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Saturday, May 21, 2011

EDITORIAL 21.05.11

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month may 21, edition 000838, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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With Ms Mamata Banerjee formally taking charge as Chief Minister of West Bengal on Friday afternoon, a new chapter has begun in the State's history. The previous chapter — 34 years of Left rule with the CPI(M) at the helm of the State's affairs — came to an end on May 13 when the Communists were voted out of power, reduced to a stump of the overwhelming majority they had. It is only in the fitness of things that thousands of people should have turned out to cheer Ms Banerjee as she made her historic entry into Writers' Building, the State Government's secretariat in Kolkata. It was a triumphal moment for her personally, as well as for her party, the Trinamool Congress: It marked the culmination of a long-drawn battle, that had often turned nasty leaving Ms Banerjee battered and bruised, to oust an entrenched regime. To her credit, she neither succumbed to despondency (her party was washed out in the 2006 election just as the Left has been in this summer's poll) nor allowed her enthusiasm to flag; almost single-handedly, she brought down the world's longest-serving Communist Government. That would not have been possible if she had not struck a rapport with the masses — "I am a commoner," Ms Banerjee said after taking oath as Chief Minister — and emerged as the alternative choice for the top job. The cheering, surging crowds that had gathered around Writers' Building bear testimony to this fact. The celebrations were as much in honour of Ms Banerjee as to herald a new beginning, or what she calls "naba naba jagaran", a 'new' new awakening that harks back to the Bengal Renaissance that had taken the world by storm.

That said, Ms Banerjee's real task begins now. Whatever may have been the successes of the Left Front, its failures have left West Bengal a bankrupt State with a massive debt burden and virtually no money in the treasury. Such is the financial crisis that paying salaries to Government employees has become a near impossible task. In a sense, putting the State's finances back on the rails is the biggest challenge which Ms Banerjee faces; she has to act swiftly and smartly to not only clean up the mess but also avoid adding to the debt burden. She has chosen her Finance Minister wisely: Mr Amit Mitra is clearly the right person for the job. How he goes about raising resources is to be seen, but the situation looks less bleak with him in charge of the finance portfolio. The other key challenge is to attract big ticket investments in a State which investors tend to shun. Ms Banerjee realises the importance of reversing the trend; by appointing her trusted lieutenant, Mr Partha Chatterjee as Minister for Industry and Commerce, she has signalled that her Government attaches urgency to this task. There are other areas which require her attention. For instance, strengthening the law and order mechanism, which had turned rusty when the Left Front was in power, reforming the education system, which was held hostage to the whims and fancies of party apparatchiks, and restoring the sense of pride without which nothing of substance can be achieved. But above all, Ms Banerjee has to be mindful about her Government not losing its contact with the people. Arrogance and power tend to go hand-in-hand and as the demise of the Left Front shows, can prove to be fatal.







In his second major speech addressed to the Muslim world, US President Barack Obama on Thursday made the preposterous proposition that Israel's border as it existed before the 1967 war should form the basis for present day peace negotiations aimed at enabling the emergence of a full-fledged Palestinian state. The recommendation was clearly one of Mr Obama's thinly-veiled attempts to pander to the Muslim world, particularly the Arabs, and much like his previous attempt — recall his speech at Cairo soon after he took office which was hailed as reflecting a paradigm shift in American policy but has since been forgotten by all — this one too has fallen flat on its face. The Israelis, expectedly, have been prompt in denouncing the suggestion; for Tel Aviv, asking for the restoration of the 1967 border is a red rag and Mr Obama should have known this. Israel cannot be faulted for rejecting the proposal outright. Any solution to the long-festering problem of Palestinian statehood cannot be forged on the basis of situational realities as they existed more than four decades ago. Israel fought and won the war waged by Arab countries in 1967 and since then a lot of water has flown beneath the proverbial bridge. The Six-Day War ended with Israel in control of what was then East Jersualem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai peninsula (which was returned to Egypt after the Camp David accords), but traditionally US Presidents have never called for a return to pre-war border lines. Over the course of the past four decades, Israel has withdrawn from the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority controls West Bank. What remains is Israel's control over East Jerusalem, which now exists only notionally and only in the minds of recalcitrant Palestinians and their Arab patrons. The future of united Jerusalem is non-negotiable for Israel; there is nothing startlingly new about this, as is the issue of return of 'refugees'.

If Mr Obama desires a peaceful resolution of the conflict, so do the Israelis who came very close to an agreement during talks that culminated with the international conference at Annapolis. President George W Bush was patient and his Administration understood the complexities of the dispute. Not so Mr Obama and his team who seem to be in a hurry to force a solution without bothering about the implications of what they are proposing. It would appear that he is in a hurry to prove that he is worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize that was given to him in anticipation of his contribution to world peace. Sadly, that's not how politics works. Israel must be allowed the elbow room to decide its future instead of being directed by the US how to go about the job of peace-making with a people irrevocably hostile to the Jewish state's existence. Not after Hamas declared its allegiance to Osama bin Laden.









In keeping with its Stalinist ethos, the CPI(M) concentrated all power in its hands. The resultant authoritarianism brought about its fall in West Bengal.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)'s rout in the recent West Bengal Assembly election has been attributed to several factors — its vaulting arrogance; forcible acquisition of prime farmland at peppercorn rates for setting up industrial units, housing complexes, resorts and malls; the use of the most savage means by the administration and party cadre to stamp out protests by peasants; attempts to squelch political opposition through sustained violence and intimidation; the ruin of West Bengal's education system by appointing party loyalists alone as teachers in schools, colleges, universities and institutions of professional learning; and, its attempt to maintain its political domination through an elaborate system of patronage in the grant of Government contracts and recruitment to Government jobs.

A basic question, however, remains unanswered. What explains the CPI(M) leaders' arrogance and failure to sense the growing alienation of the people despite their having extensive front organisations among farmers, industrial workers, teachers, students and professional bodies? For an answer, one must look at the cardinal principle of their party's organisation — 'democratic centralism', elaborated by Lenin. In his Letter to a Comrade on Our Organisational Task, he wrote in 1902, "We have arrived at an extremely important principle of all party organisation and activity. In regard to ideological and practical direction, the movement and the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat need the greatest possible centralisation, but in regard to keeping the centre informed concerning the movement and the party as a whole, in regard to responsibility before the party, we need the greatest possible decentralisation... The movement must be led by the smallest possible number of the most homogeneous groups of trained and experienced revolutionaries. But the largest possible number of the most varied and heterogeneous groups drawn from the most diverse layers of the proletariat (and of other classes) should take part in the movement. And, in regard to each such group, the centre must always have before it not only exact data on its activities but also the fullest possible knowledge of its composition."

Thus, the principle of democratic centralism provides for direction coming from the centre comprising a small homogeneous group of trained revolutionaries, information travelling to the centre from a wide, varied and heterogeneous base of the movement, and the centre keeping a sharp eye on all groups comprising the base. After having sent the information upward, the groups at the base had to abide by whatever directions the centre issued. Besides the centre, aware of all the details of each group, could detect signs of the slightest dissidence and crush it.

Hence, democratic centralism made for an autocratic organisation. Not surprisingly, sharp criticism greeted Lenin when he first elaborated it. In an article entitled 'Centralism or Bonapartism?', Plekhanov accused him of "confusing dictatorship of the proletariat with the dictatorship over the proletariat" and of practising "Bonapartism, if not absolute monarchy in the old pre-revolutionary style". Vera Zasulich wrote that Louis XIV's idea of the state was Lenin's idea of the party. In an incisive pamphlet, Our Political Tasks, Trotsky attacked Lenin's method as "dull caricature of the tragic intransigence of Jacobinism" and predicted a situation in which "the party is replaced by the organisation of the party, the organisation by the central committee, and finally the central committee by the dictator". Later, Plekhanov wrote in The Journal of a Social Democrat, that the Bolshevik conception prevailing, "everything in the last resort would revolve round one man who ex-providentia will unite all the powers in himself".

Plekhanov's words proved prophetic with the rise of Stalin's personality cult and the imposition of his nightmarish dictatorship on the Soviet Union. Lenin, of course, did not want any such thing to happen. In the first volume of his three-volume classic, The Bolshevik Revolution, EH Carr wrote, "No one insisted more powerfully than Lenin himself that without masses no serious political action was possible. But the party was never conceived by Lenin as a mass organisation. Much of its strength was due to the fact that it was more concerned to exclude than to include: Quality rather than quantity was its aim. The function of the party was to lead the workers."

This view, in turn, flowed from Lenin's belief, mainly elaborated in What Is to be Done? (1903), that the working class by itself could not rise above "trade union consciousness" and political consciousness had to be imparted to it from outside by professional revolutionaries from the bourgeois and the petty bourgeois who had risen above their class affiliation. He had a point. Intellectuals were aware of historical and societal forces at work, could understand ideological issues and plan and strategise, which most industrial workers could not. Besides without an organisation which was secretive, even conspiratorial, emphasising discipline above almost everything else, Communists could not have survived the repressive Government of the Tsars with its all-pervasive secret service.

Such a party structure, however, not only continued after the successful Bolshevik Revolution but transferred its dictatorial ethos to the Soviet Government as well. To some extent, this was initially due to the need for firm action to consolidate the revolution threatened by violent internal opposition from parties like the Social Revolutionaries, and external threats from the White Russian armies which launched several offensives against the fledgling Soviet state. The Government had also to restore order, revive the economy, and feed the cities. As relevantly, Stalin perpetuated the massive concentration of power in his hands to liquidate his opponents like Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek, Borodin and, later, the top leadership of the Red Army, and enforce his collectivisation drive which destroyed Soviet agriculture. It was only after Stalin's death in 1953 and the liquidation of the hated KGB chief, Laverenti Beria, that Nikita Khrushchev could begin a slow process of dismantling his ghastly terror apparatus.

The Cold War, internal opposition, and the fear of the East European countries breaking away from the Soviet Union's orbit because of discontent within, slowed down the process. But even after the Soviet and a few other communist parties repudiated Stalinism, the CPI(M) continued to laud it. The resultant authoritarian ethos stanched the flow of information upward, while the flattery of time-servers and favour-seekers who crowded the party's corridors, drowned warnings of waning support. By the time the party woke up, its fortunes had sunk beyond redemption.






A Governor is supposed to defend and uphold the might of the Constitution of India in his State. But HR Bhardwaj has joined a long line of Congress political fixers out to revive personal careers by demolishing the spirit of law

Just as the channels started beaming the first image of the fast declared by septuagenarian Gandhian warhorse Anna Hazare, an old journalist friend sent me a message text suggesting that had I avoided stepping into politics and taken a similar course as Anna Hazare, I would have been a hero too. With some satisfaction I pointed out to him that Hazare's fast was also a coadjutant of the political movement created by the BJP, the party I joined, and other Opposition parties to force the government on an issue that has been endemic to the Congress rule since the late 1960s.

The old saying "all's well that ends well" aptly describes the placidity of the political relationship between Raj Bhawan and Vidhan Soudha in Bangalore at the end which saw Constitutional ties between the two institutions strike a new low. The latest reports suggest that there is near-perfect bonhomie between Chief Minister Yeddyurappa and Governor HR Bhardwaj. The Governor is seen going to great lengths to put the past behind everybody. He is quoted as saying that he has no doubts that Yeddyurappa enjoys the support of the majority in the State Assembly. He described the BJP's first southern Chief Minister as a 'hard worker' who puts in '16-18 hours a day' for the betterment of Karnataka.

But the past, even if forgiven, should not be forgotten. Those who don't read history are damned to repeat it. The genesis of the problem in Karnataka is the Congress has not reconciled itself to defeat in the 2008 election which saw the emergence of 'lotus power' south of the Vindhyas. Since the beginning the Congress has made several attempts to topple the Yeddyurappa regime. After gradually chipping away at the base of the BJP's strength, the Congress finally succeeded in winning over 11 BJP MLAs to its side in addition to some Independents.

The 11 dissidents were grabbed by the Governor who was evidently keen to make a point of his continued political relevance to the Congress high command. The BJP picked up the gauntlet and expelled them for indiscipline. The Chief Minister petitioned the Speaker of the Assembly asking for their disqualification as Members. He wanted the Speaker to take the view that the action of the 11 BJP MLAs was tantamount to voluntarily surrendering primary membership of the party.

The Speaker decided in favour of the Chief Minister and decided to liquefy those 11 seats. But since the Speaker acts only as a quasi-judicial authority, his action was subject to court confirmation. The expelled MLAs moved fast to seek judicial review. In that process the Speaker's decision was downturned by the Supreme Court last week, and the MLAs were restored their membership of the House.

Insofar as Constitution and Law are concerned, all this was in order. The Speaker had the power to disqualify the dissident MLAs. Equally, the Supreme Court had the power to restore status quo. These things should be taken with good grace — if the entire episode had been interpreted as part of the judicial process there would not have been any discord.

In a murder case, suppose a lower court rules a person guilty and sends him to jail, a period of jail term has got to be endured till the higher court disposes off his appeal. In the event of the appellate court overturning the sentence, does the lower court's judge become automatically guilty? Of course not. The Law has no power to change reality.

If that same principle is applied to the Karnataka Assembly, the depiction of the Speaker as the villain by the Congress is unjustified. Accusing him of being 'partisan' is uncalled for and goes against the letter and spirit of the Constitution. The other aspect is that after the Supreme Court's judgment, the BJP has a clear, convincing and conclusive majority. So there is no question of a Constitutional crisis in Karnataka.

Under the Constitution, the Governor appoints a Chief Minister and after that other ministers on the advice of the Chief Minister. A State government so institutionalised is responsible to the legislative assembly, not to the Governor. After the BJP had established its clear majority in the Karnakata House, the Governor has no role.

The second significant thing to note is that the Governor has the full right to send periodic reports to the central government. So, whatever Mr Bhardwaj sent to Delhi was entirely legitimate. His assessments of the BJP's situation may be right or wrong, but it was entirely within his powers to make it.

But it is also to be understood that the Governor's report may also contain his recommendations based on assessment of a situation. The President, i.e. the Central government, is, however, not bound to act upon it. The Governor himself has no power to take a decision in the matter of imposing President's rule. That is left to the central government.

The Constitution says that the President has to be "satisfied" on a report from the Governor "or otherwise" that a situation has arisen wherein a State government cannot continue in accordance with the Constitution. It is thus clear that the decision has got to be that of the President — after he, i.e. the central government, is satisfied. By "or otherwise" is meant intelligence reports, media accounts or even inputs from the Chief Minister.

If the Governor of Karnataka had really recommended President's rule, then it was wholly unwarranted. Only partisan considerations can explain his motives. But then, it was only a recommendation — the Central government rightly summarised that it would not have been a good idea to impose President's rule.

A statement put out by Raj Bhawan said: "The intervention under Article 356 (1) of the Constitution of India is not limited to a situation of Government losing its majority in the Assembly. The intervention is called for whenever there is breakdown of Constitutional mechanism in the state.'' The statement detailed the sequence of events leading up to the floor test in the Karnataka Assembly in October, 2010, and cited excerpts from last Friday's Supreme Court order on the disqualification of 16 MLAs to conclude that there had indeed been a breakdown of the constitutional mechanism in Karnataka.

"The action of distorting the character of the Assembly was resorted to by the Chief Minister and the Speaker, as noted by the Supreme Court of India in its judgment, to enable the floor test to succeed. The sanctity of the floor test has been deliberately subverted thereby resulting in the breakdown of the constitutional mechanism,'' he added.

It is indeed unfortunate to see India's democracy and democratic institutions being subverted by the very individuals who are expected to uphold them. All contentious issues can be resolve through discussions. The picture of an elected Chief Minister, and one enjoying overwhelming majority at that, seeking justice from the President of India against the high handedness of a nominee of Rashtrapati Bhawan defines the impending collapse of India's free institutions.

The writer is former Secretary General, Lok Sabha







Saturday Special reviews a tumultuous week in Indian politics which saw the Congress revive the Indira Gandhi tradition of disturbing unyielding Chief Ministers. But, as it happens, the mood of the 2010s is different from the 1980s

Over the past few years, Karnataka politics has drawn the nation's attention one way or the other. The emergence of the BJP in 2008, south India's first BJP government led by Bokanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa, an RSS pracharak, crowned years of ambitious pursuit of the coveted saddle. A street fighter, Yeddyurappa has been struggling to keep his flock because of both internal and external rebellion which has constantly tried to dislodge his government.

No doubt, as a lone ranger in the State, BJP's Yeddyurappa too was hit by an arrogance of power, a natural process that earned him enemies within and outside the party too. However, one has to acknowledge that it was Yeddyurappa who built the BJP and brought the party to rule in Karnataka. The minority government, which he is controlling in the State, has been bogged down with controversies that have national ramifications. Be it mining policies or land denotification, it has its own history and economics, which Chief Ministers in the past too exploited. Even though the Supreme Court's intervention has put some kind of control over mining politics in the State, it takes time for the heat and dust to settle.

The BJP's image took a beating as the saffron party was bogged down with illegal mining, corruption charges and nepotism. In fact, the Karnataka Lokayukta is dealing with this, as well as other cases in the courts. Yeddyurappa has been trying to wriggle out of illegal land denotification and land allotments. Till now, this God-fearing Chief Minister has managed to wriggle out of sticky situations with a straight face.

The ongoing political saga in Karnataka needs introspection to uphold the democratic sprit of the nation. Governor Bhardwaj's political activism proves beyond doubt that he has a specific agenda, which is to dislodge a government duly elected by the people. It is also linked to the Congress' design to keep the minority BJP government in Karnataka on tenterhooks. However, on two counts Yeddyurappa should be thankful to Bhardwaj for his role in, one, uniting the many factions within the BJP to support Yeddyurappa and, two, striking a common platform of all-India BJP leaders to back the beleaguered CM.

The post-SC verdict nullifying Speaker KG Bopaiah's order of disqualification of 11 BJP MLAs also dramatically changed internal equations and the BJP central leadership managed to garner their unconditional support to Yeddyurappa who could prove a simple majority with 121 MLAs in the number games to retain his throne. The truth of the matter in Karnataka politics is that no party is ready for early elections. However, a mid-term poll would be suicidal for both the Congress and JD(S) at this juncture as Lingayet consolidation would only strengthen the BJP. As far as one can see, all is not well in the State Congress, which is struggling to get some kind of unity with its new president, G Parameshwara. The drubbing the Opposition got in the recent by-elections to three Assembly segments has made the BJP stronger.

The BJP's much-criticised Operation Lotus, which lured leaders from other parties, has yielded the desired results. Despite its reliance on money power, Yeddyurappa strengthened his numbers position. Yeddyurappa must thank his stars that the crisis has brought him to national level and also the support of the Central BJP leadership.

A peek into Karnataka's political history reveals dominant communities like the Gowdas (Vokkaligas) and Lingayats ( Veerashaivas) have always played a major role in government making. It is very interesting that the Lingayats played a major role in the victory of Congress in the State. But the then Chief Minister, Ramakrsihna Hegde, with his shrewd political acumen, understood this political dynamics and capitalised on the Lingayats to his benefit, which paid off and he enjoyed power throughout. In fact, as a Brahmin, Hegde was considered an undisputed Lingayat leader. He fought the Congress and established the first non-Congress government in the State with the help of Lingayat vote consolidation.

Even though it was a dangerous trend, Deve Gowda, to counter Hegde, played on the Gowda votes, and consolidated himself dividing the Lingayat and Vokkaliga vote banks. Initially it gave himself and his family along with JD(S) some relevance in vote sharing, but it worked counterproductive. He played his politics and asked his son, Kumaraswamy, to share power with BJP in a swift coup. The JD(S) tried to consolidate the Vokkaliga vote bank but was shattered by the inroads that the BJP made in the recent by-election where it wrested the Chennapatna Assembly seat from the JD(S), located deep in the Vokkaliga heartland.

Yeddyurappa had been dreaming of occupying the Chief Minister's seat for a long time. He realised that the Lingayats have nowhere to go and looked at this as an opportunity to grab them into his fold. Being a Lingayat himself, it became possible for him to consolidate and harness the many religious institutions and caste to his advantage. The BJP not only drew strength from his sleadership but were also able to capture power, and this has in made Yeddyurappa the undisputed leader in the State BJP. This perceptible change in Karnataka has given an identity to the saffron party and Yeddyurappa has established himself in the lead along with the party which he struggled to build in the State.

The hesitation by the Centre in taking a decision on the Governor's report has a lot to do with the Lingayat factor and the fear that if elections happened, it would not help the Congress but in turn, assist Yeddyurappa secure his position further. HR Bhardwaj's action recommending imposition of President's rule is an old game played by the Congress. Instead of allowing the Chief Minister to prove his majority on the floor of the House he became a southpaw of a desperate Congress, creating political fluidity, which is not accepted in a democracy.

The writer is Special Correspondent, The Pioneer, in Bangalore







A child of privilege, with infinitesimal experience of agro India, suddenly decided to take upon himself the burden of protecting farmers. Rahul Gandhi this week tasted bitter humble pie, but not before deepening his party's crisis in UP

The Congress is now desperate to re-establish itself in the politically volatile state of Uttar Pradesh. The party's national general secretary 'Yuvraj' Rahul Gandhi has taken over the onus of steering his party to power in the coming Vidhan Sabha elections in 2012, and so he does not lose a single opportunity to play newer and newer forms of ridiculous politics.

But instead of sharpening his attack on the Mayawati government over acquisition of farmers' land in the twin NOIDA villages of Bhatta Parsaul, Rahul Baba took a nice dive into a veritable political soup. The farmers' lands were acquired for expansion of the Greater NOIDA Development Authority. Rahul created an embarrassment for his party when he put his foot in his mouth and claimed that "bodies of 74 farmers" were buried in a mound of ash.

A spate of denials by the Mayawati government followed, describing the Congress leader's statement as a figment of his imagination. Immediately, the Congress clarified that Rahul had been misquoted. The humiliating retreat diluted the young leader's efforts to play politics on the ashes of the dead farmers. In his overenthusiasm Rahul probably forgot that his claims were unbelievable.The May 7 bloody battle between the police and agitating farmers of Bhatta Parsaul demanding adequate compensation for their land acquired by the Government figured prominently on the agenda of the main political parties including the Congress, Rashtriya Lok Dal, BJP and Samajwadi Party. Senior party spokesman of the BJP, Vijay Bahadur Pathak, said the Congress and BSP Governments were only indulging in shadow boxing since neither wanted to divert public attention from corruption which had assumed alarming proportions. However, the Opposition readily found an issue against the ruling BSP government as they focused on vote bank politics. The Congress felt it was the right time to encash on the sentiments of the farmers who chiefly belonged to the Jat, Jatav, Gujjar and a sizeable number of minority communities. Whether or not the Congress roadmap for Mission 2012 has started with a bang, it is already getting hiccups with Rahul's political gimmicks getting exposed.

Despite the Congress' assurance to introduce amendments in the Land Acquisition Act in the upcoming Parliament session, the parties' intentions are suspect since it had made a similar promise during the agitation in Aligarh's Tappal village when the dispute over the acquisition of land had resulted in confrontation and violence. Four farmers were killed in police firing last year. Clarifying the issue, the State government said that the on-going farmers' agitation in two villages of Bhatta and Parsaul in Noida had nothing to do with land acquisition but "it centred around the political ambition of some leaders having vested interest."

"It is a wrong notion that farmers in Noida are against acquisition of land and are demanding better compensation. In both the villages of Bhatta and Parsaul, the acquisition work was completed in July 2010 and farmers were paid compensation as per agreement. This agitation was result of some leaders who are eyeing political space in view of forthcoming Assembly elections," Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh explained.

Shekhar, however, was not able to explain as what were the demands of the farmers and why they were staging protest since January, 2011. "They are demanding introduction of some development schemes in their villages like sewer, transport and roads," he said when persistently asked about demands of the farmers."The procedure to acquire land in two neighbouring villages of Bhatta and Parsaul had started in March 2009 and was completed in July 2010. In village Bhatta 178 hectares was acquired and Rs 120 crore was paid to farmers as compensation. Similarly, in Parsaul village Rs 180 crore was paid compensation against acquisition of 260 hectares," Shekhar said and added neither there was nor there is any controversy over acquisition of land.

Quoting Mayawati, he said the Chief Minister wants the Opposition parties to first check facts before levelling allegations against the Government. "The leaders should not issue statements which could spark violence that could lead to loss of life and government property," Cabinet Secretary said quoting the Chief Minister.

After kicking up enough controversy for its extra-constitutional histrionics like storming houses to vandalising property to burning standing crops, the police brass later claimed that it was engaged in confidence building among the villagers.

"The locals, who had fled from the three villages of Bhatta, Parsaul and Acchepur, have started returning and the policemen stationed there are involved in the process of confidence building,'' claimed Special DG (Law and Order) Brij Lal after his return from the strife torn region to the State capital .

Earlier, the State government had denied that land acquisition was the main reason behind the farmers agitation at Bhatta-Parsaul village in Greater Noida. The stir which had started with sit in dharnas had culminated in a violent face off between the agitators and the police with both exchanging fire.

The writer Political Editor, The Pioneer (Lucknow)











Imagine there's no heaven, exhorted John Lennon. Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking doesn't imagine it. He believes it. He says when the end comes, we'll just be defunct brains, "broken down computers" with no "afterlife". A cloudless realm where angels play harps and humans sing hosannas? That, suggests Hawking, "is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark". Bah. And here we thought everybody gets to take that post-life vacation in the ultimate tourist spot.

Now, Hawking's a star in today's scientific firmament. But in this freewheeling debate he's started, firm believers in the Beyond aren't his sole challengers. There are fence-sitters too. Ask the open-minded if poet Dante was right about souls ascending to Paradise and they'll say, Heaven knows. Some may even back humorist Mark Twain's hedging of bets on the divine comedy: "I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell - you see, i have friends in both places." Sure, who doesn't?

Now, in wedlock or political gridlock, heaven - or hell, for that matter - seems an indeterminate place. For instance, marriages are made in heaven and often become hell on earth. As a new book claims, those living out the long happily-ever-after get a "psychic benefit" akin to earning $1,00,000 a year! But, despite more material 'benefits', consider the less blissful state of old political spouses DMK-Congress. In politics, heaven can wait when electoral hell freezes over. This isn't to say netas don't foster faith in manna from the heavens. Legislators' assets, it's said, grow more with their re-contesting polls than by investing in gold or mutual funds! Who needs fixed deposits? Poll candidates turned crorepatis can buy that stairway to heaven.

Meantime, the Left's been on its Marx decrying religion's "opiate" - pearly gates, transcendental immaterialism and all that 'consolatory' jazz. So they created communist heaven on earth: Bengal's clogged roads, blocked universities and padlocked factories. But neither Mamata as Bengal's new guardian angel nor Achuthanandan as Kerala's octogenarian fallen angel has made Prakash Karat contemplate political afterlife.

It seems not everybody realises that the Great Yonder is more about seeing the light and dreaming the dream than fear of the dark. Poet Blake saw the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower. Pop artiste Belinda Carlisle sang of uplifting love thanks to which "heaven is a place on earth". And Oprah Winfrey - who's to retire from talkshow hosting - reportedly said heaven's a "big baked potato and someone to share it with". Wow. Room service at Hotel Paradiso.

Imagining such bliss recalls Lennon who penned 'Imagine'. One critic of Hawking's views says there's a difference between the scientist and the songwriter. Lennon, he argues, hadn't attacked people's belief in heaven; he'd only perceived clashing notions of it as reflecting human divides, which a world living "as one" needed to bridge. Point. The more folks celebrate shared humanity, with nothing to kill or die for, the more they'll be in seventh heaven - here on earth. Imagine.








Experts have analysed the results of five assembly elections. In West Bengal or Tamil Nadu, the government has fallen, and the opponent has emerged - in the former case with a resounding majority. Whether it was the 2G scam in Tamil Nadu or that the free grinders sop didn't work well, we will never know the exact reasons for the DMK debacle. Similarly, whether it was Singur, the Left's general mismanagement or simply a need for change - the exact cause for the Trinamool sweep cannot be pinpointed.

However, one trend is becoming clearer with time. That is the rise of the assertive and aggressive politician. Most of India's high-profile chief ministers - Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar, Jayalalithaa, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Sheila Dikshit - who have had spectacular victories, are vocal, opinionated and seem to have the 'let's get on with it' attitude.

This is in stark contrast to the stereotypical Indian leader who keeps quiet or, when forced to talk, is diplomatic to the point of avoiding the issue altogether. This stereotype emerged from the Congress party which successfully used the silent mystique strategy, particularly in the last 20 years. However, it may be time for such leaders to reconsider it, especially if they want to have a few rockstar chief ministers of their own and be more in sync with what the Indian voter wants. Because, quite frankly, brash is back!

The classic example of the silent leader is P V Narasimha Rao, who was rarely heard in his five-year prime ministerial tenure. It wasn't like he led India in boring times. India's near bankruptcy, economic liberalisation, the Babri masjid demolition and, of course, corruption scandals, were just a few of the big moments in his tenure. Yet, ask anyone who was around then - do they even remember his voice? After him, Sonia Gandhi almost acquired a sphinx-like stature with her silences and her demure refusal to take up the prime minister's job. Apart from in the last year or so, Rahul Gandhi rarely spoke too - either in Parliament or in public. And, of course, our prime minister for the last eight years is hardly known for his aggression or oratory. Don't talk, don't react, don't explain, don't take any opinionated stance - all this seemed to work extraordinarily well. Except, it doesn't seem so effective now.

In Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Reddy, while not a chief minister yet, won his byelection with historic margins. Upon his victory, he was bold enough to come on TV and say, "It is a slap on the face of the Congress and TDP." That's it, no diplomacy, no mincing words, no sugarcoating. People like that now, especially the younger generation. I think it is safe to predict that Jagan's star is on the rise. Mamata called her victory Bengal's second independence. Jayalalithaa, upon winning, said that the "DMK had completely ruined Tamil Nadu". And, of course, Anna's direct, firm 'no politicians on my dais' message won him millions of fans.

This is India 2011. Where silence is no longer equated with dignity, poise or high stature. So low is the credibility of politicians today that silence is seen as smugness, inefficiency and avoiding the issues. This is a cultural shift, brought about by the frustration people have felt with unaccountable governments. From once revered silent leaders, people have started to prefer brash assertiveness, even a bit of cocky confidence.

Such shifts in preferences do happen. In the US, it is said that George Bush, often ridiculed as a less sharp president, was a reaction to the 'extra-clever and glib' Clinton. Americans were happy with someone less smart as long as he didn't get into scandals like his predecessor. Similarly, Indians today are more likely to give a brash politician who will speak a chance, rather than someone dignified who won't talk to the people.

There are lessons in this for all political parties. What worked in the past may not work so well in the coming few years. Whoever is positioned as a leader needs to have an agenda, a point of view, drive and, most importantly, a willingness to talk to people about issues. One doesn't have to react to every baseless allegation or news story. However, one must be willing to talk proactively on issues that are relevant to the people. Speaking in platitudes or government officialese doesn't count. Statements like "We are examining the matter and in due course we will take a suitable course of action" are nonsensical. Be a straight shooter, come to the point, be honest about what you can and cannot do and don't be afraid to have opinions.

Whether it was the 2G scam, anti-incumbency, anti-communism, developmental issues, freebies or caste/religion equations that determined the outcome of the recent elections can never be affirmed. What is clear is Indians have had enough of posturing and need aggressive leaders. Political parties should ensure that the candidates they select have the required traits to suit changing voter preferences. Better start talking before people stop talking about you forever.

The writer is a best-selling novelist.








Former England skipper Tony Greig's cricitism of 'Indian domination' of the International Cricket Council (ICC) cuts little ice. True, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) enjoys a prominent position in the ICC. But this has come about organically and over a period of time. Thanks to massive viewership in India, where the sport is often compared to a religion, the BCCI represents the aspirations of a vast section of global cricket fans. Accusing the Indian cricket board of monopolising tendencies and calling for corrective action is unjustified. In earlier days, the English and Australian cricket boards were the heavyweights in the ICC. Few saw this as a problem. So, why single out BCCI when the power centre of world cricket has shifted to the subcontinent?

Every sport has its own process of evolution. Hockey, for example, was once dominated by India and
Pakistan. Today, teams such as Australia, the Netherlands and Germany are at the forefront of world hockey. If successful new cricket formats such as the IPL have turned out to be huge money-spinners attracting international talent, the credit goes to the BCCI for thinking out of the box. That cricket fans even outside the subcontinent look forward to tournaments involving Team India is proof of how crucial Indian cricket is to promoting the game.

Several cricket boards profit handsomely from their engagements with the BCCI. It is only natural for them to be accommodative of the BCCI's concerns. Over the last decade and a half, Indian cricket and the BCCI have injected flair into the gentleman's game. If cricket today has the commercial potential to chart new territories, it is because India is successfully playing its role as the engine of the ICC. Though the dynamics might change tomorrow, yet cricket is far richer for it today.








If Tony Greig is calling for ending India's domination of the ICC, blame it squarely on the BCCI's hegemonic attitude. The rise of the Indian cricket board as the sport's financial powerhouse over the last two decades has relegated the ICC to playing second fiddle. It is routine for the BCCI to object to any and every decision of the ICC, be it about tour scheduling, player suspensions or appointments. In that sense, Greig's frank comment echoes the feelings of many cricket fans and nations that feel that the BCCI has been unnecessarily arm-twisting the ICC and other boards into toeing its line.

Not so long ago, the Indian cricket board was at loggerheads with the ICC on issues like the Future Tours programme or the 'whereabouts' clause of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada). Due to the BCCI's refusal to be Wada-compliant, the ICC, which always tries not to displease the Indian board, had to adopt a new cricket-specific anti-doping code. In the process, it overlooked the fact that several other boards had agreed to Wada. Likewise, the BCCI has formed unilateral arrangements to allow more series between a few select nations like Australia and England. Such arrangements work against the mandate of the ICC, which must focus on expansion of cricket across the world.

The BCCI's behaviour has merely damaged its reputation. Let's not forget that India had fought for democratising the ICC's decision-making process. Ironically, that spirit is missing in its own dealings with the ICC and its treatment of other boards. Cricket's future cannot be reduced to one country's or region's sporting dominance. This will eventually widen the fault lines that exist within the cricketing world. Besides, there is a limit to which the BCCI can flex its financial muscle. Both inclusion and expansion must be the authorities' mantra if cricket is to become a truly global sport.







Rajiv Gandhi will be remembered today by many people for many things. 

For his family, the 20th anniversary of his going will bring memories that can't be put in words. Those who were with him on the fateful day, and lived to witness the tragedy flash in front of their eyes, will recall it with a pang of incomprehension. His close friends, not in politics, will remember him for a hug that was strong, a handshake that gripped firm. His colleagues in politics will recall him for the voltage with which he lit them up, his adversaries for the civility that made opposition to him go dim. Officials and diplomats who worked for him will remember the man who made strategy serve ideas, not the other way  about.

But one group of human beings won't recall him today. Because it can't. It doesn't know him. Nor does it know of him. Or of his mother. Or of his grandfather.

And yet this is the group that is inextricably linked to all three of them — Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. In numbers little more than 300. But in what Nehru might have called its sifat, its essential state of being, 'the quality of character'.

The world calls them Jarawa because the Great Andamanese call them that, meaning in their speech, 'stranger'. Only the Jarawa know what they call and think of those who have been coming into their forest-homes, first with guns, then with gifts, and now with schemes for their good. Like the Sentinelese living on the tiny square-shaped island by that name, who number less and remain largely, incredibly uncontacted by the world outside, the Jarawa have traditionally been regarded as 'hostile', a premature typification for 'unknown-uncommunicative'. Their lives on the western, wooded flanks of south and and middle Andaman islands have been a struggle for self-protection against three sets of people 'from the outside' — British colonisers, Japanese occupiers and Indian 'developers'. The British and the Japanese believed Higher Purpose called them to lands not their own to make them their own. They made these islands their own. India has had a different view, a different attitude. India has had Nehru. And Nehru had advisers like Verrier Elwin.

From the time he first saw the Bhil, the Santhal and the Gond in the 1930s, Nehru felt our tribals had "their own genius" and that "we should not over-administer these areas or overwhelm them with a multiplicity of schemes". But by the mid-1970s ideas changed about what was 'over-administration' and what wasn't 'over-administration'. The Jarawa had to be contacted, they had showed signs of 'coming out', they were 'responding'. And so boats with gifts went and left those marvels of civilisation 'near about' where the Jarawa lived. They were, delight of delights, actually taken.

Then, with traumatised migrants and needy refugees coming in, settlements on the eastern flanks of the south and middle Andamans became inescapable. With Port Blair, the A&N headquarters lying to the south, and Maya Bunder, the entrepot, to the north, it was inevitable that the planner's paradigm, the developer's dream, the contractor's craving be raised to the level of a collective demand: the Andaman Trunk Road (ATR).

Indira Gandhi, it is said, was not impressed by the ATR idea. But development has strong interests. They outlast even strong prime ministers. The ATR has cut a path for itself right through those two islands and has become both an artery and a safari, the life on wheels being India's and the life on view being the Jarawa's. There are expectations, pleas, urgings, assumptions, that the ATR will be 'developed'. These are natural and at one level entirely understandable. But a road in a place like these islands can't lie inert on the soil without acting on the area around it. Satellite pictures of the ATR show how it has cleft the island, not just connected two ends of it. And how it is defining its future, by dividing its present.

Whether as a pilot Rajiv Gandhi ever flew his plane into Port Blair or not I do not know. But within a year of his becoming the pm, he set up the Island Development Authority under his chairmanship, to chart a calibrated, environment-sensitive, approach to development on the islands.

Would Rajiv Gandhi have cleared a widening, expanding, black-topping of the ATR, leading to its progressive escalation into a two-lane or three-lane expressway? Honestly, I can't say. But this I do not doubt: he would have tried to find a via media that does not endanger the rare to facilitate the many.

Roads are a solution for some tribal areas, even the solution. But they can be a problem in some others, even the problem. Such are the exquisite ironies of a democratic republic. Ours is not a glued-together Republic where roads and dams, are set up mechanically by 'headquarters diktat' and where tribal communities have to be 'mainstreamed', their foot-paths 'road-rollered' and their persons covered by assembly-line attire except at national carnivals where diversity acquires viewer value. We are supposed to get to know their thoughts, their sifat.

An anniversary such as today's could well pass the Jarawa or the Sentinelese by, for they are innocent of India's or any country's history, indeed, of countries and states, for maps and boundaries have not entered their minds. They don't know of India's celebrations, her mournings. Do they have the shikayats and arzis we hear on the mainland? I wonder. We can assume what they do not know, what they may not want. But do we know what they do know, what they do want?

Before we begin to teach the Jarawa the value of roads that bring into their forest air diesel fumes, chips, gutka and film songs, and the word 'lo', may we not want to learn from them their word for 'na'? And why a road can intrude rather than help? Before we can know that or find that out, to introduce the synthetic and irreversible in an ambience that is organic and self-renewing is to do wrong. It is to rob the Jarawa of choice and change their lives for all time. It is to do something a republic is not meant to do, certainly not the Republic of India.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor. The views expressed by the author are personal.





I have just received an invitation card for the shradh ceremony of the Left Front, to be celebrated at Kolkata's Writers' Buildings. It looks totally authentic with a picture of the Gita on the envelope, the text printed in archaic Bengali on a smudgy old letterpress and signed by all the worthies of the Left pantheon, including Prakash and Brinda Karat. A mouth-watering menu featuring choice dishes of fallen Left bastions is included, to be served by Ma-Mati-Manush Caterers. As you know, we Bengalis can do nothing, not even face the finality of death, without feasting a little.

I have been looking forward to the fall of the Left since the Nandigram violence in 2007. But now, with this shradh card in my hand — on my computer screen, actually — I feel bereaved. This is what happens when the institutions you grew up with go to pieces, no matter how demonic they had become in life.

Dear God, the state whose people had yearned forever for revolution are now satisfied with mere change. The original anti-Americans are happy with Obama-branded snake oil. According to urban legend, the first words their babies uttered were, "Ma, Marx, machher jhol (fish curry)," or variations on the theme. Now, I suppose, they will be saying, "Ma, mati, manush". It's depressingly like a do-gooding NGO's slogan.

The victory of the Trinamool Congress is being attributed to the growth of a middle-class disinterested in revolution. That's thought-provoking, since the best quality cannon fodder for the original Naxalite rising of the Sixties was provided by the upper middle class youth of Kolkata. But yes, the middle-class has changed. In its eyes, continuous improvement processes like Kaizen are natural successors to Marx's permanent revolution.

We're proud of our Kaizen skills. We were taught to respect the relentless self-improvement of Persons of Indian Origin and we aggressively claim them as our own. Even when some of them protest that they're actually American or Canadian or whatever. South Asia has packed the first world with armies of industrious Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, doctors, scientists, academics and cultural figures. And managing directors and fund managers, too. Damn!

The Colombo-born fund manager Raj Rajaratnam will soon be sentenced on 14 charges of conspiracy and fraud in America's biggest hedge fund scam. The case has also damaged the reputation of a very respected Indian — Rajat Gupta, Modern School boy and former star global MD of McKinsey. The list of names linked to Rajaratnam by the FBI features other prominent south Asians, which sets you wondering if there's a band of white-collar Pindaris on the loose in NYC. Whatever, there goes another institution.

And then there's the International Monetary Fund, a towering, brutal presence in my impressionable years. The distant monster whom we importuned with a begging bowl, and who finally castrated us with the knife of liberalisation, by leftist accounts. Now its chief is in the cooler, diagnosed with a psychosocial disorder for which our justice system may soon prescribe chemical castration. 

Really, this barrage of dead, dying and castrato heroes and demons is beyond enduring. My inner contradictions hurt. I really must go to that shradh at Writers' Buildings. We Bengalis can't face extinction without feasting a little.

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine. The views expressed by the author are personal.





Now that the starched dhotis have been replaced by the crumpled sari in Writers' Buildings, the atmospherics have to give way to the real tasks at hand. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has been the catalyst for the state's desire for change after a generation of rule by the Communists and now she will have to pore over the development statistics. On the face of it, West Bengal, does not seem to have done too poorly under the Left Front. Its per capita income is 7% lower than the national average, and, significantly, this is growing apace with the rest of the country. It is am-ong the top five states in economic heft. Its treasury is not empty. And its literacy and health indices do not lag perilously. Statistically speaking, Didi has very little to fix. Except one area: the systematic de-industrialisation of the state under the Left Front. Between 2001 and 2009, a fifth of India's inc-ome was earned in its factories. Over the same time Bengal's industry yielded a tenth of the state's output. Just when the Communists were waking up to this vital statistic, Ms Banerjee swept them aside riding a groundswell of outrage against "land grabbing" big industry.

Reconciling the forces that brought her into power with those that will ensure she stays in it is a tall order for the volatile Ms Banerjee, an untried administrator. Five years is far too short for the re-industrialisation of West Bengal. The decay of the previous 35 years is too far gone. But if the state's share of industrial output is to catch up with the rest of the nation, Ms Banerjee will have to undertake a serious overhaul of the investment climate from the word go. She does not have the luxury of settling in — the Communists may be out of government but their grip on the trade unions remains. Bengal needs to chuck its work culture if it hopes to change. Ms Banerjee will now have to look into the state's plumbing and flush out the malignant unionism that chokes economic activity.

Rearguard action by unions could stymie the best efforts to stop the rot in West Bengal. A street-fighter like Ms Banerjee must be aware of the opposition she faces to any serious reform of the state's economy. Yet her landslide win could give her the space, initially, to push through unpalatable structural changes. Physical and social infrastructure must rank high on her agenda and she could use her party's position in the UPA to wrangle more benefits from Delhi. To a lot of people in West Bengal and outside, Ms Banerjee is a miracle worker. She may not be able to turn water into wine in the way she turned red into green. But at least for the moment, people still believe she can.



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






As summer scorches across India, people turn on fans and air conditioners, heavily increasing urban India's consumption of power. The Delhi government expects a shortfall of over 400 MW daily in the summer months, and wrote to the power ministry asking for 300 MW over its usual allocation from May onwards for three months. One would think that this increase in demand would, in the course of things, lead to an increase in supply. Instead, electricity generation actually fell 22 per cent in April. Clearly, something is very wrong with the power sector.

Power plants blame it mostly on coal. The Confederation of Indian Industry warned as early as February that "32 power stations had coal stock to last for less than seven days, while 18 had stocks enough for less than four days, against a normal stockpile for about 21 days". The government recently had to revise its own estimates of coal shortage till March 2012 upwards to 112 million tonnes, up from 83 million tonnes that it had estimated in December 2010. Naturally, there are important short-term measures that could be taken. For example, industry wants coal set aside for electronic auctioning to be passed on to plants with "guaranteed" supplies, at the price previously discovered through the auctions. Such measures must be seriously considered.

The larger problem, however, continues to be that we do not seem to think far enough ahead about the power demands of our growing economy. Much has been made about the environment ministry's obstructionism about opening up new forested sectors to coal exploration, and that is a decision that must be made only after taking into account the needs of the coal and power sectors. Yet, opening up more sectors to domestic coal exploration is hardly a solution unless the structural problems already in place, which prevent the coal we already have access to being properly utilised, are not addressed. One such: many Indian thermal power plants cannot burn combinations of domestic and high-grade, imported coal in an economically sensible proportion. We need investment to overcome that. But, above all, the problem is one of transportation. The railways have failed to manage the demand for coal, with 50 million tonnes of coal lying at mine pitheads untransported. Ports are unable to handle the quantum of imports we need. Unless the transport infrastructure is upgraded, we will continue to pay too much for power, and receive too little of it.






American President Barack Obama connects through his speeches. And his speech this week, in the US state department, was his biggest attempt to connect America to the Muslim world since his now famous address to Cairo University in 2009. Asserting that America "values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator", Obama re-balanced American foreign policy, specifying that the US would "promote reform across the region", an unequivocal statement that he must hope banishes the memory of Washington's initial equivocation on Hosni Mubarak, when the Tahrir Square protests began. He criticised US allies, such as Yemen and Bahrain, for the first time even if still referring to them in diplomatic language as "friends" — though he desisted from mentioning Saudi Arabia's involvement in Bahrain.

In addition to this, an extensive section reaffirmed his pledge to put America's money where its mouth is, committing $1 billion to Egyptian debt forgiveness in addition to $1 billion of loans to finance infrastructure and jobs. Yet, the most arresting part was the section on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In calling for a two-state solution in which borders are based on "the 1967 line with mutually agreed swaps", Obama has irked Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Given 500,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, outside the theoretical borders, and also that his government has provocatively expanded activity on settlements, Netanyahu unsurprisingly called this idea "indefensible".

Obama did not, however, give an indication of the lengths he is willing to go to push the two sides to seriously talk about a peaceful settlement. His choice for a successor to George Mitchell, who resigned this month as the US envoy for the Middle East, may give a clue to Washington's next steps. Given the pace with which events are unfolding on the ground, these are unlikely to be the last words we hear from Washington.






There is an old joke about a drunk man searching under a lamppost for his keys. "Did you drop them here?" "No, but this is the only place where there's enough light to look." That's what the recent plan to identify the BPL population and include caste and religion information sounds like. Obviously, there are large overlaps in these categories — but the point is not to create a composite picture of deprivation but to target poverty as efficiently as possible. Just as we need accurate data on numbers of the poor for more useful welfare schemes, we should also avoid imposing a fixity on their caste identity by putting this information in the official census.

Though colonial administrators attempted to map caste, the post-Independence establishment recoiled at a record of caste identity in the national census. However, after the Mandal Commission inaugurated a phase of competitive politics around caste, for electoral mobilisation and policy benefits, there seemed to be a new rationale in knowing the real numbers. Given how much rides on caste classification, in terms of education, employment and welfare, even political office, some argue that there is a need to assess the dimensions of each claim. However, this argument fails to recognise that officially assigning caste categories can harden these identities. First, it is a more mutable category than most — altered by marriage, migration and mobility. It shifts by geographical context, and people respond differently depending on the framework — whether they are being socially slotted or making a bid for affirmative action. Unlike religion or ethnicity, caste is a trickier kind of group identity.

This is not to wish away its effects: caste enfolds many kinds of discrimination, apart from cumulative economic disadvantage. We still need positive discrimination to undo that historic damage. However, the state should guard against force-fitting categories like poverty and caste in the census — because at the individual level, a poor person should be able to deny caste and still be entitled to welfare. The focus should be on sharper targeting of the BPL individual, not on widening the lens.








The rise of regional parties and leaders is no longer news. Last week's results have brought in two phenomenally strong single-state leaders, Mamata Banerjee and J. Jayalalithaa. A third has risen too, Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, though that has passed under the radar a bit, thanks to the overwhelming noise of the bigger upheavals elsewhere. So, what's the news, if the rise and rise of regional leaders is an old story?

This election provides further evidence that the days of the very centralised, high command-led parties are now over. The Congress has been paying for a decade now for this inability, and unless it makes a correction now, it will face a disaster in 2014. Today it has much fewer regional leaders capable of winning their states for it than even the BJP. New evidence that this distant, Delhi-centric management of national politics no longer works also comes from the plight of the CPM. Its leadership has shown itself to be as far removed from reality, and as alienated from its state-level leaders and issues, as the Congress. And the results are with us.

The Left's pulling out of support to the UPA, presenting a cynical, unprincipled and opportunistic third front "alternative" under Mayawati, left its voters in West Bengal and Kerala totally confused. But the bigger damage was strategic: it helped the Congress and the Trinamool discover each other as natural allies in West Bengal. That one blunder led to the Left's total loss of clout in the 2009 Parliament elections, and now power in its most important state.

This argument is not so much about strategic errors as about the growing impossibility of managing national politics through centralised decision-making structures. This is a fundamental shift in our politics. Delhi-based leaders of the CPM, for example, could argue that their decision to pull out support to the UPA was principled and dictated by ideology. But anybody who travelled in West Bengal in this election, as this columnist did, rarely heard the two words that were used to justify that decision: America, and Imperialism. In fact, the only time I heard that was when Dipak Sarkar, the CPM's suave tyrant of Jungle Mahal, suggested that the uprising in Lalgarh may have been an imperialist conspiracy. So the high command was driven by issues that were of no concern to the voters in the one state that mattered to it the most. As a consequence, it also exposed its government in the state to the combined assault of the Trinamool and the Congress.

The Congress is celebrating its victories in Kerala and Assam and its successful joint venture in Bengal. But looking ahead to 2014, it should now be a deeply worried party. In the last Lok Sabha election, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh gave it 41 MPs, one-fifth of its tally of 206. Tamil Nadu now looks hopeless, unless it can change partners. But more significant is the near-certain destruction of its base in Andhra Pradesh, the one large state it could call its pocket borough and without sweeping which it cannot come to power. The victory of rebel Jaganmohan Reddy by more than five lakh votes is the real takeaway from this election for the Congress, way more significant than retaining power in Assam and the return of Kerala.

A quarter century's political history tells you now that it is, for some reason, Andhra Pradesh where the Congress makes its most suicidal strategic blunders. And in each case, these stem from its high command's inability to show even basic courtesies and political respect to the local leadership in a state it needs to be so grateful to for ensuring its hold on Delhi. If the earlier insults to its Andhra leaders led to the rise of N.T. Rama Rao, enabling him to build a campaign of Telugu self-respect, the insensitive and unwise, if not contemptuous, way in which it treated Jagan after his father's death is now a case of history repeating itself. His demand of immediate succession as chief minister was juvenile. But he, and his mother, had to be handled with greater care and respect. His father was the Congress party's only stalwart capable of delivering a large state (Sheila Dikshit and Bhupinder Singh Hooda being the remaining two, but together, their states have just over one-third of the seats of Andhra). Yet, the high command and its core decision-makers had no time for Jagan's insolence. The party, of course, is greater than any individual, but it is many individuals, spread all over the country, that make a party and bring it votes, not a dozen — or less — people in New Delhi, far removed from realities of ground-level politics. In fact, while most of the Congress leadership has refrained from commenting on Andhra, Digvijaya Singh demonstrated rare political maturity and wisdom in underlining this as a most worrying development, one that should make "our party put its house in order" in Andhra.

The BJP has some of these problems too. It allowed the egos and ambitions of some members of the high command to destroy Vasundhara Raje's prospects of re-election in 2008. Now it has made a correction and put her back in charge in Jaipur, and she has already made an impact. Probably because its high command itself has so many divisions and rivalries, it is not able to squash its regional leaders as the Congress and the CPM do. That is why the BJP has Narendra Modi, Raman Singh, Shivraj Singh Chauhan who have all won their second terms and are still capable of delivering their states to the party. Or even Prem Kumar Dhumal and B.S. Yeddyurappa who both look unassailable in their states. Add to this the rise of Naveen Patnaik, Nitish Kumar, Jayalalithaa, Mamata Banerjee. If the Congress looks at the likely national political map in 2014 honestly, it will be staring at a real problem. Can it fix it? A good beginning would be to give no more than one Rajya Sabha term for each individual. At least that will force the high command dadas to go back and smell the earth, connect with people, instead of making a living sitting back, pulling strings and cutting their own regional leaders, and ultimately their party, to size.







Amole Gupte's Stanley ka Dabba, released last week, is a quiet gem of a film about a child who gets picked on because he doesn't bring his own lunchbox to school. He gets picked on, oddly, not by his classmates — who're all rather fond of him and his stories and happy to share their dabbas — but by the Hindi teacher, Babubhai Varma aka Khadoos, who doesn't bring his own lunch either and preys on others'.

The film uses the ostensibly shared tiffinlessness marvellously, to reveal the gulf between Stanley and Varma — one a child trying to make the best of his circumstances, the other an adult shamelessly exploiting both the kindness of other adults and the powerlessness of children.

In terms of understanding a child's world, Stanley ka Dabba is a remarkable film. It is only because we see him through children's eyes, for example, that Varma's tragicomic gluttony, his near-insane obsession with the kids' dabbas, his dog-in-the-manger-ish desire to punish Stanley, seem to belong not to caricature but to fable.

There is something else in this film that seems to belong to the world of fable, though — and this is a spoiler — which is the explanation for why Stanley has no dabba. It turns out that he is an orphan, left to the care of an evil chacha who makes him serve and wash dishes in his small-time eatery, in exchange for a place to live. The film's final half-hour, with Stanley saying an adoring good night to photos of his parents before he goes to sleep on a counter in the dhaba, prep the viewer for the child labour statistics at the end of the film.

It may seem churlish to criticise a film made with such unequivocally good intentions, but I was struck by Stanley ka Dabba's crude attempt to gain the sympathy of a presumed middle-class, primarily English-speaking audience, by creating a child character who goes to a good convent school and recites English poems, just like us. It's only once that is done that he can be a conduit for a child labour narrative: a fascinating reversal of all those Hindi films until the 1990s, in which the poor hero with whom the bulk of the audience identified, turned out, to be a rich man's lost heir.

One shouldn't be surprised, either, that a film emerging out of workshops that director Amole Gupte held with the children of the Holy Family School in Mumbai should have the English teacher Rosy ma'am as the sensitive one and the villainous Varma as Hindi teacher. Film critic Raja Sen, in his review of Stanley, notes that "Hindi teachers have a tough life, appearing intimidating to their students by default, by dint of the scale of sheer listlessness their subject provokes", eventually turning "grouchy and irritable". Varma, he goes on to say, "is strange even by Hindi teacher standards".

