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Monday, June 6, 2011

EDITORIAL 06.06.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month june 06, edition 000851, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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

































































The raid by heavily-armed personnel of Delhi Police and the Rapid Action Force on Ramlila Ground in Delhi in the early hours of Sunday has understandably outraged the nation. The sheer brutality of the manner in which the police assaulted sleeping men, women and children who had gathered there to participate in Baba Ramdev's satyagraha against corruption, fired scores of teargas shells inside the tent, and dragged out the protesters merits unequivocal condemnation, as does the callous indifference of the Police Commissioner who was more keen to please his political bosses than to ensure orderly behaviour by his men. But the real reprobates are those who ordered the police to crack down on the gathered crowd of people in the dead of night — it matters little if the Congress is now desperately trying to wriggle out of the mess; the party and its leaders stand accused of trying to put down mass unrest over rampant corruption that taints the UPA regime through means that are reminiscent of Mrs Indira Gandhi's Emergency. Nor does it matter what Mr Manmohan Singh has to say about the appalling misconduct of the Government he heads: After Sunday morning's naked display of fascist state power, he stands exposed as a morally decrepit wimp who, having presided over the most corrupt regime India has witnessed, is happy to see popular anger being doused with state-sponsored brutality. An indecently supine and morally dishonest Prime Minister cannot claim to be either decent or honest.

It is abundantly clear that the Congress tried to create differences among those leading the anti-corruption movement and discredit Baba Ramdev by first despatching senior Ministers, including Mr Pranab Mukherjee, to negotiate with him and then plant the story, with the help of 'friendly' media, that he had struck a deal. When that fiction stood exposed and Baba Ramdev went ahead with his satyagraha along with thousands of his followers, the Government ordered a crackdown, supremely confident that nobody would dare question its patently illegitimate action. Did the Congress fail to anticipate the fury this would unleash? Or is it arrogance that led it to commit what is clearly a monumental blunder? The latter appears to be more likely. To now slyly allege, as the apologists of this shameless regime are doing, that the gathering at Ramlila Ground was sponsored by the RSS or that the BJP was working behind the scenes is sheer bunkum. People have the right to protest peacefully in our democracy, and it is of no consequence as to what is the ideology of the protesters or those organising the protest. Hindu-bashing, in which both the Congress and the Government it leads excel, cannot be justification for such barbarism. Saffron is not a banned colour in this nation, at least not yet.

This cash-and-carry regime owes an explanation to the nation. But we know it shall remain silent. The only way forward is to force the Government to call an emergency session of Parliament so that it can be held accountable. If it refuses to do so, as it will, then the Opposition must prepare to take on the Government during the Monsoon session. The collective bluff of those who claim to be concerned about corruption while allowing it to flourish must be called. The Prime Minister, his colleagues and their political bosses must be pitilessly exposed for what they are. The people of this country have suffered the excesses of this corrupt regime for far too long. India deserves better.







The fact that only days after NATO member countries unanimously extended their mission in Libya by 90 days, US President Barack Obama who spearheaded the initial operation was rebuked by the House of Representatives for his failure to provide a "compelling rationale" for the same speaks volumes about the complexities that continue to shadow the mission. Three whole months after the UN-mandated military intervention in Libya began, questions regarding its legitimacy, scope and consequences still remain unanswered. This, in combination with the fact that Mr Obama did not bother to get congressional authorisation for the mission, set the stage for House Speaker John A Boehner and Representative Dennis J Kucinich to sponsor two separate resolutions that called on the Obama Administration to provide a detailed explanation of the cost and objectives of the mission and demanded that the US military be withdrawn from Libya, respectively. While the former resolution by Mr Boehner was passed 268 to 145, the latter was defeated. In other words, the House believes that there is not ample justification for the Libyan mission (and that Mr Obama has quite a bit of explaining to do) but remains reluctant to call for an immediate withdrawal of American troops from what is now a NATO-led, multilateral effort — again, a clear indication of the fuzzy logic that governs the Libyan mission. The resolution passed by the House carries little legislative weight and has almost no practical consequences (as such resolutions which the President has no chance to veto cannot be enforced) but its political implications simply cannot be ignored. The resolution is an uncommonly direct affront to the President who also serves as Commander-in-Chief of the US Army at a time when the country is involved in multiple military conflicts. But more importantly, it points to a growing opposition against the Libyan mission that cuts across party lines.

Given this background, the decision by NATO members to extend the deadline which expired on May 20 is beyond comprehension. From the very outset foreign intervention in Libya, be it under American or NATO leadership, was a matter of international contention. And for good reason too. Today, the operation is little more than a blanket bombing campaign that has done little to resolve the political situation in Libya; instead, it has only pushed the country towards a military stalemate that has claimed the lives of several hundred innocent civilians. And yet, there is no clear consensus on why such this mindless operation is still being carried out. Perhaps, Mr Obama has some answers. His fellow lawmakers in Washington, DC have given him 14 days to share them. The world would like to hear them too.









With Pakistan fast descending into jihadi violence and chaos, the global community can no longer pretend that Islamabad is in control of affairs.

It looks almost as if with every passing day global concerns over the future of Pakistan are rising. This alone explains why US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rushed to Islamabad along with the Chief of Staff of the US military, Admiral Mike Mullen. Earlier, the CIA chief also visited Pakistan.

The top level visits by the Americans follow the Pakistani Prime Minister's attempt to juxtapose China against the US as the latter wants President Asif Ali Zardari and Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani to explain the presence of Osama bin Laden for six years in Abbottabad despite repeated denials by Islamabad of any knowledge of his whereabouts.

Faced with mounting pressure from the US, Mr Gilani slyly described China and Pakistan "like one nation, two countries". It is clear that Islamabad has decided to play the Beijing card every time Washington, DC turns the screws on Pakistan. And Mr Gilani knows that Pakistan won't ever be disappointed on this count.

After all, the Chinese have maintained a studied silence on the Americans discovering Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. China's silence is in sharp contrast to repeated demands by the US, which has chosen to ignore Islamabad's protests over the unilateral action by American forces and the violation of Pakistani sovereignty, that Pakistan must come up with a credible explanation.

In response, Mr Gilani has secured a promise from China for more fighter aircraft and other military hardware to demonstrate that the two countries enjoy a 'strategic relationship'. Pakistani 'sources' have even claimed that the Chinese will now have a naval base at Gwadar Port that Beijing has helped build.

All these decades Islamabad was happy to be Washington's messenger boy while the US was busy trying to contain and encircle Soviet power. For the last several years since 9/11, America has been using Drones to zero in on Taliban and Al Qaeda targets at random with heavy collateral damage while the Pakistani Army registered its protest — but only for form's sake.

Moment by moment the Pakistani state is exposing its cracks and dents like a battered car. It protests against the American intrusion at Abbottabad. Within 48 hours President Barack Obama reiterates that more such raids would be conducted if merchants of terror were found hiding in Pakistan.

Now we are witnessing a series of terror strikes, beginning with the Taliban's raid on the naval air base at Mehran. The Pakistani state seems to be so bereft of any credible explanation for the Mehran raid that pro-establishment columnists in that country are claiming that America and India could have sponsored the attack.

The steady loss of any credibility that may still attach to Pakistan's claim of innocence about major terrorist strikes in the world is being ensured by the daily exposure of rogue elements in the Pakistani state apparatus through depositions in the Headley-Rana trial in Chicago. As the Chicago courtroom exposures erode the faux innocence of the Pakistani establishment, the world is getting to hear how that country's military-jihadi alliance nurtures terror and religious extremism as a part of Islamabad's state policy.

The objective situation that prevails calls into question the very basis of the American (and Indian) strategy of shoring up Pakistan's civil authority against radical Islamists on the march. Both Mr Obama and Ms Clinton appear to be willing to strike but afraid to wound in their approach to the Government and military of Pakistan.

Despite the exposure of Pakistan's duplicity on Osama bin Laden — he was living in his hideout at Abbottabad all through the years the Pakistani Government and Army (as well as the ISI) were claiming he wasn't there — Ms Clinton said in Islamabad that only some elements in the Pakistani Army were to be blamed. At the same time Mr Obama has publicly rebuked the Government and Army of Pakistan for being obsessed with pursuing anti-India centric policies.

But neither praise nor criticism by America seems to cut any ice with Pakistan any more. Islamabad is clearly beginning to lean more towards Beijing than Washington. And the Chinese are being more than happy to reciprocate through words and deeds. This is borne out by China's promise of new fighter aircraft for the Pakistani Air Force. Pakistan has reciprocated by making public what has been known all along: That China is welcome to set up a naval base at Gwadar.

It is possible that there are differences between the Pakistani Government, the Army, the ISI and the many jihadi outfits that the Islamabad-Rawalpindi establishment sponsors on what should be done within Pakistan. But on one point all of them are united: Their perception of India as Pakistan's enemy. Just because they are obsessed with India, they believe India, too, is obsessed with Pakistan.

On his return from his official visit to two African nations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has explained in some detail as to why he is trying to convince Pakistan that letting the terrorist organisations exist is not in its own interest and why India must seek to strengthen the civil authority in Islamabad over the other claimants to power.

Mr Singh's approach is flawed. It only strengthens the Western view that if India agrees to settle the Kashmir dispute to Pakistan's satisfaction, the civilian Government in Islamabad would gain enough traction to bring the all-powerful Generals of Rawalpindi under its control and authority.

Meanwhile, security affairs analysts in Washington are now worried over the possibility of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of jihadis. In a recent article, Newsweek has claimed that with Pakistan stepping up its production of plutonium, it could soon have an awesome stockpile of nuclear warheads far outnumbering those of other countries.

Simultaneously, the chances of jihadis raiding bases where strategic weapons are stored have soared following the Taliban's daring attack on the Mehran naval air base.

Is the Government of India alert to this possibility? More importantly, have the Prime Minister and his team bothered to contemplate on the consequences of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into jihadi hands? The international community and India in particular must think about the deteriorating situation in Pakistan and what it could lead to.






It is debatable who set the style for the Opposition in West Bengal. Was it Mamata Banerjee who sent personal invitations to her predecessor or was it Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who accepted the invitation and attended the historic swearing in at Raj Bhavan? By fussily following the rules laid down for an ideal Opposition, the CPI(M) is certainly doing things differently

The role and style of the Opposition is being seriously reworked in West Bengal. Within the institutional framework of parliamentary democracy, the CPI(M)-led Left Front has observed the rituals, adhered to protocol and not missed a beat. This is refreshingly different from the strident violations of form in the immediate past.

It is debatable who set the style; was it Ms Mamata Banerjee by sending personal invitations to her predecessor or was it Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who accepted the invitation and attended the historic swearing in at Raj Bhavan. By fussily following the rules laid down for an ideal Opposition, the CPI(M) is certainly doing things differently.

On the streets, a familiar habitat for agitation-addicted Left, the tone and tenor of the leadership crackled with tension as the defeated came out of their walled compounds to face the public for the first time on May 31. The change of places with the 34 year old Opposition has been smooth, but marred by slaughter and violence; Mr Bhattacharjee said 12 had died, many more injured and 5,000 had been driven from their homes by Trinamool Congress workers on the rampage.

The attack on the home of the Municipality Chairman of Gayeshpur in Nadia district, Gopal Chakrabarty and others from the CPI(M) on the same day is an indication that unless the two sides quickly work to put a stop to the continuing violence, the conventions of parliamentary democracy are meaningless. The Gayeshpur incident is just one more in a long line of attacks by angry political gangs seeking revenge. This lust for revenge is not confined to any one political side; it is the practice of political gangs in West Bengal. The onus of ending the revenge attacks rests on all political parties and not with the police or local administration, partisan or otherwise.

The capacity of the Government to curb mobs is always limited. Unearthing piles of rifles, pistols, bombs and other potentially lethal weapons is necessary but never sufficient. There is always more if the incentive to acquire more is right. It is for political parties to find the will and the means to contain the mobs.

Depleted and demoralised as the CPI(M) is, it will not be difficult to push the attacked mobs into a mood of desperation. Perhaps it was to caution the new administration that it needed to bring down the violence quickly that Mr Bhattacharjee declared with characteristic vehemence that the Left was not a small and insignificant force in West Bengal. It had garnered 41 per cent of the votes even though its seat tally was just over 60 in a house of 294.

What sort of a fight back the Left can stage will depend on many things, including the assessment of political mood, preparedness and consequences. It would be foolish to believe that the support of the Left has been reduced to a few thousand resisters across the state. While it is true that the official strength of its once formidable mass organisations is a very poor indicator of the real strength of its support, that does not mean the absence of die hard support. Certainly the 3.5 crore combined membership of the Krishak Sabha, Democratic and Youth Front of India, All India Democratic Women's Association, Centre for Trade Unions, Students Federation of India and sundry other bodies is not the vote share of the Left that added up to 1.95 crore in this election.

As the CPI(M) is beginning to acknowledge, the electorate is smarter than the political leadership. It has learnt that people individually and collectively have contradictory needs and aspirations and cross cutting loyalties. No single party can represent the complex nature of a voter's demands. A voter who marches under the red flag over price rise or on peasants' issues may not identify with the party when elections come around because then caste or community or other loyalties kick in.

Polarised as the politics of West Bengal may be, the CPI(M) may well find that not everyone who pays up membership for being part of a mass front organisation will vote for the party. The fragmentation of loyalty is typical of the freedom that an open market offering multiple choices creates. If voters are exercising the same sort of preferences as the typical consumer, then all political parties need to watch every step they take.

If voters can divide their loyalties to bargain for the best of all deals then the old formulae will be ineffective, especially for the Marxists, bound by their codes, theories, ideologies and rules. Post-modern voters are fundamentally different from the voters who remained loyal to the red flag for decades and through generations. In maximising their gains they are prepared to offer conditional support to whoever articulates their specific take on things. Unlike the old Marxist voter who would defend the party's position on everything, the new voter will only defend that which suits his interests.

This can be interpreted as a sign of maturity, as smart or just plain canny. Whatever the description, the fact is that blind faith is behaviour that is passe. Therefore, as much as the CPI(M) needs to calibrate its performance to deal with a voter who is not likely to feel good about being bludgeoned into giving support the Trinamool Congress too needs to know how to gauge the shifts and swings in mood with as much accuracy as it seems to have done in the past several years.

Violence has been a good indicator of mood swings. As Mr Bhattacharjee discovered when the violence in Nandigram spiralled out of control of his administration, political cadres can be both volatile and elusive. Any police force perceived as passive or by stander is an open invitation to the desperate to do their worst. The reaction of the voter is now instant and emphatic.

West Bengal's past is its problem. Every regime change has been preceded by violence and the threat of breakdown and chaos. The new exchanges packaged in courtesies in the State legislature amount to nothing once the forces of chaos decide that fight is better than submission or flight. The responses are not programmed into the CPI(M) or the Trinamool Congress or any other political party; it is intrinsic because it is imprinted in the DNA.







It took 16 years to track down and arrest Mladic, and his trial will probably take several more years. That is a long time but it also suggests a certain inexorability: They will never stop looking for you, and eventually they will probably get you. That has a powerful deterrent effect

Last week's arrest of the former Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladic, for the murder of 7,500 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, helped Serbia's campaign for membership in the European Union. But more importantly, it is a big step in the international effort to enforce the law against those who used to be free to murder and torture with impunity.

They were free to do so because the old rule was: Kill your wife or your neighbour, and you will be punished for murder. Kill thousands of innocent people while in the service of the state, and you will get amedal. The state was above the law, and so were its servants.

That ancient tradition was first challenged after the Second World War, when political and military leaders of the defeated Axis powers were tried for war crimes and for the newly defined crimes of aggression and genocide. But it was an innovation with no follow-up — until the genocides in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the early 1990s forced the international community to act again.

In 1993 the United Nations Security Council set up the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia. The following year a similar tribunal was created to investigate the genocide in Rwanda. But these were ad hoc

courts to address specific crimes.

What was really needed was a permanent international court to enforce the law against politicians and officials in countries where the Government could not or would not bring them to justice in the local courts. The Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court was signed by over 150 countries in 1998, and the treaty came into effect in 2002.

Since its creation, the ICC has opened three investigations at the request of the local Government (Uganda, the Central African Republic, and Congo-Kinshasa), two at the request of the UN Security Council (Libya and Sudan), and one at the initiative of chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo (Kenya). Most of the killers will escape its net, of course, but two dozen people have already gone to trial.

The ICC has no jurisdiction over crimes committed before it created, so Ratko Mladic will go before the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, but it's really all part of the same institution. The major complaint against this new international legal system is that it moves too slowly — but that could even be an advantage.

It took 16 years to track down and arrest Mladic, and his trial will probably take several more. That is a long time, but it also suggests a certain inexorability: They will never stop looking for you, and eventually they will probably get you. That has a powerful deterrent effect.

It is almost universally assumed by ordinary Kenyans, for example, that the inter-tribal carnage in Kenya in 2008 after the ruling party stole the last election was launched and orchestrated by senior political and military figures. Supporters of the leading opposition party, which was cheated of its electoral victory, began killingpeople of the Kikuyu tribe (most of whom backed the Government), as soon as the results were announced.

The ruling party responded by using not only its own tribal supporters but also the Army and police to kill opposition supporters, especially from the Kalenjin tribe. Over a thousand people were killed and more than half-a-million became "Internally DisplacedPersons".

Another national election is due next year, and Kenyans fear that it might happen again. However, three powerful men from each side, including the deputy Prime Minister, the Secretary to the Cabinet and the former commissioner of police, have been summoned before the ICC to answer charges of "crimes against humanity".

There will inevitably be a long delay before these men are tried, but that is actually a good thing, said Ken Wafula, a human rights campaigner in Eldoret, the city in the Rift Valley that was the epicentre of the slaughter. "Those who are supposed to incite will see what ICC has done, and they will not be ready to (stir up violence) for fear of maybe a warrant coming out."

Many suspect that the Sudanese regime's acceptance of the overwhelming "yes" vote in the recent independence referendum in southern Sudan was similarly driven by fear among top officials in Khartoumthat using force would expose them to the same kind of ICC arrest warrant that has already been issued for President Omar al-Bashirover the Darfur genocide.

So long as they stayed in power, of course, they would be safe. But what if the wave of democratic revolutions sweeping the Arab world comes south to Sudan? They would become hunted men, and probably be handed over to the ICC for trial. So they seem to have opted for thepeaceful path instead.

Even after 16 years, the ICC got Ratko Mladic. It got most of the surviving organisers of the genocide in Rwanda. The likelihood of being pursued by the ICC represents a real risk for senior political and military leaders who contemplate using force against their ownpeople. They may do it anyway — consider Libya, Syria and Yemen at the moment — but it is nevertheless a genuine deterrent, and sometimes it saves lives.

-- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.







Black money is increasing in the economy. That is how money circulation has gone up. This is possibly the reason why real estate has been able to maintain a state of high speculative prices, despite a poor sales turnover

The market is showing contradictions. Currency notes in circulation in the country have increased by over 21 per cent over the last one year. The stock market turnover has come down to single digit at 9.6 per cent.

In absolute terms, as per Reserve Bank data, currency note circulation has gone up from Rs 786,266 crore as on April 30,2010 to Rs 952,604 crore on April 30, 2011. It is an increase of Rs 165,438 crore.

It is against the tight banking and monetary systems introduced by the RBI during the last 18 months. In theory, tight banking is anti-inflationary, which should have helped the RBI contain money circulation and inflation. But inflation is rising both at wholesale and retail levels and has brought economy to a critical point.

Black money is increasing in the economy. That is how money circulation has gone up. This is possibly the reason for the capacity of real estate in maintaining its high state of speculative prices despite not a very happy sales turnover.

It has, however, hit the stock market. Tightening of regulations has certainly hit it as legal money supply is on leash. It is, however, not right to say that stock markets are propelled by white money alone. The post-2G scenario has definitely put a brake on black money flow to a market that is on a continuous scanner.

The excess notes in circulation can be defined as the money gone out of the banking system and now is circulating as cash. This is the characteristic of the Indian economy. A lot of cash is used here for transactions instead of debit, credit cards or other modes of banking transactions.

This is in contrast to the economies of the West, where debit and credit card usage is high and money stays within the banking system. It is not true they do not have a skewed monetary system. The 2007-08 Lehman Brothers-led crisis was possible for that reason leading to collapse of a chain of monetary institutions.

India has also witnessed such scenes repeatedly since 1992 Harshad Mehta scam, UTI bust and Ketan Parekh scam, to name a few. Still a major corporate house is facing SEBI ban on stock market transactions. The SEBI itself is under scanner.

So despite a large money supply, the market is gripped by fear. Investors with large cash are shying away from investing in scrips.

As a percentage of total volumes, average daily turnover in the cash segment of the stock market has dropped. The average in the last quarter, before further RBI tightening in April was 14 per cent as in February 2009, when it had plunged to Rs 10,743 crore.

There has been a steady decline over the last few months. In October-December 2010, average daily volumes were Rs 21,000 crore, which plunged to Rs 16,000 crore during January-March.

With foreign institutional investors selling continuously, in the wake of crisis in the European region and partial recovery of the US market, throughout May, retail investors' participation has not been there and those who engage in intra-day trading have also not made money.

A shift has also been noticed. Many of the short-term traders have also started engaging in commodity markets, according to Mr Sandeep Gupta, vice-president of Motilal Oswal Securities.

This is a significant development and indicates that black money plays a role in commodity transaction. It helps keep prices remain at a high. Commodities are also easy to hoard and prices easy to manipulate. This is becoming evident as prices of food grains, butter, milk, fruits and vegetable breaking all records.

Hoarders are known to use black money for commodity trading in a large scale. So monetary tightening has little impact on the inflationary trend. But it is impacting other sectors.

The other sectors be it industry or manufacturing are squeezed between inflation and monetary tightening. The high food prices are leading to higher operational costs as wages and transportation costs go up. Squeeze on money supply makes investments expensive. It impacts pricing and leads to fall in demand.

In simpler words, growth is being seen in those sections of the economy that are seeing flow of black money or the money that has gone out of banking system and is circulating as cash.

A major beneficiary of black money is the real estate. Most of the real estate transactions involve a huge component of cash. Given that price of property has increased by over 25 to 30 per cent over the last three years, the value of cash element has also gone up. This is one factor behind the increase in currency in circulation.

The contradictions need to be studied closely. This is affecting growth of all sectors. If the trend is not checked, it might lead to a dismal economic scenario. Fiscal deficit of the Government is bound to rise. It may lead to cut in developmental expenditure, which may further affect growth prospects.

Already last quarter GDP growth of 2010-11 is estimated to have fallen. With the situation in the US, Europe and northern Africa being in various states of turmoil, and investment climate in India subdued, growth prospects for 2011-12 is likely to be shaky.

It calls for a change in lowering of interest rates and tightening of the commodity market system to give a boost to the economy and check prices. The first — deciding policy rates — is in the domain of the RBI but the other needs brain racking as it is still out of the purview a legal framework. Many individuals and corporate are basking as the system favours them. It is just not individuals but even corporate have enough black money for their operations.







One positive outcome of the Niira Radia episode is that the spotlight has been turned on the government's cavalier attitude towards violating citizens' rights. From gaping loopholes in the legal process of authorising phone taps to implementation that cuts every corner possible, it's a sordid mess. That is what makes the law ministry's notion of making the right to privacy a fundamental right – much like equality, education or freedom of expression – so welcome. In any democracy, the people should not be afraid of the government. It's the government that should be wary of and accountable to people. That is the balance this proposal can restore if it is drafted and implemented effectively.

As things stand now, the executive has carte blanche to carry out surveillance on whom they will. This despite past embarrassments, such as in 1991 when there was an uproar over hundreds of politicians' and journalists' phones being tapped. Or the Supreme Court's condemnation in 1997 of the legislative's failure to amend the antiquated Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, which governs tapping. It's said that the seven central agencies' requests for authorising taps are routed to the home secretary; at the state level, they go to the state home secretary. But with over a million cellphones across the country reported to be under surveillance, it would be naive in the extreme to believe that this kind of check is working. Compare this to the US where such requests must be approved by a judge.

As of now, the government is trying to further extend its reach by amending the 1885 Act to include internet communication. Given New Delhi's previous record, this doesn't much bode particularly well for the future if equally strong checks aren't imposed. National security is a potent phrase, and an easy one to throw about as justification for government excesses. But there must be a balance between security needs and citizens' rights.

Government overreach is far from the only danger. In an increasingly networked world, essential components of an individual's identity are to be found online. Protecting that digital identity – and an individual's finances that are so often at risk in cases of such identity theft –is as essential as safeguarding the individual's physical well-being. And with the UID scheme, the potential for identity theft could be far greater in years to come. Making the right to privacy as integral to our social and legal consciousness as the other fundamental rights are – or ought to be – is the foundation of safeguards that must be built.







By announcing her new land acquisition policy, UP chief minister Mayawati has stolen a march over the Congress. The latter's campaign against BSP in UP had been premised on the high-handed methods used by the state government in pushing land acquisition and tackling protests against it, particularly in Bhatta and Parsaul villages of Greater Noida. In retrospect, Rahul Gandhi's over-the-top claims of mass murder there appear to be an attempt to derive political mileage ahead of the state assembly elections next year, driven by the desire to do to BSP in UP what the Trinamool movement did to the Left Front in West Bengal. Mayawati has, in fact, used the UPA government's reformed Land Acquisition Bill, still hanging fire in Parliament, as her template. In doing so, she has shown up Congress's position on land acquisition to be more sound and substance.

Thanks to coalition compulsions and a plethora of opinions, the central Bill has been the subject of much procrastination. It is yet unclear whether it will grace Parliament in the upcoming monsoon session. But the speed with which Mayawati pushed a reformed land acquisition Bill through at the state level should build pressure on the Centre to do so as well. The key to Mayawati's policy is the understanding that farmers are willing to part with their land provided a consensual approach is adopted, and there is fair compensation on equal terms. Land acquisition in Haryana, based on similar presumptions, has been successful as well. Industrial growth is lagging in
India. Streamlining land acquisition is critical to sustaining India's growth story and making it more inclusive. The Centre must now get a move on.









Indian farmers have much to celebrate this year with a bumper wheat harvest. As predicted by the ministry of agriculture, wheat farmers have begun to harvest what is shaping up to be a record crop, projected at 84.27 million tonnes. We are growing more wheat than ever before. The earlier record of 80.8 million tonnes of wheat production was achieved in 2009-10.

Estimates show that foodgrain production including wheat, rice, pulses and coarse cereals will also see a surge, and will go up to 235.88 million tonnes this crop year as compared to the earlier record of 234.47 million tonnes achieved way back in 2008-09. The momentum is said to continue with the timely arrival of southwest monsoons, auguring well for the sowing of wheat, coarse cereals and oilseeds. All of this should sound like good news to a country that is one of the world's largest wheat consumers, but there is an underlying sense of despondency among farmers and economists alike.

India today is on the brink of a conundrum brought about by the unusual 'problem of plenty'. In a country still reeling from the effects of high food inflation, the sudden surge in agricultural output is bringing with it a unique set of challenges. The situation has been significantly aggravated by the state of our struggling storage infrastructure, and the complex nature of our procurement systems. At risk are not only farmers' livelihoods but also the overall health of the economy.

A key part of the current problem lies with the state procurement system. Despite strengthening of the procurement mechanism of state governments, thousands of farmers have been waiting in line for their produce to be sold. Unable to wait longer, farmers are being forced to sell their precious crop to traders for less than the minimum support price (MSP). According to several reports, wheat's procurement price in several parts of Gujarat, Bihar and eastern UP has fallen to as low as Rs 1,000-1,050 a quintal, less than the state-set MSP of
Rs 1,170. The situation is no different for other crops like sugarcane, cotton and rice. The low price is already hitting small and marginal farmers as they don't have holding capacity. Cash crop farmers dependent on normal crop are badly impacted.

Compounding this situation is the government's policy on exports. For example, in the case of cotton, exports have been permitted to the extent of only 55 lakh bales out of a total production of 330 lakh bales (approximately 17%), as against last year when exports were permitted up to about 30% of production.

The second problem comes with the government being ill-equipped to efficiently store and use this bumper crop. To counter the problem of food inflation the government has banned exports of wheat and therefore ends up being the biggest buyer from the farmers. However, pathetic storage infrastructure results in enormous volumes of grains rotting every year.

Poor government offtake, low MSP and a harsh interest rate regime are resulting in problems for farmers in loan
repayments. A further drop in prices is expected with insufficient storage capacity, ban on exports and a normal monsoon forecast. This may further impact the sowing season with monsoon hitting south India. As a result what we see is a ripple effect – impacting the rural economy in the months to come – driving down rural consumption and further slowing down the overall economy.

While we can consider long-term measures to counter this problem by building proper storage facilities and letting private players into the procurement and storage process, it is important to look at short-term measures immediately. A signi-ficant step would be to lift or modify restrictions on export of wheat to cash in on good prices and short supply in global markets. With good quality yield and poor storage infrastructure, it would be best to look at relaxing export of wheat and other crops like cotton, with global prices still being favourable.

To control the problem of food inflation, the government can look at setting up a quota of how much wheat it would like to buy from farmers, with the rest of the produce being sold by the farmer in the free market. Improving the public distribution system's efficiency, rationalising mandi tax which is as high as 14% in Punjab and using UID effectively to provide food coupons to people below the poverty line are other measures to combat food inflation and balance high farm gate prices.

If such short-term measures are not undertaken, this problem of excess will be detrimental for the rural economy and impact India's overall growth momentum. A large economic price is extracted when the government fails to intervene at these stages, resulting in farmers being driven into debt despite a bumper harvest. The incidence of farm debt invariably results in future pressures for a waiver of loans resulting in further fiscal pressures. While arguably export of wheat might result in price corrections in the mandi, the market is already geared to absorb wheat at the MSP and there would be no additional price pressures arising from normalisation of prices to MSP levels.

It is imperative for the government to consider the macro-economic perspective and adopt a dynamic policy system keeping in mind fluctuating farm production. It needs to act fast and take aggressive steps to correct our current problem of plenty before the rot starts to eat away at our stellar economic growth.

The writer is executive director and chief executive officer, Escorts Agriculture Machinery Group.








Noted actor, singer, director and film producer Farhan Akhtar spoke to Subhash K Jha:


You wear so many hats. Are you comfortable with all your roles?

I've no regrets about any of my roles. It's been more than two years since my debut in Rock On. Its impact lingers. However, i feel my dad, Javed Akhtar, didn't get enough credit for the lyrics he wrote in Rock On. After such a long time these were songs that were so non-situational. Without any reference point, he wrote lyrics that were so contagious and identifiable. Of course everyone loved the music but my dad's calibre of writing didn't get its due.

You seem more charged now than ever before?

There's more emphasis being placed on writing. There're lots of talented young writers around. We always said we wanted to bring in new writing and directorial talent into our production house. The film market has changed. Now is the right time to make Voice From The Sky. If i had made it right after Dil Chahta Hai it wouldn't have found the right outlets. There were no multiplexes back then.

Dil Chahta Hai was quite a trendsetter?

I don't know about how far a trend is imbibed consciously. There was a character in Wayne's World who was totally infatuated by Wayne though he couldn't bear to be around him. That must have remained in my mind when i did a similar character Deepa in Dil Chahta Hai. But yes when i saw Apoorva Lakhia's Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost i recognised elements from Lagaan in it. I'm sure films do influence our minds in ways that we do not always understand.

You were directed by your sister Zoya in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD). How was the experience?
Yeah, all of us – Zoya, Hrithik, Abhay, Katrina, Kalki and me – became this little commune travelling across Spain. We travelled a lot. There's a serious change in topography as you drive through. The important thing was for us to look like we belong to one group.

ZNMD looks like the last part of your trilogy on male bonding after Dil Chahta Hai and Rock On?
And why the last? I don't have any major fascination with cinema on male bonding. Dil Chahta Hai is the only script i wrote on the theme. Abhishek Kapoor wrote Rock On, a fab script about a rock band. Zoya's script for ZNMD is about three guys on the verge of making commitments in life.

How was it being directing by your sister a second time?

In Zoya's Luck By Chance i was a sneaky social climber. In ZNMD it's a sea change. I play this guy who for the longest time takes nothing seriously. I'm not rich and i don't pretend to be. I'm just happy being the way i am. Many moments in this film gave me a chance to have lots of fun. After playing serious, angst-laden characters in Rock On, Luck By Chance and Karthik Calling Karthik, in ZNMD i play a fun character.

Like Dil Chahta Hai, your Rock On has opened up a new genre in Hindi cinema. Is there a sequel?
I'm not for it. Rock On is a sequel to Dil Chahta Hai. Both transported me to the same space. So i've had enough of it. I think director Abhishek Kapoor has a lot more to do as a filmmaker than a sequel. Suddenly after Rock On, we have an Indi-Rock revival. Regional bands are playing. We started something we couldn't control. It's very encouraging.






Aha! So that's why they are called Radio 'Jockeys' – they race their tongues on the FM turf like actual jockeys do on the race course, as if there is no tomorrow. They seem to be participants in a perpetual 'Just a Minute' (JAM) competition – like the one pioneered by the BBC where competitors must talk for 60 seconds on any topic without repetition or hesitation – interspersed with songs. Only, the participants in JAMs get rapped for being erroneous in their use of language!

Some years back, these jockeys were called announcers. Radio in those days was a constant companion in our study. It filled the room and dispelled loneliness but never intruded. The languorous, friendly voices of the anchors not only played songs but also informed about the lyricists, composers and singers. Speaking the names of those requesting for songs was also a part of the ritual. Request for a song could be from places as diverse as Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir. In fact, small and obscure places like Jhumri Talaiya came to be known all over the country through the umpteen requests received from there for playing of the film songs.

In the programme devoted to replying to the letters of the listeners, the way the letters were read out, the complainants' displeasures assuaged, the suggestions accepted and, future plans explained, was a treat to the ears. And also to the feelings, as it was impressed upon the listeners that they were active participants in the planning of the programmes. Apart from film songs, which of course formed the staple portion of the programme list, classical non-film music, folk songs, skits etc were the other constants.

If Vividh Bharti gave us entertainment, Akashvani provided infotainment. A friend confided that their programmes on light classical music taught him the basics of music. 'Bal Sangh' on Sundays was one programme that the parents agreed happily to let us tune in to. For many, this programme not only gave training in and impetus for public speaking, but also produced the first-ever earnings. One could visualise the 'news' and feel its credibility as it was rendered by the deep-voiced readers with perfect pronunciation. Those 'beeps', on the dot at 9 p.m., exactly at the end of the Hindi news and just before the beginning of the English, made us wonder about their significance. Radio news not only embedded the facts of an issue deep in our mind, they also improved our listening skills. Is this skill redundant in today's world of receding attention spans? These days we only hear, not listen. And, therefore, jabbering can easily masquerade as speaking.

I wonder if it is only the audience that is responsible for this state of things. Perhaps Vividh Bharti and Akashvani have also failed to keep apace with the changing times. If Vividh Bharti has stopped being creative in producing new entertainment programmes, AIR has been rendered redundant for new listeners because the bands it is broadcast on – short and medium wave – are not found on new gadgets like cellphones which double up as transistors.

But in spite of the swarm of FM radio channels, Vividh Bharti and Akashvani have their admirers still. Even today, as i lay down to sleep after a tired day, it is the magic of 'Chhaya Geet' that acts as a relaxant and, in the morning, 'Vandanvaar', same as ever, a stimulant for the day ahead.







Never a dull moment in Indian politics —  or whatever you choose to call what the nation was subjected to last week that culminated in self-styled activist, yoga teacher Ramdev being evicted from the Ramlila Maidan on late Saturday night.

The government finally did the right thing.

After days of wooing the man — with the four Union ministers sent to placate the Baba-ji outside an airport — and bending over backwards so as to not be seen as turning a blind eye to his metaphysical demands, the government realised that Ramdev's show had little to do with pushing the authorities to fight corruption.

Instead, it was an open show of strength of one man's hold over his followers or fans with hitchhikers joining in. The fact that a cross-section of religious and community leaders joined Ramdev on his stage on Saturday speaks volumes about how a big-enough buzz can be all that it takes for people — the media and the government included — to fall for a brand-building exercise pretending to be a 'satyagraha'.

But if brand-building was the only 'crime' Ramdev was committing, it wouldn't have merited showing him the firm hand of the law. The problem, to put it bluntly, was the man leading everyone up the garden path — a charge, ironically, that the government is usually seen guilty of.

The episode was a comic farce.

The government and Ramdev holding talks at a Delhi hotel; Ramdev not agreeing to call off his 'fast-unto-death' despite the two parties coming to an agreement; the government making public Ramdev's commitment to call off the fast even as the latter continued his show at the Ramlila Maidan... And what was Ramdev's explanation for not making his earlier 'understanding' with the government public?

"If I had revealed it and if the people left this place [Ramlila Ground] and if the government went back on its word, then what would have happened?" That's a hell of a lot of 'ifs' to base an 'explanation' on.

As feared, however, it's those hitching a ride on Ramdev's many-many-trick pony who are the bigger concern. The BJP, not a novice in whipping up atavistic feelings when it needs to charge its batteries, has already latched on to the action taken by the authorities against the wild card Baba-ji.

It's bad enough that the party that refused to have any say in the drafting of the Lokpal Bill is now taking the cheap way out by suddenly coming to Ramdev's defence.

What is worse is BJP veteran LK Advani comparing the expulsion of Ramdev and his cohorts from Delhi with the dark days of Emergency.

Party president Nitin Gadkari's comparison of Saturday night's operation with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre is downright offensive and an insult to the innocents who were gunned down by imperial British forces in 1919.

If the Ramdev episode was a farce, and the voices decrying the government's action silly, the turn taken by the BJP is truly unfortunate. We just hope that some folks have their eyes firmly on the draft Lokpall Bill.




Is there a correlation between putting your body in danger and caring about keeping it shipshape? To put it a bit more plainly: is it true that the more we obsess about our physical well-being the higher the chances of us finding it under attack and disrepair?

The World Health Organisation (WHO), the truly maternal global body that worries about how unhealthy we are, has reiterated in a new study that mobile phones may cause brain cancer. By actually naming the type of brain cancer a heavy mobile phone user is liable to end up suffering from — glioma — panic has been upped a notch or two.

But the WHO hasn't singled out the cellphone in the possible carcinogenic category.

Any device that emits radio frequency electromagnetic waves such as radars, microwaves, radio and television signals — and some say the brain of former president APJ Abdul Kalam — are in the cancer-risk category.

But folks who smoke, work in nuclear facilities and drink ordinary water rebottled cunningly into 'mineral water' bottles shouldn't worry, as they already are at a higher risk category — 'carcinogenic to humans'.

So for them, with damage and death a happy surety, more talk time on the cellphone will be a sort of double indemnity.

On the flip side of things, you can now always refrain from picking up calls from your boss, spouse or the stranger you may have spent the night with, and blame it on your worries about your health. Thanks to the WHO, they should now understand.

As for the yet-to-be published WHO report about being alive causing ultimate death, watch this space.






Religious intolerance is a daily reality in Europe. Mainly targeted at Muslims, attacks on religious pluralism focus on refusing to share public space with non-majority religions. The key voices of intolerance are neither marginal nor can they be dismissed as old-style far-right activists.

Today, they are often heads of government, important ministers or powerful politicians. Successive recent salvos by the French president and German chancellor on the failure of multiculturalism in countries where that policy has never been promoted, and the British prime minister's February speech associating multiculturalism with Islamic terrorism are among the latest examples.

The desire to make Islam invisible has resulted not just in stigmatising speeches, but also in new laws. On November 29, 2009, 57.5% Swiss citizens, voting in a popular referendum, agreed to forbid the building of new minarets in their country.

A new law, which came into effect on April 11, 2011, bans the wearing of the face veil in 'public places' throughout France. A recent study published by the Open Society Foundation found that less than 2,000 women in France wear the face veil. Many have suffered insults and sometimes physical harassment.

Yet, Christian religious processions that require face-covering hoods are still allowed.

We need to better understand the dynamics behind these controversies and new laws banning symbols of religious expression. And we must ask whether there is adequate protection of religious pluralism and confessional neutrality in Europe's public space. The far-right in Europe have occupied public space to assert their culture against Muslim practices.

In Italy, the right-wing Northern League party organises processions of pigs on the sites where mosques are to be erected. In France, open-air 'salami and wine' events have been organised by an anti-Muslim movement that claims to be secular.

This shows that fear of threats to cultural identity in the face of globalisation is at the core of the 'new right', as sociologist Mabel Berezin argues in her book Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times.

Religious expression is again becoming a marker of national cultural identity, and the xenophobic discourse that surrounds Islam seems to have broad appeal. The current generation of far-right leaders (among them Heinz-Christian Strache in Austria, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Oskar Freysinger in Switzerland) wear new garb.

They are younger and claim to be progressive while subverting the symbols and the struggles of the 1960s revolutions. And they are targeting Islam rather than Judaism.

Then how can minority religions be protected in public space?

In liberal democracies, the fundamental rights of minorities tend to be protected from majority abuse by domestic constitutions as well as international covenants. But the jurisprudence of the court that safeguards this convention shows that not all religions are treated equally.

In the March 2011 case of Lautsi vs Italy, the Grand Chamber of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the presence of crucifixes in Italian primary schools doesn't violate the right of freedom of conscience of non-Christians.

It was a success for the Italian government and 19 other governments that had urged the court to respect the national identities and dominant religious traditions of each of the 47-member states party to the convention.

The court of European public opinion appears to be growing ever less tolerant. The possibility of equality among religions in Europe is still an open question.

(Virginie Guiraudon is a research fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research, France. The views expressed by the author are personal. This is part of the Religion and Public Space series in collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilisations and its Global Experts project)





Kaushik Basu's proposal of legalising bribery may not prevent the next big scam. But it has underlined the need for creative thinking to address social ills.

Kaushik Basu is easily the most distinguished economist to occupy the position of chief economic advisor in modern memory. And it shows. He invites us (as a nation) to think of economic ideas as things to be discussed and debated, rather than as a ritual to be gotten through before we get to the more interesting business of making policy, to which our reaction is mostly that of bewilderment.

We expect him to be reassuring us with empty catchphrases ("growth needs to be people-centric", "balancing the demand for liquidity with the risk of spiraling inflation" and so forth).

Instead, he turns around and asks us to think! The slightly moralistic reaction in much of the press to his suggestion that perhaps some forms of bribe-giving should be legalised, mostly points to how unused we are to being forced to think economics.

What is a bribe and what is a legal payment is mostly a matter of the law. The American supreme court recently decreed that it's essentially okay for any company to give unlimited amounts of money to any political party as long there is full disclosure.

In India (or France or Germany) this would constitute illegal purchase of political influence. Take another US example: Former American vice-president Dick Cheney continued to have strong financial connections with government contractors while in office. While the amorality of that was evident to everyone, except certain Republicans, it wasn't considered enough to try to impeach him.

No British politician could dream of getting away with something like that.

The point is not at all that the US's rather lax attitude towards public rectitude is somehow better, but that there are two sides to this argument.

For example, the legalisation of unlimited corporate donations to political parties (something, for the record, I think is a bad idea) can be justified by arguing that it's better for the voters to know who buys whom, as that will happen in any case, just under the table.

But there is a counterargument: it's too complicated for voters to figure out who is paying whom even when that information is publicly available and this, therefore, just lifts the cap on how much influence you can buy.

This is exactly the kind of debate that we should be having about Basu's proposal. His case is very simple: suppose I want to register a deed and I have all the papers and come prepared to pay all the legal fees. The man at the counter demands a bribe. He reminds me that he can make me come back, or even lose my file.

Do I pay him or not? Basu's point is that once I choose to pay him, I have no recourse whatsoever — paying bribes is illegal and therefore if I complain about having had to pay a bribe, I risk ending up in jail.

Why not offer me immunity from prosecution and a bribe refund as long as I can prove it? This is what Basu calls a "harassment bribe". Then I would have an incentive to step forward and declare the bribe once I have paid it, and anticipating that the man at the counter would presumably desist.

This proposal makes eminent sense but under one condition: it has to be relatively easy to demonstrate that there was harassment. Suppose I pay the bribe and then complain. The man at the counter denies taking any bribes and instead accuses me of doing it to get back at him for being careful about scrutinising all the documents, which got me delayed.

What could I say? Or what would be even worse, I could actually accuse an honest bureaucrat of taking a bribe, just as a way to get the claimed bribe refunded by the government.

One possibility is that we have cameras at every counter recording every transaction. Banks and businesses already use cameras to monitor transactions and, recently, some police stations in Rajasthan were fitted with cameras as a way to pick up any wrongdoing. As such there is no direct connection between Basu's proposal and using video monitoring.

In principle, we could try to discover malfeasance by just looking through all the videos — but who has the time to go through millions of hours of recordings? The advantage of combing it with his idea is that we will only need to look at the recording when there is an accusation of malfeasance. Since everyone expects the camera to expose any fraud, only genuine claims will be made.

Moreover, the camera could also be used for the opposite purpose of encouraging bureaucrats to report clients who offer them bribes to break the rules. There could be a fixed bonus given to any bureaucrat who can prove that he was offered a  bribe and correspondingly, a penalty for the client.

Of course, there are problems with this scheme — we discovered in Rajasthan that machines intended to monitor absence of government nurses have a way of getting broken. The cameras will probably have to survive in a similar hostile climate.

On the other hand, it may not be too hard to arrange things so that the computer at the counter automatically freezes up as soon as the camera feed stops. There will also be attempts to move the transaction away from the counter, but at least that negotiation will get recorded, and could be used later to back up a complaint.

None of this will stop the next 2G scam or protect the poor truck drivers who get shaken down at street corners. We will also need to be careful in identifying situations where the problem is harassment rather than collusion between the bureaucrat and his client (in the latter case, making bribing legal is clearly counter-productive).

But all that should not obscure Basu's most important point: that there are many problems like this where there are potentially huge gains from thinking creatively and thinking hard.

(Abhijit Banerjee is Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics and Director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, MIT. The views expressed by the author are personal)





Every year, industrial development projects displace about 10 million people globally. In India alone, involuntary resettlement has affected about 50 million people over the last five decades. Three-fourths of them still face an uncertain future.

People displaced by such projects are prone to being rendered landless, jobless, homeless and marginalised.

Yet, the policies and programmes related to their relocation and rehabilitation are yet to find satisfactory answers to questions like: Is the land acquisition in terms of the quantity and quality of the land acquired justified? Does the process follow the principle of causing minimum displacement?

If it affects the habitat or livelihood or both of the displaced, does the form and content of compensation reflect the current value of the land? Does the compensation package provide sustainable means of livelihood?

The land acquisition processes by the corporates hasn't moved in tandem with the needs and aspirations of affected communities. The first issue is that of identifying a piece of land based on parameters that depend on intensive assessments of social and environmental aspects.

For instance, while setting up a water-intensive industry, a detailed assessment of current and future estimation of aquifer conditions in the area must be undertaken.

Further, productive and fertile land is often acquired when non-productive land may serve the purpose. At times, even the quantum of land acquired exceeds the immediate and near-future needs.

To begin with, corporates should avoid as much displacement as possible. They should also look beyond the technical requirements and availability of raw materials to focus on social and environmental issues. Once the land to be acquired is identified, it's critical to determine the number of families that will get affected, as there is always a conflict on the actual number of 'victims'.

The scenario is further complicated as the process often takes two to three years to get completed. During this period, there is lot of in-migration to the potential site. Consequently, there is often dispute on the residential status of families and the grievance redressal mechanism to resolve such concerns is usually lacking.

It's desirable that a credible grievance redressal system is in place wherein collective complaints are addressed among people, corporates and the district administration.

The compensation package is usually worked out on the basis of the number of potentially affected families. The problem here is that relocation and rehabilitation packages treat the displaced as an obstacle to be overcome rather than as partners in the process of industrialisation.

Further, neither the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, nor the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007, prescribes an accurate methodology to determine the rate at which land should be acquired. So a scientific process to determine land rates should be devised and an appropriate legal and regulatory framework should be set up.

One-time compensation packages don't last for long. Therefore, along with a paradigm shift in the compensation packages, we need to devise innovative experiments like giving equity participation as part of compensation or a subsistence allowance along with pension schemes.

On the issue of relocation, corporates often shy away from constructing relocation and rehabilitation colonies. It's desirable that these colonies provide good quality health and education facilities and reflect, and address, the socio-cultural sensitivities and sensibilities of the displaced communities.

While the livelihood concerns are planned to be addressed by creating employment opportunities, either a detailed analysis of livelihoods and their disruption is not undertaken or the promises made aren't kept. Further, in case of the acquisition of agricultural land, monetary compensation doesn't adequately address the concerns of livelihood and economic sustenance of the displaced family.

A subsistence allowance should be given to every affected family till adequate means of livelihood are made available.

The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2011, and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, will soon be tabled in Parliament. They promise to bring radical changes to the existing process of acquisition. However, acts and regulations alone won't bring about the real change.

A new thinking and a spirit of inclusion at the level of corporates are equally important.

(Ibrahim Hafeezur Rehman is director with The Energy and Resources Institute, Delhi. 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






It may be too early to take stock of the repercussions and political costs of the midnight round-up of yoga guru Ramdev and his followers from the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi — though the Congress must surely be conscious of the momentum its missteps have acquired. The chaos engendered is obvious. The first thing that the Central government must now do is call a session of Parliament. In the past two months the government has ceded all debate to street brawls. It has shown itself to be incapable of talking to the people of India on the issues raised therein. Parliament is its best option of commencing the conversation this country needs. It may be a noisy, heatedly contested affair, but a debate on the floor of the House is essential. A session should be convened immediately.

The first item Parliament must take up is the Lokpal bill. It is, for obvious reasons, the issue of the moment, and it is also necessary for Parliament to assert its central role in law-making. The bill must be debated on the floor of the House and widespread public discussion must be encouraged. Yet, in and of itself, it will not be enough unless the UPA signals a resounding end to the extra-constitutionalism that's brought things to this pass. Else, there is no reversing this situation where sundry "activists" with a few hundred followers can occupy a maidan in Delhi and arrogate to themselves the right to bypass the architecture of the Constitution and impose laws on this country. For this the UPA needs to squarely look at its original sin, the mandate given to the National Advisory Council to presume to dictate legislation to Parliament. The Anna Hazares and Baba Ramdevs have comprehensively demonstrated the untenability of picking favourites among "civil society" activists. Give your fellow-traveller an elected representative's power, and you also put that power within reach of anyone with an appetite for the theatrics of blackmail. This is not how responsible governance is conducted, and the Congress-led UPA should give up the illusion that the problem is elsewhere.

If the UPA is still unwilling to disband that extra-constitutional authority, the NAC, it must expand it. Allow the leader of the opposition and state governments to nominate members, too, so it can be transformed into a more broad-based consultative body. The government will have ample time to question itself on the role it played in the Ramdev spectacular. But the slide towards chaos is steep, and it needs to be stopped immediately. If the government does not recapture credibility right away, then midterm elections are inevitable. Is that what it wants?






Compulsory education defeats its own purpose if isn't sufficiently compulsory and long enough. India has been a late entrant into the community of nations that offer their children free and compulsory education up to a basic level, for a certain minimum number of years. The Right of All Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, passed in 2009, entitled every child between 6 and 14 years of age to a free education. However, India still stood out by extending this right for only eight years, up to Class 8. In contrast, nations like the US, Djibouti or the Palestinian territories have extended the years of compulsory education. Russia, for instance, changed its law in 2007, making 11 years of schooling compulsory.

It has been felt in nations offering free and compulsory education that at least a school clearing certificate is necessary. If parents are bound by law to send their wards to school for primary and secondary education, they might as well see them educated till the end of secondary or high school. That's why the Union Human Resource Development Ministry's proposal to extend free and compulsory education to Class 10 is welcome, even as the idea might look no more than common sense. What's the point in ensuring everybody goes to school till age 14, if many of them still finish without the school leaving certificate that also doubles as the most basic, minimum public degree?

However, while the justification of extending compulsory education to Class 10 could not be stronger, there's a long way to go. RTE is still nascent, its modus operandi and resource pools still being established. The extension will need fresh blueprints and further consultations between the Centre and the states. To begin with, there's the matter of infrastructure, teachers and money. The proposal may also need an amendment to the RTE Act or a new one altogether. But even as the HRD ministry admits the hurdles, it has its finger on the problem: what happens to children after Class 8? Between the needs of a rapidly growing economy and the social necessity of education, Class 8 was too little, and came too soon.






The Chinese flag flew over the red clay of Paris as well. In the French Open women's final, Li Na beat defending champion Francesca Schiavone to become the first player from China to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Li's win comes at an unusual phase in women's tennis. It is no longer defined by one player or country, or one great rivalry. The dominance of the Williams sisters, when Venus and Serena seemed to take turns in winning Grand Slams, is long behind us. This is almost open season, with WTA's top 10 seeds coming from nine countries, including Belarus, Denmark and Italy. And, yet, it is no surprise that the game-changer for Asia was a 29-year-old from China, a country that is not big on tennis but has been upending conventions in sports and rigorously extending its dominance over newer disciplines. The juggernaut was evidenced in the 100-medal haul at the Olympics three years ago; and the proof is also in the four Chinese players in WTA's top 80. China has been quick to embrace Li's victory as a matter of national pride.

Yet, strangely, Li's win is not so much a validation of China's sporting industry as her rebellion against it. The spunky woman with a rose tattoo on her heart gave up state sponsorship, which had supported her career as a junior, in exchange for some free will — for the freedom to choose her coach and the events she would play and to keep a bigger share of the prize money as well. There may only be a couple of years of tennis more for Li, but given China's genius for finding templates for sporting success — like Yao Ming in basketball — she will not be the last Chinese Grand Slam champion.








For years there has been a growing debate in India about replacing hugely inefficient subsidies with cash or vouchers transferred directly into the hands of the poor, who could then procure goods and services from the open market — for example food, fuel, and education. Many eminent economists support the concept and there are successful experiences from other countries; yet the political will has been slow to gather steam. There are broadly three objections, either explicit or implicit. First, an underlying distrust of market mechanisms; second, doubts about the beneficiaries' ability to make good choices with the money they will get; and third, the logistics of fair disbursement.

Even now, with India on the verge of becoming the world's fastest-growing large economy, it would be a mistake to underestimate the distrust of markets. Jawaharlal Nehru is reported to have told J.R.D. Tata that he considered profit to be a dirty word, even in the context of the public sector. Perhaps it was his revulsion towards capitalism that moulded the country's attitudes. Or perhaps he was only reflecting the mood of a young republic that had just shaken off centuries-old colonial rule that had its roots in trade and commerce. In any event, even after two decades of economic liberalisation, modern India continues to be ambivalent towards markets and market mechanisms.

That should not be surprising, considering the egregious examples of crony capitalism that this country has repeatedly thrown up. And it is not just the gigantic national scams dominating the headlines that reinforce this suspicion; it is also the many mid-size scandals that routinely come to light at state and city levels; and most of all it is the billions of little frauds, the daily profiteering by district and village-level crony capitalists, which adds to the scepticism.

Free market mechanisms like lowered entry barriers and increased competition have contributed immensely to economic growth and consumer benefit. Think of the burgeoning millions of Indians who can now afford such things as scooters, cars, phones, air travel, etc. And yet, the average Indian citizen's experience of markets continues to be coloured by such examples as the crony contractor who builds bad village roads, the crony NGO which skims off governmental spending, and indeed the crony PDS dealer who cheats the poorest of people.

Harnessing the power of markets for the public good will be crucial if India is to improve the lives at the bottom of the pyramid. There is no other way to do it efficiently, at an affordable cost. This is already well-recognised and made more palatable by couching it in constructs like public private partnerships, at least for large projects. But it will take many success stories at the village level before the aam aadmi will trust the system. The irony is that while the government lags behind in helping create these successes, those who can afford it are voting with their feet. One example is the success of private rural schools, which are delivering far better results than their much better funded government alternatives.

