Google Analytics

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Saturday, June 4, 2011

EDITORIAL 04.06.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: editorial@samarth.co.in 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month  june04, edition 000850, 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. SCAMSUTRA CONTINUES
  2. AFTERSHOCKS IN JAPAN
  3. THE DEATH OF HONOUR
  4. HERE WE GO AGAIN - SANJAY KAUL
  5. DHARMA DESTROYED, DESTROYS - RAMESH RAO
  6. IS IT NEW SATYAGRAH OR MOBOCRACY - CP BHAMBRI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. ALL WORK, NO CHILD'S PLAY?
  2. MARCH OF A BILLION ASPIRATIONS - NAVEEN JINDALNAVEEN JINDAL
  3. ADVANTAGE, CONSISTENCY
  4. NO LEVEL PLAYING FIELD - AJAY VAISHNAVAJAY VAISHNAV
  5. THE DEPRAVITY FACTOR - DAVID BROOKSDavid Brooks

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. STEPPING OUT OF TERRA INCOGNITA
  2. THE NEW BABALOG - AMRIT DHILLON
  3. DON'T BE MISTAKEN ABOUT MAKING MISTAKES - PRATIK KANJILAL
  4. DO NOT GO GENTLE - GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI,

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. IN THE PRESENT TENSE
  2. STRETCHING THAT LOGIC
  3. TRULY A GIANT
  4. THE GREAT INDIAN HIJACK - SHEKHAR GUPTA
  5. A BOOK FOR MR NAIPAUL - MINI KAPOOR
  6. THE INJUSTICE OF OUR ANTI-POOR SCHEMES - SURJIT S BHALLA
  7. WHY THE ISI IS LYING - HAMEED HAROON
  8. AS HERITAGE FALLS APART IN AFGHANISTAN
  9. A VOICE SILENCED - RUCHIKA TALWAR

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. LANDING A COUP
  2. EQUITY FOR PENSIONERS
  3. PRO-POOR JUSTICE - SURJIT S BHALLA
  4. SLOW TRAIN TO NOWHERE - SHREEKANT SAMBRANI

THE HINDU

  1. IS THERE A BRAIN CANCER RISK?
  2. HANDS OFF LIBYA
  3. FREEDOM OF PRESS AND JOURNALISTIC ETHICS – II  - MARKANDEY KATJU
  4. TIME FOR A NEW ERA OF GROWTH WITH SOCIAL JUSTICE  - JUAN SOMAVIA
  5. U.S. CALLS ANTIBIOTICS A WRONG STEP ON E.COLI  - GARDINER HARRIS
  6. HYBRID E.COLI 'RESISTANT TO ANTIBIOTICS'  - ALOK JHA
  7. EXHIBITION ON SPACE 

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. RAMDEV'S FAST HAS ALL ON EDGE
  2. MISDIRECTION - FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. TAKING THE GREEN PULSE 40 YEARS ON - JAGMOHAN

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. MODERNIZING TOURIST INDUSTRY
  2. FAITH IN DEMOCRACY
  3. CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS IN NEPAL - BY ML KOTRU
  4. HIMALAYAN YEW IN DANGER  - BY DR HARISH CHANDER DUTT
  5. FALLING FOOD PRICES IS NOT GOOD FOR AGRICULTURE - BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN
  6. CRIME AGAINST WOMEN - BY SYED KARAR HASHMI

THE TRIBUNE

  1. SCARRED BY SLUMS
  2. USE WITH CARE
  3. SIR VIDIA'S DIATRIBE
  4. DRIVE AGAINST CORRUPTION - BY KULDIP NAYAR
  5. THE LONE CRUSADER – BY MAHESH GROVER
  6. MONEY, POWER AND POLITICS - ROBIN SCOTT-ELLIOT & JAMES LAWTON
  7. THE SCANDAL & THE CONTROVERSY

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. BLIND-SIDED - T N NINAN
  2. WHOSE TRIUMPH? - INDIRA RAJARAMAN
  3. BEWARE THE WORLD WIDE WATCH – DEVANGSHU DATTA
  4. THE PRESIDENCY DREAM, 40 YEARS ON - SUBIR ROY
  5. AN NRI'S VIEW OF INDIA - V V
  6. OF MEN AND 'GODMEN' - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  7. ON THE BACK OF SUPPLY SIDE - RAJIV KUMAR & ANSHUMAN KHANNA
  8. THE MEDITERRANEAN REBORN  - JAVIER SOLANA & ANGEL SAZ

BUSINESS LINE

  1. GROWTH MODERATES

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. REFORM PENSIONS
  2. ALCOHOLIC ABSURDITIES 
  3. BAD VIDYA
  4. BEYOND THE CORRUPTION BATTLE
  5. GUARDIANS OF PUBLIC INTEREST
  6. BEYOND THE CORRUPTION BATTLE
  7. GUARDIANS OF PUBLIC INTEREST
  8. 'WE ARE POISED TO BECOME A $7.2-B GROUP'  - V BALASUBRAMANIAN
  9. ENTER THE BABA PUPPET SHOW  - V KRISHNA ANANTH

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. HOARDING FLATS: WHAT TO DO?

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. RAMDEV'S FAST HAS ALL ON EDGE
  2. MISDIRECTION
  3. TAKING THE GREEN PULSE 40 YEARS ON

THE STATESMAN

  1. GROUNDED!
    HORRENDOUSLY FRACTURED - RAJINDER PURI
  2. 'UP LAND PROBLEM WORSE THAN SINGUR EPISODE'
  3. ON RECORD
  4. GOD IS BRAZILIAN  - VINOD VYASULU

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. UNCOMMON READER
  2. TIME TO MAKE A START
  3. LIFE'S INVISIBLE LITTLE IRONIES  - RITA DATTA
  4. IN SEARCH OF A NEW DIALOGUE  - SHARMILA BASU THAKUR
  5. DISTURBING SAMENESS  - KATHAKALI JANA

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. PRESIDENT ASSAD'S BLOODY HANDS
  2. PRESIDENT ASSAD'S BLOODY HANDS
  3. GIVE ME THE PERMITS, OR ELSE
  4. WHAT DO YOU SEE ON YOUR PLATE TODAY?
  5. WHEN TEACHERS TALK OUT OF SCHOOL - BY JONATHAN ZIMMERMAN
  6. FALSE CHOICES - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
  7. GHOSTS OF GUATEMALA'S PAST - BY STEPHEN SCHLESINGER

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. AN EDUCATION CRISIS? WHAT EDUCATION CRISIS?
  2. DAVID JUDSON
  3. THE AKP'S MASTERSHIP AGE - CENGİZ AKTAR
  4. HOW LIBERAL WILL OUR DEMOCRACY BE? - MUSTAFA AKYOL
  5. THE CORRIDOR - DIYARBAKIR NOTES - GÖKSEL BOZKURT
  6. A NEW 'GOLDEN AGE' IN ENERGY - GİLA BENMAYOR
  7. FRIENDS TALK BITTER - YUSUF KANLI
  8. GÜLEN MOVEMENT'S US RIDE GETTING TOUGHER - İLHAN TANIR
  9. A BIRD'S EYE VIEW - A CURE FOR CANCER - ADVENA AVIS

THE NEWS

  1. BUDGET AMIDST CHAOS
  2. POLITICS OF CRUELTY  - ADNAN SATTAR
  3. TAKING THE NEXT STEP  - AASIM SAJJAD AKHTAR
  4. ONE-LEGGED POLITICAL RACE  - PRAFUL BIDWAI
  5. A NOISY AFFAIR  - CHRIS CORK
  6. SETTING OUR OWN HOUSE IN ORDER  - ZAFAR HILALY
  7. THEN THEY CAME FOR ME -  BABAR SATTAR

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. EVEN NOW PAK ECONOMY IS BUOYANT
  2. AFGHAN-INDIA MILITARY TIES
  3. BEDAR PAKISTAN SCHEME
  4. STILLBORN DUAL NATIONALITY BILL - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. ANTI-AMERICANISM IN PAKISTAN - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  6. THE NEVER-ENDING SIACHIN SAGA! - KHALID SALEEM
  7. MURDER OF A FEARLESS PAK JOURNALIST - LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
  8. HOW ABOUT AN ARAB LOBBY? - AIJAZ ZAKA SYED

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. AFTER ALMOST A YEAR, THE REAL JULIA IS A MYSTERY
  2. PERFECT CHOICE FOR PEACE PRIZE
  3. STRIKE FIRST, BARGAIN LATER A RECIPE FOR INDUSTRIAL CHAOS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. HOUSING MARKET NEEDS A SLOW LEAK
  2. TAKE FOAM RUBBER, ADD SUGAR, AND PRESTO
  3. PARLIAMENT HAS A CALLING HIGHER THAN CATCALLING

THE GUARDIAN

  1. GLOBALISATION: SPINNING INTO REVERSE
  2. SALE OF THE TOTE: HIGH STAKES
  3. UNTHINKABLE? HORRIBLE HEROES

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. MR. KAN'S TRICKY PROMISE
  2. MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS AND THE ARAB SPRING - BY CHRISTOPHER R. HILL
  3. THE CAUCASIAN DARK CIRCLE - BY ANDREI PIONTKOVSKY

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. PRESTIGIOUS AWARD FOR FAUZI
  2. CRITICAL THINKING EDUCATION PROTECTS US FROM RADICALISM -mPAUL SUPARNO
  3. WHEN IT COMES TO CLIMATE CHANGE, WE HAVE NO PLANET B - WARIEF DJAJANTO BASORIE
  4. NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT: THE WAY FORWARD – YAYAN GH MULYANA

DAILY MIRROR

  1. SRI LANKA NEEDS A TRUTH COMMISSION
  2. A JOURNALIST IS SILENCED
  3. COMPLAINTS AGAINST THE BAN KI MOON PANEL
  4. "INCREASING WOMEN REPRESENTATION IN PARLIAMENT IS VITAL"
  5. INDIA MUST APOLOGIZE TO SRI LANKA
  6. APPOINT THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO OUR MISSIONS!

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. OF, BY AND FOR THE PEOPLE...    - BY PAUL BALLES

 

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

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

THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

SCAMSUTRA CONTINUES

MORE TO 2G SCANDAL THAN MEETS THE EYE


After A Raja and Ms Kanimozhi, it is now the turn of another high profile DMK leader to face the heat of the 2G spectrum scam. A leading publication has charged former Union Minister for Telecom Dayanidhi Maran with receiving kickbacks for awarding licence to a cellular service provider. Mr Maran has hotly contested the allegation and has even slapped a defamation notice on the magazine. We do not know yet if the charges hold water. But what is indisputable is that Mr Maran is now under a cloud of suspicion that makes his continuance in office as Union Minister of Textiles untenable. The Opposition has gleefully seized the issue and is already demanding Mr Maran's resignation. It is better that he quits and fights the allegation on both the political and the legal levels. After all, there is no sense in desperately holding on to the position only to make an imminent ignominious exit later, as A Raja was forced to do. Sooner or later, Mr Maran will have to face the courts regarding this matter. In fact steps have already been taken to make him accountable before the judiciary in the ongoing probe. While the Mr Maran has every right to be upset, he is be fooling himself if he believes either the Congress-led UPA or even his own party will go out of their way to defend him when it comes to the crunch. Both have faced enough flak on the scam and are perceived as so very tainted that they cannot afford any further confirmation of their complicity in the matter. Moreover, there is little that Mr Maran's political masters can do even if they want to since the Supreme Court is monitoring the ongoing probe into the scam. Mr Maran's claim that the allegations against him are politically motivated is as predictable as the climax of most Hindi films, though that does not completely rule out political play. But one wonders who is after his blood. Are there elements within the Congress who find it an appropriate moment to hit the DMK when it is already down — having faced defeat in the recent Assembly election — or has a section of Mr Maran's own party orchestrated the offensive? It is, after all, no secret that Mr Maran was seen as part of a group within the DMK that was at loggerheads with Mr Raja and Ms Kanimozhi. Surely the latter two would be more than pleased to see trouble visit the suave Minister. Internecine rivalries are always there but at the end of the day the strength of the allegations matter. That alone can decide Mr Maran's fate.


It is also the DMK's battered image that is at stake. Party supremo M Karunanidhi had earlier explained away the A Raja episode as a campaign against a Dalit face, and daughter Kanimozhi's interrogation and arrest as part of a widespread conspiracy — from across the Himalayas to Kanyakumari — against his family and the party. With yet another family member caught in the scam tangle, the chief has more reason (though unsubstantiated) to believe in his theory. The latest controversy has once again revived speculation of the DMK's continuation in the UPA. Interestingly, Mr Maran was among those who had argued against snapping ties with the Congress-led national alliance in the aftermath of Kanimozhi's arrest. Now that he is at the receiving end with no definite support from the Congress, as yet, it will be interesting to see how the DMK reacts to this new development.

 

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


THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

AFTERSHOCKS IN JAPAN

RECOVERY, REFORM MAY GET DELAYED


After defeating a no-confidence vote in Parliament, Japan's unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan who has been severely criticised for his handling of the triple crises hit the country on March 11, may have managed to hold onto his position for just a little while longer but his political woes are far from over. For one, Mr Kan who is Japan's sixth Prime Minister in five years is currently living on borrowed time. His victory on Thursday was not a reflection of popular support but instead the result of last minute political maneuvering. Hours before the Diet, as the Japanese Parliament is known, went to vote Mr Kan met with rebels members from within his own Democratic Party who had earlier defected to the Opposition and struck a backroom deal: In exchange for their vote of confidence that would allow him to stay in power, Mr Kan offered to step down at a later date once the ongoing national crisis was reasonably resolved. In a speech to members of the ruling DPJ shortly before the vote, he acknowledged his shortcomings as Prime Minister and said that he would hand in his resignation soon after the national crisis had been reasonably resolved. The speech set the stage for his consequent victory — Mr Kan won a significant 293 votes in Japan's 480-seat lower house — but it has also served as an excuse for the fractious DPJ to resume its bickering as members squabbled over the exact timing of Mr Kan's resignation. Many claim that they had been duped by the Prime Minister — a former minister even called Mr Kan a "fraud" — who gave the impression of an early resignation when he was actually planning to stay a whole lot longer: Mr Kan suggested, after the vote, that he would like to stay in office until the damaged reactors at Fukushima had reached a stage wherein they could be "cold shutdown" — a process that could take until January 2012, if not longer. If Mr Kan follows through with this plan, it will give him some much needed extra time to prepare the additional Budget that will pay for Japan's national recovery plan.


However given that Mr Kan, who is Japan's sixth Prime Minister in five years, now has neither the support of his rivals within the DPJ, who insist he should resign right after the Budget is passed by late summer, nor can he expect the cooperation of members from the Opposition LDP who control the upper house of Parliament and can effectively block the Budget bill, it is highly unlikely the lame duck Prime Minister will be able to make much headway. Petty politics in Tokyo now threatens to hamper nationwide rebuilding efforts. Worse still, it may also derail the fiscal reforms plan undertaken by Mr Kan's Government to bring Japan's massive public debt problem under control.

 

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

 

 


THE PIONEER

COLUMN

THE DEATH OF HONOUR

BY PROMOTING A WAY OF LIFE THAT GLORIFIES SELF-AGGRANDISEMENT AND UNDERMINES A SENSE OF HONOUR, THE IPL STANDS AS A SYMBOL OF ALL THAT IS WRONG WITH INDIA


When one willingly accepts being auctioned, one agrees to being treated as a commodity which can be bought or sold. When the price is high and the auction is an annual business, one tries to shape oneself in a manner in which one fetches the highest price. One is not what one is, but what one's buyers want one to be. In his profound work, To Have or to Be?, Erich Fromm dwells at length on this phenomenon which he calls "the marketing personality." The basis of moral conduct — the refusal to do what one knows to be wrong — vanishes when one is thus transformed. One is then ready to do what it takes to sell oneself.

Of course, one can sell oneself once, and, haunted by remorse, refuse to do it again. In that case the act of agreeing to be bought is redeemed as it becomes the basis for subsequent refusal and the pre-requisite for moral conduct is restored. Repeated voluntary submission to auctioning, however, conditions one to doing what is needed for fetching the highest price. Hence it is hardly surprising that cricketers are prepared to place their IPL commitment above that to their country. One is told that they have the right to choose and one must respect their decision. But would one extend to an Army officer the right to sell military secrets to another country on the ground that he should be allowed to choose money against country?

Some people would call this an unfair comparison. Cricketers are only participating in a sport; army personnel are sworn to defend their country and not to undermine its security in any manner. The argument is not even engaging. The basic principle involved here is placing personal interest above the country's. Besides, if defence involves the nation's security, the country's performance in sports is linked to its honour and self-esteem. Otherwise, millions in this country would not have watched the Cricket World Cup matches with such avid interest, lustily cheering every Indian victory and exploding in raptures of wild celebrations over its team's win in the final. A sense of honour is critically important. It prevents a sportsperson from stooping to practices like match-fixing for money and prompts him or her to exceed the limits of his or her normal capabilities to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It prompts an army man not merely to refuse to sell military secrets but to die for his country displaying courage beyond the call of duty.

Any possible argument that one is making a mountain of a molehill in the case of the IPL would not wash. The matter is far more important than just that of several sportspersons choosing self-interest over country. Cricketers have acquired an iconic status and become role models at a time when the market economy and the advertising and amusement industries are getting the country addicted to unending entertainment and titillation. What sports persons do and are seen to stand for influences the thoughts and actions of millions. The implications are far-reaching and frightening. The price need not be money alone but a wide range of things, including power and fame, embracing every aspect of national life. Similarly, selling may involve many forms ranging fromdoing things and supporting persons and causes one knows to be wrong, saying things one knows to be false, keeping quiet when one should speak out or not supporting a person battling enormous odds at great risk to prevent a huge wrong being done.

Unfortunately, an increasingly large number of people in India think nothing of selling themselves for a reward they seek. The result is the massive crisis of corruption that threatens to swamp the country, and of which the 2G spectrum allocation and Commonwealth Games scams are only two of the more outrageous manifestations. There are thousands of mini-scams that go unnoticed every day involving officials from the level of patwaris upward to the levels of secretaries to, and ministers of, the Government of India. Worse, promotion of self-aggrandisement, which is an aggravated form of the pursuit of self-interest, at all cost has led to a trampling of the rights of the poor and vulnerable and the progressive degradation of the environment in the age of climate change.

Peasants and villagers are uprooted, and the compensation due to them usurped by the babudom, to build dams in seismically sensitive zones or procure land for constructing luxury housing and entertainment complexes by builders who have bribed politicians to the gills or are their cronies in the making money at the cost of the public. Protests are met by brutal police repression that includes firing and lathi charge as well as the ransacking of the homes and molestation of women family members of those protesting. Where these measures succeed, the results range from uprootment and destitution to arbitrary deprivation of one's dues. This in turn creates a fertile soil for the spread of extremist ideologies and organisations, whether of the Maoist or fundamentalist religious varieties and troubled waters where the countries enemies across the border, principally Pakistan, can fish.

To say all this, is not to give vent to one's paranoia. India is facing a grave threat to its stability and integrity. The killing of Osama bin-Laden should not create a false sense of security. Pakistan's pathological hostility toward this country is compounded by the danger of its being taken over by Islamist fundamentalists of the Taliban/al-Qaeda variety. The situation in Afghanistan remains fluid with the withdrawal of American forces set to begin from July and Mr Hamid Karzai's government still struggling to hold its own. The Arabian Peninsula and North America remains in a state of turmoil.


India needs to be very strong to defend itself. It cannot be so if corruption and exploitation alienate people from the State, create violent internal conflicts and undermine national security through the sale of military secrets, the diversion of money meant for defence to private pockets, and the undermining of the sense of honour which make people die for their country. IPL conduces to all this by promoting a way of life that glorifies the principle of self-aggrandisement at all cost and undermines the very idea of the sense of honour that is the matrix of character.

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


THE PIONEER

OPED

HERE WE GO AGAIN

SANJAY KAUL


Yogis like Baba Ramdev are known to treat food and water, along with all things we ordinary mortals deem "essentials", with utter contempt. So Manmohan Singh, who after weathering the Anna Hazare innings thought the worst was over, ain't seen nothing yet


The events surrounding the spate of corruption scams in the country makes me recall pop-star Britney Spears' year 2000 hit Oops, I did it again! If the plot plays out to script, Dayanidhi Maran could well be the next fall guy, but the moot point would remain pretty much the same and the polity would still beggar the question — what is it in the governance code of the Congress that so much worm crawls from the Cabinet each time it hits the Lok Sabha with a comfortable majority?


It is now testing the limits that we should still have to debate in subtle language the rapacious greed of the ruling junta and its Machiavellian tactics to defend, hide and protect such people as we are seeing unmasked almost each month. That the UPA-2 stumbles along in spite of all this is a testament to how well the Congress party has mastered the art of outsourcing responsibility. It not only uses allies, friends and accomplices in its network of operations and as quickly dumps them, it has also patented the mechanics of protecting its troika of leadership consisting of the Congress president, the Prime Minister and the heir apparent from the fallout through a matrix of subterfuge and political ventriloquism.


It uses standard procedures of power play like having its own members attack each other to ward off real opposition — a role earlier outsourced to the Communist bloc in the 2004-08 period. It appeals to both the higher and the baser instincts of the public — officially celebrates the Osama bin Laden breakthrough and then uses servile henchmen to mouth palliatives for the Muslim community. It engages cussedly with civil society groups on the Lokpal Bill while its dirty tricks department tries to bring them down publicly. It dallies with Baba Ramdev, even as it details family friendlies like Shahrukh Khan and slavish secularists to besmirch him. It assuages the nation about the spotless intentions of the Government on corruption but balks at the mention of Swiss bank accounts. It projects its leaders as messiahs of clean politics even as it offers sustenance to graft and victimises those who would fight it.


This game of changing masks is achieving a sophistication that the country has never seen before and I dare say the enormity of the web of deception that has been woven around us all is still not clear to many. Even the media is incredulous, arguing against itself even as it uncovers scandal after scandal unbelievingly. This paralysis of judgment, even reticence, to route the crime to its masters, is more intriguing than the scandals they tend to unearth.


In Delhi, where the crime is no less cardinal, the media is looking even more menial. The Shunglu Committee report, a byproduct of the Committee set up by the Prime Minister to enquire into the excesses of the Commonwealth Games, indicted a number of people including Chief Minister Sheila Dixit and CWG Organising Committee boss Suresh Kalmadi. But while Kalmadi is in jail, Sheila Dixit was accorded the unique privilege of sending a rebuttal to the Committees findings — unbelievable but true, and a first even by the glamorous double standards of the Congress. But if only it were to stop there!


A serious case of ministerial corruption in Delhi where the PWD Minister was found influencing the State's tax department against a high profile business house was indicted suo moto by Delhi Lokayukta Manmohan Sarin, who, on the basis of a preliminary and then fuller enquiry, recommended the Minister's dismissal on charges of attempting to obstruct a government official from carrying out his duty. That the case pertained to VAT evasion of hundreds of crore of Rupees and which was enough to get the business house into trouble and its owner into possible incarceration was precisely the reason the Lokayukta acted in the manner that he did. But once again, the Delhi CM got carte blanche. In a splendid display of self righteous contempt, she first publicly berated the Lokayukta and then once the file was escalated to the LG and the President of India, lobbied hard with the Congress President to get her man off the hook. For a man that the Lokayukta had asked the President to "withdraw her pleasure" now continues, with her pleasure, thanks to the raise of an eyebrow at 10 Janpath.

The sinister code of protecting one's own and those who can spill beans is now a counter movement to the whistleblowers we are prone to toast. If the President of India can walk all over the Lokayukta with such élan at the behest of a party president and her all-powerful acolyte, then we have hit the nadir of institutional decay.

That the Congress has hollowed out every institution of worth since its last run at the hustings is amply evident and below the worth of further notable discussion. But the dazed silence of the middle class, the media and the men who matter is a breathtaking paean to the state of our self worth as a nation. Each time we say this, there are howls of protest at the yeoman service the media has provided in outing the Rajas of graft, but that is precisely the point — we are investigating sitting ducks; it is as if it were an investigation of convenience. We have seen nothing of anyone even attempting to challenge the validity of the PM to continue in office even as ministers and members of his party fall like nine pins in a game of bluff. We see nobody with the courage to challenge the propriety of allowing Kalmadi to sweat in jail while his colleague in the party — or partners in crime as far as Shunglu panel is concerned — is signing her own clean chits. I visualise no one, for instance, having the gumption to question the President's move to supersede the Lokayukta.


If this regime is allowed to carry out its devastating design, the country will pay for it for decades. There is a run on our morality, and somebody has to stop it. The President of India's decision in the context of the current mood of the nation and the squeeze on graft is not only a signal in the opposite direction but in effect a marker to the tendencies of the Congress' innate organisational DNA. This weltanshauung, as it were of the Congress is the next demon we have to slay.


Sanjay Kaul is a spokesperson for the BJP in Delhi. He can be contacted on sanjay.kaul@bjp.org.

 

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


THE PIONEER

OPED

DHARMA DESTROYED, DESTROYS

RAMESH RAO


Never before has any great mass of people so thoroughly obsessed itself with corruption — and that's because in India today it has reached mythical levels


What can one say about corruption in India or around the globe that has not already been said before? How many more people does it take to cry their hearts out in disgust, pain, and horror before we can see any perceptible change in the vulgar acts of hoarding, thieving, manipulating, and marauding that the rich and the powerful indulge in, not ignoring of course the daily acts of petty perfidy of the lowly police constable, the office peon, and the "junior engineer" in charge of supervising some "public works" or the other? Is this the tail-end of Kali Yuga when, we are told, the crooked prevail and the righteous wilt away?

Anna Hazare's 97-hour fast was too quickly given up and too poorly executed, and his coterie of "civil society" leaders too gullible and fractious making it easy for the manipulative ruling politicians and their "dirty tricks" henchmen to defang the Gandhian and his not-so Gandhian lieutenants. Even before we could spell "Lokpal Bill" the ungainly dance of the civil society leaders and government ministers is grinding to a halt. It is now the turn of yoga guru Baba Ramdev to go on a planned fast but he may even more quickly get his public persona disrobed by the crafty Digvijayas hired by the "ruling family". Meanwhile, some of the smug and cynical editors of new-fangled magazines and crusty old newspapers speak from both sides of their mouth — bemoaning corruption and belittling those who seek to do something about it.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the titular head of a corrupt government, cannot do more than mouth platitudes and promise some vague, future action. "This (corruption) is a scourge that confronts all of us. The government intends to introduce the Lokpal Bill in parliament during the monsoon session," he said when Hazare ended his fast. "The fact that civil society and government have joined hands to evolve a consensus to move this historic legislation augurs well for our democracy. I am pleased that Anna Hazareji has agreed to give up his fast," the good cop's office messaged to the world, while the bad cops had already launched their plans of devious dissimulation. Hazareji therefore is now a spent force, and his lieutenants are bitter losers in the battle against the crooks, the criminals, and the new-age "rakshasas" who rule the Dilli-durbar.

In Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2010, India ranked 87 among 178 nations. There was a decline in India's integrity score to 3.3 in 2010, from 3.5 in 2007, and 3.4 in 2008 and 2009. These figures are on a scale of zero to 10 — zero indicating high corruption and 10 indicating low levels of corruption. India's ranking has dipped since 2006 when it was ranked 70 among 163 countries, indicating that under UPA-I and UPA-II, with Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi at the helm, India has got on to the fast track towards catching up with the most corrupt in the world — the Somalias, the Afghanistans, and the Myanmars.

There is an old Kannada adage: Hucchumunde maduveli undonay jaana. The literal translation is — "He is clever who eats at the mad widow's wedding." What it means is that those who take advantage of chaotic conditions to benefit themselves are clever. The UPA governance can be likened to a "hucchumunde maduve" (mad widow's wedding). The people who ate at the wedding — the Rajas, the Kanimozhis, the Kalmadis, and the less known politicians, bureaucrats, and business leaders — looted trillions of rupees and were the clever ones.

In this regard, and as an aside, when will Indians discard the unwieldy and provincial terms "lakhs" and "crores" and adopt modern number terminology to effectively gauge and identify the level of spending and looting? For example, the Central Vigilance Commission estimated that some Rs 8,000 crore was "misappropriated" in the hosting of the Commonwealth Games. That translates to Rs 80 billion, which translates to about $ 1.75 billion, roughly calculated. The Comptroller and Auditor General estimated that in the 2G scam some Rs 1,76,700 crore was lost. That mind-numbing and confusing number translates to Rs 1,767 billion or about $40 billion.

And then there is the staggering amount of black money stashed away in Swiss bank accounts — $1.5 trillion dollars — according to some estimates, making Indians the number one users of the "don't ask, don't tell" Swiss banking rules. In fact, according to the group constituted by LK Advani, some $5.7 trillion is stashed away by Indians in foreign banks. And India, according to Global Financial Integrity, a programme of the Center for International Policy, is one of the world's largest exporters of black money with an outflow of $104 billion between 2000 and 2008.

An intrepid blogger calculates that the $1.5 trillion is "enough to relieve the debt of all farmers and landless workers in India, build world-class roads all over the country, take electricity to every rural home, provide drinking water in all villages and towns, construct good homes for 100 million families, and allocate Rs 40 million to every village — to build a school, a health centre, a veterinary clinic, a playground with gymnasium, and more in every village".

Alas, India is a land of maya, and one can never really get a handle on even simple truths, forget about the more complex and large scale matters. Who stole how much, when, and stashed it away where is therefore mostly guesswork, and the present government will not lift a finger to find out what even foreign governments are willing to share. We keep reading newspaper reports about some CBI team going somewhere or the other, filing some paperwork in some place or another, but nothing seems to emerge from those exercises. Few in the Opposition parties are willing to take on the government because they are as much revelers in the "hucchumunde maduve" as the greediest ones in the administration.

It is therefore left to so-called mavericks like Subramanian Swamy to take up the thankless and almost futile tasks of finding out who ate how much and regurgitated where. The letters on the 2G scam that Dr Swamy sent the Prime Minister seem to have led to the chain of events that have put Raja and Kanimozhi in Tihar, and brought tears to the eyes of the old bandicoot Karunanidhi, but the decades-long skeleton-probing that Dr Swamy has done of the Sonia Gandhi household has made little headway and produced no results.

That he is the only one with the gumption to publicly accuse Sonia Gandhi of a variety of corrupt deeds without being taken to court for his allegations says something both about Dr. Swamy's courage as well as a lot about the weakness of Indian society and system.

Where do these and many other aspects of the soft and corrupt Indian system lead us? People quote only the latter half of the Sanskrit adage, "Dharma eva hato hanti/ Dharmo rakshati rakshitah" (dharma destroyed, destroys; dharma protects those who protect it) to plead with Indians that if they abide by dharma they will truly prosper. What we need to invoke more often, as Baba Ramdev and other concerned Indian citizens have been warning us is the threat that if dharma is destroyed, it destroys — individuals and societies.

-- Ramesh Rao is professor and chair, Department of Communication Studies and Theatre, Longwood University, and Human Rights Coordinator at the Hindu American Foundation. The views expressed here are his own.

.***************************************


THE PIONEER

OPED

IS IT NEW SATYAGRAH OR MOBOCRACY?

CP BHAMBRI | PROFESSOR EMERITUS, JNU


Nothing short of a revolution can take away the lawmakers' right to write and pass laws. Baba Ramdev is pushing the envelope too hard and it is time he decided to save himself for another fight, some other day

The first issue is that Baba Ramdev, like Anna Hazare & Company before him, is trying to legitimise the instrument of fast unto death by misappropriating Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. But Gandhi never shied from entering into negotiations. His moral stature was proved when he offered to talk even to Mohammad Ali Jinnah till the last moment to avoid the partition of India. Gandhi offered Jinnah the prime ministership of united India.

Gandhi's Satyagrah, unlike the proposed circus of Baba Ramdev, was based on solid foundations. The context was very different than the present one. Gandhi led mass movements in stages to make Indians conscious of their right to freedom against oppressive, repressive and racist colonial rule. Not only this, unlike Anna's lieutenants like Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi or Swami Agnivesh, Gandhi's aides — Nehru, Patel, etc. — spent long terms in prison. Their sacrifices in the cause of freedom can hardly be matched. Anna's comrades cannot occupy that kind of moral space.

 

The right of only Magsaysay awardees to be members of a government-appointed joint committee for deliberating on the Jan Lokpal Bill is most ridiculous. Further, it is not a question of setting up a joint committee with a view to carrying out negotiations on the principle of give and take, Anna has already operationalised the role which would be performed by the Lokpal. In the process, the Lokpal would emerge as a supra State with its own parliament and constitution.


There is nothing wrong in saying that the Lokpal should have jurisdiction over politicians, officials and judges. But Anna is making the astoundingsuggestion that the probe into allegations of corruption should be completed within one year. Then he demands that trials based on such probes should be completed within one year. This is the crux of the issue. The Indian constitutional and legal system attaches highest importance to the rule of law and it is the fundamental right of every citizen to file an appeal against any verdict. Anna does not seem to accept this basic principle of innocent till proved guilty.


What is the guarantee that the draconian procedure suggested by him will not lead to arbitrary bodies lacking checks and balances? It should be noted that the tone and tenor of the agitators assembled around Anna are creating a climate of hatred towards our democratic profile. A shadow has been cast over democracy. When Anna publicly identified Sharad Pawar as "corrupt minister", what followed resembled the functioning of a kangaroo court. How can anybody be held guilty and make public announcements of this nature?


Further, the media, both and audio-visual, as well as political parties which are explicitly or implicitly reveling in Anna's tamasha because the issue is not the Manmohan Singh government, but actually the place of elected parliamentarians in the democratic system. It is the job of the lawmakers to make laws, including the Jan Lokpal Bill, and the Constitution does not make a provision for wannabe Mahatmas to sit at the high table with Ministers and legislators in the writing and passing of laws. Of course, there is scope for consultation with experts of all hues, including social mobilisers like Anna. But whatever the corruption situation, there is no "revolution" necessary right now for the purpose of making our anti-corruption law workable.


Moreover, expecting the government to give a 'guarantee' even before going to Parliament with the proposal, smacks of mobocracy. No elected government can afford to ignore Parliament. As much as it is the right of the government to frame laws, so too is the Opposition mandated to seek fine tuning and insertion of checks and balances. There are Consultative Committees, Select Committees, Standing Committees and Review Commissions mandated by the Constitution to ensure that the people's right to a clear law is evolved. Granted there is always scope for improvement. Many laws and passed only to be amended in the following session of Parliament.

That is another beauty of the democratic system. Anna Hazare seems to be intent on turning all this upside down just to prove a point that winners of awards presented by foreign governments know better than elected representatives of the Indian people,The young and constantly role defining TV media of India has played a dangerous role in the whole affair. They seem to be obsessed so much with Tehrir Square being replicated in India that they have thrown all norms to the winds. They fail to realise that it is impossible to have revolutions of the kind seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and even earlier in countries in the former East Bloc in functioning democracies like India. Here, apart from a vibrant — even if corrupt — polity, we have other institutions which can be approached to secure for the common man his basic rights. Anna Hazare rightly points to corruption in the judiciary. It is nobody's case that all judges are above board. But who can deny that judicial activism has on several occasions brought an arrogant Executive down by a couple of notches.


Baba Ramdev should therefore save himself for another fight. He has done yeoman's service by rallying national energy around the cause of corruption-free governance. Now that he has set the ball rolling, he should prepare himself for the other struggles for which the people of India desperately need leadership.

 

.***************************************


 

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

THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

ALL WORK, NO CHILD'S PLAY?

 

Some papas - and mamas - do preach. Others don't want to be papa, let alone preacher. Parental worries aren't mundane any more, with even US prez Obama fretting about daughters Sasha and Malia growing up, wearing short skirts and dating. On her part, writer-professor Amy Chua ensured her growing girls didn't watch TV or play computer games. For this self-declared Tiger Mom, the secret of tutoring children into becoming maths geniuses or musical prodigies lies in all work, no play. Then there are those who want nothing to do with parenthood. Take Congressman N D Tiwari, who a young man alleges is his biological father. He's defied a court order, refusing a DNA test to settle the paternity issue!


Such variety doesn't seem the spice of parental life in urban India, where more and more guardians have similar headaches. Studying modern parenting in six big cities, a new survey's findings challenge gender stereotypes about absent 'breadwinner' dads and available 'homemaker' moms. Since both can now be, say, work-stressed corporate honchos, most working parents regret the meagre time spent with their children. For 70%, a skewed work-life balance reduces involvement with offspring. But if just 20% of women surveyed were employed, a reassuring 57% of parents say parenting is a joint responsibility, not just a mother load.


Now, little moppets of political families can do with some parental neglect. That way, they won't automatically acquire dynastic airs or be tutored in opportunism, corruption and nepotism. Elsewhere, with both parents working creche, not cash, becomes worry number one. Leaving offspring to their own devices isn't an option even for nuclear families. So, will joint families make an urban comeback, with grandma telling the bedtime stories? Well, innovation of services and lifestyles is more likely the answer. Take the piano lessons, karate classes and cricket coaching to be had in neighbourhood backyards to keep the brood occupied. Or the summer camps for kids-on-holiday, sprouting now in every residential neighbourhood.


Many South Korean couples live apart for children's sake, with mothers taking youngsters for education to English-speaking America or New Zealand. With English skills, Indians don't need to copy that. Consider, however, the trend of techies quitting plush jobs to turn farmers. It may have as much to do with wresting quality family time as encashing high commodity prices. Others can chart their own ways towards familial reconnect. If Nehru stuck in jail could write long letters to daughter Indira, 21st


century guardians can surely increase parent-progeny interaction in this age of instant messaging. Who knows, better parenting may even make a dent when it comes to current Indian preoccupations such as corruption, which can often be attributed to an upbringing as a spoilt kid who's not taught to have empathy for others!

 

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


THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

MARCH OF A BILLION ASPIRATIONS

NAVEEN JINDALNAVEEN JINDAL

 

In 1990, V S Naipaul wrote, ''Independence had come to India like a kind of revolution." A year later in 1991, India embarked on a programme of economic liberalisation setting free the creative energy and business enterprise of millions of our people. Twenty years later, the world cannot stop talking about India's march of a billion aspirations.


Our democracy is our greatest strength. At the time of Independence in 1947, a deeply conservative society like India chose democracy and gave a voice and vote to every man and woman. For a multilingual, multicultural and multi-religious society which guaranteed equality to all, it was the right thing to do. In one stroke, we empowered millions of our people, a majority of them poor and illiterate. Development would come later but democracy could not be delayed.


Our democracy has been of the people, by the people, for the people but development has not touched every man, woman and child. However, democracy has raised the expectations of our people who have expressed their anger and anguish at the poor pace of progress and the deficient delivery of development. Economically and socially, India is undergoing a transformation, and this is driving political change in our country. People are eager and assertive about wanting a share in the rapid economic growth of our country. They want to be partners in growth and are looking up to the political and business leadership of our country to facilitate the process of inclusion.

 

We have the right ideas but our implementation has not been efficient and effective enough to make a meaningful impact on the scale that is required. Sincerity of purpose is no substitute for success in programme implementation. This message has reached political parties and governments, and good economics is finally being accepted as good politics. This was the message of the 2004 and the 2009 general elections, and every state election in the last decade. More importantly, this message is being heard loud and clear by all political parties.

At 9% economic growth, we are ready for what economist
Jagdish Bhagwati calls a "revolution of perceived possibilities", in which reforms can produce high economic returns along with improvements for the poor.

Our achievements of the last 20 years in manufacturing and services owe a great deal to the first four decades of nation-building in a poor country with limited financial resources. We laid a very strong foundation by building what our first prime minister
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru called the temples of modern India. These were not symbols of religion but structures of development - dams and steel plants, power plants and ports, airlines and IITs, we built them all. Now, we are able and willing to pursue economic growth for all-round development.

For democracy to be meaningful, development has to be inclusive, comprehensive and extensive. We have to empower all our people by making them partners in growth and beneficiaries of development. Our strong economic growth has to be reflected in the human development indices. The next decade is an opportunity and a challenge to educate and skill every individual so they can grow up to be productive citizens.


The march of a billion aspirations is gathering pace; our education and skill indicators are improving. In the last decade, we have made more people literate (218 million) than the number of people we have added to our population (181 million). The effective literacy rate has improved from 64.83% in 2001 to 74.04% in 2011. What is even more heartening is that literacy has improved more among women - there are 50% more literate women today than in 2001.


If i go to the rural areas of my constituency of Kurukshetra, the enthusiasm of young girls to be educated and independent is infectious. One cannot help but be inspired by it. Haryana has a disappointingly poor record in the male-female sex ratio and especially in the 0-6 age group, but given a chance our laadlis will change the perceptions of their families and communities by becoming educated and outstanding citizens of our country. The daughters of our nation have an equal right as our sons to be born and brought up as equals; to be given the same access to education and employment. This freedom which is guaranteed by law must be honoured by families and society.


Economic expansion is driving growth but for growth to be sustainable, it has to be inclusive. Without growth, there cannot be adequate resources for spending on the poor or on social sector programmes and income support programmes. Without an educated, skilled and healthy population, there cannot be high economic growth. This recognition of inclusive economic growth has spawned a virtuous cycle of policymaking and programme implementation. We are beginning to see results but greater impact will be visible in the years to come.

Development is now driving our democracy. The new spirit of India is visible in the drive of our people. When we talk about our proud past and our promising potential, it rests on our ability to sustain growth, strengthen inclusion and improve governance. We have to deliver development as decisively as we have delivered on democracy to be able to redeem our tryst with destiny.


The writer is Congress MP from Kurukshetra.

 

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

 


 THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

ADVANTAGE, CONSISTENCY

 

Both India's sole female representative to have made some sort of an impact in international tennis in recent years - Sania Mirza - and her opponents in the French Open women's doubles final defeated a number of higher-seeded teams during their advance through the tournment. Little wonder that Mirza has said that seedings have no meaning. This opens up the whole issue of the need for, and fairness of, the entire seedings system. But contrary to what Mirza might say, the existing system has its merits.


For one, it is, quite simply, a reward for maintaining a consistently high standard in one's game. That, after all, is the prime objective of any sportsman. It separates the merely good players from the great. Thus, seedings - which take into account the player's performance on the ATP circuit - ensure that such consistency benefits the player beyond merely the notional value of having a high ATP rank. The higher a player is seeded in a tournament, the more likely that he will have easy matches first up against lower-seeded opponents, and thus advance further. Surely, if a player has proved his quality by performing consistently enough to achieve a high seeding, he has won the right to such an advantage.


The other is simply a matter of practicality. Modern sport is built on a foundation of sponsorships, television rights and the like. The longer popular, high-ranked players remain in a tournament, the more viewer interest that tournament is likely to generate - and therefore, more money. Thus, it makes sense to have a system whereby clashes between the top players are delayed until the latter stages of a tournament. The alternative might make things easier for lower-seeded players - but it would harm the sport as a whole.


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


THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

NO LEVEL PLAYING FIELD

AJAY VAISHNAVAJAY VAISHNAV

 

It is not very often that unseeded players make it to the final of high-profile tournaments in professional tennis, as they are artificially structured to favour the higher ranked players. We owe thanks to Sania Mirza's remark on not underestimating her unseeded opponents, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, in the women's doubles final at the French Open, for having laid bare the issue.


The raison d'etre behind seeding is to delay confrontation between major players as a first round match of the two top contenders will squash spectator interest and will be financially ruinous for organisers. However, such reasoning goes against the spirit of competition of the sport and is grossly unfair to lower-ranked players. Unless a major upset occurs during preliminary rounds, it is usually top-ranked players who make it to the final play-off rounds, as the dice is loaded in their favour. That the top four ranked players have made it to the men's semifinal play-offs at this year's Roland Garros is a case in point.


In order to impart fairness to the system, the organisers should introduce random draw of players in the preliminary rounds. It will stamp out undue advantage to certain players for whom it becomes an easy ride under the present system. Random draws may contribute to a general increase in viewership. With random draws increasing the possibility of casualties for top contenders, the viewers may actually see an onset of fresh rivalries among new players rather than watching the same old faces and the same monotonous rivalries playing out in every tournament. It could also lead to a general improvement in the quality of tennis. All the more reason to move towards a random draw format. At least some tournaments should experiment with a new format, which doesn't make a fetish of prior seedings. Who knows, that would bring in a dash of unpredictability which would be a lot more exciting for viewers.


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


THE TIMES OF INDIA

THE RIGHT VIEW

THE DEPRAVITY FACTOR

DAVID BROOKS

 

By now you have probably heard about Hamza Ali al-Khateeb. He was the 13-year-old Syrian boy who tagged along at an anti-government protest in the town of Saida on April 29. He was arrested that day, and the police returned his mutilated body to his family a month later. While in custody, he had apparently been burned, beaten, lacerated and given electroshocks.


The family bravely put video evidence of the torture on the internet, and Hamza's martyrdom has rallied the opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's Baathist regime. But, of course, his torture didn't come out of nowhere. The regime's defining act of brutality was the Hama massacre in 1982 when then-president Hafez al-Assad had more than 10,000 Syrians murdered. The US government has designated Syria a state sponsor of terror for 30 consecutive years. The State Department's Human Rights Report has described the regime's habitual torture techniques.


Over the past several weeks, al-Assad's regime has killed more than 1,000 protesters and jailed at least 10,000 more, according to Syrian human rights groups. Human Rights Watch has described crimes against humanity in the town of Dara'a.


All governments do bad things, and Middle East dictatorships do more than most. But the Syrian government is one of the world's genuinely depraved regimes. Yet for all these years, Israel has been asked to negotiate with this regime, compromise with this regime and trust that this regime will someday occupy the heights over it in peace.

For 30 years, the Middle East peace process has been predicated on moral obtuseness, an unwillingness to face the true nature of certain governments. World leaders have tried sweet-talking Syria, calling al-Assad a friend (
Nancy Pelosi) or a reformer (Hillary Clinton). In 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy invited al-Assad to be the guest of honour at France's Bastille Day ceremonies - a ruthless jailer celebrating the storming of a jail.


For 30 years, diplomats and technocrats have flown to Damascus in the hopes of "flipping" Syria - turning it into a pro-western, civilised power. Perhaps some of them were so besotted with their messianic abilities that they thought they had the power to turn a depraved regime into a normal regime. Perhaps some of them were so wedded to the materialistic mindset that they thought a regime's essential nature could be altered with a magical mix of incentives and disincentives.


Perhaps some of them were simply morally blind. They were such pedantic technocrats, so consumed by the legalisms of the peace process, that they no longer possessed the capacity to recognise the moral nature of the regime they were dealing with, or to understand the implications of its nature. In any case, their efforts were doomed. In fact, the current peace process is doomed because of the inability to make a categorical distinction. There are some countries in the region that are not nice, but they are normal - Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia. But there are other governments that are fundamentally depraved. Either as a matter of thuggishness (Syria) or ideology (Hamas), they reject the full humanity of other human beings. They believe it is proper and right to kill innocents. They can never be part of a successful negotiation because they undermine the universal principles of morality.

It doesn't matter how great a law professor or diplomat you are. It doesn't matter how masterly you sequence the negotiations or what magical lines you draw on a map. There won't be peace so long as depraved regimes are part of the picture. That's why it's crazy to get worked into a lather about who said what about the 1967 border. As long as
Hamas and the Assad regime are in place, the peace process is going nowhere, just as it's gone nowhere for these many years.


That's why it's necessary, especially at this moment in history, to focus on the nature of regimes, not only the boundaries between them. To have a peaceful Middle East, it was necessary to get rid of Saddam's depraved regime in Iraq. It will be necessary to try to get rid of Gaddafi's depraved regime in Libya. It's necessary, as everybody but the Obama administration publicly acknowledges, to see Assad toppled. It will be necessary to marginalise Hamas. It was necessary to abandon the engagement strategy that Barack Obama campaigned on and embrace the cautious regime-change strategy that is his current doctrine.


The machinations of the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are immaterial. The Arab reform process is the peace process. - NYTNS

 

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

 

 


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

HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

STEPPING OUT OF TERRA INCOGNITA

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has launched a new land acquisition plan that attempts to extricate the process from the depressingly predictable politics surrounding industrial, urban and infrastructure projects in India. The announcement of plans by any state government to acquire land to build a new factory, township or highway immediately energises an opposition seeking to score political points through accusations of crony capitalism and sweetheart deals.

That most of these charges eventually stick says a lot about the Indian way of doing business. But a more sinister game is afoot. The affected people, mainly those who will be displaced, are sold the idea that they are being shortchanged by a state bent on acquiring land cheap for capitalist fat cats. This sparks a chain of agitation, often violent as the government wheels out its law enforcing apparatus. Ms Mayawati has drawn the right lessons from the Taj Expressway.

If this template has been with us for a while now, so has the solution. The most trenchant opposition devolves on the perception that those displaced are being paid for the resources they hand over at today's market rates while profits are made on rates that obtain after a project is fully developed. This is readily addressed by breaking the compensation in two parts: an outright purchase and stock options in the company setting up the project. The idea of making the dispossessed stakeholders is ages old; it is a matter of actualising it. India Inc has learnt to live with job reservation for locals and it isn't difficult to work out a quota for shareholding. Equity, being skill- and technology-neutral, is a more transparent currency for transfer of resources from one section of society to another. The alternative to symbiotic growth with the dispossessed is prohibitively high land costs that could stifle industrialisation.

The pace of infrastructure development will have to double for India to be able to house half its people in cities in a couple of decades. The State doesn't have the money to do this on its own.

Private partners will have to be sought. The government's stake in such projects is increasingly the land that private capital finds logistically and financially difficult to acquire. The recent experience with special economic zones has laid out a few guiding principles for land acquisition by official agencies. State governments would do well to heed them, as Ms Mayawati has done. Litigation resulting from cutting corners could slow them in the race for development. With tax arbitrage and energy subsidies no longer viable options in the competitive provincial market for big-ticket investments, states have to fall back on the one asset they can offer cheap to industry: land.

On its part, the Centre would not be remiss in nudging regional satraps into a viable growth matrix that doesn't involve beggaring their neighbours.

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


HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE NEW BABALOG

AMRIT DHILLON,

It's a mystery how Baba Ramdev claims the status of a spiritual leader. His credentials for leading a movement against corruption rest entirely on his yoga. By this logic, my neighbourhood pilates expert could make the same claim.

Equally mysterious is how yoga has become synonymous with spirituality, as though merely doing some asanas makes you a better human being. I'd always thought it was just a way of staying fit and healthy but, judging by the claims being made by Ramdev and people such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, it can increase a country's GDP, solve the Palestinian problem and cure cancer.

Ramdev's website says yoga can cure epilepsy, heart disease, muscular dystrophy, asthma, obesity, Parkinson's, eye diseases, arthritis, piles, hepatitis, leukoderma, kidney problems, bronchitis, cysts, sexual disorders and memory loss in the elderly. One yoga site I stumbled upon claims that hair will start sprouting from a shiny pate if the person twiddles and rubs his fingers in a certain way.

The claims are batty and preposterous but there is no stopping their inexorable march across the world, conquering nations and winning over celebrities. Hollywood actress Uma Thurman surprised fellow-passengers recently by performing yoga in the aisle on a flight, so compelling and imperious was the urge.

I cannot abide the odour of sanctity around yoga. I am sickened by the piety and puffed up smugness that surrounds it, as though doing yoga makes you a superior, more morally refined person, and can bestow moral authority on Ramdev. Maybe the meditative, reflective mood that yoga can induce in a person can raise you to

a higher level of consciousness and generate profound thoughts on the human condition, but generally it just leads to a crick in the neck. If you listen to the trite, shallow utterances of Shankar and Ramdev, it is clear that doing yoga has failed to enhance their spirituality or intellectual depth.

Besides someone like the Dalai Lama, whose most casual, throwaway comments are worth pondering over, they are pygmies. If yogis are so capable of spiritual insight, why can't we name even one whose wise observations have come down to us through the ages?

I shudder to think of the gullible and desperate cancer victims who trek to Ramdev's ashram in Haridwar. My 87-year-old father and the sanest of men was swayed by an imbecilic neighbour into making a long, exhausting journey by train, car and bus to the ashram three years ago in quest of a cure for his beloved son in Britain who was dying of oesophageal cancer.

He took the British doctor's report on his son's condition with him. I had read it a week earlier and almost fainted. The cancer was advanced and metastatic. A stent had been inserted inside his windpipe because he could not swallow. His doctor gave him only a few months to live. At the ashram, a collection of quacks told my weary and frightened father that they could cure his son and told him to arrange for him to be flown to Haridwar forthwith. Later, my father's reasoning faculties re-surfaced and he realised he was being silly.

Had those clowns had a heart, instead of the bumptious arrogance that characterises yoga's more ardent followers, they would have given my father a cup of tea, a few words of sympathy and urged him to brace himself for the anguish that lay ahead rather than pumping him up with false hope.

But to do that, they would have needed humility. Where is the humility of Shankar who has anointed himself as 'His Holiness'? Where is the humility of Ramdev who craves the limelight?

Yoga is fine as it goes — a form of exercise and meditation — but no further. It is not a divine dispensation. And no amount of breathing or pretzel poses is likely to add to the sum of knowledge that the world's religions and great thinkers have bestowed on us. So, let's take a deep breath (through the right nostril) and treat it with a bit of levity.

Amrit Dhillon is a New Delhi-based writer

The views expressed by the author are personal

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

 


HINDUSTAN TIMES

DON'T BE MISTAKEN ABOUT MAKING MISTAKES

PRATIK KANJILAL ,

What is the truth value of genuine human error? The logical portmanteau term could signify something that is mainly genuine, mainly human or mainly wrong. This conundrum has been on my mind ever since the home minister deployed it, along with his genuine human smile, to gloss over our second serious boo-boo in the 26/11 dialogue with Pakistan.

Since we all have attention deficit disorder these days, here's a quick recap. First, the home ministry had mixed up the DNA samples of Ajmal Kasab which were sent to Pakistan. P Chidambaram dismissed it as a clerical error.

Now, the ministry has sent Pakistan a list of most-wanted terrorists, two of whom are actually not sought after, having been apprehended in India. About the same time, a team of sleuths airdashed to Copenhagen to collar Kim Davy, wanted in the Purulia arms drop case. Unfortunately, they were armed with a dud warrant.

Clerical error was easy to understand and forgive. Clerks are infamously good at creating error. I bet that even Hammurabi's code contained clerical errors, causing generations of ancient criminals to lose their heads instead of their pinkies, and so on. Clerical error is plain bad.

But genuine human error, which causes us to seek men who are already found, sounds positively wholesome. The virtues of genuineness and humanity have ganged up to diminish the shame of error. Roll your own harmless variations, right off your tongue: Genuine human foreign policy. Genuine human civil engineering. Genuine human gadbad ice cream. Feels good, doesn't it, now that the phrase is completely error-free?

But with error in the mix, it's a double-edged phrase. Its truth value depends on who's using it and for what. Consider this simple hypothetical sentence: 'A home minister stepped in the way of a trader's SUV and was run over.' In this imaginary situation, the victim is no longer available for comment. But from the trader's point of view, this is not genuine human error. It's a big mistake.

Long, long ago, when India was unbranded by Tata Sons and Infosys, when the world still regarded it as a nation of struggling artisans and artistes, the ministry of culture committed a genuine human error. They sent a Tamil fiction writer and a playwright from the Northeast to the Festival of India. This was genuine and human. But the fiction writer was billed as a poet and the playwright as a fiction writer. This was an error.

Let's name no names. It was a long time ago and it's vulgar to embarrass the dramatis personae all over again. The Tamil fiction writer meekly protested that he had no poetry. "Write some!" barked a babu. "You're a writer, dammit!" So the Tamil writer read his latest work to the august gathering. "Paa-po, raa-naa…" he went.

He couldn't sleep that night. He woke up his roommate, the playwright in the guise of a writer. "I have sinned today and I need to confess," he said. "So many famous people were in the audience, and they thought they were listening to sublime poetry from India. But what I read was the alphabet of my language."

The playwright sprang out of bed. "You, too!" he whispered.

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine

pratik@littlemag.com

The views expressed by the author are personal

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


HINDUSTAN TIMES

DO NOT GO GENTLE

GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI,

India is old, getting older. That is a geographical reality. Its sons and daughters are young, getting younger. This is a demographic fact. And so, many of those reading this column were not yet born when, on June 4, 1957, Martin Luther King spoke at the University of California, Berkeley, on what he called 'The Power of Non-Violence'.

That subject, whether as a caption or theme, would put an Indian audience or readership to sleep. For too many have theorised on it, written on it with little or no impact on the multiple forms of violence within and around us. 'Non violence' has been turned into a cliché and 'The Relevance of Gandhi' beaten into a dhun, a chant. In King's volcanic imagination 'The Power of Non-Violence' boomed.

It holstered the pistol awhile. Not because the then 28-year-old man had a voice that could be heard against the Niagara, but because he had a message that could turn the idea-equivalent of those Falls on their head, counter the gravity of conditioned thinking, reverse the voltages of hatred and vengeance into a torrent of contrary energy. That speech, a precursor of others, hurtled into the minds and hearts of a people who had heard nothing like it before. In sound or sense. "The end of violence."

King said to his Berkeley listeners, "...is bitterness." And as his listeners waited for a follow-on, he said "The aftermath of non-violence is reconciliation." But as with his Indian pathfinder, and with one like Jayaprakash Narayan, King's reconciliation was tough as nails. It did not come to adjustments, but achievements. The most potent part of that speech, of which today marks an anniversary, followed.

It bears reproduction in extenso: "Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word. It is the word 'maladjusted'. Now we all should seek to live a well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism. I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things."

"I call upon you to be as maladjusted as Amos who in the midst of the injustices of his day cried out in words that echo across the generation, 'Let judgement run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.' As maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln who had the vision to see that this nation could not exist half slave and half free. As maladjusted as Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery could cry out, 'All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' As maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth who dreamed a dream of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.

God grant that we will be so maladjusted that we will be able to go out and change our world and our civilisation. And then we will be able to move from the bleak and desolate midnight of man's inhumanity to man to the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice."

What should we maladjust to? At once so old and so young, so wise and so unwise, so far-sighted and so myopic, so caring and so callous, so well led and so well befooled, what should we, India's citizens, maladjust to? We should maladjust, first, to the games of the market-place. Not to its laws, said to be immutable, but to its tricks. We should maladjust to its artifice, its deception, its cunning, its contrivance. To that in it which creates a hunger for the very thing it then pronounces scarce, christens dear. We should maladjust to the moving teeth that tear through our land, scooping its soils, lifting its ores, parching its tanks, tumbling its trees. We should maladjust, with the most visible and voluble asymmetry, to the soil-borer that disembowels our ores, without title, without restraint, without let, without hindrance.

