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Friday, June 10, 2011

EDITORIAL 10.06.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month june 10, edition 000855, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

THE PIONEER 

  1. PRICE OF HUMAN CRUELTY
  2. DEATH FOR DISHONOUR
  3. FIGHTING IT OUT IN CYBERSPACE - CLAUDE ARPI
  4. DICTATORSHIP OF SYCOPHANTS - ARINDAM CHAUDHURI
  5. MURDER IN PAKISTAN - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
  6. NOBODY WILL COME OUT CLEAN - KALYANI SHANKAR
  7. TRIVIALISING THE NATION'S POLITICAL PROCESS - CP BHAMBHRI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. TRANSPARENCY REVOLUTION
  2. PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST
  3. PUBLIC OPINION - THE FIFTH ESTATE - VIKRAM SINGH MEHTA
  4. 'THERE IS NO MORE FEAR TODAY IN TUNISIA' - FAIZAL KHAN
  5. NOTE WORTHY - JUG SURAIYA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. THE PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST
  2. THE SAINTS ARE COMING
  3. THE ART OF LIVING - PARTHA CHATTERJEE,
  4. 'MY LIFE IS LIKE MY RED FERRARI' - SAHAR ZAMAN
  5. THE SILVER LINING - SUBIMAL BHATTACHARJEE

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

1.      ALWAYS A MODERNIST

2.      MORE SUNLIGHT

3.      BABA'S TROOPERS

4.      HE PAINTED A NATION  - GEETADOCTOR

5.      MY FRIEND HUSAIN - KRISHEN KHANNA

6.      MOTHER, AND INDIA - YASHODHARA DALMIA

7.      A DIFFICULT BALANCING - PHILIP BOWRING

8.      BABA RAMDEV - SEEMA CHISHTI

9.      #IHATEMARQUEZ - JENNIFER SCHUESSLER

 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. MANUFACTURING INDIA
  2. CRUDE SHOCK
  3. CDS VERSUS CREDIT RATINGS - K VAIDYA NATHAN
  4. THE GAS IN GAS PRICING - ASHOK SREENIVAS

THE HINDU

  1. A TERRORISM TURNING POINT?  
  2. GAJAH IN PANIC
  3. AN ARTIST WHO HAD A BRUSH WITH THE NATION -SADANAND MENON
  4. THE FACE OF INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART  - MUKUND PADMANABHAN
  5. REQUIEM FOR M.F. HUSAIN  - N. RAM
  6. "PRODUCT OF INDIA'S SYNCRETIC AND COMPOSITE CULTURE"
  7. ARTISTS SHARE THEIR MEMORIES, GRIEVE HE HAD TO DIE IN EXILE  - RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. AS AN ICON PASSES, IT'S TIME TO REFLECT
  2. MYSTIQUE OF GURUDEV - SHASHI THAROOR
  3. WILL A POLITICAL TANTRIC TWIST INDIA'S DESTINY? - KANCHA ILAIAH
  4. THE HUSAIN QUESTION WILL LINGER - GAYATRI SINHA

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. NEW ENERGY SCENARIO
  2. WATER SHORTAGE IN JAMMU
  3. INDIA NEEDS AN ACCOUNTABLE LEADER - BY TAVLEEN SINGH
  4. IS IT POK OR COK ? - BY: AMIT BHALLA
  5. FALLING FOOD PRICES IS NOT GOOD FOR AGRICULTURE - BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN
  6. POLITICAL SITUATION IMPROVING IN J&K - BY B K CHUM

THE TRIBUNE

  1. RAMDEV'S CALL TO ARMS
  2. SERVICE AS A LEGAL RIGHT
  3. M.F. HUSSAIN'S DEEP MARK
  4. MID-SUMMER MADNESS IN DELHI - BY INDER MALHOTRA
  5. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS…. - BY S.V. SINGH
  6. THE BHANGRA IMPERIALISM - ANJALI GERA ROY

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. WHO NEEDS SMALL SAVINGS?
  2. MONSOON WOES
  3. KEEPING THE GROWTH STORY ALIVE - AKASH PRAKASH
  4. HOW ABOUT INDIA INK? - BHUPESH BHANDARI
  5. CONTRACT LABOUR PAINS - SHYAMAL MAJUMDAR
  6. UPA'S INCLUSION GETS IT WRONG - SHANKAR ACHARYA

BUSINESS LINE

  1. SPECTRE OF FOOD INFLATION
  2. INDIA INC HAS A LONG WAY TO GO - SUNIL K. SINHA
  3. THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN HR PROCESSES - DEBASHISH SENGUPTA
  4. YEH LANGUAGE NE CRAZY KIYA RE - CHITRA NARAYANAN

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. SAVING THE FRBM ACT
  2. SUNRISE IN DARJEELING
  3. THE ART OF LIVING
  4. TOWARDS SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT ZONES
  5. CAN CONGRESS-DMK TIES SURVIVE?
  6. IS THE UPA LOSING THE PLOT?  - MANOJ PANT

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. THE RIGHT NOT TO BE RAPED

DECCAN CHRONICLE

  1. WILL A POLITICAL TANTRIC TWIST INDIA'S DESTINY?
  2. AS AN ICON PASSES, IT'S TIME TO REFLECT
  3. THE HUSAIN QUESTION WILL LINGER
  4. HIS LEGEND WILL GROW
  5. A RISKY NEIGHBOUR

THE STATESMAN

  1. SEN-BOSE EQUATION
  2. OVERNIGHT UPGRADE?
  3. NO MORE DITHERING
  4. CIVIL SOCIETY VS CORRUPTION - BY SUBRATA MUKHERJEE
  5. SEEMA MUSTAFA
  6. ZINDAGI JO YUHI GAWAYI...'
  7. UPA AND ANNA HAZARE  - RAJINDER PURI    

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. STEP TO HOPE
  2. THROWN OUT
  3. REVOLT OF THE OUTLANDER  - DASGUPTA
  4. DEEP IN THE MIRE  - BONA FIDE - MALVIKA SINGH

HAARETZ

  1. WATCH AND FORBEAR
  2. A BUS NAMED FLOP  - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  3. DISPERSING CROWDS WITHOUT KILLING  - BY YOAV ZACKS
  4. WHAT OLMERT HAS TO SAY FOR HIMSELF  - BY YOSSI SARID
  5. NETANYAHU'S TIDINGS OF DESTRUCTION  - BY ZEEV STERNHELL
  6. IMAGINING FUKUSHIMA IN THE NEGEV  - BY HILLEL SHUVAL
  7. RECLAIMING A HISTORICAL TRUTH  - BY EFRAIM KARSH  

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. GOV. CUOMO AND PUBLIC PENSIONS
  2. COULD IT HAPPEN HERE?
  3. BUDGETING FOR INSECURITY
  4. WHAT THEY THINK IN MASSACHUSETTS
  5. HOW TYRANTS ENDURE - BY BRUCE BUENO DE MESQUITA AND ALASTAIR SMITH
  6. POLITICIANS BEHAVING WELL - BY DAVID BROOKS
  7. RULE BY RENTIERS - BY PAUL KRUGMAN

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. THE NAZI-ERGENEKON-JEWISH-PKK-AND-EVERYTHING-ELSE GANG - BURAK BEKDİL
  2. SYRIA… PLEASE AVOID THE MILITARY OPTION - YUSUF KANLI
  3. AN ASSERTIVE TURKEY IS NOT WHAT THE WEST WANTS - SEMİH İDİZ
  4. UNCOMFORTABLE OTTOMANS - FIRAS MAKSAD - SONER ÇAĞAPTAY

THE NEWS

  1. DEADLY RANGERS
  2. DRONES AND RAIDS
  3. BE PREPARED
  4. PAKISTAN'S FOREMOST PROBLEM: THE RITES OF BACCHUS  -  AYAZ AMIR
  5. BEFORE KARZAI ARRIVES  -  ZAFAR HILALY
  6. BALOCHISTAN AND THE  - DR QAISAR RASHID
  7. IN A FREE FALL  - SHAFQAT MAHMOOD
  8. FOR ENDURING PEACE  - M ZEB KHAN
  9. SIDE-EFFECT

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. HOTI EXPOSES PHONY CLAIMS OF TTP
  2. CHINA'S INTEREST IN INDUS DAMS
  3. SOMEONE SHOULD GEL KESC & UNION TOGETHER
  4. CORRUPTS MADE ACCOUNTABLE - M D NALAPAT
  5. STOP BLAMING, START DOING! - MAIMUNA ASHRAF
  6. HOW ISLAM FOUGHT TERRORISM? - PROF AHMED YAR KHAN
  7. RIGHT TO A BETTER FUTURE - YAHYA AHMAD
  8. NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION: ENGAGING IRAN

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. REPORT BACKS MARKET SYSTEM FOR CUTTING CARBON
  2. BREAKDOWNS SINK OUR DEFENCES
  3. SA MINING BOOM TOO FAR AWAY

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. PRINCIPALS VERSUS PARENTS
  2. METRO STRATEGY BACK ON TABLE
  3. CLEARING THE AIR ON EFFECTIVE EMISSIONS POLICY
  4. CRACKING THE GENETIC CODE WITH CARE

THE GUARDIAN

  1. WELFARE REFORM: CANTERBURY TALES
  2. IN PRAISE OF... SIMON GRAY
  3. PHONE-HACKING SCANDAL: TIME FOR A PUBLIC INQUIRY

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. SCRUTINIZING FUKUSHIMA CRISIS
  2. ENERGY DRAFT MISSES THE POINT
  3. ROUND TWO FOR A U.N. WORKAHOLIC - BY TOM PLATE

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. WINDOW AJAR IN YEMEN
  2. JUDICIARY REFORM: FOCUS ON PERSONNEL - HIKMAHANTO JUWANA
  3. COMPARING SBY TO SOEHARTO  - AL MAKIN, YOGYAKARTA
  4. THE FIGHT FOR NEWMONT SHARES
  5. PAKISTAN: A REALITY CHECK AMID TERROR AND CHAOS (PART 1 OF 2) - PERVEZ MUSHARRAF
  6. AN INCLUSIVE APPROACH TO THE ENVIRONMENT  - T.M. LUTHFI YAZID

DAILY MIRROR

  1. BEYOND SELF GLORY, A HIGHER WAY OF LIFE
  2. GADDAFI'S CLARION CALL  - SYRIA IN SECTARIAN SOUP

 GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. OVERTAKEN BY LIES..?    -  BY ANWAR ABDULRAHMAN 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

PRICE OF HUMAN CRUELTY

PELTED WITH STONES, TUSKERS RUN AMOK IN MYSORE


The tragic incident of a wild tusker goring and trampling a 55-year-old man to death and injuring several others right in the middle of Mysore city on Wednesday has once again underlined the urgent need for people to adopt a much more mature, intelligent and caring attitude towards elephants. For, the root cause of human-elephant conflict, which has been on the rise across the country, lies in our inability to understand the emotional peculiarities and sociology of the pachyderms and the horrendous impact of senseless intrusion into wildlife habitats in the name of development and expansion of farming activity. We callously build dams in wildlife habitats to irrigate our farmlands; we set up hydro-electric projects in wildlife inhabited forests to meet our demand for power; we ravage lush mountains to construct highways; and, we expand our farmlands right into the middle of jungles by felling centuries-old trees and bamboo clusters that serve as jumbo fodder. Rough estimates show that over 35 per cent of forest cover has been lost due to human greed in the past 40 years in Kerala alone. The direct result of this is that wild animals, including elephants, are forced to restrict their movement to 65 per cent of the land they had roamed over freely till recently. The situation is not much different in other parts of the country. The fringes of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, from where the two jumbos could have strayed into Mysore city, are a perfect example of the senseless extension of human activity into wildlife habitats. Being intelligent and extremely emotional animals, elephants are affected by this shrinkage of their habitat in a very big way. They rely not just on their personal experience but also on the information etched in their memories genetically for all their activities. They migrate in search of fodder, water and cooler environs as per seasonal peculiarities through pre-determined paths known as elephant corridors, guided by experience as well as genetically transferred information. Therefore, it is natural that elephants panic when these corridors used by several generations of pachyderms are found to be cut off in the middle by roads, farmlands and human dwellings. A sad truth of our times is that most of the significant elephant corridors have been intercepted by or have disappeared due to intrusive and mindless human activity disguised as 'development'.

Another factor that has been causing enormous distress to herds of elephants in the wild is shrinking fodder availability due to deforestation. Had the farmers of Bannur and other villages outside the Malavalli forests of Karnataka cared to coax the entire herd of elephants back into the jungles with the help of Forest Department officials instead of scaring and separating them, the two jumbos would not have entered Mysore city. And when they strayed into the city, the response of the people was inhuman: Crowds chased the animals, throwing stones at them, while motorists honked their horns, thus further disorienting and enraging the strays. If anybody is to blame for the consequences, it is the people who behaved in such a cruel fashion, not the tuskers. There's time yet to make amends and halt the cruelty we inflict on wildlife. Instead of enforcing our writ on animals, we should begin to learn the importance of peaceful coexistence.

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DEATH FOR DISHONOUR

PERPETRATORS OF 'HONOUR KILLINGS' DESERVE TO DIE


A Uttar Pradesh special court's decision to award the death sentence to 10 people convicted for 'honour killing' deserves the loudest possible applause. As it has been said several times over, there is no honour in killing one's own family member simply because one is in disagreement over the person's personal relationships. Such killings are nothing by cold blooded murder and do not deserve the 'honour' tag. The court has rightly termed the killing in this particular incident of three persons as a 'rarest of rare' case that deserves the death penalty. It will be in order if the courts declare that every 'honour killing' incident is categorised in the 'rarest of rare' case and invites nothing but the gallows. To that end the Supreme Court had a month or so ago made the encouraging observation that crimes relating to so-called 'honour killings' deserved nothing but the death sentence. If this becomes the rule and not the exception, one can at least hope that incidents of 'honour killings' will decrease. It would be in order to commend the investigating and the prosecution teams for the work they did in bringing the accused to justice. They performed remarkably well to ensure that as many as 10 people were sentenced to the harshest punishment possible under the law. Unfortunately, such diligence is rarely seen across the country, and especially so in States where such killings happen with sickening regularity. Not only are the police less sensitive to 'honour killings' but they also face pressure from community leaders and politicians to go slow against the culprits. In many instances, illegitimate associations like the khap panchayats endorse — and at times facilitate — such killings.

The fact that the kangaroo court proceedings these khaps conduct are completely illegal has not dented their influence in the villages where they operate with impunity. This is largely because few dare oppose khaps and their obnoxious rulings. While the Supreme Court has slammed these panchayats, it is for the State and the Union Governments to ensure that they are completely disbanded. Unless that is done, the khaps will continue to promote 'honour killings'. At the ground level, there has so far been little activity that promises the end of khapi atrocities any time soon. One reason for that could be the support khaps enjoy from powerful politicians. We have seen in the recent past the case of an 'educated' Congress MP from Haryana batting for the khaps and justifying their criminal misdeeds in the name of custom and social order. The clout enjoyed by those who promote 'honour killings' is reflected in the ease with which they have managed to stall the proposed law that was meant to fight this social menace. We no longer hear of the state's intervention in combating this crime any more.

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

FIGHTING IT OUT IN CYBERSPACE

CLAUDE ARPI


In today's cyber age, missiles, bombs and guns will become increasingly irrelevant as nations hack into each other's computer servers to rob data.

Sometimes one can see a smile appearing behind the most serious issues. The ease with which hackers can intrude into the privacy of your e-mail accounts or hack your personal computers is one of these serious issues which make individuals and Governments extremely uncomfortable. But not always. At times, it can also bring a smile, as it happened recently when MI6, Britain's external spy agency, and the Government Communications Headquart-ers managed to penetrate one of Al Qaeda's websites whose objective was to recruit 'lone wolf' agents.

According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, "When Al Qaeda followers tried to download the 67-page colour magazine, instead of instructions about how to 'Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom' by 'The AQ Chef' they were greeted with … cupcake recipes." The British intelligence hackers had removed the original page containing instructions for making a lethal pipe bomb using sugar, match heads and a miniature light bulb attached to a timer and substituted it with a recipe for making cupcakes.

In April 2010, an incident which lasted 18 minutes sent shivers through the Pentagon and the White House. A report of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission later admitted that the Internet traffic of the US Administration and military was briefly redirected through servers in China. The 18-minute hijack affected about 15 per cent of the world's online traffic, particularly that of Nasa, the US Senate, the military and the office of the Secretary of Defence.

More recently, Google has again accused China of stealing personal passwords and breaking into sensitive e-mail boxes. The spokesperson for Google said, "We recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing. This campaign, which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affected what seem to be the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users including, among others, senior US Government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists." This was a pointed accusation, as an important signals' intelligence unit of the PLA is located in Jinan.

Google's accusation was immediately denied by the Chinese Government. The China Daily spoke of a 'political farce': "Google is playing its old tricks at a time when the US Government and the public are making a great whoop on the issue of the Internet. One is led to believe that Google has attempted to play a role in a political farce… Therefore, if Google has really suffered from 'Chinese hackers' attacks, it could resort to the judicial cooperation mechanism between China and the US to find solutions."

A week earlier, the American defence contractor Lockheed Martin admitted that it had also been hacked, though "it managed to stop the 'tenacious' attack before any critical data was stolen". Knowing that Lockheed Martin deals with US defence hardware and software, this news would not have left the Obama Administration indifferent.

What American analysts fear the most is an 'electronic Pearl Harbour'. The US's apprehensions are underscored by what Mr James Miller, the Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defence for Policy, has had to say on this issue: "Over the past decade, we have seen the frequency and sophistication of intrusions into our networks increased. Our networks are scanned thousands of times an hour."

On May 25, China Review News, a publication in Chinese language, reported that the Ministry of National Defence spokesman, Senior Colonel Geng Yansheng, had acknowledged the existence of a professional cyberwarfare unit at Guangzhou Military Region (known as the 'Online Blue Army'). Col Geng admitted: "China's network protection is comparatively weak. Enhancing IT capacity and strengthening network security protection are important components of military training for an Army." He refused to answer whether the objective of the 'Online Blue Army' was to attack other countries.

While the Chinese Foreign Ministry has dismissed Google's allegations, two PLA Senior Colonels, Ye Zheng and Zhao Baoxian, have written an essay for China Youth Daily, arguing that Beijing needs cyberwarfare skills: "Just as nuclear warfare was the strategic war of the industrial era, cyberwarfare has become the strategic war of the information era, and this has become a form of battle that is massively destructive and concerns the life and death of nations." The PLA is said to have already conducted simulated cyberbattles between a 'Blue Army' fighting a 'Red Team' using virus and mass spam attacks.

The future is rather depressing. According to The Wall Street Journal the Pentagon is ready to respond to computer sabotage with military force. "The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the US to respond using traditional military force," the daily said recently. But it is not an easy proposition to decide at what point computer hacking can be construed as an act of war. Apparently the Pentagon has defined some criteria, but are they reliable?

Another issue is how to be sure of the origin of the attack. Further, will missiles solve hacking problems or will they just be a deterrent? Look at the situation in Libya: Despite thousands of missiles being launched, three months into the conflict Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is still going strong. There is clearly no ready-made solutions to cyberwar.

But there is another side to the issue. Kaspersky Security Lab Service recently published a fascinating interview on China's cybersecurity and the fact that China is itself extremely vulnerable to cyber attacks. A friend commented, "I'm not surprised that China is vulnerable. This is yet another example of why security is asymmetric in nature. It calls for great effort to plug all the holes (defensive action) as opposed to the effort required to find one hole (offensive action)." In the cyberworld, offence is the best defence. This is 'active defence'.

China's hackers will probably continue to attack targets abroad. However, the fact remains that China's servers are possibly not so secure. If Beijing refuses to cooperate, it could also face serious problems with protecting official data.

A Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit was recently held in London with Ministers from the UK, the US, China, India and France gathering to discuss how to combat the threat of cyber-terrorism. Different opinions were shared. France, for example, believes that if nations are able to work together and set up international security standards, national laws are enough to fight this scourge.

For India the situation is different: It sees cyberspace as a borderless world; therefore, a global legal regime is needed to deal with issue. As Mr Kapil Sibal, Minister in charge of IT and communications, says, "The nature of cyberspace is that it is borderless and anonymous and it is not subject to Government territories that have laws," adding, "There is a fundamental contradiction between Government regulation and the nature of cyberspace."

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THE PIONEER

OPED

DICTATORSHIP OF SYCOPHANTS

ARINDAM CHAUDHURI


The modern day Jallianwala Bagh at Ramlila Ground shows the demonic attitude of the Government, the weak spine of the Opposition and the hypocrisy of the media. Are we living in the world's largest democracy? Or has India become a shameless, unapologetic dictatorship of sycophants?

My question is, are we living in a democracy or in a shamelessly unapologetic dictatorial regime? Has the Government finally lost it totally? Or do they believe that the people of the country are so foolish that they will quietly accept any amount of dictatorship and vote them to power again in 2014? Is there absolutely no learning from the DMK's huge loss in Tamil Nadu where it virtually controlled the media and yet people kicked them out?

What happened on June 5 is a blot on our democracy. There is absolutely no exaggeration when people compare the incidents of the day to the imposition of Emergency or the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Today one doesn't need to shove people inside a well and fire at them. Descending on sleeping men, women and children, beating them up and taking the huge risk of a possible stampede and fire that could have killed thousands is Jallianwala Bagh. And this stinks of the thought process behind the Emergency.

Baba Ramdev has mostly raised very, very pertinent issues of national concern. From asking the Government to ban the thousand rupee note (since that makes it 10 times easier to hoard black money than hundred rupee notes, a reason why countries like the US or the UK have the hundred dollar or hundred pound bills as the highest denominator for their currency) to asking the Government to bring back the $1.4 trillion stashed away in foreign banks (India has the largest pile of black money stashed abroad, the second being Russia with $400 billion, followed by the UK, Ukraine and China at the fifth place with $96 billion), the man is perhaps the only mass leader of the nation with a nationwide followership and someone whose remedies have benefited millions of Indians for real — and they literally swear by him.

Naturally, the Government had reasons to be scared — mighty scared, especially with civil societies around the world in a mood for rising in protest. So, to crush the mass movement that he was creating, they did what is unthinkable in a democracy and that too in the capital city of the country. The Government's actions are now a clear indication that it has turned demonic and is losing legitimacy to run the country with every passing day.

The incident also proves how spineless the Opposition, especially the BJP, has become. A strong Opposition would have, and should have, brought this country to a standstill till the Prime Minister tendered his resignation on moral grounds or at the least apologised for his demonic actions. A strong Opposition would not have allowed the Prime Minister to shamelessly say that the police action was inevitable, or allowed Mr Rahul Gandhi to make statements to the effect that the Congress will not allow such protests.

What a joke in the world's so-called largest democracy. It is time that the BJP's leaders stop their infighting and show the Government its place. Had they seized this or the countless other opportunities this Government has been providing systematically, they would have been assured of a return to power. Not that it won't happen. But it looks now that if such a return to power happens, it wouldn't be so much because of the BJP but more despite the BJP.

It is sad and shameful that the Supreme Court of India, instead of giving a 24-hour notice to the Government to explain its actions against Baba Ramdev and his supporters, and taking stern action thereafter, gave a shocking 14-day notice to the Government to file its reply on the happenings. The Government was thus given enough time for manipulations and passing the buck.

But worse perhaps is the clear divide between 'Bharat' and 'India' that came across during this event. The Government wouldn't have dared to take such action had the crowd consisted of middle class and upper middle class people. They had this audacity because the people who were there with Baba Ramdev represented the hapless and poorer sections of the country. Even the media followed the same thought process, despite the fact that a majority in the media are from 'Bharat'.

When the Anna Hazare movement happened, there were designer-dress-clad residents of Delhi out there to support him, and the media went gaga. Yet, when the same common man who represents 'Bharat' took to the streets, the same media looked at the movement with suspicion and raised questions.

Finally, I just want to say that we live in a country that is proud — and often criticised — to have inherited its Constitution, laws and democratic framework from the British. Yet, it's astonishing that one of the greatest virtues of British democracy is missing in our country. When you enter London's Hyde Park and Parliament area, you see all kinds of protesters sitting around, staging all kinds of demonstrations. In New Delhi if one wants to protest, he is denied a place.

This is unbelievable. In the land of Gandhi, people who want to protest peacefully are being thrashed mercilessly and declared 'tadipaars'. This is not the democracy that Gandhi dreamt of. In simple words, it is a shameful and unapologetic dictatorship of sycophants. And it must end.

-- The writer is a management guru and Editor, The Sunday Indian. ***************************************


THE PIONEER

OPED

MURDER IN PAKISTAN

HIRANMAY KARLEKAR


Is Shahzad's killing meant to be a warning to journalists?

A cornered military's warning to journalists not to unearth its skeletons? The Pakistani media's struggle for freedom against the country's military and civilian establishments has produced a number of martyrs. Yet one more name was added to it on Tuesday May 31, 2011 when the body of the distinguished journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzad, who was abducted from Islamabad on Sunday, May 29, was found floating in a canal. It bore clear signs of torture.

Not surprisingly, Pakistan's all-pervasive and sinister dirty tricks and covert operations agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, is being widely held responsible. Its Information Management Wing had summoned Shahzad, Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times Online, and discussed with him on October 17, 2010, an article by him published on October 15. He had stated in it that Pakistan had quietly released the Afghan Taliban Commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the organisation's chief, Mullah Mohammad Omar's deputy to participate in peace talks through the Pakistani Army.

Shahzad, who felt that a top ISI official had administered him a veiled threat during the meeting, was telling his colleagues in recent months that intelligence agents had asked him not to write on sensitive matters, and that he feared for his life. Needless to say, Pakistan's official news agency, Associated Press of Pakistan, quoted an ISI functionary, whom it did not name, as saying that there was nothing sinister about the meeting on October 17, 2010. It was a part of the Information Management Wing's mandate to remain "in touch with the journalist community with the main objective of providing accurate information on matters of national security. Further, the official reportedly said, that the ISI made it a point to notify individuals and institutions alike, about any threat to them which had come to know.

It would be naive to believe that the ISI would own up a murder it has committed. Besides, its long and murky record of abducting, torturing and killing those critical of it and Pakistan's military, automatically makes it a suspect. Last year, for example, Umar Cheema, an investigative reporter with the English-language daily The News, was abducted and beaten. Cheema blamed the ISI saying that the incident was staged as retaliation to several articles of his which had angered its officials. The ISI's diabolical role in Pakistan spanning a wide range of activities like rigging elections to spawning terrorist outfits, is well known. There is, however, an aspect to the Saleem Shahzad case which merits particular attention. In the first of his two-part article, titled 'Al Qaeda Had Warned of Pakistan Strike', published in the Asia Times Online of May 27, he had stated that the attack on Pakistani Navy's air base, PNS Mehran on May 22, was launched in retaliation to the navy's massive crackdown on Al Qaeda operatives and sympathisers within its ranks and its refusal to release some of those arrested.

According to the article, 313 Brigade, Al Qaeda's operational arm, which was raised and trained by Ilyas Kashmiri who was killed in North Waziristan early on June 4 morning, carried out not only the Karachi attack but also the attacks on the Pakistani navy's buses in April in which at least nine people were killed. The attacks were meant to warn the naval authorities about the serious consequences that might follow if they did not accept its demands regarding those detained.

Pakistan's military establishment, which had been deeply compromised by the fact that, over five years prior to his killing, Osama bin Laden had been living in Abbottabad within a kilometre of Pakistan Military Academy, the nursery of the Army's officers' corps, had reason to be angry about Shahzad's revelation of the presence of Al Qaeda elements in the navy. It raises two questions. Has Al Qaeda penetrated Pakistan's Army and air force as well? How wide and deep is the infiltration in each case? Pakistan's top brass as well as the ISI would be deeply embarrassed if media investigations reveal that the infiltration has been extensive. Pakistani media's recent scalding criticism of the military, for being caught completely off guard by the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden, could not have but alarmed the country's uniformed establishment about such revelation. Was Shahzad's torture and murder meant as a warning to newspersons?.*

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

NOBODY WILL COME OUT CLEAN

KALYANI SHANKAR


All parties have erred while dealing with the fiasco at Ramlila Maidan. But while everybody else can afford to make mistakes, the scam-tainted UPA2 regime can't afford that luxury

Who or what is responsible for the present crisis surrounding Baba Ramdev from which the Government is unable to extricate itself? Is it the miscalculations of the yoga guru, or the misplaced confidence of the Government in its ability to deal with him, or the support of the BJP and the RSS or the jealousy of the Anna Hazare's 'civil society' group? Either way, it is clear that all sides have bungled leading to this embarrassing situation, which is a textbook case how blunders could be made.

Now, Baba Ramdev's movement to bring back black money stashed abroad has been forgotten and the focus is on the Government's midnight drama of dispersing the crowds from the Ramlila Ground. The Opposition parties including the BJP and the Left are now busy attacking the Government for the way they treated Baba Ramdev and the entire episode has become a political match for the Congress versus the rest.

The Government has come out in very poor light. There seems to be a kneejerk reaction. The Government allowed Baba Ramdev's movement to build up as a tool to divide the Anna Hazare camp and eventually kill the Lokpal Bill. No wonder the Prime Minister sent four of his top Ministers to the airport in an unprecedented manner to negotiate with the yoga guru. When that backfired, he sent police to disperse the crowds at the Ramlila Ground at midnight that led to widespread criticism from all across the board. The Ministers were not transparent about their negotiations and tried to cause a rift between Anna Hazare's team and Baba Ramdev's camp. And now that the entire plan has collapsed, the Government has ordered investigations into the Baba Ramdev's `1100 crore herbal products empire. The Government's actions have given a new lease of life to the Opposition which has unanimously attacked the Congress-led UPA regime.

As for Baba Ramdev, he miscalculated the strength of his popularity and worked on the false assumption that the Government would not touch him because of his ability to mobilise large crowds; especially, after his negotiations with the four Ministers at the airport, the Baba was walking in the proverbial clouds. But all this changed in a few hours when his credibility came under the scanner as he attempted to flee Ramlila Ground disguised as a woman. Instead had he stayed put and possibly gotten arrested, his would have gained the respect of many. Also, his claims that he was going to be murdered are unreasonable. Moreover, he was also not transparent about his negotiations with the Government and had attempted to hoodwink his negotiators. Also, during his fast he was not focussed on one issue and made several other demands. Now, he has been pushed to a corner as the States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and of course the National Capital Region are all out of bounds for him and his popular yoga camps. Clearly, he has lost his earlier halo.

By initially distancing itself from the Government's actions, the Congress has cleverly dealt with the issue. In fact, the Congress tried to occupy Opposition space by criticising the Government's moves. AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh was the only one who spoke against Baba Ramdev and eventually got the Congress to endorse his line. The party has no answer for why the Government was working with the yoga guru, if he was not a desirable person in the first place.

As for the BJP and the sangh parivar, both tried to use the yoga guru to fight the Government. The RSS was upset that the Government was talking about Hindu terror and so they propped up Baba Ramdev to fight black money. In fact, it was the RSS which mobilised the crowds at Ramlila Maidan and supported the movement in a big way. The sudden appearance of Sadhavi Ritambara and others (who should have remained in the background) on the dais exposed the the role of the RSS and that led to much adverse publicity. The BJP should have taken up the issue at a political level instead of hiding behind the yoga guru.

Civil society activists led by Anna Hazare were upbeat and riding high following the formation of a joint committee to draft the Lokpal Bill but Baba Ramdev was clearly annoyed with them for hijacking what he felt was his pet issue. Jealousy ensued and hence, the two did not work together as was evident from the fact that Anna Hazare and social activists like Medha Patkar were critical of the money spent on the Ramlila Maidan event.

However, while players like Baba Ramdev, Anna Hazare, RSS and even members of the Opposition can afford to commit mistakes the question remains if the Government also has the same luxury, especially since in these past few months, UPA 2 has only moved from one crisis to another starting with the Commonwealth Games lootfest up until Monday's Baba Ramdev fiasco. Unfortunately, the Government has only been reacting and not acting on the situation. The Government has its responsibilities, which have to be carried out to the satisfaction of the people who have elected them.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

TRIVIALISING THE NATION'S POLITICAL PROCESS

BY SURRENDERING THEIR POLITICAL DUTIES TO PRIVATE INDIVIDUALS, OUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES HAVE BETRAYED THE SYSTEM SAYS CP BHAMBHRI


While presenting to the voters its list of achievements over the past two years, the Congress led-UPA regime at the Centre said that it had achieved economic growth, increased the number of primary schools and expanded the National Rural Health Mission which now reaches to 264 districts in the country, and invested sizeable public funds in the agricultural sector and infrastructure for development. Further in its 74 page report to the people on May 22, 2011, Congress president Sonia Gandhi asserted that "transparency, accountability and probity are at the very heart of our governance." Finally, with great fanfare the UPA leadership, on its second anniversary, declared that it is determined to fight corruption in public life.

The point however is that it has always been assumed that an elected Government is capable of providing 'clean' administration. Therefore it was rather unusual when the UPA regime had to convince the public that it will provide a corruption-free and clean administration. This is because the the UPA regime has completely lost its credibility and must now convince the people that they deserve good governance.

Towards that extent, the Government now, under the direction of the Supreme Court, has CBI Special Courts sentencing the high and mighty associated with the Union Government on charges of robbing the national treasury while performing their duties as public functionaries. This points to an unusual public show of commitment by a Government of the day towards ensuring that it is undertaking every effort possible to eradicate the evil of corruption in public life that has been promoted by its own ministers, bureaucrats, leaders and allies in Government.

Clearly, the Congress-led UPA regime at the Centre is completely on the defensive here. It will also not be out of place to state that it is the Opposition parties that have exposed the proverbial skeletons in the UPA cupboard with regard to scams and corruption scandals. Consequently, today the UPA's corrupt nature has become a talking point for the voters on the streets of India.

People have now literally come out on the streets to express their anger. This has also given public figures like Anna Hazare or Baba Ramdev the opportunity to successfully mobilise large sections of society on the basis of the anti-corruption agenda which caught the nation's attention.

However, the issue at hand is not the role or the popularity of these public mobilisers. Instead, the focus should be on the 'mobilised,' i.e. those who have come out to express their resentment against corrupt political leaders abusing their power. Obviously, the common man feels that he has been cheated and the trust he had reposed in his elected representative has been completely betrayed.

It is however a matter of great concern that the Opposition did not feel it necessary to pursue the anti-corruption agenda after raising the issue in Parliament. Why did the Opposition not organise a mass agitation on this burning issue? Why did Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev have to jump in to the fray?

Ideally, this fight should have been led by the Opposition which in a parliamentary democracy is the originial watchdog of public interests. It is the Opposition's primary responsibility is to keep the Government on its toes and when necessary mobilise public opinion against acts of omission and commission indulged in by the Government.

The Opposition should have been the torch bearer of the anti-corruption agenda. With the support of civil society, they should have compelled the Government to create a strong legal framework for bringing the guilty to the book. The enactment of legislation to curb corruption or bring back Indian money stashed away in safe havens should have been on top of the Opposition agenda. Now, if the Government was not responsive, the Opposition would have been completely within its rights to mobilise public opinion against the ruling party.

But how the Opposition could hand over their legitimate role and duty to private individuals, no matter how well-meaning they are, is beyond comprehension. This is particularly worrying because it is entirely possibly that those who are in the Opposition today may become the ruling party after the next general elections and then the new Opposition will follow the precedents set by those who held the same positions earlier. As a result, elected representatives would have handed over their political space to non-elected "eminent people" who are not accountable to either public or Parliament. Just like by creating the National Advisory Council Ms Sonia Gandhi has established a super cabinet in the process made a laughing stock of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cabinet, the Opposition too stands equally guilty of 'outsourcing' the its task to self appointed 'wise men'.

It must also be said that Mr Singh's Government is also not without fault. Instead of constituting a Joint Committee with non-elected individuals to draft the Lokpal Bill, Mr Singh should have arranged to have in-depth consultation with the Opposition as well as other elected representatives. After all, in every democracy issues of governance are ultimately discussed, debated and resolved by the country's elected representatives. It is a tragedy that today a democratically elected Government in India has now completely surrendered its state authority to a small group of self-appointed crusaders.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

TRANSPARENCY REVOLUTION

 

Headlines are now blaring about the mudslinging that's going on between anti-corruption activists and the government. But defence minister A K Antony - in remarks that might cause some discomfort to his colleagues in the Congress - has broached a longer-term outlook that's more positive. Renowned for his clean image - which stands out so much in today's atmosphere that some refer to him as St Antony - his current notion that the country is passing through a transparency revolution is significant.


Antony believes that the walls of secrecy are crumbling, even though many within the government and outside are not ready for the winds of change. Nonetheless, he concludes that the transparency revolution has reached critical mass and can't be stopped midway. The scenario Antony projects is optimistic, but plausible. Even if his statements are embarrassing for his colleagues, they may well be prophetic. The main reason why the anti-corruption movement may be more successful this time than on earlier rounds - Jayaprakash Narayan and V P Singh have campaigned before on similar issues - is the rise of the middle class.


Since the liberalisation of the economy in the 1990s, economic growth has added to middle class numbers - those who are aspirational in character and well aware of their rights. Experiences worldwide inform us that it is this segment of society that forms the backbone of a modern democracy. This also explains why the old power structures defined by feudal aristocracy and crony capitalism are increasingly under pressure to reform. There is dwindling patience for politicians and babus who use corruption as a tool for personal aggrandisement. Scams such as those involving the sale of 2G spectrum or contracts for the Commonwealth Games are seen as loot of national wealth, rather than just an issue of impropriety.


In that sense, the UPA has sadly misjudged the political moment. In continuing with old-style politics focussed on entitlement, identity and patronage it has invited the ire of the people. Civil society is no longer willing to be taken for granted or have the wool pulled over their eyes. Nevertheless, as Antony has pointed out, the political class has also played its role in ushering in greater transparency. For example, the UPA, in its first avatar, passed the Right to Information Act. As the electorate grows more aware and 24x7 media does its bit, politicians will be under greater pressure to perform. In the end, the battle against corruption will be fought and won in Parliament, not outside. But it is only by heeding the demand of civil society for greater probity that the government can redeem itself.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST

 

Controversial. This, more than any other adjective, came to describe M F Husain's art. Husain was no stranger to notoriety. His depiction of Indira Gandhi as Durga raised eyebrows across 1970s India. However, in the 1990s, his art raised more than comment. It was struck by violence, ultimately claiming the artist's freedom to live in India. Husain's life reflects India's changing colours. Born in 1915, he became an artist of repute, joining the Progressive Artists Group in 1947. He accepted influences from around the world; Pablo Picasso, Prague's architecture, African poetry, all were welcome. He reflected the excitement of India itself, open to the world's art as it evolved its own style. Husain painted freely and frankly - nude goddesses, dark monks, rib-lined horses, elephants playing veenas, nations in distress - in canvases executed with style and showmanship, spreading artistic excitement across society.

In the 1990s, this vibrant space was attacked and Husain became a victim. In 1996, the Hindu right questioned Husain's prerogative as 'a Muslim painter' to depict nude Hindu deities. The artist's house was attacked, works vandalised and multiple legal cases registered against a man aged above 80 over 'hurting a community's sentiments'. Ironically, he also faced anger from the Muslim right, outraged over a song in his directorial venture, Meenaxi, allegedly featuring Quranic excerpts. The uproar was powerful enough for Husain to pull the film out of theatres. The cases around him finally made him pull out of India too. In 2010, against a non-bailable warrant and a non-committal government in India, he accepted
Qatari citizenship. And never returned. It's to India's shame that one of its greatest contemporary artists had to die in exile.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

PUBLIC OPINION - THE FIFTH ESTATE

VIKRAM SINGH MEHTA

Amidst the sound and fury of the civic agitation against corruption (which hopefully will signify something), public opinion has emerged as possibly the fifth 'estate' of governance. This is an affirmation of both the strength and the weakness of our polity. On the one hand, it reinforces the message that public opinion is the essential domino. When mobilised our elected representatives respond with alacrity - as should be expected in a robust democracy .

On the other hand, it suggests that the three estates of the legislature, judiciary and executive that function with an eye cocked on the fourth - the media - do not reflect or respond to public opinion. The public has had to after all come out onto the streets for the leaders to act. It points to the fact that our democracy is more a process than a lightning rod - an electoral process that allows the public to manifest its opinion every five years or so, but in the intervening period gives the elected representatives free rein to interpret public opinion through the prism of their narrow and risk-averse self-interest.

It is an open question whether the Anna Hazare/Ramdev duo will succeed in shifting the needle on corruption. The malaise is deep-rooted and it is not obvious that their demands and methods offer a pragmatic and systemic prescription. That said, it cannot be denied that their leadership has underlined the potential of the 'soft power' of public opinion. It has raised the possibility that the government can constructively engage with public opinion to help resolve the conundrum of democratic politics - the impasse between good economics and good politics.

One example of this possibility is the challenge of fuel prices. The government is once again struggling with this challenge. It knows that economic logic and common sense warrant that the price of petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene be raised. And that otherwise, public sector oil companies will be driven into a financial abyss and the government will face an unmanageable subsidy burden. They also know that such a hike, especially at a time of commodity and food inflation, will trigger a political backlash and might threaten their individual political futures.

This is not the first time that they have faced this challenge. It has been on their agenda ever since petroleum product prices were deregulated in April 2002 and oil companies were given the de jure freedom to set prices in accordance with market principles. Most times, however, the government has restrained the oil companies from exercising this right. As a result, the companies, and indeed the government (as their principal shareholder), have run up enormous costs.

In financial year 2010 -11 for instance, the companies collectively 'underrecovered' (a euphemism for 'lost') approximately Rs 70,000 crore. In 2011-12, and assuming the current gap between their domestic selling price and the international cost price will not narrow, the loss could exceed Rs 1,00,000 crore. There are, in addition, the 'costs' of reduced investments in exploration and production; distribution and logistics; maintenance; safety; technology and R&D. And the dilution of competitiveness in the international arena. The longer-term impact will be enhanced energy insecurity and environmental degradation - costs and debts that future generations will be asked to redeem.

The government is, of course, aware of these costs. Almost every senior minister has stated in public that the current policy should be altered and that its continuation is detrimental to sustainable development. But their party headquarters have not allowed them to bite the bullet of their conviction. The companies' de jure rights remain superseded by the government's de facto fiat.

This logjam could be broken by the soft power of public opinion. This will not be easy but what the current agitation has brought home is that public preferences are not set in concrete and that in the face of new information and experience, people are prepared to accept some short-term pain for longer term gain. It has shown that the public does respond to logic and matters of broader concern.

On the issue of fuel prices, therefore, it is not a given that it will always object to higher prices. With full information about the consequences of a burgeoning subsidy burden on economic development and energy security - and the adverse implications on the environment of product adulteration and resource misallocation (problems that occur because of price distortions) - the public's position on a price hike might well be different than what the politicians have always assumed. The same could be said about the second generation economic reforms like labour and retail that have been put on the backburner because of expected political backlash. Here too, the effort to inform and educate the public might pay unexpected dividends.

It is well known that in a democracy, good economics and good politics make for uneasy bedfellows. And that when push comes to shove, economics is almost always given short shrift. But there is a limit to how far economic logic can be defied. The soft power of public opinion transformed into smart power through information and technology can help find space for both on the same mattress and enable statesmanship.

The writer is chairman, Shell Companies in India. Views are personal.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'THERE IS NO MORE FEAR TODAY IN TUNISIA'

FAIZAL KHAN

Ben Mourad Cheikh , Tunisian filmmaker, and his friends hit the streets of Tunis as soon as the protests against the Ben Ali regime began last year. Cheikh made a 72-minute documentary on the Tunisian revolution, in which he was both a participant and a viewer. The film, La Khaoufa Baada al'Yaoum (No More Fear), is part of the official selection at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Cheikh spoke to Faizal Khan :

Tunisia was known to the rest of the world as a peaceful country, not very poor and a tourist destination favoured by rich Europeans. So what happened?


The people of Tunisia had been living under pressure for a very long time. A point came when they couldn't stand it anymore and they exploded. It was a question of dignity. The Tunisian people wanted the same rights as everyone else in the world. The government in place had been using the tool of oppression for a long time to block Tunisians from speaking out. In December, Tunisians broke the cycle of fear. The protests started in the south, which is a poorer region, far away from the capital in the richer coastal north. Slowly, the protests spread to the capital. By January 14, everyone was on the streets, the rich and the poor, from all political backgrounds. The protesters were asking for their basic rights - work, dignity and liberty.


What was the role of the youth in the revolution?

Pre-revolution, there was a minority who would stand up against the government of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. But they couldn't reach the rest of Tunisia. The youth use new tools such as the web and were able to reach others. What is important is that it was not done in the name of politics. The youth took simple ideas, like the demand for liberty and dignity for all, which everyone agreed with. It was not easy, but it became possible.

What is the future for Tunisia?

The future is to be built. It can only be better. I don't know how it will be built, but i am confident that we will do it by accommodating different political thinking. It is for the first time since independence in 1956 that Tunisians know who they are. On July 24, Tunisians will elect a constitutional assembly, which will rewrite the Constitution. Later, a presidential election will be held under this Constitution. The challenge is to establish a real democracy in Tunisia and to show the world that an Arab country, a Muslim country, can be a democracy.


What is your film about?

The film is a kind of participation in the revolution. We began shooting without any intention of making a documentary. It is the first feature length documentary about the Tunisian revolution. There are three main characters in my film. One is a lawyer and human rights activist who suffered under the Ben Ali dictatorship. The second is a blogger, a young girl, who was the first to show to Tunisia and the rest of the world what was happening in the southern town of Sidi Buzid and how the government was putting down protests when none of the newspapers was talking about it. The third is a journalist, who exchanged his pen for a baton to protect his neighbours in a Tunis suburb. These characters do not know each other. The common point in the film is fear, the fear to speak and to criticise. But there is no more fear today in Tunisia.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

JUGULAR VEIN

NOTE WORTHY

JUG SURAIYA

 

Reader Shireen Bharucha wrote in with a suggestion regarding Indian banknotes which currently bear the image of Mahatma Gandhi. Shireen suggested that as most of our currency seems to end up in the pockets (suitcases?) of swindlers and scamsters, perhaps it was no longer appropriate to feature the Father of the Nation on lucre that was becoming increasingly filthy. Instead, she asked, why didn't the sarkar portray on our currency notes the mug shots of scamsters? A great idea. In the meantime, Baba Ramdev has his own ideas about currency reform, his recommendation being that we should get rid of all our Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

In these inflationary times, Ramdev's suggestion might sound impractical. Indians shopping at the nearest kirana store for dal and chawal and atta have yet to employ wheelbarrows to cart along the money required to pay for these essentials, as people had to do in the Germany of the late 1920s. But the main reason that we don't use wheelbarrows to transport cash for our daily hisaab is that the price of dal-bhaat being what it is, who the hell can afford a set of wheels let alone a damn barrow to go with them. This being the case, one would have thought that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes should be treated as labour-saving devices, ensuring that we don't all end up with stress-caused hernias through lugging about huge loads of lower-denomination notes which thanks to inflation are barely worth the paper they're printed on.


So what the heck is Ramdev doing, telling us to junk our 500-buck and 1,000-buck notes? Has too much yoga affected his mental equilibrium so that he can no longer tell his aasan from his elbow? A moment's consideration, however, dispels such misplaced scepticism. And what helps to do the dispelling is the balance sheet of the yoga guru's worldwide organisation.

According to reports, the annual turnover of just two of Ramdev's trusts is some Rs 1,100 crore. The yoga guru's commercial empire is said to include some 34 companies in
India alone. Besides which, Ramdev's domain includes a Scottish island worth two million pounds, believed to have been gifted to him by a UK-based couple. From all this it would seem that apart from teaching people to stand on their heads and adopt a variety of contorted yogic postures, the saffron-clad super-guru can do much the same thing with numbers, when those numbers pertain to moolah tucked away in global bank accounts. Even as the self-appointed civil society leader exhorts the sarkar to bring back into India the black money stashed abroad by his fellow countrymen, various investigative agencies looking into Ramdev's own account books might marvel at the uber-yogic's uncanny ability to make numbers do his acrobatic bidding, turning cartwheels, executing sirshasans, so that sixes become nines, and nines become sixes, and so on, and, in some instances, doing a disappearing act and vanishing out of sight altogether. Never mind breath control. This is pure wealth control. Now you see it, and now you don't. Chhoo mantar!

His obsession with money - particularly other people's money - shows that the Baba is a financial wiz. As such it would be dumb to dismiss his suggestions regarding financial and economic matters. So when he tells us that we must scrap our Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes we should take his advice at face value, quite literally.

Obviously what he means is that we must replace Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes with Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 notes. So much easier to stack in these itsy-bitsy
Swiss bank vaults. And whose face should appear on the new notes? That of the guru with the golden touch, of course. And while we're at it, how about a new name for the rupee as well. The Ram-bo, anyone?

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

THE PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST

In achieving aesthetic and commercial success, MF Husain set new benchmarks for Indian artists.

In the small hours of Thursday, the celebrated artist Maqbool Fida Husain breathed his last in a London hospital. He died far away from India, the land of his birth, whose myths and peoples he brought alive in the thousands of canvases painted in the course of a prolific career.

The 'Picasso of India' also died a Qatari national, a citizenship that he had acquired in 2010, after years of raging controversies surrounding his work, whose depiction of Hindu goddesses offended religious groups. The bruised sentiments did not remain limited to angry debates: they erupted all around Husain, vandalising displays in galleries, launching assaults at his Mumbai home, proliferating hundreds of arrest warrants and litigations in police stations and courts across the country.

In 2006, Husain left the country for good, but his legacy on the life and work of Indian artists would remain indelible.

The most endearing legend about Husain's early life would be of the time when he painted billboards to make a living, before breaking into the Bombay art world and joining the Progressive Artists' Group on an invitation from FN Souza in 1947.

His breakthrough, however, did not imply a retreat into a select, rarefied world of high art. Husain's work was not a personal, tortuous struggle between the artistic consciousness and its expression being enacted within the confines of a garret. 

He was of the world, responding to the everyday: its disasters and drama, its celluloid heart-throbs or its cricket hero. From Mother Teresa to Bhimsen Joshi to Madhuri Dixit to Tiananmen Square: what moved people, moved Husain. He reveled in life, in all its sheer enervating power and passion. He was its chronicler.

No surprise then that he embraced Mammon, with his canvases fetching millions of dollars in the fiercely competitive global art markets, setting benchmarks that Indian artists before him could not even dream of.

Perhaps, it was Husain's penchant for performance that was most misunderstood. Whether in his preference to walk barefoot or his insistence on his portrayal of Hindu goddesses, he wanted to shock and provoke people into thought and introspection.

He resurrected the ancient myths, his celebrated Mahabharata paintings for example, not just because they dominated the national consciousness but also to assess the relevance of the wisdom they imparted.

Defenders of the injured ego of Hindu faith could, however, barely be expected to appreciate how Husain was reveling in the formlessness of the figure, conflating classical and modern traditions or expertly combining anatomical details while imbuing the figures with a spirit of humanity.

Without art, George Bernard Shaw once remarked, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable. In reactions to his work, Husain held up a mirror to that unbearable, degrading reality of contemporary India, shorn of its pretensions, a land of free-flowing information but not much free thought.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE SAINTS ARE COMING

The stage is set, the actors are ready. All we now need is the government to lift the curtains on the greatest midsummer's show since it ran to a packed globe.

New Delhi's Boat Club lawns are no longer off limits, say the courts.

Baba Ramdev is chaffing to unleash hordes of yogis on them. Let's hope the government sees the merit in this naked display of power. A sea of well-preserved Hindu flesh going through the paces on a June afternoon is by far a greater show of India's might than any Republic Day parade of creaky tanks.

'Holy Ardha Vakrasan!' the generals will exclaim, as they return to their war rooms to re-evaluate India's incredible capabilities.

As for the intrepid Baba, he seems to be on the ball about graft. Humanity's first recorded bribe was paid by an Indian — Indra was easily the most corrupt king the gods ever had or will.

The cure for a malaise as old as the Vedas must also be sought in them. It takes the genius of a Ramdev to unleash the power of yoga on sleaze.

Those of us who have neither had our palms greased nor twisted our bodies into crazy pretzels will, of course, watch the triumph of good over evil and cheer at the right time. But the show we must see. We've paid the cover charge many times over.

Yet the yogi will not exult over his victory. For he knows that the battle of the righteous is never done. The mighty warrior Krishna has promised to return every time dharma is beleaguered.

Sometimes as pig, sometimes as turtle. Why not as an army of sadhus?

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE ART OF LIVING

PARTHA CHATTERJEE,

Maqbool Fida Husain died in London on Thursday. He was 95. Nice, tame headline, this. But who was he really?

Was he the artist who courted controversy because he had painted Hindu deities in the nude in the 1970s and was hounded out of his home, hearth and country over 20 years later by bigots who claimed allegiance to the Hindu faith when their government came briefly and ignominiously to power?

Or was he a conjurer of images, especially from his most fecund period in the 60s, 70s and 80s that stayed in the memory?

Was he the great lover whom the narrow-minded shunned but secretly envied, even more so because he was also a loving patriarch?

Husain was a mass of endearing contradictions.

The trouble was that far too many people wanted to be like him; to have his flowing sense of draughtsmanship and apt sense of colour, his nonchalant manner, haunting good looks, and, of course, his generosity at work and play. Everything was play for him.

His colleagues in India — the raffish, gifted Francis Newton Souza, excepted — were staid middle-class folk with social values to match. They talked about creativity but it was Husain who was creative. There was no dichotomy between his work and life.

If he walked about barefoot, rest assured, there was a sound reason for it — apart from comfort. He used to say that since all the nerve ends found their way to the soles of the feet, it was necessary to keep them active through making constant contact with the earth.

It was not only his outward manner that caused a lot of trouble for him, but his quiet acceptance of worldly success that rattled his rivals. He was, in today's parlance, the 'ultimate cool cat'.

It was fashionable in the 70s, when one was growing up as an impressionable young man among artists in Delhi, to find fault with Husain, his persona and his work. It took quite some time to realise that people less talented and with less equipoise resented him because they wanted to be like him and couldn't.

His restlessness led him to indulge in what appeared to be gimmicks.

His Fiat 1100 car had horses painted on it — on either door. The superb blend of line and colour in the image was conveniently ignored and his critics called him an exhibitionist.

He was after a fashion but he really had child-like fun being one. He went ahead and painted Bhimsen Joshi, the famous Hindustani music exponent, as he sang on stage. He, being a child of the movies, having painted huge hoardings advertising Hindi films during his years of struggle, was perhaps subconsciously trying to do in his own medium what Alfred Hitchcock did with Rope — make a film in real time.

If he had a few blind spots, the Nehru family was one of them. Jawaharlal Nehru gave him his first major break and even posed for some striking, unconventional portraits for Husain. His gratitude carried over to Indira Gandhi. Husain, a political naïf, portrayed her as goddess Durga, the destroyer of evil.

He took the brickbats with equanimity and carried on with his work.

Husain had struggled hard in life.

The son of a humble time-keeper in a small mill in Indore, he had received some formal instruction from VD Devlalikar, a respected painter in the traditional Indian style, who ran an art school in the city. He wanted to become an actor but ended up painting huge film banners that gave his line in later years great power and clarity.

He also learnt to keep his central theme in sharp focus by painting expendable advertisements for films. He was admitted to the  JJ School of Art in Bombay. He did not stay there long. The compulsions of earning a living and raising a family were too strong.

He also became a co-founder of the Progressive Artists' Group that had among its members FN Souza, PN Gaitonde, SH Raza, KH Ara and Akbar Padamsee. Very soon, Husain was striking out on his own.

His success was hard-earned. His paintings began to fetch high prices abroad. In the late 1970s, a Husain sold for "a handsome $60,000" to quote Time magazine. He had a large family to support but with regular success, the money kept rolling in. It was then that the tides of history went against him.

The BJP came to power and its 'cultural arm', the RSS went after him through its satellite organisation, the Bajrang Dal. Suddenly the 'anti-Hindu' paintings were dug up and hundreds of false cases were slapped against Husain in various parts of the country for allegedly showing disrespect to the Hindu religion, or rather a monolithic version of it.

A campaign of calumny had begun and it rapidly gained momentum till Husain was forced to go into exile. But the most shameful act of all was the cowardice of the Congress-led UPA government, which could not bring him back to the land of his birth and ensure that he spent his last years in peace and dignity.

He prospered in exile.

Husain remained the nattily dressed, elegant man who had triumphed over adverse fate and continued to create lovely images. He even received a very lucrative commission to do huge glass sculptures and went to Italy to discuss details with expert glass workers.

He wanted to give back to art the pleasure it had given him.

(Partha Chatterjee is a critic and filmmaker. The views expressed by the author are personal)

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

'MY LIFE IS LIKE MY RED FERRARI'

SAHAR ZAMAN

As a TV journalist, I've covered art for little more than a decade. That certainly doesn't make me a veteran. But it has made me a lucky person in getting to meet a legend like MF Husain plenty of times.

In fact, the first time I ever interviewed him, I ended up asking him a factually incorrect question, much to my embarrassment. But he had the reaction of a grand old sage, "You are so young. You just don't know enough about me!"

How much is 'enough', really?

Here's a man who has seen success from the time he got his Padma Shri award in 1950, the Padma Bhushan in 1973 and finally, the Padma Vibhushan in 1991. He had been nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1986, and already had an auction record to his credit in 1987, where his portrait of Mother Teresa was hammered at Rs 5 lakh by Christie's. In 1967, he won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for his documentary Through the Eyes of a Painter.

Quite a lesson in history.

But that's not how Husain made you feel. He was never intimidating. Instead, he was always approachable and childlike in his curiosity; eager to know more about you than talk about himself.

There was a funny moment in one of the special shoots I did with Husain in Dubai. Husain started talking about his 'young' days that had us fervently looking for his pictures of youth so that we could match the visuals with his comments.

Google didn't help. Art books didn't help. Why? Well, whoever remembers seeing a young Husain? The hunt finally ended at his son Shamshad's personal album.

What struck me most about his personality was his zest for life. For someone who reached the zenith of his career decades ago, Husain never cared about resting on his laurels. He was always busy with his next big project. Even as we mourn his tragic death, we must remember that a number of projects taken up by the master remain unfinished.

The most ambitious among them was the one on Arab civilisation, which was the main reason Husain had decided to shift base to Qatar, take up citizenship and work in peace with a target of two years to finish it. It is sad that he will go on record as a Qatari national of Indian origin. But I can assure you that he has remained a source of inspiration for almost every artist that this country has produced.

A layman on the street who knows nothing about art will still be aware of Husain's name. His name will remain a symbol of Indian art.

As his brush made brilliant strokes on canvas, his mind worked as brilliantly on establishing Indian art as a valid entity. A work by Husain is a prized possession, even if it's just a doodle on a napkin or a page off his diary.

In 2004, he sealed a deal with a leading businessman to paint a 100 canvases for R1 billion. In 2005, Husain's 'The Last Supper' sold privately for $2 million, while his painting on the Mahabharata fetched a whopping $1.6 million.

For me, Husain will best be remembered as a true karma yogi, who worked till the end of his life and took life as it came. I fondly remember him telling me, "My life is like my red Ferrari!" The best possible epitaph.

(Sahar Zaman is a Delhi-based independent arts journalist and art curator. The views expressed by the author are personal)

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE SILVER LINING

SUBIMAL BHATTACHARJEE

On June 6, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2011, Steve Jobs, Apple Inc CEO, announced the impending irrelevance of the personal computer (PC). Coming from someone who played a significant role in the PC's development about 30 years ago, the news was quite a revelation.

But it wasn't unknown that Jobs was working on a post-PC era concept.

He announced the iCloud, the new cloud computing (CC) services from Apple, which will be available later this year. The iCloud is a set of free new cloud services that will work seamlessly with applications on iPhones, iPads, iPods, Macs and PCs to automatically and wirelessly store content on iCloud by pushing the data to all the devices when logged in.