The "strangeness" of Hindi teachers, I would suggest, is unique to the English-medium world in which we increasingly bubble-wrap our children: a world in which the Hindi teacher is doubly condemned — first by teaching a subject that is dismissed as irrelevant, and second by being someone not necessarily fluent in English.

Last month's Bollywood release for children, a superhero film called Zokkomon, has city boy Kunal (Darsheel Safary, also orphaned and left to the care of an evil chacha!) arriving in a village school where all it takes to establish that all the teachers are idiots is for one of them, the bucktoothed Tinnu Anand, to mispronounce a sentence in English.

It's revealing to set Stanley ka Dabba and Zokkomon against a remarkable children's film made in 1977: Gulzar's Kitaab. It is about a middle-class boy of a certain age, who gets into trouble at school and spends much of the film wandering the world, or at least the city, by himself.

But there the similarities end. Stanley's wanderings are those of a good boy — either to preserve his dignity by not going to school dabba-less, or to get to a concert audition. Kunal is abandoned in the city by his chacha and only survives by befriending a young woman called Kittu didi with whom he leads a kind of fantasy-holiday-life.

We have left behind forever the world of Kitaab, a world in which the middle-class child thought it was exhilarating to run away from a regulated middle-class life. No one who has watched Master Raju hugging his knees in joy atop a moving train as the engine driver sings, "Dhanno ki ankhon mein raat ka surma", can ever forget the thrill of it. There was danger in Kitaab, too, and eventual return — but the world outside the middle-class bubble was still something to be explored and understood. Not merely to be protected from.

Trisha Gupta is a Delhi-based writer and anthropologist







This was a disaster waiting to happen — the CBI's most wanted list, based on red corner notices, being exposed for its inaccuracies and outdated information. But the embarrassment of this happening with a terror list handed over to Pakistan compounds the problem. The only good part of the story is that there has so far been no clumsy cover-up attempt.

While trying to get past this terrible image crisis, which Pakistan is likely to exploit, this also calls for a revamp of the entire system for maintaining such lists — a thorough reform, not just periodic reviews, that measures information from investigative and security agencies against well-laid out standards of scrutiny.

For too long, the compilation of these lists has been a lazy bureaucratic exercise handled on a daily basis by relatively junior officials in the police hierarchy. So, when it comes to preparing a list of India's most wanted in Pakistan, not much hair-splitting actually happens. The usual known faces, a Saeed or a Dawood, are immediately put on the list. The errors start to creep in while framing the other part of the list; many of those names and faces are not on instant recall, because of their reduced relevance.

To begin with, there is an urgent need to get rid of the sanctity attached to red corner notices. But before that, it is important to know the latest procedures for how a terrorist/criminal gets into that list. The Interpol now requires that an accused should be named in a formal chargesheet, based on which an open-ended non-bailable warrant should be obtained from the court. Once this prerequisite is met, the concerned investigative agency can approach the CBI — designated the nodal agency to liaise with the Interpol — to have a red corner notice issued against the accused.

At the CBI headquarters, all that is done is a routine check by junior officials of whether the documentation required by the Interpol is in order. Thereafter, the CBI puts the name up on its list and intimates the Interpol. This list is a mother document from where other lists, particularly those passed on to other countries like the Pakistan one, are usually prepared. This is a "blind" preparation, because it is assumed that if a red corner notice is active against an accused, then the person is still wanted.

Here lies the problem: While there is a system in place to get a red corner notice issued, there are no standard operating procedures to withdraw a name from this list if the status changes.  It would stand to reason that in most cases the change would have to be authorised by the court, which had in the first place issued the non-bailable warrant. For this to happen, the agency that pursued for a red corner notice needs to formally inform the court if there is a change in status of the accused — due to arrest, say, or death. Mere intimation to the Intelligence Bureau cannot provide legal basis to withdraw the name from the CBI list. At the same time, IB's (Multi-Agency Centre) MAC needs to ensure that such information is not left to lie but is passed on. The simple point is a clear-cut procedure has to be put in place to withdraw names from the list else they just keep piling up without updates.

Now to the larger issue. Should this be the only basis for preparing a list of the 20 or 50 most wanted Indians from Pakistan? This has to be a far more serious exercise, because it involves the credibility of the Indian argument. The Interpol's red corner notices hardly seem to work on the ground, and that's why there are different kinds of international terror designations. The United States has many of its own lists, over and above something like the UNSC resolution 1267 on sanctioning al-Qaeda and Taliban members and affiliates.

These designations are far more detailed, containing the latest information on aliases, addresses, photographs and physical features besides other relevant details. The Interpol only requires a name, not even aliases or physical features. So, for instance, someone like Manipur militant leader Rajkumar Meghen, who was arrested recently by the National Investigative Agency, had a red corner notice against him since 1998 — but, as it now turns out, he travelled undetected for a decade under a new name, Surjit Waikhom. Incidentally, the NIA has informed the Manipur government, which is yet to get the legal documentation in place to have his name removed from the CBI list.

So while preparing a serious document that goes into the terror dossier to be presented to Pakistan, the red corner list can, at best, be an input which must be doubly authenticated. That's where the MAC needs to step in and ensure proper scrutiny of names by all agencies concerned. And this is not just to screen wrong names, but also to provide as much credible information as possible to strengthen the Indian claim.

To sum it up, there is a case for spelling out objective criteria for a name to make it to a terror list. Maybe even to create a national most wanted list of terrorists and absconders, based on a set of minimum information benchmarks, which law enforcement and intelligence agencies have to follow — rather than just doing a cut-and-paste job from the red corner list. There are many international terror designation lists which can serve as models here, but what is unequivocal from this episode is a need to quickly modernise and reform.







Last week my wife and I told our 13-year-old daughter she could join Facebook. Within a few hours she had accumulated 171 friends, and I felt a little as if I had passed my child a pipe of crystal meth.

I don't mean to be a spoilsport, and I don't think I'm a Luddite. I edit a newspaper that has embraced new media with gusto. I get that the Web reaches and engages a vast, global audience, that it invites participation and facilitates newsgathering. But before we succumb to digital idolatry, we should consider innovation often comes at a price. I wonder if the price is a piece of ourselves.

Joshua Foer's Moonwalking With Einstein recalls one example of what we trade for progress. Until the 15th century, people were taught to remember. Feats of memory that would today qualify you as a freak weren't unheard of.

Along came the Mark Zuckerberg of his day, Johannes Gutenberg. As we became accustomed to relying on the printed page, the work of remembering fell into disuse. The capacity to remember still exists, but for most of us it stays parked in the garage. Sometimes the bargain is worthwhile; I would certainly not give up the pleasures of my library for the ability to recite Middlemarch. But Foer's book reminds us that the cognitive advance of our species is not inexorable.

My father, who was trained in engineering at MIT in the slide-rule era, lamented the way the pocket calculator diminished my generation's math skills. Many of us have discovered that navigating by GPS has undermined our mastery of city streets and even impaired our sense of direction. Typing pretty much killed penmanship. Twitter and YouTube are nibbling away at our attention spans. And what little memory we had not already surrendered to Gutenberg we have relinquished to Google.

My inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity. The most obvious drawback of social media is that they are aggressive distractions. Twitter is not just an ambient presence. It demands attention and response. It is the enemy of contemplation. Every time my TweetDeck shoots a new tweet to my desktop, I experience a little dopamine spritz that takes me away from ... from ... wait, what was I saying?

My mistrust of social media is intensified by the ephemeral nature of these communications. They are the epitome of in-one-ear-and-out-the-other, which was my mother's trope for a failure to connect. I'm not even sure these new instruments are genuinely "social." There is something decidedly faux about the camaraderie of Facebook, something illusory about the connectedness of Twitter. Eavesdrop on a conversation, and more often than not it is reductive and redundant. Following an argument is like listening to preschoolers quarreling: You did! Did not! Did too! Did not!

The other day I tweeted "#TwitterMakesYouStupid. Discuss." Almost everyone who had anything profound to say in response chose to say it outside Twitter. In an actual discussion, the marshalling of information is cumulative, complication is acknowledged, sometimes persuasion occurs. In Twitter, opinions and our tolerance for others' opinions are stunted. Whether or not Twitter makes you stupid, it makes some smart people sound stupid.

The shortcomings of social media would not bother me awfully if I did not suspect Facebook friendship and Twitter chatter are displacing real rapport and real conversation, just as Gutenberg's device displaced remembering. The things we may be unlearning, tweet by tweet —-complexity, acuity, patience, wisdom, intimacy — are things that matter.







Kerry's corrective

The chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator John Kerry, flew in to Islamabad on a damage control trip following the hit US-Pakistan relations took after Osama was found and killed in his snug Abbottabad abode. Kerry, the architect of the Kerry-Lugar Bill that provides crucial economic assistance to Pakistan's, sounded a stern warning this time.

Daily Times quoted Kerry on May 16: "We are at a moment where we have to resolve some very serious issues. This is not a moment for anything except very sober, serious discussion with an understanding that there is a lot at stake, there is no other way to put it." Dawn reported Kerry desired to "hit the reset button" to arrest further deterioration in US-Pakistan relations. The News quoted him further: "There is some evidence of the Pakistan government's knowledge of some of these activities in ways that are very disturbing... It is fair to say that some of my colleagues in the House and Senate have deep reservations as to whether or not Pakistan is committed to the same goals or prepared to be a full partner in pursuing those goals... If there is no improvement in the current situation it will become increasingly difficult to convince people at home of the need to give aid to Pakistan."

A "joint statement" from Kerry's meeting with Pakistan's leadership cleared Pakistan's apprehensions that the US might target its nukes. The News reported on May 18: "Senator Kerry... can write with his blood that the US has no interest in Pakistan's nuclear assets, though it is US's desire to see they remain well-protected."

Carrot and stick

If contrast to Kerry's stern tone, a press conference by outgoing US defence secretary Robert Gates and Pentagon chief Adm. Mike Mullen in Washington was more soothing. The News reported on May 19: " 'Somebody' knew about Osama bin Laden's Pakistani hideout but there is no proof that Pakistan's political and military leaders were aware of it... But there was no evidence that leaders in Islamabad were aware of the al-Qaeda chief's whereabouts before the raid... And some evidence suggested that the leadership definitely was not aware... It's my supposition, I think it's a supposition shared by a number in this government, that somebody had to know, but we have no idea who and no proof and no evidence... Gates said he shared the 'frustration' felt by US lawmakers towards Pakistan but stressed that President Barack Obama's administration could not make allegations without evidence... Gates said the aftermath of the raid presented an 'opportunity', with Pakistan pledging to take more action. 'The Pakistanis, over the last couple of weeks, have expressed the view that they are willing to go after some of these people and that we should not repeat the bin Laden operation, because... they will undertake this themselves...' The Pentagon chief argued against punishing Pakistan by suspending aid."

'We have China'

With US-Pakistan relations under strain, Pakistan turned to old friend China for reassurance, as Pakistan's PM Yousuf Raza Gilani started his much talked-about trip to China this week. The News reported from Beijing on May 19: "China has warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China. Beijing has advised Washington to respect Pakistan's sovereignty and solidarity and this was formally conveyed to the US at last week's China-US strategic dialogue and economic talks."

First casualty

The coalition negotiated between former arch rivals PPP and PML-Q earlier this month after the former lost majority in parliament (PML-N and MQM walked out, though MQM rejoined later), has started showing signs of stress. Dawn reported on May 16: "Cracks in the ranks of the PML-Q widened on Sunday when the president of the party's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chapter, Amir Muqam, who had taken oath on May 2 as minister of production, submitted his resignation." Muqam told reporters that he had resigned as his party leadership had failed to provide him with the agreement signed with the PPP, in which it was mutually agreed that the Hazara Division of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa would be reconfigured as a separate province and that political reforms would be introduced in the tribal areas. The PML-Q chief told reporters that agreements were reached verbally.







I once asked a lawyer friend of mine about the secret of his success in the courtroom. He said that he spent a lot of time marshalling the arguments that he would make if he were the opposing counsel. This helped him in deciding his course of action. It is in this spirit that this columnist makes the case for the Pakistani establishment vis-a-vis the US.

The case for the defence

Way back in the '50s, Pakistan signed the Baghdad Pact, joined SEATO and CENTO and became a firm US ally. In return, Pakistan expected support from the US in disagreements with India, especially with regard to Kashmir. Remember, this was a time when India was blatantly pro-Soviet (the first non-communist country that Bulganin and Khrushchev visited was India; India gave tacit support to the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956; India was a founder member of the Non Aligned Movement whose neutrality had a distinct bias favouring the Soviet Union). Despite that, the US never really helped Pakistan in the UN or other forums. India held on to a large part of Kashmir with the help of the Soviet veto in the UN Security Council. In 1960, Gary Powers flew his U-2 over Soviet airspace. He took off from a base in Pakistan. Pakistan risked direct Soviet wrath in order to help the US. Yet in 1965, when India and Pakistan were at war, the US, instead of helping an ally, took a stand of sanctimonious neutrality and cut off spares for US-supplied equipment demonstrating a cynical "unreliability". This contrasted with the haste with which supplies were sent to neutral India in 1962 when the India - China conflict erupted.

After the Six-Day War, many American client states in the Middle East were shaky. One such country was Jordan where the PLO attempted a takeover. The US relied on the trustworthy soldiers of the Pakistan army to crush the PLO in what came to be known as the "Black" September conflict. The Pakistani troops were led by a young brigadier named Zia-ul-Haq. The US used Pakistanis as "a mercenary force in support of American interests"; Pakistan acquiesced in this. In 1971, when Nixon wanted to reach out to China, it was Pakistani president Yahya Khan who helped arrange Kissinger's "secret" trip to Beijing. Nixon virtually promised Pakistan that he would ensure its territorial integrity. Despite this, during the Bangladesh war, Pakistan got, at best, lip sympathy from America and Nixon stood by as Pakistan was split into two. In contrast, the Soviet Union gave material support to "neutral" India and vetoed all UN action till the Pakistani army was forced to give up.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, India equivocated and, in fact, supported the Soviets. It was Pakistan who took up America's clarion call to fight the "atheist communists". Pakistan helped the US win the Cold War in the hills and valleys of Afghanistan. As soon as the US got what it wanted, it dumped Pakistan, imposing sanctions as US presidents who, for years on end had "certified" that Pakistan was not building an atomic bomb, suddenly discovered that this was, in fact, the case. The worst insult was holding up the delivery of F-16 planes which had been paid for in cash.

After 9/11, Pakistan was arm-twisted into deserting its ally, the Taliban government in Afghanistan, and forced to capture many al-Qaeda operatives who were seen as honoured Islamic guests by most Pakistanis and hand them over to be detained in Guantanamo. Pakistan has been repeatedly bludgeoned into fighting its own citizens in the interests of the US. To top it all, there is complete insensitivity on the part of the US to the fact that the leadership in Pakistan (both civilian and military) comply with these fiats which are hugely distasteful and unpopular with the vast majority of the Pakistani population. The US continues to pile insults on Pakistan. When we asked for a nuclear agreement similar to the one obtained by India, we were given a contemptuous response. President Obama chose to visit India and ignore Pakistan which continues to lose precious soldiers fighting America's "war against terror". Instead President Obama increases drone attacks which violate our sovereignty and now has physically invaded our country with armed commandos in helicopters, pulling the rug beneath the feet of leaders who are desperately trying to stay pro-American against the wishes of their own people.

The US seems to be very upset that Osama bin Laden was staying in Pakistan and could not have done so without a "support network". The Pakistani "establishment" is being prosecuted in the court of world opinion on account of this. The fact of the matter is that there are millions of Pakistanis who consider Osama a hero. It was the easiest thing for him to have a friendly "support network" in Pakistan. Could some of these admirers and supporters be in the Pakistani army or intelligence establishment? Of course — many of them are not just pious Muslims, but Islamists who hate America and considered Osama a great warrior; supporting Osama was seen by them as a religious obligation. The next question is whether senior Pakistani officials (the army chief, the head of intelligence, the prime minister, the president, etc.) knew of Osama's presence. America under Nixon invented the expression "plausible deniability". If a middle-ranking intelligence official told his senior "please do not worry; the Osama situation is under control — he is dead or has disappeared", do you think the concerned senior would have asked any questions or would have decided that it is better not to know any more?

End of the defence case

The "unreliability" and "insults" of the past combined with current "insensitivity" makes life difficult for Senator Kerry or any other envoy. The US has no choice but to engage with Pakistan through Saudi Arabia and China, the only two countries who have credibility with the Pakistani establishment and perhaps with the Pakistani people.







The government has earned around a lakh crore rupees through disinvestment since 1991-92, around half of this in just the last three years, but the real buzz was created when Arun Shourie was the minister. It wasn't just the R33,000 crore he earned; transferring management control of 15 PSUs fetched him R13,000 crore, but more important, it set the PSUs free. It is this the government hopes for by selling off the loss-making Scooters India. How many will be interested in buying the unit which has accumulated losses of R826 crore is an open question, given it has 1,205 employees as well; its wage-to-turnover ratio is a mind-boggling 35%. But it also has 150 acres of land. The company that had the rights for the Lambretta brand discontinued scooter production in 1997 (scooters are the hottest segment in the two-wheeler market right now!) and concentrated on 3-wheelers instead, where it has a 3% market share, thanks to the rapid strides made by almost all private players.

This is where it's important to see what privatisation does for a PSU. Take Maruti Udyog, the market-leader even before Suzuki was given full control. Thanks to the way the government operates, even with its 50% equity, Suzuki could not bring in the latest engines and Maruti had to stop sales when the new pollution norms came in!; the tall-boy concept was a Suzuki innovation, but Hyundai managed to be first-to-market in India. Once the government exited, at a handsome R5,928 crore, Maruti became an integral part of Suzuki's global R&D set-up and Suzuki produces more cars in India than it does in Japan. Or take VSNL, which was sold for R1,439 crore (government still has its share in VSNL's land bank of 773 acres, which is worth R12,000-15,000 crore). At the time it was sold, VSNL's monopoly over international calls was ending and rates collapsed after that—it's difficult to say how it would have fared as a PSU, but fellow-telecom major BSNL has made losses of around R7,000 crore in the last two years (MTNL has lost R5,400 crore in this period) with competition hotting up—this would have been even larger had it not been for the earnings from its cash reserves which are down to R5,000 crore as compared to six times this a year ago (the 3G payout also depleted them). Which is why, while announcing the Cabinet decision to sell Scooters India, the government said it would "help arrest further drain of public money and ensure economic growth of the company and its employees". If the government can summon the courage to go in for more such sales, the impact will be large. Just the spectrum holdings of BSNL and MTNL, even if you demerge the land, will fetch a tidy sum; both have attractive subscriber bases that can also be monetised—right now, both are loss-making and don't show prospects of improvement. In economic terms, it's a no-brainer.





Infosys's grant of stock options has been part of Indian business folklore. The IT firm's example of sharing wealth with employees, a novelty in pre-liberalised India of 1980s, inspired many others to follow suit. And a host of companies across even traditional manufacturing and construction industries used stock options as a means to reward and retain employees. Infosys's outgoing non-executive chairman NR Narayana Murthy recently put a R50,000 crore figure to the total worth of stock options the company has granted since its inception in 1981. Currently, practically every one of the 1,20,000-odd Indian employees is a stockholder. In a country where even the biggest service sector firms view employees as expendable, Murthy's remark, "Our assets walk out of the door every evening. We have to make sure they come back next morning," was prescient.

But beyond start-ups and garage outfits who sorely need these ownership sops to attract talent in the absence of marquee corporate brands and/or fat paycheques and bonuses, the benefit of stock options are, at best, mixed. In the US, where close to nine million employees are reported to have stock options, research coming out is not at all encouraging on the benefits of stock options. For one, its use as a tool to improve employee performance is doubtful, and even for retention it seems to have lost its edge with the practice par for the course across industry. Even in the case of Infosys, where attrition has been consistently higher than peer TCS, which incidentally does not grant stock options, the lure of ownership seems to have dulled. And though Infosys hasn't had a non-promoter CEO till now, the US experience on self-serving professional CEOs doing more harm than good by focusing solely on short term runs contrary to the principle of tying CEO compensation with stock options as big chunk, with sustainable company growth. Worse still, for the rank and file, especially mid-to-senior levels, stock options often turn into golden cages that promote a culture of "do nothing, retire here" instead of being seen as an incentive to perform and innovate. A reason why Microsoft, the biggest of the garage firms to have come out in the last century, did away with stock options in early 2000s. But then, critics point to precisely the lack of these for the company's inability to attract top-tier talent, something that has cost it dear in terms of breaking new ground.






The world is drowning in corporate fraud, and the problems are probably greatest in rich countries—those with supposedly "good governance." Poor-country governments probably accept more bribes and commit more offenses, but it is rich countries that host the global companies that carry out the largest offenses. Money talks, and it is corrupting politics and markets all over the world.

Hardly a day passes without a new story of malfeasance. Every Wall Street firm has paid significant fines during the past decade for phony accounting, insider trading, securities fraud, Ponzi schemes, or outright embezzlement by CEOs. A massive insider-trading ring is currently on trial in New York, and has implicated some leading financial-industry figures. And it follows a series of fines paid by America's biggest investment banks to settle charges of various securities violations.

There is, however, scant accountability. Two years after the biggest financial crisis in history, which was fueled by unscrupulous behaviour by the biggest banks on Wall Street, not a single financial leader has faced jail. When companies are fined for malfeasance, their shareholders, not their CEOs and managers, pay the price. The fines are always a tiny fraction of the ill-gotten gains, implying to Wall Street that corrupt practices have a solid rate of return. Even today, the banking lobby runs roughshod over regulators and politicians.

Corruption pays in American politics as well. The current governor of Florida, Rick Scott, was CEO of a major health-care company known as Columbia/HCA. The company was charged with defrauding the US government by overbilling for reimbursement, and eventually pled guilty to 14 felonies, paying a fine of $1.7 billion. The FBI's investigation forced Scott out of his job. But, a decade after the company's guilty pleas, Scott is back, this time as a "free-market" Republican politician.

When Barack Obama wanted somebody to help with the bailout of the US automobile industry, he turned to a Wall Street "fixer", Steven Rattner, even though Obama knew that Rattner was under investigation for giving kickbacks to government officials. After Rattner finished his work at the White House, he settled the case with a fine of a few million dollars.

But why stop at governors or presidential advisers? Former vice-president Dick Cheney came to the White House after serving as CEO of Halliburton. During his tenure at Halliburton, the firm engaged in illegal bribery of Nigerian officials to enable the company to win access to that country's oil fields—access worth billions of dollars. When Nigeria's government charged Halliburton with bribery, the company settled the case out of court, paying a fine of $35 million. Of course, there were no consequences whatsoever for Cheney. The news barely made a ripple in the US media.

Impunity is widespread—indeed, most corporate crimes go unnoticed. The few that are noticed typically end with a slap on the wrist, with the company—meaning its shareholders—picking up a modest fine. The real culprits at the top of these companies rarely need to worry. Even when firms pay mega-fines, their CEOs remain. The shareholders are so dispersed and powerless that they exercise little control over the management.

The explosion of corruption—in the US, Europe, China, India, Africa, Brazil, and beyond—raises a host of challenging questions about its causes, and about how to control it now that it has reached epidemic proportions.

Corporate corruption is out of control for two main reasons. First, big companies are now multinational, while governments remain national. Big companies are so financially powerful that governments are afraid to take them on.

Second, companies are the major funders of political campaigns in places like the US, while politicians themselves are often part owners, or at least the silent beneficiaries of corporate profits. Roughly one-half of US Congressmen are millionaires, and many have close ties to companies even before they arrive in Congress.

As a result, politicians often look the other way when corporate behaviour crosses the line. Even if governments try to enforce the law, companies have armies of lawyers to run circles around them. The result is a culture of impunity, based on the well-proven expectation that corporate crime pays.

Given the close connections of wealth and power with the law, reining in corporate crime will be an enormous struggle. Fortunately, the rapid and pervasive flow of information nowadays could act as a kind of deterrent or disinfectant. Corruption thrives in the dark, yet more information than ever comes to light via email and blogs, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.

We will also need a new kind of politician leading a new kind of political campaign, one based on free online media rather than paid media. When politicians can emancipate themselves from corporate donations, they will regain the ability to control corporate abuses.

Moreover, we will need to light the dark corners of international finance, especially tax havens like the Cayman Islands and secretive Swiss banks. Tax evasion, kickbacks, illegal payments, bribes, and other illegal transactions flow through these accounts. The wealth, power, and illegality enabled by this hidden system are now so vast as to threaten the global economy's legitimacy, especially at a time of unprecedented income inequality and large budget deficits, owing to governments' inability politically—and sometimes even operationally—to impose taxes on the wealthy.

So the next time you hear about a corruption scandal in Africa or other poor region, ask where it started and who is doing the corrupting. Neither the US nor any other "advanced" country should be pointing the finger at poor countries, for it is often the most powerful global companies that have created the problem.

The author is professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011





The Rajaratnam conviction in US courts should have sent some chills down the spines of many sophisticated white collar criminals. In particular, many corporate insiders and consultants, who thought that what went on inside a room or on telephone lines could not be caught, are in for a rude shock. The Rajaratnam tapes, many of which are in public domain, make for very interesting hearing. They demonstrate a complete lack of any fear and show a pervasive network of senior insiders willing to stake their high profile careers for some monetary gain. The use of wiretapping or phone tapping in the US in this case comes on the heels of the equally salacious Niira Radia tapes in India. Both episodes are rather new—phone taps were used for the first time to catch insider trading in the US and Indians learnt how easy it was for the conversations of the rich and famous to be outed by a government agency.

That, of course, gets us to what the Indian securities regulator has often asked for—the power to request phone taps of suspects. Insider trading is the breach of an insider's duty to his company by trading on unpublished price-sensitive information. Insider trading thus arises out of an insider's breach of his fiduciary duty to the shareholders of the company, whose interest he is duty bound to put ahead of his own interest. The classic insider trading has steadily been expanded to not only include many confidants of a company like lawyers and consultants, or anyone expected to have access to insider information, but also to a whole host of even outsider trading.

The width of the law is, however, counterbalanced by the difficulty in proving it. In fact, part of the reason why the law is now overly broad is because so few people are caught for this crime that lawmakers think the defect is with the law, which they opine should be made even broader. There are major problems in proving insider trading anywhere in the world. Tips are passed on inside closed doors or through various communication channels like emails, messenger software or phone conversations. If there is inside information that is misused, it is clearly in the interest of both parties—the giver of the information and the recipient—to keep this fact a secret. For either person to disclose the conversation would land both in jail. If the two persons are sitting inside a room, there would be no other way of directly proving the illegal sharing of information. There may be an indirect way though. If A, the insider, tips information to B, and B buys millions of shares of the company, any association between A and B may provide circumstantial evidence of the communication, even if the actual sharing of information cannot be proven, i.e., the date, time and details of the communication. This would stand on shaky ground from an evidentiary perspective as both would claim that they had not met or communicated anytime after the tipper had access to inside information.

There are only two ways around this high evidentiary burden. One is to intercept the message or the fact of the message. The second is to cut a deal with one of the two persons, letting that person away lightly. Regarding the first, the most direct evidence would be intercepting the message itself, whether by way of a phone tap or getting a copy of the email exchanged. This was what was done in many of the Rajaratnam cases, and the court and jury there convicted Rajaratnam on all counts, based significantly on hearing the conversations where tips were passed. A variation may also suffice, but is not as sound as a direct recording, if the fact of a conversation is available. For instance, if an insider comes out of a board meeting and makes a phone call to a person (no one knows what the conversation was) and that person trades a large number of shares immediately thereafter, it could be fairly strong circumstantial evidence that the trade occurred based on insider information. In fact, Sebi has used phone records, as opposed to phone recordings, for its investigations in cases involving securities fraud.

The second category of cases, where one guilty person is played against the other, works in the US but not in India. The American criminal justice system commonly uses tactics by prosecutors to play one person against another and this too was used to good effect in the Rajaratnam case. In fact, a vast majority of the 35 convictions in the Rajaratnam series of cases were based on guilty pleas and promises of lighter punishment in exchange of acting as witnesses against the main culprit. India, in theory, does have a system of plea bargaining, but for many reasons this is not used by prosecutors.

There is thus a case for Sebi to seek the power to authorise phone taps, but the power must be given with great circumspection, should be used in only the most rare circumstances and with a court-approved order rather than a government-approved tap (as happens currently). If the power is unfettered, there is a possibility that Sebi would use the power frequently and thus violate citizens' right to privacy without adequate public interest. This requires legislative changes by Parliament and is an issue that must be vigorously debated before it is implemented.

The author is founder, Finsec Law Advisors







If power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, as Henry Kissinger famously quipped, then it boggles the mind why so many men in positions of great authority ruin themselves on account of sexual transgression. The latest casualty of overweening sexual hubris is the International Monetary Fund's charismatic chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was compelled to resign following charges of attempting to rape and sexually abuse a maid in a Manhattan hotel room. It is no secret that Mr. Strauss-Kahn, whose first two marriages ended after accusations of infidelity, has had a sordid history of sexual misbehaviour. Soon after he was sent to a New York prison, a French writer, who is a goddaughter of Strauss-Kahn's second wife, announced she would be filing a complaint about being sexually assaulted by him almost a decade ago. Three years ago, an affair he was having with a subordinate member of staff resulted in an internal IMF investigation, which concluded that the relationship had not led Mr. Strauss-Kahn to abuse his position but he had shown poor judgment. The woman maintained that although their relationship was consensual, she felt coerced; she also warned investigators that he was "a man with a problem that may make him ill-equipped to lead an institution where women work under his command."

In his native France, which has a laissez-faire attitude towards the private lives of public figures, the arrest of Mr. Strauss-Kahn has caused tremendous shock. A country that hardly raised an eyebrow over President Francois Mitterrand's love child or his successor Jacques Chirac's wandering eye has been forced to interrogate the multi-layered ramifications of the link between sex and power. A small but vociferous section of the French has blindly rushed to Mr. Strauss-Kahn's defence and, in the process, glossed over the fact that there is a vast gulf between sexual peccadillo and sexual crime, between a relationship and rape. To treat this as a mere sex scandal is to be blind to the nature of the charges pressed against him. Only a court of law can pronounce Mr. Strauss-Kahn guilty or innocent, but the serious charges against him puts paid to his hopes of securing the Socialist Party's nomination and then going on to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 presidential election — a battle that seemed tilted in the challenger's favour. While it was well known that he would resign from the IMF, his sudden exit leaves the Fund without a strong leader with the requisite diplomatic skills, at a time when the organisation is in the midst of conducting sensitive negotiations with European governments about overhauling debt packages to some countries, including Greece.





A bright future for conservation in India depends on providing improved protection for flora and fauna in different habitats. At the same time, the imperative is to safeguard the livelihoods of millions of people who traditionally rely on forests. In a major step towards reconciliation of these key goals, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has come up with a new draft implementation protocol for the determination and notification of Critical Wildlife Habitats (CWH). The guidelines in the protocol will help the MoEF meet its obligations under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA). What makes the protocol important is the due process it proposes to institute for resettling forest dwellers. Significantly, it provides for participation of gram sabhas, social scientists, and ecologists in the panel responsible for identifying critical habitat in a national park or sanctuary. This decision is consistent with the provisions of the FRA that require prior recognition and vesting of forest rights. The Act also requires the States to prove the likelihood of irreversible damage to species and habitat from the exercise of forest rights, and to demonstrate availability of a resettlement package. Finally, those who are to be resettled must give free and informed consent. The MoEF protocol will create a tangible, transparent legal framework to implement these provisions.

In the new draft of the protocol, the MoEF has done well to address the issues raised by conservation experts and social activists, primarily the need for better protection of forest communities. These concerns will now be handled by a National Steering Committee and State-level Expert Committees, giving all stakeholders a say in the process. What needs to be emphasised is that creation of Critical Wildlife Habitats is an achievable goal. For only a small part of the land is to be notified as off-limit to people. A flagship species such as the tiger can be expected to survive in only about one per cent of the country's land which is effectively protected. It is eminently feasible, therefore, to handsomely compensate forest dwellers who are ready to be resettled elsewhere. The Nagarahole tiger reserve in Karnataka convinced tribals that they would benefit from voluntary relocation, and they have. The package of land and incentives provided to them, including education opportunities, could serve as a model for other States. Finally, States need to gear up administratively, and the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs needs to develop its infrastructure rapidly, to implement the Forest Rights Act in a way that harmonises the goals of conservation and livelihood support.







Like the majority of India's children, the Right to Education (RTE) Act has completed its first year facing malnourishment, neglect and routine criticism. A year after it was notified as law, the right to elementary education remains a dream. The law provides a 5-year window to its implementation but the dream it legislates looks as elusive now as it did when this countdown started. While one important clause is facing a writ in the highest court, other provisions are struggling to receive official attention in State capitals. Any assessment of the progress of RTE in its first year must begin by underlining the federal nature of governance which assigns school education squarely to the State. Few people recognise that India's federal character offers to the Ministry of HRD at the Centre the role of little more than a moral authority. No wonder the main news on RTE at the end of its first year is that the Ministry is trying hard to persuade State governments to own the new law and accept the responsibility of implementing it. The attempt has met with rather limited success. Let us examine why.

A key feature of RTE is that it emphasises quality as an integral aspect of the child's right to be educated. Part V of the RTE Act lays down fairly specific terms under which the quality of elementary education is to be ensured. These include a comfortable teacher-student ratio, curriculum reform and improvement in evaluation methods. The success of these measures depends on teachers, and that is where the system is facing its worst obstacle. The current policy discourse prefers to use the word 'challenge' in place of 'obstacle.' This sweet advice of management gurus is not quite relevant to the problem at hand because it has been created as a matter of policy in many States. At the top is Madhya Pradesh which has radically lowered the status of teachers with the help of a two-decade long policy delusion. Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh present similar, though less intractable, cases. The States in the north-east come next where a vast number of teachers have been appointed over the years without any attention to basic qualifications or training. West Bengal constitutes a case of its own kind, symbolising isolation from national trends and norms. If we leave aside these dire instances, many among the remaining States also present a grim picture. Instead of improving teachers' working conditions and training, many States have opted for cosmetic solutions. Orissa has taken the lead in this respect by imposing a dress code requiring teachers to wear a pink sari and a black blouse. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh may not face an acute shortage of teachers but the issues pertaining to the quality of training are just as relevant for them as they are to the northern States.

Teacher training comprises what one might call the single biggest mess the system of education has to sort out. When the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) was given statutory status as a licensing authority, it was seen as a powerful mechanism to bring order into a chaotic sector. Over the years, the NCTE has, by itself, become a part of the problem. Thousands of private outfits of dubious institutional integrity and quality have come up. The RTE requires each State to name an academic authority which will determine and improve curriculum, evaluation and training. Most States have notified their State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) as the mandated academic authority. Some, like Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and West Bengal have named their Boards of Secondary Education. Apparently, these States have no institutional resources to look after the implementation of RTE. But even the ones which have assigned this task to the SCERT need to assess the academic capacity of this institution. Barring Kerala, no State has treated its SCERT with respect; one only hopes that the political change in Kerala will not hurt the remarkable status its SCERT has achieved. All others will need both guidance and money to nurture their SCERTs.

The climate of governance, which set in during the 1990s, makes outsourcing preferable to institution-building. State officials, who have the responsibility to implement the RTE do not know where to look for the knowledge and creative energy required to address the pedagogic concerns articulated in it. Terms such as child-centred teaching and continuous evaluation are alien to a system accustomed to eliminating a majority of children by declaring them 'fail' sooner or later. A ban on corporal punishment is similarly baffling to both officials and teachers who are used to inducing fear as a way to get children to work hard.

A peculiar development of the last two decades has further compounded the situation. This factor has to do with the culture of trivia that has become the norm of schooling of the poor. Superficial training has led many teachers to perceive their job as that of baby-sitters. A pattern of poorly conceived, shallow activities, aimed at keeping children occupied without learning anything substantial, has evolved into a full-fledged routine. Children come to school, get a free meal, and it matters to no one that they make tangible progress from day to day. The cult of 'joyful learning' has driven many among the poor to look for whatever private provision exists in their habitation. These private outfits impose a harsh regime of home work and physical punishment to show good examination results. The paucity of good teachers is just as acute in the low-fee private sector as it is in schools run by the government and local bodies. According to current estimates, the country will need well over a million teachers over the next four years in order to meet the RTE norms. Who will train that many teachers? And who will orient the existing cadre of teachers towards the child-centric vision of RTE? One might have imagined that universities will play a major role in this national enterprise, but there is no sign of such an initiative being taken. Even the newly set up central universities have ignored teacher education. Distance education is perceived as the only viable solution to this conundrum. But even for this option, there seems to be little realistic assessment of the costs involved in creating the kind of infrastructure the SCERTs will require in order to liaison with providers of distance education. The situation is apparently so desperate that even the National Open School is likely to join the list of providers of distance training. There is a great risk that a vast number of nominally trained teachers will be allowed to enter schools. The only barrier they might face is the newly introduced eligibility test which will qualify a person to seek appointment as a teacher. How that barrier works as a mechanism for ensuring quality is yet to be seen.

RTE is also facing a major court case, filed by a group of top-end public schools. They are upset with the clause which makes it mandatory for every fee-charging school to allot one-fourth of its seats to children of the poor. Our metropolitan public schools cannot bear the idea of mixing children of the poor with rich kids. Many have started an afternoon shift for the poor; others want to test the poor kids before enrolling them. RTE's radical vision prohibits such screening procedures. The cutting edge of the legal case RTE is facing arises out of the rule that the government will subsidise the reserved seats for the poor only to the extent of the per capita amount it spends in its own schools. If RTE survives this court case, it will have the potential to alter the exclusive and moribund character of the elite public schools. However, a lot of creative energy will need to go into equipping teachers serving in these schools to deal with a mixed population of children. The Loreto School of Kolkata provides a model in this respect, and one hopes that elite schools throughout the country will want to learn from it. They also need to overcome their conceptual blinkers in order to recognise that mixed classrooms provide a pedagogically superior opportunity to bring the best out of all children.

(The author is Professor of Education at Delhi University.)







CHENNAI: Weeks before the Obama administration appointed Richard Holbrooke as the Special Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, New Delhi sent an unequivocal message to the United States that any move to include India in his brief would be "unacceptable."

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee registered India's strong disapproval of President-elect Barack Obama's plan to appoint a special envoy for the India-Pakistan-Afghanistan region.

During a meeting with U.S. Ambassador David Mulford on January 9, 2009, Mr. Mukherjee is reported to have said the move "smacks of interference and would be unacceptable [to India]."

The meeting took place two weeks before Mr. Holbrooke's appointment. India was conspicuously absent from his designation, suggesting that New Delhi had — as speculated in some quarters — successfully lobbied the Obama administration in ensuring that neither India nor Kashmir were included in Mr. Holbrooke's official brief.

A cable ( 186057: secret) dated January 7, 2009 sent by Mr. Mulford to Washington shows the speculation was not far off the mark.

"Mukherjee was deeply concerned about any move toward an envoy with a broad regional mandate that could be interpreted to include Kashmir.

"Such a broad mandate would be viewed by India as risky and unpredictable, exposing issues of vital concern to India to the discretion of the individual appointed."

Mr. Holbrooke passed away in December 2010 and was succeeded by Marc Grossman.

Mr. Mukherjee's keenness that the U.S.-India relationship should not be viewed primarily through the lens of the crisis in the region was also reflected in his remark that "India was content that Vice President-elect [Joe] Biden [did] not extend his trip beyond Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan."

He, however, added that India would look forward to welcoming him one day to "showcase the breadth of the bilateral relationship."

During the meeting, Mr. Mulford drew attention to the lack of an agreement on End Use Monitoring (EUM) between India and the U.S., saying he did not see why it was so difficult for the former to conclude an acceptable agreement. As it turned out, an EUM agreement — under which restrictions on use and mechanisms for monitoring may be applied to defence and other items using cutting edge technologies sold to India — was finalised in mid-2009, or within a few months of the meeting.

Another cable ( 185384: confidential) dated December 31, 2008 sent by Mr. Mulford to Washington records that India's Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon had expressed the country's "extreme sensitivity" on the issue of a U.S. special envoy with "a mandate to address the dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir."

Mr. Shivshankar Menon is said to have conveyed this in a meeting with U.S. Under Secretary Bill Burns. The cable cites Mr. Menon as telling him that India is concerned about the possibility of a narrow deal in which the U.S. would tell Pakistan the Mumbai terrorist attacks will not "stick on you" as long as "you keep fighting in the West [against militants in the western region of Pakistan]."

India needed to work to "update perceptions," the Foreign Secretary said, "because the concept of such a deal could have originated only from those with out-dated views of the reality in Kashmir."

The cable reports Mr. Menon telling the U.S. official that "a special envoy would be deeply unpopular and could negatively affect the gains in [the U.S.-India] bilateral relationship. Menon observed that 'we have not heard a peep' from critics of a close relationship with the U.S. about co-operation with the FBI following the Mumbai attacks, but added, 'Kashmir is different; we do not want to feed the notion that the U.S. is messing about in Kashmir, especially in the lead-up to national elections."

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.







NEW DELHI: Days after he was designated the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi told U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard A. Boucher that India-Pakistan relations could not be held hostage to the issue of Kashmir alone.

It is rare for a Pakistani leader to advocate, even in a closed-door meeting, that India-Pakistan ties should not viewed through the prism of Kashmir alone.

The Pakistan military and successive political establishments have consistently argued that Kashmir is the core issue between India and Pakistan, and that without a resolution of the dispute there can be no meaningful progress in ties.

Yet, after a few months in office, Mr. Qureshi too was calling Kashmir a 'core issue.'

But in an April 2008 interaction with the U.S. diplomat, Mr. Qureshi maintained that while Pakistan should respect the concerns of the Kashmiris, its relations with India could not be held 'hostage' to one issue.

A U.S. cable dated April 8, 2008 ( 148953: confidential), accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, said Mr. Qureshi was responding to Mr. Boucher's query on his views about Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations. The Minister-designate noted that he was in India when Pakistan People's Party co-chair Asif Ali Zardari had issued a statement urging increased transit trade with India irrespective of whether there was any progress on Kashmir.

Mr. Qureshi said there was a large constituency on both sides of the border that believed in moving forward, but they were not particularly vocal.

In his assessment, the answer to improved relations lay in more confidence-building measures, people-to-people contacts and increased trade.

He further told Mr. Boucher that the considered view of his party was that foreign policy should be based on strategic interests, not populism. The Minister-designate termed the approach of Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister and chief of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, as aggressive and said: "Our direction may be the same, but our tone may be different. We will have to be sensitive to public opinion."

During his meeting with Mr. Boucher, Mr. Qureshi noted that the Pakistani people had rejected the extremists. He said Pakistan understood the need for stability, continuity, peace and partnership with the West.

The cable said: "But within the coalition, there are two important players on the extremism issue. One is Awami National Party leader Asfundyar Wali Khan, who is liberal and 'thinks like us' but is a Pashtun who looks at things differently.

"The other is Nawaz Sharif, who sounds more aggressive and belligerent than the People's Party, especially on the issue of Musharraf's (who was President at that time) future. Sharif, said Qureshi, feels he is more in line with the popular mood."

That Mr. Qureshi was not above some populism was apparent after Pakistan Prime Minister Ali Shah Gilani dropped him as Foreign Minister in a February 2011 Cabinet reshuffle and offered him the portfolio of Water and Power.

Tapping into the strong anti-American mood on the Pakistani street, he refused the offer and declared that he had been moved out as Foreign Minister because he had spoken out against the U.S.

On Mr. Qureshi's assessment about ties with India, Mr. Boucher said it was a positive sign, and that both sides needed a nudge to make progress. "But there was concern in India that the political situation was not yet clear enough to move on a framework for Kashmir. Qureshi predicted that nothing would be possible for the next three months until the political environment matured," the cable noted.

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.






NEW DELHI: In a telling commentary on the dilemmas faced by New Delhi in dealing with Pakistan especially when a civilian establishment is at the helm of affairs in Islamabad, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon told U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in February 2010: "We are dealing with many Pakistans, so we need to run many Pakistan policies at the same time."

It is a reflection of one of India's constant problems in doing business with a civilian government given the supremacy of the Pakistan military, particularly on matters related to defence and foreign affairs.

India's stated position vis-à-vis Pakistan is that New Delhi would deal with 'whoever' is in power. However, when there is a government headed by a civilian politician in place, pragmatism dictates that New Delhi factor into its policy the inclinations of the military and its powerful wing, the Inter-Services Intelligence.

Mr. Menon's interaction with Mr. McCaskill on India-Pakistan relations brings out India's constant worry over whether or not the Pakistan establishment and the military are on the same page. In simple words, even assuming the political establishment has the best of intentions, whether it is in a position to deliver on its promises on the Indian concerns.

A cable from New Delhi dated February 25, 2010 ( 250737: confidential) sent by U.S. Ambassador Tim Roemer quoted Mr. Menon outlining the rationale behind the Indian decision to resume the composite dialogue with Pakistan after the December 2001 Parliament attack.

He reminded that New Delhi restarted the dialogue on the basis of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's assurance that India would not be targeted by terrorists as long as the talks continued.

"This dialogue process entered into a pause in 2007 at Musharraf's request when he was faced with difficult domestic challenges, which ultimately led to his ouster."

Mr. Menon noted that in India's long history of dealing with terrorism "most attacks lead back to Pakistan," but he stressed that even after the Mumbai attacks India did not sever trade or travel ties with Pakistan because these elements of the relationship were important to achieving eventual peace with Pakistan.

"As a true democracy, public opinion defined the limits of India's forebearance, but Menon stressed that India did not wish to play into the hands of the terrorists by shunning dialogue," the cable said.

"Since then, India endured serial bombing attacks throughout 2008, two attacks on its embassy in Kabul (one he attributed to the Haqqani Network and the other to Lashkar-e-Tayiba), and then the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai, known as 26/11." It was in 2008 that the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led by Asif Ali Zardari took the reins of power.

The issue of Pakistani soil being used by militant outfits to target India figures prominently in a series of conversations between the Pakistan and American establishments prior to and after 2008. The stock response from the Pakistan side every time the issue came up was that terror camps targeted at India were a thing of the past.

However, the Indian government not only remained sceptical about Pakistan's claims but also told the American interlocutors in categorical terms that Islamabad had not only not given up terror as an instrument of its foreign policy but also it was incapable of doing so.

Musharraf on Kashmir

In a candid confession to the Americans in May 2008, President Pervez Musharraf conceded that successive governments had turned a "blind eye to Kashmir terror training camps" which have since been shut down.

A series of American cables sent from Islamabad and New Delhi show that the civilian government in Pakistan led by Mr. Zardari had complained to the Americans that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was unaware of what it took to "change the mind-set of Pakistan's establishment," given Pakistan's short history of fragile democratic regimes toppled by the military.

In a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser James L. Jones in June 2009, Mr. Zardari grumbled that Dr. Singh was unaware what it took to change the "mindset of Pakistani establishment."

A cable on the meeting from Islamabad dated June 30, 2009 ( 214563: secret), sent under the name of Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, quoted Mr. Zardari as telling Mr. Jones that "Singh is an excellent economist," but he was not convinced whether the Indian Prime Minister understood the constraints under which he was operating.

"Helping Singh to understand them was of import, hinted Zardari. NSC Senior Director Don Camp said the Indian perspective was to question GOP (Government of Pakistan) activism and to ask what it had done to quash terrorist organizations."

A cable dated May 28, 2008 ( 155753: confidential), sent under the name of Ms. Patterson on the meeting between Gen. Musharraf and Senator Russ Feingold two days earlier, detailed their conversation centred on the extremist Kashmir groups.

In response to a question by Mr. Feingold on whether he believed that Kashmir-based extremist groups were aligning themselves with al-Qaeda, Gen. Musharraf admitted that the Government of Pakistan had turned a blind eye to indigenous Kashmiri groups in the past but were now firmly committed to a political dialogue with India.

Gen. Musharraf in his meeting with Mr. Feingold had contended that he considered himself a target of the "remnants of the Kashmir terror groups" whose terror camps on Pakistan soil were closed down.

"The time is ripe for resolution of the Kashmir issue, Musharraf concluded, asking that the U.S. put more pressure on India to negotiate," the cable said.

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.





CHENNAI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a visiting United States official in 2009 that he "did not sleep well at night" knowing there were threats of more terror attacks in India after the 2008 Mumbai carnage.

In a June 2009 meeting with Under Secretary Bill Burns, the Prime Minister reiterated his readiness to meet Pakistan "more than halfway." But, he added, talking peace while Pakistani territory was being used to plan terror attacks against India, would "look ridiculous."

Detailing the meeting, a cable dated June 11, 2009 ( 211549: secret) from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi said: "Singh asserted that India was willing to engage with Pakistan, but the Pakistan government had an obligation to stop the planning and launching of terror attacks from its territory."

The meeting took place a few days after the U.S. had passed on "credible" reports to India that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was planning terror attacks in India to mark the release from house arrest in Pakistan of its leader Hafiz Saeed on June 2 (see 'India Cables' series published by The Hindu: 209710: secret/noforn, dated June 2, 2009; 210144: secret/noforn, dated June 4, 2009; and 210051: secret/noforn).

Mr. Manmohan Singh told the U.S official that India saw the release of the LeT leader from detention in Pakistan as "a confusing signal." There were some in Pakistan, he said, "who clearly regarded the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as strategic assets."

The Prime Minister observed that there was a "duality of thought processes" in Pakistan, particularly in its military.

He praised intelligence-sharing by the U.S. after the Mumbai attacks as a process that was benefiting India. But he noted that this information demonstrated that the threat of terror attacks after 26/11 Mumbai was far from over and 'that he did not sleep well at night' knowing about these threats.

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.





NEW DELHI: A good 15 months before it killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the United States was sure that al-Qaeda retained its presence in that country and was plotting "new attacks" against America and its allies from its safe havens there and in Afghanistan.

But it was emphatically confident that the terrorist group could not lay its hands on Pakistan's nuclear weapons guarded by the country's military and was at pains to explain that it did not have any plan to seize them.

It is not clear if this assessment has changed after the discovery that bin Laden was living in Pakistan for at least six years under the shadow of a military academy. But a U.S. diplomatic cable of December 2, 2009 ( 237503: unclassified) shows that the U.S. was convinced that Pakistan Army was doing a capable job of protecting the weapons.

The cable was accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

Sent under the signature of the Secretary of State, the main purpose of the cable was to explain threadbare to U.S. Missions around the world a newly announced policy of the Obama administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Along with the text of President Barack Obama's speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on December 1, 2009, setting out "the way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan" and a "fact sheet" about the new strategy (these are now on the White House website), the cable contains a series of Socratic-style questions and answers about the policy, for "internal use only," and "not to be released to the public."

In his speech, Mr. Obama had announced his administration's plans to deploy additional troops in Afghanistan to reinforce the 68,000 American troops already there, to weaken the Taliban, before an envisaged transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan forces and a drawdown of U.S. combat troops from the summer of 2011.

The "fact sheet" described the Af-Pak region as the "heart of the global violent extremism" where "new attacks" were being planned against the U.S. and its allies. "Al-Qa'ida remains in Pakistan where they continue to plot attacks against us and where they and their extremist allies pose a threat to the Pakistani state. Our goal in Pakistan will be to ensure that al-Qa'ida is defeated and Pakistan remains stable."

The Q&A section of the cable sought to address tough questions that would be raised about the new policy, providing answers that it said would be useful to U.S. missions abroad while engaging with host governments, media and others.

Among the questions the cable posed was this one: "Al-Qa'ida's top leadership is in Pakistan; terrorists from Pakistan infiltrated Mumbai, India, and killed dozens of people; and all I see in this latest plan is more coddling of the Pakistani Government. We've treated the Pakistanis with kid gloves the past eight years. When are we finally going to play some hard ball?"

The reply: "Pakistan is a complex country, but also a critical ally in the common effort to fight violent extremists and promote regional security and the U.S. has a serious and ongoing dialogue with Pakistan on combating al-Qaeda and other extremists in South Asia.

"We work cooperatively with Pakistan to strengthen its counterinsurgency capacities to combat extremists. We understand and appreciate the sacrifices the people of Pakistan are making to win the war against extremism and bring security and peace to their country. Hundreds of Pakistani security officials have been killed in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan."

Another question the cable posed was whether the Pakistan government still maintained ties with extremist groups.

The reply: "We have made it clear to Pakistan that confronting violent extremism of all types is in its own interest and in the interest of regional stability. The Government of Pakistan increasingly sees violent extremists as a threat to the Pakistani state as well as to regional stability."

To a question about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and whether the U.S. had any plans to seize them, the reply was emphatic: "The U.S. has no intention to seize Pakistani nuclear weapons or material and has confidence in the ability of the Pakistani government to protect its nuclear assets."

The cable posed a second question on the subject: "Does the US have plans to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons if they are in danger?" The reply was identical.

The Q &A document also fleetingly touches upon the sensitive question of why the U.S. was "so reliant in private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan," and why the controversial security contractor Blackwater/Xe was still operating in both countries.

"We do not want to get into a discussion about what contractors may or may not be operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan…

"Contract services are sometimes needed. For those cases, we have strengthened monitoring and contracts. We have clearly signaled zero tolerance of contractor impropriety and our actions to force the removal of misbehaving employees and to review terms of such contracts sends that message loudly."

The U.S. partnership with Pakistan, the cable explained, "is linked to our efforts in Afghanistan. To secure our country, we need a strategy that works on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border…"

Almost foreshadowing the operation in Abbottabad that killed the al-Qaeda chief, without mentioning the U.S unilateralism that characterised it, the cable went on to say: "The United States is committed to strengthening Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that pose the greatest threat to both of our countries. A safe haven for those high-level terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear, cannot be tolerated."

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.









The track record of the Central Bureau of Investigation does not have much to commend it, frankly. When it is not gratuitously serving the cause of its political masters, bringing disadvantage and disrepute to the national public ethos, it is busy setting up examples of how not to conduct meticulous investigations, or bring cases to successful prosecution, and — as the ignominy brought on by the saga of the list of "India's Most Wanted" illustrates — submit official papers

to the highest authorities in the land without double-checking for authenticity even when these are to be brought into diplomatic play with a country as devious as Pakistan on the sensitive issue of India-centric terrorism. The CBI's shoddy work procedures, we now know, extend to serving up expired warrants of arrest to foreign governments, as the Kim Davy case exemplifies. No one should be surprised if Interpol now treats Indian requests on red-corner alert notices against criminals with contempt.
The first error — serious though it was — concerning Wazhul Kamar Khan in the most wanted list of 50 tendered to Islamabad could be put down as a procedural lapse. But in less than a day of this slip being revealed has come a succession of such errors. If faulty red-corner notices are also totted up, then the question arises whether the top brass of the country's premier investigation outfit are doing anything other than warm their seats. Alas, it is not the CBI alone whose work ethos must be questioned. Newly established intelligence outfits such as the National Investigation Agency and others have also given a poor account of themselves in the matter of aggregating names of terrorists and other criminals who are being hunted outside India's borders. When CRPF personnel were massacred by Naxalites in the Dantewada forests last year, Union home minister P. Chidambaram declared gamely that the buck stopped with him. The country may want Mr Chidambaram to adopt a similar stance now and give his fellow citizens an idea of the working systems of the security and intelligence agencies that operate within his remit. True, the CBI comes under the department of personnel. But if the home ministry was more diligent on the work assigned to it, it is not unlikely that the CBI sitting on its haunches could have been exposed in time and corrective measures taken.
It is instructive to see how far down the shoddy path we have travelled. When Shivraj Patil yielded place to Mr Chidambaram following the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, we breathed a sigh of relief. The new home minister was urbane, practical, articulate and businesslike. He brought in much-needed confidence into systems that are meant to protect us against terrorist depredations. But two and a half years is all that it has taken to expose the systems put in place under Mr Chidambaram's stewardship.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari has asked the home minister to resign. The demand is doubtless inspired by political considerations. In a government so short on talent at the senior political level, the home minister's removal from the scene is unlikely to plug gaps. Nevertheless, the gravity of the situation is there for all to see. The deep political embarrassment caused to the government hardly admits of mitigating circumstances. We are, after all, talking about the security of India and being persistently wrong-footed at the diplomatic level on account of our investigating agencies. Heads at the level of officials should obviously roll. But their staffing and personnel patterns call for a relook, as does recruitment, motivation and training in the context of the police services, from whose ranks national investigators and spy services are generally drawn. The home ministry and the department of personnel also need overhauling and revitalising.