We should maladjust to him who then tells the dazed woman her pond of fish, her patch of greens, her home and hearth stood on India's future Lake District, India's own Geneva. We should maladjust to him that tells the crazed man whose skills lie useless now, with his hoe, spade, plough and  rake, that he was standing between India and India's progress, between India and India's coal, India's steel, India's swift roads to its great tourist hot-spots, its  glory, its dream. We should maladjust to that scene-changer posing as a chapter-turner. We should maladjust, next, to the theatrics of the public square.

Not to the Spirit of Democracy, our lifeline, but to its coarsening. We should maladjust to the politics that promises at dawn and dissembles at dusk, the politics that betrays trust, sells and encashes it. We should maladjust to the politics that traces fault-lines on our ancient earth to sow fears amid its shards and hates along its crannies. We should maladjust to the politics of the cussed, the craven and the corrupt — equally. We should maladjust to the power of illicit money, illegal arms and political force majeure. We should maladjust with the violent, be they in thick hiding or thin disguise.

These monsters shrivel before maladjustment. We should maladjust, too, to the mountebank who poses as a messiah for faking is evil, be it in 'dote' or antidote. We should maladjust, above all, to those behemoths of development that abuse our physical environment, without realising that there are limits, sheer physical limits, beyond which our land and our rivers, our forests and our coasts cannot be pummeled without revolting.

We should maladjust to that dangerous unconcern, as our glaciers are melting away. Not to disappear but to re-visit us as the drought we did not avert, the flood we did not foresee, the forest fire we could not control. And flowing from that the hunger we could not appease, the thirst that would not be quenched and the blights that took our land so old and our people so young. There is in all these maladjustings the power of non-violence, its courage and its commonsense, without the sanctimony we have stuck on that phrase.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor.

The views expressed by the author are personal

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IN THE PRESENT TENSE

 

The government's decision to move to a new index of industrial production (IIP) is welcome. Macroeconomic policy-making requires information about the behaviour of the economy. This requires good data. This is particularly true for monetary policy which is often expected to be used to finetune the economy. When there are signs of the economy growing too fast, or overheating, monetary policy is expected to address the issue. Good data is also essential for businesses making plans whichinvolve estimates of growth of demand and production in the economy.

The current index is based on the industrial production basket of the Indian economy in 1993-94. It includes goods no longer in production such as typewriters, black and white televisions, loud speakers and VCRs. It excludes items like mobile phones and laptops. The weights given to items in the basket of goods produced, based on the 1993-94 GDP production data, are outdated. The coverage of the current index is also inadequate. These problems have made the series highly volatile. Month-to-month variations are sometimes impossibly large. A recent example has been a 100 per cent increase in the production of capital goods, which is almost impossible to achieve by many of the factories which were already seen to be operating at full capacity. The reason was found to be insulated rubber tubes whose production was reported to have jumped sharply. Such behaviour posed a dilemma for policy-

makers. Should they have responded to sharp increases or declines in industrial output? Or, should they have ignored them as merely data problems?

The new index seeks to correct these problems. It will have a more recent base year and will use the 2004-05 production basket for assigning weights. It will also improve both geographical and product coverage. The move to a new series, with the CSO also promising to provide historical data based on the new index, will be useful to properly analyse trends and cyclical behaviour in the economy. Hopefully, the new series will show less volatility, which will be one sign of the health of the index and improved data collection methods. The new index is timely as the economy, especially investment, is seen to be slowing down. The current 1993-94 index appeared to be most outdated for production in the capital goods industry, which is a proxy for investment activity in the economy.

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

STRETCHING THAT LOGIC

 

What were they thinking? St Agnes school in Kottayam, Kerala, recently made the prize blunder of tagging its students by caste — their identity cards listed this information along with the usual categories of name, class, parent's name, etc. While angry groups picketed the school and the state government ordered an inquiry, this episode only points to the increasing currency of caste, as something that can be acknowledged and instrumentally wielded, after generations of ambivalence about the category. Of deep concern is the lack of nuance so that affirmative action can be better targeted without reinforcing the hierarchies or identities of caste.

Even as caste was declining as a social force, it was reinstated as a political force. Post-Mandal Commission, electoral mobilisation and social policy have been channelled through caste. Kerala has seen the worst forms of untouchability, as well as some of the most intense, sustained social movements against caste. Despite the strong Marxist impress on the state, even the recent assembly election testified to the way the state is segmented along community and caste lines, and how these factors play into the choosing of candidates and constituencies, and voting decisions (it has been persuasively argued that the LDF did especially well this time among upper-caste Hindus because the UDF was seen as minority-pandering). We will now have a caste census that further entrenches the category, and give it further legal-administrative sanction. Caste is what is called a "polysemic category" — it changes through marriage and migration, and people respond differently depending on whether they are being socially placed or making a bid for affirmative action. However, it is being increasingly treated as a fixed fact. So in that sense, St Agnes school is only a clear example of that creeping caste-consciousness.

However, there's something particularly galling about a school pinning these markers on young children, herding them by these odious categories. Even if they required this information, as many schools do, to target scholarships and assistance, making it public and visible to everyone on their identity cards was a crass, thoughtless decision, one that revealed the dangers of reifying caste.

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TRULY A GIANT

 

Shaquille O'Neal, after an extraordinary 19 years, must surely inhabit the pantheon of basketball greats. The American National Basketball Association (NBA) has produced many legendary figures in its 55 years: Michael Jordan and Kareem

Abdul-Jabbar, to name just two. O'Neal, the giant of basketball, both literally (at 7 ft, 1 inch) and metaphorically, is likely to go down with them. After 28,596 points, Shaq, as he is affectionately known, has announced his retirement from professional basketball. And he did it, curiously, in a video on a social media website. "Nineteen years, baby. I want to thank you very much, that's why I'm telling you first, I'm about to retire."

That his retirement overshadowed the NBA Finals is no surprise, O'Neal having grabbed the imagination of basketball fans around the world. He stands out as much for his four championships and three NBA Finals Most Valuable Player as he does for his characteristic wink and smile. Indeed, even his off-court actions are memorable. Despite the downside of his childishness, reflected in his jealous feud with Kobe Bryant that contracted his time at the Lakers and which limited the heights he could have reached, O'Neal's determination to be independent added vitality to basketball. He would irrepressibly, irreverently say, "Just call me IDGAF (I don't give a ****)", and experiment in rap — O'Neal was a breath of fresh air, pulling down the ivory towers of professional sports.

As he is due to be inducted into NBA's Hall of Fame, Shaq's closing message in his retirement video — "Talk to you soon" — is probably about right. This is unlikely to be the last we see of this legend.

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

 


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE GREAT INDIAN HIJACK

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

The way UPA 2 has lost authority, or what is better described in a wonderful Urdu word that defies fair translation, iqbal, makes you wonder how the same leadership had been able to throw off the yoke of the Left and returned to power with even greater numbers. On its second anniversary now, UPA 2 looks more irreparably damaged than Rajiv Gandhi's government was in its third. In a most incredible and frightening first in India's constitutional history, an elected government has been hijacked by intellectual charlatans, former babu busybodies, has-beens and wannabes, even some assorted nutcases and loonies. Its ministers issue a panicky, precedent-setting notification to placate a man in white and cede Parliament's right to law-making in a surrender worse than the Treaty of Versailles. A month later the same ministers go crawling to the airport to prostrate themselves before a man in saffron, setting up directorates and committees to bring back the "four hundred lakh crore" of Indian black money from overseas. Just how ludicrous that figure is can be seen even by a class five child, once you remember that India's current GDP is just Rs 59 lakh crore. But nobody is to question any of this. Or the fact that the same "wizard" in saffron promises that if his prescription is followed, all black money will return and the exchange rate will be fifty dollars to a rupee. That is, nearly a 2500 times increase. You can snigger, smirk, turn your face and laugh. But what is the point, because you ultimately surrender? Just as you had done when threatened by another maverick in white who believes drunks should be caned, and all voters are corrupt, and Narendra Modi personifies good governance.

You can choose who you want to surrender to and how in the belief that it buys you a reprieve for now, and that you can live to fight another day. But that is a vain, wishful fantasy of the politically vanquished. Which is exactly how this government has been looking. Surely we have seen past governments losing authority faster than this. Morarji's Janata in its very first year (with Charan Singh's and the RSS's growing impatience) and Narasimha Rao's in its second, with the Babri demolition. But never in India's history has a government with a genuine majority and a strong political core surrendered the state's sovereign constitutional authority and responsibility as this one has. What is even more dangerous, they have ceded this to just about five characters in fancy dress, in shades of white to saffron, representing Left, Right and the Centre. They all claim to have no political ambition, all love "democracy", but just want to change the "system". On whose mandate, nobody dares to ask, least of all the UPA, minus of course poor Digvijaya Singh, fighting a lonely battle in a lost cause, a forlorn, modern-day Jhansi ki Rani. These new "mass" leaders in fancy dress fight and compete bitterly amongst themselves, but have unanimity only on one thing: they must not first prove their popularity at any election. Elections, even in the world's largest democracy, are only for us mortals. Are you suggesting that corrupt monstrosity for the divine? And, hello, did Mahatma Gandhi ever fight an election?

So what do we have for our new leadership now? A new pantheon consisting of a self-styled Mahatma Gandhi, a Vivekananda, a Sri Aurobindo and, well, if our society ever produced another neo-Maoist who draped himself in saffron, please remind me. Otherwise, we might just have one original here. And a government which won such an impressive mandate just two years ago, a coalition that can still sweep elections in so many states, has handed over the baton to them. Even God cannot save a country where such powers of blackmail have been ceded to sundry godmen. And when we have a ruling party behaving like the Indian army in retreat in 1962.

Time has also come now to junk all pretences and face the truth. The original blunder of outsourcing law-making and governance is the UPA's or, more precisely, the Congress party's. It invented a totally subversive and extra-constitutional idea of the NAC consisting of "civil society" activists and functioning as a super cabinet. Just like the Anna Hazare group, this consists of people never elected, and incapable of ever being elected. All we do not know is if Sonia's civil society dudes are also as contemptuous of elections as Anna's. But the principle was no different. You need men and women of integrity from "outside" the system, not "tainted" by politics (which is necessarily dirty), to keep an eye on a government of wretched politicians, even if led by an honest man. You need the NAC to make sure power does not go even to his head, and also to keep him off-balance by attacking his government and policies, and continuing to throw one idiotic law after another in his court. Why blame Anna Hazare when it is the Congress party itself that outsourced law-making to its darbari jholawallahs? This is not a team of modern-day Ambedkars, but mostly of IAS drop-outs and retirees who approach law-making with the "wisdom" of sincere undergrads. You have any doubts, take a look at the draft of the incredibly stupid Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011 (www.nac.nic.in/pdf/pctvb_amended.pdf). A Modi or Togadia can see in a minute the wonderful opportunity it presents them. It is totally violative of the states' rights, is subversive of the Constitution, and will never pass parliamentary or judicial scrutiny. But it will polarise people on a communal basis just when they seem to be getting over that sad past. This bill will not pass. But if the UPA continues to push it, it is guaranteed to polarise the Hindu vote and give the BJP a shot at power that any appeals to Ram Lalla cannot in 2014. This could indeed become Sonia Gandhi's Shah Bano moment.

Laws apart, the idea of putting a non-governmental watch over your own government undermines the very idea of elected, constitutional democracy and the cue is being taken everywhere. By new Anna Hazares and Ramdevs, and by Congressmen all over the country. Surrender in fright is more infectious than chicken flu and the first to display fatal symptoms is Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. Petrified of a fasting Medha Patkar, just last week he set up a committee to inquire into an established slum rehabilitation project and included some senior-most Medha activists in the committee. Sheila Dikshit, one of the two re-electable Congress chief ministers in the country (Gogoi being the other), is also under assault from jholawallahs on her brave cash transfer scheme in lieu of PDS. Outsourcing governance to activists is an idea not many Congressmen are willing to resist. Let us see how long Dikshit can hold out.

You can choose to delude yourself, but that won't change the fact that UPA 2 is now going rapidly downhill. By undermining its own government, the Congress has exposed its flanks, front and behind, in the hope that its darbari, establishment activists will fill that space. But this vacuum is far too big for them to fill, so the rest are trooping in too. The logic is simple: if your chosen activists can draft key laws without getting elected or any accountability, why can't we? And so what if our leaders are five notables in fancy dress.

Sonia's options are now clear. If she doesn't like her government, it can change its leadership. Or she can dissolve her government and seek a fresh mandate. But if her objective is to win power again in 2014, she cannot carry on with a diminished, polarised, paralysed and demoralised government for three more years. She should, therefore, either dismantle the NAC or expand it into a much larger, purely advisory, think-tank-ish body, like the National Integration Council or the National

Security Advisory Board. Otherwise, just as NGOs moved into her government space through a silent coup, the BJP will move into her political space. She hasn't got until 2014 to decide. Because if her government continues to go downhill, she would do well to remember an Abu Abraham cartoon in this newspaper during the Emergency: the rearview mirror in Indira Gandhi's car, showing the word "elections" with the warning: "Objects in this mirror are closer than they seem." Put simply, if the drift continues, 2014 could arrive in 2012.

Similarly, the prime minister has to choose from limited, but simple, options as well. He can take a leaf out of Vajpayee's book. Faced with relentless attacks from the RSS, Vajpayee made it clear that he would have no more of it, and tested the belief that they needed him more than he needed them. He was able to save his government, his own beliefs and principles. Now the prime minister has to step out of the trenches and underline the fact that a country like India can never survive with a weakened prime minister. Most likely, he will have his way. But if he doesn't, it may be time for him to think of doing what he may have so far thought unthinkable.

sg@expressindia.com

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A BOOK FOR MR NAIPAUL

MINI KAPOOR

 

Reading lists are being churned out for V.S. Naipaul. In the sort of flaky commentary that is now his staple, he said this week that he could think of no woman writer he'd consider his literary match. It prompted outrage of an order that is mystifying, with critics parading their better selves by rustling up names of women writers among the greats.

So the great man, once master of the perfect sentence, is being sought to be persuaded, reformed even, by a reading list. Even his former editor, the now legendary Diana Athill, with whom he had a churlish falling out when she dared suggest that a book of his was not up to his own high standards, has chosen to sidestep the withering remarks he appended on her writing ("all this feminine tosh"). "I don't mean this in any unkind way," he clarified, allowing us to imagine the entire episode as yet another familiar Naipaulian eruption. One only needs to consider the works of Jane Austen or George Eliot, said Athill, before adding none too kindly: "He has been asked what he genuinely feels and what he feels seems to me to be foolishness."

Naipaul's remarks, of course, were couched in a larger disregard for women. He could have, remember, said he considered no other writer his equal, and gotten away with it. But, as the comments reported in The Guardian suggest, this was about gender: "I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know if it is by a woman or not. I think (it is) unequal to me." And then, the revealing line about women's "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world": "And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too." In translation: it's not that a woman has not proved herself his equal, she cannot.

While it betrays a rather limited view of the novel's purpose, perhaps that line can be a take-off point for a more muted, yet pervasive look at how women are regarded as writers, readers, critics. But don't waste your breath on Naipaul. Because, you know what, what he'd call writing "by a woman" — and what most of us would call writing that happens to be by a woman — has already dealt with his comments.

In her last novel, Unless (2002), Carol Shields used an actual incident to convey the hurt inflicted by such a comment on a random listener. Reta Winters, the narrator, is trying to come to terms with her eldest daughter abandoning university and all else to sit in silence on a Toronto street corner, with the word "goodness" strung around her neck, and subsist on what may be left at her feet. She projects her impatience at what Shields calls "the casual disregard of women" onto her daughter, matching the teenager's "project of self-extinction" with her own rage.

She finds evidence of such disregard in the crevices of an average day, in magazine articles, book reviews, advertisements. And she shoots off letters to those who betray disregard but just will not look squarely at what this disregard does to the ecosystem. She repeatedly berates them for excluding women from their lists of great writers. She sees each of their generalisations to be somehow related to her daughter's exile, and she lets them know. Later, Shields would explain the pause it gave her when the critic George Steiner said he did not believe there were any important women writers of the 20th century. (She had asked the question.)

We are now well into the 21st century. Let's not bother with Naipaul. His comments have already been dealt with in a most extraordinary novel by a woman.

mini.kapoor@expressindia.com

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE INJUSTICE OF OUR ANTI-POOR SCHEMES

SURJIT S BHALLA

 

The expansion of poverty programmes in India has been spearheaded by Sonia Gandhi and her National Advisory Council (NAC). She cannot ignore the fact that by expanding old-fashioned anti-poverty schemes, she is also increasing old-fashioned "in the name of the poor" corruption. As old-fashioned as Indira Gandhi's trump card of Garibi Hatao in 1971. This is 2011 — does Gandhi really believe that nothing has changed in India in 40 years? Are we that poor, that backward, and that incompetent?

Why is the discussion on the politically charged, and politically correct, subject of poverty almost always one-sided? The ayatollahs of poverty policy believe they cannot possibly do anything wrong because, after all, they are designing policies for the poor. When large leakages in poverty programmes are documented (ironically, first asserted by Rajiv Gandhi in 1985), the refrain is: why are you so worried about leakage to the poor when there are leakages to major corporations — and scams against the poor?

If the telecom ministry can be corrupt, why not the ministry of rural development? Why do we cringe at the mere discussion that the ministry of consumer affairs (in charge of food distribution to the poor), may harbour corrupt practices? Do we really believe that the government of India has a special screening device whereby only honest people are recruited for programmes dealing with the poor? Do we really believe that political parties that talk the most about poverty removal, like the Congress, are the least corrupt? Just because the Congress talks about, and introduces one in-the-name-of-the-poor act after another (like the Right to Food Act), does it make it less corrupt? Or does it absolve it of its corruption in non-poor related areas? Is that why the politically correct NAC was formed — to deflect, and redeem, the acts done by non-NAC members of the Congress party?

In my previous article, I had documented examples of lies on poverty masquerading as informed analysis. I want to add to that list. In a document entitled "The right to food in India", Biraj Patnaik, principal advisor to the Supreme Court Commissioners on the Right to Food Act, presents some carefully selected data. A graph (slide 20) entitled "Net availability of foodgrains per capita per day in gms" presents data which ends in 2001; this graph shows a low level of foodgrains consumption in that year — 416 grams per person per day. The report was written in 2007 and almost all the data presented in the report ends in 2006. The author could have noted, but did not, that in 2002 foodgrain consumption shot back to a close-to-historical high of 494 grams, and that average consumption during the five years 2002-2006 of 453 grams was close to the historical average since 1951!

Since Patnaik is a major adviser to the Supreme Court, his views on who is poor and what constitutes poverty are particularly important. A minimum consumption level of Rs 15 (rural) and Rs 20 (urban) per person per day is too low; this is a "a starvation line, not a poverty line." Incidentally, in a plea for informed analysis, especially when present day consumption is compared to this poverty definition, the media should note that the official poverty line is in 2004-05 prices; today, in 2011, that same poverty line translates into a line approximating Rs 28 for the average poor (Rs 26 in rural and Rs 33 in urban India).

And who does the Supreme

Court adviser consider to be the poor? Well, a telephone booth owner could be poor, as well as a person owning a two-wheeler.

Is there an objective method of measuring poverty? Traditionally, in India (and the rest of the world), the poor are classified as such according to their survey income or consumption. The major source of such data, the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), has tragically declined in its efficiency. The survey is still processed with unpardonable delays, and the primary information — what is a family's total consumption — is way off the actual. One indication of how much way off is provided by the fact that the NSSO's estimate of average consumption in 2009-10 was only about 43 per cent of the consumption indicated by the national accounts.

Household surveys around the world generally capture less of national accounts consumption so the fact that the NSSO estimate is less than a 100 per cent is just another dog bites man story. What is truly a man bites dog (or NSSO bites dust) story is the low, low, estimate of 43 per cent. To put in perspective, among all consumer surveys done by mankind since 1950, the India NSSO 2009-10 "performance" is among the five worst.

If the NSSO 2009-10 estimate of consumption were higher and more reasonable and more in line with comparable surveys in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, measured average consumption would be closer to 80 per cent of the national accounts estimate, rather than 40 per cent — and poverty levels half that "documented" by the NSSO (Supreme Court please note). Is the Indian policymaker, and especially those belonging to the huge (and hugely corrupt?) poverty industry, ready to accept that poverty in India is approximately half that stated by the government?

Related to the level of poverty is an equally important policy variable — the amount of expenditure needed to remove poverty. Notwithstanding this importance (tax money is freely available for noble causes), the discussion on poverty removal in India never addresses the minimum expenditure needed to remove poverty. The average poor today need about 16 per cent extra income to become non-poor, that is, go above the poverty line of Rs 28 per day. In today's prices, that is an extra Rs 4.5 per person per day. If there are 25 per cent poor in India in 2011-12, then the cost of removing poverty in the entire population — Rs 49,000 crore. With an estimate of 20 per cent poor (200 million), the cost goes down to Rs 39,000 crore.

No one claims, or should claim, that perfect targeting is possible; though everyone should believe that with today's technology, anything more than 20 per cent "leakage" is pure poverty corruption. Given that we are spending Rs 130,000 crore in 2011/12 on just food and NREGA poverty programmes, it is likely that poverty corruption is annually more than the once-in-decades 2G scam, and annually more than double the amount actually needed to remove absolute poverty.

The writer is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHY THE ISI IS LYING

HAMEED HAROON

 

It has come to my notice that a spokesman of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) while speaking to the official national news agency in Islamabad yesterday has questioned the "baseless allegations" levelled by Human Rights Watch on the basis of an email from Saleem Shahzad, the bureau chief of the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, in their possession. Shahzad was murdered three days ago near Islamabad after being abducted by unknown persons.

I wish to state on record that the email in the possession of Mr Ali Dayan, the monitor for Human Rights Watch (HRW) stationed in, Lahore Pakistan, is indeed one of the three identical emails sent by Mr Shahzad to HRW, his employers (Asia Times Online) and to his former employer, myself. I also wish to verify that allegations levied by HRW at the ISI are essentially in complete consonance with the contents of the slain journalist's email.

In their denial issued Wednesday, an anonymous spokesman from the ISI has questioned the "baseless allegation" levelled against ISI by Mr Dayan of HRW. I wish to state on the record for the information of the officers involved in investigating journalist Saleem Shahzad's gruesome murder that the late journalist confided to me and several others that he had received death threats from various officers of the ISI on at least three occasions in the past five years. Whatever the substance of these allegations, they form an integral part of Mr Shahzad's last testimony. Mr Shahzad's purpose in transmitting this information to three concerned colleagues in the media was not to defame the ISI but to avert a possible fulfillment of what he clearly perceived to be a death threat. The last threat which I refer to was recorded by Mr Shahzad by email with me, tersely phrased as "for the record", at precisely 4:11am on October 18, 2010, wherein he recounted the details of his meetings at the ISI headquarters in Islamabad between the director general-media wing (ISI), Rear-Admiral Adnan Nazir, with the deputy director general of the media wing, Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, also being present.

The ostensible agenda for this meeting was the subject of Mr Shahzads's story in Asia Times Online with respect to the Pakistan government freeing of senior Afghan Taliban commander, Mullah Baraadar. Mr Shahzad informed the senior officials that the story was leaked by an intelligence channel in Pakistan, and confirmed thereafter by the "most credible Taliban source". The senior officials present suggested to Mr Shahzad that he officially deny the story, which he refused to do, terming the official's demand as "impractical".

The senior intelligence official was "curious" to identify the source of Mr Shahzad's story claiming it to be a "shame" that such a leak should occur from the offices of a high profile intelligence service. Mr Shahzad additionally stated that the rear-admiral offered him some information, ostensibly "as a favour " in the following words: "We have recently arrested a terrorist and have recovered a lot of data, diaries and other materials during the interrogation. The terrorist had a hit list with him. If I find your name on the list I will certainly let you know." Mr Shahzad subsequently confirmed to me in a conversation that he not only interpreted this conversation as a veiled threat to his person, he also informed me that he let an official from the ISI know soon thereafter that he intended to share the content of this threat with his colleagues.

As president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and as head of Pakistan's leading media group, I consider the security of journalists to be of paramount importance. At present the APNS has officially committed itself to the creation of a national body for the investigations of serious threats to the lives of journalists, a body which the Committee to Protect the Journalists in New York, and other leading organisations in the Pakistani press and human rights bodies have promised to lend vigorous support to. Pakistan has one of the highest rates in the world for journalists' killings and such an environment is inimical to the functioning of democracy. The government and the intelligence agencies should take the investigation into Mr Shahzad's murder seriously and examine his last testimony closely.

Whether the October 18 incident itself or his last article in the Asia Times Online that alleged al-Qaeda penetration of the security curtain for the Pakistani naval establishment in Karachi hastened his murder is for the official investigation to uncover. And nobody, not even the ISI, should be above the law.

The writer is president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Karachi

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

AS HERITAGE FALLS APART IN AFGHANISTAN

 

Within a 40-minute drive of this city stands the 11th-century Bost Arch. A former gateway to Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, the arch is today a national historic site; it even appears on the 100-afghani note. The arch withstood centuries of invasions, but today it's a crumbling mess of inept supports and clumsy renovations.

Helmand has been the setting of some of the fiercest fighting in the Afghan war, yet strangely, damage to monuments like the Bost Arch has increased even as the security situation has improved. The problem is they have gone neglected by the local and national governments, falling prey to squatters, treasure hunters and time. Unless the US provides money and pressure to protect these national treasures, they will soon disappear.

Protecting Afghanistan's heritage sites was never a reason for occupying Afghanistan, but it was always a subtext. After all, the biggest story coming out of the country in the months before 9/11 was the Taliban's destruction of the Bamian Buddhas, enormous sixth-century statues built into a cliff. For those concerned about the fate of the country's trove of historic sites, the overthrow of the Taliban and the establishment of a democratic government seemed to promise salvation.

Instead, in many places the opposite has occurred. A half-mile from the Bost Arch stand three enormous medieval palaces, the winter residences of the Ghaznavid kings from 976 onward. Now squatters have built crude mud-brick walls within the ancient buildings. A policeman's family moved in to the most ancient, central palace when their home in Garmsir was destroyed by a bomb. In 1972, when the writer Nancy Hatch Dupree described the central palace in her tourist guide, visitors could explore its second floor; now most of that floor has collapsed.

Between the palaces and the arch stands a magnificent 12th-century octagonal Islamic shrine, the Ziarat-i-Shahzada Husein; even though Afghans continue to pray there, it is decrepit and has no roof.

These aren't obscure sites: the French Archeological Delegation in Afghanistan excavated the palaces in the late 1940s, and has been pushing the Afghan government to request they be designated a Unesco World Heritage Site.

What explains such neglect? It's not a lack of resources. Lashkar Gah is set to be one of the first provincial capitals handed over to full Afghan control next month, and the US has been pouring money into the province. Helmand's governor has received $10 million in development funds as a reward for reducing poppy cultivation. Sadly, that money is unlikely to help preserve the heritage sites. The government seems to exist more to expand itself than to serve the people. The spanking new Government Media Centre has a staff of 11. One has the sole job of producing brochures for Helmand's largely illiterate population — approximately one every three months. Another "monitors media" in a province with no newspaper and just one local TV station.

True, protecting Afghanistan's historic sites has hardly been a top priority for the US and its allies, either. But as they begin to plan for a handover of power, it should be. For one, they could press to spend on housing for the squatters who now call the palaces home, and to provide security to ensure that vandals and plunderers don't return.

The ruins could be a source of prosperity for Helmand — before Afghanistan descended into chaos, these sites were a magnet for tourists, and with a little maintenance, they could be again.

American and British diplomats, who carry the most sway in the province, should also help the government in Kabul make the case for designating Lashkar Gah's monuments a World Heritage Site; winning designation would not only bring the country prestige, but also open the door to Unesco's own preservation resources.

The US and its allies have a long to-do list as they plan their slow withdrawal from Afghanistan. But alongside security and government reform should come cultural preservation, which costs relatively little but could result in significant long-term benefits. Otherwise, Afghanistan could experience yet another substantial cultural loss — and this time on our watch.

ANN MARLOWE is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A VOICE SILENCED

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

A voice silenced

After the death of investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, questions are again being raised about the freedom of the press in Pakistan. Shahzad was abducted from

Islamabad on Sunday and his body, which bore marks of torture, was thrown by the roadside at Sarai Alamgir, more than 200 km away. The ISI is suspected, Dawn reported on June 3: "Zohra Yusuf, head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, added to speculation that the ISI may have had a hand in the death of Shahzad... 'We don't have any conclusive evidence. But the circumstances seem to point to state security agencies because there have been other cases where journalists have been picked up,' she told Reuters. " The ISI had issued a rare denial on June 2, reported The Express Tribune: " 'It's regrettable that some sections of media have taken upon themselves to use the incident for targeting and maligning the ISI,' the statement said. Shahzad came under ISI scrutiny in 2010 when he wrote in the Asia Times Online that Pakistan had freed a detained Afghan Taliban commander'."

Pervez Musharraf P. O.

The News reported on May 31 that Pakistan's former army chief and president had finally been declared a proclaimed offender: "The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC), No-III, Rawalpindi... declared former President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf a proclaimed offender in the Benazir Bhutto murder case... The judge also ordered that an advertisement announcing that Musharraf was a proclaimed offender be published in three major newspapers..."

The arrest warrants against Musharraf could not be put into action because of the lack of an extradition treaty between Pakistan and Britain, which meant the warrants could not be delivered to him by the British government. The ATC was thus requested by the prosecution to declare Musharraf a proclaimed offender. The report further added: "The prosecutors told the court Musharraf was intentionally trying to avoid arrest, which he had admitted during a TV interview... Musharraf had said: 'I know about court trials in Pakistan, and I will not go to Pakistan or face court trial.' The prosecutors also presented a CD of the interview to the court."

retired, Hurt

Pakistan's star cricketer Shahid Afridi quit the game, in all its forms, this week. Dawn reported on May 31: "Shahid Afridi told news reporters on Monday he was retiring from all international cricket, saying he was dejected after being replaced as one-day captain following a fiery clash with coach Waqar Younis... 'I am dejected and hurt and whatever I said about the coach was in the best interest of the team.' " Afridi had retired from Test cricket after Pakistan was heavily defeated by Australia in July 2010.

PNS Mehran attack

The News reported on May 31 that a former Pakistan navy commando, Kamran Ahmed, had been arrested in the PNS Mehran case along with his brother, Zaman Ahmed and three friends for allegedly providing maps of the base to the attackers. Kamran was also picked up by the agencies after the 2008 attack on the Naval War College in Lahore.

Probing Abbottabad

An independent inquiry commission headed by a judge that was announced to probe the Abbottabad operation appears to have run into rough weather. The News reported on June 3: "One appointee refused to take part

and the political opposition criticised it." A former supreme court judge, Fakhruddin Ebrahim, who was named on the panel, opted out. He held he wasn't consulted on the inclusion of his name and the government did not follow proper procedure.

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

 

 

 


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

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LANDING A COUP


Competitive politics over land, sharpened by Rahul Gandhi's attack on the Mayawati government on the Bhatta-Parsaul land acquisition, seems to have been a good thing in retrospect. While the Congress party and the National Advisory Council (NAC) to Sonia Gandhi seem to have learnt the entirely wrong lesson from the anti-land-acquisition agitations, UP chief minister Mayawati has removed many of the problems associated with her earlier policy and its implementation. In the bargain, she seems to have trumped the NAC which, hopefully, will now learn the right lesson—the NAC recommendation is that all land be bought only by government for projects where more than 400 families are affected. Given the pace at which India is growing, it was always obvious land was going to be the big bone of contention. Increasing the share of manufacturing rising from 16% of GDP now to 25% by 2020—as the draft manufacturing policy hopes will happen—will require large tracts of land. Rising urbanisation means that by 2030, 40% of India will be urban; with 270 mn more people likely to move to cities in the next 20 years, McKinsey estimates India needs 700-900 mn square metres of new commercial and residential space, the capacity for roads will have to be raised to 20 times that built in the past decade …

Given this, it was unfortunate the political class wasn't able to come up with a suitable response. We saw the agitations in Singur and we saw the ones at Bhatta-Parsaul where the government acquired land; but we didn't see too many where private firms bought the land on their own—surely there's a lesson there? Haryana came out with a well thought out annuity model that would, apart from giving farmers a one-time capital from land sales, also protected their current incomes; Uttar Pradesh seemed to better this. Except, as we saw from the various land acquisitions that have been struck down by the courts recently, it appears Mayawati's government was still acquiring land without giving villagers a choice as to whether they wanted to sell—this was being done by abusing the public emergency clause that allows governments to acquire land. This is what Thursday's announcement has fixed. All land sales will be bilaterally negotiated between buyers and sellers; if land-losers don't want to lose out on possible appreciation, they can give their land for free but get 16% of it back after the buyer develops it—this way, land-losers have a vested interest in urban development. In addition, all land-losers will get an annuity of R23,000 per acre per year (to protect part of their current income streams) for 33 years and the amount is to be raised by R800 per year. Compensations have also been spelt out for those who lose livelihood but don't own the land, labourers for instance. A minimum of 80% of villagers have to agree to sell for any land to be sold off. It remains to be seen if the central government now learns the right lesson from Mayawati.

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


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

EQUITY FOR PENSIONERS

 

Sebi chief UK Sinha is right when he pitches for allowing pension funds to invest in equity markets. While this will provide a fillip to equity markets which have a current market cap of R67 lakh crore—the New Pension Scheme (NPS) has a corpus of R8,500 crore within just 5 years of coming into being, insurance firms R1.4 lakh crore in their pension schemes and the EPFO R1 lakh crore in its Employees Pension Scheme—the real issue is different. There are enough studies which show equity delivers better results over the long term, typically the investment horizon of pension funds. The PFRDA chief Yogesh Agarwal, it appears, is broadly on the same page as the Sebi chief and though he is sticking to his stand that a cap of 50% be put on such investment, that may not be a bad idea, at least till such time that Indians get used to the idea of investing in equity markets. Currently, just 2.6% of total financial assets are deployed in the capital market. The problem, however, is that matters are not just in the hands of either Sebi or PFRDA.

The EPFO's trustees, largely heads of trade unions, are loath to invest in equity, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. This is curious since, if salaried employees have an NPS account, they can invest up to 50% of their funds in equity—so why can't an individual with an EPS account be allowed to invest in the equity markets? Nor is it clearly why, in the NPS, the cap for investing in the market is just 15% when it comes to central and state government employees. In the case of private pension plans with insurance firms, the ceiling for investments in equity markets, set by the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority, is 60%! Since EPS contributions are mandated by the law, this ensures individuals are locked into investment patterns that they may not be comfortable with. It's high time various wings of the government started examining the issue from the point of view of those whose money it is and came up with a more equitable solution.

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

 


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

PRO-POOR JUSTICE

SURJIT S BHALLA

 

The expansion of poverty programmes in India has been spearheaded by Sonia Gandhi, and her National Advisory Council (NAC). She cannot ignore the fact that by expanding old-fashioned anti-poverty schemes, she is also increasing old-fashioned "in the name of the poor" corruption. As old-fashioned as Indira Gandhi's trump card of Garibi Hatao in 1971. This is 2011—does Ms Gandhi really believe that nothing has changed in India in 40 years? Are we that poor, that backward and that incompetent?

Why is the discussion on the politically charged, and politically correct, subject of poverty almost always one-sided? The Ayatollahs of poverty policy believe they cannot possibly do anything wrong because, after all, they are designing policies for the poor. When large leakages in poverty programmes are documented (ironically, as first asserted by Rajiv Gandhi in 1985), the refrain is: why are you so worried about leakage to the poor when there are leakages to major corporations—and scams against the poor?

If the telecom ministry can be corrupt, why not the ministry of rural development? Why do we cringe at the mere discussion that the ministry of consumer affairs (in charge of food distribution to the poor) may harbour corrupt practices? Do we really believe that the government of India has a special screening device whereby only honest people are recruited for programmes dealing with the poor? Do we really believe that political parties that talk the most about poverty removal, i.e., the Congress, are the least corrupt? Just because the Congress talks about, and introduces one "in the name of the poor" Act after another (for example, the Right to Food Act), does it make it less corrupt? Or does it absolve it of its corruption in non-poor related areas? Is that why the politically correct NAC was formed—to deflect, and redeem, the acts done by non-NAC members of the Congress party?

In my previous article, I had documented examples of lies on poverty masquerading as informed analysis. I want to add to that list. In a document entitled The Right to Food in India, Biraj Patnaik , principal advisor to the Supreme Court Commissioners on the Right to Food Act, presents some carefully selected data. A graph (slide 20) entitled "Net availability of foodgrains per capita per day in gms" presents data which ends in 2001; this graph shows a low level of foodgrains consumption in that year—416 grams per person per day. The report was written in 2007 and almost all the data presented in the report ends in 2006. The author could have noted, but did not, that in 2002 foodgrain consumption shot back to a close to historical high of 494 grams, and that average consumption during the five years 2002-2006 of 453 grams was close to the historical average since 1951!

Since Mr Patnaik is a major advisor to the Supreme Court, his views on who is poor and what constitutes poverty are particularly important. A minimum consumption level of R15 (rural) and R20 (urban) per person per day is too low; this is a "a starvation line, not a poverty line". Incidentally, in a plea for informed analysis, especially when present day consumption is compared to this poverty definition, the media should note that the official poverty line is in 2004-05 prices; today, in 2011, that same poverty line translates into a line approximating R28 for the average poor (R26 in rural and R33 in urban India).

And who does the Supreme Court advisor consider to be the poor? Well, a telephone booth owner could be poor, as well as a person owning a two-wheeler.

Is there an objective method of measuring poverty? Traditionally, in India (and the rest of the world) the poor are classified as such according to their survey income or consumption. The major source of such data, the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), has tragically declined in its efficiency. The survey is still processed with unpardonable delays, and the primary information—what is a family's total consumption—is way off the actual. One indication of how much way off is provided by the fact that the NSSO's estimate of average consumption in 2009-10 was only about 43% of the consumption indicated by the national accounts.

Household surveys around the world generally capture less of national accounts consumption so the fact that the NSSO estimate is less than a 100% is just another dog bites man story. What is truly a man bites dog (or NSSO bites dust) story is the low, low, estimate of 43%. To put in perspective, among all consumer surveys done by mankind since 1950, the India NSSO 2009-10 "performance" is among the five worst.

If the NSSO 2009-10 estimate of consumption were higher, more reasonable and more in line with comparable surveys in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, measured average consumption would be closer to 80% of the national accounts estimate, rather than 40%—and poverty levels to be half that "documented" by the NSSO (Supreme Court please note). Is the Indian policymaker, and especially those belonging to the huge (and hugely corrupt?) poverty industry, ready to accept that poverty in India is approximately half that stated by the government?

Related to the level of poverty is an equally important policy variable—the amount of expenditure needed to remove poverty. Notwithstanding this importance (tax money is freely available for noble causes), the discussion on poverty removal in India never discusses the minimum expenditure needed to remove poverty. The average poor today need about 16% extra income to become non-poor, i.e., go above the poverty line of R28 per day. In today's prices, that is an extra R4.5 per person per day. If there are 25% poor in India in 2011-12, then the cost of removing poverty in the entire population—R49,000 crore. With an estimate of 20% poor (200 million poor), the cost goes down to R39,000 crore.

No one claims, or should claim, that perfect targeting is possible; though everyone should believe that with today's technology, anything more than 20% "leakage" is pure poverty corruption. Given that we are spending R1,30,000 crore in 2011-12 on just food and NREGA poverty programmes, it is likely that poverty corruption is annually more than the once in decade 2G scam, and annually more than double the amount actually needed to remove absolute poverty.

The author is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm. Please visit www.oxusinvestments.com for an archive of articles; comments welcome at surjit.bhalla@oxusinvestments.com

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


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

SLOW TRAIN TO NOWHERE

SHREEKANT SAMBRANI

Mamata Banerjee may have chugged off to Writers' Building from Rail Bhawan, but she does not seem to have taken the baggage of populist mismanagement with her, judging from the Prime Minister's non-critical non-review of the non-performance of Indian Railways on June 1. He is reported to have exhorted the railways to complete projects on time, improve their safety record and provide better amenities. In management jargon, these are called motherhood statements: everybody is for it, but they don't provide a clue to coping with specific problems of motherhood!

Without a doubt, the railways are the most archaic part of Indian infrastructure, caught in a time-warp of over half a century and utterly reluctant or unable to get out of it. Time was we waited interminably to get a brand new car, choice of two, of 25-year-old vintage models. We drove on crowded narrow highways, taking forever to reach destinations. We could mostly not get on a flight, had choice of one airline, and braved airports little better than moffusil bus shelters. Rajdhanis were our 'fast' luxury trains, never mind the stations reeking of cesspools.

We now have a choice among many models of cars, some of them quite contemporary in global terms, to suit all budgets and we are wooed by competitive sellers. A sprinkling of expressways and many four-lane highways make driving faster and more pleasant. We have some spanking new airport terminals and a host of brash new airlines, which cost more but get us there. And we still have the Rajdhanis and stinking stations. In fact, many of these prestigious trains now run a lot slower and are often delayed thanks to a manifold increase in the number of trains crisscrossing the same network in a bewildering array of routes.

In the 1970s, our rail network of over 60,000 km, the second largest in the world, was larger than China's. Our trains were even better than those of China. The Chinese have since expanded their rail lines to over 91,000 km, expected to be 1,10,000 km in 2012. This includes over 8,000 km of dedicated high-speed corridors and the high altitude line to Lhasa, completed in record time. We have no bullet trains and our Kashmir Valley rail link has dragged on for decades, with no completion date in sight.

Later this year, a bullet train will cover the 1,350 km between Beijing and Shanghai in just four-and-a-half hours. Our fastest trains, the Mumbai Rajdhani and the Amritsar Shatabdi, take exactly the same time to cover less than a third of that distance, 400 km! Mamata Banerjee's 'innovation' of non-stop point-to-point trains, the Duronto expresses, take about seven-and-a-half hours to cover 600 km, the same time I take to go from Vadodara to Jodhpur for the same distance by car, with many a stop on the way!

The reason for the decline of Indian Railways stares us in the face: lack of investment. The current budget has an annual plan outlay of R57,000 crore ($13 bn) for all purposes, including building hotels, acquiring rolling stock, and incidentally, building and improving tracks. Between 2006 and 2010, China spent $292 bn ($59 bn annually, or 4.5 times the Indian investment for all purposes) on rail tracks alone. Our neighbour obviously puts its mountain of foreign currency to good use, in contrast to our investment of pitiful internal accruals and stingy budgetary support.

Our cities are littered with crumbling once-grand edifices. The owners, shackled by laws barring rent increases or termination of tenancies, neglect the structures completely. Successive Indian railway ministers have followed self-imposed populist embargos on fare hikes and compulsions of adding ever more passenger trains from anywhere to anywhere in the country. All of them have honoured the hoary practice of cross-subsidising loss-making passenger traffic from freight revenues. It does not take rocket science to conclude that the creaky network is on the verge of a collapse.

A part of the problem is the organisation structure of the railways. It is the only department of the government that has its own budget outside the general one, a situation unique to India. Until the 1980s, the railways did not even reckon depreciation as a cost, using a sinking fund instead. As a department, the railways cannot raise funds from the markets, something they circumvent by the device of a finance corporation. In a clever bit of accounting, the railways sell the equipment they manufacture to the corporation, booking the full price as current revenue and lease it back immediately, showing annual rentals as current costs. Most manufacturing facilities are not corporate entities and not subject to prudent monitoring and control procedures.

The overriding objective of the railways would be to provide safe, fast and economic transportation of people and goods. Most previous ministers paid only lip service to this but went about catering to the interests of their states or constituencies. Nitish Kumar is the only recent minister who accorded much needed attention to the cash cow of freight movement. His initiatives paid off during Lalu Prasad's tenure. Lalu still had no qualms in cooking the books to proclaim the railways a shining success story.

Mamata Banerjee thought such an interpretation of the railways' mission was for the simple-minded. Her priorities were to set up captive units (including for water bottling), budget hotels, shelters for the homeless, schools, sports academies, employing ex-servicemen, and just incidentally, freight movement. If the already precarious railway finances were further bled in the process, the all-encompassing social viability would justify that! Her economist prime minister hailed her budget as being for the common man, and has now offered placebos for the many ills of the railways.

Banerjee said that the railways were the artery of a pulsating nation. What she failed mention was that the artery is clogged with fat accumulated through unmindful and continued consumption of junk thinking. A bypass from Rail Bhawan to Writers' Building, alas, may not avert a cardiac arrest.

The author has taught at IIM-A and helped set up IRMA

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

 


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

THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

IS THERE A BRAIN CANCER RISK?

The World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recently classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as "possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B)." The classification is based on increased risk for glioma from increased wireless phone use over a period of time. Glioma is a type of brain cancer that begins in the glial cells that surround and support the nerve cells. The grouping under 2B puts mobile phone use alongside 240 other agents, including low-level magnetic fields, for which evidence of harm is uncertain. IARC has stated that the evidence of carcinogenicity among mobile phone users is "limited." Though it has found a positive association between mobile phone use and cancer to be "credible," it notes that the possibility of chance, bias, or other factors playing a role "cannot be ruled out." Interestingly, the carcinogenic labelling comes a year after the largest case-control study of the problem — WHO's Interphone study, undertaken in 13 countries, involving users with at least ten years' exposure, and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology — found "no increase in risk of glioma with mobile phone use." Some large-scale studies undertaken in the past have come up with mixed findings. While a 2001 and 2006 follow-up Danish study found no relationship between risk of cancer and long-term mobile phone use among more than 400,000 people, a 2009 Swedish study found increased risk of brain cancer among those who used mobile phones for at least ten years, especially those below 20 years of age.

Unlike gamma rays and X-rays, cell phone radiation is non-ionizing in nature. Radiowaves are not energetic enough to remove electrons or ionize atoms or molecules and hence cannot directly damage cellular DNA. No mechanism has so far been found that can possibly explain the manner in which non-ionizing radiation can cause cumulative effect or DNA damage due to exposure over a period of time. Yet a precautionary approach needs to be adopted, considering the growing number of people, especially very young children, using the phone repeatedly and for long durations. Though countries have already set the upper limit to radiation from mobile phones to reduce the amount of non-ionizing radiation and heat absorbed by tissues, a further lowering of permissible levels may be required. Until such time definite answers are available, it is best that older children are encouraged to restrict mobile phone use and very young children asked to avoid its use. Adults can rely more on texting options and resort to hands-free modes of using mobile phones.

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


THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

HANDS OFF LIBYA

It does not portend well that member countries of NATO have given a unanimous extension to its mission in Libya by another 90 days beyond the initial deadline of June 27. This means the air-strikes, which began in March following Resolution 1973 of the United Nations Security Council, will continue. The resolution authorised "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya from a crackdown by Muammar Qadhafi's regime on an anti-government uprising. Air strikes are a strange way to go about protecting civilians — despite all their precision equipment, bombardment by fast-moving aircraft will result in indiscriminate casualties. The Libyan regime claims that 718 civilians have so far been killed and over 4,000 injured in the bombings that began on March 18. If these deaths are proved, the participating powers — the U.S. and its allies in Europe — will have to answer for what amounts to no less than the war crimes a United Nations-ordered investigation has recently accused the Qadhafi government of committing. From the extended timeline, it is clear that the west's real intention in Libya is to use the U.N. resolution to effect a regime change in an oil-rich country. This conclusion is bolstered by the Obama administration's invitation to the Libyan rebel National Transitional Council to set up a representative office in Washington even as the conflict in Libya remains stalemated. The only lesson western powers seem to have learnt from the U.S. folly in Iraq is that invading a country to topple its leader is all right as long as you stick to bombing it from the air.

There is undoubtedly a strong movement against the Libyan strongman within his country, carried by the winds of democracy blowing throughout the West Asia-North Africa region. But it is crucially important that any regime change is brought about by forces within Libya. The Tunisian revolt would not have inspired similar movements in other countries in the region had it been the result of western intervention. Outside intervention, with its own agenda, is sure to rob the movement of its momentum and indeed legitimacy. That self-interest, not democracy, is at the top of this agenda is evident, else why would the U.S. be so unabashedly non-supportive of a similar movement in Bahrain? Colonel Qadhafi is no longer in complete control of the country; defections are depleting his coterie; diplomatically he is at a dead-end even on his home turf after the failure of a mediation effort by the African Union. But for this to move towards a positive conclusion, the west must take its hands off Libya. The air strikes must end, and the people of Libya must be left to determine their own destiny.

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


THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

FREEDOM OF PRESS AND JOURNALISTIC ETHICS – II

INDIA NOW HAS A DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE MASS MEDIA AND MASS REALITY. OFTEN THE MEDIA CONCENTRATE ON SOME POTEMKIN VILLAGES WHERE ALL IS GLAMOUR AND SHOW BUSINESS.

MARKANDEY KATJU

Underdeveloped countries like India are passing through a transitional stage, between a feudal-agricultural society and a modern-industrial society. This is a painful, agonising period. A study of the history of England of the 17th and 18th centuries and of France of the 18th and 19th centuries, shows that for them such periods of transition were full of turbulence, turmoil, revolutions, intellectual ferment, and social churning. It was only after going through this fire that modern society emerged in Europe. India is going through this fire. The barbaric 'honour killings' in parts of the country of young men and women of different castes or religion who get married or wish to get married, among other incidents, show how backward we still are — full of casteism and communalism.

India's national aim must be to get over this transitional period as quickly as possible, reducing the inevitable agony. Our aim must be to make India a modern, powerful, industrial state. Only then will India be able to provide for the welfare of its people and get respect in the world community.

Today, the real world is cruel and harsh. It respects power, not poverty or weakness. When China and Japan were poor nations, their people were derisively labelled 'yellow' races by Western nations. Today nobody dares use such terms as they are strong industrial nations. Similarly, if we wish India to get respect in the comity of nations, we must make it highly industrialised and prosperous. For this, our patriotic, modern-minded intelligentsia must wage a powerful cultural struggle, that is, a struggle in the realm of ideas. This cultural struggle must be waged by combating feudal and backward ideas, for example, casteism and communalism, replacing them with modern, scientific ideas among the masses.

The media have an extremely important role to play in this cultural struggle. But are they performing this role?

No doubt, the media sometimes refer to farmer suicides in different States, the price rise, and so on, but these form only a small part of their coverage — maybe 5 to 10 per cent. Most of the coverage is given to cricket, film stars, astrology and disco-dancing.

Sadly, India now has a disconnect between the mass media and mass reality. Here are a few facts from a speech delivered by P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu and Magsaysay award winner, on September 6, 2007 in Parliament House in the Speaker's Lecture Series.

•The mass reality in India (which has over 70 per cent of its people living in the rural areas), is that rural India is in the midst of the worst agrarian crisis in four decades. Millions of livelihoods in the rural areas have been damaged or destroyed in the last 15 years as a result of this crisis, because of the predatory commercialisation of the countryside and the reduction of all human values to exchange value. As a result, lakhs of farmers have committed suicide and millions of people have migrated, and are migrating, from the rural areas to the cities and towns in search of jobs that are not there. They have moved towards a status that is neither that of a 'worker' nor that of a 'farmer.' Many of them end up as domestic labourers, or even criminals. We have been pushed towards corporate farming, a process in which farming is taken out of the hands of the farmers and put in the hands of corporates. This process is not being achieved with guns, tanks, bulldozers or lathis. It is done by making farming unviable for the millions of small family farm-holders, due to the high cost of inputs such as seed, fertilizer and power, and uneconomical prices.

•India was ranked fourth in the list of countries with the most number of dollar billionaires, but 126th in human development. This means it is better to be a poor person in Bolivia (the poorest nation in South America) or Guatemala or Gabon rather than in India. Here, some 83.6 crore people (of a total of 110-120 crore) in India survive on less than Rs.20 a day.

•Eight Indian States in India are economically poorer than African states, said a recent Oxford University study. Life expectancy in India is lower than in Bolivia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

•According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, the average monthly per capita expenditure of the Indian farm household is Rs.503. Of that, some 55 per cent is spent on food, 18 per cent on fuel, clothing and footwear, leaving precious little to be spent on education or health.

•A report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations shows that between 1995-97 and 1999-2001, India added more newly hungry millions than the rest of the world taken together. The average rural family is consuming 100 kg less of food than it was consuming earlier. Indebtedness has doubled in the past decade. Cultivation costs have increased exorbitantly and farming incomes have collapsed, leading to wide-scale suicides by farmers.

•While there were 512 accredited journalists covering the Lakme India Fashion Week event, there were only six journalists to cover farmer suicides in Vidharbha. In that Fashion Week programme, the models were displaying cotton garments, while the men and women who grew that cotton were killing themselves at a distance of an hour's flight from Nagpur in the Vidharbha region. Nobody told that story except one or two journalists, locally.

Is this a responsible way for the Indian media to function? Should the media turn a Nelson's eye to the harsh economic realities facing over 75 per cent of our people, and concentrate on some 'Potemkin villages' where all is glamour and show business? Are not the Indian media behaving much like Queen Marie Antoinette, who famously said that if people had no bread, they should eat cake.

No doubt, sometimes the media mention farmers' suicides, the rise in the price of essential commodities and so on, but such coverage is at most 5 to 10 per cent of the total. The bulk of the coverage goes to showing cricket, the life of film stars, pop music, fashion parades, astrology…

Some TV channels show cricket day in and day out. Some Roman emperor was reputed to have said: if you cannot give the people bread, give them the circus. This is precisely the approach of the Indian establishment. Keep the people involved in cricket so that they forget their economic and social plight. What is important is not price rise or unemployment or poverty or lack of housing or medicines. What is important is whether India has beaten New Zealand (or better still, Pakistan) in a cricket match, or whether Tendulkar or Yuvraj Singh has scored a century. Is this not sheer escapism?

To my mind, the role of the media in our country today must be to help the people in their struggle against poverty, unemployment and other social evils and to make India a modern, powerful, industrial state.

For this, scientific thinking should be promoted. Science alone is the means to solve this country's problems. By science I do not mean physics, chemistry and biology alone. I mean the entire scientific outlook, which must be spread widely among our people. Our people must develop rational, logical and questioning minds, and abandon superstition and escapism. For this purpose the media can, and must, play a powerful role.

The nation is passing through a terrible socio-economic crisis. Artists, writers and mediapersons must start acting responsibly and help the people solve their problems. And this they can do by focussing on the real issues — which are basically economic — and not by trying to divert people's attention to non-issues.

The Urdu poet Faiz wrote: Gulon mein rang bhare bade naubahaar chale/ Chale bhi aao ki gulshan ka kaarobaar chale. Urdu poetry often has an outer, superficial meaning, and an inner real meaning. The real meaning of this sher is that the objective situation in the country is ripe, and patriotic people to come forward to serve the country. (The word 'gulshan' ostensibly means garden, but in this sher, it really means the country.)

(Markandey Katju is a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. The first part of this article was published yesterday.)

 

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

 


THE HINDU

OPED

TIME FOR A NEW ERA OF GROWTH WITH SOCIAL JUSTICE

PEOPLE'S NEEDS, WHICH MUST BE INSPIRED BY A PRACTICAL VISION OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, WILL BE IN FOCUS AT THE 100TH SESSION OF THE ILO'S ON-GOING TRIPARTITE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR CONFERENCE.

JUAN SOMAVIA

Discontent worldwide is reaching dangerous levels. In three-quarters of the 82 countries with available information, a majority of individuals are getting increasingly pessimistic about their future quality of life and standard of living. This all points in one direction: mounting frustration with a lack of jobs and decent work.

More than 200 million people are officially unemployed worldwide, including nearly 80 million young women and men eager to secure their first job. Both figures are at their highest points ever, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. The number of workers in vulnerable employment — 1.5 billion (around half of the world's labour force) — and persons working but surviving on less than US$2.00 per day — 1.2 billion — is on the rise again.

Current model

The bottom line is this: the current growth model that has evolved since the early 1980s has become economically inefficient, socially unstable, environmentally damaging and politically unsustainable. It no longer commands legitimacy. People are rightly demanding more fairness in every aspect of their lives. This no doubt contributed to mass uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East as well as significant protests in a number of industrialised countries and other regions.

Yet as the economic recovery unfolds, in many places it seems as if the crisis never happened. Policy regressing to business as usual ignores the fact that it was precisely those ways of doing business that almost bankrupted the world economy.

Global productive investment as a percentage of GDP — the source of job creation — has stagnated. Instead, we have a continuously rising share of profits coming from financial operations with negligible employment creation. Global wage growth has been cut in half, trailing productivity increases. Income gaps between the top 10 per cent and the bottom 90 per cent are widening, with the middle class squeezed in between.

There are limits to how much inequality a society's social fabric can bear. There are many signs that the limits are fast approaching or have been breached.

On a personal note, having witnessed the social devastations of the policy responses imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during the debt and financial crises of the 1980s and 1990s in Latin America and Asia, I am deeply troubled to see Europe, the cradle of social cohesion, apply these very same policies with the negative economic and social consequences that are inherent to them.

So what would efficient, socially responsible growth look like?

To begin with, the needs of productive enterprises and workers in the real economy must dislodge financial interests and the bonus culture from the global economy's driver's seat. This will not be easy, given the entrenched power interests of banks that have convinced governments that they are "too big to fail" while pushing for austerity policies that wreak havoc in the lives of families and small enterprises seen as "too small to matter." We need socially responsible fiscal consolidation in which lenders also bear a part of the cost.

There is an urgent need to improve on the market outcomes and gains from international trade and investment. This can be achieved through increased integration between macroeconomic policies and labour market and social policies — for example, by making employment creation a targeted macroeconomic objective alongside low inflation and sustainable public budgets.

This would mean more productive and job-creating investment; expanding the real economy and reducing the space for unproductive financial operations; facilitating hiring, especially in small enterprises; providing for a fiscally sound social protection floor to the 80 per cent of the world population who lack social security; and facilitating the application of fundamental rights at work, in particular freedom of association and collective bargaining. There is much evidence that these approaches work. Countries — mostly emerging economies and some developed ones — that have applied a combination of these policies are coming out of the crisis faster than those that have stuck to the old recipes. The G20 Leaders rightly want to promote a strong, sustainable and balanced growth. I would add "equitable" to the mix. The forthcoming Summit under French leadership and the planned meeting of their Labour Ministers can open the way for policies that connect growth with people's aspirations everywhere for a fair chance at a decent job.

