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Saturday, May 28, 2011

EDITORIAL 28.05.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month may 28, edition 000844 ,  collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. THEREBY HANGS A TALE
  2. TOP JOB AT THE IMF
  3. JIHAD FINDS A LEBENSRAUM - ASHOK MALIK
  4. BLAME IT ON CBI - EASIEST DOG TO WHIP - J GOPIKRISHNAN
  5. CBI'S ANNUS HORRIBILIS - SWARN KUMAR ANAND
  6. ANSWERS TO PURULIA ARMS DROP MYSTERY STILL AWAITED - B RAMAN

 

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. SONIA, JAYA, MAYA, MAMATA...
  2. HOW NOT TO STOP THE FLOW - ROHINI NILEKANI
  3. UNNECESSARY MORAL POLICING
  4. ADS ARE OBJECTIONABLE - AJAY VAISHNAV
  5. TIME TO TAKE ON THE PIRATES - KANTI BAJPAI

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. MORE NOTIONAL INTEGRATIONS
  2. BEHIND THE MIST WALL
  3. CAUGHT IN A PINCER - BARKHA DUTT ,
  4. ANOTHER DAY - BEHIND THE MIST WALL

 

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. NO FREE PASSES
  2. GAMBHIR'S CHOICE
  3. TWO DECADES ON
  4. ONCE A SHARED SPACE - PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
  5. STATE OF INCIVILITY - CHARULATARAVIKUMAR
  6. GIVE CASH SOME CREDIT
  7. GUY STANDING
  8. COUNTING ON COUNTING - KABIR FIRAQUE
  9. NO ASIAN CONSENSUS - PHILIP BOWRING
  10. SECURITY AT SEA - RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. THE OYSTER IS MY WORLD
  2. FREEDOM SONG
  3. GOING AROUND IN CIRCLES, ON LAND
  4. SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE
  5. WHAT ABOUT THE IITS OF LEGAL EDUCATION? - PRABHASH RANJAN

 

THE HINDU

  1. MISSING DAUGHTERS
  2. A TROUBADOUR OF OUR TIMES
  3. MAINSTREAMING LDCS: ISTANBUL AND BEYOND  - ARUNODAY BAJPAI
  4. NARRATIVE OF MLADIC CAPTURE  - JULIAN BORGER
  5. A HUGE STEP TOWARDS SERBIA'S REHABILITATION  - MISHA GLENNY
  6. SAUDI ARABIA OPENS WORLD'S LARGEST UNIVERSITY FOR WOMEN  - EMINE SANER
  7. EVIDENCE OF WATER BENEATH MOON'S STONY FACE  - KENNETH CHANG

 

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. WHAT'S THE FUSS? IITS GREAT, COULD DO BETTER
  2. ELITIST NAVEL GAZING - ANTARA DEV SEN
  3. THE OBITUARY I COULDN'T WRITE... - FARRUKH DHONDY
  4. THE SERB PSYCHE - S. NIHAL SINGH

 

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. POISED FOR RAPID DEVELOPMENT
  2. PAKISTAN PARROTING UN RESOLUTIONS - BY ML KOTRU
  3. DANGER SIGNALS FOR UPA-2 - BY KALYANI SHANKAR

 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. TACKLING FOOD WASTAGE
  2. BRIGHT ACHIEVERS
  3. MISSING DAUGHTERS
  4. NEED FOR CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF - BY P.R. CHARI
  5. ABOUT A FADED PASSION - BY B.K. KARKRA
  6. JAN LOKPAL: CHANGING THE POWER STRUCTURE - JAGDEEP S. CHHOKAR
  7. DON'T MAKE LOKPAL A SUPER COP - KAMALJIT SINGH GAREWAL

 

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. SELF-GOAL -T N NINAN
  2. WANTED: A FLEXIBLE FOOD SECURITY PLAN - SHUBHASHIS GANGOPADHYAY
  3. BHUTAN'S FAMILY AFFAIR - SUNIL SETHI
  4. GUNTER GRASS PLAYS CAT AND MOUSE - V V
  5. CRACKING THE CONSULTANT-SPEAK - A B
  6. THE MOTHER OF ALL REVENGE - ADITI PHADNIS

 

BUSINESS LINE

  1. PUSH FOR HIGHER FARM OUTPUT
  2. DOUBLE BENEFIT FOR SALARIED CLASS - T. C. A. RAMANUJAM
  3. UNJUSTIFIED CONDITIONS IN SEC 54F - V. K. SUBRAMANI

 

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. NO BIG BANG, PLEASE
  2. PAK'S NUKE THREAT
  3. COACHING TO VICTORY
  4. ON CONSTRAINED CAPITALISM
  5. CORPORATE METAMORPHOSIS, DOUBLE QUICK  - T K ARUN


MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. IIT FACULTY NEEDS PROJECT TIGER

 

DECCAN CHRONICLE

  1. ELITIST NAVEL GAZING
  2. A MEDISCARE FOR THE REPUBLICANS
  3. A MEDISCARE FOR THE REPUBLICANS
  4. WHAT'S THE FUSS? IITS GREAT, COULD DO BETTER
  5. THE OBITUARY I COULDN'T WRITE...
  6. THE SERB PSYCHE

 

THE STATESMAN

  1. NEUROLOGICAL DISORDER
  2. LONG OVERDUE
  3. PUMP-PRIME AFRICA
  4. OBAMA AND PALESTINE - SALMAN HAIDAR
  5. THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW  
  6. ON RECORD
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. IN THE EYE OF A STORM
  2. THE BANE OF BENGALI LIFE  - SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

 

DECCAN HERALD

  1. HOME TRUTHS
  2. MAJOR PROBLEM
  3. LASTING FRIENDSHIP  - BY HARSH V PANT
  4. WAY THE WIND BLOWS  - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
  5. CYCLING UP THE MOUNTAIN  - BY KAMALA BALACHANDRAN

 

THE NEWYORK TIMES

1.      ANOTHER WAR IN SUDAN?

2.      DODD-FRANK IN LIMBO

3.      ALBANY NEEDS ETHICS REFORM — NOW

4.      A NEW FLOOD, SOME OLD TRUTHS

5.      THE COYOTE CANDIDATE - BY GAIL COLLINS

6.      ENDANGERED RYAN-OS - BY CHARLES M. BLOW

 

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. RAISING THE 'BLUE FLAG' OVER THE FORT OF PRESS FREEDOM - DAVID JUDSON
  2. ON BALKANS, EUROPE AND THE WORLD IN THE 21ST CENTURY - SÜLEYMAN DEMİREL
  3. WHY I AM TURNING MY FACE EAST - MUSTAFA AKYOL
  4. CRUCIAL ELECTIONS FOR TURKISH DEMOCRACY - YUSUF KANLI
  5. THE CORRIDOR - AKP AND BDP GOING NECK AND NECK IN VAN - GÖKSEL BOZKURT
  6. A BIRD'S EYE VIEW - THE REVOLUTION SPREADS NORTH - ADVENA AVIS

 

THE NEWS

  1. FLYING VISIT
  2. HANGU HORROR
  3. A MODICUM OF HOPE - ZAFAR HILALY
  4. DYING TO KILL  - ERUM HAIDER
  5. VIGILANTE 'PRE-EMPTION'?  - DR QAISAR RASHID
  6. SOLUTIONS FROM WITHIN  - SANIA NISHTAR
  7. THE LIP OF INSANITY  - BABAR SATTAR
  8. CAPITAL LEAKS  - ANJUM NIAZ

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. ENERGY CONSERVATION STRATEGY IS AN ANSWER
  2. USC COMES TO RESCUE OF POOR
  3. AFRICAN UNION FOR END TO LIBYAN BOMBING
  4. AN EFFORT TO FRAME PAKISTAN? - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. A GRIM SCENARIO CONFRONTS PAKISTAN - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  6. LEADERSHIP LAPSES LEAD TO SECURITY LAPSES - MAIMUNA ASHRAF
  7. IMPACT OF BALOCH TURMOIL - FAROOQ ADIL
  8. POSITIVE SIGNS IN AFGHANISTAN - DAVID IGNATIUS

 

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. SYMBOLIC END OF A BRUTAL ERA
  2. LEADERSHIP IS NEEDED TO RECLAIM TAXPAYERS' ABC
  3. HELPING TO TURN THE CRICKET TIDE

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. ABBOTT'S CHALLENGE IS TO GET BEYOND NO
  2. SERBIA PUTS AN END TO THE NIGHTMARE

 

THE GUARDIAN

  1. UNTHINKABLE? A FREEZE ON FIFA
  2. YEMEN: A PERFECT STORM
  3. SHARON SHOESMITH RULING: WELCOME BUT FEW CHEERS

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. CASE HIGHLIGHTS JUDICIAL MISDEEDS

 

DAILY MIRROR

  1. NETANYAHU'S OBDURATE STAND
  2. BAN KI MOON AND HIS PANEL
  3. MALDIVES: 'CURRENCY FLOAT' CAUSE FOR POLITICAL CONCERN
  4. THE PROMISE OF PROTECTION - BY NOELEEN HEYZER
  5. REPORT OF A PANEL OF EXPERTS ON ACCOUNTABILITY IN SRI LANKA  - BY GUY PHILCOTT

SEARCH FOR THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND LIFE  

 

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. DISSENT AND COMPROMISE    - BY PAUL BALLES

 

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. NETANYAHU AND THE YO-YOS - BY URI AVNERY
  2. TIES WITH IRAN ON BACK BURNER DUE TO EGYPT'S DOMESTIC PROBLEMS -BY MOHAMMAD ALI MOHTADI
  3. LEADERSHIP REQUIRES SACRIFICE - BY GUL JAMMAS HUSSAIN
  4. COSTLY ARAB SPRING TO YIELD BUMPER HARVEST FOR BANKERS - BY MAIDHC Ó CATHAIL

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

THEREBY HANGS A TALE

HUGE GULF BETWEEN UPA'S WORD AND DEED


Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar must be regretting the fact that he petitioned the Supreme Court against the Union Government for keeping his mercy petition pending for nearly eight years. A Khalistani terrorist sentenced to death in August 2001 for his role in crimes committed in 1991 and 1993, Bhullar had sought presidential pardon in 2003. But along with 27 other such petitions, his papers had been gathering dust in North Block all these years. Meanwhile, unable to bear the stress of sitting it out on death row, Bhullar went into deep depression. The Supreme Court, annoyed by the inordinate delay, sought an explanation from the Government on May 23. Wary of yet another run-in with the judiciary, the Government decided to act. The Home Ministry recommended to the President that Bhullar's plea for clemency should be turned down, along with the petition of another death row convict, Mahendra Nath Das, who had decapitated a man and displayed his head as a trophy. A decision rejecting their mercy petitions was announced on Thursday. For the ill-informed masses, there is nothing wrong with the decision. A terrorist deserves to die as does a cold-blooded murderer. The noose is just deserts for both Bhullar and Das. Yet, it's not as simple as that. The UPA regime has clearly not acted in accordance with its stated policy as articulated first by Mr Shivraj Patil, the Home Minister who famously changed his dress thrice on the evening Delhi was bombed by terrorists, and later by Mr P Chidambaram, the Home Minister who thinks he is very smart but is really too-clever-by-half. The UPA has repeatedly asserted two points: First, mercy petitions will be dealt with in the order they have been filed; and, second, since there is no time limit, the President will not be hustled into either upholding death sentences or commuting them, a right conferred by Article 72 of the Constitution.


On all occasions, the statements followed queries as to why Mohammed Afzal Guru, found guilty of being involved in the terrorist attack on Parliament House in 2001 and sentenced to death, was still alive. Afzal was to have been executed on October 20, 2006. A fortnight before his date with the hangman, Afzal's wife filed a mercy petition. Since then he has been sitting pretty on death row at Delhi's Tihar Jail. None of the 28 pending mercy petitions has been touched since 2004, primarily for one reason: The UPA (more so the Congress) does not want to see Afzal executed for his crime. Apparently, the Manmohan Singh Government is worried about the potential fallout if Afzal, a Kashmiri Muslim, was sent to the gallows. There has been mention of violent protests in the Valley and Pakistan not taking to the news kindly. That, however, is balderdash. The reason why this Government does not want to see Afzal hang is two-fold. It perversely believes Muslims will feel outraged to see him executed. And, many of those who have painted him as an innocent victim of India's 'biased' justice system are either members of the National Advisory Council headed by Ms Sonia Gandhi or intimately associated with it. The jholawallahs' wish, let us not forget, is the Prime Minister's command. Had the Government truly meant to get the mercy petitions moving, and had it been honest while stating its policy of dealing with them in a sequential order, it would have started with files pending since 1998.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

TOP JOB AT THE IMF

THE CHOICE CAN'T BE RESTRICTED TO EUROPE


As things stand today, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is poised to become the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. While she has already officially thrown her hat into the ring and is backed by a large number of influential Western nations — if France is to be believed even China has supported her candidature — the major developing economies represented by what is called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have been unable to decide on a common candidate to challenge Ms Lagarde. Perhaps realising that such a consensus may not come about, at least not for now, these countries have sensibly decided to use their combined leverage in ensuring that the process of selection is more transparent and that primacy is given to merit rather than nationality. This is an important position to take not only because it will result in far-reaching changes in the IMF in the months to come, but it also counters the argument forwarded by representatives of some developed countries that the IMF should be necessarily headed by a candidate from the West. This view is the product of an imperialist mindset and has no place in a world where the economic clout of the developed nations is fast diminishing while that of the developing countries, such as those represented in BRICS, is rapidly growing. The IMF is no longer an extension counter of Western Governments; much of its business is now driven by the developing economies without which it could well collapse.


The IMF has so far been slow in responding to the changes around it, with substantial reforms in its administration to give greater representation to the non-West countries yet to happen. There is also, as the non-West countries have complained in the past, a lot lesser level of participative management than desirable. True, the developing countries have managed to secure greater voting rights and so on, but these have had a more cosmetic impact than real. If BRICS retains its focus on pushing for reforms, sooner than later those changes will lead to a larger role for the developing countries in managing the affairs of the IMF. The demand for transparency and reforms also makes sense since it 'de-personalises' the contest. India has not opposed Ms Lagarde per se for the post; it has questioned the emphasis on nationality while deciding who takes charge of the IMF. New Delhi has, in fact, praised her as a "friend of India". This is just as well because it will not do to openly oppose a candidate who enjoys the image of a no-nonsense, efficient performer, and belongs to a country with which India shares strong trade and defence relations. But as one of the world's fastest growing economies, India must lead from the front in the demand for reforms.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

JIHAD FINDS A LEBENSRAUM

ASHOK MALIK


The number one global nightmare is an Islamist occupation of Pakistan's heartland with ISI-LeT and the Taliban competing for supremacy.


How should India respond to David Coleman Headley's deposition in the trial of alleged terror facilitator Tahawwur Hussain Rana in a court in Chicago? For the past few days, almost in the manner of a television series, there's been a new revelation every episode. Headley has laid bare the 26/11 conspiracy. He has identified key individuals in the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Inter-Services Intelligence who trained him as a reconnaissance operative.


Headley has highlighted the close links between the LeT and at least sections of the ISI. In the aftermath of the November 26, 2008, attack, the Home Minister of India had pointed out travel across international waters and commando training for the terror squad could not have been possible for a private organisation. A degree of buy-in by a state authority was obvious. Headley has only confirmed this.


Headley has confessed he was sent on similar missions to Copenhagen — where the LeT hoped to "punish" Denmark for the publication by local newspapers of allegedly offensive cartoons. He has also talked about being ordered to make an assessment of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai. Clearly, a nuclear attack or incident is on the LeT's radar.


In some senses, the LeT has learnt a key lesson from 9/11, as did the perpetrators of the Bali nightclub strike (2002) and the subsequent train bombings in Madrid (2004) and London (2005). It has realised one blockbuster attack will give it greater traction — or plain notoriety — than a succession of smaller attacks in, say, Jammu & Kashmir.

The destruction of a high-value target — a major hotel, a defence facility such as the National Defence College in New Delhi, which was also on Headley's wish list — would be made-for-television drama. The actual attack as well as the live telecast of the attack — and its replay over and over again — would do great psychological damage to the enemy.


That is why the LeT seemed obsessed with symbolic statements. It wanted the 26/11 death squad to land at the Gateway of India. It took the persuasion of Headley and a few others to get the LeT top brass to agree to a landing point that had less security. A nuclear facility, Mumbai's biggest hotels and iconic train station, a military institution in the heart of the capital that would have a presence of senior Army officers at any given time: There is a pattern to this. It reflects the evolution of LeT-ISI thinking and goal-setting since, say, the mid-1990s.

What caused this change in tactics? Was it just copy-cat terror, following the spectacular success of Al Qaeda on September 11, 2001? To answer those questions is to understand the revised charter of the LeT and those wings of the ISI that give it sustenance. Till a decade ago, the LeT was content bleeding India, hurting it week after week, month after month, in Jammu & Kashmir and occasionally locations in north India. It did speak about global jihad but that was a theoretical resolve.


Today, its identity has changed. From being an organisation dedicated to "liberating Kashmir" and splintering India, it increasingly sees itself as part of the pan-Islamic jihadi superstructure. This is evident in:

 

  • The methodology the LeT-ISI duumvirate adopts — compelling terror strikes that have no immediate political goal, rather than a sustained war in the Kashmir Valley aimed at keeping the focus on just one troubled geography
  • The targets it settles upon — Indians and Hindus, of course, but also Western tourists and economic interests where these are vulnerable, Israeli citizens, European cities.


It could be argued that all this was already known. In intelligence circles, it has been fairly common knowledge for a decade now, ever since LeT cells were busted in Australia and Indonesia, Lashkar recruitment intensified in Britain, and there was talk of sending Punjabi regiments to fight the Americans in Iraq. However, Headley has brought all of this right into the public domain. It is impossible for Pakistan or for its apologists in the West to fudge facts anymore.


True, that does not mean the United States Administration will immediately train its guns on Pakistan, declare it a pariah state and attempt to treat it as it does Iran or even Venezuela. However, it is difficult to see how public pressure and congressional scrutiny will make it easy to provide Pakistan more aid and not push the US State Department to talk tough.

 

The Americans are going to adopt a two-track approach. On the face of it, Pakistan will continue to remain a valued ally. Behind closed doors, they will be speaking another language, and making several contingency plans. Is this a model for India?


It could be said there is no harm done continuing anodyne talks with Pakistan. This serves little purpose but, at the same time, concedes little ground. Perhaps; nevertheless there has to be an iron fist inside the velvet glove. The Headley confession is too important to be brushed under the carpet. In any future talks with Indian interlocutors, Pakistan's Government has to account for the conspiracy that has unravelled in Chicago. It is required to tell India what it is doing with the ISI officers Headley has mentioned.


As Pakistan's closest neighbour, India also needs to present the international community two medium-term non-negotiables. First, as an institution the ISI is beyond redemption. Its dismantling is essential for regional and global security. It has to be treated at par with the SS or the Stasi.


It is not enough to argue the ISI has had some thoroughly professional officers and even chiefs. Markus Wolf, legendary head of the East German Stasi, was one of history's great spymasters. That did not stop him from leading a gang of thugs.


Second, the close relationship between the ISI and the LeT is a pointer to creeping Islamist access to nuclear weapons. At the very least, some sort of multilateral oversight of Pakistan's nuclear facilities is now imperative. If a full-scale and immediate denuclearisation of Pakistan is not feasible, then at least a half-way house needs to be found.


It is a fair expectation the world will listen to these suggestions more than it would have in, say, 2001. This is not just due to Headley. In the past 10 years, the locus of international jihad has moved further and further from the Arabian Peninsula. The world community's number one nightmare is no longer an extremist overthrow of the Saudi royal family. It is an Islamist occupation of the Pakistani heartland, with the LeT-ISI and the Tehreek-e-Taliban competing for supremacy.


Pakistan can congratulate itself. It has fulfilled Hitler's dreams; it has become the jihadi Lebensraum.


-- malikashok@gmail.com


-- The visual accompanying this article shows the Gateway of India, Mumbai, where the 26/11 terrorists were supposed to land.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

BLAME IT ON CBI - EASIEST DOG TO WHIP

J GOPIKRISHNAN


In a week of "goof-ups" with "mistaken identities" and "expired warrants", the CBI has emerged the likely suspect. But it is time one looked beyond these failures and identified the surrounding issues — if we are interested, that is


Among police forces the world over, it could be said that India's Central Bureau of Investigation enjoys — or suffers, depending on your point of view — the greatest amount of public scrutiny. This attention, which includes media perceptions, could also be described as disproportionate. India's state police forces carry out far more significant work and touch the lives of greater masses of people, but thanks to a national obsession with "high profile" and "celebrity" issues, the CBI ends up getting more mileage.


Over the past week, the flipside of proritising fluff over substance got exposed when Murphy's principle took over the CBI's working. First, two men on the "most-wanted" list of terrorists which the Government of India grandly presented to Pakistan in expectation of instant arrest and extradition, turned out living in Mumbai itself — one of them in a jail. As if that was not embarrassment enough, a two-member delegation went to Copenhagen, Denmark seeking Purulia Arms Drop accused Kim Davy's extradition — with an expired warrant!

Instantly, the "premier" investigative agency became a butt of jokes. As it happens, cynicism and despondency is so rife within the organisation that there are quite a few "internal jokes" within CBI itself. One of them goes like this: when CBI officers go to take briefings from their seniors on initiating raids, they politely ask: "Sir, yeh amir ka case hey ya fakir ka?" (Sir, is this a rich man or a poor one). The attitude of the system surfaces through this anecdote: two separate yardsticks are used in corruption cases — one for the high and mighty and another for Mr and Mrs Aam Admi.

When dealing with small fry, our premier investigation agency is heavily professional. They go after small bribe takers with familiar zeal and pursue these cases meticulously till the logical end — conviction. When mysterious murders are transferred to it by the state governments because of their inter-state nature, the yardstick is completely different. Officers on the field know from experience that success cases are sometimes relative.

However, CBI is now regaining people's trust in the 2G spectrum investigation. This is entirely the credit of the Supreme Court, which is directly monitoring the probe on the "mother of all government scams", thanks to the interventions of Prashant Bhushan and Subramanian Swamy. Till the apex court's intervention, the CBI was happy to let sleeping dogs lie. An FIR was registered against "unknown officials and unknown companies" and nothing happened for the next 15 months. The same insincerity is discernible in the CWG probe. The CBI has till date confined itself to Suresh Kalmadi, who had the lowest spending power in the administration of the entire jamboree.

Till the Sukh Ram case, politicians were untouchable. But now that infallibility belongs to corporate honchos. In the spectrum scam probe also doubts were raised in the Supreme Court over the ease with which high profile corporate honchos walked through the raindrops, while even ministers and celebrity MPs cool their heels in Tihar Jail.

Problem is, India's laws are not strong enough to battle corruption, especially when where the rich and powerful are involved. Investigators often have to wait months for getting sanction for prosecution of a top bureaucrat. The rule is you need specific permission to proceed against an officer of Joint Secretary and upwards level. Though this provision was originally placed to safeguard officers from taking independent decisions, it is often misused as a tool to escape or delay the case to any extend. Here the question is why don't our laws provide similar protection to junior officers? So, there are double standards, are there?


On their part, the investigating officers rarely show the courage to challenge the government if permission is denied to prosecute a top bureaucrat. In India, this is the dead end. This provision is clearly created by the political leadership to selectively protect bureaucrats who they consider "close" to their establishment. The resultant deadlock is broken only after an Opposition party comes to power or the courts become activist.

While covering the telecom scam I chanced upon once a curious scene in Delhi High Court. Former Telecom Minister A Raja had rejected CBI's application to prosecute MTNL's Chairperson RSP Sinha in what seemed an open and shut corruption case. Losing all hope, CBI filed an application for closure of the case. The furious Judge told CBI: "Please go and tell that Minister that you have strong evidence against this man." The officers left the courtroom and dialed some senior of theirs and were heard scarcely concealing their mirth:

"Yeh Judge Saab, kis duniya mein rahte he? Mantri ji ko convince karne ke liye bola hum ko"! (Sir, is this Judge crazy? He expects us to convince the Minister!)


Raja has now gone — along with him his party, the DMK. Former Central Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha, who boldly ordered CBI to investigate the spectrum scam under criminal conspiracy and prevention of corruption charges, said on several occasions that instead of the bribe takers, the focus should also be given to the bribe givers. On several occasions Sinha aired his opinions on the need for tackling bribe giving large corporate houses. But nobody took him seriously, as a result of which the corporate houses, the fountain head of all corruption, thrived. Now, Nira Radia's tapes have exposed the mask of these holy cows who manipulate government policies through lobbying.


Another big blockade faced by the CBI is chargesheeting an accused person. The agency has to submit a chargesheet for final clearance from the Director of Prosecution, which is under the Law Ministry. It is here that the tentacles of the high and mighty get exposed. The Law Ministry, whichever the party in power, exists only for giving political basis to legislations, rules, letters rogatory and other outreaches of the governments. The ruling party's appointed legal eagles always ensure that the CBI's energies are directed through favourable channels. It is precisely here that one must seek the origin of the "blunders" which surfaced in the Ottavio Quattrocchi and Kim Davy cases.


The Law Ministry also decides which advocate will act as public prosecutor. Usually, when cases are fought against powerful individuals, the CBI's counsel finds himself overawed by the opposing side which invariably fields formidable lawyers against fat fees. In the 2G case, however, the rarest of rare things happened. The Supreme Court appointed the special public prosecutor. Earlier, the government had tried to scuttle the move by raising flimsy objections, which was overruled by the court.


And, finally, when the CBI has go send a team abroad, it has got to contend with the Ministry of External Affairs. The diplomatic corps posted in Indian missions abroad are not usually cooperative — rather, they spoil the spirit of the investigation with their laziness and ineptness. Therefore, India ends up with a pitiful record in securing extraditions. Eventually, the media perception, that the CBI is not really interested in winning, gets conceived. And is this improbable?


The writer is Special Correspondent, The Pioneer

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CBI'S ANNUS HORRIBILIS

SWARN KUMAR ANAND


In its 70th anniversary year the CBI is not exactly covering itself with glory. Rather, seminal questions are being asked of its role in Indian policing, and whether the cancer which is eating away its entrails has rendered the once-proud investigative organisation moribund


2011 will always be remembered as one of the worst years in the 70-year history of the Central Bureau of Investigation which began its career in 1941 as the Special Police Department with the task of probing cases of bribery and corruption in transactions with the War & Supply Department during World War II. Today, though that aspect of CBI's work remains largely controversy free, it is in its post-1965 additional role as a super-cop body promising surefire results in complicated murders, terrorism, etc, that this "premier" police body has been found wanting.


Last week, the nation was saturated with insights handed out by the media into the CBI's internal weaknesses after India faced international embarrassment on several fronts simultaneously. First, on May 16, the lawyer defending Niels Holck, alias Kim Davy, the Danish gun runner wanted in the Purulia Arms Drop case, objected to a warrant produced by the CBI which clearly stated it had expired on January 3 this year. India is struggling to get Holck extradited to face a trial in a Kolkata court for his role as principal organiser of the mysterious 1995 incident in which six others have already been convicted, sentenced and then let off with Presidential pardon.

Since the proceedings of this court were in the Danish language, the small exchange between the judges and the lawyers were not quite grasped by the Indian journalists present. So, it was a Danish paper which reported it first. From there, the news travelled to an India paper. After that, Times Now TV picked it up and all hell broke loose. Since CBI had by then admitted to "oversight" and clarified that a fresh and valid warrant was on its way from Copenhagen, any amount of backtracking later with words to the effect that expiry date was a non-issue fell on deaf ears.


But by Wednesday May 18, the lords and masters at CBI, the Home Ministry, the PMO, the Congress party (in that order) were ducking for cover on not just Kim Davy, but two highly damaging issues. On that day, Home Minister P Chidambaram admitted to a "genuine mistake'' in including the name of terror accused Wazhul Qamar Khan in the "50 most wanted'' list which India had submitted to Pakistan recently. Alas, the man was found to be living in Thane, a suburb of Mumbai. The Home Minister had attributed the oversight to the Mumbai Police and also a "lapse'' on the part of the Intelligence Bureau.


Even before the dust could settle on this, news arrived of a second blunder, this one of unforgivable proportions because it exposed the deepest vulnerability in India's security establishment — lack of coordination. It concerned Feroz Abdul Khan, an accused in the 1993 Bombay blast, who the CBI presumed was enjoying life under the ISI's benign eye in Pakistan, but was actually in a cell in Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail. This only goes to prove that where multiple agencies are concerned, the Indian system simply collapses and gets reduced to a public joke.


As usual, excuses of the most pathetic nature were offered. And, of course, the top officers whose duty it was to ensure flawless delivery, were left untouched. A humble inspector of police was suspended while a SP and Deputy SP of Delhi's Interpol wing were transferred. As for the Kim Davy blunder, the CBI actually had the gall to claim that the Judges of Denmark's Eastern High Court did not lend weight to the expired warrant — without waiting for the judgment which is expected only in July.


In the same week, in fact hours after the "third goof-up", there surfaced another howler. By now enthusiastic journalists were up to a "spot the howler" contest and it wasn't long before one of them struck gold — this time on the website of the CBI which had a page featuring a list of Indians out on the Interpol's watch. Now, because the journalist concerned happened to be somebody familiar with north-east insurgency, the glaring fact could not be suppressed. The website mentioned the name "Rajkumar Meghen" as a "most wanted" (not to be confused with the list handed to Pakistan). Lo behold, Meghen was found to be in the custody of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) since October 2010. He was arrested from the Nepal-Bihar border. Of course, this was a case of failure to update a website. But it is also very likely that the NIA people did not bother to inform the CBI. And, even if they did, the development was not passed on to the website handling department — which goes to prove how casually the all-important matter of coordination with Interpol is taken.


Therefore, it is no exaggeration that few things are going right for the CBI in the new decade. The series of scams that came into public limelight last year inevitably dragged in the CBI. As The Pioneer's J Gopikrishnan (Main) points out, the Supreme Court blew a hole through the premier police organisation's claims to be pursuing the spectrum scam sincerely by responding to lawyer Prashant Bhushan and political activist Subramanian Swamy's petition that the apex court itself take up the monitoring of the CBI's investigation.

In February, B Ramalinga Raju, author of the infamous Sathyam scam, almost walked free thanks to another botch up in coordination between the CBI and Enforcement Directorate, which were simultaneously probing the case.

As usual, the politicians jumped into the ring and began to blast each other. While the BJP self-righteously attached the Congress, the latter took the usual stand — "why did you do this?" or "why didn't you do that?" — in allusion to the 1998-2004 period when too there were the usual comedies of errors. But that is not going to help matters.


The writer is Deputy News Editor, The Pioneer

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

ANSWERS TO PURULIA ARMS DROP MYSTERY STILL AWAITED

B RAMAN

 

This is an insider's account of the colossal blunder which preceded the 1995 Purulia arms drop and it is admitted here for the first time that Peter Bleach, the "pilot" of the An-26, was unjustly treated by the Indian government whereas he should have been rewarded


The clandestine Purulia arms drop of December 1995, in which an aircraft piloted by a group of mercenaries hired by an unidentified extremist organisation — suspected to be the Anand Marg — managed to fly right across the Indian air space to Purulia in West Bengal, air-drop a consignment of arms and ammunition to a collecting party on the ground and fly to Pattaya in Thailand unprevented and unintercepted by the Indian intelligence and security agencies and the Air Force despite the availability of precise advance intelligence is a shameful episode in the history of Indian intelligence.


A few weeks before the actual air-drop, the extremist organisation which had procured the arms and ammunition had approached a retired pilot of the British Air Force and offered to pay him handsomely if he organised the air-drop successfully. Even though tempted by the sum offered, he did not initially agree to carry it out. He asked for time to think over it. He then contacted an official of the British Defence Ministry and told him about the approach made to him by the extremists. The official advised him not to reject the officer and wait for further instructions.

 

The Defence Ministry official then told the MI-5, the British Security Service, about it. The MI-5 immediately informed the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), with which it had a liaison relationship. The R&AW, after examining the matter, asked the MI-5 to advise the pilot to accept the task and to keep the MI-5 informed of all his meetings with the extremist organisation and the detailed plans for the air-drop including the date and time, the place of the air-drop and the flight path.


The pilot faithfully carried out the instructions and kept the MI-5 informed of all the details at every stage. These details were passed on by the MI-5 to the R&AW which, in turn, passed them on to the Intelligence Bureau, which was responsible for follow-up action. It was reported that the R&AW passed on the details given by the pilot through the MI-5 to the IB as if it had collected them on its own from one of its sources instead of specifying that the details were coming from the pilot himself through the MI-5.If the R&AW had taken the IB into confidence and told it that the details were coming from the pilot himself through the MI-5, the IB might have taken the details more seriously.


Normally, in such cases, if the matter had been handled professionally, the R&AW would have taken the clearance of the Prime Minister for flying out a team of officers of the IB and the R&AW to the UK to meet the pilot secretly with the help of the MI-5 and the British Defence Ministry, and take his co-operation for organising a trap on the ground so that the collecting party could have been arrested while collecting the air-dropped arms and ammunition and the identity of the extremist organisation established. Nothing of that sort was done. The R&AW passed on the information in a routine manner to the IB without specifying that it was coming from the pilot through the MI-5. The IB, instead of organising the follow-up action itself, passed it on to the West Bengal Police in an equally routine manner. The then Chief Secretary of the West Bengal Government later on complained that the IB had sent the information by registered post and that it was received after the air drop had taken place and the aircraft had flown out of India.


The IAF intercepted the aircraft on its way out of India and forced it to land at Mumbai. One person on board the plane, who reportedly belonged to the extremist organisation, managed to quietly walk out of the airport without being stopped by the security and the immigration. The British pilot and crew were arrested. Sections of the media had reported that the pilot was in a very violent mood and abused the police and intelligence officials. No wonder. He had taken the initiative in alerting the intelligence agencies and keeping them informed of all the details. He expected that he would be honoured and rewarded. Instead, he was treated roughly, prosecuted and jailed. A few weeks after this incident, the then British Home Secretary had come to India on a scheduled visit. In his interaction with our local media, he pointed out how the British intelligence had kept its Indian counterpart informed.


I have been writing about this shameful episode off and on since 1996. In my book "Intelligence — Past, Present and Future" published in 2001 (Lancer Publishers of New Delhi), I had stated as follows on Page 233: "The normal response of any professional counter-terrorism agency, on the receipt of such precise information, would have been to organise a trap in co-operation with the pilot who had reportedly volunteered the information, for catching the terrorists on the ground while they were collecting the arms and ammunition after the air-drop. Till now, no satisfactory explanation has been forthcoming from the security agencies as to why this was not done."


The writer is Former Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

SONIA, JAYA, MAYA, MAMATA...

 

You know women are on top when the most awaited event on the calendar is a tea party between two lady party bosses. You know it even more when the date falls through, signalling that those who read the tea leaves to prophesy changing political equations might as well stay home. The last time Sonia Gandhi and Jayalalithaa stirred the brew, it led to the fall of a Union government - led by A B Vajpayee - by one vote. This time, Tamil Nadu's three-time CM has just denied getting an invite to share a cuppa from the Congress chief. A congratulatory phone call is all that's passed between them. In short, it's by Sonia's karuna that DMK's patriarch hasn't been abandoned at the Tea-junction.


In Indian politics today, the list of women-on-top impresses. The PM, Pranab and PC are seen as doing Her Majesty Sonia's not-so-secret service. In UP, the world is Maya. Three-time CM Sheila is Delhi's daredevil, outbatting male party rivals. Rashtrapati Bhavan has a lady politician-turned-president, who's a Sukhoi flyer to boot. While Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar speaks softly but carries a big stick, opposition leader Sushma wages a noisy battle for Hindutva Swaraj. If this were not galling enough for male critics of all-girl bands, ladies' bobcuts and women's reservations, you have TN singing Jaya Ho, and Bengal crying Ma, Maati, Mamata.

True, feisty ladies - from the right's Uma Bharti to the left's Brinda Karat - have always graced legislatures. But if men thought that prison at least was an all-boys club, they were sadly mistaken. Battling heat and mosquitoes like the best of He-men in Tihar Jail, DMK's Kanimozhi has dealt the ultimate blow to male pride. Like any scandal-hit Raja, princesses of political dynasties too can stoically face adversity, even writing poems about their jail stay! Cell inmates aren't prisoners of gender, suggests Jayalalithaa. She demands that "mercy" not be shown to Kani for being a woman. Is this because AIADMK's boss has seen the insides of a jail herself in the past, no small thanks to Kani's papa?


Yes, Jaya and Maya once played apprentice to powerful male netas. But they graduated into lone rangers, proving the writers of their political obituaries wrong more than once. And there's self-made Mamata. This streetfighter pushed her way up to Bengal's chief ministership, humbling the very Marxists who'd made mockery of her their political staple. Sure, Sonia on her part may be a Nehru-Gandhi. But running Congress's show for over a decade, she's no longer just Rajiv's bride. And courtesy her long innings, who remembers Sheila Dikshit's dad-in-law was Indira Gandhi's cabinet minister?


Will this political sisterhood keep getting bigger, with or without women's quotas? Will a larger share of party tickets for women level the field in future? Well, as things are turning out badly for the Lalus, Mulayams, Karunas, Karats and Gadkaris, women in greater numbers should take to power dressing. Leading rather than led, they'll be the jewel in the crown - read power behind the throne - or wear the pants in the House. Why should boys have all the fun?

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

HOW NOT TO STOP THE FLOW

ROHINI NILEKANI

 

In summer, people's minds turn to water. Critically dependent on the monsoon, we pray for good rains as we suffer the extreme heat of the subcontinent.


Water is no longer just a temporary concern for the summer months. If the last century was dominated by anxiety over oil, this one will be consumed by concerns over the declining quantity and quality of our water resources.

In India, we may have to ready ourselves for perennial freshwater shortages. With our population growth and finite water resources of around 4,000 BCM, per capita availability of water has been declining steadily since 1947. We have also been recklessly drawing out water from our rivers and underground aquifers, without enough thought to their recharge and replenishment. It is now predicted we will be an officially water stressed country within this decade, when per capita availability may fall below the accepted 1,700 cubic metres per person per year mark.


But that is a human-centred view of the situation. Water is a key element of nature in its own right, second only to wind as a land forming agent, second only to air in supporting all life forms on the planet. Human over-extraction and abuse of water have had a devastating impact on its role in the environment.


Yet water is a defining factor of the ecological base on which the economy rests. The real cost of water is its ecological cost. To protect both the ecology and the economy, we now need a national strategy to place water at the heart of development planning and implementation in the country.


Just as we talk of a low-carbon economy to reduce fossil fuel dependency and reduce the threats of climate change, we need to create a low-water economy to secure our future and fulfil our responsibility to future generations.

The principle on which the idea of a low-water economy rests is that water must be left in its natural state in the environment as much as possible. Every single drop extracted must then be justifiable and every drop used must be recycled and reused whenever possible.


In agriculture, which currently accounts for more than 80% of water demand, there are several ways to produce more crops per drop. These are not new ideas but bear repetition as they require a deeper commitment through policy, financing and knowledge generation. Keeping farmer interest at the core, we have to sever the link between cheap power and water wastage on farmland, incentivise water-saving techniques like drip irrigation, rationalise production, procurement and export of crops and so on.


Consumers too can make intelligent choices to enjoy the vast diversity of healthy millets and other crops that grow with little water, and cut back on white rice and sugar, for example. Agro businesses must intensify efforts to increase water efficiency throughout their supply chain, and government policy must send strong signals for compliance.

Industry has a crucial role to play in partnering with the idea of a low-water economy. Any water industry needs will have to come from current agricultural consumption and there are many conflict zones ahead. One of the biggest water guzzlers is the energy sector and it must hold out clear goals for reducing its water footprint. Other industrial players, who have for too long polluted freshwater bodies with impunity, will need to be carried along for this national mission. Incentives will have to be better aligned to make it much more difficult to pollute, or to draw water away from environmental, lifeline and livelihood needs.


In the rural domestic sector, we are at a very low base. The government's own norms suggest about 55 litres per capita per day and there is little scope to lower this number as people need at least 50 litres a day at a bare minimum for drinking, cooking, bathing and other cleaning.


In urban areas, however, there is scope for a huge rethink. Cities today are managing water resources in an inequitable and unsustainable manner. In Delhi, per capita availability can vary from 36 to 400 litres per day. Notwithstanding the huge cost of production of water sourced from hundreds of kilometres away despite the mighty Yamuna flowing in its backyard, Delhi does precious little to treat its waste water for reuse. Nor does it penalise water-consuming elites as others struggle for their basic lifeline rights.


The national capital leads in irresponsible water management and others follow suit. If 300 million more Indians are to pour into our 5,000-odd cities and towns in the next two decades, we will have to urgently redesign urban water services. It is possible to adopt an integrated approach to urban water from source to sink, using local water before making demands on external water, ensuring a pro-poor policy, minimising use for non-critical purposes, encouraging use of recycled waste water for all non-potable needs and so on. Unfortunately, the dialogue on urban water has become unnecessarily polarised over the privatisation of water services. We need to reclaim a space for more reasoned discourse.


Keeping a low water footprint across society will not be easy in an age of growing self-indulgence - with personal swimming pools personifying ultimate luxury and 12 inch shower heads in desert hotels.


Can we develop a unique Indian model to grow economically while containing the growth of the water footprint? We will have to; otherwise water will become the constraining factor in our quest for inclusive and sustainable growth. Luckily, water, though finite, is infinitely renewable. The challenge is to renew our relationship with it and restore its value in our hearts and minds, a value that goes beyond price.


The writer is chairperson, Arghyam and Pratham Books.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

UNNECESSARY MORAL POLICING

 

The information and broadcasting ministry has issued a diktat to the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), asking it to take action against some deodorant advertisements the ministry has found to be obscene. At this rate, the ministry may just as well appoint itself one of the last outposts of Victorian morality. Suggestive and playful the ads might be, but they can hardly be categorised as soft porn. A lot of contemporary culture is sexually suggestive. Any attempt to ban this is about as futile as King Canute ordering the waves to turn back.

Most people would laugh if exposed to an ad that depicts a gaggle of women chasing a man who sprays on a particular deodorant. But it seems such humour is lost on the I&B ministry, for whom such ads become objects of ire. Or take a recent ad on which the ministry cracked its whip, which showed women gobbling up a chocolate man. The ministry's objection is that such ads portray women as 'objects of desire', although in many of these cases it's the men who fit that description much more. Little humour, little desire, but plenty of ire seems to be the ministry's prescription for society.


The range of what is acceptable television content changes organically from time to time. What might have been inappropriate 20 years ago may well be run of the mill today. Advertising needs to push the boundaries if it is to connect with an audience. In any case there is a generally accepted principle to shift potentially adult content to suitable late night timings. Most of the advertisements in question are telecast outside family viewing time. In such a scenario, the I&B ministry's order can only be described as high-handed and out of sync with contemporary television viewing preferences. It must step back and allow self-regulation through the ASCI to take its course.

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

ADS ARE OBJECTIONABLE

AJAY VAISHNAV

In a very timely intervention, the I&B ministry has directed advertisers to either modify obscene deodorant ads within five days or take them off the air. The advertisements in question are overtly sexual and depict women as commodities. Not surprisingly, they have deservedly drawn criticism from various quarters on both legal and moral grounds. Legally, they have violated the country's advertising code, which categorically states that the portrayal of the female form should be tasteful and aesthetic and within the well established norms of decency.

More than the legal angle, some of these raunchy commercials using female models in racy storylines have thrown morality out of the window. In their greed to promote and sell their product, an advertiser has gone as far as to suggest relationships within an extended family. Whether or not such ad strategy relying on titillation increases the appeal and thus, sales of the product, it is definitely in bad taste, as well as bad for the moral health of society. Moral decay cannot be allowed to set in at any cost. Further, to depend on cheap sensationalism to sell a product implies a lack of imagination and creativity in presenting the product.

Another pernicious effect of these ads is the wrong psychological impression they create on minors. To expect the availability of parental guidance on every occasion is impossible. The suggestion to air offensive ads away from a prime-time slot is to deflect attention from the core issue. The advertising industry slavishly follows the West, but our society has different standards. Television has a wide audience and complaints about obscene advertising pour in from many quarters. In setting the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not, the ministry is just doing its job.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

REBOOTING INDIA

TIME TO TAKE ON THE PIRATES

KANTI BAJPAI

The death of Osama bin Laden has dominated Indian foreign policy thinking for nearly a month - and understandably so. Yet, there are other things occupying the minds of India's decision-makers. Right at the moment, it is Africa. The prime minister attended the India-Africa summit hosted by Ethiopia and is on his way to other parts of this fast-growing, democratising continent. Amongst the things he talked about was piracy.

India has reason to worry about piracy. Eleven per cent of the sailors on the high seas manning commercial shipping are Indian. One estimate is that there were over 400 attacks on global shipping in 2010, more than one per day. The most dangerous area for piracy is off the coast of Somalia. Over 90% of the attacks are by Somali pirates. A number of Indians, over the past five years, have been taken hostage - last year, the figure was over 50. In addition, much of India's trade including most of its oil comes from this region.


The prime minister has called for the UN to combat piracy, but it is the world powers and their navies that must take the lead. As the biggest regional navy in the Indian Ocean region, the Indian Navy has the capacity to lead the fight against pirates. Over the past 20 years, it has done a lot to build links with other navies, from Japan at one end to the Gulf at the other. It can and should do more to reach out to the Indian Ocean island states, the Gulf, and the East African littoral to collaborate with them against piracy. In addition, the South African navy, the continent's largest, should be a natural ally.

 

Naval cooperation with the US is deepening across the board, but at this juncture, perhaps, most crucial is tackling piracy together. New Delhi should also consider engaging the European Union (EU) over the issue. If the EU is interested in playing a greater international role, ensuring the safety of the oceans is an issue that fits well with its internationalist and global good citizenship vision. The major European states may have to think once again of sending their navies to faraway places. The Indian Navy and the European navies should begin a process of consultation and military exercising.


India-China naval cooperation is an idea whose time has come. It is inevitable that the Chinese navy will enter the Indian Ocean in the coming years. India must consider working with it to control piracy. This is in China's interest too since a large portion of its international trade plies the Indian Ocean. An incidental benefit of engaging the Chinese navy is to begin the process of confidence building with it. The navies of India and China will expand in strength and reach. They will, therefore, encounter each other on the high seas. Avoiding confrontation will be important, even as they cooperate. The two powers should, therefore, consider signing an 'Incidents at Sea' agreement of the kind that the US and Soviet Union signed in May 1972. Is it beyond the realm of possibility to work with Pakistan as well?


Enlarging the scope of naval partnership with regional navies to increase 'inter-operability', to share intelligence, and to expand coverage of the ocean against piracy are just some of the measures India must take. Improving its own naval capabilities, quantitatively and qualitatively, is also a vital necessity. The Indian Navy has, for far too long, been relatively neglected amongst the three services. As India becomes an Asian power, it can no longer afford to ignore its navy.


Diplomatically, India should do more to persuade the littoral states in East Africa to toughen their policies on piracy. It should help build their naval capabilities. India has the shipbuilding technology to build fast, light vessels that can protect coastal waters. New Delhi might also seek naval ports of call, if not more permanent facilities, on a regular basis along the East African littoral.

A rising India must begin to take on more responsibility for the global commons. Tackling piracy is a place to begin. This is in India's interest and a service to others.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

MORE NOTIONAL INTEGRATIONS

Even if Gautam Gambhir was to choose playing for his IPL team over Team India, so what?

What's it about us Indians that still makes us look at multiple loyalties as something unnatural? Anything less than overtly nationalistic — of the old 'Jai Hind!' variety that has been morphed into the new 'Chak de India!' — is seen, at best, as parochial and, at worst, as unpatriotic.

And nowhere has this dodgy debate about multiple identities become suddenly more of a babble than in the 'Indian Premier League (IPL) team vs Team India' tussle. The curious case of cricketer Gautam Gambhir has suddenly highlighted this 'problem.'

Gambhir, suffering from a shoulder injury, may not be fit enough to play for the national side during its tour to the West Indies that starts next week. Cricketers get injured and drop out. So what? The hullabaloo is over the fact that Gambhir, the stand-in captain for the one-dayers in the West Indies after skipper MS Dhoni was 'rested', may have suffered his injury at Wednesday's IPL match while leading Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) against Mumbai Indians. The verdict from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and other supari-chomping patriots? Why, Gambhir has put his lucrative IPL career over and above the honour of playing for his country!

While Gambhir has flatly denied choosing a league team over the national team — apart from pointing out that he was harbouring a niggling injury well before Wednesday's match — we ask two questions: one, what would the reaction be if he had hurt himself at the nets while practising for a Test match? And two, what is so diabolically wrong even if he chose his IPL team over the national team? Yes, we can hear the collective gasp.

The notion of nationhood emanates from a strong sense of belonging and sharing of common traits, cultures and memories. No doubt the nation has been providing a very powerful glue to people since a while now and nowhere is this perhaps more visible and raucous than on the battlefields of sports. And yet, as we have seen in international football, parallel identities — sub-nationalities, if you will — have developed.

So a Lionel Messi playing for Spanish team Barcelona can be the bigger force (and greater player) than the same Messi playing for his home country Argentina. The frisson of Sourav Ganguly playing for Pune Warriors against KKR attests to the different sets of identity markers. But while many would 'blame' such a 'conflict of interest' in modern globalising forces, we'd rather see it in terms of 'competing identities' that have coexisted since Shivaji was a Maratha leader as well as an Indian icon. And if someone does pick one identity over another, so be it. As a national (and dare we say nationalist) publication with many editions, we have spoken.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BEHIND THE MIST WALL

Last year heads had turned when a tall, slim and elegant woman turned up at the Mountain Echoes literary festival in Thimphu, Bhutan. When the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck (a writer who is also the festival's patron), escorted this young woman to the front row, necks craned further: who was this woman? Was it true that she was going to be the next queen of Bhutan?

Last week, 31-year-old King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangyal announced his engagement to the striking Jetsun Pema while inaugurating his country's Parliament session. Later, the royal couple made their first official appearance at the inauguration of Mountain Echoes at India House, holding hands, posing for photographs, stealing glances and smiles. Every Bhutanese I congratulated beamed with pride as if it was a family wedding. At newspaper offices the next morning, irritated readers wanted to know why extra copies hadn't been printed in anticipation of the huge demand for the first royal portrait. This is, after all, a country where hip teenagers sport buttons of the king's image on their shirts. "For us Bhutanese, it's a profound moment that symbolises continuity," said a journalist.

Continuity and change run like a leitmotif through Bhutan. The subject of change — when it will come, how to deal with it, how to negotiate it — is nearly obsessive in this tiny country of seven lakh people. Driglam namzha or traditional etiquette was debated last year at Mountain Echoes, and this year too. For years this land-locked mountain kingdom kept the world out. Now, it's beginning to pry open its doors — television, internet, democracy — and is wondering how much to let in, and how.

How does a nation retain its identity when change is all around? In Bhutan the question is even more complex because so much has happened in such a short time: television and the internet are less than 10 years old, roads and modern education less than 50. Bhutan is probably the most self-conscious country in the world and included in the concept of Bhutanese identity is the preservation of dzongkha, the national language. "Dzongkha is the essence of Bhutan's ancient culture and values," says Sherub Gyeltshen, secretary to the Dzonghka Development Commission. Bhutanese officials worry that dzongkha is losing out to English. English-speaking Bhutanese are more likely to get better paid jobs and training.

Then there is the matter of dress. All the film posters I saw had Bhutanese actors in traditional dress — the knee-length gho for men and the full-length kira for women. Under the regulations, film-makers can't show Bhutanese actors in western clothes (and must include at least two pieces of traditional music). Debate informs the air: should a dress code be enforced? What about alcohol control regulations to counter the serious problem of alcoholism? In recent times nothing has been debated as much as the country's new Tobacco Control Act under, which a monk was sentenced to three years in jail for carrying 48 packets (roughly R2 each) of Baba chewing tobacco. The sentence is now the subject of a raging controversy: some say the law is draconian, others say tobacco goes against the essence of Buddhism.

Despite all fear about a 'McDonalds' culture', Bhutanese are introspective, and optimistic. As in India, the language of the masses is constantly enriched with new words: logrig (literally intelligent machine run on electricity) for computers, for instance. The local film industry, despite its 'inspiration' from the Hindi film industry has kept interest alive and the numerous singing competitions on TV are nearly all in dzongkha. "Our youth value our culture and traditions," says author Kunzang Choden. There will always be need for individual expression, even if it takes the form of tattoos and spiked hair. The good news is that the Bhutanese question the value of that expression. When it comes they are ready to face it.

The marriage of the king in October will reignite feelings of nationalism and raise questions of identity and change once again. It was this king's father who gave his country both a constitution and democracy. Now his son must negotiate the trickier path of making both work and aligning Bhutan with the 21st century.

Namita Bhandare is a Delhi-based writer

n namita.bhandare@gmail.com

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

CAUGHT IN A PINCER

BARKHA DUTT ,

Readers of the Economist — and I am normally an avid admirer — could be forgiven this past week for feeling transported back in time by a decade or more, after a first look at the magazine's cover. The headline strap describes the Line of Control (LoC), which effectively separates India and Pakistan, today as the "world's most dangerous border." More than the rhetorical and unnecessary map row triggered by how the boundary lines of Jammu and Kashmir have been depicted on the cover, I was surprised by some of the anachronistic arguments made in the article.

The narrative is reminiscent of one scripted in a pre-9/11 age. In March 2000, when President Bill Clinton described the subcontinent as the most-dangerous place in the world and dubbed Kashmir as a potential "nuclear flashpoint" between India and Pakistan, the two countries used to regularly wrestle over what the "core issue" was.

But given that a ceasefire has pretty much held (minus some minor aberrations)  both along the International border and the LoC since 2003, and in a month where Osama bin Laden, David Headley and the attacks on a military base in Karachi have dominated global headlines — is Kashmir really the central point today?

The Economist argues that the road to reducing the threat of terror must travel through a constructed peace zone between India and Pakistan. And this, its editorial says, can only be achieved if America leans on India to "show restraint in and flexibility on Kashmir." By externalising many of Pakistan's internal contradictions, the Economist appears to have missed the changing signs in the equation over the past decade, especially when it comes to Kashmir.

It is no one's case that India does not have a serious and complex problem to address and resolve in Jammu and Kashmir. As a long time observer of the state, one has repeatedly warned against being lulled into complacent indifference every time there is a season of relative calm in the Valley.

Justice for extra-constitutional killings, a greater political autonomy, gradual demilitarisation and a process of truth and reconciliation among different communities remain promises still owed to the state. The sharp dip in militant violence makes it even more of a moral imperative for New Delhi to engage honestly with issues of genuine alienation.

But there have been also been significant changes that many people forget to mark on the map of Kashmir's tumultuous journey in search of peace. Two assembly elections that have been widely accepted as free and fair and most recently, a panchayat election that saw a staggeringly high participation are signposts that need to be read and understood as well. Admittedly, electoral participation in Kashmir is not quite a de-facto referendum. But equally, people have contested and voted in these elections defying both the shadow of the gun and boycott calls. These are facts that have to be added up in our computation of the evolving ground situation.

And the Economist mentions, but does not give adequate weightage to the biggest change of all. In the past few years, when terrorism did not overshadow the relationship between India and Pakistan, New Delhi and Islamabad had broadly agreed to the contours of a Kashmir settlement. Pakistan's own former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri has spoken extensively about how the principal players on both sides including the present Pakistan army chief had agreed to the formula. The Indian government has never officially confirmed or denied Kasuri's proclamations and the diplomatic silence is indicative of how close to the bone his revelations are. The truth is that if the 26/11 attacks had not disrupted everything; there may well have been a Kashmir resolution on the table.

On a recent trip to Pakistan, right after Osama bin Laden's killing, I didn't find Kashmir, or frankly, even India, to be much on the minds of the people I met. Yes, some bombastic TV debates on why India couldn't conduct a copy-cat Operation Geronimo had certainly not helped matters and had definitely strengthened the hardliners on the other side. But largely, Pakistani citizens spoke about whether the Abbottabad debacle would provide an opportunity for the civilian government to appropriate real power for itself and when that didn't happen, they lamented what they believed to be another lost opportunity.

This week — one that saw both the outrageous attack on PNS Mehran in Karachi and the chilling deposition of David Coleman Headley in Chicago — juxtaposes the twin realities of Pakistan today.

Its paradox is that Pakistan is bleeding and suffering tragically at the hands of terrorists (like the Pakistani Taliban) but sections of its establishment continue to believe that others terrorist groups (like the Lashkar-e Taiba) will secure it strategic advantage. A former Inter-Services Intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Asad Durrani, was blunt when he wrote recently that sometimes terrorism too "is a technique of war, and therefore an instrument of policy". But a policy that what was once all about achieving "strategic depth" may well have become Pakistan's path to self destruction.

That India must continue to engage with Pakistan is unquestionable. In these dangerous times, the moderate voices in Pakistan cannot afford to be marginalised any further. A continuing dialogue between Delhi and Islamabad gives them some breathing space and room for self-assertion. Also, distasteful gloating at terror attacks in Pakistan only feeds into the paranoia of fundamentalists on the other side of the border and helps construct the mythology of India as enemy No.1 Indian officials have long believed that there are "many Pakistans". And we must weigh in on the side that is fighting the extremists.

But the hard truth is that Pakistan's problem today is not India. And no, the Kashmir conflict is not central either.

Pakistan's war is within.  

Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV

barkha@ndtv.com  

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

ANOTHER DAY - BEHIND THE MIST WALL

BHUTAN IS COMING TO TERMS WITH THE NEW WORLD BUT AT ITS OWN PACE

 

Last year heads had turned when a tall, slim and elegant woman turned up at the Mountain Echoes literary festival in Thimphu, Bhutan. When the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck (a writer who is also the festival's patron), escorted this young woman to the front row, necks craned further: who was this woman? Was it true that she was going to be the next queen of Bhutan?

Last week, 31-year-old King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangyal announced his engagement to the striking Jetsun Pema while inaugurating his country's Parliament session.
Later, the royal couple made their first official appearance at the inauguration of Mountain Echoes at India House, holding hands, posing for photographs, stealing glances and smiles. Every Bhutanese I congratulated beamed with pride as if it was a family wedding. At newspaper offices the next morning, irritated readers wanted to know why extra copies hadn't been printed in anticipation of the huge demand for the first royal portrait. This is, after all, a country where hip teenagers sport buttons of the king's image on their shirts. "For us Bhutanese, it's a profound moment that symbolises continuity," said a journalist.

