without even discussing the matter with the DoT, which has a major role to play as it has to put in place the physical changes in the system by which such calls can be monitored and stopped. There are also some errant telecom companies which offer to sell cheap bulk SMSes to telemarketers, this being a good source of revenue. The DoT has warned them to stop this, but some big players are continuing this practice. It is learnt the DoT is in the process of forming a technical experts' committee to sort out the security angles involved regarding landlines, particularly regarding landlines, and it is expected to find a way out in two to three months. In the meantime, phone users in this country have to suffer such intrusive calls/messages even though the technology to block them is easily available worldwide.







Libya: Someone else's war, in someone else's country, and Col. Muammar el-Gaddafi a strange figure about whom not much is known in India.

India has no real major strategic concerns in Libya other than of economic outreach. Here, an undoubtedly significant Indian presence has been built up in terms of investments in the oil, petrochemical, information technology, construction and road building sectors, along with an attendant diaspora of an Indian workforce. It comprises both skilled professionals as well as unskilled labour. Given this background, how significant is the unrest in Libya in a purely India-centric perspective? Are there any smoke signals emanating that India would be advised to take note of?

On March 19, 2011, "breaking news" about North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (Nato) preemptive attack on Libya in Operation Odyssey Dawn, flashed recall of Operation Deliberate Force/Joint Endeavour (Bosnia/Kosovo 1992-1999), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan 2001) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq 2003). The air campaign was of some topical interest because jet fighters, namely the French Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon — both contestants in the multi-billion dollar Indian acquisition programme for 126 fighter aircrafts, were making their operational debuts, though in relatively benign combat environments.
United Nations Resolution 1973 had excluded entry of "foreign occupation forces" into any part of Libyan territory, mandating an exclusively air and naval presence to protect the civil population against Col. Gaddafi's forces. Thus, shaping Odyssey Dawn on the pattern of Bosnia and Kosovo, rather than Iraq or Afghanistan. With casualties inevitable even in an asymmetric ground war, Nato has been relieved from dirtying Western "boots on the ground" on what is really an internal security mission. But granted that Bosnia/Kosovo 1992 and Libya 2011 are in completely different worlds, it would nevertheless be well to recollect that even the full might of Nato airpower delivered on the recalcitrant protagonists in Bosnia/Kosovo failed to prevent horrific sectarian massacres and ethnic cleansing of civilians at Racak, Srebenica, Banja Luka and many other places.
Meanwhile, as is inevitable in any air war, collateral civilian casualties and damage to civil infrastructure in Libya are mounting. There are reports that within Nato, Britain and France are dissatisfied with the pace and conduct of the campaign and wish to intensify the tempo. However, the future course of events in Libya is still unfolding, albeit spasmodically, and the endgame is not visible.

The situation is violent, messy and unpredictable. But India has few options. It can only live with it and ride out the storm while attempting to protect and preserve its substantial economic stake in Libya. Undoubtedly, there is anxiety regarding the future. The big question that arises is whether these workers, relatively well paid by Indian standards, will ever be able to return and resume their earlier vocations in a Libya which might have changed beyond recognition, and not necessarily for the better?

So what are the driving forces behind the surges for democracy in West Asia? Earlier regimes in the region might well have been despotic and corrupt, but their harsh governance had also kept radicalised religious influences in check. The frenzied churning now in progress appears to create space for hardline radical Islamist forces like the Muslim Brotherhood to emerge, not only in Egypt but in other Arab countries as well.
The conflict in the Arab world is acquiring an added dimension in the Gulf region as well. Here a new intra-Islamic Shia-Sunni Great Game between Saudi Arabia and Iran is developing concurrently. It is being played out in Bahrain. In Bahrain, the majority Shia population is in confrontation with its ruling minority Sunni Khalifa government. The government has requested military assistance from Saudi Arabia to control civil disturbances against Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Sunni-majority Pakistan has also received a similar request for two divisions of the Pakistan Army to garrison Bahrain and to provide a security shield to the Saudi monarchy.

While Pakistan's Fauji Foundation — run by former officers of Pakistani armed forces — is recruiting exclusively Sunni ex-servicemen for lucrative service in the Bahrain National Guard, Saudi Arabia is under strong internal pressures from two quarters. The people's movements are demanding greater democracy and religious extremists are targeting the autocratic royal family of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud for its perceived unIslamic lifestyle. There is disaffection too in the major oil-rich eastern regions of Saudi Arabia contiguous with Bahrain that are largely populated by Shia Muslims.

The Saudi-Bahraini invitation to Pakistan for enhanced military deployment thus creates a significant external power factor in the Gulf region. Surely, it is a matter of concern for India. The possibility of hardline radical organisations taking over the democracy movement in West Asia is another imponderable that is adding to the uncertainty in the region.

Security Council Resolution 1973 on Libya has once again brought out that though the Cold War may officially be over, its ashes are not yet cold. Also, the traditional adversarial attitudes amongst the permanent members remain deeply ingrained. Resolutions of the UN Security Council continue to be shaped by internal power plays, the dichotomy clearly reflected in the separation between the "West and the rest" in the voting pattern on the Libya resolution. Col. Gaddafi still remains a hate figure in the West.

For India, the most important lessons from Libya go beyond Libya itself to Odyssey Dawn and America's doctrine of "unilateral humanitarian intervention" (UHI) on which it is based.

UHI is being propagated consistently and aggressively by the United States and applied selectively to situations of choice where the national interest of the US is involved. It has the potential to threaten India's own sovereignty in some yet indeterminate future and may even turn existential. Such contingencies, howsoever unthinkable and even farfetched at present, must be considered seriously and planned for. China has developed a robust "Anti-Access/Area Denial" (A2/AD) strategy on similar premises, based on airpower, submarines and "fleet buster" ballistic missiles like DF-21 to deter the possibility of UHI built up around Taiwan or other "issues of opportunity".

India, too, must fashion similar doctrines of deterrence. In a hard neighbourhood, there are no soft options.

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






It seems a long time since a vegetable seller in an obscure town in Tunisia performed an act of self-immolation as a protest against a tyrannical regime leading to the dethronement of his country's long-time ruler Zine Abidine Ben Ali. The Jasmine Revolution, as it came to be called, lit the spark that fired Egyptians to their own revolution to topple a three-decade-long ruler, President Hosni Mubarak.

The Arab Spring, as the world called it, met a roadblock in Muammar el-Gaddafi's Libya which has, for the present, led to a military stalemate between the regime and the rebel forces, poorly armed but beneficiaries of UN-authorised North Atlantic Treaty Organistaion (Nato) bombing runs. The fire shows no sign of abating, having singed to varying degrees Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. Even the hermetically sealed kingdom of Saudi Arabia felt some tremors in its largely Shia-populated eastern region with the strange sight of conservatively dressed women undertaking a candlelight procession to seek the release of their detained relatives. A mixture of force and some sops by rulers precariously hanging on to power has failed to douse the flames.

A combination of factors led to the unique spectacle we are witnessing in north Africa and West Asia. A frustrated young population, worldly wise in the ways of the technological revolution, was aware of life and liberty in many parts of the world. And as winds of the Arab Spring swept one country, they were chronicled by the new herald of pan-Arabism, the Al Jazeera television channel, keeping the Arab populace fully informed.
Other than kingdoms with hereditary rulers, the typical format in the Arab world has been an Army-supported autocracy with varying degrees of "un-freedom". Often the autocrat did not trust the Army and formed special armed forces superiorly equipped and commanded by his sons or kin. Such arrangements lasted for some three decades, often propped up by the continuing occupation of Palestinian land by Israel, supported by the United States. Such a scheme of things could not last for ever, yet, like with the fall of the Soviet Union, no one quite anticipated that it would start in December 2010 and spread so quickly far and wide.

The triumphs of the Arab Spring are only the beginning of a long and tortuous road ahead. Future events will be determined as much by the characteristics of each country and the staying power of rulers as by the attitudes of the United States and other major Western powers and, to an extent, the regional heavyweights such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. A dramatic example was the muted American response to the Bahrain unrest because the base of the US Fifth Fleet is in the tiny kingdom and the action of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in sending troops and policemen to save the besieged Sunni king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, ruling an overwhelmingly Shia country.

In Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh has been fighting vigorously to save his presidency by rallying tribes sympathetic to him after initially invoking his help to the US in its anti-terrorism campaign. Yet, after some hesitation, America came to the conclusion that his time was up, as did the Gulf Cooperation Council (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait). Initially, Syria seemed an unlikely candidate, but could not escape the contagion of freedom which seems to be spreading because of the harshness of the security forces trained to use utmost force, allegedly including torture, largely nullifying recent concessions such as citizenship for the Kurdish minority and a largely cosmetic new Cabinet. Belatedly realising his predicament, President Bashar Assad has now promised to lift the 48-year-old emergency.

Of immediate interest is the situation in Libya, with the proclaimed intention of the US, France and Britain to get rid of Col. Gaddafi, America desperately trying to underplay its own role, preoccupied as it is with two other wars. There is division in Nato ranks, with some eager to see more intensive bombing and even arming the rebels, who are poorly equipped and trained, compared with regime forces. Regime change, of course, is outside the mandate of the UN Security Council resolution seeking protection of innocent civilians. The outcome and the length of the Nato bombing runs are therefore unclear.

Iran is closely watching the situation, encouraging, if not arming, the Shia rebels. But the Iranian dilemma is that it has suppressed its own spring and although it is not the only country using double standards in supporting or opposing particular regimes, Tehran's moral authority is compromised.

Whatever the outcome in Libya and elsewhere, the region cannot revert to the pre-Tunisian age. Egypt is the heart of the Arab world and although it had lost its traditional status in recent decades, hobbled by the $1.5 billion annual US aid that it gets and becoming the co-jailor of Palestinians together with Israel, its new democratic urgings are causing great waves.

Egypt has its own domestic compulsions even as its newly-empowered civil society is to establish a new relationship with the Army and the people go through the hoops of a new set of elections for a Legislative Assembly and the presidency. Recently, the democratic forces — for want of a better definition — won a round by demanding the arrest and trial of former President Mubarak and his two sons.

It will not be easy to tame a privileged and elite Army, used to economic benefits all military rulers accumulate, in a new, more democratic setting.

Despite the hurdles that lie ahead, this is a moment to relish for the people of West Asia and north Africa. The Arab Spring brings hope and the prospect of the young living a better, freer life in the future. But the so-called bad guys will not disappear in a hurry, nor will the power play and projections of major outside countries diminish. The region has much of the world's oil and the US and the West will continue to protect Israel to the detriment of the Palestinians and the Arab world.






The remarkable shift in the locus of global economic dynamism over the last two decades has paralysed multilateral rule-making on a range of economic issues. The stalemate in the World Trade Organisation and the climate change negotiations, as well as the lacklustre showing of the Group of Twenty (G20), are symptomatic of the tussle between the Group of Seven (G7) economies and the emerging economies over the price the latter group must pay to sit at the high table.

Despite the frenetic activity in Geneva, there is little possibility of a deal on the Doha Round over the summer. In the climate change negotiations, despite some progress in Cancun in December 2010, there are no signs of thaw on the main issue — the reluctance of many developed countries, especially the US, to deliver on the binding commitments they had taken under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The much-heralded G20 has been unable to rise to the expectations of a global economy experiencing severe turbulence. The early promise of concerted action on critical issues like global imbalances, exchange rates, fiscal and monetary policy coordination and commodity price volatility, remains to be realised.

While the issues at the heart of the impasse are complex and involve many actors, the common denominator is the differences between the G7 countries and emerging economies like Brazil, China and India on their contributions to the outcomes. The stalemate can only be broken by a political rapprochement on "burden sharing" between the two sides. Regrettably, the present economic and political situation in these countries makes such a rapprochement difficult in the near term.

The major issue impeding the conclusion of the Doha Round is the insistence of the US that emerging economies like Brazil, China and India provide deeper market access in all areas — agriculture, industrial goods and services. At the same time, there is little clarity on what the US can bring to the table. In the absence of the Trade Promotion Authority, the US administration has limited negotiating flexibility and continues to pitch its demands at levels which are clearly unrealisable.

Despite his best intentions, US President Barack Obama, at odds with Congress on a range of issues, will find it difficult to push a Doha deal through Congress, which does not include major new concessions from emerging economies, especially China. There are no indications that the emerging economies are prepared to dig deep into their pockets to make the deal palatable to US Congress.

commitments which its Congress legislates and that these commitments will not be subject to international compliance procedures has brought down the bar considerably on what can be achieved.
At the same time, the insistence of developed countries that the emerging economies accept binding commitments to reduce their GHG emissions alters the discourse fundamentally. A major element of the principle of equitable burden-sharing in the UNFCCC is the need for developed countries to reduce their emissions in order to provide carbon space that developing countries need for their development.
The long-term cooperative action agreed to in Cancun commits developing countries to greater international scrutiny through "measurement, reporting and verification" of their mitigation actions as well as a process for international consultations and analysis (ICA). It thus goes a considerable distance in meeting the demand of developed countries that developing countries make verifiable commitments. But there is little indication of long-term commitments by developed countries to provide financial resources or facilitate technology transfers to enable developing countries to meet the obligations they are being asked to undertake.

In both negotiations, emerging economies like India find themselves in a similar dilemma. Given their increasing role on the global stage, they have a strong stake in the success of multilaterally agreed outcomes. Yet the price they are being asked to pay could require them to compromise on their development imperatives.
An example of this is the demand of the US in the Doha Round negotiations that emerging economies bring down tariffs in key industrial sectors to near zero levels. This poses a huge policy conundrum for India because of the large employment potential of these sectors.

India expects to add around 60 million to its labour force in the next five years, and its manufacturing sector will have to play a major role in providing new employment opportunities. The National Manufacturing Policy under finalisation seeks to expand the contribution of manufacturing to gross domestic product (GDP) from the present level of 16 per cent to 25 per cent in 10 years. Among other things, this will require maintenance of minimum tariff protection in identified sectors.

Similarly, constraints in availability of international funding and environmental technology will hamper India's ability to implement more ambitious policies to moderate the rise in its GHG emissions. India's energy deficit is a major constraint on its development and its most abundant energy endowment is high ash coal. This limits its policy flexibility in meeting its energy demands, especially in an international environment, which does not facilitate a shift to more environment friendly but expensive options.

The recent joint intervention of the G7 to limit the yen's rise provides a counterpoint to the relative ineffectiveness of the G20 in addressing global monetary and financial challenges. The latest round of meetings of the G20 has highlighted the difficulty of arriving at actionable consensus on issues where there are divergent interests among members.

Despite these difficulties, emerging economies have no real option but to persist with the multilateral process while strengthening their policy structures domestically to conform to putative global consensus on key global challenges. India's National Action Plan on Climate Change is a good example of such policy actions.
At the end of the day, however, the logic of globalisation demands multilaterally agreed solutions. For this to happen, emerging economies will need to find the way forward on key issues in multilateral negotiations without compromising on their national development objectives.

That is a tight rope to walk and demands greater diligence and transparency in domestic policy-making to identify areas of flexibility. At the same time, consultations in formats like the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) need to focus on how emerging economies can contribute to revitalising the multilateral process.

Ujal Singh Bhatia was India's ambassador to the World Trade Organisation, 2004-10









Kashmiri Hindu minority (Kashmiri Pandits) is currently in focus. Theirs is a poignant and a many-sided story; the story of a long struggle for survival. The Hurriyat (G) faction leader, Ali Shah Geelani visited their two transit camps in the valley, and promised them security and good will on behalf of Kashmir Muslim majority. He called them "part of our body", and justified the struggle for "azaadi"--- something the weird handful of his audience were circumscribed to reverberate. Elsewhere, speaking at a book release function, Farooq Abdullah, patron of NC, sought forgiveness for the wrongs done to them in the past. At Khir Bhawani shrine, where reportedly fifty thousand Kashmiri Pandit pilgrims had come to pray and make obeisance, chief minister Omar Abdullah expressed his happiness on what he called "true Kashmiriyat" when he saw local Muslims mingling up with the pilgrims and feeling happy on seeing them. Far away from this scenario in Kashmir, the community of Pandit Diaspora in the US, UK and European countries appreciated Congressmen Frank Pallone introducing a bill in the US Congress seeking a resolution that will record Congress' anxiety on physical, economic and social security aspects of Kashmiri Pandits in the aftermath of the rise of insurgency in Kashmir in 1990. At other levels also, interaction of sorts among saner and more sober compatriots has been noticed. The shades of these nuances are somewhat different from what is generally met with in the context of a minority community in exile. There are no shrill notes, and there is less talk of politics but more of humanism. Any dispassionate observer if asked to reflect on these tones and tenors will have no difficulty in finding aspects of rationality and humanism gaining ground in given situation. These are the signs of a maturing society and reflect keen sense of social responsibility. Such positive expressions from the majority community leadership of the valley certainly put a bigger responsibility on the shoulders of the Pandit community that has been on receiving end for last two decades. Kashmir watchers in general and stakeholders in Kashmir issue in particular will closely watch the reaction of the community to these moves. Nobody will dispute misgivings and apprehensions that dog the traumatized community, but then the community shall have to pull itself out of the quagmire of sub-continental politics, and adopt a pragmatic approach to the situation. There are many instances in human history where communities have voluntarily and in unison drawn a minimum code of conduct to regulate their collective life style. Such societies have invariably made progress in all walks of life. Co-existence of people with varying faiths and ideologies ultimately becomes an instrument of ironing out angularities, which, in turn, make life more adaptable. Exclusiveness is not the way of progressive societies and inclusiveness is not attainable in absence of tolerance; and of course, tolerance has to be rooted in justice and evenhandedness and not in the game of numbers. Speaking in psychological terms, a society feels more secure essentially within emphatic parameters of its national profile. It is this parameter that provides strength to dispel the damaging effects of half truths which partisan media feels gleeful to indulge in. Great damage has been done to Kashmir's broad-based heritage but then living societies everywhere have to pass through the fire and brimstone of history. The past is not best served by forgetting it: it is best served when made a source of lesson we need to learn for transiting to future. Co-existence among people on the basis of their traditions is there in place, but more than mere traditions it is the vision of future, the vision of mankind in globalizing process that should provide direction to the remodeling of the concept of co-existence.







Jammu and Kashmir is mostly a hilly geographical region in the sub-Himalayan foothills where pastoral activities have predominated rural life for very long time. As urbanization grew, and grazing grounds gradually turned into arable lands to sustain the populations, those left to subsist on pastoral activities moved to higher reaches with their cattle and herds for grazing grounds still intact. Thus a vast population distributed over the hilly areas of the state became migratory as it had to move from pasture to pasture in search of grasslands for the cattle, their only means of subsistence. These pastures are again shrinking with the passage of time and deforestation is also not being arrested that easy. Therefore the migratory community, the nomads in J&K deserves special attention as they are facing extreme adversities owing to toughest lifestyle, lack of economic space and food security caused by deficient resources. A recent study conducted by the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation revealed that "more than 76 per cent population of nomadic Gujjars-Bakerwals was facing economic instability, food insecurity, acute shortage of basic facilities, absolute illiteracy and lack of health facilities." It rightly called upon organizations to formulate a sustainable poverty eradication programme for migratory communities of Jammu and Kashmir. They deserve special attention as they are facing extreme adversities. A workshop on "Reasons of Backwardness among Nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals," organized by TRCF in Jammu has done good service to the cause of this backward segment of our society. They are facing the brunt of absolute poverty as they lack basic human needs, such as clean water, nutrition, healthcare, education, clothing and shelter, because of their inability to afford them. There should be an exclusive national plan to eliminate illiteracy among Gujjars mainly Dhodhi and Bakerwals. Of course some steps have been taken by the government in the past to ease the rigours life with the nomads, but that is not enough and more needs to be done. In particular the community is faced with critical health problems owing to the fact that medical support is available to them with great difficulty. Timely cure of ailments would save many precious lives which otherwise are lost. Migratory schools opened for them are not showing very encouraging results and a drastic modification in the system is called for to make the venture result-oriented. It has to be remembered that grasslands are fast shrinking owing to nature and man made calamities. A day may come when these nomads will have to make a big shift to rural or even urban life which is absolutely at the other end of social formation. Therefore rehabilitation of the Gujjars-Bakarwals will become an issue for great debate in the future social construct of the State.








The ever decreasing quantity of fresh water worldwide is one of the many forgotten topics today. There have been many silent conflicts and tensions over water, countless deaths due to polluted water are quite rampant and chances of an imminent war over water not being ruled out. In an attempt to mobilize public opinion in favour of this potentially alarming issue, there is an urgent need to analyze water crisis in India. India with a sixth of the world's population is faced with a growing water crisis both in the urban and rural areas. These include wasteful practices in the use of water, particularly in irrigation, water-logging and salinity and inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The human development costs of the crisis are huge, with the poor being hit the hardest. They are the first ones to be affected by water-borne diseases, there has been little improvement in child mortality rates, and education is a low priority for the girls who spend most of the time in the day collecting and transporting water. Even if they do manage to get to the school, they are more than likely to dropped out, as most schools do not have toilets for girls. India is lagging behind especially in sanitation. More than 37 per cent of urban India's human excreta is unsafely disposed of posing significant health hazards. The country is also home to the world's largest number of persons who defecate in the open accounting for 665 million persons of a global total of 1.1 billion.
Ground water is the dominant resource that has been developed in rural India to meet the drinking water needs. But often, the shallower wells are found to be affected by fluoride, arsenic, iron and microbial contamination. In many states especially Punjab, Harayana, Gujrat, Bihar, Rajasthan and West Bengal, this is a significant concern. Deeper wells typically have cleaner water but require electricity or diesel and installation of a water tank. The capital and operating costs are significantly huge and given the high variability of electricity supply, reliability is poor.

While ground water depletion is a major environmental concern in India, it should perhaps be viewed as part of much larger agenda in ground-water management, in keeping with the policy goals equity, efficiency and sustainability. Over-use of pesticides and chemicals in agriculture is the primary cause of ground-water pollution in the rural areas. Because of this people are compelled to drink polluted water with a high fluoride content, leading to large-scale dental fluorisis and arthritis.

By the year 2020 says a recent World Bank report, most of the major Indian cities will run dry. Severe water shortage had already led to a growing number of conflicts across the country, with 90 per cent of India's territory served by inter-state rivers. India's supply of water too is rapidly dwindling primarily due to mismanagement of water resources, although over-pumping and pollution are also significant contributors. Climate Change is expected to worsen the situation by causing erratic and unpredictable weather, which could drastically diminish the supply of water coming from rainfall and glaciers.

India is expected to experience a severe water crisis in the next decade with the per capita availability of water projected to be less than 1,000 Cubic meters. Indian water scenario is a matter of grave concern, as 85 per cent of water is used for agriculture, 10 per cent for industry and 5 per cent for domestic use. Being a developing nation with a large population living below the poverty line, economic water scarcity has assumed equal, if not greater importance as that of physical water scarcity.

Water crisis is sure to lead to a sharp decline in agricultural production which will negate all of the previous efforts at food security. India will become a net importer of grain, which will have a huge effect on global food prices as well as the global supply of food. A rise in food prices will aggravate poverty because people will have to spend larger portion of their income on food. In addition to devastating the agricultural sector of India's economy, the water crisis will have a big impact on India's industrial sector possibly stagnating many industries.
According to UN estimates, people need a minimum of 50 litres of water a day for drinking, washing, cooking and sanitation. Providing this basic minimum requirement by 2015 would take less than one per cent of the amount of water we use today. But we are far away from achieving that. Globally almost 1,500 Cubic Kilometers of waste water are produced every year. Though it is possible to reuse such water for energy and irrigation, in India and other developing countries 80 per cent of all waste is discharged untreated.
New technology such as treating waste water can address water crisis in India. With technology, pollution can be cleaned up, making more water useable. In agriculture, drought-resistant plants can help save much needed water. Water needs can also be drastically reduced with drip irrigation.

In a study conducted by the UN, along with the World Agro Forestry Centre, it was found that clean water problem can be entirely done away with rain water harvesting. According to the report, rain water could supply six to seven times the current need of waterin some countries. It could also provide security against future droughts. Rain water harvesting is currently being done in India and other countries where there is adequate rainfall but conventional water resources are in short supply.

An immediate solution to water crisis in India is to change water management practices by regulating usage with effective legislation. However, there is significant opposition to raising power tariffs and there would most likely be even more resistances to enacting tariffs on water itself. Another proposed solution to the water crisis is the privatization of water. Proponents claim that a privatized water supply system would prevent waste, improve efficiency and encourage innovation.

Water scarcity in India is predominantly a man-made problem. Therefore, if India makes significant changes in the way it thinks about water and manage its resources soon, it could tackle the impending crisis. India needs to make water supply a national

Priority the way it has made food security and economic growth priorities in the past. If the country continues with a wait and watch mentality, the consequences will be drastic. India could become the stage for major international wars because so many rivers that originate in India supply water to other countries. India has the capability to deal with situation if the people act immediately and start making judicious use of water and treat human, agricultural and industrial waste effectively.








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

At present, India has an installed capacity of power generation of 172 gw (giga watt). By 2017, its power requirement will soar to 315 gw even when the economy grows at a conservative estimate of 8 per cent per annum, according to a McKinsey report. India's need for electrical power is going to more than double the latter figure by 2030, ie the demand for power is going to grow well over 600 gw in another 20 years.
Of the current total installed generation capacity of 172 gw a huge 111.3 gw is thermal power, 37.4 gw is hydroelectric, 18.5 gw is renewable energy and only 4.8 gw is by way of nuclear power. While the country's present nuclear power generation capacity is 4.8 gw, the plans are to increase it to 20 gw by 2020 which would also fall woefully short. As of 2010, India has 20 nuclear reactors in operation in 6 nuclear power plants.
Some of the major projects in the pipeline are those at Kundanakulam in Tamil Nadu, Kaiga in Karnataka, Jaitapur in Maharashtra and Pati Sonapur in Orissa. India's nuclear power industry is undergoing rapid expansion with plans to increase nuclear power output to 64 gw by 2032. India has plans to increase the contribution of nuclear power to overall electricity generation capacity from 4.2 per cent to 9 per cent within 25 years.

But even this figure of 9 per cent is not saying too much about the option of nuclear power. Nuclear energy is certainly not going to solve the problem of our rapidly growing demand for electric power.
It might lend help in meeting the need to a small extent, but it is surely going to be only a minor help. All the present hype about the need for nuclear power seems to be just that - 'hype' or a panic reaction to the realisation of the enormity of the power needs in order to sustain the current economic growth. Some foreign powers that have nuclear power generation equipment to sell would be expected to add to the hype.

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

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

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

In an accident, like the one at Fukushima Daiichi, the entire contents of the core of the reactor may not disperse. Accidents are generally incapable of pouring out the core of the reactor; however, a preplanned attack by terrorist elements is a totally different scenario. That is the real danger with nuclear power plants. A decade or two ago, the threat perception from the terrorist elements was almost unthought-of.
The problem is multiplied several times if one considers the fact that, all over the world, the nuclear wastes are stored on the ground at the site of the nuclear power plant. Only 5 per cent of the nuclear fuel rod is used up and the rest - 95 per cent - is stored as waste.

Theoretically, the nuclear wastes from the power plants should best be stored underground in a specially designed space, but no country in the world, including India, has as yet started work on such underground repository. Therefore, the over-the-ground stores of such nuclear wastes could be another additional target for the terrorists. All in all, a nuclear power plant is a sitting duck for the terrorist attacks. Therefore, nuclear power cannot be an alternative whatever may be India's compulsions of energy requirements.
India can put a stop to any further expansion in its nuclear power generation capacity. There are other no-risk alternatives for obtaining power like the renewables. The country will have to do a lot more serious work on its abundant endowments of solar energy. Let us rid ourselves of the West-preached mindset of dependence on high risk-prone nuclear energy. A time should come, and soon enough, when India should be selling solar power technology to other nations of the world. INAV








Commercial floriculture includes production of cut flowers, foliage, flowering plants, bedding plants and growing and forcing bulbs and corms of flowering plants For whole and retail sales. The floriculture industry has become highly specialized. Floriculture industry uses many devices to ensure steady supply of flowers and foliage plants irrespective of the season and minimum loss to industry because of perishable nature of flowers.
The national horticulture board has given emphasis through various programmes to coordinate and stimulate integrated development of horticulture. The objects of the board are. Encourage and promote development of hort. Industry in the country.

Assist and develop infrastructure for post harvest technologyIdentify suitable programmes. in hort. And implement them.

A two prong strategy by NHB:
The first involves promotimal activites that lead to enhancement in employment generation. Increase in income of small and marginal farmers and social uplifment of women and backward communities in hort. Development process
The second involves catalytic activities for commercialization of hort. Through quality production, post harvest handling and processing.
During eighth plan period, the board financed 51 projects of integrated floriculture worth Rs. 300 million besides giving soft loans to explore commercial horticulture, post harvest management and marketing.
Procedure for sanctioning of subsidy:
The promoter will submit the project proposal directly to the bank. Financial institution\NABARD\ NCDC on their proforma. Then the bank\ financial institute\ NABARD\NCDC would furnish a very brief profile\ fact sheet of project along with a copy of the appropriate note\ sanction\ release\ letter to the NHB at Gurgaon with a copy to asst. director, NHB, posted in respective states. After receiving the sanction letter and release of 58% of the loan, 50% of the subsidy amount will be released to the financial institution in advance for keeping same in the subsidy reserve fund account of the concerned borrower to be adjusted finally against the loan amount of the bank on completion of the project. The remaining 50% of the subsidy amount would be released to the bank after completion of the project and satisfactory report of the joint inspection team.
Agricultural product export development authority:
APEDA has initiated strategic measures which enhanced greatly the export performance of floriculture. APEDA has setup cold storage and cargo handling facilities at international airports in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai and Hyderabad. They have also established flower auction centers at Bangalore, Mumbai and Noida. The agency also provides planting material subsidy which facilitates the units to replant the current varaties in demand fetching higher prices and improving the export performance. They also attempt to restructure air freight subsidy to provide competitiveness and improve export performance. Through the intervention of the agency, reduction in imoort duty on flowers has been achieved by European Union. APEDA has set up a marketing centre at Aalswer, the Netherlands to promote Indian produces which became operational from November 10, 2001.
The problem areas for Indian farmers according to APEDA are:
Growers are unable to maintain conistency and regularity of supply. Unable to maintain a name and position, on the market place growers are still not adopting sound agronomic practices or sound post harvest practices. No exporter has forced pre-cooling equipments that will pull down the temperature of a packed box to 20c within 30 minutes.
The international market must be provided with more growers\ producers reliable data size of holdings, varaties (not as red, blue and yellow but the actual variety name) scheduled shipment and crop plants. National Bank for Agriculture and rural development:
NABARD is an apex development bank of the country for supporting and promoting agriculture and rural development. It was set up in12th July 1982 under an act of parliament by merging agricultural Credit department and rural planning and credit cell of reserve bank of India and the entire undertaking of Agriculture Refinance and Development Corporation (ARDC) floriculture being a capital intensive activity, The most critical input is finance. There is immediate need to evaluate existing facilities and infrastructure and strength the same besides bringing in technological development and their development to meet high standards of global market
NABARD made a significant contribution in this direction. It succeeded in giving financial support in the form of credit for key facilities essential for a delicate and tender sector namely.
Development of Land
Development of irrigation and water management facilities like sprinklers and drip irrigation system.
Development of fencing mechanism.
Cold storage, grading and packing houses cooling chambers etc. plant materials and input items related to cultivation.
All these items are studied, discussed and evaluated by NABARD and accordingly costs and benefits are estimated in consultation with the banks and nodal departments to work out cost structure which facilitate credit flow through banking. The banks namely, commercial banks, co-operative banks, regional, rural banks and other schedule banks provide loan for traditional and conventional flower crops.









Not unexpectedly, the Somali pirates have reneged on the deal with them and after taking an undisclosed sum, said to be running in crores, have released only eight of the 15 Indian sailors they had been holding captive since September. These ruthless mercenaries can be depended upon to be undependable and that is what they have done yet again.


They want to use the sailors still left with them to strike a "swap deal" with India to get released 100 of their brethren captured by the Indian Navy. Needless to say that any such arrangement would be counter-productive, considering that it would only encourage the bloodthirsty pirates to hunt for more vulnerable merchant ships.


The country is still paying a price for releasing three terrorists in exchange for 150 passengers of the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 hijacked to Kandahar in 1999. India will have to strike a tough stance like some other countries, which have no dealing with such blackmailers. One hopes that the diversion of a warship from anti-piracy patrolling duties off the Gulf of Aden to the coast of Somalia is a first step in that direction. A flotilla of European and US-led navies is already on patrol close by.


Unfortunately, governments put pressure on owners of hijacked ships to pay the ransom. The pirates then attack other ships also like piranhas. The Somali piracy has become so brazen that some 638 merchant seamen are currently being held captive. It is necessary to launch an all-out international offensive against the menace. Under the present set-up, navies on the high seas have to wait for the pirates to get violent before bringing effective force to bear on them. It is necessary to police the vulnerable areas under the UN flag. Finding the international community divided, they have already extended their area of operation way beyond the coast of Somalia. 









The enrolment of girls in colleges and universities countrywide is low at 41 per cent and abysmally lower in professional courses at 18 per cent, according to official data. This may be partly because girls prefer arts to science and technical courses, and partly because they do not get as much financial support and encouragement from parents as boys do due to social prejudices.


They do not have equal access to engineering and management institutions, especially if these are located away from their home towns. Though some states have made education up to the college level free for girls, it is still inaccessible for various reasons, including social and financial. Since a daughter's marriage is an expensive affair, parents with modest means tend to accord lower priority to her education.


The HRD Ministry's figures on girls' enrolment should not be surprising, given the inadequate government spending on education and a less-than-desirable literacy rate in general and of women in particular. Given the high incidence of crime against women, it is not considered safe in small-town and rural India to allow young women to venture out to pursue higher studies, especially when employment prospects are uncertain and the importance of education itself is not understood.


The trend, however, is changing. Defying odds, more and more girls are coming forward to pursue higher education. The female literacy rate has received a quantum jump between 2001 and 2011. According to the provisional 2011 census figures, the male-female literacy gap is at or below 10 per cent in Kerala and Chandigarh and above 20 per cent in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. The regional imbalance has to be corrected if gender equality in education is to be achieved. Education not only lifts women's economic and social status, it also increases their access to healthcare, reduces maternal mortality rates and leads to an overall development of the family, society and the country as Mao Zedong famously proclaimed, "women hold up half the sky".











Kashmir has a long history of hospitality towards outsiders, and indeed, the Valley's economy is heavily dependent on tourism. The past two decades of turbulence, however, have hit the industry hard. The opening of a luxury resort in Srinagar is therefore, indeed a cause for celebration.


Even more important than the event itself, is that it is seen as a vote of confidence by one of the most famous names in Indian hospitality industry, which is looking at Kashmir as a tourist destination again.


Winds of change are blowing in the Valley, as can be seen from Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani's statement welcoming the displaced Pandits back to Kashmir. The moderates had been shaken by the murder of Jamiat-e-Ahli Hadees chief Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah, a respected religious cleric. Such was the extent of public anger that for the first time in the recent past, slogans were shouted by the people against the murder, which was even condemned by hardliners, like the JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik. By themselves small, these events are being seen as harbingers of hope in Kashmir, by people who seek a return of normalcy in the Valley, where recently people turned out in large numbers to vote for the panchayat elections held for the first time in a decade.


Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his father, Farooq Abdullah, Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, are right in stressing the importance of the tourism industry in providing jobs and economic opportunities to Kashmiris. For too long, politics has played havoc with the economy and basic development of Kashmir. Events like opening a tourist resort or improving infrastructure help Kashmiris feel that normalcy could, indeed, be restored to the state, which many still think of as a paradise on earth. 









The controversy over Anna Hazare and the Jan Lokpal Bill lingers. Everybody, big and small, abhors corruption and wants it stamped out. How this is to be done and the ambit of reform required remain open questions. This is why excessive reliance on a single instrument like the Lokpal may be investing more in faith than prudence. Corruption constitutes a web and must be attacked from many sides.


The grant of genuine autonomy to the CBI and the Central Vigilance Commissioner (and their state counterparts), together with independent powers of prosecution without the crippling requirement to secure official permission to proceed against senior officials and ministers under the so-called "single directive", would constitute a major step forward as this could keep errant bureaucrats and politicians in check. The danger of frivolous complaints and smear campaigns against upright public officials can be obviated by swift and condign punishment of those making false allegations. The Lokpal and Lok Ayuktas could oversee such a system and ensure the necessary checks and balances.


Other elements cry out for correction. Electoral funding has become a primary engine of corruption. Though many honourable politicians seek elected office in order to serve, for others political power has become the road to pelf, influence and control over the processes of governance and their use as a negotiable instrument. Corporate houses often insure by funding those who might control the levers of power. The mafia does so as an investment in future deliverables and to win the protection and patronage. Intimate links forged between politics and crime has also resulted in the criminalisation of politics and the politicisation of crime, eating away the roots of the criminal justice system.


Illustratively, the just concluded Tamil Nadu polls were marked by attempts to buy votes with cash and liquor and promises of mixers, grinders, laptops and what not. Crores of rupees were seized in suspicious circumstances. Eighteen per cent of the candidates had criminal records and 35 per cent were crorepatis. In other states, candidates' self-declared assets have witnessed quantum jumps with little explanation for such large accretions. Several in this category do not appear to hold PAN cards. The Central Election Commission has cracked the whip and tightened the model code of conduct, causing some parties to protest "emergency rule"!


Where does the answer lie? Most are agreed on electoral reform. But this by itself will not suffice without political party reform. The Constitution, strangely, sets out the framework of elections without reference to political parties. The Representation of the People Act too only refers to parties in the context of recognising "national" and "regional" parties on the basis of their voting performance. But what is a "party"?


Surely, it is time to include a new Article 326-A in the Constitution to provide that candidates seeking to represent the people in Parliament and the state legislatures shall, to the largest extent possible, be drawn from "registered political parties". Such a provision would provide the basis for legislation defining political parties and for their regulation with regard to maintaining a register of members, the terms and conditions of membership, internal elections, public audit of their accounts and cognate matters.


State funding of elections might only entail an addition to funds currently available from other sources, unless offered in kind for such things as printing and paper, hiring or preparation of meeting venues, petrol/diesel coupons and postage. For the rest, corporate funding should be allowed subject to an overall ceiling per company, detailed disclosure in the balance sheet and a specific ceiling in relation to the company's turnover. No donation from any private agency, association or friends should exceed a given figure and, other than for petty amounts, must be accompanied by a copy of a certificate of payment with a PAN card number addressed to the newly established income tax expenditure cell of the CEC.


Violations should be visited with harsh penalties not excluding disqualification from holding elective office by candidates for six years for corrupt practice and a fine for defaulting donors. Stringent action could prove salutary although lawbreakers are usually one step ahead of the law.


Repeated elections at different times add to electoral expenditure and administrative disruption. Could we consider the holding of simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly elections on a fixed date every five years with the proviso that each legislature will serve its full term? Should a government be defeated or resign in the interim, an alternative ministry shall be formed, if necessary under an agreed leader elected by the House.


Panchayati raj and nagar palika elections could follow a different five-year electoral cycle. One option could be that the sum total of some four million local body representatives form an electoral college indirectly to elect members of the state assemblies who then become members of an enlarged electoral college to elect members of the Lok Sabha. Election costs could come down dramatically, with a new pattern of electioneering as well. Opposition to indirect elections mainly stem from the belief that a smaller body can be bribed or manipulated more easily. Is this an insuperable problem? Perhaps not. An added advantage could be that indirect elections could enable the country to follow an indigenous system of primaries so that electoral paratroopers do not descend on unlikely constituencies with rash IOUs of prospective service. Bogus candidates would be largely eliminated.


Barring of candidates with pending criminal charges, expanded legislatures to match the growth of population, the additional members being elected on a partial list system with 25 to 33 per cent overall reservation for women, and barring defectors from holding any office in the life of the House plus one year thereafter are some among other matters that could be considered.