ILO conference

In short, we need a new era of growth with social justice inspired by a practical vision of sustainable development — an era where people's needs are at the heart of policy-making, the benefits of globalisation are shared equitably, and voice, participation and democracy can flourish. At the 100th Session of the ILO's tripartite International Labour Conference which began this week (June 1-17, 2011), government, employer and worker delegates will consider how they, as representatives of the real economy, can assume their responsibility in meeting these challenges.

(Juan Somavia is Director-General of the International Labour Organisation.)

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


THE HINDU

OPED

U.S. CALLS ANTIBIOTICS A WRONG STEP ON E.COLI

GARDINER HARRIS

There are few things more frightening in the world of food safety than becoming infected with the kind of toxic strain of E. coli that has sickened more than 1,500 people in Germany and beyond, but public health officials in the United States caution that the bacteria is not as scary as some reports suggest.

"Using terms like 'mutant killer bacteria' is irresponsible," said Dr. Timothy Jones, the state epidemiologist in Tennessee. "Bacteria mutate all the time, even the ones we're comfortable with. And having a strain that is virulent is not unusual."

Of particular concern to officials in the United States have been reports that the European outbreak involves bacteria resistant to antibiotics — not because such reports suggest a particularly dangerous bug, but because they suggest that the Europeans are not looking in the right direction to fight the outbreak.

The accepted medical wisdom in the United States is that E. coli infections should not be treated with antibiotics at all, even if the strain is vulnerable to the drugs. And when a strain shows signs of resistance, treatment with the drugs is a particularly bad idea, said Dr. Phillip Tarr, a professor of paediatrics at Washington University.

"If you give antibiotics and the strain is resistant, then you give that bacteria a competitive advantage to the other bugs in your gut that are susceptible to the drugs, and so it's an even better environment for the infection," Dr. Tarr said.

Yet, to the dismay of American onlookers, European doctors seem focused on the issue of antibiotics and alarmed that they have not found one that works. Prof. Jörg F. Debatin, the medical director and chief executive of the University Medical Center of Hamburg-Eppendorf, where many of the patients are being treated, said in an interview on May 31, Tuesday, "There is, as yet, no antibiotics that can treat it."

On both sides of the Atlantic, doctors agree: patients who suffer bloody diarrhoea should be admitted to a hospital and isolated from others because their diarrhoea can infect others — a surprisingly common mode of transmission. But the Americans point to studies that show that antibiotics increase the chances of kidney failure while doing little to shorten the duration of infection. American officials were sympathetic to the challenges that European health authorities faced in tracing the source of the outbreak, since such investigations in the United States have been similarly long and confused. The foods involved in the outbreak — tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce — are often eaten together, and their supply chains can be impossibly complicated to untangle. When a restaurant needs salad fixings, suppliers often mix vegetables from a variety of farms — making a trace to the source close to impossible.

But officials were sceptical that the strain responsible, believed to be E. coli 0104:H4, would prove to be unique.

"This bug has been seen before," said Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the division of food-borne, bacterial and mycotic diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. That the strain may have genetic material that makes it resistant to antibiotics, however, is intriguing, he said.

"Where has this organism been that it's been exposed to so much antibiotics that it's worth its while to be resistant?" Dr. Tauxe asked. The answer may influence a growing controversy in the United States over the widespread and routine use of antibiotics to fatten feed animals like pigs.

One clear lesson from the German outbreak is that contaminated food can come from anywhere, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota. "We often want to think that the foods from the developing world are risky," Dr. Osterholm said. "Produce safety is a problem everywhere." — © New York Times News Service

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


THE HINDU

 

HYBRID E.COLI 'RESISTANT TO ANTIBIOTICS'

ALOK JHA

A strain of E. coli spreading across Europe is a previously unseen variant of the bacterium, and one that is more virulent than seen before, health officials say.

Scientists also said the new strain appeared likely to be resistant to common antibiotics.

By June 2, 18 people had died and more than 2,000 had become infected from eating contaminated vegetables. The bacterial outbreak had spread beyond Germany to 10 countries.

After scientists sequenced the genetic code of the E. coli, Hilde Kruse, a food safety expert at the World Health Organisation (WHO) told Associated Press: "This is a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients before ... [there are] various characteristics that make it more virulent and toxin producing." A spokesperson for the U.K.'s Health Protection Agency said scientists at the organisation had not sequenced the bacterium but had agreed with the WHO finding that the E. coli O104 strain associated with the outbreak "which we know to have a highly unusual combination of virulent properties, could be one that has never been seen before."

Stephen Smith, a clinical microbiologist at Trinity College, Dublin, said the new E. coli strain was a "mongrel" combining two "nasty" types of the bacterium. He said: "It is very similar to enteroaggregative E coli which has been associated with outbreaks of watery diarrhoea, in developing nations since 1970. However, this bacterium has been recognised as a cause of diarrhoea in industrialised nations and has caused outbreaks in the U.S., Sweden, Britain and Germany."

The toxin produced by the bacterium binds to, and damages, kidney cells and leads to haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a rare and severe complication that destroys red blood cells and can affect the central nervous system. More than 500 cases of HUS have been reported in Germany and three cases were found in the U.K. in people who had recently been to Germany.

An HPA spokesperson said: "Bacteria and viruses are evolving all the time. We expect to see new strains, sometimes more virulent or resistant to antibiotics than others, and plan on that basis."

What is E. coli? Escherichia coli is a bacterium found in the intestines of many animals, including humans and many types of the bug are relatively harmless. Some strains, however, can cause illness in people, including diarrhoea that usually settles within a week without the need for treatment.

How does it spread? Both harmless and disease-causing strains of E. coli get into humans through contaminated food or water. The vegetables that are contaminated in Germany might have been fed with water containing the bacterium or there might have been faecal material in the soil in which they were grown.

Why is the German strain so dangerous? The E.coli that cause human disease are often classified by the type of disease that they cause or the toxins they can produce. The most serious are referred to as "verocytotoxin-producing". The Health Protection Agency said that the German strain is the rare E. coli (VTEC) O104 version. It has led to some cases of a serious kidney and blood complication called haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS).

What is haemolytic-uraemic syndrome? This is a disorder that usually occurs when an infection, usually E. coli, in the digestive system produces toxic substances that can get into the blood stream and cause kidney disease. It is most common in children and the elderly. Symptoms include diarrhoea first, which may contain blood. It is a serious condition but around 98 per cent of people recover.

How can the spread be stopped? Health protection professionals recommend washing hands regularly to prevent person-to-person spread of the bacterium.

Washing vegetables before consumption will also help to remove bacteria from the surface, as will peeling or cooking. Anthony C. Hilton a microbiologist at Aston University, England, said that if the current strain is a novel virulent type "it will be important to determine if this is simply surface contamination of vegetables or if the organism has developed a mechanism of intracellular invasion and persistence, as that will greatly influence the effectiveness of the simple washing of vegetables intended to be eaten raw as a means of reducing the risk of infection." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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


THE HINDU

EXHIBITION ON SPACE

An international space exhibition was opened on June 1 at the Vienna International Centre, Vienna, Austria, to celebrate 50 years of human space flight and the 50th anniversary of the first session of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS).

The aim is to highlight the potential of space technology and space matters. The exhibition, till June 10, has been organised by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), which has helped promote cooperation between countries to bring the benefits of space activities to people. — Xinhua

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

 


 

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

THE ASIAN AGE

RAMDEV'S FAST HAS ALL ON EDGE

Baba Ramdev, the saffron-clad yoga teacher-cum-herbal products entrepreneur whose television following is said to run into lakhs, raised a cloud of dust with his threat of an indefinite hungerstrike (to commence Saturday at Delhi's Ramlila Ground) on corruption-related issues. He made the government scurry and negotiate. Right after the Manmohan Singh government had headed off pressure from the Anna Hazare Jantar Mantar movement by opening discussions with it on the proposed Lokpal Bill, it clearly had no wish to be ambushed by Baba Ramdev. The reason is that, unlike Mr Hazare, a social activist, the yoga guru can potentially command street power. He is the putative beneficiary of support across the country of RSS cadres who are reportedly under their leadership's instruction to back the yoga guru's "movement". While RSS activists can't always make a political party such as the BJP win elections, they are said to be enough in numbers to dog a government through protests and street mobilisations. In spite of such support, however, Baba Ramdev, while addressing the faithful on Friday on the eve of his proposed protest fast, did not sound triumphant, acerbic, angry or bitter — in short, he gave no intimation he was in a mood to revolt to overthrow the constitutional order. This marks a sharp contrast with the progress of the Hazare bandwagon which, at one point, had held out a threat that the government would fall if he continued sitting at Jantar Mantar and the government allowed the fires of rebellion to spread.
Baba Ramdev held several rounds of negotiations on his key demands with senior government ministers. He gave a sense of this to the Ramlila Ground audience of a few thousand, going over points of agreement or disagreement with official emissaries, as if to pre-empt any future allegation of giving in to the authorities. In addition, he underlined that he would follow strictly constitutional methods but would continue his protest until all his demands were met to his satisfaction. Indeed, several of his demands will not be deemed unreasonable. He has sought fast-track courts in corruption cases, a public service delivery guarantee legislation, declaring as national assets the black money parked abroad by tax evaders, and allowing study in professional courses (engineering, medicine, agriculture sciences) in Hindi and regional languages, besides English. On his support to the demand for an effective Lokpal Bill, Baba Ramdev told his followers he would not get into details as the issue was sensitive and was delicately poised. (Unlike Mr Hazare, he did not announce his insistence on bringing the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary under the purview of the Lokpal). Clearly sounding pro-dialogue, the man who had not long ago threatened to field candidates in every Lok Sabha constituency in the country with a view to humbling the government told his audience that discussions with the government would continue until the latter accepted reasonable time-schedules to deliver on his demands.
For now, the UPA-2 government can breathe easy. But how easy and for how long? That might depend mainly on the kind of support Ramdev is seen to enjoy in the country. The yoga guru continues to stress that "crores" of people across the land are raring to go with him. If this is established through credible visuals of fasting people backing the Ramdev agenda in small-town India for a length of time, the Congress-led government might feel obliged to give legal and constitutional shape to some of his key demands, which might not be such a bad thing, come to think of it. But the government is certain to be politically wary if the yoga guru is indeed seen to command the support that he claims to have.

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


THE ASIAN AGE

MISDIRECTION

FARRUKH DHONDY

"No poison can kill poison,
Live and friend, let live.
Beware the lure of balancing
The double negative!"
From Warnings of Stale Mornings by Bachchoo

There are very many historical mistakes that won't be corrected. The population, for instance, of the islands of the Caribbean, "pieces of dirt" in the armpit of America as my friend the Caribbean philosopher C.L.R. James labelled them, are universally known as West Indians. They have nothing culturally or historically to do with India and are for the most part descendants of African slaves brought there by force through the great injustice of the "triangular trade" which Europe initiated in the 15th and 16th centuries.
It was Columbus who perpetrated the blunder. Working in the maritime industry of Seville, he and his cohorts knew of the existence of India to the far east of Spain, beyond the lands of the Saracens and the river Indus which, via the historic conquests of the Persians and subsequently Alexander the Damned, had given the country its name. Columbus also knew that the world was spherical and if he sailed West he would reach the East.
What he didn't know when he sailed into the unknown reaches of the Atlantic was that there was a whole chunk of real estate and a couple of oceans beyond it before he could, even in theory, hit Chennai or Orissa. He gaily landed in the Caribbean, praised God, slaughtered a few natives and wrote home that he had discovered the east of India.
It is then even more enigmatic that these islands were named the Indies and came to be known as the West Indies when further European maritime exploration and map-making had established that India was altogether elsewhere.
The first West Indian I knew was called Vincent Bhup Singh. He had arrived to study at the college at which I was in Pune and his origins were something of a mystery, though he tried to explain that he was from the islands from which the rum came. He was, as I recall, in love with my sister and pursued her on his bicycle singing love songs from Hindi movies despite not speaking any Hindi. When we insisted that we were, technically speaking, West Indians or at least western Indians since Pune was situated on the Deccan plateau close to the Western coast of the sub-continent, he compounded the problem by saying that he was, in fact, an East Indian West Indian.
This confession led to a careful perusal of the world atlas and an elementary history lesson. I must admit that at the age of 15 my only acquaintance with the West Indies was Harry Belafonte's song Jamaica Farewell in which he sings that he is sad to say he's on his way and won't be back for many a day, that his heart is down and his head is spinning around because he had to leave a little girl in Kingston Town. By this age I knew that the little girl meant not his newborn daughter but his lover, just as I had realised that "baby" when an American sang Walking my baby back home didn't mean that he was pushing a pram across meadow and farm.
Vincent showed us where Jamaica was though he was from Trinidad, a few hundred miles down. He explained that his forefathers had been taken on labour contracts from India by the British Raj to work in the sugarcane fields of Trinidad. He also told us that since the blacks of the island, who for generations after the abolition of slavery had refused to work in the cane fields, were West Indians, he was, hence, an East Indian. There were other East Indians in the then colonies of British Guiana and next to it Dutch Guiana on the South American mainland next to Trinidad. The people of Dutch Guiana who originated as he did in India couldn't be called East Indians as the Dutch had colonies in Java and Sumatra and those places were called the East Indies and their populations known as East Indians — so the Indians transported to Dutch Guiana were called simply Hindustanis.
All this knowledge and confusion came back to me this week on briefly visiting Seville in Andalusia, southern Spain from which place Columbus had set sail for "India" and where his tomb in Seville Cathedral is a worldwide tourist attraction.
Next to the cathedral, which till the 13th century was a Moorish mosque when southern Spain was still ruled by North African Muslims, is a building known as the Archivo de Indias. On seeing it on the city's map one could be forgiven for momentarily thinking that it was perhaps a museum of Indian artefacts as of course it isn't. If one came across "The Indian Archive" in, say London, one could be sure that it had something to do with Britain's long interaction with the sub-continent. So one reminded oneself that Spain, for all her marauding in the Caribbean and South America, had had very little to do with us.
What then was in the Archive of the Indias? A history, as I discovered, of the discovery of the West Indies and America and of the discoverers such as Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. Seville hasn't bothered to correct the grand misnomer.
It is, of course, absolutely right that Spanish children and other children round the world are taught that Columbus made this understandable blunder, but it is perhaps time that the phrases West Indies and West Indian were replaced by "Caribbean".
It will solve another small problem. The Catholics of Mumbai, among them Darryl D'Monte, a dear and distinguished friend of mine, and his late cousin, the poet Dom Moraes, are often referred to as "Goans" and demonstrate their resentment of such classification by insisting that they are nothing of the sort, and that they are, in fact, East Indians. I have always, though I may be wrong, detected a whiff of snobbery in the dissociative correction. How Catholics from Mumbai came to be known as East Indians I haven't yet figured. I didn't know Dom or Darryl when I first met Vincent Bhup Singh but I now think if I had, it would be amusing to have introduced them and watched them claim and fight out this ambiguous label of their identities.

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


THE ASIAN AGE

TAKING THE GREEN PULSE 40 YEARS ON

JAGMOHAN

The Himalayan glaciers are melting at an alarming rate; the Ganga is changing its course at Varanasi, threatening agricultural land on the banks. Last year Moscow witnessed an unprecedented heat wave, and Pakistan was hit by a flash flood. Ever since the Stockholm Conference in 1972, a number of international conventions have been held and several measures taken by the UN and other international and national agencies to arrest global warming and environmental degradation. As we prepare to observe this year's World Environment Day (June 5), it may be instructive to ask ourselves what state the earth is in, and whether corrective measures since 1972 have had any significant impact.

The Ganga, epitome of Indian civilisation and the lifeline of North India, is one of the 11 large rivers of the world which, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, are dying. The net forest loss continues to be substantial — worldwide about seven million hectares per year. Forest fires, too, are having a devastating impact. In India, for example, five per cent of the forest cover is lost due to fire.
About 40 per cent of the world's agricultural land already stands degraded. Though modern industrial agriculture has brought about green revolutions in a number of countries, it has also meant a higher cost of production and damage to the soil.

While the global population is increasing by about 87 million a year, global grain supplies are dwindling. Already, in the last three years, food prices have nearly doubled, exposing about 100 million more persons to the risk of falling below poverty line.

At present, three species are dying every hour. At this rate of extinction, the global gross domestic product could decline by about seven per cent by 2025. Moreover, the loss of biodiversity and degeneration of ecosystems are not mere "green" issues, they have a deep relationship with the production of food, fibre, fuel and medicines and maintenance of soil fertility. If these issues remain neglected, it would be the poor who would suffer most and lose whatever little access they have to productive lands and other resources.
At present "four of every 10 people in the world do not have access to a single-pit latrine and nearly two in 10 have no source of safe drinking water". In India, annually 38 million people are afflicted with serious water-borne diseases, like jaundice, typhoid and hepatitis. Another 66 million fall victim to fluorosis in the country. The economic burden of these diseases is enormous.

The cities of developing countries have continued to expand in an unplanned way. They have now a quarter of a million designated slum settlements, with about one billion inhabitants. About 500,000 people are losing their lives on account of indoor air pollution every year. The ecological footprint of the cities have been rapidly expanding, and they have been consuming a huge amount of global resources and emitting a vast quantity of carbon. They are now using bulk of the world energy and throwing up as much as 30 billion tonnes of carbon annually.

Poverty, ignorance and disease continue to cast their dark shadows on the major part of the globe. Deprivations have increased and disparities sharpened. A small group of powerful countries have acquired a stronger hold over the global economy as well as over the international power structure. On account of the economic ideologies sponsored by this group, wealth begets more wealth, power begets more power and the inequalities increase globally and also within the nations. At the fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, held from May 9-13, 2011 at Istanbul, it was revealed that the number of this category of countries has increased from 24 in 1971 to 50 in 2011. Together, they have a population of about 880 million, and half of them live on $1.25 a day.

Certainly, there have been some positive outcome of measures taken after 1972. Environmental awareness has spread far and wide. The acid rains have been contained, and the ozone hole has virtually been closed. But all such gains pale into insignificance when viewed in the context of the steep deterioration that has occurred.
Worse, a highly unfair and unjust order has come to stay. While it is the consumerism of the rich that is putting unbearable strain on the finite resources of our planet and causing environmental degradation, it is the poor, with little role in this degradation, who are suffering the most from its consequences. After the terrible tsunami that accompanied the earthquake in Japan in March 2011, Tokyo governor Ishihara bewailed: "It is the divine punishment for our consumerism". Nature demands balance and unbridled consumerism flies in the face of this balance.

It is time that the international community recognised the irrefutable ecological reverses and degradation of key natural resources over the past four decades. It must disabuse itself of the greedy forces of neo-liberalism and evolve a new design for economics, promote a culture of contentment and compassion. And of course promote a stronger awareness campaign for a lifestyle in the current century that is much less profligate and respects balance and harmony wherein the entire humanity is regarded as one family.

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

 


 

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

DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

MODERNIZING TOURIST INDUSTRY

 

The other day Governor Vohra spoke to a delegation of J&K Tourism Alliance that had called on him at his official residence in Srinagar. The memorandum presented by the delegation enlisted various demands aimed at improving tourism in the valley. The Governor had his ideas about the subject. The fact is that tourism in the State is a much talked about subject to the extent of becoming more of rhetoric than a serious discourse. In the first place whenever the subject is taken up for debate, the speakers in their subconscious mind remain confined to the valley alone and forget the other two regions of the state and the sub-regions that do have the potential for development as tourist sites. Secondly, there are three rather four categories of tourists in Kashmir, namely domestic tourists, foreigners, VIPs and winter sports lovers. Each category has its specific requirements and these should not be mixed up. Domestic tourists, who outnumber the rest of the three categories, come to Kashmir in summer only and for the essential purpose of escaping the oppressive heat of the plains for a few days and find refreshment in the salubrious climate of the valley. They may like to stay in hotels, house boats or private lodgments in and around the summer capital, not caring to ask for standard facilities which tourism-oriented town is expected to provide. By and large, this category comprises the middle class segment of Indian civil society, and numerically they form the largest group of visitors. The second category of foreigners, mostly Europeans, do not visit Kashmir essentially either to escape the oppressive heat of the Indian plains or to enjoy the much famed salubrious climate of Kashmir. Europe is far batter than Kashmir in terms of scenic beauty and abounding nature and pure air. They come because they love traveling essentially in far off and remote places, still distanced from modernity and fast life of globalization era. They rejoice at oddities, conservatism, mediaeval trappings and almost primitive ways of life in Kashmir. It is more amusement than pleasure for them. Their number is very small and cannot count to be contributing to the economy of the state. These travelers would want to have access to modernized tourist industry infrastructure and would even pay more if it did exist. But as this is not the case, they are reconciled to making the visit as moderate as they can. As regards the third category of VIPs, we know that most of them are top ranking officials of the Union or the State Government coming on an "official" visit and staying in five-star hotels or posh state guest houses with liveried services at their disposal. They do spend few luxurious days in the valley as their respective departments foot the bills of their visits. The core of Kashmir tourism is hardly impacted by this small group of visitors. And lastly winter sports lovers are countable on finger tips.


Another harsh reality about Kashmir tourism is that it is nowhere close to international standard of tourism. Just having mild climate during summer should not be considered a catalyst to a sudden boost to Kashmir tourism. It is the internationally recognized infrastructure that matters and that will be crucial to the industry if it is to grow in future. Indian middle class is fast growing and its potential of capturing Kashmir tourist market is significant. Keeping this futuristic prospect in view, Kashmir tourism needs to modernize the industry, and upgrade the infrastructure. Above all what is of absolute importance is developing tourist culture in Kashmirian society. This requirement is still lacking and the Government has seldom addressed its jurisprudence. It has to be remembered that any city or region in the European world famed for tourist industry has a highly developed tourist culture. It goes into the blood of the people there. They do not look at a tourist as an object to be fleeced and squeezed of last penny in his pocket. No, that is not their culture. Courtesy, politeness, soft speaking, sincerity and top class service are some of the ingredients of tourism-oriented culture of Europe. A tourist visiting any reputed site is never accosted by multitude of taxi drivers, porters, hoteliers, houseboat owner, handicraft peddlers, snake charmers, monkey show makers and above all by thousands of beggars clad in tatters and rags with begging scrip in their hands. The first impression that a tourist gets on setting his foot in Srinagar is horror and chaos. Therefore before the J&K Tourism Alliance expects the Government to modernize the infrastructure and other requirements of the sector, it should initiate a comprehensive campaign of creating tourist culture in Kashmirian society. This should begin with inclusion of tourism as a subject in the syllabus of primary class students with practical training at all levels. Much remains to be done by way of pre-requisite to modernizing tourist industry in Kashmir.

 

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


DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FAITH IN DEMOCRACY

 

More than 250 nomadic Bakerwals, including 70 women, covered a distance of more than 250 km to cast their vote in the panchayat elections to demonstrate their faith in democracy and democratic institutions of the country. Under the leadership Haji Mohammad Yusuf, these nomads travelled all the way from Wardwan in Kishtwar, through Anantnag, and reached Surinsar in the Dansal block to cast their vote. Every summer these nomads go to the higher reaches with their cattle and flocks and return to their native places in plains during winter. "It is really difficult for us to bear the scorching heat of the plains, especially in June, because we are habitual of living in cold places. But this time we have come here, as it is our duty to vote in the panchayat elections," said Haji Yousuf to reporters. A native of the Surinsar panchayat he says it was their duty to vote in the panchayat poll. It was like a festival for the nomadic people. They had prepared a community lunch on the premises of the guest house of Surinsar Lake. The nomadic people are mostly illiterate persons but in their rustic wisdom they have faith in the democratic system of the country and would help strengthen its institutions. "We never missed any opportunity to cast our vote," said another nomad Haji Mohammad Misri. He added that, "As a panchayat is one of the important institutions of democracy, we made it a point to reach our village at any cost to vote". This clearly indicates that these nomadic people have no confusion whatsoever on the question of Panchayat elections being the other name of referendum.

 

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


DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS IN NEPAL

MEN, MATTERS & MEMORIES

BY ML KOTRU

 

The Shahs of Nepal have had one thing in common with the men who eventually ended the dynastic rule in the landlocked mountain kingdom, the Maoists, namely. Both, in many senses, drew sustenance from the neighbour in the South, India. The entire political class in Nepal, at a time when India was fighting its freedom struggle, was educated in Indian universities, Banaras, Allahabad and some in Calcutta. In Post-independence India and post-Rana Nepal, India played a crucial hand in permanently clipping the Ranas' wings. The first blow to the Ranas' was when India played host to the King Tribhuvana who was forced to flee Kathmandu.
It was Nehru who sent the King back, hoping democracy would flourish there. Around the same time, a new generation of Nepalese, brash optimistic had taken the route to Indian universities, mainly the Jawaharlal Nehru University, to take to Marxism, forging links with Indian communists, just as Nepalese educated youth of the pre-independence era had openly joined the Indian freedom struggle. There was any number of them, B.P. Koirala the tallest among them. B.P. was to become the first non-Rana Prime Minister of Nepal, after King Tribhuvan's return from exile; B.P. was followed after his death by his cousin - or was it brother, M.P. Koirala - as the next Prime Minister.


Tribhuvan's successor to the Nepalese throne, his son Mahendra, for some reason, was very suspicious of India and its motives in relation to his tiny Himalayan kingdom. It was around this time that I went to Nepal, following a visit to the country by a colleague from the Statesman, whose writing had invited the King's wrath, banning the Statesman's entry into the country for six months.


The Indian Ambassador at the time, Shriman Narayan, a former AICC General Secretary and a known Gandhian, I was to learn from his successor, Raj Bahadur, a former Union Minister, was so overawed by Mahindra's vision of himself as an incarnation of Vishnu, that Narayan, whenever he called on the King, would prostrate himself at the feet of the King as a mark of respect. This just about the time the King had ordered the closure of the Indian Military Mission in Nepal - it had been there since the days of the British when its job was mainly to distribute pensions etc among the large body of Nepalese who had and continue to serve in the Indian Army. Naturally the mission did keep it eyes and ears to open as Mahendra had simultaneously opened a channel to China.


I might mention here, before that the articles that earned a ban on the entry of the Statesman had referred to the close links between the Palace and the smugglers. Nepal, as I was also to report later, was the distribution centre for textiles, stainless steel, and assorted finished and unfinished products, all finding their way into India mostly from Bangkok. Our Marwari businessmen in Kathmandu had a whale of a time in the bargain, of course after parting with substantial amounts to the palace in tribute.


His successor and son Birendra did try to make amends after he ascended the throne but it was too little, too late. The Maoists had in the meantime struck roots and were busy spreading their network to the far flung mountain ranges, attracting in droves hundreds of unemployed Nepalese youth, robbing the rich and the middle class and passing on some of the lolly to the poor, some in kind and some in cash.


The Palace lost much of its allure following the murder of King Birendra and his family, with many accusing fingers pointed at his nephew, the son of Gyanendra who succeeded as monarch amidst much controversy.
Gyanendra's was a very short stay at the palace, the maoists, who had become very active the preceding three years, giving him little time to pause. Maoists had upped the ante and urged an end to monarchy. Nepal would be a republic and it indeed has been, albeit a chaotic one. The problem with post-monarchy Nepal is, like it or not, that the Maoists have spent the past three years finding ways of getting rid of all other political parties.
Of course they won the elections to the proposed constituent Assembly emerging as the largest single party, pushing older and better known parties like the Nepali Congress into second or third place. The Maoists did enjoy power for some months thereafter. Prachanda, the JNU product, as Prime Minister made three visits to Beijing and as a token of his loyalty permitted the Chinese to build a road through Tibet right to our borders. But the coalition of various political parties which followed each time Prachanda collapsed always managed to come a cropper, unable to silence the bullying Maoists leader.


This instability has been accompanied by the elected representatives' failure to draft a republican constitution. Deadlines have been set and remained unmet. The latest, a three months extension of the assembly, was agreed upon by the political parties last week but according to Nepalese observers only a miracle can make them to agree to an acceptable draft. The Nepalese Congress, the oldest of the country's political parties, is very suspicious of the Maoists. In fact they nearly broke up right at the start when the Maoists wanted their armed activists to be absorbed in the Nepalese Army. The NC now wants the Maoists People's Liberation Army to be disbanded. As everyone from the present Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal down to most politicians, admit the Constituent Assembly will not be able to deliver the Constitution even after the three-month extension granted. Many deadlines have come and gone including the last one, May 28. Under the arrangement agreed to by the parties earlier the House may have to be extended by another year, assuming the Constitution is framed, debated and approved during the next three months. Nepalese observers see the biggest threat to the peace process in the country, linked directly to the framing of the Constitution, coming from the non-implementation of several provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Accord of 2006. The Maoists are being squarely blamed for this by the other signatories, the Nepali Congress among these and which has put forth a new set of demands that Maoists dispose of their arms, disband their army, return properties the insurgents captured during the years of conflict and transform the Young Communist League into civilian outfit. Actually the Nepali Congress has shown it has neither the will nor the capacity to confront the Maoists beyond a point even when the latter has defied the letter and spirit of the accord.


The Maoists have shown that they will be part of the democratic process only on its terms. They have in fact asked their cadres to be ready for another People's War. Prachanda plays that card at critical moments.
Forty eight hours before the latest extension was granted to the Constitution-makers, Prachanda had warned that the arms could not be bartered away. According to a recent judgment by the Supreme Court of Nepal has observed that the term of the house can be extended by six months beyond the first two years in case a State of Emergency is declared. This, according to Nepalese political observers is enough reason to believe that the course and fate of the Constituent Assembly will be affected by several factors. Clearly its moral and Constitutional status will come under greater scrutiny in the next three months and Maoists will continue to tougher. Te Nepali Congress would, of course, go into oblivion should it continue to be wobbly; the Maoists are interested in seeing that happen.

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


DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

HIMALAYAN YEW IN DANGER

BY DR HARISH CHANDER DUTT

 

Taxus baccata subsp. wallichiana also called as Taxus wallichiana (Himalayan Yew) is a species of yew, native to the Himalaya from Afghanistan east to western Yunnan in southwestern China, at altitudes from 2,000-3,500 masl. It is a medium-sized evergreen coniferous tree growing to 20 m tall. The shoots are green at first, becoming brown after three or four years. The leaves are thin, flat, slightly falcate (sickle-shaped), 1.5-2.7 cm long and 2 mm broad, with a softly mucronate apex; they are arranged spirally on the shoots but twisted at the base to appear in two horizontal ranks on all except for erect lead shoots. It is dioecious, with the male and female cones on separate plants; the seed cone is highly modified, berry-like, with a single scale developing into a soft, juicy red aril 1 cm diameter, containing a single dark brown seed 7 mm long. The pollen cones are globose, 4 mm diameter, produced on the undersides of the shoots in early spring. The tree has medicinal use in Ayurveda and Tibetan medicine. The most important use of the tree is its use as a source of anticancer drug called as paclitaxel (Taxol®).


The Himalayan yew is one of the many species of yew tree that grow in temperate zones around the world. Unfortunately this yew is an endangered species of tree due to its capacity to provide taxol from its bark. Taxol is an effective anti-cancer drug used in cancer chemotherapy, and was first discovered in the Pacific yew (T. brevifolia). When this species was virtually on the verge of extinction, botanists and scientists found that taxol could also be obtained from Taxus wallichiana, and now the same fate faces this tree.


Taxol is effective against breast and ovarian cancer treatments, although alone it has a 56% success rate in treating beast cancer and only a 30 % success rate of treating ovarian cancer when combined with other drugs it has more than 60 % success rate. Male trees yield more taxol than female trees. Amongst various high value medicinal plants of the Himalayan region, Taxus baccata L. subsp. wallichiana (Zucc.) Pilger (the only Taxus species in India) has gained considerable importance as a source of the anti-cancer drug. Extracts of T. baccata are known to be a source of a drug, zarnab, which is prescribed in the ancient Unani system of Indian medicine as a sedative, and for the treatment of bronchitis, asthma, epilepsy, snake bites and scorpion stings, besides application as an aphrodisiac. Moreover, the bark of the tree is pealed off by the locals for making butter tea. Excessive harvesting of T. baccata from the forests all along the Indian Himalaya for Taxol has caused substantial environmental concern.


So far, there are no records of the estimation of canopy removal although visual estimates indicate substantial losses. The possible threat to T. baccata as a result of overexploitation because of the plant's traditional use for timber, religious purposes, bark mixed with tea, and bark/leaves exported to the plains for use as a medicine was recognized at the beginning of this century. In some areas, regeneration is also a problem because 'seeds' along with the aril (a sweet, fleshy cup-like structure surrounding the 'seed') were eaten by birds, monkeys and children, and branches were used to make baskets. Some scientists have expressed their hope that this interesting tree would be protected in the Himalayan forest, both from being cut with the regular crops, and from being barked and otherwise damaged. The thin bark and low height suggest its extreme vulnerability to surface fires. As young plants require shelter and deep shade, T. baccata is unlikely to reproduce where forest has been cleared or canopy gaps are large. Though distributed widely in the Himalaya from Afghanistan in the west to Bhutan in the east at altitudes between 1800 and 3400 m, this undercanopy species never forms extensive cover, and commonly occurs in patches under Quercus semecarpifolia, Abies pindrow, and Rhododendron spp. The species is extremely slow growing in terms of girth increment (0.421.3 cm yr-1) and ring counts (average of 8212 rings cm-1 of radius).


The countable number of the Taxus baccata is seen in whole of the Jammu province except in the forest of Bani and Bhadarwah. Only two trees of Taxus baccata grown in the vicinity of Nag temple near Sanasar meadow is the most approachable habitat. Both the trees are very old and vulnerable because of the heavy exploitation for logs and tea substitutes. No natural regeneration is possible because the soil surface below the trees is converted into a concrete cemented plateform. It can be speculated that the tree species will get vanished from the area if no measures will be taken. The tree is having an international market potential thus a due attention of both the public and government is needed to protect and multiple the tree species.

 

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


DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FALLING FOOD PRICES IS NOT GOOD FOR AGRICULTURE

BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN

It has been said that the only people who can change the world are those who want to. The world needs to move from its current non-renewable energy paradigm to a future powered by entirely renewable energy supply. It is only by making such a transition that we will be in a position to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change. A large number of leaders across the world from within the policy arena, business, media and civil society are questioning the views of conventional experts on the world's energy future and their business as usual scenarios, embarking on a serious search for realistic alternatives. The world has reached peak conventional oil and gas consumption, meaning thereby oil and gas companies are digging deeper and deeper into unconventional sources, with disastrous environmental and social consequences. Coal is still relatively readily available but catastrophic in terms of climate changing emissions. The world can no longer afford to hang on its old energy paradigm and its dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.

The Energy Report, produced through a joint effort of WWF and Ecofys, breaks new ground in the energy debate; a possible system in which all of the world's energy supply is provided by renewable sources by 2050. The Energy Report shows that this future is within our reach and provides a vital insight into how it can be achieved. The report puts together strategies and technology options that have already been put in practice to create a feasible global scenario. WWF wants to help change the old paradigm for the energy and articulate a new pathway for the future.

Renewables will play a greater role than either nuclear or carbon capture and storage by 2050. About 13 per cent of the world's energy come from renewable sources in 2008, a proportion likely to have risen as countries have built their capacity since then, with china leading the investment surge, particularly in wind energy. But by far the greatest source of renewable energy used globally at present is burning biomass- about 10 per cent of the global energy supply which is problematic because it can cause deforestation, leads to deposit of soot that accelerate global warming and cooking fires cause indoor air pollution that harm health. Wind power by contrast met about 2 per cent of global electricity demand in 2009, and could increase to more than 20 per cent by 2050.

Renewable energy is already growing fast- of the 300-giga watts (remember one gigawatt is equivalent to 1000 megawatts) of new electricity generation capacity added globally between 2008 and 2009; about 140 GW came from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. The investment that will be needed to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets is likely to amount to about $ 5 trillion in the next decade, rising to $ 7 trillion from 2021 to 2030. Developing countries have an important stake in the future- this is where most of the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity live yet also where some of the best conditions exist for renewable energy deployment. Renewable energy can also meet the growing demand of developing countries where over 2 billion people lack access to basic energy services and can also do so at a more cost-competitive and faster rate than conventional energy sources.

Today, we do not use energy in a judicious manner. More than half the heats we pump into our homes disappear through walls, windows and roofs- yet we know how to construct buildings that require virtually no energy for heating or cooling. We favor big, powerful private cars over far more efficient forms of transport. Energy-hungry appliances clog the market, even though there is a wide range of efficient alternatives available. Manufacturers could use far less energy by reassessing their materials and processes. Energy conservation is something every one can embrace. We simply require to start making wise choices today. Nuclear meltdown in Japan after powerful earthquake in March 2011 clearly reveals why society should no longer bear the risks of nuclear disaster. And that is why it is clear now than ever before that the energy of future for the safer, more prudent society will come from renewable energy. The more we use renewable energy, the more we benefit the environment, strengthen our energy security, create jobs locally and help improve our economy. Here we can explore ways to use renewable energy.

Using Biomass Energy

Ever since humans started burning wood to keep warm and to cook food, we have been using biomass energy. Today we can also use biomass to fuel vehicles, generate electricity and developed bio-based products. Here we can explore the different ways to use biomass energy. For instance, by using fuel for vehicle with ethanol or biodiesel, using clean electricity generated from biomass, using products like plastics made from biomass.
Using Hydrogen
Hydrogen- a colorless and odorless gas is the most abundant element in the universe. However, because it combines easily with other elements, it is rarely found by itself in nature. Hydrogen usually combines with other elements, forming organic compounds called hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons include plant material and fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas and coal. Water is produced during the burning of any hydrocarbon. Hydrogen can be separated from hydrocarbon through the burning of heat- a process known as reforming. Currently, most hydrogen is made this way from natural gas. An electric current can also be used to separate water into its components of oxygen and hydrogen. This process is known as electrolysis. Currently, hydrogen has great potential as a power source for fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells can provide heat for homes and buildings, generate electricity and power vehicles.

Using Hydropower

Flowing water creates energy that can be tapped and turned into electricity. This is called hydropower or hydroelectric power. If we have access to flowing water on our property, we can use a micro hydropower system to generate our own electricity. Micro hydropower system usually generate up to 100 Kilowatt (KW) of electricity.


Using Solar Energy

If we step outside on a hot, sunny day, and we will experience the power of sun's heat and the light. We can use solar energy to heat our homes through passive solar design or an active solar heating system. We can also use it to generate our own electricity. We can use it to heat water in our home or swimming pool. We can use it to light our home both indoors and outdoors.

Using Wind Energy

We have harnessed the wind's energy for hundreds of years- from windmills that pump water or grind grain to today's wind turbines that generate electricity. If you live on at least one acre of land with an ample wind resource, you can generate your own electricity using a small wind electric system. You can also use a small wind turbine for pumping water. You may have the opportunity now or in the future to buy clean electricity from a wind power plant.

One thing that looks imminent is the fact that the future belongs to renewable energy. Scientists and industry expert may disagree over how long the world's supply of oil and natural gas will last, but one thing is for sure that it will rather sooner or later exhaust.

 

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


DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CRIME AGAINST WOMEN

BY SYED KARAR HASHMI

 

Woman is the architect of our future generation and ia an important component of social management. It is she who gives birth to all the prophets, scientists, engineers, leaders, philosophers and other great personalities but the graph of crime is rising at an alarming level against her. The slogan of international conferences, summits, voluntary organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are directly related to issues of injustice with women as the central theme to act. In spite all of these efforts, the atrocities like dowry deaths, sexual harassment, female feticide, molestation, rape, women trafficking, domestic violence etc are coming into surface increasingly from each and every corner of India, to assess the real picture of female gender.
The shocking statistics of sex-ratio in the state of Jammu and Kashmir: 883 per 1000 boys is below the national average of 914 per 1000 boys and out of world's one billion illiterates, 2/3 is women. A study has revealed that 57% of boys were breast fed as compared to 30% of girls. The stereotype mindset of people that boys are assets, while girls are considered as an additional burden on the parents as they have to spend massive money on their marriage and dowry. Women as individual and as a group are among the most discriminated sections of world population. Today's women are kept away from the position of power and decision making. The economic dependence of women makes them subjugated and vulnerable to emotional and psychological violence. The society should change its negative mindset towards business women. Men should leave bias and strengthen women entrepreneurs and help them to be the job providers and not the job seekers. The entire edifice of social movements in India, which wanted to change the status of women, has been raised on the principle of equality. Societies across the globe have shown preferences for boy child and have gone to the extent of killing girl child in the womb itself. A woman does 3/5th of world's work but earns only 1/10th of world's income and owns only 1/10th of world's assets. The religion, polity and society are so organized historically as to make her position vulnerable in the society. Women being treated as the second sex in material terms and is quite often denied political, economic and cultural rights. Changing conditions of women and their status constituted the core of the social reform movements in the early decade of nineteenth century, however, by the early decade of the twentieth century this core is enlarged by bringing two issues: equality of women in modern political, social and cultural realm and women's role in the development process, into its ambit.


The year 1975 was declared as the world women's year by the United Nations. The women's decade, 1975-85, witnessed women related activism by feminist groups as well as political parties. The big obstacle in the way of approaching banks for financial assistance is that women are asset less and they cannot keep anything as mortgage against the sanctioned loans.


Violence comes in many forms and, like the sea, a life that is serene and beautiful can quickly become turbulent and terrifying. Often we cannot leave the place where disruption rules, but we can leave to go deep inside and remain unaffected.

 

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

 

 


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

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SCARRED BY SLUMS

INDIA SHOULD FOCUS ON RURAL DEVELOPMENT

 

India without slums by 2020 is a well-intentioned, laudable idea now exposed by the Union Cabinet, but it may not become a reality unless the urban-centric development model is given a rural-orientation. Slums come up as villagers migrate to cities in search of work and a better future.

 

This trend has to be stopped by investing more in agriculture, agro-industries and rural infrastructure. The exodus to cities has put unmanageable pressure on urban civic amenities. The explosive growth of cities has resulted in the creation of ghettos without the basic amenities like clean drinking water, toilets and healthcare. A survey by the McKinsey Global Institute has predicted that by 2030 more Indians will live in cities than in villages.

 

Urbanisation seems inevitable and change needs to be planned. Otherwise, more towns would turn into chaotic cities as before. The Centre's decision to provide cheap houses and basic needs in slums in 250 cities should be seen in this context. The effort is commendable but not enough to get rid of shanties, which are a global embarrassment and a domestic shame for a fast-growing India. Liberalisation has reduced poverty and raised incomes but disparities too have grown. Youngsters trapped in rural and urban poverty need to be rescued. They need better living and work opportunities through development projects before they turn to crime.

 

A holistic development approach is required with support from the private sector, focussing on low-cost housing, drinking water, toilets, education and health. People must pay adequately for the civic amenities for their efficient management and growth to meet the needs of a growing population. Political freebies and mass pilferage have stunted their growth. Government works get delayed by cost overruns and scams. If corruption is minimised through transparent governance with help from technology and a favourable investment and work environment is created through policy changes and reforms, a slum-free India could be a possibility. 

 

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

 

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

USE WITH CARE

CELL PHONES NOT ALWAYS A BOON

 

It is now widely accepted that cell phone users absorb low frequency radiation from their devices. However, whether that radiation can cause cancer is still not firmly established as various research studies have come to different conclusions. There is some concern among scientists that they could cause harm to the body.

 

Consumer advocates and some scientists have been expressing concern about the effect of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields generated by mobile phones, whereas the industry calls these concerns alarmist.

 

Millions of users of mobile phones would have read, with interest, the WHO warning that there is a link between the use of wireless devices and brain cancer. Mobile phone usage had exploded worldwide since the technology was widely adopted in the 1990s. Since then, there have been studies that link mobile phone usage to cancer, and those that deny the link. WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has called for more research into the effect of these radiofrequency electromagnetic fields on human beings. As of now, it has just put the "potentially dangerous" tag on cell phone usage. Cell phone users thus find themselves in the same category as those who consume residues of the pesticide DDT, breathe in air laced with the exhaust petrol engine vehicles and coffee drinkers.

 

Just as the number of petrol cars and coffee drinkers is rising sharply in India, so is the number of mobile phone users, which now stands at 811.59 million. Have people stopped drinking coffee because of the advisory? Will they give up cell phones? Of course, not. But they can check their exposure to potential health hazards by exercising moderation. Cell phones have provided millions of users with tremendous mobility and are very useful devices. However, those who use these devices extensively would be well advised to limit the length of their calls. Those who have to use cell phones for long hours may do well to heed the WHO advice and use hands-free devices to reduce radiation risks. Progress should not be at the cost of health.

 

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

 

 

 


THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

SIR VIDIA'S DIATRIBE

HE DOESN'T NEED A THEROUX TO EXPOSE HIS PETTINESS

 

Like The Writers Guild of Great Britain, no one worth his/her salt would like to " waste breath" on Sir V S Naipaul's blather of skewed gender sensibility. The ever acerbic Sir Vidia has found a new target, this time, 'women writers' for his caustic tongue. " No woman writer is equal to me," declared Sir Naipaul.

 

On Jane Austen, his observations were condescending, " Couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world."

 

So, when Sir Vidia writes 'A House for Mr Biswas' it is a sensitive portrayal of a householder's search to own a house. But, when Jane Austen writes 'Sense and Sensibility', it is a sentimental quest! For his sensitivity, he was conferred with a Nobel, Jane Austen was not. Even without a Nobel, she continues to be a popular writer and is prescribed for post graduate courses in English literature. Yet, Sir Vidia is dismissive of her.

 

But, Sir Vidia is known for his misplaced anger all through his life. He was unhappy in Trinidad, for the place was too limited and closed. In London, he found bias against him and felt ignored because he came from a third world country like Trinidad. In the 60s he came to India, searching for his roots, and wrote 'An Area of Darkness.' He was angry with India, for being such a letdown.

 

On the return journey from his ancestral town, a man asked him for a lift. He refused, for, he was singed. He describes it, "It was brutal; it was ludicrous; it was pointless and infantile. But the moment of anger is a moment of exalted shrinking lucidity, from which recovery is slow and shattering." 

 

We do not know if Sir Vidia will ever recover from this misplaced anger against women writers! The literary world is obliged to him for elevating the genre of travelogues to such literary merit! It is ironical, the day he buried the hatchet with Paul Theroux, his one time protégé, who continued to expose his 'elevated crankishness' for years, as an act of revenge by publishing 'Sir Vidia's Shadow', the highly respected author himself exposed his petty gender bias without a provocation. 

 

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

THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

DRIVE AGAINST CORRUPTION

WHEN GOVT, CIVIL SOCIETY COME TOGETHER

BY KULDIP NAYAR

 

CIVIL society and the government are seldom on the same page. The reason is not because their interests clash, but because their adversarial role does not allow them to concur. India is in the midst of an experiment which brings the two on the same side. This is on the Lokpal Bill, which has already prefixed the word "Jan" (popular) to it.

 

Both government ministers and civil society activists, five from each, have been sitting across the table for almost a month. They are drafting legislation to list steps to fight corruption in high places.

 

An ombudsman (Lokpal) institution is sought to be set up that will supervise over the entire official machinery engaged in taking action against the dishonest. Whether the Prime Minister, high court and Supreme Court judges and MPs should come within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill, which will initiate action against the delinquent, is the point at issue.

 

The Bill has made a substantial progress. That the Lokpal will be an independent institution and scrutinise the complaints relating to corruption in high places goes without saying. It is a good thing that its decision is subject to judicial review.

 

One criticism against the Bill that the Lokpal should be answerable to the people is faulty. This argument sounds good on paper. But the argument that the impeachment of the Lokpal should depend on the verdict of Parliament will tell upon the Lokpal's independence. Political parties can join hands to "punish" the Lokpal for having taken action against a delinquent MP. Like the Election Commission, the Lokpal will be a creature of Parliament but independent to take action against MPs and ministers.

 

Both sides have more or less reached a consensus except on the Prime Minister and judges. Government representatives feel that the inclusion of the Prime Minister exposes the office to frivolous charges and political vendetta. Activists argue that the Prime Minister would be tried on charges of corruption, which will be first screened by a high-power committee. As for the judges, New Delhi wants to set up a judicial commission to process the allegations against them and to pronounce judgement. The emerging argument is that the judges will be out of the ambit of the Lokpal once the commission comes into being.

 

Differences are minor and agreements major. The government has accepted the demand of the activists to place under the Lokpal the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Enforcement Directorate and other investigation agencies. This is a welcome step because the CBI and other agencies are only at the beck and call of those in power in Delhi. The Vigilance Commission appointed by Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri has been non-functional. It is better to abolish it. The vigilance officers can be part of the investigation force under the Lokpal.

 

After five meetings—which were constructive, according to Human Resources Minister Kapil Sibal— one got the impression that the government was forthcoming to take steps against the corrupt. Activists were happy that their demands were being met. It was too good to be true. Now the government has shown its hand. It does not want the Lokpal to have the authority to conduct a probe against the Prime Minister on the matter of his probity. Nor does the government want the judiciary to be scrutinised by the Lokpal. And MPs, even caught with their hands in the jam jar, are not under the Lokpal purview. Justice Santosh Hegde, one of the activists in the dialogue, rightly asked at the last meeting that the government should tell what the Lokpal is supposed to do if practically everybody who counts is going to be out of its reach.

 

Home Minister P Chidambaram, also on the ministerial committee of the dialogue, says that civil society is itself divided. That is a good thing, not something detestable in a democracy. The problem before the nation is not how to correct the ills of civil society, but how to eliminate corruption in high places. Probably, this question would not have assumed the shape it took-spontaneous demonstrations in response to Gandhian Anna Hazare's fast-if one scam after another had not tumbled out of the government's closet.

 

Nobody has ever doubted the personal honesty of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But one was horrified to see that he knew about the corrupt deals of at least Telecom Minister A. Raja and did not do anything till the media uncovered the scandal. Even now the media had to do the exposure job in the case of Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran. He made favours to a company which invested in turn in Maran's television network. The Prime Minister has not till today asked him to quit the Cabinet. The government may need the support of the DMK, Maran's party, to survive. Must the nation suffer for what the Prime Minister once rationalised as a "coalition dharma"?

 

Today, the government faces a crisis of credibility. People are not sure whether what it says is correct and whether what is explained, when exposed by the media, is the right explanation. The constitution of the Lokpal may retrieve the confidence of people in the Manmohan Singh government. When he himself has said that he, as Prime Minister, is willing to be scrutinised by the Lokpal, why should the ministerial team raise this question?

 

The Lokpal was first suggested by the Santhanam Committee when Shastri was the Home Minister. Topics like the Prime Minister's office were not raised. The matter was left at that. The ruling Congress party has been discussing the Lokpal issue off and on but never went beyond having it in its election manifesto. The government cannot now face the reality because at least two of its Prime Ministers have been found lacking integrity.

 

The judiciary is 15 per cent corrupt, according to a statement made by a retired Chief Justice of India a few years ago. The government has done nothing. The judicial commission to which the high court and Supreme Court judges would be answerable is not even on the horizon. What do the people do when they see judgments palpably favouring the rich and the powerful?

 

In the face of the government's volte face, what does civil society do? It would be foolhardy to walk out of the talks until the government is fully exposed on its duplicity. Since the entire talks have been tape-recorded, if not video-taped, the activists should reproduce what the ministerial team said in the beginning and how its earlier position has changed.

 

Had there been a constitutional way to hold a referendum, it should have been conducted to find out how the public is reacting. Maybe, the government should go back to the people to get a verdict on its steps to dilute the Lokpal.

 

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

 


THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE LONE CRUSADER

BY MAHESH GROVER

 

It was a big day for the animals. They were collecting in response to the orders of the King, to decide on the manner of appointment of an adjudicator of disputes.So, all of them put on their thinking caps and assembled before the King, who commenced the meeting in his usual baritone: "You are free to give your views about the qualities of the adjudicator before we select one".

 

"He should have a tough exterior and a soft interior", came a voice from the crowd.

 

"He should be patient; as patience is also an indicator of wisdom", called another.

 

"He should not have any vices", came yet another voice.

 

"He should be a hard worker and a crusader," opined another.

 

"He should not be harsh and should be soft spoken," was another shout, before everybody ran out of ideas

 

The King peered over his spectacles, and said: "Very valuable suggestions. Now which of you has all these qualities?"

 

Each looked at another sheepishly, embarrassed, even as some sniggered.

 

"So there is no one who can become an adjudicator," he roared in displeasure.

"You can consider me," a hesitant voice came from the crowd, and the turtle stepped out to present himself before the King.

 

"I have a tough exterior, soft interior, am patient, have no vices, I work hard, speak softly and am not harsh on anyone", said he.

 

"Err ... seems correct," said the King and appointed him as the adjudicator.

 

All sorts of disputes relating to territory, possession, lust and passion, came to the adjudicator. Even the sovereign King came to him complaining violations of his territory despite his faecal markings.

 

The adjudicator was thus burdened with work which piled up due to his patient disposition which gave rise to a common refrain that he was slow in deciding disputes.

 

The King, perturbed over the delays, confronted the turtle with the issue, who replied: "I have to be patient lest I conclude wrongly, but I need your cooperation. Why don't you refine some laws and reduce friction in society?"

 

"We are animals and we will continue with our ways. You correct your ways," retorted the King.

 

Soon the people started talking about the turtle. "He is inefficient", "he is slow", and this chorus turned into a crescendo and then a voice echoed: "Down with the adjudicator; he is CORRUPT".

 

The turtle looked on timidly; his tough exterior cracked under the strain of work and the onslaught of allegations. He tried to save his neck by pulling it back into its shell and said to himself rather sorrowfully: "I thought, I had all the qualities which were required of an adjudicator, but I forgot, I also have a soft underbelly".

 

He, however, quietly bore on; as a lone crusader with no one to extol his virtues but plenty to condemn him.

 

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


THE TRIBUNE

OPED

MONEY, POWER AND POLITICS

WORLD FOOTBALL HAS BEEN ROCKED BY ALLEGATIONS OF BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION IN THE CONTROLLING BODY. ALTHOUGH ENGLAND LED A SPIRITED BUT FUTILE BID TO DEFER THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN FIFA, WHICH HAS ENORMOUS WEALTH AND CLOUT OVERSEEING FOOTBALL IN 208 COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD, THE BIG DADDY OF FOOTBALL REMAINS UNMOVED. WHAT FOLLOWS IS A BRITISH PERSPECTIVE OF THE STAND-OFF.

ROBIN SCOTT-ELLIOT & JAMES LAWTON

 

Sepp Blatter was duly elected this week for a fourth term in charge of the world football's governing body. The 75-year-old Swiss acknowledged that he had been "personally slapped" by the events of the last few weeks during which FIFA faced an escalating crisis. But it was England who were on the receiving end, the level of vitriol taking the chief executive of English Football Association (FA) by surprise.

 

Sour grapes

 

It culminated in an extraordinary attack by Julio Grondona, a FIFA veteran, who veered off script to accuse England of "telling lies". Earlier in the day the Argentine had described England as "pirates". Representatives from Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cyprus and Fiji also followed to lambast England's stance.

 

Angel Maria Villar Llona, the influential Spanish member of FIFA's executive committee added his voice, also swerving away from the subject he was supposed to be addressing, to accuse England's stance of being based on sour grapes over the failed 2018 World Cup bid.

 

 

The FA, which wanted the election of the President to be deferred, was voted down by 172 votes to 17. The Scandinavian associations pushed for an independent panel to investigate the slew of corruption allegations, without attempting to delay the election, while the German FA preferred to work towards reforms from within.

 

FA's Bernstein said: "It gives me no pleasure to give this address. I have been advised that it is better not to speak but I have decided to ignore that advice. We are subject to criticism from governments, sponsors, media and the wider public. With this background the election has turned into a one-horse race.This should be avoided both for the sake of FIFA and for the president. A coronation without an opponent provides a flawed mandate."

 

Backing Blatter

 

Selemani Omari, president of the FA of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said: "FIFA belongs to 208 associations, not one or another. We're ill at ease with people who wield unfounded accusations. He who accuses must provide evidence. We have no lessons to take. If there is a single candidate, sometimes it is because we are satisfied with the candidate."

 

Then the Cypriot delegate, Costakis Koutsokoumis, took to the lectern. He said cuttingly: "Yes we are facing allegations. Allegations, what a beautiful English word that is. Someone stands up, says a few things in the press and then these things take their own body and mind, they are expanded, take a seed in our minds without most of the time a single shred of truth."

 

Later in the Congress, Grondona was supposed to be speaking about FIFA's finances, but grasped a chance to deliver the most withering attack on England. "We always have attacks from England which are mostly lies with the support of journalism, which is more busy lying than telling the truth.

 

"We have seen the World Cup go around the world, to South America and Africa, and it looks like this country does not like it. It looks like England is always complaining; so please, I say, will you leave the FIFA family alone, and when you speak, speak with truth?" It was his second outburst against England. Earlier in an interview with a German press agency, Grondona called England "pirates" and added: "Yes, I voted for Qatar, because a vote for the US would be like a vote for England. And that is not possible. But with the English bid I said: Let us be brief. If you give back the Falkland Islands, which belong to us, you will get my vote. They then became sad and left."

 

Blatter's bluster

 

What is truly nightmarish about FIFA is the impotence of those who have long cried that the governance of world football is an abomination.

 

This is true to such an extent that you have to suspect if FIFA was in charge of some decrepit banana republic, rather than the world's most popular game, some of its most outrageous figures might be found hanging from the nearest lamp posts.

 

Not an outcome to be advocated by any reasonably law-abiding citizen, of course, but let's be honest; wouldn't it be intriguing to see if FIFA president Sepp Blatter and some of his foremost cronies could maintain expressions of unchallengeable smugness even under such fraught personal circumstances ? The chances are they probably could, because if the history of Blatter's reign, as that of his Brazilian predecessor Joao Havelange, is characterised by anything, it is an insuperable belief in his ability to shape the organisation quite any way he chooses.

 

It is necessary only to stroll casually back through the 13 years of Blatter's presidency to find examples of not just his disregard of his critics and their claims that FIFA was riddled with corruption but his open contempt.

 

In Seoul nine years ago he put down various rebellions in the wake of the catastrophic collapse of FIFA's marketing organisation - amid huge debt and claims of outrageous profiteering within the organisation - and was voted into another term by "acclamation".

 

The African challenge of Issa Hayatou had faded away and the whistle-blowing of Fifa's then secretary-general, Michael Zen-Ruffinen, had also been shoved aside.