Continuity and change run like a leitmotif through Bhutan. The subject of change -when it will come, how to deal with it, how to negotiate it -is nearly obsessive in this tiny country of seven lakh people. Driglam namzha or traditional etiquette was debated last year at Mountain Echoes, and this year too. For years this land-locked mountain kingdom kept the world out. Now, it's beginning to pry open its doors -television, internet, democracy -and is wondering how much to let in, and how.

How does a nation retain its identity when change is all around? In Bhutan the question is even more complex because so much has happened in such a short time: television and the internet are less than 10 years old, roads and modern education less than 50. Bhutan is probably the most self-conscious country in the world and included in the concept of Bhutanese identity is the preservation of dzongkha, the national language. "Dzongkha is the essence of Bhutan's ancient culture and values," says Sherub Gyeltshen, secretary to the Dzonghka Development Commission. Bhutanese officials worry that dzongkha is losing out to English. Englishspeaking Bhutanese are more likely to get better paid jobs and training.

Then there is the matter of dress. All the film posters I saw had Bhutanese actors in traditional dress -the knee-length gho for men and the full-length kira for women. Under the regulations, film-makers can't show Bhutanese actors in western clothes (and must include at least two pieces of traditional music). Debate informs the air: should a dress code be enforced? What about alcohol control regulations to counter the serious problem of alcoholism? In recent times nothing has been debated as much as the country's new Tobacco Control Act under, which a monk was sentenced to three years in jail for carrying 48 packets (roughly R2 each) of Baba chewing tobacco. The sentence is now the subject of a raging controversy: some say the law is draconian, others say tobacco goes against the essence of Buddhism.

Despite all fear about a `McDonalds' culture', Bhutanese are introspective, and optimistic. As in India, the language of the masses is constantly enriched with new words: logrig (literally intelligent machine run on electricity) for computers, for instance. The local film industry, despite its `inspiration' from the Hindi film industry has kept interest alive and the numerous singing competitions on TV are nearly all in dzongkha.
"Our youth value our culture and traditions," says author Kunzang Choden. There will always be need for individual expression, even if it takes the form of tattoos and spiked hair. The good news is that the Bhutanese question the value of that expression. When it comes they are ready to face it.

The marriage of the king in October will reignite feelings of nationalism and raise questions of identity and change once again.
It was this king's father who gave his country both a constitution and democracy. Now his son must negotiate the trickier path of making both work and aligning Bhutan with the 21st century.

Namita Bhandare is a Delhi-based writer namita.bhandare@gmail.com The views expressed by the author are personal

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NO FREE PASSES

 

It is telling that Krittika Biswas, an Indian diplomat's daughter, who was wrongly detained on charges of sending obscene emails to a teacher, claimed diplomatic immunity as her first defence. As she sues New York City for $1.5 million, Biswas has a strong and straightforward case without having to invoke diplomatic immunity.

Diplomatic immunity is a hyper-extended thing — even democracies where legal processes are respected tend to overuse it. It is called up every time an Important Personage is frisked at an airport or occasionally asked to submit to normal rules. Recently, India was asked to waive immunity or recall a senior envoy from the UK, where he was accused of wife-beating. There is a clear rationale for curbing the use of diplomatic immunity. In essence, though, diplomatic immunity is about safe passage — though it was formally agreed on in the Vienna Conventions in 1961, the practice has a much longer history. As far back as the 13th century, Egyptian Pharaohs granted immunity to envoys from abroad. Taking action against a diplomat's misdemeanours is the prerogative of the state that sent her. Diplomats (and their families) cannot be detained or tried in the courts of the host country unless, very rarely, the home country waives immunity. It hinges on reciprocity — you are scrupulously well-behaved towards another country's official representatives, and in return you expect the same treatment for your own envoys.

But that principle has been stretched and abused all over the world, as a free pass for diplomats and their families. "Certified Diplodocuses" — Captain Haddock's curse at an embassy car with a CD plate gets at the resentment many feel about the insulated lives of the diplomatic corps. Though the most common misdemeanours involve speeding and evading parking tickets, diplomats have been caught running prostitution rings, smuggling arms, harassing domestic helps, and worse. In 2003 in Delhi, the Senegalese ambassador's son was accused of having killed his driver, but could not be prosecuted in India. So is there a way we can preserve the delicate balance of bilateral diplomacy without letting the diplo-brats run wild? Can we invoke diplomatic immunity more judiciously? That can happen only if the home country acts sensibly, rather than framing all incidents as deep and deliberate insult, no matter what the breach is and who the people involved are. Sobriety must begin at home.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GAMBHIR'S CHOICE

 

Gautam Gambhir's shoulder injury has provoked a loud club versus country debate. And predictably it has inspired flights of high moralising. The allegation being made against the batsman is that he knew he was aggravating an injury by playing out his season with Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, that in fact he should have rested it out, to be fit for India's June tour of the West Indies.

How far to push one's body to best serve a playing schedule is a tough call all athletes are periodically called upon to take. It's difficult enough for athletes in individual disciplines — but in a team sport it's much more complicated, as opting out of a match could impact the collective effort. The Gambhir case aside, various factors are at play for any such decision. First, it's a percentage game in deciding whether one is just competing through a passing niggle, or worsening the injury. After an injury flares up it's easy to pass judgment in hindsight, but only then. Second, players take a call depending on how they value a particular competition. Swimmers, for instance, play their entire four-year competition schedule in order to peak during the Olympics, when of course they represent their country. Club versus country toss-ups are common, and controversial, in football — but over time the sport has learnt how to appraise footballers through the mix of matches they play, for club and for their national team. It's this that cricket is yet to get a measure of.

As the cricket calendar gets ever more packed — and the BCCI is responsible for scheduling both the IPL and international series — players will be forced to take calls with more stark choices than the injured Gambhir has. And it's not just about the money. Top sportspersons seek the best stages, those that are the most competitive, to establish their dominance. When in pursuit of longevity as competitors they pass some tournaments, the decision should be seen for its rationale — for an athlete's choices define her greatness — and not as a pretext to pass judgment.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TWO DECADES ON

 

Recent history is the most difficult to write about — the memory is still raw, the wounds haven't healed, there isn't sufficient distance from the event. All the more so when the story is war and genocide. Understanding the butchery of the Yugoslav Wars (1991-95) cannot be anywhere complete yet; it was doubly impossible so long as men like Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic were at large. Karadzic was caught and handed over to The Hague in 2008. On Thursday, Serbia confirmed the arrest of Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb forces, civilian Karadzic's military twin and partner in mass murder. This certainly marks a closure for Bosnians and many Serbians, albeit symbolic. Goran Hadzic, leader of the Serb insurgents in Croatia, still remains at large.

Mladic is responsible for "Srebrenica" — the man who ordered his troops to massacre 7,500 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, culminating in the worst single incident of genocide since World War II. For 16 years, he was on the run; initially living openly and comfortably under the protective eye of Slobodan Milosevic, the late former president of Yugoslavia and then Serbia. However, Milosevic's arrest in 2001 forced Mladic to hide — with sympathy for him still running deep among some Serbs, he had held out till now. "Health" permitting, he will soon join Karadzic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for trial.

Questions have been raised about the timing of the arrest — announced the very day EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, Catherine Ashton, landed in Belgrade to pull Serbia up for foot-dragging. Under its current pro-Western government, Serbia is keen to join the EU, but cannot till all war criminals are caught. Charged with 15 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, Mladic was long overdue.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

ONCE A SHARED SPACE

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

 

What makes a particular art form central to the national imagination? This is a difficult question to answer. But Bollywood is, in some senses, becoming, marginal to the national imagination. You have probably struggled to find new Hindi films that would provide a respite from the heat. Even the ones you do watch do not excite huge enthusiasm. Your own personal experience will be amply confirmed by the bleak trade statistics at bollywoodtrade.com. There seem to be more award shows to watch than movies to give awards to, as if Bollywood requires a self-referential buzz to keep it going. There is a paradox here. The industry is a lot more professionalised. Exim Bank rather than Dawood Ibrahim as a financier is a turn for the better. There is also no dearth of talent. Yet all of this is not adding up to an institution whose future inspires confidence. Will it continue to shape popular imagination in the way it did? Will its artistic ambitions measure up?

There are important structural reasons why Bollywood was bound to be displaced. The very character of our age, with its proliferation of technologies and experimentation, will make the authority of any cultural institution short-lived. We are also in an age where all levels of society are extraordinarily focused on getting ahead: there is no time for time pass. Bollywood was bound to suffer. But it is a surprise that with all its cultural power, it is playing second fiddle to a circus like the IPL. Several other factors were bound to change the structure of the industry.

The multiplex revolution was meant to energise Bollywood. But it has had two unintended consequences. The first is the enormous segregation of viewers. In retrospect, it is difficult not to recognise the fact that Bollywood derived its power from the fact that the movie hall was something of a shared social space. Although halls were divided into the balconies and the dress circles, the medium itself had to, like the Indian politician does for his constituency, assume that the audience contained a whole world. Rather than a movie being common property, the patterns of viewing are now a mark of segregation. In this sense, the decline of Bollywood as a common medium mirrored the decline of the space of viewing.

Did Bollywood make up in artistic diversity what it lost in a unified audience? This is very much an open question. Questions of artistic comparison are always tricky. It is not wise to be presumptuous about either the past or the present. But this can be said: the availability of niche audiences has not lead to an efflorescence of great niche art. Recently, I had the occasion to see Gaman, and was reminded of the fact that for all its possibilities the multiplex has not matched the equivalent of niche films in the old days: Muzaffar Ali, Shyam Benegal and so on. So the jury is still out on whether the possibility of niche audiences produces great art. Television is more proof of the fact that the mere possibility of a market does not produce either more choice or excellence, or mass success.

There may be other underlying issues as well. It may be that the best talent, with a real pulse on the people, is actually in a medium that is now becoming a shared cultural form: advertising. But there is a deeper question. There is no doubt that rapidly changing times will be accompanied by changing aesthetic sensibilities. Bollywood's ability to insinuate itself in our imaginations rested on two cardinal pillars. The first was its ability to tap into a grammar of emotion. The point was not to make sense of the world, as much as it was to bring a lump to your throat. Music was central to this aesthetic; and it was the medium through which the grammar of emotions could be detached from its context in the script and carried over to the tumult of daily life. In some ways music still remains important. But with one difference: its transposition outside the movie is into a context of a collective performance rather than the nuances of emotion. It is made to be danced to or performed. It is a spectacle rather than a subtle purveyor of emotions.

The second pillar was its strange, over the top, exaggerated sense of the world, where the laws of physics were often as unrecognisable as the laws of the state. Amit Chaudhuri captured this point perceptively and beautifully. "This does not mean Hindi cinema is fatalistic or metaphysical; its exuberance is indispensable to its conviction that life is an unrecognisable rather than a categorisable thing." How much of the "professionalisation" of cinema will foreground an illusory ability to control the world, rather than marvel at its strangeness, is another open question. A very knowledgeable taxi driver in Cairo (where Amitabh Bachchan seemed to be the god of taxi drivers) once engaged me in a long conversation about Hindi movies. He ended with a rueful thought: Hindi films had the key to "kismet" — by which he did not mean luck or fate; he meant something like "you never know what will move you".

It is not an accident that the only recent films that have enjoyed success, Three Idiots and Dabaang, had in their own different ways a return of these elements. But there is no question that both of these pillars have to be redefined. The grammar of emotions is undergoing a complex evolution in society at large. We have more of a sense that the world can be rationally mastered rather than left to the free play of chance and excess. But what are we making the transition to? Does Bollywood reflect the fact that we don't quite know what excites us?

One of Raj Kapoor's immortal dialogues was, "Mein apna iman bechne aya hoon." In some ways, no dialogue is more apt for the debates of our age. Yet we would simply not know how to react to such dialogue. The sincerity it presupposes is alien to us. We are in an age of aspiration but not an age of idealism. The old emotions are wearing thin, but the new forms are not crystallising. Perhaps the difficulties of Bollywood are a transitional phase, a struggle to discover what cinema is appropriate to our complex age. But it will be hugely ironical if Bollywood, in its more professional avatar, could say things more slickly, but then get tripped on the fact that it does not know what it wants to say.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

STATE OF INCIVILITY

CHARULATARAVIKUMAR

 

Bengal has been a land of history and mystery in equal measure. The heritage-rich culture also hides behind it the now confused state of affairs that the state has only itself to blame for. A state that has boasted of its intellectual prowess and artful expressions now struggles to even languish in its past glory.

Bengal was India's flagship, it set the standard for culture and civilised living. With Bengalis stealing the Miss Congeniality crown year after year, no one could dispute that their impeccable manners and best practice politeness were examples to be taught to children as the way to be.

But the Bengali Bhadralok was not to remain. In my recent visits back home to this state, I witnessed quite the contrary. Starting from co-passengers on the flight to Kolkata to the shopkeepers and the students, all displayed a volcanic outburst of pent-up frustrations and dismay. None was willing to be polite or submissive if she didn't have to. And often they chose not to.

Herein lies the biggest challenge that Mamata's Bengal faces today.

Yes, all arrows are pointing down, the economy, infrastructure, investment, employment. But the false communism that has plagued Bengal, leading to hopelessness and angst amongst people, will not be easy to shake off. And this will be the biggest deterrent to any improvement that may be attempted. One by one Bengal drained itself of the blue-chip companies, of the young talent and of the intellectuals. None wants to return at this point.

Drive and determination appear to have drained out of Bengal. And content with its long-ago cultural glory, it has missed the bus now, while its much maligned neighbours have embraced the promise of growth.

Bengal's political skyline has been marred by incompetent leadership that has only managed to instil pointless rebelliousness with no focus on a turnaround. And people too have held on to this as if to seal the connect with the famous Bengali freedom fighters of the era gone by.

Bengal has to look beyond these past milestones and face today's reality. It is perhaps the most backward state today in its inability to spring back.

Mamata has to perform beyond her art and histrionics and show real mettle. She would need to manage this new distraught and sunken attitude of the people. Such eroded drive and desire will lead to a further lack of productivity and its natural extension would be the influx of domestic expats. Labour inflow from neighbours will happen and end in increased ethnic and communal issues.

Bengal, a land of tolerance and harmony, is giving way to intolerance and chaos.

Curiously enough, the state has had a contrarian relation with its chief minister's name. Prafulla Sen took over a Bengal crippled with a drastic food shortage and nationwide drought. He advocated the politically suicidal step of urban food rationing, imposed heavy levy on rice mills and eventually imposed foodgrain rationing in all of West Bengal, leading to shortage, violence, strikes and finally his ouster in 1967. Prafulla means "plenty".

Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee lasted less than a year in each of his three tenures. Each preceded and followed by president's rule. Ajoy meaning "one who can't be conquered" was at a loss for ever.

And the imposing and good looking Siddhartha Shankar Ray from 1972 to 1977. His name being synonymous with peace, his tenure was marked with the Naxal problems that went out of hand.

And then the legendary Jyoti Basu. With Jyoti meaning "light", I don't recall a day or night spent without power cuts for hours at a stretch. The less said about these dark ages for Bengal, the better.

With Bengal's outlook now bleak, Buddhadeb's weak promises and lack of support from his own party to any other has done only more damage. Buddha stood for peace and enlightenment. Buddhadeb was too busy fighting his own battles.

What Bengal needs first is a change of attitude all around, a positive, energetic and embracing change to keep up with the world around, its cultural roots intact.

Mamata, meaning compassion and affection, has stepped in at a time when, inverse to her name, there is high intolerance in people. Currently bubbling inside and waiting to explode.

This is the biggest change she will have to effect if the rest of the economic indicators are to look north. We must rid ourselves of unnecessary dissent and "unionbaji" often bringing the state to a standstill.

The Left has left. Trinamool's victory drew from a Hobson's choice. Now Mamata has to get it right. Or else an uprising is in the waiting.

But does Mamata have the khamata (capability)? Bengalis should not wait too long this time to find out. Let's be intolerant of false promises and incompetence. We owe it to ourselves.

The writer is CEO, 'Product of the Year', India
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

GIVE CASH SOME CREDIT

GUY STANDING

 

It would be sad if the potential of cash transfers was lost as a result of hasty posturing by those on various sides of the debate. The fact is that, in India today, poverty and economic insecurity remain endemic in spite of fantastic economic growth. The existing system has failed to arrest the growing number in poverty, despite substantial government spending ostensibly designed to reduce poverty.

Could cash transfers help? A first need is to ensure sensible discussion, and to avoid presenting proponents as straw men. Nobody favouring them should imagine they would be a panacea or that they should replace everything now in place.

There are several types of cash transfer. In the public debate, there has been a tendency to generalise from a criticism of one type, as if that negated all types. There are three dimensions to take into account. First, should cash transfers be targeted on the poor or be universal? The idea is to ensure that everybody has some money so as to move out of poverty. But that could be done by targeting transfers only on the designated poor or by providing everybody with a transfer and taxing back from the non-poor. Internationally, economists are realising that the second option is not just feasible but more efficient and equitable.

A second issue is selectivity. The argument is that some groups "deserve" transfers more than others. Usually singled out are poor mothers and the elderly. The selection is not as easy as many assume. But the evidence is strong that unconditional cash transfers to the elderly benefits children as well as the elderly, and transfers to mothers benefits children as well as the women.

A third issue is conditionality. In his Indian Express article Jean Dreze focused on conditional cash transfers or CCTs ('The cash mantra', IE, May 11). Having observed the development of transfers in Brazil, I do not recognise his characterisation of what happened. He says that in Latin America "a large majority" is covered by social insurance. This is not so. Then he says CCTs were used only for "a fringe of marginalised households". Well, it is a very large fringe. Today, over 50 million Brazilians receive monthly transfers under the bolsa familia scheme, well over a quarter of the population and rising. And there is a law committing government to an unconditional cash transfer for all. The minister responsible for the policy has told me that he has always wanted to phase out conditionality. Quite right too. Conditionality is paternalistic and sets up arbitrary criteria for inclusion and exclusion. It would be folly if India were to go down that road.

Now reflect on the potential of unconditional cash transfers. It is not good enough to say they might be useful "sometime in the future". If they are desirable, work on them should start now.

Cash transfers are not a panacea. But we have found in Africa, for instance, that in the absence of adequate infrastructure they can have a wide range of beneficial effects, whereas bureaucratic systems of subsidised food and other commodities are replete with corruption, inefficiency and inequity. These are precisely the failings in the Indian system. In a recent study in Gujarat, we found that the existing system is both chronically inefficient and inequitable, reaching the non-poor almost as much as the poor, and not reaching many of the latter at all.

It is easy to say the poor prefer food to money, and to suggest asking them, "Would you prefer food or cash?" That is Jean Dreze's proposal. The problem is that not only do many people not receive food but that the value of the food received is only a fraction of the expenditure on the PDS. A fair question would have to be in terms of food actually provided and the equivalent in cash to what is spent on the system. So, you might have the food you receive now, which on average might be worth Rs 200 or you could have Rs 600 in cash. I doubt the critics of cash would like to see that question being posed. My guess is that the poor are as shrewd as anybody else and would opt for the cash.

Policymaking is an art. People tend to give a higher value to something they fear losing than to something that might take its place even if the latter has greater monetary value. But if the rationale for cash transfers is sound, experience should lead to a conversion of attitudes. When the bolsa escola was mooted in Brazil in the 1990s, academics scoffed. It started experimentally. I recall a city mayor saying she was attacked initially. But once operationalised, criticism faded.

It was similar with President Lula. He had to be persuaded to support cash transfers in 2001. In 2010, he told us in a private meeting that they would never go now they were established, and that increased economic growth, reduction of inequality and his own re-election had been primarily because of them.

Let me conclude by appealing to Jean Dreze, a man with fine values and deep concern for the poor. Let this be a period of policy experimentation, where pilot schemes are tried without any of us posturing or using phrases such as "remarkably dangerous".

Several years ago, we designed a pilot in villages in Africa, providing every villager with an unconditional monthly transfer worth about 40 per cent of subsistence. Within months, child nutrition improved, school attendance and performance improved, economic output rose, women's economic status improved, income inequality declined (taking account of the transfer), and treatment of serious illnesses increased (because patients could take medicine, having more food). Poor people had worked out what to do themselves. They did not need some bureaucrat treating them like children by giving them food benevolently. They started buying it or growing it themselves.

What works in one place may not work elsewhere. But people are rational everywhere. The poor are just as rational as anybody else. It is prejudice to imagine they would dissipate cash on alcohol or become indolent. A few might. But we should surely suppose that the vast majority would purchase better food for their families, or buy and look after medicines and clothes. They may grow more food, rather than depend on ration stores that have no goods or have such poor quality items that nobody would purchase them if they had a choice. Policymakers should not be patronising. Cash transfers are not a substitute for public services. But they could be a base of economic security.

The writer is a professor at the University of Bath, and co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

COUNTING ON COUNTING

KABIR FIRAQUE

 

Back in the '80s, a fellow engineering student confronted me with a question.

A tap takes 20 minutes to fill a bathtub when the outlet is plugged; the tub's outlet takes 30 minutes to empty it when the tap is off. If you turn the tap on and keep the outlet unplugged, how long will it take to fill an empty tub?

You could trust me to complicate the issue. I assigned variables to the time required and the volume of the tub, formed an equation based on rates of discharge and then solved it mentally, noting happily that the volume variable cancelled itself out. One hour, I announced correctly. But my classmate then showed me how I could have solved the puzzle arithmetically rather than fallen into the algebraic trap he had laid for me. Every minute, the tap fills a 20th part of the tub while the outlet drains out a 30th part; the tub retains 1/20 x 1/30 = 1/60 of itself. A 60th part every minute means a full tub in 60 minutes. It's as simple as that.

The reason I have dug this up is in part to show how convolutedly the minds of science students worked then — or at least how mine did — and in part to observe that today's schools can potentially make better mathematicians of our children. Yet they can be groomed even better — by being taught, for instance, IPL as a mathematics chapter in Class VIII, maybe IX.

School effectively encouraged us to express anything we did not know as "x" and form an equation to solve. My daughter, in contrast, has been so groomed as to start many of those same problems with a known — and work her way from there. The Class VIII textbook no longer enforces algebra where arithmetic will do.

This is what my college teachers would have done with the IPL: they would have taught us to treat much of the new format with advanced permutation/combination formulae. But we can teach schoolchildren that arithmetic alone can solve most questions about the IPL — such as the number of matches in a group. Let's say we introduce a school class to five teams in a hypothetical, single round-robin before taking them to the actual format.

"How many matches does each team play?" the teacher asks. "Four," the class replies in chorus.

"How many does Team A play?"

"Four," they repeat.

"And how many other matches does Team B play?" Half the class says "four"; the other half has been put on guard the moment the teacher said "other". Then the brightest of the silent ones works it out. "Three other matches," she says, "because we had already counted A vs B among A's matches."

"Good," says Teacher, and continues, "and how many other matches does Team C play?"

"Two other matches," says the entire class, having got the drift, "because we had already counted two of C's matches, first A vs C and then B vs C."

If that doesn't teach a child that the total number of matches in a round-robin of five teams is 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 10, nothing ever will.

This, incidentally, presents a case for teaching children the formula for the sum of consecutive numbers starting with 1: take the last number, multiply by one more than itself, and halve the product. We were taught the derivation first and the application later, a nonsensical sequence of events we must reverse for our children.

To get back to the IPL, it involved 2 double round-robins, with the format complicated further by each team playing 4 teams in the opposite group once and the fifth team (chosen at random) twice. Yet, your child can be taught to keep it simple.

Every team played 8 matches within its group, 2 more with one team outside, and 1 each with the other four teams, a total of 14. For 10 teams playing 14 matches each, multiply 14 × 10 = 140, a product that includes every match twice (once in the quota of either team playing that match). The actual total matches are, therefore, 140/2 = 70.

Take the same reasoning to the original single round-robin of 5 teams. We have 5 teams playing 4 matches each, a product of 20, which again includes every match twice, so that the actual total is (4 × 5)/2 = 10. In other words, it's (number of matches) × (1 more)/2, and we are back at the formula for the sum of consecutive numbers. Will it intrigue a child? I am sure it will.

Going back to the bathtub puzzle, my daughter struggled to solve it independently, found my equation horribly complicated and liked the commonsense solution. And yes, she is interested in the IPL, though we haven't got round to discussing its arithmetic yet.

kabir.firaque@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

NO ASIAN CONSENSUS

PHILIP BOWRING

The first non-Western head of the IMF should be from Asia, home of two of the three biggest economies and holder of most of the world's foreign exchange reserves. Yet even before the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn it was clear that not only were the odds still in favour of Europe, but Asia would find it very difficult to agree on a candidate, let alone one acceptable to the West.

That is a pity because East Asian countries have the greatest interest in ensuring global monetary stability, low inflation and international trade, which would be threatened by another round of mayhem in debt and currency markets. Asians have no interest in soft handouts to developing countries. Nor is it in their interest for the IMF to continue to be obsessed with the problems of the euro zone, which are fundamentally more political than economic.

When the succession issue was discussed in the recent ADB meeting in Hanoi it was clear the front runner to succeed Strauss-Kahn, then expected to run for president of France, was Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, who announced this week she would run for the job. She played a high-profile role in Hanoi thanks to France's G-20 chairmanship; she impressed with her grasp of issues and ability to say what many wanted to hear.

Meanwhile, divisions within Asia seemed to override misgivings about another European at the helm.

China gave the impression it knows the chances of a Chinese candidate are thin due to the reservations of other large Asian countries, as well as many in the West. Until Beijing has a fully convertible currency and produces an individual viewed as capable of rising above China's national interest, it may be difficult for it to get support. As a result, Beijing has no desire to push for anyone from another Asian country.

A Japanese leader would be a logical choice, given Japan's years at the top table of international finance; and the country has able officials. But they are seen to lack political weight and public presence. Japan's domestic debt problems undercut its massive foreign reserve strength. China, too, would prefer not to have a Japanese in the post.

One Indian name has been mentioned — Montek Singh Ahluwalia — who has excellent credentials as a former IMF official and is seen as a liberalising force in Indian economic policy. But there is scant support in East Asia for a candidate from India, which has been a fringe player on Asian as well as international financial issues. The same applies to Indonesia.

South Korea might qualify but there are no obvious candidates. With a Korean heading the UN there is limited appetite for another in a top job.

Publicly many Asian countries back an IMF head from anywhere but the West. Privately many aren't sure they want someone from a non-Asian developing country such as South Africa or Latin America. Major Asian countries know world finances are in a fragile state and IMF needs a head with intellectual and political clout.

Until they can agree on one of their own the big Asian nations may prefer to stick with the devils they know. Change must come when voting reforms at the IMF come into force, but it will not be easy to agree on who will be the first Asian to lead it.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SECURITY AT SEA

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

Security at sea

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist attack against the Pakistan navy's air base in Karachi late Sunday night killed 10 security personnel and injured 15. Two P3C Orion aircraft were destroyed. Daily Times reported on May 24 that 17 foreigners, including 11 Chinese and six Americans who were there to train naval personnel about Orion planes, were rescued.

Coming within weeks of the Abbottabad operation, which Pakistan's security agencies failed to detect, this high-profile attack has embarrassed the armed forces, according to Pakistan's newspapers. An article in The News on May 23 viewed: "One incident after another, and security lapse after lapse, have completely exposed the extremely substandard capabilities of the country's security forces to secure even themselves." However, Pakistan's navy chief, Admiral Noman Bashir, ruled out any security lapses having led to the attack, reported Daily Times on May 24. He also announced that the navy was trying to relocate Mehran Naval Base and other vital installations away from residential areas, as it was becoming difficult to ensure their security. Pakistan's prime minister was reportedly monitoring the situation himself, and convened a cabinet defence committee meeting on the attack.

On May 25, there were some punishing consequences, according to a Dawn report: "Pakistan on Wednesday removed the commander of a naval air base... Although a navy spokesman insisted the transfer was pre-planned and unconnected to the... assault, Pakistan's military is under increasing domestic pressure to be held accountable over security lapses. 'Commodore Khalid Pervez is taking over as the base commander and his predecessor Raja Tahir will be assigned new responsibilities,' Commander Salman Ali, a navy spokesman, told AFP. He did not say what new job the outgoing commander will hold."

Shortly after the crisis-ridden PNS Mehran was brought under control, the Taliban launched another attack, this time on a civilian target in Hangu, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Daily Times reported on May 27 that a suicide bomber blew up a car laden with explosives at a checkpoint near the Hangu police station and Hangu DPO Office on Thursday, killing 32 and wounding 60. It also reported that a Taliban spokesman warned of more attacks: "'Soon you will see bigger attacks. Revenge for Osama can't be satisfied just with small attacks.'"

Amidst widespread apprehension that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal might be under threat from extremist elements, on May 27, Daily Times carried an interview Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan gave to The Wall Street Journal: "Pakistan is the only Muslim nuclear power state... the Taliban had no intention of changing that fact. 'Isn't it a shame for us to have the Islamic bomb, and even then we are bowing down to the pressures of America?'"

A gentler world

British Prime Minister David Cameron's suggestion to visiting US President Barack Obama, to not turn away from Pakistan at this crucial juncture, has been received well by Pakistan's newspapers. Dawn hailed Cameron in its May 27 editorial: "The West's anger against Pakistan in the wake of the Osama bin Laden killing seems to be giving way to a more realistic assessment of the situation in the country. An indication of this sober reflection came on Wednesday when the British prime minister asked the West to work more closely with Islamabad to defeat terrorism... With President Barack Obama by his side, Mr Cameron seemed categorical about his position on Islamabad when he said Pakistan's 'enemy is our enemy'. More significantly, it was to 'the West' that he addressed his concerns, and said the Western world should redouble its efforts to help Pakistan stamp out terrorism. Across the Atlantic, one can detect a similar softening towards Pakistan, despite the frustration over Islamabad's failure to discover bin Laden's whereabouts... Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar, besides some South Asia experts, pleaded for continued engagement with Pakistan. Even more forthright has been the US defence secretary who said that the money given to Islamabad had not gone to waste."

Hillary's surprise

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Islamabad, in what The Express Tribune on May 27 termed as a "surprise visit." Different papers have different takes on the visit. While The Express Tribune called it a "short visit to discuss how both countries can rebuild trust to fight the war against terrorism," Dawn viewed it as an American measure to ask Pakistan some "tough questions." The News maintained it was aimed at "mending" US-Pak ties. The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, is already in Pakistan.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE OYSTER IS MY WORLD

By 2025, a greying OECD will have 35 million less persons in 20-49 age group. Thanks to the one-child policy, even without achieving anywhere near OECD income levels, China will also have 63 million less persons in this age group. In contrast, according to Columbia University's Arvind Panagariya, India will add around 139 million people in this age group. In other words, given the likely crippling shortage of people, it's pretty likely the current barriers on migration across borders will ease—the only other option is to let wages rise dramatically in these countries which will, in any case, force industry to close down and move to countries like India. Another angle to this happy narrative is that of growth. According to Panagariya, India's probably growing faster than China already since India tends to measure growth at factor cost while China, like the rest of the world, measures output in terms of market or consumer prices. Panagariya does some statistical calisthenics and estimates India's "real dollar GDP"—which eliminates the impact of differential inflation and exchange rates—will rise to around $7 trillion by 2025, or around $5,000 per capita. In which case, it's pretty much the end of poverty as we know it today. If the share of exports to India's GDP remains what it is today, similarly, India's exports will be $1.5 trillion by 2025, or 5-6% of global GDP.

That's the good news which, in a sense, outlines just how much of a larger role the world has for India to play. The problem, however, is in the road-map of how India is to get there. Take the 139 million extra youth. Most of these have been born in states like Bihar where the existing levels of education are poorer than even those in the rest of the country. So, the world needs 100 million more well-educated youth in 2025, and all India has to offer is semi-educated youth. India, to cite one number, has a gross enrolment ratio (GER is the proportion of those in college to the total population in the relevant age group) of 13 as compared to China's 23—in 2000, believe it or not, India's GER was 10 to China's 6. Or take the GDP projections. Whether you go by Panagariya's constant dollar GDP projections or the more conventional ones, none of the projections can come right unless significant chunks of India's labour force moves from agriculture to industry, from rural areas to urban ones. Well, the MGNREGA, for instance, works to encourage workers to remain in agriculture in rural areas. There are a host of such examples, all of which make the same point, India isn't ready for its place in the world.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FREEDOM SONG

At Deauville (France) this week, the technology sector was represented at a G8 meeting for the first time. The host, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has been haranguing the sector for the "anarchy" of the Internet. Presenting an unusually unified front, Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg harangued back. Zuckerberg said even those who commend the Internet for sparking an Arab uprising find it "scary" how much information it can share and collect. "But it's hard to have one without the other," Schmidt said, "premature regulation" could "shut off whole new industries, whole new opportunities, whole new innovations." As an indicator of the business opportunities at stake, consider a recent McKinsey report that finds almost a third of the global population connecting to the Internet and $8 trillion being spent via e-commerce every year, with the Internet contributing 3.2% to India's GDP and 2.6% to China's in 2009. In India, so many of future visions—in health, education, agriculture—are being pegged to the promise of a broadband revolution. So, Schmidt and Zukerberg's warnings (even admitting their vested interests) have to be taken really, really seriously. The McKinsey report also notes that governments will play a key role in the spread of Internet technologies, both by cooperating (or not) with each other and by showing regulation smarts.

Let's take stock of whether the Indian government has been showing such smarts by focusing on the new rules accompanying the Information Technology Act. A range of industry voices have spoken up against guidelines that oblige intermediaries to take immediate action upon receipt of complaints concerning all kinds of "objectionable content", ranging from anything "blasphemous" and "hateful", to anything threatening the "unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India" and its "relationships with foreign countries, or public order". Such action (removing objectionable content) needs to be taken within 36 hours. Given the growing volume of Internet traffic, the 36-hour deadline would encourage quick but simplistic fixes. This is precisely the kind of one-size-fits-all regulation that Schmidt and Zuckerberg are warning against. Different solutions for different categories would make more sense but would also require more thoughtful governance. This is a tall order, given that technology is moving quantum leaps faster than governments.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

GOING AROUND IN CIRCLES, ON LAND
SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

Do you want to get a usable estimate of black money in the economy? For each state, subtract the circle value of land from the market rate for each district in the country. Multiply the figure for the land sold in the district in that year and add it up for all the districts, and you have a fine figure.

The circle rate is thus the biggest joke in the Indian real estate markets. For the National Advisory Council (NAC) to then use the circle rate and then some more as the price farmers should get for selling their land to industry, just shows why possibly Mamata Banerjee is right on this argument and NAC is wrong.

The government has no business to get involved in setting any rate for the land market in the country.

There are, therefore, two fundamental flaws in the NAC argument. The first is the assumption that the government, just as it sets the minimum support price for several crops, should also decide on the price of the land, on which those crops grow. The second is the mistake that assumes intervention in land disputes increases social welfare. Despite fragmentation, the total number of farmers who own land in this country is about 128 million (dept of agriculture figures). Since the percentage of our working population that depends on the rural sector is about 403 million, on a population base of 1.2 billion, this means 275 million of them are without any land.

In other words, the sale of land in rural India is an issue for the richer farmers. By deciding to apparently stand with them, NAC is actually hurting the interests of the agricultural labourers. The chances of those labourers to earn more from agriculture is limited, when the sector can hardly ever grow at more than 4% a year.

The one major chance for them to improve their opportunities is to remove them from agriculture and into work that comes when industry is set up in a rural area. The other alternative is to condemn them to migrate to faraway cities.

But, just as states are keen to hike up the MSP to protect the interests of the landowning farmers at the expense of the other poor who have to buy those grains, the intervention by political groups in land issues shows who they feel closer to. By any yardstick, it is a very sub-optimal solution for the government to get involved as it is doing in this instance by offering to support developers they can always do without.

The government is taking upon itself the hassle of negotiations with the farmers. It is also offering industry the carrot of having to pay a lower price than what the markets can bear.

The farmers, from now on, if they want to extract a better price for their land, will have to depend on the mercy of the concerned state government. This will also give the political parties an opportunity to play favourites, promising to jack up circle rates in areas whose farmers support them.

For industry, this is, of course, a very attractive option as it saves them the bother of having to negotiate with each land holder the price of their land. Right from the time the large-scale SEZ projects began, sections within industry have turned to the government for this job. Is it a surprise that farmers' unrest has typically flared in areas where the government got involved, but has been quite peaceful where they have had a say in the pricing.

The problem of negotiating with the farmers is actually one that can largely be resolved if industrialists are honest enough to disclose the anticipated cost of their project. It would also be more optimal as a market price based negotiation will cut down the projected size of the land for the factory or the township. The regular over-estimation made by the companies of the amount of land they need will be clipped once they face the long line of farmers. It is something industry should get used to.

Senior government officers say that for a power project of, say, 1,320 MW, the land requirement is within 1,100 acres. The cost of the project, assuming about R5.50 per MW, works out to R7,260 crore. Going by the circle rate in Andhra Pradesh (the site of numerous power projects) that will be about R5 lakh per acre and the compensation just R55 crore. In a recent documented case of land acquisition in Andhra Pradesh, the state government handed out its own land to a power developer at R55,000 per acre, which became the effective circle rate. The developer used that as the basis to offer a R2.5 lakh per acre compensation to the farmers (five times the circle rate).

Incidentally, the current Land Acquisition Act of 1984 has a clause even now that allows for a negotiated settlement of the price of land between the buyers and sellers. The difference between the forcible acquisition of land and this clause is on the rights of the land seller. The former signs away the right of the seller to approach a court to re-open the sale, the latter doesn't.

The current trend of discussion also makes obvious that two critical changes in the Land Acquisition Act will not come through. If the government has to acquire land for all and sundry there is ghost of a chance it will make the definition of public purpose more strict to preclude investor-led acquisition, but which was the demand all through.

The second is the redefinition of the pricing formula in favour of the seller of the land. If the government has to pay six times the circle rate, it will imply the basis for arriving at the circle rate will be rather conservative.

The villagers of Bhatta-Parsaul, who had protested the Uttar Pradesh government's 30-year annuity plan and its promise of returning a 7.5% part of the land as a developed property, must be kicking themselves now for having barked up the wrong tree.

subhomoy.bhattacharjee@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT ABOUT THE IITS OF LEGAL EDUCATION?
PRABHASH RANJAN

The recent comment by Jairam Ramesh on the faculty and research standards at IITs and IIMs has created a flutter. At one level, this comment can be seen as running down premier institutions like the IITs and IIMs. However, at another level, Ramesh's comments also provide an opportunity to assess research standards, not just at IITs and IIMs, but across disciplines and institutions of higher education in India. This piece wishes to ignite the debate on legal research in premier national law universities (NLUs).

Last year, PM Manmohan Singh described legal education in India as a "sea of institutionalised mediocrity". Legal education has always received step-motherly treatment from the government and has often not been the first choice of bright students and their ever-aspiring parents. However, things started to change with the advent of NLUs—the most significant change in Indian legal education in the last two decades. Referred to by the PM as "islands of excellence" in the sea of institutionalised mediocrity; the first NLU was set up in Bangalore in 1988 and this was followed by more NLUs coming up in Hyderabad, Bhopal, Kolkata and Jodhpur in the 1990s. As of today, there are about 15 NLUs in India with the latest one planned to come up in the Northeast. These NLUs, often described as IITs and IIMs of legal education, have been set up to become centres of excellence in legal education by attracting quality students to study law, and producing quality research and legal scholarship by faculty.

NLUs have been very successful in attracting bright students to study law. Students passing out of these NLUs have been able to secure high paying jobs in national and international organisations and have also been awarded prestigious scholarships like Chevening, Rhodes and Inlaks. The success of NLU students has increased the popularity of legal education, which is evident from the fact that this year close to 24,000 students appeared for the recently conducted Common Law Admission Test for admission to 11 NLUs, an increase by almost 6,000 from last year.

The stupendous performance of NLU students often gives the impression, to an outsider, that these institutions have equally impressive research standards and credentials.

Although few NLUs have made efforts to boost a research culture, on the whole, the research standards at NLUs are still not at the level that national level institutes should have. With some notable exceptions, there is minimal evidence of faculty members of NLUs producing outstanding legal scholarship in international refereed journals or presenting works in major international conferences or involved in collaborative research with other institutions or universities—parameters often regarded most important globally to judge the research performance of universities.

There are several reasons for this like inadequate service conditions for the faculty and thus the failure to attract talented academic lawyers; not so stimulating research environment; lack of adequate incentives to undertake research; lack of a vibrant community of postgraduate research and doctoral students; and heavy teaching and evaluation load as also pointed out by the National Knowledge Commission in its report on legal education. Barring a few notable exceptions, most NLUs have not been able to attract and retain NLU alumni to teach. The majority of NLU students, after completing their undergraduate degrees and studying for higher degrees in the West, opt for an academic career in the US, UK, Singapore and other such places or with private universities in India, where remuneration is much more attractive. Even if some of them joined NLUs; they didn't stay back. This is in sharp contrast to IITs and IIMs, where many IIT and IIM faculty members have themselves been the alumni of these institutions.

The final point is regarding remuneration, which plays a vital role in attracting talent and hence boosting research standards. Remuneration structures are not attractive enough at NLUs, notwithstanding the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission's recommendations. Fresh law graduates from NLUs often earn more than what a professor with a PhD and with 10 years of experience at NLU earns. But this is something in which NLUs cannot do much unless they get support from the government. If the government seriously wants a world-class faculty, it should devise attractive salary structures for university academicians, including NLUs', independent of salaries of civil servants. There should be a separate pay commission for university academicians. It is erroneous to equate salary structures of the teaching profession, where there is a major shortage, with salary structures of all-India central services, where the number of aspirants only keeps increasing, thus providing a much larger basket to select from.

NLUs are young and promising institutions and it will be unfair to judge them and their faculty too harshly in the relatively short period of their existence. Notwithstanding the constraints, NLUs and their faculty have done well in comparison to most law departments in conventional Indian universities, which have existed for long. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement. The faculty at NLUs has to rise to the occasion and produce world-class research on a consistent basis. NLUs have to think of ingenious ways to attract good faculty—something like paying signing bonuses to new faculty that IIT Bombay did is worth considering. NLUs also need to incentivise research; find ways and means to provide attractive compensation to faculty; and develop a vibrant post-graduate community of researchers. Ramesh's comment should stir NLUs as well and should be used as an opportunity to bring meaningful reforms in legal research, so that law, as an academic discipline, attains its rightful place in our society.

The author is assistant professor at National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. These are his personal views

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MISSING DAUGHTERS

The Census of 2011 revealed that the sex ratio in the 0-6 age group is worse now than in any decade since Independence. It is indisputable that this distressing trend is the result of more people having easier access to medical technologies that reveal the sex of the foetus, and opting for sex-selective abortions. New research published by The Lancet provides further insights into the phenomenon of 'missing women': as family size in India declines over time, there is a bias against having a second female child when the first is a girl. Based on data drawn from the National Family Health Survey between 1990 and 2005 and the Census of 1991, 2001, and 2011, the paper estimates that for second-order births where the first is a female, the conditional sex ratio fell to an abysmal 836 girls per 1,000 boys in 2005. It is equally a matter of concern that most of India's population now lives in States where selective abortion of girls is common. What stands out in the findings is the positive correlation that education and affluence seem to have with a decline in the sex ratio; the decline was higher in the case of women with ten years or more of education than for mothers with no education. Such a trend calls for closer study of the factors that reinforce the son preference, especially in States and districts with a worsening ratio.

What is fundamentally underscored by the research is the failure of the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act even in its amended form, and the need for a multi-pronged strategy to remove the prejudice against the girl child. Any serious review of the law in the States with the worst child sex ratios should begin with the quarterly reports they are required to file on diagnostic centres, laboratories, and clinics, the action taken against unregistered bodies, search and seizure, and the outcomes of awareness campaigns. Not all States have been filing such reports regularly. The level of involvement of laggard States in implementing the PNDT Act can be gauged from the fact that in Haryana, a crucial notification on setting up Appropriate Authorities was not published in the gazette for 12 years from 1997, and it had to be reissued as an ordinance with retrospective effect. But then, while enforcement measures may have a salutary effect, the more challenging task is to make India a less male-dominated society. The place to start for that mission would be Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies. Political parties must lead by enabling 33 per cent representation for women in legislatures and raise their visibility. Liberal scholarships for all levels of study and improved economic security may tilt the balance for the less affluent sections.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A TROUBADOUR OF OUR TIMES

In 1959, Robert Allen Zimmerman, an introverted teenager with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, renamed himself Bob Dylan after the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Although he would reveal much later that Arthur Rimbaud and John Keats were major influences on his song writing, it was evident within a couple of years that this young man had melded poetry, protest, and song to create a unique style that rewrote the existing conventions of popular music. He was a modern day troubadour. At a time when pop was marked by cutesy love songs and catchy clear-cut rhythms, the deceptive irregular cadences of Dylan's folksy approach, the pinched and nasal tonality of his voice, and the elegiac lyrics that created anthemic songs of socio-political protest gave his music a stamp of astonishing power and originality. Now that he is 70, it seems apposite to recall how much he defined the music of the Sixties — that musically tumultuous decade, which fashioned the trajectory of popular music like no other since and which created music that lives with us even today. Most musicians and groups in that era — including The Beatles — were influenced by him in one way or another.

Over the years, there has been of course more than one Dylan. The acoustic folk of Blowin' In The Wind and A Hard Day's Rain a-Gonna Fall gave way in the mid-Sixties to a fusion of blues and rock, a period that produced two of his finest albums ( Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde) and saw him reach the heights of his creativity. In 1975, he reminded his fans that his genius was very much intact with his dark and brooding Blood On The Tracks, after which his music took on a new and soulful character in his so-called Christianity phase. By the early Nineties, it was widely believed that Dylan had exhausted his creative genius, but he surprised everyone with his 30th Grammy-winning Time Out Of Mind, which found a place in Rolling Stone magazine's list of 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. Of course, his place is music history owes principally to the audacious originality of his earlier work, that period in the first half of the Sixties in which he inspired an entire generation of musicians and charted a new direction for rock and rhythm and blues. Elvis Presley was the world's first true rock and roll star and The Beatles enjoyed the greatest fan following, but it was Dylan, contemporary bard and thinking person's musician, who persuaded us with his nasal twang and sparse instrumentation that pop could be a challenging, thought-provoking, and serious musical genre.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

MAINSTREAMING LDCS: ISTANBUL AND BEYOND

A BALANCE SHEET OF THE FOURTH U.N. CONFERENCE ON LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES HELD IN ISTANBUL.

ARUNODAY BAJPAI

Since the international community recognised the special category of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in 1971 and started extending special benefits to them, their number has increased from 25 in 1971 to 48 in 2011. In 40 years, only Botswana, Cape Verde and Maldives have moved up. Meanwhile, 26 countries were added. Clearly, the development strategy for LDCs needs a course correction. This was the perception at the Fourth U.N. Conference on Least Developed Countries (IV LDC) held in Istanbul from May 9 to 13, 2011.

Another perception was that the Brussels Programmme of Action (BPOA) adopted at the Third LDC conference in 2001 could not achieve full success, though it had a positive impact. The conference participants were convinced that the world should do more for LDCs. The 48 LDCs account for 880 million people. But their share in global trade is one per cent. Their Human Development Index is low; half the people live on less than $1.25 a day.

Moral and pragmatic reasons were summoned as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said: "Investing in LDCs is an opportunity for all." He said it was a moral obligation to help the vulnerable. However, it is not charity; it is a smart investment that "will help to propel and sustain global economic recovery and stability." External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who led the Indian delegation, shared this perception.

Istanbul was the fourth in a series. The first conference was organised in 1980 in Paris; the second in 1990 was also in Paris. The third was in 2001 in Brussels, which adopted the BPOA.

In Istanbul, 8,931 delegates, including 36 heads of state and government, 96 Ministers and 66 presidents of international organisations, participated. It had four tracks: official delegates, parliamentarians, civil society members under the banner of LDC Watch and the private sector. The mandate of IV LDC included an appraisal of the implementation of BPOA; identification of international and domestic policies in view of the appraisal, as well as new challenges; affirmation of the global commitment to address their special needs; and mobilisation of support measures and actions.

The conference adopted the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPOA-2010-2021) and the Istanbul Declaration. There were parleys among stakeholders. LDC Watch, the umbrella civil society organisation, and private sector delegates adopted separate declarations.

While laying emphasis on enhancing the productive capacity of LDCs and on monitoring the implementation of IPOA, the Istanbul Declaration inter alia underlined the role played by civil society and the private sector.

The IPOA reflects upon the objectives, principles and priorities of the development strategy for for the decade. The first part is introductory. The second appraises BPOA, noting that the goals were not fully achieved. The third lists the objectives and principles of the development strategy. The overarching goal is to overcome the structural challenges faced by the LDCs to eradicate poverty and move up. The IPOA target is for half of the LDCs to move up by the end of decade — a tall order. The other five objectives within this broad goal are: to achieve sustained, equitable and inclusive economic growth; to build human capacities and foster social development; to reduce economic and natural vulnerabilities; to ensure enhanced financial resources, including larger ODA and their effective use; and to enhance good governance. The eight principles underlying the development strategy are: country ownership and leadership of the development process; integrated and holistic approach to the process; genuine partnership between LDCs and their development partners, result orientation with effective monitoring and assessment; ensuring peace, security and human rights; equity at all levels in the development process; effective voice and representation of concerns of LDCs in the international economic system; and balanced role of state and market considerations. The fourth part of the IPOA lists eight priority areas: productive capacity with special focus on infrastructure, energy, science and technology, and private sector development; agriculture, food security and rural development; commodities; human and social development; emerging challenges like economic shocks and climate change; mobilising financial resources; and good governance at all levels. Besides, actions to be taken by LDCs and their development partners in the implementation of IPOA in each priority area are elaborated. The last section highlights, for the first time, the complementary role of South-South cooperation in IPOA implementation. However, it added that South-South cooperation is not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North-South cooperation. The fifth lists measures for a smooth transition from LDC to a higher category as such countries are deprived of the special benefits after moving up. The sixth emphasises effective monitoring of the implementation process and follow-up action.

An analysis of the underlying assumptions and core features of the strategy outlined in the IPOA reveals opportunities and challenges. The IPOA departs in some respects from the BPOA. While the BPOA's focus was on aid for trade and social development, the IPOA gives priority to enhancing LDCs' productive capacities, with the major role assigned to the private sector and investment. Perhaps the assumption is that the increase in productive capacity would improve trade competitiveness and development prospects in LDCs. For the first time, the private sector has been roped in. But it is to be watched whether it remains committed to the development of LDCs or exploits their resources. The second point of departure is that the IPOA lays much emphasis on monitoring the implementation of Programme of Action and calls for the strengthening of national, regional, and international monitoring mechanisms.

The third departure was the incorporation of, for the time, a complementary role of South-South cooperation in the implementation of IPOA in priority areas. This appears to be a victory for Indian diplomacy. India organised an India-LDC Ministerial conference at Delhi in February. Its declared purpose was to harness the positive contribution of South-South cooperation for LDC development and to strengthen the mutually reinforcing development partnership with them. At this conference, India announced special measures.

South-South cooperation may prove to be a viable mechanism in the implementation of the IPOA as the countries of the South have many things to share and exchange. Yet, the nature and dynamics of South-South cooperation needs scrutiny.

Though the IPOA tried to address the new challenges of climate change, food and energy security and the global financial crisis, two elements may hamper LDCs' capacity to face them. First, the climate change negotiations are not making headway. The new financial commitments made by developed countries for mitigation and adaptation are not additional funds, but funds diverted from ODA. The Doha Round of trade negotiations is stalled.

One big hurdle in the implementation of the IPOA will be the non-realisation of ODA commitments made by developed countries. The experience of ODA flow during the last decade is instructive. Under the BPOA, developed countries agreed to give between 0.15 and 0.2 per cent of their GNP as ODA by 2010. However, only nine countries have met the targets. In Istanbul, the developed countries were less than willing to enhance their percentage. Moreover, defaulters have the liberty to enhance their contribution from 0.15 to 0.2 per cent after 2015.

Both BPOA and IPOA claim to adopt a comprehensive and holistic strategy for LDCs' development. However, this does not take into account the nature of domestic factors and glosses over the socio-ethnic conflicts and political instabilities and lack of democracy in many LDCs under the rubric of achieving good governance.

Development and mobilisation of human resources and their conversion into agents of change rather than the recipients of development benefits may do the trick by reducing the space for social and political conflicts and tensions. The relationship between democracy and development needs better appreciation. In spite of these apprehensions, the IPOA breaks fresh ground by focussing on the productive capacity of LDCs, larger private sector involvement, South-South cooperation and monitoring of the implementation process.

(Dr Arunoday Bajpai, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, Agra College, Agra, participated in the Conference on LDCs. E-mail: arunodaybajpai@gmail.com)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

NARRATIVE OF MLADIC CAPTURE

AN INGLORIOUS END FOR A FEARED GENERAL WHO TURNED INTO A FEEBLE OLD MAN; NO RESISTANCE TO CAPTURE AT COUSIN'S HOME IN VILLAGE; A CHANGING SERBIA MADE LIFE AS A FUGITIVE MORE DIFFICULT.

JULIAN BORGER

Just before dawn on May 26, 16 years after Ratko Mladic became a fugitive, a dozen police and government cars drove into the village of Lazarevo and put a quiet, discreet end to one of the world's longest manhunts.

It was over so quickly and noiselessly that almost all the inhabitants of the northern Serbian village slept right through — the very opposite to the intense violence that marked the end this month of his fellow fugitive at the top of the world's most wanted list, Osama Bin Laden.

Like bin Laden, the 69-year-old Bosnian Serb had grown old beyond his years in hiding. He was balding and his left arm was paralysed as a result of a stroke several years ago. It is also thought he was suffering from kidney problems. A Serbian government official described him as "hardly walking and seriously ill." Another said: "He was looking much older than anyone would expect." Rasim Ljajic, a government minister in charge of co-operation with The Hague war crimes tribunal, said "Mladic looked like an old man" when he was arrested.

"One could pass by him without recognising him," Ljajic said. "He was pale, which could mean he rarely ventured out of the house, a probable reason why he went unnoticed," he said.

Ljajic said Mladic had two guns in his possession, but did not resist the arrest and "was co-operative."

He was arrested by civilian police, who had accompanied agents of the Security Information Agency (known as the BIA) and the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor's Office, who had tracked Mladic down.

He had been under surveillance in Lazarevo for at least two months according to Serbian official sources. They were watching an old man called Milorad Komadic who looked a lot like the notorious general they had been looking for. There was the limp arm, the height, the face, and the blue eyes. Apart from the pseudonym — perhaps deliberately similar to the real name so that it would be easy for an old man to remember — there was no attempt at disguise.

The Karadzic arrest

Mladic's political master from the Bosnian war, Radovan Karadzic, was arrested two years ago on a bus in Belgrade. He had been living as Dragan Dabic, a new-age healer, and had grown a long beard and tied a top-knot in his hair, as a thin disguise.

His general, with whom he had orchestrated the worst crimes in Europe since the Second World War, had made no such efforts. He had grown no beard, nor dyed his hair. He was hiding in plain sight in his cousin Branko's house. Branko was one of several Mladic family members living in the village, and his house had reportedly been searched several times before.

The village is surrounded by the long thin fields that are the mark of the strip-farming techniques still used in that part of the world. Lazarevo lies on the open plains of the Vojvodina, near the Romanian and the Hungarian borders, an area that has long being an ethnic melting pot.

The Mladic clan were among a wave of Bosnian Serbs who have been migrating there since the Second World War, so it was a relatively comfortable place for the old general to hide. In a reflection of local feeling someone had hung up a sign in the village yesterday that said: "Ratko — Hero."

It seems the 16-year manhunt came to an end, not because Mladic made a mistake, but because time and politics had moved relentlessly against him. One by one, the layers of protection, political and physical, that he had wrapped around himself, fell away leaving a vulnerable old man.

The ultranationalists inside the Serbian security apparatus who had shielded him so assiduously had grown old and retired. Others had been arrested or levered out of their positions by a new generation of Serbs who came into office along with President Boris Tadic, and who were focused on modernising Serbia and dragging it into Europe.

Before then, Mladic had lived something of a charmed life for a hunted man. He slipped from public view in 1995 when Nato forces first arrived in Bosnia leading to the signing of the Dayton peace agreement.

But for the first few years after the war, he was under minimal pressure. The Nato forces patrolling Serb areas made only token gestures towards looking for Mladic, Karadzic and the other war criminals. On the few occasions they knocked on the right door, their quarry had already gone, often tipped off by leaks emanating from Nato member states.

Tony Blair's order

Richard Dicker, the director of the international justice programme at Human Rights Watch, said: "Certainly Nato dropped the ball in carrying out its obligations to carry out the arrests of indicted war criminals. It was a disgraceful history. There was a several-year period when Karadzic would cruise through checkpoints quite openly." Dicker said that changed when Tony Blair became the U.K.'s Prime Minister in 1997, ordering a more robust search for the fugitives. British special forces took a leading role in tracking them down, along with U.S. special forces under a young, rapidly rising officer called David Petraeus. Mladic and Karadzic, however, escaped the dragnet, with the help of elaborate evasion methods provided by their contacts in Slobodan Milosevic's government.

One senior officer involved in the search described how his unit had tried to follow Karadzic's wife in the hope she would lead them to him. She set off one day in a black Audi with dark windows and the Nato special forces shadowed her. But she disappeared into a covered car park.

"He waited for her to come out, but instead six identical Audis drove out and all went in different directions and we lost her," the officer recalled.

Ultimately, however, it became impossible for Mladic and Karadzic to stay in Bosnia and both moved to Serbia with the help of their friends in Belgrade.

In the Milosevic era, Mladic was a hero to the Serbian officers with whom he had served in the Yugoslav national army. He lived for several years in the army's Topcider barracks and moved around quite openly in Belgrade, being seen at an international football game in 2000, and at his brother's funeral a year later.

He was guarded by a gang of about 50 armed men, mostly paramilitaries. When he turned up at an event, they would form a cordon around him, even blocking off roads in the manner of a small paramilitary force. It was also said that Mladic himself carried a few hand grenades, intending to blow himself up if anyone tried to grab him. The message was clear enough: Mladic could only be seized at a very high price in blood.