Police reforms, as amply debated, and a vast expansion of the judicial cadre at all levels, with nyaya panchatats and honorary magistrates at the bottom are also vitally necessary.


There is a time for debate and a time for action. This is a time for action. Let the government properly take the lead. Let 10 or 20 true and good MPs from mixed parties also draft single clause Private Member's Bills and Resolutions and introduce them in Parliament to flag priority concerns. The nation will back them.n









THERE can be two schools of thought. One adopting the stance of 'What's in a name'; while the other advocating the 'Carrying forward' of the name in perpetuity in terms of the Hindu mythology.

The latter school of thought would appear to have actuated the foundational idea of a Raj Babbar-Smita Patil starrer wherein the hero, a whistleblower, changes identity (including name) and residence frequently to avoid the wrath of the villain therein. Ultimately, he announces that he had had enough of the 'witness protection' and decides to take on the 'sinner' the whole hog and annihilates the evil.

During yesteryears, some of the names given to children were plainly 'horrible'. No offence obviously meant to the elders because they, we are told in every household, had their own reasons for that. There were instances where the family awaited the birth of a male progeny even after the addition of around half a dozen or even more of female children. There were instances too where, for certain inexplicable reasons, the progeny would not survive. Families desirous of having an issue, of whatever sex, were also aplenty. There was a feeling that giving of an unusual or abnormal name to the child would 'propitiate' the creator and save the family from evil influences.

That feeling actuated people to name a child as Khote Lal or Budhu Mal or Ganda Mal. In the name indicated first of all, the most charitable meaning could be that the reference was to purity (or impurity). It was not actually so. The reference was to the beast of burden which the bearer of that name would always be. He would carry the burden not only as long as he breathed but till perpetuity because his descendants would not have locus standi to act in retrospectivity. They could only render full-throated curses to the perpetrator of the 'crime'.

Wives wedded to the holders of those names could take it out on their spouses just by addressing them by their first name. That could be the most innocuous form of spousal reprisal.

Those enrolled as voters in village like "Gholoon Sankhiya", "Diwana", "Pasina Kalan" (the locational placement of the first being on Chandigarh-Ambala Highway and that of the other two either in the district of Karnal or Panipat but surely on Chandigarh-Delhi National Highway) also have nothing intellectual to boast about the village name. While the second and third could have at least a fantasized romantic background, the first could be inferred to have stemmed from the 'clarion' call of a tortured daughter-in-law to a mom in law (a la Lalita Pawar) or vice versa. Even otherwise, the very mention of the name 'stirs' thoughts of poisonous connotation.









Anna Hazare's fast and its fallout might turn out to be the most significant watershed in India's parliamentary democracy in the last 50 years, though its concrete results may not match the hyped euphoria or the highly exaggerated expectations. A fortnight ago none anticipated such a massive and lightening support for Hazare's fast, not even Anna himself! He publicly admitted so with his disarming humility and candour.


Similarly, very few expected the government to cave in so soon and so completely. One ought to go beneath the surface to understand these developments.


Nationwide, positive and spontaneous response to Anna Hazare's fast on the issue of Jan Lok Pal Bill underlines how distrustful people have become of the current leadership and how desperately they are looking for a saviour. With his unimpeachable integrity, honesty, sincerity -- rare commodities in today's Indian polity -- untainted by any scandals, simple and selfless Anna becomes the beacon of hope for millions of Indians cutting across the differences of age, gender, language, region and religion. He is suddenly catapulted into the role of an unlikely hero to fill the leadership void in India today.


The Central Government is already besieged by scams, struggling to cope with frequent strictures by the Supreme Court and forced to climb down and accept the Opposition's demand on the JPC issue. The Prime Minister is under attack from various quarters, particularly for the appointment of TJ Thomas as the CVC, and ISRO's attempts to sell 70 MHZ of scarce S band wavelength for 20 years to Devas. There is a growing perception that the government is either unwilling, or worse, unable to take the fight against corruption to its logical conclusion. Haunted by the memories of the past when it suffered a massive electoral debacle in 1989 on account of allegations of corruption against Rajiv Gandhi in the infamous Bofors case, the government is obviously nervous and insecure.




It doesn't want to see Anna Hazare and his anti-corruption campaign remain in headlines and burst in breaking news everyday, especially when the elections are taking place in some states. So to smother the fire before it becomes uncontrollable, the government took the only prudent option available, i.e., accept Anna's demand and try to take the moral high ground that it has nothing to hide and is, in fact, with Anna on the same page in the fight against corruption. In a way, it has bought temporary peace by embracing the dictum: If you can't beat them, join them.


Again, like in Tunisia and Egypt, the burst of support for Hazare was technology driven and media orchestrated. Facebook, SMS, Twitters, Internet connected millions of people in India and abroad in no time and generated unprecedented support for an issue which has been in the news for months and which affects us all in our lives one way or other.


The minute by minute coverage of Anna and other fasting individuals, show of support from Bollywood stars, writers authors and public figures like Swami Ram Dev, Lord Meghnad Desai, Kiran Bedi and others transformed the fast into a gripping TV realty show, which kept viewers glued to their TV sets for hours. Irrespective of the long-term outcome of this protest, the Internet and new means of communications and the media are going to play an increasingly vital role in bringing national issues to the forefront .So, it is a wake-up call; the political parties and politicians can ignore this phenomenon only at their own peril.


The resounding success of Anna Hazare's fast proves that if a cause is good, intentions are noble, the driving motive is serving the masses and not personal gain, means used are open and transparent and the leader possesses impeccable integrity, people can be galvanised in an effective and totally non-violent manner. It augurs well for the maturity of our democracy.




Having said the above, it will be immature and naive to assume that like a magician, Anna can make corruption disappear from public life. Anna, with due respects, is no magician and corruption is too deep rooted and too well entrenched to be eradicated completely and in a very short time.


Swept by the euphoria generated by Anna's fast, one shouldn't offer simplistic, impractical, half-baked, half-cooked Readers Digest-type made-easy solutions and weaken the institutions which are the pillars of our democracy. Pakro, jail mein dalo aur phansi de do sounds a very catchy filmy line oblivious of all constitutional, social and political implications.


Yes, we must fight corruption; the guilty must be punished. We must also put in place an effective, impartial, time-bound justice delivery system. But we can't reduce this country of 1.21 billion people into a banana Republic, running kangaroo courts!


We must find a balance between the utmost need of stringent punishment to the guilty in the shortest possible time and upholding the rule of law and protecting an individual's fundamental rights as enshrined in our Constitution. An individual is innocent till he/she is convicted has been the bedrock all civilized societies.


One must also pause for a while and consider whether creating a Superman like Lok Pal with unbridled powers above the government, Parliament and the judiciary will serve national interests in the 21st century. Proper checks and balances must be applicable to the Lok Pal as well lest he should become the law unto himself. Levelling allegations of corruption must not be allowed to become a potent tool to settle scores and cause harassment or resort to blackmail.


Fighting corruption will need a multi-pronged approach sustained over a long period; there are no quick-fix solutions. Of course, arrest and imprisonment of politicians and other bigwigs will have a deterrent effect. But corruption will continue at various levels on account of ground realities.


The ice vendor near Jantar Mantar was happy to have witnessed brisk sale on account of the presence of protesters supporting Anna Hazare. He readily admitted that he had bribed the policeman on duty to be allowed to sell ice cream there as he does daily for selling his ice cream near New Delhi railway station. He bluntly told the journalist asking for his reaction that he can't wait till Anna's crusade stops corruption; he has to feed his family and can't see them go hungry!


Millions of Indians in small hamlets, villages, kasbas and towns like the ice cream vendor have to live with corruption in their daily lives. Alas, none gave voice to these silent sufferers at Jantar Mantar.




Politicians, bureaucrats, doctors, engineers, defence personnel, judges, airline pilots, sports bodies' heads, media representatives, India Inc tycoons are part of the same society. Arresting and jailing allegedly corrupt people will certainly discourage proclivity to corruption but it won't stop corruption unless we attack the root cause of corruption, i.e., total decline of moral and ethical values in society.


Everyone seems to be interested in making a fast buck with total disregard to what is right and what is wrong. Restoration of moral and ethical values has to begin at home and needs to be strengthened at schools/ colleges/universities and encouraged, supported and protected by the government, corporate sectors, organised and unorganised employers and the civil society.


Lastly, a society which sanctifies, legitimises, respects and honours the sheer possession of wealth and all its attributes without questioning its source and means used to acquire it will never see the back of corruption in spite of dozens of Anna Hazares. More than half a century has passed but what Raj Kapoor showed in his classics "Shri 420" and "Jagte Raho" remains true and relevant even today.


The writer is a former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, and Dean, Foreign Service Institute, New Delhi









Doubt is our passion – Henry James


In 2004, four years after he began work on The Pale King, David Foster Wallace wrote to Jonathan Franzen, complaining that to finish the book he "would have to write a 5,000 page manuscript and then winnow it by 90 per cent, the very idea of which makes something in me wither and get really interested in my cuticle, or the angle of the light outside."


Wallace hanged himself in September 2008 and The Pale King, still unfinished, was posthumously published three days ago. It's typical Wallace. Even reading the extracts makes it clear. In turn lucid and tedious, unreadable and unputdownable, it does what he tried to do with his previous books and indeed with every sentence he wrote: To mime thought, and in so doing to become 'mindless'.


It's the total opposite of what, for instance, the hugely acclaimed Marilynne Robinson calls "absence of mind", incidentally, the title of her Terry lecture, and whose subtitle says it all: "The dispelling of inwardness from the modern myth of the self." In a world disordered by attention deficit, removing every trace of inwardness was Wallace's way of paying attention to the world. It is like wearing a sock inside out.


Wallace was 46 when he died. You might never read him, or read him only in parts, but no one who is interested in reading and writing in today's world can ignore him. He's arguably the James Joyce of the 21st century, a peak which we might never climb, wouldn't even want to, but one which with its disturbing magnetic pull ever so often scrambles our inner compass.


The difference with Joyce ends there, because Wallace's personal story keeps intruding. It is tempting to imagine being inside his mind, both the illness and clarity of it, no matter how illicit we feel when we try to connect his suicide to his writing.


In The New Yorker, D T Max recalls how Wallace met his future wife, the visual artist Karen Green, in 2002. She had read one of his stories about an unlovable, self-absorbed girl, running from therapists to friends and back, desperate for real human contact. The story is open-ended but Green, who sought to turn the story into illustrated panels, wanted the girl to be cured in the end. "Wallace gave her permission," writes Max. "When he saw what she had done, he was happy. He told her that it was now a story that people would want to read. They fell in love."


As a writer, Wallace believed in the almost magical powers of fiction, but one that demanded the reader shed many received notions about what is interesting or illuminating. Of course, there were serious problems here. For a start, he brought too much of intellect to his fiction where the enigma of emotion would have sufficed, and he tried to ask it questions which it was probably never designed to answer.


This tension is evident in The Pale King, like it was never before in his earlier writing. There are entire passages that suggest a very different writer, "un-self-aware …. Letting himself overwrite in a way that great writers do when the story doesn't have the time for all your inner quibbles…," as John Jeremiah Sullivan put it in an article in GQ.


In the end, Wallace didn't seem to be sure what he preferred or "what if he wound up valuing most that which wasn't the one he was best at by nature".


The quote by Henry James at the beginning of this piece was the advice Don DeLillo gave Wallace when he voiced his doubts. The rest of DeLillo's advice is worth quoting: "Some writers may have to do two or three books, say, in mid-career, before they remember that writing can be fun." Wallace never lived to find out. His mind was his drug. In the end, it probably became too much for him.





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When the full Planning Commission meets later this week, its chairman – the prime minister – is likely to be presented with two scenarios for India's 12th five-year plan (2012-17). The first scenario is based on a percentage point improvement in the overall growth rate of the economy in the 12th plan compared to the 11th five-year plan (2007-12). Against the performance of 8.1 per cent in the 11th plan period, the first scenario would seek a 9 per cent growth rate in the 12th plan. The second scenario would be more ambitious and seek a 10 per cent growth rate. However, attaining either target will require considerable homework by the Indian government and business. It has been found during the 11th plan period that whenever economic growth accelerates beyond 8 per cent, inflationary pressures seem to develop owing to a variety of supply-side constraints. Though such structural inflation can act as an incentive for new investment which would, in turn, ease supply-side pressures, a government in a democracy must also budget for social and political pressures arising from such inflation. Hence, pursuing non-inflationary, or low-inflation, growth requires that excessive pressure not be exerted on the system. Taking growth forward in a socially-inclusive manner requires careful calibration of supply and demand. Thus, those who plan for 10 per cent growth must also plan for policies that will, in fact, ease the supply-side constraints on growth and avoid inflationary pressures.

At a time when the Indian economy appears to be facing the prospect of "stagflation" – with deceleration of industrial growth and renewed concerns about inflation – a government that plans for double-digit national income growth is either brave or foolhardy. On the other hand, given that the average annual rate of growth of the economy has crawled up in the post-reform period from 6.5 per cent in the 8th plan (1992-97) to 7.8 per cent in the 10th plan (2002-07), after a dip to 5.5 per cent in the 9th plan (1997-2002), and to 8.1 per cent in the 11th plan (2007-12), aiming for 9 per cent in the 12th plan may appear a modest but realistic target to some. But getting to even 9 per cent, not to speak of 10 per cent, requires governance reform and a new lease of life for entrepreneurial animal spirits.


 The United Progressive Alliance government will be in office for the first two of the five years of the 12th plan period. If it does not lay the foundation for accelerated growth in the next three years, the 12th plan target cannot be met. The approach paper must list key reforms needed at the national, state and local levels that would enable the economy to register higher growth. The debate must be about policies, instead of focusing on numbers. Reforming public services delivery, especially in rural areas, eliminating the vestiges of the licence permit control Raj, investing in education and skills, infrastructure and energy, and fiscal consolidation and stabilisation are all key to further acceleration of growth. The credibility of the 12th plan target will, therefore, depend critically on the credibility of the government in implementing policies required to attain that target. At present, the government's credibility is very low. It needs to do much more to convince the nation and the world that it can deliver double-digit growth in the 12th plan period.







For all those who seek a new institution as an answer to the corruption of existing ones, here is an invaluable reminder from a learned judge: it is people who make and unmake institutions. Delivering the fifth M C Setalvad Memorial Lecture, the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice S H Kapadia, offered fellow judges some valuable homilies on how they should conduct themselves in public and private, on the bench and off it. He reminded the Indian judiciary of the limits of its constitutional role. In defining the role of the judiciary and its relationship with the executive and the legislature and in stating baldly some dos and don'ts, Justice Kapadia has elevated the status of the CJI and of the judiciary as a whole. One man has restored to the highest court of the land dignity and prestige that had been robbed by another man. While the former CJI has been criticised for bringing a high office of the nation into disrepute, his successor is today seen as having restored dignity and majesty to that very office. It required a new individual, not a new institution, to reverse a disturbing trend.

Reminding the judiciary of the doctrine of separation of powers, Justice Kapadia said, "We must refuse to sit as a super-legislature, to weigh the wisdom of legislation. We are not concerned with the wisdom, need or appropriateness of the legislation." This, too, is a valuable reminder for an institution that is not only acting as a judge and jury but also as a prosecutor, investigator and even jailer. Every institution of the state, and the fourth estate too, has a role to play and nothing beyond that. The moment one institution begins to encroach on another, the constitutional and democratic order is disturbed. This is not good for either democracy or development.


Justice Kapadia also observed in his lecture that "a judge must inevitably choose to be a little aloof and isolated from the community at large. He should not be in contact with lawyers, individuals or political parties, their leaders or ministers unless it be on purely social occasions. When one enters the judges' world, one inevitably has to impose upon himself certain obvious restrictions." He urged fellow judges to resist patronage, guard against preferential treatment, and not be tempted by post-retirement assignments, since these "can give rise to corruption if and when quid pro quo makes a demand on such judges". Politicians, businesspersons and others with power and wealth have long known how to subvert the judiciary with favours. Justice Kapadia has done well to speak freely, frankly and wisely. His invaluable words must sink into the consciousness of those in positions of authority in every institution of Indian democracy.







A shaky assumption on freer capital flows is heavily hedged

Life is becoming more confusing. After being repeatedly told how great lower inflation is for growth and the poor, the current finance minister has now repeated what his predecessor said a few weeks back: "Inflation can be tamed, but it will mean the country will have to make do with a much lower growth rate" (The Economic Times, April 14, 2011). Such candour is refreshing, and it is high time that we stop pretending otherwise. And, let us not overlook the connection between growth and job creation.


 It is implicit in the finance minister's remarks that monetary policy and the level of interest rates have an impact on growth and job creation. One wonders when the authorities would be equally candid in respect of the other price of money, namely its exchange rate. Recently, the Reserve Bank of India has come out with a research paper (The implications of renminbi revaluation on India's trade — A study) that analyses the impact of China's exchange rate policy on the huge and burgeoning bilateral trade surplus vis-à-vis India. The paper argues that "by keeping RMB undervalued …it invariably and distinctly provides competitive advantage over its trade competitors and trade partners, including India." Fair enough, but the paper's conclusions are insipid: diversify imports and increase labour productivity. The research paper has shied from the impact of a 25 per cent appreciation (in real terms) of the Indian rupee in dollar terms of the last two fiscal years on the competitiveness of India's tradeables sector,particularly vis-a-vis China. Perhaps such reticence should not be surprising, given that, following the Anglo-Saxon propagated myths, we have been putting great faith in the virtues of a market-determined exchange rate for the last two years, in a complete reversal of the policies we had so successfully followed for the previous two decades. In the process, we have also put our signature to the meaningless G20 communiqués on the issue of global imbalances and the indicators to be monitored. Perhaps the exchange rate is too "holy" a subject for candid comment in public.

The great virtues of a liberal capital account and market-determined exchange rates have been propagated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for three decades now — overlooking all the evidence and cases on the ground, from Mexico in 1994 to Iceland in 2008, and many in between. Recent headlines in the world's most respected financial dailies made me wonder whether the Emperor is really going to wear new clothes: "IMF gives ground on capital controls" (Financial Times, April 6, 2011) and "IMF reverses position on capital controls" (The Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2011). After downloading the research paper (Capital Inflows: the Role of Controls, February 2011) on which the April 2011 press release was based, I was disabused of the notion. It starts with a highly questionable assumption that "the benefits from a free flow of capital across borders are similar to the benefits from free trade." This is, to my mind, a completely wrong assumption. In fact, market-determined exchange rates convert what is "a unit of account, a store for value, a medium of exchange" into a commodity, with its price changing minute to minute, benefiting the currency trader/speculator, often at the cost of the real economy (which, of course has no mention in the paper). A key conclusion of the paper is that, "if the economy is operating near potential, if the level of reserves is adequate, if the exchange rate is not undervalued, and if the flows are likely to be transitory, then use of capital controls – in addition to both prudential and macroeconomic policy – is justified as part of the policy toolkit to manage inflows." Sir Humphrey Appleby of the brilliant Yes, Minister TV serial could learn a lot from IMF!

The "possible" trinity (free capital flows, fixed-exchange rates, but no control on money supply), which was the accepted wisdom in the 1920s, resulted in a global depression. Today's accepted wisdom – free capital flows, an independent monetary policy, and floating exchange rates – can be as risky for countries like India.

Compared to all the half-truths and convoluted jargon used by IMF, it is high time we pay attention to Keynes, on the subject of capital flows and exchange rates. "We are determined that, in future, the external value of the sterling shall conform to its internal value, as set by our own domestic policies and not the other way round. Secondly, we intend to retain control of our domestic rate of interest, so that we can keep it as low as suits our own purposes, without interference from the ebb and flow of the international capital movements, or flights of hot money. Thirdly, whilst we intend to prevent inflation at home, we will not accept deflation at the dictate of influences from outside. In other words, we abjure the instruments of the bank rate and credit contraction operating through the increase in unemployment as a means of forcing the domestic economy into line with external factors." (Collected Works of John Maynard Keynes, Volume 27).







Back in 2007-08, when the financial crisis was still called the "subprime" crisis, Europeans felt superior to the United States. European bankers surely knew better than to hand out so-called "NINJA" (no income, no job, no assets) loans. These days, however, Europeans have little reason to feel smug. Their leaders seem unable to come to grips with the eurozone's debt crisis.

Banks in Ireland and Spain are discovering that their customers are losing their jobs and income as the construction bust hits the national economies. And one could argue that a loan to the government of Greece or Portugal affords little more security than a NINJA loan. Indeed, lending to governments and banks on the European periphery represents the European equivalent of subprime lending in the US (which was also concentrated in a few sunshine states).


 Given the many similarities between the two crises' basic features, European leaders could learn a lot from the US experience.

The first lesson is that, despite the limited overall volume of subprime loans, the subprime crisis could blow up into the biggest financial crisis in living memory, because an overstretched financial system was unable to cope with even limited losses. Similarly, the combined debt of Greece, Ireland and Portugal is small relative to the eurozone economy, but the European banking system is still so weak that these countries' debt problems can create a systemic crisis.

A second lesson is that dealing successfully with a financial crisis requires, most immediately, a strong dose of liquidity. Then, once the financial system has been stabilised, a combination of debt restructuring and recapitalisation is required. Has the European Union (EU) followed this recipe?

After some hesitation, Europe showed that it could manage the first phase — a liquidity injection to prevent systemic collapse. Greece and Ireland received funding when they were shut out of the capital market. And the last EU summit announced the creation of a permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM) — a sort of European Monetary Fund with an effective lending capacity of euro 500 billion.

This is equivalent to $700 billion, the same magnitude as the Troubled Asset Relief Programme (TARP) instituted in late 2008 to keep US financial markets from collapsing. The ESM should be sufficient to deal with the refinancing needs of Greece, Ireland and Portugal. It might even be sufficient to address the Spanish government debt, though this would be a stretch.

But just as the $700 billion TARP did not assuage the nervousness of financial markets in 2008, the ESM's euro 500 billion seems to have left investors unimpressed. The risk premia on the sovereign debt of Greece, Ireland and others have not diminished. The premia paid by Portugal have actually soared since major ratings agencies, explicitly citing the agreement reached at the EU summit in late March, lowered the country's sovereign-debt rating.

In the US, the turning point came with the authorities' stress tests of banks in the early 2009. The tests were seen as credible; their results prompted US officials to force several major banks to increase their capital.

This did not happen in last year's European version of the US stress tests, and this year's stress tests in Europe are unlikely to be tougher. The reason is simple: the US authorities checked whether their banks could survive the sort of downturn that the market feared most at the time. By contrast, European authorities refuse to test the scenario that the market currently fears most: losses on loans to banks and governments on Europe's periphery.

A third lesson derives from a little-noticed but vital aspect of the US experience: debt reduction is comparatively easy in the US, because the no-recourse feature of most mortgages there limits repayment obligations to the value of the house. Moreover, the US bankruptcy code can free consumers of their debt within months.

Of course, the millions of personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures in the US are not popular, but they provide debt relief each time, thereby enabling households to make a fresh start. This steady flow of debt relief is allowing US consumer spending to recover slowly.

By contrast, debt restructuring for either banks or governments is politically unacceptable in Europe. This implies that the crisis is likely to persist much longer than in the US, because households in Spain and Ireland will labour for decades to service mortgages on houses that they can no longer afford. And the Greek government faces an endless succession of budget cuts, with each step being more difficult than the last as the economy spirals down a black hole.

Debt relief created fewer problems for banks in the US because a significant proportion of the subprime loans packaged into AAA-rated securities had been sold to gullible foreigners. A good proportion of the losses on subprime lending was, thus, borne by banks from Northern Europe, leaving these banks in no position to sustain further losses on their European peripheral lending. But this should compel a strong recapitalisation programme — not weak stress tests.

Europe is making a fundamental mistake by allowing the two key elements of any resolution of the crisis – debt restructuring and real stress tests for banks – to remain taboo. As long as successive EU summits persist in this mistake, the crisis will fester and spread, eventually threatening the stability of the eurozone's entire financial system.

The author is director of the Centre for European Policy Studies.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011






This summer will witness a clash of wills in Kashmir, the outcome of which could reshape New Delhi's engagement with Pakistan and its dialogue with the Kashmiri secessionist leadership. In the blue corner, so to speak, is Kashmir's new generation of hard-line separatists, a tiger of unknown stripe, on whose back Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani precariously perches, pretending to ride it. In the red corner is Srinagar's security establishment, a myopic leopard that never changes its spots, which firmly believes that old-style preventive arrests can staunch any flow of passion. 

It may just be possible that the security czars win by walkover. In a meticulously implemented plan, the coordinators and leaders of last year's street protests are being picked up and jailed in Jammu, while the J&K Police's new cyber cell is monitoring websites like Facebook that were used to coordinate last year's protests. The police calculate that taking away protest coordinators like Masarat Alam would prevent the focusing of popular anger into the violent public demonstrations that grabbed news headlines in the last three years. 


 But more likely, the government has got its calculations badly wrong. The clumsiness with which the government has suppressed demonstrations since 2008 and the potent symbolism of young children killed in police firing have midwifed the emergence of a younger, more radical, more dissipated separatist leadership. A new Kashmiri generation, deeply disillusioned with its leaders and with the going-nowhere armed militancy that fruitlessly claimed thousands of Kashmiri lives, has taken ownership of the public protest. Masarat Alam himself was only a symbol; taking him away will give rise to another. 

The government of India can claim credit for having allowed the baton of separatist activism to pass smoothly from one generation to the next, thereby ensuring at least one more generation of unrest in the valley. Every Kashmiri leader who might have settled with New Delhi on acceptable terms – from the Hurriyat moderates, to the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front's (JKLF's) Yasin Malik, to the current crop of young firebrands before they were radicalised – has been systematically discredited. Every one of New Delhi's Kashmiri interlocutors earned the label of quisling without the consolation of a single concession to take back to their people. They seem likely to spend this summer watching the drama from the sidelines.

The government, meanwhile, is congratulating itself on the (so-far) successful Panchayat elections in Kashmir. Even though the robustly contested 2008 elections were both preceded and followed by angry violence, New Delhi inexplicably continues to mine consolation from the Kashmiri proclivity to vote, believing, quite erroneously, that an embrace of democracy is an embrace of India. But the populace has adequately demonstrated that it can go straight from the polling booth into an anti-India demonstration.

In the by-lanes of Srinagar, the discussion is not about whether there will be mass protests this summer, but about when and over what. Mr Geelani, in an attempt to salvage relevance – of Kashmir's older-generation leaders, he alone has some left by virtue of having never engaged New Delhi – has been talking up the issue of the Dogra Certificate, which the government generously provided, just as it had provided the Amarnath land issue in 2008, the controversy over the Shopian killings in 2009, and the police firing on demonstrators last year.

As backup, Geelani is mobilising opinion on the "occupation" of private land by the Indian Army, which he sharply criticised during the India Today Conclave in New Delhi in March, and in a district-level mobilisation programme earlier. All this may be a wasted effort on his part. In the emotional tinderbox that Kashmir is, a chicken coming under the wheel of an army truck can set off a local riot. And, as was evident last year, a mishandled public protest can trigger a chain of events that sets the whole valley alight.

Pakistan, meanwhile, does what it can to keep the pot bubbling and believing as always that victory in Kashmir is just around the corner. Talk to any young Kashmiri, however, and it will become quickly clear that the valley hardly relishes joining a country that is itself disintegrating. Kashmiris cheered for Pakistan in the World Cup semi-finals and would probably vote for Pakistan in a two-choice referendum. But that is less Pakistan's success and more anti-incumbency against India.

New Delhi has not left itself many choices. It must begin a focused engagement with the Kashmiri leaders with whom it wants to deal, starting with the Hurriyat moderates and the JKLF. An all-party mechanism, comprising senior political leaders from across the political spectrum, must represent New Delhi so that every political party has ownership of the process. The current self-destructive confrontation between Jammu's Hindu grievances – exploited by the Congress as much as by the Bharatiya Janata Party – and Kashmir's Muslim interests has to be managed without letting the contradictions spiral, Amarnath-style, into fratricidal conflict.

Yet, a bloody summer may be inevitable. At that moment, it would be important to react with the knowledge that India is in Kashmir for the long haul and any bridges that you burn in your relations with the local population while dealing with the protests will need to be painfully rebuilt.






The euphoria of zoologists over the birth of a white camel calf at the National Research Centre on Camel (NRCC) in Rajasthan after 27 years is not merely because of its rarity or novelty but also because of its genetic significance.

Given the rapid decline in the camel population and the limited genetic diversity of the animal, this rare white Mewari male calf can be used to breed a new of variety of camels.


 However, although scientists are fairly certain that the white colour of the calf is because of a "recessive" (non-active) character of the camel gene, they are not sure if its progeny will also be white. They feel the chances of white progeny are 50 per cent — and that is good enough to sustain hope.

The birth of the white camel calf is also significant because it was delivered by a camel of the Mewari breed, which is facing extinction. There were only 8,800 Mewari camels out of the country's total camel count of 5,61,828 in 2007 when the last livestock census was conducted. Sturdy Mewari camels are of particular interest for people in the lower foothills of the Aravalis in Rajasthan for transport, farm operations and milk production. Mewari camels give around seven to eight litres of milk per day, compared to five to six litres by other common breeds like Jaisalmeri and Bikaneri.

Camels possess a unique genetic make-up and an immune system that helps them survive the most adverse environments — in deserts and semi-arid areas of the north-western states and the cold hilly desert in the Nubra valley in Ladakh.

"Camels are a virtual reservoir of unique genes that make them disease-resistant, give them longevity and the ability to adapt to harsh circumstances and several other useful characteristics that can be exploited for the good of animal and human health," says N V Patil, director of the Bikaner-based NRCC. Camels also have special anti-bodies in their bloodstream that are capable of destroying harmful bacteria and viruses or neutralising other disease-causing poisons and pathogens. In medical circles, these anti-bodies are generally described as "nano anti-bodies" because of the speed with which these can travel through the animal or human body to reach the spot where they are needed. These anti-bodies can be gainfully utilised to detect and cure animal and human disease. To this end, NRCC is working with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai to evaluate their effectiveness in diagnosing and treating diseases like tuberculosis and thyroid cancer. It is also collaborating with the Bikaner-based S P Medical College to develop a snake venom antidote.

This apart, NRCC is focusing on enhancing the milk yield of camels to meet growing demand because camel milk has therapeutic value. The organisation is also working on improving the animal's utility as a means of transport and draught power in arid and semi-arid areas.

Interestingly, NRCC's has already developed a technology for making popular milk products like ice-cream, kulfi and flavoured milk, tea and coffee with camel milk. These items are in good demand and are being sold from a milk parlour set up on NRCC's campus. Some private dairies have also begun producing these products. Efforts are on to develop techniques to make curd and cheese from camel milk.

It is noteworthy that camels have been of great service during wars and civil works in deserts and other sandy tracts where other means of transport usually become ineffective. Camel battalions took part in World Wars I and II and even today are an integral part of the Border Security Force (BSF). Extending the Indira Gandhi Canal, the lifeline of Rajasthan, to the western-most desert tracts would have been impossible had it not been for the availability of camels to transport men and material to such hostile locations. It is, therefore, essential to help such a useful animal species survive and grow so that its valuable genetic traits are not lost.  








The wholesale price index (WPI) for March has risen to 8.98%, more than 60% higher than the RBI's April 2010 inflation estimate of 5.5%, and well above its most recent estimate of 8% made in early March. This dents the central bank's credibility and stokes inflation expectations. Chances are the final WPI number for March 2011 will be revised up into the double digits, delivering irony: while the government chased double-digit growth, it got double-digit inflation. The prognosis is bleak. Inflation has spread from food to nonfood items and with inflationary expectations taking root, is going to be hard to roll back. The RBI and the government must share the blame for this, the Bank a little more than the government. Central banks the world over have a tough job marrying political ambitions with economic compulsions. Rising global inflation numbers are testimony to central banks trying, without much success, to pick up the pieces after elected governments loosened taps on spending. The RBI's lack of formal independence makes its task more difficult compared to its peers; but not impossible. No central bank that keeps real interest rates negative for so long can hope to get away from the consequences. Agreed, the combination of rising commodity prices, a spillover of the reckless quantitative easing by the US Federal Reserve, structural bottlenecks and a government unwilling to share the burden of reining in prices through tighter fiscal management would have daunted most central banks. The central bank's baby rate hikes did contain money supply growth last fiscal at 16%, below the rate of the economy's nominal growth. But this was not enough. Clarity is, of course, always greater in hindsight. Growth is more or less robust, so the RBI must show greater energy in taking on inflation, and restore its credibility on this front. The government must stay the course of fiscal discipline it has set for itself. Early indications of a good monsoon this year would translate into decent farm output, if the government shows the courage to take hard decisions to boost investment, cutting back on subsidy. Double digit inflation is not acceptable.








The pension fund regulator's move to stake a claim to pension schemes of insurance companies has prepared the ground for one more turf battle in the financial sector. And the arbiter would logically be the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), presided over by the finance minister. This underlines the need for serious debate on the regulatory structure of the financial sector: would it be more efficient to have just two regulators, one a macroprudential regulator and the other to supervise all the rest? While this debate is on, it is not very difficult to see that a separate regulator for pensions could well be redundant. Pensions entail efficient record-keeping of contributions, management of the corpus of long-term savings and conversion of a sizeable portion of the accumulated savings into annuities. Regulation of record-keeping, accumulation, asset management and conversion of lump sums into annuities, based on actuarial calculations, are all activities that can be carried out by the existing insurance regulator. The insurance regulator or Irda would resist ceding control over pension schemes for two reasons. One, the insurance law allows life insurers to launch pension schemes and Irda to regulate them. Two, pension plans contribute a sizeable amount to the insurers' coffers. Reforms in the pension business will also open up new avenues of growth for life insurers. The industry can take advantage of this opportunity as insurers have the ability to manage long term funds and the actuarial expertise to assess risks and forecast future payouts. So, it makes sense for the Irda to regulate all pension schemes, not just plans launched by insurers. Only two mutual funds, overseen by Sebi, offer retirement savings products today. These plans can also be regulated by the Irda. The government should, therefore, review the need to have a separate pension fund regulator.

The New Pension System that has been created under the Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority ambit is not necessarily tied to a new regulator. It can flourish under the Irda as well.





Wearing skirts over shorts could be marketed as a cool new layering style for spring-summer 2011, had it been mooted by a fashionista or a designer. Sadly, when the progenitor of this look is the Badminton World Federation (BWF), and the proposed adherents are all women badminton players who want to compete in tournaments organised by them, the effect is not quite the same. More so when the stated aim is not a belated twinge of modesty over the sportswomen's preference for shorts, but rather a supposed desire to "ensure attractive presentation of badminton". Why women wearing shorts offends the world body's sensibilities is unclear but the fact that most female shuttlers have not protested too much about the sudden diktat seems to suggest they could interpret this decree in some ingenious ways. Nor do they have to look too far for inspiration. Venus Williams, from the adjoining world of tennis, has made quite a name for herself for her flamboyant wardrobe, which barely keeps from skirting the tennis dress code altogether. Her recent forays include wearing a pair of shorts which were so fleshtoned that it seemed she was wearing nothing at all under an itsy-bitsy skirt. There is no doubt that Williams' clothes attract a considerable degree of attention but whether the entire sport benefits from their inspired interpretations of the dress code of their sport is debatable.
Looking good and playing well are not always mutually reconcilable goals, so this edict also potentially opens up a whole new field of play for fashion designers, both in India and abroad. If wearing their creations makes some shuttlers the equivalent of a Williams or a Sharapova, then both the fashion industry and the sport should be happy!






This year is the 20th anniversary of two events that changed many things forever. In 1991, the Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh team dismantled India's rigid licence-permit raj, opened it up to the rest of the world and paved the way for 8%-plus economic growth. At the same time, the Soviet Union crumbled, creating many new nation-states in eastern and southern Europe, sparking hope that spanking new democracies would emerge from the ruins of Bolshevism.

Well, things didn't quite work out that way. Twenty years later, both India and the states that emerged in eastern Europe are in the clutches of crippling corruption. Despite Anna Hazare's dire claims, India's democracy is strong, something that can't be said for many states in eastern Europe.

The Czech Republic, one of the stars of the immediate post-Soviet era, is so mired in graft that it's scaring foreign investors away. Poland and Estonia are perceived to be relatively clean economies where it's easy for outsiders to do business, but the rest of the region is a mess. Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Romania and Russia regularly rank among the most corrupt states of Europe.

Most of these new states have an old problem: business and politics have strong links. The people who control government departments and national monopolies give out contracts and businesses to their favourites. Only insiders make money, outsiders can take a walk, or fall in line with the insiders and play by local rules.

The Czech Republic, Lithuania and Romania are busy democracies; Latvia less so and Russia quickly abandoned its flirtation with liberal democracy after the disastrous Yeltsin years. But whatever the political system — a democracy or the so-called 'hard state' beloved by India's chatterati — the government-business compact seems to kick in quickly.

As in eastern Europe, India's governments — both at the Centre and in states — are the largest buyer of goods and services in the country, whether battleships or bridges. So, it makes sense for businesses to cosy up to them. Over time, India's democracy has become hyper competitive: the number of voters in each Lok Sabha seat has shot up from around 3,50,000 in 1951 to 1.3 million in 2009. In that time, the number of candidates fighting for an average seat has gone up from a little less than five to a little less than 15 in the last Lok Sabha polls. This makes it tough for politicians to get elected again and again. But businesses need continuity, even in corruption.
That continuity comes from India's bureaucracy, where a new entrant can hope to stay on for around 35 years, practically immune from investigation and prosecution. Babudom is the constant glue binding business and netas. Unlike eastern Europe, India's political process is vastly more complex: entry is free, barriers are low and anyone can form a party or contest elections. But parties need money to run and candidates need to spend money to contest. For an assembly seat you can legitimately raise and spend . 16 lakh; if you're fighting the Lok Sabha polls, the number mandated by Parliament goes up to . 40 lakh. These sums are ridiculously low.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that in the last Lok Sabha polls, candidates spent anything between . 4 crore to . 40 crore to fund their campaigns. So, the Congress, which contested 440 seats and the BJP, which fought 433 constituencies, in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, would have needed to mobilise about . 2,000 crore each.
The DMK, which fought only 22 seats in Tamil Nadu, could have splashed out close to .900 crore in the Lok Sabha polls. Sharad Pawar's well-funded NCP fought 68 seats in 2009, and could have shelled out around .500 crore for the campaign. This money comes from businesses.


Though the law permits cheque payments, India Inc prefers cash. There are two reasons why companies prefer banknotes to blank cheques. The first is anonymity: nobody gets to know how much a company paid to different parties. That's useful when most companies hedge their political bets by contributing across the political spectrum. The second reason is because India's economy is awash in cash. Sectors like real estate are flush with it and most businesses hold huge amounts of cash. Cash transactions attract no taxes. Today, bigger companies pay lower taxes than smaller ones. Government numbers show that companies with profits of around . 1 crore pay nearly 26% effective tax. The biggest, with profits of more than . 500 crore, pay only 22.5%.
Payoffs make sure that some companies get an edge on crucial deals. For example, the Maharashtra CAG has unearthed how, in the heydays of Ramalinga Raju, Satyam acquired around 130 acres of land in a Nagpur SEZ and paid . 20.2 crore less than what others would have had to pay.

It was clearly a sweetheart deal. Nevertheless, as Accountant General Sayantani Jafa notes drily, "The matter was reported to the government in April 2009; their reply had not been received (till) December 2009."
In real life, this sort of corruption bothers few people. It's abother when you have to pay a bribe to get a birth certificate or a land record, or to get a police complaint registered. These are "harassment bribes", as the government's economic advisor Kaushik Basu calls them in a recent paper. Basu says that the best way to deal with this is to make the giver of such harassment bribes immune from prosecution. This will encourage them to complain against bribeseekers, who'll think twice before asking for bribes again. It's a small idea, but one which can have a bigger effect on our lives than any Lok Pal.