"The sun has no significance,
The eclipse full of meaning."

From The Boogoo Diaries
of Bachchoo
One sometimes gets the feeling that Britain is an overdeveloped democracy. The representatives of the people are kept on a tight leash and sometimes, in a libertarian fantasy, a mood induced by introspection or other substances, I feel it may be a bit too tight.

Take the case of Alex Salmond, the secessionist boss of the Scottish National Party. He was crowned the first minister of the devolved Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh on May 18. This Parliament and its powers were established by the Labour Party when they were the government. They must have calculated at the time that this would satisfy the feeling in Scotland that it was being treated as a colony by Britain and that having more say in its own matters through direct representation would cool the ardour of the Scots separatists. It was a vain hope and a bad strategy.
Mr Salmond's party, which had demanded such a Parliament and declared that its avowed intention was total independence for Scotland and a break with the United Kingdom, gained the most seats in this, their second, election.
Mr Salmond is consequently riding high, making demands on Westminster and clearly signalling that a few years into this auxiliary Parliament he will hold a referendum in which the Scots will say Yea or Nay to total independence.
This reportage is not prompted by any political foreboding. I have as yet no view on whether an independent Scotland would be a good or a bad thing for the Scots, the English, the European Union, the world, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Lashkar-e-Toyota or for me. I admit I would find it very slightly burdensome to carry a passport every time I visited Glasgow and would deem it extremely disadvantageous if my stage plays were banned from the Edinburgh festival on the grounds that I wasn't McDhondy.
No! The point is that Mr Salmond is now King and crowing, consequent upon the will of electoral democracy, but there is no prospect that he will celebrate the event by spending a million pounds or so of tax-payers' money on a cake for his birthday. Neither can he erect statues to himself in the parks and at the junctions of thoroughfares in Aberdeen. No doubt some Scottish arts minister will order more statues of Robert the Bruce or Robert Burns and they will stand proudly at road junctions to the delight of tourists and pigeons, but Mr Salmond, alas, will have to await the opening of a branch of Madame Tussauds in Edinburgh to be so honoured. If he did order a million pound birthday cake or build statues of his party's symbol in Scotland, as some chief ministers in a distant country feel it their prerogative to do, he would today find himself enjoying Her Majesty's hospitality, breaking rocks in some high-security English prison.
Then there's the case of poor Chris Huhne, a Liberal Democrat minister in the present UK coalition government. Mr Huhne is in trouble as the newspapers allege that he was speeding in his car and, because he faced a driving ban if he was found guilty of this driving offence, asked his wife (from whom he has since separated) to take the rap. How is that possible? The speeding offence was recorded on cameras trained on the roads to register the speed and number-plate of the offending car. The speed cameras don't photograph the driver.
If a driver gets a certain number of convictions for violations of traffic laws, s/he is automatically banned from driving. The offences are recorded as "points" on your licence and when you reach 12 you are banned. Mr Huhne, it is alleged, was close to 12 and asked his wife to say she was driving and take the negative points awarded for the offence. All this was supposedly eight years ago!
Dishonestly transferring blame for driving offences so as to avoid a ban is a procedure known to most people in Britain. I am not saying very many people use it, but it's known to be a possibility. If this was Mumbai and one was stopped by a constable for speeding, violating a red light or using a mobile phone while driving, it is customary to slip the diligent officer a crisp piece of valuable paper, accept his salaams and move on. Not so in Britain. The camera hounds you, the phone evidence confounds you.
Mr Huhne is damned by the allegations. He has allegedly attempted to dodge the consequences of a traffic offence and defraud the law. There are now calls on him to resign as a minister. Even if he is guilty, should he resign? Does the responsibility that democratic election put upon you enjoin you to not attempt to beat traffic regulations and penalties? There are other countries in which ministers get away with fraud, with storing crores and crores-of-crores of their ill-gotten, dollar-converted currency in international banks — the proceeds of graft and licence-selling.
Democratic vigilance?
The last case of this over-enthusiastic democratic vigilance concerns the words used this week by the justice secretary of this government, Ken Clarke. Mr Clarke is a veteran Tory minister and he was being questioned on a radio programme about his attitude to sentencing in rape cases. He has expressed his view that sentences of defendants who plead guilty for any offence should be reduced by a judge for sparing public resources — the time and cost of a useless trial. Mr Clarke talked around the issue and seemed to be of the opinion that some cases of rape, those with extreme violence, for instance, were more serious than, say, the withdrawal of consent by a rape victim at the last minute in a "date-rape" case.
The interview and this contention caused a political tsunami. Labour leaders demanded that Mr Clarke be sacked because he had committed the crime of saying some rapes were more serious than others. The shock and horror at his statement seemed to me to be somewhat feigned. Democracy, though, includes women's votes and the opposition clearly thinks, whatever their view on sentencing suspects who plead guilty, that Mr Clarke has walked into a linguistic elephant trap and that there will be popular support for him going down.






Bobbitt all these rascalams, I say! Too many of them floating around the world doing bad-bad things to good-good women. Look at that fellow Dominique Strauss-Kahn (does he waltz, or what?). Can't keep his business inside his pants! Aiyoooo! So much shame he is bringing to his family… all his wives and children.

Man has no face to show in public! And he is coming from such a top-class background, that too. Just think how many people become International Monetary Fund's (IMF) chief? You are knowing anyone? I am not knowing. What a powerful job controlling which country to give how much money to and all that. Presidents and Prime Ministers of countries come with begging bowl at his door. And he simply doesn't care! I ask you, "Sir, when you are attacking that poor servant girl… sorry, chambermaid, are you not behaving same to same as our Shiney Ahuja?" Proper thinking and good brain went where at that time? Same question we are asking Shiney — see what happened to him? Jail and all. Still his wife is standing by him. Your wife also, no? But yours is third or fourth wife. Poor Shiney only has one — he may not get another after this. You are also in jail, my friend! But, believe me, foreign jails are far, far better than Indian jails. You must be getting good food… meat, chicken, fish and all that. A bed to sleep on also.
Many, many Indians won't mind being in American jails for that reason only. Better to eat in a prison than starve outside and on top of that have to listen to big-big lectures about freedom and how great India is because of that freedom. All useless talk, I say. First, keep stomach filled, then enjoy fruits of freedom.
Okay… some things we are fully knowing and understanding about your type of problem. It is also happening in this part of the world. Baba, how men can be different-different from place to place? Anatomy same, brain same, thinking same. See a woman and jump on her. If she is working for you, then, no problem. Like you can use laptop anytime, she also can be used anytime. Why pretend to be a sadhu, all holy and pure, when the truth is fully known to all? But even with this much understanding, it is not proper for you to have done what you did in that costly hotel room. Coming out nanga in front of stranger-lady? Then forcing her to do all that… chhee chhee stuff! Not thinking for one minute of your wife and children before doing badmaashi! We call such men total idiots in India. Why? Because smart men know when to do all this physical stuff and when not to. Arrey baba — you could not wait or what?
Now you are saying it is France President Nicolas Sarkozy's fault. Where is Mr Sarkozy in all this scandal nonsense? He is busy making his beautiful wife pregnant. Timing of conceiving is also first class. Election baby is good for vote catching. Mr Sarkozy is a smart chap, that way. People of France like to know that their Presidents are manly fellows capable of keeping woman happy in the bedroom. Several women, several bedrooms. All French Presidents are like that only! One mistress here… another one there… two-three wives in between. Nothing new. You should have waited to become President first.
Your wife — what is her good name? Haan… Annie, no? She has said politicians must know how to seduce. Lucky man, you are! How many wives are so understanding?
So far, at least, Annie is like Shiney's wife, not Arnie's wife. Look at that uppity Maria Shriver and how she is acting! That too, after 25 years of marriage! Women are also similar types about such matters. I think so, they feel jealous. After that they feel they must take badla. No need for badla-wadla… no point. Arnie and you can have a frank talk about this sex matter. Also, invite Tiger Woods for a discussion. See… all three of you are big shots — famous, rich, influential. Still you are getting into trouble in America. That way, Italian people are not so strict. See how they are giving chances to their President! Silvio Berlusconi is a rascalam of all rascalams. He is boasting openly about those small-small girls he pays so much money for bunga-bunga business. Nobody bothering too much about that — in Rome, do the Romans, they are saying. He is not in jail. But you were. And now, house arrest.
Tch, tch, tch! Everything khallas for you now. Naukri gone, friends gone, future gone.
American judge saying may be 15-20 years in jail if guilty. That means, life also gone. You are saying world hates you because you are a Jew. American public saying you are racist. Poor maid is saying nothing so far. But because she is a black woman, you are in even more trouble. God knows how many more women will now start telling the whole world that you raped them here and there — in the office, in the car park, in an elevator, maybe even in an airplane bathroom. How you will keep your izzat and show face to family?
In India, we believe in karma. Maybe you did many sins in last life? Many more in this life also. Now your only hope is for your next life. If those guards in Riker's Island Correction Centre can be manaoed, khilaoed and pilaoed (like we do here), you may survive — more time spent in hospital, less time in 11x13 cell. At least do one thing, boss — keep your business out of sight. Or else, bheja gaya, aur "woh" bhi! Bobbitt ka naam suna hai aapne? Women are saying loudly-loudly that is what men like you deserve —mind it!

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This week, perhaps, the most annoying statement on adulterous men came from the charming Hugh Grant. He pointed out that since men like to be "naughty", the press should not be allowed access to their foibles. Even though he said it before the head of International Monetary Fund was caught allegedly with his pants down, undoubtedly

Grant's ideal world is one where men can frolic with whom they like and not have to pay for the consequences.
Not just his statement, but a spate of recent "affairs" has raised the serious question on whether it is better to allow politicians, or indeed people in public sphere, to hang onto their privacy, by a respectful press (as in India). Or is it better to reveal all about their affairs because, ultimately, it can lead to some poor woman being saved from harassment. The debate is getting more heated now because often the issue of "cover-ups" is not restricted to extra-marital flings, but there may be other misdemeanours — which get concealed — if someone is powerful.
As is now clear, it was the secrecy and careful handling of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's alleged affairs which made him think that he was, ultimately, above the law. The accusation is that if a woman succumbed to his aggressive advances, it would be simply termed consensual sex and dismissed. He was able to survive even though he was allegedly targeting women who were often junior to him in rank and status.
According to various surveys, powerful men are most likely to be adulterous. But does that mean that their wives and partners should be forgiving? Not all seem to agree with Grant's defence of men. In particular, one intelligent wife in the United Kingdom — married to energy secretary Chris Huhne — has decided that she will not go away quietly.
Indeed, Vicky Pryce, Mr Huhne's wife, is said to be writing a book called Thirty Minutes to Kill the Story. The title reflects the urgency with which her husband had revealed to her the fact that he was having an affair with his bisexual aide. The press had found out about it and so he confessed all to his wife in order to "kill" the story, limiting its potentially-damaging impact.
Cheating husbands and scorned wives have very much been the flavour of the month in Britain. The Huhne-Pryce story is just one among many others that are tumbling out. After the season of the "expenses scams", it is now time for dangerous liaisons. Ms Pryce is a respected economist and apparently felt that she managed being a mother, a politician's wife and her own career very successfully. Thus, she was astonished and hurt with the sudden turn of events when her husband suddenly announced his "affair".
However, now she is not only writing a tell-all book, there is also an earlier case of a broken traffic law in which she has managed to implicate her husband. Because Ms Pryce, obviously, does not believe in Grant's egregious advice, this is becoming an extremely acrimonious separation and one that is playing out in full media glare. The allegation is that Mr Huhne, seven years ago, had broken a speed limit on a highway. When the police contacted him, he said his wife had been driving and put the points on her driving licence. Breaking a speed limit was a minor offence, but Mr Huhne may have made it much, much worse if he did, indeed, lie about it. One big problem is that Ms Pryce was attending a dinner at the London School of Economics that evening and could not have been driving.
So far, the government has supported him but already rumours are doing the rounds that if Ms Pryce is proven innocent, he would have to quit. Ms Pryce has apparently said she is willing to go to court to give evidence against her husband. With this, a fresh debate has started. Should wives be silent and supportive no matter what the husband does, a la Hillary Clinton? Or should they kick up a fuss like Ms Pryce and now Maria Shriver, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's recently estranged wife?
Is this a case of "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" or do women like Ms Pryce genuinely believe there is life beyond marriage, and thus should be encouraged not to let their adulterous partners get away with it? Sorry, Grant! The world is not often what you want it to be…

Meanwhile… Dishoom! I was walking peacefully down my favourite stretch along the South Bank, crossing the river on foot at Waterloo Bridge. On one side I could see Westminster and on the other side the famous Gherkin. Everything was as it should be. And then my eye was caught by the bright yellow paint splattered across the buildings and the wonderful word "Dishoom!" shocked me. It was written in Hindi and in English and was plastered all over a wall.
I thought that I was dreaming. But I pinched myself and it was true. Stretched below on the embankment was Chowpatty Beach, recreated with sand and boats loaded with fresh coconuts. And Dishoom turned out to be a fun restaurant selling everyone's favourite Mumbaiyya snacks — bhelpuri, pao-bhaji… and, yes, even kala khatta, and this one spiked with alcohol, if one so wanted. It was too early in the day for that, but I could not resist the bhelpuri.
This lovely little part of Mumbai has been created (along with other restaurants) as part of the Summer of Smiles festival on the South Bank. Wandering around "Chowpatty Beach" and grabbing a bhelpuri at Dishoom, one realised how little it takes to bring a part of another distant world into your own.
Happily, despite this government's anti-immigration policies, there are many ways that the average Londoner has become truly global. And nothing can reverse that. And no matter how much people grumble about it, the links with India out here continue to grow stronger and stronger. Dishoom!

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Jammu has already been reeling under power shortage making the summer and its heat more oppressive. Additionally, with the onset of summer, Jammu region is facing acute water shortage, as various drinking water supply schemes of the Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department have either failed miserably or are incomplete to meet the requirement of the region. Reports coming in from different part of the region indicate that water shortage is so severe that people want the PHE Department to supply water through tankers. People of the region, especially in kandi areas, are everyday protesting against the state government's failure to supply water to them. Water shortage has also adversely affected the main cities and towns, including the winter capital. With day temperature soaring to 43 plus degrees, and water supply at its lowest, life in the winter capital has become very difficult for ordinary people.
There are also reports that with a sharp rise in the mercury, many areas are being supplied piped water after every four days. Faced with such a situation, the residents of the cities and the adjoining areas are dependant on the water mafia, private water tanker operators, who are charging a hefty amount for one tanker of water. The government has no control on this mafia, and water being the essential commodity, people are prepared to pay any price for a water tanker. There are frequent reports that selfish and unscrupulous people use boosters to boost water direct from the main pipeline and leave rest of the consumers deprived of water. Neither the electric department nor the water supply depart (PHE) is taking stringent measures to curb this menace. Irrigation and PHE Minister, Taj Mohi-ud-Din contends that the demand of water had nearly doubled these days and they would come up with some schemes to overcome the scarcity. "Water shortage is all due to power cuts, as all major schemes in the region are based upon water lifting projects, which requires electricity. If the Power Department assures us of adequate power supply, there will be no water shortage and the public will get adequate water supply," said the minister. If this is the situation and the truth, then the entire government should, under emergency, focus attention on improving power supply system. This is what we have been repeatedly saying in these columns that the government is not dealing power shortage on emergency scale. "I am getting a minute-to-minute report from Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions, as water is the basic necessity in summer. We are also planning to supply water through tankers in the areas where water scarcity has reached an alarming stage," says the Minister. The question is that prudence demands the concerned ministry should have foreseen the threatening shortage of water supply during summer and taken preventive measure in proper time.
Taj said he had talked to the Minister of State for Power for help. "The Power Department has assured us of full cooperation," he added. Rani Sharma, a housewife, said, "We face water shortage every summer, and the successive governments have failed to address the problem. When the government knows that the demand for water increases drastically in summer, why does not it make adequate arrangements before the onset of season?" This is precisely what we have been bringing home to the authorities that before the crisis happens, concerned ministries should be prepared to face the worst and they should have alternative options available at hand. Jammu is mostly kandi area and there is shortage of water. It is time that the government thinks of some major projects for the Jammu region on permanent basis that keeps supply of water uninterrupted.







Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the recommendations of Rangarajan Committee appointed by the Prime Minister to suggest package of skill-oriented employment for the educated unemployed youth of Jammu and Kashmir. This is a big and concrete step forward to address the chronic unemployment problem of the youth of the State. Under the scheme nearly a hundred thousand youth of the State will be trained in technical skills in a way that their placement in public and private sector is assured. All expenses estimated to cost the central exchequer to the tune of 233 crores of rupees will be borne by the union government. The scheme will be spread over five years and employment of a hundred thousand youth means greatly boosting the economy of the state. The objective of the scheme is to provide options and opportunities to all youth in J&K, ranging from school dropouts to college educated, to select training programme for salaried or self employment opportunities as per their interest," the official statement said. It is estimated that 70 percent funds will be used to provide salaried employment linked training, and the remaining for self employment linked training. Placement for youths will be provided all over the country. Under the scheme, different training strategies will be used for diverse groups of youth - school dropouts, dropouts of XII class level, and those who have had college education. The scheme is a placement linked, market driven skill training programme for J&K youth. The placements will be in the private sector both within and outside J&K. It will commence from June-July this year and cover youth from both Below Poverty Line and non-BPL categories. In the first year, 15,000 youth will receive training for salaried and self employment opportunities. It is hoped that this and other schemes similar to this that might come up in future, would go a long way in mitigating the problem of youth unemployment in the State. The good thing about the scheme is that it takes care of school and college drop-outs at various levels. It has been seen that the drop-outs category of the students is the most frustrated segment and that justifies taking them into the fold of the scheme.









The people of India feel privileged to see their development cooperation receive such a warm welcome in Afghanistan. Nothing would give us greater satisfaction than to see the people of Afghanistan using resources of India for more roads, more electricity, more schools, more hospitals or more community projects-activities that directly benefit the common Afghan people. Thus spoke Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh addressing the Afghan parliament in Kabul.
"Afghanistan is integral to our security and both of us are aware of this. Our ties are as old as time. Our cultural and religious links are unshakeable. And our Afghan brothers are aware of this and our commitment to stand by in readiness, should anyone be thinking in terms of a security vacuum occurring after the Nato forces are withdrawn from the region." A significant observation by the PM.
And the many Afghans I have known have always thought of Pakistan's friendly overtures like the proverbial bear's hug. They remember how Pakistan virtually took over the reins of power in their country during the Taliban rule after the collapse of the Soviet invasion of the country. They say I am backing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Can you imagine me, a man who all his life stood for adam-e-tashadud (non-violence) encouraging Amin (President) and the Soviets to kill my clansmen (Pushtoons) on either side of the Pak-Afghan border. I am living in exile here in Jalalabad hoping that one day we will achieve our dream of Pashtunistan. It's the Generals in Pakistan who are trying to spread the canard of my alleged pro-Soviet leanings. But, not one Pushtoon will accept this. The speaker was Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan talking to me in Jalalabad, sitting in the open on a simple charpoy.
Pakistan has always seen Afghanistan as a buffer between its territories and other States in the neighbourhood. Its concern has been that with the extinction of East Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh, Afghanistan had become vital to Pakistan's strategic depth. This is a concern which you will hear from any one from the Pakistani military and bureaucratic establishment. The good Taliban and the bad Taliban is an offshoot of this concern, the good ones the creation of ISI and the bad ones, rogues "who would only alienate the people". The "bad" Taliban, mind you, are not liking the description one whit.
And they have made it abundantly clear through continuing terror attacks in any number of cities. Mercifully, though, Pakistan has lately stopped accusing the Indian spy agency RAW of attacks on civilian targets in the country. Following the death of Osama bin Laden all militant organizations from Hafez Saeed's Lashkar to numerous factional militias are virtually competing with each other in claiming the authorship of the suicide raids.
Their wrath only the other day claimed the life of a Saudi working at the Consulate in Karachi. Saudis are considered to be "the running dogs of the Americans". This killing has conveniently been attributed to a Shite killer by a Wahabi sunni.
The Americans are trying to make the best of a bad bargain, offering an assortment of carrots to the military to help it get over the shock of the surprise pinpoint raid that ended in Osama's death, leaving the military red-faced. Senator John Kerry, former democratic Presidential candidate and a ranking Senate member, who was in Pakistan earlier this week, has tried to assuage the Pakistani feelings but asserting the appropriateness of the US decision not to inform the Pakistanis in advance of the decision to attack Osama well inside Pakistan, in a compound next to the Pakistan National Defence Academy.
Never mind Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's effusive reception by the Afghan leadership in Kabul and the commitment made by Manmohan Singh to Hamid Karzai and the Afghan people to stand by them, an additional 500 million dollars promised as additional infrastructural assistance apart from nearly two billion dollars already committed to the completion of various projects already underway. But then will Pakistan allow Afghanistan time enough to go ahead with its numerous developmental projects? Within less than a month of Osama bin Laden's killing Gen. Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Army chief and Genl. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the ISI chief have, engaged in redoubling Pakistan sponsored terror in the rugged Afghan terrain. Surprisingly the Pakistani Generals appear to forget that the three wars the British fought in Afghanistan in 19th and 20th century ended without any success. The Pakistanis have every reason to remember their experience of the 70's and early 80's when they acted as the advance guard of the Americans in dethroning the pro-left Soviet backed government. The anti-Soviet Jihad was spearheaded by the Pakistani terrorists backing the odd local warlord, fully supported with money and arms by the Americans and Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden was a child of the anti-Soviet Jihad and was to return there later first to destabilize the local government and then to help Mullah Umar, the one-eyed Taliban leader to take over the country. Umar and Laden did not subsequently enjoy the best of relations. Any hope one may have entertained that the Pakistanis would unwind the terror mechanism in place in Pakistan after the death of Osama vanished into thin air with most Americans, bar some members of the establishment, agreeing that the Pakistanis were double-dealing as before: telling them they don't know where Osama is while sheltering him in a cantonment town. Any hope that Pakistan might show some contrition after the Osama episode has come to be a myth. Then, even before Osama was killed, Kayani was pulling out the China card. Just two weeks before the raid on Abbottabad Kayani and Prime Minister Gilani were in Kabul demanding that Karzai dump the US in favour of China. President Zardari traveled to Moscow to work for a new relationship with Russia. Moscow according to knowledgeable reports considers a deeper engagement of some value to itself. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Kabul does in this context make a lot of sense should the bilateral relations between the two follow an expected sensible course. During his visit Manmohan Singh has left the Afghan leadership in no doubt about what the future would be like. Dr. Singh signaled India's determination to raise its independent profile in that country. In the coming months and weeks New Delhi will have to do much more. It is important in this context that we do step up the engagement with Washington, Beijing and Moscow and regional actors like Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The focus at the moment for Pakistan continues to be Afghanistan, slowly revealing the China card. Kashmir makes the odd entry into the rhetoric rightly, believing India must maintain its current dialogue with Pakistan and keep open channels of communication with all the major political forces there.
The time for posturing is truly behind us. New Delhi would do well to take the route of quiet activism. Delhi needs to position itself to influence the outcome of the current warlike phase in Afghanistan and also as a constructive force to bring positive change in Pakistan. It is not necessary that the brutalization of the sub-continent of the past many decades should continue. The problem though will be of persuading the Pakistani political leadership as well as the civil society to keep the Pakistani Generals in check. Unfortunately the Army still the most potent force. Its ability to hold any political dispensation in the country to ransom, is one horrifying prospect which ought to be, in Pakistan's own long-term interest, be done away with. But, never, should we take our eyes off Afghanistan. China, the all weather friend of Pakistan has already drawn its lines in this regard and they know exactly how far they have to go.







The recent Assembly election results have made everyone take note of women power in India after the landslide victory won by the AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee. Both leaders have defeated their opponents with a massive majority.

Both leaders have some things in common. Both are regional satraps. Both are single women. Both are fighters and solo players. Both have their parties in their iron grips. Both expect complete obedience from their party cadres. If Jayalalithaa had been a chief minister twice before, Mamata had been a minister twice earlier. Both are egoists in their own way and also mercurial. While Jaya may have learnt her lessons in her two earlier terms, Mamata is yet to begin her rule of West Bengal. Her administrative skills of the state are untested so far.
The real challenge for both will be how they deal with the respective challenges in next five years. Take the case of Mamata. She has relentlessly fought the left, particularly the CPI-M these past two decades and more and her victory has been hailed as historic for throwing out the comrades unceremoniously after 34 years of rule. She knows that the time for rhetoric's are over and it is time to deliver amidst the high expectations of the people who reposed tremendous trust in her. The three main challenges are to restore the economy of the state, tackle law and order and deal with Maoists. She has also promised to solve the Darjeeling issue within three months. On the political side, she must ensure to keep the left down for some time to establish her supremacy. How will she deal with the CPI-M cadres entrenched in the Government is yet another challenge.
Mamata has taken the first step carefully by asking the Congress party, her parent party and an ally to join her Government despite her party's majority on its own. This is seen as a good move as it will help her Government in getting many things done at the central level. For instance a liberal economic package for the state may come easier if the centre and the state are on the same side. The state government also needs the support of the centre on many other things. Secondly, she wants to be on the right side of the Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee by offering minister's post to his son although it is for the Congress to decide who should be given a ministerial berth. Thirdly she has made the right noises in keeping her ties with the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and has even invited her for the swearing in ceremony on May 20.

She has some capable people like Amit Mitra and if they are utilized properly, things will go well for the TMC chief. For a state like West Bengal, the problems are aplenty and it needs more than confrontational politics to succeed. She has to change her style of functioning and adapt to new surroundings. To run the Assembly, she needs the cooperation of the opposition also and how she deals with this is to be seen. It will be a whole new ball game for ' Didi". She has proved her mettle as an agitational politician but will she prove to be a good administrator and a chief minister?

As for Jayalalithaa, this will be her third term as a chief minister. She has prime ministerial ambitions and wants to play a bigger role in the national scene. This was evident from the way leaders from the left, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi attended the swearing in ceremony. She had been hobnobbing with these leaders earlier also in the formation of a third front. It is not clear what kind of role she has visualized for herself in the coming days.

She needs to keep the lessons of her earlier regimes in mind if she wants to succeed. She has rightly identified her priorities as restoring law and order and good governance. The other problem is to fulfill her election promises of providing many sops matching the DMK offers. Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa have promised low-income voters free laptops, blenders; colour TVs and cable TV connections - paid for by taxpayer's money. She should also strive to provide corruption free administration since she has won on the plans of corruption.
First and foremost, will she change her dictatorial behavior and be more accessible to people? What will be her attitude to her party men? The photograph showing her ministers looking at her with folded hand standing in a row after her swearing in on Monday shows that she would like their obescience. Secondly, will she adopt vendetta politics, which she is known for? One cannot forget the mid night arrest of Karunanidhi during her last term and how she put in jail MDMK chief Vaiko in jail for months.

Thirdly, she has no intentions of sharing power with her allies. Even Vijay Kant's party DMDK will support her from out side. Fourthly, how will she treat her allies? For the time being she is showing friendly gestures to the left parties and other allies but how long will this last?

The initial responses from the both leaders are quite encouraging. Only time will tell whether they will be able to meet the aspirations of the people and provide good governance. (IPA)







The Government has gifted itself the power to pry into your electronic personal details without a search warrant. With new IT Rules, it can lay claim to an array of your most sensitive and zealously guarded personal details - ranging from your ATM pin, your net banking password, your credit card details, to the status of your mental health, your DNA profile, and even your sexual orientation. "These rules are a complete invasion of privacy with immense potentiality of misuse," says Supreme Court advocate and cyber law expert Pawan Duggal. Drawing attention to the fact that such executive orders are often drafted by Government officials who aren't legally qualified, Duggal asks: "Our medical records and sexual orientation have no bearing on the verification of our identity or our cyber crime record. So why should the state want access to this data?" That is not all. Every key stroke you make at a cyber cafe will now be under the scanner - with cafe owners being asked to maintain logs of your online activities for a minimum of one year. The rules have also turned the heat on internet service providers and social-networking sites to remove objectionable content posted on them, leading to strong objections from Google.

Under provisions of the Indian Post Office Act, 1898, The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and the Information Technology Act, 2000, the state already has the power to snoop through the letters you post, the emails you send and the calls you make. But while such surveillance came with several checks and balances, cyber law experts and internet activists say that the Government can now access private data with far more ease.
"Whenever any Government agency needs to access information on individuals, detailed processes need to be followed so that the rights of the citizen are protected. You need a magistrate - who is not part of the Government - to sign a search warrant. A home secretary with the centre or state has to sanction a phone tapping request," points out M.R. Madhavan, head of research, PRS Legislative Research.
These safeguards have not been included for access to electronic databases. "An investigating officer simply needs to give a request in writing, in contravention of all other norms," says Madhavan.

Your privacy is being violated at several levels with the new rules, says Sunil Abraham, executive director of Bangalore's Centre for Internet and Society. "Cyber cafe owners across the country can now take photos of women coming to their cafes. They also have to show their identity proof. Many women fear they can be harassed on the basis of this information." Cyber cafe owners also have to maintain records on who you are mailing, the subject, how often you access a web page, the packets of data sent and received, etc. Be prepared for rampant leakage of personal information with this provision, warns Abraham.

"A boy who fancies you could easily bribe the cafe owner to get the list of websites you access. The owner will have all the information on you stored for a minimum of one year. No process of destroying the logs has been specified by the IT rules and regulations," says Abraham.

The trouble, says Venkatesh Nayak, the Programme Coordinator for Access to Information, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, is that everyone is suspect in the eyes of the Government because of the perception that terrorists don't function like organised crime syndicates.

Privacy concerns are taken far more seriously in the West. "In countries which have a data protection law, there are data protection tribunals and data protection commissioners. It is not that easy for governments to collect sensitive information on individuals and keep it away from them," says Nayak.

The Government, meanwhile, denies any invasion of privacy with the rules. "The intent of the rules is to protect sensitive personal information. The rules do not give any undue powers to Government agencies for free access of sensitive personal information," the department of Information Technology has said in a statement.

Cyber experts aren't convinced, and believe that the days of greater surveillance lie ahead. "After 9/11, the US Homeland Security had started accessing databases of public libraries to find out what people were reading. The day may not be far for us," is Nayak's dark projection. (INAV)










Violence and murder are commonplace in Haryana, but some of the recent incidents have surpassed the run of the gory mill. On Wednesday, the killers chose the emergency ward of the prestigious Pandit Bhagwat Dayal Sharma Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS) at Rohtak to settle personal scores with a rival, killing two and injuring three in a hail of bullets. After killing a patient undergoing treatment there, the assailant pumped several bullets into the hospital guard who tried to stop him. Obviously, the killer and his accomplices had no thought to spare for the patients admitted there, and treated the hospital as nothing more than a vantage point for carrying out their vendetta. They managed to escape in a car even though a police vehicle was parked nearby. The hospital is only about a kilometre away from the residence of Chief Minister Bhoopinder Singh Hooda. A doctor had been beaten up by attendants of a patient last month in the same hospital, which had led to a strike by doctors for better security arrangements. Apparently, nothing had changed.


As if that is not shocking enough, a former MLA of the Indian National Lok Dal, Bali Pehelwan, has held off the Haryana Police since May 5. The police was trying to arrest him and fellow accused on charges of indiscriminate firing that left one dead and eight injured at the Kalanaur grain market. The two-time MLA remained holed up inside his house in Mokhra village – which too happens to be in the Chief Minister's home district – along with his brothers, nephew and two dozen other accused while thousands of his supporters kept the police at bay. One can well imagine the sense of insecurity among the traders who were terrorised by the goons in the Kalanaur market.


What is unfortunate is that such warlords occupy positions of eminence because of crass criminalisation of politics. Political parties need to do some serious introspection. Unfortunately, they have had no qualms about giving tickets to such people, on the pretext that various charges against them are false and politically motivated. The lawmakers, past and present, are not supposed to be lawbreakers. If the representatives of the public tend to behave like brigands, ordinary criminals are bound to flaunt their contempt for the police to an even greater degree.










For the first time since 1931 a caste-based census will be conducted next month. The issue generated a lot of political heat last year which subsided after the Prime Minister yielded to pressure in Parliament. Since caste is a social reality which cannot be wished away, there is need for a fresh head count to update the data. Social and development scientists also need the latest figures to formulate strategies to fight backwardness and poverty. But distributing entitlements on caste basis can be socially divisive and income remains the most effective and acceptable criterion. Besides, the fear that politicians may use the controversal data to play caste politics cannot be discounted.


Simultaneously, a census of the poor will also get under way. The Ministry of Rural Development identifies poor households below the poverty line based on their assets every five years to provide benefits under various Central welfare schemes. However, taking consumption as the prime criterion, the Planning Commission puts a ceiling on the number of the poor on the ground that the social sector schemes have to be targeted. This divides the poor as officially acceptable and unacceptable. This also creates resentment among states as they have to go beyond the Central list and cater to a much larger number of the poor.


The debate on poverty – how to define and remove it — rages on. There is no consensus also on how to count the poor. The Saxena committee has suggested three categories to identify the poor: Those who have to be compulsorily excluded, those who have to be compulsorily included and those falling in-between. The exercise will help the UPA in the launch of the ambitious universal food security legislation. The government spends a huge amount on welfare schemes – Rs 10.2 trillion was earmarked in 2009-10 – but with unsatisfactory results, given the systemic leakages. It will be possible to better target the poor and curb diversions once Nandan Nilekani's Aadhaar scheme becomes fully operational.











There is good news from the Kashmir valley. Tourists from various parts of the country and abroad are flocking to Srinagar and other centres of tourist attraction for holidaying as there is little threat to security now. Houseboats are booked to capacity for a long period. For most tourists, a trip to the valley is meaningless unless one gets an opportunity to stay in a houseboat at Dal Lake or Nageen Lake. The valley has over 1000 hotels with a capacity of 25000 rooms, but it is not easy to get a room booked today. Since tourism is the backbone of industry in Kashmir, the revival of activity in this sector in a big way is bound to send cheers across other sectors too. This is contrary to the situation that prevailed last year when unrest continued for nearly 80 days, making the valley lose over Rs 100 crore every day.


The admirable efforts of the security forces have led to a sharp decline in incidents of terrorist violence. The killing of Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan has obviously demoralised the troublemakers. There is a clear message that the international community will no longer tolerate terrorist activity on any pretext. Terrorism has come to be recognised as the biggest threat to peace and progress, and anyone indulging in this kind of activity will have to be dealt with as ruthlessly as possible.


This is, however, the time when snow in the higher Himalayan ranges melts and infiltration of terrorists becomes a little easier. There is no conclusive proof that all the training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and elsewhere across the border have been closed down in the wake of Osama's killing. This means that our security forces will have to continue to maintain strict vigil all along the border. There is no room for complacency. Slightest leniency may provide an opportunity to terrorists to spring a surprise.









EVERY year Parliament approves hundreds of billions of rupees required for running the government. While approving the estimates, Parliament also takes care to ensure that the money it has voted is spent for the purpose for which it is meant and that there is no loss of revenue or wasteful expenditure. It also looks into whether the taxes are honestly collected or whether there are leakages in the system. To perform these important oversight functions, Parliament has created a committee, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and vested in it all powers necessary to discharge its duties.


This pre-eminent and most powerful committee has a long history going back to 1921. Even the colonial rulers recoganised the need to institutionalise the oversight mechanism of the legislature in respect of public finance. The PAC has been functioning uninterruptedly since its formation in 1921.


This committee has in its long journey established certain traditions which are essential for maintaining its integrity. Though, initially, the Finance Member — the Finance Minister — in the Council of the viceroy headed the committee, in later years it came to be led by prominent members of the Opposition in the legislature. It is a measure of the robustness and integrity of the system that the committee which scrutinises public finance is presided over by a member of the Opposition. This demonstrates the mutuality of faith between the Treasury and the Opposition and signifies the conviction that the member of the Opposition heading the committee will perform his duties with absolute impartiality and objectivity. This is the basic philosophy of the Public Accounts Committee. Very eminent parliamentarians like Minoo Masani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, C.M. Stephen and Jyotirmoy Basu headed this committee in the past.


In the background of the recent happenings in the PAC which has certainly besmirched its image, it is necessary to re-discover its ethos. The PAC examines issues rising above the narrowness of political loyalties and consensus is the basis on which the views of the committee are formulated. In a political environment vitiated by acrimony, deflection from the path of consensus is understandable. But it is not justifiable as Parliament is a mature institution which is led by mature minds. Consensus reflects this maturity. Even in a politically controversial subject where political parties take mutually antagonistic positions, consensus is possible in a committee if all concerned adhere strictly to the rules and conventions. The wisdom of the members and the overriding concern for public interest will make it possible for the committee to arrive at a consensus.


Parliament and its systems function on the basis of rules, directions and conventions. These rules and directions are the products of great wisdom and farsight which lay down procedures for conducting the proceedings of the House and its committees. These procedures serve the basic objective of effective parliamentary oversight of the executive actions. The rules and directions relating to parliamentary committees lay out a perfect scheme for examining an issue of public importance by parliamentarians.


The examination of a subject by a parliamentary committee is a serious exercise. After the evidence taking is completed and before the report is prepared by the secretariat, the committee sits and appraises the evidence and decides about the major recommendations it wishes to make. The draft report reflects these decisions taken by the members collectively. Subsequently when the draft comes before the committee for adoption, the Chairman reads out each paragraph and seeks the approval of it by the committee. The members get the opportunity at this stage to amend any paragraph which according to them does not fully conform to the decision taken. And what comes out after such an exacting exercise is a report which harmonises the different views of the members. Such a report, of course, may lack sensationalism from a political point of view. But it will reflect in full the maturity of Members of Parliament and their sense of seriousness in addressing issues of public importance. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary to strictly adhere to the procedure laid down in the rules.


The trouble that arose in the PAC recently may be attributable, to a large extent, to non-adherence to the well-established processes and procedures in their true spirit at all stages.


In this context the role of Speaker assumes great importance in containing or resolving conflicts. Lok Sabha rules vest enough powers in the Speaker to resolve conflicts relating to jurisdictions, or organisation of the work or any other matter relating to the working of the committees. The committees work under the overall control and supervision of the Speaker. Rules empower the Speaker to issue periodic directions to the Chairmen on any matter relating to the working of the committees. The recent conflict between the JPC and the PAC on the question of jurisdiction has created needless confusion. This conflict could have been anticipated when the JPC was constituted to investigate the 2G scam. The newspapers had reported that when the issue was brought to the Speaker's attention she advised the Chairmen of these committees to sort out the matter themselves which they could not. In the present situation it was unrealistic to expect them to do so. A clear direction by the Speaker on the precise areas to be examined by the PAC would have settled the issue and which would have served as a precedent for future also.


The unfortunate developments in the PAC raise serious questions on the credibility and integrity of this committee. The open bickerings in the committee, the violence done to well-established procedures are all portents of the debilitation of this most powerful oversight mechanism of Parliament. This system has survived so far because of the unswerving commitment of eminent men to the creed of parliamentary supremacy. The Public Accounts Committee epitomises it. That a dissenting note is not allowed in the PAC underscores the fact that the committee's report is always based on consensus.


Dr Murli Manohar Joshi has presented a difficult problem before the Speaker by submitting to her the draft which has not been adopted by the committee and requesting her that it may be laid on the table of the House. The problem has been further complicated by the members constituting the majority, approaching the Speaker with the averment that the draft report has been rejected by the majority. As a matter of fact, there are not many options before the Speaker in the present case. In such situations timely intervention by the Speaker could prevent the situation from getting out of control. A stitch in time saves nine.


There is institutional arrangement in the Lok Sabha Secretariat to periodically apprise the Speaker of what goes on in the committees. This would have enabled the Speaker to give advice on direction at the appropriate time and avoid an ugly situation from developing.


Any way, it would make sense to take a strict view based on rules in the present case. A report of a committee is one which has been formally adopted by it. Since the committee has not adopted any report, no report can be officially submitted to the Speaker. In fact, a report is normally presented to the House. It is submitted to the Speaker only when the House is not in session. The report submitted by the Chairman of the outgoing PAC has the status of a draft only which cannot be presented to the House.


The draft report with all the attendant documents on the issue of 2G spectrum is in the category of "unfinished work of the Committee" under Rule 285 of the Rules of Procedure of the Lok Sabha. All this can be made available to the next committee which is free to pursue the subject.


The rejection of the report by the majority of Members seems to present only a political problem. If the Chairman has adjourned the meeting the subsequent meeting in which the report was rejected cannot have any validity as the Chairman alone has the authority to reconvene the meeting after it is adjourned. In fact, seeking a postponement of the consideration of the report through a motion was a most reasonable option for the majority. This would have saved themselves the public opprobrium which followed the PAC meeting, though they had some genuine grievances.


But, beyond the rules, conventions and strategies and counter-strategies there should be a consensus among parliamentarians on maintaining the integrity of the Public Accounts Committee. The sanctity of institutions must be upheld. Only then can we claim that Indian democracy has real content.


The writer is a former Secretary-General, Lok Sabha.









TREND-SETTING Monica, stealing the glare of publicity by performing "ghurchari" on the eve of her marriage, reminded me of famous lines from "The Last Ride Together". Like Robert Browning, I too turned philosophical. Optimistic as I am like the poet, I reflected, the moment may turn momentous; the maiden ride of a Haryanavi maiden may prove to be her "ride to eternity". Possibly, it may usher in "freshening and fluttering" traditions, horse-whipping their subjugation into feminine buoyancy.


This mare-ride must not be construed as a mere ride per se. It rather signifies effectual horse-power of women empowerment. It bugles the advent of a new order, hoofing male chauvinism to the ground. Though unable to twig her emotions while she was firmly saddled, I could certainly peep into her psyche, flogging into the exclusive domain of males.


I felt as if my own daughter, Archna, was trotting into annals of history, with a sense of pride and fulfilment. Determined as she appeared, she emerged as a sure whistle-blower, to unsaddle the self-assuming males. "My whole heart rises up to bless your name in pride", I patted the pulsating adventurer, echoing the poet.


It made me sad that William Shakespeare, who had tinted the fairer sex as "Frailty, thy name is woman" in Hamlet, was not there to see as to how Monica's hamlet, Khaparwas, had outclassed his own Hamlet. However, the nonagenarian Khushwant Singh, who dubbed the female as a "perpetual parasite" on males in mid-70s, albeit without malice, was still around, watching how women had been galloping in all spheres of life.


Monicas and Archnas of today have now come of age! They wear individuality on their sleeve, insulating their persona. In spite of all handicaps, natural or male-sponsored, they have gate-crashed everywhere, be it the army, aviation, space, sports, police or politics. India has produced several female sentinels clamouring for women empowerment; like "didi" in the east, "behanji" in the west, "auntie" in the north, "amma" in the south and "madam" at the centre.


True, her father's home is now turning cosier, her work-place safer, but she is still made to ride a roller-coaster, when she is transplanted in a family of strangers after her matrimony. She is treated as an alien and has to wade through the "saas-bahu" and "nanad-bhabhi" ordeals day in and day out and compromise her dignity every now and then.


As an epitome of sacrifice, patience, love and inspiration, a woman ever loves to propel her man to achieve newer heights in life. Little wonder, behind every successful man, there is always an inspiring woman. But, will Monica have the comfort of her man as a rear-rider, nay, an inspiring husband behind her, is not known!


A sizzling resolve in the eyes of young women today is an index of a sea change in their outlook, now galloping fast on all turfs. Little doubt, I seize all opportunities, as a supporting parent, to damn female subjugation and, of course, male chauvinism too!









Nobody in India expected the type of frenzied and nervous response from Pakistani military chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani and Pakistan foreign secretary Salman Bashir, threatening not only India but also the US with dire consequences in case the recent Operation Gerenimo, conducted by US commandos who flew all the way to the Pakistani military town of Abbotabad to kill the world's most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden, gets repeated. The big question is why this unusual belligerence from Pakistan. Besides, are we capable of undertaking such an operation ?


This Pakistani jingoism was in response to an off-the-cuff reply to journalists by both, the Indian Army chief, Gen V.K. Singh, and the Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, to their questions on Indian capability, that yes, they can do it. Even if the military chiefs of world's smallest nations like Monaco and Tobago would have given a similar reply to such questions.


One thing that should be understood by all of us is that all three branches of the Indian armed forces have the training and capability to launch this kind of a surprise raid. Even Pakistan knows it. During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the Indian Navy quietly and silently towed their small missile boats to Karachi without the enemy getting any wind of it and played havoc with Karachi's harbour and the oil installations in its vicinity. In India the problem lies with the Indian political leadership that lacks the necessary strategic acumen and political will to take on such types of risks. Their bureaucratic advisors are apparently even more clueless and spineless.


In the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai attack when Indian military chiefs reportedly suggested to their political masters to launch surgical strikes on Pakistani terror camps functioning across the LOC in Kashmir, the Indian political class went into a fit of epilepsy, while the Indian Intelligence agencies said that they were not sure of the exact locations of these camps on the ground.


Contrast this with the US. American intelligence agency CIA got to know of this Abbotabad mansion of Osama Bin Laden in August 2010.They quietly hired a house close to that place in Abbotabad and put their operators on round the clock surveillance. Room by room, the design of this mansion was sent back to America. In US, a complete mock up of this target was made where the American commandos practiced for this proposed raid for a full month.


American President Barrack Obama himself used to monitor all the intelligence originating from Abbotabad on daily basis. After lot of discussions with his security and military advisers, with the possibility of success only being 55:45, Obama issued an order in writing on April 30 to kill Osama. How many current Indian politicians can take on this type of responsibility themselves and issue this type of an unambiguous order? Taking the case of former telecom minister A Raja, embroiled in the 2G scam, as a pointer, the answer is none.


Agreed that diverting world attention from their perfidy of taking America and the West for a ride by hiding Osama in Pakistan was an imperative for Pakistan. Nevertheless this is not all that a worrying factor for Pakistan because America and World at large had in any case of late being giving broad hints that they knew that Pakistan was involved in hiding of Osama. The real worrisome factor for Pakistan is that their Achilles' heel in their security set-up has been exposed. Four helicopters entered Pakistani airspace -- They flew to the heart of Pakistan and then went back unharmed after hovering over a military town for 40 minutes. The first Pakistani F-16 fighter got airborne one hour after Americans had left Pakistani airspace.


This leaves a big gap in Pakistani security. Their genuine worry now is that India may be tempted to resort to this type of operation to take out their most prized jewels - their nuclear weapons. This then opens to us a real option of truly developing this type of capability to keep Pakistan on tenterhooks and away from mischief in India. We must immediately implement the already sanctioned Chief of Defense Staff system in India to provide a single window strategic advice to the government and to coordinate the fighting efficiency of the three services.


For these types of operations to be effective, India will have to revamp its entire Intelligence gathering system. We should cut down on the plethora of Intelligence agencies who only undercut each other for the so called intelligence. We should just have two agencies - Intelligence Bureau for internal intelligence and Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) for foreign intelligence. R&AW must have its powers of working in a proactive manner outside the country restored. Cases in point are CIA of US, MOSSAD of Israel and even the ISI of Pakistan. It is time we wake up to this great opportunity.


The writer is a defence analyst







THE armed forces, para-military and the state police maintain a fairly large establishment of special forces and units for missions that do not generally fall in the realm of regular forces. Highly trained and better equipped than the rank and file, they are designated to perform a wide range of combat and combat support tasks across the entire spectrum of conflict. With the nature of warfare changing and emphasis shifting towards proxy war, low intensity conflict and sub-convectional warfare, the role and importance of Special Forces is assuming greater significance. Indian Special Forces have by and large acquitted themselves commendably, but issues like restructuring, modernisation, equipment, real-time intelligence and support elements need urgent redressal. Some of India's Special Forces are:


Parachute Regiment


With 10 battalions, it forms the largest and most important component of Special Forces in India. It includes traditional parachute units, 5 Para, 6 Para and 7 Para, as well as the Special Forces (SF) units, 1 Para (SF), 2 Para (SF), 3 Para (SF), 4 Para (SF), 9 Para (SF), 10 Para (SF) and 21 Para (SF). Its role includes covert and overt operations behind enemy lines, subversion and sabotage of vital enemy infrastructure through deep penetration and surgical strikes, intelligence gathering, counter-terrorist operations, hostage rescue and spearheading assaults.


Ghatak Platoons


Each infantry battalion has a platoon of highly trained commandos that form the unit's "shock troops" to assault enemy positions and fortifications with or without support from the unit. Their objectives include recce, combat patrol, search and destroy missions, ambush and designating targets for artillery and air raids. They are a means to further the tactical and strategic objectives of the battalion.




The navy's elite special operations wing, MARCOS (Marine Commandos) are considered amongst the world's finest maritime special forces and one of the few qualified to jump in the water with a full combat load. Similar to the US Navy SEALS, they are capable of undertaking operations in all types of terrain. Estimated to number 2,000 troops, their role includes underwater sabotage, hostage rescue and assaults and counter-terrorist operations in maritime and urban environment.




Numbering about 1,500, it is the IAF's special force and some elements are trained like the Para-commandos and MARCOS for missions deep behind enemy lines. Its roles include combat search and rescue of downed personnel from behind enemy lines, suppression of enemy air defence, radar busting, designating targets for guided missiles and munitions and other missions in support of air operations. It is also tasked to protect air bases and vital installations from enemy raids or terrorist attacks, sealing-off aircraft hangars and other major systems during conflicts, form emergency response teams and carry out anti-hijacking operations.


Aviation units


In addition to special missions like deep interdiction, electronic warfare and reconnaissance, the IAF has modified an dequipped some aircraft like the An-32, C-130J and Mi-17 and Mi-35 and trained aircrew to support and sustain operations by the Special Forces like para-dropping, airborne assaults and special heli-borne operations.


National Security Guards


With an overall strength of about 14,000 men drawn from the armed forces and the para-military, it is a special response anti-terrorist force under the home ministry. It is meant to neutralise terrorist threats, specially in urban or built-up areas, handling hijack situations in air and on land, bomb disposal and hostage rescue. The 51 Special Action Group, comprising army personnel, is the NSG,s offensive arm undertaking combat operations, while the Special Rangers Group drawn from the para-military is tasked with support and VVIP protection.


State Police Special Units


Many state police forces have their own special units to deal with local terrorist, insurgency and law and order situations, organised crime, drug trafficking and smuggling within their respective jurisdiction, that are beyond the capabilities of the constabulary. Examples of such forces are the Mumbai Police Anti-Terrorist Squad, Rajasthan Police Special Operations Group, Punjab Police SWAT, Greyhounds (Andhra Pradesh) and Chattisgarh Commando Battalion. — Vijay Mohan



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The finance ministry likes to talk of the "new normal" when it comes to inflation — code for saying that everyone should get used to a higher rate of price increases. The question is whether the country should also adjust its sights when it comes to growth, to a "new normal".

When considering the economy's potential for rapid growth, most people's mind-sets are influenced by the fact that India did better than 9 per cent in each of the three years of 2005-08. That might explain the Planning Commission's decision to target 9-9.5 per cent average annual growth for the next five years (2012-17). Indeed, the Prime Minister and others have talked of even 10 per cent growth.


But 2005-08 may not be a good benchmark; they were exceptional years when the world economy as a whole was on steroids. Almost every country you can name out-performed in that period. In the subsequent three years, India has averaged only 7.8 per cent. To some extent this was because of global turmoil. However, the Reserve Bank has now forecast no more than 8 per cent for this year. If that proves correct, this will be the fourth successive year of sub-9 per cent growth. Perhaps the "new normal" rate of growth is not 9 per cent plus, but only 8.5 per cent, give or take a bit. As it happens, the average annual growth actually achieved over the past eight years is 8.5 per cent.

Growth is of course the end product that flows from a variety of factors: the global economic environment, the quality of domestic economic management, the reforms undertaken to improve the structural potential of the economy, the quality of the monsoons, and such. On three counts, there is room for caution. The major economies in the world are going through a painful period of adjustment, grappling with high debt levels and large deficits. That will moderate growth. As for the domestic reform agenda, it is all but non-existent. The most that the government seems to be thinking of just now is opening up organised retailing to foreign investment, and perhaps selling some dysfunctional state-owned enterprises. Finally, project execution remains abysmal. The current five-year Plan will see barely half the original target of 78,000 MW of new capacity being commissioned; the highway programme continues to make slow progress; and land acquisition and environment issues hold up large industrial projects.

The optimists will argue that, with an investment rate of 36 per cent of GDP, and an incremental capital-output ratio of about 4, it is logical to expect (36 / 4) 9 per cent growth on a sustained basis. Yes, it is logical, but there is no automatic short or even medium-term correlation between the investment rate and GDP growth. For instance, the investment rate in the boom years of 1994-97 (when GDP growth averaged 7.3 per cent) was about the same as in the six subsequent years, when growth slipped to 5.3 per cent. It should be obvious that many factors other than the investment rate impact growth.

Among them is business confidence, which has taken a hit in recent months. The biggest frustration for business is sustained inaction by a government led by "reformers". It is not difficult to change this, but we have just lost two good years; now there is only a one-year window left for action. After that, all eyes will be on the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and populism will rule again. If the ball is not set rolling immediately, you can kiss goodbye to 9 per cent growth.






Overreaction to terror is proving expensive and needlessly inconveniencing citizens

Earlier this month coming back to Delhi after a month long trip to Argentina, my wife, who is a US citizen and has had ten-year multi-entry visas for India ever since we married nearly 40 years ago, was not allowed to board the flight from Heathrow as she was returning less than two months since her departure from Delhi, in early April. Despite my loud protests that there was no such restriction on her visa, she had to return to London, and after some pulling strings got a stamp on her passport to re-enter India signed by the Indian High commissioner. This 'new' visa policy, is of course the government's response to the David Headley affair and, as with so many responses in the 'war on terror', it is fighting the last war. The draconian screening of airline passengers did not prevent a Nigerian student from concealing a bomb in his underpants across airline scanners in three airports as late as December 2009. So, now airline passengers have to virtually strip to board a plane. What are the costs and benefits of these growing restrictions on personal liberty and increase in state power?