The Dzindzic years

The pressure mounted on Mladic when Milosevic was ousted in a popular uprising in October 2000, and was replaced by a popularly elected and charismatic Prime Minister, Zoran Dzindzic, who vowed to turn the country westwards. In 2002, his government signed an agreement with The Hague tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, to turn over Serb war crimes suspects. But that agreement was reached before Dzindzic had anything like full control over the security forces. It turned out he was vulnerable to Mladic. In March 2003, Dzindzic vowed to arrest the former general to help clear the way to EU membership. A few days later he was assassinated by a sniper with links to organised crime and the Serbian secret police.

Under Dzindzic's nationalist successor, Vojislav Kostunica, the hunt continued in theory, but it was half-hearted at best. Mladic moved out of the barracks and into a warren of flats in drab Communist-era blocks along Belgrade's Sava river, according to a report in the New York Times last year. Secret police officers admitted they had known all along where he was, but had received no orders to grab him.

But Mladic's days on the run were numbered with the election of Tadic in 2008, and Serbia turned west once more. Tadic put Sasa Vukadinovic in charge of the BIA and he set to work purging and reorganising the agency with a single aim.

He told the Serbian Parliament last year that catching Serb war crimes suspects was the BIA's "absolute priority," but in fact it took Vukadinovic two years to turn the agency into a truly effective unit.

"This has been a long process of organisational evolution," Dicker said. "They could not go after Mladic before without risking a serious backlash if not an attempted coup coming from within the security forces." In an effort to help Vukadinovic, British intelligence (MI6) and CIA sent officers to Belgrade dedicated to the hunt for the suspect. The presence was acknowledged publicly in 2009 by the Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremic.

Announcing Mladic's arrest, Tadic acknowledged the investigation was not over entirely.

The last Serb fugitive, Goran Hadzic, a former ethnic Serb leader from the Krajina region of Croatia, is now the focus of the agency's efforts, but Tadic said the BIA would also be targeting the network which supported Mladic, possibly including state officials.

The hunt for Mladic, which reached its zenith with no gunfire and hardly any fuss, has mirrored the transformation of the Serbian state. Arguably, with the arrest of an old man in Lazarevo, Serbia entered a new era as a modern European state.

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011          

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THE HINDU

OPED

A HUGE STEP TOWARDS SERBIA'S REHABILITATION

MISHA GLENNY

It was fitting that Serbia's President, Boris Tadic, himself announced the arrest of Ratko Mladic in Belgrade on May 26. Nobody has put in a greater effort to run down the indicted war crimes suspect than Tadic. For years, foreign governments and, above all, the chief prosecutor of the Hague tribunal, have accused him of not having done enough to find the former Bosnian Serb general. They implied that Tadic was frightened that a nationalist backlash in the event of Mladic being arrested might even lead to the toppling of his government.

Tadic's mission

His own Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica — until he left office in 2008 — systematically dragged his feet during the hunt for Mladic, and some diplomats suspected he hindered the investigation. Tadic, by contrast, placed the capture of Mladic at the top of his political agenda from the moment he was elected president in 2004. He knew full well that until that happened, Serbia's aspiration to join the EU would be blocked.

In his previous incarnation as Minister of Defence, Tadic had undertaken a root-and-branch reform of the Serbian military, which included breaking up the military intelligence operatives suspected of forming the backbone of Mladic's supporters when he went into hiding. Tadic also oversaw the reform of Serbia's domestic intelligence service, bringing in younger agents who were less susceptible to the old yet hugely powerful secret police network built up under communism before the break-up of Yugoslavia.

While in public, western governments have criticised Tadic for not doing enough on Mladic, and maintained debilitating sanctions at the request of the Hague tribunal, behind the scenes Tadic permitted an unprecedented level of co-operation between his security forces and western intelligence agents. Their number one goal was to find and extradite Mladic.

Like his friend, and sometime mentor, Zoran Djindjic — the reforming Serbian Prime Minister assassinated by dissident nationalist paramilitaries in 2003 — Tadic's greatest asset has been his determination to face down conservative and nationalist forces who threaten disruption. The President had witnessed how the earlier arrests and extradition to the Hague of the toppled Serbian dictator, Slobodan Milosevic, and the Bosnian Serb military leader, Radovan Karadzic, had not triggered a nationalist revolt. Serbs merely shrugged their shoulders.

It was often argued that Mladic was different and that, as a military man, he would act as a more powerful magnet to the malcontents in Serbia ready to exploit the widespread disaffection resulting from the current economic crisis. That is almost certainly not going to happen. It is undoubtedly true that many Serbs are still convinced that the west has singled out Serbia for special punishment in the wake of the conflict of the 1990s. But they are not going to sacrifice the benefits that they will accrue from EU membership out of spite. Most Serbs inside Serbia are no longer interested in the fate of Mladic; possibly they never were. The pull of the EU long ago trumped the mystique surrounding the wartime leader.

Furthermore, enough has now been published and broadcast in Serbia for people to realise that Mladic was not the knight in shining armour many once thought he was. The first chink had appeared a year before the notorious massacre at Srebrenica, when his daughter, Ana — seemingly distraught at her father's growing reputation as a mass murderer — committed suicide in Belgrade.

It is again thanks to Tadic that the revelations about Mladic's psychopathic tendencies have been properly aired in Serbia. He has taken the lead in denouncing the bloody crimes committed by the Bosnian Serb forces as well as atrocities such as the mass killing at Ovcara in Croatia and the siege of Vukovar. He has bowed down and sought forgiveness for these events on behalf of Serbia.

These courageous acts have received little media attention outside the former Yugoslavia. But the arrest of Mladic is the final proof that Tadic is a man of deeds as well as words.

Most of the obstacles blocking Serbia's path to EU membership will now be lifted. But this does not mean that peace and harmony are about to break out in the region. Serbia continues to face one huge, unresolved issue — the constitutional mess surrounding Kosovo, which has been recognised as independent by most EU countries but which Serbia and one or two allies refuse to accept. Although Serbia and Kosovo are engaged in exploratory talks to overcome these difficulties, at the moment the two sides seem to be extremely far apart.

But that is overwhelmingly a political issue. What Boris Tadic has done with Mladic is to take a huge step towards the moral rehabilitation of Serbs and Serbia whose reputation was so catastrophically compromised by the wars of the 1990s. He deserves our support and respect. ( Misha Glenny is author of The Fall of Yugoslavia)

    © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

     

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THE HINDU

SAUDI ARABIA OPENS WORLD'S LARGEST UNIVERSITY FOR WOMEN

EMINE SANER

The world's largest women-only university was opened barely two weeks ago by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Situated on the outskirts of the capital, Riyadh, the Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University is ambitious — it has the capacity for 50,000 students and will improve women's access to courses such as business and science. It has a teaching hospital, laboratories and libraries.

Which is all very nice (if you forget for the moment the kingdom's strict sex-segregation rules). The question is, what happens to these women after they graduate?

Many Saudi women are already well-educated, but women make up less than 15 per cent of the labour force — and earn far less than men. "We would need to assess whether this new facility will open up more male-dominated fields to women," says Nadya Khalife, from Human Rights Watch. The World Economic Forum global gender gap report in 2010 ranked Saudi Arabia 129 out of 134 countries, and the only country to score a zero for female political empowerment; in March, it was announced that the ban on Saudi women voting would continue. Saudi women are forced to live under the control of a male guardian, usually a father or husband, without whose authority they cannot get a job, travel or open a bank account. They cannot leave the house alone or without wearing the niqab, and are banned from driving a car.

"While the opening of a large university is an indication of Saudi's interest in educating women, it has to do much more to lift restriction on women's employment, says Khalife"

    © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011        

     

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THE HINDU

EVIDENCE OF WATER BENEATH MOON'S STONY FACE

KENNETH CHANG

It is not raining on the Moon, but it does seem to be getting wetter and wetter.

For decades, the prevailing view of the Moon was that it was dry. Then, two years ago, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) probe crashed into a deep crater near the Moon's south pole and confirmed large amounts of water ice within the shadows. Meanwhile, measurements by an orbiting Indian spacecraft suggested that a veneer of water, generated by the bombardment of solar wind particles, covered much of the Moon's surface. Now, scientists analysing tiny fragments of hardened lava from long-ago lunar eruptions report that the fragments contain about as much water as similar magmas on Earth, meaning there is plenty of water inside the Moon too.

May 26 paper

"I have to admit, we were a little surprised," said Erik H. Hauri, a staff scientist in geochemistry at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and lead author of a paper published on May 26 in the journal Science.

Dr. Hauri's surprise comes despite the fact that he and several of his co-authors predicted three years ago that they would find that much water. Back then, they looked at tiny beads of volcanic glass — the beads were about the size of periods in printed text — in soil brought back by Apollo astronauts. The beads contained water, but not a lot a lot of it: a maximum of 46 parts per million — or 0.0046 per cent water. Their models suggested that 95 per cent of the water originally in the hot magma escaped as it cooled. Dr. Hauri acknowledged that the extrapolation was less than ironclad. The new work started when another member of the research team, Alberto E. Saal, a professor of geological sciences at Brown University, handed a vial of Moon dirt to Thomas Weinreich, a Brown freshman, and asked him to sift through it for interesting particles.

As Mr. Weinreich laboriously examined the soil, grain by grain, under a microscope, he found, mixed among the glass beads, some clear crystals; some of those crystals contained a tiny amount of glass.

The crystals, made of the mineral olivine, prevented any of the water in the enclosed glass from escaping. The amount of water in the trapped glass was 20 to 100 times what had been previously measured in the glass beads, comparable to the water content of some Earth magmas. "There is a reservoir down there in the Moon that has the same concentration of water as some reservoirs in the upper mantle of Earth," Dr. Saal said. "That's for sure."

What is much less certain is how large the underground water-rich reservoir might be. Last year, researchers led by Zachary D. Sharp of the University of New Mexico came to the exact opposite conclusion. Based on concentrations of chlorine isotopes in lunar rocks, they concluded that the rocks must have hardened out of lava that contained almost no water. But if the interior of the Moon turns out to contain considerable water, then the ice at the bottom of lunar craters may have come from volcanic eruptions rather than comet impacts.

The finding would also throw a new wrinkle into explanations of how the Moon formed in the aftermath of a collision between the Earth and a Mars-size interloper about 4.6 billion years ago. But scientists have not been able to fully explain what makes up the Moon, and the water finding potentially adds another mystery.

    © New York Times News Service

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

WHAT'S THE FUSS? IITS GREAT, COULD DO BETTER

There can be little question that the Indian Institutes of Technology — once described by former US President Bill Clinton in a speech to American audiences as being among the "great engineering colleges of the world" — and the Indian Institutes of Management are among the foremost centres in the world for imparting technology and management education. The IITs in particular have an enviable record in the quality of their alumni who have shone in private industry across the world. An IIT degree is often fused with an IIM diploma to give an aspirant an edge in industry and business, where the competition is razor sharp at the higher levels. The health of these two, besides a clutch in other fields, is naturally of interest and concern to this country as they have to do with the quality of higher education and the availability of quality human resources to different fields of endeavour that have a bearing on taking India forward. This was indeed the motivation which drove Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, all those decades ago, to take a special interest in setting up institutions of learning in science and engineering that would rear generations of students of the highest bracket who would become levers of self-reliance and excellence. It is natural for our people to show concern for the IITs and IIMs, but to set off an out-of-season debate is another matter. Minister of state for environment Jairam Ramesh unnecessarily set off a flurry this week when he described the IITs and IIMs as "excellent", but not "world class".
Mr Ramesh is entitled to his views as a citizen, but a minister in the government — in whose hands lies much of the financial and administrative control that can make or break the institutes in question — is expected to give greater evidence of balance and sense of occasion in his utterances. Since educational institutions fall within the purview of other areas of the government, not the environment ministry, Mr Ramesh also exceeded his brief as minister and stepped into regions superintended by other UPA-2 colleagues, not expectedly inviting a riposte, and setting off a fruitless debate. Such a discussion within the right forum — say Parliament, when appropriations for departments and ministries are being debated — would have served a purpose, drawing attention to key aspects in the working of IITs and IIMs (and other institutions). But the way it turned out, we only have been witness to sterile fulminations.
The minister's off-the-cuff remarks presumably meant that the IITs and IIMs do not produce adequate cutting-edge research. The reasons are many, and Mr Ramesh might have done well to reflect on them in public as he took a swipe at the famous institutions. Indeed, he might have struck a sympathetic chord with his interlocutors had he noted that within the monies available to them these colleges were doing a fine job, but are still way behind famous American, European, or even some Chinese centres of academic excellence for want of funds. To take an example, if India spends $8 billion on research, the US spends $250 billion. This gap in the minister's public expression has been filled by human resources development minister Kapil Sibal, who drew attention to the crucial difference in "eco-systems", picking an expression that might be otherwise in the toolkit of the environment minister! The funds crunch can be addressed when private industry spends more on research (for which it might need a tax break), and top educational institutions come to enjoy greater academic autonomy and freedoms, and can offer their faculty higher remunerations and better work conditions. It is in the end a systemic matter going far beyond particular educational institutions.

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

ELITIST NAVEL GAZING

ANTARA DEV SEN

The damage control has begun. Three days after minister of state for environment and Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) alumnus Jairam Ramesh said that IITs and IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) were not world-class institutions because their faculty and quality of research were not good enough, the government has protested. Yes, the IITs are world class, says Kapil Sibal, Union minister for human resources development. Well, er, at least 25 per cent of the faculty is, anyway, since they are IIT alumni and Mr Ramesh says that the students are world class. And if their research work was not top international quality, it is because of the "ecosystem" — where the US spends $250 billion on research, India spends merely $8
billion.
So while Mr Sibal declares that IITs are world class, his logic implies the reverse. Sure, we understand the constraints of the "ecosystem". Though we may not accept that a quarter of their faculty is world class because they were once world-class students (which has no direct bearing on their quality as teachers). But what could the government do when the image of their top educational brand is trashed? The nation is paying an education cess, remember?
This muddled, half-hearted, sarkari response characterises the attitude of the government in education. There are two issues here: the quality of our centres of excellence and the quality of education in India.
First, the obvious. Are the IITs, apparently the crowning glory of our education system, world class? Depends. These are certainly excellent institutes. As Mr Ramesh said, they have some of our best students. And contrary to what he said, they do produce some remarkable research. But if the faculty is not "world class" it is because no one can fly high if tied to the apron strings of a stern yet callous government. Unless IITs — and other government-funded institutions — have the freedom to hire and fire teachers at their discretion and at better salaries, and the liberty to operate as they see fit, the best minds will escape to greener, freer pastures. Institutions may need regulation, but not crushing control. Also, the government has launched new IITs without hiring faculty, further pressuring existing IIT teachers.
Besides, no government-linked institution in today's India is truly world class, is it? Except for our institutionalised corruption, of course. According to Transparency International, India has an integrity score of 3.3, which makes it one of the most corrupt nations of the world. Happiness!
A close second would be our institutionalised callousness. Take our home ministry dealing with top terror suspects from Pakistan — not exactly a low priority field. The error attacks in our attempts at cornering Pakistan with hard evidence are almost as terrifying as the terror attacks themselves. First we sent the wrong DNA sample, claiming it to be Ajmal Kasab's. "A minor clerical error", shrugged home minister P. Chidambaram. Then it transpired that two men on India's list of most wanted terrorists allegedly hiding in Pakistan were in India — one in jail and the other out on bail. "An oversight", said the minister. "A genuine human error." Meanwhile, our investigative institution of excellence, the Central Bureau of Investigation, had reached Copenhagen to extradite Kim Davy, prime accused in the Purulia arms drop, with an expired warrant. Naturally, the Danish court refused. Yes, we are world toppers in institutional callousness.
Anyway, returning to the IIT issue, it's possible that the students make these institutes centres of excellence. Among 1.21 billion citizens, millions may be born with world-class intellect — then put into a system that meticulously constrains, limits, erodes and smothers talent and imagination. Naturally IIT students are brilliant — that's why they are selected. And they have had less exposure to the harsh Indian social, political and cultural environment. The poor teachers have been dented, blunted, clipped and chipped by the system.
This smothering of natural capabilities begins even before birth. We are killing more daughters than ever before through foeticide and infanticide. At 914 girls for 1,000 boys, this year's census shows the worst child sex ratio ever. And criminal neglect of women also affects babies allowed to live. The mother's health determines the health and development of the unborn child — and our pregnant and new mothers are so neglected that our future generations are born less healthy and already disadvantaged for learning. Poorer Indians grow up with less nutrition and fewer options for education, sometimes with no access to education at all. Worst off are girls and the lower castes, who face the double whammy of poverty and social discrimination.
Successive governments have addressed these problems, though the education budget has rarely crossed three per cent of the gross domestic product. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan helped. The new Right to Education Act promising free and compulsory education to all children between six and 14 years offers huge hope. Integrated Child Development Schemes (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Schemes certainly help in giving nutritional support and incentives for educating the future generations. And starting hundreds of new schools may indeed offer new opportunities. But these are not enough.
We need to look not only at quantity, but also the quality of school education. More than a quarter of schools do not have proper buildings or drinking water. Half do not have girls' toilets. Most do not have proper teachers. Teacher absenteeism rages. Allotments for ICDS and MDM schemes are inadequate and do not always reach students. And endemic class, caste and gender discriminations spawn systematic deprivation of large sections of society, institutionalising disparity in educational achievements.
Sadly, our attitude towards excellence is to neglect schools for the masses and focus on elite institutions of higher education. Sure, we need centres of excellence, but we can't be proud of tiny islands of well-funded distinction in a sea of hopeless, life-sapping neglect and illiteracy. If we really want to debate our educational excellence, we should stop this elitist navel gazing. And focus on good primary and secondary education for all. That social vision could change our collective future. And make us truly world class.

Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at: sen@littlemag.com

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

THE OBITUARY I COULDN'T WRITE...

FARRUKH DHONDY

"The time is out of joint
Time to pass the joint..."
From Reams of Forgiveness er… I mean Dreams by Bachchoo

I must be excused this week for using this column to mourn a personal irreplaceable loss. The newspapers and TV channels in India have carried obituaries of Mala Sen who died on the night of May 20 in the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. They billed her as the author of Bandit Queen, the story of Phoolan Devi, and of Death by Fire.
Writers die, their books live on. That will be true for the readers of Mala's books. She had said that if she didn't return from the risky operation she was undergoing for oesophageal cancer, her friends should gather at her flat in South Clapham (a flat we shared when I was married to her and even after), have a drink, smoke some dope if we could find any and take away a book from her shelves in memory.
Such an occasion has been arranged for this evening, some deadline date before this column appears in print, and I have made a pre-emptive raid on the flat so as to be the first to take the "one book memento" she intended. I took several. Her writing, some of mine signed and dedicated to her and two books that we read and marvelled over together.
One of these is a paperback of Jorge Luis Borges' The Book of Sand. The title story has a narrator who is given a book whose pages, thought finite, miraculously contain all the books ever written. It is one of the narrative avatars of the game of infinities that Borges regularly played in his fiction: the book that contains all other books and therefore must contain itself... which book must then contain... and so on. Like the man on the Quaker Oats packet who holds up a box of Quaker Oats on which there is the picture of the man who holds up a box of... etc.
So, as I look through the pages of Mala's books I realise that for me the books are not the words on the page, precious though those are. Each sentence is a key to memories of my childhood sweetheart, my first lover, my companion, my wife, my comrade, fellow adventurer, antagonist and in every real, quarrelsome, argumentative, supportive, dedicated, sharing, lending, borrowing, giving, taking, questioning, unquestioning sense of the word, my friend.
I have been asked these last few days to write obituaries, which I have always seen as summing up the significance of each little life rounded with a sleep. I couldn't. I could only jot down facts: she was the daughter of Lt. Gen. Lionel Proteep Sen and of Kalyani Gupta, that she went to school in Dehradun and college in Pune where we met. I said she ran away with me to England, a complicated but in retrospect amusing elopement. Then the jobs, the political convictions, writings, actions, leadership — facts, facts, facts.
Listing them, I realised I couldn't write this obituary. Someone so close to you can't be summed up. I know that somewhere in my works in progress, Mala will emerge as best I can shape her with all the descriptive honesty I can muster as another, albeit main, character in a memoir.
Such a memoir may explain, or not have the acumen to explain, why a 16-year-old girl from the high reaches of Indian professional society turned her mind and later all her efforts to reading Marx and Lenin, leading the actions of the Indian Workers Association (IWA) in Leicester, joining the Black Panther movement and later on the Race Today collective in London, quoting the works of black American radical activists and fantasists from Malcolm X and George Jackson to Eldridge Cleaver, leading a movement of Bangladeshis in the East End etc. etc.
Mala was, by any accounts, an unusual character: amazingly talented, amazingly argumentative and confident if not dogmatic in her view of the world... Stop! There I go. This is becoming the obituary I said I couldn't and wouldn't write. Instead a story:
Mala and I lived in Leicester in 1968 when I was writing on Kipling at the university and she was working as a clerk at the Gas Board and supporting us both, paying the rent for the room with a sloping roof we shared under the stairs of a house in the "Asian" district of the city. We saved enough money to drink a half pint of beer at the local pub on Fridays. Late in this payday evening the pub would fill up with mostly Punjabi workers blowing their wages on endless pints of beer.
One Friday a group of them spotted Mala in her salwar kameez and came over to invite us to their table as fellow Indians.
The generous flow of beer became a regular treat on Friday evenings and a few weeks into the ritual the two of us, more proficient at English than the rest of them, were asked to compose a leaflet calling for action on a grievance they had at one of the factories in the city. They said they all belonged to the IWA but that body had so far done very little apart from organising parties at Hindu and Sikh festivals and being the battleground of disputes about Bhangra costumes.
Mala and I composed the leaflet and it was printed off. In the weeks that followed, Mala was regularly asked to negotiate for the IWA and soon she was deemed an honorary secretary of the organisation.
At the time a politician called Enoch Powell made an inflammatory speech demanding the repatriation of immigrants. James Callaghan, then home secretary, introduced a law cancelling the right of Kenyan Asians with British passports from entering the United Kingdom. Powell and Callaghan were not very popular with immigrants and our unofficial pub, Panchayat, decided one Friday that it was time to act.
Mala, by then a marcher on anti-Vietnam war demos, suggested we call a mass demonstration in Birmingham with other IWA branches.
The Narborough Road ghetto became a hive of activity, painting banners and slogans with Mala composing leaflets.
On the day of the demonstration the good burghers of Birmingham watched bewildered as Mala, among others, led 20,000 animated Indians through its streets shouting slogans: Eenukka Pole hai hai! and Challa-ghun ray-sist k***a. No efforts and imprecations on Mala's part could correct the Punjabi pronunciation, but the fervour if not the message and recognisable names of the villains got through.

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

THE SERB PSYCHE

S. NIHAL SINGH

The arrest of Radko Mladic, charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court at The Hague, after more than 15 years on the run, will bring Serbia's membership of the European Union closer. But it will do nothing to help ameliorate the wounded psyche of the Serbian people. Nobody disputes the unspeakable crimes that were committed in the process of Yugoslavia's breakup. The Serbs, as the dominant party, were more to blame than others, but the Western decision to paint them as the bad boys, almost to the exclusion of other parties, rankles in the Serb consciousness.

The Serbs suffered 11 weeks of Nato bombing raids in March-June 1999. During a visit to Belgrade and other towns after the bombing I saw the scale of the destruction, with prominent buildings in central Belgrade little more than charred ruins, retained as reminders of a tragic past. Finally, Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic had to surrender. Richard Holbrooke of the United States had used him at Dayton to hammer out the agreement on Bosnia-Herzegovina. But there was little doubt that the Serbian leader was a marked man when the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was constituted.

After Slobodan Milosevic was dethroned by a popular movement in which students under the rubric of Otpor (resistance) played a prominent part, Belgrade came under increasing pressure from The Hague to deliver Milosevic, Milovan Karadzic and Mladic if Serbia had any hope of receiving approval for joining the queue for European Union membership. Talking to political leaders of several parties and ordinary Serbs in Belgrade after the Nato bombing, I found them united in the belief that the West, in the shape of the International Court, was out to get Serbs, rather than any of the other parties to the conflict.

Besides, the fact that the Albanian-majority Serbian province of Kosovo was placed under international tutelage with the intention of detaching it from Serbia led to charges and counter-charges in Belgrade of "who lost Kosovo?" The subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, quickly recognised by the United States and most of the West, came after years of make-believe UN investigations. Serbs' cradle of culture and Orthodox Christian religion is well recognised to lie in Kosovo.

he Serbian government of Zoran Djindic bit the bullet and handed Milosevic to The Hague, where he outsmarted his prosecutors, in a sense, to conduct his own defence, watched by a television audience of millions to make his points. He died in prison before he could be pronounced guilty. Djindic paid for sending Milosevic to The Hague with his own life, at the hands of an assassin. The Hague prosecutors kept up their drumbeat on Belgrade to hand over the other two prominent accused. Finally, Radovan Karadzic, living under disguise, was discovered and handed over. He has since been conducting his own defence after resuming his original avatar of a scholarly air and long mane.

But the big catch, Mladic, charged with the massacre of 8,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys in Srebrenica, ostensibly protected by Dutch troops wearing UN helmets, still eluded capture, obviously protected by his army loyalists. His luck finally ran out and President Boris Tadic made the dramatic announcement on May 26 of his capture, with promise of bringing him before a Serbian court prior to his dispatch to The Hague. This can only confirm the popular Serbian belief that the International Court, propped up by the US and the West, is biased against them. Indeed, remarkably few Croats or Bosniaks have been hauled before the Hague court, much less convicted. Among the few high-profile Croats found guilty, Gen. Ante Golovina and his co-accused, a police chief, caused fury in Croatia. Indeed, the general was on the run for four years until finally tracked to a restaurant in Tenerife. Unlike on Serbs, there was no international outcry on the Croats' role in the grisly process of Yugoslavia's breakup.

The Serbian establishment decided after the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic that belonging to the European Union was the only game on the continent and it was prepared to pay the price for it. But during my visits to Yugoslavia in the 1990s it was clear the federation was suffering death pangs after the Tito era's end. The Serbs felt let down by the West and the world as they believed they had got a raw deal. As a pillar of nonalignment, Marshal Tito had played an important role in seeking independence from Moscow. As Yugoslavia broke up bit by cruel bit, the political tide in the establishment had swung and policymakers were willing to play a subservient role to seek favours from the West.

Will Mladic's arrest bring some sort of closure to the Serbs' sense of hurt in being singled out for American and Western retributive justice? It seems unlikely because while many Serbs in policymaking positions feel that as the reduced nation of Serbia, they have no option but to accept their fate, having been let down by their own leaders to be confronted by the might of important nations. But the wounds of Yugoslavia's disintegration and the tragedies it brought in its wake will not heal soon. The European Union is the only goal they can now aspire to.

Yugoslavia's fate has lessons for Europe and the world. As a multi-ethnic nation, it is dangerous for a dominant community to play the game of one-upmanship. Tito's genius in bringing the diverse republics together was to depress Serbian representation while choosing Communism as a cement to keep the federation intact. It would have been hard for successors to replicate the successful formula after the fall of European Communism. Milosevic made such an attempt impossible by suppressing ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo. But the biggest lesson of all is that a small nation cannot survive if powerful countries gang up against it.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

POISED FOR RAPID DEVELOPMENT

 

The State seems poised for rapid development particularly in technological and industrial fields and in next five years, an economically much developed J&K State is likely to appear on the map of India. The positive signal has come from Union Minister of State for Science and Technology, Dr Ashwani Kumar saying that 12 new initiatives have been taken for specific research programmes and advanced training for the youth in Jammu and Kashmir. "A total of 12 new initiatives have been taken by the Ministry of Science and Technology for specific research programme and advanced trainings to the youth in the State," Kumar informed Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in Srinagar. University groups interested in specific research programmes would be encouraged and trained in research activities under the scheme called 'Respond'. Research activities in space technology, space application, natural resources studies and space sciences would be carried forward under this scheme and necessary support to the universities made available from the Space Department. A Centre for Excellence in Atmospheric Sciences is also proposed to promote specialized training in post-graduate studies in atmospheric science and mountain meteorology. Opportunity would be provided to students interested in the research areas of astronomy and planetary sciences to seek short-term positions to work in the Department of Space, and initiative will be taken to make Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Model University for Mountain Agricultural Education and Research (MAE&R). Trainings in S&T institutions for 30 to 50 scientists from the State every year for skills development can also be programmed. These trainings would get support in the form of fellowships, institutional charges, expenses for stay in University and research support besides international fellowships for 10 scientists of the State for oversee trainings in specialized areas. In response to a question, the Minister said that in Jammu and Kashmir the transmission and distribution losses account to 65 per cent and same eats into fiscal health of the State. "We would like to focus on this issue and at the same time efforts would be redoubled for generation of 15,000 mega watts of power. In this regard we have identified some projects with Bursar power project in Kishtwar being the front runner" the Union Minister of State said.


Apart from these steps from the centre, the State Government has woken up to the need and utility of spreading technical education to the wider sections of population. This should have happened at least three decades ago and is a belated act. Nevertheless, it is a very important and much needed step that should go a long way in overcoming the entrenched problem of unemployment among state youth especially of educated unemployed. Various studies conducted by government agencies as well as by philanthropic organizations have pointed out that one of the main reasons for the alienation of the youth in the State is their unemployment. Thus the government seems determined to tackle this problem in many ways. It is not possible for the government to provide government jobs to all the unemployed youth in the state though in past three decades, a fairly large number of youth have been provided government employment. There is a saturation point beyond which the government cannot go. Thus self-employment has been considered as the viable alternative and the government has made good exercise in the past to help youth get self-employed. But moving another step ahead, the government has take a very good initiative of providing opportunities to the youth of acquiring technical education and various skills. This is in addition to the schemes of self-employment.


In an address to the Board of State Technical Education,, the Minister for Technical Education and Youth Services announced that the Government planned to open 50 new IITs in far-flung and hilly areas and 142 Skill Development Centres in all the blocs of the State popularize technical education among the youth and achieving the set target of imparting technical education by 2022 under Integrated Skill Development Mission. The encouraging thing is that the Central government will be providing financial assistance for running these institutes. In addition, the process of setting up 18 new Polytechnics is going on in all the uncovered districts of the State under Integrated Skill Development Mission and the Centre is providing 12.30 crore for each polytechnic. This will change the complexion of entire youth community in the State once they find themselves equipped with various technical training courses and skills to earn likelihood without depending on the largesse of the government.


Yet the more interesting thing in this venture, according to the Minister of Technical Education is that the Government is adopting Public-Private Partnership mode to promote technical education. We know that private technical sector in the country is fairly advanced and modernized and can contribute fruitfully to the development of new parameters for the emerging technical population of the State. A reasonable mix of private-public sector will be highly profitable as it will also open vast scope for placements for the youth not only in the state but even outside the state. Thus its impact on national integration will be immense. There is no doubt that our state lacked far behind many other states in the country in providing technical base to our youth in the process of widening the scope of education. With the new scheme in hand the state government will overcome the deficiency. This is a viable means of improving economic condition of the state and ensuring that the youth will not be misled by politicians with selfish motives. The past experience in the valley and elsewhere has shown that unemployed youth can be easily manipulated. This should not be allowed to happen.


There are various programmes in the pipeline for engaging the state youth constructively in building a prosperous state. In a bold bid the government has already decided to bring education to even the remotest corner of the state. This is not an easy task to achieve because ours is a hilly state and a large number of people live in far off and remote places. To bring schools and colleges and even higher education to the people in these far removed areas is a real achievement. This has to be understood in a long term developmental plan of the state. We are planting the tree and it will take its time to grow and bear fruit.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN PARROTING UN RESOLUTIONS

MEN, MATTERS & MEMORIES

BY ML KOTRU

 

How stupid can you be, one might well ask the Pakistan Prime Minister, Gilani? Imagine the Prime Minister, harking back to the 1950's pulling out scraps of useless paper, and quoting the long-forgotten UN resolutions, now faded and barely readable and telling India that he would not settle for anything short of implementation of the UN resolutions to resolve the Kashmir dispute.


This, at a time when the Pakistan Prime Minister should have been tearing his hair apart over the most daring Taliban attack on the Mehran naval station in Karachi, destroying two prized surveillance Orion aircraft, killing security personnel, taking charge of the station, flanked on either side by the Pak Air Force base, for nearly 18 hours, leaving a trail of dead, security men and some their own behind.


The attackers were armed to the teeth, including rocket-propelled grenades, making mockery of Gen. Parvez Kayani's claims of how successfully he had contained the terrorist menace in the country. The facts fly into his face, for the Pakistani terrorists have made life "hell" for "us ordinary people" as a Karachiwallah blared into the TV anchor's mike. Right there, a couple of kilometers away from where the crackle of gunfire was still audible, Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister stood bemoaning the fact that "Pakistanis' blood and sweat has been reduced to ashes.' He was referring to the two Orions, given by the US, and was not unwilling to mention the usual suspect (India), mercifully adding that indigenous terrorists were very much among the suspects.
At the in-camera briefing for MNAs by the top military establishment in Islamabad a fortnight ago, India was again named as "enemy number one", Kayani clearly indicating that this remains the defining factor of his strategic policy. While the civilian government can distance itself from the ownership of the strategic policy, it has no excuse for not even trying to change the mindset that has allowed such policies to continue.
Gen. Musharraf, at the height of his power and glory had another take on the terrorist issue: "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Like Kayani he also believed that the terrorists were an asset, next only perhaps to the ISI. I remember someone asking Musharraf and his successor civilian government, if they would consider bringing the ISI under civilian control; an infuriated Mushraff said "no, never". In to his office only a few days Rahman Malik, the Interior Minister then replied "yes, of course". Only to force President Zardari to say nothing of the sort was contemplated. So last year when Kayani, under US pressure, agreed to set the Army after the Taliban insurgents, operating on the Pak-Afghan border, the cat was out of the bag: US convoys carrying arms and other supplies for American soldiers in Kabul were blown up and later to pass through the only land route link via Torkhum to Jalalabad etc.; the convoys would not be allowed to move, sometimes for three to four days.


The attack on Pak naval base reminds one of the attack on the GHQ in Rawalpindi in October 2009. It would be tragic if the Mehran attack does not bring about a change in the Army's attitude towards local terrorists. The attack on naval base was precedes by the one on the military headquarters, the killing of Osama bin Laden in a largish compound located next to the military academy in Abbotabad coming in between the two as an unprecedented challenge to the Pak Army. The Pakistan is a victim of home grown terror has not been denied. What the Pakistani leadership must understand is that terrorists cannot be assets, strategic or otherwise.
But I don't propose to fool myself by believing that Pakistan would do a course correction after the Abbotabad episode. The in-camera briefing for MNAs and the resolution reposing confidence in the armed forces was a telling reminder of how the security establishment in Pakistan can orchestrate even adverse events to its advantage.

While the civilian government can distance itself from authorship of strategic policy it has no excuse for not even trying to change the mindset that has allowed such policies to continue. The efforts, mainly because of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's obsession with paving the way for friendly relations with Pakistan will, one is afraid, remain a pipedream as long as the political leadership of that country - if there is one - does not ask the military to get rid of its anti-India obsession.


President Obama did try to convince Pakistan that it must try to mend fences with India for the sake of a region. India means well by Pakistan.


This was a direct message but apparently on one in Pakistan pays heed, not any more, it seems. Slowly and surely Pakistan has thrown all its eggs in the Chinese basket even as it continues to court American Congressmen to extract more aid/grants. The gullible American will be only to willing to part with a few more billions of dollars. And the sulking Parvez Kayani meantime hopes to fill in the vacuum after the withdrawal of most American troops from Afghanistan.


I wouldn't be surprised if the reported death of the one-eyed Mullah Omar in Afghanistan is the creation of Kayani's and Shuja Pasha's Machiavellian brain. If true, he will claim, credit for it, if untrue he would have fooled then into believing that the ruthless Mullah, a product one of Pakistan's biggest madrassas in Karachi, is under their watch. Either, way Gen. Kayani wishes to see the back of the Americans soon enough. He would then turn his attention to his enemy number one and that may also be the reason for Ali Zardari's Prime Minister to rake up the Kashmir issue and the long dead UN resolutions. The international conference on Kashmir which concluded in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir the other day appears to have been part of a well-orchestrated plan. Even the hardline separatist from the valley, Syed Ali Shah Geelani put in an appearance via a pre-recorded visual presentation.


Speaking as once upon a time Kashmiri I frankly don't see why any sensible Kashmiri Muslim would fall for the lure of Pakistan. The country of which the separatists want Kashmir (the valley) to be a part, is facing one of the worst phases of its life. Whether you like it or not, all the institutions in Pakistan are falling apart. Worse, they are pulling in different directions all driven, by personal ambition. The military of course remains the most powerful force. But if that really be so how come the Kayani-Shuja two some is allowing the terrorists to run a Dervish dance of sorts?


How come military establishments, big or small, are increasingly attracting the attention of the terrorists, unless it be part of Gen. Shuja Pasha, the ISI chief's grand strategy to show up the civilian Government as weak-kneed, unable to rise to the challenge of the Americans. The Chinese wouldn't really mind if the civilian government in Pakistan falls; the People's Liberation Army of China would be very comfortable in dealing the Kayani-Shuja axis.


How about the people of Pakistan? Never mind them, the good people; they have been witness to nearly 40 plus years of military rule. Another spell wouldn't be any different. Sometimes I wonder why the Pakistani Populace doesn't rise against its rulers. People from lesser Arab and North African nations have shown far more grit than the Pakistanis.


Look at Libya, Egypt, Tunis et al - people's power silencing so-called great armies led by ruthless dictators, all on the run. I per chance caught the Jordan King's Uncle, the late King Hussein's brother, considered a pragmatist and one who was originally scheduled to have ascended the Jordanian throne, telling a TV interviewer "there are no options left for Kings and dictators; they must immediately democratize the functioning of their regimes.' The wings of the standing armies, he was sure, would be clipped by the people. In the case of Pakistan my worry though is that the country has a substantially large nuclear arsenal, everyone is assuring everyone else that the nukes are under tight control. So far so good. What if some rogue elements, like the ones who attacked the Karachi naval base and even managed to destroy two Orion snooper aircraft among other things, choose to gain control of the nukes lying in Pakistani storages by the dozen.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

DANGER SIGNALS FOR UPA-2

BY KALYANI SHANKAR

 

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh completed his one -year in office in 2005, he gave himself six out of ten for his government's performance. At the end of seven years, how many marks will he give himself? Could it be four or five going by the number of scams the Government faced in the last two years? He will certainly agree that compared to the UPA 1, the record of UPA 2 has been dismal on several fronts.


Manmohan Singh Government celebrated its second birthday of UPA 2 on Sunday with promises of making course correction on certain issues. While the opposition has criticized the Government for its poor performance on several fronts including corruption and price rise, the Manmohan Singh Government has patted itself on its good performance with its favorable report card. The message from 7, Race Course Road on Sunday was that the UPA 2 had scored big by delivering stability, economic growth and social progress. However, the perception is that the Government is moving from one crisis to another, reacting to them on daily basis be it the 2 G Spectrum, Adarsh scam or Commonwealth Games. Even on economic reforms, the UPA 2 was dragging its feet on banking reforms, labor, insurance reform, GST and retail opening up despite the absence of the left parties in the UPA 2. The rising prices and soaring inflation are the two important things that should worry the Government.


The third year is a crucial year for any Government at the centre, as it will decide the course of the future direction. Realizing this, Prime Minister himself has admitted that there was a need for course correction.
What will be the challenges facing the Congress and the Government next year? Politically, the Telengana crisis is staring at the Government in the next few days and it is a volatile and sensitive issue. The Congress has to take a decision one way or the other and either way there is going to be trouble in Andhra Pradesh, which may lead to the President's Rule. The other immediate problem is to tackle the yoga Guru Swamy Ramdev, who is threatening to go on fast with about 50,000 of his followers on the black money issue. His demands like nationalization of assets, demonetization etc requires not only debate but also political will. Will the government yield to Ramdev's demand as it did on the Anna Hazare fast on the Lok Pal bill? The Government has to answer why it is not fulfilling it 2009 election promise to bring back the black money within 100 days of coming to power.


On the political side, preparations have already started for the 2012 crucial Assembly elections to UP and Gujarat. The party's concentration, aided by the centre will be totally on boosting its image. Singh started his third year by announcing compensation to the injured farmers in Bhatta Parsaul and Achchapur villages in Greater Noida whose cause the Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi has taken up in a big way. The Congress thinks that the proposed bills like the Lok Pal Bill, Food Security, Land Acquisition Bill and the Communal Harmony Bill may give some boost to the party and the Government.


The most important challenge is the image correction. Singh and Sonia Gandhi have taken note of the concern of the public on curbing corruption and black money. Some measures have been taken already and cases are going on against Raja, Kalmadi and others pertaining to some of the scams. These cases may bring out more embarrassing facts. The public is getting disenchanted with the Government.


To meet the challenges of land related issues, the centre will also have to pass the Land Acquisition Bill in the next session. The Government has to bring to Parliament other important bills like the Food security, communal harmony bill, Lok Pal bill and other controversial issues. There is a chance that it may even bring the jinxed women reservation bill before the UP polls. Facing a minority in the Rajya Sabha, each bill needs a formidable strategy for the floor managers. Even the UPA strength is razor thin now.


This is where the question of the stability of the Government comes in. The photograph of the leaders sitting in the dais on Sunday evening showed the real state of affairs. The DMK ministers boycotted the function to protest against Kanimozhi arrest, the party was represented only by its parliamentary party leader T.R. Balu. With the strained relationship between the Congress and the DMK it is only a question of days when the DMK will withdraw from the Government. The West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also did not attend the function leaving it to her parliamentary party leader Sudip Bandopadhyaya. Although the Trinamool Congress relationship is good at present, Mamata, with her mercurial behavior can give trouble on any issue. The NCP- Congress relationship is strained in Maharashtra affecting even convening of its cabinet meetings. The Government cannot depend on the support of the SP or BSP - both have high stakes in UP polls - to bail it out all the time. They will demand their pound of flesh and moreover, it may not suit them to be seen as supporting the Congress before the UP polls.


The other important challenge is tackling the price rise and inflation. While Singh has patted himself on his back on the 8 per cent economic growth last year or the prediction of an 8.5 per cent growth next year people are more worried as to the day to day problems of buying vegetables and rice and wheat. The frequent petrol and diesel price hike has affected this more. The price rise and inflation will adversely affect the prospects more than anything else.


There is still hope for the Congress as the left is still licking its wounds and the BJP is not yet ready. The opposition space is being taken by people like Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev, If the mid course correction is taken up with determination, there is some chance of survival for the Congress. (IPA)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TACKLING FOOD WASTAGE

BUILD EFFICIENT SUPPLY CHAIN

 

Food wastage is a matter of concern and the government is still struggling for a solution. Pained by the damage last year, the Supreme Court suggested free grain distribution among the poor. Now BJP leader and former Union Food Minister Shanta Kumar wants the government to give six months' ration to the poor in one go instead of the monthly supplies to cut the storage costs and waste. On the face of it, the idea looks attractive. However, the problem is the poor do not have the cash for bulk food purchases even at the highly subsidised rates. Secondly, those surviving on Rs 20 a day cannot be expected to spare money for storage arrangements.

 

In fact, even farmers are often forced to sell their entire produce to repay their debt, buy necessities or fund social ceremonies. Poverty is a hurdle. Then there is the problem of bulk transportation. The Railways is ill-equipped to meet the challenge. Grain stocks keep lying in the railway yards for months before these are moved out of Punjab, Haryana and western UP. Even the public distribution system is unable to handle large supplies. As things are, Mr Shanta Kumar's well-meaning suggestion, it seems, is impractical but those benefiting from diversion of subsidised PDS food items would welcome it.

 

The Centre has appointed a committee under Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen to study the feasibility of silos under the public-private partnership model. Given the large-scale pilferage and corruption in grain handling by government agencies, there is no alternative to encouraging private investment in building efficient supply chains, including warehouses, for carrying and storing not just food grains but fruits, vegetables and other perishable items as well. Eminent economist Kaushik Basu advocates food coupons for the poor for buying ration in the open market to avoide PDS and FCI corruption. Since the proposed food law will substantially inflate the government's food subsidy bill, there is need to put in place an efficient food management system.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BRIGHT ACHIEVERS

RESULTS SHOWCASE SMALL TOWN SUCCESSES

 

The names Prudhvi Tej Immadi, Shubham Mehta and Sumegha Garg have suddenly become familiar, as these youngsters have achieved instant fame after achieving top positions in the IIT-JEE results. They are all hard working and focused, as one has to be to achieve a rank in these tough entrance examinations, but they also have another thing in common — they belong to small towns.

Indeed, it is said that success has many fathers. There are many tuition institutions that claim these toppers as their own. Affirmative action programmes too have reason to be happy about the success of their students who belong to poor families. In fact, there has been a significant rise in the number of SC, ST and OBC candidates who have scored well enough to make it to the open category list. Celebrating the success of those who faced tremendous odds, should, however, not eclipse the achievement of those who were better off materially and lived in bigger cities. In the final analysis, it is evident that these achievers had the drive, born out of the will of bettering their lot, of going the extra mile and having the readiness to sacrifice immediate gratification for future gains that contributed immensely to their success at what is arguably the toughest entrance examination in the country.

Naturally, those who score high in this examination are the best and the brightest. It is a sign of the times that some of them are already looking at this as a stepping stone towards a career in the civil services. It is unfortunate that students with a future in engineering want to shift to civil administration. We must ask ourselves why professionals aspire to become civil servants, even as we celebrate the success of these world-class minds with a very bright future. The nation will, no doubt, be richer by utilising their talent effectively.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

MISSING DAUGHTERS

WHEN EDUCATION LEADS TO NEW KILLING WAYS

 

The data published online by the Lancet titled 'Trends in Selective Abortions of Girls in India from 1980 to 2010', which claims 4.5 million girls have gone missing in the last decade, rings the bells of another social evil — dowry, which has received social acceptance by a class that could have made the difference. Two decades back, young, educated women opposed the system of dowry. Women who refused to marry dowry seekers became role models. Before one realised, activism paved the way for social acceptance of the practice. New norms were forged. No one made any bones about lavish weddings where huge amount of money was spent and a tacit silence prevailed over matters of dowry. Now, everyone knows it is given and taken. We are living in the times of capitalism, which carries its own compulsions; material possessions define a person — not the manner in which they are procured.

 

One fears the same fate may befall the girls waiting to be born in this country. The debate has already lost its edge since the census data of 2011 has shown improvement in the situation, which has been questioned by eminent demographers like Ashish Bose on these very pages. Killing of female foetus has a direct co- relation with capitalism and its ever-growing demarcations on what is profitable and what is not, or, the perception of it. Since education and progressive laws ( against dowry and selective abortions) have failed to deliver what was expected of them — to empower women by restoring their dignity, only a strict implementation of these laws may salvage the fate of yet to be born girls. Because, as the report suggests, the more educated and moneyed the women are, the better equipped they are to kill their own daughters.

 

Implementers of these laws, unfortunately, are tied in the iron meshing of the same feudal mindset. In a study funded by UNFPA ( United Nations Population Fund), it was found that a worker of Asha NGO who is supposed to report on pre-natal test, herself likes to make use of the technology. She too is cut out of the same social fabric, where a woman is given acceptance to the elite mothers' club only when she begets a son.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

NEED FOR CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF

IT IS UNAVOIDABLE UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES

BY P.R. CHARI

 

There is timelessness about administrative reforms in India, which transcends the familiar cliché that all bureaucracies are conservative, but defence bureaucracies are the most conservative and resistant to change. India's defence decision-making apparatus was inherited from the British. But they established several commissions of inquiry after World War II to review and reform their defence establishment. By tradition the recommendations made by Royal Inquiry Commissions are generally accepted and implemented. Not so in India, where the reports of Administrative Reforms Commissions, Commissions of Inquiry, Task Forces, Groups of Ministers and so on are treated as suggestions for the government's consideration. Their reports are straightaway sent for comments to the very authorities that are to be reformed.

 

Little wonder that they have a loathing to change and find reforms to be anathema. Procrastination, therefore, is their first line of defence, followed by objections, preferably one at a time, to delay implementation. It is not surprising, since the bureaucracy is programmed to find a problem for every solution. The political leadership lacks commitment and is happy to let the difficult issues that underlie reforms to linger without decision. Therefore, these destitute reports languish until the efflux of time consigns them to gather dust in capacious cupboards.

 

These sad realities of the reform process in the sphere of defence were aired once again in a conference held recently in New Delhi. The occasion was the passage of a decade since the Group of Ministers (GoM) submitted their report to the Union Cabinet in 2001. The GoM was established by the Union Cabinet on the receipt of the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) Report in August 1999. It would be recollected that the KRC was constituted immediately after the Kargil conflict ended to deflect national criticism that India's armed forces were caught by surprise by the Pakistani intruders; only the valour and self-sacrifice of their younger officers had countered this failure of intelligence. Following the receipt of the KRC Report four GoMs were set up to study and make appropriate recommendations on intelligence, border management, internal security and defence.

 

Mercifully, no recommendations emerged from this conference to embarrass those who shall be arranging the next conference. Blame attribution too — civilians on the military, military on the civilians, and both civilians and the military on the political leadership — was kept to the bare minimum. A conscious effort was made to concentrate on the glass half-full rather than draw attention to the half-empty glass. This helped in reaching the unexceptional conclusion that much had been done, but much also remained to be done.

 

The centre-piece of the GoM Report on Defence, chaired by Mr Arun Singh, was its recommendation that a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) should be appointed to represent the collective views of the three Services, and provide single-point advice to the political leadership. He would also seek closer integration between the Ministry of Defence and Services Headquarters, while simultaneously promoting "jointness" within the armed forces. Additionally, the CDS, assisted by a Vice-CDS, would directly administer the joint commands for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and nuclear forces, coordinate planning activities and so on. Something has, without doubt, been done in all these directions, but these efforts remain half-hearted and sub-optimal. For instance, an Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) organisation has been set up within the Ministry of Defence, but its linkages with the ministry and Services Headquarters remain tenuous. The belief is rife that a posting in the IDS is only a stop-gap appointment before a more worthwhile posting becomes available. Similarly, "jointness" was designed to ensure effective combined arms operations. Little has been done, however, towards developing a joint operational doctrine, training and planning programmes, or even the culture to permit all this to happen.

 

Incidentally, the CDS was recommended by the GoM to replace the current Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), who is the senior-most among the Chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. This position rotates between the three Service Chiefs in terms of their seniority; in consequence, the Chairman, COSC, has no fixed tenure. In the matter of functioning, the Chairman, COSC, is only the first among equals, and is less than effective in dealing with the political leadership. Dark suspicions are voiced in the Services that the civilian bureaucracy has perpetuated this situation to keep the Services divided and unable to jointly represent the armed forces.

 

But this is an exaggeration, which became abundantly clear in the conference with the Indian Air Force strenuously voicing its objections to the CDS system. Their objections have a long history and have been traced back to the doubts expressed by Air Chief Marshal P.C. Lal in the early seventies. These objections derive from a long-standing angst in the Air Force and the Navy that a CDS from the Army would be insensitive to their interests since they are much smaller Services. On the other hand, the Army believes that a CDS from either the Navy or the Air Force would hardly carry any conviction since the strength of the India Army is roughly four times that of the other two Services combined. The great wonder is that this debate has continued for nearly four decades without reaching any conclusion.

 

It is rumoured that a second Group of Ministers may soon be discussing these issues. This is a welcome move. No reform process can succeed unless it is periodically reviewed to take stock of what has been accomplished and why what remains unaddressed has not been done. Hopefully, this GoM will address the paradox that only military or 'hard' security issues were considered by the first GoM, whereas non-military and human security issues have gained ascendancy over the last decade. Instrumentalities are important for security exercises to reach fruition; hence, the imperative need for a Chief of Defence Staff to advise on and implement national security decisions. Without a CDS India would be hoping to stage Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

ABOUT A FADED PASSION

BY B.K. KARKRA

 

I do not recall having seen a movie in a theatre since 1977 and so far as multiplexes are concerned, I do not even have any idea what they look like from inside. Of course, this was not the case with me in my childhood. I was then a different being.

 

Even before entering my teens I had got obsessed with films. In the late forties of the last century, actress Suraiya had emerged as the most sensational heroine of the silver screen. What added to her appeal was her prodigious singing talent — she was, for a while, rated ahead of Lata. I, however, found actress Nargis in a more perfect classical mould and got attracted to her.

 

By the age of 11, I had already acquired the capacity to write readable English. One can easily understand my euphoria when my letter to Nargis was thus able to elicit a reply from her under her own signatures.

 

She had, of course, written that she was happy to note that I wanted to become a film actor. She was, however, quick to add that it was, by no means, an easy life. I shot back in my next letter that I was determined to come good in this line however hard the life might be. This letter and a few more that followed from me got no reply. Her only letter that I received had to be kept hidden from my father. It is doubtful if he knew much about Nargis, but putting two and two together he would have come to know what I was up to. So the highly classified document remained secretly tucked in the sleeve of my 'pyjama' for many months, till it got dropped somewhere to my great dismay.

 

In the meantime, I got two of my friends interested in going to Bombay for a career in films. They were elder to me by good many years, yet I was their undisputed ring-leader. All three of us made to Mumbai, but only I could manage to meet Nargis. Not to speak of Sanjay who was yet to be born, even Sunil Dutt was not in the reckoning then.

 

Nargis lived in a ground floor apartment on the Marine Drive in a bungalow by the name of 'Chateau Marine'. I went to her place and was fascinated to see a nameplate on her door — Miss Fatima Rashid Nargis. Next, I used the abundant histrionic talents of a child when her servant tried to remove me from the place. So he had to take me inside. Once in, a kindly young girl (I was to see her later on the screen as Zubaida) led me by the hand straight to the bedroom of Nargis. We were, of course, asked post haste to wait in the drawing-room. Nargis appeared there after a few minutes. She looked much prettier than her image on the screen. She was able to talk me out of my obsession with the film career in minutes and send me back to pursue my course to the armed forces where I really belonged.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

JAN LOKPAL: CHANGING THE POWER STRUCTURE

THE LOKPAL BILL IS A SMALL STEP IN THE SHIFT OF A BIT OF POWER FROM THE POLITICAL CLASS, SUPPORTED BY BUREAUCRACY AND BUSINESS, IN FAVOUR OF THE PEOPLE. SUCH SHIFTS ARE NECESSARY FROM TIME TO TIME IN A DYNAMIC SOCIETY TO CORRECT IMBALANCES THAT CREEP IN OVER TIME

JAGDEEP S. CHHOKAR

 

The last time a corruption tsunami hit the country, it ended up with two significant changes. The time was the late 1980s, the trigger was Bofors. The changes were a move towards a federal polity from the unitary one prevalent since Independence, and the start of a change in the overall power structure in society, with the subaltern classes realising the strength of their numbers.

 

While the current "Bofors" are the Commonwealth Games, 2-G, mining, and the like, what changes will this current tsunami bring forth is not clear. Not being blessed with clairvoyance, one can only look at the game as it is being played and try to look for straws in the wind.

 

While the real changes will take time manifesting themselves, the current visible face of the saagar-manthan appears to be the Lokpal Bill. It is of course not clear whether, finally, the jinx of 42 years will be broken and there will be a Lokpal, and in what form, but the societal dynamics of power are fascinating.

 

Continuing the practice started with the fourth Lok Sabha in 1969 and another six attempts, the government innocently prepared yet another draft of the Lokpal Bill in October 2010. This is what seems to have now acquired a life of its own, inviting sobriquets such as "monster", "Leviathan", "beacon of hope". Why is it causing such extreme reactions?

 

Assume that a potentially effective Lokpal Bill gets passed and is also implemented in the right spirit, who will get affected, and how? Those who benefit from corruption are likely to face a cut to their monetary inflows, and those who have to pay to get their legitimate dues are likely to gain. Admittedly, this is a simplistic formulation but will do, given the space constraints.

 

Again, who benefits from corruption the most? The proverbial common citizens who pay bribes benefit by getting their job done, but the one who gets the bribe to do the job benefits more. Who are these beneficiaries?

 

The nexus of the political class, bureaucracy and business is too well known to need explanation. Liberalisation has not broken this nexus but has only changed some of the dramatis personae. The avalanche of opposition to the Jan Lokpal Bill leaves no room for doubt that the opposition is intense and organised. All forms of the traditional saam, daam, dand, bhed are being used to discredit the whole attempt and the very idea that any one other than these three sectors of society can even think of having a say in the law-making process.

 

The politicians, being the kingpin of this nexus, possibly have the most to lose. Actually all the Jan Lokpal movement has done so far is to create a mere whiff in the minds of politicians that it just might be possible for someone to challenge their completely unfettered hegemony over matters of the state for the period between two elections. This mere whiff seems to have unsettled the political class so much that all manner of stratagems are being used to nip this audacity of common folk in the bud.

 

And what of these common folk? Their tragedy is that they need someone to "represent" them, as 1.2 billion people seemingly cannot express themselves except through their representatives. The actual representativeness of the elected representative is in some doubt despite the euphoria at the outcome of the recent state assembly elections. The other claimant to representing the common folk is what used to be called the "civil society", which now, in some people's lexicon, has become a bad word.

 

Who, or what, is this "civil society"? Without going into an academic discourse, these are supposed to be people who do things for general, public good without the expectation of a tangible payoff, in contrast to those who get some return from doing public good, such as salary for bureaucrats, exercise of state power for politicians. It is a large, diverse, and complex mass of people, usually self-proclaimed do-gooders.

 

While doing selfless service, they are not free from usual human weaknesses, and therefore amenable to manipulation by those who have high stakes. How, and by what means is manipulation done depends on who is to be manipulated. In true Chanakyasque style, our politicians have mastered this art. Two well known techniques being "divide and rule", and a law often attributed to Parkinson, "Delay is the deadliest form of denial."

 

The political class seems to have succeeded in convincing some significant parts of civil society that the Lokpal Bill being an extremely important piece of legislation, needs to be discussed in every district, taluka, block headquarters before it can be considered seriously, the real agenda of course being to delay the process so that the commitments made to get the Jantar Mantar fast broken can be progressively diluted ad infinitum.

 

What needs to be remembered is that this bill is a small step in the shift of a bit of power from the political class supported by the bureaucracy and the business, in favour of the people. Such shifts are necessary from time to time in a dynamic society to correct imbalances that creep in over time. The side that stands to lose even a bit of its power is bound to resist. It is for the countervailing forces to keep themselves together if any shift, however small, is to take place.

 

The game is on, let's keep watching.