(Basu's paper is at the Finance Ministry website:








The Silent Duo

The decision to constitute a panel comprising some ministers and activists to draft the Lokpal Bill triggered an animated debate with opinion divided on whether non-elected members of Parliament/state assemblies can be directly brought to the arena of legislation. Finally, Anna Hazare himself stepped in to settle the issue by acknowledging the supremacy of Parliament and its final say on matters of legislation. Hazare's elaboration, incidentally, has come a day after former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee asked, in a signed article in ET, what constitutional recourse the drafting panel will have if Parliament resents the panel's bid to bypass it and then rejects the draft Bill itself. Much to the surprise of many, none of these public exchanges on the core principle of the parliamentary set-up seemed to have inspired the presiding officers of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha — Meira Kumar and Mohammad Hamid Ansari — to let the nation know what they think on these unprecedented developments on their own turf. The 'Constitutional custodians' of the two Houses chose to keep mum during the entire eventful week!

Flying Classes

With the crucial Uttar Pradesh assembly elections just a year away, the BJP is determined to ensure it will not be further reduced from even the present caricature that its state unit is now in the land of Ayodhya. Therefore, the party is looking for ways to woo back the Brahmin votebank from the BSP and the Congress. The party is hoping that its veteran Brahmin leader Kalraj Mishra will somehow acquire a Vajpayeelike charisma before the polls. But the past attempt to hoist Mishra by undercutting the party's Thakur-figure, Rajnath Singh, had proved a nonstarter. This time, the bid is to massage the latter's ego to get the way cleared for Mishra. During the past one month, party president Nitin Gadkari has been flying along with Singh on a special aircraft to address party meetings in places ranging from Raipur to Meerut to Varanasi. Hope this flying diplomacy will work before Mishra gets around to starting his own flying classes.

Hi, Speech-Writer!

Many Congress leaders are now trying to find out who wrote that campaign speech for Rahul Gandhi that helped V S Achuthanandan gift India's celebrated cooperative milk-production society Amul its latest brand ambassador. The Congress leaders' curiosity is not only driven by the poor understanding of the speechwriter about how tricky it can be to play on the 'old age factor' while crossing the Kerala-Tamil Nadu political border. It is also because they feel the anonymous speech-writer also showed a lack of understanding of two sensitive political episodes that taught Rahul's father Rajiv Gandhi never to be rude with seasoned and elder politicians. Who doesn't remember how the then-West Bengal CM Jyoti Basu hit a misguided Rajiv Gandhi googly right into the roaring national gallery! Who will forget how Rajiv Gandhi's public snub of the hapless T Anjaiah was masterfully used by N T Rama Rao to propel a TDP run on the AP Congress fort. Obviously, Rahul's speech-writer suffers from a poor memory and a poorer understanding of sniping politics.

Bengali Mirch

Given the spicy chemistry between the West Bengal CPM brass and Prakash Karat, it is no surprise the cheeky Bengali comrades have specially invited the "expelled" leader Somnath Chatteree to campaign for them. Small mercy they didn't invite Karat's vocal critic to inaugurate the Left campaign itself! Hopefully, they will 'act' as good comrades when Karat reaches Bengal for his campaign tour from Tuesday. His recent Kerala outing has not been very electrifying since most of the Malayali comrades were going gaga only about V S Achuthanandan. But then, CPM bosses in Alimudin Street have also extended a special invitation to Achuthanandan to campaign in Bengal, which the Kerala CM has readily accepted. Incidentally, it was Polit Bureau members from Bengal, along with Sitaram Yechury, who led the demand from within the leadership to reverse the unpopular decision of the Kerala party, taken in Karat's presence, to deny Achuthanandan the party ticket. By the way, what is the common sentiment that drives the "expelled" Somnath and "demoted" (from PB) Achuthanandan? A sense of being wronged. By whom? Ask the Bengali comrades.








Recently, the independence of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and its effectiveness attracted legitimate media scrutiny. Is AERB empowered to act?

The central government set up AERB in November 1983 and empowered it to enforce sections 16, 17 and 23 of the Atomic Energy Act, 1962. These cover control of radioactive substances, administration of the Factories Act, 1948 in the installations of the department of atomic energy (DAE) and enforcement of special provisions of safety. AERB enforces safety-related rules under the Atomic Energy Act.

There is a general perception that AERB is subservient to the department of atomic energy. A review of AERB's functioning does not support this view. Is AERB acting?

From AERB's annual reports, I counted over 50 regulatory actions such as reducing power levels of nuclear power reactors and shutting them down for specified periods to carry out appropriate tests and evaluations, among others which AERB imposed on DAE units.

Nuclear Power Corporation (NPCIL) may have felt that at times AERB has been a little too harsh. NPCIL

implemented AERB directives without preferring appeals, even when it involved considerable expenditure.
During 1988 and 1989, AERB restricted the power levels of units 1 &2 of the Madras Atomic Power Station one after the other following failure of their inlet manifolds. It permitted NPCIL to restore power levels in 2003 and 2006, only after substantial upgradations and design changes. Unit 1 of the Narora Atomic Power Station suffered a serious fire incident on March 31, 1993. AERB decided against the start-up of unit 2 of the Narora Atomic Power Station, pending complete investigation of the fire incident and implementation of the remedial measures recommended by two specialist committees set up by NPCIL and AERB,

The board ordered sequential shut down of each unit of the pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) stations for inspection of its turbine, generator and associated components to assess its state of health and fitness for continued operation and to modify the turbine roots. NPCIL complied with the directive.

In 1994, subsequent to the failure of the inner containment dome of unit 1 of the Kaiga Atomic Power Project, AERB suspended the civil construction activities related to the inner containment domes of Kagia unit 2, and units 3 and 4 of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project. AERB lifted the hold only after satisfactory resolution of related safety matters.

In 2004, AERB prescribed 'formal and elaborate retraining and relicensing of all the frontline operating staff and the station management personnel' following a safety-related incident at the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station.

In 2007, the AERB withdrew the construction licence of units 5 and 6 of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project when it found poor industrial safety status. It lifted the hold only after NPCIL ensured enhanced safety arrangements. As directed by AERB, specialists re-evaluated the seismic safety of units 1 and 2 of the Tarapur Atomic Power Station which was designed as per the standards prevailing in 1969. NPCIL remedied the shortfalls by following international practices. NPCIL installed seismic sensors at all plants as stipulated by the AERB.

AERB imposed restrictions on many hospitals and other installations. AERB took action against the installations of the Oil & Natural Gas Commission, when it found lapses. The list of AERB actions is indicative and not exhaustive. AERB enjoys functional autonomy; it takes its own decisions on merit. I was a witness to or participated in AERB activities closely since 1984. I do not recall a single instance in which DAE or others influenced AERB.

The five-member board has more members from outside the AEC family, it reports directly to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and not to an individual. AEC has the status of the government of India.
AERB has many specialists from outside the DAE in its committees. However, a robust regulatory system cannot rely on good intentions alone. AERB must be made a statutory organisation.

Recently, the Prime Minister stated that AERB's legal status will be enhanced. Some critics feel that ARRB "merely serves as a lapdog of the Department of Atomic Energy". Though the statement makes good copy, many regulatory actions of AERB from 1983 do not support the criticism. They show that a lapdog may just bark, but AERB actually bites.

I hope that AERB will continue to function effectively as it always did regardless of the perceived infirmities of its legal status.

(The author is a former secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, government of India)







The problem of positing an afterlife as most religions do in the form of rebirth, eternal life or just becoming one with the One, is that it has to assume a prior-life without which there can obviously be no afterlife. Which would also mean that before life originated on life-friendly worlds, things like heaven, hell and all the different types of purgatories in between didn't exist. How can something divinely ordained be of so recent an origin? However, if we invert the situation, the problem can be resolved to a large degree. Why can it not be the case that whatever the nature of postmortem existence, it has always been there (as priorlife) and from time to time manifests itself, or a portion thereof, as physical life in vessels made of three-dimensional matter existing over a period of time? The physicist David Bohm, for example, believed that the universe was a holographic projection which had no objective reality and that despite its apparent solidity the universe was at heart a phantasm, a gigantic and splendidly detailed projection. Meaning, just like shadows of three-dimensional objects require a two-dimensional shadow-friendly wall to be projected on, shadows of higher dimensional lives require three-dimensional lifefriendly worlds to be manifested on. In such a model, death can be seen as a shadow running out of wall space to be projected on. It's not the end of the shadow because the projection continues; it merely requires some other shadowfriendly surface to appear on again.






It's a challenge that all good managers face: How do you strike the right balance between encouraging autonomy among your employees and mitigating the risk that they'll make bad decisions? This paper investigates the relationship between monitoring, decision making, and learning among lower-level employees. We exploit a fieldresearch setting in which business units vary in the "tightness" with which they monitor employee decisions. We find that tighter monitoring gives rise to implicit incentives in the form of sharp increases in employee termination linked to "excessive" use of decision rights. Consistent with these implicit incentives, we find that employees in tightly monitored business units are less likely than their loosely monitored counterparts to (1) use decision rights and (2) adjust for local information, including historical performance data, in their decisions. These decision-making patterns are associated with large and systematic differences in learning rates across business units. Learning is concentrated in business units with "loose monitoring" and entirely absent in those with "tight monitoring." The results are consistent with an experimentation hypothesis in which tight monitoring of decisions leads to more control but less learning.







Reverting to fiscal consolidation is important not only to create growth-promoting investments, but also to complement the reforms already underway.

The four years from 2004-05 were a remarkably good period for the finances of State Governments. The average combined fiscal deficit of States fell to 2.2 per cent of GDP, from their preceding four years' level of 4.2 per cent. An average revenue deficit of 2.5 per cent during 2000-01 to 2003-04 turned into a surplus of 0.1 per cent for the subsequent four years. The outstanding debt-GDP ratio, which had steadily risen from 22.5 per cent in 1990-91 to 32.8 per cent in 2003-04, also declined to 26.6 per cent by 2007-08. All this was, of course, facilitated by high economic growth, which proved to be the proverbial tide that lifted all boats.

The last couple of years have, however, seen a setback to the fiscal turnaround process, with the general growth slowdown impacting the States' own revenues and share in Central taxes. This, alongside the implementation of new Pay Commission scales for employees, has led to the re-emergence of revenue deficits and the overall fiscal deficit climbing beyond 3 per cent. The Reserve Bank of India's recent State Finances: A Study of Budgets shows that the number of States with revenue deficits increased from just four in 2007-08 to six in 2008-09 and 11 in 2009-10. Even for 2010-11, nine States are budgeted to have revenue deficits; the figure may well go up in the revised estimates The picture is worse in States such as West Bengal, where interest payments, salaries and pension payments consume over two-thirds of revenue receipts, as against roughly a third in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra or less than a fifth in Chhattisgarh. Whichever alliance comes to power in West Bengal — the last State to have enacted a fiscal responsibility law in July 2010 — will have its task cut out.

Reverting to the path of fiscal consolidation is important not only to create headroom for more purposive, growth-promoting investments, but also to complement the reforms already underway at the State-level. Take the Gujarat Government's move to have separate agricultural power feeders that provide guaranteed eight-hour supply to run farm pump-sets and single-phase electricity for the rest of the day. Or, Ms Mayawati's administration in Uttar Pradesh, which has chosen its own concessionaire to build a 165-km, six-lane expressway between Greater Noida and Agra, without involving the National Highways Authority of India. One could also mention Chhattisgarh (which has a well-functioning paddy procurement and public distribution system that was non-existent till recently) and Madhya Pradesh (which has demonstrated the viability of depositing procurement monies directly into farmers' bank accounts). Such initiatives are worthy of emulation even by the Centre, which should set its own standards for the States to undertake further reforms and maintain fiscal discipline.








A one-metre rise in sea level due to climate change could damage infrastructure and land in India worth Rs 340 lakh crore

The continuing nightmare in Japan is only a grim reminder of the danger that lurks in coastal regions of the world –be it tsunamis, super-cyclones, storm surges and erosion.

What, however, is left out in the list of catastrophes is the creeping rise in sea level.

The slow, long-term risk of sea level rise associated with climate change is typically outside the radar of policy-makers.

But this is a hazard that is almost sure to occur, given the scientific certainty of global temperatures rising by two to three degrees centigrade in this century. If the world is unlikely to respond to the question of lives at risk, an awareness of the damage in money terms may spur some action.


According to rough estimates, a one-metre rise in sea level as a result of climate change will put at risk Rs 20 lakh crore - Rs 340 lakh crore along the coast of India.

These are extrapolations from a detailed study conducted for Tamil Nadu. The study makes its estimates on the basis of a back-of-the-envelope calculation that considers GDP, coastal investment, and the length of the coastline for each coastal State.

The Tamil Nadu study was conducted by the Centre for Development Finance, a research group in the Institute for Financial Management and Research, together with IIT-Madras. It estimates that the replacement cost of major infrastructure such as ports, highways and power plants, at risk from a one-meter sea level rise, is between Rs 47,418 crore and Rs 53,554 crore (in 2010 terms).

The present value of wetlands, estimated as forgone ecosystem services through 2050, is between Rs 3,583 crore and Rs 14,608 crore. By far the largest impact will be on land at risk, whose market value is estimated to be between Rs 3,17,661 crore and Rs 61,15,471 crore.

These numbers are significant given that the state's annual Gross Domestic Product is about Rs 2,75,000 crore.

While a one-metre rise in mean sea level would permanently inundate about 1,100 sq. km. of Tamil Nadu, the area at risk turns out to be about six times as much as a result of associated threats from intense storms and high storm surges. Coastal erosion, increased flooding and salt-water intrusion will also accompany sea level rise and these were not estimated in the report. Further, since private investments such as resorts, and shrimp farms were not included, the report provides only a conservative estimate.


Two thirds of the top 20 wealthy cities, based on the recent Wealth Report by Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank, lie on the coast. New York, London and Shanghai head the list with Mumbai being the only city from South Asia. Attracting millions of dollars in investments, these cities have become centres for wealth creation and entrepreneurship.

Even though civilisations have settled and flourished along the banks of major deltas and along the ocean for millennia, today's global cities face an imminent risk, the impact of which is being underestimated by many investors, financiers and governments.

The Indian government recently proposed major investments along the country's 6,100 km. coastline. Private investment, such as in the proposed Navi Mumbai airport, hurtles forward heedless of the looming risks.

The risk of sea level rise as a result of climate change is often perceived as a danger somewhere out there in the future, a low probability event with an unknown level of impact.

The fact is that the world is warming and sea levels will rise even if we are fortuitously able to restrict warming to 2 or 3 degree Celsius.

Geological data indicate that in the Plio-Pleistocene, when the world was warmer by 2 to 3 degrees, sea levels were about 30 to 35 metres higher than they are today. How rapidly sea levels will rise this time around is anybody's guess, but all our coastal development planning needs to prepare for a few metres of rise and this includes coastal investments, infrastructure, communities and ecosystems.

Advance planning

The impact of sea level rise on lives and livelihoods will be immense.

Given the fact that we have advance notice of its effects, contrary to the hazards from a tsunami or an earthquake, we can prepare for it.

We need a comprehensive assessment of coastal vulnerability and will then have to integrate climate change considerations into coastal planning and development. People may be forced to move out of the most vulnerable areas and this will have to be done well in advance of intense storms and high surges.

Since wetlands are known to provide significant protection from storms, we will need to find ways to protect them, establish coastal defences for communities, and reengineer structures that cannot be moved.

We will need to avoid situations of moral hazard, so that government does not bail out new investors and speculators along the coast. Once areas of high risk are delineated, no public funds in the form of insurance, subsidies, or tax holidays should be provided to investors in these parts of the coast.


Investors and financiers will need to identify zones of vulnerability and delineate areas of high financial risk. Such information, made available to all stakeholders, must also be part of their decision-making process on location of infrastructure, the types of investment made, the design of the structures and their insurance. We will need to steer clear of speculative investment along the coast in areas that are especially at risk from sea level rise and accompanying coastal changes.

With three mega-cities along our coast and massive investments being proposed all along it, we have an especially urgent task at hand.

Instead, we still have coastal officials who do not believe in climate change, investors who are building haphazardly with little enforcement of the meagre coastal regulation laws, and communities that are left to fend for themselves.

It is important that our societies pay heed to this issue, if not for own sake, at least for the lives of our children and grandchildren.

(Ms S. Byravan is with the Centre for Development Finance, IFMR, and Mr S.C. Rajan is with IITMadras)







A recent RTI query in Rajasthan revealed a shocking news — the uterus of 226 women were removed in three hospitals of the State. The hospitals earned about Rs 14,000 for every case, it was alleged. That there was method in the madness was evident in the numbers — out of the 385 women who visited these hospitals between March to September last year, the uterus of 226 was removed!

These hospitals should have alerted the authorities concerned, if such a high percentage of women patients required uterus removal.

Lure of money?

All the three hospitals are located in Bandikui town in Dausa district, the erstwhile Lok Sabha constituency of late Congress leader Rajesh Pilot, who died in a road accident.

There are allegations that these operations were 'unnecessary and designed for monetary benefits'.

The question is: Was it lack of diagnostic skills or simple lure of money? Only a probe into the incident can shed some light.

This is the same State where 17 pregnant women died recently after being injected with contaminated glucose.

But, even as experts blame the backwardness of the area and the vulnerability of rural women, women in cities are not better off either.

Lack of diagnostic skill

Stories abound about women, some still in their reproductive prime, being advised to remove their uterus.

But the danger appears more for those past their prime and nearing menopause (even better if they have medical insurance) as doctors then do not hesitate to suggest removal of ovaries as well to 'avoid any problem later'. And the tab? Well, anything between Rs 30,000 and Rs 90,000.

Though not wishing to generalise, in the few cases that I have come across, much of such medical 'advice' has come from doctors in private nursing homes.

"It's basically a lack of diagnostic skills. Nobody wants to take a chance. So they just go for rooting out the problem itself," says a senior doctor.

Take the case of a friend who was suffering from a problem. She consulted a private doctor in Kolkata.

A battery of tests and a bill running up to thousands of rupees later, she was advised hysterectomy. She went in for a second opinion at Delhi. The same story and a bigger hole in her bank account.

After much cajoling, she agreed to visit the government-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences, but only for "diagnosis", she said squeamishly.

Armed with her reports, she entered the gynae ward. There was a long queue.

When her turn came, the doctor on duty dumped all her reports, ordered fresh tests in the hospital for a fairly paltry amount.

A week later, she was put on a course of broad spectrum antibiotics.

This was 10 years ago. Her uterus is still intact.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




It is a sorry state of affairs that mobile and landline subscribers across India must live with unsolicited messages and phone calls offering everything from unbelievable airline travel packages starting at Rs 500, selling a generator to beat the summer heat or purveying a 3BHK sea-view apartment in South Mumbai or a similarly swank residence in Gurgaon/Noida. Desperate real estate agents blitz cellphone users all week, and even on weekends, and then of course there are magic cures for everything from hairfall to a swelling waistline! With the holiday season looming, get ready for a blitz of "attractive" four-nights-five-days options in Bangkok, Singapore, or wherever... And don't forget annoying credit card offers with holiday vouchers or, post mobile number portability, an incredulous voice asking why on earth you wouldn't want to change your service provider! It almost seems these pesky calls and SMSes are here to stay forever, and no one can do anything. More than a quarter of the year has passed since the January 1, 2011 deadline by which Trai, India's telecom regulator, had promised to end — or rein in — this menace. The pesky calls/SMSes are still with us, with Trai having pushed back the deadline twice. The January 1 deadline was first deferred till March 31; and now that this date too is long past, there is no clarity on what the deadline is — if there is one. The Trai chairman had pledged at one point that action would be taken in 15 days, which too has passed or will soon pass. The hurdle appears to be putting in place infrastructure allowing effective filtering of unwanted calls and text messages. The department of telecom has to allocate a special code number for telemarketers; for this it has to make the necessary changes, such as upgrading systems in all fixed line exchanges across the country. It appears this might take a long time, if it happens at all! There is a genuine security issue — as monitoring of such calls will be difficult, particularly if local ones, unlike an STD call where one can see at least the place from where it is originating as every city has its own code. There is scope for mischief-mongers to intrude into the system and misuse it, therefore ways to deter such activity must be in place. The DoT has already allocated a number code for mobile telemarketers; it is only in the case of landlines that the matter is stuck. Trai has now put the ball in the DoT's court, saying it was yet to be allocated a special series of landline numbers through which telemarketers can operate. The DoT, however, says it is up to Trai to find a solution as it has been issuing deadlines on the ending of pesky calls. It now transpires that Trai has been announcing these deadlines without even discussing the matter with the DoT, which has a major role to play as it has to put in place the physical changes in the system by which such calls can be monitored and stopped. There are also some errant telecom companies which offer to sell cheap bulk SMSes to telemarketers, this being a good source of revenue. The DoT has warned them to stop this, but some big players are continuing this practice. It is learnt the DoT is in the process of forming a technical experts' committee to sort out the security angles involved regarding landlines, particularly regarding landlines, and it is expected to find a way out in two to three months. In the meantime, phone users in this country have to suffer such intrusive calls/messages even though the technology to block them is easily available worldwide.







Libya: Someone else's war, in someone else's country, and Col. Muammar el-Gaddafi a strange figure about whom not much is known in India. India has no real major strategic concerns in Libya other than of economic outreach. Here, an undoubtedly significant Indian presence has been built up in terms of investments in the oil, petrochemical, information technology, construction and road building sectors, along with an attendant diaspora of an Indian workforce. It comprises both skilled professionals as well as unskilled labour. Given this background, how significant is the unrest in Libya in a purely India-centric perspective? Are there any smoke signals emanating that India would be advised to take note of? On March 19, 2011, "breaking news" about North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (Nato) preemptive attack on Libya in Operation Odyssey Dawn, flashed recall of Operation Deliberate Force/Joint Endeavour (Bosnia/Kosovo 1992-1999), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan 2001) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq 2003). The air campaign was of some topical interest because jet fighters, namely the French Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon — both contestants in the multi-billion dollar Indian acquisition programme for 126 fighter aircrafts, were making their operational debuts, though in relatively benign combat environments. United Nations Resolution 1973 had excluded entry of "foreign occupation forces" into any part of Libyan territory, mandating an exclusively air and naval presence to protect the civil population against Col. Gaddafi's forces. Thus, shaping Odyssey Dawn on the pattern of Bosnia and Kosovo, rather than Iraq or Afghanistan. With casualties inevitable even in an asymmetric ground war, Nato has been relieved from dirtying Western "boots on the ground" on what is really an internal security mission. But granted that Bosnia/Kosovo 1992 and Libya 2011 are in completely different worlds, it would nevertheless be well to recollect that even the full might of Nato airpower delivered on the recalcitrant protagonists in Bosnia/Kosovo failed to prevent horrific sectarian massacres and ethnic cleansing of civilians at Racak, Srebenica, Banja Luka and many other places. Meanwhile, as is inevitable in any air war, collateral civilian casualties and damage to civil infrastructure in Libya are mounting. There are reports that within Nato, Britain and France are dissatisfied with the pace and conduct of the campaign and wish to intensify the tempo. However, the future course of events in Libya is still unfolding, albeit spasmodically, and the endgame is not visible. The situation is violent, messy and unpredictable. But India has few options. It can only live with it and ride out the storm while attempting to protect and preserve its substantial economic stake in Libya. Undoubtedly, there is anxiety regarding the future. The big question that arises is whether these workers, relatively well paid by Indian standards, will ever be able to return and resume their earlier vocations in a Libya which might have changed beyond recognition, and not necessarily for the better? So what are the driving forces behind the surges for democracy in West Asia? Earlier regimes in the region might well have been despotic and corrupt, but their harsh governance had also kept radicalised religious influences in check. The frenzied churning now in progress appears to create space for hardline radical Islamist forces like the Muslim Brotherhood to emerge, not only in Egypt but in other Arab countries as well. The conflict in the Arab world is acquiring an added dimension in the Gulf region as well. Here a new intra-Islamic Shia-Sunni Great Game between Saudi Arabia and Iran is developing concurrently. It is being played out in Bahrain. In Bahrain, the majority Shia population is in confrontation with its ruling minority Sunni Khalifa government. The government has requested military assistance from Saudi Arabia to control civil disturbances against Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Sunni-majority Pakistan has also received a similar request for two divisions of the Pakistan Army to garrison Bahrain and to provide a security shield to the Saudi monarchy. While Pakistan's Fauji Foundation — run by former officers of Pakistani armed forces — is recruiting exclusively Sunni ex-servicemen for lucrative service in the Bahrain National Guard, Saudi Arabia is under strong internal pressures from two quarters. The people's movements are demanding greater democracy and religious extremists are targeting the autocratic royal family of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud for its perceived unIslamic lifestyle. There is disaffection too in the major oil-rich eastern regions of Saudi Arabia contiguous with Bahrain that are largely populated by Shia Muslims. The Saudi-Bahraini invitation to Pakistan for enhanced military deployment thus creates a significant external power factor in the Gulf region. Surely, it is a matter of concern for India. The possibility of hardline radical organisations taking over the democracy movement in West Asia is another imponderable that is adding to the uncertainty in the region. Security Council Resolution 1973 on Libya has once again brought out that though the Cold War may officially be over, its ashes are not yet cold. Also, the traditional adversarial attitudes amongst the permanent members remain deeply ingrained. Resolutions of the UN Security Council continue to be shaped by internal power plays, the dichotomy clearly reflected in the separation between the "West and the rest" in the voting pattern on the Libya resolution. Col. Gaddafi still remains a hate figure in the West. For India, the most important lessons from Libya go beyond Libya itself to Odyssey Dawn and America's doctrine of "unilateral humanitarian intervention" (UHI) on which it is based. UHI is being propagated consistently and aggressively by the United States and applied selectively to situations of choice where the national interest of the US is involved. It has the potential to threaten India's own sovereignty in some yet indeterminate future and may even turn existential. Such contingencies, howsoever unthinkable and even farfetched at present, must be considered seriously and planned for. China has developed a robust "Anti-Access/Area Denial" (A2/AD) strategy on similar premises, based on airpower, submarines and "fleet buster" ballistic missiles like DF-21 to deter the possibility of UHI built up around Taiwan or other "issues of opportunity". India, too, must fashion similar doctrines of deterrence. In a hard neighbourhood, there are no soft options. * Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament







Last week, US President Barack Obama offered a spirited defence of his party's values — in effect, of the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society. Immediately thereafter, as always happens when Democrats take a stand, the civility police came out in force. The President, we were told, was being too partisan; he needs to treat his opponents with respect; he should have lunch with them and work out a consensus. That's a bad idea. Equally important, it's an undemocratic idea. Let's review the story so far. Two weeks ago, House Republicans released their big budget proposal, selling it to credulous pundits as a statement of necessity, not ideology — a document telling America What Must Be Done. But it was, in fact, a deeply partisan document, which you might have guessed from the opening sentence: "Where the President has failed, House Republicans will lead". It hyped the danger of deficits, yet even on its own (not at all credible) accounting, spending cuts were used mainly to pay for tax cuts rather than deficit reduction. The transparent and obvious goal was to use deficit fears to impose a vision of small government and low taxes, especially on the wealthy. So the House budget proposal revealed a yawning gap between the two parties' priorities. And it revealed a deep difference in views about how the world works. When the proposal was released, it was praised as a "wonk-approved" plan that had been run by the experts. But the "experts" in question, it turned out, were at the Heritage Foundation, and few people outside the hard Right found their conclusions credible. In the words of the consulting firm Macroeconomic Advisors — which makes its living telling businesses what they need to know, not telling politicians what they want to hear — the Heritage analysis was "both flawed and contrived". Basically, Heritage went all in on the much-refuted claim that cutting taxes on the wealthy produces miraculous economic results, including a surge in revenue that actually reduces the deficit. By the way, Heritage is always like this. Whenever there's something the Grand Old Party (GOP) doesn't like — say, environmental protection — Heritage can be counted on to produce a report, based on no economic model anyone else recognises, claiming that this policy would cause huge job losses. Correspondingly, whenever there's something Republicans want, like tax cuts for the wealthy or for corporations, Heritage can be counted on to claim that this policy would yield immense economic benefits. The point is that the two parties don't just live in different moral universes, they also live in different intellectual universes, with Republicans in particular having a stable of supposed experts who reliably endorse whatever they propose. So when pundits call on the parties to sit down together and talk, the obvious question is, what are they supposed to talk about? Where's the common ground? Eventually, of course, America must choose between these differing visions. And we have a way of doing that. It's called democracy. Now, Republicans claim that last year's midterms gave them a mandate for the vision embodied in their budget. But last year the GOP ran against what it called the "massive Medicare cuts" contained in the health reform law. How, then, can the election have provided a mandate for a plan that not only would preserve all of those cuts, but would go on, over time, to dismantle Medicare completely? For what it's worth, polls suggest that the public's priorities are nothing like those embodied in the Republican budget. Large majorities support higher, not lower, taxes on the wealthy. Large majorities — including a majority of Republicans — also oppose major changes to Medicare. Of course, the poll that matters is the one on Election Day. But that's all the more reason to make the 2012 election a clear choice between visions. Which brings me to those calls for a bipartisan solution. Sorry to be cynical, but right now "bipartisan" is usually code for assembling some Conservative Democrats and ultraconservative Republicans — all of them with close ties to the wealthy, and many who are wealthy themselves — and having them proclaim that low taxes on high incomes and drastic cuts in social insurance are the only possible solution. This would be a corrupt, undemocratic way to make decisions about the shape of our society even if those involved really were wise men with a deep grasp of the issues. So let's not be civil. Instead, let's have a frank discussion of our differences. In particular, if Democrats believe that Republicans are talking cruel nonsense, they should say so — and take their case to the voters.






It seems a long time since a vegetable seller in an obscure town in Tunisia performed an act of self-immolation as a protest against a tyrannical regime leading to the dethronement of his country's long-time ruler Zine Abidine Ben Ali. The Jasmine Revolution, as it came to be called, lit the spark that fired Egyptians to their own revolution to topple a three-decade-long ruler, President Hosni Mubarak. The Arab Spring, as the world called it, met a roadblock in Muammar el-Gaddafi's Libya which has, for the present, led to a military stalemate between the regime and the rebel forces, poorly armed but beneficiaries of UN-authorised North Atlantic Treaty Organistaion (Nato) bombing runs. The fire shows no sign of abating, having singed to varying degrees Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. Even the hermetically sealed kingdom of Saudi Arabia felt some tremors in its largely Shia-populated eastern region with the strange sight of conservatively dressed women undertaking a candlelight procession to seek the release of their detained relatives. A mixture of force and some sops by rulers precariously hanging on to power has failed to douse the flames. A combination of factors led to the unique spectacle we are witnessing in north Africa and West Asia. A frustrated young population, worldly wise in the ways of the technological revolution, was aware of life and liberty in many parts of the world. And as winds of the Arab Spring swept one country, they were chronicled by the new herald of pan-Arabism, the Al Jazeera television channel, keeping the Arab populace fully informed. Other than kingdoms with hereditary rulers, the typical format in the Arab world has been an Army-supported autocracy with varying degrees of "un-freedom". Often the autocrat did not trust the Army and formed special armed forces superiorly equipped and commanded by his sons or kin. Such arrangements lasted for some three decades, often propped up by the continuing occupation of Palestinian land by Israel, supported by the United States. Such a scheme of things could not last for ever, yet, like with the fall of the Soviet Union, no one quite anticipated that it would start in December 2010 and spread so quickly far and wide. The triumphs of the Arab Spring are only the beginning of a long and tortuous road ahead. Future events will be determined as much by the characteristics of each country and the staying power of rulers as by the attitudes of the United States and other major Western powers and, to an extent, the regional heavyweights such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. A dramatic example was the muted American response to the Bahrain unrest because the base of the US Fifth Fleet is in the tiny kingdom and the action of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in sending troops and policemen to save the besieged Sunni king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, ruling an overwhelmingly Shia country. In Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh has been fighting vigorously to save his presidency by rallying tribes sympathetic to him after initially invoking his help to the US in its anti-terrorism campaign. Yet, after some hesitation, America came to the conclusion that his time was up, as did the Gulf Cooperation Council (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait). Initially, Syria seemed an unlikely candidate, but could not escape the contagion of freedom which seems to be spreading because of the harshness of the security forces trained to use utmost force, allegedly including torture, largely nullifying recent concessions such as citizenship for the Kurdish minority and a largely cosmetic new Cabinet. Belatedly realising his predicament, President Bashar Assad has now promised to lift the 48-year-old emergency. Of immediate interest is the situation in Libya, with the proclaimed intention of the US, France and Britain to get rid of Col. Gaddafi, America desperately trying to underplay its own role, preoccupied as it is with two other wars. There is division in Nato ranks, with some eager to see more intensive bombing and even arming the rebels, who are poorly equipped and trained, compared with regime forces. Regime change, of course, is outside the mandate of the UN Security Council resolution seeking protection of innocent civilians. The outcome and the length of the Nato bombing runs are therefore unclear. Iran is closely watching the situation, encouraging, if not arming, the Shia rebels. But the Iranian dilemma is that it has suppressed its own spring and although it is not the only country using double standards in supporting or opposing particular regimes, Tehran's moral authority is compromised. Whatever the outcome in Libya and elsewhere, the region cannot revert to the pre-Tunisian age. Egypt is the heart of the Arab world and although it had lost its traditional status in recent decades, hobbled by the $1.5 billion annual US aid that it gets and becoming the co-jailor of Palestinians together with Israel, its new democratic urgings are causing great waves. Egypt has its own domestic compulsions even as its newly-empowered civil society is to establish a new relationship with the Army and the people go through the hoops of a new set of elections for a Legislative Assembly and the presidency. Recently, the democratic forces — for want of a better definition — won a round by demanding the arrest and trial of former President Mubarak and his two sons. It will not be easy to tame a privileged and elite Army, used to economic benefits all military rulers accumulate, in a new, more democratic setting. Despite the hurdles that lie ahead, this is a moment to relish for the people of West Asia and north Africa. The Arab Spring brings hope and the prospect of the young living a better, freer life in the future. But the so-called bad guys will not disappear in a hurry, nor will the power play and projections of major outside countries diminish. The region has much of the world's oil and the US and the West will continue to protect Israel to the detriment of the Palestinians and the Arab world.







Soul is a unique pranic frequency. In unmanifested form it exists as part of Para Brahma just as salt exists in ocean. Only when it desires a certain experience or a set of experiences does it choose to go through the cycle of karmas, birth and death. The basic reason or the root cause of the soul separating from the source is ego that recognises one's existence as an individual. The ancients called it "asmita", or "I". This was the first step we took when we separated ourselves from the Divine Consciousness, which is Sukshma-iti-Sukshma, subtlest of the subtle, the unmanifested. Ego led the soul to realise that it is an individual and so came into existence the jeevatma. The individual consciousness combined with chitta forms jeevatma. Chitta or chetna is all pervading and resides in each one of us as buddhi. Buddhi is unlimited mind. It has the potential to become once again unlimited from the limited but it remains shadowed by manas the sheath, which blurs its vision, which provides logic to the mind and fetters it with the vrittis. Together, buddhi and manas form the chitta. The jeevatma, chitta and vrittis unite with panchmahabhutas (five elements) to take form of a human being. As the soul separates itself from the source, the distance is directly proportional to the evolution of the soul. For example, a droplet of water when it leaves the clouds, is pure, but in its journey towards the Bhuloka, it gathers dust. Further it travels, more contaminated it gets, and finally when it touches the ground it becomes dirty. This phenomenon is similar to the journey of the soul. Now to go back it needs to do tapas, i.e. heat itself and get rid of the impurities. Only then would it covert into vapour and get rid of the bandhan of form, shape and ego. The three states of chitta are conscious, unconscious and subconscious. They exist because of desires, the reason the soul chose to take the journey called life. These desires form a circular pattern like ripples in water and go on expanding and contracting, keeping the soul entangled in their movement. Till the time there are vrittis, the soul is tied up with the objects of the senses. It is through the senses that the vrittis operate and keep the chitta occupied with the desire of one object or the other. They operate at every level; the conscious, unconscious and subconscious. Therefore, complete consciousness is not achieved. It is only when the disturbances (vrittis) become still that complete consciousness is achieved and the soul realises its true self. This is the state of dhyan, achieved by the practices of yog. That is why yog is defined by sage Patanjali as "chitta vritti nirodh": to stop the activities of the chitta, to still the thoughts emerging from desires so that the vision becomes clear. Let us understand how, maya operates on the human mind through the senses and keeps the soul entangled in the web of karmas. Maya is said to be the most potent tool of Lord Vishnu, the energy responsible for preservation. The sole purpose is to keep the creation going, keep the soul indulging in karmas. A human being is all the time — when awake (conscious), sleeping (subconscious) or unconscious — running after one object, or the other, as the desires of the soul are fulfilled only through the five senses. Ayurved says that at any given point of time, one of our senses is always at work. That is to say, even if we think we are sitting and enjoying the pleasure of two or three senses, like watching TV, eating food, holding hands with our loved ones, we can experience only one of these pleasures. If you're watching something, in that instance you can't experience touch; and when you're relishing the taste of a particular food you're not watching. But the reason you're feeling all of these together is because the senses alternate or juggle so fast that you don't realise the time gap between these experiences. A human being is running after the pleasure of the senses all the time. It is evident as even when you are sleeping your eyeballs are not still. Not many of us know that the most active muscles in the body are not the heart but the eye muscles. Eyes become still when complete consciousness is achieved, when the mind is still and the senses are not at play. This is the state of pratyahar, a state not possible without the practices of yog. — Yogi Ashwini is an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation. He has recently written a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting. Contact him at






The remarkable shift in the locus of global economic dynamism over the last two decades has paralysed multilateral rule-making on a range of economic issues. The stalemate in the World Trade Organisation and the climate change negotiations, as well as the lacklustre showing of the Group of Twenty (G20), are symptomatic of the tussle between the Group of Seven (G7) economies and the emerging economies over the price the latter group must pay to sit at the high table. Despite the frenetic activity in Geneva, there is little possibility of a deal on the Doha Round over the summer. In the climate change negotiations, despite some progress in Cancun in December 2010, there are no signs of thaw on the main issue — the reluctance of many developed countries, especially the US, to deliver on the binding commitments they had taken under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The much-heralded G20 has been unable to rise to the expectations of a global economy experiencing severe turbulence. The early promise of concerted action on critical issues like global imbalances, exchange rates, fiscal and monetary policy coordination and commodity price volatility, remains to be realised. While the issues at the heart of the impasse are complex and involve many actors, the common denominator is the differences between the G7 countries and emerging economies like Brazil, China and India on their contributions to the outcomes. The stalemate can only be broken by a political rapprochement on "burden sharing" between the two sides. Regrettably, the present economic and political situation in these countries makes such a rapprochement difficult in the near term. The major issue impeding the conclusion of the Doha Round is the insistence of the US that emerging economies like Brazil, China and India provide deeper market access in all areas — agriculture, industrial goods and services. At the same time, there is little clarity on what the US can bring to the table. In the absence of the Trade Promotion Authority, the US administration has limited negotiating flexibility and continues to pitch its demands at levels which are clearly unrealisable. Despite his best intentions, US President Barack Obama, at odds with Congress on a range of issues, will find it difficult to push a Doha deal through Congress, which does not include major new concessions from emerging economies, especially China. There are no indications that the emerging economies are prepared to dig deep into their pockets to make the deal palatable to US Congress. The climate change negotiations display a similar divide. The position of the US that it will only agree to commitments which its Congress legislates and that these commitments will not be subject to international compliance procedures has brought down the bar considerably on what can be achieved. At the same time, the insistence of developed countries that the emerging economies accept binding commitments to reduce their GHG emissions alters the discourse fundamentally. A major element of the principle of equitable burden-sharing in the UNFCCC is the need for developed countries to reduce their emissions in order to provide carbon space that developing countries need for their development. The long-term cooperative action agreed to in Cancun commits developing countries to greater international scrutiny through "measurement, reporting and verification" of their mitigation actions as well as a process for international consultations and analysis (ICA). It thus goes a considerable distance in meeting the demand of developed countries that developing countries make verifiable commitments. But there is little indication of long-term commitments by developed countries to provide financial resources or facilitate technology transfers to enable developing countries to meet the obligations they are being asked to undertake. In both negotiations, emerging economies like India find themselves in a similar dilemma. Given their increasing role on the global stage, they have a strong stake in the success of multilaterally agreed outcomes. Yet the price they are being asked to pay could require them to compromise on their development imperatives. An example of this is the demand of the US in the Doha Round negotiations that emerging economies bring down tariffs in key industrial sectors to near zero levels. This poses a huge policy conundrum for India because of the large employment potential of these sectors. India expects to add around 60 million to its labour force in the next five years, and its manufacturing sector will have to play a major role in providing new employment opportunities. The National Manufacturing Policy under finalisation seeks to expand the contribution of manufacturing to gross domestic product (GDP) from the present level of 16 per cent to 25 per cent in 10 years. Among other things, this will require maintenance of minimum tariff protection in identified sectors. Similarly, constraints in availability of international funding and environmental technology will hamper India's ability to implement more ambitious policies to moderate the rise in its GHG emissions. India's energy deficit is a major constraint on its development and its most abundant energy endowment is high ash coal. This limits its policy flexibility in meeting its energy demands, especially in an international environment, which does not facilitate a shift to more environment friendly but expensive options. The recent joint intervention of the G7 to limit the yen's rise provides a counterpoint to the relative ineffectiveness of the G20 in addressing global monetary and financial challenges. The latest round of meetings of the G20 has highlighted the difficulty of arriving at actionable consensus on issues where there are divergent interests among members. Despite these difficulties, emerging economies have no real option but to persist with the multilateral process while strengthening their policy structures domestically to conform to putative global consensus on key global challenges. India's National Action Plan on Climate Change is a good example of such policy actions. At the end of the day, however, the logic of globalisation demands multilaterally agreed solutions. For this to happen, emerging economies will need to find the way forward on key issues in multilateral negotiations without compromising on their national development objectives. That is a tight rope to walk and demands greater diligence and transparency in domestic policy-making to identify areas of flexibility. At the same time, consultations in formats like the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) need to focus on how emerging economies can contribute to revitalising the multilateral process. * Ujal Singh Bhatia was India's ambassador to the World Trade Organisation, 2004-10










IT was a desperate attempt by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to shore up its image 24 hours before the first phase of the elections. Hence the invitation advanced to economist Ashok Mitra ~ Jyoti Basu's finance minister till 1987 ~Prabhat Patnaik and Jayati Ghosh, two economists from the Red bastion of Jawaharlal Nehru University to address a captive audience of fellow-travellers. But while Narendra Modi's critique in Jalpaiguri was fairly expected, the CPI-M couldn't exactly have anticipated the orthodox home-truths advanced by Mitra and the JNU economists, indeed a virtual indictment of  Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's policies. Far from serving as a morale-booster, the seminar turned out to be an embarrassment. The former finance minister questioned the rationale of the high-voltage industrialisation policy that was pursued in Singur and Nandigram. Nay more, he questioned the manner of governance that was involved, one that ran counter to Jyoti Basu's policy that "we will not run the state from within the four walls of Writers'." Of course, he spoke in favour of the Left's re-election, but overall it was a comprehensive criticism of the CPI-M's industrialisation agenda, post the famous victory of 2006. In fact, this was Dr Mitra's first foray in political discourse after decades and he made no secret of his opposition to corporate involvement in development. After the past five years, the state has little to flaunt in terms of such involvement, let alone development. Both Singur and Nandigram are deserted villages and it shan't be easy for the Bengal leaders to respond to the critique advanced by Mitra, Patnaik and Ms Ghosh. Indeed Patnaik's message was as blunt as it could be ~ "We lowered our ideological guard while dealing with big industrialists like the Tatas. We have the right to question the leaders' performance as the party belongs to the masses and not to a selected few." That right, ironically enough, was exercised by Mamata Banerjee. And Patnaik's statement of fact may well be at the core of the CPI-M's denouement.