Storing contacts, music, pictures and documents have got digitised over the years and users of all age groups prefer the digital versions to the 'physical' ones. Out of those, a significant number of users are dedicated Apple fans and already accustomed to iPhones and iPads, which operate on iOS (Apple's operating system).

All these devices were, till now, linked to PCs. But the emergence of iCloud will make the PC irrelevant, as we would no longer need it to synchronise data. The services will be offered free of charge and a storage capacity of 5GB will be given to each user. In other words, the tedious task of backing up data and updating software will soon be a thing of the past.

The development is interesting on many fronts. Apple has finally joined the CC bandwagon in a big way. Though it will face competition from Google, Amazon and even Microsoft, Apple will make a significant impact on the market and try to cash in on its popularity and wide subscriber base of iPhone and iPad.

Google is well entrenched in the CC market with Google Apps, Google Music and Google Drive suites. Amazon has been active in the CC space with its Amazon Web Services and, today, also offers videos streaming on rentals.

Microsoft has launched Office 365, a cloud-based Office that enables companies and institutions to outsource and store IT infrastructure like data, files and e-mails on cloud. Its much-awaited operating system, Windows 8, will provide automatic configuration facility to users.

This means that users will be able to work on any Windows 8-enabled machine from anywhere without losing data. One good feature of iCloud is that it supports Windows platform. This means that millions of Microsoft Windows users will also be able to use iCloud.

The news of iCloud gains more importance in the wake of the bigger debate around the security of data in cloud computing. Incidents of cyber attacks and those like the recent hacking of Sony's PlayStation network frequently raise doubts about the credibility of CC as a foolproof computing solution.

A right balance between desktop computing, which requires a PC, and CC is at present the best solution for such problems. However, technological advancements and the availability of alternative solutions are prompting many to shift to CC while maintaining back ups in dedicated servers.

But there is no denying that, with iCloud, Apple has once again intensified the race to the top among various tech giants, who will now keep a close eye on each other.

After all, every organisation strives to achieve only one target — to cater to the needs of consumers, who are not only growing in number but also getting digitally wiser.

(Subimal Bhattacharjee writes on issues of technology and security. The views expressed by the author are personal)

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ALWAYS A MODERNIST

 

Maqbool Fida Husain once said, "I only know seven colours." But the contours of those colours — the haldi yellow of his horses and the ochre of his nudes — were entirely his. He was part of the Bombay Progressive Artists Group which rebelled against the rustic placidity and the stylised nationalism of the Bengal School of Art, but even in that brash collective of mavericks his canvases stood apart. His works brought together the audacity and agility of cubism with the easy familiarity of folk and classical images to create art that both appealed to and was accessible to people. In Husain, high and pop art collapsed in the most entertaining way. If nobody in modern Indian art took their works to the masses the way Husain did, it could be because of his backstory. The former painter of Hindi film hoardings knew the absolute delight afforded by popular art. In that ingenuity, his oils sold for millions of dollars and, along with the Razas and the Souzas, created a buzz about Indian art before The Buzz about Indian art began.

Husain was, at many levels, our most colourful modernist. It was not just the images he created on canvases, but the image that he constructed of himself — the barefoot painter who walked down Bombay's streets, who drew on paper napkins and cafeteria walls in return for a coffee or a biryani, the performance artist who painted canvases in minutes before a gathering, gawping crowd. He was not the reclusive artist who hid in his studio; sometimes he towered so much over his canvases that he gained criticism for being more gimmicky than genius. But he continually engaged with public spaces and personalities and sporadically with that most engaging medium of the 20th century — the cinema.

If Husain's horses collected fans, his fetishisation of the feminine got curiously diverse responses. It ranged a full spectrum — from sombreness for Mother Teresa to hilarity for Madhuri Dixit. And then there were his nude goddesses and Bharat Mata, which gathered controversies and court cases that eventually hounded him out of the country. He became, unfortunately, another totem of the modern times — our artist in exile — first living between Dubai and London, and then last year accepting the citizenship of Qatar. Then we collectively failed as an audience. Husain's leaving revealed our shortcomings, reservations and prejudices — not his. Husain's leaving was his final act of defiance, and it stood, as every brushstroke of his did, for his art.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MORE SUNLIGHT

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's direction to his ministers to update details of their business interests, assets and liabilities has yielded an interesting profile of his cabinet. The financial status of the powerful — how much wealth they have and how they invest it — always draws curiosity. Dr Singh sticks to fixed deposits, keeping his investment beyond controversy. A.K. Antony's loan funds a second-hand car. And Kamal Nath's flamboyance is reflected in his diverse businesses. Tracking updates incrementally serves as a check on their financial integrity. India has been slow to demand lists of ministerial interests, and by all accounts, just as it is with MPs' disclosures, more rigour is required to elicit enough detail. Therefore, the PM's well-publicised move, in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Ministers, would be valuable if it's to be the first step in bringing transparency to governance.

Examples abound around the world in how to proceed. In the UK, a register of ministerial interests is issued at the start of a new parliament, and then on every year of its term. It includes details of their finances and business interests, as well as employment of family members out of their staffing allowance. It is embedded in a ministerial code, periodically updated, to lay out how a minister may conduct herself in diverse situations and also steer clear of conflicts of interest. For instance, David Cameron's government has included passages dealing with the conduct of the ruling coalition.

The transparency that such disclosures yield is, first of all, critical in maintaining accountability. But it also brings government closer to the people, breaking down the information barrier between them and us. It allows people to ask pertinent and informed questions of the government and its officials. It helps catch violators — it also breaks the mood of "sab chor hain" that opacity in governance breeds. That mood, in fact, prevails in many quarters these days, and is whetting the appetite of some activists for lazily-thought-out and extra-constitutional measures to cleanse governance. It's time the government joined this debate, and laid out possible reforms — for more detailed disclosure, for blind trusts for a minister's investment perhaps.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

BABA'S TROOPERS

 

Baba Ramdev, perhaps scared by a mental image of the terrible beauty he had threatened to create, had retraced his tongue steps on his decision to raise a private army to defend himself and his followers, should the police swoop down on them again. His Maginot Line against the brutish beast called the state is a figure of 11,000 young men and women, chosen at the rate of 20 from each of his organisation's branches across India. Leaving aside the thought or insight spared for that magic number, these youths would be dual-trained in shaastra (scriptures) and shastra (arms). Ramdev's storm troopers? Oh Seleucus, how did we get here!

The Baba may actually find more "nationalist" ammunition here, but the modern state is a distinctly European thing. And it emerged as recently as approximately 400 years ago, with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 that ended the Thirty Years' War and conceived the sovereign state with a sole monopoly on the use of violence. It's that very youth of the modern state that's ensured that state monopoly on violence is more the exception than the rule worldwide, as illustrated by Peter W. Singer, a defence and security expert at the Brookings Institution. From ancient mercenaries through colonial private armies, Hitler's brown-shirted thugs, mafia gangs, Cold-War intelligence and assassination outsourcing, to terrorists, the world has abounded in non-state or stateless militia. What's more, the post-9/11 environment has spawned corporatised private military companies in the business of security and risk advisory.

So, the Baba is in thick company. But that doesn't take away from the ridiculousness of this circus. The Congress and the BJP, part of the show themselves, must hit the right button, between overreaction that could unduly dignify the farce and opportunistic condoning of a lawless free-for-all. After all, we can't always tell exactly when and how the ludicrous might turn sinister.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

HE PAINTED A NATION

GEETADOCTOR

 

At last he must be soaring. Maqbool Fida Husain, artist, mystic, rebel, set free on a white horse. Those magnificent horses of his youth, Duldul, the horse that follows the mourners at Muharram, the sacrificial steeds of the Aswamedha ritual that he himself became in his later years, the broken horses pulling a tonga in the streets of his native Pandharpur, call them what you will, but these were the images that reined in his early admirers.

Everyone could identify with one of Husain's horses. Not everyone knew what an artist was, nor cared to know. Art galleries were areas of dampness tucked away in small back alleys and lofts, made even more mysterious by their inhabitants and hangers conversing in tongues that no one understood. Husain's language was one that stood out for its clarity and simplicity; he was after all a poster artist when he first came to Mumbai. The language of the streets was something that came easily to him. It was easy to understand by even the least uninitiated. Husain invented the idea of the artist in contemporary India by both painting himself into the public mind as the barefoot man of the people walking the streets alongside them and recording the images that a newly emerging nation was still struggling to explore and experience.

He did not seek to preach, except perhaps to himself. It was always an interior monologue of images that he sought to define what he felt was his metier, his calling as a poet and an artist who had been given the extraordinary gift of painting a nation. What is nothing short of extraordinary is the energy, inventiveness and single-minded obsession with which he pursued his task. If we compare the relentless force of his creative output to a river we may also be able to say that it was an endlessly changing river that flowed through many rocks and whirlpools and eddies while remaining essentially the same.

He was the quintessential flaneur, the roving eye of the rootless wanderer travelling from one country to another, like many of his generation of artists, Paris was the fountainhead of ideas from which they could quench their thirst for inspiration. Unlike them, Husain always came back to Mumbai, to India, and never left it, despite being an exile, the most famous of those who have been made into pariahs by the jingoistic ferocity of those who took it upon themselves to savage some of his earlier images of mythical female characters and the fertile mother goddesses as being disrespectful to their own narrow interpretations of morality.

In an interview with Neville Tuli, recorded in The Flamed Mosaic: Indian Contemporary Painting, Husain clearly explains his approach to his work. "I realised that there is nothing original in this life, it is all about how you select and make it a part of yourself. That is the eye. So, I had to find my own way of selecting from Indian art. At that time, it was a learning process for all of us. I needed a certain period from Indian Civilisation, for I wanted to evolve a language right from the beginning. Our own colours, our own forms, and a sense of space, we did not have a technical advancement. So without telling anybody I came out with five paintings. In these paintings for the annual Bombay Art Society, I used the colours of the Basohli miniatures, the figures of the Gupta period. Also the innocence of folk art has from the start attracted me most deeply. All the festivals, the earthen toys, bringing these strands together were my art at that time. Also my background with cinema hoardings helped me very much with these strong and raw Basohli colours."

It explains why, at the heart of Husain's work, at the centre of the universe that he created to arrive at an image that would illustrate, articulate, celebrate, the soul of India as he imagined it, is the woman. She is the mother rocking the cradle in his earliest images taken from his own struggle to paint while bringing up two small children in a one-room tenement in Mumbai. She is the "Mother India" figure playing multiple roles in building a nation in "Zameen" (1955), the Durga riding a tiger form that pays a tribute to Indira Gandhi after the Bangladesh War and all the strident womanly heroines who raise their heads and voices, (with bared breasts sometimes riding the tigers of patriarchal protests) through the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics that he illustrated through the 1970s, to the tender tributes on film to real-life heroines like the meltingly lovely Madhuri Dixit who dominated the public imagination, to the equally emotionally charged portraits of a blue-and-white wing-like sari enfolding the never-to-be-seen, but always to be imagined face of Mother Teresa, cradling the dead and dying. Even in his days of exile, he turned his mind's eye towards the women of India, a dazzling portrait of Subbulakshmi to mark her passing, a born-again Bengal Renaissance in his last portrait of Durga triumphant.

To the end he remained what he had been born to be, an artist of eternal India.

Geeta Doctor is a Chennai-based critic
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MY FRIEND HUSAIN

KRISHEN KHANNA

 

I first met M.F. Husain in 1948. It was at an exhibition at Bombay Art Society where both of us were showing our work. We instantly got along and a few days later he visited my studio at the Chateau Windsor to see my works. He sold my first canvas to Homi Bhabha for Rs 200. I was working in Grindlays Bank then, and doing art alongside, but both of us were struggling artists and were to become good friends and we continued to be in touch even after he went abroad. In fact, I spoke to him a fortnight ago, when he said, "Ab milna chahiye, samay aa raha hai (We should meet, the time is coming)." Dadiba Pundole, owner of Pundole Art Gallery in Mumbai, had called me from London earlier this week and spoke about Husain. He said Husain wasn't looking too well, but we expected him to bounce back, like he always did.

Whenever we were together, not surprisingly, art often dominated our discussions. My job at the bank was transferable and Husain often visited me and even stayed with me in Chennai, Kanpur, Shimla and Delhi. He was very encouraging and could be described as a true draughtsman who was predominantly original. He could do just about anything on canvas, from linear lines to the colour that he often splashed. His thinking was simple and had a poetic symphony.

Last year, he visited my daughter and her husband at the London airport, and followed it with a call to me saying that he was coming to India soon. He loved cars, so I asked him which car I should get to receive him at the airport. He asked for a Bugatti. When I questioned him about the colour, he started laughing. We loved sharing jokes. He wasn't the kind to be malicious or sly. Even after not being able to come back to India, he had nothing against the country. He believed that it was a political thing and had nothing more to it.

The first work of his that I owned was a gift he gave me for losing my copy of Clive Bell's Art. He had borrowed it from me. One day when I returned from work I found a canvas with a note saying that he had forgotten my book in a taxi. It is a painting of a mother and child and is now on the walls of my Gurgaon home. Later, I bought several works of his, including "Holi", which is one of his celebrated works. I had spotted it in the window of an art gallery, in the middle of driving through the infamous Mumbai traffic, and picked it up for Rs 350. I don't know much it would cost now, but to me it is an important work of my friend.

We shared an excellent rapport. It was he who inducted me to the Progressive Artists Group. There was a rule that each member could introduce one person, and Husain chose me. Our families were also close. I remember one morning, my wife Renu, woke up from a nightmare. She said she had gone to buy vegetables with Fazila, Husain's wife, and she said, "I lost my son this morning." I went to office and when Husain spoke to me later I was jovial as usual. Then he said, "I lost my son this morning." All artists gathered and went to his house.

He was not the sort to complain; he was happy painting. When we were struggling he never complained about money, nor did he flaunt his wealth when he became famous. He provided for his family and wanted to share with others as well. Husain had a habit of wandering around and seeing places. I remember during one of his trips to my parents' place in Shimla, my mother prepared his morning tea and went to his room to find that he was missing. None of us had a clue about where he had gone, but after a while he called and said, "Main thane mein hoon (I am in the police station)." He had taken his car and was driving on The Ridge, which was not allowed. He was fined a sum of Rs 40 or 50, but he took out a 100-rupee note and even offered to pay for a lady whose goats had wandered and eaten someone's fruits.

Husain even offered a solution to the Kashmir issue. During one of his meetings with Benazir Bhutto, he made a friendly suggestion of an "easy solution", where he said, "You take Kashmir and give us Lahore." He loved Lahore. We roamed around Pakistan together, when one of our exhibitions was organised in Lahore. After the 1965 war with Pakistan, Husain, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta and I visited Indian soldiers at the front. We even drew their sketches.

Artists back then shared a different kind of relationship. All of us were scattered in different places and did not meet each other a lot, but whenever we did, it was with great affection. We exchanged letters and even painted each other. I painted Husain on several occasions. Once, after his visit to China, I painted him with Chinese eyes. The work was kept at Bombay Art Society, but it was stolen from there. I also did a portrait from a sketch I had made while having tea with him at a small restaurant near a railway station. Husain too had painted all the artists. There was me, Gaitonde, Ram Kumar and Souza. This was some time in the late 1940s or '50s. The Progressive Group might have split in some sense, but all of us remained friends.

Krishen Khanna, among India's leading artists, lives in Delhi
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MOTHER, AND INDIA

YASHODHARA DALMIA

 

He was one of the foremost modern Indian artists, within the Progressive Artists Group. He was an energetic, inspired and creative leader of the group. He brought Indian art to the national consciousness; his achievement lay in reaching the common man and making Indian art popular at the street level. Today if anything is associated with Indian art, it is M.F. Husain.

He was born an Indian and he died an Indian. He had a strong commitment to the concept of the nation, which is both composite and modern. As he once said: "India was never a nation. This is the first time it is struggling to become a nation. ...The very fact that it is struggling is dangerous and exciting... This is perhaps the most exciting period in history. I don't think it is just going to drown in the sea... for me India's humanity is what is important, not its borders."

In the post-Independence period, this meant opting to stay in India: "When I look back, I realise that the nationalist movement also meant Hindu-Muslim unity. We were brought up on these ideals. That is why, when our country was partitioned into India and Pakistan, our family never thought of emigration. We felt we belonged to the place where we had lived for generations."

To be a staunch nationalist was to join the march towards modernity, and many of Husain's paintings are directed towards this.

Even while he was in exile his thoughts were with India constantly. He was making a painting of Mamata Banerjee as Shakti which shows how much he kept abreast of what was happening here.

His mother had died soon after his birth and he was constantly recreating the woman as mother and Shakti. So he made that exquisite series on Mother Teresa. He sought the creative, nurturing mother in various forms, though always in a progressive, creative, modernistic manner. Essentially the death of his mother when he was hardly a year old left him always searching for her. He recounts: "My mother Zainab died when I was two years old. I had fallen seriously ill and her desperate prayer was that her life should be taken and mine spared. That is exactly what happened. Though alive I counted myself extremely unfortunate. Can anyone make up for the loss of a mother? I don't even have a picture of her. She refused to get herself photographed. In those days people were afraid of the camera... Sadly I have nothing which remotely resembles or reminds me of my mother. She is just a name to me, not even a memory."

The best known of his watercolours are from the Mother Teresa series. At their first encounter, her presence made a visual impression on him: "so animated, so brisk was her walk... I sat there aghast, looking at her, at her frail body bent at the back. She was in a coarse white cotton sari, worn in the Bengali style. Her face, her wrinkled skin was illuminated by an inner light. The empty room looked dingy no more."

Awed by her presence, Husain was to make one painting after another with a faceless woman clad in a white sari with a blue border bending over brown children, holding them in her lap or close to her breast. Sometimes the folds of her sari would cover the brown bodies entirely enveloping them in compassion. Perhaps the manifold yards of cloth could hold the lost and yearning child in Husain forever: "I try it again and again, after a gap of time, in a different medium. To translate that pain in my paintings, I think I will have to die of it."

The artist himself became a phenomenon — the centre of attention, something of a cult figure. With his flowing beard and barefoot appearance, he became both Messiah and itinerant wanderer, an image further heightened by his unconventional behaviour. He spanned continents, equally at home with the ordinary worker across the table in an Irani restaurant. Husain's quicksilver personality found a resonance in everyone. That is why, perhaps, even more than his art, he himself became something of a national hero, the only Indian artist to be placed on the wall of every home. If his artistic consciousness was based in the mythic, today the man himself is a myth, the reservoir from which springs everyman's fantasy.

His art was very linked to the nation's destiny and he knew how to transcend the cesspool and make something profoundly creative out of it. In that sense he was an inspiration for both the ordinary person and the artistic genre. His thoughts were always with India. That self-exile was out of necessity and it was a matter of great sadness and caused him grief.

His exile was a loss for us as Indians. What does it say about us? We turned away from the most creative, productive, generous asset we had. We should hang our heads in shame. We need to make amends in some way; we could have a museum for Husain and for the Progressive Artists Group to mark his memory.

Dalmia is the author of 'The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives', passages from which are included in this article

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A DIFFICULT BALANCING

PHILIP BOWRING

Appropriately, the meeting straddled the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. Defence ministers and top brass from the US, China and a host of regional powers were in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue. Just as that June 4 ended many illusions about the nature of China's Party, so the past year stripped away illusions about the country's "peaceful rise."

No longer does the region assume that peace is a given and Chinese economic growth will not create other problems. Instead, the focus is on managing conflicts and allaying mutual suspicions through dialogue.

China is trying hard to make up for its diplomatic setbacks in 2010, when, in quick succession, it picked territorial fights with Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan and India, and angered South Korea by not condemning Pyongyang's aggressions. Partly as a consequence, the US was spurred into declaring that peace and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea were among its vital interests. The US focus is on the importance of open access to the commerce that is the lifeblood of most of East Asia.

Now China is making every effort to put on a smiling face, while the US is keen to show it wants dialogue with China's military, recently hosting the PLA's chief of staff. President Jintao has visited the United States, Prime Minister Jiabao has been conveying good will around the globe, and China has been emphasising how far behind the US it lags in armaments. But it is too late for China to restore the status quo ante.

The US economy may be in deep difficulty, likewise Japan and militarily weak Southeast Asia. Australia is increasingly dependent on exporting to China, and India is keenly aware of how far it lags China in military technology. But it's just these weaknesses, combined with Beijing's boasting of its capability to project power, that have made other countries aware more than ever of their common interests. Indonesia has begun to attach more importance to Asean, which in turn is focusing more on issues other than economic cooperation. US defence cuts are unlikely to affect its military capabilities in the Pacific. A feisty Hanoi, with old connections to Russia and India and warming ties with the United States, has galvanised others in the region to see the South China Sea as a crucial test of China's intent.

For China, balancing diplomatic necessities with nationalistic impulses is proving difficult. One example is its first aircraft carrier. Bought as a shell from Ukraine in 1998, the vessel is about to become operational. Reportedly named the Shi Lang after the Manchu Dynasty general who in 1683 conquered Taiwan, it will be a source of pride and a constant reminder to China's neighbors that they would do well to bolster their regional alliances.

Nor does China get much help from its few real friends. Pakistan's prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, may have embarrassed the United States by praising China to the skies during a recent visit. But he also embarrassed Beijing by asserting that China has offered to build a naval base for Pakistan at Gwadar to which China would have access. While this was probably an exaggeration, it touched Indian nerves.

The major focus of arms build-ups, however, remains Northeast Asia. Japan and South Korea may have no answer to Beijing's growing strategic arsenal, but the sophistication of their surface and submarine fleets is more than equal to China's, and Japan also has close military cooperation with Australia. Russia is reviving its long-decayed Pacific fleet.

In any case, China's emergence has upset the status quo. Beijing's actions, be they conciliatory or aggressive, will set the tone for the future, and hence the relationships between the US and the other nations of the region.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

BABA RAMDEV

SEEMA CHISHTI

 

Baba Ramdev

Mumbai's leading Urdu daily, Inquilab, in an editorial on June 7 titled 'Ek tamasha hua' (it was a farce) writes: "The fact cannot be denied that through this farce, the government has enhanced his stature and a movement whose objective was nothing but politics has spread to the entire country from Ramlila Maidan. A section of society and politicians is engaged in comparing this episode with the Emergency period, the JP movement and the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy. This undoubtedly is an insult to the JP movement and the martyrs of Jallianwala. And if anyone is responsible for this insult, it is the Centre."

The Hyderabad-based daily, Siasat, in an editorial on June 6, writes: "There can certainly be differences with Baba Ramdev's persona, and if he has any hidden agenda, it must be condemned... But if the government believes only in suppressing dissent by force, it would have to take action against all those Indians who stand up in support of any effort to root out corruption... When it adopts such a posture, the resolve that it expressed for fighting corruption becomes suspect."

Akhbar-e-Mashriq, (from Delhi, Kolkata and Ranchi) writes: "The government has taken a big hit. Whether Baba is a fraud or has been propped up by the RSS, apparently he has come forward with an issue that is getting support and approval in the entire country. ...The hangman-like act (jalladi amal) of the government cannot be considered democratic under any circumstances."

For the bill

The draft of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 has generally been welcomed. Delhi-based daily Jadeed Khabar, in a commentary on May 29, writes: "The new draft has not even been presented to Parliament but communal forces have been making a hue and cry against it. The main reason is that if this bill becomes a law, stringent sentences will be given to elements provoking riots against minorities, playing with their lives and property."

Siasat, in its editorial on May 28, writes: "Keeping in view the incidents in the past, it can be said that the bill is a great need for India, and every principled and justice-loving political party should support it."

Jamaat-e-Islami's biweekly, Daawat, in a front page comment on May 28, observes that the proposed National Authority "will have as its objective, the preparation of a mechanism that will enable the administrative and criminal justice system to act free from bias, communal prejudice and ill intentions, and prepare a roadmap for holding officials responsible and answerable in a court of law." The paper wonders if "this draft bill will take legal shape" or be sabotaged.

Reacting to Headley

Hyderabad's Munsif, in its editorial on May 27, writes; "It has become clear from the confessions of David Coleman Headley that not just terrorist organisations but also Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, was responsible — rather, mainly responsible — for conspiring to attack Mumbai. In such a situation it has become necessary that not only America but every country fighting against terrorism should talk to Pakistan and pressure it to hand over those really responsible for this attack on India. But the experts say that nothing of this sort would happen, because Western countries have double standards regarding terrorism. If there is a terrorist act in a Western country, they would ignore all principles and laws for the sake of arresting and punishing the accused (like what the US did for acting against Osama). And when the same type of situation is faced by any developing country, the matter rests with merely issuing statements."

The daily Sahafat, published from Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and Dehradun, in its June 4 editorial, titled 'David Headley awwal number ka jhoota hai' ('David Headley is a liar of the first order'), writes: "When he himself was being prosecuted, he made many sensational revelations. The most important was that the ISI had a hand in the attack on Mumbai, and its high command was involved in the conspiracy... But in the proceedings against Canadian-Pakistani Tahawwur Hussain Rana for his involvement in destructive activities, he suddenly took a somersault. Now he completely denies the involvement of senior ISI officials. saying that only some lower-level workers were involved. Obviously, he was lying either earlier or now. What is thus clear is that he is undoubtedly an agent of the FBI and whatever he had said was what it wanted him to say. But one puzzle remains unsolved. If the American court had known that Headley was involved in the conspiracy for the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, why did it not order the American administration that the criminal should be handed over to India?"

Compiled by Seema Chishti

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

#IHATEMARQUEZ

JENNIFER SCHUESSLER

When the Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul shook hands with the novelist Paul Theroux at a book festival in the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye last weekend, one of the longest-running feuds in the literary world came to a decorous and rather anticlimactic end. After so many years, we've finally spoken," said Theroux. "I just had an experience today with a capital E."

The British press was less exultant, quickly pivoting from handshaking to handwringing over whether the great age of the literary feud was over. Some of the most famous literary feuds have recently passed into history. In 2007, the mysterious 30-year feud between Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel García Márquez, which involved a black eye and something about Vargas Llosa's wife, seemed to abate when Vargas Llosa allowed a laudatory essay he had written about One Hundred Years of Solitude to be republished in a 40th-anniversary edition of García Márquez's famed novel. When Norman Mailer died later that year, he no doubt claimed a technical knockout over the many adversaries who had preceded him to the grave.

Even Rick Moody and Dale Peck, who infamously called Moody "the worst writer of his generation" in a 2002 review, appeared together three years ago at a fund-raising event — albeit so that Moody could throw a pie in Peck's face. (It was all in fun.)

That last twist was a particularly devastating blow to connoisseurs of the literary feud, which, in its classic form, has often depended on a willingness to throw actual punches along with verbal jabs. Tolstoy once challenged Turgenev to a duel. Mailer laid out his longtime nemesis Gore Vidal with a punch at a dinner party. ("Words fail Norman Mailer yet again," Vidal retorted.)

More recently, Richard Ford responded to a sarcastic review from Colson Whitehead by spitting on him, giving feud watchers hope the old-fashioned literary barroom brawl hadn't gone entirely out of style. ("I would like to warn the many other people who panned the book that they might want to get a rain poncho, in case of inclement Ford," Whitehead responded.)

If the literary feud has lost its old-school bluster, it might be tempting to lay the blame with what Nathaniel Hawthorne might have called "the mob of damn Twittering women." These days it's women authors who seem to start the splashiest literary fights, and you don't need a stool at the White Horse Tavern to witness it.

Novelists Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult led a Twitter campaign against what they saw as the male-dominated literary establishment's excessive fawning over Jonathan Franzen, under the hashtag #Franzenfreude. Others took aim at Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer winner for A Visit From the Goon Squad, after she dismissed most "chicklit" — a term that itself risks starting a fight — as "very derivative, banal stuff." Novelist Ayelet Waldman tweeted blasting the critic Katie Roiphe for including Waldman's husband, Michael Chabon, in an essay she had written impugning the sexual swagger of the current crop of US male novelists.

Some feud watchers, however, question whether Twitter feuds really qualify. After all, how personal can things really be when the combatants have never met, and all the volleys are essentially open letters?

Roiphe says social media tools don't do much to advance the sport. Twitter feuds "get sillier a lot more easily," she said. "The nature of Twitter is you don't need to think about what you're saying. Most of us need to think more about what we're saying, not less."

Then again, no one exemplifies the sorry state of literary invective more than Naipaul himself, who a few days after burying the hatchet with Theroux tried to pick a fight with Jane Austen, dead for nearly 200 years. Naipaul dismissed all women writers as his inferiors, trashing Austen in particular for her "sentimental view of the world." (He also lamented that his own publisher had become a writer of "feminine tosh," adding, "I don't mean this in any unkind way.")

The singer Roseanne Cash, creator of the popular Twitter hashtag #JaneAustenAtTheSuperBowl blasted back with a post adapted from Northanger Abbey: "If Naipaul takes no pleasure in the happy delineation of the varieties of human nature, then he must be intolerably stupid."

As to whether Jane herself would have indulged Sir Vidia in the feud he seemed to be bruising for, her admirers seemed to agree that he might have had better luck insulting Ashton Kutcher. "Austen might have eviscerated the egotistical (if brilliant) Naipaul with a single excessively polite remark, but I doubt she'd have Tweeted it," Ayelet Waldman wrote in an e-mail. "Only those of us with impulse control issues take our snits into the ether."

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MANUFACTURING INDIA

With each industrial unit in the country needing to comply with 70-odd (decidedly odd, given that there's a 'humidity register' that needs to be maintained as well as a 'record of lime washing and painting') legislation, each of which finally requires a licence or a registration certificate, it's no wonder industry feels as stifled as it does. Most returns need to be filed on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, taking the total to around 100 a year. Then there are the inspections. For smaller firms, all of this can take up around a fifth or more of management time. It is to fix this, primarily, that the PM unveiled the national manufacturing policy yesterday, a policy whose avowed aim is to raise the share of the manufacturing sector from around 16% of GDP right now to around 25% by 2025. This will, at one stroke, fix many of India's problems, of creating jobs for the semi-skilled work force that is growing by leaps and bounds. With around 12 million new persons likely to enter the job force each year by 2015, that's a lot of jobs which need to be created—since the service sector, by and large, requires a more educated work force, manufacturing is the ideal solution.

National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZ), the key to achieving this, are industrial parks so huge they can even accommodate an SEZ or two. Like SEZs, they will have a processing area and a residential area, they will have state-of-art infrastructure and logistics; a cluster approach, BCG analysis shows, will confer a 3-8 percentage point increase in competitiveness; NIMZs will have various tax benefits, and a designated CEO will have various powers delegated to him/her, making it possible for several clearances to be given at the CEO level itself instead of going to various government departments.

That's the theory. The reality has to be seen. Environment clearances aren't going to be easy, nor will getting land for the large NIMZs, as can be seen from the experience of several high-profile SEZs—in other words, what looks great on paper can turn out to be quite a nightmare in reality, along with the attendant issues of tax arbitrage. The intent is to make it easy for firms in the NIMZs to exit, and for labour laws to be flexible (the trade union Act is not to apply for instance), but a lot really depends on what each state government allows. The biggest issue, of course, is that manufacturing requires a lot more than just state-of-art infrastructure. China's manufacturing success has been driven by an educated work force, of scores of patents being filed by R&D professionals. The NIMZs, to the extent they take off, are the skeleton required for a manufacturing-led India. For the skeleton to move, we need a brain.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CRUDE SHOCK

Oil's gallop to recent price highs, on the back of Arab geopolitical uncertainty and the loss of Libyan output, which consisted of 1.58m barrels per day (bpd) in January, sent shudders across world markets. Indeed, rises in price are seen as a quintessential factor in the increased sluggishness of growth throughout developed economies. Therefore hope that OPEC's meeting on Wednesday would provide relief (given Saudi Arabia hoped to increase production quotas by 1.5m bpd) was high amongst governments and markets. The actual way the meeting unfolded, then, full of acrimony and bitter political division, with Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali Naimi calling it "one of the worst meetings we have ever had", was far from the desired outcome. As Iran marshalled support against increasing production quotas, with the aid of Venezuela, Algeria, Angola, Iraq and Libya, Saudi hopes were dashed. Managing to garner support from only three of its gulf allies, including Kuwait and the UAE, all of whom have capacity for production increases, the outcome was a blow to the traditional Saudi dominance of the forum. In the short run, shortages may not be likely, and the surge in Brent crude by $2.50 to $118.59 a barrel on the back of Wednesday's meeting may only be temporary. Saudi Arabia and its gulf allies have the capacity to act unilaterally to raise supply. But the longer-term ramifications of the meeting are worrying.

Although official production quotas are somewhat flouted already, unilateral increases in production after Wednesday could substantively increase the schisms within the group. Iran, the current holder of OPEC's rotating presidency, and Venezuela, a close ally of Tehran, given their domestic political interests of funding expansive social programmes, are unlikely to regard unilateral actions to depress prices benignly. While for now, strategic reserves of the International Energy Association, a watchdog, are unlikely to be tapped due to the likely unilateral production hike by the Saudis, in the longer run, if impasse and overly politicised decision-making continues, strategic stocks may well be. This could very likely unnerve speculators, causing volatility. Risk premia may rise too, as cushions for oil supply shocks would fall. While it is easier said than done for OPEC to maintain credibility, let's hope for amiability instead of animosity at their next meeting three months down the line.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

CDS VERSUS CREDIT RATINGS
K VAIDYA NATHAN

Last fortnight, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued guidelines on the introduction of Credit Default Swaps (CDS) for Corporate Bonds. The guidelines would become effective from October 24, 2011, as part of RBI's effort to developing bond market infrastructure.

A credit-default swap is a virtual insurance agreement between two parties. The reason CDS is considered 'virtual insurance' instead of actual insurance is to avoid the onerous regulations the government puts on official insurance products. In a CDS, one party which has, but does not want, credit risk transfers it to another party that can better manage that risk. It is important to bear in mind that risk transfer is a zero-sum game. If one entity transfers risk to another entity, that does not create any new additional risk in the system, much the same way as money transfer does not create additional wealth.

An example of a typical CDS agreement would involve one firm, let's call it 'CDSbuyer' with R100 crore invested in the bonds of a company called 'RiskeyLtd'. The risk for the bond investor is that RiskeyLtd may default. Another company, say, 'CDSseller' offers to sell CDSbuyer insurance protection against RiskeyLtd's default. Perhaps CDSbuyer would agree to pay 0.5% a year to insure its R100 crore investment in RiskeyLtd bonds. All that the CDSbuyer is doing is transferring his risk to CDSseller. The terms of the agreement would spell the circumstances under which CDSseller would have to pay CDSbuyer and how much, but typically, payment is triggered by formal bankruptcy or failure to pay bond interest. In such a case, CDSseller would buy the bonds from CDSbuyer at par or pay CDSbuyer the difference between the bonds' current market value and their par value. In gist, the CDSbuyer is transferring his risk to CDSseller. The origin of the credit risk is in the bonds issued by RiskeyLtd and not in the CDS.

CDS let companies relocate risk. What's more, they work to keep the credit markets honest and expose negligence on the part of credit rating firms. For instance, CDS markets forewarned about sovereign defaults much ahead of the rating agencies. Until December 2009, credit rating of Greece was A-, three notches above the BBB- rating of India. However, CDS markets were correctly reflecting the credit risk of Greece. The Greece Sovereign CDS was trading way above 300 basis points, which then corresponded to a rating lower than BB-. Like in any information, there is an element of noise too. But a shrewd investor or regulator would normally be able to filter out the noise and extract useful information.

Likewise, there are many instances of a company being rated credit-worthy by rating agencies while the CDS trades at a high yield, indicating future credit troubles—the most infamous example being Blockbuster Inc, the movie rental giant which filed for bankruptcy in September last year.

Enron was another case in point. Typically, markets can better assess a company's financial health than credit rating firms. Not having a CDS market, as some conservatives argue, may merely shield unsound companies from having the reality of their situation exposed to the average investor.

In a recent paper, Oliver Hart of Harvard University and Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago argue that CDS is a valuable asset class as it can forewarn about crisis events much in advance. One of the problematic aspects in dealing with financial crisis is to prima facie know that there is a crunch situation. If diagnosis is done early enough, there is a greater likelihood of limiting the damage due to crisis. Hart and Zingales argue that CDS can assist regulators forewarn about possible credit landmines much ahead of time and hence help with the diagnosis. CDS were wrongly accused of being part of the problem in the recent financial crisis. It is only fair that they are now seen as part of the solution.

The initiative by RBI to introduce CDS would allow insurance companies, housing finance companies, provident funds, listed corporates and foreign institutional investors to hedge their exposures on listed corporate bonds with commercial banks, who have better ability to manage credit risk. There are some other supplementary benefits of CDS too. For instance, RBI has made an exception for rated but unlisted bonds of infrastructure companies. This could give a fillip to debt financing in infrastructure sectors as the bond investors now have the option to buy protection from commercial banks on long dated infrastructure bonds. Introducing CDS is a praiseworthy move by RBI because the easier option would have been to do nothing. We ought to give 'credit' to the central bank where due, for not shirking on the mandate to develop the debt market microstructure.

The author, formerly with JPMorgan Chase, is CEO, Quantum Phinance

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE GAS IN GAS PRICING
ASHOK SREENIVAS

The Ashok Chawla committee on allocation of natural resources has proposed that gas should preferably be used in applications such as transport and cooking rather than for power and fertilisers (disclosure: Prayas Energy Group provided some inputs to the committee on this issue). This will also enable gas pricing to be freed as these applications can afford higher gas prices than the power and fertiliser sectors. For example, even if landfall gas prices reach current import prices of $12/mmbtu (domestic gas prices are currently between $4.2 and $5.25/mmbtu), the pre-tax CNG price would be about R32/kg. This is equivalent to about R23/litre pre-tax for petrol/diesel, which is lower than the current pre-tax prices of R25.3/litre for subsidised diesel and R30/litre for petrol. In contrast, competitive bidding for power projects has shown that base-load power even from imported coal is mostly cheaper than gas-fired power even at current gas prices.

Usage of gas for transport and cooking would also enhance our energy security as it would reduce our oil consumption, about 90% of which is imported. In addition, it would lead to lower subsidies (on diesel and perhaps LPG), increased investor interest in exploring the Indian basin due to greater gas price expectation, and greater profit shares for the government from increased prices. Therefore, the proposal has many positives. However, as always, the devil lurks in the details. In this case, those details are issues such as the market structure for gas, gas transmission and distribution infrastructure, existing gas-based plants and gas availability. The Chawla committee report mentions these but they have not received as much media attention as the proposal to free gas prices.

The gas market in India is highly concentrated with just a handful of players such as ONGC, RIL and GAIL dominating the sector. There is also significant vertical integration or 'bundling' with the same companies having interests across production, transmission and distribution. Further, pipelines are not fully 'open-access', i.e., shippers or marketers are at the mercy of pipeline companies to transmit their gas. As a result, there is practically no independent gas marketer in India today. Such a concentrated and integrated market is obviously not conducive to freeing gas prices. In contrast, the US has about 6,000 natural gas producers, 150 pipeline companies, 250 marketers and over 1,000 distribution companies. Therefore, the government (and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB)—the regulator) must actively work towards creating a competitive gas market by taking steps such as: (a) mandating and enforcing 'unbundling' in the sector, (b) moving towards full open-access pipelines, and (c) facilitating competition among marketers through measures such as taking its profit share in kind and transparently auctioning it in small lots and mandating similar steps for LNG as well as domestic gas.

Another issue that needs addressing is the lack of gas transportation and distribution infrastructure and hence a national market for gas. CNG will become a preferred fuel for transport only if it is reliably available across the country, and PNG must reach homes for it to be used in cooking. The PNGRB has initiated the process of auctioning out pipelines and city gas networks, but it needs to be expedited—both for new pipelines to be auctioned and old pipelines authorised by the government.

The proposed market transformation must also deal with existing arrangements and contracts, particularly for power and fertiliser plants. As gas is a useful fuel for intermediate (not base) load power, existing gas-fired plants could be given a direct and transparent subsidy up to a limited quantity of gas corresponding to a low plant load factor (PLF), say 40%, consistent with intermediate or peaking loads, beyond which they pay full market prices. Similar incentives could be offered to efficient combined heating and power or tri-generation plants and existing fertiliser plants.

Prices of gas are likely to remain high if there is increasing reliance on LNG and domestic supply does not improve. Domestic supply of natural gas can be increased by attracting greater exploration interest through offering a fair, transparent and attractive regime that respects contracts. Another potential option to boost domestic gas supply is shale gas of which India may have significant reserves. But this requires careful policy formulation as shale gas extraction has huge associated risks such as potential ground water contamination and requiring access to private land—both of which are rightly sensitive issues. Another option that has not got as much attention as it should is international pipelines, since India is situated reasonably close to some gas-rich regions. If associated geo-political issues can be overcome, they offer good potential of gas imports cheaper than LNG.

Therefore, while the general idea of freeing gas prices and using it to replace oil is welcome, such a transition requires careful navigation and resolution of many issues. If not, it could well turn out that the cure is worse than the disease.

The author is research fellow, Prayas Energy Group

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A TERRORISM TURNING POINT?

Ever since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad with a check-list of counter-terrorism actions the United States expects in return for shoring up Pakistan's flailing state, the strife-torn country's army seems to have made a significant turn in the war on terror. Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri, an al-Qaeda linked jihadist commander who is alleged to have planned a series of terror plots targeting India and the west, was reported killed in a drone strike soon after Ms Clinton's visit. Pakistani media have since reported that the army would soon launch operations targeting jihadist bases in North Waziristan, from where Kashmiri and other jihadists have launched a string of attacks targeting the country and the west. Humanitarian agencies, in turn, are said to be preparing for the inevitable exodus of refugees. Less than a month ago, Pakistan was demanding a cessation of drone strikes, following the death of 44 tribal elders in a bombing in March. Although their lethal operations have steadily increased over the past few weeks, Islamabad has been silent. Osama bin-Laden's killing in Abottabad and the suspicions of the Pakistani state's complicity in his presence there appear to have radically limited the military's ability to resist U.S. pressure.

The Pakistan-U.S. pas de deux, however, remains a fraught one: each partner fears, not without reason, that the other has a knife held to their back. First, there is the matter of Kashmiri's fate. The Brigade 313 commander has emerged from the grave before — in 2009 — mocking at reports of his death. Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister, has said he is "98 per cent" certain that Kashmiri was dead; he did not explain the source of his arithmetic exactitude. Maulvi Nazir, a jihadist commander, has also confirmed his death — but it bears mention that he has been fighting alongside Pakistan's armed forces to expel the Uzbek, Chechen, and Arab jihadists Kashmiri cultivated. Local residents of the Ghwa Khwa area, where Kashmiri is said to have been killed, are reported to have no knowledge of his presence in the area; Brigade 313 itself has been silent. Even if Kashmiri's death is confirmed, and proves a precursor to a full-scale assault in North Waziristan, the results are uncertain. Islamabad's public declaration of intent has given time for jihadist cadre to melt into villages, and across the Afghan border. Insurgents linked to Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan warlord with close links to Pakistan's intelligence services, have vacated the area in anticipation of the offensive. Pakistan's military establishment, for its part, fears that acceding to the U.S.'s calls will accelerate armed conflict between Islamist insurgents and the state. Like so many other purported turning points in the war against terror, this one too could prove to lead nowhere.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

GAJAH IN PANIC

The episode of a young wild elephant straying into Mysore and killing a man is a tragic instance of rising conflict between the large free-ranging animals and people. Although the elephant is a beloved symbol of India's heritage, inspiring love, reverence, and fear, about 400 people and a hundred elephants lose their lives in these incidents annually. Just as people are terrified at the sight of a powerful mammal running wild, an elephant separated from its herd panics when it faces aggressive crowds. The unfortunate outcome should stir States out of their complacency, and they need not look far. In its report titled "Gajah: Securing the Future for Elephants in India" released last year, the Elephant Task Force of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, offers some clear ideas on how elephant-human conflict can be mitigated. The Karnataka government has done well to alleviate the financial distress of the family of the man killed. The long-term strategy must address several well-recognised issues that pit humans against elephants.

Female elephants live in highly cohesive clans and, research shows, the clans adopt distinct home ranges. The available knowledge on the ecology of these long-ranging animals makes it clear that any good strategy to avoid conflict must start with reduction of habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation. Often, new settlements or encroachments in the movement corridors of elephants result in violent confrontation. Lost habitat compels the animals to deviate from traditional pathways, in search of water and food. It is vital to use advanced technologies such as high-resolution satellite imagery to monitor and protect the habitat of elephants in all landscapes, particularly in corridors. Guarding crops against raiding will help in bringing down human-elephant encounters that provoke retaliatory killing. In Mysore, the panic escalated after live television coverage brought more crowds to the streets, creating greater fear in the animal. It is precisely such contingencies that an area-specific Conflict Management Task Force, an agency recommended by experts, should focus on. The MoEF has got off to a good start by committing itself to the creation of a National Elephant Conservation Authority. The central government must act to provide sufficient funding for it under the Twelfth Plan, taking into account that elephant protection could not advance much during the previous Plan for want of resources.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

AN ARTIST WHO HAD A BRUSH WITH THE NATION

M.F. HUSAIN EXPOSED THE MORAL DILEMMAS OF THE NATION THROUGH A PICTORIAL ECLECTICISM THAT MAKES HIM THE CONTEMPORARY SYMBOLIST AND FABULIST OF THE NATION.

SADANAND MENON

Ultimately, it is India's shame. All sorts of criminals and cheats and frauds tend to get celebrated as the 'sons of India'. But history will have to record that one of its greatest contemporary artists was victimised by virulent abuse, hate-speech and assault to such a degree that he was forced into a self-imposed exile at the age of 90 and no law, ordinance, parliament, court, civil society organisation or artists' guild could create sufficient safe passage to enable him a dignified return to his homeland.

In a landmark judgment of the Delhi High Court in 2008, while throwing out a slew of malicious and motivated cases against Maqbool Fida Husain, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had evocatively concluded: "An artist at 90 should be at home painting." But even the Indian artistic community proved spineless and incapable of celebrating that judgment. It blanched from inviting Husain back and daring the loony fringes, the newly crowned 'art critics' of the nation, to do their worst.

There is no doubt that the last almost 20 years of this prolific and versatile artist's life will occupy a special position in all future discourses on the freedom of artistic expression as well as the threats it faces, equally, from the attacks of 'national culture' as well as from 'cultural nationalism'. Even if the sangh parivar and its hydra-headed manifestations don't do any more harm, what they did to vilify and hound Husain is enough to put them in the pantheon of among the most obscurantist political formations in contemporary history.

Even a few hours after Husain passed away in London, the internet as well as the over 148 websites exclusively created to slander him on a daily basis, were spewing vitriol and abuse on a scale that can only be called frightening — even as it is dismaying. There is hardly a website or an artists' organisation (barring SAHMAT, Delhi) that stands up for him and defends him. Unprintable drivel has taken over the space reserved for both, artistic evaluation and an honourable expression of grief.

Maqbool's father was a watchmaker. From a young age this made Maqbool imagine he had a hold on time. An early apprenticeship with an uncle tilted him towards religious calligraphy, the Kufic khat, and the huge, religiously determined, geometric tughras which formed his hand and skill for formal patterning within massive scale. It was a rigid formality that left him arrested in space. In his over 70 years' innings as an artist, Husain has always stolen runs between these two wickets of 'open time' and 'fixed space' — between 'freedom' and 'conformity'.

The past couple of decades, though, have been Husain's most turbulent and dramatic years — a period through which he has been literally having a 'brush with the nation' — often without doing anything much himself to provoke it. It is simultaneously a period through which his market soared to true international proportions with knock-out sales figures at the first auctions of Indian contemporary art at Sotheby's and Christies. Husain's major buyers, like the Herewitzes, capitalised on their large and consistent investments in his works. Obliquely, this reopened the old vexed debate around art and commerce. Yet, Husain's market success put a seal of approval here on art as a stock option. It led, in the late 1990s, to an overnight boom in galleries, auctions, curated shows, art consultants and corporate-sponsored art events. While his artist colleagues fretted about Husain behind his back, they also showed a new business savvy in cashing in on the new context.

It was the period when Husain got museumized in the Husain-Doshi Gufa in Ahmedabad and in his own holding and display centres in Hyderabad and Delhi. These museums are distinguished by their inability or indifference to questions of art history and how to locate the artist within it. They existed merely as adjuncts to Husain's celebrity status.

It was the period when, as commercially and critically the most successful artist of his time, Husain chose to adopt a self-mocking attitude to his own art and, by extension, to art practices and art establishments in general. His exhibition events like 'Shwetambari' and 'Visarjan', besides being critical boo-boos, earned him the wrath of fellow artists who saw it as manipulated and as cynical attention-grabbing exercises. They, however, ignored the detail that, increasingly, art and artists were being constructed in the minds of the public by their degree of iconisation in the media — something Husain had always suspected.

It was a period when quite out of keeping with his character, he chose to make public his obsession with Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit, through a series of 'Gajagamini' paintings and a high-budget film of the same name which merely reified some sort of idealised 'Indian womanhood,' without interrogating the image in the manner that, say, Andy Warhol did with Marilyn Monroe. What was active was, perhaps, his comic muse. "Madhuri's body language is so Indian," he told some of us after a screening — connecting her effortlessly with the woman figurine from Mohenjodaro, the women from the frescos and friezes in Ajanta and Khajuraho, the tribal and peasant women from his own native village of Pandharpur in Maharashtra, and the screen goddesses he lovingly drew during the years he worked as a painter of hoardings. Through these he created the gender stereotype of a "nationalised female body," quite out of sync with the refined complexities of modern art.

That period would, of course, also be most infamously remembered for the violent and fascistic attacks on Husian and his art by fatuous fundamentalist organisations, for imaginary provocations. They were targeting him more for being a Muslim. They missed the point that Husain's representations of characters out of Hindu liturgy and mythology (and pure fantasy) — like Durga, Sita, Sarasawati or Bharat Mata — were entirely 'safe', conformist and folksy, quite unlike the daring reinterpretations of 'traditional' material by a filmmaker like Ritwick Ghatak, a sculptor like Meera Mukherjee or a choreographer like Chandralekha. These artists displayed an artistic daring which helped release the content of old iconography and symbols to be enriched with a new poetry, a new disturbance.

Ironic

It was ironic, then, that Husain was targeted by the RSS-Bajrang Dal-Shiv Sena stormtroopers and even more ironic that he became the mascot for the movement for 'artists against communalism.' Husain himself quietly chose to tender a public apology. He had earlier displayed his 'statist' tendencies when he had chosen to paint a triptych of Indira Gandhi as 'Durga riding Lion' during the Emergency. However, the 'little men' of the sangh parivar were on to his tail and relentlessly persecuted him with disruption of exhibitions, attacks on his residence, serial filing of cases against him for 'obscenity' and 'provoking communal hatred' and sheer filibustering. Husain's sense of being under siege was perhaps only matched by the abysmal sense of ignorance of his persecutors.

The past some 15 years have thus been a period when Husain displayed immense energy, was constantly on the move, shifted gears with rapid reflexes and slipped into a dizzy variety of public manifestations of his work — from painting in public to mass audiences, to doing jugalbandis with musicians, to making 'collective canvases' with fellow artists, to painting flamboyant portraits of his tormentors like Bal Thackeray, to putting good bits of his money into obsessive film projects around Madhuri, Tabu and so on, all of which sank soundlessly into that nether world where good intentions go.

However, through all this, what he has amplified is his own public persona as an artist who stands alone and has to be reckoned with. His brush with the nation has foregrounded many serious issues in art — responsibility, relevance, rebellion, censorship, lumpen fanaticism, artistic vulnerability to the mob-as-critic, limits and borders of the 'permissible,' and strategies for consolidating art practice as a platform for open debates and radical defiance.

Throughout his career, Husain exposed the moral dilemmas of the nation through a pictorial eclecticism that makes him the contemporary symbolist and fabulist of the nation. The nation though, at the end, painted itself out of his canvas.

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

THE FACE OF INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART

MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN'S ICONIC STATUS LAY IN HIS RARE ABILITY TO DEVELOP A UNIQUE ARTISTIC LANGUAGE THAT WAS A COMPLEX FUSION OF THE INDIAN VISUAL IDIOM AND CONTEMPORARY WESTERN NORMS.

MUKUND PADMANABHAN

Maqbool Fida Husain was not merely the most recognisable name in Indian contemporary art. His paintings, marked by a signature style and a desire to explore the abstract through the figurative, were also the most easily identifiable.

His iconic status of course was not based on the huge popularity of his works and his legendary prolificacy (it is estimated he did more than 10,000 paintings). It lay in his rare ability to develop a unique artistic language that was a complex fusion of the Indian visual idiom and contemporary western norms.

Born to a Sulaimani Bohra family at Pandhapur in Maharashtra, Husain spent much of his childhood and youth in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. As a child, he was prone to spend much of his time drawing, which let his father to believe he may become a good cutter in a tailor's shop. A gold medal at an art show however persuaded the father to enrol his 17-year-old son in evening classes for a local art school.

Five years later, after having been forced due to the family's economic circumstances to forego his seat at the J.J. School of Art in Mumbai, Husain returned to the city, where he found cheap lodgings and started painting cinema hoardings.

The influence of cinema would remain with him all his life, resurfacing most conspicuously in his producing and directing two films and the series of paintings he did of film heroine Madhuri Dixit, which he signed Fida (or obsessed).

He then found a full-time job with a furniture maker, painting indefatigably in the free hours. An award in an exhibition in 1947 brought him some notice. Later that year, he became one of the founder-members of the Progressive Artists' Group, largely an initiative of two other giants of contemporary Indian art, Francis Newton Souza and S.H. Raza.

The Group wanted to liberate itself from the Bengal School, which in turn was launched as an indigenous and nationalist movement in the early part of the 20th Century to break free from the colonial aesthetic.

Charged with the idea of individuality and the freedom to paint without restrictions on content or technique, the Progressive Artists' Group threw up painters with their own distinctive styles. Of the three men who would go on to become highly successful – Souza, Raza, Husain – only one chose to remain at home. Souza made his mark in London and Raza earned his reputation in Paris. It was Husain, who stayed rooted to India, his paintings exploring the vast canvas of this country — its people, its animals, its folk traditions, its mythology, and its epics – in a manner that teased out its very civilizational spirit. Ironically, it was Husain who, rather than be treated like the national treasure he was, was hounded out of this country thanks to a campaign of harassment by rank communalists and moral vigilantes and a judicial system that is extraordinarily tolerating in registering criminal cases on the basis of blatantly vexatious complaints.

Husain travelled extensively throughout India between 1948 and 1955, absorbing the influences from the ancient and medieval art he saw. He was already famous by 1955, the year he won the first prize at the National Exhibition of Art in New Delhi and received a Padmashree. In 1973, he was made a Padma Bhushan and in 1989 a Padma Vibhushan. In 1986, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

The slew of awards, recognitions and honorary doctorates however did not prevent a prolonged campaign of rank harassment against the painter. The controversy, over paintings he did of Hindu goddesses. Although the works were created some four decades ago, a raft of criminal complaints was filed against him in the mid-1990s for promoting enmity between different groups. Shortly afterwards, he and his artworks were the subject of attacks. His South Mumbai home was broken into in 1998; earlier, activists of the Bajrang Dal had ransacked a gallery in the Husain-Doshi Gufa art complex and damaged his paintings, including those on Buddha, Hanuman and Ganesha.

His decision to leave the country in 2007 and take Qatari citizenship followed another series of cases relating to his allegedly obscene depiction of Hindu goddesses, resulting in the issue of a non-bailable warrant against the nonagenarian and an attachment notice pasted outside his Cuffe Parade residence.

Although the Centre promised to provide him with adequate security, Husain ruled out returning to India as long as the climate of threat and intimidation remained. He suggested that he was at a stage in his life in which he did not want to live in a security bubble.

The demand for his paintings never flagged during his remarkable career. In 2004, he inked an agreement to sell 100 canvases to a Mumbai industrialist for Rs.100 crore, making it easily the largest deal in the history of Indian art.

His prolific output resulted in carping in certain quarters about the commercial or industrial manner in which he produced them. But those who levelled such complaints seemed to ignore three things. First, that he was naturally quick and could get his mind and hand to work in concord at lightning speed. Second, that he was an astonishingly generous person, one who was free with his art, giving them away as gifts to friends, even obliging the odd-stranger with a quickly drawn sketch.

No other painter has contributed more in making Indian contemporary art known within the country. Or for that matter, even all over the world. His works are invariably a part of international auctions and it is estimated that one of out every five contemporary Indian paintings sold by the world's two leading auction houses is a Husain.

He was the very face of Indian contemporary art

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

REQUIEM FOR M.F. HUSAIN

N. RAM

M. F. Husain, India's greatest and most celebrated artist, called me from his hospital bed in London Tuesday afternoon. Speaking in a soft, low voice, with old world courtesy, he informed me matter of factly that he had suffered "a silent heart attack" in Dubai some time ago, that it had gone undiagnosed, and that he had just checked in at the Royal Brompton where the doctors and medical facilities were excellent. I enquired how he was feeling and he said he believed there were no complications. I asked if there was anyone I should inform about his hospitalisation and he said members of his family were on their way.

I had a sense of foreboding that this might turn out to be a farewell call. I knew he had sighted many more than a thousand moons, scored a century by the Islamic calendar, and was probably fit enough to go on to a hundred years by the Gregorian calendar. I was touched that he had telephoned me at a moment he must have felt vulnerable and possibly helpless in a hospital bed far, far away from his homeland. Family, two sons and one daughter, managed to get there in time to be with him at the end.

My mind went back to 1996 when a communal hate campaign, physical threats, acts of vandalism, and impending arrest forced Husain-saab into exile. He was distraught, deeply unhappy, and felt abandoned by the India he loved. He kept calling us from London, from New York, pleading that he must absolutely come back to India, "not die in a foreign land." After months and a good deal of negotiation with the Maharashtra authorities, he was allowed to return in the dead of night and in disguise, a fruitless exercise as he was recognised, even in his Alpine hat and Italian boots, at Mumbai's international airport — and before that at Heathrow. We received him at immigration and whisked him away to the Taj Mahal, Mumbai, always his well-wisher, which now provided a safe haven.

During this insecure period, we accompanied Husain-saab to court proceedings in Indore and elsewhere and acquired first-hand experience of the harassment and terror he faced from bigoted mobs. We witnessed what uncertainty and fear this creative genius, then in his eighties, had to endure in rising India. However, the one city where he felt completely safe was Chennai, where he stayed either with his son Mustafa or with us. He always travelled light and left a set of clothes and art equipment in our homes.

He relaxed, he painted, he spent several nights working with A.R. Rahman on the music for his current film. He always came armed with reels of his latest film, which he screened for our friends. He sometimes called on the writer R.K. Narayan, the seniormost member of his Rajya Sabha 'gang of four,' from a period he brought alive in his satirical Sansad Upanishad. He spent early morning hours gazing at, and sketching, a blue-and-gold macaw.

However, this was a decade fraught with intimidation and legal threat. Husain-saab finally left India in 2006 to make his home elsewhere. Since 2006, with the escalation of the Hindutva hate campaign against him, he had been living in Dubai and Qatar and spending his summers in London. He travelled freely except to India, where he continued to face harassment and physical threats, with the system impotent and not committed to enabling his return. Though the Supreme Court intervened on the right side, it was too little, too late. The Congress-led government, it became clear, could do no better than the preceding BJP-led government had done in protecting Husain-saab's freedom of creativity and peace of mind.

I remember the artist telephoning me in New York, in February 2010, to give me the news of his impending acceptance of Qatar nationality. "Honoured by Qatar nationality" but deeply saddened by his enforced exile and the need now to give up the citizenship of the land of his birth, which he has lovingly and secularly celebrated in his art covering a period of over seven decades. He made it a point to emphasise that he had not applied for Qatar nationality, which was conferred upon him at the instance of the modernising emirate's ruling family.