 

Zen-Ruffinen had done much to organise the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea and for a little while it seemed he would be sacked on the eve of the tournament as part of Blatter's jubilantly packaged revenge. Instead he left "amicably" some time later, but not before Blatter had claimed triumphantly that Zen-Ruffinen would be "thrown out of the door by Friday. The executive committee is going to take care of Mr Clean".

 

The language was chilling but then we have known for some time that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Here, on the broadest face of it, is indeed absolute power, power untrammeled by any of the normal restraints imposed by well ordered and passably just societies.

 

This was the bedrock of Blatter's authority when he appeared this week to face questions about the latest pantomime of political chicanery that led to the weekend withdrawal of his rival Mohamed bin Hammam from the presidential election. There can be no mourning for the fall of Bin Hammam, the man who has the outrage of Qatar's World Cup hosting triumph set against his name, of course, but nor can there be a scintilla of pleasure in the latest triumph of football's Mr Big.

 

It is nothing so much as the confirmation of the style that in 1998 first carried him into office on the coat-tails of Havelange, the man whose policy of nurturing the hopes, and no doubt in some cases the bank accounts, of Africa and Asia he pursued with so much zeal and acumen.

 

For Blatter there is maybe one unwanted accolade. It is that no-one has ever been more adept at squeezing out the very pips of world football; no-one has walked so surely into the super league of man-manipulation. Havelange worked for a voting edge to neutralise any growth of scepticism among the major football nations - and Havelange's strategy has been for so long his own inheritance.

 

Reforming FIFA

 

The overwhelming conclusion has to be that some of the resignation about the futility of reforming FIFA, of bringing it into the orbit of decency, has to be challenged. FIFA may be a law unto itself but it is not one that cannot be undermined, perhaps one day fatally, by a properly motivated and supported campaign by any government which recognises that football is more than a mere pastime.

 

Of course it is something that can engage the passions of the world. We saw that at Wembley last Saturday night when a huge audience tuned in to see Barcelona's beautifully gifted team fulfil a most perfect expression of a game revered in every corner of the universe.

 

It is simply not good enough to shrug away the dichotomy between what Barcelona achieved and what FIFA can do to the game and its image on a routine basis. There is a duty to undermine FIFA now with every means. We cannot send in the SAS or the Seals but we can wage another kind of war aimed at ridiculing and ultimately destroying a sickening empire.

 

FIFA, we are constantly told, is beyond reproach or effective censure. But when critics of the 1994 World Cup in America asked Henry Kissinger if it was possible to put grass into indoor stadiums, he said: "Well, we did get a man to the moon." Who could say that bringing down Sepp Blatter isn't also quite a noble cause? — The Independent

 

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


THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE SCANDAL & THE CONTROVERSY

 

FIFA presidential candidate Md. Bin Hammam from Qatar visited Trinidad on May 10 to campaign for his bid. He presented his manifesto to the representatives of 25 associations, all members of the Caribbean Football Union ( CFU).

 

Hammam had paid for their flight and hotel costs. And once the lobbying got over, the 50 odd guests were asked to pick up a 'gift' from the adjoining room.

 

Fred Lunn, vice president of the Bahamas' Football Association, was among the first to go in and was handed over a big, brown envelope. When he opened it, stacks of currency notes, in neat and crisp US dollars, fell out. There were US $ 40,000 in each envelope, he was told.

 

When Lunn protested and said that he was not authorised to accept such gifts, other CFU members urged him to retain it. He took the envelope to his room, photographed it and informed his association of the nature of the 'gift'.

 

FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, who also heads the CFU, later claimed that he had asked Bin Hammam to bring the cash equivalent of any gift he wanted to give the delegates. The money, he said, could be used for anything, to support small football clubs or local tournaments and so on.

 

By then, however, the word had leaked and the allegation, and the evidence, was referred to the Ethics Committee of FIFA, which suspended Bin Hammam and Warner pending an inquiry. Bin Hammam became ineligible to contest the election, leaving only Sepp Blatter in the fray and making the election a one-horse race.

 

While England, and 16 other associations, cried foul and called for the election to be postponed, a majority of FIFA members opposed the move. There was no evidence, they pointed out, against Blatter and in any case the Swiss had taken action on the complaint. England was accused of unfairly targeting Blatter after losing out on its bid to host the World Cup in 2018.

 

The heat generated by the scandal has, however, revived doubts about the manner in which FIFA has been awarding rights to host arguably the biggest show on earth, the Football World Cup, awarded to Brazil (2014), Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022). The controversy has also called into question the need for reforms within FIFA.

 

More specifically, Blatter and his cronies are accused of retaining power by wooing smaller countries of Africa, Asia and in the Caribbean. There is growing demand in Europe, specially in England, for soccer powerhouses like Spain, Italy, Germany, France and England to pull out of FIFA, float their own Federation and host their own World Cup.

 

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

 

 


 

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

EDITORIAL

BLIND-SIDED

T N NINAN

 

Policy makers are supposed to be better at assessing trends than mere flacks, since they have better access to information and (presumably) better judgement. So it has been a mystery as to why virtually all the wise economists in the government, starting with the prime minister, have been unable these last few months to see what has been staring everyone else in the face, namely the economic slowdown. Not just Manmohan Singh but also C Rangarajan, Kaushik Basu and others have all been growth optimists when the growth indicators have pointed downwards. Now, with the fourth quarter GDP numbers confirming the slowdown, they are all scrambling to lower expectations.

The slowdown which government spokesmen have woken up to belatedly was no hidden mystery weeks and even months ago. Private sector economists said on Budget day itself that 9 per cent growth this year would be difficult to pull off. And while it's not wise to say "I told you so" (readers might point to the times when one has been wrong!), I did write in these columns in January that "If this year's GDP growth ends up at 8.5 per cent, it would be unrealistic to expect more than 8 per cent next year — especially since there will be no agricultural kicker, and no advantage of a set of low base-year figures. Even 8 per cent … wouldn't be bad going, but it is not the 9-10 per cent growth for 2011-12 that the prime minister forecast earlier this month…"

 

It wasn't just the prime minister who was talking of 9 per cent and more for 2011-12. The chief economic advisor talked of 9 per cent in his Economic Survey in late February, and the finance minister built that into his Budget assumptions. Dr Rangarajan, as chair of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, was talking in February of 9 per cent for both 2010-11 and 2011-12, and even now he does not rule out 9 per cent for this year. It was left to D Subbarao at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to provide the cold shower. After saying mistakenly in January that "the risk to growth was on the upside", it trimmed its sails in March and signalled that there was a threat to the "current growth trajectory" (which, bear in mind, was already below 9 per cent). The RBI followed that up last month with its 8 per cent forecast for this year, and the Planning Commission quickly dropped its own talk of 9 per cent.

As it happens, it required no great skill to read the storm signals. CII's Business Confidence Index had dipped in the October-December quarter, investment demand was tapering off, and rising interest rates were bound to curb credit-driven demand for cars and housing — as is now evident. Indeed, the chief economic advisor himself was forecasting in December that the industrial production numbers would henceforth show slower growth — which they did. Why, if you take away the boost provided by the agriculture bounce-back after two flat years, the non-agriculture GDP growth for the last year as a whole (at about 8.8 per cent) was slower than the 9.6 per cent non-agriculture growth of 2009-10.

The problem with pushing for faster growth in today's environment is that the government is struggling to control the fiscal deficit, even as the RBI battles inflation. Both policy goals are GDP-contracting in orientation, and it does not help that the government has a cupboard that looks like Mother Hubbard's when it comes to economic reform. The economy retains its capacity to surprise on the upside (just look at the export surge), but the over-all odds are quite long.

 

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

WHOSE TRIUMPH?

THE TRUE VICTOR IN THE MAY ELECTIONS WAS THE INSTITUTION THAT ENABLED THE PROCESS EVERYWHERE

INDIRA RAJARAMAN

The Election Commission has emerged as a robust feature of the institutional landscape in modern India. It has achieved that ultimate nirvana of collective achievement whereby the names of the individuals directing operations are not as well known as the Commission itself. It has moved seamlessly through controversies over a few appointments here and there, and has become a lighthouse for other countries in the developing world looking to hold free and fair elections under equivalently rough conditions. Co-ordination with the law and order machinery has been remarkable. Booth capturing, which inspired terror among voters who had the misfortune to confront it over the years, has a quaint ring today.

The success of the Commission has had a great deal to do with its early embrace of modern technology. Electronic machines were used for the first time on an experimental basis in the elections of 1982. Between 1999 and 2002, electronic voting moved quickly from partial to full coverage of general and state elections.

 

At the same time, the Commission did not discard some features of the old technology package used in elections. To supplement voter identity cards, it chose to retain the indelible ink marker, as a physical safeguard against duplicate voting. This has developed an international following. Countries in West Asia, in their post-revolutionary task of actually having to elect public officials, are interested in buying that same indelible ink from Mysore Paints and Varnish (MPVL), a state-government-owned public sector undertaking (PSU).

A company like MPVL manufacturing decorative and industrial paints, polishes, varnishes and sealing wax should have been privatised long ago, by all tenets of reform. Its owner, the state government of Karnataka, should have vacated that space for the private sector. But in one of those delicious bits of resistance one finds only in India, it remained stubbornly under government ownership. And it has earned profits for its owner, due in no small part of course to its monopoly status as a provider of indelible ink, granted by exclusive licence in 1962. Critics of Indian resistance to total reform will say that MPVL thrived on that monopoly status. But it is unlikely that a national body could have been motivated in its decision to stay with the indelible ink marker by the need to keep a state-government PSU going. At the end of the day, MPVL survived on the quality of its indelible ink. They guaranteed three weeks, and by gum, it does last that long. MPVL delivered.

Those electronic voting machines also come out of two (centrally-owned) PSUs, Bharat Electronics (BEL), and Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL). They work pretty well too, although the one in my booth in the 2009 elections did look a bit rickety.

The recommendation to privatise ownership of PSUs is based on a number of assumptions, which equate ownership to destiny. Perhaps the most recent and lucid statement of the downsides to public ownership is in the 2009 report of an official Committee set up to design the liberalisation of the financial sector in India. The chairman was Raghuram Rajan, subsequently appointed economic advisor to the prime minister. Making a case for bank privatisation, the report says (p.78) : "Public sector entities do exactly what private sector entities do, though less well because they have more constraints, a poorer skill pool, and poorer incentives… the skill deficit will make public sector firms less effective at pricing risk. And the costs will partially have to be borne by the government when the under-priced risk eventually hits public sector balance sheets."

There is a string of assumptions there, of which the weakest is about public sector entities having a skill deficit. That is simply not true at all. New private sector entrants in most fields in India are able to survive only by poaching on the rich skill pool within the public sector. It should not be surprising that talented young people gravitated, and still do, to the public sector. Its trump card is the offer of tenured employment, in a country where employment risk is a huge turn-off. The talent that the public sector in India has attracted and nurtured over the years is huge. Ravi Shankar was a salaried employee of the Delhi station of All India Radio in the fifties, as a conductor of one of its two orchestras (there was another one for Carnatic music conducted by violinist T K Jayaraman). The work was light because they mostly did signature tunes for various programmes. The income was not spectacular, but it was steady. The job freed Ravi Shankar to put in long hours on his sitar, but could not retain him when George Harrison beckoned.

So yes, there is a retention problem, but incentives are a matter as much of the work environment as of compensation packages. These things can improve automatically when there is competition, and it really does not matter if the competition is from public or private players. There are 27 public sector banks out of a total of 81 commercial banks in India. Even within the publicly owned subset of the Indian banking sector, there is keen competition. In an empirical exercise I did ten years ago with Garima Vasishtha, we found that while public sector banks performed worse on average than private sector banks, individual banks in the PSU category handily outperformed individual banks in the private sector. In the private sector as well, as the global crisis has shown, incentives can be seriously distorted when employee remuneration is tied to short-term enhancement in shareholder value.

A few years ago, three PSU vaccine manufacturing units were closed down. After several cases came to light of children paying the cost for poor quality vaccine sourced from private manufacturers, that decision has now been reversed. Policy must never be predicated on untested assumptions.

The author is the honorary visiting professor, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi

 

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

BEWARE THE WORLD WIDE WATCH

EVERYWHERE, GOVERNMENTS ARE ATTEMPTING TO CLAMP DOWN ON THE INTERNET, USING ALL THE VARIED MEANS AT THEIR DISPOSAL

DEVANGSHU DATTA

Tergiversation" invokes "weasel words" to convey an impression of saying something concrete, while actually being ambiguous and offering ample wriggle room. The new amendments in India's IT Act are textbook examples of these terms that date back to Shakespeare.

Webhosts must take down "objectionable content" considered "disparaging", "harassing", "blasphemous" or "hateful" as well as anything that "threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign countries, or public order".

 

How can anyone objectively define any of those subjective categories? Anybody could complain that some given content is weasel-worthy. An anonymous bunch of bureaucrats will then decide if it is. They don't need to publicly defend their decisions. There is no recourse for the owner of any banned content. Complaints must be acted upon within 36 hours or else, the webhost faces a jail sentence. This is diabolical and ensures nobody will be willing to host any controversial content.

The rules also vastly increase the state's surveillance powers and remove all privacy. Every service provider must log surfer activity and provide them to authorities on request (no warrant is required). Cyber cafes must install surveillance software. This means goodbye to secure online transactions.

This tightens an already restrictive and opaque regime of censorship and surveillance and that is in tune with the global zeitgeist. Everywhere, governments are attempting to clamp down on the Internet, using all the varied means at their disposal.

Dictatorships know the Net and social networking can fuel subversive activities. The Arab revolts are the latest examples. Earlier, there was the abortive Iranian Twitter revolution. Online protests by Tibetan "splittists" and dissidents continually plague China.

Among more liberal regimes, the US and its First World partners have been deeply embarrassed by Wikileaks. Governments are also uncomfortable about tools like Tor that anonymise surfers and make it tough to trace them or block access to content.

Censorship and snooping are both complex technical tasks. The user base is growing exponentially due to smartphones and high-speed data connections. But governments can deploy enormous resources.

Along with direct repression, the People's Republic of China has its Great Firewall. Another option is being explored in Iran, which arrested many Twitterati after the anti-Ahmadinejad protests. Iran now intends to create a perfumed halal online garden walled off from the uncensored WWW wilderness.

Politically, it is hard for democracies to justify draconian censorship and surveillance. Al Qaeda and its brethren are godsends in this regard. Security concerns have been invoked everywhere, along with issues of piracy, copyright violation and, ironically, privacy.

Twitter, Facebook and Google have been subpoenaed by the US to release information about users who supported WikiLeaks and follow the WikiLeaks Twitter account. The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales compared Twitter to child pornography after microbloggers "outed" a married footballer, who had obtained a superinjunction gagging the media from discussing his affair with a game show contestant.

Across the English Channel, Sarkozy also wants to "civilise the Internet". One suggested method is for the French publishers' guild to control e-book pricing — this could prove even more effective than direct bans. In "Operation Metal Gear", the US supports the development of sockpuppetware to create multiple fake social networking accounts to influence debates. Australian laws ban online debates about euthanasia and drugs, among other things.

Do you want everybody to know who you chatted with, what music you listen to, what books you bought, along with your email, banking and credit passwords and PINs? Do you want a random bureaucrat to arbitrarily gag you and control what you read? It's the one subject on which Obama, Sarkozy, Cameron, Gillard, Ahmadinejad, Gaddafi, Hu Jintao and Manmohan Singh all see eye to eye. So it's already happening, and it will get worse.

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

THE PRESIDENCY DREAM, 40 YEARS ON

SUBIR ROY

Presidency College in Kolkata in the late sixties was an intense sort of place. Nothing happened in moderation; the cautious and circumspect were looked down upon. If you had not seen the light then you were a reactionary and deserved damnation far more absolute than might befall any non-believer. With students on the rampage around the world, to protest was also to wave your flag of solidarity with a way of being.

In this milieu was a group of contrarian students who refused to swear by the gospel according to Chairman Mao and stood up for the right to be different, embrace a credo of individual liberties and the right to ask questions. The two groups gathered under the alphabet identities of SF and PCSO and were led by Kaka on one side and Saugata and Amit on the other.

 

In that contest, the libertarians were no match for the professionalism and manipulative electioneering of the believers. The latter won all the student union elections under the first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all Westminster-style system. Though, in keeping with the political alignment of West Bengal as a whole, the others consistently polled just under 50 per cent of the popular vote.

In keeping with our belief in individualism, Saugata and Amit came under the same banner but were far too different from each other. Culturally they were as poles apart as those of us from English- and Bengali-medium schools. The English-medium school-type did better with the girls and the Bengali-medium-type called the others ninnies who were mostly seen in the company of girls.

Few could match the sarcasm that Saugata heaped on the social mores of the English-medium type. Fewer still could equal the suavity with which Amit dismissed the vitriol of the non-Anglicised type. Looking back, I cannot decide which divide was greater — the political or the social.

Amit was rare in combining a grass-roots political family background with great communication skills in English. The Presidency College debating team seldom lost an intercollegiate competition with Amit in it. Conversely, a Presidency College quiz team with Saugata in it rarely lost, powered as it was by his photographic memory. If BBC's Mastermind were to run in India, no need to guess who a formidable contender would be.

An abiding image is that of entering college when it reopened after a three-month strike, to find on display at the foot of the flowing main staircase an incredible array of debating and quiz trophies which, for the most part, Saugata and Amit had won for the college during the shutdown.     

Entering through the portals of the college was difficult; getting out respectably even more so. The likes of me almost never made it. There were more distractions than you could handle in your late teens. Some, of course, delivered in politics and academics with equal distinction. Who can forget a unique name like Nepture? It was made all the more unique to me by my father, who one day told me after I returned home, "Your friend – what's his name – Jupiter, had called."

Sorry results or good, the permanent takeaway was a compulsion to engage with ideas. What began with a pure pseudo-intellectual name dropping in Coffee House conversations over time transformed into something durable — a need to grapple with the intellectual controversy of the day.

My reward came several years later when on landing on British shores, I put on the TV to find historian Eric Hobsbawm being interviewed. Having acquired a copy of his The Age of Revolution not so long ago from that little shop in an alcove in the Grand Hotel arcade, I felt greatly reassured that I was not arriving at a metropolitan centre from some provincial backwater.    

We proudly recalled later: Whatever be our flaws, we were real. We took public issues seriously, we argued and sometimes came to blows over them. And we forged life-long relationships. So many of us fell in love. I have to scratch my head to decide who, of the duo Partha and Shubhalakshmi, is my greater friend from college days.

And those of us deeply into political battles, including fisticuffs, wanted to make a difference in the public domain. Politics was, of course, the highest order that one could aspire to join. I thought I lacked enough of the superior skills needed for it and opted for journalism. The other Partha stayed on the fringes, not too far from the centre of politics, and became an accomplished lawyer. Friendships also stretched across the political divide. Gautam, the soft-spoken outstanding soul, stuck to his academics and recently, courtesy the Internet, we have agreed to debate why the leftist dream was a god that failed.

Saugata got into politics proper right after college and Amit's time has come now! After 40-odd years both are in the saddle! It has taken that long for the ideology of the Left to be tried and found wanting. In those early days the Left was so pervasive that it was difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel when you could take public policy in the right direction and deliver what society needed and deserved.

But now that those who held the faith have arrived and secured a chance to make a difference, there is a new question and issue: Will it be possible to deliver? If getting a chance to do your act was the journey that determined the better part of professional life, there is, you realise, yet another journey ahead — making something of that chance. You never arrive, but there is joy in travelling.    

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

AN NRI'S VIEW OF INDIA

V V

NRIs, or non-resident Indians, revisiting home reminds of your first love whom you long to see but dread to see again. What you get is never a balanced picture: it is either a romanticised past that never was or a future that always works. That there are many Indias, warts and all, that can't be slotted into either category doesn't seem to cross their minds. Maybe this is because NRIs end up writing for western audiences who want it all in a capsule with no "ifs" and "buts", something skimmed through without too much fuss. Anand Giridharadas' India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking (Fourth Estate, Special Indian Price, Rs 499) falls neatly into this stereotype: you see the scene and can foretell the rest, something that resident Indians know all too well but check out all the same to see how far removed from home our NRI cousins have gone.

Mr Giridharadas, a correspondent for The International Herald Tribune, wrote his "Letters from India" which provide the basic source for this book with some updates from his recent visits to India. But, unlike other travel writings on India that open with the Golden Triangle – Delhi, Agra, Jaipur – or basically North India, this one begins with Hyderabad or Cyberabad, the twin copy of Bangalore or the emerging software capital of India.

 

This makes good business sense because not only does it offer something different to Indian readers, but it also touches on the globalisation debate and its impact on local economies: Hyderabad is fast emerging as the next software centre while its hinterland is home to Indian Maoists or Naxalites, who believe in the violent overthrow of state power. These two glaring contradictions of contemporary India with one of the fastest rates of growth ("Shining India" as it is touted) coexist with abject poverty and increasing violence in the countryside, where the land has become a fundamental question in the debate over what India is all about now. The fact that Mr Giridharadas raises it, though tangentially, is a welcome addition to the picture of Inside India that NRIs often talk about.

American reportage usually opens with a leading question that is put to one of the activists of the struggle between the rising middle class and the rural masses. So it is here. What is the fight between local capitalism, which has benefited software engineers, and the rest of the people whose living standards are being eroded by the rising cost of living all about? Isn't there a price to be paid for development costs and how do activists justify their own lifestyles? Isn't working for a multinational during the day and a rebel waging revolution at night (or at least advocating it) a contradiction? Here comes the pat answer: "I have to earn my lunch," the Naxal explains. "I am not a whole-timer for revolution." The armchair radical lets the cat out of the bag: "I want my cake and eat it too."

We have known the answers but what makes us carry on reading these questions of the struggle is that the reportage hasn't been padded up only to feed the western reader.

Mr Giridharadas insists there has been a change since his parents left India half a century ago. But the landscape that has been transformed is within. "The change is in the mind: how people conceived of their possibilities. Indians now seemed to know that they didn't have to leave, as my father had, for their possible revolution." No doubt this is true. There are many more possibilities for the rising middle class as professionals in almost every sphere; there is far greater social mobility now than, say, even two decades ago. Infrastructure lags behind, especially in power and transport, but the government has finally woken up to the new challenges posed by the rising expectations of the people.

But any attitudinal change in India has to be seen through the lens of caste that permeates all levels of society and the position of women in everyday life. Has there been any change in the centuries-old habits of thought? Has there been any loosening of social stratification of the Indian society?

Take caste as the primary determining factor of the Hindu society. Certainly, market forces have compelled even the most conservative Hindus to intermingle with other castes for sheer survival, including inter-dining. But caste continues its stranglehold in marriage (most marriages are still arranged on caste and community basis) and, above all, in politics. In fact, caste has been greatly strengthened because of the SC/ST/OBC factor and the clamour for job reservations in the public sector. This has become an abiding feature of the new India that Mr Giridharadas has not fully taken into account.

The position of women is equally ambivalent. At one level, there is a distinct rise of middle class women in professions such as teaching and banking. In rural India, however, they are still exploited and carry the burden of family life with few rights of inheritance.

Mr Giridharadas has seen India through upper-class American eyes with sympathy and understanding. But he misses out on the great urban-rural divide which is the real India. Maybe India is too complex and full of contradictions to put down in a book. But read it all the same.

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

OF MEN AND 'GODMEN'

POLITICIANS BOWING TO RAMDEV?S BLACKMAIL HARKS BACK TO INDIA?S REGRESSIVE PAST

SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY

 

The government's panic over the antics of a hirsute man in bright orange who makes a point of throwing up his arms during televised meetings to expose enormous underarm jungles recalls a conversation with Nirad C Chaudhuri half a century ago. From the balcony of his Old Delhi flat, Chaudhuri pointed to a piece of open land with some shacks and asked what it was. I thought it was a building site or the temporary encampment of construction workers. "Wrong" he declared triumphantly. "It's not temporary, it's permanent. That's Hindu India coming into its own!"

 

I am not questioning the validity of some of Ramdev's demands though his list has expanded to resemble a full-fledged opposition party agenda and includes some silly points as well. But his intervention and the official response are redefining the sources and exercise of power. It's fashionable to bracket his and Bapat Baburao Hazare's campaign and justify both in terms of civil society. But if civil society mattered, authority would long ago have responded to the sustained call by serious newspapers for many of the same reforms. The daily I worked for published hundreds of articles calling for an Ombudsman with teeth and realistic electoral rules. They had little effect.

Wearing trousers and arguing in English, we invoked western rationality instead of appealing to deeper atavistic instincts. We could not challenge the modernity of which we were an integral part. That's what is happening now. The growing hold of astrology, "godmen" (a hideous oxymoron with which India pollutes the English language), vaastu, gender discrimination, bride-burning, caste persecution, sporadic sati and the khaps that dominate headlines are all part of the reversion to the pre-colonial past Chaudhuri darkly warned of.

Ramdev and Hazare have the same right as all citizens to demand change. Both are entitled to pressure their MLAs and MPs through normal channels and canvass for public support. Neither is entitled to indulge in blackmailing tactics. Yet they are courted and appeased precisely because by spurning the instruments of parliamentary democracy, they exert coercive pressure.

India may soar into space but Indian thinking is in some respects firmly imprisoned in the ancient fears of witch doctors and magic potions invoked by fashion accessories like long beards, beads and bright robes. Credulity doesn't cripple only the poor and ignorant. Hamish McDonald's racy account of the Ambani story describes members of the warring clan going off to temples and ashrams to muster the spiritual forces on their side for the epic showdown. Indira Gandhi's socialism did not exclude a curious succession of supposedly holy men and women. Many ministers and CEOs won't stir an inch without consulting the stars. Even West Bengal's CPI(M) did not ignore the pujas that animate the masses.

Trying to counter this, the first Press Commission denounced as "undesirable" what it called "the spread of the habit of consultation of, and reliance upon, astrological predictions" that was "certain to produce an unsettling effect on the minds of readers". The second Press Commission called on editors "who believe in promoting a scientific temper among their readers and in combating superstition and fatalism" to "discontinue the publication of astrological predictions". No one took any notice.

Two supplementary factors deserve mention. First, whether or not our rulers also revere folk heroes, they fear the wrath of the followers of these heroes, especially with Uttar Pradesh elections round the corner. Second, there's a paradoxical yearning to pass on responsibility to what used to be called extra-constitutional centres of power. Mahatma Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan and Sanjay Gandhi fell in that category. Ramdev is now demonstrating that though he shared Hazare's platform, he must be placated as an independent force.

The least uncomfortable explanation for this drift is that all democratic parties must woo society's lowest common denominator, which sets the tone. But democracy needs strong leaders to ensure that the multitude does not run amok. Otherwise, we are left with Chaudhuri's grim analogy of a heavy piston that the British pulled out of its socket and kept in place with their muscular and mechanical power but which our weak arms cannot hang on to forever. One day our strength will fail and the piston will ram home, plunging India into the chaos where "Universal Darkness buries All".

One suspects the government is now making a show of appeasing Ramdev to wriggle out of substantive reforms. Instead, it should ensure a clean administration, fair elections and just land acquisition but not at the behest of godmen who are pampered at India's peril.

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in  

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

ON THE BACK OF SUPPLY SIDE

IT IS IMPORTANT TO TACKLE SUPPLY-SIDE CONSTRAINTS TO PREVENT THE EMERGENCE OF INFLATIONARY PRESSURES

RAJIV KUMAR & ANSHUMAN KHANNA

In a poor economy, combating inflation by curbing demand reduces growth and employment generation. Instead, we have to focus on anticipatory measures for removing supply bottlenecks thus preventing inflation from occurring.

One critical challenge we have been facing for over two years now is high inflation in case of food articles. Given the sensitive nature of this problem – inflation is a tax on the poor – the government took several administrative measures. Exports of some items were banned, imports of certain others were liberalised, more grains were released in the open market and select agencies were mandated to sell food items at discounted prices through dedicated outlets. Due to these measures and the good agricultural season last year, food inflation is finally trending downwards.

 

Key economy managers in the government tell us that this downward trend will continue. As we hope this comes true, we also feel that it is important to tackle supply-side constraints to prevent the emergence of inflationary pressures in future.

Everybody agrees that given our large and growing population, our food supplies need to match our growing demand. However, as we prepare for this we must also keep in mind the changing consumption pattern. As income levels rise, the demand for protein-rich items increases. In our context this means items like pulses, meat, fish, eggs and milk will see a major jump in demand in the future. Early signs of this trend are already visible. Research work also highlights the trend of diversification in the consumption basket away from cereals*. Therefore, as a first step, all these items should come into focus in perspective planning for agriculture development. The 12th Plan presents a good opportunity for the government to showcase its focus on these segments.

There is also ample scope for increasing efficiency in marketing and delivery of food products across the country. This would also quell inflationary pressures.

Take foodgrains for example. Today, the bulk of procurement by Food Corporation of India (FCI) is done in a few states. This has two negatives. One, farmers in other states that have a marketable surplus do not get the benefit of the minimum support price (MSP). Two, the opportunity of procuring at the local level for meeting the public distribution system (PDS) requirement is lost. Further that it comes to releasing foodgrains in the market, FCI generally offers large-sized tenders. From the point of view of inflation management, perhaps it is better if procurement operations are decentralised, PDS requirement is met in states to the extent possible and food stocks are offered in smaller lots spread over multiple locations leveraging tools such as e-auctions.

In the case of perishables like fruit and vegetables, there is no MSP mechanism and farmers are required to sell their produce in the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) mandis. Now, mandis with a limited number of buyers encourage collusion and this forces farmers to sell produce at a low price even when actual market price is much higher. If state governments are incentivised to de-list horticulture products from Schedule 1 of APMC Act and thereby allow farmers to sell their produce to anyone and at any location of their choice, then both farmers and consumers could benefit. Private players can buy directly from farmers and by collapsing the long supply chain offer remunerative prices. A part of the efficiency gains can also be shared with consumers in the form of lower prices. Further, by developing the required infrastructure – cold chain, warehouses, sorting, grading, packaging facilties and so on – private players can also help reduce the post-harvest losses.

To steer state governments towards de-notifying perishables, the Centre can make this move mandatory for receiving 13th Finance Commission grants. The Centre could also link transfer of funds under centrally-sponsored schemes for agriculture market development and horticulture development to reform measures taken by states.

Another suggestion is to encourage the formation of "producer companies" in areas close to key cities or urban centres. By bringing together a large number of farmers, providing them funds to set up cold storage facilties and permitting them to sell directly to private entities, the government can improve the supply of food products. The "National Vegetables Initiative for Urban Clusters" launched recently is an attempt in this direction. Its objective is to enhance vegetable production through off-season production under protected cultivation and offered at competitive prices to consumers. The implementation of this programme should be keenly watched.

The Indian market is still fragmented with multiple check-points on state borders and several levies to be paid by transporters. By offering "special permits" to fleet operators, cutting down the number of inspection points and facilitating payment of all levies at single collection points, the inter-state movement of perishables can be hastened and wastage reduced.

Finally, a robust centralised monitoring system to track the progress of weather and crop growing would help in taking corrective action in time. Though such systems are in place for foodgrains, they are lacking for horticulture products. Such a monitoring mechanism for perishables would have helped avoid the severe price spike in onions in Delhi in December 2010.

Addressing these supply-side issues is critical. Action on all these should begin concomitantly. Food inflation may be inching down today, but the next spike can happen anytime. Let us take supply-side measures to avoid another inflationary episode.

*Demand-Supply Trends and Projections of Food in India by Surabhi Mittal, March 2008, Working Paper No. 209, ICRIER

Dr Rajiv Kumar is Secretary General, FICCI and Anshuman Khanna is a Researcher in the Economic Affairs team at FICCI. These views expressed are personal

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

THE MEDITERRANEAN REBORN

JAVIER SOLANA & ANGEL SAZ

In a world focused on the East, the main linkages are the Pacific and Indian Oceans and, given today's close relationship between Asia and Europe, the Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean is undergoing a monumental political transformation. Protests on its southern shores have now begun the process of bringing democracy to this region. Less visibly, perhaps, the Mediterranean is also undergoing another revival, equally important in terms of geo-economics.

 

The changes in the world's balance of power from the West to the East, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, is making both the US and Europe apprehensive. Their loss of geopolitical and economic power is evident. Although the future geopolitical behaviour of the rising new powers – Brazil, China and India – remains uncertain, this shift may nonetheless provide an opportunity for the Mediterranean.

With the world focused on the West, the Atlantic region dominated the last three centuries. In a world focused on the East, however, the main linkages are the Pacific and Indian Oceans and, given today's close relationship between Asia and Europe, the Mediterranean Sea.

Indeed, the container traffic between south east Asia and Europe now totals 18 million TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) a year, compared to 20 million TEUs of annual Trans-Pacific traffic and just 4.4 million TEUs of Trans-Atlantic flows between Europe and America. The container flow between south east Asia and Europe uses the Mediterranean route via the Suez Canal — far faster than passing through the Panama Canal, circumnavigating Africa, or even taking the hypothetical (for now) ice-free Arctic route.

Despite the supremacy of the Mediterranean route for container traffic between Europe and south east Asia, 72 per cent of goods entering the European Union (EU) do so via northern European ports (for example, Le Havre, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Bremen, and Hamburg), whereas only 28 per cent enter via southern European ports such as Barcelona, Marseille, Valencia, and Genoa. More than half the containers bound for Milan from south east Asia are unloaded in northern European ports.

In other words, most ships from south east Asia enter the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal and sail straight past Genoa, Marseille, Barcelona, and Valencia, adding three days to the trip to reach Rotterdam or Hamburg. Unloading at an Atlantic port instead of a southern European port thus entails substantial additional financial and environmental costs, eroding Europe's competitiveness.

Indeed, according to one study of the Port of Barcelona, the optimal distribution of container flow in economic and environmental terms would be 37 per cent to the northern European ports and 63 per cent to those in Southern Europe, given the final destination and origin of imported and exported goods. Based partly on the European Environment Agency's methodology, the study concludes that a redirection of port traffic to the southern European ports would reduce carbon emissions by almost 50 per cent.

Of course, such a rebalancing is unthinkable today, for both political and economic reasons. After all, the current imbalance in container traffic reflects northern Europe's economic dynamism, the efficiency of its ports, excellent road and rail infrastructure to connect those ports to virtually all of Europe, and the economies of scale generated by the volume of goods that passes through them. But, given that container traffic is expected to increase by 164 per cent before 2020, southern European ports should be able to increase their share in flows between Europe and south east Asia by 40-50 per cent.

To achieve this rebalancing, southern European ports need improved support infrastructure, specifically rail links connecting them to the main European rail network. The Trans-European Transport (TEN-T) policy, which the EU is currently revising, is fundamental in this respect, because it is the master plan that will guide the development of the basic European infrastructures.

Although this infrastructure is financed mainly by individual EU member states using their own funds, the TEN-T is binding and marks out the priority projects for each member. Thus, it is absolutely essential for TEN-T to reflect the importance of rail connections for the southern European ports.

In order to ensure this, policy makers must give priority to the efficiency criterion and bear in mind the environmental costs of both land and sea transport. If Europe and its companies are to remain competitive and attain the strategic objective of "Europe 2020" – a Europe that uses its resources efficiently – the Mediterranean rail transport infrastructure is vital.

Obviously, there is another, geopolitical condition that must be met to achieve this rebalancing: the Suez Canal must continue to be a safe and reliable shipping route. Any threat to the canal's normal operations would shift south east Asia-Europe route to the southern tip of Africa, marginalising the Mediterranean (and sending costs soaring).

The Mediterranean played a crucial role in the first Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations, was the sea of the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans, and was the centre of the world first for the Arabs and Barbarians, and later for the Ottomans and the Spanish. Today, having faded as a result of advances that opened up the Americas and the East to European trade, the Mediterranean has a great opportunity to recover its lost prestige.

Javier Solana, formerly the European Union's High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, and a former Secretary General of NATO, is President of the ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics (ESADEgeo). Angel Saz is Coordinator of ESADEgeo.

©2011 Project Syndicate

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

 

 

 


 

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

BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

GROWTH MODERATES

Are the RBI and North Block ignoring the ghost of a slowdown lurking round the corner?

A GDP growth of 8.5 per cent for 2010-11 — as against 8 per cent and 6.8 per cent in the preceding two fiscals — makes the global economic slowdown that dragged the Indian economy along in its wake seem like a distant memory. Juxtaposed with an annual wholesale price inflation of 8.7 per cent in April, an 18.5 per cent year-on-year rise in non-food advances by banks and a credit-deposit ratio touching 75 per cent, it would provide some ground for the policymakers' current focus on reining in prices even at the expense of growth. This stance is further reinforced by the fact that the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) repo or short-term lending rate of 7.25 per cent now — for all its recent measures at monetary tightening — is still well below the August 2008 peak of nine per cent. And that was just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers happened, when high inflation rates and skyrocketing global commodity prices were threatening to derail growth itself. A similar situation exists today, making the case for according priority to inflation control quite compelling, even if it entails some moderation of growth.

Critics of the above view, however, argue that the growth moderation has already set in. This would be apparent if one looks not at the 8.5 per cent GDP growth for the whole of 2010-11, but at the year-on-year increases over successive quarters. These have, indeed, 'moderated' from 9.4 per cent during January-March 2010 to 9.3 per cent, 8.9 per cent, 8.3 per cent and 7.8 per cent in the subsequent quarters. Moreover, manufacturing growth stood even lower at six per cent and 5.5 per cent in the last two quarters, while gross fixed capital formation — an indicator of investment activity — rose by a measly 0.4 per cent during January-March 2011 over the corresponding period of 2010. Seen with other industry-specific data — a 1.1 per cent year-on-year decline in cement output in April, sluggish car sales and rising stock of unsold built-up homes across major cities — the latest national income estimates would appear to vindicate the critics' fears.

That raises the fundamental issue of timing: Till a year ago, if not less, the RBI and the Finance Ministry were clearly behind the curve in addressing inflationary concerns, attributing them to temporary supply-side factors. Now, the danger is of their being behind the curve on growth and ignoring the ghost of a slowdown lurking around the corner. If the past is any guide, rebuilding investor confidence once dented is never easy and policymakers must, hence, be wary of a mid-1990s-like monetary tightening that could choke growth. The right strategy is to persist with moderate policy rate hikes (which will signal the RBI's continued alertness on inflation) and with no let-up on fiscal prudence (which will help maintain confidence among investors).

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


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

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

REFORM PENSIONS

THE APPROACHES OF THE STOCK MARKET AND PENSION REGULATORS CONVERGE IN THE NPS

 

Reported differences between Sebi chairman U K Sinha and pension fund regulator Yogesh Agarwal are more illusory than real. The Sebi chairman is entirely right to say that India's capital market would gain depth and maturity if long-term bulk savings like pension funds flow into it. Mr Agarwal said that prudence deems that not more than 50% of pension savings should be deployed in equities. In a country where the manager of the biggest pool of long-term savings, the Employees Provident Fund Organisation, deploys not one rupee in equities out of its corpus in excess of . 3 three lakh crore, what is the contradiction between inviting such funds into the capital market and the caution that not more than 50% of pension funds should be invested in stocks? The EPFO is permitted by its investment guidelines to deploy up to 10% of its funds in the stock market, but its board of trustees chooses to give this opportunity the go-by. Instead, trustees prefer to importune the government for subsidy or steal money from poor account holders too disempowered to keep track of their mandated savings as these get sucked into the pockets of chaos that swirl about in the EPFO's maw and are spewed out as treasure wrapped in 'accounting errors' for appropriation by the more empowered subscribers who do keep track of their accounts. The reality is that individual contributors to the EPFO have no choice in whether to invest in equities or not. They can only watch in silence as pension funds from around the world come, invest in India's capital market and reap rich dividends even as their own fund managers struggle to produce a return that beats the rate of inflation, investing as they do only in debt instruments of the government sector. The solution lies not in changing investment patterns but in the organisational structure of mandated savings. The EPFO Act needs to be amended to give all workers the choice either to continue to save with the EPFO and its ideologically-driven board of trustees or to migrate to the New Pension System, with its choice of asset managers and asset classes, world-beating record-keeping and asset management charges.

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


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ALCOHOLIC ABSURDITIES

AND STILL MAHARASHTRA DREAMS OF MAKING MUMBAI A GLOBAL HUB, INDIA'S SHANGHAI!

 

The Maharashtra state government can usually be counted on to act in one predictable way: given a choice between a sane and practical policy and one that is illogical, unlinked to reality and guaranteed to increase corruption, it usually chooses the latter. This is what it has just done in deciding to retain the absurd permit system for alcohol consumption, and even to increase the minimum age for drinking from 21 to 25. Most states have done away with this requirement that alcohol consumers hold a permit specifying that they need a fixed amount of alcohol for "preservation and maintenance of their health" — that they are, in effect, licensed drunkards. There is no evidence that this policy has ever had any success in reducing alcohol abuse. Alcohol is easily available in the Maharashtra, for both fair use and abuse, and most consumers are barely aware that the permit requirement exists.


The only actual impact the rule has, in fact, is in the generation of a small, but steady stream of income for the excise department and the police. Several bars and restaurants purchase protection for customers by buying temporary permits which it can claim belong to people drinking there. And for the police booking people for non-possession of the permit that almost no one has is an easy way to ensure a small stream of bribes for being let off. Ineffective in its purpose and adverse in its side-effects, this was one policy that had no place in a state with aspirations for making Mumbai a global hub. But instead of removing the policy, and looking at far more effective ways to guard against alcohol abuse, like teaching young people on the perils of substance abuse and responsible conduct under the influence of alcohol or otherwise, the state government has ensured the abuse continues and is made worse by the extension of the minimum drinking age. When Mr Prithviraj Chavan made his reluctant way back from Delhi to Mumbai to become chief minister, the hope was that he might break out of the typical mould of Maharashtrian politicians. This decision shows how far short those hopes have fallen.

 

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

 


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BAD VIDYA

OFFENSIVE, YES; BUT NAIPAUL'S VIEWS ALSO REFLECT THE MALADY OF A 'MIMIC MAN'

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there exist execrable men. The situation can be compounded if such types are celebrities of sorts, as that becomes cause for more infamy. Any publicity, remember, is good publicity. V S Naipaul, of the nasty opinion pedigree, has just said that women writers aren't any good. Compared to him, of course. Derision, naturally, has followed. Some of the outraged have fallen prey to the instinctive reaction to counter the preposterousness with lists of female names that can shame the anointed knight of the English language. Some have pointed out that even his authorised biographer characterised Naipaul as racist, misogynist, a sado-masochist, and, well, arrogant too. But there may well a bit more to it. There is clearly method in the cultivated aura of genteellyenunciated controversy. He can't quite ladle out the same nasty curry about India these days. The other favourite area, attacking Muslims, would hardly make news in an era of virulent Islamophobia. So Sir Vidya picks on women. That can still make ears pop. Virginia Woolf isn't around to point out he's, with due ill-will, inverting precisely what she said in A R o o m o f O n e's O w n. Jane Austen too can't make a character out of him, in her quiet, sharp way. But if she could, with her hinted-at knowledge of what happened in the West Indian colonies, and familiarity with stuffy English pretentiousness, maybe she'd have seen through the man. In traversing from the former to the latter world, in assuming the role of a disdainful aristocrat, Naipaul has become, what he himself called, A M i m i c M a n. One may be also stricken by increasingly finding himself in the territory of the unsolicited, the nearlyirrelevant. Hence the itch to somehow flag himself again. The relevant interview, aptly, was with the Royal Geographical Society.

 

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


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

BEYOND THE CORRUPTION BATTLE

LET US NOT GET CARRIED AWAY BY THE CRUSADE OF THE SELF-APPOINTED GUARDIANS OF PUBLIC INTEREST


First, a "fast unto death" fuelled by Information Technology; now, another one inspired by Yoga. Two of India's major exports have come home to roost, cheered by hyperventilating television news channels. Combating corruption is the larger cause that Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev advocate. And damned be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'


Never mind the Constitution; a pox on all politicians, Hazare says. The good people of India are on the move. By the sheer goodness of their lifestyles, by the shining nobility of their intent, they will cleanse the body politic. Girding his high-minded campaign is a bare-knuckle political demand swaddled in Gandhian homespun: give my chosen people a say in the framing of the Lokpal bill.


Who elected you? We nominated ourselves by virtue of Magsaysay awards and membership in "peoples' movements." What about the Constitution? Ours is a higher cause.


Ramdev's demands are too absurd to be given any sort of respectability. His potent mix of religiosity and postmodernism threatens, nevertheless, to overwhelm the Hazare protest. His followers are true believers, seeking to achieve perfect communion of the self with the universal truth. In contrast, the cappuccinoswilling denizens of cyberspace, who form the bulk of Hazare's supporters, are causerati; tomorrow they will turn their attention to the dangers of cellphone use or the hazards of nuclear power. Small wonder then that Hazare, despite being "unwell", has said he will be present at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan in solidarity with the godman. The question arises though: if civil society activists inspired by grandiosity and true believers mesmerised by a godman can demand a say in the way laws are made and the government is run, then why not business associations like the CII and Ficci? Or trade unions? Or for that matter, Rotary and Lions Clubs? What makes Hazare and Ramdev and their acolytes so special?


What is alarming about the hunger strikes is that the people who support them seem to have no time for political processes and constitutional restraint. Indian democracy has managed to negotiate the mind-numbing diversity that could have splintered the country; the Constitution is a charter that legitimises and separates the role of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Despite the obvious governance deficit, there prevails amodicum of the rule of law. Changes are needed to usher in the idea of a government not as a master but in service of the people. A corollary to the notion of government as master is that of bureaucrats and politicians as a rentier class that extorts money from hapless citizens to provide services and permissions as favours rather than as due process. This is the source of corruption in all socialist systems where the dead hand of government smothers entrepreneurship and opportunities to make a dignified living. India took a giant step two decades ago when it scrapped the licence-permit raj. Its emergence as a significant global player can be traced back to the reforms of 1991. Loosening controls is easier than the second stage of reform: to provide effective governance. Political stability is a key element in secondstage reforms.


In the UPA's first turn, we had the unseemly spectacle of an arrogant Left combining with a peeved BJP in an effort to oust the government over a foreign policy initiative: the strategic partnership with the US. The UPA survived and in the 2009 election went on to win bigger. The Left and the BJP saw their influence shrink dramatically.

 

But political uncertainty persisted as the UPA was confronted with accusations of corruption in telecom deals, the Commonwealth Games and various other projects. Today's challenges come not from opposition political parties but selfappointed guardians of the public interest: righteous activists and now, a slippery godman. Dealing with such groups is problematic because they don't abide by the Constitution but owe allegiance to a "higher cause". TV news channels and to a lesser extent, the print media are obsessed by these protests. They convey the impression of a corruption-singed government at sea in the face of this 'uprising'. Overwhelmed by deafening din of TV reporters without the slightest sense of objectivity, I fled to the sanity of international journalism. There I found the following stories:

 

The Indian government has drawn up ambitious plans to double exports to $500 billion in the next three years. The trade-to-GDP ratio has already increased from 15% in 1990 to 35% today.

 

 With supportive government policies, India's pharmaceutical sector has emerged as a global force, supplying low-cost, highquality off-patent medicine to the developed as well as developing nations.


    India has become the world centre for 'frugal engineering', manufacturing lowcost products that are resistant to tough environments while maintaining high quality standards.


This is not to suggest that the protests should not be covered; only that it should not lead to a situation in which the adversarial nature of the relationship between the media and the government is twisted so much that a duly-elected government is portrayed an enemy of the people.


It would be fair if Indian journalists could also track other stories as well: of an India that is rapidly finding its metier on the world stage; of the rising aspirations of young India confronting the victim mindsets that enervate the older generation.

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


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NEURAL NET

BEYOND THE CORRUPTION BATTLE

LET US NOT GET CARRIED AWAY BY THE CRUSADE OF THE SELF-APPOINTED GUARDIANS OF PUBLIC INTEREST


First, a "fast unto death" fuelled by Information Technology; now, another one inspired by Yoga. Two of India's major exports have come home to roost, cheered by hyperventilating television news channels. Combating corruption is the larger cause that Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev advocate. And damned be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'


Never mind the Constitution; a pox on all politicians, Hazare says. The good people of India are on the move. By the sheer goodness of their lifestyles, by the shining nobility of their intent, they will cleanse the body politic. Girding his high-minded campaign is a bare-knuckle political demand swaddled in Gandhian homespun: give my chosen people a say in the framing of the Lokpal bill.


Who elected you? We nominated ourselves by virtue of Magsaysay awards and membership in "peoples' movements." What about the Constitution? Ours is a higher cause.


Ramdev's demands are too absurd to be given any sort of respectability. His potent mix of religiosity and postmodernism threatens, nevertheless, to overwhelm the Hazare protest. His followers are true believers, seeking to achieve perfect communion of the self with the universal truth. In contrast, the cappuccinoswilling denizens of cyberspace, who form the bulk of Hazare's supporters, are causerati; tomorrow they will turn their attention to the dangers of cellphone use or the hazards of nuclear power. Small wonder then that Hazare, despite being "unwell", has said he will be present at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan in solidarity with the godman. The question arises though: if civil society activists inspired by grandiosity and true believers mesmerised by a godman can demand a say in the way laws are made and the government is run, then why not business associations like the CII and Ficci? Or trade unions? Or for that matter, Rotary and Lions Clubs? What makes Hazare and Ramdev and their acolytes so special?


What is alarming about the hunger strikes is that the people who support them seem to have no time for political processes and constitutional restraint. Indian democracy has managed to negotiate the mind-numbing diversity that could have splintered the country; the Constitution is a charter that legitimises and separates the role of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Despite the obvious governance deficit, there prevails amodicum of the rule of law. Changes are needed to usher in the idea of a government not as a master but in service of the people. A corollary to the notion of government as master is that of bureaucrats and politicians as a rentier class that extorts money from hapless citizens to provide services and permissions as favours rather than as due process. This is the source of corruption in all socialist systems where the dead hand of government smothers entrepreneurship and opportunities to make a dignified living. India took a giant step two decades ago when it scrapped the licence-permit raj. Its emergence as a significant global player can be traced back to the reforms of 1991. Loosening controls is easier than the second stage of reform: to provide effective governance. Political stability is a key element in secondstage reforms.


In the UPA's first turn, we had the unseemly spectacle of an arrogant Left combining with a peeved BJP in an effort to oust the government over a foreign policy initiative: the strategic partnership with the US. The UPA survived and in the 2009 election went on to win bigger. The Left and the BJP saw their influence shrink dramatically.

 

But political uncertainty persisted as the UPA was confronted with accusations of corruption in telecom deals, the Commonwealth Games and various other projects. Today's challenges come not from opposition political parties but selfappointed guardians of the public interest: righteous activists and now, a slippery godman. Dealing with such groups is problematic because they don't abide by the Constitution but owe allegiance to a "higher cause". TV news channels and to a lesser extent, the print media are obsessed by these protests. They convey the impression of a corruption-singed government at sea in the face of this 'uprising'. Overwhelmed by deafening din of TV reporters without the slightest sense of objectivity, I fled to the sanity of international journalism. There I found the following stories:


The Indian government has drawn up ambitious plans to double exports to $500 billion in the next three years. The trade-to-GDP ratio has already increased from 15% in 1990 to 35% today.

 

With supportive government policies, India's pharmaceutical sector has emerged as a global force, supplying low-cost, highquality off-patent medicine to the developed as well as developing nations.

 

India has become the world centre for 'frugal engineering', manufacturing lowcost products that are resistant to tough environments while maintaining high quality standards.

 

This is not to suggest that the protests should not be covered; only that it should not lead to a situation in which the adversarial nature of the relationship between the media and the government is twisted so much that a duly-elected government is portrayed an enemy of the people.


It would be fair if Indian journalists could also track other stories as well: of an India that is rapidly finding its metier on the world stage; of the rising aspirations of young India confronting the victim mindsets that enervate the older generation.

 

RAJIV DESAI

CHAIRMAN & CEO, COMMA CONSULTING

 

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


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET INTERACTIVE

'WE ARE POISED TO BECOME A $7.2-B GROUP'

V BALASUBRAMANIAN


Not many Indian family groups are sure of remaining dominant players in their core businesses. But A Vellayan, who took over as executive chairman of the Murugappa group in October 2009, has his eyes firmly set on this target. The group businesses have clocked a robust growth, bucking the impact of the global meltdown, the companies have ramped up capacities, and fifth generation members have taken up the task of building new businesses through mergers and acquisitions.


In fact, Murugappa has unveiled a new brand and vision for the group as well as for the financial services business. Vellayan began the current fiscal with a big buy. Coromandel International, a group company, is set to acquire Sabero Organics, Gujarat, producing crop protection products like insecticides and herbicides. The deal size is pegged at . 400-450 crore depending on the response to the public offer.


Vellayan, son of group patriarch, the late MV Arunachalam, belongs to the fourth generation. A Doon School alumnus and management graduate from Warwick Business School, the UK, he joined the family business two decades ago. He had pioneered many innovative business solutions for the group and managed diverse businesses in the past. As executive chairman, Vellayan is focused on accelerating business growth and grooming gen-next. "Three years ago, we set a target that every year, the gross turnover of the group should grow three times of India's GDP. We have been able to achieve this through organic and inorganic growth," he says. In 2010-11, the group reported a record revenue of . 17,051 crore, up by 25% and the profit before tax was up by 20% to . 1,657 crore.


"We have seen most of the key businesses — cycles, engineering, abrasives, sugar, fertilisers, farm inputs, finance and insurance — recording the best-ever performance. We hope to achieve 25-35% growth in turnover this year. We are well-poised to achieve the vision of emerging as a $7.2-billion group by 2013-14," Vellayan says.


Last year, the group pumped in over . 1,000 crore on M&As. It fortified its sugar business by acquiring Sadasiva sugars and GMR industries. With this, EID Parry moved beyond Tamil Nadu to enter Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It emerged as a large integrated sugar producer with a cane crushing capacity of 32,500 tonnes per day, cogen capacity of 146-mw and distillery capacity of 230 kl per day. Tidc, a leading industrial chain manufacturer, acquired Sedis group, France. This year, his game plan is step up capex three-fold to . 1,500 crore .


In financial services, Vellayan cleaned up the balance sheet (losses due to personal loan portfolio) of Cholamandalam Investment and bought out the stake of Singapore partner, DBS, for . 376 crore. Cholamandalam has regained its position as a leading asset financing NBFC. Its disbursements grew 48% to . 5,731 crore, the highest since its inception in 1978.


TI cycles saw its volume crossing 4 million and turnover . 1,000 crore, Tube products of India clocked over . 1,000 crore riding on the booming auto industry. In fertilisers, Coromandel International took advantage of the far-reaching nutrient-based subsidy policy even while, as a derisking strategy, ventured into non-subsidy business such as speciality nutrients. As a part of becoming a total solution provider to the farming community, it plans to increase retail centres to 1,000 by 2012-13 against 423 last year.


Vellayan says the group is also set to become a leading urea producer, for which it is scouting for cost-effective acquisitions. Currently, gas prices are high in India for producing urea. Till the prices come down, his strategy is to focus on imports. Against 1.5 lakh tonnes imported through Karaikal port last year, 4.5 lakh tonnes will be imported this year and sold by Godavari fertilisers. The group is also set to increase mixed fertilisers output from 3 million tonnes to 4 million tonnes with 4 lakh tonnes of phosphoric acid to be sourced from the new plant in Tunisia.


In recent times, the group had exited the ceramic tiles business (Parryware was sold to Roca) and sold Chola Mutual Fund to L&T Finance. But Vellayan argues that two of his sons (Arun Vellayan and Narayan Vellayan) are busy building two niche businesses, home equity and organic manure, respectively, while Muthu Murugappan (son of vice--chairman, M M Murugappan) has taken up the task of growing engineering ceramics.
Vellayan also convinced the 40-year-old Vellayan Subbiah, son of M V Subbiah, to assume a large role of steering the financial services business as Cholamandalam MD. After his long stint abroad with McKinsey and other firms, junior Subbiah was heading group IT venture, Laserwords.

A VELLAYAN
EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN
Murugappa Group

 

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


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

ENTER THE BABA PUPPET SHOW

V KRISHNA ANANTH


The frenetic pace at which some Union ministers have gone about dealing with Baba Ramdev may seem to suggest that the UPA government means business when it comes to being responsive. A less charitable explanation to this would be that the UPA-II is aware of large support base that the saffron clad baba commands and that his fast would snowball into a crisis.


But then, the manner things have unfolded have left a trail that should lead anyone with average intelligence to surmise that the script for this was written in the corridors of the political establishment; and the end game is to derail the process of drafting the Lokpal Bill.


Take the timing for instance. After the initial rounds of discussion, the 10-member committee to draft the Lokpal Bill has landed in a state where the government side is unwilling to anything but a Lokpal that is toothless. The government side seemed to have succeeded in causing frustration among the five-member team led by Anna Hazare and driven the nation into a sense of desperation: The word has gone around that things will not change. And this was when Baba Ramdev arrived on the scene announcing his decision to fast and presenting a list of demands, some of them absurd. The script seemed to have been laid out: senior ministers went to the New Delhi airport to honour him!


The baba's fast could have been held at Vigyan Bhawan, where the Vishwa Hindu Parishad held a conference of saffron-clad sants way back on April 7 and 8, 1984. That would have established the role of the Congress-led Union government without doubt. It appears that the managers in the Congress establishment have learnt some lessons in the art of covering up the trail! The baba and his "disciples'' could not have turned the Ramlila Grounds into what they have done without help from the Delhi administration and permission from the concerned departments including the police that comes under Union home minister. The parallels are too striking to be ignored; and it is also a case where the chunks of the script are copied and pasted from the disastrous 1980s to the present.


Recall the story of one Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. A smalltime religious preacher and a sect leader in Amritsar was picked up by Zail Singh, then a leader of the Congress party in Punjab acting as Sanjay Gandhi's pointman, with the sole aim of pushing the Shiromani Akali Dal out of business. That Bhindranwale was a Congress prop was evident from the fact that he went about orchestrating violence and was even the first accused in the killing of Lala Jagat Narain, a newspaper baron who had opposed the call for Khalistan, was allowed to roam about Amritsar and other parts of Punjab and the Congress government simply looked the other way. Lala Jagat Narain was shot dead in April 1981. Sanjay Gandhi was dead by then. But the monster he had helped create had grown into a dreaded terrorist and turned the Akali Dal into a pale shadow of its own past self.
Baba Ramdev, indeed, is a prop discovered by important sections in the Congress party to push Anna Hazare and his team out of the business of pushing a meaningful Lokpal Bill. It is not possible to conclude as to whether the script has been approved by Sonia Gandhi or her son Rahul Gandhi. Sanjay Gandhi had directed the Operation Bhindranwale and Indira Gandhi had endorsed it in all stages. The point is that there seems to be very little indication of the Congress leaders learning from history. Bhindranwale did not stop with marginalising the Akali Dal. Even after his death, in Operation Blue Star in June 1984, his followers went about killing innocent people and also such leaders as Indira Gandhi herself and Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal, the most moderate among the Akali leaders.