When the 'war on terror' was launched in 2001, John Mueller (now at Ohio State University) and I wrote papers on this issue for a book edited by Richard Rosecrance and Arthur Stein (No More States, Rowman and Littlefield, 2006). The direct costs to the US economy were miniscule ($100 billion — less than 0.8 per cent of its GDP).The most serious costs were the increase in the uncertainty associated with doing business, and from preventive measures taken as an overreaction to the terrorist threat. Thus, apart from the direct costs of homeland security, there are the costs imposed on travellers in terms of the opportunity costs of the time lost in security searches at airports. These were estimated in 2002 to be $16 and $32 billion annually for the US. A more recent estimate by Mueller and Mark Stewart (at Newcastle University in Australia) of these indirect costs to US travellers between 2002 and 2011 was $417 billion. Wilst the direct costs of extra homeland security was $690 billion. This expenditure would only have been cost effective, they estimate, if it had prevented or deterred four attacks every day like the one foiled in Times Square in New York.

Neither are the personal risks that citizens face from terrorism serious. Since 1960 till 2001, based on the US State department data, Mueller estimated that the number of Americans killed by international terrorism (including 9/11) is about the same as the number killed over the same period by lightning, or by accidental deer, or by severe allergic reaction to peanuts. While, including both domestic and international terrorism, "far fewer people were killed by terrorists in the entire world over the [20th century] than died in any number of unnoticed civil wars during the century" (pg 48).

What about the fears of future terrorist attacks using stolen chemical, biological and nuclear weapons? Of these, for various reasons, the danger of a 'dirty bomb' using stolen fissile materials is the most pertinent. Biological and chemical weapons are not easy to use by private agents. The damage from a 'dirty bomb' would be localised to the real estate in the area which was made radioactive. The personal danger from the likely 25 per cent increase in radiation over background radiation in the area is miniscule. "A common recommendation from nuclear scientists and engineers" notes Mueller, "is that those exposed should calmly walk away" (pg 62).

The costs of actual and potential terrorism have thus been considerably overblown. Worse, the 'war on terror' by inducing the unjustified panic which the terrorists seek to create, foster their aim of creating terror. Worse, by extending State powers and emasculating civil liberties they promote the very illiberal societies and 'police' states the jehadis themselves seek. A 'terror industry' develops with the same rent-seeking purposes as so many other state-sponsored attempts to create 'risk free' societies. Terrorism will always be with us. But, as for instance, given the known risks from driving, which causes over 40,000 deaths every year in automobile accidents in the US, Americans have not stopped driving. But, with the hysteria and panic created by the much smaller number of deaths from terrorism, they (and increasingly many across the world in liberal democracies) are willing to devote scarce resources to chasing horrendous phantoms. They would do better to remember the words of an earlier President. " The only thing we have to fear is fear itself".

How should the terrorist threat be dealt with? For many years I lived in London during the IRA's terrorist operations. The IRA not only succeeded in nearly killing Margret Thatcher and most of her cabinet in the Brighton bombing, but successfully launched a missile into John Major's cabinet room during a meeting. But during these Irish troubles, the British continued to follow the advice in an official Second World poster (to be issued in case of a German invasion): KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. They dealt with the IRA terrorists by hunting them down through the usual intelligence methods and incarcerating or killing them. Meanwhile, the economic chaos and insecurity the IRA caused in its 'homeland' — Northern Ireland — plus the growing realisation of the failure of terrorism to achieve its aims, led to the political settlement contained in the Good Friday agreement.

In dealing with the undeniable state-sponsored Pakistani terrorism in India, a similar policy is relevant. The only long-term solution is to change the Pakistan army's calculus that it can succeed in destroying India (or its economy) through its jihadi agents. As this tiger it has unleashed, increasingly turns( as it has) against its sponsors, and the growing distance between its citizens in a stagnant and those in the booming Indian economy becomes apparent to its people (as is happening), the 'rent seeking' soldiers might at last realise that it is in their interests to complete the deal, which Musharaff nearly completed with Dr Manmohan Singh. Meanwhile, intelligence remains vital in apprehending and forestalling ISI-sponsored terrorists. But this is not done through heavy handed suppression of civil liberties. When,with information from Western intelligence agencies, about the co-ordinates of suspicious boats moving to Bombay, along with mobile numbers of some terrorists, Indian intelligence failed to forestall the 26/11 attacks, it is absurd to believe that they can forestall future terrorist plots by preventing my 70-year-old American wife from coming back to India, a month after she had left our New Delhi home.





A Saudi businessman, formerly domiciled in Afghanistan, and wanted by the US for crimes he instigated in Africa, and the US, was hiding in Pakistan. The Americans killed him in a cross-border raid by heli-borne special forces.

The life and death of Osama Bin Laden (OBL) is a good illustration of globalisation. By definition, globalisation means resources, information and human skill sets moving seamlessly across borders. Also, events in one place have strong ripple effects in others due to globalisation.


OBL's story featured skills and resources switched between locales scattered across continents. It involved the use of globalised resources and technologies accessed as needed in the form of American stealth-helicopters, Chinese box-cutters, Afghan pack mules, Pakistani herbal viagra, Russian AK47s, etc.

His passing sparked off resonances everywhere, again a hallmark of globalisation. Among the more risible outcomes was the moustache-twirling as Indian and Pakistan military establishments boasted about the ability to execute cross border strikes. At least, this would be risible, if the folks in question didn't command large quantities of weapons.

Why would the lead poisoning of a Saudi at American hands spark off such an absurd exchange? India knew nothing about OBL's location. Pakistan insists it didn't either. Neither nation gains by letting the other know about its cross-border strike capability. Or does it? Consider this as a game played by many actors with diverse interests all trying to maximise their respective utilities.

Pakistan's establishment (civil and military) would like it believed they knew nothing of OBL. This is like Kamran Akmal countering match-fixing charges with the plea that he dropped catches out of sheer incompetence.

Pakistan would also like to discourage copycat Indian strikes. If India took such action, the Pakistanis would "have" to retaliate, sparking a potentially disastrous war. Any such conflict could also mean being cut off from the teat of massive US aid.

India's military establishment knows the political will to hit cross-border targets is lacking. Absence of political will has meant a lack of the human intelligence resources (aka spy networks) required to identify and hit such targets.

Ideally, the Indian defence establishment would like to develop humint. Lacking much leverage with the Indian political establishment, it would, at the minimum, want the Pakistanis to believe it possesses the ability to do cross-border strikes. Such a belief may, perhaps, induce Pakistan to downscale its support of terrorism.

The Indian political establishment wants to leverage Pakistan's embarrassment into tangible realpolitik gains. Its interests may diverge from the Indian military establishment in this regard.

The interests of the Pakistani military and civilian establishments converge in being reckoned ignorant of OBL's location. But they diverge in other places, including in the small matter of how to engage with India.

Whatever happens to the Indo-Pak relationship will be a result of the interplay of these convergent, divergent and diametrically opposed interests. Mathematical models can help suggest possible strategies and outcomes.

Such models were a prime reason why the Cold War did not go "hot". It was crucial that both US and USSR modelled potential areas of conflicts before committing to action. In a real sense, they were speaking the same language during some 40 years of bluff-counter-bluff and proxy wars.

Neither Pakistan nor India possesses those skills, or takes such analysis seriously. However, the politics of nuclear poker are far too important to be left to mathematically-unaware political agents.

The need of the hour is not for immediate cross-border strikes or "no first use" declarations. It is to develop a desi equivalent of the Rand Institute that can model the possible outcomes of cross-border strikes and no first use declarations. If India puts such an institution in place, that would automatically induce the Pakistanis to do the same. Then, despite umpteen wars and impressively waxed moustaches, we might end up speaking the same language





I got the wife to put away whatever she was doing and said, I have something serious to discuss with you. A bit intrigued, she put aside the work she had brought from office and waited for me to begin. After giving a suitable pause to emphasise the importance of what I was about to utter, I declared, I am 62.

Despite all the build-up I had engineered to drive home the enormity of what I wanted to convey, my statement failed to create a ripple. She waited for me to continue and when she found that I was not forthcoming any more, she said, well go on, so what? I know your age and since you have already retired, you have no interest in fiddling your school leaving certificate.


A put down like that would be enough to put off any ordinary mortal but I was not in an ordinary state of mind. There comes a stage in a man's life when he will bear with the most inhuman dismissiveness and still go on to make his point. Do you realise, I went on, so is DSK, as the French call him. I thought that would do the job, make her sit up, but no.

Who on earth is DSK, she asked, leaving me no option but to fully spell out the three dreadful words, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Then the penny or the centime dropped and she said, you mean the fellow who is charged with raping a hotel maid? Yes, I nodded and added with all the gravity that came to me so naturally, do you appreciate the danger I am in?

You are not an accomplice, are you, she asked incredulously, in a tone that actually enquired if I had gone out of my mind. Unable to establish the connection, I went on to my next point: Do you know how old Rajat Gupta is? This floored her even more as she was totally clueless about the headlines in the business papers. I could do little but go into a long winded explanation of what insider trading was, what McKinsey was and how incredible it was that a former MD of the hallowed consultancy would be accused of insider trading. Not satisfied with being a millionaire, he wanted to become a billionaire.

Then, after this long detour, I tried one last time to bring back the drama in what I wanted to convey by pointing out that DSK and Rajat Gupta and I were all in acute and imminent danger as we were all 62. But the relief from getting it off my chest was shortlived. She pondered for a bit and replied, but you don't have one person's libido or the other person's greed. So what if you are all of the same age.

By now exasperation was getting the better of me but I still kept my cool and urged, try not to be so literal; try and understand the existential issue at stake. They are no criminals, not yet at least. They are actually in the vice like grip of all the forces that possess men when they are in that incredibly dangerous territory of being 62 or thereabouts.

Having gone that far, I warmed up to my philosophical exposition and continued. Let's not get literal about 62; it could be a bit more or less. The point is, there used to be something called the mid-life crisis in the last century which used to hit men when they crossed 40. Today, with medical science and the carefully controlled lifestyle of the successful, the most important among men are hitting that danger zone as they cross 60.

They still have huge energy, in mind and body, and desperately want to end their show as achievers with one last go that will produce a climax. They want to do the one biggest thing before they start pushing 70 and begin to unwind. This combination of energy and realisation that there is not much time left creates an explosive situation. Some are able to let off steam safely, like opting for early retirement, then taking up a new hobby and maybe write a book. But others are not so lucky.

Particularly when they are confronted with a good looking hotel maid, snapped the wife. Try not to be judgemental, I pleated, but was slapped with the sharp retort: if I am not going to be upset about this kind of thing then what shall I get upset about. Then, after cooling down a little she asked, so now that you have found out what danger you are in, what are you going to do about it?

Much relieved that she was getting practical about my dilemma, I said, that is what I wanted to discuss with you. What do I do? Do I go for analysis (that's what people usually do in books and movies at that point) or… She did not let me finish my sentence and interjected, or I break your head if you do anything silly.

Violence will not put an end to the existential dilemma that I am trying to make you appreciate, I pleaded. After a few years the crisis will pass. I will be too old to be able to be up to anything. But right now I am in this critical slot as so many important men are. Like them I am 62. But instead of offering some help, she lost all interest and went back to her work, saying, go see an analyst if you like, but do not so much as look the way of hotel maids half your age.






Whether it is a Marxian class analysis or a detailed constituency-wise study, all elections are won or lost because of local factors. For the common man, big national problems don't matter and if they do, they are so much fodder for 'timepass' or tawdry gossip. Every adult has known this for a long time and yet our obsession with politics of 'who comes, who goes' kind has grown with every new election. Is this because we don't understand the games politicians play or we don't introspect on the everyday happenings around us? Few would agree with this if only because the mass media intrudes into every aspect of our lives and makes sure that we look, listen and (hopefully) learn. Perhaps the answer lies in our lack of interests beyond the immediate that Saul Frampton talks about in When I am playing with my cat, how do I know she is not playing with me? Montaigne and Being in Touch with Life (Faber, Special Indian Price, £11.99) — based on the life and work of the great Renaissance writer who seems to have become a man of our times.

Yet, who was Montaigne and why has he recaptured the interest and affection of every generation? Montaigne's Essays have withstood the test of time as few works of literature have, constantly inspiring re-translation and re-examination. His attractions have led writers as diverse as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Virginia Woolf and Andre Gide — Frampton's Cat is a popular introduction to Montaigne's Essays that should get the serious common reader to look into them.


Born in 1533, Michel Montaigne came from a minor French nobility near the wine growing area of Bordeaux in France. He retired at the age of 38 and from then till the time of this death he lived primarily among his library of a thousand books he inherited from his friend; he began writing essays shortly thereafter and never stopped. He died in 1592 at the age of 58.

Everything interested Montaigne: deep questions about matters like friendship and human emotion, familiar matters such as coaches and animals, light matters, including the nature of fun itself, and even the nature of his own suffering from kidney stones. These essays are wide-ranging and available in Penguin Classics, which says in its exhaustive Introduction that "there is no such thing as a definitive edition of the Essays. One has to choose and the Essays are a prime example of the expanding book."

Take some of the essays at random. We reach the same ends by discrepant means that echoes Shakespeare's advice "from indirections do directions find; Our emotions get carried away beyond us; On Liars; On Prognostications; On Constancy; On Fear; To philosophise is to know how to die; On affectionate relationships; On schoolmasters' learning; On fleeing from pleasures at the cost of of one's life; Fortune is often found in reason's train; How we weep and laugh at the same thing; On Solitude; On the inconstancy of our actions' 'Work can wait till tomorrow'; On Conscience; On Drunkenness and so on. You could say just about every gamut of human feelings and emotions that parallels in many ways Shakespeare at the height of his powers.

Reading was the solace of Montaigne's life. "It consoles me in my retreat; it relieves me of the weight of distressing idleness and, at any time, can rid me of boring company. It blunts the stabs of pain whenever pain is overpowering and extreme. To distract me from morose thoughts, I simply need to have recourse to books."

Montaigne had a set of fifty-seven short inscriptions culled from the Bible and the classics painted across the wooden beams of his castle and these suggested profound reservations about the benefits of having a mind. For instance, everything is too complicated for men to be able to understand… Ecclesiastes

If Montaigne has endured for so long it is not merely because of range of his essays but his style — he is regarded as the first and greatest of essayists — which were distinguished by intimacy and informality. He didn't have any preconceived notions of order and regularity; it is irregularity like 'a loose sally of the mind' is what makes them so attractive. Like daily journalism, he seems to be talking on paper — unconstrained, independent in his tastes, but close to the weave and texture of his own experience. Which is what makes them so readable and authentic; there's nothing fake about them.

For instance, talking of true wisdom, he says it must involve an accommodation with our baser selves, it must adopt a modest view about the role that intelligence and high culture can play in any life and accept the urgent and at times deeply unmortifying demands of our mortal frame. So, he concludes:

"What is the use of those high philosophical peaks on which no human being can settle and those rules which exceed our practice and our power? It is not very clever to tailor (our) obligations to the standards of a different kind of being."

Montaigne's ultimate, liberal humanist approach is exemplified in the open-minded question of the book's title, which asks who is playing with whom when he is playing a game with his cat.





Women politicians tend to baulk at references to their gender

Most people thought West Bengal's new chief minister was getting her he, she and it confused when she blurted out "I am a simple man." Poor thing, Mamata Banerjee's well-wishers (which means all the world and his wife since everyone loves a winner) explained, she meant sadharon manush, aam admi, a person rather than a man. After all, her "Maa, Mati, Manush … Mother, Earth, Humans" slogan embraces everybody. It seemed plausible, especially since Miss Banerjee added, "I want to continue my life like a commoner, like a simple man." India's other new woman chief minister, Jayalalithaa, is hardly a commoner or simple, and she's certainly not a man.


But Miss Banerjee's gaffe may not have been a gaffe. It may have been a shrewd politician's casual assertion of her determination to wear the pants… or dhoti.

Women in politics are like that only. Indira Gandhi protested when an Australian journalist introduced her at the Press Club in Canberra as "a remarkable woman." She had no quarrel with the adjective; she may even have thought "remarkable" a somewhat tame description of her multifarious personality. But the noun was intolerable. Mrs Gandhi roundly told the audience she didn't like being called a "woman". She had always thought of herself as a "human being."

It doesn't need a linguist to point out that the objection was absurd for no one ever said women were not human beings. Since no man objects to being called a man, why should a woman object to being called a woman unless she thinks the term derogatory? The only exception Mrs Gandhi was prepared to make to her affirmation of masculinity was when Atal Behari Vajpayee compared her to Durga. But, then, despite her several children, the goddess who was more than a match for no less a male than Asura, was hardly the epitome of femininity. What Mrs Gandhi probably enjoyed most was being called "the only man in a Cabinet of women", the phrase originally coined for Israel's grey-haired and motherly Golda Meir.

No legends were woven around the world's first woman prime minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike with her deep bass voice and no-nonsense manner. The glamorous Benazir Bhutto didn't have any masculine pretensions since her friend and biographer referred to her in his book's title as Shahzadi (Shah's daughter) and not Shah. Shah would not have been inappropriate since India's first woman ruler was called Razia Sultan more often than Razia Sultana.

Among other royals, Russia's Catherine the Great referred to herself as a gentleman and England's Elizabeth I boasted of having a king's heart in a woman's body. The present Queen Elizabeth may not do either but it's tradition for others in Lancashire towns to toast her as "Duke of Lancaster". When I first heard it, I wondered whether Prince Philip, had he been present, would be called Duchess. One imagines he wouldn't be amused. Neither would Mrs M K Narayanan like the appellation of governess of West Bengal. Spouses tend to be a problem, as the man who described his master's wife as his mistress soon discovered.

Actually, Mrs Gandhi demanded the best of both worlds, male and female. So did Britain's Margaret Thatcher whose "dainty ankles" another Tory politician, the late Alan Clark, praised. Lady Thatcher could simper about "we girls" and deliver sexist jibes like "If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman" or "It may be the cock that crows, but it is the hen that lays the eggs." But she was also the notorious Iron Lady whom nothing and no one could budge.

But Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew thought that though Indira Gandhi "affected some feminine ways, smiling coquettishly at men during social conversation" she was "more determined and ruthless" than Lady Thatcher, Mrs Bandaranaike or Benazir Bhutto. Her attractive appearance and elegant attire notwithstanding, "once into the flow of an argument, there was that steel in her that would match any Kremlin leader." Presumably, a female Kremlin leader would be an oxymoron.

Some descriptions defy logic. Some job descriptions are beyond gender. A woman judge in Britain is content to be Mr Justice. No one would dream of calling Miss Banerjee chief ministress, even if such a word existed. In fact, someone who is man enough to take on the daunting task of reconstructing West Bengal with a human face (to cite Trinamul's ambitious manifesto) must be much more than "a simple man". Hats off to her… sorry, him. 





Pampered by subsidised education, IITians make a small start in helping the underprivileged. Is it enough?

This is not the commonly-known "creamy layer" hierarchy within India's dalits, but the group long known as the face of India's "brain-drain": the IITians.


The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), 15 in all, continue to receive disproportionately high government grants compared to other engineering colleges. The undergraduates are subsidised nearly 80 per cent by the government while master of technology students receive full scholarships.

Pampered and elite, IITians, in India at least, are successful entrepreneurs and industry-leaders. A majority of them, however, have a history of hotfooting it to the US after being educated at tax-payers' expense. Any paybacks have traditionally been in the form of financial donations from IIT alumni to their alma mater institutions, much in the tradition of American Ivy League institutions.

This tradition, however, appears to be now on the threshold of some change. At a gathering of IIT Kharagpur's Bangalore-based alumni, Harish Hande of Selco-India, motivated Kollur Dhananjay, the secretary of the Bangalore association, to coordinate funds for a rural electrification project named Light for Education. The project, implemented through Selco, provides impoverished tribal children in Karnataka with solar lamps for studying at home. These can be charged daily through a centralised system set up in the children's secondary school, thus saving them the cost of buying kerosene for lamps. The project aims to spread to other states too.

Hande, whose work on rural electrification has won his organisation several awards, including the Green Oscars or Ashden award, says he told his audience that it was high time they started paying their debt of a subsidised education.

"It is not only of giving back to society," Hande told his alumni audience, "but about contributing as a partner, not just a giver."

Dhananjay took Hande's idea on rural education through electrification to another senior IITian, Arjun Menda, whose corporate real-estate industry, RMZ, has been funding education through the Menda Foundation for the past 15 years. Menda, who disburses 220 higher-education scholarships every year, says he will match all grants the alumni association garners for the Light for Education programme.

Another IIT Kharagpur alumnus and former director of Motorola S Venkatesam ("Sam") has tackled rural electrification, which is lacking in 56 per cent of rural households, according to a 2010 World Bank report. The company he floated, Energy Plantation Projects India (EPPI), now has a ready 500-acre "energy forest" in the Madurai district and is looking for funds to set up the first of five 2Mw biomass power plants to be sourced from plantations of the indigenous neem family's Melia Dubia and seven other local species. EPPI changed its work-timings to accommodate local village women into their workforce and has won acceptance from the villagers.

"I felt the need to do something socially relevant and economically useful," says Venkatesam, "but our 'CSR' (corporate social responsibility) is our business survival requisite."

In Mumbai, IIT Kharagpur alumnus Puneet Kumar now coordinates a pan-IIT company – Ekalavya Creations – set up by well-known Kharagpur alumni. One of them is the now-retired B K Syngal of VSNL, known as the father of the Internet in India. Another is Arjun Malhotra, co-founder of the leading technology group HCL. The company aims to use IT for educational development for the underprivileged and has several e-learning initiatives set up through its laboratory in IIT Bombay.

Ekalavya has begun by traversing 2,000 km around the country, looking at IITians working in the field. There are, among several case studies, Ravi Chopra of IIT Bombay, founder of the People's Science Institute in Dehradun, working in watershed development and rural empowerment in Uttarakhand, Brij Kothari, an IIT Kanpur alumnus, who devised "same language subtitling" in TV for mass literacy in India and Kharagpur gold-medallist, now spiritual leader, Soumyendranath Bannerjee who has set up several schools in Deogarh, Madhya Pradesh.

Ekalavya now plans to take these case studies to the next pan-IIT meet to motivate alumni.

However, these instances are few and far between and do not reflect an awareness in the IIT faculty and curricula for the need of applying technology in the mass sector. And IIT alumni have also criticised this.

In Bangalore, Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Rajeev Chawla of IIT Kanpur, who designed the e-governance model for land records in India, now being replicated elsewhere, says even IITians in the IAS, let alone in civil society, are not achieving enough, given their intelligence and training.

"IITians within the IAS are our cream. We don't need to blame the government system or the lack of motivated faculty in our alma maters to achieve. It's purely the indifference, the seeking of conventional success, of power, prestige and money," says Chawla.

"And in all my years in the IAS, I have not had any IIT alumni coming to me for help in collaborating on any work in the public sector," adds Chawla.

Nevertheless, IIT Kharagpur Associate Professor Joy Sen, does blame bureaucracy within the governance system as having stifled leaders in the public sector, but agrees that mindsets in IIT faculty need to change, especially to incorporate modern relevance to environment and development.

Chawla blames Indian society, rather than faculty inadequacies. "The rush for power, prestige and money is a social malaise that has included IIT graduates," he says.

The younger generation of alumni, however, are circumspect about the criticism.

"We are technical guys, so this 'social front' has come late to us," says Bombay-based Kharagpur alumnus (class of 2002) Puneet Kumar.

"This is a start," says Dhananjay, speaking of the Light for Education programme.

"I encourage every IITian to think hard on how many engineers, scientists and people we need to get rid of poverty in India," says senior IITian Ravi Chopra.

"And then, take a leap," he adds.

The author is Vice Chair, Forum of Environmental Journalists of India





Pampered by subsidised education, IITians make a small start in helping the underprivileged. Is it enough?

This is not the commonly-known "creamy layer" hierarchy within India's dalits, but the group long known as the face of India's "brain-drain": the IITians.


 The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), 15 in all, continue to receive disproportionately high government grants compared to other engineering colleges. The undergraduates are subsidised nearly 80 per cent by the government while master of technology students receive full scholarships.

Pampered and elite, IITians, in India at least, are successful entrepreneurs and industry-leaders. A majority of them, however, have a history of hotfooting it to the US after being educated at tax-payers' expense. Any paybacks have traditionally been in the form of financial donations from IIT alumni to their alma mater institutions, much in the tradition of American Ivy League institutions.

This tradition, however, appears to be now on the threshold of some change. At a gathering of IIT Kharagpur's Bangalore-based alumni, Harish Hande of Selco-India, motivated Kollur Dhananjay, the secretary of the Bangalore association, to coordinate funds for a rural electrification project named Light for Education. The project, implemented through Selco, provides impoverished tribal children in Karnataka with solar lamps for studying at home. These can be charged daily through a centralised system set up in the children's secondary school, thus saving them the cost of buying kerosene for lamps. The project aims to spread to other states too.

Hande, whose work on rural electrification has won his organisation several awards, including the Green Oscars or Ashden award, says he told his audience that it was high time they started paying their debt of a subsidised education.

"It is not only of giving back to society," Hande told his alumni audience, "but about contributing as a partner, not just a giver."

Dhananjay took Hande's idea on rural education through electrification to another senior IITian, Arjun Menda, whose corporate real-estate industry, RMZ, has been funding education through the Menda Foundation for the past 15 years. Menda, who disburses 220 higher-education scholarships every year, says he will match all grants the alumni association garners for the Light for Education programme.

Another IIT Kharagpur alumnus and former director of Motorola S Venkatesam ("Sam") has tackled rural electrification, which is lacking in 56 per cent of rural households, according to a 2010 World Bank report. The company he floated, Energy Plantation Projects India (EPPI), now has a ready 500-acre "energy forest" in the Madurai district and is looking for funds to set up the first of five 2Mw biomass power plants to be sourced from plantations of the indigenous neem family's Melia Dubia and seven other local species. EPPI changed its work-timings to accommodate local village women into their workforce and has won acceptance from the villagers.

"I felt the need to do something socially relevant and economically useful," says Venkatesam, "but our 'CSR' (corporate social responsibility) is our business survival requisite."

In Mumbai, IIT Kharagpur alumnus Puneet Kumar now coordinates a pan-IIT company – Ekalavya Creations – set up by well-known Kharagpur alumni. One of them is the now-retired B K Syngal of VSNL, known as the father of the Internet in India. Another is Arjun Malhotra, co-founder of the leading technology group HCL. The company aims to use IT for educational development for the underprivileged and has several e-learning initiatives set up through its laboratory in IIT Bombay.

Ekalavya has begun by traversing 2,000 km around the country, looking at IITians working in the field. There are, among several case studies, Ravi Chopra of IIT Bombay, founder of the People's Science Institute in Dehradun, working in watershed development and rural empowerment in Uttarakhand, Brij Kothari, an IIT Kanpur alumnus, who devised "same language subtitling" in TV for mass literacy in India and Kharagpur gold-medallist, now spiritual leader, Soumyendranath Bannerjee who has set up several schools in Deogarh, Madhya Pradesh.

Ekalavya now plans to take these case studies to the next pan-IIT meet to motivate alumni.

However, these instances are few and far between and do not reflect an awareness in the IIT faculty and curricula for the need of applying technology in the mass sector. And IIT alumni have also criticised this.

In Bangalore, Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Rajeev Chawla of IIT Kanpur, who designed the e-governance model for land records in India, now being replicated elsewhere, says even IITians in the IAS, let alone in civil society, are not achieving enough, given their intelligence and training.

"IITians within the IAS are our cream. We don't need to blame the government system or the lack of motivated faculty in our alma maters to achieve. It's purely the indifference, the seeking of conventional success, of power, prestige and money," says Chawla.

"And in all my years in the IAS, I have not had any IIT alumni coming to me for help in collaborating on any work in the public sector," adds Chawla.

Nevertheless, IIT Kharagpur Associate Professor Joy Sen, does blame bureaucracy within the governance system as having stifled leaders in the public sector, but agrees that mindsets in IIT faculty need to change, especially to incorporate modern relevance to environment and development.

Chawla blames Indian society, rather than faculty inadequacies. "The rush for power, prestige and money is a social malaise that has included IIT graduates," he says.

The younger generation of alumni, however, are circumspect about the criticism.

"We are technical guys, so this 'social front' has come late to us," says Bombay-based Kharagpur alumnus (class of 2002) Puneet Kumar.

"This is a start," says Dhananjay, speaking of the Light for Education programme.

"I encourage every IITian to think hard on how many engineers, scientists and people we need to get rid of poverty in India," says senior IITian Ravi Chopra.

"And then, take a leap," he adds.

The author is Vice Chair, Forum of Environmental Journalists of India





I read the most brilliant article in the April 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review titled "Ethical Breakdown" that resonated a great deal with me, and I want to share it, because I suspect that many of us are thinking a lot about the "difficulty of being good" — that lovely phrase which has become my touchstone ever since I read it on the cover of Gurcharan Das's book. The article deals with the question of why good people do unacceptable things, and why it doesn't get spotted and stopped early on. Think board dynamics; where we sometimes unthinkingly classify asking questions or insisting on more analysis as disruptive or demoralising behaviour, when the sense of the house is that it is a good decision and there is a time-bound pressure to it so why not go ahead; or in not being appreciative enough of good outcomes that have been achieved at the expense of long-term health or by using practices or processes to arrive at them that are not that good and so on. Often there is the refrain of "let's be practical", and that word hides a multitude of sins. Let's be practical, everyone does it and we will be at a competitive disadvantage if we don't, let's be practical, taking this may cause xyz to quit and that will make things quite tough, let's be practical you have to work with this person in some other situations that are important to you and voting against a resolution he or she is supporting will queer the pitch and so on.

The Harvard Business Review article by Max H Bazerman and Ann E Turnbull – also authors of Blind Spots: Why we fail to do what's right and what to do about it – is an eye-opener because it suggests that more often than not we condone or even encourage behaviour that is not ethical; and that it is small and minor but continuous violation of ethics that end up in big disaster situations. As we would say in India, unethical behaviour usually "jhatke se nahin hota hai, halaal se hota hai". They describe it as "the slippery slope", where small infractions may be accruing over time. As a remedy they suggest "be alert for even trivial ethical infractions and address them immediately. Investigate whether a change in behaviour has occurred". Suggesting this of course could lead to peer disapproval because it is so minor that the cost of everybody's time and morale is more valuable. But they use a compelling analogy of the frog and hot water. Put a frog directly into hot water, and it jumps right out but put it into cold water and heat the water gradually and it doesn't notice that the water has got that hot. So, too, does tolerance for not doing the right thing.


 "Ill-conceived goals" is another reason they give — saying that there are "unintended consequences when devising goals and incentives." We have seen this often with remuneration incentives like stock options given to management or board of directors. The argument that is put forward that these will promote outright unethical practices like cooking the financials is really not the problem because 99 per cent of managers have a strong sense of ethics. However, they do orient business judgement and decision-making in a direction that favours short-term results at the expense of the long-term fundamental health of the company — developing management by moving people into different roles, evaluating the benefits of organic growth and the risks of inorganic growth fairly and so on. Sometimes in a culture that celebrates meeting business targets and disgraces those who don't, a slightly underperforming business may end up taking a few steps the ethics and the consequences of which they haven't fully thought through. Yes, corporate life is for the big boys and girls who should be able to stand the heat or else get out of the kitchen; but life is about human frailties and esteem needs as well. The remedy suggested by the authors is to brainstorm "unintended consequences of goals and incentives" and consider alternative ways to reward. Therefore, it isn't about keeping or throwing out these incentives but it is about what else to add to the performance parameters to mitigate them.

Perhaps the most obvious and the most insidious thing that needs to be guarded against is what the author calls "overvaluing outcomes". So if we clock a 10 per cent growth rate for the next year and the stock market hits an all time high, then the fact that there was a lot of corruption in this government will not become important anymore. As boards are sometime wont to say, why ask too many questions of a spectacularly successful business or probe a questionable action that added to shareholder value. The authors call this "we give a pass to unethical behaviour if the outcome is good". The remedy they suggest is obvious, but here's where the difficulty of being good kicks in! They suggest "reward solid decision processes not just good outcomes". Because the flip side of this is do not reward — or heaven forbid even penalise good outcomes for bad process.

Perhaps the most thought-provoking line in the article, in the context of a case study of the faulty Ford Pinto that was allowed to go to market despite flaws that later killed people who drove it, and was described as evidence of greed and callousness on the part of the management : we suspect that few if any of the executives believed they were making an unethical choice — apparently because they thought of it as purely a business decision rather than an unethical one.

The writer is an independent market strategy consultant








The State Bank of India stock has been beaten down by nearly Rs 300 during the past few days, following the announcement of its fourth quarter results. The 99 per cent drop in profits, the increase in non-performing assets, higher provisioning and the fall in net interest margins have disappointed the market. Although the scale of drop may have been a bit steep, it must be recognised as a one-off occurrence, driven by the new management's desire to sweep the books clean at the start of its tenure.  This phenomenon is not new — either to SBI or to other public sector banks. The 'new chairman syndrome' has often resulted in skeletons tumbling out of cupboards.  Private banks have been spared this agony because their honchos tend to have longer tenures, they are more accountable and are truly board-governed.

Although the SBI results are disappointing, it would seem the market's general pessimism is a bit overdone.   For, there can be little doubt that the clean-up of books is welcome — even if it tends to show up predecessors in less than favourable light.  Certainly, investors, institutions and other stakeholders, such as the regulator and the government, should have no cause for complaint if the process is transparent and appropriate disclosures are made.  If the bank is willing to absorb its losses and shortfalls (unfunded pension/gratuity) at one go, that ought to be commended as a prudent step. In fact, SBI's decision to make up the shortfall in the pension account by transferring Rs 7,927 crore from its reserves is a measure that should be emulated by other banks too.  This will leave banks free to worry only about each year's pension contribution from here on and no heavy provisioning cover will weigh down profits for the next few years.

Banks will need every bit of this cushion, given that the next two years may be difficult. Economic growth is expected to slow down as high inflation forces monetary tightening. This will mean a slowdown in loan growth, a possible rise in non-performing loans and higher provisioning for the whole banking sector. Even when growth was high, SBI's non-performing assets doubled in the last three years. Now it must brace up to pay the price for the excesses of a previous period. That's where counter-cyclical buffers come into play — and that's why the market must welcome a slightly tougher approach to provisioning — (whether for non-performing assets or for other liabilities), by the bank. It is also the reason why capital-raising plans will be of crucial importance. The bank is due to raise about Rs 20,000 crore and the management has expressed its confidence in securing the necessary contribution from the government (which holds 59.40 per cent of its equity), sooner than later.






On October 25, 1988, Rajpath in Lutyens' Delhi was turned into a virtual Janpath, as half-a-million farmers from western Uttar Pradesh (UP) descended upon the Boat Club lawns in the ceremonial boulevard of the Republic of India. What followed was an unprecedented week-long siege. Never before had the country's power elite been forced into this kind of arm's length engagement — literally — with people filling the entire stretch from Vijay Chowk to India Gate, with their tractors, trolleys, carts, charpoys, hookahs and cooking angithis.

October 1988 marked the pinnacle of Mahendra Singh Tikait's journey as a farmer leader, which began with a four-day dharna at the Karmukheri power station in January 1987, against the UP Government's move to hike electricity tariffs by a third. A year later came the 24-day gherao of the Meerut Commissionerate (for an increase in sugarcane prices to Rs 35/quintal and waiver of six months' power bills) and, then, the 110-day Rajabpur Satyagraha in March-June (over police firing on ryots during the Meerut agitation).


The Boat Club Panchayat, in a sense, was the high noon for not just Tikait, but also for farmers' movements in India. The 1980s saw a host of them emerge — from Tikait's Bharatiya Kisan Union to Sharad Joshi's Shetkari Sanghatana and M.D. Nanjundaswamy's Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.

But over the subsequent decade, they had all fizzled out or become pale shadows of their past. Tikait was reduced to a political non-entity much before he passed away last Sunday. His son, Rakesh, fought the 2007 UP assembly elections from Khatauli with Congress support — only to finish a distant sixth.

The farmer leaders of recent years have not been half as successful in mobilising the constituents they claim to represent. Some — very often not serious farmers themselves — have found it expedient to even cultivate European aid agencies or, alternatively, agri-business MNCs. Not surprisingly, they have tended to espouse causes — either extreme aversion or uncritical support for GM and other new technologies — far removed from the farmers' day-to-day concerns of erratic power, timely availability of fertiliser and credit, and marketability of produce. The result is that autonomous, grassroots farmers' movements of the sort Tikait led in the 1980s have practically ceased to exist.

There is a certain irony to the above decline. The 1980s were a time when Indian agriculture wasn't faring too badly. During 1980-81 to 1990-91, overall crop production grew annually by 3.2 per cent, as against the average 2.2 per cent for the early Green Revolution period from 1967-68 to 1980-81. Moreover, yields were on the rise: The national average for wheat almost doubled from 1.2 tonnes to 2.2 tonnes a hectare between the early 1970s to the late 1980s, while going up from 1.6 to 2.6 tonnes in paddy.

All these meant a peasantry that was "very sure of its future in agriculture", as the Oxford scholar, Judith Heyer, discovered from a survey of farmers with open well-irrigated plots, or thottams, near Coimbatore in 1981-82. The prestige attached to farming was also noted by the sociologist, Ravinder Kaur, in a Punjab village study done around the same period: "The Jat might be employed as a school teacher or serve in the military, but he saw his primary role as that of an agriculturalist; his connection with land was what he held most dear."

The optimism surrounding agriculture had, however, dried up by the turn of the century. Revisiting the same thottam farming families in 1996, Heyer encountered a community less confident and "investing in ways that would make it possible for their sons to move out of agriculture in future". This was also confirmed by the National Sample Survey Organisation, which, in a special 2003 Situation Assessment study, reported that 40 per cent of Indian farmers, given a choice, would "take up some other career".


The underlying cause of disenchantment was obviously yields. These had plateaued to 2.6-2.7 tonnes in wheat and 3-3.1 tonnes for paddy, alongside soaring cultivation costs, declining water tables and diminishing response to fertiliser application. During 1990-91 to 2000-01, total crop output growth fell to less than 2 per cent a year. While there has been some revival since 2005-06, it has not reversed the 'crisis' discourse that now dominates discussions on Indian agriculture.

But that still begs the question: Why has the present agricultural crisis not provided fertile ground for farmers' movements? Correspondingly, what explains their success in the 1980s, when the outlook for farming was far from bleak? The answer is simple. Movements thrive when those participating have a stake in the cause they feel is worth fighting for. During the 1970s and 1980s, farmers, especially in the Green Revolution areas, saw their crop yields and disposable incomes go up significantly. Having experienced first-hand upward mobility through modern intensive agriculture, they developed a collective consciousness to defend these gains. Tikait's diatribes against city-dwellers and urban-centric policymakers appealed to farmers, just the way a newly empowered, self-righteous Indian middle-class took a shine to Anna Hazare's recent movement deriding all politicians as corrupt.


The situation today is different, with agriculture no longer viewed as a conduit for upward mobility by most farmers. The nature of demands has, accordingly, changed to seeking options outside of agriculture.

Take the ongoing farmers' stir in Greater Noida, where the basic issue is not about remunerative prices for crops, but for land acquired by the UP Government. Or the Jat protests that disrupted rail traffic across North India in March — which was, again, about reservations in Central Government jobs.

The non-farm character of these so-called farmers' movements can be seen from the profile of their leaders. The Jat quota agitation's spearhead, Yashpal Malik, is a realtor who has developed the Vasundhara Plaza in Ghaziabad. His counterpart at Greater Noida, Manveer Singh Tewatia, owns a unit that fabricates iron doors, grills and shutters. A far cry from Tikait — who, right till the end, kept track of the sugarcane in his 160-bigha (32 acres) field at Sisauli in Muzaffarnagar.







 One of the fundamental principles of law is that a person is innocent until proven guilty of a crime. By that cornerstone, the turning down of the bail plea of DMK MP Kanimozhi and Kalaignar TV managing director Sharad Kumar by the special court of the CBI is another instance of our judicial system sending people who are not yet convicted of a crime to gaol. In effect, this violation of human rights and a basic principle of law has meant that a few more individuals have joined the nearly three lakh others who languish in Indian jails without being convicted. This comes after the court had similarly sent five top corporate executives to jail in the same 2G scam. The stated reasons for turning down the bail pleas — enormity of the sums involved in the scam, fears of jumping bail and possibility of tampering with evidence — simply do not warrant turning a basic premise of the law on its head. Even in Kanimozhi's case, the court denied bail based on its apprehension that the witnesses, most of whom are employees of Kalaignar TV, could be influenced. But that also raises the point as to what evidence could be tampered with or witnesses influenced that these admittedly influential people could not do ever since the investigations into the scam began? The vigilante-style opinion that high-profile individuals should be jailed before the trial ends, or even starts, is, simply, a perversion of basic legal principles.
Of course, Kanimozhi and her co-accused can appeal to the high court. But strictly speaking, that is not quite the point. The application of the law, the actual implementation of jurisprudence, must be fair and speedy for every individual. The large number of pre and under-trial prisoners in India underscores the need for systemic reform of our legal system. Investigations should be thorough, trials need to get over fast. Reforms must attend our political system as well, beginning with the reform of political funding. For, the spectacle of arresting a handful of high-profile individuals before a conviction does not amount to the beginning of a thorough clean-up. And any elation that attends that spectacle is misplaced at best and akin to atavistic pleasure at worst.







 India's director at the International Monetary Fund, Arvind Virmani is right in seeking more transparency while selecting the next chief. His remarks, in the middle of the raging debate over who should succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who's stepped down after being accused of rape, make sense. The board chooses the head of the IMF through opaque, back-room negotiations. The West also needs to recall the commitment made at the G20 summit in 2009 to stop carving up the leadership of the World Bank and the IMF among Americans and Europeans, respectively. The leaders' statement at the conclusion of the summit said that "the heads and senior leadership of the international financial institutions should be appointed through an open, transparent and meritbased selection process". But Germany's Angela Merkel is now keen on a European candidate at the helm, ostensibly to tackle Europe's debt crisis. However, this cuts no ice in the Brics economies, and shows that Europeans are reneging on their commitment made just two years ago. Sure, the developed world still clings on to a majority of the voting rights in the IMF and the World Bank. Last year, though, members agreed to a shift in quota — or relative voting power — of over 6% to emerging and developing countries. With this reform, the IMF's 10 largest members include Brazil, China, India and Russia. The clout of emerging economies has also grown after the financial crisis in 2008. A more significant role for emerging economies at the institution is, therefore, in order.

The IMF needs strong leadership to steer policy initiatives for a stronger framework of economic governance. India, as a rising superpower, can play a role to help resolve global challenges. India is also in a far better position to understand the compulsions of borrowers and ground realities of countries under fiscal stress. There is no reason why an Indian with a sound track record in economic policymaking cannot make it to the top job. New Delhi should rally around a possible Indian candidate at the helm of the institution. Developed countries would do well to nudge India to live up to its new responsibility.









 In a world that increasingly demands multi-tasking from its human population, the very idea of the line between gadgets blurring is alarming. The launch of a musical refrigerator raises the inevitable question of how it is expected to enhance the living experience of a potential owner. And what comes next? A television that cooks, a microwave that irons or a washing machine that wards off mosquitoes? Advertisements already aver that there is nothing unusual about cars that morph into spas and airconditioners that mutate into superheroes. Those, of course, can be attributed to artistic licence: the commercials simply convey an adding of allure to what are basically mundane jobs like commuting and cooling. If they were to do that in actual fact they would probably end up spooking potential buyers. What is clear, though, is that in the race to differentiate themselves in a crowded market, manufacturers are taking a cue from mobile phone makers. After all, what began as communication gadgets now function as watches, GPS, music players and Net access devices.

Crucially, they have taken over activities that were once the preserve of the human brain like remembering important appointments and making simple arithmetic calculations. So, the loss of a mobile phone these days is akin to getting temporary amnesia, leaving bereft owners with feelings of being set adrift in a sea of numberless, if not nameless, faces without the lifejacket of a SIM backup. Cleverly lulling the human brain into ceding ground is the reason for the mobile phone's success. Therefore, adding features that do not directly complement the needs of a user of the primary utility of a gadget — for a refrigerator, its cooling and preserving ability — can have but limited appeal.







 Hi! My name is 'Offer Document'. This is my generic name but I have several aliases depending on which company has decided to issue securities. My origins start with preliminary discussions between a merchant banker (mummy?) and a company (daddy?). They both have several "dates" together. Slowly, like all relationships things get more and more serious and finally both decide that it is time to create me. Like all creations, many late night meetings are necessary. They hold hands, thump each other's backs and even have drinks and dinner together. Mummy commences a "due diligence" exercise on daddy! A nuptial agreement called the mandate is given by 'daddy" and another document called the MoU is also signed. Like the genetic structure of Homo sapiens, the ACTG order of my genes and chromosomes too is laid down, mainly in the ICDR regulations. However,the specific alleles depend on my avatar — whether it is a private placement or public issue, equity or debt, IPO or follow-on or rights or QIP. There are also relatively rarer ones like buy-backs, open-offers and delisting.

One fine day both decide that the muhurat for my birth has arrived. Paradoxically, the stars under which I should be born are decided beforehand. There is a lot of excitement. I am "delivered" in soft and hard forms to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), a doctor of sorts. This doctor is very independent — at least he says so. By law, all offer documents are deemed "born prematurely" and this is effectively my "intensive care maternity ward" where I have to be "observed" for a minimum period of 30 days to see whether all my physical attributes and internal organs are ok. I become famous and everyone in the capital markets comes to know of my existence because a press release is issued and my entire DNA and horoscope are also available on the net. Sometimes if I am cranky or the boisterous variety, I have to be detained for more time and on very rare occasions, by mutual consent I am "aborted", even after delivery. Infanticide?

I am supposed to be out in 30 days. What really happens is that every 25 or 30 days or so (this is an art the good doctor has perfected) the doctor's assistants send laboratory reports stating which of my limbs, organs need to be repaired and I may also need some extra parts to make be fit to come out in the financial world. How soon do I get out of this maternity ward? Well, that depends on the doctor's mood and whether my mummy and daddy are big or small. Big daddies like PSUs appear to never have a problem and in fact sometimes the law is changed to suit them. Some big private sector daddies also manage to get me discharged very early. The general rule is —the smaller the mummy and daddy, the longer it takes. Looks like size does matter in the capital markets. Of course the doctor is never responsible for the delay — his public reports say that my mummy and daddy are always responsible. How long he takes or how many piece-meal observation letters are issued is never revealed — this is "transparency". And while I am transparently available, the observations on my constitution are secret! And what do you say of someone who wants the whole world to do its job? Finally, I am declared healthy, although some blanks are yet to be filled which is done only after the money comes in. The doctor gives his final observation report and then the action starts. First, a muhurat for my launching into the outside world. Then I am delivered to a cloning house called printers. I am not launched alone — a number of clones are created. More interestingly, my younger brothers — their names are always abridged — are simultaneously created by copying select parts of my DNA. There are efforts on to enable me to speak several mother tongues. I am always dressed in white diapers — no baby blue or baby pink for me. This has a long history when a few years back a Bollywood actress appeared on me and all hell broke loose. After that I am dressed only in white — probably to display my virgin status. Don't let that fool you — many have been screwed by me.

 Another muhuratis chosen for one of my clones to be submitted to the RoC — a registrar of births. It is at this time that mummy and daddy go on a honeymoon showing me off to various people who poke, pinch, lift me up etc., to see what price I can command. They are called analysts who check my fundamentals and technicals. A grey market comes into existence, where I am quoted and traded. A lot of noise has been made that this market will be stopped, but like squatters in slums and pavement hawkers, these are only empty words. And then comes the big day – called the issue opening date. Before that, based on what my buyers are willing to pay, a price band is decided. My clones and my chotta bhais are distributed from Achchanguttaipatti to Zunheboto. While some may read me, most of us, including my chotta bhais are all unceremoniously discarded after divesting us of the most important part — called the application form. In fact many of us are sold as raddi— even before the issue opening date. Sometimes this is the only way some people can make a profit. I sincerely wish that the ministry of environment looks at the number of trees that are unnecessarily chopped in the name of regulations. To twist a Churchillian gem — Never in the history of mankind has so much paper been wasted to print so much that so few will read.

These are now my last few days. When my contents have been sold, some of my clones are banished to many record rooms. Dark, dingy places as if I have committed a crime. There I lie till a similar brother has to be created and then I am taken out, dusted and copied, mutatis mutandis. I may die but many co-brothers are always there to keep the family tree alive. My flirtatious mummy is also always on the lookout to hook other daddies to start the process all over again.









With a little more than two months to go before his extended term ends, Bishnu Charan Khatua can scarcely be seen when you step into his spacious office located in a rather unglamorous building that abuts uptown Mumbai's Marine Lines station. The reason: the Forward Markets Commission (FMC) chairman is literally enveloped by a stack of files. That's Khatua for those who know him, and for those who don't. The conscientious 61-year-old career bureaucrat is busy sending inputs to the parliamentary standing committee on food, public distribution and consumer affairs that is preparing a report on the amendment of a statute that gave birth to FMC in 1953.

The amendment bill, that puts the FMC on a par with its capital markets counterpart, has been hanging fire since 2006. Khatua has made three attempts at getting policymakers pass the bill in Parliament. It even came into force for a brief while in 2008 though an ordinance that lapsed later. Khatua, whose term was extended by a year last July, ostensibly to pilot the bill, hasn't thrown in the towel yet.

"I don't know if the standing committee will be able to place its report in Parliament before I retire, but I'll just try my best," he says. Many of these reports take a long while to be firmed up, but Khatua has not lost hopes. He has held his ground in the midst of tricky problems and emerged with a fair degree of success. Like when he managed to relist six out of nine commodities that were delisted from futures trading at one time or the other since early 2007, or when he successfully won a legal battle with a leading agri-based commex that had dragged the regulator to court over preventing it from bringing down transaction charges sharply to increase turnover of non-farm products. To his credit, Sebi, under its new chairman U K Sinha, has for the time being decided to stay the launch of silver exchange traded funds on stock exchanges, something which Khatua has fought hard for even when C B Bhave was the Sebi chief.

On the flip side, he is said to have fought hard, but in vain, to retain FMC's authority over entities which issue bankable warehouse receipts in the futures space. The power to regulate that instrument has been conferred on the newly-constituted Warehouse Development Regulatory Authority that will oversee warehousing in the country. More recently, FMC sparred with the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) over who regulates power futures, launched a few years ago on a commodity exchange. The Bombay High Court earlier this year quashed CERC's orders conferring on itself authority to regulate power futures. The matter is now in the Supreme Court. "They have filed a petition in the Supreme Court, but rather than responding to their writ, we will file a petition in the SC because we are the most aggrieved party," says an unfazed Khatua.
Lack of autonomy for FMC is believed to have deprived it of a place on Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), the newly-created inter-regulatory forum whose mandate is to ensure financial stability and sort out regulatory disputes. FMC is not treated with the same deference as its peers in the financial sector including the central bank, the capital market watchdog, and the insurance and pension regulators, all members of the FSDC.

So, any regulatory dispute is likely to put FMC at a disadvantage to its peers. Asked why FMC was kept out of FSDC's purview, Khatua says, "Our parent ministry and we ourselves were involved when the draft proposal to set up FSDC was under consideration. But when the actual orders constituting the council were issued, we were not part of the forum. I can't comment because I really don't know what was the thinking in the finance ministry that took the lead in initiating the process."

The commodity futures market has come a long way since the government lifted a 30-year ban on futures trading early last decade. Trading has grown manifold to cross Rs 100 lakh crore in FY11 under the supervision of Khatua, who, since taking charge in May 2007, approved the upgradation of a regional commodity exchange into a national one led by the Kotak group and the formation of a new exchange by Indiabulls-MMTC to spur competition in a market stymied by product and investor category restrictions. Adept at number-crunching, the former sales tax commissioner of Maharashtra finds himself equally at ease when dealing with a high-profile CEO of a commodity exchange or a jeera trader from Unjha who's not well-versed with the English language. He has carved a niche for himself in the sector. In the absence of regulatory autonomy, Khatua's achievements may be undermined but a successor may not find it all that easy to step into his shoes.


Forward Markets Commission








What holds society together? In rapidly industrialising and urbanising western Europe around the close of the 19th century, Emile Durkheim, founding father of sociology, was the first to focus a whole lifetime's scholarship on this specific question. The enormous question already enshrines our present day predicament — high spatial and social mobility, sans faith, sans kinship-ethnic ties. After considering associational-contractual responses current at the time, division of labour, etc for many years, Durkheim finally comes upon a very interesting explanation in his study of the reports of the religious life of Australian aborigines. The aborigines experience their vision of the totemic, the religious, during periodic ritual bouts of intense (and intoxicated!) collective effervescence. These occasions of heightened social-moral density, the collective locus of their sacred — as if society itself divinised — is what sustains the simple social solidarity of the tribes.
Nearer home, in the days when it was more fashionable to call India a nation-in-themaking, it used to be suggested quite popularly that cricket and Bollywood were doing that "making". No one would doubt it, given our fortunate experiences this World Cup — the rather effervescent displays of the collective conscience witnessed from Gujarat to Gawahati will surely last us a long time. But even more soberly, cricket and Bollywood have indeed provided us those ephemeral and yet intensely social-sacred moments that underpin a people's solidarity. Moments when, glued to the big or the small screen, we have glimpsed, even felt, that fleeting touch-me-not social-cultural-political fact called India.

And what drives society apart? No, not crime! Durkheim actually puts forward the paradoxical, seemingly revolutionary, idea that deviance and crime is not only inevitable in any workable society, but (especially the accompanying sanction-punishment) necessary. This is how it works — the deviant or criminal breaches our normative system, our social solidarity; in the sanction or punishment that society imposes on him/her, the normative system, the society, reasserts itself, indeed strengthens itself! This is never missed on the media. They make the best of the people's thirst for these public displays of the validation and revalidation (through the punished criminal) of their otherwise dormant normative-legal system, thus, in effect, rejuvenating their social solidarity.

So then, what throws society unstuck? Durkheim gave currency to anomie — a general normlessness. A social disorder where anything goes. We are talking about the general helplessness of a society in its unwillingness or inability to punish deviance and crime. That's why the Prime Minister's rare (almost five-yearly) round table with the electronic media at the height of the corruption crescendo began with rather clear-sighted damage control — "our government is dead serious in bringing to book the wrongdoers regardless of their position... We have a functioning government.... We take our job very seriously, we are here to govern and govern effectively."

But sociology has come a long and chequered way since Durkheim. It's Jurgen Habermas, definitely the leading social thinker today, who has brought the public sphere — those discursive-communicative spaces, the coffee house to large-scale peoples' movements to political parties — to the centre-stage of social thought. But a political party must constantly update in order to effectively mediate between the private sphere of the populace and the state. That's where a party president's unassuming encouragement to her party — "We must be more than a giant election machine" —obtains its special context. And that's why it's such a sinking feeling when the root of all corruption is rightly traced to politics — especially to the inner finances of political parties. Is the Congress Party mulling over its own Manmohan Singh committee report (2001) on party finances? The debate climbs several notches upstream when a young general secretary of a party defines the aam aadmi as the "person who does not have a connection to the system". We are obviously talking of a system of, by, and for the 2% of our society. A thin crust elite fairly immune to the general law of the land, quite protective of its exclusivity above the glass ceiling and increasingly impervious to all civil-moral-ethical norms! It's this blatant and festering greed, this utter disregard for society, that the young leader was targeting — "our system crushes him at every step" —with his modest outline: "Connecting the individual aam aadmi and aam yuva to our political system is the first step in our journey towards empowering the individual." But if these intentions sound things pretty much in control, there is this furtive reservation — 60 years is a long time in the coming. A little impatience is definitely in order. We badly need a light foot here, a swift move there. And a change of sentiment might do the trick.