 

The writer is a former professor, Dean, and Director In-charge of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

DON'T MAKE LOKPAL A SUPER COP

KAMALJIT SINGH GAREWAL

 

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption [2004] promotes and strengthens measures to effectively combat corruption. It supports international co-operation and technical assistance to fight corruption and helps in asset recovery. The convention also promotes integrity, accountability and proper management of public affairs and public property.

 

Money from corruption finances organised crime, international terrorism and drug trafficking. Corruption money is first laundered, then moved across international borders with ease to tax havens where it is difficult to reach. While in the country of its origin it is concealed income on which no tax is paid. It soon returns to the country to fuel the economy, leading to more corruption. It is an ever ending spiral.

 

Very few public men have been tried for possessing disproportionate assets. We have been obsessed with bribery corruption which is very local in nature. Only recently have we been taking an interest in investigating real high-end corruption of the CWG and 2G variety which has a global dimension. The previous brush with this kind of global corruption – the Bofors case – did not even go to trial because the investigation was scuttled.

 

We must carefully think our way through the issues of corruption and the new Jan Lokpal Bill. We need an exacting, and a precise law with a fresh set of rules and standards to judge the behaviour of public men. We need quick investigation, trial and confiscation of property. The recovery of assets must be central to the new law. The recovery of stolen assets has been singled out as a fundamental principle of the UNCAC. The World Bank has found that corruption is the single greatest obstacle against economic and social development. The UNCAC is a document of unprecedented scope and application and we must draw heavily from it in drafting the Jan Lokpal Bill. India has ratified the UNCAC after a long unexplained delay of six years.

 

All misconduct by public men is not corruption but all corrupt actions have an element of misconduct. Unfortunately the system neither detects nor punishes deviant behaviour. Alarm bells should sound when deviation from well-defined and publicised ethical and moral standards occurs. All public servants are expected to know and observe a high level of integrity. However, when they deviate from these standards, they escape detection. And graduate to the next level of misconduct.

 

Typical misconduct by public servants can be categorised in three ways: Criminal misconduct or misconduct with criminal intent, administrative misconduct and administrative lapse. Each must have a different remedy but the public servant who misconducts himself, criminally or administratively in the discharge of his official duty, must never go unpunished. Therefore, the way forward is: Prosecute criminal misconduct, departmentally award major penalty for administrative misconduct and minor penalty for administrative lapse.

 

Some basic principles should be clearly understood before designing the legislation to deal with corruption. A Lokpal (akin to Ombudsman) is the recipient of complaints. His work must remain confidential, never open to public. Inquiries he conducts should be confidential, names of public officials complained against, witnesses and documents examined should not be put in public domain until the Lokpal has taken a final decision. The Lokpal may find the complained act to be short of a criminal offence because it lacks criminal intent but it may all the same be administrative misconduct or lapse.

 

Protection for whistleblowers is essential. It will encourage people to come forward and provide information about corruption. But occasionally a public official who himself is in the dock may masquerade as a whistleblower and get protected. Care should be taken to separate pseudo whistleblowers from the real ones

 

On receiving the complaint and after examining and verifying its contents, the Lok Pal will have to decide the course of action, whether or not to act on the complaint. If he decides to proceed, he may send the complaint for a detailed criminal investigation which may lead to prosecution. Or the complaint may be sent to the Head of Department for departmental proceedings against the public official. If the case relates to complicated financial matters then the complaint could be sent to the CAG to carry out a special audit for detecting irregularities. For minor complaints of administrative lapses a mechanism for examining the ethical angle of the administrative action should be in place through a scheme of Ethics Commissioners.

 

The Lokpal too must observe a code of conduct. There is a well-recognised international Code of Ethics for Ombudsmen. The Ombudsman shall be truthful and act with integrity, shall foster respect for all members of the organisation he or she serves, and shall promote procedural fairness in the content and administration of those organisations' practices, processes, and policies. The Ombudsman is independent in structure, function and appearance to the highest degree possible within the organisation.

 

While selecting the Lokpal due regard should be given to geographical distribution, gender balance and a fair representation to OBCs, SCs and STs. Do not design the Lokpal as a super cop-cum-prosecutor, or a super judge. The various clauses of the draft Lokpal Bill, 2010, empowers the Lokpal to cancel licences and leases, blacklist contractors, pass interim orders staying the implementation of decisions, transfer public servants, recommend interim relief and declare vacant post occupied by the public servant. It will have to be seen whether such orders can be passed by the Lokpal without hearing the affected party and without a provision for appeals.

 

The Lokpal drafting panel must ensure that the constitutional provisions of Articles 14, 21, 311 are not violated. The doctrines of judicial review, separation of powers and basic structure are respected. To pass such orders without hearing the individuals concerned would be a great travesty of justice. If the Lokpal steps into the arena of investigation and prosecution, he would be doing something that due processes of law frown upon. There could well be a constitutional clash between the Lokpal's brief to tackle corruption and the fundamental rights of citizens. Such a legal battle would defeat the very purpose of the new Act. We need the Lokpal who function as a true ombudsman — independent, neutral, impartial, fair, just and discreet – and not as a quixotic knight in shining armour.

 

The writer is a Judge of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal

 

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

EDITORIAL

SELF-GOAL

T N NINAN

A lot of people talk about India rising," Barack Obama declared in November when in Mumbai. "But, in our view, India has already risen." Even such obvious flattery is music to Indian ears, because the average Indian remains hungry for endorsement by the rest of the world — that a country "long suppressed" has arrived again on the world stage. It is after all the second-fastest growing economy, a member of the G20, a pillar of BRICS, and a claimant to permanent membership of the Security Council.

However valid the revivalist narrative might be, there has always been a vulnerable underbelly to the story of India Shining: massive poverty, and "under-development" on many fronts (the largest number of poor people, the largest number of malnourished people, the largest number of illiterates, the largest number of blind people...). You can sense the unstated position in many minds around the world that India is running ahead of itself, that it is confusing potential with achievement, and that its leadership role in world affairs is yet to be demonstrated. The less charitably inclined will also have been muttering "arriviste".

 

If the country needed a wake-up call, it has got it in the run-up to choosing a new managing director of the International Monetary Fund. First, there was the small matter that its favoured candidate for the post was over-aged — a fact ignored for several days amidst expectant speculation. It now turns out that China, while seeming to go along with the BRICS position that the choice should not automatically go to a European, has done a deal while quietly offering support to the French candidate. There is a precedent worth recalling: the election of the United Nations secretary-general. The government backed Shashi Tharoor's candidature when he had little hope of winning because the US preferred a candidate from another "risen" country with whom it has a military alliance, South Korea. India, in comparison (and rightly so), seeks strategic autonomy in international relations.

Such tactical mistakes are not without cost. If it turns out that China has in fact done a deal, securing the No. 2 position at International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its national as quid pro quo for supporting Christine Lagarde, then India has scored an own goal. From the perspective in New Delhi, a European or American would have been preferred in that position, rather than a Chinese. Indeed, the prime minister is known to have argued in the past that having a European at the head of the IMF has served India well. What might happen in the IMF could be a precursor of other things to come. Pushing for re-ordering the global order, and a declining role for the West, means that the default country that gets to fill the power vacuum will be China — which after all has an economy thrice as big as India's, a much greater role in world trade, a pivotal place in the currency market, and much else.

BRICS solidarity is also a double-edged sword. In the Doha Round of trade talks, the rich countries have been able to drive a wedge between "emerging markets" like India and the more numerous poor economies, by pointing out that the two groups' interests are not synonymous. In a recent meeting of the World Trade Organisation, some of the fiercest criticism of BRICS positions came from poor countries in Africa. In short, India should be careful about what it wishes to achieve in international affairs and how it leverages group dynamics; it might well get what it asks for — only to discover that the earlier arrangement was more to its advantage.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

WANTED: A FLEXIBLE FOOD SECURITY PLAN

SHUBHASHIS GANGOPADHYAY

The Right to Food Act is well intentioned, but a rigidly mandated approach may pre-empt more efficient solutions emerging in the future

In a right-to-development approach, citizens are given some basic rights by the government of the country. One such right is freedom from hunger, which has prompted the move towards a Food Security Act. Various people have debated and discussed what an appropriate approach for such an Act should be and the National Advisory Council (NAC) has put up a draft Bill on its website. I have read the draft and am a bit worried about whether it will solve our problems of hunger and starvation.

 

The first thing that bothers me is the gap between the philosophy of the rights approach and what the proposed Act is trying to do. The right to freedom from hunger is a right of every citizen, regardless of class, colour, creed, community and, of course, gender. If, as a society, we accept this, one would expect the Act to operationalise this in a way that ensures that there is nobody, rich and poor alike, who wants food but is unable to get it. However, the NAC draft starts with who are eligible and who are not! And so, we have a priority group, a general group and an excluded group. In other words, we are treating the right to freedom from hunger very differently from, say, a citizen's right to security. Imagine if we had a police system that said that basic law and order would be maintained at a low cost (even free) for very poor citizens and the very rich, or the excluded group, will have to buy security at market prices! It sounds ridiculous when we put it this way, but if we want to have a Food Security Act then we should be thinking about what we are trying to do in a more appropriate way. Otherwise, we can make such laws every time we want to do something and redraft every policy into an Act. In other words, our current approach is diluting the significance of the concept of freedom from hunger.

Of course, the draft Bill describes the three groups for the purpose of operationalising food security through the public distribution system and it does not say that the excluded group does not have the right to freedom from hunger. So, my criticism may sound a bit forced. But, as I demonstrated with the example about the police, giving differential access to the police force for different groups of people is, indeed, similar to what is being proposed here for food security.

Historically, the public distribution system was for food security and everyone was given access to the system; recall that at one time everyone got a ration card and could lift from ration shops whatever they were entitled to, without having to prove how rich they were. The concept of having different entitlements for those above and below the poverty line is a much more recent phenomenon.

The second problem I have with the draft Bill is that it tells us how exactly to implement this. In other words, the state and central governments will not only have to ensure that there is food security but they will also have to make sure that it will be done through a revamped public distribution system in which procurement is decentralised. In other words, it not only enacts an outcome, it also enacts the process by which to reach the outcome. What if some large cities do so effectively through food stamps or cash transfers? Going back to the issue of general security, this is tantamount to specifying the rules and regulations of the state police forces, how the police should be recruited and how each police station should function being written down in a central Act. This reminds me of the compulsory use of CNG in commercial vehicles that became a part of the Delhi law (thanks to a court judgment). There, not only did the court manage to reduce pollution, it also said exactly how to do it. What happens if there is a better alternative than CNG to reduce pollution? How will that alternative be developed when the cost of introducing it includes the cost of having to change the law into allowing non-CNG alternatives? So, while the CNG Act reduced pollution in Delhi, it also reduced the incentives to develop better alternatives to reduce pollution.

The approach here is very similar to what we did before 1991. Using our knowledge and understanding, we bind ourselves to do the right thing. What we forget to take stock of is that our knowledge is restricted to what we know and understand today. How do we account for what we will know tomorrow? How will we experiment with new things? During our "planning" phase, we had brilliant experts explaining what should be produced, how it should be produced, for whom it should be produced, and how this should be done. Instead of enabling change, we tried to mandate change and it did not work.

We have brilliant people in the NAC, and nobody doubts that. But I am unwilling to accept that theirs is the last word for all time to come. I do not doubt their scepticism about other known ways of implementing food security. However, I am sceptical about them deciding for future generations how food security is to be implemented. Enacting a process into law prevents changes in the process unless the law is amended. This hampers efficiency changes in processes. We thought like this during the license raj and it was a mistake as we now know. I do not see any reason not to learn from past mistakes.

The thinking behind the Food Security Act shows that we can be bold. The thinking behind its implementation should be equally bold and more enabling.

The authors is research director, India Development Fund

 

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

BHUTAN'S FAMILY AFFAIR

SUNIL SETHI

A few days in Bhutan can engender a decidedly out-of-this-world feeling, a sense of being afloat in Ruritania. It is a combination of the high thin mountain air, deeply forested slopes crowned with towering dzongs, plunging to swiftly running rivers and a friendly populace universally attired in their vivid traditional costumes. But if one was looking for additional romance this summer, it was made public on May 20, when the kingdom's 31-year-old monarch, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, announced his intention to marry 21-year-old Jetsun Pema in his opening address to Parliament. "As King, it is now time for me to marry," he said before extolling the virtues of his would-be bride. People may have a preconception of the attributes of a future Queen, that she should be uniquely beautiful, intelligent and graceful. "I cannot say how she might appear to the people," he added. "But to me she is the one."

Next morning, in a Himalayan take on the William-weds-Kate celebrations, the papers carried glossy pin-ups of the royal couple, soon displayed in the shops and bars around Thimphu's main square. Jetsum Pema seems a suitable match for the subcontinent's only sovereign ruler: of noble birth, she was educated at Lawrence School, Sanawar, and Regents College, London. When she becomes Queen in October, she will, in the somewhat confusing shorthand applied to Bhutan's living kings and queens (and to differentiate one from the other), most likely be known as "Q 5". That is because there are four queens – or queen mothers – already, informally referred to as Q 1 to Q 4 in order of seniority, the present king's father, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, having married four sisters in one go in 1979. In 2006, Jigme Singye abdicated prematurely in favour of his son Jigme Khesar, so there are two kings, known respectively, rather like mountain peaks, as "K 1" and "K 2".

 

To the outsider, this is but a small example of the complex codes that govern Bhutan's social and political hierarchies, or its religious iconography and rituals that encompass both Buddhist and animist beliefs, or its powerful pantheist imagery that imbues every mountain, river, cave and temple with spirits, fierce and benign. In her book Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A Portrait of Bhutan, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, the First Queen or Q 1, compellingly describes her journeys, on mule back and on foot, and the people and adventures she encountered, terrestrial and other-worldly, in far-flung parts of the country's arduous terrain.

Ashi Dorji is a charismatic figure, and chief patron of Mountain Echoes, the second edition of the annual litfest that ended in Thimphu this week. She is as much at ease with medalled generals as with mystic lamas, glitzy Shobhaa De, foreign journalists and members of Bollywood's bright young brigade who descended in Bhutan, engaged in talking shops, gawping at its natural wonders and mulling over the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which has been the country's credo since it was made famous in a speech by K 1 several years ago.

This year, however, both Ashi Dorji and Bhutan's suave Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley, although adhering to the principles of GNH as a measure of development philosophy, were striking a cautionary note. It is one of those catch-all phrases that means all things to all people, and has perhaps been knowingly oversold. Happiness or contentment being a quotient that is material as well as metaphysical, the prime minister admitted the difficulty in quantifying the results of elaborate population surveys undertaken to measure GNP ("Very happy?" 45.2 per cent. "Happy?" 51.6 per cent. "Not very happy?" 3.2 per cent).

It was only three years ago that Bhutan held its first general election. Many voters needed explanations and much persuasion to exercise their franchise. The Opposition's presence in Parliament is tiny. Getting into its stride as a constitutional monarchy, Bhutan will have to get used to the idea of being perceived as an extended family affair.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

GUNTER GRASS PLAYS CAT AND MOUSE

V V

Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it."
– Gabriel Garcia Marquez: (Living to Tell the Tale)

Gunter Grass, who won the Nobel Prize in literature (1999), has been obsessed with history. Most of his novels and writings harked back to World Wars, rounded off with his last memoir, Peeling the Onion (2007), which covered the period from Mr Grass' youth during World War II up to the publication of his triumphant debut novel The Tin Drum (1959). Peeling the Onion met with a stormy reception because of its revelation that, as a 17-year old conscript, Mr Grass had served with the Nazi SS. Like a philosopher, stripping away from matter its form, colour, taste in search of an ultimate reality, Mr Grass discovered that as matter disappeared, he, too, had no inner core to speak of. In a delightful sequel to Peeling the Onion, Mr Grass has now come with The Box: Tales from the Darkroom (Harvill Secker, special Indian price, Rs 699), which collates the voices of his eight children that record the memories of their childhoods, of growing up, of their father who was always at work on a new book, always at the margins of their lives.

 

The novel opens with an invitation. "Once upon a time there was a father who, because he had grown old, called together his sons and daughters – four, five, six, eight in number – and finally convinced them, after long hesitation, to do as he wished. Now they were sitting around a table and begin to talk at once, all products of their father's whimsy, using words he put into their mouths, yet obstinate, too, determined not to spoil his feelings despite their love for him."

When the book was published in Germany in 2008, Mr Grass left absolutely no ambiguity about the process of writing the novel: there were no dinners, no conversations with his children and no recordings. It was all a matter of perspective, of memory, "the unreliable handmaiden of the past", or, as he said it in the opening lines of Peeling the Onion: "Today, as in years past, the temptation to camouflage oneself in the third person remains great." The story, then, is told in the third person with irregular verbs and always in the future tense!

The Box consists of nine chapters presented as the edited but casually conversational transcripts over a series of family reminiscences. The 80-year-old father had asked his children to let loose their memories without caring about his feelings; to record themselves as they would like to be remembered. Most of the story is a rehash of their own everyday lives as seen through their own recollections. There's not much of the father here who leads a parallel existence, typing away in the attic while the family's life takes place in the nearby rooms.

The children feel lonely and superfluous, as often happens in a family when the father is always away at work. "He told me, and the rest of you too, no doubt, when you were little: 'We'll play later, when I have time. Right now, I have to work something through, something that can't wait."' As one child explains, "What working it through meant, was one book after another."

How did the children look upon the father's books? That book about "dogs and scarecrows", "the one with a talking fish", and "the short book that followed a long one". Revelations in Peeling the Onion are dismissed as "all that Nazi stuff' which meant nothing to them because it didn't affect their lives in any way. In any case, children are never fascinated by the novelties of adults.

Children can also be brutally frank about their opinions and that Mr Grass allows them to be so is partly because he had raised this question in his 1979 essay, "What shall we tell our children?" that in some ways detailed the germination of this book. And this was followed by "From the Diary of a Snail", which was inspired by his children's constant questions about the world. "When my book was finished," Mr Grass had said, "all the children had grown older. By then they could have read it. But they don't want any old stories." Hence the reason for this box of new stories.

The European novel, unlike the English, is never anything except an idea expressed in images. And no story is ever told as if it is the only one. There are stories within stories that between the lines raise questions about life itself. So, it is here. The Box ultimately raises these questions about the fundamental significance of Mr Grass' writings. It is not a memoir, nor is it a mix of fact and fiction where experience is "totally transformed". Mr Grass uses his gift as a storyteller to assess the past, whether this means history in a broad sense, or as here, personal and family history that becomes a microcosm of the world at large. But the past is something that you have to come to terms with because the past is never quite past.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

CRACKING THE CONSULTANT-SPEAK

A B

Technology may be one of the fastest changing industries in the world today but giving it pretty stiff competition is the world of language. Phrases go in and out of fashion, and often at a bewildering pace for those of us who are slow to adapt.

Take for instance, the incredible world of consultants and their corporate speak. I have never quite managed to understand what most of these creatures are trying to say to me at the best of times — despite having met many top consultants over the years in all the Big Four and a few of the smaller ones as well.

 

"The key deliverables in this piece were leveraged by us to the maximum and we were able to push the envelope by going in for an accelerated strategic dialogue." My blank stare in return to this valuable insight has often led them to patiently – and rather slowly, like when speaking to a mentally-challenged person – try and repeat their sentence. I have often just stopped short of saying: "Would you mind repeating this in English please?" realising quickly that the humour may well be lost on their perfectly pressed pink shirts and sharp blue ties. It has taken a lot over the years to hold a straight face while they hold forth or expunge on "moving the goalposts" or "blue-sky thinking", which will help them reach a "win-win situation" or prevent "taking a haircut".

There have been times when I was tempted to say: "We need to prioritise and action a structural adjustment of the way in which our dialogue is executed, ceteris paribus, so that the meaning deficit that is apparent to any impartial observer can be minimised. Or the next step for me to do will be to move my chair, if not the goalposts, and do some blue-sky gazing of my own."

So you can imagine my delight when I walked into one of their offices to meet someone the other day and came across two long lists of "phrases to be avoided" pinned up on one of their notice boards — a directive, it would appear, from no less than the headquarters of the firm in question.

Consultants in this particular firm have been asked to no longer "think out of the box", or to "touch base" or to bring stuff to the table — barring, I presume, their lunch boxes and so on. There will be no "key underpinnings" and no more being "client or results centric". Paradigms hopefully will stop "shifting", making us all a little less giddy. Coffee will be smelt all through the day not just when one has woke up. And "at the end of the day", there are some "free lunches". I know because I have had some.

They have been expressly told to skip using "key components", "key deliverables" and even "key points or projects". There will be no "key strategic trade-offs". People will no longer "work in silos", indeed if they ever work at all. Neither can they any longer deliver "cutting edge" results "24X7" or "know which levers to pull". You can imagine their distress at being told that they have to stop "leveraging" anything they can lay their hands on.

They have been asked to stop short of "adding value", especially in situations where they refuse to elaborate on what value they are adding. No more use of the word "space" when used in the context "we have a lot of experience in this space". Surface will be just a plain surface like of a table or a desk — not "why did you fail to surface". Pieces will be pieces of the kind we are all familiar with (like a piece of a cake or a pie) and "not the marketing piece or the advertising piece", which none of us mortals can decipher.

No one can any longer "miss the boat" (they'd better be alert for the final gong), they have to avoid "managing expectations" or "taking it offline" anymore. Everyone will no longer be "on the same page" — forget page, even everyone in the same room would have made things pretty cramped to start with. But no more "peeling back the onion" or "punching above one's weight", whatever those meant to start with.

I don't know what you think but the key takeaway for me from all this is that at this rate – or at least till they work out a brand new language code – we're going to have a bunch of far more silent consultants than ever before (correct me if I am wrong in usage but to my mind "it's a no brainer"), which may just turn out to be a good thing in retrospect for "the India story".

Postscript
I sent this piece to a consultant friend and here's the response I got : "This is a major "call to action" - clearly consultants and their clients and others don't see "eye to eye". I must now "get all my ducks in a row", "jump ship" and find a new "white space" in which to "'create a differentiated niche" for myself. I need to severely "cut my losses", build a brand new "roadmap" and make some "key strategic trade offs". I am going to go batty, now that I have no "deliverables", or 'key performance metrics' to measure my progress with.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

THE MOTHER OF ALL REVENGE

ADITI PHADNIS

Vendetta is part of TN politics and Jayalalithaa drinks an extra shot of it every day

It is a fact that Kodanadu, located in the hilly Nilgiris district, is a cool place but this does not mean that people living here are taking rest without doing anything," wrote Jayalalithaa ahead of the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. Kodanadu is an estate in the Nilgiri hills that she and her friend Sashikala own. Much of the AIADMK strategising was done in Kodanadu. Those who criticised her for spending most of her time there are now looking foolish, after the AIADMK's stupendous Assembly election victory.

 

Obviously, post-victory demolition was part of the strategy because true to form, Jayalalithaa is systematically legacy-smashing most initiatives of her predecessor, M Karunanidhi. He had constructed a magnificent Rs 1,100-crore, oval-shaped new secretariat-cum-assembly complex, turning the 300-year-old Fort St George secretariat into a library for the Central Institute For Classical Tamil Studies. At what was meant to be the last session of the Assembly in the historic building he slyly reminded members of the past. "This Assembly hall here has seen many good things and also several unpleasant episodes. But let us not dwell on the bad things as we move into our new House, so that we stay more focused on the problems of the people and of the nation," Karunanidhi said in his speech at the "final" session of the Assembly.

Among the "bad things" that happened in the Assembly, Jayalalithaa can never forget at least one. In 1989, when the DMK was in power, Jayalalithaa got up to interrupt Karunanidhi's Budget speech, complaining of police harassment ordered by the CM. As the House erupted Karunanidhi said something unparliamentary about Jayalalithaa that made her MLAs furious. Microphones were flung from one side of the Assembly to the other, with chappals and books following; Budget papers were torn in half and the Speaker ruled that the House was adjourned. As Jayalalithaa was walking out, the DMK's minister for public works, Durai Murugan, caught hold of her sari and tried to tear it off her as she cried for help.

Although then Jayalalithaa declared she would never enter the Assembly again until she was sure a woman's dignity would be protected, she has attended Assembly sessions subsequently. But now, when she is CM, Fort St George is the building that represents revenge — not some new structure that will always be a reminder of Karunanidhi. Little wonder then that she has refused to move into the new building — and gave her MLAs the licence, for one night on May 13, to do as they wanted in the new secretariat, including sitting and sleeping in the CM's room.

She is making her moves at her leisure. The first set of government decisions is the freebies she had promised — mostly women-centric. But the promise of nationalisation of private cable networks will hit the Sumangli network the hardest — and that is owned by the Maran family, nephews of Karunanidhi.

Although vendetta is a part of Tamil Nadu politics, Jayalalithaa drinks an extra shot of it every day. She has a right to be bitter. The only authoritative accounts of her early life are contained in an autobiographical series of articles in Tamil magazine Kumudam. Entitled Manamtirandu Solrain (I am baring my heart), the series talks about her early life, the abject poverty her family had to face and as a result, how she was pushed into the world of cinema by her mother. The series breathes bitterness at her early life, the relentless discipline of learning dance, music and acting, a robbed youth and the circumstances of her father's death.

The Kumudam series also talked of her fascination with cricket. Then, as she embarked on an account of her association with Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran (MGR), the series ended abruptly. The last one was called Manamtirandu Sollamudiyallay (I an unable to speak from the heart). This was when MGR intervened and ordered her to stop writing.

Her association with MGR began with the film Aayirathil Oruvan (One in a Thousand), in which he was a Robin Hood type of figure – a pirate – who was dashing and adventurous. Despite a 32-year age difference, the pair clicked and the film was a runaway hit.

She once said poignantly: "One third of my life was influenced by my mother; two thirds by MGR. It is all but gone now. A third is left for myself now." MGR made her propaganda secretary in the AIADMK. He sent one of his associates to coach her in public speaking. Jayalalithaa learnt fast — and was soon on an upward political trajectory that many in the party resented. She was banished to Delhi on an ostensible promotion — membership of the Rajya Sabha. She was lonely here, and MGR had fallen critically ill but she was not allowed to see him. She returned to Tamil Nadu when he died in 1987 only to be thwarted by his widow Janaki. However, it was Jayalalithaa that the people of the state supported when she was forced off the gun carriage that carried MGR's body, humiliated and molested. She became CM from 1991 to 1996, the period when both she and her friend Sasikala were haunted by corruption charges.

Sasikala continues to be a fixture at Poes Garden. But everything else has changed. True, Karunanidhi is now more vulnerable than before; but the ambient atmosphere is much less tolerant to corruption and defalcation of public money. So moves made by her and her immediate "family" need to be watched.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

PUSH FOR HIGHER FARM OUTPUT

Greater attention to raising farm output and an efficient safety net for the poor are simple yet effective tools to fight inflation.

Having met with little success in reining in inflation, New Delhi has no reason to feel smug over the recent declines in prices of select commodities such as crude and copper in the international market. It could well be the 'calm before the storm'. The bullish outlook for commodities stems from a combination of supportive factors. Global growth signals have maintained their positive trend in recent months though, as the OECD points out, global recovery is taking place at different speeds across regions. Advanced economies and emerging markets follow diametrically opposite monetary policies, ranging from the US' near-zero interest-rate-driven loose money policy to China's sustained strategy of monetary tightening to fight inflation. India too has been tightening bank credit at regular intervals.

As for commodities — energy products, base and industrial metals as well as agriculture — the demand-supply fundamentals are tilted on the side of dearer prices. Demand for crude, for instance, continues to be robust while supply-side uncertainties are far from resolved. Geopolitical instabilities, especially in the MENA region, are fuelling volatile crude prices that are fostering inflation across nations. In industrial and base metals too, demand is picking up in developed markets as well as emerging economies in Asia and elsewhere. In major producing countries such as the US and China, agriculture is facing weather-related challenges. Worse, the world market entered 2011 with a low grains inventory that runs the risk of further depletion. Add to this the unabated flow of speculative capital into the derivatives market — total funds deployed an estimated $300 billion — and it is clear a directional change in commodity prices would only be upside. If there is a downside, it is the risk to economic growth, resulting from further increases in oil and commodity prices, which could feed into core inflation; a stronger-than-projected slowdown in China; the unsettled fiscal situation in the US and Japan; and renewed weakness in housing markets in many OECD countries. Financial vulnerabilities remain in the euro area, in spite of strong adjustment efforts underway in some countries.

It would be perilous if our policymakers ignored these global cues. A significant part of India's inflation is imported in the form of high-priced crude oil. Our actual import volumes (159 million tonnes in 2010) far exceeded the Eleventh Plan projections. It is the same with agriculture, languishing at an annual average growth rate way below the Plan target of 4 per cent a year; yet, there has been no attempt to initiate remedial action. Inflation hurts the poor the hardest. Greater attention to raising the indigenous farm output and an efficient safety net for the poor are simple yet effective tools to fight inflation.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

DOUBLE BENEFIT FOR SALARIED CLASS

T. C. A. RAMANUJAM

Deduction for contribution to the National Pension Scheme in the hands of the employer and exclusion of such contributions in computing exemption for Sec 80C is a morale booster for employer and employee.

The New Pension Scheme (NPS) was introduced by the Union Government in 2003. According to the new scheme, employees appointed on or after January 1, 1994 will contribute 10 per cent of their Pay and Dearness Allowance to the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority under the Ministry of Finance. An equal amount will be contributed by the Centre. The scheme is mandatory for Government employees, but optional for other citizens of India. NPS merely declared that tax benefits would be applicable as per the Income Tax Act 1961 as amended from time to time.

The New Section 36(1

The Finance Act, 2011 has inserted a new Section 36 (1)(iva) with effect from assessment year 2012-13 to provide that an assessee will get a deduction in respect of contribution towards a pension scheme referred in Section 80CCD of the Act on account of an employee up to 10 per cent of the salary of the employee in the previous year. For this purpose, 'salary' includes DA, if the terms of 'employment' so provide, but excludes all other allowances and perquisites.

Currently, contribution made by an employer towards a recognised provident fund, an approved superannuation fund or an approved gratuity fund is allowable as a deduction from business income under Section 36, subject to certain limits.

However contribution made by an employer to the NPS is not allowed as a deduction. The newly inserted clause provides that any sum paid by the assessee as an employer by way of contribution towards the pension scheme on account of an employee to the extent it does not exceed 10 per cent of the salary of the employee in the previous year, shall be allowed as deduction in computing the income under the head 'Profits and gains of business or profession'.

No doubt, such deduction would have been available under Section 37. The matter, however, is placed beyond doubt by the new Section. It should, however, be noted that deduction would be available only upon actual payment. The term 'employee' will include all employees including Director-employees. The limit of 10 per cent will apply to each employee individually. The Finance Act has also amended Section 40A (9) for this purpose.

Limits on Deduction

Section 80CCE provides that the aggregate amount of deduction under Section 80CCC and 80CCD shall not exceed Rs 1 lakh. The Finance Act, 2011 provides that contribution made by the Central Government or any other employer to NPS shall be excluded while computing the limit of Rs 1,00,000. The contribution by the employee to the NPS will be subject to the limit of Rs 1,00,000.

At the same time, deduction in respect of contributions by the Central Government or any other employer to NPS available under Section 80CCD (2) will not be subject to the limit specified in Section 80CCE. This provides a leeway for employees to seek a restructuring of the pay. Employers may be willing to include the contribution to the NPS in the pay package and claim 10 per cent of the salary as deduction. Depending on the pay scales, such restructuring may offer a benefit to both the employer and the employee.

The Employees Provident Fund Organisation has within its fold 4.72 crore subscribers. They get interest income of 9.5 per cent on PF deposits for 2010-11. There is also a move to increase the rate of interest .

Waiver for PF interest

In this context, the decision of the Income-Tax Department to grant an exemption from tax on the interest income on PF deposits will come as double bonanza for the subscribers.

Deduction for contribution to the NPS in the hands of the employer and the exclusion of such contributions in the hands of the employees in computing the exemption under Section 80C will mean a morale booster for the employer and the employee.

A caveat will be in order. The NPS has been challenged before the Central Administration Tribunal, as unconstitutional and inequitable by the Dakshin Railway Employees Union. The challenge is to the mandatory nature of the NPS in the case of government employees.

There is apparent discrimination between those who joined service before January 1, 1994 and those who joined later. The matter is pending before CAT.

(The author is a former Chief Commissioner of Income-Tax.)

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

UNJUSTIFIED CONDITIONS IN SEC 54F

V. K. SUBRAMANI

The provisions intended for exemption relating to investment in residential house are toothless.These conditions, however, have not been imported into the Direct Taxes Code.

Capital gain is one of the heads of income quite often litigated by the taxpayers and tax gatherers. This could be attributed partly to the provisions which provide some leeway for availing some concessions and thereby avoid tax.

Section 54F is a benevolent provision meant for tax relief where the sale consideration is deployed in acquisition or construction of a residential house by the taxpayer.

Key factors governing the tax exemption under this section are (i) sale must be of any long-term capital asset other than residential house; (ii) on the date of sale, the taxpayer must not own more than one residential house; (iii) net sale consideration must be deployed in acquisition or construction of a residential house within the specified time; and (iv) no acquisition or construction of any more residential house during the specified lock-in period.

Unjustified restriction

A close look at the above said conditions show that there is enough scope for controversies in each of them. Sale of even depreciable asset held for more than 36 months and obtaining the status of long-term capital asset was held as eligible for tax exemption on re-investment (CIT v. Assam Petroleum Industries (P) Ltd (2003) 262 ITR 587 (Gau)).Obviously, owning residential houses in any other status is to be excluded while computing the number of houses for the purpose of this exemption.

When the net consideration is fully deployed in acquiring or building a residential house, whether section 50C could be applied is a recent controversy.

In Gouli Mahadevappa v. ITO (2011) 9 ITR (Trib) 129 (Bangalore), it was held that Section 50C and Section 54F operate in different fields. Section 54F cannot impede the operation of Section 50C and the proportion of actual net sale consideration so reinvested in residential house was held as eligible for exemption under Section 54F. Independent of the exemption under Section 54F, the deeming provisions contained in Section 50C will apply.

However, a contrary ruling could be found in Gyan Chand Batra v. ITO (2010) 45 DTR (JP) (Trib) 41 wherein it was held that 'full value of consideration' as mentioned in Explanation to Section 54F(1) is not to be construed as having the same meaning as it is assigned in Section 50C.

The final rider for exemption likely the taxpayer must not construct or acquire any other residential house for some specified lock-in period seems to be both meaningless and redundant.

While these conditions attached to the exemption sound ridiculous, there exists ample scope for frustrating the same. A taxpayer acquiring a house must desist from acquiring another house, but could resort to construct a residential house, for which there is no embargo.

In the same manner, a tax payer constructing a residential house for availing exemption under Section54F is eligible to acquire one or more residential houses within the specified period which will not be a disqualification for the exemption.

Thus the provisions intended for exemption in respect of investment in residential house are toothless and have not addressed the practical reality. Fortunately, these conditions have not been imported into the Direct Taxes Code which is set to succeed the present statute.

(The author is an Erode-based chartered accountant.)

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO BIG BANG, PLEASE

WE NEED TIME TO PUT IN PLACE A COMPETITIVE MARKET DESIGN FOR FUELS



    The Centre is reportedly considering a bold policy proposal to end the massive, open-ended subsidy regime for domestic fuels, cooking gas (LPG) and kerosene (SKO), save for limited direct subvention for the poor. The reform is long overdue, given that the cost of the two subsidised fuels is estimated at . 70,000 crore and much of it is appropriated by the non-poor or is grossly misused. However, instead of raising prices at one go, it would make better sense to stagger the price revision over, say, a two-year period. The interregnum can be utilised to fast-forward competitive market design for household fuels. Note that the short-lived parallel marketing scheme (of circa 1993) for LPG never really took off sans norms for sharing bulky infrastructure like terminals. And continuing with the status quo would only mean a perverse incentive to carry on with monopoly pricing by the trio of public sector oil marketing companies, complete with opaque cost-plus margins in transportation, storage and supply. We surely need efficiency prices across the production value-chain. In tandem, what's essential is to have universal coverage of piped gas as cooking fuel in the main urban centres, within a firm timeframe. We do need to switch over to modern fuels like piped gas and phase out LPG cylinders, as is the practice the world over.


Reportedly, the gameplan is to hand out cash subsidy, restricted to two litres of kerosene per month for the poor with single-cylinder LPG connections (those subscribing to two cylinders would be denied the subsidy). Now, multiple survey results do show that while almost half the SKO is simply diverted to adulterate automotive fuels like diesel and petrol, almost 99% of the rest is not used for household cooking. The proposal for cash payout for SKO is questionable, as there seems no real demand for kerosene as a cooking fuel. For lighting, solar lanterns can be subsidised, till rural electrification becomes universal. Cash subsidy transfer will be effective only after the unique identity scheme has been made fully operational. That's another reason to abjure a big-bang approach to domestic fuel price reform.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PAK'S NUKE THREAT

A TERROR ATTACK COULD WELL TARGET NUCLEAR DEVICES. THE WORLD MUST TAKE NOTE

 

 The audacious attack on the supposedly heavily guarded Mehran naval base in Pakistan means the question of the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons needs to be raised seriously. The way this attack was conducted raises the spectre of a potentially dire situation for the wider region, and much further beyond. The fact that this wasn't the first attack on a military institution, and that the Pakistan armed forces seem incapable of stopping terrorists from striking the very heart of their assets and bases, that reports suggest inside involvement and that the Pakistan navy lost some of its most prized planes, makes for a worrying situation. It seems that the next logical escalation could well involve a military base or institution that houses some of Pakistan's newly-tested, smaller tactical nuclear weapons. Given the varied theatres of jehad groups based in Pakistan are involved in one way or the other, the threat of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of ruthless terrorists is something that should actively worry India, the US, Europe, Russia, and even Pakistan's 'all-weather friend', China. The latter, in fact, should play a more active role in making Pakistan's army, patently in denial mode, realise the absolute need to go after terror groups of all hues and neutralise the threat to its nuclear devices. After all, beyond assertions from the Pakistani establishment about the safety of its nuclear assets, what guarantee does the world have that an attack in the future will not target nukes instead of multi-million dollar planes?


Each terror attack seems to further highlight the inner vulnerabilities of Pakistan's military, including that of its members' allegiances with terror groups fighting the military itself. For long, Pakistan just didn't seem to understand that a perverse policy of using terror groups for strategic objectives would mean a horrific blowback. And even as the latter started to happen, the army still only moved selectively against terror groups. Pakistan's cynical search for strategic depth against India has meandered into terrorist acts across the globe. The world should be worried about that becoming a lot worse.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

COACHING TO VICTORY

WHAT WOULD IIT-JEE DO WITHOUT BRILLIANTLY TUTORED EXAMINEES?

 

 While comparing the calibre of the students of the Indian Institutes of Technology versus the teaching faculty there, Jairam Ramesh left out one crucial element in the equation: the coaching classes. Even if the much-vaunted tech schools' teachers do not match up to the environment minister's exacting world standards, our tutorial networks certainly do. With places like Kota notching up a disproportionate number of successful 'candidates', something has to be said for the unsung pedagogues in countless cramped coaching centres who turn raw talent into well-synchronised examination clearing machines. Judging by the array of young people who have charted their path to IIT and future success through their classes and postal notes, it may not be fanciful to imagine that without them, no world-class Indian child would ever clear the formidable IIT Joint Entrance Examination. Then, horror of horrors, IIT teachers (substandard or otherwise) would be left with empty classes. Of course, brilliant students should not need coaching to clear an entrance exam. Their senior secondary level board exam results should, ideally, put them in line for selection. However, the elaborate network of coaching classes would then have to be shut down. Curiously, while the government has tried to root out the tuition culture in the Indian school system, the high-pressure IIT-JEE and its coaching classes attract no such opprobrium. Maybe the government is chary of affecting the economies of countless small towns whose coaching classes and boarding houses would then be put out of business. But would they? They could always outsource their world class student-mentoring skills to the US, which is getting increasingly wary of China and India's brainpower anyway.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ON CONSTRAINED CAPITALISM

WE CAN CREATE A WORLD-CLASS COUNTRY ONLY THROUGH THE DEVELOPMENT PARADIGM APPROPRIATE TO US

 

In his book Consumptionomics (Infinite Ideas, 2011), Chandran Nair makes some important observations that Indian planners cannot afford to ignore. Perhaps each one of us who pay blind obeisance to the Capitalist God should do the same. Nair points out why the western model of development that has its roots in 18th, 19th and 20th centuries may not suit India (or China) in the 21st century. After all, the development of the western hemisphere was largely at immense cost to the development of their colonies.


The development of the West assumed limitless resources for the colonisers, since development of the colonies themselves was never an issue in a fragmented world where colonies were mere geographical spreads whose natural resources existed for the benefit of the European or English economies. In other words, the Industrial Revolution in the western economies and their consequent prosperity were possible thanks to severe underpricing of raw material sourced from their colonies (of which we were a giant one), as well as underpricing of labour — through slave trade, as well as indentured and exploited labour.


If we borrow the western model and western yardstick of development for our onebillion plus population, and aim for, say a car and an airconditioner for every Indian in the next two decades, would that be a realistic or a desirable aspiration to have? Let us see. Assuming an average of five members in a family, for a population of some 1.2 billion, we shall need 240 million cars. At an average of one tonne of steel per car, that is 240 million tonnes of steel, requiring about a billion tonnes of iron ore. And the total iron ore reserves in the country are of the order of some 12 billion tonnes, give or take, with no colonies to supply us any iron ore using slave labour. And we aren't talking of the fact that these cars will have to be replaced every six, seven or eight years. And we aren't yet talking of the steel required for housing, factories, cellphone towers, the electric pylons, the rails, the trains, the planes, the tanks, the trucks, buses, and whatever! Nor are we talking yet of what it would mean for petroleum price, which is already reigning well over $100 per barrel, or about the environment when a quarter of a billion cars in India alone will belch carbon monoxide into the environment. We did discuss nearly a generation ago in our macroeconomics lectures that if India and China were to consume percapita energy at the same rate as say, Hungary, the world coal reserves would not last half a century. The assumption of limitless resources, which formed the basis of the western economic model, can hardly be applied in our context.
Will a car and an air-conditioner for every middle-class household — that numbers some 300 million strong — be more realistic? After all, isn't our growth story mainly about 'India' growing at the cost of 'Bharat'? In the process, could it be that 'India' is doing to 'Bharat' exactly what the colonisers did to us collectively? That is, ripping away at our natural resources by underpricing them?


If we were to price the cost of labour working in the factories, farms and mines based on fair wages — fair as in wages that include a dignified living wage, compensation for risky work conditions, compensation for health insurance, and fair retirement benefits — rather than the narrow legal definition of minimum wages; if we were to carry out our factory, farming or mining operations under dignified and safe working conditions; if we imposed emission restrictions strictly upon all factories and automobiles; if we insisted on true market prices for the agricultural land taken away from farmers for various projects; if we ensured clean and safe drinking water for all our uses; and if we desisted from giving away licences to politicians and their friends to dig for minerals at random resulting in large-scale degradation of land and forests, we would perhaps have an appreciation of the true extent of the implicit underpricing of many of the resources we consume.


    Such underpricing can never be the basis for a sustainable and balanced growth of any economy under conditions of limited resources.


All of this raises the question of what should be our national aspiration for our people? Do we want our people to be well-fed, healthy and welleducated, who enjoy a functioning public transport system, living in concrete homes with a built-in toilet? Or do we want them all to have a flat television, an iPad and a cell phone, but no access to clean indoor toilets, trying to outhonk each other on narrow roads in their own cars in highly congested and polluted concrete jungles, with unaffordable and inadequate medical care, with a pathetic educational system in which government schools are synonymous with no education? Should growth be measured in terms of the penetration of cellphones and broadband cover or growth in foodgrain storage facilities and functioning schools in every village, so that we do not have huge pockets of hunger, even when we produce more food than we need, because 30% of the food we produce goes to rot? Will the challenges of urbanisation be better addressed by more cars or better public transport? Hence, the need for constrained capitalism. These issues are far weightier than whether or not our IIMs and IITs are worldclass by western standards. The question we should be worrying more should be whether or not we are creating a world-class country for ourselves, using paradigms that are relevant to us.

 

V RAGHUNATHAN

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET INTERACTIVE

CORPORATE METAMORPHOSIS, DOUBLE QUICK

T K ARUN


Evolution in the natural world normally takes a long time: the genus Homo, to which most of us belong, diverged from the hominid group Australopithecines some 2.3 million years ago. Corporate evolution is faster — at warp speed, in the case of Ingersoll Rand, a $14 billion American multinational happily listed on both the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE)— (the thought of delisting doesn't enter our head says Venkatesh Valluri, President of IR India and chairman of the India management board).
IR started off as a mining equipment company, its products drilling and blasting mountains prior to the World War I. Later on, it diversified into other heavy engineering, such as road building machinery. Those of us who have seen the name Ingersoll Rand have probably seen the etching half covered by mud on the side of a heavy road roller. In 2000, guided by some millenarian vision, the company's management decided to dump all this and focus on three areas: climate control (air conditioning and refrigeration), security (electronic locks and cameras) and, you can't shed your past completely, air compressors of the kind used in automobile paint shops and mining.


IR runs air conditioning under the Trane brand name. Cisa and Schlage are their security brands (if you ever swiped a card to get into a hotel room, the probability is 50% that you used a Cisa product). They go on to integrate these capabilities to increase energy efficiency and boost corporate productivity. In a Lalit, Oberoi or Taj, IR's equipment could see/sense departing customers from a restaurant corner and automatically turn off lighting and air conditioning for that location, for example. Centralised, automated building management of this kind, says Valluri, can cut down energy consumption by as much as 20%.


Such potential contribution to climate change action is not the only thing that makes IR a very relevant company for emerging India. Its efforts to build climate controlled supply chains for food hit the bull's eye when it comes to India's ongoing efforts to increase the supply of vegetables and fruits, meat, milk, fish and poultry, the demand for which is growing faster than the supply so far has been. IR offers both static and mobile refrigeration. Climate controlled warehouses are not rocket science, the only challenge is to ensure the power supply. But refrigerated trucks that can negotiate India's countryside are something else. The term road is a bit of an exaggeration when it comes to describing the potholes in serial disorder along which you gently vend your way past half-buried boulders and hardy tree-roots to get to the next village. So, IR selected the Tata Ace, a diminutive but hardy pick-up that can move on this terrain. But the real innovation is that the refrigeration for these modified pick-ups runs on batteries that are charged when the vehicle runs. This arrangement saves fuel, giving the owners/drivers of these vehicles to actually use the refrigeration installed, instead of turning it off to conserve fuel.


Does this work for regular car a/cs as well, ET wondered. No, it does not, Mr Valluri smiled, the passenger car air-conditioning calls for much higher currents and cannot be run off a battery, at least for now.
A cold storage project serviced by a host of refrigerated pick-ups involving 100 people is taking off in Andhra Pradesh. But one success does not guarantee imitation on a scale sufficient to generate demand for the painstakingly innovated rural cold chain solutions. So, IR has come up with an innovation to create entrepreneurs who would set up and run businesses that make use of IR's products. Mr Valluri was evidently pleased with the Entrepreneurship Creation Programme, which he proceeded to describe to ET with all the delight of the autonomous country manager of a largish multinational company that believes in experimentation and innovation. IR has hired six graduates from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, under the programme. Mr Valluri explains, "The two year ECP program is divided into four modules. The first six months of the program will constitute the 'Business Understanding Phase' where trainees will be rotated across Ingersoll Rand's various businesses and functions for an indepth understanding. In the second phase or the 'Business Insight Phase', trainees will learn to create business and make it financially profitable for a period of six months. The third phase is the 'Supported Phase' where students start executing their plans for creating markets and generating sales and solutions. The final phase lasting another 6 months is the 'Independent Phase', where young entrepreneurs are ready to create their own infrastructure and operate as independent business owners."
Hopefully buying and running IR equipment.

 

VENKATESH VALLURIPRESIDENT
Ingersoll Rand, India

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

NEW CHALLENGES FOR COMMUNISTS

CP BHAMBHRI

 

 Communist parties have suffered serious electoral setbacks in the state assembly elections of Kerala and West Bengal, but it can be asserted that the communists can definitely make a comeback and play a crucial role in Indian politics. The audio-visual and print media has pronounced hasty and unwarranted judgements about the future of communist parties. It is nothing new because the Congress party had also been written off when its monopoly of power over the central and state governments had come to an inglorious end in the post-Rajiv Gandhi phase of politics. The CPI(M)-led Left Front in West Bengal had won 235 assembly seats out of 294 and its share of vote was 50.18% in the elections of 2006; in the 2011 elections it has won 62 seats and its share of votes is 41% and the CPI(M)'s share alone is 40%. The social support base of a party is always known on the basis of its share of votes. Hence, the task before the communists of West Bengal is to win over the 9% of its support base and the analytical question is to identify the causes for the withdrawal of voters' support. Communists had made every effort to face the challenge posed by Mamata Banerjee's platform of paribortan or change by following the strategy of 'Renewal and Young Blood' as pronounced by Biman Bose of the CPI(M). The Left Front did not nominate 91 sitting MLAs and some ministers, and it projected 150 new faces and 46 women candidates for the elections of 2011. Why is it that Mamata's paribortan carried greater conviction with the voters, including a sizeable number of traditional communist supporters?


The electoral defeat of the LDF in Kerala was based on a self-goal because of factional fights like Pinarayi Vijayan versus V S Achutanandan. The LDF, in 2011, secured 68 seats and its share of votes was 45%, only 3% less than the winning Congress-led UDF, which won 72 seats. The Kerala CPI(M) handed electoral victory to the Congress on a platter because till the end it kept fighting with Achutanandan, an unquestioned mass leader in the state. Prakash Karat, after the polit bureau meeting of May 16, stated that there was a 'disconnect' with the voters of Bengal who had been 'alienated' from the party. A B Bardhan, a veteran communist leader, went a step forward and stated that electoral defeat was the result of 'arrogance' of the leaders.


These explanations only focus attention on the 'style of functioning' of the leadership. Such 'self-criticism' is quite insufficient to revive and revitalise the communist movement in India. First, the communists in West Bengal had been on the backfoot in the panchayat elections, the Lok Sabha elections and municipal elections of 2008, 2009 and 2010 and it is difficult to accept that the party leadership was not getting proper signals from these electoral setbacks. Second, the larger issue is that the communists were retreating from the political scene because after rural development programmes — they simply could not grapple with the new challenge brought about by social changes taking place in West Bengal in particular and India in general. It is a simple fact to state that at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, a relatively backward West Bengal came to coexist with other regions of the country which were experiencing rapid industrial growth along with the emergence of centres of the New Economy, especially telecommunications, petrochemical industries, et al. But West Bengal's hesitant steps to attract big industrialists like Tata and also launching of mega Haldia project ended in a tragedy on the issue of land acquisition.


Karl Marx clearly stated that 'society is real and the individual is a reality' and this social dialectics of reality should always be the guiding factor in the thinking processes of the communists. A B Bardhan has alerted the communists on ignoring the new social reality and in an interview on May 18, he said that 'one thing the Left has underestimated is that a great middle class has grown up in the last few decades…it moulds public opinion' and he went on to state that the Left must 'confront the fact that having lost is influence in the old middle class, it has not yet found a way to talk to the new.' The real issue, thus, is the Left's incapacity to remain alive to the changing social dialectics of India and the pattern of changes in the levels of aspirations of different classes in the country. The communists also have to confront the forces of communal fascism represented by the Sangh Parivar. Instead of wasting energies on creating the Third Front and following afailed policy of equidistance from the Congress and BJP, they should catch the bull by the horns and launch struggles against the divisive policy of religious separatism of the Sangh Parivar.


These are the ideological and political tasks before the communists, and if performed well, the ideology has a future in a country of mass deprivation and acute poverty.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

IIT FACULTY NEEDS PROJECT TIGER

IF QUALITY OF FACULTY AT TOP INSTITUTIONS IS POOR, IMAGINE THE SORRY STATE OF TEACHERS DOWN THE PYRAMID


 First off let's set aside the question of propriety. Did the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh have the right to comment on the faculty of IIT and IIMs, when he said they are not worldclass? Is it not the domain of the Human Resources Development Minister to pass such judgments, since these institutions come under his purview? Or maybe it should have been the Science and Technology Minister who should have commented?
    Nonsense. The fact is that Ramesh had full right to say what he said. That's because, (a) every citizen is entitled to an opinion, and as a Minister he certainly should have that freedom. By speaking ill of IIT / IIM faculty, he is being self critical of a government-run institution, which is always a good thing for any government. The second reason (b) is that he is himself an IIT product. He not only was a student at IIT Bombay, but he also grew up on campus, and soaked the IIT atmosphere from early childhood. So he has seen an IIT from close quarters.

 

So he has the right to criticize. But is it justified? That can be answered only on the basis of objective criteria. Faculty are judged on the basis of teaching, research, consulting services and community work. International recognition (and that's what being world-class means), comes only from research. The other three criteria don't matter. They may all be unsung heroes, toiling to teach. But low on research. And research is measured by quantifiable performance, such as number of publications (single authored or jointly with other authors), number of citations of your articles and books by other authors, number of patents (applications as well as finally granted), papers presented in conferences, membership of science academies, work as jury and referee of other people's research etc.

 

On these counts the faculty of IIT and IIM perform much worse than their counterparts from universities in the West, or even from countries like Israel, China or Australia. This is merely stating facts. You cannot argue that this criterion of measuring "worldclass-ness" of research is unfair to Indian faculty. Globally there are no handicaps when it comes to research competition. A hundred-metre sprint runner cannot claim additional advantage just because he or she is from a developing country. In fact athletes and marathoners now are regularly churned out from poor countries of Africa and the Caribbean.

 

Hence we must accept Ramesh's assertion that faculty at IIT or IIM is not world-class. By the way, this is a statement of averages. Of course there are individual faculty members, who are world-class by any standards. Each IIT has a dozen or more such people, who have been recognized globally. But aggregate average is not very rosy. In contrast to faculty, Ramesh also commented that students from IITs /IIMs were world-class. But here's the rub. In many IITs, the percentage of faculty who are themselves IIT products is quite high. In fact in IIT Bombay more than half of all faculty are IIT alumni.

 

So the decline of "world class-ness" from student to teacher status, is because of "environmental" factors, not innate to individuals. And if the faculty of premier institutes is thus lacking, just imagine the plight of the rest of the engineering and management institutes in the country! Hence we must treat the condition of IIT/IIM faculty like the "tiger count" of India. If we fix that top of the pyramid, then hopefully the entire ecosystem of teaching and research as a profession will improve. It needs massive funding, proper incentives and promotion guidelines, autonomy of curriculum and salary setting and reforms of higher education in general. Can we please change that environment, Mr Minister?