Two projects

Until his passing in the early hours of Thursday, the artist worked a long day, producing large canvases and life-size glass sculptures. Never had he been as commercially successful. His work was mostly devoted to two large projects, the history of Indian civilisation and the history of Arab civilisation. The latter was commissioned by Qatar's powerful first lady — Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Missned, wife of the emirate's ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani — and the works were to be housed in a separate museum in Doha.

Husain-saab, although sad, was never bitter against anyone in India, or for that matter anywhere else. His quiet and dignified passing in a London hospital brings to a close one of the sorriest chapters in independent India's secular history. I know no one more genuinely and deeply committed to the composite, multi-religious, and secular values of Indian civilisation than M.F. Husain. He breathed the spirit of modernity, progress, and tolerance. The whole narrative of what forced him into exile, including the failure of the executive and the legal system to enable his safe return, revolves round the issues of freedom of expression and creativity and what secular nationhood is all about.

Let the people of India pay their respects to a great son who, rising from humble origins, used his prodigious talent and creativity to portray and celebrate all that is diverse and wonderful about this country and the historical civilisation it represents.

 

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THE HINDU

"PRODUCT OF INDIA'S SYNCRETIC AND COMPOSITE CULTURE"

STAFF REPORTER

MUMBAI: Time, they thought, could not touch him. Notwithstanding his ripe age, M.F. Husain's demise came as a shock to his friends.

"Despite his advanced age, I was convinced he would remain immortal. I mourn the loss of an iconic painter, wonderful human being and a very close friend. I mourn his loss deeply, not just personally or for the artist community, but for the world. The world gets a person like M.F. Husain once in a lifetime. I knew him for a long time. He was deeply rooted in Indian culture. He was a product of India's syncretic and composite culture. His mother would wear a nine-yard sari. He was 11 when his father recognised his talent," actor Shabana Azmi told The Hindu on the phone.

Ms. Azmi said his ability to transcend national barriers and yet be rooted in Indian culture was his greatest strength.

Akbar Padamsee, painter and one of Husain's contemporaries and friends, said his death came as a "shock" as he had been leading a highly productive life. "In one night, he died. Just the night before, he was speaking to a friend. He was wonderful, loving, humble, and had the ability to be one with anybody in one stroke."

Among the many memories Mr. Padamsee has of his friend, the one that stands out is his meeting Husain in Paris. "Once, he came to meet me in Paris. He stayed with me. He asked me, Gaadi nahi hai? [Don't you have a car?]. When I said 'no,' he promptly went and got me one. He remarked, 'Now I have put you on wheels. You have wheels under you now.' I had to take driving lessons," Mr. Padamsee said.

Theatre person Alyque Padamsee said: "It's a great grief. We have lost one of the icons of India who ranks up there with Rabindranath Tagore. M.F. Husain was a true genius who told me he painted with his heart, not his hand. He was also very generous and donated me a painting of Othello for my production in 1990. Also, he did a magnificent 500-foot vertical mural for the exhibition 'Hiroshima Never Again,' which I curated at Nehru Centre."

"Unique force"

Shireen Gandhy, director of Chemould Prescott Road, a contemporary art gallery in Mumbai, said in a statement issued from Switzerland: "[As] children, we grew up with Husain as part of the family. Always unpredictable, playful and one [who] could never be pinned down to the norms of society. Husain was a unique force in our world. The family of Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy [Ms. Gandhy's parents] deeply mourn the loss of the father of modern and contemporary art in India."

"Husain, 'the grand old man of contemporary art in India,' was a child at heart. He seemed infallible with the spring in his step there till the last," Ms. Gandhy said.

There was much condemnation for the fundamentalist attacks on Husain's work, which forced him to go into exile. "When it came to Husain, the government and the people of India made a mockery of democracy. We all know the soft target Husain was made of by Hindu fundamentalists. The government simply played into the hands of this dangerous force, giving false credence to their extremely suspect cause," Ms. Gandhy said.

"We who grew up with the art of M.F. Husain knew well that for him, his knowledge of religion was deep, sustaining and the way he translated it into a visual language was completely misunderstood and misinterpreted. There are scholarly theories on his understanding of this aspect by historians like Geeta Kapur. Unfortunately, the voices of Hindu fundamentalists were shrill in comparison to those of us who knew his art. Husain not only studied world religion as part of his practice but was also deeply respectful of it. The fact was that he did not consider himself a 'devout Muslim,' but instead a 'devout human being'," she said.

 

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THE HINDU

ARTISTS SHARE THEIR MEMORIES, GRIEVE HE HAD TO DIE IN EXILE

'IT IS A SHAME ON OUR NATION AND OUR POLITICAL LEADERS THAT THEY COULD NOT STAND UP TO THE COMMUNAL FORCES WHO TRIED TO DEFAME HIM AND HIS ART AND ALLOWED HIM TO BE FORCED INTO EXILE'

RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN

New Delhi: Even as the nation's art fraternity unites to share their memories and pay tributes to the grand old man of Indian art, many are expressing grief and anger that not enough was done to bring M.F. Husain back to his homeland before he died.

Veteran artist Anjolie Ela Menon, one of Husain's closest associates for almost 50 years, is depressed. She had met him just a few days ago in London. "Having made myself believe the news somehow, I am just feeling relieved that he wasn't critically ill and that he was at the peak of his career and creativity. What more can a great artist ask for at this age?" she said.

"The media is making too much of his exile controversy," she feels. "See, ironically, the 'secular' India that couldn't protect him here, is the same India that he was making 100 paintings on [that is, his 100 years of Indian Civilisation] and that too in a foreign land! And the same Husain who was thrown out of his own country for supposedly hurting the religious feeling of certain sections, was at the peak of making 100 works on the Ramayana too. Look at his stature and humility. You can't insult such an artist in his own country."

Husain has left several memories with 86-year-old Satish Gujral too. "I met him in 1956 after coming back from Mexico," he recalls in a frail voice. "Since he knew my penchant for Urdu and because of my hearing impairment, he would communicate with me in Urdu couplets from several poets. That brought us close to each other." Though being "completely on two different tracks artistically" Husain the artist didn't influence his works, Husain the dear friend did.

Mr. Gujral is pained to hear the old controversies cropping up again. "Husain has made the greatest contribution to the modern Indian art. No one artist in India has popularised Hindu mythology through his works as much as Husain did. He never insulted it."

Lover of good food

A foodie himself, painter Jatin Das too has fond memories of Husain and his love for good food. He fondly recalls having a great time at Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi. "I know him for 52 years. Though he was elder to me, we were great pals. Delhi's Jungpura earlier used to be a hub for some 100 artists. I, Husain, V.S. Gaitonde, Ram Kumar…we all used to go to Nizamuddin Aulia shrine and enjoy kababs, prathas and qorma."

Mr. Das, who has been at the helm of protest against a section of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) "goons" who ransacked a Husain show at SAHMAT a couple of years ago, says, "It's high time we brought his body back and performed the last rites with national honour and shame the goons."

Veteran abstract artist Gopi Ganjwani couldn't control his tears as he reminisced about Husain. "He was like 'free air,' never at one place." "One afternoon, he was having lunch at Triveni Kala Sangam, Delhi. And in the evening he was supposed to attend an exhibition there. But till late evening he didn't arrive. The late Biren De, who arrived late, then told us that he had already reached Mumbai and perhaps he forgot to come. For him, travelling was such a small affair."

Aspiring artists like Ravi Gossain, who has dedicated an entire series to Husain, sent his pictures to him in London. "Husain saab called me from there just a month ago and said, "You are doing a good job and laughed heartily thanking me for the same. For me, that was a historic laugh preserved in my memory. I wonder how he could find time to call me and remember me. It was very humbling," he says.

The world of films is deeply depressed too. Musician A.R. Rahman, who was rushing to the United States found time to say that he has been an admirer of Husain's works and persona. "We are going to miss his wisdom and free spirit. He will live through his interpretation of life's colour that he depicted in his art."

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt is rather vehement and "guilty." He feels even the film fraternity to whom he gave two "wonderful films like Gaja Gamini and Meenaxi — A tale of two cities," didn't do enough for him.

"With folded hands and bent knees, I seek his forgiveness that I myself, despite being so active, didn't do much for him. He lived in Mumbai and loved it so much. From painting Bollywood posters to becoming an international icon, Husain was undone by the so-called secular government that let him go to an alien land to breathe his last. If this government wants to retain its secular identity, it must bring him back."

Amrita Rao, on whom Husain was about to make a film, is "shocked."

"He once met me in Mumbai and told me very fondly: "You have the quintessential Indian beauty. I would like to make a woman-oriented film with you." I was in the seventh heaven. His works in Dubai and London kept him occupied and now the film will never happen."

Veteran Bengali actor Soumitro Chatterjee, the blue-eyed boy of Satyajit Ray, recalls having interacted with Husain twice. "It is sad that I met him when Satyajit Ray expired. To honour him, we met in Kolkata where Husainji was supposed to paint some works based on Ray's films and I was supposed to speak on his film Charulata. A very active Husain was very quiet that day but very quick with his brush."

Dancer Sonal Mansingh today regrets that when Husain wanted to paint her house, she said no. "I didn't know at that time what I was going to miss. But he made some sketches of me in just 2-3 minutes in the early 1980s in Pune."

Photographer and artist Ram Rahman writes: "I never believed Husain could die. At his 95th birthday last September in Doha, he took me to see Dabanng. He always treated me like a son. It is a shame on our nation and our political leaders that they could not stand up to the communal forces who tried to defame him and his art and allowed him to be forced into exile."

An era has ended. And all agree that there will never be another Husain.

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THE ASIAN AGE

AS AN ICON PASSES, IT'S TIME TO REFLECT

Maqbool Fida Husain, arguably independent India's most public painter and one of the greats of visual representation this country has ever produced, died in self-imposed exile in London on Thursday at the age of 95. The irony for us is that he died a Qatari citizen, not an Indian national,

although he was born in the temple town of Pandharpur in Maharashtra, lived in Indore and Mumbai for much of his life, and engaged himself actively with political movements and intellectual trends among the leading artists of his time.

Probably no artist in this country — no street painter, no folk artist, nor one born into a Hindu family — has drawn as much inspiration in his work as Husain did from narratives and legends of Hindu mythology. And yet he was denounced and hounded by Hindutva zealots for portraying Hindu goddesses in an allegedly "obscene" manner. Only those of the Hindutva strain were offended, not ordinary Hindus, by some of Husain's art. In the end, the antics of the Hindu right-wing made the renowned artist leave India for good in 2006 and he changed his nationality, although the rest of his family stayed on in this country.
When Husain was big pilloried, only artists and art lovers came to his public defence. The government was conspicuous by its silence when his home was vandalised and his exhibits at public spaces made targets of attack. The self-appointed keepers of Hindu religion and morality also simultaneously filed cases against him in the courts in different parts of the country. Thus, had Husain remained in India, he would probably be running from one courtroom to another for the rest of his life, given the slow grind of our legal system. The question then is, is there greater artistic freedom or the freedom to express oneself in Qatar than in the liberal and democratic India we think exists? One doubts it. But in Qatar — a thriving economy — the royal household, aware of his fame, set him up with a hefty commission. This would have pleased the exhibitionist in Husain. But he was still careful to keep his home in London, where ordinary freedoms can more or less be taken for granted, or resided in Dubai which — in an antiseptic sort of way — has been kept free of sociological tensions for the sake of international investments.
It bears noting that three well-known contemporary writers/artists from the subcontinent — Husain and Salman Rushdie from India, and Taslima Nasreen from Bangladesh — have suffered in similar ways in the matter of freedom of expression. If Husain was made an example of by Hindu chauvinists, Rushdie (who has lived in the West for several decades) had to live in hiding for many years on account of an Iranian fatwa. In the former case, the Indian government chose to look the other way, in the latter it imposed a ban on the book that had brought on the writer's head the wrath of the Iranian clergy and many other Muslims. The case of Taslima Nasreen appears to be different at a formalistic level as Bangladesh — unlike India — has been something of a military dictatorship tied up with the mullahs for years until recently, and Ms Nasreen's writings chronicle the suffocation and suffering of the Hindu minority in such an atmosphere. But in the end, is Bangladesh so very different from India when it comes to not protecting free expression even of well-known artists, leave alone ordinary citizens?
Indians would do well to reflect on the theme. It is interesting that Raj Thackeray, a Maharashtrian chauvinist and Hindutva-oriented leader, has asked that Husain be buried in Maharashtra. If the same solicitousness had been extended to the artist when he was alive, he is unlikely to have contemplated departing Indian shores.

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THE ASIAN AGE

MYSTIQUE OF GURUDEV

SHASHI THAROOR

I write these words just after addressing the world's largest literary festival, at Hay-on-Wye in Wales, on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. The audience was modest — perhaps one attendee for each year since his birth — but even that was more than the organisers had expected.

It is safe to say that most of the thousands thronging the Welsh village in quest of literary pleasures had no idea who Tagore was, nor indeed did 90 per cent of those who bothered to turn up to hear me on the subject.
One of the striking things about Rabindranath Tagore that never fails to bewilder educated Indians is the extent to which his reputation has plummeted in the West even as it has grown into immortality in India. When Amartya Sen published his brilliant book The Argumentative Indian, few if any Western reviewers paid attention to his essay in it about Tagore. And yet, while the book was rightly lauded for Mr Sen's superb marshalling of arguments for the existence of the liberal tradition in India, this masterly essay was a much-needed effort to reclaim Tagore's international reputation. The reason it was necessary is, of course, that whereas Tagore's greatness seems self-evident to most Indians (and all Bengalis), Tagore is now unjustly misjudged in the West (by the very few who know enough to judge him at all) as a mediocre mystic poet, rather than as the remarkable rationalist and humanist genius Mr Sen convincingly depicts.
And yet, as we all know, Tagore's accomplishments as poet, dramatist, novelist, lyricist, composer, painter, educationist and philosopher were beyond extraordinary, representing a level of achievement so towering that it is difficult to imagine an individual in any other culture who comes close. Tagore was, in fact, recognised as such in his own time; he was, in fact, India's first global superstar, before the era of globalisation. Even today's Indians may have difficulty imagining Tagore's huge worldwide impact at his peak.
When he was to speak at New York's 4,000-seat Carnegie Hall in 1930 (itself a rare enough honour, since the hall is usually reserved for concerts, not orations), more than 20,000 people were turned away from the sold-out event, creating a mass of humanity on the streets outside that blocked traffic for miles. No living writer on the planet had ever had something comparable happen. And what's more, Tagore was handsomely paid for his speeches. One American critic, not without a tinge of jealousy, wrote acerbically that the Indian "scolds Americans at $700 per scold". (That would be more like $700,000 in today's purchasing power terms.)
Tagore himself was modestly dismissive of his fame and the attention it got him. "The perfect whirlwind of public excitement it (the Nobel prize) has given rise to is frightful", he wrote to his friend the artist William Rothenstein in 1913. "It is almost as bad as tying a tin can to a dog's tail, making it impossible for him to move without creating noise and collecting crowds all along." Eight years later he confided to Edward Thompson: "What an immense amount of unreality there is in literary reputation, and I am longing — even while appreciating it like a buffalo the luxury of a mud bath — to come out of it as a sanyasi, naked and aloof".
The Hindu sage image was apposite, for it was a vital part of his worldwide appeal. With his long beard and his flowing white robe, Rabindranath Tagore epitomised for many the archetype of the Indian sage, the precursor of so many godmen and gurus who have followed his footsteps to the West.
There is little doubt that his magisterial mind and his authoritative presence did a great deal to inspire admiration for India across the world, and to spark a revival of interest in Hindu mysticism and in the teachings of Indian spirituality. Today, 70 years after his death, there are very few left to remember his impact, and he has been supplanted in the popular imagination by many a lesser light.
Tagore was a global giant, and so were Gandhi and Nehru at the same time — three Indian superstars in the global firmament, whose names would have been recognised by thinking (and newspaper-reading) people almost anywhere in the world in the 1930s. Is there an equivalent today? Perhaps it is a reflection of the degree of celebrity-overload in our information-saturated world that it is hard to speak of anyone in the same breath.
Who might the candidates be today? A sporting hero might be a contender, but we have no equivalent of a Muhammad Ali or a Tiger Woods. Sachin Tendulkar is India's best-known sportsman, but he is unknown to the billions who understand nothing of cricket. A cinema superstar — an Amitabh Bachchan or a Shah Rukh Khan — would fare better in global recognition, but again only amongst that international minority that follows Bollywood.
There are no Indians of comparable stature in any of Tagore's own fields. The world of literature has yet to produce a writer of his reach and impact; no Indian dramatist has written plays that have taken the West End by storm, as Tagore's did; no Indian poet is as widely read and quoted as he was.
Where he invented an entire school of music in Rabindra Sangeet (and authored or inspired three national anthems), we can only offer an A.R. Rahman — an Oscar and Grammy winning genius, no doubt, but not yet a household name in Vietnam and Venezuela, as Tagore was. In the world of ideas, the Nobel Prize-winning polymath Amartya Sen stands tall, and arguably, M.F. Husain was a greater painter than Tagore; but both have instant recognition only amongst those who are aware of their excellence in their chosen fields. Probably Deepak Chopra would have a better chance of selling out Carnegie Hall than either.
In short, we have no globally-recognised Indian superstar today to match Tagore's standing in the world in his own lifetime. And yet, such is the transience of fame that even such a giant of a man is largely forgotten today outside his native land.

Shashi Tharoor is a member of Parliament from Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram constituency

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THE ASIAN AGE

WILL A POLITICAL TANTRIC TWIST INDIA'S DESTINY?

KANCHA ILAIAH

The movement against black money, including that which is stashed away in safe havens like Swiss banks, is more difficult than the movement against corruption and putting a Lokpal Bill in place.
Baba Ramdev, a Hindu spiritual and yoga guru, has taken up this issue with a long-term political objective.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government seems to be more scared of him than of Anna Hazare because Baba Ramdev has a large network of followers. In addition, Baba Ramdev has the backing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in his campaign, which is likely to widen its base.
Baba Ramdev's rise is rather miraculous. Having been born in a lower middle-class Yadav family of Haryana, he built a yoga empire by teaching it to health-conscious people of the middle and upper middle class.
He combined yoga with a bit of science and an interesting mix of Buddhist dialectics and Hindu tantra.
Though formally educated only up to the eighth standard, in an ordinary government school, he learnt Sanskrit and English to communicate his yoga techniques. His body movements and the skills he employs to explain yoga made him very popular rather quickly.
In fact, Baba Ramdev's yoga empire expanded at a rate much faster than Sathya Sai Baba's spiritual empire, and he now commands the loyalty of millions of people who are ready and willing to be converted into a cadre for a movement against corruption and also for mobilisation of votes when the party he is to set up contests elections.
Unlike other gurus, Baba Ramdev combines politics, morality and Hindu idiom. Apart from his yoga followers who cut across caste, parties and religion lines, a vast number of other backward castes (OBCs) in the country see him as "prime ministerial material".
The Anna Hazare team emerged from the middle-class brahmanic morality of non-corruption without any mass base. Baba Ramdev is the opposite of that. He has a massive middle-class mass
base.
This mass base can shake the system big towns upwards, if not from the village upwards. His on-going hunger strike will take his image even further, to villages. Baba Ramdev is Gandhi in saffron, with a handsome body, black hair and a beard.
Anna Hazare looks like a farmer of the outmoded type. More people want to see Baba Ramdev than Anna Hazare. If his movement clicks, Baba Ramdev's party will have a head start.
However, the key question is whom does the anti-black money movement rattle — the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? It would be a headache for both.
The supporters and leaders of both the parties have black money.
If Baba Ramdev turns into a political leader, one does not expect him to win the Parliament elections straightaway. But his party will be a potential force, like what Kanshi Ram's Bahujan Samaj Party used to be for a long time in Uttar Pradesh.
At one place it could harm the Congress and at another it could harm the BJP as Baba Ramdev's middle-class followers are likely to be the BJP's traditional voters.
While the RSS is supporting him, the BJP has to keep its fingers crossed.
As far as the RSS is concerned, Baba Ramdev is a better all-India package than Narendra Modi, because Ramdev is a very credible OBC Hindu. If he aligns with the BJP, the Congress will have a serious problem.
The fact that a four-member Cabinet team, headed by none other than finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, waited for him, received him and talked to him at the airport on June 1 shows the amount of fear he generated.
Baba Ramdev is a good example of tantric modernity. If he can twist the arms of the state like this today, he can twist the destiny of the nation tomorrow. We do not know in which direction the nation would go under the leadership of such yoga leaders. But one thing is certain. We produced a Gandhi and we have produced an Ambedkar. We now seem to be on the way to produce a Baba Ramdev. If Gandhi and Ambedkar were spiritual politicians who shaped the destiny of the nation in two different modes, Ramdev is a tantric politician who might take it in an opposite direction altogether.
Good luck, Baba Ramdev.

Kancha Ilaiah is director for the study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National
Urdu University, Hyderabad

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THE ASIAN AGE

 

THE HUSAIN QUESTION WILL LINGER

GAYATRI SINHA

The passing of Maqbool Fida Husain on Thursday in a London hospital marks the end of an epoch in Indian art. Husain's enormously vibrant palette — more devoted in recent times to the Arab civilisation than to subjects Indian, will be laid to rest. With it will also go silent the debates around the status of a minority artist's engagement with Indian mythology, and the failure of the modern Indian state to protect him.

For Husain had become both, artist and emblem — the single figure that challenged modern India's claim to secular, artistic freedom.
For art writers in the last decade, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar had become natural destinations. They represented an opportunity to meet Husain. My own experience came because of an interview I had gone to do on Chittrovanu Mazumdar. Malini Gulrajani, a gallerist, had simultaneously held an exhibition of Husain. In the capacious gallery set in Dubai's beautifully landscaped but sterile streets, Husain's vibrant works looked strangely forlorn.
It was an auspicious day in the Islamic calendar and Husain's son Mustafa, who runs a restaurant, had prepared an elaborate, delicious meal. Husain's daughter Raisa and other members of the family were with him in his regimen of cheerful if somewhat self-conscious exile. After lunch Husain wanted to show me the gallery that he had created of his Maria paintings. Created entirely in red — its drapes, curtains and lights all a deep sanguine, the space was a memorial to some of the finest modern Indian paintings, as to a private passion. In 1948, Husain had wooed his Czech beloved Maria with a number of paintings. These represented what were in a sense Husain's artistic subjectivity: farmer's families, the mother and child, myths and musicians — reflections on the values of Nehru's India, bound together by an inchoate hope. Husain and Maria never married, and nearly six decades later she returned the paintings to him, in pristine condition. In the light of a Dubai afternoon, these works shone like beautiful, bejewelled objects. Husain told me that he wanted to preserve these works in Kolkata, a city he admired for its secular traditions. However, this was before Taslima Nasreen was shown the door by the Left Front government, and after a hiatus, the paintings were sold to a single collector in England — lost to India forever.
Husain's exile and the focus on his auction prices, fleet of cars and lavish lifestyle in Qatar shifted attention from the man and the essential painter. Husain was the supreme witness and chronicler of modern India. If music had Bismillah Khan, painting had Husain. For at least seven decades Husain painted India as an avid witness and participant, alternating between private biographies, grand narratives and Urdu poetry with fluid ease.
In a sense, Husain's subjectivity and the nation as subject matter became interchangeable: he narrated his own biography of a boyhood in Pandharpur, his grandfather's occupation as a seller of lamps, the death of his mother in his infancy and his early beginnings as a poster painter entirely through paintings. Husain's canvas was a crisscross of history, myth and the morning news. The spirituality in Benaras, the colonial legacy, music and dance, Mother Teresa and Bollywood, all became part of Husain's metanarrative of the nation. His monumental output marked every important milestone of the nation: the making of Bangladesh, the death of Safdar Hashmi, the great gold rush of Arab oil and 21st century globalism. Husain's unerring brushstrokes were justly famous for their speed, and often translated into a performative spectacular style, of painting before the public. In 1985, under a commission, he marked the centenary of the Congress party with 22 paintings — each a massive work, all executed in five days, in Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium. Famously, he had painted a series of works on Indira Gandhi, as well as portraits of Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi.
Born in Pandharpur, Madhya Pradesh, in 1915, M.F. Husain developed an iconic style that drew on classical Indian sculpture and the brilliance of Indian miniature painting as well as abstract expressionism and cubism. From humble beginnings as a poster painter, he received early recognition for the cryptic brilliance of works such as Zameen, Between the Spider and the Lamp and Farmer's Family. As a founder member of the Progressive Artists' Group, he gave Indian art a distinct direction.
Husain's presence as a household name draws from his mass-based popularity. No other Indian artist with the exception of Ravi Varma made his works available to ordinary people as did Husain, through lithographs and serigraphs. As a filmmaker he received awards for his works, Through the Eyes of a Painter and Gaja Gamini. From the mid 1990s, the narrative of Husain became synonymous with censorship in the arts. When Husain became a subject of attack, museums and exhibitions carrying his work became extremely vulnerable. Through the 1990s, the Husain-Doshi Gufa in Ahmedabad, the Cinema Ghar in Hyderabad and the Husain Sankalana in Bengaluru were shut down. At the last India Art Summit, Husain's work was removed from the display area. With every such gesture, India further distanced itself from the Husain question of artistic freedom and the modern Indian state.
Buried as he will be in London, even the mourning will be distanced and deferred, until another Husain question arises. In death as in life, Husain will continue to hold up a mirror to our times.

Gayatri Sinha is a well-known art critic and curator

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

NEW ENERGY SCENARIO

 

The good news for the State is that the prestigious project of 750 kilometers long gas pipeline from Bathinda in Punjab to Srinagar via Jammu has been cleared for launching. This announcement has been made by the Chief Minister. This project has a number of benefits for the people of the State. We know that J&K is a hilly state and Kashmir and Ladakh regions experience harsh and prolonged winters. Apart from energy needed for cooking purposes, there is demand on energy for heating purposes as well. Unfortunately despite sufficient water resource at our disposal, the State is not able to produce as much hydroelectric power as is needed for the entire state. Given the deficit scenario in electric power production, the State has been reeling under regular power cuts in urban areas or total blackout in some rural and inaccessible areas. Erratic electric power supply is detrimental to the quantum of labour output. Moreover, owing to inclement weather the National Highway connecting Srinagar with the rest of the country remains suspended for days at end when there is heavy snowfall or landslides. Thus the valley and Ladakh are faced with shortage of LPG. So far no satisfactory solution of this problem has been in sight and prolonged protests by the people have not yielded any satisfactory result.
At long last, the Government deserves kudos for hitting upon a viable solution of a major problem, viz. the energy shortage in the state. The Bathinda-Jammu-Srinagar gas pipeline project is scheduled to be completed within 36 months of the date of launching. Thus in three years from now, Jammu and Kashmir will be connected to the National Gas Grid through a pipeline, which will ultimately provide connection to individual household consumers. In particular Kashmir will find great relief in meeting the growing need of energy for cooking as well as heating purposes. Uninterrupted supply of gas will change the life style in the valley where gas will be increasingly used for heating purposes. It will reduce dependence on electric power supply and thus conserve electricity for more essential services. Its impact on industries especially the small scale and cottage industries will be of great significance. Cheap and regular supply of energy for heating rooms will immensely facilitate Kashmiri craftsmen and artisans in increasing the volume of production because they mostly work indoors during winter months. In Jammu region also, the supply of gas will have far reaching impact on the life style of the people. It will usher in a new phase in life of ordinary people.
Once the project is completed and becomes functional, it is obvious that gas pipeline will be extended to major towns in both the provinces of the State. When that happens, the pressure on electricity and forest wealth will come down considerably. At present great damage is done to the forests in the name of firewood supplies to rural and semi urban areas. Trees are being ruthlessly felled to obtain firewood. Forest lessees and Forest Department functionaries are less mindful of wanton destruction of forest wealth that goes unchecked. Laying of gas pipeline will be a big step in helping the State enter new phase of modern life. Realizing the urgency of the situation, the Chief Minister has instructed the Divisional Commissioners of the two provinces to oversee the progress of the entire project at divisional level. It is, therefore, hoped that the work on the project will begin soon and its completion will be brought about within the stipulated time frame.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

WATER SHORTAGE IN JAMMU

 

Summer for Jammu brings the unwanted woes of water shortage. This has been the phenomenon year after year, and despite a large paraphernalia and manpower wielded by the Public Health Engineering Department, the problem remains incurable. It is true that the supply of water right from lifting to distribution is conditioned by regular supply of electricity. But that is a technical aspect of the question and the common man would want water to drink and not need to know what mechanism goes into the supply of this essential commodity. It is also true that the population of urban Jammu has been increasing fast owing to the influx of refugees and displaced persons and migration of unemployed rural youth. But the PHE authorities need to keep abreast of the situation and propose proper measures at proper time to remove shortage of water supply. There are some areas on Jammu city that receive piped water supply just twice a week. Imagine the difficulties faced by the affected people during the hot summer when mercury touches 44-45 degrees. Shortage of piped water has given rise to clandestine business of some people supplying water tanks to the needy consumers at exorbitant rates. Some observers are led to believe that a nexus has come to be there between water tank suppliers and the PHE functionaries. We hope this is not true. Nevertheless people are forced to pay any price on demand but not suffer the acute shortage of water needed during hot summer days. True that the level of water in the old city and up-areas is very low but it should be possible for the engineers to think of Water Grid for Jammu city to overcome shortage of drinking water. The Department has to devise means; it cannot remain complacent with what is obtaining now. A solution has to be found. A high power committee consisting representatives of all departments concerned like PHE, Power Development, Municipal Corporation and General Administration needs to be framed to work out a permanent solution of water shortage to Jammu urban area. Furthermore, it has to be noted that the city is expanding even though the Urban Development Department is deficit of plans for laying out new colonies and habitats. Thus pressure on water supply will go on increasing. Only a planned solution to the problem has to be found and no make shift arrangements will work. PHE needs to move fast before the patience of the people is exhausted and they are forced to come out on the streets leading to law and order situation.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

INDIA NEEDS AN ACCOUNTABLE LEADER

ON THE SPOT

BY TAVLEEN SINGH

So bewildered was I by the inept, crude and plainly stupid way in which the government dealt with Baba Ramdev that I rang some friends in the Congress Party to find out what had gone wrong. My friends are important, loyal members of the party and requested anonymity before speaking but having been assured of this they did not hold back. They said, without hesitation, that they had been as appalled by the midnight crackdown as anyone else and found it impossible to understand why the government's 'political management' of what was really a very simple problem had gone so awry.
From speaking to my friends I learned that the reason why four senior ministers were sent to meet Baba Ramdev at Delhi airport in the first place was because their mission was to persuade him to give up his 'satyagraha' before it got going. When they met him he seemed persuaded but told them that he would naturally have to find some way to convince his supporters that the government had agreed to his demands and that in view of this he was going to shorten the hunger strike from indefinite to a limited period. He hinted at this when he made his first political speech from Ramlila Maidan. He told the crowd that had begun to gather under the vast shamiana a day before the hunger strike began that the government had agreed to ninety percent of his demands. Then, wreathed in smiles, he went off to the Claridges Hotel for a second meeting with the government's emissaries where he gave them a written assurance that there would be no indefinite hunger strike. He apparently assured the ministers that he would make an announcement by 6 pm that same evening. According to my friends the first mistake that the government made was to exhibit his written assurance to reporters gathered for Kapil Sibal's evening press conference.
They did this because they thought that Baba Ramdev had reneged on his assurances but anyone with minimum political understanding should know that once the letter was made public Baba Ramdev would have no alternative but to go ahead with his so-called satyagraha. Had he not his credibility would have been in shreds. The second crucial mistake the government made was to send in the police to break up the protest before late at night when most of the protesters were fast asleep. If it was meant to be a surprise attack it misfired badly because it revived memories of the midnight coups that usually signal the start of police repression. By the time day broke last Sunday the government had succeeded mostly in making Baba Ramdev into a bigger hero than he deserves to be. It also achieved the unhappy and unintended objective of making itself look incompetent and politically naïve.
So we now have a situation in which the Government of India looks like a joke in the eyes of the world. Baba Ramdev's protest against corruption and black money has made it to the front pages of major international newspapers and in most accounts of what happened it is the government that looks bad. If truth be told it looks more than bad it looks terrible. The Prime Minister emerged from his usual shadows after the event to say that it was 'unfortunate' but that there had been no alternative. This statement was more than unfortunate because it bore in it the sound of an apology and not a hint of leadership. Why does the Prime Minister seem so incapable of leading when there is a political crisis? Why did he not depute someone to take Baba Ramdev on before it was too late? Baba Ramdev's figures about black money are beyond fantastical they are absurd. His attempts to mislead ordinary Indians into believing that these alleged stashes of black money can easily be brought back to India and invested in welfare schemes are dangerous. He is making other political statements of extreme naivety that are very dangerous and it should be easy for someone in the Government of India to set the record straight but inexplicably nobody has done this. So the general impression among Baba Ramdev's supporters is that he knows what he is talking about.
Meanwhile, the image of the Government of India has taken such a battering that the Finance Minister is now being sent off to Washington to convince our American friends that the country is not falling to pieces as it seems to be. This is not going to be easy because between the spate of high level corruption scandals and the seeming inability of the government to deal with a sundry bunch of ascetics, Gandhians and dubious civil rights activists the image of India as an emerging economic superpower has taken a huge beating. The International Herald Tribune had on its front page last week a long and detailed story about how India's bureaucrats and politicians have failed to build the infrastructure and public services without which no country can hope to move forwards. The story points out that while you have new cities like Gurgaon filled with gleaming skyscrapers and new money the modernity is superficial because minimum municipal services like drinking water, electricity and roads are non-existent. This is true of most Indian cities where the rich buy water from private sources and generate their own electricity and the poor do without. Instead of spending our resources on building infrastructure and modern urban services the Prime Minister has allowed Sonia Gandhi's National Advisory Council (NAC) to spend thousands of crores on unwieldy and ineffective poverty alleviation schemes that have served mostly to generate more corruption. In effect we have a Prime Minister whose cabinet is less powerful than the kitchen cabinet that the NAC has become for the Congress President and the end result is that when there is a crisis it is hard to know who is accountable. Unless this changes the Government of India will continue to be brought to its knees by self appointed representatives of civil society. It is an unhappy, untenable state of affairs and it is time that either the Prime Minister or Sonia Gandhi took responsibility and took charge.
The experiment in having two prime ministers of India has been a miserable failure as has the experiment of having a prime minister who is not elected by Parliament but appointed by the president of the ruling party.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

IS IT POK OR COK ?

BY: AMIT BHALLA

 

Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) or China Occupied Kashmir (COK)! Well what is referred as POK by India or Azad Kashmir by Pakistan could soon be renamed as COK! Those days are not too far away if Chinese keep on increasing their presence in the area. After seeking permission of the Pakistan's government, Chinese entered the area to build roads, highways, bridges and dams .Initially, it was only men of technical and non-technical expertise from China who were temporarily employed for the purpose. But now even the Chinese army is directly involved in the work, and they are making permanent base for themselves in many parts of POK including Gilgit and Baltistan which are of great strategic importance.
Pakistan is under huge international pressure for disturbing peace in Jammu and Kashmir, thus a clear shift in its strategy is visible and China is being encouraged by Pakistan to make permanent base in POK which can create trouble for India in future. It seems that China is following the footsteps of the USA for the purpose. In order to fight the forces of former Soviet Union, it was America who helped Taliban on the western side of Pakistan that is Afghanistan and now it is China who is helping Taliban and its allies like LeT and HuM on the eastern side of Pakistan that is POK to fight the Indian forces.
The situation in POK is alarming and India needs to be vigilant to deal with any eventuality. Till now Indian army only used to recover arms and ammunitions with inscription of made in China from the possession of terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir. But with the presence of Chinese army in POK, we would not be surprised to see a new breed of terrorists trained by Chinese army or even men of Chinese army as terrorists.
Despite protest lodged by New Delhi against direct involvement of China in rebuilding the Karakoram Highway in Gilgit-Baltistan, the part of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State and annexed by Pakistan, the presence of Chinese companies in POK has increased over a period of time. The Karakoram Highway was badly damaged in the floods last year and the work to repair it is going on at fast pace.
The Karakoram Highway expansion project which was originally the brainchild of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf requires the conversion of the highway to a 90 foot- wide expressway. Costing over $ 6 billion, the corridor will also provide a direct link for China and Pakistan to Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran. This increasing Chinese dominance in the strategic Himalayan gateway will be a serious setback to India's strategic interests in this region including the Kashmir dispute.
It is worthwhile to mention here that POK has a huge potential to generate electricity mainly from two rivers- Jhelum and Neelum, flowing from Jammu and Kashmir. To tap this massive potential to generate electricity on a large-scale in the area, the Government of Pakistan has awarded contracts to Chinese companies for taking up the work. The main highlight of the power-generation projects which are being constructed by Chinese companies is a $ 2.16 billion power projects constructed by the China International Water and Electric Corporation (CIWEC).The work on the project is going on and is expected to generate 969 MW of power after its completion.
Chinese companies are also involved in raising the height of Mangla Dam in Mirpur in order to enhance the capacity of the 1100 MW project by 12 per cent. This enhance capacity of the Dam will help in overcoming the loss of power generation due to siltation over the years since its completion in 1967.Other projects in which Chinese companies are involved are Karot-Jhelum project with power generation capacity of 720 MW and Kunaar-Patrind project with a capacity to generate 147 MW of power.
In spite of the presence of the large number of Chinese in POK, local government and population has no serious objection to this growing Chinese presence in the area. The locals are of the view that the new power projects would help in overcoming the power shortage in POK.
The obvious questions arise here are why China is making huge investments in POK projects? What will China want to achieve with its presence in the area? Expansion of the Karakoram highway, construction of parallel railway line as well as oil and gas pipe lines, will give China rapid connectivity to Pakistani Ports lying in the gate way to the Strait of Hormuz and Suez Canal. Remember the region's close proximity to Afghanistan, Tajikistan and India, in addition to Tibet and Xinjiang, gives China diplomatic, strategic, logistical and political edge. By linking the Karakoram highway to Pakistani ports of Gwadar and Ormara, China will; not only gain a strategic foot hold and access to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, but could also significantly influence the geopolitics and trade in the Indian Ocean Region as well as in Central Asia.
The Gwadar-Karakoram corridor after completion would give China a massive Strategic advantage by drastically reducing the original distance of 16000 KM to a mere 2500 KM from the Chinese industrial areas to the Persian Gulf. Likewise, Kashgar, which is 3500 KM away from Chinese Eastern shores, finds itself at less than 1500 KM from Pakistani ports near the Strait of Hormuz. Its linkage to the upcoming Urumqi-Beijing rail link, the travel time from central and eastern China to the Pakistani ports will come to a mere few hours. By using the Corridor as an alternative supply route,l China will be able to embark of huge stockpiling of oil reserves.
There is a possibility of China using its presence in Gilgit-Baltistan as leverage in its border dispute with India by potentially demanding India's guarantees of non-aggression or claim on the region in the western and eastern sectors. Through the Chinese presence and investments, Pakistan is attempting to offset local disgruntlement over lack of development in this backward region. More significantly, Pakistan aims to permanently mitigate India's claims of the province which is historically part of Jammu and Kashmir and under Pakistan's illegal occupation since 1947.
India needs to have a relook at its stand over Tibet issue. The first bold step India may take is that it should first declare Tibet as illegally-occupied state and then support the Tibet freedom seeking people like China's support to the Maoists in India.
(The writer teaches Political Science at Government P.G College Rajouri)

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FALLING FOOD PRICES IS NOT GOOD FOR AGRICULTURE

BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN


It has been said that the only people who can change the world are those who want to. The world needs to move from its current non-renewable energy paradigm to a future powered by entirely renewable energy supply. It is only by making such a transition that we will be in a position to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change. A large number of leaders across the world from within the policy arena, business, media and civil society are questioning the views of conventional experts on the world's energy future and their business as usual scenarios, embarking on a serious search for realistic alternatives. The world has reached peak conventional oil and gas consumption, meaning thereby oil and gas companies are digging deeper and deeper into unconventional sources, with disastrous environmental and social consequences. Coal is still relatively readily available but catastrophic in terms of climate changing emissions. The world can no longer afford to hang on its old energy paradigm and its dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.
The Energy Report, produced through a joint effort of WWF and Ecofys, breaks new ground in the energy debate; a possible system in which all of the world's energy supply is provided by renewable sources by 2050. The Energy Report shows that this future is within our reach and provides a vital insight into how it can be achieved. The report puts together strategies and technology options that have already been put in practice to create a feasible global scenario. WWF wants to help change the old paradigm for the energy and articulate a new pathway for the future.
Renewables will play a greater role than either nuclear or carbon capture and storage by 2050. About 13 per cent of the world's energy come from renewable sources in 2008, a proportion likely to have risen as countries have built their capacity since then, with china leading the investment surge, particularly in wind energy. But by far the greatest source of renewable energy used globally at present is burning biomass- about 10 per cent of the global energy supply which is problematic because it can cause deforestation, leads to deposit of soot that accelerate global warming and cooking fires cause indoor air pollution that harm health. Wind power by contrast met about 2 per cent of global electricity demand in 2009, and could increase to more than 20 per cent by 2050.
Renewable energy is already growing fast- of the 300-giga watts (remember one gigawatt is equivalent to 1000 megawatts) of new electricity generation capacity added globally between 2008 and 2009; about 140 GW came from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. The investment that will be needed to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets is likely to amount to about $ 5 trillion in the next decade, rising to $ 7 trillion from 2021 to 2030. Developing countries have an important stake in the future- this is where most of the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity live yet also where some of the best conditions exist for renewable energy deployment. Renewable energy can also meet the growing demand of developing countries where over 2 billion people lack access to basic energy services and can also do so at a more cost-competitive and faster rate than conventional energy sources.
Today, we do not use energy in a judicious manner. More than half the heats we pump into our homes disappear through walls, windows and roofs- yet we know how to construct buildings that require virtually no energy for heating or cooling. We favor big, powerful private cars over far more efficient forms of transport. Energy-hungry appliances clog the market, even though there is a wide range of efficient alternatives available. Manufacturers could use far less energy by reassessing their materials and processes. Energy conservation is something every one can embrace. We simply require to start making wise choices today. Nuclear meltdown in Japan after powerful earthquake in March 2011 clearly reveals why society should no longer bear the risks of nuclear disaster. And that is why it is clear now than ever before that the energy of future for the safer, more prudent society will come from renewable energy. The more we use renewable energy, the more we benefit the environment, strengthen our energy security, create jobs locally and help improve our economy. Here we can explore ways to use renewable energy.
Using Biomass Energy
Ever since humans started burning wood to keep warm and to cook food, we have been using biomass energy. Today we can also use biomass to fuel vehicles, generate electricity and developed bio-based products. Here we can explore the different ways to use biomass energy. For instance, by using fuel for vehicle with ethanol or biodiesel, using clean electricity generated from biomass, using products like plastics made from biomass.
Using Hydrogen
Hydrogen- a colorless and odorless gas is the most abundant element in the universe. However, because it combines easily with other elements, it is rarely found by itself in nature. Hydrogen usually combines with other elements, forming organic compounds called hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons include plant material and fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas and coal. Water is produced during the burning of any hydrocarbon. Hydrogen can be separated from hydrocarbon through the burning of heat- a process known as reforming. Currently, most hydrogen is made this way from natural gas. An electric current can also be used to separate water into its components of oxygen and hydrogen. This process is known as electrolysis. Currently, hydrogen has great potential as a power source for fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells can provide heat for homes and buildings, generate electricity and power vehicles.
Using Hydropower
Flowing water creates energy that can be tapped and turned into electricity. This is called hydropower or hydroelectric power. If we have access to flowing water on our property, we can use a micro hydropower system to generate our own electricity. Micro hydropower system usually generate up to 100 Kilowatt (KW) of electricity.
Using Solar Energy
If we step outside on a hot, sunny day, and we will experience the power of sun's heat and the light. We can use solar energy to heat our homes through passive solar design or an active solar heating system. We can also use it to generate our own electricity. We can use it to heat water in our home or swimming pool. We can use it to light our home both indoors and outdoors.
Using Wind Energy
We have harnessed the wind's energy for hundreds of years- from windmills that pump water or grind grain to today's wind turbines that generate electricity. If you live on at least one acre of land with an ample wind resource, you can generate your own electricity using a small wind electric system. You can also use a small wind turbine for pumping water. You may have the opportunity now or in the future to buy clean electricity from a wind power plant.
One thing that looks imminent is the fact that the future belongs to renewable energy. Scientists and industry expert may disagree over how long the world's supply of oil and natural gas will last, but one thing is for sure that it will rather sooner or later exhaust.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

POLITICAL SITUATION IMPROVING IN J&K

BY B K CHUM

Situations in abnormality-hit areas never remain static. The latest example is the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Events of the past 12 months have given rise to two questions. For how long the State's prevailing stable security environment will continue? Will the pro-Pakistan sentiment fueled by the separatists in the Valley in the past three decades get diluted in the foreseeable future?
The situation in the State has been witnessing diverse trends. It turned worst in the 2010 summer after a few months of Omar Abdullah-led coalition's coming to power. It began with the Shopian rape and murder case. The separatists-sponsored bandhs and demonstrations became the order of the day disrupting normal life. After a short break, there was fresh wave of agitations which started on June 11 after Tufail Ahmed Matoo (17) died at the hands of the security forces in Srinagar. More deaths followed in clashes between the stone throwing demonstrators and the police. The writ of the pro-Pakistani hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah who issued weekly protest calendars ran in the Valley. Moderates were losing ground forcing them to toe the Geelani line.
Time is a great healer. Three main factors later started normalizing the situation. One, the authorities took action against some of the security forces personnel found responsible for the excesses. Two, the people got tired with the never-ending bandhs and demonstrations which had hurt their sources of livelihood. Some sections of the people began occasionally disobeying Geelani's protest calendars forcing the separatist leader to ultimately stop issuing them. Third, appointment of a three-member interlocutors team by the Centre to visit the state and recommend steps for solving Kashmir problem, eased the tempo of the agitation.
Beginning 2011, the situation took the opposite turn. There has been no major political upheaval in the state. The frequency of protests and bandhs has sharply declined. The writ of the elected government again runs. There have been no major incidents of innocent peoples killings. Infiltrations have also witnessed a steep fall though there has recently been an unsavoury controversy between the government and the Army on the incidence of infiltrations. The government said a few hundred armed men infiltrated this year while the Army authorities said there had been no infiltrations
The government and the Army will have to avoid such controversies as these may create embarrassing situation as recently happened in the case of the list of most wanted persons sent by New Delhi to Pakistan but later found that some persons in the list had been living in India.
The peoples prevailing changed mood is also reflected by the unusually high voting percentages in the on-going panchayat elections for which both hardliner and moderate separatists had given boycott calls. Although the people had earlier also not obeyed the separatists calls for Assembly polls boycott, it is the enthusiasm they have demonstrated in the panchayat polls voting which adds significance to these elections. Now if the government fails to take speedy measures to fulfill the roused aspirations of the people, it can prove costly for the rulers.
The sustainability of the state's improved security environment depends on three main factors. One is political stability. Democratic system of governance pre-supposes existence of multiple parties and their power struggles. On the direction the power struggles take, depends the state of political stability. One presumes that except the pro-Pakistan separatist groups, all the political parties in the State would like to ensure political stability, if not for any other reason, to ensure stability for their own governments whenever they come to power. The state's mainstream parties have tasted power in the past and must be hoping to again ride back to power. They will have to depend on the electorate to oust their rivals from power through ballot box than through trading of legislators which is a sure way for creating political instability.
The second pre-requisite for political stability is a terror-free security environment and peace. If one goes by the past few years experience, the Centre and the security forces will not hesitate to take even extreme measures to ensure these
The third factor on which the state's political and security stability depends is the role Kashmiri separatists and Pakistan, particularly its Army and the rogue ISI, play.
Even their ardent supporters may not deny that the separatists, particularly the hardliners are presently in low spirits mainly because of the Pakistan's deteriorating security environment and failed governance. There can hardly be a better description of the country's internal situation than what Murtaza Razvi, an editor with 'Dawn', Karachi has narrated in his recent write-up. It says "Free for all" and "killing fields" are the clichés that best describe Pakistan today. From a former prime minister to a sitting governor and a cabinet minister; from ordinary citizens to journalists to the police and the armed forces, no one is safe here anymore. This is a country at war with itself -and nobody's talking about it because an all-enveloping cloud of denial is suspended over its skies and refuses to go away. Those who dare talk pay with their lives, like journalist Saleem Shahzad did on Monday". Will the Kashmiri separatists take a cue from Razvi's observations and still want the Valley to be a part of such a country?
Pakistan cannot be expected to stop backing Kashmiri militants and sending its own trained militants into the state as it considers Kashmir as a core issue for its survival. But two factors can blunt its potential to resume, at least in the foreseeable future, its old level of support to militants. One is its pre-occupation with handling the country's prevailing grave security situation in the wake of bin Laden's killing by the US forces. Second is the increasing US pressure on Pakistani establishment to firmly act against the Pakistan and Afghanistan-based terrorists whose three outfits operate in Pakistani Punjab, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan's failure to act will prompt the US to target them as it did on Saturday by killing Ilyas Kashmiri. But the US will not stop aiding Pakistan as it needs it to promote its strategic interests in the region.
In the light of the foregoing assessment, one can expect Jammu and Kashmir's improved security and political environment to sustain, at least for the foreseeable future. Hope sustains life. (IPA)

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

RAMDEV'S CALL TO ARMS

NO PLACE FOR SUCH MEANS IN A DEMOCRACY

 

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev's threat to raise an 11,000-strong armed militia to deal with the police in case of a repeat of the Ramlila Ground episode in Delhi in which a hunger strike by him and his supporters was forcibly dispersed is outrageous and condemnable. His demagoguery that he wants 20 young men from every district to be trained in both shaastra (Vedas) and shastra (weapons) throws him open to the charge of being an anarchist. If now masses of people who supported Ramdev in his crusade against black money drift away from him, he will have only himself to blame. Already, there are signs of disenchantment with the controversial yoga teacher who had, a few months ago, made known his intention to enter politics.

 

Baba Ramdev has reason to be piqued over the manner in which he and his supporters were pounced upon at dead of night when they were on a peaceful protest fast but a call to arms is no way to react to it. He should know that no administration worth its salt would tolerate anyone who exhorts the people to take the law into their own hands. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has already justifiably indicated that if he puts his threat into practice, he will be sternly dealt with. The nexus between Ramdev and the Sangh Parivar in his current crusade is all too clear. The BJP as the country's principal opposition party must demonstrate that it would do nothing that has the potential to disturb peace and foment violence which could snowball into chaos if it is not checked firmly. It is fine to espouse a cause vigorously but the means must be democratic and peaceful.

 

No one questions the need for the Government to strive to get back all the money that is stashed in secret accounts abroad and on which taxes are being evaded. That the volume of this is mind-boggling and that the Government has not been doing enough on this front is also clear. Movements like those of Baba Ramdev would do well to mobilize public opinion and fight the menace while its leaders show that their motivation is selfless and above board. There is much to be done but first Baba Ramdev must establish his credentials as a genuine crusader.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SERVICE AS A LEGAL RIGHT

STATE SHOULD DELIVER WITHOUT LITIGATION

 

Providing time-bound government services to harried citizens is a challenge that states are increasingly taking up. Madhya Pradesh was the first in the country to pass the Public Services Guarantee Act 2010. Bihar followed with the Right to Service Act. Global watchdog Transparency International has praised both states for their attempt to limit corruption. Delhi selected five departments last year to clear files in a stipulated time and now the law is ready. UP too has prepared the Janhit Guarantee Act. Punjab has issued an Ordinance, while in Haryana the deputy commissioners have been told to ensure that 15 services are delivered in the given time schedule.

 

On paper these are commendable moves. Corruption at lower levels is endemic. Government officials from top to bottom sit on files waiting for bribe. Therefore, empowerment of the citizen to seek any of the stipulated services as a legal right and hold the official concerned accountable if the same is denied comes as a pleasant surprise. But there will be problems – though not insurmountable. How many have the time and money to pursue their complaints about petty services with higher or appellate authorities? Officials will be flooded with complaints. Bihar has computerised administrative work and can monitor complaints of deficient services. Officers in charge of under-staffed offices or those not obliging politicians can be harassed with fines.

 

For the citizen's sake, the state's role needs to shrink – from being a "mai-baap" to a facilitator. The official and political mindset should change. Procedures have to be simplified. The citizen should not be treated as a suspect and told to file affidavits. But cheating or fraud, if any, should be sternly dealt with. Most public services can be offered online. Instead of blindly copying Madhya Pradesh's law states should find less complicated ways to help citizens. Laws can help up to a point. There is no alternative to good governance.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

M.F. HUSSAIN'S DEEP MARK

HIS EXILE WAS A BLOT ON INDIA

 

That legendary painter M F Hussain, who passed away in London on Thursday was unable to return to his own country for reasons of hounding by some diehard zealots, had stopped making news. Once in a while, it disturbed sensitive minds, but the issue had left the arena of public discourse.

 

Our secular credentials certainly got a knock when an artist of the repute of Hussain, who, ironically brought the Indian culture on canvas for the international community, was almost forced to leave the country, accused of 'polluting' the Indian culture. More surprising, with all the arrogance of being the largest democracy in the world, we could not offer safety to an artist touching 90! The government felt helpless, the artist community chose to maintain an inexplicable silence, while gallery owners had the excuse of securing their investment. And, there was no civil society to speak for the artist's rights. So, the biggest investment any progressive society could make in its cultural growth, by letting its artists enjoy creative freedom, invited its own death.

 

What did Hussain do to earn an exile, and to die in exile? He was true to the only religion he knew; of being an artist. He was unconstrained in experiencing life and giving an expression to it. And, experience cannot be labelled by a religion. The world of art recognised his transcendence. He was the first Indian to have shown his works in foreign lands, he was the first whose works were auctioned by Christie's. But, all this became insignificant before the militant brand of some Hindu fanatics who choose to remain ignorant about the tradition of artistic freedom enjoyed by poets like Kalidasa who wrote the highly erotic Kumar Sambhavam, and artisans who created Khajuraho and Konark. Hussain was simply following a cultural legacy he was born into. He was punished for doing it in a modern, democratic, secular state.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

MID-SUMMER MADNESS IN DELHI

THE CONGRESS DAMAGES ITSELF

BY INDER MALHOTRA

 

Both sides must share the blame for the farce into which morphed the yoga guru, Baba Ramdev's crusade against black money and corruption. But the ruling United Progressive Alliance – or, to be exact, the Congress, for none of its UPA allies was involved in either making or executing policy – has done itself a lot more damage than it has been able to inflict on the rather outlandish Baba, who runs a super de luxe yoga centre at Haridwar.

 

 

Ironically, the leading lights of the Manmohan Singh government chose to wound themselves and the party to which they belong at a time when the maverick Baba's fast and agitation were showing signs of losing steam. It is no exaggeration to say that the powers-that-be swung from one extreme stupidity to another in a short span of 72 hours and thus fell between two stools with a thud that has reverberated across the country.

 

If the unprecedented kowtowing to the Baba by a team of ministers, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, on his arrival at Indira Gandhi International Airport was a sign of weakness and abdication of responsibility, the totally avoidable police action on Sunday midnight to evict from Ramlila Grounds those gathered in support of the Baba was brutal, to say the least. The Supreme Court's suo motu notice to the Union Home Secretary, Delhi's Chief Secretary and the Capital's Commissioner of Police to explain what threat was anticipated from men, women and children, "sleeping peacefully", speaks for itself.

 

A pertinent question that some are asking is: Why hasn't the Delhi Police ever removed the agitating Gujars from Rajasthan who have periodically besieged the capital, stopped all traffic, burnt buses and indulged in an orgy of violence?

 

The National Human Rights Commission is also concerned, as it should be. The videos of police assaults on innocent people and the poor woman paralysed for life because of a spinal injury give the lie to the bland declaration of the Delhi Police that there was "no lathi charge and the people were treated with kid gloves". Mercifully, the disgraceful episode is before the apex court and cannot be brushed under the carpet, as usual, by craven authorities.

 

With the passage of time, the Ramdev tragicomedy will also pass. But the bumbling government has ensured that some of its harmful consequences would continue to haunt it. Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi, for all the achievements he boasts of, can never live down his responsibility for the ghastly Gujarat riots in 2002. The Congress-led UPA, too, would have to pay a heavy price for its mid-summer madness in Delhi for a long time. It is, of course, absurd to compare this atrocity to Jallianwala Bagh or even the Emergency. But the action taken was draconian and utterly uncalled for.

 

One explanation for the government's too-clever-by-half dual strategy is that by initially kneeling before the Baba and treating him like royalty, it hoped to draw a wedge between him and Anna Hazare. At one stage it seemed that the sly design was succeeding. But, by then, almost the entire country was furious with the "weak" government's virtual "abdication". That is when the government decided to embark on the midnight swoop to show that it was strong. Consequently, it has courted not just double whammy but a load of trouble. Just look at some pointers.

 

First, instead of being discredited, Baba Ramdev has become a hero, despite all the efforts of the government and its spin-doctors to denounce him as an "agent of the RSS". Secondly, as it happened, during the last stages of the dismal drama in Delhi, the BJP was holding a conclave in Lucknow. There it was evident that the party was at sixes and sevens, devoid of any issue and more fragmented and dysfunctional than the ruling establishment in Delhi.

 

The unspeakable high-handedness at Ramlila Grounds and the Congress' unfailing proclivity to convert every inconvenient problem into a no-holds-barred confrontation between itself and the Sangh Parivar has reunited and energised the saffron party. It is a different matter, however, that the BJP's counter-attack on the Congress has been besmirched by Sushma Swaraj's sudden urge to stage a most inappropriate dance at, of all places, the Mahatma's samadhi at Rajghat. The Lok Sabha deserves a more serious leader of the Opposition.

 

On the other hand, the Congress and its leadership need to be told that the massive and mounting popular anger against egregious corruption cannot be averted or even abated by trying to "communalise corruption". Those deeply committed to secularism are as fed up with this scourge as "communalists" or anyone else. Neither the vile abuse of the Baba by senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh nor the chorus of condemnation of "communal forces" would confuse the issue. On the contrary, Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran's alleged shenanigans, sensational in nature and now under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), are likely to add fuel to the fire.

 

Thirdly, the government's attempts at dividing the civil society by bringing about a discord between Anna Hazare and the Baba has boomeranged. At first inclined to distance himself from the fasting Baba, Anna has reaffirmed support to the yoga guru. Moreover, dissatisfied with the government's stand on some issues concerning the Lok Pal Bill, Anna is withdrawing from the joint drafting committee and going on a second fast. Denied access to Jantar Mantar by the Delhi Police he would do so at Rajghat. Does this mean that in the world's largest democracy the fundamental right to assemble and protest peacefully can no longer be exercised without the consent of the government and its minions?

 

Finally, there is a mystery that needs to be solved. From the time the four-minister team drove to the airport to welcome the Baba and talk to him for two hours until after the shameful swoop on peaceful people, sundry Congress leaders went on proclaiming that the whole thing was a matter for the government and the "party had nothing to do with it". But is it conceivable that Mr. Mukherjee would have travelled to the airport without Congress president Sonia Gandhi's approval or knowledge? Furthermore, the police action took place several hours after a high-level meeting at her residence. Was the proposed operation never mentioned at it? As usual, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi hasn't said a word. Only Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has justified the police swoop as "necessary", even if "unfortunate". Let's await the Supreme Court's verdict.n

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS….

BY S.V. SINGH

 

The recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Vinayak Sen's case reminded me of an identical incident in my career. In 1971 while working as SP Patiala I came to know that a young student doing his M.A in Punjabi University was in possession of leftist revolutionary literature. His room was a meeting point for the Naxalites.