(The author teaches at a Delhi University college)










When you have elections for the post of President and Treasurer in your co-operative housing society, you normally don't have candidates from BJP or Congress or Shiv Sena. The candidates are mostly people motivated by public service or a desire for leadership. In many such society elections, the winner is often elected unopposed, or by a unanimous selection. Of course, there are other societies whose members are so indifferent, they don't care who the officebearers are.


What is true of housing co-ops is also true of the smaller village panchayats and councils. There is absence of party politics, and the village elders play an important role in the affairs of the local community. (Let's not talk about khap panchayats.) Whenever the stakes get higher, i.e. the public purse gets bigger, the political parties start showing up. So it should be no surprise that large cooperative banks which have thousands of crores of public deposits, and sugarcane co-op factories are ruled by elected officials who listen to party bosses. So also, the village panchayats are increasingly getting party attention, because of two reasons: (a) a lot of rural development spending is now routed through and approved by the village council; and (b) the village leaders are rising to play bigger roles in zilla parishad (district councils) and eventually in state politics.


 Which brings us to elections for the municipal corporation. The country's youngest such municipal entity, elected its councillors this week. This is the Municipal Council of Gurgaon (MCG).


Gurgaon has been one of the fastest-growing communities in the past two decades, if not longer. It has the third highest per capita income, after Mumbai and Chandigarh. It includes plush and high-income gated housing complexes, complete with their own schools, clinics, swimming pools, community centres and even electric generators and security guards. They don't seem to need any municipal services. Real estate developers like DLF and Unitech have built many such gated communities. Most of the Fortune 500 global companies have India headoffices in Gurgaon.


India's largest international airport is practically in Gurgaon, and Reliance is planning a big SEZ nearby.
    Despite all this, if you had asked what is the administrative status of Gurgaon, you would have drawn a blank. Till recently, it was neither a village nor a town or city. Hence, it was directly under the rule of the district commissioner, with residents having no say, since they were not voting in either panchayat polls or for municipal elections.


 Of course, they were voting for the Haryana assembly, but that's hardly relevant, when you worry about traffic, pollution, power cuts and thefts. So the nation's youngest municipal council was born, via an act of the state Assembly in 2008. And their very first election, for 35 councillors was conducted this week by the State Election Commission. Surprisingly, they had many independent, non-party-affiliated candidates who plunged in. Many of these are getting involved because they want to contribute to a better-run city, and fix local issues like power, pollution and planned growth. Of the winners, almost half are well educated. One candidate, Nisha Singh, is an engineer, and a graduate of the London Business School, having worked for companies such like Siemens and Google. She was an independent who won on her own without support from any political party. Of course, her ward was a reserved constituency, but she won against other women, who were proxies for their husbands.


Thus, the polls to the nation's youngest municipal council, can inspire the oldest corporation (MCGM) which will elect its 227 corporators next February. We have only one independent, "people's candidate" corporator, who had a historic first-time victory in 2007 from Juhu. But Gurgaon shows, we should aim for at least 10 more this time.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The track record of the Central Bureau of Investigation does not have much to commend it, frankly. When it is not gratuitously serving the cause of its political masters, bringing disadvantage and disrepute to the national public ethos, it is busy setting up examples of how not to conduct meticulous investigations, or bring cases to successful prosecution, and — as the ignominy brought on by the saga of the list of "India's Most Wanted" illustrates — submit official papers to the highest authorities in the land without double-checking for authenticity even when these are to be brought into diplomatic play with a country as devious as Pakistan on the sensitive issue of India-centric terrorism. The CBI's shoddy work procedures, we now know, extend to serving up expired warrants of arrest to foreign governments, as the Kim Davy case exemplifies. No one should be surprised if Interpol now treats Indian requests on red-corner alert notices against criminals with contempt. The first error — serious though it was — concerning Wazhul Kamar Khan in the most wanted list of 50 tendered to Islamabad could be put down as a procedural lapse. But in less than a day of this slip being revealed has come a succession of such errors. If faulty red-corner notices are also totted up, then the question arises whether the top brass of the country's premier investigation outfit are doing anything other than warm their seats. Alas, it is not the CBI alone whose work ethos must be questioned. Newly established intelligence outfits such as the National Investigation Agency and others have also given a poor account of themselves in the matter of aggregating names of terrorists and other criminals who are being hunted outside India's borders. When CRPF personnel were massacred by Naxalites in the Dantewada forests last year, the Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, declared gamely that the buck stopped with him. The country may want Mr Chidambaram to adopt a similar stance now and give his fellow citizens an idea of the working systems of the security and intelligence agencies that operate within his remit. True, the CBI comes under the department of personnel. But if the home ministry was more diligent on the work assigned to it, it is not unlikely that the CBI sitting on its haunches could have been exposed in time and corrective measures taken. It is instructive to see how far down the shoddy path we have travelled. When Mr Shivraj Patil yielded place to Mr Chidambaram following the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, we breathed a sigh of relief. The new home minister was urbane, practical, articulate and businesslike. He brought in much-needed confidence into systems that are meant to protect us against terrorist depredations. But two-and-a-half years is all that it has taken to expose the systems put in place under Mr Chidambaram's stewardship. The BJP president, Mr Nitin Gadkari, has asked the home minister to resign. The demand is doubtless inspired by political considerations. In a government so short on talent at the senior political level, the home minister's removal from the scene is unlikely to plug gaps. Nevertheless, the gravity of the situation is there for all to see. The deep political embarrassment caused to the government hardly admits of mitigating circumstances. We are, after all, talking about the security of India and being persistently wrong-footed at the diplomatic level on account of our investigating agencies. Heads at the level of officials should obviously roll.







"The sun has no significance, The eclipse full of meaning." From The Boogoo Diaries of Bachchoo One sometimes gets the feeling that Britain is an overdeveloped democracy. The representatives of the people are kept on a tight leash and sometimes, in a libertarian fantasy, a mood induced by introspection or other substances, I feel it may be a bit too tight. Take the case of Alex Salmond, the secessionist boss of the Scottish National Party. He was crowned the first minister of the devolved Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh on May 18. This Parliament and its powers were established by the Labour Party when they were the government. They must have calculated at the time that this would satisfy the feeling in Scotland that it was being treated as a colony by Britain and that having more say in its own matters through direct representation would cool the ardour of the Scots separatists. It was a vain hope and a bad strategy. Mr Salmond's party, which had demanded such a Parliament and declared that its avowed intention was total independence for Scotland and a break with the United Kingdom, gained the most seats in this, their second, election. Mr Salmond is consequently riding high, making demands on Westminster and clearly signalling that a few years into this auxiliary Parliament he will hold a referendum in which the Scots will say Yea or Nay to total independence. This reportage is not prompted by any political foreboding. I have as yet no view on whether an independent Scotland would be a good or a bad thing for the Scots, the English, the European Union, the world, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Lashkar-e-Toyota or for me. I admit I would find it very slightly burdensome to carry a passport every time I visited Glasgow and would deem it extremely disadvantageous if my stage plays were banned from the Edinburgh festival on the grounds that I wasn't McDhondy. No! The point is that Mr Salmond is now King and crowing, consequent upon the will of electoral democracy, but there is no prospect that he will celebrate the event by spending a million pounds or so of tax-payers' money on a cake for his birthday. Neither can he erect statues to himself in the parks and at the junctions of thoroughfares in Aberdeen. No doubt some Scottish arts minister will order more statues of Robert the Bruce or Robert Burns and they will stand proudly at road junctions to the delight of tourists and pigeons, but Mr Salmond, alas, will have to await the opening of a branch of Madame Tussauds in Edinburgh to be so honoured. If he did order a million pound birthday cake or build statues of his party's symbol in Scotland, as some chief ministers in a distant country feel it their prerogative to do, he would today find himself enjoying Her Majesty's hospitality, breaking rocks in some high-security English prison. Then there's the case of poor Chris Huhne, a Liberal Democrat minister in the present UK coalition government. Mr Huhne is in trouble as the newspapers allege that he was speeding in his car and, because he faced a driving ban if he was found guilty of this driving offence, asked his wife (from whom he has since separated) to take the rap. How is that possible? The speeding offence was recorded on cameras trained on the roads to register the speed and number-plate of the offending car. The speed cameras don't photograph the driver. If a driver gets a certain number of convictions for violations of traffic laws, s/he is automatically banned from driving. The offences are recorded as "points" on your licence and when you reach 12 you are banned. Mr Huhne, it is alleged, was close to 12 and asked his wife to say she was driving and take the negative points awarded for the offence. All this was supposedly eight years ago! Dishonestly transferring blame for driving offences so as to avoid a ban is a procedure known to most people in Britain. I am not saying very many people use it, but it's known to be a possibility. If this was Mumbai and one was stopped by a constable for speeding, violating a red light or using a mobile phone while driving, it is customary to slip the diligent officer a crisp piece of valuable paper, accept his salaams and move on. Not so in Britain. The camera hounds you, the phone evidence confounds you. Mr Huhne is damned by the allegations. He has allegedly attempted to dodge the consequences of a traffic offence and defraud the law. There are now calls on him to resign as a minister. Even if he is guilty, should he resign? Does the responsibility that democratic election put upon you enjoin you to not attempt to beat traffic regulations and penalties? There are other countries in which ministers get away with fraud, with storing crores and crores-of-crores of their ill-gotten, dollar-converted currency in international banks — the proceeds of graft and licence-selling. Democratic vigilance? The last case of this over-enthusiastic democratic vigilance concerns the words used this week by the justice secretary of this government, Ken Clarke. Mr Clarke is a veteran Tory minister and he was being questioned on a radio programme about his attitude to sentencing in rape cases. He has expressed his view that sentences of defendants who plead guilty for any offence should be reduced by a judge for sparing public resources — the time and cost of a useless trial. Mr Clarke talked around the issue and seemed to be of the opinion that some cases of rape, those with extreme violence, for instance, were more serious than, say, the withdrawal of consent by a rape victim at the last minute in a "date-rape" case. The interview and this contention caused a political tsunami. Labour leaders demanded that Mr Clarke be sacked because he had committed the crime of saying some rapes were more serious than others. The shock and horror at his statement seemed to me to be somewhat feigned. Democracy, though, includes women's votes and the opposition clearly thinks, whatever their view on sentencing suspects who plead guilty, that Mr Clarke has walked into a linguistic elephant trap and that there will be popular support for him going down.







Some years ago, one of my neighbours, an émigré Russian engineer, offered an observation about his adopted country. "America seems very rich", he said, "but I never see anyone actually making anything". That was a bit unfair, but not completely — and as time went by it became increasingly accurate. By the middle years of the last decade, I used to joke that Americans made a living by selling each other houses, which they paid for with money borrowed from China. Manufacturing, once America's greatest strength, seemed to be in terminal decline. But that may be changing. Manufacturing is one of the bright spots of a generally disappointing recovery, and there are signs — preliminary, but hopeful, nonetheless — that a sustained comeback may be under way. And there's something else you should know: If Right-wing critics of efforts to rescue the economy had gotten their way, this comeback wouldn't be happening. The story so far: In the 1990s, US manufacturing employment was more or less steady. After 2000, however, it entered a steep decline. The 2001 recession hit industry hard, while the bubble-fuelled expansion of the decade's middle years — an expansion marked by a huge rise in the trade deficit — left manufacturing behind. By December 2007, there were 3.5 million fewer US manufacturing workers than there had been in 2000; millions more jobs disappeared in the slump that followed. Only a handful of these lost jobs have come back, so far. But, as I said, there are indications of a turnaround. Crucially, the manufacturing trade deficit seems to be coming down. At this point, it's only about half as large as a share of the gross domestic product as it was at the peak of the housing bubble, and further improvements are in the pipeline. The Boston Consulting Group, which is now predicting a US "manufacturing renaissance", points to major US firms like Caterpillar that once shifted production abroad but are now moving it back. At the same time, companies from other countries, especially European firms, are moving production to America. And one potential disaster has been avoided: the US auto industry, which many people were writing off just two years ago, has weathered the storm. In particular, General Motors has now had five consecutive profitable quarters. America's industrial heartland is now leading the economic recovery. In August 2009, Michigan had an unemployment rate of 14.1 per cent, the highest in the nation. Today, that rate is down to 10.3 per cent, still above the national average, but nonetheless a huge improvement. I don't want to suggest that everything is wonderful about US manufacturing. So far, the job gains are modest, and many new manufacturing jobs don't offer good pay or benefits. The manufacturing revival isn't going to make health reform unnecessary or obviate the need for a strong social safety net. Still, better to have those jobs than none at all. Which brings me to those Right-wing critics. First, what's driving the turnaround in our manufacturing trade? The main answer is that the US dollar has fallen against other currencies, helping give US-based manufacturing a cost advantage. A weaker dollar, it turns out, was just what US industry needed. Yet the Federal Reserve finds itself under intense pressure from the Right to make the dollar stronger, not weaker. A few months ago, Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, berated Ben Bernanke for failing to tighten monetary policy, declaring: "There is nothing more insidious that a country can do to its citizens than debase its currency". If Mr Bernanke had given in to that kind of pressure, manufacturing would have continued its relentless decline. And then there's the matter of the auto industry, which probably would have imploded if US President Barack Obama hadn't stepped in to rescue General Motors and Chrysler. For those companies would almost surely have gone into liquidation, closing all their factories. And this liquidation would have undermined the rest of America's auto industry, as essential suppliers went under, too. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were at stake. Yet Mr Obama was fiercely denounced for taking action. One Republican Congressman declared the auto rescue part of the administration's "war on capitalism". Another insisted that when government gets involved in a company, "the disaster that follows is predictable". Not so much, it turns out. So while we still have a deeply troubled economy, one piece of good news is that Americans are, once again, starting to actually make things. And we're doing that thanks, in large part, to the fact that the Fed and the Obama administration ignored very bad advice from Right-wingers — ideologues who still, in the face of all the evidence, claim to know something about creating prosperity. NYT








Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, is a woman of ideas.  Unlike the DMK which offered electronic gadgets to woo voters, her AIADMK manifesto offered cows and goats so that recipients could reap some economic benefit from the largesse.  But her fourth term as Chief Minister, which began on 15 May, will be known for the despotic manner in which the State secretariat and the Legislative Assembly are being shifted from the futuristic complex built in the government estate in the heart of Chennai to the overcrowded 17th century East India Company-built barracks now under the control of the Army in Fort St. George. Jayalalithaa was the first Chief Minister to realise the need for a spacious secretariat complex. During her last term as Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa made three unsuccessful attempts to construct a secretariat complex. The closest she came was laying the foundation stone in a corner of the land belonging to Anna University amidst stiff opposition from the academic community and civil society. Courts intervened and put paid to her dream project.
Where Jayalalithaa failed her arch rival and former Chief Minister, M Karunanidhi, succeeded. Designed by GMP von Gerken of Berlin, the Rs 1,200-crore imposing new secretariat complex was opened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 13 March 2010. The unfinished dome atop the secretariat resembles the Bundestaag in Berlin and is the tallest structure in the city. Its futuristic design blends with traditional motifs. Simply because the project was conceived and implemented by Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa swore not to step into the new complex. As soon as it was known on 13 May that the AIADMK would capture power PWD officials on their own initiative got cracking to get the abandoned secretariat ready and government machinery was pressed into service so that she could assume office on 16 May without having to enter the new complex. When the Assembly was shifted in March last year, the old hall was stripped of fittings and converted into a library for classical Tamil with about 70,000 books.  It is being bundled out to get the hall ready for the new Assembly to meet in the next few days. Unable to bear this waste, G Krishnamurthy, an advocate, moved Madras High Court to restrain the AIADMK government from proceeding with the shift as it was against public interest and a waste of money.  The court could not give any relief to the petitioner as it found there was no official order for the shifting of the secretariat and adjourned hearing to 15 June. Meanwhile, the Chief Minister and her Cabinet colleagues are functioning from the old secretariat in Fort St. George and the Assembly too will begin its session there before long. Democracy, indeed.



MANY might argue that money is not "enough", or enter into comparisons that serve little positive purpose. Yet though it did not receive much media attention, there is reason for a degree of appreciation of the government's enhancing the stipends paid to the winners of major gallantry awards. True such revisions are made every few years, but this time around the purse strings appear to have been loosened a little. The winners of the highest award won "in the face of the enemy" ~ the Param Vir Chakra ~ will now get Rs 10,000 a month, three times more than the Rs 3,000 fixed at the last revision. Only 122 such awards have been conferred since Independence. The "peacetime equivalent", the Ashok Chakra, gets Rs 6,000 (earlier Rs 2800), the Maha Vir Charka Rs 5,000 (2,400), the Kirti Chakra  Rs 4,500 (2100), the Vir Chakra Rs 3,500 (1,700) and the Shaurya Chakra Rs 3,000 (Rs 1,500). Lesser awards also attract slightly higher stipends now. While the increased stipends will not make much of a dent in the defence budget, it is the gesture that matters. It is, therefore, rather disappointing that no ex-servicemen's body has cared to publicly take note of the increases ~ they are not trivial, even if they could be hiked even more. What is "satisfactory" is subjective, difficult to reduce to figures.
While organisations like the railways and some state governments also offer concessions, sometimes land, and other benefits to gallantry awardees, what remains a sore point with them is that there is little public "recognition" of their exploits. Indeed many do not know which is the "higher" award ~ just as the military's rank structure hardly registers beyond the uniformed community. That indifference extends to all veterans. Schemes do exist on paper, there are painful variations from one state to another. Unravelling the red tape required to get their due often frustrates the ex-serviceman more than the harsh conditions he endured defending the national frontier. What must disturb is the insensitivity even within the military ~ as confirmed by matters before the Armed Forces Tribunal. Yet even in that generally gloomy context the revised stipends should give award winners a few opportunities to say "cheers".



Dmitry Medvedev has left delightfully vague the question whether he will stand for the Russian Presidency for the second time in March 2012. But his first extensive press conference since 2008, when he took over, will be noted for his robust assertiveness. Indeed, he has made it clear to the world media that his stand on strategic issues is at variance from that of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. And the differences have been reinforced three years after the swapping of roles. President Medvedev has displayed his independence in matters of policy, pertaining both to domestic and foreign affairs. Fairly explicit is his tough stand towards the US, with a warning on missile defence. This has been couched with a pregnant message to the Western bloc, specifically that NATO had "manipulated" the UN resolution on Libya and that Russia would never support foreign interference in Syria. At home, he has been no less forthright with the assertion that his perception of Russia's modernisation "differs" from Putin's. It differs no less on the release of the oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom Putin deems to be a threat to Kremlin's economic might. The case has tarnished Russia's image abroad, and is now a contentious issue within the establishment. Medvedev sees "absolutely no danger" in the release of  Khodorkovsky, a statement that defies Putin who has branded the tycoon as a "thief". The President has the support of the Russian liberals and rights activists who have demanded that Khodorkovsky be pardoned.
The simmering discord at the helm ~ and on a range of issues ~ is now in the public domain. It may not be just a coincidence that Putin ~ still the real power behind the Kremlin ~ released his interview with the American magazine, Outdoor Life, in parallel with Medvedev's interaction with the press. Arguably, it was the Prime Minister's strategy to upstage the President who was doubtless engaged in a subtle form of electioneering. The contours of next spring's contest in Russia are yet hazy, but there is speculation already that the two may run against each other. Which is not wholly unfounded.









PARLIAMENT is our national legislature, concerned with both national and international issues. It has extensive powers and performs a variety of functions. It enacts laws, controls the executive, discharges quasi-judicial duties, amends the Constitution and ventilates public grievances.

However, it is generally believed that there has been a marked change in its functioning. It was originally a very serious forum which served the nation famously. In recent times, there has been a distinct decline of Parliament owing to a variety of  reasons.  According to critics, the House emits fire, but  little light.  During its golden age, its proceedings were marked by wit, humour, logic and irony. It has now been denuded to a place to quarrel, to abuse, to shout and generally create chaos.

A major reason for the decline is the attitude of the government. Indira Gandhi, for example, displayed scant respect for  Parliament. After the proclamation of the Emergency in 1975, she virtually converted the Prime Minister's Office to a Presidential one, thereby reducing Parliament to a mere "registering body". She spent little time in the House and often stayed away from serious discussions. Rajiv Gandhi also treated Parliament in a casual manner primarily because both Houses were under the comfortable control of his party.

Of course, under Article 75(3) the ministers are "collectively responsible" to the Lok Sabha. They have to step down in the event  of a defeat in a vote of no-confidence or "censure-motion" failure to get the budget passed. These conditions are more constitutional rather than an effective system of checks and balance. Normally, the majority party/group assumes power; it is difficult these days to remove a government on the strength of voting in the House.  Party discipline is another factor; unless the ruling party or coalition splits, it is virtually impossible to bring it down. So, the Prime Minister may be worsted in the argument, but he can hardly be outvoted in the division.

It is possible that when a coalition partner quits, the Prime Minister may feel shaky. But instead of resigning, he may resort to "horse trading" and enlist the required support of others in lieu of  plum posts in financial entities. The ministries of Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh have survived in this fashion.

Parliament has certain important quasi-judicial powers. It can dismiss dignitaries such as the President (Article 61), the Vice-President (Article 90C), the Speaker (Article 94C), judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts (Article 124(4) and Article 217(1)(b) and the Chief Election Commissioner (Article 324(5). But the procedure is so cumbrous that the attempts are likely to be ineffective. Parliament had  failed to impeach Justice Ramaswami  despite an allegation of financial misdemeanour.

Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution. Indeed, the statute book has been amended more than 100 times.

There are certain provisions which can be amended by simple majority. Others require a special majority in both Houses, if not the support of at least half the members. In 1977-79, the Constitution couldn't be amended because of procedural problems.

In the case of Sankari Prasad vs Union (1950), the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament could change every portion of the Constitution. In 1967, it changed its view and observed that the chapter on Fundamental Rights must be kept intact (Goloknath vs Punjab). Again in 1973, it again revised its verdict by lifting the condition. Simultaneously, it warned that no amendment could alter or destroy the"basic structure" of this legal document ~ (Keshavananda Bharati vs Kerala). The constituent power of Parliament has declined.

There is a qualitative problem as well. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, wanted  legislators to be well-versed in different subjects. Also, members should continuously enrich themselves intellectually so that they could properly guide the people towards plenty and prosperity. But Article 84(b) of our Constitution has merely determined the minimum age of the members; there is no reference to academic qualifications. No wonder less-than-third-rate members are being elected.

Institutionalised training of MPs is imperative. But neither the average member nor the party cares for it. A large number of members play no role save shout down the opponents or cast votes as directed by the party leaders.

In her book, My Reminiscences, Renuka Roy, a former Congress MP, recalled that even when some Opposition leaders bitterly criticised the government, their presentation was so impressive that Treasury bench members would listen in pin-drop silence. That was a different era in India's parliamentary history. Today, the battle of wits often gives way to an exchange of expletives. Several Speakers have pointed out that most of the members try to address the House without homework. Najma Heptullah, a former chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, once remarked: "There was much enthusiasm for the sitting (of the House) and they were like festive sessions."
These days, the sessions are almost invariably dull. Attendance is poor. Parliament meets occasionally and actually functions for only 80 days. When on 24 November 1988, the Lok Sabha began an important discussion on the price rise, only 21 members were present. That figure soon dwindled to eight. This illustrates the casual attitude towards parliamentary proceedings.

The government, on its part, does not take Parliament with the seriousness it deserves. For instance, copies of the Tax Amendment Bill of 1987 were made available to members barely 24 hours before the division. It contained 200 sections which required to be read carefully. But it was rushed through in only 15 minutes. In such circumstances, the Opposition criticises the government, but  the latter doesn't care.
The government had initially rejected the demand for a JPC probe into the 2G spectrum scam. The last winter session was lost; the national exchequer suffered a loss of Rs 132 crore. The question that must be addressed is: Is Parliament productive enough?              

The writer is Reader, New Alipore College, Kolkata






Mr Stewart Beck is Canada's High Commissioner to India with concurrent accreditation for Bhutan and Nepal. Mr Beck joined Canada's department of external affairs and international trade in 1982 and has served in the USA, Taiwan and China. In 1999, he was appointed Consul-General in Shanghai. From 2006 to 2009, he served as assistant deputy minister for international business development, investment and innovation. Before moving to India, he served as Consul-General in San Francisco. Mr Beck spoke to SIMRAN SODHI on the Indo-Canadian relationship.

  What is Canada's position on India's desire for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council?
Canada supports a measured and philosophical approach to UN reforms. Canada is supportive of more non-permanent seats and not more permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council. It wouldn't really serve our policy perspective, given that there are so many countries there. How do we exactly differentiate when we go into the prospect of adding more permanent seats? We wouldn't want to add any more permanent seats. Yes, but we are open to either an increase in the tenure of non-permanent seats or an increase in their number.
On the eve of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to Canada last year, a resolution was tabled in Canadian parliament urging the declaration of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi as genocide. Your comments.

There is still a strong sentiment in that regard and I don't know how it is going to transpire with time. It's a private member's Bill and wasn't supported by the government. But I would like to say one thing ~ when people immigrate to Canada, they shouldn't bring with them what would be their domestic animosities. When they come to Canada, they should conform to our values and norms and we have been pretty successful in achieving that. Having said that, there are some who feel strongly about this (1984 anti-Sikh riots) and given that Canada is a parliamentary democracy, people are welcome to express themselves.
Is Canada now open to re-thinking its policy of working with India in the field of civilian nuclear energy?

We have had issues in the 1970s and later, in the 90s with India's nuclear programme. But after 2002, we decided to pursue a foreign policy with regard to India that would move beyond these issues. This has been achieved with signing of the nuclear civilian agreement and the nuclear co-operation programme pact with India. This will result in a more dynamic relationship in the area of commercial nuclear energy. Also, India and Canada have the potential to develop nuclear technology not just for India but also other markets.
India and Canada have shared an uncomfortable relationship in the past owing to India's testing of nuclear devices. Do you think the bilateral relationship will see more warmth and greater interaction in near future?

It's really been a roller-coaster ride. Post-Partition, Canada and India shared a very good relationship. It soured in the 70s, improved eventually only to weather another downturn in the 90s. The way things are now, what with the signing of the nuclear co-operation programme, a cultural MoU, an audio visual co-production treaty, among other things, great steps have been taken forward to build a solid framework for bilateral relationship. Also, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh visited the Air India memorial during his visit last year to Canada and that has helped put so many issues behind us.

How does Canada view the growing Talibanisation of this part of the world which includes Pakistan and Afghanistan?

Canada has invested a lot in the region. Canadian presence in Afghanistan is 10-year-old now, including in the inhospitable Kandahar. We have lost around 154 soldiers in Afghanistan. We are obviously very concerned about how things evolve in the region. Our High Commissioner in Pakistan, the Ambassador in Kabul and another Ambassadorial-level person in Kandahar all met on 1 March to discuss ways to promote regional security. But given the dire economic situation of Pakistan and Afghanistan, it is necessary to promote economic security in the region but, of course, one cannot have that without physical security.

Canada has a sizeable Indian population, especially Indians of Punjabi origin. How would you say the Indian diaspora has contributed to Canada's growth?

Canada is a country of immigrants and it's a young country. We have had people from the Punjab come to Canada at a time when we were building the railroads back in the 1860s and 1870s. We have 1.2 million Indo-Canadians, fifty per cent of whom are from the Punjab and 30 per cent from Gujarat. Indo-Canadians are dynamic, entrepreneurial and hard working. They integrate very well and the large number of Indo-Canadians who contested the last parliamentary election attest to that.






The war against terror is uncomplicated. We know the enemy. The war against error is complex. We don't know the enemy. Is it incompetence or sabotage?  Earlier the FBI had warned India about an impending attack from the sea targeting Hotel Trident and Hotel Taj. Security was clamped on both hotels. Mysteriously, security was lifted. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was supposed to attend a function at Hotel Trident on 29/11. On 26/11, the terrorist attack occurred. I concluded it was a case of sabotage indicating infiltration by international agencies into the Indian government. I consequently wrote in that vein. Now I am not sure. Was it sabotage or incompetence?

Within the last few days, the CBI went to Denmark to extradite Kim Davy carrying an expired warrant for arrest! One fugitive listed as a terrorist wanted from Pakistan was discovered to be lodged in an Indian jail! Shortly thereafter, another fugitive similarly listed in the "most wanted" list submitted to Pakistan was also found to be in an Indian jail! Is it believable that such monumental errors one after the other are due to incompetence? Was the Trident Hotel goof-up arising from incompetence? Are the current errors arising from sabotage? It is all very confusing.

What is not confusing is that accountability for such damaging lapses that make us the world's laughing stock and give Pakistan a handle to rubbish all our claims against it cannot be restricted to a few officials. The Cabinet, the home minister who furnished the list to Pakistan and the home secretary are all accountable. Indeed, the nation is accountable for failing to reappraise the flawed system that has rendered our investigative agencies pathetically ineffective.

The CBI is in tatters. Its officers are competent. But they must work under politicians who interfere to use the agency as an instrument to coerce opponents or protect allies. To overcome this problem, the Lokpal Bill is being contemplated. No lessons have been learnt from the failed performance of the Central Vigilance Commission. Decades have passed but not a single CBI probe has led to success and conviction of political leaders. Politicians and political pundits keep prattling about the need to make the investigative agencies autonomous and free from interference by politicians. None has indicated to whom these should be made accountable.

In desperation, the farcical Lokpal Bill is being debated. The glaring distortion of the President's role is resolutely ignored although it is the one impartial office with a national mandate and constitutional responsibility to credibly overlook the functioning of investigative agencies and even Governors. I have written enough on the subject and will not tax the reader with repetition.

Surely, the home minister should offer an explanation more satisfactory than describing the current lapses as merely human errors? For starters, has he shown sufficient initiative to introduce a common data base for all investigative agencies to minimise chances of error? Is he or any of his colleagues at all interested in doing their jobs instead of focusing only on personal advancement and never mind the rest? In any normal democracy the home minister would have accepted constructive responsibility for the monumental errors committed and resigned.

However, we function in abnormal times. As Mr Prakash Karat argued after his party's poll debacle, there was no reason for him to resign because all decisions were collective! By the same logic, it is not Dr Manmohan Singh or Mr Chidambaram who was responsible for the errors. It was a collective failure. We are all to blame. We cannot resign because we do not hold office. But we must resign ourselves to accept our fate!  

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist







Do not beat up anybody. It is very easy to beat up someone... CPI-M goons had beaten me so many times, now the people of Bengal have taught them a lesson.

Miss Mamata Banerjee in her first extended address after the declaration of the West Bengal Assembly election result
What I am concerned about is how we are treating our own people. Do you brutalise them or do you treat them fairly? That's why I brought them to the Prime Minister. It is a complicated piece of legislation... We are confident that the land acquisition Bill will be passed in the next session of Parliament.

Congress general-secretary Mr Rahul Gandhi after meeting the Prime Minister with Noida farmers
I am happy that she has visited me. I conveyed my best wishes to her. She is going to be the chief minister of my state, which is a good thing.

Rebel CPI-M leader Mr Somnath Chatterjee after Miss Mamata Banerjee called on him

There are some who are claiming that the epitaph has been written for the CPI-M in West Bengal. I am afraid they are mistaken.

CPI-M general-secretary and Politburo member Mr Prakash Karat

We must understand that the CPI-M may be defeated, but not finished. There will be challenges before the new government and the Congress will share its experiences with the new ministry to help it deal with any crisis.

Union defence minister Mr AK Antony

We believe in parliamentary democracy. When someone is inviting us for the swearing-in ceremony, it should be accepted.

CPI-M central committee member Mohammad Salim

This is only the beginning and the rest of the promises made by me will be gradually implemented. For this, a new department called the department of special programme implementation will be formed to ensure that all welfare measures reach the people.


Tamil Nadu chief minister Miss Jayalalithaa whose poll promises include 20 kg of free rice for poor families and 35 kg for the poorest as part of the Antyodaya scheme

I was receiving continuous threats and they had intensified in last few days.

Gorkha National Liberation Front president Mr Subash Ghisingh

I'm happy that Moner Manush (which also won the Golden Peacock at the 41st International Film Festival of India in Goa) has been awarded but I expected more awards for Bengal.

Moner Manush lead Prosenjit Chatterjee after the film was adjudged the Best Feature Film in the 58th National Film Awards






Manners maketh a man. Manners also make politicians in a parliamentary democracy. It is always assumed in parliamentary democracy that exchange of words and hostilities will remain confined to the floor of Parliament and never be carried outside it. This automatically imposes certain limits on the kind of language that is used and ensures that political hostilities do not turn personal. Communists across the world, perhaps because they did not, for a long time, believe in parliamentary democracy, have never hesitated to use abusive epithets against their political and ideological rivals. No less a person than Vladimir Ilych Lenin showed the way in this regard. He used vile abuse against his opponents in speech as well as in writing. In Indian politics, the venerable Rajani Palme Dutt, a leader of the Communist Party of Great Britain who ran the Indian communist party by remote control from London, did not hesitate to call Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi "a lackey of British imperialism''. Grace was not a quality that the communists either believed in or valued.

Within the ambit of West Bengal politics, there are many examples of graceless behaviour and tasteless decisions. One was the renaming of Harrington Street as Ho Chi Minh Sarani because the consulate of the United States of America was situated there. How would the comrades feel if today Alimuddin Street were to be renamed after an anti-communist leader like McCarthy or Golwalkar? The communists consistently ridiculed the Congress leader, Atulya Ghosh, because he was visually challenged. Jyoti Basu was notorious for his bad manners and brusque manner; and true to form, he showed his lack of grace when he refused to attend the funerals of two of his predecessors. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, known for his pose of intellectual superiority, did not even call on the widow of Siddhartha Shankar Ray, the erstwhile chief minister of West Bengal. But Mr Bhattacharjee had taken pains to accord a State funeral to Mr Basu, another former chief minister. Instances can be multiplied.

The point of citing these instances is to contrast them with the decision of Mr Bhattacharjee and some of his comrades to attend the swearing-in ceremony on Friday. It was an unexpected exhibition of grace and courtesy, and all the more laudable for it. The new chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, had extended a personal invitation to which Mr Bhattacharjee and his comrades responded in the best possible way. It can only be hoped that this exchange of courtesy marks a new beginning in West Bengal politics. The smugness and arrogance of the communists had made common decency a rare commodity in the public life of the state. Defeat has restored decency. This has been possible because Ms Banerjee has chosen to be magnanimous in her triumph. This may not quite be the return of good manners but praise be for a small beginning.








As the election results started coming in on Friday the 13th, and the spectacular rout of the Left Front in West Bengal became clear, my mind went back to the spring of 1977. I was a student of St. Stephen's College in Delhi, too young to vote, but old enough to recognize the significance of the election then being conducted. This followed the lifting of a state of Emergency, during which Opposition politicians had been put in prison and the democratic rights of citizens withdrawn.

While in jail, the leaders and cadres of parties opposed to the Congress of Indira Gandhi had suppressed their differences — personal and ideological — and formed a united Janata Party. The leader asked to campaign in Delhi University was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in part because the university had long been a stronghold of the Jana Sangh's youth wing.

I went to hear Vajpayee speak at the Maurice Nagar Chowk. He spoke brilliantly, although at this distance in time, I cannot recall exactly what he said. We were charmed and moved by his oratory, but still thought it was for a losing cause. The Congress had never lost a general election —why would it do so now?

Insulated in our hostels, playing cricket and playing the guitar, the students of St. Stephen's College had not been exposed to the horrors of the Emergency. But tens of millions of other Indians had. These now came out to vote for anyone but Indira. The Congress lost all seats in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and most seats in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan as well.

The Congress's defeat in the general elections of 1977 was unexpected; the defeat of the Left Front in West Bengal this May, expected. Still, there are some notable parallels. For one thing, a party in power for three decades had finally been unseated. For another, the wave had swept away all the stalwarts on the losing (previously ruling) side. Even Mamata Banerjee did not think that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would lose his own seat. (This was as surprising as the defeat of Indira Gandhi in her own pocket borough of Rae Bareilly in 1977.) Finally, both elections witnessed the release of a suppressed anger, a mass anger, of citizens subject to the actions of an increasingly arbitrary and brutal State. Turkman Gate (where houses of poor Muslims were demolished) and Moradabad (where poor Muslims and Hindus were dragged away to be vasectomized) were to Indira's Congress what Nandigram and Singur became to Buddhadeb's Left Front.

So, hearing of the West Bengal results, I was reminded of the Lok Sabha elections of 1977. But as the day wore on, another and possibly more relevant parallel came to mind. This was with the assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh in 1983. When the Congress lost the general elections in 1977, it still won 41 out of 42 seats in Andhra. In this state it seemed unconquerable — until one maverick came along to challenge it.

This man was the film actor, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao. 'NTR' (as he was popularly known) had previously shown little interest in politics. His own films dealt with mythological rather than social themes. But when Rajiv Gandhi, then Congress general secretary, scolded the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad airport, NTR was outraged. By insulting the elected head of the state, this political novice from New Delhi, who owed his position solely to his lineage, had insulted the Telugu people themselves.

Rama Rao now put his acting career on hold, and ventured into politics. He began a Telugu Desam Party, which participated in the next assembly elections. Political commentators wrote off the TDP at birth. It had no structure, no organization, no ideology. It was led by a man whose appearance and personality combined the mystic and the comic. The Congress, on the other hand, had deep roots in the Andhra country. T. Prakasam, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, N.G. Ranga, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan — there was a long list of Telugu-speaking patriots of national renown, all associated with the Congress.

Not for the first or last time, the pundits of the press called it wrong. The Congress in Andhra was vanquished by a man dressed in saffron who travelled in a van dressed up as a chariot. The imagery was religious, but the message was resolutely political. NTR stood for the self-respect of the Andhras. They were not vassals of rulers from the North but a proud and ancient people, with a record of achievement in literature, music, architecture, the arts, and — not least — state-making. Such was the past; in the present, however, Congressmen in Hyderabad had become chamchas of their bosses in New Delhi. It had thus fallen to NTR to restore pride in the collective and combined history of the Telugu-speaking people.

Mamata Banerjee is a woman, not a man. She is a lifelong political activist, not a film star who turned reluctantly to politics. Still, there remains one striking parallel between Andhra Pradesh in 1983 and West Bengal in 2011. In both cases, an individual took on a vast, complex, well-funded and socially embedded political organization. In both cases, the will of the person proved superior to the power of the party.

This second parallel is perhaps more plausible than the first. This compares like to like — one state election to another, rather than a state election to a national election. In 2011, the Left Front had been in power for 34 years in West Bengal. When NTR decided on a change of career, the Congress had been undefeated in Andhra Pradesh since Independence. The opposition to one-party rule took shape in the form, above all, of a person. Charles de Gaulle mistakenly believed France to be an extension of himself. But the Trinamul Congress would be nothing without Mamata. The TDP was created from scratch by NTR. The organization was secondary to the leader, indeed the organization was subsumed by the leader, whose individual charisma and courage triumphed over the party that controlled their state.

In the early afternoon of May 13, the television channels offered a comparison of their own. Mamata Banerjee, they said, was the Indian Lech Walesa. The dockyard leader also came from a modest social background, and represented the interests of the proletariat more reliably than the communists who were in power in Poland. In both respects, he was akin to the Didi of Kalighat.

Mamata Banerjee's own supporters may see her win as sui generis — as having no precursors of any kind. To be sure, her personality is, so to say, her own, while the victory of the TMC-led alliance is a product of the distinctive history of West Bengal. Still, each of the three comparisons offered here is suggestive — up to a point. Each allows us to see the West Bengal elections in a fresh light. Like that of the Janata Party, the victory of Mamata and the TMC is a product of widespread popular anger against authoritarian rule; like that of NTR, it is an affirmation of an individual's will against the power of an organization; like that of Lech Walesa and Solidarity, it shames the betrayal of the people by communists who claimed to be speaking in the name of the people.

One last point — which must be made, even at the risk of seeming to spoil the party. Janata in 1977, NTR in 1983, and Solidarity and Walesa after 1989 — all won elections they would not, a year or two previously, have expected to win. (In the first and third instances, these were elections which, a year or two previously, they would not have thought would be held.) In all cases, the popular enthusiasm that sustained and nourished them in Opposition dissipated soon after they came to office. The Janata Party, for India; NTR and the TDP, for Andhra; and Lech Walesa and his party, for Poland — all provided administrations lacking in focus and intent. If Mamata Banerjee and her TMC emulate them in this respect, they could, quite quickly, find themselves in Opposition once more.




******************************************************************************************DECCAN HERALD





The Centre must be lauded for the proposed launch of a scheme under which rural girls will be able to access subsidised sanitary napkins. Under the plan, sanitary napkins will be available at a cost of Re 1 each for rural girls in the 10-19 years age group. If implemented well, the scheme could contribute significantly to improving the health and hygiene of young girls.

Girls in India have traditionally used old cloth and rags rather than disposable napkins during menstruation; lack of awareness and high cost of sanitary napkins forcing them to do so. Soiled cloth is thus used and reused repeatedly causing reproductive tract infections and even morbidity. By offering sanitary napkins at a low cost, such infections can be reduced. However, offering low cost sanitary napkins will not by itself improve hygiene of girls. The government must ensure the availability of water and clean toilets so that girls can keep themselves clean. Health workers must educate girls on the importance of personal hygiene and teach them how to use and dispose sanitary napkins in a proper way.

Provision of low cost sanitary napkins will not only improve female health in rural India, but also, it will reduce the dropout rate of girls from schools. One of the important reasons for the high dropout rate of adolescent girls in the country is the lack of access to safe sanitary products. Studies have found that around 23 per cent of girls drop out of school once they start menstruating. Not being able to afford the security that one feels with use of napkins, girls prefer to stay at home. The lack of toilet facilities and privacy in schools forces them to stay away from school. Such insecurities are likely to reduce by providing girls with affordable napkins.

The government will implement the project initially in 152 districts of 20 states. Roughly 1.5 crore girls are expected to be covered during this phase. Given the huge gains that are to be made in improving female health as well as literacy, it is important that the government extend the scheme to all districts as soon as possible. Studies have revealed that just 12 per cent of Indian women use sanitary napkins. This means that many in urban India too are not using napkins because they cannot afford them. The government must consider extending this scheme to the urban poor as well.








From International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief and a French presidential hopeful to an inmate at New York's notorious Riker's prison, it has been a dramatic reversal of fortune for Dominque Strauss-Kahn. Within hours of his arrest on charges of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a maid in a Manhattan hotel, the world was talking of Strauss-Kahn in the past tense; so serious is the impact of the charges that he has been forced to quit his post as the IMF chief.

He faces seven serious charges and could be sentenced up to 25 years in jail. Meanwhile, another allegation of sexual assault dating back to 2002 could be levelled against him. A French writer has said that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her when she went to interview him. The French media has drawn attention to his 'colourful' life, which involved many 'sexual indiscretions.'

He was assiduously courted by major European leaders who were keen on robust IMF involvement to bail out countries in crisis. He played a key role in addressing the eurozone crisis. He pushed countries to trim their debt. His exit has left Europe wondering whether his successor will engage on the debt crisis with similar vigour. More important is his effort to make the IMF a more inclusive institution. The Asian countries, which have been pressing for reforms of international monetary institutions, may now stake a claim for the post vacated by Strauss-Khan.

The impact of Strauss-Kahn's arrest will be felt most in France. He was expected to be the Socialists' candidate in the 2012 presidential polls. He was widely looked upon as the only person who could unseat president Sarkozy. This has prompted some of his supporters in France to wonder whether he was framed, either by the extreme right or extreme left.

A reputation of being a 'ladies man' would not have tripped up Strauss-Kahn's presidential ambitions. On the contrary, in France, it might have even given his chances a boost. What Strauss-Kahn faces however are allegations of sexual assault and attempted rape. Even the French, known for their immense tolerance of 'indiscretions', will not stomach this from their president. Unless he is able to clear his name in the next few days by some miracle, it is the end of the road for Strauss-Kahn.







If the Union government decides to act on the governor's report, it is most unlikely to stand judicial scrutiny.
Karl Marx once famously remarked, "History repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce." The political drama currently being played out in Karnataka has so many elements repeating themselves ad nauseum that even a perspective commentator like Marx, if he were to be alive today, would have been stumped for a pithy description.

As an opposition leader, B S Yeddyurappa was fond of calling himself a 'born fighter.' But after achieving his life's ambition of becoming chief minister of the state three years ago, he is so often being asked to 'fight' to save his chair that his fight-turned-plight has gone beyond farcical proportions.

Almost six days after governor H R Bhardwaj sent his 'special report' to the Centre recommending — for the second time in seven months — the dismissal of the Yeddyurappa government and imposition of President's rule under Article 356 of the Constitution, the Centre is yet to take a decision on the proposal. In the interregnum, Yeddyurappa thought it wise to ferry his supporting MLAs to Delhi and parade them at the Rashtrapati Bhavan to demonstrate his majority.


If the cabinet committee on political affairs finally decides to dump the governor's report, Bhardwaj will be in an unenviable position. The state Congress leaders have meanwhile rushed to Delhi, to apply pressure on the Centre to sack Yeddyurappa. The BJP, on the other hand, has decided to take the battle to the streets, demanding the governor's recall. As the sabre-rattling between the opposition and the government continues, the people have become helpless spectators.


An objective observer of the developments could see that Bhardwaj's justification for dismissal of the government is more 'emotional' and born out of an obvious bias. If the  Centre decides to act on it, it is most unlikely to stand judicial scrutiny, besides facing hurdles in getting parliament's approval.

Bhardwaj has neither made out a case for Yeddyurappa having lost majority nor breakdown of law and order in the state warranting the dismissal of the government. In his brief interactions with the media, he has made claims like people are fed up with a 'corrupt' government and that he was duty bound to meet their 'aspirations'. He may find plenty of people who will agree with him, but these are not legally valid reasons for dismissal and certainly beyond his jurisdiction to misapply the weapons in hand as a governor.

In defence of his action recommending President's rule, he has floated a new theory of "breakdown of constitutional mechanism by way of subverting the floor test held in the legislative assembly during October last year." He has also relied on the Supreme Court judgment in the disqualification of MLAs and the comments passed therein for his action. 

But, the fact of the matter is, is he a competent authority to take a view or pass judgment on the floor test? Can he recommend dismissal of the government just because of some adverse comments in the Supreme Court judgment against the chief minister and the speaker?

Role of a Constitution bench

There is a strong view that the Supreme Court judgment restoring the membership of the disqualified MLAs is itself contrary to the provisions of the Tenth Schedule dealing with the Anti-Defection Act and it may have to be revisited by a Constitution bench to remove the 'distortions.'

As Soli Sorabjee, Arun Jaitley and others have pointed out, the 11 BJP MLAs, who did not constitute two-thirds of the legislature party to identify themselves as a separate group, attracted the penal provisions of the Anti-Defection Act by 'voluntarily' leaving the party and writing a letter to the governor withdrawing their support to the Yeddyurappa government. Further, they openly hobnobbed with opposition leaders and justified their stand in several interviews.

Before initiating disqualification proceedings against them, Speaker K G Bopaiah had issued notices to them and they were given a proper hearing along with their counsels.

The detailed notification issued by Bopaiah quotes several court proceedings, including that of Ravi Naik vs Union of India in the Supreme Court, to make out a case that the BJP MLAs had 'voluntarily' relinquished membership of the party and invited disqualification under clause 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.

In a separate notification disqualifying the five Independent MLAs, the speaker had noted how they had acted contrary to clause 2(2) of the Tenth Schedule, joined the government as ministers and even attended BJP meetings and signed on the register.

The ground for disqualification of an Independent member states that "An elected member of a House who has been elected as such otherwise than as a candidate set up by any political party shall be disqualified for being a member if he joins any political party after such election."

The Karnataka high court upheld the decision of the speaker disqualifying all the 16 MLAs, but the Supreme Court, however, felt that the speaker had acted in a 'hurry' and had not given the members a 'fair' opportunity to defend themselves while overturning the high court judgment.

As Jaitley has pointed out the Supreme Court's interpretation of the events leading up to the speaker's ruling will have an 'adverse consequence' on the operation of the Tenth Schedule relating to anti-defection. There is a clear case for seeking a Constitution bench to clarify the issue, but ironically, since the 'defectors' have reaffirmed their faith in the Yeddyurappa government, the BJP may not be interested in doing so now. And that will be a pity.








The killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad Cantonment did not bring a single tear in my eyes.
In the last nine years, his al-Qaeda wreaked havoc in many countries including America, England, Spain, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Indonesia. Their pretext was they were serving Islam; instead they brought Islam into ill-repute and did it grave disservice.

The way his American killers went about their job in tracking him down in a palatial house in Abbottabad Cantonment, killing him and dumping his body in the sea so that his grave would not become a place of pilgrimage for the admirers, speaks well for his killers. I refuse to believe that the Pakistan military chief did not know his living in the Cantonment. Pakistan also wanted Osama dead but was not willing to do the killing itself. Instead it willingly compromised its sovereignty by allowing a foreign government to do the dirty job on its soil. It is because of the aid Pakistan gets from the United States. It can ill-afford to upset its chief patron.

What bothers me most is how Muslims the world over will take Osama's killing in an Islamic state. He had acquired the status of a jihadi hero and now dead that of a martyr who laid down his life for the cause of Islam. I fear that Muslim religious institutions like Dar-ul Vloom and al-Azhar will accord him the status of a martyr; following that so will the Muslim masses. That will be a sad day.


Mourning Sai's departure

Sri Sathya Sai Baba's death has been widely mourned. He had a larger following than any other godman or godwoman. He was a good man who built schools, colleges, hospitals, canals and much else. But he was a human being with human frailties. To gain acceptance he resorted to magician's tricks like producing ash (vibhooti) by rubbing his fingers, materialising items like watches, as if out of the air. He was not bhagwan (god). Like other human beings, he aged, fell ill and died. He was not immortal as god is believed to be.

I'm bewildered by the hysteria created by his admirers on his demise. Politicians of different parties — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, L K Advani — all showed up at Puttaparthi. Many newspapers had full page pictures of his describing him as bhagwan (god). Nobody knows what god looks like. Many even question his very existence. No Semitic religion like Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe in a human god.

Islam justifies the killing of anyone who claims to be one. Buddhism recognises Dalai Lama as god's representative. Sikhism recognised Sants and saintly men but denounced anyone who claimed to be god or the re-incarnation of any of their ten Gurus. Hinduism is unique in believing in the existence of god in human form. What happens when the human god dies is not known to anybody.

A standpoint
As a tipping point
The three-year glitch
Replaces the seven-year itch.
In the fast paced 21st century
Endless squabbles over
Perennial stinginess,
Incessant disturbing snoring,
Are a few of the passion killers.
A recent survey of adults
In steady relationships
Highlights the 36-month marker
When ties of kinship
Reach the zenith of stress levels.
All this points to a new trend —
Heading off to solo holidays.
Within a run-down
An individual gaze into space is presently the touchstone
(Courtesy: R P Chaddah, Chandigarh)

Several times 11

In 2011 we're going to experience four unusual dates, 1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11 and 11/11/11 and that's not all. Take the last two digits of the year in which you were born, now add the age you will be this year, and the result will be 111 for everyone! This is also the year of money...

Also, this October will have 5 Sundays, 5 Mondays and 5 Saturdays. This happens only every 823 years.

(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)







The children loved the doctor and the adults had unwavering faith in him.
When medical practitioners took the original Hippocratic oath, (which may have been modified or completely omitted in the modern day) they swore on certain Gods that they'd strive to keep their ability and judgment intact, keep patients away from harm and injustice and do their work keeping ethics in mind, among other things. Problems and illnesses being unavoidable, visit to the doctors becomes inevitable even if the case be a minor cold or an insect sting. With immaculate white coats and stethoscopes, they are a reality.

The following joke does rounds in my circles — A girl who is feeling a little blue visits a doctor who after having a brief talk with her says she suffers from anxiety neurosis, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and is also at the risk of manic-depressive psychosis. He quotes such sky-high fees for her cure that she starts feeling alright immediately!

Cracks apart, one comes across various types in the field — service-minded, careless, ethical, and mercenary; ones who play God and those for whom there is differentiating line between life and calling. Given such a situation, our family doctor in Mysore would have been Hippocrates' ideal.

With a powerful healing aura around him, a natural jovial manner and a refreshing sense of humour, he ensured that the patient was 50 per cent cured and already feeling better before being examined. With skillful competent diagnosis, correct advice and the right prescription of medicine, the other 50 per cent of the ailment was taken care of.

The children loved him (I admit to deliberately prancing in the rain so that I'd run a temperature and would be taken to see him!) and the adults had unwavering faith. Crowds thronged his clinic, even though there wasn't a dearth of general practitioners in the layout. He was adequately righteous and strict when the need arose — those who tried to barge in out of turn were chided and would return to their seats sheepishly. 

Even without a receptionist he'd keep an alert eye on the order in which the patients arrived. As should be the case, people irrespective of economic strata were meted egalitarian treatment. His fee? — A nominal Rs 5.

He made house calls in case the patient was elderly or extremely ill. "His soothing bed-side manner is his greatest USP", was the unanimously chorused conclusion. A part of the Hippocratic Oath says: "I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug". I do wish all doctors stay true to this like our messiah of healing did.



******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




Mitt Romney's defense of the Massachusetts health care reforms was politically self-serving. It was also true.

Despite all of the bashing by conservative commentators and politicians — and the predictions of doom for national health care reform — the program he signed into law as governor has been a success. The real lesson from Massachusetts is that health care reform can work, and the national law should work as well or even better.

Like the federal reform law, Massachusetts's plan required people to buy insurance and employers to offer it or pay a fee. It expanded Medicaid for the poor and set up insurance exchanges where people could buy individual policies, with subsidies for those with modest incomes.

Since reform was enacted, the state has achieved its goal of providing near-universal coverage: 98 percent of all residents were insured last year. That has come with minimal fiscal strain. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a nonpartisan fiscal monitoring group, estimated that the reforms cost the state $350 million in fiscal year 2010, a little more than 1 percent of the state budget.

Other significant accomplishments:

The percentage of employers offering insurance has increased, probably because more workers are demanding coverage and businesses are required to offer it.

The state has used managed-care plans to hold down the costs of subsidies: per capita payments for low-income enrollees rose an average of 5 percent a year over the first four years, well below recent 7 percent annual increases in per capita health care spending in Massachusetts. The payments are unlikely to rise at all in the current year, in large part because of a competitive bidding process and pressure from the officials supervising it.

The average premiums paid by individuals who purchase unsubsidized insurance have dropped substantially, 20 percent to 40 percent by some estimates, mostly because reform has brought in younger and healthier people to offset the cost of covering the older and sicker.

Residents of Massachusetts have clearly chosen to tune out the national chatter and look at their own experience. Most polls show that the state reforms are strongly supported by the public, business leaders and doctors, often by 60 percent or more.

There are still real problems that need to be solved. Small businesses are complaining that their premiums are rising faster than before, although how much of that is because of the reform law is not clear.

Insuring more people was expected to reduce the use of emergency rooms for routine care but has not done so to any significant degree. There is no evidence to support critics' claims that the addition of 400,000 people to the insurance rolls is the cause of long waits to see a doctor.

What reform has not done is slow the rise in health care costs. Massachusetts put off addressing that until it had achieved universal coverage. No one should minimize the challenge, but serious efforts are now being weighed.