The second concern, about the ability of the poor to make rational choices, is not just a patronising attitude from a feudal past. Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo — two celebrated young economists who famously pioneered randomised field studies in their discipline — give examples of seemingly irrational choices made by the poor in their seminal new book, Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty.

Their analysis shows these to be linked to lack of information, beliefs, procrastination, and the toll taken by very demanding lives. But they also conclude that these choices are dramatically impacted by even small incentives. This is corroborated by the success of conditional cash transfer schemes in Latin America, where the stipulations have included children's school enrolment and basic preventive healthcare.

Moreover, Banerjee and Duflo have also demonstrated that even non-conditional cash transfers tends to generally improve outcomes. The lesson seems to be that various approaches need to be combined, including respecting some of the choices made by the poor as well as structuring incentive based transfers.

Finally, there is the question of how to reliably disburse cash transfers. A quarter of a century ago, Rajiv Gandhi famously accused the notoriously leaky government machinery of gobbling up 85 per cent of the funds spent on poverty alleviation programmes, leaving only a paltry 15 per cent for the actual beneficiaries. Not much has changed since then. The solution is not to try and improve this machine — which is further complicated by intertwined networks of political patronage — but to bypass it as far as possible.

Technology holds the promise of that possibility. This is the one area where significant progress is being made, both by way of governmental initiatives like the UID programme, as well as the stupendous penetration of cellular phones, which has set the stage for potentially ubiquitous banking access. Put together, they make for a revolutionary combination: an inexpensive delivery mechanism and, critically, relatively easy beneficiaries' audits.

There is no consensus yet on any of these issues: whether to have cash transfers at all; if yes, then whether vouchers, conditional transfers or unconditional transfers; the mode of disbursement, and so on. But for one significant clue, it is possible to dismiss all the chatter on this subject as premature.

The giveaway is that politicians are finally catching on to the potential of this issue. In the 2009 elections, at least two of them — Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh and Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan — aggressively championed cash transfers. Next time around, it is highly likely that they will have plenty of company.

The writer, a member of the Lok Sabha, belongs to the BJD.







The BJP prides itself on its inner-party democracy and its consensual decision-making process. It is, after all, not a dynastic party where you disagree with the first family at your peril. But laissez-faire in the BJP can be relative. There may not be a single individual who calls all the shots, but the Sangh Parivar does adhere to a certain code in which speaking against the RSS or the party high command is frowned upon. Two years ago, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Arun Shourie mounted a challenge against L.K. Advani and his team, holding them responsible for the 2009 electoral defeat. The three paid a price for their outspokenness. Earlier, Advani himself was quietly nudged out as party president when he insisted on extolling Jinnah's secularism, a rebuttal of the RSS doctrine that demonised Jinnah for partitioning the subcontinent. Though many senior party persons were taken aback by the RSS foisting Nitin Gadkari on the BJP as president, no one dared speak out openly against it.

A.B. Vajpayee was the only exception, successfully defying the RSS and party leadership on occasion. But he enjoyed a special status and had developed a constituency of his own. Besides, he knew how to couch his opposition in subtle allusions instead of frontal attacks. If the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, believed she was following in the footsteps of Vajpayee, when she blamed others in the party, specifically Y.S. Yeddyurappa, Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar and M. Venkaiah Naidu, for the induction of the Reddy brothers in the Karnataka cabinet, she was ill-advised. Swaraj, in effect, mocked the party claim that it functions as a team and that, unlike the Congress, individuals cannot take decisions on their own.

Gadkari disapproved of Swaraj's comments and said party decisions are taken jointly. While some view Swaraj's comments as evidence that she is taking on her rivals in the party, it is more likely an unforeseen fallout of an attempt to distance herself from the Reddy brothers of Bellary. The state Lokayukta, Santosh Hegde, is expected to submit a report on the brothers' mining activities later this month. Swaraj cannot disassociate herself so easily from the controversial businessmen. They were her hosts when she contested from Bellary in the 1999 Lok Sabha poll and they still acknowledge her as their mentor. In fact, state Health Minister B. Sriramulu, a close associate of the Reddys, hardly helped Swaraj's case by calling her "our goddess". It was, again, to Swaraj that the party turned to persuade the Reddys to not bring down the Yeddyurappa government with the use of their money power.

With a top heavy leadership in Delhi and some popular chief ministers, the BJP has no shortage of candidates who would like to throw their hats into the ring as potential prime ministerial candidates. Swaraj's appointment by Advani as party leader in the Lok Sabha automatically upped her profile, particularly as she performed her duties in Parliament with panache and aplomb. Swaraj is seen as a potential contender for the top slot, along with Narendra Modi, Gadkari, Advani and

Jaitley. Some have compared the very effective Swaraj-Jaitley jugalbandi in Parliament to the Advani-Vajpayee partnership that dominated the BJP for nearly five decades. The comparison is ironic. Advani and Vajpayee, in fact, had major differences through much of their political careers, even if, for public consumption, they maintained a united front.

It is presumed in politics that when the ruling party is down, the opposition party's stock rises. But this is not the case at present. The Manmohan Singh government's image is at an all-time low, hit by a series of scandals and its inability to curb inflation. UPA 2 appears distinctly vulnerable, with its uneasy relations with the DMK and its uncertain future in Andhra Pradesh. But the Congress's losses have not translated into the BJP's gains. In the recent assembly elections, the Congress may have received a few setbacks, but the BJP was a washout, even in Assam where it had high hopes. In the forthcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, the BJP's chances are not rated very highly.

The vacuum created by the decline of the Congress has benefited regional parties more than it has the BJP. The party has failed to grow outside its traditional sphere of influence. In fact, its clout has shrunk considerably in UP. (Karnataka is an exception thanks to Yeddyurappa bringing in the Lingayat vote, hence the party's compulsion to stick with him as chief minister.) To be taken seriously as a national party, the BJP needs to put its own house in order.







By the time of the Kongka-La incident on October 21, 1959 ('How the Chinese Challenge Erupted', IE, May 23), it was clear that Indian and Chinese positions on the border issue were irreconcilable. If there was any doubt left on this score, a letter from Zhou Enlai, received on December 17, demolished it. The Chinese prime minister underscored the utter lack of any common ground on the boundary question. He ruled out Chinese willingness to abate their territorial demands, but ended his missive by repeating that the two prime ministers should meet to "reach agreements on principles" to guide "concrete discussions, which might otherwise get bogged down in endless debate".

Nehru was prepared to agree to such a meeting but only to negotiate "minor rectifications of an accepted alignment". On this basis he would discuss matters "to the bitter end" because the "alternative was war". But to the Chinese demand that the boundary along its entire length be discussed, he would never agree. In some of his speeches, in Parliament and outside, he declared that he wasn't going to "hand over the Himalayas as a gift".

Well before the killing of Indian armed policemen at Kongka-La or even earlier, especially after the receipt of Zhou's September 8 letter, in which he had not only asserted that the entire India-China boundary was "un-delimited" but also accused Nehru of allowing the Dalai Lama to "exceed the limits of political asylum", two other ominous developments had taken place to suggest that Tibet was fuelling China's anger and intransigence over the border.

The first was the publication in People's Daily of May 6 of a lengthy and virulent article entitled "The Revolution in Tibet and Nehru's Philosophy". It not only rebutted his version of the events in Tibet since 1950 but also alleged that for "historical reasons, India's big bourgeoisie has inherited and is attempting to maintain certain legacies from the British colonial rulers". Years later it became known that Mao Zedong had personally vetted this article and a subsequent one in the same vein. The writer was one of his confidants and politburo member, Chen Boda. Quite clearly the meaning of this verbal onslaught, like that of Zhou's obduracy over the frontier issue, was not fully understood. For, even after the traumatic border war, Krishna Menon, the controversial former defence minister and Nehru's close adviser, told eminent academic Michael Brecher that Tibet was "not the cause of China's hostility to India".

The second episode was even more dramatic and somewhat threatening despite its polite language. On May 16, China's ambassador Pan Zuli met Foreign Secretary Subimal Dutt personally to present a note. Its language and his theatrical style jolted the Indian officials present on the occasion but the country took little notice because escalating acrimony in exchanges between the two countries was, by now, taken for granted.

Ambassador Pan, who had asked for the meeting, began by alleging that India had "encouraged" the Tibetan revolt "in an objective sense", if not "subjectively", and went on to argue that the "US imperialists", together with their Asian allies, were China's enemy. China and India, on the other hand, had been friends for a thousand years and more, and should "certainly continue to be so". He therefore wanted to know what was on India's mind. "Our Indian friends! Will you be agreeing to our thinking regarding our view that China can only concentrate its main attention eastward... but not southeastward of China, nor is it necessary for it to do so... Friends! It seems to us that you too cannot have two fronts". This was the first transparent, if subtle, hint of the coming China-Pakistan axis against this country. At that time, however, it went largely unnoticed.

It is perhaps needless to add that as 1959 dragged on, criticism of Nehru's China policy became more and more trenchant and almost constant. When Parliament was in session the non-Communist Opposition needled him ceaselessly, to say the least. (The still-undivided Communist Party of India was, of course, squirming in the tormenting dilemma between the outraged nationalist sentiment and ideological loyalty.) Public and, to a large extent, press opinion was with the critics, of whom the most eloquent were Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the Jan Sangh, the forerunner of today's BJP; elderly and highly respected Acharya Kripalani; H.V. Kamath, a vigorous socialist; and his colleague, Hem Barua. Discontent with Nehru's policy was by no means confined to the opposition. It was quite extensive even among Congressmen who expressed themselves, however, discreetly and that too usually at party forums.

However sharp the criticism he faced (and answered at length), Nehru remained firm on his threefold policy on China: to resist any further Chinese incursion, to build up Indian defences and prepare for war, if only to avoid war, and to solve the problems with China through negotiations. Towards this end, he did not want anything said that would inflame the situation. Underlying this approach was his belief that China, too, wouldn't want armed conflict with India.

Since this ran counter to national mood, piquant situations arose sometimes. For instance, once, in pursuance of his inclination to make some "minor modifications" in the otherwise non-negotiable border, he told Parliament that Aksai Chin, under Chinese occupation, was an area where "not a blade of grass grows, not a bird flies". Thereupon Mahavir Tyagi, a senior Congress member and former minister, held his head in both his hands and exclaimed: "Not a hair grows on my head. Does it mean that it should be cut off?"

On another occasion, Vajpayee was much more wounding when he taunted the prime minister: "There are three causes of war: zan, zewar aur zameen (women, wealth and land). Land you've given away. What else would you give up"?

Nearly four decades later when as prime minister, Vajpayee was under heavy attack for not sacking Narendra Modi after the 2002 Gujarat riots, he confided to us, a group of journalists, that his critics had become most intemperate. And then, with a touch of remorse, he had added that he too had been "unduly harsh" on Nehru.

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator








It was a quintessential family mall-movie journey. Parents in front, feigning disciplinary moods, and children at the back, paying them lesser attention than they do class teachers. Stanley Ka Dabba being the purpose of the trip, as well as the subject of in-car conversations. South Delhi traffic rushed somewhat before the avoidable rush hour. So it was when the white car in front crawled to a halt at the traffic lights that I noticed the sticker on its back window.

Something that had been seen last year in Sirsa, Haryana, but now for the first time in Delhi. The surprise was not pleasant. Which then prompted the question to the children in the back seat, "who is that in the sticker on that car?"

After the guesswork amongst each other, the boy, 13 going on 14, announced it was Mullah Omar. The girl, well into 11, asked, "isn't that Osama bin Laden?" To which the boy said, "then why is he carrying a spear?" So the girl retorted, "have you seen Mullah Omar carrying a spear?" And this is how it went until the lights turned to green, and cars, and conversations, went their own way.

A little while later I asked if there was any conclusion on the sticker matter, but they'd given up by then, or lost interest, or both.

So when I told them it was Bhindranwale, the "who" question was quick, in unison, and loud. The mother then explained, and I wondered as I drove, and have been thinking since then, about India 2011, terror, images, and memory.

Is India in 2011 so different from the rage of the 1980s? Are Indians growing up without a local footnote on terror? Sure, there are events that hurt and disturb, foremost being Mumbai 2008. But are Indian children laying pegs on terror that are not based on local imagery? Are current benchmarks the global version of Terror Inc.? God forbid there be any local terrorism, but isn't there something naïve about the visual of terror being limited to Mullah Omar or bin Laden? There is a disquiet somewhere, and which bothers deep down.

For someone growing up in Delhi of 1980s the spectre of terror was identifiable. It was lived, as an Indian phenomenon. It all began with the political manipulation of the Punjab countryside, so as to estrange the first Akali Dal government. As blatant as that. The cycle that was set in motion led the Government of India to shame itself beyond redemption.

The machinations led to the tragedy of "Operation Bluestar", and the heartbreak that followed across the land. So when the man who allowed himself to be used by the manipulators, and in the process brought terror to Punjab, and in his name, to other parts of the country and beyond, returns as a car windshield sticker, there is certainly something to worry about.

There is something to worry about Punjab, with politics balanced similarly to when the whole process began. Then there is something to worry about those who make and carry the stickers. There is obviously a sense of alienation that continues to torment some to identify with an image that once embodied havoc, and terror. After all, what happened in Punjab, and in the name of Punjab, all that happened around the country and the world, wasn't something that can simply be regarded as a bad dream. So when the visuals come up, even on an air-conditioned Delhi taxi, there is something amiss somewhere.

There is, after all, no logical reason for a child born into the 21st century to identify a brief player of the 1980s. That chapter has been closed by all accounts. But what happens when some hands reopen the pages, and paste the photos all over again? Do we revisit a period that doesn't exist for many, or pretend it is closed for posterity? And is India, once again, sleeping in its belief that all is well?

The writer was a BJP MP in the 14th Lok Sabha. He is now editor of 'Defence & Security Alert'






Thomas L. Friedman

FROM: Ministry of State Security

TO: President Hu Jintao

SUBJECT: The Arab Spring

Dear President Hu: You asked for our assessment of the Arab Spring. Our conclusion is the revolutions in the Arab world contain important lessons for the Chinese Communist Party, because what this contagion reveals is something very new about of how revolutions unfold in the 21st century and something very old about why they explode.

Let's start with the new. Sometime around 2000, the world achieved a very high level of connectivity, virtually flattening the global economic playing field. This web of connectivity brought some two billion people into a global conversation.

Well, sir, while we were focused on the US recession, we went from a connected world to a "hyperconnected world." It has connected Boston, Beijing and now Baotou in inner Mongolia. This deeper penetration of connectivity is built on smarter cellphones, wireless bandwidth and social networks. This new platform for connectivity, being so cheap and mobile, is bringing another two billion people into the conversation from more and more remote areas.

What the laptop plus the Internet plus the search engine did for Web pages was enable anyone with connectivity to find anything that interests them and what the cellphone plus the Internet plus Facebook are doing is enabling anyone to find anyone who interests them — and then coordinate with them and share grievances and aspirations.

The days when Arab dictators could take over the state-run TV and radio and shut off all information to their people are over. The Syrians can't shut off their cellphone networks now any more than they can shut off their electricity grids.

Sir, think about this: Syria has banned all foreign networks, like CNN and the BBC, but if you go to YouTube you will see the most vivid up-to-date video of the Syrian regime's crackdown — all shot with cellphones or flip-cams by Syrians.

The second trend we see in the Arab Spring is a manifestation of "Carlson's Law," posited by Curtis Carlson, the CEO of SRI International, in Silicon Valley, which states that: "In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb." As a result, says Carlson, the sweet spot for innovation today is "moving down," closer to the people, not up, because all the people together are smarter than anyone alone and all the people now have the tools to invent and collaborate.

The regime of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was just too dumb and slow to manage the unrest. The Tahrir revolutionaries were smart but chaotic, and without leadership. Therefore, the role of leaders today — of companies and countries — is to inspire, empower, enable and then edit and meld all that innovation coming from the bottom up. But that requires more freedom for the bottom. Do you see what I mean, sir?

But this is not about technology alone. As the Russian historian Leon Aron noted, Arab uprisings closely resemble the Russian democratic revolution of 1991 in one key respect: They were both not so much about freedom or food as about "dignity." They each grew out of a deep desire by people to run their own lives and to be treated as "citizens" — with obligations and rights that the state cannot just give and take by whim.

We always exaggerate people's quest for GDP and undervalue their quest for ideals. "Dignity before bread" was the slogan of the Tunisian revolution. We need to keep that in mind in China, sir. We should be proud of the rising standard of living that we have delivered for our people. But it is not the only thing in their lives — and at some point it won't be the most important thing. Do you see what I mean, sir?






With Tea Party conservatives and many Republicans balking at raising the debt ceiling, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals.

It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 per cent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs. This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn't imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.

The budget priority is a strong military, the nation's most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.

So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it's Pakistan.

Now obviously Sarah Palin and John Boehner don't intend to turn Washington into Islamabad-on-the-Potomac. And they are right that long-term budget issues do need to be addressed. But when many Republicans insist on "starving the beast" of government, cutting taxes, regulations and social services — slashing everything but the military — well, those are steps toward Pakistan.

The United States is, of course, in no danger of actually becoming Pakistan, any more than we're going to become Sweden at the other extreme. But as America has become more unequal, as we cut off government lifelines to the neediest Americans, as half of states plan to cut spending on higher education this year, let's be clear about our direction — and about the turnaround that a Republican budget victory would represent.

The long trajectory of history has been for governments to take on more responsibilities, and for citizens to pay more taxes. Now we're at a turning point, with Republicans arguing that we need to reverse course.

I spend a fair amount of time reporting in developing countries, from Congo to Colombia. They're typically characterised by minimal taxes, high levels of inequality, free-wheeling businesses and high military expenditures. Any of that ring a bell?

In Latin American, African or Asian countries, I sometimes see shiny tanks and fighter aircraft — but schools that have trouble paying teachers. Sound familiar? And the upshot is societies that are quasi-feudal, stratified by social class, held back by a limited sense of common purpose.

In fairness to Pakistan and Congo, wealthy people in such countries manage to live surprisingly comfortably. Instead of financing education with taxes, these feudal elites send their children to elite private schools. Instead of financing a reliable police force, they hire bodyguards. Instead of supporting a modern health care system for their nation, they fly to hospitals in London.

You can tell the extreme cases by the hum of diesel generators at night. Instead of paying taxes for a reliable electrical grid, each wealthy family installs its own powerful generator to run the lights and air-conditioning. It's noisy and stinks, but at least you don't have to pay for the poor.

I've always made fun of these countries, but now I see echoes of that pattern of privatisation of public services in America. Police budgets are being cut, but the wealthy take refuge in gated communities with private security guards. Their children are spared the impact of budget cuts at public schools and state universities because they attend private institutions.

Mass transit is underfinanced; after all, Mercedes-Benzes and private jets are much more practical, no? And maybe the most striking push for reversal of historical trends is the Republican plan to dismantle Medicare as a universal health care program for the elderly.

There's even an echo of the electrical generator problem. More and more affluent homes in the suburbs are buying electrical generators to use when the power fails.

So in this season's political debates, let's remember that we're arguing not only over debt ceilings and budgets, but about larger questions of our vision for our country. Do we really aspire to take a step in the direction of a low-tax laissez-faire Eden ... like Pakistan?









Analysts are usually relieved when companies pare their debt burden but the fact that Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) will become debt-free in a year won't really make a difference to them. What's bothering them is the large amounts of cash that the company is spewing and more importantly the fact that chairman Mukesh

Ambani isn't really spelling out what he's going to do with so much money—cash from operations could end up at between R30,000-R40,000 crore in each of the next three years starting 2011-12. What must also have surprised many is that Ambani made no mention whatsoever, at Friday's annual general meeting, of the proposed foray into the power sector, a subject he had dwelt on at last year's meeting of shareholders—given the growing losses in the power sector, though, that may just be a good sign.

But above all, they must be very disappointed that he didn't offer any insights into how soon the production of oil and gas at the KG-D6 basin, currently well below their peaks, would be ramped up except to say that once the deal with BP is approved, the KG-D6 reservoirs would be jointly assessed to address the technical issues in ramping up production. Obviously BP believes its $9 billion investment will pay off in the long run and production of gas at the KG-D6 will eventually hit the targeted 80mmscmd mark. But that's little consolation right now when the RIL has been an underperforming for over a year and has lost nearly 10% since April, 2011, compared with a fall of 5.4% in the Sensex.

Should shareholders believe that RIL's focus on telecom will result in a large enough business creating value for shareholders? Last year, RIL invested R4,200 crore in the broadband sector getting 22 spectrum licences and is understood to have invested a further R10,000 crore to build the necessary infrastructure. Opportunities in the telecom space are undoubtedly exciting in a country like India although the competition is keen, and RIL already can probably hope to get market share in the data segment. But it will be a few years before the results start to show. As for the organised retail business, which RIL ventured into a few years back and was struggling, it can be become a business of meaningful size. The joint ventures like the ones with Hamleys or Marks & Spencer fetch higher margins but can't be scaled up beyond a point while segments like foods promise high turnover but wafer-thin margins. The foray into the cash and carry segment is a sign that RIL wants to straddle every segment of the retail space. However, it will be a while before the benefits flow to the bottom line. In the meantime, until there is some evidence that RIL's oil wells are going to be more productive, analysts will find it hard to re-rate the stock.





Even back in 2008, when developed countries were desperately trying to reflate their way out of trouble, it was obvious that the chickens would come home to roost. And they have. Sovereign debt is haunting the developed world. The PIIGS squeal in pain: on top of Portugal recently seeking ECB bailout funds, Ireland is still precariously perched while Greece is starting to make the East Asian crisis look like a jolly, as it moves towards asset fire sales. There's more than enough on everyone's plate. What underscores the risks in the global recovery is best exemplified by Moody's statement, of a review of the US's AAA credit rating being 'likely' in July. No one realistically expects default (indeed yields on 10-year T-bills are very low at 3%) and Moody's itself is saying the risk is 'very small'. What is important, however, is how little US politicians are doing about it. In mid-May, the US government hit its statutory debt ceiling of $14.3 tn, but the logjam in the US continued. It is in this context that, in April, S&P issued its revised outlook, when it said there was a 1-in-3 chance it would cut its long-term rating on the US within two years. It's been six weeks since, and we're no closer to a resolution in the US, a credible plan of reducing expenditure that is acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans.

Any downgrade of the US, although yields may not spectacularly rise, would cause exacerbate tension in the global economy. It would highlight the Triffin dilemma that currently plagues the international monetary system: although the US needs to run its deficit to provide liquidity, constantly raising its debt ceiling, doing so reduces credit worthiness and erodes the dollar's sanctity. Although such issues need to be dealt with concertedly in the longer run, with a 21st Century Bretton Woods moment, for now, when recovery is still weak, responsible politics is needed. Indeed, if the Fed sees continued political impasse and a threat to low yields, alongside weakened growth, it may just go for QE3—something to be avoided for risk of resurrecting the currency wars. This time, Moody's sent the right message: it's time to grow up.






The sharp reaction caused by the statement of the Union environment minister and his subsequent strategic retreat is on expected lines. He should have known that he was treading into a hostile area by questioning the credentials of a major special interest group. Indeed, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed person is the king, and it would be a heresy to question the standing of faculty in elite institutions. The discussion has raged from the meaning of "world class", constraints in achieving the world class, over 25% of world class students being the faculty making it the world class, to abysmally low level and defeatist arguments like politicians not belonging to the world class.

Interestingly, no one seems to seriously question the basic contention of the minister that the faculty in these premier institutions in terms of their research contributions is not world class. In fact, that is a fact taken for granted, and the arguments are focused mainly on pointing out why research in these institutions does not compare with those in good universities and institutions abroad. The people involved in the debate have been busy explaining reasons, and factors are identified as rigidities in the system, existence of constraints, low salary levels and excessive teaching loads. Of course, there was one worthy who derives satisfaction by stating that our politicians are not world class either!

I remember an eminent director of a law school once telling me that most "high class" institutions in India are merely good screening institutions. Given the scarcity of these elite institutions whose graduates can reap a very high rate of return on their investments and, therefore, have overwhelming excess demand, more than half the job is done in selecting the best students. Much of the value addition to the students during their stay in these institutions comes from the quality of interaction among themselves and the competition to excel in order to earn high incomes.

The lone defence of the teachers was by Kapil Sibal and that is unconvincing. Does the fact that 25% of the faculty in IITs is their former students make them world-class teachers and researchers automatically? Sibal should have known that teaching and research require different skills and specialisation. It is important to realise that every profession grows in the institutional milieu in which it is placed. The students in these institutions have had to compete hard to get admitted and have to continue to compete hard to excel to be among the best. The rate of return depends on the excellence achieved. In contrast, the standards of getting in as a teacher are different and once a teacher becomes the professor, she does not have any incentive to publish.

The problem is not merely with the lack of competition. The non-competitive pay scales are an important barrier for the entry of the best into the profession of teaching. The mediocrity perpetuates it as they set the standards and institute an evaluation system. Once a person becomes a professor, there is no further incentive for him to publish. Equally concerning is the fact that the performance has nothing to do with the reward. I have known of an economics professor with several publications in reputed journals, such as Journal of Economic Theory and Econometrica, who recently retired from a well known university, which also has professors with little to show for publication in refereed journals. Perhaps, scholars like him are few and far between because that is simply being irrational!

The hierarchical system in many of the institutions does not provide the necessary environment for competent youngsters to thrive. The seniors often feel threatened when a youngster starts publishing in important journals. Not surprisingly, the bright young scholars do not find the atmosphere congenial. I know of a young lecturer in IIT Delhi who resigned from the

Institute a few years ago because he could not get leave to visit the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste for a couple of months. A rational scholar with good publications and seeking to continue to publish in reputed journals will move into places where the atmosphere is congenial, she is respected and her competitive spirit is rewarded.

Excellence cannot be achieved in the absence of incentives and accountability. Higher education in India still suffers from the licence-permit raj and is constrained by quantity, price and wage controls. The barrier to entry arising from the licence-permit raj reduces accessibility and constrains competition. Thus, in an area where India has a comparative advantage to make itself a hub for quality higher education, over 3 lakh Indian students end up seeking education outside the country. The ones within the control of the government, including the IITs and IIMs, have no incentive to expand, nor is it easy to get even the faculty of the quality they have at present for expansion. Those in the private sector get the licence even with poor faculty quality and run the institutions to make money. When there are controls on the price, they charge capitation fees and collect rent in various ways. Control on the faculty salaries makes the profession relatively unattractive and surely, if we have to attract world-class faculty to our institutions, we have to pay them competitive salaries. Besides not making teaching an attractive option to the new entrants, control over pay scales rules out the possibility of eminent Indian scholars, living overseas, returning to teach. Absence of competition condemns the teaching community to mediocrity. The same faculty could publish much more in a more competitive setting, but when performance has nothing to do with rewards, we cannot expect anything different. Over time, the entrenched teachers themselves become a major special interest group and would force a status quo.

The policymakers ought to realise the fact that the current policy regime has served only a few and has been instrumental in creating strong special interest groups. What is needed is an overhaul of the higher education policy in a comprehensive manner, not just talking about the class of faculty in a few elite institutions.

The author is director, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. These are his personal views





Something new is happening in the global economy for which few were prepared. We were talking four years ago about de-coupling and how the emerging economies were independent of the developed ones. That theory bit the dust in 2008-09. Emerging economies were hit by the Great Recession but only in terms of a dent in their GDP growth rate, which fell by two to three percentage points. So there was articulation but still a lot of local scope for each region to go its own way.

The efforts to revive the developed economies have been only partially successful. Fiscal policy has reached its limits, though Keynesians would argue that this is out of misguided timidity and fear of the bond markets. But whether in the US, which has been fiscally more active, or Europe where the debt burden has bit more sharply, fiscal policy has been unable to revive the economies from the 5%-plus negative output shock they suffered. The US remains stuck in 9% unemployment and there have been many false dawns promising a return to normalcy. The UK has tied itself to a five year deficit cutting programme (a zero real growth of public spending above its level in 2010-11). Germany has had some export growth but that is now petering out and the Eurozone's problems, especially of the PIGS, mean that there will not be a resurgence of growth any time soon.

But the more interesting aspect of the reflationary policies has been the QE experiment. Keynes was sceptical about the effectiveness of monetary policy in a recession. He feared a liquidity trap, which would mean that interest rates would not go down below a certain minimum no matter how much money you create. What we have seen instead is that while bond yields can be got down quite low and short-term rates are near zero, there has been no growth in business borrowing. Investment has not picked up. The Post-Keynesians are right; demand for money (credit) is the key, not the supply.

The large amount of liquidity sloshing around has instead gone into commodity markets, causing a strong surge in inflation. Not finding demand at home in developed countries, the money has flooded emerging markets and stiffened their exchange rates, causing resentment. Brazilian finance minister Mantega has been articulate in registering his complaints. It seems that with China pegging the renminbi, it is the other emerging economies that bear an excessive burden.

It is quite clear that the QE via its effect on commodity price inflation is now beginning to hit the growth rate in emerging economies as well. We have downturns in recent months in manufacturing activity not only in the US, UK, Germany but also in China. India has had an erratic growth in industrial production and the early growth estimates for the first quarter are, not surprisingly, a bit down on what was forecast. QE is also making deficit cutting difficult in the UK, for example, where the decline in real income is sharper than anticipated and hence public revenues below forecast, raising the amount of borrowing above target. Thus QE may yet turn out to be counter-productive though it is early days yet. But there is no doubt that emerging economies are being adversely affected by QE.

This is a linkage that had not been anticipated thus far. A monetary stimulus in the developed economies that causes a growth recession in emerging economies while at the same time fails to revive home economies is novel. It illustrates once again that we have a lot to learn yet about how the global economy functions. Most macroeconomic theory, following Keynes's original theory, assumes a closed economy. Even the little that has been done about open economy macro does not treat the subject truly globally. What we study is exchange rate dynamics of each country and its impact on the domestic macroeconomy. Here, we have effects across the global arena via capital flows and commodity prices whereby one region's liquidity expansion affects the other region's growth prospects.

What is worrying is that while there may not be a double-dip recession, the actual recovery will be flat for a while yet. My hunch has always been since the recession began that this is not a Keynesian recession caused by a lack of effective demand but a Hayekian one caused by low interest rates and over-borrowing invested in low yielding projects—mal-investments. Households and governments, which are heavily leveraged cannot spend any money until they have retired their debts. Those to whom they pay back are also not spending since they cannot see any signs of demand reviving.

We are going to be in flat territory for a while yet.

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer







The midnight police swoop on yoga exponent and telestar 'Baba' Ramdev and his supporters was arbitrary, brutal, and anti-democratic. A peaceful assembly had suddenly been set upon and tens of innocent people injured for no fault of their own. "No government has reached out as much as ours," negotiating Minister Kapil Sibal had boasted on the eve of the action. "But if we can reach out, we can also rein in." Mr. Sibal mis-spoke: what he meant perhaps was 'No government has the capacity to lurch from one extreme to the other as our government.' First, it reached out to Shri Ramdev in a way that was indistinguishable from obsequiousness, with four Ministers led by the second-ranking Cabinet Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, abandoning all semblance of dignity by going to the airport to receive a man who has since been denounced as a 'cheat' and a 'thug' by a senior Congress leader, Digvijay Singh. The message that immediately went out was that given the anti-corruption mood in the country, the Manmohan Singh government was desperate to fend off further political trouble. It then negotiated in secret with Shri Ramdev, supposedly to get on top of the huge and complex issue of India's black or dirty money — which is parked in tax havens, exploits the offshore system that is analysed powerfully in Nicholas Shaxson's book, Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World (The Bodley Head, London, 2011), and has figured in global reports and in releases of secret banking records by WikiLeaks that provide a foretaste of what is to come. The message sent out by the midnight police action at New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan was profoundly anti-democratic: for those who won't 'reach out' to the government by doing a backroom deal, the 'reining in' will be by teargas and police lathis, fists, and boots.

A quick look at Shri Ramdev's charter of demands reveals that many of them are bizarre or over-the-top or don't fit into India's constitutional scheme. His mobilisation has brought in large numbers of people who are sincere in their detestation of corruption — and also communal elements and reactionaries. But every Act and Scene of the tragicomedy, L'affaire Ramdev, has exposed the political bankruptcy of the United Progressive Alliance government when it comes to dealing with the issues of corruption, ministerial misconduct, and abuse of power. Beleaguered by a multitude of corruption scandals dominated by the 2G-spectrum allocation scam, it has earned the reputation for being the most corrupt dispensation independent India has seen. On top of this, by lurching from one extreme to another in unprincipled and anti-democratic fashion, it has miscalculated badly and landed in a deeper mess.





In 1977, a 23-year-old cook at a hospital in Somalia who caught smallpox and survived became the last naturally occurring case of the disease. Three years later, in May 1980, the World Health Assembly, the supreme decision-making body of the World Health Organisation, declared that "the world and all its people have won freedom from smallpox." No disease has ever been so instantly recognised or so widely known and feared, wrote D.A. Henderson, the man who led the worldwide eradication effort, in his book about the arduous campaign to immunise people in every part of the globe and its ultimate success. Thirty smallpox-free years later, we need to remember that even in the early 1950s this highly contagious disease was infecting 50 million people worldwide annually, killing up to a third of them in a horrible fashion.

Although smallpox is now seen as a scourge of yesteryear, the terrible virus that caused it is still very much around. The last stocks of the virus, running to hundreds of strains collected worldwide, are now held in only two high-security laboratories, one in the United States, the other in Russia. While many developing countries where the disease was once endemic want those stocks destroyed, the U.S., in particular, has been dragging its feet. It argues that those viruses are needed for research to develop better vaccines and anti-viral drugs. Such research, it says, is necessary in case rogue states or terrorists use undeclared stocks of the virus as bioweapons. In a letter published in the journal Science in 1994, Nobel laureate David Baltimore observed: "I doubt that we so desperately need to study smallpox that it would be worth the risk inherent in experimentation." Much the same research could be achieved by studying related viruses. A WHO-appointed group of independent experts, who submitted their comments in December 2010, pointed out that closely related viruses could be used on surrogate animal models to study disease-causing mechanisms as well as drug and vaccine efficacy. If there is indeed a threat of smallpox being reintroduced, what the world needs is not more research with the actual virus but a sufficient global stockpile of vaccine that can be deployed in such an emergency. The WHO currently possesses a grossly inadequate 32 million doses of vaccine. The just-concluded World Health Assembly, while reaffirming the commitment to destroying all remaining stocks of the smallpox virus after crucial research had been completed, has kicked the can down the road. The issue is to be looked at again three years hence. Will this be the last reprieve granted to a virus that has caused so much havoc in the world?







Like millions of others across India, I have spent the past week repelled by the spectacle of a weak government entering into improbable contortions over the naive and somewhat bizarre demands of Baba Ramdev. And when the "toughness" followed in the early hours of Sunday, it came in a typically cowardly fashion — with police action in the dead of the night against unarmed supporters who did not pose an immediate or even potential threat to law and order in Delhi. Kapil Sibal, the government's chief negotiator, said permission to assemble at the Ram Lila grounds had been granted for yoga exercises and not politics. But people in India have the right to assemble peacefully and to put forward political demands if they so wish. If tomorrow, the organisers of a classical music concert in Nehru Park put up a banner demanding a strong Lokpal Bill, will it be OK for the police to wade in?

The fact that the Manmohan Singh government swung from abject capitulation to unnecessary confrontation in less than 48 hours does not surprise me. Its credibility on the issue of corruption is at an all time low. The pressure it is under has blunted its political instincts. However, sending four senior ministers to the airport to welcome the yoga instructor-turned-upstart politician and then hundreds of policemen to extern him were both acts of gutlessness which the Congress party will find hard to live down. Particularly when the Baba was not even serious about the issue of black money.

Everybody with any sense agrees that corruption is a serious issue and that all efforts must be made to end the curse of black money. But it is meaningless and even nonsensical to demand the framing of a new law to confiscate black money when we do not know where this money is, how much it consists of and who it belongs to. If the authorities had this information, they would be legally empowered to seize the funds and place their owners behind bars. But the passage of a new law will not make the gathering of this information any easier. Either the Baba is not a very serious person or he has allowed emotion and his broader political ambitions to cloud his judgment. Which is surely not a good thing for someone well versed in yoga.

The problem of corruption is not simply one of law but of will. The hold of black money over the economic and political system of India cannot be ended so long as the government lacks the political will to actually crack down on the printing press which generates it: corruption. Defined broadly as the abuse of political and corporate power for personal gain, corruption is the glue which binds this country's political and economic elite at every level of governance from the block and district up to the Union. Corruption is not an abstraction. Every crore that a politician or bureaucrat may have secreted away as "black money" in Switzerland or elsewhere is organically linked to the tens of crores of rupees in both "black" and "white" money outside and inside India that businessmen generate by getting favourable treatment. Corruption was an integral part of the "license-permit raj" of Nehruvian socialism. But it has grown to frightening proportions in our liberalised free market economy. Politics and business have come so close together today that it is sometimes hard to tell the two apart.

Any serious campaign against corruption by civil society or politicians, Babas or babalog must zero in on the system which generates illegal gains for those with power, influence and money. Such a campaign must demand that action be taken against those individuals who have abused their authority or sought to subvert laws and procedures for personal gain. But Ramdev's campaign was not about this at all. Which was why the government was also quite happy to engage with him in what it knew would be a meaningless exercise.

While there is always room for legislative clarity in the definition of offences, the implementation of any new law will remain a prisoner to this lack of political will unless it allows for independent investigation and prosecution. A strong Lokpal Bill may help remedy the situation somewhat but only if the ability of the government to interfere with the investigation or punishment of well-connected individuals is ended. Here, it is instructive to see what happened in a recent case decided by the Lokayukta for the Delhi government, Justice Manmohan Sarin.

In the same week that the UPA government agreed to discuss the entire system of taxation, finance, administration and education in the country with Baba Ramdev, its stiffness of resolve in protecting a junior politician accused by the Lokayukta of abusing his authority seems to have passed almost unnoticed.

The case concerned a Delhi minister, Raj Kumar Chauhan, who sought to interfere with the tax inspectors even as they were conducting a raid at the premises of a private establishment. A complaint against the minister was filed by a senior IAS officer, Jalaj Shrivastava, who was a tax commissioner at the time. After conducting an inquiry, which included collecting testimony on oath from the officers concerned, Justice Sarin found that the minister had indeed abused his authority on behalf of a private party. But his recommendation that Mr. Chauhan be sacked and proceeded against was rejected by the President of India on the advice of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Evidently, the MHA found Mr. Chauhan's explanation — that the telephone call he placed during the raid was nothing other than the routine expression of concern for a constituent — to be more credible than the exertions of the Lokayukta or of the upright bureaucrats who put their future career prospects on the line by becoming whistle-blowers.

The protection afforded to the Delhi minister, who is fairly low down in the Congress party's food chain, shows the extent to which the "system" is programmed to circle its wagons at the first sign of trouble. Even if one dismisses this example because the Lokayukta is still a young institution, what explains the continuation of Vilasrao Deshmukh in the Union Cabinet despite the Supreme Court holding him guilty of abusing his authority when he was Chief Minister of Maharashtra? Mr. Deshmukh had intervened on behalf of a usurious moneylender against whom some peasants wished to file a police complaint. Instructions to go easy were phoned in to the police station concerned, which diligently made a record of the call in its daily log book. A system that is keen to stamp out the abuse of authority — which lies at the root of all corruption — would ask Mr. Deshmukh to leave the Cabinet now that his culpability has been confirmed by the highest court. But, alas, the UPA does not run such a system. Mr. Deshmukh got promoted to a more powerful ministry. And instructions have been sent out to all police stations in Maharashtra that they should no longer make a record of every phone call they receive from ministers.

If Baba Ramdev were really serious about fighting corruption, he would have hit the UPA hard at the places it was most vulnerable instead of trying to build his own political constituency through shadow boxing against imaginary foes like the Cayman Islands and the 1000 rupee note. As for the Bharatiya Janata Party and RSS, which have tried to fire from the Baba's shoulder, the less said the better. Why is it that L.K. Advani, who was the second most powerful man in India for six years from 1998 to 2004, woke up to the problem of black money only after his government was voted out of power? If there is a lesson from the farce that has been enacted in Delhi this past week, it is this: there is no room for abstraction. Instead of demanding the "return of black money," let us ask the government why it has not signed an agreement with Switzerland of the kind the European Union has for the repatriation of taxes that the Swiss levy on interest earned by foreign account holders. Instead of the death penalty for the "corrupt," let us ask why the Prime Minister is so slow to act against ministers who abuse their authority. Let us push for a strong and empowered Lokpal whose recommendations cannot be thrown into the dustbin.








Not only was there no legal and live capture, no inquiry, no trial, no judgment, no detention, no post-mortem, no public burial, no due process and no Geneva Convention — there was not even a photograph. It was a death that happened in camera — not "on camera." One of the most historic fugitive chases in history concluded last month without a photo-finish.

Through the past decade, billions around the world were told their security was mortgaged to an apparition called Osama bin Laden, the only evidence of whose existence being the periodic video clips he so thoughtfully released himself to the media. Those images provided legitimacy to an unrestrained and ruthless war that affected hundreds of thousands, besides familiarising us [through unwitting leaks] with some exceptional visuals of reverse American savagery in the high security prisons in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

Yet, the billions who were drawn into this "us" versus "them" war, have no clue of what happened on the night of May 2, in Abbottabad, when they were told this "threat to international security" had been eliminated. A month after bin Laden is said to have perished in the American stealth-raid deep inside Pakistani territory, we are still devoid of the evidentiary, memorialising photograph. It is a case of a man who "lost face" along with his life. The event remains suspended — akin to a photographic print incubating in developing solution — in the space between fact and fiction.

The role of the photograph

It is as if the U.S. establishment has suddenly turned coy. Can there be anything more damaging to their reputation as an administration that has historically preferred the use of arbitrary, lynch-mob justice than pictures from Hiroshima, Vietnam, Iraq or Gitmo? The sudden display of mock restraint even as they swagger and exult in their act of derring-do is disturbing. Their ostensible reasons for not releasing photos of the slain Osama, of course, are that the photos are "gruesome," can be "inflammatory," and "not in U.S. interest" — that the photos will be "used against us as propaganda." To cap it all, was President Obama's pious proclamation, "We are not in the business of bringing out trophies."

This raises some interesting questions on the role of the photograph in contemporary discourses around death. Freddy Alborta's brutal photos of the slain Che Guevara, taken in 1967 in the laundry house of the hospital in Vallegrande in Bolivia, established that death. The 2004 pix of a slain Veerappan released by the Special Task Force, though controversial about the manner of his being killed, laid to rest any debate about his being alive. The 2009 Sri Lankan Army photos of Velupillai Prabhakaran's seemingly severed head obligingly being held against his torso were gruesome indeed, but did not cause much of an international ripple. In each of the above cases, the respective photos are suspected to have been manipulated. Yet, it is interesting that despite being notoriously doctorable, the photograph today constitutes the sign of the "clinching" evidence. Osama's death, however, seems to have been denied the historic necessity of the camera's intervention.

At the same time, the image that is destined to be iconic and what the world was allowed to see was that of all the President's men (and women) gathered in the "Situation Room" of the White House, their eyes glued to the "live TV feed" of the Osama elimination as if it were home entertainment. This cluster of a dozen of the topmost CEOs of America Inc. obviously possessed the privilege to witness an action inaccessible to the eyes of the rest of the world. Besides being paternalistic, it is a clear statement of power — where powerlessness is the censored vision.

Regulating the visual field

It is a phenomenon that should alert us to two significant issues — one, the contemporary power of alpha states to effectively regulate the visual field and, two, what Roland Barthes called the relation between "photography and death." Both these concerns have been brilliantly dealt with earlier. Susan Sontag reflected on the just released photos of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (torture) in Gitmo in " Regarding the Torture of Others" ( NYT, May 23, 2004), which was probably her last piece before she passed away. Likewise, in an inspired analysis, Judith Butler examines " Torture and the Ethics of Photography" in her book " Frames of War" (Verso, 2010).

They both refer to the concerted effort of the U.S. during the Bush period to "regulate the visual field" through offering photographers access to events on condition "their gaze remained restricted to established parameters of designated action." In essence, this meant the effective control over "affect" by regulating the visual modes of participation in the war. Under conditions of modernity, the photograph has come to substitute for the event to such an extent that it is now not merely a visual image awaiting interpretation; it in fact, constitutes the interpretation itself.

Critical issues

In a conclusive way therefore, without photographic evidence today, there is no event, no atrocity. The evidentiary photograph is built into the notion of atrocity. The evidence constitutes the phenomenon. The circulated photograph becomes the public condition under which we feel outrage and construct political views to incorporate and articulate that outrage. Contrarily, transcending mechanisms of restrictions, photographs of lawless killings can also constitute a "disobedient act of seeing."

Many of these critical issues concerning the use of photographs are linked to the question of when and who we are permitted to grieve over and, conversely, when the loss of a life is designated ungrievable. It is related to notions of who is — or is not — deemed "human" and thus entitled to human rights. The age of the photograph has 'parallelly' been an age of revolutions, assassinations and terrorisms of all kinds. Here, an "enemy" denied a "death by the photograph" is someone pushed out of the "frame" within which the state exercises its forcible dramaturgy of power.

If there is a critical role for visual culture during times of war, it is to humanise pain and loss rather than memorialise triumph. Former U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, justifying censorship of pictures from Abu Ghraib, told CNN on May 8, 2004 that "publishing photos of torture and humiliation and rape would allow (the Taliban) to define us as Americans of a kind." It is obviously a similar fear that now restrains Obama from releasing the images of an Osama "shot-through-the-face."






The dun wheat field spreading out at Ravi P. Singh's feet offered a possible clue to human destiny. Baked by a desert sun and deliberately starved of water, the plants were parched and nearly dead.

Dr. Singh, a wheat breeder, grabbed seed heads that should have been plump with the staff of life. His practiced fingers found empty husks.

"You're not going to feed the people with that," he said.

But then, over in Plot 88, his eyes settled on a healthier plant, one that had managed to thrive in spite of the drought, producing plump kernels of wheat. "This is beautiful!" he shouted as wheat beards rustled in the wind.

Hope in a stalk of grain: It is a hope the world needs these days, for the great agricultural system that feeds the human race is in trouble.

The rapid growth in farm output that defined the late 20th century has slowed to the point that it is failing to keep up with the demand for food, driven by population increases and rising affluence in once-poor countries.

Four staples

Consumption of the four staples that supply most human calories — wheat, rice, corn and soybeans — has outstripped production for much of the past decade, drawing once-large stockpiles down to worrisome levels. The imbalance between supply and demand has resulted in two huge spikes in international grain prices since 2007, with some grains more than doubling in cost.

Those price jumps, though felt only moderately in the West, have worsened hunger for tens of millions of poor people, destabilising politics in scores of countries.

Climate change

Now, the latest scientific research suggests that a previously discounted factor is helping to destabilise the food system: climate change.

Many of the failed harvests of the past decade were a consequence of weather disasters. Scientists believe some, though not all, of those events were caused or worsened by human-induced global warming. A rising unease about the future of the world's food supply came through during interviews this year with more than 50 agricultural experts working in nine countries.

These experts say that in coming decades, farmers need to withstand whatever climate shocks come their way while roughly doubling the amount of food they produce to meet rising demand. And they need to do it while reducing the considerable environmental damage caused by the business of agriculture.

Sitting with a group of his fellow wheat farmers, Francisco Javier Ramos Bours voiced a suspicion. Water shortages had already arrived in recent years for growers in his region, the Yaqui Valley, which sits in the Sonoran Desert of northwestern Mexico. In his view, global climate change could well be responsible.

Farmers everywhere face rising difficulties: water shortages as well as flash floods. Their crops are afflicted by emerging pests and diseases and by blasts of heat beyond anything they remember.

Green Revolution

Decades ago, the wheat farmers in the Yaqui Valley of Mexico were the vanguard of a broad development in agriculture called the Green Revolution, which used improved crop varieties and more intensive farming methods to raise food production across much of the developing world.

When Norman E. Borlaug, a young American agronomist, began working here in the 1940s under the sponsorship of the Rockefeller Foundation, the Yaqui Valley farmers embraced him. His successes as a breeder helped farmers raise Mexico's wheat output six-fold.

In the 1960s, Dr. Borlaug spread his approach to India and Pakistan, where mass starvation was feared. Output soared there, too.

Other countries joined the Green Revolution. Dr. Borlaug became the only agronomist ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1970, for helping to "provide bread for a hungry world."

As he accepted the prize in Oslo, he issued a stern warning. "We may be at high tide now," he said, "but ebb tide could soon set in if we become complacent and relax our efforts."

As output rose, staple grains — which feed people directly or are used to produce meat, eggs, dairy products and farmed fish — became cheaper and cheaper. Poverty still prevented many people in poor countries from buying enough food, but over all, the percentage of hungry people in the world shrank.

By the late 1980s, food production seemed under control. Governments and foundations began to cut back on agricultural research, or to redirect money into the problems created by intensive farming, like environmental damage. Over a 20-year period, Western aid for agricultural development in poor countries fell by almost half, with some of the world's most important research centres suffering mass layoffs.

Just as Dr. Borlaug had predicted, the consequences of this loss of focus began to show up in the world's food system toward the end of the century. Output continued to rise, but because fewer innovations were reaching farmers, the growth rate slowed.

That lull occurred just as food and feed demand was starting to take off, thanks in part to rising affluence across much of Asia. And erratic weather began eating into yields. In 2007 and 2008, with grain stockpiles low, prices doubled and in some cases tripled. Whole countries began hoarding food, and panic buying ensued in some markets, notably for rice. Food riots broke out in more than 30 countries.

Farmers responded to the high prices by planting as much as possible, and healthy harvests in 2008 and 2009 helped rebuild stocks, to a degree. That factor, plus the global recession, drove prices down in 2009. But by last year, more weather-related harvest failures sent them soaring again. This year, rice supplies are adequate, but with bad weather threatening the wheat and corn crops in some areas, markets remain jittery.

Experts are starting to fear that the era of cheap food may be over. "Our mindset was surpluses," said Dan Glickman, a former United States Secretary of Agriculture. "That has just changed overnight."

For decades, scientists believed that the human dependence on fossil fuels, for all the problems it was expected to cause, would offer one enormous benefit.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide, the main gas released by combustion, is also the primary fuel for the growth of plants. They draw it out of the air and, using the energy from sunlight, convert the carbon into energy-dense compounds like glucose. All human and animal life runs on these compounds.

Humans have already raised the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 40 per cent since the Industrial Revolution, and are on course to double or triple it over the coming century. Studies have long suggested that the extra gas would supercharge the world's food crops, and might be especially helpful in years when the weather is difficult. For the past decade, scientists at the University of Illinois have been putting the "CO {-2} fertilization effect" to a real-world test in the two most important crops grown in the United States — soybeans and corn.

Their work has contributed to a broader body of research suggesting that extra carbon dioxide does act as plant fertilizer, but that the benefits are less than previously believed — and probably less than needed to avert food shortages.

At the end of a dirt road in north-eastern India, nestled between two streams, lies the remote village of Samhauta. Anand Kumar Singh, a farmer there, recently related a story that he could scarcely believe himself.

Last June, he planted 10 acres of a new variety of rice. On August 23, the area was struck by a severe flood that submerged his field for 10 days. In years past, such a flood would have destroyed his crop. But the new variety sprang back to life, yielding a robust harvest.

"That was a miracle," Mr. Singh said.

The miracle was the product of technology. "It's the best example in agriculture," said Julia Bailey-Serres, a researcher at the University of California, Riverside, who has done genetic work on the rice variety that Mr. Singh used. "The submergence-tolerant rice essentially sits and waits out the flood."

The new rice variety that is exciting farmers in India is the product of another, the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

Leading researchers say it is possible to create crop varieties that are more resistant to drought and flooding and that respond especially well to rising carbon dioxide. The flood-tolerant rice was created from an old strain grown in a small area of India, but decades of work were required to improve it. Money was so tight that even after the rice had been proven to survive floods for twice as long as previous varieties, distribution to farmers was not assured. Then an American charity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, stepped in with a $20 million grant to finance final development and distribution of the rice in India and other countries. It may get into a million farmers' hands this year.

In 2008 and 2009, in the midst of the political crises set off by food prices, the world's governments outbid one another to offer support. At a conference in L'Aquila, Italy, they pledged about $22 billion for agricultural development.

It later turned out, however, that no more than half of that was new money not previously committed to agriculture, and two years later, the extra financing has not fully materialised. "It's a disappointment," Mr. Gates said. ( Hari Kumar contributed reporting from Samhauta, India.)

    © New York Times News Service







These are epoch-making times. Literally. There is now "compelling evidence," according to an influential group of geologists, that humans have had such an impact on the planet that we are entering a new phase of geological time: the Anthropocene.

Millions of years from now, they say, alien geologists would be able to make out a human-influenced level in the accumulated layers of rock, in the same way that we can see the imprint of dinosaurs in the Jurassic, or the explosion of life that marks the Cambrian.

Now the scientists are pushing for the epoch to be officially recognised.

The term

"We don't know what is going to happen in the Anthropocene — it could be good, even better," said geographer Erle Ellis, a professor at the University of Maryland, in the United States. "But we need to think differently and globally, to take ownership of the planet." Anthropocene, a term conceived in 2002 by the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, means "the age of man," recognising our species's ascent to a geophysical force on a par with Earth-shattering asteroids and planet-cloaking volcanoes.

Geologists predict that our geological footprint will be visible, for example, in radioactive material from the atomic bomb tests, plastic pollution, increased carbon dioxide levels, and human-induced mass extinction.

"Geologists and ecologists are already using the term Anthropocene, so it makes sense to have an accepted definition," said Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist at the University of Leicester, England.

"But, in this unusual case, formal recognition of the epoch could have wider significance beyond the geology community. By officially accepting that human actions are having an effect on the makeup of the Earth, it may have an impact on, say, the law of the sea or on people's behaviour." In the past geological changes on a scale big enough to merit a new epoch have been the result of events such as the eruption of a supervolcano or a catastrophic meteor strike — things a lawyer might describe as acts of God.

Now, instead of being just another one of the millions of species on our planet, humans have become the determining factor — the guiding, controlling species — and many of our changes will leave a permanent mark in the rocks.

Working group

The Anthropocene working group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which is the body charged with setting global standards for the fundamental scale to express the history of the Earth, met at Burlington House, London, last month, May, to discuss evidence for the planet having crossed into a new geological epoch.

The geological signal will be clear from industrial-scale mining, damming of rivers, deforestation and agriculture, as well as the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere and nitrates in the oceans. Even the presence of the first human-produced chemicals, such as PCBs, radioactive fallout from atomic tests, and the humble plastic bag could be measured millions of years hence. Putting humans at the centre of our planet's activity represents a paradigm shift in the way that geologists usually think of the human species — as a mere blip on the long timescale of Earth.

This is not the first time a single species has transformed the planet — cyanobacteria did that by oxygenating the Earth's atmosphere some 2bn years ago — but it has taken the self-aware human race to do so knowingly.

There have been seven epochs since the dinosaurs died out around 65m years ago.

The last time we passed a geological boundary, entering the Holocene around 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, we were an insignificant species, just one of a couple of hominids struggling to survive in a world where so many of our cousins, like Homo erectus, had failed to make it.

Now our effect on the climate and our fellow species is having a global impact. "The fossil record will reveal a massive loss of plant and animal species, and also the scale of invasive species — how we've distributed animals and plants across the globe," Zalasiewicz said.

The working group still has some more evidence to gather before it presents its findings to the stratigraphy committee.

"And then the real battle will commence", Zalasiewicz added. "These are slow, nit-picky debates, fraught with acrimony and issues of nationalism.