 

Surveillance was kept and he was picked up for questioning. Some over-enthusiastic intelligence official quietly informed my DIG about the catch. The DIG office was a few steps away from my office. The DIG summoned me and said: "It is good you have got the Naxalite. Bump him off". I was shocked to hear the order for the summary execution of the Naxalite from my DIG.

 

I tried to reason with him: "Sir, he is not a Naxalite who has taken part in any act of violence. He is only a budding leftist intellectual." But the DIG was in no mood to listen. Though otherwise affectionate, he threatened me, "If you do not do what I have told you, it will go against you." I found it entirely futile to argue with him. I took his leave, went to the Civil Line police station, Patiala, where the youngster was being questioned. I ensured that the SHO formally arrested him immediately. I was apprehensive that if I did not complete the formality of his arrest, my over-enthusiastic DIG might get him "encountered" by some other official.

 

The DIG later rose to head the state police, and so did I after some time. I had the good fortune to save quite a few such youngsters from unimaginative police actions.

 

Prof Harold Laski, a great political scientist of the last century, who influenced a number of budding Indian political activists then studying in the U.K, including Jawaharlal Nehru, once remarked: "There is something wrong with a person who is not a socialist till 40 years of his age. But if he continues to be so even after that age, there is again something wrong with him".

 

These remarks of Professor Laski truly reflect the reason for the presence of a large number of budding left-oriented intellectuals in various reputed institutional of learning like J.N.U and various other reputed professional colleges in the country.

 

The state must take effective action to deal with Naxalites if they indulge in unlawful activities. But the state should also take several steps for social justice. It is not coincidental that Naxalism has spread in the most poorly governed states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand. It is the bounden duty of the state to ensure accelerated development in the rural areas and improved governance of these states. Only then will police action against Naxalism succeed..n

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE BHANGRA IMPERIALISM

THE RUSTIC FOLK BHANGRA IS COLONISING THE WEST, POP-SINGERS IN THE UK ARE RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE MANNS. AND, THE HIGHEST RANKING RAPPER LIKE JAY Z, FROM THE US, IS SINGING ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF POPULAR PUNJABI NUMBERS.

ANJALI GERA ROY

 

Bhangra, defined as British Asian dance music by music scholars in the West, is as British as chicken tikka masala today. But it looks back to a Panjabi harvest rite of the same name dating back to the time of Alexander's invasion of India that continues to be performed at the annual festivals of lohri, baisakhi and all birth-related ceremonies in Punjab and in the Punjabi diasporas worldwide. No Panjabi wedding is complete without a round of Bhangra. Nor is any other celebration.

 

Bhangra is essentially the old circle dance with dancers moving around the dholi or the drummer in varying rhythms, exclaiming Balle Balle! Oh Balle Balle.

 

The hybrid appeal

 

Bhangra's origins are steeped in mystery. Some trace it back to the worship of the god Shiva during which inebriated worshippers would perform a wild dance around the deity. A dance genre called Bhangra is believed to date back to the 14th century. Some scholars view it as a pastoral dance and locate its origins in agricultural rhythms while others maintain that it originated in martial exercises of soldiers. But modern Bhangra was invented after the Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 to refer to a mix of gender, region, sect based dance genres that may be found in the doaba or the deltas of Panjab's five rivers. It is rumoured that the Maharaja of Patiala, Yadavindra Singh, was invited to watch a dance performed by a team in the Panjabi Univeristy, Patiala, that borrowed movements from all these genres and was named Bhangra. The Maharaja was so impressed by the team, trained by the legendary dholi Bhanna Ram Sunami, that he nominated it to stage post-colonial Punjabi identity at the first Republic Day Parade in Delhi. Its subsequent performance in schools, colleges and state functions naturalised Bhangra, a dance genre marginalised to the more popular jhummar in undivided Punjab, as Punjabi dance. Modern Bhangra is primarily based on the sialkoti style though it has amalgamated movements from other genres such as jhummar, malwai giddha, luddi, julli, dhamal, pathania, gatka and dankara as well.

 

Until the eighties, Punjabi dance and song remained discrete with folksingers such as Asa Singh Mastana, Surinder Kaur, Kuldip Manak and other enjoying unprecedented popularity in Punjab while Bhangra was consecrated as Punjabi dance. The late seventies witnessed the birth of the singer dancer Gurdas Mann who modernized Punjabi folksong and added dance to it to invent a new genre that came to be known as Panjabipop or Bhangrapop. Bhangra's reinvention in India intersected with its reinvention in Britain through its hybridisation with black musical sounds triggering a Bhangra revival both at home and in the diasporas. Within a decade, Daler Mehndi became the first non-film, regional singer to challenge Hindi film music's hegemony and transformed Bhangra into national popular music. Bhangra's Bollywood invasion was also ushered by Mehndi's appearance in the Amitabh Bachchan comeback vehicle Mrityudata(1995). Bhangra's reinvention in Punjab, however, is attributed to Malkit Singh whose borrowing of a pashtun ditty tootak toootak tootiyan made him an overnight sensation. Malkit Singh now shuttles between Ludhiana and Birmingham and has received the highest honours in Britian.

 

Dhol: the cool drum

 

 

 

In Britain, Apache Indian's mixing of dhol beats with reggae spawned a new genre that was hailed by the British media as the voice of the Asian youth and soon became part of global youth culture. Around the same time, 'Asia's most popular DJ', Bally Sagoo, began to remix traditional Bhangra songs to produce 'cool' versions that became very popular with Asian youth in Britain and subsequently in India. Within a few years, Bhangra could claim to be part of the British mainstream with Panjabi MC's 'Mundian ton bach ke' jumping to the top of the charts in UK and to have invaded global popular culture by the new millennium with Jay Z's rapping on the same song ( Beware of the Boys) that pushed it to among top 10 position in the US charts.

 

Bhangra today offers a galaxy of stars like Sukhbir, Jazzy B, Harbhajan Mann, Juggy D, Labh Janjua and so on who have no fixed address but they glide between Punjab and the Punjabi diasporas in the UK, Canada and Australia. Bhangra is produced, distributed and consumed in so many parts of the world today that it becomes impossible to tell where it comes from.

 

The Queen's Bhangra…

 

British Bhangra has been hailed as the new Asian dance music marking British Asian presence on the popular cultural scene. But hybrid Bhangra genres, including the homegrown Bhangrapop or Panjabipop invented by Gurdas Mann and Daler Mehndi, have met with skepticism in India though Indian youth have taken to them in a big way. Bhangra mutants are dismissed for disregarding several felicity conditions of traditional Bhangra. They are seen as violating the rules of Bhangra performance by mixing movements and styles from 'alien' Western dance forms and failing to observe norms relating to what can be said, by whom and where. Purists consider their failure to retain gender space by allowing exposure of female body to the public gaze as the gravest offence. But beneath the allegations of new Bhangra hybrids' 'obscenity' and 'vulgarity' one can hear a genuine concern about the sacrilege of Panjabi harvest rite through its contamination by commercial interest.

 

Beating Bollywood

 

But new Bhangra mutants, both the desi hybrids of Gurdas Mann and Daler Mehndi and vilayeti hybrids of Bally Sagoo and Panjabi MC, have invaded the nation's popular cultural vocabulary challenging Bollywood's hegemony in the Indian popular cultural space. Bhangra is no longer confined to Panjab or Panjabis but can be heard as far as Thiruvananthapuram where Daler Mehndi is reported to have sold a million copies. From the nightclubs of Delhi and Bangalore to the lanes of Mumbai and Goa, Indian youth of all classes, castes and regions might be seen dancing to the beats of Panjabi music. Bhangra's popularity, in fact, made Bollywood capitulate to 'low' Panjabi tastes and make Bhangra a part of its song and dance sequence. In fact, Bhangra's Bollywood turn nationalised it completely. Its performance at Bollywood wedding and 'family gathering' scenes made Indian groups, other than Panjabis, incorporate it in their traditional celebratory rites.

 

In fact, the space cleared by Bhangra mutants in the Indian popular cultural space has made room for other Panjabi genres such as jugni and heer but also other folk traditions such as Rajasthani and Gujarati. The national youth icon of the new millennium was a young Sikh called Rabbi Shergill who has set a twelfth century sufi poet Bulle Shah's verses to music. Thus, Bhangra's popularity appears to have ushered a regional and folk music revival on the Indian subcontinent. Folk is not decried as rustic but has become part of the new 'cool' that embraces a wide sonic range from rap to techno. Rustic Panjabi artists now enjoy a large following among urban youth, even the Westernized segment, to a limited extent. Panjabi harvest rite's ejection into the popular cultural space has brought it unimaginable visibility and popularity. But the price it has had to pay is to submit to the laws of popular cultural commerce. Bhangra is so deeply immersed in the field of commerce that it cannot function outside the market.

 

Folk is chic

 

Does the harvest rite lose out to the popular dance? Does its centrality to youth communities disengage Bhangra from its original 'folk'? All evidence points to the contrary. Purists might rage at the promiscuous mixing of genders, genres and languages. But Panjabis of all genders, age, class, castes and professions continue to dance Bhangra at every opportunity. Bhangra of all varieties, pure, hybrid, traditional, modern, live, recorded, is now played at Panjabi gatherings. Rural Bhangra professionals can be playing along side anglicised DJs at the same family event. Panjabi matrons would as easily join the rustic dancers and musicians in singing a traditional boli as waddling across to the improvised dance floor to dance to Panjabi MC's mundian ton bach ke raheen. Bhangra moves at these occasions range from the 'purest' gatka or 'snake dance' to imitations of salsa and macarena. Who cares where Bhangra comes from and mixed with what foreign elements? What matters is performance of the rite! Bhangra, of any kind, is still the spontaneous expression of joy to mark an auspicious occasion! The carnivalesque bingeing of eating, drinking, and dancing and the license to indulge witnessed during Bhangra performance makes its role in the Panjabi sacred suspect. But Bhanga performed at live ceremonies is stamped with the same auspiciousness that marks other fertility rites. As harvest dance, Bhangra permits the play of the profane within the sacred, in tune with the reproduction of life that is often mistaken for licentiousness and degeneracy.

 

(The writer is a professor of social sciences at IIT Kharagpur)

 

Mundian to bach ke raheen or Beware of the Boys

  • The song by Punjabi MC was originally released in the U K on 1998 album Legalised. Partially fueled by Internet downloads, it charted again in 2003. In Germany, it sold over 100,000 in the first two days alone, and debuted at #2 in the Germany charts and reached #1 in the Italy charts. The week of its release in the UK, it debuted at #5 on the top 40 charts; it was also the first bhangra song to reach the UK top 10.
  • The Ja y Z remix also hit #33 on the Billborad Charts in the US and #10 in Canada. Total sales of Mundian To Bach Ke are estimated between 1 million and 10 million units.
  • Malkit has been awarded the prestigious MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by the British Queen for his services to bhangra music. In 2010, the story of how bhangra arrived and developed in the UK was told in the stage musical Britain's Got Bhangra, produced by Rifco Arts.

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EDITORIAL

WHO NEEDS SMALL SAVINGS?

NOT STATES, BUT THE INFRASTRUCTURE SECTOR

The national small savings system is no longer what it set out to be. It was meant to attract financial savings from those at the edge of the market economy and pass on the proceeds as loans to the central and state governments. The rural savings part of it was – and still is – in large part administered through the postal system, reaching people and places commercial banks do not. But bank nationalisation, branch expansion, rise of regional rural banks and importance of tax-incentivised savings like the Public Provident Fund Scheme and National Savings Certificates have reduced the role of both rural savings and the post office in the overall picture. What is more, with successive finance commissions addressing the resource needs of the states, they are no longer as dependent on loans from small savings as they used to be. What really calls into question the future of the system is that the National Small Savings Fund, through which all cash inflows and outflows pass, now runs at a loss.

The committee appointed to devise a more viable and meaningful future for the fund in its report makes many recommendations but does not directly question the fund's raison d'être. You don't need a small savings scheme to find resources for states. What you do need is to promote financial inclusion and use for nation building the small savings of millions of people. For that, it is necessary to make the schemes and instruments under the fund as attractive as possible. Two likely developments in the near future will powerfully affect the savings system: introduction of core banking in postal operations and the unique identification system for every Indian resident. These together will transform the quality of service offered to postal savers and make maintaining multiple accounts at multiple locations impossible. So the committee is right to recommend that special rates of return, tax incentives and permissible ceilings be continued. But it is wrong to recommend that the commission to sales agents be gradually brought down across the board. The current system is indeed sales-driven and should remain so. The low popularity of government paper among retail savers and the poor individual response to the new pension scheme point to the need to continue selling the small savings schemes at the grass-roots level.

 

 The next issue is where or how the small savings system should invest what it collects so as to meet its costs and service deposits. The report recommends part of the funds be lent to infrastructure players who can issue paper to the fund at a mark-up to the current secondary yield of instruments like the 10-year government paper. There will be some argument over the mark-up, but it must be remembered that the rates of return of infrastructure projects are being constantly calculated by financial institutions and the Planning Commission. Resources from small savings can be taken as topping up funding (something that was not available earlier) and a higher cost for it can be assumed. This can be kept in mind by the regulator in question while considering costs for fixing things like electricity tariffs or road toll charges. But what is vital and non-negotiable is that the postal savings operations run much more efficiently than they do right now. Mere computerisation is not enough and there is a case for far greater autonomy, preferably by turning them into a special category bank.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

MONSOON WOES

TACKLING DISEASES DURING THE RAINY SEASON IS CRITICAL

The monsoon has set in relatively early this year. So have the seasonal diseases associated with it. Earlier, diseases caused by food contamination, such as cholera, typhoid, gastroenteritis and jaundice, used to afflict the masses during the rainy season. Drinking of unclean water and lack of general hygiene were the main causes. Now, many dreaded vector-borne diseases, some of which were unheard of until a few decades ago, have become a major threat. These include dengue, chikungunya, meningitis and viral fever, apart from malaria. Though their outbreaks are usually predictable and largely preventable as well, these recur with unfailing regularity year after year. Health authorities, regrettably, rarely wake up before people actually begin to die of these ailments. Even in the metro cities, where municipal authorities are supposed to be more watchful, hundreds suffer every year from these illnesses during the rainy months. Last year's experience in the country's capital is difficult to overlook when the Delhi administration's failure to control dengue on the eve of the Commonwealth Games had brought the country disrepute. Over 20 countries formally cautioned their athletes about the potential threat of vector-borne diseases due to the unabated breeding of mosquitoes around the Games venues.

Ironically, no lessons have been learnt. Dengue, malaria and other diseases have again begun to surface this year despite the claims by the authorities of adequate preparedness to check mosquito breeding. No different from Delhi is Mumbai, the financial hub of the nation, or any other big town, for that matter. With the monsoon having already arrived in Mumbai, the cases of viral fever, malaria, pneumonia and even dengue have been reported from various localities in recent days. The situation is worse in small towns and millions of villages where the public health infrastructure is either non-existent or a shambles. It is not too difficult to keep the monsoon-related ailments at bay. The strategy to do so has to be three-pronged: clearing waterlogged areas to prevent breeding of mosquitoes and other insects; killing their larvae where they have already bred; and destroying adult vector populations through regular sprays and fogging. Public health authorities cannot be unaware of this. But the will to act and the wherewithal needed for this purpose are usually wanting. Though the country's entire public health infrastructure is in bad shape, the preventive health care system is, regrettably, worse. A severe jolt was served to it by the ban, largely under international pressure, on DDT, which was, by far, the cheapest and most effective pesticide available for vector control. Its extensive use in the public health programme had helped to almost eradicate malaria decades ago. The need for an equally inexpensive, and yet effective, alternative to DDT has since been sorely felt. Endosulfan, the next best alternative, is several times more costly and is also on its way out. But there are other chemical and biological means of vector control that are still available, though at a higher cost. When the issue at stake is as vital as public health, paucity of funds should not be allowed to come in the way.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

KEEPING THE GROWTH STORY ALIVE

DESPITE MISGIVINGS ABOUT INDIA?S ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE, INVESTORS HAVE NOT LOST FAITH IN THE COUNTRY?S LONG-TERM GROWTH TRAJECTORY

AKASH PRAKASH

 

Investor sentiment towards India is clearly at a low point. Money managers are worried about both the macro and micro environment. On the macro front, it is feared that the recent 50 basis point increase in key policy rates by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may signal a determination to be more aggressive and single-minded about fighting inflation at the cost of growth. One cannot rule out another two or three increases by the RBI in the months to come, and we may see rates being kept at an elevated level for an extended period. The RBI seems determined – and rightly so – to put the inflation genie back in the bottle and squash any chance of an inflation spiral driven by rising expectations or wages. Inflation has also proved to be far more structural and deep-rooted than was initially thought.

 

The economy is slowing down, with GDP likely to clock between 7 and 7.5 per cent, nowhere near the originally targeted 9 per cent. Corporate capex is in cold storage and the first signs of a slowdown in consumption are now evident. The transition in growth from government consumption to private sector investment is not happening.

Another issue is governance, with reform momentum seeming to be totally lost. It appears the government is in a non-stop fire-fighting mode and, therefore, decision making stands paralysed. All the discussion about big bang reforms or a Cabinet reshuffle now seems far- fetched. A lack of co-ordination among major ministries is also evident.

On the micro front, corporate earnings are poised to disappoint, with a lacklustre quarter (Q4 2011) just delivered. India has one of the the worst earnings revisions among major emerging markets, and while consensus earnings estimates for 2012 are about 1240 for the Sensex, my guess is that this number will finally hit below 1200.

On that basis, the market is not cheap — it is trading at 15 times its March 2012 estimated earnings. India still enjoys a PE multiple premium over other emerging markets, though our return on equity is now only in line with the emerging market average.

Besides, all buyside surveys show India as a consensus underweight, and even the local institutional pools of capital are defensive. For the first time even the smart proprietary pools of capital are being found to be cautious.

So we have a weak macro and micro environment, a market that is not particularly cheap, but refuses to go down. It's true that India is the worst-performing market in Asia, but considering how much we have risen in the past two years, we are down only 10 per cent this year. The resilience demonstrated by the market is surprising. Despite negative investor sentiment, India has on a net basis not seen any foreign institutional investor outflow this year. Investors seem to talk bearish, but are not willing to actually sell.

What accounts for this resilience? Why does the market not seem to want to go down?

One reason could be that everyone is already so bearish and sentiment is so weak that markets have already bottomed out. Allocations and positioning towards India can only improve from here, driving the market higher, once investors turn more positive. Going by that, the market has absorbed a huge amount of bad news, without cracking, indicating that it has bottomed out. However, given the lack of selling on a net basis, this seems unlikely. One does not get any sense of capitulation or selling exhaustion that would be expected if this were a sentiment-driven bottoming-out.

A more likely reason is that investors have not lost faith in the long-term growth trajectory of India. The current environment is still being seen as a short- term aberration which will be corrected quickly. Investors are assuming that in a functioning democracy, the governance and policy paralysis cannot continue indefinitely and will not impact longer-term growth.

This is why at every fall, genuine long-term capital continues to flow into the country. Even in March, we saw $2 billion to $3 billion come in quickly from sovereign wealth funds and pensions. In a world of very low growth, and a declining dollar, India with its expected 8 per cent growth trajectory continues to stand out. Few large economies can credibly aspire to achieve these growth rates, and real money investor positioning is still underweight. Many investors who missed out on the rally of the past 24 months now see this consolidation phase as a good entry point.

The growth argument is quite simple and rests on the assumption that India will have a savings rate of 34 to 35 per cent, current account deficit of 2 per cent, yielding an investment rate of 36 to 37 per cent. With an incremental capital output ratio of 4 to 4.5, this will drive real GDP growth of 8 to 9 per cent.

Thus, the only way investors will start doubting the India story (by this framework)is if they start questioning the 35 per cent savings assumption. Given that household savings are reasonably stable, the delta will come from corporate savings and the government sector. As long as you believe that corporate earnings will remain strong, and the government is able to rein in fiscal deficit, we should be able to deliver the targeted investment rate and GDP.

Unless government finances totally fall apart, or corporate India fails to deliver the profitability we have come to expect, investors are not going to let go of their 8 per cent growth (for a decade) assumption. They do not seem to be willing to factor in the investment and policy environment into their growth calculations.

Investors using this framework will continue to look through the valley of short-term headwinds and put money to work. Despite many investor misgivings, India may not have a significant downtrend from here. It could be 5 per cent, or even 10 per cent, but is unlikely to fall further. The bears calling for a market collapse are unlikely to be right. At every level, long-term capital will come in, unable to find other credible, sustained and long-duration growth opportunities.

It is amazing how much benefit of doubt investors are willing to give the country. Starved of alternative growth opportunities, they are willing to look through the serious challenges that the country currently faces, hoping that we have so much going for us in the long term that we will not disappoint.

We have been given a long rope by investors. Let us hope that we do not abuse it. If international capital gives up on our story, the country will have to face serious challenges in the future.

akashprakash@amansacapital.com Views expressed are personal

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BUSINESS STANDARD

HOW ABOUT INDIA INK?

BHUPESH BHANDARI

Why are Indian businessmen, I have often wondered, so reluctant to write their autobiographies? If you go to any bookshop, you are unlikely to find more than one or two. The only one stores stock these days is Capt Gopinath's Simply Fly. Yes, there are several commissioned biographies around, but these are little more than hagiographies. These books don't sell in the market. They are, to tell the truth, not meant to sell on merit — they are distributed to unsuspecting employees, though the money is quietly cut from their salaries, to educate them on the greatness of their benevolent employer. Search hard and you will come across several such books in second-hand book stores, always unread and often undusted.

One reason seems to be that Indian businessmen don't find the time to retire — you can look back at your career only after it has ended. But that seldom happens in India. Ratan Tata seems to be an exception — a committee tasked to find his successor is at work. Most others just don't want to let go of the money, perks, power and the adrenaline rush that comes with the business. Retirement is for the faint-hearted; Indian businessmen are made of sterner stuff. Jack Welch wrote Jack: Straight from the Gut after he retired as chairman of General Electric, and Andy Grove wrote Only the Paranoid Survive after he had hung his boots at Intel.

 

Not that our businessmen live uninteresting lives; on the contrary, they all have riveting, and often downright scandalous, stories to tell, though it is always off the record. Therein perhaps hides the answer. Till 20 years ago, business was all about getting licences and permits from New Delhi, and creating roadblocks for rivals. That's where the core competence of Indian businessmen lay. Companies were small, inefficient, poorly managed and production-led. Whatever was produced got sold. No other business acumen was really required.

So, what stories could you tell? Political clout was what mattered most. Asset-stripping was rampant, and so was insider trading. How do you put in black and white the sordid details of how you acquired those skills? Let sleeping dogs lie was the unwritten rule. Hence, that period remains a complete black hole so far as business history told through autobiographies is concerned. There were exceptions like Har Prasad Nanda of Escorts, who wrote a candid account of his life in The Days of My Years.

But there was nothing else of substance. For instance, apart from Mr Nanda's book, there is precious little on the raid mounted by NRI businessman Swraj Paul on DCM and Escorts in the mid-1980s. What had motivated him to stir a hornet's nest? How were these businesses defended? What were the levers Mr Nanda and the DCM family pulled to thwart Mr Paul? Bharat Ram's autobiography (Reminiscences and Reflections) and Charat Ram's biography (Points and Lines, written by K V Kamath) are quiet on the subject. The fact is that the family lobbied hard with Rajiv Gandhi, who had gone to school with Bharat Ram's youngest son, Vivek, to hold on to their company. That is what saved the day for them as well as Nanda.

By that logic, there should have been a flurry of autobiographies in the last 20 years — ever since the licence-permit-quota raj was dismantled by P V Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh in 1991. But the trickle has remained a trickle. The unavoidable conclusion is that the world of business remains as murky as ever. Crony capitalism, which we all thought would get buried in the avalanche of free markets, is not only alive but healthy and strong. To put it differently, there still remains in the hands of the government enormous discretionary power, which can make or break a business. The 2G scam is a live example. Political leaders of repute, businessmen and executives are all under the lens. More skeletons are sure to tumble out in the days to come. Again, who has the nerve to tell the full story, do the Full Monty?

Doing business in India is not easy; it requires special skills to move ahead. The country comes out poorly in the Doing Business rankings of the International Finance Corporation. It stood 134th amongst 183 economies in the 2011 rankings, up one slot from 135th in 2010. It has done badly on most parameters — starting a business (165), dealing with construction permits (177), registering property (94), paying taxes (164), trading across borders (100), enforcing contracts (182) and closing a business (134). Its only respectable scores are in getting credit (32) and protecting investors (44).

That aside, a large number of Indian businessmen have done commendable work in the last few years. It ranges from developing great products, acquiring big-ticket businesses abroad, turning around loss-making ventures and transforming companies. Still, it could be a long wait before they put their memoirs on paper. You could blame this on laziness. But why blame businessmen alone? Not writing an account of one's life is a malaise that runs across the country. Only a handful of our civil servants and diplomats have bothered to write their memoirs. The same goes for political leaders, Army Generals and even editors.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

CONTRACT LABOUR PAINS

THE ARCHAIC LAW HAS ENABLED MANAGEMENTS AND WORKERS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LOOPHOLES

SHYAMAL MAJUMDAR

In August last year, Maruti was one of the two case studies presented at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) seminar on contract labour for the way the automobile company had "engaged with its contract labour".

It is ironic that less than a year later, the company is in the middle of an indefinite strike by 800 of its workers who are demanding a permanent absorption of contract workers at the Manesar plant, among other things.

 

Though Maruti has taken a tough stand saying it doesn't understand what the actual grievance is, the issue brings India Inc's uneasy relationship with contract workers into sharp focus. The issue is sensitive and India has already seen a violent example of this when a few workers of an Italian company killed the manager of its India plant because he allegedly replaced permanent workers with ones on contract.

To be sure, that was an extreme case. But in the absence of any labour law reforms over the past so many years, even the courts have taken contradictory positions in the recent past. One judgement said priority must be given to absorption of contract labour whenever a new position comes up, while another said no such guarantee can be given by a company because the terms of employment itself talk about a fixed contract.

This only highlights the prevailing confusion. Even as both sides – the management and workers – have taken advantage of loopholes, successive governments have pushed the main issue under the carpet despite recommendations made by several committees and even the Planning Commission. Let's look at some of the issues raised by them.

The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act was originally enacted to regulate the practice of contract labour to avoid exploitation of sweated labour. Section 10 of the Act empowers the government to prohibit contract labour in certain situations at the discretion of the government.

In practice, the Act has been interpreted as requiring the abolition of contract labour for all services that are of a regular nature and are performed on the factory premises. Two Supreme Court judgements in two cases involving the Gujarat State Electricity Board and Air India have had the effect that employers using contract labour to perform regular services on the premises of the employer become liable to absorb such labour permanently. Industry has on several occasions expressed its disappointment at this viewpoint because it defeats the purpose of employing contract labour.

A Planning Commission report on employment opportunities said the role of contract labour has to be seen in the context of a growing trend towards unbundling the production process into parts and outsourcing supply of these to different producing units. This practice will increase with the growth of information technology. If such outsourcing leads to a greater specialisation in the production of these services, with resulting gains in efficiency and reduced costs, it could – rather would – stimulate a larger total demand for these services and, therefore, create employment.

For example, outsourcing of security services could make these services more cost-effective and, therefore, lead to more demand. An important aspect of cost-effectiveness is that the service can be discontinued or contracted on a reduced scale in difficult times.

But the present legal provisions introduce a disincentive to the expansion of contractual services. It's true that enterprises can freely outsource those services that need not be performed on the premises (for example, laundry and so on). But for services that are of a regular nature and have to be performed on the premises (for examples, work in canteen, cleaning, gardening, loading and unloading and so on), employers outsourcing these run the risk that the labour used in such services may be treated as contract labour, and may have to be absorbed permanently on the payroll.

This obviously discourages employers from using such services freely, and most companies make sure that the outside labour used for such services are changed frequently so that no one makes a claim for permanent absorption. This results in a lot of heartburn. Also, there are numerous examples of companies asking outside workers to do regular work on their premises without any paper work to avoid the legal hassle of giving them contract worker status. These workers get no benefits and are paid much lower than their permanent counterparts for the same amount of work.

The Contract Labour Act, therefore, needs to be amended urgently to allow employers to outsource all peripheral activities to specialised companies, even if it means these employees work on their premises. The legitimate interests of workers engaged in these activities can be easily protected by defining minimum responsibilities for health, safety and remuneration.

The contract labour issue is just one of the two issues (the other being recognition of a union) raised by Maruti's workers. But if left unattended, we will continue to see the sad spectacle of workers resorting to unreasonable strikes and employers making sure that no one qualifies for the contract labour status as defined by an archaic law.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

UPA'S INCLUSION GETS IT WRONG

THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO ACCELERATE LABOUR REFORMS TO SPUR INCLUSIVE GROWTH

SHANKAR ACHARYA

For more than seven years the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has touted its distinctive brand (so claimed) of "Inclusive Growth". There is nothing wrong with the basic idea, which is that the fruits of rapid economic growth should be widely shared, particularly by the poor and marginalised segments of society. But the strategy deployed has been seriously flawed. It has emphasised massive expansion of anti-poverty expenditure programmes, including the flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and open-ended entitlement programmes for food and education. This approach has embedded large and continuing increases in government expenditures and subsidies in the Centre's budget. Without commensurate increases in tax revenues, this has led to a series of large fiscal deficits (since 2007/08), which have fuelled inflationary forces and rising interest rates.

Quite apart from its well-known deficiencies of corruption, mismanagement and poor targeting, this approach is simply unsustainable in the medium and long run. It contrasts sharply with the far more effective inclusion strategy followed in successful East Asian countries such as China, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand. These nations made rapid and sustained expansion of labour-using manufacturing activities (especially for exports) the centrepiece of their inclusion strategy. The success of their approach is obvious. South Korea joined the ranks of advanced industrial nation some years ago. China, which had average living standards comparable to India's in the late 1970s, is now about three times better off and a rising super power. In essence, the East Asian approach banished (nearly) poverty by generating decades of double-digit industrial growth which sucked in their abundant resources of low-skilled labour (the poor) into factory employment.

 

This approach is echoed on page 297 of the government's Economic Survey for 2010-11: "The key strategy for achieving inclusive growth in the Eleventh Plan has been the generation of productive and gainful employment, with decent working conditions, on a sufficient scale to absorb the growing labour force". Nice thought but not followed up in actual policies and results, as the next sentences acknowledge: "The Eleventh Plan (2007-12) aims at generation of 58 million work opportunities… The 64th round (2007-08) of NSSO survey on employment-unemployment indicates creation of 4 million work opportunities between 2004-05 and 2007-08". An achievement of 4 million in three years versus the aspiration of 58 million in five!

If this disastrous record was not bad enough, the story gets worse in the official data on employment in the "organised sector" (meaning all public employees and non-agricultural private employment in units with 10 or more persons). Between 2003 and 2008 (latest year reported in the Economic Survey) this inched up by only half a million workers to attain a paltry total of 27.5 million (including nearly 10 million government employees) out of a total labour force of about 500 million. In sum, by 2008, according to government data, only 6 per cent of India's labour force were in "decent" organised sector jobs with high security, while 94 per cent toiled in casual, ill-paid and insecure (hire and fire) conditions. Indeed, the number of organised sector employees was unchanged from 27.5 million back in 1995, indicating the culpability of pre-UPA governments as well in failing to foster job growth in the organised sector.

As for the crucial East Asian transmission mechanism for inclusion, the expansion of factory employment in manufacturing, "decent" organised sector jobs in the public manufacturing sector actually fell in India from 1.8 million in 1995 to 1 million in 2008, while in private organised units employment stagnated at around 5 million. Manufacturing sector employment accounted for a mere 18 per cent of total organised sector employment in 2008. Put differently, there were only 6 million employees in organised manufacturing compared to over 9 million in government jobs!

As all businessmen – and most competent economists – know, the principal obstacle blocking job growth in Indian manufacturing factories has been our exceptionally restrictive labour laws, which ensure job security for the tiny minority of organised sector employees while almost completely discouraging fresh hiring from the vast pool of ill- paid workers in the unorganised/informal sector. That's why in India you see very few sizable factories in labour-using sectors like textiles, garments, leather products, low-end electronics, toys, etc, which formed the backbone of East Asia's employment-intensive growth with inclusion. As someone said, "In a desert (created by our labour policies) you don't expect to see hippopotamuses"! And now that wages have been rising fast in the successful East Asian nations (especially in the Chinese behemoth), these labour-using activities are shifting to places like Vietnam and Bangladesh rather than India, despite the availability of our hundreds of millions of low-skilled workers, desperately seeking factory jobs.

Apparently, successive governments (including UPA) have preferred to mouth pro-worker slogans, while perpetuating a policy regime that throttles growth of jobs very effectively. Rather than undertake labour reforms that encourage real job growth, the UPA has preferred to expand "make-work" doles (such as MGNREGS) and subsidies through government budgets to the many millions in casual, informal and part-time employment. Among the other unfortunate consequences of this very inferior approach to inclusion have been: the serious stunting of our manufacturing sector; enormous and rising population pressure on agriculture, for lack of other alternatives; the most "casualised" labour force in the world; the encouragement of a (unsustainable) subsidy culture; perennially stressed government budgets; a bias towards inflation; and growing schisms between haves/have-nots, organised/unorganised, urban/rural, skilled/unskilled, which are weakening the fabric of society and making governance ever more difficult. The political/ security problems of Naxalism and insurgencies in the north east and Kashmir are compounded, if not caused, by the fundamental failure to ensure rapid growth of decent, non-agricultural jobs.

A lament: If only all those well-meaning and dedicated social activists who campaigned so well and effectively for MGNREGS and other entitlement programmes would deploy their very considerable skills and commitment to the cause of reforming our job-stifling labour laws, we might actually achieve a successful strategy of inclusive growth.

The author is honorary professor at Icrier and former chief economic adviser to the Government of India
The views expressed are personal

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

SPECTRE OF FOOD INFLATION

New Delhi must stay glued to developments around the world even while striving to enhance kharif crop production over the next four months.

It is no coincidence that at a time when the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has, in its latest Food Outlook, cautioned that world food prices are set to remain high and volatile into the next year, comes an Unctad report calling for stricter regulation of commodity market financialisation and suggesting a tax that slows financial market activities. There is growing concern that unfettered speculative capital has fuelled the commodity boom-led inflation in recent years, but has not advanced the real objective — 'price discovery'. If anything, inflation is not only eroding the economic gains made post-2008, but also threatening to derail sustained economic recovery.

The prices of energy products, industrial metals, base metals and agricultural commodities are all ruling at elevated levels — driven not by the market fundamentals of demand, supply and inventory but by extraneous factors such as flow of speculative funds, currency gyrations, geopolitical developments and easy money. Clearly, too much money is seen chasing investment assets; and commodities have emerged as an attractive asset class because of their price performance. Worse, while consumers of commodities end up paying high prices, the benefits do not flow in full measure to the primary producers. In other words, there is transfer of wealth from the consumer, not to the producer but to the middlemen, who take speculative positions in the derivatives market without any genuine exposure to the underlying commodity. Of course, it is no one's case that derivatives trading by itself creates shortages or inflation; but such trading does exaggerate the price action. As herd behaviour drives up prices, the UN has called upon governments to deflate the commodity bubble, and recommended international oversight, more transparency and effective intervention.

While inflation, in general, is corrosive, food inflation hits the poor the hardest. Globally, high crude oil prices have raised the cost of food production and distribution. Additionally, a sharp rundown on inventories and only a modest overall production increase for the majority of crops has exacerbated the situation. This has raised food inflation to levels where many governments are reacting in a knee-jerk fashion. In addition to trade and tariff measures to fight food inflation, bank credit is being tightened from time to time, but with limited success.The prospect of food prices doubling is very real in the coming decades. The world needs short-term and medium-term plans to fight the emerging food price crisis. With the planting season on in the northern hemisphere, the next few months will be critical in determining how the major crops will fare. New Delhi must stay glued to developments around the world even while striving to enhance kharif crop production over the next four months.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

INDIA INC HAS A LONG WAY TO GO

SUNIL K. SINHA

 

Corporate Governance

Corporate Governance (CG) has received considerable attention after the "Satyam" episode in India. In fact, CG systems world over have evolved in response to corporate failures or systemic crises.

However, a part of the problem in India about CG arises also due to inadequate understanding on the part of investors, as they often do not know what CG means.

This is perhaps because of the nature of capitalist development in India, which has seen collusion between the political, bureaucratic and business classes as an acceptable way of governance.

The result is that even after 20 years of sustained economic reforms, we have made very little progress towards a system of corporate governance whose primary objective is to ensure a fair deal for investors and other stakeholders.

What is truly saddening is that despite having one of the best corporate governance laws, thanks to the legacy of the English legal system, we also have perhaps the worst record in implementation.

Concentrated ownership of shares, pyramiding and tunnelling of funds among group companies still mark the corporate landscape, and boards of directors have frequently been silent spectators with the financial institution nominee directors unable or unwilling to carry out their monitoring functions.

CG-related initiatives and policies in India are of fairly recent origin. It began in 1998 with the Desirable Code of Corporate Governance, a voluntary code published by the Confederation of Indian Industry. This was followed by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) establishing the first formal regulatory framework on CG for listed companies (Clause 49) in February 2000, based on the recommendations of the Kumarmangalam Birla Committee Report.

DISCLOSURE NORMS

More recently, in December 2009, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, issued a voluntary guideline on CG for its adoption among Indian corporates.

As a discipline, CG covers various aspects. Therefore it is hard to arrive at a unique definition of CG. According to the Cadbury Report (UK), CG is defined as the "system by which businesses are directed and controlled". In other words, CG is a general set of customs, regulations, habits, and laws that determine how a firm should be run.

According to Infosys Founder Mr N. R. Narayana Murthy, ''CG is maximising the shareholder value in a corporation while ensuring fairness to all stakeholders — customers, employees, investors, vendors, the government and the society-at-large. CG is about transparency and raising the trust and confidence of stakeholders in the way the company is run. It is about owners and the managers operating as the trustees on behalf of every shareholder — large or small." One of the key pillars of good CG is transparency and disclosure and its role in reducing information asymmetry between insiders (management or majority shareholders) and outsiders (minority shareholders, creditors, and other stakeholders) has been emphasised by the academic researchers and regulators.

It is also quite compatible with a market economy because it interferes least with freedom and competition of enterprises in the market.

So what constitutes appropriate and relevant disclosure by a company? Any information that is "material", in other words such information which is capable of causing a reasonable investor/stakeholder to take a different decision than he would have made in the absence of the information would constitute relevant disclosure.

Exceptions to this rule of disclosure should be strictly limited, such as trade secrets and/or information of confidential nature that may affect the competitiveness of the company.

In India publicly-held companies are required to make investor-related disclosures at two stages. The first is when companies wish to access the markets by way of a public offering. Here, disclosure obligations are governed by the Disclosure and Investor Protection Guidelines issued by SEBI.

The second relates to ongoing reporting obligations in case of listed companies either as part of their quarterly financial reports or disclosure of material events affecting the business of the company, which are governed by provisions of the listing agreement entered into by listed companies with stock exchanges.

INDIA INC'S PERFORMANCE

Is CG improving in India? To assess the CG of publicly-held companies in India this author looked at the CG Index score of S&P ESG India Index. The CG Index score is based on a corporate governance screen comprising 127 items, of which 27 are special items. The screen covers various facets of corporate governance (such as shareholder capital, shareholder rights, financial information, operational information, board and management information, board and management remuneration, corruption, leadership and business ethics etc) and has items many of which are aspirational even from a global best practices perspective.

Disclosure on an item of the screen means a score of "one" and "zero" otherwise. However, for special item a firm gets a score of 'three" for disclosure, and "zero" otherwise.

The composite scores thus obtained by the firms indicate their relative corporate governance quality. The maximum score that a firm can get is 100 and the minimum score is zero. The sample for CG Index is NSE listed top 500 Indian firms as per market cap on the last working day of each financial year.

Positive trend

Currently, the CG Index scores are available for six years. Approximately 26 per cent of the firms have CG Index score higher than 55, around 53 per cent of the firms are between 47 and 54.7, and the remaining 21 per cent firms have their CG Index score less than 46.4.

The minimum CG Index score was 31.5 recorded in 2006 and the maximum was 80.1 recorded in 2009.

The CG quality of Indian companies is gradually improving. A CG Index score upwards of 70 indicates disclosure comparable to global standards. The number of companies crossing this threshold was only three in 2005 but increased to six in 2009 before dropping to five in 2010.

While a steady increase in the average CG Index score coupled with rising number of companies crossing the threshold CG Index score of 70 over the years is a positive sign, for majority of Indian companies it is still a long journey before they get anywhere near global CG standards.

(The author is Head and Senior Economist at Crisil Ltd. The views expressed are personal.)

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN HR PROCESSES

DEBASHISH SENGUPTA

According to market analyst In-Stat, there are now more social-networking accounts than there are people in the world. A.C. Nielsen published stats showing that "three of the world's most popular brands online are social-media related (Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia) and the world now spends over 110 billion minutes on social networks and blog sites. This equates to 22 per cent of all time online or one in every four and half minutes.

Recruitment

The popularity of using social media for recruiting people is on the rise world-wide. According to the 2010 survey by Jobvite, social media recruiting has become a mainstream channel for companies. Over 83 per cent of the respondents say they either use or plan to use social media. The applications include social media/networking sites (Face book, Twitter, Orkut, LinkedIn, MySpace), blogs, podcasts (Podcast Alley, iTunes), video sharing sites (YouTube, Ted, FlickR), mobile apps etc. Low-cost, wider reach, better targeting and easier sorting are some of the advantages that recruiters are counting on social media usage for hiring.

Back-channel referencing

Recruiters pre-qualify executives when they are initially sourcing candidates for a role by speaking to their peers within the same sector. Generally this happens by checking the public domain. The social networking sites like Linked-in, Facebook, blogs etc. are major contributors of such information. They look for aspects such as indecent comments, pictures or posts, falsification of qualification or job history details, use of drugs or substance-abuse, racial comments or abuse by candidates etc. An online reputation research was commissioned by Microsoft and was conducted by Cross-Tab between December 10 and 23, 2009, in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Approximately 275 recruiters, human resources (HR) professionals, and hiring managers, and about 330 consumers interviewed in each country showed that the recruiters and HR professionals surveyed are not only checking online sources to learn about potential candidates, but a majority of them also reported that their companies have made online screening a formal requirement of the hiring process.

Networking & Communication

In-house social networking platforms have done what above-normal salary hikes have not been able to do – control attrition.. It is reported that the company-social networking platforms have helped engage employees better and reduce attrition. Cognizant's Facebook-like platform – Cognizant 2.0 or C2, Wikis and Justask at Tata Consultancy Services, Channel W and My Wipro World at Wipro Technologies, Ideabank of BankWest, Australia are few but very strong examples of a new trend where companies have started to embrace social networking by their employees, to their advantage, rather then regard the same as threat and create barriers to curb it.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

YEH LANGUAGE NE CRAZY KIYA RE

CHITRA NARAYANAN

It's the age of the hybrid, in language more than anything else. So not for nothing had the late Anthony Burgess, the British novelist and critic, said that if there was one place where English would continue to evolve and grow, it was India.

 Purists, especially the Hindi-wallahs, may quibble and rant but they should give up. For the official language in India today has become  chutneyfied English -  the sort you hear on the streets, in offices, in colleges, in Bollywood songs, in literature, and which unconsciously we all tend to slip into. The sort of language here we go  - Aaj Plan kya hai?  "I am going there Dost se Milne". It is no use resisting the language that we speak in India today, a glorious jumble and mish-mash.

 It's not just Hinglish. Reading Chutnefying English: The phenomenon of Hinglish, edited by Rita Kothari & Rupert Snell (Penguin) brings home sharply the fact that every Indian language has got mixed up with the imported tongue or with Hindi. Tamil Romeos will ogle at girls and say 'sight adikkaradu' ! In Kolkata, the language of common parlance is fast becoming bindi - Bengali meets Hindi. 

Seminar  deliberations

This book is a fascinating look at the evolution and progression of chutneyfied English and provides as well the regional picture. It's the result of a seminar at the Mudra Institute of Communciations, Ahmedabad, where eminent personalities such as Mr Gulzar, Mr Mahesh Bhatt, Mr Gurcharan Das, Mr Cyrus Broacha, Mr Prasoon Joshi and linguistic experts like Mr Rupert Snell (a Hindi language professor at University of Texas) and Ms Rita Kothari (who heads the Communication Studies at MICA) debated whether this bastardised language should be spurned or welcomed. The majority view appears to be in favour.  A lot of animated discussions took place during the event — for instance, there is one on whether Hinglish is a unifying force - and they have been collated in this volume. There's the call centre perspective provided by Ms Mathangi Krishnamurthy who argues that attempts to homogenise workers into uniform English-speaking agents are doomed to failure. Then there's the take by Mr Pramod K. Nayyar on vernacularisation of online protests exemplified by campaigns such as the pink chaddi one.

Fascinating volume 

But the most interesting discussions are around literature and cinema. How a Mulk Raj Anand or a Nirad C. Chaudhari wrote in British English, but down the line Indian writers in English have been writing in Indian English. It is amusing to learn that when it comes to Hinglish, the redoubtable Mr Salman Rushdie goofs, but Ms Shobha De scores. Mr Rushdie repeatedly gets the meanings of Hindi words that he sprinkles in his books wrong.   It's a fascinating volume – not just to students and lovers of language – but the lay reader. The tone is set by the perceptive foreword by Mr Harish Trivedi where he points out that a lot of the mixing happens because the speaker, who is bilingual, as most of India is, is not competent in both languages – "Those who can speak two languages independently without mixing them are truly competent,: he says. I would say it is the other way round, Sir.

 The only fault with the book is the feeling that it is a bit of a hustle job — just turning seminar transcripts into a book. It's especially jarring in the discussion section. 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SAVING THE FRBM ACT

COMMITMENT TO FISCAL DISCIPLINE MUST BE MORE THAN SKIN-DEEP, ACROSS THE POLITY


The government is reportedly toying with amending the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act to reflect the current (changed) realities. While there is no doubt the original targets will have to reworked, if only because we are nowhere near achieving them and the end-date is over, there is no point laying down fresh targets if we do not intend to abide by them. Or are content to violate them at the slightest pretext! Neither UPA-I nor UPA-II has shown any abiding faith in fiscal discipline. The FRBM Act, 2003 (notified in July 2004) envisaged an annual 0.3 percentage point reduction in the fiscal deficit and a 0.5 percentage point reduction in the revenue deficit to bring the former down to 3% of GDP and the latter to nil by 2008-09. In reality, the fiscal deficit doubled to 6% of GDP during 2008-09, driven largely by the desire to distribute largesse on the eve of the 2009 general elections, and remains close to 5%. Meanwhile, the revenue deficit is nowhere near being eliminated. The government likes to pass off its disrespect for FRBM targets as fiscal stimulus necessitated by the financial crisis. But in truth, it was an electoral gambit that fortuitously doubled up as a timely stimulus. Remember, the government eased the tap on spending well before the crisis.
Agreed, fiscal rules cannot be cast in stone. All governments require a free hand to deal with times of crises. However, such deviations must truly be exceptions to the rule. Adherence to targets must also be genuine, not contrived through ruses like off-Budget treatment of expenditure. This calls for much more than mere passing of legislation. It calls for commitment to the cause of fiscal discipline by the government and a willingness on the part of the Opposition to play a more constructive role than it has hitherto. The FRBM Act requires the government to justify its failure to achieve the specified targets. In practice, since the finance minister is seldom hauled over the coals by the Opposition for his failure to do so, the entire exercise is reduced to a farce. Unless that changes and the polity as a whole respects fiscal discipline, any amendment of the law will only be a waste of time.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SUNRISE IN DARJEELING

THE GORKHALAND PROBLEM CALLS FOR AN ELECTED, EMPOWERED AUTONOMOUS COUNCIL


Less than a month after assuming office, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that her administration has hammered out an agreement with the agitating Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) to solve the festering Gorkhaland problem. If negotiations end successfully, this will be a major breakthrough, solving a separatist problem that has laid waste picturesque north Bengal since the early 1980s. The initial agreement says that the Darjeeling area will get substantial autonomy. This promise needs to be upheld sincerely unlike in 1988, when autonomy was promised, a Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) formed, but not allowed to function. The Left allowed the DGHC to become a fiefdom of Subhash Ghising, did not hold elections promised in 2004 and made Ghising the sole 'caretaker' of the council. The movement split, creating the powerful GJM, which now holds power in all three hill constituencies of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. Electoral participation and success will be major factors in normalising relations. The Bodo Territorial Council of Assam, which has administrative, financial, legislative and executive powers in four districts of the state, and the nine other autonomous councils in the northeast serve as viable models for the new-improved DGHC.
There are several things to be negotiated, among them the status of the forests and mountains in the area and what territories to include in the DGHC. Both sides should remember that Darjeeling's magnificent mountains, rolling tea estates and forests are its principal attractions (inspiring, for example, Satyajit Ray). Mamata has promised to turn Darjeeling into the Switzerland of the East. To do that, it will require big investments, deployed efficiently. The state, not just the DGHC, should have a role in funding development and monitoring progress. The territorial question is trickier, with the GJM claiming Gurkha-majority tracts in the Terai region as well as the three hill constituencies. A committee with representatives from the government as well as of people from the hills and the Terai should draw this line.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE ART OF LIVING

M F HUSAIN DID WHAT HE LOVED, SO THAT HE COULD LIVE AS HE LOVED

 

That Maqbool Fida Husain's demise is a great loss to the art world goes without saying, but he will also be missed by the common man who probably is more than a little confounded by the esoteric canvasses of many of his contemporaries. For a man who had an assured place in the rarefied world known for its dismissal of populism as kitsch, he was unabashedly fond of what excited the aesthetically less evolved a a m a a d m i too, from Madhuri Dixit's derriere to the curves of the Bugatti Veyron. His wish to paint Vidya Balan in the nude, enunciated just this February, was proof enough that 95-year-old had none of the condescension towards mainstream sentiment that the art world was wont to display. Perhaps because he began as a painter of Bollywood hoardings, Husain's works had a way of communicating with a broad audience, without pretence or complication, on themes that had a popular resonance.


The maelstrom over his depictions of Hindu goddesses made him a political icon, but his love for the good life, publicity and indeed, the money that he had the unerring potential to attract, made him sublimely human too. He was a man who won some and lost some, but had the chutzpah to always be his flamboyant, barefoot, bearded self. That one of India's finest artists had to flee the country because of his art is stark commentary on India's society and politics, mostly politics. Husain had to take on a different nationality, as politics turned to hostile interrogation of the composite nationhood that India's Constitution defines, embodying not only modern concepts of democracy and secularism but also India's tradition of multi-culturalism. Reforming politics to obviate such alienation would be the most meaningful tribute India can make to Husain.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

TOWARDS SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT ZONES

CREATION OF THESE ZONES COULD GIVE A NEEDED, AFFORDABLE BOOST TO EDUCATION, SKILL DEVELOPMENT AND HEALTH


Social development zones (SDZs) represent a new approach to creating education and health institutions in the country connecting emerging opportunities in policy. These also address some major constraints that Indian private investment faces today in investing in these two critical sectors of development that directly impact on unlocking human potential. These opportunities are presented by the commencement of Rajiv Awas Yojana, a property-rights driven effort at moving towards a slum-free India and increasing interest of both the state in India and Indian capital to invest in higher education, skill development, healthcare and medical education. Collectively, these provide a canvas of reconfiguring select urban locations as social development zones.
Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) announced as a key initiative of the Union government to move towards a slum-free India was cleared by the Cabinet last week. It provides a framework for the government of India support to state governments for upgrading housing and economic and social infrastructure if states legislate to assign property rights to people living in slums, now estimated as 25% of urban population. It prefers in situ rehabilitation as against relocation. However, it also provides for property rights and not land rights so that development of socio-economic infrastructure is made possible also by vertical construction, thereby easing a portion of the land from current use as housing stock. This, therefore, provides an opportunity for partnership with the private sector to develop the land that is freed up, provided they partner in the effort to improve housing stock and infrastructure under Rajiv Awas Yojana. If we examine sectors of education and health, there is a new interest in Indian capital to invest in education, especially higher education, skill development, hospital care and medical education. One of the biggest problem prospective investors face is shortage of land in cities. Therefore, the carrot that could now be dangled by the state is the offer of urban land in lieu of setting up affordable health and education facilities, thereby "crowding in" social infrastructure in the areas mentioned and make erstwhile slums SDZs and people living there have property rights and improved homes. It will require investments in improving housing stock and infrastructure upfront and allays apprehensions that it may be a repeat of experience where land was taken on promises of a certain percentage of free treatment to poor patients and breached in practice. The land should be made available only on the basis of competitive bidding from credible partners interested in education and healthcare.


The 11th Plan, which set up central universities in remote locations to respond to regional equity, has in several locations been unable to attract faculty because of the absence of basic social infrastructure. This begs the question if students from that area would not have been better off with provision of generous scholarships to be admitted in better-functioning existing institutions. Space requirements prescribed to start an educational facility needs to be re-examined when located in the proposed SDZs. After all, global centres of academic excellence such as the Columbia and New York universities in the US or the London School of Economics are located in central locations of New York and London.


Similarly, private healthcare and private medical education are costly, on account of cost of land, among other factors. This has created a situation where those who can afford to swing the purchase of land become the providers of education and health. As SDZs could promote construction of "budget" hospitals and a cheaper medical education model by making the scarcest of resources — that of land — available on much easier terms. If RAY unlocks land, state governments can move in to create SDZs on its own or in partnership to add vital infrastructure for education, skill training, health and medical education utilising the land. This also will close the option of real estate interests cornering prime urban land as in the case of some SEZs. Let Dharavi be the home for a new Bombay School of Economics, a budget hospital and skill training centres instead of just a glint in the eye of real estate developers.

SDZs have the immediate benefit of wiping away at one stroke many factors that inhibit investments in education, skill development and health by addressing not only the issue of land, but attracting competent academic faculty that benefits from the pre-existing availability of social and economic infrastructure of the cities. Imaginative policies for scholarships can address the social inclusion issue through reservations for talent from rural areas. Skill training for urban youth can be ensured by making skill development infrastructure part of any new educational investment.


In return for land value to be negotiated by the state through competitive bidding from technically proficient providers of education and health, willing to invest in improvement of housing stock and infrastructure for current slum-dwellers. Cheaper access to some of these facilities for the residents could also become part of outreach. If state governments move proactively in this area, hundreds of good institutions for education, health and skill training can be nucleated through the proposed SDZ model. This merely connects a few dots in policy to create a surge in social development investment.


The continuing wrangles over the Forest Rights Act reveal that vesting the poor with rights, has a complex territory to negotiate. The hope is that the more articulate urban poor who understand that "crumbs of bread, are well, crumbs of bread, and not the whole loaf", may be able to wrest more, beginning with property rights under RAY.
(Views are personal)

 

R GOPALAKRISHNAN
ADDITIONAL SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FACE OFF

CAN CONGRESS-DMK TIES SURVIVE?

 

SUDHA PAI


PROFESSOR AND RECTOR, JAWAHARLAL NEHRU UNIVERSITY It has Reached Breaking Point

The Congress-DMK ties are old but have had a checkered history with neither side hesitating to form alliances with other parties when necessary. With the defeat of the Congress and emergence of the DMK in 1967 as a regional force in Tamil Nadu, Indira Gandhi initiated her "southern strategy" or seat-sharing agreement with Karunanidhi under which the DMK was given more seats in assembly elections and the Congress in a national election. This helped both sides maintain their respective positions at critical junctures such the split in the Congress in 1969 and the DMK in 1972. This agreement came under strain during the 1980s/1990s when due to decline of the Congress party, the DMK preferred to align with the Janata party, the United Front and eventually the NDA in 1999 and 2001; while the Congress chose the rising AIADMK. It was only in the 2004 national and 2006 assembly elections that the Congress-DMK partnership was revived and the latter became an important ally holding key portfolios in the central cabinet such as telecommunications. However, the relationship remained troubled with the DMK opposing policies such as disinvestment and the Congress unhappy with performance of some DMK ministers.


With the 2G spectrum scam, a more troubled phase has begun despite statements to the contrary by leaders on both sides. The scam led to disagreements over seat-sharing, the DMK withdrawing its ministers, and the issue of corruption contributing to its poor performance in the recent assembly election. The AIADMKfront gained an absolute majority winning 203 seats, the DMK gaining barely 23 and the Congress 5. Much more serious is the incarceration of DMK minister A Raja and, particularly, Kanimozhi, daughter of Karunanidhi, and questioning of former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran. The election results indicate that both sides need each other, but this is more true of the DMK which has lost considerable ground at state and national levels. The UPA needs allies, but it has the option of support from the AIADMK. Political compulsions are keeping the two together, but clearly Congress-DMK ties have reached a breaking point.

 

D RAJA CPI LEADER DMK MPs Can't Ensure UPA Survival

The simple question is just what do the two parties need each other for now? They fought elections together, and it was a huge defeat for both the Congress and the DMK. For the Congress, it was a virtual rout, winning a mere five assembly seats. So, it's a huge electoral setback, and the alliance between the two parties is in tatters now.


The way the 2G spectrum scam has played out has really affected the DMK badly, and it is likely to affect the Congress too, even as the latter is directly involved in scams like the Commonwealth Games and the Adarsh housing society. Both parties are neck-deep in corruption and scandals. Already, the DMK has started expressing its displeasure with the Congress. Once Dayanidhi Maran is out of the Cabinet, and if he is also arrested, which is likely, then it'll bring tremendous pressure on the DMK as to whether it shall continue to be a part of the government or even a part of the UPA. On the other hand, Congress is also likely to reassess its position in Tamil Nadu, with its miserable tally in the assembly polls. Even the Congress state president was defeated. Thus, there is bound to be mutual mistrust and hostility. The DMK chief 's daughter and a minister is in prison, elections were lost, and now the DMK should, logically, explain why it needs the Congress, and vice versa. One will have to wait and watch the developments in the coming days. The DMK has reportedly scheduled a high-powered meeting for today, and it might become clearer what their course of action will be. But it remains an open question as to why they should stay together now. If the survival of UPA-II is the yardstick, that the Congress needs the DMK's 18 MPs, then that fact too can't ensure the UPA-II's survival. For, it has now become a weak and vulnerable government because of the serious corruption scandals on such a scale.


The fact also is that the alliance between the two parties has been rejected by the people of Tamil Nadu. Now, if they have to continue together they must have some ideological bond. The idea of staying together because of mutual interests has been seriously eroded.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

OCCASIONAL PAPER

IS THE UPA LOSING THE PLOT?

MANOJ PANT


Thank god the judges of the Supreme Court do not rush to the camera after every day of a trial. In the consultations on the Lokpal bill, Arvind Kejriwal of civil society seems to be doing precisely that. As a former bureaucrat he should know that negotiations cannot be carried out in public glare on a day-to-day basis. What matters is not the process but the outcome which, in any case, will be visible when the final Lokpal bill is presented to Parliament. So, what started as a worthwhile venture slowly degenerated into a theatre of the absurd. Cut to the next protagonist in this theatre, Baba Ramdev. It is fairly wellknown that last year the baba had clearly indicated his intention of floating a political party and his demands, therefore, clearly represented a political demand. Rather than giving a political answer, the government has chosen to obfuscate the serious issue of the Lokpal bill.