Gov. Deval Patrick has submitted a bill to the Legislature that would enhance the state's powers to reject premium increases, allow the state to limit what hospitals and other providers can be paid by insurers, and promote alternatives to costly fee-for-service medicine. The governor's goal is to make efficient integrated care organizations the predominant health care provider by 2015.

The national reform law has provisions designed to reduce spending in Medicare and Medicaid and, through force of example, the rest of the health care system. Those efforts will barely get started by the time Massachusetts hopes to have transformed its entire system. Washington and other states will need to keep a close watch.







The peaceful inauguration this month of Haiti's new president, Michel Martelly, should give Haitians cause for pride and cautious hope that their country can move beyond mere survival and start rebuilding.

Mr. Martelly, a former pop star, ran a serious campaign. When he put on the presidential sash on the grounds of the still ruined presidential palace, he vowed to remake his country: promising to provide free education, and battle crime and corruption, and end the humiliation of being the hemisphere's charity case.

There is, of course, a very long way to go. Well over half-a-million Haitians are still without homes, many living in camps where disease and violence are unchecked. Mountains of rubble remain. The cholera epidemic continues and will only spike as the rains get worse. Great projects, like a textile factory in a giant industrial park, have not moved much beyond press releases.

The untested Mr. Martelly will have to show adroitness, not bluster. He will need to work with a Parliament dominated by members of former President René Préval's Unity Party. And rally international donors whose patience has flagged and attention has shifted elsewhere. He will need to deliver tangible improvements, not just promises, to his people.

Mr. Martelly will need to do what Mr. Préval refused to: make difficult decisions, even if they displease entrenched elites or cronies. One reason so few houses have been built is Mr. Préval's refusal to use the power of the presidency to resolve disputes over land ownership.

The new president will need to push Parliament to streamline regulations that stymie business development and jobs, and overhaul the failing criminal justice and judiciary systems. He will have to push Haiti's partners to hire and train Haitians, to build the capacity of government ministries and civil society.

The United Nations, the United States and other international donors will need to work closely with Mr. Martelly. Too much time has already been wasted.





The closer one looks at what passes for serious debate in Washington over energy, the more depressing it gets. The Republicans have nothing to offer but drill, baby, drill. The Democrats are rightly trying to end industry's cushy tax breaks, but that's not an energy strategy.

And everyone, including President Obama, seems more interested in scoring political points over rising gas prices than in confronting complex matters like energy security and climate change.

In the Senate, the two parties spent this week beating each other up without advancing the discussion. The Republicans and three oil-state Democrats blocked a worthy Democratic attempt to strip the five biggest oil companies of $2 billion in tax breaks they do not need. The Democrats then crushed an effort by Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, to match two outrageous measures passed by the House that would expedite lease sales in protected coastal waters while undermining safety reforms adopted after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr. McConnell said his bill would bring relief at the pump by raising domestic output. That is fiction. Production will take years to come online and even then would have a tiny impact on prices set on the world market.

Mr. Obama has made the right arguments in the past — that the way to achieve true energy security and protect the environment is with greater automobile efficiency, alternative fuels and mass transit. Last weekend, he, too, was out there pitching domestic production.

He announced several modest steps to speed up the search for oil and gas, including seismic studies to measure resources off the Atlantic Coast, long-planned lease sales in the gulf and further development of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. None will quickly lead to new drilling or have any effect on gas prices. Yet because his remarks were framed as a response to gas prices, he helped feed the Republicans' bogus narrative.







If there's one thing we've all learned in the aftermath of the financial crisis, it's that stiffing your client is not a crime. Not if you're an investment bank.

Deutsche Bank, according to a recent report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, sold its clients subprime mortgage bonds that one of its own traders at the time described as "pigs." Goldman Sachs took unseemly advantage of unsuspecting clients to offload its most toxic assets in 2007 and 2008. During the subprime bubble, this kind of behavior was par for the course.

It still is, apparently. On Thursday, LinkedIn, an Internet company that connects business professionals, became the first major American social media company to go public. The company had hired Morgan Stanley and Bank of America's Merrill Lynch division to manage the I.P.O. process. After gauging market demand — which is what they're paid to do — the investment bankers priced the shares at $45. The 7.84 million shares it sold raised $352 million for the company. For this, the bankers were paid 7 percent of the deal as their fee.

For a small company with less than $16 million in profits last year, $352 million in the bank sounds pretty wonderful, doesn't it? But it really wasn't wonderful at all. When LinkedIn's shares started trading on the New York Stock Exchange, they opened not at $45, or anywhere near it. The opening price was $83 a share, some 84 percent higher than the I.P.O. price. By the time the clock had struck noon, the stock had vaulted to more than $120 a share, before settling down to $94.25 at the market's close. The first-day gain was close to 110 percent.

I have no doubt that most everyone at LinkedIn was thrilled to see the run-up; most executives at start-ups usually are. An I.P.O. is an important marker for any company. And, of course, the executives themselves are suddenly rich. But, in reality, LinkedIn was scammed by its bankers.

The fact that the stock more than doubled on its first day of trading — something the investment bankers, with their fingers on the pulse of the market, absolutely must have known would happen — means that hundreds of millions of additional dollars that should have gone to LinkedIn wound up in the hands of investors that Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch wanted to do favors for. Most of those investors, I guarantee, sold the stock during the morning run-up. It's the easiest money you can make on Wall Street.

As Eric Tilenius, the general manager of Zynga, wrote on Facebook: "A huge opening-day pop is not a sign of a successful I.P.O., but rather a massively mispriced one. Bankers are rewarding their friends and themselves instead of doing their fiduciary duty to their clients."

There is nothing wrong with a small "pop" in the aftermath of an I.P.O.; investors, after all, don't want to buy a stock that is going to go down immediately. But during the Internet bubble of the 1990s, the phenomenon of investment bankers wildly underpricing I.P.O.'s so that money could be diverted to favored investors got completely out of hand — stocks would sometimes rise 500 percent on the first day. It was obscene.

Indeed, most business journalists writing about the LinkedIn deal focused on the first-day run-up as evidence that we've entered another Internet bubble. But over at the Business Insider blog, Henry Blodget — who knows a thing or two about bad behavior on Wall Street — had the perfect analogy for what the banks had done to LinkedIn.

Suppose, he wrote, your trusted real estate agent persuaded you to sell your house for $1 million. Then, the next day, the same agent sold the same house for the new owner for $2 million. "How would you feel if your agent did that?" he asked. That, he concluded, is what Merrill and Morgan did to LinkedIn.

It's worth remembering that most of the young Internet companies with those eye-popping I.P.O.'s back in the day are long gone. With their flawed business models, maybe they were doomed from the start — but the cash they left on the table at the I.P.O. might have allowed at least a few of them to survive.

Similarly, LinkedIn is still a fragile enterprise. Its business model remains unproved. It is going to have to grow awfully fast to justify its stock price. Its executives may yet rue the day they let themselves be sold down the river by their investment bankers. LinkedIn is supposed to be the client, but it was treated like the mark.

Ever since the financial crisis, investment bankers have been constantly questioned about whether they have any larger social purpose besides making money. What they invariably say is that they play a critical role in capital formation, meaning that they help companies raise the money they need to grow and prosper.

The LinkedIn deal suggests something darker. The crisis hasn't changed them a bit. They're still just in it for themselves.







Wow. What a week.

This week we lurched back and forth between the prurient and philosophical, between personal egos and our national ethos, between Schwarzenegger and Strauss-Kahn and President Obama and his considered-but-contentious vision of a new Middle East.

But, interestingly enough, this week's big news, both high and low, has no more legs than last week's fake furor over a rapper reciting poetry at the White House or the week Osama bin Laden was killed in a Pakistani safe house.

The one true constant in this country for the foreseeable future, and the issue that'll likely consume the summer, is the economy. As a Gallup poll reported earlier this week, "Three in four Americans name some type of economic issue as the 'most important problem' facing the country today — the highest net mentions of the economy in two years." Only 4 percent each mentioned "ethics/moral/religious/family decline; dishonesty" or "wars/war (nonspecific)/fear of war."

For the poor and unemployed struggling to land a job and provide some family security, the sexual exploits of rich sexagenarians may provide a moment of socio-economic schadenfreude, but it'll do nothing to salve the long-running, underlying angst.

For the powerless and voiceless making choices between bills and food, articulating a more coherent North African and Mideast policy that doesn't sacrifice our moral standing to our strategic interests may feed the soul, but not the stomach.

For far too many Americans, this will not be a summer for the silly or even democratic existentialism. This will be yet another summer to simmer, yet another summer to wonder when the recovery that now wafts freely between the Temples of Greed on Wall Street will make its way to the half-barren bungalows on Main Street, yet another summer to see just how little regard "job creators" — a favorite Republican term of art for the G.O.P.'s corporate Geppettos — have for the American people who built this country.

Take these recent examples:

As The New York Times reported last Friday, health insurers are reporting record profits for the third year in a row as people postpone or forgo care. Yet the insurance companies are still pressing for higher premiums.

And who among the insured is cutting back on needed health care? Many doing so are seriously ill.

According to a July 2009 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation entitled "Health Care and the Middle Class: More Cost and Less Coverage": "Nonelderly adults with medical debt are almost twice as likely to have an ongoing or serious health problem compared to others with private coverage. Unfortunately, the privately insured who have medical debt are also as likely as the uninsured to postpone care, skip recommended tests and treatments and not fill drug prescriptions — any of which can lead to more serious illness and even disability, which are difficult and costly to treat."

In short, we as a country may pay for these companies' profits later with a sicker population.

Also last week at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee about oil subsidies, John Watson, C.E.O. of Chevron — which reported last month that first-quarter net income rose 36 percent from the same period last year to $6.21 billion — said that "I don't think American people want shared sacrifice. I think they want shared prosperity." The problem is, Mr. Money Bags, that you and other corporate interests are the only ones sharing in the prosperity. For Americans on the lower end of the income spectrum, it's all sacrifice.

And a USAToday/Gallup poll released earlier this week found that nearly 7 in 10 said that higher gas prices were causing financial hardship, more than half said that they "have made major changes" to compensate and 21 percent said that the impact is so dramatic that "their standard of living is jeopardized."

And lastly, The Wall Street Journal reported last week on some 40 states that use prepaid debit cards to issue payments like unemployment benefits and child support. Turns out, the banks love these cards because "they largely escaped the recent crackdown by U.S. lawmakers and regulators on fees, interest rates and billing practices for credit and debit cards."

So the fat-cat bankers are allowed to fleece the most needy and most vulnerable in the most outrageous of ways. Some charge fees for checking the balance on the card, others charge high withdrawal fees, and the most callous even charge an "inactivity fee" when the recipient doesn't use the card. According to The Journal, one bank executive said of his bank: "Prepaid debit cards and other products will help the company recover roughly half of the revenue likely to be lost from swipe-fee rules being written by regulators." How do these people sleep at night? On pillows stuffed with cash, no doubt.

This summer has the potential to be another turning point for the electorate, and it's not necessarily pegged to the performance of the president. It may hinge largely on the callousness of conservatives and their seemingly inexorable desire to overplay their hand.

This may be the summer that we see more clearly that the working class has developed a lingering sense of disillusionment, that right-wing politicians have developed an unshakeable immunity to empathy and that corporations have developed a taste for blood squeezed from turnips.

And it may be the summer for seeing through the right-wing squawk machine that hopes to distract us from the damage the rich and the right are doing by manically hurling torches at the Obama administration to see if something catches fire.

This week, Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican of Wisconsin, suggested to the Economic Club of Chicago that the president's attempt to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans amounted to "class warfare" and promoted "class envy." Ha! The war is already being waged against the poor and vulnerable, and the envious have-nots didn't start it. The right and its cabal of economic cannibals did.

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And as the sun sinks in the west, we bid adieu to Katie Couric, First Woman Anchor.

"It feels good," Couric said of her post-CBS freedom in a phone interview. "But I'm sort of a serious working girl, so I'll be happy when I figure out my next move."

She is going to do something that "allows me to be my authentic self," she said. This would not be reality TV. No "Real Anchors of Manhattan." Let's stomp out that rumor before it starts. She hopes to do a program involving conversation and "tackling complicated subjects and making them accessible."

Couric's tenure at CBS News got mixed grades. She put together some memorable reports, led of course by the historic Sarah Palin interview. Palin was exactly the kind of candidate who could be revealed in all her ineptitude only by a seemingly unthreatening questioner who sat there looking interested, and a little worried, as the garbled answers flowed.

But innovations like a "free speech" segment flopped — apparently nobody at CBS knew that letting volunteer outsiders have their say was 10 times more time-consuming than putting paid staff on the air. And the "Evening News" didn't climb out of its long-running position at the bottom of the ratings. "I'm disappointed I couldn't help with the ratings more," Couric said. "I've been No. 1 and I've been No. 3. It's more fun to be No. 1."

From my perspective as a charter of the progress of American women, Couric was a total success. The first great mandate for a First Woman is not to screw things up for the Second Woman or the Third. On that count, Couric did great. She was under incredible scrutiny and pressure, and she held up her end. There was never a point at which American viewers turned to each other and said: "Well, that certainly didn't work out."

When she first got the job, Couric said, she was told that 9 percent of viewers polled didn't want to watch a woman in the anchor job and 4 percent had mixed feelings. That's not a humongous proportion of the watching public, but within the world of television ratings, it's quite a chunk.

Now, people don't even really notice. Couric made it unremarkable to turn on the television news and see a woman sitting in the chair of authority. And when the time came for ABC to find a new anchor and there was no longer a novelty premium in picking a woman, Diane Sawyer was chosen because she was clearly just the best person for the job. The follow-through is critical when it comes to these pathbreaking stories, so there are really two heroines here. The danger of first-woman-ness is that it doesn't always lead anywhere.

Rummage through American history and you will find all sorts of exceptional women who had amazing achievements that never created any echo. We generally celebrate Margaret Brent, a colonist in 17th-century Maryland, as the first woman lawyer in America. She not only brought cases to court, she virtually ran the colony during one period of exceptional crisis, when the place was filled with unpaid soldiers ready to run amok and Brent was the only thing standing between the settlers and chaos. She saved the day, but she didn't inspire any Maryland women of the next generation to follow her into court. Also, when things calmed down the Maryland Assembly refused to give her the right to vote.

You know you've won when things become routine. There are no women on the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour, which is currently orbiting in space. But I didn't know that until I checked. There could well have been. More than 50 women have flown in space, 48 of them for NASA, where a spokesman once said back in the '60s that "talk of an American spacewoman makes me sick to my stomach."

There was a time, children, when having a woman anchor the evening news seemed like an unobtainable holy grail. You could barely find a female face on news shows at all, let alone sitting in the seat of authority at the anchor desk.

"I have the strong feeling that audiences are less prepared to accept the news from a woman's voice than from a man's," said the president of NBC News in 1971. The whole idea seemed so improbable that the networks tried to hedge their bets. ABC made a disastrous attempt to pair Barbara Walters with Harry Reasoner, who did not want to be paired at all — and refused, Walters said, to talk to her when they were off air. CBS's attempt at a Dan Rather-Connie Chung duo in 1993 was equally disastrous.

What was needed, obviously, was the chance to let a woman fill the chair on her own. Now, that's just normal life. TV news might not be the central part of American culture it was back in the day, but Couric and Sawyer have given us a real success story. Margaret Brent would have been pleased.






IN the last two weeks, an Afghan police officer killed two American Marines in Helmand Province, and another killed a British soldier after a dispute over a soccer match. Last month, an Afghan military pilot killed nine American military trainers after an argument at a meeting in Kabul.

None of the killers seem to have been Taliban infiltrators, but that alone is not terribly reassuring. The United States' exit strategy for the war in Afghanistan depends largely on the performance, competence and trustworthiness of the Afghan security forces, and critics of the mission view such episodes as evidence that the Afghan forces are generally unreliable — ineffectual in combat and too often unmotivated, erratic or corrupt. The issue looms over President Obama's decision about troop reductions in Afghanistan, which he is expected to announce by July.

But there is reason to be hopeful. I was in Helmand Province last week, traveling with Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, and despite the recent setbacks and other problems, my impression of today's Afghan security forces was encouraging.

 Helmand Province, for years a Taliban stronghold, has in the past year or so seen remarkable progress. Almost all of the populated parts of the province are now under the control of the Afghan government and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

The region is not completely safe, to be sure. But most major roads are serviceable, and government officials now generally use them instead of NATO helicopters to get around. Markets are open; schools have increased almost 50 percent in number since late 2009; twice as many Afghan officials work in local governments as did a year ago; and poppy production is down.

 The even better news is that Afghan forces deserve an increasingly large share of the credit. The message from the Marines and British soldiers I spoke to in the province was one of growing appreciation for the skills and fighting spirit of Afghan soldiers and police officers.

Last year in southern Afghanistan, Afghans made up about half of all the combined forces used to clear the region of most Taliban weapons caches and strongholds. According to the International Security Assistance Force, roughly two-thirds of all Afghan Army battalions nationwide now score at least a 3 on a military-readiness scale from 1 to 5, meaning that while they still require outside help, they are quite effective when conducting missions with NATO troops.

Police and army pay is now adequate by national standards, and local recruiting goals for the Afghan Army and police in Helmand Province have been largely met this spring for the first time since the war began. Desertion rates are still too high, and Afghan troops too often overstay their military leaves, but the trends point in the right direction.

 During my travels, several Marine officers who also had experience in Iraq told me that Afghan police officers and soldiers were better fighters than their Iraqi counterparts. Routinely, in towns like Musa Qala that are still tense, Afghans provide half the personnel on most foot patrols — and I was told that they do not shrink from fighting when they run into trouble.

I heard many anecdotes that spoke to the growing effectiveness of the Afghan forces. Recently, for instance, in the town of Marja, intelligence indicated the presence of Taliban forces in the vicinity. An Afghan unit responsible for that sector leaped into action. A few hours later it returned with Taliban captives.

The unit's American partners told me that they would have preferred more of a plan — the Afghan forces were somewhat reckless in their response. But the important point was that the Afghans did not avoid combat or expect NATO soldiers to do their fighting for them.

Does this mean the United States should prepare for an immediate drawdown of troops?

No. What I saw and heard in Helmand Province supports the exit strategy — but not for this summer or fall.

An American commander told me that in his estimation, after an area is first cleared of the Taliban, NATO can substantially draw down its forces there 24 to 30 months later. That gives NATO enough time to recruit and train Afghan Army and police units, allows Afghan citizens to gain confidence that the Taliban is not coming back and gives the civilian government a chance to get off the ground. The time frame implies significantly reduced NATO forces in southern Afghanistan by next year.

In the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's death, many Americans have argued that the country should cut its losses in Afghanistan and bring our troops home. But while the United States does need a better political and diplomatic strategy for the mission (in particular, for dealing with Kabul and Islamabad), this is not the time to jettison a military strategy that has finally hit its stride.

Michael E. O'Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.








The moments in the run-up to any election are good times for unified theories of everything, "final theories" in the jargon of scientists. The major lenses of such grand analysis have to date largely been economic. There was Adam Smith's invisible hand. Later came Karl Marx's inexorable clash of capital and labor. Much later we had Francis Fukuyama's "end of history," a sort of a synthesis of the two that proclaimed Smith the winner.

We've had Samuel Huntington boil down the universe to a "clash of civilizations." As best as I can determine, famed physicist Stephen Hawkins seems to have concluded the single Creator that counts is the force of gravity.

When the topic is elections, the best "final theory" made in America is the "keys," produced by political scientist Allan Lichtman. Developed in the late 1980s with the help of a Soviet astrophysicist, Lichtman's theory has worked in practice. He has successfully predicted every U.S. presidential election in the last quarter century just by analyzing the presence of 13 broad and mundane indicators like the party composition in state legislatures. In Turkey, the ever-durable tool to analyze everything has been, since first proposed in 1967, the "center vs. periphery" hypothesis of sociologist Şerif Mardin. Kemalist vs. Conservative, Ankara vs. Konya, secularist vs. Islamist, even "black Turk" vs. "white Turk" are really just derivatives of Mardin's work.

So watching this depressingly primitive national election set to mercifully conclude June 12, it's high time to wheel in a new "final theory:" paleo-politics. It comes from Belgian physician and nutritionist Luc Dekeyser who briefed me over dinner in Brussels a few weeks ago on his new prism for political analysis.

Essentially, Dekeyser has taken his work on modern diets, unsuited to our bodies which have not really changed since the Paleolithic era of 100,000 years ago. Now he has moved this intellectual ball further down field. He argues that most conflict and war, terrorism, the vast majority of psychological disorder and even the degenerating tone of the world's adversarial politics can be best understood with this template.

Basically, as humans, we were pretty well off as hunters and gathers in our aboriginal state. It was paradise really. Imagine a time when the planet's entire population was less than that of little Belgium today. Then, about 5,000 generations ago, we started migrating out of Africa. It took us about 50,000 years of migration to get beyond what is today the Middle East, on into Europe and Asia. The agricultural revolution came 10,000 years ago. We started getting testy at this point; for the first time we had an incentive to steal as it was easier to rip off your neighbor's wheat harvest than grow your own. This is the birth of the concept of "conquest" for anthropologists.  This concept of course grew into the colonialism that began about 600 years ago. The industrial revolution arrived a bit less than 200 years ago and things got even meaner. Now we have the "information revolution" of the last two decades, which has only made us more confused.

It all came too fast. In short, our brains are as ill-prepared for the stresses of fast-paced, mass audience, mediagenic globalized politics as our intestinal tracts are unsuited for fried fast food.

Just as humanity's growing obesity results from the fact that our biology would prefer raw veggies plus a few bugs topped off with a bit of bone marrow, our brains can neither cope with national, let alone global, policy and politics. This is because we are hardwired to interact with a band of extended family numbering no more than 30. Such bands can organize successfully within a tribe of about 300 people. And our social "world" should stop with a circle of 3,000 individuals. Within this benchmark universe, we can be civilized and peaceful and children will effectively bond with their mothers. Dekeyser even offers anthropological studies done in places where paleo lifestyles still exist, such as in the Brazilian heartland or New Guinea, to argue that lying, stealing, laziness and violence against one's own kind are not, in fact, features of the true natural order. But our brains are just out of whack with the 21st century. It only follows that so are those of our hyper-competitive and confrontational leaders. All of us, Dekeyser suggests, are simply frightened aboriginals. We are trying to make sense of so many events beyond our control and comprehension.

So the next time the prime minister drags another red herring across the political landscape, don't despair. The next time the main opposition leader lets loose with a barrage of unsubstantiated corruption allegations, don't fret. The fiery rhetoric of the ultra-nationalists or the spreading protests of the beleaguered pro-Kurdish parties are not to be taken lightly, of course. But putting it all in a "paleo context" does help one focus. Until now, America's Sarah Palin and Europe's Catherine Ashton have left me puzzled each time they have opened their mouths to speak. Suddenly their words make sense.

I'm not optimistic for humanity's chances to resolve the underlying dilemma. It involves, suggests Dekeyser, a tonic he prescribes from the Neolithic era of 10,000 years ago. This was when shamans – or their equivalents – emerged to be the go-between among our humanity's many small spheres and the larger world. The journalist as shaman? A tough sell.

I'm not sure this is a "final theory." It might, however, be a starting one to forgive the meaninglessness in most of our politics.






In addition to the usual Turkish and English announcements, I listened to an Arabic announcement during a Turkish Airlines, or THY, flight to Diyarbekir last week. Arabic is one of the languages spoken in Turkey by a significant number of citizens. Although the announcement is an act of consideration by THY for its Arab customers, there was no announcement made in Kurdish.

If it had done so, I would've been surprised anyway. The Kurdish language, treated like an "unknown language" during the ongoing Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, court cases, is only known in the way it is described by the government and the state, as it is in the TRT-6 channel which broadcasts in "official" Kurdish. Such schizophrenia is not unique to language. It is valid for all definitions of Kurdishness like having two types of Newroz and Nevruz celebrations every year.

Behind this pathological approach, there is poor insight and severe clumsiness. As "official Turkey" tries to resolve the Kurdish conflict and seeks ways to solve it without having an interlocutor, it fails and by the same token increases its insolubility. Besides, the question requires technical expertise and knowledge as much as it needs political will. It requires endurance, long-term planning, consultation and experience. Something a bit more sophisticated than building highways as repeated systematically by officials.

Two years after President Abdullah Gül had given the good news by announcing that "positive things will happen," the so-called "Kurdish initiative" has claimed its place in the ruins of the country's Kurdish history. The new line is, as announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that "there is no Kurdish conflict." In the past there were no Kurds, today there is no Kurdish problem! This state of mind reminded me of the late Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, who had said, "The Cyprus dispute is over!" I bet there is no better politicians than ours who assume that an issue does not exist when they fail to solve it.

Erdoğan's move is a key to understanding how the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will deal with the Kurdish conflict following the June 12 elections. It is impossible for him not to know that the issue will not disappear just because of such an assumption, but he clearly does not know how to resolve it. At least a solution in the form of an initiative like the one offered in 2009 is no longer on the agenda.

Let's remember: A few months after the announcement of the "Kurdish initiative," in December 2009 to be precise, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, attacked and killed seven soldiers in Reşadiye, a district in Tokat. It was the most serious crisis following the announcement of the initiative as the PKK claimed the attack. The prime minister and the government handled the crisis in a very different way than today, condemning the attack but continuing to trust the Kurdish initiative. Today's government doesn't use that language anymore.

Biological solution

Let's give it a try and read government's mind: Erdoğan seems to believe the quickest way to solve the Kurdish conflict is economic development. This is nothing new as we have plenty of Turks who believe the Kurdish issue has something to do with poverty. But in the past the state of the economy did not allow an economic solution, whereas today, good results permit an economic approach. The new policy would be built on economic development, while religion will be used to regulate the Kurdish masses, the police, the military and judiciary will be ready to enforce obedience and no description other than the official description Kurdishness will be accepted. Things other than the economy leg of this policy are already there anyway, only the economic or biological approach now replaces the more political "Kurdish initiative."

The biological approach has various models. France in the 1800s is one of the few countries where ethnic/linguistic differences were eradicated through massive bans and economic assimilation, but that happened before ethnic narratives were structured and claims rose. When claims are significant but repressed, economic prosperity does not weaken identity claims but, on the contrary, encourages it. The richest and most demanding regions in Spain are the Basque Country and Catalonia.

Apparently, neither the upcoming Turkish Parliament nor the future government will have the willpower to meet demands and generate solutions together with the Kurds. The clogging in politics naturally takes this case to the extremes. On one hand, there will be a biological/repressive approach and on the other the motivation for separation and alienation triggered by such approach.

Kurdish politicians in the region have pointed out the gap with the new generation for years. The unemployed young with no goal and no future have begun to act their own, independently from the Kurdish political movement, Kurdish officials have repeated. Recently, Şerafettin Elçi repeated it, saying, "We are the last generation you will be able to talk to…"  

The number one condition for Turkey to reach a durable political, economic and social stability is to find a durable, sustainable, livable, acceptable solution to its Kurdish conflict. No matter how many votes the AKP gains, no matter how masterful the government turns, no matter if the prime minister becomes president, and no matter how remarkably Turkey grows, without finding a solution to the Kurdish conflict, nothing will work or become sustainable.







Two days ago, on May 19, Turkey celebrated its "Youth Day." Thousands of youngsters gathered in stadiums in order to rejoice in this official annual festival. Statesmen applauded colorful parades, while millions of citizens watched them on TV. And all of us were repeatedly reminded of the "the meaning and importance of May 19."

To get this "meaning and importance" better, I suggest taking a closer, and critical, look at it. What makes May 19 particularly important is, of course, its place in the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. On May 19, 1919, his boat reached the shores of the city of Samsun, from where he launched his mission to first join and then lead the War of Independence against the allied powers which occupied Turkey in the aftermath of the Great War. No wonder the full name of the "Youth Day" is "The Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day."

'Commemoration of Atatürk'

Yet, at this point, one wonders: is there any official day in Turkey which is not about the "commemoration of Atatürk?" We have three other annual official festivals, and all of them are again linked with the cult of the Supreme Leader: April 23 ("Children's Day") is the day he opened the Parliament; Aug. 30 is the day he won the battle against the occupying Greeks; and Oct. 29 is the day he announced the Republic. We even have a fifth national day, Nov. 10, when Atatürk, unbelievably, died.

In all of these official days, all Turkish students are gathered in school yards or stadiums, and are enlightened about all the great things that Atatürk did for us: He "saved" us from the sultan, liberated us from the enemies and gave us the unshakable "principles" that will guide the nation until eternity. (Of course, we are never reminded of unpleasant facts such as that Atatürk, as a politician, silenced all his opponents, closed down all rival parties and never bothered to compete in free and fair elections.) The whole effort is aimed at portraying Atatürk as an all-knowing, and all-righteous leader, who can be only venerated and obeyed, but never questioned.

No wonder the same official rhetoric proudly defines the Republic of Turkey as "the Atatürk Republic." I am leaving it to you to figure out which regimes in the 20th century have been similarly defined with the name of a single (and unelected) political leader. Let me just point to something else: Keeping Turkey as "the Atatürk Republic" has a very pragmatic benefit for those who define themselves as "Atatürkist." It implies a political system to which they have an exclusive right to own and utilize, whereas the non-Atatürkists can only be second-class citizens, and even deserve to be labeled as "enemies within."

Now, my problem with "the Atatürk Republic" is not just that it is discriminatory against a very large part of the society – which includes conservative Muslims, ethnically conscious Kurds or liberals. It also is a roadblock to meritocracy: In a political system defined mainly by the charisma of a person, your allegiance to that person becomes much more important than your merits. What matters is not your skills and your hard work, but your loyalty to the leader and his "path." (The same problem, of course, occurs within other political traditions in Turkey, including the center right. "Loyalty to Erdoğan," for example, is too much of a value in the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. But we at least do not have an "Erdoğan Republic.")

Organized collectivism

Another problem with "the Atatürk Republic" is the intense collectivism that lies at its core. According to its official ideology, the individual is really not a big value in itself. Thus he or she can be easily sacrificed for a collective body called "the nation." ("Let my existence be a gift to Turkish existence," reads the oath that Turkish students take every morning.)

The celebrations of the "Youth Day" are spectacular manifestations of this collectivist ideology. The festival is supposed to promote "sport," but this never includes competitive ones such as football or tennis. The common activity of the day is rather choreographed dances on stadium grounds, or team gymnastics in which male athletes use their well-built bodies to form human towers – a relic from the age of "racial fitness." Another usual "Youth Day" scene is the thousands of youngsters in stadium tribunes, who hold placards that collectively form huge images such as the national flag, portraits of Atatürk, or slogans referring to Atatürk, such as "We are on your path."

As liberal philosopher Friedrich A. Hayek explained in his "Road to Serfdom," such collectivist and "planned" recreation is among the hallmarks of "regimented nations." No wonder why the only capital besides Ankara in which you can still see such collectivist manifestations of official ideology is Pyongyang.

If Turkey will become a democracy, really, we need to abandon such archaic rituals, which put the state and its ideology above individuals. And if we will continue to have a Youth Day, that should be a one in which youngsters can freely choose what they want to do, and can find the means to express their individual potential.







U.S. President Barack Obama made a great attempt Thursday to align his country with the ongoing Arab revolution through a speech on the Middle East.

Obama's emphasis on the "self-determination of individuality" as a new principal attracted my immediate attention and appeared to supersede the Wilsonian national determinism of the beginning of 20th century.

Obama unequivocally placed his bets on the pro-change movement this time and stated: "The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder."

Thursday's speech at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., was the obvious sequel to the speech in Cairo, Egypt, two years ago, when Obama used a sort of an apologetic tone toward the Muslim world. Obama called the continuing Iraq War as "a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world" and made a significant effort to gain Muslims' goodwill by trying to explain the motives behind the aggressive U.S. foreign policies of the last decade.

This time there was no apology. Obama appeared to be washing his hands of any ills that the Middle East has by claiming that colonialism ended a half-century ago. Obama seemed to have all but forgotten how the U.S. and the Soviets manipulated the region and clashed there most of that half century, in which "good" dictators, like Egypt's overthrown Hosni Mubarak, were well fed and patted by previous Washington administrations.

Overall though, the speech did a pretty good job in terms of recognizing and backing the enormous change that is occurring in the Arab world and summarized how the Obama administration has handled it so far: calling for political reforms and promoting human rights. From now on, as Obama unveiled economic incentives for Tunisia and Egypt, the economic development component is added as well to set a model for the region's other states that are undergoing similar upheavals.

Following these three steps, Obama bluntly completed his speech with a final principle, the "pursuit of peace" in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Most did not expect Obama at this time to dig deeper into the stalled Middle East peace process, for there are too many obstacles to handle at once: the unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah, their decision to seek recognition from the United Nations in September and the resignation of the U.S. special envoy George Mitchell are just a few.

The first public presidential reference to the 1967 borders infuriated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who stated that he was told by Obama that "there will be no surprises in the speech." Israel's official statement about the speech is certainly a good indicator of the Israeli administration's high level of unhappiness. 

Josh Block, a former spokesman for American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and now a fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, told me that "by suggesting the Israelis should accept the 1967 borders as a baseline, albeit while retaining large parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem, [Obama] has rewarded the party who is the least cooperative and undermined trust with Israel, and hurt the prospects for peace.  Why do this now, when the [Palestinian Authority] is rejecting his requests, forming a 'unity government' with Hamas terrorists, and calling for statehood?

"Mentioning the '67 borders' in this way, at this time, is a major mistake, that simply repeats the error made when the White House focused on settlements. This strategic error is manifold, and undermines, not advances, the prospects for peace talks."

Obama, following this speech, has a meeting with Netanyahu on Friday at the White House, then he will speak at AIPAC's annual conference on Sunday.

According to one Middle East observer in Washington, Obama's hovering approval ratings following Osama bin Laden's kill made him confident to make this blunt push on the Middle East peace process, even though the re-election campaign is about to start and everyone knows how significant the Jewish vote in the American election cycle is. Obama must also feel more relaxed when sees that there are not many viable competitors on the Republican side. Obama, indeed, instead of stepping back from the miserably failed Middle East diplomacy of the last two years, has now decided to double down.

It is surely a very unpredictable weekend for U.S.-Israel relations and tense times for the Arab-Israeli process ahead of us. 

IMF source: Kemal Derviş is 'almost impossible'

While popular with the bookmakers, Kemal Derviş' candidacy mostly elicits indifference within the IMF. The sentiment within the institution is that a viable candidate needs to have a pretty unique skill set. As the fund's activity is now focused on the stabilization of troubled economies in Europe, any future fund boss would need to be adept at navigating the delicate maze of European power relations and be able to gently, but resolutely, push all sides in the right direction.

"Derviş is not exactly an insider in the European establishment, and it is hard to imagine the Greeks listening to him lecturing them on fiscal responsibility," according to one IMF source.

In addition, a short stint as minister of finance notwithstanding, Derviş comes from a development background, and that is not going to earn him any points in a crowd that hails almost exclusively from the finance and central banking community. Last but not least, his nomination would need a very strong push by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish government, and no such endorsement has been made public so far.







The French nickname for the former chairman of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is "DSK."

DSK had remained on the front pages of newspapers and magazines for months as the Socialist Party presidential candidate for the 2012 presidential elections in France.

So had his wife Anne Sinclair, a former journalist, who is as famous as him.

Sinclair is the owner of a considerable amount of wealth inherited from her grandfather, who was a collector that discovered Pablo Picasso first.

This renowned couple lives in a luxurious neighborhood of Paris and own villas in Washington and in Marrakech, a holiday resort for the French rich.

What I am saying is this:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is one lucky man that life has treated him generously.

He has four children and grandchildren from his previous marriages.

Taking the leadership seat during a period where the organization had been fiercely criticized, DSK raised the IMF into its strongest position than ever.

He swiftly climbed up the stairway to success and a bright political future of the French Presidency was lying before him.

Recently though we woke up one morning and saw him on TV with his hands being cuffed and his hair uncombed. We saw a DSK looking around hopeless or crazy.

As a close friend of mine said, it was as if we were watching a Shakespeare tragedy.

Even as you are over the clouds, you could suddenly find yourself at the bottom.

The French and privacy

All his career successes turned to naught, and DKS is being labeled as a "rapist" now.

I have been following the French press for days.

The French question, for instance, whether or not the privacy of politicians should be considered a "taboo."

For instance, Mazarine Pingeout, François Mitterrand's child born of an extramarital affair, was a secret known by all French but never publicized by the media.

Although Pingeot's mother, Anne Pingeout, lived in a flat inside the presidential premise under police protection, upon Mitterrand's death she was brought to the day light by the press following the funeral ceremony.

Similarly, other French Presidents Jacques Chirac and Valery Giscard d'Estaing also had extramarital affairs. The media have known these all along but never talked about them.

When the Socialist Party 2007 presidential candidate Segolene Royale separated from her "partner in life," François Hollande, the Socialist Party secretary-general and the French did not think that she was putting her campaign in jeopardy.

The private life notion of the French is indeed quite different from that of Americans.

However, this is being questioned following the DSK scandal.

The discussions are revolving around whether the French media tolerated DSK, known for being a womanizer, more than necessary.

After the DSK scandal in New York, French author Tristane Banon came forward saying that she was sexually assaulted by DSK in 2002. And this is quite important.

Justice works in a different way

As DSK took the chairman's seat at the IMF, he had an affair with Hungarian economist Piroska Nagy and now it's being discussed that the relationship perhaps had a sexual assault dimension.

"Sexual assault" is a serious offence in the United States.

Even a sex joke in a working environment is considered intolerable.

In France, "sexual assault" might be confused with libertinism, but this never is the case in the U.S.

In this sense, I am surprised to see a "clash of culture" between France and the United States.

A similar clash is also seen in the justice systems of both.

In France, a person is never seen cuffed unless proven guilty.

The renowned French prosecutor – and now a European member of parliament – Eva Jolly says, "American justice is stricter than justice in France."

We all know that the powerful in the U.S. can experience a fast and remorseless fall.

As we talk about the "culture clash" between France and the U.S., triggered by the DSK scandal, let me share you a news article from a Turkish newspaper.

A 13-year-old girl student in the province of Amasya was raped by her uncle two years ago, and later one was sold by her neighbors to men, including several top level civil servants.

How could we relate such an atrocity with the discussions about DSK's "sexual assault" scandal and the French reactions against it?







Turks were happy with the "undertake reforms or step aside and allow a regime change" message U.S. President Barack Obama delivered to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but were unhappy with the strong assertion that inclusion of a Hamas, which has been refusing to renounce terrorism in a Palestinian government, would be an impediment to peace talks with Israel. Turks are happy as well that Obama has disclosed some sort of Marshall plan to help finance the Middle East transformation.

Yet, I believe, the real agenda of Turkey remained domestic violence.

Writing in this column just few days ago, precisely on May 12, I stressed that it was great to see a Turkish court sentence to life in prison a certain İstikbal Yetkin, who with some primitive passion killed Ayşe Paşalı, his former wife, who despite repeated beatings refused to surrender to him. In the same article, I said while the heavy sentence delivered against the brute former husband was a welcome development yet deficient as the court sentenced only the tool of the crime, not the real criminal.

The beasts benefiting from the official tolerance of such primitive products of male chauvinism are still out, continuing their hunt to satisfy their uncontrolled primordial instincts. In a society so ignorant of the sufferings of women, its other half; so unaware that by oppressing its women it indeed castrating its prospects of development; so primitive to believe that honor and pride is in between the legs of women; so dumb that it just can't see that the woman it tortures, rapes, undermines or worse, kills, is no one other than its own mother or sister, murder of Paşalıs by husbands, former husbands, brothers or some relatives will continue. Would it make any difference if Turkey becomes the first country to sign an international convention condemning violence against women? No one needs to undertake such bitter jokes, engage in such tragicomedies as long as the real criminals remain unpunished.

Writing on the sentence the court delivered to the "murderer" in the Paşalı case, I wrote in this column that the real murderers were not sentenced. Yes, Yetkin was the beast that stabbed Ayşe to death. But, were the policemen who remained deaf and blind to repeated appeals by Ayşe and her daughter for protection less criminal than Yetkin? If the prime responsibility of a state is to provide security, and thus the right to live, to all its citizens, was not the state guilty as well in the Paşalı murder?

Over the past 7-8 days since the Paşalı case was resolved nothing has changed in this country. Women continue to be raped and murdered by some beasts and the police network is continuing to ignore calls of women for protection. A 42-year-old Hülya Tazegül, for example, was fed up being beaten frequently by her husband Turgay. She wanted to seek divorce, but could not. She was lucky enough as her family provided her refuge from the beast. The couple was living separate for the past year. Hülya was determined not to return Turgay; Turgay was determined not to agree to a divorce. Over the past months he repeatedly harassed Hülya and her family and Hülya repeatedly applied to police for protection. But, each time her plea for protection was shunned with an advice to return to her husband. Last week Turgay ambushed the house of Hülya's family and mercilessly murdered her.

Naturally, for the police and the political authority of the country, Hülya's murder was yet another exceptional example of domestic violence that they strongly disapproved of, but unfortunately were unwilling to act on either.

As I wrote in this column regarding the life term for the former husband who murdered Ayşe Paşalı, the courts must sentence not only the tools of crime but the real criminals as well. Those who hold the knife or pull the trigger in violence on women are just tools. The real murderers are the Turkish state and the Turkish police who have insisted on not hearing pleas of Ayşes or Hülyas for protection. In a country where so many hundreds of women are murdered every year by their husbands, former husbands, brothers or fathers either to save the "honor and pride" of the family or to "punish" disloyalty and set a deterrent example for the rest of the "women folk," can the state have the luxury of turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to a woman requesting protection? If it does, and if women continue to be killed like Ayşe or Hülya, who indeed should be considered as the real killer? The former husband who stabbed her? Or the state who failed to provide adequate protection and ensure those women's right to live?

Pride and honor of a family cannot be in between the legs of a woman, but the level of modernity of a society can be easily measured by seeing the treatment of women – and of course ethnic, cultural, linguistic minorities, as well as the disabled – received in that land. Unfortunately, whatever "advanced democracy" might be provided by the Islamist and "conservative-democrat" Justice and development Party, or AKP, the continued suffering of the Paşalıs of this society relegates Turkey to a primitive league of nations that indeed should stop boasting about having talks for accession into the European club of democracies.

Thus, what Obama said for the Middle East is of course important, but the real message must be sought in the distinguished place of women in Obama's world.






There are dead-serious problems concerning the "privacy of personal life and communication" in Ankara at the moment. Video tapes are pouring in as records of private phone conversations, obtained through wiretapping, are making the rounds. Cyber attacks targeting politicians are continuing incessantly. There are as many records that have been obtained illegally as there are records that have been obtained legally and leaked.

Video or audio tapes have both become evidence in court cases and have been used for blackmail. Some of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, candidates have had to resign or withdraw due to sex tapes featuring them.

Since these are cyber attacks, everyone is trying to gain protection either through personal or corporate measures. While jammer-like equipment to stop the transfer of phone and video conversations are being used by political parties, parliamentary deputies are choosing similar equipment sold on the market.

There are concerns about being bugged even in top offices in the capital.

Former Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan told me that he had installed a small apparatus on his cell phone to block wiretapping but that he took it off at a later time.

The bylaw of the Directorate for Protection was changed with the arrival of the current Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Şahin to office. Şahin's room is searched for a bug every morning according to a new regulation.

I witnessed random checks against wiretapping with the request of deputies in Parliament.

It came out during a conversation with the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, Adana deputy and information technology expert Tacidar Seyhan that there are some people keeping audio or video tape records on deputies in their offices outside Parliament. "We have a device spotting such equipment. We made a scan and found some audio or video recorders in several influential figures' offices. But we couldn't find out who did this," Seyhan said.

Let me remind you that some of these names are nowadays dealing with "blackmail tapes" on the Internet.

In this legislative term, some deputies complaining about being wiretapped applied to the Parliament Presidency and asked that some measures be taken. Seyhan applied to the Parliament Presidency in January 2010 and said deputies might be easily wiretapped because of IMSI catchers which were introduced to facilitate cell phone use in Parliament.

Paranoia in Parliament has reached a level that at one time even some digital phones were returned to make wiretapping easier.

Although the Parliament Presidency said, "We searched for it and wiretapping is impossible;" it was not found convincing enough by some deputies.

I also witness many deputies taking out the batteries of their cell phones and then engaging in private conversations.

Even fire alarms cause concerns in Parliament. Several deputies got suspicious of red lights on top of the alarm apparatus in the main building and in the Public Relations section and have asked for their removal. There were even a few deputies who were barely convinced that the equipment was for fire alarms only.

But are deputies are really being bugged?

No one has solid evidence! But given the measures that have and will be taken, "serious doubts" do obviously exist.

The foundations of the new Public Relations building in Parliament were laid a week ago. An 11-story "smart building" will be ready in three years. A communication data network covering digital phone devices for 550 deputies, secretaries and advisers will also be set up inside the premises. And with the help of this "smart technology," suspicions about being bugged will be removed, as I was told this special data center will not be reachable from outside.

According to civil servants, wiretapping landlines will be impossible under the new system. For mobile phones and conversations inside rooms, a new technology similar to jammers or a screening method is being considered. With this, it will not be easy to wiretap deputies in the new building.

But until the construction of the new building is completed, the old technology will be used. For this reason, it is useful for new deputies in Parliament to be careful while speaking but not to get carried away by doubt.






Another setback for the European Union has occurred as a result of the popular revolts in North Africa. The Schengen system has started collapsing as Denmark has imposed border controls with Germany, and other members of Schengen are thinking of doing the same. So there goes the freedom of human movement within the Schengen zone, which is now only available to us birds. So, after the problems of the Eurozone, we have the possible collapse of the Schengen zone.

But it is not only us birds who are chirping about the decline of Europe; it is a common topic of analysis for German think tanks. According to a recent analysis of the government-financed German Institute of Global and Area Studies, or GIGA, "Europe remains the world's largest economic area but is suffering a creeping loss of economic significance. It is apparent that the U.S. has lost its hegemonic status due to the rise of new global actors, e.g. India, Brazil and above all China. Despite NATO, the west club is losing its ability to lead and govern. In light of the West's loss of influence, emerging countries such as Turkey, Venezuela, or Iran no longer want to be taken in tow."

So what is the EU doing about this? The last we heard was that it was counting its citizens last week, in an EU-wide census, with each country asking different questions. The Germans asked questions on religious preferences, the Greeks did not mention religion but underlined property details that most likely would help the tax authorities find more unregistered properties. Another silly question included in the Greek questionnaire was: "How many children have you given birth to?" There is a parenthesis clarifying that only females should reply to this question! And why the census? Perhaps to see how many more taxes they can suck out of an increased or decreased population of the EU.

In this Euro-malaise, it appears that Germany also doctored its statistics on its deficit. The official deficit was declared to be 3.3 percent, while the correct deficit would have been 12.8 percent if all transactions had been properly counted. But while Germany doctored its statistics, it is taking away doctoral degrees from doctors, in other words it is un-doctoring the doctors. We had the case of the former Minister of Defense Gutenberg, who was deprived of his degree since he had copied large parts of his thesis, Lady Silvana Koch-Mehrin, a member of the European Parliament who did the same, as well as the daughter of the former prime minister of Bavaria Stoiber. And who knows how many more will be discovered as the universities start controlling doctoral theses?

Our question is: Why is Turkey still insisting on joining an EU that is falling apart?

Ponder our thoughts dear humans, for your benefit.






As journalists Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık were detained for books they wrote, one of the organizations protesting their being put behind bars was Kocaeli Journalists Platform.

A group of 100, with the participation of civil society representatives and citizens, gathered at Uğur Mumcu Park and read a press bulletin.

Later on at Sabri Yalım Park the group delivered speeches, demanding the release of Şener and Şık. Nothing bad happened, no one ran wild; they expressed opinions in good mannerism.

Since we are living in a "democratic" country, the police identified participants.

As it was an unauthorized press bulleting at Uğur Mumcu Park, the Governor's Office, based on Province Administration Law and Misdemeanor Law, ordered administrative fines against 12 journalists.

The right to congregate and demonstrate is one of the fundamental laws in every democratic country.

You don't have to have permission in advance. Unless a particular meeting and protest does not harm others, duty of the police is to provide security of the participants, nothing more.

But in our "advanced democratic" country, every single right and freedom regulated by laws includes the word "however." This is the result of the Sept. 12 military coup period's effort to confine people into some sort of narrow behavioral patterns.

Given the statements issues, we settled the score with the Sept. 12 on last Sept. 12 but this is a good example that the spirit of Sept. 12 is not only felt in the Constitution and laws but also in all levels of the state as well as institutions.

I quite often criticize courts for not exercising laws in a way to improve freedoms.

But it seems that public administrators interpret laws to narrow freedoms not the other way around.

The journalists being fined will resort to the court and ask cancellation of the fine.

Let's see how the court will interpret this incident: Will it be in favor of improving freedoms or of their restriction?

* Mehmet Y. Yılmaz is a columnist of daily Hürriyet, in which this piece appeared Friday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.






Another setback for the European Union has occurred as a result of the popular revolts in North Africa. The Schengen system has started collapsing as Denmark has imposed border controls with Germany, and other members of Schengen are thinking of doing the same. So there goes the freedom of human movement within the Schengen zone, which is now only available to us birds. So, after the problems of the Eurozone, we have the possible collapse of the Schengen zone.

But it is not only us birds who are chirping about the decline of Europe; it is a common topic of analysis for German think tanks. According to a recent analysis of the government-financed German Institute of Global and Area Studies, or GIGA, "Europe remains the world's largest economic area but is suffering a creeping loss of economic significance. It is apparent that the U.S. has lost its hegemonic status due to the rise of new global actors, e.g. India, Brazil and above all China. Despite NATO, the west club is losing its ability to lead and govern. In light of the West's loss of influence, emerging countries such as Turkey, Venezuela, or Iran no longer want to be taken in tow."

So what is the EU doing about this? The last we heard was that it was counting its citizens last week, in an EU-wide census, with each country asking different questions. The Germans asked questions on religious preferences, the Greeks did not mention religion but underlined property details that most likely would help the tax authorities find more unregistered properties. Another silly question included in the Greek questionnaire was: "How many children have you given birth to?" There is a parenthesis clarifying that only females should reply to this question! And why the census? Perhaps to see how many more taxes they can suck out of an increased or decreased population of the EU.

In this Euro-malaise, it appears that Germany also doctored its statistics on its deficit. The official deficit was declared to be 3.3 percent, while the correct deficit would have been 12.8 percent if all transactions had been properly counted. But while Germany doctored its statistics, it is taking away doctoral degrees from doctors, in other words it is un-doctoring the doctors. We had the case of the former Minister of Defense Gutenberg, who was deprived of his degree since he had copied large parts of his thesis, Lady Silvana Koch-Mehrin, a member of the European Parliament who did the same, as well as the daughter of the former prime minister of Bavaria Stoiber. And who knows how many more will be discovered as the universities start controlling doctoral theses?

Our question is: Why is Turkey still insisting on joining an EU that is falling apart?

Ponder our thoughts dear humans, for your benefit.










If we are to go by media reports about the recent round of Dubai talks between Pakistani and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials, the government has almost abandoned its plans to impose the Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) in the coming 2011/12 (July-June) budget. Instead, the Pakistan Peoples' Party-led coalition now aims to do away with some tax exemptions, including those on food products, in an attempt to raise revenue. Some finance ministry officials, who have mastered the art of sending test balloons, claim that the government plans to meet the RGST objectives, but will brand these measures under some other name. Last year, the government backtracked on the Value Added Tax (VAT) in favour of the RGST that led to the IMF suspending disbursement of the last two tranches of its $11.3 billion standby loan. The plan to abandon the RGST or introduce it under some other name seems an action replay – the government has, as usual, been found wanting and dragging its feet on crucial issues even though it is increasingly coming under pressure both here and abroad to broaden the tax base, boost revenue collection, and slash the budget deficit to around 4.3 percent, if it is serious about pulling the country out of the current low-growth and high-inflation cycle.

In these tough times, Pakistan needs a clear economic vision and a roadmap. Wavering, deceptive policies and half-hearted measures have not worked in the past and will only damage the country more. For the last three years, our economic growth has remained pegged at a dismal 2.6 percent on an average. Double-digit inflation and a lack of investment and business opportunities are hitting every segment of society, but the man on the street the most. Pakistan needs to push itself into a high-growth trajectory of eight to nine percent and curb inflation if it is to reduce poverty, create jobs, and provide better healthcare, education, and infrastructure to its more than 160 million inhabitants. And to do that, the state needs to take some tough decisions that include documenting the economy, expanding the tax base, and implementing all those steps which it has been resisting so far. But in an era of political expediency, when the government and the opposition remain locked in a zero-sum game, any national consensus on core economic issues appears very difficult to achieve.






Publically, the army and the government have always condemned drone attacks as a violation of Pakistan's airspace and sovereignty. But now, secret internal US government cables reveal that Pakistan's top military brass supports US drone strikes in Pakistan, despite public posturing to the contrary. The cables allege that in January 2008, Army Chief General Kayani requested "continuous Predator coverage" in South Waziristan. In another cable in February 2009, US Ambassador Patterson asserts, "Kayani knows full well that the strikes have been precise." The ISPR has denied these reports and said that it has only shared technical intelligence in some areas. It was in early March this year that Maj-Gen Ghayur Mehmood, in charge of the troops in North Waziristan, made a statement that most of those killed in drone strikes were Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists, and not civilians. But when a drone attack killed 40 in the North Waziristan Agency a few days later, Gen Kayani came out in a manner uncharacteristic of him and "strongly" condemned the attack, calling it 'senseless,' 'careless' and 'callous.' On the other hand, as reported in Dec 2010, WikiLeaks revealed that PM Gilani had allowed drone strikes in the tribal areas 'as long as they get the right people'. "We'll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it," he had said. In an exclusive interview with Time just last week, PM Gilani, for the first time, publically expressed support for drone strikes inside Pakistan - provided that Pakistan was in on the decision-making. But this week, he said during his China visit that Pakistan condemned drone strikes and its officials had repeatedly said that the strikes were counterproductive.

The prime minister's comments left people wondering why he had publically offered, only a few days ago, support for a programme that his government thought counterproductive. The most important element all these contradictory, not to mention confusing, statements point to is a lack of clarity on Pakistan's drone policy, and the implications of the continuing ambiguity. Do we think the strikes are a useful and precise tactic in neutralising identified militants? If so, military and political leaders should publically change their stated position, openly seek greater cooperation with US forces to yield success in the long term, and move on. On the other hand, if the army and government really are against the strikes and think they do more harm than good, then they should stop bemoaning them in public and supporting them in private. The nod-and-wink approach to drone strikes is demeaning and self-defeating. The latest disclosures have finally sounded the bell on the need for political and military leaders in Pakistan, and their counterparts in the US, to stop holding the public hostage to this politics of ambiguity. This is all that the Pakistani public asks of the army and the government: come clean, lay your cards on the table, don't dissemble.







The once sedate city of Quetta is descending into a kind of chaos from which it seems no one can save it. Almost each day we hear of a fresh act of violence somewhere within it. The latest occurred on Wednesday along the busy Saryab Road that runs through the heart of Balochistan, when assailants who had taken positions along a busy stretch of the road suddenly opened fire on a pickup, killing seven people aboard and injuring four others. The burst of gunfire created panic as terrified people rushed for cover.