It is another irony of the times that Modi's campaign in Jalpaiguri was geared more for the benefit of the Trinamul Congress than his own Bharatiya Janata Party, a non-entity in Bengal. The points raised in his criticism of the Left are well-taken, but he at least ought to reflect on his contention that "this election is not only for change, but also to punish the Left". Most importantly, the point that Gujarat, under his stewardship, witnessed the worst communal carnage since Partition. That truth can never be obliterated though he may not have been "punished" electorally. Holocaust and development are wholly different propositions.



HAVING, perhaps belatedly, opted to play a major role in tackling Somali piracy ~ both at sea and at the United Nations ~ India ought to have armed itself against a backlash. It has been swift in coming. The pirates have done the dirty on a ransom deal for the crew of the MV Asphalt Venture, releasing the vessel and eight crew members, but retaining in custody another seven Indian seafarers. They have made it clear that those seven will be used as bargaining chips for the 120-odd pirates held by India after the Navy and Coast Guard rounded them up for criminal activity off the Indian seaboard. The situation is fluid: at the time of writing negotiations were said to have broken off, an Indian warship was sailing to offer protection to the vessel against further trouble, but it remains unclear (unlikely, for practical reasons) whether the Navy will attempt a rescue bid. What is apparent is that the pirates have opted for emotional blackmail ~ hoping that the families of the seamen in their custody will create such a fuss that the government will back off and agree to a "swap". Those hopes would be fuelled by recent experience: Opposition leaders and a hype-happy electronic media have failed to realise that a challenge has been thrown to the Indian nation. Will it once again live up to its "soft state" reputation? Or, for a change, will there be a display of the fortitude and unity required for weathering this storm?

Happily, if reports from the ground are accurate, the way ahead has been shown by the eight "freed" mariners: they have refused to abandon their shipmates and will not weigh anchor until all the crew of the Asphalt Venture are re-united. It would be elevating if their stance inspired their mates and their families into resisting the pirates' machinations. A positive signal would go out if the major Opposition parties indicate their backing to the government. Last time around, Sushma Swaraj took the thinga line, now she must not seek to play to the gallery and dilute the stance she helped "force". This is not a case of just seven seamen: there are several other Indians among those who serve on the 80-plus hijacked vessels. Last week this newspaper lauded the India-powered action at the Security Council, it now calls for a show of the will behind the rhetoric.




THE Syrian President, Bashar Assad, is set to lift the Emergency after close to 50 years, on the face of it a landmark break with Baath history. In a sense, he will be conceding the principal demand of the current upsurge, decidedly the most forbidding challenge the authoritarian regime has faced. There is no indication of the cache of reforms that he promised last Saturday, coinciding with the protesters' march to Damascus. And the dismissal of the cabinet is no more than an act of tokenism. Short of a drastic structural overhaul, real power in Syria will continue to be wielded by the presidential palace and a cabal of Assad's family members and advisers. That structure will remain fairly intact unless the lifting of the Emergency is accompanied by the repeal of the repressive laws and release of political detainees. Thus far, the President has only held out a promise to look into certain specific demands. He has stopped short of an indication as to whether he is prepared to play by the rules of democratic engagement. Assad is quite plainly playing on restive sentiment by according the status of "martyrs" to the 200 killed by his forces over the past few weeks. That expression of simulated sympathy is merely a calculated shift intended to mollify the dissenters,  instead of condemning them as "rebels" against the State, as in Egypt and Libya. It is an open question whether the label of "martyrs" will readily curb the groundswell of opposition to the regime; the roots of authoritarianism date back to 1963. Addressing the deep disaffection is a different kettle of fish altogether.


The lifting of the Emergency needs to be more substantive than an act of tokenism. Will it envisage the formation of political parties and elections as the logical corollary? Will it provide for action against corruption ~ the malaise that runs from the subcontinent to the Afro-Arab world?  President Bashar Assad has taken some time to acknowledge that Syria is passing through "a very critical phase". Even with the lifting of the Emergency, it may still be early days to imagine that the country is on the turn.







NEW YORK, 18 APRIL: The Philadelphia Orchestra, one of America's most prestigious ensembles and a favourite among classical music lovers around the world, not least in Britain, is expected to file for bankruptcy this week in a desperate effort to pull itself back from the brink of extinction.

Known among its fans as the "Fabulous Philadelphians", the orchestra, founded in 1900, has seen its financial position deteriorate rapidly in the recent recession and an economic recovery that remains anaemic. Officials said it was running a very large deficit and risked running out of cash to pay its musicians.

The decision to seek bankruptcy protection ~ unprecedented among large US orchestras ~ was taken at an emotional board of directors meeting on Saturday. As board members arrived at the offices of a law firm to participate in the vote, they were met in the lobby by some orchestra members playing funeral dirges.
A spokesman said the bankruptcy filing would not affect this year's calendar of concerts. Indeed, patrons filled its home, Verizon Hall in Philadelphia, on Saturday night for a performance featuring works by Mahler. Among commitments the orchestra is still expected to honour is a 7 September appearance at the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall. It is five years since the popular Philadelphians have performed at the Proms.

As with any company, the acceptance of bankruptcy protection is a chance for the orchestra to restructure to reduce liabilities and future costs, for example by avoiding some of its contract obligations, and thus return to long-term viability. "It isn't going to be easy, but I believe we can do it," said Richard Worley, the chairman of the board.

The move has been vehemently opposed by the orchestra's members, however. Aside from the psychological impact of being declared bankrupt, there is also the fear ~ almost certainly justified - that a bankruptcy judge will allow management to tamper with its pension obligations to them.

John Koen, the chairman of the player's committee, said management had not "turned over every stone" to get the books back into balance and the filing risked sending players elsewhere. "I know a lot of players who are considering auditions for other orchestras, and I hope that we will not lose the great orchestra we have," he said. "If we do, what is the point of all this? Who would care about funding a second-rate orchestra?"
There was similar note of concern from the chief conductor, Charles Dutoit. In a note sent to the orchestra and obtained by the The Philadelphia Inquirer, he said: "I feel overwhelmed and horrified by the events of the past few days, and I cannot yet grasp what the consequences of today's vote will be." He added: "I am speechless at the moment but wanted you to know that you are in my heart, in my thoughts."

the independent  







Two Deaths After Eating Tinned Salmon

A sad case is reported from 5, Fenwick Bazar Street, Calcutta, where several members of a European family named Davey became ill after eating tinned salmon, from the effects of which illness two have died.
It appears that on Sunday, 9th inst, the family, with whom was Mrs Kay, Mr Davey's mother-in-law, and her son, Mr A.W. Kay, partook of the contents of a tin of salmon, which had been purchased from a shop in the neighbourhood. On the following day Mr Kay became ill, and is still in a precarious condition. On Tuesday last, Mr Davey's daughter was also seized with illness, and was removed to the Presidency General Hospital, where she died within two hours of her admission. The next victim was Mrs Kay, who also succumbed at the Presidency Hospital, and two of Mr Davey's children soon after took ill. The younger is still in hospital in a somewhat critical condition, but the elder, a daughter, has now recovered.

Speaking to a press representative on Monday Mr Davey gave the above details, and stated that only those who ate the salmon have been affected. Consequently he suspected that ptomaine poisoning had ensued, as he recalls the fact that the tin appeared to be an old one.

It has transpired, however, that the medical authorities have certified the death of Mrs Kay to be due to cholera, and the usual precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of infection from the house. It has not been yet stated what was the cause of the death of Mr Davey's daughter.

Latest inquiries would seem to indicate that there is little hope of the recovery of the two patients still in hospital.


Some leaders of the Punjab Hindu Sabha in pursuance of one of its objectives to popularise Hindi and Sanskrit in the Province, recently held a preliminary meeting at Sir P.C. Chatterji's residence to take necessary steps for the purpose.


On the morning of 18th instant at about 11 a.m. a serious riot took place at Bengali Bazar, Garden Reach, between a large number of Kabulees and some local Mahomedan carters. It appears on enquiry that a Kabulee pushed a carter's son while passing him on the road. The boy abused his assailant with his tongue whereupon the Kabulee gave him some slaps and kicked him. This event drew a large number of men on both sides and a free fight ensued, which resulted in the wounding of ten or twelve persons on both sides, some of whom were admitted to the Alipore Police Hospital. Sub-Inspector Natha Singh, of the local thana, on receipt of this information with a posse of constables arrived at the spot, dispersed the rioters and arrested 12 Kabulees. These men were on Wednesday produced before the Deputy Commissioner and remained for further enquiry.






Civil Society: Corruption is destroying the nation! We must do something about it! We must have the right to control the top politicians, judges and officials!

Uncivil Critic: How do you intend accomplishing that?

CS: We must have the right to make a proper law to bring VIPs to book!

UC: Ask Parliament to do that!

CS: Politicians produced a useless Lokpal draft! We can't trust politicians. We citizens must have the right to produce a proper Bill. Laws should only be framed with the consent of the citizens!

UC: You idiot, that's what democracy is all about! Laws are framed with the consent of the citizens. The laws are enacted by legislators elected by the people!

CS: But that isn't delivering results! Civil Society must have the final say in framing laws!
UC: Who is Civil Society?

CS: We who represent the people! We are Civil Society!

UC: Oh! I thought it was the Maoists who claimed to represent the people! Anyway, how will you succeed in having your way?

CS: We will compel the government to pay attention! The government must frame laws only after we approve the draft of the Bill!

UC: You moron, the Maoists also claim the right to make laws for the people! Only they have a more persuasive method of getting success. The government may heed you today. The people will heed the Maoists tomorrow!

CS: But the legislators we elect don't do the job! What else can we do?

UC: Make a political party, select the right kind of candidates, propose the right kind of policies and laws and try to win the election! Once in power you can deliver the kind of governance you want!

CS: But we can't make a party, we can't win the election ~ that requires huge money and manpower!
UC: Then mobilise both! With the kind of media coverage you get you can't win the elections? Persuade people to vote for you without using huge money!

CS: That is impractical, we can't do that!

UC: Then pack up and shut up!

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist 





THE blast had thrown him into the air and he almost passed out from the excruciating pain in his leg. Amid the smoke and flames, Murad Ali Mohammed knew that he would die if he did not reach cover. But as he dragged himself behind a wall there was a blast of gunfire, the bullets smashing into the arm he had raised protectively across his face.

The 16-year-old regained consciousness to find that his right leg had been amputated and his arm was encased in plaster up to the elbow. He was in a hospital room with a guard holding a Kalashnikov sitting in the corner to keep an eye on the prisoner of war.

Murad Ali is one of the increasingly young soldiers being captured or killed by the rebels in Libya. The weeks of bombing by Western jets have taken a human toll, and Muammar Gaddafi's forces seem to be finding it hard to replenish their ranks with regular troops. But there are also the very young in the ranks of the revolutionaries, "fighters" barely into their teens who had come to the frontline mostly unarmed, about to see their great adventure turn into terrifying violence.

Murad Ali was wounded at Misrata, the most dangerous battlefront in this civil war. In a nearby hospital, another captive, 17-year-old Abdurrahman Abu Salem, was suffering from chest wounds. Sixteen-year-old Yusuf Ahmed Hassin is buried in one of the city's cemeteries, shot in the head during fighting two weeks ago, his grave in a separate section than those of Tamir Jassem Zubi and Mohammed Bin Walaf, rebel fighters who were 16.

The experiences recounted by Murad Ali and Abdurrahman may not be entirely true, coming as they do from frightened young men with uncertain futures. But their tales, shared separately, bear similarities and paint a picture of being rushed to the front to support an operation the regime considers to be of critical importance.
Murad Ali had left his family of eight in a village west of Tripoli on 18 February for two weeks of training at a military camp in Janzan as part of his cadetship with the army, at a time when uprisings were taking place across the country. "We did not know what was going on, we were not allowed to take our phones and there was no television or radio, most of the people were around my age," he said.

"We did our usual lessons for about 10 days and then suddenly we were told that we must go to Misrata. When we arrived here we were put in houses from where local people had fled. We were told that there would be lots of reinforcements." Murad Ali was sent on a probe towards the port, the city's lifeline to the outside world, about 10 days ago. It came under immediate and sustained attack. "I was in a truck which was hit and caught fire, three of the soldiers with me died and the officer who was in charge of us ran away," he said. "That was when I got injured, I did not want to be in Misrata; they forced us here."

Abdurrahman was a student of electronics at a military college when the revolution started. "My job in the army would have been to install communications system in bases. I have not been taught to fight," he said. But he was ordered to join the 32nd Khatiba (battalion), run by Khamis Gaddafi, one of the Libyan dictator's sons. After brief lessons in weapons handling, he was sent to Sirte, Colonel Gaddafi's birthplace and a loyalist stronghold.

"Then they said Misrata wants you." he said. "I have never been here and did not know what was going on. The fighting was terrible, there was so much firing. An officer abandoned us. I was trying to run back to my own lines when one of my own side shot me through the chest. I haven't seen my family for a long time. My parents, I miss them very much, I don't know when I'll see them again."

Unlike the two young soldiers, Amir al-Queresi could not wait to get into the fight. The 17-year-old rebel already considers himself a veteran. "Misrata is my home and we have to defend ourselves," he said.

the independent





In popular and street-level parlance it is often said that, according to the Chinese wise man, Confucius, the best way to catch a monkey is to go about it slowly. The same approach is to be prescribed for any resolution of the Sino-Indian problem. It would be futile and utopian to expect a dramatic improvement in the relationship between the two countries. The history of mistrust goes back a long way, and there is the sense of civilizational competition. Thus it is realistic to expect that improvements, such as they are, will be incremental. There might even be reverses. But over the years, the political leadership of both countries have begun to recognize that in a world in which the balance of power is changing fast it is pointless to remain engaged in a shadow war of rhetoric and gestures. It is equally pointless to remain bogged down in entrenched positions formulated in different times under different circumstances. It is obvious that the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is willing to look at Sino-Indian relations with a fresh and open mind. This approach was reciprocated by the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the Brics summit (Brazil, Russia, India, China and now South Africa) at Sanya, Hainan.

The meeting saw the Chinese side address two thorny issues. One was the sore point of the Indians that the Chinese issued only stapled visas to those Indians who worked in and were residents of Jammu and Kashmir. That the dragon is not going to huff and puff over this issue is suggested by its agreeing to issue proper stamped visas to members of an Indian military delegation led by a major general from the northern command. This is not a big point to have won but it shows a willingness on the part of the Chinese to move away from their old position at India's persuasion. The other issue was the growing trade deficit in favour of Beijing. India's exports to China are lower than India's imports from that country. The Chinese president took this aspect on board and it seems that Indian companies operating in certain sectors will be given access to Chinese markets. Another decision taken at the meeting between Mr Singh and Mr Jintao was the one to establish a new body to look into the border dispute between India and China. All these are indicative of small but meaningful changes that could affect the tide of Sino-Indian relations. Realism is slowly emerging to prevail over rhetoric.







Literacy is a fashion, especially amongst women. In 1901, the proportion of Indian women who were literate was 0.6 per cent. Even amongst men, literacy was less than 10 per cent. People spent all their lives being illiterate without missing anything. Their career options were constrained by illiteracy; most of the work they could find was manual, and a good deal of it was exhausting. But that too began to change after 1951, when only a sixth of the population was literate; machines began to take the grunt out of work. Tractors were mass destroyers of manual work in agriculture. But whatever is sown must be harvested; to this day, harvesting remains labour-intensive except in pockets of Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. So 70 per cent of the workers have remained in agriculture, even though ploughing and threshing have been largely mechanized.

They work less hard than in the old days before mechanization. It is the official custom to bemoan poverty. But despite 60 years of anti- poverty programmes, a substantial proportion of the people continues to have little beyond subsistence. The reason is growing underutilization of manual workers. The increase in their earnings per unit of work has been matched by a fall in their capacity utilization. Their living standards have changed very slowly. But they are working much less hard than their grandparents did.

Most of the goods were transported by bullock carts a century ago. Trucks began to arrive only after Independence, and became common only in the 1960s. In the 1940s, when passengers boarded ships, their luggage was carried up by coolies; it was the 1970s before port haulage was substantially mechanized. But even in 1971, 60 per cent of the males were illiterate. There came a time when manual work was disappearing, but many men and women were capable of doing nothing else. The luckier ones amongst them drove cars, buses and trucks; the less lucky ones worked in shops and restaurants. This is one reason why services have grown so fast and constitute such a large proportion of our gross domestic product: we have a lot of illiterates and poorly educated people who hang around retail establishments because they are incapable of little else. They are about a tenth of the labour force.

Literacy and employability are not entirely unconnected. Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, being enclaves of the Central government in Gujarat, are less taxed and better governed; so they have attracted a lot of industry. They are also oases of drink in a teetotal state, and attract a lot of weekend tourists. Pondicherry is a similarly placed Union territory on the east coat. So they show the largest increases in literate population in 2001-2011. But the disconnect between employment and literacy is manifest in the other states which show large increases in the proportion of literates — Bihar (75 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (56 per cent), Jharkhand (59 per cent) and Rajasthan (40 per cent) — all states that had low literacy and have made up for it in the last decade by means of adult literacy campaigns.

But even where governments have pushed literacy, normal Hindu families are bound to ask what is the point of educating girls who are going to be exported to other families anyway. So female literacy has lagged behind male. But then, people have found an even more cost- efficient way. They prevent girls from being born, and save on all their costs, not just the costs of educating them. Are the two tricks correlated, or do different people use them? The states with particularly low sex ratio amongst children younger than eight range northwards from Maharashtra — Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, UP, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. Of these, Rajasthan, UP, Uttarakhand and Kashmir do have low female literacy, but Gujarat and Maharashtra do not. Obviously, two different factors are at work. The richer states spend more on schooling, so more of their children go to school — even if they are girls. And the closer a state is to the northwest, the more its people stick to patriarchal Aryan traditions they brought 5,000-10,000 years ago from Russia or somewhere there, and the less they value girls.

Will they get cured of their puellaphobia as they get richer? I doubt it. Maharashtra, Gujarat and Punjab have got richer and yet retained their female undervaluation. One factor behind the avoidance of girls is the cost of their dowry, which actually increases as people get richer. So it would be wrong to expect that development will make people less of profit maximizers.

If it is economic incentive that is driving their puellaphobic behaviour, we should think of economic incentives to change it — find a way of making the bringing up of girls remunerative. The obvious way is to reward the bringing up of girls. To illustrate, there were 7.5 crore girls aged 0-6 in 2011 — about 1.5 crore for each year. Central government revenue this year will be Rs 7.8 lakh crore — roughly Rs 5 lakh per girl. But we must not give the reward to the girl when she is born; family murderers will then pocket the reward and kill her. She should be given it when she reaches the age of 21. If India continues to grow at 8 per cent a year, and revenue's share of GDP remains unchanged, this Rs 5 lakh will grow to Rs 25 lakh in 21 years. We could then use only a fifth of only the Central revenue and give every girl Rs 5 lakh when she reaches 21. This puberty stipend should go directly into her own bank account.

It would be unfair if the girl is entitled to this money when she reaches 21, but can use it for no purpose till then. Rs 5 lakh 21 years hence is equivalent to Rs 1 lakh now; at 9 per cent, it can earn Rs 750 a month. The girl should be allowed to spend a maximum of Rs 750 a month on education, health and travel, deductible from her eventual puberty stipend.

This would cause much heartburn amongst boys and their parents; for populist reasons, it would be a good idea to address this. There should be board examinations every four years from the age of eight onwards; boys who do better in these examinations than the median girl should get the same stipend as girls, except that they would get it every month, and would cease if they fail to do better than the median girl. The maximum cost of their stipends would be half that of girls; in practice it would be much less, since boys normally do worse than girls.

My scheme should be subject to a sunset clause; once the sex ratio for a state comes within 5 per cent of 1:1, the subsidy to girls should cease — maybe not immediately, but once the next census confirms that the sex ratio has reached near-equality. The sunset clause should apply separately to each state. Small states like Goa and Delhi pose a problem because migration tilts their sex ratio; such petty problems can be left to the committee the government is bound to appoint before it introduces such a radical scheme as I have proposed.





Delhi is a strange city. With the 'euphoria' that accompanied the people's search for a solution to the 'all-pervasive corruption and lack of transparency, probity and accountability in the processes and delivery systems of government' subsiding, the same motley crowd is asking pertinent questions about whether this 'popular' demand could — if badly and inappropriately handled — become yet another monster that would brook no difference of attitudes, values and positions. There is a rapidly growing concern, which has emerged on public platforms, that represents a diverse public with diverse opinions, all of which make the Indian democracy a vibrant truth.

Many departments and institutions have been misused by successive governments over the decades to cover up their internal follies and deviations. This has to change with immediate effect if faith in the government is to be restored. There is the 'office' of the Central Vigilance Commission, discredited over the last few months by the incumbent government, which fiddled and faddled, broke constitutional norms by endlessly arguing in favour of a faulty intervention, then back-tracked under duress, showing inept planning as well as manipulation. That is how the public perceived the 'event'. The government must learn to carry the public with it because that is what defines democracy. Contempt for the people and arrogance in dealing with issues that affect the public must be done away with if the administration wants to govern.

Simple things

For several years, the netas and the babus have ran in circles around all drafts and suggestions because their enactments would compel these 'servants' of society to work for the people and deliver the promises made in political manifestos. Enough of half-truths, lies, explanations and excuses. Here is a great opportunity to do some simple things that would minimize corruption. The Income Tax Act needs to be re-written and condensed into 100 pages, with clearly defined dos and don'ts. All caveats that have been added to the original act must disappear and valid ones incorporated into the 100-page fresh act. P. Chidambaram, in an earlier avatar as finance minister, once told me that this could be done with ease. A similar exercise needs to be undertaken simultaneously with the Central Excise Act and the Customs Act. In two months flat, the new acts must be available for use in the public domain. Financial and legal minds from civil society must be made to participate in the formulations.

Maybe, the existing CVC should become the Lok Pal, reporting to a representative group of Parliament — men and women who do not hold any government office but are elected to the Lok Sabha — to ensure minimum 'vested interest'. The new act needs careful deliberation to ensure that all the requisite democratic processes are in place and to establish that all bureaucrats and politicians are under public scrutiny. The tenures must rotate every three years.

The third element that needs to be put into play at this moment, in tandem with the timescale of the earlier two corrections, involves addressing the police and judicial reforms that are at the very core of good governance and civil society. These reforms have been pending for decades for no good reason. Here too, the government, the concerned departments, along with three professionals — reputed representatives from civil society, not retired judges and babus, but people from the private/public realm who have not been co-opted by the government in the past — must participate in the rewriting of rules. There is supreme disregard for retired babus and judges — who did not deliver when they were mandated to — and now sit on judgment, completely out of sync with a new age.





To be or not to be a politician — that is the question which has often riddled young urban minds in Bengal during the last decade. On the one hand, many of us have been terrorized as teenagers by stories of cruelty, disillusionment and violence in student politics. Such stories would often be used by parents and elders to keep their children safely away from that horrific, career-destroying thing called 'politics'. On the other hand, accusations of being 'apolitical', selfish, irresponsible and cowardly have been amply hurled at our generation. This has made us guilty about not taking the plunge, and yet jittery about the consequences of doing so. Additionally, romantic accounts of the valour and sacrifice of student leaders during the chhatra andolon of the 1970s have had a mushy effect on our imagination. Idealistic fervour is inherent to our culture and identity in any case — whether it is the influence of a homegrown Salil Chowdhury or a faraway Bob Dylan.

Shatarup Ghosh, the youngest candidate to contest the 2011 assembly elections for the Communist Party of India (Marxist), seems to be one of us indeed. He too has revelled in idealism, listening to Bob Dylan and Salil Chowdhury. And he too wears fashionable faded jeans and Fabindia kurtas. Just like us. He has a lot to say about politics, just like us. Only, he has done what most of us couldn't. He has taken the plunge.

Shatarup, as he says, had nurtured the aspiration of joining politics from a very young age, encouraged by his leftist family. He joined the Student Federation of India as soon as he set foot in Asutosh College, and went on to become a student leader. His journey from there to the place of contestant in the assembly polls seems to have been surprisingly smooth. Now he is the centre of attention in the Kasba constituency. The prospect of a 25-year-old MLA seems to be quite amusing for many. People flock to have a peek at him, just to see what this 'wonder-boy' looks like. The fanfare surrounding Shatarup has a lot to do with his age. His boyish looks inspire a tender adoration in many, especially since the image of that formidable, dhoti-clad, 50-something politician blabbering away in a hoarse voice has become nerve-wrackingly boring. Those who would vote for Shatarup in the forthcoming polls are likely to do so out of curiosity more than anything else.

When Shatarup sets out to ask for votes in the lanes and bylanes of Kasba, he addresses people personally, a nod here and a smile there, and his familiarity does seem to affect the voter. Shatarup is counting on door-to-door campaigns more than mass rallies; it looks as though he is banking on the emotive response. This, no doubt, has been a wise move. One can see the voters' eyes soften at his youthful and energetic appeals. Shatarup, on the other hand, looks quite dazed and animated by the attention being showered on him. When walking at the head of a rally, one cannot miss the childlike wonder in his eyes.

During a mass meeting which Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee attended to support Shatarup, there was not much excitement in the crowd when for a good one hour the aged lot rattled on and on. But when Shatarup mounted the stage for a short speech, his demeanour did motivate the crowd, in a way. I heard a group of maidens to my left chattering in excited whispers about how charming he looked. An aged gentleman said with some nostalgia how he saw his young self in Shatarup. But not many seemed to be paying attention to what he was actually saying. This may be because what he was saying was not much different from what the others on stage were saying, and what the comrades have been saying for decades now. He was just saying it more eagerly and perhaps with much more conviction.

Shatarup spoke to me over the phone with the same eagerness and conviction. He thinks it is just a "myth" that young people are apathetic to politics. "During the 70s there was a vibrant movement amongst the students because they were threatened and challenged. They fought back. After that, when things calmed down, the energy died out as well, the enthusiasm faltered. Now, once again, there is a challenge to take up for the young people in colleges. There has been much bloodshed because of campus violence. And we are not afraid to fight it. We will not sit and watch while our fellow students die. Once again, vibrancy is returning to student politics." He also said it was lamentable that some students had been "misused" by certain political parties, and that the disillusionment could turn fatal. "Whenever a student is exploited, it is unfortunate."

There seems to be some honesty in Shatarup's claim that his goal for the moment is to end violence in student politics and bring about an environment of healthy debate. But his vision beyond that is rather foggy. When asked about his opinion on the issues of development, industrialization and land dispute in Bengal, Shatarup merely repeated the CPI(M)'s hackneyed views. No new horizon emerged from his words. This is worrying, given that he embodies the young Bengali's dreams of political activism. (Shatarup prefers to call himself "a political activist" rather than "a politician".) But what shows from behind the polished, confident and energetic rhetoric is a constricted, confused and half-hearted plan for tomorrow.

Compared to the image of the rebellious student leader of the 1970s, ready with a blueprint to change the world, Shatarup somehow seems dwarfed, and a tad too childish. However, it has to be admitted that there is a lot of hardcore political practicality in his approach. What is obvious in his appearance and attitude is that the archetypal image of the chhatra neta has undergone a sea change. From the angry and unkempt lad barking slogans, he has now become smarter, more poised and elegant — exuding a coolness born perhaps not so much out of ideological conviction but out of a matter-of-fact strategy focused on his vote bank.





Change, the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, had once said, is the only constant. West Bengal, however, has not seen the truth in that statement for more than three decades now — unless steady deterioration in most areas of public life constitutes one's definition of change. The question of progress in the state did not even arise, because for progress to happen, it is necessary to begin at a certain point and move forward. There came a time when one wondered whether Bengal would ever be able to recover from the Left's crippling misrule, and crawl towards the point from where the state's journey backward had started — moving forward was another matter altogether.

Now, after 34 years, there seems to be some promise of change — as the Left's strongest opposition and biggest nightmare, the Trinamul Congress, would have the people believe. The aggressive, almost militant, battle cry of paribartan seems to have permeated Calcutta's consciousness. From hordes of young people joining the TMC fold to long marches under the blazing sun — the TMC seems to be doing everything the Left is unable to, and doing it right to boot. Somewhere along the road, in the midst of this frenzy, a question does tend to pop up in one's mind — what sort of change is being talked about here?

It was interesting to note that in the newly-formed Kasba constituency, the candidate for the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is the 25-year-old Shatarup Ghosh — the party's youngest candidate, standing for election against the seasoned TMC elder, Javed Ahmed Khan. Considering the Left's unwillingness to give young blood a chance, in contrast to the TMC's new brood, the pitting of these two individuals against each other was a matter of great interest. And if one were to wonder about the paribartan that Khan has been promising his constituency, it stood to reason that a meeting with the man would undoubtedly throw some light on the matter.

Except that it didn't. A week's worth of phone calls to Javed Khan went unanswered. A text message sent in exasperation received a terse response — to call him only at a particular time in the day. Calls made at that time, too, went unattended. With time running short, a visit to the TMC office in Kasba was in order. In all fairness, the man at the reception was courteous, asking my colleague if he could assist her in any way, and even going as far as to make a few phone calls to help her get the information she needed. It was with the people at the other end of the phone line that the next round of evasion started. Not only were contact details about normal young people, who are canvassing for Javed Khan, not disclosed, but my colleague was even asked, at one point, to try getting her information directly from the residence of the TMC supremo, Mamata Banerjee.

The only concrete piece of information to emerge from the trip to the TMC party office at Kasba was that Javed Khan would be holding a small meeting on Sunday evening at Ruby Park. Inconveniently held at the juncture of two already-narrow lanes (what is a meeting if it does not disrupt normal people's lives?), the likes of Joy Goswami and Sanatan Dinda graced the occasion. It was exactly what one would have expected it to be — a few hours of Left-bashing followed by imploring the electorate to not vote for the Left. While Arpita Ghosh — whose directorial venture, Pashu Khamar, was prevented from being staged by the former CPI(M) member of parliament, Rupchand Pal — held forth on the Left's numerous misdeeds over the years, there was no sign of Javed Khan. When he finally did arrive, the meeting was nearing its end, and I was finally seeing a glimmer of hope in my steadily-receding dreams of speaking to the man himself. When he ascended the podium, the excitement among the crowd was palpable. Khan started to speak, and one hoped that paribartan would figure in his address in a more comprehensive way, rather than as a mere word. That, unfortunately, did not happen. To make matters worse, access to the man, who is contesting elections as a representative of the party that promises to effect 'change', was flatly denied.

It was after the meeting was over that the disturbing nature of a week's worth of evasion struck home. Why are the people who are opposing the party that has ruined Bengal so evasive themselves? It stands to reason that there must be a number of things that they feel the need to hide; everybody has got something to hide. But what is even more worrisome is that it is not just the people who do not know what kind of change the party wants. The TMC party cadre themselves seem to be foggy about the nature of the change they wish to bring about.

Speaking to a few people in and around the area of the meeting venue proved to be even more interesting — ordinary folk, like vegetable sellers and paan shop owners, upon being asked what kind of change they wanted, cited issues like corruption and education. Further probing revealed their real concerns — the paucity of clean drinking water, poor electricity supply, and most of all, the spiralling costs of basic food items. While it is true that ills in every citizen's daily life are related to the corruption in the corridors of power, the ordinary person will first feel the pinch of deprivation in his own life before noticing the suffering elsewhere in the country. Do the people of Calcutta (and perhaps the rest of Bengal) really believe that change is on its way, or is it something they have just learnt to mouth? Perhaps some of the questions about paribartan would have been addressed if Javed Khan hadn't been so suspiciously inaccessible. Is he — and indeed his party — so because they're secure in the conviction of their victory? Or is paribartan just an incoherent concept to them as well?













It was expected that vested interests who were uncomfortable with the civil society campaign for a strong Lokpal legislation would strike back sooner or later after they had to concede the demand for a joint committee for drafting the bill.

The response has started with rumour-mongering, insinuations and a CD that shows the drafting committee co-chairman Shanti Bhushan purportedly telling politicians Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh that his son Prashant Bhushan, another member of the committee, could influence a judge for Rs 4 crore. The CD, which was delivered in media offices in Delhi last week,  showed the anti-corruption campaigners in a poor light. If the conversation did actually take place that would certainly dent their reputation and credibility.

But Prashant Bhushan has questioned the genuineness of the CD and has asserted that it was doctored and fabricated. He has produced reports from two reputed forensic experts  who studied the CD and came to the conclusion that it is not the correct reproduction of an original conversation but a clever combination of portions of different speeches. Bhushan's view that the circulation of the CD was an attempt to malign the anti-corruption movement and to undermine judicial proceedings in the 2G spectrum case seems to be credible. The judge whose name appears in the CD had handled these cases and Prashant Bhushan was the lawyer. From the details of the reports given from the forensic experts it seems likely that  Bhushan is speaking the truth. But there should be an investigation and whoever is found guilty should be punished. Anna Hazare, who has led the Lokpal bill campaign, has also expressed the same view.

The very fact that nobody has claimed ownership and responsibility for the CD is itself suspicious. That strengthens the view that there is a conspiracy to denigrate those who have stood up to fight the establishment on the issue of corruption. Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh's questions on the money spent on Anna Hazare's agitation at Jantar Mantar in Delhi are also seen as part of a campaign to run down the civil society movement. It is likely that there will be more disinformation and defamation attempts in future. If anybody who champions honesty and rectitude is found lacking in integrity, he would only shame and weaken the movement. But circumstances point to deception on the part of some who are opposed to the Lokpal movement.







While India takes much pride in its culture and heritage in general, the significance of its immense cultural heritage of water has gone largely ignored. The choice of cultural heritage of water as the theme of this year's World Heritage Day has focused much-needed attention on this issue. Water is a resource that is essential to sustain life.

How to obtain water, store it, conserve it and harness its power has motivated human endeavour for millennia. This has taken the form of varied technology and cultural practices. It has inspired poetry, music and literature and contributed to the development of philosophies and religious practices. A focus on the cultural heritage of water should therefore make us more aware of the rich and diverse ways in which we have traditionally interacted with water, respected it and celebrated its role in our lives. At a time when vast swathes of India and the world are struggling to cope with water scarcity, floods, contaminated water, and other water-related problems, it might be a good idea to draw on our heritage.

India has a rich heritage of water conservation. The beautiful step wells of Hampi in Karnataka and Abaneri in Rajasthan, the 'ghats' or river bank steps at Varanasi, the innumerable acqueducts, tanks and wells across the country are reasons for immense pride. Several millennia ago Bihar developed a method of dealing with floods called ahar-pyne, a flood water harvesting system that not only prevented floods and conserved water through the year but also ensured a better distribution of silt. Or consider the history of water supply to the city of Bangalore, which lays bare advanced engineering skills that go back centuries.

India and the world are slowly awakening to the importance of preserving old monuments, arts and traditions. This year's World Heritage Day has reminded us that water structures need preservation too. They might not be as awe inspiring in size and proportions as the Taj Mahal or as rich in sculptural detail as the temples at Belur and Halebid. But they are engineering marvels nonetheless. Besides, these provide knowledge on sustainable use of water. They are reservoirs to draw on. Hopefully, respect of our water heritage will persist beyond World Heritage Day.







The grant of genuine autonomy to the CBI and the CVC would be a step forward to keep errant bureaucrats and politicians in check.

The controversy over Anna Hazare and the Jan Lok Pal Bill lingers. Everybody, big and small, abhors corruption and wants it stamped out. How this is to be done and the ambit of reform required remain open questions. This is why excessive reliance on a single instrument like the Lok Pal may be investing more in faith than prudence. Corruption constitutes a web and must be attacked from many sides.

The grant of genuine autonomy to the CBI and Central Vigilance Commissioner (and their state counterparts), together with independent powers of prosecution without the crippling requirement to secure official permission to proceed against senior officials and ministers under the so-called 'single directive,' would constitute a major step forward as this could keep errant bureaucrats and politicians in check. The danger of frivolous complaints and smear campaigns against upright public officials can be obviated by swift and condign punishment of those making false allegations. The Lok Pal and Lokayuktas could oversee such a system and ensure the necessary checks and balances.