What is even more astounding is the unwillingness of the UPA to bring into negotiations what is, whether you like it or not, the second largest political party in India, the BJP. Despite the drubbing it got in 2009, the BJP then commanded about 19% of the national vote. In fact, rather than bring in other political parties to evolve a consensus which can reasonably be thrashed out publicly in Parliament, the government has chosen to try and satisfy the demands of the Ramdev group which are mostly incoherent. They range from reducing black money (a good demand), to demonetising the currency, death sentence for the corrupt and teaching in higher education institutions in the vernacular. Presumably, the vernacular here refers to Hindi and shows the strong north Indian bias of the baba. What is more worrying is that all norms of a functioning democracy are being clearly disregarded. Currently, the process represents more the one followed by the lynch mobs during the French Revolution. Predictably, administrative attempts at dealing with a political demand have led to a further disregard for democratic norms with the forcible midnight eviction of the baba and thousands of his supporters.
But what the whole process reveals is a serious failure of the Congress to establish good governance. As the Congress must clearly recognise it is but one, though dominant, member of the UPA. Sonia Gandhi, endeared herself to millions in 2004 when she refused to accept the post of prime minister. With that she also established the wonderful principle of separation of the government from its political wing. A democracy consists of the executive, the political parties and civil society. The principle is that the winning political party must also govern the country. Unlike the US model, the Indian Westminster system of democracy also presents a new government with an established administrative system which has to be directed. Since this takes up considerable time it seems worthwhile to separate daily governance from the needs of a political party to expand its support base.


Yet, in the current negotiations with the Hazare and Baba groups, the administrative and political functions have been confused. When the first set of demands came in from the Hazare group the political machinery of the Congress should have already been set into motion. When the second set of demands came from Baba Ramdev (a clearly political group) the answers should have come not from the executive but from the political wing of the government. Yet, we had the rather unfortunate spectacle of senior ministers scurrying from airports to hotels while there is silence from the political wing of the Congress. In this instance, at least one can hardly disagree with what Digvijay Singh said about the Baba Ramdev movement. It is interesting that it is the political wings of the smaller coalition partners of the UPA that have chosen to speak their mind about the baba's antics. Yet the Congress was itself beset with paralysis which in the longer run will only disillusion its grassroots supporters.


As this writer has argued in these columns, Anna Hazare is on the right track as far as the issue of corruption is concerned. Despite disagreements, the attempt at a serious Lokpal bill is to be lauded if for nothing else but its clear focus. The baba, on the other hand, was making a political statement which is normal in any democracy. What defies comprehension is the breakdown of the political process and the consequent impact on governance. Can senior bureaucrats function effectively if they are running around opening files and satisfying the outlandish demands of what could well be called a lynch mob? Can the executive and civil society negotiate while completely ignoring the political class? What then of India's much vaunted democracy? If the political class is unwilling to tackle corruption why not let this be exposed at the hustings?
Sonia Gandhi is credited with reviving the Congress. But today she may well be sending it into terminal decline. The ball is clearly in her court and not that of Manmohan Singh.

 

(The author is faculty at JNU)

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE RIGHT NOT TO BE RAPED

SLUTWALK, A GLOBAL MARCH AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE, FORCES US TO RETHINK OUR VIEWS ABOUT WOMEN AND GENDER JUSTICE

 

Come June 25, and if the Baba Ramdev circus and roadshow haven't hijacked common sense by then, India's capital is slated to see a protest march of a very different kind: India's first "SlutWalk", a global march protesting sexual violence against women.

 

The movement's name may sound unfortunate, but it has been deliberately chosen and is linked to its recent origins. In January 2011, two police officers in Toronto, Canada, were among the speakers at a meeting called at York University about crime, safety and personal protection. One of them, Constable Michael Sanguinetti, commented that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised".

 

The ensuing outcry forced an apology from the constable. Matters came to a head, however, a month later in February in a Canada court. Hearing a rape case, the judge remarked that "sex was in the air" the evening of the alleged rape, as the victim's dress may have given her assailant "the wrong impression" since she was wearing makeup, a short top and heels and had had a drink.

 

The accused was found guilty, but served no jail time; he was let off on probation after writing a letter of apology to the victim, the judge finding that he had not threatened the victim but was merely "insensitive" to her "unwillingness" — whatever that means. This triggered a huge public outcry (and an appeal and a review of the judge's conduct by the country's Judicial Council).

 

A few weeks later, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis co-founded SlutWalk to protest against this type of condemnation of women-victims for sexual violence. The first SlutWalk on April 3, saw over 3,000 women marching through Toronto. Satellite marches in other cities soon followed. On her blog, Barnett says that the movement is not a reaction to the officer's remark, "but to a history that was doomed to keep repeating. Insults, degradation, shame, rape". The adoption of the fourletter word has a purpose: it has an entirely negative connotation, and is abusively used (mostly by men) to describe women whose sex lives do not fit male-defined stereotypes. Some have questioned the protest's use of the word in this manner, arguing that it does little other than further denigrate the victims of sex crimes, robs victims of dignity and reaffirms its commercial pornographic connotations.

 

But the organisers' view is that it is a randomly used indictment of a woman's character, often for nothing more serious than choice of attire, or used to cause deliberate insult and hence needs to be "re-appropriated". Whatever label one chooses to apply, the cause is faultless. Consider the assumptions underlying the statement that women should not "dress like sluts". First, this means that women who dress in a way that men consider inappropriate "are asking for it". That is nonsense. No woman asks to be raped, and attire is no indicator of consent.

 

A man's morality is not questioned because of the shoes or shirt he chooses to wear. Neither should a woman's. The second assumption here, even more stupid, is that if a woman is sexually active — especially if she is a sex worker — rape is excusable and even inevitable. And victims of sexual abuse are never co-participants in the crime. The third assumption, perhaps the most absurd, is that all men are beasts incapable of controlling their primal urges. Our own law on rape is so prehistoric it would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic. S.376(1) of the IPC says that rape is punishable for a minimum of seven years but could also be for life or a 10-year time, plus a fine, "unless the woman raped is his own wife and is not under twelve years of age", in which case the sentence is two years and a fine. Twelve years? Wife? Why is this still on the statute books?

 

Now try squaring this with S.375, which defines rape: statutory rape, regardless of consent, is when the victim is under 16; but subject to this 'exception': "sexual intercourse by man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape". Therefore, in any marriage, the wife's consent is not only presumed, but the husband has a right to force intercourse, unless the wife is under 15. The legal age for marriage is 18. What is to be made of this mess? A girl-child of 15 could be married, and she can't be raped by her husband.
    The SlutWalk protest has spread around the world: marches have been held or planned in cities in Canada, USA, South Africa, Argentina, Australia and countries in Europe. "My body, my choice," the protesters say, and "no means no"; not, as is too often presumed, perhaps yes. Many of these women are victims of gross sexual abuse.

 

A Guardian report of the walk in Newcastle mentions one participant, a sex worker, who was raped by a client; another who was raped at 18; and a third who suffered at age 9 said she was sexually assaulted by schoolchildren because she was "on her own" in a playground corner. She, the victim, was blamed. Whether or not we approve of its name, a protest like this is necessary for it forces us to rethink our views about women and gender justice and what equality really means. As one placard at a protest in England said, "Stop telling me: don't get raped. Tell men: don't rape".

 

GAUTAM PATEL

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WILL A POLITICAL TANTRIC TWIST INDIA'S DESTINY?

 

The movement against black money, including that which is stashed away in safe havens like Swiss banks, is more difficult than the movement against corruption and putting a Lokpal Bill in place. Baba Ramdev, a Hindu spiritual and yoga guru, has taken up this issue with a long-term political objective. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government seems to be more scared of him than of Anna Hazare because Baba Ramdev has a large network of followers. In addition, Baba Ramdev has the backing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in his campaign, which is likely to widen its base. Baba Ramdev's rise is rather miraculous. Having been born in a lower middle-class Yadav family of Haryana, he built a yoga empire by teaching it to health-conscious people of the middle and upper middle class. He combined yoga with a bit of science and an interesting mix of Buddhist dialectics and Hindu tantra. Though formally educated only up to the eighth standard, in an ordinary government school, he learnt Sanskrit and English to communicate his yoga techniques. His body movements and the skills he employs to explain yoga made him very popular rather quickly. In fact, Baba Ramdev's yoga empire expanded at a rate much faster than Sathya Sai Baba's spiritual empire, and he now commands the loyalty of millions of people who are ready and willing to be converted into a cadre for a movement against corruption and also for mobilisation of votes when the party he is to set up contests elections. Unlike other gurus, Baba Ramdev combines politics, morality and Hindu idiom. Apart from his yoga followers who cut across caste, parties and religion lines, a vast number of other backward castes (OBCs) in the country see him as "prime ministerial material". The Anna Hazare team emerged from the middle-class brahmanic morality of non-corruption without any mass base. Baba Ramdev is the opposite of that. He has a massive middle-class mass base. This mass base can shake the system big towns upwards, if not from the village upwards. His on-going hunger strike will take his image even further, to villages. Baba Ramdev is Gandhi in saffron, with a handsome body, black hair and a beard. Anna Hazare looks like a farmer of the outmoded type. More people want to see Baba Ramdev than Anna Hazare. If his movement clicks, Baba Ramdev's party will have a head start. However, the key question is whom does the anti-black money movement rattle — the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? It would be a headache for both. The supporters and leaders of both the parties have black money. If Baba Ramdev turns into a political leader, one does not expect him to win the Parliament elections straightaway. But his party will be a potential force, like what Kanshi Ram's Bahujan Samaj Party used to be for a long time in Uttar Pradesh. At one place it could harm the Congress and at another it could harm the BJP as Baba Ramdev's middle-class followers are likely to be the BJP's traditional voters. While the RSS is supporting him, the BJP has to keep its fingers crossed. As far as the RSS is concerned, Baba Ramdev is a better all-India package than Narendra Modi, because Ramdev is a very credible OBC Hindu. If he aligns with the BJP, the Congress will have a serious problem. The fact that a four-member Cabinet team, headed by none other than finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, waited for him, received him and talked to him at the airport on June 1 shows the amount of fear he generated. Baba Ramdev is a good example of tantric modernity. If he can twist the arms of the state like this today, he can twist the destiny of the nation tomorrow. We do not know in which direction the nation would go under the leadership of such yoga leaders. But one thing is certain. We produced a Gandhi and we have produced an Ambedkar. We now seem to be on the way to produce a Baba Ramdev. If Gandhi and Ambedkar were spiritual politicians who shaped the destiny of the nation in two different modes, Ramdev is a tantric politician who might take it in an opposite direction altogether. Good luck, Baba Ramdev. Kancha Ilaiah is director for the study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

AS AN ICON PASSES, IT'S TIME TO REFLECT

 

Maqbool Fida Husain, arguably independent India's most public painter and one of the greats of visual representation this country has ever produced, died in self-imposed exile in London on Thursday at the age of 95. The irony for us is that he died a Qatari citizen, not an Indian national, although he was born in the temple town of Pandharpur in Maharashtra, lived in Indore and Mumbai for much of his life, and engaged himself actively with political movements and intellectual trends among the leading artists of his time. Probably no artist in this country — no street painter, no folk artist, nor one born into a Hindu family — has drawn as much inspiration in his work as Husain did from narratives and legends of Hindu mythology. And yet he was denounced and hounded by Hindutva zealots for portraying Hindu goddesses in an allegedly "obscene" manner. Only those of the Hindutva strain were offended, not ordinary Hindus, by some of Husain's art. In the end, the antics of the Hindu right-wing made the renowned artist leave India for good in 2006 and he changed his nationality, although the rest of his family stayed on in this country. When Husain was big pilloried, only artists and art lovers came to his public defence. The government was conspicuous by its silence when his home was vandalised and his exhibits at public spaces made targets of attack. The self-appointed keepers of Hindu religion and morality also simultaneously filed cases against him in the courts in different parts of the country. Thus, had Husain remained in India, he would probably be running from one courtroom to another for the rest of his life, given the slow grind of our legal system. The question then is, is there greater artistic freedom or the freedom to express oneself in Qatar than in the liberal and democratic India we think exists? One doubts it. But in Qatar — a thriving economy — the royal household, aware of his fame, set him up with a hefty commission. This would have pleased the exhibitionist in Husain. But he was still careful to keep his home in London, where ordinary freedoms can more or less be taken for granted, or resided in Dubai which — in an antiseptic sort of way — has been kept free of sociological tensions for the sake of international investments. It bears noting that three well-known contemporary writers/artists from the subcontinent — Husain and Salman Rushdie from India, and Taslima Nasreen from Bangladesh — have suffered in similar ways in the matter of freedom of expression. If Husain was made an example of by Hindu chauvinists, Rushdie (who has lived in the West for several decades) had to live in hiding for many years on account of an Iranian fatwa. In the former case, the Indian government chose to look the other way, in the latter it imposed a ban on the book that had brought on the writer's head the wrath of the Iranian clergy and many other Muslims. The case of Taslima Nasreen appears to be different at a formalistic level as Bangladesh — unlike India — has been something of a military dictatorship tied up with the mullahs for years until recently, and Ms Nasreen's writings chronicle the suffocation and suffering of the Hindu minority in such an atmosphere. But in the end, is Bangladesh so very different from India when it comes to not protecting free expression even of well-known artists, leave alone ordinary citizens? Indians would do well to reflect on the theme. It is interesting that Raj Thackeray, a Maharashtrian chauvinist and Hindutva-oriented leader, has asked that Husain be buried in Maharashtra. If the same solicitousness had been extended to the artist when he was alive, he is unlikely to have contemplated departing Indian shores.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE HUSAIN QUESTION WILL LINGER

 

The passing of Maqbool Fida Husain on Thursday in a London hospital marks the end of an epoch in Indian art. Husain's enormously vibrant palette — more devoted in recent times to the Arab civilisation than to subjects Indian, will be laid to rest. With it will also go silent the debates around the status of a minority artist's engagement with Indian mythology, and the failure of the modern Indian state to protect him. For Husain had become both, artist and emblem — the single figure that challenged modern India's claim to secular, artistic freedom. For art writers in the last decade, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar had become natural destinations. They represented an opportunity to meet Husain. My own experience came because of an interview I had gone to do on Chittrovanu Mazumdar. Malini Gulrajani, a gallerist, had simultaneously held an exhibition of Husain. In the capacious gallery set in Dubai's beautifully landscaped but sterile streets, Husain's vibrant works looked strangely forlorn. It was an auspicious day in the Islamic calendar and Husain's son Mustafa, who runs a restaurant, had prepared an elaborate, delicious meal. Husain's daughter Raisa and other members of the family were with him in his regimen of cheerful if somewhat self-conscious exile. After lunch Husain wanted to show me the gallery that he had created of his Maria paintings. Created entirely in red — its drapes, curtains and lights all a deep sanguine, the space was a memorial to some of the finest modern Indian paintings, as to a private passion. In 1948, Husain had wooed his Czech beloved Maria with a number of paintings. These represented what were in a sense Husain's artistic subjectivity: farmer's families, the mother and child, myths and musicians — reflections on the values of Nehru's India, bound together by an inchoate hope. Husain and Maria never married, and nearly six decades later she returned the paintings to him, in pristine condition. In the light of a Dubai afternoon, these works shone like beautiful, bejewelled objects. Husain told me that he wanted to preserve these works in Kolkata, a city he admired for its secular traditions. However, this was before Taslima Nasreen was shown the door by the Left Front government, and after a hiatus, the paintings were sold to a single collector in England — lost to India forever. Husain's exile and the focus on his auction prices, fleet of cars and lavish lifestyle in Qatar shifted attention from the man and the essential painter. Husain was the supreme witness and chronicler of modern India. If music had Bismillah Khan, painting had Husain. For at least seven decades Husain painted India as an avid witness and participant, alternating between private biographies, grand narratives and Urdu poetry with fluid ease. In a sense, Husain's subjectivity and the nation as subject matter became interchangeable: he narrated his own biography of a boyhood in Pandharpur, his grandfather's occupation as a seller of lamps, the death of his mother in his infancy and his early beginnings as a poster painter entirely through paintings. Husain's canvas was a crisscross of history, myth and the morning news. The spirituality in Benaras, the colonial legacy, music and dance, Mother Teresa and Bollywood, all became part of Husain's metanarrative of the nation. His monumental output marked every important milestone of the nation: the making of Bangladesh, the death of Safdar Hashmi, the great gold rush of Arab oil and 21st century globalism. Husain's unerring brushstrokes were justly famous for their speed, and often translated into a performative spectacular style, of painting before the public. In 1985, under a commission, he marked the centenary of the Congress party with 22 paintings — each a massive work, all executed in five days, in Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium. Famously, he had painted a series of works on Indira Gandhi, as well as portraits of Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi. Born in Pandharpur, Madhya Pradesh, in 1915, M.F. Husain developed an iconic style that drew on classical Indian sculpture and the brilliance of Indian miniature painting as well as abstract expressionism and cubism. From humble beginnings as a poster painter, he received early recognition for the cryptic brilliance of works such as Zameen, Between the Spider and the Lamp and Farmer's Family. As a founder member of the Progressive Artists' Group, he gave Indian art a distinct direction. Husain's presence as a household name draws from his mass-based popularity. No other Indian artist with the exception of Ravi Varma made his works available to ordinary people as did Husain, through lithographs and serigraphs. As a filmmaker he received awards for his works, Through the Eyes of a Painter and Gaja Gamini. From the mid 1990s, the narrative of Husain became synonymous with censorship in the arts. When Husain became a subject of attack, museums and exhibitions carrying his work became extremely vulnerable. Through the 1990s, the Husain-Doshi Gufa in Ahmedabad, the Cinema Ghar in Hyderabad and the Husain Sankalana in Bengaluru were shut down. At the last India Art Summit, Husain's work was removed from the display area. With every such gesture, India further distanced itself from the Husain question of artistic freedom and the modern Indian state. Buried as he will be in London, even the mourning will be distanced and deferred, until another Husain question arises. In death as in life, Husain will continue to hold up a mirror to our times. Gayatri Sinha is a well-known art critic and curator

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

HIS LEGEND WILL GROW

How can he be gone? The man who never grew old? He strode across the firmament of Indian art for three quarters of a century like a colossus. Always one step ahead of his detractors, Maqbool Fida Husain continued till the very end to re-invent himself. Apart from a brief illness, he went out like a light, incredibly, at the age of 95, still at the peak of his abilities, his fame, his charisma. I am glad that he never had to suffer the ignominy or disillusion of diminishing creativity. Long after the little people who tried to belittle him with threats and fatwas have faded without a trace, M.F. Husain's legacy will remain, his place in the history of Indian art assured for posterity. The Husain narrative encompasses so much more than the dismal failure of the Indian state to honour this legacy in his lifetime. His major preoccupation, as I observed it, was that of the true karmayogi — to work ceaselessly, to make manifest that fecund repository of visual inspiration that lived within him and moved with him on a restless journey between continents. It's to diminish the artist in him to give undue importance to the piece of paper that might have identified him as being of this nation or that. Yes, it is India's loss that he was no longer here with us, the loss of the greater Indian artist community. It is true that he missed the dhabas and dusty Indian streets where he had walked barefoot for decades, drawing inspiration from Bollywood or the great myths of India; but he had moved on. He had moved on beyond regret and recrimination. Any maudlin steps that may be taken now for a "posthumous rehabilitation" will not only be too little and too late but will almost be an insult to the greatness of a man who has been a legend in his lifetime and whose iconic stature will only grow in the years to come. Anjolie Ela Menon is one of India's leading contemporary artists

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A RISKY NEIGHBOUR

 

While no one in India was really surprised that Osama bin Laden was finally located and killed by US Navy Seals in Pakistan, the location of Bin Laden's safe house, next to the Pakistan military academy in Abbottabad, shows how deeply committed Pakistan's Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are to supporting global terror. Ironically, Pakistan has milked the US to the tune of $20 billion in aid and military reimbursement over the past decade, and then used American taxpayers' money not only to fund global jihad but also to buy military hardware from its all-weather friend, China. Indeed, the sole beneficiary of the Abbottabad raid appears to be China, which has 11,000 People's Liberation Army troops in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), ostensibly to repair/ build the Karakoram highway, and lay the oil pipeline which will link Pakistan's Chinese-gifted and strategically-located Gwadar port (360 nautical miles from the straits of Hormuz in the oil-rich Gulf region), where Chinese oil tankers would offload the Gulf oil for onward pumping to the troubled Xinjiang province. A recent gesture by India is relevant here. While announcing an aid package of $500 million to Afghanistan in Kabul, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that "India is not like the USA" and ruled out any surgical strikes to eliminate Dawood Ibrahim, who masterminded the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts and now lives in Karachi's posh Clifton beach area. While giving humanitarian aid to Afghanistan is strategically in India's interests, Dr Singh's "no surgical strike" statement is perhaps as damaging to India's interests as former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha's recent statement calling for surgical strikes. While Pakistan will choose to ignore Mr Sinha's statement as an Opposition leader seeking to score some brownie points, it would be emboldened by Dr Singh's reiteration of "no Indian punitive action". Unsurprisingly, ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, while appearing before the Pakistani senate, is reported to have assured the senators that "Pakistan had already selected targets in India (for a retaliatory Pakistani counterstrike), and had carried out rehearsals", should India undertake any surgical strikes in Pakistan against terror camps or against Dawood, or against any of the 26/11 masterminds. A look at US laws indicates that any operation to kill foreigners (be they political leaders or terrorists) is not permitted, and requires special presidential approval (which was accorded by US President Barack Obama for the operation against Bin Laden). In India no such provision exists, and in any case such operations would require a very high-level of sustained human and technical intelligence, which is simply not available, since successive governments in the last two decades have "defanged and misused" the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau. So, is there no option for India, other than employing "diplomatic pressure" and exchanging files? (Notably, Pakistan's foreign secretary recently dismissed the files pertaining to the 26/11 attacks as "outdated".) It also appears that Dawood Ibrahim is well beyond the purview of "outdated" files. There are three options before the Indian government should it ever decide to "neutralise" the perpetrators of 1993 and 2008 Mumbai attacks. The first is the much-hyped "surgical strike" by the Indian military, which, in my opinion, will lead to conventional war at best, and a nuclear exchange at worst. The second option is an operation based on high-level intelligence — which is not possible, since our RAW would be hard put to emulate Israeli secret service Mosad's example of sending dedicated small hit-teams to foreign countries to neutralise terrorists. The third option, which may be viable (since it has deniability built into it), is to pay and utilise local Pakistani hit men to eliminate terrorists. To my mind the Indian government will not use the third option, as India has always occupied high moral ground in the international arena. Pakistan, which has used its military and terrorists for conventional and unconventional attacks on India (and on Indian targets in Afghanistan), is under no such self-imposed constraints. Indeed, given Pakistan's frustration over the American operation of May 2 in Abbottabad, one needs to study Lt. Gen. Pasha's recent statement with great care and prepare for the worst. Because of the current anti-Pakistan sentiments in the international community, Pakistan is unlikely to start a conventional border war with India, though it has used its Army and rangers to fire at Indian border outposts to "raise Pakistani Army's morale". However, because of public discontent and growing anger of its home-grown terrorists against the US operation in Abbottabad, the ISI will be very tempted to distract attention from it by using terrorists to mount a spectacular attack against India. How will this attack take place, given India's somewhat improved internal security apparatus, is the question which must be getting debated at ISI headquarters. In view of Lt. Gen. Pasha's recent statement that "Pakistan has its contingency plans ready and rehearsed", a strike, or a series of strikes, using sleeper cells in India are possible. The recent terrorist attack on Pakistan Navy's Mehran airbase at Karachi (PNS "Mehran"), which resulted in the destruction of two P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft, is an indication that future 26/11-type attacks on India could also target Indian Air Force and naval assets for maximum mileage. So while Indian "experts" study the use of American stealth helicopter technology, jamming of Pakistani radars and communications and superb intelligence to mount the May 2 "Kill Osama" operation by highly-trained and well-equipped US Navy Seals, and while our security forces clamour for similar equipment, it's time for India to go into maximum red alert to neutralise the any terror strike by rehearsing its own contingency plans. Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SEN-BOSE EQUATION

THE UNIVERSITY MUST NOW TAKE OFF


HAVING played midwife in the birth of Presidency University, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee must be delighted ~ if not expressly ~ over the induction of Amartya Sen and Sugato Bose into the "mentor group" of the institution. Also to be welcomed is Mamata Banerjee's pledge to insulate this particular campus from politics and focus wholly on merit in the constitution of faculties ~ a perception she shares with her predecessor. But both academics are now based in Harvard, and it must be open to question whether this trans-Atlantic coordination with College Street will be practicable. How much time will the two be able to spare for their alma mater? Is the "mentor group" an overarching authority? For this university ~ like the college ~ still boasts a governing council and there is no indication that it will stand dissolved. Some of its members are internationally renowned experts in their disciplines; Sen and Bose can be expected to retain them in the "mentor group". Erudition knows no political barrier. And if merit is the criterion ~ as Mr Bhattacharjee had pledged and Miss Banerjee has affirmed ~ distinguished fellow-travellers in the academic circuit might well be retained. Some of them are students and friends of Sen and Bose.


The other question is whether in view of constraints of time and distance, will the respective departments be given a free hand in the constitution of faculties? Close to a year after its creation, the university has made no headway on this count. Not least because of the undercurrent of resentment of the teachers' association, whose members run the risk of transfer. By naming Sen and Bose at the helm of the "mentor group", Miss Banerjee has doubtless taken what has generally been deemed by the academic circuit as an "excellent decision". But it won't be easy to sort out the nitty-gritty. Critical among them is the crafting of the syllabus. In two months from now, the university will have to start the next session with the oddity of following the one prescribed by Calcutta University.


This is another issue over which there has been no progress for close to a year. Sen and Bose can advance their guidelines pertaining to the social sciences, pre-eminently economics and history. But for the pure and bio-sciences, home-grown talent ~ of which there is no dearth ~ will have to be tapped for recommendations. The icing on the "mentor group" couldn't have been more delicious, to summon the language of the metaphor. In parallel with the admission season, Presidency University must now take off in the most tangible sense of the term. The innovation and big names must eventually benefit the fresher.

 

OVERNIGHT UPGRADE?

TAILOR-MADE INTELLIGENCE INPUTS

POLICE and military officers tasked with operational assignments consistently complain of being handicapped by a lack of "actionable" intelligence inputs. Major national setbacks like the 26/11 terrorist strike in Mumbai and the Kargil incursions of 1999 are among the reported intelligence lapses. Conversely, officials of the intelligence agencies have long lamented ~ most articulately in their memoirs ~ the little credence accorded to their inputs, of how their warnings have been ignored: one example being Indira Gandhi's refusal to exclude members of a particular community from her security detail. That dubious track record would now appear to have been obliterated, and perfect synergy attained by both wings of the security machinery in the mission undertaken at the Ramlila Ground to "protect" dubious godman Baba Ramdev. A threat to his life had been detected, it was impossible to screen lakhs of people, with baggage, congregating at his yoga camp-cum-anti-corruption tamasha ~ it had to be dismantled. Or so goes one of the alibis being projected by the police for the controversial action that has propelled him from yoga guru to towering dimensions ~ Rama or Ravana, depending on what is one's perception of what took place at a venue where for decades has traditionally been re-enacted the epic which gives that ground its name. Wonder if those very sincere cops have alerted their counterparts elsewhere? Death threats are not venue-specific, the Baba (by their token) would need the level of protection of which there is little evidence after his being airlifted away from the politically churning Capital.
Realistically, few will "buy" that alibi. It will be written off as not just another instance of the police overly "embroidering" their version of events, but as a classic case of how intelligence inputs are tailor-made to suit the political interests of the party in power. Which has ever been a prime factor for the inability of intelligence agencies to efficiently execute their mandated duties ~ they are too busy (along with other police branches, to be fair) playing political games. Whether the apex court will accept the "death threat theory" when the government responds to its notice is a matter of conjecture. But if the cops remain as diligent as they have been in the case under focus they will have to recommend scrapping the Republic Day and Independence Day festivities. Every January and August, with clockwork regularity, come intelligence inputs of "terrorists having sneaked into the city…"

 

NO MORE DITHERING

EVEN IF DAHAL BLURS PICTURE

FOR too long Nepal's leaders complacently assumed that missing one political deadline would always present opportunity for another. Even more ridiculous, they got away without meeting any of several deadlines. But as if to vindicate what represents the general disgust, the latest timeline ~ the August-end limit ~ to complete the peace process as envisaged in the November 2006 comprehensive treaty and announce a new Constitution is quite literally the last chance. The "Big Three" ~ the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the ruling CPN (United Marxist-Leninist) and Nepali Congress ~ agreed on this with the utmost despatch on 28 May while trying to save the constituent assembly from collapsing. Had they failed, this would have meant fresh elections.


One of the five points agreed upon includes an end to dual-force protection of Maoist leaders. That former Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has already set the ball rolling by sending some People's Liberation Army combatants back to the cantonments suggests things are moving in the right direction. But the faction led by his party vice- chairman, Mohan Baidya, is reportedly against this, arguing that it should have been done only after promulgating a new Constitution. Baidya's relation with Dahal is said to have soured after the former's remark that India chose him for Prime Minister. Differences between them also surfaced over Dahal's proposal to declare India the "prime enemy". The gap now appears to be widening with the opponents having propped up front-rank leader Baburam Bhattarai as prime ministerial candidate in the event of the formation of a national government based on consensus. Dahal's assertion that he is not interested in the post is of little import. In the ultimate analysis, Nepal will have to realise and accept that the Maoists are the biggest obstruction to a constitutional solution. Parliamentary democracy and Maoist thought are antithetical; these moves, back and forth, will continue until either the Maoists have their way or Nepal's people tell them that enough is enough. The Maoists are the problem, not the solution.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

CIVIL SOCIETY VS CORRUPTION

THE MOVEMENT CALLS FOR THE PRIMACY OF INSTITUTIONS

BY SUBRATA MUKHERJEE


SIMANTINI Mukherjee's article, "Academics and Anna" (5 May), misses the important point that activism on the part of civil society can make an important contribution only when it helps in building and consolidating enduring institutions. Institutionalism is the dominant approach in political science analysis replacing what is called structural functionalism. The ideal of a civic culture as a balance between the State and civil society requires patience, careful planning, self- restraint and caution against the possibilities of destabilisation.
Samuel P Huntington has raised a number of issues. (i) When political organisations and well-established procedures are violated or overstepped by the force and sway of non-political influences, such organisations are equally vulnerable to external influences. (ii) Weak and unstable political systems, which lack autonomy, are fertile ground for the entry of groups that are neither identifiable within an established political organisation nor have accepted well-established political procedures. (iii) Such actions obliterate functional boundaries and reject well-established procedures for resolving conflicts. (iv) They neither emphasise long-term discipline and efficiency nor reject the principles of unity, morale and team work. (v) Such acts reject contemptuously institutionalised pattern of behaviour and reject both the existing edifice and structural framework. (vi) They confuse and obliterate public interest with institutional interest, which leads to pushing the individual interest based on short-term gains. (vii) They lack legitimacy of governmental action. (viii) Such actions try to substitute governmental action in a situation when the political structure suffers from a low degree of institutionalisation. This implies that the basic function of the government ~ to govern ~ is being questioned. Such lack of trust is a serious obstacle in the creation of  public institutions. (ix) Such natural distrust and lack of cooperation reflects the lack of a sense of political community. (x) In the process of quick change and modernisation, they impede the consolidation of rational authority.


The movement for the elimination of corruption can be viewed within this general framework. The intervention of a non-political elite is undesirable. To eliminate corruption and build up the trust of the average person, the first pre-requisite is effective political institutionalisation. It must be autonomous, effective and impartial. The second is a long-term view of the issues. This will call for a proper procedure to arrive at decisions which will have the overwhelming support of the people. In contrast to this basic pre-requisite, the Constitution continues to be a contested document.


The prevalence of widespread corruption is essentially linked to the overwhelming backwardness. The movement will have to be slow and geared towards the acceptance of the concept of equal rights and obligations. The primacy of politics and the autonomy of politics are essential to achieve this goal. This has to be achieved by strengthening political institutions with due respect for procedure, conventions and understanding of societal needs and aspirations. This will necessitate the setting up of enduring institutions that will lead to the acceptance of universal values.


The difference between the developed and the under-developed countries is not merely the wide gap in the per capita income, standard of living and quality of life. The most important distinction is that in the developed world, the State is substantially reformed. This cannot be said about the developing world. This reform entails a change from the heterogeneity of values to a set pattern of values. Merit should be the criterion, and there should be no scope for acquiring economic advantage by state patronage. The political participation has to be structured with an effective pattern of authority.


To achieve any of these objectives,  the pivotal role has to be played by political parties and not civil initiatives, however well-intentioned. They are bound to fade out  in the absence of a long-term and viable political outfit. It is true that politics is too important an activity to be left to politicians alone. But the reverse is equally true ~ that civil society must restrict its activity to the civil segment and not enter the political domain with merely technical solutions to complex problems.


Ms Mukherjee mentions the civil society initiative of Jayaprakash Narayan in the early Seventies in defence of her proposition. However, she overlooks the entire perception and planning of JP. His movement was initiated after Indira Gandhi acquired enormous power in the aftermath of the 1971-72 elections. He condemned the erosion of inner-party democracy within the Congress and his opposition became still more strident after Indira Gandhi appointed Justice AN Ray as Chief Justice superseding three other senior judges. JP inducted the youth into his movement. In course of the subsequent movements in Gujarat and Bihar, he tried to build two organisations ~ the Chatra Yuva Sangharsha Vahini and Janata Sarkar. He wanted to ensure that genuine representatives of the people were elected. During the Emergency, as Bimala Prasad has observed, JP "was working for the organisation of a new political party based on the merger of a number of non-communist opposition parties".


It would be misleading, therefore, to compare JP's movement with the present. The former envisaged an institutional process with a reformed party system.


Several studies have proved that in India it is the poor who take democracy more seriously than the educated and the well-off who do not exercise their right to vote earnestly enough. They can bypass the democratic institutions through their social networking as reflected in the widespread coverage of an event that was controlled and supported by a few thousand middle class and rich urban dwellers. It is the arrogance of the organisers that leads to a statement by Shanti Bhushan that if one does not agree with the draft that he and his team have prepared, then one is supporting corruption. Such an attitude is reminiscent of the Dulles doctrine, precisely that one who is not with us is against us.


Francis Fukuyama has underlined the three important pre-requisites of a modern society ~ a strong State; application of the rule of law to all segments of society; and a mechanism to hold rulers accountable for their actions. This calls for the proper implementation of legislation and constitutional provisions with speedy justice.
In the absence of this essential pre-requisite, the Lokpal legislation will be just another Act bereft of implications. It will be another addition to the existing list of extraordinary pieces of legislation and schemes that are never implemented. A functioning and vibrant party system is imperative.
Civil society activists should always remember what Henry Ford had said: "The weakness of the party organisation is the opportunity of corruption". It is not enlightened cynicism that is displayed on the campus. Rather it is enlightened realism based on the primacy of institutions.


The writer is former Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi

 

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THE STATESMAN

OFF LIMITS

SEEMA MUSTAFA

Two to tango

During every crisis, a mini-war breaks out in the Congress with ministers and general-secretaries going for the jugular of each other as they indulge in a blame game, seeking a scapegoat. Pranab Mukherjee is the latest target as neither the government nor the Congress is too happy with him following the Ramdev debacle

There is something wrong with the Congress. And if the party's ministers consult an astrological guru now, he will likely prescribe them a lifestyle and mindset overhaul in order to get their stars shining again. During every crisis, a mini-war breaks out in the party with ministers and general-secretaries going for the jugular of each other as they indulge in a blame game, seeking a scapegoat. Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi maintains a grim silence through it all, while her son Rahul lets it be known through "unconfirmed sources" that he really doesn't share the government's views on a lot of things. Take the Ramdev controversy, for instance. In this case, finance minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee and home minister Mr P Chidambaram were at each other's throats with Congress soothsayer Mr Digvijay Singh castigating the government at large and specifically targeting the finance minister. Meanwhile party managers let it be known that both Mrs Gandhi and her son were not happy with the turn of events and did not like Mr Mukherjee, Mr Sibal and others in the government rushing to placate the yoga expert by offering him a "deal" that did not really work out.

It is no secret that the Congress president calls the shots in the party and the government. Neither can Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh lift a finger without consulting her, nor can any of his ministers. The wily Mr Mukherjee takes good care to ensure that Mrs Gandhi is kept in the loop regarding all major and many minor issues so that his back is always well covered. The decision to tackle Ramdev was not taken entirely by the government. The Congress party had a say too. They decided to send four leaders who happened to be ministers to tackle the yoga teacher. Given the importance of the issue and the politics being played over it, the party brass was kept fully informed. Sources make it clear that there was nothing cloak and dagger about the parleys and the ministers had acquired the necessary clearance to assess if Ramdev could be "controlled".
But look at the price our democracy is paying for all this. First, the government started planting stories against civil society members such as Mr Anna Hazare and others, accusing them of corruption and questioning their right to speak. When this did not work, it took recourse to a defamatory CD that had been tinkered with but was exposed. Finally, the government started dragging its feet on the Lokpal Bill with Mr Pranab Mukherjee sending out questionnaires to political parties. As CPI-M general secretary Mr Prakash Karat pointed out, the issue concerned was way over and above the scope of these questions. Surely, the government could have called an all-party meeting to discuss the matter instead of sending out childish questions to political leaders.
Then arrived Ramdev and the government deputed four senior ministers to "talk" to him. But the government's arrogance and intolerance were apparent whenever its ministers were dealing with the media. They were angry and refused to answer legitimate questions. Finally, the government made it clear what it thought of civil dissidence by launching a brutal police attack on the sleeping supporters of the yoga expert. No apology was issued and home minister Mr P Chidambaram stepped in to issue all kinds of threats. He really needs to revise the tone and tenor of his deliveries and acknowledge that he is just a politician, who happens to be a minister, and derives his strength from his elected position. Unfortunately, the media has become so pliant and servile that Mr Chidambaram gets away with a speech that would have unleashed a storm of protest and walkouts by journalists even 15 years ago.

Not stopping at the midnight misadventure, as it were, the government has imposed a curfew-like situation on areas covering 10 police stations in the Capital. Protests have been banned there and even a trade union demonstration had to be called off. It seems that after banning protests at the Boat Club lawns that had served as Delhi's Hyde Park since Independence, the government has decided to do away with protests at the alternative site of Jantar Mantar as well. The intention is to push protesters raising their voice against repressive measures and fighting for their rights out of the Capital to some remote spot where their voices will not disturb the corridors of power. This is a serious violation of democratic rights. One can only hope that the government wakes up in time to the fact that the Constitution of India enshrines fundamental rights of the people to speech and expression and that no political party or alliance has the power to undermine them.

The fear of free expression, of protests, is the hallmark of a weak, directionless government that does not like to be confronted with reality. Like the proverbial ostrich, it believes that angry people and their protests will go away once it buries it heads in sand. Unfortunately, one cannot wish away reality. Price rise, all-pervasive corruption and blatant violation of democratic rights across the country has spawned seething discontent and the government has to tackle them head on. Instead, it chooses to be evasive with the Congress and the government working together to create confusion and chaos as an excuse to bring in more and more stringent laws and measures to repress the people.

There is no point in blaming the RSS and the BJP for the mess ~ something most Congress leaders are doing. The RSS and the BJP will gladly take advantage of the situation as the gleeful jig at Rajghat bears testimony. The Opposition will do its best to embarrass and weaken the government. The people, however, expect the government they have elected to power to handle their concerns skillfully and honestly. They expect it to tackle price rise with strong economic measures, to bring the corrupt to book instead of protecting them, to ensure that stringent laws to curb corruption are implemented in a transparent manner and to recognise protests and dissent as hallmarks of a vibrant democracy. Unfortunately, the Congress has failed on all fronts ~ it does not allow price rise to trouble it inordinately, it is yet to stop protecting the corrupt and is employing repressive tactics to crush dissidence. Of course, it is also hunting for a scapegoat. Mr Pranab Mukherjee is the latest target as neither the government nor the Congress is too happy with him following the Ramdev debacle. They will humble him some more before the attack is called off.

The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman

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THE STATESMAN

ZINDAGI JO YUHI GAWAYI...'

MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN     WHO DIED IN LONDON ON THURSDAY AT THE AGE OF 95 LIVED HIS LAST YEARS IN EXILE, FORCED UPON HIM BY FANATICAL HINDUS INCENSED BY HIS NUDE PAINTINGS OF HINDU GODDESSES. IN THIS INTERVIEW WITH SUBUHI PARVEZ, FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE STATESMAN IN EARLY 2010, HE TALKED ABOUT HIS LIFE AND HIS ART.


It has been years since you left India. How much do you miss home, your friends, your mohalla? And how do you feel when you think back?


How can one possibly forget? I miss the roads, tea from dhabas, friends… everything, but e-mail and mobile phones have made the world so small that my loved ones are just a call away. Life goes on.


You have proved that the sky is not the limit for you. Can you recall the time you entered the field of art?
Oh! How could I forget those days… I had great interest in painting since I was a child. My father bought me colours and brushes. I never paid much attention to studies. My family used to worry about the lack of my marital prospects and believed nobody would give their daughter's hand to me. That's exactly what happened ~ I couldn't marry the girl I loved. But that did not affect my art, in fact my passion for it grew deeper. My childhood was spent in Indore and I had my first lessons in art there. But since there was not much scope for artists there, I left for Mumbai one day.

 


Why Mumbai, why not any other metropolis?

Mumbai always held a different kind of attraction. The film world might have been the reason. I still remember, I started with just Rs 15 in my hand. My first job was to paint hoardings for films and I used to get 6 annas for every job. I used to sleep on the footpath those days. This went on for about five to six years. A widow across the street would sometimes give me food. She had a daughter who was always in purdah and I eventually married her. I assumed the responsibility of a household and started working at a toy shop. I worked there for six years. In those days, I would even climb atop roofs to complete commercial assignments. That was when my interest veered towards modern art. I had my first solo painting exhibition in 1940. But the exhibition that gave me great success was held in Zurich in 1952.


What inspired you to venture into filmmaking?

Well there are different forms of art. Film is also an art form which provides a huge canvas to convey one's vision.
 
You admire actress Madhuri Dixit. What is so special about her?
Madhuri is a beautiful actress but her beauty and talent have not been fully exploited. My friends insisted that I watch the film Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. I simply couldn't sit through the entire show and left midday. I didn't like the film. But my friends insisted that I should watch the entire film. So, I went for the second time. There is a song in the movie to which Madhuri dances and in a certain sequence, she moves five steps back. I got hooked after watching that one scene and I theerafter, watched the film about 78 times. In that particular scene, Madhuri was very graceful. I was so impressed with her that I offered her the lead in my film Gajagamini. If you have seen the movie you should know that Madhuri was facing the camera in very few scenes. I wanted to capture my mother's image in that film. Since my mother died when I was a baby, I don't remember her face. That's why I have not emphasised on the face in that film.


Who is your favourite actor?

Of course, Dilip Kumar. In India, nobody is as great an actor as he was. Dilip Sahab was outstanding in Devdas.
 
Who do you think is the best music director?
Naushad will always be my first choice. Now, I also like AR Rahman. His Jai ho from Slumdog Millionaire is now a favourite song of mine. Mahatma Gandhi coined the slogan "Jai Hind" for India. But Rahman's Jai ho has a global appeal.
 
You were nominated to the Rajya Sabha but you never entered politics. Why?
I always believed in having a political ideology but never wanted to take part in active politics. Before Independence, I tried to understand the ideologies involved and would listen to the speeches of Gandhiji, Nehru, Jinnah. But I never took up politics actively.

Did you ever think about moving to Pakistan during Partition?
I was totally against Partition. I never considered moving to Pakistan. My brother-in-law went across the border and I told my wife that there should be no communication with him.
 
How do you start your day? What is the first thing that you do in the morning?
Nothing can be compared to the first sip of tea in the morning. In Mumbai, I used to go to an Irani hotel for my first cup and in Delhi, I would seek out dhaba tea from Nizamuddin.
 
What food do you like?
Everything! I used to be a die-hard non-vegetarian. But now I only like keema. Rice, roti and dal are my all-time favourites. Since my open heart surgery in 1988, I only take red wine like Mirza Ghalib (laughs).
 
How much time do you give to painting nowadays?
Well, I spend six to eight hours painting in the morning and put in about the same hours at night. I do all my work alone ~ I have never taken the help of an assistant.
 
After all this hard work, when do you get the time to sleep?
Who sleeps at this age (laughs)?
 
Where do you get so much energy from?
The zeal to work is always there and that gives me the strength to go on. After all, I was raised on the grain of Malwa (Madhya Pradesh)! When I was a child, my uncle would take me for wrestling sessions.
 
What is your philosophy of life?
It is very important to indulge in awaragi for some time in life. If one is working all the time and doesn't have a single minute to think, how will one get ideas? That is why it is important to have a free mind. Zindagi jo yuhi gawayi, darhasal wohi kaam ayi
(life that was whiled away proved to be of great help)

 

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THE STATESMAN

UPA AND ANNA HAZARE

RAJINDER PURI    


The Prime Minister's statement that the police crackdown on Ramdev at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan "was unavoidable" shocked people. The intemperate and abusive language used by Congress general-secretary Mr Digvijay Singh while justifying the police crackdown attracted even more adverse comment. The stupid exertions of the police led by home minister Mr P Chidambaram trying to convince the nation that a situation akin to Godhra or surrounding the demolition of the Babari Mosque had been averted by the action is inviting ridicule. The Congress is rattled. Its leaders speak nonsense every hour. The attack against Ramdev may not have disturbed too many middle-class people given some of his antics. But there is widespread respect in the middle classes for Mr Anna Hazare who was initially encouraged by Mrs Sonia Gandhi and obtained cooperation from the government. Now that too seems to have vanished. Mr Hazare finds the government's crude conduct unacceptable. He is united with Ramdev. Between the two, both the middle classes and the rural poor can be mobilised. Mr Hazare has launched his version of India's Second Freedom Struggle.
This incensed Congress spokesperson Ms Jayanthi Natarajan. She lashed out: "Anna has called for a second freedom movement...a second freedom movement against whom…What he has said today is unacceptable. A second freedom movement against whom?  This is a lawfully-elected government, a Parliament elected by the people of India.  To launch a parallel movement by people who proclaim they will not stand for election is complete subversion." Alas! The lady hasn't done her homework.


From 26 August to 1 September, 1997 Lok Sabha Speaker Mr PA Sangma convened a special session of Parliament attended by both Houses. The session was held to commemorate 50 years of India's Independence. The session took stock of the situation and set a National Agenda for the future. The Agenda sought an end to corruption, criminalisation, casteism and communalism. Opening the special session, for the first time in the India's parliamentary history, the Speaker addressed the House. He called for a Second Freedom Struggle to realise the agenda. The former Prime Minister, Mr Inder Kumar Gujral, called upon the people to launch a peaceful struggle, offer satyagraha and court arrest. The whole House responded with thunderous applause. The resolution for launching the Second Freedom Struggle and implementing the National Agenda was passed unanimously by both Houses of Parliament. That of course included the Congress.
Ms Natarajan asks: "A second freedom movement against whom?" Good question. The same year ~ 1997 ~ that question was unambiguously addressed by me across the length and breadth of the country. I was privileged to be the main speaker addressing audiences at venues in different states mobilised for the Kaarevan-e-Azadi Movement. It was launched by Muslim organizations with the blessing of the late chairman of the Muslim Personal Law Board, Qazi Mujahid-ul-Islam. We urged people to accept Parliament's invitation to launch a movement. The movement culminated in Delhi where its agenda, approved by the Qazi as well as by the Milli Council, was to be announced. The agenda did not seek a single advantage exclusively for the Muslim community. It advocated policies that benefited the entire nation. Unfortunately, some of the Muslim leaders capitulated and came to a tacit understanding with Prime Minister Gujral. The agenda was never released. The movement collapsed. I felt betrayed by the leaders. But the response we received from Muslim audiences across the nation was most heartening. There was no trace of communal bias. One saw only a hunger for change and national pride. Unless the government succeeds in creating horrendous incidents to ignite communal violence I doubt if its stated alarm about conflagration will ever see the light of day.
It remains to be seen how Mr Anna Hazare's Movement for India's Second Freedom Struggle will develop. The present demand for the institution of a Jan Lokpal is wholly inadequate. But movements have a habit of expanding goals as they proceed.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

STEP TO HOPE

The quest for excellence had become a forgotten pursuit under the Left Front. The comrades flourished under the star of mediocrity. The biggest loser in this was the realm of higher education, which came to be dominated by loyalists of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The new political dispensation under Mamata Banerjee is trying to break out of the cast set by the CPI(M) and to bring back the pursuit of excellence in the field of higher education. The first step in this direction has been taken by the appointment of a mentor group for the new Presidency University under the chairmanship of the Harvard professor, Sugata Bose. Another Harvard don, Amartya Sen, arguably the most distinguished Indian academic in the world, has agreed to act as advisor to Mr Bose and the group. Presidency College was, not very long ago, India's premier undergraduate college. It was destroyed primarily by the irresponsible and narrow-minded policies of the Left Front government, which wanted to eradicate what it considered to be the "elite" character of Presidency College. Later, perhaps realizing its mistake, it thought academic standards could be restored in the college by making it a university. This was no more than a token gesture since no guidelines were put in place about how excellence was to be pursued in the new university. The latter was encumbered by an act that was a replica of the Calcutta University Act and by the appointing of a vice-chancellor for only one year.

The new government obviously wants to rescue Presidency University from this mess. The chairman of the mentor group has already indicated that he will work with a small committee of outstanding individuals; he has also been assured by Ms Banerjee that Presidency will be kept above party politics. It is good to remember, before euphoria gets the better of reason, that these are only enabling conditions. The mentor group by no means faces an easy task. It will have to draw up an appropriate governance structure for the university; this structure should provide space for the distinguished alumni of Presidency College to be involved in restoring standards of academic excellence in the institution. This governance structure must set down procedures for the appointment of vice-chancellor and faculty, and also for establishing syllabi and pedagogic methods. It will have to create conditions that allow ideas and research to flourish. The transition from an undergraduate college to a full-fledged university is fraught with difficulties.

The government will have to stand by this mentor group not only with adequate resources but also with the courage to take decisions that may not be altogether popular. Only then will hope become reality.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THROWN OUT

Insurgent groups in the Northeast have a history of splits and factional fights. But the split in the faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland which used to be led by S. S. Khaplang can turn out to be a major political event in the region. That Mr Khaplang himself has been expelled from the group makes it different from similar rifts within such outfits. He not only led the group from his base inside Myanmar but also allowed it to be used by other insurgent groups, such as the United Liberation Front of Asom and the United National Liberation Front of Manipur. Mr Khaplang's expulsion could thus weaken the group's Myanmar connection and also influence its activities in Nagaland. The fact that the group's new leadership is based within Nagaland points to this possibility. It is unclear what exactly led to the split, but there is little doubt that Indian security agencies would be happy to see the group's Myanmar-based leaders losing their control over it. Bases such as these have long served as arms training centres and hideouts for the cadres of different militant outfits in the region.

However, New Delhi needs to be cautious about its responses to the factional feuds within the NSCN or any other insurgent group in the region. The Centre's peace talks with the NSCN, led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, make such caution even more necessary. New Delhi cannot afford to let these factional fights detract from its peace initiative. True, the government may have to deal with the new leadership that has replaced Mr Khaplang or even give it legitimacy in future negotiations. But it should also take into account the reactions to the split among the local people and in the NSCN faction led by Mr Swu and Mr Muivah. The peace process in Nagaland is not a matter of New Delhi entering into secret agreements with one group or another. The peace that Nagaland awaits involves all its people, irrespective of their factional loyalties. The peace mission should unite, rather than divide, Naga society.

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THE TELEGRAPH

REVOLT OF THE OUTLANDER

ANNA HAZARE AND RAMDEV APPEAL TO TWO DISTINCT SOCIAL CLASSES SWAPAN DASGUPTA

Last Saturday evening, an English language television news channel sent one of its coquettish anchors, who otherwise specialized in going gush-gush over Bollywood stars, to report on Baba Ramdev's 'yoga camp' in Delhi's Ramlila Maidan. The lady had apparently never seen life on the other side of the tracks — or, at least, successfully pretended she hadn't — and was wide-eyed in astonishment at both the numbers and the motivation of people who had travelled long distances to be with the man dubbed the "rock star of yoga". She was also bowled over by the huge media presence. "There are channels here," she said in breathless astonishment, "that I've never heard of."

For that India whose TV viewing doesn't go beyond the news and entertainment channels available on Tata Sky, the ignorance is understandable. There is an India People-Like-Us know and claim to understand, even if it is from a position of detachment. This includes the mysterious, mystical India personified by the flowing white robes and the 'wellness' philosophy of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The PLUs also habitually invoke the romanticism of rural life, even if they are understandably horrified by the Taliban-like decisions of khap panchayats.

That there are multiple Indias is a truism. It is also a truism that the only time the kaleidoscope of India finds some reflection in either the 'national' or the mainstream regional media is during an election. That's the time the limousine liberals are sponsored by indulgent bankers to travel in comfort to the wilderness and even do an election-related chat show from a dusty truckers' dhaba in West Midnapore or the roof of a garish hotel in Gaya.

Unfortunately, the season for political tourism is all too brief. It is always possible to gauge voting intentions during an emotionally charged campaign and even report the quantum of economic change brought about by India's soaring gross domestic product in the small market towns and neighbouring villages. It is never a media priority to understand the corresponding shifts in aesthetic and social impulses.

The multiplying consequences of passionate Islamic discourses by tele-evangelists have, for example, led to a sharp rise in social conservatism among India's Muslims. Some of this is even sartorially self-evident. Less understood, however, is the impact of the discourses broadcast by TV channels such as Aastha on the mofussil Hindu imagination. Have the unending emphasis on true dharma and the constant invocations of righteousness had an unforeseen political consequence?

For the past three years at least, I have been told of the subterranean buzz around Ramdev's robust festivals of health and patriotism all over India. The extent to which the surge in religiosity has been brought about by rising TV viewership is difficult to quantify. All that can be said is that Ramdev's decision to expand his mission statement to demanding political action against organized venality was not born out of thin air. It stemmed from his reading of the responses he got from the non-metropolitan audiences he spends most of the year addressing.

There is a sharp class divide between the 'civil society' movements launched by Anna Hazare and Ramdev. The old Gandhian and his core support team are public spirited individuals who in a more settled age would perhaps have been a part of the institutional apparatus of governance. Blessed with modern education and global exposure —note the surfeit of Magsaysay Award winners in Anna's Star Chamber — they are people who talk the modern idiom of development and politics, a language the mainstream media finds comprehensible, comforting and respectable. The Anna movement has drawn sustenance from three quarters: from a core network of professional activists with a disdain for organized politics, from senior citizens, usually active in residents' welfare associations, horrified by the moral decline of a world they can't keep pace with, and a section of idealistic but impressionable youth which believes that social media networking is a force for the good.

The Anna movement was a made-in-media campaign. The crowds that flocked to his rally in Delhi's Jantar Mantar two months ago did so without any incentive and organization. However, its spontaneity was also governed by a spectacular degree of TV hype that unnerved the government and forced it into setting up a joint committee to draft a new lok pal bill. No doubt the process was helped by the endearing personality of Anna — a man who exudes both simplicity and sincerity. However, it is worth considering whether or not the multiplier effects of the movement would have been that marked had the location of the fast not been the heart of Lutyen's Delhi.

Compared to the 5,000 or so people who thronged Jantar Mantar at the peak of Anna's fast, Ramdev began his show with a dedicated audience of something around 40,000 people. While most of Anna's supporters were from the national capital region — plus shows of solidarity in the state capitals — the yoga guru mobilized people from all over the country, including a large contingent from West Bengal. Yet, the government risked a potential riot by forcibly evicting the crowd and shutting down the show in the early hours of last Sunday. What explains the visible double-standards?

The answer is obvious. The 'civil society' that Anna represented was the influential metropolitan middle class, many of whom were PLUs. Ramdev's support base was drawn primarily from B, C and D category towns and lacked either clout or glamour. The English-language media was openly contemptuous of his mission, portraying it as a variant of another Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-sponsored gau rakshan show. There was not a single Bollywood star to keep company of the relatively unknown religious figures that graced Ramdev's dais. Even Anna was in two minds over being present on the stage. Each of the sadhus may have had a following of lakhs but this was not the power elite Delhi knew. To them, it was an assembly of obscurantists.

The scepticism of the PLUs contrasted starkly with the earnestness with which the Hindi channels dealt with the Ramdev phenomenon. To their viewership, Ramdev was a venerated figure and not someone whose raw understanding of economics was worthy of mockery.

The sharp class divide was unmistakable. The last occasion I witnessed this was the Ayodhya movement. Till L.K. Advani's rath yatra in 1990, cosmopolitan India treated the fuss over Ram's birthplace with sneering contempt. It was blind to the raw emotions unleashed in the hinterland, a phenomenon that was dismissed as 'false consciousness'.

There is nothing as yet to indicate that Ramdev is likely to trigger a similar explosion of sentiment. Yet, the yogic entrepreneur has succeeded in extending the reach of the anti-corruption movement into the deep interior of the Hindi heartland. He has complemented a modernist unease with corrupt governance with populist anger against a venal, elitist order — note how his demand to secure the return of black money stashed in foreign shores was cleverly twinned with the demand to replace English with the vernacular. Ramdev has triggered the revolt of the outlander.

The Hindu faith has traditionally been caste-based and localized. Yet, there has been a congregational undercurrent that has subsumed these divisions. Over the past two decades and thanks in no small measure to growing TV viewership, a new congregational faith has injected a new energy into the Hindu universe. Particularly noteworthy is the growing marginalization of the Brahminical order. Ramdev, a Yadav by caste, personifies this phenomenon. The Congress may have miscalculated by declaring total war on him.

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THE TELEGRAPH

DEEP IN THE MIRE

BONA FIDE - MALVIKA SINGH

India is being put through the trauma of a frightening, unending nightmare that seems to be merging with everyday reality, attacking the fundamentals of democracy and 'gross national happiness'. Central political dispensations have, particularly since the mid-1970s, abdicated the norms of governance and encouraged corrupt practices by disregarding probity and transparency. The civil services, mandated to be non-partisan in dealing with administrative and judicial issues, rapidly became one with the political class, finding ways to bend the system in an attempt to curry favour rather than enforce caution. Seeing this development, the corporate world entered the fray as the third partner in the destructive nexus.

India has contorted, has had severe cramps, has imploded in some places, and is today in a desperate, unholy and unacceptable state where governance appears disconnected and anarchic. There is a new middle class raring to go with great aspirations, competing for space in an age led by information technology where archaic methods of dictatorial and disengaged governance have no place. Nearly 70 per cent of Indians are in no mood to tolerate corrupt, insular governance. Elected representatives of India have failed to establish clean and dynamic politics in our nation state.

Spokespeople of the Congress come across as rudderless. If the top leadership cannot communicate with ease, it should identify orators in all languages and fan them out to carry a strong and coherent message. Those at the head of the government are devoid of political passion, and have no real understanding of the mood on the ground because of their supreme detachment and their dependence on the tiny coterie around them. The coterie gives them a sense of comfort, and they prefer not to engage with the 'many' who could bring energetic and divergent thinking to the table, thereby representing the diverse and complex aspirations of an India that is demanding clean, inclusive governance for everyone, and not just for the exclusive parasites who have, till now, exploited the greed of those who operate the mechanisms and delivery systems of the State.

Bad example

From this mire has emerged a self-appointed force that has co-opted the people by making corruption their mudda, thereby grabbing the imagination of the great Indian middle class. Baba Ramdev has called for armed rebellion much like J.P. who had asked the army to disobey orders. Anna Hazare continues to support Ramdev despite an illegal 'call'. What is the example they are establishing? What signal are they sending to the people? Their dictatorial stances are anathema to liberals and democrats. They cannot be an alternative to any government in a democracy. Recent images have disgusted one and all — the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha doing a bhangra at the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi; the Bharatiya Janata Party comparing Ramdev to Swami Vivekananda; Ramdev dressing up as a woman to escape. All this has shamed the ethos of our civilization. Is this the alternative? Is this how the reordering of the system is to happen?