"Some members are very cautious, and they that think it's premature to define the Anthropocene, because the Holocene has only been around for a short period in geological terms. Other epochs have lasted millions of years." Others feel the new epoch is upon us and we should come to terms with its implications for the planet. "We broke it, we bought it, we own it," Ellis said.

"Now we've got to take responsibility for it."— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011




It was a monumental project with modest beginnings — a small group of scholars and some index cards. The plan was to explore a long-dead language that would reveal an ancient world of chariots, royal decrees and diaries and omens that came from the heavens and sheep livers.

The year — 1921. The place — The University of Chicago. The project — Assembling an Assyrian dictionary based on words recorded on clay or stone tablets unearthed from ruins in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, written in a language that had not been uttered for more than 2,000 years. The scholars knew the project would take a long time. No one quite expected how very long.

Decades passed. The team grew. Scholars arrived from Vienna, Paris, Copenhagen, Jerusalem, Berlin, Helsinki, Baghdad and London, joining others from the United States and Canada.

One generation gave way to the next, one century faded into the next. Some signed on early in their careers; they were still toiling away at retirement. The work was slow, sometimes frustrating and decidedly low-tech- Typewriters. Mimeograph machines. And index cards. Eventually, nearly two million of them.

And now, 90 years later, a finale. The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is now officially complete — 21 volumes of Akkadian, a Semitic language (with several dialects, including Assyrian) that endured for 2,500 years. The project is more encyclopaedia than glossary, offering a window into the ancient society of Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq, through every conceivable form of writing — letters, recipes, tax records, medical prescriptions, astronomical observations, religious texts, contracts, epics, poems and more.

To Gil Stein, director of the university's Oriental Institute (the dictionary's home), "The Assyrian Dictionary gives us the key into the world's first urban civilization."

"If we ever want to understand our roots," Stein adds, "we have to understand this first great civilization." Online, it is at Chicago Assyrian Dictionary —









After both sides struck an initial stance of reasonableness, the government reckoned that yoga guru Ramdev was probably disinclined to end his protest campaign at Delhi's Ramlila Grounds, although he had agreed to do so in a letter submitted the previous day to the government ministers negotiating with him. Sensing that the Ramdev movement had, in effect, been organised by the RSS, and then finding arch communal troublemaker Sadhvi Rithambara, known for spewing venom against the minorities, was sharing the Ramlila Ground stage with the yoga teacher, it was expected that concern and alarm would follow in official circles, not to say among a broad swathe of public opinion. The eviction of the saffron-wrapped yoga teacher and his followers by the Delhi police from the Ramlila Grounds past midnight Saturday thus occasions little surprise. It transpires that Baba Ramdev had sought official permission to hold a "yoga camp" there but instead he nourished a political jamboree seeking to instigate people against the government. This was unfortunate. Baba Ramdev had told followers that 90 per cent of his demands had already been met.

Some of the issues raised by the yoga guru are indeed reasonable. The corruption question finds an echo among all sections of citizens. It is beyond considerations of party politics and ideology. The Centre, for instance, can without delay clear legislation — one of Ramdev's key demands — intended to provide relief to ordinary people against petty harassment and bribe-extraction at service delivery points, for instance when picking up a ration card, a driving licence, a water connection or a death certificate. When governments don't take care of such basic needs of citizens, they lay themselves open to the charge of imperviousness, and typically fire middle and lower middle class angst, which generally drives protests in urban India. Worse, in such situations, an absence of governmental initiative makes possible large-scale mobilisation of disgruntled elements — as we saw in the case of Ramdev and Anna Hazare. Such collectives can be exploited to irresponsible ends by demagogues of any hue — from Naxalites on the far left to the communal far right.
It is the beginning of something like this that we have been witness to in recent months. Popular concern and frustration with the official machinery has been exacerbated by instances of corruption in high places that have come to light in the last eight or nine months, detracting from the government's moral authority. Even so, it would be foolish and dangerous if society permitted half-baked ideas of demagogues to take hold, and permit such elements an opportunity to overrun the system. It cannot be overemphasised that, in particular, the issue of repatriation of black money in foreign tax havens — often the bread and butter ingredient of anti-rich, anti-corruption protests — is complex and not amenable to overnight solutions as it presupposes negotiations with foreign governments. The idea of declaring all Indian black money overseas a national asset is even more complicated. Perhaps that is why rabble-rousers home in on demands of this nature.
After the police action at the Ramlila Grounds to free it of Ramdev followers, it is a pity that a national party like the BJP lost perspective and begun comparing it with the Emergency. It would be useful to remember that if it were indeed the Emergency once again, the party would not be free to belt out anti-government messages from the podium of its national executive in Lucknow. The government too needs to be cautious. Even if the police action at the Ramlila Grounds became necessary as otherwise the peaceable assembly could have been flipped into an untoward direction, this must not lead to licence to crack down on other peaceful protests.





Yesterday was the World Environment Day. In India, it passed without too much notice thanks to Baba Ramdev sitting on a fast to ask that black money should be brought back to India, and the entire Indian media camped inside his tent. Indeed, the attention of the country has been focused upon Baba for the last few days. And the media — which is at the mercy of that powerful remote control — urgently feels the need to concentrate on what everyone else is doing. So we have breaking news every second about Baba's movements and location. But there is little or no discussion about the environment — an issue that is crucial to our survival as a democracy and even as a people.

In the late 1970s, I joined what was then known as the Environmental Society of Madras. For me, it was the beginning of an awakening of the powerful impact our environment has upon us, and how the impact of the environment does not respect geographical boundaries. It is only today that we realise that if our oceans turn acidic or if far away Himalayan glaciers melt we may not be able to survive any longer on this planet. But in those days, today's all pervasive "civil society" took quite an amused and patronising view of environment activists. I remember being constantly asked if I was going to fetch a broom and sweep the road. Also, I used to get phone calls from more pro-active people who would complain that the garbage had not been removed from their neighbourhood and what was the society going to do about it, or that somebody was committing public nuisance in front of their homes and could we do something about it. I soon dropped out. I had only been a rather inactive member of the society, not one of the founders, and the organisation itself later went on to do some very pioneering awareness generation regarding the environment.

I find it difficult to believe that the general attitude has changed substantially from that of the 1970s. Of course, today there is far more awareness regarding the environment. All of us have read about doomsday scenarios on how our fuel reserves are going to run out and how we will not be left with energy for growth and development, how pesticides are ruining our agriculture, how water conservation has assumed critical importance, how important it is to reduce our carbon footprint, how our forests have to be regenerated, how livelihoods need to be protected and desertification stopped.

On a different level, we talk passionately about the infamous Bhopal gas tragedy. Yet in the huge debate that raged around the sentencing and extradition of former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson (admittedly important issues) only political issues rose to the forefront, namely how did Mr Anderson get away? Who let him go? At no point did the really substantive issue of environmental safety come to the forefront of the discussion. Chernobyl, Bhopal, now Fukushima — these are names and huge incidents that induce terror in the world of environment and citizen safety. And these incidents require our close and unwavering attention on all aspects — but not at the cost of ignoring the most vital aspect of all: How do we prevent another Bhopal tragedy and still keep our economy growing?

Environment issues are much more than all the above. The catch-all phrase environment covers and touches every part of our life today: the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe. Today's agitations — be it in Kerala to ban Endosulphan, an insecticide, or the agitations around the introduction of compressed natural gas in Delhi, which was part of the battle for clean air, or the ongoing agitations over water — are all vivid reminders about how environment is not just another political issue. It is an issue that relates directly to our survival on this planet.

India took the lead at the international forum as an environment and development activist country, when Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India, laid down the parameters of environment and the problems of developing countries, when she addressed the world environment conference at Stockholm in 1972. Our efforts have not flagged since that day. There is something fundamentally unfair about countries that have used up all the natural resources and reserves on our planet, turning around and preaching to us about reducing our carbon footprint when with our billion-plus population, we are not even a blip on the radar of carbon emission. Western countries who preach the most have absolutely no intention of cutting their own carbon emission or to rethink about their wasteful economies, but they turn and point a finger at our population growth. At the international fora Indian speakers never tire of mentioning that despite our huge population, we use very little energy rather only a fragment of the gross domestic product/carbon emission ratio of the US or that of Canada.

The battle on the international front for fair growth and the right to sustainable development is being fought with great expertise by India and other developing countries. We keep reminding Western economies that they cannot achieve growth using the planet's resources and then kick the ladder away. They have to contribute to equitable growth, so that if the planet is to be preserved, environment-friendly technologies have to be provided to developing countries and all developed countries have to contribute.

The political battles on the home front, whether water wars or Bt brinjal, are all being carried on by expert crusaders. However, on this Environment Day, 2011 my thought is with the average Indian. How many of us conserve electricity? How many use car pools or bicycles? How many save water in the shower? How many use recycled paper? Save food? How many of us really contribute our own little bit to save the environment? The honest truth is that while we are all too willing to be environment warriors at the global and national level, in our own homes there is a surprising amount still left undone. The time to begin by becoming an environment crusader in your own home is — now.

Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson.
The views expressed in this column are her own.







A whooping 20 million lawsuits are pending in various Indian courts for adjudication and disposal. When will this mountain of lawsuits be disposed off? How many decades or centuries will it take to settle the cases are anybody's guess? Law dispensing authorities, the judges at various levels do not have a magic wand to do this Herculean job. Once the case is filed and accepted by the court of law, the full legal procedure has to follow and no shortcuts are possible. This makes the disposal of the case a long stretched one and consumes the life of the litigants and even their next generation. Apart from this, the legal procedure is cumbersome, expensive and hassle prone. The judiciary in our country is classical and highly formal in the sense that it fulfills all the legal requirements in dispensing a case. Keeping all this in mind, our legal luminaries have been seriously contemplating an easy alternative system of justice that would be both foolproof and consumes very little time.
Addressing the inaugural session of the 'Mediation Orientation Programme' for Judges of Supreme Court and J&K High Court at SKICC recently, the Chief Minister said that justice now-a-days entails an immense sacrifice of time, money and talent besides emotionally draining the litigants. He has rightly felt the pulse of the issue. As such, the alternative of 'mediation' emerges as workable. The law already gives legal sanctity to the process of mediation. It has been a time-tested alternative and has always proved highly successful. The more attractive thing about it is that it leaves no scope for appeal with the higher court and puts an end to litigation. The court always encourages the litigants to come to an agreement outside the court and settle the issue bilaterally. At the same time there is the need of promoting mediation culture among the people and more especially among those who are inclined to seek justice through a court of law. Once the mediation culture develops, the frequency of litigation will come down substantially.

One important role that Panchayats have been playing traditionally is about mediation in court cases. Firstly, a Panchayat itself is empowered to deal with cases when brought to its notice and decide according to the evidence available on spot. Secondly, the Panchayats will be empowered to provide evidential material to a court of law if asked and that could help decide the case without loss of time. Now that we have Panchayats in place and many powers are going to devolve on these, it is hoped that the number of court cases will be substantially reduced provided the Panchayats are armed with proper and genuine powers through an act of the assembly. Outside the Panchayats, third party mediation could be done by the elders of the locality who enjoy the trust of the people in their respective areas. The Chief Minister was right in saying that we need a mediation culture to evolve and grow and stabilize. Our society has lived long in isolation but now the times have changed and people have no time, money and energy to spare for long drawn feuds. It is hoped that the civil society will take a positive view of 'Mediation Orientation Programme' initiated by the top echelons of Indian judiciary.







Ilyas Kashmiri, the notorious terrorist was from Gujranwala in Pakistan and not a Kashmiri. He used Kashmiri to mask his antecedents. Once the Afghan war got over in 1989, he directed his energies towards Kashmir and joined the Harkat-ul Jihad-i-Islami in 1991. After a few years, he developed some differences with the then head of HuJI, Qari Saifullah Akhtar, and formed his own breakaway group, the 313 Brigade. Kashmiri even 'survived' after being arrested by Pakistan in 2003 for his alleged role in an attempt to assassinate the then Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani.

With the reports of his killing, undoubtedly contrived through the instrumentality of an insider close to him, in a drone strike in Pakistan, the security agencies can heave a sigh of relief as the notorious terrorist was the "chief trouble- maker" for India and had dodged death on number of occasions in the past. Accused of planning and giving shape to the 2008 Mumbai attack that left 166 persons dead, Kashmiri had emerged as the single biggest enemy of not only India but also of Pakistan and the US. No wonder, his name prominently figured in the list of most-wanted terrorists that the US and India recently handed over to Pakistan.

Ilyas was considered by the US as a possible successor to Osama bin Laden. He has been linked to several terror plots in Pakistan, the latest being at Mehran military base on May 22. He was directly responsible for attacks on the ISI office in Lahore in 2009. He is also suspected to be behind the audacious attack on the Pakistan Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009. Kashmiri was one of the original anti-Soviet jihadis who were trained by the US and the UK and sent into Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight the Soviet Army. A battle-hardened man, Kashmiri was arrested by Army from Poonch in 1995. However, after spending two years in prison he escaped in a jailbreak and resurfaced in Pakistan. The other time he escaped death was in Afghanistan against the Soviets. Kashmiri, a mine expert, was grievously injured in a blast and lost an eye and a finger. Once the Afghan war got over in 1989, he directed his energies towards Kashmir and joined the Harkat-ul Jihad-i-Islami in 1991. After a few years, he developed some differences with the then head of HuJI, Qari Saifullah Akhtar, and formed his own breakaway group, the 313 Brigade. Kashmiri even 'survived' after being arrested by Pakistan in 2003 for his alleged role in an attempt to assassinate the then Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani.


been sold to buyers from Srinagar and other places that are setting up business enterprises.








High growth rates of India and China have become a problem for the Western countries. Till recently the developing countries were voluntarily selling their resources at low prices to them. For example, India was packing her water in Basmati rice, tea and rubber and exporting these to the Western countries at declining prices. Thus 20 percent people in the Western countries were consuming 80 percent of the world's resources. This distribution was stable because India was herself willing to give away her resources at a cheap price in her pursuit of export-led growth.

The high growth rates of India and China have put a spanner in this happy situation for the Western countries. These two have started consuming resources in a big way. Washington-based WorldWatch Institute tells us that China consumed 26% of global production of steel, 32% rice, 37% cotton and 47% cement. China is importing food grains in a big way. If domestic food grain production of India or China declines for some reason, it could drive global prices up and "the entire global community could be affected," says WorldWatch. The increasing consumption by India and China along with continued high levels of consumption by the developed countries is threatening the global environment. The United States, for example, is home to only 4.5% of the global population but contributes 25% of the global pollution.

There are two paths open to India and China to meet this situation. Soft approach is to let the Western countries consume bulk of the global resources and India and China can redefine their own 'growth' in a way that consumes fewer resources-like Assamese tribal can be asked to let the people of Kolkata consume bulk of wood produced in his state and he should focus more on the development of tribal dances. Or the bonded labour can be asked to let the Zamindar consume bulk of fruit produced in the village and he should focus more on the use of smokeless stove to improve his standard of living.

The hard approach is for India and China to increase their consumption, let the prices of resources increase like that of oil presently and force a crisis on the global economy and environment. Global increase in demands of commodities will lead to an increase in prices. This will be harmful for all. The developed countries will be hit more than the developing countries because they consume more of the resources presently. The global economy may go into a recession. The global community will then be forced to develop a new definition of development and reduce consumption of resources. This new definition of growth will be applicable to all-including the Western countries. That would reestablish balance in the global economy. Consumption by the Western countries will be reduced while that of India and China will increase. Global equality will be established along with stabilization of environment.

It is expected that Western scholars would advise India and China to adopt the soft approach because that would allow them to dominate the global economy and pollute the environment as presently. Thus World Bank-funded NGOs like WorldWatch suggest that India and China should not follow the growth model of the West and instead 'leapfrog' to secure better life for their people without requiring huge consumption of resources. WorldWatch reports that selected lanes have been dedicated for buses in Kunming, capital of Yunnan. The control of stop lights has been given to bus drivers leading to increase of speed during peak hours from 9.6 kilometers per hour to 15.2 kilometers. There has been a fivefold increase in the bus passengers. Similarly China has emerged as the global leader in energy saving bulbs and solar water heaters. Seventy thousand buildings in Chennai have been fitted with water harvesting structures. WorldWatch suggests that India and China can secure better life for their people by such leapfrogging and prevent harm to the global environment.
However, World Watch does not tell how the high consumption and pollution by the Western countries will be controlled. WorldWatch does shed crocodile tears and calls for "wholesale change in policies" in the United States. But it sees no role of India and China in forcing the United States to make such a change. Rather it tells India and China not to create pressure on the global resources. Basing on a review of development plans of these countries, WorldWatch says these countries show "little recognition of the ecological realities now facing them-or the world." The truth is that WorldWatch does not want India and China to encroach on the consumption of resources by the Western countries thus teaches the lesson of 'leapfrogging' to them. That is like government officials telling the poor not to demand greater share of canal waters and instead adopt improved dry land agriculture and leapfrog out of poverty.

Institutions like World Watch are justified in proffering such advice to India and China because their objective is to make sustainable the Western control of global economy. It is tragic that Indian environmentalists parrot their talk. They endorse WorldWatch's call for India to leapfrog into a new model of development. They give the example of introduction of CNG buses in Delhi as having reduced pollution greatly by leapfrogging to the use of clean fuel. Thus, they say that the South must reinvent the development trajectory and save itself along with rest of the world. The implication is that the West may continue merrily with its high consumption of global resources while India and China leapfrog and reinvent.

Indian environmentalists assume that India and China have no role in containing the consumption by the Western countries and forcing them to redefine development. In other words, the people of Delhi must be satisfied with CNG buses while those of New York travel in air-conditioned ones. People of Delhi must not demand air-conditioned buses lest it leads to high consumption of oil and disturbs the global environment. That is precisely what the Western countries want-let India and China leapfrog into new models of development while they make merry with the world's resources.

India and China must not get deflected by such counsel by Western scholars or their Indian followers. They must adopt the hard approach. They must raise their consumption of global resources and push the global economy into a crisis even if it also leads to crisis of the global environment. A new model of development that is applicable to all countries equally will emerge only from such a crisis. It will not come by allowing the West to continue with its profligate ways.

The global economy requires surgery which will be done not by India adopting CNG buses but by India increasing her consumption to show the West the true character of its model of growth.








Indian floriculture industry is shifting from traditional flowers to cut flowers for export purpose. The liberalized economy has given an impetus to Indian entrepuners for establishing export oriented units (EOUs) under controlled climatic conditions.

The wide variations in agroclimatic conditions in India permit us to grow various types of tropical and subtropical plants and flowers. Though such plants grow successfully without cover, they fail to meet the export requirements of being seldom blemish free. High quality ornamental plants meant for export should be scientifically grown only in plastic, glass or fiber glass greenhouse, or at least under partial cover. Though initial investment is high under protected cultivation, the products in them will obtain far more attractive prices.
Europe and other countries are increasingly looking towards India for cut flowers especially GLADIOLUS. Flowers like roses, carnation, anthurium and orchids are enthusiastically received in Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, U.K, hongkong and U.A.E. To ensure consistency in quality and quantity of production it is necessary to grow ornamental plants in protected conditions where growing environment can be altered to suit specific requirement of plants. Protected cultivation is cultivating plants inside a structure which protects plants from wind, precipitations, and excessive radiations. Temperature extremes, insects and diseases. It is also of vital importance to create an ideal micro climate around the plants. Therefore, an ideal protective structure should have facilities for creating most acceptable growing conditions for a given plant species.
Our main aim is to boost productivity of the crop\ unit area in addition to year round culture, improved quality and control of various environmental factors. This can be achieved in protected environment. Protected situation also provides suitable environmental conditions for conservation, intensive cultivation and exploitation of rare plant materials.

Current scenario of protected cultivation of ornamentals:

Out of the total area of 2.7 lakh ha. In the world under ornamentals, 60000 ha is under protected cultivation.
USA: 25000 ha.: Japan 20000ha:Netherlands10000ha: India 600 ha. And others 4400 ha.
In India, flowers are being grown in90000 ha. Out of total area of 600 ha under protected cultivation, over 200 ha is underEUOs. Over 70 EUOs are now working in India. Flower cultivation started in India three decades earlier, but commercial venture for export purpose started by oriental floritech at Pune in 1991. At present, about 250 companies got clearance for establishing units in India.

Different protective structures for ornamentals:

Green house, lath house, cloth house, hot bed and cold frame are the important protective structures used for ornamentals.

Cloth house:

These are protective structures with straight sides and flat top. The frame consists of wood or iron posts and the cover consists of cloth or a light transmitting plastic. The covering cloth slightly lowers maximum daily temperature and slightly increases the relative humidity. However it markedly
Lower light intensity and the decrease in light intensity lower the temperature and create a favorable situation for crop.
Cold Frame: these are used to protect plants from frost, hard rain and heavy wind. In regions characterized by mild winters, herbaceous crops are started in these structures. Later as the weather becomes warm the covers can be removed.

Lath house: these have straight sides and flat top and the frame is similar to cloth house but the cover consists of a movable lath shade, placed 6 cms. Apart. It is used to protect ornamentals which are sensitive to high light intensity, such as hydrangeas and azaleas and are used to grow and to maintain stock plants for foliage industry.

Hot Beds:

Hot bed is a plant propagating structure. It has three parts- the frame, cover and heating material, the frame consists of a wood, concrete or brick, the cover consists of glass, light transmitting plastic, or cloth. Heating system varies depending on avaiblity of materials and classified accordingly.
Green house: these are protective structures in floriculture industry. Green houses are framed or inflated structures covered with transparent or translucent material large enough to grow crops under partial or fully controlled environmental conditions to get optimum crop productivity.
Since the climatic conditions inside are fully controlled, it ensures off season crop production. Here Jammu region of Jand K can play a significant role. Growing of high value and low volume horticulture crops helps in increasing productivity 3-4 times and helps in improving quality of produce. For superior quality planting material production modification of growing environment is needed.

Green house cultivation of some important ornamentals under Jammu conditions
Rose: in rose planting material is a one year old budded plant. Important cultivars are first red, grand prix, Dr. P.P.Pal and arjun. Temp. Needed is 15-25 0c.

Temperature requirement is 20-250c. Main standard cultivars are cobra, tempo, master and solar. Important spray cultivars are Picaro, fantasia and ambia. It is a short day plant and use of ply sheet would reduce light intensity which is ideal for plant establishment.

Planting material is terminal cutting of 5-6 cm. length. Important standard cultivars are Purnima, Snow ball, Arka Ravi, Arka sarwan; Birbal sahani and Ajay are spray varaties. Poly house planting recorded 35-40% more yield than open field. Under Jammu plain conditions chrysanthemum cultivation is possible under open conditions provided plenty of water is available. It can withstand temperature upto 40 0c
Gerbera: it is difficult to get good quality gerbera cultivars under open field conditions. So protected cultivation under Jammu conditions becomes significant. Important varaties are sunset, Dusty and flamingo.. Cropping span is two years can yield 200-300 flowers \sq. meter.








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.








The advances in human reproductive sciences have made it possible for couples and others to have biologically their own children who otherwise cannot for a number of reasons. This has given rise to the concept of surrogate mothers. Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction. More common form is IVF/Gestational surrogacy in which the surrogate child biologically belongs completely to the social parents. The other type is gestational surrogacy where the surrogate child is genetically related to the male parent and the surrogate mother.
India has emerged as a favourable destination for surrogacy and its Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) industry has evolved into a 25-billion rupee business annually, with Law Commission describing it as "a gold pot". The phenomenal rise in surrogacy in India has been due to it being cheap, socially accepted. Moreover, surrogacy has emerged as a preferred option because of complicated adoption procedures.
Foreigners including NRIs seeking surrogacy for various reasons, both medical and personal, have also contributed to the rise of the Indian surrogacy industry predominantly because of it being at least ten times cheaper than in their respective countries. No statistics exist on the number of foreign couples coming to India to have a child. But ART clinics say that their numbers have been appreciably growing.
In India surrogacy heralded with the delivery of its first surrogate baby on June 23rd, 1994, but it took eight more years to draw world attention to it when an Indian woman in 2004 delivered a surrogate child for her daughter in the U.K. Surrogacy as a medical process has matured over the years. India has become a booming centre of a fertility market, partly surreptitiously, and today there are an estimated 200,000 clinics across the country offering artificial insemination, IVF and surrogacy. They call it Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).
There is at present no law governing surrogacy in India, eventually the activity including renting a womb (commercial surrogacy) is considered legitimate. In the absence of any law the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 2005 issued guidelines for accreditation, supervision and regulation of ART clinics in India. But the need for legislation became pressing with ICMR guidelines being often violated and reportedly rampant exploitation of surrogate mothers and even cases of extortion.
At the instance of the Indian government an expert committee has drafted a legislation known as Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2010 for legalizing surrogacy. The proposed legislation earlier floated in 2008 envisages legalizing commercial surrogacy as well. It defines a 'couple' as two persons living together and having a sexual relationship and as such, following Delhi High Court's verdict on homosexuality, gives gays besides the singles the legal right to have surrogate babies. It also stipulates the age of surrogate mother to be within 21-35 years and limits her deliveries to five including her own children. The surrogate mother will have to enter into a legally enforceable surrogacy agreement as per the proposed legislation.
Foreign couples including NRIs seeking surrogacy in India will have under the proposed law to submit certificates that their country recognizes surrogacy as legal and also that the surrogate child after birth would get their country's citizenship. The Law Commission of India in its 228th Report on "Need for legislation to regulate assisted reproductive technology clinics as well as rights and obligations of parties to a surrogacy," has by and large supported surrogacy in India, but is not favourable towards commercial surrogacy. The Commission said, "It seems that wombs in India are on rent, which translates into babies for foreigners and dollars for Indian surrogate mothers."
But according to an infertility specialist in Mumbai the Commission favouring altruistic surrogacy only may not be the solution either. "It will be very difficult to get altruistic surrogates and relatives could end up being pressured to become surrogates," says the specialist. This could be a reality in view of poverty, illiteracy and the lack of power that women have over their own lives in India.
But many legal experts are of the view that the draft Bill is a step in right direction as it will end the present confusion and help regulate the functioning of the IVF centers and ensure quality check and accountability of ART clinics. It is expected to protect the interests of both the surrogate mother and child and help the commissioning parents to realize their dream of having their own baby more or less hassle free.
There are worries too as to what impact it will have on the society in terms of commercialization. Poor illiterate Indian women with the lure of money could be forced into repeated surrogate pregnancies risking their lives. There are also ethical and moral issues as well as the human dignity involved besides questions about the rights of surrogate mother. As such the draft legislation on surrogacy needs to be debated threadbare in social, legal and political circles as well as by the civil society before it becomes a law.











The contrast could not have been more stark. One day, four senior ministers of India rushed to the airport to appease Baba Ramdev, to persuade him not to start an agitation against the black money menace. And a few days later, the government rained lathis and tear gas shells on his supporters in the Ramlila Grounds and bundled him off unceremoniously to Dehradun by plane. Apparently, the attempt was to show that the government was reasonable but tough. However, the actual impression that it may end up generating might be entirely different. While the former action had annoyed many for being an abject surrender to armtwisting, the latter might be seen as brutal high-handedness by a government many of whose leading lights have been found to have siphoned off thousands of crores of rupees. Both actions were eminently avoidable, if only the government adopted a balanced approach, but it is so rattled by the numerous exposes — Commonwealth Games and 2G being the most prominent — and the widespread public support to the Anna Hazare agitation, that it swings wildly from one extreme to another.


Like it or not, Baba Ramdev enjoys a huge following. Plus, there is indeed strong revulsion in the public against omnipresent corruption. These two combined can increase the troubles of the government in the days to come. Uttarakhand being a BJP-ruled state can be depended on to support the jet-setting baba fully.


That does not mean that the demands made by the yoga guru are reasonable. While the intentions may be sincere, the remedies that he has suggested can be worse than the cure. For instance, demonetising 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee notes would wipe out the earnings of many honest people also. Is this "collateral damage" acceptable to the country? Similarly, at a time when there is a vociferous demand for abolishing death penalty even in the case of a murder, capital punishment for corrupt government functionaries is a far-fetched demand. Not only that, the baba wants all corruption cases to be disposed of within a month. Such pronouncements may draw cheers in a school or college debating society but are malarkey in a real-life situation. But the confrontation that the government action has precipitated may give a veneer of respectability to even such fulminations.








True to expectations, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has set about unleashing her vindictiveness against her bete noire and DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi after her landslide victory in the assembly elections. One of her first moves has been to scrap his pet projects. Construction work has been stopped on a Rs 1,200 crore assembly cum secretariat complex with a panel set up to probe irregularities in its making, the Kalaignar insurance scheme for the poor stands scrapped and replaced with a new public health insurance scheme, the Kalaignar Housing scheme for the poor has been replaced by a Green House scheme for the rural poor and the plan to revive the Upper House of the State legislature has been dropped.


It is, however, the 'nationalization' of the cable TV business that is designed to hit the former First Family of Tamil Nadu the hardest because it is the grandnephews of Karunanidhi — Kalanithi Maran and Dayanidhi Maran — who control 80 per cent of the cable market in Tamil Nadu. With the immediate revival of Arasu Cable TV Corporation in the Government sector, the attempt is to choke the Maran outfit Sumangali Cables. Having run a brazenly corrupt government, Karunanidhi has no legs to stand on when Jayalalithaa takes him on with corruption as the focal issue. Whether Jayalalithaa will now work to put her bete noire behind bars like she did, albeit briefly, in 2001 when she stormed to power and Karunanidhi did in 1996 after he displaced her after her first term is anybody's guess.


There is no denying that Karunanidhi is more vulnerable today than ever before since his party has been booted out on the corruption issue following serious revelations in the 2G scam. But Jayalalithaa will have to make sure that she does not fritter away the huge goodwill by poor governance in her obsession with vendetta. Public expectations from her are high. She must get down to the task of restoring the State's economy, improving infrastructure especially power and fulfilling her other electoral promises.











The death of Bhajan Lal (81), three-time Chief Minister of Haryana, marks the end of an era in state politics dominated by three Lals — the other two being Bansi Lal and Devi Lal — who together helped Haryana to grow into an economic powerhouse. However, the style of politics they played earned the state national notoriety for promoting a culture of "Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams", which later led to a law against defections. A part of the blame for the state's inglorious political reputation rests with Bhajan Lal, an expert in politicking and engineering defections. In 1982 he formed a government — despite being in minority — with help from the then Governor, G.D. Tapase, who was publicly slapped by an enraged Devi Lal — something unheard of in Indian politics before and after.


There are more unpleasant events associated with Bhajan Lal's tenure as Chief Minister. First during the 1982 Asian Games and then in 1984 Sikhs were attacked in Haryana when Bhajan Lal ruled the state. In his sunset years Bhajan Lal must have been a bitter man. After the 2005 assembly elections he was abandoned by the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress. His one son is trying to piece together his tattered political legacy. The other love-lorn son made a laughing stock of himself. Admirers claim Bhajan Lal was not a chief minister of districts as many of the occupants of the top post reduced themselves to being. He evenly invested and distributed state resources.


From being a small trader selling cloth on a bicycle in villages to occupying the post of Chief Minister, Bhajan Lal did come a long way in life through struggle and political skullduggery. It was a tough call for someone with no money, political godfather, family or community advantage. He cultivated people he came in contact with, charming them with gifts ranging from jobs to on-the-spot plot allotments. Unlike the usually arrogant Jat chief ministers, Bhajan Lal was humble and courteous. 









A government unable to control large parts of its territory, a military in disarray, loss of control over nuclear assets, radical Islamists bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction – it is the stuff of nightmares.


And Pakistan's current turmoil is causing jitters around the world precisely because the nightmarish scenario evoked above might just come to pass as Pakistani security establishment's dalliance with radical Islamist groups drags the nation to the brink of collapse. Recent days have witnessed major attacks on key Pakistani military and intelligence facilities by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a group that for the past several years has fought an increasingly brutal war in the heart of Pakistan. A handful of militants who attacked the Pakistani naval base PNS Mehran in Karachi on May 22 have also underlined the enormity of the security challenge that violent Islamists pose to Pakistan and the whole region.


For long, the US and the West have viewed nuclear weapons in South Asia with dread because of the possibility that a conventional war between India and Pakistan might escalate into a nuclear one. Former US President Bill Clinton called the Kashmir conflict "the most dangerous flashpoint on earth" precisely because of this fear of a nuclear holocaust in the Indian subcontinent.


Indian and Pakistani officials, on the other hand, have continued to argue that just as the threat of mutual assured destruction resulted in a "hot peace" between the US and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, nuclear weapons in South Asia will also have a stabilising impact. They point out the fact that despite several provocations, India and Pakistan have behaved "rationally" during various crises by keeping their conflicts limited and avoiding escalation.


But since September 11, 2001, the nature of problem for the West has changed insofar as the threat is now more of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal being used against the West by radical Islamists if they can lay their hands on it.


The present turmoil in Pakistan has once again raised concerns about the safety, security and command and control of its nuclear stockpile. Though the Pakistan government continues to dismiss media reports that its nuclear weapons are in danger of falling into the "wrong hands" as "inspired," and stressed that Pakistan provided the highest level of institutionalised protection to its strategic assets, the credibility of such claims remains open to question.


Instituted in 2000, Pakistan's nuclear command and control arrangements are centered on the National Command Authority, which comprises the Employment Control Committee, the Development Control Committee and the Strategic Plans Division. Only a small group of military officials apparently have access to the country's nuclear assets.


However, these command and control arrangements continue to be beset with some fundamental vulnerabilities that underline the reluctance of the Pakistani military to cede control over the nation's nuclear assets to civilian leaders.


It is instructive to note that of all the major nuclear states in the world, Pakistan is the only country where the nuclear button is in the hands of the military. Moreover, senior civilian and military officials responsible for these weapons have a problematic track record in maintaining close control over them. A.Q. Khan was the head of the Pakistani nuclear programme (and a veritable national hero) but was instrumental in making Pakistan the centre of the biggest nuclear proliferation network by leaking technology to states far and wide, including Iran, North Korea and Libya. Pakistani nuclear scientists have even travelled to Afghanistan at the behest of Osama bin Laden.


While its is true that the Pakistani military remains very professional and perhaps the only cohesive force in the country today, it has also become deeply demoralised, reflected in the large number of soldiers preferring to surrender to the militants rather than fight. There are growing signs of fraying loyalties in the Pakistan Army, underlining the danger to its cohesiveness.


The growing "Islamisation" of the younger generation of Pakistani military officers is well-recorded. Given the close links between the Pakistani military and intelligence services and the militant groups fighting in Kashmir and the Taliban, it is not far-fetched to assume that there is a real danger of elements within Pakistan's military-intelligence complex colluding with radical Islamist groups.


Pakistan has accepted US help since 9/11 in designing its system of controls for its nuclear arsenal and the prevention of theft. The US has reportedly spent about $100 million in helping Pakistan secure its nuclear arsenal, and some reports have suggested that Pakistan has also received technical assistance from the US.


Throughout the Cold War years, it was viewed as politically prudent in the West and especially in the US to ignore Pakistan's drive towards nuclear acquisition, as Pakistan was seen as an important ally of the West in countering the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and elsewhere.


Nuclear proliferation has never been a first order priority for the US when it comes to Pakistan. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, as the Pakistani military seems unable and unwilling to take on the Islamist forces gathering momentum on Pakistani territory on the one hand; while on the other, the nation's nuclear weapons seem within the reach of the extremist forces.


The US has suggested that there are contingency plans in place to deal with the possibility of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of militant groups, but it remains far from clear as to what exactly the US would be able to do if such an eventuality arises. Meanwhile, India needs to be aware of the potentially catastrophic implications of the collapse of governing authority in Pakistan. A boost to fundamentalist forces in India's neighbourhood will have serious consequences for the utility of nuclear deterrence in the subcontinent. Irrespective of India's other problems with Pakistan, Indian decision-makers had little doubt so far in trusting that their Pakistani counterparts would take rational decisions insofar as the use of nuclear weapons was concerned. That assumption might soon need revisiting if the present trends in Pakistan continue for much longer.


The present turmoil in Pakistan and all its attendant consequences in the nuclear realm point to the long-term costs of short-sighted policies — the politics of proliferation — followed by the West in countering proliferation.n


The writer teaches at King's College, London.









Udi Baba! They are black and blindfolded. So you can't see the blindfolds. Funny thing is, even they don't feel their blindfolds. But, that doesn't mean the blindfolds have turned transparent. They don't see the world and the world does not see them. So woolly and fat they are! So comforted in their own dark world. So virile! A bumper crop of black sheep! They keep sprouting from the wastelands of muted conscience. Without rain or manure! A miracle of the deep sea and the devil, both!


They breed their creed to throttle ordinary sophistry of middle class morality. They look down upon this world with disdain. Why even ask if they have any wool on them! There is aplenty. A lot for their club. The exclusive club of black sheep believes in sharing and caring. They don't spill out beans. They spin tales.


Their fluffiness is indicative of either of the two possibilities; one, they are thick skinned and grow wool in abundance on epidermis; two, they are hollow within, which makes them look bloated and woolly. And, lest you wonder, they never grow bald with age! Black wool grows on black sheep in abundance with growing age!


There is a third possibility too. The censored one! They shave off wool from sheep in deep jungles and wear their coat. No, but isn't it something that the jackals did in parables! These are sheep! You must be out of your mind!


Why ask jackals such a question, have you any wool? Questions have become redundant. Just take answers on your notepad for a good PR.


When was it last that you heard someone ask such preposterous questions? Nobody does such an old fashioned thing, damn you! There is a thing called tacit understanding. That's sophistication. You are supposed to give. And give in suitcases, khokas, and through Swiss bank channels. Full. Not three bags full! What will they do with just three bags full!


The intelligent question to be asked is, what kind of wool?


And never make a foolish statement like; one for my master, one for the dame, and one for the little boy who lives down the lane. Commoners like the boy living down the lane have been struck off the list long back. Dames come and go! Who cares! If you have enough black wool, you get enough dames — that's the equation. And, we don't talk about giving the bags to masters. That's against the code of conduct. That too, in an election year, talking of giving three bags full!


Stupid, in an election year you should learn the technique of turning black sheep into white. Find the formula. Prepare you grand children to recite Ba Ba white sheep…so that no one ever recalls that black sheep were transformed!









The 12th round of talks with Pakistan on the Siachen issue is over and should be set aside with panache and poetic flourish. Unlike T.S. Eliot's protagonist, we have this time around, not stooped to folly in the unremitting waste land of India-Pakistan relationships. Instead we have politely agreed to disagree; accepting the Pakistani non-paper laconically; emphasising that our positions held on the Saltoro Ridge be accepted and plotted on maps as a prelude to their vacation, as well as firmly rejecting the brazen Pakistani suggestion that China be co-opted, being a concerned party.


The key to understanding the Siachen conundrum lies in a clinical understanding of its terrain and layout and its geo-strategic significance for the protagonists.


The 76 km long Siachen Glacier is sourced at Indira Col (5,753m) in the eastern Karakorams. It is sandwiched between the Saltoro Ridge to its west, and the main Karakoram Range to its east. The Pakistani positions are west of the Saltoro Ridge and have no direct observation of the glacier. The only way they can access it is by crossing the Saltoro Ridge through five passes: Sia La (7,300m), Bilafond La (6,160m), Gyong La (5,640m), Yarma La (6,100m) and Chulung La (5,800m), all held by India. The key Bilafond La (Pass of the Butterflies) is on the ancient Silk Route linking undivided India and China. Domination of these strategic passes is a key to the control of the surrounding areas. The glacier, at its snout (3,620m), converts into the Nubra River.


The average annual snowfall on the Saltoro is 10 mts, with temperatures ranging from minus 30 to minus 80 degrees centigrade. The important terrain deduction is that the 110 km long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), which the Indian Army occupies on the Saltoro Ridge, is reachable only after a vertical climb and then a suicidal frontal assault. India thus holds the commanding heights while Pakistan is at a severe military disadvantage.


Operation Meghdoot


For tracking how this military feat was achieved, one has to go back in time. Finding in Alpine climbing circles that Pakistan was claiming the area, Col Narendra "Bull" Kumar volunteered and was permitted to lead a fact-finding mission.


Post his path-breaking expedition in 1978 (he trekked along the Siachen from snout to source and climbed the Sia Kangri) and confirmation of Pakistani presence, Army HQ was alerted. With clinching evidence of Pakistani Special Services Group (SSG) presence detected by India's Ladakh Scouts in 1983, the Army launched Operation Meghdoot on April 13, 1984, inducting 4 Kumaon by using the knowledge base provided by Col Kumar. IAF helicopters dropped the doughty Kumaonis at Bilafond La. Simultaneously, 4 Kumaon secured the two major passes — the Sia La and Gyong La — on foot, establishing posts that put India in command of Siachen Glacier. Today the Siachen Battalion HQ at 4,880m is named Kumar Base in honour of Col Kumar.


India, since 1984, has lost 720 soldiers, with 60 per cent falling to General Glacier. Many more have been evacuated due to the effects of serving in super high altitude. In cost terms, analysts estimate that it costs India Rs 1,200 to 1,500 crore annually to maintain its 7,000-plus manpower in the Siachen area. Our strategic interests and national pride demand that we accept this cost.


The Battle for Quaid Post


How desperately Pakistan tried to occupy the Saltoro Ridge as a mandatory prelude to capture of the Siachen Glacier is evident in their bold, surreptitious 1986 occupation by a JCO-led SSG team, of a dominating feature south of Bilafond La. The Pakistanis justifiably called it Quaid Post and the Indians, the Left Shoulder. This post, protected by a 1,500 foot high vertical foot snow wall, overlooked most Indian posts. On April 18, 1987, withering machinegun fire from it mowed down five soldiers of 5 Bihar located at the air-maintained Sonam Post. Amar, Ashok and U-Cut posts, all helicopter maintained, also became untenable. Capturing Quaid thus became very critical for the Indian Army.


The relieving battalion, 8 J&K LI, undertook this challenge. On May 29, the Commanding Officer, Col A.P. Rai, sent a ten-man patrol under 2/Lt Rajiv Pande to fix ropes for ascending Quaid. Unfortunately, the activity of rope fixing was detected and most of the patrol including Rajiv was shot. A specially selected task force of two officers, four JCO's and 58 men under Maj (later Brig) Varinder Singh was created to capture Quaid and huge air effort expended to bring this force to area Saddle, 1000 metres away. Maj Varinder launched Operation Rajiv on June 23 and after masterminding three days and nights of superhuman effort, without food and water, constant shelling and losses of men, he located the ropes laid by Pande. Nearing the top, he launched Naib Subedar Bana Singh, the last of his four braveheart JCO's to finish the capture of the depleted Quaid Post. Starting at 12.11 PM, on June 26, Bana and his four men finished off the job by 2 PM, shooting the last two defendants dead and launching the Indian Tricolor at 21,153 feet. Maj Varinder, though seriously wounded, followed and took charge. Quaid became Bana Post, with Bana being awarded the Param Vir Chakra.


What do India & Pak want?


Tim McGirk and Aravind Adiga in a May 4, 2005 article in Time magazine (War at the top of the world) correctly write that while India wants Pakistan to authenticate the AGPL both on the maps as well as on the ground, the latter insists on maintaining the pre—1972 troop position as agreed in the Simla Agreement. That way, say the Indians, if Pakistan does try to seize the Indian positions after a withdrawal, it would attract international condemnation. Analysts feel that Siachen should be linked to the Kashmir solution and that India demand a quid pro quo on Kashmir. The realist school opines that in case of a Pakistani occupation of Siachen, they would be near impossible to evict the, given their easier access to Saltoro from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. An equally valid argument is that in case we pull out, Pakistan would be able to have access to Aksai Chin.


Finally, the reality is that complete withdrawal of the Army and the IAF will not be possible. Thoise (not a real name but an acronym: Transit Holding Of Indian Soldiers Establishment) is a military airfield and small village in Shyok Valley. It enables a quick inflow of men and material from the Indian mainland to Siachen. "Its importance is not only from the strategic point of view, but also as a lifeline to the civilians," says the IAF. They are right.


Pakistan, on its part, shies away from AGPL validation, ostensibly because that would "legitimise" India's "intrusion" into Siachen. They insist that India has broken the 1972 Shimla covenant, both arguments being contrived. Pakistan's "China card" opines that the northern part of the glacier abuts the Shaksham valley which is under Chinese control. Hence the need to have Beijing on board. The reality is that Shaksham valley, a 5,800 sq km area located just north of the Karakoram Pass, was part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and was illegally ceded by Pakistan to China in 1959. The Tribune editorial (The Siachen question: Playing China Card won't help Pakistan, June 2, 2011) that Pakistan invariably brings up China when driven to a wall is spot on. The Indian positions on the Saltoro overlook Shaksgam Valley, and given the recent frenetic Sino-Pak collusion in this area, there is no reason for us to give up this strategic advantage. The specious argument that demilitarization is needed to stop global warming – the glacier is receding 10.5m annually – does not amuse India as her strategic considerations override global warming.


Siachen is not, as Tim McGirk and Aravind Adiga have written, the "low-hanging fruit" of the India-Pakistan peace process, in that it is easier to resolve than Kashmir. India and Pakistan must, on the contrary, see its resolution as a break from their current "trust deficit" relationship, and use its resolution for further peace-making. The ball is clearly in Pakistan's court.


The writer is a defence analyst





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The decision of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to allow the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) to set up exchanges aimed at micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is laudable since an exchange aimed at the MSME sector can potentially circumvent an important constraint on MSME growth in India. The key criteria of the decision are: no need for a three-year track record to reduce entry barriers, half-yearly reporting to reduce reporting costs, a minimum lot size of Rs 1 lakh to limit individuals from undertaking risky trades, and a maximum issue size of Rs 25 crore to prevent larger firms from entering. Accessing risk capital with low reporting requirements and transaction costs will benefit MSMEs in many ways. The first is the obvious one of there being another source of funds. The second, perhaps more important, is that it will enable venture capitalists (VC) to have an exit option that was hitherto missing. Thus, it is expected to lower the cost of VC funding. Moreover, information asymmetry relating to MSMEs is a major cause of their constrained growth. But it is not just new MSMEs that are expected to benefit. There are thousands of stocks within the NSE, for example, that are rarely traded. Many of these are small entities that could shift to an MSME exchange with lower transaction costs and access a more MSME-focused set of traders.

Other countries have had a very positive experience with exchanges aimed for the MSME sector. Nasdaq in the US saw the initial listings of Microsoft, Intel and Oracle before they had become large blue-chip firms. AIM in the UK has been another success. Apart from developed western countries, others like Singapore, Korea, Japan and South Africa also offer encouraging examples. Even China now has an MSME-oriented exchange in the form of ChiNext. India has been a latecomer but could gain tremendously from other countries' experiences. India's own experience in MSME-oriented stock listings has not been good. Both over-the-counter and independent stock exchanges have failed in the past and it remains to be seen whether the NSE or the BSE can put together a winning package of services for their new MSME-focused platforms. The constraints are many, from both the supply and the demand sides. But the critical ones will come from the regulatory end. Sebi will continuously need to balance its objectives of transparency and fair play with low transactions costs and ease of entry for MSMEs. High reporting requirements or other checks and balances may improve transparency and eliminate the bad fish, but they would also increase costs and reduce entry.

Regulators and policy makers will need to continuously monitor and strike a balance between cost and efficiency for MSME exchanges to work. However, the recent goings-on in this domain leave much to be desired. The Competition Commission of India has presented a strong case against the NSE, while Sebi has been convincingly accused of sitting on MCX-SX application. Transparency, fair play and ease of entry and exit are the most important components of a stable and well-functioning financial system. All the players – regulators, incumbents and new entrants – would do well to stand by that principle.







When Vayalar Ravi, with his socialist credentials, was appointed minister for civil aviation, replacing the business-friendly businessman-politician Praful Patel, there was great hope that the troubled state-owned Air India would finally begin to implement a revival plan that had been in the works for some time. More so because the long-standing complaint of successive airline managements has been that there is too much political interference in managerial decisions pertaining to the airline. It was certainly the case before, what with Air India being dragged into debt on the back of huge and unsustainable aircraft purchases. But it would appear that the appointment of Mr Ravi has done little to improve Air India or get the turnaround plan off the ground. After a disastrous 2010 that saw an air crash and a controversy over senior appointments, 2011 has seen yet another pilots' strike on an issue that has been festering since 2007, and now, in peak summer season, the airline has been forced to cut back on flights because of its inability to pay fuel bills.

With this level of constant crisis, most other airlines would have been closed or sold. Air India does not have these options. Being government-owned, it would not be politically expedient to lay off some 45,000 employees at one stroke. As for a sell-off, with accumulated losses of Rs 16,000 crore, a debt of Rs 18,000 crore and a militant workforce, it is unlikely to find a buyer in a hurry — if at all. A plan to restructure its debt and convert part of it into equity at a distant later date is in the works. That should partially ease the burden on the balance sheet (banks themselves have no option to comply, otherwise Air India will weigh on their bad loan portfolios). But the shorter-term plan to sell its real estate assets hasn't yet taken off. And the longer-term plan to set up strategic business units (SBUs) for ground handling and engineering seems to be at a standstill. The move will reduce the airline's wage bill by about Rs 1,570 crore by shifting nearly 18,000 people from the airline.


For once, the unions have no cause for complaint because the employees in the spin-off units will be employed on the same conditions as before. But Air India's reputation for restive employee relations has come to haunt it. As of now, only 10 per cent of the staff of the ground-handling SBU comes from Air India. Air India's joint venture partner Singapore Airport Terminal Services has declined to take staff on existing conditions, preferring to hire on a contract basis instead. Another SBU for other airports has run into negotiating problems with some airports. As for the engineering subsidiary, the airline is scouting for a joint venture partner and is aiming to get third-party business to cash in on a growing opportunity. But it is possible that potential partners will watch the progress of the ground-handling SBU before venturing into a tie-up. In short, the airline appears to be on autopilot to nowhere.





Between competition and co-operation, Sino-Indian relations will be marked by 'co-opetition'

When Anil Ambani announced his $8.3 billion deal between Reliance Power and Shanghai Electric Group Company, demonstrating the potential for India-China win-win business ventures, eyebrows were raised around the world. Is China really willing to invest big in India? Can Indian and Chinese companies really work together? Will joint ventures (JVs) work? Will their varying corporate cultures mix and match?


 The debate will go on till more projects take off and more case studies are available for concrete analysis, but the idea of Sino-Indian business co-operation has taken off. Bharti Airtel last week announced a new model for partnering in business.

Rubbishing the forecasts made by strategic analysts in both countries and in the West about an India-China rivalry in Africa, Sunil Mittal's Bharti Airtel has teamed up with China's telecom technology major Huawei in Africa in a $400 million deal to modernise and expand Airtel's 2G and 3G network infrastructure in African countries. This follows an earlier such partnership in Sri Lanka.

The agreement will enable Huawei to design, plan, modernise and expand Bharti Airtel's network in Africa. Huawei will also manage infrastructure operations and maintenance.

Explaining the partnership, Bharti Airtel Joint Managing Director Manoj Kohli told the media, "This partnership takes us one step closer to realising our vision of making affordable and world-class telecom services available to Africa. It will allow us to focus on delivering better customer experience as we leverage the global network management expertise of Huawei." What Mr Kohli did not add was that this would also change the paradigm of Sino-Indian business relations in Africa.

Huawei Technologies' India head Yao Weimin (who has very cleverly adopted the nickname "Rajiv") says it is time to stop viewing India-China business relations only through the binary prism of competition or co-operation. "The reality is that Sino-Indian business relations will be marked by 'co-opetition'," Mr Yao told a gathering of strategic policy analysts in Beijing last week. The key word is "joint ventures," said Mr Yao, emphasising the growing interest of Chinese companies in direct investment in India.

At last year's meeting of the India-China dialogue, convened jointly twice a year by Beijing's China Reform Forum and New Delhi's Aspen India Institute, the chairman of Baosteel reported his company's interest in setting up steel plants in India, partly as a way of responding to India's concerns about exporting iron ore to China and importing finished goods from there. This year Mr Yao spoke about similar ventures in more high-technology sectors like biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and information technology. "You are world class in software, we are now world class in hardware. It is not enough that we remain where we are. We must become world class in combining the two. So China-India joint ventures is the route," he said.

Though the Bharti Airtel-Huawei deal is not a regular JV, it shows that partnerships can be established not just in each other's country but also in third markets. In fact, third markets may be the way to go for building synergies. Indian companies feel disadvantaged in China, given the close and non-transparent nexus between government and corporations, while Chinese companies, much like foreign investors, have the usual complaints about operating in India — poor infrastructure, excessive red tape and bureaucracy.

While Chinese business leaders complain about India's still pervasive "control-permit Raj", an Indian website familiar with India-China business relations offers a word of caution about doing business in China. "While India-China relations remain sweet and sour, few joint ventures between the two countries have done well. After four years of experimenting, learning and adapting, Bharat Forge has finally managed to come out of the red in China. India's biggest automotive forgings maker has a Joint venture with FAW, one of China's four largest auto makers. The joint venture based in Changchun is 52 per cent owned by the Indian company and although it posted a loss of Rs 315 million ($7 million) in 2009, the JV expects to be profitable this year (2011)" (

Moreover, given the persisting mutual suspicion, Indians and Chinese might find it easier to work together in third markets. In many sectors, Chinese companies bring better technology, cheaper finance and the ability to implement projects in time, while Indian companies bring better managerial and marketing skills.

India-China joint ventures are the way to go, says Atul Dalakoti, who has represented the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in China for over a decade, and is now China Country Head of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group. Mr Dalakoti went to school and college in China, speaks fluent Mandarin and is au fait with China's rapidly changing government and business culture.

Mr "Rajiv" Yao and Mr Dalakoti belong to a new, as yet minuscule, tribe of Chinese and Indian executives who have demonstrated the ability to work in each other's country and build bridges, relationships and business. They are the pioneers in what is likely to be an increasingly important world of India-China business-to-business (B2B) co-operation.

If they succeed, the resultant B2B links will help reduce, though not altogether eliminate, the trust deficit in the government-to-government (G2G) and people-to-people (P2P) relations. Such a deficit can be eliminated only when the two countries settle their long-standing disputes and differences. Till then it is B2B joint ventures, like the Airtel- Huawei deal, that will act as a bridge of "co-opetition" between the desire for co-operation and the impulse for competition between the two Asian giants.

The writer was in China as a participant in the China-India Strategic Dialogue as a guest of the Aspen India Institute





My position on the need to re-position forests in development has invited a huge response. On the one hand are those who argue that the functions of forests already include conservation vital to life; they need to be valued and protected. The unsaid – but often stressed – corollary is that any discussion on the need to improve productivity of forests through the involvement of people needs to be shunned. The stretched and simplistic position that this view takes is that forests and people cannot go together. One letter writer has even argued passionately that the government should think of taking over – buying out – large areas of forests from people and then protecting them for future generations. On the other hand are those who argue for further engagement of people with forests.

The discussion on this matter is deeply polarised. The two sides are at war, in which both forests and wildlife are the losers. But let me stress again that the stalemate in the forest policy is not tenable.

 With each passing day, the constituency for forest protection is shrinking. And this is when forest land in India is under a big threat — not necessarily from the people living in forests but from developers who want the land, minerals, water and other resources. Over time, the infrastructure imperative will take away forests, which have become the only "free" and "available" resource in the time of scarcity. The demand to open up forests will grow.

Forest land is already being lost bit by bit and all the talk about compensatory afforestation is just that — talk, not trees on the ground. As a result, we will be left with pockmarked wildlife reserves for which animals and people will compete.