The events that followed the conference that the then Congress government facilitated at Vigyan Bhawan in April 1984 were no different. The Congress managers then may have planned to marginalise the BJP and the other arms of the RSS by way of propping up the VHP and deputing their own Karan Singh to steer the cacophony against Hindu's converting to Islam; the Meenakshipuram conversions in 1981 provoked a campaign for enacting a law against conversions and the April 1984 conference at Vigyan Bhawan was a culmination of that. The strife that followed in the few years since then was not very different from the price that the nation had to pay for having allowed a Bhindranwale to emerge.


This lesson from our own short history is relevant to Anna Hazare and his followers too. Some of them may be naïve. But not everyone (including Kiran Bedi) there should pretend to gloss over the fact that Baba Ramdev, whose wealth and the means through which he has amassed them and controls large property in the name of the trusts he runs, is not too different from the political leaders and bureaucrats against whom the campaign is on. Hazare and some others in his fold are behaving the same way the Akali leaders responded to Bhindranwale at some point. This will have to stop.


(The author is advocate and NMML Fellow)

 

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

 

 


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

MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

HOARDING FLATS: WHAT TO DO?

THE COEXISTENCE OF ALMOST ONE LAKH EMPTY FLATS IN A CITY OF SHORTAGES DEFIES ECONOMIC LOGIC

 

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) has about twenty million residents. Assuming an average family size of five, these residents would need about four million houses (i.e. forty lakh). Since sixty per cent of the population officially lives in slums, hence only sixteen lakh pucca family units exist. As reported recently in Mumbai Mirror, a survey by property research firm Liases Foras shows that 93,000 flats remain vacant (or unsold) in MMR.

 

These are newly constructed houses and the number does not include those up for resale. This number represents six per cent of pucca housing units. In a city with acute and chronic shortage of housing, isn't it a paradox that so many flats are lying vacant? The absentee owner is obviously living somewhere else, not in a slum. And which mean that the empty flat is a second or third flat for the owner. When the government is desperately trying to solve the problem of housing shortage, should it tolerate such "hoarding" by absentee landlords?

Forcing these flat owners to sell or rent their flats, or worse, confiscating these flats (like they confiscate the land of farmers) would be an unjust trampling of their rights. But we need to examine, why do so many flats lie vacant, and can we change the incentives to reduce the vacancy? The simple explanation may be as follows.

The expected rental income is too low which is why the flats remain unrented. Besides, you always have the risk that the tenant may not leave, and squat permanently on your flat. Instead, if you wait for a couple of years, with the kind of real estate appreciation we have seen, you can sell your flat for a whopping profit. In any case the price of the flat will certainly not go down, like gold. So it is a worthwhile investment. In fact keeping the housing situation in a perennial artificial shortage, guarantees that price of flats keeps rising steadily. Hence it is almost a sure thing that you will make a profit on investing in a second or third flat.

 

So this speculative lobby, representing the wave of money that has entered real estate in MMR, will ensure that six to ten per cent flats will be vacant, and yet price of flats will keep on rising. (Of course, the real estate guys keep warning about an imminent crash, what with interest rates rising, and home loans drying up. But that imminent crash never happens, at least not in residential housing. At worst there is temporary stagnation.)
    How then to break this cycle, without trampling on the rights of flat owners and speculative investors? By a combination of interventions, like the MHADA lottery and large-scale projects for low-cost rental housing development. The one thing we must avoid is the scheme run by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA). As recently shown by Medha Patkar led agitation, in many SRA projects, less than 70 per cent slum dwellers have voluntarily given up the rights to their slums. There is an element of coercion, which cannot be exposed because of the terror of slumlords, and reluctance of the police to register complaints. Hence it takes an intervention by the likes of Ms Patkar, with a nine day hunger fast to get some justice. (Of course Ms Patkar has her own detractors in this multi-coloured city, who feel that she is rewarding squatters, who are law breakers in the first place. And then there is the politics of cutoff dates for slums. But that's another story.)


 So back to those surplus 93,000 flats. What is to be done? There is a novel proposal to levy a vacancy tax. That's sure to shake up the absentee landlords. Even gold needs a locker fee. Do make renting easier, by relaxing rent control and diluting tenant rights. But it sure is time to charge a fee for hoarding houses!

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


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

                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

RAMDEV'S FAST HAS ALL ON EDGE

 

Baba Ramdev, the saffron-clad yoga teacher-cum-herbal products entrepreneur whose television following is said to run into lakhs, raised a cloud of dust with his threat of an indefinite hungerstrike (to commence Saturday at Delhi's Ramlila Ground) on corruption-related issues. He made the government scurry and negotiate. Right after the Manmohan Singh government had headed off pressure from the Anna Hazare Jantar Mantar movement by opening discussions with it on the proposed Lokpal Bill, it clearly had no wish to be ambushed by Baba Ramdev. The reason is that, unlike Mr Hazare, a social activist, the yoga guru can potentially command street power. He is the putative beneficiary of support across the country of RSS cadres who are reportedly under their leadership's instruction to back the yoga guru's "movement". While RSS activists can't always make a political party such as the BJP win elections, they are said to be enough in numbers to dog a government through protests and street mobilisations. In spite of such support, however, Baba Ramdev, while addressing the faithful on Friday on the eve of his proposed protest fast, did not sound triumphant, acerbic, angry or bitter — in short, he gave no intimation he was in a mood to revolt to overthrow the constitutional order. This marks a sharp contrast with the progress of the Hazare bandwagon which, at one point, had held out a threat that the government would fall if he continued sitting at Jantar Mantar and the government allowed the fires of rebellion to spread. Baba Ramdev held several rounds of negotiations on his key demands with senior government ministers. He gave a sense of this to the Ramlila Ground audience of a few thousand, going over points of agreement or disagreement with official emissaries, as if to pre-empt any future allegation of giving in to the authorities. In addition, he underlined that he would follow strictly constitutional methods but would continue his protest until all his demands were met to his satisfaction. Indeed, several of his demands will not be deemed unreasonable. He has sought fast-track courts in corruption cases, a public service delivery guarantee legislation, declaring as national assets the black money parked abroad by tax evaders, and allowing study in professional courses (engineering, medicine, agriculture sciences) in Hindi and regional languages, besides English. On his support to the demand for an effective Lokpal Bill, Baba Ramdev told his followers he would not get into details as the issue was sensitive. (Unlike Mr Hazare, he did not announce his insistence on bringing the PM and the higher judiciary under the purview of the Lokpal). Clearly sounding pro-dialogue, the man who had not long ago threatened to field candidates in every Lok Sabha constituency in the country with a view to humbling the government told his audience that discussions with the government would continue until the latter accepted reasonable time-schedules to deliver on his demands. The yoga guru continues to stress that "crores" of people across the land are raring to go with him. If this is established through credible visuals, the Congress-led government might feel obliged to give legal and constitutional shape to some of his key demands, which might not be such a bad thing.

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

MISDIRECTION

 

"No poison can kill poison, Live and friend, let live. Beware the lure of balancing The double negative!" From Warnings of Stale Mornings by Bachchoo There are very many historical mistakes that won't be corrected. The population, for instance, of the islands of the Caribbean, "pieces of dirt" in the armpit of America as my friend the Caribbean philosopher C.L.R. James labelled them, are universally known as West Indians. They have nothing culturally or historically to do with India and are for the most part descendants of African slaves brought there by force through the great injustice of the "triangular trade" which Europe initiated in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was Columbus who perpetrated the blunder. Working in the maritime industry of Seville, he and his cohorts knew of the existence of India to the far east of Spain, beyond the lands of the Saracens and the river Indus which, via the historic conquests of the Persians and subsequently Alexander the Damned, had given the country its name. Columbus also knew that the world was spherical and if he sailed West he would reach the East. What he didn't know when he sailed into the unknown reaches of the Atlantic was that there was a whole chunk of real estate and a couple of oceans beyond it before he could, even in theory, hit Chennai or Orissa. He gaily landed in the Caribbean, praised God, slaughtered a few natives and wrote home that he had discovered the east of India. It is then even more enigmatic that these islands were named the Indies and came to be known as the West Indies when further European maritime exploration and map-making had established that India was altogether elsewhere. The first West Indian I knew was called Vincent Bhup Singh. He had arrived to study at the college at which I was in Pune and his origins were something of a mystery, though he tried to explain that he was from the islands from which the rum came. He was, as I recall, in love with my sister and pursued her on his bicycle singing love songs from Hindi movies despite not speaking any Hindi. When we insisted that we were, technically speaking, West Indians or at least western Indians since Pune was situated on the Deccan plateau close to the Western coast of the sub-continent, he compounded the problem by saying that he was, in fact, an East Indian West Indian. This confession led to a careful perusal of the world atlas and an elementary history lesson. I must admit that at the age of 15 my only acquaintance with the West Indies was Harry Belafonte's song Jamaica Farewell in which he sings that he is sad to say he's on his way and won't be back for many a day, that his heart is down and his head is spinning around because he had to leave a little girl in Kingston Town. By this age I knew that the little girl meant not his newborn daughter but his lover, just as I had realised that "baby" when an American sang Walking my baby back home didn't mean that he was pushing a pram across meadow and farm. Vincent showed us where Jamaica was though he was from Trinidad, a few hundred miles down. He explained that his forefathers had been taken on labour contracts from India by the British Raj to work in the sugarcane fields of Trinidad. He also told us that since the blacks of the island, who for generations after the abolition of slavery had refused to work in the cane fields, were West Indians, he was, hence, an East Indian. There were other East Indians in the then colonies of British Guiana and next to it Dutch Guiana on the South American mainland next to Trinidad. The people of Dutch Guiana who originated as he did in India couldn't be called East Indians as the Dutch had colonies in Java and Sumatra and those places were called the East Indies and their populations known as East Indians — so the Indians transported to Dutch Guiana were called simply Hindustanis. All this knowledge and confusion came back to me this week on briefly visiting Seville in Andalusia, southern Spain from which place Columbus had set sail for "India" and where his tomb in Seville Cathedral is a worldwide tourist attraction. Next to the cathedral, which till the 13th century was a Moorish mosque when southern Spain was still ruled by North African Muslims, is a building known as the Archivo de Indias. On seeing it on the city's map one could be forgiven for momentarily thinking that it was perhaps a museum of Indian artefacts as of course it isn't. If one came across "The Indian Archive" in, say London, one could be sure that it had something to do with Britain's long interaction with the sub-continent. So one reminded oneself that Spain, for all her marauding in the Caribbean and South America, had had very little to do with us. What then was in the Archive of the Indias? A history, as I discovered, of the discovery of the West Indies and America and of the discoverers such as Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. Seville hasn't bothered to correct the grand misnomer. It is, of course, absolutely right that Spanish children and other children round the world are taught that Columbus made this understandable blunder, but it is perhaps time that the phrases West Indies and West Indian were replaced by "Caribbean". It will solve another small problem. The Catholics of Mumbai, among them Darryl D'Monte, a dear and distinguished friend of mine, and his late cousin, the poet Dom Moraes, are often referred to as "Goans" and demonstrate their resentment of such classification by insisting that they are nothing of the sort, and that they are, in fact, East Indians. I have always, though I may be wrong, detected a whiff of snobbery in the dissociative correction. How Catholics from Mumbai came to be known as East Indians I haven't yet figured. I didn't know Dom or Darryl when I first met Vincent Bhup Singh but I now think if I had, it would be amusing to have introduced them and watched them claim and fight out this ambiguous label of their identities.

 

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TAKING THE GREEN PULSE 40 YEARS ON

 

The Himalayan glaciers are melting at an alarming rate; the Ganga is changing its course at Varanasi, threatening agricultural land on the banks. Last year Moscow witnessed an unprecedented heat wave, and Pakistan was hit by a flash flood. Ever since the Stockholm Conference in 1972, a number of international conventions have been held and several measures taken by the UN and other international and national agencies to arrest global warming and environmental degradation. As we prepare to observe this year's World Environment Day (June 5), it may be instructive to ask ourselves what state the earth is in, and whether corrective measures since 1972 have had any significant impact. The Ganga, epitome of Indian civilisation and the lifeline of North India, is one of the 11 large rivers of the world which, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, are dying. The net forest loss continues to be substantial — worldwide about seven million hectares per year. Forest fires, too, are having a devastating impact. In India, for example, five per cent of the forest cover is lost due to fire. About 40 per cent of the world's agricultural land already stands degraded. Though modern industrial agriculture has brought about green revolutions in a number of countries, it has also meant a higher cost of production and damage to the soil. While the global population is increasing by about 87 million a year, global grain supplies are dwindling. Already, in the last three years, food prices have nearly doubled, exposing about 100 million more persons to the risk of falling below poverty line. At present, three species are dying every hour. At this rate of extinction, the global gross domestic product could decline by about seven per cent by 2025. Moreover, the loss of biodiversity and degeneration of ecosystems are not mere "green" issues, they have a deep relationship with the production of food, fibre, fuel and medicines and maintenance of soil fertility. If these issues remain neglected, it would be the poor who would suffer most and lose whatever little access they have to productive lands and other resources. At present "four of every 10 people in the world do not have access to a single-pit latrine and nearly two in 10 have no source of safe drinking water". In India, annually 38 million people are afflicted with serious water-borne diseases, like jaundice, typhoid and hepatitis. Another 66 million fall victim to fluorosis in the country. The economic burden of these diseases is enormous. The cities of developing countries have continued to expand in an unplanned way. They have now a quarter of a million designated slum settlements, with about one billion inhabitants. About 500,000 people are losing their lives on account of indoor air pollution every year. The ecological footprint of the cities have been rapidly expanding, and they have been consuming a huge amount of global resources and emitting a vast quantity of carbon. They are now using bulk of the world energy and throwing up as much as 30 billion tonnes of carbon annually. Poverty, ignorance and disease continue to cast their dark shadows on the major part of the globe. Deprivations have increased and disparities sharpened. A small group of powerful countries have acquired a stronger hold over the global economy as well as over the international power structure. On account of the economic ideologies sponsored by this group, wealth begets more wealth, power begets more power and the inequalities increase globally and also within the nations. At the fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, held from May 9-13, 2011 at Istanbul, it was revealed that the number of this category of countries has increased from 24 in 1971 to 50 in 2011. Together, they have a population of about 880 million, and half of them live on $1.25 a day. Certainly, there have been some positive outcome of measures taken after 1972. Environmental awareness has spread far and wide. The acid rains have been contained, and the ozone hole has virtually been closed. But all such gains pale into insignificance when viewed in the context of the steep deterioration that has occurred. Worse, a highly unfair and unjust order has come to stay. While it is the consumerism of the rich that is putting unbearable strain on the finite resources of our planet and causing environmental degradation, it is the poor, with little role in this degradation, who are suffering the most from its consequences. After the terrible tsunami that accompanied the earthquake in Japan in March 2011, Tokyo governor Ishihara bewailed: "It is the divine punishment for our consumerism". Nature demands balance and unbridled consumerism flies in the face of this balance. It is time that the international community recognised the irrefutable ecological reverses and degradation of key natural resources over the past four decades. It must disabuse itself of the greedy forces of neo-liberalism and evolve a new design for economics, promote a culture of contentment and compassion. And of course promote a stronger awareness campaign for a lifestyle in the current century that is much less profligate and respects balance and harmony wherein the entire humanity is regarded as one family.

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


 

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

THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

GROUNDED!
A SWATHE OF THE REAL ESTATE LOBBY

A CRIPPLING blow has been struck at the real estate lobby, that had over time cut across party lines. The chief regret must be that Wednesday's bold decision by West Bengal's new government ought to have been taken in 2009 when Vedic Village ~ neither Vedic nor a village ~ imploded. And crucially exposing the involvement of both CPI-M and Trinamul activists in the wheeling and dealing, as lucrative as it has been murderous. There has been a politician too many, including ministers, with a finger in the real estate pie. There are three facets of the course correction that is bound to affect promoters. The Bhangar-Rajarhat Area Development Authority (BRADA), which played the role of a facilitator in the Vedic Village land deals, has been disbanded. The Hidco chairman's quota in New Town, a bitterly contentious issue in the run-up to the Assembly elections, has been scrapped. And all land allotments since last December ~ four months prior to the election ~ are to be reviewed. The government has quite obviously reconciled itself to the fact that the first two decisions will inevitably truncate its authority in the satellite town. In parallel, it must be acknowledged that the administration has eventually struck at the fountainhead of irregularities. The dissolution of  BRADA will have its impact on North 24-Parganas (New Town and certain areas of Rajarhat) and Bhangar (South 24-Parganas), the turf of Abdur Rezaak Mollah, the former land and land reforms minister. It bears recall that the CPI-M hardliner, for all his opposition to land acquisition for industry, was in the news for the wrong reasons during the Vedic Village controversy.
Equally was the former housing minister and HIDCO chairman, Gautam Deb, under a cloud over questionable allotments. Indeed, the raft of decisions are a reflection on Mr Deb's unilateral style of functioning as Hidco chairman, a political appointment that he had held since 1999. It is a commentary too on the CPI-M's failure to rein in a controversial minister who was quite the most vocal candidate in the weeks before the elections. Every rule in the book was violated in the exercise of the chairman's "discretionary powers". While vested interests benefited, such arrogated expressions of ministerial authority actually served to reinforce the cesspool of corruption.


To be seen to be fair, the government must now come upfront on Trinamul activists with dubious stakes in the periphery of  Kolkata. Along with the CPI-M , Trinamul Congress was fairly well represented on the quasi-official Bhangar-Rajarhat Area Development Authority. Its dissolution carries a message for both parties.
STOP THIS ROT!

The Army deserves better

THE controversy over the age of the Army chief is not just getting 'curiouser', it is becoming increasingly murkier. The revelation that the Army sought the opinion of two former chief justices now makes it clear that a no-holds-barred contest is underway to give General VK Singh what could amount to an "additional" year in office. This is the kind of wheeler-dealer stuff more associated with petty politicians or lower division clerks. With all due respect to the General ~ and he commands a lot of that ~ if he had failed to utilise the "window" available in the initial stage of his career to rectify a discrepancy in the records, it is something he just has to live with. It seems most unprincipled that the rectification ~ which will bring him one more year in office ~ is done when he occupies the top slot in the service. That there are conflicting opinions of the law ministry, attorney-general, and now two former CJIs (one of whom takes the audacious line that the man's recent track record should influence determination of the year of his birth) only adds to the mess. A mess that could have been avoided had the defence minister taken some time out from his bombastic blasting ~ verbal blasting, nothing more ~ of Pakistan and made bold to take a call on the age-issue. One way or the other. The dithering ~ so typical of how the UPA-II government has surrendered its authority to Sonia Gandhi's NAC, self-styled representatives of "civil society" and now a god-man turned political activist ~ is what is debilitating the army of which this nation was once so proud. Must the institution of the Chief of the Army Staff be allowed to destruct in the same manner as have the CAG. CVC, PAC under the Manmohan Singh dispensation?
Much as this newspaper sympathises with General VK Singh and admires his efforts to nurse the Army back to "inner health", it cannot ignore the reality that the age-controversy has done considerable damage to his cause. Indeed in some military circles it is being commented that he will be a bit of a lame duck for the rest of his career. For his organisation has been split down the line over the succession issue, some of his moral authority has dissipated. That is the greater danger: the gravity of the situation lies in its having relevance beyond any single individual. The Army deserves better.


DEATH OF A DOCTOR

RESURGENT BIHAR'S SINISTER UNDERBELLY

A SPURT in kidnappings and murders in Bihar over the past year has been alarming enough. In his second incarnation as Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar is now palpably "shocked" over the lynching of a doctor in Gopalganj jail. The incident confirms the failure of the prison administration, the sinister clout that the mafia wields from within the cells, the use of cellphones and other banned articles and the nexus between the inmates and the prison staff. The malaise is not uniquely Bihar; it is fairly common to all or nearly most prisons or "correctional homes" in the country. In Bihar, the manifestation has been mortal with a representative of the government being done to death by seven lifers,  allegedly owing allegiance to a particular mafia leader. For all the groundswell of popular support, this killing inside the jail places the JD(U) government in a spot that it scarcely anticipated.


On the face of it, the gruesome incident is rooted in the prisoners' pressure tactics to ensure better facilities. Dr Buddhadev Singh had to pay with his life for refusing to issue fake medical certificates that would have fetched the seven suspects a better cell. The incident fits in with the familiar crime pattern in Bihar ~ kill the person intent on discharging his duty. This has happened alongside the Golden Quadrilateral road project where an engineer was done to death for spilling the beans. This has happened more recently near a public sector oil depot; an officer was killed by the petroleum mafia for daring to crack down on adulteration. The mayhem at Gopalganj illustrates that even doctors in state service are not safe. If a physician is expected to buckle under the dictates of prisoners, there appears to be a tacit understanding between the inmates and the jail administration, such as it exists. As much is clear from the response of the Home secretary, who has been directed to conduct the inquiry. Bihar being Bihar, the report may well get docketed. Only a thorough revamp of the jails and inter-prison transfer of inmates can perhaps restore a semblance of discipline. Despite the electoral mandate, Bihar remains ever so criminalised.

 

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


THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

HORRENDOUSLY FRACTURED

CIVIL WAR THREATENS PAKISTAN?

RAJINDER PURI


RECENTLY an increasing number of political analysts in the West have started to seriously debate whether Pakistan can survive as a single nation. Late last month a new book was published entitled The Punjabi Taliban: The prospect of future civil war in Pakistan. It is a slim volume, around a 100-odd pages. The book deserves serious attention. It is authored by Mr Musa Khan Jalalzai, a London-based specialist on the Af-Pak region and terrorism. He has over 100 books on the subject to his credit. He is a columnist for The Daily Times in Pakistan and The Outlook Daily in Afghanistan. The book is a mine of information. It is loaded with facts. Opinions of others are quoted. The author is extremely economical with his own opinions. He allows facts to speak for themselves. The picture that emerges is chilling.


Pakistan as a nuclear weapons state is horrendously fractured with no single authority in control. That includes the army which can bully the civilian government, but is impotent against much of the terrorist network. There are 34 major sectarian groups flourishing in the country. Twenty-seven of them indulge in political activism. Each group is a law unto itself headed by provincial ideologues. Thirty-three groups operate in Kashmir. There is internecine warfare between many of these groups. They kill and bomb their respective opponents across all cities of Pakistan.


The Sunnis and Shias fight each other; the Deobandi sects fight the Barelvi sects; the Saraikis fight central Punjabis; the Mohajirs fight the Pashtuns, and after the death of Osama bin Laden most of these groups have all started to fight the Pakistan government and army. Each group has sympathizers and colluders within the local government machinery. Saudi Arabia and Iran provide foreign support to Sunnis and Shiites respectively. CIA, Chinese Intelligence, RAW and Afghanistan's KHAD are all active in the region. Pakistani allegations about the involvement of RAW may be exaggerated. But if RAW is not involved at all as most Indians would like to believe, the agency should be condemned for criminal dereliction of duty. Security analyst Amna Nasir Jamal wrote: "Pakistan has three major pockets of militant sympathizers. Waziristan provides training facilities and the freedom to operate and collaborate; Karachi is a major funding source; but South Punjab is considered a human resource centre ~ it's one of the Taliban's prime recruiting regions."


It may be noted that in South Punjab, Bahawalpur to be precise, Maulana Masood Azhar who was released from an Indian prison in exchange for hostages in a hijacked plane, leads a force of 20,000 militants. According to Mr. Jalalzai's information, a recent Intelligence report submitted to the government claimed that 400 sectarian groups are active in Pakistan of which 350 belong to Punjab. In Saraiki Punjab the government has lost control over remote villages which are controlled by the Punjabi Taliban. No police officers are posted there. Many Punjabi Taliban activists hold both Indian and Pakistani passports.   


The rot started after former President Zia ul-Haq established madrasas, funded by Saudi Arabia, that imparted Wahabi Islamic teaching to prepare recruits for the Mujahideen to fight the Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan. In the following decades the madrasas have spread exponentially to indoctrinate young children from poor families to grow up as fundamentalist jihadis. Islamabad encouraged this in the pursuit of its policy to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan and to send terrorists into Indian Kashmir. This strategy worked reasonably well until the Lal Mosque attack alienated some of the terror outfits. It sharply worsened after the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Now things have got out of control. Substantial chunks of the military establishment are colluding with terror outfits in their newfound war against the Pakistan government and army. The terrorists have openly stated that they intend taking over the Pakistan state. As the fighting between the army and the militants intensifies it can reach the level of a full fledged civil war.


The murky depths of the current situation can be assessed from two recent events. First, there is a new revelation that Mullah Omar's outfit leaked Osama's location to the Americans. It was discussing modalities of US troops withdrawing from Afghanistan in exchange for Taliban dumping Al Qaida. How will this be taken by those sections of the Taliban still firmly committed to Al Qaida?  Will it lead to a new conflict within Taliban ranks? Secondly, there has been the tragic murder of Asia Times online bureau chief, Syed Saleem Shahzad, in Islamabad after he exposed the links between the Pakistan Navy and terrorists who attacked the Mehran air base. Shahzad was an outstanding journalist and we frequently exchanged messages on the Internet. I had quoted him in some of my articles. His murder reveals the ruthless brutality of Pakistan's inner conflict that lies ahead.


Musa Khan Jalalzai believes that Pakistan could be heading for a civil war. By his reckoning its results will heavily impinge on India which will be drawn into the war. He writes: "With military operations starting in Southern Punjab and Lahore, thousands of people will migrate into India as refugees. This mass migration and the establishment of military training camps in India, will be a turning point in the movement of the Punjabi Taliban. Like Afghans who are now fighting alongside the Punjabi Taliban in NWFP, Indian Punjabis can join their Pakistani Punjabi brothers in the fight against Pakistan's army." 


Need I remind readers that Mr. Kuldip Nayar in a recent article had expressed fear about refugees streaming into India in case of increased fighting within Pakistan? Need I also remind readers that I had pointed out the enduring ties existing between Sikh farmers and their counterparts in Pakistan? In an article entitled "Beheading the Sikhs: Pak Taliban's Historic Blunder" published on 27 February 2010, I observed: "For decades it was commonly stated that fifty or so families in Punjab ruled Pakistan. What was not stated was that about 40 per cent of these ruling families of the rural Punjab province of Pakistan were Jat Sikhs who voluntarily converted to Islam in order to retain their land holdings. These converted Jat Sikhs had no trouble gaining acceptance from their Muslim Jat cousins, farmers all... They could now constitute a potential fifth column in Pakistan. It would be not a fifth column that could serve the Indian government. It would be the fifth column serving the Sikh Diaspora…"


Hopefully, the Pakistan government with encouragement from the US and India will steer the nation towards democratic stability and peace. But it would be idle to pretend that the situation is not very bleak. And if a civil war does develop inside Pakistan, the impact on India could be unimaginably profound.


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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


THE STATESMAN

'UP LAND PROBLEM WORSE THAN SINGUR EPISODE'

Known for his "inconsistent" political loyalties, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Mr Ajit Singh exploited the sugarcane pricing crisis in 2009 to the hilt. He then led a protest march against the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh over protracted land acquisition disputes. Son of the former Prime Minister, Chaudhary Charan Singh, ever since his baptism into politics, Mr Singh has been struggling to carve a niche for himself as a farmers' leader and lately he has achieved a measure of success. In an interview with NIRENDRA DEV, Mr Singh spoke on a number of issues, including the farmers' agitation and emerging political combination in Uttar Pradesh where the Assembly election will be held in 2012. 

 Where is your party's political strategy heading now? After cultivating the farming community in UP for the past three years, do you feel frustrated that your agenda has been hijacked by the Congress, with Mr Rahul Gandhi stealing the limelight on the land acquisition issue?

Politics is not a question of limelight. I have always stuck by my people. In 2009, I spoke up for sugarcane cultivators after their welfare was neglected by the UPA government. On the Bhatta-Parsaul land acquisition dispute, I was the first to raise it. I have no competition and it is only expected that leaders from all parties will raise their voice against forcible acquisition of land from farmers and depriving them of compensation. 
 
So, you are not unnerved that other parties are now trying to steal the thunder? Mr Rahul Gandhi has demanded a judicial probe into alleged atrocities on agitating farmers and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced compensation for the injured farmers.

I was one of the first to meet the Prime Minister on 10 May in relation to the matter. He immediately asked the rural development ministry to work on a legislation on land acquisition and rehabilitation of the displaced farming community and other persons displaced as a result of such acquisitions. I welcome the PM's announcement of compensation. It will give relief to the poor people.


What about Mr Rahul Gandhi talking about the molestation of women and the burning of 72 bodies? Local villagers have denied that.

Look, there is no denying the Mayawati government is working against the farming community. The Congress' demand for a judicial probe into the Bhatta-Parsaul incidents is valid. Moreover, if a responsible leader of a major political party and an elected MP says he has evidence of atrocities, the state government should order a judicial inquiry. But I don't expect anything from the Mayawati government.


Your party has demanded forward movement with respect to the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill. In fact, your son and MP Jayant was proposing a private member's Bill.
That's true. We have also taken it up with Union rural development minister Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh and suggested a few concrete steps. He is likely to incorporate them in the proposed legislation. Our party's stand has been that the relevant law that we have at the moment ~ the Land Acquisition Act ~ dates to 1894. It has become redundant and needs to be scrapped immediately. A new law should replace it.
 
You seem to be going all out against the Mayawati government. But not so long ago in 2008, you had almost backed her as a probable Prime Minister…
No. In 2008, I voted against the UPA government because I was against the Indo-US nuclear deal. It is the media that misinterpreted us. On the land acquisition legislation, our party raised it in business advisory meetings of the Lok Sabha during the winter session. But there was a deadlock in Parliament on the 2G spectrum scam and over the demand for a joint parliamentary committee. We again raised it during the Budget session but neither the BJP nor the Congress showed any interest. Today, I am happy that both parties are staging dharnas and courting arrest. But the land acquisition problem in Uttar Pradesh under Miss Mayawati is more dangerous than what it had been at Singur in Bengal. Miss Mayawati is blatantly misusing the law. The UP government was planning to acquire two lakh hectare land covering around 1,200 revenue villages for the Yamuna Expressway Authority. 
 
Charges of inefficiency and corruption against the Mayawati government are nothing new. But you seem to have taken up cudgels only recently and your detractors link it to the coming election.
That's your perception. I took sugarcane growers to Delhi and they had a lot to say against the current UP government. Anyway, the problem with Miss Mayawati  is that she is perhaps even worse than an autocrat. In Bhatta-Parsaul, atrocities have been committed, people are worried. Political decorum demands that local leaders go and talk to them. Every leader and chief minister does that. But not Miss Mayawati…she is not practising politics. There is no communication between her ministers and herself. She disallows any interaction with people. That's it.
 
What about political realignments? The RLD is keen on a tie-up with the Congress and also seems to want to ally with Mr Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party...
We draw up our political strategy by talking to grassroots workers. In the past as well, I had maintained working relations with the Samajwadi Party and the Congress. All political parties know our strengths. Recently, after meeting Mr Deshmukh on the land acquisition Bill, I said there was a positive outlook from the government and the minister. Immediately, television channels commented that I was cosying up to the Congress. I am hopeful that things will work out in favour of the farmers. I am against some clauses that allow state governments to acquire at least 30 per cent of land for developmental projects.
 
What about political discussions for alliance building in UP?
What's new in it? We see that happening ahead of every election. Talks with like-minded parties have been going on at various levels ~ one could choose to merely share seats or forge a direct alliance. The only difference lately is that SP president Mr Mulayam Singh has decided to chart a separate course and has already named his candidates. My party has its own growth chart. We are trying to expand our base even in eastern UP and will try to make inroads in Azamgarh and Varanasi. 

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


THE STATESMAN

ON RECORD

The more I see of what is happening in Pakistan, the more I am convinced that Pakistan's leadership must wake up now.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh

Give more importance to the Opposition. If need be, allot less time to our MLAs.
West Bengal chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee to the Bengal Assembly Speaker

The last government had unofficially instructed the treasury to stop clearing bills from November 201,. Between November and March 2011, they withheld payment of Rs 2,500 crore. The burden of unpaid bills in April and May this year was Rs 1,000 crore. Clearly, the last government left a burden of Rs 3,500 crore on the new government.
West Bengal finance minister Mr Amit Mitra

I stopped wearing jewellery after 1997 but my party functionaries and cadres would always urge me to rethink my decision. As the AIADMK won the Assembly election this time, many cadres insisted that I should go back to wearing jewellery. A few even threatened to immolate themselves if I did not.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Miss Jayalalithaa

My father had severe arthritis. Everyone knows that he could not walk properly without support. It is unlikely that he scaled the four-and-a-half-feet-high balcony wall to jump down. He could not have committed suicide.
Mr Masum bin Mustafa, son of deceased Basirhat MLA Mustafa bin Quasem

There is an age limit for everything. We had a long debate because we needed to decide if we wanted to discourage or encourage the culture of alcohol consumption in our state. I will not say that this policy is perfect. We can debate it further.
Maharashtra chief minister Mr Prithviraj Chavan while announcing that state citizens will now be able to consume alcohol legally only after attaining 25 years of age as against the earlier 21

We will not be satisfied by dialogues or assurances. There should be evidence of bringing back black money from tax havens abroad. Till there is 100 per cent agreement on all issues and a decisive stage reached, the fast will go on.
Yoga teacher Ramdev

No one has given us a hiding like that.
Alex Ferguson after Barcelona beat Manchester United

If I was indeed indisciplined, why was I then picked as a player for the Ireland series?
Former Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi

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


THE STATESMAN

GOD IS BRAZILIAN

VINOD VYASULU


The powers that be decided in early 21st century that Hyderabad and Bangalore deserved new airports. Both are growing cities witnessing a huge increase in business travellers. The old airports were too small and lacked modern conveniences. Somehow, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had its hands full at that time and took the public-private partnership route to build world-class airports at the two cities.

 

There was, however, not enough traffic to justify two airports for a city.  The powers that be also pointed out that a policy required airports to be at least 150 km from each other. As such, building new airports would entail shutting down the old ones. Also, this would be done to ensure that passengers who wanted to connect to and from international fights were not inconvenienced. The government wished to do away with the need for shuttling between the old and new airports in its aim to facilitate "seamless connections".


Shortly afterwards, Devanahalli to the north of Bangalore and Shamshabad to the south of Hyderabad were identified as suitable locations for the new airports. Contracts were signed ~ in Bangalore with an international consortium and in Hyderabad with an Indian business group. The two old airports that the cities have, have been shut down for ordinary people. Only the President and those who own private aircraft may still land there. The ordinary people of Bangalore have the pleasure of an hour's run from the north end of the city to the new airport. The situation is slightly better in Hyderabad. This is a uniquely situation.


In Brazil, some of the cities I have been to have two airports ~ an old and a new ~ and not 150 km from each other. In fact, Sao Paulo has three ~ two old and one new ~ all within 100 km of each other. Congonhas, 8 km from the city centre has served Sao Paulo for a long time. It also took care of international flights to neighbouring countries till 1985. Being an old airport, it has a short runway and with the city growing around it, there is no scope for a longer runway. There was a clear need for a bigger and better airport. But Congonhas was not shut down, it is still very busy today. Domestic flights of less than an hour-and-a-half's duration operate from here.


Viracopos is located in Campinas about 100 km from Sao Paulo. It has excellent weather conditions and so is rarely non-operational. It served as the international airport for this commercial centre of Brazil. It is a major cargo hub today. Given the congestion of Congonhas, the distance of Viracopos and the increasing business importance of Sao Paulo, the government decided to build a third airport. Guarulhos International Airport came up in 1985. All international traffic for Sao Paulo is now operated from there. Domestic flights operate too, so there is no problem of connections for international passengers who wish to travel to other Brazilian cities. Garulhops has become a regional hub for South America. It too is crowded, and with the football World Cup coming up, will need to be expanded. So the Paulista is served by three airports today, all within 100 km of each other. All are managed by Infraero ~ the Brazilian equivalent of the AAI.


Belo Horizonte ~ capital of the Minas Gerais province located in the southeastern region of Brazil ~ has two airports as well. Pampulha Airport (PLU) once used to be on the outskirts of the city but no longer. A university campus has come up there and beyond that, new buildings owned by the state government have been constructed. It still remains a major airport of Brazil and caters to local flights. As the city grew, a new one came up: Aeroporto Internacional Tancredo Neves in Confins, some 30 km away. This will need to be expanded too for the World Cup. But God is Brazilian, and listens to the passenger. Both will continue to operate.


Rio de Janeiro, the former capital of Brazil, still has the old Santos Dumont airport operational. On landing, one is treated to a spectacular view of the statue of Christ the Redeemer ~ considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world. The airport is close to town. It has a short runway. But domestic flights continue to operate even after the new Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport was opened years ago. This airport is now under expansion for the football World Cup and the Olympics that Rio will soon host. Domestic flights operate out of Galeão as well and so, a passenger who needs a connecting flight faces no problems. God is Brazilian, and listens to the passenger.


In India, the story is different. The AAI was given stakes in the Hyderabad and Bangalore airports but chooses to have nothing to do with them ~ private operators take care of the facilities. It was the AAI that had decided that no two airport should come up within 150 km of each other ~ a perfectly rational decision. But it's hardly the government's policy. I wonder how the confusion arose.


Bangalore airport has already changed hands, at a premium, although it has not declared any profits yet. To allow the private operators a local monopoly, the old airports, which were handling a large number of passengers, were shut down for ordinary people. I wonder what the Competition Commission of India has to say about this. That both airports belonged to the AAI, which is owned by the government of India, seems to have made the closure decision easy because no one else needed to be consulted and convinced before taking the decision. But such decisions are not taken after consulting passengers. Nobody in India listens to passengers! God is Brazilian, and listens to the passenger. We should become Brazilians.


The writer is a Bangalore-based Consulting Economist

 

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

 


 

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

THE TELEGRAPH

UNCOMMON READER

Great writers are remembered by their table talk among other things. Henry James attained immortality for his ability to churn out endlessly involuted sentences. Dr Johnson's gift of the gab is the stuff of legend, thanks to the faithful compiler, James Boswell. After a walk with Coleridge in 1819, during which the poet "broached" a "thousand things", Keats wrote, "I heard his voice as he came towards me — I heard it as he moved away — I heard it all the interval — if it may be called so." When future generations look up V.S. Naipaul's table talk, or even some of his so-called more serious outpourings, they will certainly hear a distinctive voice saying a lot of things, but whether they will be rivetted or repulsed by what they hear is another matter. Sir Vidya, as the Nobel laureate is popularly known, may have always flattered himself as being a great man, but he can never be blamed for trying to project himself as a pleasant one. On the contrary, the older he gets the nastier he becomes — this trait itself is his USP. With his latest drubbing of women writers, especially iconic ones such as Jane Austen, Mr Naipaul's popularity rating among his misogynistic, male chauvinistic and other psychotic fans is likely to go skywards. But how should readers with more regular tastes react to what can only be reasonably described as senile "tosh" (borrowing Mr Naipaul's own description of the writings of his former editor, Diana Athill)?

The most sensible response to such bigoted and banal remarks is plain indifference. Trying to justify the merit of the novels of Virginia Woolf or the stories of Katherine Mansfield is as absurd as defending the works of James Joyce or D.H. Lawrence. Apparently, it does not take Mr Naipaul long to decide whether a book he is reading is written by a man or a woman. Some may find such intuitive talent impressive but it certainly does not speak highly of Mr Naipaul's readerly skills. A book usually gets read and recommended for the story it tells, the style in which it is told, or for some such matter of literary interest. It would be odd, if not somewhat twisted, if people suddenly started picking up books just because they were written by persons of specific genders. Any writing of enduring worth is gender-neutral. Would Hamlet have been a less powerful play or any less appreciated had it been written by a woman? Unlike uncommon readers such as Mr Naipaul, the millions of ordinary ones, who like to enjoy a book for what it offers, do not bother to find out whether the writer is a man or a woman or, simply, Anon (who is credited with some of the finest lyrics written in England in the Middle Ages).

Of course, there are writers who may try to grab public attention by making much ado of their gender, but that is because they have no other resources to depend on, and sensationalism seldom fails to act as a passport to instant notoriety. But does a Noble laureate — even one who has long stopped producing anything of any worth — really need to hanker after 15 minutes of fame?

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

 


THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

TIME TO MAKE A START

THIRTEEN WAYS TO CLEANSE THE SYSTEM POLITICS AND PLAY - RAMACHANDRA GUHA

 

In an article published 50 years ago, the great Indian democrat, Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari, deplored "the unconscionable and grievous expenditure on elections, which gives overwhelming advantage to money-power." Rajaji argued that "elections now are largely, so to say, private enterprise, whereas this is the one thing that should be first nationalized." Towards this end, he recommended that the government issue voter cards, take votes not at fixed destinations but at mobile booths that went from home to home and hamlet to hamlet, and provide State funding to parties and contestants.

In the decades since Rajaji wrote, money-power has become even more pervasive and influential. A candidate for Parliament requires crores of rupees to fight an election. These costs are obtained through party funds, which rest not (as they should) on membership fees and small voluntary donations, but on commissions creamed off government contracts, and on bribes given by industrialists to whom the parties have granted favours. The funds provided to (or gathered by) contestants are then used to seek to bribe voters. The money spent in fighting elections is recovered many-fold in case the party or contestant wins.

In Rajaji's time, a minority of politicians (perhaps 20 per cent or so) were corrupt. And virtually none were criminals. Now, certainly less than 20 per cent of politicians in power are completely honest; and somewhat more than 20 per cent have criminal records. That said, the electoral system itself is relatively transparent. Sterling work by successive election commissioners — such as T.N. Seshan, J.M. Lyngdoh, N. Gopalaswami and S.Y. Quraishi — have largely put an end to the practice, widespread in the 1970s and 1980s, of capturing booths, doctoring ballot papers and ensuring that those who were not likely to vote in your favour were kept away from the electoral process. Also on the positive side, voter turnout remains high, far higher, in fact, than in older and otherwise more mature democracies. Besides, the poor vote in larger numbers than the middle-class and the rich.

Indian elections, then, are by no means a farce; but they are surely in need of reform. They need to be made independent of money-power, and less captive to the interests of crooks and criminals. Recognizing this, the ministry of law and the Election Commission have been holding a series of meetings in different parts of India, soliciting views on how best to reform the electoral system. Asked to speak at the meeting in Bangalore, I took as my manifesto (the word is inescapable) a submission prepared by the Association for Democratic Reforms, a remarkable organization that has single-handedly made electoral malpractice and the criminalization of politics topics of national debate. (It was a public interest litigation filed by the founding members of the ADR that resulted in a Supreme Court judgment making mandatory the declaration of assets and criminal records of all those seeking to contest assembly and parliamentary elections.)

The note submitted by the ADR to the ministry of law and the Election Commission makes 27 recommendations in all. These are listed in detail on the ADR website. I will here highlight 13 recommendations, which I shall divide into two categories — those that are immediately practicable, and can be put in place at once; and those that are highly desirable, and can perhaps be tested first in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 and then implemented in subsequent parliamentary and assembly elections.

The seven proposals made by the ADR that can be implemented with immediate effect are:

1. Barring criminals from politics: A person charged with serious offences like murder, rape, kidnapping, or extortion, against whom charges have been framed by the police or the courts and which are punishable by sentences exceeding two years' imprisonment should be prohibited from contesting elections. To prevent vendetta by political opponents, the law can specify that such action will be taken only if the case and charges were filed six or perhaps even nine months before the date of the election which the person wishes to contest;

2. Sources of income: Along with the declaration of assets and liabilities (now mandatory), candidates for state and national elections should also make public their yearly income and its sources;

3. Appointments of election commissioners: At the national level, this should be done by a multi-party committee consisting of the prime minister, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India. Likewise, state election commissioners should be chosen by a committee comprising the chief minister, the leader of the Opposition, the assembly Speaker, and the chief justice of the relevant high court. Further, to obviate bias and harassment, the chief election commissioner of the state should be a person from outside the state cadre;

4. Provision for negative voting: The electronic voting machines, while listing the names and affiliations of candidates, should have, as a final option, 'None of the above';

5. Bar on post-retirement jobs: All election commissioners should be barred from accepting government posts of any kind for a period of five years after their retirement, and from joining a political party for a further five years;

6. Financial transparency: It should be made mandatory for political parties to declare accounts annually, indicating their sources of funding, patterns of expenditure, etc;

7. Curbs on publicity at public expense: Six months prior to the expiry of the House, the government should be forbidden from taking out advertisements in the media trumpeting their achievements (real or imagined);

Six further proposals made by the ADR, which can be made operational in the next few years are:

1. The winning margin of candidates should be at least one vote more than 50 per cent of those cast. If no candidate gets a majority of votes, then the two top candidates in a constituency can 'run-off' against one another;

2. Elections should be funded by the state. The mechanics of this process have to be carefully worked out, to establish how much money is allocated to state parties, how much to national parties, how much to independent candidates, etc. But surely a committee composed of a selection of India's many world-class economists can work out a formula that is both efficient and equitable;

3. The internal reform of political parties such that they have (a) regular elections (based on secret ballots); (b) term limits for office bearers;

4. The classification of political parties as public authorities, so that their finances and other activities come under the provision of the Right to Information Act;

5. The prompt detection of those who bribe voters with gifts of alcohol, televisions, etc., and their punishment by having their candidacy set aside;

6. The provision of annual reports to constituents by MPs and MLAs.

In recent months, the issue of political corruption has dominated the headlines — from the Commonwealth Games through the 2G scandal and the mining and real estate scams on to the controversy over the lok pal bill. Public discussion has been high on indignation and low on constructive proposals for reform. The document prepared by the ADR is an excellent starting point to move the debate from rhetoric to substance, from talk to action. For, to cleanse the election system is to cleanse the political class, and, thereby, the process of governance itself.

ramachandraguha@yahoo.in

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


THE TELEGRAPH

LIFE'S INVISIBLE LITTLE IRONIES

VISUAL ARTS

RITA DATTA

Irony and argument seem to set the tone for CIMA's summer show, though emotion isn't absent. Romanticism — whether pensive or playful — endures, while angst surfaces in two artists, both indebted to the Surrealist legacy of harnessing photographic minutiae to subvert the apparent. With 52 works by some 27 artists from around the country, the show, on till July 16, primarily offers diversity, however, rather than a thematic or stylistic unity, so that each artist presents his own petit récit.

An impish gamesmanship is common to Uday Dhar and Sumitro Basak. But the former's schema of a chessboard to imply the psychological gambits people plan with people — whether politicians, advertisers, or messiahs — isn't terribly startling. Basak's game is far more subtle, employing a kind of deadpan wit which the hasty viewer may miss. His montage is, in fact, made up of nine separate canvases of equal size assembled like children's puzzles to get the whole picture. The artist's ploy of breaking down the narrative in Amar Sonar Bangla into disparate images questions an individual's grasp of the whole when he is part of merely a part, which can make sense only when it ceases to be itself.

Its point of departure is the Rizwanur case, with a sketched figure lying beheaded on the rail tracks while Fux underwear — echoing the brand the accused are owners of — is advertised everywhere. But this is not about a single case. His litter of flat images in flat colours on a flat surface is a wry, no-comments commentary on the grass-roots everyday he's a witness to. Whether it's the monstrous smoke of factories or aphrodisiac oils, it all reflects society succinctly.

Satyajit Roy's tone is also tongue-in-cheek in an image that refers to violence in an off-hand, even humorous, way. But Farhad Hussain imperceptibly tones up unease in what appears as a game, too, a performance. Indeed, the performing elephant at the back lends the motif that binds all the people in the painting (picture). Because, with radiant smiles and in radiant colours, they are all performers with their posed happiness: adults, children and dog, quite obviously arranged, beam at viewers as though at a camera. As though their frantic gaiety must be on show under high-powered lights that deny them the cover of shadows. And in choosing a style-less style of representation that dwells on details to build up a low-key narrative, Shivanand Basavanthappa is archly rhetorical as he argues an idea: that life in India is about invisible little ironies.

From C. Bhagyanath and C.B. Bahuleyan come charged, dystopian fables. In a sense, the former's Space and Ladders is also something of a game, a malevolent one. Not only because it refers to Snakes and Ladders, where luck sends players soaring or slumping, but because the architectural edifice in this canvas with its numerous planes, confounding ladders and vertiginous depth, is a crazy, ominous, leviathan of a maze where tiny figures scurry about as both victims and perpetrators of violence. In Bahuleyan's works, on the other hand, nature is both bleak and insidiously burgeoning. Arid in places but rank elsewhere, as though to reclaim its territory from lethal human hands. If chopped branches reveal red wounds and tendrils turn into shafts in one work, a disaster is suggested in the other, perhaps wrought by nature itself.

With its prescient stillness and beguiling illusion, O.C. Martin induces a Magritte moment in Reflection. H.P. Manjunath's acrylic isn't without its Surrealism, either. His punctilious naturalism of depiction — of a woman, a chair — prompts a double take with teasing shifts in perspective and depth as his use of trompe l'oeil turns what looks solid one moment into empty space the next, while level borders suddenly become ridged.

Shreyasi Chatterjee's canvas, Frozen Dream, in her signature thread and fabric, is constructed in horizontal segments. Without living creatures, the landscape becomes a semi-abstract work. Lively, capricious, heaving with motion, there's the hint of chance motifs trapped in and swept along in a continuous flow. Henri Rousseau's Primitivism seems to have inspired the orderly, pristine vision of Surendran Karthyayan while Gautam Khamaru's landscape is disarming in its naïve mix of aerial and lateral views with a 2-D layout. And if Thota Tharani's gallery of women's faces — sketched with brief, brusque lines — is an understated register of expressive moods, Babu Xavier's elephant, as summary in its outline as a cut-out, is refreshingly gauche.

Ganesh Pyne, Shuvaprasanna, Paresh Maity, Ramananda Bandopadhyay and Paramjit Singh are among those to be seen at the show.

 

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


THE TELEGRAPH

IN SEARCH OF A NEW DIALOGUE

DANCE
SHARMILA BASU THAKUR

Various experiments and innovations have been going on in the arena of classical dance. Each dance form has a rich technique and strict format, designed by great masters, but the possibility of discovering new dimensions is always present. The traditional idea that it is enough for a dance form to survive in a pure and unadulterated form seems to be a myth these days. The creative mind cannot be comfortable or satisfied with strict grammatical regimes and mythological content,which have hardly any relevance in the contemporary context. This restlessness to find a unique expression propelled Debasree Bhattacharya and Vikram Iyengar — two dedicated, disciplined and cerebral dancers and disciples of Rani Karna — to choreograph their new productions.

Ranan presented Return and Dreamed, two distinctly different yet strongly connected productions. One is rooted in traditions and in the magic of classical dance, while the other experiments with different elements. They were staged at Gyan Manch on May 21.

Conceived, choreographed and performed by Bhattacharya and Iyengar, Return tried to explore a situation where two classical dancers are forced to re-evaluate and redefine their relationship with their dance form when they find that the very soul of their art is slipping away from their grasp. The more they try to capture this ephemeral being, the more it deserts them.

To begin with a saraswati vandana in raga Bhupali and teental was a brilliant idea. The performance gradually moved forward through small bols and chakkars, culminating in an impressive dance-dialogue. The artists treated their dance style as a character and tried to converse through it. Their strong understanding of the Kathak genre helped them to experiment and innovate, and they were aided by interesting stage props and music. Tarana in raga Bhoop by Padma Talwarkar and Shyam beena sajani in raga Tilang by Poornima Choudhury touched the soul and created a powerful atmosphere. The philosophy behind the performance was profound, but to transform a mere technique into an uplifting human experience proved to be a difficult task.

The music was arranged beautifully by Siddhartha Bhattacharya. The other accompanists of the production were Anjan Saha (sitar), Sunando Mukherjee (sarod), Chinmoy Karmakar (flute) and Vijay Kumar Mishra (sarangi). The light was designed by Sudip Sanyal.

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


THE TELEGRAPH

DISTURBING SAMENESS

KATHAKALI JANA

When Rabindranath Tagore attempted to liberate dance from the straitjacket of classical expression and facilitated the creation of India's first avant garde 'modern dance', so to say, little did he know that 'Rabindranritya' would one day cry out for liberation from its own straitjacket. Sick of dead-beat choreography, fatigued by hackneyed folk movement patterns combining rather unhappily with diluted classical ones, and tired of cringe-inducing clichés, one would not want another Chitrangada played in the style Suralok recently employed at Uttam Mancha. Not in the 150th year of Tagore's birth, as an offering to celebrate the occasion. Surely, this complex dance drama with its remarkably sensuous poetry —and its genius creator who decried stereotypes — deserved better. But that was clearly not to be.

Thankfully, Tagore being the flavour of the month of May, another presentation to mark the occasion came with greater promise. This is not to say that this one did not have its faults.

Dakshinee, the premiere music and dance school of Calcutta with a special focus on Tagore, was guilty of a disturbing sameness, offering a sense of déjà vu. A Dakshinee programme always looks and feels the same. Disciplined rows of girls and boys seated on stage, girls in green-bordered white saris, boys in spotless white clutching onto slips of paper — an eyesore, as always — with the lyrics of the songs on them, singing one song after another with no interruption, edging quietly away from the microphone to make way for the next in line. Almost as though the whole thing were part of a coded ritual, to be followed to the last detail. And follow it they did.

What made Dakshinee's evening special, however, was not the general competence of the singers. They were, of course, tuneful and accurate, whether in the solos, duets or choric songs chosen for the occasion, justifying the intensive training that their institution has always been known for. Technical virtuosity, therefore, was a given.

It was exceptional renditions such as those by Saikat Shekhareshwar Roy, Aditi Gupta, Debangana Sarkar and Shreya Guhathakurta that achieved for the evening its memorable quality. Roy's "Ke janito tumi dakibe amare" was faultless in its reading of the profound spirituality of the lyrics, while the overwhelming pathos of "O gaan ar gaash ne" was richly felt in Aditi Gupta's capable interpretation. In Sarkar's engrossing rendition of "Sakhi andhare ekela ghore" lyrics, emotion and melody came together to bring the singer and listener on the same plane of understanding. Guhathakurta infused her singing of "Aji je rajani jay" with a deep sense of loss, making it one of the most powerful expressions of the evening. With "Aha, tomar songe praaner khela", Anindya Narayan Biswas surely went as close to perfection as one possibly can.

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


 

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

EDITORIAL

PRESIDENT ASSAD'S BLOODY HANDS

Syrians have shown extraordinary courage, standing up to President Bashar al-Assad's reign of terror. We wish we could say that about the international community. So long as Mr. Assad escapes strong condemnation and real punishment, he will keep turning his tanks and troops on his people.

Human rights groups believe that more than 1,000 protesters have been killed in a three-month crackdown and that 10,000 more have been arrested. Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, the 13-year-old boy whose tortured body was shown in an online video, has become a heartbreaking symbol of the regime's brutality. According to activists, he was arrested at a protest on April 29 and not seen again until his broken body was delivered to his family almost a month later.

His murder and that of at least 30 other children who joined the protests show the depths to which Mr. Assad and his thugs have sunk.

On Friday, in some of the biggest demonstrations yet, thousands of people again returned to the streets to demand political freedoms. Activists said dozens of protesters were killed in Hama after troops and regime loyalists opened fire. Independent journalists are barred from the country, so the full extent of the violence is unclear. What we do know is that the Syrian government has unleashed a wave of repression, perhaps the most vicious counterattack of the Arab spring.

After the killing began, the United States and Europe imposed sanctions — mostly travel bans and asset freezes — on certain key regime officials while exempting Mr. Assad. Only later did they add his name to the list. The rhetoric is stiffening. On Thursday Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared that Mr. Assad's legitimacy is "if not gone, nearly run out." But some American and European officials still buy the fantasy that Mr. Assad could yet implement reforms.

Most appalling, the United Nations Security Council is unable to muster the votes to condemn the bloodshed much less impose sanctions. Russia, cynically protecting longstanding ties with Damascus, is blocking meaningful action and China has fallen in lockstep. India is also reluctant to act — a shameful stance for a democracy that has been bidding for a permanent seat on the Council.

If Russia and China, which have veto power, can't be won over, the United States and Europe must push a robust sanctions resolution and dare Moscow and the others to side with Mr. Assad over the Syrian people.

We do not know how this will turn out. But arguments that Mr. Assad is the best guarantor of stability and the best way to avoid extremism have lost all credibility.

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

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

PRESIDENT ASSAD'S BLOODY HANDS

Syrians have shown extraordinary courage, standing up to President Bashar al-Assad's reign of terror. We wish we could say that about the international community. So long as Mr. Assad escapes strong condemnation and real punishment, he will keep turning his tanks and troops on his people.

Human rights groups believe that more than 1,000 protesters have been killed in a three-month crackdown and that 10,000 more have been arrested. Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, the 13-year-old boy whose tortured body was shown in an online video, has become a heartbreaking symbol of the regime's brutality. According to activists, he was arrested at a protest on April 29 and not seen again until his broken body was delivered to his family almost a month later.

His murder and that of at least 30 other children who joined the protests show the depths to which Mr. Assad and his thugs have sunk.

On Friday, in some of the biggest demonstrations yet, thousands of people again returned to the streets to demand political freedoms. Activists said dozens of protesters were killed in Hama after troops and regime loyalists opened fire. Independent journalists are barred from the country, so the full extent of the violence is unclear. What we do know is that the Syrian government has unleashed a wave of repression, perhaps the most vicious counterattack of the Arab spring.

After the killing began, the United States and Europe imposed sanctions — mostly travel bans and asset freezes — on certain key regime officials while exempting Mr. Assad. Only later did they add his name to the list. The rhetoric is stiffening. On Thursday Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared that Mr. Assad's legitimacy is "if not gone, nearly run out." But some American and European officials still buy the fantasy that Mr. Assad could yet implement reforms.

Most appalling, the United Nations Security Council is unable to muster the votes to condemn the bloodshed much less impose sanctions. Russia, cynically protecting longstanding ties with Damascus, is blocking meaningful action and China has fallen in lockstep. India is also reluctant to act — a shameful stance for a democracy that has been bidding for a permanent seat on the Council.

If Russia and China, which have veto power, can't be won over, the United States and Europe must push a robust sanctions resolution and dare Moscow and the others to side with Mr. Assad over the Syrian people.