Are the polarized, often regressive, positions that we hear from these crusaders against corruption what we want in place of parliamentary democracy? Or do we want to compel the government to rewrite irrelevant laws and then enforce them, make the operation inclusive and transparent, and force accountability, starting from the top? Civil society — professionals, men and women under 50 years of age to whom the present and future belong — must participate in this restructuring for the common good of democratic India. None of what is happening around us is acceptable to a modern nation state.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WATCH AND FORBEAR

ANYONE WHO THINKS THAT THE CRISIS IN SYRIA AFFORDS ISRAEL AN OPPORTUNITY TO "CHANGE REALITY" WOULD DO WELL TO PUT ASIDE SUCH DANGEROUS DELUSIONS.

Syria is in a deep crisis. The regime is facing one of the greatest threats in the history of the state: The obedient, downtrodden Syrian public is no longer willing to put up with the Assad family's horrific regime of repression. The Syrian public now aspires to the achievements of its Egyptian and Tunisian counterparts, and is willing to fight like the Libyan public. That was a major surprise for the Syrian regime, which still believes that the brutal use of weapons, torture and other fear tactics will eventually bring calm.

Western states have responded to the events in Syria - unlike their behavior vis-a-vis Egypt and Libya - slowly and cautiously, with diplomatic pressure, sanctions and censure in the United Nations. Their caution stems partly from the fact that there is no obvious replacement for the Syrian regime, as there was in Egypt. Another factor is that Syria is much more important than Libya, which could only benefit from a regime change - or so the West believes.

Syria is seen as a state that is capable of reining in Hezbollah, determining the extent of Iranian interference in Lebanon and aiding the United States in the war against terror in Iraq. These are weighty factors, ones that cause the West to hold out the hope that President Bashar Assad may yet agree to introduce meaningful reforms and remain in power.

Israel cannot take a different position than the one being taken now by Western governments. Anyone who thinks that the crisis in Syria affords Israel an opportunity to "change reality" would do well to put aside such dangerous delusions; this is particularly apposite now, 29 years after Israel's invasion of Lebanon. That, too, was aimed at changing the situation in another country.

And as an occupier that itself used, and still uses, weapons against Palestinian civilians in the territories and in Israel, Israel is far from having earned the right to denounce others. It must closely monitor events in Syria, consider the possible scenarios for its future and represent a policy that in the future could be acceptable to any regime in Syria, and all other states in the region. If Israel seeks to change reality in the region, it would do well to adopt the initiatives whose goal is to promote negotiations with the Palestinians.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

A BUS NAMED FLOP

MANY FAMILIES WHO DON'T EARN ENOUGH TO COVER THEIR MONTHLY EXPENSES ARE FORCED TO BUY A CAR ONLY SO THEY CAN GET TO WORK ON TIME, AND THE HIGH PRICE OF GASOLINE AFFECTS THEM SERIOUSLY. IT'S A FAILURE THAT COSTS BILLIONS OF SHEKELS A YEAR: IN ENDLESS TRAFFIC JAMS, WASTED FUEL, ACCIDENTS, FRAYED NERVES AND DAMAGE TO THE ENVIRONMENT.

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

There is no dispute that the major social-economic failure of all of Israel's governments is the fiasco of public transportation in Gush Dan (metropolitan Tel Aviv ). In no Western country - and not even a former communist country - is the level of public transportation as backward and frustrating as it is in Israel.

There is no metropolitan area in the world with a population and volume of activity like that of Gush Dan without a subway or light train system. Nor is there any more uncaring and disdainful service than that which the Dan region monopoly offers the unfortunate citizens who are dependent on it - the elderly, youth, new immigrants - and any other captive citizen who simply cannot afford a car.

Many families who don't earn enough to cover their monthly expenses are forced to buy a car only so they can get to work on time, and the high price of gasoline affects them seriously. It's a failure that costs billions of shekels a year: in endless traffic jams, wasted fuel, accidents, frayed nerves and damage to the environment.

It's only here that you find yourself totally helpless at a bus stop. The buses' arrival is a great unknown. The Dan company commits itself to nothing. It does not publish (at most stops ) any information about the bus routes or schedules. Well, why should it? It's a monopoly that receives huge subsidies from the state, and as far as Dan is concerned, you can walk.

When a bus does finally arrive, it's so crowded that it doesn't stop. And if the driver deigns to stop, the frustrated citizens rush the door to shout, "Do you go to the market? To the Azrieli mall? To the university?" Because there is no information about routes at the bus stop.

These failures should have been resolved long ago by the minister of transportation. True, the Dan and Egged bus cooperatives are not easy clients, but the fact is that the service offered by Dan is becoming worse over the years, while the percentage of people who use public transportation is declining. At present, it stands at only 18 percent of those who use the roads. Only people who have absolutely no other choice use public transportation here.

On July 1, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz plans to launch a reform of the bus routes. Under the new method, the lines will be divided into two types: arterial routes on which buses will travel with high frequency along main streets, and neighborhood lines which will feed the arterial buses. Travelers will purchase a "smart ticket" that will be valid for 90 minutes, and instead of using a long and winding route will use two lines. The number of lanes reserved for public transportation will also be increased, and police enforcement against private vehicles using those lanes will be stepped up.

It sounds good, but the public is skeptical and the bitterness is surging. People are worried about a further decline in the quality of the service (which is already low ), because the number of lines will drop from 82 to 59. For example, the no. 45 line from Tel Hashomer via Givatayim to Tel Aviv University will be canceled - and the students are protesting.

To this Katz replies that the frequency of the buses will rise significantly, so that overall traveling time will be reduced. The fact is that the pubic-transportation subsidy is being upped by NIS 50 million to make this possible.

But the people are right to be apprehensive. First, the cancelation of lines will make it necessary to walk longer distances to the bus stops, and the need to use two buses suggests longer traveling time. Second, as long as the Dan monopoly does not require its drivers to get to stops at designated times, as long as the stops do not have maps showing the exact routes and as long as no electronic screens are installed to show when the next bus is due, the major problems will not be solved: unreliability, uncertainly and bad service.

For the user of public transportation, the most important elements are reliability and punctuality. He wants to know exactly how long he has to wait until the next bus and when it will reach its destination.

Katz's test on July 1 will be simple: Will the buses continue to serve only those who have no choice, or will the reform induce the public at large to start traveling by bus? One way or the other, we have no subway.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

DISPERSING CROWDS WITHOUT KILLING

ONE MIGHT THINK AN ORGANIZATION THAT SINKS $120 MILLION INTO A SINGLE STEALTH AIRCRAFT COULD INVEST A SIMILAR AMOUNT EVERY YEAR, FOR MANY YEARS, IN VITAL CROWD-DISPERSAL TECHNOLOGIES.

BY YOAV ZACKS

Israel must choose where it seeks to belong. The fact that it is surrounded by governments that are less than meticulous about protecting human dignity does not give it permission to act like them.

How did we get ourselves into this situation? From an operational perspective, it would seemingly have been possible to act differently. The IDF's preparations against the civilians who last week threatened to tear down the fence separating Syria from Israel and enter sovereign Israeli territory - which primarily involved putting snipers in place and mining the area - were a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Acting differently would have entailed holding off the protesters through nonviolent means, which is harder to do and requires more resources. It's clear that the military took the wrong approach.

"The wrong approach" is also the answer to why the IDF doesn't have effective means of dealing with civilians without harming them, or at least without killing them. There are various technologies that enable other security forces to deal fairly successfully with civilians trying to break through fences, methods that are certainly more successful than live fire or mines. And if all else had failed, it would always have been possible to order soldiers to open fire as a last resort.

It is this wrong approach that has caused us to march in place for many years. The IDF's current position is that legal permission must be obtained in advance before soldiers can be equipped with anything meant for use against civilians. At first glance, this seems like a legitimate stance, but in practice, it constitutes an impenetrable obstacle.

What is particularly remarkable is that Israel is not taking advantage of its technological prowess to equip the IDF with nonlethal ways of dealing with civilians. On this matter, too, the problem is the army's priorities and its budget constraints. The funding allocated for this purpose over the years is absurdly low, in comparison to both the amount that should have been invested and to the endless investments in areas that have long since ceased to matter.

One might have thought an organization that decides to sink $120 million into a single stealth aircraft would be able to invest a similar amount every year, for many years, in developing vital crowd-dispersal technologies. But it hasn't. Traditionally, anything to do with civilians was considered a police matter of no military importance, and was thus given a low priority. Even after Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, when the acute importance of nonlethal riot-dispersal equipment became clear, all the budgetary and conceptual obstacles remained in place, so no significant progress was made.

In today's security reality, it is clear that dealing with low-level civilian violence, whether by Palestinians or by vengeful settlers, needs to be a top priority. And the Defense Ministry has a solution for such situations. When the need arises, it sets up an administration with full authority to come up with a plan, obtain equipment and build up the necessary force.

It is now essential to establish such an administration for dealing with civilians, with a budget that reflects the importance of this mission. We are liable to rue any further delay.

The writer, a colonel in the reserves who previously worked in development for the IDF, is a businessman and technology consultant.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHAT OLMERT HAS TO SAY FOR HIMSELF

WITH HIS EYES CLOSED, HE SAID, HE RELIED ON RELATIVES AND ACQUAINTANCES, AND THEY LED HIM ASTRAY. HE HAS NO PROBLEM TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIMSELF, AS LONG AS HE'S ALLOWED TO LET OTHERS TAKE THE BLAME.

BY YOSSI SARID

I believe what former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at his corruption trial: "I am fighting for my life." That comes from the heart, and only a heart of stone could refuse to hear it. This isn't the first time in Olmert's life that he's fighting for it. He has been on the verge of a downfall before, and arisen. There is no one else in Israel whose chest is more decorated than his with badges of acquittal.

Even the bank overdraft is nothing new. Olmert has always had a hard time making it through the month, and has needed to supplement his income - that's why he needed the help of an interest-free "loan" of $50,000. It's pretty much the life of a hardscrabble Israeli family with lots of kids. Surely the judges will take the special situation into account. There are precedents in which the law wasn't applied because of the situation.

At one point it seemed that the situation had improved. The family managed to acquire some property and even accumulate some valuables. But it was an improvement that turned out to be for the worse. Because of all the pressure and hard work, the father of the family once again got into trouble, over fraudulent receipts. Three of his alleged embezzling partners were convicted; he was the only one to get off with a reprimand. The court believed his argument that he hadn't noticed, and I believe it too. Over and over again he has escaped by the skin of his teeth, but he didn't waste precious time saving his thick skin. Happy is the man who doesn't sit still for a single day, and who is successful at everything he does.

Since he wanted to put some distance between himself and his troubles at home, he started traveling around the world - about 300 trips, by his count. But even in the heavens and in distant cities he found no rest; by his account, he was suffering. And thus did he always return from his suffering and await the next takeoff, as though the curse of the wandering Jew had fallen on him. What more do you want from him? That he should check his PDA to find out who paid and how? What nonsense. Is there no limit to irritating provinciality?

The state prosecutor, state comptroller, police chief and the press - have not they crossed that line? Of all the persecuted in this country where such persecutions are commonplace - of figures like Moshe Katsav, as the outsider; Avigdor Lieberman, as the Russian immigrant; Aryeh Deri and Shlomo Benizri, as both religious and Mizrahi; Abraham Hirchson, as just a fat Ashkenazi guy; Haim Ramon, as someone who steps on other people's toes - no one has been persecuted like Olmert has. He was standing at the threshold of peace when they tripped everything up. As one of the oppressed, who rakes in NIS 2 million a month, said recently, "Businesspeople are a persecuted minority in Israel." Get your handkerchiefs ready.

I believe Olmert when he says he wasn't involved in all that minor bookkeeping - how much it cost, how much it didn't cost. As someone who walked with the great and did great things, he didn't break down his public credit into small change, or his life into days of inconsequence. And if there's some double or triple bookkeeping that comes to light here and there, it's the first time he's seeing it. "I was really surprised," he said in his testimony.

With his eyes closed, he said, he relied on relatives and acquaintances, and they led him astray; there is that possibility. He has no problem taking responsibility for himself, as long as he's allowed to let others take the blame.

But those "others" are never guilty. They are conducting themselves in accordance with the spirit of the boss, whose lifestyle they are familiar with and from whom they learn to see and understand. Olmert was supposed to serve as a role model, offering a blueprint - whether sketched with one of the expensive fountain pens he collects or a simple ballpoint - of what is permissible and what is prohibited. Police searched for the blueprint at his home and in his office, but as of press time they have yet to find one.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

NETANYAHU'S TIDINGS OF DESTRUCTION

INDEED, THE RIGHT WING CONSIDERS RECOGNITION OF THE REALITY CREATED IN 1949 TO BE THE CHIEF ENEMY OF ZIONISM. THE DYNAMIC OF A CONQUERING NATIONALISM CAN NEVER RECOGNIZE THAT ANY SITUATION CREATED AT ANY GIVEN TIME IS FINAL.

BY ZEEV STERNHELL

Of all the tasks that the Israeli right has set for itself, the most important is expunging the foundational status of the War of Independence. For if a war that killed 1 percent of the population and gave rise to the State of Israel was nothing but one more in a long line of wars through which the land has been conquered again and again, from Zionism's early days until today, the two primary results of that war - the concept of citizenship and the new state's borders - truly have no special status.

By contrast, if we see the establishment of the state as a watershed event in Jewish national history - both because it engendered a new political and legal concept in the history of Zionism, that of citizenship, and because geopolitical borders were assigned to the new entity for the first time - then the enterprise of conquering the land has ended. And that, in the eyes of the right wing, is the real existential danger.

Indeed, the right wing considers recognition of the reality created in 1949 to be the chief enemy of Zionism. According to its worldview, Zionism must be a movement in a constant state of formation and creation, one that relies on the Jews' ability to impose their will on their surroundings. The dynamic of a conquering nationalism can never recognize that any situation created at any given time is final.

This, naturally, leads to the view that there's nothing sacred about the Green Line and that settling the land conquered in 1967 is no less legitimate than settling the Galilee or the Negev. That's the view Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently forgot to expound on in Washington. But it's reasonable to assume that U.S. President Barack Obama is aware of what most members of the U.S. Congress either don't know or don't want to know, whether for electoral reasons or for reasons of convenience.

Members of Congress apparently haven't heard that Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who wants to be the leader of the entire Israeli right, has already asserted that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved, and could therefore continue for another 100 years. Netanyahu's national security adviser, for his part, has asserted that the 1967 borders are unacceptable because they leave too many Jews outside Israel. But neither of them is perpetuating Netanyahu's big lie: that these borders are indefensible.

Unfortunately for the ruling right, the parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal were set many years ago, and they have been etched deeply into the Israeli and international consciousness. The current French initiative is just an expression of the European consensus, if not the global one. This means that Israel has only two options: willingly accept the finality of the situation as it was the day after the state's establishment, or reach the same point only after being forcibly dragged to it, while becoming a pariah and an object of revulsion along the way.

But the question of borders is only one aspect of the failure to recognize the War of Independence as a fundamental turning point; it also has a civic angle. The anti-democratic legislation that the Knesset has enacted over the past year, which targets basic civic equality and which borders on racism even if it is not actually racist, is a way of declaring that the essence of the state is that it belongs to Jews alone. At bottom, this view stems from seeing Jews as the sole owners of the Land of Israel.

This means the state doesn't exist to guarantee democracy, equality, human rights or even a decent life to all; it exists to guarantee Jewish rule over the Land of Israel and to make sure no additional political entity is established here. Everything is deemed permissible to reach that end, and no price is considered too high. That's essentially what former Mossad chief Meir Dagan was warning us about as well. And for that reason, no previous government has ever posed as great a danger to the public as Netanyahu's government

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

IMAGINING FUKUSHIMA IN THE NEGEV

IF AN ENEMY MISSILE SUCCEEDED IN HITTING A NUCLEAR POWER STATION HERE, IT COULD LEAD TO A MAJOR DISPERSAL OF RADIATION AND THE EXPOSURE OF LARGE POPULATIONS.

BY HILLEL SHUVAL

In this era of growing concern with global warming and the search for clean energy sources, many countries, including Israel, have given renewed consideration to expanding the use of nuclear energy for electric power production. The Israel Electric Corporation and the Ministry of National Infrastructure support the idea, and have already set aside a site for a first nuclear energy plant, at Shivta, in the southern Negev.

If that comes as a surprise, it is because there has never been a full, open public discussion of Israel's policy and plans for nuclear energy. According to press reports, there have been a number of official government contacts with manufacturers regarding the purchase of an "off-the-shelf" nuclear power plant. Apparently, though, the serious nuclear situation in Fukushima has put these plans on hold.

The advantages of nuclear energy are many. Unlike the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, nuclear fission doesn't release gases and particulates that are detrimental to public health. More important, it eliminates the release of carbon dixoxide and other gases that contribute to global warming. And it reduces dependence on imports of oil, gas and coal - all fuels that will eventually be depleted globally - from Middle Eastern countries and other foreign sources.

In 1975, the Rasmussen Report evaluated the dangers and probabilities of nuclear-plant accidents, and showed that if the "maximum credible accident" ever did occur in a reactor adjacent to a densely populated area, the health and environmental impact might be great - including numerous deaths, illness and possible genetic damage, as well as the need for mass evacuation of people from contaminated areas. However, the report emphasized that, because the nuclear industry was built with "fail-safe" systems with double- and triple-safety back-up arrangements, air-tight containment vessels and highly trained personnel, the probability of such an accident occurring was very slight - on the order of one in a million over the life of a reactor. In fact, however, since the beginning of the nuclear-power era, in 1950, there have been 29 major and minor civilian nuclear accidents, not nearly as infrequent as predicted in the early risk-analysis reports.

A recent report on Chernobyl by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states that "more than 300,000 people were displaced from their homes by the disaster; roughly six million were affected. A swath of geography half the size of Italy or the Republic of Korea, was contaminated." As chilling as those facts are, it's also true that a large country like Ukraine - or Japan or the United States - can undergo an event of the proportions of Chernobyl or Fukushima and still survive economically, socially and politically. Israel, however, is a small and densely populated country. If a very serious nuclear accident were to occur here, for example at Shivta, the theoretical damage, based on my own personal estimate, drawing on the literature and the actual experience at Chernobyl and assuming a 30-mile contaminated evacuation zone, like that proposed around Fukushima, could include:

• The death, or serious illness, of 100 to 1,000 people, over time, from radiation exposure;

• Exposure of 100,000 to 250,000 people to low levels of radiation that could in time cause cancer and possible genetic damage to some of their offspring;

• With a 30-mile evacuation zone, the need to remove up to 250,000 people, including all of Be'er Sheva, from their homes, in some cases permanently. In a small country like Israel, it's not clear where they all would go.

Israel's security would be weakened in the aftermath of such an accident, due to the massive dislocation of populations and the breakdown of infrastructure. Exports, particularly of foods, would be badly damaged for many years. Tourism and air travel could be seriously curtailed. These economic blows could lead to a serious weakening of the economy over years.

But Israel has another risk that is unique: the fact that it may be exposed to conventional long-range missiles of ever-improving accuracy, from hostile countries such as Iran and Syria, or even from Hezbollah or Hamas. If any of them succeeded in hitting a nuclear power station, it could lead to a major dispersal of radiation and the exposure of large populations.

Could Israel consider such an accident a "tolerable risk," even if its probability is very low? I doubt it. Despite its many advantages, nuclear energy is just not suitable for Israel.

If so, what are the alternatives? First and foremost, Israel must initiate a determined and intensive national campaign to conserve energy in industry, agriculture and the home. Secondly, we should initiate intensive study and investment in the development of alternative nonpolluting energy sources, particular solar and wind. Israel has few natural resources, but we do have copious amounts of free sunshine. Israel has clean and safe energy alternatives that can meet a major portion of its future needs, even if not all, and it should begin now to work on developing them, despite the efforts of some elements with economic interests to pull in other directions.

Prof. Hillel Shuval heads the department of environmental health sciences at the Hadassah College of Technology, Jerusalem. He is a former member of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission's committee responsible for evaluating the environmental hazards of nuclear energy.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

RECLAIMING A HISTORICAL TRUTH

THE DELIBERATE DEPOPULATION OF ARAB VILLAGES WAS A HALLMARK OF THE ARAB CAMPAIGN. IN DECEMBER 1947, VILLAGERS IN THE TUL KARM SUB-DISTRICT WERE ORDERED OUT BY LOCAL LEADERS.

BY EFRAIM KARSH

I agree with Shlomo Avineri, in his op-ed "Zionism needs no propaganda" (Haaretz English Edition, May 23 ), that the tragedy befalling the Palestinian Arabs in 1948 was exclusively of their own making, and that there is therefore "a grave moral defect in the Nakba discourse."

I am surprised, however, by his assertion that "despite decades of research, to this day no document or broadcast has been found confirming ... [any order] by the Arab leadership for the population to leave." This claim couldn't be further from the truth. While most Palestinian Arabs needed little encouragement to take to the road, large numbers of them were driven from their homes by their own leaders and/or the "Arab Liberation Army" that had entered Palestine prior to the end of the Mandate, whether out of military considerations or in order to prevent them from becoming citizens of the prospective Jewish state. Of this there is an overwhelming and incontrovertible body of contemporary evidence - intelligence briefs, captured Arab documents, press reports, personal testimonies and memoirs, and so on and so forth.

In the largest and best-known example of Arab-instigated exodus, tens of thousands of Arabs were ordered or bullied into leaving the city of Haifa (on April 21-22 ) on the instructions of the Arab Higher Committee, the effective "government" of the Palestinian Arabs. Only days earlier, Tiberias' 6,000-strong Arab community had been similarly forced out by its own leaders, against local Jewish wishes (a fortnight after the exodus, Sir Alan Cunningham, the last British high commissioner of Palestine, reported that the Tiberias Jews "would welcome [the] Arabs back" ). In Jaffa, Palestine's largest Arab city, the municipality organized the transfer of thousands of residents by land and sea; in Jerusalem, the AHC ordered the transfer of women and children, and local gang leaders pushed out residents of several neighborhoods, while in Beisan the women and children were ordered out as Transjordan's Arab Legion dug in.

Avineri mentions the strenuous Jewish efforts to persuade the Haifa Arabs to stay but not the AHC's order to leave - which was passed on to the local leadership by phone and secretly recorded by the Haganah. Nor does he note the well-documented efforts of Haifa's Arab leadership to scaremonger their hapless constituents, reluctant in the extreme to leave, into fleeing. Some Arab residents received written threats that, unless they left town, they would be branded as traitors deserving of death. Others were told they could expect no mercy from the Jews.

In the words of a British intelligence report: "After the Jews had gained control of the town, and in spite of a subsequent food shortage, many would not have responded to the call for a complete evacuation but for the rumors and propaganda spread by the National Committee members remaining in the town. Most widespread was a rumor that Arabs remaining in Haifa would be taken as hostages by [the] Jews in the event of future attacks on other Jewish areas: and an effective piece of propaganda with its implied threat of retribution when the Arabs recapture the town, is that [those] people remaining in Haifa acknowledged tacitly that they believe in the principle of a Jewish State."

Nor was this phenomenon confined to Palestinian cities. The deliberate depopulation of Arab villages too, and their transformation into military strongholds was a hallmark of the Arab campaign from the onset of hostilities. As early as December 1947, villagers in the Tul Karm sub-district were ordered out by their local leaders, and in mid-January Haganah intelligence briefs reported the evacuation of villages in the Hula Valley to accommodate local gangs and newly arrived ALA forces.

By February, this phenomenon had expanded to most parts of the country, gaining considerable momentum in April and May as Arab forces throughout Palestine were being comprehensively routed. On April 18, the Haganah's intelligence branch in Jerusalem reported a fresh general order to remove the women and children from all villages bordering Jewish localities. Twelve days later, its Haifa counterpart reported an ALA directive to evacuate all Arab villages between Tel Aviv and Haifa in anticipation of a new general offensive. In early May, as fighting intensified in the eastern Galilee, local Arabs were ordered to transfer all women and children from the Rosh Pina area, while in the Jerusalem sub-district, Transjordan's Arab Legion ordered the emptying of scores of villages.

To sum up, Zionism needs no propaganda to buttress its case, yet the historical truth needs to be reclaimed after decades of relentless distortion.

Efraim Karsh is research professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College London, director of the Middle East Forum (Philadelphia ) and author, most recently, of "Palestine Betrayed."

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

EDITORIAL

GOV. CUOMO AND PUBLIC PENSIONS

Gov. Andrew Cuomo campaigned for office vowing to reduce the ruinous growth in New York State's public pensions, and on Wednesday he offered a strong set of proposals that would also rein in New York City's skyrocketing costs. Although unions howled, such sacrifice is essential to preserve the state's and the city's most essential services. It is also fair that New York's public workers — long cosseted by Albany — share more of the burden.

Over the last decade, the state's pension costs have risen tenfold, and the city's have risen nearly eightfold, largely because lawmakers were eager to curry favor with public employee unions, which are among their most generous campaign contributors.

While schoolchildren crammed into crowded classrooms and poor families lost medical coverage, public employees preserved better benefits than those in many other states and did far better than private-sector workers.

The State Constitution prohibits reducing the pensions of existing employees, so Mr. Cuomo's plan would create a new pension tier for newly hired employees. It would raise the retirement age to 65 from 62, end early retirement and require employees to contribute 6 percent of their pay to their pensions, the national norm for public employees and double the current level. (The retirement age for teachers would rise to 65 from the current 57.)

Employees would have to work 12 years instead of 10 to qualify for a pension. The proposal would end the widespread practice of padding pensions with overtime earned in the last year of a career. Many of these limits would also apply to newly hired teachers, New York City workers and, significantly, police and fire employees, who have long enjoyed extraordinarily generous pension benefits.

If enacted, Mr. Cuomo's proposals would save the city $30 billion over 30 years, while the state and other public employers would save $93 billion.

Unlike many Republican governors who are using runaway costs as an excuse to destroy unions, Mr. Cuomo is not trying to end collective-bargaining rights or impose draconian cuts. Still, his argument would be even stronger if he were not also capping property taxes and ending the tax surcharge on high incomes.

Mr. Cuomo is certainly asking for far less than Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. Mr. Christie is trying to push through a proposal that would raise pension contributions for most state employees to 7.5 percent over the next seven years — up from the current 5.5 percent, which is close to the national average. He also wants to require uniformed public safety employees to pay 10 percent to their pensions, up from 8.5 percent.

Those changes would apply to current employees, not just future ones. Mr. Christie starts off with a lower base of trust, since, unlike New York, New Jersey has routinely failed to make its legally required pension payments.

New York union officials aren't looking beyond their own grievances, and they predictably blasted Mr. Cuomo's plan. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. claimed it would dissuade people from entering public service. That seems highly unlikely.

Some of the criticism is the usual positioning that takes place outside the negotiating room. Inside, however, the unions need to think hard about these proposals and realize that the welfare of their members depends on the financial health of the state. On Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo also initiated plans to lay off 9,800 state workers beginning July 15 if unions don't agree to $450 million in cuts to salaries, health benefits and pensions. The unions may want to start taking the governor very seriously.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

COULD IT HAPPEN HERE?

The deadly outbreak of food-borne illnesses in Germany may seem a distant threat, especially since that strain of E. coli bacteria has never caused an outbreak here. Don't get complacent.

Germs have a way of traveling, and this country's safety systems, though much improved, are still not set up to detect and prevent the spread of such rare, but dangerous, forms of a common infectious agent.

The outbreak in Europe has caused 2,900 cases of illness, mostly in Germany, including more than 750 cases of kidney failure and 27 deaths. German health authorities first blamed imported cucumbers and other produce from Spain. Then they blamed bean sprouts from an organic farm in Germany but have failed to find the tell-tale DNA evidence needed to be sure. There is a good chance they may never pin down the cause as people forget exactly what they ate weeks ago, contaminated food is thrown away and farm and factory equipment is disinfected.

In the mid-1990s, the United States instituted a tough regulatory program to control E. coli in meat after hundreds of people became sick and four children died from eating contaminated hamburgers at Jack in the Box restaurants. Meat producers have to test their products and take other measures to keep that common strain out of the food supply. Federal regulators can impose a mandatory recall if any tainted meat escapes into the marketplace. But the regulations do not cover rarer forms of E. coli.

Early this year, the Agriculture Department proposed to regulate six rare strains that are already implicated in causing illnesses here. Its proposal has been languishing at the Office of Management and Budget. To be effective, the final regulation must ban the sale of ground beef containing the pathogens and require recalls of contaminated products. It should be expanded to include the strain now causing sickness in Europe.

Fresh produce, the probable source of the German outbreak, has been even less adequately regulated. The responsible agency, the Food and Drug Administration, has long had fewer resources and authority than its counterparts did at the U.S.D.A. Under a new food-safety law enacted just months ago, the F.D.A. was given expanded powers to require food producers and processors to develop safety plans, conduct more frequent inspections domestically and abroad and order recalls of tainted foods.

The problem now is getting adequate financing for this effort when Congress and state and local governments are set on cutting spending. Ensuring the safety of the food we eat is not a luxury. It's an essential service.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

BUDGETING FOR INSECURITY

House Republicans talk tough on terrorism. So we can find no explanation — other than irresponsibility — for their vote to slash financing for eight antiterrorist programs. Unless the Senate repairs the damage, New York City and other high-risk localities will find it far harder to protect mass transit, ports and other potential targets.

The programs received $2.5 billion last year in separate allocations. The House has cut that back to a single block grant of $752 million, an extraordinary two-thirds reduction. The results for high-risk areas would be so damaging — with port and mass transit security financing likely cut by more than half — that the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King of New York, voted against the bill as "an invitation to an attack."

In the House debate, Republicans made clear that budget-cutting trumped all other concerns. While some argued that there was money left over from previous years to cover foreseeable needs, the Obama administration stressed that this is money already earmarked at the grass-roots level for first-responder training and detection programs for explosive and biological threats.

Programs that would likely take a big hit include the high-risk cities program, developed after Sept. 11, 2001, to ensure that New York City and other likely targets get help. One $270 million cut, voted separately, would eliminate 5,000 airport-screening jobs across the country, according to the Transportation Security Administration. There, the Republicans delivered patently partisan blows, insisting, once again, that the agency's 44,000 screeners must not be given collective-bargaining rights.

Republicans had second thoughts about their call to cut $460 million from an $800 million program to bolster the first-responder training and equipment for firefighters — a move that would mean a loss of 2,200 firefighter jobs. They adopted a Democratic measure that would provide $660 million.

Are these really the programs to be cutting? The nation needs the Senate to stand up for security over politics.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHAT THEY THINK IN MASSACHUSETTS

Discount most of what you hear from Republican critics about the alleged failures of health care reform in Massachusetts, the template for the national reform law. The people who should know best — residents of Massachusetts — have just given their state's reform law, which was enacted in 2006, a strong vote of confidence.

A poll by the Harvard School of Public Health and The Boston Globe found that 63 percent of the residents supported the state reforms, up 10 percentage points from 2009. Only 21 percent opposed it. Support varied by party, with 77 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents and 40 percent of Republicans supporting the law.

The element of the reform law that is most vilified in political discourse — a mandate that most people buy insurance or pay a fine — lost popularity over the past three years. Even so, 51 percent of Massachusetts residents still supported the mandate while 44 percent opposed it.

As for their actual medical care, there were remarkably few complaints. Among those polled who had heard of the law, only small percentages, ranging from 13 percent to 17 percent, said the law is hurting the quality of care they receive, lengthening the time it takes to get a doctor's appointment or harming their ability to pay medical bills. However, 30 percent said the reforms had driven up the cost of their own care and 20 percent blamed the law for driving up health care costs throughout the state. The most important takeaway from the poll is that after five years of real-life experience, support for reform in Massachusetts is strong and growing stronger. Support for the national reform is apt to follow the same trajectory.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HOW TYRANTS ENDURE

BY BRUCE BUENO DE MESQUITA AND ALASTAIR SMITH

WHY do certain dictators survive while others fall? Throughout history, downtrodden citizens have tried to throw off the yoke of their oppressors, but revolutions, like those sweeping through the Arab world, are rare.

Despotic rulers stay in power by rewarding a small group of loyal supporters, often composed of key military officers, senior civil servants and family members or clansmen. A central responsibility of these loyalists is to suppress opposition to the regime. But they only carry out this messy, unpleasant task if they are well rewarded. Autocrats therefore need to ensure a continuing flow of benefits to their cronies.

If the dictator's backers refuse to suppress mass uprisings or if they defect to a rival, then he is in real trouble. That is why successful autocrats reward their cronies first, and the people last. As long as their cronies are assured of reliable access to lavish benefits, protest will be severely suppressed. Once the masses suspect that crony loyalty is faltering, there is an opportunity for successful revolt. Three types of rulers are especially susceptible to desertion by their backers: new, decrepit and bankrupt leaders.

Newly ensconced dictators do not know where the money is or whose loyalty they can buy cheaply and effectively. Thus, during transitions, revolutionary entrepreneurs can seize the moment to topple a shaky new regime.

Even greater danger lurks for the aging autocrat whose cronies can no longer count on him to deliver the privileges and payments that ensure their support. They know he can't pay them from beyond the grave. Decrepitude slackens loyalty, raising the prospects that security forces will sit on their hands rather than stop an uprising, giving the masses a genuine chance to revolt. This is what brought about the end of dictatorships in the Philippines, Zaire and Iran.

In addition to rumors of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's and Hosni Mubarak's health concerns, Tunisia and Egypt suffered serious economic problems that kindled rebellion. Grain and fuel prices were on the rise, unemployment, particularly among the educated, was high and, in Egypt's case, there had been a substantial decline in American aid (later reinstated by President Obama). Mr. Mubarak's military backers, beneficiaries of that aid, worried that he was no longer a reliable source of revenue.

As money becomes scarce, leaders can't pay their cronies, leaving no one to stop the people if they rebel. This is precisely what happened during the Russian and French revolutions and the collapse of communist rule in Eastern Europe — and why we predicted Mr. Mubarak's fall in a presentation to investors last May.

Today's threat to Bashar al-Assad's rule in Syria can be seen in much the same light. With a projected 2011 deficit of approximately 7 percent of G.D.P., declining oil revenue and high unemployment among the young, Mr. Assad faces the perfect conditions for revolution. He may be cracking heads today, but we are confident that either he will eventually enact modest reforms or someone will step into his shoes and do so.

Contagion also plays an important part in revolutionary times. As people learn that leaders in nearby states can't buy loyalty, they sense that they, too, may have an opportunity. But it does not automatically lead to copycat revolutions. In many nations, particularly the oil-rich Gulf States, either there has been no protest or protest has been met with violence. In Bahrain, for example, 60 percent of government revenue comes from the oil and gas sector; its leaders have therefore faced few risks in responding to protests with violent oppression.

This is because resource-rich autocrats have a reliable revenue stream available for rewarding cronies — and repression does not jeopardize this flow of cash. Natural resource wealth explains why the octogenarian Robert Mugabe shows no sign of stepping down in Zimbabwe and the oil-rich Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has given little hint of compromise from the start in Libya. As NATO bombs fall on Tripoli, however, Colonel Qaddafi is discovering that he needs to convince remaining loyalists that he can re-establish control over Libya's oil riches or they, too, will turn on him. Sadly, if the rebels win, they are also likely to suppress freedom to ensure their control over oil wealth.

Regimes rich in natural resources or flush with foreign aid can readily suppress freedom of speech, a free press and, most important, the right to assemble. By contrast, resource-poor leaders can't easily restrict popular mobilization without simultaneously making productive work so difficult that they cut off the tax revenues they need to buy loyalty.

Such leaders find themselves between a rock and a hard place and would be wise to liberalize preemptively. This is why we expect countries like Morocco and Syria to reform over the next few years even if their initial response to protest is repression. The same incentive for democratization exists in many countries that lack a natural reservoir of riches like China and Jordan — a bad omen for authoritarian rulers and good news for the world's oppressed masses.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith are professors of politics at New York University and the authors of "The Dictator's Handbook."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

POLITICIANS BEHAVING WELL

BY DAVID BROOKS

One reason many politicians behave badly these days is that we spend less time thinking about what it means to behave well. This was less of a problem in past centuries when leaders, teachers and clergy held detailed debates over what it meant to have good character.

In the 18th century, for example, Edmund Burke composed a long, famous passage defining the standards of political excellence:

"... To be taught to respect one's self; to be habituated to the censorial inspection of the public eye; ... to have leisure to read, to reflect, to converse; to be enabled to draw the court and attention of the wise and learned, wherever they are to be found; to be habituated in armies to command and to obey; ... to be led to a guarded and regulated conduct, from a sense that you are considered as an instructor of your fellow citizens in their highest concerns, and that you act as a reconciler between God and man. ..."

In the 19th century, Anthony Trollope wrote a series of popular novels fussing over what it means to behave well in political life. Trollope's view was different than ours. Many Americans today assume that people are born with a good Inner Self but get corrupted by politics. American voters are always looking for the Innocent Outsider who can come in and bring sweeping change.

Trollope admired Prudent Insiders, not Innocent Outsiders. His most admirable characters have been educated by long experience. They have grown mature by exercising responsibility. They have been ennobled by custom and civilization. In his books, powerless outsiders often behave self-indulgently and irresponsibly. Those who are in government have to grapple with the world as it really is.

The central tension in Trollope's novel "Phineas Finn" is between independence and service. The title character is an Irish outsider who comes into Parliament vowing to be true to his individual conscience. "Let me assure you I wouldn't change my views in politics either for you or for the Earl," Finn tells a party leader early on.

But he enters a Legislature filled with insiders, some of whom are virtuous and some of whom are not. Finn has to either chart his own course or allow himself to be put in harness for the good of the common effort.

Trollope seems to have a passing admiration for Finn's independence. Finn is a charming, good-natured man. But he is never really tested by power. He grades himself on a curve, never really facing up to his weaknesses. Being an amateur in life, he can afford to be unsteady in his affections, and rely on good looks instead of strength of character.

Trollope's ideal politicians — who have names like Plantagenet Palliser, Joshua Monk and the Duke of St. Bungay — put service before independence. Their party and their country have asked them to accept certain duties and face certain problems, and they just get on with it. They are more weighty, but also more boring.

Trollope's ideal politicians share certain traits. They are reserved, prudent and scrupulous. They immerse themselves in dull practical questions like, say, converting the currency system.

They are not sweeping thinkers, but they make sensitive discriminations about the people and the circumstances around them. They learn to operate within the constraints imposed by their idiom, and they don't whine or complain about those constraints. They develop delicate understandings of what is required in a given place in time.

Trollope's ideal leaders are not glamorous celebrities of the sort we have come to long for since J.F.K. They are more like seamen or carpenters. They are judged by their professional craftsmanship.

They are thin-skinned about any moral transgression they might commit and rigorously honest when judging themselves. They try to make things better but are acutely aware that everything they do might make things worse. As Shirley Robin Letwin wrote in her book "The Gentleman in Trollope," the Duke of St. Bungay had "modest expectations of his fellow men," but he was never cynical. Trollope's leaders don't embrace change quickly but have to be dragged into embracing it after much interrogation, and the change they prefer is incremental.

Trollope praises one of his prime ministers, Plantagenet Palliser, for "that exquisite combination of conservatism and progress which is [his country's] present strength and her best security for the future."

Trollope's readers would have come away from his books with a certain model for how practical people should behave, which they could either copy or argue with. I'm not sure his exemplars could thrive amid the TV politics of today, which calls for grand promises and bold colors. But there are prudent, reserved people in government even now. And if more people spent their evenings at least thinking about what exemplary behavior means, they might be less likely to find themselves sending out emotionally stunted tweets late at night.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

RULE BY RENTIERS

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

The latest economic data have dashed any hope of a quick end to America's job drought, which has already gone on so long that the average unemployed American has been out of work for almost 40 weeks. Yet there is no political will to do anything about the situation. Far from being ready to spend more on job creation, both parties agree that it's time to slash spending — destroying jobs in the process — with the only difference being one of degree.

Nor is the Federal Reserve riding to the rescue. On Tuesday, Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, acknowledged the grimness of the economic picture but indicated that he will do nothing about it.

And debt relief for homeowners — which could have done a lot to promote overall economic recovery — has simply dropped off the agenda. The existing program for mortgage relief has been a bust, spending only a tiny fraction of the funds allocated, but there seems to be no interest in revamping and restarting the effort.

The situation is similar in Europe, but arguably even worse. In particular, the European Central Bank's hard-money, anti-debt-relief rhetoric makes Mr. Bernanke sound like William Jennings Bryan.

What lies behind this trans-Atlantic policy paralysis? I'm increasingly convinced that it's a response to interest-group pressure. Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else's expense.

Of course, that's not the way what I call the Pain Caucus makes its case. Instead, the argument against helping the unemployed is framed in terms of economic risks: Do anything to create jobs and interest rates will soar, runaway inflation will break out, and so on. But these risks keep not materializing. Interest rates remain near historic lows, while inflation outside the price of oil — which is determined by world markets and events, not U.S. policy — remains low.

And against these hypothetical risks one must set the reality of an economy that remains deeply depressed, at great cost both to today's workers and to our nation's future. After all, how can we expect to prosper two decades from now when millions of young graduates are, in effect, being denied the chance to get started on their careers?

Ask for a coherent theory behind the abandonment of the unemployed and you won't get an answer. Instead, members of the Pain Caucus seem to be making it up as they go along, inventing ever-changing rationales for their never-changing policy prescriptions.

While the ostensible reasons for inflicting pain keep changing, however, the policy prescriptions of the Pain Caucus all have one thing in common: They protect the interests of creditors, no matter the cost. Deficit spending could put the unemployed to work — but it might hurt the interests of existing bondholders. More aggressive action by the Fed could help boost us out of this slump — in fact, even Republican economists have argued that a bit of inflation might be exactly what the doctor ordered — but deflation, not inflation, serves the interests of creditors. And, of course, there's fierce opposition to anything smacking of debt relief.

Who are these creditors I'm talking about? Not hard-working, thrifty small business owners and workers, although it serves the interests of the big players to pretend that it's all about protecting little guys who play by the rules. The reality is that both small businesses and workers are hurt far more by the weak economy than they would be by, say, modest inflation that helps promote recovery.

No, the only real beneficiaries of Pain Caucus policies (aside from the Chinese government) are the rentiers: bankers and wealthy individuals with lots of bonds in their portfolios.

And that explains why creditor interests bulk so large in policy; not only is this the class that makes big campaign contributions, it's the class that has personal access to policy makers — many of whom go to work for these people when they exit government through the revolving door. The process of influence doesn't have to involve raw corruption (although that happens, too). All it requires is the tendency to assume that what's good for the people you hang out with, the people who seem so impressive in meetings — hey, they're rich, they're smart, and they have great tailors — must be good for the economy as a whole.

But the reality is just the opposite: creditor-friendly policies are crippling the economy. This is a negative-sum game, in which the attempt to protect the rentiers from any losses is inflicting much larger losses on everyone else. And the only way to get a real recovery is to stop playing that game.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE NAZI-ERGENEKON-JEWISH-PKK-AND-EVERYTHING-ELSE GANG

BURAK BEKDİL

In Sunday's elections, we expect about 25 million Turks to conspire with Israel against the incumbent Justice and Development Party, or AKP. And not only with Israel, but also with the Ergenekon gang, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and the deceased leader of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, İsmet İnönü, a Turkish Nazi who rushed to recognize the state of Israel in 1948. And this all-crime-emporium has a wing operating from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Sounds schizophrenic? Just AKP rhetoric.

Since The Economist in its June 2 issue urged the Turkish electorate to vote for the CHP, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has at least a dozen times accused the newsweekly of being part of an international gang supported by Israel, a conspiracy that aims to topple Turkey's democratically elected government. Sound familiar? Precisely! Hundreds of people have been in jail for several years on exactly the same charges – the famous Ergenekon gang.

The Economist is lucky not to be within the reach of Turkish tax controllers. That article might have cost the newspaper a good couple of billion dollars. And its editors are lucky not to be within the jurisdiction of Ergenekon prosecutors.

It was not a coincidence that in March liberal (read: pro-AKP) commentator Cengiz Çandar wrote that, "Those who bash Turkey with the pretext of violation of press freedoms are friends of Israel," which in that timeframe included the European Parliament, Reporters Without Borders, the New York Times and Washington Post.

According to EU Minister Egemen Bağış, the criticism of the AKP is the work of "dark elites who control international media." Mr Bağış has another description of the culprits: An alliance under the umbrella of mafia gangs. But three other AKP ministers directly blamed Israel for the international press criticism over Mr Erdoğan's now-too-visible autocratic rhetoric and behavior.

In fact, Mr Erdoğan's response to criticism from the "international gang operated by Israel" is the best proof that he is exactly the man the "gang" views him as. All the same, Mr Erdoğan is a man of his words. Several years ago Mr Erdoğan said he would get off the democracy train when it took him to the right stop. With his third successive election victory he is simply packing up and getting ready to disembark.

At election rallies, Mr Erdoğan wanted to discredit the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, by reminding the crowds that former Prime Minister İnönü's CHP government recognized Israel at its inception. Which means that Mr Erdoğan thinks Turkey should not have recognized Israel. It's never too late, esteemed prime minister: After polls, you can always officially join the Hamas-Hezbollah-Mullah alliance and stop the recognition of Israel.

But surprisingly a new wing of the international gang of dark elites and mafia controlled by Israel emerged this week. Surprisingly, because this dark elite is not a Western publication. It flags itself as the Tehran Times, and its self-stated policy is that "the newspaper must be a loud voice of the Islamic Revolution and the loudspeaker of the oppressed people."

An editorial in the Tehran Times said that for the sake of Turkish democracy it would be better if Mr Erdoğan failed to achieve the parliamentary supermajority that would enable him to single-handedly amend the constitution (Turkey's electoral choice, Tehran Times, June 6, 2011).

But is it not amazing news that a "loudspeaker of Iran's Islamic Revolution" is also a part of an Israeli-operated conspiracy that aims to topple Mr Erdoğan's government?

Fortunately none of that can stop Mr Erdoğan's landslide victory on Sunday. The prime minister already talks about his plans for his third term in office. One of his fresh ideas is to appoint deputy ministers who will coordinate the work between ministers and undersecretaries.

Mr Erdoğan said an elementary school degree would qualify one for the job. But why discriminate against the illiterate? I hope Mr Erdoğan revises his decision and opens the position to everyone including illiterates provided that the applicant is a good Muslim and (forgive the tautology) hates Jews.

It is not a secret that the prime minister also hopes to upgrade our democracy to a presidential system. Here, I would suggest that a better idea could be to upgrade our democracy to a sultanate system with hereditary rules. Elections and voting? Easy. We can always copy the Baath system and allow the electorate to vote for different candidates appointed by the Sultan. Under this perfectly democratic system, ideally, the democratic race will be between the good candidates, not between the AKP and bad parties operated by an international gang controlled by Israel.

The EU? Forget it. Mr Erdoğan said on Wednesday that the EU is too weak and contaminated by religious fascism. Democrats don't need alliances contaminated by religious fascism. 

Note to the curious poster who was asking how much shekels I was paid for the previous two articles in this column: First, I generally get my checks in dollars or euros. But between me and you, recently the Israeli Embassy has been delaying my monthly payments, and I am thinking about suing them.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SYRIA… PLEASE AVOID THE MILITARY OPTION

YUSUF KANLI

The number of refugees seeking shelter in Turkey from attacks by their own government's troops has exceeded 1,000. It appears this number may increase greatly the days and weeks ahead. There is no visa regime in travel between Turkey and Syria, anyhow. While Turkey started a "determined program" of integration with Europe back in 1963, almost 50 years later Turks cannot travel to European countries without obtaining first a very difficult visa, yet Turkey has been integrating with its eastern Muslim neighborhood, waiving visa requirement in travel. Still, for the government in Ankara there has been no shift in Turkey's orientation.

Turkey's east, however, is boiling. A spring is blowing in the Arab streets. Governments are in futile efforts to resist change the sails of which are filled with an endorsement of the "international community" or the United States-led coalition of the willing in the United Nations, the European Union and of course the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Americans are putting Yemen in order. There the trouble makers are Islamist radicals, al-Qaeda says the U.S. and thus the Americans are intensifying their attacks on the rebel forces in a bid to keep them from consolidating power as the impoverished Gulf Arab country's government teeters.

The U.S. is using drones, fighter jets, no combat troops as any body bag sent home would further hamper the already frail ratings of Barrack Obama, in pounding and trying to stop the advance of rebels.

In Libya, Washington and its NATO allies were pulled into a mess thanks to the gigantic ambitions of the small man of the Elyse Palace, President Nikolas Sarkozy. Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül was busy with electioneering and was absent at a crucial NATO defense ministers council meeting in Brussels that ended yesterday. At the meeting the ministers agreed to extend the mandate of the Libya operation by a further three months in determination not to allow the "cruel" Moammar Gadhafi to kill his own people. But should the U.N. planes, choppers and missiles kill Libyans instead? NATO's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as well as Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, the chairman of the Military Committee, were pretty sure civilian casualty claims of the Gadhafi regime were unsubstantiated and since there were no confirmed figures they believed there were no civilian casualties. Do they believe in what they are saying? Probably, but I did not.

The Libya mandate was extended by a further three months but what was the mandate indeed? Well, according to Rasmussen to enforce implementation of the Security Council resolution. How? Will it be possible to achieve a ceasefire, stop bloodshed and establish normalcy in the North African country while Gadhafi stays on? Would Gadhafi ever surrender? No. Then, is the mandate of NATO forces to kill Gadhafi? Rasmussen and Admiral Di Paola deliver a categorical "No" reply but their eyes say "Sure, if we can, we will be delighted to have killed Gadhafi…"

Why Gadhafi is the enemy? Because he has been killing his own people. Obviously there is no wall or boundary in front of human rights and liberties and irrespective where they are no government should have the right to kill its own people.

But, what about Bahrain? Was it not the Saudis who helped out the government there to force back into their houses the Bahrainis who took to the streets to express their opposition to their government? And in Yemen? Do the rebels deserve to be killed by American bombs there because they have some radical Islamism behind their action?

Confusing, is it not?

Now, we have a very serious escalation in Syria. The government claimed some 120 security personnel were murdered by a mob, which is as well described by the coalition of the willing of the Americans as "opposition group." The opposition groups refused. The counter charge was that those security people were trying to desert the Syrian army and were killed by their comrades in arms.

Every day scores of people, civilians or security forces, are reported to have been killed. Horrific graphics are pouring out the country. Nothing of course can be kept secret in this age of Twitter and Facebook, but what appears to be genuine and perfectly correct could as well be made up. That is the complication of the electronics age.

Despite reports of increased violence and increasing number of refugees knocking the doors of Turkey and with the support of its coalition of the willing, the U.S. started campaigning for a Security Council resolution against Syria, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu wisely stressed Turkey was against the "military option."

Let's hope that unlike the Libya case where Turkey reluctantly had to join in the NATO operation, Ankara manages to stay out of such a mess, which could have very serious spillover effects on Turkey's own security.

Asked by a reporter "Given the stated purpose for intervening in Libya was to prevent a humanitarian crisis, should NATO intervene in Syria as well?" Rasmussen gave a rather pragmatic and consoling answer that I have to suffice with for now, "We do not have the capacity to solve all the crises in the world."

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

AN ASSERTIVE TURKEY IS NOT WHAT THE WEST WANTS

SEMİH İDİZ

An assertive Turkey acting independently in foreign policy is hardly something the West would want. The traditional formula, for strategic reasons, is for Ankara to be kept at a healthy distance but within the Western fold. This is the idea behind the attitude of countries that want Turkey to be "anchored in the West" by means of a "privileged partnership" with the European Union.

This assumes Turkey is a constant and not a variable. Much of the criticism from those opposing Ankara's bid for EU membership is however embedded in a different world.

Turkey is changing, Europe is changing and the world is changing. What applied five or 10 years ago is less valid as new continents emerge to contest the West's economic and political predominance.

It is clear an EU that still can not act as a collective power in the face of major international crisis, that is increasingly beset with internal squabbling over economic issues, and does not even have the ability to respond to a deadly virus without automatically blaming other members states, is hardly going to have time to consider Turkish membership.

To the contrary the idea of "Turkey in Europe" has become the "bete noire" of the French and Germans, even if this is not the case for the whole of Europe, as the latest survey by the Washington based Pew Research Center indicates. It is therefore unlikely Turks will have much of an appetite to invest more time and energy in the "EU perspective."

The same Pew survey shows only 17 percent of Turks think Turkey's future lies in Europe anyway, which is not surprising when one considers the negativity emanating from the ethnocentric representatives of the "Old Continent."

Given this overall picture one has to question why all of a sudden major Western papers started to call on the Turkish electorate to strengthen the opposition in this Sunday's general elections, in order to ensure the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, does not gain enough seats in parliament to design a new constitution based on its own word vision. What makes this more surprising is that it comes after years of support for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP.

The Christian Science Monitor joined in the chorus on Wednesday with a comment by its editorial board carrying the title "Turkey election: Beware one-party rule." The Monitor said Erdoğan was after a "supermajority in parliament, so he need not consult with other political parties or take a new constitution to the people for approval." 

It added that "what Erdoğan wants would be a disaster." But a disaster for who? That is the crucial question. It will undoubtedly be a disaster for democrats in Turkey who believe in the parliamentary system, and sense Erdoğan's desire to introduce a presidential system will consolidate his dictatorial tendencies, which many abroad are referring to as "the Putinisation of Erdoğan."

It will be a disaster for those who believe in freedom of the press being unencumbered, and who want no interference in their life styles, but are concerned given some negative signals emanating from the government on this score. But there is a problem for such people, and I include myself among them.

This will be Erdoğan's third electoral victory since 2002 when he came to power, and a strong turnout for the AKP that amounts to a landslide will also represent a massive vote of confidence in him, and his policies. The argument that democracy is not the rule of the majority, but where minority's rights are protected against the majority is too subtle for the average AKP voter.

One-party rule in Turkey will also be a disaster for those abroad who want to see this country "anchored in the West but kept at a healthy distance." This is especially the case given Erdoğan's increasingly anti-Western tone reminiscent of Malaysia's Mahathir Mohammed.

The Pew Survey indicates that 62 percent of Turks believe Erdoğan is on the right track in terms of his foreign policy orientation. But that orientation has raised the hackles in Washington and European capitals. His positive approach to Iran and Hamas and his negative approach to Israel are cases in point here.

It will therefore not be a surprise if Erdoğan starts manifesting a "devil take the West" attitude if he feels there is no change in Europe's approach towards Ankara's EU bid, no justice to be sought in the West for the Palestinians, or fair treatment to be expected for Turkish Cypriots.

With his popularity in the Middle East at a peak, as the Pew Survey shows, and with an economy that continues to grow (and the projections, for all the concerns being expressed by some analysts, is that it will remain on track) it is also unlikely Erdoğan will feel he needs the EU as much as some in the West maintain he does.

There are those who point to the fact that Europe is Turkey's main export market and principle source of investment, as a counter argument.  But what is involved there is business and not politics, and it is unlikely that the economic dimension will suffer if the right environment and conditions are provided for foreign investors.

The fact Erdoğan announced on Wednesday a new "EU Ministry" will be established after his party wins the elections does not belie the argument about the EU here either. There is already sufficient interaction between Turkey and the EU merits a ministry, even if membership negotiations are stalled.

There is an irony for the West as Erdoğan rolls back the power of the "Kemalist strongholds," from the military to the judiciary, much to the delight of Europeans and the satisfaction of democrats in this country. The simple fact, however, is that one aspect of that ideology has always been "Western orientation," even if this was selfishly manipulated to continue the privileged position of a certain class to the detriment of the broader Anatolian masses.

In other words we have a case of the baby being thrown out with the bathwater here since the majority of those who are voting for Erdoğan never believed in Turkey's Western orientation.

Ultimately it has always been the "secularists" that are likely to adopt "European values," as opposed to the masses that are more than comfortable with traditional Islamic values.

Those masses, having come to the fore in Turkey now, will now have to discover for themselves what it means to live in an urbanized society where issues from social justice to women's rights, from unencumbered press freedoms to equal job opportunities for all, from minority rights to equal access to health benefits are emerging.

But this discovery process will be being driven more by Turkey's inner dynamics than the EU perspective, whatever locomotive force the EU might have initially provided in terms of reforms. It is therefore unlikely any castigations or exhortations by the Western media or Western governments or institutions are going to have much effect in a one-party Turkey predominated by the AKP.

Turkey is more likely to set its own rules and play according to these, and not according to rules set in Washington or any European capital. Hence the increasing concern in the West about where Turkey is headed.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

UNCOMFORTABLE OTTOMANS

FIRAS MAKSAD - SONER ÇAĞAPTAY

Turks are preparing for general elections on June 12, but it is Turkey's meteoric rise as a regional power that has captured the world's attention. The uprisings sweeping the Arab world have both accentuated and challenged this trend, and how Turkey responds will do much to determine its international identity for years to come.

Since coming to power in 2002, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has adopted a policy of "zero problems" with neighbors, attempting to resolve long-standing disputes and stressing cooperation over confrontation. It launched a rapprochement with Syria and other Arab countries, and, as a result, Turkish-Syrian relations improved dramatically beginning in 2003.

The AKP argued that establishing ties with the Muslim populations around Turkey would endow Ankara with soft power. But the plan had a flaw: In undemocratic states like Syria and Libya, Ankara was not expanding its relationships with the people, but with brutal leaders such as Bashar al-Assad and Moammar Gadhafi. With the Arab Spring toppling tyrants left and right, however, Turkey must not only take into account its relationships with dictators, but also the popular uprisings that challenge these rulers. How the AKP grapples with this conundrum will be the defining issue of Turkish foreign policy for the country's next government.

Syria is an important test case. So far, Ankara has called for al-Assad to reform – but not to step down, even though he has killed more than 1,200 of his citizens, according to human rights organizations. In a June 7 interview, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu reaffirmed that Turkey "looks to the Syrian government as legitimate and has no plans to contact any Syrian opposition groups."

But Turkey is also gradually moving in support of the Syrian people. First, in April, the government facilitated a Syrian opposition news conference held in Istanbul, in which leaders of Syria's Muslim Brotherhood denounced al-Assad's regime. Next, on June 1, the Syrian opposition held a conference in the southern Turkish city of Antalya, which drew significant support from Turkish civil society and was held under state protection. The gathering of about 300 otherwise unorganized Syrian dissidents was perhaps the most serious attempt to construct a viable alternative to the al-Assad family's 40-year rule.

Turkey's coddling of the al-Assad regime was hardly charity work. Back in 2003, the AKP was looking to expand Turkish influence further east, and Syria – which enjoyed clout among Lebanese, Palestinians, and Iraqis – was a logical gateway. At the time, the Syrian leadership appeared to have a firm grip on power domestically, but was under immense international pressure stemming from its suspected involvement in political assassinations in Lebanon, its hosting of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and the flow of foreign fighters from its territory to attack U.S. forces in Iraq. Turkey provided the al-Assad regime with much-needed political and economic relief, helping it emerge from its international isolation and attract much-needed foreign investment – something Syria's long-standing alliance with Iran could not provide.

This confluence of interest was formalized through the first-ever visit by a Syrian president to Turkey in January 2004 and the signing of a strategic partnership treaty between the two countries later that year. The treaty eventually included almost 50 bilateral agreements; trade barriers and visa restrictions between the countries were lifted. In April 2009, the two countries held an unprecedented three-day military exercise and signed a defense cooperation treaty. In return, Syria promoted Turkey's regional ambitions by anointing Ankara in 2008 as chief mediator in its indirect negotiations with Israel, a role much coveted by the French and others. It also did not oppose a greater Turkish role in Lebanese and Palestinian affairs.

The current Syrian uprising brought this burgeoning strategic partnership to a screeching halt. Predominantly Sunni Turkey, especially because of the conservative and Islamist pedigree of the AKP, could not stand idly by as al-Assad, who heads a minority Alawite regime, massacred fellow Sunnis. Turkey also has to contend with the possibility that lasting chaos in northwest Syria would allow Kurdish militants to use the region as a base of operations against it. Such developments not only pose a serious security threat along Turkey's borders, but potentially undercut the AKP's domestic standing ahead of a general election.