It is to avoid this future that we need forests to be central to development as we reinvent it. It is in this context that we must discuss the potential of forests, both the intangible benefits of ecological security and tangible economic returns. This discussion is taboo in forest-conservation circles, where the country has moved from extraction to protection, without clarity about how the land will be utilised for production.

But let us also be clear that India – or any country, for that matter – cannot afford to set aside 22 per cent of its land, and not use it for development. This is a message that the environmentalists fighting against forest destruction are rightly reluctant to give. But it is time for change.

Take a look at the Economic Survey to see how forests have disappeared from national accounts. There are estimates of what forests generate for the economy but there is no valuation of the standing forests and their role in water and soil protection. There is certainly no valuation of the minor forest produce, which provides livelihood to the poor. There is no assessment of the role of forests as providers of grazing land, which, in turn, provides for animal care and dairying. Instead, the contribution of this sector – defined as agriculture, forestry and fishing – has sharply declined each year. Its annual growth rate in 2005-06 was 5.2 per cent. By 2009-10 its growth rate turned negative. Its place has been taken by the mining and quarrying sector, which registered a growth rate of 8.7 per cent in 2009-10 against 1.3 per cent in 2005-06. In fact, forests have been blacked out in the economic assessment of the country.

Clearly, something is amiss, if we consider the enormous potential of growing wood and non-timber products and their impact on the livelihoods and economies of states. We import more and more of forest produce, from pulp to timber. It is for this reason that revenues from forests are declining in state budgets, pressuring their diversion to more productive uses.

The way ahead involves three steps. One, we need to urgently value the economic potential of forests and incorporate this into national accounts. But this valuation must go beyond carbon storage and other obvious benefits. It must take into account the million ways in which forests provide livelihood support to people.

Two, as I have discussed earlier, we need steps to pay for standing forests. This money must go to communities bearing the burden of conservation. The economic value of keeping forests as forests for watersheds and biodiversity has to be paid to the custodians. It will build local economies and local support for forest protection.

Three, and most importantly, we have to increase the productivity of the remaining forest land. But we know that the business of cutting and planting trees that survive cannot be successful without people who live in forests. The question is whether we are willing to see the writing on the wall. There is so far no certainty about the answer.






Pressures are building on several fronts

As I argued in the last column ("On shaky grounds", May 30), India's net external liabilities have gone up sharply in recent years, thanks to a continued deterioration of the current account. This, in turn, is the inevitable result of rupee appreciation in real terms. The increase in liabilities is the consequence of capital flows in excess of the current account deficit, which have not been sterilised, as they used to be in an earlier era: such excess inflows can only inflate asset prices.


This apart, there are few prospects of any improvement in the current account, in 2011-12. Yes, exports have been showing sharp growth over the last four months, including in April 2011, for which there does not seem to be any convincing explanation. Again, ministry data do not capture defence imports that do not pass through customs — and, India has become the world's largest importer of arms. So cross your fingers and wait for the balance of payments data for the whole year.

More than half the rise in GDP in Q4 of 2010-11 was accounted for by increased private consumption: if this continues, it implies lower household savings. And, the public sector's negative savings will go up, thanks to the increasing burden of subsidies, paid or unpaid, to which the government is committed, and to which the National Advisory Council wants to add more. Petrol and diesel subsidies borne by crude oil producers also reduce their profitability and hence public sector savings. Although investments have been falling, the savings-investments imbalance could worsen in 2011-12, which also points to a higher current account deficit. The question is whether there will be enough capital inflows to finance a deficit of the order to perhaps $60/70 billion, (as conventionally calculated). Nor should we forget the possibility of a further rise in oil price.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been falling: and no wonder. On the one hand, deflationary monetary policy (both interest and exchange rate) does not make for an attractive investment climate. Nor do the problems in land acquisition, or governance in general: one example, in the World Bank's "Ease of doing business" index of 183 countries, we are the second lowest in enforcement of contracts. No wonder: corruption, less than clear rules and regulations, and delays are endemic. And, like developed countries' exchange rate policies, we have also adopted their environmental concerns overlooking the fact that they started worrying about them only after they became rich. The experiences of Posco, Cairn and Vodafone (tax case) are hardly an advertisement for FDI in India!

Nor am I very optimistic on portfolio inflows. A slowing economy does not make an attractive investment destination even for portfolio investors: GDP growth has fallen steadily in 2010-11 — from 9.3 per cent in Q1 to 7.8 per cent in Q4 . Investment growth too has been slipping in 2010-11 — from 17.4 per cent in Q1 to 11.9 per cent in Q2 to 7.82 per cent in Q3 and less than 0.5 per cent in Q4. Given the various factors inhibiting FDI, the slump in investment may well continue in 2011-12. And, lower investment today means lower growth later.

The infrastructure deficit will also start impacting growth. In a recent speech, Montek Singh Ahluwalia estimated the investment needs at $1 trillion over the coming five years: in the same forum ,Subbarao estimated that government and bank funding may not generate more than half the amount.

We need capital inflows not only to meet the deficit on the current account but also to meet maturing debt obligations. Assuming the latter is met through fresh borrowings, net FDI and portfolio inflows may not be sufficient to meet the gap. So downward pressure on the rupee is likely, but that will make portfolio investment (for the investor) and short term borrowings (for the borrower) less attractive. Yes, reserves built up under a different policy regime are adequate to take care of any shortfalls provided there is no major outflow of portfolio investments or short term loans. But it is worth emphasising the risks of becoming overdependent on continued inflows of foreign capital to bridge the savings-investment, or external earnings-expenditure, gap — the example making headlines is the southern countries in the eurozone. There is a difference of course: they have no control on a supranational currency's exchange rate; we have, but have chosen to give it up!

We should not forget the difficulties democracies have in selling a cut in public services to people, once they become used to "entitlements" — look once again at the eurozone. The costs of policy makers being wrong in estimating sustainable levels of current account, or fiscal, deficits can be very high. 






The large emerging countries have not yet learned to play a leadership role in the rapidly evolving global economy; unless they do that the process of change will remain disorderly

That we will see a major realignment in the global economy is a much written up and even more talked about subject. It has been discussed by analysts such as Fareed Zakaria who predicted some time ago that the centre of gravity of the global economy will shift from the West to the "Rest". By the rest he meant the large emerging economies in Asia and Latin America. Singapore's Kishore Mahbubani saw the rapid decline of the economies of today's rich countries and the equally rapid rise of Asia. Goldman Sachs, the American investment bank, was much more specific in identifying four countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — that will become the new world's leading economies.


This led to the coining of a new word — the BRICs — to identify this group. The BRICs themselves went a step further and began to hold summits of their own in parallel to those held by G8, the world's richest countries and G20. (The twentieth slot in this grouping was given to the European Union.) The BRICs have now become BRICS, with the addition of South Africa to the original four.

How will this transition from the old to the new economies occur? Those who had suggested that such a change had already begun to occur were less specific about the way it would actually happen. During his first visit to Asia as president in November 2009, Barack Obama began to talk about a new group of economic leaders — China and the United States. He didn't quite call the group G2 but suggested that while these two will give direction to the global economy, the details will be filled out by G20.

In line with this thinking, the strategic dialogue that had already begun between Beijing and Washington was given new importance and large delegations from the two countries began to attend their annual meetings. They were held alternatively in the two capitals.

Obama has an orderly way of thinking and for him a G2, G20, and the rest seemed a neat way of arranging the world in three tiers. But human history tells us that big change is always less orderly. His suggestion that the United States was prepared to surrender its position at the top of the world economic order and accommodate China as an equal partner on the top rung did not go down well with the American right. The conservatives and traditionalists in American society were not ready to give up on the idea of American exceptionalism.

That there was no other country and society like that of America and it was destined to pass on its exceptional values to the rest of the world was a deeply embedded belief in many sections of American society. The rise of the Tea Party movement in the United States lent further fervour to this belief. Under these pressures, President Obama beat a hasty retreat.

During his second visit to Asia a year later in November 2010 that started with a stop-over in Mumbai, President Obama said emphatically that India was not rising but had already risen. He also suggested that the South Asian superpower should be given a status in the United States system that was equal to the one already granted to China. The suggestion was that India should be given a seat as a permanent member in the United States Security Council. Obama's visit to India was followed by visits by a number of other world leaders — in particular the prime ministers of China and Russia. With India receiving this much attention, the G2 configuration seems to be headed towards becoming G3.

This process of change, already disorderly, became even more so with three unexpected developments: an earthquake that produced a tsunami in Japan and destroyed one of its nuclear power reactors, sudden financial woes that inflicted heavy economic damage on the periphery of the European Union and the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn from the leadership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The first two events provided further proof that some of the older economies in the world were losing their seats in the front row. The third development offered an accelerated opportunity to the world leaders to provide institutional accommodation to the realignment that was occurring in the structure of the global economy. Unfortunately, it appears that this opportunity will not be realised. That will be for two reasons.

The first is Europe's unwillingness to recognise that it has lost the economic power it had in the past. Even its larger countries don't measure up to the dynamism of China, India and Brazil. It may be entitled to a position in the front row provided it can create a United States of Europe out of the European Union. That would mean surrendering a great deal of national sovereignty to a collective body that can guide its economy and politics. Unless that happens, it will not be able to deal with the economic problems on its periphery. It must also address the demographic problem created by declining population sizes. Unless these issues are addressed individual countries in Europe must step out of the way and provide space to India and Brazil.

The second problem is with the large emerging countries. They have to find a way of acting collectively and in their common interest. The leadership vacuum in the IMF presented an opportunity that should have been grasped. There should have been a quickly-reached agreement on a candidate for the Fund's leader. Failure to reach a consensus on this means that the large emerging countries have not learnt to play a leadership role in the rapidly evolving global economy. Unless they do that the process of change will remain disorderly.

The author is a former finance minister of Pakistan








The flow of bank credit must be channelled towards more sustaining sectors such as core industries instead of real estate.

One of the features of the last fiscal's rather mixed performance in industrial output and economic growth (fourth quarter GDP closing lower at 7.8 per cent) was the consistent expansion of bank credit. After hitting 24 per cent in December, it tapered off to around 21 per cent but stayed around that level, more or less fulfilling the Reserve Bank of India's expectations. It goes without saying that non-food credit grew at a faster clip than food credit but the fact recorded in the central bank's April macro-economic review of overall brisk bank lending cannot be denied.

But one can certainly question the character of that lending or, in other words, the sector-wise distribution of bank credit growth over the four quarters. The RBI has released data to show that bank credit expansion tilted heavily towards Services, and within that to two segments — non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and commercial real estate. On a year-on-year basis to March 2011, credit to the former witnessed an expansion of almost 55 per cent against 17 per cent for the 12 months ending March 2010; commercial real estate, that had seen a contraction in the previous period, was favoured with a growth of 21 per cent — one of the most dramatic spikes in bank credit. Other star services were equally blessed; for instance, 'tourism, hotels and restaurants' maintained their record of 42 per cent, followed by 'transport operators' (24 per cent) and 'computer software' (20 per cent). Banks did not view industrial sectors with as much enthusiasm; credit to industry did grow, but more to the medium and small sectors with credit to large industry actually declining three percentage points to 24 per cent. One might welcome this special dispensation to the medium and small enterprise but, set against the overall deployment pattern, the character of lending in the last year cannot but be viewed with some apprehension. On a surface consideration, it might seem obvious for banks to lend more to star sectors and within that to real estate and NBFCs, that further fund activity. But credit growth built on services is often on shaky foundation: rising interest rates and input costs and payment defaults can slow real estate (and NBFCs) down from both demand and supply ends. Sensitive to interest rate variations, such sectors exhibit more volatility than manufacturing and industry at large.

The deployment of bank credit in the last fiscal reflects the pattern of economic growth but that is reason enough for policymakers to think about ways of changing the flow towards more sustaining sectors such as core industries.






It is the quality of children, and not their quantity, that now determines the reallocation of resources, thereby enhancing human capital formation.

June 6, 2011:  

It is said that one-third of the countries in the world have already completed demographic transition — the shift from high birth and death rates to low rates. The resultant rise in labour productivity has spurred economic growth, as resources per capita have increased.

The key finding of this paper by Oded Galor ("The Demographic Transition: Causes and Consequences" is that it is the quality of children, and not their quantity, that now determines the reallocation of resources, thereby enhancing human capital formation.

What, then, were the possible triggers that led to this demographic transition? Thus, was the onset of the fertility decline an outcome of the rise in income during the course of industrialisation?

Was it triggered by the reduction in mortality rates? Was it fuelled by the rise in the relative wages of women? Or was it an outcome of the rise in the demand for human capital in the second phase of industrialisation?

Galor rejects the argument made by some researchers that following industrialisation, the rise in income led to a decline in fertility along with an increase in the investment in each child. He says this theory appears "counterfactual".

For instance, in 1870, "England and the Netherlands were then the richest countries in Western Europe, enjoying GDP per capita of $3,190 and $2,760, respectively.

In contrast, Germany and France, which experienced the onset of a decline in fertility in the same decade as England and the Netherlands, had a significantly smaller GDP per capita of $1,840 and $1,880, respectively.

Moreover, Sweden and Norway's GDP per capita were only about 40 per cent of that of England in 1870, Nevertheless, the onset of the fertility decline in these economies occurred in the same decade as in England."

The simultaneity of the demographic transition across West European countries that differed significantly in their per capita incomes, therefore, goes to show that high income levels had a limited role to play in triggering the demographic transition, he says.

Technological Progress

Galor argues that it is technological progress in the second phase of the industrial revolution that brought about a rise in parental income and demand for human capital, which brought about two major changes in population growth. One, higher income eased restrictions on household budgets, thereby freeing more resources for quality of children rather than quantity, leading to enhanced quality of the overall population. Technological progress also led to reduction in fertility, generating a fall in population growth and rise in the level of education.

The author cites the varying process of development in the United Kingdom and India over the 19th and 20th centuries. "During the nineteenth century, the United Kingdom traded manufactured goods for primary products with India. Per capita industrialisation in India significantly regressed over this century whereas per capita industrialisation in the UK accelerated.

The process of industrialisation in the United Kingdom led to a significant increase in the demand for skilled labour in the second phase of the industrial revolution, triggering a demographic transition in the 1870s and a transition to a state of sustained economic growth.

In India, in contrast, the lack of demand for skilled labour delayed the demographic transition and the transition to a sustained-growth regime to the second half of the twentieth century."

Therefore, it can be said that the growth of international trade and its impact on the demand for human capital played a big role in inducing a rise in fertility and a decline in human capital formation in non-industrial economies, and a decline in fertility and a rise in human capital formation in the industrialised economies.

Of course, religious movements such as Judaism and Protestantism as well as the decline in gender gap in wages also contributed to triggering the demographic transition.

Old-age security

Some researchers have suggested that old-age security reasons may also have triggered the demographic transition.

They argue that in the "absence of capital markets which permit inter-temporal lending and borrowing, children serve as an asset that permits parents to transfer income to old age.

Hence, the establishment of capital markets in the process of development reduced this motivation for rearing children, contributing to the demographic transition."

Galor, however, feels that although old-age security could have affected the level of fertility, it appears to have played a minor part in the onset the demographic transition.

"First, since there are only rare examples in nature of offspring that support their parents in old age, it appears that old-age support cannot be the prime motivation for child rearing.

Second, institutions supporting individuals in their old age were formed well before the demographic transition."For instance, parents in England, as far back as the 16th Century, stopped relying on support from children in their old age.

Moreover, cross-sectional evidence shows that in the pre-demographic transition era, wealthier individuals had a larger number of surviving children, says Galor, ruling out the decline in old-age support as a major force behind reduction in fertility during the demographic transition.





When he is not stirring up red hot soups for environmentally truant industries (or himself landing in one) Jairam Ramesh seems to also excel in conjuring up some real winners. The pasta that the Union Minister for Environment and Forests jointly cooked at Saturday's Pasta Party in Bangalore was the pick of five VVIP entries. It took one winner to pick another, for no one can accuse Kenyan star athlete Titus Mbishei, who judged the dishes, of knowing who the VVIP pasta-makers were. Ramesh and his pasta-mate, reigning Olympic marathon champion Constantina Dita, who is the ambassador for the TCS World 10K run of June 5, won hands down over the hard sweat of UNEP's Achim Steiner, ITC Windsor's Atul Bhalla, Timex's V.D.Wadhwa, BCCL' s Ravi Dhariwal, actors Rahul Bose and Gul Panag; Kingfisher calendar model Angela Johnson, and TCS' N.G. Subramaniam. Now if that isn't un fantastico Italian pot-boiler from the inimitable Mr Ramesh.

The Saina power

It's almost the norm for film and sports personalities to be brand ambassadors of all kinds of products that we use. So why not have one of them to also promote something as essential as millets? Posing the question at a meeting on millets and maize recently was agricultural scientist K.N. Rai. While rice and wheat don't need ambassadors, why should we not have a tough badminton champion like Saina Nehwal to endorse millets such as ragi and jowar (sorghum), he wondered aloud. His point was that someone like Saina can boost the nutritionally rich millets that have been almost abandoned and forgotten in modern times.

Let us hope the remark was not lost on his prime target: amidst the elite agro gathering was Dr Harvir Singh, a senior scientist at ICAR's Directorate of Oilseeds Research. Who is none other than Saina's father.

Green thoughts

Lights, ACs, inaction. Sample sustainability this June 5. World Environment Day brings out some quaint corporate concepts. Infoscions sold LED lamps at a discount and cleaned parts of the city along with their offspring. The juicier part was a seed-ball scattering drive, No-tissue-paper Day, cycle or commute to work, e-waste collection and, of course, planting trees. Butterflies on the campus (the real winged ones) were not forgotten — Infy is said to be a haven for some rare species.

At general insurer Bharti AXA too, how to cut the carbon footprint was at the top of the mind among its staff. 'Hit the switches, turn off the lights' was one mantra, while it was no printing, no car, wear green and buy greens for many others. Luckily for them, all that was easier done. June 5 was a Sunday this year.

Walk, then talk

It was a walk that mediapersons, some bureaucrats and infotech executives will not forget in a hurry. Recently, on his first official visit to an IT park, the new IT Minister of Tamil Nadu, R.B. Udaykumar, sprang a surprise and chose to foot it out into the Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu Special Economic Zone.

As he started walking, the nearly 50 people including journalists and his entourage had no choice but to follow him on the nearly 2-km walk into the SEZ. The topping came at the end of a gruelling trudge, when the Minister turned to ask the journalists rather incredulously: "You all walked!? Couldn't you have taken a vehicle?" Shall we call it a case of ill-timed hospitality?

Loos(e) Apples

History was made in Tihar when Apple's iPad was allowed inside the high security jail. Justice S. Muralidhar had taken the decision on a petition by Asif Balwa of the 2G spectrum infamy.

Meanwhile, an A.C. Nielsen study took a look at how and where people use their smartphones, tablets and eReaders. It found that four per cent took their tablets to bathrooms, as also three per cent of eReader users. The most interesting finding was that 37 per cent of iPad owners use theirs while watching TV more than anywhere else.

All in the name

Every time someone utters this B-word or it pops up in print, many of us cringe. The unwitting perpetrators of this verbal offence are invariably foreign nationals or overenthusiastic company executives from up country. How we want to nicely tell them, don't try so hard to pull this overstretched city at its ends just to say 'Banga-looru' or 'Benga-looru'.

For one, the name is neither here nor there. This bloated city of 8.5 million may have changed beyond anyone's imagination but mercifully, the name is still good old plain 'Bangalore'. It's official.








The single most significant achievement of the government's midnight crackdown on Baba Ramdev and his fellow protesters at Delhi's Ramlila Grounds has been to dent its own credibility. Its critics are entirely right to ask why, if the fasting Baba is a charlatan as the government now claims he is, more ministers were sent to receive him at the Delhi airport than has been assigned to greet any visiting potentate, whether Barack Obama or Hu Jintao. Why did the government behave in a schizophrenic fashion, feting him as some haloed crusader who had to be cajoled into abandoning his planned protest at any cost, and then coming down on him like a tonne of bricks? The UPA leadership owes the nation an explanation. Anyone has the right to protest peacefully in this country. If Baba Ramdev wanted to protest, he should have been free to feast, fast or photosynthesise in the sun as he pleased. So the forcible disruption of the protest is an offence against democratic rights. At the same time, the government is perfectly justified to have been concerned about the security implications of saffronites mobilisation in large numbers, complete with Sadhvi Ritambhara, the most vitriolic amongst those who campaigned to demolish the Babri mosque at Ayodhya. The last time religious passions were mobilised for politics and people assembled in large numbers, the Sangh Parivar brought down the mosque and much of the minorities' faith in the institutional integrity of India's commitment to secularism. The sensible course would have been to restrict and regulate the size of the assembly, not to break it up.

It is, indeed, silly to give in to populist pretensions that black money can be removed by a new law. It is equally silly to hope that people's anger against corruption can be dissipated by outsmarting or dividing civil society groups. The UPA leadership needs to show its own credible initiative against corruption. That means Sonia Gandhi leading a campaign for transparent funding of her party from now onwards, not setting up yet another Group of Ministers. Cleaning up political funding is the first, and most important, step to fight corruption.






Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), India's largest company, will become debt-free in a year, a positive fallout from selling stake in its oil and gas blocks to BP for about $9 billion. Another gain would be the expertise of BP, one of the pioneers in offshore drilling and exploration, to boost output from its large offshore field KG D6. Output there is low and stagnating, prompting investors to dump the stock, which has under-performed indices this year. Yet, RIL's refining margins are the best in the world, its petrochemicals businesses are recovering from the global shock of 2008-09 and after the 3G auctions, it now owns the largest amount of wireless bandwidth among all companies in India. Each of these are areas of great promise, which if leveraged well, can boost the bottomline. Today, wireless voice communication is a crowded, hyper-competitive market with very slim margins. RIL must use the bandwidth at its disposal to crack the nascent market for data and value-added services. These will become the growth — and profitability — drivers of the near future and RIL has a great opportunity to get there ahead of its rivals. RIL is also planning to take advantage of the recent growth in the synthetics market to invest aggressively in its petrochemicals business.

Retail is one area where the company entered with much fanfare sometime ago, but hasn't done too well. By and large this mirrors the experience of most retail players who have found it tough to crack the dominance of mom and pop stores and local markets. RIL has chosen to grit its teeth and push on with the retail business, and grow the cash and carry segment, but it will have to assess its retail model very carefully. It needs to soothe nervous shareholders. One way to do that would be to bundle income generating assets, now under the personal ownership of the promoters, into RIL. These include the pan-India east-west pipeline, the large terminal cum port facilities at Jamnagar and the Reliance SEZ. Once these are merged back into the company, they'll provide additional income streams that will boost earnings per share and therefore, higher valuations.









India's economic gurus, now in hibernation somewhere deep inside Raisina Hill, should wake up and look at the world's latest poster-child of reform — Mongolia. Growth there is 10% and is expected to cross 20% by 2013. Mining is big business, but citizens of this democratic country have not started to fret about any adverse impact on the environment. Markets are up more than 25% this year, even after cooling off substantially. Overseas capital is rushing in. But the most remarkable thing that the Mongolian government is doing, is pursuing its own version of inclusive growth. In order to let citizens share in the boom, it has given away — yes, for free — 538 shares in state-owned mining giant Erdenes-Tavan Tolgoi to each Mongolian. Currently at price zero, there's surely a significant upside for people when the stock lists, in an IPO scheduled for later this year. Under Chengiz Khan, the Mongols fanned out to occupy much of Central Asia, Europe and China. China is back again in the crosshairs of the Mongols, but this time as the main buyer of much of its mineral wealth, and the source of manufactured imports.

At around $2,000, Mongolia's per capita income is relatively low. The government wants people to spend without worrying too much, so it recently gave $55 to each person to do what they want. It also sweetened the handout with a monthly stipend of $15 for everyone. India, which lacks for many things but not trained economists, has worked itself into a lather debating how to reform our creaking subsidy and food delivery system, and how to make cash transfers work. It's time to export some economists to Ulan Bator, and import some Mongol commonsense. The economists are welcome, of course,to suggest substituting members of the National Advisory Council for themselves.







If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it,' quipped Charles F Kettering, the famous American engineer and inventor of the electric starter. Well, the government has done just that! It has appointed an eight-member committee to examine ways to tackle black money.
Perhaps that is too cynical! After all, the flurry of activity (the committee is only one of a series of moves) comes after months, nay years, of inactivity by successive governments. So, can the ordinary citizen hope for concrete action and more importantly, results?

Unfortunately, no! Not if past experience is any indication. Read the two seminal works on the subject: the voluminous Wanchoo Committee Report of 1971 and the 1985 National Institute of Public Finance and Policy report (Aspects of the Black Economy in India) authored by Shankar Acharya and his team and the overwhelming sense is one of déjà vu.

If the Wanchoo Committee bemoaned the 'discretionary power' of government officials that gave rise to speed money first and then to hush money to hush up violations, the Shankar Acharya committee pointed to how the scope for making black money through 'kickbacks, cuts and commissions on government projects and purchases had grown dramatically' and political involvement in such transactions had grown enormously.
That was almost 30 years ago when we were nowhere near the one trillion-dollar economy we are today, the size of the government's budget was a fraction of what it is now and more importantly, the grip of black money in the economy was far less pervasive.

Despite this, there has been no official study on the black economy after 1985. Arun Kumar's book (The Black Economy in India, 2002) goes a long way to bridge the gap, but officially there has been silence. Part of the reason is everyone within the government, and many without, know what needs to be done. The two reports quoted above and a host of other committees on related subjects have made a number of suggestions as there is hardly any aspect of the Indian economy that is untouched by the phenomenon of black money today. Many of these suggestions have also been implemented. Thus, the pervasive system of controls has been disbanded with the scrapping of industrial licensing, the peak personal income tax rate of little over 30% is a far cry from the high of 97.5% under Mrs Indira Gandhi, foreign exchange is no longer a scarce commodity and while we are not exactly a land of plenty, many of the crippling shortages of the past are history.

Despite this the share of the black economy has increased from the Wanchoo Committee's estimate of 7% in the early 1970s to 21% according to the Shankar Archarya Committee to almost 50%, according to the latest Global Integrity Report and Arun Kumar's own estimates. Why?

The reason is even as some avenues,like hawala, have become less lucrative, others like the Mauritius route have been opened. And despite the disbanding of industrial licensing, the government still retains enormous discretionary power as evidenced in the 2G spectrum scam.

Sporadic efforts like the Voluntary Disclosure Scheme have had little effect. As with the great poverty debate where more policy time and mind-space is spent attacking the accuracy of poverty estimates and less on tackling poverty, so too we seem to forget that the central point in our fight against black economy is not whether it is 50% or 60% but of tackling it before it destroys the economy and the social fabric.
    There is no rocket science to this. All it needs is a modicum of political courage. It is here that the government is wanting. If it really wants to convince people that this time it means business, it should not await submission of the reports before cracking the whip. There are a number of simple things it can do.
To begin with, it can close or drastically tighten the Mauritius route for investments in India. As with Participatory Notes (PNs) where there was a hue and cry when the government first mooted tightening but scarcely a ripple when it finally suited action to words, fears of the fallout from outlawing the Mauritius route are overdone. Unfortunately, successive governments have dragged their feet on the matter, lending credence to the belief that the Mauritius route was deliberately created to facilitate round-tripping of funds.
In the interim, the Mauritian government can be prevailed upon to provide more information. If the information sought by the CBI in the 2G spectrum allocation scam can be obtained from Mauritius, there is no reason why similar information cannot be obtained on other investments routed through that country. The same applies to investments through other tax havens.

The next step is to identify sectors such as real estate, international trade, education and politics, especially political funding, where black money is rampant and put in place a proper system of reporting with stiff penalties for failure to do so.

The present practice of insistence by the judiciary on mens rea (intention to cheat) as a precondition to conviction even where search and seizure operations have unearthed black money must give way to a more realistic interpretation of the law.

Remember, Al Capone, the notorious US gangster who was wanted in many murders was finally put behind bars on charges of tax evasion! When was the last time anyone in India went to jail on similar charges?









British engineering and design firm Atkins is sharply increasing its India focus, at a time when the country is bracing for a raft of changes in its urban landscape.

The £1.4-billion company has had a "relation with India for many years through an office in Bangalore", where Indian graduates across disciplines have been providing outsourcing services in the UK and other global markets. But "that is changing," says Sanjay Tanwani, senior masterplanner of the 73-year-old company. "We are taking the Indian market more seriously. India poses serious challenges and we are in the process of building a team in Bangalore specifically for the Indian market," says Tanwani. The McKinsey report on India's rapid urbanisation and the challenges it throws for Indian cities has been a wake-up call, he says.
The McKinsey study said India's urban population will increase to 590 million in 2030 from 340 million in 2008. And this urban expansion will happen at an unprecedented speed. It took India nearly 40 years (between 1971 and 2008) for the urban population to rise by nearly 230 million, but it will take only half the time to add the next 250 million, says the McKinsey report.

These numbers are mind-boggling, says Tanwani, adding that Atkins is looking to work with partners in India to "help address the big challenges Indian cities face". Atkins executives say they see many of these challenges in terms of infrastructure provision related to water scarcity and transport systems. The company, which counts Rolls Royce, Royal Bank of Scotland, European Commission and Lloyds Baning Group, among others, as its clients, says it is just as keen on addressing issues on the urban poor. In India, there is a vast potential "in the development of slums to re-house population". Atkins, which has 17,500 employees worldwide, is becoming increasingly involved in urban meets in India. It is not only about working together with people, says Tanwani. "Key initiators are picked up and we get together with local communities from all walks of life to design a need-based approach." Atkins executives say they will take forward this 'designing what they want" kind of approach. Dharavi is an ideal example in this context, says Tanwani. Although it doesn't look like a city, it shows the way urban fabric has evolved, he says. "There is a sense of brotherhood in Dharavi as there is dependency with neighbours. Those are the key areas we wanted to extract." In India, Atkins is looking to gain a foothold by working in tier-2 and tier-3 cities. The company has had talks with the urban development ministry. It is involved in the ambitious Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor. The company is also targeting redevelopment projects and townships. Current clients include ITC, developers in Noida and urban development firms in Tamil Nadu. The Bangalore office, though self-sufficient, will expand as the client list grows, says Tanwani.

How does Atkins go about urban planning, given that each project is different? "When we take on a new township, we have to think 50 years ahead," says Tanwani. Azerbaijan is an example, he says, where 250-300 hectares of a new city district is essentially post-industrial land. The project involves building housing, offices and an urban waterfront, among other facets of urban design. "We'll work with urban planners to explain the wider planning concept… what sort of housing will be appropriate… how much office space is required... how many employees can be housed… traffic, etc." Key to the design is also lowcarbon buildings. For solutions, Atkins works with a broad set of experts including economists and transport planners. "It is all part of a methodology that seeks a well-rounded solution," says Tanwani.

Atkins has built this methodology into a single model. It is abit like putting together drawings, databases and all the numbers during planning into a single model, says Tanwani. Say, there are two storeys in a building. "We see what that has done to waste generation, population and water demand."

Sometimes, Atkins has 'monotonous' cities on its hands. "We've seen this in the Middle East," says Tanwani. In Amman, the capital of Jordan, housing reflects the family and community unit where anyone who reaches 21 years of age has to give 60 sq m of plot to the government, he says. "For the sake of being fair, all plots are the same and we end up with monotonous cities."

Nevertheless, every city has to account for explosion in demographics, says Tanwani, adding that this view is particularly important in India's context. "There will be more young people in the next 50 years in India. And there is heavy migration in India." Phased development is the answer, he says. The issues are manifold: how much additional housing and infrastructure will be needed over say, 20-30 years? What will be the population growth then? Which cities will accommodate this growth? What policies must be framed for this? "It is truly a fascinating process," says Tanwani.












As detailed in the Institute of International Finance's recent report on Capital Flows to Emerging Market Economies, the impact of the financial crisis proved short-lived. Net private capital flows to emerging markets rebounded to $990 billion in 2010 after slumping to $620 billion in 2008 from $1,254 billion in 2007. They are set to edge up further to $1,041 billion in 2011 and $1,056 billion in 2012.

The turnaround was propelled by unprecedented global policy easing along with emerging market resilience. It is now being sustained by maintenance of easy global liquidity conditions and robust emerging market performance, especially in Asia. Real GDP in Emerging Asia surged 9.3% in 2010 from an eight-year low of 6.8% in 2009, and growth is set to be around 8% this year and next. China and India will lead with 9% and 8% respectively. While adjusting to high oil and other commodity prices and restrictive policies to combat inflation, the region is set to continue outperforming its peers. As a result, after net private capital flows to Emerging Asia rebounded to a record $500 billion last year following the plunge from $413 billion in 2007 to $120 billion in 2008, inflows are likely to be above $450 billion this year and next, accounting for more than 40% of the emerging market total. Inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) should exceed $160 billion a year. China's manufacturing prowess means its share will exceed 60% of the Asian total, while India is a distant second, with 20%.

The strong corporate performance and asset reallocation resulted in a dramatic shift from foreigners pulling out $50 billion from regional stocks in 2008 to making record net portfolio equity purchases of $130 billion in 2010. While these investments have moderated recently with profit taking, foreigners should still pour around $110 billion into regional markets this year and next, dominated by China, India and South Korea.
Low borrowing costs, a search for yields and a turnaround in risk aversion have also lifted net inflows from commercial banks and nonbanks to around $200 billion a year from net repayments of $40 billion in 2008. While Emerging Asia is set to maintain an aggregate current account surplus largely because of China, capital outflows will continue as central banks further add to reserves and residents invest abroad in pursuit of diversification opportunities.

The private capital inflows are an inexpensive source of financing for the region. Foreign purchases of domestic stocks allow companies to easily raise equity capital, lifting sentiment by boosting stock prices. Moreover, inflows of FDI bring in jobs and technology. Nevertheless, the concern is that the bonanza may prove too much of a good thing when the region is grappling with inflationary pressures brought on by excess demand and high commodity prices. In addition, by fuelling asset prices they may endanger macro stability.

Gradual monetary and fiscal tightening is underway in Emerging Asia to enable a soft landing. Moreover, the authorities are appropriately seeking to allow gradual exchange rate appreciation to combat inflation, although China constrains regional currency flexibility. With regard to using capital controls as an additional policy tool in line with the changed thinking at the IMF, the region rightly remains reluctant because of past adverse experiences and concerns about long-term dislocations. China and India are on a path of gradual capital account liberalisation, while other countries have taken only limited measures to dampen short-term inflows. In contrast, Emerging Asia is making more active use of macroprudential regulations to dampen asset prices and credit growth. Recent measures include tighter provisioning standards, caps on loan-to-value ratios and minimum income requirements for credit cards. In China, in addition to sharply raising reserve requirements and higher interest rates, policymakers are seeking to cool the housing market by requiring greater down payments, limiting mortgages to one property and imposing property taxes in several cities. A large public housing programme has also being launched. In Emerging Asia, macroprudential regulations are a tried and tested tool, having been used during previous episodes of surges in capital inflows and which long predates their recent addition to the global tool kit.

There are the three key conclusions. First, private capital flows to Emerging Asia are set to remain large and bring many benefits. Second, while there are attendant policy headaches, the right response should be further monetary, fiscal and exchange rate measures, accompanied by stepped-up macroprudential actions. Third, for India, the only country in the region with a large current account deficit, encouraging inflows is even more important, especially if they can be utilised for financing infrastructure and addressing supply-side bottlenecks to sustain strong growth and development.

(The author is Deputy Director, Asia/Pacific of the International Institute of Finance. These are his personal views)










When the French writer Andre Malraux asked Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958 about his greatest difficulty since Independence, Nehru is said to have replied, "Creating a just state by just means". He then added: "Perhaps, too, creating a secular state in a religious country."

The supposed religiosity of voters is one reason why governments are almost always pusillanimous in the face of any agitations by godmen or even quasi-godmen of the Baba Ramdev kind.


Baba Ramdev's status on this count is rather iffy. Five star yoga guru, businessman, wannabe politician – however one looks at him – he has assiduously used the power of television to build up a mass following in small-town India. It is the fear of this throng that led to the bizarre spectacle of four government ministers rushing to Delhi's airport to dissuade him from starting his fast.


In that sense, the Manmohan Singh government has finally shown some spine with the midnight break-up of Ramdev's camp at Delhi's Ramlila Ground. The BJP is predictably crying hoarse about "an Emergency-like" situation, accusing the Congress of not being ready for any kind of democratic discussion.


It is important to point out though that there was nothing vaguely democratic about Ramdev's tactics which amounted to blackmail, plain and simple.


No government worth its salt can allow the subterfuge and the chicanery on evidence in hiring a public ground for one purpose and then slyly using it for another. This was technically meant to be a yoga camp for 5,000 people, it swelled into ten times that number and anyone who saw Ramdev's wild-eyed and rather disturbing anti-establishment rant on television should be under no illusions about his deliberate provocativeness.


Ramdev's brand of politics seems to jump straight out of an obscure Hindutva-leaning manual and a motheaten list of dos and don'ts from the Swadeshi Jagran Manch.


Even if one ignores the sheer obscurantism of Ramdev's worldview, it embodies a certain kind of shrill confrontationalism that brooks virtually no dissent. It talks of democratic rights but only in relation to its own narrow right to speak and simultaneously seeks to short-circuit the very processes and systems that democracy engenders.


To allow anyone, whether in saffron or not, to hold governance and the law hostage in this manner is to open the path to breakdown and anarchy.


On that note, history has some valuable lessons to offer in the interface between religiosity and politics.
    Exhibit 1 is Indira Gandhi and the aftermath of the infamous assault by sadhus on Parliament in 1966 over the demand to ban cow slaughter.


Backed by the Jan Sangh and some elements within the Congress, including its Home Minister Gulzarilal Nanda, the sadhus were incited after a protest march on 7 November 1966 to attack the Parliament building itself. The attack failed but the violence that followed killed eight people and the Jan Sangh raised the political temperature asking its followers nationwide to go on fast.


The Shankaracharya of Puri joined the fast and a religious Hindu backlash seemed imminent. When the Shankaracharya was arrested, one of the Sangh's tallest leaders, Deendayal Upadhyaya, told a public audience: "Even Aurangzeb dare not touch the Shankaracharyas. Evidently the government has lost all sense of proportion."


The tactic of religious leaders and their followers going on fast was very similar to the blackmail deployed by Ramdev now but as the political scientist Christoph Jaffrelot has shown, Indira Gandhi remained firm. She dismissed her recalcitrant Home Minister and set up an emergency committee to deal with the demands. Significantly, she insisted that giving up the fasts must be a pre-condition for any talks since no government could decide anything under such pressure.


Eventually, there was no compromise. The Shankaracharya ended his fast in January 1967, gaining nothing except the older proposal for a committee of experts. The RSS eventually lost interest in the agitation and the committee, which was to include its chief Golwalkar and the Shankaracharya, went into oblivion.


Exhibit 2 is the weak-kneed Congress response to the religious fervour of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Faced with the likes of the virulent Sadhvi Rithambara, who accompanied Baba Ramdev on stage as his 'Didi Maa', Rajiv Gandhi tried the impossible trick of playing footsy with the saffron right, while keeping his secular credentials. The sordid tale of Congress compromises in the surge of religiosity that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 is too well known to be recounted here.


The difference is that in the 1960s and the 1980s, the sadhus were plumping for essentially a religious cause that became political. In Ramdev's case now they are agitating for what is a non-religious governance-related aim.
    Yet, the initial governmental panic draws from the same source: the fear of their following. It is compounded by the fact that it is a government that is still jittery from being caught flat-footed by the Anna Hazare movement.

Either way, the lesson of history is clear: no one should be allowed to hold governance to ransom.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




After both sides struck an initial stance of reasonableness, the government reckoned that yoga guru Ramdev was probably disinclined to end his protest campaign at Delhi's Ramlila Grounds, although he had agreed to do so in a letter submitted the previous day to the government ministers negotiating with him. Sensing that the Ramdev movement had, in effect, been organised by the RSS, and then finding arch communal troublemaker Sadhvi Rithambara, known for spewing venom against the minorities, was sharing the Ramlila Ground stage with the yoga teacher, it was expected that concern and alarm would follow in official circles, not to say among a broad swathe of public opinion. The eviction of the saffron-wrapped yoga teacher and his followers by the Delhi police from the Ramlila Grounds past midnight on Saturday thus occasions little surprise. It transpires that Baba Ramdev had sought official permission to hold a "yoga camp" there but instead he nourished a political jamboree seeking to instigate people against the government. This was unfortunate. Baba Ramdev had told followers that 90 per cent of his demands had already been met. Some of the issues raised by the yoga guru are indeed reasonable. The corruption question finds an echo among all sections of citizens. It is beyond considerations of party politics and ideology. The Centre, for instance, can without delay clear legislation — one of Ramdev's key demands — intended to provide relief to ordinary people against petty harassment and bribe-extraction at service delivery points, for instance when picking up a ration card, a driving licence, a water connection or a death certificate. When governments don't take care of such basic needs of citizens, they lay themselves open to the charge of imperviousness, and typically fire middle and lower middle class angst, which generally drives protests in urban India. Worse, in such situations, an absence of governmental initiative makes possible large-scale mobilisation of disgruntled elements — as we saw in the case of Ramdev and Anna Hazare. Such collectives can be exploited to irresponsible ends by demagogues of any hue — from Naxalites on the far left to the communal far right. Popular concern and frustration with the official machinery has been exacerbated by instances of corruption in high places that have come to light in the last eight or nine months, detracting from the government's moral authority. Even so, it would be foolish and dangerous if society permitted half-baked ideas of demagogues to take hold, and permit such elements an opportunity to overrun the system. It cannot be overemphasised that, in particular, the issue of repatriation of black money in foreign tax havens is complex and not amenable to overnight solutions as it presupposes negotiations with foreign governments. The idea of declaring all Indian black money overseas a national asset is even more complicated. After the police action at Ramlila Grounds, it is a pity that a national party like the BJP lost perspective and begun comparing it with the Emergency. It would be useful to remember that if it were indeed the Emergency once again, the party would not be free to belt out anti-government messages from the podium of its national executive in Lucknow.






From: Ministry of state security To: President Hu Jintao Subject: The Arab Spring Dear President Hu: You asked for our assessment of the Arab Spring. Our conclusion is that the revolutions in the Arab world contain some important lessons for the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, because what this contagion reveals is something very new about of how revolutions unfold in the 21st century and something very old about why they explode. Let's start with the new. Sometime around the year 2000, the world achieved a very high level of connectivity, virtually flattening the global economic playing field. This web of connectivity was built on the diffusion of personal computers, fibre-optic cable, the Internet and Web servers. What this platform did was to make Boston and Beijing or Detroit and Damascus next-door neighbours. It brought some two billion people into a global conversation. Well, sir, while we were focused on the US recession, we went from a connected world to a "hyperconnected world". It has connected Boston, Beijing and now Baotou in inner Mongolia. This deeper penetration of connectivity is built on smarter cellphones, wireless bandwidth and social networks. This new platform for connectivity, being so cheap and mobile, is bringing another two billion people into the conversation from more and more remote areas. To put it in West Asian terms, sir, this new platform has connected Detroit and Damascus and Dara'a. Where is Dara'a, you ask? Dara'a is the small Syrian border town where the uprising in Syria began and whose residents have been pumping out video, Twitter feeds and Facebook postings of regime atrocities ever since. The point, sir, is the world is now hyperconnected, and there is no such thing as "local" anymore. Everything now flows instantly from the most remote corners of any country onto this global platform where it gets shared. What the laptop plus the Internet plus the search engine did for Web pages was enable anyone with connectivity to find anything that interests them and what the cellphone plus the Internet plus Facebook are doing is enabling anyone to find anyone who interests them — and then coordinate with them and share grievances and aspirations. The days when Arab dictators could take over the state-run TV and radio and shut off all information to their people are over. The Syrians can't shut off their cellphone networks now any more than they can shut off their electricity grids. Sir, think about this: Syria has banned all foreign networks, like CNN and the BBC, but if you go to YouTube and type in "Dara'a" you will see the most vivid up-to-date video of the Syrian regime's crackdown — all shot with cellphones or flip-cams by Syrians and then uploaded on YouTube or on newly-created websites like Sham News Network. Nothing stays hidden anymore. The second trend we see in the Arab Spring is a manifestation of "Carlson's Law", posited by Curtis Carlson, the chief executive officer of SRI International, in Silicon Valley, which states that: "In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb". As a result, says Carlson, the sweet spot for innovation today is "moving down", closer to the people, not up, because all the people together are smarter than anyone alone and all the people now have the tools to invent and collaborate. The regime of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was just too dumb and slow to manage the unrest. The Tahrir revolutionaries were smart but chaotic, and without leadership. Therefore, the role of leaders today — of companies and countries — is to inspire, empower, enable and then edit and meld all that innovation coming from the bottom up. But that requires more freedom for the bottom. Do you see what I mean, sir? But this is not about technology alone. As the Russian historian, Leon Aron, has noted, the Arab uprisings closely resemble the Russian democratic revolution of 1991 in one key respect: They were both not so much about freedom or food as about "dignity". They each grew out of a deep desire by people to run their own lives and to be treated as "citizens" — with both obligations and rights that the state cannot just give and take by whim. If you want to know what brings about revolutions, it is not the gross domestic product (GDP) rising or falling, says Aron, "it is the quest for dignity". We always exaggerate people's quest for GDP and undervalue their quest for ideals. "Dignity before bread" was the slogan of the Tunisian revolution. "The spark that lights the fuse is always the quest for dignity", said Aron. "Today's technology just makes the fire much more difficult to put out." We need to keep that in mind in China, sir. We should be proud of the rising standard of living that we have delivered for our people. Many of them appreciate that. But it is not the only thing in their lives — and at some point it won't be the most important thing. Do you see what I mean, sir?







Pressed into prison In what can be the finest example of abuse of power by the police, a well-connected assistant commissioner of police (ACP) went up to a reporter (Mr T.K. Dwivedi) working in a city tabloid, who has been booked under the Official Secrets Act inside the court lock-up, and said how much he wanted him to be in prison. The reporter who had exposed the filthy conditions in which arms worth crores of rupees were stored was booked under the stringent act after a private party filed a petition in the court saying that the reporter was a spy and his story was against national interest. In the recent past too, the reporter had reported a few irregularities by this particular ACP. When fellow reporters protested against the threats of the ACP and met the state home minister, Mr R.R. Patil, seeking immediate release of the reporter, Mr Patil did what every politician specialises in. Mr Patil assured the journalists that he would institute an inquiry to look into the ACP's threat and also see whether the complaint was deliberate — the same way he orders inquires whenever his department falters, and nothing ever comes of it. Family first, cadre next Just the other day the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Mr Ashok Gehlot, was highlighting the virtues of the cooperative movement at a function in a village. Giving his speech a motivational touch, Mr Gehlot said the cooperative movement's goodness lay in involving all for each other. "Iska nara hai ek sabke liye, sab ek ke liye". (one for all and all for one). Since Mr Gehlot is a staunch loyalist of the Gandhi family, the BJP leaders were quick to read a political message into it. "He had the Gandhi family in mind when he was speaking", said a saffron leader pointing out the CM's motivated pep talk. "We know all Congressmen are for the family. It has nothing to do with the cooperative movement. The CM wanted to please his mentors in Delhi". Goes to show the extent to which the Congress and the BJP have made everything political in the state. Victorian relic One of the many historical buildings is all set to be pushed into history, literally. Town Hall, the headquarters of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), would be turned either into a heritage hotel or a museum, and MCD will get a new address. Since 1865, when the building was constructed, it has housed the popular Lawrence Technological Institute of the British period. The mansion originally also boasted a statue of Queen Victoria, which was replaced with that of Swami Shradhanand after Independence. The building that has been housing one of the biggest municipal corporations in the world has become a battle ground for the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress. Many in the MCD feel sad about the building finally losing out to its new counterpart, the 28-storey Civic Centre, the new headquarters of the MCD. "The historic Town Hall building lost the battle the day the top brass constructed the Burj Khalifa of Delhi (referring to the new headquarters)", rued a senior MCD official. One up, four down The young general secretary of the Congress Party is big on talent and merit when it comes to his organisational work. So this time around the Congress in Uttar Pradesh has decided to invite five prospective candidates from every Assembly segment for polls in the state. One of these names will be finalised by the party high command to stand for elections. Though the idea is to run things smoothly, the selection procedure is feared to fuel factionalism and strife within the party ranks. "By inviting a panel of five, the party high command has actually invited trouble", said a party veteran. "While one will be named the party candidate, the others will focus all their energies on ensuring his defeat. That is the way the Congress always works". Some party workers have even coined a slogan for this eventuality: "Ek ladayenge, chaar harayenge" (one will contest, four will defeat him). Such a scientific way of selecting candidates doesn't really preclude the art of self-defeat. Raided under TV glare In a flurry of enthusiasm, the newly appointed ministers of Assam have started raiding offices and pulling up babus for tardy disposal of files and general mismanagement. This drive was started by the state education minister, Mr Himanta Biswa Sarma, but now others like panchayat and the rural development minister, Mr Rockybul Hussain, and the transport minister, Mr Chandan Brahma, have also joined him and are pulling up and suspending officials after surprise checks. There is nothing new in politicians paying surprise visits to offices but these ministers are accompanied by TV crews and all the action takes place in full media glare."The ministers should know that for the past 10 years they (Congress) have been ruling the state and if departments are not working then who is responsible?" asked a puzzled official. During the surprise raids someone should as the ministers this — while the camera is rolling. Gored by the golden stag Madhya Pradesh's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which misses no opportunity to shout from the rooftop about its commitment to protect the country's traditions, was found scurrying for cover this week. The embarrassment came from an extremely controversial play titled Muqadma, directed by Tarun Dutt Pande. The play, which was set around Lord Rama's character in Ramacharitmanas, was staged at Bharat Bhavan — the famous multi-arts complex in Bhopal on June 1. Viewers who came out after watching the crude act expressed dismay at the manner in which the play mocked Lord Rama through dialogues suggesting he should be tried for "Marich Vadh" (killing Marich). The red-faced BJP government functionaries said they were looking into the matter but also pointed out that they cannot censor plays before they are staged. But then knowing the BJP's affinity to Lord Rama, they should have been more careful even as Lord Rama should have been while running after the golden stag.







Pressed into prison In what can be the finest example of abuse of power by the police, a well-connected assistant commissioner of police (ACP) went up to a reporter (Mr T.K. Dwivedi) working in a city tabloid, who has been booked under the Official Secrets Act inside the court lock-up, and said how much he wanted him to be in prison. The reporter who had exposed the filthy conditions in which arms worth crores of rupees were stored was booked under the stringent act after a private party filed a petition in the court saying that the reporter was a spy and his story was against national interest. In the recent past too, the reporter had reported a few irregularities by this particular ACP. When fellow reporters protested against the threats of the ACP and met the state home minister, Mr R.R. Patil, seeking immediate release of the reporter, Mr Patil did what every politician specialises in. Mr Patil assured the journalists that he would institute an inquiry to look into the ACP's threat and also see whether the complaint was deliberate — the same way he orders inquires whenever his department falters, and nothing ever comes of it. Family first, cadre next Just the other day the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Mr Ashok Gehlot, was highlighting the virtues of the cooperative movement at a function in a village. Giving his speech a motivational touch, Mr Gehlot said the cooperative movement's goodness lay in involving all for each other. "Iska nara hai ek sabke liye, sab ek ke liye". (one for all and all for one). Since Mr Gehlot is a staunch loyalist of the Gandhi family, the BJP leaders were quick to read a political message into it. "He had the Gandhi family in mind when he was speaking", said a saffron leader pointing out the CM's motivated pep talk. "We know all Congressmen are for the family. It has nothing to do with the cooperative movement. The CM wanted to please his mentors in Delhi". Goes to show the extent to which the Congress and the BJP have made everything political in the state. Victorian relic One of the many historical buildings is all set to be pushed into history, literally. Town Hall, the headquarters of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), would be turned either into a heritage hotel or a museum, and MCD will get a new address. Since 1865, when the building was constructed, it has housed the popular Lawrence Technological Institute of the British period. The mansion originally also boasted a statue of Queen Victoria, which was replaced with that of Swami Shradhanand after Independence. The building that has been housing one of the biggest municipal corporations in the world has become a battle ground for the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress. Many in the MCD feel sad about the building finally losing out to its new counterpart, the 28-storey Civic Centre, the new headquarters of the MCD. "The historic Town Hall building lost the battle the day the top brass constructed the Burj Khalifa of Delhi (referring to the new headquarters)", rued a senior MCD official. One up, four down The young general secretary of the Congress Party is big on talent and merit when it comes to his organisational work. So this time around the Congress in Uttar Pradesh has decided to invite five prospective candidates from every Assembly segment for polls in the state. One of these names will be finalised by the party high command to stand for elections. Though the idea is to run things smoothly, the selection procedure is feared to fuel factionalism and strife within the party ranks. "By inviting a panel of five, the party high command has actually invited trouble", said a party veteran. "While one will be named the party candidate, the others will focus all their energies on ensuring his defeat. That is the way the Congress always works". Some party workers have even coined a slogan for this eventuality: "Ek ladayenge, chaar harayenge" (one will contest, four will defeat him). Such a scientific way of selecting candidates doesn't really preclude the art of self-defeat. Raided under TV glare In a flurry of enthusiasm, the newly appointed ministers of Assam have started raiding offices and pulling up babus for tardy disposal of files and general mismanagement. This drive was started by the state education minister, Mr Himanta Biswa Sarma, but now others like panchayat and the rural development minister, Mr Rockybul Hussain, and the transport minister, Mr Chandan Brahma, have also joined him and are pulling up and suspending officials after surprise checks. There is nothing new in politicians paying surprise visits to offices but these ministers are accompanied by TV crews and all the action takes place in full media glare."The ministers should know that for the past 10 years they (Congress) have been ruling the state and if departments are not working then who is responsible?" asked a puzzled official. During the surprise raids someone should as the ministers this — while the camera is rolling. Gored by the golden stag Madhya Pradesh's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which misses no opportunity to shout from the rooftop about its commitment to protect the country's traditions, was found scurrying for cover this week. The embarrassment came from an extremely controversial play titled Muqadma, directed by Tarun Dutt Pande. The play, which was set around Lord Rama's character in Ramacharitmanas, was staged at Bharat Bhavan — the famous multi-arts complex in Bhopal on June 1. Viewers who came out after watching the crude act expressed dismay at the manner in which the play mocked Lord Rama through dialogues suggesting he should be tried for "Marich Vadh" (killing Marich). The red-faced BJP government functionaries said they were looking into the matter but also pointed out that they cannot censor plays before they are staged. But then knowing the BJP's affinity to Lord Rama, they should have been more careful even as Lord Rama should have been while running after the golden stag.