 

AJIT RANADE ON THE WHEELS THAT MAKE MUMBAI RUN – MONEY AND ECONOMY

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

ELITIST NAVEL GAZING

 

The damage control has begun. Three days after the minister of state for environment and Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) alumnus, Mr Jairam Ramesh, said that IITs and IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) were not world-class institutions because their faculty and quality of research were not good enough, the government has protested. Yes, the IITs are world class, says Mr Kapil Sibal, Union minister for human resources development. Well, er, at least 25 per cent of the faculty is, anyway, since they are IIT alumni and Mr Ramesh says that the students are world class. And if their research work was not top international quality, it is because of the "ecosystem" — where the US spends $250 billion on research, India spends merely $8 billion. So while Mr Sibal declares that IITs are world class, his logic implies the reverse. Sure, we understand the constraints of the "ecosystem". Though we may not accept that a quarter of their faculty is world class because they were once world-class students (which has no direct bearing on their quality as teachers). But what could the government do when the image of their top educational brand is trashed? The nation is paying an education cess, remember? This muddled, half-hearted, sarkari response characterises the attitude of the government in education. There are two issues here: the quality of our centres of excellence and the quality of education in India. First, the obvious. Are the IITs, apparently the crowning glory of our education system, world class? Depends. These are certainly excellent institutes. As Mr Ramesh said, they have some of our best students. And contrary to what he said, they do produce some remarkable research. But if the faculty is not "world class" it is because no one can fly high if tied to the apron strings of a stern yet callous government. Unless IITs — and other government-funded institutions — have the freedom to hire and fire teachers at their discretion and at better salaries, and the liberty to operate as they see fit, the best minds will escape to greener, freer pastures. Institutions may need regulation, but not crushing control. Also, the government has launched new IITs without hiring faculty, further pressuring existing IIT teachers. Besides, no government-linked institution in today's India is truly world class, is it? Except for our institutionalised corruption, of course. According to Transparency International, India has an integrity score of 3.3, which makes it one of the most corrupt nations of the world. Happiness! A close second would be our institutionalised callousness. Take our home ministry dealing with top terror suspects from Pakistan — not exactly a low priority field. The error attacks in our attempts at cornering Pakistan with hard evidence are almost as terrifying as the terror attacks themselves. First we sent the wrong DNA sample, claiming it to be Ajmal Kasab's. "A minor clerical error", shrugged home minister P. Chidambaram. Then it transpired that two men on India's list of most wanted terrorists allegedly hiding in Pakistan were in India — one in jail and the other out on bail. "An oversight", said the minister. "A genuine human error." Meanwhile, our investigative institution of excellence, the Central Bureau of Investigation, had reached Copenhagen to extradite Kim Davy, prime accused in the Purulia arms drop, with an expired warrant. Naturally, the Danish court refused. Yes, we are world toppers in institutional callousness. Anyway, returning to the IIT issue, it's possible that the students make these institutes centres of excellence. Among 1.21 billion citizens, millions may be born with world-class intellect — then put into a system that meticulously constrains, limits, erodes and smothers talent and imagination. Naturally IIT students are brilliant — that's why they are selected. And they have had less exposure to the harsh Indian social, political and cultural environment. The poor teachers have been dented, blunted, clipped and chipped by the system. This smothering of natural capabilities begins even before birth. We are killing more daughters than ever before through foeticide and infanticide. At 914 girls for 1,000 boys, this year's census shows the worst child sex ratio ever. And criminal neglect of women also affects babies allowed to live. The mother's health determines the health and development of the unborn child — and our pregnant and new mothers are so neglected that our future generations are born less healthy and already disadvantaged for learning. Poorer Indians grow up with less nutrition and fewer options for education, sometimes with no access to education at all. Worst off are girls and the lower castes, who face the double whammy of poverty and social discrimination. Successive governments have addressed these problems, though the education budget has rarely crossed three per cent of the gross domestic product. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan helped. The new Right to Education Act promising free and compulsory education to all children between six and 14 years offers huge hope. Integrated Child Development Schemes (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Schemes certainly help in giving nutritional support and incentives for educating the future generations. And starting hundreds of new schools may indeed offer new opportunities. But these are not enough. We need to look not only at quantity, but also the quality of school education. More than a quarter of schools do not have proper buildings or drinking water. Half do not have girls' toilets. Most do not have proper teachers. Teacher absenteeism rages. Allotments for ICDS and MDM schemes are inadequate and do not always reach students. And endemic class, caste and gender discriminations spawn systematic deprivation of large sections of society, institutionalising disparity in educational achievements. Sadly, our attitude towards excellence is to neglect schools for the masses and focus on elite institutions of higher education. Sure, we need centres of excellence, but we can't be proud of tiny islands of well-funded distinction in a sea of hopeless, life-sapping neglect and illiteracy. If we really want to debate our educational excellence, we should stop this elitist navel gazing. And focus on good primary and secondary education for all. That social vision could change our collective future. And make us truly world class. * Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at: sen@littlemag.com

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A MEDISCARE FOR THE REPUBLICANS

 

Yes, Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is a sore loser. Why do you ask? To be sure, Ryan had reason to be upset after May 24 special election in New York's 26th Congressional District. It's a very conservative district, so much so that last year the Republican candidate took 76 per cent of the vote. Yet on May 24, Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, took the seat, with a campaign focused squarely on Ryan's plan to dismantle Medicare and replace it with a voucher system. How did Hochul pull off this upset? The Wisconsin congressman blamed Democrats' willingness to "shamelessly distort and demagogue the issue, trying to scare seniors to win an election", and he predicted that by November of next year "the American people are going to know they've been lied to". You can understand Ryan's bitterness. He has, after all, experienced quite a comedown over the course of the past seven weeks. Until his Medicare plan was rolled out in early April he had spent months bathing in warm approbation from many pundits, who had decided to anoint him as an icon of fiscal responsibility. And the plan itself received rapturous praise in the first couple of days after its release. Then people who actually know how to read a budget proposal started looking at the plan. And that's when everything started to fall apart. Ryan may claim — and he may even believe — that he's facing a backlash because his opponents are lying about his proposals. But the reality is that the Ryan plan is turning into a political disaster for Republicans, not because the plan's critics are lying about it, but because they're describing it accurately. Take, for example, the statement that the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it. This may have Republicans screaming "Mediscare!" but it's the absolute truth: The plan would replace our current system, in which the government pays major health costs, with a voucher system, in which seniors would, in effect, be handed a coupon and told to go find private coverage. The new programme might still be called Medicare — hey, we could replace government coverage of major expenses with an allowance of two free aspirins a day, and still call it "Medicare" — but it wouldn't be the same programme. And if the cost estimates of the Congressional Budget Office are at all right, the inadequate size of the vouchers — which by 2030 would cover only about a third of seniors' health costs — would leave many if not most older Americans unable to afford essential care. If anyone is lying here, it's Ryan himself, who has claimed that his plan would give seniors the same kind of coverage that members of Congress receive — an assertion that is completely false. And, by the way, the claim that the plan would keep Medicare as we know it intact for Americans currently 55 or older is highly dubious. True, that's what the plan promises, but if you think about the political dynamics that would emerge once Americans born a year or two too late realise how much better a deal slightly older Americans are getting, you realise that this is a promise unlikely to be fulfilled. Still, are Democrats doing a bad thing by telling the truth about the Ryan plan? "If you demagogue entitlement reform", says Ryan, "you're hastening a debt crisis; you're bringing about Medicare's collapse". Maybe he should have a word with his colleagues who greeted the modest, realistic cost-control efforts in the Affordable Care Act with cries of "death panels". Anyway, the underlying premise behind statements like that is the assumption that the Ryan plan represents a serious effort to come to grip with America's long-run fiscal problems. But what became clear soon after that plan was unveiled was that it was no such thing. In fact, it wasn't really a deficit-reduction plan. Once you remove the absurd assumptions — discretionary spending, including defence, falling to Calvin Coolidge levels, and huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, with no loss in revenue? — it's highly questionable whether it would reduce the deficit at all. What the Ryan plan is, instead, is an attempt to snooker Americans into accepting a standard Right-wing wishlist under the guise of deficit reduction. And Americans, it seems, have seen through the deception. So what happens now? The fight will shift from Medicare to Medicaid — a programme that has become an essential lifeline for many Americans, especially children, but which in the Ryan plan is slated for a 44 per cent cut in federal aid over the next decade. At this point, however, I'm optimistic that this initiative will also run aground on popular disapproval. What of Ryan's hope that voters will realise that they've been lied to? Well, as I see it, that's already happening. And it's bad news for the Grand Old Party.

 

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A MEDISCARE FOR THE REPUBLICANS

 

Yes, Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is a sore loser. Why do you ask? To be sure, Ryan had reason to be upset after May 24 special election in New York's 26th Congressional District. It's a very conservative district, so much so that last year the Republican candidate took 76 per cent of the vote. Yet on May 24, Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, took the seat, with a campaign focused squarely on Ryan's plan to dismantle Medicare and replace it with a voucher system. How did Hochul pull off this upset? The Wisconsin congressman blamed Democrats' willingness to "shamelessly distort and demagogue the issue, trying to scare seniors to win an election", and he predicted that by November of next year "the American people are going to know they've been lied to". You can understand Ryan's bitterness. He has, after all, experienced quite a comedown over the course of the past seven weeks. Until his Medicare plan was rolled out in early April he had spent months bathing in warm approbation from many pundits, who had decided to anoint him as an icon of fiscal responsibility. And the plan itself received rapturous praise in the first couple of days after its release. Then people who actually know how to read a budget proposal started looking at the plan. And that's when everything started to fall apart. Ryan may claim — and he may even believe — that he's facing a backlash because his opponents are lying about his proposals. But the reality is that the Ryan plan is turning into a political disaster for Republicans, not because the plan's critics are lying about it, but because they're describing it accurately. Take, for example, the statement that the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it. This may have Republicans screaming "Mediscare!" but it's the absolute truth: The plan would replace our current system, in which the government pays major health costs, with a voucher system, in which seniors would, in effect, be handed a coupon and told to go find private coverage. The new programme might still be called Medicare — hey, we could replace government coverage of major expenses with an allowance of two free aspirins a day, and still call it "Medicare" — but it wouldn't be the same programme. And if the cost estimates of the Congressional Budget Office are at all right, the inadequate size of the vouchers — which by 2030 would cover only about a third of seniors' health costs — would leave many if not most older Americans unable to afford essential care. If anyone is lying here, it's Ryan himself, who has claimed that his plan would give seniors the same kind of coverage that members of Congress receive — an assertion that is completely false. And, by the way, the claim that the plan would keep Medicare as we know it intact for Americans currently 55 or older is highly dubious. True, that's what the plan promises, but if you think about the political dynamics that would emerge once Americans born a year or two too late realise how much better a deal slightly older Americans are getting, you realise that this is a promise unlikely to be fulfilled. Still, are Democrats doing a bad thing by telling the truth about the Ryan plan? "If you demagogue entitlement reform", says Ryan, "you're hastening a debt crisis; you're bringing about Medicare's collapse". Maybe he should have a word with his colleagues who greeted the modest, realistic cost-control efforts in the Affordable Care Act with cries of "death panels". Anyway, the underlying premise behind statements like that is the assumption that the Ryan plan represents a serious effort to come to grip with America's long-run fiscal problems. But what became clear soon after that plan was unveiled was that it was no such thing. In fact, it wasn't really a deficit-reduction plan. Once you remove the absurd assumptions — discretionary spending, including defence, falling to Calvin Coolidge levels, and huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, with no loss in revenue? — it's highly questionable whether it would reduce the deficit at all. What the Ryan plan is, instead, is an attempt to snooker Americans into accepting a standard Right-wing wishlist under the guise of deficit reduction. And Americans, it seems, have seen through the deception. So what happens now? The fight will shift from Medicare to Medicaid — a programme that has become an essential lifeline for many Americans, especially children, but which in the Ryan plan is slated for a 44 per cent cut in federal aid over the next decade. At this point, however, I'm optimistic that this initiative will also run aground on popular disapproval. What of Ryan's hope that voters will realise that they've been lied to? Well, as I see it, that's already happening. And it's bad news for the Grand Old Party.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WHAT'S THE FUSS? IITS GREAT, COULD DO BETTER

 

There can be little question that the Indian Institutes of Technology — once described by the former US president, Mr Bill Clinton, in a speech to American audiences as being among the "great engineering colleges of the world" — and the Indian Institutes of Management are among the foremost centres in the world for imparting technology and management education. The IITs in particular have an enviable record in the quality of their alumni who have shone in private industry across the world. An IIT degree is often fused with an IIM diploma to give an aspirant an edge in industry and business, where the competition is razor sharp at the higher levels. The health of these two, besides a clutch in other fields, is naturally of interest and concern to this country as they have to do with the quality of higher education and the availability of quality human resources to different fields of endeavour that have a bearing on taking India forward. This was indeed the motivation which drove Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, all those decades ago, to take a special interest in setting up institutions of learning in science and engineering that would rear generations of students of the highest bracket who would become levers of self-reliance and excellence. It is natural for our people to show concern for the IITs and IIMs, but to set off an out-of-season debate is another matter. The minister of state for environment, Mr Jairam Ramesh, unnecessarily set off a flurry this week when he described the IITs and IIMs as "excellent", but not "world class". Mr Ramesh is entitled to his views as a citizen, but a minister in the government — in whose hands lies much of the financial and administrative control that can make or break the institutes in question — is expected to give greater evidence of balance and sense of occasion in his utterances. Since educational institutions fall within the purview of other areas of the government, not the environment ministry, Mr Ramesh also exceeded his brief as minister and stepped into regions superintended by other UPA-2 colleagues, and setting off a fruitless debate. Such a discussion within the right forum — say Parliament, when appropriations for departments and ministries are being debated — would have served a purpose, drawing attention to key aspects in the working of IITs and IIMs (and other institutions). The minister's off-the-cuff remarks presumably meant that the IITs and IIMs do not produce adequate cutting-edge research. The reasons are many, and Mr Ramesh might have done well to reflect on them in public as he took a swipe at the famous institutions. Indeed, he might have struck a sympathetic chord with his interlocutors had he noted that within the monies available to them these colleges were doing a fine job, but are still way behind famous American, European, or even some Chinese centres of academic excellence for want of funds. To take an example, if India spends $8 billion on research, the US spends $250 billion. This gap in the minister's public expression has been filled by the human resources development minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, who drew attention to the crucial difference in "eco-systems", picking an expression that might be otherwise in the toolkit of the environment minister! The funds crunch can be addressed when private industry spends more on research (for which it might need a tax break), and top educational institutions come to enjoy greater academic autonomy and freedoms, and can offer their faculty higher remunerations and better work conditions.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE OBITUARY I COULDN'T WRITE...

 

"The time is out of joint Time to pass the joint..." From Reams of Forgiveness er… I mean Dreams by Bachchoo I must be excused this week for using this column to mourn a personal irreplaceable loss. The newspapers and TV channels in India have carried obituaries of Mala Sen who died on the night of May 20 in the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. They billed her as the author of Bandit Queen, the story of Phoolan Devi, and of Death by Fire. Writers die, their books live on. That will be true for the readers of Mala's books. She had said that if she didn't return from the risky operation she was undergoing for oesophageal cancer, her friends should gather at her flat in South Clapham (a flat we shared when I was married to her and even after), have a drink, smoke some dope if we could find any and take away a book from her shelves in memory. Such an occasion has been arranged for this evening, some deadline date before this column appears in print, and I have made a pre-emptive raid on the flat so as to be the first to take the "one book memento" she intended. I took several. Her writing, some of mine signed and dedicated to her and two books that we read and marvelled over together. One of these is a paperback of Jorge Luis Borges' The Book of Sand. The title story has a narrator who is given a book whose pages, thought finite, miraculously contain all the books ever written. It is one of the narrative avatars of the game of infinities that Borges regularly played in his fiction: the book that contains all other books and therefore must contain itself... which book must then contain... and so on. Like the man on the Quaker Oats packet who holds up a box of Quaker Oats on which there is the picture of the man who holds up a box of... etc. So, as I look through the pages of Mala's books I realise that for me the books are not the words on the page, precious though those are. Each sentence is a key to memories of my childhood sweetheart, my first lover, my companion, my wife, my comrade, fellow adventurer, antagonist and in every real, quarrelsome, argumentative, supportive, dedicated, sharing, lending, borrowing, giving, taking, questioning, unquestioning sense of the word, my friend. I have been asked these last few days to write obituaries, which I have always seen as summing up the significance of each little life rounded with a sleep. I couldn't. I could only jot down facts: she was the daughter of Lt. Gen. Lionel Proteep Sen and of Kalyani Gupta, that she went to school in Dehradun and college in Pune where we met. I said she ran away with me to England, a complicated but in retrospect amusing elopement. Then the jobs, the political convictions, writings, actions, leadership — facts, facts, facts. Listing them, I realised I couldn't write this obituary. Someone so close to you can't be summed up. I know that somewhere in my works in progress, Mala will emerge as best I can shape her with all the descriptive honesty I can muster as another, albeit main, character in a memoir. Such a memoir may explain, or not have the acumen to explain, why a 16-year-old girl from the high reaches of Indian professional society turned her mind and later all her efforts to reading Marx and Lenin, leading the actions of the Indian Workers Association (IWA) in Leicester, joining the Black Panther movement and later on the Race Today collective in London, quoting the works of black American radical activists and fantasists from Malcolm X and George Jackson to Eldridge Cleaver, leading a movement of Bangladeshis in the East End etc. etc. Mala was, by any accounts, an unusual character: amazingly talented, amazingly argumentative and confident if not dogmatic in her view of the world... Stop! There I go. This is becoming the obituary I said I couldn't and wouldn't write. Instead a story: Mala and I lived in Leicester in 1968 when I was writing on Kipling at the university and she was working as a clerk at the Gas Board and supporting us both, paying the rent for the room with a sloping roof we shared under the stairs of a house in the "Asian" district of the city. We saved enough money to drink a half pint of beer at the local pub on Fridays. Late in this payday evening the pub would fill up with mostly Punjabi workers blowing their wages on endless pints of beer. One Friday a group of them spotted Mala in her salwar kameez and came over to invite us to their table as fellow Indians. The generous flow of beer became a regular treat on Friday evenings and a few weeks into the ritual the two of us, more proficient at English than the rest of them, were asked to compose a leaflet calling for action on a grievance they had at one of the factories in the city. They said they all belonged to the IWA but that body had so far done very little apart from organising parties at Hindu and Sikh festivals and being the battleground of disputes about Bhangra costumes. Mala and I composed the leaflet and it was printed off. In the weeks that followed, Mala was regularly asked to negotiate for the IWA and soon she was deemed an honorary secretary of the organisation. At the time a politician called Enoch Powell made an inflammatory speech demanding the repatriation of immigrants. James Callaghan, then home secretary, introduced a law cancelling the right of Kenyan Asians with British passports from entering the United Kingdom. Powell and Callaghan were not very popular with immigrants and our unofficial pub, Panchayat, decided one Friday that it was time to act. Mala, by then a marcher on anti-Vietnam war demos, suggested we call a mass demonstration in Birmingham with other IWA branches. The Narborough Road ghetto became a hive of activity, painting banners and slogans with Mala composing leaflets. On the day of the demonstration the good burghers of Birmingham watched bewildered as Mala, among others, led 20,000 animated Indians through its streets shouting slogans: Eenukka Pole hai hai! and Challa-ghun ray-sist k***a. No efforts and imprecations on Mala's part could correct the Punjabi pronunciation, but the fervour if not the message and recognisable names of the villains got through.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE SERB PSYCHE

 

The arrest of Radko Mladic, charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court at The Hague, after more than 15 years on the run, will bring Serbia's membership of the European Union closer. But it will do nothing to help ameliorate the wounded psyche of the Serbian people. Nobody disputes the unspeakable crimes that were committed in the process of Yugoslavia's breakup. The Serbs, as the dominant party, were more to blame than others, but the Western decision to paint them as the bad boys, almost to the exclusion of other parties, rankles in the Serb consciousness. The Serbs suffered 11 weeks of Nato bombing raids in March-June 1999. During a visit to Belgrade and other towns after the bombing I saw the scale of the destruction, with prominent buildings in central Belgrade little more than charred ruins, retained as reminders of a tragic past. Finally, Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic had to surrender. Richard Holbrooke of the United States had used him at Dayton to hammer out the agreement on Bosnia-Herzegovina. But there was little doubt that the Serbian leader was a marked man when the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was constituted. After Slobodan Milosevic was dethroned by a popular movement in which students under the rubric of Otpor (resistance) played a prominent part, Belgrade came under increasing pressure from The Hague to deliver Milosevic, Milovan Karadzic and Mladic if Serbia had any hope of receiving approval for joining the queue for European Union membership. Talking to political leaders of several parties and ordinary Serbs in Belgrade after the Nato bombing, I found them united in the belief that the West, in the shape of the International Court, was out to get Serbs, rather than any of the other parties to the conflict. Besides, the fact that the Albanian-majority Serbian province of Kosovo was placed under international tutelage with the intention of detaching it from Serbia led to charges and counter-charges in Belgrade of "who lost Kosovo?" The subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, quickly recognised by the United States and most of the West, came after years of make-believe UN investigations. Serbs' cradle of culture and Orthodox Christian religion is well recognised to lie in Kosovo. The Serbian government of Zoran Djindic bit the bullet and handed Milosevic to The Hague, where he outsmarted his prosecutors, in a sense, to conduct his own defence, watched by a television audience of millions to make his points. He died in prison before he could be pronounced guilty. Djindic paid for sending Milosevic to The Hague with his own life, at the hands of an assassin. The Hague prosecutors kept up their drumbeat on Belgrade to hand over the other two prominent accused. Finally, Radovan Karadzic, living under disguise, was discovered and handed over. He has since been conducting his own defence after resuming his original avatar of a scholarly air and long mane. But the big catch, Mladic, charged with the massacre of 8,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys in Srebrenica, ostensibly protected by Dutch troops wearing UN helmets, still eluded capture, obviously protected by his army loyalists. His luck finally ran out and President Boris Tadic made the dramatic announcement on May 26 of his capture, with promise of bringing him before a Serbian court prior to his dispatch to The Hague. This can only confirm the popular Serbian belief that the International Court, propped up by the US and the West, is biased against them. Indeed, remarkably few Croats or Bosniaks have been hauled before the Hague court, much less convicted. Among the few high-profile Croats found guilty, Gen. Ante Golovina and his co-accused, a police chief, caused fury in Croatia. Indeed, the general was on the run for four years until finally tracked to a restaurant in Tenerife. Unlike on Serbs, there was no international outcry on the Croats' role in the grisly process of Yugoslavia's breakup. The Serbian establishment decided after the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic that belonging to the European Union was the only game on the continent and it was prepared to pay the price for it. But during my visits to Yugoslavia in the 1990s it was clear the federation was suffering death pangs after the Tito era's end. The Serbs felt let down by the West and the world as they believed they had got a raw deal. As a pillar of nonalignment, Marshal Tito had played an important role in seeking independence from Moscow. As Yugoslavia broke up bit by cruel bit, the political tide in the establishment had swung and policymakers were willing to play a subservient role to seek favours from the West. Will Mladic's arrest bring some sort of closure to the Serbs' sense of hurt in being singled out for American and Western retributive justice? It seems unlikely because while many Serbs in policymaking positions feel that as the reduced nation of Serbia, they have no option but to accept their fate, having been let down by their own leaders to be confronted by the might of important nations. But the wounds of Yugoslavia's disintegration and the tragedies it brought in its wake will not heal soon. The European Union is the only goal they can now aspire to. Yugoslavia's fate has lessons for Europe and the world. As a multi-ethnic nation, it is dangerous for a dominant community to play the game of one-upmanship. Tito's genius in bringing the diverse republics together was to depress Serbian representation while choosing Communism as a cement to keep the federation intact. It would have been hard for successors to replicate the successful formula after the fall of European Communism. Milosevic made such an attempt impossible by suppressing ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo. But the biggest lesson of all is that a small nation cannot survive if powerful countries gang up against it.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

NEUROLOGICAL DISORDER

NO SCOPE FOR A SHORT FUSE


THERE are two aspects of Thursday's public spat at Kolkata's Bangur Institute of Neurology, one that led to the late-night suspension of its Director. First, Dr SP Ghorai should have stopped short of an impulsive argument with the Chief Minister. A restrained response is expected of an institutional head, said to be close to the former health minister, Dr Surjya Kanta Mishra. The Chief Minister, in charge of Health, is perfectly within her rights to visit any state hospital and at a time of her choosing; it is of lesser moment whether the visit is scheduled or "unannounced". The hospital authorities are not quite accustomed to this hands-on approach. Dr Ghorai's query as to why she had "turned up unannounced" cuts no ice, though he did have a point when he asked the CM: "Why did you come inside the MRI unit with so many media persons?"


That having been said, Mamata Banerjee did overstep her mark by entering the sensitive MRI (multiple resonance imaging) section with a horde of media persons and onlookers in tow. Save the doctor and the nursing staff, it is a no-admission department, sacrosanct even if not in the manner of an ICU. The Chief Minister must accept that unwittingly or otherwise, it was a blatant violation of hospital rules and the "silent zone" regulation. The photo-opportunity was not to be missed. To say this is not to question the purpose of her mission, only to assert that the fundamental rules of a critical care department have to be followed even by those in authority.


Within six days of the swearing-in of the new ministry, the public health segment has suffered a jolt, a wound inflicted by the establishment. And it is the establishment that must now bandage the injury. Neither the Chief Minister nor the Director ought to have raised their voices. A discussion on the hospital's problems ought ideally to have been conducted in the Director's chamber... not in high-pitched tones and in the presence of a crowd. The Chief Minister performed better at the subsequent meeting with hospital superintendents ~ with a firm instruction that patients seeking admission must not be turned away. Which precisely makes her "surprise" visits to hospitals ~ SSKM was the first detour on her way to Writers' ~ so very imperative. The hospital administrations must be prepared for ministerial scrutiny instead of going off on a short-fused ego trip, as happened at the Bangur Institute of Neurology on Thursday. The patient deserves better. And has seldom got it from public hospitals.


LONG OVERDUE

INDEPENDENT AIR-CRASH PROBES

FINALLY the Directorate General of Civil Aviation will cease to sit in judgement over itself: at least in one sphere. The recent government order (not a response to the air ambulance mishap) setting up an independent panel to probe air accidents and "incidents" ought to be welcomed across the aviation sector: more so because in the past there have been grave suspicions that reports of inquiries into mishaps have backed off from according due attention to shortcomings in infrastructure and management, laying greater emphasis on pilot error, poor maintenance by the airlines etc. It has been widely ~ and quite correctly ~ contended that the DGCA's functioning has not kept pace with the physical expansion of airline services, and technological advancements in the management of air space, enforcement of regulations and so on. Due supervision of helicopter operations has been lacking, so too in regard to non-scheduled services of light aircraft ~ as indicated by the spate of chopper mishaps in the North-east and the crash of an air-ambulance as it made its landing approach to the Capital. Apart from the DGCA's reluctance to "look within" (had it done so there would never have been so many fake pilots flying around), there have also been allegations of "manipulation" of the classification of mishaps ~ to cater to insurance issues. Just like how the police prefer to register cases of "grievous injury" when "attempted murder" was more appropriate.


On paper the "scheme" for the five-member panel seems adequate, though sceptics would have preferred it not to be under the civil aviation ministry since the sector is highly incestuous. Hopefully, the five-member panel being drawn from the DGCA is a one-off, initial affair, later truly independent experts will be inducted. Selecting the panel will require a focus on proven professional capability, not pampering or rehabilitating favourites. Only time will tell how effective the independent panel proves, it has a limited mandate, important though it is. For analysing accidents comes "after the fact" when there is need for equal, if not more, stress on preventive measures: a "safety culture" if you prefer. It is true that some private operators offer "slick" services, but there is always a tendency for commercial interests to lead to corners being cut, compromises made. For the ministry/DGCA to get all stakeholders "on board" will require a brand of leadership that is in short supply. Still, an independent crash-probe panel does hold out some promise.


PUMP-PRIME AFRICA

WILL IT BENEFIT THE PEOPLE ?

THE Prime Minister has made a remarkably generous presentation in Africa. The bonanza might appear to be a paradox in the context of the Supreme Court's recent observation that there are "two Indias" ~ the ascendant and affluent and the perdurably poor. It was a distinct echo of Amartya Sen's barb that the country oscillates between the Silicon Valley and sub-Saharan Africa. Quite obviously, it is the first perception that has been predominant in the diplomatic grandstanding in the Dark Continent. India can afford to advance the package that one would normally associate with the affluent bloc. Dr Manmohan Singh has announced a whopping $ 5 billion credit tranche to Africa over the next three years besides development initiatives, notably a rail connection between Ethiopia and Djibouti and an India-Africa university for life and earth sciences.
The bout of benevolence would have raised no cavil were it not for the stark disconnect within Africa. It must remain open to question whether India's assistance will actually reach the continent's poor, eking out an existence in grinding poverty. Another thorny issue is the pattern of division of the tranche within the countries of the continent. The world, let alone the ruled, may never know the ultimate decision of the rulers. Which explains the blistering candour of a West African delegate at the Africa-India Forum Summit: "The African people don't even get to know about this big money at summits. There is not even a discussion about how this money is divided and among whom."  It is a symptom too of the continent's tragedy that the billion-dollar bonanza  is unlikely to benefit Africa's poor... if past experience is anything to go by. Small wonder that the Prime Minister harped on the need to "provide the benefits to the African people". If to a lesser degree, the twin problems of poverty/disparity and disease have blighted India's development effort as well. Hence the "sub-Saharan" critique. Dr Singh's scepticism was fairly manifest in course of his presentation at the summit. The assistance is for Africans, not for its opulent dictatorial regimes. But there is another message, especially for nations rich in natural resources that have already been targeted by Chinese munificence; in the race for resources, India too is a player.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

OBAMA AND PALESTINE

THE QUEST FOR A DECISIVE MOVEMENT TOWARDS PEACE

SALMAN HAIDAR


IN something of a surprise development, President Barack Obama has returned to the long- standing attempt to bring about peace between Palestine and Israel. This thorniest of disputes has kept the USA engaged from the start, balancing, mediating, encouraging, going back again and again to the quest, in which it is no less inextricably involved than the regional parties themselves. Almost every incumbent US President has felt it necessary to try to bring the parties closer, and several have invested much personal prestige in the attempt. These efforts have sometimes yielded a few moments of hope: more than one leader of Israel has tried to align his country in the direction of long-term peace, as have successive Palestinian leaders. But they have all been thwarted by intransigent hardliners. One of the towering figures, Mr Rabin of Israel, paid with his life, and leaders of Palestine, including Chairman Yasser Arafat, have been through many travails.


In the USA, supporters of Israel have stood solidly with that country, no matter what, and constitute a formidable bloc with considerable political weight. They tend to be identified with tough positions and have to be taken into account by any would-be peacemaker. Nevertheless, a peace agreement in West Asia is the key to a stable relationship between the USA and the Arab world, and US leaders keep returning to the task.
President Obama is no exception: one of his earliest initiatives was to make a bid to revive the moribund peace process, for which he appointed a special envoy, the greatly respected former Senator George Mitchell who had played a key part in steering the successful Irish peace talks. This plan of the new President received a mixed response: many Arabs welcomed it, hoping for more even-handed treatment, while Israelis feared it could portend unwelcome pressure from the super power. Mr Obama's early activism was regarded by some critics as the mark of inexperience: typically, US Presidents enter the fray only when they have no further electoral aspirations, being loath to raise controversy that could affect the vote. In the event, this early effort foundered on the issue of a settlement freeze by Israel which was seen as a crucial first step. Despite all the US pressure brought upon it, Israel eventually refused to extend the temporary freeze then in being, and the peace process returned to hibernation. That nothing of consequence was taking place, or likely to take place, was brought home by the resignation last month of Senator Mitchell from the post of special envoy.


But now fresh developments have changed the picture. Just prior to the visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Obama came out in favour of a return to the 1967 boundaries as the basis for a fresh attempt to agree on the crucial border issue. It came as no surprise that Mr Netanyahu reacted firmly against Mr Obama's suggestion. Differences between the two leaders were aired publicly, with Israel's PM firm in his refusal even to consider the 1967 boundaries as a starting point for negotiation. In fact, he seemed to turn away from the very idea of talking to the current Palestinian representatives after the recent coming together of Hamas, which Israel regards as a terror organization, and its rival Fatah. The argument is strengthened by the fact that Hamas is still on the US list of proscribed organisations. But notwithstanding the clear rejection of his proposal, Mr Obama has not backed off. He repeated his proposal at a meeting of a caucus of Israel's supporters. Not to be outdone, Mr Netanyahu next day addressed the same caucus with his very different views.
In this latest West Asia initiative, President Obama comes across as confident and assertive. Even a few weeks ago he was a more subdued and restrained personality, not the sort of person who would enter once more the complex world of West Asian politics and push so hard for acceptance of his views. This change of gear reflects his abruptly risen standing at home and abroad. It is tempting to see in this the result of the successful operation against Osama bin Laden. Before that took place, Mr Obama seemed to be making heavy weather of the many tasks before him ~ the Afghan war threatened to remain inconclusive, the economy remained stubbornly unresponsive, public support for the presidency was slipping. When he announced his candidacy for re-election, it seemed that he had an uphill task before him. But the success against Al Qaida has changed all that. Once more, Mr Obama looks like the assured and confident leader who came to power a couple of years ago with a global agenda and a capacity to inspire hope and expectation. In a carefully organized series of visits, he has garnered vocal support from US citizens, military and civilian. And now he is in Europe, putting his stamp of primacy on the Western alliance. He would seem to have the capacity, as he has long had the conviction, to revive the quest for decisive movement towards peace in  West Asia.


If  US leaders repeatedly return to this attempt, they are driven by real concerns that affect the interests of their country. The security of Israel is an ineluctable priority issue for Washington. But ties with the Arab world are also very important and cannot be developed satisfactorily so long as the Palestine issue remains a regional flashpoint. To bring about peace in the area is thus an important US goal, though until now efforts to bring the parties closer have been unavailing. It remains to be seen if Mr Obama's latest pronouncements will drive the regional players, shepherded by the USA, back to the negotiating table. Immediate prospects are not promising, given Mr Netanyahu's rejection of the attempt, which in turn has drawn a negative response from the Palestinian leader Mr Mahmoud Abbas. But even if nothing can be expected right away, over the longer term Mr Obama's call may initiate concrete developments.


The Arab world is in a process of change towards more open and democratic societies ~ the still advancing 'Arab Spring'. The USA has contributed less to this process of reawakening than some of its own opinion makers would like, which may be one of the causes, albeit an indirect one, for the US President's current activism. An early test could come at the UN later this year if the move to admit Palestine as a member-state is accepted by the General Assembly. Such a move would be mostly symbolic and it has been decried by the USA. But it would point to strengthening opinion globally that is not to be ignored.


The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary

 

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THE STATESMAN

THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW

 

With a wide and varied interest in public interest litigation pertaining to civil liberties, human rights, corruption, environmental issues and socio-economic rights of the poor, lawyer-activist Mr Prashant Bhushan has been working incessantly for all those who do not have the wherewithal to engage and challenge the system. As a senior Supreme Court advocate he has represented people in the Bhopal gas tragedy, the Bofors scam and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots among other key cases. A part of the 10-member panel constituted recently to draft a Lokpal Bill to tackle corruption in government offices, Mr Bhushan feels today's public policies are largely influenced and controlled by commercial and vested interests and very few people are in a position to counter them. In a one-on-one on the nature of Indian democracy and the corruption that bedevils it, Mr Bhushan told AJITA SINGH that the basic principles of the Bill were not negotiable.

 
Do you think legal proceedings in the 2G scam, dubbed as Independent India's biggest corruption scandal, will reach their logical conclusion? Also, will the big fish be nailed and punished?

Yes, some big fish have been netted and the biggest, I am sure, will be caught sooner or later.

 
What do you make of the black money controversy, with tens of thousands of crore of black money generated by corrupt Indians alleged to be stashed in foreign banks? And, what is your take on the Centre's approach towards deterrence?

 Black money and money begotten of corruption are two different things: black money is generated when tax is evaded but then, it is only a part of ill-gotten money circulating in the system. And, it can be entirely attributed to crime or corruption. Most government policies are breeding black money by fuelling and fanning corruption. The government has not only allowed tax evasion to take place officially but has also legalised it by permitting multinationals and even Indian companies to set up offices in foreign lands and allowing them to operate from spaces beyond the Indian territory. Thus, for many tax evaders, it the law of the land that is encouraging them to commit a crime.

 
Isn't corruption a global phenomenon? Where does India stand vis-a-vis the world?

The Indian government is the most corrupt government in the world. None of its ministers, barring a few, are free from corruption.


Your take on corruption and the reason for the growing menace…

Government policies are encouraging corruption. The government, with its skewed policies, has created a huge corruption machinery with monstrous corporations, which have assets worth millions of rupees, serving as the cogs. The corporate mafia has managed to corrupt the whole system as every institution has become a puppet its hands. Contrary to the belief that liberalisation of the economy helped reduce corruption with license raj done away with, graft has increased manifold since the 1991 reforms. Corruption as a phenomenon has two aspects ~ demand and supply. The demand side of corruption needs to be tackled first to cleanse the system. The main reason for rampant corruption in this country is the government itself which has adopted policies that have created huge incentives for corruption on the one hand and on the other, has rendered all our anti-corruption agencies ineffectual. We do not have any effective, honest and independent anti-corruption agency ~ be it the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Central Vigilance Commission or the judiciary ~ that can curb corruption.

 
Could you list some policies which you think breed corruption.

Some of the government policies that aim to achieve as high a GDP growth rate as 15 per cent, in effect, breed and feed corruption. These include speculative trading practices, policies allowing commodity exchange and assets transfers i.e. conversion of public assets into private assets. As against license raj, when kickbacks amounted to no more than 15 per cent of the profit or the business volume, the ambit of corruption in the post-liberalisation era has grown manifold. The government is responsible for the growth of corporate mafia comprising private monopolies which regulate water and electricity distribution, among other things, and other agencies spawned by public- private partnerships.

 
But aren't there regulators to oversee private players?

Yes, the government says it has put in place or is in the process of appointing regulators to oversee private profit-making ventures and streamline their operations. But by doing this, the government is "unwittingly" opening a window for corruption and offering regulators with vested interests a big opportunity to indulge in illegal practices.

 

Any measures you can think of to fight the menace?

Transparency is the only answer to tackling the menace of corruption. Allocation of Unique Identification Number (UID) is the only way to prevent corrupt practices as this will help keep an eye on every citizen. Though civil liberty groups are against it because they fear it will invite too much interference from the government which will be is possession of all details about people pertaining to their purchases, deposits and assets, travels and communication, among other things, but I feel that an honest person has nothing to fear. This will help nail the rogues and eventually marginalise them. Though there is no foolproof mechanism to prevent corruption, the institution of Lokpal or ombudsman will go a long way in fighting the menace. It can check the supply side of corruption.

 
Do you think the Central government is really interested in tabling a comprehensive and credible anti-corruption Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament?

We all know what the government is up to. I don't think our lawmakers have the political will but they have been compelled to make a commitment which they will find difficult to wriggle out of. Though the government will try to put all manner of spanner in the works, we will see to it that the Lokpal Bill is enacted in this monsoon session.

 
Will the institution of Lokpal be adequate to fight corruption, or do you think structural changes need to be made in our legislature, judiciary and executive to combat it?

Yes, the institution of Lokpal  can be effective but for that to happen, it must have teeth. It should have complete authority and power of investigation and prosecution without requiring any person or public official's permission to do so. It should be empowered to investigate and prosecute executives, bureaucrats and even judges in higher judiciary.

 

Several cases of corruption involving the higher judiciary have come to light. What is your prescription?
The basic idea of an empowered Lokpal is that it will have full autonomy and independence to investigate complaints of corruption against and prosecute all public servants, including judges and this is non-negotiable. To ensure that members of higher judiciary conduct themselves impeccably, an impartial probe into corruption is essential. In fact, the institution of Lokpal can provide excellent deterrence if adequate powers are vested in it by a Constitutional amendment. The misconduct of judicial officials can be curbed by setting up a Judicial Misconduct Commission.

 
Should the Lokpal keep an eye on Supreme Court and High Court judges as well? Mr Anna Hazare had earlier disfavoured bringing the higher judiciary in the Lokpal Bill's ambit. Also, the draft Jan Lokpal Bill has been criticised for proposing an omnipotent authority without accountability to Parliament.
Omnipotence of the institution of Lokpal is a must without which it will be pointless. It has to be powerful to be effective. And, to prevent the misuse of the institution, we want the office of ombudsman to practise total transparency: all of its transactions and dealings should be uploaded onto its website; all orders of the Lokpal to be subject to judicial review and overview and the Lokpal to be accountable to the Supreme Court. Also, the Lokpal should be accountable to a complaints authority that needs to function independent of it.

 
Controversies surrounding your family members erupted after you and your father had been included in the joint Lokpal Bill drafting panel. Apparently, the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Delhi concluded that an audio CD containing your father's alleged conversation with politician Mr Amar Singh hadn't been doctored but CFSL Chandigarh thought otherwise…

The Central Bureau of Investigation did not give a true picture of the CD. And, it had to manipulate the signatures of four people to get a favourable report. But maybe the Chandigarh people resorted to no such manipulation and reported what was true. Not everybody gets pressured.

 
What's your view on the nature and timing of such controversies?

Very appropriately timed, I should say. The fact that some people ran a smear campaign against the members of the joint committee to draft the Lokpal Bill makes their intention clear.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

ON RECORD

 

I will meet the Union finance minister on Sunday to discuss the finances of the state. I still can't say whether a special financial package for the state will be discussed or how much we should ask from the Centre. By Sunday, Amit Mitra will have a fair idea of the situation.


West Bengal chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee


Returning acquired land is possible after amending the existing law. We did not do that. That is why we could not come to power.


Former Bengal land and land reforms minister and CPI-M leader Mr Abdur Rezzak Mollah


We will have our 21st party congress in Patna in March next year. That is where a new leadership would be elected. But this change has nothing to do with the recent developments.


CPI general-secretary Mr AB Bardhan


Raj Bhavan is like a prison and I am like a jailbird here.


Karnataka Governor HR Bharadwaj after the Centre rejected his recommendation for imposition of President's Rule in the southern state


From this year, all colleges in Bengal will upload their merit list on the college website. Colleges which don't have websites would have to notify that. In addition to this, all colleges will have to send a copy of their respective merit lists to me.


West Bengal higher education minister Mr Bratya Basu


Our job is to secure the United States. We are very respectful of the sovereignty of Pakistan. But we cannot allow someone who is actively planning to kill our people or our allies' people. We can't allow those kind of active plans to come to fruition without us taking some action.


US President Barack Obama in a BBC interview

 

We never said that the Singur agreement would be made public today. I need more time. I'm confident that the legal issues will be sorted out soon.


West Bengal commerce and industries minister Mr Partha Chatterjee on the about Singur land agreement between the former Left Front government and Tata Motors


But, as a judge, I have different duties to discharge. Here, I must be objective and eschew my likes and dislikes and render justice...


Supreme Court Justice Mr AK Ganguly after quashing the allotment of 63.04 cottahs of land to cricketer Sourav Ganguly

When I was young, the sight of a hammer and a sickle that symbolises communism denoted something evil. My fight was against the evil.


Purulia arms drop mastermind Kim Davy

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

 

100 yrs for friday night/may 28

mr gokhale's education bill


the weighty resolution in which the syndicate of the university of calcutta have stated their disapproval of mr
Gokhale's Compulsory Education Bill ought to exercise a considerable influence in determining the fate of that measure. They begin by making it clear that they sympathise in principle with all schemes for the extension of education. This is almost inevitably the position taken up by every man who is himself educated or enlightened Universal education is the ideal towards which all civilised communities are working. Some opposition has, it is true, been offered to Mr Gokhale's proposals on the ground that the effect of sending children to school will be to make them discontented with their station in life and to create a dislike for manual labour or menial service. But this is an antiquated and short-sighted objection. It was once very popular in England, and to this day there are admirers of the good old days who complain that domestic servants are now difficult to get, that  boys leave the country for the towns, and that the workman is too independent, and who attribute all these changes for the worse to the policy of pampering the lower classes with schooling that they do not need. That this cry would be raised in India was to be expected. There are classes in every country who desire that a large section of the community should be contented hewers of wood and drawers of water, ignorant of any way of escape from their traditional servitude and satisfied with the pittance which their betters choose to pay them. With any hostility to Mr Gokhale's Bill which rests on theories of this kind we have not an atom of sympathy. The grossest cruelty which any man can practise on his fellow man is to condemn him to ignorance, thus depriving him of all the hope, comfort, and enjoyment which knowledge has brought into the world and rendering him the easy prey of every form of deceit and oppression. In every civilised and humane society education must be the birthright of every man, whatever temporary unsettlement and inconvenience it may cause, and we are satisfied that any opposition to Mr Gokhale's Bill, or any similar measure, which is founded on a desire to keep certain classes in their places will fail. The only valid objection which can be urged against Mr Gokhale's proposals is that in the present circumstances they will not achieve his own objects and will be detrimental to the general interests of education. These are the considerations which have prevailed with the Syndicate of the Calcutta University. They say that they "must oppose new undertakings for which neither additional funds nor competent teachers are likely to be available." The financial difficulty is one of enormous importance, and Mr Gokhale does not appear to have devoted to it the attention which it deserves.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

IN THE EYE OF A STORM

Baby Storm has created havoc. Or rather, Storm's mama and papa have — by refusing to disclose their four-month-old's gender. In 1978, Lois Gould wrote a story about a child called X, who loved to kick the ball and to weave baskets. But in real life, Storm must be the first child to grow up 'genderless' in a world where little boys must be made of "snips and snails, and puppy dog tails" and little girls of "sugar and spice and all things nice". Storm's parents have decided not to impose the burden of gender on their bundle of joy. With their first two children — both sons — they were also careful not to confuse sex (the biological features that define male and female) with gender (norms of behaviour set by society). So five-year-old Jazz loves pink and grows his hair long, and Kio, at two, is partial to purple and pyjama pants. Idyllic as all this may sound, the Canadian parents have paid a steep price for giving their children the freedom to be themselves. No school has been able to accommodate Jazz and his quirky tastes, while Kio is routinely cuddled as a 'little princess' by smiling strangers. (If such is the situation in the enlightened West, one shudders to imagine how hideous its counterpart must be in the more conservative third world.) As a result, when Storm came along, the parents decided it was time to try out a more unconventional approach.

Noble as their intention sounds, the parents cannot quite avoid making a choice on behalf of their child. Refusing to 'choose' Storm's gender is also a kind of choice, and co-opting the other two children into maintaining silence about it is an imposition of the adult will, however well-meaning it may be. Adult fantasy tends to forget that children eventually grow up to be adults as well who often look back on their childhood with a critically unsparing eye. In any case, who can decide whether a child does, or does not, have the right to know its gender? Isn't it better to know oneself to be a boy or a girl but grow up a boy-girl or girl-boy? Shakespeare's boy actors must have known that topsy-turvy feeling.

The idea of a gender-neutral world is worth fighting for. But should the very conception of gender be abandoned altogether in the pursuit of an unbiased society? In their effort to make the world "a more progressive place", Storm's parents have shaken up people close to them. It is only to be imagined how deeply challenged, if not threatened, strangers must feel by their decision. In an ideal world, Storm has the right to be male or female or anyone in between — that is precisely what the parents appear to have wished for in the first place. Yet, by denying the baby the right to align itself in whatever way it wants, the father and mother have actually ended up creating a new category: other than other. And this has saddled the child with the onerous responsibility of being a singular person. Being an individual is no mean task. Even 40-year-olds find it intimidating. What must it be for a four-month-old to have to fulfil such great expectations?

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THE BANE OF BENGALI LIFE

IS THE NEW CHIEF MINISTER PREPARED TO TAKE UNPOPULAR STEPS? SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

There's a probably apocryphal story about Chakravarti Rajagopalachari telling Bengali radicals who wanted to turn Raj Bhavan into a library in August 1947 that he should be allowed to enjoy his reward for years of political struggle. Similarly, Trinamul Congress ministers should not be grudged the trappings of office like lights on their cars. Austerity is fine when genuine and sustained, not an affectation like Left Front ministers spurning the Writers' Buildings lifts in June 1977 to trip up the stairs.

It's the same with expressions of concern. Mamata Banerjee must be commended for persuading SSKM Hospital to admit an injured young man. But ensuring he is properly bedded and treated is equally important. Even if Calcutta's once-premier Europeans-only hospital were not in sad decline, it would have been a caring government's duty to set up institutions with adequate accommodation, trained staff, treatment facilities and medicines throughout the state. I was amazed to find that an official researcher who claimed Indian medical facilities were as good as China's was comparing China's public health system with Calcutta nursing homes like Belle Vue and Woodlands!

These are early days, but Ms Banerjee's Haroun al-Rashid act can set a welcome precedent for personal intervention and summary solutions, provided it doesn't also encourage incipient signs of high-handedness. What she mustn't neglect is an overarching framework for action. West Bengal's parlous finances is all the more reason why it should play a lead role in configurations that can facilitate investment, boost trade and change the region's economic geography. Trinamul's manifesto speaks of turning rivers into highways and making West Bengal an "export hub" and "a logistics hub and a transport corridor" from Punjab to "Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the entire North-east region". That vision can lead to a robust Look East policy. "Modern Singapore is a daughter of the city of Calcutta," says Singapore's foreign minister, George Yeo. Cambodia and Sri Lanka trace their roots to Bengal.

The key lies in cooperation with Bangladesh under its present friendly government whose head lost no time in congratulating Ms Banerjee on her victory. As Harun ur Rashid, a former Bangladeshi ambassador to the United Nations (not to be confused with the caliph of the incognito inspections mentioned earlier), indicated in Dhaka's Daily Star, West Bengal enjoys an effective veto over India-Bangladesh relations. Its attitude "plays a major part in implementing whatever decisions New Delhi agrees with Bangladesh" on bilateral issues. The issues — enclaves, border friction, non-tariff trade barriers, poor infrastructure, Farakka or the Teesta agreement — merit separate discussion. What deserves stressing now is that this is the age of regional planning. Apart from the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation which hopes to launch a free trade area in July 2012, there are several proposals for growth triangles and quadrangles covering parts of eastern India, Bangladesh and Southeast Asia. Some include landlocked Bhutan and Nepal whose thwarted hopes of greater road and rail access to and through West Bengal turned the late King Mahendra to his country's northern neighbour and cost India valuable oil and gas concessions from Myanmar.

Bangladeshis believe that since the National Democratic Alliance and the Trinamul-Congress coalition are "on the same wavelength", Central plans will no longer be caught in bottlenecks in West Bengal. Presumably, Amit Mitra will explore both the economic dimension of Ms Banerjee's sentimental evocation of the common heritage of Rabindranath Tagore and Nazrul Islam, and the nexus between trade, foreign investment and domestic prosperity. None of this implies a sudden jump out of the state's constitutional chrysalis. Political West Bengal's outlook has always been international, but concern for "fraternal" causes like Vietnam and Cuba did not benefit the state. On the contrary, it often irritated the Centre. A pragmatic leader with no ideological bias save her regional commitment can turn internationalism to domestic advantage.

She needs to because this last week has confirmed the frighteningly soaring public expectations from her regime. The two million people outside Raj Bhavan on May 20 and Tuesday's huge crowds indicated far more than a breakdown of policing arrangements. They gave a foretaste of public pressure on the Trinamul and also warned of a populism that is irreconcilable with good governance. May 20 was not a holiday. Neither was Tuesday. Yet, people merrily abandoned their offices and took to the streets. If this happens every time the chief minister stirs out of her home or office, West Bengal might as well say goodbye to all hope of recovery.

The plea of witnessing history being made only signifies that the Left Front's rout makes not the slightest difference to the Calcutta public's assumed right to treat itself to a circus during working hours whenever it feels like it. While spending all one morning this week shuttling from office to office and desk to desk in the municipal corporation, I watched an employee absorbed in his game of computer solitaire, oblivious to the crowds around him. The corporation has been under Trinamul control for several years but, clearly, no one has the will or courage to take shirkers to task. It would be illogical to expect senior officials who condoned dereliction of duty for 34 years to see the light like St. Paul on the road to Damascus just because they now stand high in the new chief minister's favour. Rank and file office workers are unlikely to believe that their indulgent bosses have miraculously been transformed into diligent and dutiful disciplinarians.

The only answer to this bane of Bengali life lies in strict enforcement of rules without baulking at summary punishment when necessary. Nothing else can introduce (restore would be the wrong word) discipline. Strictness can come only from the top. Is Ms Banerjee prepared to risk dissipating some of the popular adulation in which she now basks by taking unpopular steps? She must, if she is to fulfil even an iota of her manifesto.

Job creation doesn't demand a huge influx of capital. Tamil Nadu started with modest industrial estates such as the one at Guindy. Siddhartha Shankar Ray sought to serve the same purpose with his abortive proposal for six dispersed growth centres that banked on traditional engineering skills and available iron and coal. Now, the blueprint can extend to software and IT. This is another challenge for Mitra. He must persuade wealthy traders who had a cozy arrangement with the Marxists all these years to invest in people instead of in the party, acquiring land for their enterprises through the mechanism of the free market they claim to uphold. Sonia Gandhi's National Advisory Council knows that apart from other objections, state acquisition will always be resisted because it is based on recorded sales which never reflect actual price.

Growth demands much else, like investing in primary education, restoring the primacy of English in schools, removing the grievances that turned Muslim voters (30 per cent of the total) against the Left Front, roads, housing and electricity. Many facilities that do exist on paper are criminally abused, like village children being forced in practice to pay for "free" school textbooks. But I draw the line at arbitrarily clearing Calcutta's streets of autorickshaws and pavements of hawkers. They are a menace, yes, but industriousness commands respect. These workers serve a need, theirs as well as the public's. To sweep them away without satisfactory alternative arrangements would cause severe dislocation. Calcutta has a lot to learn from Singapore and Shanghai in managing change.

Ultimately, there's no escape from thinking regionally. Where it can't act on its own, West Bengal must instigate the Centre to think regional and operate as its agent. Tagore's Amar Sonar Bangla belongs as much to this state as to Bangladesh. So, in reverse, should Shahnaz Rahmotullah's Prothom Bangladesh amar shesh Bangladesh. Enlightened leadership can ensure that though politically separate, West Bengal and Bangladesh are still partners in progress.

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

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

EDITORIAL

HOME TRUTHS

''THE AIM HAS TO GO BEYOND IMPARTING JOB SKILLS.''


Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh's opinion that the quality of research and the standards of the faculty at the prestigious IITs and IIMs are not world class has created a controversy. He feels that it is the high quality of students that helps these institutions to maintain some level of excellence. He has been criticised for his remarks but there are many, even among academics, who would agree with him. India has developed fast but its institutions of higher learning are way behind those in developed countries. Countries like China and Korea have also advanced far ahead of India towards a knowledge economy.  There is no Indian centre of learning among the top institutions in the world. In terms of research papers and patents the country lags behind many others.


It is necessary to accept this if we are to make progress in scientific and technological research. The reason for the poor state of affairs is not just the lack of quality faculty. Lack of facilities, infrastructure and funding is equally responsible for it. Even the supposedly high emoluments now being paid to faculty members are unable to attract the best talent to the academia. Even in the best institutions politics and an entrenched bureaucratic culture can adversely the quality of teaching and research. Incentives for excellence and disincentives against below par performance are clearly lacking in such a system. India was at such a stage of development in the last few decades that the aim of these institutions was rightly to equip the students with the best job skills. But now the aim has to go beyond imparting job skills and create new knowledge and skills which will take the country to a new level of development. The working, structure and management practices of these institutions need to change for the better for this. There is also the need to create more of them. Large capital and human resource investments are needed for this.


The minister has said the quality of students is high. While this is so, it has also been observed that the country's best institutions do not attract the best students. This is partly because of the faulty selection process which puts a premium on coaching. An improved selection system which values intelligence and creativity more than other abilities can attract better students. Such students will have better abilities for innovation and fresh thinking in all areas.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

MAJOR PROBLEM

''STERN PUNISH-MENT MUST BE METED OUT TO PARENTS.''


While Karnataka's women and child development department must be commended for preventing 61 child marriages between February and May this year, the fact that child marriages continue to be practised in North Karnataka is reason for serious concern. The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for girls and 21 for boys. Yet parents are continuing to defy the law to marry off their children when they are still minors. It has emerged that in north Karnataka some of the brides and grooms are below 10 years of age. Although Karnataka is not among the worst offenders in the country when it comes to child marriage it is not as if child marriage is not rampant here. A core committee on prevention of child marriage in the state had revealed earlier this year that 45 to 68 per cent of people who tie the knot in Karnataka do so before they turn 18. It said that child marriage was alarmingly high in the districts of Belgaum, Bidar, Bijapur, Bagalkot, Bellary, Gadag, Dharwad, Raichur and Koppal.

Child marriage is problematic not just because children lack the emotional maturity that marriage requires but because it has serious ramifications for the health of a child wife/mother. The body of a young girl is not able to withstand the rigours of pregnancy and motherhood. Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s. Besides, the babies they give birth to are usually unhealthy and mal-developed.


Poverty and related problems push parents to get their children married early. Parents are often worried about the safety and security of their girl children. This fear is particularly high among nomadic communities and migrants. Early marriage is seen to be a solution in these circumstances. These insecurities need to be addressed to prevent child marriages. Legislation on age of marriage will not by itself prevent child marriages. The law must be enforced and stern punishment must be meted out to parents, priests, police and politicians who conspire to keep this social evil alive. It is well known that many children are married off in mass marriages, which are usually presided by politicians and ministers. If they are prosecuted — penalties alone will not do — people will think twice before getting children married.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

LASTING FRIENDSHIP

BY HARSH V PANT


With India ascending in the global hierarchy and the US building a strong partnership, China's need for Pakistan is likely to grow.


Pakistan's prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani went to China on a four-day visit last week to celebrate the year-long observance of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Of course, there is much to celebrate in a bilateral relationship that has been described as "higher than mountains and deeper than oceans".


But at a time when Pakistan is under intense scrutiny for its role in fighting extremism and terrorism, the world would be watching with interest how China decides to deal with Pakistan. There are voices in the US asking the Obama administration to partner with China to restore stability to Pakistan. There are also many in India who have suggested that China shares a range of objectives with not only the US but also with India that include a prosperous, sustainable, and secure Pakistan that does not remain a base for al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

Yet recent Chinese actions provide little hope that any change in Chinese policy vis-à-vis Pakistan might be in the offing. China was perhaps the only major power that openly voiced its support for Pakistan after the Osama fiasco. Hailing the killing of Osama as a "major event and a positive development in the international struggle against terrorism," China's ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA) spokeswoman Jiang Yu did not fail to notice that "Pakistan stands at the forefront of the international struggle against terrorism…Pakistan has made important contributions to the international struggle against terror."


During the latest visit, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao assured the visiting prime minister of Pakistan, of China's support. Wen affirmed that "Pakistan has made huge sacrifices and an important contribution to the international fight against terrorism, that its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity must be respected..." Wen went on to state that China would like to be an 'all-weather strategic partner' and will do its best to help the Pakistani government and people get through their difficulties. To underscore its commitment, China has agreed to immediately provide Pakistan 50 new JF-17 Thunder multi-role jets under a co-production agreement even as negotiations continue for more fighter aircrafts including those with stealth technology.


Pakistan and China have enjoyed a unique relationship for a long time now. Maintaining close ties with China has been a priority for Islamabad, and Beijing has provided extensive economic, military, and technical assistance to Pakistan over the years. It was Pakistan that in early 1970s enabled China to cultivate its ties with the West and the US in particular, for Pakistan was the conduit for Henry Kissinger's landmark secret visit to China in 1971 and was instrumental in bringing China closer to the larger Muslim world.

Deep-rooted relationship

Pakistan enjoys a multifaceted and deep-rooted relationship with China underpinned by mutual trust and confidence. Pakistan has also supported China on all issues of importance to the latter, especially those related to the question of China's sovereignty over Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet, and other sensitive issues such as human rights. China has reciprocated by supporting Pakistan's stance on Kashmir.

Over the years China has emerged as Pakistan's largest defence supplier. Military cooperation between the two countries has deepened with joint projects to produce armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates. China is a steady source of military hardware to the resource-deficient Pakistani army. China has played a major role in the development of Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure and has emerged as Pakistan's benefactor at a time when increasingly stringent export controls in western countries made it difficult for Pakistan to acquire materials and technology from other sources.


The Pakistani nuclear weapons programme is essentially an extension of the Chinese one. Although China has long denied helping any nation attain nuclear capability, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has acknowledged the crucial role China has played by giving Pakistan 50 kg of weapons-grade enriched uranium, providing detailed plans of nuclear weapons, and tonnes of uranium hexafluoride for Pakistan's centrifuges. This is perhaps the only case where a nuclear weapon state has passed on weapons-grade fissile material as well as a bomb design to a non-nuclear weapon state.


With India ascending in the global hierarchy and the US continuing to build a strong partnership with India, China's need for Pakistan is likely to grow. This has been evident in Chinese polices towards Pakistan on critical issues in South Asia. A rising India makes Pakistan all the more important in China's strategy for the subcontinent. It is highly unlikely that China will give up playing the Pakistan card vis-à-vis India anytime soon. The China-Pakistan partnership serves the interests of both partners by presenting India with a potential two-front theatre in the event of war with either country. Each is using the other to counterbalance India, as India's disputes with Pakistan keep India occupied and thus prevent it from attaining its potential as a major regional and global player.


It is therefore highly unlikely that China will be a credible partner for the US in stabilising Pakistan as is being argued by some in Washington. The focus on India will continue to cement an already solid Sino-Pak partnership in the coming years forcing to India to take remedial action against this 'two-front' challenge.

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

WAY THE WIND BLOWS

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH


The recent elections in five states deserve to be known a landmark elections for many reasons. The turn-out of voters was about the largest we have known: between 75 to 86 per cent.

This is a clear indication that the 'aam admi' knows that voting is his privilege as well as his duty.