We do not know how this will turn out. But arguments that Mr. Assad is the best guarantor of stability and the best way to avoid extremism have lost all credibility.

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

GIVE ME THE PERMITS, OR ELSE

It sounded like a simple bit of noncontroversial Senate routine: raising the salary of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to the level of his cabinet peers. Then, with all the finesse of a shakedown artist, Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, declared that he will keep a legislative hold on the $19,600-a-year raise until Mr. Salazar has his department approve more deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.

"I cannot possibly give my assent," the senator wrote to Mr. Salazar. Far from any concern about laws against quid pro quo Washington deals, Mr. Vitter vowed in a press release to keep his "boot on the neck" of the department until his drilling demands are met.

In the wake of the gulf oil spill disaster, the senator wants to regenerate industry jobs, and he is demanding an approval rate of at least six drilling permits per month. Most of the 15 approved since the oil spill, he contends, amount to reissuings.

The administration rightly argues that tighter post-spill standards require closer examination of permit requests. The secretary rightly dismissed the senator's boot as an "attempted coercion of public acts" and told the Senate to forget about the raise. Mr. Salazar was in the Senate when Congress approved cabinet raises and required special legislation to reach the current salary of $199,700.

Senator Vitter is basking in the controversy. His office told Politico a court fight with the Obama administration would be most welcome: "Make my boss a Louisiana folk hero," a spokesman fairly pleaded.

Mr. Vitter can't really hold a candle to Huey Long, even if his tactics smack of the Kingfish's statehouse thuggery. The last thing either Louisiana or the nation's capital needs is still another politician strutting imperiously. But there goes Senator Vitter, trumpeting his demands.

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHAT DO YOU SEE ON YOUR PLATE TODAY?

Let's face it, if the food on your plate forms a pyramid, you're probably eating too much. And yet the symbol meant to guide Americans' eating choices has long been the food pyramid, one that has grown more abstract and harder to understand over the years even as the nutritional guidelines have improved. On Thursday, the secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, and the first lady, Michelle Obama, abandoned the pyramid and unveiled its replacement: a dinner plate known as MyPlate.

That may not sound like a radical departure, but it is. The new icon captures what you see when you look down to eat (assuming you're not eating from a takeout carton, which would be far worse), and it turns that view into a simple, comprehensible reminder of what should be there. The plate is half full of vegetables and fruit — actually, labeled color blocks — half full of protein and grains, with a glass of dairy on the side.

The plate is based on new dietary guidelines released by the government last January, which encouraged Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods, especially ones containing added sugar. It is part of a concerted effort by the Department of Agriculture and the first lady to improve nutrition, especially childhood nutrition. One in three American children is overweight or obese, which means long-term chronic health problems.

How we became obese is spelled out in a U.S.D.A. list of the current main calorie sources for children age 2 to 18. The top three are grain-based desserts; pizza; and soda and energy or sports drinks. We hope Americans take the new dinner-plate icon seriously. And we hope it helps bring about healthy changes in the foods offered in supermarkets, restaurants and schools.

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHEN TEACHERS TALK OUT OF SCHOOL

BY JONATHAN ZIMMERMAN

IN 1927, a schoolteacher in Secaucus, N.J., named Helen Clark lost her teaching license. The reason? Somebody had seen her smoking cigarettes after school hours. In communities across the United States, that was a ground for dismissal. So was card-playing, dancing and failure to attend church. Even after Prohibition ended, teachers could be dismissed for drinking or frequenting a place where liquor was served.

Today, teachers can be suspended, and even fired, for what they write on Facebook.

Just ask Christine Rubino, the New York City math teacher who may soon be dismissed for posting angry messages about her students. Last June, just before summer vacation began, a Harlem schoolgirl drowned during a field trip to a beach. Ms. Rubino had nothing to do with that incident, but the following afternoon, she typed a quick note on Facebook about a particularly rowdy group of Brooklyn fifth graders in her charge.

"After today, I'm thinking the beach is a good trip for my class," she wrote. "I hate their guts."

One of Ms. Rubino's Facebook friends then asked, "Wouldn't you throw a life jacket to little Kwami?"

"No, I wouldn't for a million dollars," Ms. Rubino replied. She was pulled from the classroom in February and faced termination hearings; the case is now with an arbitrator.

Ms. Rubino's online outburst was only the latest example of its kind. In April, a first-grade teacher in Paterson, N.J., was suspended for writing on her Facebook page that she felt like a "warden" overseeing "future criminals." In February, a high school English teacher in suburban Philadelphia was suspended for a blog entry calling her students "rude, disengaged, lazy whiners"; in another post, she imagined writing "frightfully dim" or "dresses like a streetwalker" on their report cards.

Such teachers have become minor Internet celebrities, lauded by their fans for exposing students' insolent manners and desultory work habits. Their backers also say that teachers' freedom of speech is imperiled when we penalize their out-of-school remarks.

But these defenders have it backward. The truly scary restrictions on teacher speech lie inside the schoolhouse walls, not beyond them. And by supporting teachers' right to rant against students online, we devalue their status as professionals and actually make it harder to protect real academic freedom in the classroom.

Last October, a federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of an Ohio high-school teacher who had asked students to report about books that had been banned from schools and libraries. The exercise wasn't in the official curriculum, and parents had complained about their children reading some of the banned books.

Three years before that, the courts allowed an Indiana school board to fire a teacher who told her students that she had honked her car horn in support of a rally against the war in Iraq. The reason was the same: she had deviated from the "approved" curriculum.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, state legislatures are moving to restrict or eliminate teachers' collective bargaining rights. That means unions will have a more difficult time defending teachers' freedom of speech.

So the rest of us need to make a fresh case for why teachers should have this freedom. And the answer starts, paradoxically, with the limits they should impose on themselves.

All professionals restrict their own speech, after all, reflecting the special purposes and responsibilities of their occupations. A psychologist should not discuss his patients' darkest secrets on a crowded train, which would violate the trust and confidence they have placed in him. A lawyer should not disparage her clients publicly, because her job is to represent them to the best of her ability.

And a teacher should not lob gratuitous barbs at her students, which contradicts her own professional duty: to teach the skills and habits of democracy. Yes, teachers have a responsibility to transmit the topics and principles of the prescribed curriculum. But they also need to teach democratic capacities — including reason, debate and tolerance — so our children learn to think on their own.

Teachers won't be able to model those skills if our schools and courts continue to muzzle them. But the same democratic imperative also demands that teachers responsibly restrict what they say, just as other professionals do.

A similar sense of restraint is needed in class as well: although I would fully support a teacher's right to voice an anti-war view, I would not want her to tell the class that it is the only appropriate view. That's indoctrination, not education, and it inhibits the critical thinking skills that democracy demands.

Outside school, meanwhile, teachers must also avoid public language that mocks, demeans or disparages the children they instruct. Cruel blog posts about lazy or disobedient students echo the snarky smackdown culture of cable TV talk shows. And they're anathema to a truly democratic dialogue.

Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of education and history at New York University, is the author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory."

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FALSE CHOICES

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

Friday's jobs report was abysmal.

The U.S. added 54,000 jobs in May, far fewer than expected, and the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.1 percent.

This is the latest in a cavalcade of worrisome economic indicators — from double-dipping home prices to flagging consumer confidence — that illustrate just how fragile the recovery has been, just how inadequate and anemic the stimulus was and just how tenuous the government's grip is on the reins.

It is against this backdrop that Republicans have decided to play chicken with the nation's credit — insisting on spending cuts while steadfastly resisting tax increases.

This is part of the modern doctrine of a compassion-free conservatism that's using the fog of the fiscal crisis to push a program of perverse wealth inequality as sound economic policy: The only way to jump-start the economy is to slash taxes on the wealthy and on companies; the only way to compensate for the deficits that those tax cuts exacerbate is to slash benefits to the poor and vulnerable. It would be comical if it weren't so callous.

Not only is this faulty logic, it's a false choice. We'll need sensible tax increases and sensible spending cuts to address the deficit, and both can be offset to some degree by stronger economic growth. It's not an either-or proposition.

And the wealthy can absorb a bit of a shock because they appear to be doing just fine. Quarterly earnings at luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Movado and, yes, Tiffany all beat expectations, signaling that the rich can still splurge on the carats they wear. Meanwhile, working-class people continue to fret over the carrots they eat.

Furthermore, there is a mound of evidence that corporations are in no need of more tax breaks.

First, the tax burden of American companies is lower than that of other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, as economist Bruce Bartlett pointed out this week. Also, a report issued on Wednesday by Citizens for Tax Justice looked at 12 Fortune 500 companies from 2008-10 and found that on $171 billion in profits earned, their effective tax rate was negative-1.5 percent because of corporate loopholes, shelters and special tax breaks.

And, as Time magazine reported in its June 6 issue, "In the 18 months since the Great Recession, which ended in June 2009, U.S. annualized corporate profits rose 42 percent, to a record $1.68 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2010."

Corporations aren't hurting. They're hoarding.

Republicans have taken an untenable position on taxation that threatens to not only undermine the country's credit worthiness and push us to the brink of default, it is antithetical to the health and sustenance of a just and striving society.

The full stealing from the plates of the starving simply isn't an American ideal.

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

GHOSTS OF GUATEMALA'S PAST

BY STEPHEN SCHLESINGER

IN 1954, the American government committed one of the most reprehensible acts in its history when it authorized the C.I.A. to overthrow the democratically elected leader of Guatemala, President Jacobo Arbenz. It did so secretly but later rationalized the coup on the ground that the country was about to fall into communist hands.

Guatemalan society has only recently recovered from the suffering that this intervention caused, including brutal military dictatorships and a genocidal civil war against its Indian population, which led to the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people. Only in the 1980s, when a peace process commenced, did democratic governance resume. But a silence about the Arbenz era continued.

Now, after 25 years of increasingly vibrant democratic rule, Guatemalans feel confident enough to honor the memory of their deposed leader by incorporating his achievements into the national school curriculum, naming a highway after him, and preparing an official biography. America should follow suit by owning up to its own ignoble deed and recognizing Arbenz as the genuine social progressive that he was.

Washington feared Arbenz because he tried to institute agrarian reforms that would hand over fallow land to dispossessed peasants, thereby creating a middle class in a country where 2 percent of the population owned 72 percent of the land. Unfortunately for him, most of that territory belonged to the largest landowner and most powerful body in the state: the American-owned United Fruit Company. Though Arbenz was willing to compensate United Fruit for its losses, it tried to persuade Washington that Arbenz was a crypto-communist who must be ousted.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, along with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother, Allen, the C.I.A.'s director, were a receptive audience. In the cold war fervor of the times, Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers believed a strike against Arbenz would roll back communism. And the Dulleses had their own personal sympathies for United Fruit: they had done legal work for the company, and counted executives there among their close friends.

It is true that Arbenz's supporters in the Guatemalan Legislature did include the Communist Party, but it was the smallest part of his coalition. Arbenz had also appointed a few communists to lower-level jobs in his administration. But there was no evidence that Arbenz himself was anything more than a European-style democratic socialist. And Arbenz's land reform program was less generous to peasants than a similar venture pushed by the Reagan administration in El Salvador several decades later.

Eisenhower's attack on Guatemala was brilliantly executed. A faux invasion force consisting of a handful of right-wing Guatemalans used fake radio broadcasts and a few bombing runs flown by American pilots to terrorize the fledgling democracy into surrender. Arbenz stepped down from the presidency and left the country. Soon afterward, a Guatemalan colonel named Carlos Castillo Armas took power and handed back United Fruit's lands. For three decades, military strongmen ruled Guatemala.

The covert American assault destroyed any possibility that Guatemala's fragile political and civic institutions might grow. It permanently stunted political life. And the destruction of Guatemala's democracy also set back the cause of free elections in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras — all of which drew the lesson that Washington was more interested in unquestioning allies than democratic ones. It was only after the cold war and a United Nations-negotiated peace deal with leftist guerrillas in 1996 that genuine democracy began to take hold in Guatemala. And even since then, the cycle of violence and lawlessness unleashed by the 1954 coup has continued.

In 1998, an assassin bludgeoned to death the Catholic bishop Juan Gerardi shortly after he issued a damning report blaming the army for widespread massacres. In 2007, Guatemala had the world's third-highest homicide rate, according to a United Nations-World Bank study. In 2009, more civilians were murdered in Guatemala than were killed in the war zones of Iraq.

Washington took the first step toward making amends when President Bill Clinton visited Guatemala in 1999 and offered a vague apology for America's support of violent and repressive forces there. This year is an opportunity for Washington to fully own up to its shameful role in destabilizing Guatemala and honor Arbenz for having the courage to lead one of Central America's first democracies — and send a signal that America has learned to stop placing its ideological concerns and business interests ahead of its ideals.

Stephen Schlesinger, a fellow at the Century Foundation, is a co-author of "Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala."

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


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

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

AN EDUCATION CRISIS? WHAT EDUCATION CRISIS?

DAVID JUDSON

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Turkey has no "education crisis." This thesis is heretical, I know. I have defended it futilely in numerous conversations in recent weeks. So let me now lose the argument in print.

The evidence is indeed grim. Some 2.5 million students vying each year for 500,000 university places. Elementary school classrooms commonly of 45 students, often with 60. A testing system for all levels of education so mind-bending you need an advanced degree in mathematics to understand it. Cheating scandals that scarcely drop from the front pages. And that's just for starters.

Two weeks ago, daily Cumhuriyet reported a study by Istanbul's Maltepe University. The survey of students in 10 provinces found that fully 89 percent have lost all faith in the system. Rote-memory cram schools, "dersanes," now consume resources four times greater than the national education budget. This week, daily Radikal had an interview with Turkey's education czar. In the rambling interview, his solution would be to eliminate tuitions in Turkey's private, or "foundation" universities – code for returning a monopoly on higher education to state mediocrity.

If this all does not suggest an "education crisis," what does? To pursue my argument, this time I actually carried out the exercise that I have been challenging others to try. I took the words "education crisis" and Googled them along with the names of random countries. America, doesn't count. Too easy. For it's been having an education crisis of one sort of another since Life magazine produced a cover story on the topic in 1957. So I began with the famous "BRICs" of Brazil, Russia, India and China. I was not disappointed.

In Brazil, a quarter of the population between 15 and 24 neither works nor studies. Russians decry their university system as rigid, retrograde and moribund. China defines its "crisis" differently. China may be everybody's boogeyman in this global debate, producing hundreds of thousands of engineers each year. But a majority of those graduates cannot find meaningful work. As to India, she will need to send 22 million people to college in 2014, an increase of 8 million from the 14 million studying today, according to Forbes India. The country's government talks of the need for 1,500 universities. India has 350 today. There's a short-cut to it all in the blog dedicated to the topic, run by the International Sociology Association: www.isa-sociology.org/universities-in-crisis.

The debate is endless. At Europe's largest university, Sapienza University of Rome, students meet in tents. Japan's elementary and high schools face a crisis of "dumbing down" according to the daily Asahi Shimbun, which in turn has sparked a controversial exodus to private classrooms.

There are plenty of arguments that the uprisings in Arab states are, at heart, crises of education. Take Syria, where the once-prestigious University of Damascus is so overcrowded by its 60,000 students that few attend lectures and all exams have been converted to multiple choice.

But calling what's happening in Turkey and elsewhere a series of "education crises" is a misdiagnoses the disease. What's at work is a "learning crisis." This cannot be confronted with bricks and mortar. Public school and university systems, worldwide, are products of the industrial age. Educational factories once served us well. But in an age of ubiquitous knowledge and information, nothing short of a global rethink of how skillsets are disseminated and measured is overdue. Degrees are increasingly meaningless as any indicator of quality or qualification. More than 60 percent of what a first-year engineering student studies is obsolete by the time he or she reaches the end of the first year. In India, for example, computer science accreditation requires inclusion of obsolete Fortran programming.

These fragmented battles against an "education crises" are akin to struggling with damp towels against a flu pandemic in isolation at each spot of viral outbreak. We have misjudged the footprint of the disease, we don't see that only an osmotic membrane makes our "crises" distinct.

Turkey does, however, have a unique and rich history and tradition of educational – or learning – innovation. It is no "magic bullet" but it is available to serve in the cocktail of anti-virals that might actually turn back the true crises of a global learning pandemic.

Turkey's "village institutes" were closed in 1953 but this means of diffusing skills in rural areas, including carpentry, hygiene and horticulture, remains a much-studied legacy. Often forgotten in any debate is Turkey's Eskişehir-based "Open University," established in 1982 which now serves 1.3 million students by TV and Internet. It is imperfect; it is also robust.

The "foundation" universities which began with Ankara's Bilkent in 1984 and now number more than 30, are indeed skating close to the edge of the law which proscribes profit. Scrutiny and reform are in order. But there is nothing remotely comparable to the system anywhere in Europe. In particular the many life-long learning centers these schools have spawned speak eloquently to Turkey's ability to adapt. Non-traditional approaches include both the "Volunteers in Education" and "Volunteers to Society" programs which have pioneered hundreds of after-school education parks, tutorial programs and critical thinking initiatives.

That's my argument. It is not, however, one I expect to win.

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE AKP'S MASTERSHIP AGE

CENGİZ AKTAR

The ruling Justice and Development Party's, or AKP, mastership age has been unfolding for some time and will be made official on June 13. But the custom-made shirt by the master tailor AKP sown for Turkey is unfortunately too tight for people living here. Yet, it is highly doubtful Turkey that has been trying to get rid of the 1982 Constitution for 30 years would accept wearing a new straightjacket. For the society has already been seasoned to wear loose, comfortable shirts by the master tailor during its apprenticeship period. When I say "society" I also include the AKP's constituency, which is why our master's job wouldn't be easy.

Today in Turkey, we have a society, which has learned to rise up, to enjoy voicing-up objections and has broken the tutelage of all uniform ways of thinking. During the apprenticeship of the AKP government it started to say "No" to lies and taboos of the pre- and post-republican era. It is probably the first time in the history of these lands that we have such society. Is it possible to have control over such a society that has already tasted democracy, hit the road and taken charge of its fate? Of course not.

The transformation, which the society experienced since 1999 is not necessarily due to the European Union membership bid. It was not "granted" by the AKP to its "subjects" either. This is something that has come out of a society paying heavy prices for long time. This is about this priceless spot society has reached throughout duress, exclusions, military coups and massacres. It will be almost impossible for any government to shape such society up.

We are proceeding to a through period, in which even the word "difficult" would not describe it. Objections are being raised and multiplied by and from all directions. The self-declared master has no expertise to contain oppositions transforming into conflicts. Because only a "master society" is capable of such art not a "master government" or a "master party."

The AKP's call for a stable one-party government targets a society where democracy is not fully settled and grasped; it is not about good governance like in advanced democracies. The ruling party's obsession with percentages and thresholds in next week's election is a clear and sound indication of it. In fact, everyone, including the AKP, is a novice, an apprentice here. Inexperience and immaturity is behind AKP's obsession to control and eventually finish the process towards social maturity and mastership, which was actually catalyzed by this very party.

The societal response and reaction to this pressure would take the form of more conflict and deepening alienation. Not the old-fashioned brotherhood and nationhood that the prime minister dreams of.

Alienation and conflict

It is not a good omen to have funerals after prime minister's election rally. Statements of the AKP officials are not good signs either regarding Metin Lokumcu who died of ill-treatment during a protest.

It is not a good sign to claim "PKK and Ergenekon are one and the same." Retreating from fundamental rights and freedoms is not a good sign. Granting the military financial and legal autonomy is not a good omen. Digression from the EU is not a good sign either. A presidential system without any check and balance is not a good sign. Demographic engineering in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or TRNC, is not either. Doggedness on nuclear energy is not a good omen. Neither is unregulated economic development

Because today objections are serious and radical.

Last Friday evening during a meeting of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, with writers and journalists in Istanbul confirmed to me that alienation is not simply the reality of uncontrolled Kurdish youth. Alienation encompasses a considerable number of adult Kurds. Look what Fatma Emel Sümbül, acting chairwoman of the Diyarbakır Provincial Council, said at the Diyarbakır City Council meeting organized by the BDP and the Democratic Society Congress, or DTK: "Uncertainty regarding the Kurdish status continues. Kurdish people demand determination of their status in a democratic republic by a democratic constitution. Both international developments and the developments in the Middle East make necessary the creation of constitutions integrated with values of democracy and based on popular democratic participation. In this [new] constitution, the use of Kurdish and different languages in public sphere should be guaranteed. In many institutions authority should be handed over to local administrations. If politicians and governments do not meet the demands, it ought to be known that the society itself will set its own democratic functioning mechanisms."

Pilot projects for such mechanisms have already been carried out in Kurd populated towns. And Kurdish demands and objections are not limited with the BDP sympathizers but go well beyond.

The third Erdoğan government points out a crossroads both for the AKP and Turkey. The AKP does not have any more hindrance ahead and will benefit from large maneuvering space. The EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış, whom we were together on a TV program the other night, said Turkey has the initiative. That's correct. We have the initiative indeed. If wanted the AKP could eliminate all worries in a way to ensure Turkey's mastership age and could meet the expectations. Whatever the percentage, with which it will win the elections, it would understand that in order to reach democratic maturity it needs to accept the need of the largest political and social consensus for the new constitution and to solve the Kurdish conflict.

Or otherwise it would join those past Turkish political parties. In the meantime I cannot tell our fate.  

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

 


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

HOW LIBERAL WILL OUR DEMOCRACY BE?

MUSTAFA AKYOL

There is only a week now before Turkey's next general elections. Almost everybody seems certain that the winner, again, will be the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Yet less people are certain that the AKP will continue to be the reformist party it once was.

I will tell you what I think about this as well. But first, let me tell you how we came here.

There is no doubt, at least in my mind, that the past nine years Turkey went through under the AKP has been an era of democratization. The Kemalist elite, and particularly the Kemalist military, which used to dominate the political system by keeping elected politicians under its thumb, has gradually lost its power. In other words, the very basic definition of democracy, that rulers should come to power via free and fair elections, has been consolidated. We do not expect military coups or judicial coups anymore.

Liberal or illiberal?

But as Fareed Zakaria showed very insightfully, democratization of a country should not be the only political concern. It is also crucial to check whether the democracy we are speaking about is liberal or illiberal. A liberal democracy makes sure that the "general will" does not work in a way which curtails the liberty of the individual. In an illiberal democracy, however, a government backed by a majority can do things, which threaten the rights of the minorities or dissenting individuals.

From that perspective, the AKP has actually not done too badly, especially in its initial years. Many liberal reforms, most of which have been demanded by the European Union, have been realized by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his team. So, Turkey has become a freer country for Kurds, non-Muslims, foreign investors, or public intellectuals who dared to "insult Turkishness."

But that initial liberalism of the AKP began to decline gradually, after the first three or four years of its rule, for various reasons. First of all, the party lost the motivation to prove itself legitimate to the world and to Turkish society. They gradually grew more self-confident, and thus less reformist.

The bigger reason, perhaps, was the attack of the Kemalist establishment, to which the AKP had to respond, and respond decisively. The attack began to culminate in the year 2006, and reached its zenith 2007, when the military issued a threatening memorandum against the government. Erdoğan remained defiant, and went to general elections, which he won by a staggering 46 percent of the votes. But soon the establishment attacked again, by the infamous closure case the chief prosecutor opened against the AKP. The party barely survived, and learnt an important lesson: It had to disestablish the establishment.

The controversial cases of Ergenekon and Sledgehammer, both of which are politically supported by the AKP, should be seen within this context. I am among those who think these cases have had some excesses, such as the arrest of journalists like Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık. But the cases were not legally bogus, as the opposition claimed, and they were politically necessary for the survival of our democracy, as most liberals agreed.

However, the fact that AKP has been targeted by the establishment by undemocratic means, including some little-known assassination schemes against Erdoğan, had a bad affect. The party began to perceive even some of the legitimate acts of opposition, such as protests by workers or students, as an "Ergenekon plot." And it began to rely more and more on the police to counter them, a sign of illiberalism rather than liberalism.

Concentration of power

A third reason for the illiberal tendencies of the AKP is the classical leader-domination within Turkish politics, and the character of the leader in question: Tayyip Erdoğan. He is very brave, creative and hardworking, but he is also combative rather than cooperative, defiant rather than consensual, and angry rather than calm. This is a matter of personality, not ideology: President Abdullah Gül, whose worldview is hardly different than Erdoğan, has a much more reconciliatory character.

What all this means is there is room for concern for the emergence of an illiberal democracy in Turkey, and the AKP needs to be pushed into headings toward a liberal one. The problem is not that the AKP has an Islamist "hidden agenda," as the secularists have believed in paranoia. The problem is just an age-old rule of politics: Concentration of too much power in the hands of anybody, Erdoğan, Atatürk, or someone else, leads to authoritarianism rather than liberalism.

One piece of good news is the new direction of the main opposition, the Republican People's Party, or CHP. They sound much more reasonable now than they used to be, and criticize the AKP from liberal grounds rather than illiberal ones. It is still a very immature transformation, and we need to be convinced by its genuineness. But it certainly is better than nothing.

 

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE CORRIDOR - DIYARBAKIR NOTES

GÖKSEL BOZKURT

Diyarbakır hosted two important rallies during the week. First, the Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, and one day later, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed the public from the historic İstasyon Square.

Actually, both of the parties are not each other's rival. The real competition is between the independents of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, and the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. This judgment was personally voiced by Diyarbakır Metropolitan Mayor Osman Baydemir in the garden of the Southeast Journalists' Association: "It is our [BDP's] duty to make the AKP a 'sign party' [a Turkish political jargon meaning a political party that only has a sign with no supporters]." 

We were talking about the pulse of the city with Kılıçdaroğlu on his election bus just before he took the floor for his Diyarbakır rally. Kılıçdaroğlu said the new CHP should do more effective work focusing on the region and Diyarbakır.

"We should come here more often. I will trust them and they will trust me," said Kılıçdaroğlu and voiced a self-criticism during his speech at the rally, saying, "I will come more often and drink tea with you."

I don't know if the CHP can bring a new wind to the politics that is squeezed between the BDP and the AKP in the region but Kılıçdaroğlu expresses his determination to make a try. Kurds have sympathy toward Kılıçdaroğlu, who is a person from the region. Will this translate into votes and with the support of the tribe of the top candidate in Diyarbakır, Salih Sümer, will the CHP have one deputy? They will be pressed to get this, so it would be a surprise.

Erdoğan arrived at the rally location passing through closed shops in the Bağlar neighborhood, the stronghold of the BDP. Erdoğan attacked the BDP, toughened his discourse and moreover he even called it the "BDP terror organization." He also made an analysis of "civilian fascism," connecting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, the BDP and even the CHP. He put forward Islamic motifs. He put religious brotherhood in place of ethnic nationalism and he actually meant to say, "Assimilation is over; everything that needed to be done has been done on the Kurdish issue. It is now time to live in fraternity and be productive." Even though Erdoğan said in his speech that he was still behind his discourse of 2005, he did not make any new promises for a solution to the Kurdish issue. He sufficed with what was done in the past.

But not stressing strongly the continuation of the Kurdish initiative has planted more question marks in Kurdish minds.  

The crowd at the town squares did please Erdoğan but the pulse of the city is different than it was in 2007. Because in 2007, the AKP was able to win six deputies in Diyarbakır. BDP could only gain four. In 2009 local elections, the city council was 59 percent BDP and AKP stayed at 31 percent. Apparently, the tough fight between the two parties benefits the BDP. In these elections it is predicted that AKP will have four or five candidates, while the independent candidates of the BDP will have six deputies.

The head of the Southeastern Journalists' Association, Faruk Balıkçı, also verifies this projection. He and some other well-informed names think that the half-finished initiative, the fact that the promises made in 2005 were never fully met and the selection of candidates were all crucial in the erosion of AKP votes.  

We are meeting with the AKP's top candidate, Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker. He is also complaining about the pressure in the region and argued that people's free will was being obstructed. Eker explains that the BDP thrives on violence and says, "We have no alternative for the solution to the problem. This problem cannot be solved by handing Molotov cocktails to children. Another AKP candidate is Oya Eronat. She lost her 17-year-old son in a terror attack. She also says, "They say peace. Enemies make peace, I say tranquility. Because Kurds want tranquility."

However, the BDP members and independent candidates do not, at all, think like the AKP members. According to them, "The Kurdish issue is a political problem and it is continuing with all its might. And the initiative has not brought a solution to it. The issue will not end with the June 12 elections. On the contrary, if a step is not taken toward a solution, it will start again in a magnified manner."

I remember that the PKK's jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, gave the date of June 15. One of the independent candidates, Altan Tan, said: "You tell those in the mountains to join politics in the prairie and then you pour death over those on the mountains and arrest those who are involved in politics on the prairie. We will see who is going to give a lesson to whom on June 12." Another candidate, Nursel Aydoğan, emphasizes peace and says if a will for a solution is not developed by June 15, the problem in the region will magnify.  

The BDP has divided Diyarbakır into six and is operating an effective campaign. Each region will vote for an independent candidate. For those illiterate voters, they have developed methods of measuring with a rope. They are delivering training about this at town halls. In a round of visits to craftsmen with Aydoğan, I can observe the excitement and interest of non-Turkish speaking women. Of course, the unemployed youth whose population is almost half of the city should not be forgotten.

Even though the common denominator of the voters for the AKP, BDP or CHP is a "yearning for peace," it is apparent that tough days are ahead of the region if a platform for conciliation is not found after the elections. The "marks of violence and fear" engraved in each square meter of the tired city do not seem as if they will be erased very easily.

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A NEW 'GOLDEN AGE' IN ENERGY

GİLA BENMAYOR

We are entering a phase where interesting developments are being experienced in the world energy market.

Before moving on to the world, first, one piece of news from Turkey.

The Nabucco Natural Gas Pipeline Project, which has not been appearing on the press for a long time, is preparing to come back on the agenda next week on Wednesday with an agreement to be signed in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri.

The fact that European Union Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger and Special Envoy of the United States Secretary of State for Eurasian Energy Richard Morningstar will participate at the signing ceremony, which will be held between the energy ministers of those transit countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Hungary) that the natural gas pipeline will pass and Nabucco companies, is a sign of the huge significance Nabucco holds for both Europe and the U.S.

Nabucco's signing ceremony coincides with the exact period where the world of energy has turned its eyes on natural gas.

Because, now, the oil giants will focus on natural gas rather than oil.

According to the information I gained from the CEO of Shell Germany I met up with recently, Dr. Peter Blauwhoff, Shell is going to invest in natural gas more than oil.

Chief economist of the International Energy Agency Fatih Birol says other oil giants Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Total and BP will also follow Shell.

Escape from nuclear

Birol names this development as the "golden age of natural gas."  

What is the reason of this "golden age," which emerged as "a huge opportunity" for Turkey because of pipelines passing though its soil?

As Dr. Blauwhoff has mentioned, first of all it is the escape from the nuclear.

While Turkey is preparing to launch its "nuclear venture," we have learned Germany and Switzerland are preparing to leave nuclear gradually.

The fall of the nuclear has resulted in the rise of the coal and natural gas.

But coal causes high carbon emission.

While the world is proceeding fast at "green energy," nobody should expect the focus on coal to increase when its carbon emission is 50 to 70 percent higher than natural gas.  

For this reason, Dr. Blauwhoff says, "In coming years, natural gas will play the leading role in Europe's energy need."

Another reason Fatih Birol believes the oil giants are heading toward natural gas is the fact that their existing oil fields are old.

New oil fields in the Middle East and North Africa, however, are closed to these companies.  

Findings of Mehmet Öğütçü

One of British Gas directors, Dr. Mehmet Öğütçü, who is competing for the general secretary post of International Energy Forum, the biggest international energy organization with its 86 member countries, is also pointing at natural gas.

According to Dr. Öğütçü, among the reasons why this fuel enters the stage as the chief actor while natural gas was not frequently mentioned 15 to 20 years ago is that costs of pipelines have decreased and liquefied natural gas has become competitive.

Indeed, one of the most important reasons of these developments in the energy market is the commercialization of North America's "shale gas."  

Because of shale gas, the United States today is no longer importing natural gas.

Thus, there is excess LNG, in other words liquefied natural gas in the market and its prices have come down also.

This feature that Öğütçü is pointing at is also important:

Natural gas is more widespread in the world compared to oil, that is to say, it is not only in one or two clusters but from North America to Africa and Australia, and it is possible to come across this fuel.  

The world reserve of natural gas is 172 trillion cubic meters.

With this new "golden age" starting in energy, there are new opportunities emerging for Turkey because of the route of pipelines.

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FRIENDS TALK BITTER

YUSUF KANLI

For most of the past almost nine years the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been in power in this country, like many other internationally-important publications the Economist news magazine has been rather generous in lending all out support to Turkey's "reform-minded" prime minister and his government.

Of course even the die-hard opponents cannot ignore the great reforms this country undertook in the first three years of the AKP governance. Those reforms were in a way continuation of the massive European Union oriented reforms undertaken by the preceding Bülent Ecevit-led three way coalition government. Indeed, in the first three years the AKP just completed a web of reforms initiated by the preceding government. Yet, that very act, instead of abandoning them all together it continued in determination and completed those reforms, brought Turkey closer to the EU and indeed succeeded in ushering the accession talks process must be appreciated.

And indeed, even some opponents of the AKP and Erdoğan are grateful that since the 2002 landslide election victory brought in the AKP into government and put a comma, hopefully not a full stop, to some 15 years of coalition governments, Turkey has achieved some landmark successes. No one can claim, for example, that the Turkish economy has not done exceptionally well at a time when Europe is trying to sail through in one piece from an economic-financial or structural problems, which might be considered as the worst of its recent history.

Turkey underwent a similar crisis in 2001-2002, two years after a massive quake, which killed more than 15,000 Turks and devastated the industrial heartland of the country, just before AKP came to power it was the frustration of the nation with the existing parties and politicians, which brought it with an electoral landslide in 2002. What the AKP did economically was indeed applying firmly the economic program it inherited from the previous three way government. Still, the success obviously belongs to the AKP since it firmly applied that program devised by Kemal Derviş in talks with the International Monetary Fund.

Obviously, when the AKP is campaigning today and demanding support from the people with the "Let stability continue, let Turkey grow" slogan, it is directly appealing to the heart and mind of the Turks who lost bitterly in 1999 and 2001 because of the landslide and the consequent political meltdown. No one in this country, obviously, would ever want a return to those bitter days when they lost almost 60 percent of the value of what they had in their pockets in a very short period.

Opponents underline however, the AKP did not achieve anything substantial other than creating a balloon effect with an artificial consumption based growth borrowed from future generations on the one hand and by constantly postponing dealing with acute structural problems of the country on the other. Many critics underline that a government that declared financial-economic amnesties six times in eight years cannot be considered a successful one as those amnesties themselves underline some structural illnesses continuing in the country.

Irrespective, no one can deny the Turkish economy has been doing or appear to be doing great for the past many years.

Politics wise, as well, the AKP governance has undertaken a web of reforms and some courageous steps to bring an end to the tutelage of military over civilian politics. Curtailing the military's strong influence or dictate over civilian politics in this country, which underwent three full and many "post modern" coups since 1960 has been a dream of everyone wishing to see democracy prosper in this land. Yet, the AKP has turned this campaign into a political vendetta, a revanchist campaign and some sort of a pogrom has been continuing against the military, nationalists, patriots and AKP's critics. The end result, there are now 28 generals in military barracks and 30 generals behind bars facing accusations of some sort involvement in planned coup attempts. Military people, writers, academics, businessmen banished and "forgotten" behind bars for years in judicial processes, which turned into no less than thriller fiction on the one hand and the AKP governance consolidating its control of the lower and higher courts have become the most serious impediment disabling the delicate democracy of the country. Was it not a farce to see all newly appointed 160 members of the Supreme Court of Appeals vote en masse this week for a candidate who happened to be a classmate of Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and elect him as the new chief judge of the court, which until now, was creating some serious headache for Erdoğan and his government? In 15 days time there will be elections for the top judge of the Council of State and it will not be a surprise to see the new members unite there in support of a candidate "preferred" by the government.

Thus, when the Economist said Turks should vote against autocracy and that "The AK Party is all but certain to form the next government. But we would recommend Turks vote for the CHP. A stronger showing by Mr Kılıçdaroğlu's party would both reduce the risks of unilateral changes, which would make the constitution worse and give the opposition a fair chance of winning a future election. That would be by far the best guarantee of Turkey's democracy," I just would comment, friends talk bitter.

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

GÜLEN MOVEMENT'S US RIDE GETTING TOUGHER

İLHAN TANIR

All eyes are focused on Turkey for yet another significant voting day, June 12. In Washington, lately, three questions occupy the minds of those who follow Turkey: First, they wonder whether the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will be able to gain enough seats to write the Constitution by itself. Second, they wonder about the sex-scandal tapes, which wiped out a considerable number of high officials in the opposition National Movement Party, or MHP. And third, they want to know exactly what the Fethullah Gülen movement wants to do and what their ambitions and intentions are.

While the first two questions can only be speculated upon, Gülen-U.S. relations are becoming more interesting as the days go by. Gülen, the leader of millions of Muslim followers based in Turkey, himself lives in the U.S., and many in the country's media are well aware of who he is.

The movement in Turkey has long since abandoned the policy of keeping equal distance from political parties. Especially during the constitutional referendum last September, members of the movement actively worked for the passage of the changes. The movement argued that it wasn't politics they got involved with, it was a matter of principal; supporting the independence of the judiciary.  

This time, though, it is a general election, and the movement's media organs are openly supporting the AKP and doing so forcefully. Even olive branches offered by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the new leader of the main opposition party, CHP, to the movement on several occasions were turned down. In appearance, the CHP's decision to put forward a few jailed Ergenekon suspects as candidates is the sticky point between the two. Having an ideological adversary like the CHP also works for Gülenists to show there is still more to be done in Turkey.

In the U.S. though, the biggest criticism appears to be the ambiguity about the group's structure. Its informal membership of millions of followers worldwide, rapid increase in the numbers of schools and how they are funded in U.S., and a vast variety of narratives about its real power in Turkey continue to pique the interests of Turkey watchers. Today, there is even confusion over what to call the followers of Fethullah Gülen; while Gülen refuses to describe it as a "movement," and rejects any direct link; other prominent figures of the group have no problem calling it so.

To Gülen's credit, lack of transparency on the part of the movement, or as one U.S. investigative journalist called it, "evasiveness," is not all reasonless, but merely the result of decade-long habit. The rigid secularism of the Turkish state since the beginning specifically targeted religiosity.

The Gülen movement, which started in the early 1970s, had therefore plenty of reasons to go undercover to avoid the wrath of the Turkish military, which was supported by a coalition consisting of the bureaucracy, judiciary and media for decades.  

Sophisticated strategies, which were designed by Gülen and leading figures of the movement, foresaw that violence, or civil disobedience was not the answer for the future of Muslims in Turkey. Pursuing the best education and one's elevation in every state institution was the answer to changing the country from the bottom to the top. The movement still believes that the circumstances are not entirely changed and that the old reactionary mindset of Turkish secularism is there and alive; therefore, it is not time to come out into the public sphere with full disclosure.

How the strategies that worked so well for the movement in Turkey can be translated into the U.S. is still an open-ended question. Obviously, the movement does not see the U.S. as an equal to Turkey; instead, the U.S. can be seen as the best market to prove that a pious Muslim can coexist and be perfectly happy in a Western democracy.

In the last couple of months, especially since Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener's arrest in Turkey, negative publicity against the movement seems to be gaining momentum in the U.S.

"There is a great deal of interest and curiosity on the side of the U.S. media and unless questions about their closed structure and some other tax allegations are answered clearly, the U.S. media will not leave them alone," said one U.S. Turkey observer in Washington. Arguing that hundreds of schools are being opened in more than two dozen U.S. states without any links or coordination of some sort, the movement fails to convince the U.S. media and the experts alike.

The United States' Anglo-Saxon tradition and tolerance make it rather easy to organize and become involved with any kind of religious sect, as long as it is peaceful. When U.S. journalists and authorities feel they are left in the dark about some of a movement's other activities, they complain they can't find any spokesperson for the movement to ask their question; understandably, the mood turns sour toward the movement.

In addition to all of that, in recent times, some conservative Christian groups, who have considerable influence on conservative media and politicians, coupled with growing Islamophia in America, appear to be promising that the smooth ride the movement has so far enjoyed in the U.S. might get tougher.

As the movement increases its visibility in U.S., the scrutiny on its activities is also inevitably increasing.  

The impression is that the movement is conscious about some of these shortcomings and is looking for ways to handle questions of transparency in the U.S. Only time will tell whether decades-old habits can be changed.

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A BIRD'S EYE VIEW - A CURE FOR CANCER

ADVENA AVIS

We birds cannot understand the lack of respect and interest that you humans have in protecting and saving human lives. We say this because it seems that you humans may have found a cure for cancer and none of you seems to care about it. 

In 2007 researchers at the University of Alberta working with dichloroacetate, or DCA, discovered that DCA caused regression in several cancers, including lung, breast and brain tumors. DCA is an odorless, colorless, inexpensive, relatively non-toxic, small molecule. Dr. Evangelos Michelakis, a professor at the University of Alberta, said DCA had been used for decades to treat children with genetic problems with their metabolism due to mitochondrial diseases. Michelakis and his colleagues found that DCA normalized the mitochondrial function in many cancers, showing that their function was actively suppressed by the cancer but was not permanently damaged by it. More importantly they found that the normalization of the mitochondrial function resulted in a significant decrease in tumor growth both in test tubes and in animal models. They also noted that DCA, unlike most currently used chemotherapies, did not have any effects on normal, non-cancerous tissues. 

All this time from 2007, Canadian scientists tested DCA on human cells. It killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells and left healthy cells alone. It was tested on rats inflicted with severe tumors; their cells shrank when they were given water supplemented with DCA.

So you humans are in a regrettable situation. A simple cure for cancer has been found and no one, including the major pharmaceutical companies, are interested. Why? Obviously because the drug does not require a patent, so any one can employ it widely and cheaply compared to the costly drugs produced by major pharmaceutical companies. And without a patent the pharmaceutical companies cannot make money. We find all this shameful. You prefer to let humans die because you cannot profit otherwise. No wonder the planet is trying to get rid of your race. 

Still there is hope if the independent laboratories start producing this drug and permission for use upon humans is immediately granted by the relevant authorities. Otherwise, the representatives of the pharmaceutical industries will be labeled, if they have not already, as one of the most despicable members of your race. 

Ponder our thoughts, dear humans, for your benefit.

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

 

 


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

 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BUDGET AMIDST CHAOS

 

Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh struggled to make himself audible as he presented the budget speech for the next fiscal year in an environment of open hostility as the opposition shouted a continuous string of slogans, condemning the government for its policies, for its constant failure to tell the truth, unbridled corruption and for its failure to tackle loadshedding. Amidst this relentless cacophony, the clapping heard from time to time from the treasury benches was largely drowned out. The mood this situation reflected was almost as significant as the details of the budget itself, spotlighting before the nation the increasing political divisions and tensions we face – a factor that has a distinct impact on the degree of stability in the country and consequently the potential for economic growth. The two are of course tied together. While announcing the budget with an outlay of Rs2.767 trillion for 2011-12, with a fiscal deficit of 4 percent of the GDP, Mr Shaikh – as has become the tradition in recent years – made it a point to focus essentially only on the positive. The less pleasant aspects of the budget are often revealed later – in bits and pieces, dribs and drabs that indicate to people just how grave a crisis they face. For instance the finance minister focused on a 15-percent increase in government salaries, a cut in GST to 16 percent from 17 percent and a 15-percent increase in pensions. He also made a 'courageous' promise to deal with the energy crisis. He, however, avoided reading his entire budgetary proposals but said that 2.3 million people were to be brought into the tax net, utility stores would be used to offer relief to people and inflation would be brought to a single-digit mark. The federal government has also stated that Rs40 billion have been allocated to health and education, even though these are now provincial subjects under the 18th Amendment. As had been expected, the defence budget has risen by 12 percent.


It will only become clear over the coming days just how friendly this budget is to the people badly hit by rising prices and facing growing unemployment as a result of a failure to promote economic growth. There is naturally also reluctance on the part of many to invest in a country beset by terrorism and facing increased chaos. While it must be acknowledged that this budget announced at a time like this offers people at least some hope of a better future, much will depend on how effectively schemes such as those to collect new taxes of Rs3 billion from some 71,000 people during the first phase are implemented. It also seems likely that the taxation gridlock will be increased during the current year, as has happened in the past with 'mini-budgets' announced at various stages. There have already been indications of very grave problems. While announcing the Economic Survey for 2010-11, Dr Hafeez Shaikh had conceded that the economy had grown by only 2.4 percent against a target of 4.5 percent. This marks the lowest rate of growth in over 25 years. The finance minister attributed this to last year's destructive floods, the cost of the war on terror and a surge in international oil prices. This is not inaccurate, but the real task of the government is to find a way to tackle the crisis. We needed some degree of innovation to achieve this. It was disappointing to see no mention of a cut in government administration, or measures to ensure that parliamentarians pay their taxes. Nor did the issue of a tax on agriculture come up. Some of the richest people in the land are to remain immune from taxation.


The fact is that today Pakistan's political, social and economic health is in a critical state. Mere tinkering with the medication will not work. Radical surgery is needed to revive the patient and inject new blood into an ailing body. The examples of other nations – notably those of Southeast Asia have to be studied and, where possible, emulated. Exports need to rise as a key source of revenue, and the resources on non-resident Pakistanis should be exploited by persuading them to bring home more money, which should be productively used. Some effort has been made in this budget to reduce taxes on the individual investor – but more such measures are needed. More planning is also needed to improve and rationalise the use of natural resources, including assets such as Thar coal, which can be effectively used to generate much needed energy. Realistically speaking, at present Pakistan is tied to the agreements it reached in 2008 with the IMF in exchange for a bailout. Today, it is paying the price for this in many ways. But we need to see the government going beyond rhetoric emphasising its commitment to poor people – as Dr Shaikh did in his speech while he spoke of recognition of people's needs and of the Benazir Income Support Programme. Instead, there is a need to treat people as the real assets of the country, to do far more to rescue them from a grim situation and – as the opposition emphasised soon after the budget speech ended – to develop holistic policies that can look at issues that range from militancy and underdevelopment to economic policy as a whole. Until this happens we cannot expect any real change, regardless of budget documents and their contents which too often veer away from reality, hiding more than what they reveal.

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


I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

POLITICS OF CRUELTY

ADNAN SATTAR

 

The kidnapping and brutal murder of investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad on May 30, 2011, has rightly been dubbed a cowardly assault on the freedom of expression. This is not the first time in Pakistan that a media person has paid the ultimate price for courageously following their professional calling. However, what makes Shahzad's death an event of historical proportions, a litmus test of our morality and humanity if you will, was the fact that he was not merely killed but tortured to death.


The fact that Shahzad's torturers left his dead body out in the open instead of quietly burying it someplace provides a string of clues about their real motives. It is highly unlikely that they simply intended to extract a piece of information. It appears more plausible that they meant to make an "example" out of somebody who dared to know and communicate too much.


From Colonial Algeria and the apartheid years in South Africa, to more recent dictatorial regimes across the world, there is sufficient research available to establish that those who commit torture know that the information they extract by inflicting pain is of little use to them. A tortured person will tell you what you want to hear. In most cases the torturers already know what they need to know.


More than an interrogative method, torture is a weapon for harassing, intimidating, and imposing silence. It's an instrument designed primarily to break the will of those who would otherwise refuse to bow down and dance to the tune of the powers that be.


The initial reaction by the government to the incident has been insensitive, if not downright callous. Interior Minister Rehman Malik was quick to suspect "personal animosity" as the cause of the "murder" even as one of the world's most credible human rights organisations, the Human Rights Watch, had strong reasons to believe that Shahzad had been picked up by the ISI. Additionally, the interior minister's statement that "it is not possible to provide security to everyone under present conditions" amounted to a virtual negation of one of the core functions of the state.


Less than 24 hours after Shahzad was buried in Karachi, a news report spoke of disagreement between the police authorities in Mandi Bahauddin where he was found dead and Islamabad from where he was abducted as to who should be investigating the case. Relying on a Peshawar High Court judgment, the authorities in Islamabad reportedly wanted their counterparts in Mandi Bahauddin to take the lead as it was under their jurisdiction where "murder, a crime bigger than kidnapping" had occurred.


Let's make no mistake about it. We cannot afford to shirk responsibilities here. A diluted narrative which reduces the incident merely to an attack on free media or illegal abduction or even murder will amount to grave injustice. How we deal with this incident might as well seal our fate as conscientious moral agents. A society which lets as reprehensible an act as torture slip into oblivion or get subsumed under some other category of crime has little hope of redeeming itself.


The plea here is not so much for more severe punishments than murder or kidnapping would warrant, but for an unequivocal acknowledgement of the crime for what it is: a virtual denial of humanity. It is not the kind of crime we can take it in our stride because democracy is fragile or because the country is at war or because civilian rule is not yet fully consolidated.

Apart from purely moral reasons, there is a legal case to be made here for dealing with the incident not merely in terms of abduction or murder but with reference to torture. In June 2010, Pakistan finally ratified the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. One year down the line, the country's domestic legal framework still does not have a law which specifically deals with torture. Certain provisions in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), namely Sections 332, 337, 339, 340 and 349, dealing with "hurt," "wrongful restraint," "wrongful confinement," and use of "criminal force and assault" come nowhere close to addressing the magnitude and nature of torture.


The constitutional provision in Article 14, sub-clause 2 is also inadequate as it provides protection against torture for "extracting evidence" only. Even though the superior courts have sought to enlarge the scope and import of the provision by reading it together with the right to dignity and privacy (Article 14, sub-clause 1), the domestic case law with regard to torture remains underdeveloped in Pakistan.


Closer to reality, the Convention against Torture defines it far more broadly as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person..." While the Convention defines torture primarily with reference to acts committed by, or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of public officials, there is a growing body of interpretative work dealing with the nature of state obligations which goes beyond the direct involvement of public officials to look at state culpability where no direct involvement can be established per se.


The Committee against Torture established under Article 7 of the Convention has noted (General Comment No. 2) that the state parties are obligated to "prohibit, prevent and redress torture and ill-treatment in all contexts of custody or control"...as well as "contexts where the failure of the state to intervene encourages and enhances the danger of privately inflicted harm". States bear international responsibility, the Committee has noted, for "the acts and omissions of their officials and others, including agents, private contractors, and others acting in official capacity or acting on behalf of the state, in conjunction with the state, under its direction or control, or otherwise under colour of law."


Elsewhere, under international human rights law, the state's duties vis-à-vis fundamental rights, such as freedom from torture, do not merely require a hands-off approach: It is not adequate to establish that no state official was directly involved in committing torture. States are obligated not just to respect these rights but to protect them from being infringed by private actors-armed groups, political parties and de facto regimes and to provide effective remedies where infringement does occur and to actively promote them through enabling legislation and appropriate rules, regulations and procedures.


The duties address all organs of the state, including the judiciary which now bears the onus of proving its credentials as a custodian of human rights by looking into the entire range of acts of omission and commission by the executive and the country's security apparatus, which may have allowed Shahzad to have been tortured to death with such impunity.


Similarly, it's high time the legislature woke up to the serious shortcomings in our legal framework and enacted a comprehensive legislation to criminalise torture in line with Pakistan's international obligations before it becomes even more widespread and systematic.


As ordinary citizens, the least we can do to honour Saleem Shahzad's memory is not succumb to silence and remember Milan Kundera's great invocation to all those who value freedom and human dignity: The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.

The writer is an Islamabad-based consultant.

 

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

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

TAKING THE NEXT STEP

AASIM SAJJAD AKHTAR

 

The abduction and brutal murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad is yet another indicator of the acute sense of desperation that has permeated our shadowy corridors of power. The game is up, yet our king-makers insist on raising the stakes. How long the charade can go on is a matter of conjecture; what matters is that too many innocent people have been, and will continue to be, used as pawns by forces much bigger than them.

Having said this, I do not believe in propagating doomsday scenarios, as too many 'progressives' do these days. In the final analysis, the latest series of events proves conclusively that the contradictions within the existing structure of power have become untenable. There is no guarantee, of course, that there will be resolution of these contradictions, and if so, that the equilibrium subsequently established will be any less oppressive and exclusive than the incumbent structure.

In any case, there can be no doubt that there is a unique opportunity to reconfigure the structure of power in this country. One can only hope that this opportunity is not allowed to go to waste.

It would be remiss of me not to note that a vast majority of Pakistanis remain relatively unconcerned with the antics of the ruling class, its external patrons, its (increasingly out of control) ex-protégés, and the other players that make up the power nexus. Most ordinary people are bred on a worldview in which questions about the way of the world are seldom asked, and the daily business of making ends meet within the confines of existing political, economic and cultural structures takes precedence over all else.

Yet today there is a sense - amongst more people than has ever been the case till now - that this static worldview has been shaken and that a new one can be fashioned. There is still confusion aplenty due largely to the unending manipulations of spymasters and spin doctors. Yet there is space that is waiting to be captured by those articulate and brave enough to do so.

It is only logical to look first and foremost towards the people's elected representatives to take up the challenge. The budget session which gets underway today represents the perfect occasion to start the long (and likely arduous) journey away from a militarised state towards a welfare state. Or maybe I am getting ahead of myself. It would be premature to assume that a significant number of members of parliament are actually committed to such a political project. What they should be willing to commit to unequivocally, however, is the supremacy of civilian institutions. A critical mass of ordinary citizens would fully back a unified parliamentary effort to subject defence expenditures to open scrutiny, and thus make clear that no state institution can remain unaccountable to the taxpaying public.

The precedents, needless to say, are not very good. There has never been anything resembling a detailed parliamentary debate on the amount of public money allocated to the military. More generally, the media's rules of engagement with the military are almost diametrically opposed to those that apply in the case of politicians. It is almost unheard of to speak of corruption in the military, whereas stories on corrupt politicians are a dime a dozen.

Yet change must start somewhere. As I have already suggested, it is not necessary to immediately try and forge a consensus (amongst politicians or, for that matter, within society at large) on the need for the state's priorities to be changed. At the very least we should acknowledge that it is no longer possible for us to remain subservient to those who are supposed to serve us.

The in-camera parliamentary session that was convened in the immediate aftermath of the Osama bin Laden affair proved that the military establishment knows the meaning of a strategic retreat. Our politicians are not nearly as well-drilled nor do they possess much public relations savvy. But that particular event was important if only because it illustrated the nature of the military's compulsions.

The budget debate is likely to have almost no impact on the economic policies of government in the year to come. The pressures that we face from the International Monetary Fund and its sister institutions are so great that we have virtually no leeway to depart from their standard set of prescriptions, notwithstanding the unending protests of clerks, teachers, doctors, nurses and a host of other public-sector employees who are amongst the few that actually pay income taxes in this country. It is thus on the question of defence spending and its accountability that parliament can make itself heard.

Even on this point, one must admit, there is only so much room for manoeuvre. We are an American satellite and the world's superpower is prosecuting a so-called 'war on terror' in and around our country. American and Pakistani generals and spymasters may not see eye to eye at present, but this does not mean that war has ceased to be a lucrative and politically necessary need for both. In such an environment, those who play power politics - which includes our politicians - are not inclined to rock the boat on any front.

And so we are in danger of frittering away the space that generations of progressives have sacrificed much to create. It has not dissipated yet, however. If parliament does not do itself a favour by setting a much-need historical precedent, all will not be lost. If it does take up the gauntlet, much, much more will be gained.



The writer is an activist-academic, closely affiliated with working-class movements. Email: amajid@comsats.net.pk

 

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

 


I,THE NEWS

OPINION

ONE-LEGGED POLITICAL RACE

PRAFUL BIDWAI

 

How India's political landscape would change after the recent elections to five state assemblies has been a subject of intense speculation. Some commentators forecast that the Left parties' crushing defeat in West Bengal and Kerala and other reverses would leave the "third pole" in politics further weakened. The polity would become more bipolar as the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party gain from the Left's erosion.

This speculation was always idle. The Left lost not because it couldn't adjust to a Rightward shift in politics, but because it betrayed its own promise and followed Right-wing neoliberal policies on social issues, land and industrial promotion.

The credit for toppling the Left in West Bengal goes to Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, and in Kerala, ironically, to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, who sullied the Left's reputation by advocating pro-rich policies.

However, the idea that recent developments would work in the BJP's favour now stands badly discredited by the goings-on in that party. The "party with a difference", once united, cohesive and disciplined, is now disunited, rudderless and rivalry-riven.

BJP MP and leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has attacked the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, accusing him of having inducted the Reddy Brothers, notorious for running a mining mafia in Karnataka's Bellary district, into the Karnataka cabinet in 2009. This has eroded the gains from the BJP's campaign against the United Progressive Alliance government on corruption.

Swaraj levelled her accusation against Jaitley in a well-planned interview to Outlook magazine, which many in the BJP believe is somewhat "soft" on Jaitley despite its generally pro-Congress editorial line. Swaraj was upset that Jaitley has long planted stories in the media stressing her connections with the brothers.

Swaraj was vulnerable on this score because she had contested the Bellary by-election against Sonia Gandhi with the Reddys' help in 1999, and repeatedly defended them, indeed literally blessed them, as some well-circulated photographs show. But she says she opposed their induction into the Karnataka cabinet. Yet, Chief Minister BS Yedyurappa, Jaitley, in charge of Karnataka politics, and the-then BJP president Rajnath Singh decided to give powerful portfolios to them.

Swaraj clearly wants to counter Jaitley's devious effort to pre-empt her from the competition that will break out for the BJP's prime ministerial nominee in the 2014 elections.

But Swaraj has been no less devious. She charges Jaitley with acting "out of political compulsions", said to be a nearly Rs200-crore gift from the Bellary Brothers to various BJP-RSS leaders. But she fights shy of demanding the brothers' dismissal.

Swaraj resents the fact that Jaitley has better political contacts and is closer to the RSS than her, and that the new BJP president Nitin Gadkari, a novice to national politics, eats out of his hand.

This unseemly inner-party tussle greets the BJP just as its government in Karnataka, the only one in a Southern state, completes three years. The government has an awful record of corruption, nepotism, mismanagement of social schemes, and neglect of the poor. It would be a miracle if the BJP, whose power in Karnataka came from money and venality, is returned to office.

The BJP in power has also performed poorly in many other states. In Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, it will almost certainly lose the elections next year.

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP only won 10 Lok Sabha seats in 2009, compared to 57 at its peak. It will find it difficult to dislodge the Congress from the third position in UP.