Other elements cry out for correction. Electoral funding has become a primary engine of corruption. Though many honourable politicians seek elected office in order to serve, for others, political power has become the road to pelf, influence and control over the processes of governance and their use as a negotiable instrument. Corporate houses often insure by funding those who might control the levers of power. The mafia does so as an investment in future deliverables and to win the protection and patronage.

Intimate links forged between politics and crime has also resulted in the criminalisation of politics and the politicisation of crime, eating away the roots of the criminal justice system.

Where does the answer lie? Most are agreed on electoral reform. But this by itself will not suffice without political party reform. The constitution, strangely, sets out the framework of elections without reference to political parties. The Representation of the People Act too only refers to parties in the context of recognising 'national' and 'regional' parties on the basis of their voting performance. But what is a 'party?'

Surely it is time to include a new Article 326-A in the constitution to provide that candidates seeking to represent the people in parliament and the state legislatures shall — to the largest extent possible — be drawn from 'registered political parties.' Such a provision would provide the basis for legislation defining political parties and for their regulation with regard to maintaining a register of members, the terms and conditions of membership, internal elections, public audit of their accounts and cognate matters.


State funding of elections might only entail an addition to funds currently available from other sources, unless offered in kind for such things as printing and paper, hiring or preparation of meeting venues, petrol/diesel coupons and postage. For the rest, corporate funding should be allowed subject to an overall ceiling per company, detailed disclosure in the balance sheet and a specific ceiling in relation to the company's turnover.


No donation from any private agency, association or friends should exceed a given figure and, other than for petty amounts, must be accompanied by a copy of a certificate of payment with a pan card number addressed to the newly established income tax expenditure cell of the CEC. Violations should be visited with harsh penalties not excluding disqualification from holding elective office by candidates for six years for corrupt practice and a fine for defaulting donors. Stringent action could prove salutary although lawbreakers are usually one step ahead of the law.

Repeated elections at different times add to electoral expenditure and administrative disruption. Could we consider the holding of simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly elections on a fixed date every five years with the proviso that each legislature will serve its full term? Should a government be defeated or resign in the interim, an alternative ministry shall be formed, if necessary under an agreed leader elected by the House.

Panchayat raj and nagar palika elections could follow a different five year electoral cycle. One option could be that the sum total of some four million local body representatives form an electoral college indirectly to elect members of the state assemblies who then become members of an enlarged electoral college to elect members of the Lok Sabha.

Election costs could come down dramatically, with a new pattern of electioneering as well. Opposition to indirect elections mainly stem from the belief that a smaller body can be bribed or manipulated more easily. Is this an insuperable problem? Perhaps not. An added advantage could be that indirect elections could enable the country to follow an indigenous system of primaries so that electoral paratroopers do not descend on unlikely constituencies from on high with rash IOUs of prospective service. Bogus candidates would be largely eliminated.

Barring of candidates with pending criminal charges; expanded legislatures to match the growth of population, the additional members being elected on a partial list system with 25 to 33 per cent overall reservation for women; and barring defectors from holding any office in the life of the House plus one year thereafter are some among other matters that could be considered.

Police reforms, as amply debated, and a vast expansion of the judicial cadre at all levels, with nyaya panchayats and honorary magistrates at the bottom are also vitally necessary.

There is a time for debate and a time for action. This is a time for action. Let the government properly take the lead.






Efforts so far to begin peace negotiations with the Taliban have been halting at best.

Much of Pakistan's civilian and military leadership flew to Kabul on Saturday for a meeting with Afghanistan's president to discuss efforts to forge peace with the Taliban. Although leaders from the two countries have met before to discuss a peace deal, the gathering on Saturday was unprecedented because of the number of high-level Pakistani officials in attendance.

The delegation was led by prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. He was accompanied by the chief of the army, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of ISI, Pakistan's pre-eminent spy agency, as well as the country's interior and defence ministers and top foreign policy officials. The main accomplishment of the visit, which lasted about five hours, was an agreement to set up a joint commission for promoting reconciliation that is expected to be led by Gilani and President Hamid Karzai.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the meeting, however, was a shift in tone between the leaders of the neighbouring countries that seemed to signal a real effort at a rapprochement between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many analysts consider cooperation between the two countries critical to the success of any peace negotiations with the insurgents, some of whom have had long-standing ties with Pakistani intelligence.


The talks included members of the Afghan high peace council, a group set up by Karzai to promote reconciliation. The meetings came as the United States and other western governments, aware of ebbing support for the war in their own countries, are increasingly interested in pursuing a political track to ending the nearly decade-long conflict.

Efforts so far to begin peace negotiations with the Taliban have been halting at best. It is not yet clear if Taliban leaders are united in wanting such talks or whether they would even be free to pursue them while sheltering in Pakistan, which in the past wanted to use the Taliban insurgency for its own strategic purposes — among them keeping India from gaining more influence in Afghanistan.

Complicating matters further is that the Taliban's relationship with Pakistan has become fraught, with the ties between at least some of the Taliban leaders and the Pakistanis no longer so close, according to former Taliban. Many Taliban leaders want to be free to go home to Afghanistan and reconcile but remain unwillingly tethered to Pakistan, the former Taliban say.

And while the US has signaled it might drop certain preconditions for talks, bringing all of Afghanistan's neighbours and other interested parties together has proved difficult.

Afghanistan's politicians often point fingers at Pakistan, saying that it knowingly harbors the insurgent leaders who are destabilising Afghanistan, and that Pakistan's intelligence services have long manipulated the Taliban to Afghanistan's detriment. However, the meetings on Saturday seemed to open the possibility for an improved relationship.

Afghan officials knowledgeable about Saturday's discussions say they are not sure why Pakistan chose this moment to make such strong overtures. They suggested dramatically different theories, a sign of how opaque relations are between the various stakeholders in Afghanistan's future. The Pakistani government, they said, could be eager to bypass the US, with whom its relationship has worsened in the past several months. Alternately, they said that Pakistan may be under pressure from the US to help facilitate a peace deal.

The visit appeared as well to be an effort by Pakistan to quell suggestions from the international community that it might thwart Afghanistan's efforts to reconcile with the Taliban. In the past, the Pakistanis have not been shy about reminding western countries and Afghanistan that there cannot be a deal without their support, but that did not appear to be their message on Saturday. No US officials attended the meetings on Saturday, and American diplomats did not comment.

It was the public show of support for Afghanistan that was the most encouraging, said Abdul Hakim Mujahid, a member of the Afghan peace council who was the Taliban representative to the United Nations when the group ran the country.

Whether the new commission and the renewed efforts will make a difference is difficult to foresee, cautioned Thomas Ruttig, one of the directors of the Afghan Analysts Network in Kabul.

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating," Ruttig said, but he added that for any negotiation to be successful over the long term, Pakistan would have to be a strong backer.







Sadness is often followed by philosophical speculation.

Some years ago, I happened to watch, on American television, an interview with Kirk Douglas, a famous Hollywood actor of a former era, an actor with a trade-mark tough-guy image. The interviewer questioned him on the recent air crash that he had survived. He must have been in his 70s at the time and what he said in reply was rather striking and gave one much food for thought. He said "God, in sparing my life, while so many young people died, must have had some purpose and, may be, I am meant to do certain good things in the time that is still left to me." That was perhaps the best way of appreciating his  good fortune in getting a fresh lease of life and of expressing his gratitude to his Maker.

This had also set me thinking about the other side of the picture. Why are certain people cut off in the prime of their lives? Could it mean that whosoever controls these things, has decided that their day is done and there is nothing more for them to do in this world?

Can there be any answers to such questions? These thoughts came back to me recently in a most poignant form at the sudden passing away of a young man, whom I used to see almost every day in a bakery, of which I am a regular customer. He was a most friendly and cheerful young man, always serving the customers  with zeal and a ready smile. I did not even know his name. When I read the news in the papers of how a young person, working in a bakery in Saraswathipuram, Mysore, had met with a scooter accident in trying to save a child, on Sankranti day, I felt a nameless fear and wished with all my heart that that should not be this particular person. (Not that anybody else's life is less precious but only that you are not affected so personally in the  case of a stranger.) But, alas, it was. When I went to the bakery a couple of days later, a short announcement of the sad occurrence and his photo had been put up. I paid him a silent tribute and turned away.

Sadness is often followed by philosophical speculation. There is a saying that those whom the gods like, die young.  Jesus Christ was only 33 at the time of the crucifixion.

The great Shankara lived only 32 years, half of the period said to have been gifted to him by Sage  Vyasa. This makes us octogenarians think "Are we pretty low on God's preference list?" When someone questioned the late Prof A N Murthy Rao, who  lived up to a ripe age of 103, about the secret of his longevity, he (a self-declared atheist, who got an award for his book 'Devaru', arguing against the existence of any such thing as  God) replied, tongue in cheek, that God seemed to have forgotten to summon him.) Yet we  can take heart when we remember that Sri Ramanujacharya, founder of the  Vishishtadvaita philosophy, is said to have lived a full 120 years and Vidyaranya, the patron saint of the Vijayanagara empire, was more than 100 years old, when he attained  Samadhi.








Isaac Herzog has rich intelligence experience. He was an officer in the intelligence-gathering department of Military Intelligence, and his father, Chaim Herzog, was in British intelligence and twice headed the Intelligence Corps in the Israel Defense Forces. Who more than Isaac Herzog could be expected to have internalized the hoary axiom of field security that once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be called back?

Thus we can understand the Labor MK's distress regarding his appearance in the diplomatic cables sent from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to the State Department, which were reported in Haaretz courtesy of WikiLeaks. To his great embarrassment, the documents reveal Herzog to be a reporter of public and personal moods, almost a political correspondent, for American ambassadors and other officials passing through Israel. Naively, Herzog was convinced that he was speaking to the U.S. representatives in secret. And they, as is the way of diplomats for whom cables home are part of their work, let the whole world in on their conversations with Herzog, thanks to WikiLeaks and its massive exposure of diplomatic documents.

Even more than the substance of Herzog's comments - about Ashkenazim and Moroccans, Amir Peretz and Shimon Peres (what didn't he talk about?) - what's surprising is that he was so willing to tell all to the Americans. This is nothing new. There are always politicians, generally not the most veteran ones, who enjoy the perceived prestige of these conversations. The documents that the Freedom of Information Act requires the U.S. government to make public after several decades, or sometimes less, have revealed the names of such politicians. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, for example, Gad Yaacobi - the late Knesset member who was close to Moshe Dayan - was one of them, and there were also others in the ruling party of the time, Alignment, who were cited in diplomatic cables.

Today the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv is of marginal importance in the big picture of bilateral diplomacy. Most of the communication takes place directly, between Israel's prime minister and defense minister and the White House, U.S. National Security Council and the U.S. secretaries of state and defense. But Israeli politicians have yet to fully recognize that the world has changed. And unless they want to hold such talks with their own witnesses in attendance, so they can document the Israeli version of what is said and whip out the records as soon as the conversation is duly leaked, Israeli politicians would do well to keep from chattering today if they don't want to have to issue denials tomorrow.







Who was chiefly responsible for the fact that Israel was surprised by the Egyptian and Syrian attacks on Yom Kippur in 1973? Many say that it was the Intelligence branch of the Israel Defense Forces - and in particular, the head of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Eli Zeira.

The chief of staff during that war, David Elazar, also pointed an accusatory finger upward, to then defense minister Moshe Dayan, while Dayan placed almost all the blame on the lower echelon, leaving it with Zeira. Dayan deflected a little of the excess criticism in the direction of the prime minister, Golda Meir.

In actual fact, it is not because of a failure to issue a warning that a prime minister, a defense minister or a chief of staff will turn the head of military intelligence into their own human shield. Everything is dependent upon the military outcome of the actions taken before and during the crisis, with no connection to the quality of the warning. If the result is successful, the oversight about the warning is forgotten. It is only when the result is bad that people want the head of the person who was supposed to warn them.

The victory in the Six-Day War was achieved despite a mistaken assessment by the intelligence branch. Then, Dayan made it clear that the intelligence branch bore limited responsibility, that it had to provide an assessment based on the best of the facts at its disposal and that it was up to the political echelon, including Dayan himself, to weigh the intelligence assessment, to add their interpretation of it and to translate it into action on the ground. It was Zeira's bad luck that the Agranat Commission (which looked into the failures of the war ) was not aware of Dayan's exchange of thoughts with Zeira's predecessor, Maj. Gen. Aharon Yariv, who is always presented as being more cautious than Zeira.

In a discussion between the General Staff and Dayan in August 1967, some two months after the war, Yariv spoke about the "narrow path" on which an intelligence expert has to walk, between overestimating or underestimating his enemy.

"What Ahreleh [Yariv] said is true, about the philosophy of the narrow path and the need to be careful not to be caught too complacent or too panicky," Dayan responded. "The intelligence branch has to say how it sees things and what will happen. It does not have to philosophize, something that could lead to complacency. I worry about that every day. If they take away my job, what will I do?"

Yariv replied: "When the possibilities and likelihood of action on the part of the enemy are stated, if the intelligence person takes the worst case scenario, then he can be sure. If it happens, good. If it doesn't happen, then it doesn't. From the intelligence point of view, one has to make a logical analysis on the basis of information plus a bit of a [gut] feeling."

To this Dayan responded: "If the risk is that it will afterward transpire that this caused the State of Israel to be complacent, then the State of Israel has to say that it is true that Military Intelligence said this and that, but I want to take security measures."

In terms of Autumn 1973, the security measures that Meir and Dayan did not take were a diplomatic initiative for peace with Egypt, coupled with a military alert in case the intelligence assessments - that Egypt would not go to war and that the preparations for crossing the Suez Canal were merely an exercise - were proven false.

In terms of autumn 2011, which is likely to see Israel facing its most grave diplomatic and military crisis since the Yom Kippur War, it must be stated now that the guilty party will not be Military Intelligence and its estimates, but the government of Israel, its prime minister and the man who holds the defense portfolio.

Speaking last week at a lecture in Jerusalem, the previous MI head, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, warned against the illusion that the current quiet on the borders would continue and that time was working in Israel's favor. Even though he will officially retire from the army in September and was therefore careful not to cast political aspersions, the significance of Yadlin's remarks was unmistakable. It can be assumed also that the present IDF intelligence head, Aviv Kochavi, does not think otherwise; this is not like the transfer of authority from Yariv to Zeira.

The strategic warning has been sounded. What is less important is the tactical question, the timing and the methods for the outbreak of the combined "words-and-missiles Muslim offensive," as Yadlin defined it, with the world sitting sympathetically or apathetically in the gallery.

Between complacency and alarm there is room for initiative. It is not enough for Benjamin Netanyahu to make another flowery and superficial speech and for Ehud Barak to issue another empty self warning and then, like Dayan in Meir's cabinet, to refrain from resigning. They know that too, but out of a fear that a far-reaching diplomatic initiative would topple the government, they may be tempted to embark on a foolhardy military initiative. The government or the country? The choice is theirs.







Whenever the Israeli leadership considers an important choice - to give the Bar-Ilan 2 speech or not; to meet with Justin Bieber or not - the decision depends on the "mood of the public." We have a government that listens, one whose direction is dictated by surveys which are followed blindly.

This form of listening is bad practice for decision-makers. Had Moses been as attentive as our prime minister to the songs of joy or the crying of his people, we would not have been liberated, and we would have been left until today as slaves. In slavery too, there is a significant degree of comfort.

"The public" did not really want to leave Egypt and was ready, at every opportunity, to pass on the chance for independence. Moses did not need surveys to know that he was dealing with a difficult, fickle, complaining people.

Even before Pharaoh decided to let them leave, the people were already complaining to Moses and Aaron that they had been besmirched before the king, at a time when they were actually trying to gain his favor. And when they saw the Egyptians chasing them, they began complaining again: Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to the desert to die? The shifts between depression and euphoria, so commonplace among the mob, are sharp and quick: A short while later Pharaoh's chariots drowned in the sea, and they were already singing hallelujah.

With difficulty the Land of Israel was reached and suddenly there was nothing to drink. In the desert there was nothing to eat, and there was only nostalgia for the comfort of the free. Refidim was the next stop, and once more there was no water. Luckily there was no electricity back then for refrigeration and air conditioning. Had someone unplugged the mains, Moses would have been stoned and not even able to gaze at the Promised Lane from the other side of the river.

And then, the Golden Calf makes an appearance in the life of the nation, the worst of all sins. For a moment it appeared to the masses that the leadership had gone missing - perhaps Moses had died, perhaps he had ran away - and immediately the people were barbecuing, laughing, praying to other gods.

Without golden calves and money to bow before them, how can those who behave like beasts have lives better than humans? When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he listens to "the wishes of the nation", what does he actually hear in all the mooing?

But why should we go so far back to prove our point? In our very time, have there not been many stories which began with great bravado and ended meekly? Have disasters not befallen us which started with the support of the majority, and only then became a minority?

Everything is in the surveys and carved in memory. A mass as a herd is still the same mass, and the generations are the same generations, only the great leaders of the current generation are small and make us appear to be grasshoppers. David Ben-Gurion was able to differentiate between "want" and "desire," unlike our modern-day leaders.

There are no more breakers of tablets, and there is no one to collect the pieces and put them back together. There are none who come down to the people from the mountain, because he who has never been able to rise can never climb down to be with his people.

The exodus from Egypt is not yet over. It is just beginning, because internal opposition to liberation remains there. This morning, on the holiday eve, I open the window of my home and my country, look outside and inside, in an effort to adjust myself to the spring: The whole country is full of calves, the whole country is full of broken pieces of tablets.

I can see long lines, people hungry and humiliated waiting for handouts; it is hard to identify them because they are transparent. My gaze wanders and I see the neighbors from over there, climbing the fences and the walls in order to get a break; and black people and their children having to pretend to be refugees, when they are migrants to our country. I see the pressure which is pressing them. Where am I: in Egypt, the desert, the Promised Land?

Suddenly it all falls together: That same day a decision is made to charge two of them with getting fat on calves - Egypt's former president, Hosni Mubarek, and another Israeli minister in office, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. They are beginning to become a lot like us in getting rid of the hametz, and we are more like them in the dirt.








Last month, I met with a man who impressed me as none other has over the last 10 years. His name is David Grossman, and he was in New York to receive the National Jewish Book Award for his magnificent novel "To the End of the Land." Grossman, whose talent is enormous, has been fighting for peace in his country for 30 years.

As we came to the end of our discussion we sat as two Jews - one from North America and one from Israel - who deeply care about our mutual fate as part of the Jewish people. He looked me in the eye and said that it was important for me to openly express my ideas about Israeli policies, and that it is vital for others who question to do the same.

Grossman's comment resonated with me because Jews are a people of questioners. We emphatically question and discuss. That very Jewish form of engagement, however, is often seen as a threat rather than an asset when it comes to public discussions and criticism of Israel.

Yet, as Jews, we show that we care and are connected to each other by rigorous inquiry, not blind advocacy. Accordingly, I feel compelled to call upon Israel to redouble its efforts to bring about a two-state solution, especially as we enter spring and witness the Arab world in the midst of revolution and the possibility - however remote - of a blossoming democracy in Egypt.

This week, we also celebrate Passover, that great celebration of freedom. The Pesach Haggadah also reflects the Talmudic injunction to ask questions. As we come upon Passover, and the Seder meal, I am reminded of the example of the four children.

They are all held up as illustrations of how to ask questions, or our inability to do so, and I have come to see their legacies as a great lesson. One is wise, one wicked, one simple and one does not know how to ask, but each of them - rebelling, agreeable, silent or bewildered - participates in the act of questioning.

When I think of the four children, I am keenly aware of the responsibility - the necessity - of asking questions to continue participating in the narrative of the Jewish people. To remove yourself from the story of Israel, as the wicked child does during the Passover Seder, is the only heresy. Exploring Israel's meaning to you, as an American and as a Jew, is to firmly lock yourself onto the chain of thousands of years of Jewish history, and also claim your legacy as an American who is blessed to live in a land of freedom.

Let me be clear: I do not criticize Israel because I wish to separate myself from it. I speak up because I am a committed Zionist who loves Israel. I want it to be a country which lives up to its greatest potential, and I see its current policies on settlements and Palestinian occupation as a grave error, destructive to the heart and soul of a great Jewish country.

To believe that Israel is strong enough, and capable, to be held accountable, and that it is possible for it to become a better place. It is an affirmation of strength and a reminder that Israel must not oppress others as the Egyptians did, but aid them in their emancipation.

"We are without confidence in what we are doing and where we are heading, what our national purpose is," Grossman lamented to me. "All that is evaporating from us, because of the harshness of the conflict, because of the despair that we are in."

When we cease to question, we cease to hope. Do not surrender your freedom so easily - do not give in to despair. Remind yourself this Pesach that you are free to question, and by doing so you reaffirm possibility.








I like to take the initiative. I know it's considered unfeminine, but I believe that every individual is responsible for her own fate and her own happiness. So when I have an opportunity to do something that's good for me, I try and do it. That is why I joined the initiative launched two weeks ago calling on the government of Israel to accept the Saudi initiative as a basis for peace talks.

Israel can do things that are good for itself. That will allow it to exist for a long time and live in security and, especially, in peace. Israel can take its fate into its own hands and act to achieve this goal. For years they've been telling us that there is no partner for peace, that there is no one to talk to, and above all, that it's not dependent on us - but that is simply not true. The clearest proof is the Saudi initiative.

For nine years (! ) already, the proposal set forth by the Arab League - that is, a collective proposal offered by all Arab states - to end our conflict with the Palestinians in particular, and with the entire Arab world, has been on the table. That is to say, the Arab world recognizes Israel and its right to exist, and has offered to live alongside it in peace. That is to say, there is someone to talk to, there is something to talk about, and it is up to us. They are the ones who made that proposal; Israel is the one who has ignored it until this day.

I believe in a comprehensive regional agreement. Even security experts will admit that such a deal is likely to considerably weaken the hostile and extremist elements - from Hamas to Iran to al-Qaida; and beyond that, I can admit that I'd like to be able to enjoy good neighborliness. I appreciate the Arab culture just as much as I do the European culture, and I want to be able to visit our neighboring countries as a tourist, the same way I'm able to visit Egypt and beyond.

We are not used to thinking about peace anymore. Most of the time we are worrying about the next threat, and we're so worn out that peace sounds to us like something naive, utopian and fallacious. But the reality is that the world is offering us every option, including those that sound unrealistic, and it's up to us to decide what kind of life we want for ourselves and what it is that we're striving for.

I want Israel to take steps toward achieving peace. I want us to believe that it is possible. It is not simple, it is not easy, but it is much more attainable than we realize and we believe that the Arab League initiative offers us the most worthwhile way to do so.

Today, more than ever, the Arab public is waking up and its people want a better life, a life with more freedoms. They are sick and tired of being intimidated and controlled. The Saudi initiative is aimed at the Israeli public; at us - the people who want peace and quiet, here and not in Finland; we must adopt it wholeheartedly, even if our government ignores it.

"We will not allow anyone to dictate to us the terms of peace," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at the Likud conference last week. On the contrary, Mr. Netanyahu, take the initiative into your own hands and design our peace agreement with the Arab world. Israel Takes the Initiative is calling on you to do that; all of you are invited to join.




                                    THE NEWYORK TIMES




In the go-go years leading up to the financial crisis, Iceland's banks were hugely irresponsible, luring foreign depositors with high interest rates and putting the money into risky loans. When Iceland's big banks went under in 2008, they were 10 times as big as the country's economy.


The government of Iceland failed to rein in bankers' excesses. But its refusal to take on bank debts, forcing creditors to take losses and share in the pain, looks increasingly smart as Iceland's economy begins to recover.


The European Union and the International Monetary Fund — their bailouts of Greece and Ireland were designed to make creditors whole — should learn from Iceland's example. As they negotiate a rescue for Portugal, they should realize that taxpayers cannot bear the entire cost of the banks' misdeeds.


The government of Iceland wasn't intentionally daring or smarter than others. It couldn't afford to bail out its banks, so it let them fail. It transferred domestic deposits and loans, at a discount, into new banks, with some $2 billion in money from taxpayers. And it left the banks' foreign assets and foreign debts behind. Some foreign creditors could get as little as 27 cents on the euro.


Britain and the Netherlands have pushed Iceland to cover about $5.8 billion lost by British and Dutch depositors when the bank Landsbanki went belly up in 2008. (The British and Dutch governments reimbursed their citizens in anticipation of Iceland paying up.)


Iceland twice agreed to those demands, despite the fact that the amount is about 45 percent of its gross domestic product. Iceland's taxpayers refused to go along. In a referendum last week, voters rejected a deal for the second time.


Iceland has felt considerable pain. Its currency lost half of its value against the euro in 2008. A $2 billion loan from the I.M.F. managed to stave off a complete meltdown, but the economy still shrank 7 percent in 2009 and the unemployment rate quadrupled. Government debt is expected to peak at about 100 percent of G.D.P. this year — up from 42 percent three years ago.


Britain and the Netherlands are suing Iceland before the court of the European Free Trade Association for failure to pay its debts. And there is talk in London and The Hague about further punishment, including possibly stalling Iceland's application to join the European Union.


Still, it is pulling through. The I.M.F. expects it to grow 2.5 percent this year. Unemployment is falling. Compare its case to Ireland, where the government put the banks' debts on the shoulders of taxpayers. Its economy shrank at least as much as Iceland's, and it is recovering more slowly. The I.M.F. expects Ireland's debt to peak at 125 percent of G.D.P. in two years. That looks optimistic.


As investors recover confidence, insurance on Icelandic government debt is cheaper than that on debt from Ireland, Greece or Portugal.







The case about global warming scheduled to be argued on Tuesday before the Supreme Court is a blockbuster. Eight states — from California to New York, plus New York City — sued six corporations responsible for one-fourth of the American electric power industry's emissions of carbon dioxide.


Rather than seeking money or punishment for the defendants, they seek what everyone should agree is the polluters' responsibility: abatement of their huge, harmful part in causing climate change. The purpose is not to solve global warming or usurp the government's role in doing so. It is, rightly, to get major utilities to curb their greenhouse-gas emissions before the government acts.


Because there is no federal regulation of this problem in force, it is fortunate that there is a line of Supreme Court precedents back to 1901 on which the plaintiffs can build their challenge. When this lawsuit began seven years ago, one of the defendants' main defenses was that, because the Clean Air Act and other laws "address" carbon dioxide emissions, Congress has "legislated on the subject" and pre-empted the suit. The pre-emption claim was spurious when they made it and remains spurious now.


Seven years ago, neither Congress nor the Bush administration showed interest in pushing comprehensive laws or rules to curb these gases. Since then, the Environmental Protection Agency has found that greenhouse gases endanger public health as "the primary driver" of climate change and has regulated vehicle emissions.


But the electric power industry is working to scuttle this regulation, with the help of the Republican-controlled House. In court, the industry pushes for letting the E.P.A. regulate. On Capitol Hill, it tries to torpedo that authority.


For the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, two Bush appointees (one by the father, the other by the son) held that the prospect of regulation by the federal government is not enough to make this lawsuit go away. What the judges noted remains incontestable today: "E.P.A. does not currently regulate carbon dioxide" by requiring "control of such emissions" from existing power plants.


The judges reviewed five other major statutes that directly address the issue of climate change, beginning with the National Climate Program Act of 1978 a generation ago and running through the Energy Policy Act of 2005 passed while this lawsuit was under way.


They use italics to devastating effect, noting that these laws call for assessments, data collection, forecasts, improvements in understandingand all manner of other ground-laying efforts, but not one concrete action "to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in any real way."


Yet the failure of the federal government to act, which has gone on for many years, doesn't mean the plaintiffs must wait until it does. As the Second Circuit writes, they "may seek their remedies under the federal common law," including made by justices. The Supreme Court has upheld a lawsuit preventing the discharge of sewage that made the Mississippi River unfit. It has upheld limits of noxious emissions of sulfur from copper foundries in Tennessee that were destroying Georgia forests. There are other clear-cut precedents.


The appellate court's opinion closes by paraphrasing a Supreme Court opinion from almost 40 years ago. New federal regulation may pre-empt the federal common law of nuisance, but, until then, federal courts are empowered to address the public nuisance caused by major, undisputed and destructive sources of greenhouse gases.








LAST night I put an oyster on my Seder plate.


While I didn't particularly want to put something traif atop that most kosher of dishes, this Passover falls on the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. And since BP, the leaseholder of the failed well, seems intent with its new television ads on making us forget about the spill, I felt that something drastic was in order to help us remember. Combining the memorial powers of the Seder plate with the canary-in-the-coal-mine nature of the oyster seemed a good way to keep the disaster — and BP's promises to clean up its mess — in mind.


This past March I spent a week in Louisiana's bays and bayous. All over the region I encountered oyster dredges full of dead, empty shells and broken oystermen with equally empty pockets. Many of the oystermen I interviewed reported that 80 percent of their beds had been killed.


Ecologically speaking, this is huge: a single oyster can filter 40 gallons of water a day, and the millions of oysters in Louisiana's waters are one of the things that make the gulf work as an ecosystem.


True, many oysters died not from the oil directly, but rather from the consequences of a desperate attempt to counter the spill's effects. As oil rushed shoreward last spring, Louisiana's coastal coordinator opened gates along the Mississippi River and released millions of gallons of freshwater, hoping the surge would push the oil away. It's hard to say whether this worked; what it definitely did do was make some coastal waters too fresh for oysters to survive. Many beds were decimated. It will take years for them to recover.


Freshwater wasn't the only thing dumped into gulf waters to mitigate the spill: more than 1.8 million gallons of Corexit, a chemical used to break up oil slicks, transformed the floating, possibly recoverable oil into an invisible angel of death that sank and claimed not just the first born but perhaps the first million born of many gulf creatures — a considerable blow to what is arguably America's most important fish nursery.


Indeed, oysters are just the beginning. The delayed effects of oil and Corexit will likely be seen for years. In 2012 the number of blue crabs — which many people associate with the Chesapeake Bay but in fact often come from the gulf — may significantly drop thanks to the spill. In 2013, the redfish that Paul Prudhomme famously blackened may not be there for fishermen and diners to enjoy. In 2017 we could see a considerable drop in the population of bluefin tuna, the missing adult fish having been killed as fragile larvae in 2010.


And even if by some miracle there is no significant decline in the gulf's sea life, its harvest might still suffer from a sullied reputation. In a recent poll of 18 national restaurant chains released by Greater New Orleans Inc., an economic development organization, found that only 19 percent of those restaurants' customers held a favorable view of gulf seafood in 2010, compared with 75 percent in 2004.


Oystermen weren't the only ones affected by the spill, of course. But while BP has compensated waiters and hairdressers for work lost during last summer's ruined tourist season, most oystermen told me that aside from an emergency payment last fall, they have yet to see compensation that approaches the value of their lost oysters.


Fortunately for BP, it can take decades for the aftereffects of an event of this scale to appear. And it will be a long time before the Natural Resources Damage Assessment, put in place to determine BP's true liability, will be made fully public with any sort of conclusion about the company's liability.


Although I put an oyster on the Seder plate, you might want to find a less controversial way to mark the disaster. If you're having a second Seder tonight and want a non-traif symbol, consider putting a small dish of oil next to your glass of wine. After you've dipped your finger in your wine to count out the 10 plagues that brought down Egypt's tyrannical pharaoh, dip your finger in the oil and dab out an 11th plague.


In so doing remember that in A.D. 2010, the Jewish year 5770, humanity damaged a valuable, nourishing ecosystem to maintain the tyranny of oil. Until we throw off that tyranny, we will mark many more plagues in the years to come.


Paul Greenberg is the author of "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food."








BARELY was Laurent Gbagbo, wearing a sweat-damp white tank top and a startled expression, prodded at rebel gunpoint from the bombed ruins of his presidential bunker in Ivory Coast, than Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced this conclusion: His ejection, more than four months after he refused to accept electoral defeat, sent "a strong signal to dictators and tyrants throughout the region and around the world. They may not disregard the voice of their own people in free and fair elections, and there will be consequences for those who cling to power."


Zimbabwe's 87-year-old president, Robert Mugabe, who began his 32nd year in power this week, must have chortled when he heard that one.


The parallels between Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe are striking: both were once viewed as the singular successes in their respective regions, the envy of their neighbors. Both Mr. Gbagbo, a former history professor, and Mr. Mugabe, a serial graduate student, are highly educated men who helped liberate their countries from authoritarian regimes.


Both later clothed themselves in the racist vestments of extreme nativism. Mr. Gbagbo claimed that his rival Alassane Ouattara couldn't stand for president because his mother wasn't Ivorian; Mr. Mugabe disenfranchised black Zimbabweans who had blood ties to neighboring states (even though his own father is widely believed to have been Malawian).


The two countries have also been similarly plagued by north-south conflicts. And when they spiraled into failed statehood, both leaders blamed the West, in particular their former colonial powers — France and Britain — for interfering to promote regime change.


Finally, the international community imposed sanctions against both countries, including bans on foreign travel and the freezing of bank accounts, that have largely proved insufficient.


But here's where the stories crucially diverge — why Laurent Gbagbo is no longer in power, while Robert Mugabe, who lost an election in 2008, continues to flout his people's will.


The most important point of departure was the sharply contrasting behavior of regional powers. The dominant player in West Africa, Nigeria, immediately recognized the validity of Mr. Ouattara's victory in United Nations-supervised elections, and worked within the regional alliance, the Economic Community of West African States, to unseat the reluctant loser. But Zimbabwe's most powerful neighbor, South Africa, played a very different role. Instead of helping to enforce democracy, it has provided cover for Mr. Mugabe to stay on.


Partly this is due to what is called "liberation solidarity." Most of the political parties still in power in southern Africa were originally anti-colonial liberation movements — like those in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Angola — and they tend to abhor the aura-diminishing prospect of seeing any of their fellows jettisoned.


It is also because South Africa eyes the Zimbabwean opposition — which morphed out of a once-loyal trade union movement — through the suspicious lens of its own trade union movement's contemplation of opposition politics.


As a result, instead of supporting the Zimbabwean opposition in 2008, Thabo Mbeki, then the South African president, bullied it into a power-sharing government of national unity headed by Mr. Mugabe. This democracy-defying model has threatened to metastasize into the mainstream of African politics; that same year it was also applied to Kenya, where a unity government was set up to end post-election bloodshed. When Mr. Mbeki was deputized by the African Union to broker a solution in Ivory Coast, that was the Band-Aid he reached for — but it was rightly rejected by Mr. Ouattara.


Of course, the other crucial difference is that in Ivory Coast, the dictator's ejection came at the hands of men with guns. The northern rebels moved on Abidjan. The United Nations peacekeepers, trussed by restrictive mandates as always, nevertheless protected Mr. Ouattara until the French expanded an airport-securing operation into something altogether more ambitious. They basically prized Mr. Gbagbo from his bunker, though to avoid bad postcolonial optics, they brought the rebels in to make the final move.


In contrast, for refusing to plunge the country into a civil war, Zimbabwe's democratic opposition has been rewarded by the international community by being largely ignored.


Next month, a group of southern African nations will discuss Mr. Mugabe's continued resistance to agreed-upon reforms intended to pave the way to free elections. Either South Africa must get Mr. Mugabe to honor them, or it must withdraw its support for him. If it won't, then the international community needs to push South Africa out of leading the negotiations, and engage more directly.


Zimbabweans need help if their voices are to be heard. If the United States wants to prove that Mrs. Clinton's words were more than empty rhetoric, it should begin by pressuring South Africa. Otherwise Zimbabwe's hopes for freedom will founder, even as Ivory Coast regains its stolen democracy.


Peter Godwin is the author of "The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe."







Were there many bird and mammal species while dinosaurs still lived? Or did they diversify only after dinosaurs were wiped out some 65 million years ago? The fossil record hasn't been much help answering this fundamental question. But a study published recently in the Royal Society's Biology Letters may have found an answer based on a different kind of fossil: fossilized lice.


Imagine a louse not as a repulsive human pest (this may take some doing) but as a scientific marker of sorts. Lice reproduce quickly, and they tend to co-evolve with the species they infest, adapting to fit one kind of host. This means that a wide variety of lice presupposes a wide variety of hosts. Using genetic markers, a team of scientists led by Vince Smith of the Natural History Museum in London determined that lice families began to radiate, or diversify, before the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, which killed 75 percent of the species on earth. They may have begun to diversify as long as 145 million years ago.


That suggests that bird and mammal species also began to diversify in the Cretaceous period. It corroborates new genetic evidence, from birds and mammals, though it is still unclear how many of them survived the extinction that marks the end of the Cretaceous period.


We may now have to reimagine the age of dinosaurs, picturing a wider array of birds and mammals moving among them. We may also have to picture feathered dinosaurs pestered by lice just the way modern birds are. Those could well be ancestors of the postextinction lice that specialize in mammals, including the three species that specialize in us.








The New York State Legislature took a stand for electoral fairness last year when it banned prison-based gerrymandering, the cynical practice of counting prison inmates as "residents" to pad the population of legislative districts. The new law required that inmates be counted as residents of their home districts.


State lawmakers who are at risk of losing political clout are predictably eager to turn back the clock. They have challenged the law in court. The common sense case against prison gerrymandering is two-fold. Prisoners who cannot vote or move freely in a community can hardly be said to be residents there. Prisoners typically return to their real home, often hundreds of miles away, the moment they are released.


This lawsuit is all about self-interest. The lead plaintiff is State Senator Elizabeth Little, whose upstate district contains 11 state correctional institutions, one federal prison and an estimated 12,000 inmates. According to an analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative, a research group based in Massachusetts, Senator Little's current district is one of seven in New York that meet federal population requirements by counting inmates as residents.


Senator Little wrongly argues that the state is constitutionally required to count inmates as "residents" because the census counts them there. But New York's Constitution allows the state to use other information as well and states clearly that a person cannot be assigned a new home address simply because he or she is serving a prison sentence.


Many county governments with large prisons, including counties represented by Senator Little, have emphatically rejected the strategy of counting inmates as "residents." Those governments rightly determined that the practice unfairly inflated the voting power of towns with prisons while diluting the power of others. Given the facts, the court should have an easy time dismissing this suit.







Turkey's democratic regime, even at its worse days in the 1970s or 1980s when it was far from universal standards, has always differentiated Turkey from the rest of the countries with majority Muslim populations. Despite its setbacks, it was obvious that the secular democratic regime was taking its roots in Turkey. And even in those days, Turkey was praised as a model in a region dominated by autocratic regimes.

Yet that rhetoric made less sense those days, as the model was not even liked by those who were suggested to endorse it. The secular and democratic regime of Turkey did not suit the autocratic rulers of the Middle East, and as to the public opinion, mistrust reigned. Turks could not get over the cooperation of Arabs with France and England during World War I, seeing it as a betrayal. The Arabs on the other hand, did not carry a very positive memory of centuries of Ottoman reign.

This negative psychology has started to change only recently.

Although Turkey's effort to improve its relations with the Arab world started in the 1980s with the late President Turgut Özal, the ruling Justice and Development, or AKP, government has made it a priority giving it a huge push. While the government's policies have already bore fruit in the economic field it also has started to bear fruit at the social-cultural level.

In this sense, as reported by the Daily News yesterday, Turkish-Arab relations have turned a new page with the opening of an Arab League office in Ankara.

We understand from the statements of Ambassador Muhommed Al-Fatah Naciri, the representative of the Arab League that the office's mission is rightly defined.

Changing the prejudices creating by history book is a priority of the Arab League, said Ambassador Naciri.

"This is one of the subjects we put as a priority. We have to review how we see each other," he said. "There is a lot of bad literature that we have to remove. We won't falsify history, but we have to review how we present the image of each party."

We believe this is an excellent starting point.

There will also be an effort to improve the language of each other. The number of Turkish academics, journalists or diplomats who speak and understand Arabic is very low and that falls very disproportionate to Turkey's ambition to be a regional and benevolent actor in the region.

Each country in the Arab world has its own specific characteristic and each will move at its own pace and with its dynamics on the path of reform that started in the region. They might opt to make use of the experience of Turkey, which is still struggling in its journey for a better democracy. But for that they need to first understand the Turkish experience.