There was very little violence and most of the exercise carried out peacefully. Muscle men and booth capturing are past history. So are vote banks based on caste or community. People look forward to improving their living conditions and cast their votes to the party which promised to do so. Nitish Kumar's victory in Bihar proved that appeals to caste or religion together no longer count for much.

The rout of the Communist government in West Bengal should teach Communist party leaders, particularly Prakash Karat, a lesson. Dogmatic Marxism, rampant trade unionism, frequent strikes and blocking roads by taking out huge processions of workers took a heavy toll of industry and prevented Bengal from becoming a leader in industry. Also, its leaders' allergy towards everything American was childish beyond belief. They have paid a heavy price for their obscurantism.

The demise of Karunanidhi's DMK is to be welcomed. He treated Tamil Nadu as his family property. His son Stalin was to succeed as chief minister, his daughter Kanimozhi got a ministerial position in the Central government as if it was a part of her dowry. All the scams that ruined the reputation of Dr Manmohan Singh's government were the doing of DMK ministers. The prime minister should be happy to be rid of them. Only last year Jayalalitha said she would give unconditional support to the Central government if it dispensed with the DMK. I hope she will stick to her word.

Assam stays with the Congress for the third time. In Kerala, another bastion of the Communists, the leftists' support declined, and the Congress support increased.
So what do we make of the results from the five states? As far as I am concerned, I see the wind is still blowing in favour of the Congress party led by Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi — respectively president and secretary of the party. And the Central government headed by Manmohan Singh re-assured of a full five year team in office.

Buddha jayanti
Every Buddha Jayanti I am reminded of the one I spent in Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh). It was something special in the Buddha calendar and eminent Buddhists from many countries were expected to offer prayers at the Stupa. Dr Radhakrishnan, then vice-president of India, was to play the host and make inaugural speech, I was commissioned by All India Radio to cover the event for Indian listeners.
The Sanchi Stupa dates back to the third century BC. I had visited it when I was staying in Bhopal. There were many sculptures depicting Jataka tales from Buddha's life including one empty shrine under an open umbrella and footprints of animals, birds and human beings.

When I reached Sanchi, a whole city of tents to accommodate visitors had come up. The ceremonies started as soon as the sun went down and full moon cane up. Dr Radhakrishnan, who was a great orator, made a spell-bounding speech to welcome our guests and touched on the salient teachings of the Buddha — notably the all pervasive 'dukha' (sorrow) and the need to learn detachment to combat it. Then came the chanting!

Buddham Sharanam
Gachhami
Dharmam Sharanam
Gachhami
Sangham Sharanam
Gachhami


By the time the ceremonies ended, it was well past midnight. I walked about the fields taking in hallowed atmosphere. Now I live in a crowded Delhi where garish electric lights blot put the moon and the stairs from vision.

Arab in Yankee land
Mohammad, a child of Arab parents, was enrolled in a school in New York. On the first day, his teacher asked: "What is your name?"
The boy replied: "Mohammad". "From now on your name is Johnny as you are in America."
In the evening, when he came back home, his mother asked, "How was your day, Mohammad?"
He said, "My name is not Mohammad. I'm in America and my name is Johnny."
His mother slapped him and said angrily, "Aren't ashamed of trying to dishonour your parents, your heritage, your religion?" Then she called his father and he also slapped him. Next day when the teacher saw him with his face red and asked what happened? Mohammad said, "Madam, four hours after I became American, I was attacked by two Arabs."
(Contributed by J P Singh Kaka, Bhopal)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

CYCLING UP THE MOUNTAIN

BY KAMALA BALACHANDRAN


Someone wanted the plastic covers the daily newspapers came in!


I noticed the rip even as the box cam bobbing down the conveyor belt. Since anxious discussion on what might have slipped through is not the best way to begin a visit, I suppressed the urge to investigate the damage right at the arrival lounge.


A careful examination later at home showed that while there was no loss of items, the box itself was beyond repair and unfit for the return trip.


I can freecycle it, my daughter-in-law said.Freecycle, I learnt, is a worldwide, registered network of groups. It's a movement of people to give and get stuff for free in their own localities and thereby keep good stuff out of landfills. Freecycle members post their offers for things they have no use for and interested members pick up the item from the designated spot.


Who would want a broken suitcase in this neighbourhood, I asked. Apparently someone did and the box got taken from the porch within hours of posting!


I was impressed by the concept. And it was heart warming to see that there was no stigma attached to taking old stuff. So in the days that followed, I kept a regular tab of the postings in the page.


Offers of toys, furniture, books and tools were common. But once in a while we came by an interesting post that provided topic for dinner table conversation.


Someone wanted the plastic covers the daily newspapers came in. I couldn't make sense of that till I got to know that the arm-length, narrow plastic bags served as gloves while picking up the dog poo from the sidewalks!

A lady wanted just one large plastic trash bag. I spent my idle time trying to guess the use the single bag may be put to!


There was an offer for seedlings. The person said she had many strawberry plants growing in her backyard and people were welcome to come in with a shovel and take them.

 

The offer of boxes of chocolates and cookies, I guessed, was the decisive, first step taken by a person embarking on a diet!


After a month of association with the group, I was convinced that with such growing awareness, the US may, some day, shake off the dubious distinction of being the world's largest generator of waste.

Till the parcel arrived. A spare part for a baby gadget ordered online arrived by post. The parcel was way too large for the size of the part. And for a good reason. The thick carton contained, in addition to the ordered item, six free samples of random cosmetic products, packed individually and attractively in separate pouches. The items were together protected by a thick base of air filled, plastic cushion.

As I watched my daughter-in-law put up the carton and free samples on offer, the phrase that came up in my mind was 'alilu sevai'.


Squirrels may have given a helping hand in building the bridge across the sea but can the squirrels ever do it alone?

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

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER WAR IN SUDAN?

The world breathed a sigh of relief in January when southern Sudanese voted overwhelming to secede and the government in northern Sudan accepted the results. But with the July 9 independence date approaching, north and south Sudan are on the brink of war over the oil-rich border region of Abyei. The United States, the United Nations and the African Union will have to press hard to get the two sides to back down.

The January vote was part of a 2005 American-backed agreement that ended two decades of fighting between the Arab Muslim north and the largely Christian south that killed two million people. The fact that it went off reasonably peacefully was a testament to American and other international mediators who worked assiduously to persuade President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to forgo disruption and violence — at least then.

The question of who would control Abyei was left unresolved. It is quickly descending into chaos. On May 19 southern Sudan forces ambushed a convoy of northern army troops escorted by U.N. peacekeepers. President Bashir, author of the murderous war in Darfur, reacted excessively, sending more forces to bombard and occupy Abyei's main town. Thousands have fled. Mr. Bashir also unilaterally disbanded a north-south civilian council that was jointly administering Abyei.

Abyei is one of many unresolved issues, including borders, citizenship protections for minorities and how oil earnings — the south has 70 percent of the reserves — will be shared.

The two sides need each other to succeed. Southern Sudan needs the North's pipeline to get its oil to market. Northern Sudan needs oil money to help pay its bills. Both need foreign investment and the North in particular needs debt relief. They have a better chance of winning international support if they are at peace.

The Obama administration set out a road map for removing Sudan from the terrorism list and normalizing relations with Khartoum. That must be held up until Mr. Bashir negotiates a settlement for Abyei. To get maximum benefits, progress on a peace settlement in Darfur is also required.

International mediators must make clear to southern Sudan that international assistance will not be forthcoming if it continues to pick fights with Khartoum. The U.N. needs more competent troops.

Mr. Bashir and Salva Kiir, the president of southern Sudan, need to resume negotiations on all issues, starting with Abyei. We are encouraged by reports that the two sides will meet with mediators from the African Union on Saturday. Another war serves no one's interest.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

DODD-FRANK IN LIMBO

Congressional Republicans could not be clearer about their intent to undermine the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. They're not helping consumers, so we have to assume that their goal is to protect the bankers.

Senate Republicans told President Obama that they would not confirm any nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless Democrats first agreed to gut the bureau's power. House Republicans continued their attack on Elizabeth Warren, the consumer advocate and Harvard law professor who is setting up the bureau, charging last week that the bureau — and Ms. Warren — wield draconian powers.

She does not, nor will the bureau, which by law has significant constraints on its authority. When she rightly pushed back, they accused her of lying about her role. The Republicans will keep pushing. The only question is when Mr. Obama will start pushing back.

It has been nearly a year since Dodd-Frank became law, but the White House has yet to nominate leaders for several agencies that have to oversee the reforms. It says it is working on nominations. There is no time to waste.

At the consumer bureau, only a Senate-confirmed director can write the new rules envisioned in Dodd-Frank. No director has been nominated, though Ms. Warren is the obvious choice for the top job. A successful nomination fight would clearly demonstrate Mr. Obama's support and could be his only option, since Republicans have blocked his ability to use a recess appointment over the Memorial Day break.

There is no nominee for bank supervisor on the Federal Reserve Board, a post created by Dodd-Frank. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees national banks, is being run by an acting director, John Walsh, who appears steeped in the pro-bank, anti-consumer ethos that pervaded the agency before the financial crisis. The White House also hasn't nominated anyone to run the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation when Sheila Bair, a strong reformer, finishes in June.

If Mr. Obama is committed to Dodd-Frank, he will nominate qualified candidates and fight for them through filibusters if need be. Without strong leaders at these key agencies financial reform doesn't have much of chance.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ALBANY NEEDS ETHICS REFORM — NOW

The first item on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's post-inauguration to-do list was ethics reform. He's been in office five months, and we're still waiting for the bill.

While the governor has been negotiating behind closed doors with legislative leaders (shouldn't transparency top the list of reforms?), others are acting.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli have announced plans to use their offices' resources to investigate anything suspicious that involves the use of state funds. That includes no-show jobs, illegal expense reports, pension padding and bid rigging for government contracts.

The Schneiderman-DiNapoli idea is a good one, but not enough. Here's what is needed, as Mr. Cuomo laid out in his campaign "Plan for Action":

¶An independent ethics commission with powers to investigate and punish legal violations by lawmakers and members of the executive branch. No more self-policing.

¶End "pay to play," with stiff contribution limits for contractors and lobbyists, immediate disclosure of contributions and real punishments for breaking the rules.

¶Full disclosure by lawmakers of outside earnings and clients — with no exceptions. Lawyers whose clients have business before the state must come clean. As Mr. Cuomo wrote, "Voters cannot have complete faith in their elected representatives if they cannot assess where else those representatives are earning money."

¶A complete overhaul of campaign finance laws, including a move to public financing of elections, limiting contributions to party "housekeeping" accounts, closing other loopholes and giving the attorney general jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute violations.

Mr. Cuomo and the Legislature have about 10 more working days before they are scheduled to leave town for the year. It's going to take a lot to clean up Albany's sleaze. But without real ethics reform, it isn't possible.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A NEW FLOOD, SOME OLD TRUTHS

The thousands of people forced to abandon their homes in recent weeks to floodwaters are victims not just of nature but of human error as well. Years of mismanagement of the vast Mississippi River ecosystem — the relentless and often inadvisable construction of levees and navigation channels, the paving over of wetlands, the commercial development of flood plains — have made the damage worse than it might otherwise have been.

The Obama administration is now completing an overhaul of the guidelines governing dams, levees and other water-related projects built with federal money. In 2007, Congress ordered the guidelines, unchanged since 1983, rewritten to require federal agencies to take environmental as well as economic concerns into account.

Historically, projects had been shaped by two main factors: the Army Corps of Engineers' conviction that nature can be subdued by levees and dams, and its reflexive green-lighting of any flood control project that encouraged commercial or agricultural development. The new rules, Congress said, should require the Corps and other federal agencies to give equal weight to less easily measurable benefits like wildlife habitat and to "nonstructural" solutions to flood control like preserving wetlands, flood plains and other "natural systems."

To give the Corps its due, it has performed nobly in the present emergency. Its main-stem levees have held. Its decision to blow holes in levees guarding the New Madrid floodway in Missouri clearly saved Cairo, Ill., and other places downstream; similar maneuvers in Louisiana helped protect New Orleans. These tactics had long been part of Corps emergency plans, and they worked.

The question the environmental community and many in Congress are asking is whether this would have been necessary if the river had been better managed. In populated areas, levees were a necessary response to the cataclysmic floods of the 1920s. But some were built solely to attract more development, while others closed off flood plains that could have acted as a natural safety valve.

Meanwhile, over the years, the upper Mississippi watershed has lost millions of acres of wetlands that could have served as a natural sponge for floodwaters. Some experts also believe that dikes, jetties and other structures designed to channel the river and speed navigation have also helped raise water levels to dangerous levels.

So-called 100-year floods seemed to be hitting the Mississippi with scary regularity — a $16 billion flood in 1993, a bad one in 2001, another in 2008, and now this one. Climate change, which some suspect of causing torrential downpours, may be part of the problem, though the connection is unclear. What is clear is that we should learn from our mistakes, let nature help out where it can, and not build or farm in places where it makes no sense to do so. As the saying goes: Nobody ever beats the river.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE COYOTE CANDIDATE

BY GAIL COLLINS

Today, we are going to discuss Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.

Get back here and sit down.

Perry is the latest Republican Party crush. Rush Limbaugh delivered a 20-minute paean on the radio, begging him to run for president. He's from the South, and he has great hair! What more could you want?

The G.O.P. is desperately seeking someone who can save the party from the fate of nominating Mitt Romney. But every time a non-Mitt throws his hat in the ring, the hat explodes. Newt Gingrich has been a candidate only about two weeks, and already he has announced that anyone who quotes his comments about Medicare on "Meet the Press" would be lying. And he responded to the question "did you owe a half-million dollars to a jewelry company at one point?" with a series of nonanswers, one of which was "we are very frugal."

Meanwhile, about-to-announce Rick Santorum told an interviewer that John McCain doesn't understand about interrogating people under torture.

Perry! Perry! Perry!

O.K., there are a few problems. One is that a Texas Tribune poll this week showed that Perry was only the choice of 4 percent of Texas Republicans for the presidential nomination. (Sarah Palin came in first and Gingrich second, which suggests the Republicans in Texas may not be totally focused.)

On Friday, Perry seemed a little more interested in the whole idea than he had in the past. "I'm going to think about it," he told reporters after he ceremonially signed a bill making it more difficult for poor Texans who do not have drivers' licenses to vote.

Anyway, we will refrain from any snide comments about how, in Perry's case, thinking is a very intense commitment. Really, the guy might be president. Show some respect.

So who is this man called Rick? He is, in his own words, "the kind of guy who goes jogging in the morning packing a Ruger .380 with laser sights and loaded with hollow point bullets, and shoots a coyote that is threatening his daughter's dog." That really happened. In fact, it was possibly the high point of Perry's political career.

You can see the attraction. Try to imagine the Republican convention being asked to choose between Mitt Romney, who once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of his car, and the guy who shot a puppy-eating coyote. With a Ruger .380 with laser sights!

Also, Perry wears boots named "Freedom" and "Liberty."

Clearly, this is a force to be reckoned with. So, today, as a public service, I am going to continue my survey of books by potential Republican presidential nominees by examining the collected works of Rick Perry. Fortunately, there are only two. And, if it's all right with you, I'm going to skip over "On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For."

Let's go straight to "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington," which does read a whole lot like an I'm-running-for-president tome. Somewhere between "No Apology: Believe in America" (Mitt) or "To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine" (Newt).

"Something is terribly wrong," Perry starts off. And he doesn't mean coyotes or scuff marks on "Freedom" and "Liberty." American people are fed up with federal government: "We are tired of being told how much salt we can put on our food, what windows we can buy for our house, what kind of cars we can drive, what kind of guns we can own."

I hate it when the salt police come into your house and interrogate your French fries. The federal government actually doesn't tell us any of these things. Although it is true that federal regulations have driven the price of machine guns way up.

Perry is a true believer. He hates Social Security. ("A crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal.") He wants the Supreme Court to stop its activist ways — as soon as it declares the health care reform law unconstitutional.

He hates the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which permitted Congress to pass an income tax. ("The great milestone on the road to serfdom.") He also hates the 17th Amendment, which allows for the direct election of the U.S. Senate because it reduces the power of state legislatures.

This is where he lost me forever. People, have you ever seen a state legislature in action? Have you ever seen the Texas Legislature in action? I have, and my first thought was not: "Gee, let's give these folks a whole lot more clout."

If Perry were elected president, perhaps he would do for the entire United States what he's done for Texas, which ranks first in the nation in the percentage of the population without health insurance, and 45th in high school completion. We could return to grass-roots, state-driven environmental regulations, the kind that have made Texas the nation's leader in clean-water permit violations, hazardous waste spills and toxic emissions from manufacturing facilities.

But the coyotes would really have to watch out.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ENDANGERED RYAN-OS

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

It's hard to overstate just how profoundly Republicans underestimated the public's distaste for their draconian Medicare proposal.

Aside from the rich, the electorate is hurting — a pulsing mass of tender nerves, hypersensitive to things that portend pain, reflexively reacting to the thump of even the softest mallet. Needless to say, this is not the time for sledgehammer solutions.

Yet that's exactly what Paul Ryan offered.

Scared of being labeled R.I.N.O.'s (Republicans in name only), Republicans became Ryan-os, blind devotees to their young Achilles in electoral flip-flops. Former Vice President Dick Cheney went so far as to say, "I worship the ground that Paul Ryan walks on." When the Sultan of Sadism gushes over someone, you know there's a problem.

This was a big mistake. Now the Democrats have a quiver of arrows aimed squarely at this newly exposed Republican weak spot.

According to Representative Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, "There are 97 Congressional districts in the country right now that have a Republican member of Congress, but the districts are more moderate and have a higher Democratic performance than NY-26," which is the Republican district that Democrats won on Tuesday.

Democrats understand that many older Americans are just treading water. The last thing that they'll countenance right now is any suggestion that one of the last remaining federal life preservers is being withdrawn.

A poll of people ages 50 and over that was released this week by the AARP Public Policy Institute found nearly half had experienced extraordinary and unexpected expenses in the previous three years; half had delayed getting medical or dental care or delayed or ceased taking medication; a quarter said that they used up all their savings; and 12 percent said that they had dropped health insurance coverage altogether.

Only a quarter expected their financial situation to improve next year, and most said that they were not too confident or not at all confident that they would have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years. Only 8 percent were very confident that they'd have enough money.

This is not to say that Medicare isn't in crisis. It is. But, we don't have to gut it to save it. This election season, Republicans are suffering from the same disconnect over the idea of change that caused problems for the Democrats in 2010: Voters say "rearrange the furniture"; politicians hear "remodel the house."

Ryan is known as a numbers guy, but numbers can be cold comfort. People don't quantify the quality of their lives by the money they save or the money the government saved on them, but by the moments they savor. When dread creeps into the spaces where those moments should be, politicians pay a price at the polls.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

RAISING THE 'BLUE FLAG' OVER THE FORT OF PRESS FREEDOM

DAVID JUDSON

By the time you read this column, French President Nicolas Sarkozy may well have resolved all issues related to freedom of the press, the role of government in regulating terms of expression and the future of the Internet. This was the task he set for the so-called "e-G8 Summit" Thursday and Friday in the French town of Deauville: www.eg8forum.com.

If Sarkozy has not, he might want to look no further than two other made-in-France institutions, the Foundation for Environmental Education, now in Copenhagen, and Paris-based Reporters without Borders. What I have in mind is a new line of work for the famous media watchdog and its allied organizations including the International Press Institute in Vienna and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. They'll need a little help from the Copenhagen group with coordinates the world's "Blue Flag Beaches." Provisionally, I call the project the "Blue Flag Media Monitor."

It is not that I don't appreciate the existing work of these organizations. I do. In the face of the many and growing crimes against freedom of expression in Turkey and elsewhere, such groups are often a final line of defense. But from a reporter's perspective, we could use a little help on offense too. Let me explain.

The most insidious enemy of good journalism is bad journalism. It is not an enemy in its own right, no more so than lousy restaurants are a threat to those that make the Michelin guide. Rather, the danger is that bad journalism invites in, and even legitimizes, governments, regulators, the courts and all manner of semi-official fronts to attempt control at what we do. This is, of course, is what Sarkozy's little tete-a-tete with media and tech executives is all about, as with so many initiatives of Turkey's government.

When a news organization clearly steps out of line, say in the case of daily Vakit, which last year brought us the online sex tape scandal ending the career of then-opposition leader Deniz Baykal, much of the public sympathizes when legal sanctions are sought against the media perpetrators. My emotions run in that direction as well. But the wall between press and state, however, is nonetheless breached.

It is getting more complicated by the day. The media is oddly if obviously complicit in the ongoing saga of threatened and actual "R-rated" sex tapes prompting more and more resignations from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP. But a standard to avoid or ignore such maliciousness, even were it to exist, is meaningless in the era of multiplying media voices, social media networks and the Internet.

Internationally, let's take the case of www.radaronline.com. It is pure trash, a fact easily confirmed by a visit to the site. But two weeks ago, it whipped the ostensibly "responsible" media into a worldwide rush to find the lowest common news denominator. After Radar Online published the name of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's caretaker, by whom he fathered a child, the name was everywhere. The "sperminator" as the New York Times called him, is certainly fair game. But who can justify the trauma of a 14-year-old in the sleepy city of Bakersfield, California riding his bicycle home to find 30 satellite trucks and an army of reporters querying the neighbors about his parentage?

The courts may yet conclude that former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is not guilty of attempting to rape a chambermaid at New York's Sofitel. But who can deny the trauma inflicted upon the alleged victim by the media? Her name, identity, country of origin, even the fact she may be a carrier of the AIDS virus, has now been published around the world. Should Turkey's onetime economy czar, Kemal Derviş, have to read the years-old details of an affair he had when he was a bachelor just because for about 15 minutes the media vaunted him as Strauss-Kahn's potential successor?

As the rogue website WikiLeaks has demonstrated, the scope of newspapers or other publishers to make judgments of an ethical nature, however you define ethical, has evaporated. Once an obscurity like Radar Online has crossed the line, even the venerable New York Times must follow or risk irrelevancy. And the Times did. The same phenomenon, of course, is at work as Facebookers and Twitteristas outwit the onetime monopolies of dictators in Libya, Egypt and hundreds of other places yet to come.

We should and do celebrate the latter. But how might we respond with any measure of effectiveness to the former? Is the privacy of a 14-year-old in Bakersfield born out of wedlock or that of a refugee from Ghana eking a living by cleaning up behind the occupants of $3,000-a-night hotel suites, the price of the age of transparency? Many have prophesied it to be so.

Sadly, the only institutions rushing into this vacuum of responsibility are the would-be government saviors. In Turkey they can't guarantee the privacy of your mobile phone. They will though ban not only noxious websites but even risqué named web domains.

This is why I'd like to see action on this front, which does not involve the government. My metaphor, as suggested, is the concept of "Blue Flag Beaches," www.blueflag.org, engineered more than 25 years ago and now present in 47 countries.

Blue Flag does not legally restrict the discharge of sewage. Use of its water quality measurements and methodology is strictly voluntary. If a country has a beach it wants to open to motorcycle racing, there is nothing Blue Flag can do. Except, to withhold the flag.

Increasingly, this is a label, which has value. You can't run a successful tourism sector in today's world without the label of the Blue Flag. Turkey has discovered this, with 311 beaches and 14 marinas, including two marinas in Istanbul, qualifying for the endorsement. Be responsible, you keep it. Be irresponsible; face the economic consequences of being globally shunned.

Carrying this concept to the world's media could add economic bite to the bark of Blue Flag. Imagine, for example, if Reporters without Borders and colleagues had developed ethical journalism criteria with partners around the world. Imagine if they persuaded global advertising brands to avoid media that eschew participation. The current collapse of the business models of journalism, the migration of readers online and the imperative of "click" ratings to generate advertising revenue, would suddenly convert from being the driver of irresponsible reporting to a something quite different.

How different might this paradigm be? I have no idea. But if anyone has a better idea, please send it to Sarkozy.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ON BALKANS, EUROPE AND THE WORLD IN THE 21ST CENTURY

SÜLEYMAN DEMİREL

It gives me distinct pleasure to attend this conference organized by the "Balkan Political Club" which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Over the last ten years, we had the chance to have extensive and fruitful discussions under this roof. Today, one more time, I feel very privileged for being able to address such an esteemed audience.

The theme of the conference "Balkans, Europe and the World in the 21st century" is very important in terms of the recent developments in the world and particularly in our region. 

Under such a broad theme, I would like to begin with a couple of remarks on the contemporary global political and security environment, and then come to the challenges in our region, namely the Balkans.

At no time, since the end of the Second World War, has the shape and the nature of the international system been in such a state of flux. We have recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the repercussions of the end of the Cold War are still unfolding. The current security landscape can be marked by uncertainty and unpredictability accompanied by the adverse effects of globalization.

The latest global financial and economic crisis has once again proved the gravity of our common challenges, and we all have the scars to show for it. We are closely acquainted with some of the risks we are facing since they are mostly related to deep rooted security and instability problems in areas such as the Middle East and North Africa. (MENA)

Moreover, in our contemporary world, we have to tackle problems like terrorism, drug trafficking, environmental degradation, poverty, the need for a better global economic structure, illiteracy as well as the deterioration in intercultural relations. 

Poverty is one of the greatest challenges of our contemporary world. Today, Over 850 million people, which constitute 13% of the world's population only get 1 % share from the world's total GDP. Approximately 1 billion people are deprived from electricity, 900 million are do not have access to clean water sources and 800 million children can't get school education.

Turkey has been actively engaged in raising awareness about the issues related to the least developed part of the world. We feel privileged to have hosted the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in May in Istanbul. It was an opportunity for the world to create a substantial change in the lives of over 850 million people from 48 countries. We should act with courage and vision which the world is in need of more than ever. 

The international system is going through a time of radical changes. We have seen the end of the bipolar world order and are witnessing the emergence of a system of multipolarity. This in turn creates a more volatile international environment. Therefore, one of our main tasks is to overcome many challenges during this era of change, and to adjust ourselves accordingly.

On the economic front, the world is going through a severe crisis, which started out as a financial near-meltdown and quickly spread to the real-sector. No country in the world could remain immune. However, not every country was affected in the same magnitude. Globalization proves unavoidable but also challenging.

On the political front, the world remains fraught with problems. The human race has laid out in 2000 UN Millennium Goals "certain fundamental values to be essential to international relations in the 21st century". These include freedom, equality, solidarity, and respect for nature and shared responsibility. 

Yet, there continues to be far too many countries and regions around the world that are subject to political instability. There are unfortunately too many conflicts that remain unresolved. Democracy, human rights, the rule of law, transparency, accountability, and gender equality are not yet universally applied. In addition to these, the world is facing also another dilemma which is one of the root causes of the Arab spring, namely secularism versus democracy.

On the social side, issues of integration, extremism, xenophobia and lack of tolerance, discrimination against women continue to haunt societies; forging an alliance of cultures rather than a clash of civilizations requires continued emphasis.

On the security side, we have come to the realization that it is not only asymmetric and non-conventional risks that define the international security landscape. Unfortunately wars do happen. One of the most fundamental underlying premises of the international system, namely control of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means, faces serious challenges. Terrorism, failing states, and now even piracy beleaguer the world. Climate change and environmental degradation have become existential threats in their own right.

The world is becoming smaller and smaller everyday. The revolution in communication and transportation is pushing the world towards integration.

Cooperation in such a world is inevitable. Today, EU is the best example of geographical, political and economic integration which has emerged by embracing values such as respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. It began as a common market, has grown from 6 to 27 members and transformed into today's economic and political union. The EU who generates some 20 percent of the world wealth and owns the biggest GDP after the USA, is a success story also in terms of economy.

The EU is an unprecedented peace project. There were times in history such as the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne when Europe was almost unified. However, these were unifications by force. On the contrary, the European integration project of the 20th century developed voluntarily. It reflected the wisdom of European leaders who had drawn the right lessons from the two destructive wars that caused the lives of millions of people in less than 30 years.

However, in view of the increasingly complex and interconnected global threats and challenges, neither the EU nor any single country can be able to deal with today's global problems on its own. International cooperation is a necessity. The EU needs to expand its relations with key actors as well as regional and international organizations. 

Let me explain it with more concrete terms: The transatlantic partnership needs to be further strengthened. I also believe the EU needs to expand its relations with China, whose role and influence on world affairs continues to grow. Russia, which shares both European and Eurasian features, is another important partner in global affairs. There is still room for the EU to develop closer relations with Russia. As one of the most important countries in Eastern Europe, I think further efforts are needed to bring Ukraine closer to the EU which will also contribute to regional cooperation and stability. All these issues require strategic vision and sustained efforts.

The recent developments in MENA have shown us that the region has now arrived at a historic turning point where change and transformation are inevitable and irreversible. It is essential for the governments to meet the peacefully expressed, legitimate aspirations of their peoples for reforms, greater democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms. I believe that the process of change and democratic transformation in the MENA region must be owned up and led by the respective countries and peoples themselves. Of course, without any doubt, the territorial integrity, sovereignty, political unity and stability of the MENA countries should be preserved. We deeply regret the violent turn of events in some countries. We should call upon all sides to avoid violence and exercise restraint and common sense. I am sure you will concur with me on the need for concerted and coordinated action on the part of the international community to help steer orderly transition processes which would pave the way for enhanced security, stability and prosperity across the region. In this vein, I would like to warn the interested parties against attempts to divert these processes away from reforms and democratic transformation towards ethnic, religious and confessional divisions, which run contrary to the genuine spirit of the popular movements.

The Balkans cannot be left out of this picture. Europeanization of the Balkans should be our ultimate goal. I believe that perspectives for EU and NATO membership have become the most important incentives and driving forces for a desired change in the region.

As you all are well aware, NATO's latest enlargement has included Croatia and Albania who joined the Alliance during the Strasbourg/Kehl Summit. I know, these countries have put great effort to achieve necessary military and political transformation. This last wave is particularly important, since it symbolizes the fact that, security and stability take root in the Balkans, an area which had been identified with instability and volatility in the near history. At this point, I should refer to the situation regarding Macedonia, which has successfully fulfilled every criterion for membership. It is our strong expectation that the last remaining obstacle, the name issue, will be overcome so that we can soon welcome this country as a new Ally as well.

Our region is partly integrated with Europe with the accession of Greece, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Croatia for its advancement in the EU accession process. I am sure we will see Croatia as a full member in a fairly short time. I would also like to congratulate Montenegro for being granted EU candidate status, and Serbia for the major steps it has taken forward on its path towards the EU. However, I believe the Europeanization of the Balkans cannot be completed unless all the countries in the region, including Turkey, become members of the EU. Without the Balkans, we cannot talk about the final European integration Project.

I would like to emphasize once again that our main goal is and should be the Europeanization of the Balkans. The outcome of this process will generate peace dividend which will mostly be to the benefit of future generations.

In this juncture, the Balkans, which is now referred to as the Southeast Europe, unfortunately still continues to bear some elements of instability. History, I think, has been unjust to the Balkans, which in the past has had much more than its fair share of turmoil, ethnic unrest and war. Differences in religion and ethnicity sawed seeds of mistrust, instead of begetting the benefits of diversity.

I was the Prime Minister and then the President of Turkey during the time of tremendous changes in the Balkans, during 1990s, and I witnessed how the Balkan region was trapped in vicious circles of ethnic and micro-nationalistic violence in the first half of that decade. The region was identified with armed conflicts, destruction and bloodshed. Those years, the Balkans experienced the melting of the frozen conflicts that stood still during the Cold War years. Despite our insistent efforts, the proximity of the armed conflict to the Western Europe did not accelerate the process of international intervention that finally ended the tragedy.

Unfortunately, I still cannot say that lasting peace and stability based on mutual trust and cooperation have been fully ensured in the region. The main lesson learned from these sad events in the region is that war or military conflicts should not be seen as a way to advance national interests. On the contrary, in today's globalized world, cooperation and seeking peaceful solutions to problems are fundamental to achieving lasting peace, stability and prosperity. Once the countries and peoples of the region see the merits of cooperation, there could be no reason why the Balkans should not rapidly reach an exemplary stage of prosperity with vast multi-ethnic and multi-cultural assets.

A short glimpse at any map will immediately reveal the importance of the Balkans for Turkey. The opposite is, of course, just as true. Turkey does not only share the same geography with the Balkan countries but also enjoys a common historical heritage, shared values and a joint vision. Peaceful co-habitation is the key for this joint vision. As a matter of fact, preservation of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious social fabric of the region is one of the main pillars of Turkey's Balkan policy. I think we all must consider it as a priority.

We have millions of Turkish citizens of Balkan origin in Turkey, and Turkish and Muslim communities in the Balkans, whose existence gives impetus to our relations. For us, all the Balkan countries are neighbors even if we do not have physical borders. I believe the countries of the region share this perception as well.

All these features attribute a deep geostrategic dimension to Turkey's foreign policy concerning this particular region and thus, we follow the developments in the Balkans closely. We have consistently contributed to the stability of the region throughout its history. Accordingly, Turkey has been cooperating with the international community, especially the EU and the United States for more than a decade with a view to attaining lasting peace and stability in the Balkans.

In addressing complex security challenges by the countries in the region, regional dialogue and cooperation mechanisms should be enhanced. We pay special attention to the vital role of bilateral and multilateral cooperation among the Balkan states. With this understanding, Turkey strongly supports regional initiatives, such as the Southeast Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP). The SEECP has made significant progress towards serving as a central forum for promoting regional cooperation and good neighborly relations, which are not only vital for assuring democratic stability and economic development, but also for integration of the regional countries with the Euro-Atlantic institutions. I also believe, the SEECP should aim to cooperate with other regional schemes in order to enhance efficiency and avoid duplication.

The SEECP gives us the opportunity for greater solidarity and full regional integration, and that we should not miss this chance. Turkey assumed the Chairmanship-in-Office of the SEECP between June 2009 and June 2010.  We organized a variety of events targeted to enhancing regional integration, and thus strengthening regional security. Montenegro who took over the flag from Turkey has also been pursuing an active Chairmanship which will end with the Summit Meeting to be held on 30 June 2011 in Budva.

On the other hand, I am sure that the establishment under the political umbrella of the SEECP of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) will yield significant results for the future of Southeast Europe.

Regional initiatives are not limited to SEECP and RCC. I firmly believe that South Eastern Europe Defence Ministerial (SEDM) Process and Southeastern Europe Brigade (SEEBRIG) can continue to play valuable roles for the stability and security in our region and beyond.

I highly value the contribution of these institutions to the security environment in the Balkans. We must spare no effort to ensure that they survive. They are complementary initiatives to the Euro-Atlantic structures, thus a sound working relationship through interoperability is of great importance. We must not forget that all initiatives start locally, and improve incrementally towards regional and wider dimensions.

In line with its consistent record of support for initiatives geared towards enhancing stability in the Balkans, Turkey has also proved its mettle as a member of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Furthermore, Turkey continues to contribute to the work of the Kosovo International Steering Group (ISG) together with the EU members and the US.

We cannot ignore the reality: the complexity of the political atmosphere in some states in the region is still a cause of concern for all of us. Any major challenge to stability, particularly in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, has the potential to create ripple effects throughout the Balkans.

I would like to stress that today developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) have reached a crucial juncture. BiH faces its worst crisis since the war ended in 1995. We are highly concerned over the developments in BiH. If not handled carefully, we may face with serious consequences in the entire Balkan region. Violence does not seem imminent, but it is a real prospect in the future. History must not be repeated. It is of crucial importance that the international community act rapidly and diligently in advancing BiH's European and Transatlantic cause.

Nearly eight months after last fall's general elections, BiH still doesn't have a government at the state level, and there is little prospect for one being formed soon. Without governments there can be no progress in the reform process and no progress towards the EU and NATO integration.

What is more worrisome is that all the political stakeholders retain their hard and tough positions, which offer no window of opportunity for a political breakthrough.

There must be no doubt at anybody's mind that sovereignty and territorial integrity of BiH must be protected at any expense. After all, the success of BiH will be the success of Europe.

 As regards Kosovo, I would like to stress that without a stable and prosperous Kosovo, it is hard to imagine a stable Balkans. Since its independence in 2008 Kosovo has made remarkable progress towards state building. Currently it is recognized by 75 nations and Turkey is one of them. Regardless of the status issue, international community must not isolate Kosovo when it comes to the common challenges of the region, such as fight against terrorism or organized crime. Kosovo has already been accepted as a member to IMF and World Bank. But much remains to be done.

However, northern part of Kosovo continues to be the most problematic issue that needs to be addressed through dialogue and cooperation of all regional and relevant international actors.

For its part, Turkey has been fully discharging its duties and responsibilities as a regional country to help cement the fragile peace in the Balkans.

The Balkans can be considered as a litmus test for developments in the international arena. This region has always provided early indications for potential changes and has heralded new eras in world history. I believe there is no reason why the Balkans in the 21st century cannot be an area where different ethnicities and cultures coexist peacefully and set an example to the rest of the world. We wish to see the Balkans not at the periphery, but at the very heart of Europe. To help ensure this, I believe that the perspectives for the EU and Euro-Atlantic integration of the countries in the region should be kept alive and enhanced. As I indicated earlier, this seems to be serving as one of the main bonds holding the regional countries together. This momentum should be preserved for the prosperity of the region. Naturally, Turkey will spare no effort to this end.

To attain the long aspired common vision in the Balkans, shared values, such as democracy, rule of law, human rights and cultural pluralism should be seen as inseparable elements of genuine peace and stability. For Europe to be "whole and free" there must be no insurmountable gaps, no dividing lines and no artificial barriers between the Northern and Southern and particularly Southeastern parts of Europe. Only by ensuring this can we hope to transform European ideals into reality, and enable Europe to continue to serve as a role model for peace, stability and prosperity to the rest of the world.

* This piece has been prepared from an address by Turkey's ninth president, Süleyman Demirel, to a conference held by the Balkan Political Club on 'The Balkans, Europe and the World in the 21st Century' on May 27-29 in Sofia.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHY I AM TURNING MY FACE EAST

MUSTAFA AKYOL

It has been argued lately that Turkey is "turning its face to the East." The country's traditional "Western orientation," real or perceived, has claimed to be replaced by a different direction, including the all-scary Middle East. Some blame the incumbent Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and its "covert Islamism" for this shift, whereas others point to tectonic changes in the world's political economy, to which Turkey is only adopting.

I have my humble opinions about this debate as well. To illustrate them a bit, let me tell you a personal story.

Schengen matters

It all began a couple of weeks ago, when a European think tank invited me to give a talk on Turkey and Islam in Vienna. The hosts were very kind, the topic was relevant, and the Austrian capital, as usual, was appealing. So, I happily accepted the invitation, and put it on my calendar.

But, soon, I noticed a little problem: My Schengen visa – that colorful piece of paper people from the third world need to set foot on Europe – had expired. So, I simply needed a new one.

But getting that small paper is no simple matter. You first need to prepare several documents proving you have a job in Turkey, and a bank account with some decent amount of money. It will be even better if you have documents showing that you own a car or a house. You have to prove, in other words, you really are not desperate enough to enter Europe with the intention of staying there illegally for years to come to wash dishes in, say, a German beer hall or a Spanish tapas bar.

But all that tedious paperwork is just the first step. For the second, you have to go to an insurance company to buy health insurance to cover you for the days you plan to be in Europe. The idea is if you lose a leg or get a heart attack during your trip, you will not exploit the healthcare system of those super-civilized countries, which have given you the gracious permit to enter from their borders.

Yet with all this, you are only at the end the beginning. For the real thing, you have to take all your documents and go to a nearby European consulate, to fill a long form and submit all of those papers, along with a dull photograph of yours and some money, to the officials there. When you arrive at the consulate, you often wait in a long queue in front of a well-guarded building. When you get in, an often-unsmiling diplomat who sits behind a thick glass questions you, and sometimes admonishes you for not completing all the necessary papers.

After all that, you have to go back to the same building a few days later to get your passport back and to see if the Schengen masters have been kind enough to welcome you.

Now, as you can imagine, I hate this "visa process," with all my heart, all my soul, and my entire mind. But I can understand countries might need such screenings before allowing people in. What I don't understand, and find simply maddening, is the duration of Schengen visas: In average, they are a few weeks long. If you are lucky, you can get a six-month-long one.

My most memorable experience was with the Danes: A few years ago, I was invited to speak at a conference in Copenhagen, and thus planned a three-day-trip. Having scrutinized my schedule, the all-generous Kingdom of Denmark gave me a permit, which was notably more than what exactly needed: a visa for four days. A total sum of 98 hours.

On a luckier occasion, where I "knew people," I begged for a "long-term, multiple-entry" visa from the Spanish. They indeed gave me multiple-entry one, which was valid for only a month. I should have gone back and forth every other weekend to make use of it.

None of this, honestly, makes me feel welcome in Europe as a Turk. On the other hand, I feel much more welcome in Amman, Beirut or Dubai, where I can fly without any visa, avoid all that pain in the neck, and don't get treated as a potential parasite or terrorist. So, these days, I am very much hoping I will receive the next invitation to such Eastern cities rather than the European ones.

You can do better

Now, here is my humble call to all the European diplomats, politicians or statesmen who have something to do with the Schengen regime: You represent a great civilization, and you can do better than this. A simple visit to your countries shouldn't begin with such a humiliating process. Once you decide someone is eligible for a visa, you can give him truly long-term ones, saving him from a lot burden.

Why don't you just follow the example of the Americans? They are simply reasonable on this. They do scrutinize you as well before granting a visa, but once they decide you are kosher, they give a long-term one. I have a 10-year-long American visa on my passport, which stands alone like a beacon of sanity along with the more than dozen expired, and maddening, Schengens.

So, unless there is an undeclared European Union policy for discouraging tourism, or creating more employment in European consulates by maximizing paperwork, the Schengen system needs a radical reform. Let us know if there is anything we can do. If you need higher fees from us, let us happily pay. The British do that, by granting long-term visas, which cost you an arm and a leg, but saves your mental health. Do whatever you want. But please do not keep on imposing this impractical, inefficient, irrational and insensible visa regime on us.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CRUCIAL ELECTIONS FOR TURKISH DEMOCRACY

YUSUF KANLI

In two weeks' time, on Sunday June 12, Turks will go to the ballot to vote in elections that will not only shape a new Parliament but also the future of the country as there seems to be some sort of a consensus among politicians and in the nation that the new legislature should write a new and "civilian" constitution, hopefully a more democratic one.

The June 12 poll will indeed be a crucial election for Turkey. The country has been dangerously polarized.

Divided nation

Segments of the Turkish society, particularly the military, are being declared some sort of an enemy that is constantly plotting to overtake the civilian democratic government. The "Ergenekon" and "Sledgehammer" investigations, which have turned into some sort of a thriller and, now according to some penslingers of the Islamist and conservative-democrat Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government, a "second Sledgehammer" probe is on the way, and according to some speculative reports, because of that new probe, the military has cancelled two important military naval maneuvers in the Aegean. Though there are claims as well that those maneuvers were called off at the last minute as a gesture to financially crisis stricken Greece, it is obvious that something awkward is at play in this country.

For these segments, the country is under siege of a coalition of Islamists, separatists, foreign elements collaborating with the Islamists and the separatists at home in order to achieve some designs on Turkish territory as well as to transform Turkey to fit into the global picture they have been trying to create with some global scenarios, such as the so-called Greater Middle East and North Africa Project. These segments of Turkish society complain that with the purported claim of ending military tutelage on civilian politics, something very much wanted by almost everyone in the country, a civilian tutelage should not be introduced.

In summary, for these groups, while trying to eradicate military tutelage, Turkey should not fall prey to a civilian dictatorship of the AKP, or a power-obsessed Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It is feared that Erdoğan will become the president of a Turkey transformed into a presidential system of governance with a new constitution after the polls if the AKP manages to get a sufficient 3/5 majority or at least 330 seats in the next Parliament.

On the other hand, some other segments of society, not necessarily all members of the ruling AKP or in allegiance with the AKP, feel the country has long suffered from military tutelage. They say that enough is enough with the semi-democracy, and that the military, patriots and nationalists should all be cut down to size and, if necessary, that they should all be placed behind bars as Turkey is ushered into advanced democratic governance with a new and civilian constitution. That new constitution should provide enhanced civilian and individual liberties, place individuals before the state, transform Turkey into a country where Islam has a wider place in private and public life and produce a country of high growth and development – all via the firm political and economic stability provided by a strong, one-party government.

Need for reconciliation

Indeed, from some aspects, both groups are right in their assessments. It is evident that the strong influence of the military on politics in this country has continued long enough. The Turkish revolution was staged almost 90 years ago. The country must return to normalcy by telling the military its duty of being the custodian of the revolution and the Republic is over as that duty can now be handled by the nation directly. Rather than coups, governments should come and go through polls. There has been a consensus on that in the country anyhow.

But, if there are some elements acting with a revanchist mentality and trying to fill prisons or establish a concentration camp and fill it with people who have been critical of such revanchist designs, which unfortunately appears to be what has been happening in this country for the past several years, resolving the widening polarization in the country through reconciliation and developing consensus politics becomes all the more difficult.

Ballot box is a tool of democracy

That is exactly why the upcoming elections have crucial importance for the future of this country. By pushing the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, below the anti-democratic 10 percent national electoral threshold through sex-tape scandals and some other dirty games and by further widening the existing polarization in the country, the ruling AKP will most likely become far more adamant that it has been so far if it gets over 330 seats in Parliament. Contrary to current assurances, even if it gets 367 seats, or a 3/4 majority of Parliament, it will still seek compromise with other parties and try to write the new constitution through a consensus, past experiences have shown all of us that the AKP will not walk such a road.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the first full-fledged military coup. The coup, which hung a prime minister and two ministers. That was the "mother of all coups" and unfortunately we still are living with the traumas it created. This country must be mature enough to solve its democracy problems without undergoing similar tragedies.

Thus, the upcoming elections are crucial for the future of this country.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE CORRIDOR - AKP AND BDP GOING NECK AND NECK IN VAN

GÖKSEL BOZKURT

The number of Armenian tourists has increased since the reopening of the Akdamar Church in the eastern province of Van. You might come across people on the premises simply praying or others who are there for a wedding. There are plenty of Armenian tourists in the streets. We had a conversation with a few Armenians from Istanbul on the shores of Van Lake. I saw they were happy with the reopening of the church even though the Armenian initiative had been left half-finished.

And there is the Kurdish initiative, which has been left half-finished, too, by the government. And the Kurds in Van do not look satisfied with the consequences of this initiative. The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, had five deputies from Van in the 2007 general elections. The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, had two. But this time the total number of deputies has increased to eight.

The AKP gained 163,000 and the BDP won 100,000 votes in 2007. In the 2009 local elections, the arithmetic in the general city council turned the opposite. The BDP rose to 190,000 votes as the AKP dropped to 135,000 as the AKP lost the mayoral seat to the BDP.

Van sent five AKP deputies to Parliament in 2007, but today it cannot be said that the pulse is in favor of the governing party. Ferit Hayva, a journalist in Van, supports this view: "The governing party is losing votes in Van. The result could be four AKP, three BDP and one CHP deputy. Or the AKP and the CHP might have four each."

Hayva said the government had already been weakened by various issues, such as a regression in farming and stockbreeding, unemployment and a half-finished Kurdish initiative. After former Education Minister Hüseyin Çelik's candidacy was moved to the province of Gaziantep despite heavy criticisms, Ankara Deputy Burhan Kayatürk was listed number one in Van. Although he is a native of Van, he has been criticized for not visiting his hometown in years. In the second row, we see Fatih Çiftçi; former provincial party head Mustafa Bilici is in the third spot while Gülşen Orhan is number four.

On the BDP electoral list, there is the Democratic Society Congress, or DTK, co-chair Aysel Tuğluk; Özdal Üçer from the radical wing; Kemal Aktaş, a defendant at the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, which is alleged to be the urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK; and the BDP's former Washington representative, Nazmi Gür.

"An awakening in Van and strong willpower clearly show the stance of the region," Tuğluk said.

 "Kurds this time will send over 35 deputies to Parliament. We will have at least four seats in Van," Gür said.

The AKP candidate Bilici did not agree, though. He believes the ruling party will have at least six deputies from Van. Çelik's brother, Ramazan Çelik, who emphasized that he made a good prediction last time, shares the prediction.

There is one deputy candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, that may emerge in the race in Van, although it is difficult; Zahir Kandaşoğlu, the former Chairman of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, is known for his colorful personality. Kandaşoğlu's election poster has a Van cat with eyes of two different colors. Kandaşoğlu is quite ambitious and said he would be elected to Parliament.

However, the previous election results of the CHP were quite poor. The main opposition party won only 11,000 votes in 2007 but the CHP still has a chance of increasing the number of votes up to 30,000 with Kandaşoğlu.

Like other provinces in the region, tribal loyalties have an influence in Van. A political party that is not backed by any of the tribes stands slim chances of winning the elections here. Although the AKP has tried to stay away from candidates who are members of various tribes in Van, they had no chance but to place Orhan in the fourth row. Orhan's family is from the Miski tribe, which has over 10,000 members. The Alan tribe, with 20,000 members; the Ezdinan tribe with 10,000; the Milan tribe with 9,000; and the Sevilen tribe with 5,000 members all support the AKP.

Kandaşoğlu of the CHP is from the Baruki tribe with a population of 30,000, most of whom are expected to vote for the AKP; others will vote for the BDP and another group will vote for the CHP because of Kandaşoğlu's candidacy.

The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, candidate Mustafa Kaçmaz is a member of the Küre tribe, which has 20,000 members.

The BDP, on the other hand, is against the tribal system, but independent BDP candidates are familiar with the system. The BDP often wins the votes of some Baruki members while almost everyone in the Şerefhan tribe, which has 25,000 members, backs the pro-Kurdish party. The 10,000-membered Gewdan tribe, which is a branch of the Ertuşi tribe, is very influential in central Van and its villages also support the BDP.

My observations in Van suggest the AKP and the BDP are in a neck-and-neck race in the province, as they are in the entire region. If the AKP loses a few seats, the incomplete Kurdish initiative, as well as a false choice in candidates, would be the reason. In addition to these reasons, the harsh reactions against Kurds in western Turkey have increased the interest in the independent, BDP-backed candidates.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A BIRD'S EYE VIEW - THE REVOLUTION SPREADS NORTH

ADVENA AVIS

In one of our previous columns we had chirped about the possibility of the North African and Middle East revolution engulfing Europe. And it seems now that this possibility has become a reality.

For about two weeks now, thousands of Spanish protestors, supporters of the movement "Los Indignados" or "The Indignant," have been camping out in the square Puerta del Sol in Madrid and in other big cities of Spain and in this way express their anger and indignation at the economic policy of the government. They even defied a government order prohibiting demonstrations last Sunday because of local elections taking place. Nobody followed the order and the police did not enforce it. It is quite interesting to note that most of the European media has ignored this mass protest movement in Spain until last week. We wonder why.

In Greece an appeal was launched to occupy the central squares of Athens and of all cities and villages of the country and it met with partial success. More demonstrations and social unrest will follow as the people, and not the government, prepare to face the default that will soon take place. And speaking about the default we birds were reading an interesting article published in the International Herald Tribune of May 17 entitled "Putting off the Greek issue has its Logic" by Paul Taylor. This article mentions four reasons why Greece should not be allowed to default. Three of these reasons concern the negative effects it will have on the institutions who have lent money to Greece, while only one concerns the Greek people. But we laughed, as much as birds can laugh, when reading about one argument that said if Greece defaulted, foreign interests could no longer exercise control over Greek assets. This is exactly the main reason why Greece should default, to regain its independence and international respectability once again and to be able to start the process of production and economic recovery. This is exactly what Argentina did. But of course Argentina had the advantage of not belonging to the Eurozone. And Argentina has recovered after having gone through a total economic collapse.

Furthermore the default will hit more the so-called markets, which have purchased Greek bonds. But it is better that the markets and the banks suffer losses rather than the Greek people. Why? Because the banks and markets are cushioned with billions and billions of Euros. So the pain for them will be much less than it will be for the people who will have to face the dilemma of becoming homeless once their salaries and pensions are cut, under the situation of extending the Greek debt.

And don't think the story will end once Greece defaults. After Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain will follow. And after that it will be Italy's turn. Already concerns are being expressed about the Italian debt. And we wonder how the Eurozone can continue to function under these conditions, if the countries concerned will be facing social unrest of a North African intensity.

Ponder our thoughts dear humans for your benefit.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

FLYING VISIT

 

Short but not necessarily sweet would perhaps sum up the brief visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday. She was on the ground for less than a day and saw all the right people from the president to the heads of the armed forces and the intelligence agencies and civilian leaders. Her words at the press conference before she left were also brief, and unusually strong. She was careful not to sound like an admonitory schoolmistress, but at the same time left no room for misunderstanding. Our propensity for a retreat into conspiracy theory was not going to solve our problems she said, neither was the anti-Americanism that has increased to a previously unseen intensity in recent months. She seemed convinced that nobody at the top of the tree knew that Osama bin Laden was here, but said that our own officials had admitted that "somebody, somewhere" was providing him with support. The threat still presented by Al-Qaeda after Bin Laden's death was reiterated, a threat both to America and its regional interests and Pakistan.


The Clinton message was given heft by her use of the words "turning point". The Americans are seeing events of the last month as pivotal, and that there is a significant shift in direction for both parties. From the Pakistani side, there are two events which are indicators of the reality of this. Firstly, the reported (but not yet confirmed by our government) winding up of three "fusion" centres in Peshawar and Quetta where intelligence was shared between Pakistan and the US. Secondly, our acceding to the American request to forensically examine the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed as well as the material we found there. One speaks of our putting our foot down, the other of a collaborative relationship that is still ongoing. It is this latter relationship that Clinton will have been keen to service. The Americans need Pakistan to help them fight the war in Afghanistan. Even though they may be reducing their troops on the ground in the coming months Pakistan still has a major role to play in terms of logistical support. Clinton said that she had heard us "commit to some very specific action" and that "I return to Washington ever more committed" to the relationship. But it was the words of an unnamed American official that will hang in the air for our government – "They are now having to look at some very tough questions that they either tried to avoid or which they gave inadequate answers to before." Mrs Clinton and her team have their own questions, but we have questions for them and our own government. For example, both could start by telling us the precise nature of the protocols under which drones operate over Pakistani territory, killing its citizens. We await an answer with interest.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

HANGU HORROR

 

On Thursday, at least 30 people, 10 policemen among them, were added to the list of over 35,000 Pakistanis killed in acts of terrorism so far. A suicide-bomber exploded his vehicle into the building of the Communication and Works Department in Hangu near a local bazaar and courts, killing 10 policemen and injuring at least 60 people. Police officers say the bomber wanted to attack the DCO office but failed to reach his intended target and detonated prematurely. Even so, the police station building was badly damaged and the blast so devastating it left an eight-foot crater in the ground. As news poured in about heavy casualties at local hospitals that had declared emergency, one couldn't help but think back to the day before when the prime minister presided over the Defence Committee of the Cabinet where a new counter-terror strategy was spelt out. The operative words of this new strategy are "pre-emptive" (as against the merely "reactive" responses of the past), "coordinated" (suggesting the organised cooperation of all state institutions and law enforcement agencies) and "diversified" (emphasising the need to adopt new and creative anti-terrorist strategies).


Is the government really sincere about abandoning its old ways or is the new strategy more lip-service by a government that has so far provided little evidence of being serious about, or capable of, dealing with the existential threats that plague this country? The string of alarming incidents in a month filled with death and malice certainly ought to serve as a wakeup call about the urgent need for a change in tack. After the killing of Osama, it is clear the worst of retaliatory attacks are yet to come. At the site of the Hangu blast, one police officer told the media it was impossible to keep an eye on the movement of every militant and vehicle along the two tribal agencies located close to the area, as there were dozens of mountainous and other routes to enter Hangu. This, again, is a timely reminder that the police in many areas is still lacking modern equipment like the cell phone tracking system which could come in handy in identifying attacks and preempting assaults. To this extent all loss of life in such incidents may be viewed as caused by a security lapse – if the government has the means to protect and then fails to install them, it fails the very population it is tasked to protect.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

A MODICUM OF HOPE

ZAFAR HILALY

 

What was it that prompted several thousand of us in the oppressive heat of a relatively windless Karachi day to stand, sweat and listen to a host of mostly uninspiring and unknown speakers in the dharna against drones organised by Imran Khan's PTI?


For me, at least, it was not anti-Americanism, which seems to have our populace firmly in its grip. When mindless, our hatred of America, like our love of the Arabs, can be self-deluding and destructive. Nor am I certain that if the drones stopped wreaking their havoc, all would be well. There are some who will find America insufferable, come what may. But it would not be a bad thing for those who react thus to pause for reflection. Because getting it right may determine our fate.


As it happens, drones are an excellent contraption for the type of war that is being waged today. The trouble is that, like all weapons, when they are pointed in the wrong direction the results can be disastrous. Unfortunately, this is what has been happening. The number of civilians killed in drone attacks is unacceptable. Besides, for every TTP foot soldier eliminated by the drones, two more are radicalised.


Nor was it the promise of being exposed to Imran's spellbinding oratory that served as an incentive. The precious thing in speeches is the pauses, and in that respect Imran is not a gifted speaker, whatever may be his leadership qualities.


Imran's plaints against the prevailing corruption in Pakistan are also not novel. All readily concede that the corruption that exists today has never been equalled before. Daily revelations of thievery at all levels of government confirm this trend. Actually, so inured is the public to the crooked ways of our politicians (who even when bought refuse to stay bought) that they don't expect anything better from any of them. Hence, to hear someone go on and on the subject is tiresome.


Besides, while Imran has been upright, in the past he has been more rhetorical than substantive in his views on key internal and external issues. Happily, though, he has moved away from generalities. He now has specific remedies and a well-thought-out policy, which is just as well. We have had enough of populism in the past and we cannot afford it anymore – our condition is too dire and the situation too complicated for simplistic solutions.

What, then, draws the public to Imran Khan? Ironically, it's his artlessness and political naivety which sets him apart from the run-of-the-mill conniving politician and, above all, his honesty. And if we add to this brew a dash of modesty and shyness, they make for a refreshing change. Here is a man, a growing number reckon, who is indeed different from the archetypal corrupt, bloated and bombastic politician.


It is heartening to see how many among his supporters believe that their hopes would not be quelled by one or two failures. They seem to be in it for the long run. "The crime is not to fail but fail to give triumph a chance," said one especially articulate fan. In other words, going down with him was far preferable than standing with the likes of the Zardaris, Sharifs and Chaudhrys. Win or lose, they seem to be saying, our leader Imran Khan will still be around and not in a squalid cell or on the run abroad as a declared absconder, which would surely be the case for the others, were there ever to be proper accountability in Pakistan. "Being on the right side and losing," another went on in a similar vein, "is sometimes what is required in politics." It's a sentiment that resonates powerfully with one's own.