Rahul Gandhi's attempt to energise the Congress has only been partially successful. The overwhelming majority of his nominees performed poorly in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala assembly elections. He may not have a real political strategy up his sleeve.

Gandhi wants the Congress in UP to take on Mayawati's ruling Bahujan Samaj Party through a limited alliance with Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal and a few local factions. Not many in the Congress feel this will improve the party's UP Assembly tally enough for it to return to the centre in 2014. Some leaders would like the Congress to form a much stronger combination with the Samajwadi Party in UP.

UP will matter greatly to the UPA because it has been politically weakened in the latest assembly elections. The Congress itself holds less than one-fifth of all assembly seats in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

In the remaining southern state, Andhra Pradesh, it faces a formidable threat from Jaganmohan Reddy's faction, which has done extremely well in recent by-elections. Worse, the Congress cannot take an unambiguous stand on the Telangana issue, and is likely to lose votes both in that region and outside.

In Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, where non-UPA parties wield power, the Congress can only hope for limited gains. In Maharashtra, its alliance with Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party could become shaky. The wily Pawar is busy cultivating all manner of politicians including Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalithaa, Jagmohan Reddy and Chandrababu Naidu.

Pawar may only be playing for small stakes: his party, with just nine MPs, is in decline. Age, personality and reputation are not on his side. Yet, he can inconvenience the Congress by declaring himself a candidate for the prime minister's position if the UPA cannot form the government in 2014.

The UPA has been politically weakened by numerous recent scams including 2G, Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Housing Society and IPL. Besides, the inflation burden is growing on people, with food prices rising by nearly 10 percent a year, milk by 17.5 percent, vegetables by 12.5 percent, and petrol and cooking gas by 32 and 13 percent.

Whatever progressive measures the UPA sets out to take, usually following the recommendations of the National Advisory Council – including a food security bill, creating self-help groups and generating skills through the proposed National Rural Livelihoods Mission, and a less draconian land acquisition act – are quickly neutralised or undermined by other committees.

On the Public Distribution System, the Planning Commission shocked the Supreme Court and the public by setting the poverty line at a miserably low per capita daily expenditure of Rs20 in the urban areas and Rs15 in villages, thus excluding all those above the line from PDS entitlements.

A big contest is now under way between the votaries of pro-people measures within the UPA, on the one hand, and diehard neoliberals in the finance ministry and the Planning Commission, on the other, who would like to drastically reduce state provision of food, education and healthcare, or replace it with cash transfers, the new neoliberal mantra.

This is a dangerous trend. The UPA was returned to power in 2009 on a promise of inclusive development for the aam aadmi, based on the admission that the normal growth process isn't raising poor people's incomes and reducing disparities.

The UPA seems to be unlearning that lesson. Many within it would like to erase the legacy of Left-of-Centre policies underlying the government's legitimacy. This is a recipe for losing the plot in 2014 and paving the way for a generalised Rightward political shift, with disastrous consequences.



The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1 @yahoo.co.in

 

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


I. THE NEWS

OPINION

A NOISY AFFAIR

CHRIS CORK

 

Whilst the details of the 2011-12 budget speech will fade from the minds of many, the rumpus that continued throughout the budget presentation by Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh is likely to stick in the mind.


Opposition members from PML-N and JUI gathered in front of the dais of Speaker Fehmida Mirza and rendered much of the budget speech inaudible.


The opposition had already rejected the budget with their leader saying that all the government was doing was 'following the IMF diktat'. They started with semi-organised sloganeering but quickly degenerated to random bellowing. Gamely speaking against this onslaught the finance minister at one point had a bangle thrown at him, and at another point an MNA attempted to present him with a chapatti. Not a speech he is likely to forget in a hurry.

What he said was much as advertised in the many leaks that were made in preceding days. This was a budget for a government with very little room for manoeuvre. The economy has grown by 2.4 percent against a target of 4.5 percent in the last Financial Year. The primary causes for the shortfall were threefold – the floods of 2010, a deteriorating national security situation and the increase in the price of oil globally. The last the government can bear no responsibility for, the other two it most certainly does.


There was little good news. Government servants are to get a pay rise of 15 percent and pensioners who retired after 2002 are to get a 15-20 percent rise – where the money to pay for this is coming from remains a mystery.

The federal excise duty on soft drinks has been reduced to 6 percent – a reduction that will be wiped out as soft drink prices rise with the price of sugar. As expected, General Sales Tax has been reduced to 16 percent from 17 and our FOREX reserves stand at $17 billion. The finance minister had a few words for those who evade their tax payments – 'In the past the rich have always evaded taxes', said he. Now more than 71,000 of these miscreants have been issued with notices of payment that are expected to yield Rs3 billion to the exchequer and only time will tell if this is anything other than a paper exercise.


Additionally we were told that another 2.3 million have been brought into the tax net, but as there are acknowledged and significant capacity shortfalls in the Federal Board of Revenue it remains to be seen if the net is fine-meshed enough to catch these fish. Revenue collection is projected at 9 percent of GDP, a target unlikely to be met. Overall the budgetary outlay for 2011-12 is Rs2.767 trillion, an increase of about 14 percent over the previous year.

 

There was recognition of the need to finish existing projects rather than fund new ones and Rs40 billion has been allocated to health and education despite these now being devolved to the provinces. There was no mention of the white elephants like PIA and the Pakistan Steel that bleed us dry, or how circular debt was to be managed or how we were to service the debt we have incurred by foreign borrowing or how the power sector was to be empowered. Beyond a commitment to 'try to borrow less' from the State Bank of Pakistan there was no indication that the government was going to be any more fiscally prudent next year than it was last.

Beyond the rumpus this will be remembered as a lacklustre budget, short on vision and long on expediency. We had hoped for better.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail.com

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


I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SETTING OUR OWN HOUSE IN ORDER

ZAFAR HILALY

 

The encounter between Hillary, Mullen, and our lot must have been a bruising one. Hillary looked tired and angry. Mullen betrayed no fatigue but look stressed. However, it was Kayani's gait that was most revealing. He looked downcast and preoccupied.

Since his Kakul speech, when he claimed that the 'back bone' of terrorism had been broken, Kayani has been confronted with a series of terrorist attacks which refute his earlier claim. The discovery of OBL within hailing distance of Kakul must have horrified him. And the recent revelation that documents seized in Abbottabad showed Osama getting ready to approach Pakistan for protection in return for a ceasefire must have horrified him further. That the world's most notorious criminal felt that we would be susceptible to a deal is an appalling prospect.

Clearly, Osama had good reason to believe he could pull off such a caper. The Mehran attack, now widely believed to have been carried out with the help of those within, shows the degree of penetration that the extremists have achieved within the armed forces. This followed the attack on the GHQ which was also partly an inside job. It seems that there are undetected elements within the military working feverishly against our national security interests.

Kayani clearly has his work cut out. To begin with he must find those responsible who, due to intelligence failure or by design, helped Osama evade discovery and made it possible for terrorists to wreak havoc at the Karachi naval base. Merely court martialling some and sacking a few others won't do. He must now begin purging the armed forces of those who share a radical mindset that will, unless checked, bring down Pakistan. The cleanup should be conducted at all levels. Moreover, a one-time purge will solve nothing and serve no purpose other than to make those devising the overthrow of the state more secretive and cautious when planning their moves. That is all that Musharraf's wishy-washy doctrine of 'enlightened moderation' achieved. His bogus liberalism only spurred on extremists to attempt to murder him.

If we are to truly expunge the extremists within the armed forces, the investigations must lead to eliminating them root and branch. It should be an ongoing exercise till not even a tinge of suspicion remains. We have too much to lose if such doubts persist. We cannot afford to misjudge the motivation of our enemy or, for that matter, allow the enemy to underestimate our determination.

The extremists are not in this fight merely to score a point; or vent their frustration or sense of hurt just because we are perceived as pandering to the Americans. Nor are they simply trying to show that they can strike at the military with impunity and retaliate vengefully against the drone strikes. Their goal, as their leaders proclaim, is to impose their ideology on us. Pakistan is the big strategic prize they are after regardless of the blood and gore it may entail.

Ideally, of course, the task of defeating the enemy should be undertaken jointly by the civil government and the military. However, there is no point in beating around the bush. Their relationship has traditionally been dysfunctional. Besides, this government has neither the knowledge nor the ability to act wisely and effectively. It just doesn't have the capacity, including the intellectual ability, to cope with the challenge. Time and again it has proved wanting and wayward. Whether it is in the context of managing the economy or rousing the populace to make the necessary sacrifices, its attempts have fallen flat.

The government has earned itself a bad name and in the process trashed the promise that the restoration of democracy initially held out. No wonder then, as Zardari clings to the vestiges of power, purely to stay in power, many now consider his government beyond redemption. That is not to say that his political opponents will fare any better. They too have demonstrated gross incompetence when in office.

Hence the job must fall on the military. In any case, the threat extremists pose is directed as much, if not more, at the armed forces than it is to civil society. They have made no bones about their aim which is to subvert the loyalty of the armed forces, kill as many soldiers as they can in order to weaken morale, and demonstrate that the army is no longer an effective fighting force. Indeed, apart from the future of the country, the army's standing as a professional institution and its national stature are at stake.

The crisis we face today is fundamentally an internal one; even our external security challenges are inextricably linked to it. The rot that has set in has been a long time in the making. It has nothing to do with the Americans, who came later, but rather with the propensities of our military rulers and their civilian creations. True they enjoyed American support but that's only to be expected considering how obliging they are to American blandishments. Moreover, the economic hole into which they have dug themselves has made them dependant on American dole.

One way of telling how the battle against terrorism is faring will be to see where blame is placed once investigations – which are hopefully under way – are completed. If it is laid at the doorstep of "foreign hands", then we can be confident that the real reason lies elsewhere. If you cannot tell the truth about yourself who will believe you when you claim you are telling the truth about other people? The ultimate test of what is true lies in the conduct it inspires. We shall soon see what that is.



The writer is a former ambassador.

Email: charles123it@hotmail.com

 

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


I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THEN THEY CAME FOR ME

 BABAR SATTAR

 

The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.


The pall of gloom, anger and despondency in Pakistan has deepened with Saleem Shahzad's gruesome murder. If the past is any guide, we will neither discover verifiable facts about his murder, nor will his killers be brought to justice. But let us revisit what we do know. Saleem Shahzad was called in by the ISI in October last year to discuss a story that he had filed for Asia Times Online and felt that he had received a muffled threat. He shared the details with his family, employers and some friends, including Human Rights Watch. Shahzad had written the first part of a story this past week suggesting that Al-Qaeda/Taliban had infiltrated the navy and the attack on PNS Mehran was a consequence of efforts to weed them out. Shahzad was abducted from a high-security zone in Islamabad while he was on his way to participation in a TV talk show. He was tortured to death and his body dumped in the canal close to Rasool Barrage a couple of days later.


Who could have abducted a journalist from one of the most fortified areas of Islamabad? If all this was the handiwork of Al-Qaeda/Taliban, why did they not make demands in return for his release, as they often do? If they didn't abduct him for ransom or barter, why did they not claim credit for his assassination? Why did they not hold him out as an example for others they see as enemies or double agents, rather than silently dumping his tortured body, followed by an anonymous burial in Mandi Bahhauddin? Was the local representative of Human Rights Watch conspiring with Al-Qaeda and their "foreign" patrons when (according to reported conversations with interlocutors) he disclosed that Shahzad was being held by the ISI and would be released soon? Shahzad feared for his life and had pointed fingers. Should we simply disregard his account now that he is dead?

No terror group has claimed responsibility for Shahzad's murder. But the ISI has denied involvement in his torture and killing, and resolved "to leave no stone unturned in helping bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice." Let us assume that the ISI is being truthful here. How did we come to this pass where our leading intelligence agency is the prime suspect in the brutal murder of a journalist and, conscious of such a perception, feels obliged to issue a contradiction? Was Umar Cheema of The News really tortured by spooks or did he just imagine security personnel shaving his head? Was Kamran Shafi's house never attacked? Is there some bright line rule that people will be roughed up but not killed? Or are the countless reported episodes of intelligence personnel intimidating journalists all lies? Has the US-Indian-Israeli nexus successfully manipulated the minds of our media and intelligentsia? Is this the best explanation for the suspicion that segments of our national security apparatus arouse?


Back in January 2010, I wrote about "reforming khakis." I had endeavoured to identify multiple facets of the khaki mindset, as I understood them. "The first is an undaunted sense of righteousness," I had argued. "This indoctrinates the military with the belief that its vision and definition of national security and national interest is the perennial manifestation of wisdom and truth. Any involvement of civilians with matters deemed to fall within the domain of national security is seen as unwarranted interference and an affront to its interests. This protective sense encourages the military to guard its proclaimed territory as a fief. The second facet of the khaki mindset is the military's saviour instinct. Despite being a non-representative institution, the military has assigned to itself the role of deciphering aspirations of Pakistanis and protecting them. And the most insidious facet of this mindset is the unstated sense of being above the law that binds ordinary citizens."

Consequently, I was "invited" to the ISI headquarter to meet with a brigadier who looked after internal security. I was offered a "tea break" while being informed that people within the GHQ had taken offence at my article. The brigadier read out "objectionable" excerpts from my article back to me and read from hand scribbled notes that spread over half-a-dozen pages to educate me on how I was wrong. He spoke for about 45 minutes before I sought permission to interrupt his speech and engage in a dialogue. At some point in this conversation he told me quite categorically that the army was more patriotic than the rest of us!


I wasn't directly threatened at any point. However, I was informed, as a matter of historical record, that there was a time when the agency dealt with people only with the stick; but now things were different. During the meeting I felt obliged to reiterate my fidelity and loyalty to my country and was later ashamed and angry with myself for doing so.


I did not walk away from the ISI headquarters with a sense that this was another free exchange of ideas with a state official who disagreed with my opinion on how best to secure our national interest. In what is hard to describe accurately, I felt an eerie sense of anxiety and a need to protect my back. Not from the Taliban or terror groups but from the same security apparatus that is mandated by law to protect and defend my constitutional right to life, liberty and physical security.


The narration of this personal experience is important in Saleem Shahzad's context because it is not an isolated one. Others within the media and civil society have had similar exchanges.


The ISI statement on Saleem Shahzad's murder acknowledges his meeting with officials of the ISI's Information Management Wing and asserts that "it is part of the Wing's mandate to remain in touch with the journalist community...the main objective behind all such interactions is provision of accurate information on matters of national security." From where does the ISI derive this entitlement to summon journalists, seek details of their sources or question their views? Is viewpoint censorship a part of our national security doctrine that the ISI is mandated to enforce? Does Article 19A of our Constitution not declare that access to information is a fundamental human right? Does Article 19 not endow citizens with freedom of speech and expression? And does Article 9 not guarantee the right to life and liberty? Should access to information and the right to hold and express an opinion be curtailed through intimidation? What kind of Animal Farm have we reduced this country to where exercising one's right to free speech and information extinguishes the right to life?


Notwithstanding the legality or desirability of censorship, a shrinking world and superior technology have made it extremely hard to kill information or ideas, if not people. You cannot sell a terrible product on the back of a vigorous marketing campaign that relies largely on tyranny. More and more citizens are questioning Pakistan's national security policy because they worry about the direction in which it is pushing this country. It is not allegiance to an enemy but the love for their homeland and concern for their future, and that of their kids, that motivates them to demand course correction.


There is one mother who spoils her kids rotten. And there is another who disciplines them, grooms them, and nurtures their character by teaching them to distinguish right from wrong. Both these mothers are acting out of love. But only the second is being constructive. This is time for all Pakistanis, and especially the more thoughtful ones within the security establishment, to engage in introspection instead of snapping at anyone holding the mirror to them.


Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

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


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

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

EVEN NOW PAK ECONOMY IS BUOYANT

 

WE have been maintaining in these columns that given prudent policies and right kind of environment, the country's economy has the potential to grow and prosper. This has once again been proved by the Economic Survey released by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh on Thursday, which portrays both negative and positive signals but above all gives a ray of hope for the future.


No doubt, overall the, the Survey presents a dismal picture of the economy with GDP growth rate falling to shameful 2.4% as against the target of 4.5%; budget deficit going up to 5.9% instead of planned 4%; inflation crossing much beyond the target of 9% and terminating at 14% and the debt spiraling by billions of dollars. Agricultural, manufacturing and services sectors have performed poorly and the rate of savings has also dropped to 13.8%. But, as the survey points out, the year saw some of the worst developments that impacted negatively the national economy. Apart from the on-going war on terror that consumed much of the country's resources, the nation also witnessed devastating floods that caused huge losses to the infrastructure, agriculture and industry. The rescue, relief and rehabilitation requirements necessitated a massive cut in public sector spending on development and as a consequence there was a slur in economic activity. Rising oil prices in the international market and crippling energy crisis also took a heavy tall, forcing hundreds of industries to close down and discouraging prospective investors who were already shy of coming to Pakistan because of security risks. However, it is encouraging that despite all this there were some positive signals as well: exports grew by 27.8%, merchandise trade deficit improved by 240 million dollars, workers' remittances crossed $ 9 billion mark and foreign exchange reserves stood at record $ 17 billion. Bumper wheat crop this year means our ability not only to meet our own needs but create surplus for exports and rising exports show hard work and dedication of our business and trading community in the face of various odds and challenges. We believe that if the Government takes steps for improvement of the security situation and creates enabling environment, there could be tremendous boost to economic activity and the country can reach the GDP growth rate of 6 to 7%, which it achieved during tenure of the previous Government.

 

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


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

AFGHAN-INDIA MILITARY TIES

 

THERE are disturbing developments on our Western borders that merit deeper analysis by our policy and decision-makers. As Afghan President Hamid Karzai was beseeching NATO to wind up its operations in Afghanistan and instead fight the war against terror in Pakistan, over 300 insurgents crossed over from his country to Lower Dir in Pakistan, attacked a security check post and killed eighty people including 27 policemen and eight civilians.


Though Pakistani forces retaliated and killed 45 terrorists and Foreign Office also conveyed its concern to the Afghan Government over the attack but the response of the Government was not commensurate with the gravity of the development and its implications. Both Afghan Government and NATO have been telling Pakistan to do more to curb militants who cross over from this side to carry out attacks in Afghanistan but the latest episode shows that it was other way round and there is need for the US and NATO to do more to prevent such happenings in future. Loss of thirty-five people in one incident is indeed huge and must not be overlooked by our civilian and military leadership. But this is not an isolated incident and if viewed in the backdrop of the Indian move to boost defence cooperation with Afghanistan including deployment of Indian military trainers in that country, the situation becomes grim for Pakistan and its strategic interests. There are also reports that India was also encouraging Afghanistan to build dams on river Kabul with the sole objective of choking flow of water to Pakistan. It is also an open secret that Indian missions in Afghanistan are actively engaged in anti-Pakistan activities, harbouring acts of terrorism and sabotage especially in Balochistan. It seems a systematic attempt is being made to isolate Pakistan from Afghanistan and pave the way for Indian foothold in Kabul in post-withdrawal period. This obviously is happening with the active connivance of the United States that wants to hand over the role of regional policeman to India after vacation of its occupation in Afghanistan. The emerging scenario has serious consequences for Pakistan and therefore, our policy-makers should pay urgent attention to safeguard our interests.

 

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


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

BEDAR PAKISTAN SCHEME

 

PAKISTANIS have proven their ability for creativity and innovative thinking and they can perform wonders be it in education, economy, industry, business, sports or technology if supportive environment is provided. Mastery achieved by the country over the complex and complicated nuclear technology also bears testimony to the fact that Pakistanis are as capable and brilliant as any other nation of the world. Dr Niaz Ahmed Khan tops the list of those who think differently and have a vision for ameliorating the lot of the people and the country.

Dr Niaz has developed a new financial instrument, called Bedar Pakistan, which will be much more valuable than the bonds or the treasury bills the Government sells in the open market to raise much needed funds to run affairs of the country. He claims that the coupon-based scheme has the potential to resolve all the economic ills of Pakistan, as it will create about five million jobs, ensure fifty times more annual revenue for the government, cost of living and cost of production would reduce by 50%, bring industrial revolution, pave the way for interest-free economy, bring all areas of the country at par vis-à-vis development and lead to unprecedented increase in home remittances. Dr Niaz is so sure of the viability and success of his programme that he has thrown challenge of live debate to all the critics and announced a reward of ten million dollars for those who will prove his claims wrong. We believe that his scheme is worth consideration as it comes from a man, who is PhD in Economics, Finance and Business Administration from the USA and has deeper understanding of economic and financial issues. He has been pleading his case with a missionary spirit for the last many years but his visionary idea has fallen on deaf ears obviously because of vested interests. We would urge the economic managers and parliamentarians to at least listen to what Dr Niaz is saying and if he is able to convince them then the plan should be implemented for the better economic future of the country

 

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


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

STILLBORN DUAL NATIONALITY BILL

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

Although holding dual citizenship was not permitted under the 1951 law, the Government of Pakistan now recognizes and allows its citizens to also hold the citizenship of at least 13 other countries as notified by it. For ordinary Pakistanis, holding dual citizenship is neither a problem nor an issue. But when members of the Parliament, members of the cabinet and persons holding public office stash their wealth in foreign banks, invest in real estate, industry or business, there is a conflict of interest. An investigating reporter of national English daily has taken quite some pain to go through the annual declarations submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan by members of the Parliament. In his report he stated that at least 19 members of the National Assembly belonging to the PPP, PML-N and MQM own apartments, businesses or have bank accounts abroad. Of them, 10 MPs hail from the PPP, five from the PML-N and three from the MQM while one is independent. The report however did not give details of head honchos or top leaders of two major political parties - the PPP and the PML-N as well as leaders of other political parties as to their assets abroad or their dual nationality.

There is a perception that those with dual nationality have the divided loyalty, as they have allegiance to two countries. It was in this backdrop that in April 2011, PML-Q MNA Raza Hayat Hiraj had introduced 'The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2011' in the lower house aimed at disqualifying those who have dual nationality, foreign accounts and property abroad. Raza Hayat Hiraj had introduced the bill on private members day, which was later referred to the concerned standing committee for consideration. In the proposed amendment anyone who has foreign account, property abroad and holds dual nationality would not be eligible to hold any public office at any level. However, Hiraj said this bill would come into force after one year of enactment, and during this time the candidate may fulfill the criteria for holding any public office. Meanwhile, private members` bill seeking to bar Pakistanis holding dual nationalities and foreign properties from becoming members of parliament, provincial assemblies besides taking public office has lapsed since its mover joined the federal cabinet as state minister after his party the PML-Q joined the coalition government in the centre.

The Constitution (Amendment) Act 2011 had sought insertion of Article 63B, whereby a person stood disqualified for service of Pakistan or holding any office in any organisation, including armed forces and judiciary, whether wholly or partly owned or controlled by the federal or provincial government; or being elected or chosen as a member of parliament or provincial assembly or local government on five grounds: (a) he maintains an account in any bank or financial institution in a foreign country whether in his own name or in the name of his spouse, children or dependents of as the case may be; (b) holds a dual nationality or has a permanent resident status of any other country; (c) holds an office of profit or interest in any company or organisation established in a foreign country whether in his own name or in the name of his spouse, children or dependents; (d) owns any property whether freehold, leasehold or even in the form of licence, assets, shares or any interest in any company based in a foreign country, whether in his own name, or in the name of his spouse, children or dependents; and (e) carries out business or commercial activity in any organisation or establishment, based in a foreign country whether in his own name or in the name of his spouse, children or dependents.

One would appreciate the spirit behind the proposed bill, but there is a big question whether heads of political parties who are accused of having stashed their wealth in foreign banks, invested in real estate and other businesses would allow such a bill to pass through? However, a lot has to be done to introduce democracy in the political parties because the major parties are the fiefdoms of the founders of the parties. After 18th amendment, chairman of the party has become the virtual dictator and he can move disqualification of any member of the parliament on flimsy grounds. Efforts have also to be made to eliminate corruption from the society, which has eaten into the vitals of society. Anyhow, corruption can only be controlled and checked if the rulers have the moral high authority, which means that they are honest; they pay the due taxes, and do not take advantage of their position in the government to multiply their wealth. It is true that in a country where the government is committed to the welfare of the people; the poor are provided with free education and health facilities and the state guarantees jobs to all able-bodied persons, the incidence of corruption and crime would be less. On the other hand, if the status-quo forces and corrupt elements rule the state, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow, and such an extremist society becomes a breeding ground for extremists, criminals and even terrorists.

The problem is that members of the tiny elite in Pakistan had all along kept complete control over the state, its resources and all levers of power. They neither had the vision nor the will to build a modern society, though Pakistan had all the ingredients and the resources to make it a great country, and ensure a decent living standard to the people. Secondly, though feudalism does not exist in classical form yet the feudal mindset with streaks of corruption and exploitation has affected all strata of society. Unless the remnants of feudalism and its mindset are done away with, the feudals and new-rich industrial tycoons would always get elected and reach corridors of power. Evidence suggests that in rural Pakistan, people are forced to vote for Jagirdars, Waderas and Sardars. In urban areas, big business, new-rich class and baradaris dominate the scene and people have no choice because moneyed classes somehow reach the corridors of power and amass wealth using their position and clout. And then they use part of that wealth to get them re-elected so that they could secure the ill-gotten wealth and also multiply it; hence the vicious cycle continues.


The truth of the matter is that in most developing countries especially South Asian countries, people can only cast their votes; and a person even from upper middle class cannot imagine of fielding himself as a candidate. Therefore, only the rich and those who amassed wealth using their position when in power can afford the luxury of elections. The fact of the matter is that the landed gentry wield power over the Haris. Similarly, in a capitalist society, direct access to private property in the form of the means of production entails control over circumstances in which others are implicated and therefore have direct social power. The owners of property can borrow by hypothecating the assets and generate more means of production, thus enhancing their power over others in determining the nature and availability of jobs. In case of monopolies or cartels, they can fleece the consumers, especially if the owners are sitting in the cabinets and the assemblies. The sugar or cement scam is a case in point. As stated above, members in the existing assembly would not allow passage of the bill regarding dual nationality or wealth stashed abroad, it is therefore imperative that electoral system be reformed in a manner that people from middle class can field themselves as candidates. But this is a tall order.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

 

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

 


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ANTI-AMERICANISM IN PAKISTAN

DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN

United States has never been a favourite super power for the people of Pakistan ever. However, over the years, there has been an increase in anti-Americanism among the Pakistani masses. The recent wave of the anti-Americanism, which indeed is a collective voice of all Pakistanis, started with the arrest and thereafter release of CIA agent Raymond Davis, who in the broad day light killed two Pakistanis. The incident of May 2, 2011, and attack on PNS Mehran, destroying the surveillance aircrafts (P-3C Orion) have further fuelled this hatred. Indeed, this public hatred for US in Pakistan is a natural outcome, from the years of exploitation by the former. With US discriminatory acts, any nation having integrity and respect could have done that and US should not feel bad about that, rather needs to adopt corrective measures.

During her five hours visit of Pakistan, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, also showed her annoyance over this ever growing anti-Americanism in Pakistani society. This fact indeed, frustrated her more than anything else. She advised Pakistani people that, "anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make their problems disappear." Rather, she suggested that, the recipe of the Pakistani problems is in toeing the American line, rather anti-Americanism. However, she gave a clear message that, "America cannot and should not solve Pakistan's problems," rather Pakistanis should solve their problems themselves. This in fact is a pragmatic advice for all Pakistanis, but, Pakistani feels, would US leave us alone to solve our problems by ourselves? After years of exploitation, Secretary of State still feels that, Pak-US relationship is at a critical point. In a statement, she emphatically said that, "we have reached a turning point." While describing such a situation, she expressed that, US would like that Pakistan should take concrete measures against terrorism in the coming days to the satisfaction of US, as if Pakistan has done nothing as yet.

Secretary Clinton believes that, after receiving financial assistance, there should not be anti-American sentiments among the people of Pakistan, as if US has purchased the loyalties of Pakistanis. However, US is cognizant of the fact that there is no public recognition of this American support, as its effects has never reached to people of Pakistan. A common Pakistani lacked the basic civic facilities, educational and health facilities. Then, where the money indeed has gone, should be better known to US. As far as defence assistance is concern, if US alliance with Pakistan and its military hardware could not save the disintegration of Pakistan in 1971, and now US is after the Pakistani nukes, then how Pakistani people should be motivated to love America. The promised $1.5 billion per year financial assistance under KLL by US has yet not reached to the masses.

The real concern is that, there exist an inexplicable relationship between Pakistani elite group and United States, ever since 1950s, but, the people of Pakistan never supported that. The sole reason for this opposition was; this relationship was to benefit United States, rather serving the Pakistani interests. Besides, this relationship made Pakistan biased; a country under the Capitalist bloc headed by U.S. This westernized relationship isolated Pakistan from rest of the world. Soviet Union and its allies started seeing Pakistan with suspicions and did not miss a chance to harm Pakistani interest once there was some global or regional effort to resolve the Kashmir issue. Practically, except, China, Pakistan did not have guaranteed bi-lateral relationship with any other country. While, throughout in our bilateral relationship, U.S has been betraying Pakistan on one or the other pretext, it stopped Pakistani assistance (mainly military) at crucial moments of our history like; 1965 and 1971, Indo-Pak wars. It lured in Pakistan and used its facilities including penetration into its security establishment during Soviet invasion in Afghanistan and imposed a set of sanctions upon gaining its strategic objective of disintegrating the Soviet Union.

While leaving Pakistan at lurch, with thousands of former Jihadists in its territory and on the Afghan soil, US left the region in haste to celebrate its sole power status and opening new battle fronts like Iraq to sustain its economy and dispose of its left over explosive in the desert of Middle East (Operation Desert Storm), subsequently to charge its cost from Arab monarchs. US economic and military sanctions against Pakistan continued throughout 1990s, with imposition of even tougher measures, sequel to the 1998 nuclear blasts. After this changed scenario in South Asia, US decided to look for an alternative in the form of India, later accepting it as the de-facto nuclear power status, while expressing apprehensions about the safety and security of Pakistani strategic arsenals. Such acts of this sole super power could not induce Pakistani people to love United Sates. However, the peak of this hatred reached once, US drone attacks became a routine on Pakistani soil especially, in FATA. Earlier in 2001, subsequent to 9/11, U.S was once again able to force Pakistan to support her in its invasion in Afghanistan.

Indeed, Pakistan is facing a situation of a never ending US demand. So much so it has violated the Pakistani sovereignty many a time and killed thousands innocents through its uncalled forth drone attacks. The situation reached to the point, where its navy seals have unilaterally raided in Abbotabad to kill OBL, facts regarding presence of OBL there are yet to be ascertained. Circumstantial evidences brings the scholars to the conclusions that it was a drama staged to take revenge from Pakistan for the arrest of Raymond Davis and a face saving for US to start drawdown its token forces in July this, again to befool US masses, back home. This was height of the US violation of Pakistani sovereignty and degrading Pakistani defence establishment and ISI, who over the years have known the US real objective inside Pakistan, thus started putting up resistance to those. As per the initial investigation of PNS Mehran Base attack, some of weapons and equipment and especially the wireless sets, are found having American and NATO origin, making the event quite suspicious. How did, these were found with the attackers of the Mehran base is a serious concern for the people of Pakistan. This might have been done to reduce the surveillance of Pakistani Navy, thus allowing free excess to foreign forces to internally destabilize Karachi and coastal areas of Balochistan, thus, restraining the operationalization of Gwadar port, apart from supporting the sub-nationalists in the province.

With these only few evidences and some very current happenings, the lady Secretary of State should not have expected love for American in the hearts of Pakistani masses. Rather anti-American sentiments are natural among the people. If U.S is really serious to be loved by Pakistani masses, than; it should start respecting Pakistan's sovereignty. It should rebuild the infrastructures lost during the militancy of last one decade. It should help people in the provision of employment through ROZ, as earlier promised. Over and above it should stop supporting anti-Pakistan forces locally as well as globally. It should re-establish relationship with Pakistan based on the mutual trust and respect.

—The writer is an analyst of international relations.

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


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THE NEVER-ENDING SIACHIN SAGA!

FRIENDLY FIRE

KHALID SALEEM

 

After the rather disappointing outcome of the India- Pakistan session on the Sir Creek squabble, the end result of the talks on Siachin should come as no surprise. If anything, the lackadaisical attitude displayed points to the lack of commitment to settle the contentious issues that have plagued the political and security environment of South Asia. Arguably, Sir Creek remains the most solvable contentious issue on the bilateral table. If the two sides displayed a lack of political will to tackle that issue, what hope could logically be entertained in respect of Siachin?

In one respect the Siachin story was a bit different. What had lent a sense of urgency of sorts to the Siachin discussions was the fact that ecologists had been warning for sometime of the ecological disaster waiting to happen if military activity in the glacier region was not brought to an end. Apparently, there is looming danger of the melting of the glacier that can create havoc. The "outcome" of the bilateral negotiations underscores the fact that the Siachin saga would continue with all its attendant ramifications and at the peril of the whole region. The joint statement issued at the end of the present talks is lame and a great disappointment indeed. Even the phrases used are passé. "Frank and cordial atmosphere", "enhanced understanding of each other's position" and "suggestions towards the resolution of the issue" have all been used before umpteen times. In fact, media opinion appears to have sunk so low as to interpret the mere issuing of the joint statement as an indication of 'some progress". The headline in one of the dailies talks of the two sides 'inching towards a solution'.

How can anyone talk of 'inches', at a time when there are virtually miles to cover? And let it also be said that time is of the essence. The contentious issues now appear to be destined to be pushed from the back-burner to the cold-storage. Siachin dispute figures among the less intractable ones. It is just that India has over the years exhibited a marked reluctance to budge an inch from its traditional – and, one might add, somewhat irrational – stand; that of not taking a step forward unless the "ground realities" are not only recognized but also formally authenticated. It may not be out of place to set down a few home truths for the record. Until 1983 or thereabouts, the Siachin glacier was just a vast, peaceful expanse with nary a soldier in sight. There was universal de facto recognition – both pre and post Simla agreement – that the area was under the administrative control of the Pakistan authorities. Occasionally, teams of explorers from around the globe would apply to the relevant ministry in Pakistan for permission to carry out scientific expeditions in the glacier area.

Such applications were invariably approved and explorers carried out their scientific studies across the formidable glacier without let or hindrance. In the nineteen-sixties, Pakistan and China had negotiated a border agreement covering the frontier between China and the area under the administrative control of Pakistan. This agreement covered, inter alia, the expanse of the Siachin glacier and extended up to the Karakoram Pass in the east. The government of India went through the formality of putting on record its reservations, but made no attempt to challenge Pakistan's notional de facto control over the area. If India's contention were to be accepted then the Pakistan-China border accord would be knocked for a six.

Subsequently, in the Simla accord of July1972, the two countries undertook to respect the status of the "Line of Control". It is to be noted that India did not challenge Pakistan's de facto administrative control over the Siachin glacier area either during or after the Simla summit meeting. This situation, however, was to change drastically - post 1983. Scientific expeditions returning from the Siachin glacier, circa 1983-84, expressed to the Pakistan authorities their surprise at having encountered armed Indian soldiers in the area. It so happens that - taking advantage of the technological superiority afforded by the supply of high-altitude Soviet helicopters - India had surreptitiously landed soldiers and established advance posts on some of the heights. This represented the first serious violation of the Simla accord (the Kargil fiasco being the second). Pakistan then moved its forces on the opposite heights. Since then, the two forces are dug in, facing each other eyeball to eyeball on what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh somewhat graphically described as the "World's Highest Battlefield".

The two sides have wasted so much time, energy and scarce resources on endless squabbling over the past decade and a half. There have been more casualties due to the harsh conditions than any hostilities. The rub lies in the fact that India continues to insist that the "ground realities should be formally recognized". In simple language, it expects Pakistan to not only acquiesce in India's unilateral inroad but also to actually "authenticate it" for all times to come. It may be added in parentheses that whatever decision is arrived at, it may have a profound bearing on whatever final settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is on the cards.

 

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


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

MURDER OF A FEARLESS PAK JOURNALIST

LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)

 

A fearless, reliable, investigator - Pakistani Journalist and author of the book "In side Al-Qaeda and the Taliban" Saleem Shahzad has been abducted from Islamabad and killed brutally by some unknown hands. His dead body has been found on canal bank near Rasul Head works in Mandi Bahauddin, 80 miles southeast of the capital. Nir Rosen, author of "The Triumph of the Martyer: A reporter's Journey into Occupied Iraq mentioned in the review of recently released deceased's book that Shahzad is the most fearless and reliable journalist covering Pakistan and Afghanistan, that's why his work read even in the halls of the Pentagon. He also narrated that no journalist passing through Pakistan should miss an opportunity to talk to him and nobody ignored in the region, in Al-Qaeda or in the Taliban can afford to ignore his work. Pakistan's President Zardari and Prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, expressed his "deep grief and sorrow" over Shahzad's death and ordered an inquiry, saying that "the culprits would be brought to book at every cost".

According to foreign media reports Shazhad has also been able to penetrate in the lines of the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In this connection, he visited no go areas of FATA too. He also met Sirajuddin Haqqani, Chief of Haqqani Group, Ilyas Kashmiri and many Al-Qaeda top level strategists and fighters in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. The deceased journalist was a known critic of ISI like many other s writers, journalists and anchors of electronic and print media but on the other hand was also enjoying good reputation in Pentagon and adversary's think tanks. Anyhow, we should find out the possible causes and facts of this murder because whatever the case may be, such types of extra judicious killings in the presence of Independent courts are not at all acceptable to the respectable society. While investigating Shahzad's murder: his past history, writings pattern, current story about foreign sponsored raid on PN Base, meeting with Al-Qaeda top leaders llays Kashmiri and Haqani group, prevailing country's security environment, recently released book, meetings with local intelligence agencies' individuals, visiting Western and American embassies have to be evaluated and investigated before determining the probable conclusion of the case. I view this murder in the light of three possibilities;

(First Possibility). Why should ISI be interested to eliminate Shazad only in the presence of many others hardliners who criticize ISI and security agencies openly. An English newspaper "The Guardian" tried to implicate ISI in the murder while referring Shahzad's meetings with two ISI high officials. I think meetings of ISI officials with journalists, think tanks and scholars are very much part of routine official commitments since exchange of information from horses' mouths in such type of meetings does help the opinion makers in understanding the true motives of our adversaries. It is further added here that similar nature of briefings, coordination and meetings are also being held between Pentagon, CIA, MI-6, RAW and think tanks of locals and foreign journalists. Anyhow ISI sources confirmed that meeting with the journalist ad has been held in the past in a very pleasant environment and no such threat has been given to the Shaheed Shazad by them. Moreover, Shahzad has also not mentioned of any kind of threat from ISI to him in the quoted email by some foreign and local media group .

The pattern of Saleem Shahzad writings clearly divides his writings into two phases. His early media pieces do indicate that Shahzad's was lacking knowledge and motives of our adversaries regarding state sensitive assets. Therefore, he unexpectedly used to criticise security agencies and nuclear porgramme and thus circuitously fulfilling foreign agenda. On this he probably briefed and guided by our highest intelligence agency at highest level.

From there onward his written stuff has never been found objectionable and even found to be protecting national interest in his published reports. Therefore, alleging and maligning ISI in abducting and murdering of Shahzad's is the part of foreign agenda i.e. weakening and targeting the most vital organ of Pakistan's security. It is also added here that his reports regarding PN base incident and OBL killing don't indicate his undue criticism against security agencies. Moreover, his stories on mentioned issues have not attained much popularity in the media because of lacks of facts. In this regard many famous anchors very bluntly found critcising ISI, Navy and Pakistan Army so elimination of second class journalist by the ISI is not understood.

(Second Possibility) Shahzad has recently released his book "Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban". In this connection, he had interviewed some of the most famous leaders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, and Ilyas Kashmiri, allegedly works for al-Qaida. The book exposed various Al-Qaeda networks which made his personality dubious and controversial figures in the eyes of those fighters who are operating against NATO and American in Afghanistan. Thus, they abducted and eliminated considering him an agent of America. It is also notable here that most of the American and western scholars declared him a courageous and popular journalist who disclosed number of facts about Al-Qaeda.

(Third Possibility) Though Pakistan and U.S. apparently kept on claiming each other as their front line allies but due to various U.S. actions like interfering in Balochistan and joining hands with India manifold the already existed trust deficit continued between two countries. However, the differences between the agencies of two countries and their intelligence agencies (CIA & ISI) further deteriorated after U.S. unilateral operation in Abbottabad (killing of OBL) and PN base tragedy. CIA got chance to speed up the propaganda against ISI and Pakistan security forces while using the specific section of media. American, Indian and foreign sponsored traitors started anti army and ISI campaign. Thus to fuel the anti ISI campaign further CIA in collaboration with RAW probably kidnapped the journalist and later on killed him with the purpose of implicating local agencies in the murder of Shahzad. Anyhow apparently, it is being felt that third possibility has been materialized in the murder of Slaeem Shazad but off course there is a need to have proper investigations in the case. At the end, I would like to suggest to media managers, politicians, and members of civil societies to display responsibilities and come out to unite the nation, instead toeing the foreign media's lines. Governments should also hold independent inquiry and devise media policy for facts finding and streamlining the procedures so that recurrence of any incident could be avoided in future.

 

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

 


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

HOW ABOUT AN ARAB LOBBY?

AIJAZ ZAKA SYED

 

Pundits aren't still done debating Netanyahu's little circus in the Congress last week. Which isn't surprising. Even though we have all been familiar with the long tradition of US politicians forever dancing to Israel's tunes and eating out of its lobby's hand, Bibi's endless adulation in the Congress was nonetheless hard to digest. And it's not just us, distant observers in the Middle East and sympathizers of the oppressed lot of Palestinians who are outraged by the US lawmakers repeatedly throwing themselves at Israeli premier's feet.


Many a US commentator who still retains some semblance of conscience has been troubled by the craven sycophancy of their politicians. The lawmakers cheered even when the "guest' standing there in the highest representative body in the land continually derided their president and rubbed his nose in. Just as Barack Obama was being mobbed like a rock star and welcomed like an emperor in Europe — Britain hosted a rare special session of Parliament in the Westminster Hall for the "grandson of a Kenyan cook in the British Army," as Obama chose to remind his audience — Netanyahu demolished the president's "audacity of hope" and push for Mideast peace. Yet the lawmakers, including Vice President Joe Biden, clapped and clapped. It was a virtual love fest, a spectacular orgy, if you will. Not much different from the bloody antics of Roman gladiators with the mob lustily lapping up every minute of the action. There were 29 standing ovations and 41 "applause pauses" during the 50-minute speech.


As Israeli commentator Uri Avnery put it, Netanyahu's speech could be summed up in one word: NO. No to peace. No giving up or sharing of Jerusalem. No right of return for Palestinian refugees. No peace talks as long as Fatah and Hamas are at peace with each other. More important, a resounding "no" to Obama's call for the Palestinian state on the land that Israel captured after the 1967 war. Yet they cheered on Bibi even as he heaped abuse on Palestinians, Arabs and even Islam peddling lie after brazen lie with a straight face. THE whole show was utterly nauseating and disgusting, making people around the world wonder for a zillionth time why the world's most powerful democracy turns putty in the hands of a tiny rogue state of seven million people. And there are growing signs that Netanyahu's charade, especially his humiliation of their president didn't go down well with many thinking Americans and commentators either, who are beginning to demand where the loyalties of their lawmakers lie — with the US constitution or with a foreign regime.


More and more Americans, especially the younger lot, appalled by the perpetual victimization of the Palestinians, are increasingly uncomfortable with the blind US support to Israel. They couldn't have liked the abject obeisance of their representatives before His Majesty the King of Israel. Many in the US establishment are beginning to question the logic of America throwing its weight behind Israel and its oppression, at the cost of its own security and relations with the Muslim world. Even Jewish Americans are increasingly uncomfortable with the belligerence of Israeli leadership. According to a new poll this week, 57 percent of Israelis feel Israel should accept Obama's call for Palestinian state and not alienate the US. This is a ray of hope — but just about it. We have a long way to go before the brave voices of peace activists and conscience keepers of cyberspace turn into a proper chorus in the land of the free. Even if Obama is sincere in his commitment to peace — and I believe he is — he is utterly helpless before the awesome, brute power of the Israeli lobby. This is why he had to rush to the AIPAC meet a day after Netanyahu snubbed him at the White House to eat his own words and reassure the almighty lobby on the "ironclad" nature of the US-Israel equation. He wasn't alone.


AS The Economist reports, 67 senators and 286 members of the House of Representatives joined 10,000 delegates at the AIPAC dinner. And it's not just the Jewish votes, Jewish money and support of the largely Jewish-controlled US media that politicians covet. —The CG News

 

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


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

THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

AFTER ALMOST A YEAR, THE REAL JULIA IS A MYSTERY

AS Julia Gillard approaches the first anniversary of her prime ministership, she is mired in a series of paradoxes of her own making.

Constantly trying to outline what she stands for, Ms Gillard has failed to demonstrate her beliefs and leaves the nation nonplussed. When she can utter the words, "It's time for me to make sure the real Julia is well and truly on display", or break a core election promise, she displays an alarming lack of authenticity. It is possible the nation has stopped listening because she has shown more pretence than conviction.

This dilemma is not the Prime Minister's alone. It betrays a deeper identity crisis for the Labor Party itself -- a life-threatening tug of war between its traditional suburban base and the green Left fringe. On Ms Gillard's watch, the green fringe is winning, with inner-city, tertiary-educated activists and advisers dominating Labor's policy, political and communications processes. Capital Hill has been hijacked by young careerists who have "learned" more about politics from watching The West Wing than from engaging in the real world or the private economy. Gone are the days of shearers and train drivers rising to enrich Labor's ruling elite, bringing sharp minds and rough hands to the everyday concerns of government. Now it is straight from university to a ministerial office, where the talk is of polls and messaging, and the people are distant. Surrounding Kevin Rudd were young, inexperienced men epitomised by a media minder Lachlan Harris, who was fixated on Facebook and Twitter but clueless about the challenging policy concerns of national government. Governments need a breadth and depth of experience in cabinet and in their ranks of advisers. Until this week, Ms Gillard has done little to address this weakness. At times, Labor's communications strategy has had all the depth of a Twitter hashtag. Experienced advisers always understand that substance is crucial and that messaging must be authentic, consistent and intelligent.

Labor has become disconnected from the suburban, aspirational, working families who hold the key, not just to political success, but to the wellbeing of the nation. Ms Gillard and her coterie must do more than pay lip service to Labor's traditional base. Since the Gough Whitlam years, Labor has deliberately appealed to both the suburbanites and the inner-city trendies. But during the high point of post-war Labor, the Hawke-Keating era, nobody was in any doubt that mainstream Australia provided Labor's ballast. There was no sense of the party abandoning its base until Paul Keating lost his way after 1993 and voters turned on him. The "working families" and economic conservative rhetoric of "Kevin07" paid homage to the suburbs and reaped the dividends, but the story since then has been desultory.

Mr Rudd walked away from the "greatest moral challenge of our time" and rushed to an ill-considered mining tax in a transparent attempt to play up the politics of envy. This underestimated the intelligence of voters, many of whom understood the importance of mining profits and investment in underpinning their livelihoods. Labor was forced into a retreat and Mr Rudd lost the prime ministership. Bob Hawke and Mr Keating never would have been so hamfisted. They understood the value of consultation, and credited workers with enough sense to understand that a co-operative approach would deliver the best outcomes for the enterprises, the economy and the workers.

Shrill campaigns against poker machines, alcopops and cigarette packaging, and against sexist interjections in parliament, share the condescending tone of a pious political class telling mainstream Australians what's good for them. These crusades have their genesis in the pleadings of special interest groups, the need for political distractions or demands from the Greens and independent MPs. But Ms Gillard and her ministers join them with the relish of GetUp activists rather than the sober arguments of a grown-up government. This hectoring tone pervades the entire Labor agenda. It can been seen in the Orwellian overreach of a national internet filter and even in the reregulation of the labour market, which is based on the assumption that individuals cannot be trusted to strike their own bargains. This posturing runs the risk of setting Labor at war with its base. When voters attended a rally against the carbon tax at Parliament House, they were denounced by Labor MPs as extremists. Critically, this trend is not being resisted by Ms Gillard but exacerbated.

Border protection is an area where Labor has mocked the concerns of the mainstream, and Ms Gillard's core beliefs have been either convincingly hidden or hopelessly compromised. Former leader Mark Latham recounted last month that in opposition, Ms Gillard was the author of Labor's softer asylum-seeker policy, which was pre-occupied with "mollifying the Left". In government, the consequences of that softer policy have been thousands of arrivals, a detention-centre crisis and deaths at sea. The Prime Minister first denied the problem, then floated the absurd East Timor solution, and now is grappling with the deficiencies and difficulties of her Malaysian solution. In full public glare over a number of years, she has talked down the problem, attacked the harshness of the Pacific Solution and accused the Liberals of appealing to racism. Yet now she decries the use of terms such as "redneck" and is implementing an approach that even former human rights commissioner Sev Ozdowski says is worse than the Pacific Solution. Australians surely cannot know where Ms Gillard truly stands on border protection.

Mr Latham has spoken at length about the party's drift away from its base: "You look through the long history of the Labor Party and there has never been a time where pacifying the Left has worked in terms of public policy principle." Yet in her minority government, Ms Gillard's constant mission seems to be appeasing the Left. Whether this is an exercise in political management or a return to her true ideological roots, the result will be the same. The disconnect with traditional Labor supporters is palpable. Former Hawke minister Graham Richardson talks about the people "Labor forgot" and how their voice is now found on talkback radio: "Tradies, pensioners and, well, ordinary voters who worry about the cost of living, about violence in their neighbourhoods, about Muslim immigration to their suburbs; Labor doesn't seem to know how to reach them any more."

Labor's mishandling of climate change policy brought Ms Gillard to the leadership because it destroyed Mr Rudd's credibility. After baulking at a climate poll, he was urged by insiders, including his deputy at the time, Ms Gillard, to walk away from the emissions trading policy altogether. This effectively told the public he stood for nothing. "Ever since then," says Mr Latham, "its been downhill for Rudd and the Labor Party and the public support for doing something positive on climate change." So it is extraordinary that Ms Gillard has been prepared to publicly sacrifice her own credibility on the same altar. During last year's election campaign, she said the issue of a carbon price would be reconsidered, including through a citizens' assembly, and there would be no price implemented until after the next election. In an emphatic pre-election pitch, she made the now-infamous pledge: "There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead."

No doubt the lack of conviction on climate change contributed to Labor losing its majority at the election, but ruling out a carbon tax probably helped it hang on to some seats. Yet Ms Gillard announced in February that she was trashing that promise and moving ahead with the Greens to impose a carbon tax. All the evidence suggests the Prime Minister doesn't quite understand the insult of that broken pledge -- she pocketed people's votes and then disregarded the very basis upon which they were cast. Nor does she comprehend how it leaves the nation looking at her and wondering just what it is that motivates her.

Ms Gillard started her politics at university and was heavily involved in the Socialist Forum, a group that included former communists and favoured death duties, wealth redistribution and shutting down US bases. She plays down this leftist background but whether she's discussing asylum-seekers, climate change or mining taxes, it is the rhetoric of the Left, and the language of the Greens and GetUp, that falls most naturally from her tongue and to which she reverts in heated discussions. Voters look at her inconsistent words, paradoxical actions and constant attempts to articulate her values, and wonder just who is the Real Julia.

Perhaps Ms Gillard encapsulated the dilemma best in her maiden speech to parliament on Remembrance Day 1998: "The end result of this political cycle is a weary people who no longer believe what politicians say and who think the politicians saying it do not even believe it themselves."

Quite, Prime Minister.

 

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


    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

PERFECT CHOICE FOR PEACE PRIZE

LINGUIST and philosopher Noam Chomsky is the perfect choice for this year's Sydney Peace Prize. Not only is he in step with previous winners such as journalist John Pilger and Palestinian activist Hanan Ashwari, but the intelligentsia who gave David Hicks a standing ovation at the Sydney Writers' Festival will no doubt rise to the occasion again. Chomsky is an especially interesting choice for a peace prize in the 10th anniversary year of the World Trade Centre attacks -- as an apologist for Osama Bin Laden.

The Sydney Peace Foundation has shown its true values and vision in honouring a man foundation director Stuart Rees describes as "inspiring" and whom he expects will attract thousands of admirers who will want to express their gratitude. Perhaps in some sort of Mexican wave of self-loathing.

Others share Professor Rees's enthusiasm. In 2007, Osama Bin Laden praised the US academic for his "sober words of advice prior to the (Iraq) war" and said he was "among the most capable of those from your side". Not to be outdone, Chomsky recently denounced the killing of bin Laden by US forces as the "political assassination" of an "unarmed victim". Perhaps it's hardly surprising that Chomsky also believes that the "crimes" of George W. Bush "vastly exceed bin Laden's", that he lamented the West's treating Muammar Gadaffi's Libya as a "punching bag" and erroneously described Ronald Reagan's great legacy as that of a "scared bully".

Sydneysiders might also like to honour Chomsky for his wit and wisdom in defining education as "imposed ignorance", a concept he helped turn in to reality with his theories about "universal grammar", which contributed to the erosion of English teaching in US and Australian schools from the 1960s onwards.

Unlike one of Chomsky's acerbic US critics who recently branded him "a two-nickel crank", we look forward to his Sydney speech, where he will be among friends collecting his $50,000 gong. But we hope he leaves the Hezbollah military cap he wore in Lebanon at home. If the Sydney Peace Foundation wants to turn its back on its usual puerility, it should consider awarding next year's prize to The Australian's Greg Sheridan, whose cogent case against continuing the war in Afghanistan made Chomsky's rantings look pedestrian.

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


THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

STRIKE FIRST, BARGAIN LATER A RECIPE FOR INDUSTRIAL CHAOS

IN upholding the right of workers to strike before workplace bargaining even starts, Fair Work Australia has not only ignored the needs of modern companies in a competitive marketplace but also overturned the main tenets of the centralist arbitration system that served Australia for decades.

FOR good reason, we've frequently criticised Labor's current system for turning back the clock to an era of rigidity predating the Hawke-Keating wages accords with the ACTU. But in rejecting arguments by the Australian Mines and Metals Association that a strike ballot order could not be made unless bargaining had started or an employer was unwilling to bargain, Fair Work Australia has turned its back on the principles of 100 years of arbitration. Created under the 1904 Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the centralist system was designed to avoid lockouts and strikes and create a Commonwealth Court of Arbitration to prevent and settle disputes.

For much of the next 90 years, it was one of the unions' gripes that they did not have an automatic right to strike. Industrial action or the threat of it prompted intervention in the form of compulsory conferences. The right to strike in Australia was not protected by formal legislation until the 1993 Industrial Relations Reform Act, enacted in tandem with the later accords and then overtaken by the Howard government's 1996 reforms.

In 21st-century Australia, rational economic thinkers can only hope that Wednesday's ruling is a blip to be remedied when the Gillard government's review of the workplace laws begins in January, if not sooner. The ruling sets a dangerous precedent that gives Australia's shrinking trade unions fresh powers they could only have imagined under the arbitration system. But unlike the 1907 Harvester judgment and the arbitration system, which were bulwarks of stability, this ruling promises to be a cause of instability.

It also flies in the face of assurances given to employers in the lead-up to Labor's changes when Kevin Rudd attacked the "right" to strike and employers were assured they would only have to bargain when the majority of their workforce wanted them to do so.

Fair Work Australia's insistence that "There is nothing in the legislative provisions to suggest that a bargaining representative should not be permitted to organise protected industrial action to persuade an employer to agree to bargain" makes a mockery of claims by Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans's spokesman that the Fair Work Act contains "clear, tough rules about industrial action". So "tough" that strikes can start before companies and employees sit down to negotiate.

At a time when workers, especially in the private sector, have largely abandoned unions and the slower sectors of the two-speed economy are struggling to reverse declines in productivity, industry will be further hampered by unions exercising their newfound right to strike first, bargain later. Outmoded as centralist wage-fixing systems had become in an era of contracts, the arbitration system was better balanced than Labor's so-called Fair Work system. This ruling is an abrogation of responsibility, common sense and the principles of negotiation.

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

 


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

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

HOUSING MARKET NEEDS A SLOW LEAK

Illustration: Simon Letch.

VIEWED from overseas, Australia's housing market looks dangerously overvalued. The perception has even prompted short sellers in recent days to sell the shares of Australian banks, in the hope that a US-style housing market collapse will be repeated here, and the banks' deep involvement in mortgage lending will be reflected in share price falls. Despite the sharemarket wobbles of the past two days, though, that view represents a superficial analysis of the local market, and a crash is unlikely.

Yet there are certainly problems in Australia's housing market. One of them has been analysed by the chief executive officer of ANZ's Australian operations, Phil Chronican. In a speech delivered on Thursday, Chronican took aim at the way Australians tend to view their houses - as an investment - and questioned the way housing is taxed in Australia - specifically the generous negative gearing provisions. What gives his ideas added weight is that, as a banker, he appeared to be speaking against the short-term interest of his own industry. The major banks are big mortgage lenders to both home owners and those investing in rental property. Changes which reduce the value of those properties will affect bank profits directly.

Most of those who own or are buying their homes might be surprised at the idea that what they are doing is a form of consumption. Certainly the thinking behind home ownership policies going back to Robert Menzies' prime ministership is that it is an investment which gives the owner a stake in the economy. At a time of disaffection with the capitalist system, that was one of its virtues.

And policies encouraging home ownership have been popular precisely because they assume ownership is a first big step on the ladder to amassing lifetime wealth. But the fees associated with buying a home, the cost of upkeep and other risks of home ownership in fact make it a poor investment - unless the owner assumes steadily rising prices above the rate of inflation. And indeed, prices have risen for long periods. They may have fallen a little lately, but housing prices have risen steadily for the past 25 years at least. So successful have been government policies which encourage and subsidise home ownership that they have now pushed prices beyond the point at which many can buy houses. That may seem fine for owners, but not those who do not have a home.

The result of the trend can be seen in the current argument about what constitutes a rich household. The federal government has been criticised for cutting off welfare payments when a household's income reaches $150,000. Certainly that is well above an average income. But it is also possible to feel sympathy for those with such an income, who aspire to own their own home - as they, like their parents and grandparents before them, have been encouraged to - but who find themselves obliged to borrow four or five times their gross income to buy a quite modest house on the outskirts of Sydney. Individuals, of course, must be held responsible for their own decisions. They might cease making unwise ones, though, if housing's value as an investment were viewed more realistically.