The cultural exchanges had already started with Turkish TV series gaining popularity over the last couple of years throughout the Arab world. Some even called the recent wave of uprisings among some Arab countries the revolution of Turkish TV series.

Perhaps it is not by chance that Turkish-Arab spring has coincided with the Arab revolutionary spring.

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






The Hürriyet Daily News' exclusive report last week about the rescue operation of the Turkish ambassador in the Ivory Cost seems to have gone a little bit unnoticed. Ambassador Yalçın Kaya Erensoy was trapped in a hotel in a volatile situation where a gun battle was going on between rival factions. He was rescued by Pakistani peacekeepers as where other staff members at the hotel.

To my knowledge it is the first time a Turkish ambassador has been rescued by foreign troops. At least I do not recall any such case in recent history. Obviously I cannot rule out cases that were not revealed to the public and kept secret.

This incident made me raise some questions about the ruling Justice and Development, or AKP, government's "opening to Africa."

This is one of the regions Turkey has been keen to bridge the gap after decades of indifference. While the opening started in 1998, with the endorsement of an Africa action plan, it gained momentum with the AKP. The number of Turkish missions on the continent was 12 in 2005 but has reached 22 this year. The aim is to increase this to 32 in 2012.

I know that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu wants to see a Turkish flag flying in every corner of the world. This is only natural to fulfill the ambition of becoming a global power. Yet having high figures on paper and a flag in front of a building with a plate that says "Turkish Embassy" is not enough to assert yourself as a global power. Unfortunately, some diplomatic missions are set up by sending an ambassador with a suitcase, and he is asked to serve for a long time with one assistant and a driver.

Actually it has been like that in the past as well. I recall how Turkey's first ambassador sent to Baku after the demise of Soviet Union stayed for a long time in a ragged hotel for months and used taxis for transportation.

"Our profession is full of challenges. It is a little bit in the nature of business, in setting up new missions. After all long marches start with small steps," said a Turkish official who attended a meeting last week jointly organized by the Businessmen and Industrialists Confederation of Turkey, or TUSCON, and Chatham House.

Although the particular circumstances of the rescue operation were not disclosed in detail, this incident, which obviously does no good for Turkey's image as an aspiring "global player," should be used to review the pace with which Turkey should open new missions. Turkey's resources are not limitless and there are already several missions that are truly understaffed.

Having said that, no doubt Turkey's increasing presence in Africa is not going unnoticed and the very fact that last week's meeting was organized with the cooperation of Chatham House is an indicator that the new "kid in town" has raised interest among the non-regional actors that are active on the continent.

Turkey owes its visibility to the businesspeople (businesswomen are equally active in Africa) and to organizations like TUSCON, which seems to have an impressive presence on the continent, since their dynamism and activities were subject to appraisal by the Turkish officials present in the meeting.

Interestingly, both Turkish officials and businessmen emphasized that one of Turkey's assets was the fact that it did not have a colonial past in Africa. (I thought the emphasis was ironic, since it was made in front of officials from Chatham House, an institute based in Great Britain, one of the world's biggest powers with a colonial past.)

Whether here in Turkey or during their visits to Africa, the rhetoric of "unlike colonial powers, our interest is not limited to exploiting your natural resources," is one that is too often voiced by President Abdullah Gül or Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Yet I have the feeling that repeating this rhetoric too much can become enjoyable and has the potential to leave a bitter taste with Africans. Thank God it was more eloquently put by Turkish officials attending the meeting. "Obviously we are not doing charity operations. We have strong commercial links. But we have a positive agenda," said one of them. As Turkey had its own experience on its transition from a developing country to one of the world's economic powers, this brings a sort of empathy in its approach to Africa, he said.

"We know how to sort of start from scratch. There is a huge difference between what Turkey looked like before 1980 and how it looks now. It is a long journey and we understand how it feels to grapple with challenges." Turkey wants a relationship among equals, one that is based on mutual benefits, he said.

A businessman said the fact that Turkey is "color blind in Africa" is an asset, but also has its constraints. "We can't assess the realities of Africa as well as Europeans, due to their strong presence with all institutions," he said, adding that there was room for cooperation.

According to Turkish officials the lack of a colonial past is an issue that is appreciated by their African counterparts "They tell us: 'We like your style of doing business. Unlike others, you don't have a different agenda. This gives us a certain confidence,'" said a Turkish official.

According to a Turkish businesswoman, Turkish shops selling Turkish goods have Turkish flags displayed. "This I believe shows the confidence people have in Turkey and Turkish goods," she said.

No doubt, Turkey's increased presence will continue to ignite interest among international players.






Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's chief foreign policy advisor İbrahim Kalın confirmed last week that talks are underway for the Afghan Taliban to open a political office in Istanbul. There appears to even be a candidate to head the office. The name being bandied around is the Taliban's former governor of Herat province, Mullah Hairullah Hairhva, who is said to currently be in U.S. captivity in Guantanamo, where he apparently has been since 2002.

While there is no direct confirmation from Washington that it is supporting such a move, there appears to be no overt opposition either. The assumption is if the United States was strongly opposed to the notion of an office somewhere for the Taliban, in order to facilitate dialogue with the group, it would have made this more than apparent by now.

It is generally thought that Washington, which is increasingly weary about what appears to be a military dead-end in Afghanistan, is willing to try any means now to move forward in an effort to end the violence in that country, and reduce its military presence there over time.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave a green light for contact with the Taliban, although not everyone in Kabul, for example former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, appears to be happy about the idea. Pakistan, another key country in terms of Afghanistan, is also said to be supporting the process.

An office for the Taliban in Turkey – and Istanbul is mentioned as the place where it will be opened – appears not to be such a great idea at first glance from a Turkish perspective. We are after all talking about a group that has used terror tactics in the name of Jihad against the women, children and the elderly of Afghanistan.

The fact there is a government motivated by political Islam in power in Turkey, on the other hand, lays the ground for all kinds of speculation, especially given the Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, known sympathy for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which also use terrorist tactics.

These handicaps can be overlooked, of course, if Turkey's intercession with the Taliban bears big results and contributes to bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan. This however remains a very big "if" at this point in time. In the meantime it is clear that allowing the Taliban to open an office in an influential country such as Turkey will represent a major coup for the group.

Apart from anything else this will amount to officially recognizing and legitimizing a group that has used terrorism to promote its form or fundamentalist Islam for Afghanistan. The question that will come to many Turkish minds is obvious.

"What if the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, decides to open up similar offices somewhere in Europe under its own name by using the precedent of a Taliban office in Turkey." This question will be asked by many Turks.  While this question appears valid at first glance, the devil, as usual is in the details.

The idea of entering into a political dialogue with the Taliban seems, after all, accepted by almost all the parties interested in developments in Afghanistan.  Even former Turkish foreign minister Hikmet Çetin, who in the past has acted as NATO's civilian representative in Kabul, believes there is no other way to proceed at this stage.

But if matters have come to this, then there is another fact that has to be closely considered by Turkey. Something we saw in the recent past with terrorist groups such as the IRA in Northern Ireland, and to an extent ETA in Spain. Regardless how unpleasant it may be for many, it appears that if terrorist groups can maintain their existence over a period of time, and continue with their lethal activities, then they can bomb and kill their way to the negotiating table.

This, then, is the real precedent that Turkey has to consider, rather than the precedent represented by allowing the Taliban to open an office on Turkish territory. Put another way, the real question is not whether the PKK would want to avail of the fact that Ankara is allowing the Taliban to have an office in Turkey. The real question is whether Turkey will also be pushed in time due to sit at the table with the PKK.

As matters stand it is known that the U.S., and other NATO allies of Turkey's, have overtly or covertly put a case for some time now that Ankara should somehow establish political contacts with the PKK in order to solve, what they see, as the "Kurdish problem," or a "Kurdish insurgency" and not necessarily as a problem of terrorism.

It is evident, however, that the Turkish public will oppose any such process of dialogue with the PKK, given its present mood, since this will seem to represent a caving in to a separatist terrorist group that intends to divide the country by violent means.

In other words the whole PKK question remains a highly sensitive one for Turks, especially at a time when body bags of conscripts continue to come from the Southeast. But if the Taliban precedent is indeed established, it is clear that Turkey's objection to suggestions that it should start a similar dialogue with the PKK will carry less weight than might have otherwise been the case.

Turkey's problem is that it is a country that plays host to a lot of domestic contradictions and double standards. This is why it is not hard for some initiatives in foreign policy to rebound in unexpected ways. On the other hand, it is clear that dialogue with a terrorist group is something that cannot be discounted anymore, as a result of the IRA, ETA and now the Taliban examples.

If there is an inevitability in this; in other words if dialogue with terrorists is increasingly part of the general equation in such cases, then Turkey should, without wasting any more time, prepare the ground work for this vis a vis the PKK in order to prevent further bloodshed and violence - regardless of how distasteful this may be for the general public.

If, on the other hand, there is no political will or appetite to go down this path, especially in the face of strong public objections, then it appears more sensible for Ankara to refrain from involvement in plans and ideas that will represent precedents that are then used against Turkey in other ways. The same argument applies, of course, in the broader context to the U.S. and al-Qaeda, or Israel and Hamas as well.






Who is afraid of inflation? This time, almost everybody. The European Central Bank raised interest rates and criticized the Federal Reserve Bank for not following a tight monetary policy. On the other hand the Bank of Japan preferred not to change its interest rate (which is already zero percent) despite the recent disaster. In Turkey, Minister Ali Babacan said yearend inflation figures might be higher than expectations. The minister's concern explains the recent move of the Central Bank of Turkey to raise reserve ratios.

Are there indications that confirm the probability of a new inflation risk? Yes, there are many. First the steady increase in foodstuff and some important raw material prices, then the recent estimates for the probable maximum level that energy prices can reach especially after the political turmoil in the Middle East, made central bankers pessimistic about the future. Another serious concern is the risk of the spread of sovereign debt problems all over Europe. This might create a new wave of stagflation, which is more difficult to fight than dealing with inflation or stagnation alone. After 1974, it took a quarter of a century to understand the nature and reason of the problem and then to design proper policies to ease the pains it created.

It was good news of course that consumer prices rose by only 0.42 percent in Turkey in March, bringing the annual rate of inflation to 3.99 percent, which was below the 41-year low. However, the base effect must be taken into account when overly optimistic comments are made on these figures. The same base effect will work on the negative direction and both monthly and yearly inflation figures will begin to increase during the coming months. To explain simply, in the early months of last year, inflation figures were quite high, and then during the following months inflation began to slowdown and pulled the monthly figures even to negative levels. Consequently as mathematics played an important role on record-low levels of inflation, it will begin to push the monthly figures up by the end of the summer.

Price increases in international markets, however, are more important than the base effect. As mentioned above, price projections for foodstuffs, raw materials and energy suggest increases and have alerted main central banks about the emergence of a probable new inflationary period. This was the main reason why the European Central Bank decided to raise interest rates and the bank's president gave the sign that it might be the start of a series of rate hikes.

China and India also aim to implement tight monetary policy to control rising inflation. Some European countries such as Poland and Sweden preferred to follow the same path as eurozone inflation jumped to 2.6 percent.

The Bank of England and the Federal Reserve Bank have held their main interest rates near zero percent and are still aiming to stimulate private expenditures in order to continue fighting against economic stagnation and unemployment. This is despite some statistics indicating the beginning of an increase in consumer price indices, although recently there was a slight decrease in the United Kingdom where the yearly increase is still 4 percent. To the contrary, some European countries that have nearly succeeded in surviving the crises (Germany, France, Netherlands and Austria) might begin increasing interest rates to dampen a probable inflationary cycle.

However, with hopeless situations in Portugal, Ireland and Greece taken into account, it must be accepted that these interest rate hikes in Europe will harm plans to solve their debt and deficit problems.

In Turkey, even though there has been a slowdown tendency in economic activities recently, the GDP growth rate is satisfactory and it is understood that it will stay satisfactory this year and the next. It means that the new government after the general elections and the new management of the Turkish Central Bank might decide together to raise interest rates if they feel this is necessary to prevent a new surge in consumer prices. This of course will create a braking effect on the growth rate. However, it is better to have a "modest growth-reasonable inflation" combination than to experience again a galloping inflation a short time after having very high growth rates.

Another important point is the overvaluation of the Turkish Lira, which encourages cheap imports and as a result plays an important role in keeping inflation at reasonable levels. However, at the same time this process is continuously widening the foreign trade and current account deficits, which are financed by short-term capital inflow. This creates a vicious cycle, as it is the main reason the lira is overvalued and might prevent any interest rate raise decision when it becomes necessary to stop a new inflationary move in the markets. Higher interest rates will attract more short-time capital, which will in turn contribute to further overvaluation of the lira. For all these reasons, it is better to be alert and act immediately when any indication of a new inflation risk is observed.






"The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly, only in cyberspace. It allows individuals to get online, come together, and hopefully cooperate." Such were the words of the United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Jan. 21, resonating widely with the audience, in a speech in Washington, D.C., outlining the U.S. State Department's commitment to and belief in the power of a free Internet for all.

That the doctrinal commitment to a free Internet as a powerful means of empowering citizens to solve political problems, a view advocated by the U.S. State Department specifically and aptly called "cyber-utopianism" by its critics, has its flaws and has been discussed much before. Beside the over-optimism embedded in cyber-utopianism, attention should be paid to that fact that it portrays a hypocritical stand on the side of the champions of the view.

As expected, the U.S. is playing the leading role globally in advancing "Internet freedom," which even included an award of $20 million in 2008-10 to support the work of digital activists. In February, amid the dust of the Arab Spring, Clinton committed a further $25 million to its Civil Society 2.0 Initiative, aiming to "help grassroots organizations around the world use digital technology to tell their stories … and connect to their community of peers around the world." The State Department also intends to dispatch "experienced technologists" around the world to teach civil-society organizations to leverage social networks for a cause.

Clinton commits to supporting the struggle for Internet freedom through investing "in the cutting edge technologies, because we know that repressive governments are constantly innovating their methods of oppression and we intend to stay ahead of them." 

So far, so good.

However, a closer look at the State Department's policies and actions reveals the paradoxes inherent in this insatiable thirst for Internet freedom. The department champions the free flow of information, but not the release of the secret departmental cables made public by WikiLeaks.  Moreover, given that Clinton's digital diplomats have aligned themselves with Internet companies and organizations, many regimes abroad are convinced that Internet freedom is another Trojan horse for American imperialism. It seems contradictory for the U.S. to paint a rosy picture of commitment to Internet freedom and criticize authoritarian governments so readily when along with other Western democratic states they themselves censor and seek their enemies through Net trails? Aren't senior officials in the security communities anxious to use the full capacities of the Net to identify threats, and individuals, who might be a danger to the U.S.? How is this paradoxical stance explained?

More good news: U.S. technology is now among the tools used in the crackdowns on uprisings across the Middle East. In Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and elsewhere, bloggers have been captured as governments try to repress online expression, and all this, thanks to the U.S. companies providing sophisticated web-filtering and monitoring technology. A report recently published by the Open Net Initiative, a joint project whose goal is to monitor and report on Internet filtering and surveillance practices by nations, details just how popular Western filtering tools and services are among authoritarian regimes. Nine countries in the region utilize Western-made tools for the purpose of blocking social and political content, effectively blocking a total of over 20 million Internet users from accessing such websites. Furthermore, regulations and accountability related to the use of commercial filters and services for state censorship are typically non-existent, and there is no or little oversight from civil society and free speech advocacy groups on the role Western technology companies play in restricting access to content online.

Many regimes including those in the Middle East rely on such software to censor content they deem objectionable, though what one regime sees as objectionable can—and often does—fall within the range of speech protected by international frameworks such as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

There are currently no export-restrictions on Web-filtering technology, most of it being technology exported by U.S. Internet security companies such as McAfee. "They could build into the software something that signals and, in fact, sends back to them exactly what kind of filtering is taking place," says Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of law and computer science at Harvard Law School. However, the truth no one wants to speak about is no U.S. internet security company would dare to create a system that signals the kind of censorship that takes place, because their customer, in most cases an authoritarian government, would not like to see this happen.

We have yet failed to see why the U.S. State Department, or the U.S. in general, has not called for collaboration with the Internet security companies and providers of the main tools of the suppression of the freedom of expression in authoritarian regimes. Collaboration could go as far as to establish regulations on the exports of the web-filtering and web-monitoring technologies. However, so far, very few have paid attention to the paradoxes inherent in the call for 'free Internet for all,' It seems like we are a long way from establishing standards and regulations that will at the end help make the call for 'free Internet for all,' championed by the U.S. State Department, more consistent, more credible and more beneficial for all.

"If we don't believe in free expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all," American public intellectual Noam Chomsky argued in a BBC Late Night Show in 1992. His words still resonate with many, as everyone needs to ask themselves, whether they really believe in free expression. Do they want free expression for people "they" despise? Or, amid the chaos of security communities anxious to use the full capacities of the Net to identify threats and the web-filtering companies happily providing uncontrolled web-filtering and monitoring products to authoritarian regimes, are the paradoxical Internet-freedom policies just another Trojan horse for Western control over many authoritarian countries?

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






What will happen in the future, between now and 2023? Apparently, Turkey's population will increase by 11 million and reach 84 million. All right, but where will this population increase mainly? In big cities of course; in Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir.

The population increase must have been behind the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, "big city perspective" that aims not only four years but a period until 2023. This is an effort by a central government to create "physical" solutions to future problems in developing big cities. As macro objectives are let in flow and to potential optimistic estimations about Turkey, the AKP focuses on migration and urbanization as well as related potential "physical" problems in the future. But is this enough within the scenario announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the other day? Not much.

Employment of unqualified workers?

Though the annual economic growth figure for 2023 is not pronounced precisely, a $2.1 trillion-worth economy in 2023 roughly means 7 percent annual growth rate in the next 13 years. However, there is no answer to "how?" The ruling party's target lowering unemployment rate to 5 percent and increasing employment to 50 percent among "15+ age group" hangs in the air.

This means creating jobs for 700,000 people each year as the annual average population increase until 2023 stands at 850,000! What kind of an education opportunity will be provided for the potential labor force? Will this mean creating jobs for construction workers? In the 2007 general elections, the government party promised mandatory K-12 education. Not a single step has been taken so far. With the inclusion of one-year pre-school education, the target is renewed to 1+K-12 education however. Don't worry it is in Erdoğan's speech, even if not uttered in the AKP election manifesto! When? It is unclear. The most sluggish and paltered section of the blueprint is education, I should say.

For instance, the AKP aimed for a 90 percent schooling rate in secondary schools in the 2007 elections, but the figure is 85 percent in 2011. By not doing much about it, setting a target of being in top 10 in the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, is quite amusing given that we rank the 30th as of today! In the manifesto, there is no information about how university education will be brought into international competition and about what added value to production would be. Yet there is one thing for sure to be carried into 2023, the Higher Education Board, or YÖK.

Municipalist perspective

Therefore, the AKP's 2023 vision reflects a "municipalist perspective," like how sheltering and transportation need of this population will be met and as such. What about the rest? The AKP seems relaxed, thinking, "We have been in the government for eight years, look what we have done so far," with such a perspective that "Turkey has a huge potential; let's start this out, the rest will come."

The AKP's 2011 election manifesto highlights infrastructure and transportation investment plans for big cities. Objectives are set so high especially for the railway grid. "Our target is a transition from double-highways to double railways," the AKP says. In the energy policy, an answer is given to "what will be the current deficit?" It seems that nuclear energy is being pointed to as a remedy in order to decrease considerably high energy import figures in the current deficit.

After the "family insurance" plan offered by the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, the AKP incorporates this as a "right" in an institutional frame. With this, the AKP indicates that housing, education, social security and income distribution policies will all be brought under a single roof and "household-based" implementations will be applied; quite similar to the "family insurance" the CHP offers.

In summary, the AKP election manifesto is like a project based on an urban engineering concept with a "Mayor of Turkey" perspective. It does not say much about how we could be globally competitive as macro and human capital is let in flow. As the AKP focuses on urbanization and construction in the election manifesto, one shouldn't be surprised if employment is based on increase in unqualified labor force!

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






The Americans have a saying that I like very much:

"What you want is what you get… If it's $100 that you target that's what you get. If you opt for $100,000 then in the end that's what you get."

This quote shows the need to aim high and not waste time with low targets. You may not reach your target immediately but eventually you will. And at least if you aim high you are forced to think big.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's "The 2023 Vision" statement is very exiting for Turkey.

Projects mentioned in this statement are not out of range or impossible. It is difficult to tell how much of those will come true but let's not forget that politics is the sale of a "dream-future" kind of thing, of raising hopes or exciting people by making promises in order to better their lives.

However, societies know what can be done and what is out of reach. In this respect, there are certain things lacking but there is no exaggeration. They are all realistic.

This long-term approach will provide a vision for society to keep the bar high. For the first time it will give an opportunity to think of long-term plans like, "This man will help me to buy a house," for the poor citizen, "I can be better off in the future," for the average citizen.

You'll see 12 years from now we'll compare Erdoğan's statement with the present situation and probably notice how skinny his target will seem. For, Turkey has caught a great stream and in case it does not trip or international conditions change it will carry Turkey far.

Just as we are astonished about how far we've come now, we will be astonished about where we will be going in 2023.

Messages the program intends to give, and does not give

AKP's program is not the revolutionary kind destroying taboos as experienced before. It doesn't intend to make use of unjust treatment rhetoric as well. It exhibits an approach that puts social welfare in focus even though politicians still use accustomed methods. Society is forced to think big and long-term focused. Concrete projects are the priority.

I tried to find messages in between the lines:

- The prime minister clearly stated that he might be the captain of the ship until 2023.

- He gave reassurance that what they did within the past eight years is a guarantee for what they will do in the coming 12 years.

- He also brought targets for not only for the poor but also for industry and export that are exiting for everybody.

- His approach in respect to transforming the Turkish Armed Forces into an institution with technology that would produce its own tanks, fly its own aircrafts and travel into space.

The Kurdish issue

There might be lots of questions and criticism but the greatest lack in this program is the Kurdish issue, which has been treated very superficial.

There is only one way to reach the 2023 target.

And that is to find a solution to the Kurdish issue to make it possible for both sides to "live together."

To broaden democracy cannot be a solution.

A vital change in attitude is necessary.

We need to run the risk of sharing Turkey's assets and restrain from perceiving the Kurds as outcasts.

There was no such insight or vision in the prime minister's statement.

Wonder if he kept quiet so he wouldn't give credit to the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, during election procedures or if he was only trying to postpone this issue? If the bright idea of "Kurdish initiative" has been put on hold Turkey won't be able to stand up neither by 2023 nor by 2123.

The constitution issue was also just touched on.

If in 2023 we are still living with a judiciary that ceases books because they describe "how to build a bomb" or confuses the fine line between opposition and conspiracy then Erdoğan's exiting statement will be wasted.

In the end, probably for the first time we will witness an election, in which concrete projects of the administration and opposition will conflict and, instead of fights and meaningless ideological arguments, everybody will realize what has been promised








The government appears to have decided that there is no way out of the current crises it faces other than to go for a major overhaul of the oil and gas sector. The energy shortfall in the country and all kinds of related problems are just one aspect of this mammoth problem. The decision comes after Dr Asim Hussain, who resigned in 2009 citing personal reasons, returns as adviser to the prime minister. At a meeting chaired by the PM it has been decided that there can be no getting away from the need to expand production and ensure oil and gas are more evenly distributed among consumers, especially those in the industrial sector. Some tough decisions have been taken. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has decided, on the advice of Dr Hussain, to immediately fire the heads of all the oil and gas companies and orders to this effect have been given to the Petroleum and Natural Resources Ministry. Dr Hussain has also made it clear that court cases need to be pursued aggressively and circular debt reduced at all costs. To make all this possible it has also been decided that the new heads of organisations that include the Pakistan State Oil, the Sui Southern Gas Company, the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited and the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited will be brought in from overseas. The argument goes that the expertise required to restructure the sector is simply not available within the country. Other changes in the working of the organisations are also envisaged. The Sui Southern Gas Company and the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited will, for example, be made responsible for the distribution of LPG.

These moves will arguably create a stir in the country. It is hard to assess if the import of heads is truly necessary or whether the high-salary packages these individuals are certain to be offered will only add to the fiscal problems we face in this sector. There is also reason to believe the move comes as a direct result of the talks in Washington between Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh and the IMF, where the issue of reforming the energy sector is reported to have come up strongly. There can, however, be no doubt that urgent improvement is needed in the running of the crucial energy sector which quite literally keeps the country moving. We wish reform had come sooner, perhaps a year and a half ago when proposals in this regard were first made. Matters should not have been allowed to deteriorate to this degree. Now we can only hope that things can be salvaged; that it is not too late to do so and that the improvements that are so essential to our future can come about as the process of putting things in order begins.








Our fiscal policy wonks, assorted high-flying civil servants and a very nervous Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh are rattling the bowl once again. The IMF and the World Bank are having their annual spring moot and our fine fellows are there to tell these ports of last refuge why it is that we still staunchly refuse to tax the rich, develop and implement financial policies with an eye to the future rather than the near political term, and are content to have everybody else doing the bailing while the government punches new holes in the bottom of the boat. The finance minister has pointed the finger at none other than that close friend of the people of Pakistan – parliament. It is parliament, he says, that is hindering the implementation of a new tax regime, of widening the tax base and improving methods of revenue collection.

The IMF and the WB are equally clear as to why it is we are eternally strapped for cash. They are of the opinion that 'the government succumbed to pressures of powerful lobbies and provided incentives to major business tycoons at a time when the salaried class was made to pay a 15 percent additional flood surcharge'. They were also unimpressed by the reduction of General Sales Tax (GST) from 17 to 10 percent for textiles, leather, carpets, surgical and sports goods. There is now the usual batting of the ball back and forth with vested interests claiming that they have nothing but the good of the country at heart, and an embattled federal finance team trying to convince the WB and the IMF that we really do need yet another bailout and that we really are trying our best to manage our finances more prudently. The IMF is running out of patience as evidenced by its comment that we should 'cater to economic challenges on our own'. The space within which politicians can practice the doctrine of denial, of looking the other way as the financial juggernaut rolls towards us, is getting ever narrower. The only way out of this is the aggressive and sustained taxation of sections of the economy that have consistently avoided paying taxes for decades..







The findings of the study on the quality of water in the country's rural areas conducted by the Pakistan Council of Research in water resource make for shocking reading. They tell us that 82 percent of water sources in 24 districts are unsafe and responsible for many diseases that take their toll on our people. The five-year study notes that water-related diseases cause an annual loss of Rs25 billion or more and that 250, 000 children in the country die every year due to sickness caused by the quality of the water they drink.

The situation is obviously alarming. When the state is unable to provide even safe water to millions of citizens, it is obviously failing in its most basic duties in a horrendous fashion. Despite the publicity the issue has received over the past few years, too little has been done to change the situation and offer people better quality water. The pollution of more and more water sources is a factor in this. But solutions have been suggested, including cheap indigenous ones that involve water filtration through earthen vessels. Boiling is not always a practical remedy for people who lack sufficient fuel and must obtain enough water for large households. The latest study makes it clear that this is a disaster of the highest order. It must be given priority so that lives can be saved and healthcare expenditures used more wisely.








 "Director Leon Panetta (informed ISI chief Gen Shuja Pasha) that he has a duty to prevent attacks on the United States.....and he will not halt operations that support that objective," said an official of the CIA. The fact that the message was given to Gen Pasha within hours of his arrival in Washington last week says it all. The row which was simmering has boiled over. The Wall Street Journal went one better. It advised Washington to confront Pakistan with the same choice as Bush had done in 2001: "Are you with us or against us?"

The Americans have, in a manner of speaking, thrown down the gauntlet, and now it is up to Pakistan to either pick it up and accept the challenge or walk away. Although both sides are playing it down for their own reasons, it was in many ways a seminal moment. And, in retrospect, it may mark the beginning of the end of a relationship that has always vacillated between attraction and repulsion, with both sides realising that a bitter parting would be fraught with dangerous consequences, initially more for Pakistan but eventually also for the US and the region.

The Americans have probably calculated that Pakistan will whinge and whine at first but eventually fall in line, because it is in dire straits financially, lacking resources, facing an economic meltdown; and it is also a fractured society, hobbled by a weak government and an overstretched army. The prospect of lucre conveyed through such schemes as proffered by Kerry-Lugar may well have encouraged the impression in the administration that Pakistan can be had for a price.

Our ambassador in Washington encouraged such a view when he told his American interlocutors, in a fit of unbecoming candour, that Pakistanis are by nature "rug merchants" who may initially ask for a steep price but will settle for a trifling amount if properly bargained with. And, indeed, such seems the hunger for dollars here that both may be right. Except that the stakes now are not quantifiable only in dollars. Our differences are stark. In fact, they are distinct, diverse, sheer opposite, antipodes. Worse, while we want to pour balm upon the battleground we feel that the US vexes us.

How, then, will this government react to the American ultimatum? To the astonishment of many, Mr Gilani said he plans to enlist the help of SAARC members to persuade Washington not to have recourse to drones. Goaded by him, tiny Maldives will presumably be making a demarche to the US on this score. Mr Zardari has said nothing, because his First Commandment is not to defy America.

As for the opposition, Shahbaz Sharif asked the nation to forego Kerry-Lugar handouts, as if that will force the Americans to change their mind. The opposition's advantage is that, while they have little power, they have absolutely no responsibility – "the prerogative of the harlot through the ages," in the words of Stanley Baldwin.

The military's usual reaction to such predicaments is to hide behind the government while maintaining a loud silence. But it's no secret who runs the war effort or who signs off on policy. The Americans, like the rest of us, see it in practice every day and know better than to blame the powerless civilians. When dismissing Gen Pasha's request out of hand, the Americans obviously felt they had the measure of our military and there was virtually nothing to fear. The military now risks earning public ridicule if they refuse to pick up the gauntlet.

Many had hoped that the undeserved strictures in the US biannual report that the military had not performed well would provide the incentive the army needed to finally consider disentangling Pakistan from the suffocating American embrace. However, others claiming they know better, predict nothing of the sort would happen. "Whatever their misgivings and suspicions about America's motives, the Pakistani military will remain fixated on the American alliance just as it is obsessed about India," said one military pundit. Perhaps that's why the military has never developed an alternative strategy that will enable Pakistan to carry on without their American lifeline.

One reason why we have never embarked on such an exercise is the dysfunctional relationship that exists between civilian governments and the armed forces. The former are ever wary of the military and the latter barely able to conceal their contempt for the "bloody civilians." So unless there is a mutual awakening the sea change in attitudes required to draw up a plan slipping the American chokehold is unlikely.

Even if such cooperation is possible, there are some hard issues and challenges ahead in the grim circumstances we face today. Despite the inestimable value of our long-term strategic ties with China, there isn't much that Beijing can do to alleviate our problems with our neighbours – Afghanistan and India. China can, of course, help us rebuild our economy by engaging in mega projects and other business investments but that cannot happen on a significant scale and on a sustained basis unless our internal security improves significantly and we can demonstrate dominance over armed outfits with extremist agendas.

With India our problems have grown into bizarre proportions and the popular view that India is out to get us makes the problem of reining in our hostility to India that much more difficult. Unless, therefore, confidence-building measures with India make substantial gains, there is little hope that we will be able to reconsider our anti India stance and, of course, there is little hope that India will do likewise.

India is a sizeable economic power and a fast emerging rival of China. As such, its growing preoccupation with China means that Pakistan's importance will decline in relative terms and the potential threat it can pose to India militarily will become a lot less. Hence, India has lesser reasons than in the past to worry about Pakistan, except as a source of terrorism (Mumbai-style), or if extremists seize power and lay their hands on our nuclear arsenal. While we believe this can never happen, outsiders looking in take a different view of our deteriorating situation.

With regard to Afghanistan an understanding with Kabul on ways of accommodating the Taliban will be a major breakthrough, as it would help us concentrate on tackling the TTP. But that won't be easy. Kabul is suspicious of our game, believing that it has not changed much since the 1990s. Perhaps Gilani's recent visit and the setting up of a joint high-powered body including the army chiefs will dampen Afghan suspicions.

To further complicate the situation, there is some doubt about how much influence we have over the Afghan Taliban, who are fiercely independent and unpredictable. They did little to settle the Durand Line with us when they were ensconced in power with our assistance and support. Unless, therefore, they return as a part of a peace deal, old rivalries will revive, the civil war resume and proxy wars ensue, enabling outside powers to establish a foothold in Afghanistan.

Internally too we face a difficult situation. Extremist groups initially nurtured by us as instruments of an overly ambitious foreign policy have become so entrenched that they have cowed down and marginalised moderate groups as well as the silent majority. Either due to inertia or contagion, our strategic thinking does not seem to have evolved since the 1990s. What started off as a solution to our external challenges has evolved into our most implacable problem.

Survival of the fittest is a well known phrase but one that can be easily misunderstood leading to blunders. "Fitness" is not physical strength alone or power to dominate others but, most importantly, the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and to handle them skilfully. This Darwinian principle applies to strategic policy with equal force. Our policies, therefore, must evolve in the light of far-reaching developments because clinging to the old paradigms, as we (and India) are at the moment, is folly.


The writer is a former ambassador. Email:








The IMF issued a Programme Note on Pakistan on April 7. The timing and the contents of the note are highly damaging for the government and for its economic team. Through this note, the IMF has, in a way, vented its frustration at the way Pakistan's economic management is being carried out. The release of the note coincides with the release of an equally damaging report from the White House on Pakistan's economy.

The release of the IMF note also coincides with the arrival of Pakistan's finance minister and his team in Washington to attend the Spring Meeting of the IMF-World Bank. There cannot be a better way to greet the Pakistani delegation in Washington. Besides attending the Spring Meeting, the Pakistani team will engage extensively with the high officials of both the institutions. The contents of the note will form the agenda for extensive discussion.

The IMF in its note has raised several issues. Firstly, it has expressed its concerns over the persistence of a large fiscal deficit owing to the delays in tax and expenditure reforms. Secondly, the IMF has observed that some structural reforms which were introduced in late 2008 and 2009 were in fact reversed in 2010 and 2011, instead of being carried forward.

Thirdly, it has noted that while the government did make some progress on tax reforms and expenditure rationalisation recently, the reforms were delayed and their scope was narrowed down. Fourthly, the IMF has pointed out that very little progress has been made in power-sector reform and commodity operations. These reforms were needed, on the one hand, to reduce pressure on public finances, which pose a serious threat to macroeconomic stability and to the strengthening of Pakistan's banking sector, on the other.

Fifthly, the legislation needed to strengthen bank supervision and granting additional autonomy to the SBP has not yet been enacted. Sixthly, the reform of petroleum pricing has been partially reversed in recent months. The government, under pressure from its coalition partners and opposition, reversed its decision wholly and/or partially, to pass on the higher cost of fuel to domestic consumers in recent months. Finally, the reforms needed to strengthen the social safety net have not yet been completed. This deals with the strengthening and expanding the scope of the Benazir Income Support Programme and making its operation transparent.

The IMF also underscored the importance of reinvigorating economic reforms, strengthening Pakistan's public finances through tax reforms and improving the quality of expenditure, improving the health of the banking and financial sector, restoring confidence in economic management to stimulate savings and investment, and promoting economic growth for creating jobs and poverty reduction. If Pakistan undertakes meaningful economic reforms and strengthens its public finances, not only will there be extension of external financial support from donors but also an increase in private-capital flows.

The message of both the White House report and the IMF note is very clear: that the government is weak and its economic team lacks capacity to undertake meaningful economic reforms, so vital for addressing Pakistan's economic challenges. In my numerous columns in this newspaper, I have not only been raising these concerns but also giving suggestions based on my experience of handling such issues in the past. At times, I was too critical, which simply reflected my frustration over the economic management of the government. On many occasions, I have asked the finance minister to lead the ministry from the front and remove the perception of having a laidback, lethargic and non-serious attitude.

Pakistan is passing through the most critical and difficult phase of its economic history, which requires knowledge, dedication and hard work from the finance minister and his comrades. Unfortunately, they are neither devoting enough time nor making enough effort to address economic challenges. The non-serious attitude of the economic team has further compounded Pakistan's economic difficulties, for which the people of Pakistan are paying a heavy price. The same attitude is responsible for reversing some of the reforms in 2010 and 2011, as pointed out tersely by the IMF.

It has been a regular practice of the government to take economic decisions and then reverse them wholly or partially under the pressure of coalition partners, opposition and the private sector. In so doing, the government has exposed itself as being a lame-duck government. The finance minister hates to interact with private sector in particular and the people of Pakistan in general. As such, the trust deficit has widened between the government and the private sector on the one hand and the government and the people of Pakistan on the other.

On many occasions, I have asked the finance minister to interact regularly with chambers of commerce and industry, leading businesses, industrialists and bankers. Such interaction on regular basis is essential for building the confidence of the private sector. I have also advised the minister to interact with the people of Pakistan through the print and electronic media. This is a very useful way of communicating with the people of Pakistan directly, and sharing with them the views of the government on different economic issues. I have also suggested that the minister should appoint a spokesperson of the ministry to communicate with the press and media within and outside the country. None of these painless suggestions have been taken up by the minister.

Before I close, it is not uncommon to find midgets trying to glorify themselves by downplaying the economic achievement of the period of 2000-2007. They believe that by criticising the economic performance of the period, they would enhance their stature. The opening statement of the Programme Note of the IMF, "until the economic crisis of 2008, Pakistan enjoyed a relatively robust economic performance since 2001," is enough for these midgets to direct their energy towards giving suggestions for taking the country out of the current crisis.

The writer is principal and dean at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@







When the history of our benighted times comes to be written, it will be noted that the Iftikhar Chaudhry Supreme Court was the one institution which served the nation most meritoriously in its hour of greatest need. If constitution and freedom under law survive in Pakistan, it will be only because of the sturdy independence of the Supreme Court. Whenever I visit the court and watch its proceedings, depression and frustration all drop away. I go back home full of pride in the court, with renewed confidence in the survival of our country and its fledgling democratic institutions.

In the words of Nani Palkhivala, so long as there is a judiciary marked by rugged independence, the citizen's liberties are safe even in the absence of cast-iron guarantees in the constitution. But once the judiciary becomes subservient to the executive and to the philosophy of the party for the time being in power, no enumeration of fundamental rights in the constitution can be of any avail to the citizen, because the courts of justice would then be replaced by government courts.

It is our good fortune that after years of subservience to the executive, the Supreme Court is now back on its feet. Chief Chaudhry has set in motion a mighty revolution that is irreversible, because it has the support of the people.

Isn't it ironic that today the people of Pakistan, especially the poor, the disadvantaged and the voiceless, expect justice not from parliament, not from the Presidency, not from the prime minister, but from the Supreme Court?

The few hours I spent recently in the Supreme Court in the NRO case made it abundantly clear that the executive is determined to defy the apex court. Attempts are being made to subvert the people's will and overturn the judicial revolution. It is the last desperate gamble of a hated and doomed, corrupt autocracy.

President Zardari, symbol of the unity of the Federation, has declared war on the Supreme Court. The government's refusal to comply with the Supreme Court directive is an alarm call of the most compelling kind. The fear of conspiracy against the Supreme Court hangs heavy in the air. Our history can show no precedent for so foul a plot as that which this corrupt, dying regime has hatched against the Supreme Court.

Today Pakistan is ruled by a president who lacks credibility and integrity and is interested only in perpetuating himself and protecting his ill-gotten wealth at all, costs and cost be damned. The country is breaking down. It has become ungovernable and would remain so as long as he remains in power. When he goes abroad or speaks to foreign heads of state, Pakistanis sit on the edge of their seats wondering how their ruler will embarrass them next.

Today we are engaged in a great battle for rule of law and corruption-free politics. With the demise of the NRO, we won the first round, but the fight is not over. In fact, it has just begun. No military dictator and no corrupt civilian ruler can afford an independent judiciary or an independent media. They cannot coexist. Today both are under attack in democratic Pakistan. The conspirators who have ganged up against the Supreme Court and independent media must not succeed.