Pakistan is in a dire crisis. The Economist may believe that there is a lot of "ruin" left in this country but what it seems to have misjudged is just how quickly "ruin" can overtake Pakistan. Two more years of the present regime should, by any reckoning, be sufficient to complete our downfall and, if not, what passes for "elections" thereafter should sound the death knell of democracy. Imagine the kind of (mal)practices that the electoral process will be subjected to by "bosses" of the likes of Zardari, the Chaudhrys and the Sharifs. Talk of casting out devils, we are being asked to accept them, live peacefully with them – and, worse, elect them.


Of course Imran will have no easy sailing. Practical politics, it is said, consists of accepting facts. Imran Khan has instead ignored plenty of facts. He has no deputy of any public stature to speak of; no real party structure and no ready source of funding. This last fact may prove to be a fatal handicap, considering what his opponents are prepared to spend. Mr Zardari, in particular, has a war chest that would match anything that parties in far richer countries possess. Also conspicuously absent in the PTI is the biradiri/zaat phenomenon that is so marked in our politics and welds together supporters of the other parties. But Imran does not think so. "There is a wave. I sense it will sweep all before it," he says. And his optimism is infectious.


Imran's current situation is different from Z A Bhutto's at a similar stage of Bhutto's political development. Bhutto trumpeted "socialism" and a peculiar variety which he dubbed "Islamic socialism" as his party's political creed. But, as we know, Bhutto was as much of a socialist as Ayub Khan was a democrat.


Imran, in contrast, disdains such affectations. A good, clean, competent government and an independent judiciary operating within the confines of the present Constitution is what he seems to feel is required; everything else will follow. It's a simple enough recipe and much easier for the public to digest than the flowery rhetoric and turgid phrases of most party manifestos. He senses that what the people want aren't circuses any more, but bread, jobs, etc., and a modicum of hope. That's the "revolution," which he speaks of and, come to think of it, that would amount to a revolution in our present way of doing things.


But even such a minimalist approach to government presupposes a leader who is up to the task. Is Imran up to the task? His supporters will readily confess that they don't know. I rather suspect that he is.


While the World Cup victory is still his main thing in the public mind, his cancer hospital has shown that he can perform wonders when sufficiently motivated. The fact that he is fully familiar with the world outside Pakistan also means that he can conduct himself well when the time comes and the responsibility falls on his shoulders. That's almost as important as knowing the internal situation well and being able to navigate within it.

We live in a volatile world with the world's attention focused sharply on the country's multiple crises and its ability to steer the country out of the big mess. It is looking desperately for positive signs. In the current line-up Imran stands out as the one with a far better potential, even though he is untested in governance at the national level. Anyway, assuredly he cannot be worse.


The writer is a former ambassador. Email: charles123it@hotmail.com

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

DYING TO KILL

ERUM HAIDER

 

Seeing is believing, except when you don't know what – or whom – to believe. In the widely-circulated video clip titled "Kharotabad massacre," captured by a national news channel, the camera pans across the backs of five security guards and a couple of plainclothes men. It zooms in on a pile of sandbags, where the lower portion of a woman is seen lying on the ground, shrouded in a red shalwar-kameez. She slowly raises an arm. A sign of surrender? Of defiance? We'll never know, because two of the men in fatigues proceed to fire at her until it is clear anything alive behind the check post is now certainly dead.


Following the incident, Capital City Police Officer Daud Junejo stated that the foreigners were Chechen militants linked with Al-Qaeda and were planning attacks in Quetta, and that the women showed suicide vests and threatened to blow themselves up. The Balochistan home secretary quickly corroborated the claim, adding that they had hurled hand grenades and killed Frontier Constabulary Officer Naik Mohammad Sajjad.


This was Tuesday. The next day, CCPO Junejo said all five 'attackers' had died in a bomb explosion. This, after nationally-aired video footage showed at least one suspect being shot to death.


Two days after the shooting, we learnt that one of the women shot dead was pregnant.


By Sunday, an eyewitness and member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf told a packed press club that the FC guards took bribes from the foreigners, and asked the women for sexual favours. Locals rallied at the press club, saying the FC stole valuables from the corpses. The alleged terrorists had become victims of an alleged encounter in a matter of days.


The absurdity of the incident has several dimensions. On the one hand, security personnel have been understandably skittish since Osama bin Laden was captured and killed by US troops in Abbottabad earlier this month. Recent high-casualty bombings in Charsadda and Peshawar indicate that for Pakistan, the worst of retaliatory attacks may not be over. Opening fire on supposed militants may have indeed averted a Charsadda-scale attack in which over 80 people, most of them FC personnel, lost their lives. It may even seem rational, at the time, to leave none of the suspects alive, not even supposedly unarmed women.


But there is something that military and paramilitary forces are lacking entirely: the understanding that since the OBL take-out, the entire intelligence and security corps is under close scrutiny. When on May 17 the ISPR stated it had captured senior Al-Qaeda leader Abu Sohaib Al Makki in Karachi, few were willing to take at face value that this was "a major development." If militant networks have upped the ante post-May 2, the armed forces have been no less eager to prove they are on the ball. But no one is buying it anymore. The lone voices that bought the official story on Kharotabad were quickly drowned out by a chorus of sceptics, baying for an investigation, demanding that the CCPO be sacked – at the very least, for not getting his story right the first time.

If the authorities would ever need justification for shooting five foreigners at point-blank range, they need not look far for incriminating signs. Consider that last year over 40 people were killed when two suicide bombers – both Muslim Chechen separatists, both women – blew themselves up in a busy Metro station in Moscow, Russia. Consider that in 2008, the US State Department issued a warning against female suicide bombers likely to carry explosives in purses, backpacks, loose clothing and pregnancy prosthetics. If there were ever a country terrified enough to shoot at a seemingly defenceless, ostensibly pregnant woman, it would be ours.

Instead, in the less-than-heroic facts that emerge from the incident, we now know that the foreigners had already managed to cross one check post by bribing the officers posted there. It was only when the second check post demanded their due that a scuffle broke out, ending with the foreigners fleeing, and five of them eventually ending up shot. Everything else, it seems, is hearsay.


There is no conclusive evidence that the foreigners were defenceless, innocent victims of Pakistan's corrupt, trigger-happy armed forces. The fact that several factions of the media and public believe this to be true is disturbing, because it makes the task of regaining public confidence in the fight against militancy ever more daunting.

Unfortunately, there is nothing preventing the security corps, suffering under labels of incompetence and insincerity, from mercilessly killing an injured and possibly unarmed person. There is nothing preventing them from taking bribes while acting the self-righteous guardians of citizens. There is nothing, in fact, that suggests any fear of accountability: in their world, statements can be changed, evidence can be invented or rubbished, people can be shot under the glare of television cameras without so much as a thought as to how it might end up looking on the other side of the lens.


It's too bad, then, that the civilians and security corps can't seem to agree on the right way to fight this war. When attacks do take place, they kill without much discrimination, and it doesn't matter much which side you end up on, if you end up dead.


The writer is research associate at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute and a former employee at the World Bank and The Brookings Institution. Email: erumhaider@ gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

VIGILANTE 'PRE-EMPTION'?

DR QAISAR RASHID

 

The Defence Committee of the Cabinet finally met on May 25 to review the security situation in Pakistan. The committee decided to undertake coordinated efforts to prevent acts of terrorism by pre-empting them.

Pre-emption is a word earning notoriety in Pakistan. On May 17, for the supposed pre-emption of a terrorist suicide attack, the Frontier Constabulary (FC) killed five Chechens at Kharotabad, Quetta. Three of the five were women – including one who was seven months pregnant. Later on, it was revealed that an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of airport police station had "tipped off" the FC about the alleged Chechen terrorists because they had not greased his palm on their way to Quetta. The FC's "pre-emptive strike" killed all the victims on the spot. FC officials swaggered as victors around the dead bodies, but the media revealed the truth before they could receive medals for valour. The head of every Pakistani hung in shame.


Such traumatic incidents produce a feeling of insecurity among people and fill their hearts with scorn for the security forces and hatred for the state machinery. Already, rumours are rife in Balochistan of the intelligence agencies kidnapping Baloch dissidents and carrying out their extra-judicial killings.


What is the difference between the FC's shooting of five unarmed Chechens at Kharotabad and the four terrorists' killing of Pakistani soldiers at the PNS Mehran base in Karachi? In both cases, people were killed mercilessly, though in the latter case the victims, just doing the job they had been assigned, were armed. In Quetta a Chechen woman motioned with her arms to plead for mercy, without causing pity in the determined pre-emptors; perhaps they did not want to squander the opportunity for a display of machismo by pumping bullets into the victims. On the contrary, at the Mehran base, when two of the terrorists were encircled by naval commandos, they were asked, and appropriately so, to lay down their weapons and surrender. Again, isn't it a shame that innocent people were butchered in a few minutes in the Quetta incident but it took 16-odd hours for four terrorists to be killed at PNS Mehran?


Sadly, the security forces display a warped sense of judgment even as the security situation is rapidly deteriorating. Against this backdrop, the decision of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet to allow the security forces to undertake pre-emptive strikes makes you shudder at the havoc they are capable of playing with the lives of innocent people. The susceptibility of any person can be exploited and virtually anyone can be declared a suspect. The situation is especially alarming for those who have no socio-political clout in this country.

These are signs that it is beyond Pakistan's means to fight the war on terror on its own soil. It is one thing for Pakistan to help the Afghans defeat a superpower, but for it to let its own territory be used as a battleground is altogether a different story. Pakistan is in a tight spot. While the US is coercing Pakistan into launching a military operation in North Waziristan and on the Quetta Shura, the terrorists are forestalling any advance by the military, while they exact revenge for those killed in drone strikes.


The PNS Mehran incident alone shows that Pakistan is in a critical moment of its history. The assault was impossible without the help of an insider having leaked out vital information. But is this something new? The attack on the GHQ in Rawalpindi was led by an insider, a paramedic. A cable leaked by Wikileaks revealed that, in March 2006, Air Vice Marshal Khalid Chaudhry confided to US officials that the ground technical staff tampered with the F-16s to sabotage their pilots' mission to bomb Taliban hideouts in Fata along Afghanistan's border.

It seems that the ideological leanings of the lower staff in the security forces are different from those of the officials. The murder of Governor Salmaan Taseer by Mumraz Qadri was a particularly significant proof of this. If the ranks of the Pakistani security forces are infested with Taliban sympathisers, even if not with Taliban agents, what rationale would be left to fight against the Taliban? The question is: is Pakistan able to cleanse the ranks of its security forces, or is it not? The reality is that the government will first have to purge the security forces of Taliban supporters before it applies the pre-emption mantra on unarmed civilian suspects.


The Abbotabbad incident on May 2 attacked the outer defences of Pakistan, while the PNS Mehran episode on May 22 attacked the country's inner defences. Will the world now believe Pakistan's claims that its nuclear assets are in safe hands? Will the world wait for a grim event to determine if this claim is true? Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has expressed his concern about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. More terrorist acts like that on PNS Mehran could bring the breaking point for Pakistan that much closer. The increasing pressure could make Pakistan vulnerable to mistakes and blunders which were otherwise avoidable. The blunders could include overreaction to some incident or event – as happened when the FC shot the five Chechens. The consequences of such overreaction on a higher level would be truly grim for Pakistan.

The writer is a freelance contributor.


Email: qaisarrashid@yahoo.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SOLUTIONS FROM WITHIN

SANIA NISHTAR

 

The events of May 2nd and 21st have left the nation embarrassed and demoralised. The challenges arising as a result thereof may compound Pakistan's existing problems. Many find it difficult to search for beacons of hope within the myriad of problems at a time like this. Within this context, this comment is an attempt to explore if there is reason for hope, and if so, what is it, that needs to transpire to turn the tide in a positive direction.

Whilst trying to frame an answer to this question, I am reminded of another question I was once asked at an international meeting: "How would you describe the Pakistani society?"

Struggling to portray a positive image of my country, I was fortunately able to quickly recall that a "society" is much broader than the "state" and that whilst the state may be predatory and beholden to capture at various levels, these attributes don't necessarily describe societal characteristics. A society in any nation state comprises a number of human and institutional actors and relationships and is much broader than those concerning political aspects, which fall within the remit of the state.

The Pakistani society has many positive attributes. With respect to ideological trends, the society falls on the spectrum, with a majority subscribing to moderation as opposed to extremism, desirous of a peaceful, prosperous and progressive role for Pakistan in a globalised world. The Pakistani society has a strong tradition of volunteering and giving – not just rooted in faith but also as part of the sense of social responsibility. This attribute has come into play on several occasions at times of natural calamites, with the 2005 earthquake and more recent 2010 floods, being illustrative. It is also evidenced on an every day basis as the proportion of individual philanthropy supporting public hospitals and schools. The Pakistani societal fabric is woven deeply with family values, as a result of which the Pakistani diasporas remain committed to their roots.

We are the sixth largest country in the world, with a large segment of a population much younger, and potentially more useful, than in other parts of the world. The Pakistani society is also a large consumer base, a large market, with a vibrant private sector. Despite the myriad of challenges in the country and the stagnant economy, consumer statistics have an upward trend, indicative of growing demand.

Moreover, there exists within the Pakistani milieu a vibrant civil society, which, subsequent to the lawyers' movement has discovered newfound strength. A tradition of activism appears to be burgeoning as a result. The country has a vibrant and free media, which has been proactive in shaping the societal political culture. Another strength of the Pakistani society, ironically, is its resilience. Millions of people survive in harsh economic circumstances; for many, the state exists only in the sense of the fragmented justice and law enforcement system they stumble on every now and then. They subsist without ever knowing what their rights are, and how the state fails them in its obligations.

Whilst these potential societal strengths exist, many challenges lurk. Societal fault lines are emerging with religion, ethnicity and social inequities as their basis and ideological allegiances are fast polarising. The population 'dividend' is becoming increasingly untenable. The burgeoning market is fast becoming a prey to organised cartels and the informal and black economy is increasing in quantum. Vested interests groups are organising within the civil society. Factions within the media are falling prey to capture. The resilient poor are being pushed to the limit as sluggish growth, compounded by the energy crisis increases unemployment and high inflation assumes a backbreaking magnitude. It is important to recognise that it is weaknesses at the level of the state, which are fast eroding most of the strengths within the society.

The role of a strong state in harnessing societal strengths for improving national outcomes should not be underestimated. The population dividend can hold promise, if it is harnessed with the right vision for a growth strategy, led and implemented by successive responsible governments in an environment of policy consistency. The remarkable societal attribute of giving, supporting and contributing can be amplified if synergies are exploited systemically through legal and fiscal instruments, which incentivise philanthropy both for the indigenous population as well the diasporas and through mechanisms that can demonstrate transparent use of contributions towards national causes. The state can make the market work for equity and quality, harness entrepreneurial talent of the private sector for revitalising state enterprise, leverage outreach of private providers for public goals, capitalise civil society's independent spirit and innovative thinking, ride the media wave for strengthening the societal fabric, the list of opportunities can go on.

Most importantly, it is only through an honest, impartial and uncoloured hand of the state that the channels of resources, which feed the extremist elements, can be plugged. It is only the state which can checkmate mafia groups, their predatory behaviours, and their inextricable relationship with political party finance. These systemic fault-lines are playing havoc with law and order. In addition to threatening lives they are having a domino effect on the economy and are further deepening inequities in the society, which have a chicken and egg relationship with unrest and violence, perpetuating a vicious cycle.

It is time for a reality check. We must recognise that our failures are largely indigenously manufactured. Rather than blaming external actors, it is best to look inwards for fault-lines that can be cemented.

We must know that our biggest security threat today is lack of economic security and that the country's most pervasive limitations are technological, knowledge base and human resource capacity related. We must recognise that our lack of integration with the global economic system is a major disadvantage. The biggest threat to the country comes not from outside but from our own shortfallings. From our failure to ensure separation of powers between the pillars of the state and institutionalise checks and balances. From our inability to uphold the principles of democracy and the practice of openness and collective deliberations, consensus-building, participation and evidence-based decision-making, critically important attributes in statecraft. From our failure to build safeguards against abuse, collusion and patronage and our ambivalence to the lack of fairness, transparency and accountability within the system.


The solutions to these problems will not come in the shape of "external assistance". They have to emanate constructively from within us. Leadership, at all levels of society, with a vision for unity, hope and discipline is the need of the hour.


The writer is the founding president of the NGO think-tank, Heartfile.

Email: sania@heartfile.org

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THE LIP OF INSANITY

BABAR SATTAR

 

The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I have been knocking from the inside. (Rumi)



Schizophrenia is "a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically and to have normal emotional responses". Delusion and denial are amongst the symptoms that generally work hand in glove. On May 2, 2011, immediately after the US Osama operation in Abbottabad General Aslam Beg, former army chief, declared that, "it was a drama and a lie to embarrass Pakistan...there was no Osama there...attack helicopters came from Tarbela base, carrying an Osama look-alike and killed him in cold blood." Admiral Noman Bashir, our naval chief, has asserted that there was no security lapse at PNS Mehran and the navy prevented the terrorists from accomplishing their objectives. General Hamid Gul, former ISI chief, told Channel Four that he was "100 percent sure" that the Taliban-claimed attack at the naval base was an "American operation".

Embarrassed and angry that Osama bin Laden had been lounging around Pakistan Military Academy Kakul for years and the US had managed to assassinate him and carry his body back in a covert military operation deep inside Pakistan without our security forces finding out, the nation looked forward to the joint parliamentary session called to take cognizance of the fiasco. The unanimous resolution affirmed "full confidence in the defence forces of Pakistan in safeguarding Pakistan's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and in overcoming any challenge to security", and expressed "distress on the campaign to malign Pakistan, launched by certain quarters in other countries, without appreciating Pakistan's immense sacrifices in combating terror and the fact that more than 30,000 Pakistani innocent men, women and children and more than five thousand security forces personnel had lost their lives".

But there was not a word about Osama's shocking presence in Pakistan or the urgent need for a counterterrorism strategy to protect citizens and frontline law enforcement personnel who have been reduced to cannon fodder. The Defence Committee of the Cabinet that finally met on Wednesday to discuss the PNS Mehran disaster reportedly mandated, "security, defence and law-enforcement agencies to use all means necessary" to eliminate terrorists, and also "expressed full confidence in the ability and the capacity of the armed forces and law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in meeting all threats to national security." So have security and law-enforcement agencies been holding their punches so far? Now that they have the DCC's blessing they will start taking terrorists seriously and it will be hunky-dory? If a country loses 35,000 precious lives, how can it repose confidence in a national security apparatus that was responsible for protecting them? Are Pakistani lives so expendable that we keep losing them in droves and no one is to account for them?

Blame and accountability are two sides of the same coin. Given that we live in the land of denial, no one is willing to accept fault and thus calls for accountability are seen as unhealthy finger pointing. But admission of mistakes and attribution of responsibility is a prerequisite to taking corrective measures. If there have been no intelligence and security lapses and the security apparatus is both able and performing, what explains the ability of terrorists to attack our citizens and security providers with impunity? Is it all a US-Zino-Hindu conspiracy to bring us to our knees and steal our nuclear weapons and natural resources? But have we not been on our knees for a while, dependent on foreign handouts even to finance and equip our security providers? And let us assume it is a conspiracy. Shall we just wail till the world order relents and the conspiracy goes away? The more important question is what we are going to do about it? How are we going to develop all instruments of state power to defeat this conspiracy and help Pakistan emerge as a secure, stable and responsible state?

We seem to have relied on blind faith and conspiracies for too long. It is time to add facts and reason to the mix. We need to transform the unanimous parliamentary resolution of October 22, 2008 – that resolved not to allow Pakistani soil to be used for terror attacks inside or outside Pakistan – into state policy. Defence analysts of the know-it-all khaki variety tell us that all states covertly support rogues in foreign lands to pursue national interest. The little detail they miss out is that probably no other state in the world has been reckless enough to transform its own citizens into non-state rogue elements as a matter of policy, and nurture, protect and finance them as strategic assets. That conniving foreign states have harnessed the disgruntled band amongst our own jihadis to attack the Pakistani state and citizens is the conspiracy. They do so to create chaos and engender circumstances wherein stealing our nuclear weapons programme would become justifiable.

The instrument being used to further this goal is our own misguided jihadis. So then for once do the conspiracy theorists and realists not agree that our jihadi assets have turned into a liability and must be liquidated? We have already lost over 35,000 Pakistani lives to terror. Even if there is immediate change in policy, our jihadi terrorists will have claimed many more of us before the madness ends. The manifestation of this policy will not be staunch military operation in Waziristan, but cession of recruiting camps in the outskirts of Lahore and Bahawalpur. Let us understand that there is no room for equivocation here. Irrespective of how the imperial powers 'tricked us' into assembling the jihadi project in our backyard, its prime victim is now the ordinary citizen and the sentry. If the state and the security agencies continue a double game, they are only playing it with the lives of Pakistanis.

Once we rethink and review our domestic security policy and identify the weak links in our security and intelligence apparatus, we will need to build institutional structures to give effect to the revised policy and plug holes in our approach to security. The parliamentarians cannot limit their role to passing truistic resolutions and be done with their jobs. They will need to act as legislators and pass laws to create structures that ensure accountability and oversight in the realm of national security. We need a strong counterterrorism agency, independent of the interior division or the military, responsible for coordinating and enforcing our homeland security policy.

We need to provide statutory mandate for the ISI's role that provides for internal accountability to check incompetence and abuse of authority and external policy guidance and supervision, apart from enabling intelligence to be used to prosecute and convict terrorists through our court system. We need a law that details how the military is to act 'in aid of civil power' when called upon to do so in order to integrate its internal security function into our criminal justice system. We need to amend our Anti-Terrorism Act to give it teeth and create automatic penal consequences for proscribed organisations. We need to exclude ouster clauses from the Army, Air Force and Navy Acts that shield actions and decisions of military commanders from judicial scrutiny.

None of this is rocket science. But who will assume responsibility for our moribund national security complex: our incompetent civilian leadership or our blinkered military high command? Who will purge the armed forces of jihadi sympathisers? Will those presiding over a blundering security policy suddenly have an epiphany? Can you teach an old dog new tricks?



Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CAPITAL LEAKS

ANJUM NIAZ

 

Before I go to my 'nutgraph' – a journalistic jargon explaining the crux of a written piece – why are responsible newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal loudly yelling to the whole world where Pakistan keeps its nuclear arsenal in Karachi? "Hey, you terrorists out there, next time go to air force base X in Karachi where the nukes are!" is the clear message being given to the Taliban thugs. Our sovereignty has hit an all time low. Our national security and classified secrets are now open for discussion for any foreign journalist/think tank wanting to deconstruct and eventually destroy our military, especially the ISI.

What happened to the gold standard rating which ISI got last year? It topped the ten best intelligence agencies of the world. Why? Because of its "lengthiest track record of success" such as defeating the KGB and driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan. It was better than Israel's Mossad. And listen to this: The ISI is believed to have the "highest number of agents worldwide, close to 10,000" according to the agency that named ISI the best in the world! "The most striking thing is that it's one of the least funded intelligence agencies out of the top 10 and still the strongest."

Can someone tell us how the ISI has fallen from grace within one year? Who is responsible for its free fall? Is it the CIA chief Leon Panetta? President Zardari? Rehman Malik? Gen Kayani or Gen Pasha? Perhaps all of the above!

And that brings me to my 'nutgraph': Pakistani elites love blabbering before foreigners, especially Americans. The Pakistan papers in WikiLeaks are a living testimony to how our politicians like kowtowing to Americans. It's not only politicians, but the media 'movers and shakers' and the upwardly mobile social types who after one stiff peg are willing to sell their souls. For those who don't imbibe, promises of power are the greatest intoxicant for them. I don't need to go into the psychology of men like Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Altaf Hussain, Amin Fahim, Faisal Saleh Hayat, Sharif brothers, Asfandyar Wali, Naveed Qamar, Shaukat Tarin and lesser beings running to the Americans as we all know by now. They hunger for power.

When the president and co-chair of Pakistan's ruling party himself is guilty of selling Pakistan's sovereignty by opening up his heart (state secrets) to the American ambassador Anne Patterson (who by the way strutted around Islamabad like Queen Victoria) what else is left to discuss?

Today, a new game is being played in Washington DC among the Pakistani Diaspora. The World Bank/IMF retirees are busy hatching a "shadow government" in DC, pulling their strings in various directions, hoping they can fly off to Islamabad and land in the PM House and ministers' colony. Topping the list of 'who wants to become a prime minister' is Shahid Javed Burki. Being an Oxford buddy of the late Farooq Leghari, he was asked to become caretaker finance minister after President Leghari sacked Benazir Bhutto in 1996. I remember attending his press conference in Islamabad where he told us hacks haughtily what a great job he was doing. His boast to his friends: I got billions in aid from China and I have friends in Washington too! This line is being echoed by former chief economist of the World Bank Dr Pervez Hassan who is styling himself as the next finance minister while author Shuja Nawaz is hoping to bag the defence minister ship, given his nexus with the Pakistan army.

More on the Washington wannabes another time, but the biggest 'takeaway' for us today is: those who pitch the loudest before Americans win the race. They are treacherous, beware of them!



The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting. Email: anjum niaz@rocketmail.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ENERGY CONSERVATION STRATEGY IS AN ANSWER

 

AS power shortage is aggravating with the passage of time, the Government is once again banking upon energy conservation measures with a view to meeting the shortfall. During his meeting with Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Syed Naveed Qamar, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, apart from declaring that efforts would be made to enhance the capacity of national grid as well as power generation capacity, said that the Government would hold the second energy summit to take all the stakeholders on board and formulate energy conservation strategy for this summer.


Earlier too, energy conservation measures were taken and as per claims of the government, these led to saving of upto 350 MW of electricity a day. The measures included two weekly holidays, advancing of clocks by one hour, ban on air-conditioning in offices before 11.00 a.m. and closure of markets at 2100 hours. As the energy crisis, as per Government's own estimation, is likely to persist for years, it would be advisable to formulate, apart from short and medium term strategies, a long term energy conservation policy as well in consultation with all stakeholders. However, we would caution that the strategy should be carved out after careful and indepth considerations examining all of its merits and demerits. This is because we have seen in the past that measures like advancing of clocks by one hour and declaration of two day weekend added to the confusion and harmed the economy more than benefiting it. By observing two weekly holidays, we intend to save electricity but the loss of production and exports is much higher than the negligible energy saving on this account. Instead, the business community should be persuaded to agree to closure of shops, markets and businesses at 2000 hours at the most, as is being done in a number of countries of the world. It is a false myth that early closure would affect their business as customers would adjust their shopping habits accordingly and make purchase before the deadline. It is also a fact that electrical and electronic appliances in our country are consuming excessive energy and a lot of saving can be effected by adopting energy saving devices. For this purpose, a careful study should be carried out and ban imposed on import of energy guzzling equipment and appliances. It is also regrettable that about three years back the then Minister for Water and Power Raja Parvez Ashraf announced a scheme for provision of energy savers by WAPDA as part of the drive to encourage consumers to replace incandescent bulbs but no one knows what happened to that.

 

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AKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

USC COMES TO RESCUE OF POOR

 

UTILITY Stores Corporation (USC) is once again in the spotlight, thanks to the vibrant Minister for Production Ch Parvez Elahi, who has started taking measures to turn it not only into a profitable organization but also a tool to provide relief to the inflation ridden consumers. It is encouraging that at the direction of the Minister the Corporation has reduced prices of 133 different items.


The relief announced by USC at the instance of the Minister is not cosmetic as prices of items of daily use have been lowered significantly as compared to the open market. As a consequence, there is difference of Rs 4 to 16.00 in the prices of grams at the USC outlets and open market, which means much for the poor. Similarly, prices of cooking oil, milk, soap and shampoos have also been reduced from 5 to 13 rupee per item. And most importantly, the Minister has ordered the Corporation to sell 20 Kg wheat flour bag 20 rupee less than the market rate. Prices all over the world are determined by demand and supply but unfortunately here in this country unscrupulous businessmen jack up prices of different commodities artificially to mint money and become millionaire overnight. Regrettably, there is elaborate mechanism to monitor and check prices and bring the culprits to book but those assigned with the responsibility are also hands in glove with those who are sucking blood of the poor. The Utility Stores Corporation was established with the clear objective of safeguarding people against unfair practices by traders and businessmen and we are glad that barring a few periods of slumber, the Corporation has done well throughout to mitigate sufferings of the people. This is particularly so in the case of sugar and atta the prices of which have been fluctuating in the open market unnecessarily and the Governments in power failed to curb the trend. As the holy month of Ramzan is fast approaching and we have been witnessing over years that prices tend to increase alarmingly during the month, we hope that the Minister would do necessary homework to provide meaningful relief to the people through USC outlets, which he also plans to expand throughout the country.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

AFRICAN UNION FOR END TO LIBYAN BOMBING

 

AT long last, the African Union seems to have woken up to the danger that is knocking at the doors of its members i.e. grave threat to their sovereignty and territorial integrity at the hands of erstwhile colonial powers. This was evident from the demand made by African leaders after their summit at Addis Ababa that there should be an outright end to NATO air strike on Libya.

 

We have been urging African and Arab countries to see writings on the wall and play a proactive role foiling designs of the enemy and safeguarding their national interests. However, so far they have remained passive spectators to the carnage being carried out by the United States, France and NATO in Libya, where their actions are far exceeding the limits prescribed in the UN resolution that sanctioned only imposition of no fly zone in Libya with a view to protecting its people from any possible action by Qaddafi Government. The US and France got the resolution passed by telling the international community that their intention was to save human lives but instead they themselves have killed hundreds of civilians and innocent people since then. Strictly speaking their mandate was confined to ensuring that Qaddafi was unable to use his aircraft to bomb his own people but NATO has unilaterally expanded the aggression and is now targeting not only military targets but also infrastructure and economic assets of Libya, which were built over decades. Clearly, the objective is to push the country several decades back so that these colonial powers could get reconstruction contracts afterwards. We hope that the AU would not rest at issuing a mere statement and take diplomatic initiatives in collaboration with Arab League and other members of the OIC to seek an early end to aggression in Libya.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

AN EFFORT TO FRAME PAKISTAN?

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

Though effort was made to frame Pakistan and its premier agency, yet during cross examination on Thursday, David Coleman Headley reiterated his belief that while he plotted the Mumbai attack, he was reporting to handlers associated with the ISI, a Pakistani intelligence agency. But under cross examination, Headley - the only witness to testify since the trial opened Monday - acknowledged that "he never saw any proof that Major Iqbal, a shadowy figure who helped direct the Mumbai attack, belonged to the ISI". He is also star witness in the federal government's terrorism case against Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana acused of providing financial and logistical support to him. When he was grilled by the attorney of Rana Tahawwar, and under cross examination Headley acknowledged that Rana Tahawwur had no need to know about that attack, which he had earlier argued that he had told Rana in advance about Mumbai attacks in 2008. Rana's attorney said that Headley is falsely testifying that Mr. Rana knew about the planned attack only to avoid the death penalty.

In the ongoing trial of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, the US federal prosecution had pointed an accusing finger towards Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) the other day. Headley's statement before the 12-member jury three days ago had incriminated the ISI as acting in collusion with terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) for executing the Mumbai attacks. The prosecution alleged that the ISI had links with Rana Tahawwar Hussain and David Headley, and that Rana had provided cover for the latter's recce of the sites that were attacked. The prosecution told the court that it was ISI's Major Iqbal, who plotted the terror strike with the help of LeT's Sajid Mir. Headley said in the court that LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 26/11 attacks, motivated him to carry out jihad, adding that "one second of jihad was equal to 100 years of worship". Headley said that he had lunch with the LeT's commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Saeed, where he was told by the former to take the ISI into confidence. However, on Thursday, he admitted that he had no proof that Major Iqbal belonged to the ISI.


Headley had earlier stated that the ISI provided help to Pakistan-based terror group LeT. As the much-awaited trial started, James Krindler, the attorney for 26/11 victims, squarely blamed the ISI top brass for the ghastly Mumbai attack. "We are not saying that everybody in the ISI was involved. The organization acted in collusion with the LeT," Krindler said. Since the arrest of David Coleman Headley on 3rd October 2009, India had been persuading America to allow Indian intelligence access to him, which was granted and Indian intelligence interrogated Headley seven times during two weeks. He, during investigation by the FBI, had already testified to his terror training in Pakistani camps, and plans to strike several places in India and other countries at the behest of Pakistan-based terror group LeT. US Attorney and David Headley had agreed on Plea Bargain to avoid death penalty and that the court would take a lenient view if he gave all the details. Earlier, he was cajoled and persuaded by India and other investigators to name some serving Pakistan army officers to prove that Pakistan army and state was involved in promoting non-state actors. In fact, the entire exercise seems to have been done to pressurize Pakistan into taking action against Hafiz Saeed, who was earlier detained for questioning but was released by a Pakistani court for lack of evidence against him. David Coleman Headley is reported to have revealed in his interrogations that "the Pakistani intelligence - ISI is running, at least since 2003, a residential protected compound in Karachi - the so-called "Karachi-Project" - aimed to carry out terror attacks in India in order to undermine and weaken the Indian stability and firmness over the Kashmir issue". David Headley, a double agent and a fishy character, was projected as a jihadist whereas he was a criminal who used every avenue to lead life of luxury and thrill. Earlier, David Headley was arrested in the US for heroin smuggling in 1997 in New York but earned a reduced sentence by working for American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) wherein he was facilitated to have ingress into Pakistan-Afghanistan linked narcotics gang.

There were reports that he was a double agent working at the same time for the CIA and terrorists' organizations, though the CIA refuses to acknowledge that he ever worked for the organization. He was said to be a very good friend of Rahul Bhatt son of billionaire film producer-director Mahesh Bhatt and other luminaries in India. One would not speculate that what sort of help they might have given to advance his pernicious plans, but the fact remains that he had developed friendship with scions of big business and celebrities of film industry in India. Anyhow, the plea bargain indicates that Headley has had a criminal record in the US. In 1988, he was convicted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York of conspiracy to import heroin into the United States and sentenced on January 5, 1989, to four years' imprisonment.

Headley was working as an agent for Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). According to a report, the DEA had then introduced him to the FBI, which admitted that Headley was hired for sting operation but he joined Lashkar-e-Toiba. The question is whether the jury would take into consideration the background of this criminal and dubious character and reject his Plea Bargain and his statement. More often than not, the courts do not like to go into such details, yet if Pakistan would hire eminent lawyers to present its case in the US court, the lawyers would try to bring all the aspects of David Headley before the jury. As part of the plea bargain, Headley has voluntarily given up his right to a formal trial with production of evidence and cross-examination of witnesses. He has also given up his right to appeal against any sentence imposed by the court on the basis of his guilty pleas. It is hoped that the jury would give its verdict after sifting all facts from fiction, and Pakistan would be exonerated.


While one of the major charges against Headley relates to the murder of six American nationals during the Mumbai terrorist strike, the plea bargain has avoided touching upon questions such as who took the decision to kill foreign nationals, including Americans, and what was the role of the Pakistani State agencies in taking this decision. Anyhow, Plea Bargain means to make an agreement in which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge and the prosecutor in return drops more serious charges. However, the plea bargain becomes valid only when accepted by the court, and the court has the discretion to reject the plea bargain and order a formal trial with or without jury.


Even during the trial, if Headley is found not to abide by the provisions of the Plea Bargain, the court can order a formal trial, and yet his statement would be the basis for the judgment. The position is that wives of the police officers killed by the terrorists could mobilise the relatives of all those - Indians and foreigners - killed by the terrorists and send a joint appeal to the court to reject the plea bargain and hold a trial in order to find out the truth.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

A GRIM SCENARIO CONFRONTS PAKISTAN

ASIF HAROON RAJA

 

Till 02 May incident, people agonizing under the oppressive policies of democratic government drew satisfaction from the thought that in the presence of highly professional armed forces, robust intelligence agencies and independent judiciary, no harm could come to the existence of Pakistan. The Army's image that had sunk low during Gen Musharraf's tenure got restored when Gen Kayani played a positive role in getting the chief justice restored in March 2009 and the Army produced excellent results against the terrorists the same year. Army's image shot up so high that the people never questioned its efficiency despite 122 terror attacks taking place against defence installations.


Gen Kayani and ISI chief Lt Gen Pasha withstood intense Indo-US pressure and upheld their principled stance whenever national interests got threatened. On several occasions they refused to play the US dictated game but could go only up to certain limits in view of government's policy of appeasement and its subservience to USA . Although their defiance became a source of encouragement for the people, however it didn't assuage their disturbed feelings. The people had always regarded the PAF in highest esteem and were confident that it would stand up to any external threat with fortitude. The Navy had also expressed its resolve to resiliently defend the port city, coastal belt and the exclusive economic zone.


Faith of the people in Army, Air force and ISI received a shattering blow on the morning of 02 May when to their utter dismay they learnt that a small helicopter borne US force had intruded deep inside our territory undetected, killed Osama bin Laden and took away his body to Afghanistan uncontested. Our entire security apparatus remained immobilized for two hours. By the time Robert Gates informed our Army Chief dead in the middle of the night, the raiders had safely reached Baghram Base. The people were aghast to hear the air chief that no threat was perceived from western border and hence no worthwhile measures were taken to deal with any aerial incursion. It has now been learnt that there is a written agreement that any aircraft or helicopters flying into Pakistan across western border would be treated as friendly.


The people had not got out of their shock when another debilitating incident took place in Karachi on 22 May when five unknown terrorists scaled the wall of Mehran Naval Base and destroyed two PC3 Orion surveillance aircraft parked in the open near the runway and killed 10 soldiers including one Navy officer. After a 16-hour gun battle, four terrorists were killed and one managed to flee. This incident has outraged the people and has further wrecked their confidence in the ability of the armed forces. It was disturbing to hear the naval chief saying that it was not a security lapse. Had some pro-active measures been taken in the wake of 02 May incident and Parliament's resolution on 13 May, 22 May tragedy could be averted. No independent commission other than the departmental probe ordered by GHQ has so far been established to determine the true facts about the Abbottabad fiasco. Likewise no commission has been formed to investigate the Mehran Base debacle, which implies that many more suchlike attacks would keep occurring.


Had the Navy been more vigilant after the three acts of terror on 26 and 28 April against its buses in Karachi, the terrorists couldn't have reached the aircraft unnoticed and uncontested. Use of such a large force against five terrorists was injudicious and showed panic of the ones in authority. The act of sabotage, entirely beneficial for India was not possible without in-house and external support. If they were ordinary terrorists, why did they go past dozens of C-130s used for transporting soldiers to restive areas and target Orion aircraft only which do not concern them? Hand of American technicians working in the base cannot be ruled out. Current stage of despondency and lack of confidence in armed forces has come about as a consequence to years of sustained Indo-US-Israeli combined efforts in collusion with their pawns inside Pakistan holding key appointments. It is indeed a miracle that Pakistan is still surviving. Till 02 May the scenario was different and favored Pakistan . Within a fortnight circumstances have dramatically reversed and Pakistan put in most awkward position. Our electronic media is helping the cause of Pakistan 's detractors to discredit armed forces and ISI. The situation will be worsened in coming weeks. One to two well-coordinated group attacks on the pattern of GHQ and Mehran Base are likely to be launched on our nuclear sites.


In case the well-briefed and rehearsed attackers succeed in gaining a stand-off for 15 hours and cause some damage to the infrastructure and kill few security guards, it will give cogent reasons to the US and the west to build a strong case to get a resolution from the UN against Pakistan declaring that Pak nukes are no more safe and require immediate preventive measures. Spin doctors can also come out with a fabricated story that the attackers managed to steal some uranium. Pakistan will be given two choices; either to agree to UN mandated joint control of nuclear arsenal by US-Pak troops with overall control resting in US hands, or hand over the nukes to transfer them to safer location outside Pakistan .


In case Pakistan drags its feet and puts up arguments in defence that its nuclear arsenal has multi-layered security system and warheads, fuses and launchers are stored separately and over 70% assets are underground and that no accident or incidence of theft has taken place, their reasoning will be rudely brushed aside and on the strength of UN resolution following steps will be undertaken: Harsh economic and military sanctions will be imposed so as to further cripple the economy and give further blow to our state of war preparedness. Pakistan will be declared a rogue and a terrorist state. Pakistan will be diplomatically isolated. Economic blockade will be enforced in Indian Ocean on the pattern of Gaza to disallow any ship going towards Karachi Port or moving out of it. US-NATO-Afghan troops would get deployed along our western border, while Indian troops would occupy their western border.


Border incursions in the form of limited attacks along western and eastern borders together with intensification of drone attacks and airspace violations would be initiated to provoke Pakistan to react. BRA-BLA-BLF in Balochistan, TTP and other affiliated groups operating in northwest would be pushed to accelerate terrorist attacks, blow up bridges and railway lines to prevent shifting of troops and render rear area security vulnerable. Thereafter, no fly zone will be enforced as was the case in Iraq and now in Libya . Next, our air defence assets as well as runways will be systematically targeted. Our communication system will be jammed using satellite facilities to render our GPS system and radars ineffective. Command & control HQs, strategic reserves, artillery guns, missile sites and nuclear facilities will be among listed targets for destruction.


Surveillance capability along our coastal belt has already been rendered non-operational to allow Indian submarines to get deployed close to Karachi harbor. CIA-Blackwater-RAW network already established in Pakistan will start creeping forward towards nuclear sites to disallow assembly of nuclear warheads and move them to deployment areas. Pakistan will be reminded of Lugar-Obama legislation 2009, which authorizes US Special Forces to conduct sting operation to confiscate Pak nukes. It will be under such adverse operational environments that our armed forces will be asked to fight the war on three fronts while our well-heeled leaders will quietly fly away to their second homes in the west and Dubai.


—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

LEADERSHIP LAPSES LEAD TO SECURITY LAPSES

MAIMUNA ASHRAF

 

May 2011 proved quite hard-hitting for Pakistan. The 5/2 episode was not absorbed by the people, yet another unpleasant incident of the Karachi PNS Mehran base transpired. In the post 5/2 scenario, Pakistan is being surrounded by the blame games, psychological warfare and lethal propaganda constantly, and the target is very evident – our military and intelligence. It was being said years before by many analysts that our security establishment is the target and it will become the victim of Mumbai style attacks.


It is not the first time that a military base in Pakistan has been attacked. Our security establishment became the target of enemy right after some years we joined the war on terror. But after 2005 we saw a steady increase in the sophisticated attacks with sensitive equipment. PNS Mehran is the third Mumbai-style attack on military, before such attacks have been held on GHQ and Parade Lane Mosque. What we learned from these two previous attacks, that is a huge question mark! Therefore due to some incidents in last four months, military and intelligence were caught in huge criticism due to obvious reasons but at this moment the things are really getting worse. Firstly we joined war on terror and then we started blindly obeying the US demands to 'do more', while on dancing the mantra of 'do more' we allowed detectives and foreign meddling inside our territory. So nowadays we are paying the cost of playing wrong cards, and no doubt we paid and we are paying a huge cost for getting some limited number of F-16s. Perhaps our security establishment miscalculated the US moves in the name of war on terror; therefore they were caught in a trap of strategies regarding counterterrorism, or our security establishment was well known of the trap but they didn't perturb the civilian government. Whatever the truth is, one thing is for sure that the leadership lapses are hitting us now in the form of security lapses. And despite of largest Army and best intelligence we are suffering from a sense of insecurity.

Whatever happened in PNS Mehran is simply stodgy. Few militants succeeded in entering the base, they knew the passage, they knew from where to enter and what to target! This seems an attack of national level on a country by a hostile country, as an enemy came to attack destroy P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft, the two main assets of Pakistan Navy, which were parked at a high-security navy aviation base. The motives behind the attack are clear, enemy wants to molest the defense of Pakistan; the attack was on Pakistan military and intelligence. We know that our military fought well and they are loyal but such incidents damage the morale of the nation and give enemies a chance to create propaganda about your defense. Obviously enemies have much to propagate that how four to six terrorists succeeded in entering the base and made that hostage for more than 16 hours! These terrorists were not ordinary ones, they were highly trained, and they entered the base through a passage where they knew they can escape themselves from the reach of cameras. They knew that they had to target those particular planes and they were there to die. Now the question arises why they targeted those particular planes? Answer is simple; the P-3C Orion surveillance planes are especially used for the anti-submarine warfare. And who would get advantage from this devastation? The terrorist who usually target different places at Pakistan are located within Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan , and it's US and India who can target Pakistan through sea as they have already threatened Pakistan in post 5/2 scenario. Now in view of all these realities it is understood that this attack was a result of full-fledged strategy of enemies, proper homework was done and all the plan was executed through the collaboration of enemy's intelligence and military. While not denying the extremist militancy and terrorism within Pakistan , we need to realize that the targeting of military installations and intelligence vulnerabilities is the handiwork of trained and well-armed operatives who of necessity have strong external backers.


It is quite possible that the enemy wants to see the defense level of Pakistan weakened and that is why they conducted such attacks! Obviously the 5/2 attack has already portrayed an appalling image of military and intelligence in front of international community and now this Karachi incident will further strengthen the image. This will automatically turn the nation against the military and intelligence and will build huge criticism. This criticism from the nation will mechanically demoralize the military and intelligence and will create fuss in country and this is what our enemy wants. At present things are very clear. Pakistan has to fight war on different fronts, unswervingly with US, on eastern and western borders and with the militants who are being trained by the foreign powers to demoralize the intelligence and military. Our high authorities must not be oblivious to all these facts, but why our leaders are so off the screen! Why are they absent when nation is demanding answers from them! Western media is getting benefit from this situation and highly criticizing the security establishment, as it is said by many analyst that the United States , while cooperating with the Pakistani military very closely, was pursuing a parallel policy of pushing Pakistani military to transform itself over the short and long terms. The short term goal was to fully assist the US military mission in Afghanistan . The long term goal was for Islamabad to drop its interests in Kashmir , Afghanistan , China and Central Asia and firmly get in line behind US objectives in all four areas. Now query arises, why US and India needs to do this propaganda against Pakistan military and intelligence? Obviously the ultimate goal is to pressurize Pakistan military and intelligence after the unanimous resolution, which was adopted after Osama's death. US and India are using different ways to weaken Pakistan from inside. As recently a British newspaper announced that "US troops will be deployed in Pakistan if the nation's nuclear installations come under threat from terrorists out to avenge the killing of Osama Bin Laden." So now to pressurize Pakistan and to soften the resistance, US is using and will use the coins of India, Afghanistan and Pakistani nukes!


Americans are using the Sun Tzu tactics of warfare to pressurize Pakistan. Besides, India is playing psychological warfare and using guerilla tactics to push Pakistan into a corner. Silence of leadership is not going to resolve the issues. Obviously we have loyal soldiers who are ready to die for their country anytime but we have already lost thousands of lives in this war against terror so how much more can we afford! Leadership has to speak up and come up with bona fide response to this fatal art of warfare!

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

IMPACT OF BALOCH TURMOIL

FAROOQ ADIL

 

Last month a seminar on Balochistan turmoil was held in Washington under the United States Institute for Peace, which was addressed by Selig Harrison of Center for International Policy, Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute, Moeed Yusuf of the USIP, Barrister Shazadi Beg from UK and Ejaz Haider from Pakistan. Initially the seminar was reportedly planned to be held in Quetta, for which Mr Moeed Yusuf in his capacity as Moderator, approached the Pakistan Embassy in Washington for a formal approval from Islamabad, which was turned down.


The papers read in the seminar can be summarized as: Firstly, the Indo-US nexus wants Balochistan separated from Pakistan as the US seems to be posing itself as world's 'suo moto' power. The theme, venue, and participants show that it was an attempt to internationalize the Balochistan issue, kicking start a debate that paints the Pakistan state and its security apparatus as bad guys. Secondly, Pakistan and Balochistan are not the only stakeholders, but UK, US, Iran, India & Afghanistan also have major stakes. Politicians & civil administration must play role to end people's grievances leading to insurgency. Sardars do not follow the Taliban ideology; however various militant groups including al-Qaeda exploit the absence of state.


Thirdly, the Indian interests in fueling insurgency are linked to those of the US through a shared politico-economic ideology in the region. Balochistan offers lucrative potential to the energy-starved India because of its geostrategic position. The fact that Baloch leaders have assured India and Iran of their cooperation in the construction of gas pipeline through Balochistan provides ample reason for India to support the separatist cause. India is providing money and arms through its consulates which is being supported by Washington as it buttresses the US interests. The Indian mindset, despite the superpower at its back, needs to be brought to fore and should be made to mind its own business and stop meddling in Balochistan.


Fourthly, dominant theme in the seminar was an alignment between the US and India in favour of a free & sovereign Balochistan. That the US welcomes Balochistan as an independent client state, yet the clandestine role of the Indians in Balochistan is being legitimized which needs to be looked at as to what is the Indian design behind its support of separatist movement; are the Indian concerns truly linked to the need for eradicating terrorism from the region? Should we leave it up to Americans to decide who the genuine stakeholders are? Pakistan ought to wake up to this realization that a politico-economic solution is inevitable & that the people demand action, not just verbal pacifiers. Fifthly, the state apparatus has virtually been absent leaving the locals to lead a nomadic life in the post-modern age when education and techniques ought to have turned the dry barren land into an oasis of prosperity. The wealth belonging to the citizens is not accessible to them. That governance has never been our forte becomes an understatement when we take a look at how successive governments in Pakistan have dealt with Balochistan, territorially the largest province of Pakistan.

The state apparatus has virtually been absent from the scene leaving the locals to fend for themselves. These people who have been forced to lead a nomadic life in the post modern age when education and technology ought to have turned the dry barren land into an oasis of prosperity have finally stood up against the atrocities of the centre. The sever myopia from which the Pakistani leaders suffer is totally unbelievable, considering the fact that the prime aim of any government is to guard the national interest and take initiatives for the collective benefit of the nation. But in this case the self takes precedence over the nation to an extent that it becomes the sole focus of their undivided attention. Concentrating on trivial matters of personal interest, almost every government has leased the entire province to the local colonizers, aka, sardars, who have kept strict control over the local populace turning the province into an example of personal fiefdom to maintain their power politics. In this regard both the government and the sardars are to be blamed equally. The question that needs to be asked here is who are these self appointed custodians of the Baloch people? Where they actually hand chosen by the locals and have all the attributes to be classed as their true representatives? Are they actually advocating the Baloch case or once again, fueling discord to maintain the power pattern that is being threatened under a federal government as the people of Balochistan have raised their voices to make their presence and despair known?

It is understood that the seminar was designed to convey the strong message amidst the opposing voices of Moeed Yusuf, Shazadi Beg or Ejaz Haider which were not as strong as those of Harrison & Weinbaum. Harrison's blunt view seems to be the bottom line behind conducting this seminar, with other participants who happened to be visitors of Balochistan, not locals who know the reality on ground. Such a seminar was however an opportunity for Pakistani think-tanks, to effectively counter the American think-tanks' conclusions. In fact such an opportunity should have been availed as the saner voices do not get space in any other way in US media. Normally the probable points of discussion & subject-contents are provided to the embassy & respective government before the grant of permission, and the agenda points provided by the USIP could have been analyzed and response points prepared well ahead the seminar in Quetta.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

POSITIVE SIGNS IN AFGHANISTAN

DAVID IGNATIUS

 

The"fighting season" has started in Afghanistan, with deadly attacks almost every day. But at the same time, diplomats see what one calls "hopeful signs" that a regional framework for peace talks with the Taliban may slowly be emerging. The most important development is that Germany has been mediating secret talks between the US government and Tayyab Agha, a Taliban official who in the past has had close links with the group's leader, Mohammad Omar. The German-sponsored talks were disclosed Tuesday in Der Spiegel and confirmed to me by a well-informed US source.


Agha is described in Der Spiegel as "Mullah Omar's personal spokesman." US officials aren't certain of that, and they are trying to establish whether Agha speaks for Omar and his Quetta Shura, or for a faction of it, or whether he is a lone wolf. In any event, he could be the most credible Taliban official to surface so far in outreach efforts over the past two years by US, European and regional governments. The German mediation has been guided over the past year by Michael Steiner, a veteran diplomat who is Germany's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The effort was begun by his predecessor, Bernd Mutzelburg. The Germans hope their diplomatic contacts will ripen in time for a major conference on Afghanistan scheduled for December in Bonn. A second positive trend is that India and Pakistan are speaking in similar language about their support for an Afghan-led negotiated settlement. An important signal came from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a May 13 speech in Kabul. He endorsed President Hamid Karzai's "process of national reconciliation" and said India "will respect the choices you make."


Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir used similar language Monday when he backed an "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned" peace process. He was echoing comments made in Kabul in April by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief. Indeed, on paper, there's little difference between the Indian, Pakistani and American positions supporting a negotiation that concludes with a Taliban agreement to renounce violence, reject al-Qaeda and support the Afghan constitution. Friction between India and Pakistan has been a major obstacle to an Afghan settlement in the past. So it's interesting that the new diplomatic efforts come as "a dialogue process is on" between New Delhi and Islamabad, according to one Indian source. This dialogue has included recent meetings between the secretaries for foreign affairs, home affairs, commerce and water resources of the two nations.


Singh's speech in Kabul got relatively little attention in the Western press. But diplomats noted this passage: "We hope that Afghanistan will be able to build a framework of regional co-operation that will help its nation-building efforts." That hope is shared by Marc Grossman, the new US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who has been pushing for a "diplomatic surge" on various fronts. A third positive trend is on the battlefield itself. The US-led coalition entered this fighting season having cleared several major Taliban strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, providing more leverage. There's some independent evidence that the Taliban is feeling the pressure.


Interviews done in April with 1,400 Afghan men by the independent International Council on Security and Development showed that respondents in nine of 14 districts surveyed believe the US-led coalition is winning the war. In the southern battleground provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, 61 percent of those surveyed favoured negotiations with the Taliban. ICOS surveyed a smaller sample after Osama bin Laden's death May 2, and 68 percent said it was good news, according to Norine MacDonald, head of the group. The Afghanistan battle turns on a dirty war of night raids against Taliban leaders by US-led Special Forces and a counteroffensive of Taliban fighters assassinating Afghan officials working with the United States. It's hard to judge where the balance lies in this fight, but it's a grinding war that may make both sides more ready for a diplomatic outcome.


The death of bin Laden created an opening to resolve a conflict whose triggering personality is now gone. What's encouraging is that other positive signs are pointing in the same direction, toward an Afghan peace process that has regional support. Grossman is a quieter diplomat than his predecessor, Richard Holbrooke, but he seems to be making some progress.


—Courtesy: The Washington Post

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

SYMBOLIC END OF A BRUTAL ERA

JUST why it has taken Serbian authorities 16 years to find General Ratko Mladic, the Butcher of Bosnia, remains to be ascertained, but there can be no overstating the importance of his arrest in bringing a symbolic end to the most shameful and savage episode in post-war European history.

 

Neither can the significance of Mladic's apprehension be over-emphasised, given events unfolding elsewhere. The lesson for the likes of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, Syria's Bashar al-Assad and other tyrants whose stock in trade is murder and pillage is that eventually, like Mladic and his cohort Radovan Karadzic, their crimes against humanity will catch up with them and they will be brought to book. Just as the USA caught up with Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.

The parallels between the prolonged hunt for bin Laden and the ability of Mladic to evade capture for so long are remarkable. Pakistani authorities unconvincingly claim they had no knowledge of Bin Laden's presence. Similarly, successive governments in Belgrade have pleaded ignorance about Mladic, even though in 2000 he was photographed watching a Chinese-Yugoslav soccer match in the capital, attended his brothers funeral in 2001, and often visited the grave of his daughter after she committed suicide.

Now, on the day European Union Foreign Affairs Commissioner Catherine Ashton was due in Belgrade to discuss Serbia's membership application - which the EU said was contingent on Mladic's arrest - he has been apprehended.

His detention precedes an imminent report by the UN War Crimes Tribunal chief prosecutor expected to be highly critical of Serbia's efforts to find Mladic.

Just who helped Mladic avoid capture for so long should be revealed in due course. As the commander of the Bosnian Serb army, he stands indicted of crimes so grotesque they defy comprehension - the 1995 massacre of 8000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995, which killed 10,000 people, including 3500 children.

Serbian president Boris Tadic has pledged Mladic will be turned over to the UN War Crimes Tribunal within seven days. Nothing must impede that process. Murdering tyrants must learn from Mladic's belated capture that they, too, will never escape their past and sooner or later they will be on their way to prison in The Hague.

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

LEADERSHIP IS NEEDED TO RECLAIM TAXPAYERS' ABC

EDITORS who aspire to quality journalism know the simple question that determines if a story should be run or be spiked: Why? Why is it news?

 

If the forthcoming answer rests on a line of attack from a lobby group or political operative, then editors should be highly sceptical. In an age when spin doctors, lobbyists, publicists and political activists outnumber journalists by at least a dozen to one, reporters need the judgment to pick through the spin and report the facts.

The failure to observe these basic editorial principles is at the heart of the malaise in ABC news and current affairs. Few significant stories are broken, the response to live events is slow and idiosyncratic and its commentators indulge in an elitist conversation in which everyone concurs on climate change, the evils of profit-driven enterprises and the racism of those concerned about border protection. The rules against ABC hosts becoming commentators are so widely flouted these days that there is rarely any doubt what is on a presenter's mind. We know, for example, that Radio National's Fran Kelly is morally opposed to mandatory detention, Deb Cameron is uncomfortable with most forms of commerce and Jon Faine, until recently, at least, thought The Australian's attempt to hold the Victorian Police Commissioner to account was a vendetta. After this year's budget, we also know that all three share this newspaper's distaste for middle-class welfare. Yet the public utility from which Kelly, Faine and Cameron derive their sinecures has itself become an egregious example of middle-class welfare, indulging the tastes of a privileged few at the expense of the rest of the community.

Under Mark Scott's leadership, the ABC no longer aspires to be "Your ABC", the slogan it adopted on Australia Day 1997 to launch its now familiar wave-form logo. A sly coup by a coterie of like-minded, inner-city staff has commandeered the ABC's transmitters and stipend to broadcast almost exclusively to the vocal minority who share their prejudices.