Turkey's latest attempt to help organize the opposition also reflects an unmistakable desire to become a power broker in both domestic Syrian politics and the broader Levant. Whether al-Assad falls from power or somehow manages to hold on to his throne remains unclear. Either way, Turkey wants to be intimately involved.

Unlike the United States, Europe, and other regional powers, Turkey enjoys significant leverage with Syria and is uniquely positioned to engineer a "soft landing" for the current uprising. Its economic and military clout, and even its control over sources of water, could be brought to bear if Assad's determination to remain in power threatens Turkish and regional security. For now however, it appears that the AKP's policy of "zero problems" with neighbors has found a modus vivendi: engage with the rulers and popular uprisings alike, with an eye to picking the winner.

If the AKP plays its hand well, the Arab Spring could finally give Turkey the soft power it craves in the Arab world. But Turkey's delicate balancing act between the people and their rulers could also have the opposite result if its ties with despised despots do not keep pace with the aspirations of newly empowered Arab peoples.

As a well-known Turkish expression, with a quaint reference to an Egyptian town, goes, "One might lose his rice while trying to take Damietta." In other words, Turkey could lose both the Arab people and their rulers if it bets on the wrong horse.

*Firas Maksad is a Washington-based political consultant on the Middle East. Soner Çağaptay is the director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. This column originally appeared in Foreign Policy.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DEADLY RANGERS

 

A video that aired on local TV channels late Wednesday night has broken the sense of numbness people have begun to feel towards the daily dose of death and destruction in Karachi. A man in civilian clothes is shown holding an unarmed youth by his hair, kicking him toward a group of five guards from the Sindh Rangers. Under a clear blue sky, one of the Rangers shoots the pleading boy while four others stand watching. The Rangers had earlier claimed the boy was robbing people in the Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Park and was killed in an armed encounter. But the incident was captured on camera and the footage found its way to television channels. This incident of Rangers' brutality is surely not an isolated one. Extra-legal killing by law-enforcement agencies just recently came into the limelight when five unarmed Chechens were brutally killed by the Frontier Constabulary and police on May 17 at a checkpoint in the Quetta locality of Kharotabad. The video footage of the boy's murder amounts to a further indictment of the Rangers.

There is no excuse for the fact that a force whose duty is to defend the law and protect citizens is ruthlessly murdering them. The sanctity of life must be respected, especially by agents of the law. Policemen and soldiers who abuse their uniform should be punished accordingly to serve as a deterrent to others. Thus, those involved in the recent incident must be punished for their heinous crime. The government must institute an immediate investigation into the latest incident and make public its findings, focusing not just on what happened and why, but also on what can be done to ensure law enforcement agencies don't take matters into their own hands in the future. The prime minister has announced a probe in the National Assembly and President Zardari has taken note of the case, as if that matters in any way. The Rangers and the police should fully cooperate to clear their own image as protectors of citizens not perpetrators of death. Tackling impunity among uniformed officers remains a serious challenge for the government which must address the root causes and seek reforms. Citizens deserve respect for their fundamental rights, including the rights to life and dignity of the human person. Unlawful killings by security agencies should stop and perpetrators should be made to face the full wrath of the law. This is the only way to restore public confidence in law-enforcers. The rulers can rest assured that the image of the pleading boy is etched in people's memory and they will be waiting anxiously for justice to be done.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DRONES AND RAIDS

 

In the small hours of Thursday morning there was a third incursion in as many weeks across our north-western borders. Eight soldiers died and 20 were injured defending the Makeen checkpost in North Waziristan; and between 12 and 20 – accounts differ – on the militant side. As on previous occasions, the militants came in a large number, perhaps as many as 150, and were heavily armed. The attack followed a series of drone strikes on Wednesday which targeted what was said to be a training camp in the Shawal Valley, about 75 kilometres northwest of Miramshah. The drones reportedly killed 24 people 'including militants' and wounded many more. Who else besides the militants got wounded and killed, we do not know. Although impossible to verify, reports say that some of the dead militants were Punjabis, some Afghans, and others were local tribals.

It is noteworthy that the militants were able to mount what may be assumed to be a response to the Shawal Valley drone strike in such a short time – under 24 hours. The attack appears to have been mounted, as were the other two which happened recently, from within Afghanistan and is tantamount to a serial invasion of Pakistani territory. Raids such as this do not materialise out of nowhere and we may assume that there were forces ready and able to conduct the strike against the checkpost 'on standby' in Afghanistan. They would have been provisioned and equipped and ready to move at very short notice. In each of the three raids that took place recently, the invaders have suffered significant casualties but this has not lessened their capacity; which suggests that they have plenty in reserve. For Pakistan, the difficulty lies in their point of origin – Afghanistan. It is impossible to believe that nobody on the Afghan side knew about where the raiders were quartered or how they were supplied. This suggests that wherever they may come from is either beyond the control of Kabul or Afghan provincial authorities, or directly in the control of the Afghan Taliban augmented by fellow-travellers from Pakistan. Most likely it is a combination of both. Were the Pakistani forces to undertake 'hot pursuit' there would doubtless be cries of outrage from the Karzai government; and similarly an intelligence-driven raid across the border as a pre-emptive strike would be condemned by all sides. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti has said that the Afghan government is 'equally involved' in the cross-border incident. He may well be right and the threat from the west is of the utmost concern. Be that as it may, it is the drone strikes which have made the threat into a clear and present danger.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BE PREPARED

 

Coming in the direction of Karachi is a tropical cyclone, the first of this year's monsoon season. If, as predicted, the cyclone makes landfall on Friday or Saturday, the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan can expect severe weather. Fisherfolk have been warned to stay close inshore rather than into deep waters and there is a sense that perhaps, and just for a change, the city of Karachi may be a little better prepared for this potentially violent meteorological event than it has been in the past. The City District Government Karachi says that it has established 'Rain Emergency Centres' to provide relief to people in the event of flooding and other rain-associated incidents.

The proof of the pudding is going to be in the eating. Historically, and despite rains and inundations being an annual event in Karachi, the city administrators have been caught ill-prepared. Nullahs have not been cleaned. Sewage pipes have not been unblocked, nor have storm drains been maintained. Illegally erected signboards have come crashing down on cars and pedestrians, and there is a yearly toll of people killed when they touch electricity poles which have become 'live'. One does not have to search very hard to find drains blocked with rubbish and uncovered manholes that become traps for unwary pedestrians, sucked down to their deaths when floodwaters disguise them. The 'Rain Emergency Centres' are only going to be as good as their level of preparedness, and we hope to face the monsoon this year better prepared than we were last year.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

PAKISTAN'S FOREMOST PROBLEM: THE RITES OF BACCHUS

 AYAZ AMIR

 

In a feat of marksmanship that will surely enter the record books, the Frontier Corps valiantly guns down six unarmed Russians near Quetta, including a pregnant woman, and the pall of confusion surrounding the event refuses to lift; the journalist Saleem Shahzad is picked up from a high-security zone in the capital and is tortured to death; an unarmed man is shot dead by Rangers in Karachi and the event is caught on camera but the Rangers insist the man was a dacoit; disorder and mayhem run loose across the land; and their puissant lordships of the Supreme Court (SC), ever-vigilant in defence of the public interest, take suo moto notice of the two bottles of liquor allegedly recovered from the fetching Ms Atiqa Odho – once-upon-a-time showbiz heartthrob, now spear-carrier for the Musharraf League (how the mighty are fallen) – as she was about to board a flight for Karachi.

No one can say we don't have our priorities right.


Article 184(3) of the Constitution confers upon the SC the right to look into matters affecting the public interest. In its zeal to set things right, the SC has leaned heavily, nay exclusively, on this article, giving it an interpretation so liberal as to leave many a renowned jurist befuddled. Notice of Ms Odho's alleged contretemps has also been taken under the same article.


Bottles and the Constitution – could be the title of a future play. If in the past generals, lawyers and PCO-swearing judges have played dice with the Constitution, now comes the turn of comedy. At least we are improving in some respects.


The SC's outrage, we are told, stems from the display of double standards. Recently an air-hostess was booked on the same charge and no leniency was shown to her. Now the law stoops to favour Ms Odho (because of her fetching persona?). The SC has a point but there is reason to fear the worst. Not a more liberal application of a seriously-idiotic law but just the opposite: airport authorities going red in the face if they smell the faintest whiff of liquor or even suspect liquor in a shampoo bottle.


So hip-flaskers beware. The next time they ask for some ice on a PIA flight they are likely to get an earful about Article 184(3) and My Lord the Chief Justice. Far from loosening, the apron strings of morality get that much tighter, at least in the air.


South Asian Islam, from its inception, was a benign form of the faith, a world away from the dry commodity prevalent on the Arabian Peninsula. It was our misfortune that under the aegis of General Ziaul Haq, divine punishment to Pakistan for sins unknown, we imported the peninsular variety of Islam and started making it our own. Ever since that time there has been a serious problem between liquor and the Islamic Republic. The space for a more relaxed version of the faith – in line with our history and traditions, and in line with that immortal line of Ghalib's 'masjid ke zer-e-saya kharabat chahiye'...'in the shadow of the mosque do I seek a cup' (a rough translation) – has progressively eroded.

And the lights are going out one by one. As if we did not have enough darkness to begin with.

Tolerant of every wrongdoing under the sun, our intolerance knows no limits when it comes to what Keats in an inspired moment called "the blushful Hippocrene". To steal and rob and kill is pretty okay and draws no mighty censure, to inhale heroin fairly in public triggers little outrage, but see a man with a bottle and the dogs of war are unleashed.

Not that the citizens of the Islamic Republic have resigned themselves to a dry existence. Perish the thought. Local and foreign, branded and moonshine, healthy and deadly, the amount of liquor consumed in Pakistan could launch a thousand ships.

Bootleggers have made fortunes, our Christian brothers – mostly brothers and few sisters – in small towns like my hometown Chakwal have prospered from making concoctions more suitable for horses than human beings. This is now a vast underground industry which far from facing any threat from the forces of law and order happily flourishes in connivance with them. Consumers and the state are the biggest losers: the first for paying more than they should and, if not well-heeled, imbibing stuff injurious to health physical and spiritual; and the second for the billions in lost revenue.

Why should any of this be strange? This is how it always is. Make a stupid law and instead of reducing crime it will only encourage it. Prohibition in the US was an absurdity, not working and only leading to a culture of more drinking and more lawlessness, Al Capone being the quintessential product of that phase of American history.

Tough anti-narcotics laws in the US are not working, and for much the same reason. The greater the risk in anything the higher the profit. Where a need exists someone will step forward to meet it – one of the immutable laws of human nature.

The many malik sahibs of Pakistan, the many useful malik sahibs of Islamabad who cater to a need no law can eradicate, would go out of business if the liquor laws prevailing, part of Gen Zia's legacy, were made less draconian and brought in some conformity with common sense. This would oust the profits from the trade, making it lose its attraction.

The oldest profession operates on the same timeless principle. Rail against it, excoriate it, there is no getting away from the fact that it fulfils a basic need of human society. For this reason, no one, not the harshest ruler, has succeeded in eliminating it. Sensible societies try to regulate such things. When the oldest profession in Lahore was largely confined to Heera Mandi its contours were known and it was amenable to control. When 'jihad' was declared against it during Gen Zia's time many of the votaries of this profession left their traditional abodes and spread out into the rest of the city. The containable thus became a virus.

The worship of Bacchus – god of wine, and perhaps of laughter – also answers to a deep-seated human need, the desire to break free, even if momentarily, from the confines of conventional order and morality. Under its influence some of the hidden poetry in our souls comes alive, some of our loneliness and smallness when we look up at the heavens is assuaged.

Saudi Arabia has not been able to eliminate drinking altogether. It is possible to get the forbidden nectar in the land of the ayatollahs. And these are two of the harshest regimes on offer. But we should learn from our own experience. We have seen prohibition make a monkey of the law. Who benefits from this hypocrisy? Apart from the police and the smuggling fraternity, it is hard to think of anyone else.

Politicians, many of them, will imbibe but trust them not to have the courage to revisit the impracticality of prohibition. Preferring make-believe, they will continue to hide behind self-righteousness. Their lordships, out to reform so much, could do worse than step into the breach. Instead of training their heaviest cannon on a sparrow, and a delicate one at that, shouldn't they look at the wider ramifications of this vexing subject?

Come to think of it, we are the only democracy in the world, the only one, trying to make a virtue of prohibition. Does some of our intolerance, the readiness to shout and foam at the mouth, flow from this circumstance?

Come to think of another thing, where would the lawyers' movement be without the rites of Bacchus? Should I name my lawyer friends who imbibed the best of Scotland – well, not the best, but you get my point – as they plotted strategy and tactics with regard to the restoration of My Lord the Chief Justice? If the nexus of bench and bar is one of the pillars of the legal edifice, the bench from times immemorial deriving inspiration from the rites of Bacchus, is also one of the enduring features of the same temple.



Email: winlust@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BEFORE KARZAI ARRIVES

 ZAFAR HILALY

 

News that Hamid Karzai will soon be in Islamabad prompted a friend to say that it's time for us to get our own act together and start exerting ourselves fully for the peace process, as it means so much for our future. He's right: unless all players are onboard and throw in their weight with equal measure, the war will drag on without a closure in sight. We need an end to the war more desperately than others do, if only because our TTP problem has inexorably shifted the Afghan war to Pakistan. Alas, given the stated positions of the two main protagonists – the Afghan Taliban and the US – nothing of the sort is in the offing, not by a long shot.

Indeed, it will be a Herculean endeavour to get all the sides on to the peace table. The Afghan Taliban have said that their resistance will not end as long as US/IFAD forces remain in Afghanistan, whereas the Americans say they may never leave Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the prospect of substantial withdrawal of US forces next month under the phased plan seems doubtful.

So, just when it seemed that the killing of Osama bin Laden, the disbandment of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and American feelers for talks with the Taliban had created a propitious climate for peace talks, the two sides still remain poles apart.

Nevertheless, despite the posturing by both sides, the view that this war has no military solution is gaining ground. And, for the moment, let us discard as the usual bluster by Defence Secretary Gates perceptions that US forces are on the verge of securing a "decisive blow" against the Taliban. Who can forget that, decades earlier in Vietnam, another US defence secretary, Robert McNamara, had termed the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive as a "great victory" for the US, although it was one of those seminal events in that war that sealed the outcome against America.

True, the Taliban are under pressure as their traditional sources of revenue from abroad have come under greater scrutiny; and their profits from the drug trade are being squeezed by better controls. The increased fighting during the "surge," and especially the night raids by Special Forces, has caused casualties among their experienced commanders, and even if these were quickly replaced, it must have had hurt their morale and fighting capability. Reports of Taliban foot soldiers taking advantage of US amnesty offers to hand in their weapons also suggest some success. But these are at best marginal gains. Since then, the Taliban have struck back and fighting has seldom been so intense or American casualties greater than in the month of May 2011. Moreover, Taliban recruitment has also not flagged. The truth is that the Taliban will never have a shortage of recruits in a war against foreign occupation.

At the same time, in the US, Congress is desperate to cut costs in deference to domestic priorities; the deeply afflicted economy shows little sign of recovery anytime in the near future and the presidential campaign is gearing up with record unemployment figures being a big headache for Obama. Furthermore, war weariness has grown on both sides of the political aisle; the recent success against Al-Qaeda in Af-Pak has reduced the urgency of relying overwhelmingly on combat operations in Afghanistan, and with the "surge" having failed to live up to its pre-launch hype hawks are more isolated than ever on current Afghan policy. In fact, Sen Lugar has questioned the entire purpose of an expensive war that in his view safeguards no important US interest.

Karzai too is moving harder on peace with the Afghan Taliban hierarchy in the hope of getting his message across. Of late, he has been remarkably uninhibited in his criticism of American military tactics, even issuing a "last warning" if the American military caused any more innocent civilian casualties. He has also managed to loosen the grip of the Northern Alliance by getting rid of two prominent Pakistan-haters in his inner coterie. He has skilfully placed himself at equidistant between the Taliban and their inveterate foes, the Tajiks, thereby making it possible for him to act as a conciliator between them, were that to become necessary during peace negotiations.

Pakistan too is finally getting its act together. The army is taking a manifest interest in the Afghan peace process. Kayani has met Karzai with the aim, no doubt, of removing the bad blood that was so evident between the army and the Kabul regime. And noticeably, whenever he journeys to Kabul, he takes the opportunity of calling on Karzai. It seems we have stopped pretending and woken up to the volcano that the Afghan war has potentially become and which we alone cannot douse by arming or playing off one proxy against another. The OBL and the Mehran fiascos have brought us down to earth by taking away the machismo and aura some within the establishment had built up of our own security apparatus and by laying bare for all to see what our fundamental problem is – it is our strategic extravagance.

Our perceptions of the Afghan Taliban are also changing, though perhaps not as perceptibly as some would like and the Americans have long hoped. The Afghan Taliban are no longer viewed as some kind of irresistible heroes who have a right to rule Afghanistan. Actuallym their nearness to the TTP in demeanour and spirit is a source of increasing concern and resentment. The thought that peace in Afghanistan may not lead to peace at home is slowly, ever so slowly, gaining an audience. Nevertheless, few here cavil that the Taliban remain the leading contenders for a share of power and must be accommodated constitutionally as a political force within a new post settlement security structure.

The fact is that civil conflicts, like in so many cases around the world, especially those burdened by with numerous players and cross-cutting interests and concerns, usually come to some conclusion at the end of a protracted and uneven peace process. So if the Afghan peace process, once it kick-starts, proves to be no different, this should not come as a surprise. The important thing for Pakistan is that it is vitally in its interest to see an end to this debilitating conflict. So much is at stake that it would be utter folly to underestimate its importance and urgency.

Civil conflicts as a rule share broad similarities; they have their own distinct contexts, and therefore there is no "one size fits all" solution. Solutions have to be adapted to the peculiar circumstances of the conflict itself. The process itself may eventually help to bring about flexibility and dynamism. It would be foolish to insist on preconditions or to come with fixed preconceptions. The hardest part is often getting the process started or getting the parties to organise themselves for the process.

The fact is that a zero sum gain (where one side's gain is regarded by the other side as its loss) runs contrary to the concept of a peace process. While war can be a continuation of politics by other means, to quote Clauswitch, a peace process cannot be a continuation of war by other means. War has failed all sides. The only sensible alternative is reconciliation through a peace process.

It is time, therefore, that we got back to the normal business of diplomacy, demanding as it is, rather than persist with any game, great or not, if we are serious about pulling through our worst crisis. The complex Afghan peace process is going to be our biggest litmus test of that and Hamid Karzai's visit to Islamabad this week is as good an opportunity as any to begin the process in earnest.



The writer is a former ambassador.

Email: charles123it@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BALOCHISTAN AND THE

DR QAISAR RASHID

 

Balochistan is a story of broken promises. For example, in December 2009 Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced on the floor of parliament a 39-point package billed as "Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan." Eighteen months later, what supposedly began as a process to give their long-denied rights to the people of Balochistan, and thereby initiate reconciliation in that restive province, turned out to have been a grandly announced false promise. Worse, there is little prospect that the pledges contained in the package will be fulfilled, at least not in the foreseeable future.


Under the package, all political prisoners should have been released, and the cases withdrawn against 89 Baloch political workers facing various charges. These actions were meant to create confidence in the Baloch that the central government intended to remove their grievances. A promise was made of a probe into the killings of Baloch leaders and politicians, including Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the head of the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), Balaach Marri, Ghulam Mohammad, Lala Munir and Munir Ahmed. For the probe to have credibility, it was to have been held by a retired judge of the Supreme Court.


Amid the general absence of transparency in Pakistan, no one can say for certain to what extent these promises have been honoured, if they were honoured at all. What is clear, however, is that the country's largest province in territory remains alienated from the rest of Pakistan. Aside from the package, the Baloch had been given assurances that following the 2008 elections Pakistan would be a different country, one receptive to the complaints of grievances of all its ethnic groups. To this day, the reassurances continue to be rhetoric.

The package also made it mandatory on the federal government to table a report after every three months in parliament on the implementation of the provisions of the package. But is that happening?

The package contained a pledge for a review of the role of the intelligence agencies in Balochistan. No review has taken place, or at least it has not been made public by the government, and that is something to which the disaffected Baloch cannot be expected to take kindly. They are already angrier than ever at the state's coercive tactics through the intelligence agencies, meant to terrorise the Baloch nationalists into submission. It doesn't happen very often for a whole people to be browbeaten into submission; if anything, the Baloch will refuse to yield on what they consider a matter of honour.


It sometimes seems as if the conflict in Balochistan were all about a clash of egos, with the state machinery and the Baloch nationalists waiting to see who blinks first. Surely the state can afford be first in extending a hand of friendship to the nationalists, an act which would be in keeping with the pledges Mr Gilani made in December 2009.

In the Seventh National Finance Commission Award announced the same month, Balochistan was favoured with the incorporation of the criterion of inverse population density. Consequently, Balochistan secured about two percent over and above the financial share it would otherwise have been entitled to receive. That was made possible by the other three provinces and the centre relinquishing some of their own shares, to compensate Balochistan financially for the injustice done to it in the past. The award, with this financial impetus to Balochistan together with the greater autonomy to the provinces, was a positive step forward. But that was about all.

The political aspect of provincial autonomy was handed over to Balochistan through the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 2010. In accordance with Article 161 of the Constitution, the net proceeds of the federal excise duty on natural gas or oil levied at the wellhead and collected by the federal government and of the royalty collected by the federal government is to be paid to the province in which the wellhead is situated. In this way, the ownership right on provincial natural resources, such as oil and gas, was devolved to the provinces.

Under Article 270AA (Clause 6 to 9), the Concurrent Legislative List will be dissolved fully by June 30, to complete the process of devolution of the matters mentioned in the list to the provinces. The question is why the Baloch are not satisfied with those financial and constitutional bids? Perhaps the reason is that the federation's overall attitude towards them is not conciliatory. Political devices such as dialogues, offers and agreements should be applied immediately to Balochistan if the situation there is not to spiral out of control.

Meanwhile, Balochistan will continue to bleed. Until not long ago, one of the gravest problems in Balochistan related to missing persons. Now, it has taken a grisly turn, that of bullet-riddled bodies being discovered around the province. Who is making Baloch politicians "disappear" and who is now executing them is a big question staring in the face of the federation of Pakistan. Meanwhile, the death toll in inter-ethnic violence is rapidly rising as differences between Baloch and non-Baloch mount. The threat to the federation should sound alarm bells in Islamabad, but it apparently isn't.

"Democracy is the best revenge," as the slogan goes. Unfortunately, democracy isn't considered the best solution to the problems in Balochistan. If it were, the province would not have been left at the mercy of the security forces. The pretext of "national security" gives no one the right to resort to violence in a troubled region of Pakistan, not even the security agencies.


Democracy has the potential to work wonders in the resolution of long-standing contentious issues. But democracy is in sharp contrast to authoritarian tactics employed in the name of democracy. Democracy does not mean overemphasis on the application of violent measures in the name of restoration of the writ of the state.

Unless the Balochistan package is implemented in its entirety, exercises such as the NFC Award and the 18th Amendment will be of no avail.


The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: qaisarrashid@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

IN A FREE FALL

SHAFQAT MAHMOOD

 

The embarrassments for the security forces in the country continue. The latest being the killing of a youngster in Karachi by the Rangers. This comes on the heels of the Kharotabad killings in Quetta and allegations of ISI involvement in the murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad.

Grand conspiracy theories cannot explain these. The United States may indeed be warily eying our nuclear assets and making contingency plans to seize them. India may also have a hand in destabilising Balochistan. But can this account for the wanton cruelty and lack of discipline in the police and security forces?

Yes, discipline, because in the end it is a command and control failure. The six Rangers personnel in Karachi who participated in the killing of the alleged thief in cold blood had no fear of accountability. If there were any, they would not have stood by and watched or indeed encouraged one of their men to murder the poor kid.

And they may have gotten away with a manufactured story of an 'encounter' if it wasn't for someone's camera recording the gory episode. How many other such incidents have occurred that were never recorded and were successfully covered up by the superiors? It is this protection or misplaced sense of camaraderie that is the crux of the problem.

The Kharotabad incident is even more gruesome and suggests a greater deterioration of command. Painful is not the word to describe the wanton killing of the poor Chechen men, women and children. The active participation in this slaughter of the police chief and the Frontier Constabulary battalion commander reflects terribly on the quality of leadership in the security forces.

What has gone wrong with us as a nation? We are not a bad people and indeed have much that others can envy. We grow enough food to feed ourselves, have a reasonably educated middle class that can provide leadership in multiple fields, and our industrial base is not great but has a huge potential to grow.

We are also a beautiful country with a diverse landscape, from the tallest mountains in the world to fertile low lands and serenely picturesque deserts. And, we are not a new civilisation. Our history in this place we call home goes back thousands of years. Yet, with all these things going for us, we find ourselves in this frightful mess.

It is no use regurgitating in any great detail the awful mistakes we have made over the last 63 years. There is now a near consensus that our principal failures lie in not investing in the people, in not creating the circumstances for the rule of law to prevail, and in not creating the resource base to finance the state.

The return journey has to begin by correcting these mistakes. Our rapidly expanding population with a massive youth bulge of people under 25 is a liability because of illiteracy and a lack of skills. Our salvation lies in turning this liability into an asset by investing heavily in education and skill development.

It has been said umpteen times before, that a large cache of nuclear weapons could not save the Soviet Union from collapsing. Defining security narrowly as building up security forces and weapon systems is a sure recipe for failure.

The defence budget and debt servicing account for nearly 75 percent of our state expenditure. With this kind of resource allocation there is very little possibility of investing in the people. We have no choice but to put a cap on the money we are investing in weapon systems. If we have a hundred nuclear weapons, that should be at least 50 times enough. We don't need another hundred.

The second massive failure has been not establishing the rule of law. In simple terms the concept means that law is supreme and the same for everyone – rich, poor, civil or military. The arrest of the IMF chief in New York for allegedly assaulting a maid should be a revelation for us. It is a story of one of the most powerful men in the world versus a poor black immigrant woman. We may love to hate America, but this is an example of law's supremacy in that country.

To emerge as a civilised nation we have no choice but to follow the same track. This requires a societal change but it is not as impossible as it sounds. The motorway police have demonstrated it and now the Supreme Court in a number of cases is doing exactly the same. Its actions in the NICL case are an excellent example.

The son of a powerful politician is already behind bars. But, if it results in a sitting minister, somebody like Amin Fahim who took direct cash transfers into his and his family's personal bank accounts, being arrested, it would send out a strong message of rule of law at work.

But, this notion of the law's supremacy cannot only be confined to civilians. It must operate in the armed forces also. Then, it will put the entire nation on the right track. The military always claims that it has a robust mechanism of internal accountability. Let us see that in action. The Rangers personnel involved in this wanton killing in Karachi should be charged with murder, as should the police and FC personnel in Quetta. Let them get a fair trial, but there must be accountability.

It does not stop there. It has been many months since General Kayani ordered an inquiry into mismanagement and perhaps corruption in the NLC affair against a few Generals. This is also test case for the army and indeed for the entire notion of rule of law in the country. No one is suggesting a witch hunt but if there is guilt, the army's internal mechanism of accountability must work.

It is only after the powerful civil and military institutions start demonstrating accountability that the principle of rule of law will take effect. If it does, it will provide the foundation for this country to start on the long road back to salvation. If it does not, nothing can stop us from going under.

The third essential element is creating the ability to finance the state or in simple terms having the ability to pay our bills. Much has been written on it and how it can be done, but unless the ruling class is ready, it will never happen.

The cabinet hooted down a proposal in the current budget to impose an asset tax. This was designed to make the rich pay more for the survival of the country, but the rich sitting in the government decided that they wouldn't. Another example of the elite enjoying the best that this poor country has to offer but not wanting to share its burdens.

Rescuing the country from the dreadful state it is in right now is not complicated. What is required is visionary leadership. Where would this come from?



Email: shafqatmd@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

FOR ENDURING PEACE

M ZEB KHAN

 

 "You must eliminate wars or they will eliminate you," former US president Bill Clinton is reported to have warned. True, but what needs to be done to eliminate wars? What it is that necessitates and feeds wars? The history of the world is replete with instances in which waging of wars is justified in certain extraordinary circumstance.

Rhetoric apart, the prevalent global economic and political systems have within them all that will necessarily lead to conflicts, or wars of a nature which are unprecedented thus far.

Violence erupts when an individual or nation has been pushed to the wall with no options to secure rights. The silence of the victim is construed as peace and tranquillity, obedience is considered as patriotism and good citizenship, and temporary withdrawal is interpreted as defeat by oppressors who see no threat from any quarter.

Their sense of security has origins in the structures put in place to protect and promote their economic and social interests. They think they can do anything at will with impunity. These are all false assumption.

Structures are, no doubt, durable and impersonal but not impregnable. They stand as long as they are supported by the invisible force of justice. Structures may be thought of as paper money. It has value so long as it enjoys the backing of the state.

Unfortunately, the world has lost sight of justice as a force that binds people together in harmony. Strangely, new structures are erected to cure the previous ills but such attempts are generally aimed at putting old wine in a new bottle.

The present economic and political systems serve the interests of a few at the cost of the many. Supranational institutions, such as the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank, are promoting the interests of those who enjoy economic and technological power.

A huge population around the world is suffering from curable diseases, hunger and injustice. The ongoing economic prosperity is not sustainable for two reasons. One, there is climate change as a result of overexploitation of natural resources and, two, the distribution of wealth is skewed, with the result that there is a growing divide between the rich and the poor. Both these factors may ultimately prove catastrophic for humanity as a whole.

Now the choice is ours. We can make the world a better place to live in by replacing the prevalent systems to ensure sustainable development for all. It is absurd to expect durable peace and sustainable development when the dominant thinking is not changed which believes in survival of the fittest by exploiting the disadvantaged people and the nature.



The writer teaches at FAST-NU, Peshawar. Email: zeb.khan@nu.edu.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SIDE-EFFECT

 

Point-blank



Harris Khalique

One could still find some pieces of dead meat sticking to the bones on the carcass of Pakistani society. Ravens and vultures alight on these bones to have a pick. The battered soul hovers above the carcass and watches with helplessness the remains of the body in which it once lived.

Sarfaraz Shah was one such small piece of flesh that was torn apart from the decaying bone by the piercing beak of a vulture. A 'beakful' of meat, as it were. Small. The worn out and detached soul still feels the pain but the carcass stays a carcass. Unable to sense or move. Bigger things have happened. It remains lifeless, defunct and empty.

Shah was a young man, allegedly involved in snatching cash and valuables from visitors to Benazir Shaheed Park in Karachi. According to the Rangers, a prime law enforcement agency, he was caught red-handed. The family of Shah refutes these claims. This is not an issue, nevertheless. He was unarmed, pleading not to be shot, fully surrounded by the sepoys of Rangers, so close to the man who was aiming at him that Shah was physically trying to lower the barrel, and looked completely harmless in that instance. He was shot at then from a close range to be killed.

Shah was neither chased for being wanted for some heinous crime nor did he carry any weapons for self-defence or to threaten the Rangers. The only weapons he had were his open arms and a stuttering tongue begging for mercy. Even if he had committed a crime of atrocious nature, once caught he should have been charged by the police, tried by the court and sentenced for his crime. But it was his fate to become another statistic in an already existing list of thousands of extrajudicial murders committed by the custodians of the law. Mind you, this may not be proven either that he was at all guilty of anything. Many killed in such ways were found to be innocent.

Sarfaraz Shah's death in cold blood and in blatant violation of any civil code, social values or legal provisions has only become troubling for some people in this country because they saw it in their living rooms. Courtesy television news channels. Journalist friends in Karachi tell us that it was for the release of this gory footage alone that the Rangers were left with no choice but to order an inquiry. For hours they had tried to kill the story. The family, friends and neighbours who were demonstrating outside the Sindh chief minister's house against this brutality while carrying the body of the deceased with them were told be at fault.

But you see, in some ways Shah was lucky. He was spared of a long drawn, excruciatingly painful dying process. He was shot twice, point-blank, and his soul left the body sooner than those who are lynched, beaten to death or burnt alive. There is a possibility that he was caught by a mob of 'normal' citizens for committing a theft or allegedly committing a theft and then lynched using most cruel forms of physical torture. Also, he could have been a journalist or a political activist who is silenced by blows of wood, iron or steel on the ribcage by terrorists or the sacrosanct enforcers of the law.

Ghalib said, har qadam dooryay manzil haiy numayaan mujh se/ meri raftaar se bhagey haiy bayabaan mujh se (with each step I take the destiny gets farther away/this wilderness runs faster than I do).



The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy advisor. Email: harris.khalique @gmail.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

HOTI EXPOSES PHONY CLAIMS OF TTP

 

DURING his visit on Wednesday to the Dir village that witnessed the deadliest ever cross border attack from Afghanistan, Chief Minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Amir Haider Hoti squarely blamed US and NATO forces for killing of innocent people of Pakistan by terrorists from the neighbouring country. He questioned what US and Afghan forces were doing when militants launched an attack inside Pakistan from the Afghan side.

The Chief Minister has raised very pertinent question, as Pakistan has been under continuous pressure from the United States to do more in checking militants that allegedly cross over from this side of the border to Afghanistan to carry out attacks on occupation forces. Pakistan has deployed a large number of troops on its Western border putting at risk its security interests on the Eastern border but despite that there is no end to demands for do more. But attacks on Pakistani villages by terrorists based in Afghanistan and that too in numbers that cross three hundred, speaks volumes about efficiency and capability as well as intentions and designs of the NATO forces and Afghan troops. Though Mr Hoti, for understandable reasons, stopped short of categorically referring towards active support being extended to terrorists for targeting Pakistan and its interests but the fact remains that Taliban would not have sustained their activities sans training, funding and supply of equipment by some foreign powers. The ease with which a gang of over three hundred crossed over to Pakistan bears testimony to the fact that the occupation forces in Afghanistan were hands in glove with terrorists and the objective is the same – to put more pressure on the country and to destabilise it further. There are also reasons to believe that most of the attacks on religious places like mosques and Imambargahs and public places are carried out not by Taliban but some foreign agencies and their local agents but the blame is always thrown on TTP. After every such dastardly act, one of the three top wire agencies of the West receives so-called phone calls from Taliban accepting responsibility for the attack. We fully subscribe to the views of the KPK Chief Minister that such calls are phony and are aimed at diverting attention from the real terrorists.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

CHINA'S INTEREST IN INDUS DAMS

 

CHINA'S Three Gorges Project Corporation has proposed a $ 15 billion hydro power scheme to Pakistan to dam the Indus river valley at several points in order to control floods and tackle electricity shortages. In an interview the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain said the proposal would cover Bunji and other sites on the upper and lower Indus.


The offer is the latest example of Chinese support to Pakistan to develop its natural resources to the advantage of the country and its people. Devastating floods last year highlighted the importance of building small and big dams to control the flood water and then utilize it for irrigation and power generation. Hydel energy is the cheapest and if the Chinese proposal is accepted, we are confident that it would help Pakistan meet its ever increasing energy demand. China is already involved in the construction of small and medium water storages and its record shows that the projects are completed on schedule despite problems of resources and security. The Three Gorges Project Corporation has also offered to fund a $ 50 million survey to lay the ground work for the multi dimensional project. Despite complaints of shortage of water by the Provinces for irrigation purposes, it is a known fact that lot of water goes into the sea during monsoon season. If we are able to dam the Indus river valley through the construction of storages, for which sites are available in abundance, the country could get rid of dangers of floods and the stored water utilized throughout the year for irrigation and power generation. Development of hydro power resources is important for energy security of the country. Different studies have projected that Pakistan has the potential to generate more than 40,000MW of electricity from its hydel resources but due to lack of financial resources and apathy on the part of the planners and rulers in the past, we have not given this sector the priority that it deserved. We hope that the Government would give serious consideration to the Chinese offer and make arrangement at the bilateral level to finance the project which on completion would change the economic landscape of the country.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

SOMEONE SHOULD GEL KESC & UNION TOGETHER

 

TENSION between management of the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) and the staff union, which has been there ever since privatization of the entity, has taken new but dangerous dimensions sparking fears that if timely measures were not taken to bring about a rapprochement between the two, the entire city could plunge into darkness.


According to reports KESC has expressed great alarm over the fire incident in a substation in Lyari and said that some elements in the Union were destroying the City's electricity network which was in no one's interest. It claims the technical factors of the burnt substation had clearly established the fact that it was an act of sabotage by internal elements. This is not the sole incident of the kind as early Monday morning, an assistant engineer Tahir was allegedly kidnapped by union activists along with his motorbike while working on the operational work of the tripped feeder of National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases. All this shows that tension between the management and the Union has reached to a level where it was becoming increasingly difficult for technical people to carry on their duties and the KESC has to bear huge losses caused by acts of sabotage. No entrepreneur or investor can work in such an ugly situation that sends depressing signals all around. While the management should look into the genuine grievances of the employees, the trade union activities must be within the bounds of law and those crossing the limits should be brought to justice. Protests and agitation is right of the employees but this should remain lawful and peaceful, otherwise they would be deprived of the peoples' sympathy. We believe that the leadership of Karachi especially MQM should step in to save the situation, as we cannot afford unending tussle that affects not only the ordinary citizen but also commercial and industrial activities in the business capital of the country.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

CORRUPTS MADE ACCOUNTABLE

GEOPOLITICAL NOTES FROM INDIA

M D NALAPAT

 

M A Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was a tactical genius who succeeded in dividing the Subcontinent in two. Unlike the Congress leadership, Jinnah understood that World War II would have so weakened the UK that freedom for India would be inevitable, even without the exhaustive - and exhausting - agitations launched by the Congress Party. After the fatal tactical error of withdrawing from government both nationally and regionally in 1939, the Congress Party began to rapidly lose the support that it had hitherto enjoyed within the British establishment. In contrast, the Muslim League under its leader M A Jinnah supported a British establishment that he knew was in a severely weakened state. Jinnah kept away from the freedom struggle because he saw that independence was a foregone conclusion. Instead, through gaining the goodwill of London, he ensured the backing – both open and quiet - of the British government in his single-minded pursuit of Pakistan.

Interestingly, as soon as the Union Jack was pulled down at midnight of August 15,1947, the new government of "free" India retained the entire framework of colonial rule. It retained the colonial administrative structure and the legal framework of the colonial past. Indeed, within five years of gaining control, Nehru began to introduce more and more restrictions on the non-governmental sector in India. Much of private industry - which had flourished during World war II as a result of military orders - was nationalised. Tax rates were brought up to absurd levels, reaching 97.75% by the 1970s. After three decades of Nehru family rule, almost any activity needed prior governmental permission. Finally, in 1977, in a reaction to such colonial-style control, the electorate reacted and threw out the Congress Party led by Indira Gandhi. Since then, no subsequent government dared to add on to the web of regulations and prohibitions, or to once again show the contempt for public opinion that was demonstrated by Indira Gandhi during 1975 and 1976, a time when several citizens (including this columnist) faced police incarceration. Of course, it was only in the 1990s that a few steps were taken to liberalise the economy, steps that were added on to till 2004, when the Congress Party once again came to power as the lead actor in a coalition.

From the final decades of the 18th century to almost the first half of the 20th century, a small number of British and other colonialists skimmed the cream from the Indian national product. Several stately homes in the UK were built out of the money gained from stints in India. Even jewels of historical value, such as a Koh-i-noor, were taken away and made the property of inhabitants of the conquering power. This loot by a relatively small and distinct segment of society finally roused tens of millions in the Subcontinent to protest, and to revolt. Even in the armed forces, anger grew at the double standards practiced on those not of the "Master Race". The career prospects and salaries of those from the UK were way higher than that given to those unfortunate enough to have been born in India.

Since 1947,has there really been a change? In 2011, it is clear that once again, a small elite is monopolising the bulk of the economic benefits accruing within the country. Less than fifty thousand politicians, businesspersons, officials and yes - even some mediapersons - with their families have formed a minuscule elite that are behaving with impunity and arrogance. In the process, they use every means available to make money and to gain further advantage. Harsh laws that have been faithfully retained in "free" India by "Super Democrat" Nehru apply only to the other 99.995% of the population, not to this elite. The businesspersons become politicians and vice-versa ,and both marry their sons and daughters off to the children of high officials.

Since 1947, a cosy fraternity of privilege has come up in India, that resembles the elite that bled the country dry during the period of frank colonialism in every way except skin colour Why has the population of the country finally reacted in fury to such a colonial-style loot of the country? The explanation lies in the fact that the Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi has added substantially to the regulations and prohibitions that fetter those in India who fall outside the Fifty Thousand Families. These days, unless some government agency gives permission in writing, a citizen of India is barred from holding a protest or even a conference. Since 2004,the grip of the government has spread in a fashion not seen since the 1970s heydey of the Nehry dynasty. After thirteen years of slow but steady liberalisation, the rollback of this process by the Congress-led government over the past seven years has resulted in a slowdown in economic growth and in increasing frustration at the growing corruption and incompetence that has been the hallmark of Sonia Gandhi's administration. This return to the colonial past through the introduction of new regulations has led to harassment and intimidation by officials and politicians. It is this increase in the arrogance of those holding power that has created the reaction that we are seeing in India, where an increasing proportion of the population looks upon the government with loathing.

Till Prime Minister Manmohan Singh abandoned his earlier tolerance of corruption in 2009, the Fifty Thousand Families were confident that the immunity from accountability that they and their predecessors have enjoyed since 1947 would continue into the indefinite future. They went about funnelling cash into hawala networks ( many run by narco traders or practitioners of terrorism) so that the bundles of currency could get converted finally into deposits in offshore banking havens. They went about forging paper records and destroying inconvenient evidence against themselves. They warned likely whistle-blowers and where such warnings did not work, resorted to murder. And they would vacation together in the most expensive locations in Europe, those from the ruling and opposition parties mixing together in the bonhomie provided by the fusion of power with money. In India, the anti-corruption agencies usually get staffed by the most corrupt elements in officialdom. These individuals go about their dirty work confident of backing from the highest levels of government.

Throughout the five years that ended in mid-2009, they continued to bend and break the rules to favour the Fifty Thousand Families, among whom several key officials were themselves included. The Prime Minister slept, seemingly unaware that his team was wallowing in graft in the manner of pigs enjoying themselves in dirt. It is only after the public finally exploded in anger and bypassed the official structure - knowing that it was useless to expect such a corrupt entity to ever clean up the system - that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally woke up to reality. He was helped in this by the fact that in 2010, the new Chief Justice of India made it a priority to beat back the tide of corruption that was destroying the future of the 99.995% of the population of India that was outside the Fifty Thousand Families.

All of a sudden, members of the Fifty Thousand began to be held accountable for deeds that they saw as mere trifles, such as stealing millions of dollars or taking control of an enterprise through forged documents. One by one, they started to go to jail. And unlike in the past, when judges would generously grant them bail without even a single night being spent on prison, this time the example set by Chief Justice Kapadia has prevented such miscarriages of the judicial process. The elite who have been caught are staying in jail, suffering the heat of Delhi in jail, without the luxuries that they till then saw as natural to enjoy. Can the PM survive such a bringing to book of elements of the Fifty Thousand? Or will they unite to throw him out? Even if they do, something has changed in India. No longer are people ready to remain slaves to the corrupt. They are angry and they demand the right to not only get heard but obeyed. Although 5000 policepersons broke up peaceful anti-corruption protestors in Delhi in a fit of brutality, this time around - despite manipulating vast sections of the media - public anger has refused to abate. Will India at last throw away the shackles of colonial rule, shackles that continued even after the country became independent in 1947? Should it do so, then the India of today can be compared to the US of the 19th century. A giant that is finally unchained. Should the anti-corruption campaign fail and the Fifty Thousand Families continue to be immune to punishment, then the India of tomorrow will become a failed state.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

STOP BLAMING, START DOING!

MAIMUNA ASHRAF

 

Almost two decades before Christina Lamb, the British journalist visited Pakistan and she met Pakistani people of different fields and backgrounds like politicians, civil services, scientist, custom officers, bankers, students, academics and the general public. She wrote a book named by 'Waiting for Allah'. She wrote in her book that after visiting a number of places in Pakistan and after meeting a number of Pakistanis, she witnessed a particular identical behaviour wherever she went; that the people don't have thoughts and plans about their future. She extracted that all are waiting for Allah to approach them for awarding them the solutions of their problems. Though she wrote this almost two decades earlier but we are still standing in this position, although now we are living even in a worse situation. Just think that how many times our land, people, bazaars, institutions, check post, training institute, banks, military, security setup has been targeted by the militants. We suffered countless bombings from various means and have lost thousands of people but we have been so much desensitized that now any incident of bombing don't catch our attention till it bring some higher number of casualties.

After Osama's death a series of fatal attacks started, suicidal attack on Charsadda Military academy, attack on Saudi Consulate, assassination of Saudi diplomat, attack on security forces check post in Peshawar, attack on vehicles of American consulate, attack on the NATO oil tankers in tribal areas, lethal attack on PNS Mehran base, attack on Peshawar CID, attack in Hungoo and killing of the journalist Saleem Shehzad. Did we realized how deadly 'May' we had! Is our leadership worried for the day by day deteriorating situation of the country? My country situation and our leaders response reminds me some leaders from history, as in 1962 Indo-China war, the defense minister Krishna Mammon conferred his resignation and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru confessed the gaffes in front of Parliament. It also reminds me of Egyptian Commander Field Marshall Abdul Hakeem Amir, who after defeated from Israel committed suicide! Jamal Abdul Nasir, who resigned from Presidency, though billion of people, forced him to take back his resignation but he died due to heart attack after it! As in 1974, Richard Nixon didn't declare the recordings of Water-Gate Scandal, propaganda. He accepted his mistakes and presented his resignations in front of congress.

We are becoming the victim of propaganda, the lapses whether they are leadership lapses or military lapses are giving an impression to world that our nuclear assets are not in safe hands and militants can attack it at any time. It will ultimate give a chance to international community to speak that their nuclear program should be rolled back. Though our missiles are mobilized, they are not fixed and it's not easy to locate them, nor the militants can be able to attack them but we have to counter this propaganda. Adversaries are creating an environment by doing a political and diplomatic campaign, and if they succeeded in it they can go to United Nations in future that their nuclear assets and it should be given to international control. Unfortunately it seems that our leadership is unable to realize that we need concrete strategies in order to counter this political and diplomatic propaganda. Luckily our nuclear establishment has separate intelligence and security, which obviously gives a sense of asylum! Whatever happened in PNS Mehran undeniably raise questions. It sounds astonishing to hear by Naval chief that it was not our lapse as attackers passed through air bases.

Its not the time to blame each other, if it's a lapse then it's a security military lapse, and we should not at all divide our military into Army, Navy and Air Force like we have divided our country into Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber PakhtunKhwa. Our foes want dichotomies in our military too and we should not fall in this propaganda. We need to realize our slip-ups; we need to take prolific measures to fix them instead of blaming each other. We should raise our voices for responsible and accountable leadership but our motive should not be to blame our armed forces because they fight for our defense and they sacrifice their lives for our security and our negative attitudes will demoralize our soldiers, which we can't afford. As far as the operation in North Waziristan is concerned, even if there's limited action, we don't want an operation there except to eliminate the terrorists of TTP.

But Afghan Taliban must not be touched as we have no problems with them. US need to make peace with them in Afghanistan. Why should we fight Afghan Pashtuns for Americans when they've filled Kabul with enemies of Pakistan? But when we will be able to recognize our enemies? When we will be able to know the root causes? Do we still want to embed our army with enemy's army? Can we afford to share our defense structure with any other country? Why our politicians are unwilling to accept that there is a hand of poor political leadership in military and security lapses when question is about the sovereignty of Pakistan? Can't we learn some lessons from our previous mistake like Germany learned after 1945 that now onwards they will not fight with outsiders, they have to fight for the betterment of their own society! They decided that they no more want Qiser and Hiltlers on their land. Like Japanese who stand with a new soul after they were demolished by the nuclear bombs, when fifty six years ago they all choose to fight war with world through industries and innovations.

Like Cubans, who pledged fifty two years earlier that now they will not import or export even a single brick from America. They vowed to rely on their arm strength, they said 'No' to selfish friends. If all these countries can rise again then why not we! Pakistan also needs to obligate some pledges, Pakistan also need to draft 'Do's and Don'ts'!!We need to look towards the future and not remain hostage to the past. We need to build a Pakistan that promises Hope, Opportunity and Progress for our people who have reached a level of extreme despondency. It would be fair to say that our confused policy making has brought us to an institutional collapse that manifested itself in a collective failure in May 2011. This is a time for internal reflection and it is for our leadership both political and military to lead the way. They can only do that by showing resolve, political maturity and statesmanship. Please now stop blaming and start doing!

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

HOW ISLAM FOUGHT TERRORISM?

THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

PROF AHMED YAR KHAN

 

The US method of fighting terrorism by force, injustice, pre-emptive strikes, unilateral action and "regime change" only adds fuel to the fire. As witnessed by the recent world events. The previous Bush administration had released a new National Security Strategy document which has been likened by the Moscow Times to Hitler's Mein Kampf, and described by the New York Times as Bush's "how I'll rule the world" blueprint. This method which is used by Israel has only been devastating to both sides if measured in human cost, loss of freedom, psychological trauma and economic loss. The U.S. and the rest of the World will be expected to suffer similar losses when it mirrors the method used by Israel and Hitler as shown by the following statement from the Bush administration, "the only path to peace and security is the path of action". That is, the US must wage a perpetual war, because without war there can be no peace.

If we compare this attitude with that of the Early Muslims who are considered the best generation, we find the following example of Caliph Omar. The Caliph Omar was the governor or president of the Islamic Empire, which included Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, North Africa and Spain. One day Caesar wanted to know how Omar lived and how he treated his people. He sent a person to Al Medina where Omar lived. When this man entered Al Medina he asked the people, "where is your king?" The people replied, "we have no king but we have an Amir similar to a president." This man asked, "where is he?" They told him, " he is outside Al Medina."

He went to find him. What did this man see? He saw Omar sleeping alone on the sand holding a little stick with no guards around him. When he saw him like that he became very impressed and ashamed of himself and said, "A man all the kings in the world are scared from, sleeps that humble without any guards? You governed your people with justice and honesty so you became safe and slept. Our king is unjust and dishonest. That is why he is always scared and awake most of the night surrounded by guards inside a fortress. Fighting terrorism is only by spreading justice and education, but not by force as what is happening now. In the Qur'aan, Surah Al Nahl (16) verse 90, " Allah commands justice, the doing of good and looking after our relatives. Allah forbids all shameful deeds, injustice and rebellion. Allah instructs you so you may comprehend."

However, spreading only justice is not enough because some ignorant people may do acts of terrorism. In Surah Al Nahl (16) v. 125, " O Mohammed, invite to the way of your Lord, which is Islam, with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, you Lord knows best who has gone astray from his path, and he is the best aware of who are guided." This was the character of the Early Muslims which allowed Islam to spread throughout the whole World. Allah said that the most honourable to Allah is the most fearful of Allah and not the richest, strongest or those who belong to a certain group or nationality as shown in Al Hujurat (49) v. 13. "O mankind; we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily the most honorable of you to Allah is that who is most faithful, pious and fearful of Allah."

There are numerous historical examples in the Qur'aan showing the eventual outcome of oppressive tyrants such as Pharaoh compared to those who are righteous. The Qur'aan teaches us the morality, wisdom and meaning behind these events. Unfortunately in schools and universities, history is only taught in a factual manner only showing the consequences of military conquests where morality, responsibility and accountability are considered irrelevant. It is no wonder that we can never learn from our previous mistakes. Particularly if the Christians insist on believing the Paulian idea that "the means justifies the aims". That is, it does not matter how evil your actions are as long as your intentions are good. Whereas, for a good deed to be accepted in Islam, it must be sincere, with good intentions and done according to the Sunnah of our Prophet.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

RIGHT TO A BETTER FUTURE

YAHYA AHMAD

 

The world has entered the 21st century, but in Pakistan one can find numerous examples where it seems that our social and economic development has not moved an inch since medieval times. Our infrastructure, government departments, economy, education and law enforcement, all seem to be at an appalling state. The new century also came with the additional challenge of war on terror, further straining the already deteriorating situation. In the ensuing confusion and chaos the citizens of our country are looking for only one thing, answers. They are looking for answers to questions and issues, which have plagued our society since a long time. As the media operates with considerable freedom at present and awareness is being disseminated throughout the society, questions are arising and the public is seeking answers from the administration. People are confused and they want to know if the country is progressing, if not why and who or what is responsible.

The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, in the 18th Amendment under Article 19-A has awarded every citizen the right to seek and acquire information from public bodies and government functionaries, in public interest. This has been clearly named as Right to Information (RTI). This is an opportunity for the masses to strengthen the democracy and the democratic process in the true spirit, by contributing to governance. Unfortunately, the public remains ignorant of the presence and implications of this right, or are not interested to engage this right, for their betterment. What the society in general does not realize is that a democratic system cannot strengthen on its own; it is the support of the people which forms the basic foundations of this system. If the masses perceive that their duty ends when they elect a candidate, then they are seriously mistaken. They will have to actively take part in the governance of the country and RTI provides them with the procedure to do so.

Given the recent surge in terrorist events, the public is demanding for more and more information. In the absence of information, the confusion among the masses is increasing. After any incident of national importance, a committee has been established to probe the event, but their findings never come out in the public. The result is that the people have lost their faith in the system and consider every component of the state to be corrupt and serving a vested interest. It would be great if the people could know, why a certain public organization is not performing, where are the funds for the promised development projects, why an airliner carrying hundreds of people crashed, why a certain terrorist event took place, how much and where is the international aid being spent, what is our standing in the war on terror, why our law enforcement agencies are incapable to stop the terror onslaught and why or how a luxury apartment building was reduced to a pile of dust.

These are all questions that need to be answered but are kept under wraps, or are sacrificed for the prolonged procedures of various committees or sub-committees. But there is a solution to this problem and as mentioned above it is RTI. What has been kept under wraps, for vested interests can be unearthed in 21 days, if the public takes the simple initiative to fill an application form. The people always blame the system for their woes, but they will have to realize that the system is in place, it is only a question of implementation, in which they will have to play their part also. RTI is a tool which will bring transparency into governance, if implemented in its true spirit, as the public eye will be continuously present over every government department and any corrupt activity will not go unnoticed. This will also present the government with the opportunity, to come clean on various issues, while proving to the public their commitment to serve them.

The procedure for RTI has been adopted from the Freedom of Information (FOI) Ordinance 2002, while Baluchistan and Sindh implemented this same law in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhua still lack the legislation to implement this law. This is where the public pressure and lobbying is required to promulgate legislation in the remaining two provincial assemblies. The FOI 2002 has numerous limitations and drawbacks, the same have been inherited by the provincial laws, as they are the exact replica of the federal law. There are numerous critiques on this law, which can only be addressed through effective legislation. There is a limitation in the law, where it is not possible to access the noting and comments made on the documents by the officials. The budget or expense of projects and departments are deemed secret, although it should be a matter of public information, as the public has the right to know where and how the funds are being spent. Processing time currently being 21 days is a long time for the presentation of the information. There is no defined time period for the disclosure of records, declared classified by the government. The processing fees defined that is Rs. 50 for ten pages and below, while Rs. 5 for each page exceeding ten pages is also considered to be unreasonable. The political parties also acting as organized bodies carrying out public functions are also not covered under the procedure.

In the end, if the flaws present in the procedure are to be removed and process is to be facilitated, the initiative is to be taken by the citizens. The flaws will only be highlighted, when the process is implemented. The public awareness in this regard will also generate pressure on the legislature to implement the procedure in provinces, where the law has not been promulgated and improve the process in provinces and federal level, where the law already exists. It is also important that not only state institutions but also political parties be brought into the sphere of this tool. As they are part of the democratic process and their affairs should also be run transparently.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION: ENGAGING IRAN

 As ambassadors to Iran during the


last decade, we have all followed

closely the development of the nuclear crisis between Iran and the international community. It is unacceptable that the talks have been deadlocked for such a long time. The Arab world and the Middle East are entering a new epoch in which no country is immune from change. This includes the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is facing the disaffection of a significant part of its population. Such a period of uncertainty offers opportunities for reconsidering the West's established position on the Iranian nuclear question. In terms of international law, the position of Europe and the United States is perhaps less assured than is generally believed. Basically, it is embodied in a set of resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council authorising coercive measures in case of "threats to the peace."

But what constitutes the threat? Is it the enrichment of uranium in Iranian centrifuges? This is certainly a sensitive activity, by a sensitive country, in a highly sensitive region. The concerns expressed by the international community are legitimate, and Iran has a moral duty, as well as a political need, to answer them. In principle, however, nothing in international law or in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty forbids the enrichment of uranium. Besides Iran, several other countries, parties or not to the treaty, enrich uranium without being accused of "threatening the peace." And in Iran, this activity is submitted to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. These inspections, it is true, are constrained by a safeguards agreement dating from the 1970s. But it is also true that the IAEA has never uncovered in Iran any attempted diversion of nuclear material to military use.

Is the threat to the peace, then, that Iran is actively attempting to build a nuclear weapon? For at least three years, the United States intelligence community has discounted this hypothesis. The US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, testified in February to Congress: "We continue to assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.... We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.... We continue to judge that Iran's nuclear decision-making is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran."

Today, a majority of experts, even in Israel, seems to view Iran as striving to become a "threshold country," technically able to produce a nuclear weapon but abstaining from doing so for the present. Again, nothing in international law or in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty forbids such an ambition. Like Iran, several other countries are on their way to or have already reached such a threshold but have committed not to acquire nuclear weapons. Nobody seems to bother them. We often hear that Iran's ill-will, its refusal to negotiate seriously, left our countries no other choice but to drag it to the Security Council in 2006. Here also, things are not quite that clear.

Let us remember that in 2005 Iran was ready to discuss a ceiling limit for the number of its centrifuges and to maintain its rate of enrichment far below the high levels necessary for weapons. Tehran also expressed its readiness to put into force the additional protocol that it had signed with the IAEA allowing intrusive inspections throughout Iran, even in non-declared sites. But at that time, the Europeans and the Americans wanted to compel Iran to forsake its enrichment program entirely.

Today, Iranians assume that this is still the goal of Europe and America, and that it is for this reason that the Security Council insists on suspension of all Iranian enrichment activities. But the goal of "zero centrifuges operating in Iran, permanently or temporarily," is unrealistic, and it has heavily contributed to the present stand-off. Of course, a dilemma lingers in the minds of most of our leaders. Why offer the Iranian regime an opening that could help it restore its internal and international legitimacy? Should we not wait for a more palatable successor before making a new overture?This is a legitimate question, but we should not overestimate the influence of a nuclear negotiation on internal developments in Iran. Ronald Reagan used to call the Soviet Union the "evil empire," but that did not stop him from negotiating intensely with Mikhail Gorbachev on nuclear disarmament. Should we blame him for having slowed down the course of history? The five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany should certainly keep the focus on matters of political and human rights, but they should also try harder to solve a frustrating and still urgent proliferation problem. By doing so, we would reduce a serious source of tension in a region that longs more than ever for tranquillity.

The failure of the last round of negotiations in Istanbul at the end of January and the last disappointing exchange of letters between the parties show only too well that the current deadlock will be difficult to break. On the process, the more discreet and technical negotiations are, the better chance they will have to progress. And on the substance, we already know that any solution will have to build on the quality of the inspection system of the IAEA. Either we trust IAEA's ability to supervise all its member states, including Iran, or we do not. And if the answer is that we do not, then we must ask why, if the organisation is effective only with its most virtuous members, we should continue to maintain it.

The next step should be for the two sides in this conflict to ask the IAEA what additional tools it needs to monitor the Iranian nuclear program fully and provide credible assurances that all the activities connected with it are purely peaceful in intent. The agency's answer would offer a basis for the next round of pragmatic negotiations with Iran. This piece was written by six former ambassadors to Iran from European countries: Richard Dalton (United Kingdom), Steen Hohwü-Christensen (Sweden), Paul von Maltzahn (Germany), Guillaume Metten (Belgium), François Nicoullaud (France) and Roberto Toscano (Italy). — Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

REPORT BACKS MARKET SYSTEM FOR CUTTING CARBON

THE Productivity Commission's long-awaited research report, Carbon Emissions Policies in Key Economies, affirms the main principles The Australian has argued for years.