Today nuclear Pakistan lies prostrate and has lost its independence. It cannot protect the lives and properties of its citizens. It cannot prevent the violation of its airspace. Why? Because it is now virtually an American satellite and is portrayed in American media as a "retriever dog." Pakistan has lost its honour, its dignity, and its sense of self-respect.

It is not enough to sit back and let history slowly evolve. To settle back into our cold-hearted acceptance of the status quo is not an option. The present leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. The course they are on leads downhill. This is a delicate time, full of hope and trepidation in equal measure. Today it is a political and moral imperative for all patriotic Pakistanis to fight for our core values, to destroy the roots of the evil that afflicts Pakistan.

Ultimately, the true guardians of the Constitution are the people of Pakistan. People power alone can protect the Supreme Court from the corrupt rulers. Our rulers know that the street is all they have to fear. Confronting them has now become a patriotic duty. Today there is no other path for our country but the one which led to the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other deposed judges.

We have arrived at the greatest turning point in our history. One feels in the air the sense of the inevitable which comes from the wheel of destiny when it moves and of which people are often the unconscious instruments. It is time to turn the page. The time to hesitate is through. This is a moment of great hope for Pakistan. Let us not let it turn into a national nightmare. In this transcendent struggle between the Supreme Court and kleptocracy, neutrality is not an option. You're either with the people or against them. There is no halfway house. As we approach the endgame, the nation has to decide between two conceptions of politics, two visions for our country, two value systems, two very different paths. Every citizen must ask himself now: if our core institutions are to survive – if Pakistan is to survive – can we afford to let our corrupt rulers remain in power and destroy all our core institutions.

Today there is an intense anxiety on the part of ordinary people for decisive leadership. People are waiting for a stirring lead and a clarion call. It seems that while the nation craves for leadership, political leaders with one or two exceptions are equally determined not to lead them. Is it because they are all for the status quo and do not want to rock the boat? Isn't it a great tragedy that today the destiny of Pakistan is in the hands of leaders who refuse to draw the sword people offer them?

If people want a change, they will have to vote with their bodies and keep voting in the streets – over and over and over. A government like this, which is defying the Supreme Court, can only be brought down or changed if enough people vote in the streets. This is what the regime fears most. A bloodless revolution but a mighty revolution – that is what we need today.

The feeling of the nation must be quickened, the conscience of the nation must rouse; the proprieties of the nation must be startled, the hypocrisy of the corrupt rulers must be exposed.


The writer is a former federal secretary. Email:,








I write in regards to the excellent appraisal by Ambassador Tanvir Ahmed Khan (April 14, 2011) on the collected works in the new book titled "Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State" edited by Ambassador Dr Maleeha Lodhi. I am sure all the other contributors to the volume will appreciate and reflect on his comments as well.

Ambassador Khan criticises my chapter on the economics of the crisis state on the grounds that it adheres to standard neo-liberal analysis and prescriptions. In other words I have not come up with something new, some novel, sexy concept or refreshingly new view that has a money-back guarantee to set the Pakistan economy on a glorious, never-ending upward trajectory. I had anticipated such criticism. The debate about the efficacy of neo-liberal economics to development economics has a long history and is not new.

However, it would take more than a short column in this esteemed paper to discuss it. Suffice to say that since I have never been an intellectually obstinate person, I remain open to being convinced of an 'alternative' path to development that can produce the kind of macroeconomic outcomes that we should be striving for: robust, labour-augmenting growth with low inflation, with economic growth being driven by savings, investment and exports (and not consumption and imports) so that the 'twin deficits' can fall over time and growth becomes more self-sustaining and less aid and debt-dependent (Dr. Maleeha Lodhi's concept of 'borrowed growth'). Thus, I most certainly do not insist and never have insisted that "remedial initiatives have to remain within the parameters of the dominant neo-liberal theories of the time".

May I also submit to Ambassador Khan that the thrust of my chapter was not on whether we as a nation (and/or I) are lackeys of the IMF who slavishly follow the strictures of the "Washington Consensus", or not. Pakistan's problem is not that we have followed this or that paradigm. As a witness to economic history, Pakistan's problem is that it has never implemented an adjustment programme with unswerving commitment and full 'ownership' as in other countries.

Implementation is undertaken grudgingly, haltingly, in bad faith and more egregiously with the occasional, or is it now an ingrained tendency, to use the sleight of hand to meet targets. This is not a harsh judgment. Pakistan's interactions with the IMF (or the west more generally) is a depressing litany of broken promises and failed programmes which we have always abandoned at mid-point once the crisis is past, the economy starts to recover and most importantly, our foreign exchange reserves reach more comfortable levels. Then we become smug, complacent and arrogant and want to regain our 'economic sovereignty' – until, of course, the next crisis. Worse still, not only do we abandon the programme, we proceed to roll-back whatever little reform we may have undertaken – a good example being the charade that is played out with regards to removing and then restoring tax exemptions and concessions for the rich and powerful.

The main point of my chapter was that a grudging, half-cocked, start-stop, cook-the-books, roll-back approach to reforms is not the way the people of Pakistan are ever going to see any benefit from adjustment programmes whether financed by the IMF or not, and whether the programme carries the label 'Washington Consensus', 'Chinese Consensus', 'Voodoo Economics' or 'Islamic Ummah Consensus'. The blunt fact is that the perfidy of successive governments in Pakistan has time and again let the people down. This betrayal must stop.

Suggesting that our present economic malaise is because Pakistan has been following neo-liberal policies misses the point, ignores the facts of economic history and sounds to me like a bit of a cop-out. Successful countries like those in the BRIC group, as well as Turkey, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and even countries in sub-Sahara Africa (which according to the IMF's latest global forecast are set to record the highest GDP growth rate in a decade) have made rapid strides in developing their economies while lifting millions of people out of poverty. They don't waste time on polemics. We need to find the way to emulate them (as Pakistan was emulated in the 60s by them) and not get bogged down in tiresome, tangential debates on ideology and metaphysics.

The writer has worked at the Planning Commission and the IMF. Email: meekalahmed2







The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

The government still lacks a credible action plan to control the nation's budget deficit. It has balked from taking tough decisions that can confront the scale of the fiscal problem and resorted instead to temporary, stopgap measures that do little to address the underlying causes. Confusion reigns about which of last month's tax measures have been reversed or modified and which have survived resistance from affected interests.

With significant reform stalled the disarray in public finances continues to pose a threat to the country's financial stability. The situation may aggravate due to a confluence of two new factors. Together they indicate that in the absence of reform the fiscal deficit could grow even larger in the foreseeable future because these developments have underlying structural characteristics.

The Governor of the State Bank has sounded a timely warning about the first of these trends in remarks that merit more attention than they have received. The insights offered by Mr Shahid Kardar in a Reuters interview earlier this month signal new risks for the country's already precarious fiscal position.

The erudite governor said he was worried by a 'structural shift' of incomes towards the non-tax paying or lightly taxed sectors from tax paying ones. This shift of incomes especially to the agriculture sector, he said, means that the tax to GDP ratio is "structurally destined to hover at lower levels".

Pakistan has one of the lowest tax to GDP ratios in the world, which is the source of all its fiscal problems. Mr Kardar's prognosis suggests that additional structural factors will fortify or fuel the fiscal deficit crisis unless decisive measures are taken. He reiterated the call to broaden the tax base and address this structural shift in the next budget.

What exactly is the central bank governor referring to and why is it important? He is pointing to the fact that while the agriculture and service sectors have for a number of reasons been doing better than other tax-paying sectors they still contribute little revenue to the exchequer.

At a time of severe economic hardship for much of urban Pakistan and for the industrial and manufacturing sector, the agricultural economy has – in spite of the 2010 floods – benefited from higher global commodity prices and domestic support prices which together have shifted the terms of trade in favour of the untaxed agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for 22 percent of GDP but contributes little more than one percent of all revenue. The rise in international commodity prices and the government's setting of procurement prices well above their import parity price in the past two years has led to an increase in farm incomes. But this has not been accompanied by any commensurate obligation to pay tax.

Similarly, a major part of the services sector, which now accounts for 52 percent of GDP, remains exempt from any General Sales Tax. In recent years this sector has been growing at a much faster rate than the manufacturing and even the agricultural sector. Moreover this sector has also significantly benefited from the increased spending resulting from higher agricultural incomes. But it has failed to appreciably contribute to government revenue.

A GST has formally been in place for twenty years but its fiscal impact has been greatly diluted by many exemptions. Add to this the rampant evasion of income tax by the services sector and its successful effort to thwart a value added tax and an even more dismal picture emerges. The net result is what Governor Kardar has drawn attention to – a structural shift within the economy with serious fiscal implications which warrant urgent tax reforms.

As Mr Kardar has alluded, if the two sectors that contribute 74 percent of GDP have seen incomes grow but remain largely outside the tax net, it is hard to see how the tax to GDP ratio can improve. Without fundamental reforms and a tax regime that is fair and equitable, based on the ability of different sections of society to bear the burden, the tax to GDP ratio cannot much exceed 10 percent. Additional revenue can still however be raised through better enforcement and removal of exemptions to the GST.

A key reason for poor tax compliance and a culture hostile to revenue collection is the lack of equity in the tax regime with the burden falling disproportionately on the same people. To inject equity into the system the agriculture and services sector must be brought fully into the tax net however politically tough that may be. Without this, the country's structural fiscal problem and chronic revenue shortfall cannot be addressed.

The agricultural sector continues to benefit from state help without being asked to pay its due. When the official wheat procurement price was set higher than its international market price this amounted to giving a producer subsidy. Although this year support and international prices are roughly the same the government is still intervening to buy several million tons of wheat to 'protect' farmers not able to sell their produce at the procurement price.

This producer subsidy together with a large subsidy on inputs like urea, are politically difficult to withdraw in view of the clout of the farm lobby in the national and provincial assemblies. The cost of this subsidy is now huge – more than Rs45 billion a year.

The shift in incomes to the non-tax paying sectors has been accompanied by a second development which will also fuel the budget deficit and, unless corrective action is taken now, become an additional 'structural' cause of a deepening fiscal crisis. This relates to the balance of resource distribution that was tilted in favour of the provinces under the December 2009 National Finance Commission award.

The redistribution of resources under the NFC award represented a missed opportunity that can prove costly in the future. When the share of provincial governments in the divisible pool was being enhanced no effort was made to persuade the provinces to accept reciprocal commitments to: a) mobilise resources from taxes in their provincial or local jurisdictions and b) assume the responsibility to absorb personnel and fund operational and development activities devolved to them under the Eighteenth Constitutional Amendment.

The spectre that now looms is for provinces, unaccustomed to expenditure restraint, to become a source of chronic federal financial frailty. Under the existing arrangement the provincial governments have no incentive to save and more efficiently use the increased resources transferred to them. Hence, they are unlikely to generate the 'surpluses' that the federal government will need to keep the fiscal situation within manageable limits.

A reduced share in scarce resources has meant that without a sharp growth in revenues or a commitment by the provinces to spending curbs the federal government will continue to have to borrow to meet its current expenditures. This is becoming starkly evident in the persistent rise in the revenue deficit – now about to cross 2.5 percent of GDP. This means a federal government revenue shortfall of over Rs300 billion of its annual current and non-development expenditures.

The federal government has been additionally burdened with rising security related expenditures and a growing debt burden, whose servicing is now absorbing over 45 percent of its share of tax revenues. The situation has been worsened by its inability to downsize government in consonance with the Eighteenth Constitutional Amendment, cut back huge subsidies on energy, and stop the haemorrhaging of public sector enterprises by their restructuring and eventual privatisation.

Unless a bold and coherent policy plan is devised to deal with the structural sources of the runaway budget deficit the country's economic future will be imperilled by an unsustainable and serious fiscal situation being compounded now by emerging trends and more enduring unresolved issues.







The liberal and secular values of Europe are deeply rooted in its long history and socio-political culture and cannot easily be rooted out. But, over the past few months, a very interesting situation has unfolded in France, where the mainstream political parties have propagandised that their secular values are undermined by a handful of Muslim women wearing full-faced veils. If around 2000 full-veil wearers can jeapordise the culture of 62.3 million French people, there must be something seriously wrong with the centuries long evolution of French culture and values.

Starting April 11, it has become illegal in France for a woman to wear the burqa in public places. Women found violating the law will be fined 150 euros each and asked to take 'citizenship classes' to familiarise themselves with the republican values of secular France.

In essence, this ban is immoral, illegal and an infringement of people's liberty. Immigration historian Patrick Weil has said that the law could be challenged in the European Court of human rights.

Prejudice against Muslims was already evident in all European countries but through this law France has institutionalised this scourge of discrimination. In addition to banning face-covering veils in public places, the French government has scheduled a national debate on religion and secularism, which is being considered "a political scam" that will focus unfairly on Islam. The debate may raise sensitive topics such as the provision of halal menus in school cafeterias, spilling of crowds into the streets during Friday prayers, and public funding for the construction of Muslim places of worship.

French Prime Minister Fillon has distanced himself from Sarkozy's adventure saying that the debate may risk stigmatising Muslims.

By Elysee Palace logic, the law banning the burqa has been made to liberate women from subjugation and enhance their power in society. But here the point is missed that liberty and strength come through maturity of mind and not by wearing western clothes or keeping one's face unveiled in public. Liberty does not merely mean that women are free to walk around half-naked or wear tight jeans. Rather, if a woman wants to cover her face, she is totally free by the same criterion of liberty. If the French government is really interested in enabling Muslim women to stand on their own feet and make their own choices, this purpose will not be achieved by imposing its own choices on them.

But on this issue, there is more than meets the eye. President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right government's obsession with the burqa is, in fact, a camouflage to gain political mileage in the 2012 presidential elections against the far-right party. After having failed to address key issues concerning public welfare, President Sarkozy is trying to attract attention by employing such gimmicks.

Today Nicholas Sarkozy is the most unpopular amongst the presidential figures of the fifth republic. According to a recent opinion poll, 97 percent of the French people consider jobs the biggest issue, not a tiny majority of face-covering women. The only reason behind the ban is Sarkozy's desperation to secure the far-right electorate in the elections. President Sarkozy has also adopted a strong stand against Muammar Gaddafi in the hope that his extreme steps will positively affect his popularity.

In a nutshell, all the French politicians are exploiting societal divisions, fear of Islam, xenophobia and deliberately singling out Muslims for political gains especially after the far-right National Front party's popularity has soared after its leader compared Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques to the Nazi occupation of France. But unknowingly these opportunist politicians are creating very dangerous interfaith tensions with the Muslims, putting communal harmony at risk in their country. The French government has plunged the country into an identity crisis making it hard to understand what it means to be French and what constitutes French values.


Email: rizwanasghar7@yahoo. Com










PAKISTAN has a track record of extending whole-hearted cooperation to the United States in the war against terror but unfortunately Washington seems to be not fully appreciative of its role, contribu

tion and considers Islamabad as untrustworthy. It is in this background that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who has, with the passage of time, developed a knack to call a spade a spade, has warned that if Pakistan fails in the fight against terrorism, then the United States will also fail.

Historians know it well that it was because of Pakistan's vital contribution that the then Soviet Union was forced to vacate its aggression in Afghanistan but at that time the United States turned its face to the other side once Moscow withdrew its troops and Pakistan was left alone to grapple with problems like Kalashnikov culture, heroin and socially and economically unbearable burden of millions of refugees who are still not ready to go back to their own homeland even after lapse of over three decades. Pakistan is once again playing lead role in the fight against terror but instead of acknowledging this role and providing required economic and military assistance, the United States and its allies always cast doubts about its intentions and keep on demanding 'do more'. This do more mantra has pushed Pakistan to the brink of economic collapse and break down of law and order, as economic activity has come to a virtual halt due to precarious security environment. The pressure on Pakistan to open front in North Waziristan as well without waiting for consolidation of gains in other militancy-hit areas of FATA is crude example of damn care attitude towards Pakistan's own problems and limitations. Though the Prime Minister has claimed that the United States considers Pakistan part of the solution and not part of the problem but statements emanating from Washington and some other Western capitals belie this assertion. The latest resolution of the European Parliament should serve as an eye-opener for our policy-makers because it alleges that Pakistan is a threat to the regional and global peace and assistance to the country should be reviewed based on its performance in the war on terror. This is rough attempt to belittle Pakistan's contribution and amounts to worst kind of arms-twisting of a country that has suffered hugely because of its frontline position in this war. Western countries are only interested in creating safe environment for their occupation forces in Afghanistan and have no concerns about multidimensional threats to Pakistan's own security but they must remember warning of the Prime Minister that if Pakistan fails then the US will also fail.







CHINA'S Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC) has come up with a plan to initiate energy projects of 10,000MW capacity in Pakistan with an investment of $ 15 billion to help overcome the power shortages. In an interview the Chairman of the Corporation Cao Guagjing , during his recent visit to Pakistan at the head of a ten member delegation said they discussed several energy projects with Pakistani authorities including Kohala Hydro power, Bhunji, Bhasha, Dasu in Upper Indus Valley and others in lower Indus that could be completed in ten years.

China as a time-tested friend has a genuine interest in Pakistan's development without any conditionalities and has already been cooperating in different projects in water and other sectors. While Pakistan is in the grip of severe energy crisis that is affecting our economy adversely, the offer by the Chinese Three Gorges Corporation is very timely and deserves urgent consideration. During its stay in Pakistan the Chinese delegation met President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and the head of the Corporation was conferred with Award of Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam for his keen interest in development of the country. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit to Pakistan in December last injected new vigour and vitality in Pakistan-China friendship during which several agreements were signed and the Chinese leader expressed his keen desire for their implementation in the minimum possible time. After that several Chinese delegations came to Pakistan to follow the process set in motion during the visit. The CTGC offer includes construction of a 120MW power plant at Sukkur Barrage besides investment in Thar Coal and wind and solar energy projects for which letter of intent has already been signed. These projects would be based on local raw material and generate cheap energy rather than utilizing the imported oil. However we would caution that the oil lobbies would utilize their influence to create hurdles by using their influence, as that would affect their heavy earnings. Therefore we would request the Prime Minister to keep a personal watch and ensure early implementation of the energy projects for which the Chinese have come forward to help Pakistan get out of the deepening crisis.







AS the Government is poised to re-introduce two weekly holidays, industrialists and businessmen have expressed serious concern over the plan, warning that it would create negative impact on economic activities in the country. They have demanded of the Government to refrain from the move and if it finally decides to go for two holidays then banks, ports, customs and other export related government offices should be exempted from closure on Saturday.

Nations learn from mistakes but we keep on committing blunder after blunder and that is what we see in the case of two weekly holidays and advancing of clocks by one hour. The Government has done this twice in the past in the name of saving energy but experts are of the opinion that the objective was not achieved and instead we inflicted heavy losses to the economy that was already under tremendous stress and strains due to a host of factors including shortage of gas and electricity. A developing country like Pakistan cannot afford the luxury of having two weekly holidays but here decisions are not based on merits but bureaucratic whims. Isn't it a dichotomy that on the one hand we want increase in our industrial production and exports and on the other hand we are forcing the industry to close down for another day in a week? No doubt, there is energy crisis in the country but we can reduce the demand by staggering weekly off for different industries. And instead of resorting to measures that retard our economic growth, we should concentrate on ways and means to increase electricity generation by constructing more water reservoirs, making use of Thar Coal and exploiting alternative energy resources.








How insulting is America, ie, US Government's attitude — towards Pakistan and full of contradiction where Pakistan's sovereign position is concerned is illustrated by two news items carried by international press, one is most insulting and shows how US treats Pakistan like its kitchen- The item says US does not need I S I help in its operation on Pakistan as it has C I A spy net work within Pakistan. Nor it is willing to accept Pakistan demands that US reduce its number of diplomats – in fact so-called diplomats in fact under cover agents under the mask of diplomats and spies which means CIA operatives in Pakistan stealthily working as- thumbs on your nose-spies. In contrast US think tank has come up with the claim that Pakistan is again working in illicit nuclear imports for Chashma N-power plant and Space and Upper Atmosphere Commission ( of Pakistan) . It is claimed that they are capable of "dual use" for nuclear and non-nuclear purposes both. The simple question is why US dos not stop producing them and order that industry to shut down those industries which produce them.

The US and NATO –West speaks with two tongues. In its imperialist aims it has recognized Libyan rebels as if they are a legitimate authority or as if they are a legal entity under international law, a manufactured device to go in help and supply military aid to them. This is a funny since under international law none of the conditions for recognition exist under which the rebels in a pocket of Eastern Libya pocket could be extended recognition. The Law of Recognition as I studied in the American universities is that recognition may be extended if the rebels control greater part of the territory of the country and are in full control of all functions of the state they claim to be in control of. It was under this criteria that Pakistan had recognized the Taleban in the 80s, yet the West and their allies have criticized our decision. Is this not more than double standard to recognize the Libyan rebels? I am sorry to use strong language for their behavior – is this not two tongued, two standard stand?

I am again sorry to use strong language again about the reported decision leaders of Britain, France and US that "Libyan future " including Ghaddafi is unthinkable". Leasers of these three countries issued a joint statement that "a Libyan future" including Ghaddafi would represent an unconscionable betrayal by the rest of the world. To this I would like to describe in the manner of calling a spade a spade this statement as the Western Doctrine of Political Piracy in the Third World, or the right of these Three to assume the right of regime change in the Arab countries and this doctrine has been supported by the IMF and the Western world as " the Spring of the Arab World-!!!Let it be said that at issue is not whether Ghaddafi stays or goes but to say that whether the people of that country decide to change or not change the regime is their business and not that of the Three Wise Men of the Western World. Let me re repeat the Urdu Proverb I had stated earlier " She who loves the child more than the mother is the She devil. The people decide whatever they want, Not foreign powers to change their rulers.

As for the crocodile tears of these great leaders on the blood shed by army loyal to Ghaddafi one would ask three questions: Who had shed blood more in Iraq and Afghanistan than any in known history, US or Ghaddafi. And if these great leaders are sincere for peace in Libya why are they not working with African Union for a Cease Fire between the rebels and Ghaddafi, and not stop bombardment of Libya and supplying arms to the rebels which rebellion has probably instigated by these American and NATO countries. The blame to stoke fire perhaps in pinned on them and not so much on Ghaddafi.

To come to the Home scene an immediate and urgent matter for the Government is to appoint the new Foreign Minister. First I think that consideration should be given to appoint the incumbent Minister of State for Foreign Affairs to be elevated as Foreign Minister. A tradition has developed in the Foreign Office that Minister of State is a supernumerary position. No such appointment is required or needed in the Foreign Office, Tradition has developed over the decades in the Foreign Office that Foreign Secretary is the official head of the Ministry and its boss is the Foreign Minister who is under Prime Minister. Any one in between the two is redundant. The present Minister of State could be elevated to Foreign Minister post She too would have grip over Foreign matters soon. It normally takes any body a few months to get the grip on Foreign Policy matters.. Our Foreign Office has one of the best experts in their field comparable to the best in the world as acknowledged universally. With their briefing, the lady can be expected to be a good Foreign Minister. In any case even a new Foreign Minister too would take that much time to have the grip of the foreign policy issues. It may be said that Foreign affairs is such a technical field that no Foreign Minister can do without constant assistance from the experts in the Foreign Office.

In case, someone else is to be appointed Foreign Minister, then it would be desirable for the incumbent to possess certain basic qualifications. 1. He should be really a well educated person, He should not be given to hear more and speak less and a sober user of words appropriate to the occasion. English is such a language that one can say express quite politely what one wants like Dr Johnson " Sir, mind you, if you do not stop now, I may change your perpendicularity into horizontality. After all diplomats are described as merchants of words that is they choose their words very cautiously. And not fond of hearing his own voice Demagogues are certainly the oddest beings in diplomacy .2.. Should not care for any foreign interests above Pakistan's, or possess property, or has stored his wealth in a foreign country or have dual nationality. Standing on two stools is a matter of divided loyalty. It is a well-known principle of diplomatic practice that even for appointment as Ambassador he is considered ineligible of which he is a national.3. Should have an impressive personality and look sober, with sartorial taste if possible Once it was said that one of the best dressed persons were diplomats. 4. But above all, he should be gregarious and friendly generally, like two ex foreign ministers Khurshid Mahmoud Qasuri and Shah Mahmoud Qureshi were to name some example from our recent history.

These days Pakistan's top diplomat has to tread carefully a minefield so to say, and Pakistan in the eye of diplomatic storm This takes us to the ungrateful criticism we hear from Washington on not dong enough to eliminate the terrorists. This can be called the joke of the century. One can be sure that America has stacks of papers written by their Pentagon and State Department wise guys on eliminating terrorism in Afghanistan and poured several times more than all the countries engaged in war on terrorism and in operations in Afghanistan but they are still getting kicks on their backsides and failed miserably and success for them in Afghanistan is no where in their sight. Heal thyself and when you are too sick do not pick on those who have done much better than you. Please have a sense of reality.









President Hamid Karzai has been protesting on collateral damage as a result of NATO strikes and operations in which hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed. On Pakistan side also, drone attacks have killed more of innocent citizens than the Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives. Unfortunately, members of US administration and commanders feel that Americans lives are precious and the rest of the people's blood is cheap. When Americans and Europeans are killed in a terrorist attack like the one of 9/11, the champions for the cause of human rights throughout the world mourn; they light candles and place bouquets at the venue or their graves. But when other people are killed in similar attacks or by the ruthless and callous invaders' bombings and air strikes on the innocent people in Afghanistan or in Pakistan, there is no outside mourner. Apart from American leadership's arrogance and other flawed policies, this is one of the reasons that people throughout the world hate America.

Pakistan government and Afghan government draw flak from its citizens for loss of life due to American strikes. And it is due to this realization on the part of Pakistani and Afghan leadership that civil and military leaders from both sides held a crucial meeting on Saturday, and agreed on the formation of a joint commission to carry forward the conciliation process, because occupiers have to leave sooner or later, and Pakistanis and Afghans have to stay here, as they cannot change the geography of the region. And of course they have common destiny. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who held exhaustive talks in Kabul at the Presidential Palace, described the parleys as "historic", saying that "the two countries stand together as they have shared destinies." Prime Minister Gilani said that he in consultations with President Karzai, Chairman Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani and members of the High Peace Council, had agreed to establish the two-tier Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Commission for facilitating and promoting reconciliation and peace.

Gilani extended Pakistan's full support to the efforts of President Karzai and the High Peace Council, for initiating an inclusive process of grand national reconciliation in which all Afghans not only have a stake but the process also promises future peace and stability in their country. He said that the restoration of stability and peace in Afghanistan was also essential for peace, security and well-being of the people of Pakistan. The joint commission to support eventual peace talks between the US-backed Afghan government and the Taliban guerrilla movement apparently has the blessings of the US. However, it is yet to be seen how much free hand President Hamid Karzai has in reaching any agreement with the Taliban. Anyhow, talking to the reporters after the meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said: "I assure president Karzai that Pakistan strongly supports an Afghan-led process for reconciliation."

The talks in Kabul had followed visits by Pakistan's top government and military intelligence officials to the US, the UK and Turkey, and all of them are likely to play key role in backing Afghan government negotiations with the Taliban. Since Pakistan military and premier intelligence agency are also on board, no one can cast aspersions on the military and the ISI that they are impediment in the peace with Afghanistan. Till recently, President Hamid Karzai and Afghan officials have been accusing Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate of backing Taliban attacks on Afghan government and Indian targets. However, addressing the press conference after meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister, Afghan President said: "Pakistan's role as facilitator in the peace process is important," Karzai said, adding that there is a positive change in Pakistan's attitude and stance towards Afghanistan. In fact, he had misunderstood Pakistan, now he has realized the ground realities and changed his stance. He of course deserves approbation for expressing his trust in Pakistan.

Pakistan has always helped in the past, be it Soviet invasion or accommodating millions of refugees. At the present, Pakistan and Afghanistan both need each other. Afghanistan is facing death and destruction for the last three decades; firstly when Soviet forces landed in Afghanistan and the US and the West planned the overt and covert operation against them. Secondly, in a civil war – war between the jihadi organizations, and now once again people are the victims of the war on terror. Reportedly, there were efforts to bring the belligerents to the negotiating table but those efforts were half-hearted ones, as America did not let President Hamid Karzai talk to the Taliban. Since America and NATO allies have realized that they cannot win the war in Afghanistan they started talking about negotiations with the Taliban in case they renounce violence and dissociate with Al Qaeda. Persident Karzai has also realized, though belatedly, that unless the majority Pushtans are given their due share in power, there can never be peace in Afghanistan. Earlier, President Karzai's hands were tied up in the sense that the US administration had given the CIA a free hand in the region which in cahoots with Indian RAW and Mossad pursued the policy of keeping Pakistan out of the loop.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have chequered history of relations. From King Zarhir Shah to Sardar Dawood to President Najibullah Khan, the relations remained strained between two brotherly countries. But President Karzai has now realized the eidetic reality that Pakistan can play a pivotal role in building bridges between Afghan government and a faction of the Taliban. For the last few months, President Karzai had taken certain measures to showcase his desire to mend fences with Pakistan. He had sacked Afghanistan's top intelligence chief and interior minister in the first week of June due to their failure to stop attack on the grand peace jirga when Karzai was delivering a nationally televised appeal for the Taliban to put down their weapons. While the both officials tried to defend their actions, Karzai was dissatisfied with their response, prompting Hanif Atmar and Amrullah Saleh to submit their resignations. From these actions, it was obvious that President Karazai did not see eye to eye with the Northern Alliance, which is pro-India.

However, the US has its own priorities, compulsions and designs. The Semi-annual White House report to Congress issued last month to judge progress or otherwise towards key objectives of the war in Afghanistan and operations against al Qaeda in Pakistan has stated that Pakistan lacks a robust plan to defeat the Taliban. The report notes a deterioration of the situation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the country's northwest alongside the Afghan border between January and March this year. The report however acknowledges that "tremendous human sacrifices" were made by Pakistani forces in the region, but concludes "what remains vexing is the lack of any indication of 'hold' and 'build' planning or staging efforts to complement ongoing clearing operations". The problem is that they are neither willing to address Pakistan's concerns nor do they realize that Pakistan military is already overstretched, and if military operation is extended to other areas, it could prove counter-productive.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.








Following Obama's joint press conference in Chile during his March visit, US ambassador Munter, used his Islamabad speech to urge Pakistan to "forget the past and move forward". So did Obama, who also used same words to reject a direct appeal for an apology from America for Washington's role in fomenting a fascist-military coup that plunged Chile into 17 years of dictatorship and entailed the murder, torture, imprisonment and exile of hundreds of thousands. The refusal of Obama and Munter shows that it is all about America and no regard for rest of the world. But, it was the great American novelist William Faulkner who said, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Washington should know that without accounting for the past there is no future of Pak-US relationship.

In 2008, during Munter's first appointment as Ambassador, the US embassy in Belgrade was torched. His behavior during Pak-US spy standoff echoed his threats to Serbian government. Arguably, Munter has a role in leading to current Pak-US standoff. Pakistan is the sixth largest country in the world, and posting of an inept character like Munter as an ambassador speaks volumes about Washington's seriousness. Before coming to Pakistan, in first half of 2010, Munter was directing US strategic planning and civil-military coordination in Iraq. Therefore, to protect Pak-US public interest, diplomacy must be left to seasoned career diplomats who are conversant and willing to uphold international conventions and laws. In post Pak-US spy standoff, it is equally important to reduce number of US diplomats and size of their embassies. Pakistan cannot be used as a base for illegal Afghan war. The confiscation of advance technology, including satellite equipment from the US spy, use of special force personnel and military tactics shows that embassies are working as military garrisons. Islamabad needs to shift the American embassies to smaller locations in national interest, and restrict Americans to perform normal diplomatic duties under strict security surveillance. By restricting US embassies to normal diplomatic activities, Islamabad can protect its public by sending a clear message to rest of the world that Pakistan is not supporting illegal Afghan war. Reportedly, US missions in Cuba are performing diplomatic services in two-room structures on the roadside and that too without security fences. Transparency and accountability will enhance the safety of US missions in Pakistan.

Washington believes that money will improve Pakistan's economic situation and win hearts and minds, whereas Islamabad believes that trade will strengthen its economy. China has adopted domestic consumption based economy. Pakistan should strengthen its agri-sector to sustain economy and do away with capitalism, which is widening the gulf between Pak-US relations. Foreign aid and corruption will not help end poverty, generate employment and sustain economy in the long run. Washington cannot go on financially supporting a nation the size of Pakistan. Similarly, Islamabad cannot depend on foreign aid to address its financial problems indefinitely. Islamabad therefore needs to review and replace the failed capitalism to end inflation, control poverty, generate jobs, improve healthcare, education, and build national infrastructure.

PM Gillani said that economy constitutes 91% of country's problems. An article, "The Bear of Bretton Woods" shows that Islamabad needs to adopt multilateral financial systems to end financial ills of dollar-based system and ponzi capitalism to fight poverty, create jobs and sustain national economies. Americans are protesting against budget cuts of education and health care, reduction in salaries and layoffs while Greeks and Brits are already protesting against cuts and privatization of state pensions. By law, Pakistan is a social welfare state and public services including energy are public property. Washington needs to drop its ideological biases and respect ideology of Pakistan and its constitution to help strengthen state and its institutions, allow parliamentary form of government to work in the country including vote of no confidence, allow state to uphold and protect human rights, and stand for a genuinely free media. Washington will have to end micromanagement of Pakistan so that institutions can deliver and avoid turning Pakistan into another Haiti, Mexico or a broken Europe and resultant unemployment, debts and lawlessness.

Pakistan needs to nationalize energy sector and adopt renewable energy. It will bring fuel imports down to $6bln from $12bln, revive three million jobs in local industry, help cut pollution, reduce cost of business, increase business competitiveness, and help the country go "green" in line with international standards of pollution and carbon neutrality. It will free 60 percent of daily gas consumption and improve quality of service in public sectors including energy production, line losses, maintenance, education and healthcare. The adoption of mass transport system with railways forming its core will bring fuel imports bill down to $3bln. Nationalization of energy sector in line with ME, China and Russia will allow government to control and reduce energy price. Like Chernobyl, Japan's nuclear disaster is another example of private sector failures and cover ups. Washington can help Islamabad defeat Big Oil and nationalize energy sector to reduce inflation, trade imbalance and cut resultant poverty by 70 percent.

In terms of foreign policy and security state, it is US which is a security state because it is maintaining more than 700 military bases in 130 countries. It is Washington that has entangled Islamabad in illegal Afghan war. American public doesn't support illegal Afghan war. Bush imposed this war on America without the approval of US Congress. Therefore, White House's biannual report to US Congress has no public and legal credibility. In fact, US Congress should be ashamed of itself for failing to save trillions of dollars of tax money spent on illegal war(s). Islamabad needs to downgrade its military relations with Washington. Instead, focus on its economic and strategic interests in the region, use example of Gulf State and Mexico to secure its borders with a mix of fences, mines and manned and unmanned surveillance, and scrap NATO supply routes to improve Pak-US relations.

Finally, these steps can help improve Pak-US relations. The problem however lies with Washington that has chosen Walt Whitman's vision of democracy represented by "grass" as symbol of no boundaries instead of Robert Frost's vision of "good fences make good neighbors". J. F. Kennedy invited Frost to his oath taking ceremony to give the world a message that America respects Frost's vision, and end Vietnam War accordingly. Kennedy was murdered and Washington replaced national poet Frost with Whitman to usher in the dawn of unilateralism which also explains questions on 9/11.







The fanatics are constantly trying to deface our social structure, by applying terror tactics and instill fear in the common people. The five low intensity blasts in the theatres of Lahore in January 2009, were a stark reminder of how these outfits want to disrupt the daily social life. There were no deaths reported in the incidents and the bombs were of low intensity, which just goes on to prove that fear was the only factor governing this action. Lahore known for its theatres, cinemas and other cultural activities was driven to a standstill.

Earlier the terrorists had resorted to the same tactics in their more influenced areas, such as the Tribal Region and Swat. The blowing up of CD / Video shops and markets in the area was a routine, as the business was considered immoral by the Taliban. Barbers had also been frequent targets, as the shaving of beard was considered forbidden. The owners of these establishments were initially pressurized to close down their business and then on non-conformity had to face the consequences.

The two most horrible examples of these consequences were the market blasts in Lahore and Peshawar. The twin blasts which took place at Moon Market, Iqbal Town in Lahore in December 2009 claimed at least 45 innocent lives. Before, in August 2009 a suicide bomber had detonated himself in the same market, resulting in the deaths of 13 people. The carnage in Peshawar was the result of a car bomb, which took place in a busy Peepal Mandi Market in October 2009. The blast tore through several buildings, also destroying a mosque. This attack resulted in at least 117 deaths, while 200 were injured. Both of these were busy commercial areas and had received similar threats by extremist elements. Islamabad being the federal capital has also not been spared from such activities. During the peak of Lal Masjid conflict, the city suffered the most from the hand of radicals. Mischievous elements on behest of these fanatics, used to roam the streets of Islamabad, forcing the closures of CD/Video shops and other places being deemed as instigating decadent activities. There were many instances where CDs and videos were burnt and houses were raided, by these gangs.

If these setups were promoting immoral activities in the area, there are proper procedures to attend to these concerns. The extremists have no authority to take the law in their own hands, nor should they be allowed to do so. To stop any corrupt activities, proper authorities should be notified and public opinion should be mobilized through proper efforts, for this purpose. Courts, legislature and the media can also be lobbied to attend to these problems. But these elements actually do not want to stop any immorality, but their main objective is to penetrate fear into our lives and widen their authority.

This brings us to another aspect of this discussion, which is the exploitation of this terror by other players. The fear of extremism has so much embedded itself in our society that some elements find it much easier to use, as a tool for their own personal reasons. Our society has been affected to the extent that terrorism has tainted the mind of every individual. This has also resulted in drawing many people away from religion, as they consider anything or anyone related to religion a symbol of extremism. This has also paved a path for criminal elements to carry out their activities, under the garb of religion. According to some reports every, one out of three Pakistani is going through trauma and mental disorder due to the prevailing law and order situation in the country. This environment of uncertainty and fear has mostly taken its toll on the children and the youth of this country. Communities have started creating stereotypes by labeling anyone to be either too liberal or extremist. People have now become prone to violence, as also evident from the recent lynching of two brothers in Sialkot. When the masses see the Taliban making the law and carrying out punishments, they also consciously or subconsciously choose the same path. The two brothers were continuously beaten to death and then strung up by an unruly mob, justifying it by labeling them as robbers. This scene seemed similar to the one, where some years back the Taliban in the Tribal Areas killed and strung up criminals, related to drug trade. This may have won them appreciation from some quarters, but it only served to set a bad precedence for further such events.

These activities are still taking place in Taliban controlled areas on routine basis. In November 2010, Taliban flogged 65 men in front of 600 tribesmen at Mamozai, in Orakzai region. The men were accused of using and sell drugs in the area. While some might approve of this lashing, but it should be understood that by taking the law in their hands the extremists are undermining the authority of the state. This simultaneously is also promoting such activities in other parts of the country leading to widespread lawlessness and chaos. Steps will now have to be taken to eradicate this extremism, which has now embedded itself into our society and our minds. Otherwise this radicalism will destroy our social fabric and the future generations that are being raised in this society.







The American ruling class is failing us — and itself. At other moments in our history, the informal networks of the wealthy and powerful who often wield at least as much influence as our elected politicians accepted that their good fortune imposed an obligation: to reform and thus preserve the system that allowed them to do so well. They advocated social decency out of self-interest (reasonably fair societies are more stable) but also from an old-fashioned sense of civic duty. "Noblesse oblige" sounds bad until it doesn't exist anymore.

An enlightened ruling class understands that it can get richer and its riches will be more secure if prosperity is broadly shared, if government is investing in productive projects that lift the whole society and if social mobility allows some circulation of the elites. A ruling class closed to new talent doesn't remain a ruling class for long. But a funny thing happened to the American ruling class: It stopped being concerned with the health of society as a whole and became almost entirely obsessed with money.