All the victims are reported to be members of the Hazara community and also Shia. Their ethnicity or belief could be a factor in their deaths. Or perhaps they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the Hazaras have been targeted before; seven were killed in Quetta early this month. The list of tragedies that have hit Quetta is growing longer and longer. Each time such killings occur, we see desperation and grief expressed by distraught family members of the deceased. Many wonder when this will end and if there is any real understanding of who the culprits are behind the different kinds of violence we see in Balochistan. The situation there has worsened so fast that regaining control seems like an almost impossible task. But somehow peace needs to be restored and the sense of terror ruling over Quetta driven away, so that those who live here can lead normal lives again.









Of all the regions in the world South Asia continues to be at odds with the trend toward greater regional economic cooperation. Unresolved disputes and the zero-sum nature of Pakistan-India relations remain the main impediments to any significant move towards South Asia's economic integration.

Almost 90 per cent of the region's GDP is accounted for by India and Pakistan. It is therefore this relationship that counts both in terms of the expansion of intra regional trade and South Asia's exports to the rest of the world. Several studies estimate that bilateral trade can easily surpass the current official level of $2 billion a year and that the potential – if informal channels are 'formalised' and the cost of trading through third parties lowered – is considerable. Some have put it at over $10 billion a year.

Without normalising ties and resolving outstanding disputes it is hard to see how this potential can be realised. Nor can the promise – and premise – of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc) be met.

So where does this leave the region at a time of extraordinary flux in the international system? The world today is undergoing a structural shift in economic power from the West to 'the Rest' and has entered an era widely acknowledged as 'Asia's century'. The economic centre of gravity continues to move towards Asia while the nature or currency of power itself has been changing under the impact of globalisation. The dynamics of a globalising world have been decentralising power and also urging greater cooperation across multiple arenas.

This changing global environment sets the context for Shahid Javed Burki's latest book, 'South Asia in the New World Order', just published by Routledge. The book tries to make sense of the global transformations underway while focusing on what the future holds for South Asia, which he says has yet to develop a regional identity as against strong national interests.

A prolific author, Burki brings his vast experience as a practitioner and insights as a thoughtful scholar to a subject that is at once unwieldy but immensely important. Having spent many years at the World Bank, he seeks to apply the lessons learnt from other regions to South Asia.

He sets out the book's central argument at the outset. South Asia's future will be determined not only by the way the eight countries that make up the region, manage their affairs but also by the changes sweeping the international economic system. And his main thesis is simple which few will disagree with. Without a workable South Asian economic region the member countries will lose out in a rapidly changing global trading system. If the nations of South Asia remain mired in disputes this will set back the region, as it will miss the opportunity to position itself in the rapidly shifting global economic landscape.

Burki states the two options facing South Asia starkly: either individually pursue national interests or try to fashion and follow collective goals. He is passionate in urging the pursuit of the second option, calling on countries especially India and Pakistan, to cast off history's burdens and adopt a regional approach to position themselves to become significant partners of 'emerging Asia'. He also argues that the India-Pakistan conflict has had a significant impact on both the structure and rate of growth in both countries.

By his political economy approach and knowledge of history and the contemporary global economic system the author marshals out a convincing rationale for pursuing a 'regional approach' but the real question is how and whether economics can in fact overcome politics in the region. In other words, how do we get to that point?

The 'how' is addressed in the book by an emphasis on the 'need for India's leadership', but failing that, the friendly intervention of 'third parties' (the US and China among others). In the end however Burki places his faith in what he identifies as positive developments in South Asia that might enable the countries of the region to evolve a broader outlook.

The book could have done with empirical – rather than normative – support of what are persuasive arguments. Readers looking for a roadmap or strategy end up with a discussion that is rich but somewhat abstract. At times the discussion involves a circular argument. Although the book raises more questions than it is able to answer its analysis of the benefits of regional economic cooperation is compelling and that makes the book a valuable addition to the literature on South Asia.

For those interested in a more statistics-based examination of regional trade especially between Pakistan and India, an unpublished paper by Arif Zaman, a British-Pakistani is an instructive read. It points out that only 4.5 percent of India's total exports are directed to South Asia, while exports to Pakistan are only 8 percent of its total exports to South Asia. Pakistan's exports to India have a higher average share, estimated at around 40 percent (of the total to the region) at various points in the last decade. Within India's imports from South Asia, 36 percent originate from Pakistan. Pakistan sources 69 percent of its total South Asian imports from India.

This suggests that while overall regional trade is modest, Pakistan and India are still able to trade with each other despite all the hurdles. The statement issued at the conclusion of last month's trade talks between officials of the two countries shines an important light on the nature of these hurdles despite the opaque language used to describe them.

Apart from political tensions the most significant reason for lack of progress in enhancing bilateral trade is the differing trading regimes of the two countries. Pakistan has long had a more open system while India's has been a much more restrictive regime with a complex range of tariff and non-tariff barriers. This makes for an uneven playing field, and urges the need to harmonise the varying regimes and adopt greater transparency to create an environment for fair competition and a mutually beneficial trading relationship.

It is not that Pakistani exports cannot compete in the Indian market. It is a question of a level playing field where subsidies or other non-tariff barriers (NTBs) do not confer an unfair advantage to domestic products. The multiplicity in Indian standards, rules, regulations and enforcement agencies acts as a major impediment as does a raft of Pakistan-specific NTBs.

One of the important points reinforced by Zaman's paper is the growing confidence of the Pakistani business community that they can compete in a number of areas such as agro-industry products, textiles and surgical instruments if there is a level playing field. Pakistani officials also acknowledge, as reports of the Commerce Ministry have often indicated that, "exposure to competition from a neighbour would encourage policy makers as well as the private sector in Pakistan to focus more sharply on the investments needed to strengthen Pakistan's international competitiveness".

The size of their economies make Pakistan and India the biggest players with a decisive role to play in regional economic integration. By situating the debate about this in the context of 'Rising Asia' Burki has identified an 'international' imperative that should give officials of both countries something to think about.

Shahid Javed Burki, South Asia in the New World Order: The role of regional cooperation, New York, Routledge, 2011.

The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.








Since 9/11, the private security contractor business – which is really a fancy term for mercenaries – has boomed. The war in Iraq proved to be a veritable boon for outsourcing to US-based private security contractors. Figures for monetary values of US government spending on companies like Blackwater are unavailable but according to data cited by Naomi Klein in her book 'The Shock Doctrine', it is quite clear that the numbers are large and have grown considerably. She points out that during the first Gulf war waged by the United States against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the ratio of contractors to regular US troops was one contractor for every hundred soldiers. At the start of the Iraq invasion under George W Bush in 2003 this figure had jumped to one contractor for ten soldiers and by 2007 had surged to almost one for one ie for every member of the regular American army there was one private contractor providing logistical support, security etc.

Now comes the news reported in the New York Times that Erik Prince formerly the head of Blackwater (now renamed Xe) has been charged by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to establish a crack unit comprising mercenaries (many from Latin America) who would serve more or less as a personal bodyguard-cum-special operations unit at the behest of the royal family. The functions of this elite unit are not entirely clear but would probably involve carrying out covert and overt operations against hostile forces in the region (read Iran) and to protect the ruling family against internal revolts. The inference is that Emiratis in the security forces are either not skilled enough or cannot be trusted to enforce order should there be political unrest in the country or if the UAE were to face an external threat. In either event this is hardly a ringing endorsement of their professionalism.

The type of special forces unit being established brings to mind the role of mercenaries in Africa who have been implicated in violent regime changes and assassinations of heads of government. This reliance on foreign mercenaries is not without its own complications as those who have studied the role of mercenary armies through history would recall. The original model of a force loyal only to the ruler rather than the state is the Praetorian Guard of ancient Rome that was established by the emperor Augustus in 27 BC. The Guard, a mix of Roman citizens and foreigners, swore an oath of allegiance to the emperor and served as his personal bodyguard. However after Augustus' death they soon became notorious for palace intrigues and any would-be emperor had to bribe them first if he hoped to attain power. Despite being charged with protecting the person of the emperor, they were directly involved in the murder of 10 Roman emperors till the time of their disbandment by Constantine in 312 AD.

The idea that a personal army comprising soldiers-of-fortune will stay loyal in extremis may well be wishful thinking. Their continuing presence may also fuel nationalist sentiment among locals who may perceive the foreign presence as an affront to the country's sovereignty and as they will be paid more than local troops (some of the Abu Dhabi contracts cited by the New York Times indicate annual payments per person of $200,000) will generate calls for better pay for the locals. In other words the political and financial cost may end up being much higher than the Abu Dhabi government anticipates.

There is also the question of who these mercenaries are in terms of their past background. Ms Klein notes in her book that Blackwater had previously recruited Chileans for operations in Iraq amongst whom some had been directly involved with the brutalities of the Pinochet government. Similarly, one notable Blackwater recruit was a certain James Steele who had served as chief US adviser to Salvadoran army units known as "death squads".

The news of the normally reclusive Erik Prince's involvement in the UAE project is highly disturbing as his extreme conservative views seem to indicate that he is on a crusade to rid the world of "evil-doers" while profiting from doing so. A secretly taped recording of a speech he gave at the University of Michigan in January 2010 and reproduced in a blog article by Jeremy Scahill in the Nation magazine's website in May 2010 reveals a belligerent mindset. Mr Prince proposed in that speech that the US "deploy armed private contractors to fight 'terrorists' in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia". He also believes that Iran is at the "absolute dead centre .... of badness." He therefore recommends that private armed contractors from companies like Blackwater be used in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia to counter Iranian influence as their presence would be less politically sensitive then the presence of US government and Nato troops. Apart from using some uncomplimentary words to describe the Afghan forces being trained by Blackwater, he also revealed in this speech that Blackwater was active in Pakistan despite the vociferous denials made by the US and Pakistani governments at the time about its alleged presence here.








Obama is a miracle man. His getting elected as America's first-ever black president was in itself a miracle. An even bigger miracle was his becoming a Nobel peace laureate, despite the fact that he is the head of state of a superpower that is tirelessly fighting wars ever since the Second World War. His choice for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was a huge surprise for Obama himself, but he had no qualm about collecting it.

Now that Obama has got rid of Osama, Americans and people the world over expect him to end the decade-old Afghan war. It is time Obama the miracle man did something to deserve the honour that the Nobel Committee bestowed upon him for doing nothing. In any case, Osama bin Laden was why the United States went to war in Afghanistan, and now that Osama is officially declared dead, Obama is left with no excuse or rationale to continue this war.

There is already growing public and congressional pressure in the United States for Obama to speed up US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden's death comes at a time when Obama was already considering the size and speed of his promised troop drawdown in the increasingly unpopular and costly conflict. It remains to be seen whether Bin Laden's killing will bring any drastic change in Obama's calculations for an exit strategy.

With his eyes on next year's presidential election for a second term, Obama has been in a fix over the pullout issue and Bin Laden's killing now seems to have given him greater strength and more space for political manoeuvring. It may have provided increased momentum for the war in Afghanistan, but Obama should capitalise on the event to reduce the US footprint in Afghanistan and the expense involved in the war.

Political thinking in Washington right now is focused on the need for turning the page over from Afghanistan. Senior officials of the administration are already engaged in discussions and strategy sessions about how to leverage Bin Laden's death into a spark that ignites peace talks. They consider Bin Laden's death as the "beginning of the endgame" in Afghanistan. To them, it changes everything and presents an opportunity for reconciliation that didn't exist before.

Though the militarist Pentagon-led view is resisting any radical move at this stage and urging a more gradual pullout, many of the president's civilian national security advisers contend that the benefits of incremental gains do not merit the cost – in lives and dollars – of such a large military presence. They say negotiations are an essential part of a new war strategy that will allow Obama to announce a substantial reduction in US forces starting this summer.

Ever since Bin Laden's killing, the Obama administration has been engaged in a reassessment of the war in Afghanistan and the broader effort to combat terrorism, with Congress, the military and the Obama administration weighing the goals, strategies, costs and the underlying authority for a conflict that is now almost a decade old. There is little dispute in the White House and among US lawmakers that this year has brought "substantial military gains" against the Taliban.

But assessments of the other elements of the strategy – such as improvement of the Afghan economy and the government in ways that can sustain hard-won security – are less positive. There are serious doubts on the feasibility of plans to recruit and train as many as 400,000 Afghan security forces to take over once foreign troops depart. "Despite our best efforts, there are challenges of corruption, predatory behaviour, incompetence still evident within the Afghan army and police," Sen John Kerry said at a recent hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he chairs.

On top of these problems, there is also the question of money and resources. The annual cost of maintaining the Afghan forces is estimated at up to $10 billion, whereas Afghan tax revenue totals less than $2 billion, which leaves a huge gap to be filled by the American taxpayer. "So who will pay the bills to avoid having those armed soldiers and police mobilised as part of the next insurgency?" Kerry asked. He also questioned what he described as a "fundamentally unsustainable" monthly expenditure of more than $10 billion on a massive military operation with no end in sight, and called for urgent clarification from the administration on its mission and exit plan.

Kerry summed up the whole issue in one question: "What is the political solution? We need to make our ultimate goals absolutely clear for the sake of the American people, Afghans, Pakistanis and everyone else who has a stake in the outcome," he said. This question says it all. No one knows what the political solution is going to be for an end to this unwinnable war which has not gone beyond retribution and retaliation.

No wonder people in the US and allied European countries are sick of this conflict and want their troops to be out of the Afghan war theatre. Even before Bin Laden's killing, America's cumulative problems at home, with growing economic costs of the Afghan war, the continuing national debt crisis, the upcoming 2012 presidential election, and "realities" on the ground had bolstered arguments that the plans to remake Afghanistan's government and economy went too far beyond the goal of safeguarding US security.

Influential senators like John Kerry and Richard Lugar, both ranking leaders of their parties in the Senate are looking for a political solution in Afghanistan. Kerry looks at Osama bin Laden's killing as potentially a game-changing opportunity to build momentum for a political solution in Afghanistan that could also bring greater stability to the region, as well as ultimately enable the allies to bring their troops home.

After weeks of debate among civilian and military leaders, the US National Security Council recently endorsed key elements of the State Department's reconciliation strategy. Starting peace talks has now become the top priority for Marc Grossman, the US government's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was in Pakistan earlier this month for the first meeting of a "core group" that Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US have constituted to promote and facilitate the process of reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan.

It is important that the transition process does not ignore Afghanistan's demographic realities and is not weighted in favour or against any particular ethnic group. Durable peace in Afghanistan will come only through reconciliation between Afghan factions, with no selectivity or exclusivity. The US already recognises the Taliban as part of the Afghan "political fabric" and has said that it would be ready to negotiate with them.

In a speech in February that elicited little attention because of events in the Middle East, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton articulated a new stance for negotiations with the Taliban. The benchmarks for the Taliban to renounce violence, break with Al-Qaeda or embrace the Afghan constitution are no longer preconditions for talks; now those terms only have to be "necessary outcomes of any negotiation."

On its part, despite the Abbottabad fiasco, Pakistan remains a direct stakeholder in the Afghan peace as it is in its interest to have peace and stability in an independent and united Afghanistan that is friendly towards Pakistan. It would therefore be a source of strength in any Afghan-led reconciliation process, and could also facilitate the whole negotiating process


The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email:







Chris Hedges, a former New York Times reporter, says, "I was in the Middle East in the days after 9/11 and we had garnered the empathy of not only most of the world, but also the Muslim world. The tragedy is that if we had the courage to be vulnerable, if we had built on that empathy, we would be far safer and more secure today than we are."

What Chris Hedges means is that it takes courage to accept one's vulnerability and even greater courage to do the right thing despite the threat. He is of course talking about the United States of America; his argument however is just as applicable to Pakistan.

Pakistan has never had the courage or the wisdom to first accept ground realities before attempting to mould them to its own perceived advantage. People in the West as well as in the Islamic world had reasons to welcome the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Post-World War concepts of self-determination and freedom from colonial rule were enough to inspire both the West and the East. If Pakistan had the courage to accept its India specific vulnerability in 1947 and then counter it through non-military means it may have won global goodwill and moved in a different direction. We may have succeeded in becoming stronger and more secure than we are today.

Instead, Pakistan's short-sighted India-centric foreign policy retarded its political culture. It empowered non-democratic forces, including the military, the feudals, the industrialists and the mullahs. The US Cold War military alliance system was perceived as the only viable option to ensure survival. Looking back, there is no doubt that Pakistan's decision to court America in the 1950s was potentially disastrous.

Throughout the Cold War, Pakistan's military establishment with the help of the mullah and the affluent class fed this country sheer lies. History and religion were distorted and the economy was manipulated to suit militaristic objectives at the cost of the future of the people of Pakistan. None of this made us more secure and as soon as the Cold War ended Pakistan was discarded by the US in favour of India.

Again, we lacked the courage to accept our vulnerability and move in the right direction by redefining our national interests and finding doable ways of protecting them. Fear of India and the egotistical drives of our uniformed decision-makers did not allow evaluation of domestic repercussions of the strategic choices being made. Instead of improving relations with regional actors we continued with our anti-India fixation.

ISI's meddling in civilian governments between 1989 and 1999 is one of the greatest disservices ever done to the Pakistani nation. In the aftermath of Pakistan's deliverance from Ziaul Haq, common men and women wanted economic uplift and basic human rights. Their Islam was in no danger; they had the courage to choose their religious beliefs while respecting those of others. By creating religious confusions sectarianism was nurtured willfully by the 'mullah-military-selected politicians' alliance.

By manipulating the educational system a huge section of society was deliberately turned into an illiterate and narrow-minded one. There can be no greater crime against humanity than to brainwash and indoctrinate human beings hence transforming them into foreign policy instruments. None of this made us safer or more prosperous.

No doubt the civilian leadership in the 1990s was immature and not above board in more ways than one. Their follies, petty politics and even corruption, however, should have been matters for the electorate to decide. The civilian setup, as representatives of the people, should have been in control of Pakistan's post-Cold War foreign policy that needed overhauling.

In the post-Cold War environment 'democracy' and 'liberal economy' were the buzzwords. With just a little patience and foresight we could have become one of the 'emerging democracies'. Winning global goodwill through responsible decision-making may have made us more secure than we are today despite our nuclear arsenal.

Throughout the 1990s we followed a course of action that led toward religious extremism and international isolation. Post-9/11 we still had the chance to rethink our policies and retrace our footsteps. With foresight, wisdom and courage we could have moved toward resocialisation. We chose instead to play double games.

Post-Abbottabad we are not only isolated but also humiliated as never before. Since 1947 we have been able to take advantage of the inherent ambiguity of given situations. Today however, we stand fully exposed. Not only the emperor but his entire court and loyal subjects are without clothes.

The only way forward is to re-enter the comity of nations as a responsible state. Post-Abbottabad, however, this is no longer possible without massive foreign policy renovation and truly incisive soul-searching by our policymakers. In international politics, the tools selected to cope with a powerful challenger ultimately decide the future of the weak.

Our decision-makers therefore must show the courage to accept our vulnerability and the astuteness to do the right thing without subverting national aspirations. This will require the audacity to remember that fortune favours the brave. It will also require the prudence to know the difference between bravery and bravado.

If past experience is anything to go by, our decision-making elite may lack the skill and the motivation to do the right thing. If past experience is anything to go by, the silence of the Pakistani people will ensure their move in the wrong direction. This time round it may prove fatal.

The writer is a PhD student at Leicester, UK. Email:








  The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

The Implementation Commission established to facilitate devolution of matters mentioned in the erstwhile concurrent legislative list appears to support a complete surrender of federal responsibility toward subjects such as health, education, labour and social security. Since it is headed by Sen Raza Rabbani, one cannot think of another chairman from within the ruling regime who could bring greater integrity and rectitude to the Implementation Commission. This is partly why expectations from this body were higher in comparison to those from the rest of the federal government. Unfortunately, this commission seems to believe that there is only one way to exhibit fidelity to the worthy principle of devolution and stronger federating units: chop off any federal function linked to subjects in the erstwhile concurrent list and let the provinces pick up the pieces. This surgical straitjacket approach toward redistribution of state authority is flawed and the Implementation Commission is floundering on at least two levels.

One, its work seems marred by a combination of zeal and self-restraint, but in the wrong order. The commission seems to be dabbling in areas that fall beyond the scope if its authority. For example, while it is not legally competent to do so, it seems to have mistakenly assumed the authority to determine whether or not the HEC and other statutory bodies are to be devolved or not. The status and future of federal laws and statutory bodies has been explicitly protected under Article 270AA(6) of the Constitution, which states that, "notwithstanding omission of the Concurrent Legislative List...all laws with respect to any of the matters enumerated in the said List in force in Pakistan...immediately before the commencement of the Constitution (18th Amendment) Act, 2010, shall continue to remain in force until altered, repealed or amended by the competent authority." Only parliament and the provincial legislatures are competent to repeal or amend laws.

Article 270AA(8) states that, "on the omission of the Concurrent Legislative List, the process of devolution of the matters mentioned in the said List to the Provinces shall be completed by the 30th day of June, 2011." And further, sub-clause (9) of the same Article continues that, "for purposes of the devolution process under clause (8), the Federal Government shall constitute an Implementation Commission as it may deem fit within 15 days of the commencement of the Constitution (18th Amendment) Act." Thus, the legal mandate of the Implementation Commission is limited to giving effect to devolution of matters being handled directly by federal government ministries. It neither has the sanction to determine the future of statutory bodies functioning under valid federal laws, nor can it conclusively rule on the continuing legislative competence of Parliament in relation to matters mentioned in the federal legislative lists.

Commitment to the principle of devolution ought not to be confused with the manner in which this principle is to be put into operation. The Implementation Commission's zeal about slicing the number of federal ministries comes along with a self-imposed restraint to learn from effective federal models operating in other jurisdictions. The task of devolving subjects to the federating units essentially translates into the responsibility of reorganising the federal government. And this is what makes the job of facilitating devolution more than black and white implementation of the written word. There can be multiple approaches to transferring responsibility to provinces and consolidating the functions of the federal government without being unfaithful to the Constitution. In denying this zone of discretion the Implementation Commission seems to restrain itself from considering preferable alternatives to the mechanical abolition of vital ministries and distributing their parts amongst others.

Two, the Implementation Commission has failed to articulate a concept of federalism supported by the text of our Constitution. In the absence of a clear conceptual understanding of the nature of our federalism, there is no rule of thumb that can guide the process of devolution while ensuring that enforcement of this principle does not undermine other principles enshrined in the Constitution, especially that of equality of citizens and protection of fundamental rights. Our Constitution endorses the idea of cooperative federalism as opposed to dual federalism. The centre and the provinces are not completely separate and co-sovereign parts constituting the state. The sovereign authority of Pakistan vests in parliament, and the constitutional scheme of devolution then requires division of labour and surrender of certain functions by a superior government to a subordinate government to the extent of the latter's territorial limits.

There are at least two aspects of the legislative distribution of authority that need to be appreciated. One, the distribution of authority between the center and the provinces is for the advantage of citizens and not provinces. Our provinces do not have independent constitutions, they do not confer citizenship on their residents, their parliaments do not have unlimited legislative competence and they cannot create laws that undermine the fundamental rights of non-residents or afford preferential treatment to their own residents in a manner that breaches the constitutional promise of equality. And, two, notwithstanding the division of authority between the federal and provincial governments and the omission of the concurrent list, there will always remain a field common to both governments that will continue to be administered concurrently.

Any effort to unduly simplify the task of isolating the legislative powers of the centre and the federating units is bound to be futile, for it is impossible to make so clean a cut between the powers of various legislatures. Irrespective of whether you substitute three lists for two or provide for a hierarchy of jurisdictions, some overlap is inevitable. Our courts have already held that entries within legislative lists must be construed liberally. Consequently, despite the omission of the concurrent list, parliament will be required to continue exercising legislative power derived from items within the federal list that could also be seen as encroachment on the provincial domain. Parliament ought not to usurp the legislative authority of the provinces. But outsourcing the constitutional obligation to protect and promote the fundamental rights of citizens across the four provinces equally in the name of devolution is also indefensible.

Education, health, right to association, life, dignity and social welfare are fundamental human rights. Dissolving ministries named after entries within the erstwhile concurrent list is one thing. But the view that parliament no longer has any business legislating on these matters is neither backed by a purposive understanding of our constitutional scheme and principles nor amounts to a sound policy choice. The omission of the concurrent list doesn't eliminate the field that will still need to be administered by the federal and provincial governments concurrently. If the Implementation Commission is bent upon hurriedly dissolving all ministries named after matters listed in the concurrent list and randomly shoving parts that cannot be extinguished within other ministries, the federal government will need to create a successor body to redo some of the Implementation Commission's clumsy work.

Any intelligent scheme for reorganisation of the federal government in the aftermath of the 18th Amendment must start with taking account of the areas that the federal and provincial governments will administer jointly, within a framework of cooperative federalism, because they relate to (i) equal, uniform and egalitarian enforcement of fundamental rights of all citizens across the country, (ii) Pakistan's international obligations, (iii) inter-provincial matters, and (iv) matters requiring financial subsidy from the centre. Once these areas are identified there will be need to identify the new laws that will be required to be passed by parliament, either on a stand-alone basis or together will mirror legislation promulgated by provinces. And the last step will be remodelling the federal government by consolidating existing ministries and renaming or creating new ones in view of the federation's reappraised regulatory and administrative responsibilities.








 Dull and droll, so why would I want to dwell on Kerry, Kayani and Zardari promising each other for the umpteenth time to behave in the future? It's so passé. Besides, Madam Hillary has already poured cold water on Kerry's statement that US-Pak relations have been "re-set". She hinted that the senator was not speaking on behalf of the Obama administration. Here in New York 30 "scholars" gathered under the aegis of Asia Society to chalk out a "roadmap" for Pakistan. Boo-ring! Yawn. Why? Because such sponsored discussions don't lead to anything constructive. They lead towards a direction without a zip code, meaning a final destination point. We wrote yesterday, today and will write tomorrow until kingdom come on such open-ended stories.

So how about turning to the hottest news of the week coming out of America: sex and the alpha male? Frankly, it makes for a pleasant change, especially if the sex scandals pouring in from all sides do not involve Pakistan. Thank God! The New York Times, three days ago – cover to cover and even its 'Arts' section, – looked more like a scandal sheet than its usual staid stories corralling world and domestic politics.

First was the IMF chief Strauss-Kahn, a serial sex offender unable to control his sexual urge to attack unguarded females. "Yes, I like women" he told an interviewer, "So what?"

So far 'sexy' has been getting away with his womanising. In 2008, he was merely "reprimanded" when the IMF discovered that he was having an affair with a woman subordinate. "A man with an impressive intellect, great charm and restless energy, his flaws have been accepted because of his accomplishments," wrote the NY Times. So, if a man is intelligent, bright and good at making deals, doesn't matter if he can't control his libido? It's like saying that it's okay for a leader to be corrupt as long as he's good for democracy!

Until men rule the world and decide what's good and what's bad for everyone, we'll have sex animals not leaders. 'Woman power' was in vogue a few decades ago; today the terms 'feminist', 'woman libber,' and 'gender equality' are dead as a dodo. Men, especially the powerful ones, killed off such slogans.

Next sex offender to be exposed in NY Times is the former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He fathered a son with a house staffer while his wife, Maria Shriver was pregnant with their youngest child. What is most amazing is that Shriver, a former TV journalist, never discovered the presence of her husband's love child. And then the American media has the cheek to question how come Gen Pasha didn't know that Bin Laden was living 'under his nose' for the last five years! Well, a sharp-eyed Maria Shriver never suspected that the woman working under her roof cleaning the rooms had an affair with the master of the house and even bore him a son. Shriver never suspected that the boy, now 13, who visited his mom at the Schwarzenegger mansion often, was actually a splitting image of her husband.

After that is Berlusconi, the woman-eater of Italy. Despite being indicted for having sex with an underage teen, the prime minister of Italy continues with his sexual romps, undisturbed and unhampered.

And finally there's Sarkozy, the most unpopular French leader since in decades. He was satirised in a movie recently shown at the Cannes Film Festival as a "restlessly ambitious politician who wins the election and loses his second wife." Now his dad has announced that the president and his third wife Carla are expecting a baby! The French couldn't care less.

Berlusconi and Sarkozy are chums with the Zardari government. Wonder why? Maybe Italy and France like us?

The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting. Email:









IN a questionable survey of the "Arab spring" of revolts, American President Barack Obama on Thursday made a policy statement that explains how the United States viewed the situation in the Arab world and how it intends to handle it in future. He vowed the United States would use all its resources to encourage reforms in the Arab world and wanted borders of Palestinian state and Israel to be based on 1967 lines.

The speech of the US President was quite comprehensive and it will require in-depth analyses by experts to grasp its full meaning and understand the American game plan for the region. But on the face of it, it seems that there is no major deviation from the past and Washington was adopting the same moribund approach to the Islamic world that has brought more chaos to the globe than the direly needed peace. Though his declaration that the Palestinian state be based on 1967 borders seems to be a welcome development but addition of the proviso "with agreed swaps" is understandably aimed at accommodating the hard and inflexible policy of the Jewish state. It is anybody's guess that the condition is designed to ensure security interests of Israel at the cost of Palestinians and other Arab states and this will make the entire plan a non-starter. This is evident from the dubious desire of the American leader to see the future Palestinian state as demilitarized so that it is always at the mercy of the Jewish state that has the proven record of aggression and atrocities against defenceless Palestinians. History also tells us that the US was never sincere in the honest and just resolution of the Middle-East conflict but mere mention of 1967 border lines has also been rejected contemptuously by the Israeli Prime Minister. American designs are also exposed by the criticism of the reconciliation between two groups of Palestinians by President Barack Obama, who was clearly speaking the language of Tel Aviv on the matter. Similarly, it was loathsome to hear from the US President warnings to several Arab leaders to quit or be forced to leave. No one has the legal or moral justification to impose his own will on sovereign states in the name of so-called democracy or human rights when the United States and its coalition partners are mercilessly killing people in countries like Afghanistan, Iran and even Pakistan.








DOMINIQUE Strauss-Kahn succumbed to the intensive pressure from the civil society and resigned from the coveted office of the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Sixty-two year Strauss-Kahn is incarcerated in a New York prison since Saturday when he was offloaded from a Paris-bound flight and taken into custody on charges of sexually assaulting a chambermaid at a Manhattan hotel. The scandal has also dashed his hopes of making it to the Elysee Palace for which he was considered to be a strong contender.

There are conspiracy theories about the scandal involving the former IMF chief and many believe it was an attempt to restrain him from the presidential race but it will take some time to get to the bottom of the episode and by that time the damage would have been done. However, one might say that leaving aside American imperialistic tendencies, attempts to subjugate weaker nations and flexing of muscles unnecessarily, the fact remains that American society has many virtues that must be appreciated by the world. They have a yearning for healthy traditions and norms and this is especially so when it comes to the leadership as the society never tolerates violation of its norms by them. One may say that these were indeed virtues of the Islamic society in its old days where rule of law prevailed and even Khalifa presented himself for accountability before the court of the people. Coming back home, it is regrettable that there was no such precedent in our country to uphold noble values. We hear about scandal after scandal involving the same people but no one demonstrates the moral courage to own the mistake and resign. But there is ray of hope that one day these values would be upheld here as well because of vibrant media, independent judiciary and greater awareness among people about such things.







AS the country is facing acute energy crisis, Deputy Managing Director of Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) Syed Hassan Nawab has revealed that an estimated tight gas reserves of 33 trillion cubic feet, more than the existing estimated natural gas reserves of 27 trillion CF, are there in the country awaiting exploration. Addressing a seminar in Karachi he pointed out that the country can overcome its gas shortage if this tight gas is explored for which advance technology is now available.

Pakistan is one of those countries that are blessed with abundant natural resources but regrettably we have so far failed to exploit them optimally mainly because of lack of will, parochialism and vested interests. Apart from the tight gas, the country can produce 37 trillion cubic feet of gas through gasification of Thar coal for which a pilot project has reportedly been successfully completed. There have been frequent reports from experts that Thar coal were sufficient to help produce 50,000 MW of electricity for five hundred years besides making the country surplus in diesel. Similarly, there are identified site with potential to generate hydel power between 50,000 to 100,000 MW but there is hardly any planning to make use of them and get rid of the curse of load-shedding. Balochistan has one of the largest gold and copper mines in the world but controversies and scandals surrounding them have marred progress towards their exploitation. There are no two opinions that energy security is a pre-requisite for socio-economic development and we must formulate short, medium and long-term plans to realize that cherished objective. But so far we have heard only rhetorics and no practical steps have been initiated to resolve the crippling gas and power crisis that is taking heavy toll of our economy. Now that the issue of ownership of resources has effectively been addressed through 18th Constitutional Amendment, we hope that Provincial Governments concerned, of course with the help of the Federal Government, would launch

concrete programmes and projects for proper utilization of the natural resources.








There is no doubt that the dynamics of our region's geopolitics is undergoing a profound change in the wake of growing unease and misunderstanding among the partners in the global war on terror in Afghanistan. The emerging regional security paradigm has necessitated the need for political forces within the country to rethink their strategy for preservation of the country's territorial sovereignty. One must not ignore the location of the two other giants- Russia and China in this region, who have a great interest in the geopolitical and strategic developments in the region. Pakistan has always had very friendly, trustworthy and cordial relations with neighboring China. Since independence, the two countries have moved ahead on building this relationship into an all weather friendship.

However, relations between Pakistan and the former USSR have historically been cool, even antagonistic, especially during the decade of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and earlier due to Indo-Soviet friendship. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the Russian Federation, relations have steadily improved, particularly in the economic field. Economic interaction has lacked behind the strong political desire to forge close relations. Despite huge potential, the annual bilateral trade turnover is a pitiful of less then a billion US dollars which is mostly in favour of Russia. Historically, Russia is a country which one can describe as a blend of cultures and religions. It is one of the world's most diverse societies – with a population of 142 million and as many as 160 ethnic groups living there. After a decade of crisis in the 90s, Russia has bounced back. We must recognize that Russia is on its path to redefine its strategies in the region and one should not be surprised to see it playing a significant role in the happenings of the region. Russia has regained its strength under its new leadership of Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev.

Rising oil prices, increased foreign investment, higher domestic consumption and political stability have bolstered the economic boom. Russia is the fastest growing economy in the G8, averaging 7% annually since 2003. After years of underachievement, Russia has now emerged as the world's leading natural gas exporter and the second largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia. Fuelled by oil revenues, it repaid its Soviet-era debt to Paris Club creditors and the International Monetary Fund. Pakistan has an important place in Russia's foreign policy, being one of the major influential Muslim country. Pakistan's foreign policy is now rightly gravitating towards Central Asia and close relations with Russia would pay us a rich dividend. Instituting a high-level dialogue on strategic and political issues and building up a mechanism to focus on economic cooperation through increased market access to Pakistani products in Russia and building connectivity in trade and energy sectors will benefit both the countries. Friendly and cooperative relations with Moscow will also assist us in securing full membership of the SCO and to open the door for significant economic activity with all Central Asian States, rich in oil and energy resources. In this drop back, President Zardari visited Moscow and met with the Russian leadership in order to enhance its political and economic relations with Russia. Although, it was a scheduled visit but, in the light of recent developments in the region, it has gained enormous importance. It was the first official visit of any head of state of Pakistan in the past 37 years that had been undertaken in the belief that time had come for the two countries to forget the legacy of the Cold War era and forge new relations for the benefit of their peoples and indeed for the benefit of the people of the region. During the visit President Zardari has very rightly said that there is no reason to remain mired in the distrust of the past. He pleaded for forgetting the past and arranging for the present to face the future. The future prosperity of the region lay in energy pipelines, railways and other connectivity project.

In this regard, the two sides expressed their keen interest in the implementation of projects related to the creation of a system to transmit electric power from Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan (KASA-1000) and to the building of gas pipeline between Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan and India (TAPI). The $ 7.5 billion TAPI gas project will be a backbone for Pakistani industry and economy. In the 70s Russia's cooperation for building the country's only steel mill proved a milestone for economic relations between the two countries. Unfortunately, the spirit of cooperation could not be taken forward in the 80s and the later part of the last century.

The two countries also signed four MoUs in energy, investment, air services and agriculture cooperation, during the visit. MoU on cooperation in the key area of energy will provide for the roadmap to develop and operate oil, gas and coal industry. Hydro power generation is yet another area in which Pakistan can seek expertise from Russia. MoU on investment will facilitate the private sector of the two countries to benefit from the potential in trade among the regional countries. The President's visit will promote greater understanding between the two countries and will help broaden and strengthen bilateral political, economic, security and cultural ties. Pakistan and Russia are in an extended region and their relationship is geo- political and geo- economical.

It is heartening to note that both President Zardari and President Medvedev emphasized the importance they attach to promoting stability and peace in the broader region and, in this regard, to continue to enhance contacts, consultations, cooperation and coordination between the two countries. Enhanced political interaction is the key to success in building a regional coalition which can address issues of peace and security. The visit of our COAS General Kayani to Moscow in 2009 and subsequently the meeting of Prime Minister Gilani with Russian leadership, on the side lines of SCO Summit in Dushanbe 2010, had set the pitch for the Presidential visit to this important country in the region. Bilateral relations between Russia and Pakistan can grow and strengthen further in all fields. There is a bright future for the relations of the two countries. More so, since in the current global and regional situation, the position and interests of Pakistan and Russia converge, Russia-Pakistan partnership and closer ties will not only be to the benefit of the two countries, but the entire region.









Within one week after India released the list of most wanted persons allegedly living in Pakistan, at least four persons on the list are either in India or have died. Times of India carried a report about two dreaded terrorists, who the list claimed were hiding in Pakistan. "One of them, investigations revealed is dead and the other lodged in the city's Cherlapalli prison.

Dawood Ibrahim's elder brother, Noora, who died of kidney failure in Karachi last year, continued to show up as a wanted accused in the red-corner notice against his name. Chhota Rajan aide Ejaz Pathan, involved in the 1993 serial blasts, died in 2008 at Arthur Road jail after a heart attack. The red-corner notice against him showed him as wanted. Yet another embarrassing case was that of Feroze Abdul Khan, an accused in the 1993 Mumbai blast. He was nabbed from Navi Mumbai last year and is in a Mumbai jail". With a view to turning up more heat on Pakistan after American Special Forces' operation in Abbottabad killing Osama bin Laden, India released a list of 50 'Most Wanted Persons' from Pakistan on 11th May 2011.

The list includes among others names such as Dawood Ibrahim, what they call 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar, the principal accused in the 2001 Parliament attack after his release in exchange of hostages in the Kandahar hijack episode in 1999. On Friday, Indian press has criticized the Indian government, as a man whose name features prominently among 50 alleged terrorists India wants from Pakistan, is living in Mumbai and regularly reports to a court that gave him bail. Indian government has ordered an inquiry into, what Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said, the 'goof-up' in the preparation of the list of '50 most wanted' fugitives, submitted to Pakistan two months ago, as it included the name of a terror-accused Wazhul Kamar Khan living in Thane - a Mumbai suburb. There is a possibility that many more such cases would be unearthed and ultimately the list will shrink to contain a dozen or so, and majority of them would be found in India. India uses every ruse and every opportunity to denigrate Pakistan. It continues its propaganda blitz to prove Pakistan as a state that sponsors terrorism, but is likely to fail as in the past.

Wazhuk Kamar Khan is an accused in the 2003 Mulund train blast, which killed 11 persons. He was arrested but granted bail. He is living at Thane with his family, whereas his name figured at serial number 41 of the list of most wanted men' given to Pakistan in March 2011. The embarrassment prompted the government to quickly order a probe, official sources said. The list was prepared in consultation with the Maharashtra police, the National Investigation Agency and the Central Bureau of Investigation. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in Agartala on Tuesday that a big issue should not be made out of one wrong name in the list. "The list was prepared months ago. Just one name... whether it is the same person or two persons of the same name, we have to see. Be that as it may, if you prepare a list of 50 people, one name, assuming that we are wrong in one name, 49 are right. I don't think we should make a big issue of it", he was quoted as saying by news agencies. But India stands exposed, as the news has raised doubts about other names given in the list, and the entire list seems to be bogus.

It is a matter of routine for Indian leadership to accuse Pakistan for every act of terrorism in India whereas it has been proved many a time that most acts of terrorism were committed by India's homegrown terrorists. All along, India had also been officially denying any link of Hindu extremists with the mayhem, death and carnage resulting from the blasts. In January 2011, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Chief, Swami Aseemanand had confessed before a magistrate that he along with other Hindu activists was involved in the Malegon, Samjhota Express, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid bombings. Indian weekly Tehelka magazine stated that his confession has unraveled the inner workings of the Hindutva terror network. Pakistan had asked India to bring to justice the perpetrators of the bombing of Samjhota Express train in light of a RSS leader's confession about the involvement of Sangh activists in the attack. "It took almost four years for the Samjhota Express investigations to come to this pass. We can only hope that no further time will be squandered in bringing the criminals to justice," Foreign Office spokesman had told Indian news agency PTI in a text message.

India, using its clout with the occupiers and Afghan government, has been desperately trying to bring Afghanistan under her economic and political control with the main objective of damaging Pakistan's interests. During his visit to Afghanistan, Manmohan Singh during his last week visit to Afghanistan has given $500 million to Afghan government to draw more benefits. Indian Consulates, under the cover of reconstruction activities in bordering provinces of Pakistan had purposely selected bordering provinces of Afghanistan to influence the divided tribes along Pak-Afghan border. Credible reports had revealed that some Maliks of Pakistani tribes were persuaded through middlemen and taken to Kabul for meetings with high ranking RAW officials. Millions of dollars were paid to the tribal Maliks to purchase their loyalties. Besides valuable gifts, all-paid visits to India were some of the ways the Indians bribed the tribal. These tribal elders, unaware of Indians designs, remain available to them and serve their interest. FATA and other settled areas like Swat and Malakand had remained violent in the past due to heavy investment by RAW with the collaboration of Afghan intelligence.

Indian's act is so foul that her pretences to piety have not even a leg to stand on. Indian state's adventurism of training, arming and bankrolling the Tamil Tiger insurgents had kept Sri Lanka destabilized for over two decades grievously. In 1970, Indian state agencies and army had established sanctuaries and training camps of Mukti Bahini insurgents on the Indian soil and infiltrated in then East Pakistan to soften it up for in eventual separation from a united Pakistan with their military intervention. The vile acts of Indian state have been documented in detail in published works of many Indian writers, including the characters deeply involved in these Indian interventionist episodes, who have spoken of their forays unabashedly and banefully. As for instance, the master-traininer of Mukti Bahini guerillas, one Shubeg Singh, an Indian army brigadier later promoted to major general and then cashiered, became the military commander of Jurnail Singh Bhindranwala who threw an armed challenge to the India state in late 1970s and triggered a blood-soaked separatist movement that kept India's Punjab state convulsed for more than a decade.

That said. There is too much of perfidy to the Indian establishment's act, which is now coming apart gradually. The realities on the ground are becoming too harsh to cover up by it. Right thinking and responsible Indians are finding it hard not to concede that much of the terrorism in India is homegrown. In December last, Home Minister Chidambaram had stated on Parliament's floor that Hindu terrorism had grown more vicious than Muslim militancy. And young Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had reportedly told an American diplomat that Hindu terrorism was far severer than any lashkars or jashes. Indian investigators have indeed found almost all terrorism attacks on mosques, shrines and other targets earlier blamed on the ISI were actually Hindu terrorists' vile work. At this juncture, when the US is exerting pressure on Pakistan to do more, India should not take advantage of the situation, as the US forces would have to leave one day, and India and Pakistan have to live in this region. It is hoped that better sense will prevail, and India would do a bit of introspection to realize the importance of good neighbourly relations.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.








On the night of 02 May 2011, two US Blackhawk stealth helicopters carrying over two dozen soldiers from US Navy SEALs took off from Jalalabad Airbase and headed for Abbottabad to get Osama bin Laden (OBL). Two helicopters landed at Haripur in back up support role while loaded US jets remained airborne in Afghan airspace. The operation was launched on the basis of intelligence provided by the ISI in 2009. Mobile conversation of an Arab from Taxila with another one in Kuwait was recorded and handed over to CIA. The CIA built upon this piece of information and it got the breakthrough in August 2010 when a detainee in Gitmo recognized the voice and disclosed that it was of OBL's personal body guard. This lead led CIA to OBL's residence in Abbottabad.

Once it was ascertained in March that the most wanted man was residing in a house in Bilal Town in military garrison, the raiding team was selected and trained under simulated conditions to get OBL. President Obama after debating several options like bombing, drone attack, joint raid with Pakistani commandoes and heli-borne commando attack gave the go-ahead signal on 29 April for the helicopter assault singly and without taking Pakistan into confidence. ISI which had worked in close cooperation with CIA and had helped in arresting hundreds of Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives and high value leaders was kept completely in the dark on the plea that it might scare away the target.

Pak-US Relations had strained in the backdrop of Raymond Davis incident and ever since his release on 16 March, CIA itched to teach a lesson to the leaderships of Pak Army and ISI that had shown defiance and created impediments in its way. Keeping Pakistan out of the loop was not because of trust deficit as widely perceived but because of CIA's personal vendetta. Flight time was one hour and on target operation was for 40 minutes. The helicopters reached the target area at about 1230 a.m. 2 May undetected since the modified version of Blackhawk were equipped with latest stealth technology to avoid detection by radars. As they were descending to allow the SEALs to land on the rooftop, one of the choppers either developed technical fault or was fired at from inside the house. The damaged chopper landed inside the compound of the house with tail outside the boundary wall. It was later blown up to avoid latest technology falling into hands of Pakistan but the tail left behind remained intact.

The raiders slid down with the help of ropes inside the compound and commenced their operation. Two security guards and son of OBL were killed. OBL living on the top floor was unarmed and didn't offer any resistance but was shot in his head and killed. His daughter and youngest wife who tried to protect her husband was shot and wounded. The raiders took away the body of OBL and his son and also collected hard drive and video discs from Osama's bedroom. 19 people were left behind who were later taken into custody by our security forces. By the time the PAF got the wind and scrambled the F-16s, the intruders had safely crossed back into Afghanistan . DNA test of Osama's body was done at Baghram Airbase and then the body was lowered in the sea. The reason given for not burying him in accordance with Muslim rites was to prevent his grave getting converted into a shrine. Last rites were performed in undue haste for unexplained reasons, as if OBL might return back to life or his body hijacked.

The people heard the shocking news next morning with utter disbelief. Since OBL had got off the radar screen in December 2001, it was generally believed that either he was in Afghanistan or had died. They had known that Pakistani intelligence agencies together with CIA and FBI had succeeded in arresting over 600 al-Qaeda operatives including high value targets with heavy head money in Pakistan . Since OBL couldn't be nabbed despite the biggest hunt ever launched in the history and carrying reward money of $25 million, the assessment made by the public in Pakistan was fair.

In the backdrop of all this, locating OBL in a military station next door to military academy was mind boggling. The public is still baffled and there are too many questions flashing into their minds. The big question is why he opted to take such a huge risk by living in an indefensible rented house instead of hiding in a far flung inaccessible area where there were armed militants to protect him at the peril of their lives. Unless he had lost his senses, there was no earthly reason for him to plunk himself in such a risky place even if he decided not to come out of the house. It is simply inconceivable that he managed to stay in the said house undetected by our security forces, intelligence agencies and neighbors. How come he did not shift even when an Indonesian Umar Patik involved in Bali bombing was arrested by ISI from Abbottabad in March.

If he was staying under the protection of military, why Abbottabad and why not some secluded place? Could Kayani and Pasha have taken such a huge risk and that too with zero gains? How was OBL dearer to them than USA ? If the two premier institutions were complicit, why the crucial information which led to his detection and death was shared with CIA? People were not so shocked about OBL's presence as they were about America's stealth operation and are highly incensed as to why they were allowed to return back unscathed.

Americans are in a state of euphoria. Neither any country has censured USA for brazenly violating Pakistan 's sovereignty nor is the US apologetic. The US and western media as well as own media are vehemently bashing Pakistan and its premier institutions. Tone and tenor of US leaders against Pakistan has become belligerent and CIA-ISI cooperation has almost ceased. CIA would resist demand of ISI to close down its network in Pakistan under the plea of locating al-Zawahiri and other top Al-Qaeda leaders hiding in cities and to find the network that had assisted OBL. Panetta has declared that the US reserves the right for another unilateral action whenever actionable intelligence is available. Pakistan would now find it hard to resist the demand for an operation in North Waziristan . The TTP and Al-Qaeda would carryon with their terrorist activities with greater vengeance to avenge the death of OBL. Two suicide attacks killing 80 newly passed out recruits of Frontier Constabulary in Shabqadar on 13 May was a reminder that suchlike attacks would be stepped up.

The US will press Pakistan for opening of a consulate in Quetta and to increase CIA presence in Balochistan to nab and kill Mullah Omar and his other Shura members allegedly based in Quetta region to give a deathblow to Taliban resistance movement. Greater pressure would be mounted on the Taliban leaders to agree to American dictated plan of political settlement. CIA would also speed up its activities to disable Pakistan 's nuclear program. India has also started to show its true colors after a brief spell of so-called friendship. Lt Gen Pasha has boldly admitted failure in front of the parliament and offered his resignation but rightly rejected by the PM. Parliament has unanimously passed a resolution to review Pak-US ties. CJCSC Gen Shameem Wynne has cancelled his scheduled visit to Washington . Zardari paid a visit to Moscow and got a friendly response while China declared that it will not leave Pakistan alone in its testing times. Coming days will see further strains in Pak-US relations.

—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.








America by going for a single handedly operation against Osama Bin Laden has tried to overcome its decade long failure to defeat Taliban resistance in Afghanistan. Despite huge bombardment and using the state of the art technology America and its allied forces botched to achieve the set target. They placed one of their puppets as the president of Afghanistan. Who played double games with his master, the US, and with its nation as well. However the United States attacked Afghanistan to get Osama and other Al-Qaeda leadership but couldn't achieve any of the remarkable success. Now after Abbottabad operation it is claiming that Osama was hiding in Abbottabad but has failed to provide any of the proof.

USA is in fact on a weaker wicket as far as the Osama issue is concerned. Lot many theatrical shifts have been seen in this regard. Their statements are changing on daily basis. They are only showing the pictures of died Osama and no video footage is being shown to the world. They are killing the innocent masses like a wild bull for the last 10 years. Now it is the right of heirs of those brutally killed by United States in the garb of war on terrorism to see the proof of Osama's killing. They must be taken on board as for the assurance of Osama's killing is concerned. USA knows many of the nations specially the masses of south Asia don't trust it. So it must adopt transparent measures to take the world into confidence that it is dragging along to fight the war. Pakistan being frontline state of United States has faced massive disaster in the shape of suicide bombing, terrorist attacks, subversive activities ruining normal routine life of the Pakistani citizens, destroying its economy and above all defaming Pakistan all over the world for being the nursery of the terrorists. American Secretary of States Mrs Hillary Clinton herself admitted that it was America who supported Mujahdeen during Russian invasion. America used these elements and then left these actors unattended to play their game the way they want.

America supported the people from all over to world to come to south Asia to fight against Russia. Obviously America was part of the game and was well conversant of the fact that many of the terrorists from other world had settled in Afghanistan and in the western border of Pakistan as their native countries despite Pakistan's requests refused to take them back. So they had to live in this part of the region, married, and had many children. This is how they managed their influence in the region. Even Osama's native country kingdom of Saudi Arabia canceled his citizenship and asked him to shift to some other place. He remained in Yemen many years then again came back to Afghanistan. He was in Afghanistan on 9/11. America asked Mullah Umer to hand over Osama to them but he refused on the plea that if Osama admitted he was involved in the attack then he will be handed over to USA and reportedly Osama informed Mullah Umer for not being involved in the attack. So despite Mullah Umer's policy stand that Osama was refusing his involvement in the same, he and his Taliban government which was considered one of the best govt in Afghan history had to face American aggression. There was no issue of law and order, justice was being provided to the masses. So much so hundreds of millions of Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan were also slowly and gradually shifting to their native country. But after America and its allied forces attacked Afghanistan another big number of Afghan refugees poured into Pakistan causing lawlessness, crimes, smuggling, and many other allied problems. The refugees are still housed and fed by Pakistan, and Karazai government is hesitant to take his citizens back. This shows incapability on the part of his government. American also feel that Karzai government's major issue is corruption and bad governance as despite the huge funds and aid form the world over no development is seen in Afghanistan and its citizens still prefer to settle in Pakistan which itself is hard pressed because of numerous internal and external problems.

Coming back to the issue of war on terror even the American establishment admitted many times that Pakistan has given a lot many sacrifices in this war. Only the most recent attack in which frontier constabulary's newly passing out recruits were targeted has caused as many as 80 innocent lives. 65 out of 80 were FC recruits. On May 13th I was watching a BBC report covering the funeral ceremony of the 9 people killed in an earthquake in Spain. Obviously that was a sad occasion and people were weeping and mourning the incident but on the same day there were lying 80 dead bodies of the innocents in Shabqader, Pakistan but no one was there to talk much about them

Almost more than ten top Al-Qaeda leaders were apprehended with Pakistan's intelligence support as reported by a major English news paper of Pakistan in its May 03, 2011 publication. It narrates "history shows that till date, nearly a dozen of al-Qaeda's most important leaders have either been arrested alive or have been killed in this part of the globe since the 9/11 episode." Abu Zubaidah , Khalid Sheikh Mohammad , Yassir al-Jaziri, Tohir Yuldashev , Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani , Abu Faraj al-Libi or Mustafa al-Uzayti , Mustafa Setmarian Nasar etc were among those who were arrested alive or killed during encounter.

Pakistan played an active part in their arrest. Then how come American doubted Pakistan's capability to apprehend Osama bin laden. Matter of the fact is that US got Osama's clue on Pakistan's intelligence sharing in 2010. But when USA was all set to get hold of Osama it didn't share anything with the Pakistan authorities. They wanted to show the world and specially the American citizens that American force is second to none in the world. Whereas it was only few months back when Pakistan army troops' team won a Gold Medal due to best performance in a three day Cambrian Patrol exercise, 2010 organized in United Kingdom. During the three-day event in UK, Pak army team infiltrated enemy lines and performed multiple tasks. 86 teams participated in the exercise, including 70 British and 16 from other countries, including USA, Canada, Germany, France, India and Pakistan.








What can one learn about America's future direction from President Barack Obama's choice of security advisers? As has been widely reported, he has reshuffled his team, thereby consolidating his own position as the final arbiter of American foreign and security policy. Obama's authority received a considerable boost from the recent killing of Al-Qaeda's leader, Osama Bin Laden — America's number one enemy. The successful operation consecrated the president in American public opinion as the uncontested commander-in-chief. It is expected that his position will now be further strengthened by the reshuffle of his advisers. Obama's first term has been marked by his having to cope with formidable challenges: he has wrestled with a financial crisis unprecedented in modern times, with a soaring deficit, with persistent unemployment, with the fall-out from the severe setback at mid-term elections suffered by his Democratic Party, and much else besides. But he is now beginning to look more confident.

In the absence — so far at least — of a credible Republican opponent, Obama seems well-positioned to win a second presidential term at next year's elections. Defence Secretary Robert Gates, 68, a powerful veteran of defence and intelligence matters, is shortly to retire. Having been appointed to the job in 2006, when he replaced Donald Rumsfeld in George W Bush's administration, Gates has been something of a law unto himself.