The words education and knowledge have many meanings — their literal meaning, a general meaning as understood by common people and the interpretation given in the scriptures. Generally, education is understood as schooling. Learning of the three R's (reading, writing and arithmetic) is understood as basic education. And as the child goes from lower grades to higher grades, s/he chooses his field, and studies more and more in a particular subject. The parents always say, "We are giving them the best education", but we seldom say we are giving them the best knowledge! Education, as it is imparted in schools and colleges, is collection of data, whereas knowledge is discovery of truth. We can teach a child to read and write, but we cannot give him/her knowledge, perception or insight into the true nature of a thing. It is s/he who has to realise it for himself or herself. For instance, we can teach a child grammar, but we cannot impart to him/her a comprehensive understanding of the language itself. Many of us know what nouns and adjectives are; yet we use them incorrectly. On the other hand, some of the greatest poets who have not even had a formal education, have flawless and immortal compositions. When we use our sense organs to collect information, or our intellect to analyse a thing, we gain partial knowledge. It is always advisable to have a holistic approach with regard to any subject. Only then is education, which leads to knowledge, gets completed and has truly served its purpose. At present, education serves only as a means to get a degree so that it helps one to find a good job and earn one's livelihood. It is merely job-oriented. On completion of university education, the graduate is awarded a certificate, not any guarantee of job. Our educational system prepares us only for one aspect of life, but it does not prepare the person to live life completely. The typical student today rarely thinks about the real goal of life. S/he merely thinks about achieving professional or material goals, such as, becoming a doctor and acquiring name, fame and wealth. Neither has s/he any guidance, nor an ideal to follow. The duty of educational institutions is to guide and prepare the student for life as a whole. They must show him/her higher goals that s/he can strive for. If we are able to set a higher goal for ourselves, we strive to attain it, even though we may not actually be able to accomplish it. But when there is no ideal, there is no progress or development. For example, when we set the goal of feeding others before feeding ourselves, then we will strive to do just that. If we lower our ideal, we not only eat our own food but the food of others as well. We see that as our ideal falls, so does our behaviour. Our ideals and goals guide our thoughts and actions. Education should play a role in determining our ideals. However, these goals are not articulated in our universities. For many, the knowledge they acquire is merely in their heads; and for some, it remains in the book — the book that is locked in a library with the key in the pocket of the librarian who has gone on a holiday! So, their knowledge is also on a holiday! There are people who are walking encyclopedias or talking libraries, but with no real knowledge or understanding. Someone once said to Swami Chinmayananda, "I have gone through the Bhagavad Gita several times, but nothing has happened". To this Swamiji replied, "You have gone through the Bhagavad Gita, but has the Bhagavad Gita gone through you?" The true purpose of education is to lead a person to knowledge by which he can discover the truth for himself or herself and to train him/her to see life in its totality — to face it in its completeness. — Swami Tejomayananda, head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller. To find out more about Chinmaya Mission and Swamiji, visit © Central Chinmaya Mission Trust.









THERE is only one certainty in the fluid, potentially volatile, situation following the police crackdown on Baba Ramdev and his rabble at the Ram Lila Grounds in the Capital in the early hours of Sunday. Without any question it is that Manmohan Singh and his mentors and minions in the UPA have forfeited the moral authority to govern. Clearly "hurting" that corruption and money stashed abroad were snowballing into an issue that exposed its incompetence and its lack of credibility with the people, the government took resort to shameless subterfuge ~ and it backfired. The  importance given to the godman was not in deference to the millions he had reportedly seduced into becoming his devotees, but an unprincipled ploy to try and splinter the Anna Hazare movement before which the government had earlier buckled. The government clearly wanted to avoid another such event. The despicable wheeling-dealing of the past few days (significantly the "point-man" was Kapil Sibal) was bound to fail, though who double-crossed whom remains mysterious. All the condemnation of the so-called Baba, all the questions and allegations now being raised, fall flat in the face of Pranab Mukherjee having led a ministerial group that served as a reception committee at the airport.

Was Ramdev a man of virtue until Saturday evening? Only the naïve will believe that party and government had differences, or that Digvijay Singh was speaking for himself. It was calculated speaking with a venom-laced forked-tongue, but the sting returned to haunt. The technicalities now being advanced to justify the police action are ridiculous. And any bid to pass the buck to the cops is to be condemned ~ only a fool would think there would no collateral damage in a bid to effect an arrest in the midst of a huge crowd. Has the Baba become an even more dangerous adversary? Passions can make monsters of men, his capacity to raise passions cannot be discounted. The Congress may think the BJP's open support proves "pre-connections", that does not alter the situation much. The violence let loose on his devotees can alter many a mindset.

Despite the similarities ~ corruption charges pushing the government into seeking a police counter to mass public action ~ it is not easy to share the Emergency-recollections now doing the rounds. Neither Anna Hazare nor Baba Ramdev (and their hangers-on) merit comparison with Jayaprakash Narayan. And, condemnable as it was, the wave of arrests on a June night in 1975 had been a slick operation. What took place under P Chidambaram's dispensation was a shamefully ham-handed hash. Even on that negative score UPA-II came a cropper. We are being ruled by a government as inept as it is corrupt.




THE Government of India is said to have taken note of the report in the medical journal, Lancet, one that ought to rank as a defining document on "gendercide" in India. But of action, there has been little. Of hope, there is less. Not that the 19th century scourge that persists to this day is news; but the critical feature of the report is the astonishing revelation that it is the wealthy, upper strata that is engaged in killing the female foetus once the family's first child is a girl. Ergo, it is the family's consensus that guides this selective abortion of girls, resulting in a marked fall in the sex ratio, an alarming trend that neither social activists nor the government has been able to address. For all the impressive GDP growth rates, it shan't be easy to digest the reality of Incredible India  ~  over the past three decades up to 12 million unborn girls have been deliberately aborted by Indian parents determined to ensure they have a male heir.  The gender ratio for second births fell from 906 girls per 1,000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005.  Hence Amartya Sen's sharp distinction ~ explained to The New York Times Review of Books ~ between GDP and effective public policy. The first ought not to be an end in itself.  He may have drawn that distinction in another context; but tragically, India ~ unlike China ~ has failed to link the two.

Whereas in the 19th century, society was driven by prejudice and superstition, today's disappearing girl child confirms the criminal misuse of medical science despite the widely exhibited ban on pre-natal tests. From the familial and social perspective, it is a criminal abuse of medical technology, indeed a collective shame that "wealthier, better educated couples are the worst offenders", to quote findings. Clearly, attitudes haven't changed despite perceived socio-economic progress. A crackdown on these lucrative clinics has never been contemplated arguably because many within the establishment are also averse to a second girl child. That crackdown presupposes a change in attitudes and prejudices. It is a cruel irony that wealth has sustained this social scourge. This is the fineprint of the Lancet report which for the first time has revealed a chilling facet of female foeticide. Wealth and social progress are different parameters altogether.




POWER corrupts. The lust for it is never far from Indian sport. Exemplifying that is the confrontation between the sports ministry and the "de-Kalmadified" IOA under whose umbrella the federations operate. It is true the functioning of those federations is hardly praiseworthy. But the ministry appears to have gone overboard in attempting a remedy via the highly controversial National Sports Development Bill. For not only does the impending legislation so severely encroach on the autonomy of federations that the international body has raised objections, it also seeks to divest states of their powers, concentrate them in the Centre. While the ministry has ever overdone the "he who pays the piper calls the tune" stuff, it appears the bureaucrats ~ who actually wield the power ~ have enticed the inexperienced minister into their lair. That is a pity: Ajay Maken had just done well to unshackle himself from traditional constraints by getting a panel of reputed ex-athletes and a respected journalist to work out a highly appreciated scheme for optimum public use of the CWG infrastructure. It is not too late for him to seek similar advice on the questionable legislation. It is unforgivable that the ministry's focus on power-seeking has diverted attention from more pressing needs like a hockey revival ~ the miserable performance at Ipoh, the confusion over appointing a coach and continuing Hockey India-IHF clash are a national disgrace. So too are complaints about deplorable conditions in camps to prepare athletes for next year's Olympic Games. After one flash of "difference" the minister is going the way of his unimpressive predecessors.

Money is power, another ugly manifestation is the IPL's lucre taking precedence over national duties. The BCCI created the IPL tiger, now it cannot ride it. When players of other countries opted for money the warning lights were ignored ~ now a depleted Indian side is off to the Caribbean. The BCCI may have got away with that, but it could find it itself in some trouble now that Tony Grieg and Arjuna Ranatunga have opted to articulate the simmering discontent in several cricketing circles that the BCCI is wielding too much clout in the ICC. It would be stupid if a false sense of patriotism triggered condemnation of those assertions ~ the BCCI had earlier evoked domestic criticism for negative exploitation of Indian cricket's money-spinning allure.








IT might be a truism that all major elections in India denote a stage in the progress of democracy. The recent state assembly elections have distinct lessons that call for reflection. Of these, the West Bengal assembly election has a message of fundamental import applicable to the entire country.

The rise and fall of the CPI-M in West Bengal is a phenomenon with several facets. To dissect it will call for wading through the changing scenario spanning three decades. But the core of the Bengal story is clearly visible. A revolution was unleashed in the state in 1977. It was a land reforms revolution ~ "Óperation Barga", one that provided land, rice and hope to millions of sharecroppers and poor peasants. It was the most progressive land reforms revolution of post-Independence India. However, it was stultified and not allowed to reach its logical conclusion. Dogmatic politics rather than continuing progressive economic development brought about the fall of the CPI-M in West Bengal.

Thus, while the land distribution revolution ~ described by a distinguished editor as Bengal's 'New Permanent Settlement' ~ gave a tremendous momentum to Marxist rule, enabling its unprecedented endorsement for seven terms, the imposition of stultified politics led to a debacle. Politics, CPI-M leaders believe, is more important than mundane economic developmental activity.  Lurking behind this 'revolutionary' thinking is an emasculating proposition, namely that the creation of wealth has to be subservient to its equitable distribution. What is equitable?

Gheraoes and bandhs vitiated Bengal's atmosphere for full two decades. This drove out industry and entrepreneurship from the state and pulled its industrial rating down to veritably the lowest level.
The comrades in Bengal had learnt no lesson from the collapse of Soviet rule in Russia and the East European countries. Nor for that matter from developments in China, where in approximately the same span of three decades, the Communist Party of China had transformed a poverty-stricken nation into an economic power house, admired as a global super power. Does the CPI-M possess the required resilience to effect a comeback and rise to its former stature by imbibing these lessons?

"It's the economy, stupid" ~ this slogan coined by James Carville for Bill Clinton's second presidential campaign paid handsome dividends. It embodies a fundamental of policy-making ~ that building economic strength should be the first priority in a nation's affairs.  It is essentially a Marxian precept, contained in the famous Communist Manifesto authored by Marx and Engels some 160 years ago. It defines  the shape of the economy as the base on which is built a nation's social, political and cultural super structure.
Alas, the West Bengal comrades failed to grasp this Marxian precept. Their slogan is: 'Politics is in command', and the mandate of seven terms of electoral voting did give the CPI-M enormous power which could have been used for restructuring and stimulating West Bengal's economy.  But the 'revolutionary'  ideology that gripped the party in West Bengal stood in the way, reversing the Marxian precept. It is to this dogmatic ideology that Marx referred, when he wrote to his ultra-revolutionary son-in-law: "If this is Marxism, then I am not a Marxist."

The change-seeker in Deng Xiaoping understood better how to apply Marxism in our times to developing nations such as China (and India too).  His famous statement ~ "To be rich is glorious: that is the Marxism of today" ~ transformed the ruling Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people. From an era of  food famines, China had become a prosperous, dynamic nation.

Three decades is a long period; the CPI-M's rule in West Bengal for these three decades led to aberrations. Far from agrarian revolution to industrial development, the state suffered the reverse. To that was added cultural stultification.

The charismatic Jyoti Basu, finding his upward mobility halted by economic stagnation, sought an ethnic recourse to buttress his name and fame and the CPI-M vote-bank. He championed Bengali the wrong way, by forbidding English teaching in primary classes from 1981 onwards ~ for nearly two decades. This parochialism was a great disservice to the youth of Bengal, who have been handicapped in a big way.
There has been a second halter round the neck of  the Bengal CPI-M: a national leadership headed by an academic, the great Prakash Karat. This was quite a contrast to the pragmatic Harkishan Singh Surjeet, his predecessor. Prakash Karat had been a distinguished student leader and is an ardent Marxist. But leadership of a party governing several states, and with veritably a veto in national affairs thanks to the CPI-M being an important member of UPA-I, required pragmatic politics and non-dogmatic Marxism. Unfortunately, Karat lacked both.

His dogged opposition to the Indo-US nuclear treaty was a disservice to the country. The treaty was the best thing to happen to India, brightening the science-technology horizon, and at the same time adding a new dimension to the country's security parameters.

Even worse was the CPI-M pullout from the UPA, which added to the woes of the Bengal unit. This was poor strategy; it militated against the Marxist ideology, which favours partnership with the bourgeoisie as against feudal and communal forces in a developing country. Even talk of building a Third Front in partnership with lumpen elements once again reflected poor strategy and politics. This chapter in national affairs, scripted by the CPI-M's national leadership, added to the  Bengal CPI-M's woes. The worst contribution of the national leadership  was the expulsion of the much-respected Somnath Chatterjee. This was perhaps the unkindest cut of all, to use a Shakespearean metaphor.

The writer is an author and columnist






Inclusion has been much in the air. The prime minister speaks about inclusive growth whenever he gets a chance. Since growth does not favour those favoured by the government, it keeps thinking about gifts to take to the unfavoured. It has endeavoured to take jobs to the poor. It has also tried to reach them wheat and rice, despite mounting evidence that they disappear on the way to enrich intermediaries. However, there is a third variant of inclusion that is little talked about. If the government had its way, any adult villager would be able to earn Rs 100 a day for a 100 days in the year. If he is not to blow up the windfall on normal vices, he should be able to put away the money against a rainy day. A rural hut is not the ideal place to hoard the money. So the government had asked the Reserve Bank of India to ensure that there is a branch of a bank in every village.

Banks belong to the government, but they belong even more to their workers. The employees are well paid, and expect to send their children to school and rush them to a doctor if they get a scratch. Most villages cannot fulfil such expectations; so naturally, they cannot expect banks to come to them. But banks have to show their owner that they have not been sitting idle. And the RBI is not satisfied with their opening no-frills accounts. It expects them to offer at least five products: savings accounts, overdrafts, remittance facilities, recurring deposits, and credit cards. How can they offer such sophisticated services to primitive villagers?

They hit upon a brilliant idea: they ask local shopkeepers, tractor suppliers, fertilizer sellers and such people to run their branches for them, and give them the fancy name of business correspondents. In this way they managed to double the number of villages with banking services in the past year till March 31 to some 110,000. But they themselves opened only 1,685 branches; in the rest of the villages, they appointed business correspondents, whose number went up from 33,000 to 58,000 in a year. Meanwhile, they kept themselves busy opening branches in towns; two-thirds of their new branches opened in the past five years were in cities. The business correspondents have not been sitting idle; they had opened 7.5 crore no-frills accounts by March this year. But they are not doing much business. The average balance in the accounts fell from Rs 988 to Rs 883. The average overdraft per account was a measly Rs 27. So the chances are that business correspondents will soon discover that their business is not profitable, and will relinquish their agencies en masse. The RBI will not accept defeat; but the sooner it does so, the less time and resources it will waste on a hopeless strategy.






The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, is proving to be a true son of his father, Hafez. Around 30 years ago, Hafez al-Assad crushed an armed revolt by killing 30,000 people across his own country. Confronted with the 11-week-old people's revolution in Syria, the younger Mr al-Assad first tried to make cosmetic concessions. He lifted the emergency laws, which have ensured the uninterrupted supremacy of the al-Assad family for close to four decades. Then he released some important political detainees, though the oppression of the secret police remained undiminished. Mr al-Assad seemed to believe that he had earned his reprieve with these 'compromises' and refused to step down from power. Now finally, with the insurgency spreading right across Syria, Mr al-Assad has dropped all pretence of cooperation, and at least 70 people were butchered by government forces in Deraa recently. Clandestine killings, tortures and detentions have been taking place in Syria all this while. But the death of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib, who was found with appalling injuries all over his body, seemed to have unleashed the hitherto suppressed discontent of the masses. The entire nation has erupted.

Such is the level of anger among ordinary Syrians that even the West, which is habitually reluctant about meddling with the internal affairs of the country because of its good relations with Iran, appears all too ready to speak out against the atrocities of the regime. Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state of the United States of America, has gone so far as to dismiss Mr al-Assad's political moves as empty gestures. There is mounting pressure within the United Nations to hold Mr al-Assad and key members of his regime's security apparatus accountable for crimes against humanity. The final option before the president — who has tried in vain to salvage his credentials as a reformer — is to let the foreign press enter the country and talk to the common people. That would be the only way he could still prove himself clean.





The 'guilty' verdict against Raj Rajaratnam on charges of insider trading raises many questions, and particularly for Indians. Why should someone running a $7 billion hedge fund (at its peak in 2008), personally worth $1.8 billion, risk his reputation and wealth for a gain of less than $70 million? He is said to have built a circle of mainly South Asians in high positions in businesses to give him inside information, not always for money. Why did these people, who were among the first Indians to break through the American glass ceiling, risk their success for the friendship of a persuasive conman? What is the state of such insider trading in India, and how are we dealing with it?

I recall the iconic first Indian chairman of Hindustan Lever, Prakash Tandon, telling his shareholders that he owned no Lever shares. He could not profit from dealing in shares of his company, using information he was privy to as chairman that would make or mar its results and its share values. Few chief executives today would be like Tandon and hopefully, many would not use their inside knowledge for personal profit.

There are some studies and a widespread opinion to prove that insider trading is rampant in India. Regulation 7(1), 7(1A) and 7 (3) of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeover) Regulation, 1997, and Regulation 3 of the Sebi (Prohibition of Insider Trading), 1992, require identified shareholders to make a disclosure to the relevant stock exchanges within two days of either acquiring the qualifying shares or if there is any material change in their shareholding.

This data is posted on the websites of the relevant exchanges and aggregated. Between April 1, 2002 and March 31, 2007, abnormal returns for the full sample (in one study) are statistically significant as early as eight days prior to the transaction date. Abnormal returns ahead of sell transactions by promoters are statistically significant at the 1 per cent level, as early as nine days prior to the transaction, whereas abnormal returns ahead of buy transactions are statistically insignificant. Buy transactions are therefore possibly influenced by inside information.

But some thoughtful people ask, so what if there is insider trading? There are many insiders within companies and many others who deal with them who have information before others. Some might be quietly using the information for personal profit. It is difficult to identify and prove. Useful information can also be gathered by deep research and analysis and may not be different from inside information. Market fundamentals are not the only market movers for successful investors. When there are so many insiders with information, it is perverse to imagine that some would not use their knowledge. Hence it is impossible for all to have equal information in a stock market. Fairness is unattainable. Indeed, it is technology, more than government regulations, that has ensured an efficiently operating securities market. Finally, even if everyone had equal access to information, they would not all use the information similarly. Different people will analyse it differently and form different opinions.

The public view is that unless insider trading is banned, treated as a criminal activity, thoroughly and speedily investigated by forensic financial experts, prosecuted and severely punished, it will shake confidence in the market. It puts off investors, and deters large and relatively risk-averse foreign investors (mutual funds, pension funds, and so on).

Clearly, regulations must be implementable. The definition of 'insider' makes many employees insiders. An insider is: any person who is or was connected with the company or is deemed to have been connected with the company, and who is reasonably expected to have access, or connection, to unpublished price-sensitive information in respect of the securities of a company, or who has received, or has had access to, such unpublished price-sensitive information.

The regulations define a 'connected person' as any person who (i) is a director of a company, as defined in clause 13 of section 2 of the Companies Act, 1956 (1 of 1956), or is deemed to be a director of that company by virtue of sub-clause 10 of section 307 of that Act or (ii) occupies the position as an officer or is an employee of the company or holds a position involving a professional or business relationship between himself and the company, whether temporary or permanent, and who may reasonably be expected to have access to unpublished price-sensitive information in relation to that company. They and their relatives are subject to rules on when they can buy and sell their company's shares. In India, this is easily violated.

'Price-sensitive information' is defined as any information which relates directly or indirectly to the company and which, if published, is likely to materially affect the price of the securities of the company. It is the privileged and prior access to such information that is insider information. Many employees and others have it. Yet there are very few examples of insider trading in India that have been speedily investigated, prosecuted, and upheld by the appellate tribunal on appeal after years.

There must be contracts about passing on, or trading in, information available to employees and others who get access to a company's price-sensitive information during their work. Episodes like the alleged passing on of inside information by Rajat Gupta from company boards he was on to Rajaratnam must be on the list of offences to be punished severely. For this, there must be investigative bodies with expertise, funds and powers to tap telephones, the internet, mails, and so on.

As to why Rajaratnam and his ilk broke the rules on insider trading in the United States of America, where the investigator does have such expertise and powers, greed is only a partial answer. There is the drive to win, to be better than others; hubris, the belief that they are above the rules that others abide by; and that they are smart enough not to get caught. Hiring the best lawyers, other professionals, former regulators, creating a maze of reporting layers and structures, persuaded the law breakers that they could shield their direct involvement from legal scrutiny. India's poor financial investigation system, lack of expertise, lack of powers, weak penalties, a slow and creaking judicial system, ensure that very few cases are exposed in the country. With Sebi's modest penalties often being overruled by the securities appellate tribunal, we have a toothless regulator for insider trading. We might as well not have it for the purpose.

Insider trading done through front entities is difficult to prove since the evidence can be circumstantial. But the US Securities and Exchange Commission had recorded conversations of the conspirators in the Galleon case, and the jury says it was convinced because of this. Also, Sec has greater powers than Sebi, it is staffed much better, and has large budgets, with government support in prosecution. In India, corruption and incompetence make for poor investigation, and political and other high-level interference as well as court delays hold up prosecution and verdicts.

Estimates of insider trading in India are difficult. Prosecutions are too few and the disincentive for offenders isn't high enough. Regulations are needed that will demand a higher degree of reporting compliance from all participants and some significant prosecutions before incidents of insider trading are less rampant. In practice, Indian regulators are more concerned with market manipulation than with insider trading, which is why there are so few cases.

The author is former director general, National Council for Applied Economic Research






The arrest of the former Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladic, for the murder of 7,500 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in1995 helped Serbia's campaign for membership in the European Union. But more importantly, it is a big step in the international effort to enforce the law against those who used to be free to murder and torture with impunity. They were free to do so because the old rule was, 'kill your wife or your neighbour, and you will be punished for murder. Kill thousands of people while in the service of the State, and you will get a medal. The State was above the law, and so were its servants.'

That ancient tradition was first challenged after the Second World War, when leaders of the defeated Axis powers were tried for war crimes. But it was an innovation with no follow-up — until the genocides in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the early 1990s forced the international community to act again.

In1993, the United Nations security council set up the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia. The following year, a similar tribunal was created to investigate the genocide in Rwanda. But these were ad hoc courts to address specific crimes. What really was needed was a permanent international court to enforce the law against politicians and officials in countries where the government could not or would not bring them to justice in the local courts. The Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court was signed by over 150 countries in 1998, and the treaty came into effect in 2002. The ICC has no jurisdiction over crimes committed before it was created, so Mladic will go before the International Criminal Tribunal. But it's really all part of the same institution. The major complaint against this new international legal system is that it moves too slowly — but that could even be an advantage.

Save lives

It took 16 years to track down and arrest Mladic, and his trial will probably take several years more. That is a long time, but it also suggests a certain inexorability: they will never stop looking for you, and eventually, they will probably get you. That has a powerful deterrent effect. It is almost universally assumed by ordinary Kenyans, for example, that the inter-tribal carnage in Kenya in 2008 after the ruling party stole the last election was launched and orchestrated by senior political and military figures. Supporters of the leading opposition party, which was cheated of its electoral victory, began killing people of the Kikuyu tribe (most of whom backed the government) as soon as the results were announced.

The ruling party responded by using not only its own tribal supporters but also the army and police to kill opposition supporters, especially from the Luos and Kalenjin tribes. Over a thousand people were killed and more than half a million became "Internally Displaced Persons." Another national election is due next year, and Kenyans fear that it might happen again. However, three powerful men from each side, including the deputy prime minister, the secretary to the cabinet, and the former commissioner of police have been summoned before the ICC to answer charges of "crimes against humanity". There will inevitably be a long delay before these men are tried, but that is actually a good thing, said Ken Wafula, a human rights campaigner in Eldoret, the city in the Rift Valley that was the epicentre of the slaughter. "Those who are supposed to incite will see what ICC has done, and they will not be ready to [stir up violence] for fear of maybe a warrant coming out."

The likelihood of being pursued by the ICC represents a real risk for senior political and military leaders who contemplate using force against their own people. They may do it anyway, but it is nevertheless a genuine deterrent, and sometimes it saves lives.








 The Global Commission on Drug Policy erased the word, "war," from the title of its report, "War on Drugs," with the word scribbled over in black lines to ensure that nobody misses the point.

The committee's members include people like former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz, former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss, current Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria. Their message is that developing new policies and strategies on everything related to drugs is nothing less than urgent (as Haaretz argued in its editorial yesterday ).

The commission does not make do with showing that the countless billions lavished on the war on drugs did nothing to mitigate the problem, as drug use and trafficking has only grown. Its primary demand is that the world break the taboo and hold a debate. And indeed, it is enough to see the contemptuous and anecdotal tone in which its conclusions were reported by the media to understand how desperately relevant this demand is.

For if we allow ourselves to be confused by the facts, we will discover that most drugs, when they are natural and unadulterated, are not dangerous in and of themselves. Most of the damage they cause stems from the fact that they are cut with cheap poisons, from the use of contaminated needles and from the enormous criminal industry they drive. Alcohol is a more dangerous drug than many substances defined as "drugs," yet it is legal and readily available.

The commission urges the world to "end the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others" and to base its policies on research and facts. It cites the example of countries like Portugal, where drug use was decriminalized more than a decade ago and drug users are offered extensive help in the form of advice, treatment, supplies of drugs and drug substitutes. Yet the rate of drug use hasn't risen there, while the addiction rate has actually dropped.

This is a revolutionary report, which urges people to "challenge, rather than reinforce, common misconceptions about drug markets, drug use and drug dependence." The commission understands that when drugs are legal, people can be instructed on how to use them without harming themselves. In addition, it acknowledges, for the first time, that there are people who need drugs.

"Drug dependence" is another term for addiction, and the reason for it is what is known as "self-medicating." Such medication is a necessity for women and men who have undergone prolonged, complex traumas, generally in their childhood, so as to anesthetize the intolerable pain with which they must live.

The problem is that when victims of incest, for example, need drugs to get through life, they are very quickly seized upon by pimps and led into prostitution in order to obtain money for their drugs; then, they need drugs to survive their work as prostitutes, creating an endless cycle.

Such people should not be criminalized and punished; they need recognition and treatment - even if the treatment entails giving them drugs. One can only imagine how greatly prostitution would be reduced if people could buy drugs legally, and perhaps even receive help in doing so.

That's what the commission meant when it urged the world to "replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights."

A great many people are coping with trauma from terror attacks, wars and, above all, childhood. And as long as every fourth girl and every seventh boy is raped, there will be a great many drug addicts.

The time has come for human society to stop clinging to treating the symptoms - such as by banning drugs, which makes some members of society a lot of money - and begin instead to address the real reasons that make people need all kinds of drugs.






France has placed an offer on the desk of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Begin direct negotiations with the Palestinians in September, on the basis of the Obama plan. The proposal does not define Israel's borders, draw a map of Jerusalem or determine which settlements Israel must remove. It even helps the Israeli position in that it speaks of "two states for two peoples," in other words it acknowledges that Israel is a Jewish state. It opposes unilateral steps by either side - that is, both the expansion of Israeli settlements and the Palestinians' intention of seeking UN recognition for their state.

This is a worthy proposal mainly because it can jump-start dialogue between the parties and assuage, at least temporarily, Netanyahu's concern over the internationalization of the conflict. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accepted the proposal. Netanyahu, as expected, has turned up his nose, and will reportedly attempt to persuade Washington to oppose it. It would not be going too far to suppose that the prime minister is looking for another excuse to miss an opportunity and to stop the peace process.

It will be interesting to see what pretexts Netanyahu uses this time to strike down the proposal, whose whole purpose is to bring the parties back to the negotiating table. But more important is the question of what ammunition will remain to Israel when it is forced to appear before the United Nations in September, after having rejected the French offer. What will Israel claim in its defense if it turns down even an invitation to negotiate?

The government has so far persuaded only itself of the justness of its cause. As a result of burdening every every initiative with weighty reservations, it has been shoved into an isolated corner. Its intransigence has undermined relations with the United States and created a European cold front. Israel has thus subordinated its own right to exist to that of the settlements, instead of the reverse. Now it is even being forced to defend its recognition as a Jewish state, more than six decades after being granted that international recognition. Israel's bleak international position needs a Middle East peace rescue plan, not more excuses.







Last Thursday, we went to the wedding of a family member in Kiryat Shmona that was also, in effect, her going-away party from her hometown. Several years ago, we attended the wedding of the bride's oldest brother, and he, too, began his family life far from the Galilee panhandle. More than 80 percent of his former high school classmates either moved southward or to one of the kibbutzim in the area.

Every time he visited his parents, he would be told of another childhood friend who had left the city, about a community center that had gone bankrupt, about a library that had been shut down or a center for the blind that had closed its doors.

The fate of Kiryat Shmona's cultural center is also up in the air. Unfortunately for the northern city, it hasn't received the same publicity as the cultural center in Ariel; no artists are boycotting it and no ministers are fighting for it.

The anniversary of the important military victory of the Six-Day War is the Naksa Day, the Day of Defeat, for pragmatic Zionism. Pragmatism has given way to the protest Zionism that has tainted the pioneering ethos of acquiring "another dunam, another goat." That ethos now has a racist, separatist and provocative slant thanks to the settlements, whose expansion is meant to prove that they are an "inseparable part of the State of Israel."

The settlements have taken the place of Kiryat Shmona and other border towns. Instead of improving the standing of front-line towns, the defeat of the Arab armies has led to the downfall of those areas. As long as the cannons are thundering, the politicians come by; they make promises and then disappear. When the borders are silent, the Galilee panhandle gets mishandled.

President Shimon Peres, who has expressed some degree of contrition for his contribution to the establishment of the settlement monster, said about five months ago that the State of Israel had invested an estimated $60 billion in the settlements. And it's still giving.

At the end of his term as finance minister in Ariel Sharon's government, Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the Likud party's Kiryat Shmona branch and boasted about the growth in the economy. A young resident who was forced to look for a job in the center of the country asked the guest when the residents of Kiryat Shmona would be among those benefiting from the growth Netanyahu was extolling. "You're like the third or fourth car at a traffic light," Netanyahu replied. "Wait patiently until the light changes and your turn will come too." Kiryat Shmona is still waiting, at the end of the line.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the north had an out-migration rate of 3 percent and the south had an out-migration rate of 4 percent in 2009. The Judea and Samaria district, by contrast, had an in-migration rate of 14 percent.

As Haaretz has recently reported, the Council for Higher Education recently decided to increase by 1,600 the number of students at the Ariel University Center of Samaria who get state financial aid. Meanwhile, Tel-Hai College in the Galilee will have to make do with funding for an additional 657 students, and the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College will get more state funding for just 570 more students.

Had the extensive funds that Israel's governments have allocated to settlements established since 1967 gone instead to the border towns founded in the early years of the state, Kiryat Shmona - whose population has remained below 25,000 for years - would be able to double the number of its residents. If the industrial zone of Ariel were not offering unique benefits to businesses, the Galilee panhandle would be able to attract entrepreneurs and offer jobs and housing to graduates of the local colleges. If the settlers would make do with fewer dunams and goats belonging to others and were to move to the Galilee instead, the Six-Day War could be considered a victory.

The entire world, including all the members of the Arab League, is offering Israel recognition of the June 4, 1967, borders, with agreed-upon revisions and an agreed solution to the problem of the 1948 refugees, without Israel granting the right of return in its sovereign territory.

Defensible borders cannot be determined solely by the width of the country or the rocket range of the enemy. They are determined by internal consensus and international status, by the number of libraries and packed theaters. A large, strong and flourishing Kiryat Shmona will contribute to Israel's might quite a lot more than will Ariel, Ofra or Kiryat Arba. So when will Netanyahu's traffic light change?







The state commission for investigating the disaster of the first Iran war (2011 ) convened yesterday in preliminary session in the office of Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, with former District Court President Uri Goren, former Mossad and National Security Council head Ephraim Halevy, Maj. Gen. (res. ) Eitan Ben Eliyahu and Prof. Emmanuel Sivan in attendance.

The commission's deliberations will focus on issues of substance and of procedure: how and why the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to war with Iran despite warnings by senior military and intelligence figures and in contradiction of law and precedent governing the decision-making process. Witnesses who have been ordered to appear include, in addition to Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, also President Shimon Peres, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and his predecessor Gabi Ashkenazi, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and his predecessor Meir Dagan, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, former Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

The commission will examine the possible connection between events that were slated to take place at certain times in 2010 and that were thwarted by opposition from Ashkenazi, Dagan and Diskin, with intervention by Peres, and actions taken by Netanyahu and Barak to push Ashkenazi into premature retirement and replace him with Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant. It will also try to determine who was responsible for blocking the emergency appointment of Eizenkot, after completing his term as GOC Northern Command in June, as advisor to the chief of staff - putting him in a position of influence during his leave of absence for studies. Eizenkot is considered an ideological colleague of Ashkenazi, Dagan and Pardo.

Weinstein will be consulted, in accordance with the Basic Law on The Government, on the propriety of convening the cabinet - most of whose members were hearing for the first time, and incompletely, about the various options and their costs - to vote on a military operation that in effect means going to war. The attorney general will be asked whether he had indeed been warned by Ashkenazi, Dagan and Diskin, while in office and after their respective retirement, about Netanyahu's "hasty and frenzied" drive toward war, and whether this warning led to improvement in Netanyahu's conduct or whether it was the failure of the discreet warning that led Dagan to express it publicly.

The commission will examine the implementation of the warning sounded by the Winograd commission, regarding the Second Lebanon War - "the manner in which Israel went to war is unacceptable and must not be repeated itself, without advance preparation of a plan including achievable goals, ways of achieving them, mechanisms of control over the extent of the action and the preparedness of the army and the home front for the fighting."

Senior military and intelligence officials will testify that in opposing the actions of Netanyahu and Barak they followed the Winograd panel's determination that "the supreme obligation of the loyalty of professionals is to their profession and their position and not to their commanders or the organization in which they serve," and that a move toward war by the political leadership demands "leadership, responsibility, strategic vision, good judgment and the willingness and ability to use the knowledge and insights of the professionals. Ideology alone does not dictate decisions."

The Beinisch commission will discuss the authority of the cabinet to order the army to carry out an operation of dubious constitutionality, as well as the duty of the senior command to object to such an order, also in light of the precedent of winter 1973, when deputy chief of staff and GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yisrael Tal protested the constitutionality of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's order to resume the war against Egypt, leading to the withdrawal of Dayan's order.

In this context there will be an examination of Barak's appointment, following Gantz's recommendation, of the military advocate general, whose position also involves advising the chief of staff on the legality of military commands. The commission has been informed that Ashkenazi, outgoing MAG Maj. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit and his predecessor Menachem Finkelstein all advocated the appointment of an expert in international law, such as Deputy MAG Col. Sharon Ofek. Barak refused, on the grounds that it is better to have a military jurist whose specialty is criminal law, such as Brig. Gen. Avi Levi of the Military Court. Barak also relied on the advice of four of Finkelstein's predecessors - Ben-Zion Farhi, Amnon Straschnov, Ilan Schiff and Uri Shoham.

At the height of the deliberations the members of the commission of inquiry were asked to move to a bomb shelter, in the wake of the air raid siren and the echoes of Shihab missiles falling throughout Jerusalem.







 The opinion piece by Orit Lavi, Arnon Hershkovitz and Rony Golan ("Giving survivors their due," May 27 ) on the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names suffers from serious distortions and a misunderstanding of the database's purpose. The Yad Vashem database is a unique project undertaken over many years, aimed at collecting one by one the names of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust. It seeks to give each of them a personal symbolic "tombstone."

The Holocaust was a complex historical event, largely without documentation and accompanied by systematic efforts to blur the traces of the slaughter. On the basis of archival notations of the Germans and others, we can determine with certainty the murder of only a few tens of thousands of individual Jews. For example, from among approximately 1 million Jews who were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the deaths of only 29,000 were registered. For the most part, the cause of death listed was a cold medical diagnosis: "general weakness" or "stroke."

The Yad Vashem names database is based on a variety of sources: about 2.5 million "pages of testimony" (questionnaires perpetuating biographical details of victims ), lists of names gathered in commemoration projects of various organizations, and tens of thousands of documents with lists of names. Today the database contains about 4 million names, and it aims to commemorate each and every one of them. It is this principle that guides us in deciding which archival lists to include in the database, a decision undertaken with the help of a team of experts.

Thus, for example, in the case of the deportation lists of 76,000 French Jews who were "sent east" in trains, the original documents do not state that they were killed. But including a document of this sort in the database was not done in an "arbitrary" way, as Lavi, Hershkovitz and Golan write. Rather, it was done based on the historical knowledge that the deportees were sent to their deaths. Only few of them survived and have been identified. Regarding the others, we wrote murdered; otherwise it would have been a historical distortion, though it is possible a few managed to survive. To maintain accuracy, we note the provenance and nature of each document: "list of prisoners in the ghetto," "deportation list," and so on.

The writers complained that on two lists, the prisoner lists for the Lodz Ghetto and the Mauthausen camp, survivors were found. The list of Lodz Ghetto prisoners included 240,000 names, of whom about 7,000 survived. Together with the organization of Lodz natives, we located the known survivors, and their names are not listed on the Internet. We are still checking and hoping to identify, also with help from the public, the names of all the survivors. The same applies to the file on Mauthausen. These are two special cases, of which we are aware. On most lists presented on the Internet, the chance of finding survivors is less than 1 percent. To extrapolate from the Lodz case in the database is to throw out the baby with the bathwater, as it were. The information in the database is also the fruit of dynamic discourse between Yad Vashem and the public, which began with the collection of the Pages of Testimony in the 1950s and has strengthened since the uploading of the database to the Internet in 2004. So far, the Hall of Names staff has dealt with more than 94,000 inquiries from the public, including hundreds concerning identification of survivors.

The genealogists' community is helping us greatly in this work. We are not afraid of Holocaust deniers because our policy is transparent and reasoned. In all historical research and documentation, errors are possible, certainly on a list of Holocaust survivors based on incomplete evidence. Therefore, on every page of the database on the Internet there is a disclaimer in large letters: "The Names Database is a work in progress and may contain errors that shall be corrected in the near future."

As for the use of the database's material for legal purposes (for example, inheritance or compensation ), an orderly procedure exists whereby Yad Vashem issues a special confirmation including a copy of the original document and a letter clarifying the information in that document.

Yad Vashem is proud that the database of names is enabling millions of people each year to find out the fate of their families. But its main aim is to commemorate the names of the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust and who have no grave and tombstone.


The writer is the director of the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem and the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names.



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



The battle to slow the global AIDS epidemic has made astonishing progress over the past decade, especially in countries whose survival as functioning societies had once seemed threatened. The question is whether the momentum can be maintained at a time when donations are falling, the need for treatment is rising, and research suggests that with sufficient resources the epidemic could be stopped in its tracks.

A report issued on Friday by the United Nations AIDS agency, Unaids, noted that thanks to a vigorous effort by donor nations and international organizations, the global annual rate of new cases of H.I.V. dropped by 25 percent over the last decade. AIDS-related deaths have declined, and some 6.6 million people in low- and middle-income countries were being treated with antiretroviral drugs at the end of 2010. For them, AIDS is no longer a death sentence. Most are likely to live near-normal lives.

But an even larger number of people in those countries, some nine million, qualified for treatment but were unable to get it, usually because there was not enough money to buy the drugs or set up clinics and train personnel to deliver the medicines. Almost $16 billion was spent to fight the epidemic in low- and middle-income countries in 2009, but at least $22 billion a year is needed by 2015. In 2009 and 2010, disbursements by donor nations declined.

Beyond the need to treat millions of people whose immune systems are weak enough to qualify for care right now lies the exciting prospect that the epidemic could be stopped if all of the estimated 34 million people infected with the virus could be treated. A pivotal study found that if an infected person was treated with drugs immediately, the risk of transmission to an uninfected partner was cut by 96 percent. The upfront costs of treating everyone would be huge, but in the long run it could well save money by greatly reducing the number of people who become infected and need treatment.

In recent years, the United States and other far-sighted donors have worked to build up the health-care systems in afflicted countries, push governments to assume more responsibility for fighting their own epidemics, and cut costs with common-sense reforms like using generic drugs, shipping by land and sea, and pooling purchases.

The United Nations will hold a high-level meeting this week to chart a course of action for coming years. It needs to press donor countries, and those with high infection rates, to do more, not less, for this life-or-death fight.






New York State needs to do a better job of regulating the for-profit trade school industry, which is increasingly known for deceptive practices and saddling students with debt while providing them little in return.

As a good first step, the Legislature should promptly pass a bill that broadens the state Department of Education's enforcement authority over the hundreds of for-profit trade schools in New York. While most abide by the state licensing law, some appear to be flouting it, along with rules that require state approval of their curriculums. Officials say a rash of suspect schools has sprung up in New York City to exploit immigrants and the unemployed, who are desperate to learn new skills.

In one case, city officials say, students who paid to attend a truck-driving school spent the entire course in the classroom and were never taught to drive. At other schools, students say they were promised jobs or business contacts that never materialized.

The New York State attorney general's office is currently investigating allegations of illegal business practices at several for-profit education companies, including one founded by Donald Trump. The Education Department's inability to properly monitor the industry stems in part from underfinancing of the enforcement division, which runs entirely on school application fees. The pending bill would fix that problem by raising the fee from a paltry $250 to $5,000. Fines for violating the licensing law would also increase.

The for-profit schools are sometimes poorly financed, which means they go broke before the students complete their courses of study. The bill would try to deal with this problem by requiring the schools to prove financial viability and by making it easier for students to recover their tuition from schools that abruptly shut down.

Reputable for-profit schools should support this bill to show that they are committed to cleaning up a troubled industry. People who want new skills need the Legislature to do more to protect them from rip-offs and exploitation.





New York State needs to do a better job of regulating the for-profit trade school industry, which is increasingly known for deceptive practices and saddling students with debt while providing them little in return.

As a good first step, the Legislature should promptly pass a bill that broadens the state Department of Education's enforcement authority over the hundreds of for-profit trade schools in New York. While most abide by the state licensing law, some appear to be flouting it, along with rules that require state approval of their curriculums. Officials say a rash of suspect schools has sprung up in New York City to exploit immigrants and the unemployed, who are desperate to learn new skills.

In one case, city officials say, students who paid to attend a truck-driving school spent the entire course in the classroom and were never taught to drive. At other schools, students say they were promised jobs or business contacts that never materialized.

The New York State attorney general's office is currently investigating allegations of illegal business practices at several for-profit education companies, including one founded by Donald Trump. The Education Department's inability to properly monitor the industry stems in part from underfinancing of the enforcement division, which runs entirely on school application fees. The pending bill would fix that problem by raising the fee from a paltry $250 to $5,000. Fines for violating the licensing law would also increase.

The for-profit schools are sometimes poorly financed, which means they go broke before the students complete their courses of study. The bill would try to deal with this problem by requiring the schools to prove financial viability and by making it easier for students to recover their tuition from schools that abruptly shut down.

Reputable for-profit schools should support this bill to show that they are committed to cleaning up a troubled industry. People who want new skills need the Legislature to do more to protect them from rip-offs and exploitation.






The case for assisted suicide seems to depend on human sympathy — on the impulse toward mercy, the desire to ease what seems like pointless pain and suffering. Why shouldn't the terminally ill meet death on their own terms, rather than at the end of prolonged agonies? Why shouldn't the dying depart this earth with dignity, instead of enduring the inexorable stripping away of their physical and mental faculties?

Such are the sentiments that made Jack Kevorkian, who died last week of natural causes, a hero to many millions of Americans. Though he was tried repeatedly and finally convicted of second-degree murder, the former pathologist's career as "Dr. Death" (he said he assisted at more than 130 suicides) was widely regarded as a form of humanitarianism rather than a criminal enterprise.

But if such sentiments are understandable, they are morally perilous as well. We do not generally praise doctors who help dispatch their terminally ill patients, as Kevorkian repeatedly and unashamedly did. Even when death is inevitable and inevitably painful, it is not considered merciful to prescribe an overdose to a cancer victim against her will, or to gently smother a sleeping Alzheimer's patient.

The difference, of course, is that Kevorkian's clients asked for it. That free choice is what separates assisted suicide from murder, his defenders would insist.

But this means that the moral case for assisted suicide depends much more on our respect for people's own desire to die than on our sympathy for their devastating medical conditions. If participating in a suicide is legally and ethically acceptable, in other words, it can't just be because cancer is brutal and dementia is dehumanizing. It can only be because there's a right to suicide.

And once we allow that such a right exists, the arguments for confining it to the dying seem arbitrary at best. We are all dying, day by day: do the terminally ill really occupy a completely different moral category from the rest? A cancer patient's suffering isn't necessarily more unbearable than the more indefinite agony of someone living with multiple sclerosis or quadriplegia or manic depression. And not every unbearable agony is medical: if a man losing a battle with Parkinson's disease can claim the relief of physician-assisted suicide, then why not a devastated widower, or a parent who has lost her only child?

This isn't a hypothetical slippery slope. Jack Kevorkian spent his career putting this dark, expansive logic into practice. He didn't just provide death to the dying; he helped anyone whose suffering seemed sufficient to warrant his deadly assistance. When The Detroit Free Press investigated his "practice" in 1997, it found that 60 percent of those he assisted weren't actually terminally ill. In several cases, autopsies revealed "no anatomical evidence of disease."

This record was ignored or glossed over by his admirers. (So were the roots of his interest in euthanasia: Kevorkian was obsessed with human experimentation, and pined for a day when both assisted suicides and executions could be accompanied by vivisection.) After his release from prison in 2007, he was treated like a civil rights revolutionary rather a killer — with fawning interviews on "60 Minutes," $50,000 speaking engagements, and a hagiographic HBO biopic starring Al Pacino.

Fortunately, the revolution Kevorkian envisioned hasn't yet succeeded. Despite decades of agitation, only three states allow some form of physician-assisted suicide. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous 1997 decision, declined to invent a constitutional right to die. There is no American equivalent of the kind of suicide clinics that have sprung up in Switzerland, providing painless poisons to a steady flow of people from around the globe.

Writing in The Atlantic three years ago, Bruce Falconer profiled one such clinic: Dignitas, founded by a former journalist named Ludwig Minelli, which charges around $6,000 for its ministrations. Like Kevorkian, Minelli sees himself as a crusader for what he calls "the last human right." And like Kevorkian, he sees no reason why this right — "a marvelous possibility given to a human being," as he describes it — should be confined to the dying. (A study in The Journal of Medical Ethics suggested that 21 percent of the people whom Dignitas helps to commit suicide are not terminally ill.)

But unlike Kevorkian, Minelli has been free to help kill the suicidal without fear of prosecution. In the last 15 years, more than 1,000 people have made their final exit under his supervision, eased into eternity by a glass of sodium pentobarbital.

Were Minelli operating in the United States, he might well have as many apologists and admirers as the late Dr. Death. But it should make us proud of our country that he would likely find himself in prison, where murderers belong.






The case for assisted suicide seems to depend on human sympathy — on the impulse toward mercy, the desire to ease what seems like pointless pain and suffering. Why shouldn't the terminally ill meet death on their own terms, rather than at the end of prolonged agonies? Why shouldn't the dying depart this earth with dignity, instead of enduring the inexorable stripping away of their physical and mental faculties?

Such are the sentiments that made Jack Kevorkian, who died last week of natural causes, a hero to many millions of Americans. Though he was tried repeatedly and finally convicted of second-degree murder, the former pathologist's career as "Dr. Death" (he said he assisted at more than 130 suicides) was widely regarded as a form of humanitarianism rather than a criminal enterprise.

But if such sentiments are understandable, they are morally perilous as well. We do not generally praise doctors who help dispatch their terminally ill patients, as Kevorkian repeatedly and unashamedly did. Even when death is inevitable and inevitably painful, it is not considered merciful to prescribe an overdose to a cancer victim against her will, or to gently smother a sleeping Alzheimer's patient.

The difference, of course, is that Kevorkian's clients asked for it. That free choice is what separates assisted suicide from murder, his defenders would insist.

But this means that the moral case for assisted suicide depends much more on our respect for people's own desire to die than on our sympathy for their devastating medical conditions. If participating in a suicide is legally and ethically acceptable, in other words, it can't just be because cancer is brutal and dementia is dehumanizing. It can only be because there's a right to suicide.

And once we allow that such a right exists, the arguments for confining it to the dying seem arbitrary at best. We are all dying, day by day: do the terminally ill really occupy a completely different moral category from the rest? A cancer patient's suffering isn't necessarily more unbearable than the more indefinite agony of someone living with multiple sclerosis or quadriplegia or manic depression. And not every unbearable agony is medical: if a man losing a battle with Parkinson's disease can claim the relief of physician-assisted suicide, then why not a devastated widower, or a parent who has lost her only child?

This isn't a hypothetical slippery slope. Jack Kevorkian spent his career putting this dark, expansive logic into practice. He didn't just provide death to the dying; he helped anyone whose suffering seemed sufficient to warrant his deadly assistance. When The Detroit Free Press investigated his "practice" in 1997, it found that 60 percent of those he assisted weren't actually terminally ill. In several cases, autopsies revealed "no anatomical evidence of disease."

This record was ignored or glossed over by his admirers. (So were the roots of his interest in euthanasia: Kevorkian was obsessed with human experimentation, and pined for a day when both assisted suicides and executions could be accompanied by vivisection.) After his release from prison in 2007, he was treated like a civil rights revolutionary rather a killer — with fawning interviews on "60 Minutes," $50,000 speaking engagements, and a hagiographic HBO biopic starring Al Pacino.

Fortunately, the revolution Kevorkian envisioned hasn't yet succeeded. Despite decades of agitation, only three states allow some form of physician-assisted suicide. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous 1997 decision, declined to invent a constitutional right to die. There is no American equivalent of the kind of suicide clinics that have sprung up in Switzerland, providing painless poisons to a steady flow of people from around the globe.

Writing in The Atlantic three years ago, Bruce Falconer profiled one such clinic: Dignitas, founded by a former journalist named Ludwig Minelli, which charges around $6,000 for its ministrations. Like Kevorkian, Minelli sees himself as a crusader for what he calls "the last human right." And like Kevorkian, he sees no reason why this right — "a marvelous possibility given to a human being," as he describes it — should be confined to the dying. (A study in The Journal of Medical Ethics suggested that 21 percent of the people whom Dignitas helps to commit suicide are not terminally ill.)

But unlike Kevorkian, Minelli has been free to help kill the suicidal without fear of prosecution. In the last 15 years, more than 1,000 people have made their final exit under his supervision, eased into eternity by a glass of sodium pentobarbital.

Were Minelli operating in the United States, he might well have as many apologists and admirers as the late Dr. Death. But it should make us proud of our country that he would likely find himself in prison, where murderers belong.









The New York Times article could be ignored silently by the Turkish government, if it wasn't followed by The Economist and then the Reuters analysis. All were acknowledging the domestic and regional political potential of the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, together with bitter criticism regarding his likelihood of taking more power by changing the constitution after the June 12 parliamentary elections.

In former cases when American and British media only praised Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, governments, they were praised back by the government members. But now the critical approach right before the elections has made Erdoğan and his team furious. Especially The Economist article, which speculated that it could be a good idea for Turks to vote for the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, to create a political counter balance. One has to admit that for foreign sources to give advice on who to vote for has always been found unsympathetic and interventionist by the Turkish people and generally perceived as a support for the "targeted" one; the AKP in this case.

Not this time. Erdoğan snapped at it and reacted harshly by showing it as part of a global conspiracy by the Americans and the Europeans against himself, in order to bring to power his rival: Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the new leader of the CHP.

But the next day, Saturday, the tone changed. In his election campaign speech in the southern city of Adana, Erdoğan correlated the "Western" media campaign with his new constitution project on one hand and Kılıçdaroğlu's "bow and scrape" to Israel. Kılıçdaroğlu has been warning the government for some time in order not to let a second Mavi Marmara tragedy happen with Israel, whose soldiers killed 9 Turkish activists last year on their way to take aid to Gaza.

It seems the government has taken the real message: Do not take irreversible steps with Israel at this critical stage of the "greater" Middle East in order to take a few more nationalist votes in the elections to secure 330 seats in the parliament. That is the minimum number of seats in the 550-seat Turkish Parliament to be able to take constitutional changes to a referendum. And it has been proven in past votes that antagonism with Israel or the West in general always brings a few more points for right-wing parties in Turkey.

If Erdoğan got the message that any such step could jeopardize Turkish diplomacy and security in the region, the next question becomes: What else could be a game changer in the last week for Erdoğan to secure 330 seats and potentially open the gates for his presidency? That is our next question.






The uprisings in the Middle East have prompted important questions about the role of Turkey in the region and the state of politics at home. While Turkey has been presented as an inspiration or a model, not in the least by Turkey itself, there is little proof to back the relevance of this claim. The Arab spring rather exposes a number of problems with this model. Choices have to be made in the wake of challenges to the "zero problems with neighbors" doctrine, which is primarily interest driven and based on the goal of stability in the region, but just as the West is confronted with the un-sustainability of its interest driven policies in countries such as Egypt and Libya, the Arab street's call for freedom and human dignity should make Ankara rethink its priorities too.

Changes in the Middle East are the reason to bury the "zero problems" narrative and to replace it with concrete, values-based policies.

An Appropriate European Response 

Europeans are often caught between faith and suspicion about the real ambition of today's Turkey. Prime Minister Erdoğan was complimented by the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Guy Verhofstadt, for giving "the only appropriate European response" to the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia: to immediately support the people's call for freedoms, rights and opportunities. However, on Libya Turkey took a less decisive stance on Libya, placing itself at odds with the West as well as with the population and possible new leadership in this country. Strained relations with Israel and the United States, the warm welcome of wanted war criminal Omar Al-Bashir, as well as the "no" vote on Iran sanctions in the UN Security Council raised concerns in the West of Turkey's ambitions. At the same time, the Europeans' desire to find in Turkey an ally and a liaison with the complicated Middle East remains unchanged.

Turkey has a set of increasingly competing interests with different neighbors. A lack of deliverables after strongly stated ambitions towards several Middle Eastern countries has exacerbated European doubts about Turkey's ultimate goals or its effectiveness. The revolutions in the Middle East underline the fact that interests do not exist in a vacuum, and that values remain a key foundation of alliances. It is time for Turkey to define an explicit point on the horizon and to embed this domestically as well as internationally. This would defy the growing number of voices who fear that Turkey is drifting in the wrong direction both in terms of Western interest and values.

Populism and Polarization

Domestic realities on each side add complications to the relationship between Turkey and the EU. Short-term domestic political gains are obvious but long-term damage should not be overlooked. While populists and the far right are against Turkey's European accession to begin with, progressives have been its strongest defenders. Yet, the recent threat to fundamental freedoms in Turkey has put Turkey's strongest allies in a difficult position.

A polarized debate on fundamental freedoms is raging in Turkey. This debate intensified after the arrests of journalists in Turkey's Ergenekon case, with a significant impact on Turkey's strongest European allies. Liberals are forced to speak out strongly when the values they fiercely defend in Europe and across the world are violated in Turkey.

When the Ergenekon case started in 2007, many in Europe supported the effort believing it was aimed at dealing with Turkey's anti-democratic past – especially the role of the military. But optimism soon made way for alarm as polarization along political lines and mistrust in institutions among large parts of Turkish society grew as a result of recent arrests.

European Union officials called upon the government of Turkey to safeguard fundamental rights. Prime Minister Erdoğan reacted saying Europe "should look at itself" before criticizing others, a de facto call for disengagement. Such a statement may serve domestic audiences, but it is an inappropriate and untruthful statement to deliver to European counterparts as press freedom and fundamental rights are constantly debated within the EU itself. After all, when Turkey joins the EU it will be subject to the same laws and scrutiny as other Member States. For Turkey to join the EU it must fulfill the Copenhagen criteria, focused almost entirely on democratic and fundamental values and the rule of law.

Today's most outspoken critics of Turkey's fundamental rights standards are also among the staunchest defenders of Turkey´s accession to the EU, despite obvious electoral benefits in doing the opposite.