Oh yes, there are bighearted rich people when it comes to private charity. Heck, David Koch, the now famous libertarian-conservative donor, has been extremely generous to the arts, notably to New York's Lincoln Centre. Yet when it comes to governing, the ruling class now devotes itself in large part to utterly self-involved lobbying. Its main passion has been to slash taxation on the wealthy, particularly on the financial class that has gained the most over the past 20 years. By winning much lower tax rates on capital gains and dividends, it's done a heck of a job. Listen to David Cay Johnston, the author of "Free Lunch" and a columnist for Tax Notes. "The effective rate for the top 400 taxpayers has gone from 30 cents on the dollar in 1993 to 22 cents at the end of the Clinton years to 16.6 cents under Bush," he said in a telephone interview. "So their effective rate has gone down more than 40 percent."

He added: "The overarching drive right now is to push the burden of government, of taxes, down the income ladder." And you wonder where the deficit came from. If the ruling class were as worried about the deficit as it claims to be, it would accept that the wealthiest people in society have a duty to pony up more for the very government whose police power and military protect them, their property and their wealth. The influence of the ruling class comes from its position in the economy and its ability to pay for the politicians' campaigns. There are not a lot of working-class people at those fundraisers President Obama has been attending lately. And I'd underscore that I am not using the term to argue for a Marxist economy. We need the market. We need incentives. We don't need our current levels of inequality.

Those at the top of the heap are falling far short of the standards set by American ruling classes of the past. As John Judis, a senior editor at the New Republic, put it in his indispensable 2000 book, "The Paradox of American Democracy," the American establishment has at crucial moments had "an understanding that individual happiness is inextricably linked to social well-being." What's most striking now, by contrast, is "the irresponsibility of the nation's elites." Those elites will have no moral standing to argue for higher taxes on middle-income people or cuts in government programs until they acknowledge how much wealthier they have become than the rest of us and how much pressure they have brought over the years to cut their own taxes. Resolving the deficit problem requires the very rich to recognize their obligation to contribute more to a government that, measured against other wealthy nations, is neither investing enough in the future nor doing a very good job of improving the lives and opportunities of the less affluent.

"A blind and ignorant resistance to every effort for the reform of abuses and for the readjustment of society to modern industrial conditions represents not true conservatism, but an incitement to the wildest radicalism." With those words in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt showed he understood what a responsible ruling class needed to do. Where are those who would now take up his banner?—The Washington Post









Chutzpah, in the true Hebrew meaning of the word, is not the admirable sort of audacity for which we tend to use the word now. Real chutzpah, it is said, is the sort of impertinence that sees a man accused of murdering his parents beg for mercy on the grounds that he's an orphan. So the term is apt to describe the brazen way the Marrickville Council, in Sydney's inner west, has gotten above its station by implementing an economic boycott against Israel.

Section 51 (xxix) of the Australian Constitution makes it very clear that the federal parliament is responsible for foreign policy or, in the jargon of the time, "external affairs". The local government authority upon which councils such as Marrickville exist is not even mentioned in the Constitution. These are the cold, hard facts that underscore the absurdity of the council and its Greens Mayor, Fiona Byrne, attempting to play their jaundiced role in Middle East power politics. The council's support for BDS (boycott, divest and sanctions) action against Israel has been condemned by the national leadership of the Greens, the Labor Party and the Liberals. Yet even as she prepares to tear down her metaphorical wall against Israeli infiltration, Ms Byrne continues to argue that her council has a role to play in resolving the intractable dilemmas of international relations. As Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd pointedly put it, she might first concentrate on collecting the garbage and looking after the parks and gardens. Mr Rudd succinctly described this provincial excursion into the heady realms of foreign policy as "just plain nuts".

While this affair seems ripe for satire, there are serious issues at play. The persistent inconsistency between Ms Byrne, Greens federal leader Bob Brown and senator-elect Lee Rhiannon demonstrates a shambolic policy development apparatus within a party now in a powerful alliance with the Gillard Labor government. Senator Brown needs urgently to assert leadership on foreign policy issues and eliminate the loopy anti-Israel sentiment from his ranks. The Labor Party, unfortunately, is not blameless, with four of its councillors having backed the BDS move. When the council votes to overturn the policy, they intend to put this right, but Julia Gillard must ensure that her party's strong support for Israel is not compromised again by such jejune antics from elected officials.






Sexual abuse can have a lasting and debilitating impact on victims who, for various reasons, can take many years to comprehend the full repercussions of their trauma or summon the fortitude to seek legal redress. So, given the widespread publicity about the Australian Defence Force Academy Skype-sex scandal, it is hardly surprising that allegations of previous sex-abuse incidents in defence force institutions have come to light. Defence Minister Stephen Smith clearly expected this development when his initial announcement of a series of inquiries into the ADFA incident and defence force culture included the appointment of an independent legal team to examine fresh allegations and recommend ways to deal with them.

Since then we have seen increasingly detailed allegations made public and lawyers have reported an increase in inquiries from people contemplating legal action. Mr Smith has admitted the Commonwealth could be liable for compensation claims and he has flagged the possibility of a judicial review of one kind or another to consider these complaints. There also is potential for these processes to investigate allegations of non-sexual abuse through the bastardisation practices that have dogged Defence for years. Certainly, any victims of abuse deserve to have their allegations tested so they can seek justice and, if appropriate, receive compensation. Every effort should also be made to pursue offenders and seek criminal or military convictions. The Australian believes appropriate penalties for any perpetrators will be important to provide comfort for the victims and confidence within the defence forces and broader community about serious attempts to rectify any cultural shortcomings. The minister has not ruled out a royal commission and he is probably right to leave all options on the table until he has seen preliminary assessments of some of the allegations.

However, given the potential for such an inquiry to be distracting and morale-sapping for the defence forces, it should be contemplated only if there is a demonstrable need. The current inquiries examining processes and cultural issues ought to deal sufficiently with any entrenched problems. Claims of rape and sexual abuse, if true, would constitute crimes that can be investigated and prosecuted under existing legal mechanisms.






Paul Howes is as ambitious as he is young, but the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union is finding a way to eat humble pie when required. Mr Howes took a while to hear the message from the shop floor, but his call for steel to be exempt from the carbon tax suggests he is now reading the mood of his members.

There is self-interest in Mr Howes's intervention: it shores up his own standing within his union to take the fight to government. But Julia Gillard and her Climate Change Minister should listen to the messages coming from union members, many of whose jobs depend on coal-based energy production. They know that a carbon tax imposed on trade-exposed industries will filter down through costs -- and potentially job losses -- to workers. They understand that while Greg Combet can promise some households will be better off under his plan to compensate for electricity rises, it won't be much use if the breadwinners don't have jobs.

market-based price mechanism -- which is Labor's ultimate aim -- will be the most efficient way to reduce carbon emissions. The call from the AWU leader to protect steel production has focused the mind of a government that today must sit down with big companies and convince then the tax won't hurt their viability. Mr Howes could be doing the Prime Minister a real favour in the long run. His statements remind us of an earlier era when unions were a useful sounding board for Labor administrations, tapping into the cost-of-living concerns of working Australians. Such shop-floor intelligence is even more vital these days when Labor is losing touch with its base. The government faces a big task to convince Australians of the value of its tax. The public consensus for action is under strain as voters begin to worry that they could be affected by a reduction in Australia's international competitiveness. A carbon tax is no longer an abstract concept but a real impost that could lead to an increase in prices, a message reinforced by food and grocery producers, who have joined miners to argue that jobs, living conditions and investment in local industries are at risk. The high dollar is not helping, with manufacturers anxious a carbon tax will make imports even more attractive.

Mr Howes and his union are powerful players: the union's support was crucial to Ms Gillard's success in moving against Kevin Rudd last year. Mr Howes had earlier backed the ill-conceived original mining tax, judging his members would embrace a proposal that was framed in class-warfare terms as a "super-profits resources tax". He, like Wayne Swan, was wrong about that tax, underestimating the ability of his members to see that hitting mining could damage their jobs in the sector. They failed to see that a campaign by the big mining companies would gain traction with voters.

It seems Mr Howes has learnt his lesson, and is taking a very public stance on behalf of his members, recognising that attacking the "big polluters" without understanding commercial realities could harm ordinary people. The ball is in the court of former union leader Mr Combet. His task is to carefully calibrate a carbon price that balances the interests of big companies and households in a policy that will genuinely reduce emissions.







WHISPERS in the Gillard government are gathering a storm. The polls spell doom, and nervous nellies in the labour movement are pressing for a moratorium on policy adventurism, fearful that initiatives such as the carbon tax will undermine their job security as much as it does the government's. That's hardly unusual: Jack Lang warned that self-interest was the only starter in politics you could be sure was trying.

Undoubtedly, the carbon tax is unpopular. When was a new tax not? The government will have to lift its game in convincing voters of the need for a tax that seeks to change behaviour by discouraging polluters where it most hurts, and rewarding shifts to cleaner energy. By definition,it cannot please everyone.

But stand its ground the government must; not just for the sake of the environment and future generations but for a shot at its own survival, too. Does persisting with a demonstrably unpopular policy so as to restore your electoral fortunes seem a contradiction in political terms, a recipe for electoral disaster? That all depends on how well the available cards are played. John Howard, after all, was in a far worse predicament with opinion polling in early 2001 than where Julia Gillard now finds herself, and went on to comfortably win that year's election.

But assess the alternative. This government already is mired by a painfully acquired reputation for acquiescence, for having squandered an emphatic political lead because its political instinct was to surrender beliefs rather than defend them. Now is the time for the government to test its own mettle. The worst advice the government could follow would be to abandon the carbon tax. It should proceed because it's the right thing to do - the best of reasons.

And this sound mechanism for pollution abatement must start sooner rather than later. Of course the problem demands global action, but waiting for every emitter of greenhouse gases to commit to a disciplined reduction regime is a refuge for inertia. Here is an opportunity for national interest to be served by political self-interest, and vice versa. No one admires political cowardice, least of all voters. They may not agree with your viewpoint, and they may punish you

for differences of opinion, but they will concede you points for standing your ground, however grudgingly. That is more points than the chameleon will get. And in the process, you might just have done something worthwhile, apart from saving your own political skin.






A REVIEW under way of Australia's laws on embryo experimentation gives our legislators the opportunity to open a research pathway that might prevent a genetic illness bringing childhood suffering and early death - without compromising our existing limits on manipulating human genetics.

About one in 250 people is estimated to carry mutations in the mitochondrial DNA found in the cytoplasm of the human egg, the material which surrounds the nucleus carrying the genetic code

of the mother. The child that results when this egg is fertilised and carried to birth can suffer any of

100 types of disorder, where deficient mitochondria in the body's cells fail to produce the energy it needs. In the more serious cases, children die within a few years of life from brain and muscle degeneration. There is no cure, only limited treatment. A Herald report yesterday detailed the painful shutdown of faculties in one young sufferer.

Research is showing a way to head off this tragedy. Cytoplasm from a donated egg with normal mitochondrial DNA can be transferred into an ovum of an intending mother who carries the mutation, or the nucleus of the mother's ovum into the donated one. The donated material contributes to an embryo

that develops into a child with normal metabolism. If the technique is fully proven up, it will give each such mother a child with normal life expectancy and her own genetic inheritance (contained in the nucleus of her own egg). At present her only options are to have a child who will die young, or accept a donated egg fertilised by her partner.

However, present legislation bans any experiment in which three genomes are put into an embryo, to block any attempt to ''improve'' human genomes by importing genetic material from a ''third parent''. This excludes therapy for mutations in mitochondrial DNA, even though mitochondria contain no significant genetic data - the Australian Academy of Science likens it to putting in a better-performing battery into the same mechanism. Along with other scientific bodies, it suggests the ''three genome'' ban be defined to mean nuclear genomes.

Experiments with non-human primates have shown the procedure works. But to show safety, experimental fertilisation of donated human eggs subjected to the transfer of normal mitochondrial DNA will be necessary, and development observed for the first few days of embryonic formation. While some religious bodies will oppose this, along with embryo research in general, it would involve donated ova never intended for the creation of human life, and open up a parenthood free of heartbreak for many thousands.





JUST as there are brainstorming ideas that deserve to go far, there are no-brainer ideas that should go nowhere. Definitely in the latter category is a curious proposal for the state government to finance the development of a ''pleasant-tasting, low-priced'' drink to enable secondary school students ''to work safely and with sustained alertness all day''. We know this much because of advertisements published in weekend newspapers, which sought proposals from small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to come up with a beverage that would have been, to all intents and purposes, a stimulant.

On Sunday, five hours after The Age contacted the government about this bizarre proposal, a spokesman declared ''an immediate halt'' to the project, pending the outcome of a review. Does ''immediate'' mean ''not quite now''? We ask, because, as of yesterday afternoon, application details, complete with project description, stages, guidelines and application form, were still listed on Business Victoria's website. Technically, funding out of a $28 million program was still on offer for this ''novel functional drink targeting 12-19 year olds that provides cognitive support and sustains energy throughout the day''. Astonishing would be a better word than novel. In fact, health and education experts thought it might have been a hoax. Former VicHealth chief Rob Moodie described it as an April Fool's joke.

As surreal as the notion sounded, and despite the stopper being put back in the bottle, the reality is far more serious. Who came up with the idea is merely one point. But of greater concern is who approved the proposal and allowed it to be developed as far as publishing Saturday's advertisements?

Somewhere along this chain of approval involving the western metro region of the Education Department and the government's Market Validation Program, surely someone must have been sensible enough to express even a modicum of doubt. It also follows embarrassingly close on another U-turn in government policy - last week Education Minister Martin Dixon was forced to reverse cuts to health checks for preps, saying it ''fails the commonsense test''. So does this one.

There are other, more natural and cheaper ways to keep students alert - for example, exercise and decent breaks.

Now the government has removed its financial endorsement of developing a needless potion, it can perhaps concentrate on putting money into more useful areas.






IF POLL-driven politics is the blight of modern democracy, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just been spared that affliction in the strangest of ways. The Age/Nielsen poll we published yesterday found that her government would be swept from office if an election were held now, that voters would prefer her predecessor Kevin Rudd as Labor leader, and that the ALP's primary vote has fallen to 31 per cent, its lowest level in 15 years.

Resistance to the government's major policy initiative, the proposed tax on carbon emissions, is steadily mounting: 59 per cent of poll respondents opposed it, compared with 56 per cent last month and 44 per cent in February. The irony for Ms Gillard, however, is that abandoning the tax would almost certainly result in a further haemorrhage of support from Labor, as happened when the Rudd government announced the shelving of its emissions-trading scheme. For this poll-battered government, poll-driven policymaking can no longer be an option.

In advocating a price on carbon, the government faces a publicity problem. Explaining the need to restrict carbon emissions and the real impact a carbon price would have on consumers requires the dissemination of complex information. In an age dominated by the 24-hour news cycle, that is not easily done. Simpler by far to incite fear by distorting the facts and endlessly repeating slogans, which the Coalition has been doing. There are many people who believe a carbon price of $20 a tonne would be a great big new tax, because they have heard Opposition Leader Tony Abbott say so; yet few could also explain precisely how setting this price would affect energy prices, or how the government proposes to compensate households for increases.

The government's difficulties are partly of its own making. The Prime Minister unwisely promised during the federal election campaign that there would be no carbon tax, and after the tax was announced she and her ministers were slow to pick up Professor Ross Garnaut's cues on the need for household compensation. If they had spoken about compensation from the outset, the Coalition might not now enjoy a 56-44 per cent lead in the two-party preferred vote. The government could have done more to engage the business sector, too.

In the circumstances, however, the government has no choice but to persist with its present course. As this newspaper commented when the Rudd government shelved the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the project of limiting human-induced climate change - which Mr Rudd had described as the ''greatest moral challenge of our times'' - should not be abandoned because of some adverse polls or Senate obstruction. And, as we have more recently had occasion to remind Ms Gillard, the greatest test of political leadership lies in the willingness to introduce unpopular policy in the public interest. She is not the first politician to break a promise. Former prime minister John Howard notoriously pledged that there would never, ever be a GST, but none of the shock jocks who lash her for breaking her promise on a carbon tax would subject him to the same standard. It is accepted that the GST is a permanent achievement of the Howard government.

The Prime Minister should also recognise that voters are not always manipulated by those who resort to the politics of fear. The same poll that recorded the collapse in support for her government also showed that two-thirds of respondents support making gamblers accept mandatory limits on poker-machine losses, which independent MP Andrew Wilkie wants the government to introduce as a condition of retaining his support. Clubs and hotels have campaigned against the change, which they say threatens their survival, but this self-interested argument appears to have little traction in the wider community. The government's task must be to help voters see through the slogans and self-interested arguments, too.







Nigeria is a country which still looks to a fair and credible election as a clean break with the past

Nigeria is a country which still looks to a fair and credible election as a clean break with the past. After Laurent Gbagbo's defiance of the popular will in the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, still had something to prove both to itself and to the region. It is too early to say whether it has passed this test.

The incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan bolstered national institutions to ensure credibility. He appointed a respected academic, Professor Attahiru Jega, to chair the Independent National Election Commission (INEC). Prof Jega has acknowledged the faults of previous elections, such as the snatching of ballot boxes and missing names on the register, as embarrassing challenges. And the first two polls of the election season, the National Assembly vote on 9 April and Saturday's presidential poll, went better than past elections, although neither was free of violence or claims of electoral fraud. Jonathan himself, who has an unassailable lead of 10m votes over his nearest rival, will not declare victory until the results are announced by the INEC. So far so good.

But if he has bolstered the process, Jonathan has also swept away an unwritten power-sharing agreement called zoning. It was decided by a clique in the ruling party, not the electorate, and it ensured that the People's Democratic party (PDP) dominated Nigerian politics whichever candidate won. It was profoundly undemocratic, but it kept the ethnic peace and provided predictability. Under this informal agreement, the presidency alternated for two terms between the Muslim north and the Christian and animist south. A president from the north should have been in power until 2015. That was cut short by Umaru Yar'Adua's death, and Jonathan, a vice-president from the south, should have stepped down after completing his predecessor's term of office. He did not, and went on to defeat a northern Muslim challenger, former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, for the party's presidential nomination. Try as Jonathan did to woo the northern elites, he was unable to hold campaign events in the north.

There was an obvious danger. The PDP no longer represented the north, and should the supporters of a northern candidate decide that the election was rigged – whether the INEC blesses the process or not – violence could erupt. This appears to be what was happening yesterday. The north largely voted for the losing candidate, the former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. Yesterday his supporters set fire to homes bearing ruling party banners in Kano and there were reported to be numerous deaths in Kaduna. One police spokesman there described the fighting as an uprising. Let us all hope he is wrong.





If you want to know why you should vote yes in May's electoral reform referendum, just listen to Dr John Reid's peroration for the noes yesterday

If you want to know why you should vote yes in May's electoral reform referendum, just listen to Dr John Reid's peroration for the noes yesterday. He damned the alternative vote not on reasoned grounds, but "above all" because it was "not British". Tony Blair's warhorse had been wheeled out of retirement to help the Conservative prime minister argue that the way the UK does politics should be left just as it is. The two men stood together and made an impassioned case for the old political class, which is itching to forget all about the electorate's refusal to entrust any party with a mandate last year and get back to business as usual.

Dismal as the pitch is, it is making inroads, at least according to today's Guardian/ICM poll, which has the naysayers 16 points ahead. Reformists have just 16 days to transform things, by countering a campaign of unremitting negativity, whose garish posters are explicit in saying that because the NHS matters democracy doesn't, and carry the implicit message "vote no or the baby gets it". The yes side must stop indulging in its own fear-mongering, with its irrelevant British National party fixation, and instead get stuck into the half-truths and flat falsehoods that were served up by David Cameron and Lord Reid yesterday.

With faux atonement, Mr Cameron admitted John Major had roundly deserved the boot in 1997 and warned that AV would have prevented the clean sweep of the Commons that the country had wanted. In fact, all the projections show that in a year when the Tories were virtually nobody's second choice, they would have taken a still bigger hit, arguably even too big. Moving seamlessly on, and needing his full measure of Etonian nonchalance to avoid embarrassment, the coalitional prime minister spoke of his grave fear that AV would result in more coalitions. Most brazenly of all, Mr Cameron, who owes his own position to a succession of preferential votes within the Conservative party, redefined the founding principle of democracy. Instead of being that everybody deserves a say, the acid test suddenly becomes that no opinion ought to count for anything except where it is boiled down to a single cross. Dr Reid weighed in with his amplifier here – the reformers wanted, he said, "to usurp the right to an equal vote".

This is tosh. Bringing second preferences into play where first choices are disappointed is not the same as allowing multiple votes. The Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson memorably dispatched this slur on Question Time recently, where she explained to a reactionary fellow panellist that if she had agreed to pick her up a Mars from the canteen but returned with a Twix because they had sold out, she would still have one chocolate bar. Sadly, few of the arguments made on the yes platform yesterday were landed with the same punch. Perched alongside Labour's Alan Johnson and Ed Miliband, Vince Cable looked as if he was enjoying himself more than he has for some time. Planted firmly back on the progressive side of the political divide, he cracked some gags about the voting rules on Strictly Come Dancing. Mr Johnson breezily explained how first past the post had become an anachronism in a country where ever fewer voters identified with the big political tribes, while Mr Miliband showed bravery in returning to the reformist fray in a contest that many of his fellow partisans would rather see him use to punish Nick Clegg.

The modest electoral change on offer will not deliver proportional votes, and does not easily lend itself to inspirational oratory. Certainly, none was heard yesterday. It is, however, a first step in restoring the severed link between the governing and the governed. If the shop stewards of the old politics are allowed to prevent it now, they will dismiss all potential future reforms as obsessions of the chattering class. Instead of rationalising our political rules, we will be told to stop moaning and get used to them, because – after all – they're British.





Britain's first national park deserves support in its battle to balance the needs of locals and protection of the environment

The Peak District national park, 60 years old this month, famously lacks any peaks and isn't a park. But as Britain's first national park, and almost certainly its busiest, it has played a proud part in preserving a special part of the English landscape and encouraging the public to enjoy it. The high gritstone Dark Peak countryside remains a true wilderness, even though on a mist-free day you can see the fringes of Manchester and Sheffield from its tops. The soft limestone countryside of the White Peak is still quietly rural, and a refuge for the millions of visitors who come each year from the Midlands and beyond. As Roger Redfern's country diary records twice a month on these pages, the Peak District is part of the life of the cities on its borders, and has been since well before the famous Kinder mass trespass of 1932, which saw ramblers demand their right to walk across the Duke of Devonshire's shooting estate. The national park authority has often found itself caught in the middle of a debate between access, development and preservation, and has done a decent job at all three. With limited resources, it has restricted quarrying and tried to balance the needs of locals for new homes with the protection of a delicate environment. It deserves strong support in this battle – as do the rights of all national parks, reported to be under scrutiny in a crowdsourcing exercise to test red tape. This Easter, there can no better place than the Peak to tramp the moors or wander past meadows and spring lambs.








Is there any idea of the rule of law in the Indonesian Constitution? What is the notion of the rule of law in the context of Indonesia?

Like a company that has a deed of establishment as the basic foundation to operate the company, the state has its constitution to exercise power.

According to B.O. Nwabueze (1973), a constitution is not only a text of articles, but also a living basic system for the government and the people. To discuss the rule of law in Indonesia, therefore, must refer to the 1945 Constitution because it is the source of power for the government to govern the state and the people.

Since the fall of Suharto's regime in May 1998 Indonesia has entered the Reform Era (Era Reformasi) and there have been four presidents: B.J. Habibie, Gus Dur, Megawati Sukarnoputri and current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (since 2004). From 1999 to 2002 the Indonesian Constitution of 1945 was amended four times in successive years. Can such constitution support the idea of the rule of law? Has President Yudhoyono maximally supported the notion of the rule of law?

The answer is no. Many tragedies of law, black markets of law or legal scandals have occurred in the Yudhoyono era.

Various cases can be mentioned. For example, in recent years some members of parliaments, former Cabinet ministers, governors, polices, judges, prosecutors and public officials have been jailed for involvement in corruption scandals. There are still many cases pending.

Therefore, compared to other jurisdictions, Indonesia is still in a high rank of corruption index. For sure, the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi) is quite vital for the purpose of numerous corruption eradications in the country, although this state auxiliary commission is facing various challenges from the cronies of the New Order regime and from those who are mentally corruptive and greedy. Therefore, the authority and power of the Anti- Corruption Commission has to be strengthened. This is absolutely in line with the spirit of the United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention that has been ratified by Indonesia.

Although corruption is prohibited by laws and the Constitution in Indonesia, in reality it still significantly happens. Thus, a constitution without constitutionalism and without sincere support of the people is nonsense. It is like a "paper tiger" in which the constitutional provisions have become inert and impotent. Yet one can see that the countries with constitutions do not automatically guarantee that it will be apt to constitutionalism.

In the Indonesian Constitution, the term of constitutionalism is a synonym of the negara hukum, rechstaat or the law-state. This concept can be defined as a legally accountable state or a state that rules by law and not by power. Government and its power must be limited to enshrine respect of human values and dignity as a central fundamental truth based on the rule of law, so that government exercises its power according to specified rule to obtain justice for all the people irrespective of their different backgrounds of political belief, economic status, religions, tribal affiliation and so on.

Accordingly, the arbitrariness of political power goes against constitutionalism, since constitutionalism recognizes a necessity for the government to put a limitation upon its power. The constitutionalism concept is the antithesis of the arbitrary regime and is opposed to corrupt administration in which the government is conducted not according to predetermined rules but according to despotic principles.

In a democratic state, there should be effective legal guarantees of basic rights enforced by an independent and impartial tribunal.

In short, constitutionalism has generally been concerned with the procedural ways of limiting government power and how to set up accountability. Hence, constitutions of constitutional governments must contain substantive as well as procedural limitations on governmental authority.

The government must provide a protection of human rights, free speech and freedom of association. Essentially everybody has the right to choose the justice based on equality principle, meaning that everybody should be equal before the law.

In conclusion, the implementation of the rule of law is the only panacea, cure or solution for all Indonesia's troubles.

I am sure that the rule of law is also a panacea for the world's troubles. Therefore, the rule of law should be a priority for any countries from Africa, Latin America, China, Japan, Russia, Asia and the Middle East (including Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Tunisia and so on. It is the only way to save Indonesia.

T.M. Luthfi Yazid, an Indonesian lawyer, is currently a professor at the Gakushuin University Faculty of Law. He is editor of "WAKAI: A New Approach for Dispute Resolution" (2008) by Yoshiro Kusano, professor at Gakushuin University and a former judge at Hiroshima High Court. This article is the personal opinion of the author: (







HONG KONG — Looking at the scenes of bloodshed and looting, and the terrified flight of thousands of people, as Alessane Outtara took over as president, it is hard to imagine that only 25 years ago the Ivory Coast was the sparkling jewel of sub-Saharan Africa.

The messy way that the leadership changed has damaging relevance well beyond the newly impoverished country of 21 million people. It offers challenges to Africa and its leaders, to the United Nations, to the colonial powers, and to colonialism old and new.

Former colonial master, President Nicolas Sarkozy's France, was the key player in finally forcing former President Laurent Gbagbo to surrender his presidential bunker, four bloody months after he had lost the contested election. Putting the Ivory Coast on its feet involves far more than lifting embargoes on the country's cocoa crop.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Ivory Coast - or Cote d'Ivoire as French speakers insist that it is officially called - was a delight. It is going too far to claim that Abidjan was "the Paris of Africa," but there was more than a touch of French ambience: You could get fresh French croissants and coffee, good steaks and fine wines as well as the best beer in Africa and the best Vietnamese food outside Vietnam.

The country indeed was almost a French transplant, encouraged by Felix Houphouet-Boigny, its first president from independence in 1960 until his death in 1993 aged at least 88 and possibly 95. He wanted neither independence nor break with France. He had been a French member of Parliament and Cabinet minister. Even in the 1990s, there were French advisers in every ministry and French companies owned more than a third of the economy. French was the language and culture of the country, at least in the elite circles of politics and business.

Once outside Abidjan, however, the French gloss faded and humdrum poverty took over. Houphouet-Boigny became increasingly eccentric, and rich, in his old age, transferring the capital to his hometown of Yamoussoukro in the middle of the country, where he spent $300 million building the largest church in the world with a dome that aped St. Peter's in Rome but was bigger. It cost a tiny slice of his personal fortune, assessed at $7 billion to $11 billion when he died.

The old president encouraged widespread immigration and opening up of the country to cocoa planting, a crop for which the Ivory Coast accounts for 40 percent of world production. People flooded in from neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, forming at least a third of Ivory Coast's population, and helped exacerbate the fault lines between the elite and the underprivileged, between north and south, between Christians and Muslims, between native Ivoirians and newcomers, plus ethnic and tribal distinctions.

Lesson one for dictators, autocrats and other assorted strongmen: If you don't plan for proper succession, preferably with a measure of democratic expression, you sow the seeds of the destruction for all you accomplished.

Immediately after Houphuet-Boigny's death unscrupulous politicians got to work. Ivory Coast, previously a model of peace, stability and economic success, degenerated into chaos, wars and coups. The principal players have been around for a long time. Ouattara, prime minister when the old president died, was a ready target because his father came from Burkina Faso, and he was twice rejected as a presidential candidate as "a foreigner."

Gbagbo, with his stronghold in Abidjan, played race and religious cards, which made divisions deeper and angrier and encouraged armed militia and violence. He was himself the beneficiary of a disputed election in 2000 when his supporters forced military dictator Robert Guei out.

Lesson two for African politicians: Violence breeds more violence. From 2002 Ivory Coast was in a semi-continuous state of civil war, with Ouattara's forces seeking to avenge the deaths of northerners killed by Gbagbo's militias. Last year's elections were supposed to end the bloodshed, but they exposed a deep abiding split. According to the international figures for the result, Ouattara won 54 percent against Gbagbo's 46 percent, still a sizable chunk of popularity and potential continuing mayhem.

Lesson three, for Africa especially: An election does not solve problems without rules of the game and acceptance of victory or defeat, with the hope that there will be another chance in four or five years' time. Gbagbo could not be allowed to steal the election without setting a dreadful precedent; but unless he is given - and accepts - face as honorable loser, violence will potentially continue.

His trial for war crimes must be seen to be scrupulously fair, and an independent prosecutor must also look into the conduct of Ouattara's forces.

Lesson four is for the United Nations and Security Council: If you have a mandate, you must act on it or everyone suffers. Why were you slower to act in Ivory Coast than in Libya, even though the U.N. has been in the country since 2004 under an Article 7 mandate to protect civilians and human rights? By standing idle, the U.N. encouraged violence.

Lesson five is for France, still suspected of supporting Ouattara to protect its colonial interests: Sarkozy needs to come up quickly with a practical aid program to help put the country on its feet again.

Lesson six is for the new colonialists, principally agribusiness groups like Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and Barry Callebaut, which buy Ivory Coast's cocoa crops. Now, with much of the cocoa 30 years old and needing replanting, would be a good time for the multinationals to promote plans for replanting and ensuring that the poor Ivoirian farmers get more than 40 percent of the world market price for their beans.

Lesson seven is for Ouattara: Can he show generosity and imagination, hitherto both lacking, and tap his old colleagues at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for funds and develop an economic and political plan to give a stake in the country to all Ivoirians?

Kevin Rafferty was editor of daily newspapers during the annual meetings of the African Development Bank, then headquartered in Abidjan, 1989-1996.






BRUSSELS — The European Union, at long last, is taking a significant step toward improving the lives of Europe's millions of Roma. Rather than proposing a grand plan for EU-level action, the European Commission's recently released "EU framework for national Roma integration strategies up to 2020" calls on each member state to write its own plan.

This approach recognizes that the most pressing needs of the Roma - improvements in education, housing, health care, and employment opportunities - are in the hands of member states, not the Commission. But putting the onus on national governments also reflects the caution with which EU institutions approach the deep social problems faced by the Roma.

The EU has woken up to these problems in the past two or three years, thanks, most recently, to the crisis in France last summer, which followed an influx of thousands of Roma migrants. Politicians have understood that the social exclusion and stigma suffered by Roma are a pan-European problem requiring an EU-level framework. But the general view is that Roma exclusion has proved intractable for many centuries, and that concerted action will not make much difference now.

In fact, few countries have ever really tried - and not owing only to a lack of resources. To be sure, ending Roma exclusion would require public spending on Roma communities to be orders of magnitude higher than it is now. Even in an age of austerity, the amount required is small relative to EU spending on social cohesion. The biggest need is to raise national leaders' political will to combine policies and practices proven to work.

Imagine what life is like if you are a Roma today. You are four times more likely to live below the poverty line than someone from another ethnic background. Your substandard housing will probably be in a slum without a sewage system or any transport to the nearest town. You probably went to a poor-quality, segregated, Roma-only school, at which very few of your classmates completed primary education.

Indeed, you may have no birth certificate or other identity papers, or any legal claim to your home. If you are the victim of a crime, you don't want to go to the police, because they might abuse rather than protect you.

In other words, you live in the Third World, even if geographically you are in the middle of Europe.

Poverty and prejudice are mutually reinforcing. When a baby cannot be registered because Roma parents face discrimination and live in an isolated settlement, she will inevitably lack the documents needed to set up a legal business when she grows up. If a Roma girl has no contact with children from other ethnic groups in a decent school, she is unlikely to be able to persuade an employer to give her a decent job, and her family is likely to see early marriage as her only means of survival.

Even if bias and discrimination disappeared overnight, it would take years to break the vicious cycle of Roma exclusion. Public policies need to address the multiple deprivations that Roma face, and they need to survive changes in government. That's where an EU-level framework can help, by encouraging evidence-based policymaking.

The good news is that there is plenty of experience that shows which development policies work. Integrated schooling is proven to improve academic results for all of the children involved. Early childhood programs and neonatal intervention - aimed at improving expectant mothers' health and teaching parenting skills - plus two years of preschool give Roma children a much greater chance of going on to secondary education, which is essential to getting a decent job. And adult job training yields the triple benefit of raising household incomes, increasing tax revenues, and giving Roma the chance to work with people from other backgrounds.

The EU member states' own experience also needs to be systematically assessed, so that countries can see what works and what is a waste of money. For example, other countries can learn from Spain's progress in improving housing for Roma, or from Hungary's microfinance program for Roma entrepreneurs.

All governments face a major impediment to better policies, however: lack of data on the Roma. It is impossible to devote the right resources and design better policies if officials have no information about those who need help.

Many Roma do not feature in official statistics, and governments have little information on whether policies aimed at improving their welfare have had any effect. Even worse, governments typically do not try to assess the impact of their programs, though evaluation is standard practice in development projects.

It is possible to collect data on the Roma without stigmatizing them. The United Nations Development Program and the Open Society Foundations are collaborating with the World Bank on a major household survey this year that will provide valuable information on the living conditions of Roma in the EU and the Western Balkans. The aim is to enable governments to design more effective policies based on hard evidence from regular official surveys.

Heather Grabbe is director of the Open Society Institute, Brussels. Kori Udovicki is regional director for Europe and the CIS at the U.N. Development Program. © 2011 Project Syndicate.




The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has abandoned plans to try several terrorists, including the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, in civilian courts. Instead, it will use military tribunals to administer justice. It is a sad decision. The United States should be leading efforts to show that the fight against terrorism does not require sacrificing the very values that the West is defending. Instead, the Obama administration has been forced by political realities to compromise its position; we all are poorer for the result.

The government of then U.S. President George W. Bush set up special military commissions to administer justice to terror suspects arrested in its global war on terror. The administration and its defenders insisted that a special legal system was needed because the circumstances in which suspects were arrested and held, as well as the crimes which they were accused of, could not be accommodated by standard criminal procedures. In particular, there was concern that the way those suspects were treated - Mr. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who confessed to masterminding 9.11 was reportedly waterboarded 183 times; most people would call that torture, but that label was not used thanks to tortuous legal reasoning - would invalidate their confessions or taint their trials.

Candidate Obama pledged to shut down the military tribunals, to end the special legal treatment that, even without making a mockery of civilian law, undermined the credibility of Western support for the rule of law, and to close the facilities at Guantanamo Bay where terror suspects are held in legal limbo. In November 2009, Mr. Eric Holder, the attorney general, announced that Mr. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of organizing the Sept. 11 attacks would be tried in a civilian court just blocks from "Ground Zero" in New York City. Mr. Holder, with other administration officials, wanted to prove that the U.S. legal system could even handle crimes of this magnitude; a parallel legal system, one that did not afford defendants the protections of the U.S. Constitution, was not needed.

That brave and sensible decision triggered a firestorm of controversy. There were fears that the trials would become terrorist targets. Others worried that those fears and the security measures taken to counter them would exact a huge economic toll on New York City, which was in the grip of a severe economic downturn. (That argument convinced several people who originally supported the move.) Still others argued that legal technicalities would spring the terrorists. Opponents of the plan waged war in Congress and passed legislation that barred the transport of Guantanamo detainees to the mainland U.S. and banned the spending of any money on the trials.

Finally, on April 4, Mr. Holder angrily reversed course, saying that the civilian trials would not be held and the men would be charged in military commissions. Announcing the decision, Mr. Holder conceded that he was being forced to bow to political reality and the trials had to go forward to bring both justice to the perpetrators and some relief to the victims and their families.

But the attorney general insisted that civilian courts, "the time honored and time tested system of justice" are the better alternative as the cases against the accused were strong and could have been made in ordinary courts of law. Noting that legislators "simply do not have access to the evidence and other information necessary to make prosecution judgments," Mr. Holder called the prosecutors' case "one of the most well-researched and documented cases I have ever seen in my decades of experience as a prosecutor."

Equally compelling is Mr. Holder's claim that this parallel legal structure undermines counterterrorism efforts and hurts national security. The Guantanamo Bay facility is a rallying point for Muslim grievances against the U.S. Its very existence is a blot on a nation that has championed the rule of law. Experts insist that despite the precautions, the military commissions are riddled with constitutional and procedural concerns. But the bigger problem is the notion that certain classes of people need special legal systems - that somehow the law cannot be applied to them. This does exceptional damage to the claim that all persons are equal before the law.

Supporters of the military commissions say these individuals create special problems and are in particular circumstances. That charge assumes that these people are guilty; in fact, they are still just suspects. There is no proof that they cannot be handled by the civilian courts. Others show concerns that they may have been mistreated and that confessions may have been forced and are therefore inadmissible. But they sidestep the critical question of why such methods were used and if the statements they produced are truthful.

In other words, the special courts protect the government, not the suspects. When put like that, the fundamental problems with such tribunals are clear. They are designed to tilt the scales of justice. They fail the basic fairness test and they repudiate the notions of human rights that have served as the model for Western jurisprudence. They are a poor compromise that use legal verdicts to erode the very foundation of Western jurisprudence.






Critics may have found the answer as to why the word "prosperous" was deliberately chosen when the then Justice Party was renamed in order to contest the 2009 elections.

Reports of brokerage practices involving Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politicians in beef imports and oil and gas contracts, alleged misuse of campaign funds channeled to the Muslim-based party in the 2009 elections and the 2007 Jakarta gubernatorial election, the two-year jail sentence given to PKS lawmaker Muhammad Misbakhun for document forgery to acquire loans from Bank Century and the lavish lifestyle of certain party elites have underlined the widely-perceived stereotype of Indonesian politicians who seek prosperity for themselves before considering the people.

Not to mention the recent resignation of PKS lawmaker Arifinto, who was caught red-handed watching porn during a plenary session at the House of Representatives. The incident has undoubtedly further spoiled PKS' brand image as the moral guardian of the country.

The grand ceremony to celebrate the PKS' 13th anniversary at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on Sunday, therefore, gave the party momentum to mitigate the damage done and restore the public faith.

The PKS does not believe in the mystical unlucky number of 13. Instead, it deems the series of woes beleaguering the party as setups meant to undermine its preparations for the 2014 elections when it expects to leapfrog the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle for the third place in the House.

But with the "slanderous claims" against the party apparently set to continue, as PKS president Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq has predicted, many have cast doubt on the party's ability to meet its ambitious goal.

The problem may rest with the fact that the PKS has failed to prove it has made a difference rather than become part of the much-criticized political elite — b