It was not always so. The ABC was established 79 years ago on the democratic, liberal principles of Lord John Reith, the BBC's first managing director, who believed that a government-funded wireless service should be a companion at the hearth of both rich and poor. Successive ABC managers and board members have paid lip-service to their duty to satisfy the corporation's investors: the taxpaying public. Mr Scott apparently rejects that principle, judging by remarks attributed to him in The Guardian in a profile by the left-of-centre newspaper's head of media and technology Dan Sabbagh. Sabbagh reports that Scott no longer believes the ABC has a universal service obligation and is best described as "a market failure broadcaster". "If you believe the arguments about public service broadcasting it doesn't mean you have to be offering something to everybody," he is reported to have said.

Public broadcasters should not be discouraged from specialised programming. Indeed, the ABC should be an investment in cultural capital that stimulates creativity and promotes excellence. But a democratically-accountable body loses its mandate when it strays too far from the values of its own constituency. Suppose, for example, news breaks of the death of the world's most wanted terrorist. Most viewers would want to hear it from the mouth of an Australian journalist or, failing that, from trusted sources in Britain or the US. If someone in the ABC's control room decided to flick the switch, albeit belatedly, to the Qatar-based al-Jazeera for the news of Osama bin Laden's death, something would be going very badly wrong. Yet that is precisely what occurred earlier this month. The ABC is clearly sensitive to the suggestion it has become a niche broadcaster, judging from its reaction to The Australian's recent FOI application for access to audience research reports. Intuitively, we would expect it to show that the ABC has a large audience in the regions, where it largely fulfils its duty to rural and remote communities poorly served by commercial media. In metropolitan areas, we would expect the ABC is well received in the inner-city areas, but is all but invisible in the outer suburbs. Its audience is largely tertiary educated and working in the public sector. If this assumption is wrong, perhaps Mr Scott would release the data instead of hiding behind the FOI loophole that exempts programming information.

As Chris Kenny reports in today's Inquirer, it appears Mr Scott has surrendered his role as editor-in-chief, leaving the staff to run amok. It is understandable that he might not relish confronting his employees, since the history of the ABC is littered with the tombstones of those who tried, from short-lived chairman Sir Henry Bland to managing director Jonathan Shier. But ABC legitimacy is steadily eroded by a culture that does not acknowledge the public broadcaster's fundamental purpose. Instead of sustaining civil society it sustains itself as a permanent, moral-political oppositional force, with its journalists at the mercy of favoured lobby groups and activists.

Mr Scott has a habit of dismissing advice from this newspaper claiming, wrongly, that it is tainted by the corporate aspirations of our parent company, News Limited. What is at stake here is the accountability of a publicly-funded cultural institution. Commonwealth funds should be used for the intended public purpose and, whether that is producing quality television or constructing a school assembly hall, it should not be siphoned off by those with other agendas. If Mr Scott cannot pull his staff into line, the national broadcaster will wither on the vine. If journalists in the ABC are to lift their standards by learning to ask themselves where the real facts fall and how the mainstream will be effected, they need to know that, when the phone rings, it could well be the managing director or another senior editor on the line asking: "Why?"

Mr Scott needs to style himself not as the staff's representative to the people, but the people's representative to the staff. ABC employees should never forget that the people in the suburbs and regions who pay their taxes are entitled to expect relevance and respect from their ABC.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

HELPING TO TURN THE CRICKET TIDE

TERRY Jenner was a key player in the revival of spin bowling.

If Shane Warne had been a boxer, Terry Jenner would have been the ageing could-a-been champion who spotted something special in a raw young talent. Together they would have striven to glory and an inspiring Hollywood ending. In real life, Jenner was a fine leg-spinning all-rounder who represented his country and his adopted state of South Australia. A knockabout bloke, he became a popular sporting identity after cricket but his own life spun out of control. He was convicted of embezzlement and spent more than a year in prison. Afterwards, building his new life, he met Warne, the young cricket academy whizz kid and wild boy. Whatever shortcomings Jenner had as a player, he made up for as a mentor. Apart from the guile of leg-spin, he knew to guide the prodigy away from some of life's other possible wrong turns. In a period when every child in the country was intent on long run-ups and fast bowling, Jenner nurtured the rarest of talents. Of course, Warne went on to become perhaps the finest bowler of all time and he has always remained generous and grateful about Jenner's contribution to his wiley craft. Jenner will be sadly missed by many in the cricket world. Part of his legacy is a legion of children practising off a short run, working on their wrong-uns.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

ABBOTT'S CHALLENGE IS TO GET BEYOND NO

THE Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, is very good indeed at opposition. He has shown it time and again,

and the evidence of his success is the Coalition's standing in the polls. He has repeatedly, and often quite rightly,

questioned the government's managerial competence on a range of issues. Until this week the opposition's line of attack has been well set and successful, and Labor has struggled to find a response. The disquieting question raised by this week's events, though, is: would Abbott be any good at government? Has he actually anything positive to offer?

Malcolm Turnbull's appearance last week on Lateline, in which he delivered a lukewarm defence of the Coalition's climate change policy, appears to have unsettled the opposition. As we have stated previously, we believe Turnbull's jaundiced view of that policy is justified - the Coalition's policy is quite simply a dog. We suspect Abbott knows it, too. But he is committed to it, and he has been in politics long enough to be aware of the dangers. Turnbull will always face questions about it, and Abbott should anticipate answers from him, such as those on Lateline, that may cause minor embarrassment. The best response would be to shrug them off - as he did soon after Turnbull's interview went to air. But later this week - as if his authority had somehow been challenged - he appears to have been party to a stunt which damaged Turnbull. It took the form of an email to all MPs from the opposition Whip, Warren Entsch, over the arrogance of MPs (Turnbull was one) who miss a vote in Parliament. Abbott knew of the email before it was sent. The week ended for the opposition with pictures across front pages of Turnbull in a vigorous conversation in Parliament with Entsch: discord on display. He might as well have been photographed having a public row with his leader.

But though it looks bad, and particularly for Abbott, in the greater scheme of things the episode was a minor hitch. Turnbull may still covet the Liberal leadership but he lacks support within the party - and probably the country, too. The danger for Abbott lies not in a potential challenge for his leadership, but in himself.

We make this point because of events we reported yesterday from Tuesday's party room meeting, which discussed the Coalition decision to oppose an increase on the excise on LPG, LNG and compressed natural gas. The increase would complete changes begun in 2004 under the Howard government, and was defended as good policy by several MPs including the former finance minister Nick Minchin. The latter argued that if the Coalition opposed revenue-raising measures, it should specify where it would find the money to fill the gap. Abbott disagreed: circumstances had changed, he argued, and cost of living pressures had emerged as a good issue for the Coalition. Faced with a choice between policy purity and pragmatism, Abbott said, "I'll take pragmatism every time."

In that short quote, we have a devastating criticism of the Opposition Leader out of his own mouth.

Abbott once described himself as the political love child of John Howard and Bronwyn Bishop. We say nothing of Bishop's political beliefs in this connection, but it is clear Abbott does not take after his political father in this match. Howard held to a particular world view - a deeply conservative one, which he believed in firmly and which he was able, through the strength of his conviction, to convince Australians to share. He compromised at times in his career as all politicians must, but most of Howard's policies and decisions made perfect sense within that world view.

Abbott's approach is very different. We do not say he holds no convictions. But those he holds are clearly expendable. Australians expect better of their leaders than this.

The problem with Abbott's position of relentless negativity on every issue is that this government is not off the rails. Though it lacks political touch and management skill at times, it has devised and is implementing good policies in a number of areas. It has not shied away from difficult issues, as the carbon tax shows. Its budget was a responsible document, and framing a budget - balancing revenues and outgoings, which Abbott treats so slightly - is a difficult and serious business. The electorate wants to know difficult issues will not be treated cavalierly. Just saying no, which is Abbott's one offering to the electorate so far, means rejecting many positive Labor policies which affirm this country's rich potential and attempt to ensure its prosperous future.

Does Abbott have alternative policies for the problems and opportunities facing Australia? It does not appear so. He should find some. And something he believes in while he is at it. Just saying no is no longer good enough.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

SERBIA PUTS AN END TO THE NIGHTMARE

WHEN Ratko Mladic, former commander of the Bosnian Serb forces, was indicted in his absence by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague in 1995, the judge described his actions as "scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of humanity". Mladic's arrest this week by Serbian police brings that hellish chapter of human history to a close, and makes possible a new beginning for Serbia and its Balkan neighbours. Serbian President Boris Tadic has indicated that his government will allow Mladic's transfer to The Hague, where he will join his co-accused, the Bosnian Serb political leader, Radovan Karadzic. The prophet of the "greater Serbia" they sought to create, Slobodan Milosevic, has already died in custody there, and of 161 people charged by the tribunal, only one — Goran Hradzic, the wartime leader of Croatia's Serb minority — is at large.

The savagery that engulfed the former Yugoslav republics in the 1990s was worse than anything Europe had experienced since the Nazi era. And the massacre of 8000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, which Mladic ordered and oversaw, is remembered as the single worst atrocity of that war, an act of genocide that has given the name of Srebrenica the same resonance in modern consciousness as Guernica, Katyn Woods and Babi Yar. When the town surrendered to the besieging Serbs in July 1995, not long before the end of the war in Bosnia, Mladic assured the inhabitants that they would be safe. His soldiers distributed chocolates to children as they formed a cordon around the town. Then the slaughter began, and for the next 10 days the male inhabitants were hunted down and women raped. The events sent a wave of shame and revulsion through Europe and the US, prompting NATO air strikes that, within months, led to a peace agreement. Mladic became a fugitive.

That he was finally found in the house of his cousin, in a village in a region of northern Serbia that has been home to the Mladic family for several generations, will inevitably raise questions about how seriously Serbian authorities had been searching for him. There will be comparisons with the "discovery" that Osama bin Laden had been living in comfort near Pakistan's military academy, in a town 50 kilometres from the country's capital, Islamabad. How could the whereabouts of these mass murderers have been overlooked? Who might have turned a blind eye? The answer, in Mladic's case, seems to be that the hunt for war criminals was indeed hampered by ultranationalists in Serbia's security forces who remained loyal to him. In 2003, a Serbian prime minister who had arrested Milosevic and vowed to arrest Mladic, Zoran Dzindzic, was assassinated by a member of Serbia's secret police who also had links to organised crime.

But the ascendancy of the ultranationalists is over, and President Tadic, a Westerniser intent on bringing his country into the European Union, has been able to do what Dzindzic could not. The world can rejoice that Mladic is in custody at last, and that, unlike so many war criminals, he will have his day in court. His victims in Srebrenica, and from the four-year siege of Sarajevo, will finally receive justice, and it will be seen to be done. And, just possibly, the "Balkan question" that began more than a century ago with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in Europe, will have begun to pass into history.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

UNTHINKABLE? A FREEZE ON FIFA

It would seem shameful if the Fifa presidential elections due to take place next week were permitted to go ahead

Tonight at Wembley perhaps the greatest football team in the world takes on one of their nearest challengers in what, if both teams perform at their best, will justify talk of "the beautiful game". And tomorrow, at the opposite end of the scale, comes the latest episode in the ever more squalid story of the game's governing body, Fifa, as Mohamed Bin Hammam, who is challenging for its presidency, and one of its most influential figures, Jack Warner, appear before its ethics committee to answer allegations of bribery. These proceedings bring the number of executive committee members under suspicion to nine out of 24. Now the incumbent Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, who is seeking a further term after 13 years distinguished, if that is the word, by self-regard and monumental complacency, is to face the ethics committee himself, following counter-claims by Mr Bin Hammam. Given the powers of patronage with which the committee are entrusted and the money and kudos involved in the World Cup bidding process, temptation must lurk around every corner. It's hard to see how any footballing nation can continue to look upon Fifa as clean enough to conduct it. In these circumstances, it would seem shameful if the presidential elections due to take place next week were permitted to go ahead. And if, beyond that, sweeping reform is denied, honest footballing nations will have to contemplate the unthinkable step of boycotting the whole World Cup process, starting with Brazil 2014.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

YEMEN: A PERFECT STORM

President Ali Saleh's latest move may well turn out to be his last

When Sadiq al-Ahmar, the chief of Yemen's most powerful tribe, announced a ceasefire after five days of fighting in the capital that has left over 100 dead, there was deafening applause from the crowd, hundreds of thousands strong, who hoped beyond hope that the revolution they started could continue peacefully. But as fighter jets screamed overhead to bomb tribesmen who had wrested control of a military compound loyal to President Ali Saleh, there was little respite from the hell engulfing Yemenis in this conflict.

One-third of the population is undernourished, while 2.7 million are classed as severely food insecure. An Arab country neighbouring oil-rich states has levels of malnutrition and the stunting of child development more often associated with Afghanistan and Africa. In the last week, the price of water in the capital Sana'a rose eight-fold – that is if any water tankers were running at all. Residents consider themselves fortunate if they get two hours of electricity a day and the price of candles has nearly doubled. For many families the daily choice is between buying water or cooking oil. With 90% of staple foods imported, oil exports shut down, the economy at a standstill, gun battles raging, and a tyrant backed by the best-equipped part of his army – the republican guards – refusing to stand down, a perfect desert storm is blowing through this land.

For four months, faced with the defection of half his armed forces and masses thronging the streets demanding his resignation, Saleh has warned that he is the pole who holds up the tent. With him gone, he told anyone who would listen, all would collapse around him. As if to make this point a reality, shortly after the collapse of the fourth attempt at mediation by Gulf Arab neighbours last Sunday, his forces took on Yemen's most powerful clan, the Ahmars, who have been bankrolling the opposition and supporting hundreds of thousands of protesters camping out on the capital's streets.

Attempts to mediate a ceasefire were continuing last night, but Saleh's latest move may well turn out to be his last. He is attempting to do something that no other leader in Yemen has succeeded in doing. The other Ahmar brothers are Hamir, the deputy speaker of parliament, Hussein, another powerful tribal leader, and Hamid, a tycoon and founder of the opposition party, Islah. Saleh can sow chaos but he cannot win. And the longer he holds out, the less able he becomes to negotiate the terms of his departure. Between now and then, a full-scale humanitarian disaster could yet unfold. Like the country itself, Yemenis have run out  of slack.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

SHARON SHOESMITH RULING: WELCOME BUT FEW CHEERS

Blame lay with Ed Balls for rushing his fences too eagerly and Haringey for following him over them too blindly

In its headline-making judgment on the Sharon Shoesmith dismissal case yesterday, the court of appeal did no more and no less than the senior courts are supposed to do. It reviewed the findings of the lower courts. It interpreted the laws that parliament has made. And it righted two wrongs against Ms Shoesmith. The wrongs were separately committed by the former children's secretary Ed Balls and then by Haringey council in peremptorily sacking the former head of the borough's children's services department after Ofsted's report following the Baby P case in 2008. The court's verdict was extremely strong on both counts. The Department for Education now intends to appeal to the supreme court. Haringey says it will do the same. That is their right. Whether, when they reflect on the court of appeal's unanimous judgment, that is a worthwhile use of scarce public money is another matter.

The court of appeal was extremely clear where blame lay for the way Ms Shoesmith was dismissed. It lay with Mr Balls for rushing his fences too eagerly and Haringey for following him over them too blindly. As soon as the horrific Baby P criminal case ended in November 2008, Mr Balls got Ofsted to conduct an urgent report on the state of the obviously compromised child safeguarding arrangements in Haringey. That was sensible, given the seriousness of the case and Haringey's reputation, though it was inevitably a bit of a rushed job. But, three weeks later, as soon as he received Ofsted's critical report, Mr Balls threw judgment to the winds. He called a press conference at which he publicly dismissed Ms Shoesmith. Haringey immediately suspended her and then, a few days later, fired her without compensation or payment in lieu of notice.

Very few people who have studied the Baby P case in detail will be in much doubt that Ms Shoesmith bears a very serious share of responsibility for the Baby P case failings and for the unacceptable state of child services in her borough at the time. If proper procedures had been followed it is unlikely she would have remained long in her post or have had any case against her dismissal. But Mr Balls, with Haringey in his wake, should not have blundered in the way that they reacted to the scandals. Ms Shoesmith was entitled to be treated in a procedurally proper way. Mr Balls brushed all that aside. He was too ready to do the bidding of the media, which wanted Ms Shoesmith's head immediately on a platter. He put his political convenience above his ministerial responsibility. Haringey followed where Mr Balls led. Incredibly, their cavalier approach to law has turned Ms Shoesmith into a victim. If Mr Balls had still been in office, yesterday's ruling should have forced his resignation. Instead, he insisted that he would have handled the case in exactly the same way if he had his time over again. This is not just foolish but worrying.

The list of those who bear some responsibility at various stages of the Baby P saga is a depressingly long one. Never forget, though, that the three people who killed him – his mother, her lover and their lodger – are the real criminals. Public revulsion at the killing, whipped up further by a media which constantly stereotypes and denigrates social workers, helped to turn Ms Shoesmith into a surrogate villain. Too weak to resist it, the local authority and the secretary of state colluded in the process. Both of them buckled in the face of the hue and cry. It was the job of the courts to make sure that the rule of law did not do the same. That is what the court of appeal did yesterday. "Whatever [Ms Shoesmith's] shortcomings may have been," its judgment said, "she was entitled to be treated lawfully and fairly and not simply and summarily scapegoated." She was indeed. These were strong, brave words. Not many come out of the Baby P story with any credit. Too late in the day for a dead child, the judges of the court of appeal are some of the rare exceptions.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CASE HIGHLIGHTS JUDICIAL MISDEEDS

On Aug. 30, 1967, a carpenter was found strangled to death at his home in the Fukawa district of the town of Tone, Ibaraki Prefecture. He had been robbed of ¥100,700. In October that year, two men — Mr. Shoji Sakurai and Mr. Takao Sugiyama — were arrested as suspects.

During the interrogation by investigators, the two men confessed to the murder-robbery. In the trial at the Tsuchiura branch of the Mito District Court, the two insisted that the confessions were made under coercion by investigators and denied their involvement in the crime.

Nonetheless, the court found them guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment in October 1970, on the strength of their confessions and eyewitnesses' accounts. The Supreme Court finalized their sentences in 1978.

On May 24, the same court in Tsuchiura acquitted the two men in a retrial, clearing them of their murder-robbery charges nearly 44 years after their arrest. But it found each of them guilty of theft or violence in separate cases and sentenced each to two years in prison, suspended for three years.

In handing down the ruling on the murder-robbery case, presiding judge Daisuke Kanda said there was no objective evidence that proves their guilt. He noted that hairs and fingerprints found in the crime scene did not match those of the two men. He also said that an eyewitness' account of seeing the two men in front of the victim's house lacked credibility.

The so-called Fukawa case becomes the seventh case in postwar Japan in which a defendant or defendants previously sentenced to death or life imprisonment have been acquitted in a retrial.

Both the police and the prosecution must seriously reflect upon the fact that the two were falsely charged and forced to be in jail and prison for about 29 years before being paroled in November 1996. They must take concrete steps to prevent false charges.

The retrial ruling strengthens the case for recording interrogations in their entirety.

It is unfortunate that the ruling did not delve into why and how the investigators falsely charged the two, nor mentioned the court judges' responsibility. It pointed only to the possibility that the investigators used leading questions while interrogating the suspects.

While serving in prison, Mr. Sakurai and Mr. Sugiyama first filed for a retrial in 1983, but their request was rejected. After they were paroled, they filed again for a retrial in 2001. In September 2005, the court in Tsuchiura decided to hold a new trial and the Supreme Court upheld the decision in December 2009.

In a similar case the year before, in December 2008, the Tokyo High Court had ordered a fresh DNA test, responding to a retrial request by Mr. Toshikazu Sugaya, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the May 1990 murder of a 4-year-old girl in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture. The results of the new DNA test led to the release of Mr. Sugaya in June 2009, after he had served 17½ years of the life sentence. In a retrial of the case in March 2010, he was acquitted.

During the Fukawa retrial, the defense counsel played back audio tape that recorded part of the confessions by Mr. Sakurai and Mr. Sugiyama and pointed out that investigators had edited the tape by repeating "stop" and "record" and by overdubbing. It also pointed out that the two men's confessions on the method of killing the victim changed over time.

The prosecution disclosed the existence of this tape only after the defense counsel filed the second request for a retrial.

The prosecution also failed to disclose an eyewitness' account advantageous to Mr. Sugiyama until the trial held to weigh the two men's request for a retrial. A woman had said that although she saw a man near the crime scene around the time when the crime occurred, it was not Mr. Sugiyama.

It is clear that the Criminal Procedure Law must be revised to require the prosecution to immediately disclose all the evidence it possesses to the defense counsel.

In the retrial ruling, the court said that except for evidence related to the condition of the victim's body and the crime scene, there was no evidence that reinforces the confessions made by the two. It also pointed out that as time went by, they changed without rational reasons their confessions over the crime and important points, and that the men's accounts conflicted with one another on many points.

It concluded that while the trustworthiness of the two men's argument that they were forced to make false confessions through the investigators' leading questions cannot be denied, the investigators' insistence that they never used leading questions cannot be trusted.

In its 1978 ruling, after examining the content of different audio tape the Supreme Court said that the two men's confessions were coherent and revealed things that they could not have discussed if they had not experienced them. But it must be remembered that this tape was only a partial recording of the confessions.

If a recording of the entire interrogation had been available, the Supreme Court might have reached a different conclusion.

 

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

NETANYAHU'S OBDURATE STAND

Israel's refusal to withdraw to the 1967 borders has never been made clearer. On his visit to Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reiteration of the fact can only spell one thing.

Israel's vision of lasting peace will only come about on its terms, one that sees the Jewish state continuing to retain occupied territories. Besides, retaining an undivided Jerusalem, as its capital and refusing the entry of the millions of Palestinian refugees to their homeland are non-negotiable issues.  The best thing is that after waxing eloquent on Israel's no-go areas in a future peace agreement, Netanyahu spoke of his willingness to make "painful concessions" for the sake of achieving peace.

The pertinent question to ask would relate to the sort of peace he hopes to achieve by pursuing a belligerent policy that is in complete violation of international law. More importantly, one that the Palestinians are likely to reject since it denies them the fulfilment of their most important objectives. Palestinian territories have already been reduced to a fraction under Israeli occupation and the continued settlement activity there only denotes Israel's long term plans to absorb these permanently, even if a two-state solution is worked out.

Even if Israel decides to cede land in other areas as part of the land swap proposal put forth by the US President Barack Obama, the Palestinians are not going to be convinced.

The fact that Israel can blatantly continue illegal occupation and pursue policies that if exercised by another state would have compelled the world powers including the US to launch a war makes it particularly galling. Even the President Barack Obama is forced to beat a retreat after making public support for a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders because of the powerful support Israel commands in America. While Obama may have been cautioned to do so in order to not lose crucial pro-Israeli electorate support before the next election, he should have thought of the impact his vacillating stand would generate. For Obama's Middle East policy has been marked by confusion and staggering U-turns that can only spell disaster for his credibility especially in the region.

Even if the US pledges unflinching support to its ally, it must consider the detrimental effect of such support to itself and also Israel in the long run. The status quo cannot be maintained for much longer through force and might. The regional dynamics have proven that. It is time Israel stops indulging its paranoia and stops its reliance on brute force and powerful allies to survive. It's security and stability can only come about by giving back to the Palestinians what is rightfully theirs.

Khaleej Times

 

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

BAN KI MOON AND HIS PANEL

Legally disqualified from the very commencement

By Jayantha Gunasekera – President's Counsel

The maxim, Justice must not only be done, but must also manifestly appear to be done, is an oft quoted principles in all democratic countries.

It is apparent that Ban Ki- moon handpicked three panellists not for their integrity and impartiality but for their confirmed bias and partiality.

Any person who is appointed by the UN to investigate any matter should honourably declare that he/she has prior knowledge and entertains pre-conceived and prejudicial views, particularly as they were paid a colossal amount of money from UN fund, and not from Ban's private property.  UN funds are the collected contributions of all member states.

Each member appointed by Ban had expressed derogatory views about Sri Lanka long before they were appointed.  Therefore they should never have offered themselves to sit on a panel, merely to collect millions of dollar - payments.   Ban himself knowing that each of them had entertained preconceived prejudicial views amounting to hatred towards SL, and its Forces, should never have selected precisely these 3.  Such persons are untrustworthy of their assignment.

Ban, if he was impartial and not influenced by the LTTE Diaspora and some western politicians, should have refrained from having Darusman as a member of the panel, let alone its chairman.  He was a member of the International Group of Eminent Persons in 2009 who were invited to serve as observers at the sittings at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry.  Having been present, Darusman subsequently withdrew alleging unfairly (amongst other matters) that the GOSL did not have the will to improve the human rights situation.  Hence he has pre-judged and is a highly biased person.  Ban picked on this self same person who was well known for his partiality, as way back as 2009. 

As regards the second member, Steven Ratner (quoting Mustapha), "he has been advisor to the NGO Human Rights Watch(HRW).  HRW with Ratner's participation has constantly voiced concern against SL's military which were directed against the LTTE, while downplaying the atrocities of the   LTTE.  Moreover, HRW is one of the organizations which had complained to the UN alleging violations of human rights by SL, and issued a statement demanding that the govt should account for missing Tamil Tigers who were detained during the final days of the war."

The fact that Steven Ratner was also completely partial to the LTTE was well known to Ban.  Quite apart from Ban appointing him, he should himself have honourably declined this offer, and refrained from being a member of a supposedly impartial panel.Further quoting Mustapha, "Yasmin Sooka the third panelist is a South African and is the head of the Sooka Foundation which is said to have received  millions from the European Union, which penalized SL by withdrawing the GSP-Plus on the basis of violation of human rights. 

Picking these already  prejudiced people clearly violated the principles that Justice must not only be done, but also appear to be done. 

There is no doubt that Yasmin Sooka a South African, was heavily influenced by the South African Tamil Navi Pillai, a sworn hater of the Sinhala govt.  this report is not based on English Law, Roman – Dutch Law, American Law or French Law, but on the LAW OF THE JUNGLE!

As regards the king pin in this whole exercise Ban Ki-moon, the man who hand picked the above named 3 highly prejudiced panelists, this is what Inga-Britt Ahlenius, an  Under Secy General of the UN  has to say:

"Inga-Britt Ahlenius, Under Secy General of the UN and a former Swedish Auditor General makes a scathing attack on Ban ki Moon's integrity.

Having been associated with him for so long, she had every opportunity to determine the type of person he is and that he is totally unfit to head the UN."

With all these allegations Ban has survived by cringing and is shielded by the corrupt western powers.  Small wonder then that he will not go against their dictates.  He is coming up for re-election for a second term.

Inga-Britt Ahlenius in a 50 page report states," the Secy General improperly refused to allow many of her office's audit reports to be made public or to allow nearly all its confidential investigative reports with evidence of potential criminal wrongdoings to be referred to prosecutors."  She further states that, he tried to take control of investigations.  Her office of Internal Oversight Service (IOS) resisted his efforts to launch official probes into news leaks."  She goes on, "the fact is that you are not upholding to the letter, nor to the spirit, the General Assembly's decision to ensure an operational oversight body in the interest of the organization.  In this sense your actions are not only deplorable but seriously reprehensible.  No Secy General before you has questioned the authority delegated to the head of  IOS to appoint the staff.  Your action is without precedent and in my opinion, seriously embarrassing to yourself."

She further adds, "last year, similar criticism was voiced by Norway's UN Ambassador Mona Juul, in another unusual personal attack on Ban."  She adds, "the investigations led to an unprecedented number of misconduct findings by UN officials and prompted Federal probes into corruptions."

This being the opinion of key officials of the UN, can anyone think that Ban has not been influenced by the LTTE diaspora, who in turn have influenced the corrupt western politicians?

This report has to be treated with the contempt it deserves.

Ban and his panel have been heavily influenced by the Tamil, Navaneethan Pillai, UN Human Rights High Commissioner, who is in cahoots with the LTTE Diaspora.  She is highly communal minded.  She issued a strongly worded statement no sooner the report was released.  She welcomed the public release of the statement and supported the cause.  The report calls for further international investigations.  She says, "The way this conflict was conducted under the guise of fighting terrorism challenged the very foundation of the rules of war and cost the lives of thousands of civilians."  She also says, "I hope the disturbing new information contained in this report will shock the conscience of the international community into finally taking serious action."  She has for some time been a hater of the Sinhala led government and is playing a communal game. She has however, brought her influence to bear, and succeeded in securing a convoluted and psychotic report to satisfy her brethren   - the Tamil Diaspora. She too has opened herself, to and inquiry as to whether she is using her office to satisfy her personal agenda. As to whether she should continue as an employee of the UN, is a matter to be inquired into. 

The report makes no mention that a civil administration has been restored democratically in the North and East, and that a former LTTE combatant has bee elected as Chief Minister.

Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter states, "nothing contained in the UN Charter shall authorize the UN to intervene in matters which are entirely within the jurisdiction of any state or shall require the member to submit such matter to settlement."He also violates Article 100 (1) of the UN Charter which bars the S.G, from subjecting himself to external influence.

Ban has violated these principles and has opened himself to an inquiry against himself, for acting partially and for misusing UN funds in appointing this mock panel.  He has exceeded his powers vested in the S.G, and abused his position to please the LTTE Diaspora and the corrupt western powers in order to ensure for himself, a second term with their support.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

MALDIVES: 'CURRENCY FLOAT' CAUSE FOR POLITICAL CONCERN

A legislative deadlock involving the Executive and Parliament on the one hand, and the Executive and the Judiciary on the other, both leading to a serious and a series of constitutional crisis kept Maldivian politics and politicians on their toes for most of 2010. Now in the third year of its five-year term, the Government of President Mohammed Nasheed 'Anni' has tied itself down in a fiscal situation through an IMF-driven 'managed float' of rufiyaa, the local currency. The Government says that the consequent steep increase in prices was unavoidable but would stabilise within three months. A demoralised Opposition, even when remaining divided, is not making things easy for the Government. Their protest rallies drew crowds for a few days in a row with the police having to disperse them forcibly on nights (as is the wont in Male, the national capital for public protests). Though the Government blamed them on the Opposition, particularly the divided Dhivehii Rayyithunghe Party (DRP) founded by former President Maumoon Gayoom, sections of the local media said apolitical youth were seen in good numbers.

After cutting down on Government jobs, accounting for 10 per cent of the population and a much substantial number of dependent family members, and slicing 20 per cent of pay and perks temporarily in the past years, to shore up the Government's finances in the aftermath of the global economic meltdown, the administration has now 'devalued' the currency by announcing a 'managed float' of the rufiyaa in a 20 per cent band. Accordingly, the exchange rate of the rufiyaa pegged for long at 12.85 to the US dollar has shot up by close to two three rupees, pushing up prices overnight. For an imports-dependent society, where almost everything of daily use has to come from outside the country, particularly the neighbouring India or Sri Lanka, the house-hold expenses have sky-rocketed. . As part of the continuing structural changes, the Government also plans to introduce a host of tax measures in July, including income-tax for those earning more than Rf 30,000 ($2,300) pm, and TGST (tourism goods and services tax) apart from substituting import duty with general sales tax. Together, such measures would have more than neutralised the family benefit accruing from the monthly pension of Rf 2000 for individuals above 65, granted since January 2011, after President Nasheed assumed office in November 2008. As part of the structural changes, the Government has also been corporatising public utilities like electricity and water supply, and with that introduced a steep hike in tariffs to help the new entities to breakeven at least in the foreseeable future. To be fair, the Government also introduced a subsidy scheme on power tariffs, so as to benefit the nation's poor. A committee of the Opposition-controlled Parliament, despite problems with the Government otherwise, has devised a subsidy policy. The privatisation served another purpose, too. Fighting a legal battle with the Civil Services Commission (CVC), charged with Government employees' recruitment, transfers and pay-related issues, the administration found in privatisation a route to side-step the constitutional entity. The latter, as may be recalled, had challenged the Finance Ministry's unilateral decision to effect a 20-per cent interim salary-cut as part of the austerity measures, both officially and legally. Last week, the High Court upheld a civil court's order, which ruled that the CVC was the ultimate authority on service conditions of Government employees. Both the Government and the CVC have since announced their intention to work together on the frozen pay-scales. They have also been working together on the voluntary retirement scheme that corporatisation had empowered the Government to effect without involving the CVC. For the record, the CVC too has said that it had no problem with any programme at retraining redundant employees and financing them to undertake private income-generating initiatives on their own.

A sound economic policy otherwise, President Nasheed's initiatives are aimed at making the country self-sustaining on the one hand, but investor-dependent in reality. Coupled with the spiralling petro-product prices in the global market, over which a small country like Maldives has no control whatsoever, the Nasheed administration sees a combination of structural changes, investment opportunities and austerity measures as the only way for the nation's economy to sustain, stabilise and then grow. If the Government has specific action plans that aim at attracting massive investments other than in the near-saturated tourism sector, it has not unfolded them, as yet. This would particularly be in relation to the possibility of greater job-creation, that too for the educated local youth, who after completing their Cambridge A-Level education have almost been walking into Government jobs for years now. On the flipside, however, in the tourism sector, the continuance of full repatriation facility for the foreign investors in island-resorts could remain a retrograde step in that direction. But the post-devaluation decision to have all local transactions only in rufiyaa, unlike in the past, is bound to play a supportive role, again only after a time. In the interim at the very least, the eternal shortage of dollars with local banks has always been a problem, more so now as close to 100,000 expatriate workers in a local population of close to 400,000 see/foresee restrictions in repatriation of their hard-earned salaries. The unanticipated spiralling of non-banking dollar rate along with the managed float has also contributed to the societal disquiet.

Coupled with the earlier 20-per cent pay-cut and the current price increases, the exchange rate floatation, however limited and however managed, could discourage expatriate workers from coming to Maldives to work the resorts and resort-construction, among others. Expatriates also man social services sectors like medical care and teaching in a big way, two areas Maldives can pride itself for the limited reach and success it has been able to achieve over the years. Initially the Government was shy of admitting that it was 'devaluation' of the rufiyaa and insisted that it was only a 'managed float' of the currency. However, now it admits that it was devaluation after all, with the hope that the managed fall in the value of the rufiyaa would encourage greater exports from the country and help improve foreign exchange reserves position. Considering that Maldives does not have much to export other than tuna, how the devaluation would help other than those resort investors and high-spending resort tourists, who are choice-specific and are not as much driven by exchange considerations. As such, the real benefits of the 'managed rufiyaa' too would be known only over a time, as indicated by the Government. It would also be then that individual economic schemes, particularly in terms of monetary policies, would have been tested for the Government to draw its lessons.

To be Contd.

ORF Exclusive: www.orfonline.org

N Sathiya Moorthy
(The writer is a Senior Research Fellow and

Director, Chennai

Chapter, at )

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE PROMISE OF PROTECTION

BY NOELEEN HEYZER

It is widely agreed that crises create opportunities of sorts. As the  Asia-Pacific region slowly emerges from the recession of 2008 and attempts  to cope with the after-effects of a food crisis and natural disasters – including that which took place in highly-prepared Japan – governments are  looking anew at ways to mitigate the rising insecurity and heightened  social risks experienced by millions of people across the region,  especially those living in or close to poverty.

 The region's capacity to ensure all citizens receive a minimum level of  security is at the heart of discussions as Heads of State, Ministers and  Senior Officials from across Asia and the Pacific meet this week for the  67th Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the  Pacific (ESCAP). This year's Commission Session will focus on a critical  challenge facing us: our ability to match the economic recovery underway  in Asia and the Pacific with a renewed emphasis on the social dimension of  development as well.

 The region's new economic growth, following the shock of the global  financial crisis, our growing urbanization, and the continuing migration  of people, within our countries and across our sub regions, require a new  commitment by our governments to institute social protections to secure  the benefits of economic growth for all the people of the Asia-Pacific  region.

 Instead of approaching specific development setbacks and challenges  through limited, reactive interventions, our governments are now prepared  to seek and implement comprehensive, universal coverage solutions capable  of strengthening coping capacities and resilience as part of their vision  of inclusive development.  The resumption of food and fuel price inflation  in many of the region's countries and continuing aftershocks of the global  financial crisis has lent new urgency to their efforts.

 But importantly, the just-released ESCAP study, "The Promise of Protection," shows that a basic social protection package is affordable and within  the reach of most countries in the region, at virtually any stage of  economic development. And at a cost lower than countries may realize, of around 1 to 3 per cent of their gross national income for essential  health, education and pension schemes. Social protection programmes then  make good economic sense – acting to broaden and deepen opportunities for  all and thus building more resilient and inclusive economies.

 Furthermore, the study shows social protection is an investment which  helps people escape from poverty. To date, many countries have relied for  poverty reduction primarily on the trickle-down effects of economic  growth. However, if they introduced more comprehensive social protection  with appropriate supporting policies, they would reduce poverty much  faster. Thus, rather than seeing social protection as costly measures,  effective protection should be seen as an investment that will increase  productivity and reduce the need for future spending.

 Building universal social protection programmes is not without its challenges.  But the long-term political and economic dividends that such  comprehensive mechanisms would yield, including greater domestic  consumption, higher levels of human development and greater shared  opportunity – including for women – and ultimately more equitable and  robust economic growth, are undeniably compelling grounds for action.

 That is the opportunity – and the challenge – before us.  Working  together, Asia Pacific can shape the forces of the economic recovery by investing in its people, its human capital, by strengthening our social commitments and implementing social protections as a mainstay of national  development. The opportunity is now for Asia Pacific to emerge as a  leader: in the global economy, in the realm of social progress, and in  safeguarding our global environment.

 Let us demonstrate that Asia-Pacific's development can be balanced – with  our focus on all three pillars working together, our economic wealth  shared, our social gains secured, and the gifts of the earth protected.

 The writer is Under-Secretary-

General of the United Nations and  Executive Secretary of the United

Nations Economic and Social

Commission  for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

REPORT OF A PANEL OF EXPERTS ON ACCOUNTABILITY IN SRI LANKA

BY GUY PHILCOTT


Continued from Wednesday

The UN Resident Co-ordinator, at a CCHA meeting estimated trapped civilians to be 120,000 to 180,000 on the 30th of March 2009.UNOCHA estimates being the figure to be 75,000 to 150,000 also in March 2009.Sir John Holmes in his briefing to the UN Security Council estimated that 150,000-190,000 civilians are "squeezed into this area". The WFP continued to supply essentials to an IDP population estimated at more than 210,000 during the latter stages of 2008 while over 280,000 persons arrived ultimately from the Vanni.

Manik Farm
An abandoned farm land with flat terrain ,bordered by the  Medawachchiya-Mannar main road A-14 on the south was Malwathu oya (river) where Hydro geologists identified the site to contain ground water with 234 tube wells were dug by the NWSDB and used by the IDPs was the location of Manik Farm. An evaluation on the UNHCR/UNDP Venture on Drainage and Environmental Service Delivery Improvement in the Manik Farm welfare camp, "The main outcome in the overall development, as seen by the evaluators is the protection provided to a huge population, through providing shelter robust enough to withstand the harsh and changing weather conditions of the area, and the fact that such provision had to be effected fast within a very short time frame. The numerous initiatives of the local civil administration, the SLA, the health authorities, Government infrastructure organizations together with several international and local organizations, succeeded in keeping the population free of any significant food, water, health, hygiene, or safety issues, a commendable achievement acclaimed globally. This achievement has countered the many predictions of critics over possible issues on the protection and welfare of IDPs and the capacity of Sri Lankans to handle such an eventuality."

Extract from the UNHCR Emergency Shelter Coordinating Meeting of February 26, 2009

The Senior Programme Officer, UNHCR informed the participants that he has received requests from agencies from Vavuniya to try and improve the standards of emergency shelters by covering them with cadjan to reduce the heat in these shelters. They were also of the opinion that these shelters are provided for emergency situations and only for short periods.

Extract from the minutes of the June 18, 2009 meeting of UNHCR Shelter / NFI

There was a consensus among shelter agencies that concrete platforms are not suitable for a variety of reasons for shelters and tents in the manik Farm Zones. The CA has expressed his intention to distribute cement and sand to IDPs for the platforms. It was known to the committee that the competent authority in Vavuniya has taken action to distribute 02 numbers of cement bags and sand in zones 0 and 3 for the flooring.

Extract from minutes of UNHCR Shelter / NFI meeting of June 18, 2009

The Senior Programme Officer, UNHCR stated that he had received notice from some NGOs on constraints from Donors in building emergency shelters. The agencies confirmed that they do have a few issues but as long as they provide only Emergency Shelters according to the agreed norms the donors were satisfied with it. 

Extract from the minutes of the July 9, 2009 meeting of UNHCR Shelter / NFI

IOM mentioned that the emergency shelter is designed to last for at least 03 months, and that the current structure would not support the monsoon rains.

Extract from the minutes of the July 30, 2009 meeting of UNHCR Shelter / NFI

"Government of Sri Lanka's initial 180 days plans for returns started 30 days ago. Presidential office is coordinating this plan. The head of Task Force on Returns had a meeting with UN agencies detailing the plan and expectations.". Within 2 months of the end fighting a return programme was known by the UN , though reports to the contrary have been published.

Protection
The government by June 2009, as discussed with the UN Special Representative, commenced a programme sending IDPs with special needs to kith & kin outside the IDP Welfare Village with written consent that they will look after them, viz. The categories included: Elders (over 59 years of age.);Pregnant mothers with their family; Families with infants; Disabled persons; On medical grounds (Chronic Debilitating Illnesses); University students; Sri Lankans now citizens from other countries; Priests.

Care for Women and Children were given the utmost importance. Services were provided by the Ministry of Child Development and Women's Empowerment and the National Child Protection Agency, the police, the Ministry of Social Services and the Ministry of Health. Family health workers, with experience in midwifery, were allocated to all blocks and made regular visits to check on family health matters.

Almost all of them were chosen from previously active government health staff amongst the IDPs and reported to the Zonal Health Coordinators. 

The Ministry of Child Development and Women's Welfare established Units to assist with issues related specifically to women and children in each of the Welfare Villages and administered by Tamil speaking female police officers and designed to provide a facility that provided privacy to the complainant.

Return and Resettlement
A Presidential Task Force was established in May 2009  tasked to implement a strategic framework for rapid resettlement and recovery programme accelerated demining and improvement of infrastructure facilities, and to assess damages and identify resource requirements.

The expenditure incurred by the GoSL to implement the 180-day programme  including the investment for procurement of demining flail machines and heavy equipment for infrastructure rehabilitation was $360.3 Mn from funds in the budget for approximately 112,000 families who  returned to their areas of origin.

The process of return included ascertaining places of origin for cross checking with District Secretary, demining approach roads to buildings for essential services and places of return, rehabilitation of basic infrastructure facilities, obtaining demining certificates, 'go and see' visits by IDP's with GN's, obtaining consent of IDP's to resettle, transportation to transitional locations, mine risk education, visits to prepare shelter, provision of resettlement package with all tools and amenities and cash grants and 6 months rations, continuous rehabilitation of infrastructure and commencement of early recovery programmes.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

 

SEARCH FOR THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND LIFE

The pandals, lanterns and dansal have been removed, bringing to an end the celebrations of Vesak and the 2600th anniversary of the  enlightenment of the Lord Buddha. What must begin now is to live the Dhamma and seeking enlightenment is a life-long journey, the more we seek it, the greater the spiritual treasure we find. Is not the challenge the Buddha offered us, calling us to go beyond paying homage or giving veneration. Those externals were primarily meant to be only signs of gratitude and thanksgiving. Did he not say that he will show how to discover the way and the truth? The cry in every human heart is the search for meaning to life. Each one however has to make that decision to go in search and make his or her own discoveries. The question then is whether we want to, during this span of our lives, find the way, the truth and life.

Humanity was in a sorry mess for thousands of years. Destiny always sought one who would be receptive enough to be imbued with enlightenment. The Buddha yearned to know the way and the truth for greater meaning to his life. He traversed the path and made such discoveries that he shared with all beings. The Dhamma was discovered and sown in human hearts through his teachings. Now in the frontiers of hope, we want to catch a glimpse of its birth in other wombs that are conducive to giving life. Creation is awaiting the new arrival in every generation. The creative force is lying dormant within our inner being, wanting to reveal to those who seek.

There had to be a beginning to the earth we live in. From within the Source, the cosmos was made to be. If we, the creatures have intelligence, then surely there had and has to be an even greater intelligence and power behind creation. Like the banks hold resources or wealth in their vaults, there is a repository of wisdom and truth, buried within the psyche of creation. Siddhartha Gautama was a thinker of that age, influenced in the matrix of Hinduism. Buddha discovers the seeds of truth. To a lesser degree, down the ages, there have been other great thinkers, who unearthed a few of those seeds of Truth. From the sages in the Himalayas to the great thinkers like Aristotle and Socrates; from discoveries made in the field of various sciences to the other achievements of man, the creative power of wisdom has generously sowed its seeds in those who sought them. The discoveries have enriched and blessed, so that all would benefit in every generation.

It is spectacularly revealed in scriptures that this Creative force or Intelligence has a nature that wants to share with all beings. Wisdom has spoken thus to one who sought the mind of the Author of Creation. The Author invites us to go about our daily duties with creative powers that would influence society to reach pinnacles of supernatural evolution, transcending this volatile earthly existence. Its familiar road is sexual immorality, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, drunkenness, orgies and the like which are to be avoided.

We are invited to welcome into our hearts and begin living peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control. Our attitude, be it behind that desk or in front of the black board; dealing with family or in the board room, should bear this new nature. Seeking this way would reveal and take us to new frontiers we have never been to before.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

DISSENT AND COMPROMISE  

BY PAUL BALLES

 

President Barak Obama is a great compromiser. For him, barter is so essential that he's willing to sacrifice his integrity for compromise. Obama is guided by beliefs like those of Israeli professor and writer Amos Oz:

"If we don't stop somewhere, if we don't accept an unhappy compromise, unhappy for both sides, if we don't learn how to unhappily co-exist and contain our burned sense of injustice - if we don't learn how to do that, we end up in a doomed state."

Obama's biggest critics among once heads of state would be Margaret Thatcher who said, "If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing".

There's no such thing as compromise for Benjamin Netanyahu. For him, absolute security is non-negotiable. Compromise means that you don't get everything you want; and that principle is anathema to him.

Obama wants desperately to be liked. He wants the Palestinians, the Arabs generally, Europeans, Latin Americans, Asians and Africans to like him.

Despite the impossible conflict, he wants Israelis and American Zionists to like him.

Being liked doesn't concern or move Netanyahu. Israel's expansion and continued occupation of Palestine do.

Netanyahu can say to the great compromiser's face that there will be no yielding of settlements or occupation or borders or return of refugees or Palestinian statehood.

For Obama, British statesman/philosopher Edmund Burke was right when he said, "All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter".

In his relationships with Congress and foreign countries, Obama models his behaviour on Governor Donald L Carcieri's belief: "Healthy disagreement, debate, leading to compromise has always been the American way".

Author Robert Fritz had the prescription Netanyahu abides by: "If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise."

What makes Netanyahu's position untenable? What Israelis say and what they want are different things. The Israelis say they want "peace" and "defensible borders". What they want is permanent occupation and exodus of the Palestinians.

Netanyahu says no to Israel's full withdrawal to the 1967 borders; no to the division of Jerusalem; no to the right of return for Palestinian refugees; and no to a Palestinian military presence in the new state.

That list of negatives makes a two-state solution impossible. Yet, Obama calls for it to appease others.

Netanyahu looked Obama in the eyes; and referring to his Middle East speech told him, "A peace based on illusions will crash upon the rocks of Middle Eastern reality".

Netanyahu on Palestinians' right to return declared, "It's not going to happen. Everybody knows it's not going to happen, and I think it's time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly it's not going to happen".

It was clear he was slapping Obama in the face for the whole world to see.

For years, the West has been making furtive references to the 1967 borders as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

The Palestinians may have bought it. Israel has never had any such intention. For them, the land grab translates into permanent annexation.

According to Netanyahu, Israel followed in the footsteps of the US annexation of Texas in 1845. He says, "If America got away with it, I can see no reason why we can't".

Another slap in the compromiser's face by the dissenter. Obama could learn from Thatcher that, at times, compromise achieves nothing.

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NETANYAHU AND THE YO-YOS

BY URI AVNERY

 

It was all rather disgusting.

 

There they were, the members of the highest legislative bodies of the world's only superpower, flying up and down like so many yo-yos, applauding wildly, every few minutes or seconds, the most outrageous lies and distortions of Binyamin Netanyahu.

It was worse than… Stalin's Supreme Soviet, when showing less than sufficient respect could have meant death.

What the American Senators and Congressmen feared was a fate worse than death. Anyone remaining seated or not applauding wildly enough could have been caught on camera -- and that amounts to political suicide. It was enough for one single congressman to rise and applaud, and all the others had to follow suit. Who would dare not to?

The sight of these hundreds of parliamentarians jumping up and clapping their hands, again and again and again and again, with the Leader graciously acknowledging with a movement of his hand, was reminiscent of other regimes. Only this time it was not the local dictator who compelled this adulation, but a foreign one.

The most depressing part of it was that there was not a single lawmaker -- Republican or Democrat -- who dared to resist. When I was a 9 year old boy in Germany, I dared to leave my right arm hanging by my side when all my schoolmates raised theirs in the Nazi salute and sang Hitler's anthem. Is there no one in Washington DC who has that simple courage? Is it really Washington IOT -- Israel Occupied Territory -- as the anti-Semites assert?

Many years ago I visited the Senate hall and was introduced to the leading Senators of the time. I was profoundly shocked. After being brought up in deep respect for the Senate of the United States, the country of Jefferson and Lincoln, I was faced with a bunch of pompous asses, many of them nincompoops who had not the slightest idea what they were talking about. I was told that it was their assistants who really understood matters.

So what did the great man say to this august body?

It was a finely crafted speech, using all the standard tricks of the trade -- the dramatic pause, the raised finger, the little witticisms, the sentences repeated for effect. Not a great orator, by any means, no Winston Churchill, but good enough for this audience and this occasion.

But the message could be summed up in one word: No.

After their disastrous debacle in 1967, the leaders of the Arab world met in Khartoum and adopted the famous Three No's: NO recognition of Israel, NO negotiation with Israel, NO peace with Israel. It was just what the Israeli leadership wanted. They could go happily about their business of entrenching the occupation and building settlements.

Now Netanyahu is having his Khartoum. NO return to the 1967 borders. NO Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. NO to even a symbolic return of some refugees. NO military withdrawal from the Jordan River -- meaning that the future Palestinian state would be completely surrounded by the Israeli armed forces. NO negotiation with a Palestinian government "supported" by Hamas, even if there are no Hamas members in the government itself. And so on -- NO. NO. NO.

The aim is clearly to make sure that no Palestinian leader could even dream of entering negotiations, even in the unlikely event that he were ready to meet yet another condition: to recognize Israel as "the nation-state of the Jewish people" -- which includes the dozens of Jewish Senators and Congressmen who were the first to jump up and down, up and down, like so many marionettes.

Netanyahu, along with his associates and political bedfellows, is determined to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state by all and any means. That did not start with the present government -- it is an aim deeply embedded in Zionist ideology and practice. The founders of the movement set the course, David Ben-Gurion acted to implement it in 1948, in collusion with King Abdullah of Jordan. Netanyahu is just adding his bit.

"No Palestinian state" means: no peace, not now, not ever. Everything else is, as the Americans say, baloney. All the pious phrases about happiness for our children, prosperity for the Palestinians, peace with the entire Arab world, a bright future for all, are just that -- pure baloney. At least some in the audience must have noticed that, even with all that jumping.

Netanyahu spat in Obama's eye. The Republicans in the audience must have enjoyed that. Perhaps some Democrats too.

It can be assumed that Obama did not. So what will he do now?

There is a Jewish joke about a hungry pauper who entered an inn and demanded food. Otherwise, he threatened, he would do what his father did.

The frightened innkeeper fed him, and in the end asked timidly: "But what did your father do?" Swallowing the last morsel, the man answered: "He went to sleep hungry."

There is a good chance that Obama will do the same. He will pretend that the spittle on his cheek is rainwater. His promise to prevent a UN General Assembly recognition of the State of Palestine deprived him of his main leverage over Netanyahu.

Somebody in Washington seems to be floating the idea of Obama coming to Jerusalem and addressing the Knesset. It would be direct retaliation -- Obama talking with the Israeli public over the head of the Prime Minister, as Netanyahu has just addressed the American public over the head of the President.

It would be an exciting event. As a former Member of the Knesset, I would be invited. But I would not advise it. I proposed it a year ago. Today I would not.

Now, with all the roads blocked, there remains only one path remains open: the recognition of the State of Palestine by the United Nations coupled with nonviolent mass action by the Palestinian people against the occupation. The Israeli peace forces will also play their part, because the fate of Israel depends on peace as much as the fate of Palestine.

Sure, the U.S. will try to obstruct, and Congress will jump up and down, But the Israeli-Palestinian spring is on its way.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom.

(Source: Counter Punch)

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

TIES WITH IRAN ON BACK BURNER DUE TO EGYPT'S DOMESTIC PROBLEMS

BY MOHAMMAD ALI MOHTADI

 

Despite the popular uprising in Egypt, which resulted in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, unfortunately, there is still no clear roadmap for the reestablishment of Tehran-Cairo relations, and Egypt's interim government has done almost nothing to restore diplomatic ties.

But Nabil el Arabi, the current Egyptian foreign minister and the new Arab League secretary general, has expressed some positive remarks in this regard. Of course, Egypt is going to distance itself from the United States and its previous policies in the Middle East, but despite all this, there is no clear determination in Cairo to start the process.

This could be due to the fact that Egypt does not have a stabilized governing system. The country has yet to elect a new president or members of other policymaking institutions. In addition, remnants of the previous despotic regime remain in power in the form of the military council that is running the government and other centers of power without direct and close consultation with the people and political parties. Thus, the resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Egypt is a demand of the Egyptian people that cannot be correctly understood in the current system.

The prospect of reestablishing Iran-Egypt relations is very promising, and this has been recognized by various segments of Egyptian society. Iran enjoys a great deal of spiritual influence in the region, and the people of Egypt want to interact more with Iran in the political and cultural spheres. But the U.S. and Israel are terrified about this bright future and thus are trying to hinder the process.

However, foreign policy is currently not the main priority in Egypt. The country's officials and citizens are busy with domestic issues, such as security and economic problems. They need billions of dollars to meet their economic needs and to revive the seriously damaged tourism industry. Egyptian officials need at least $12 billion for the economic reconstruction of the country. These are the main obstacles in the way of efforts to resume ties with countries like Iran.

Other governments in the region also have some views about the proposal to resume relations between the two countries. For example, Turkey, as a regional power, welcomes the idea and does not appear to be competing with Iran in terms of rapprochement with Egypt. But Saudi Arabia feels its interests are threatened and will make every effort to nip this new trend in the bud. Clearly, if the governments of Iran and Egypt strengthen their cooperation, Saudi Arabia's regional role will be completely undermined.

The smaller Arab countries of the Persian Gulf are also worried about this new initiative because they fear the increasing influence of Iran as a regional power on their doorstep. During Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's last trip to some of these tiny states, they informed him that certain conditions had to be met before they would invest in the country.

These problems add to the complexity of the Iran-Egypt relationship. But once the people and government of Egypt establish the necessary mechanisms to administer the country through an elected president and parliament, the two countries will naturally restore their diplomatic relations, which is expected to benefit both Egypt and Iran.

Mohammad Ali Mohtadi is a journalist and Middle East expert based in Tehran.

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LEADERSHIP REQUIRES SACRIFICE

BY GUL JAMMAS HUSSAIN

 

It's easier to be a follower than a leader. It is safe and does not require one to go through the trials and tribulations that you have to face if you act as a leader instead of a simple follower.

But, can we live life with some dignity and honor while always choosing the easiest things and the safest options and making the most comfortable decisions?

I think not, because you have to really prove yourself in order to create a path for yourself. And that is what leadership is all about. Leaders create their own way, and others follow those well-trodden paths.

But the real function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers, which means empowering people and encouraging them to learn how to do things proficiently without always seeking other people's help.

And in order to become a leader, you have to be an optimist and a bold challenge-seeker because otherwise you can easily miss the opportunity. As Winston Churchill once said, "The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity."

But if you are ready to act as leader in life, then also get ready to face the opposition of ordinary people. In the words of Albert Einstein: "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."

But don't worry, because if you are determined and have the will to do things on your own, you should be aware that the world has the habit of making room for people whose actions show that they know where they are going. But there is only one condition. You have to find a path. Take the path and then show the way.

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

COSTLY ARAB SPRING TO YIELD BUMPER HARVEST FOR BANKERS

BY MAIDHC Ó CATHAIL

 

From the G8 summit, Reuters reports:

The external financing needs of oil-importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa will exceed $160 billion over the next three years and donor countries must step in to help, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday.

In a report to the Group of Eight meeting in Deauville, France, the IMF urged G8 industrial nations and rich Arab partners to develop an action plan that lays out what help they could provide countries in need.

"The region needs to prepare for a fundamental transformation of its economic model," Masood Ahmed, in charge of Middle East and Africa at the IMF, told journalists on the sidelines of a Group of Eight meeting in northern France.

"This will be greatly facilitated if international players including the G8 can enter into strategic partnership with these countries…where incentives are linked to a social agenda."

Supporting the IMF's call for deeper indebtedness to support the supposedly threatening democratic upheaval in the region, U.S. President Barack Obama said:

First, we've asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week's G8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruptions of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron:

Leading nations' financial support for the so-called Arab Spring will reduce extremism and immigration, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said. The UK is giving £110m over four years for political and economic development in North Africa and the Middle East. At the two-day G8 summit in France, the UK and U.S. are pushing for other pledges of financial support. Mr. Cameron said the summit should send a message to the countries of the Arab Spring that "we are on your side".

French President Nicolas Sarkozy:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said it is critical that Group of Eight leaders deliver firm commitments to help Tunisia and Egypt during their two-day summit in France. Speaking at a press conference, G8 summit host -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- said it is critical that the popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt succeed. He said mobilizing "considerable aid" is among the central goals of the G8 meeting here in Deauville.

Lest anyone think the three leaders' putting taxpayers' money where their mouths are in support of Arab democracy might be a betrayal of the West's "unwavering ally" in the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured a sycophantic U.S. Congress that the "Arab Spring" is kosher:

Fifteen years ago, I stood at this very podium. By the way, it hasn't changed. (Laughter.) I stood here and I said that democracy must start to take root in the Arab world. Well, it's begun to take root, and this beginning holds the promise of a brilliant future of peace and prosperity, because I believe that a Middle East that is genuinely democratic will be a Middle East truly at peace.

Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst.

(Source: The Passionate Attachment)

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