Those who fight for Turkey's accession to the EU believe it will enhance the freedoms, rights and opportunities of people in Turkey. The arrests of journalists and the lack of trust in the independence of Turkey's institutions detract from Turkey's credibility to work on rebuilding post-revolution societies in the Middle East.

Looking Ahead

With the June parliamentary elections in Turkey, the next month will likely be filled with more messages for domestic consumption. Aspiring leaders must make concrete commitments to serve the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens to reverse growing authoritarianism and also as a foundation for a reenergizing the EU accession process. In this context, developments in the Middle East should also be a wakeup call to Turkey's leaders that repression can have a high price.

If the momentum is seized well however, the developments in Turkey's and Europe's joint neighborhood can become a driver for closer ties and better relations. On the other hand, if the (new) government does not make a clear decision in favor of fundamental rights and values, the Arab street may well become a model for Turkey's young generation. A Turkish, democratic season is needed and should be driven by the government with a broad support in Turkey's society. But it requires a serious reorientation of both domestic and foreign policies, anchored in the fundamental rights and freedoms of people. If Turkey chooses the fundamental rights of people as the cornerstone of domestic reforms and foreign policies, it will have a real chance to become the regional power it aspires to be, and Europe will be a natural ally.

* Marietje Schaake is a member of the European Parliament representing Democrats 66 /ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe). The original version of this article was published in the Spring 2011 issue of Turkish Policy Quarterly. For more information, please visit







While Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, loves to assert at every available opportunity that separation from Turkey has never been on his agenda, the PKK has actually gradually come to realize that it cannot win on its own against the Turkish state.

Undeniably, the decisive moment during this process was the major mistake Öcalan made during the Turkish Armed Forces' 1992 military operation into northern Iraq.

In those days, his self-confidence was so high he ordered a conventional warfare attack against the advancing Turkish troops. The aftermath of this decision was a fatal blow to the PKK. The number of casualties was so high that Öcalan, in order to save face, launched accusations at PKK commanders on the ground that they had not obeyed his orders. Some of them were even tried in ways that draw parallels to those in Stalinist Russia.

The year 1992 was indeed the turning point. With the doctrinal change of the Turkish Armed Forces, the PKK was dealt a rapidly increasing number of military blows. Öcalan quickly adjusted to this situation, setting his main goal as one of forcing the Turkish state into recognition of the PKK in some form. Particularly subsequent to his imprisonment, he designed PKK terror acts in such a way as to accelerate the Turkish state's "willingness" to negotiate with a Kurdish identity. For the realization of this goal, he needed to challenge the traditional ideological tenets of the Kemalist state.

However, the rise to power of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, seems to have been an unexpected development for Öcalan. Obviously, at first he welcomed it because the reform-minded AKP, in its European Union membership bid, launched a major transformation of the state, which has gone hand-in-hand with its tolerant, as well as reformative approach, to the Kurdish issue.

Nonetheless, Öcalan soon realized the AKP had started to loom as his greatest danger. The July 2007 elections, in which the AKP doubled its vote in pre-dominantly Kurdish-populated eastern and southeastern cities, demonstrated that the AKP had made important inroads among the Kurdish electorate. Undoubtedly, this phenomenon was seen by Öcalan as an increasingly threatening impact on the political base of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, as well as the PKK.

The reasons behind the AKP's success in this area are very simple: Throughout the republican era, the majority of the Kurdish electorate has always been conservative. One of the founding aims of the PKK was a political and social revolution to eradicate the traditional feudal structure among Kurds, something which they indeed managed to accomplish to a certain extent. For instance, the relative emancipation of women is one outcome of efforts in that regard.

Yet the PKK has never managed to sever the ties of Kurdish citizens to religion. Sects such as the Naqshbandi order are still very influential in the region. It is precisely for this reason that Öcalan has changed tack again, best exemplified by Şerafettin Elçi's BDP candidacy. Despite his past connections to the Republican People's Party, or CHP, Elçi is known as someone who personifies conservatism among Kurdish politicians. Most experts say that due to his strong ties to the Barzani movement in Iraq, Elçi's candidacy is a well planned part of the PKK's pan-Kurdist agenda. But I strongly believe it is merely a conjectural cooptation aimed against the AKP government. Suffice to say that Öcalan still sees the Iraqi Kurdish movement as being both backward and a rival to the PKK.

Under these circumstances, Öcalan, as evident in several declarations by his attorneys recently, intends to heighten tensions. This will do more than just help him consolidate the ranks of his followers in the southeast. Further polarization, he obviously thinks, will more importantly help the BDP win the votes of moderate Kurds in the west. In order to further advance the Kurdish cause, however, I am pretty sure Öcalan is fully aware that he needs at present the political, strategic and tactical support of the Turkish left more than ever. It is precisely for this reason that I find the inclusion of leftist names such as Sırrı Süreyya Önder on BDP lists more interesting, and obviously long-lasting, than that of Elçi.

This being said I do not believe Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has decided yet what to do next. Apparently, he is waiting to see what percentage of the vote his party will receive in the elections. This will allow him to determine his next step. Not only in the Kurdish issue, but also the shape of the new Constitution he is planning.







 In this biutiful country of ours, we do not have the wonderful Anglo-Saxon tradition of the press publicly endorsing political parties before elections.

And for good reason. An Italian friend asked me once, during a visit by either ex-Prime Minister Tansu Çiller or ex- (headscarfed) Parliament Member Merve Kavakçı to Harvard, why we Turks always fight.

As I told him at the time, we are a polarized society. Maybe even more than in the good old days. Therefore, a public endorsement would be unthinkable in Turkey, even though everyone knows pretty much who some papers support (Zaman, Yeni Şafak), or at least do not support (Sözcü).

"The Economist" has taken the latter route, urging Turkish voters not to vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in the upcoming elections next week in an article published in its latest issue. However, they do endorse the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, at the end of the article.

The magazine's arguments are mainly political: They note that democracy is losing ground and for the sake of checks and balances, a stronger opposition is needed. They also maintain that, should a new Constitution be formed, it should be done so in consultation with other parties.

That would be ensured if the AKP ended up with less than 330 seats in the Parliament. It would need two-thirds of the 550 seats to change the Constitution in the Assembly, or 60 percent to do so by referendum. While the former is virtually impossible, there are some polls that show the party getting enough votes to achieve the latter, especially in scenarios where the Nationalist Movement Party fails to make the 10 percent threshold to enter the Parliament.

One point missing from the Economist article is the CHP's own internal dynamics: As I argued in a Roubini Economonitor post recently, the party's old guard, which was purged by the new leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, could attempt a coup in response to a lackluster CHP performance at the elections. It is well-known that Turkish social-democrats, like amoebae, multiply by dividing. Such a division after the elections would lead to an AKP that could roam at will and be devastating for Turkish democracy.

There is also a good economic argument for a weaker AKP and stronger CHP: Turkey's economic vulnerabilities are starting to show up on investor radar screens. I was a maverick a few months ago with my warnings on the economy, but most research houses now share my views that the economy is overheating and the current account deficit poses a serious threat. Although the Central Bank claims otherwise, we are being increasingly supported by data, as Friday's inflation figures attest to.

And the foreign media has smelled blood as well: Just as they are finally seeing the democracy cracks in politics, they have noticed the economic fractures as well. While I normally get one interview request from foreign journalists a month, I have given four phone interviews in the last two weeks, all stories on Turkey's economic vulnerabilities.

All this negative exposure makes a self-fulfilling Turkey-run more likely, so the AKP needs to respond with good old contractionary fiscal policy right after the elections. An AKP with less than 330 seats, taking a consensus Constitution to the referendum, would not feel the pressure to have to please the masses with more spending and be more likely to implement the necessary budgetary adjustments.

So if you are worried about the economy in addition to the sham trials, banned books, imprisoned journalists and the like, this is all the more reason for you to vote for the CHP. Especially since they now have a decent economic program, which I discuss at my blog.

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Follow his blog at







President Ali Abdullah al-Saleh, in power in Yemen for the past 33 years and under siege for the past three months, left the country on Saturday night with a large piece of shrapnel lodged just below his heart. He may not come back.

Accompanying Saleh to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment were the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the speakers of both houses of parliament, and Saleh's personal security adviser, all of whom were also wounded in the Friday explosion at the al-Nahdayn mosque in the presidential compound in Sanaa. It's a pretty clean sweep, so the question is: Who comes next?

Nobody even knows whether the explosion was caused by a bomb planted in the mosque, a shell, or a rocket. The situation is very complicated, so you'd better take notes. There will be a brief test afterwards.

The turmoil in Yemen is really two separate conflicts. One is a traditional power struggle between two elite factions. The other is a nonviolent, pro-democratic youth movement inspired by the popular revolutions elsewhere in the Arab world. They were linked at the start, though most of the young idealists didn't realize it, but they will be disentangled by the finish.

One of the elite factions is dominated by President al-Saleh's own family, his son Ahmed Ali commands the Presidential Guard, and his nephews Tariq, Yahya and Ammar control other vital elements of the security and intelligence apparatus. The rival faction is led by the al-Ahmar family, whose current head, Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, is the leader of the Hashid tribal confederation, one of the two most powerful in Yemen.

Sadeq al-Ahmar's brother Himyar was deputy speaker of parliament, and another brother, Hussein, was a member of Saleh's Governing People's Council, until the two men resigned three months ago in a protest against the regime's brutal shooting of student demonstrators. That was the signal the long truce between the two factions was at an end.

The most important al-Ahmar brother is Hamid, a businessman and a leader of the opposition Islah party. There is ample evidence Hamid helped to get the student protests underway, making his Sabafon mobile network available to send out messages organizing the protests and then covering the demos lavishly on his Suhail TV network, whose head office was burned by Saleh's troops last week.

So far, so bad. What makes it worse is that the quarrel is among such a narrow and unrepresentative elite. The Saleh family, like the Ahmar family, belongs to the Hashid tribal confederacy. They both therefore follow the Zaidi tradition of Shia Islam, whereas a majority of Yemenis are Sunnis. Eighty percent of Yemenis don't even have a dog in this fight.

But the young Yemeni protesters in the streets are not interested in a mere reshuffle of the elite, and the Ahmar family has never controlled them. They actually do want democracy, and they have already paid a high price for their idealism: About half of the 350 people killed since the first "Day of Rage" in January have been unarmed youths.

The other half, in the past two weeks, have mostly been tribal fighters backing the Ahmar family and military forces controlled by the Saleh clan plus lots of innocent bystanders. In terms of how Yemen has always been run in the past, the Ahmar family is now on the brink of victory. But the drama will not end there.

One of the student leaders, Hashem Nidal of the Independent Movement for Change, put it well in a recent interview with the BBC. "They wanted to push the revolution towards violence and we refuse this completely. We are coordinating with many protesters across the country to make sure they don't fall into the trap of violence."

"After three months of great efforts in raising awareness among people to avoid violence," he added, "we managed to reach a level of understanding that refuses violence. We are looking to topple this regime by peaceful means." By "regime," he means the tribal, sectarian, undemocratic way in which Yemen has always been run.

The departure of President Saleh won't be the end of the story. The Ahmar family's allies may take over the government, but they will face just the same demands from Yemeni youths who want a nonsectarian, democratic, non-tribal state, which offers them a decent future regardless of their tribe, their sect, or even their sex.

If they get the chance to build that state, they will face horrendous challenges. Yemen is the poorest Arab country, and its modest endowment of oil is running out. So is the underground water it depends on for irrigation, and the population is growing at 2.6 percent a year. Half of the 24 million Yemenis are illiterate, and half the population is under 18.

The kids may fail, but who stands a better chance of surmounting these challenges? A democratic government run by the younger generation of Yemenis, or a regime controlled by the Salehs or the Ahmars?

It's all quite simple, really. So there will not be a test after all.






The countdown has started. On Sunday, in this "country of rabbits" where the number of registered voters increased by more than nine million in four years, or about two million in less than eight months, millions will go to election booths.

Will it be a just election? Will the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government cheat the election? Will we have the result of the election in less than three hours after the counting of some 50 million votes cast started? Why is it that Turkey is still using a computer program shunned by the entire world in the counting of the votes? Will Turks indeed vote and shape the election results with their political preferences or a "big brother" will just run a computer program and shape the election results to its liking? Why is it that four years after the 2007 vote the Supreme Electoral Board has not yet disclosed the official results on box-by-box level of the 2007 elections?

There are very strong suspicions though all top politicians of the country reaffirm their confidence in the election system in this country, which since 1950, though with some forced intermittences, a multi-party democracy has been in place.

Transparency of elections cannot unfortunately be achieved just by replacing old wooden voting boxes with some transparent plastic voting boxes. If a hard copy announcement of the election results box-by-box would be very expensive and the Turkish state would not afford it, perhaps publication of those detailed vote count results on the Web site of the Supreme Electoral Board would help to end the smoldering doubts on the fairness of elections. If such detailed results could be release, if not on the election night within a reasonable period after the election, no one would be able to make any odd comment and question fairness of the polls. Anyhow, since 1950 this country has been rather proud of conducting just and fair polls.

Still, I keep on reading and hearing some very odd and I must say rather "creative" strategies alleged to have developed by some pundits of the "art of political fraud."

According to one claim a rather interesting test was conducted in Ankara in the 2007 parliamentary elections and a second test was repeated in the same neighborhood in the 2010 referendum on a set of constitutional amendments enhancing the government's sphere of control of the higher judiciary. The claim is that a political party obtained ballot papers before the 2007 vote. Voters of an Ankara's rather poor suburb neighborhood were asked to gather at a café early in the morning of the voting day. From that cafe voters were sent to the election booth at a close by school building with stamped ballot papers in their pockets. They cast those ready ballots in the voting booth and brought back the empty ballot papers they were presented with at the polling station to those political pundits at the café and received a fixed "payment of appreciation."

Now, there is a claim that the practice, which was alleged to have been tested for a second time at the referendum, will be applied en masse. Was it because of such a program that in a country with about 52 million registered voters, a figure almost ten million higher than the 42 million registered voters for the 2007 elections, the Supreme Electoral Board has ordered publication of over 65 million ballot papers? Naturally in any country it might be most probably normal to publish ten percent or so more ballot papers than the number of registered voters but since those ballot papers will not be published for free, what was the meaning of publishing almost 30 percent more ballot papers than there are registered voters?

But perhaps I should not have such worries as it has become a tradition in this country for the past nine years or so to find thousands of stamped ballot papers, mostly in support of opposition parties or candidates, in the trash. Perhaps, again at the upcoming vote counting evening electricity might go for some time in areas with polling stations and next morning some newspapers who dare to run such stories might report with splashed photographs from a trash piles of ballot papers, naturally mostly in support of the opposition parties.

Still, no one can claim of election fraud in this country where the biggest fraud indeed is an official ten percent national electoral threshold.

Is it possible for anyone to clam that elections are just and all contenders in elections have equal opportunities? Minority views are shunned in this country and people supportive of minority views or demands are compelled to opt for their second or third political preferences, which are likely to have more than ten percent national support and thus might have the chance of being represented in parliament. Is that antidemocratic threshold itself a biggest impediment to just and fair elections in this country?

Yet, supreme political pundit and Muslim theologian, great statesman Bülent Arınç has recently put it, is the AKP crazy enough to lift the threshold for the sake of enhancing democracy in this "advanced democracy" and shoot itself in the feet as such a move would mean AKP will produce less deputies?

Now, shall we really have just and fair elections? Can we lift the electoral threshold or pull it down to a reasonable level? At least, can we get the YSK announce before the voting day that it will make the results of the voting on box-by-box level available? Or, can the government make sure there won't be any election cuts during vote counting?







The government's performance in wilfully failing to match its words with meaningful action was not bad to begin with. Over the years, however, it has raised this practice to an art form. The Gilani government was never exactly eager to set up a high-level judicial commission for an independent probe into the May 2 Abbottabad debacle, and it took it nearly three weeks to set up such a commission even after parliament had passed a unanimous resolution on May 14 demanding such an enquiry, following consultations between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. And when it did so at last, it was not merely an exercise in creating a false appearance but a clever attempt to complicate the issue in such a manner as to ensure that an independent probe into the Abbottabad incident remained a very weak probability. The government appointed Justice Javed Iqbal as chairman of the commission with four other personages as members. Chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was not taken into confidence while appointing a judge of the Supreme Court as head of the commission, nor was the leader of the opposition consulted – as was required by the parliamentary resolution. The government did not even seek the consent of the nominated chairman and members of the commission before issuing the notification. This methodical madness delivered the intended mess, infuriating the opposition and leaving many in the legal profession wondering. At least one of the nominated members of the commission, Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, refused to become a part of a body whose very manner of constitution lacked mandatory consultation. This is how the government achieved its objective of avoiding an independent enquiry into an incident that shook the entire nation.

Even in the face of utmost tragedies, we can count on this government not to rise above opportunism and to make petty attempts to settle scores with those whose presence poses a check on its lust for more power and its craving for more corruption. This is the common thread that binds all the shenanigans it has indulged in against the judiciary ever since it assumed power, and this is what lies at the heart of the matter of the prime minister so conveniently bypassing the chief justice of Pakistan in appointing Justice Javed Iqbal as head of the Abbottabad commission. This disregard for the well-established norm of consulting chief justices of the courts before nominating serving judges to enquiries and commissions can only be seen as a clear move against the judiciary's independence. If the government is allowed to unilaterally pick judges for enquiries and commissions, and if judges let themselves be 'picked' by the executive without the permission and approval of the chief justice, it will not only affect the working of the courts but also compromise the independence and impartiality of judges, and may even cause rifts within the judiciary. Such rifts and divisions may be the aim, and game, of someone in power; but for the people of this crisis-ridden country they will be a most unfortunate development. As things fall apart unceasingly, putting big question marks on the character and performance of almost every institution here, the glorious refusal of the present judiciary to become pawns and puppets in the hands of power remains a source of immense pride for people, and a ray of hope. We hope that the moves to kill this pride and extinguish this hope will end how they should — up in smoke.







More blood has been shed in Quetta and once again we do not know by whom, and why. Saba Dashtiyari's murder, like numerous others, is shrouded in secrecy. Initial reports suggested that as a senior professor at the Balochistan University, he had been killed like others before him simply on account of his profession — a total of 22 teachers have been killed in incidents of targeted shooting since January 2008. But there is another, sinister dimension to the murder. Dashtiyari, who was gunned down by unknown assailants as he set out for an evening walk, was also a committed nationalist. In Balochistan there is a conviction that like others with similar beliefs who were killed before him, he too was a victim of the agencies. The resultant anger led to a strike in the province and an increase in the anger that sweeps through it, like a furious desert wind.

It is dangerous that it has become so difficult to determine why people are being killed in Balochistan, or ascertain the motives behind these brutal assassinations. Teachers, settlers, nationalists and members of minority communities have all perished there. No region can sustain so much violence and so much senseless brutality. Each time a body is found, or someone is gunned down, feelings of rage grow, leading to more violence. This issue is intertwined with the wider law and order problems of Balochistan. Violent deaths have acquired a permanent presence in the region. The province has also become home to abductions, terrorist attacks, and other kinds of violence. People will be safe only if this wider issue is resolved and an effort is made to restore to the people their basic right to security of life. There is as yet no evidence that Balochistan is moving in that direction and, sadly, this may mean that Dashtiyari's death is not the last we will hear of from that blighted province. Saba Dashtiyari's death is a tragedy both because of his status as a highly respected teacher and because he was apparently killed for holding views that some in powerful places might disapprove of.







A lot of conjecture surrounds discussion of what some consider an impending North Waziristan operation. A policy-based analysis of the situation, bearing in mind our national interests, may prove instrumental in both separating fact from fiction, and in helping to clarify a reasonable course of action:

1. Although the military has denied that an operation is 'imminent,' by the looks of it we are being dragged willy-nilly into waging war on those using sanctuaries in North Waziristan, including the Haqqani Taliban. Initial resistance against such an operation has been overcome although no one is willing to admit it as yet. Of course, the exact dimensions and timings are not clear but there is little doubt that an operation is now inevitable.

2. Ironically, it was OBL who made sure of that by holing out in Abbottabad right under our noses. His undetected presence in Abbottabad was exploited by Hillary and Mullen to pile on the pressure. Hillary reportedly demanded action or else the US would act unilaterally. Once again when confronted with the "do it or else" ultimatum, we have keeled over – despite the plethora of denials.

3. When the operation is eventually launched all sorts of explanations will be offered. Some are already being trotted out to prepare the country for the impending war. We are told, for instance, that we had always allowed for such an eventuality at a time of our choosing and hence it is hardly unexpected. Another is that our target is Hakimullah Mehsud and therefore by implication, not the Haqqani Taliban. One khaki confided that it will be a 'limited operation'. Mr Gilani added his mite saying there is no such thing as a 'good' Taliban or a 'bad' Taliban implying that as we are already fighting the Pakistani version we may as well fight the original Afghan brand too since they couldn't be any different. A sentiment probably prompted by the tongue lashing he must have received from Hillary. None of the above sounds compelling. Hence, even at this late hour before rushing in where even angels fear to tread, our leaders should pause to reflect.

4. The Haqqani Taliban are waging war against an American-led occupation force from what is technically Pakistani soil but is for all practical purposes their traditional homeland; and to which they have had unimpeded access since time immemorial. Neither they nor their Afghan countrymen, nor even the tribes on our side, have ever recognised the Durand Line as the territorial divide between Pakistan and Afghanistan; nor has Islamabad taken more than cosmetic steps to ensure that they do. Hence for them, as well as the local inhabitants, an attack on North Waziristan by Pakistan is akin to that by a foreign invader which they are honour-bound to resist.

5. Such a war would mean that yet more tribes, and a larger segment of our Pashtuns, would end up fighting against the army. In due course, as the fighting spreads, lives are lost, people displaced and properties ruined, an ever increasing number will become disenchanted and this could have lethal consequences for the unity of the country. Of course, eventually, the Americans will recognise their folly and leave Afghanistan, much as they did in the case of Vietnam but by then it may be too late for us. A generational war pitting the tribes against the federation would have started and Pakistan's very survival placed in jeopardy.

6. We need, therefore, to put the impending military action in perspective. There are two wars going on, one against Pakistan by Al-Qaeda and its affiliates and the other in Afghanistan by the ousted Afghan Taliban. There is some overlap between the two but mainly because of Al-Qaeda which is pursuing its own designs. Regardless, the distinction between the two must still be maintained. The first concerns Pakistan; the second much less so.

Moreover, while cooperation with America is a lot easier against Al-Qaeda et al, against the Afghan Taliban, it is less straightforward. The Afghan Taliban are only interested in Afghanistan, unlike Al-Qaeda. True, we have an obligation to help the Americans fight Al-Qaeda and its affiliates of which the Afghan Taliban are manifestly not, or else, presumably, the Americans would not be talking to them, much less asking them to share power with Karzai in an eventual peace deal. We have by and large met our obligations concerning the elimination of Al-Qaeda and even the Americans concede that we have acquitted ourselves well although in the process we have absorbed enormous damage.

7. In a sense we have no option. No state can permit its territory to be used as a launching pad for attacks against another. However, the state has a higher obligation to itself which is to seek a solution by peaceful means and, in this particular case, through an Afghan owned and Afghan-led peace process. And this becomes mandatory when what is at stake is the country's future stability and progress. It is a folly for Pakistan to provoke the unremitting hostility of the Afghan Taliban with whom it must coexist and to do that merely to appease the Americans in their pursuit of an evanescent military triumph.

8. It is the peace process therefore, that should be uppermost in our minds right now. Military actions should at best play a tactical, subservient role to the peace process. We should have indicated far more forcefully that we want reconciliation between the Afghan Taliban and their adversaries and are willing to use our influence to that end. We haven't said as much. And given our ties with the Afghan Taliban and suspicions that we want the Taliban back in power, we need to do more to persuade others of our peaceful intentions. It doesn't make sense to talk of peace on a 'take it or leave it' basis. There has to be more flexibility on all sides if the outcome is to be meaningful and enduring.

9. Perhaps, the best way would be to become active in some capitals (Kabul, Ankara, Riyadh, Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, Paris, London and Washington DC) about pursuing a fresh initiative that focuses on accelerating the Afghan peace process so that the Afghan Taliban can be accommodated on the basis of reconciliation. If need be we should have our initiative endorsed by the OIC only for technical and diplomatic purposes so that we have a multilateral document to work with and for others to take our initiative more seriously. More than any other country, we are in the thick of it. And yet our policy makers are inert and lifeless. Worse, they are coming in the way of directing our energy on the home front towards the TTP et al.


10. If the Americans insist on taking on the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan by bombing and invading the tribal areas then there isn't much we can do to prevent them without inviting our own destruction. Furthermore, the Americans will get bogged down soon enough and realise what we have for centuries, that Afghanistan is a snake pit and no one who has put his hand in it has emerged unscathed. Besides, nothing that the Americans conjure up by way of a militarily strategy will prove effective. Neither carpet bombing the lunar-like landscape nor night raids by Special Forces. Bombing villages and killing innocent civilians will only earn America more odium. The Russians killed over a million Afghans in their decade long sojourn in Afghanistan but to no effect. We should not, therefore, succumb to the emotive element that's driving current American policy in Af-Pak. This policy is at cross purposes with our own.

11. Instead, we should turn our attention to dealing with the extremists in mainland Pakistan where terrorism has its roots. In other words, we should be gearing up to break the back of Al-Qaeda-led TTP elements in our heartland rather than get diverted into an operation in North Waziristan which we can ill afford and that may well prove ruinous.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email:









We all know what went wrong in the weeks before, and during, the US operation to take out Osama. The bewildering array of Pakistani intelligence groups messed up: no real skills, no good information, no action. We know what went wrong a few weeks later at PNS Mehran: the spooks ignored all warnings of an impending attack, the copper(s) went for a fatal pee and the attackers jumped a 15-feet-high wall. We also know what happened to journalist Saleem Shahzad: he warned of threats to his life and ultimately turned up dead.

In short, all we know is that there's a hell of a lot we don't know, and a hell of a lot we'll never know.

Pakistani legend makes our intelligence services a wonder of efficiency, daring and reliability; a model for intelligence everywhere. Nobody, supposedly, does it better. Why, then, is the story of counterterrorism in Pakistan increasingly a story of failed intelligence?

The government will tell you the agencies need better technology (which is just another way of asking for more money from you know who). Experts will say failures result from groupthink, lack of coordination between different agencies, underestimation of warning signals, bureaucratic inertia and all kinds of other complicated reasons.

Only some offer the much simpler answer to the question of why agencies are failing at the counterterrorism job: because most of the time they're doing an entirely other job altogether. The quasi-exclusive focus on the agencies' alleged role outside Pakistan hides that they are important actors in the manipulation of domestic politics and increasingly in the business of deciding what can be said and how.

Under martial law in 1958, the intelligence agencies became instruments of consolidation for Ayub's regime and for the first time were directly responsible for monitoring Pakistani politicians and providing their master with assessments of public opinion during the 1964 presidential elections. Under General Yahya Khan, East Pakistan politicians became the new victims. The general even set up the National Security Council to control an intelligence operation to ensure no political party won an overall majority in the 1970 general election.

Through an executive order in 1975, Bhutto created the political cell of the ISI, which he used to rig the 1977 elections. General Ziaul Haq further expanded the ISI's powers to collect domestic intelligence on political and religious organisations, especially to monitor the Pakistan People's Party, which had launched the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in the early 1980s.

In 1997, a former chief of the Pakistan Air Force filed a Supreme Court petition challenging the legality of a "donation" by the Mehran Bank, a nationalised institution, of some approximately $6.5 million to then-COAS, General Mirza Aslam Beg, in 1990. Beg, who admitted he had put the money at the disposal of the agencies through a secret service account, had earlier declared that "it was a practice with the ISI to support candidates during the elections under the direction of the chief executive." The money was then used by agencies for "duly authorised purposes" – in particular to fund the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, an alliance of right-wing and religious political parties, set up in 1988 by the ISI led by Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, reportedly to prevent Benazir Bhutto's PPP from sweeping the polls. IJI beneficiaries also included Nawaz Sharif. When asked what would have happened if Benazir Bhutto had won the 1988 elections with a greater majority, Beg didn't hesitate to tell the media: "I set up a fake competition by creating the IJI to ensure that a democratic government would be formed."

Under Musharraf, the PML-Q was practically midwifed by the agencies with the aid of NAB. In March 2003, a dinner, reported in the press, was organised by the ISI at its headquarters for senators of the PML-Q, reportedly "to provide them orientation and get introduced to each other."

So the argument is: If the agencies are allegedly busy rigging elections, harassing politicians and pouring resources into shadowing journalists, no wonder they don't have the time, resources or the inclination to hunt terrorists or help thwart attacks. Makes sense? And if they aren't involved in any of these activities, they at least have to answer for not being able to prevent them. A shrug of despair is not an adequate response.

Debates on these questions, especially within the establishment, have remained focused on technicalities. The need to clarify the philosophy, and redefine the mission, focus and priorities of intelligence – to change the culture of intelligence altogether – has been drowned in all this noise about professional skill. And the truth is: while the most expensive intelligence collection toys will tell you a thing or two about the enemy's capabilities, figuring out intentions is something you can't technologise away. We still need the good, old-fashioned honest spy who can remember which side he's on in a crisis.

Intelligence priorities and threats have undergone considerable changes in the last decade. There is no joy in saying this: The ISI and other agencies are incapable of coping with new pressures. If the intelligence agencies are to keep up, they have to develop new tradecrafts and techniques. This is a task which neither the ISI, nor the other intel agencies here, as constituted today, seem able perform adequately.

After Shahzad's killing, the ISI angrily complained that the media was deliberating trying to malign the agencies. This was the response of a dehydrated calculating machine when the situation required something quite different. A five-star performance in denial will not chart a path through the maze. But why would the agencies care when they have the ultimate benefit of the harem: power without responsibility, mistakes without consequences?

Which brings us back to the original question: What's going on in Pakistan, apart from far too many killings and far too much fear? We don't know and perhaps we'll never know. And those we pay millions to tell us seem to have lost the plot.

The writer is assistant editor, The NewsInternational. Email:







One had hoped that after nearly seven years of exile and interaction with foreign intellectuals would have made Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif a more mature and wiser politician. However, we have all been highly disappointed that, instead of leading the country to progress, prosperity and self-respect and reliance, he joined hands with confirmed corrupt and incapable intriguers under the illusion that he was thereby saving democracy and serving the country. Now, after more than three years since the 2008 elections, when the country is on the brink bankruptcy and disintegration, Mian Sahib has woken up to the dangers faced by the country and the miseries of the people. He has now started speaking out against the rulers.

My humble advice to Mr Nawaz Sharif is that he become an elder statesman and let Mr Shahbaz Sharif play an active political role at the national level. Shahbaz Sharif is hardworking and intelligent and a hard task master and will thus be able to deliver. Because of his health problems, Mian Nawaz Sharif should take it easy.

Mr Nawaz Sharif has the distinction of having been prime minister when Pakistan exploded its nuclear devices on May 28, 1998.

The way the anniversary of the event was celebrated this year was heart-warming. Even before that date I had started receiving emails, SMS messages and phone calls containing congratulations on our achievements 13 years ago. Pakistanis all over the world participated. There were meetings and processions all over the country and at least on this day we were once again a united nation. Many student groups and ordinary people came to our house and brought flowers. Our home was filled with flowers and cakes, some of which the guards enjoyed as well. Many TV anchorpersons contacted me by phone to get my views and impressions. By the end of the day I was really exhausted from it all. It appeared that people were worried about the Western propaganda that our nuclear assets were under threat from terrorists. I assured them that these were quite safe and that there was not the slightest danger of any outsiders reaching the storage areas. Very few senior officers, and those considered highly reliable, have actual access and know of their whereabouts and what the codes are. As far back as the early eighties when we started producing nuclear weapons at Kahuta, Gen Zia and Gen Arif put in place a very strict safety system. This was further refined by Gen Aslam Beg as COAS and made even more foolproof by COAS Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar.

Contrary to Gen Musharraf's claims, I was fully conversant with the arrangements and I had attended many National Command Authority (NCA) meetings. Yes, after the coup, Gen Musharraf went public in self-interest and appointed Gen Khalid A Kidwai as director general of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which was the secretariat of the NCA. They are inaccessible to terrorists or outsiders.

Most of our people are innocent, simple and highly patriotic. We have seen their spontaneous patriotism when they received our cricket team on its return from India with great fanfare, even though we had lost in the semi-finals. The players were showered with financial prizes. We saw the same scenes when our hockey team returned from the Aslan Shah Hockey Tournament after narrowly losing in the final on extra time. The welcoming reception was grand and worth seeing. And how can we possibly forget the reception given by the public to Nasim Hameed and the wrestlers when they returned with medals. The people forget all their worries, the unemployment, the inflation, the scarcity of edibles, the absence of law and order and behave as a united nation when there is the smallest opportunity for its display. They have very small aspirations – they revere anybody who does something for the country and brings honour to it. They are willing to sacrifice their lives for their country.

The way in which they celebrated Yaum-e-Takbir was heart-warming. There were discussions and talk shows on TV and all the participants profusely praised the achievements and appreciated the fact that our nuclear capability had insured our security. Unfortunately, a certain lady who had managed to do a BA just prior to the 2008 elections, made some remarks that tried to distort history, despite undisputed, unchallengeable documentary proof provided by those controlling the programme. Having thrived on political favouritism, she now thinks she knows it all and changing loyalties a number of times did not result in any major benefits for her either.

It is most ironic and unfortunate that innocent, simple people in our country are being manipulated and misled by a few cunning and intriguing politicians. Despite facing many daunting problems and almost being crushed under many maladies, they are always willing to give their lives for the country. They definitely deserve a better deal. Our leaders seem to have no feeling for them. They are least concerned about our national pride, our sovereignty and the wellbeing of the people. They behave like the proverbial deaf, dumb and blind, unable to hear, speak or see the problems facing the poor. But wait! They are still experts in differentiating between the value of rupee and dollar notes. What an irony of fate that the innocent, poor people should fall prey to such cunning villains.

Here is an interesting episode. A dear, well-educated and intelligent Arab friend of mine frequently visited Pakistan. He was considered to be an expert on matters concerning Pakistan. One day I asked him what he thought of Pakistani leaders and the Pakistani people. He smiled at the question and said that it had reminded him of a beautiful scene in the desert where a caravan of camels was travelling, with the rope from the nose of one camel tied to the tail of the one in front of it. The nose of the first camel was tied to the tail of a donkey. It looked very peaceful against the horizon. The caravan moved without problem or disturbance. The camels were quite happy to be led by the donkey. "Well, this is my view of your leadership," he said. As far as the poor Pakistani people are concerned, they are like a herd of goats being herded by a thin man wielding a short stock. With this stick he can force the goats in any direction he wants to, he can stop them, he can force them to rest. They will obey his orders without the slightest resistance. "Well, the Pakistani people are like the herd of goats being herded by incapable herdsmen," he said.

I pondered for quite some time on his very accurate but painful analysis and was convinced of its veracity. Through these two simple examples my friend had so aptly described the situation in our country.








What is the right balance between healthy scepticism of Pakistani military and the ISI and between antagonism toward both? Asking this question now is important because the ambiguity is feeding unnecessary divisions in Pakistan. These divisions serve to weaken a vital line of defence for the Pakistani state. They also provide a domestic platform to what clearly is a get-ISI campaign that has been on for many years now in the political and intelligence circles of more than one country.

The brutal assassination of noted journalist and my friend Syed Saleem Shahzad has laid bare this decades-old feature of Pakistani politics. There exists a deep-seated antagonism in parts of our politics and media toward Pakistani military and especially toward the ISI. The agency is our principal tool for counterintelligence and information gathering. It is the eyes and ears of our strategic community as we navigate our way through a difficult neighbourhood. This antagonism is not natural to the system but is manufactured and is sustained through a combination of lack of information, real mistakes, rumours, half-truths, and in some cases outright propaganda.

Some of this antagonism is rooted in scepticism toward state power. That's healthy for any vibrant society. But in Pakistan, the lines between scepticism and animosity have blurred over the years. Expressions of this animosity in some corners of our politics and media surpass anything seen in stable and mature democracies. After all, a democratic system needs a functioning state, including aware voters, independent media, judiciary, military and intelligence. A state could collapse without educated voters, or a working military and intelligence. You can't discount any one of them.

Shahzad's brutal assassination brought the unhealthy anti-military antagonism within our system to the surface. It was stunning to watch some leading pundits in our media accuse the ISI of killing Shahzad without evidence and ignore strong circumstantial evidence on the involvement of elements close to Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. Shahzad maintained close contacts with sources in the two terror groups, as his scoops on numerous occasions indicate. You can't blame the foreign media, especially media based in the United States, for giving a spin to any story where the ISI is mentioned, since this Pakistani agency has become too independent for American taste. But at least at home we should question all angles and not simply ride the wave.

For example, western media saw in Shahzad's article that purportedly led to his brutal death an embarrassment for Pakistani military and thus a motive for the ISI to eliminate him. Many people in our media picked up this theory. That's an angle worth probing, but so is the fact that the same article exposes Al-Qaeda links to the attack on the naval base in Karachi, especially when the terror group has kept low and refrained so far from claiming responsibility for the attack.

The anti-military antagonism has probably blinded many of us to exploring other important angles. For example, the ISI itself was badly burned when two of its ex-operatives were killed by Pakistani Taliban earlier this year while trying to create inroads within the terror group. Likewise, US journalist Daniel Pearl paid with his life for getting too close to unscrupulous elements.

A meeting between Shahzad and officers from the media management wing of the ISI last year is cited as evidence that the spy agency was harassing him. The agency's version is very straightforward: they met Shahzad at a registered government office about a story he did and asked him either to confirm his sources or retract the story because it damaged Pakistani interests. Shahzad declined both demands and that was it. One friend and acquaintance of Shahzad, Mr Najam Sethi, said the meeting constituted a threat. Another friend of Shahzad, Mr Ejaz Haider, wrote that his friend mentioned the meeting with the ISI but didn't characterise it as a threat.

It is fair to say that the ISI, by virtue of the said meeting, should be included in Shahzad's murder investigation. But that is quite different from saying the ISI is the killer and ignore all evidence that points to other possibilities. That said, we do have a history in Pakistan of secret government agents kidnapping journalists, beating them up and then releasing them, alive. But most of us forget that this culture is not part of what our security agencies want to do. It was thrust on them by governments, often including democratic ones.

Security agents from various agencies of the government have at different times kidnapped and 'sorted out' journalists under orders from several democratic and non-democratic governments in Islamabad. In most of such cases journalists were harassed because powerful figures in government wanted to harass them and used state power for the purpose.

There is also the legacy of how state institutions were used to settle political differences. This burden of history should not be overblown and used to create a wedge between state institutions such as the ISI and ordinary Pakistanis.

The writer works for Geo television.Email:









The writer is a former member of the Foreign Service.

Charges of duplicity have been levelled by the West against Pakistan almost since the beginning of the US-led "war on terror" a decade ago. These allegations reached fever pitch after Osama bin Laden was discovered and eliminated by US commandos in Abbottabad last month. Much of the Western media has gone into overdrive since then, accusing Pakistan of playing a double game – promising support in the fight against Islamic militants while at the same time aiding and abetting some of them, or at least failing to take action against them.

In an editorial titled "Pakistan's perfidies," one US newspaper expressed outrage that after accommodating the world's arch-terrorist for six years, Pakistan had resorted to "lies, bluster and sabotage" to deal with the fallout. There was a limit to US patience, the paper warned, adding that Pakistan was perilously close to it.

In the eyes of the West, Pakistani duplicity has been made worse by the fact that Pakistan has been the recipient of "generous" US aid. In her press conference in Islamabad last month, Hillary Clinton advised Pakistanis to shun anti-Americanism, reminding them that her country had provided more aid than China, Saudi Arabia and everyone else combined. She evidently got her sums wrong, because she left out of the equation the value of the political support given to Pakistan by China, or of Chinese assistance in setting up nuclear power plants despite US opposition.

The media in other Western countries has been almost as scathing as that in the US. The Economist, a normally sober British weekly, commented that "high-risk duplicity" has long been the hallmark of Pakistan's foreign policy. Germany's leading daily, the super-staid Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, wrote that Pakistan's duplicity was a reflection also of the country's moral depravity.

Not to be left behind, British Prime Minister David Cameron has also weighed in in typical British fashion. He has all but pronounced that the Pakistan government had been complicit in providing a hiding place to Osama bin Laden. It was unbelievable, Cameron said, that Pakistani authorities did not know Osama was hiding not far from the capital and there were questions he would be asking the Pakistan Government and that he would want answered.

Much of the venom directed at Pakistan is owed to the West's growing frustration at the failure of its own policies in Afghanistan, for which Pakistan serves as a convenient scapegoat. It is remarkable that while Pakistan is being castigated for its failure to locate Bin Laden for six years, few in the West are asking why it took the Serbian authorities 15 years to catch Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general wanted for the genocide of Bosnian Muslims, including the massacre of some 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, their hands tied behind their backs.

While taking Pakistan to task for its alleged double-dealing, the Western media has been silent about US duplicity towards Pakistan. One exception is a special report by Reuters last month. It said: "The reality is that Washington long ago learned to play its own double game. It works with Islamabad when it can and uses Pakistani assets when it's useful, but is ever more careful about revealing what it's up to."

There are at least four ways in which Pakistan has been duped by the US intelligence. First, with its vast technological and financial resources, the CIA has set up a spy network in Pakistan that rivals the country's own agencies. The US has been helped by the liberal issuance of visas to US agents by our ambassador in Washington Husain Haqqani, the setting up of hundreds of safe houses in the country and the freedom given to the US spies to move around in vehicles loaded with advanced technical hardware.

Second, the government has allowed the CIA to set up the capacity to intercept not only wireless messages like mobile telephones but also landline and internet communications. David Ignatius, a well-informed columnist of The Washington Post, has written that if the ISI had transmitted information about sheltering Bin Laden, US intelligence would almost certainly have picked it up through surveillance. As the US media has reported, the US agency also monitored telephone calls between Pakistan's political and military leadership immediately after the Abbottabad raid.

Third, the US has been spying on Pakistan through stealth drones flying in Pakistani airspace without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities and in violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. These drones are also equipped to eavesdrop on electronic transmissions in Pakistan.

Fourth, the US has used its intelligence-gathering capability not only to track Al-Qaeda but also keep an eye on the country's nuclear weapons, possible links and contacts between the ISI and Islamic militants and imports and exports of nuclear-related equipment and material.

Our civilian government, like the Musharraf dictatorship before it, bears much of the responsibility for having allowed the CIA to make inroads into Pakistan that threaten our national security. Zardari is so keen to ingratiate himself with Washington – in the hope of retaining US favour and saving his vast overseas wealth – that he is unable to say no to any US demand.

US duplicity towards Pakistan does not stop at their intelligence-gathering activities. It is also evident in their policies towards the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani group. While ratcheting up pressure on Pakistan to force it to take stronger action against them, the Americans have themselves been pursuing a dialogue with both, as part of a policy of reconciliation and reintegration of the Afghan insurgency.

Talks with representatives of the "Quetta Shura," which were started by the US several months ago, have recently been accelerated. Three meeting have been held in Qatar and Germany. Pakistan is not being kept in the picture. Instead, Mullah Omar was included in the list of five high-value targets given by Clinton to Pakistan on her visit last month, which Pakistan must capture either itself or jointly with the US.

Also on the list is Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani. At the same time, the US is reportedly trying to approach Ibrahim Haqqani, a brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani, as well as representatives of Gulbadin Hekmatyar, either directly or indirectly, to test if they are prepared for peace talks.

The message conveyed to Pakistan by Clinton's visit was clear. If Pakistan did not get the five most-wanted on the American list, the US would act unilaterally. We should be under no illusion that if the US succeeds in locating the targets, it is not going to ask for Pakistani cooperation before hitting them.

Pakistan would hardly be in a position to counter such an attack militarily. What we need to do now is to build political and diplomatic barriers against that eventuality. We should start by publicly and formally rejecting the US claim, asserted also by Obama, that the United States would be within its rights to take unilateral action against high-value targets in Pakistan. Pakistan's stand, based on international law and the UN Charter, should also be placed on the record of the UN Security Council by circulating it among the members of the Council. In addition, Pakistan should make clear its rejection of unilateral US action in other appropriate international forums such as the annual general debate in the UN General Assembly.

Pakistan needs also to seriously rethink its policies towards its own Taliban. The terms offered by the Kabul government to the Afghan Taliban for reconciliation and reintegration – acceptance of the country's Constitution and severance of links with Al-Qaeda – could be replicated by us in our country. If the TTP and its affiliates are prepared to accept similar terms, they should be given a general amnesty and allowed to function as political parties. A beginning should be made with the Swat Taliban, both those who are in the custody of our authorities and those who are still committed to fighting the government.








Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is not something I think about much these days. Without getting too complicated (and it can get very complicated) in 1943 a gent called Maslow devised a theoretical model representing human needs, and it is usually presented as a layered triangle. At the bottom are our basic physiological needs – survival. Next up are safety needs – shelter and comfort. Then we have psychological needs (gets very complicated here) and at the top of the pyramid we have the things that we like to have but are not essential to life like music, literature and art. This is a highly simplified explanation of a sophisticated model, and I hope I will be forgiven by any social psychologists reading this for my boil-down of a core concept.

The reason for Maslow coming to mind was a shower curtain, a toilet roll, some towels, slippers and a rug. Also in the frame was some startling sculpture, a riveting portrait of a woman from a desert tribe and an advertising campaign for a range of children's clothing. All of this and more was the work of students at the University College of Art and Design in Bahawalpur, who had invited me to their first thesis exhibition.

This is a new faculty in the University and the work I was viewing was of the 'first batch' of students. Some of it was narrow and parochial, highly derivative and the product of meagre talent, but some of it was arresting in its originality. A helpful member of the faculty listened to my criticisms, nodding as he did. He talked of the lack of an arts background for most of his students, the fact that drawing and form were not taught anywhere below the level of higher education and that for some students; failures in other disciplines, this was a last, and soft, option.

Deficits aside, there was obviously some very good work being done at the top of Maslow's pyramid here in Pakistan, even in these quiet backwaters. Some may argue that we should be spending what little money we have much further down the pyramid, bolstering the basics, ensuring food security, housing and shelter – and there is truth in that. Yet the finer things of life have a part to play. Our culture is an unbroken history stretching back millennia of design, graphic representation, calligraphy, music and the written word be it poetry or prose. We are steeped in the arts as is any culture you care to name.

As a proportion of the population practitioners of the arts may form only a tiny fraction but they have an effect that far outweighs their numbers. That we invest in the training and education of this tiny minority of men and women who often lead unconventional lives and live outside the mainstream of society is a healthy sign. Ms Afshan may find her work picked up in the future by one of the achingly chic German or Italian producers of things to put in your bathroom. I'd buy it if they did. Mr Zia Aslam designed a coffee shop and will probably make a living in interior design. The sculptor who made a piece representing a transparent woman and her unborn child needs to get an agent and talk to the Nomad gallery in Islamabad. I tried to buy his work, but he wasn't selling. He will, one day, and for prices I will never be able to afford.

Somebody somewhere decided to build this college with public money. A somebody who understood that we can and should look beyond the basics. The failed state argument fails again.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:








ALMOST every day one action or the other reaffirms determination of Pakistan government to deal with the terrorists with a strong hand and eliminate the menace from its soil. The killing of Ilyas Kashmiri, commander of Harkat ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI) is a step in the right direction and certainly after Osama bin Laden his killing will break the back of terrorism.

His death in a drone attack on Friday night in Wana along with his companion has been confirmed by the Political Agent and by the HuJI in a statement although officials in Islamabad and Washington are still waiting for concrete proof. According to reports Kashmiri had been seen in South Waziristan a couple of days ago and one believes that there was sharing of intelligence which led to the drone attack and his killing. Kashmiri was suspected of being behind the May 22 battle at the Mehran naval base in Karachi. He was also reported to lead a unit called the 313 brigade which was suspected of carrying out high-profile attacks, including an attack against the army headquarters in Rawalpindi. But it is ironical that the United States is persistently accusing Pakistan of not taking any action against the terrorists. These accusations are groundless and aimed at defaming Pakistan at the international level and to put more pressure on it. There is no recognition in Washington that these very terrorists are inflicting immense sufferings on the people of Pakistan and due to war on terror the country has suffered a colossal loss of around $ 70 billion, more than the entire external debt of Pakistan. Had there been any support for the terrorists from Pakistani establishment, they would not have been carrying out attacks at sensitive installations of the country. Startling revelations have also appeared in the media on Sunday that Islamabad police have foiled a plot to assassinate President Asif Ali Zardari during his visit to Pakistan Institute of Medical Science to see his ailing father. Almost on daily basis groups of terrorists are either being killed or arrested by the law enforcement agencies which speak of determination of Pakistan government not to allow terrorism to flourish but to eliminate it. However it is a recognised fact that fight against terrorism is a long drawn battle and it takes decades to root it out. As elimination of terrorism is in Pakistan's interest, naturally it should not budge an inch but different options need to be pursued for this purpose. We believe that, as being done by the United States in Afghanistan, time has come that Pakistan, leaving aside hardened al Qaida, should also open dialogue with moderate Taliban in order to persuade them to leave the path of militancy and join the national mainstream.







PRIME Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has said that the issue of creation of Saraiki Province in South Punjab was under consideration of party's manifesto committee and indicated that a headway was expected soon on the matter. Earlier too during his visit to the area, Mr Gilani had hinted at the creation of the Province to meet the long standing demand of the people of Saraiki belt.

The demand for creation of new provinces gained fresh momentum after the 18th amendment in the constitution. We are sure that the Prime Minister is fully aware of the similar demands being raised by the people of Hazara, Pakhtoon belt in Balochistan and in Sindh and just creation of Saraiki province would not be a solution and lead to discontentment among the people in other areas. Therefore all pros and cons must be taken into consideration before arriving at a final decision. Naturally the expenditure would go up with new set ups but this could be met with generation of additional resources by the Provinces. We believe that what is needed is good governance and elimination of corruption at all tiers of the Government and nabbing the tax evaders and corrupt and imposing heavy fines on them and exemplary punishment which would surely serve as a deterrence. The devolution is one way to achieve the objective of good governance and the creation of smaller administrative units would make the task easy. At the same time there is need to hold local bodies elections at the earliest but not later than the general elections as these institutions have helped a lot in development at the district and lower level. The Federal Government should only keep key Ministries and handle mega projects of national importance and leave the social sector and development to the Provinces and the district governments. We hope that the Government and the PPP's manifesto committee would keep these issues in view before coming up with final recommendations for creation of new provinces. The Government would also have to take along other political parties in such vital decisions because this would have to be done by amendments in the constitution.






WORLD Environment Day was celebrated on Sunday to stimulate awareness of the environment and enhance political attention for taking corrective action. The theme of World Environment Day this year, "Forests: Nature at Your Service", emphasized the value of these and other ecosystems to society – especially the poor.

Despite growing global awareness of the dangers of environmental decline including climate change, biodiversity loss and desertification, progress since the Earth Summit has been too slow. The largest areas of concern at present are the loss of rain forests, air pollution and smog, ozone depletion, and the destruction of the marine environment. Pollution is occurring all over the world and poisoning the planet's oceans. Even in remote areas, the effects of environment degradation are obvious and people are falling sick. The situation in Pakistan is quite apparent because compliance of environmental regulations is at a very low level. The industries are discharging emissions and liquid effluent into the environment while transport is degrading the air quality. Solid waste is not being properly managed and forests are fast depleting. Ministry of environment and alternative energy department are taking steps to prepare an action plan to attend to the environmental issues but in this task participation of all stake holders, particularly the industrialists is essential. They must be forced to check emission of smoke into the air and there should be monitoring of environment in all the major cities and violators be fined and punished. The CDA has launched a massive cleanliness campaign in the capital that includes putting new dustbins across the city and imposing fines on people for littering and strewing garbage, particularly in and around markets. We believe that this should be emulated by other cities while at the policy making level the Government should give top priority to programmes aimed at creating friendly environment.









I wanted to write on this matter soon after some Sindh politicos agitated against LHC judgment and some PPP groups elsewhere joined them, but soon after the judgment some very important events took place such as CIA Operation in Abbotabad, Hillary's visit to mend the damage this operation did to Pak-US relations, and the terrorist attack on the Mehran Base in Karachi, which were dominating public attention. I had to write about these matters first. Now it is time to correct two erroneous views held in some political circles that LHC decision was President Zardari-specific, and that it is permitted to be the President and at the same time the political head of the ruling party. As a student of political science, having done my Ph D in Political Science in 1955 from a Canadian university, ( Ottawa Universdity) may I say that both these impressions are incorrect. This limitation is not President Zardari specific but would applies to any President of any parliamentary democratic country. What has been considered here in certain political circles as a high court view on President Zardari is in fact a universally accepted principle in any democratic parliamentary system that the office of the President, of any president, of any country having parliamentary democracy, is or should be above political party affiliations, any affiliations whatsoever. He is to be a neutral head, impartial. In any parliamentary system there is a Head of the Government- that is the prime minister- and the Head of the State that is the president. The prime minister is nominated by the ruling political party who forms the government after winning elections. Governments come and go. And there is a head of the state which represents the entire state or country and stays for the entire term for which he is appointed except that he can be removed through impeachment .The President represents all and everyone, the interests of everyone in the state, in the words of our Constitution is the symbol of unity of the Federation – that is of the entire country, which is the meaning of the Federation. In parliamentary system governments come and go, but the State in entirety is the people , it is a permanent entity. One can oppose the Government, that is a democratic right, but opposing the State is treason or rebellion, one does not owe 'allegiance' to the government but one owes it to the State. President represents in person the State for the duration he is appointed. The Government can play party politics, follows party programs but the State cannot become co-extensive with a political party. That is democracy, in which there is a distinct dividing line between the Government and the State, or the political party and the entity called the country. The State is for entire people, those who belong to the ruling party, or not or have any political affiliations or none. .

This dividing line disappears only in two systems, totalitarian states and those who followed the Communist system. This distinction between the state and the ruling party was completely disappeared in these two systems. The ruler was above all restrains, except the Party The State and the Party was above all considerations. In the totalitarian states the ruler was Supreme. In Soviet Communist system the Party was supreme. Truth was what served the party, Courts were subordinate to the party, but in democracy, the organs of state have given jurisdictions and over stepping them is unconstitutional. Individuals have rights given to them in the Constitution. The President is for the entire country, not only for his party, and is the symbol of the entire country and is the custodian of the interests of all the citizens or persons in the jurisdiction of the State. If the President becomes synonymous with his political party than he will cease to be the symbol of unity of the federation, a partisan president – not the person who is above any consideration but for the entire country.

In this way, to remain a party head while being President is in fact violation of the oath of the office. The 18th Amendment has made the position of a president who also holds the position of the head of the party, partisan as he manipulates the Parliament or can manipulates the Parliament from outside the Parliament by removing any member of his party from Assembly's or Senate's membership . He has supra Parliament and can cancel the mandate given in the elections by having powers to disqualify a sitting member of the parliament . He thus has strings which he can pull sitting outside the Parliament to manipulate the party politics. This has made the Members of the Parliament not MPs or Senators but what were styled under the Communist system "delegates" The Party boss is thus above the electors who voted for the candidate in the elections . This makes the President with the powers of the head of the party a real player on political dynamism. Thus as long as President Zardari is the virtual head of the Party he is NOT a non-partisan President but like the Prime Minister another echelon of political power.. If one looks at the old Soviet system, one would find not even theoretically the Party boss had the powers to withdraw the "delegate's" membership of what were equivalents of parliaments in the Soviet system..