Negative gearing is one policy which helps keep prices artificially high. We have argued before that negative gearing should be abandoned. Taxpayers in effect subsidise property owners to invest in real estate by allowing them to deduct losses incurred in borrowing to buy real estate from taxable income from other sources such as wages.

Subsidising loss-making investment properties this way in effect inflates their price. Since the profit comes from selling the asset at a higher price than it was bought, the mechanism also creates the kinds of expectations which form investment bubbles.

Paul Keating's attempt in 1985 to stop losses from negative gearing to income earned from being deducted against other income eventually had to be abandoned. The real estate industry, which opposed the move strenuously, has always claimed this was because of an investors' strike: deprived of the subsidy, people stopped renting out housing. Research has shown this is not true. Sydney experienced a rental shortage, but not other states - which would have, if the rule change had been the cause.

The furore that Keating's change provoked, though, was certainly no myth, and offers a lesson for today's politicians. Negative gearing should be phased out - but gradually enough so that investors have time to adjust. And to make sure it causes no rental shortage, it will have to be at a time when the market is oversupplied. Unfortunately, that time is not now.

 

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


THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

TAKE FOAM RUBBER, ADD SUGAR, AND PRESTO

MI6 has opened a terrifying new front in the war against al-Qaeda, according to reports from London. Its highly trained hackers have infiltrated the website of Western civilisation's arch-enemy and replaced a recipe for homemade pipe bombs with one for cupcakes. The pipe-bomb recipe is no loss at all, but we do question the choice of replacement. We suspect MI6 may come to regret the publication of information which can only lead to an insidious form of blowback: we refer, of course, to the risk of widespread cupcake proliferation among people who are already disaffected and likely to despise Western values. Cupcakes, frankly, are a modern-day scourge. Tasting of nothing, fiddly, indigestible and pointless, they have come to dominate school cake stalls and birthday parties of children in the tween years. Spread from America, the cupcake menace has taken root and thrived in our soft and undisciplined society. No suburb in this country on primary school fete day is free from the telltale sticky smears of pink icing, hundreds and thousands and those wretched silver ball things that break your teeth. Try one, and you will instantly understand our qualms. All Australians should be on their guard.

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


THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

PARLIAMENT HAS A CALLING HIGHER THAN CATCALLING

THE word "miaoued" is, apart from being one of the few seven-letter words to contain all five vowels, distinctive in that it is not often uttered within the walls of federal Parliament. But happen, it did, and let the record show: Senator David Bushby (Lib. Tas): (Makes sound of cat).

This feline impersonation might not have occurred in the Senate or the House of Representatives, but it was still in public, during a Senate economics committee hearing on Wednesday, and, worse, directed at a woman, Finance Minister Penny Wong. The matter that provoked this catcall — an argument between Senator Wong and Coalition senators about the appearance of a witness — has already receded to Hansard; the reverberations from Senator Bushby's unwarranted hissy-fit will take longer to fade away.

Senator Wong's reaction to Senator Bushby was immediate and (considering the circumstances) appropriate: "Oh yes, why don't you meow when a woman does that? That's a good idea," she said. ". . . the blokes are allowed to yell, but if a woman stands her ground you want to make that kind of comment; it's sort of schoolyard politics, mate." Later, Senator Bushby apologised on Twitter and then to Senator Wong. But, by then, the miaow matter was under discussion in another place, during question time, when Tanya Plibersek, Minister for Human Services and Social Inclusion, criticised such sexist language and peeved the opposition, which suggested proceedings return to weightier concerns, such as the economy.

It must be said Ms Plibersek had a good point. Indeed, as she said the next morning on ABC Radio, pejorative words such as "bitch, witch, frump, harridan [are] used only against women. Used to stop women making a strong point in argument, and that's what bothers me." Certainly, these terms do not belong in any parliament that respects the dignity of debate — well, sometimes — and stands up for social and gender equality in the wider community. Parliaments are there to lead by example, not indulge in sexist cat-and-dog fights.


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

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

THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

GLOBALISATION: SPINNING INTO REVERSE

Putting the brakes on international integration is no longer as far-fetched as propelling away from the planet

The self-proclaimed grown-ups of New Labour parodied anyone airing anxiety about globalisation as making a childish demand: "Stop the world, I want to get off!" Putting the brakes on international integration is no longer as far-fetched as propelling away from the planet. For better or – quite possibly – for worse, it is happening. A few days before Russia responded to the E coli scare with a heavy-handed bar on all sorts of European vegetable imports, the cheeriest thing America's top trade official could find to say about the Doha round was that he was not ready to read the last rites over its corpse. Meanwhile, the collapsing global carbon market is a reminder that – outside Europe, at least – no multilateral solution has been found to the most multilateral problem of the lot.

The European Union remains the single outstanding example of integration across borders, and yet here too the centrifugal force of national sovereignty is pulling afresh. Across its north the establishment is being battered at the ballot box by populists who resent bailing out the south. Meanwhile, those southerners imagined to be benefiting from northern largesse take to the streets of Athens and Lisbon to rage against the strangulatory strings attached to the money. The victors of Versailles once ordered Germany to starve itself into surplus, but today it is Germany that safeguards repayment of every last euro of bank debt by pushing pain on to Mediterranean taxpayers. Within the single currency, a cash-strapped periphery cannot devalue to boost exports and rebalance the accounts. Serious commentators line up to explain that swallowing this noxious medicine will not work, and yet the continent's fractured politics determine that swallowed it must be. Further fracturing is the foreseeable result.

If the paper notes in their pockets are the most regular reminder of the fact of the union to most of its citizens, the freedom to cross borders at will is their most tangible right. This is not so for Britons, who live outside not just the eurozone but also the Schengen agreement, which axed the checkpoints between 22 EU states. But recently the agreement has been creaking as never before. While the French and the Italians have bickered over the free flow of Libyan refugees between them, the Danes have moved to reinstall controls and met only minimal resistance from their partners. Perhaps others are planning to go the same way. A continental comeback for passports, the defining documentary expression of national separateness, could reduce Jean Monnet's vision – of a Europe that would not merely "coalesce states" but also "unite men" – into a passing dream.

Even before the slump, growing discomfort with diversity – both across an expanding union and between its communities – was making Europeans newly prone to hunker down into their nations. A sweeping new assessment of the continent's drift, David Marquand's The End of the West, concludes that after federalists sought to take the politics out of their project, politics is now having its revenge. Without truly cross-border parties, there is no connection between the discourse of the election campaigns that voters experience and what happens in Brussels. Whatever their misgivings about their own politicians, publics prefer to trust leaders whom they know how to sack if they have to. Marquand proposes a shot of democracy for the centre, through the direct election of the European council's president.

Like federalism in general, that suggestion is unfashionable. But officials and capitalists who had hoped to create a new international order by stealth are discovering that they can't. The only way to continue the mission is to secure legitimacy from the people, messy as that may be. Otherwise, the present age of globalisation could go the way of the previous one, which ended in 1914. Pro-trade technocrats would then find themselves pleading: "Stop the world, I want to get back on."

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


THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

SALE OF THE TOTE: HIGH STAKES

For all its familiarity, this year's Derby day marks the end of a long, beneficial partnership

Upwards of a hundred thousand people will gather on Epsom Downs today for the Investec Derby, one of the world's great horse races. Even for those who cannot make it, the 232nd Derby remains a splendid national excursion, a day of picnics and punters and the Queen cheering on her horse in (another) attempt to become the first reigning monarch since 1909 to own the winner.

But for all its familiarity, this year's Derby day marks the end of a long, beneficial partnership. The Tote was founded in 1928 by chancellor (and ex-cavalry officer) Winston Churchill to generate money for the racing industry, a move justified in a world where traditionalists still thought the horse had a role in warfare. Although its contribution to racing was overshadowed later by the levy introduced on all betting, the Tote still invests millions each year in racecourses and what has become the multimillion-pound racing industry. Now it is to be sold, in an operation that – while it might matter less – looks as ill-thought-through as many of the coalition's other essays in privatisation.

The government could have learned from Labour's decade of frustrated attempts to shed this accidental anomaly. The Tote has always existed in its own corporate limbo, so in order to sell it off, first it had to be nationalised. By the time that had been achieved, the financial crisis had erupted and the idea of raising money from a sale was abandoned, only to be eagerly seized upon last year by incoming ministers in their search for cuts. But they have found it no easier to handle than Labour did. It has had to promise that racing will receive half the estimated £200m proceeds of the sale, and last month it was still working on a model that would generate as much cash for the industry while retaining an appeal to commercial investors. Yesterday, after a series of missed deadlines, it finally emerged that its preferred bidder is to be Fred Done's Betfred, a fast-growing betting-shop chain that had pledged £120m of income to racecourses. But the racing industry, which preferred the rival Sporting Investment Partnership chaired by Sir Martin Broughton, the former boss of the British Horseracing Board, will look askance at a company whose motive, they believe, is the Tote's chain of 500-plus betting shops rather than the industry itself, while workers at the Tote's Wigan HQ will wonder what it means for their jobs.

Most of the Epsom racegoers will be unaware of the long, muddled saga of Tote privatisation. But it has been another example of the Whitehall tendency to decide on an end without considering the means. And, as so often, it will only be after the gamble fails to pay off that voters will ask what has been done in their names.

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

 


THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

UNTHINKABLE? HORRIBLE HEROES

Most people's villains can be unconditional heroes to others: Gaddafi, for instance, and Mladic

Controversy lurks where you least expect it: in, for instance, 11 across in Tuesday's Guardian quick crossword. The clue was: "Hero of Wuthering Wuthering Heights"; the solution, "Heathcliff". "Since when," our reader Marilyn Chorley Clegg of Carshalton objected, "is a wife-beater, kidnapper and property thief a 'hero'?" The answer to that, perhaps regrettably, is: since the beginning of time. In some contexts, certainly, a hero or heroine is a person of moral character whom we should all wish to emulate. But in others the hero is more an epic protagonist, a prime mover in great events. Thomas Carlyle, in his lectures on heroes and hero-worship, assembled a team whose members might also have set off dismay in Carshalton. First up was Odin, an addict of war, able to start them simply by throwing his spear, and a scandalously promiscuous progenitor – quite apart from the fact that (like Heathcliff) he never existed. Nor are Oliver Cromwell and Napoleon Bonaparte, Carlyle's choices in the category "hero as king", figures on whom most parents would want their children to model themselves. One of England's most lauded heroes is Robin Hood; yet he too was a blatant property thief. Most people's villains can be unconditional heroes to others: Gaddafi, for instance, and Mladic. Even Florence Nightingale had her detractors, while Joan of Arc was possibly mad. If the wild, the wilful and even the downright wicked were barred from admission, the pantheon of heroes would be a poor, shrivelled place.

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


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

THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MR. KAN'S TRICKY PROMISE

What happened Thursday in the Diet — a vote on a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Naoto Kan in the Lower House — will further deepen people's distrust of lawmakers at home and tarnish Japan's image abroad. The motion did lead, however, to Mr. Kan's vague pledge to resign in the near future, without specifying when. The noisy theater surrounding the motion must have strengthened the impression that Japan's lawmakers are interested only in jockeying for position in a power game.

Lawmakers appeared to have forgotten the sober fact that more than 15,000 people died and some 8,300 others went missing in the March 11 quake and tsunami; that nearly 100,000 people are still staying in temporary shelters, away from their homes; and that people in Fukushima Prefecture live with the fear of exposure to radiation from the nuclear accidents at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Mr. Kan survived the motion by a wide margin — 293 votes were against it and 152 votes for it — but his political base has weakened. He must tackle in earnest the task of alleviating the sufferings of disaster and nuclear crisis victims as well as of carrying out reconstruction of the Tohoku coastal region.

The no-confidence motion was submitted by the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan), a minor opposition party. They tried to pull Mr. Kan from power by taking advantage of a political struggle within the Democratic Party of Japan between Mr. Kan and former DPJ chief Ichiro Ozawa.

The fact is that those three parties had no concrete plan for taking over power in case the motion was passed. In this sense, they were irresponsible. It would also be difficult for people to get the impression that they are making serious efforts to help the sufferers from the disasters and the nuclear crisis and to push the reconstruction. While in power, the LDP and Komeito pushed nuclear power.

But the person most responsible for the political confusion is Mr. Kan. While he has to strengthen his party vis-a-vis the opposition camp, he has placed priority on consolidating his own power, rather than on securing party unity.

He destroyed the party unity by taking a disciplinary step against Mr. Ozawa over his alleged involvement in irregularities in political fund record keeping. The lack of party unity caused by Mr. Kan's move has had a lasting negative effect on the DPJ and the DPJ government led by him.

The LDP and the two other parties apparently tried to make use of this division within the DPJ for their advantage. Mr. Ozawa on his part tried to take advantage of the opposition's move.

Mr. Kan's performance after the March 11 disaster is far from satisfactory. Compared with the case of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, Mr. Kan has been slow in his efforts to stabilize the life of disaster victims and reconstruct the devastated areas. He has not yet succeeded in setting up a system that can effectively deal with the nuclear crisis at Fukushima No. 1.

Important information about the crisis has been often hidden. His and his aides' communication with Tepco has been so poor that conflicting information has been released, deepening people's worries and distrust.

Worse, he did not seem to be serious about solving problems faced by the devastated areas. He originally planned to submit the second supplementary budget for fiscal 2011, which will fund the reconstruction efforts, to the next Diet session to be convened in August or later — an incredibly slow action in view of the suffering of people in northeastern Japan.

As late as Wednesday, the day the no-confidence motion was submitted, he expressed his readiness to extend the current Diet session so that the Diet can discuss the extra budget.

Mr. Kan also said that if the motion was passed, he would dissolve the Lower House for snap elections, instead of resigning. When it is clear that elections cannot be held in the devastated areas, what sane leader would say such a thing?

This shows that he is only serious about clinging to power. In fact, local elections to be held in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures in and after June have been postponed to September.

On Thursday morning, the possibility appeared high that the no-confidence motion would be passed since Mr. Ozawa and former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had expressed their support for the motion.

The support for the motion among many DPJ lawmakers waned only after Mr. Kan dropped a hint to DPJ lawmakers that he would resign when it becomes certain that efforts to solve the problems caused by the March 11 disaster and the nuclear crisis will be smoothly implemented. Even so, two voted for it and Mr. Ozawa and 14 others abstained.

Mr. Kan should not use his vague commitment to resignation as a means of prolonging his political life. He already hinted at staying in office for at least several more months. He must prove his sincerity at least by making strenuous efforts to secure quick passage of a basic bill for the reconstruction and a bill for issuing bonds that cover some 40 percent of the outlays of the initial 2011 budget.

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


THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS AND THE ARAB SPRING

BY CHRISTOPHER R. HILL

DENVER — U.S. President Barack Obama's speech on the ongoing popular uprisings in the Middle East, followed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent visit to Washington, was intended to kick off a renewed effort to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Things are not turning out as planned.

Instead, Netanyahu took the opportunity of Obama's address to emphasize his own well-documented opposition to a two-state solution based on a return to the pre-1967 borders. He chose not to address either the issue of using those borders as a starting point for negotiations, or Obama's idea of land swaps (a very common element of international peace negotiations) as the means to get from that starting point to the end game.

Netanyahu's response to Obama's initiative signaled what has been apparent for some time: the complex regional process known as the Arab Spring, and the eve of a U.S. presidential election year, are difficult circumstances in which to try to re-start the peace process. As Netanyahu's statements suggested, the Israelis have some serious concerns: if the basic equation remains after all "land for peace," just who will their interlocutors be after the dust has settled in the Arab world?

This troubled moment is an appropriate occasion to ask some fundamental questions about the peace effort itself, a process whose length in years is beginning to span the lifetimes of some of the people engaged in it. The elements of an eventual settlement have been known for years: the creation of a viable Palestinian state — a goal endorsed by the last two U.S. presidents — together with secure borders for Israel, some arrangement on Jerusalem, and an economic package. If these components were boxed and sold as a parlor game, those playing it would not find creating Middle East peace especially challenging. Yet, for decades, neither the parties nor any of the many peace mediators have been able to claim the prize. Now that a raucous regional situation is being joined to a raucous American election season (where no issue is excluded from the political arena), the task of assembling these components will be even more difficult.

It is too early to assess the historical effect of the Arab Spring, but if there is one conclusion that can be drawn today, it is that Israel and its Palestinian neighbors had little to do with it. For Americans (and others) who believe that the Arab world thinks about nothing but the Palestinian cause, events this spring in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and even the Levant should have convinced them otherwise.

In the months ahead, we can expect the region's countries to remain focused on issues of governance and capacity building, human rights and how to create economies that respond to their restive citizens' demands for a better life. New Arab leaders will struggle mightily with the public's rising expectations, and their willingness to get behind a peace process will take a backseat to that struggle.

Thus, an argument could be made that during this delicate time of transition, and in the complete absence of any indication of progress, the peace process might well benefit — at least for the time being — from stalemate, if not benign neglect.

When nothing is moving in the right direction, the most appropriate step might be to press the pause button. Here, everyone needs to tread with care. There has been considerable discussion about how regional developments could eventually affect the peace process. For example, any leadership in Egypt must deal with more democratic internal structures (such as parliamentary committees) in the future. But the absence of a peace process could also eventually influence internal developments in Middle East countries undergoing reform. We should not ignore how the absence of a peace process could ultimately erode the fragile (and by no means universal) gains in the rest of the Arab world. If the peace process does not exist, the resulting vacuum might tempt some in the Arab world to deal with the problem of rising economic expectations — and, alas, dashed political expectations — through old-fashioned anti-Israel demagoguery.

One of the most hopeful and refreshing aspects of the Arab Spring has been the retreat of Arab radicalism in the face of real people anxious to address real problems. But the absence of a peace process could encourage its return. So policymakers are facing difficult challenges.

It is critical to respond to the Arab Spring with assistance that is commensurate to the movement's historical possibilities. The Obama administration's efforts in Egypt, as well as the G8's proposals for what needs to be done for the region as a whole, signals that international leaders understand that this is a defining moment.

But this recognition won't be enough. World leaders must help the battered peace process pick itself up from the canvas, clear its head, and fight on.

Christopher R. Hill is a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and chief US negotiator with North Korea from 2005-2009. © 2011 Project Syndicate

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


THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE CAUCASIAN DARK CIRCLE

BY ANDREI PIONTKOVSKY

MOSCOW — The Russian authorities have recently begun showing off the massive security measures being implemented ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. They have good reason to be worried — and not only for the safety of athletes and spectators.

The violence in the North Caucasus is becoming less a serious regional conflict and more an existential threat to the entire Russian Federation — an evolution that reflects almost all of the mistakes, failures, and crimes of the post-Soviet leadership.

Two horrific wars with local separatists, from 1994-1996 and from 1999- 2006, have been fought over Chechnya, presumably to secure Russia's territorial integrity. We Russians fought these wars in order to demonstrate to the Chechens that they, too, were citizens of Russia. We did so by destroying their cities and villages with artillery shells and aerial bombardment, and we abducted and killed civilians, their bodies often bearing evidence of torture. It should surprise no one that the Chechens, and other peoples of the Caucasus, do not feel very Russian.

In reality, Russia has lost the war against the Chechen separatists. The winner was Ramzan Kadyrov, one of the field commanders in the fighting. Ostensibly, he is an appointee of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, but in reality he is virtually independent of the Kremlin, which pays him substantial financial support, not only for his formal declaration of loyalty, but also for his public embrace of Putin.

The war against separatism in the North Caucasus has now evolved into the war against Islamic fundamentalism. Ignited by the violence of the Chechen wars, Islamic-sponsored terrorism has spread widely in the region, as Russian policies, similar to those during the Chechen war, increase the number of Islamists.

President Dmitri Medvedev, for example, regularly calls for extremists to be "burned to ashes," and for terrifyingly broad punishment, including of those "washing linen and preparing soup for terrorists." Given the morality of federal forces (or the lack thereof), Medvedev should have understood that such rhetoric could result only in a significant increase in brutality and extrajudicial killings all over the North Caucasus.

The resulting mayhem has served only to spawn new suicide bombers willing to bring fresh terror to Russia's heartland. Indeed, the paradox today is that Islamists seem to be losing influence in the Arab world while strengthening their position in the North Caucasus, where the Kremlin has fought a 12-year war without understanding the scope of the tragedy taking place — a civil and ethnic war for which the Kremlin itself bears significant responsibility.

After all, the tribute that the Kremlin pays Kadyrov and the corrupted elites of the other Caucasian republics has purchased palaces and gold pistols for men who are driving the region's young, unemployed, and disadvantaged down the path of Islamic revolution.

Across the Caucasus, a generation has grown up absolutely lost to Russia — and increasingly susceptible to recruitment into the ranks of Allah's warriors. A nearly unbridgeable mental gap now separates Russians and Caucasian young people. Young Muscovites march carrying banners that read "F*ck the Caucasus!" Young Caucasians, perceiving themselves as a winning side in the Northern Caucasus, behave in increasingly provocative and aggressive ways on the streets of Russian cities. In the hearts and minds of people, Russians and Caucasians are becoming increasingly alienated from each other.

But neither the Kremlin nor its North Caucasian allies are ready for formal separation. The former remains wedded to its phantom imperial illusions about a "zone of privileged interests" extending far beyond Russia's borders, while the latter, starting with Kadyrov, rule as independent autocrats happy to accept handouts from the Russian state budget. The irony is that, like the Kremlin and its allies, the Islamists do not want to separate. They dream about a Caliphate that would include much more of the Russian Federation than the North Caucasus.

Recently, Medvedev convened a large public meeting in Vladikavkaz. He accused anonymous enemies (his anonymous "they" presumably included Western governments) of pursuing an agenda to destroy Russia, and he encouraged his security officials to push back.

In Medvedev's mental universe, savage reprisals today will somehow turn the North Caucasus into a zone of international ski tourism tomorrow. That is not likely to happen. The day after Medvedev's departure from Vladikavkaz, terrorists blew up the ski lifts at the resort in Nalchik, not far from Sochi, where, for Russia, much more than winning medals will be at stake in 2014.

Andrei Piontkovsky is a Russian political scientist and a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington. © 2011 Project Syndicate

 

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


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

THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

PRESTIGIOUS AWARD FOR FAUZI

We congratulate Governor Fauzi Bowo for the international community's recognition of his anti-tobacco campaign. However, he still has to do more to increase public awareness of the dangers of cigarette smoke and other air pollutants in the capital.


The first tobacco legislation was issued in 2005 when the city, under Fauzi's predecessor Sutiyoso, issued a bylaw on air pollution control. Several supporting regulations have been issued since. Unfortunately, they have not been able to significantly free public places from cigarette smoke.


The latest anti-smoking regulation was a 2011 gubernatorial regulation issued by Fauzi, which totally bans people from smoking inside public buildings. Under the regulation, building managers are prohibited from providing smoking areas inside their buildings.


"Many [Indonesian] cities have issued anti-smoking regulations, but Jakarta initiated the campaign. Currently, the Jakarta government is struggling to free the city from cigarette smoke," World Health Organization representative to Indonesia Khanchit Limpakarjanarat said at an event to commemorate Tobacco Free Day at City Hall last Sunday.


We do not question whether the governor and the city deserve to receive such an award. But we have to say that the efforts to free Jakarta or at least its public places, from cigarette smoke still needs stronger commitment from relevant parties.

The media reported recently that building managers were still reluctant to abide by the regulations — operators of cafés, restaurants and entertainment centers are still afraid of losing their smoking customers, while many people are still free to smoke in train stations, bus terminals and inside public transportation vehicles.

We are aware that the job of anti-smoking campaigners is surely not easy in a country that is home to many large cigarette producers, including international brands, and the fact remains that smoking has become a habit for a large number of the people, including minors.

The essence of the anti-smoking legislation — no smoking in public places — is to protect non-smokers, including children, from second-hand smoke. Unfortunately, they are still unprotected because of widespread violations of the smoking ban. It is a strong indication that the regulation is still toothless against violators.

The job of Fauzi and relevant officials is to guarantee that existing regulations are imposed, with the laws upheld and the violators punished.

Meanwhile, other anti-tobacco campaigners have to continue their efforts to make people aware of the danger of tobacco smoke.

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


THE JAKARTA POST

CRITICAL THINKING EDUCATION PROTECTS US FROM RADICALISM

PAUL SUPARNO

Recently some radical groups have emerged in Indonesia such as the Islamic State of Indonesia (NII) movement and other groups that use terrorism to achieve their goals.

They usually put bombs in some public areas, so many people become afraid and the situation will
be chaotic. The most interesting thing is that those groups recruit students, either high school or university students.

Why are some students involved in radical groups? Is there any way to protect students from radical influences? What should schools and universities do to help those students?

There are many reasons why some students join radical groups. One important reason is that those students don't think critically. They never think critically about ideas or influences from outside.

They never critically evaluate the vision and mission of the groups, what their goals are or whether their goals are good or not. They rarely ask questions about the new movements.

Some students do not think critically because in schools they have never been taught to think critically on some subjects. Most schools and universities don't provide situations or media for discussion and criticize new ideas and ideologies.

Usually they have to follow the will of teachers without question. It is not surprising that some students like to obey.

Some students have no idea about the groups, especially radical groups. Schools and universities rarely help students understand groups Indonesia or in the world. They don't know which groups are good and which are not.

There is no opportunity to discuss and talk critically about such groups. So their minds are narrow. They cannot be critical about those groups as they don't know them.

Some students have no convictions or belief that pluralism is a good value for Indonesia. They have no strong beliefs, either according to their religions or ideologies, that Indonesia is a pluralistic country, comprised of many religions, cultures and ethnicities.


Because of that, when someone asks them to kill someone because their ideology is different, they will easily follow.

It seems that Pancasila and religious lectures have no effect on some students. For a long time in some schools, Pancasila, as a state ideology, has not been taught well.

Students are still unaware that as a nation we have one ideology, Pancasila. They don't know deeply what Pancasila is and how the spirit of Pancasila can be applied in their lives.

Many students that are involved in radical groups are quiet, alone in their schools, may be discriminated against and may not be honored as people. So they are not proud of their lives.

Those students need friends, but schools do not provide anything to help them. So when there is someone who approaches them and asks them to join his/her group, they easily follow.

One important thing is to help students become more critical of other ideas or influences from outside. Students should be taught and trained to think critically, and always ask whether some outside influences are good or not. Schools and universities should provide training and experiences for students to express their ideas or opinions.

Students should be allowed to discuss and criticize all the ideologies and movements. By discussing them, they will know the good and the bad aspects of the movement. An open forum for discussion about several radical groups should be provided in schools and universities.

It is time for schools to teach and explain some radical groups, ideologies, or movement that have happened in the world history.

They have to know and analyze them clearly. If they know what the specific character of some groups is and what is the effect is on society, I think students will be more critical if someone tries to attract them.

In the old days, we were always afraid to analyze some radical groups or the ideologies that were contrary to Indonesian ideology.

For example, we were not allowed to teach and discuss communist ideology. I think the method is not right, because if students do not know them, they will easily be attracted; but if they know exactly the movement with some negative effect, they will become more critical.

Pancasila and religion lectures in schools and universities should be evaluated. Teachers and lectures in those subjects should change their methods so students will understand that we need to honor and accept other people into our one nation.

In those lectures, we have to emphasize that we are one family that was created by one God to live and work together.

We can learn our special belief deeply but it is also important to know that we are one family and are all human beings. By those methods we hope that students become more friendly and will not want to join radical movements that will place other people in danger.

The students who join radical movements usually have no friends in school. They also are not open to their family about the new group that they joined. Even society doesn't know what they are doing.

So it is time for school to provide a good situation and good friendship for students, teachers and principals. Students should know each other, and if there are students
who are alone, friends should meet them and talk.

Teachers also can be more active in talking with them. It is also good if parents communicate with their sons, so if the sons are attracted by radical groups, they will dare to talk.

A culture of individualism should be minimized in schools and universities. The most important thing is that in schools students should not be discriminated against. They should be accepted as people and be free to express their ideas.

I hope students will think more critically and become more critical in analyzing outside ideology, so they will be not easily attracted by the radical groups.

The writer is a lecturer at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta.

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


THE JAKARTA POST

WHEN IT COMES TO CLIMATE CHANGE, WE HAVE NO PLANET B

WARIEF DJAJANTO BASORIE

You have a plan. It does not work. You switch to plan B. When it comes to climate change and the worst possible damage affects our Earth, we have no planet B to move to.

"There is no planet B" is the title of a British Council pamphlet on climate change programs that the Indonesia office of the London-based education and culture-promoting institute has in place.

The British Council was one of more than 20 participants in the first-ever Indonesia Climate Change Education Forum and Expo at the Jakarta Convention Hall on May 26-29. The National Council on Climate change (DNPI) hosted the forum which had the theme "A call to cope with the climate crisis".

Indeed, local and central government offices, private firms, environment NGOs, media outlets, international organizations and foreign embassies participated in answering that call. Many school-age children came to listen and learn. For the non-expert, the forum was a copious clearinghouse of current information on climate change.

DNPI, for instance, distributed a single, A4-sized flow chart explaining the impact of climate change in Indonesia on seven levels.

Human activity in the use of fossil fuels and changing land-use practices produce greenhouse gas
emissions, particularly carbon dioxide. That in turn causes the greenhouse effect.

The greenhouse effect causes global warming which brings about climate change indicated by a change in rainfall patterns, an increase in temperature, and rise in the level of seawater. These three climate change indicators have impacts.

Climate change impact would affect health, agriculture, forests, social-economic activities, water resources, the coastline and the seas, species and their natural habitat, the flow chart explained.

The reverse side of the information sheet advised on five things individuals can do to reduce global warming and climate change: less use of electricity for home lighting, unplugging electric appliances when not in use, not making air conditioning cooler than necessary, reducing plastic bag use, and separating organic and non-organic waste. The sheet ends with an exhortation: do it now!

Another DNPI pamphlet explained the role of the forests and the REDD program in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. .

Meanwhile, the skin lotion company The Body Shop gave out a carbon wheel that showed users how they could calculate their carbon output. You are an office worker using 10 sheets of paper on a given work day. You have burned 2,270 grams of carbon dioxide.

At home, your kitchen produces one kilogram of organic waste. This results in 1.12 grams of CO2. You drive to work. For every one kilometer of travel, you emit 14.6 grams of carbon. Like the DNPI flow chart sheet, the carbon wheel suggested tips on how you could reduce your carbon emissions.

The Norwegian embassy stand had a Q&A sheet explaining the working of the US$1 billion Indonesian-Norwegian REDD+ partnership signed on May 26, 2010 in Oslo.

It answered nine frequently asked questions the embassy gets, from why Norway chose Indonesia to give the money to whether Norway had any qualms that the funds might be squandered due to corruption.

For that last question the answer is Indonesia had "a good record" in managing the US$7 billion from foreign donors to rehabilitate and reconstruct Aceh and Nias after the devastating 2004 tsunami.

"The principle of good governance will similarly be applied for the special agency that will be established to manage the development and implementation of REDD+ in Indonesia," the Norwegian embassy handout said.

Of equal interest was the British Council's C4C (Climate for Classrooms) program now covering 90 schools in 15 provinces. Teachers and pupils can find Internet-based C4C material in id.climate4classrooms.org. An English version is in www.climate4classrooms.org.

Visitors can access modules from what is climate change to what the future holds. Teachers can find a lesson plan. Climate generation mentors from local environment NGOs or community groups participate in the teach-and-learn exchange.

Engaging people in climate change when they are still children should be the rule as there is no planet B for their future and their children. Children outside Jakarta should benefit too with a C2C (city to city) education forum and expo road show.

The writer teaches journalism at the Dr Soetomo Press Institute (LPDS) in Jakarta.

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


THE JAKARTA POST

NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT: THE WAY FORWARD

YAYAN GH MULYANA

Indonesia hosted a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, in Bali recently. The meeting discussed a wide range of issues of common concern and agreed on some important outcomes. The meeting also marked the 50th anniversary of the movement.

At 50 years old, NAM is one of the oldest post-war international forums founded at the height of the Cold War. It survived the Cold War and charted a different avenue for inter-state relations, and continued to exist and play a role in the post-Cold War era.

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been unanimity among its members about the persistent relevance of the movement. Indonesia affirmed this unrelenting pertinence when it chaired the movement in 1992, and reaffirmed it consistently at many past meetings including the recent ministerial meeting.

Some quarters outside the Movement, however, have expressed doubts about the movement's significance. Some said that NAM was nothing but a Cold War relic. Others said NAM represented the interests of only some its member countries.

All NAM members have often been dragged along by the interests of a few member countries that are more outspoken and assertive than others. For this reason, the late ambassador Richard Holbrooke urged African countries to break away from the Movement.

Before he left his post as the US Representative to the UN in New York in January 2001, Holbrooke said the NAM did not serve the interests of Africa.

From a standpoint of membership, the question of relevance no longer casts doubt. At the ministerial meeting in Bali, NAM members included 120 countries, with Fiji and Azerbaijan recently joining.

Although NAM does not have institutional formality like other post-war institutions such as the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions, or NATO, remarkably it has managed to collaborate and make a lot of achievments through consensus. This is one of the NAM strengths.

As NAM is entering the 21st century, it is facing new realities both inside and outside. While NAM comprises least developed and developing nations, many of its member countries are now emerging, such as Indonesia itself.

Their power on the global stage is increasing, both economically and politically. This will certainly be an asset to the movement.

But, will the movement survive and be able to shape the future in another 50 years?

It will, if first it diversifies its leadership. Since 1961, NAM's chair has been decided on a geographically rotating basis. So far, four countries in Asia have assumed the chairmanship position (Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and Malaysia) and Iran is set to chair it in 2012; six countries from Africa (the United Arab Emirates, Zambia, Algeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa and now Egypt), one from Europe (Yugoslavia — twice), and two from Latin America (Cuba, Colombia and Cuba again).

NAM's chairmanship and leadership needs to go beyond this pattern. NAM may wish to anticipate the fact that in the future, Chile, Jordan, Singapore or Vietnam or elsewhere should chair and lead the Movement if they wish to do so. Diversity in leadership will enrich NAM with traditions in governance.

Second, greater visibility in solving global problems is another important element of NAM's constant relevance. Critical to this visibility is leaders' innovation in finding solutions.

The chair of the movement may wish to use good offices or advisory offices, leader's missions, leader's special envoys, leader's sherpa, ad-hoc task forces, confidence-building missions, or contact groups in helping resolve global and regional conflicts and disputes.

The present situations in Libya, North Africa and the Middle East, and of course the protracted Arab-Israel conflict, seem to call for such initiatives.

Critical to the external relations and global contribution of NAM and its member countries is a realistic and pragmatic approach guided by principles, in particular the Bandung Principles. Those principles are the soul of the Movement that distinguish NAM from other cooperation arrangements.

Third, it is important for NAM to make more deriverables in the future, both in dispute settlements among its members and meeting their economic and development needs. Conflicts and disputes still take place within and between some NAM member countries.

Poverty remains a serious matter in many NAM countries. When compounded by conflicts that are fuelled by illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, freeing peoples from wants becomes a very daunting task.

NAM needs to go beyond conference room deliberations in catering to the fundamental needs of the peoples of its members. It needs to go beyond the lengthy and thick final documents that are traditionally adopted at the end of a NAM Summit or ministerial meeting.

Fourth, NAM will need greater unity of voice in responding to future challenges. Unity of voice also reflects strong leadeship and strong cohesion of the movement.

When NAM member states speak with one voice, it will have a better chance to achieve a symmetrical result in its diplomacy.

Fifth, in the present and future world where government is no longer the only actor that decides the fate of NAM, the cause of the Movement will be strengthened when it enjoys unflagging support, let alone active participation, from its peoples.

Therefore, NAM might also wish to explore greater contribution of business sector and civil society groups from each of its member countries for the enhancement of NAM cooperation.

And sixth, to support all the conditions mentioned above, unrelenting efforts to improve NAM's working methods — from Cartagena methodology to the post-Zimbali reform, are essential.

Indonesia's chairmanship of NAM in 1992 laid the foundation for better working methods so that the movement could be well calibrated in the wake of the post-Cold War era. The 21st century sets a stage for more effectice and efficient NAM methodology.

A new generation of NAM is about to emerge as the 21st century is unfolding. It is carrying with it new hopes and new challenges.

All NAM's member countries are called upon to ensure a seamless revival of the movement into the new century. I am fully confident that Indonesia and its role, as always, will remain pivotal to the renewed NAM.

The writer is assistant special staff to the President for international relations. The opinions expressed are personal.

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


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

DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

SRI LANKA NEEDS A TRUTH COMMISSION

 

Whatever is happening to the report of the experts' panel appointed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to advise him on accountability issues in Sri Lanka, whether the Rajapaksa regime accepts it or not, responds to it or not, May 2009 is now part of our history. However since then opposition critics and independent analysts locally and internationally ask whether the government has genuinely worked towards reconciliation with the minority communities and address the root causes of the bloody three-decade war. Amid pressure from Sri Lankan and international human rights groups, the Rajapaksa regime appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to probe and report on matters relating to both reconciliation and accountability. But the track record of most such high profile and highly publicized commissions is so bad that many might with valid reasons ask whether the report of this commission also will end up in the archives.

The ground reality is that thousands of people in the Wanni are still in camps or under tents having experienced the devastation of two monsoons in the aftermath of the war horror. The out spokesman Wimal Weerawansa being built up by the state media as the best housing minister is putting up quarters for the security forces personnel in the Wanni with building materials imported from China. While neighbouring India's offer to build 50,000 houses for the displaced people appears to be stuck in some geo political quagmire.

With preference being given for the construction of houses for military personnel in the North, we also saw week long celebrations to mark the military victory with a massive parade on May 27. These and other factors including the controversial move to give military style training to 10,000 new entrants to the universities have provoked local and international critics to ask whether priority is being given to militarization rather than the much-needed reconciliation, which would bring about lasting peace with justice. 

In the Thanthai Chelva memorial oration, TNA parliamentarian and top lawyer M.A. Sumanthiran, charged that the Rajapaksa regime had yet not taken practical steps to address the grievances and meet the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil-speaking people.

Instead of this we hear Minister Weerawansa proclaiming that the victories of May 2009 and the elimination of Velupillai Prabhakaran and the LTTE leadership have solved the problems of the minorities.

 Going by state media reports not only Minister Weerawansa but other government leaders and those who defend it also seem to believe that the May 2009 victory has solved the problems of the minorities though most independent analysts are of the view that we are in a post-war era and not in a post-conflict era.

They believe that if the conflict is not addressed urgently and  action taken Sri Lanka may end up again in a bigger bloody mess.

Sri Lanka needs to take a lesson from South Africa's Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu that lasting reconciliation cannot take place without accepting the truth.  For lasting peace there must be justice and for all this there must be the spirit of forgiveness.

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


DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

A JOURNALIST IS SILENCED

E-mailPrint

The killing of Syed Saleem Shahzad is brutal confirmation that Pakistan is the world's most hazardous place for journalists. According to the United States-based Committee to Protect Journalists, in the nine years since the abduction and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, 32 media professionals have met a violent end, 17 of them in targeted attacks for clear work-related motives. International pressure on Pakistan forced the pace in the investigation of the Pearl case in 2002. But in none of the other murders has anyone been brought to book. It was in this atmosphere of impunity that Shahzad went missing from a well-secured neighbourhood of Islamabad. Two days later, his body, bearing torture marks, surfaced 150 km away. In any conflict, the main threat to journalists is from armed actors, state and non-state. The situation in Pakistan is all the more dangerous given the blurred lines, and linkages, between the two. If the Inter-Services Intelligence is being seen as Suspect No. 1 in this case, it is not without reason. Eight months ago, the journalist who wrote about al-Qaeda and Taliban was summoned to the ISI headquarters for an interview - after he reported that Pakistan had released the Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Baradar, arrested earlier in 2010, to take part in talks. Shahzad notified friends about that meeting, detailing it in an email that he wanted publicised if anything untoward happened to him; he also confided that he had received death threats from ISI officials thrice in the last five years. It is significant that he went missing days after he reported that the Mehran Base attack was carried out in retaliation for a Pakistan Navy crackdown on al-Qaeda sympathisers in its ranks. There have been suggestions that Shahzad, the author of a new book on al-Qaeda, knew details of the Pakistani network that supported Osama bin Laden while he was sheltered in Abbottabad.

Pakistan's news media naturally see the Shahzad killing as an unambiguous attempt to intimidate them and silence dissent. The May 1 stealth attack by the U.S. to eliminate bin Laden, and the Mehran attack in which the Navy was savaged by home-grown terrorists, have seen the media shed their usual reluctance to challenge the military and the ISI. It should be natural for an investigation into Shahzad's killing to start with the ISI officials who interviewed him in October 2010. The Pakistani media community must insist on this in order to fix accountability for the journalist's killing. Else the enquiry ordered by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani will go the way of other such investigations, and the impunity will continue unchecked.

The Hindu

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


DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

COMPLAINTS AGAINST THE BAN KI MOON PANEL

I am totally perplexed to read the complaints of Jayantha Gunasekera, PC (DailyMirror, Saturday 28 May, 2011) against the Report to the UN by the Ban Ki-moon Panel.

He quotes Inga-Britt Ahlenius, "Under Secy General of the UN" in making a scathing attack on Ban Ki-moon's integrity which Gunasekera implies impugns the panel appointed by him. First Ahlenius, contrary to Gunasekera's claim, is a former Under Secretary General and her attacks lack the natural weight of a current Secretary General as Gunasekera wants to believe. More importantly, many people have made scathing attacks on HE Mahinda Rajapaksa. Do those attacks then, if we are to go by Gunasekera's reasoning, invalidate all appointments by the President such as of Supreme Court Justices, Bribery Commissioners and so on? No; these appointees stand on their own merit and integrity, not on the President's or UN Secretary General's. Let us therefore look at what Gunasekera says against the three individuals appointed to the
Panel.

Gunasekera's main charge against Marzuki Darusman is that he was a member of the International Group of Eminent Persons in 2009 observing the sittings at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry and withdrew alleging that the GOSL did not have the will to improve the human rights situation. Gunasekera argues that by this act Darusman has pre-judged and is a highly biased person.

It is an interesting reasoning for a lawyer to make. Several of our Supreme Court Justices have faulted the Government of Sri Lanka for violations of various laws. Does that fact make them unqualified to sit on further cases against the government? Most certainly not! Likewise Darusman's faulting the government in one instance does not disqualify him from looking into other matters with impartiality. Remember also that the Panel was not to hold an inquiry but only to determine courses of action the UN is to take or recommend. For that we do not need a person who is totally ignorant of Sri Lanka as some of us might perhaps expect of a judge or juror. In fact someone knowledgeable on Sri Lanka like Darusman is in a better position to advise the UN Secretary General.

Gunasekera's complaint against Steven Ratner is that he has been advisor to Human Rights Watch (HRW) which has constantly voiced concern against SL's military while, as Gunasekera alleges, downplaying the atrocities of the LTTE. I am sure that Gunasekera has advised several clients in his long career who have had conflicts between themselves. Did that prevent Gunasekera from giving them untainted advice? Giving advice to a particular party is not a sign of prejudice. I am sure Gunasekera as a PC has advised even outright crooks. Can we take that to his being sympathetic to the crooks to whom he gave legal advice?

Gunasekera's point against Yasmin Sooka is that she is the head of the Sooka Foundation which is said to have received millions from the European Union, which penalized Sri Lanka by withdrawing the GSP-Plus duty preferences for violations of human rights. But the Government of Sri Lanka continues to receive aid from the European Union. Our universities get generous grants as do many poor villagers through NGOs funded by the European Union. Are all of us disqualified then? Or is it only Sooka who should not take their money? Actually Gunasekera does not even say that the Sooka Foundation received funds from the European Union, it is merely "said to have" received funds.

Speaking of bias, one must note that according to news reports dated 24 April, Mr. Gunasekera proposed a resolution at the Executive Committee of the SL Bar Association on the 23rd of April 2011 condemning the report to the UN. His resolution was rejected outright on the grounds that the report had not been released and there were no grounds to condemn something they did not know anything about!

It seems that whatever facts Gunasekara will take only the position dictated by his genes. Writing in a Sunday paper, he condemns Navaneetham Pillai on the grounds she is a Tamil who has to side with Tamils because, "after all blood is thicker than water."

Once the report was released the Bar Association obligingly condemned it unanimously at meetings on 30 April and 7 May. According to news reports at least three Tamils, voted for this resolution. This disproves Gunasekera' theory about blood being thicker than water.

As citizens why do we fear an inquiry? On what facts did the Committee of
Vice Chancellors and Directors issue a declaration condemning the UN Report?

The fact that even those who knew better among the VCs, felt obliged to join the other VCs in this declamation shows the quality of these declamations from the highest quarters of our intellectual life.

S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

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


DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

"INCREASING WOMEN REPRESENTATION IN PARLIAMENT IS VITAL"

E-mailPrint

Kashmala Tariq member of Pakistan Parliament and women's rights activist who led a delegation of MPs to Sri Lanka recently said in an interview with Daily Mirror that both Sri Lanka and her own country should go ahead and tell the West that they have come a long way in achieving peace and managing gender issues. She also stressed for 30 percent women representation in Parliament of every country in the South Asian region.  Following are the excerpts of the interview.

Q: How do you evaluate your visit to Sri Lanka and talks with parliamentarians including the Speaker?

As you know I have been named for the chair of Commonwealth Parliamentary Union and four countries in the region including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and my own country Pakistan are backing my candidature. Therefore the main topic during my meeting with the Speaker and others were based on this. Speaker of Sri Lankan Parliament Chamal Rajapaksa assured me that Sri Lanka would support my candidature and therefore the talks were successful.

Q:During your visit did you have any interaction with Sri Lanka women politicians? If so what is your impression?

I met one opposition MP Chandrani Bandara and several male MPs including Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena and Ravi Karunanayake. Ms. Bandara and myself had something in common as she also felt that women representation in Parliament should be increased. Apart from that they said they will back my candidature just like their opponents in the Sri Lankan government.

Q:As a women's rights activist, how do you analyze the role of women play in various spheres in the two countries –Pakistan and Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka has come a long way in enabling the women to play a role in many spheres and even went on to the extent of appointing a women as the chief justice which is the highest position in the country's judiciary. Pakistan too had come a long way in appointing women in highest positions in the country. There are 70 women members in Parliament out 342 members. But both countries have to achieve more and increase the women representation in Parliament. However women in Pakistan are successfully competing with men in any given field.  Even Pakistan has to go further in having 30 percent women representation in Parliament to meet the standard fixed by the CPU and UN.

Q:What kind of approach should be made by the SAARC countries to address the gender issues?

The most important thing is to increase the women representation in Parliament. Both the UN and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union are of the view that there should be 30 percent women representation in Parliament. Therefore every country in the region has to achieve this. Besides each country should have 50 /50 for men and women when it comes to rights and in the participation of each country's decision making process.

Q:Can you compare and contrast approaches made by individual countries in this case in the region. ?

All the countries in the region including India and the Maldives have come a long way in dealing with women rights. Women are represented in decision making bodies in each of these countries and it is increasing. This is a positive move

Q:Sri Lanka is now in post war period. In that context, how have bilateral relations between these two countries evolved?

Pakistan and Sri Lanka had enjoyed a long friendship in many sectors including culture, trading and in politically. We have to maintain this relationship and strengthen it further

Q:What are the areas which you have identified as ones to be focued more?

It is trading. Both countries have to increase trade relationship and have more of this going between the countries. I am sure this would be achieved in the time to come as you have potential now as the country is enjoying peace. We must also have to talk about the psychological factor which had taken the people of our countries out of fear. We have to highlight this fact. This is a fact when it comes to women's rights too and the world should be aware of this.

Q:Pakistan and Sri Lanka were gripped by terrorism. What are the lessons both the countries should learn in this context?

When it comes to Sri Lanka it is enjoying peace. I am breathing freedom now. You can move about any where without the fear of bombs. In Pakistan we have made some progress in this regard. We women in Pakistan had come a long way and are involved in decision making processes despite the fear. Both countries should show the West that we had come a long way and had overcome the fear our people were gripped with in the past and that we are capable of achieving more.

Our head of state is in praise of your president who had achieved peace for the country. I am sure we have much to learn from your country.

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


DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

INDIA MUST APOLOGIZE TO SRI LANKA

Whilethe LTTE is blamed for carrying out 30 years of terror in Sri Lanka, the question that needs to be answered is who actually created this group, why was it created, for how long was it meant to exist and to what extent did the creators have actual control over their creation? India must now answer and India must now apologize for the thousands of people whose lives it has helped kill by aiding a terrorist organization.

When India originated the idea to start a freedom struggle in Sri Lanka, India did not invest in training, equipping and financially supporting the LTTE to have it wither away nor did India desire or plan to allow the LTTE to actually declare an Eelam. That was why India came down hard on the GOSL and demanded the release of Prabhakaran when he was cornered in Vadamarachchi. This was in 1987 and had Prabhakaran been caught at that time Sri Lanka would have not lost thousands of people that perished as a result of LTTE bombs and suicide missions. For all these deaths, India stands personally accountable.

 In planning for LTTE to prevail, India had all eventualities carefully thought out and it is within this web of deceit that other players came to be involved. For the West, the LTTE was a weapon to be used to forward their own agenda in the region. A foothold in Sri Lanka meant not only the possession of the economic gateway but it was a perfect place to destabilize India and to watch over China and Russia. Let us at all times remember that tomorrows economic power houses belong to the East. Which is why plenty of give and take prevailed allowing LTTE undue privileges merely because it was allowing itself to be prostituted for various reasons by various parties which explains how it came to have a profit of $300m annually through many illegal activities that the world powers were very much aware of but kept silent. Actions that were taken internationally were merely to show they remained committed to ending terror but it was not anything that had sincerities, otherwise why would terrorism be thriving today if terrorism does not have the in-direct support of powerful countries?

Prior to Rajiv Gandhi's assassination India's approach towards Sri Lanka was an aggressive one. All hallmarks of big bully tactics were evident…the harsh diplomatic statements, the parippu drops, the threats of landing Indian paratroopers and even the orders to free the cornered Prabhakaran in Vadamarachchi all showed Sri Lanka that. Having allowed the LTTE to exist and prevail, India knew that a change in stance especially when LTTE's strength was overpowering at one time making India realize that LTTE would invariably seek a defacto separate state. India then went on to draft the Norway brokered Ceasefire Agreement. It must be continuously reiterated that India at no given time in its conceptual idea of starting a freedom struggle in Sri Lanka to watching that struggle turn into a terror outfit, decided to allow a separate state to prevail. It must be reiterated to the Tamils who seem to think India will solve its "grievances" and help create a Tamil Eelam, India will do nothing of the kind. If so, India would have allowed Tamil Nadu to separate without quickly changing the constitution to deny any person/political party from attempting to separate from India no sooner several attempts to demand separatism was made in Tamil Nadu. Whatever "grievances" Tamils in Sri Lanka or Tamil Nadu or anywhere in the world put forward, India will never grant Tamil Eelam in either Sri Lanka and especially Tamil Nadu and that is what ALL Tamils must finally realize and finally accept. India will encourage renegades to a country's system like Prabhakaran because such detractors provide the basis for interfering in a country's internal affairs. That is why terrorism today is nothing but a business and not only India, the US, UK, EU nations and all other powerful countries are exploiting terrorism to advance their own interests.

 The reason why India continues to harp on implementing the 13th amendment is so that it can keep alive its hope of taking the Trincomalee harbour. Sri Lanka has the majority in parliament and the people desire to know why it does not annul the 13th amendment and do away with the provincial council system for it is not working and has not been working and is just wasting the taxpayer's money. Nothing in the 13th amendment has any benefit for the people and this was a constitutional change thrust upon us by India therefore it is the responsibility of the present Government to undo all the wrongs that has happened to Sri Lanka by India starting with the elimination of the 13th amendment.

India had the chance to show its sincerity if it did not support the LTTE by avenging the death of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 but India didn't.

What ordinary citizens cannot understand is the political games being played by politicians. If LTTE has done a crime why do these leaders not openly say so, accuse them by name and take actions. Escaping this role is what has led to delayed justice. When Lakshman Kadiragamar was killed by the LTTE without openly blaming the LTTE, then President Kumaratunga was quick to confirm that her Government would not stop talks with these killers! With such leaders of the past it is no wonder Sri Lanka failed to combat terrorism!

India needs to accept its role in allowing LTTE to prevail all these years. India must also accept accountability for all the people the LTTE killed. India must also accept its interference and apologize to Sri Lanka though that would be something India would think itself too proud to do but it is morally obliged to do so because in the eyes of the people of Sri Lanka, India will always remain no better than Prabhakaran and the LTTE and Sri Lanka will continue to press its leaders who will have to think of their own survival politically and take measures not to allow any Indian interference in Sri Lanka's future.

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


DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

APPOINT THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO OUR MISSIONS!

E-mailPrint

Appoint the right people

to our Missions!

Starting from late Minister  Anura Bandaranaaike then Rohitha Bogollagama to the infamous visit of the President we have seen a deterioration of our relations with the UK. Mr. President you must ensure that this situation doesn't continue in this manner, by making sure the right people are appointed to our missions abroad. You need to get your due place in the West. I get very angry when they criticize you on UK TV and no one defends you. These people are only furthering their egos at your expense and ruining this country. I am appealing to you; appoint bipartisan individuals to head the Missions, those with a good track record, and has the ability speak well and network well with all communities, who will have a direct line to you and can tell you the truth. Someone; who can manage the disinformation that is being spread and educate the people about the opportunities available in Sri Lank and get you your due recognition as an Asian Leader.

Please rise up to the challenge by appointing the right person at least now.

Palitha

Cramping hundreds of dogs is not providing shelter

I was shocked when I read that the Health Ministry wants to open a dog-sanctuary because at the time the KMC and the CMC were running dog-pounds we could see how the dogs were looked after there, these were real hell-holes for the dogs and the only good thing about them was that it was a limited period they had to suffer before they were killed in a cruel way. And what effect would it have on the dog-population of Anuradhapura, if a few hundred dogs are being locked up in this so-called sanctuary? The answer is: none. The dogs, which have been removed will be re-placed within a very short time because removing animals from a particular area creates a biological niche and other dogs will occupy it.

Two acres can hold maximum 300 dogs and even such a restricted amount has to be managed carefully, it needs thoughtfully constructed divisions and a lot of dog-lovers working as volunteers in place because paid labourers will not be able to manage the task. I say that because I have 60 perches and 60 dogs living with me and I cannot take in any more else it would become stress-full for the animals. 

Please don't think you can just throw any amount of dogs into a 2 acres compound and leave them to their own devices, they are companion animals and need our care. I am definitely not happy to see dogs living on the road, I think every dog should have a loving home, but cramping huge amounts of dogs into a restricted area is simply not possible unless your purpose is make them kill each other because you do not want to do it yourself.

 

Eva Ruppel

WOES OF SRI LANKA CRICKET

 

Can National Cricketers play IPL at the expense of a tour? At the end of the day all of us with our players have to answer our conscience which is the ultimate deciding factor. In other words was it right for those who did not join the team that left for England on tour to do so. For some of us Cricket is the stuff that is being played in Cardiff now and not the 50 overs or 20 overs game. Cricket is a game created in England for the English to watch in the Summer which spread to all the Commonwealth Countries initially. Therefore to my  mind those who created the 50 over and 20 over games have ruined the game and are also ruining  People. Last year a former Indian Under Secretary in New York turned Minister in New Delhi had to resign because of an IPL scandal. In the name of making the game popular please do not spoil the game and tempt People.

 Sydney Knight

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

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

GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

OF, BY AND FOR THE PEOPLE...  

BY PAUL BALLES

One of the most interesting stories in the history of the US involved Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address.

President Lincoln had a minor role in dedicating a cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for the burial of those who had died for the union in the American Civil War.

As is true of many wars, Lincoln had lost popularity as a result of the loss of lives. He was also given a short time to prepare his dedication speech.

After a two-hour oration by Edward Everett, Lincoln's address took only a few minutes devoted to maintaining support for the war.

Lincoln's moving address was completed in 10 powerful sentences beginning with: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

He then noted briefly their purpose in being there "to ... dedicate ...a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live".

Lincoln summed up his position by reminding his audience of "...the great task remaining before us - that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain".

His conclusion: "- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth".

President Barack Obama's presidential ideal has been Lincoln, the man who made famous the phrase "Of the people, by the people, for the people".

One can see why the author of that captivating rubric for a democracy would have endless appeal to Obama, a natural icon "of the people".

Obama is one of the few presidents not from the highest stratosphere of an elite oligarchy, but descendant from ordinary people.

"By the people" informed much of Obama's rhetoric that stimulated so many people to vote for him.

The appeal of his arguments and promises for change earned him the presidency.

Unfortunately, once he got into office, he no longer reflected a government "by the people".

The government, controlled by corporate barons, lobbies and Wall Street, devoured him.

Equally pernicious, Obama reneged on his promise of change to a government for the people.

The bailouts of his early days in office did not benefit the people. Help for homeowners whose mortgages were being foreclosed would have. Instead the help went to the financial institutions of Wall Street to save them.

The ideals of Lincoln's of, by and for the people and the unfulfilled promises of Obama have lessons to be learned.

These are the ideals of democracy. The ideals don't become reality simply by stating them in a speech or by marching with flags and slogans in a demonstration.

They don't become reality through protests or speeches promising change. As English journalist and novelist Arnold Bennett said, "Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts".

America still hasn't achieved the democracy that Abe Lincoln's words revered or that Obama's campaign hopes nourished.

One of America's leading senators, J William Fulbright, said "It's unnatural and unhealthy for a nation to be engaged in global crusades for some principle or idea while neglecting the needs of its own people".

Instead of exerting pressure on others for democracies, America needs to focus on improving its own.

 

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


EDITORIAL from The Pioneer, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, The Statesman's, The Tribune, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald, Economic Times, The Telegraph, The Assam Tribune, Pakistan Observer, The Asian Age, The News, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The New York Times, China Daily, Japan Times, The Gazette, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Guardian, Jakarta Post, The Moscow Times, The Bottom Line and more only on EDITORIAL.

 

Project By

SAMARTH

a trust – of the people by the people for the people

An Organisation for Rastriya Abhyudaya

(Registered under Registration Act 1908 in Gorakhpur, Regis No – 142- 07/12/2007)

Central Office: Basement, H-136, Shiv Durga Vihar, Lakkarpur, Faridabad – 121009

Cell: - 0091-93131-03060

Email – samarth@samarth.co.in, central.office@samarth.co.in

Registered Office: Rajendra Nagar (East), Near Bhagwati Chowk, Lachchipur

Gorakhnath Road, Gorakhpur – 273 015

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Amazon Contextual Product Ads