FIRST, a market-based trading scheme is the most cost-efficient mechanism for cutting greenhouse emissions. Second, subsidising renewable energy programs is a waste of taxpayers' money. And, third, Australia is where it should be among the community of nations as it confronts the challenge of reducing carbon pollution. Australia must act to cut carbon, but we should not disadvantage ourselves by moving too far ahead of the world, especially the US and China, which between them account for about 40 per cent of global emissions.

In keeping with its expertise, the Productivity Commission has injected much-needed rational insights into the vexed issue of cutting carbon. Its cool, reasoned approach runs contrary to the alarmism of the Greens. It also debunks the implication by the government's climate change adviser Ross Garnaut that Australia is in danger of becoming a laggard among nations on carbon.

The commission's solid, factual economic arguments are also bad news for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. He must rethink his direct-action policy because it would inflict too heavy a burden on the economy. The Gillard government and the states should also heed the commission's findings that small-scale renewable generation projects and biofuels generate little carbon abatement for substantially higher costs.

While politicians wrangle over whether carbon should be priced at $20 or $40 a tonne, the commission has pointed out that Australia is already spending between $44 and $99 a tonne on carbon abatement in generating electricity. Subsidising solar-photovoltaic panels on rooftops was singled out as a particularly costly way of achieving very little, with the real costs in the range of $431 to $1043 a tonne of CO2.

On the strength of the report, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell should show he has the spine to do the job for which he was elected and chop the state's solar rebate scheme before its costs, which have soared from $355 million to $1.4 billion, escalate further.

In Europe, renewable energy schemes are costing as much as $198 a tonne of carbon saved. Biofuel subsidies were found to be even less efficient, costing between $300 and $600 a tonne or more, while creating little abatement. The good news for developers of Australia's substantial gas reserves is that European experience shows that switching from coal to gas-generated electricity has substantially cut pollution at a relatively affordable cost.

The report is good news for the Gillard government. As The Australian has long recognised, it affirms that pricing carbon "generally will deliver any given amount of abatement at least cost". The Government should use the report to dismiss the Greens' demands for more investment in renewable energy projects. It should also scale back the Expanded National Renewable Energy Target, because it is an expensive and inefficient impost.

In moving towards a carbon price, Australia can afford to take time to get the details right.

 

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

BREAKDOWNS SINK OUR DEFENCES

FOR an island nation with a 37,000km coastline and $10 billion invested in six submarines, it beggars belief that not a single one of the vessels is sufficiently operational to defend our shores today. The Australian's exclusive report by associate editor Cameron Stewart should be an acute embarrassment and a wake-up call for the navy and for Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

DESPITE the manufacturers' boast that the subs are "an optimum match between innovation and proven technical superiority", their ongoing breakdowns have become a serious national security issue. With four subs in maintenance and two in the water but not available for immediate deployment, Australia would be vulnerable if a major incident erupted.

This shambles and the crisis that has set the $8bn building of three air warfare destroyers back two years, including more than 2400 faults in the data used to build the hulls, should force Mr Smith to think hard. With other major purchases pending, including 12 new submarines, he must weigh up the costs of subsidising local manufacture as opposed to buying tried and tested equipment from the US or Europe for a fraction of the price, on time and with fewer technical risks. Defence capabilities must not be compromised for the sake of industry protection.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

SA MINING BOOM TOO FAR AWAY

WHILE northern Australia endured a summer of cyclones and floods, disrupting Queensland mining exports enough to send the national economy backwards, South Australia had a benign season. Yet the state's economy also shrank in the March quarter. With a reinstalled but stale Labor government, development paralysis threatening to return to the capital, population growth the lowest of the mainland states, and a mining boom seemingly always just one more announcement away, South Australia has been stuck in the doldrums. Yesterday's budget was a chance for the new Treasurer, Jack Snelling, to trim the sails and set the state moving again.

IN a budget speech without a clear narrative, Mr Snelling stressed the state had shed its "rust bucket" tag. Yet, unless there are new economic developments, that fateful terminology will lurk to tease the state. South Australia has become heavily reliant on federal defence spending, with the Air Warfare Destroyer project already providing similar investment (and similar difficulties) to the submarine project that helped Adelaide through the 1980s and 90s.

The end of the drought, and the flows into the Murray River, have provided welcome relief for South Australia's agricultural industries. But the important wine export market has been hit hard by the high dollar.

Another project that bolstered the state through the years of the State Bank crisis and national recession was the Olympic Dam copper, uranium, silver and gold mine at Roxby Downs. And, again, it looms as the great hope. BHP Billiton's long-awaited decision on a $20 billion expansion, to make it one of the largest mining projects in the world, is due by early next year. On that one decision hangs much hope for the state, as it will provide crucial economic impetus and confidence. Until then, the people of South Australia hold their breath.

And, in a way, that's what Mr Snelling's budget does. Reduced GST revenues have delayed a return to surplus from the coming year to the next. But he has tried to keep a firm rein on expenditure by cutting another 400 public sector jobs and phasing out first-home owners' support. The Treasurer failed to find tax cuts and increased a range of fines and charges, including motor registration and liquor licensing fees, to bolster revenues.

Modest funding boosts are found for child welfare and disability assistance, and a solid program of infrastructure development is maintained through increased debt. But the overall sense is that the budget is simply keeping the ship in order until the important news about Roxby Downs is delivered.

Mr Snelling's speech did not refer to the mine or mention the most significant and controversial projects in the years ahead -- the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and the redevelopment of the Adelaide Oval, which could inject much-needed life into the city centre -- suggesting a government that does not want to tempt fate.

The Treasurer's focus on family budgets and kitchen-table economics kept faith with his values -- he is a father of six -- but it didn't inspire. By delivering a sensible budget, the Rann government has ensured that the most important decision for South Australia will be taken in a few months, in the BHP Billiton boardroom. If that goes the wrong way, the Treasurer will need to be more dynamic, and come up with a plan to rejuvenate the economy.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

PRINCIPALS VERSUS PARENTS

The dispute between parents at a Randwick public school and the school principal has highlighted difficulties with the way principals are currently selected in NSW. It has to be said, such disputes are relatively rare - and we make no comment on the reasons for the conflict or the personalities involved at the school in question.

In the public system discord between a principal and the school community can be damaging. The principal is perhaps more influential in a school than leadership positions elsewhere, in motivating staff, attracting good teachers and setting the tone for the institution. The relationship between a principal and the parents' and citizens' association is central, too, because schools depend directly on parents to raise funds for equipment as well, often enough, as for day-to-day operations.

Vacancies for principal positions are mostly advertised and filled by applicants from within and outside the teaching service. Parents are involved here. A school's P&C association may nominate one member of the selection panel for the position, to serve alongside representatives of the department, the school staff, and a principal of a similar school. According to the department that occurs in almost 70 per cent of appointments. The presence of a parent on such a committee should go some way to reduce the chance that a dispute will arise.

The remaining 30 per cent of vacancies are filled differently. Before advertising any post, the Department of Education considers whether it has any suitable candidates awaiting appointment - such as those who have served their time at a rural or remote post. The Randwick principal was appointed this way.

Under present arrangements, that mechanism is a necessary incentive to induce teachers to work in places which are hard to staff. It is certainly a desirable goal. But is sidelining a school community in the choice of its principal the most constructive way to reach it? Moreover, there is no guarantee that a school community, having been excluded once from the selection process, will regain a say the next time the position falls vacant. Under the department's rules, how the previous occupant was appointed has no bearing on the next appointment.

Might not significantly higher salaries be a better way to fill hardship posts? More money, of course, is easy to recommend but hard to find. If the present system has to stay, a good second-best might be to ensure that, where a principal is appointed without the school community's consent, the appointment is reviewed after 12 months and only confirmed if the parents agree.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

METRO STRATEGY BACK ON TABLE

The Coalition government of Barry O'Farrell, record majority and all, is finding it as tough to overcome local opposition to urban consolidation targets as did its Labor predecessor. Indeed the same areas which protested loudest at Labor's plans are now in the front rank of opponents to the government their protests helped bring to power.

Warringah Council - in the electorate of the Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard - has gone on strike against his department's plans. True, those plans were drawn up by the previous government. But, as laid out in successive versions of the Metropolitan Strategy, they contain targets every metropolitan council must reach if Sydney is to house the expected 1.7 million extra residents by 2036. That will require 770,000 new dwellings.

Labor had planned 30 per cent to be built in new growth areas on the north-western and south-western fringes and 70 per cent shoehorned into existing suburbs. There, the argument runs, roads and sometimes railways and hospitals already exist, while for growth areas they have to be built from scratch. But as Labor found, not least through protests from Hazzard's constituents, infill development is highly unpopular. Warringah Council had planned to put a third of the 10,300 new dwellings it was expected to accommodate in Narraweena. A suburb of single-storey homes would be rezoned for three- and four-storey apartments. Result: instant local outrage, and terrified councillors.

The same has happened in Ku-ring-gai, in the Premier's electorate, where angry residents have seen the character of their suburb changed through planning decisions forced by Macquarie Street. In response the O'Farrell government has declared that the balance of new housing development will be 50 per cent on the fringes, 50 per cent infill. We have stated previously that the policy has the unfortunate effect of hastening Sydney's sprawl. Moreover, though it may win elections it does not remove the underlying political problem. Assuming Warringah's share fell proportionally, it would still have to find room for about 7300 new homes, enough still to force painful transformations on existing suburbs.

Warringah, along with Manly, Mosman and Pittwater councils, has rightly pointed out that infill housing does not avoid infrastructure costs: existing infrastructure will be inadequate for a greatly increased population. A lot of investment is needed. The four have drawn up a wish list entitled ''Shaping our Future'', of transport and health projects, and Warringah wants a commitment from the government before it will end its strike. The election result has in effect put the metropolitan strategy up for negotiation again. Hazzard can expect plenty more of the same.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

CLEARING THE AIR ON EFFECTIVE EMISSIONS POLICY

COMPARING all the emission reduction policies across eight of Australia's top 10 trading partners, let alone in a matter of months, is a huge task. The report of the Productivity Commission, which was released yesterday, is loaded with caveats about the difficulties of doing so.

However, it makes two clear conclusions that endorse the Gillard government's approach: all these countries are taking action, so Australia won't be going it alone, and explicit pricing mechanisms are by far the most cost-effective approach.

Critics of the carbon tax may seize on aspects of the report such as the high abatement cost of some policies (in fact, these confirm the superiority of carbon pricing). They cannot honestly argue for inaction, though, unless they believe other major economies are deluded in thinking greenhouse gas emissions must be cut to avert dangerous climate change. The commission identified more than 1000 emission-reduction policies adopted in the eight countries, but did not consider policies with multiple goals such as research and development, energy and fuel efficiency and public transport and rail freight development.

Overall, the commission observes, ''explicit carbon pricing appears to be coming to the fore''. Its report leaves little room for doubt that all the alternative approaches - including the Coalition's ''direct action'' policy - will be much more expensive and less effective. Indeed, policies with the most eye-watering costs of abatement all involve targeted programs, subsidies or investment of the sort that abound in Australia's current policy mix.

The report calculates that ''the abatement from existing policies could have been achieved at a fraction of the cost (by a carbon tax or emissions trading price)''. Noting that ''explicit carbon pricing in the United Kingdom appears to have been a cost-effective way of achieving considerable abatement'', it estimates such a policy could have more than doubled emission cuts from Australia's electricity sector for the cost of existing policies. ''Extending such a price across the economy would make it even more cost-effective.''

That is exactly what industry interests are agitating against. The opposition has already tried to blame big electricity price rises on emission policies. The report counters that: ''For Australia, the impacts on electricity prices in 2010 were estimated to be of the order of 1 to 2 per cent.''

The coal industry is also warning of the threat to its global competitiveness. Two facts suggest otherwise. First, even after global recession, coal prices are about 2½ times higher than just five years ago, which hardly suggests cut-throat competition. Second, at a carbon price in the range the government has mooted, the extra cost is roughly 1 per cent of the current coal price.

Looking ahead, Australia must position itself to remain competitive in the transition to 21st-century energy technology. The flow of global capital tells a story: renewable energy has attracted more investment worldwide than fossil fuels for the past three years.

The Productivity Commission has not offered a simple answer on a specific carbon price, which depends on many considerations beyond its ambit. It has come to the firm conclusion that ''direct pricing mechanisms generally will deliver any given amount of abatement at least cost''.

This presents a considerable challenge for opponents of the plan to phase in an emissions trading scheme, starting with a fixed carbon price (the dreaded tax) for three to five years. While there is plenty of room to debate the details of explicit market-based pricing, the real-world evidence shows this is the most cost-effective way.

This may not sway those who also reject scientific evidence, but it should matter to those who claim to be concerned about climate change.

Should the critics of carbon pricing simply dismiss this report, the suspicion will grow that they are driven by narrow, short-term political and commercial interests.


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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

CRACKING THE GENETIC CODE WITH CARE

BARRY MARSHALL, who once drank the contents of an infected petri dish to prove that bacteria were the cause of stomach ulcers - an effort that eventually earned him the Nobel prize - is no stranger to putting himself on the line in the name of medical research. Indeed, as Archimedes in his bath and Isaac Newton under an apple tree discovered, a small bit of personal involvement can further science a long way.

On Wednesday, Professor Marshall told the National Press Club that he intends to become the first Australian to post his full genome (genetic code) on the internet, to be made available for people to investigate at will. ''If my plan is a success, it will encourage others to be involved in genomics in the future,'' Professor Marshall said. His reasons are sound: that before too long, every Australian will carry a genomic smartcard - or, in his words, ''the ultimate personalised medicine''.

The Marshall plan has, however, already revealed to its subject personal weaknesses as well as strengths. For example, the professor's code shows he is at double the normal risk of contracting Alzheimer's disease or testicular cancer, and that he is at nearly three times the risk of macular degeneration. None of this has deterred Professor Marshall from wanting to make his genome generally available.

There are, however, wider risks beyond the reach of science but still well within the grasp of bureaucracies or businesses which might wish to incorporate genomic information in their calculations. As Professor Marshall said, Australians remain fearful of knowing what genomics might reveal to themselves and to others - for example, health insurance companies who could charge higher premiums for riskier cases. Almost 11 years ago, The Age expressed concern about the then fledgling science of mapping the human genome, and how ''unchecked genetic tests could amount to the scientific quantification of a single person's worth''. Indeed, such determinations were already being used to assess degrees of risk for insurers and potential employers.

In 2011, although science has marched on, the legal and ethical frameworks meant to protect us still offer limited recourse. While the potential health benefits embodied by genome research are admirable, society in general needs to catch up. As Barry Marshall has suggested, Australia needs genetic privacy laws similar to those in the US. Otherwise, the possibilities of discrimination and potential abuse remain.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

WELFARE REFORM: CANTERBURY TALES

At the heart of the archbishop of Canterbury's comments is a shrewd and important observation

The archbishop of Canterbury has a capacity for plunging into controversy that often seems more accidental than intentional. Yesterday's article, written as guest editor of the New Statesman, in which he accused the coalition of powering ahead with radical reforms without a proper mandate, appeared to rattle even the Bishop of Guildford, who was sent out to defend him on the radio. It certainly irritated Downing Street.

But at the heart of his comments is a shrewd and important observation. His central contention is that the sense of a society underpinned by mutual responsibility – the essence of Beveridge – has been in decline for decades (certainly since his predecessor Robert Runcie tackled Mrs Thatcher about it 30 years ago) and is now on the point of collapse. One piece of evidence for this is the way in which welfare reform is discussed, and the reappearance of Victorian ideas about poverty – what he calls the "seductive language" of "deserving" and "undeserving" poor.

This is not a narrow party-political jibe. The language of reform is a point of contention both within the two coalition parties, and between two Tories, the chancellor, George Osborne, and the welfare secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. It reflects different approaches to state and society. The politics of it are clear from a recent piece of polling for the rightwing thinktank Policy Exchange, which found that nearly two-thirds of those questioned defined fairness not as any kind of equal shares but as getting what you deserve. In the context of welfare reform, it is a short step from the idea of just deserts to the argument that some poor people are more deserving than others. Not surprisingly, the same poll found overwhelming support for the kind of stringent requirements for those claiming out of work benefits, and sanctions for those who failed to meet them, that are included in the current welfare reform legislation.

This is why language matters. Mr Duncan Smith's welfare reform programme is far from perfect but, in an article commissioned by the archbishop, he describes it in the language of empowerment, of supporting marginalised communities. It is a different animal to reforms motivated by assigning merit and penalising those found undeserving, a view that seemed to underlie – say – the way George Osborne originally proposed a cap on housing benefit. At least in theory, the Duncan Smith approach is meant to work with the grain of community, and the Osborne version against it. It is the difference between a society of rights and responsibilities and an atomised world of individuals. A fundamental question – three cheers to Rowan Williams for raising it.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF... SIMON GRAY

It has become acceptable again to like plays that are superbly crafted and take audience entertainment as a primary goal

Never given quite his due while he was alive, Simon Gray may be receiving it after his death. A version of his play Butley is now on in the West End, with a starry cast and the commendation from our own Michael Billington that the play "shines like a gold coin". Perhaps, as with the revival of interest in Terrence Rattigan, it has become acceptable again to like plays that are superbly crafted and take audience entertainment as a primary goal. From Otherwise Engaged on, a constant feature of Gray's work is the sheer pleasure in telling jokes. "I don't enjoy cutting open my chin with my estranged wife's razor," remarks Butley. "The symbolism may be deft, but the memory smarts." This is humour of a particularly British kind, defeated but still acerbic, and in Gray's world it often went hand-in-hand with plays set in British institutions or corners of national history: Cambridge University, or Victorian explorers. That focus led one critic to sneer that the dramatist "followed mid-century middle-class man into middle age using the middle-class conventions of the boulevardier to do it". No wonder contemporaries such as Harold Pinter (an admirer and friend of Gray's) were more fashionable. But Gray had his subversive side, too – his protagonists are often reckless and so was their creator, smoking 60-plus a day and drinking champagne out of a silver goblet. His memoirs, such as Year of the Jouncer and the Smoking Diaries, were rightly seen as superb at the time – now it is surely time to rehabilitate the plays.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

PHONE-HACKING SCANDAL: TIME FOR A PUBLIC INQUIRY

News Corp has conducted the most feeble non-inquiries of its own. It has denied the allegations, throwing mud at its accusers

The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has a problem. His instincts – and possibly his advisers and lawyers – are in favour of remaking the British media landscape by allowing News Corp to have full control of BSkyB. But with every passing day the politics of the decision become harder as more and more evidence comes to light that questions whether News Corp is really a fit and proper business to be allowed to become easily the most dominant media company in Britain – owning nearly 40% of the national press as well as 100% of a TV company generating £6bn a year in revenues.

Consider the latest allegations of criminality within News Corp. Its biggest-selling paper, then edited by Andy Coulson, recruited Jonathan Rees, a convicted blackmailer straight from a seven-year prison sentence, to add to the newspaper's formidable stable of other hackers, blaggers, bribers and snoopers. Until recently the best-known of these – because he was caught and convicted – was Glenn Mulcaire, whose speciality was illegal phone hacking, including the phone of Mr Hunt's predecessor, Tessa Jowell. Rees went much further, it is claimed, buying up policemen, hacking into computers, penetrating bank accounts and even, it is claimed, commissioning burglaries. His targets included cabinet ministers, chief constables, the most senior figures at the Bank of England, the royal family and intelligence officers.

How has News Corp reacted to the claims that this devastating pattern of illegal behaviour was commissioned and paid for by the company's employees? It has conducted the most feeble non-inquiries of its own. It has denied the allegations, throwing mud at its accusers. It has, it is claimed, threatened MPs inquiring into the charges. It has, at the most senior level, sanctioned cover-up payments to conceal evidence of criminality. It has refused to allow MPs to question its chief executive. It has misled the industry's regulator. Only when all other channels failed, and amid a tidal wave of civil legal suits, did it finally admit liability and try to buy its way out of endless disclosure of further damaging evidence by throwing money at the victims.

With any other company there would be calls for a wholesale clearout of those at the top – including the board, chairman and chief executive. But News Corp is a very unusual company, dominated by one family and quite unresponsive to normal political and shareholder pressure. The prime minister is a good friend of the chief executive of News International, and hired Coulson. Rupert Murdoch supported the Conservatives at the last election, doubtless hoping that some favours would be returned. If all this were happening in Italy, the Times would be writing thunderous leaders. But do not look to the Thunderer for coverage of this particular story. Without the scrutiny of other journalists, very little of this would have emerged. That's why media plurality matters – 37% of the press may ignore a story, but there will be others who won't.

It is obvious that the police must investigate the vast amount of Rees material, though it is puzzling why they have deliberately excluded it from Operation Weeting, the third Yard inquiry to look into phone hacking. But what of Mr Hunt's dilemma? On narrow grounds he may be tempted to wave through the BSkyB takeover. But how seedy the coalition government – including the Lib Dems, who were so vocal on this subject before the election – would look if that were to happen without also ordering a public inquiry to examine all the evidence that the police have been sitting on and about which, until recently, they did so little. If Cameron is disinclined to stir this particular hornets' nest (was his own phone ever hacked, incidentally?) then Clegg should force his hand. He will find British public opinion very much on his side.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SCRUTINIZING FUKUSHIMA CRISIS

The government on Tuesday released a report on the accidents at Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant. Submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the report describes 28 lessons and countermeasures.

The government and the power industry should act quickly on recommendations derived from the report. The report, though, should not be used as an excuse to continue Japan's relatively high dependency on nuclear power.

Showing that the Fukushima accidents are much more severe than generally believed, the report points to the possibility that "melt-through" incidents occurred at the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 reactors — with molten nuclear fuel passing through the bottom of the pressure vessels and collecting at the bottom of the containment vessels.

It says that the government should have disclosed data based on SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information) — which predicts the distribution of radioactive substances released by a nuclear accident — immediately after the Fukushima accidents happened. This amounts to an admission that the government for many days hid crucial data from affected local residents.

The report calls for separating the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which pushes nuclear power generation.

The government must ensure that an independent NISA will rigorously check the safety of nuclear power plants — free from the influence of the nuclear power establishment — and get rid of the bureaucratic inertia that hampers quick action.

The report calls for scrapping the current design approach of having multiple reactors share a common central control room and other important facilities, and of locating the pool for cooling spent nuclear fuel at a high place in a reactor building. This approach has demonstrated that the power industry made little of the possibility of severe accidents.

An official of Fukui Prefecture, where 13 commercial reactors are concentrated, said that further studies of the effects of earthquake tremors on the Fukushima No. 1 plant are needed and that the report fails to mention measures for old reactors. The government should heed his criticism.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

ENERGY DRAFT MISSES THE POINT

The nuclear accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku-Pacific region have given Japan second thoughts on the wisdom of pushing nuclear power generation. In view of the havoc wreaked by the nuclear plant crisis, Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced in late May in France a new policy goal of generating 20 percent of Japan's electricity from renewable sources by the early 2020s.

However, a draft of a new energy policy written by the government's national strategy bureau still lists nuclear power as a key part of Japan's energy strategy. It fails to mention how the nation should decrease its reliance on nuclear power or even whether the need to reduce this dependency is an issue.

The authors of the draft seem to ignore the fact that the Fukushima crisis has shown the vulnerability of nuclear power plants built in earthquake-prone Japan and that the technology to safely dispose of high-radiation spent nuclear fuel has not yet been developed.

The authors appear to have ignored the call by Mr. Kan for Japan to review its energy policy from scratch. It is not far-fetched to suspect that the nuclear power establishment is desperately maneuvering to torpedo attempts to raise the percentage of power that Japan generates from renewable sources, thus reducing its reliance on power generated from nuclear reactors. Although it's an extremely difficult path, the government should take the initiative and lead Japan in the direction of renewable energy.

In June 2010, the government adopted an energy policy plan that called for increasing the weight of nuclear power to 50 percent of Japan's power generation by 2030. At the time, there were no informed public discussions. The draft of this latest energy policy also was made without public discussions.

The government should make public the names of the authors of the draft and encourage wide public discussions.

The draft failed to mention breaking the power companies' regional monopoly over power generation facilities as well as distribution networks. Tearing down these monopolies is a prerequisite for the entry of small-scale entities that develop power from renewable sources for the energy market.

It is clear that the government should start anew by scrapping the draft.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

ROUND TWO FOR A U.N. WORKAHOLIC

BY TOM PLATE

LOS ANGELES — What's surprising about the probable confirmation of incumbent United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for a second five-year term is not its near-certainty. It is the virtual lack of controversy surrounding it.

If you judged the former South Korean foreign minister's first term solely by the generally critical news media coverage of it, you might be led to conclude that his tenure has been a failure.

And, yet, the probability is that the member states of the Security Council and the General Assembly will react to his formal announcement of candidacy this week with little dissent at all.

So the question we might want to ask is: Why in the world is that? Why do we read and see one version of reality in our news media, and yet the true reality would appear to be something quite different. There are several reasons.

The first is that the vast percentage of the negative coverage of Ban's first term has come from the news media of the West. You can troll all day in the news media of Asia, for example, and be hard-pressed to find much disapproval of this quiet man.

To be sure, you might be tempted to dismiss this virtual negative-news blackout as homeboy favoritism. Or it just might be that much of Asia is actually pretty comfortable with Ban's performance, noting that at least his administration has not been hit with the kind of embarrassing scandals that plagued the administration of his predecessor Kofi Annan.

Absent as well has been the kind of dysfunctional antagonism from the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that confined to one term the U.N. career of Annan's predecessor Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

There is an additional, related reason. The fact of matter is that much of the non-Western world loathes us Western journalists and our constant sock-em-in-the-eye faultfinding approach to everything. Negative but honest journalism has its place but too much of it is depressing, like rank bad weather.

It might not even be too much to suggest that Ban's chance for renewal only increased in the eyes of some Asian member states with each negative story in the Western press.

Certainly Beijing, whose influence in this U.N. process these days cannot be overestimated, has had little but contempt for the general Western coverage of Ban's work. Having agreed in 2006 to Ban's candidacy in concurrence with Washington — a particularly useful example of substantive Sino-American cooperation at the highest level — Beijing was not about to have its judgment second-guessed by so-called news media experts anywhere, especially in the West.

The enormous and disproportionate influence of the Western news media on the world media stage, even as it is being eroded daily by the free-for-all of the Internet, sometimes boomerangs. As, for example, it did in this case.

Yet another factor is the considerable loathing — in Beijing and elsewhere, but particularly in Asia — of the media's insatiable appetite for what is usually termed charisma.

Over and over and over, the Western media especially has correctly reported that Ban doesn't have much of it, to which his many supporters retort: So what? How shall we define charisma and is it more chimera than content?

Questioning the value of charisma is particularly relevant in assessing Ban. While he certainly is not, as has been pointed out by one senior Western official who declined to be identified, "lightning in a bottle," he has brought to the U.N. a number of other qualities that make you suspect that maybe charisma (however defined) is overrated. And what might some of these qualities be?

For starters: basic and indeed advanced competence. Ban has been a professional diplomat all his life and his last non-U.N. job — that of South Korean foreign minister — is no joke (especially when you consider what lurks up north, and who else prowls around that difficult neighborhood).

Ban has also previously served at the U.N. in New York and had done so with distinction. Notably, he has not feared to put the U.N. behind the toughest issues, especially global warming.

What's more, Ban has demonstrated in his first term a quality that has impressed even those who are not the biggest of Ban fans at the U.N.: workaholism.

OK, so you don't get a flashy showboat; but you do get an endlessly tireless and wholly competent worker. This is not exactly a worthless commodity to have as the U.N.'s No. 1, especially when critics in the U.S. Congress and everywhere else never tire of complaining about inefficiency, waste and malfeasance at the U.N. (as if there is none in Congress . . . or, say, the International Monetary Fund . . . don't get me started!).

So how much is a pound of solid workaholism worth compared to a pound of preening charisma?

I don't know but it looks like a many member-states of the U.N. believe it is worth more than nothing. This is why Ban is getting a second term. He is a worker. And as you may have noticed lately, the world sure does need a lot of work.

So guess what: Some people think a guy who works hard and is obviously honest and tries the best with what has been given to him (both genetically, and institutionally) deserves a pat on the back — and in this case five more years in office.

Makes sense to me.

Syndicated columnist Tom Plate is the Distinguished Scholar of Asian and Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount University. © 2011 Pacific Perspectives Media Center

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

WINDOW AJAR IN YEMEN

With President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of the country, Yemen could descend into total chaos with fierce fighting between rival political factions, tribal groups and the largely unorganized youths and activists who have taken to the streets seeking to end his 33-year rule.

While Saleh still rules through his proxies, his absence opens a tiny window of opportunity for these bickering groups to hammer out a deal and put the country on the path toward to democracy.

Saleh, who is receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for injuries he sustained when he came under attack from rebels last week, is the major stumbling block to any meaningful changes in Yemen. He has lost credibility in the eyes of his people. No offer of compromise or promise of resigning at some date in the future would convince Yemenis.

Saleh appears bent on returning to his country to re-impose his rule as soon as he recovers. This would be a big tragedy for Yemen. An ugly civil war like we see in Libya and Syria looms large, with dire consequences for the people as well as for Yemen's neighbors.

Saudi Arabia, through the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), has put together a plan to help Yemen to make the peaceful transition to becoming a democracy, sans Saleh. It requires the transfer of power to his vice president, who would establish a provisional presidential council, made up of the different political and tribal factions. The council would then be tasked with preparing for a general election.

The plan had been rejected by youths and activists, who did not want to see remnants of the present regime in the council or the next government. While their objection is understandable, they have to recognize that Saleh's loyal supporters have a legitimate claim in deciding the future of Yemen. The difference is that in a democratic Yemen they will not always have their way any more.

As flawed as the GCC plan seems, it is presently the only plan on the table that sets out a clear path towards democracy. The GCC, the United States and others with interests and influence in Yemen should push all the bickering factions to come to the negotiating table and make the necessary compromises. Time is running out before this window of opportunity closes again.

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THE JAKARTA POST

JUDICIARY REFORM: FOCUS ON PERSONNEL

HIKMAHANTO JUWANA

A judge identified as S was recently caught red-handed receiving bribes from a lawyer, who is identified as PW, by the Corruption Eradication Commission. The commission's investigators found Rp 250 million in cash in various currencies at the judge's house.

It was unfortunate for Indonesia's judiciary that the arrest came just a few days after chief justice Harifin Tumpa announced that a 2010 survey conducted by a US institution had found that only 70 percent of the public were satisfied with courts' performance.

The judiciary has been implementing reforms since 1999, costing trillions of rupiah. The budget for these reforms came not only from the state, but also donor countries and international finance organizations.

A series of questions arises following the recent arrest: Why do judges receive bribes? Does the recently increased take-home pay for judges not correlate with corruption eradication? Can the courts, as the last bastion of justice, be trusted in delivering justice without monetary intervention? Have the judiciary reforms failed?

The answers to these questions may lead to a perception that Indonesia's judiciary reform is doomed to fail. However, it is not fair to conclude that the judiciary reform has failed only due to one incident or two.

It should be understood that in reforming the judiciary, there are two components that need to be overhauled. First reforming the system and the second the personnel.

Over the last 10 years, judiciary reform in Indonesia has put an
emphasis on the system. In this
area the efforts have born fruits, to some extent.

One of the most important system changes is a workable mechanism to supervise and punish individual judges suspected or found guilty of committing corrupt practices. This is because corrupt judges will always be around, either in developing or stable legal systems.

A swift response from the chief justice a day after the arrest of judge S was an example of the changing system. In addition, no measures were taken to attempt to cover up the incident. Furthermore, the Central Jakarta District Court and the Supreme Court have been cooperating with the KPK investigators.

While the system reforms have been successful, this is not the case with the personnel reform. Success does not come easily in this area. Judiciary reform does not readily prevent judges from committing corrupt practices.

Reforming personnel is indeed the crux of a credible judiciary. Reform should address the issue of good and bad judges, which is complicated and difficult. Bad judges can only be dismissed and removed if there is solid evidence and they have been found guilty.

Bad judges need to be punished administratively for three reasons. First, the sanctions will show to the public a zero tolerance of bad judges. Second, it will serve as a deterrent for other judges. Lastly, it is needed to build the integrity and credibility of the judiciary force.

Reforming personnel has been seen as a challenge since there is also competition between the Supreme Court and the Judicial Commission over who has the authority to supervise the conduct of judges.

Reforming personnel also has been difficult because of the existing recruitment process, which is not free from corrupt practices. Furthermore, the process has not been able to recruit enough judges with integrity and exceptional intelligence.

Most fresh graduates from the best law schools refrain from entering the judiciary for two reasons. First, they feel they will be underpaid. Second, in their early career they would likely be assigned to remote areas across Indonesia.

The arrest of judge S should serve as a wake-up call for Indonesia in realizing that judiciary reform must emphasize personnel reform. To this end, punishing and recruiting personnel are two important components that must change.



The writer is a professor of law at the University of Indonesia.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

COMPARING SBY TO SOEHARTO

AL MAKIN, YOGYAKARTA

A recent survey released by Indo Barometer said that Indonesians preferred Soeharto's "prosperous" and "stable" authoritarian rule to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's more "democratic" government.

Sukarno's presidency, which was marked by political turmoil and economic difficulties, ranked third.

The result of the survey mirrors the pragmatic attitude adopted by most Indonesians. In our minds, economy and security — a mantra that Soeharto used to mesmerize us for 32 years — were prime priorities.

No matter how much Soeharto, whose 90th anniversary was commemorated on Wednesday, silenced opposition and criticism, we were still fond of his policies on the affordable price of rice, inexpensive community health centers, family planning, decreasing illiteracy and an end to radicalism.

Yudhoyono's first term merited credit. In the midst of reform euphoria when many factions with different agendas emerged from silence, he reflected the Indonesian mood in general. He played a gambit to always seek the middle path.

From his first appearance until now, Yudhoyono has represented neither civilians nor the military. The former soldier appears neither too stern nor too soft in people's eyes. He does not always wear a badge on his breast. But he has not abandoned all his military attributes.

In fact, Yudhoyono seemed to compromise with many groups and interests. This can still be felt even now.

His political luck was bolstered by demands for conciliation among many differing groups amid a rising democratic tide. He made his fortune and won a second term.

Compared to Soeharto, Yudho-yono is of course much more democratic. Given the spirit of openness that has become the ethical standard of leadership, anybody can criticize his policies. Pundits, artists and commentators can now freely convey their disappointment without being afraid of jail or torture. By democratic standards, our current president is anything but a complainer in the public.

It was impossible to breathe in such a democratic air during Soeharto's era. His control — like the control currently exercised by Middle Eastern dictators — was a nightmare for us.

As a university student, I, like most of my friends, felt that walls, streets, trees and even the sky seemed to be living beings that had ears and mouths to report any suspicious activities to the "mighty lord".

Nobody dared to whisper an opinion on any subject critical of the regime. Political conversations and discussions were conducted carefully. Freedom was a luxury.

The reform era has given us what we we craved during the New Order period. But "slow economic recovery" in the aftermath of the crisis failed to satisfy our needs and demands.

Yudhoyono's has not fulfilled all the promises he made while campaigning for a second term. We are not quite happy with him.

Soeharto often showed decisive leadership by filling his cabinet with many technocrats and professionals such as B.J. Habibie, Mukti Ali, Daud Jusuf, Emil Salim and many others.

Yudhoyono, however, has been compromised by various voices and interests, leaving him little room
to build his own image as a determined leader.

As a Javanese knight, he does indeed seek to create a harmonious political tone by avoiding explicit confrontation with political parties. He wants everyone to be happy — a tactic which often leads to everyone's disappointment.

In the cabinet, he entrusted important positions to those who had neither expertise nor passion, such as at the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry and the Communications and Information Ministry.

Yudhoyono prefers to support those whose political capital can support his political stance as opposed to those whose expertise are needed in this country. Politics, not expertise, is the commander. His second term reflects this.

To make the waters muddier, there is a rumor that the First Lady wants to throw her hat in the ring during the next presidential election, but Yudhoyono himself has dismissed the speculation.

The prospects of Anas Urbaningrum, a young promising Democratic Party leader, were hampered by many who were not happy with fast regeneration.

Acceleration is not always a favorite. As a top democratic leader, he seems to be faced with many serious hurdles to overcome in his path to presidential bid.

The Indonesian economy is in a better mood now. The growth of the domestic market has been further boosted by an increase in consumption. They have almost forgotten the smell of crisis.

But the reputation of Yudhoyono's party is has dropped from 20 percent in 2009 election to 18 percent, according to the survey conducted by the Indonesian Survey Institute. The status quo is engulfing the Democratic Party. Corruption issues are slowly marching on the ruling party.


The writer is a lecturer at the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, Yogyakarta.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

THE FIGHT FOR NEWMONT SHARES

We find it mind-boggling that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono did not act more firmly to establish a tough government stance on the acquisition of the remaining 7 percent divestment stake in gold miner Newmont Nusa Tenggara (NNT), instead allowing the transaction already concluded by Finance Minister Agus Martowardoyo to get bogged in legal limbo.

It has now been more than a month since the government wealth fund (PIP), on behalf of the finance minister, concluded a sales and purchase agreement with NNT shareholders to acquire the 7 percent equity, but the deal seemed to face imbroglio as the minister of mines and energy has yet to endorse the transaction.

The government's ambivalent stance has made the West Nusa Tenggara provincial and regency administrations even more stubborn in its attempt to legally and politically contest the deal in collaboration with private-interest lobbyists and a number of House of Representatives members.

We see the fight as rather absurd. On one side are regional administrations that still depend on grants from the central government for more than 80 percent of their budgets. On the other is the central government, represented by the finance minister.

First of all it was the central government — which awarded the mining contract to NNT in 1986 — that holds the right of first refusal regarding the shares to be sold under NNT's compulsory divestment scheme. Moreover, West Sumbawa and Sumbawa regencies and West Nusa Tenggara province had earlier been allowed by the central government to acquire 24 percent of NNT through their joint venture with PT Multicapital, a unit of the Bakrie Group, which is controlled by Aburizal Bakrie, the chairman of the Golkar Party.

But that deal seems to have been botched by the regional administrations because they acted virtually as a front for the Bakrie unit that wholly financed the acquisition with loans from foreign creditors.

It turned out the acquired shares were pledged to the foreign creditors as securities to the debts.

Finance Minister Agus has repeatedly explained to the House and the general public that by acquiring the remaining 7 percent equity the central government will be able to enter NNT both as a shareholder, thereby entitled to join its board of commissioners and regulator.

These positions will empower the government to better supervise the US$3.85 billion gold mine's operations and examine all aspects of its corporate governance.

Several high-caliber lawyers and the deans of eight state law schools across the country that Agus consulted about the share acquisition confirmed the finance minister and the sovereign wealth fund had a clear mandate (based on the 2003 Law on State Finances and the 2004 Law on State Treasury) to make the investment.

Yet strangely, the President allowed the energy and mining minister to hold up the final closing of the deal by dragging his feet regarding its endorsement.

The government's investment deal related to the NNT share acquisition could be a litmus test for similar business transactions in the future. If the deal fails to go through the legal and political system, many other mining concessions in regions will be at risk of being forcefully acquired by regional administrations.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN: A REALITY CHECK AMID TERROR AND CHAOS (PART 1 OF 2)

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF

Today Pakistan finds itself in the eye of the terrorism storm. An environment of controversies, contradictions, distortions and mutual suspicions prevails all around, polluting and weakening the war on terror.

The situation demands a clearer understanding of ground realities in South Asia, bridging the acute trust deficit and developing a unity of thought and action among all coalition players. Blame games, rigidity, arrogance and insensitivity to others' interests will always remain counterproductive.

I would like to start by analyzing the existing environment in its historical perspective. How did religious militancy get introduced into Pakistan?

There is no doubt that Pakistan is a victim of terrorism and is certainly not the perpetrator.

In 1979, the United States, in its own interest of containing Soviet expansion, and Pakistan, in its own national interest of preserving its integrity against the Soviet design of reaching the warm waters of the Indian Ocean through Pakistan, initiated a jihad (holy war in defense of Islam) in Afghanistan.

We inducted 25,000 to 30,000 Mujahideen (holy warriors) from all over the Muslim world into Afghanistan and also pumped in Taliban from the tribal agencies of Pakistan after arming and training them.

In effect, therefore, for 10 long years from 1979 to 1989, we gave birth to religious militancy under the call for jihad. The freedom struggle in Indian-held Kashmir started in 1989 and continues till now. It has tremendous public sympathy in Pakistan and has given birth to several Mujahideen groups. This is another big cause of religious militancy in Pakistan.

Then there was the most disastrous period of 1989-2001 for Afghanistan when the United States summarily quit the area, resulting in the coalescing of the Mujahideen into al-Qaeda and the rise of the Taliban. During this period, four million Afghan refugees came into Pakistan.

Finally, to crown it all, there was 9/11, initiating the US military offensive in Afghanistan and Pakistan's membership of the coalition.

In its aftermath, all hell broke lose in Pakistan, with religious militancy from the east and the west. Pakistan's national and social fabric was torn asunder.

Why is there so much antipathy in Pakistan's public mind against the United States? This is despite the fact that Pakistan was very consciously in strategic alliance with the United States and the West for 42 years since our independence in 1947 and together fought a jihad
in Afghanistan for 10 years from 1979 to 1989. Our relationship, and even public perceptions of each other, were pretty normal and friendly until 1989.

The abandonment of Pakistan after 1989, with a strategic shift of US policy towards India and military sanctions against Pakistan, cost US-Pakistan relations very dearly.

In Pakistan's public mind, the United States "used'' Pakistan and then abandoned it: This was taken as a betrayal.

The US nuclear policy of appeasement and strategic co-operation with India against Pakistan is taken by the man in the street in Pakistan as very partisan and an act of animosity against our national interest.

The continuing US military presence and operations in Afghanistan, the indiscriminate drone attacks with increasing collateral damage in the tribal agencies of Pakistan and, finally, the violation of Pakistani
sovereignty in the cross-border strike against Osama bin Laden are all now seen most negatively by the people of Pakistan.

To further complicate and indeed weaken our joint war against terror, there is an acute deficit of
trust and confidence between the United States and Pakistan at all levels of government, the military and intelligence.

This has increased manifold over the last year. It started somewhat with myself in 2004-2005. Our policy in Pakistan's tribal agencies was to wean away Pakthuns from the Taliban. I coined a phrase back in 2002-2003 that all Taliban are Pakthun, but all Pakthun are not Taliban.

The methodology adopted was through the convening of Jirgas (gatherings of notables and elders), which are very much a tribal custom. This was seen in certain quarters in the United States and also the media as ''double dealing". There were accusations against me that I was "dealing" with the Taliban.

My many exhortations that this was a baseless accusation — and the logic of how I could be dealing with people who were trying to assassinate me — fell on deaf ears. Problems also arose whenever the United States showed tendencies towards micro management.

My argument always was to co-operate and believe in strategic coordination to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban and to leave the tactics and micro management to us.

The bone of contention now seems to be the general feeling in US circles that Pakistan refused to take military action in North Waziristan against the Siraj Haqqani group of Taliban.

American accusations about Pakistan's military and intelligence services being complicit with the Taliban basically result from this.

I am not privy to Pakistan's strategy of not operating against the Haqqani, at least for the time being. However, I am very sure that they cannot be supporting them. The malicious role of India and the Afghan government itself in maligning Pakistan's military and intelligence must not be overlooked.

We know what Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad especially are doing. We also know that Afghan intelligence, military and foreign service personnel go for training in India. Not a single one comes to Pakistan, despite Pakistan's longstanding offer of free training since my time in office.

The writer is former Pakistani president and writes specially to CNN.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

AN INCLUSIVE APPROACH TO THE ENVIRONMENT

T.M. LUTHFI YAZID

The relationship between humanity and the living world is very complex, and those complexities cannot be solved by using a single perspective. If in the previous way of thinking there was a partial and an arrogant approach (for example environmentalists or environmental lawyers used to think that it was only them who could solve environmental problem), this approach needs to change.

All the disciplinary approaches must cooperate to overcome those problems, since they are interdependent.

Environmentalists, economists, engineers, scientists, doctors, politicians, lawyers, religious leaders, formal/informal leaders and people in general must work together to solve such problems.

Such relationships cannot be established without mutual understanding, trust, appreciation and strong commitment. Based on our past experience, now is the time to establish a new generation with a broadened and holistic perspective in dealing with the problems of development and the environment.

It is important to create and sustain a global network of emerging young leaders in different countries to deal with issues of development and the environment.

Human resources become the priority of the program, because if human resources do not come first then development creates incompatibilities (Kottak, 1985). Achievements in human development must positively correlate to economic variables (Piel, 1992).

This human capital is actually a form of "genuine saving" and investment (Atkinson et.al., 1997)
and therefore will be beneficial in the future.

Water, air and soil pollution, climate change, deforestation and ozone depletion are all examples of environmental degradation. These problems have been occurring for a long time and threaten humanity and the future of the world. Hence, the increasing prevalence of the notion of sustainable development.

Sustainable development issues became internationally recognized after the Brundtland Commission presented Our Common Future (1987) to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Since then, many environmental meetings, environmental agreements, protocols and organizations have been made.

In many cases, the main objective is to achieve development that meets the needs of present generations without neglecting the needs of future generations.

However, the problems in linking the environment and development are very large and complex.

Here, there is no single solution because developed countries and developing countries are in the middle of controversy to find appropriate solutions.

The North blames the South for environmental destruction, while the South condemns the North as the source of this disaster.

Clearly, like in casino games, there are winners and losers. In addition, almost every approach to sustainable development is implementing a monolithic perspective.

But these problems cannot be solved only with a narrow perspectives since the environment and development encounter many problems, and obstacles that entail polycentric matters.

To approach the environment and development only from economic studies, environmental studies, political science, law and so on is an approach that is out of date.

Therefore, we need to adopt a holistic approach by which economists, politicians, scientists, environmentalists, public servants, lawyers and all citizens work together to change unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.

If the previous approach to development has prioritized the benefit of business players without concern for environmental impacts, the new approach must consider the environmental aspects of development. Developers must include environmental costs into production.

In such a way there must be a green product scheme in which every product must be environmentally friendly. Legal instruments at any stage in relation to sustainable development must be consistently enforced at local, regional and international levels.

However, there are some obstacles to achieving sustainable development. Poverty is one of them.
If people still live under the poverty line, the issue of sustainable development remains too expensive
and idealistic.

People won't pay appropriate attention to the environment while struggling just to survive.

The other obstacle is mentality. Many business players are reluctant to merge economic costs with environmental costs. This has become a great obstacle. Internalizing environmental costs into production will usually result in a a loss rather than a benefit, managers say.

There is an argument that there will be no development without environmental degradation. But if an environment is destroyed, there can be no economic activity.

In this regard, human resources are key. To create qualified human resources who are committed to sustainable development, we need not only some period of time, but also genuine endeavors.

This approach must be applied at all level of society, from the public and private sectors to the corporate world, media, academia, NGOs and research institutions. Again, human resources are the key to drive human progress.

Any technical infrastructure, legal instruments, conventions and skills will be useless without adequate human resources. A new generation must be prepared.

The writer, a Jakarta-based lawyer, is teaching and conducting research at the School of Law, Gakushuin University, Japan. He is also a fellow at the Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) Program based in London. The views expressed are personal.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

BEYOND SELF GLORY, A HIGHER WAY OF LIFE

In this era of capitalist market forces, self centeredness and a desire for personal gain or glory especially among the political leadership of the world we need to urgently reflect on a higher and liberative way of life.  We need to be aware again that matter is evolving and our very body that decomposes rejuvenates and gives life to things that are called into existence. Do we not see the perishable becoming imperishable? Death has no power over life. The seed of Life can never be exterminated.

This gentle force, though powerful, needs the willingness of humanity to cooperate through sincere, self sacrificial service to others. Our wills are needed so that we could ascend to where creation is taking us. All this happens through the little responses we are called to give in everyday life. We are called upon to have a positive mind. We may be overwhelmed by our many weaknesses or things negative, yet we tenaciously hold on to a positive attitude. This would in fact have energy to change even our own circumstances in life.

We may see uselessness in ourselves or others, yet we hold on to the truth that nothing is. So we tell ourselves or others of our tremendous usefulness to the continuing process of creation.

When we are able to see our own weaknesses, wickedness or self centredness we hold on to believing that somehow we or others would be able to unearth goodness that lies buried deep.

There may be someone in our life who is difficult to get on with. Yet, today I could decide to spend time with that person. It could make a big impact in that person's life. We do not know what that person has gone through; never having been in his or her shoes.

At home, school, office or workplace, we could tell ourselves, 'we are going to change the atmosphere in the environment we are in.' Bringing that missing sunshine that would make our life worth living. Start by throwing your smile around, especially at those who are boring or difficult. Let's give life to that which is perishing.

We may find ourselves constantly failing in our endeavors. Broken and struggling in life, yet this could also be a great opportunity to progress beyond our limitations. It could be another way to receive that life that pushes us beyond to new frontiers. Disappointments and failures have always preceded the greatest scientific discoveries.

Take every negative or complacent thought captive into having positive attitudes. We may have tried a thousand times to change things and failed; yet we keep at it till victory that is assured is won. Our lives are meant to make a big difference to those around. The world waits for those who radiate peace, joy and love. Don't we see at a gathering, party or function, the groups that are most popular are the ones where one or two are full of life and enthusiasm. This is within each one of us and all we need to do, is to tap into it from that gentle force that is within us.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

GADDAFI'S CLARION CALL

Muammar Gaddafi now has started believing in martyr syndrome. His talk from a pulpit of his hideout to fight till death is no strange phenomenon. All dictators do that when faced with Hobson's choice.

 But his invite to the people urging them to assemble at his crumbling compound in Tripoli hints at the marginalisation that has set in. Perhaps, he wants them around as a perfect human shield, as NATO forces come down hard on the capital in their endeavour to finish off the campaign by netting Gaddafi and his associates.

The equation has neither changed nor improved since the rebellion turned into a full-blown civil war in Libya. The country is literally bifurcated and the writ of the government is non-existent. The ground realities for Gaddafi are getting more complex and that is evident squarely from the acknowledgment that military installations belonging to the Republican Guards have been heavily targetted. With defeat becoming writing on the wall, this playing (to the gallery is not without a purpose. The intention is to apparently send across the message that he is still defiant to the core, and (is not moved with the death and destruction around. This is brinkmanship, indeed, and comes at the cost of a dying nation.

All that Libya needs at the moment is not rescheduled aerial bombing but a diplomatic exercise in all fairness. The initiatives on the part of China and Russia to end the conflict were so muted that they haven't made any impact at all. Whereas, on the other hand, the firmness with which President Obama and German Chancellor Merkel voiced intent to eliminate Gaddafi spoke of the galvanising intensity in the military campaign expected in next few days and weeks. The United Nations track-two format through which it tried to make inroads into Gaddafi's Al Aziziya Palace through the good offices of the country's premier were not only short-lived but didn't carry any substance. So is the case with African Union's shuttle diplomacy. In such a pessimistic circumference, it is nothing but obvious that leaders like Gaddafi would tend to exhibit stubbornness to stay put in power. This killing impasse is toiling to say the least.

It would be wise on the part of NATO and, especially, the United States to reprioritise their strategy and come down with a plan of action through which the transgression of sovereignty and security scarceness can be done away with. Gaddafi has spoken aloud. But that isn't going to help.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

SYRIA IN SECTARIAN SOUP

The killing fields of Syria draw little or no real fire from the West which has been pounding Libya for the past two months, scaring the living daylights out of Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Unlike Libya, Syria has no oil. The absence of any Western military action is, therefore, goes without saying. The lack of interest in pursuing an interventionist approach to the Syrian regime's atrocities speaks volumes about the western duplicity which the apologists of the West may describe as political realism. It only proves that the principle of the right to protect or R2P is largely a political tool resorted to by western powers only if it brings some benefits to them.

In the case of Syria, the West appears to prefer the status quo. In other words its intervention in Syria comes in the form of non-intervention.

The principle that is apparently guiding the West here is that a known devil is better than an unknown angel. But the West is taking no chances. It keeps a channel open to the opposition groups also.

The West has tried to project Syria as a rogue state. It accuses Syria of backing and sheltering insurgents fighting US troops in Iraq and arming and financing Lebanon's Hezbollah, which is at war with Israel and the United States. Syria also has earned the West's displeasure by sheltering leaders of the Palestinian freedom fighting group Hamas, an organization labelled a terrorist group by the United States. The West also accuses Syria of involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Besides, Syria is technically at war with Israel, a close ally of the West. If the record is so bad, why is the West not acting fast to save the protesters who are being killed?

The answer is: the Syrian regime is pliant. It had supported George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. It had cracked its whip on anti-West Sunni political forces. Besides, the protesters are an unknown quantity. The only thing that is known is that the people are as opposed to Israel and the West as they are to the regime which is dominated by the country's Alawi minority. Israel is comfortable with the Alawaite regime which has virtually abandoned all moves to retake the Golan Heights which Israel occupied during the 1967 war. Israel and the West are apprehensive about the Sunni-majority-led uprising because they fear the possibility of an Islamist-dominated government if the protesters oust President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite.

 

The Alawites are an obscure ethnic group with an esoteric set of beliefs. They are Syria's largest minority constituting 12 percent of the country's 22 million population. The other minorities include the Armenian Christians, the Kurds and the Druze. The Sunnis form 70 percent of the population and have been ruled by an Alawite-led governments since 1963. In the early period of the Alawites' rise to power, the Sunnis, a majority of whom had a Baathist and Socialist political outlook then, did not mind being ruled by an Alawite. President Hafez al-Assad was seen as a Syrian rather than an Alawite. But when the oppressive Alawite rule continued and veered towards dynastic politics with Bashar al-Assad succeeding his father, the Sunnis protested. Their protests in 1973 and 1982 were brutally put down. But the Sunni majority's hopes were revived when they saw the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts bearing fruit. The protesters are determined to fight to the last breadth in what is now turning into a sectarian insurrection against the Alawites.

This week's massacre of some 120 soldiers in a remote village is attributed to a clash between the Alawi and Sunni soldiers.

Though the Alawites call themselves Muslims, they follow neither the Sunni Islam nor the Shiite Islam. The Sunnis regard them as Mushriks or polytheists because the Alawism insists that Ali, Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, was God incarnate, while the Shiites say they are Ghulat, meaning exaggerating. The Alawites claim they follow a Shiite school of thought, but Iranian Ayatollahs have distanced themselves from Alawism, though the Alawite regime in Syria and the Iranians are the best of allies.

During the French occupation of Syria under a League of Nation mandate, the Alawites, shunned and scorned by the majority Sunnis, courted the French, who in return favoured them in state jobs, especially in the military.

However, the Sunni leaders of the Syrian independence struggle, eager to incorporate the Alawites also into the independence fight, gave them the Muslim label in the 1940s.

Syria is an ancient country with a rich culture. The Greek and the Roman conquerors lived and died there. A decade or so after the death of the Prophet, Damascus became Islam's seat of power with the Umayyad dynasty ruling a vast empire spread over three continents. Over the centuries, the Seljuks, the Mongols, the Mamluks, the Ottomans and the French either ruled or ravaged Syria, yet the country survived.

When Bashar al-Assad assumed power in July 2000, many thought he would introduce reforms and take the country towards a multi-party democracy. But those surrounding him, the Alawi elite, stopped him. The young Assad is virtually a prisoner of the system. He could make only cosmetic changes after he was rattled by the protests.

If the Assad regime falls and democracy is established, it is likely to change the power equation in the region. The Hezbollah, a powerful militant group which gave a good fight to Israel in 2006, will be the worst hit. If Israel were to attack Iran, many believed the Hezbollah would act as Iran's proxy in an ensuing war. But with Syria out of picture, the Hezbollah will be a sitting duck.

Probably, with this in mind, the West is playing its usual double game. The United States and other Western powers are now promoting a Syrian opposition leadership largely comprising CIA assets. Just as the people's movement in Libya has been hijacked the pro-Western stooges, the Syrian protest movement is also being hijacked. But the West's schemes are unlikely to succeed in the IT-era Arab world where the people are highly literate and know who their enemies are.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

OVERTAKEN BY LIES..?  

 BY ANWAR ABDULRAHMAN

Bahrain always assumed that the Western world was too wise and mature to mix politics with sport. But the way it is behaving towards our Grand Prix fixture begs many questions now about its judgement.

By reneging on the October 30 agreement, F1's governing body would also be depriving Bahrain of its legal rights after spending millions of dollars on the BIC track site.

No country in the world can guarantee itself totally free of some form of domestic disturbances - and we fully understand that when lives and security are endangered, such events can be postponed, as happened here.

But to now use human rights allegations as an excuse to deprive Bahrain of such an important sporting occasion, contradicts every ethic and value, as well as the spirit of global competition in its broadest sense.

Top of the list of Bahrain's accusers is former motor racing chief Max Mosley, who claims that the staging of the race in Bahrain would mean that F1 "becomes one of the Bahrain government's instruments of oppression".

Max Mosley's stance against F1 in Bahrain could well be sour grapes, as in 2008 whilst he was involved in a tabloid scandal about his sado-masochistic sex sessions with a series of prostitutes, the government of Bahrain decided that it would not be appropriate for the then motor racing chief to be in Bahrain for the race.

Bernie Ecclestone is now also having second thoughts about the FIA's unanimous decision to return to Bahrain. He now seems to be encouraging the teams to make a statement by refusing to race in Bahrain in October.

Unfortunately, hidden hands are at work to discredit Bahrain government's positive measures which have restored law and order to the country. It seems as if there is a willingness for members of this sporting body to be swayed by opposition claims of ongoing and brutal repression.

FIA vice-president Carlos Garcia spent 36 hours in Bahrain and declared it a safe destination for motor racing, having spoken to local human rights groups.

It seems as if both Mr Mosley (who is the son of the 1930s British Fascist leader Oswald Mosley) and Mr Ecclestone are mixing sport with politics despite their claims otherwise.

The facts of the matter are simple. The government of Bahrain has advised that the country is a safe and secure destination to host the Bahrain Grand Prix in October this year. The FIA, F1 management and the teams should not allow political machinations of a disaffected and small opposition group to affect the decisions taken by the FIA which quite rightly are based entirely on logistics and security considerations.

For members of the F1 fraternity to single out Bahrain over questions of human rights issues is unacceptable victimisation. A number of other countries which host F1 are considered to be far more repressive. The same stance should apply to Bahrain as to these other nations.

Certainly Bahrain should share part of the blame for innocently allowing both international media and human rights organisations to twist the truth. For years they have been fed a dubious diet of information. However, we have relied on individuals like Lord Gilford and public relations organisations such as Bell-Pottinger (whose staff deserted the kingdom en masse as soon as trouble started). They have milked the country's financial resources for a long time, yet failed to deliver any positive result.

From now on we hope such tasks will be undertaken by organisations with true local links, knowledge and understanding, as well as a genuine love for Bahrain.

The defamation of Bahrain was started by so-called native opposition elements, therefore only local, loyal media and public relations companies with a vested interest in the future of this country can be relied upon.

There are many highly capable, mature, experienced Bahrainis and expatriates who have been in this field all of their professional working lives.

They are the ones fully aware of internal politics, and only experts of such calibre can explain and influence Western thought and decision-making.

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 EDITORIAL from The Pioneer, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, The Statesman's, The Tribune, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald, Economic Times, The Telegraph, The Assam Tribune, Pakistan Observer, The Asian Age, The News, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The New York Times, China Daily, Japan Times, The Gazette, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Guardian, Jakarta Post, The Moscow Times, The Bottom Line and more only on EDITORIAL.

 

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