Perhaps I am ignorant about the number of experts in political science and comparative constitutions in the ruling party. In British Labour Party Harold Lasky was its bran trust, but I do not know whether there is any such expert in PPP who could understand the objections contained in the LHC ruling. May be the finer points of political science have escaped many of their stalwarts being ignorant of these facts. But general impression about PPP is that it is a populist party, and uses the agitational methods and political cult of the erstwhile Soviet Communist Party as its political strategy The important point for the public is no longer the number of "shaheeds" any political party has, like in US the Democrats do not play on the sacfrices of the Kennedys, there is need to look at the current issues as a political scientist and not to divert the topic to the number of "Shaheeds" of democracy the Party has. Shaeed is a religious word not political vocabulary. The play on personality cult that the Soviet Communist Party indulged in is a hackneyed appeal. There should be Intellectual element in considering broader issues of national importance. This is one such issue. The institution of President in proper management over long years to come is vital to the country for healthy democracy.

Pardon me to say that all political parties should now speak of issues and their policies to solve them rather than start parading their version or history of old sins of each other, this is childish to talk of so and so "ran away" to a foreign country, etc. Bring if you can issues-oriented politics before the masses. Who ran away to Saudi Arabia and who to Dubai are old women's tales. Talk should be on issues of today the masses are facing unless the intention is to shift attention from issues to spicy stories. Personal attacks seems a tactics to avoid debating national issues. Adherence to the Constitution letter and spirit is one such issue and should be faced with logic if one has it on one's side.







Towards the fag end of his unenviable military career, a representative of the Bush legacy Admiral Mike Mullen was recently overwhelmed by pre-retirement syndrome and though it fit to assume the title of supreme commander of the Pakistani armed forces while declaring it to the American media that Pakistan is about to launch an offensive in the North Waziristan Agency. Courtesy demanded that such an announcement should emanate from Pakistan. No wonders that there is so much of scepticism about Pakistani ownership of the so called war on terror amongst Pakistani public. Thanks to operation 'Geronimo', Pakistani leadership no longer enjoys blanket trust of the public in the context of handling this war. Mullen's utterances triggered a nation-wide protest against any (mis)adventure in North Waziristan.

Washington has launched an all out campaign to capitalise on the embarrassment incurred by Pakistan's military leadership in the wake of operation Geronimo; one of the advantages it wants to accrue is to push Pakistani military into yet another black hole—North Waziristan. Reports appearing in American media suggest that the understanding about this operation was arrived at during the recent visits of Senator John Kerry and Admiral Mullen to Pakistan; while Hillary Clinton had refused to come to Pakistan unless a prior assurance was given that her wish list has been acceded to in totality, she was obliged.

Fallout of a misadventure in North Waziristan is likely to accentuate the ongoing chaos in the country, embarrassing the government with each PNS Mehran like incidents of terrorism against sensitive installations. People would have snowballing sense of insecurity; credibility of the armed forces would further erode amongst the masses. Detractors will have enough reason to drum up frenzy about the security of Pakistani nukes; and prompt the Americans to intervene and seize the nukes. A section of American intelligentsia has since long been advocating that unless Pakistani leadership is embarrassed and discredited thoroughly and repeatedly, both domestically and internationally, it is not likely to change its nuclear policy. America seems to have adopted this notion as its state policy, and is incrementally implementing it.

During the pervious week, indicators of a full scale military operation started to appear. Humanitarian agencies working in the area of intended military operation were tasked to brace up for handling of up to 3,65,000 displaced persons. Almost simultaneously, army removed or relocated the check posts on the Bannu-Mirali road, this sent the shockwaves in North Waziristan generating a perception that a South Waziristan or Malakand style operation was in the offing.

However, Pakistan's military says it has no immediate plans to launch a full-scale offensive in North Waziristan. This was confirmed by a top Pakistani military commander in Peshawar, who said: "We will undertake operation in North Waziristan when we want to…We will undertake such an operation when it is in our national interest militarily." Government officials have also denied the media reports about North Waziristan operation. "The government has not made any commitment with the US on Waziristan operation," a foreign office official recently said while briefing the 'Senate Foreign Relations Committee'. He added that Pakistan alone will decide the timing of the North Waziristan operation.

Pakistan has so far been resisting demands of Washington in this regard because of genuine reasons. So far resource constraint has been holding back Pakistan from undertaking this operation; and situation in this count has not yet improved; even reimbursement of Coalition Support Fund has been bumpy. At the moment, armed forces are not adequately equipped to undertake another military campaign.

Candid estimates have it that as many as 10,000 seasoned militants may be stationed in North Waziristan. There have been reports that around 500 Western militants, almost half of them of German origin, were undergoing training with various groups based in the agency. The presence of a small group of American militants, led by Abu Ghaddan, has also been reported many times. They are armed with NATO standard weapons. Presently, most of them do not intend hitting Pakistani targets, their focus is on Afghanistan. However, any premature operation by Pakistani military would force these militants to turn their guns towards Pakistan.

Pakistan has already deployed 1,40,000 troops on the Western border; military experts believe that additional troops will have to move in for the operation to succeed; this would result in diluting the military presence in other areas. Whenever Pakistan has previously conducted military operation in FATA area, NATO/ISAF were prompt to vacate their check posts along Afghanistan border; thus facilitating the runaway of militants to Afghanistan and flow of reinforcements for militants from Afghanistan into FATA area. This time around also, expectations should not be different.

Today, Pakistani public understands the dynamics of the so called war on terror much better than Swat days, they perceive it as a monster with multiple agenda, of which too little is a public knowledge; while remaining is a dubious dirty game.

Unlike Malakand and Swat operations, no effort has been made to evolve a national consensus for such an activity in North Waziristan. Our military's success in Swat and South Waziristan Agency does not guarantee a similar outcome in North Waziristan Agency.

America had lost the military option to solve the Afghan conflict way back in early 2002, when it pushed the militant to the countries bordering Afghanistan, mainly Pakistan and Iran. With overwhelming hostile sentiment towards America by the people of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, America has also lost the chance of brokering a political solution in Afghanistan.

The US and its kow-towing allies appear as bewildered and clueless as they were a decade earlier. Despite a thorough beating, America is not serious about a political solution. It has been double crossing the leadership of political resistance in Afghanistan, by trying to shoot them in the head while pretending to negotiate with them.

Pakistan may have made mistakes or policy errors over the years but it has been dealing with the Afghan question for over three decades now. No one else has a similar understanding of the issue. Pakistan desires to be part of the solution, and wants to contribute in this regard. Though - Kerry, Hillary and Obama are never short on doing a lip service towards Pakistan's sacrifices, most of their actions are just in the opposite direction.

There is no scope for a full blown conventional war-like operation in North Waziristan. Strategy needs to focus on objective specific special operations to neutralize pre-designated targets. However, before starting even this kind of operations, intelligence network would require matching capacity enhancement. At present, North Waziristan is an 'intelligence black hole'.

Hopefully, national leadership will not sleep walk into the trap; it must understand that common Pakistani people do not have an unlimited patience for Abbot Abad and Mehran like fiascos. Any disproportionate use of force in North Waziristan would make PNS Mehran like incidents a frequently recurring phenomenon. Moreover, the fallout would lead to further destabilisation of Pakistan's heartland. —The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.








For the financial year 2011-12, the Government of Pakistan has increased the country's Military budget by 12 percent. This also includes the 15% increase in the salaries of the employees. The total amount of the budget is Rs. 495 billion, compared to Rs 442 billion for the year 2010-11. In term of USD, the total amount is about $ 5.75 bn. The Finance Minister while justifying the increase in the defence budget said, "We live in a difficult neighbourhood. We are faced with threats to our security. We remain engaged in a struggle for the safety of our citizens. We are the victims of war on terrorism." This is a great reality, the Finance Minister has highlighted. However, the country is confronted by enemies from within as well as from across the geographical frontiers of Pakistan. Now a day, meeting the internal challenges to the security of Pakistan has become more daunting and cost effective than the external threats. Since the commencement of the so-called global war on terror in 2001, and combat actions against the terrorists, Pakistan has badly suffered in term of its combat manpower, weapons and equipments and above all attacks on its civil and military installations, public places and all those having no connection with the war on terror.

While analysing the defence budget, one would know that, over the last few years, there has been a decline in the defence budget of Pakistan in practical terms. This is indicative from the fact that, during year 2010-11, in term of GDP share, the defence allocation was 2.6 percent. Whereas, despite an increase of 12 percent, the "GDP share of defence allocation for the next year (2011-12) would go down to 2.4 per cent", a decrease of .2 percent. As analysed by Dawn Group of news paper, "There has been a steady decline in defence services' slice in the GDP cake over the years."This decline can be attributed to inflation, which as an average was 14.1 percent and is continuously increasing over the years. Over the years this practice is going on, contrary to an apparent increase in the military budget.

Inside Defence budget, there are various heads. First is the Ministry of Defence itself. Out of the total defence outlay of Rs. 501.85 billion, Rs. 495 billion would go the Military i.e. three services viz; Army, Navy and Air Force. The share of three services is rationalized based on the strength of the each service and the requirement for the weapons and equipment for a particular year. As revealed over 50 percent of this total Military budget, is expended on the employees' related expenditures. Remaining amount is then further divided into various heads. At the level of Defence Ministry, the Airport Security Force, the Survey of Pakistan, Meteorology Department, and FG schools and colleges also consumes a big chunk of the defence budget. This aspect is known to very few people that these departments and others like Controller of Military Accounts are also paid out of defence estimates.

In the global market as well as domestically, owing to price hike and inflation, every year the cost of the equipment/ items, essentially needed to be purchased increased reasonably. This in turn necessitates an increase in the defence budget, an unavoidable phenomenon. For the financial year 2011-12, the operating expenses of the three services has been estimated as Rs. 128.28 billion, compared to Rs. 111.24 billion during year 2010-11, whereas, the employees expenses (including the 15% rise in the salaries) has been estimated as Rs. 206.5 billion. Similarly, the amount for civil works has been estimated as Rs. 42.6 billion, whereas, physical assets would remain as Rs. 117.6 billion for all three services.

Compared to $34 billion, declared Military budget of India, passed by Indian Parliament in February this year, Pakistani Military budget is just 5.75 billion, which indeed is a very small. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the Military Expenditures of India are $41.3 billion. India doesn't disclose its actual defence spending. However, India remain the main adversary of Pakistan, as there have been three wars between both countries and owing to Indian designs of undoing the Pakistan, as witnessed in 1971, we cannot become a status quo nation. Given the chance, India would go all out to undo Pakistan, the only country resisting its hegemonic designs in South Asia. Through its alliances with the major world powers, and establishing itself in Afghanistan, in the garb of so-called re-construction, India is posing very serious threats to the security of Pakistan from its western borders. Thus we cannot remain aloof of all these happenings. Beside Indian ill designs, Pakistan, "has constantly been suffering because of the existing security situation." And as per Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, "We stand by our valiant men, who are laying down their lives to safeguard our country."

As per Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), there has been a universal increase in the military budget of all countries. United States has increased its "military spending by 81 per cent since 2001, and now accounts for 43 per cent of the global total, six times to its nearest rival China. At 4.8 per cent of GDP, US military spending in 2010 represents the largest economic burden outside the Middle East." As per the latest figures provided by SIPRI, the top 10 military spenders of the world till 2010 are: United States ($698 billion), China ($119 billion), Great Britain ($59.6 billion), France ($59.3 billion), Russia ($58.7 billion), Japan ($54.5 billion), Saudi Arabia ($45.2 billion), Germany ($45.2 billion), India ($41.3 billion), and Italy ($37 billion).

In the Sub-continent, India has been spending a huge sum of amount on its military budget ever since. Being in the club of top ten military spenders, there has been a constant increase in the Indian defence Budget since last two decades. Indian is modernizing its three services on the line of the militaries of United States, United Kingdom, and Russia. However, owing to its weak economy, Pakistan cannot match the Indian defence spending. Nevertheless, it should maintain at least the minimum credible deterrence to ensure its safety and security in the wake of enmity all around; domestically against extremists and terrorists and externally, those also promote internal instability too. Incidents like US raid to haunt OBL and the terrorist attack on the PNS Mehran Base, though very serious breaches of security, but, should not frustrate the nation from supporting its armed forces. On their part, Armed forces should indentify their flaws and make utmost efforts to come up to the expectations of the nation, to maintain the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan in the world which is anarchic in character and played by power politics.—The writer is an International Relations analyst.








Amid the WikiLeaks disclosed the fact Indian army was engaged in extra judicial killing in Indian held Kashmir the Pak-India talks on Siachen couldn't achieve success due to Indian army's resistance. Ironically when Pakistan was interested to reach to some point of conciliation the Indian army came into the way of little chance to have peace in the region. It is an unfortunate that India's so called democratic government is hostage in the hands of its army which is said to be an apolitical.

That is how Indian army has shown its apolitical role during the recent talks on Siachen to not to sign any of the pact to demilitarize the world's most frozen and the costly front which has taken many lives of the both sides soldiers. Ironically when the talks were undergoing Pakistan's electronic channels were flashing tickers if Indian air chief that before proceeding further there is a need to have proper line of control there in Siachen. This was however a prerogative of Indian democratic government officials to say anything pertaining to the talks.

So Indian army's fresh stance taken on the Siachen issue has supported the WikiLeaks cable of 2006 stated that every time India and Pakistan came "very close" to an agreement on the Siachen issue, the prime minister of the day would be forced to back out by the Indian defence establishment, the Congress Party hard-line and opposition leaders.

In another cable, Ambassador David Mulford citing various obstacles to an agreement on Siachen wrote about the first obstacle "Army Chief JJ Singh appears on the front page of the "Indian Express" seemingly fortnightly to tell readers the Army cannot support a withdrawal from Siachen. Given India's high degree of civilian control over the armed forces, it is improbable that Gen. Singh could repeatedly make such statements without MoD civilians giving at least tacit approval. Whether or not this is the case, a Siachen deal is improbable while his — and the Army's — opposition continues to circulate publicly".

WikiLeaks cables depicts that it was nor Pakistan neither its army but it was Indian army not interested to have any of the peace deal. Indian government which claims of being the biggest democracy of the world doesn't enjoy the freedom to have it decisions with the consensus of its parliament and the political faction but time and again it has to look towards its forces to take permission to go ahead on any of the deal. It reminds of Indian government resolve to cut short the number of the troops in held Kashmir but army's local area commander and obviously the military high command bluntly refused to do the same so Indian government had to retreat from its resolve to decrease the number of troops.

It is heartening to note that due to hardened stance of Indian Army during recently held Defence Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan on the Siachen dispute the issue could not be resolved. During talks which were held in New Delhi on 3rd - 31st May Pakistan delegation suggested immediate disengagement as a forward for resolving the dispute. The Indian side however, hardened their stance and did not agree reportedly due to pressure and intransigence of their Army, which was not willing to resolve the Siachen dispute to vacate the conflict zone and go back to previously held position.

It depicts vested interest of the Indian army to remain engaged in the Kashmir and in Siachen as well. In fact Siachen is bread and butter of Indian army as it includes huge funds and fringe befits. Many of the fraudulent initiatives have been reported in the past that how Indian army justified its bravery and its stay in the Siachen heights by showering the encounters and its resolve to get the medals. Not only the army deputed in Siachen but in other parts of the country there have been reports of bogus efficiency to claim awards out of the 'brave' acts.

An Indian Army Colonel H.S. Kohli, has been dismissed and a major suspended for faking killings by splashing tomato ketchup on civilians and passing them off as dead separatists - in the hope of being awarded.

The saucy scandal was not unique of its kind to rock the Indian Army as they had already proved their skills in Siachen scandal in which a Major was accused of inventing enemy killings for the sake of gallantry awards. According to new norms, Indian Army officials are being graded and awarded promotions and bravery awards on the basis of the number of terrorists they capture and kill. So this is how they try to capture the awards and the respect. Don't know why Indian army denies the fact that awards, medals and dignity can only be earned with fervor and never be achieved with malicious efforts.

—The writer is Rawalpindi based freelance columnist.








At the Pentagon, there's a legal formula for intelligence operations that has come to be known as "Gates practice," after its proponent, Defence Secretary Bob Gates. It basically argues that if the United States conducts a sensitive intelligence mission outside a war zone, the president should make the decision.

That may seem like a no-brainer, but it wasn't always the case. Early in the past decade, when Gates's predecessor Donald Rumsfeld was looking for ways to pursue al-Qaeda, he issued a series of executive orders that gave the military new powers in the global war on terrorism. These "EXORDS," as they were known, sometimes permitted commanders to approve sensitive operations without a White House and interagency review.

The Rumsfeld-era orders have been rewritten over the past several years, at Gates's insistence. The review was begun by James Clapper, a former under secretary of defence who's now director of national intelligence. Michael Vickers, who is Clapper's successor, is finishing the rewrite. This review has brought all EXORDS in line with the Obama administration's counter-terrorism policies, which require more vetting of sensitive operations. The goal is to ensure that "Gates practice" is followed and the White House gets the last say. An earlier column outlined some of the excesses from 2001 to 2006, when Rumsfeld was secretary of defence. A senior defence official who has been involved in the review sums up the change in standards this way: "What people might have thought sensible in the first half of the decade, by the second half they didn't."

Take the Pentagon's use of Special Forces outside war zones, through a program known as "military liaison elements." Critics were worried these teams would become "alternate stations," notes the defence official. Now, their activities must be fully coordinated with the State Department and the CIA.

To foster the core mission of liaison with foreign special operations forces, or SOF, members of these MLE teams are usually assigned on standard tours, rather than short-term temporary assignments. "The biggest benefit is engagement with foreign SOF," explains the defence official.

The CIA uses the Special Forces, too, as in the May 2 raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. The Navy SEALs who conducted the mission were "chopped to the CIA," as the practice is sometimes called, so that they could operate under the agency's Title 50 authority, which allows the United States to conduct "deniable" missions outside war zones.

Special Forces officers also work with the CIA on other sensitive missions, including task forces that collect intelligence inside the borders of foreign countries. These cases where military personnel are delegated to the CIA are sometimes known as "focal point operations."

Members of Congress have worried that clandestine military intelligence activities aren't subject to the same strict procedures as CIA "covert actions," which require a presidential "finding" and congressional notification. The Pentagon instead briefs the armed services committees, sometimes leaving intelligence committee members in the dark. "People thought, 'I'm getting half the story,'" notes the defence official.

This congressional concern surfaced at a March 22, 2007, hearing of the Senate intelligence committee on "DOD Clandestine HUMINT" (government-speak for "human intelligence"). According to an unclassified Pentagon summary, Sen. John D. Rockefeller, then committee chairman, "questioned the accuracy of 'internal DOD definitions' of clandestine and covert activity and asserted that DOD refuses to share EXORDS and other documents" with the Senate intelligence committee. During the Rumsfeld years, "there was a general view that DOD was conducting activities that looked and smelled like intelligence activities but were called something else," says one congressional source. "The situation has improved," continues the congressional source. He notes that after the bin Laden raid, the intelligence and armed services committees were briefed jointly by CIA and Pentagon officials. And he endorses Gates's effort to rewrite the EXORDS.

The CIA-military co-ordination process is often informal. When Gen. Mike Hayden was CIA director in 2008, he would sometimes call Gen. Martin Dempsey, then acting Centcom commander, to sort out which activities should be done by the military under Title 10 and which should be CIA Title 50 "covert" activities. (The main legal difference is that a military "clandestine" activity, while secret, can't be denied if it's exposed.)

Intelligence operations are murky, even with the clearest rules. The best safeguard is probably the "Gates practice" idea of having the president make decisions about operations that have, as the spy mavens like to say, "major flap potential." The more sensitive the mission, the more it needs the boss' approval.—The Washington Post








IT would have been impossible to imagine a few years ago, but some of the most strident critics of the Howard government's Pacific Solution are calling for the reopening of the Australian-built detention centre on Nauru.

And with good reason. David Manne, co-ordinator of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, is right to argue that it is not in the children's best interests to be sent to Malaysia, where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are already 1300 children who are either refugees or awaiting refugee assessment.

Lawyers Marion Le and Julian Burnside are correct in pointing out that asylum-seekers would be better treated at the Nauru processing centre - the facility they demanded that the Howard government close down. Whatever its faults, 70 per cent of asylum-seekers detained at Nauru won the right to settle in Australia. Australians were in charge of the centre and would be again if the Gillard government had had the common sense and decency to speak to the government of Nauru.

The prospect of sending vulnerable, unaccompanied boys and girls to take their chances in detention in Malaysia, where authorities can be merciless, is unconscionable. Refugees, including children, have reported beatings, cruel punishments such as being forced to stand for hours with their arms over their heads and other brutal abuse, corruption, unsanitary conditions and lack of education. No wonder a third of state Labor members in Western Australia are in revolt.

It is a sign of the government's breathtaking incompetence and sheer desperation over the issue that it boxed itself in badly by announcing its deal with Malaysia on May 7, before such sensitive details as the fate of children were finalised. Reportedly, Australia's agreement with Malaysia to transfer 800 asylum-seekers to Kuala Lumpur will not specify whether children and victims of torture will be exempted. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has said some people, including vulnerable children, will be exempt but with decisions to be made case by case. But how he intends to keep his promise that those sent to Malaysia will receive special care and support is not clear.

At the same time, the government faces a serious dilemma. The more it routinely exempts minors and other vulnerable boat people from transfer to Malaysia, the more it will encourage the ruthless people-smuggling trade, with desperate families hoping that the acceptance of a son or daughter in Australia will allow the rest of the family to join them eventually.

Labor's then-immigration spokeswoman Julia Gillard claimed in 2003 that any boat arrival was a policy failure. In less than a month, five boats have arrived since Ms Gillard announced the Malaysian deal, in addition to 210 boats with more than 10,000 people that have turned up since Labor declared the Christmas Island facility a "white elephant" and scrapped the Coalition's border protection regime, including temporary protection visas. The Christmas Island boat tragedy in which 50 people drowned last year, the East Timor debacle and now the confusion over the Malaysian deal amount to three years of policy failures. And still the boats come.





IN terms of importance to the battle against terrorism, the killing of the notorious militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri in a US drone attack in Pakistan is not far behind the death of Osama bin Laden.

The hope must be that Islamabad will spare us a replay of its confected outrage over alleged violation of its national sovereignty when the al-Qa'ida leader was targeted.

Kashmiri was as bad as they come. An associate of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's kidnappers, he gained infamy when he decapitated an Indian soldier in Kashmir and posed for photos holding the head. As a member of Pakistan's Special Services Group in the 1980s, he trained militants battling the Soviets in Afghanistan. As leader of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami jihadists allied to al-Qa'ida, he was linked to the 2008 assault on Mumbai, an onslaught against military headquarters in Rawalpindi and last month's siege of the Mehran naval base in Karachi. That he has now been killed in one of the Predator drone attacks that Islamabad, in public at least, has been up in arms about is a reflection of the value of those strikes and Washington's welcome determination to ignore Pakistan's carping over violations of national sovereignty and get on with a job Islamabad itself is failing to do.

The incontrovertible reality is that as long as Pakistan dickers and fails to confront the militants in the way it should, there will be no progress in the war in Afghanistan. The Durand Line border is artificial. Jihadists, when they want a respite from coalition onslaughts in Afghanistan, cross into Pakistan where they know they will remain untroubled by Islamabad's forces. That scenario is unsustainable. The US is right to ignore Pakistan's protests and continue the drone attacks which, since 2008 when they were launched by the Bush administration, have killed 1400 militants.

To mask its feebleness in dealing with terror, Pakistan complains that each such attack involves loss of civilian life and that this recruits new followers for the militants. There may be something in that, but that is Islamabad's problem. After their credentials as allies were brought into question when bin Laden was found in Abbottabad, Pakistani authorities must expect the US and its allies will pursue high-value targets such as Kashmiri. If they can't do the job themselves, they must let others do it for them.





AS part of his inquiry into the "effectiveness and functions of the senior structure of Victoria Police command", Jack Rush QC must thoroughly investigate the Office of Police Integrity's decision to eavesdrop on the personal phone calls of deputy police commissioner Ken Jones and his wife.

The surveillance, based on information provided by Chief Commissioner Simon Overland, who told Sir Ken to take leave and clear his desk, is indicative of the paranoia that can some times overtake crime-fighting organisations. It arises when they overreach and become more obsessed with buttressing their own powers than serving the public interest by doing the job for which they were established. The tapping of the work and mobile phones of one of Police Minister and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan's most senior staff members reflects the same fortress mentality.

In different ways, the former National Crime Authority and the former Queensland Criminal Justice Commission also became overly focused on playing politics and lost their way before being restructured into the Australian Crime Commission and the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission respectively. While the current mess in Victoria is not of the Baillieu government's making, its urgent task is to restore public trust in the state's law enforcement agencies, a challenge that must involve major structural as well as senior personnel changes. Structurally, it has long been clear that the OPI is far too close to Victoria Police to provide meaningful, independent oversight. The abuse of telephone and surveillance powers should be better regulated in Victoria and elsewhere, along the lines of Queensland's Public Interest monitor system. Abuses have blunted the effectiveness of such powers, which exist to help with the fight against organised and major crime, not to help paranoid law enforcement officers keep tabs on colleagues.

Rather than sacking Mr Overland, which it had sound reasons to do or opting for a royal commission, the government has opted for Mr Rush's investigation, which will report in November.

If that probe is to help restore public confidence in police, it must deal comprehensively with Mr Overland's role in Operation Briars, for which he has never been held accountable, as well as his conduct in prompting the OPI to spy on his deputy.







MINIMUM wage workers who will pocket an extra $20 a week from July already know exactly where the extra cash will be going: straight back out again to cover the rising costs of basic goods. The $19.40 increase in the minimum wage handed down by Fair Work Australia on Friday is just 0.1 per cent more than inflation, so will go very close to maintaining the status quo. That has not satisfied business, despite Australia's strong economic indicators, nor will it bring much relief to the 20 per cent or so of workers who have low-paid jobs. That is, however, less to do with the wage decision than the broader challenges facing the economy.

The multi-speed tag we now use to qualify Australia's extraordinary long-term national growth trajectory sounds benign enough. But the consequence of a boom in mining and energy coinciding with a squeeze on exports because of a historically high Australian dollar, weak consumer sentiment and the fallout from devastating natural disasters over summer is some very uneven economic terrain. Some of those businesses crying poor due to weak retail sales and a slump in tourism, for example, have cause to do so, especially small businesses which are the most vulnerable to cost pressures. They argue that a higher minimum wage will cost jobs. Yet for low-paid workers there really is no fat left to be trimmed from household budgets, and even modest inflation is biting too hard.

Taking a step back, the long-term trends illustrate both rising inequality and new schisms within society. The gulf between employees with well-paid jobs and the lot of Australia's working poor is every bit as important as that old ideological divide between bosses and workers. Ditto the varied fortunes of different industries and sectors, and the gap between many marginal small businesses and our thriving corporates and extremely profitable resources sector.

In its submission to Fair Work Australia, the Australian Council of Social Service pointed out that wages at the top of the pay scale had grown more than five times faster than those at the bottom since 1975 and income inequality in 2007-08 showed a similar, persistent gap. Yet a recent survey found that Australians value a national identity shaped by equality and a fair go, and consistently underestimate today's wealth gap. In a multi-speed economy, the wage decision does little more than hold the safety net in place. The much bigger question facing Australia is how to manage our good fortune and to turn our national wealth into a more equitable and cohesive future.






THE prominent Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad drove to a television station in Islamabad, the capital, a week ago. But he never arrived. Last Monday, his body was found 160 kilometres away with torture marks and a badly beaten face. He had been due to discuss an article he had written just two days earlier, suggesting that a brazen attack on a Pakistani naval base in Karachi on May 22 was the work of al-Qaeda. The attack, and his article, had embarrassed Pakistan's armed forces and government. But Shahzad's murder is possibly a worse indictment of those authorities' fractious grip on the rule of law.

Pakistan's chief spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has emerged as the prime suspect. The ISI called his death ''unfortunate'' and ''tragic'', and denied any involvement. But other journalists and human rights figures argue it had all the hallmarks of the highly secretive outfit's work. Shahzad had impeccable contacts among al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other Islamic extremist groups, giving a certain authority to his writings for Asia News online and an

Italian news agency. He maintained that the naval base attack was al-Qaeda's retaliation for the American raid a month ago that killed Osama bin Laden, sheltering in Pakistan, and for the Pakistani navy's suppression of servicemen suspected of having al-Qaeda links.

Such reporting only compounded the humiliation and pressure on Pakistan's armed forces chiefs after the American raid and the naval base attack. Shahzad knew the worst might happen. After ISI officials called him to a meeting last October, he told Ali Dayan Hasan, of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, that they had effectively issued a death threat. Through his own contacts, Hasan believed the ISI was holding Shahzad the night before his body was found. ''This is the law of the jungle,'' Hasan told The New York Times. ''Armed actors who can kill you … and one of them is a state body, and that is appalling.''

Pakistan has become the world's most dangerous country for journalists to work, Reporters Without Borders, a non-government organisation, says. Some of the 15 journalists who have died over the past 18 months were caught in suicide bombings and other insurgency attacks. But when, like Shahzad, they are killed for doing their job, it is something beyond appalling.

Its credibility already stretched on several fronts, Pakistan's government must ensure that Shahzad's killers are found. His death is a dark symptom of Pakistan's murky internal divisions. Other Pakistani journalists must not allow his fate to intimidate them from bringing uncomfortable truths to light.






THE six years Australian troops spent in Iraq will always be a reminder of a time that damaged the credibility of Western political leadership. By 2003, then prime minister John Howard had formed an alliance with US president George Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair to embark on a war based on a false premise. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands died because a specious argument for invasion - that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was prepared to use them against the West - gained ready acceptance in the wake of September 11, 2001.

Among the dead were at least three Iraqi civilians who had worked closely with the Australian Defence Force, interpreters who made it possible for soldiers who knew little of the language or the culture of the land they occupied to do their job. As well as bridging the language divide, the interpreters gave our troops insights into the Iraqi people that were invaluable in gaining the trust of locals.

But for the interpreters, life would never be the same. They would be reviled in their own country as collaborators and have terror unleashed on them because of their work. Those who survived saw friends killed and knew their own names were on hit lists. When the Australian troops pulled out, the interpreters too needed to be given safe passage from a country now being ravaged by civil war.

In 2008, the Rudd government recognised its moral obligation to protect the Iraqi workers and issued 557 special resettlement visas for the interpreters and their families, who then fled their homeland in a covert RAAF evacuation. Within months of their arrival, it became clear that life in their new country would not live up to the promises they had been made - they would not find work and the cost of housing, health care and schooling would be prohibitive. This was a far cry from assurances given by their Australian colleagues that they ''would live like kings''.

At the time, Age correspondent Simon Mann reported that the men, who said they were promised jobs, immediate health care and moderately priced housing, felt they had been dumped in Australia with little help and no prospect of work. Three years later the situation for most remains distressing. An extensive investigation by Tim Lester of The Age, using freedom of information legislation to gain previously unseen material - including video of the evacuation from Iraq - reveals a situation of which Australians should be ashamed. Not one of the well-educated, English-speaking interpreters who worked for this country in war-time has gained full-time paid work here; a handful have part-time work in areas that make a mockery of their qualifications. This is despite having references from senior officers, including Defence Force chief Angus Houston.

The reasons for this are complex. There is a suggestion of racism. As one man, an engineer studying for his masters degree, says: ''Employers can't imagine that Iraq was a developed country.'' But it could well come down to benign neglect. The interpreters assumed the defence community would be among their closest allies in Australia. But, aside from ad hoc contact that depends on individuals - such as solid support from the Dandenong RSL for those living nearby- there has been scant assistance from their former friends.

Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy, former chief of the Australian Army, said of the Iraqi interpreters: ''They've helped us; we should help them.'' We should indeed - and we should learn the lesson of our failure to date. The federal government and the Australian Defence Force must institute protocols to ensure that such injustice never happens again. Years after the end of our involvement in Iraq, our forces are still in Afghanistan. It would be reprehensible if in leaving this war, in which 26 young Australian soldiers have died, we also fail the Afghans who have worked with us.





IT HAS taken seven years for Rio Tinto and traditional Aboriginal owners from five native title groups to reach their watershed agreement over mining in the Pilbara region of Western Australia; but seven years is barely a nanosecond across thousands of years of history or into a future that is now potentially richer, fulfilling and more secure for the original settlers of the land.

Under the deal, which will allow about 40 new iron ore mines to proceed in an area of 70,000 square kilometres, the indigenous population of the Pilbara stands to receive an estimated $2 billion over 40 years. But the real long-term effects are beyond price. As The Age reported on Friday, the comprehensive agreement includes indigenous communities as part of the commercial process, while also respecting their heritage. Consequently, this will provide education and job opportunities (Aboriginal workers from the Pilbara will comprise 14 per cent of Rio's workforce in the region), access to supply contracts and a thorough set of mining exclusion zones to protect significant sites. As well, about one-third of revenue will be held in trust for future generations.

Last week, Rio Tinto's chief executive, Sam Walsh, described the deal as being ''good for the Aboriginal community. It's good for our business. It also happens to be the right thing to do.'' This fulfils Rio's advocacy of more than 15 years to improve the treatment of traditional owners by mining companies. Even as recently as five years ago, a project between Rio and the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research found the financial status of indigenous populations in the Pilbara little changed over four decades of industrial development. This was due to lack of economic opportunities and little or no sense of moral responsibility on the part of some mining companies. The crucial conclusion of the study was all to do with ''cautious recognition'' by industry ''that … might require companies to be the catalyst for sustaining regional development in the absence of any other commercial opportunity''.

Rio Tinto, as its chief executive rightly says, is setting a new standard across Australia. In other words, the corporate giant has set a precedent that other companies should and must follow. In going beyond a sense of begrudging token recognition, based on what one of the Pilbara claim groups calls ''best endeavours'', this deal places the onus for success on Rio Tinto and traditional owners. This is a true partnership in which all concerned have a stake and can reap the dividends.







Donations will have to scale entirely new heights if the phrase big society is to avoid acquiring the ring of a cold joke

A Conservative council, with a history of cleansing the poor from its housing, is currently attempting to criminalise the good souls who distribute soup to the destitute. For the moment, Westminster's draft bylaws are a minor embarrassment for David Cameron, but the way things are going they could become an emblem for the fate of his avowed wish to create a kinder, gentler country amid hard times.

The prime minister remains genuinely convinced he is on to something with his "big society", or else he would hardly have attempted something which no political adviser would ever recommend – a third relaunch. In a speech a fortnight ago, the prime minister acknowledged that Joe Public now doubts the coalition is about anything except cuts. But undeterred by the simultaneous announcement that big society tsar Nat Wei was abdicating, Mr Cameron replayed all his soothing records about how the giving impulse makes communities come alive. He offered one or two prosaic thoughts, such as broadening the narrow basis of Whitehall's cost-benefit analysis, which may eventually win philanthropic efforts a little more recognition. For the most part, the speech was a reminder that warm words about the space between the state and the citizen plays better in opposition. Like the young Tony Blair before him, Mr Cameron made great play of the indubitable importance of civic society before coming to office. Unlike Mr Blair, however, he has not grasped that after the people propel someone to power, they are more interested in what that person says about the things they can influence than about the things they cannot.

One by one, the big ideas which it was promised would involve charities in the state's work are coming unstuck. The health service reforms are in pieces, most welfare-to-work contracts have been gobbled by businesses not charities, and now the mooted new right for outsiders to run any public services is being held back by Lib Dems who fear it amounts to a general duty to privatise. The immediate future of the little platoons who, in the Burkean buzz-phrase, comprise the big society, depends not on picking up public sector work, but on inspiring new generosity to make up for the sudden drying up of billions in statutory grants.

As we report today, the auguries are not good. The disappearance of a net 1,600 charities over the last year is one indictor of strain. Some amalgamations make things more efficient, others merely balance the books at the cost of a distinctive focus – witness the recent forced marriage of Fairbridge, a superlative youth charity once hailed by Mr Cameron himself. Such are the pay cuts and shake-outs in some platoons, that by the time happier days return there may not be enough professional troops left to rally voluntary help.

Donations have picked up from the nadir of the crash, but they have not returned to the previous peak. They will have to scale entirely new heights if the phrase big society is to avoid acquiring the ring of a cold joke. Anything is worth trying, including the derided Whitehall proposal to invite benevolence at the cash point, but the most authoritative study of the last 30 years of British giving suggests such innovations tend to shuffle donations around, as opposed to increasing their overall level. The one idea in the giving white paper which charities have really latched on to is inheritance tax breaks for generous bequests. Persuading Britain's tight-wadded wealthy to redeem themselves in death is a noble ambition, but the more established plutocratic magnanimity of America is better at achieving immortality through bricks and mortar than reliably addressing social needs.

Worse, by draining tax revenues, the scheme could hasten the shredding of the welfare safety net, and so increase the call on charities. One more of the many paradoxes involved in building a bigger society with shrinking budgets.





Through lots of microstudies, they make a subtle case for one big argument: aid really can help poor people

Since the banking crisis broke, the different schools of economic thought have gained much exposure. You've heard of the Keynesians, the monetarists, the behaviouralists. Well, now meet the randomistas. The nickname given to the work done by MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo refers to their use of randomised control trials, familiar to whitecoats working in science labs but not so common among crumpled development analysts in, say, West Bengal. Yet Banerjee and Duflo put the random trial to excellent use to find out what works. Want poor families in north India to immunise their children? Offer the parents a small bag of lentils as an incentive and vaccination rates make a startling jump, from around 5% to almost 40%. Or take the question of whether poor Africans really value mosquito nets they are given free. Much debated within university faculties, it took a randomista to go out to west Kenya and find the answer (an emphatic yes). Duflo and Banerjee tell these stories in a lovely new book called Poor Economics. As they admit, randomistas cannot answer some big questions – how to tackle food prices, for instance. But through lots of microstudies, they make a subtle case for one big argument: aid really can help poor people, provided the money follows the evidence. The economists back home lining up to warn George Osborne his plan isn't working must wish there was some simple experiment to settle the manner, without making guinea pigs of us all.






Ed Miliband needs to recapture the support which Tony Blair once mustered across the deep blue south

There's a long time to go before the SNP's promised referendum on independence, but Alex Salmond aims to use it to exploit the momentum the party has gained from its overwhelming success in the May elections. His latest London-based target is the UK supreme court, which two weeks ago ruled that a Scottish conviction should be overturned on human rights grounds. That, the Nationalists say, fails to honour their nation's established right to conduct its own legal system.

Scotland's determination to march to its own music is the most spectacular sign of the diminishing political unity of the United Kingdom. But it's not alone. Fifty years ago, the Conservatives could be sure of nearly 50% of the vote in Scotland; in the 2010 election, they took 17%, and only one seat. But 50 years ago, too, the party held four of Manchester's nine parliamentary seats, and six of Liverpool's nine. They have not now won in Manchester since 1983, or in Liverpool since 1979. In the local elections in May, they failed to win even one seat in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. Had they not through the Thatcher years forfeited the allegiance of great cities they might not be needing coalition partners today.

Yet these elections were ominous for Labour too. A month ago, Ed Miliband rode in triumph to Gravesham, Kent, to celebrate its capture from the Conservatives. "North, south, east and west," he enthused, "Labour is making gains and coming back." Not so. Of the 27 councils Labour gained, only one apart from Gravesham was in the south. Of 61 councils where Labour failed to take even one seat, almost eight in 10 were southern. As the geographer Danny Dorling demonstrates in his book So You Think You Know About Britain?, in 2010, political polarisation, north versus south, urban versus rural, reached its highest point since 1918. Nor is it hard to see why. As Dorling also shows, British society, as measured by a wealth of indicators from life expectancy to housing provision, is built on inequality. The least favoured places, by no means all in the north, have done worst in recession; but they also gained least from Labour's years of prosperity.

There's a hard choice here for Mr Miliband. He needs to recapture the support which Tony Blair once mustered across the deep blue south. But to do so implies a top priority for what New Labour used to talk of as "southern comfort" – at great possible cost to harder pressed places across the rest of the land. For David Cameron to win back Liverpool Walton, for Ed Miliband to recapture Wimbledon – such epic feats look well beyond their present capacities. We may have rejected AV, but the chance of returning to clear cut national outcomes looks remote.






The Kan Cabinet on May 20 endorsed a policy of Japan joining the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets procedures for settling cross-border child custody disputes.

The administration hopes to submit related bills and a request for approval of Japan's joining the convention to the Diet by the end of 2011. If Japan joins the convention, it will not be applied retroactively.

A total of 84 countries, mainly in the Americas and Europe, are parties to the convention, which went into effect in 1983. Among the Group of Eight industrialized countries, Japan and Russia have not joined the convention. The United States and European countries have urged Japan to join, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced Japan's decision during a G8 summit held in Deauville, France, on May 26-27.

The convention is typically applied to cases in which a divorced parent removes his or her child under the age of 16 from his or her country of habitual residence and the left-behind parent requests the child's return, alleging that he or she has been wrongfully removed.

Under the convention, the left-behind parent makes the request through his or her country's "central authority" to the central authority of the abductor parent's country.

The central authority of the abductor parent's country has a legal obligation to locate the child and take all appropriate measures to obtain the voluntary return of the child. The primary aim of the convention is to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed from their country of habitual residence.

Exceptions to this rule include when there is a preponderance of evidence that the left-behind parent had consented to the removal of the child; when there is a preponderance of evidence that the left-behind parent was not exercising custodial rights at the time of removal; or when there is a grave risk that the child's return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.

A court in the abductor parent's country decides whether the child should be returned if the two parents fail to agree on a voluntary return of the child.

Once it is decided where the child will live, there is another round of court proceedings in that country to determine who has parental authority. As countries have differing systems for determining this, resolution of the issues can be difficult.

Roughly 1,300 requests for the return of children are filed worldwide annually.

According to data released in 2010 by the Netherlands-based convention secretariat, children were returned voluntarily without the involvement of courts in 45 percent of the cases; children were returned on the basis of court orders in 30 percent of the cases; and courts rejected requests for the return of children in 20 percent of the cases.

Referring to the Kan administration's decision to join the convention, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, "It is desirable for our country to be consistent with international standards."

Because the number of international divorces involving Japanese nationals is on the rise, the decision that Japan should join the same legal framework as other countries is understandable.

According to the health and welfare ministry's population dynamics survey, there were some 4,100 international marriages involving Japanese nationals in 1965. This number topped 10,000 in 1983 and reached a peak of 44,701 in 2006. After that, it started to fall, dropping to 34,393 in 2009.

The number of international divorces involving Japanese nationals topped 10,000 in 1998. It leveled off at around 15,000 from 2002 to 2005, but climbed to 19,404 in 2009.

Many Japanese mothers allege that they had no alternative but to take their children and return to Japan in order to escape domestic violence.

Such allegations have made the Japanese government hesitate to join the convention, but as long as Japan is not a party to the convention, it cannot legally settle these cases or pursue cases in which non-Japanese parents have removed their children from their Japanese homes and left the country.

In working out related domestic bills, the general principle for the government and the Diet should be to give priority to protecting the well-being of the children involved.

Under the outline of the domestic bills, the Foreign Ministry would serve as the central authority for locating children who have been removed wrongfully by one parent and for working toward their voluntary return.

Parents who have removed their children from foreign countries would be able to refuse to return the children if they could prove that they or their children were subjected to domestic violence, or that they faced criminal prosecution in the country where they formerly resided.

Some Japanese parents harbor concerns about Japan joining the convention. They may be worried about the possibility of being separated from their children or about how to establish that they are victims of domestic violence in the event that they have to go to court. The government should consider how to help parents who may become involved in child-custody disputes.

As Mr. Kenji Utsunomiya, head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, said, the government should enumerate possible issues and have experts fully discuss them from the viewpoint of protecting the well-being and interests of children. It also should provide necessary information and support to Japanese parents living abroad.






HONG KONG — U.S. politicians are in the thick of a debate that is fascinating, urgent, passionate, stubborn and potentially highly dangerous both for the American economy and for the country's political reputation and standing in the world.

It is a tragic measure of the purblind failure of leaders of both parties — I am tempted to say all parties because there are so many squabbling factions — that they are playing a game of chicken just when there are so many doubts about the recovery and whether the U.S. can any longer be trusted as a global leader.

The argument is over whether to raise the $14.3 trillion ceiling on U.S. federal debt, a level that was reached May 16. Unless and until Congress raises the ceiling it means that the U.S. government cannot borrow any more money. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said that he can juggle with the accounts until Aug. 2, the outside limit.

It should be a simple matter, since after all Congress has raised the debt ceiling 10 times since 2001. Surely, no one really believes that the Congress would expose the country to the awful unthinkable consequences of not raising the ceiling — do they? But Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty suggested that the consequences might not be as dire as the White House claims.

President Barack Obama has said that failure to raise the ceiling would send the world spinning back into recession. "Catastrophic" is the expression favored by Geithner and Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

If Aug. 3 arrives without the ceiling having been raised, the U.S. would not be able to pay its military and would stop paying interest to owners of government bonds, and that would trigger disaster: Credit markets would seize up, stock markets would plunge, interest rates would soar, and the talk would probably not be of recession but depression. The U.S. would hasten its own decline, since who would trust Washington, U.S. debt, the dollar?

Even now it is a dangerous game. How close do the politicians want to go to the cliff edge to see whether investors might be tempted to stop buying U.S. debt in spite of its liquidity because they can't trust the competence of Washington?

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, sometimes known as the Arab Warren Buffett because of his massive investments, warned last month on CNBC that the U.S. was not giving "much care and attention to this time bomb that you have right now here."

Republicans in Congress are holding up any deal because they want to get agreement to cut trillions of dollars from government spending over the next 10 years, part of a concerted effort led by rightist "tea party" members, who view spending cuts as the ready-made answer to America's prayers. They are not prepared to see compensating tax rises.

Some of them, led by the darling poster boy of the right, Rep. Paul Ryan, have proposed savage cuts to Medicare, the government health care program for Americans aged 65 and above.

All this is coming at a dangerous time for the U.S. economy. The recovery has been described as both jobless, because unemployment is still 9 percent, and a "McJobs recovery" because the jobs that are on offer are low-paid ones.

Indeed, on April 19, McDonald's burger chain hired 62,000 new workers nationwide — more jobs created in a single day than the net job creation of the U.S. in 2009. But a million people applied for those jobs, which pay about 55 percent of the U.S. average national wage.

Some economists see the U.S. entering a period of what Tyler Cowen describes as "the Great Stagnation" because the great productivity gains from 20th-century innovations are rarer now. Others hold out great hopes of renewed rapid growth from the Internet and the digital revolution.

But in Washington, both in Congress and in the myriad think tanks that have sprung up to support rival political ideologies, there is no meeting of minds.

The Heritage Foundation tried to underpin Ryan's savage budget proposals — to cut spending by $6.2 trillion, reduce the deficit by $4.4 trillion over the next decade while reducing the top rate of income tax from 35 to 25 percent — by claiming that it would lead to a housing boom overnight, a huge spurt in growth, and an unemployment rate of only 2.8 percent by 2021. In the face of ridicule from economists, Heritage backtracked on the unemployment figure.

David Rosenberg, chief economist at the Canadian wealth management concern Gluskin Sheff, and one of the most thoughtful and levelheaded economists, last month warned that the United States "may get into quicksand if it does not get its fiscal act together soon."

He cited the experience of Canada in the 1990s and advocated a mixture of tax rises — which the U.S. Republicans refuse to countenance — and spending cuts — which the American Democrats have begun reluctantly to accept — as the correct recipe. But Rosenberg warned it would be painful.

In 1993, Canada had a deficit-to-GDP ratio of 5.6 percent, better than the U.S. today, and federal debt to GDP of almost 70 percent, about the same as the U.S. today. Canada had the political will, Rosenberg noted: "Taxes were raised, spending was cut, government operations privatized, social contracts rewritten, and what at one point would have been deemed 'untouchables' (like means testing and clawbacks for social security) were not just touched, but squeezed."

For the U.S. too, "The process will be contractionary, deflationary and very bullish for the bond market as supply recedes, and will ultimately pave the way for more sustainable economic growth, including the return of capitalism."

Today, Canada's debts to GDP are 34 percent, the envy of the developed world, the deficit has swung into surplus, and Canadian assets are in high demand. It is tough, but it is tougher still if politicians are not talking to each other and playing with neo-voodoo economics.

Kevin Rafferty is editor in chief of PlainWords Media, a consortium of journalists interested in issues of economic development.







LONDON — With strategic realities in South Asia radically shifting in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's death, India's prime minister lost no time in reaching out to Afghanistan during a recent two-day visit to Kabul, where he announced a fresh commitment of $500 million toward Afghanistan's development — above India's assistance so far of around $1.5 billion.

New Delhi and Kabul agreed that the "strategic partnership" between the two neighbors, to be implemented under the framework of a partnership council headed by the foreign ministers of the two nations, will entail cooperation in areas of security, law enforcement and justice, including an enhanced focus on cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, organized crime, illegal trafficking in narcotics, and money- laundering.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, given the rare honor, addressed a joint session of the Afghan Parliament, underscoring Indo-Afghan unity in fighting extremism.

Though Singh initially was scheduled to visit Kabul earlier, the United States managed to persuade the Indian government to postpone the visit. The reasons for this request became clear only later, but it presented New Delhi with a new opportunity to focus the attention of the international community on its predicament in the region. New Delhi's review of its regional foreign policy couldn't have come at a more urgent time.

The Congress Party-led UPA government has largely left the management of its neighbors to the United States. A case in point was India's decision not to take any serious action against Pakistan in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, which killed 166 people. Instead, New Delhi continued to put pressure on Islamabad via American leverage to bring the masterminds of those terror strikes to justice.

For some time now, it has been clear that this strategy has not really worked. Last year's 60-nation conference in London, which advocated talks with the Taliban, jolted India, forcing a major rethink of its Af-Pak policy.

As India viewed with alarm its rapidly shrinking strategic space for diplomatic maneuvering, the first step was to restart talks with Pakistan, including back-channel negotiations with the Pakistani military.

While these attempts may fail to produce anything concrete in the near future, the hope is that they will stave off pressure from the U.S. to engage Islamabad. Therefore, even though negotiations with Pakistan remain hugely unpopular at home, the Indian government has decided to proceed. India hopes that by doing so it will be viewed as a more productive player in the West's efforts at stabilizing Afghanistan.

Just as importantly, India is reconsidering the terms of its involvement in Afghanistan. Until now, India has relied on its "soft power" in wooing Kabul. It is one of the largest aid donors to Afghanistan and is delivering humanitarian assistance as well as helping the nation build in myriad ways. India is building roads, providing medical facilities, helping with educational programs to develop and enhance long-term local Afghan capabilities.

Pakistan's paranoia about the Indian presence in Afghanistan has led the West to underplay India's largely beneficial role in the country, even as Pakistan's every claim about Indian intentions is taken at face value.

The Taliban militants who blew up the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 and tried again in 2009 have sent a strong signal that India is part of the evolving security dynamic in Afghanistan despite its reluctance to take on a more active role in the military operations.

After targeting personnel involved in developmental projects and emboldened by India's nonresponse, these terrorists have trained their guns directly at the Indian state. Moreover, as India's isolation at the London conference on Afghanistan affirmed, India's role in Afghanistan to date has not been fully appreciated, even by the West.

When Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna underscored the folly of making a distinction "between a good Taliban and a bad Taliban" last year, he appeared completely out of sync with the larger mood at the conference: The West has made up its mind that it is not a question of "if" but "when and how" to exit Afghanistan, which, for the leaders in Washington and London, is rapidly becoming a quagmire.

For some time now, much to New Delhi's discomfiture, senior American military commanders have been suggesting that peace talks with the Taliban might be imminent and that some Taliban might even be invited to be part of the government in Kabul.

So when it was decided in London that the time had come to woo the "moderate" section of the Taliban to share power in Kabul, it was a signal to India that Pakistan seemed to have convinced the West that it could play the role of mediator in negotiations with the Taliban, thereby underlining its centrality in the unfolding strategic dynamic in the region.

By pursuing a strategy that will give Pakistan the leading role in the state structures of Afghanistan, the West, however, is only sowing the seeds for future regional turmoil.

It would be catastrophic for Indian security if Taliban remnants were to come to power with the backing of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and military.

To preserve its interests in such a strategic milieu, India is therefore stepping up the training of Afghan forces, coordinating with states like Russia and Iran, and reaching out to all sections of the Afghan society.

More problematic for the West are the growing calls in India for taking a more militarily active role in Afghanistan, if only to support its developmental activities.

The U.S. has actively discouraged India from assuming a higher profile in Afghanistan for fear of offending Pakistan. At the same time, it has failed to get Pakistan to take Indian concerns more seriously. This has led to a rapid deterioration in the Indian security environment, with New Delhi having little or no strategic space to maneuver.

It is not surprising, therefore, that India is being forced to reassess its priorities vis-à-vis Afghanistan-Pakistan.

India will be forced to take a far more aggressive and leading role in foreign policy in its neighborhood, especially when it comes to Af-Pak.

Instead of ignoring Delhi, the West would be better served if it ceases to pander to Pakistan for short-term gains. Neglecting to support the only secular liberal democracy in the region will embolden radical Islamists in the long term. And that's no way to enhance regional security.

The Indian prime minister's visit to Kabul is a signal to the world that India remains a major player amid the evolving ground realities in Af-Pak.

Harsh V. Pant teaches at King's College London.







GAZA — "Do you remember Mahmoud?" asked Abu Nidal, my neighbor from nearly 20 years ago, when I lived in Gaza.

"Yes, of course, I do."

I remembered him as yet another troublemaking child among the Nuseirat Refugee Camp's numerous rabble-rousers. He was defined by a stream of snot that never seemed to dry.

Although loud at times, he had always been helpful and pleasant. But now, unlike so many others who emerged from the camp's rusty doors and narrow alleyways to greet me after my long absence, Mahmoud was nowhere to be seen.

"He is in heaven now," said Abu Nidal. His voice, which had been so cheerful about my arrival, suddenly became muffled. The years of hurt over the loss of his son had culminated into one moment. He paused and wiped tears.

A poster on the wall showed the face of a handsome, bearded man. He had been killed during an Israeli army raid into Gaza a few years ago. The poster dubbed him, "The Great Martyr Mahmoud Fa'iq al-Hajj."

I placed my right hand on Abu Nidal's shoulder and said, as is customary in these situations, "We are all your children."

Abu Nidal nodded gratefully, and the neighbors began recalling the names of other Martyrs. Soon, we began to read al-Fatiha, asking God to bless the souls of all those who had perished in Gaza.

It has been many years since I last stood here, in the Red Square. Named after the many people who were killed at the hands of Israeli soldiers during the First Uprising of 1987, the once-open area has shrunk, like many other spaces in and around the refugee camp.

The population of the Gaza Strip has grown significantly, as has poverty. Surrounded and besieged by Israel, 1.6 million people living in 360 square kilometers are now exploiting every inch of this tiny and continually shrinking space. Still, Gaza persists.

I began my journey in Nuseirat at my old aunt's house. She gazed at me in disbelief and cried intermittently throughout my visit. "Oh Allah, George is back," she repeated, referring to me by my old name. When it was time to go she chased after me down the street for a last kiss, a hug and shed more tears.

The Martyrs Graveyard is now full to capacity. Desperately lacking space, some people had to resort to burying their loved ones on top of others, until the practice was stopped by the government.

My father was buried in an area called Zawydeh. In 2008, I was told he was buried in a "small graveyard," which encouraged me to attempt to find the grave on my own. The graveyard is no longer small and I spent over an hour trying to locate it.

In the process, I learned that some of my friends and relatives have also died, including my geography teacher, my Arabic and religion teacher, the kindly man with one eye who sold the strangest mix of items on a donkey cart, and a 13-year-old girl by the name of Fida, meaning "sacrifice."