He spent 26 years at the National Security Council and the CIA, where he served as Director under President George H W Bush. It is thought that his departure will give Obama a freer hand, especially in dealing with the contentious issue of trimming the Pentagon's titanic budget. Gates is to be replaced as head of the Defence Department by Leon Panetta, 73, Director of the CIA since 2009. The son of Italian immigrants who used to own a restaurant, Panetta has had a long career as a Democratic politician, lawyer and professor. He served as chief of staff in Bill Clinton's White House from 1994 to 1997.

In what looks like a game of musical chairs, Panetta is to be replaced as head of the CIA by General David Petraeus, 59, at present commander of the 140,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Before leading the fight against the Taliban, Petraeus was head of the US Central Command in 2008-2010 and, before that, commanding-general in 2007-2008 of the Multinational Force in Iraq. Tom Donilon, 56, remains the President's National Security Adviser, a job he was given less than a year ago. A former lawyer and lobbyist, his career has been largely spent helping Democratic candidates get elected. He has little or no military experience, and is not thought to be a heavy-weight. Admiral Mike Mullen, 65, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is due to leave his post next October and is expected to be replaced by his number two, General James Cartwright, 62, who is regarded as a highly intelligent and thoughtful officer. And when Robert Mueller, 67, ends his 10-year term as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) on September 4, Obama will be able to fill the post with a man of his choice.

A contrary view of Obama's reshuffle is that it will lead to still further progress towards what has been called the 'militarisation of intelligence'. Putting a general such as Petraeus to head the CIA suggests precisely some such development. In other words, we are likely to see an increase, rather than a reduction, in covert US operations abroad — in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere — operations in which it is difficult to distinguish between military personnel and intelligence agents. —The CG News








ABORIGINES deserve special recognition as our first people.

If a constitutional amendment acknowledging the unique position of Aborigines is to succeed, it is crucial that the referendum question likely to be put to Australians by 2013 is not crowded with extraneous issues. The Prime Minister's Expert Panel on the Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians, co-chaired by Pat Dodson and Mark Liebler, is on the right track suggesting a preamble to the Constitution providing such recognition. A February Newspoll showed 75 per cent of Australians are in favour, only 16 per cent against and 9 per cent are undecided.

Other ideas floated in the panel's discussion paper, however, would be more divisive. A push to strip the Constitution of its race power or enable the government to make formal deals with Aborigines on land, cultural and educational issues would struggle to gain majority support in a majority of states.

To achieve broad community and political consensus, a new preamble needs a form of words that acknowledges our indigenous people while also recognising others who since 1788 have shared the toil of taming a magnificent but often hostile continent. After the failure of the verbose preamble penned by Les Murray and rejected in all states in the 1999 referendum, the text put to the Australian people should be simple, clear and inspiring. While it must acknowledge the special place of the first Australians, it should not separate them from their fellow Australians.

It is a delicate task calling for rare semantic precision. But with bipartisan goodwill, Australians would embrace the spirit of the 1967 referendum when 90.77 per cent -- the biggest majority ever achieved in a referendum -- voted to give indigenous people the dignity and opportunity that should belong to all.







When Patrick Walters broke the children overboard story in The Weekend Australian and pursued its implications for the Howard government, there were no complaints from the Greens. Nor when we relentlessly examined the AWB scandal, leading to the prime minister, deputy prime minister and foreign minister being hauled before a commission of inquiry. Yet now, as the nation grapples with the complex issues of climate change policy, the Greens bristle at simple questions aimed at providing scrutiny on behalf of our readers, and claim bias. This is particularly difficult to understand, given this paper has long supported a market-based carbon emission reduction scheme, and that Australia would have one now if the Greens had not voted down Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme.

Bob Brown is undoubtedly one of the most powerful politicians in Australia and after the formation of the new Senate in July, when the Greens will assume the balance of power in their own right, his influence will only increase. The heavy responsibilities of shaping the economic, social and environmental future of this nation rest, in part, on his shoulders. He needs to understand that our democracy demands fearless scrutiny of those who exercise power.

Senator Brown is clearly used to an easy ride from sections of the media who cheer his moral postures rather than examine his actions. Now he is in coalition with a struggling government, he is facing difficult questions, even on occasions from the ABC. This is as it should be. Yet the Greens leader is behaving erratically, blaming News Limited for stories broken elsewhere, labelling us the "hate media" and declaring a strategy to take us on.

In the climate policy debate, Senator Brown clearly wants journalists to back his cause, arguing that the media should be "part of the process of moving Australia into a much more secure future". This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the media's role in civic society. The activism he advocates is anathema to a newspaper aiming to hold authority to account and reflect the breadth of national views, including from the 88 per cent who did not vote Greens. In our first edition 47 years ago, we declared: "This paper is tied to no party, no state and has no chains of any kind. Its guide is faith in Australia and the country's future." When the ABC explores the impact of phasing out coal mining or we chronicle the waste in ill-judged renewable energy schemes, the media is fulfilling its vital role.

Senator Brown's cheap shots about our readership figures underscore his lack of answers. Never complacent, we remain happy with our strong sales and place in the nation's public discourse. The Greens' polling slump this year from 15 per cent to 10 per cent might be the real spark for Senator Brown's aggression. This slide should have their leadership searching for mainstream values rather than victim status.






As an exposition of the vastly changed landscape in the Arab world following the tumultuous upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, it is difficult to fault President Barack Obama's speech on Middle East policy.

In Cairo two years ago, in setting out his hopes for a new beginning with the Arab world, Mr Obama unwisely sought to distance himself from George W. Bush's freedom agenda for the region, then the butt of criticism by Democrats, instead setting out what was in effect a short-sighted policy that sought engagement with repressive regimes such as those of Syria and Iran. Mr Obama hasn't made the same mistake again. Instead, he has outlined a program of direct support for democratic change that should end the perceptions of ambivalence and uncertainty that have dogged his administration since the advent of the Arab Spring and in Iran in 2009.

He has set Washington firmly behind the reform process now under way in Tunisia and Egypt following the overthrow of their respective despotic rulers -- including $2 billion in aid for Egypt alone -- and served notice on autocratic rulers elsewhere, including Syria's loathsome Bashar al-Assad, that those seeking democratic change in their countries have US support. Even longstanding US allies in Yemen and Bahrain were left in no doubt about Washington's support for change.

Coming down on the side of the angels was the easy part of Mr Obama's speech. He could hardly have done otherwise. More difficult by far was his attempt to define the parameters for progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and it is hardly surprising that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has reacted so critically to Mr Obama's call for a two-state solution of the conflict based on pre-1967 boundaries with mutually agreed swaps.

Israel's security is what a peace deal with the Palestinian leaders -- if it is ever going to happen -- is all about and a return to pre-1967 lines would simply leave Israel indefensible as well as abandon significant Jewish population centres, such as those in the West Bank, beyond those lines.

More realistically, Mr Obama has questioned how Israel can be expected to negotiate a peace deal in the light of the new Hamas-Fatah unity agreement, given that Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel and will not recognise its right to exist, and warned Palestinian leaders that they will not win recognition of Palestine by going to the UN, as they are planning to do in September.

The Hamas-Fatah accord has, indeed, introduced a major new element into what prospects there are for a resumption of peace talks. Mr Obama should leave Palestinian leaders in no doubt that unless and until Hamas rejects terrorism and recognises Israel's right to exist there is no prospect of negotiations. The onus on this is on the Palestinians. The bedrock of any policy must be Israel's right to exist and its security, and the Palestinian leadership, from Fatah or Hamas, must be told this in no uncertain terms. Mr Obama failed to suggest action to get peace talks restarted. That is unfortunate. There is an urgent need for action and he must now get cracking on realistic solutions.







THE Treasurer, Wayne Swan, is facing a challenge to the integrity of his budget from the government of Western Australia - which is trying to establish the integrity of its own budget. An arcane change to mining royalties in one state raises a question of national importance: how competently will Australia manage the economic revolution which the mining boom is forcing on it?

Western Australia's Treasurer, Christian Porter, announced on Thursday that he would increase some iron ore royalties gradually so as to raise an extra $1.9 billion in revenue over four years. The move was no surprise - it had been foreshadowed months ago by the Premier, Colin Barnett. Moreover, it is a reasonable one: it does not raise the royalty, but removes an anomaly. Royalties will no longer be levied at a concessional rate on iron ore fines - ore produced as fine particles - which once were a less-valued version of iron ore on export markets. The market no longer discriminates this way, however, and the concession is no longer needed. The royalty rate for fines will now be the same as for lump ore.

However, removing that anomaly upsets the delicate balance on which the federal budget was built - in particular Canberra's mining resources rent tax. Under the MRRT agreement, Canberra has undertaken to refund to mining companies any increase in mining royalties charged by the states. Perth's move thus puts a large hole in the federal budget forecasts of revenue. Swan, though expecting the move, was ready with a response as soon as it was announced: other federal funding for WA would be cut. In particular, he mentioned the carve-up of the GST. Under the GST rules, the decision to lift mining royalties would represent an increase in WA's ability to raise revenue from its own resources. That will count against the state when it comes to dividing up future GST income. The Commonwealth, Swan said, would not intervene to help WA get any more GST revenue. But while Swan's response is understandable, it may well create an even bigger problem.

Voters in NSW know this problem well. Though its economy may now be in the doldrums, NSW has traditionally been one of the wealthier states, and like WA now, able to raise extra revenue from its own resources. When it came to dividing up the GST between the states, that has meant in the past that NSW got back less of the GST than it paid. The balance went to subsidise poorer states. One of those - once upon a time - was WA. No longer, obviously. These days WA, thanks to its mining revenue, is a net contributor to other states, but the title is no more popular there than it ever was in NSW. Next year, WA will receive 72¢ back from every

dollar's worth of GST it pays. That will fall to 65¢ in 2014-15. If its GST allocation is cut further because of its increased mining royalties it will, of course, fall further still.

The policy reasons for redistributing GST revenue across the country are clear, and the methods used by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which does the calculations, are fair, but the trouble with them is that the results do not look that way. Moreover the formulas used and the ideas behind them are complex and difficult to explain, while 65¢ in the dollar is devastatingly simple. The appearance of unfairness in the GST carve-up will hit home, particularly outside WA's mining centres where, despite the boom, the economy is struggling.

A lot has been said in recent weeks about policies which produce a pointless financial churn - taxes charged in one area which are then reimbursed elsewhere, producing no net change. The criticism is levelled at the carbon tax, where it is unjustified because the tax may well change behaviour, as it is intended to.

But if the term churn was ever justified it is here, where one state government's revenue measure is immediately undercut by the federal government adjusting a different revenue measure to maintain the status quo - and its budget. Here churn does harm: it places a whole new political strain on the GST - a system which has some drawbacks, but on the whole has been a worthwhile innovation, and a good way to even out discrepancies of wealth across the country.

The secretary of the federal Treasury, Martin Parkinson, referred in his speech on Tuesday to the prolonged change in the economy, and the problems that raises, as a result of the mining boom. WA's mining royalty change is just one example of that - and a test for our politicians, state and federal.






ASTRONOMERS - at least those not blinded by clouds of hazard-reduction smoke - have been finding that our galaxy contains a lot more planets than they had thought. Not our solar system, mind - which still has the same number as ever, give or take Pluto, which regular readers will remember was downgraded some years ago for being too cold and boring. All the exciting new planets are further out in the Milky Way. Hot new space telescopes are finding them in their hundreds, wandering all over our interstellar backyard as planets do. Most of those found so far are gas giants like Jupiter. The question arises: what should these planets be called? The drab sequences of letters and numbers routinely assigned to minor heavenly bodies clearly won't do. And it will not be possible to name them after the gods of Greek or Roman mythology, because the available names have been used up elsewhere. However we believe they could quite reasonably be named after contemporary individuals who exhibit the same characteristics - a colossal ego and a powerful appetite for fornication. May we humbly suggest names for the next two giant gas-filled blobs to be discovered: Arnie and Dominique.






OF ALL the countries visited by the Queen during her almost 60-year reign, Ireland has been the most significant in what has already been achieved for peace and understanding. As The Age said on Tuesday, the monarch's four-day state visit, which ended yesterday, was the first since her grandfather, King George V, 100 years ago - five years before the Easter rising and the succeeding decades of turmoil.

As it turns out, the Queen's visit, which was essential if Ireland and Britain were ever to establish true rapprochement, has succeeded, in personal as well as symbolic terms. These combined on Tuesday when the Queen laid a wreath at Dublin's Garden of Remembrance, which commemorates all those who died fighting for independence, with a single bow of the regal head - an astonishing gesture that, even a few years ago, would have been considered impossible. One commentator described it as, "The last dance of the choreography of the Good Friday agreement." Now, 13 years after the signing of the agreement, and nearly 90 years since Irish independence, the process of reconciliation could be said to have truly begun.

After the Queen's wreath, the Queen's speech. This proved the 85-year-old monarch still has the capacity to surprise and to charm. Thus, at Thursday night's state dinner in Dublin, held by the Ulsterborn President, Mary McAleese, the Queen began her address not in English, but Irish: "A Uachtarain agus a chairde - "President and friends". She spoke of the "complexity of our history ... but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation. Of being able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it." The Queen did not shirk from what she called the "troubled past", and, indeed, described some events as having "touched us all, many of us personally" - an oblique reference to the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, by the IRA in 1979.

Although some republicans have called the state visit "untimely", the prevailing view has been, if not now, when? It sets Britain and Ireland on a new path.







It could form a crucial part of the answer to how Britain develops an alternative-energy industry, but the portents are not great

Early next week will bring two pieces of news about whether Britain is getting any closer at all to having the sort of banks it needs. The first concerns a short-term but serious problem: lenders' unwillingness after the financial crisis to support perfectly sound businesses.

In February HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds signed a deal with the Treasury to provide more credit to firms. The first indication of how the big four are faring on that goal comes on Monday, with the Merlin lending figures for the first quarter of this year. If all that follows is politicians and commentators comparing the reality with the promises then the bankers will probably not be too displeased, since their initial commitments were pretty risible. The £190bn of credit that the banks said they would lend to businesses was a non-binding aspiration, rather than a hard-and-fast target; and it was for all loans, both old and new. The financiers know the old trick of accounting perspective, which states that most things can be made to look large if your yardstick is small enough.

The second big banking event concerns not the City but government. It looks likely that early next week ministers will provide some details of the Green Investment Bank, an idea invented by Alistair Darling and inherited by George Osborne. This could form either a crucial part of the answer to how Britain develops a world-beating alternative-energy industry – or it could be yet another damp squib.

The portents are not great. George Osborne and his civil servants have attempted to run the Treasury watering can over many of the better, bolder proposals from Chris Huhne and his climate change officials. But there are two key areas that must be protected if the Green Investment Bank is to be a worthwhile initiative. The first is powers to borrow from financial markets, rather than the narrower confines of the Treasury. This is important not just because of the broader and bigger range of funds that the GIB will have access to, but also as a step towards to giving it independence from Mr Osborne's officials. Paradoxically, it may also provide the bank with greater discipline, since investment managers should ask hard questions about where their money is going.

The second key consideration is the range of businesses the GIB will be able to lend to. Nicholas Stern, in his review on the economics of climate change, described global warming as "the greatest market failure the world has seen"; where markets are not extending credit, a public bank can lead the way and channel private credit. The short-termism of the City is famed: next week will show just how bad it is and how it may be circumvented.





If Dr Cable is reading things right, tough times will soon get far tougher than we have imagined

The business secretary cuts an unlikely Churchill. Vince Cable's sparse language in his Guardian interview about Britain having to adjust from being a "price-setter" to a "price-taker" is a world away from the old bulldog's grandiloquent offer of blood, toil, tears and sweat. But there is a parallel in their political purpose: to tell the grim truth as they see it.

If Dr Cable is reading things right, and he makes a strong case, tough times will soon get far tougher than we have imagined – due not merely to cuts, but also to sterling's collapse and an economic model whose bankruptcy is rendering us "a poorer country". His message is that even if growth picks up, and this week's employment and retail sales figures were encouraging, the squeeze on living standards will endure for years.

The most immediate question is how Dr Cable's coalition colleagues will respond. The last time the Panglossian code of politics was so flagrantly breached was back in 2008, and also in a weekend Guardian interview: chancellor Alistair Darling spoke bluntly of the worst financial crisis in 60 years. The prime minister of the time was Browned off, and little good it did him: it was Mr Darling's independent stature that was enhanced. The prime minister of today will be relieved that his business secretary has not outright contradicted him, but may be peeved that his most turbulent minister is now taking such a different tone from the official, oft-repeated line about edging out of the danger zone. At a time when the coalition is already creaking over health, crime and policing, Dr Cable's intervention raises the question of what exactly the government is going to do to help families facing the prolonged pinch.

If Mr Cameron is smart, however, he will not be panicked into a row. Defending the parsimonious future in prospect is uncomfortable, to be sure, but the real question about the awkward twists in politics is whether they are more awkward for the other side. Each of the great retrenchments of the 20th century damaged the left more than the right. The Geddes Axe of 1922, the cutbacks after the 1967 devaluation and the cap-in-hand approach to the IMF in 1976: each of these was followed by a Conservative victory. More poignantly still, cutbacks in the Depression broke a Labour government and cemented a centre-right coalition in power.

While it has been adjusting to opposition, Labour has contented itself with economic fuzz. It has argued, with good reason, that coalition cuts are too thick and too fast, but has used this qualified general criticism against all manner of specific cuts – even though Labour's own financial plans implied rolling the state back a long way. Glance back at Mr Cameron's claim during last year's campaign that any minister proposing cuts that would actually hurt would be packed off back to their department and told to think again, and you can see the electoral attraction of peddling false hope.

The optimistic note Ed Miliband strikes on our comment pages could hardly be more different from Dr Cable's, and at first blush his suggestion that with Labour long-neglected fields such as housing could somehow now be tackled might seem of a piece with the prime minister's easy pre-election talk. In fact, there is a little more subtlety in the thinking – a recognition that a cash-strapped government will need to concentrate on quality-of-life promises that "look beyond the bottom line", a recognition, too, that the rich will have to shoulder new responsibilities, and a hope that more proactive industrial policies will be able to fix the economy, and through that to shrink the deficit. If Mr Miliband can develop this final thought into something more credible than a hunch, then he can plausibly go to the electorate wearing something more comfortable than Dr Cable's hair shirt. As Labour ought to be painfully aware, however, the hard intellectual spadework required has barely begun.






A national vote of confidence on her diamond jubilee would lend triumphant legitimacy to her final days

To watch a woman just into the second half of her ninth decade traipse round function after function – without a stick and without ever wilting – is to be impressed. To witness Queen Elizabeth do so in Dublin this week was to be doubly so. By putting neither a figurative nor a literal foot wrong she made a modest personal contribution to the banishment of the historical demons that others had arranged for her to exorcise – and emerged with enough energy to go and meet some thoroughbreds. Whether it is down to upbringing, a thousand-year bloodline or (more plausibly) good luck, she is evidently cut out for her odd line of work. But it does not follow that others might not do it well too. A Times editorial this week attributed the Irish trip's success to the hereditary monarch's unique place above politics. This is a leap of logic which ignores the equally accomplished role in proceedings played by Ireland's elected president, Mary McAleese. After a sure-footed first term, she sailed through to her second without opposition, having clambered above the partisan fray through her own efforts. Were the British to choose their own head of state, they would surely have the sense to resist President Clarkson, and choose the best woman for the job. Even republican voices such as our own acknowledge that the Windsors' reign will not predecease the body of the Queen. By calling a national vote of confidence on her diamond jubilee, Elizabeth would change history – and lend triumphant legitimacy to her final days.







 "Everything was much better under Pak Harto," concluded an opinion generated in a recent polling which has been the hot topic these days. The sentiment of longing for the late former president is shared by more and more Indonesians. Ironically today we celebrate the movement that forced Soeharto to end his 32-year iron-fist and corrupt rule. On May 21, 1998, we were overjoyed after Soeharto announced his resignation. We had a dream of a much better Indonesia at that time.

But is it true that the nation was much more prosperous, more secure and more peaceful under the leadership of the retired general who practically appointed himself as the Father of Development? Is the common complaint that the 13 years of reform under its four presidents, including incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has been a total failure true?

Last week a polling organizer, Indo Barometer, announced its findings that, among others, Soeharto was regarded as the favorite president above the other five — Sukarno, B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Soekarnoputri and Yudhoyono — because of his ability as a leader to deliver the fundamental needs of the people. The survey taps the sentiment that the nation has achieved little in the last 13 years, despite that we have been internationally recognized as the world's third-largest democracy after India and the US.

It is natural that the biggest disappointment is aimed at President Yudhoyono. In 2004 voters overwhelmingly entrusted the retired general to lead the country to become a lovely home for all Indonesians. In 2009, Yudhoyono even won with a larger margin in a direct presidential election as we saw an encouraging development in the war against corruption, improved human rights and steady economic growth.

Let us return to the two questions of whether Indonesia was better under Soeharto, and whether we have achieved little progress in reforming and transforming Indonesia.

It is not true, and is an extreme response to the current situation. First of all we must acknowledge there is widespread dissatisfaction among Indonesians over the incompetence and inability of post-Soeharto governments to resolve the horrifying heritages from Soeharto: rampant corruption, abuse of power, poor law enforce-ment and disastrous governance. The problems have strong foundations.

Many of us would laugh at the remark that Indonesia is much better now than 13 years ago. Also when we talk to foreigners — be they investors, traders, diplomats or even journalists — we are surprised that they appreciate us. They point at the good things that perhaps we do not realize: Indonesia is a democratic nation, our press free-dom is amazing and our economic fundamentals are more transparent and democratic.

For many foreigners who have experienced living in other developing countries, problems of corruption, good governance and legal uncertainty that confront Indonesia now are part of the nation's journey in transforming itself into a full-fledged democracy. They believe that once we pass the most painful part of the journey, we will see a totally new Indonesia. Hopefully this is not just a consolation.

We have achieved tremendous progress in many fundamental aspects of the nation. It is true that major problems remain. Many of our political elites are so selfish that they just want to enrich themselves at the cost of the nation. They are power and money hungry citizens. Our president is apparently satisfied with his achievements and has decided to relax because he wrongly believes that everything has been fixed and the nation is just enjoying the fruits of his hard and smart work.

But one thing is sure: We are a great nation because we have great people. We are a better nation now because of the endeavor of the citizens of this republic.

Today, while we still have to face gigantic obstacles, we need to remind ourselves that we have a better Indonesia because of the achievements of the people themselves, and not their leaders.






Until recently, the rule was that the curious searched for news. But now the news finds the young, suggests a recent study of 18- to 25-year-olds from around the world. Unlike their pre–Web 2.0 predecessors who traveled the internet, students now squat in place on Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, chat platforms and email accounts, gathering their news from there.

The fact that youths are sitting like spiders in the middle of a web, content with consuming what flies by, poses serious social and political consequences in an era where Facebook and Twitter have become the media of choice for governments and politicians for public outreach and the opposition's public square for organizing protest.

A decade or more ago there was much public hand-wringing about a then-new observed phenomenon: The internet was paradoxically limiting users' intake of information. Despite the exponentially increasing amount of news and information accessible online, librarians, professors, journalists and parents worried that the marvelous opportunities for serendipitous discovery of new information when browsing a library's shelves or paging through a newspaper were being lost.

Internet users weren't stumbling over provocative books or articles that expanded or challenged their understanding of the world, because, so studies suggested, users went to pages and sites that told them exactly what they wanted to hear. Using bookmarks and other electronic means to demarcate where they wanted to go, users commonly visited specific sites they had pre-identified for news and entertainment.

A study called "The World Unplugged" was released in April by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland. The study, conducted with the assistance of the university partners of the Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change, asked roughly 1,000 students in 10 countries on five continents to give up all media for 24 hours.  After their daylong abstinence, the students recorded their experiences. In total, students wrote almost half a million words: in aggregate, about the length of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. Students also completed a demographic survey.

"The World Unplugged" reported that young users are no longer traveling the same virtual ruts as before. Students rarely go prospecting for news at mainstream or legacy news sites, the study found. They inhale, almost unconsciously, the news served up on the sidebar of their email account, posted on friends' Facebook walls or delivered by Twitter.

No matter where they lived, students observe that they're inundated with information coming via mobile phones or the internet — text messages, social media, chat, email, Skype IM, QQ, Weibo, RenRen
and more.

Most college students, whether in developed or developing countries, are also strikingly similar in how they use media and digital technologies. Across the world, students reported that the non-stop deluge of information arriving via mobile phones and online means that they have neither the time nor the inclination to follow up on even major news stories. Most students reported that a short text message from a friend is sufficiently informative for all but the most personally compelling events.

While most students expressed an interest in staying informed, only a minority of students complained about having to go without local, national or world news for a day. "Media is my drug; without it I was lost," said a student from the UK. "I am an addict."

A student from China said, "I can say without exaggeration, I was almost freaking out." A student from Argentina observed, "Sometimes I felt 'dead.'" And a student from Slovakia simply noted, "I felt sad, lonely and depressed." Some students noted that they missed a news outlet's 140-character Twitter updates, but they weren't desperate to read or surf The New York Times, the BBC or their equivalents.  

For daily news outlets, students have become headline readers via their social networks. They rarely follow up a story on their own, content to wait until additional details or updates are served up via texts, tweets or posts.

And because Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and their counterparts are increasingly a source reported for receiving news and information, students are cavalier about the need for traditional news outlets, "We are used to having information about everything on the planet and this information we have to have in an unbelievable time," observed a student from Slovakia. "Our generation doesn't need certified and acknowledged information. More important is quantity, not quality of news."

It's not that students reported a lack of interest in news — in fact, data from the study suggest that students today both care about news and are more catholic in their concerns than their immediate predecessors. Instead, these young adults cared as much about what their friends were up to as they cared about local and global news.

"I felt a little out of touch with the world," reported a student from the UK after going unplugged for 24 hours, "and craved to know what was going on not only in worldwide news, but with my friends' everyday thoughts and experiences, posted in statuses, tweets and blog posts daily."

And that was what was ultimately so fascinating to learn from the study's data: precisely because students were getting news pushed to them on their social-media platforms rather than going out and pulling news from specific news outlets, they take in more and varied kinds of news and opinions than their predecessors in the pre-Web 2.0 world. When students have 1000 Facebook "friends" or "follow" hundreds of Twitter accounts, there's bound to be a more expansive range of news and information coming to them.

Librarians, professors, journalists and parents may still bemoan this generation's loss of initiative and the kind of active curiosity necessary to gather information in an unwired world, but students today are plugged into news via their friends in unprecedented ways.

There's as yet no viable business model for journalists who originate the news that shows up on social networks, but knowing that young adults are platform agnostic about how they get updated should prompt media outlets to consider how and where they deliver news.  

A seamless connection between students' social groups and their access to news of local and world events may help enable the kinds of engagement and activism emerging recently in the Middle East and North Africa. If Facebook, Twitter, chat and email are already where students around the world meet friends and learn about global issues, using those platforms to connect the two in social action is likely to make sense to young adults everywhere.

The Unplugged study suggests a roadmap for those engaged in economic development and political change: Mobile telephony is not just a social tool to link individuals and more than the growth sector of digital access; it's also already the preferred way in which young adults exchange news and information.

Those interested in supporting media must turn attention to supporting new media on mobile platforms — with all that means for news gathering and production.

Strengthening independent media and protecting individual voices have never been so important — but now those media may be Facebook groups as well as mainstream news outlets, and those voices may be on Twitter, not just on the street corner. Those interested in democratic change must turn greater attention to supporting enabling environments for digital media and access to those platforms.  

The writer is director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda and associate professor with Philip Merrill College of Journalism & School of Public Policy, University of Maryland.







President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has completed two years of his second term in office. While his first tenure (2004-2009) received a standing ovation from the Indonesian people, the second term (2009-2014) has been and is facing public distrust and opposition.

The President's approach toward crucial issues has lead to his waning popularity and soaring public dissatisfaction, as shown by the results of a poll conducted by Indo Barometer.

The results of the survey, released recently by Indo Barometer, found that 40.9 percent of 1,200 people surveyed believed that conditions were better under Soeharto's New Order regime, while only 22.8 percent believed otherwise.

Most respondents also believed that politics, the economy, security and social welfare were better during Soeharto's time, but conceded that the legal sector had improved since his downfall in 1998.

The results are a slap in the face for the reform movement, suggesting that reform is likely at the point of return.

In fact, the poll is inseparably bound to the President's poor intellectual leadership at the moment. Using James MacGregor Burns' concept, intellectual leadership is not only characterized by a high belief in ideas, knowledge and values, but also bravery in action.

Thus being an intellectual macho means nothing as one fails to be a person of action.

Seen from the spirit of reform, poor accountability in governance and unsatisfactory eradication of corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN) have come under public scrutiny. Corruption cases continue to mushroom in extraordinary

Based on the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index released in December 2010, out of 178 countries surveyed, Indonesia ranked 110th. Indonesia's minor improvement in the corruption index is closely linked to the government's policy of granting pardons, remissions and parole for people convicted of graft.

Indeed, the reform movement in 1998 succeeded in delivering a new constitution. However, the struggle has not finished yet in an effort to move into a more perfect constitution. The constitutional flaw needs to be repaired.

The 2004 Regional Autonomy Law, for instance, transfers rights, obligations and authorities to local governments to manage their own government and public services.

 The same goes for the representation system, which is much different from the prior reform era. Though local autonomy cannot be separated from conceptual issues, the central government seems to have failed to conduct a thorough assessment, resulting in many problems at the local level.

Things get worse when it comes to fiscal balance. Despite the amendment of the 1999 law into the 2004 Fiscal Balance Law, the central budgeting process stands as it used to. Many local legislative council members are surprised and startled to see decisions on development are taken by the central government. Definitely, it belies the spirit of reform.

It is believed that artificial fiscal decentralization at the local level has something to do with a strong political lobby over the real regions' priority. As a result, unfair fiscal imbalance between the central and local government is inevitable.

Budget allocation from the central to local government does not even reach 20 percent. As the local government keeps receiving a small budget slot, no matter how high the increase in state budget, it will never contribute to the prosperity and betterment of people in regions.

In other words, if local governments and legislative councils cannot have and implement an autonomous budgeting process, any efforts to bring in wealth to regions would be in vain.

No less important to note is unresolved cases of human rights violations in this country. The government is yet to act against state officials involved in abuses, kidnapping and the murder of at least 24 activists during the 1998 student movement that toppled the Soeharto regime. Justice has not been served to victims of the atrocities and their families.

It is very ironic considering Indonesia's standing as a pilot country for democracy and human rights in ASEAN.

This is not to mention that Indonesia is nominated to be the member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, together with Syria, India and the Philippines.

Yet, the achievement is nothing beneficial for the family of victims without exposing the unresolved cases of human rights violation in this country.

The failure to reveal the real and scary truth will render this country incapable of learning from its own bleak experience.

The lack of political will and initiative from both the government and the House to tackle the human rights issue strongly shows justice has been delayed and denied in

The government, therefore, should not be preoccupied by displaying imaging politics of advocating human rights abroad but is not making the grade at home.

Yudhoyono still has a chance of winning people's hearts and minds as long as his government works on luster performance instead of enhancing his political image.

The poll is a good reminder for Yudhoyono that the shocking results reflect the growing frustration rather than the public endorsement of Soeharto.

The writer, a graduate of the University of Canberra, teaches politics and culture at Andalas University, Padang.







How the mighty International Monetary Fund has fallen. More than a decade ago, the French magazine Paris Match carried a picture of the Fund's then Managing Director, Michel Camdessus, with the title: "The Most Powerful Frenchman in the World."

Today, his successor, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), handcuffed and grave in ubiquitous front-page photos, is the most humiliated Frenchman in the world.

One unanticipated result of the lurid New York sex scandal involving DSK is that the question of his successor is attracting an unprecedented level of public interest and concern. Indeed, the scandal has exposed some fundamental problems about the IMF's governance, and even about its existence.

DSK tried to remake the IMF into a doctor of global finance, rather than a policeman. In mitigating or even preventing financial crises, however, sometimes policemen are needed. At the moment, the combination of excesses still evident in the financial sector and in public finance in many countries calls for some fairly tough police action.

Any organization is always much more than simply the person who happens to lead it, but a weak or politicized figure at its head can do great damage. Unfortunately, about half of the IMF's past managing directors have been either weak or overly political — or both.

The IMF's first two managing directors, the Belgian Camille Gutt and the Swede Ivar Rooth, were both weak figures. Indeed, the Fund almost disappeared into complete oblivion during their tenure.

The IMF's two most recent managing directors before DSK, a German and a Spaniard, were also weak. Horst Köhler, appointed in 2000, got the millennium started on a bad note. He had been an influential state secretary in Germany's finance ministry, before becoming the head of the associations of savings banks.

Germany's then chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, pressed hard for a German appointee to lead the Fund, but Köhler was always an implausible second-choice candidate. He resigned in 2004 to run as Angela Merkel's candidate for the largely ceremonial office of President of the German Federal Republic, a job he performed capriciously until he abruptly resigned.

Köhler's successor, Rodrigo Rato, had been the leader of Spain's center-right party, which was unexpectedly defeated in the 2004 general election by current Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. He was sent to Washington as a consolation prize, and was never very happy there. The IMF's influence dwindled, and he resigned in 2007 "for personal reasons."

DSK, too, began his tenure at the IMF as a politician-in-exile, after emerging as French President Nicolas Sarkozy's most formidable domestic opponent. Sarkozy and his strategists, no doubt, thought that sending DSK to the Fund, which before the global financial crisis looked unimportant and marginal, was a brilliant coup.

They may have even calculated that his private life might cause a stir in a country that is both more prudish and prurient than France. But when the IMF reemerged after 2008 as a central global institution, with DSK appearing to reorient it with substantial political and economic skill, he started to look again like a threat to Sarkozy's re-election bid.

The IMF's heavy engagement in resolving Europe's sovereign-debt crisis adds another element of political complexity. Non-Europeans suspected that the Europeans were getting favorable deals under a French politician-turned-economist who wanted to return to politics. And some Europeans worried that the Fund was taking sides in a polarized intra-European dispute about how the costs of the financial crisis should be shared.

Recent appointments to head the IMF have all been pushed through after high-level bargaining among European governments. There is now a need to break decisively with the discredited political logic that drives such decisions.

The convention that the IMF's managing director needs to be a West European is not written down anywhere, least of all in the Fund's Articles of Agreement. Indeed, even back in 1973, there was substantial support for a non-European candidate, Roberto Alemann, the distinguished economist and former Argentine economics minister.

The IMF's history is also a guide to the kind of figure who works most productively in Washington. None of the three most powerful and influential managing directors had been a politician or government minister.

Per Jacobsson, the Swedish economist who brought the Fund back from obscurity in the 1950s, had been an official at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel. As the BIS's chief economist in the 1930s, Jacobsson knew how to use economic analysis as a basis for influence. Jacques de Larosière and Michel Camdessus were French civil servants who combined high-level technical and managerial expertise with a vision of how the world economy should operate.

Today, the world's overwhelming strategic problem is to adjust to a new economic and political geography, in which the weight of the global economy is shifting eastwards and southwards. It is tempting to conclude that appointing a well-connected figure from an emerging-market economy could solve the problem.

But such an outcome would be to repeat the thinking of the past, when the main need was to broker influence between Europe and the US. Appointing an Asian political icon would merely change the names of the players; it would not reinvent the game.

The IMF needs a managing director who transcends political logic and can lay out the economics of the new global order. The next
one should be Eastern rather than Western, an economist rather than a politician, and a visionary rather than a tactician.

The writer is Professor of History and International Affairs at Princeton University and Professor of History at the European University Institute, Florence. His most recent book is
The Creation and Destruction of Value:
The Globalization Cycle.






Indonesia's economic success is one of many factors accelerating investor interest in Southeast Asia. This is a trend almost certain to accelerate as the region integrates, demonstrates superior growth, attractive cost and demographic fundamentals, and rising consumption and demand which complements its traditional export competitiveness.

A desire to expand distribution in the face of economic weakness in the US, Japan and Europe and to diversify away from reliance on China-focused supply chains is also important.

Located only 12 miles off the coast of Singapore, the Riau Islands, site of the Batam, Bintan and Karimun Free Trade Zones, has in recent decades attracted billions of dollars in foreign manufacturing, tourism, infrastructure, agriculture, shipbuilding and fisheries investment. Managing the information needed to service potential and existing investors is a complex task.

For this reason the Riau Islands has taken a number of steps, including development of a new website. These initiatives provide insights and examples that will help other government and corporate entities in planning their own investment promotion and related marketing initiatives. Traditionally, investment promotion programs have focused on printed materials and occasional "road show" expeditions. Political leaders, bureaucrats and executives travel long distances to meet briefly with potential investors and executives. Unfortunately, these costly exercises often produce mixed results.

This should not be surprising. If a US entity seeks a presence in Indonesia, they are not likely to succeed through occasional seminars and one-on-one meetings in Jakarta — regardless of the program or participants in attendance.

Just as in Indonesia — relationships with foreign investors are developed over time. Fortunately, the Internet proves a valuable tool in maintaining contacts, giving depth and continuity to road show and other initiatives, enabling better returns on marketing, outreach and business development initiatives.

Riau Islands province has taken major initiatives to develop numerous investment and trade promotion programs for government and corporate entities all over the world. With the help of a private company, the province develops a comprehensive program, which utilizes the Internet as a base from which to expand and facilitate their international outreach and investment promotion efforts. These include:

First, research the competition: there are many FTZs in Asia. While few have realized the same level of foreign investment as those in the Riau Islands, many are more well-known and perceived to be more competitive. It was vital to conduct research and comparisons with other locations. Specific comparisons were made, benchmarks developed and strengths and weaknesses identified.

Second, define competitive advantage: successful investment promotion programs move beyond slogans such as "Our Province is Right forYou" — which can be applied to every locality in the world. To provide investors and site locators with clear reason to pay attention, the Riau Islands was defined as the "Site of Southeast Asia's Premier Free Trade Zones".

Other locations should also highlight core strengths. Java, for example, might focus on access to Indonesia's growing domestic market; Bali on high-end international tourism and design; Kalimantan on energy, minerals and eco-tourism; and Sulawesi and Sumatra on agriculture and other relevant sectors.

Third, target audience: investors tend to be specialized and provinces emphasizing tourism or agriculture need different approaches than those targeting on manufacturing and shipbuilding. The Riau Islands has strengths in all of these sectors so information was aggregated both on a geographic and sectoral basis to allow more focused review.

Fourth, emphasize value over cost: business theory dictates one must compete on cost or value. The best strategies contain elements of both. To compete on price alone depresses margins. The ability of a province to attract investment without substantial incentives is largely determined by its ability to demonstrate real value. The Riau Islands took great care to emphasize its proximity to Singapore, which could not be replicated by competing locations, while also highlighting its cost competitiveness against markets such as China, Vietnam and India.

Fifth, develop a cohesive program: successful investment promotion programs incorporate well-defined strategies within well-orchestrated, ongoing programs. In the case of the Riau Islands our website serves as a foundation providing data and an updateable resource. This allows investors to keep up with events in the province and to link together discrete, disconnected events, which by themselves lack the continuity and structure needed to nurture interest over the long term.

Sixth, vision before details: to justify the considerable resources required to evaluate the feasibility of a project, an investor must first be convinced of the attractiveness of a location. As a result when inquiries are received and one-on-one meetings held, participants are generally better informed. This allows for more substantive discussion.

But above all, a follow-up is essential. When speaking about foreign investors at a recent investment conference in Jakarta President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono noted, "Too many problems are not resolved due to a lack of communication". We would add too many deals never happen given the lack of proper follow-up.

These are just a few of many issues considered during development of the Riau Islands strategy. Every province and municipality, however, is unique — and the points noted above are intended to provide insight into some of the considerations that must be examined when designing effective investment and trade promotion programs.

The writer serves as president of KWR International, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in Asia-focused trade, investment and business development. The opinions expressed are his own.






On April 19 at the Bogor Palace, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that radicalism, terrorism and sectarian conflicts were three problems disrupting our national security.

This condition may have been triggered by a number of organizations and individuals who defied law enforcement. For that reason, security forces must act decisively and professionally in combating terrorism and several cases of violence in the name of religion that have occurred recently in Indonesia.

The President's concern is not without any reason. Indonesia has been undergoing many traumatizing events in the form of terror attacks.

One year after the 9/11 tragedy, Indonesia was shocked by the Bali bombings on Sept. 12, 2002. Since then, violence has endlessly hit the country, the most recent being the suicide bombing at the Cirebon Police mosque last April.

Although the acts of terrorism could be classified as large-scale and sophisticated, the police can quickly discover and arrest the perpetrators. Even those perpetrators have already been prosecuted and some of them sentenced to death.

The question then arises as to why radicalism and terrorism persists even though the police have always uncovered the cases and caught the perpetrators.

A security approach is likely successful in the short run, but in the long run, radicalism may arise again because the root of the problem remains untouched. The root of radicalism is abstract and embedded in the mind of a person.

Borrowing Gandhi's view, in this world there are two types of violence: physical violence such as terrorism and war, and soft violence such as defamation and provocation. Relations between the two, Gandhi says, are like fire and gasoline. In order to stop physical violence such as terrorism, people have to first remove radicalism and fundamentalism from their minds.

To create peace and tolerance in the mind of children is not an easy task. It requires a good education which can stimulate a favorable environment for children to gain knowledge, a positive attitude and rational behavior to address their social reality peacefully. Education must therefore broaden the horizon of children to acquire a sense of universal peace, internalize the value of tolerance and enable them to view things from different perspectives of truth.

To arrive at such circumstances, the process of education must meet a certain quality standard to stimulate students' minds to act and behave in a peaceful and tolerant manner to plurality and differences. Students need enough exercises to harmonize what they think, what they say and what they do to experience the universal beauty of peace.   

However, on the other hand, that expectation is not without obstacles. Currently, approximately 88.8 percent of schools in Indonesia, ranging from elementary to high school have not passed the minimum service quality standard (Kompas, March 23, 2011).

The situation is probably even much worse at religious schools or madrasah.

Katarina Tomasevski (2002), the UN Special Rapporteur on education in Indonesia, exposed that only about 3 percent of students in Indonesia could enjoy an international standard or high quality of education. These schools are generally dominated by students of Chinese descent. On the other hand, this ethnic group is a source of social envy because they control the largest chunk of the economic pie.

Jealousy and discrimination triggered by discrimination, poverty and unemployment often cumulatively appear to be great power on the grounds of jihad against law enforcement agencies and other religious followers or ethnic groups who are part of the upper socio-economic class.

The existing radicalism is not a simple process. It has been likely triggered to the past dichotomy of education policy. Public schools under the National Education Ministry and private religious school under the Religious Affairs Ministry, despite their use of the same national curriculum, are extremely different in the way each treats resource distribution.

Madrasah under the religious ministry in the past appeared to be the last receiving hand of national budget allocation on education. The discrimination policy is presented by the ADB publication, "Financing of Education in Indonesia" (1999). For example, the unit cost for upper secondary school students under the religious ministry, Madrasah Aliyah (MA), is Rp 185,000 (US$21.76), about Rp 4,000 from the state budget and Rp 181,000 from parents. The unit cost of public senior high schools under the education ministry reached Rp 418,000, about Rp 333,000 from the state budget and Rp 85,000 from parents.

Similar discrepancies also appear in textbook distribution, teacher availability and infrastructure. Ironically, 60 percent of schoolchildren at madrasah are girls, who are among the most disadvantaged socio-economic strata, while those in public schools are from middle and upper classes.

As a result, almost all madrasah are continuously marginalized, as the poor subsidizes the rich in the way the lion's share of government subsidy goes to public schools. So, what can we expect from such circumstances if not just adding to potential social tension and vulnerability in the future.

The polarization gap between the education and religious ministries in dealing with national education has shown great lessons learned. The gap between the two has gradually improved and the past discrimination has changed gradually after the enactment of the 2003 National Education System Law, which allows all children in madrasah to be treated equally as those in public schools under the education ministry.

However, this transformation process seems to have problems due to many overlapping structural bureaucracies at the two ministries and other relevant agencies both at central and district levels. Madrasah transformation moves very slowly.

Bureaucracy reform at the two ministries appears to be greatly demanded with strong vision and decisive policy, including the need to merge all issues, concerns and problems of madrasah into one single management under the National Education Ministry.

The writer is a professor at the State University of Jakarta and former director general of human rights protection.








We have heard of the beautiful imagery of faithful shepherds looking after their flock of sheep in the fields. They are called to pasture them at places where there is food and water. Certain seasons they have to be taken long distances in search of greener pastures, when it becomes scarce in one area. Perennial sources of food, drink and personal attention are called for at all times, being so vulnerable, they need to be protected from predators as well.

We too, especially political or religious leaders and parents are called to shepherd those under our care. Those we are called to look after are not there by chance, nor are we given that responsibility by accident. We are all familiar with the looking after of our spouses, children and other family members who are dependent upon us for their needs. May we look at them today with wonderment and gratitude, for that gift destiny has bestowed upon us. We are called to look after not only their physical needs, but also protect them from the predators of this world. Predators are the false values of this world -- living for the sake of self glory and power; inordinate seeking of pleasures and other lusts of the flesh. Many a parent through ignorance or reluctance, fail to protect their children from these destructive forces. Others preach one thing, but give wrong examples  by their way of life. Many suffer the consequences as a result. Broken homes, broken marriages, destructive lives and inner psychological wounds then start taking their toll. Society that destiny wants to raise to high pinnacles, finds itself caving in.

Good leaders immerge  from where they as children had been under the proper tutelage of loved ones at home. Others who had walked the rough road of hardship, rejection and humiliation, qualify themselves to be those the world is waiting for. There is something within each one of us, which cries out to be a good leader. This should be given room to grow, especially in children. Many children are put through their paces in the vast field of education, for leadership roles. The real leaders are those however, who emerge being sensitive to their social and natural environment, allowing themselves to be taught through it.

In the political sphere too, there should be such sensitivity in all leaders, from moment to moment as long as they are in power. This ensures their constant concern for those they are called to look after. Good leaders get to know they are such, when they experience within themselves the anguish of the weak, wanting attention; the sick crying for healing; those lost and wanting someone to find them. Good leaders are those who attract others to themselves. Initially they may not even be liked for whatever reason. Yet if leaders have love and a place in their hearts for those who malign them, they would reap the harvest of winning new friends. Good leaders need no embellishments; it would be seen as clearly as an insect sees the light.

Counterfeit leaders are known by their bad fruit. They themselves would know it, if they are courageous enough to look within themselves. Yet, due to cowardice, they miss opportunities to become genuine. Counterfeit ones, are only interested in taking care of themselves; wanting others to serve them, instead of serving others. They live off the spoils of the land. For this they burden the poor, the very ones they are called to enrich. They rule harshly and brutally, such would be dethroned by destiny's writ.





Those members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation who are involved in what is now a war on Libya in all but name are starting to face multiple embarrassments. Militarily, their decision not to send in ground troops requires them to intensify their air attacks far beyond the protection of civilians. For example, the British military are now bombing not only President Muammar Qadhafi's troops and artillery but also buildings and infrastructure, including police stations and government offices. Secondly, the presence on the ground of Nato's so-called special forces has not prevented civilian deaths in aerial bombardment. As the British analyst Simon Jenkins points out in the Guardian, the escalation is reminiscent of the U.S. General Curtis LeMay's vow to bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age. In political terms, the European wing of Nato is increasingly isolated. Washington is keeping strangely quiet about Libya; the Arab League, whose support was actively sought for the United Nations Security Council Resolution that enabled the original intervention, has disappeared from the picture.

Nato may find it extremely difficult to get out of the political and military quagmire into which it has launched itself, but even greater embarrassment lies in the extent of Western financial involvement with Libya over many years. About $32 billion that the Qadhafi regime holds in the U.S. is not in bank accounts but in legitimate business holdings like shares and real estate. Appropriating even $150 million, as mentioned by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would require legislation, which could take months. Tripoli also has about $20 billion in the United Kingdom, $9 billion in Germany, and $1.7 billion in Austria, again as a result of legitimate business activity. Western institutions such as leading colleges and universities have willingly accepted Libyan money. As for the expropriation of Mr. Qadhafi's own accounts, it will probably contravene international law as long as he is in power; in addition, Russia and China have both stated that they would veto any more anti-Qadhafi resolutions in the Security Council. Nato's major member-states can no longer hide the fact that they have long records of lucrative dealings — including trade in oil, weapons, and other commodities — with a dictator they have demonised for decades. It has now become clear that the western project is regime change and little else — and the intensification of the war against Libya has stretched international law to breaking-point. (The Hindu)





The impression that was given with the External Affairs Minister Professor GL Peiris's visit to New Delhi from May 15 to 17 was that he was going to enlighten the Indian leaders on the Sri Lankan Government's position on the UN Secretary General's panel report. However, the joint statement issued at the end of his tour gave a different picture about India's stance on the same.The joint statement said among other things that India urged the expeditious implementation of measures by Sri Lanka, to ensure early withdrawal of emergency regulations and investigations into allegations of human rights violations.

Sri Lankan Government might not have anticipated India to urge it to "investigate into allegations of human rights violations" at this time when pressure has been mounted by the West to do the same after the publication of the UNSG's panel report. This had been viewed by some as a change in India's stance towards Sri Lanka. Terming the joint statement as one "strongly worded" the AFP said "India broke with past practise on Tuesday and called on Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of human rights abuses during the island's civil war, upping pressure on President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Interestingly, Indian's call to probe human rights violations comes following a roar by the new Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalaithaa Jayaram on the same issue soon after she was elected to power on May 13. She had called on the Indian government to take measures against the Sri Lanka president for alleged war crimes and genocide of Tamils.

Media in Sri Lanka apparently had not noticed India's position on the alleged human rights violations, but ironically taken the call for the removal of the emergency seriously. Also Sri Lankan media and the politicians seem to have taken Jayalalithaa's salvo as a harbinger of a future threat. They link her remarks on the alleged war crimes to her occasional vituperations against Sri Lanka with regard to the Kachchativu issue and the alleged attacks on the Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.

However, it is not clear as to how serious  she is in her stance on Sri Lanka, as she had taken various stands on her southern neighbour in the past. Also she has not been a staunch supporter of the LTTE as her adversary, the former Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi has been. During her earlier two terms as the Chief Minister of the State she had taken steps against the LTTE and its supporters. She was on the LTTE hit list for a long time, whereas Karunanidhi has never been.

She seemed to have been praying for the decimation of the LTTE when the Sri Lankan security forces were advancing fast crushing LTTE fortifications in 2008/9. Also she had the audacity to say that "some civilian casualties are inevitable during wars" at a time when the whole State was fermenting against the war against the LTTE and 11 people had self immolated, claiming that civilians were getting killed.

On July 6, 2010 Jayalalithaa said she did not condemn the annihilation of the LTTE in war. "What I condemn is the wanton killing of LTTE activists surrendering" she said. Explaining her position on the LTTE she said that right through the 1980s, former Chief Minister MGR and she supported the LTTE-led struggle for the rights and freedom of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. "But when the killings of Tamil moderates, members of rival Tamil militant groups and finally the former Prime Minister of India took place, it was obvious that the outfit of freedom fighters had turned into terrorists. From that point onwards, I had the courage to oppose the LTTE," she had stated.

Her occasional outbursts on Kachchtivu too can be treated as mere pacifications of Tamil Nadu psyche. She had been the Chief Minister of the State twice before while there had been similar allegations against the Sri Lankan Navy since early 1990s. She never took practical actions towards the retrieval of the uninhabited island that was ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974 by late Indian Premier Indira Gandhi.

Politicians in any country including Sri Lanka and India use the national and ethnic sentiments of the people to gain power or remain in power. A case in point is the usual attacks by the US presidents against some Middle Eastern country before each election in their country. That must be what Jayalalithaa too did during the State Assembly polls and soon after the election.

However, Indian Central Government's sudden advice on human rights seems to have some other ulterior motives. Indian leaders seem to be attempting to fish in troubled waters. One would notice India had tagged many economic interests with the human rights in the same statement.







One of my first students when I came to the Middle East was a young Palestinian boy. He had earned a scholarship to attend the university.

Remarkably, this young man had grown up in a refugee camp. His mother and father, plus 11 brothers and sisters, lived in a tent.

They had been victims of the Nakba ("the catastrophe").

Despite the difficulties this family encountered, my student managed to study, earn good grades and win a scholarship to attend university.

Now, 63 years since the Palestinian catastrophe, there are more than seven million refugees whose forbearers were driven out of their homes and villages by terrorist gangs like the Haganah, the Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Gang.

Are 7m Palestinians barely surviving in refugee camps any better off than 6m Jews in German concentration camps?

The terrorist gangs, later called Israelis, destroyed and depopulated 418 Palestinian villages to be stolen and occupied by Jewish settlers.

Palestinians still living and working in Palestine and referred to as Israeli Arabs experience their own frustrations and hardships by submitting to the apartheid state of Israel.

Writer, musician, ex-Israeli Gilad Atzmon discovered a moving poem, by an unknown author, that beautifully expresses the frustration and despair felt by Palestinians under the occupation. Here it is:

Can anyone hear me?

I'm sick of The Wall

I'm sick of the checkpoints between Palestinian


I'm sick of illegal Israeli settlers and settlements

I'm sick of having the Hebrew language on my

ID card

I'm sick of people not knowing anything about our

history but knowing so much about Jewish


I'm sick of people ignoring the Palestinian Right of

Return and accepting the Jewish Law of Return

Can anyone hear me?

I'm sick of the Oslo Agreement which no one here

wanted in the first place

I'm sick of the Palestinian Authority having zero


I'm sick of watching my father being humiliated at

checkpoints by people my age and younger

I'm sick of my international friends having to lie

about coming to visit; being interrogated, strip

searched and sometimes deported in the process

I'm sick of people not understanding what

"occupation" is

Can anyone hear me?

I'm sick of being scared all the time

I'm sick of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder being

a normal state of being here in Palestine

I'm sick of how ineffective the UN has become

I'm sick of International Humanitarian Law not

applying to the State of Israel

I'm sick of how fighting for basic human rights for

Palestinians or being critical of Israeli policy is

so often labelled "anti-Semitic"

Can anyone hear me?

I'm sick of the fact that everybody forgets I'm

a Semite

I'm sick of hearing Israelis complain about

discrimination when the State of Israel was

founded on a principle of ethnic purity

I'm sick of living in a time when racial profiling has

become acceptable

I'm sick of constantly being treated as a suspect

I'm sick of how mainstream media portrays us and

our situation

Can anyone hear me?

I'm sick of the whole world caring about Gilad

Shalit when there are more than 7,000

Palestinians inside Israeli prisons

I'm sick of trying to defend myself, friends or

countrymen and being labelled a terrorist

I'm sick of the fact that everywhere I go I can see

The Wall, a settlement or Israeli soldier

Can anyone hear me?

I'm sick of 63 years of Israeli Occupation!

Whether in refugee camps, living in the West Bank or as Israeli Arabs, Palestinians have all suffered 63 years of being sick of Israeli occupation.



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a trust – of the people by the people for the people

An Organisation for Rastriya Abhyudaya

(Registered under Registration Act 1908 in Gorakhpur, Regis No – 142- 07/12/2007)

Central Office: Basement, H-136, Shiv Durga Vihar, Lakkarpur, Faridabad – 121009

Cell: - 0091-93131-03060

Email –,

Registered Office: Rajendra Nagar (East), Near Bhagwati Chowk, Lachchipur

Gorakhnath Road, Gorakhpur – 273 015

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