I found my father's grave at last. My dad, Mohammed. The wonderful, loving, resourceful, angry, thundering and warm man. He never imagined he would one day be buried in Gaza. He wanted to go home to Beit Daras, his long-destroyed village in Palestine. "I will see you soon, son," he had told me many years ago, when I last saw him. I now wrote him a note, and buried it in the Gaza earth by his headstone.

"O peaceful and fully satisfied soul, return to your Lord ... ," read a verse of the Quran atop the white grave.

My mother Zarefah's grave was in a different graveyard. It appeared much older than I remembered it. It lay close to my grandparents, and my 2-year-old brother Anwar's tiny grave.

My old house, which once stood relatively tall amid the other impoverished homes in my neighborhood, is now almost hidden from view. Its white walls have been dirtied by years and neglect.

Abu Abdullah, the new owner, welcomed me in. A large man with a humble demeanor and a friendly but cheerless face, he walked me through the house. While very little had changed after all these years, the "basketball rim" my brothers and I concocted from rubber hose and fastened high on the wall was gone. I could almost hear my mother yelling as her five boys ran wild in the small space.

"May Allah help me cope with all of this," she would bellow, as she tried frantically to fix whatever we ruthlessly ruined. I didn't check to see if the bullet holes left by the rampages of Israeli troops remained where I last saw them.

While I had dreamed of seeing this place again for so many years, it was now just too much to bear. I left hurriedly, despite Abu Abdullah's repeated pleas to stay longer.

My English teacher, Mohammed Nofal, remained as I had left him, funny and hospitable. A few of my friends have been killed, but many others have remained steadfast, building, repairing, educating and surviving. The astonishing level of determination that has always defined Gaza is much stronger than I remember it. No one seeks pity in this place.

"There was a large building here," I remarked inquisitively to a cousin at one point in my journey.

He replied casually. "It was destroyed in the latest war, but the people crushed the rubble, processed it into concrete and the building now stands on the other side of the street." In Gaza, few discuss what has been destroyed; many speak of rebuilding.

As I waited for a taxi to take me to the town of Khan Younis, I spotted the Akel falafel stand. Here we had once spent my dad's loose change on falafel sandwiches and Barrad-flavored crushed yellow ice.

I held onto my plastic cup of Barrad all the way to Khan Younis in the south of Gaza, taking careful, slow sips. It tasted exactly as I remembered it from when I was 6 years old. Since then, nothing in the world has tasted better.

"Now the Egypt border will be open for good, you should come back to Nuseirat for more Barrad," said a friend.

"Inshallah (God willing)," I said. "Inshallah."

Ramzy Baroud (www. is an internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on







WASHINTGTON — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has now made the mistake that all Iranian presidents make: He has challenged the authority of the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He is doomed to fail.

The challenge posed by Ahmadinejad is such a predictable part of Iranian politics that it has come to be known as "the president's symptom." It emerges from a president's confidence that, as a popularly elected leader, he should not be constrained by the Supreme Leader's oversight. But the Islamic Republic's history is littered with its presidents' failed attempts to consolidate an independent power center.

Ultimately, divine authority trumps political authority.

This dual authority is embedded in the Islamic Republic's constitution, and inevitably tilts toward the divine, particularly in a president's second term. Ahmadinejad is not an exception to this rule. In fact, because he has pushed harder than his predecessors, his star is falling faster. Moreover, the controversial presidential election of June 2009, and the political crisis that ensued, irreparably damaged Ahmadinejad's democratic legitimacy.

Khamenei was forced to use his authority to support the president, and has since repeatedly condemned the "Green Movement" that opposed Ahmadinejad's re-election. As a result, Ahmadinejad has been the most costly president for Khamenei to date, because he forced the Supreme Leader to deplete his power in the face of a common enemy — a move that called into question his own judgment and tarnished his reputation.

Ahmadinejad himself, however, has generally ignored the postelection crisis in his public statements, and evidently believed that Khamenei's postelection support meant that the Supreme Leader would remain passive in the face of encroachments on his traditional powers and prerogatives.

Indeed, for the last two years, Ahmadinejad has repeatedly undermined Parliament, and abruptly dismissed ministers tied to Khamenei, like Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi.

Since becoming Supreme Leader 22 years ago, Khamenei has been relatively weak, but has adapted by seeking to encourage weakness in the Islamic Republic's other high offices. He has supported factionalization in the government, and, when necessary, has weakened factions that he previously supported.

Most important, Khamenei has ensured that Iran's presidents remain weak, regardless of their agenda or popularity.

So, now that the threat posed by the Green Movement has diminished — at least in Khamenei's eyes — the time has come to call Ahmadinejad to account. Both men are hard at work preparing for the March 2012 parliamentary election, as well as the 2013 presidential election, and Khamenei has taken off the gloves.

Khamenei has given official propagandists the green light to attack Ahmadinejad and his cronies explicitly, portraying them as people who do not believe in the principle of the guardianship of the Shiite jurist, the key concept bequeathed by the Islamic Republic's founder, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In the official view, Ahmadinejad and his circle lack rationality and wisdom; indeed, they are said to be in the grip of superstition. There are even rumors that some of them have resorted to witchcraft to summon spirits from beyond the grave, and that Ahmadinejad has had direct contact with the hidden Imam (the Shiite messiah).

Likewise, the judiciary, under Khamenei's control, has accused the vice president, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, of leading an economic mafia, and many of Ahmadinejad's allies have been arrested or are under investigation.

It is likely that the Guardian Council, which can veto legislation and bar candidates from standing in elections, will use its power to shift the balance in favor of Ahmadinejad's conservative critics. The anti-Ahmadinejad camp's leaders, the brothers Ali and Sadeq Larijani, who head Parliament and the judiciary, respectively, will help Khamenei to push the president from the center of power.

But since Khamenei cannot accept a single, united political faction, it is extremely unlikely that he will let the Larijani camp (which includes Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati) become powerful enough to win the next presidential election.

Khamenei will likely create a new faction to compete with traditional conservatives after Ahmadinejad's decline. This might force him to pick a new face for the next presidential election, someone with little domestic-policy experience and little influence on ordinary people's lives.

One possible candidate is Said Jalili, Iran's current nuclear negotiator, or someone like him. Only those with a strong background in intelligence or the Revolutionary Guards, and a low profile in domestic politics, need apply.

Having full control over the judiciary, the intelligence apparatus, and the military makes Khamenei seem invincible against all political factions or elected officials. This will lead the regime down an increasingly autocratic path, applying more aggression at home and defying the West with greater self-confidence.

But the concentration of power in the Supreme Leader's hands poses risks for the Islamic Republic. When Khamenei dies, there is no strong and obvious successor. And since he has systematically weakened Iran's political institutions so that the Islamic Republic itself has come to be identified with his person, his absence will create a vacuum.

Khamenei's strength today foreshadows greater uncertainty in Iran's future.

Mehdi Khalaji is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute. © 2011 Project Syndicate








It appears rather strange that at a time when Indonesia is poised to become a regional leader in Asia and a global economic player through its membership of the prestigious Group of 20 major economies (G20) the country has been grappling with a mounting wave of nationalistic concern over the stronger foreign dominance of its economy.

So strong has been the nationalistic sentiment that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono felt it necessary to assert on Wednesday that the government was now reviewing foreign investment contracts and mining concessions seen as unfair and even harmful to Indonesian national interests.

Yudhoyono said that if any of these contracts were evaluated as completely unfair or having been made in a bad faith to Indonesian interests, there should be room for renegotiation for contractual amendments without breaching the sanctity of contracts.

The remarks, made by the President at the State Palace after receiving the annual audit report on the government's performance from the Supreme Audit Agency, could convey a confusing policy signal to foreign investors.

We reckon the role of foreign investors in this country has resurfaced as a hot topic of public debate after Indonesia's largest newspaper, Kompas, in the last week of May headlined for several consecutive days stories on the increasing dominance of foreign investors in the economy, notably in mining, oil palm plantations and banking.

Kompas reported that foreigners controlled more than half of the banking industry in terms of assets, 75 percent of the oil and gas mining industry and around half of the estimated 9.5 million hectares of palm oil estates.

But since the articles neglected to provide thorough background information and circumstantial factors that have accompanied the seemingly astronomical expansion of foreign investment, they could unintentionally whip up inordinately negative sentiment toward foreign investment and trigger a public outcry against the government for being "too liberal" in regard to foreign investors.

To our knowledge, the expanding role of foreign investors in several sectors of our economy has simply followed the opportunities provided by our laws.

Take, for example, the hydrocarbon industry. Since the petroleum sector is highly risky and requires huge investment and sophisticated, high technology, not many national companies are financially and technically capable of operating in this area. Moreover, virtually none of the national banks is willing to lend to such highly risky business.

Look how in the second half of last year the government auctioned through competitive bidding 17 new oil and gas blocks. But only three of them were taken up by oil contractors and all of them were foreign oil companies.

The rapidly expanding role of foreign banks and foreign investors in the banking industry was the result of our banking crisis in 1997-1998 when the government nationalized all major private banks and recapitalized all state banks. But when the government resold the nationalized banks, most of the winners in the competitive bidding were foreign investors or foreign banks.

Likewise, the massive increase in foreign ownership of oil palm estates took place in 2002 when Malaysian companies won, through competitive bids, hundreds of thousands hectares of plantations that the government auctioned as distressed assets taken over from the Salim business group as part of its debt payment to the government.

The government should tread the policy tightrope very carefully in balancing the interests of foreign investors and nationalistic business groups averse to foreigners expanding their role in various industries.

Investment or mining contracts, unless they breach the laws, can be changed only through amendments of the laws, and even these changes should allow for an adequate transition period.






Quo vadis is a Latin phrase meaning "Where are you going?" This question, according to Christian tradition, was put to Saint Peter by Jesus as Peter was fleeing from crucifixion in Rome. Jesus answered: "I am going to Rome to be crucified again", which prompted Saint Peter to continue his ministry and return to Rome, where later on he was crucified as a martyr.

This phrase can be used to question the status of law enforcement in Indonesia's reform era. With each passing day, law enforcement here becomes more and more vague.

Law enforcement does not have clear direction, let alone has it achieved the aspirations of a constitutional state.

We can see plainly that court decisions that have become final and binding can still be questioned and contested by various means and for various reasons, by parties in the case, especially those who cannot accept defeat, and by lawyers as legal counselors of the losing parties, in both civil and criminal cases.

As a result, all legal actions by justice seekers are meaningless because they do not lead to legal certainty.

In fact, legal certainty is an important element of a constitutional state, which is guaranteed in the 1945 Constitution.

We see how the baby milk case ended up with a final Supreme Court verdict whose execution was rejected because it violated ethics.

In fact, the decision is correct in order to protect our babies and children as the next generation who need to be saved from drinking baby milk that is not free from prohibited substances.

Without the announcement of the brands that do not meet health and safety standards, the public, especially mothers, cannot distinguish between brands that are categorized as healthy and safe and those that are not.

The producers' and the losing party's decision to reject the execution of the verdict should not have happened because it violates the principle of a constitutional state which guarantees legal certainty.

In another case, that of Trisakti University, which has been going on for more than 10 years, execution cannot be done because it is opposed by the losing party which considers the decision unenforceable because supposedly, the decision is general when in fact there has been a final and binding decision.

Once again this shows the true color of law enforcement in the reform era, where it is difficult to say that law supremacy does exist.

The losing party and their legal counselors should face reality and not try to oppose the Supreme Court decision that has become final and binding, in order to respect the law and the judiciary.

Lawyers have to educate the public and their clients. Justice delayed is justice denied.

People cannot go through continuous proceedings without end where there is no legal certainty. Whether we like it or not, a final decision is a consequence of a court proceeding.

If they had not wanted to go through a court proceeding, they should have chosen negotiation, mediation and amicable settlement, i.e., a win-win solution. A court proceeding means we must be prepared to face a defeat or a victory.

Another controversial case is the Sisminbakum (the online administration system at the Law and Human Rights Ministry), which has from the start created had its supporters and detractors.

Whether or not this case falls within the domain of the Corruption Law is still being debated by
the public.

Whether law enforcers (the Attorney General's Office) will continue or stop the case has also become a prolonged polemic up to this moment.

Whether it is fairer if it is continued or stopped should be reviewed further. In criminal law, there is an adage: "It is better to acquit a thousand guilty persons than send one innocent person to prison". Because of this, law enforcers must be careful not to punish an innocent man.

Obviously, anticorruption activists want the Sisminbakum case to be continued, but law enforcers and legal experts may have different opinion.

Certainly the Sisminbakum case befalling former director general for legal administration at the ministry, Romli Atmasasmita, has become final and binding and he has been acquitted of all accusations.

This can no longer be disputed because a court decision that has become final and binding must be respected and enforced for the sake of legal certainty.

The Indonesian Criminal Law Procedure Code (KUHAP) and the criminal justice system has stipulated that a "Motion to Reconsider" is a convicted person's right, and not the law enforcer and prosecutor's right.

The right of the convicted person is based on the spirit to protect human rights.

The rights of an individual or a suspect/defendant/convicted person, who is engaged in a legal case, must be protected.

Thus, the convicted person, and not the state, i.e., the prosecutor, is given a chance and the ultimate right to file a motion to reconsider.

Some precedents where prosecutors filed a motion to reconsider for criminal cases that are final and binding are not justifiable in the case of Romli Atmasasmita.

Such mistake should not be repeated to justify the motion to reconsider by the prosecutors, because it will violate the purpose and objective of the formulation and legislation of the KUHAP.

The KUHAP was established as the basis to protect the rights of individuals, and not the state.

Although the state, i.e., law enforcers are given the authority to arrest, detain and punish a person (the perpetrator of a criminal act), such authority must be performed carefully and based on evidence and according to due process of law.

Moreover, a motion to reconsider is an extraordinary legal remedy that should not be given to just any convicted person. The requirements are water tight and it is not the 4th level of court.

Finally, in law enforcement, after all legal remedies, legal process and due process of law have been performed, the end result, either a victory or a defeat, must be accepted gracefully and there should not be any action outside the existing legal process.

In addition, the time, effort and money spent and the agony experienced by justice seekers must come to an end.

We should respect and comply with the law and court decisions that are final and binding if we want to achieve the noble aspiration of a constitutional state.

The writer is chairman of Peradin (Indonesian Advocates Association).






Nature gives life two essences: randomness and relativity. Randomness makes all events that will occur seem only expected. Relativity has two meanings: (1) nothing is absolute in this world, everything has a time limit, what goes up must come down, including authoritarian regimes and (2) differences are destiny. Therefore, more or less like winning and losing, success and failure or even rich and poor are facts of life.

Theories that cover either one or both of these essences are hard to be denied, such as the theory of relativity by Einstein. As for social sciences, take the examples of two interesting books written by Nassim Taleb titled Fooled by Randomness and the Black Swan, which discuss about randomness and relativity in human's life.

The economic system is also subjected to the natural laws of random chance and relative. Economists have realized this since the early birth of economics.

Adam Smith, father of classical economics, wrote that the economy is governed by "an invisible hand" and not by humans.

Even before Smith's era, philosophers like Francis Quesnay argued that the economy is ruled by nature and Sir William Petty wrote that the economic mechanism is similar to blood circulation and gravity which are absolutely beyond human's control.

The relationships between economists and economic crises are just like the relationship to geologists and natural disasters. They can explain what is going on and how big the impact is but they are unable to predict when the exact time those will occur.

Earthquakes and tsunami disasters are seen as random events that no one can predict when and when they will take place as what struck the northern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011.

As Japan contributes a big share to the world's economy especially in manufacturing, this affected both Japan and the global economy. Disruption in the manufacturing industry influences the industry's backward linkages in primary sectors (agriculture and mining) and forward linkages in tertiary sectors (trade, transportation, banking and other financial services). This probably could affect Japan's production networks in the world, including Southeast Asia.

For Indonesia's economy in the short-run, the effect would be in the consumption or trading side as the JBIC FY2010 survey (22nd Annual Survey Report) found that in 2009, Indonesia has the highest satisfaction level in net sales and profits for the Japanese companies.

A minor effect is expected in the production side because Indonesia has not been integrated enough into regional production networks due to: (1) high cost service links in shipping, port services, insurance, custom clearance, loading-unloading and other administration procedures and (2) local currency volatility, in particular after the 1998 financial crisis. A study conducted by Kiyota and Urata in 2004 found that local currency volatility has a negative impact on the long-term investment (FDI) decision of Japanese companies.

Yet in the medium-run, Indonesia is expected to become one of the most attractive countries for the Japanese overseas production base. The "rebirth of Japan" will certainly benefit Indonesia.

Starting at the end of 2010 at least eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) experienced political upheaval. Two of them, Tunisia and Egypt even experienced a change in their head of state. Demand for a democracy does not only imply that freedom exists at individual level but also indicates relativity, the diminishing return of human's power towards time.

Political transition in these countries could affect the world's crude oil production. Total production of the seven out of eight countries: Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain reaches 6 percent of the world's total oil production. This puts them on a level with the big four world crude oil producers: Russia, Saudi Arabia and US.

Mundi Index data indicates that the world energy price index which includes crude oil, natural gas and coal, continued to increase since December 2010 to January 2011 (5.8 percent), January to February (7.8 percent) and February to March (17.2 percent).

Compare these to the same period last year: The increase of current price index is obviously higher than that of last year. The average index in January to March 2010 was only about 1.3 percent while in January to March 2011 achieved 12.5 percent.

The data show that the increase in world energy price index in this first quarter of 2011 was triggered by the rising crude oil price. The price of natural gas has actually been declining since January 2011 but the increasing price of crude oil in February to March 2011 that reached 20.32 percent — higher than that of total energy price index — made the world energy price continue to rise. This will increase cost of production in manufacturing sector, gasoline subsidies and at the end, raising the inflation rate.

The other main effect that Indonesia needs to concern about is potential decreasing demand from MENA's domestic market to Indonesia's export.

In fact, MENA is not Indonesia's main export destination. Share of Indonesia's export to MENA on total Indonesia's export to the world is around 4 percent, much less than to ASEAN (23 percent), North America (16 percent), EU (16 percent) and Japan (15 percent). But at this moment Indonesia is intensively expanding its export to MENA as part of the government's new market development program.

The economy follows the power of nature in randomness and relativity as what Smith, Quesnay and Petty had argued over four centuries ago. Unexpected disasters prove that life event is random.

Therefore a diversification strategy in the economy such as spreading investment and target markets are always relevant to lessen the risks of uncertainty.

Human lives in relativity therefore "high risk high return" become a common principle in economics. Any country including Indonesia has to keep reflecting and learning because there is always loosening after the hardship.


The writer is a doctoral student at Waseda University, Tokyo, and a researcher at the Institute for Economic and Social Research, University of Indonesia.






We'd like to think we're through the worst of the biggest crisis in 70 years. And yet derivatives, a chief culprit of the financial meltdown, continue to account for 10 times world GDP and counting.

A major US$8.5 billion takeover has analysts speculating about a new Internet bubble. Some emerging economies are showing classic signs of overheating with property prices, consumer credit and bank profits hitting all time highs.

We could be forgiven for wondering if we have learned anything over the past few years. We would deserve less forgiveness if we were unwittingly preparing the ground for the next slump and no one sounded the alarm.

If international institutions do their job and fulfill their purpose, we stand a good chance of avoiding the mistakes of the past.

The crisis has brought the roles of organizations like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) into sharp focus. Like never before, we are coordinating our efforts with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank the World Trade Organization and the International Labor Organization.

But much more needs to be done. The G20, governments, civil society actors and citizens around the world now have higher expectations of us. Since the OECD was founded 50 years ago, it has provided a unique forum where leaders and decision makers meet to discuss which policies work and which don't.

Helping governments and countries understand the interdependence of their economies and societies paved the way for an era of cooperation.

In addressing the latest crisis we have delivered some concrete results: closing down tax havens worldwide so taxpayers and collectors are sure we're all making a contribution to clear up the mess.

OECD standards to fight international bribery have global reach with Russia on the brink of becoming the 40th country to sign up to them. Bribery takes money out of people's hands, food out of people's mouths and undermines development.

In an effort to bring renewed focus on the need for robust corporate governance we have fundamentally overhauled our international Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.  

We continue to push for the separation of risky business investments such as derivatives from high-street banking. And we are making real efforts to address the deficit in citizens financial education and protection that the crisis so flagrantly revealed.

We are leading G20 efforts to enforce proper consumer protection so that people are never placed in the position where they sign a mortgage document that they don't understand.  

In regions like the Middle East, we can bring our experience to bear to help rebuild societies and economies, as we have done throughout Western and Eastern Europe.

And we are pushing boundaries of knowledge and understanding by questioning conventional wisdom. 

After seven years working to better measure societal progress, the launch of Your Better Life Index is designed to respond to a pent-up demand from citizens the world over to move beyond GDP as the means of measuring well-being and gauging progress.

By giving ordinary people the instrument to measure their well-being we are changing the face of public policy making, helping them help us deliver the best public policies to improve their lives.

The pre-crisis system let us down. We need to restore trust and make good on what people want most — growth and jobs.  

The best way to do this is to start from the facts, the evidence, the numbers, to share best practices, to make an honest assessment of what works and what doesn't. And to develop standards that can ensure the global community can benefit from the accrued wisdom of experience.

Good public policy is about good ideas. There is no political monopoly on them. They should be formulated not in competing corners of the policy landscape, but rather at the nexus of where economics, government, the private sector, and everyday people meet.   

We're clearly not out of the woods as far as the crisis is concerned. It is all too human to indulge in wishful thinking and end up back where we started with business as usual.  

But it would be a temptation we could never forgive ourselves for falling into.  

The writer is Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.






The year 2011 marks the sixth anniversary of the adoption of fully fledged Inflation Targeting (IT) as a monetary policy framework in Indonesia.

IT divides the work of monetary policy into three broad aspects: a short-term operating target, intermediate and final targets. Bank Indonesia (BI) has instrument independence, the BI rate, and intervenes in open-market operations (OMOs) to ensure that the amount of liquidity in the market supports the movement of the overnight interbank rate toward the BI rate.

The central bank seeks to fulfill its short-term operating target so as to hit the intermediate target of inflation — forecast in the form of an inflation target formalized in a finance minister's decree.

These measures are intended to help BI acheive its goal of maintaining the stability of the rupiah.

Scrutinizing the performance of BI in this framework by solely looking at its ability to meet the inflation target, one can conclude that BI's track record is far from perfect.

There has only been one year, 2007, when BI succeeded in keeping inflation within its targeted band. But there is not much discussion about how these frequent deviations from the inflation target affect the credibility of BI, since the inflation target is set by the government, albeit it is in consultations with BI.

Analyzing deeper into the time-series data of quarterly GDP growth and CPI during the four years before and after Indonesia adopted the fully fledged IT framework, the results from the mean of those variables show that Indonesia has seen higher growth performance and lower inflation during the IT period.

Hence, the country does not need to sacrifice its growth to attain lower inflation. It seems IT has brought buoyancy to the Indonesian economy.

However, the standard deviation in the inflation rate was relatively higher under the IT system than in the previous period.

This volatility was largely driven by deliberate adjustments in fuel subsidy policy. When oil prices climbed above US$50 per barrel in 2005, this created a large burden on the state budget.

Thus, the government decided to increase fuel prices by 87.5 percent. As headline inflation soared to a level far above the targeted range, BI responded by increasing the BI rate, which reached its highest level, at 12.75 percent, in December 2005.

BI reacted in a similar manner, again tightening the economy with the BI rate nearing its peak of 9.5 percent, when the government further reduced the fuel subsidy after oil prices climbed above $100 per barrel in 2008.

This sequence of events — the government reducing its fuel subsidies and then the central bank increasing its benchmark rate — sparked doubts over BI's instrument independence.

It sent out a signal that the government could easily steer and influence the BI rate by adjusting its fiscal policy.

While the fiscal policy law limits the state budget deficit to 3 percent of GDP and a government debt/GDP ratio of less than 60 percent, the issue in fiscal framework is intertwined with monetary policy.

The government has a tendancy to "dump" the burden of its fuel subsidies through upward adjustments in fuel prices whenever world oil prices show an extreme increase.

Subsequently, BI would have to react by tightening monetary policy to counterbalance an abrupt change in inflation.

In such situations, the economy would further contract, employment levels would shrink and BI runs the risk of responding to merely temporary fluctuations in inflation.

The use of core inflation in the long run, which strips off the volatility components (i.e. food, energy and government-administered prices), could prevent such policy mistakes.

Supported by clear communication strategies, this move could help to anchor inflation expectations when the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases temporarily and core inflation remains unchanged.

When the public understands that BI targets core inflation, they will realize that BI does not need to respond aggressively to a rise in domestic fuel prices caused by a reduction of government fuel subsidies.

As Frederic Mishkin, a former member of board of governors at the Fed, pointed out, with a well communicated use of core inflation, the public will be less likely to think that the central bank has weakened its commitment to curb inflation when it does not pursue tightening monetary policy to stabilize transitory shock in headline inflation.

Therefore, the inflation expectations will be relatively better anchored. This may lead to better outcomes in not only inflation but also employment levels as the central bank does not need to suppress the economy during the incidence of supply-shock.

The transition to applying core inflation in the current IT framework needs to be prepared well.

The recommendation is for a longer term implementation, as BI and the government must communicate the policy changes to the public and it may take time for the public to fully comprehend the nature of core inflation.

Their understandings about core inflation — which components it includes and which it does not — will play an important role in shaping their inflation expectations.

BI can learn from the Bank of Thailand's experience in targeting core inflation.

Nonetheless, the learning points should adopted with caution given the different historical monetary framework in Thailand, which started the use of core inflation even in its initial period.

The writer is a postgraduate student at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, at the National University of Singapore.








Winning the environment battle too...As the country 'celebrates' another environment day today, we cannot ignore the shocking facts facing the country's fauna and flora. Continuing to be victim to politically interfered targets and mismanaged policies of ill informed officials under successive regimes; our records indicate a very pathetic state indeed. Be it the dwindling forest cover due to overly ambitious development plans, or the increased deaths of an already depleted elephant population; our government policies with regard to the environment and its preservation leave much to be desired.

A clear lack of political commitment towards preservation of the environment in introducing policies that can help maintain a healthy balance between development and forest/wildlife conservation is an allegation even the present government cannot deny. The very lukewarm attitude towards an average of 250 reported elephants deaths annually over the last few years or the continued felling of trees as well as the encroachment into protected areas all speak volumes of a national environment policy gone wrong. The country is yet to right a politically infused threat to the protected national reserves, which have continued to be encroached upon under various political land distribution policies. The negative effects of the programs have included the tragic gunning down of a large number of elephants by villagers whose next step was chena cultivation. A number of such areas have been reported elephant country therefore the conflict that was to then follow.  Although the elephant situation  has again taken centre stage as we discuss the state of the environment; sadly the plights of other habitats; be they turtle, leopard or swallows are no different. The concentration on the elephant however, has much to do with the fact that given its tragic number today, e cannot ignore the grave danger the animal is in, unless there is a drastic policy change towards its conservation. The 'obsession' as it may seem, on the elephant has also much to do with the tourism potential that the government has placed much of its revenue on and the significance the animal plays to our ethos. It's preservation therefore, can no longer remain one that we can take comfort discussion at an annual environment day forum or restrict to a tourism promotion brochure when its' very survival is a cause of such tragic proportion.

Certainly, no one denies the crucial nature of accelerated development projects to a government that has vowed to win the economic battles as well. If the meticulous planning that ensured the victory at the battle field two years back are any indication, the ability of the present regime to win this battle with the same dedication can not prove such a hurdle. A clear commitment to preservation and motivating the officials towards its implementation with zero political interference is all that is necessary.





The recently-concluded Defence conference on 'Fighting Terrorism, the Sri Lankan Experience' in Colombo will be remembered not for what the Sri Lankans, ministers, officials and serving army commanders had to say. Nor will it be remembered for the Chinese interest in funding it, and using the venue to exhibit its weaponry, as indicated in advance media reports.

Instead, the conference, in which representatives from 40-odd countries, 'friends and foes' of Sri Lanka participated, will be recalled, particularly by Sri Lankans, supporters and critics of the Government, for what a lone American had to say. Better still for the Lt Col Lawrence Smith, Defence Advisor in the US Embassy in Colombo, stood up, and sort of stood in for Maj Gen Shavendra Silva, the celebrated commander of the famed 58th Division in 'Eelam War IV' – after the latter had declined to speak on matters that were sub judice.

Col Smith made two points, both on contentious issues where his own Government until recently was believed to have been giving a contradictory view. On the LTTE offer of surrender on the last leg of the war, he said neither Kumaran Pathmanathan, KP for short, nor P Nadesan, the LTTE police chief, was the right person in the LTTE hierarchy to be taken seriously for negotiating surrender. Such an offer should have come from field commanders, according to him.

Two years after the war, it does not seem to have occurred to the US official that at the time they were doing the talking, KP was the international face of the LTTE, authorised as such by the outfit's supremo, Velluppillai Prabhakaran. So was Nadesan, not just the LTTE police chief. He had officially been named to succeed S P Tamilselvan, who died in an aerial bombing by the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) as the political wing leader, months ago.

More importantly, Col Smith is also reported to have begun suspecting criticism of the armed forces on the 'white flag episode'. As he has reportedly pointed out, battle-field reports were often based on second, third and fourth hand information, and could thus be erroneous. One only needs to recall a basic lesson in logic where it is often said that if the first one said that someone threw up black vomit, by the time it reached the fifth or sixth ear, it would have twisted to the level that the man threw up a crow.

 Even otherwise, there is certain truth in the proposition purportedly made by Col Smith on the surrender issue. Leave alone his reference to Soosai or Pottu Amman as possible candidates from the ground to negotiate surrender, the entire exercise wreaked f the hole into which the monolithic LTTE leadership had hidden itself through the previous years. It may be another matter that Prabhakaran, intoxicated by the successes of the past, had become incapable of accessing the relative strengths of the LTTE and the Sri Lankan State in military, political and diplomatic terms.

Prabhakarran, we were told, had authorised negotiations for seeking Indias intervention. His officious choice of KP, the only accused in the 'Rajiv Gandhi assassination' still at large, as the international negotiator of the LTTE only months earlier, exposed his ignorance or arrogance, or both. In the week before the conclusion of the war, everyone in Chennai who had something positive to say about the Tamil cause and also the LTTE's methods, claimed to be the self-appointed ambassadors of the LTTE, to talk to the Government of India.

None of the entities had any working knowledge of the Indian system, nor did they carry any credibility with the Government of India – at such a crucial stage in 'Eelam War IV'. Their forte was public oratory, and/or media statements. That was exactly the opposite way in which sensitive diplomacy had to be undertaken. Desperation, nor discretion, showed up as LTTE's last weapon. It failed even to launch, leave alone deliver – and naturally so.

It remains to be seen if what is attributed to him is what Col Smith had said at the conference. It is more so to conclude that the US has changed its nuanced position of balancing pro-State anti-terrorism policy with its purported concern for human rights in third nations battling terrorism. Yet, Col Smith has spoken, next only to US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake, who was in Sri Lanka recently, again giving the impression that Washington was tilting towards Colombo on the Darusman report.

Yet, the drift between the US and the rest of the West seems to be showing, too – and so does the differentiated American approach to fighting against terrorism and fighting for human rights. Both, in the eyes of the Sri Lankan State and its rulers, are two sides of the same coin – at least in the difficult, battlefield circumstances that Col Smith had reportedly touched upon.

This is where Sri Lanka wants to be allowed to breathe easy. But the West seems determined to expand the scope of such 'humanitarian intervention', to include domestic law and order situation. German Ambassador Jens Plotner is not the first one to comment on purely domestic issues in host nations, starting with Sri Lanka. But his reference to police high-handedness in handling the labour protest at Katunayake FTZ, and writing to Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, over the head of the External Affairs Ministry, is not just about German investments.

The German intervention may have more to do with sovereignty issues – and much more than the Nordic Greens' Brussels conclave, coinciding with the Sri Lanka defence conference, sought to 'flag'. If one were to extend Col Smith's American logic, then, Vaiko, the south Indian politician from Tamil Nadu, should not be knowing anything about the war front, as his was not just the second, third or fourth hand – but vas/is 15 or 50th hand…





According to Oxfam, a UK-based charitable organisation, our world is capable of feeding everyone. So then why do one in seven people on earth go hungry every day?

The icreasing scarcity of food worldwide has led to extensive study on why the world food supplies are dwindling. Climate change and the shrinking land and water resources because of rapid human development and globalisation are the obvious contributing factors.  This of course impacts the food prices. No wonder that Oxfam has warned, that by 2030, approximately within the next twenty years, food prices will double. A staggering increase in the average cost of key crops is expected to go up between 120 and 180 per cent.  Not (surprisingly, half of that increase in cost will be due to climate change.

The Oxfam report titled, 'Growing a Better Future' lists four areas  as "food insecurity hotspots", namely Guatemala, India, Azerbaijan and  East Africa. These countries are facing a host of related issues that include food shortages because of drought and weather, extremely high food prices due to shortage of production at home and reliance on imported foodstuff and the lack of state investment in smallholder farmers. 

In order to combat further deterioration in the global food system, the world powers need to actively improve regulation of food markets. A rehaul of their financial and agricultural policies and investment in a global climate fund to fight climate change should top priorities. Inevitably, the food shortages have contributed to a rise in prices and a consequent rise in poverty. How poverty affects a state economy as the biggest drain on its socio-economic sector is a well-established fact and needs no elaboration. There are many examples of poverty afflicted states that in this modern day and age lag far behind in developing their human resource because of the crippling impact of poverty.

It is time the leaders of the developed nations and the fast developing world economies understand the repercussions of procrastination on the issue of climate change. Year after year, the international seminars on the environment have only highlighted the differences and reluctance of states on issues such as cutting carbon emissions in fear of slowing down the pace of industrialisation. While these seminars provide a platform for the meaningless lip service in the wake of a reiteration of the world's deteriorating environment, they have failed to provide a cohesive and united environmental policy.

A global climate fund is aimed at enabling people to protect themselves from the impact of climate change and be able to grow the food they need.  Environmentalists and NGO's have been urging the world leaders to launch this much needed initiative at the forthcoming UN Summit on Climate in South Africa this December.

Whether this materialises or not, the need to take immediate steps to increase food production and adopting remedial policies to reverse climate change must not be relegated to the  backburner. This world cannot afford to go hungry.

Courtesy Khaleej Times






Wild Life and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka (est. 1894) President Lal Anthonis
The most pressing environment issue at the moment is the human elephant conflict. Secondly the hotly debated issue is our natural forest cover. Since human actions are contributing to the dwindling numbers of forestry. Colonization in certain areas were wrongly done especially during the Mahaweli project. These areas were known for the elephants where they lived for thousands of years. Although we consider that the Leopard population has increased. What has really happened is that leopards from other forests have strayed to Yala since their habitats are long destroyed or due to human settlements in areas like Tissamaharama and Kataragama. The roads in these areas previously saw free movements animals but it is no longer the case now. I have gone to courts to rectify this problem. For example against the road that is to be built via Wilpattu national park joining Mannar and Puttalam.

Sri Lanka Environment
Conservation Trust

Director Sajeewa Chamikara

This year the environmental day theme is 'forest and nature at your service'. Do we use environment day for policy decision making and to face the challenges ahead of us. Every year all the organizations and forest and wild life department in the Government sector comes together to conduct workshops and exhibitions to mark the environmental day. They should use it for something beyond that. To tackle environmental issues head on. They should discuss their policy decisions to suit conservation approaches with the community participation. They should look at policy level documents that will be implemented during the year. But now they spend a lot of money on a ceremony. They will not act or think beyond that. The theme goes to show that how much of a help is forest resources for the sustenance of nature. We should plan to protect rain forest and forestry. Sinharaja, Knuckles, Siripada and Kanneliya are the remaining natural forestry that is facing huge issues. The border villages are endangering the forests. All the encircling forests have not been protected which is a contributing problem to the dwindling forestry. In a 2004 cabinet paper Sri Lankan forests like Knuckles, Kanneliya, Siripada and Sinharaja they planned to reclaim half a kilometer surrounding land areas under the forestry and wild life department. Up until now they have not done this. Sri Lanka's rarest species are reported from the areas outside the declared area of Sinharajah.

We have to use this theme to activate the 2004 cabinet paper. If not they lease off these land for hotels or tea plantation. There needs to be a decisive plan to protect such lands. We have good cabinet paper but we have not made it active.

Environmental Foundation

operations director and wildlife biologist Vimukhi Weeratunga

The world environmental day is to celebrate environment. It's good day, unfortunately we can't have a single day to discuss the mounting issues. Together with the population increase environmental issues are worsening. Policy makers and the Government should pay attention to environmental issues. Secondly we should think about the existing environmental conditions. Remaining environment is deteriorating at a faster pace. Main issue is environmental degradation. Development mindset leads to filling land and allocating a lot of land in the coastal areas for developmental projects. Development won't be proper if you don't think of the environmental concerns. Classic example is the filling up land in Battaramulla. The wetlands provide a service to the country in terms of flood control. But policy makers and people don't realize it and fill it but now we are reclaiming wetlands by digging wetlands again. Two hours of rain in Colombo and we see the streets are flooded; this is what happens when you don't pay heed to the advice of conservation and environmentalists. Environmental services provided by natural habitats are extremely valuable. Every citizen has a role to play. Sri Lanka has to think about environmental conservation very seriously.

Project coordinator of

Tree society of Sri Lanka
Pubudu Weeraratne

Forestry plays a huge role in environment sustainability. Major developmental projects use the forestry to claim land suitable for development. This leads to habitat fragmentation and the animals' vulnerability to move freely between isolated forests. These isolated forestry batches won't last in Sri Lanka if we continue to give priority to development and forget environmental conservation.

Lead Environmental Specialist for the South Asia region World Bank Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya
In Sri Lanka we have urban and natural environmental problems. Urban side issues are visible like when the beira lake is smelling people can see it and they act on it. Less attention is paid to natural forestry and wild life resources. If you take wild life in Sri Lanka which is the best bio diversity in Asia since you can see the largest sea mammal the whale in Mirirssa and the largest land mammal elephant in Udawalawe then in Yala you will see a high density of leopard. All of the above stated features can be used to high end nature based tourism that will go into protecting these natural resources. Sri Lanka has not done adequately to achieve the two objectives, in the way of using these protected areas to bring revenue to the country which will lead to less exploitation. How can we deal with the human elephant problem? The country has tried to manage the conflict instead of using science to solve problem we have used political and community pressure and simply relocating the animals with no proper plan. The National policy of wild elephant management should be implemented. At the moment addressing it is being addressed in a ad hog way. If you take the millennium development goals, the only MDG Sri Lanka is not on track to achieve is ensuring environmental sustainability. Development projects needs to be considered in terms of environmental conservation too.

There are successful garbage management models in smaller cities, we need to look at those models like in Weligama urban council, of course we cant replicate that to Colombo since the is size difference. Sri Lanka has potential earning revenue if it will better manage environment and nature tourism. It needs a strategic vision to achieve it.

Aquatic Resources Management Shantha Jayaweera

Many people talk about environment without thinking of increasing the forest cover.  There are many issues with the environment since nearly 80% of harm to the environment is committed by the government or someone attached to the government. Like illegal poaching where a government vehicle is used. The Government cannot conserve on their own they need to get the private sector involve. They need to bring about an attitudinal change within the public if we are to meet the modern environmental challenges.









GAZA -- "Do you remember Mahmoud?" asked Abu Nidal, my neighbor from nearly 20 years ago, when I lived in Gaza.

"Yes, of course, I do," I answered. I remembered him as yet another troublemaking child among the Nuseirat Refugee Camp's numerous rabble-rousers. He was defined by a stream of snot that never seemed to dry. Although loud at times, he had always been helpful and pleasant. But now, unlike so many others who emerged from the camp's rusty doors and narrow alleyways to greet me after my long absence, Mahmoud was nowhere to be seen.

"He is in heaven now," said Abu Nidal. His voice, which had been so cheerful about my arrival, suddenly became muffled. The years of hurt over the loss of his son had culminated into one moment. He paused and wiped tears. A poster on the wall showed the face of a handsome, bearded man. He had been killed during an Israeli army raid into Gaza a few years ago. The poster dubbed him, "The Great Martyr Mahmoud Fa'iq al-Hajj."

I placed my right hand on Abu Nidal's shoulder and said, as is customary in these situations: "We are all your children." Abu Nidal nodded gratefully, and the neighbors began recalling the names of other Martyrs. Soon, we began to recite al-Fatiha, asking God to bless the souls of all those who had perished in Gaza.

It has been many years since I last stood here, in the Red Square. Named after the many people who were killed at the hands of Israeli soldiers during the First Uprising of 1987, the once open area has shrunk, like many other spaces in and around the refugee camp. The population of the Gaza Strip has grown significantly, as has poverty. Surrounded and besieged by Israel, 1.6 million people living in 360 square kilometers (139 square miles) are now exploiting every inch of this tiny and continually shrinking space. Still, Gaza persists.

I began my journey in Nuseirat at my old aunt's house. She gazed at me in disbelief and cried intermittently throughout my visit. "Oh Allah, George is back," she repeated, referring to me by my old name. When it was time to go she chased after me down the street for a last kiss, a hug and shed more tears.

The Martyrs Graveyard is now full to capacity. Desperately lacking space, some people had to resort to burying their loved ones on top of others, until the practice was stopped by the government.

My father was buried in an area called Zawydeh. In 2008, I was told he was buried in a 'small graveyard,' which encouraged me to attempt to find the grave on my own. However, the graveyard is no longer small and I spent over an hour trying to locate it. In the process, I learned that some of my friends and relatives have also died. They include: my geography teacher, my Arabic and religion teacher, the kindly man with one eye who sold the strangest mix of items on a donkey cart, and a 13-year-old girl by the name of Fida, meaning 'sacrifice'.

I found my father's grave at last. My dad, Mohammed. The wonderful, loving, resourceful, angry, thundering and warm man. He never imagined he would one day be buried in Gaza. He wanted to go home to Beit Daras, his long destroyed village in Palestine. "I will see you soon, son," he had told me many years ago, when I last saw him. I now wrote him a note, and buried it in the Gaza earth by his headstone.

"O peaceful and fully satisfied soul, return to your Lord…" read a verse of the Quran atop the white grave. No Cast Lead, no massacre could possibly interrupt the peaceful rest of the dead - not even in Gaza.

My mother Zarefah's grave was in a different graveyard. It appeared much older than I remembered it. It lay close to my grandparents, and my two-year-old brother Anwar's tiny grave.

My old house, which once stood relatively tall amid the other impoverished homes in my neighborhood, is now almost hidden from view. Its white walls have been dirtied by years and neglect. Abu Abdullah, the new owner, welcomed me in. A large man with a humble demeanor and a friendly but cheerless face, he walked me through the house. While very little had changed after all these years, the 'basketball rim' my brothers and I concocted from rubber hose and fastened high on the wall was gone. I could almost hear my mother yelling as her five boys ran wild in the small space. "May Allah help me cope with all of this," she would bellow, as she tried frantically to fix whatever we ruthlessly ruined.

I didn't check to see if the bullet holes left by the rampages of Israeli troops remained where I last saw them. While I had dreamed of seeing this place again for so many years, it was now just too much to bear. I left hurriedly, despite Abu Abdullah's repeated pleas to stay longer.

My English teacher, Mohammed Nofal, remained as I had left him, funny and hospitable. A few of my friends have been killed, but many others have remained steadfast, building, repairing, educating and surviving. The astonishing level of determination that has always defined Gaza is much stronger than I remember it. No one seeks pity in this place.

"There was a large building here," I remarked inquisitively to a cousin at one point in my journey.

He replied casually. "It's been destroyed in the latest war, but the people crushed the rubble, processed it into concrete and the building now stands on the other side of the street". In Gaza, few discuss what has been destroyed, but many speak of rebuilding.

As I waited for a taxi to take me to the town of Khan Younis, I spotted the Akel falafel stand. Here we had once spent my dad's loose change on Falafel sandwiches and Barrad-flavored crushed yellow ice.

I held onto my plastic cup of Barrad all the way to Khan Younis in the south of Gaza, taking careful, slow sips. It tasted exactly as I remembered it from when I was six years old. Since then, nothing in the world has tasted better.

"Now the Egypt border will be open for good, you should come back to Nuseirat for more Barrad," said a friend.

"Inshallah," -- God willing -- I said. "Inshallah."

- Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on

Photo: Palestinian children look through the window during a rally at Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, Tuesday, May 17, 2011. (AP photo)








In his latest book entitled "Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order", G. John Ikenberry, a professor of political science and international affairs at Princeton University, used the term Liberal Leviathan for the first time to identify, describe, and analyze the logic and features of the U.S. liberal hegemonic order.

In fact, Ikenberry believes that the liberal ideals of the United States have emerged in the form of a leviathan -- a powerful giant that does anything it wants while no power or authority has the ability to confront it.

By taking a glance at international events, we can see that the spirit of this leviathan is capturing the entire world, and it is obviously dominating the majority at international meetings, including the Group of 8 meetings.

Ikenberry believes that the U.S. liberal order has been subject to stress and crisis in recent years. Some argue that the liberal order was undermined during the George W. Bush administration, when the war against terrorism and the unilateral wars on Iraq and Afghanistan were started. Others believe that we are witnessing the end of the American age. Ikenberry argues that the problem with the liberal order is the result of a crisis of legitimacy or authority in which the roles and duties in the world system are completely mixed up. The main factors fueling the crisis include: (1) the emergence of new powerful states and governments such as China, (2) norms of sovereignty which are being increasingly challenged, and (3) the deepening economic and security interdependence.

Despite the crisis of legitimacy, the U.S. is seeking to reconstruct its previous liberal order. A few prerequisites are necessary to maintain this international liberal hegemony, such as free market regulations, military supremacy, reward and support for allies, and the manufacture of consent as an ideological tool. A dominant presence in international institutions is also a determining factor for the restoration of the American liberal order. In fact, the United States and Europe are also trying to establish consensus among international organizations in order to exert more political, economic, and military pressure and to achieve their security and strategic goals.

That is why the U.S. and its allies, particularly those in Europe, always participate in regional and international institutions, although many call this a waste of time. For example, during the G8 summit in Italy in 2009, many predicted it would probably be the final meeting of the group, and Angela Merkel and some others even argued that it was unnecessary to have a G8 when there is a G20. However, the G8 has not been abolished, and the U.S. and the other major powers have their own interests and expectations.

The G8 is in fact a private gathering for consultations and agreements between industrial powers, and it has been regarded as a club for mainly the U.S. and its Western allies to realize their objectives. Although the G6, which later transformed into the G8 with accession of Canada and Russia, was formed in France as an institution with a European identity, it later became the main axis for the universalist ideals of the United States. Emerging powers like China, India, and Brazil had no voice in the G8 until 2003. The members of the group (the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Japan, Russia, and Canada) make many sensitive decisions about political, economic, environmental, security, and even cultural matters, and they decide the future and destiny of many countries that have no voice in the group. For example, developments in the Middle East are often discussed at G8 meetings, but no one represents the countries of the region at those meetings. There have been thirty-seven G8 summits, but a Middle Eastern country has only been invited once, namely Saudi Arabia in 2003.

But what is behind the general alignment with the United States for the establishment of the American liberal hegemonic order? Europe still regards the U.S. presence at international institutions as essential and decisive. In fact, the Europeans are acting in line with the theory of hegemonic stability: "The stability of the International System requires a single dominant state to articulate and enforce the rules of interaction among the most important members of the system."

Advocates of this theory, like the historical economist Charles P. Kindleberger and Robert Gilpin, a professor of political economy at Princeton University, believe that military, economic, and political hegemony is necessary for the full development of a liberal market and as long as there is no such hegemony, the liberal system cannot be established. The U.S. is the first nominee for establishing such a triumphalistic system in the modern world.

The final statements of G8 summit meetings are specific examples of the alignment of the U.S. and Europe. Although these statements are non-binding and members are thus not required to fully implement their provisions, meetings like the G8 summit are still instruments to create harmony and consensus among member states and to promote the American liberal hegemonic order. They also safeguard the long-term interests of all the member states, and thus one cannot expect prompt and amazing results. The G8 summit is only one part of a long process for implementing the decisions and agreements made by the major powers, and its most important function is to manufacture consent in order to help realize the goals of the American hegemonic liberal order. In fact, the Western powers are nourishing the giant liberal leviathan to allow it to swallow other cultures and governments.

Afshin Davarpanah is an anthropologist and a member of the scientific board of the Research Institute of Culture and Art, which is based in Tehran.







With regard to war, international and constitutional laws are clear. Under the Constitution's Article I, Section 8, only Congress may declare war, not the president. That, in fact, last happened on December 8, 1941 after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. As a result, all subsequent U.S. wars have been illegal, including Obama's against Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya.

Moreover, the UN Charter explains under what conditions violence and coercion (by one state against another) are justified.

Article 2(3) and Article 33(1) require peaceful settlement of international disputes. Article 2(4) prohibits force or its threatened use. And Article 51 allows the "right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member....until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security."

In other words, justifiable self-defense is permissible. However, Charter Articles 2(3), 2(4), and 33 absolutely prohibit any unilateral threat or use of force not:

-- specifically allowed under Article 51;

-- authorized by the Security Council; or

-- permitted by the U.S. Constitution only amendments ratified by three-fourths of the states can change.

In addition, three General Assembly resolutions also prohibit non-consensual belligerent intervention, including:

-- the 1965 Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty;

-- the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations; and

-- the 1974 Definition of Aggression.

Nonetheless, Washington spurns international and U.S. laws repeatedly, especially waging preemptive aggressive wars, what the Nuremberg Tribunal's Justice Robert Jackson called "the supreme international crime against peace," sentencing convicted Nazi war criminals to death for committing it.

The War Powers Resolution (WPR)

This resolution holds for legal wars. Applying it to Libya, however, is a red herring as America has no authority to attack another country illegally and may only do so in self-defense until the Security Council acts.

Despite questions about its constitutionality, on November 7, 1973, the WPR was passed over Nixon's veto, authorizing Congress and presidents jointly to decide whether to send U.S. forces into conflict zones. As a result, section 4(a)(1) requires presidents to inform Congress within 48 hours about any introduced to areas with ongoing or imminent hostilities.

In it, he must explain:

-- why U.S. forces are being sent;

-- the constitutional or legislative authority permitting him to do so;

-- the estimated extent and duration of involvement; and

-- whatever other information Congress requests.

Section 5(b) then mandates withdrawal within 60 days plus an additional 30 exit period unless Congress extends the time frame for another 30 days, declares war, or unavoidable circumstances require more time, not an unlimited amount.

On exception applies. As commander-in-chief, presidents may introduce U.S. forces unilaterally into conflict areas in case of a national emergency if America, its territories, possessions, or military is attacked. Nonetheless, every possible effort must be made to keep Congress informed no matter the circumstances.

Since passed, however, presidents ignored WPR as well as constitutional and international law, including Obama's illegal wars with no congressional objection except some boilerplate political posturing.

Congressional power to end ongoing wars

Congress, in fact, has power presidents lack -- the power of the purse to authorize, refuse, or end funding at its discretion.

The Constitution's Article I, Section 7, Clause I says: "All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills."

Either House may originate an appropriations bill although the House claims sole authority. Either one may also amend bills, including revenue and appropriations ones. Although Congress rarely rescinds authorized funds, it can easily withhold future amounts without which wars end and troops are withdrawn.

Congressional appropriation power is key, in the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Committee on Appropriations, both authorized under the Constitution's Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7, saying:

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time."

In fact, only Congress has appropriations authority requiring passage in both Houses, including amounts for war, national defense, and other discretionary and mandatory categories.

As a result, ending wars and occupations is as simple as defunding them, Capitol Hill politics aside, it only happened once post-WW II. So ignore the political rhetoric, belying America's imperial agenda both parties endorse, eager to wage new wars when old ones end by creating enemies when none exist.

How Congress ended the Vietnam War

An early critic, Senator Frank Church said sending troops there would be a "hopeless entanglement, the end of which is difficult to see." Others in Congress agreed but spoke privately, including William Fulbright, Albert Gore Sr. (the former vice-president's father), Stuart Symington and Majority Leader Mike Mansfield.

Even Lyndon Johnson was conflicted in taped May 1964 Oval Office conversations with his best Senate friend, Richard Russell, telling him he faced a Hobson's choice, saying:

"I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't," the former being impeachment for pulling out, the latter certain defeat that destroyed him.

Asking advice about the "Vietnam thing," Russell called it the "damn worse mess I ever saw," warning we weren't ready to send troops to fight a jungle war, and adding if the option was introducing Americans or get out, "I'd get out" (because) the territory wasn't a "damn bit" important.

Three months later the Gulf of Tonkin embroiled America for over a decade, despite Johnson's misgivings. As a result, it ruined his presidency, shortened his life after three heart attacks, ending it in disgrace, defeating a once bigger-than-life majority leader and President.

In 1965, in fact, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara told Johnson:

"I don't believe they're ever going to quit. And I don't see (that) we have any....plan for victory -- militarily or diplomatically," spoken as he began escalating dramatically, knowing the futility and lawlessness.

As early as 1966, congressional opposition emerged. As a result, Congress reasserted appropriations power incrementally, rhetorically at first. However, by June 30, 1970, the Church-Cooper amendment (attached to a supplemental aid bill) stipulated no further spending for soldiers, combat assistance, advisors, or bombing operations in Cambodia.

It was the first attempted congressional war-making constraint. Nixon ignored it, but other measures followed, included the key Church-Clifford Case 1972 Senate amendment attached to foreign aid legislation to end all Southeast Asia military funding except for withdrawal, subject to releasing POWs.

It was the first time either House passed legislation to defund wars. Though defeated in the House, it showed anti-war forces strengthening that in time would prevail.

In June 1973, they did when Congress passed the Church-Case amendment ending all funding after August 15. In November, Congress then passed the War Powers Resolution overriding Nixon's veto, limiting presidential power as explained above. By April 30, 1975, America ended its involvement entirely with a humiliating Saigon embassy rooftop pullout.

It could happen now but doesn't because of America's war addiction, feeding its insatiable military/industrial complex appetite, far larger and more powerful than decades earlier. As a result, Congress and presidents go along, acceding to its authority over their own, pious rhetoric aside about pursuing peace, humanitarian concerns, and democratic values, causing millions of deaths, vast destruction, and immeasurable human misery in the last two decades alone.

Obama today wages illegal wars against four countries and numerous proxy ones for unchallengeable U.S. dominance, at the same time spurning growing popular needs during a deepening Main Street depression.

Spending around $1.5 trillion annually for militarism, as well as trillions more for Wall Street and other corporate favorites, he's heading America closer to tyranny and ruin. So far, however, public opposition is lacking, despite the urgency to act or face consequences too dire to imagine.

A final comment

A May 25 ACLU alert highlighted Section 1034 in HR 1540: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.

Titled: "AFFIRMATION OF ARMED CONFLICT WITH AL QAEDA, THE TALIBAN, AND ASSOCIATED FORCES," it authorizes military force anywhere against suspected terrorists, including domestically.

As a result, the ACLU warned:

"Congress may soon vote on a new declaration of worldwide war without end, and without clear enemies." If enacted by both Houses and signed by Obama, it'll be "the single biggest handover of unchecked war authority from Congress to the executive branch in modern American history."

On May 26, HR 1540 passed 322 - 96. On May 12, a companion Senate bill, S. 981, was introduced and referred to committee for consideration. So far, no further action was taken, nor is it clear whether Section 1034's language will be included unchanged or at all.

The situation bears watching at a time America heads closer to tyranny and out-of-control militarism, menacing peace and democratic values everywhere. Isn't that incentive enough for mass outrage to stop it!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at; also visit his blog site at


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